Friday, July 12, 2013

Adventures in Barcelona...and announcement of our move!

This post is long overdue!  We took a 10 day trip to Barcelona back in May and upon our return Ksenia got sick, then we started preparing for our move with a major decluttering/organizing the house project....along with a house hunting trip to San Diego.  Yes, we are moving to San Diego very soon :-)

Barcelona was a really great place to take the kids, even though they complained a lot about walking everywhere and being tired from the time zone change.   There was lots for them to see and do and we found the city to be "kid friendly" with lots of parks and play areas scattered throughout the city.
In our pre-kid days we would have had some train trips out of the city and probably a very heavy sightseeing agenda.  With kids, pretty much you need to stay in the city and see all that can be seen (it will be less than half of what you think you want to see!)  on a light schedule.  There were days where we didn't see much and spent time in the room resting, and that was okay.  Vacation is also about relaxing, right?

If you are going with kids, I highly recommend NOT staying in a hotel, but instead renting a flat.  You can find hundreds of options on a website called "AirBnB".  We rented a one bedroom flat with a futon in the front room and a full kitchen and bathroom.  It also had a nice little terrace.  No view, except for water on one side, but a very short walk to the beach, to restaurants, to a large grocery chain and fresh market.  The bus stop was also close by, the metro was probably a good 10 minute walk.

Be careful where you eat!  Stay clear of the heavily trafficked tourist areas, you will over pay for pretty average tasting food.   This Paella was 45 Euros and the reason why is they charged extra because it was meant for "2 plates", so there was an extra 20 Euro charged for two extra plates. On top of that there is NO differentation between eating Paella with meat vs. vegetarian.  So we paid the same price as the Paella loaded with seafood and sausage.  Really you should never pay more than 15 Euro for vegetarian Paella.  It's rice and veggies!

The trip up to our room was 6 flights of stairs, there was no elevator!  The kids thought it was fun, but man it was a workout for me and my husband.

Here's the view from our room to the right side....

The beach was a 2 minute walk from our flat.  It rained a lot while we were there, but the sun finally came out on the day before we left!

The narrow streets of Las Ramblas.  It's safe to walk them during the day, but it's still creepy.  We were told by the owner of our flat to not walk them at night as it is frequented by pick pockets and criminals.

Not exactly a healthy breakfast, but part of enjoying our vacation was experiencing the bakeries and coffee shops of Barcelona.  It was sugar overload, but fun.

In Spain, you will find tapas on every menu.  It's a large "appetizer" type dish to be shared.  Pretty much the only vegetarian options are fried foods.  So here we have "Spicy Potatoes" and "Fried Artichoke".  We ate a lot of this sort of fare along with a big salad.  And of course, a lot of vegetarian Paella! 

Vineet and Anika enjoyed the Salmon with veggies.

More vegetarian Paella....Ksenia says "that was yummy".

We drank mostly Cafe Americano coffees at the cafes.  We like bold coffee so this was the best tasting and less pricey option compared to other coffee drinks.  Also remember to read your menu carefully since outdoor seating commonly has an extra "tax" as well as "bread service".  That's the bread they bring out to you and assume is free of charge here in the United States.  You will be charged for it so always refuse it unless you want to pay an extra 3 to 5 Euros. 

So so tired girls....and this was day 5 or 6 of our trip!

Wonderful salad we had at a Japanese fusion noodle house called "Noodles and Fun" in the heart of Barcelona.

Vegan Thai curry that Vineet ordered at Noodles and Fun.  This was an entree!  So little food for 12 Euros. 

 Veggie Pakoras at Salcafe on the Barcelona Beach.

Not so exciting hummus and pita chips and salad at SalCafe
"Chocolate Lava" from a cafe in Badalona.  I think it was just chocolate and heavy cream melted together.  There wasn't any left, so I assume it was good.

We stumbled upon this graffiti on the wall as we walked toward downtown Badalona.  Apparently there are a number of vegans and vegetarians in the area...

