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Wrap 'em Up!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


It all started with mushrooms, again. I’m pretty sure I reached for them this morning at the store for a reason. I knew that I was going to marinate them…the rest was spontaneity in action.

The truth is, I grabbed some collard greens for a smoothie, but then I wanted to use some sprouts too to make a high protein meal sans nuts. So came the idea of making a mushroom-veggie roll. This time I went for crimini mushrooms. Their nutritional profile is nearly identical to that of the portabello’s and they’re both so healthy. The health benefits of criminis stand out when we look at selenium content, which is even higher than that of its giant cousin’s. Also, criminis are a more complete protein source and they make a good post workout food for vegans as their protein to carbs ratio is 3:4!


Rosemary has a laundry list of benefits
…among which are the following characteristics: antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiviral, aphrodisiac, disinfectant. In other words, it can protect you from disease causing microorganisms, elevate your mood, help clear mucus build up when you have a cold, etc. It also stimulates bile secretion and provides an all around support for digestion. In aromatherapy it is used to help with fatigue, sadness, anxiety, and to ensure a restful sleep.
I admit, while the benefits sound wonderful, I only used it for its savory resinous flavor!  

Marinated Crimini Collard Wrap
Ingredients for the mushroom marinade:
(Serves 1-2)
½ lbs (0.2 kg) crimini mushrooms
~4 tbsp olive oil
finely chopped leaves of a 2 in (5 cm) piece of rosemary sprig
2 cloves of minced/finely chopped garlic
salt to taste
optional: you may add any other spices/herbs you love

To make the wraps:
2 collard leaves
1 small tomato
handful of clover/any other sprouts


Brush off the mushrooms (do NOT wash them), halve the caps, then slice them. Place in a bowl and add the olive oil , the rosemary, the garlic, and salt to taste. Mix it well and give it a few stirs. If you have time, let it sit for 30-45 minutes. The oil will “cook” the mushrooms and the whole marinade becomes juicy as the mushrooms release water due to the salt. You’ll find that you end up with a handful of mushroom “stew” without cooking and killing all the nutrients!

Grab the collard leaves and partially remove the stems, so that they’re flush with the rest of the leaf.


This will allow you to have a large wrapper that’s easy to roll. (If you cut the stems out, you will have very small surface areas that are much harder to work with!) Spoon some of your mushroom marinade on the back side of the leaves,


layer sliced tomato and sprouts, or anything else you’d like (cucumber, bell pepper, olives, slices of radish or avocado) on top and just roll it up…..and that’s a wrap!

Reference: http://www.liveandfeel.com/medicinalplants/rosemary.html

Savory Midafternoon Snack

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I've been using this season's fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs to create new recipes but today I balanced them with something more filling: a succulent portobello mushroom. Since I made it to the farmer’s market this week, I also had the sweetest, ripest, and juiciest tomatoes on hand. Of course I had to make something using some so I made pico de gallo to go with the mushroom “steak”. It took less than five minutes to prepare and the house smelled so good for hours!  

If you are already into mushrooms then you’ll be glad to hear that they’re not only yummy but good for you too! If you haven’t made friends with them, today might be a good day for your first rendezvous.

Health Benefits of Portobello Mushrooms
The dense and velvety texture of the beautiful caps are sure palatable but how well do they score in the nutrition department?
It may sound unbelievable but this mushroom's protein to carbohydrates ratio is nearly 50:50! They’re high in fiber and they almost qualify to be called a B vitamin complex. As an exceptionally high source of niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), copper, selenium, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, potassium, and a very good source of thiamin (B1), folate (B9), vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium, and manganese, they’re just an absolute gold mine for vitamins and minerals. They’ll help strengthen your immune system, help protect your nerves and build or maintain strong bones, and safeguard against many types of cancer! Oh, and don't forget the copper's power to fight gray hair! There's more of this trace element in a serving of this mushroom than in a serving of molasses!!! I think that deserves at least an A-, right?

rawherbedportobellomushroomHerbed Mushroom “Steak”
(per mushroom)*
1 portobello mushroom (cap only)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 generous pinch of finely chopped rosemary
1 clove of garlic
salt to taste (you may use nama shoyu or soy sauce, if you’re ok with soy products, and skip the salt)

*I recommend you make 2-3 mushrooms per person.  Multiply the listed amounts by the number of mushrooms you have.

