Boston Eats

We've lived in the greater Boston area for 9 months now (hard to believe!) - in that time, so much has happened. Bought a house. Baby on the way. Started up my nutrition consulting business in Newton. Traveled here there and everywhere. But we're really starting to get to know our new home town. In particular, we've made our way around some wonderful restaurants in the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. While we haven't quite explored our soon-to-be neighborhood yet (Roslindale), there are quite a few places I'd highly recommend if you live in or are visiting Boston.

What are my criteria for a good restaurant? Healthy options. More than one vegetarian option. Thoughtful ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Fresh fresh fresh! A good selection of menu items that are naturally gluten-free. And above all, delicious food!

The Elephant Walk

Cambodian/French food with plenty of delicious choices for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free diners. 3 locations: Boston, Cambridge, Waltham. Website: elephantwalk.com

Veggie Planet

Vegetarian and vegan delights, mostly pizza (although you can order any of the toppings on rice instead of dough). Cambridge. Website: veggieplanet.net

Blue Shirt Cafe

Nice spot for lunch, mostly wraps and sandwiches. Somerville. Website: blueshirtcafedavis.com

Ula Cafe

Tasty breakfast and lunch spot with a few healthy vegan options. Jamaica Plain. Website: ulacafe.com

Red Lentil

Creative and delicious vegan food, including DESSERT (which always gets a thumbs up from me!). Watertown. Website: theredlentil.com

Mei Mei Street Kitchen

The number one greatest food truck in Boston, hands down! Fabulous, locally sourced Chinese street food served by some seriously awesome people. All over Boston. Website: meimeiboston.com

Life Alive

Seriously great wholesome lunch grub with a smorgasbord of options. Cambridge. Website: lifealive.com

Henrietta's Table

Locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared meals to celebrate over. Cambridge. Website: henriettastable.com

Farmstead Table

Beautiful menu that changes all the time to reflect what's growing nearby. Newton. Website: farmsteadtable.com

51 Lincoln

Fun and inspired menu full of the best ingredients found in New England. Newton. Website: 51lincolnnewton.com

Sycamore

Seasonal, fresh ingredients grace this bistro's menu, along with some of the best pickled veggies I've ever had. Newton. Website: sycamorenewton.com

Waban Kitchen

From the same people behind 51 Lincoln, this small restaurant is a neighborhood gem featuring elegant local food. Newton. Website: wabankitchen.com

Walnut Grille

Vegan cuisine from the same owners as Red Lentil with an almost identical menu. Newton. Website: walnutgrille.com

Bill's Pizza

A neighborhood favorite with the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had and a fabulous selection of toppings. Newton. Website: billspizzeria.com

 

I'm sure I'll be updating this list in the months to come! Does anyone have any places to recommend in Boston that I've missed?

A Week of Vacation Meals

This week, I've been away in South Wales with Phil's family, staying in a beautiful cottage high up on a hill overlooking Swansea Bay. The weather has been unusual in the best possible way. Temperatures soared, we didn't see one cloud in the sky all week, and were happy to be so close to so many beautiful beaches and cliff walks. As a result, we didn't fancy having too many meals out - when we've got everything we need at home, why trudge down the hill for dinner? (Believe me, it's a bit of a trudge... Phil and I have been going on morning runs down to the waterfront and the way back up hasn't been pretty). Instead, the 6 of us decided to take turns cooking dinner for everyone, save for the night we arrived (Phil's birthday) when we went out for dinner at a fabulous little restaurant called The Kitchen Table. Phil opted to go first and cooked us wholegrain pasta served two ways: with shrimp & spinach & garlic or vegetarian sausages with chili flakes. On the side was a huge bowl of arugula salad. It was a perfect first meal! Here's a shot of the chef in action:

The second night, Phil's brother Graham made an Indian feast: two types of curry (one was a lentil dal), brown rice, homemade onion bhajis, cucumber raita, warm chapattis, and some lime pickle for tang. It was so tasty - we are all going to steal his curry recipes for our own.

I was up next, and after tracking down many many ripened avocados, I decided on a Mexican theme. It was a DIY table full of food: taco shells or soft corn tortillas for burritos, a big pot of veggies for filling, orange & cumin smashed black beans, guacamole, cherry tomato salsa, sour cream, little gem lettuce, crumbled sheep's feta, and some lime wedges for squeezing over everything. I think it went down well!

For dessert, I was thrilled to discover our rental cottage had a blender. I whipped up a variation on the raw chocolate mousse that has become a popular sweet treat in our house, using the ingredients I could find in town (i.e. no coconut oil!) - so this proves that you can create healthy and unusual desserts without any fancy equipment! You can find the recipe at the end of this post.

Wednesday night was cooked by Phil's Mom, using locally caught wild sea bass, cauliflower & broccoli quinoa, and butternut squash roasted to perfection.

