Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oooo La La Mexico (Part 2)

This is the first time I've done a 2 parter post. How are you liking it? I feel very mysterious and secretive right now. And here is a new fact about me: I cannot in anyway keep a secret. So here I am posting this 2 days later! So much for suspense! I set up the first post with a recipe from the heart of the Sayulita kitchen, and this round I plan on sharing a Mexico inspired recipe straight from the heart of my LA kitchen.

The daily view in Mexico, I think I could forfeit cashews for this ;) 

While cooking in Mexico there were certain kitchen staples that I missed terribly! Apparently nutritional yeast isn't oh so common in Sayulita nor cashews, so this vegan was going through a few withdrawals... cheese, cheese everywhere and not a "z" in sight. <-That is my clever way of saying there wasn't any cashew cheeze for me to devour. Just want to make sure I don't lose you guys with my 'stellar' humor. You can't tell but I definitely am having a nice chuckle to myself right now, ah to entertain oneself... 

Upon my return to my cozy kitchen in LA I rounded up cashews, nutritional yeast, and some of my favorite nacho makings. I became determined to make the best nachos in all the land as it is awfully hard to watch others eat nachos and not be able to have a bite. Whoever invented nachos is a dangerously brilliant human. Corn chips with tons of wonderful toppings, need I say more? I think not.

serves 4-6 as a side
gluten free

Cheeze Ingredients:
2 cups cashews
1 1/2 cup original unsweetened hemp milk
1 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 a red bell pepper
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper for taste
*Optional half a jalapeno for spice

Avocado (I mashed up one avocado with a little salt and pepper)
*Can add beans and/or rice for a more filling nacho plate

I used Quinoa Black Bean corn chips from Trader Joe's (Gluten Free) 

Place all the cheeze ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend away! Keep going till you get a nice creamy cheeze texture. Once blended pour into a pot, and warm up on medium heat. Stirring constantly so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. When your cheeze is nice and warm it is ready to act like your nacho cheeze. 

Assemble: Place your chips on the plate, pour the cheeze all over and then top with anything and everything you like on your nachos. Serve immediately. You and your lucky guests will probably end up fighting over who gets to lick the plate ;)

Eat, drink be merry! 

Eat, sleep, surf, plant and think about life and love. You said it Sayulita!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oooo La La Mexico (Part 1)

Just 3 days ago my plane landed in LAX bringing me and the manfriend back home from an amazing adventured filled vacation in Mexico. And yes, I made it back in one whole piece. No run-ins with irate blood thirsty ninja drug trafficking cartel gangs (thanks Bro-In-Law for thinking there was slim to little chance I'd return with my head). It was a wonderful two weeks, making it next to impossible to return to the real world. 

While in Mexico we stayed in a town called Sayulita in Nayarit, and had the fantastic opportunity to cook in a kitchen preparing family style meals. (Enter my mental wheels spinning like mad to see if there is a way I can make that a full time job, lol!) The markets down there definitely cater to the "eat what is local" mindset! It was amazing shopping at the markets and seeing where each piece of produce came from, and being able to walk outside and pick mangos to munch on for snacks.

Hello Kitchen :)
I happened upon some Garam Masala spice in the kitchen, and had to play around with it. Enter Squash and Black Bean Tacos! These were so yummy there was no way not to share with you lovely people (you're welcome for the compliment). When I got back to LA I subbed out the squash used there for Butternut Squash, and am quite pleased. Maybe too pleased as my belly is looking a tad rotund... 

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos
Serves 4-6
Gluten Free

1 butternut squash
6 to 8 corn tortillas
1 can black beans
5 stalks of kale
1 avocado
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Dash of salt for taste
Salsa (I suggest making your own, see previous post for an awesome recipe:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut your butternut squash in half long way, and scoop out the seeds. Place your squash face down in a baking pan, and use 1 tablespoon of oil to rub the squash all over (skin and underside). Put in oven and bake for 40 minutes. 

While you are waiting on the squash throw together your salsa, wash and drain your can of beans, and wash and massage your kale. 

Once the squash is done take it out of the oven and let it cool. Once it is at a manageable heat peel the tough skin off and cube the squash. Place the cubed pieces in a large pan with the remaining oil and black beans. Cook on high heat, and stir in the garam masala and salt. Cook for around 5 minutes, or until the beans and squash are tender. Once they look done throw your kale on top of everything in the pan and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down and let the heat in the pan wilt your kale (about 2 minutes).

Assemble your tacos! I think the best way to get your tortilla ready is to light your stove (if gas) and toast the tortilla over the flame. **Please don't burn your fingers or light the tortilla on fire** If this method doesn't sound ideal you can toast the tortillas. Place tortilla on plate, put a handful of kale down, scoop a hearty amount of the squash and beans, and then top with salsa and avocado. Presto, from Mexico with love. :)

Sunset in Sayulita
Stayed tuned for part two... Its going to be a yummy Mexican Food treat :) Till then eat up! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Making Mornings Worthwhile

So turns out I have been lied to by every adult I have ever met from age 10 to present day. Everyone older than me has always promised that once I get to a certain age mornings will get easier. When I was in Jr. High I was told mornings would be better in High School: 100% untrue. In High School I was told they would get easier in College: flat out lie. And then in College I was reassured that once I join the working force mornings would be a breeze: vicious falsehood. Now people are telling me when I jump into my 30's mornings will all of a sudden be this blissful magical time that I will love and look forward to... why the deceit!!!

