Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tomatos, Cukes & Avocados 

Do I really need to say more? Such a pretty, fresh salad.  I ate it as my main course last night and it was delicious and filing.   I did make a few changes to the recipe to try to lighten up the fat content.

Here is what you will need for my version:

1 English cucumber, peeled & diced
4 tomatoes, diced
2 avocados diced
1/2 small red onion sliced thinly
The juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
black pepper, to taste

Mix your veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix together your lemon juice, tahini & vinegar. Pour your dressing over the veggies & toss. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Serve immediately. This makes about four generous side salads or two very generous main salads. 

I subbed tahini paste, which is made from sesame seeds, for the olive oil in the recipe because, I am trying not to add oil to my food. The tahini paste is high in fat but about half the fat of olive oil. Tahini paste also has protein, fiber, calcium and iron. Here's how the two stack up:

Olive oil (Trader Joe's)
(per serving of ONE Tbsp)
120 calories, 14g of fat, 2g of saturated fat, 0 Carbs, 0 fiber, 
0 Protein

Tahini paste (Whole Foods organic) 
(per serving of TWO Tbsp)
170 calories, 16g of fat, 2g of saturated fat, 6 Carbs, 3g fiber, 5g protein. AND 10% of your daily recommended intake of calcium & iron.

So for one Tbsp of tahini, the calories are 85 & the fat is 8g. That is for the entire salad, which easily feeds at least two people. The tahini adds a rich, nutty flavor and makes the dressing very creamy. Olive oil, or any oil, for that matter is just pure fat. Oils do not bring any protein, fiber or nutrients to the dish. 

Next time I will make this with only one avocado to further lower the fat content. The addition of chick peas or beans will boost the protein content. Or better yet: Put the salad in a pita bread with some tempeh bacon. Oh the possibilities  are endless.

The original recipe was on FB. Click on this: Salad

Granola, anyone?

Peanut, raisin, chocolate chip granola.

Who doesn't love granola? 

There are a plethora of uses for the sweet,  crunchy and delectable tidbits. I have sprinkled it on my homemade soy Greek yogurt and on Trader Joe's soy vanilla ice-cream. I've even eaten it straight up out of the container. Some people claim that it is not healthy because of it's high fat & sugar content. I also struggle to find granola without nuts or sunflower oil, which are the things that I am deathly allergic to. Such a drama queen! But there is no reason for  me to despair. I can make my own, of course! 

"But why, Ellie, would I want to take 30 minutes out of my life to make it, when I can grab a bag off the shelf?" 

Here's why:

You control the quality of the ingredients: Organic  and NON-GMO or not. 

You control the amount of fat and sugar.

And my favorite reason: You can customize it to your liking. Add nuts, raisins, chocolate chips. Or don't add anything!

I have not figured out the cost per batch, but I am pretty sure it costs less to make your own.

Here's what you need:

An 8" x 8" brownie pan, or 11" x 7" pan. Lightly spray the bottom of the pan with your oil mister using vegetable, safflower or sunflower oil. Or cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup of rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
3 Tbsp of flour (regular or gluten free) ONLY, if you are making  granola bars. I use white whole wheat flour for everything.

Your add ins. These are optional. Add one, some or none: 
1/2 cup raisins, raisins or other dried fruit
1/2 cup of almonds or peanuts or cashews
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds

Wet Ingredients:
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp of maple syrup
2 - 6 Tbsp of oil (optional, see note below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add your add ins to this bowl and stir until well combined. In a small bowl mix your wet ingredients thoroughly. Add the wet to the dry and mix well. Add to prepared pan and if you have not added any oil to the mix you can spray the top of the granola lightly with your oil mister. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Please stir it once after 10 minutes in the oven. Let it cool in the pan and then place in a sealed container. Will keep for at least a week, but I doubt it will last that long!