Last night was BBQ night - we bought a couple of disposable ones from the nearest supermarket and grilled up salmon, veggie sausages, and halloumi. On the side was a quinoa salad, greens with avocado, and some very popular sweet potato fries. There was almost a cooking crisis when we realized there were no matches to be found. Luckily, there is a perfect neighborhood shop up the steep hill from our house, and they stock all manner of essentials.

Tonight is pizza night - we were able to find a bag of spelt flour at the grocery store, so spelt pizza dough it will be! Phil's Dad is famed for his pizza making skills so I'm very much looking forward to this final meal.

It's been a great week away from London - if you're interested in visiting, I'd highly recommend Mumbles for a seaside getaway. Funnily enough, I found out about it after meeting a local granola producer back in London over a year ago.  We've got some more trips planned in the next couple of weeks while Phil's on vacation - including our one-year anniversary and a mini road trip.

This will be the last "normal" post from me for a while - I am participating in Wego Health's Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge (HAWMC) - posting daily for the month of April on health and wellness using the prompts they provide. I hope you enjoy this change of pace at The Particular Kitchen for a few weeks. Regular programming will resume in May, hopefully with a bit more creative flair!

In the meantime, here's a delicious recipe to tide you over :)

 

Creamy Chocolate Mousse

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 0 mins

 

Ingredients (serves 4-5)

  • 2 large ripe/soft avocados
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, stirred (to mix cream and water together)
  • 3 tbsp organic honey (or to taste)

Instructions

Combine everything in a food processor or blender until thick and creamy. Divide into individual cups or ramekins.

You could serve right away, or to thicken slightly, place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon and cayenne to make Mexican chocolate mousse!

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Be Kind to your Belly

Is everyone ready for their winter break? Right now, I'm in Rhode Island, soaking up my last few days across the pond before heading back to London next week and spending Christmas with my husband's family.

Tummy troubles do not have to be a given around the holidays. It seems that we put up with indigestion, bloating, heartburn, and elimination issues because we assume it's normal. I'm sure the odd upset stomach affects all of us at some point around the holiday season, and this comes down to a variety of factors.

Stress

Traveling, playing host/ess, and spending extra money can all create added stress. In turn, this stress affects us physically, most often through IBS symptoms, such as bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, or constipation.

Overeating

The holiday feast is something we all look forward to, and for great reason! It's the culmination of a celebratory season. But with all of that food comes a taxed digestive system.

Overdrinking

Parties and gatherings = alcohol. While I couldn't call myself a nutrition advisor without first mentioning that, except for the occasional glass of red wine (and organic red wine at that!), I'm not a big advocate of drinking. It creates physical issues that can easily be resolved by avoiding it all together. But I'm a realist and know that alcohol is a part of most of our lives and a vital part of our social culture. Awareness of how it affects you digestively is important, though, so keep it in mind next time you're headed out on the town. (Next week, I'll be addressing hangovers, so don't worry if you've indulged!)

Mindless snacking

Those pretty little bowls of candy and chips that seem to appear everywhere at Christmas time are dangerously addictive. We can all too easily pack away salty and sweet snacks that we otherwise wouldn't touch simply because they're there. These contribute to a sluggish and weakened digestive system.

Digestive Support

  • Stay hydrated! Plenty of pure, filtered water will keep your system in good working order. For every non-water beverage you consume, supplement it with another glass of water. Most of us don't drink enough water in a day which can create loads of unpleasant symptoms associated with dehydration.
  • Eat the rainbow. The holidays aren't usually a time for fresh and raw fruit and vegetable consumption, and this can affect our digestion in a major way (not to mention our overall health). Try and continue your colorful fruit and veg consumption during the festive season with green smoothies, veggie canapes, chopped fruit with breakfast, and lightly steamed vegetable side dishes with evening meals.
  • Walk after meals. Taking a snowy walk with your family and friends is not only adorable, it's also a great way to get in a little exercise and encourage peristalsis (the wave-like contractions that move food through your digestive system) to ease that bloated feeling.
  • Mindful eating. Savour each homemade bite! Take time to appreciate your food. Chew slowly and stop when you are full (if not just before). Take small bites and encourage dinner table chatting!
  • Avoid carbonated beverages. Champagne, prosecco, beer, and sodas all contribute to gas and bloating, so if those are issues for you, try and avoid these drinks or at least keep them to a minimum.
  • Probiotics. Improper digestion is a sign that your intestinal flora may be out of balance. Taking probiotics as a supplement will reinnoculate and keep your tummy happy. And consumption of fermented foods, such as tempeh, sauerkraut, and probiotic yogurt, ensures a "top up" of friendly bacteria in the meantime.

