Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Raw Nut, Maple and Cinnamon Cream

This holiday season, I am adding raw nut creams to my menu. I’ve always been intrigued with nut cheeses and creams, and I’m amazed by how flavorful, rich and delicious they are. Nut creams are a great substitute for dairy creams and can be paired with many favorite holiday dishes.

Making a raw nut cream is a wonderful way to blend delicious, nutrient-filled, high-antioxidant ingredients like raw nuts, coconut, agave nectar, honey, cinnamon and vanilla to make a dessert that delivers on taste and nutrition.

To create a base, start with raw cashews or macadamia nuts. Soak them in filtered water overnight, rinse thoroughly and drain. Then use a Vitamix or a food processor to blend until smooth, adding filtered water as you blend, until the mixture is creamy.

The biggest hurdle I have found is creating a smooth, creamy texture. Take your time with blending and scraping the sides, then re-blending, etc. Don’t be afraid to blend for several minutes straight. This will allow you to get the spread as creamy as possible.

Once you have a base you are happy with, there are many different directions you can go depending on the sweetener (honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.) and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc.) you use. Below is a decadent Maple Cinnamon Cream that I will be serving as a compliment to my stewed apples, sweet potato dishes and pies!

- Veronica

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/8 cup filtered water
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

Soak cashews overnight in filtered water. Rinse, and combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend ingredients adding clean, cold, filtered water a little at a time until consistency is smooth (not too watery, though). Taste and adjust according to your flavor preferences (I love cinnamon, so I tend to add more of it). Refrigerate until chilled and pair with your favorite dishes!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Farmer’s Market Fermenting

How often do you throw away fruits and veggies that have gone rotten in the fridge? For me, it’s way too often. This is one of the reasons I am becoming more active in preserving my food. Drying, jamming, and freezing are all methods I have used that, in the end, save me time and money. Lately I have become more interested in lacto-fermentation. It sounds intimidating but is immensely easy and healthy. To learn more about fermentation, I recently interviewed Chef Ernest Miller, the Master Food Preserver at The Farmer’s Kitchen.

There are only 3 ingredients required for a basic lacto fermentation; salt, water and vegetables. You can also add spices to the mixture to give more flavor and color. Simple lacto-fermentation involves cutting your vegetables (some people crush them to release juices), adding your spices, mixing, stuffing the mixture into a clean ball jar, and pouring brine over the top. After that, it is just a matter of letting the healthy bacteria do its job (see below for a simple starter fermentation recipe from Chef Miller).

One of the most intriguing aspects of fermenting to me is the nutrient boost the food gets. According to Chef Miller, it is even better that eating the vegetables raw because the fermentation process adds vitamins and minerals, numerous beneficial enzymes, and probiotics that aid in digestion. Your veggies actually get healthier! And they last up to 6 months. Almost any vegetable can be fermented – I love the creative aspect of combining vegetables and various herbs and spices!

To get started, try fermenting beets, onion, garlic, carrots, ginger, peppers, beans and cabbage – alone or in various combinations. Add herbs like ginger, dill, basil, and oregano and try spices like red pepper flakes, mustard, and caraway seeds. Get creative! You will love the results.

Stay tuned to the Pure website and Facebook page next week for the launch of my video on fermentation with Chef Miller.

- Veronica

Farmer’s Kitchen Basic Vegetable Fermentation Recipe –yields 1 qt.

  • .5 oz. canning, pickling, kosher or sea salt

Spices are optional and may be changed to suit your tastes:

  • 1.5 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1.5 tsp. yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1.5 lbs. cabbage, shredded (about 1 head of red cabbage or choose another vegetable)

Procedure: Trim or chop vegetables. Toss with salt and spices. Pack firmly into a clean jar. Be sure the cabbage is deep enough so that the jar rim is at least 4 or 5 inches above the cabbage. Place a clean weight on the cabbage (like a small jar) to keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Add brine (1 oz. of salt to 1 quart of water). Cover the jar with a clean dishtowel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band or twine. Store at 70º to 80ºF while fermenting in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

At temperatures between 70º and 80ºF, kraut will be fully fermented in about 2 to 3 weeks; at 60º to 65ºF, fermentation may take 5 to 6 weeks. At temperatures lower than 60ºF, kraut may not ferment. Above 80ºF, kraut may become soft. Fully fermented kraut may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months.

