Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Written Letter of Apology to The Cookie Monster

Dear Mr. The Cookie Monster,

Ever since I was a child I found your character on Sesame Street to be gluttonous and over the top. Your desire to stuff your fuzzy blue face with all the cookies in the world seemed not only selfish, but also a terrible case of eating your feelings away. Every time you would gobble down all the cookies and proceed to lick your ridiculously blue face I was appalled. Please Mr. Monster (may I call you The Cookie?) forgive me for my egregious error in judgment of character. It wasn't until recently when I made a batch of gluten-free, vegan, chocolate chip cookies that I fully understood what exactly fueled your cookie eating fire. When something is that delicious, and is right in front of you, the only option is to devour it completely and stab people with a fork to keep them at bay. <-That last part they didn't show on S-Street, but I can only assume there is behind the scenes footage of this barbaric display.

It is with an extremely uncomfortably full belly of cookies that I write this letter of apology to you dear The Cookie. Please forgive my foolish ways, and please also direct me to your diet coach (as my belly is so full I am not entirely sure what to do with myself).

Sincerest Apologies,

Yes, that is my written letter of apology to the one we call The Cookie Monster. I never fully understood his obsession with eating all the cookies he could find until recently, and now that I know I fear I can never go back to regular cookie eating. The other night I created my cookie masterpiece! A combination of gluten free flours, maple and brown sugars, chocolate chips, and heaven. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies, and I can swear under oath that only one cookie made it to see the light of day. You may think thats not a big deal, but there were only three people in my apartment that night... you do the math.

So I share this recipe with you, and I share a warning with you as well. Do not make these cookies unless you are fully prepared to either eat your weight in wonderful cookie heaven, OR have a gathering of friends that can help you eat the cookies. These cookies have the ability to throw all your self-control not only out the window, but they are waiting outside the window ready to beat the crap out of your self-control, curb stomp your self-control, and then throw your self-control into on coming traffic. The result is you waking up on the kitchen floor covered in cookie crumbs, and a slight cookie hangover. (Maybe I'm over exaggerating... but you at least have been warned.)

Would I do it all again... heck yes I would. These cookies are better than any I have ever had (and I haven't been vegan or gluten free my whole life). Here it is, from my kitchen to yours:

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Monster Cookies
makes about two dozen

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup maple sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla

Egg Ingredients:
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
6-7 tablespoons warm water

Dry Ingredients:* 
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup arrow root powder
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1&1/2 cups vegan dark chocolate chips

*Whoa whoa whoa, I can only assume I lost some of you after the second or third listed flour. You are more than welcome to use 2&1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (be sure if it has xanthan gum in it to NOT add more). However, I feel like if you are baking gluten free due to allergy, or for health reasons these are all flours you are going to want to have in your kitchen. Plus when you add in the different flours the taste ends up being much better. I have used store bought blends before and just feel kind of 'blah' about them.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Step One: In a small bowl blend together your egg ingredients. Whisk the ground flax seed up with the warm water till it is a little frothy, and set aside for about 5 minutes. 

Step Two: In a large bowl blend all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Stir the flours/powders together so they blend well. 

Step Three: In another bowl blend all your wet ingredients including your egg mixture. Stir everything together really well!

Step Four: Pour your wet ingredients into your dry and stir away! Once you have a nice looking cookie dough consistency add in your chocolate chips and fold them in the dough nicely. 

Step 5: Last but not least prep your cookie sheet (with spray or with parchment paper). Using two spoons scoop the dough into golf ball sized mounds onto the sheet. Make sure you are getting enough chocolate chips in each cookie. We don't want one of them to feel left out. Then bake these little cookie loves for about 9 to 11 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. Set on a cooling rack and enjoy. 

I would like to tell you how long you can keep them for, but If you pay any attention to my ramblings you would know I didn't really have to save any... But I'm sure in an airtight container you can keep them for up to a week. Good luck with that! ;)

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Smoothie Series (cont.)

At first I thought 3 posts 3 days in a row would be easy, maybe even fun. Turns out I only have enough creative juice to last me through 2 posts back to back, and this third one is creating such a sense of writers block I'm starting to doubt my brain's abilities. Vanity is an ugly thing, and my desire to appear witty and gregarious to you people is crippling me further. I feel like every sentence I type looks like this: "me want blog awesome, smoothie drink healthy belly happy." 

