SPICED CHAI BREAKFAST PUDDING (RAW, VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, SUGAR-FREE)


I used to be addicted to iced soy chai lattes. There is a local tea import company, Mem Tea, that is based in our town and supplies local coffee shops with their wonderful loose teas. I had the cafes scouted out that would make the best iced lattes with their blends (usually Espresso Royale and Bagel Rising), and would usually get one every day. Alas, I discovered that caffeine was a trigger for my migraines as well as many other symptoms, and both it and soy trigger my nerve inflammation. Getting an energy boost, especially with chronic fatigue as a result of Lupus, is a pretty futile pursuit most days. 
This week I finally replaced my (second) broken coffee grinder, and set to experimenting with a raw pudding on the following morning. I grabbed some chia and sesame seeds that had been in my fridge for a while, and went to work. The consistency was perfect, and with my favorite Middle Eastern spices close at hand, I created something that seemed to soothe a need in my for chai, oatmeal (oddly) and a cool soothing pudding all at once. It even seemed to mimic the rich, milky flavor of the lattes of my past. Even better, after only a couple of bites, I felt this odd sensation of my circulation kind of humming through my body, and the fog in my brain seemed to clear a bit, my vision focusing, and a memory being triggered of, "Wait, isn't this what caffeine feels like?" Only this time it was without the jitters and, you know, that other stuff I mentioned. This takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, and both chia and sesame seeds are some of the most potent sources of healing Omega Fatty Acids, so get at it. (Lest you be intimidated by unusual ingredients, be assured that my husband completely lit up after trying it, and asked with awe, "Ooo, what's that?!") This is my second entry for the week to Ricki's Summer Wellness Weekend event. Be sure to head here for other tasty entries.


SPICED CHAI BREAKFAST PUDDING
4 TBS UNHULLED SESAME SEEDS
2 TBS CHIA SEEDS
1 TBS COCONUT FLAKES
1/4 TSP VANILLA POWDER (OR FLESH OF VANILLA POD)
1/8 TSP STEVIA POWDER (ADD DATES TO SWEETEN FOR TRUE RAW)
1/8 TSP SEA SALT
CARDAMOM, ALLSPICE & MACE TO TASTE
3/4 CUP WATER
OPTIONAL: RAISINS, DATES, BLACK CARDAMOM SEEDS, COARSE SEA SALT

PUT SEEDS AND COCONUT INTO COFFEE GRINDER, GRIND UNTIL FINE. PUT MIXTURE INTO BOWL, ADD OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS. ADD WATER AND MIX. MIXTURE WILL THICKEN QUICKLY AS YOU STIR, WORK OUT THE LUMPS AS YOU DO. CHILL FOR A FEW MINUTES IF YOU LIKE, OR ENJOY IMMEDIATELY.

SERVES 1-2

RAW CAULIFLOWER "TABOULI" SALAD (VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, ALLIUM-FREE, NIGHTSHADE-FREE)


One of my favorite things about eating largely raw is how forgiving my experiments seem to be. With fresh, local vegetables and fruits, the flavors are so rich and refreshing that a little bit goes a long way, and the science in the kitchen just doesn't need to be so exact. As a result, many of the "recipes" I'll be sharing with you will kind of be a glorified list of ingredients. Taste as you go, season to your palate, and remember that you don't need as many spices and seasonings as when you cook. Here is a recent favorite of mine, which my husband has been enjoying with me. This recipe has been entered into Ricki's Summer Wellness Weekend event. Go here to check out the other entries.)


RAW CAULIFLOWER "TABOULI" SALAD
I MD HEAD OF CAULIFLOWER
1/2 CUP CHOPPED CHUNKS OF CUCUMBER
1 LG HANDFUL OF CILANTRO
1 LG HANDFUL OF PARSLEY
SPLASH OF OLIVE OIL
CUMIN, CORIANDER & SEA SALT TO TASTE
OPTIONAL: LEMON, GARLIC, DULSE

CHOP CAULIFLOWER INTO CHUNKS, AND PUT INTO FOOD PROCESSOR, HANDFULS AT A TIME AS IT BREAKS DOWN THE CHUNKS. CHOP THE HERBS. TRANSFER THE PROCESSED CAULIFLOWER (SHOULD BE ROUGHLY THE SIZE OF COUS COUS, BUT A BIT LARGER) INTO A BOWL, AND ADD THE REMAINING INGREDIENTS. EAT AS A SALAD, OR IN A RAW COLLARD OR CHARD LEAF WRAP, PERHAPS WITH SOME AVOCADO OR TAHINI IF IT SUITS YOUR FANCY.

BASIL-INFUSED JICAMA LIME SODA & OTHER QUICK WAYS TO GET YOUR SODA FIX (SUGAR-FREE)

When I was in high school, my best friend and I both decided to eliminate soda from our diets. I wasn't particularly conscious about my diet at the time, but it seemed like a good idea given the scary stories I'd heard about all of the ingredients in Coke and Pepsi that  purportedly they don't legally have to  list. 11 years later, I still haven't really indulged in those drinks, but I still crave a fancy beverage now and then, especially since I can't buy the sugar or agave-sweetened drinks at local markets. Enter sparkling water. It's really easy to create homemade sodas, even without an expensive soda maker. I sweeten a bottle or cup with stevia (liquid or powdered), and usually just add fresh lemon juice.  Delicious! I've also made homemade Jamaica soda (pronounced huh-my-kuh, a common refreshment in Latin America) by simply adding dried hibiscus flowers to a bottle of sparkling water and allowing it to steep overnight in the fridge, straining it and adding stevia the next day. For a recent party, I also poured a bunch of bottles into a large mason jar, and put some fresh mint, raspberries & stevia in to steep. If I'm feeling particularly lazy, I'll just add a few drops of liquid vanilla stevia to a cup for a homemade vanilla soda. 

But if you really want to appease that part of you that gets supreme satisfaction by using obscure (yet easily accessible) ingredients and adding "infused" to the name of whatever is on the table, try this recipe. (Also, you know, it tastes really good.)

BASIL-INFUSED JICAMA LIME SODA
I MEDIUM JICAMA (usually found next to the plantains & yucca in the produce section)
1/2 OF A LIME OR 1 KEY LIME
3/4 CUP SPARKLING MINERAL WATER
1/2 TBS BASIL LEAVES
STEVIA TO TASTE

PEEL THE SKIN OFF OF THE JICAMA, AND USING A FINE GRATER, GRATE OVER CHEESECLOTH LAID OVER A BOWL. ONCE GRATED, RIGOROUSLY SQUEEZE THE JUICE OUT INTO A BOWL. ADD THE LIME JUICE TO THE JICAMA JUICE, AND THEN BARELY BRING JUICE TO A BOIL ON THE STOVETOP. PLACE BASIL LEAVES IN A HEAT-RESISTANT GLASS JAR, AND POUR THE HEATED LIQUID INTO THE JAR. CHILL IN THE REFRIGERATOR. ONCE CHILLED, STRAIN AND ADD SPARKLING WATER.