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Canning & Food Preservation with Akasha Richmond

For me, canning is all about preserving what is in season. I learned all about canning from my friend Kevin West , author of the forthcoming book Saving the Season, Knopf, Summer 2013. For me, “putting up,” as they say in the South, is all about the quality of the fruits and vegetables you are using. I can give you a fool-proof recipe for strawberry jam; be sure to buy in-season, organic strawberries so you have great results.

Your possibilities are endless! I make fruit butters, jam, jelly, preserves, chutney, and pickles. I believe sugar (organic, of course) is essential, especially if you are heat-sealing your goods and want them to last. If you are just making a small batch of apple butter for yourself, and you are going to keep it refrigerated, by all means try a sugar-free variation. We can our products to use all year, to sell and to ship, so there must be a certain amount of sugar added to preserve them.

If you are new to canning, start with a few good books (see my recommendations below). If there is a canning class in your town, take it. I do, and I learn something new every time. I highly recommend Kevin West’s blog, www.savingtheseason.com, which is full of great stories and recipes. Amazon and Ball Canning (www.freshpreserving.com ) both have a great selection of canning supplies, and you will need them. Essentials are glass jars and lids, a canning pot and racks, jar lifters, lid lifters and funnels.

This tomato chutney recipe is a staple in my kitchen. It’s great with goat cheese, sandwiches, veggie burgers, and, of course, with any kind of curry. When tomatoes are out of season, use canned organic ones.

Tomato-Apple Chutney
1 & 1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, scored with an X on the end
1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
1 pound apples, peeled cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 large jalapeño pepper, minced with seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup raisins

To make the chutney, bring vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat in a 2-quart stockpot. Blanch the tomatoes in the vinegar. Turn off heat, and let tomatoes cool. Peel, seed and chop into 1-inch cubes, then add back to the vinegar with the sugar and apples. Bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for 30 seconds – they should sizzle. Add the jalapenos, garlic, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, paprika, and cayenne. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add to the tomato mixture. Simmer the chutney for about 40 minutes. Add the raisins and cook an additional 25-30 minutes or until the chutney has thickened. Let cool. Remove bay leaf.

Should make about 1 quart chutney.

Canning books I like:
The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
Well Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Bee Pollen

I am intrigued by bee pollen. Its reputation is strong and long in the natural food world. In fact it’s been touted for thousands of years as an herbal powerhouse, providing benefits from anti-aging and longevity, to immune-system support and weight loss. There is currently not enough research to support all of these claims, but if we look at the makeup of this superfood we can make some sound assumptions. For me, something created by nature, not in a lab, with such a rich history shouldn’t be ignored.

Bee Pollen is the pollen from a large variety of plants that sticks to the legs of the bee as they drink the nectar of the flowers. The bees then bring the compacted pollen granules back to the hive and it is used as nourishment for the worker bees. It is a perfectly balanced food and contains almost all of the nutrients we need to survive. Forty percent of the pollen is complete protein. The other sixty percent consists of carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamins C, A, B, and E, nutrients we know help prevent cancer, inflammation, disease, and aging. Bee pollen also contains substances shown to have antimicrobial properties which slow the growth of bacteria and viruses.

There are some interesting case studies that show groups of people who have exceptional health and vitality after consuming bee pollen for many years. To me, it would be interesting to see some additional research to dig into this further.

In the meantime, I plan on including bee pollen into my diet. Of course, it is not recommended for individuals who have bee allergies or for pregnant/nursing women. Always discuss added supplements with your doctor. For interesting ways to add bee pollen to your diet see below.

- Veronica

Bee Pollen should be introduced slowly to your diet. Start with a granule or two and work your way up to 1 Tbsp per day. To preserve nutrients, avoid adding heat or cooking bee pollen.

  • Blend into almond milk with honey and vanilla for a creamy, delicious shake
  • Sprinkle onto cereal
  • Stir into yogurt
  • Scatter on top of salads
  • Add a pinch to smoothies
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Rhubarb the Vegetable

Next time you sink your teeth into a slice of rhubarb pie, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are eating your vegetables! Rhubarb is, indeed, a vegetable even though the US decided in 1947 to classify it as a fruit to save on import tariffs. Either way, it is a unique and delicious addition to your diet.