The oil is totally optional, however if you want to make a bar that will hold together, you will need to add all of it (6 Tbsp). To make granola bars, also add the 3 Tbsp of flour to the dry ingredients. I suggest using parchment paper in your pan to make it easier to remove the entire block from the pan. When your block is totally cooled, cut into 8 individual bars.
A little bit of oil does make a yummier batch of granola, but if you are trying to avoid any added fat; the recipe works well without it.

My granola is based on this granola bar recipe, by Jamie Geller, click on the link for more ideas!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Yogurt of the gods, Greek gods, that is....

Have you noticed how people have completely lost their minds over Greek yogurt? There are entire walls of it in the grocery stores. Whipped, low fat, add ins etc.. Everyone is getting on the Greek yogurt band wagon because it is so high in protein. But has anyone noticed how much sugar they contain? Not to mention, most of it is made with dairy milk, which I choose not to consume. My answer to that is to make my own non-dairy Greek yogurt.

The gods were looking down on me one day when they showed me the way to a Groupon listing for my yogurt maker by Dash. It was inexpensive and it came with cute little yogurt travel cups. The ones with a separate compartment for my own add-ins! Perfect!

My yogurt maker!

Incase, you were wondering: Greek yogurt is plain old yogurt that is strained. Its's strained for several hours to get it to a thicker consistency and higher protein concentration. That's it! No big mystery there.

My simple ingredients

What I love about making my own yogurt is the absolute simplicity of the ingredients and the process itself. All you need for ingredients are 5 cups of non-dairy milk and a 1/2 cup of plain non-dairy yogurt with live cultures for you "starter.' I use unsweetened, plain soy milk. The ones by West Soy a& Trader Joe's are made with soybeans and water. Period. No additives or gums. For my starter I have tried plain soy & plain coconut milk yogurt and I have had good success with both kinds.

Equipment needed are basic: 

A double boiler, or a glass bowl that sits in a pot. After a few batches, I broke down and bought a double boiler by De-buyer. It has made yogurt making much easier for me.
A food thermometer
A whisk
A yogurt maker. In all honesty, you can do with out it. Basically you need to keep your liquid at a constant temperature for a certain amount of time. But, this device was inexpensive and it features a timer, a strainer & 4 very cute yogurt containers.

The strainer included is worth it's weight in gold!

So now that you've compiled your ingredients and equipment, let's make yogurt:

Step one: take your starter yogurt out of the fridge and let it reach room temp while you prepare your non-dairy milk.

Step two: place 5 cups of non dairy milk in a double boiler or a pyrex, heat safe bowl over a pot filled with water. Over medium heat bring water up to a boil and heat "milk" until it reaches a temp of 110 degrees Farenheit. Do not let the milk boil, or your pan run out of water!or simply put your non dairy milk in a  microwave safe bowl and heat for 60 seconds at a time until temp is reached. (note that dairy milk has to be heated to 180 degrees to break down the protein chains. you do not need to do that with non dairy milks)
My make shift double boiler: pyrex bowl on top of a sauce pan
Step three: Remove milk from heat and let it cool to 100 degrees Farenheit. This will take about 5 minutes. Do not let it get any cooler than that.

Adding in my starter.
Step four: whisk in1/2 cup of plain unflavored yogurt with live cultures. You can save half a cup of your finished yogurt to use as a starter for your next batch. It is recommended that you only do that a couple of times. After that, use a commercially prepared plain yogurt, to ensure the cultures will be strong enough.

Step five: after adding starter yogurt, pour into your yogurt maker, cover and let it sit for nine to eleven hours. Non-dairy milks require more time than cow milk.

Step six: pour warm yogurt into a fine strainer or cheesecloth and let strain for 2 hour in the fridge. This will give you the thick consistency that is Greek yogurt, but here's the deal: If it's too thick for your taste add back some of the liquid. Too thin? Let it strain longer. 

Now you have about five half cup servings of plain Greek yogurt. Or four servings and one starter for your next batch. I add fruit, granola and a little maple syrup to flavor mine. It's delicious, dairy free and I control the amount of sweetness!

The finished product!
Next time I'll share my recipe for homemade granola!

Granola with & without nuts
Granola with peanuts, raisins & mini chocolate chips!