Abashedly Cooked

Sorry, guys. “Unabashedly Uncooked” is out the window tonight. Due to a lingering cold/cough/death virus that invaded my body over the last two weeks, I’ve pretty much lost my sense of taste. I’m on the mend now, but today after an attempt at a cabbage slaw went awry, I went for back-up: Kraft mac and cheese. Cabbage just wasn’t cuttin’ it.

It’s not raw. It’s not vegan. It’s not low carb (I hope my trainer doesn’t read this). But you know what? It feels good. And sometimes, you just have to eat what you dern well please….in moderation, of course.

Does anyone want a quarter pound of cabbage slaw?

Unabashedly Uncooked: Part 3

As we all know, I’m a sucker for sweets. And while I’m not a choc-a-holic, I do love me some brownies, especially ones with walnuts speckled throughout and a dusting of powdered sugar. Hold the icing, though.

It’s no secret, however, that there is nothing healthy about a brownie. But what if I told you I’ve found a brownie recipe that is high in fiber, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids? Behold: THE RAW BROWNIE!

I know, I know. A brownie with no flour, no oil or butter and no sugar would taste like kindergarten paste, right?

No, nada, not a chance. In fact, this no-bake brownie recipe from Raw For Dessert is so rich and delicious that I find myself sneaking back into the kitchen to keep cutting off little pieces of it. I truly believe that your non-vegan friends will enjoy it as much as your raw vegan cronies (and yes, I did just use the word “cronies”).

These brownies are a little costly to make, but don’t let this fact deter you. They’re super easy, and I have I mentioned they are delicious? I find they’ve become even more delicious after being in my fridge for a couple days. I like them best cold and cut into small pieces that I retrieve on multiple trips to my kitchen. But you can eat them your way.

Okay, so here’s what you do.

Really! One Bowl Raw Brownies (Courtesy of Raw For Dessert by Jennifer Cornbleet)

Ingredients

3 cups raw walnuts (I used a mix of pecans and walnuts because I live in Texas and pecans are cheaper here)
1/8 teaspoon salt
16 pitted medjool dates
2/3 cup cocoa powder or raw cocoa powder (I found some plain dark cocoa powder in the baking aisle that worked great)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
2 teaspoons filted water

To make this all you need in addition to your ingredients are a food processor and an 8-inch glass baking dish (and a place to keep for the reserved walnuts). Since my food processor is currently in storage, I tried my Vita-Mix. While it did the job, at the very end of grinding it overheated.

Start by placing your walnuts in the food processor and pulse briefly to coarsely chop them. Remove about 1/2 cup of the walnuts and set them aside. Then add the salt and process the remaining walnuts until they kind of resemble flour.

Next, you add the dates. Be sure you pit them first. If you buy dates with pits in them, just use your hands to pull them out. When you process the dates and the walnuts together, the mixture should become stickier and wet. (Hard to believe the below image will soon become brownies, right?)

Incorporate the cocoa powder into the mixture and then stir in the reserved chopped walnuts, the dried cherries, water and the cacoa nibs. (A brief note here about cacoa [ka-Cow] nibs, which are as fun to say as they are to eat. Go on and say it. These are the edible part of the cocoa bean after it has been harvested, dried, fermented and hulled. They add crunchiness to a recipe and are a great substitute to chocolate chips).

Scoop the mixture into your baking dish and press down with your hands so it is evenly distributed and compact.

Cut into squares and cover leftover brownies with plastic wrap. These brownies will keep for 5 days in the fridge or for 2 weeks in the freezer.

I hope you enjoy these! Now excuse me, I have to run back to my kitchen for another bite.

Unabashedly Uncooked: Part 2

My friend Marianne has a masterful plan. She wants homemade granola bars to take over the world. Well, maybe not the world, but definitely pantries everywhere.

The other day, she brought a bag of them to work given to her by her friend Stephanie. After she shared one with me, I immediately requested the recipe. Stephanie found the original recipe at eatliverun.com and modified it slightly. I then borrowed Stephanie’s recipe and made a couple additional modifications. A huge thank you to eatliverun.com, Stephanie and Marianne for my new favorite get-me-through-the-afternoon snack!

No-Bake Granola Bars

1 cup honey (I used about a 3/4 cup per Stephanie’s advice)
1/3 cup peanut butter, creamy
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt (my sunflower seeds are salted so I omitted the extra salt)
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup oat bran
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (or you can do a combination of nuts — I used a mixture of slivered almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries (or both!)

I raided the bulk bins at my grocery store for the ingredients. Buying in bulk is generally cheaper and is a great way to purchase the exact quantities you need.

Start by heating up your honey, peanut butter, salt (if you use it) and vanilla in a saucepan. (I know this step makes these granola bars not completely “raw,” but I am tagging this recipe as raw since it doesn’t require baking. I suppose if you vigorously stirred the honey and peanut butter together by hand you could get it warm enough and thin enough to bind the dry ingredients.) The original recipe also calls for 2 Tbsp of sugar, but I omit this step because I think the bars are sweet enough as is. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir the wet mixture into the dry. Be sure to get the two parts well incorporated — and don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Line a 9×9 casserole dish with wax paper (a smaller dish will work as well, but your bars will be thicker so cut them smaller). Once the mixture has cooled a little, use your hands to gently push it into the casserole dish so that it is even and compact. Refrigerate it for an hour (or freeze for about 30 minutes). When the mixture is chilled, remove the dish from the refrigerator and cut into bars (you should get anywhere from 12 t0 16 depending on how large your cut them).