SERVES 1

RAW FOODS & LUPUS (AND EASY VEGAN & RAW SALAD IDEAS)

RAW ZUCCHINI & SUMMER SQUASH "NOODLES"* WITH AN HERBED LEMON & COCONUT BUTTER "CHEESE", LIGHTLY SPLASHED WITH RAW COCONUT AMINOS
 I've been spending a great deal of time (perhaps too much) researching Lupus since my diagnosis. I've wanted to be informed when attending my follow-up appointment with the rheumatologist (as he sadly didn't offer me with many resources), and have wanted to expose myself to alternative treatment options that an allopathic doctor would not typically suggest to me. The most commonly advocated alternative treatment for autoimmune diseases is an appropriate diet that eliminates food sensitivities and common toxins. Guess what? I have a head start. My intuition has clearly served me well in that department. Besides eliminating gluten, however, a diet largely made up of raw foods seems to be the most commonly talked about diet, which according to various anecdotal stories shared via the web and to me personally, can alleviate many of the symptoms and even lead some to remission. This gives me great hope, although I am keeping that hope in check with the understanding that every body is different; what works for one may not work for another. Let me be clear that Lupus is potentially a very serious disease, and therefore alternative treatments for it are highly controversial. I have the advantage of only having mild Lupus at this time (in my mind thanks to the dietary changes I've made, though I will elaborate on that more at a different time), and consequently have some leeway to experiment. Summer is an excellent time to eat raw food, as well; I am more than happy to rarely turn on the stove. I'm a little bit more skeptical about how this will work out in a cold New England winter, given that I also have Raynaud's. Anyone with experience in that department, please share your thoughts in the comments!

RAW SHAVED* ACORN SQUASH WITH MINT, SHAVED MACADAMIA NUTS, COCONUT BUTTER, LEMON, OLIVE OIL, LAVENDER BUDS & FLEUR DE SEL


So, have I noticed any improvements since making the shift? Hell yes. My cravings for starch and sweets have decreased significantly. My portion control (typically something I really struggle with) is leaps and bounds beyond what it has been. Also, when I've made exceptions to my diet by indulging in typically forbidden foods, my reactions are far less severe, and I recover much more quickly. Want an example? I'm eating fruit. Let me put that into perspective for you: with the exception of lemon & avocado, I haven't eaten fruit for almost 2 years. I've been following the recommendations of the Body Ecology Diet and eating it only in the morning and always by itself, but I've made some exceptions to that, as well. Papaya, pear & banana have been recent trials. Want another example? Today, my husband and I went to Kickass Cupcakes, where I indulged in not one, but two gluten-free cupcakes. (Sugar, eggs, flours, oh my!) So far, I'm suffering from some mild brain fog, but otherwise I'm okay. I followed the trip up with some raw celery to help move it along, and some stevia-sweetened sparkling mineral water with added peppermint oil to soothe any possible inflammation.

RAW SHAVED* DAIKON & EASTER EGG RADISHES WITH PARSLEY, LEMON, CHOPPED RAW HAZELNUTS, SEA SALT & OLIVE OIL


I would love it if you would share your thoughts on this approach. I am still holding off on fulfilling my prescription for Plaquenil at the pharmacy, but beginning to warm up to the idea. How do you treat your illness? Have you improved from an autoimmune disease through diet? Have you tried the raw food diet and improved your health? Have you recovered? Or are you one of the many who feels it to be a naive and mislead approach? Please weigh in.

In the meantime, here are two resources I have taken advantage of:

Shares her experience of putting her severe Lupus into remission on a raw food diet.

Access To Organics
Ravi Buffington is a friend of a dear local friend of mine. I was referred to her because she apparently used to have severe life-threatening Lupus which she put into remission on a raw food diet. She owns an organic food and gardening shop in Florida. I'm most grateful to her for sharing me her story over the phone, and by providing me with some helpful resources.

*The humble vegetable peeler has become my favorite kitchen tool of late.

A DIAGNOSIS

*
I'm at a bit of a loss as to how I should begin this post. It has been so many years, at times I could say my entire life, that I have been dealing with inexplicable and troubling symptoms without a diagnosis from the many doctors and specialists that I've seen. It has now been a little over a week since I visited a rheumatologist for the first time and was quickly diagnosed with Lupus, an auto-immune disease in which your body's immune system becomes over-active and attacks its own tissues and/or nerves, precipitating a great deal of symptoms from mild to life-threatening. My diagnosis happens to coincide with Lupus Awareness Month, so though I have been tempted to retreat into the solace of my proclaimed "break" from my blog, I thought it more appropriate for me to step out into the light for a bit and share the news. There is much that I could and would like to say on the subject, but given that the discomfort with typing much remains, I will be brief. I have experienced a myriad of emotions as a result of the diagnosis: from relief and joy over finally having a name and an understanding of what my body has been going through to, well frankly, fear over what my body is going through. My deepest gratitude goes to those who have supported, loved and encouraged me over the past decade of struggle; much love and light to you all. 


*Butterflies are apparently the universal symbol for Lupus. May I ever don it as gracefully as Miss Monkman.

A BIT OF A BREAK

Dear readers, I feel as though I must at this time be kind to myself and take a bit of a break from posting here. It may only be for a week, it may be longer, but given that this is also slated as a blog about health, I thought it appropriate to let you know, and offer somewhat of an explanation. As I've mentioned before, I have (and have had for coming on 10 years) chronic health problems, and my symptoms wax and wane from time to time. I have recently had some significant flare-ups, and along with a gamut of other lovely symptoms, my nerve inflammation has been more severe over the past week, partially because of a new physical therapy regiment that is aimed at decreasing muscle tension that pinches the main nerves in both of my arms. It is very uncomfortable for me to type at this time, so although I have much I'd like to share with you right now, food and health-wise, I must be realistic and give my body the rest that it clearly needs. To my dear friends and family members, thank you as always for your support, and hopefully I will return shortly.

WEEKLY TEASE

I can't pass up fiddleheads, a seasonal New England favorite, when they make their appearance at the market in Spring. I never cook them as well as my native Maine friends, but I enjoy them nonetheless! Here I steamed them and paired them with some vermicelli noodles I purchased at the Korean market (only ingredient is sweet potato starch), fresh mint & basil, with fresh lemon juice and avocado oil drizzled on top.

HERBED LEMON & ASPARAGUS SOUFFLE (VEGAN, SOY-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE, GRAIN-FREE)

From my searches online, it seems that the vegan souffle is one of those culinary holy grails. Most recipes available seem to utilize tofu or other soy products to mimic the texture of one made with eggs, though, and since soy is out of the question for me, I needed to find another way to recreate that unique texture, and fulfill a craving that I've had probably since Thanksgiving. I think this recipe is extremely convincing, and I'm pretty excited about the possibilities for future variations. Today was a gorgeous spring day in Boston, and I feel blessed that this lovely recipe was a part of it! 

In my last run to a local Indian market that recently relocated (Little India moved from Union Square to the old Milk Row warehouse by Market Basket), I picked up a bag of coarse chickpea flour or maghaj flour, and though I've been limiting my consumption of flour lately, the few times that I've experimented with it have yielded really interesting results that have me scheming up both savory and sweet dishes. The coarse flour behaves differently than its fine counterpart, and because it's a little bit harder on the digestive system, I've thought it the perfect flour to try soaking/fermenting a bit prior to cooking, a process that I've wanted to better acquaint myself with for a while. The flavor of the flour is wonderfully enhanced by the light fermentation, and no doubt aids in the slight rise of the batter when it bakes in the oven. I love that the ingredients are pretty minimal, too, and are fresh and seasonal for most this time of year. If you tolerate allium, I would definitely recommend carmelizing some shallots and adding them to the batter. I'm going to do my best to not think about how unbearably divine that would be. This is my second submission to Ricki & Kim's SOS Challenge for April, and I hope that you are able to enjoy it soon! 