To me, Rhubarb and Grandma go hand in hand. My grandma excelled at all things rhubarb – sauces, pies, stews, you name it. When we moved into our last home there was an old rhubarb patch out back. I wasn’t very familiar with cooking with rhubarb so at first I tried to remove them and replace with other plants. I soon realized that rhubarb is extremely hearty. It refused to go away, so I made my peace with rhubarb and learned that cooking with it is simple and delicious.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a stubborn rhubarb patch, rhubarb is very inexpensive and can usually be found year round. Originally, rhubarb was used by the Chinese as a healing plant – not surprising since there are all sorts of studies documenting rhubarb to be a high antioxidant food with disease-preventing abilities. Rhubarb is also high in vitamin C which is helpful as we go into cold and flu season. It provides calcium and vitamin K for bone building and neuron protection, and complex B vitamins for energy. It is also high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Just be aware that you should never eat the leaves as they are toxic to humans.

Rhubarb is best known for use in pies and sauces, but is also great in stews, baked goods, and soups. It adds a nice complimentary flavor to almost any dish. I like to make an all-purpose sauce that can be used as a side dish, a marinade, a dessert, or even a jam. See my favorite simple rhubarb sauce recipe below, and keep enjoying this great little fruit… I mean, vegetable!

- Veronica

Orange Rhubarb Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 tsp. fresh ginger
2 large oranges peeled, sectioned and muddled
1/2 cup walnuts
mint leaves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Boil the water and cook rhubarb, oranges, ginger and honey on low temperatures until the rhubarb is soft and the liquid has boiled down. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and add walnuts cinnamon and cloves. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Roasted Turnips


The first time I saw a turnip, I wasn’t sure what it was. It looked like a pale, overgrown radish, or a fat, white carrot. One of the benefits of being a member of a CSA, is that I sometimes get vegetables that I am uncertain of, but the Dutch in me won’t let anything go to waste. So, when this happens, I find myself experimenting with new foods. Lately, I’ve become a huge turnip fan.

I love turnips because they are inexpensive and very versatile, like a potato but more flavorful. They are incredibly nutritious, providing over a third of your daily vitamin C, an important antioxidant especially going into flu season, and they are packed with B vitamins which keep your energy levels high. They have 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per cup, and only 8 grams of carbohydrates. All this is less than 60 calories and 1 gram of fat. How does nature make such smart foods???

My favorite part about turnips is that they function just like a potato or carrot in recipes; I add them to soups, casseroles, vegetable dishes and, best of all, I roast them either alone or with other root vegetables. They are also great stewed with apples and cinnamon on the stovetop. Another huge advantage of turnips is that you can eat the greens which are full of great vitamins and minerals. If you haven’t ventured into the world of turnips yet, try the simple roasting recipe below. This was my lunch a few days ago and it was so delicious. If you want to be more creative, add carrots and beets and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette when done roasting. The possibilities are endlessly delicious!

— Veronica

Roasted Turnips with Sea Salt

5 medium sized turnips, diced, greens removed

1 tbsp. grapeseed oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 400 degrees. Dice turnips into bite sized pieces, remove greens and toss with oil and salt in a bowl. Spread turnips on a cookie sheet and roast until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Season with pepper and additional salt if necessary and serve warm.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Dry Your Favorite Herbs


One of my favorite activities on a cool, fall day is to preserve herbs from my garden for use all winter. Drying your own herbs is very simple. It can be done with an oven and a cookie sheet. It is cost-effective since buying dried herbs at the store can be expensive, and gives you the peace of knowing exactly where your herbs came from and how they were handled. It also gives you the freedom of mixing different herbs together, and you can dry other items like citrus peel which can be used to flavor drinks and foods

The goal of drying herbs is to remove their moisture so they won’t rot, while preserving their oils for optimal flavor and color. There are two primary ways of drying herbs; air-drying and dehydrating. Air drying works well for delicate herbs like thyme but can be a long process for heartier and thicker herbs like basil. I generally don’t use this method because I live in a humid area and don’t have much time or patience for air drying.

I like to dehydrate my herbs using my oven. In the beginning, it can take some trial and error to figure out the best dehydrating times for various herbs, but it won’t take long to become a master!

