Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

After listening to Dr. Hans Diehl (creator of the CHIP program) speak this weekend, I am once again tweaking our vegan diet.  We already have been consuming vasts quantities of fruits and veggies, including for juicing.  Now we’re ncreasing whole grains (I’m not talking about the flour, but the actual grains) while keeping out the sneaky processed flours that show up when your guard is down and you buy packaged things; cutting back – to the point of eliminating – processed sweeteners (this is my biggest difficulty); and decreasing oils (it’s recommended to not use any added oils, but I’m not sure about that one for me with my mega-dry skin and hair.)  Not only is this a way to maximize health long-term, but in the short term (less than 1 week), I’ve lost pounds!  And I’m eating way more than I was.  Win, win!

BUT!  If my family is going to tolerate me messing with their food – again – it had better be tasty stuff that I fix them, or there will be a revolt against lots of grain, especially plain old rice, showing up on their plates.  While I love the stuff, most of them have never been fans.  Surprisingly, I have a lot of recipes for main dishes using whole grains that we’ve tried.  It’s time to dust off some of the tried-and-true recipes, as well as invent some new ones.

Cilantro-Lime RiceLast night, my son-in-law showed up with a brown bag from Chipotle.  It smelled so good!  Short of putting on my coat and driving to Chipotle, I decided right then that the next day I would make up a really big batch of cilantro-lime rice to split up into smaller amounts for the freezer so that on short notice, I could make something wonderful when tantalizing food teases me.

I’ve tried to make this before, but it fell short.  This time, I thought some onion, garlic, and lime zest would help things along.  And how!!  What a difference.  I had a healthy scoop with some black beans and tomatoes for lunch – yum.

Freeze the extra amounts in meal-sized packages for later use unless you have a large family.

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice 

  • 3 c. long brown rice (basmati or jasmine is nice, but not imperative)
  • 8 1/2-9 c. water (or whatever your container of rice indicates is needed)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • zest of 1 lime, microplaned (this really makes it shine)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves, minced

Bring the first 6 ingredients to a boil in a heavy-duty 3-qt. pan, and then cook over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed (or a little tiny bit is left in the bottom of the pan.)  Taste test it to make sure the rice is soft.  If needed, add a little water and continue cooking.  When it is finished, stir it well and replace the lid, leaving it to rest for at least 15 minutes to steam and get fluffier.  Meanwhile, juice the lime and toss it with the cilantro leaves.

Once the rice is finished steaming, toss it with the lime juice and cilantro.  Serve with any Mexican-style meal, or just with some beans for a quick meal.

Soy Yogurt

I’ve been on a journey for a while now, and it’s really not over yet.  Ever since I got married (32 years ago today!) and we decided to become vegetarian for our health’s sake, I’ve been reading books and learning everything I can about health.  With the internet, things got easier to find.  I love learning new things and I marvel at how well the Creator made us, giving us just the right food to help us live well.

Recently, I’ve been learning about how probiotics and cultured foods benefit us.  I won’t bore you with the details here.  Instead, I’d encourage you to dig into the research for yourself!  There are a lot of kinds of cultured foods out there, from sauerkraut to pickles (not the vinegar ones on the grocery shelves) to kimchee!  It’s easy to choose a favorite one to eat often.

I bought and tried cultured pickles.  They are STRONG.  I can eat them occasionally, but they aren’t something that I’m going to enjoy eating every day.  (And your best bet for getting a healthier flora in your gut is to partake of cultured foods at least daily.)

If you don’t make your own cultured foods at home, then they are pretty pricey in the markets.  I looked into making sauerkraut with wonderful jars that keep the smell from permeating your kitchen.  It looked like a really good way to make fermented foods myself, however, my favorite way of eating sauerkraut involves heating it…and that destroys the good bacteria.  Rats.  I still might make some of my own, but it won’t be my source of the healthy “bugs.”

