Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some thoughts on Hummus (includes recipe for Raw Hummus)

Hello my friends!

Fourth of July weekend is upon us, and I can't tell you how excited I am for some sunshine on my four day weekend. I plan on spending as much time on the boat/at BBQs/camping on government island as possible watching other people get wasted and soberly nursing my stupid parasite problem. At least I will be amused...

To kick off my weekend, this morning I got some cavaties filled! Yayyy!! Haha not...apparently that's what happens when you avoid the denist for two years. Oopsie! Won't be making that mistake again. My appointment was at 8 am and the left side of my face is still completely numb (its noon...). This is what I looked like trying to smile at 9:30...have a good laugh people:

I'm starting to get hungry for lunch, so that better go away real fast.

Moving on...

As the title suggests, this post is entirely dedicated to one of my favorite foods....hummus! The way I eat it, it could honestly be its own food group. It's THAT good. Never tried it before? Don't worry, I won't lead you astray, I'm a bit of a hummus snob so you're only getting the best of the best!

I'm sure you are already aware that I'm a huge King Harvest fan, there is no question they make the best hummus I've ever had. What you don't know is that they have a new flavor, and its easily one of my new favorites! Get this...Seaweed Hummus! So perfect for me right? Now I know that probably sounds hella weird, but honestly, give it a try. It's not fishy or anything, its freaking delicious. Be open minded people! My new thing (and keep in mind that I'm a very strange human being), is spreading seaweed hummus on a sheet of nori with some raw dill sauerkraut (which is baller for digestion). It's amazing, I swear.

My newest hummus-related find is The Hummus Stop. I discovered them at the Vancouver Farmer's Market where they were selling homemade hummus, babaganouj, fresh pita chips and other bomb-looking stuff. While their price is a little too high for my liking (5 freaking bucks for a little container, come on people, I'm a poor blogger), they have the most interesting flavors. I splurged and bought four... Artichoke, Roasted Garlic and Chive, Jalapeno and Cilantro and Avocado and Cilantro. They are all bomb. I still prefer King Harvest as far as texture goes, but the flavors of the Hummus Stop are so different, I can't help but be impressed with their creativity! It definitely inspired me to be a little more creative with my homemade hummus. Last week, I made a traditional hummus recipe with fresh oregano and chives from our CSA share...UNREAL. By the way, if you get a CSA share with tons of herbs you don't know what to do with, throw them in hummus, its almost guaranteed to be good.

So here's my new thing, this is a great way to make your hummus last. I've been using hummus as salad dressing! I love salads, I have one every day for lunch, but most of the time I don't have time in the morning to make a really good dressing from scratch. I tried this one morning and have been doing it ever since! Mix 1-2 tbsp of your favorite hummus with 1-2 tbsp of water and mix until the hummus reaches a salad dressing consistancy. You can add more or less water depending on how thick you like your dressing. Pour it over salad and voila! The best I've made into dressing is the King Harvest Jalapeno hummus. It brings a whole new dimension to my salads!

As much as I love hummus, I'm sad to report that eating too much of it really doesn't make me feel great. I don't know if I'm mildly sensitive to garbanzos or what but every once in a while I need a break. Plus, I try to eat mostly raw foods at breakfast and lunch, so hummus doesn't tend to fit in. If you are in the same boat, never fear! I found a recipe for Raw Hummus that will blow your mind! It's made with a zucchini base (whoever thought zucchini could replace chickpeas?), but pretty much all the other ingredients are the same! I tweaked it a little bit to make use of some of the stuff I bought at my local farmer's market.

Yumm, fresh local zucchini and yellow zucchini :)

Almost done! So freaking good. The recipe is as follows:

Raw Hummus

1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow zucchini, chopped (if these aren't in season, use 2 zucchini)
1/2 c. raw tahini (I like Artisana brand, so much better than the roasted stuff!)
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
dash of olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until desired constistancy is reached. Any add-ins you might use in a normal hummus recipe should work here. I've tried basil and oregano (delicious!), and I'm sure any herbs, jalapenos, whatever would be bomb as well. It's definitely a little different that your average hummus, but my "normal-eating" boyfriend Joe loved it, so that's always a sign that I succeeded!

So have a happy, hummus-y 4th of July! Have a gluten-free beer for me, since I can't :-/

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GF/Vegan Entertaining on a Budget

Ahh I love parties! I really do. I'm such a social butterfly; I just love catching up with good friends, cocktail in one hand, some delicious appetizer in the other (or sometimes another cocktail, let's be real). However, I'm hardly ever the one throwing the party. There are a few reasons for that: a) how mortifying would it be if no one showed up, b) how mortifying would it be if people showed up and all the food sucked and c) I absolutely hate cleaning up my apartment and thats basically a requirement of a good hostess.

