Monday, January 30, 2012

I Know, I Know, But Look at It!

Yes, I know, too much juice is on this blog lately, but will you get a load of the gem I created this morning? Here's the juice before it made its way through the juicer:


I had bought a bunch of beets with lovely stems and greens still attached a couple of weeks ago, meaning to make a "roots and tops" macrobiotic dish I had read about, but alas, I lost them in the garage fridge crisper and only found them yesterday. The greens and stems were goners, but the roots were still firm and fresh, so juice inspiration was born.

I'd not eaten a raw beet before, so, unsure what to expect, I included an apple and an orange in this combination. I needn't have bothered with the fruit. This luscious juice was positively syrupy sweet, but not cloying. Earthy and rich, the energy imparted was very calming and stable, but over-the top positive at the same time. I tend to live very much in my upper chakras, from the head, ungrounded. Taking in the vibrant, rooted energy of the beets put my focus back on the lower chakras. The primal stance was a relief and a pleasure. I'm inspired anew to make time for meditation.

When I tasted the syrupy sweetness of my juice, I worried about a sugar rush and a crash, but what I got instead was bright-eyed calm energy all morning. The "crash" was more like a gentle flutter down, a full six hours after I drank the juice. I had no breakfast -- just the juice! Luckily I had the rest of the juice in a cup in the fridge and I'm sipping it right now. It's giving me my second wind.

I think my next beet juice will have no fruit, but plenty of greens and ginger root too. Doesn't that sound good?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Menu-less Days

Regular readers understand that, while I value and strive for vegan epicurean excellence, when it comes right down to it I'm a pretty lazy cook. The fact is that life is full and busy in my present chapter and more often than not I find myself merely responding to its demands rather than proactively charting my own course. No matter -- I've found myriad shortcuts that allow most meals to adhere to my lofty fab food standards.

Not much goes to waste. Leftover take-out szechwan tofu was great with a bit of brown rice from the pot I'd made three days prior and a few stalks of fresh broccoli rabe.

A box of Pacific Pho Stock was improved with some rice noodles, tofu, spring onion, leftover green beans, cilantro, lime and shoyu.

Each time I re-warmed the leftover pho, I added more onion, cilantro and lime to keep it fresh and bright in flavor.

On days with literally five minutes to make food and eat it, I can still add a fresh tangle of cilantro to an Amy's stir fry before I wolf it down.

Obviously, eating prepared foods at every meal would not be the healthiest choice, since there is a lot more sodium and sugar than I would use if I were creating it from scratch, but at least it's not chicken nuggets! Sometimes we do what we have to do and then get back on track when the situation allows.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yes, Another Juice . . .

I'm certain you are tired of my juices at this point, but this one is worth sharing. I was inspired by my husband this morning, who is ailing just a tad -- a bit sinusy, a bit tired and prone to chills. I was sure fresh, mostly organic juice, with its megamicronutrients, would be his best bet. The man likes my "buttery" collards-n-cabbage for dinner, but he's not crazy about muddy-looking green juices with their accompanying slight bitter edge to his sugar-addled palate. So today I didn't make a green juice at all. I made an orange juice.

It contained: three oranges, half a lemon, a one-inch knob of ginger, about 6 smallish organic carrots and two cucumbers. All fruits and veggies were peeled except the carrots and ginger. The citrus pith would've been too bitter, and the waxy, pesticide-laden skins of the unorganic cucumbers had to go. By the way, I wash those nasty skins first with soap since I don't want the peeler to transfer so much of the yuckiness to the fresh cucumber flesh within. I obviously need to find a better source for my cukes!

The man is looking better, I think. In any case, I don't think I've ever tasted anything so lovely as this juice. I am craving more of it right now. It is dessert-worthy.

Lately, without boring you with tedious details, there have been some challenges involving kids' and my own health, doctors' appointments, a car accident, talks with lawyers and insurance agents, etc. As you might imagine, time hasn't been mine to the degree that I've not been creative in the vegan part of my kitchen. I've been using a lot of vegan shortcuts to help me maintain my standards for health and fabulous food. I always try to jazz up the prepared meals with a little something to remind myself that I'm worth it. Stay tuned for a future post with some of what I've been eating in addition to my juices.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Billed as an "ancient grain," amaranth is actually a tiny seed indigenous to the Americas. So for those locavores living in North, Central or South America, amaranth fits the bill. A gluten-free source of protein, amaranth is a very interesting alternative to rice or quinoa.

