Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Mad About Mesquite!

2010 has been a glorious year of discovery for me. From astragalus root to holy basil and from chia seed to maca powder, my kitchen is now filled with the most amazing plant-based wonders. So I could not have been more excited when my package of goodies from Foods Alive arrived!

My most favorite discovery of the year is mesquite powder, a nutritious treat made from the bean pods of the algorroba tree (Prosopis juliflora), native to the Southwest, Northern Mexico, and desert areas of South America.

Mesquite is a nutritional powerhouse—high in protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, fiber, and the amino acid, lysine. Its flavor is a bit hard to describe: Think malty, smoky, nutty, sweet, and sultry. It's not quite like molasses or maple, but has undertones of both.  From the moment I opened my first bag of Foods Alive Raw Organic Mesquite Powder and got a whiff of its hypnotic aroma, I fell in love. While most mesquite powders on the market are coarse and grainy, I prefer the finely-ground texture of Foods Alive Mesquite Powder. This is what I call a spoonful of golden bliss:

I first went in search of mesquite powder when I came across a recipe for raw caramel apples on It looked so simple and sounded intriguing—I couldn't wait to get my hands on some mesquite powder so I could try it. I searched all over town but had no luck finding any mesquite powder in Eugene. (They must be hiding it in a big warehouse somewhere in Springfield along with all the raw pistachios!) Foods Alive shipped out a box of goodies to me right away (why not stock up on other essentials?), and as soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was make some of that caramel! It was soooo good, I started eating this every day!

It's very simple to make. Just soak half a dozen or so nice, big, fat medjool dates in water for several hours (don't forget to remove the pits) in a jar that will fit onto your blender base, add two tablespoons of mesquite powder, and blend until smooth and creamy!

One day after making a batch of caramel I was really naughty and stuck a caramel-covered spoon in some raw cashew butter—it was pure decadence!

It's been so cold here that Mark and I have been drinking hot cocoa every night after our post-dinner walks. It suddenly occurred to me that some mesquite powder might be a nice way to spice up my cocoa. I've been enjoying hot cocoa chai and Mexican hot chocolate, but adding a tablespoon of mesquite powder gave me a delicious new recipe to add into the rotation.

This morning I woke up and found myself craving mesquite, so I made myself an incredible smoothie. I call it my Carob-Mesquite Dream. It was so dreamy-creamy good that I drank it all before I remembered to take a photo of it! (Sorry!)

It's loaded with nutritious ingredients and tastes like heaven in a glass. Here's some of what you'll be getting:

•So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage is fortified with calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, B12, and D, and is a great source of heart-healthy medium-chain fatty acids.

• Carob Powder is rich in copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and selenium, and is especially rich in calcium and iron, and it contains vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and D.

• Maca Powder contains B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, and trace minerals zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, bismuth, manganese and silica.

• Mesquite Powder because it is ground from the entire pod, including the seed, it is high in protein (11–17%). It is also rich in, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, fiber, and the amino acid, lysine.

Chia Seed—One ounce contains as much omega-3 as eight ounces of salmon, as much calcium as a cup of milk, as much fiber as 1/3 cup of bran, as much iron as 1/3 cup of spinach leaves, as much vitamin C as 2 oranges,  as much potassium as half a banana, and 20% protein, 2-3 times more than most other seeds and grains.


1 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (If you want a completely raw beverage, coconut water or freshly squeezed orange juice would work deliciously, too.
1 medjool date, pit removed
2 frozen bananas
2 Tbs (you could use Foods Alive Raw Carob Powder cacao powder, too)
1 tsp Foods Alive Maca Powder (don't worry, you won't even taste it!)
1 Tbs Foods Alive Mesquite Powder
1 Tbs Foods Alive Chia Seed
1 Tbs raw cashew butter

Blend all together, pour into a tall glass, and enjoy!

I'm enjoying the superb quality of all of the wonderful products from Foods Alive. Owner Matt Alvord is a joy to do business with, and I highly encourage you to check out their website, order some mesquite powder, and discover for yourself the sheer joy of this delicious superfood. Shipping is a flat rate of only $4.95, so take advantage of the opportunity to stock up!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Festive Coconut Wild Rice with Cranberries and Pears

Just a quick post before I dash off to do my holiday meal grocery shopping. If you're looking for a tasty last-minute side dish to serve at your holiday table, this colorful recipe is a snap to put together and will impress your guests.


1 cup wild rice
1 cup long-grain brown rice
3 3/4 cups So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage (I used Original)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 pear, diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)


Rinse wild rice in cold water and drain thoroughly. Place wild rice and brown rice in a large saucepan with the coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender and milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in cranberries, pear, and nuts (if using). Serves 6-8.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review—Skinny Bitch:
Ultimate Everyday Cookbook

My hardcover copy of Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook is sitting on my coffee table instead of hiding on my bookshelf. Like its stunning author, it's just that gorgeous! If you're up against the clock and wondering what to get your favorite vegan cook for Christmas, you'll certainly score points with this book. The photographs are as sexy as any eye candy has a right to be, and the recipes are far above the ordinary—exciting enough to inspire even the most seasoned vegan gourmet.

