Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

This time of year, many people catch Pumpkin Fever, a perfectly harmless virus kept in check only by immediate administration of pumpkin pie, or other pumpkin-rich treat.

When you’re in the kitchen baking up a batch of tasty gluten-free pumpkin muffins, or pumpkin recipe of your choice (I recommend my Pumpkin-Date Blondies, which happen to be not only delicious, but vegan, refined sugar-free, and grain-free as well) you don’t have to wait for that timer to buzz. You can get a quick and easy pumpkin fix by sipping a wonderfully refreshing Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (also vegan, refined-sugar free, and grain-free). Bonus: It’ll keep you cool while the ovens heat up the kitchen.

You can use canned or homemade pureed pumpkin in this smoothie. If you roast your own pumpkin, it’s better to chill the pumpkin puree before using it in a smoothie. Hot, fresh from the oven roasted pumpkin is deliciously tempting, a lot of mine gets directly eaten as soon as it’s done, but for smoothies, it’s much better cooled off first. In fact, the more ingredients that are pre-chilled, the frostier your smoothie will be.

You can even freeze the coconut milk. Just measure out the desired amount of coconut milk and sliced bananas and place into a freezer bag. Carefully squeeze all the air out of the bag, seal it, and lay it flat in your freezer. A thin layer of coconut milk and banana works best. Don’t squeeze too many into a bag or you’ll end up with a tropical frozen brick. When you’re ready for a smoothie, take a bag out, gently bend it to break up the contents into pieces, and pour into your blender with the other ingredients.

To make your smoothie even frostier, make ice cubes out of some of the cup of coconut water ahead of time. The ratio of coconut water ice cubes to liquid coconut water will be determined by how well your blender handles ice.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Yield: serves 2

Calories per serving: 204

Fat per serving: 7 g

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut water (without added sugar)
  • 5-6 (40 grams) Deglet Noor dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (cooking kind, not coconut milk beverage)
  • 1/2 cup frozen sliced bananas

Instructions

  1. Put the coconut water, dates, hemp seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into a blender jar. A high-speed blender works best. For a BlendTec, press the WHOLE JUICE button. For others, blend until smooth. If your blender is not very powerful, you may need to chop and/or soak the dates first.
  2. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and banana slices. Press the SMOOTHIE button, or blend until smooth.
  3. Serve as is, or top with whipped/chilled coconut cream, coconut cream froth, or your favorite gluten-free gingersnaps or graham crackers.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/pumpkin-pie-smoothie/

Be creative and add toppings to your Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Chilled/whipped coconut cream is a classic vegan whipped cream replacement, but did you ever try Coconut Cream Froth?

I discovered Coconut Cream Froth one day when I didn’t chill my canned coconut cream far enough ahead in advance. It’s light, airy, and delicious, and will make you look like a vegan master chef.

You’ll need coconut cream, canned or UHT. Make sure there are no added gums or stabilizers. Pour it into a container with a tight fitting lid and extra room for shaking. Shake well, let it settle a bit, and a light frothy foam will rise to the top or stick to the lid. Like frothed milk for a latte.

Dee-lish! Makes me want to whip up a hot pumpkin drink just so I can top it with Coconut Cream Froth.

To give your Pumpkin Pie Smoothie a real pumpkin pie vibe, crumble some gluten-free gingersnaps or graham crackers on the top for a crust-like crunch. I’m not sure which gluten-free cookies are best. I generally try to avoid sugar, and now grains as well. If you have a favorite gluten-free cookie brand or recipe, especially grain-free or refined sugar-free, please share.

(This recipe was shared at: Tasty Traditions, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Keep It Real Thursday, Healthy Vegan Friday, Wellness Weekend, Pumpkin Potluck Party)

Sublime!

Fall may have fallen in some parts of the universe, but it still feels like mid-summer to me. So I’m glad for a cool, refreshing drink that’s as lovely to look at as it is to drink.

I love a good green smoothie, but let’s be honest. More often than not, they come out looking like mud. Tasty, healthy mud, but mud nonetheless.

That’s why I was simply tickled pink (or lime green!) that my Sublime Lime Smoothie came out looking as gorgeous as it is delicious and nutritious.

You can thank organic baby spinach for that lovely shade of green. Spinach is one of those Dirty Dozen veggies that are particularly high in pesticide residue, so buy organic spinach whenever you can. (Learn more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.) Baby spinach is very mild in green smoothies. It doesn’t make them taste like salad in a glass at all.

A trio of tangy ingredients helps the lime flavor pop. First of all lime, including the zest, organic if possible when eating citrus peel. Next pineapple for its incomparable sweetness and also hints of tartness that brighten the limey flavor. And finally, So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk.