 Sigh, in a last ditch effort to not become a sad cavewoman blogger that scares you all off I did what any sane person would do... I googled "foods that are good for your brain" and went to this BBC link: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/wellbeing/features/boost-brainpower/1/. Those crafty Brits are saving the day. Blueberries and nuts are both on that list. I formed a plan to mix the two, and finish this post before I curl up in bed and bemoan my failure as a smoothie author. <- This is what bone-crushing reality I could befall. Just think of the therapy bills I could wrack up!

If we are being completely honest, I can now tell you that after I typed that last paragraph I left my apartment, drove to the store, and purchased frozen berries, frozen mango, and vanilla almond yogurt. I have since then, returned home, made a smoothie and am sipping on it now as I type. 

There she is folks, the Berry Brainy Beverage. I don't feel smarter as I drink it through my fancy green straw, but I do like the way it tastes so I am more inclined to continue typing about it. And isn't that what this adventure is all about? That is a rhetorical question. 

Berry Brainy Beverage
serves one self defeated blogger (or one person who likes berries)
gluten free

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen rasberries
1 cup frozen mango
1 cup vanilla almond yogurt
1 heaping spoon full of almond butter

All right you know the drill! Throw this list of fantasticalness into your blender and blend away! Blend... BLEND I say! Then you too can sit by your computer while drinking this delightful concoction. 

Note, this smoothie is a wee bit thicker so you may want to add a little almond milk if you like your smoothies to be sucked up a straw with ease. 

Nom, nom, nom, this one is like a dessert. I am a happy cave lady. Me drink you read, bye bye. <- Whoa, my deepest apologies for the explosion of unfortunate cheeseball humor. It was like a force of nature that couldn't be stopped. Now go forth and smoothie away. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Smoothie Series (cont.)

Day 2 of The Smoothie Series is in full effect, and as I type I am sipping on smoothie number 2 and it is DELISH! <- Dear Reader, when things are in all caps imagine me talking very loudly, but not obnoxiously (I hope). Kind of like what a gold miner in 1849 would sound like when he strikes it rich and hollers "Eureka!" Something like that, although I do not have a white beard so don't imagine that part. 

With the magically warm weather that has been embracing Southern California as of late I have taken to my newest and most favorite hobby in all the land: Paddle Boarding. I am obsessed with it, I can't seem to stay out of the ocean long enough to earn more money so I can rent the board. <-Warning slight exaggeration is taking place. Now paddle boarding takes a fair amount of muscle strength, and all the swimming that happens when I leap from my board into the water is also requiring a lot of muscle strength. Enter the infamous swimmers cramp! Ultimate charlie horse disaster! And enter the need for extra potassium... operation smoothie series, lack of sleep, lack of potassium in full effect. (Btw, I looked up the difference between 'affect' and 'effect' and I'm using the right one.)

Hey look its the manfriend and I paddle boarding :)
It is with potassium in mind that smoothie number 2 was created, and speaking of... did you know strawberries are extremely high in potassium??? Check out this link that has a grid of potassium rich foods: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/potassium-rich-foods-list-of-foods-high-in-potassium.html. And check out this info about avocados packing a potassium punch: http://potassiumrichfoods.com/5/avocado-as-a-potassium-source-benefits-and-recipes/. With this nutritional information in mind the "Perfect Potassium Punch" smoothie has been created!

Perfect Potassium Punch
serves 2, or 1 very hungry and potassium deprived individual

1 handful of ice
1 banana (ding-ding potassium source #1)
6-7 strawberries (ding-ding potassium source #2)
1/2 an avocado (ding-ding potassium source #3)
1/4 cup cacao powder (ding-ding potassium source #4)
1 tablespoon agave
1 cup non-dairy milk

Once again, the joy of all joys about smoothies is the effortless prep and execution. Dump all these blessedly delicious ingredients into your blender. Blend, pour in cup, drink up (use a straw if you feel fancy). I topped mine off with a few cacao nibs for some extra pah-zazz. Note, for those of you that are a little wary of the avocado in your smoothie just do it (unless you are allergic), you will be happy you did. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Smoothie Series

Is it a cop out for a recipe blog to do smoothie recipes? Wait, don't answer that! Let me rephrase... do you want some cool smoothie ideas/recipes? Perhaps that wasn't a rephrasing but rather a whole new question... I blame my lack of sleep for that foresight. Now that I mentioned that I'm sure you are curious as to why I am behind on the precious Zzz's, please stress not I will tell you the source of my new found insomnia. 