If the sauerkraut was out, and the pickles weren’t favorites enough to eat daily (and my family wouldn’t even touch them, btw), then I needed to figure something else out.  As I googled “cultured foods” I found the answer.  Yogurt.  I love the stuff…at least most of the non-dairy ones I’ve had.  Unfortunately, it, too, is fairly expensive to buy ready made ~ and full of all kinds of stuff.  Carageenan (which I’ve recently learned isn’t that good for us), tons of sugar, and other tidbits that our bodies really don’t need.  So, back to the computer I went to see about making it myself.

I found tons of recipes, but most of them called for yogurt making machines, which I didn’t want to sink money into until I knew if this process was even going to work!  Then I found the best site yet ~ that I can’t find now to share with you, sorry! ~ one that told many different ways to ferment yogurt without the expensive investment.  This is the second best site that gave different ways to try, but doesn’t actually include the one I’m going to share with you here.

One of the challenges of making your own yogurt is beginning one with the proper culture.  Some recipes call for using probiotic capsules opened into it, but that didn’t feel very authentic to me.  Others said you needed specific starter kits from a health food store, but that they don’t work to re-use your own yogurt to make your next batch.  Instead, you’d need to buy a starter kit again!  What?  Not sustainable?  Next!  I chose the option of buying a non-dairy yogurt at the store and using it to culture my soy milk.  I chose a coconut yogurt that had 6 different bacteria listed on the label.  I figure if I’m going to repopulate my insides, I want the best amount I can get.  My first attempts were actually pretty poor, because I hadn’t found the best way to incubate it ~ I either didn’t keep it warm enough, or killed it with too warm of a spot, so I had to buy more packaged yogurt.  I again started with the 6-bacteria coconut version.  This time it worked!  Yay!  The next time, I used half of a tablespoon of my successful yogurt (with the 6 bacteria) AND half of a tablespoon from Almond Dream yogurt that contains 7 bacteria ~ a couple of which were different from the ones in my coconut yogurt!  I get the best bunch of probiotics going with so many different kinds.  And the more batches that I’ve made, the thicker the yogurt has gotten.

When you make yogurt like this, you must be patient.  (Not my strong suit.)  There are things that you must do to make it work correctly.  Believe me, because I tried the shortcuts that I thought would work.  Nope.  Stick to the “rules.”  For instance, the milk must be heated to 180° even though you have to cool it back down to 110°.  Why?  Because it changes the way the proteins line up with each other so that the bacteria can thicken it.  Otherwise, you get cultured milk….sorta.  (It was very disappointing, but I didn’t waste it.  We had it in our smoothies.)

Okay, here is the recipe.  If you have any questions about “why” something needs to be done, ask me.  I won’t bore everyone else with the details here.  🙂

Soy Yogurt

Equipment you will need:Soy yogurt equipment

  • a thermos that will hold at least 4 1/2 cups.  (I wish mine was large-mouthed to make clean up easier.  If yours is small-mouthed, get a bottle brush with which to wash it out.)
  • an instant-read digital thermometer, or one that can latch onto a small saucepan so that you get a constant reading.
  • a small 1-qt. saucepan (mine has a cute little spout on each side to make pouring into the thermos a snap!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. unsweetened soy milk with nothing other than soybeans and water (the other kinds sort of work, but this type thickens much better.  Trader Joe’s has it in an aseptic package, as does Eden, I believe.)
  • 1 T. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar (I’ve read that maple syrup doesn’t work, but haven’t personally tried it, and honey is antibacterial, so it will kill off the bacteria you are trying to feed.  I don’t know about agave.)
  • 1 T. room temperature packaged non-dairy yogurt, or some from your last batch.  Even if you forget to save a little before you eat it all, you can scrape out the dregs from the serving/storage bowl and use those.  It doesn’t take too much, actually!