Don’t have or never seen Cultured Coconut Milk before? You could substitute dairy kefir or another non-dairy beverage, but I encourage you to look for So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk. Ask for it at your local health food store. (Visit the So Delicious Dairy Free website to learn more about Cultured Coconut Milk and other dairy-free products or print a coupon.)

Cultured Coconut Milk is one of my favorite non-dairy smoothie bases. Goes fabulously with a wide variety of fruit flavors. It has 10 active, live cultures and is certified gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO. It’s also soy-free, nut-free, and the original flavor is refined sugar-free as well.

Frozen, sliced bananas for sweet, non-dairy creaminess, and a splash of vanilla round out the simple, healthy ingredient list. (Making your own vanilla extract is easy, economical, and fun. Check out my Making Vanilla Extract, part 1 post. Guess it’s time for a part 2 update cause the homemade vanilla turned out fantastic!)

Finally if you must gild the lime green lily (and I say, “Why not!”) chilled coconut cream is a decadently delicious choice. You can separate the cream from the liquid, whip it with a mixer, or any number of advance preparations if you like. I just chill the coconut milk or cream and scoop a dollop on top. Simple and delish. Don’t buy the low-fat kind with too much added water or you will have to separate it. Look for 60-100% coconut milk/cream in cans or tetra-paks.

Sublime Lime Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 8 ounces

Calories per serving: 107

Fat per serving: 2 grams

Sublime Lime Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 organic lime
  • 3/4 cup So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk, Original Flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups organic baby spinach, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup frozen banana slices
  • 3/4 cup frozen pineapple tidbits
  • (fresh pineapple, chopped and frozen or pineapple canned in juice, drained and frozen also works if you can't find frozen pineapple)
  • Optional garnish: thick coconut milk or cream, chilled

Instructions

  1. Zest the half lime and set aside the lime zest.
  2. For a high-speed blender, peel the half lime, making sure to remove any thick bitter white pith. The thin membrane is OK to leave.
  3. For a regular blender, juice the half lime. (about 1 tablespoon)
  4. Put the lime or lime juice and half of the lime zest into the blender jar. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.
  5. If you have a regular blender, you may want to chop the spinach first, or blend the spinach with the liquids a little before adding the frozen fruit, depending on how powerful the blender is or isn't.
  6. For a BlendTec, press the "Smoothie" button. For all others, blend until smooth.
  7. Garnish with a dollop of chilled coconut milk, if desired, and the remaining lime zest.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/sublime/

Are you a green smoothie fan? What do you like to put in green smoothies?

(This recipe was shared at: Fat Tuesday, Fit & Fabulous Friday, Gluten Free Friday, Healthy Vegan Friday, Wellness Weekend)

Guacamole Fresco

Guacamole. Two words: Love it!

You had me at avocado. However, if any of you need more convincing, how about cool, refreshing, and bursting with fresh farmer’s market goodness!

In this easy-peazy guacamole recipe, you don’t even have to mash the avocado. Just chop and stir. Not too much stirring, or you’ll end up mashing the avocados in spite of yourself.

To ensure a wonderful chunky texture, make sure one of your avocados is firm ripe. Not rock hard though. Rock hard avocados are definitely NOT delicious. Trust me on this. (View the California Avocado Commission’s Hass Avocado Stages of Ripeness guide.)

I created this chunky Guacamole Fresco for this month’s Gluten-Free Whole Foods Vegan Cooking Class. We served it on Roost Blog’s Raw Tacos with Cashew Sour Cream.

We used butter lettuce for the tacos instead of cabbage, but any sturdy leafy green will do. Use your favorite or whichever one is freshest! A perfect combination for those lazy late summer days when it’s too hot to cook.

Also featured at August’s cooking class was Jan’s delicious Black Bean Quinoa Salad. (stay tuned, recipe coming soon!)

Guacamole Fresco

Guacamole Fresco

Ingredients

  • 2-3 avocados, diced 1/2 inch (2 cups)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced (1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced (2 tablespoons)
  • a sprinkling of lime zest, optional
  • Coarsely ground Himalayan or sea salt

Instructions

  1. Prep all ingredients as indicated.
  2. Place all the ingredients except salt and optional lime zest in a bowl. Stir gently to combine. Stir less for a very chunky guacamole. Stir more to make it smoother.
  3. Add salt to taste and lime zest if desired.
  4. Enjoy!
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/guacamole-fresco/

P.S. If you love avocados as much as I do, you’ll be thrilled to know that this guacamole can shine all on it’s own as a wonderful avocado salad. No chips or tacos required.

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)

Happy Father’s Day!

Mom, Dad, and I

When I was little and our family visited Disneyland, my dad’s favorite treat was a chocolate-covered frozen banana.