Healthy Holiday Travels

As you read this, I'm in Philadelphia, about to watch my awesome friend Alli get married. Congratulations Alli & Will! I'll be here for a few more days, then I'm heading up to Rhode Island next week to have a very early Christmas with my family. Lots of travels... and I know I'm not the only one who's going places this winter. In fact, I don't think I've ever stayed put during the holiday season - we used to have Christmas with my grandparents on my Dad's side, then New Year's with my family on my Mom's side. It is great to be able to see everyone you love all within the span of about a week, but traveling (especially at this busy time of year) can sap us of energy and leave us feeling drained. image source

How do you cope with your holiday travels? Will you be going by plane, train, bus, or car? Will you be crossing timezones and oceans? Or do you get to stay comfy and cosy at home this year? I'd love to know what your plans entail in the comments section.

Top 10 Healthy Travel Tips

  1. Distract yourself. This is my number one tip because, let's face it, traveling sucks. Can you honestly say you enjoy it? Of course, once you arrive, it's wonderful! But the getting there... that is a challenge. So the only way I can get through it without strangling an innocent bystander is by putting on my headphones (noise-cancelling are the best) and listening to playlists, podcasts, movies, etc. Buy as many books and magazines as you can justify in the airport or train station shop. Treat yourself like an annoying toddler and carry a bag full of fun stuff to keep you occupied while you travel. Anything to keep your mind from focusing on the many headaches that come with a long Christmas journey.
  2. Bring snacks. This started for me out of sheer necessity, since I am unable to find adequate foods in airports or on trains that cater for a restricted diet. But even if I didn't have to avoid eggs, dairy, or soy, I'd still bring my own snacks when I travel. It's healthier, cheaper, and more convenient. Plus you can bring foods you actually enjoy eating rather than stuffing yourself with junk that you will regret later. Make the Mini Christmas Pudding Bites (recipe at the end of this post) and bring them with you!
  3. Skip the alcohol. I know that traveling is stressful (see number 1), but alcohol, especially when flying, will only make you feel worse. If you are an anxious flyer, bring a few bags of your favorite calming herbal tea (chamomile or lemon balm are great) and buy a cup of hot water at a cafe or ask for one on the plane. Sip it slowly while you zone out to something funny or relaxing on your headphones.
  4. Don't skip the water. What's worse: headaches & dry mouth & fatigue & nausea OR getting up to pee a few times on the flight? Exactly. I'm that girl who insists on sitting by the window but will make you get up so she can use the bathroom at least twice. Sorry! I like to see what's going on out there :) Water is crucial when traveling, especially by plane. Best option: bring an empty aluminum or glass bottle from home and fill it when you arrive. Next best: buy a huge bottle of water, the biggest one you can find, once you're through security at the airport.
  5. Frequent movement. Use those bathroom breaks as an excuse to stretch your legs and get some exercise. Do some light stretching while chatting to the flight attendants in the back. If you're on a long car journey, go for a 5 minute walk around the parking lot on a rest stop. On a train? Wander through the carriages (as long as you've got someone watching your stuff of course). Those little movement breaks will keep the cabin fever and stress at bay.
  6. Avoid jetlag. If you're traveling across timezones, there are two ways you can get your body to adjust a bit quicker. 1) Get as much sunlight as possible to keep you awake. Keep the curtains open if you have to be indoors but try and take a walk outside without sunglasses on if possible. 2) Do a bit of exercise on arrival. After a long journey, your body probably has a lot of toxins and energy built up, so it's best to get rid of that with light movement. Jog, do yoga, swim, or run if you have the energy!
  7. Up the fiber. Sitting for extended periods of time can really, ahem, slow things down. But getting tense and stressed out about travels tend to... speed things up. Fiber can help to bring your elimination back to a normal pace - but I don't mean taking laxatives or fiber supplements. Simply eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Dried fruits are the next best option, but definitely choose the varieties that don't contain added sugar (they're sweet enough on their own!) - and don't eat too many! Remember that dried fruits may look and feel smaller than fresh fruit, but they still come from the same place.... would you eat 10 apricots in one sitting? Well then don't eat 10 dried apricots!
  8. Pack a pantry. Are you a particular eater? Do you avoid certain foods or have a restricted diet? Then you should probably travel prepared! These days, when I'm traveling somewhere, my suitcase consists of about 3/4 clothes & shoes, 1/4 foods & drinks. For example, I'll make up a big batch of my own granola before I leave and pack it in a ziplock bag. I'll also stock up on the smallest containers of almond milk or rice milk I can find. Maybe I'll bring some individual pouches of milled flax. Unsalted nuts & seeds, a bag of quinoa or buckwheat flakes, some brown rice protein powder... anything that travels well.
  9. Ship ahead. Sometimes, sending a box ahead of your journey works out to be cheaper (and lighter). This is only the case if you're flying and might be charged with heavy or extra luggage. I tend to do this when I'm traveling across the Atlantic around Christmas by sending my family's gifts ahead. It's pricey but generally less than what airlines are charging for baggage these days. And one less thing you have to worry about on your travel day.
  10. Get festive. It's the holidays - moods are heightened. We're either really joyful or really grumpy. Why not spread the good cheer and enjoy it - it only comes around once a year after all! Crank up that holiday tunes playlist, load up your ipod or ipad with your favorite Christmas movie, wear ridiculous candy-cane-shaped earrings... whatever gets you in the spirit.