HERBED LEMON & ASPARAGUS SOUFFLE
YOU'LL NEED:
TWO 4" RAMEKINS 
BAKING SHEET 
 
1/2 CUP COARSE CHICKPEA FLOUR/MAGHAJ FLOUR
1/2 CUP WARM WATER
1 TBS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

3/4 CUP ASPARAGUS PUREE
JUICE & ZEST OF HALF A LEMON
1/3 TSP APPLEWOOD SMOKED SEA SALT (OR SMOKED SEA SALT OF YOUR CHOICE)
1/4 TSP AGAR AGAR POWDER*
1/4 TSP DRIED PORCINI POWDER (OPTIONAL)
PINCH OF STEVIA
1/4 CUP ARUGULA
1 TSP FRESH MINT
1/2 TSP ROSEMARY
GHEE OR OIL OF CHOICE FOR GREASING 

COMBINE FLOUR, WATER & VINEGAR. MIX, COVER AND LET SIT IN A WARM SPOT OVERNIGHT OR 8+ HOURS. WHEN READY TO PREPARE, PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT**. MIX TOGETHER ALL INGREDIENTS, ADDING THE HERBS LAST. GREASE THE RAMEKINS GENEROUSLY, AND FILL WITH BATTER. PLACE ON A BAKING SHEET AND BAKE FOR 35 MINUTES, OR UNTIL THE TOP IS A LIGHT GOLDEN BROWN.

*I'm still experimenting with agar agar, so since this is served warm, I'm not sure how necessary it is to the overall texture. What do you think?

**The thermometer inside my oven shows that my oven is always about 25 degrees under what I set it, so my oven was actually set at 375, registering at 350.

TROPICAL PURPLE SMOOTHIE & AN APPLE-LESS APPLESAUCE OPTION (SUGAR-FREE)

When Ricki & Kim said that they would make special mention of anyone who submitted a sweet recipe to this month's SOS Challenge, I guess I took it as a personal dare. This month's challenge ingredient is asparagus, and I figured that it must be possible, especially given that raw asparagus does have a subtle sweetness to it. I do admit that I'd hoped to come up with something a bit more decadent and challenging than a smoothie, and had thoughts of turning this into a sorbet, but honestly, I've been feeling like shite the past few weeks, and ambitious culinary pursuits just haven't been in the cards. Can I confess that making and drinking this recipe, which includes fruit that I don't tolerate, didn't really help my plight? Sometimes when I'm feeling crummy, I kind of pull this idiotic psychological trick of telling myself that, "Well, I feel like crap anyway, I might as well indulge myself." Somewhere in my brain there's a thought that it can't really get any worse, but of course, that's incredibly naive of me to assume.  It definitely got worse. However dear readers, this mistake is to your advantage, as not only did this experiment yield two recipes in one, it also prompted me to create a wonderfully soothing broth the next morning that helped my gut to heal, which I will also share with you within the next week.
Did you know that for many people, the adage "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," is a painful fallacy? For those with fructose malabsorption or fructose intolerance, apples are about the worst food they can consume. Fructose levels in apples in relation to their glucose levels are so high that it cripples their systems, causing anything from extreme gastrointestinal discomfort to violent mood swings and depression, and in the case of fructose malabsorption, it can be lethal. There are two types of tests for FM, a hydrogen breath test and a methane breath test. My insurance doesn't cover the doctors in Boston that offer the methane breath test, and I tested negative to the hydrogen test, but my elimination diet with a nutritionist found that I am nonetheless quite sensitive to fructose, so it has largely been eliminated in my diet. In addition to this smoothie being a light, sweet juice with incredible nutrition, with modifications it can serve as an applesauce alternative that would surely curb your or your child's cravings for a popular but forbidden snack. I will include the modifications after the lovely purple smoothie recipe. 
I'd never tried acai before, and picked up these frozen smoothie packs on sale at the store mainly because it was purple, and I wanted to showcase that color to compliment the sweeter purple asparagus that I zoned in on. I was surprised at how mild a flavor it had, expecting to to be a bit sour or tart like a cranberry for some reason. The apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut in the smoothie, paired with the lime juice help to boost that tart palate that I was looking for in addition to giving you some potent probiotics and B vitamins. For anyone who is apprehensive about the ingredients of the smoothie, I beseech you to trust me; your taste buds won't detect the more unexpected ones, and for most of you, your body will thank you.*  (Anyone with FM should exclude the asparagus and sauerkraut.)

TROPICAL PURPLE SMOOTHIE
1 MEDIUM JICAMA
4 LARGE PURPLE ASPARAGUS STALKS OR 6-8 THIN STALKS
1 SAMBAZON FROZEN UNSWEETENED ACAI SMOOTHIE PACK
JUICE OF 2-3 LIMES
1-2 TBS PACKED BASIL LEAVES
1 TBS SAUERKRAUT (ONE WITHOUT DILL, CARAWAY & GARLIC!)
2 TSP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
1 TSP PURPLE DULSE FLAKES (OPTIONAL)
3/4 TSP LEMON OR LIME FLAVOR
1 1/2-2 CUPS WATER OR COCONUT WATER
LOTS 'O' STEVIA TO TASTE

PEEL THE SKIN OFF OF THE JICAMA AND CHOP, AND LOP THE DRY ENDS OFF OF THE ASPARAGUS STALKS. RUN THE SMOOTHIE PACK UNDER WARM WATER UNTIL IT BEGINS TO THAW, BUT IS STILL LARGELY FROZEN. COMBINE INGREDIENTS IN BLENDER AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH.

SERVES 1-2

TROPICAL APPLE-LESS APPLESAUCE
1 MEDIUM JICAMA
1 SAMBAZON UNSWEETENED ACAI SMOOTHIE PACK
JUICE OF 1-2 LIMES OR LEMONS
STEVIA TO TASTE
3/4-1 CUP WATER

PEEL SKIN OFF OF JICAMA AND CHOP, AND RUN THE SMOOTHIE PACK UNDER WARM WATER UNTIL IT BEGINS TO THAW A BIT. COMBINE INGREDIENTS IN BLENDER AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH.

*Plus, let's be honest, who doesn't get a thrill at the idea of having a sweet treat, and having epically stinky pee? Right?

BLISS OUT BREW, AN HERBAL TEA BLEND

SWEET MEDICINE IN A CUSTOM RE-PURPOSED CANISTER
Despite many significant dietary modifications, many of my symptoms didn't noticeably improve until incorporating healing herbs into my daily routine. I may have mentioned this before, and most likely will again, but for over ten years of my life, I took 1,000 mg of pain reliever just about every day for migraines, chronic nerve pain, and severe menstrual cramping. Now that my food triggers have been eliminated, my symptoms are treated completely with herbs. So suffice it to say, I am incredibly enthusiastic about the benefits of herbs. I recently started an herbalism certification course, and have also had the opportunity to help out some friends by making some custom tea blends for them. I feel very at home with it all, and am excited to share some of my blends with you.
Up first is a blend that I made for one of my best friends who has been dealing with a great deal of stress, including a job that taxes his arms and wrists and manifests itself in similar nerve symptoms to mine. I tested this blend out on myself first, and halfway through my mug, I felt like I had taken a muscle relaxant. My tense muscles eased up, my blood started flowing to my finger tips (yes, that is a rare feeling for me), and my mood noticeably improved. I was excited to pass this on to him and see how he responded. After his first mug, he felt relaxed and more at peace, and said that his lungs felt clean and open. He drank this sweet brew prior to bed, and woke up the next morning feeling more refreshed. The tea comes off as quite sweet because of the stevia and licorice root, so test it before adding any additional sweeteners to your cup.
Normally the tea recipes I share here are for a day or two's dose; this recipe is meant to fill a tea canister and last for a while.

