Mains

Jackfruit Pulled Pork

Maybe you've heard of this new phenomenon involving jackfruit, imbibing it in glorious barbecue sauce, on a whole wheat bun with some creamy and crunchy cole slaw.... I wanted to take a stab at it, but there were so many recipes to use and I didn't want to be disappointed, so I went with one of the best online chefs around: Minimalist Baker. You can find her recipe here. 

These are some reflections on making the pulled pork that I thought might be helpful....In essence, you pop open the can, rinse the jackfruit pieces, sprinkle them in spices Minimalist Baker recommends, sauté them in some oil to brown, add in the barbecue sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Pull the fibers apart with two forks and Voila...vegan barbecue pulled pork that not only tastes but looks like the real thing. Easy peasy. 

Since I had bought 6 cans of jackfruit, I felt like I could experiment a little bit. When you first pull out the jackfruit from the brine, it looks almost like pineapple triangles, with a soft outside and a harder inner core. Minimalist Baker suggests that you cut that core out and only use the soft shred-like outside of the fruit. I did this the first time and certainly it was very easy to use a fork to separate all the fine fibers so it looked like legitimate pork, but I wasn't as keen on having to throw out all of those little hard triangles...I thought maybe there could be a better way?

Second time through the recipe, I cut the hard bits off, and added them to the pot (and they were hard to chew). So finally, I realized why she mentioned to throw them out ~ it required effort to chew! 

Third time I made the pulled pork was perfect: I sliced off the hard bits but then sliced them super small so they were easier to chew. Nothing was discarded, and the pulled pork came out great. Highly recommend this version!

I really enjoyed having leftover pulled pork salads too (I like them even better on a roll)...super filling, with veggies, rice, and avocado. 

Low-Glycemic Mushroom Risotto with Peas & Rosemary

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Who doesn't love creamy, robust risotto with savory mushrooms, sweet peas, and herbs? Give me a plate! But if you've read my blog by now, you know I love low-glycemic foods so that I don't fall asleep after a meal. This meal is packed with fiber and that prized "umami" flavor from mushrooms (which literally means "deliciousness"), sweetness from caremelized onions and peas, a little kick from your favorite herbs.

The pasta itself is the brilliant part: it's low glycemic rice called "Miracle Rice", which is gluten free, soy free, and has zero calories. It's also made from....get this...konjac flour, which has also been used as a vegan gelatin, completely plant based, and doesn't spike blood sugar (but if you're checking blood sugar, be sure to check this one anyway as results are individual). Konjac is a root and has been used in Asian countries for over 2000 years! It's also high in soluble fiber, which we all need,  and they absorb the flavors of your dish (so on their own, they're pretty tasteless). 

Now, I want you to know that I'm not big on low-calorie foods in general, the processed kinds. I want food that's filling, whole, real and genuine. But I find that risotto rice is white, has a high carb content, and can spike blood sugars if you don't watch it. Who wants that? This is the best of both worlds: have your risotto and eat it too. 

You do need to read the package instructions to know how to prepare the rice. Initially when you open the bag, they smell a bit funky. That's totally normal, and the following procedure will take care of the smell. Rinse rice well, then soak in a bowl of boiling water for 2-4 minutes. Rinse again, and add in to the recipe below. 

1 tsp coconut oil

1/2 red onion, diced

a few pinches sea salt

2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms

1/3 cup peas

one package Miracle Rice, prepared according to package instructions

a few pinches rosemary, fresh or dried

black pepper, to taste

Heat a skillet and add in coconut oil, onion and salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onions sweat and release some water (sometimes I do this with the lid on to help it along). Add in the mushrooms and allow them to release their juices, a few minutes, covered, over medium heat. Once the mushrooms are soft, add in the peas, rice, and rosemary. Cover and heat through over medium low heat, a few minutes. Season with black pepper, and enjoy. 

Mama's Green Beans

We all know that mama knows best, but honestly, I think MY mama knows best...she's offered wholesome, clean eating and recipes from the time I was a little tot, and I attribute my health journey to my upbringing. These green beans are her own recipe, and are a favorite in our household. No matter how often I make it, I swear hers still tastes the best. 