Lunch with our extended family in Badalona.  They were awesome tour guides and hosts.  We really enjoyed our time with them and can't wait to see them again :-)
And last but not least, this was the thing my kids enjoyed the most.  They requested to play on it every day.  There is one on the Barcelona Beach and Badalona Beach.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Visitor in the garden....

A cute little turtle from the lake was crawling through our garden this morning.    We went searching online to figure out exactly what type of turtle it is and we think it is a Florida Redbelly Cooter.
What do you think?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pea Shelling Saturday

Look at all the beautiful snow peas we harvested from the garden yesterday!  Looks like we will be making lots of tofu muttar in the next few weeks.  These are really good raw, on top of a salad too!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Blueberry Buckwheat Mini Parfaits with Vanilla Creme

As mentioned in a previous post, we are cooking out of "Crazy Sexy Kitchen" this month, and I am loving it so far.  These lovely little treats were inspired by the "Mango-Raspberry Parfait with Vanilla Creme" on page 103.

Because I am a freak about overconsuming even "good fats", I decided that we would make the recipe into mini parfaits since the Vanilla Creme is made entirely from raw cashews and coconut milk.  Yummy yes, but OMG, it's like 90% fat!  

You only need to remember to soak your groats and cashews the night before and then you can bake the "groat crunchies" in an oven at low temperature in the morning. Not using a dehydrator makes this so much faster, and because of that you can eat them first thing in the morning for breakfast or for an after lunch treat. 

Serves 4
6oz container blueberries
1 cup cashews soaked in water overnight
2 raw medjool dates soaked in water overnight (or 2 tbsp of Agave Nectar)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean paste
1/2 13 oz can Thai coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats soaked in 3 cups water overnight
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Prepare the Vanilla Creme
Blend all creme ingredients in a blender- cashews, coconut milk, date, vanilla, water. Scrape the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula while blending to ensure that the creme is silky smooth.  Place in refrigerator while preparing buckwheat crunchies.

2. Prepare Buckwheat Crunchies
Rinse soaked buckwheat well and toss with cinnamon and sea salt.  Spread out thin over a tray.  I used a flat strainer tray so the buckwheat would cook on both sides.  This was something I bought in India and I have no idea if you can find anything like it here.  I used a convection toaster oven that allows me to set the cooking temp to as low as 75 degrees!  Since I wanted to get this done somewhat quickly I chose to cook at 150 degrees for 1 hour.  You could probably raise the heat to 250 to save time, maybe it will finish in 30 minutes at that temp.  Either way, make sure you stir the buckwheat around at least once to make sure it cooks evenly.

3. Assemble Parfaits
When the buckwheat is done you can now take out your vanilla creme and start pouring it into your glasses.  I used small wide mouth mason jars.  Toss your crunchies and blueberries on top and you are good to go! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Meatless Chickpea Curry with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes

Here it is!  One of the most voted for recipes from my Meatless giveaway.  I made one modification to this recipe and that was to use no salt vegetable broth in place of the EVOO when cooking the onions.  Enjoy!!

Toasting the curry powder with other aromatic ingredients before adding the liquid intensifies the flavor of this quick take on chana masala. You can roast the cauliflower and the tomatoes a couple days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.  Serves 4

1/2 head cauliflower (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into florets
2 tbsp plus 2 tsps extravirgin olive oil
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp curry powder
3 cups cooked chickpeas (canned or soaked and cooked)
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tsp olive oil and arrange in a single layer on one side of a rimmed baking sheet. Toss tomatoes with 1 tsp olive oil and arrange on other side of sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until florets are browned in spots and tomatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.

2. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer 8 minutes.

4. Add cauliflower and cook until warmed through and chickpeas are tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in spinach and cilantro and season with salt. To serve, divide among 4 bowls (over rice, if desired).