I have decided to ignore this ridiculous charade that people insist on playing; I'm in Garfield's camp, mornings are not to be loved. However.... turns out if I want to be a productive member of society I have to find a way to coexist with this most unwanted timeframe. Enter a yummy healthy breakfast that fills my house with such a wonderful aroma that it makes me almost forget that the sun just rose, and my bed is still warm and calling my name.

My favorite recipe that fills my home with the warmest most wonderful breakfast aroma has to be my favorite Almond Pancakes!! Oh there is nothing that erases the memory of leaving the comfort of my bed more than these delicious marvelous cakes of joy. So just in case you are like me and have realized that mornings will never be your favorite time of day, or if you love mornings and just want another excuse to love them I have the pancake for you. :)

Almond Pancakes!
(makes 8-9 smaller pancakes)

1 cup all purpose whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar (or sweetener substitue)
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Fruit - nectarine, pluots, plums (all of these taste good with the almond flavor)
Honey (instead of syrup)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Next whisk together all the wet ingredients, and then pour them into the dry ingredients. Mix everything together until blended (don't over stir). Heat up your griddle or pan, and put a little oil on it to prevent sticking. Using a ladle pour the batter onto the pan, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Wait for the the batter to start bubbling (about 2 minutes) and then flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Plate and top with fruit and honey. YUM! I almost want it to be morning again. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Love (Zucchini) Boat

Girl On Top Catering (my biz) is still working one on one with sponsored marathon runner Dan  Czerwonka to create healthy meals to best benefit his training for the upcoming SF Ultra Marathon. One of our recent dishes was so wonderful I couldn't keep it all to myself and had share; get ready to make a Zucchini Love Boat!

Did you know that zucchini...
  • Has 10% of the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs overeating.
  • A one cup serving of zucchini contains over 10% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, a mineral proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Along with magnesium, the potassium found in zucchini helps lower blood pressure.
  • Zucchini is high in the vitamins C and A, as well as folate, which all act as powerful antioxidants that fight oxidative stress that can lead to many different types of cancer.
And the best of all for our running friend the vitamins C and A not only serve the body as powerful antioxidants, but also as effective anti-inflammatory agents. And that is a great aid in recovery after runs. So basically this summer squash is a tasty, healing, and vitamin packed vegetable that should find its way onto your kitchen table ASAP. 

This most recent Farmer's Market I went to had zucchini's the size of arm, and I thought to myself "self, let's get a couple of these and make some zucchini boats!"

So for your eating pleasure...

Zucchini Love Boats
(serves 4-6)
Gluten Free

2 LARGE zucchinis (or 3 medium)
1 large heirloom tomato (finely chopped)
1 red bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and finely)
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pepper to taste

Spinach Cheeze Filling
1 cup cashews
1 1/2 cup packed spinach
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup veggie broth
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toppings (optional):
The Basil Sun Dried Tomato Cashew Cheeze  from An Heirloom Affair:
1-2 tablespoons dried parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Step one on this enjoyable healthy quest is to cut the ends of your zucchinis off, and then cut them in half long ways. Once they are open get a spoon and carve out the insides of the zucchini. Make sure you leave enough of a wall all around the zucchini boat so that your filling won't spill out, and not to thin so the zucchini boats don't break. Take all of the carved out insides and place them in a bowl. Add all the other veggies and stir together to make sure the flavors mingle. Set aside.

The Manfriend wanted a fork to in the shot to show how big the zucchinis are :)

Next get your spinach cheeze filling ready to roll. Place all the ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend together until a nice creamy texture is achieved. At this time you can also make the other cashew cheeze for the topping as well. Or if you plan dinners ahead of time maybe you have some left over from the Eggplant Stack (that's what happened in my kitchen, and I needed a new tasty vehicle to use for my leftover cheeze!)

Now it is assembly time... place your boats in a baking dish. I used a 9x13 casserole dish. Spoon the veggie filling into the zucchini, but not too much because there is more to come! Then pour the spinach cheeze filling over the veggies, and then put more of the veggie filling on top of that. At this point you can add The Basil Sun Dried Tomato Cheeze on top and then sprinkle parsley over everything.

Pop these beauties in the the oven for 20 minutes, take them out let them cool for 5 minutes and serve. You and your lucky recipients will be munching on a meal filled with vitamins, iron, protein, fiber, and more!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Dessert for Batman!

I am in no way trying to geek out on you lovely folks with a comic book reference, but the Dark Knight series is about to come to a close this month with Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight Rises' film and it looks INTENSE! Trailer:  

I know that the manfriend is going to want to see it, so I figured I would need a delicious chocolate treat to comfort me when the movie is over as I am sure to be emotionally drained. For those of you who don't know this about me, I cannot - in any way - handle scary movies. I am that girl in the movie theater that hides her face in the arm of the person next to her (sorry manfriend), screams when the boogie man jumps out (sorry good people in the audience), and pretends she has to pee every time the music starts to sound like it is leading up to something frightening (sorry folks in my row). I like comedy, action-comedy, and the occasional chick-flick. I am not ashamed of this at all: I am a scaredy-cat. 

