February 26, 2013

Got Milk? Homemade Coconut Milk

When I was making the transition from a vegetarian to more plant strong vegan diet - cow milk was one of the first (and most easily) things that I eliminated from my diet. Ya'll should know that I don't really like to preach but milk squeezed from some artificially inseminated cow who had her baby calf taken from her, but is then given who know what hormones and drugs to keep her lactating for as long as possible - so that I can enjoy a splash in my morning coffee?? Yes, strangly I had a very easy time giving up this morning ritual in place for one of the many yummy alternatives available.

Over the last few years I have tried several types of milk alternatives. Soy, coconut and almond remain my favourites. Recently I learned that some of the stabilizers added to these milk alternatives can irritate the tummy. If you drink the regular dairy products don't relax yet- you are included in the stabilizer party. 

Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed (sounds harmless enough) and is used in many dairy and milk products as a stabilizer and thickener. Unfortunately, studies dating all the way back to the 1960's have shown carrageenan to be linked to gastrointestinal diseases. As someone who suffers from a 'sensitive belly' I am always on the look out for food additives that may be adding to my problem.

The long and short of it......I doubt there is any reason to run in a panic around your home throwing away everything that contains carrageenan. However, next time you are shopping for dairy products or dairy alternatives, maybe compare ingredient lists of various brands and select those that do not use carrageenan.

For more information on foods that contain carrageenan follow this link.

One sure fire way to know exactly what is going into your milk.... make it at home! I avoided doing this forever because I thought it would be difficult and messy. I was wrong. This is really easy - fun even. AND it is the best tasting milk I have ever had. 

The best part is you can completely adjust the ingredients and ratio to water to suit your preferances. I will give you my base recipe - but remember to adapt it to your tastes. Thus far I have only played with using almonds and coconut to make my milk. My favorite is actually to do a blend of 50/50 coconut and almond. The pictures below just show a coconut version. I also doubled the below recipe because I know how quickly I can slurp this stuff down :).

Homemade Nut Milk


1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds (or almonds - soaked and rinsed for at least one hour prior)
3 1/2 cups filtered warm water (can use more or less to adjust thickness of milk)

Optional Add-ins
1tsp vanilla extract OR 1 vanilla bean scraped
1 tsp cinnamon
small pinch of salt
sweetener or choice - agave, maple syrup, stevia, dates etc- to taste

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend on high for several minutes. While blending, gently place cheese cloth in a strainer and position over a bowl (see photo below).

Slowly pour blended mixture into strainer and let sit for a few minutes (I normally clean-up the kitchen while my milk strains aways).  Wash your hands! Gently lift the edges of your cheese cloth and 'hand milk' the remaining pulp. This is the fun part so do not skip- you will be leaving a lot of yummy milk in the cloth if you do!

Milk will be warm but you can do a taste test here to see if you would like more sweetener or flavors.

Ready for the step by step photos?? 

It's go time!

The turbo speed is a little intense!

All ready with my cheesecloth, strainer, bowl trio!

Mmmm, so creamy!

Squeezing the bag. If your mind is going to funny places, you are not alone....

Silky smooth coconut milk. Tastes even better if you let it get cold! If your bowl does not have a pour spout, I highly recommend pouring the bowl of milk back into the blender before trying to pour into a mason jar or other container.

Got Milk?

February 19, 2013

South of the Border Rice Salad

I am seriously missing the flavours of summer. I think this winter is harder for me than ever before because last summer was my first year growing my own edibles.... to go from eating fresh from your garden tomatoes, basil, cilantro, blueberries and more to the more tasteless store bought veggies of the winter variety is a fairly rough transition..... 

But hey - the countdown to starting some seedlings indoors has begun.....

A couple of foods still seem to be attainable in the winter and pack the great flavours of their summertime brothers. Lime and cilantro are two friends I can count on to whisk me into a summery daydream.

South of the Border Rice Salad

I mixed up this salad in less than 10 minutes one day just using what I had on hand. I happened to have some leftover cooked rice in the fridge so I used that.... the following weekend I made the same dish but with quinoa instead of rice... both were fab!

11/2 cup cooked brown rice (or quinoa)
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup black beans
1 large avocado, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 small sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Zest  and juice of 1 lime
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. If storing, make sure the avocado gets its share of the lime juice to help prevent browning.

In other news.... my ZumbAtomic class is in full swing at The Peak in Hayden! I will soon be starting a couple of additional classes through Hayden Parks and Rec also. I am having a blast with this classes and learning a lot by interacting with all these new young personalities....

Here is a lil video sneak peak of the first class!!

Stay warm and eat citrus fruits - they taste great this time of year and are sunshine to the body!

January 14, 2013

Fabulous Farro

Are you ready for another yummy grain recipe? How about a soup that gives you a big nutritious hug as you slurp it down?

Say 'helllllo beautiful' to White Bean and Kale Farro Soup!

At Costco the other day I came across a large bag of Organic Italian Pearled Farro.

Did you know that Farro is the original grain from which all others derive? Farro fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years. Somewhat more recently, Farro was the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the western world.If it is good enough for those men in 300 - it should be able to get me through a Strong class! :)

One serving of Farro packs in 34g of complex carbohydrates, 6g of protein, 5g of dietary fiber and is rich in antioxidants. It is also a very anti-inflammatory food.
The best news is that it is delicious and was worked into the soup very easily. The hardest part of making this soup was trudging through the snow to harvest some very hardy kale.