Recipe reprinted from the book Meatless with permission from the publisher. Copyright © 2013 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winners of "Meatless" and April Book Giveaway

The winners of the drawing for a free copy of "Meatless" are....Chris Robinson and Michelle Moore Summers!  Please get in touch with me to get your copy of the book.  I can mail them out today :)

I was at the library over the weekend and picked out my next book giveaway for April!  I am super excited to be reviewing and cooking out of Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr with Chef Chad Sarno

I love this book and I promise you will too!  It's beautifully organized and full of gorgeous photos of high nutrient/high raw food.  There are recipes for raw juices, smoothies using raw nut milks, creative raw salads, soups and stews, "sexy sides", and desserts.

I can't wait to jump in and start cooking...and uncooking!

Here's the video trailer for the book and you can also get some sneak peak recipes on Kris Carr's website.  And bonus! You get free cooking classes with the book as well :-)


Friday, March 22, 2013

Review of the book "Meatless" and BOOK GIVEAWAY

I have been provided complimentary copies of the book "Meatless" by the publisher of Martha Stewart Living.  I only review books and products that I think my followers will have an interest in and I will always give an honest review.  

For the past three weeks I've been cooking from the book "Meatless" by the publisher of Martha Stewart Living, with a promise to the publisher to give my honest review.  I was somewhat hesitant to take on this project because the book is primarily filled with Lacto-Ovo vegetarian recipes, and well, this is a vegan blog.  But I wanted to give the book a chance because I think it's huge that Martha Stewart has her name on a cookbook that has no meat in it!  Can we all just stand up and give her a round of applause?!  Seriously people, this is HUGE.

Upon opening the book, I was excited to see that there was a beautiful color photo for every single recipe.  There's a wide variety of dishes catagorized as "Small Plates to Mix and Match", "Stovetop Suppers", "Soups, Stews, and Chili", "Casseroles and other Baked Dishes", "Substantial Salads", "Sandwiches, Burgers and Pizzas", "Pasta and other Noodles", and "Simple Side Dishes". 

I appreciated the many gluten free recipes, though I did need to modify a bit on the oil and dairy. The ingredients were easy to find and the recipes simple to follow.  The serving size and macronutrient information are all there, but I would have liked to have had a notation about the total time from start to finish.

If your family has been "eating clean" or tossing around the idea of giving up meat at least one day a week, this would be a great guide.  If you are a seasoned vegan or vegetarian cook the book may or may not give you some fresh new ideas but it's worth a look.  I didn't find that the recipes pushed vegetarian cooking to the edge like Isa's Moskowitz's recipes do, but it definitely has it's place in the mainstream world of new vegetarians or new plant based eaters. Again, I give Martha and her staff a big high five for recognizing that palates are changing, and for the better :-)

Below is the Versitile Vegetarian Chili on p. 146.   The basic chili has 10 ingredients, but there are suggestions for toppings (I chose raw corn and avocado), varying the beans, changing up the vegetables, using tomatillos in place of the canned tomatoes, and broiling the veggies to maximize the flavor.  

This is the Roasted Beet-Garlic Soup on p. 142.  I love me some Borsht soup, so this was not hard to make and eat.  The only thing I did wrong was to not roast the garlic in the oven, I simply pan sauteed it because I failed to read ahead in the directions and had a time constraint for getting this one done.  I think roasting it is necessary to give it the depth of flavor.  It was still very good!  My kids enjoyed it too, but they aren't picky eaters so that's not saying much.

I was at Whole Foods to buy the veggies for the ratatouille and mentioned to one of the employees what I was making.  I got a nice story about how he worked on a farm one summer and there was always lots of fresh tomatoes, so he made ratatouille several nights a week and never got sick of it. And since then it has become his "favorite meal".  I almost felt as if I needed to extend him an invitation to dinner!

I had not made Ratatouille in years, so I had forgotten how wonderfully simple it is to make.  I think the Roasted-Vegetable Ratatouille on p.141 one will become a regular in my meal plan rotation.