Best part is that these are hearty, low-glycemic, full of fiber, and super easy to make. Also, how sweet is this? She gave me the following recipe, and at the end, she wrote "...and love is a must". Of course it is. That's why hers are the best. 

3 large handfuls of green beans, cleaned (just the stem end), washed, broken in 2

1 yellow onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 tsp sea salt (or per your palate)

One 8oz organic tomato sauce (mom likes the thin kind but you can use crushed, about 1 cup)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat a heavy pot (preferably cast iron) over low heat. Add the oil, onion and salt and stir. Cover and let the mixture soften, about 5 minutes or so. Add in the beans and water. Add a little black pepper, and cover. Cook on medium until done (bite one and test it). Then add in the tomato sauce. At the end, finish with the parsley.....And love is a must.

Black Bean Pasta Puttanesca

I remember the first time I had puttanesca. I was lucky enough to grow up with an Italian best friend named Alessandra.  She was and still is one of the best cooks I know, and her family was practically my second family growing up. One day, a long time ago, she made me the fastest pasta I've ever had and nearly dropped to my knees, it was so good. She explained it as Puttanesca, and it described a quick sauce that the prostitutes would make when they were short on time. Probably the funniest thing I've ever hear, but a sauce I'd remember forever.

These days, there's not much pasta in my house, but if there is, it's usually black bean pasta, gluten free and low glycemic. I especially love this brand because it only contains black beans and water. Simple! You can also substitute zucchini noodles for a light meal. I had some olives, garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, chili flakes, good olive oil, (and some kale for a boost) and I got to work. 

1 cup black bean pasta, cooked per package directions. 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

few pinches sea salt

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup olives, chopped

chili flakes

1 handful kale, torn

Black pepper, to taste

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium and sauté the garlic with a bit of salt. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. Add in the tomatoes, olives, and chili flakes. Cover and simmer a few minutes, until they get juicy and they soften a bit. Throw in the kale to wilt, then add in the pasta. Cover again and bring to a simmer, just to heat through. When done, season with black pepper, to taste and enjoy. 

Cabbage Carrot Slaw & Tempeh Love Bowl

I like to keep things simple, as simple as possible. If you know my recipes, most of them include 3-5 ingredients at most, mostly relying on the colors, textures, tastes and nutritive values of whole, organic beautiful produce. I don't think recipes should be complicated to be beautiful and nutritious, and this one is a perfect example. 

I grew up with cabbage slaw, the way my mother made it in romania: shredded cabbage, oil, vinegar and salt. It's not as much a slaw as it is a salad, and I was known (much to my parents' surprise) to take the bowl and drink the remaining dressing when all the slaw was gone. I remember it clearly: 6 or 7 years old, dinner table, I take the big bowl and sip. I knew back then what I know now: this salad is lean, mean, crunchy, satisfying, colorful, and simply the bomb. I've only changed it a bit by using oils and vinegars we find here in the US, and throwing in some shredded carrots.

The tempeh is a regular household staple. I keep a container of if in the fridge and use it to chomp on between teaching, writing articles, before a hike, you name it. It's salty, has a fun umami taste, is nourishing, high in protein, and it keeps well.

The tempeh and slaw together are also low-glycemic, which is ALL I ever think about these days, working with clients on insulin resistance and working to heal my own. It's a winner, I promise. 

Salad Ingredients:

2 cups super thinly shredded cabbage, any color

1/2 cup shredded carrots

drizzle of olive or flax oil, about 1 tablespoon

drizzle of raw apple cider vinegar, about 1 tablespoon

two to three pinches of salt

Combine the ingredients together and toss. Let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the flavors marry and so that the cabbage softens a bit. 

Tempeh ingredients:

1 package flax tempeh, cubed (preferably gluten free)

1 package original tempeh, cubed (preferably gluten free)

1/2 bottle of coconut secret garlic sauce (this brand)

Heat a skillet or heavy bottomed sauce pan, and add in the sauce. Add in the cubed tempeh, stir to mix, cover and turn heat to medium. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn, but heat through until the tempeh has absorbed most of the liquid, about 5-8 minutes. 