Mini Christmas Pudding Bites

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Makes 12-15; completely raw!

The particulars:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1⁄2 cup dried figs, stems removed
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cherries
  • 4 tbsp carob powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded coconut
  • Water as needed
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and well-incorporated. Add water a teaspoon at a time to make the mixture stick together more.
  2. Scoop out small portions of the mixture with a teaspoon and roll around in your hands to create a small ball. Continue until all the mixture is used up.
  3. Place in an air-tight container and refrigerate. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Grateful

Happy Black Friday! I'm actually thankful I live in a country where Black Friday doesn't really mean anything and people aren't camping outside of department stores the night before because they are so desperate to get the best toy for their kid. And so begins my grateful list. It's so easy to forget the real spirit of Thanksgiving when there is so much stress and worry surrounding it (and the same goes for Christmas or any other holiday that gathers people together). It's also a good time to think back on the past year and remember how much has happened, what has come into your life and what has left, and where the next year might take you.

2011 has been an amazing, action-packed year for me. I have a lot to be thankful for...

  • My husband. Our wedding day back in April was the perfect day. It's funny the things you remember - I keep getting little flashes of that day, and the moment I appreciate the most was when the two of us were allowed 10 minutes (which felt like 10 seconds) after the ceremony to have a glass of champagne alone in this amazing parlour room and just breathe. There was a lot of giggling. I love you, Phil.
  • My bigger family. Marrying someone means an extension of your family which is so fun. Although I have to say, the people I already had are still my favorites, the new clan are some pretty spectacular folks too.
  • Getting qualified. It's so exciting to be able to call yourself a Qualified anything (although my title is pretty changeable... Nutritionist? Nutrition Educator? Nutrition Advisor? Pick your favorite!) but the important thing is that it happened and that meant....
  • Starting my own business. Blame my only child status, but I think I've always been suited to be my own boss. Particular Nutrition is still just a baby - they grow up so fast though, don't they?! Things are gathering momentum as we approach month 3. I've got lots of exciting new partnerships and projects coming in 2012, including a Detox Program that I'm designing to kickstart the new year. (By the way, if you're interested in joining, no matter where you live in the world, email me!)
  • Health. I'm feeling pretty thankful for the healthiest year yet, not just for me, but for my nearest and dearest too. Of course there have been bumps in the road (that is always the case) but by "health", I mean making changes and choices for the better, even if it's one small thing. Recognizing that something can be done, and doing it. This year, I've made lots of changes to my diet, perhaps most significantly reducing my meat consumption to almost none! I'd also like to thank the Green Angel Smoothie for being so awesome and nourishing me in the mornings. This is starting to sound like an acceptance speech...
  • Inspiration. It comes in all forms, but this year I've been most inspired by the many websites and blogs out there publishing amazing content and recipes, spreading the word about clean eating, vegan recipes, food allergies, whole foods, plant-based diets, and mindful living. There are too many to list here, but I've got a list of some of my favorites over on my links page. Thank you for continually inspiring me!
  • Travel. I'm grateful for all the places 2011 has taken me: Cornwall, Bath, Brighton, Grenada, Manchester, a roadtrip across the USA, Spain, & Windsor (pictured above). And the travels aren't over yet - I've got one more trip to the States this year for a friend's wedding and an early Christmas! I have a feeling there'll be even more miles traveled next year...
  • FOOD. Of course, as I think back to last night's epic meal, food had to make an appearance on the list of things I'm thankful for. And with that, I bring you this easy tempeh recipe (because you'll get sick of leftovers eventually...)

Sweet & Spicy Tempeh

serves 2

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The particulars:

  • 1 block of tempeh, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 red chili, finely sliced (or 1 tsp red chili flakes)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos or tamari
  1. Whisk the sesame oil, maple syrup, ginger and liquid aminos or tamari in a small dish and set aside.
  2. Place the tempeh pieces in an ovenproof baking dish and pour over the maple syrup mixture, along with the garlic and chili. Toss to coat.
  3. Leave to marinade for at least an hour in the fridge.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  5. Place the marinated tempeh in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a splash more oil if it goes quickly.
  6. Serve with stir-fried greens and brown rice noodles.

 

Fermented power

What do yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh all have in common? They're all fermented, which means they're all awesome for your immune and digestive health. Why? Because, when properly prepared, they contain loads of friendly bacteria that help you to digest your food better and protect your body against illness and disease. One key component of fermented milk products, particularly whey and yogurt, is that it will help you to digest pasteurized milk (unnecessary if you drink unpasteurized or raw milk). This is good news for the millions of people who have a dairy sensitivity. The probiotics found in good yogurt (like lactobacillus acidophilus) can not only aid digestion but can also fend off allergies, in adults and children alike. This is why many people who are lactose-intolerant are able to consume some yogurts and kefirs without any symptoms - the friendly bacteria they contain provide the enzyme known as lactase, which breaks down lactose proteins in your digestive tract.