It's not a big surprise that we are big ethnic food eaters at our house since my husband was born and raised in India. So, of course I had to make the Curried Red Lentil Soup with Dried Cherries and Cilantro on p. 126.   Vineet insisted on serving his over Basmati rice and adding mango pickle.   He ate two bowls of it- a sign that his Indian palate enjoyed it.   I have made similar soups but never thought to add the cherries (well I used cranberries) but it does add a nice dimension to the soup!  And I like the idea to drizzle the coconut milk for garnish.  Not my best photo, but you get the idea...

This is the Chickpea Curry with Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes on p. 133.  I have made many a curry with cauliflower but never had I thought to use roasted cauliflower.  Roasting cauliflower gives it an almost buttery/cheesy taste.  We had purple califlower growing in the garden, so that's what I used here.  This one is also a definite keeper!

Lastly, the Zucchini-Ribbon Lasagna on p. 155 was made with both zucchini ribbons and gluten free noodles.  I ran out of zuchini, so I had to improvise.  I thought this one lacked a bit in flavor when I compare it to Isa Moskowitz's lasagna recipes.  I think making the tofu into a ricotta with cashews and spices would have helped make the dish more flavorful.  Still, we did enjoy this one.

I'm not done cooking with this book!  I still want to try the Quinoa Veggie Burger, Green Vegetable Curry, Marrakesh Stew, Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranate Coconut and Lime, Lentil and Cashew Hummus, Baked Polenta Fries and more. 

Also, I am giving away a copy of Meatless!  All you have to do is comment below on which recipe you'd like me to get permission from publisher to print here on my blog! You can follow me on FaceBook and also enter the contest there. I will randomly select a winner using  Good Luck :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Leprechaun Pudding

I'm so sorry I didn't get this recipe up before St. Patty's Day!  I made these for my husband and kids the day before I had to drive to Sarasota to run in the Sarasota Half Marathon, so there was no time to blog!

Leprechaun Pudding
Makes 4,  1 cup servings

4 large Haas Avocados
8-10 large Medjool dates soaked and drained (soaked for 2+ hours)
3/4 cup soaked and rinsed cashews (soaked for 2+ hours)
1 tsp Vanilla extract or Vanilla Bean paste
2 tbsp cocoa powder (I used raw cocoa)
2 tbsp raw cocoa nibs (optional for garnish)
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (optional for garnish)

Put everything except the cocoa powder in a high powered blender and blend on high until smooth.  Add water as needed to keep from overworking your blender.  This is really thick pudding! 

Scoop out half of the pudding and put into glass canning jars (or whatever containers you want to use).  Now add the cocoa powder into the blender with the remaining avocado pudding.  Blend until combined and scoop over the top of the "green pudding".  Garnish with raw cocoa and pumpkin seeds.

Enjoy!  I hope everyone had a fab St. Patty's day :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Super Simple Raw: Banana and Nut Butter "Milkshake"

Sometimes when I'm taking photos, my kids will run over and pop their heads right into my photo :)  This is one of her favorite raw milkshakes, and it really hits the spot when you are craving a thick and creamy shake.  I don't always make it 100% raw, sometimes I use Almond Breeze for the nut milk but using the raw nut milk definitely delivers more of a "wow factor" to the tastebuds.

This shake comes from my Uncooking 101 Jump Start, with some adaptations. I use less nut butter than the original recipe and I use cocao nibs to make it like a chocolate chip shake. You can find raw cocao nibs at your local health food store.  Check the bulk section for the best prices.  If you live in the Orlando area, you can get them at Hoover's Market in Apopka.

Banana and Nut-Butter "Milkshake"
Makes 1 large Nut Milkshake

2 Frozen organic bananas (use frozen for an extra thick shake)
2 tbsp of raw nut butter (I use Woodstock brand Raw Unsalted Almond Butter)
1 cup nut milk (DIY Cashew Milk, Almond Milk or store bought Almond Breeze)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp Cocao nibs

Blend until smooth, then top with cinnamon.