The best part of these granola bars are how customizable they are. You can add other dried fruits or nuts to them depending on your tastes. Stephanie also adds chocolate chips to her bars when the mixture has cooled (and before putting everything in the dish), which make a lovely addition. The chia seeds are also her idea, which I love since I bought two pounds of the things (after Dr. Oz recommended them) and couldn’t ever figure out how to use them. Here are some of the benefits of ch-ch-ch-chia seeds (in case you were wondering). And in case I didn’t explain any of the steps very well, visit Stephanie’s blog for a detailed photo play-by-play.

Happy eating, everyone!

Unabashedly Uncooked

Lately, I have been inspired by many of my friends to eat and live healthier. This week, I’d like to share some recipes that are tasty, healthy and as natural as possible.

My friend Kellie hosted a 30th birthday party last week that was brilliant. She invited over a group of girls for homemade facials and raw food. I had never really ventured into the world of raw cuisine, so I was excited to try vegan tacos (where romaine lettuce leaves replace taco shells) and raw tzatziki dip (where nuts replace yogurt).

I was so impressed, I bought myself several new cookbooks this week. The first is Veganomicon. I’ve tried several things from this cookbook in the past and am always impressed. The second is Moosewood’s Cooking For Health, which contains the raw vegan taco recipe I’m about to share with you. I also purchased two slow cooker cookbooks, which I plan on perusing once my crock pot arrives (I ordered a 5-quart thanks to many people’s great advice).

Raw “Tacos” (Courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

Sunflower Seed “Cheese”

1 cup sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I recommend using a little less, as the ones I made turned out more salty than I intended)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 to 1 fresh chile, minced

Walnut and Sun-Dried Tomato Filling

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked
2 cups walnut
2 garlic cloves (I recommend using one clove since the raw garlic packs quite a punch)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander

8-10 romaine lettuce leaves

Making these was surprisingly easy. I soaked the sun-dried tomatoes in warm water for about 20 minutes while I made the sunflower seed “cheese.” “Cheese” really isn’t the right word for this concoction. It’s a crunchy herb and nut mixture that is salty and filled with flavor. Instead of mincing all the ingredients, I just popped everything in my Vita-Mix blender and set it a low variable speed for a couple minutes. I had to stop it a couple times to push the ingredients back toward the blade, but it did a nice job doing all my chopping for me without pulverizing the herbs.

After scraping the sunflower seed mixture out of the blender, I made the walnut filling. As with the sunflower seed “cheese,” just pop everything in your blender or food processor and pulse into a thick paste. I used a little of the reserved sun-dried tomato water (a couple teaspoons) to smooth out the consistency a bit.

When I first tasted these tacos, I thought the filling was made from beans. I was surprised at how creamy the walnuts become when mixed with sun-dried tomatoes. Add some diced avocado, tomatoes or even corn to your tacos for added flavor and texture. Be good to yourself and make these as soon as possible.

Asparagus Risotto with Pistachios

Risotto is a beautiful thing. It’s full-bodied and creamy and can be made into a full meal without much preparation. Asparagus risotto is like broccoli cheese rice for adults.

I started by bringing a 32 ounce carton of vegetable broth (plus 1 cup of water) to a boil in a saucepan. In another pot I sautéed about a quarter of an onion in the teensiest amount of oil. Then I added two large cloves of minced garlic. After a couple minutes, I added about a cup of arborio rice, tossing it in the onion mixture just for a minute or two before adding a ladle-full of the hot stock.

Next I added a bunch of asparagus cut into one-inch pieces and some salt and pepper. Don’t forget to discard the bottom inch of the asparagus. To know exactly where to cut, take the asparagus and snap off the end. This will indicate how much to cut off all the asparagus spears since the bottom part is too fibrous to chew.

Now here’s the labor-intensive part of risotto. You have to monitor it while it cooks so that you can add ladles full of liquid to it slowly. Stir the risotto as you add the liquid so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. After the first batch of liquid is absorbed into the rice (on medium heat), add another scoop of broth. Continue this process until the broth is gone. (You can also use water to cook the risotto, but it won’t give it the full depth of flavor or the beautiful yellow color.) After about twenty minutes, the risotto should be almost completely cooked. Taste the rice to make sure it’s just slightly al dente. If you run out of liquid and the rice still isn’t finished cooking, add a little more water.

At this stage I added in some heavy whipping cream (about a quarter cup or so). I don’t know if this risotto sacrilege, but heavy cream makes everything taste better. I also added some shredded parmesan and a little bit of shredded gruyere (about a half cup of cheese total, but you can add more or less depending on your taste). Then I seasoned with salt and pepper.

I tossed in a cooked meatless chicken patty at the end to give my portion a little more protein (Patrick cooked regular chicken for himself) and topped my serving with pistachios for some crunch.

Enjoy!