BLISS OUT BREW*
1/2 CUP LICORICE ROOT
1/4 CUP CATNIP
1/4 CUP SKULLCAP
1/4 CUP MEADOWSWEET
1/4 CUP ROSE HIPS
1/4 CUP MUGWORT
1/4 CUP STEVIA HERB
1/4 CUP FENNEL SEED
1    TBS SHEEP SORREL
1    TBS PASSIONFLOWER
1    TBS ORANGE PEEL (HEAPING)
OPTIONAL: 1/4 CUP GOLDENSEAL (ADDED FOR SEASONAL ALLERGY COMPLAINTS)

MIX HERBS AND STORE. LOAD TEA INTO A TEA BALL AND STEEP ANYWHERE FROM 5 MINUTES TO AN HOUR, DEPENDING ON DESIRED POTENCY. YOU CAN ALSO PUT THE DESIRED DOSE OF HERBS INTO A FRENCH PRESS AND STEEP THE HERBS THAT WAY. 

ABOUT THESE HERBS
LICORICE ROOT:
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS AND DIGESTIVE SYSTEMS, DIURETIC, EXPECTORANT. 
CATNIP:  
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS AND DIGESTIVE SYSTEMS, PROMOTES THE EXCRETION OF TOXINS THROUGH SWEATING
SKULLCAP:  
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS AND DIGESTIVE SYSTEMS, DIURETIC, SEDATIVE
MEADOWSWEET:  
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, DIURETIC
ROSE HIPS:
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, DIURETIC, IMMUNE BOOSTER
MUGWORT:
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, PROMOTES PROPER DIGESTION 
STEVIA:
HERBAL SWEETENER THAT DOES NOT ELEVATE BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
FENNEL SEED:
SOOTHES DIGESTIVE AND NERVOUS SYSTEMS, DIURETIC, EXPECTORANT
SHEEP SORREL:
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, DETOXIFYING
PASSIONFLOWER: 
SOOTHES THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, SEDATIVE
GOLDENSEAL:
DIURETIC, SOOTHING TO SINUS COMPLAINTS


*Please note that herbs are potent medicine, and should be honored as such. I am not a certified herbalist (yet!), and am sharing this recipe based solely on my own personal research and experience with it. If you are unfamiliar with these herbs, it is best to first try them individually to test your body's tolerance of them.

CHAYOTE: RAW APPLE ALTERNATIVE

At least once a month I try to be adventurous at the grocery store and purchase a vegetable that I'm unfamiliar with to research when I get home. Rarely do I actually end up using it in the way I'm instructed to online, but the information I read helps me to understand it's flavor, texture and properties a bit better before having a hand at it. A few weeks ago I picked up a chayote squash from the market, and was pretty pleased both with it's texture and flavor as well as how my body reacted to it. (So far, so good.) Chayote is a crisp, watery squash found in both Latin American as well as Indian cuisine. Let me half-ass this entry for a moment and give you a direct quote from Wikipedia:

"The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as christophene, vegetable pear, mirliton, alligator pear (South Louisiana), choko (Australia, New Zealand), starprecianté, citrayota, citrayote (Ecuador and Colombia), chuchu (Brazil), chow chow (India) Sayote (Philippines) ,güisquil (Guatemala, El Salvador), or pear squash, iskus (इस्कुस) (Nepal) is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash."

I've used the chayote now in smoothies and sauteed with other vegetables, but my favorite discovery so far is how well it soothes my desire for a crisp raw apple. Sliced raw, not only does it look quite like a green apple, it has the same watery refreshing snap to it, and I'm really looking forward to enjoying it in the warm summer months. If you or your child suffers from fructose malabsorption, this could be the perfect substitute for you. I haven't been able to locate any information online about the fructan content in them, so don't hold me to that, but I'm quite sensitive to fructose and many fructans, and I seem to digest them without trouble. 

CHAYOTE AS APPLE
RAW CHAYOTE SQUASH
FRESH SQUEEZED LEMON OR LIME JUICE
STEVIA TO TASTE

SQUEEZE THE LIME OR LEMON JUICE OVER THE CHAYOTE, SPRINKLE OR DRIZZLE WITH STEVIA TO TASTE. FOR A MORE INTENSE SWEET & SOUR FLAVOR, STORE IN A CONTAINER IN THE JUICES TO ALLOW THE CHAYOTE TO ABSORB THE FLAVOR MORE FULLY.

WEEKLY TEASE

Vanilla cashew cream custard parfait, layered with cocoa teff crumbles from a failed pie crust, and blueberries. (This was my husband's custard, mine was served sans these embellishments.) I'm still experimenting with agar agar, learning how much is too much, etc. This is a bit of a cheat, as I made this a few weeks ago, but it's been a rough week, and my relationship with food is especially bittersweet these days, so I have been somewhat reticent when it comes to documenting my meals. I have a few new recipes to share with you next week, though, including a submission for this month's SOS Challenge. Until then, I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend in health and happiness.

SWEET PUFFED LOTUS SEED CEREAL (GLUTEN-FREE, GRAIN-FREE, CORN-FREE, SUGAR-FREE, VEGAN)

It was really tempting to post this recipe last week in tandem with my puffed lotus seed popcorn alternative, but I figured that it was better to spread out the love a bit. And hot damn, do I have a lot of love for this recipe. I've mentioned before my former obsession with cereal, and I think that it is of great credit to my power of will that I have so graciously accepted eating vegetables for breakfast for the past two years rather than the sweet indulgences of the past. (Gotta give myself a pat on the back every now and then.) But man, if I let myself really think about it, I've really missed eating cereal. When I finally had this in my bowl, complete with some homemade milk, I had to keep saying to myself, "This is really happening right now. I'm eating sweet, delicious cereal. Live in this moment." This recipe is pretty remarkable in that it's easy, fast, allows for limitless variations, and has a completely gratifying texture akin to Kix, but way better because it doesn't get soggy at the bottom of the bowl! Today I'm offering you my very first version of this cereal, but if I let my mind wander, I can already start daydreaming of the variations I might suggest to you in the future. (Peanut-free peanut butter puffs anyone?) If any of you missed my previous post about puffed lotus seeds, head here for a little bit of background and another awesome snack.