Kim Barnouin, who is coauthor of the wildly popular Skinny Bitch, has created a collection of knockout vegan recipes. The mouth-watering photographs and descriptions peppered throughout the book made me want to sink my teeth into each and every one of them. But where to begin?

Let's see ... thumbing through the pages, I arrive at something that looks like a fusion of Asian cuisine and Italian food. (That's two-thirds of what Elizabeth Gilbert [and Julia Roberts] ate in Eat, Pray, Love!) And here are both in one sublime recipe: Asian Macaroni and Cheese. Coconut milk, miso, and Panko breadcrumbs give this dish a distinctly Asian twist.

The rich, creamy sauce makes it unforgettable.

I thought I might escape reviewing this book without embarking on a personal culinary challenge. Then the recipe for Crêpes with Raspberry Sauce beckoned to me. I've always been intimidated by the thought of making these ultra-thin pancakes. Kim made it sound easy though, and I figured it was a good time to give my new crêpe pan a workout. After a bit of trial and error, I finally figured out how to get the batter just the right consistency, and I found myself humming the melody of Jamais Seule by Loane and enjoying the process.

The raspberry sauce was simple and sweetly satisfying. Eating my homemade crêpes was like transporting my palate to Paris!

My favorite recipe in the book's entire collection is this fancy-shmancy Caramelized Pear and "Cheese" Crostini with Balsamic Reduction. You'd think that something so complex and tantalizing ought to be reserved for dinner parties or romantic rendevous, but I had so much fun making and eating them, I won't be waiting for a special occasion to enjoy them again. In all honesty, you could just give me a shmear of vegan cream cheese on toast, and I'd be happy. But add the sensuous flavors of caramelized pears and a really good balsamic (I used Bistro Blends Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar), and you've transformed it into an incredible indulgence. I'll be making these lovely little canapés anytime I want to feel special.

When it came to choosing a baked good recipe, I really wanted to try the Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies. To my astonishment, there wasn't a raw pistachio to be found anywhere in Eugene! And while roasted, salted pistachios are abundant, I still wondered if there might be a pistachio shortage, so I googled it. According to at least one source in November (S. Kamberg & Co. Ltd.), the 2010 pistachio crop is at a record high, at least 25% larger than the record 2007 crop! So why no raw pistachios? No one here seems to have a clue.

So while my cookie fantasy had to go on the back burner, I settled on this enticing recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread. (Yes, you read that right!) If you're like me, you love pumpkin bread and you love banana bread, but would you have ever thought of combining the two? (I wouldn't have.) When I peeked into the oven to see how this baby was coming along, I was amazed to see how high it was rising! (So high in fact, that it almost didn't clear the rack above it.)

Since Mark is avoiding nuts at the moment, I decided to substitute chocolate chips for the pecans. This was one seriously tasty dessert bread.

Just in case my little review has not thus far convinced you that this is a cookbook you'd love to give or receive, here's the for recipe for Kim's Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook excerpted by arrangement with Running Press Book Publishers. Copyright © 2010. Enjoy!

Ingredients (for 10 servings):

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk (I substituted So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage)
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup chopped pecans (I substituted dark chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a large loaf pan and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, oil, and milk with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the sugars, vanilla extract, and banana, and beat until creamy. Stir in the pecans (or chocolate chips). Add teh flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until all of the ingredietns are well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Persimmons, Some Coconut Milk, Corn Chowder, and a Book

It's not often that a recipe on someone's Facebook page gets me so excited that I feel the need to jump out of my seat and make it on the spot. But Noelle Ferrada-Kelly's Persimmon Ginger Smoothie had just that effect on me yesterday morning. And since I just happened to have two very ripe Hachiya persimmons, a healthy stash of So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverages, and some fresh ginger hanging around, I had everything I needed to make myself one helluva tasty breakfast!

No sooner did I finish drinking that absolutely sublime smoothie, than So Delicious posted a link to recipe for Vegan Bailey's Irish Cream recipe! I'm not a big drinker, but seriously, one of the things I've really missed since going vegan is Bailey's Irish Cream. I didn't have any coffee on hand, so I'll have to make this another day. But it sounded so incredible, I just had to share the link with you.

The next thing I knew, So Delicious posted a link to a recipe for Vegan Corn Chowder on Jen's A Life of Sugar and Spice blog. It looked very rich and creamy, and it was such a cold, wet day, that by lunchtime, this sounded like the perfect pick-me-up. Basically, Jen substituted So Delicious Coconut Milk and Earth Balance for the dairy called for in the original recipe from She noted that it wasn't as creamy as she'd hoped it would be and that she'd try using So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer and a little less water the next time she made it. That sounded good to me, but I also wanted to reduce the fat, so I used half the Earth Balance called for in the original recipe. I also omitted the parsley, and in hindsight, I wish I would have added some nutmeg. Still, it was dreamy creamy and very warming!

Here's how I made it:


1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 cups water
2 cans cream-style corn
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (Original)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large soup pot, saute onion in Earth Balance until tender. Add the water, corn, and potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 16-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the creamer, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

And the best part of my day arrived courtesy of Bob the mailman. I couldn't have been more excited to rip open the package he delivered today and find that my copy of Appetite for Reduction had arrived! Isa wrote this book especially for me. (She doesn't know that, but I do!) I can't wait to sink my teeth into it! Review to follow soon.