Take your yogurt culture out of the frig to allow it to come to room temperature while you continue with the recipe.  Heat the milk in the small saucepan to 180°.  If you have used unsweetened milk with no thickeners, you won’t need to stir it, even on high heat.  (I have a ceramic stove top that doesn’t get as hot as gas or some electric stoves, though.)  If you bought a soy milk with other things in it, you’ll need to keep the heat on medium so that it doesn’t stick, and you’ll need to stir it.  At first, you can walk away for a while and just check on the milk occasionally, but once it reaches about 145-150°, you’ll want to stay right there, because it rapidly gets to the target temp.  Remove from heat once it has reached 180°, stir in the sugar, and cool in the pan until it is between 105-110°.  (If you are in a hurry, you can set the pan on a wet towel, or in a sink with cold water in it.)  Once it’s cooled, stir a little of the milk into your yogurt starter until smooth, and then stir a little more to it.  Pour the starter culture mixture into the pan of milk and stir it well.  Pour it into the thermos and screw the lid on tight.  Set it aside for several hours.

When you think of it as you walk through the kitchen, uncap the thermos to allow any built-up pressure from the bacteria growing to escape.  (Sometimes I forget, though.  Then it does whoosh a bit when I open it at the end!)  Just don’t jiggle it around a lot as it’s fermenting, as it seems to dislike that.  After about 6 hours, check to see if it is thickening by opening it and gently tilting the thermos.  If it is thick, you are ready!  The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavor becomes ~ and to a certain extent, the thicker it gets.

Pour it into a glass storage container and cover.  If it isn’t as thick as you’d like, leave it to cool on the counter for an hour or two before refrigerating.  Once it is cold, it will thicken a little more.  Now you can stir in extra sweetener, mashed fruit, jam, or whatever you’d like to flavor it.  It works great as is in smoothies!

Creamy Sweet Rice Salad (formerly known as Rosa Marina Salad)

I promised a short series on breakfasts several months ago…and then I dropped off the face of the planet again.  Sorry.  Life has changed once again and I should be posting more often now.

Preparing fun breakfasts has kinda dropped off around here, too.  I loved eating them, perhaps too much, because I gained weight!  Eating great breakfasts was supposed to help balance the rest of the day and help me eat less, but, apparently, I just love food so much that it didn’t work that way for me.  So, I’ve gone back to a nutrient-packed green smoothie most mornings and save the special breakfasts for special treats.

Rosa MarinaThis salad certainly works for a breakfast treat, or for a healthy dessert!  My preparation of it has changed over the years.  When I first made it, we were vegetarian, but not necessarily healthy ones ~ and it contained eggs, Cool Whip, white sugar, maraschino cherries….obviously, things were going to have to change in the salad when we became vegan and also gave up so many chemicals in our foods!  I finally nailed a tasty version of the salad without maraschino cherries (one of my childhood favorites.)  It still did contain the very small pasta called rosa marina or orzo, which helped the dressing to firm up into a nice, thick creamy dream.

Then…dun, dun, dun…enter gluten issues for me.  This salad was just one of the many casualties of my new way of eating.  It broke my heart (all of the situation, not just losing this salad.)  I tried and tried to come up with suitable replacements, but everything I replaced just failed.  Quinoa was too chewy; long-grained rice’s texture was off; the creamy dressing never set up.  It was very disappointing.  And my family was starting to make disparaging comments about the versions I created, because nothing was as good to them as the orzo!  (Never mind that white flour pasta isn’t good for you and nobody seems to make whole grain orzo.)

This time, I succeeded.  I adjusted the dressing to have less liquid.  I used short grain brown rice to give a better texture and since it is somewhat sticky, it allowed the creamy dressing to thicken properly.  Granted, my family still is a little on the fence about it, because they remember the pasta version and textures are a big deal to them.  Personally, I love it and am so happy to have it back in my life that I fix it despite their opinions.

I’ve been known to add sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen cherries, or blueberries to change things up a bit ~ although they can really change the color of the cream.  (I can guarantee the whole salad to myself this way, because of my fussy eaters, so adding it to individual bowls may work better.)  I have also been toying with the idea of using fresh pineapple, but I’m wondering if that would curdle the cream.  Let me know what adaptations you come up with to try!