In a bowl, combine the cabbage slaw with the tempeh, and enjoy! 

Mexican Zoodle Bowl

Spiralized zucchini are one of the easiest summer foods (especially when you have them growing in your garden). It’s not their season just yet, but this sets you up for success when they’re on sale in the stores or you’re growing so many, you can’t keep up with them {enter the 1.5 food bohemith we grew last summer!?!?}

One of the things that I have to watch out for (and probably many of us) is how glycemic foods can be, especially pasta, breads, baked goods. Zucchini noodles low glycemic, raw, huge in fiber, and taste “al dente”, almost like the real thing. Of course, you can spruce them up with red sauce or pesto, but my favorite is chipotle garlic salsa. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s delicious. A little cilantro, even some avocado, you’ve got a meal!

I use the following spiralizer for zucchini when I'm just making this dish for myself or for two: it really just makes angel hair, which is great for me. But when I want to get really fancy, and require additional thicknesses, like udon or spaghetti, this is the gadget you’re looking for. I really just pull this one out when we have company over.

So, let’s get ready to eat!

Ingredients:

1 medium spiralized zucchini (keep the peel on - it's prettier that way)

½ cup chipotle garlic salsa (I get mine fresh from whole foods, or you can make your own)

So, get yourself a nice bowl, place your “zoodles” at the bottom and pour the salsa on top. Yum!

That’s it! In the past, I’ve added in some coconut bacon, avocado, even some pumpkin seeds and cilantro, and it’s all delicious. But most days, it’s just these two ingredients and it hits the spot!

Low-Glycemic Garlic Noodle Love Bowl

Noodle bowls are incredible; can I get an AMEN? Stir fry's are fun, warming, filling and nurturing, especially when you're cramped for time, hungry, and it's a cold, rainy night. I've found that I can't tolerate regular noodles in general, however, as they make me sleepy ~ probably from a carbohydrate coma. High in gluten, high in flour and carbs that spike your blood sugar, they can seriously impact your health if you have them often. They also impede digestion, as they're made of flour, and can often constipate sensitive digestive systems. 

Recently I've found a brand of noodles made from Konjac Flour named "Miracle Noodles": they're low glycemic, low in calories, gluten free, soy free, and made in the USA! Best part is that they're super delicious, easy to use, require minimal cooking time, are low glycemic and won't make you sleepy after you eat them. Since they're low calorie and high in fiber, many people use products made from Konjac to help with weight loss, and are also sometimes used as a vegan gelatin substitute. That said, you just need to stock up on these packages, which come in rice size, angel hair, and fettuccine. You can find them here in a bulk pack of 6. 

The noodles do have a funny smell at first, I won't lie. You need to rinse them well, place them in bowl and soak in boiling water for 2 minutes (I go to 5 just to make sure), drain, rinse again and by this point, the smell will be completely gone.

You really can use any veggies you'd like ~ make it fun, and use whatever is in your fridge and whatever is your favorite. 

Ingredients:

1 tsp coconut oil

2 pinches of sea salt

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms

1 cup sliced broccoli

1 small bunch thin asparagus, woody ends cut off, and sliced into 1 inch pieces

3 scallions, sliced in 1 inch pieces

2/3 cup of 1 package Miracle Noodles, Angel hair, rinsed well, soaked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, and drained

2/3 cup Coconut Aminos Garlic Sauce

1 tsp white sesame seeds

a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce (I love Ninja Squirrel)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the coconut oil and melt. Add in the garlic & the sea salt, and sauté for one minute to release the flavors. Add in the mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, and scallions and sauté another 3 minutes or so, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the veggies turn bright green. Add in the sauce and noodles, cover and turn down to medium heat just until heated through, about 5 more minutes. Place in two bowls, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce. Makes two servings.

NOTE: One time when I didn't have the garlic sauce on hand, I actually used a little bit of vegan Worcestershire sauce and some vegan hoisin Sauce and it came out really tangy, dark, rich and delicious. Feel free to experiment. 

