Raw Chocolate Walnut Truffles

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These are the most deliciously wonderful truffles.

I can’t stress this enough, they really are impossibly, amazingly good.

I make these truffles pretty often and they rarely make it out of the food processor and into their truffle form before I start eating them. In fact, the recipe makes around 10-12 truffles, but there was quite a bit of unnecessary taste-testing while I was making these last night and then I decided that I needed to eat the 10th truffle in order to “even” out the picture. Yeah, you’ll be making excuses to eat these bad boys, too.

And because they contain raw, healthy and whole ingredients, you’ll have no reason not to indulge. That’s right, all of the ingredients in these delectable truffles are actually good for you. Not to mention, they’re sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan. The only sugar in these truffles comes from the natural sugars in the raisins and dates, but the best part is, you would never be able to tell!

You could even double or triple the recipe and these truffles would make the perfect dessert to serve at a party or get-together–for example, if you’re having friends over for the Final Four games tonight or the NCAA Championship game on Monday :) They’re super quick and easy to make and so decadent that your friends will have no idea that they’re eating a healthy dessert!

So why are you waiting?! Go make some now and have fun indulging! And enjoy your weekend ;)

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This truffle looked a little uneven so I thought I would even him out. I just couldn’t resist….

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5.0 from 1 reviews

Raw Cacao-Walnut Truffles
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12 truffles
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 rounded Tbs. almond butter (you can make your own from scratch using a food processor or purchase a jar from just about any grocery store)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbs. raw cacao powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 3 dates, pitted and chopped (I use Medjool)
  • shredded coconut to top (optional)
  • chopped almonds to top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the first five ingredients into a food processor and combine until crumbly and beginning to stick.
  2. Add the raisins and dates last and mix until well combined.
  3. Scoop the dough out using a Tablespoon and roll the dough out between your hands.
  4. At this point, if you choose to use the toppings (and I highly recommend it), place the toppings in a shallow plate or bowl and roll the truffles in the topping until completely covered.
  5. Place the truffles in the fridge for at least 2 hours to harden. Or, if you’re as impatient as I am, place them in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  6. These will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of days, but I promise they’ll be gone before then.

Sweet & Spicy Carrot Bisque

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I haven’t had soup in a while, at least not since the weather jumped right up into the 80s, but for some reason last night I was really craving soup. I knew I wanted a hot soup, but one that had a lighter flavor.

It’s times like these–when I’m unsure of what I want–that I whip out my gigantic recipe binder. This thing is HUGE! It’s basically a collection of notes and recipes from over the past year. When I first really began making changes in my diet I didn’t want to feel limited so I began searching for and collecting recipes with ingredients I could tolerate and recipes with ingredients that could be tweaked. Before I knew it, I had filled up an entire binder. The old binder is now just for desserts (I have a lot of dessert recipes) and there’s a new bigger binder for the rest of my recipes. Whenever I make one of the recipes I write down the date and make notes on what I liked about the dish, what I changed, and what needed to be changed the next time around. This binder has served me very well and has definitely gotten me out of a bind (I’m cheesy) on a few occasions.

When I was searching through my binder last night I came across this Sweet and Spicy Carrot Bisque recipe. The intriguing ingredients are what caught my eye and convinced me to save the recipe in the first place, but it was also my hesitation about these interesting ingredients that caused me to skip over this recipe before. Last night, however, with all the right ingredients on hand, I thought I would brave this unique recipe.

And the odd ingredients in this recipe are:

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I don’t know about you, but I never in a million years would have thought to put banana in a hot soup. But somehow it adds such an amazingly smooth consistency and a subtly sweet flavor to the dish. In fact, there is such depth of flavor to this soup that I would take a bite and stop to enjoy as all of the different flavors would jump out at me.

I will definitely be making this soup again. And aside from substituting olive oil and adding a pinch of garam masala, I felt no need to change the recipe in any way. Although, I should have known this recipe would be amazing considering it won Best Soup in Vegetarian Time’s 2011 Chef Challenge. And if you’re looking for a delicious, light soup, I hope you enjoy this, too!