He couldn’t wait till afternoon came and it warmed up enough for the ice cream vendors to roll out their carts. So these frozen fruit pops are for my father.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

I’ve given them a bit of an update and a healthy makeover, adding strawberries and taking away the refined sugar and other additives. Raw carob powder provides natural sweetness and cocoa powder provides chocolate-y goodness. The combination of carob and cocoa comes out to be about as sweet as dark chocolate, making it a nice counterpoint to the intense sweetness of ripe fruit. If you prefer a sweeter coating, add a little of your favorite sweetener to taste.

Carob

Carob is rich in calcium and other minerals, as well as antioxidants. It is said to be good for digestion and lowering inflammation. I don’t consider carob a chocolate replacement, though. The main thing carob has in common with chocolate is its color. Instead I use carob for it’s own unique properties and taste.

Cocoa

While you can use either natural cocoa powder or Dutch processed cocoa in this recipe, I prefer Dutch processed cocoa for making the fruit pops’ coating. Dutch processed cocoa is treated with an alkali, which neutralizes some of the cocoa’s acid. This makes the cocoa powder darker and slightly reddish. The darker the cocoa powder, the more acid has been removed. Black cocoa powder, what gives Oreo cookies their deep color, has had most of the acid removed.

Cocoa Powders: Natural on the left and Dutch Processed on the right

You would imagine that darker cocoa powder would have a stronger flavor, but it’s actually more mellow. Dutching takes away the bitter, sour, and fruity notes of chocolate. If you are a chocolate aficionado, you will probably pick up on this. However the amount of chocolate is small in relation to the amount of fruit, and my tasters couldn’t tell a difference.

Dutching also makes the cocoa powder dissolve more easily. Natural and Dutch processed cocoa are interchangeable in some recipes. When baking soda is called for in a recipe, you should use natural cocoa powder, because the acids in natural cocoa are needed to react with the baking soda and make the batter rise.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is what makes this coating harden like Magic Shell topping. Coconut oil is a solid at temperatures under 76° F (24.4° C). When the topping touches the frozen fruit, it hardens in a matter of seconds! (Click here for more about coconut oil.)

Fruit

Bananas are the traditional frozen fruit treat. They’re sweet, creamy, and they freeze well. Use ripe bananas that have a few brown spots. This is a great way to use up ripe bananas before they go bad, especially in the summertime when they ripen so quickly. Don’t use under-ripe bananas, which will tend to be hard, starchy, and not very sweet or creamy.

I’ve added fresh summer strawberries, since they are at their peak in June. Strawberries work in this recipe, but freeze a little harder than bananas, due to their higher water content. Experiment with your favorite fruit to see what you like best!

Frozen Fruit Pops

Frozen Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons raw carob powder
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder for raw pops)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • OPTIONAL
  • chopped toasted nuts
  • unsweetened macaroon coconut

Instructions

  1. At least 4 hours ahead or overnight, cut the bananas into approximately 1 inch chunks, and remove the strawberry cores.
  2. Stack the fruit onto lollipop sticks. I place a strawberry on the bottom and a banana chunk on top because strawberries take a little longer to thaw than bananas. With the banana on top, it will get eaten first and give the strawberry more time to soften. For frozen bananas on a stick, cut the bananas into halves or thirds.
    I don't recommend using bamboo skewers. They have a sharp point and tend to break easily.
    You can also simply freeze the fruit pieces without sticks for frozen fruit bonbons.
    Place the fruit into freezer bags in a loose single layer so they will not stick to each other. You can also harden the fruit on a tray in the freezer for a short time before putting them into freezer bags. Just don't leave the bananas open to the air in the freezer overnight or they may turn brown.
  3. Add the carob, cocoa (or cacao) and vanilla to the coconut oil, and stir until all the powders are dissolved and the topping is smooth. A glass measuring cup is a good thing to mix the topping in.
  4. If the room temperature is too cool, the coconut oil may not stay liquid. Place your cup/bowl of topping into a larger bowl of hot water to make a water bath as shown below. Be careful not to splash water into the topping.
    For a sweeter topping, add a bit of sugar, stevia, or the sweetener of your choice and mix well. Be sure to dip a piece of frozen fruit to try it out first, because the topping tastes different depending on whether it's liquid or hardened.
  5. Working quickly, dip the fruit into the topping. You can tilt the cup/bowl to more easily coat the fruit completely. A thin coating is best. If you work too slowly, the coating will be thicker.
  6. Place the coated frozen fruit onto parchment or waxed paper. If you don't want a flat side on your fruit pop, hold it up in the air until the coating has hardened before placing it down.
  7. If you are dipping fruit without sticks, use a fork or spoon to place the fruit into the topping and lift it out again.
    If your fruit starts to thaw, put it back in the freezer to harden up before dipping. Melted ice crystals on the surface of the fruit will curdle the topping.
    OPTIONAL
    To add chopped nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on quickly after removing the fruit from the topping. If you're too slow, the coating will harden before the nuts/coconut have a chance to stick.
  8. Serve immediately or place in freezer bags and return to the freezer until you're ready to serve. If the fruit has frozen very hard, you may need to wait 5 or 10 minutes before eating.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/happy-fathers-day/

Tea Time

Dad, you probably won’t be having a Father’s Day tea party, but without the sticks, the frozen fruit pops would make wonderful frozen fruit bonbons for a summer tea. You could also serve them with or without sticks at a Father’s Day barbecue.