SWEET PUFFED LOTUS SEED CEREAL
5 CUPS PUFFED LOTUS SEEDS*
2 TBS COCONUT OIL
5 (+/-) DROPPERS OF LIQUID VANILLA STEVIA
SEASONINGS TO TASTE (I USED 1/4 TSP CARDAMOM, 1/4 TSP MACE, 1/4 TSP NUTMEG)

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. ON STOVETOP, MELT 2 TBS OF COCONUT OIL IN A LARGE POT OVER LOW HEAT. ADD LOTUS SEEDS, SPICES AND STEVIA, AND MIX UNTIL THE SEEDS ARE COATED WITH THE OIL, ETC. POUR SEEDS OUT EVENLY ONTO A BAKING SHEET AND BAKE ABOUT 5 MINUTES, OR UNTIL LIGHTLY GOLDEN ON AT LEAST ONE SIDE. ENJOY WITH YOUR FAVORITE DAIRY-FREE MILK, OR SNACK ON IT AS IS.

*My puffed lotus seeds were purchased locally at Shalimar Indian Market in Central Square, Cambridge, in a bag labeled "Phool Makhana".

WEEKLY TEASE

A raw snack this week of snow peas, fennel, and sauerkraut with my homemade basil & squash gut dressing. I'm loving that eating raw foods feels good once again now that the warm weather is easing it's way into our corner of the country!

LOTUS ROOT CHIPS (VEGAN, POTATO-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE)

BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN SAND DOLLARS FOR YOUR MOUTH HOLE!
I'm really tempted to end every sentence in this post with an exclamation point, regardless of how appropriate it would be. (See the restraint I just used there?) Consider it implied from hence forward. A few weeks ago I fermented some vegetables, and shared the results here.  One of my recipes used lotus root, an extremely fibrous root used in traditional Asian fare which is typically boiled or stir-fried. One of the many ways that I enjoyed the results of that experiment was to make chips with the thinly sliced lotus root, and I was so (ahem, edit) excited by the result. My mind was a wee bit blown. See, I love potato chips. If I buy a bag of chips, I finish the entire bag within the hour. I'm talking family sized bags of chips. Problem is, as is often the case with foods I love, potatoes and I don't get along so well, so chips have been off of my shopping list for a while now. I've tried making chips with other root vegetables before, but they never come out crispy for me. These came out wonderfully crispy and beautiful (do you see that picture up there?), and because of being fermented for a number of days, they tasted like the sea salt and vinegar chips that I crave (and deny myself in order to appease my health) so much. And, lucky for us all, it's so easy to make that it hardly requires a recipe. The longest step is soaking the root, which requires no attention at all. I can not wait to pick up another root at the Korean market and make up another batch.

LOTUS ROOT CHIPS

LOTUS ROOT, PEELED & THINLY SLICED
VINEGAR OR MARINADE OF YOUR CHOICE (If not using fermented root from my recipe here)
SEA SALT (Again, if not using the root from my recipe)
HIGH HEAT OIL OR GHEE TO GREASE BAKING SHEET (I used coconut oil)

FERMENT ROOT OR SOAK IN VINEGAR OR MARINADE OF CHOICE FOR 24+ HOURS. PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. GREASE BAKING SHEET WITH OIL OR GHEE, AND LAY ROOT SLICES OUT FLAT ON SHEET. BAKE UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN, FLIPPING ONCE IF NEEDED, 5-10 MINUTES.

FACEBOOK, DUH

Here I am, the Luddite constantly in conflict with the inevitable fusion of technology and social networking. I've recently joined a couple of groups on Facebook relating to food and herbalism, and I've really enjoyed the forum that they create. I decided to hop on that bandwagon to ease the exchange of recipes, encouragement and ideas. Follow me here, if you like!

BASIL & SQUASH GUT DRESSING (VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE)

I eat squash pretty infrequently because my body isn't the biggest fan of the sugar content, but whenever I do enjoy it, I always feel conflicted about what to do with the guts. They've got to be good for something other than roasting and snacking on the seeds, right? (Which, is surely a worthy task, don't get me wrong.) The other night I was cooking up a light dinner of steamed squash and green vegetables, and wanted a quick and easy way to boost the nutrition and flavor profile a bit. The blender and I have become a bit better acquainted lately, so I decided to toss the guts in with some oil, water and herbs, and was supremely happy with the result. Best part is that even though I've been drizzling it onto meals and snacks for the past 2 or 3 days, there is still plenty left to enjoy...a rarity in this kitchen.

BASIL & SQUASH GUT DRESSING

1 CUP WATER
1/4 CUP AVOCADO OIL OR OLIVE OIL
GUTS OF AN ACORN SQUASH
1/4 CUP PACKED BASIL LEAVES
1 TBS PACKED PARSLEY LEAVES
1/4 TSP SEA SALT
OPTIONAL: GARLIC CLOVE TO TASTE IF YOU TOLERATE ALLIUM

THROW INGREDIENTS INTO A BLENDER AND PUREE. REFRIGERATE TO PRESERVE; SHAKE BEFORE SERVING.

POPCORN ALTERNATIVE: ROASTED PUFFED LOTUS SEEDS (CORN-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE, GRAIN-FREE, VEGAN)

I really miss popcorn. My cravings for it lately have been pretty unbearable. I've tried popping sorghum before, and damn, those one or two kernels that actually popped were mighty tasty, but the other hundred or so dormant little dudes were quite a tease. Sometime last year I came across a large bag at a local Indian market* labeled "Phool Makhana", and the translated label on the back said "puffed lotus seeds". I was intrigued, and my brain immediately decided that it might be the perfect popcorn substitute. I tried some from the bag; they were weird and chewy, with a subtle sweet aftertaste. I decided to try toasting them in oil in a pot like you would popcorn with no success. They remained strange in texture, they tasted nothing like popcorn. Research online taught me that they are normally stewed in dals and other savory dishes, but that wasn't what I was after. I closed up the bag, and it remained pushed to the back of the shelf until last week. 
My recent resurgence in cravings led me to take the bag down again and give it another go. This time I thought of coating them in oil and toasting them in the oven; this time my dreams came true. Roasted puffed lotus seeds end up tasting just like popcorn, the texture is completely convincing, and it's so fast and easy that it hardly even requires a recipe. I've shared this with friends who were also really surprised and excited...we were equally addicted to the snack. You will be happy to know that I have also come up with a cereal recipe with them that I will share with you soon! For now, though, enjoy fulfilling your popcorn cravings with a new gluten-free, grain-free, corn-free snack.

NO-CORN POPCORN (ROASTED PUFFED LOTUS SEEDS)
PUFFED LOTUS SEEDS
GRAPESEED OIL TO COAT
SEA SALT & SEASONINGS OF YOUR CHOICE TO TASTE

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. POUR THE LOTUS SEEDS INTO A BOWL, POUR ENOUGH OIL IN TO COAT, STIR. LAY OUT ON BAKING SHEET, BAKE FOR 5-7 MINUTES OR UNTIL SLIGHTLY GOLDEN ON AT LEAST ONE SIDE. SEASON WITH SEA SALT, DULSE OR SEAWEED, NUTRITIONAL YEAST, OR WHATEVER ELSE SUITS YOUR FANCY.

*These were purchased at Shalimar in Central Square, Cambridge

WEEKLY TEASE

Grilled silverbrite/keta* salmon with lime zest, cilantro & basil, and sauce made with Coconut Aminos, vanilla stevia & lime. (I'm tolerating lime! Rejoice!) Served with roasted butternut squash and steamed asparagus. Oh boy.

*I purchased this salmon at Trader Joe's, having never heard of this particular type of salmon. I can't find any information on Seafood Selector or elsewhere about if the commercial raising or catching of this fish is known to have a negative environmental impact. I thought it might be safer because the flesh is such a pale pink (almost grey), so at least they aren't being fed food with pink dye in them, but if you know of anything, would you let me know in the comments? I'd be most obliged!