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Sweet and Spicy Carrot Bisque
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 tsp. plus 1 pinch salt
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds (4 cups)
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 13.5-oz. can light coconut milk, divided
  • 2 ½ Tbs. lime juice
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and pinch of salt, and sauté 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Stir in ginger, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add curry powder, cayenne, and ¼ cup water. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to coat onion and ginger with curry mixture.
  2. Add carrots, banana, 1 tsp. salt, and 4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes, or until carrots are soft enough to be pierced with fork.
  3. Purée soup in batches in blender or food processor. Return soup to pot, and stir in 1 cup coconut milk and lime juice.
  4. Simmer remaining ¾ cup coconut milk in small saucepan over medium-high heat 10 minutes, or until reduced by half.
  5. Ladle soup in bowls, and swirl 11/2 Tbs. coconut milk reduction into each serving.

You can also find this recipe on Vegetarian Time’s website here.

Happy Friday!!

The Lunch Challenge and Avocado Nori Wraps

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I must admit, I’m constantly tempted to eat foods that I know I shouldn’t, especially when I’m away from home and don’t have something healthy on hand. And I definitely cave every now and again, but the consequences–usually in the form of bloating, chest pain and fatigue–quickly remind me why I’ve chosen to cut these foods out of my diet. I’ve noticed, though, that it’s much easier to stay on track when I make my own meals and snacks.

For this reason, meals at home have always been fairly easy. However, lunch can be a bit of a challenge–especially when I first changed my way of eating–usually because it’s the one meal I eat while I’m away at work. I’m always rushing in the morning, so for months I would grab “healthy” frozen meals or pick up something from a nearby restaurant. I thought I was eating healthy. But the truth is, these foods are often just as damaging as eating a bag of french fries.

Frozen meals, even the ones that claim to be healthy, are often full of preservatives and contain unnecessarily high amounts of sodium. And in order for those meals to keep their calorie and fat counts low, they are frequently portioned so small that they are not filling, which can lead to unhealthy grazing later. Also, it’s almost impossible to gauge ;when the veggies (which all have different cooking times) are evenly cooked. It’s no wonder so many people have such a distaste for veggies when they’re eating veggies that are either half-frozen or brown and wilted! I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a large, fresh, healthy, and filling meal over a small, overly processed, and improperly cooked one any day.

Restaurant food is another story. At least with frozen meals, you know (for the most part) what ingredients you are consuming. But restaurants are not required to post all of their ingredients which means that many of their dishes, even the healthier items on the menu, may contain hidden harmful ingredients.

I’m not saying that all frozen meals and restaurant foods are bad for you. I am saying, however, that it’s almost always better to prepare your own food. I know this is asking a lot. It’s hard to set aside the extra time that it takes to get everything ready the night before or early in the morning. There are days when I sleep through my alarm and even getting out of bed seems impossible.

But I promise you, even when you’re scrambling to get ready in the morning (which happens to me more often than not), there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re prepared to quickly throw something together to take with you:

~~For example, I try to always keep cut-up fruit and veggie sticks in the fridge. If I remember to cut the fruit and veggies as soon as I get home from the grocery store then I can easily throw some into a bag to have as a snack while I’m at work. Keeping healthy dips like humus ;and baba ;ganoush around for the veggie sticks is also a good idea.

~~Also, I start my lunch every day with a large salad. That way, I know I’m getting many of the essential vitamins and nutrients that I need to power through the rest of my day. In order to have the salads done in a flash, it helps to keep a large stash of pre-washed greens and veggies and to prepare a large batch of dressing every few days.

This is one of my big lunch salads made of green leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion, and, my favorite, avocado:
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~~And, lastly, when I’m pressed for time, I keep a list of recipes for quick dishes nearby so that I can easily pick out something to make. Some of the easiest and fastest dishes that I like to make include raw soups (think gazpacho), veggie sandwiches (on gluten-free bread), and lettuce or nori wraps.

Until a little less than a year ago, I had never had the pleasure of using nori wrappers. Most popular for their use in sushi, these seaweed wrappers are actually quite versatile. I often crumble them onto salads or soups to add nutrients and a wonderful salty flavor and when I’m in a bind it’s easy just to toss ingredients onto a whole wrapper and roll them up. I’ve made the wraps a few different ways, but always use many of the same ingredients as the base. This recipe for the Avocado Nori Wraps is the one that I use the most often and it can definitely be customized to accommodate whatever cravings you may be having.