Frozen Fruit Bonbons for a refreshing summer tea

What kind of fruit would you like to use to make frozen fruit pops?

(This recipe was shared at: Raw Foods Thursday, Gluten Free Friday)

Coconut-Date Chocolate Bonbons

These bonbons are simply amazing. In a word, paleo crack. OK, that’s two words, but you get the picture. Chocolatey, coconutty goodness. Like an inside-out Mounds bar.

Their secret ingredient is coconut butter. (That and dates, but you already know where I stand on dates. For more on dates, see my post, California Chocolate Pudding.)

Coconut butter is simply dried unsweetened coconut, pureed into a smooth paste. Similar to peanut butter, except way more delicious. If you’ve never had coconut butter before, you’re in for a real treat. You can use it in smoothies, sauces, baked goodies, and more. But my favorite use for coconut butter is making delicious, healthy, whole food candies. After all, who said life can’t be sweet just because you don’t eat refined sugar?

Because coconut butter is a whole food, you get all the nutritional benefits of the entire coconut. Fiber, protein, oil, vitamins, and minerals. They’re all in there.

You’ll most likely find two different brands of coconut butter on your health food store shelf, Artisana Coconut Butter and Nutiva Coconut Manna. They’re both made from organic whole coconut, both are equally delish, and both work well in my bonbon recipe.

The main differences are that Nutiva is less expensive than Artisana, and Artisana is raw and produced in a gluten-free facility. Whichever one you choose, just be sure to warm the jar well and stir the oils in completely before using for the best texture. When cold, coconut butter can have a bit of a gritty texture.

In a pinch you can make your own coconut butter, although it will probably not be as smooth as the kind you buy. That may not matter once you mix it into the candy. It’s not like you’re spreading it on toast or anything. (Although people do report that coconut butter is delicious on bread. I can’t say from experience.) Just put some shredded, unsweetened dried coconut into your food processor and process away, until it turns into butter.

Because these bonbons use cocoa powder rather than melting chocolate, they’re quick and easy to make. No need to worry about temperatures, splashing water, or chocolate seizing or scorching. Quick. Easy. Delicious.

Coconut-Date Chocolate Bonbons

Yield: 30 tablespoon-sized bonbons

Coconut-Date Chocolate Bonbons

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, preferably unrefined
  • 1/2 cup coconut butter
  • A generous 1/2 cup unsweetened macaroon coconut, lightly toasted if desired

Instructions

  1. Soak the dates in 3/4 cup water for 30 minutes. (The easiest way to measure is by volume: Use a clear liquid measuring container and add the water to the 6 ounce line first. Add chopped dates until the mixture reaches the 10 ounce line.)
  2. (If you have a high-powered blender like a BlendTec or VitaMix, room temperature water is fine. For a regular blender, the dates will be smoother if you put the 3/4 cup water and dates into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, place a lid on the pan and soak for 30 minutes.)
  3. While the dates are soaking, warm the jars of coconut oil and coconut butter in a bowl of hot water until the coconut oil is liquid and the coconut butter is softened and pourable. (Make sure the lids are on tightly so no water gets inside the jars.) If the oil has separated to the top of the coconut butter, stir it back in until smooth.
  4. Blend the dates and soaking water in a blender until smooth. (On my BlendTec I use the 'Whole Juice' cycle.) Push the mixture down the sides to the bottom of the blender jar with a spatula.
  5. Add the vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder and pulse to combine.
  6. Pour the date-cocoa mixture into a bowl. You'll need a spatula to get all the chocolatey goodness out. Add the coconut oil and coconut butter. Stir well until smooth and combined completely.
  7. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more, until the mixture is the consistency of fudge.
  8. Roll the mixture into tablespoon-size balls. The heat from your hands may slightly melt the surface of the balls, but the entire ball should not melt. If the rolling is too messy, the bonbon mixture may need more chilling time. Return the bonbon mixture to the refrigerator for 5 or 10 minutes more and then try rolling again.
  9. Place the bonbons onto a pan or sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate for a few minutes to firm up the bonbons if desired.
  10. Roll or gently press the bonbons in unsweetened macaroon coconut.
  11. Can be served chilled or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.
  12. VARIATIONS
    • Roll some of the bonbons in different colored cocoa powders.
    • If you're serving the bonbons immediately you can roll them in coconut sugar.
    Coconut sugar will soak up moisture from the bonbon, so roll once, set aside and when the coconut sugar has melted into the surface of the bonbon, roll it one more time in coconut sugar. Rolling a second time ensures a longer-lasting coating. A coconut sugar coating will not last overnight though. The coconut sugar will soak up so much moisture that the bonbons will be sitting in syrup (a delicious syrupy mess).
    • Coating the bonbons in a mixture of half coconut-sugar and half-cocoa powder is another option. The coating will look more like cocoa powder, but taste a little sweeter.
    • Try putting a whole nut or a generous pinch of chopped nuts inside the bonbon. Chopped, toasted macadamia nuts make a delicious bonbon filling.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/coconut-date-chocolate-bonbons/