BUT, I decided to overcome my fear of party failure and throw a little get together for my girlfriends last night. Put out the official facebook invite and everything. Unfortunately, not a lot of people can commit to a random Wednesday night, but there were 8 of my good friends there so I can't really complain! Any more than that and the whole hostess things gets a bit overwhelming. There's only so much catching up you can do when you want to get a piece of everybody right?

I don't think it occured to me until a week or so before this get together that I would need food and booze in order to pull this ladies night off. Um, hello anxiety! How the hell do I make party food that other people will get excited about that I can also eat without inducing a massive body meltdown? Bahhh I've never done this before! As comfortable as I am sharing my recipes with you, its a whole nother story when you have to watch people try your that a real smile and nod or are they covering up the fact that they are choking with disgust? Yikers!

My other issue, of course, is cashola. How do I pull off a classy-ish party with no money in the bank?? I knew I was going to have to get real creative to make this work for both me and my guests.

So, I figured, you can't go wrong with the classics. Make things that people expect at a party, then don't tell them till after that it has been modified. Sheer effing brilliance. My menu? Mexican layer dip, spinach artichoke dip, stuffed peppers and chocolate covered strawberries, all vegan, gluten, corn and sugar free of course! Oh, and a little Andre Peach Passion champagne with frozen and tasty (just don't drink too much unless you love being hungover)!

I was so relieved how everything turned out! So cute right?

I think the favorite was the Spinach Artichoke Dip, people were shocked that it was vegan. I think that was definitely my proudest accomplishment. I did bite the bullet and buy corn chips (they are so cheap and everyone else can eat them!), but at least I bought the organic ones with only 3 ingredients! And I of course, used Beanitos (definitely polished off a whole bag, oops!).

I wasn't as excited about the Stuffed Peppers, mainly because I forgot an ingredient in the filling and was expecting them to be more flavorful, but everyone else loved them! I guess we are usually our own worst critics.

And the Chocolate Covered Strawberries of course! I used unsweetened bakers chocolate that I already had, but you can use any dairy free sugar free chocolate you can find (they are usually spendy though, unfortunately). I topped a few of them with Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme instead of whipped cream, but they are definitely just as good without! Well, my friend Renee thought so anyway....

I did have some leftovers, I planned for like 10-12 people and got 8, so that's to be expected. I know we were all super stuffed afterwords (mainly from gorging on Spinach Artichoke Dip), so thats always a good thing! Including booze, the whole thing cost me around $60, but you know me, I buy organic and stuff too so that factors in. Really, you just can't have a good party with special diet food without spending a little cash, but I definitely think it was worth it!

So without any futher are the recipes! Enjoy kidlets!

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 bag frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry (10 oz)
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained (13.75 oz)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 package firm silken tofu (12 oz)
1/2 c. daiya (I used pepperjack) or nutritional yeast
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion, spinach and artichoke in coconut oil until onion is soft. Meanwhile, blend tofu, cheese or nutritional yeast, garlic, vinegar and seasonings in a high powered blender until smooth. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and add extra spices or cheese if needed. Smooth into a baking dish and cook 15-20 minutes (took about 17 for me) or until golden brown on the top. Serve with corn chips or Beanitos!

Stuffed Peppers

1/2 cup quinoa
1 c. vegetable broth (to cook quinoa in...this is where I made my mistake, dont forget this step!)
1 package (12 oz) firm tofu
3 tbsp. minced white onion
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
dash of stevia powder (1 tbsp. agave also works)
1 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
20-ish mini sweet peppers (they are the same size as hot peppers but they taste like bell peppers, please dont accidentally buy habeneros or jalapenos!)

Cook quinoa according to package, subbing the veggie broth for the water. In a large bowl, crumble tofu and add the onion, vinegar, agave or stevia, orange zest and oregano. Stir in quinoa and season with salt and pepper. Slice the stems off the peppers and remove seeds. Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture. I made this the night before and served them chilled...delicious!

5-layer Mexican Dip

1 can vegetarian refried beans
1/2 pkg. pepperjack Daiya cheese
1/2 pkg. King Harvest Jalapeno Hummus (or hummus of your choice)
1 c. tomatillo salsa
1 1/2 c. vegan sour cream (I prefer Wayfare to Tofutti)

Spread beans in a microwave safe baking dish and top with cheese. Mircrowave about 2 minutes until cheese starts to melt. Spread hummus over top with a spatula, then do the same with the salsa and top with  sour cream. You can also add a layer of olives or guacamole!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1 bar chocolate
However many strawberries you want

Make sure strawberries are dry. Microwave chocolate until it becomes soft, about a minute and a half. Dip each strawberry in chocolate, making sure to coat all sides and place on a cookie sheet. They can also be dipped in coconut, sprinkles or nuts, or topped with whipped cream of some sort. Refridgerate until chocolate hardens, about an hour.