To use your oven, set it to its lowest temperature. Use an oven thermometer to figure out exactly how low you can get it. Most articles will say to dry at 180 degrees but I prefer to dry at 120 degrees because I feel the lower temperature retains more nutrients and oils. If you cannot get your oven this low, leave the door open just a crack (you can prop it open carefully with a heat-safe magnet to keep it open just a tiny bit). I always do this on a cool day so my oven heat can be used to also heat the house!

Put your herbs flat on a cookie sheet; if you’re using multiple cookie sheets, layer them in the oven, crisscrossed. Check on them often and stir them to be sure they are dehydrating well. I know that the herbs are done when they crumble in my hand. Different herbs will need different times. Usually, dehydrating takes between two-to-six hours depending on the herb. The added bonus of oven-drying herbs is that your entire house will smell amazing!

— Veronica

What to Dehydrate?

What herbs do you love and cook with most? I have had great luck with dehydrating the following herbs:

Basil

Mint

Thyme

Rosemary

Parsley

Oregano

Don’t stop at leafy herbs though! Try these as well:

Onion slices (150 degrees)

Citrus peel (orange, lemon, and grapefruit are all great options)

Bell Pepper slices (150 degrees)

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

High Energy Back to School Foods

The fall routine is in full swing at our house. Early mornings, fall sports and vamped-up work projects have us all running. This year I have one in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school; 3 kids, 3 buildings and 3 sports + piano. It’s crazy! Now that the novelty of starting school has worn off, I am faced every morning with moans and groans of tired kids. My neighbors have college-aged kids that burn the midnight oil and try to balance school, work and fun. How can we all keep our energy up?

It seems like the busier we get, the harder it is to eat right. Convenient food is crucial and sometimes junk food is just too easy for all of us to grab. What are the right choices?

I want delicious, I want easy and I want high energy. That means foods with B vitamins, vitamin C, natural fruit sugar and fiber. Pure Bars are perfect for our busy fall schedule, but there are lots of other great choices, too. Below are some other easy, delicious and convenient foods that will keep us all going strong.

Source

— Veronica

5 High Energy Foods

Oatmeal: High in B-vitamins which give energy, complex carbohydrates, and fiber for sustained fuel. Oatmeal is a comfort food and not intimidating, especially for kids. Try some with cinnamon, maple syrup, sliced apples, and warm almond milk.

Oranges: With cold and flu season right around the corner, the Vitamin C in these fruits will help keep immune systems tough. Natural fruit sugars and fiber give sustained energy. PLUS, they are delicious, so kids will eat them!

Sunflower seeds: Feeling like a crunchy snack? Step away from the potato chips and instead munch on these little gems which are packed with B vitamins, protein, fiber and antioxidants.

Nuts: Filled with minerals that help your body create energy like phosphorous, magnesium, and copper, nuts also provide healthy fats which keep your brain and heart strong.

Water: Not a food but so often the culprit when you feel tired. I always carry a reusable water container in my car and make sure my kids have one for school. Dehydration can cause you to feel sluggish or depressed, and can cause headaches.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Summer’s Bounty Vegan Fruit Tart

This recipe produces a beautiful tart that is surprisingly easy to make. In just a few simple steps, you will have an impressive, completely vegan dessert that will satisfy everyone! The fresh taste of the fruit and the cool filling are enhanced by the nutty, crunchy crust, and it is much more healthful than a typical fruit tart.

Crust:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter substitute (such as Earth Balance), melted
Filling:
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons vegan orange (or any other flavor you like) gelatin substitute (such as Natural Desserts)
1 kiwi, sliced
1 quart fresh mixed berries or other seasonal fruit

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, and sugar. Stir in the butter substitute until blended. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a medium pot. Add water, apple juice, and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin substitute until dissolved. Let cool.
Arrange kiwi and berries in crust in whatever pattern you like. Pour mixture over fruit (you may have extra filling). Using a pastry brush, carefully coat any fruit that did not get coated when you poured in the filling. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. Enjoy!

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Experimenting with Dill

When I was a kid, a huge part of summer was traveling to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for backyard cookouts. Grandma always had a huge plate of cut veggies with homemade vegetable dip. She used fresh dill from the garden and I have been in love with dill ever since. I’ve grown up a bit from the veggie dip days to now adding fresh dill to my salads, rice, potatoes and sautéed veggies like green beans, tomatoes and zucchini.