Leek & Mushroom Crustless Quiche with Coconut Bacon & Chili

I can't remember the last time I ate eggs - probably 6 years ago? I don't miss them honestly, but sometimes I do feel like a scramble or a quiche of some sort. I try to stay away from soy if I can, so when this new product hit the shelves (Follow Your Heart VeganEgg), I decided to try it out! Well, the first time I made the quiche, all three of us (including our 16 year old, who has discerning teenage taste buds) fought over it. It was gone in 15 minutes. 

Vegan Egg comes in a powder (see picture below), so you have to add liquid to it to resemble a scrambled egg. It's mainly made from Algal protein and flour (a type of seaweed), and some black salt and nutritional yeast (which gives it en eggy flavor, a sulfur-rich taste). It does contain carageenan, so if you have some tummy troubles, scroll down to the bottom of recipe to read what I have to say about it.

Otherwise, this quiche is gorgeous, light, fluffy, and resembles eggs exceedingly well. The flavors are slightly sweet from the caramelized leek, with a salty and umami taste from the mushrooms. And, the coconut bacon takes it over the top. I like the light kick the chili flakes add, and also, and wouldn't be mad if you served it with some kind of hot sauce (I won't tell). 

 Coconut Bacon,  Recipe Found here. 

Coconut Bacon, Recipe Found here. 

I used this recipe as a template, although I tweaked it so it's crustless (low-glycemic and gluten free) and loaded with veggies (fiber and flavor!). I include it here in case you want to see the original. 

1 tsp coconut oil

2 cleaned leeks, white part, quartered and sliced into small ringlets

1/2 red onion, medium chop

two pinches sea salt

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms, chopped

3 vegan eggs (6 level tablespoons of Vegan Egg plus 1.5 cups ice cold water)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup coconut creamer

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 cup coconut bacon (recipe found here)

chili flakes for garnish

Melt coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the leeks, onion and two pinches of salt and cover until they sweat and begin to caramelize. Watch them closely as they may burn. Once caramelized, add in the mushrooms, cover, and sweat until they soften. Set aside. 

In a bowl, combine the vegan egg, 1/2 tsp salt, coconut creamer, almond milk and wish until smooth. Add in the mushroom and leek mixture and stir to combine well. Pour into a pie dish and bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, sprinkle with chili flakes, coconut bacon, and serve warm. Enjoy!

A note about Carageenan: it gets a bad rap, but I keep reading conflicting articles on it ~ it hurts some people's tummies and causes inflammation, and for others it doesn't (and in fact helps fight viruses?). When in doubt, and if you're sensitive to digestive upset, I wouldn't use this product ~ period. Why risk it? For us, it hasn't caused us any digestive discomfort, so it's OK with us to use this product once in a great while as an occasional treat...and I mean treat. Once a month? If you're concerned, definitely do your own research and go the cautious route. That said, I found this to be a good article. Also, it's hard to find, but I buy it on Thrive Market (Amazon also carries it and maybe some health food stores). 

 

 

 

Black Bean Pasta Mediterranean Plate

This is simplicity at its best: seasoned black bean pasta (which happens to be low in carbohydrates and high in protein), lightly steamed kale, a chunky lemony artichoke tapenade, and gloriously sweet cherry tomatoes. It takes just minutes to prepare, and it is quite filling, which is really all you need when you're ravenous. And I was.

I'm always looking for alternatives to regular pasta. Although pasta is one of my favorite foods (actually, all food is my favorite!), I'm religious about upping the nutrition wherever I can. Black Bean pasta (Found here) is soy free, organic and made just with beans and water. How easy is that?   If you're looking for something silky smooth, this isn't it: black bean pasta is hearty, dark and rich has a naturally al dente taste, with a rustic bite.

The artichoke heart tapenade is surprisingly simple but complex in texture and flavor: hints of garlic, fresh lemon rind, and a creaminess that is easy to love.  

You can easily make this even more robust by adding in more mediterranean flavors: olives, sundried tomatoes, basil...feel free to play. 

This recipe may look like it has a lot of moving parts, but honestly it's quite easy if you time things right: Two pots on the stove (one for the pasta, the other for the kale) and make your tapenade at the same time. For me, it came together in about 15 minutes. 

