Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Rice Crispy Treats



























This is my new favorite desert/snack to make. I have made it two weeks in a row and find that they all go missing within a couple days. The recipe is extremely simple to make and has just the right amount of sweetness to satisfy as a desert but is still healthy enough to have as a snack or even for breakfast.


On Sunday I had a St. Patty's day brunch at the house before attempting to go "bicycle bar-hopping" down the boardwalk in South Beach (let's just say the bikes didn't last too long). Even though these treats are not Irish at all (or even green for that matter), everyone enjoyed having something sweet and light after a very hearty Irish breakfast!

St. Patty's day brunch. Pre-bicycle-bar-hopping...

Now go and make a batch of these gluten free rice crispy treats and enjoy them for breakfast, desert or a snack on the go. Enjoy!

 
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP RICE CRISPY TREATS

1 10-ounce bag of puffed brown rice cereal (I used Arrowhead Mills)
5 tablespoons of coconut oil (liquid state)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of agave nectar or honey
3/4 cup of natural almond butter (or peanut butter, no sugar added)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of chocolate chips (my favorite are Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl add the puffed brown rice. Next, in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the coconut oil, agave nectar and stir until warmed and combined (about a minute). Next add the almond butter and stir until melted and combined about 2 minutes or so. Slowly pour the mixture over the puffed brown rice a little at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon. Keep adding the liquid mixture to the rice while stirring to make sure all the rice is well coated. Let cool for about 10 minutes or so. While the rice is cooling, grease a casserole dish (I used a 15-inch x 10-inch rectangular baking dish) with melted coconut oil. After the puffed rice has cooled, add your chocolate chips while siring to make sure the chocolate is evenly distributed. Add the mixture to the greased casserole dish while pressing down firmly with the back of the spoon or with your hands. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. (Beware, your kitchen will smell like freshly baked cookies! Amazing.)


Let cool completely and then cut into squares. (Side note: after cooling, it tends to stick a bit to the dish. Not to fear. Just start cutting the squares out of the dish with a sharp knife and eventually you will be able to remove the whole thing so it's one big rice crispy treat. I find that it is easier to remove it all at once and then cut into individual squares on a cutting board).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Superfruit Granola (Grain Free!)


This granola is made gluten free and grain free with nuts and dried fruit. It makes a perfect bowl of cereal in the morning or a great afternoon snack on the go. Packed with protein and vitamins, this granola has superfruit blueberries and goji berries, combining exceptional nutrient richness and antioxidant qualities.


It's very simple to make but does take some time for the nuts to soak and the granola to bake. Plan to make a big jar of this during a weekend at home and then enjoy it all week long wherever you may travel.


SUPERFRUIT GRANOLA (GRAIN FREE!)
1 cup of raw almonds (unsalted)
3/4 cup of raw hazelnuts (unsalted)
3/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
1 cup of unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/2 cup of agave nectar (or honey)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of dried unsweetened blueberries
1 cup of dried unsweetened goji berries
1/2 cup of raisins

In a medium size bowl add almonds, hazelnuts and 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds. Add just enough water to cover nuts and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and let soak for 8 hours. (*Side note: the reason why you soak the nuts is because it breaks down the enzyme inhibitors and makes it easier to digest as well as improves nutritional absorption).


After the nuts are done soaking, drain them and add to a food processor. Pulse until the nuts resemble the size and shape of granola. Pulse in the coconut oil, agave nectar, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the coconut with a spoon. Preheat oven to 175 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread out the mixture in an even layer and bake for about 3 hours or until golden and crisp, free of moisture. Be sure to be checking on it periodically.


One hour before the mixture is ready, pour goji berries into a small bowl and add just enough water to cover the berries. Let soak for one hour. (This softens them a little as goji berries tend to be a bit hard). Once the goji berries are done soaking and the nut mixture is done baking, drain and rinse the berries. Lightly pat dry with a towel while letting the nut mixture cool. Once cooled completely, add to a large bowl and stir in the dried blueberries, goji berries, raisins and the remaining 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds. 


Store in an airtight mason jar or container. Enjoy as cereal with your milk of choice or stirred into your favorite yogurt. Or enjoy plain with nothing at all - believe me this granola taste fantastic on it's own as a healthy snack on the go!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

No Pasta Lasagna (Vegan and Gluten Free!)

I took a walk on the wild side over the weekend and decided to give this a shot. No Pasta Lasagna.....not just gluten free but also vegan. Woah. Is it really worth the time and effort when you are pretty sure tofu and vegan cheese could never come close to the real thing? These were my thoughts while slaving away in the kitchen Friday night after a long day of work. Why was I wasting my time (Friday evening time that is) when I know it will never compare to the real thing. Boy was I shocked. So pleasantly shocked that this may be my new favorite dinner. And the taste test of all truth, the husband actually loved it. I made 2 versions of No Pasta Lasagna (both gluten free) but one was vegan and the other used real cheese. Do you believe me when I say that both my husband and I preferred the vegan version best? I know.....wild times.