Have you tried coconut butter before? What’s your favorite way to use it?

(This recipe was shared at: Chocolate Coconut Party, Sugar-Free Sunday, Made from Scratch Monday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Raw Foods Thursday, Gluten Free Friday)

Cauliflower Couscous

One issue when removing foods from your diet is what to do with the big empty space left on your plate. Vegetarians have tofu dogs and chickenless nuggets. Gluten-free folks have Udi’s bread and Tinkyada pasta. Now that I’m grain-free, cauliflower is one of my favorite low-carb grain replacement foods.

There are many wonderful ways you can serve cauliflower: roasted, curried, mashed, etc. But have you ever turned your cauliflower into couscous? Ground up into couscous-size bits in the food processor, cauliflower is the perfect grain or starch replacement on your paleo plate (and of course, it’s naturally gluten-free as well). I was missing something to put underneath a good curry, and cauliflower couscous is just the thing.


I usually use whatever cauliflower is available at my local produce stand. If you can find them, purple, orange, or green varieties of cauliflower are beautiful and just as delicious as white cauliflower. Check out the World’s Healthiest Foods website to learn more about cauliflower’s health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and digestive support properties.

I prefer to lightly saute the cauliflower. This makes the cauliflower more mild tasting than when it’s raw. After sauteing and seasoning I serve it warm, usually with a curry or other stew. Or I chill the cooked cauliflower couscous and use it to make a grain-free tabouleh salad. Use your favorite tabouleh recipe and add extra lemon juice to the dressing. If you can find baby cauliflower heads, buy them. The flavor of baby cauliflower is naturally sweet and mild, and they are a delicious treat served raw in a salad.

This recipe is quick and easy and lends itself well to unlimited variations. Try adding minced onions or other chopped veggies, curry powder, smoked paprika, or other seasonings customized to go with whatever menu you’ve planned.

Fresh chives, either garlic, onion, or both are a fragrant and colorful addition to cauliflower couscous. Chives are easy to grow, and if you keep a pot of them on your porch, you’ll almost always have fresh herbs to brighten up your dishes. Chive blossoms make a pretty (and edible) garnish. The purple flowers in my photos are from onion chives. Garlic chives have white flowers, which are lovely too. If you don’t have any chives, feel free to substitute a handful of another fresh herb you have: basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, or thyme.

Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower Couscous

Ingredients

    Cauliflowers vary in size. One medium head of cauliflower should provide at least 8 cups of raw cauliflower couscous (which will reduce down to about 6 cups after cooking.) For a larger cauliflower, add 1 extra tablespoon each of the oil and chives, and 1 extra clove of garlic for every additional 2 cups of raw cauliflower couscous.
  • One head of cauliflower (8 cups of raw cauliflower couscous)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil/butter combination)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives (optional)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash cauliflower ahead of time and thoroughly dry. Excess water will make the finished couscous soggy.
  2. Chop cauliflower into florets up to two inches and stems into 1/2 to one inch pieces.
  3. Process cauliflower florets and stems in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Do not overfill the food processor. The cauliflower should process into couscous-sized pieces in 10-30 seconds. You may need to process it in batches.
  4. If cauliflower gets stuck and does not rotate in the food processor or several chunks of cauliflower remain unprocessed after 30 seconds, you will need to chop the florets/stems smaller or process less cauliflower per batch.
  5. When all the cauliflower is processed, measure or roughly estimate the amount of raw cauliflower couscous. Adjust the amount of oil, garlic, and chives accordingly if you are going to cook more or less raw cauliflower couscous than 8 cups.
  6. Place the oil in a large pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, saute the garlic for one to two minutes or until golden, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.
  7. Add the raw cauliflower couscous to the garlic and oil in the pan and stir to distribute the garlic and oil throughout the cauliflower.
  8. Cook the cauliflower for three to five minutes or until as crisp/tender as you prefer, stirring frequently for even cooking.
  9. Remove pan from the heat and add the optional chives and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine well.
  10. Serve hot as a vegetable side dish or grain replacement, or chill and add to a salad.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/cauliflower-couscous/

What’s your favorite replacement food?