CRIMINALIZE ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE?

My attention was recently brought to this article from Natural News, which raises many concerns about the future of alternative medicine, not only in North Carolina, but throughout the United States. Given the recent legislative trends in our country, it seems plausible that the idea could spread. Let's see what we can do to stop it, lest our health and the welfare of our healers suffer as a result!

SEAWEED: SALTY & SWEET SNACK IDEAS

A JARFUL OF TOASTED LAVER TO STOW AWAY IN MY PURSE
Seaweed has been my new jam this week. I've been snacking on it in a variety of ways, much thanks being owed to our local Korean grocer, Reliable Market in Union Square, which has an entire aisle devoted to affordably priced bags of it. I'd love to stock my pantry with locally-sourced seaweed, like that provided by Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, but at 4-8 bucks a bag, that's not within our budget. Look at this massive bag of Laver for only $2.49!

(THERE WAS ONCE MUCH MORE IN THE BAG)
I'm definitely going to be grabbing some more this week. My favorite way to eat the Laver is to dry toast it in a pan, giving it a nutty, salty crunch to it that I adore. I'm quite a sucker for the salty and sweet combination, too, and found that if paired with my other new favorite jam, cashews toasted in coconut oil with liquid vanilla stevia, I have the most phenomenal eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head snack. (Best iron boost ever.) 

BODY ECOLOGY DIET BE DAMNED, CASHEWS MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE
If the cashews aren't an option (either because you can't eat them, or like me, you ate them all), try toasting the laver in a bit of coconut oil with some puffed buckwheat (also available at Reliable Market), and add some of the vanilla stevia to that. Hot damn!

I REALLY COULD STARE AT THIS FOREVER

CREAMY HOMEMADE OAT & AMARANTH MILK (VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, SUGAR-FREE)

Like many of you, one of my pursuits in the past few years has been to greatly reduce the amount of waste that our household produces. Sometimes this manifests itself in pretty neurotic ways, as evidenced by my overflowing pantry/storage room where you can find boxes of styrofoam and plastic mesh bags that I swear to myself I'll use in some sort of sculpture or craft project someday. Once you hear things like America's biggest export is trash, and that plastic takes thousands of years to biodegrade, it can be really difficult to toss these things away, particularly for anyone such as I with an over-developed guilt complex. In order to alleviate the anxiety I feel about throwing things away, I try to consider the packaging of an item before I purchase it. Where will it end up when I'm done using it? We re-use, we compost, we recycle, but some items don't easily fit into any of those categories. Sometimes, I'll toss these questionable items into the recycling bin anyway with a silent and naive hope that they'll know what to do with it. One of the dubious items I toss into the bin is the emptied aseptic container of hemp milk. Those containers are an interesting fusion of cardboard, plastic and foil, which, as far as I know, can't really be separated and processed by recycling plants. Some may argue that they are more environmentally friendly because they don't require the wasted resources of refrigerated trucks and shelving, but I'm not sure if that makes up for it. (These sorts of problems are constant loops in my brain...)

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were given a homemade soy milk maker, and I used it from time to time to make soy milks, and with less success, rice and nut milks. I haven't taken it out for a long while, as it is a bit of a pain to clean, but I've since read quite a few recipes for homemade milks that don't require such an appliance anyway. Kim has a few on her website, and this week I decided to give my conscience a rest by making my own milk based off of her rice milk recipe. My first attempt was a bit too porridge-like, but today I nailed it. This milk came out beautiful and creamy, and it is taking some discipline to keep myself from finishing it off tonight. You can easily adjust this by using different grains, I'm sure; I'd love to hear of any variations you try. 

CREAMY OAT & AMARANTH MILK 
Adapted from Affairs of Living
1/2 CUP GLUTEN-FREE OATS
1/4 CUP AMARANTH
7 1/4-8 CUPS WATER (I put my grains into a half-gallon mason jar, and then fill it with water to the 8 cup mark while soaking, then transfer into the pot for cooking)
PINCH OF SEA SALT
STEVIA OR SWEETENER OF YOUR CHOICE TO TASTE (I used NuNaturals alcohol-free vanilla stevia liquid)

PLACE OATS AND AMARANTH IN A LARGE BOWL OR CONTAINER (I USED THE MASON JAR THAT WOULD EVENTUALLY STORE THE MILK) AND COVER WITH THE WATER. COVER AND SOAK OVERNIGHT OR 6-10 HOURS. AFTER SOAKING, EMPTY INTO A PARTIALLY COVERED POT, BRING TO A BOIL, AND SIMMER FOR ABOUT 45 MINUTES, STIRRING OCCASIONALLY TO MAKE SURE THE AMARANTH DOESN'T STICK TO THE BOTTOM. WHEN DONE COOKING, BLEND ON HIGH IN BLENDER, AND THEN USING A FINE MESH STRAINER, STRAIN THE MILK INTO A HEAT-RESISTANT CONTAINER. STORE IN REFRIGERATOR, SHAKE BEFORE USING.
 MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS OF MILK

WEEKLY TEASE

Diced Korean radish sauteed in coconut oil with cultured burdock root, seaweed, flax meal and a splash of Coconut Aminos. I used the Shiso leaves, purchased at a local Korean market, as wraps for the mix. This was definitely a favorite lunch this week.

SMOKED SEA SALT GIVEAWAY RESULTS

Well, friends, it was to your advantage (and honestly, my dismay) that I only had 5 entries into my very first giveaway! The winners of my humble little contest are sisters Jennifer and Jaclyn of Sketch-Free Vegan Eating, (which is, by the way, one of my new favorite food blogs) who said, "The quinoa burgers look awesome! I would definitely use the salt with that :)", and Shannon, who said, "I would definitely use the salt to make the salmon cakes :)". Since the quinoa burgers use the Mexican Smoked Sea Salt, and the salmon cakes use the Applewood Smoked Sea  Salt, I will send the salts according to your selections. I can't wait to hear about their meals, and to see what else they cook up with these salts! Be sure to keep an eye out on my blog for future giveaways of harder to find ingredients. Thanks everyone!

WARMING BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP (VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, SUGAR-FREE, ALLIUM-FREE)

A HASTY CAPTURE OF OUR GUESTS' MUG, SERVED WITH BLUE CORN CHIPS
This has kind of been an exciting week for me in terms of food adventures. I'm trying not to go too deep into the water, just inching a little bit further out on the diving board (on my bum, though, mind you), and relishing the view. I believe that it is thanks to the tips I'm getting from reading The Body Ecology Diet, and my bravely plugging through the varying symptom flare-ups I get upon (slowly) introducing  cultured vegetables into my daily routine. (See previous post.) My digestive system seems to be getting stronger, and being able to enjoy a mug of this beautiful soup seems to be a result. On Friday, my husband and our friends were able to reap the benefits as well, as I quickly brainstormed and cooked this soup up for us to enjoy for dinner. (Butternut squash is not typically something that my body can handle.) Can you tell by the blurry picture how excited I was to sit down and eat it? Our dinner was completed by some salad greens and my salmon cakes topped with homemade mint & basil avocado mayo. Both recipes utilize the smoked sea salt that I am currently having a giveaway for. Go here now, as there is only one more day to enter!