It’s so easy, just lay the ingredients on one end of the wrap. Try not to get the wrap too wet (like I did in this picture) or it will start to crinkle. Usually this isn’t a problem, but I was hungry and rushing :)

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Next, roll the wrapper up and slice into 2 or 4 separate wraps. And you’re done!

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4.0 from 1 reviews

Raw Avocado Nori Wraps
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 (2 wraps cut into 4 or 8 smaller wraps)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 untoasted nori wraps (you can usually find these in the Ethnic food aisles)
  • 1 large avocado, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 rounded Tbs. chopped red pepper
  • 2 rounded Tbs. chopped celery
  • 2 tsp. chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. nutritional yeast (not raw, but often used in raw recipes)
  • handful of sprouts (I like clover sprouts)
  • organic honey or Dijon mustard (as much as you like)
Instructions
  1. Lay the nori wrappers with the shiny sides down on a plate or a sushi mat.
  2. Top with avocado first, placing the avocado slices along one side of the wrapper. Divide the veggies evenly and spread atop the avocado on the 2 nori wrappers. Top with nutritional yeast and mustard.
  3. Using your fingers or the sushi mat as a guide, roll the wraps up tightly. I’ve found that it helps to wet the end once it’s rolled to help it stick.
  4. Using a sharp knife, slice each wrap into 2 or 4 smaller wraps.

If you don’t already pack your own lunches, I challenge you to make your own lunches for a week to take with you to work or school (or wherever you may go). Let me know how it goes! And please let me know of any suggestions you may have and what meals you enjoyed the most!

My Thumb Gets a Little Greener

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Watering my dad’s plants when he goes out of town is about the extent of my experience with plants in the past I-don’t-know-how-many years. I have one plant in my own home. My mom gave it to me and I don’t know what type of plant it is or how often I should water it (or why there’s only leaves growing on half of one vine). Miraculously, it’s been alive for a couple of years now. When she gave it to me, though, I remember my mom saying something along the lines of “this thing is impossible to kill.”

It’s true, I definitely don’t have a green thumb. But, my increasing love for fruits, veggies, and organic growing has led me to want to plant as well. As my dad says, “it’s the natural next step.”

Even though I’ve wanted to start planting veggies for a while now, I’m terribly good at coming up with excuses for procrastinating. I don’t have a problem with getting dirty; in fact, I always thought it would be fun to get into the mud and dirt. I do have a problem with patience, though. I want instant gratification and both planting and growing take a lot of time and patience. Not to mention, I would have no idea where to even begin because I don’t know the first thing about gardening. Also, because my husband and I are renting our house, I always told myself that I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into a garden and then move and have that effort wasted (yep, I’m lazy, too).

But when my dad, who is an experienced gardener and lives only a few blocks away, called and told me he was going to start planting and asked if I wanted to help, I had no excuses. And I absolutely wanted to help.

I remember my dad working hard on a garden we had when I was a kid and the wonderful smell of the herbs, particularly basil, that would permeate the yard and our kitchen as he would cook. Now, whenever my husband and I go to pick up my step-son from school, I always stop to smell the beautiful basil growing from the school’s garden. Kaden, my step-son, loves that garden. Every Thursday his class gets their turn in the garden and Kaden comes home to tell me everything he’s learned and how the veggies are growing. I’ve cherished those conversations, but they’ve always been pretty one-sided.

Now, I may finally be able to participate more in those Thursday chats! My dad informed me on Sunday that the soil was almost ready and that on Tuesday he would buy the herbs and veggies and we would be ready to start! Even though it’s still only March, it’s been sunny with highs in the 80s for the past few days and (hopefully) there’s no chance for another freeze. I was so excited!

