Monday, August 18, 2014

Vegetable Summer Rolls



Summer Rolls and Spring Rolls often get mixed up. Spring Rolls are fried while Summer Rolls are made with rice paper wrappers and are always served cold, with a peanut based dipping sauce.  Summer Rolls are always gluten free as the wrapper is made of only rice.

I love these as a snack or even as my whole meal, since they are full of yummy vegetables. Prepping all the ingredients can take time so I dont make them very often. The peanut dipping sauce is really worth all the work though. 

There are endless combinations of fillings you can use for these and I have provided my favorite, vegetarian version. You can also add cooked shrimp, thin slices of cucumber, or bean sprouts, mint and cilantro leaves. I like mine better than any of the ones I get in a restaurant because I can put all my favorite ingredients in. 

Vegetable Summer Rolls
Makes 30 Rolls

Dipping Sauce
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice, about 1 lime
5 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp ginger juice, from freshly grated ginger (or more if you like ginger)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp hot chili sauce like sambal oelek
Chopped green onion to garnish

In a medium bowl, mix sauce ingredients, set aside to let flavors develop.  
*Tip: if you cannot have peanut butter, the sauce is also good with almond butter instead.


Fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil. Add carrots, and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, just until soft, but still slightly firm, pull carrots out, rinse under cold water and place on a paper towel. Bring water back up to a boil and repeat the same steps with the green beans.  After removing green beans, turn heat off, and add rice noodles to the water, to soak – following package instructions.  Rinse with cold water and set aside in colander to cool and dry. 

Assemble all the filling ingredients on the counter, around a large, clean cutting board, or a clean, empty spot on your counter if it has a smooth surface. 

Take a bowl big enough to fit the wrappers in (I used the tin pan below) and half fill it with cold water. One at a time, place a wrapper in the water until it is pliable, about 30 to 40 seconds, but not completely soft. Lay flat on your counter.


Place a piece of lettuce just below the center of the wrapper, then layer on top a basil leaf and the rest of the vegetables, (3 to 4 pieces of each, carrot, green bean, bell, and 1 or 2 slices of avocado). 




Bring the bottom of the wrapper, (side closest to you) up over the filling, tucking it in, then fold the left and right sides in over the filling and gently roll away from you, pressing gently to form a tight roll, and end seam side down. Place on a plate and repeat.  If you get a good groove going, you can assemble the filling, and then before starting to roll, place the next wrapper in the water to soften. If you are moving slowly though, they will get too soft by the time you get to it and you should just wait and do them one at a time. 



Cover rolls with wet paper towels to keep them fresh and soft. Best served the same day. (Mine were still good on the second day, but by the third the wrappers were either too dry or falling apart.)



Serve cold, or at room temp. The sauce will firm up in the fridge if you make it ahead of time. Make sure to take it out of the fridge about an hour before serving to check if is the right consistency. It should be slightly thick, but still pourable. Add a little water if needed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cooking for First Descents

Heart shaped rocks found by the river in Tarkio

When I first got involved, I didn't know what cooking for First Descents would be like, but at the same time I knew it was what I needed to do. I just had no clue at the time how much the experience would mean to me.

I first learned about First Descents from my culinary school's alumni job board.  Back in March of this year, there was a post that FD was looking for a west coast chef for a program this summer.  Within 5 minutes of the post going up, I was on the phone asking about it.   I have cooked for retreats before and it is my absolute favorite kind of setting to work in. The fact that these trips would also mean cooking for people dealing with cancer just made it even more of a perfect match for me.


When the idea first came to me about going to culinary school back 10 years ago, it was partly because I had a passion bubbling inside of me to cook for people with compromised immune systems, specifically, those with AIDS and those going through cancer treatments. I had lost my own Mother to stomach cancer 5 years previous to that. Going through her cancer experience brought us both new realizations about the link between food and health. I started studying naturopathic healing systems and my interest in clean, healthy food grew. Unfortunately, my Mom passed so quickly that we were not able to make a difference in her diagnosis. Over the years I realized I wanted to find a way to give back and help others in a way that I was not able to help her.

Evening campfire in Hood River, OR

I jumped into working with First Descents and immediately committed to two weeks in Hood River, Oregon in June.

View of Mt Hood from the deck


It took about one day of being there, meeting the Program Directors, all the participants and volunteers, that I was begging to do more programs this summer. I am incredibly lucky and was asked to do a week in Tarkio, Montana in August, and two weeks in Santa Barbara coming up in September.