I spy with my little eye...

Get in ma belly- you amazing little green super food!

White Bean and Kale Farro Soup
Makes 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, minced
Braggs Amino Acid, 4-5 sprays
1 sweet onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
 salt, to taste
1 cup white beans, rinsed (I used canned chickpeas)
8 cups of water
1 vegetarian bouillon cube
1 fresh bay leaf
1 cup farro, rinsed under cool water
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and ripped into chunks
½ to ¾teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper in a mill
Directions: Saute onions and garlic in OO until onions are translucent. Pour onions and garlic into large slow cooker (crock pot). Saute mushrooms in onions juice and Braggs Amino Acid for 5 minutes. Add to slow cooker.
Add all other ingredients to crock pot, cover and cook on medium for 4 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Before serving season to taste with salt, pepper or more red pepper flakes and remove the Bay leaf.
Hour 0

Hour 2.5 on High

Are slow cookers not magical?

In other news, I was lucky enough to go snowshoeing for the first time! While the short cold days do wear me out sometimes (I am writing this blog post to procrastinate going outside and shoveling yet again), the beauty of the area I live in still takes my breath away.
 Let me leave you with a couple of pictures from my North Idaho adventure. 
If you live in the area and ever want to hike, run, cross  country ski or snowshoe, please leave a comment and lets make a date!

January 8, 2013

Eggplant Bulgar Pilaf and Winter Hikes

Obviously my new years resolution was not to blog more consistently.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and were able to enjoy some time with family and friends.

Now its back to reality! No more washing several ginger cookies down with a glass of So Delicious Egg Nog (don't look at me, I would never do that). No more messy house with glitter and tinsel in the strangest of places. No more crying while running on the treadmill because you just love that Christmas song your listening to that much.

The gym is busier than it has been since October and people all around are jumping back on the healthy bandwagon. It can certainly make things a littler easier for those of us who try to live a healthy lifestyle year round. I have been meeting with a lot of new people at the gym lately and part of that initial meeting is to talk about nutrition. One pattern that I see ALL the time, is well intentioned people trying to eat healthier and loose weight by restricting carbohydrates. Unfortunately, it seems that 20 years ago Dr Atkins instilled a fear of carbohydrates in us that would last far too long. I don't want to turn this into a crazy big blog on the different types of carbohydrates and why good complex carbohydrates are essential to your health- so let me cut right to the chase. The more complete, unprocessed and whole you can get your carbohydrate the better- and about 60% of your calories should be coming from these carbohydrates!

When I talk about whole grain carbohydrates I don't necessarily mean whole grain breads and pastas. While these foods are not evil and certainly better than their white counterparts, I am trying to get even grainier! Think oats before they have been turned into oatmeal bread, think qunioa, barley, millet, farro, rice, bulgar, wheat berries, and kasha. These grains are nutrient powerhouses filled with great complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and depending on the grain, a whole slue of other nutrients.

While most of us do not have a millet recipe right at the top of our heads, many of these grains are easier to incorporate and cook with than you would imagine. My goal is to spend my next few blog posts sharing recipes incorporating one of these grainular powerhouses.

Eggplant and Bulgar Pilaf
(Makes 6 servings)
This pilaf is great served warm but also makes a yummy cold pilaf salad the next day. Feel free to add in vegetables that you prefer or have on hand and season to your taste- next time I'm going to add mushrooms.


1 cup bulgur (see Note)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound eggplant (see Tip), diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning mix
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable stock (optional- I did not need)
1/2 - 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro


1. Place bulgur in a large deep bowl, add enough warm water to cover by 2 inches, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain; set aside.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant. Do not stir for the first minute; then cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Push the eggplant to the sides, making a well in the middle for the other ingredients.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the middle of the pan. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Do not stir for 2 minutes; then mix all the ingredients, including the eggplant, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Make a well in the ingredients again and add tomato paste to the middle. Do not stir for 30 seconds; then turn the tomato paste over and cook for another 15 seconds. Add the drained bulgur, tomato, oregano, salt and pepper; stir well to combine. Heat through. If the eggplant is not completely tender, stir in broth, cover the pan and simmer until the eggplant reaches your desired tenderness. Remove from the heat; stir in parsley (or cilantro).

Tips & Notes

Note: Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and coarsely grinding or cracking wheat berries. Bulgur just needs a quick soak in hot water for most uses. Look for it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets, near other grains. I get mine from The Flour Mill Natural Foods in Hayden.

Tip: If you’re using large, common globe eggplant, which can be more bitter than other varieties, salting beforehand can reduce bitterness. To salt: Place prepped eggplant in a large colander and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour before using. Rinse well with cold water.

Nutrition Per serving: 214 calories; 10 g fat ( 1 g sat , 7 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 9 g fiber; 357 mg sodium; 533 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (64% daily value), Vitamin C (62% dv), Magnesium (17% dv), Potassium (15% dv)

I find that I get a little more sedentary in these colder months. In the summer I am gardening, running, riding my bike and generally just moving more. I try to remember that all types of weather can be enjoyable to get outdoors in - some of the funnest runs I have been on have been in the pouring rain. That being said I am not a fan of running on ice - however, a snowy hike is right up my alley. I finally forced enticed Thor into going on a winter hike with me - we ended up having a great time and I took a couple of photos to share with you!

What are your favourite ways to get outdoors in the winter months?