It certainly makes sense to add some fermented foods into your diet if you are having trouble digesting certain ingredients. It doesn't have to be dairy either. Soy is another common food sensitivity - especially when consumed in the forms of soy sauce, soy milk, or tofu. But fermented soy products, such as miso and tempeh, are far gentler on the system because of their friendly bacteria! As a result, I have been experimenting with my own diet, enjoying the occasional miso soup or baked tempeh meal, with no side effects or symptoms that I used to have when eating soy. This comes after 7 years without knowingly consuming any soy, but is real proof that you can heal your body yourself, rather than with pills, tests, or expensive doctor visits. A restricted diet supplemented with some fermented foods can help to heal your digestion more quickly and allow you to feel better faster.

I recently made some sauerkraut after purchasing a specially-designed crock from Germany. Most recipes I found required whey to start the lacto-fermentation process, but you can also simply make it with just cabbage and sea salt. If you'd like to experiment more with lacto-fermented foods, I'd highly recommend Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions which explores all manner of pickled and fermented goodies and how they are beneficial to your health. All in all, you'll find that they're simple to make, require only 2 or 3 ingredients, and last for months. I've got 3 jars of sauerkraut that will happily sit in my fridge for the next couple of months. Not sure it'll last though as I've been enjoying a spoonful on my daily lunch!

Back to soy. Plenty of us simply don't have the time or patience to make our own sauerkraut and would rather get the good stuff right away. Tempeh is the answer. It's made from fermented soybeans and acts as a delicious meat-free component to your evening meal.

After a few dinners using tempeh, we've found that a marinated and baked version is the best. We've also tried stir-frying it so that it goes crispy, almost like crumbled sausage (but tastier). This is great too, but having a simply baked tempeh dish really makes the stuff shine. If you have the time, marinating the tempeh overnight makes it much more juicy and "meaty" - but at least an hour will make all the difference.

We like ours alongside some stir-fried greens and vegetables. The type of tempeh I can find in my local health food store is sold in a cylindrical tube, but you can also buy it as a block, sort of like tofu. Either way, this recipe is a great starting point and will convince you to try out the fermented goodness for yourself.

Spicy Marinated Tempeh Patties

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Serves 2-3

The particulars:

  • 200g tempeh, sliced into patties or rectangles
  • 3 tbsp liquid aminos or tamari
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  1. Place all ingredients in a baking dish, cover with foil, and leave to marinate for at least one hour, overnight if possible.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  3. Bake the tempeh for 40 minutes, turning the pan around half-way through.
  4. Serve with stir-fried greens.

No Cheese Please

Living a life without dairy has its challenges. What's interesting to me is how different one person's avoidance of dairy can be to the next. For example, a friend of mine is allergic to all dairy, another is vegan and avoids it for different reasons, and I (like many people I know) can't have cow's milk, but will happily enjoy goat, sheep, and buffalo dairy. Because there are so many elements to dairy products that can have an adverse effect on the digestive and immune systems, it comes with its own set of rules. Whey, lactose, casein; they all interact with the human body in different ways. What's important here is for you to figure out what works for you.

I like to experiment. Cooking and food preparation has become my creative outlet. I was almost forced into it because of my own dietary restrictions. Has it been a challenge? Absolutely. But it's been 7 years since I stopped eating cow's milk, eggs, and soy - that's plenty of time for my body to heal itself and to begin experimenting with those foods I've been avoiding. So far, I've been enjoying the occasional fermented soy foods, such as miso and tempeh, without any discomfort. These are much more easily digestible and in fact a great source of protein and phytoestrogens. We really enjoyed a recent meal of balsamic-marinated tempeh, baked to perfection. It has a unique texture, nothing like tofu, so I'd highly suggest seeking some out and experimenting with it too. The important thing to remember is moderation: once in a while, a meal or two will not cause problems. But overloading every day for a week could be an issue.

Take, for example, wheat and gluten. Many people find that if they have gluten-containing foods more than twice a day, they start to notice symptoms, whether that's nasal congestion or digestive upset. But a piece of bread with soup at lunch and no other gluten all day? That's fine. Like I said, trial and error.

At the same time, there are always new and exciting ways to get those tastes you've been avoiding in other forms.

Back to dairy. There are tons of dairy-free (and soy-free) cheese products, but I've yet to find a decent manufactured one (not to mention the fact that they're usually ultra-processed and have little to no nutritional value). In the raw food world, nuts are used to create "cheese" all the time. Cashew cheese is practically one of the major raw food groups (along with green smoothies, avocado, kale chips, and bananas). :)

I'll happily enjoy some nut cheese instead of the real thing from goat or sheep dairy any day of the week! Plus, it gives me an excuse to use up leftovers...