(This recipe was shared at: Fill Those Jars Friday, Gluten Free Friday)

California Chocolate Pudding

Vegan desserts. Just another culinary oxymoron like white chocolate or healthy junk food?

Technically it is possible to make all kinds of sweet treats from donuts to red velvet cupcakes without animal products. While many debate what it means to be a vegetarian, the definition of vegan is crystal clear: no animal-sourced ingredients, period. But when I think of vegan cuisine, I think of fresh, natural, healthy whole foods which only happen to be, by the way, animal-free.

dates
Raw agave syrup and organic cane juice certainly have more syllables than sugar. Unfortunately, more syllables does not equal healthy or natural. Try sweetening your treats with a natural, delicious, healthy whole food such as dates. (While dates do have fewer syllables than sugar, that’s not what makes them so healthy. ;-) )

Dates are my all-time favorite natural sweetener. They add a rich, complex sweetness to desserts and are delicious in savory dishes too. They are a good source of potassium and other minerals. I have never personally had a blood sugar problem or carb intolerance with dates, but if blood sugar or food intolerance are issues for you, it’s always a good idea to consult your health care provider first.

What makes dates a healthy sweetener is that they are a whole food: the fiber and nutrients have not been removed. Beets and sugar cane were also healthy whole foods once upon a time before they were processed into sparkly white powder. While honey and maple syrup are certainly natural, to your body they are primarily sugar with traces of nutrients. I prefer to use maple syrup and honey as sweet flavorings rather than as a sweetener. Think spoonfuls, not cupfuls.

I usually soak dates in water or some other liquid and blend them into a smooth date butter for use in desserts. A high-powered blender like a Blend-Tec or VitaMix is perfect for this. (but not absolutely necessary if you don’t have one.) Use more or less liquid depending on the consistency you’re looking for. To try date-sweetened desserts, you can start with my easy California Chocolate Pudding recipe below, but don’t be afraid to experiment with dates in your favorite recipes.

Some people like to use date sugar, which is simply finely ground dried dates (still a whole food, nothing’s been removed but the water, which dates don’t have much of to begin with). I’ve never tried date sugar myself, but I’ve heard it’s a good substitute for regular sugar in recipes. If you have experience with date sugar, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

recipe makeover
Here’s a classic vegan recipe: Chocolate Avocado Mousse.

Chocolate. Avocado. What’s not to love? How about those unhealthy (and unnecessary) sweeteners? I’ve replaced them with, surprise, dates! Healthy and delicious. And of course, still gluten and dairy free. I’m new to paleo and therefore, still learning, but I think we can call this recipe paleo-friendly as well. I’m not going to call it mousse, though. Mousse means foam in French, and although it certainly is creamy (thanks to our good friend, avocado), foamy it is not. Pudding is just right. And I’m calling it California pudding because, well, here in sunny southern California, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by avocado and date trees!

It’s pudding, not chiffon cake. The recipe’s not going to fall flat or explode if you change a thing or two, so feel free to experiment and add your own special touch. If you’re a chocolate aficionado, see how different cocoa powders taste in the pudding. A mix of half regular cocoa and half raw cacao powder is divine! 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in place of the 1 teaspoon vanilla is a good variation. Another is: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. If I hadn’t tossed out all my coffee, I would give espresso a try in the pudding, either brewed in place of the water or add a spoonful of instant. Please come back and share the results of your variations with me!

This is perfectly sweet if you’re used to the mild sweetness of real dark chocolate or if you generally avoid refined sugar in your diet. If you prefer a sweeter dessert, replace some of the water with maple syrup or your favorite liquid sweetener. Or simply pour the maple syrup over the top like a chocolate-maple sundae.

My favorite way to serve California Chocolate Pudding is with sliced bananas. Fresh berries are great, too. Macadamia nuts are a super paleo topping. Trader Joe’s sells dry toasted, chopped macadamias now, which are as fantastic on salads as they are on chocolate pudding. But I digress, let’s get on to the recipe, shall we?