Cooking for a group like this means long days in the kitchen. We made breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus an afternoon happy (or "appy") hour which gives the group something to snack on when they get back from the river. The menus are meant to be healthy, but also just good, clean, familiar food. We also have to tailor our menus to accommodate food allergies and try to keep everything low sugar and organic whenever possible.

Burger Night in Tarkio

While I and my sous chef are cooking away in the kitchen all day, the group goes out and learns how to kayak, surf or rock climb. The three programs I have done so far have been kayaking trips.  For many of the participants this is the first time they have ever been in a kayak. And, they have just left their home and come across the country to a new place where they do not know anyone. But none of that matters. They are surrounded by people that are happy they are there. They are among people with similar stories and struggles, and somehow, out in the great outdoors and on the river, the magic of creating a new family, happens.

Evening campfire in Tarkio, MT

What I get out of being a part of this group is hard to express. This is unlike any other cooking job I have ever had, and maybe it is because it really doesn't feel like a "job".  I can only say that I am thankful to be a part of these trips and to meet so many strong, courageous and inspiring people.  And did I mentioned they are all between the ages of 18 and 39? (yeah, cancer sucks.)  As I shared at one of the evening campfires, I may be physically tired, but my heart is full.



I even got to leave the kitchen one morning and get out on the river with the group. Now that was fun. Nothing like being out on the river with the sun and rapids to remind you to slow down, stop thinking and worrying about everything, and appreciate the day.

Rafting in Montana with our guide, Uncle Dirt

My life is forever changed for having been a part of this amazing family. I am thankful for the people I have met and the stories I have heard. The beauty of Mt Hood and Tarkio, Montana sure don't hurt either.


Oh, and I learned a new recipe for these delicious treats, a natural chocolate truffle. YUM! Don't ask me what is in them, just let me make some for you. You will thank me later.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yummy Lima Bean Dip



If you were asked if you would like some lima bean dip, you might be just like me and think, "uh, no thanks." I was given a menu to work off of that had lima bean dip as one of the snacks and at first I wasnt expecting it to be a great dish. Once we got started working on it though, it was surprisingly good. Lima beans are also called "butter beans" because of their creamy and buttery texture. Similar to garbanzo beans in hummus, they can take on whatever flavor of herbs and spices you want to throw in. 


This is great as a snack in the afternoon, or put it out at a party instead of regular hummus. I like to serve it with these crackers from Food Should Taste Good.




Ingredients
1 16-oz bag frozen baby lima beans
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
Picked parsley leaves from 2 to 3 stems, about 1 tbsp
Juice of ½ lemon, about 1 tbsp
Zest of ½ lemon, about 1 tsp
3 tbsp olive oil


3-4 tbsp water (optional)

Procedure
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add lima beans and garlic cloves, bring back to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Place lima beans and garlic in a food processor, add the remaining ingredients except water and process until completely smooth.  If the lima bean mix does not move smoothly add a tablespoon at a time of water until mixture is completely smooth.  Taste and add more salt or lemon zest if desired.


Place in serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but 1 to 2 hours is best.  Dip will get better as it sits, giving the flavors a chance to develop and becomes completely cold.

Serve with your favorite dippers like carrot sticks and crackers.

Next time I make it I want to play around with adding a little cooked bacon or sauteed shallots. 

**Note: I reduced the amount of oil in this recipe and added some water instead to create a creamy consistency. I wanted to maintain the flavor of the lima beans instead of muddling it with the flavor of olive oil.  You can add more oil if you like. Other additions that would be really good are cumin, cilantro instead of parsley, fresh dill or a little pesto instead of the water.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fantastic Carrot Cake


I mentioned before how I have been thinking about carrot cake a lot lately. It just happens to be my husband's favorite kind of cake. I like to make it as muffins and leave it unfrosted. I think the cake is tasty and sweet enough without the added sugar. For company though, I add a cream cheese frosting.


Here is my unfrosted gluten and dairy free version. I have also made a non-dairy frosting using a combination of shortening and margarine instead of the butter and cream cheese. You can also use tofu-based cream cheese like Tofutti, which I only use sparingly. It is a little too over processed for me. 

So onto the cake:

INGREDIENTS:

Dry
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cardamom

Wet
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups canola or grapeseed oil
2 tsp vanilla

2 cups finely shredded carrot, packed
3/4 cup golden raisins

PROCEDURE:

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray two 8" cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment.  Or place 12 muffin cups into muffin tin.

Measure out all dry ingredients into a medium size bowl and whisk to mix.  Set aside.

Place all of the wet ingredients except the carrot and raisins in a separate larger bowl and using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat on a low to medium setting until well incorporated. 

Add the dry mix to the wet and beat again until the batter just comes together. 