After three hours of turning the soil, pulling up roots, putting down planting soil, planting, and watering, I was exhausted. My hands are sore and my back is hurting, but it was absolutely worth it. In less than three months, if all goes well, we will have fresh basil, cilantro, rosemary, squash, cabbage, bell peppers and tomatoes ready to be enjoyed! Next up, green beans and black-eyed peas! I can’t wait :)

All the herbs in a row, ready to be planted:
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Basil, cilantro, rosemary, squash and cabbage:
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Tomatoes and bell peppers:
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I brought Kaden over after he was out of school to show him our progress. My dad pointed out what we had planted and Kaden had a few suggestions about what to plant next :)

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Wild Rice Stir-Fry served in Cabbage Bowls

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I just love Whole Living magazine. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it before, Whole Living is a Martha Stewart publication dedicated to physical and mental health and to green living. When I say that I love this magazine, it’s a complete understatement. Every time I see a new issue on the magazine rack at the grocery store I go ballistic, buy a copy and immerse myself in all of the articles, beautiful photographs and recipes. By the time I’m done reading, practically every page is earmarked and I’m ready to return to the grocery store to stock up on all of the supplies I need to replicate the recipes.

I get so much inspiration from this wonderful magazine. All of the tips on gardening have me convinced that I need to take the plunge and finally begin planting in my backyard. The information on green skincare lines and homemade remedies inspire me to experiment with my own concoctions. And the information about the health benefits of certain foods and the myriad recipes–many of which are allergy-free–get me excited to try new foods and make new dishes.

There was an article in the March 2012 issue about brightly colored food and what the coloring tells us about their nutrient content. I literally ate it up. Every day for almost a week I ate a different color of the rainbow! So fun! And because I was incorporating so many different bright colors into my diet, I knew that I was also getting a full spectrum of nutrients. It was a win-win situation!

There was one recipe, the Black Rice Stir Fry, that I really enjoyed. The recipe includes brightly colored black rice, eggplant, red cabbage, and purple kale, making for one very purple meal. I loved the flavor, but I realized that a lot of the ingredients are ones that I don’t commonly have on hand, at least not all at the same time.

Flash forward to a month later and I thought I might revisit this recipe. This time, though, I adapted it to accommodate the ingredients I had on-hand. I found this Wild Rice blend hiding in the back of by cupboard.

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I also still had some purple cabbage leftover from making the Kelp Noodles with Almond Soy Sauce. According to the article in Whole Living, purple cabbage is a good source of indoles, which may slow the metabolism of carcinogens, and anthocyanins, antioxidants that improve brain function and balance and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. I’ve been eating a lot more purple cabbage after reading about its’ super-power-like abilities!

Now, call me crazy, but I also think that food is a lot more fun when you get to eat with your hands or with chop-sticks (I didn’t know how to use chop-sticks until a few years ago and now that I’ve mastered them I want to use them all the time). So, I thought I would turn this into a totally fun and kinda messy dish by serving it in edible cabbage bowls. It was so good! And if you use smaller cabbage leaves for the bowls, I bet this would also make for a great party appetizer.

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Wild Rice Stir-Fry served in Cabbage Bowls
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3 (makes 6 bowls)
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup wild rice blend
  • 1½ cups water
  • 6 of the outer purple cabbage leaves, set aside to use as the bowls
  • ½-1 Tbs. olive oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • 1 medium zucchini cut into ½ inch chunks (approx. 1 cup)
  • 2 cups of thinly sliced or shredded purple cabbage
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced with white and green parts separated
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. chopped ginger
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • ½ a lime
  • red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped pecans (optional)
Instructions
  1. Soak the rice for at least 8 hours. This is optional, but it helps with digestion and shortens the cooking time.
  2. Bring 1½ cups water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice. When the water is boiling, add the rice, turn the heat down to low, and allow the rice to simmer for 30-45 minutes or until completely cooked. If there’s extra water, just drain in the end. Be sure not to overcook the rice or it will become mushy.
  3. While the rice is cooking, prepare all of the veggies.
  4. When the rice is done (or almost done) heat up the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, ginger, and scallion whites and saute for about a minute. Next, add the zucchini, sliced cabbage, and salt and saute for another 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  5. When the veggies are cooked but still firm, add the rice and Tamari and stir until heated through.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the juice from ½ a lime.
  7. Divide evenly among the 6 cabbage bowls. Garnish with chopped pecans, scallion greens, and red chili pepper flakes. Serve immediately and enjoy!

adapted from here