California Chocolate Pudding

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup

California Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed avocado (about 2 medium)

Instructions

  1. Soak chopped dates in water. For a high-powered blender cutting the dates into fourths is enough. For a regular blender or food processor cut into smaller pieces and use hot water. (The easiest way to measure is by volume: Use a clear liquid measuring container and add the water to the 8 ounce line first. Add chopped dates until the mixture reaches the 12 ounce line.) Let them soak for 1/2 hour.
  2. Blend dates and water until smooth. In a Blend-Tec use the "Whole Juice" button. In a food processor, start out with just the dates and add the soaking water gradually to avoid leakage. Push mixture down with a spatula as necessary.
  3. Add the vanilla, salt, and cocoa powder and pulse to combine. Push mixture down with a spatula as necessary.
  4. Add the mashed avocado and pulse to combine until smooth. (Mashed avocado is both easier to measure accurately and easier to blend smoothly into the chocolate mixture. The final mixture will be somewhat thick and you will not be using your machine to smash the avocado, just to combine it with the other ingredients.)
  5. If necessary, add extra water a tablespoon or two at a time to help the ingredients combine smoothly. (Avocado is a natural ingredient, after all, and sometimes they vary in their moisture content. Adding more water can also make the pudding less thick if you prefer a lighter consistency.)
  6. Chill before serving.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/california-chocolate-pudding/

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)

Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette


Make the most of the final days of summer with this fresh and tangy avocado salad dressing. (I know the calendar says autumn, but here in southern California, the weather doesn’t always listen to the calendar.)

Creamy avocado vinaigrette will go wonderfully with romaine lettuce and the last home-grown tomatoes from your garden. If autumn has already settled in, pair your avocado salad with your favorite soup for the perfect light dinner combination for chilly evenings.

Finding salad dressings on store shelves free of gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and sugar is a losing proposition. Especially when it’s so quick and easy to make your own from scratch. Avocado makes it deliciously creamy and nutritious. You can even use this avocado dressing as a dip for raw veggies or your favorite gluten-free chips.

Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1-1/2 cups

Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unfiltered cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel and seed the avocado, and peel the garlic clove.
  2. Blend the avocado and garlic in a food processor until the avocado is creamy and the garlic is finely chopped.
  3. Add the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and process until blended.
  4. Add the sea salt, smoked paprika, and pepper, and process until mixed in.
  5. Add the olive oil. You can pour it in slowly while the food processor is going or simply pour it all in at once. Blend until the oil is fully emulsified into the dressing.
  6. Taste, and add more salt, paprika, or pepper, if desired.
  7. Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, if desired.
  8. Chill to thicken.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/creamy-avocado-vinaigrette/

(This recipe was shared at: Raw Foods Thursday)

Gluten-Free in Guam

The view from our beachfront kitchen in Guam

Whether your autumn winds are chilly or scorching, you can still escape with me to Guam for some cool ocean breezes and refreshing Chamorro cuisine.

Kelaguen is a ceviche-style dish in which the acid in the lemon juice “cooks” the fish, or in the case of grilled chicken, serves as a delicious marinade. Freshly grated coconut, green onions, and chili peppers round out the island flavors.

While visiting Guam, some vegetarian friends taught me how to make soy chicken kelaguen. Now I have to confess that even though I am practically vegan myself, I am not a big fan of soy chicken. The kelaguen marinade, however, completely transformed the soy chicken and I could not stop eating it. It was that delicious.

I have a new version of kelaguen to introduce to you today: Mushroom Kelaguen. While not a traditional ingredient (I’m pretty sure mine is the first mushroom kelaguen ever made), mushrooms are a perfect fit for this tangy, lemony dish. And luckily, kelaguen is naturally gluten-free!

Grating fresh coconut in Guam

One of the secrets to a good kelaguen is freshly grated coconut. Freshly grated coconut is not the same thing as dried, shredded coconut and will not give the same results. Much the same way that orange powdered cheese is not a satisfactory replacement for a good Wisconsin cheddar.

Luckily you can find good frozen grated coconut in Asian/Filipino markets, which is a decent replacement for fresh.

Look for frozen grated coconut without added sugar or preservatives. If you are a coconut fan, you should buy more than one package, because you will certainly want to try it out in cakes, muffins, and other recipes as well.

Frozen grated coconut

Frozen grated coconut comes in one pound packages. To use it, simply thaw a package, measure and set aside what you need, then use a half-cup measuring cup to make 1/2 cup mounds from the remaining grated coconut. Place the coconut mounds on a baking tray and put the baking tray in the freezer until frozen like ice cubes. Then transfer the coconut cubes to a freezer bag and store in the freezer. When you want more grated coconut, just take out the amount you need and thaw. Nothing could be easier!