Found on Google Images
Anyway, as I know myself well I am preparing my kitchen with comforting desserts that will distract my overactive imagination when we arrive home from this film. Lo and behold, I have created a dark chocolate flavorful distraction that I'm sure Batman himself would appreciate after a hard night of fighting Gotham City's most awful villans. So from my kitchen to yours I present Dark-Knight Chocolate Mousse!!

Dark-Knight Chocolate Mousse
(serves 4-6 people)
Gluten Free!

1 cup cashews (soaked for 6 hours)
1 cup (scant) almond milk (or coconut milk)
1/2 cup cacao powder
10-12 dates (soaked for 2 hours)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melted dark chocolate drizzled on top

Part of the joy to this dessert is the simplicity of it all. Put all the ingredients in your food processor or blender, with the exception of the milk. Add half of it in at first, and then as you are blending pour more in for desired consistency. I used all of my milk, but you may want a thicker mousse. Once you have blended to your desired consistency place the mousse in your mode of serving (i.e. bowl, small cup, little adorable pastry bites, etc.) 

Place the mousse in your fridge to cool. If you are impatient (like me) 30 minutes is about enough time. But if you really want it to be delicious and cool give it an hour. My plan is to whip up some mousse and then leave it in the fridge while we are at the movie theater. Then wha-lah! I arrive home emotionally battered, and have my delicious dessert ready to be devoured! 

Yum! Enjoy!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

An Heirloom Affair

Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Farmers' Market, and so should you. It appears I am at a loss for a creative way to start this post, so I opted to go with a little rhyming ditty.

Eggplant Stack: made with the bounty from my local Farmers' Market

In seriousness, Farmers' Markets are, in my humble opinion, Disneyland for adults (minus the roller-coasters). They are bright, full of color, and filled to the brim with amazing produce. The food is always more flavorful, and the farmers are more personable than a supermarket. You get the joy of shopping local which means fresher/healthier food, and supporting local hardworking farmers. I love filling up my shopping bags with sustainable, organic, pesticide-free produce, and mingling with the folks that shop and sell at the market. Look up your local Farmers' Market, and check it out if you haven't yet. Eating produce that is in season is better for you, the environment, and the local economy. 

Summers are by far my most favorite time to go to the Farmers' Market as heirloom tomatoes are in season. There really can be nothing tastier in this world than an heirloom tomato. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill beefsteak tomato you see in all the produce sections in supermarkets, I'm talking about out of this world flavorful, delightful, fantastic heirloom tomatoes. 

While I strolled down the market this Sunday I happened upon a stand with 8 different heirloom tomato varieties. It was then that I had an out of body experience, blacked out, and came-to at home with a bag filled to the brim with heirloom tomatoes. Not wanting any of them to go bad I set to work creating a dish that I could feature these beautiful produce gems. 

Eggplant Stack with Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Serves 4 to 6
(Gluten Free)

Cashew Cheeze Filling Ingredients:
2 cups cashews (soaked for 6 hours)
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red onion (chopped)
2-3 cloves pressed garlic
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup packed basil
1 pinch of salt

Heirloom Tomato Salsa Ingredients:
5 medium heirloom tomatoes (preferably different varieties) 
1/2 cup red onion (finely chopped)
1/2 cup green onions (thinly sliced)
1/3 cup cilantro (finely chopped)
Juice from half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
*optional for spice add half a jalapeno seeded and finely chopped)

Eggplant Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
3-4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 pinch coriander
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt

To make your cashew cheeze you will need to plan ahead, soak the cashews for a minimum of 6 hours (can soak over night). Once the cashews are ready place all the ingredients for the cheeze into a food processor or blender. Blend on high until all the ingredients have created a creamy texture. Set aside. 

Now move onto the salsa! Chop up the tomatoes into small bite sized chunks and place in a medium sized bowl. Add in your finely chopped red onion, green onion and cilantro. Mix everything together, and then add the lime juice. Be careful not to make the salsa too sloshy with the additional liquid. Lastly add in salt and pepper to taste (and jalapeno if desired). 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl add the melted coconut oil, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper; whisk together. Next, slice your eggplant into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. You will want to have an even number of pieces for your stacks. Dip a pastry brush into your oil mixture and cover each eggpant slice front and back. Once the piece is coated place it on the lined baking sheet. Once all the pieces are covered place them in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes take them out and flip them, and cook for 10 more minutes. Take them out again and cover each piece with the cashew cheeze. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and cook for 5 more minutes. 

Once the eggplant has cooled slighted assemble your stacks. Place a piece of eggplant with the cheeze on the plate, cover with your salsa, place another cheeze covered eggplant piece on top, and then cover with salsa again. The end result is a visually stunning dish, and a mouthwatering meal for all. 

Enjoy :)