I didn't know what to expect, as I'd never tried it before, so I prepared amaranth for the first time simply -- boiled only in water. I wanted to see what it really tastes like. Unlike quinoa, which I think benefits from cooking in broth with a little tomato paste or some other flavorful liquid, amaranth has a very satisfying, mild flavor on its own, in my opinion. I was surprised at the texture of the amaranth. When I read in the cooking directions that the seeds would "bind together," I was thinking in terms of the texture of polenta. Actually amaranth has a more gooey, gelatinous texture. It reminded me of the texture of chia seeds. My description may not be selling you on this nutritional powerhouse, as texture can make or break a food affinity, and our tastes are all so personal. For me, I really loved this texture and flavor. It was very much comfort food and I craved it with everything from this delicious broccoli rabe (yum!) to a frozen organic vegan burrito. I was sorry to see the bottom of the pot.

If my description of amaranth hasn't turned you off, give it a try!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Verdict

After the hour of prep work yesterday, My juice pulp flax seed crackers took six hours in the dehydrator to become crunchy. I'm thinking twice about the carbon footprint implications of this exercise.

The result? still warm, dry and crisp, the crackers were okay, not great. With hummus they were great, but for me anything spread with hummus is great. Today, not quite as crisp anymore, the crackers were less great still, even with the hummus.

Everything we do in life has educational value. I am grateful for this experiment because I can add it to my list of things I know how to do. Will I do it again? Probably not.

I am reminded of the time I taught myself how to reupholster my sofa -- not slipcover, though I have done plenty of that too -- reupholster. I disassembled the furniture, panel by panel, and worked with tack strips, piping and hobnails. I used a crow bar, a hammer, a nail gun, a staple gun and a rubber mallet.I sewed each panel, leaving a rough edge for the next section. A couple of times I discovered I was on the wrong track, so I had to disassemble and redo it. I ultimately did a pretty good job with the sofa, but realized I could have benefited from an instructor. So, when I decided to redo my kitchen cabinets, I splurged on an $85 faux painting class. I did it right, and years later the cabinets are all still in good shape, but the whole process took five weeks. Though I saved $20,000-$30,000 doing it myself, I have discovered that time is more valuable than most sums of money. If we spend our time doing something fulfilling -- a learning experience counts here -- it is time well spent. So the crux of the issue is whether we would choose to repeat a project after the fulfillment of learning it is over.

Juice pulp flax seed cracker creation is not an experience I will repeat. My pulp will much more efficiently and appropriately feed the soil of my vegetable garden than it could ever feed me. I believe most of the nutrition left the pulp with the flavor and color, anyway. My healthy diet is a gift to myself, and as such, it should be enjoyable. Every mouthful is carefully chosen and prepared, and is so much more flavorful and pure than the junk I ate for many years. I don't want to waste a bite on something less than fabulous. I will continue to reap the benefits of making delicious juices, and I won't feel guilty about just saying no to homemade pulp crackers.

P.S. -- The topic of the nutritional value of the pulp fiber being lost in the process of juicing has come up among non-vegan friends. You vegans will understand that, unless you are eating only vegan junk food, lack of fiber is not an issue. Juicing simply allows us to pack in a much more diverse selection and quantity of vegetable nutrition than would be possible by consuming the entire vegetable. The juice is not a replacement for a well-rounded diet, it's an enhancement.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Juice Pulp Crackers!

This was way more effort than I usually expend, but an early sampling of these crackers revealed an unusual but not disagreeable flavor. Once they are crunchy, I just might like them. I spent an hour getting the texture and seasonings right. I first spread out a batch of this "dough" and cut it just like this, and struggled to transfer each little piece to the dehydrator without it falling apart or falling through the mesh of the tray. I finally got wise and scraped it all back into a bowl for some more ground flax seed. I am not sure how much I used. I just kept adding it until the dough was quite bready. It was at least a cupful. I used the pulp from two batches of juice -- again, an unknown quantity. I seasoned with salt, pepper, shoyu, lemon juice, a little sprinkle of curry and coriander. I came up with this combo from several different pulp cracker recipes I found online. Once the dough was bready enough, it behaved well for me, keeping its shape on the dehydrator trays. It's been going an hour so far, but it is not crunchy at all yet.

There was a lot of complaining about all the food processing I had to do to homogenize the pulp. The guys were trying to watch football and I was making an awful racket. My 14 year old daughter came in as I was spreading the dough out and when I told her what I was doing she burst into hysterical laughter, taking photos to e-mail all her friends. I do tend to keep that lot entertained with my vegan antics. It is a curiosity to them -- very different from the way things happen in their own homes. At the last sleepover, Wynne's friends all tried my fresh juice. They said they liked it. I was so proud!