Recently, I made a batch of almond milk and didn't want to waste the leftover pulp. So I made some spreadable "cheese" with it. This is so easy and keeps for several days in the fridge. Use it as you would any other soft cheese: in a sandwich, in a salad, on cucumber slices, or simply on seed crackers. You definitely don't have to label yourself a raw vegan to appreciate the simplicity and delight of this spread.

Almond Cheese Spread

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Makes about 1 1/2 cups

The particulars:

  • almond pulp leftover from making almond milk
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan crystal salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until completely smooth.
  2. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

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Speaking of substitutions, there is an awesome event coming up in London at the Southbank Centre during the weekend of November 25-27: The Free From Food Festival! There will be all kinds of stalls, demonstrations, and information - I can't wait to visit. Get lots more details on Twitter @FreeFromFest. See you there!

Booster Foods

A crucial part of the eating for health™ model that forms the basis of bauman college's curriculum that doesn't show up on other dietary guidelines is the section known here as "Booster Foods" - healthful and wholesome additions to your daily meals that can make a big impact on your vitality. But it's a bit daunting when you're taking on a whole new way of eating. How are you supposed to fit these booster foods in? And do they really make that big of a difference? The answer to that last question is a big fat YES. And as for the other matter of fitting them in, I'm here to help. I've broken it down for you into four major groups of booster foods. Two of these you'll definitely find easy to fit in (and probably already do). The other two might be new for some or weird for others, but are certainly worth considering due to their high nutritional impact. Read on and enjoy boosting your diet with these powerful foods!

Fresh Herbs

 

It should come as no surprise that FRESH herbs contain far more of a boost than DRIED herbs. The flavor is so much more prominent in a leaf of basil than in a sprinkling of ground up dried stuff. I love it when I go up to my Grandma's house in North West England where she grows countless beautiful herbs and plants - I'm always sent home with a bag full of freshly picked leaves and stalks. It makes everything smell AMAZING! So which herbs are best? Well they're all pretty spectacular, but here are a few of the really extra great ones and why they pack that extra punch...

1. Basil

Carrying a hefty amount of vitamins A & K, calcium, and magnesium in its leaves, basil is a versatile herb that brings all manner of dishes to life. Best of all, and probably most popular, is pesto, using the herb raw. Try adding a few leaves to a spinach salad for a flavor enhancement, or make the great caprese salad with ripe tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella this summer for a beautiful evening meal. If you're avoiding dairy, omit the cheese and have some slices of avocado or tofu.

2. Dill

I find dill to be underappreciated in the herb world, but always enjoy it when its added to a dish. We may commonly associate it with Scandinavian dishes like cured salmon or beet salad, but I really like it as an addition to potato salad in the summertime. It's great in yogurt dip with cucumber to go alongside a spicy curry or kebab. Nutritionally, dill's got great iron and calcium levels, as well as antibacterial properties resembling garlic.

3. Parsley

One of the most common garnishes to absolutely everything, parsley is widely used throughout many cuisines. But what we may not realize is that those little leaves contain powerful antioxidants, in the form of vitamins A, C & K. So why not make parsley the star of the show rather than just a sprinkle on the side? Add it to a bbq veggie salad, stir a huge bunch of chopped parsley leaves through tabbouleh, or create a herb rub for baked fish.

4. Thyme

Beautifully fragrant and a staple for most french dishes, thyme is one of my favorite herbs. It is absolutely wonderful with fish, especially this caribbean fish stew. Or roast up some carrots with a tiny drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of freshly chopped thyme for a great side dish. Need extra vitamin K, iron, and manganese in your life? Thyme's your herb!

5. Cilantro/Coriander

Love it or hate it, this herb AND spice livens up the simplest of dishes. I don't think I'd enjoy guacamole as much without some fresh cilantro leaves chopped up, and our curries just wouldn't be the same without a dash of ground coriander. Not only is it a great source of fiber, cilantro also has antibacterial properties in the form of dodecanol, which has been proven to combat salmonella. Add it as a garnish to any spicy dish, such as this lovely prawn laksa.

Spices

I assume everyone has a spice rack in their kitchen - or maybe a spice drawer. Or just a couple of bottles lying around. Whatever the case, spices are an essential in our cooking arsenal and bring some serious energy to a dish. Not only that, but there are ton of great health benefits to some of the most common spices. Here are 5 of the nutritional superstars...

1. Cayenne

Do not be scared off by the fiery heat of cayenne pepper. A tiny dash of the stuff is all it takes to add some of that powerful pain-fighting capsaicin into your body without burning your tongue off. Not only that, but you'll also receive its anti-inflammatory properties, clear your congestion, prevent stomach ulcers, and even lose weight! Not to mention its high levels of antioxidant vitamin A. But how to use it? Sprinkle it into a stir-fry, spice up your hummus, make your hot cocoa mexican-style, or clear away a cold by adding it to a mug of hot water with lemon and ginger.