WARMING BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

4 CUPS PEELED, CUBED AND ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
3 CUPS WATER
JUICE OF 1/2- 1 LIME (according to your taste)
2 TBS COCONUT OIL
1 1/2 TSP CUMIN
3/4 TSP CORIANDER
1/2 TSP MEXICAN SMOKED SEA SALT
1/4 TSP CARDAMOM
1/4 TSP ALLSPICE
1/8 TSP ASAFOETIDA POWDER
FRESH CILANTRO TO TASTE
If you can tolerate them, a splash of Coconut Aminos, Bragg's or Gluten-Free Tamari would be grand, as well as a pinch of cayenne!

PUT ROASTED SQUASH AND WATER INTO A BLENDER AND PUREE. POUR INTO A SOUP POT AND HEAT ON STOVE, ADDING LIME AND SPICES FIRST, AND THEN COCONUT OIL. COOK UNTIL HEATED AND COCONUT OIL IS FULLY MIXED AND MELTED. ADD CILANTRO RIGHT BEFORE SERVING.

CULTURED VEGETABLES, A TENTATIVE (AND TASTY) FORAY

I've been making my way through The Body Ecology Diet book, trying to fill in the gaps in my diet and lifestyle changes in order to better facilitate my healing. If you are unfamiliar with the title, it is one of the most referenced texts on internal bacterial overgrowth, it's effects on health, and the necessary dietary changes to heal and keep it in check. Much of the information in the book I have already read in my various internet haunts over the past couple of years, but it is giving me some important information that I haven't previously considered, such as proper food combining and the importance of consuming fermented vegetables. If you have been following my blog closely, you may recall that fermented foods of any kind have been on my Absolutely Avoid list, because every time I have tried to introduce them into my diet, I immediately get a fits of brain fog, light-headedness, and often increased inflammation in my body. Sooo...I quickly abandoned said attempts and opted for playing it safe. The new year, however, has brought a persistent impatience with stasis into my life, and I feel that I've made enough headway in my healing that I can afford to take some risks. Maybe. I hope. Eh...we'll see.

So, here I am on week two of ingesting a wee bit of fermented something or other almost every day, in addition to the super probiotics that I've been taking 2-3 times a day for the past year. While I do feel a bit of the brain fog and fatigue, as well as a mild but persisting nausea, I'm hoping that this will improve in time and is simply a bit of the Herxheimer effect. Why do I feel hopeful this time around? I've made a few other exceptions in my diet in the past week that normally would throw me pretty off, but seemed to have little effect on me. Por exemplo: On Friday, I made some cashew-based custards, and included 6 wee blueberries in mine. Taken with stride. Later in the day I made a homemade butternut squash soup (recipe soon!), and ate a fair amount of the leftovers the following day. Pushing it, for sure, but I seemed to be okay. It does seem equally possible that because I feel off from the fermented veggies, the reactions my body is having from these exceptions aren't feeling as acute, but for now, I'm trying not to analyze it too much. My trial shall continue, and dear friends, you will benefit.

The two jars that I cultured this month turned out to be absolutely delicious, and I have utilized the vegetables, herbs and juices in a variety of ways that I am excited to share with you in installments.  (Wraps, marinades, dressings, and chips!) Both of them are uniquely flavored, but both have an intoxicating smoky flavor thanks to the applewood smoked sea salt that I used. (Only two more days to enter to win some here!) I will absolutely be making these again. Be sure, also, to check out Kim's selection of fermented cuisine here. I used her tutorials as guides.

SMOKY CULTURED PARSNIPS WITH ROSEMARY & TARRAGON

2 SMALL PARSNIPS
1/2 CUP WARM WATER
1 TBS APPLEWOOD SMOKED SEA SALT
1 1/2 TSP OF FENNEL SEED
2/3 TSP MEYER LEMON ZEST (or combo of orange and lemon zest)
2 LARGE STEMS OF TARRAGON
1 SMALL SPRIG OF ROSEMARY 

CLEAN THE PARSNIPS, AND USE A VEGETABLE PEELER TO SHAVE RIBBONS OF PARSNIP OFF UNTIL YOU CAN'T PEEL ANY MORE. IN A CLEAN, STERILIZED JAR, LAYER FIRST THE SEEDS, THEN ALTERNATE TARRAGON AND PARSNIPS, AND TOP WITH THE ROSEMARY. PACK ALL INGREDIENTS VERY TIGHTLY. IN A SMALL BOWL OR CUP, MIX WATER, SALT AND ZEST. MIX UNTIL SALT FAIRLY DISSOLVED AND THE ZEST IS HYDRATED (IF DRIED). POUR INTO THE JAR, AND DO YOUR BEST TO SUBMERGE ALL HERBS AND VEGETABLES. SCREW ON THE TOP OF THE JAR VERY TIGHTLY. PLACE IN A WARM AREA AND ALLOW TO SIT, 3-7 DAYS DEPENDING ON THE TEMPERATURE OF THE ROOM AND HOW STRONGLY FERMENTED YOU WANT IT TO BE. (I KEPT MINE ON A SHELF ATOP THE RADIATOR.) REFRIGERATE WHEN DONE.

CULTURED BURDOCK & LOTUS ROOT

1 CUP WARM WATER
1 SKINNY BURDOCK ROOT
1 SMALL LOTUS ROOT
1 LEMONGRASS STALK
3-4 STALKS OF BASIL LEAVES
2 TBS PERILLA/SHISO SEEDS
1 1/2 TBS CORIANDER SEEDS
1/2 TBS APPLEWOOD SMOKED SEA SALT
1/2 TBS PLAIN SEA SALT

CLEAN THE ROOTS AND SHAVE THEIR SKINS OFF WITH A VEGETABLE PEELER. RINSE PEELER AND THEN PEEL THE FLESH OF THE BURDOCK ROOT WITH IT UNTIL YOU CAN'T PEEL ANY MORE. THINLY SLICE THE LOTUS ROOT INTO DISCS. SLICE THE LEMONGRASS, HOWEVER SUITS YOUR FANCY. I DID BOTH VERTICAL CUTS AND SMALL CIRCLES. IN A CLEAN, STERILIZED JAR, LAYER FIRST THE SEEDS, THEN THE BASIL, THEN BURDOCK, LEMONGRASS ACCORDING TO HOW IT WAS CUT/WILL FIT, THEN STACK THE LOTUS ROOT ABOVE. PACK CONTENTS IN TIGHTLY. IN A SMALL BOWL OR CUP, MIX THE WARM WATER AND SALT, AND THEN POUR INTO THE JAR. TAKE CARE TO KEEP CONTENTS SUBMERGED. SCREW ON JAR TOP VERY TIGHTLY. PLACE IN A WARM AREA AND ALLOW TO SIT, 3-7 DAYS DEPENDING ON THE TEMPERATURE OF THE ROOM AND HOW STRONGLY FERMENTED YOU WANT IT TO BE. (I KEPT MINE ON A SHELF ATOP THE RADIATOR.) REFRIGERATE WHEN DONE.

WEEKLY TEASE

Collard greens & broccoli sauteed in coconut oil with fresh basil, roasted spaghetti squash with a vanilla stevia sweetened coconut oil spread with chopped fresh mint, and creamy brown rice cooked with meyer lemon zest & a touch of vanilla stevia and coconut oil. (Rice for my husband, not I, unfortunately!)