I definitely want to experiment with more party recipes in the future, but here are a few to get you party people started! And make sure to have a drink for me :) Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mmmm Lebanese... Review of Nicholas Restaurant

It's no secret I looooove my Greek food, in addition to my hummus obsession (it's gotten unhealthy....) and my addiction to gluten and corn free falafel (aka non-Americanized falafel). But as I've done more research into the Portland vegan restaurant scene, I've noticed Lebanese places popping up quite a bit. You know me, I always want to try new ethnic foods, especially ones that have awesome vegan and gluten free options. One place, Nicholas Restaurant, stuck out to me (after reading positive reviews on Yelp and the Food Fight PDX Guide), so I decided to make a point to try it!

Luckily, my opportunity to tantalize my taste buds came pretty fast. Even though we went to Cabo and had family dinner for Joe's birthday, we just can't seem to stop celebrating (shit I want to turn 28 if it means my birthday is a week long!). Our friends Marcus and Tabitha wanted to do a birthday dinner with us, and because of all my limitations, they suggested I pick a place. Yay! I pick Lebanese food! Everyone was down for it so we checked it out last night and DAMN I was impressed!!

The restaurant actually has 3 locations in the Portland Metro area, one on SE Stark, one on NE Broadway and one in Gresham. The Stark one got the best reviews on Yelp so we chose that one. Quaint little place, I've probably driven by it hundreds of times and never realized it was there. It wasn't so inconspicuous last night though, their were people dining on the sidewalk due to the 70 degree weather. The place was packed, luckily a table opened up right as we got there because there's really nowhere to wait.

First thing, they brought out this giant piece of housemade pita bread with an herby dip thing. I was disappointed that I couldn't partake in the devouring of that little smelled freaking delicious. But my mood was immediately lifted upon realizing that the falafel was not only gluten free but corn free as well. Hell yeah!! The waitress knew the answers to all my questions without even having to consult the kitchen. I'm always a sucker for good service! Plus, the menu was dotted with "V"'s to indicate which items were vegan.

Being such a lover of new ethnic food, there was no WAY I was going to be able to pick just one thing (especially when there are so many things on the menu I can have), so I ordered the Vegan Mezza platter: Falafel, tahini, tabouli, hummus, mjadra (a lentil/rice dish) and a garbanzo plate. I subbed an extra falafel for the tabouli, since tabouli is traditionally made from bulgur wheat, def not gluten free.

Um....YUM!! Everything was so tasty, seasoned to perfection, an explosion of chickpea-flavored goodness in my mouth. The falafel is among the best I've tasted, and dipping it in hummus and tahini was a killer combo. The rice lentil dish was plain-looking, but was definitely delicious, as was the garbanzo plate. Every flavor complimented the others perfectly and I was seriously in hog heaven. The only thing for me is I unfortunately don't tolerate an overabundance of chickpeas well and I honestly eat mostly raw at home so it was definitely a heavy meal. But hey, what would life be if we didn't treat ourselves every once in awhile? We definitely needed to take a walk afterwords, but when you have the gorgeous Eastbank Esplanade to stroll along, you can't really complain!

I would DEFINITELY visit this place again. Not even a question. And I hope it's soon cause I know I gotta get that falafel fix on a semi-regular basis....oooh I need to learn how to make raw falafel, anyone know of a recipe?

Check this place out, and until next time, Live Free!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Being a "Vitortarian" in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

My body has been back from vacation now for 4 days, but my mind is just now catching up, hence the delayed post! We were only gone 4 nights but man, we fit in a lot of craziness in a short time. It's hard to come back from that, and to rainy Vancouver no less...

Cabo was an absolute blast. It's not exactly my first rodeo in CSL, but it's definitely the first time I've been there since I've been on my current diet. I was a little worried, because the first thing I found when I searched "vegan" and "Cabo San Lucas" on Google was a thread of people posting about how hard it is to eat vegan in Cabo. Greeeat...

Let's be real, it is hard. From the language barrier to the fact that meat, corn and dairy are staples in the Mexican culture, it's hard to get a good Vitortarian meal in those parts. And seeing as I already have one parasite, I had to be super careful with anything fresh in order to avoid picking up another one.