Clean the mushrooms just by brushing them off with your fingers (do NOT wash them). They’re pretty delicate so be careful not to chip/break them. Place them with the gills facing up on a dehydrator tray. Crush the garlic and mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle it on the mushrooms. Dehydrate for 3-4 hours at 115 ˚F (46˚C). (If you prefer cooking them, you may place them in an oiled pan and bake them at ~375˚F (190˚C) for 45 minutes.)

Pico de Gallo
(Serves 1-2)
1 tomato
1 jalapeno
couple of slices of red onion
a little cilantro
salt to taste
optional: you may add some lime and/or black pepper

Chop and mix all ingredients and place in a serving bowl.

This is just what I decided to do but either of these will go well with other dishes, as a side. Yumm! : )

Mojito Monday

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is the heat getting to you? Here’s one healthy way to cool off. Two ingredients + five minutes of your time = a refreshing drink that’s loaded with vitamins.


All melons are excellent choices to keep you hydrated in the summer. For this recipe, let’s look at the health benefits of honeydews. Their green flesh is loaded with vitamin C, and is a good source of folate, vitamin B6, and potassium….in other words, it has antioxidants that will boost your immune system, protect you from free radicals and certain types of cancer, it can help prevent heart disease, it’s an especially good snack during pregnancy, and it can help regulate blood pressure. Of course, the nutrition facts are not the reason you’ll make this...

Mojito Recipe
(Makes 2 pints, ~1 liter)
1 honeydew melon
a handful of fresh mint
agave syrup/honey (not vegan)/your favorite sweetener (optional)

Cut the melon in half, remove the seeds, then peel it. Put it through a juicer along with the mint. Add some sweetener (if desired), pour into glasses, garnish with fresh herbs. That’s it!

You may serve it on the rocks and/or add a squirt of lime juice for a kick as well. 

The Most Amazing Buckwheat Crackers

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Making crackers is what was on my agenda on Sunday morning and it was so lovely to get busy in the kitchen with the morning sunlight coming through the window. Since I had run out of everything that resembles bread/chips/crackers, this was an emergency and I couldn’t wait for them to be done. I did not expect them to come out so fabulous though. These are by far my absolute favorite!


For the first time in my raw-cracker-making adventures I used garlic. Don’t ask me why it took me so long. Come to think of it…I remember that up until now I was making sure my crispy snacks are more on the “plain” side so that they would go well with anything. Not this time. These are everything but plain, and they can be (and probably will be) devoured just by themselves!
I am not giving all the credit to the garlic either. I also added turmeric and cumin for the first time and the combination of those spices gave it a wonderful hint of Indian-food-like flavor, not to mention the gorgeous color. Flavor and aesthetics are not my priority though. As you may probably know by now, nutrition is at least equally important to me so here’s the breakdown of the goods…

Health Benefits of Turmeric
This ancient spice, commonly used in Indian cuisine, is known for its exceptional anti-inflammatory properties and being an excellent antioxidant, and there’s a whole list of health benefits that go along with that.
Its bright rusty-yellow color, peppery, bitter flavor, and most healing properties lie in the powerful compound, curcumin. Turmeric is a natural detoxifier, has been used in treating cancer and for the prevention of metasteses, can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and studies suggest that it’s effective at preventing it from developing as well. As an anti-inflammatory, it’s a natural treatment for arthiritis and can also be used to help the skin heal or to treat psoriasis. It’s very rich in iron and manganese and a very good source of vitamin B6, which can keep your homocysteine levels at bay and reduce your risk of heart disease. Manganese is essential for strong bones and healthy nerves, and it can protect your cells from free-radical damage.

Health Benefits of Cumin
Another spice that’s very rich in iron and manganese, cumin is also a good source of calcium and magnesium. It’s a good digestive aid and it can help in nutrient assimilation, but most importantly, it is claimed to have anti-carcinogenic properties, like turmeric.

Just to note, if you have never used either, these spices have quite distinct flavors that will either appeal to you or not the first time around but just give them a try, you might just fall in love with their aroma immediately!

Buckwheat Crackers
(Makes 250 bite size crackers)
3 cups raw buckwheat groats
1 cup ground flax seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
½ cup olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic
your favorite seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Soak the buckwheat groats for a couple of hours and let them sprout for about a day and a half as described in the Guacamole & Buckwheat Chips recipe. Once you have buckwheat sprouts (I let them grow to about ½ inch/6 mm length) it’s time to make crackers! I have to split up the ingredients and run two separate batches because only so much fits in my food processor at a time. 


1.    Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until you get a well-mixed, sticky lump.