SMOKED SEA SALT GIVEAWAY

Since so much mainstream American food is off of my shopping list for health reasons, it becomes necessary to soothe my creativity (and ensure my sanity) by finding that new spice, exotic vegetable or ingredient that will help me to feel excited about cooking again. I recognize, though, that as a reader it can be difficult to keep up with all of the unique and sometimes hard-to-find ingredients that make their way into my and many others' recipes. It's such a tease when you start drooling over a meal that someone created, only to find that you have to hunt online or all around town in order to recreate it in your own kitchen. The last thing that I want to do is to intimidate you!

And so, for that reason, I have procured two of my favorite ingredients from two of my favorite local markets* so that you can perfectly recreate some of my recipes. I'm happy to offer a bottle of Applewood Smoked Sea Salt, and Mexican Smoked Sea Salt, two flavors that make their way into a great deal of my recipes. I adore these salts, especially in vegetarian dishes, as they add a full smokey flavor without the nasty ingredients of most bottled liquid smoke. Here are just a few of the recipes that you could try:


I will randomly select two winners, each winning one bottle of salt, on Wednesday, March 30th via Random.org. In order to enter, leave a comment on this entry by midnight on Tuesday the 29th, telling me what recipe you're most excited to try them with. (Doesn't have to be mine.) If you would like, feel free to mention the giveaway on your various online haunts (even an e-mail to a friend will do!), and leave an additional comment letting me know in order to increase your odds. If you officially follow my blog for the first time, or link to it on your site, you may also comment again. Sadly, because I am unfamiliar with most customs restrictions abroad, this will only be offered to readers in the United States. (I'm sorry!)

Best of luck to you, friends.

*Applewood Smoked Sea Salt is sold in the bulk section of Harvest Co-op in Central Square, Cambridge. Mexican Smoked Sea Salt can be found at Christina's Spice & Specialty Foods in Inman Square, Cambridge.

A BIT OF VALIDATION

I was grateful to Alison for posting a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal about gluten sensitivity the other day. I am one of the many who went through blood work and an endoscopy to test for Celiac disease, and was shocked to get negative results. My system becomes nearly crippled when I eat wheat or gluten, how could I not have it? Luckily, one of the many GI doctors I met with discussed with me gluten intolerance/sensitivity vs. Celiac disease, and even suggested an online testing option if I wanted to get a somewhat definitive answer. I haven't sought out the online test, as I know now unequivocally that I don't tolerate it, simply from listening and observing my body and it's needs. Not everyone has that support, though, or the awareness that gluten sensitivity could be causing their unexplained symptoms in the first place. Hopefully awareness will continue to increase, and more people will be assured that they are not crazy.

WEEKLY TEASE


Sometimes the simplest meals are the most satisfying: Cabbage and blue potatoes sauteed in coconut oil. 
(I'm typically quite sensitive to potatoes, but seem to tolerate the more rare varieties in small amounts.)

SAVORY FLOURLESS WINTER MUFFINS (GRAIN-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE, VEGAN)

These muffins were a pleasant surprise born of experimentation this week. I had some leftover chestnut puree, and thought I might try something like a vegan nut roast. My first attempt was quite tasty, and the same formula that I will list below, except that it was cooked at a lower temperature in the oven, which left them firm, but still soft to the fork, and kind of dangling in the realm of the unnameable. The second time around, I tried them at a higher temperature, my thought being that it might be more like a nut roast, but was kind of excited when I found them to be perfect savory muffins instead. These are somewhat dense, though not nearly as much as you would expect, and since they are flour-free, grain-free, baking soda, powder, xanthun gum, egg, etcetera, etcetera-free, they don't feel heavy in your stomach like a lot of gluten-free and vegan baked goods do. Plus, I'm always a fan of recipes with few ingredients, and love to prove to people that baking gluten-free doesn't require a million different flours and additives. Bonus that they are full of protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C, and other good vitamins, minerals & healthy fats. Mix this up with different herbs and spices to suit your whim. Chestnuts, at least here in New England, are pretty expensive typically, but if you live near an Ocean State Job Lot, they were recently selling bags of them for only two bucks. If not, I would recommend procuring some anyway, as it is an incredibly versatile ingredient for both savory and sweet recipes.

SAVORY WINTER MUFFINS

1 CUP CHESTNUT PUREE
1 CUP RAW PUMPKIN SEEDS (PEPITAS)
1/4 CUP FLAXMEAL
1 TSP SMOKED SEA SALT
2 TSP TOASTED SESAME OIL
1/4 CUP WARM WATER
GENEROUS HANDFUL OF FRESH ROSEMARY & PARSLEY

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. GRIND PUMPKIN SEEDS DOWN TO A MEAL IN A FOOD PROCESSOR, WIPING SIDES WITH A SPOON TO AID. ADD SALT & FLAXMEAL, MIX. IN A SEPARATE BOWL, MIX CHESTNUT PUREE WITH OIL & WATER, AND THEN ADD TO INGREDIENTS IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR. MIX, AND ADD ROSEMARY & PARSLEY THROUGH THE CHUTE. SCOOP OUT AND PUT IN SIX SILICONE MUFFIN WRAPPERS, OR INTO GREASED MUFFIN TIN. (I WOULD RECOMMEND GRAPESEED OIL OR GHEE.) IF USING SILICONE MUFFIN HOLDERS, PLACE ON BAKING SHEET. BAKE FOR 20-25 MINUTES OR UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN AND FIRM.

MAKES 6 MUFFINS

SWEET TINDA SMOOTHIE (SUGAR-FREE, VEGAN)


For some reason, while I was tossing in bed this morning, batting away our cats' frisky advances, this smoothie started to formulate in my mind. I purchased a bag of this frozen Tinda, or Indian Baby Pumpkin, at one of our local Indian markets a few months ago, and wasn't really blown away by it on the first try. My groggy mind started to remember the sweet hints of cucumber and melon, though, and quickly, the other ingredients made themselves known, and I resolved to try it out when the sun and I rose. If you ignore the fact that it's still in the 40's outside, and that drinking a frozen treat when already shivering isn't usually the best idea, this smoothie is perfect. It ended up fooling my tongue into thinking that I was indulging in honeydew melon, which is a most lovely trick. I really can't wait to try this again on a hot summer day. Grab a bag of this gourd from your local Indian market and give it a try. (Only 99 cents!)

SWEET TINDA SMOOTHIE

1 1/2 CUPS UNSWEETENED HEMPMILK (OR MILK PRODUCT OF YOUR CHOICE)
1 CUP FROZEN TINDA/INDIAN BABY PUMPKIN
1/2 OF AN AVOCADO
4 GREEN CABBAGE LEAVES (YOU WON'T TASTE IT, TRUST ME)
1/2 TSP CARDAMOM
1/2 TSP LEMON FLAVOR
STEVIA POWDER TO TASTE (I USED 4 MINI SCOOPS OR PINCHES OF THE TRADER JOE'S BRAND)
PINCH OF SEA SALT

COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS IN A BLENDER, AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH.

SERVES 1

WEEKLY TEASE

As promised, a second edition this week to compensate for my silence last week. I made these delicious grilled turkey patties last night with fennel, cardamom, lemon zest, dill and parsley. They were absolutely delicious! I'm having one for breakfast now with some pea shoots and avocado.