Mushroom Kelaguen

Yield: 4 cups

Mushroom Kelaguen

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lemons, juiced
  • 2 pounds white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cups grated coconut, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 4-6 small red chilies, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Juice the lemons and set aside the juice. Rub the inside of your food processor (if using) and cutting board with the insides of the juiced lemons. This will give some protection against mushroom discoloration.
  2. Slice mushrooms in a food processor or by hand. A food processor will give very thinly sliced mushrooms. If you slice them by hand you don't need to slice as thinly as a food processor would, aim for about 1/8 inch wide slices.
  3. Cross-cut the slices in both directions to make small pieces, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Don't worry if a few pieces come out too large. You can always cut them with your spatula while cooking the mushrooms.
  4. Melt the coconut oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add the finely chopped mushrooms. They will likely fill the pan close to overflowing, so stir carefully until they cook down a bit and let their water out. Two pounds of mushrooms chopped like this will shrink down to 3-4 cups. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes until most of the water has evaporated.
  5. Add the sea salt and stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes longer to coax out and reduce any remaining water. A little moisture when you press down on the mushrooms with a spatula or spoon is OK. Just so there is no liquid in the pan.
  6. While the mushrooms are cooking you can prepare the coconut (if grating fresh), and chop the green onions and red chilies. If you don't like chili heat, remove the membranes and seeds from inside the chilies before chopping.
  7. When the mushrooms are cooked, transfer them to a bowl and add the grated coconut, green onions, and red chilies. Stir to combine.
  8. Add the lemon juice to the mushroom mixture. Start with 1/2 cup and stir to combine. Taste, and add more lemon juice if desired. Add more sea salt if desired.
  9. Enjoy! Can be eaten at room temperature or chilled. Serve as a salad or side dish with gluten-free tortillas, tortilla chips, flatbread, or large lettuce leaves for scooping.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/gluten-free-in-guam/

We made kelaguen and other island favorites right on the beach in our camping kitchen.

Too many cooks couldn't spoil these pancakes!

Well worth the wait for this island feast!

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)

Tuesday’s Rice

Fried rice is a great dish to highlight your favorite fresh ingredients or even simply use up whatever deliciousness happens to be hiding in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Today’s special contains a little of both: baby broccoli, snow peas, and home-grown tomatoes.

Traditionally, a large round-bottomed wok with a ring, and very high heat is used in making fried rice. I’ve adapted the process for easy home use with a 12-inch nonstick pan on medium heat. It’s still a quick dish to make, just a little more relaxed. If I have other tasks to do in the kitchen, I often work on them in the several minutes in between adding each ingredient to the pan.

One advantage of this non-traditional cooking method is that you can leave the minced garlic in the finished dish without fear of it burning. You’ll get a softer flavor from cooking the garlic at a lower temperature, plus many of the garlic’s nutrients will still be retained. If you want a more pungent garlic flavor and higher nutritional value, add the garlic closer to the end of the cooking process.

I like to have fresh Thai chili peppers on hand (Prik Chee Fah). These flavorful peppers are about 2-4 inches long (not the tiny, extremely hot bird’e eye chilies, also referred to as Thai chili). They add a bit of heat and a vibrant dose of color to any dish. If you don’t want the heat, remove the membranes and seeds before chopping. Look for Thai chili peppers in Asian grocery stores. You can also substitute Serrano chili.

Tuesday’s Rice

Yield: serves 1 as a main course or 2 as a side dish

Tuesday’s Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 3 fresh red Thai chilies (prik chee fah)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 5 stems baby broccoli
  • 1 handful snow peas
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1-1/3 c leftover brown rice
  • coconut oil or other cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon raw coconut aminos (or gluten-free tamari)
  • Thai basil (for garnishing)

Instructions

  1. Chop the onion and set aside.
  2. Finely mince the chilies and set aside. If you'd like it less spicy you can remove the membranes and seeds before mincing.
  3. Finely mince the garlic and set aside.
  4. Chop the baby broccoli into 2-3 inch long pieces and separate the stems from the florets.
  5. Remove the strings from the snow peas and set aside.
  6. Chop the tomato and set aside.
  7. Julienne the Thai basil and set aside.
  8. Heat a frying pan or wok to medium and melt a little coconut oil in it. Add the chopped onion and stir fry for several minutes.
  9. Add the minced chili and stir fry for a minute or two.
  10. Add the minced garlic and stir fry for a minute or two.
  11. Add the baby broccoli stems and stir fry for a couple minutes. Add the baby broccoli florets and stir fry for a couple minutes.
  12. Add the snow peas and stir fry for a couple minutes.
  13. Add the leftover brown rice and stir to combine. Add a teaspoon of coconut aminos and a little more oil if necessary. Stir fry for a couple minutes.
  14. Add the chopped tomato and gently stir fry for a minute or two until the tomatoes are warmed. Check the seasoning and add a little more coconut aminos if necessary.
  15. Garnish with the julienned Thai basil.
  16. Enjoy!
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2011/tuesdays-rice/

Feel free to adjust this recipe to fit your tastes and what’s in your refrigerator on any given day. You may want a bit more rice than I used. I was surprised to find that 1-1/3 cups of cooked rice was all I had on hand today. Two cups would make a more usual proportion of rice to vegetables and would serve more people as well. Of course, you would then also need to adjust the seasonings. I enjoyed the generous proportion of vegetables to rice, so I decided to share it with you exactly how I made it. Cooking, unedited.

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten Free Friday)