 2.    Using a butter knife, spread the mixture on teflex sheets (you should have enough for 4 of them) about 3-5 mm thick. Score them to your liking (I made 1.5 in/3-4 cm squares) and sprinkle with your favorite seeds if you like. Dehydrate them at 115 ˚F (46˚C) for a couple of hours before flipping them and then 3-4 hours longer depending on how thick they are and how crisp you like them.

3.    They’re ready whenever the edges and the center of the crackers look evenly dry. The other way to check on them is by stealing one out of there every half an hour…this is the method I use of course : ) but you'll end up with much less in the end!

4.    You can let them cool and store them in airtight containers for a couple of months (they will not last that long though), or serve them immediately. They’re absolutely fabulous fresh out of the “oven” while still warm. Enjoy and let me know how they came out!

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It’s the middle of Summer in a lot of places, the time when the produce section at grocery stores is piled with the largest selection of fresh and vibrant fruits and vegetables. Whatever lifestyle/diet you follow it’s that time of the year when we feel like eating lighter and seek refreshment in the form of a juicy fruit or reach for ingredients to whip up a salad. But what is lurking on the surface of those, otherwise nutritious, treasures? The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit focused on public health, puts together a list of the most contaminated and the safest produce every year. This year’s report has apples sitting at the top of the “dirty dozen” list and onions take the number one spot of the “clean fifteen”.  What this means is that if you strive to buy organic fruits and vegetables but are forced to make choices because of availability or budget then you probably want to carry this list in your wallet. This can help you make decisions like avoiding non-organic apples because they have the highest amount of pesticide residue. On the other hand, it’s not that big of a deal if you place conventional onions in your basket due to less pesticide spraying. So here are the lists…

The "Dirty Dozen"
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported nectarines
7. Imported grapes
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Domestic blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens 

The "Clean 15” 
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Domestic cantaloupe
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet Potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms


Tahini Tzatziki

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What happens when the freshest spring cucumber meets creamy tahini? You end up with a delicious and satisfying salad that will also keep you cool.


My mother used to make tzatziki in the summer time, of course, using yogurt because I wasn’t raised vegan! This healthy alternative is packed full of nutrients. What better way to replace that heavy potato salad on the 4th of July weekend when most of us are already overeating during the family get together!? You really should give it a try, tahini is so yummy and so rich in vitamins and minerals. If you are eliminating all legumes and grains from your diet, incorporating foods that will provide you with high quality protein and all the B vitamins is essential! Tahini makes that list. 

Tahini Nutrition 
The creamy butter of sesame seeds is a very good source of vitamins such as thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (B3), and folate (vitamin B9), and minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese! Thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin are important for energy production. Vitamin B1 supports the nervous system, B2 can protect your cells from oxygen damage and B3 will come handy for stabilizing blood sugar and processing fats. Most of us have heard that folate is a very important vitamin during pregnancy and that a deficiency of folic acid will seriously endanger the development of the fetus. But it doesn’t stop there! It plays an important role in red blood cell and skin cell production, keeps your bones strong, helps prevent osteoporosis and the build-up of homocysteine (which can lead to heart disease), and like B vitamins in general, supports your nervous system. Calcium and iron are commonly referred to as being important but we wouldn’t be able to build strong bones and tissue without a perfect balance between calcium and phosphorus. Most people who eat a high protein based diet would have to worry about getting too much phosphorus but the opposite might be true on a raw vegan diet if you don’t consume enough nuts and seeds. Molasses has been touted as having great benefits for the reversal of gray hair. Why? Because of its high copper content. Guess what, tahini has even more! Copper (and manganese) will help you maintain strong bones and will help your body fight free radicals as well. But it's so high in fat, isn't it? True, but again, it's fat that's good for you! Tahini contains mainly mono- and polyunsaturated fats which lower your risk of developing diabetes! All this adds up to a ridiculously nutritious dressing that is delish.…

(Serves 2)
4 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
splash of water for diluting
3-4 cloves garlic
1.5 cucumber (or a really large one)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill/mint/or both
salt to taste


In a bowl, mix the lemon juice with the tahini until smooth. Add the olive oil and some salt. Dilute it with some water to achieve the desired consistency and then crush the garlic and add to the dressing. Chop up the cucumber into small cubes (or shred it if you prefer it that way) and add to your mixture along with the herb(s). Garnish and serve.                                                                 

More info on vitamins and minerals at: http://www.whfoods.com/