Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lentil and Harvest Vegetable Stew with Fresh Thyme

Nothing like a steaming bowl of fall veggies and lentils to warm your soul.
Do you love lentils? If so, you and I have a lot in common. This nourishing, comfort-food vegetable and lentil stew is one of my favorite meals when the leaves start changing colors and temperatures drop. The chunky vegetables and vibrant herbs will fill your house with the most wonderful aromas as you simmer it on the stove, and you'll feel you are taking extra-special good care of yourself by indulging in as many bowls of it as you like. I promise.

Lentil and Harvest Vegetable Stew with Fresh Thyme

(Vegan, Gluten Free)

1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS olive oil
2-3 stalks of celery with tops, thickly sliced
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 small carrots or 2 medium, thickly sliced
4 small to medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (peeled or unpeeled, your choice)
1 small to medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and cubed
5-6 cups vegetable broth or water + veggie bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon, love this stuff)
1/3 cup dry lentils, sorted and rinsed
Handful fresh thyme (you can de-stem it and chop it if you like, but I'm too lazy. I just dump it in and pick out the stems later, when I eat the stew.)
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tsp coarse grey sea salt, or salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper

Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes, then add the celery and cook until onion is translucent. Toss in the marjoram and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to one minute. Add the carrots, potatoes, sweet potato or yam, and sauté a few more minutes to blend the flavors. Pour in the broth or water plus bouillon and add the lentils. Bring to a boil, toss in the thyme, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are done. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and simmer another 5 - 8 minutes. (Don't put the tomatoes in until the potatoes are soft, because the acidity can keep the potatoes from cooking thoroughly.) I like to simmer this down until everything is creamy, buttery-soft, about 35-40 minutes total.

Enjoy by itself or with a hunk of grainy wheat bread or gluten-free bread. Yum.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Vegan, Sugar-Free, Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ooh, want...now...
Okay, so you drive through Starbucks' drive-thru this time of year and get bombarded with pictures and words suggesting you order a Pumpkin Spice Latte. And you remember back when you didn't care how much caffeine, sugar, or dairy you consumed, and you ordered that steaming, delicious, aromatic latte to your heart's content. And how the pumpkin spice latte filled your senses with the wonderful feeling of fall.

And then, if you're like me, you start scheming about how you could re-create that drink in a cleaned-up form and enjoy it without selling your soul to the devil.

I no longer drink coffee due to the caffeine content, and I haven't bothered with searching out good decaf coffee because I wasn't trying to make a sanctified Pumpkin Spice Latte. Until now. Enter Sprouts' bulk decaf espresso beans, which I highly recommend.

I went full-on vegan last summer, which means no dairy, so no milk in my latte either. Can't order dairy-free at Starbucks, because I also no longer consume sugar, and to my knowledge all their alternative milks are sweetened with cane sugar.

And forget about the pumpkin spice part of it at Starbucks--that's a syrup, and its glycemic index is probably around 1.5 million. Especially since if you let them put as many pumps as they want, you're getting at least two or three pumps per drink. (Even back when I consumed sugar and ordered this latte at Starbucks, I used to ask for half a pump of syrup in a tall because it was just too much sugar for my taste.)

No worries. I figured all this out this past weekend and am here to share my so-delicious vegan, sugar-free, decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte with you.

Vegan, Sugar-free, Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ingredients (these are a little specialized, but hey, you want a sanctified latte or not???)

2 TBS (for a double shot) decaffeinated espresso beans (or ground decaf espresso if you don't have a grinder at home--Sprouts sells a good decaf espresso)
3/4 cup Califia brand Toasted Coconut Almond Milk, the one that is sweetened with Monk fruit (check the label. It has 0 grams of sugar.)
3 tsp Lakanto natural Monk Fruit Sweetener (adjust the amount up or down according to your taste, but 3 tsp is a good place to start)
1/4 tsp powdered Pumpkin Pie Spice (I'm loving Spice Hunter brand at the moment)
Cinnamon, to sprinkle on top


Grind your beans (on fine) if not already ground. Fill your portafilter with the ground beans and tamp it down evenly. Pull your shot and set the espresso cup on top of the machine to keep warm while you steam your milk. Add the 3 tsp Lakanto sweetener plus the 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice to the bottom of a stainless milk steaming carafe, then pour the coconut-almond milk on top. Steam until hot and frothy. Pour espresso into a warm mug (I warm it in the microwave for 20 seconds) and then pour steamed, sweetened, spiced milk over the top. Sprinkle on some cinnamon, sit back, and enjoy the autumn bliss.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Vegan Apple-Banana-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Banana, Cinnamon, Apple-y Oatmeal Goodness.

I was craving oatmeal cookies that met my dietary rules over the summer, so I spent some time looking for a good vegan, gluten-free, sugar free oatmeal cookie recipe. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, but printed out five recipes that I thought I could work with and adapt. After some experimentation, I came up with the perfect (for me) fruity, nutty oatmeal cookie. It's soft, freezes and thaws well, has an addictive banana-apple sweetness plus just enough nutty crunch to satisfy my nut cravings (I've had to stop eating plain, raw nuts by the handful due to TMJ pain...sad day.)

My recipe is vegan, sugar free, and gluten free, and soft enough that I can normally enjoy them without irritating my TMJ muscle/tooth pain. The process is relatively easy and can be made all in own bowl if you want to just make your flax eggs in the large bowl before you get started.

Apple-Banana-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

2 flax eggs (2 TBS ground flax seed + 6 TBS water)
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 apple (I like Fuji and Gala, but just about any type will do,) peeled and grated in food processor with S-blade
1/2 cup nut butter, such as almond and/or cashew butter (lately been using Nuttzo in this recipe. It's pretty addictive.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS melted coconut oil
3 TBS golden Lakanto (or if you aren't avoiding added sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar would be yummy)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Heaping 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour
3 TBS chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make your flax eggs in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.

Mash banana in the bottom of large mixing bowl, then add apple and flax eggs and mix. Add nut butter, vanilla, coconut oil, Lakanto, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Add oats and other flours. Mix well, then add pecans. Set cookie dough in the fridge for 5 minutes to firm up a bit. Use a big spoon to dip the dough out onto a cookie sheet or baking stone, flattening each ball of dough a bit to make about a 3" diameter cookie.

Bake 18-20 minutes (at high altitude - you may need a little less time if you are at sea level) or until cookies show a little browning on the edges and bottoms.

Cool on a rack and enjoy! Makes 20-24 cookies.

Side note: These cookies freeze well. I freeze them the day I bake them, after scarfing down several of them with Teeccino. I put two cookies in individual sandwich baggies, then bag them all up in a gallon size baggie before placing in freezer. You can thaw one baggie on the counter or in your lunch bag in the morning if you want to have them for lunch. Or, my favorite way to have them is to wrap the two frozen cookies side-by-side loosely in tin foil and heat in my toaster oven for 18 minutes at 350 degrees. They'll come out soft yet crispy-ish on the edges like they were when you baked them. Soooo good with hot tea or Teeccino herbal coffee (or the real stuff if you're doing caffeine!)

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