2. Cinnamon

An excellent source of manganese, cinnamon is essential in the spice cupboard/rack/drawer. I'm not sure apples would survive without it, and moroccan cuisine would be certainly be lacking that aromatic dimension if it didn't exist. Its antimicrobial properties make it a great booster food for anyone suffering from candida overgrowth. Even just smelling this sweet spice has been known to boost our brain function and warm our souls in the depths of winter! Try these allergy-friendly graham crackers, just in time for s'mores on 4th of July.

3. Ginger

Calming to the digestive system and anti-inflammatory, ginger is a great relief for nausea and upset stomachs. It protects against cancer and provides relief to arthritis sufferers, due to its powerful protease, gingerol. Of course, fresh ginger root is optimal (rather than powdered or ground ginger) as this keeps the enzyme intact. Try adding some thin sliced strips of fresh ginger to your next stir-fry or noodle dish, steep some in tea for an immunity booster or nausea reliever, or grate it into a salad dressing for some spicy heat.

4. Turmeric

Shockingly powerful and beautifully golden, turmeric is the mother of healing spices. Why? Because it has been used for centuries in India and China for a whole slew of ailments. The reason for this is largely due to turmeric's potent antioxidant in the form of curcumin, which gives it that yellow color. So, see ya later, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis! When making a curry that calls for turmeric, make sure you use the isolated spices rather than a curry powder or blend, as these have very low concentrations of the individual ingredients.

5. Cumin

Another staple spice in curry, cumin adds a richness to dishes. The seeds provide a great source of iron and aid digestion. You can cook with them whole, grind them up yourself using a mortar & pestle, or use the ready-made ground variety. However you choose to use it, you'll probably finding the need to re-stock your supply often, as it is so versatile. Many Middle Eastern and African dishes rely on cumin for flavor. I particularly enjoy adding it to fresh hummus or sweet potato & peanut butter soup.

Sea Vegetables

 

The gorgeous photo above comes from 101 Cookbooks accompanying a recipe for wild seaweed salad. I wanted to find a picture of seaweed that didn't LOOK like seaweed. This recipe shows just how easy and simple it can be to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet. And you should definitely consider doing so, given their immense nutritional properties. There are several varieties available, mostly in dried form (which you can then soak to "awaken"), but the one we're most familiar with in our western world is nori, the seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls. Still, whichever type you choose to munch on, know that you're getting an immense dose of the good stuff: iron (good news for vegans and vegetarians, as this is a much more bioavailable form of iron than other plants), iodine, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, folate, copper, etc etc (I could go on).

But how do you eat them? Well, besides sushi, you could pick up some kelp noodles, try adding a sprinkle of kelp flakes to meals instead of salt, throw some into your favorite miso soup, or add some soaked and dried sea veg to your lunchtime salad. Now if only the oceans could stop getting so polluted...

Nutritional Yeast

 

Here's where I might lose you, but hear me out! Nutritional yeast, while smelly, is rich in B vitamins, including folic acid and b12, and is also a wonderful source of protein. The people who will benefit most from adding this wonderful product to their diet are those who avoid eating meat and dairy, though we could all do with a B vitamin boost every so often. Just FYI, this is NOT the same thing as brewer's yeast (from beer-making) - "nooch" is cultivated from sugar cane and beet molasses and will not affect candida in your system.

There are a variety of ways these nutritious flakes could be incorporated into your food, most of which involve the replacement of cheese. The raw cheesy dip I made at Thanksgiving last year as a starter was so delicious, I can't wait to make it again! And I love using rawmesan in place of parmesan to sprinkle on pasta. You can also season kale chips or popcorn with it, add it to salad dressing for extra flavor, make vegan mac & cheese, or mix it into roasted veggies. Or how about raw dairy-free spinach dip?

A Very Particular Thanksgiving 2010

The Thanksgiving recap post you knew was coming! Well, I think technically I'm still full from last night's dinner, so this post may be difficult to write. But all in all, I'm super happy with how it went, and am definitely saving some of these recipes for next year!

After the photos, I've written out some of the recipes I used - for the cranberry sauce, wild rice stuffing, stuffed squash, and cheesy dip. Bookmark them!

Delicious cranberry ginger sauce. So easy to make, with a very special twist!

Of course, I couldn't NOT show a photo of my roast turkey. I made it quite early, let it rest for a while, then carved the meat and stuck it in the fridge. Our little oven couldn't handle more than this beast!

Here's Phil's acorn squash, pre-stuffing. To be honest, I would have been happy to have this instead of turkey on my plate!

And there's the finished product! I also gave it a little hat and a lot of parsley for garnish :)

Here's the wild rice stuffing getting all stirred up.

Ready to be served to the masses!

And the cheesy dip with crudites as everyone arrived. I'm glad we started out with some fresh veggies :)

Thanksgiving napkins and scented candles courtesy of my mom!