Creamy Sweet Rice Salad

  • 1 c. short brown rice
  • 3/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. water (or according to rice package)
  • 2 20-oz cans unsweetened pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve 1 c. of the juice!)
  • 3 11-oz. cans of mandarin orange segments, drained (do NOT reserve the liquid)
  • 1 12-oz pkg. Morinu extra-firm tofu
  • 3/4 c. raw cashews (soak these for 4 hours or so if you don’t have a strong blender)
  • 1 c. reserved pineapple juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 c. evaporated cane juice crystals OR 1/4 tsp.+ pure stevia OR other equivalent dry sweetener

Cook rice according to package directions, but make sure it is quite well done so that it isn’t too chewy.  Meanwhile, place fruit into a large mixing bowl.  Blend the last 6 ingredients until very smooth and pour over the fruit.  When the rice is ready, mix it into the fruit and cream.  Refrigerate until cold and the cream sets up nicely.

Traditional and Radical Breakfast Ideas

To really give a kick my breakfast series, I thought I’d list some links to previous posts that are breakfast worthy.  Some are traditional items, but some are a little outside that box.  Remember, the point is to eat at least as healthfully as your box of cereal has allowed you to do.  Hopefully, a better goal is to eat more healthfully and to actually look forward to breakfast when you wake up!

Berries, Grapes, and CantaloupeSome of these recipes are gluten-free and some are not.  I am in process of recreating some of my old wheat-filled stand-bys into gluten-free versions.  I’ll post them as I have success.  I’ve marked (gf) beside the recipes that you might wonder about, but left it off of things like smoothies, which are a little more obvious that they already are gluten-free.

Meanwhile, dig in to some great breakfasts!

Continue reading

Cocoa-Banana Breakfast Cake (or Muffins)

Breakfast.  It can be so boring ~ so unhealthy ~ and so expensive.  Are you stuck in a rut?  Are you tired of paying an arm and a leg for boxed cereal that has little staying power and often little true nutrition?  I am going to start a series on make-ahead breakfast recipes to take the ho-hum out of mornings.  You’ll find yourself looking forward to breakfast!  You might even want to take a look at some of your current recipes and rethink the possibility of using them for a morning meal.  Of course, I always add some fresh fruit to the meal to round it out nutritionally.

Cocoa-Banana Breakfast Cake (or Muffins) 001Whether you have to eat gluten-free, or not, this breakfast cake will please you!  It was so exciting to put the first forkful into my mouth and taste how delicious it was.  The texture is moist and heavy like some decadent muffin that you might buy.  Mmmm.  In fact, Continue reading

Fiesta Quinoa

Fiesta QuinoaAh, the plans I make and the menus I create….only to be dashed to pieces the first night!  Grocery day can be crazy in our household, with stops at several stores, since no single one of them carries everything with which I cook.  Today (actually, several months ago, since I found this post hiding in my draft folder) was no different ~ except a couple of extra errands were tossed in for good measure.  This meant I didn’t have the needed time to make the do-ahead items on my menu for the week.  Which also meant that when I got home late, there was no instant supper to put on the table. Continue reading

Coconut Cream Topping

Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Cream 005If you are not happy with the vegan options for a whipped-type topping (cashew creme, tofu-based items, etc.) because they add a funny taste or texture, then this is the recipe for you!  As long as you like coconut flavor, that is.  🙂  I find it accompanies just about any dessert well, with the mild coconut flavor melding seamlessly.

These days I couldn’t be happier about eating coconut in any way possible with all the health benefits of coconut being touted.  My two favorite coconutty things to consume are Continue reading

Why I Choose to Use Honey and Still Call Myself a “Vegan”

This topic can be a hotly debated ~ something which I will not engage in on this blog.  This post is just to explain why I, personally, choose honey while calling myself a vegan.  Any comments that are confrontational will not be approved.  Sorry.  My blog, my rules.  🙂

I gave up animal products gradually for health and, eventually, allergy reasons.  I didn’t do it to save the planet, or save the animals (both of which I love very much.) Therefore, my decision to use honey tends toward the health benefits it gives, as has my departure from animal products.