A tip on storing raw nut butters and nuts- they will last a lot longer if you keep them all in the refrigerator!  If you find they are getting too hard to scoop out, you are keeping your refrigerator set a too cold of a setting.  I also like to drain the oil off the top of my nut butters.  There's plenty of fat in the butter, no need to keep the extra oil :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vegan Valentine's Day Dinner at Infusion Tea


I've been asking my husband to take me to the Very Vegan Valentine's Day Dinner at Infusion Tea ever since they started offering it.  He has had an excuse every year, including the popular "I only like YOUR vegan food" excuse.  Well, last week while he was in San Diego I finally decided to just go.  I took my mom and my younger daughter as my "dates" and we enjoyed a 5 course dinner with a room full of couples.  Kind of awkward, but whatever!  I think we had more fun :-)

The lights were dimmed and the added touch of a soloist singing soft romantic songs was really nice. It was enough that we could still have a conversation without being overpowered by singing or the music.

Wine or tea was offered as soon as we sat down.  Of course, I must have wine on Valentine's Day so I opted for the Pinot Grigio.  My daughter had a red herbal tea!

First course was a sort of Borscht soup with the name "Apricot, Beet and Cumin Soup" and was very flavorful with a nice texture.  I could have had two bowls of it, I enjoyed it that much.  The bread served with it didn't really compliment it that well. I think a small side salad with citrus would have paired better.

The second course was a "Cedar Roasted Carrot Salad with Tofu and Carrot Pesto" and it was so nicely presented I dove in and started eating without thinking about taking a photo until my plate was almost empty...sorry, it really was that good!

So here we have the third course, a "Vegetable Wellington with Compari Tomato Coulis".  The vegetables were well seasoned but the pastry itself tasted a bit dry.   Maybe a "Vegetable Galette" would have kept a moist pastry crust...just a thought.

The final course was a "Cocoa Rose Mini Cake".  This paired well with a Merlot wine, but the cake was more like a chocolate rose infused cupcake with too much frosting.  I liked better the mini chocolate and berries served along side it as a garnish...I could have eaten two or three of those :-)

All in all, I think the Very Vegan Valentine's Dinner is a great place to take a Valentine's date, whether they are vegan or not.  The atmosphere is casual yet elegant, and the service is excellent.  A big thanks to the owners Brad and Christina for fitting us in at the 7pm seating with only 8 hours notice.  I know how hard it is to work a kitchen when you have a restaurant full of people being seated all at the same time and I felt that the owner, the wait staff and chef handled this beautifully.  I look forward to Infusion Tea's next 5 course dinner, the Vegan Fall Harvest Dinner...with my husband or not!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Raw Food Swap!

A friend of mine started a "Raw Food Swap" last summer and we've been swapping on and off...well mostly off.  When life gets hectic, this is the first thing everybody drops!  So, we swap when we can and we are always glad that we did even though it can be stressful to try to prepare everything in time on a busy weekday.  We put everything in these mason jars and bring them in a cooler to a local health food store for the swap.  One of the friends has a truck, so we usually meet at the back of her truck!

The food gets prepared the day of the swap, or at least I prepare it the day of the swap...maybe others do the day before if they are using a dehydrator.  It's so super fresh and everything looks so vibrant and delicious that it all gets eaten when I bring it home.  Not by me, but by my KIDS and my HUBBY!  Yeah, I have to pry it out of their hands.  This is a good thing.  I'm not complaining, but I am sort of because I'd actually like to have more than a taste of each jar I receive!   Especially on the desserts :-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Garden Goodness: The 2013 Garden has started!

The 2013 Goel Garden is looking good this month.  So far we are harvesting lots of turnips, sweet potaotes, kolrabi, and lettuce.  We also have some english peas, snap peas and grape tomatoes.  This year I want to help Vineet more with improving the soil quality.  He likes to take shortcuts, like using Miracle-Gro fertilizers which basically deplete the nutrients from the soil, even though the nitrogen helps the plants to grow bigger faster.   
So this month he laid down Black Cow Manure and our garden compost and I plan to do a PH test on the soil to see what's happening in some of the beds that are not producing much.
This year the kids will also have their own separate garden where they can choose what they want to grow. 
Here are some photos of what's growing...

 Baby Romaine!

Asian Squash "Tori"