Did I tell you the manfriend and I found a lonely little kitten under a car? Well we did, and her uncontrollable, unbelievable, perfect little kitty face has made it next to impossible to re-home her. Thus my friends, my small quaint apartment is crammed with yet another living being that requires me to clean up its excrement - litter boxes are not my friend. Between kitten cries, and the dogs barking at the kitten cries sleep is slim to nil these days! However, this lack of sleep has inspired fantastic new smoothies as I need to stock up on energy quick, and definitely don't feel like cooking a 5 course meal. Hello silver lining?

My God in heaven, you try finding this face and then
giving her away!

Smoothies are one of my favorite edible delights out there. Once someone asked me what I snacked on since I am a vegan. I paused and said "Smoothies!!" With this little kitten throwing the status quo off in the apartment smoothies have become my life saver.

With my extra new found love for smoothies these days I thought to myself "Self, lets do a 3 part series on the joy of smoothies." And thus this post will be the first of 3 posts filled with smoothie goodness. I am also planning to get these all out over the next 3 days for optimal smoothie happiness. You can thank the kitty for this idea. And yes as it stands she doesn't have a name. Should you look at that adorable picture and think of one, pretty please message me because calling her "little one" will only work for so long....

This smoothie is known as the "Ultimate Green Machine" as I know there are hundreds of "Green Machines" out there, and I like to stand out. :)

Ultimate Green Machine
serves one hungry sleep deprived person

1 handful of ice
1 banana
1 apple (cored and sliced)
1 cup packed greens (I do a mix of half kale and half spinach)
1 tablespoon flax
1 pinch of salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I use almond)

Ah the absolute greatest thing about a healthy delicious smoothie is that all you have to do is take all the above mentioned ingredients put them in your blender and BAM! A happy wonderful nutrient rich meal is created, and you can pour it into a cup. 

I know that we all know spinach and kale are good for us, and that you are possibly tired of hearing about it. But, I feel like for the record, I have to give these greens an extra shout out. Spinach is so good for you I can't even put it into words (which is why I like this link): http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-spinach.html And kale... sweet wonderful kale, look what WebMD has to say about it: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale

Doing your research on dark leafy green vegetables is really important, and I encourage you to get as many as you can into your daily diet. Enter this smoothie! I have been making one every morning this week, and my body feels amazing throughout the day (sans the lack of sleep, lol). Happy leafy green eating and I will see you back here tomorrow for smoothie numero dos. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Unicorns, Will Ferrell, and Superfoods (all in one post)!

Well the 2012 SF Ultra Marathon is officially over, and our sponsored runner was one of 35 people to officially cross that finish line. HOW AMAZING IS THAT! He ran 52.4 miles barefoot, and we cannot congratulate him enough. (For those of you tuning in late Girl On Top Catering sponsored marathon runner Dan Czerwonka, and prepared weekly meals for him to aid in training and recovery.) In his awesome blog about the experience he gave us a shout out, and made us blush with his kind words. He also highlighted our "Energy Balls" in his blog, and sang such praises about them I thought it made sense to share them with you folks. 

Here's the link to his blog if you feel like reading about his crazy journey: http://www.alternativeathlete.com/2012/08/worth-hurt-524-mile-ultramarathon-race.html  **Disclaimer, he mentions a few ingredients that we in fact did not use as I have no idea where I would purchase unicorn poop or a few of the other items he mentioned... Ah the many facets of human humor. Enjoy ;)

In these little round morsels I include raw organic cacao powder, raw organic cacao nibs and organic chia seeds, and I think it is worth a quick moment to talk about the greatness of these items. Here is a fascinating article on raw cacao: http://www.naturalnews.com/022610.html. "Cacao contains over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium." The FDA has actually recently approved labeling dark chocolate using cacao as beneficial to heart health. So you can see why this would be a great food for an athlete to be consuming. 

Chia seeds are an amazing resource for athletes and have been mentioned in countless articles and books on exercise. Their health benefits are extolled by nutritionists everywhere! "They have an extremely high concentration of omega-3 acids—even more than salmon." Link: http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/wellbeing/healthy-eating/the-powerful-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds.php#.T0uszde1FBA.t. Note: While they are fabulous for your health, be sure you aren't going on an important date after eating chia seeds. It is absolutely mind boggling (or mind bottling for you Will Ferrell fans) how well these seeds wedge their way in between your teeth!! 