Add carrot and raisins and stir to mix with a rubber spatula.

Pour batter into cake pans or muffin cups and bake for 35 minutes.



Cupcakes reduce time to 20 minutes.  Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Carrot Cake Part I - how to convert a recipe to gluten free



I have been hearing a lot of talk about carrot cake lately, and it has made me want some, badly.  All I need is to hear a mention of a food once, and it gets me thinking about it, especially if it is something I havent had in awhile.  Then if another person mentions that food too, well, then I am on a mission to get some.  That is just how strange cravings can be.  So, I could either go out and try and find one at a store that is gluten free, or try to make it myself.  I lean more towards making it myself because anything fresh is going to beat what is in the freezer section.

I remembered the carrot cake I made during culinary school being really good. I was gluten free back then, but still had to go along with the majority of the curiculum and make my cake with regular flour.  I still have all my recipes from school so I decided that was a good place to start. I dug it out along with the picture I took of my creation (because I was just that organized and even then understood the value of capturing everything I made).

I took a look at the recipe and began my notes for conversion. The original recipe called for 3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.  I created a blend of brown rice, potato, tapioca and sorghum flours to equal 3 cups including a tsp or two of xantham gum (for better binding).  Then I left everything else in the recipe the same. I love how the school's recipe suggests coconut oil or canola, so I used coconut. I thought it would really complement everything else in the recipe.


40 minutes later and I had a beautiful set of carrot cupcakes. I found them to be a little crumbly so I will be making a second round with a few tweaks.  I read recently that sweet rice flour helps to reduce the crumbliness of gluten free baked goods so I am thinking about adding that into my flour mix.  I will post my recipe once I get out the kinks.  This batch is definitely worthy of eating and sharing so I decided I should dress them up a bit. I didnt have any cream cheese in the house (I cant eat cheese either) so I put together a vegan buttercream made of spectrum vegetable shortening, earth balance margarine, powdered sugar and some vanilla. It actually tastes better than it sounds. Cream Cheese would have been perfect, but this frosting looked really nice too.
 

Then, they still needed a little something extra so I shredded some carrot and toasted it in the oven. I also toasted some coconut, added that to my toasted carrots and sprinkled the mixture over the cupcakes. 
Perfect!


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dairy Free Product Review: Treeline Treenut Cheese


I noticed this "cheese" at Whole Foods a few weeks ago and it reminded me of a nut cheese the chefs were sampling back when I was interning at Pure Food and Wine in New York City. There was a local guy making a fermented cheese from cashews which was exciting news for a vegan and raw restaurant let alone for those of us who are vegan or allergic to dairy. (I wonder if this is the same cheese....)

As a dairy free eater, it is really hard to replace cheese in recipes as well as just missing how easy it is to eat as a snack with crackers.  There are plenty of soy, rice and almond cheese replacements out there, but I haven't found any that I like. They either mess with my stomach (way too many chemicals and fillers) or they just aren't like real cheese so I would rather go without.  


This tree nut cheese may just have changed that for me. Treeline is non- dairy, non-GMO, gluten free, soy free and artisan-made in Hudson Valley, New York. I have tried the two available creamy products, Herb-Garlic and Scallion and loved them both. They have a smooth texture and the taste is slightly tangy.


The ingredients are simple: cashew nuts, filtered water, l. acidophilus, dried scallions, sea salt, lemon juice, white pepper, garlic and onion powders, dried parsley, basil and oregano. The price tag is a little steep, $7.49 for 6oz. Looks like it is available at most Whole Foods stores.


I topped the crackers above with some pesto and a crunchy garlic chili condiment called Chile Crunch.


I am looking forward to putting this cheese out at my next party and see if the regular dairy eaters notice. There are a few recipes on the Treeline website using their cheeses in macaroni and cheese and risotto. I wonder how this would work in a salmon mousse instead of using cream cheese. I think it could also replace goat cheese in a beet and arugula salad. Yum!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meeting Joe Cross and My Green Juice Recipe


I was very excited to meet Joe Cross in person when he came through our area on his book tour back in April. A friend and I went to meet him at Book Passage, in Corte Madera. I am not sure when I first saw his movie, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, but it really resonated with me as his approach to health just made sense. You can read his story here, but basically, he was overweight, on a bunch of medications and didn't like where his health was headed. He decided to try and heal himself by going back to eating a plant based diet which took the form of juicing. The film is his journey through juicing for 60 days while driving across the United States. Spoiler Alert.... it was a great success.