However I can't take full credit for this delicious vegan recipe as it was adapted from doctor and best selling author Joel Fuhrman, M.D. and his new book 3 Steps To Incredible Health! (Volume 2). It's a great book focusing on nutrition and how to get back into a healthy lifestyle via eating healthy --- but what mostly brought me to purchase it, are the 150+ recipes in the back of the book, most of which are vegan. I rarely cook totally vegan as I am a HUGE CHEESE HEAD and I find it hard to find a non-dairy substitute that actually melts/cooks well. However, I think I have turned over a new leaf.


You must give this recipe a try and surprise yourself at how great this vegan No Pasta Lasagna satisfies. Especially if you are a pasta lover like me!



NO PASTA LASAGNA (Vegan and Gluten Free!)
"NOODLES"
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
3 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise (thin as possible)
3 small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise (thin as possible)

TOFU RICOTTA
16 ounces of silken tofu
1 small onion cut into quarters
4 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
16 ounces of firm tofu, squeezed dry and crumbled
2 tablespoons of dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of non-dairy mozzarella cheese (I used Daiya)
1/2 cup of non-dairy Parmesan cheese (I used Go Veggie!)

OTHER INGREDIENTS
4 cups of sliced mushrooms of choice ( I used baby bellas)
8 ounces of spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 cups of low-sodium pasta sauce (I used L.E. Roselli's)
1/2 cup of non-dairy mozzarella cheese (I used Daiva)
1/2 cup of non-dairy Parmesan cheese (I used Go Veggie!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take out two cookie sheets and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the eggplant slices to each tray (it's okay if they overlap slightly) and lightly spray again with the cooking spray. Bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the eggplant is tender but not fully cooked. (You may need to do this in a few batches depending on how many slices you have). Remove the eggplant and set aside on a plate. Repeat the process with the zucchini and squash until all the "noodles" are tender.

While the "noddles" are cooking, make the tofu ricotta. In a food processor, add the silken tofu, onion, garlic, basil, Italian herbs and salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the drained/crumbled tofu, the non-dairy mozzarella cheese and the non-dairy Parmesan cheese. Mix well with a spoon until combined and set aside.

Next, in a large sauce pan, add the olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add the mushrooms, spinach and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss well with tongs. Let cook over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes (tossing occasionally) until the mushrooms are soft and the spinach is just beginning to wilt. Remove from heat and set aside in a medium bowl.

Now assemble your lasagna using a glass lasagna dish (my size was 15 3/4" x 10 1/4"). Start by spraying the dish with non-stick cooking spray. Then add a small amount of pasta sauce just to coat the bottom of the dish. First layer the eggplant slices, then the spinach and mushroom mixture, then the zucchini and squash slices, then the tofu ricotta, and end with a layer of tomato sauce. Repeat the layers making sure you end with the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with the remaining 1/2 cup of non-dairy mozzarella and 1/2 cup of non-dairy Parmesan cheese covering the sauce evenly. Bake in the oven (uncovered) at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with freshly chopped basil. YUMMY!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cashew Milk

Nut milk. I have had it many times. Mostly store-bought almond and coconut milk and my thoughts have always been Meh. It tastes alright. Almond and coconut milk serve more of an ingredient I use when baking or making ice cream but not usually to drink straight-up as a milk replacement.


As a kid I used to drink A LOT of milk. I mean my brother and I would go through at least a gallon a week. Maybe in 5 days. It would be something I absolutely craved when I was thirsty. Water, juice, soda----nothing would satisfy like an ice cold glass of milk. Later in life, I cut milk out of my diet as an everyday beverage because too much dairy at once (like many people out there) upset my stomach.


So last night I decided to experiment with cashews as they are known to be a fantastic replacement for dairy, and I came up with the most delicious cashew milk. I shocked myself. This stuff I actually drink as a milk replacement and honestly, it tastes better. I know. It's hard to believe. Best news is that it's vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. This will be my go-to beverage for breakfast and the perfect drink before or after a workout as it's packed with protein.

I'm so happy to have a better-for-you milk fix back in my life!

CASHEW MILK
1 cup of raw whole cashews (soaked for 8 hours)
5 cups of filtered water
2 tablespoons of agave nectar (or honey)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
Pinch/dash of sea salt

Pour raw cashews in a bowl and top with water - just enough to cover the cashews. Let the cashews soak in the water for about 8 hours (I do this right before going to bed and then make the milk when I wake up in the morning). After the cashews are done soaking, strain them, discarding the water and then lightly rinse. Pour cashews into a blender and add 5 cups of filtered water. (Side note: using 5 cups of water gives you the consistency of a 1% to 2% milk. If you want more of a whole milk consistency, only use 4 cups of water. If you want a half and half consistency for coffee or tea, only use 2 cups of water). Next, add the agave nectar or honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. Blend on high for about 5 minutes. Pour into a large air-tight container and refrigerate. (Side note: if you have a weak blender or you see peaces of cashews floating around, you may want to strain the milk as you pour it into your container). Milk with last about around 6 days in the fridge.