Bwahahaha, found this on Google image search
There's countless other ingredients in these bad boys that are superfood-health-benefiting-machines, but I really wanted to take a moment to highlight these two! And without further ado, here's the recipe:

Cacao Energy Balls
makes 16-18 golf sized balls
gluten free

1 and a 1/4 cup gluten free rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup almond butter (I opt for chunky)
1/2 cacao nibs
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup cacao powder
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon maple powder
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Take your cup of coconut flakes and spread them evenly over a baking sheet. Place in oven to lightly toast for 5 to 7 minutes. Once finished set aside and let cool

While your coconut is toasting place all the above listed ingredients into a large bowl. Once the coconut is finished add it to your bowl of amazing goodness. Stir everything together! This takes a wee bit of man power as you really need to make sure the almond butter is evenly distributed throughout your tasty menagerie of ingredients. Once you feel like this is achieved place the bowl in your refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the flavors set. 

Once the time has passed take the mixture out of the fridge, and lets get rolling (literally). I find the best plan is to get your hands wet with warm water first. Then grab a small handful and roll it together between your hands. You only want the ball to be about as big as a golf ball. So keep that in mind when rolling. I use the same baking sheet to place my beautiful little energy balls once they are rolled to perfection. You will probably need to keep rinsing your hands with warm water so the oats and other ingredients don't stick to you and stick to the ball instead. 

With all your mixture rolled into cacao energy balls place the baking sheet into your freezer for 15 minutes to set the little buggers. Once that timer rings they are ready to eat. They are perfect as a pre-work-out snack or a post-work-out snack. Save them in a air tight container in the fridge. Happy running and snacking. :) 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Elephant Never Forgets

The curtain opens on a young woman sleeping soundly. From her peaceful appearance one would assume there isn't a care in the world that could rouse her, but then she is awoken all at once! There is a horrible pit in her stomach, and she is aware that at some point during this day she has dropped the ball and forgotten something... but what?... And scene.
Found on google image search
Are you concerned that I am starting to think that I am a playwright? Don't fret my friends!! I am well aware of my writing limitations, and would not torture you like that. I am simply allowing you to build the mental picture of my night last night. I woke up feeling that I had forgotten to do something, and then spent the rest of the night kind of asleep and kind of attempting to remember. When I officially woke up and bumbled about in my morning stupor (lest we forget mornings and I are not BFF) I walked into my kitchen to find 4 ears of corn sitting out on the counter. Smack to my face! That's what I forgot. I had purchased the corn at a farmers' market with intentions of creating a masterpiece. However, I used up a lot of my produce on other recipes already. Panic!

Sweet Corn seasoned to perfection :) 
Once I realized the end of the world was, in fact, not happening due to my not-so-important blunder I took stock of the ingredients I still had, and thought about what to create. I had remembered seeing a corn salad recipe that I wanted to try, and decided to use this recipe as the base and then go from there. It is with a VERY full belly that I present to you Sweet Summer Corn Salad!

Sweet Summer Corn Salad 
(adapted from the withinthekitchen blog)
serves 4 and is gluten free

4 ears of sweet corn
3 lemons
2 medium heirloom tomatoes
2 large avocados
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup cilantro
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 cup green onion
3 tablespoons Udo's 3-6-9 oil blend*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

*Lets talk oil really quickly. Feel to use extra virgin olive oil as the Udo's oil is a tad pricy, BUT this oil blend is worth the investment. The taste is fantastic, not to mention the health benefits: http://udoerasmus.com/products/oil_blend_en.htm.

First things first, lets get that corn a'cooking. Fill a large pot with unsalted water and bring to a boil. (I have learned that salted water can dry out your corn!) Husk and clean your corn, and place in the boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes. Removing quickly when done. On a small plate place the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, set aside.

While your corn is boiling away, cut up your tomatoes into bite sized pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add in your red bell pepper (also cut into bite sized), red and green onions (finely chopped), and the cilantro (very finely chopped). Cut open your avocados and using a small scoop make litte avocado balls, and add them to the bowl: saving half of one avocado. 

Place the saved half of the avocado, juice from 2 lemons, Udo's oil, and salt & pepper (for taste) in a blender and create your dressing. Set aside. 