Some of the benefits that dill brings to the table are calcium, antioxidants that fight against carcinogens, and antimicrobial features that put it on the same level as garlic for fighting off bacteria and viruses. It’s also a great breath freshener. Bonus!

I love having to be creative with the abundance that my garden spits out. It’s like a new challenge everyday to mix and match herbs and veggies. What’s great is that so many combinations that I would never have thought of, taste wonderfult together -and you don’t have to hesitate to eat them because they are all so good for your body!

Source

— Veronica

Sautéed potatoes and green beans with dill

3 TBSP Grape seed oil

1 small onion diced (or 2-3 cloves of garlic)

3 medium potatoes, cubed

1 lb green beans, snipped

¼ to ½ cup fresh dill feathers

Salt and pepper

Sauté onion in grapeseed oil until soft. Add potatoes and beans, and sauté on medium heat until tender. Add salt, pepper and dill, stir and serve as main or side dish.

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Hemp, Overcoming its Seedy Reputation

A few years ago, people would have chuckled at the thought of eating hemp. It was hard to separate it from its sordid cousin, which can be used in less-than-beneficial ways; however, one walk through last year’s Natural Products Expo Trade Show proved that this powerhouse seed is quickly creating its own pristine reputation among foodies. Not only is hemp a viable and accepted form of vegan protein, multiple applications of hemp (like milk, hearts, cereals, breads, crackers and more) are showing up on grocery shelves everywhere.

Turns out this little seed is fast becoming a nutrient celebrity. With experts like Dr. Oz touting its benefits, people are taking notice. Hemp’s reputation is solid. It is a complete vegan protein that is rich is omega 3 fats, and provides an abundance of healthy vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron and vitamin A, D, and several B vitamins.

Another benefit of hemp is that it is very sustainable to grow and has uses beyond food. Its fibers are incredibly strong and can be used in place of cotton or wood. And, unlike most crops, it can be grown to maturity in 100 days, requiring no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

The result is a perfectly balanced food that benefits the environment as well as our bodies. It protects and fuels our hearts and minds, nourishes skin and hair, and helps guard against disease. It’s so darn good for us that we may even start to forget about its less-than-stellar family reputation!

— Veronica

Veronica’s Tip of the Week

Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

  • Hemp Recipes Manitoba Harvest is one of my favorite hemp companies. I love their hemp hearts and often eat them right out of the bag! They also have really creative hemp recipes for kids and adults on their site here: http://www.manitobaharvest.com/recipes.html

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Radishes | Win a Culinary Experience in NYC!

When Grandma showed up at the cottage with radish sandwiches, I immediately started thinking about what to fix the kids (because, of course, I knew that they wouldn’t touch radish sandwiches). However, never ceasing to surprise me, they loved them! Maybe it was because grandma is synonymous with yummy things or because they sensed that I thought they wouldn’t try them (always good to prove Mom wrong). Whatever the reason, the kids not only ate them, but liked them – so much, that they asked me to get Grandma’s recipe.

Radishes will always remind me of summer and MY Grandma. She loved them and would eat them raw with salt – her own version of a spicy potato chip. Every time we went to her house, she had sliced radishes, sweet pickles, and olives on a platter for us to snack on (so much better than candy and chips). I guess when I think about it, I loved radishes as a kid, so why wouldn’t mine?

The nutritional value of radishes is stellar. With only 19 calories and 2 grams of sugar, one cup of sliced radishes will serve as a good source of important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and riboflavin – and they are a very good source of fiber, calcium vitamin C, folate and potassium. What a perfectly balanced food!

Thanks to Grandma, we are eating more radishes this summer. See her recipe below to get your family eating nature’s perfect chip.

— Veronica

Veronica’s Tip of the Week

Veronica Bosgraaf, Pure Bar Founder

7 Large radishes, sliced thin

1/2 stick softened butter

2 Tbsp. chopped herbs (thyme, chives or rosemary) –optional

Radish leaves, lettuce or arugula

Sea Salt

Sourdough bread (or bread of choice)

Mix herbs into softened butter to create herb butter. Spread butter onto bread, layer the radishes, sprinkle with salt and top with lettuce, radish leaves or arugula (I prefer arugula). Finish with a second slice of bread and butter, or enjoy open-faced.

Read Veronica’s Blog or follow Pure on Twitter