A beautiful dish of candied yams, thanks to our friends Nat & Al!

Roasted butternut squash (above) and roasted carrots & parsnips (below) thanks to our friend John!

Our feast on the table last night, including some delicious green beans with almonds and mustardy dressing, from our friends Christophe & Steph! Also - spot the canned cranberry sauce in all its cylindrical glory :)

particular-kitchen-style cornbread from my friend Suzanne! She also made a traditional pumpkin pie and some mini ones!

Plus my raw pumpkin pie!

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for my amazing fiance, my spectacular friends near and far, being healthy and happy, my awesome family, and my dishwasher. Seriously, that thing is a lifesaver :)

Find the recipes below...

Cranberry Ginger Sauce

Makes approx 3 cups

The particulars:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  1. In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, and maple syrup. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Take the cover off, stir, and let simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by half.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the ginger, and stir through.
  3. Leave to cool for about an hour, then stir through the maple syrup.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Pecans and Apples

Serves 8; I doubled the recipe for 10 people and ended up with LOADS of delicious leftovers

The particulars:

  • 2/3 cup wild rice
  • 2/3 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 2/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 4 spring onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the two rices with a hefty pinch of salt and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked and fluffy (about 35 minutes).
  3. When the rice is almost done, start cooking the onion and celery with the olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove. Cook until the onion is translucent and starting to color, then add the apple and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the spring onions, raisins, herbs, and spices, along with some salt and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Take off the heat and stir in the cooked rice mixture. Also add the breadcrumbs, pecans, orange juice, and maple syrup. Taste and season if necessary.
  5. Cover the casserole dish with a lid and place in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley on top.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Makes one portion

The particulars:

  • 1 small acorn squash (or other round but flat-bottomed squash)
  • one portion of wild rice stuffing with apples & pecans (as above, up to step 4)
  1. Cut the top off of the squash (set aside for a "hat" if you would like!). Scoop out the seeds and discard.
  2. While the oven is preheating and the rice is cooking for the stuffing above, place the squash in a shallow baking dish and heat in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the flesh is soft enough to scoop with a spoon.
  3. When slightly cooled, begin to scoop out the flesh and mash with the spoon while still inside the shell.
  4. Add the portion of stuffing to the inside of the squash and mix it together with the flesh. Put the hat back on! Place the squash in the oven alongside the casserole dish of stuffing and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley leaves and a generous dollop of cranberry ginger sauce!

Cheesy Creamy Dip

Serves 4; recipe from tanya alekseeva

The particulars:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour, then drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp himalayan crystal salt
  1. Blend the cashews with the water first, until smooth and creamy. This base will last in the fridge up to 10 days!
  2. In a food processor or powerful blender, add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until creamy and smooth. Add more water if necessary.
  3. Use as a salad dressing or dip with crudites.

Getting Soy Back?

Right. So, out of the three major food groups I've been avoiding for over SIX years now (six!!!), soy has been the trickiest. When I was eating quite unhealthy food back in the States, you can bet that I was eating loads of soy without even realizing it. It's added to virtually all processed foods now, which is a shame - this overload of soy makes some of us allergic or intolerant over time, and now we can't enjoy the really GREAT foods that are made from soy - particularly all the delicious asian cuisines that take great care in using non-gmo soy products and tofu in vegan dishes. But I read about bragg's liquid aminos, a soy and tamari substitute, that is made from guaranteed non-gmo soybeans and is packed full of nutrients. Even though it comes directly from soybeans, the benefits seemed to great to not try it out for myself. I feel as though I've been pretty well off the soy for so long now, that it's always useful to try and incorporate small amounts of what you've been avoiding back into your diet to test your body and resilience. (If you are ALLERGIC, please do not test out a particular food until you have consulted with your regular health professional) - as always, everyone is different and may experience different reactions to foods. This is just what works for me and my individual chemistry!

And so, armed with a fridge FULL of fresh vegetables from the farmer's market, I made a classic quick and easy stir fry. I grated some carrots, chopped up some fresh onions and garlic, a bit of ginger, a very very hot red chili, a red pepper, and some giant leaves of rainbow chard. Cooked them all up in my wok, then added a splash of bragg's - probably about a tablespoon max. And ate up my delicious colorful meal. And I felt fine!

This isn't to say that I'll be hitting the tofu hard now. Baby steps!

If you are considering bringing foods back into your diet, I would recommend finding only the purest, cleanest version of the food. For dairy, always choose organic. Same for eggs. For soy, as close to the purest, organic soybean as you can find - beware of the fertilizer-treated, "Roundup Ready", cheap crop varieties that are sold all over the place. And a little at a time shouldn't hurt. Of course, I won't be soaking all my food in Bragg's from now on, but if I feel like having a dish that requires a splash of soy sauce, I'll definitely be adding it in.

But it's great news if you're feeling frustrated by a void in your diet - moderation is the key, and is crucial to enjoying a full and rich diet!