Once your corn is finished remove it from the water quickly. Let it cool slightly so you are able to handle it. Take the last lemon and cut it in half. Place the lemon into the spices on the plate you set aside earlier and rub it around so the lemon soaks up the spices. Next rub the lemon all over your corn. Really press hard so the juice from the lemon is squeezed out with the spices. Use both halves of the lemon to really infuse flavor in your ears of corn. (You may need more spices, feel free to dump them on the plate and use the lemon to pick them up.)

With your corn seasoned to perfection carefully cut off all the kernels and add them to your bowl. Now that you have all the corn in the bowl with all the other ingredients, slowly add in your dressing while stirring. Make sure it is evenly distributed. And wah-lah! You have yourself a perfect summer salad. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Acorn Squash!

It is probably safe to say that I have expressed my love for farmers' markets, but just in case there was any doubt: I love farmers' markets. Today while I tootled around from stand to stand in my normal overjoyed way I spied acorn squash. Instantly my taste-buds craved stuffed acorn squash, and my brain concurred that this was a wonderful idea. I loaded up my reusable shopping bag (how green am I?) and walked the rest of the market with a slightly tweaked back as they are heavy in large numbers! Hind sight truly is 20/20, and next time I am inspired to purchase 6 heavy items I will do so at the end of my market journey.

Look at these orbs of squashy goodness!
Acorn squash is considered a winter squash, but in this climate it can be grown at most times throughout the year. Speaking of...Winter squash has TONS of health benefits! Check out this article from Whole Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63. It is amazing what a healthy punch these guys pack! They provide antioxidant support, work as an anti-inflammatory, and work to provide optimal health. So yes, spread the word, winter squash rules. And as acorn squash falls in that family of food you are looking at a tasty, health benefiting, wonderful addition to your diet.

Once I returned to my dwelling I placed my goods in the kitchen, and then took a timeout to lie on the floor and stretch out the ol' back muscles. Turns out I'm a wuss and my shoulders dislike heavy bags. However, I am the proud owner of two overly affectionate dogs so I got maybe 2 seconds of stretch time before I was pounced upon by the pups.

I cant believe it has taken me this long to show off my dogs, LOL! Admit it, they are adorable!

After the dogs made it clear there was to be no laying on the ground stretch time, I got to work! The end result was a little slice of heaven, and so it must be shared. :)

Heavenly Stuffed Acorn Squash
serves 6
gluten free
6 acorn squash
1 head of cauliflower
1 head of broccoli
1 red bell pepper
2 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 cup chopped kale
1 cup cranberries
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups veggie broth (low sodium)
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper for taste

First thing preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then get your squash ready! Cut a small bit off the bottom of the squash creating a flat bottom so that it will stand up on its own. Then cut off the top and scoop out the seeds. 

Take the olive oil and rub it into the outside of your squash all over and then place it face down on a baking sheet or large casserole dish. (Face down means the open scooped open side down). Put in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

While the squash is a'cooking get your filling a ready! Wash and breakdown your cauliflower and place in a steamer. You are going to want to steam the cauliflower till it is very soft. Place all your cauliflower in a bowl and mash it up with the sage and salt and pepper for taste. Set aside. 

Cauli Mash! (It is also good on its own as a side)
Also while the squash is cooking get your quinoa ready. Put the veggie broth, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric in a pot and stir till the spices blend into the broth. Place your quinoa in the broth and cook on high heat till it boils. Once at a boil turn the heat to low/simmer, and cover the pot. The quinoa takes between 10 to 15 minutes to cook. 

The last step to the filling is to get your veggies chopped up! Very finely chop the carrots, red pepper, broccoli, celery, and kale and put in a large bowl. Add the cranberries as well to the bowl. Once the quinoa is finished dump into the bowl quickly so the heat wilts your veggies slightly. Stir everything together. Add salt and pepper if desired. 

Quinoa filling!
After the 30 minutes go by remove the squash from the oven. Let it cool slightly so you can flip them over. Once you flip them over place a dollop of your mashed cauliflower in the bottom. Then fill up your squash to the brim and over flow slightly with your veggie quinoa mixture. Lastly, just for fun, place another dollop of the mashed cauliflower on top. Put your stuffed squash back in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, and serve! We served ours with some hot sauce just for spicy fun. Yummy food to your face.