So, if you are travelling to Cabo (and many of these rules apply to anywhere in Mexico), here's some advice:

1. Guacamole and Fajita Vegetables are a girl's best friends
I ate fajita vegetables and guac like it was my job. I dabbled in the rice and bean arena, but let's be real, Mexican beans arent always vegan and sometimes arent even gluten free, so I definitely wouldn't rely on them. All the rice i had was white rice, which I'll eat if there isn't any other option, but I don't like to OD on. So anytime we ate Mexican food, I ordered fajitas with no meat, no tortillas, no sour cream and no cheese (people thought I was bonkers) and a side of guac. However, I did get pretty dang sick of sauteed peppers and onions, which brings me to my next piece of advice:

2. Bring your own food
I kid you not, in preparation for this trip I packed a whole carryon just for food from home. Unfortunately you can't bring produce into the country (I still did by hiding it in my suitcase but I'd definitely advise against that), so I ate a lot of packaged food which isnt the norm for me but it sure beats being hungry! Rice tortillas and Beanitos Bean Chips were musts, I could bring them along to restaurants to dip in guacamole or pair with fajita veggies. I also packed a butt load of sea snax, those little roasted seaweed things I love so dearly. Also, a few packets of Vega Whole Food Optimizer powder in Chai Vanilla for breakfast (they pack a ton of nutrition into a little packet, and they taste great!), and some Larabars. Again, not exactly ideal food for day to day life, but a whole heck of a lot better than eating flesh and mucus (meat and dairy).

3. Visit the Monkey Business bar
I can't begin to tell you how many sugary effing drinks I had in Cabo. If its not beer or watered down tequila, you can bet there's probably more sugar than alcohol in your drink. I had more sugar in those 5 days than I have in the last 3 years. And my body hated me for it, no doubt about that. Luckily, I had one saving grace when it came to boozing. Joe and I were wandering the town one morning and stumbled across a tequila specialty shop. The man in the shop told us we could sample any tequila at the bar next door. Enter Monkey Business. It's a little outdoor bar, with a few barstools and wood pillars that have been tagged with names, etc. in sharpie all the way around (Joe and I definitely left our mark). The bartende informed us that they'd been voted the best margaritas in Cabo, so naturally we had to try one! Who says 11 am is to early to start drinking? So he gets to work on our drinks and I can already tell that the voters were right...instead of your typical pre-prepared margarita mix and Jose Cuervo, these margs were made with fresh squeezed (we literally watched him do it) oranges and limes, top shelf tequila, and a little soda water.

Everything fresh, no added sugar, definitely up my alley. And WOW they were good, not only was it was the best marg in Cabo, it was the best dang drink I've ever had! We also had mojitos...same deal. In fact, a guy showed up while we were there to deliver fresh mint, which the bartender then muddled to perfection and mixed with soda water, fresh lime juice, and sugar (a mojito staple, I can't be perfect all the time!)

Yummmmmm....We were happy campers

Superstar clientele (besides yours truly...hahaha) include Lil Wayne and Lil John (who were there last year), which basically just made the place that much cooler! YEEAHH (Lil John voice).

4. Pack Your Supplements!
Digestive enzymes and probiotics are an absolute must! I seriously think my enzymes saved my butt a few times when I got accidentally contaminated. For some of the stuff I ate I should have felt a lot worse than I actually did! I took enzymes with lunch and dinner and probiotics twice a day, just like I do at home. Seriously, don't leave home without those babies.

5. Visit our buddy Tim at Salvatore's
One of Joe's distant relatives owns a little out-of-the-way Italian joint in the city. Took us forever to find it, it's pretty hidden and not well advertised but one of the most popular word-of-mouth places in Cabo. They've seen all sorts of celebrities, and been written up as a top ten attraction on Trip Advisor, yet you wouldn't know about it if you didn't hear from a loyal customer. The guy's name is Tim (he owns it and his sons Matt and Sam work there as well), and he took great care of us. Great wine, amazing food, and while the menu wasn't exactly Sarah-friendly, they were more than willing to accomadate. The cook made me a giant plate of artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms, peppers and a bunch of other veggies, all seasoned to perfection and complimented with a delicious Chianti. I was in absolute heaven. Just watch out for the Sangria, its really dang sweet and it'll get ya...
(Joe, post-sangria/wine)

6. RELAX!!
I really can't stress this enough. So they put a little lard in your beans, or a little tomato in your guac. Unless you are severly allergic, don't freak out about it. Being relaxed will help you feel better anyways, take it from me, anxiety over food only makes all your symptoms worse. Just enjoy yourself you're in freaking MEXICO! Deal with it when you get home if you have to. It's not life or death people.

And don't be afraid to party like a rockstar!

Woo! Viva La Mexico! Enjoy your travels :)