Here's the pulp with only half a cup of flaxseed -- way too moist to hold together.

Here are the crackers in the dehydrator. I stacked four of these trays. The pulp of two juicings, a cup+ of flaxseed, etc. was the perfect quantity to fill the dehydrator.

The khaki-green color is kind of pretty in an odd way. These crackers are raw, vegan, gluten-free and utilize the fiber from my juiced veggies much more effectively than my ill-fated bean soup/chili experiment.I need to wait another couple of hours at least, but I'll report on the final verdict of whether this exercise will be repeated once I've had a chance to take a crunchy bite.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Leftovers on a Lovely Day

Finally some food! I know I've mostly been featuring juice lately, but I do also eat. I love leftovers. Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I decided to have an alfresco lunch. I sat on my screen porch -- gotta love that natural light! This taco salad utilized leftovers from our dinner the night before. Dinner was chicken tacos from the leftovers from the night before that (rotisserie chicken) The taco bar is an example of how I can best feed a family with different diets. I am feeding a quasi-health-conscious-omnivore (husband), a non-health-conscious-carnivore-with-food-allergies (son), an almost-vegetarian (daughter) and a vegan (myself). Lucky for me, the food that was mostly left over was my kind of food! You can see what it all is. That's non-dairy sour cream on top. Delish!

I am still juicing daily, and today I will share this pretty photo of a pre-juice pile:

This was yesterday's juice: romaine, kale, carrot, two apples, two cucumbers, ginger and lemon! I just want to say that ginger and lemon are the rock stars of this flavor combo -- soooo good! I used a whole lemon (peeled -- the white pith is too bitter) and the lemon flavor was a bit forward toward the end of the glass, so you may want to try a quarter or half of a lemon first and see what you think. But seriously do consider adding fresh lemon to your juice. It is very bright and energizing.

For today's juice (no photo, I think you've seen enough) I tried pears  instead of apples. Because of the delicate flavor of pears, I didn't use the lemon or ginger. I wanted to taste the pear. I was disappointed. The pear flavor got swallowed up by the kale. The juice was fine, but not great like my ginger-lemon rock star juice. Fresh juice is such a treat, I'm sticking with my favorites from now on!

P.S. - Happy 18th Birthday to my wonderful son, Hans! We are so proud of you!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Learning Curve

Today I will share with you some candid, unstyled photos of the inside of my home after everyone has been here every day for two weeks straight. Today is my husband's first day back at work. We normally take a little trip this time of year but that did not work out since my almost-18-year-old is still finishing up last semester due to all the school he missed with his daily migraines. So, the kid was studying, the other kid was running in and out of here with many different friend combinations, and the hubby was staycationing, My daily vacuuming became unpopular (they don't like the noise, bless them). But the point of this post is not to share the level of filth with which I've recently become accustomed -- that's just a side effect of telling you today's installment of my juicing saga.

As with any new equipment, there is a learning curve with using, cleaning, drying and storing the many parts of my amazing appliance. Today, after filling my glass with a fabulous elixir made from cucumbers, celery, a leaf of kale, half a head of romaine, a fuji apple and some ginger root (YUM!), I absentmindedly poured the second glassful into a cup for later. Unfortunately I poured as if pouring from the coffee pot, the lid of which remains attached. The lid of the juicer pitcher is not attached. So here's what happened:

Ugh -- doesn't just looking at that make you nervous? Ellie came running when she heard the catastrophe. That's her tail there poking up over the edge of the counter, and that's her fur there under the cabinet across the room. Fortunately, I had already taken a sip of this fab elixir before said catastrophe, so the mood-soothing effects of greens were already working their magic. I just felt thankful that nothing was on fire this time, then called Emma over to help her sister get started on the cleanup:

My beasts sure love veggies! After the pups gave me a head start, the rest wasn't that difficult to dispatch. And I was left with this:


In more good news, I've been fighting a little cold which is going away very quickly from the juice and from this bowl of easy curried chickpeas I ate yesterday:

I added half a chopped yellow onion to a bowl of Amy's Lentil Soup, simmered it until the onion was cooked, then added a can of chickpeas, some curry and turmeric. I served it over leftover quinoa and topped  it off with some green onion. This was such a satisfying New Year's Day stew!

Now -- vacuuming!