Since the movie (2010) he has launched a huge online support system for people that want to "reboot" like he did, called Reboot with Joe. His team provides online support as well as guided reboots throughout the year. I joined a 3-day online class back in January that really helped me to start the year off right. I ended up taking the 3 days and stretching it into a 16 day juice fast. I felt absolutely amazing.

This book tour was to promote his first book, "The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet". I find Joe to be so dynamic and inspirational in his movie as well as in a couple interviews I have seen online. He was just as energetic and personable in person. 



He talked for well over an hour about his story and most importantly, how he has been since the movie. I enjoyed hearing about what his diet is like now, since finishing the juice only cleanse and how he has kept healthy and balanced while eating real foods and still incorporates green juice into his daily life.  And of course there was a green juice demo during his visit.



He asked the crowd if there was anyone there that had never had a green juice before and surprisingly, there was three. He asked them to come up and sample the juice he had just made. One of them immediately liked it, so for the other two, he added more apples to the juice. Once there was a little more fruit in the balance of the vegetable juice, they came to like it as well. 

I have enjoyed making fresh juices for a long time and my very first post about vegetable juicing was in 2008 with this Kale, Cucumber, Apple Juice. Clearly I was already a juicing fan before I saw his movie. Since doing the 16 day juice cleanse earlier this year, I have tried to incorporate a green juice into my diet every day. The picture below is my most common combination: 


Andrea's Green Juice
3 bunches dino kale, also known as lacinato kale
2 bunches spinach, not the bagged kind
5 celery stalks
1 -2 cucumbers, depending on size
5-6 apples, usually 3 green, 3 Fuji

Place all vegetables through the juicer, and store juice in an airtight, preferably glass pitcher. This many vegetables turns into about 8 cups of juice. I drink about a third of this per day, so this lasts me for at least 2 days, unless I am sharing it with my husband. If I think I am not going to go through it all, then I place some of the juice in an empty ice tray and freeze it. That way it stays relatively fresh and I can use it later. 


Vegetables juices are always better the same day they are made. I think the second day is ok too, but I wouldn't go longer than that. If you don't want to make this much, then just do half, or go here to look through Joe's recipes

Monday, July 28, 2014

Black Bean and Lentil Cakes


I have been making these lentil cakes for years now, never writing anything down. As a private chef I tend to getting working in the kitchen and try to get everything done on schedule, and there just isn't extra time for making notes. When you have been cooking awhile, especially in commercial kitchens, you go in knowing the basics of the recipes you need to make and then you just season and tweak until its perfect. How much salt did I just put in there? I don't know... enough to make it taste just right. 


I recently spent some time in Hood River, Oregon, cooking for two First Descents retreats.  They provide "outdoor adventure experiences for young adult cancer fighters and survivors designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same".  It was a life changing two weeks and if you don't already know about them, you should.  I will write more about them later.

I made these lentil cakes for the vegetarians on Burger Night, but I saw them on the plates of the meat eaters too. Even though I eat meat, I love these as a leftover snack the next day, hot or cold. I was asked for the recipe, so it was time to sit down and finally iron out the details. 





Black Bean and Lentil Cakes
Makes 8 cakes

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped small
1 medium carrot, chopped small
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 can black beans, 15oz
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 ½ cups cooked French green lentils, or Beluga lentils
1 tsp rice flour (optional)
1 tsp tapioca flour  (optional)


Procedure:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat small saute pan over medium heat, once hot, add olive oil and onion and saute until onion softens, about 1 minute,  then add carrot and cook 2 more minutes stirring frequently. Then add garlic, stir, and turn off heat. Let cool.

Place black beans in food processor with cumin, paprika, thyme, salt and parsley and process until smooth.  Add the onion mixture and lentils and pulse until incorporated.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray with oil to give a light coating.


Using an ice cream scoop, form into balls and place on baking sheet.  (My scoop holds about 1/3 t0 1/2 cup. If you have a smaller scoop that is fine, you will end up with more patties. And if you don't have a scoop at all, then just form the balls with your hands.)


Press down on ball to form patties about ½ inch high, pinching to close up any major cracks along the edges. If mixture breaks apart too easily, add the flours, and mix again. Repeat until all of the black bean mix has been used.



Place in lower half of oven, this will help the bottoms to brown, and bake for 25 minutes. 


Remove from oven and carefully flip patties over with a large spatula, the patties may still be soft, so be careful not to break them.  Place back in the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.



I like to serve these with a little basil mixed into some crème fraiche (for the dairy eaters) or my remoulade (fancy name for tartar sauce made with cashew creme). A chipotle mayo could be good, or guacamole seasoned with a little hot sauce like Lucky Dog Dia Del Perro.

Enjoy!