Ingredients for pasta: 

1/2 package Black Bean Spaghetti Pasta, cooked according to package instructions. After draining, lightly season with salt and black pepper. 

 

Ingredients for artichoke hearts tapenade: 

1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained

1 can artichoke hearts seasoned in oil and spices, liquid drained by half

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

the rind of one lemon, microplaned (just the top, no white pith)

sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the artichoke hearts, garlic, lemon, a few pinches of ground black pepper, and sea salt. Pulse lightly so the texture remains chunky. Taste to check seasoning, and leave aside. 

 

Ingredients for Kale: 

2 cups kale, torn, and lightly steamed until bright green, about 1 minute

drizzle of olive oil

squeeze of lemon

sea salt

chili flakes (optional if you like the heat): I didn't add them but will next time.

Toss the kale with lemon and olive oil and season to taste with salt (and chili flakes). Leave aside.

 

Decoration:

1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes.  

 

Assembly:

Start by plating the pasta, then the kale, two scoops of the artichoke tapenade and some sliced cherry tomatoes on the side. Enjoy! And as pretty as it was all plated, when you get into it with your fork, feel free to make a mess of the whole thing.....like this....

 

 

 

Batch Cooking: Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus & Spicy Chickpea Tabouilleh

I'm finding that as a mama, a chef, a teacher, I'm always looking for ease....and for many of us that literally means "open can, pour in pot, heat, eat". What we forget is that it takes time to drive out to the store, get the can, bring it home...and many times it's actually just easier to make a huge pot of something, freeze leftovers, and have your "higher self" remember to defrost it in the morning to eat for supper. That saves you a trip to the store and only takes the 15 seconds it takes for you to get said frozen item out on the counter before you leave for work. 

So, enter hummus. For many years, I used to buy it. And then I'd get frustrated when we ran out since we had to do without, and then again, drive to the store on the prescribed shopping day, buy the hummus, bring it home, and sometimes, (ugh) sometimes it wasn't even GOOD...it had foreign ingredients and an air pocket which would lead to spoiling of the entire batch. Then, you'd have to drive BACK to the store, give them the container, get your refund, and then drive back. What a waste of time, and moreover, what a lack of inspiration and trust in your own abilities to make the best lip-smaking humus you've ever had! That's right, I said it - you're a hummus goddess in the making, and you didn't even know it.

But hold your horses - before we even go there, you must understand batch cooking since it will save your life.

Batch cooking....Here goes:

1. Make something

2. Divide it in two

3. Make two recipes

4. Freeze leftovers

5. Hug yourself since you just saved some serious $$$

6. And have your family hug you for the culinary goddess you are.

 

So for this particular case, we batch cooked chickpeas (or garbanzos) and the steps are as follows:

1. Take 3-4 cups of dried chickpeas, and cover with 2 inches of water, let sit overnight.

2. In the morning drain and rinse. 

3. Place in pressure cooker, cover with fresh water 2 inches above beans and add in 3 inch piece of kombu seaweed

4. Place cover on top, secure in place, and raise pressure until the knob lifts (although this depends on your machine).

5. Lower flame to medium-low and cook for 29 minutes.

6. Turn off the stove and walk away, letting the pressure lower naturally.

Enter in two amazing recipes with the batch you just made. Make sure once the chickpeas cool, you drain them but retain the cooking water for later. You can discard the Kombu.

Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus:

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1 inch cubed jalapeño pepper

1 lemon, juiced

1/3 cup tahini

1 tsp cumin

3 shakes chipotle pepper powder

1 heaping tsp sea salt

3 cloves crushed and chopped garlic

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor and process well, adding just a little bit of chickpea water to smooth out into your desired consistency. Taste for seasonings and texture, and then pour into an airtight container and refrigerate. Serve with pumpkin seed oil (optional), pumpkin seeds and crudités.

Spicy Chickpea Tabouilleh:

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1 tsp each: cumin, pizza flavoring, chipotle powder, garlic powder, black pepper, poultry seasoning, and oregano

Combine all ingredients in an 8x8 baking vessel and stir well, making sure all beans are coated in the seasoning mixture, and bake at 350 degrees for roughly 35 minutes. 

Once cool, throw in 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, and serve.