Labels that we give ourselves can get sticky over the years as the parameters morph with people’s opinions of what those labels mean.  I do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs.  I do, however, wear leather shoes (again, for health reasons, since it allows for the feet to breathe and plastics do not) and eat honey.  You see, many years ago, when “vegan” first became a term, I understood that it meant not eating meat, dairy, and eggs.  No one put an absolute definition in the dictionary.  So, I “became a vegan.”  Then more people jumped on the bandwagon.  The parameters began to change somehow.  (I really don’t understand how that happens.)  People became angry if you called yourself a vegan and still ate honey, or wore leather, but nobody created a new word to cover what vegan used to cover!  I suppose I could say I’m a plant-based eater, but that is a mouthful.  It’s easier to just say vegan and not bother to explain details.  Most people really don’t care anyway.

Now – the health benefits.  These I have seen for myself.  I know it kills bacteria, because in my younger days I stirred some into a large container of plain yogurt to sweeten it.  It was great the first day, but when I came back the next, it was a runny liquid mess.  It had killed all of the bacteria in the yogurt!  So I know the anti-bacterial effects.  Next, raw honey has been used on a gum infection in my family with a great healing effect when nothing else was working, not even prescription washes.  When people say it’s anti-bacterial, I believe it.

Here are a couple of links that speak to honey’s benefits:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02033065?LI=true

http://www.aces.edu/urban/metronews/vol8no2/HealthHoney.html

There.  I hope that clears up why I use it in my blog.  Feel free to substitute something that meets your personal ethics, or join me in using it.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie SliceYes, I may indeed be a few months late posting this recipe compared to the rest of the recipe-blogging world.  Pumpkin everything is supposed to be served in the fall, right?  During the holidays, however, I was much too hurried to spend time taking photos before the pies were devoured and life rushed on.  Now, though, with winter swirling mightily around the corners of my home, pumpkin pie seemed like the kind of hearty dessert breakfast that my family needed.

*whispered*  “Did she just say pie for breakfast??”  Yes!  Yes, I did!  When you eat a Continue reading

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Have you seen this meme on the internet?  Brace-yourselves-Pumpkin(http://makeameme.org/meme/Brace-yourselves-Pumpkin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have, it’s possible you contemplated not even bothering to come see my new recipe because you are tired of seeing pumpkin in everywhere, too.  But how could I not share a fantastic recipe with you?  Even if it is pumpkin.  🙂

Pumpkin Spice GranolaActually, this was an effort to try to convince my not-that-thrilled-with-granola family that granola can be special and just as tasty as the more expensive boxed cereals.  I think it worked at least for one of them, because I didn’t end up having to eat it all myself!

The great thing about this granola is that you put it in the oven for 6-8 hours and forget it.  Go to work, go to sleep; it will be there when you get back to it.  When you walk in the door, or get out of bed, the house will smell amazing!  Your stomach will begin to growl, and you might just decide to have a bowl of it right then before it has had much of a chance to cool off.

Pumpkin Granola

  • 10 c. rolled oats (not quick or instant oats)
  • 1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 c. walnuts, pecans, cashews, or your favorite nut to find in granola
  • 1/2 c. juice (apple, white grape, or another gently-flavored juice that blends well with pumpkin)
  • 1 14-16 oz. can of pumpkin puree (1 1/2 c. if you are using a pumpkin cooked from scratch)
  • 1/2 c. real maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. demerara sugar, raw sugar, or brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T. vanilla (or more if you like)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Break nuts into pieces – whatever size you like to chew in your granola.  I break a walnut half into about 4 pieces, roughly.  In a large bowl, mix oats, coconut, and broken nuts.  In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients.  Pour pumpkin mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well coated.

Spread evenly onto 2 large cookie sheets.  (I really need to get another stoneware baking sheet.  It works incredibly well here.)  Put on racks in oven and set it to “warm” or 175°.  Bake for 6-8 hours.  (Note:  I have allowed a similar granola to bake for as long as 12 hours before, but it does get very, very crunchy.  If you choose 6 hours, it will be moist enough that you should store it in a cold location if you won’t finish it in a week.)  Place on cooling racks.  Store in an airtight container only once it has completely cooled down.  What you eat before that is up to you!  😉

This is great served with raisins or date pieces.