Saturday, June 28, 2008

Equal Exchange & Fair Trade

More Free Samples, from Equal Exchange!

We love Equal Exchange's Dark Chocolate with Mint, and fortunately got the honor to receive some free goodies from the company. Thank you Rodney, we are truly grateful!

What is most inspiring about this company is their commitment to Fair Trade and Organics. They use quality ingredients, local when possible, and ingredients made with love. According to Equal Exchange, Fair Trade helps small farmers maintain a living and helps the communities they live in. Fair trade makes the consumer aware of where their food comes from and how their food was grown; a way to get more "intimate" with each individual farmer by purchasing food that was made with personal care. Equal Exchange also is devoted to ecologically sustainable practices and organic farming methods.

Kudos to Equal Exchange! We should all strive to support organic, fair trade, and small businesses, instead of relying on corporations that mass-produce food and that don't care about the farmers' or consumers' needs.
The first thing that we shouted for joy in our box of goodies was Equal Exchange Spicy Hot Chocolate Mix. We love all things spicy, and this mix sounded so interesting and good. Since it is summer, we plan to make spicy chocolate milk soon! We also graciously received a huge container of cocoa powder. This is some quality cocoa we are motivated to make some great chocolate desserts!

Equal Exchange has a new line of Domestic Fair Trade Snacks, which includes Dried Cranberries, Tamari Roasted Almonds, and Roasted Pecans. Here's a link to information about domestic fair trade. We are very impressed - we just tried the almonds, and they are very good with a subtle, salty soy sauce bite. Every almond was smooth and high quality. We usually get roasted unsalted almonds in the bulk section of our grocery store, so some of the skin can come off because they've been hassled around with. These Equal Exchange Almonds were better than expected with a salty surprise on the tongue. Yummy!

We have some recipe ideas in the works, but the first thing we made in the kitchen with our cocoa powder was vegan maple walnut fudge. It's healthy, with the base from almond butter instead of powdered sugar/condensed milks, and could be easily made into a raw fudge treat, if you didn't melt the almond butter with the agave nectar. Most importantly, it is the best fudge we've ever had, and is so gooey, chocolaty, and nutty!
Vegan Nutty Fudge:
1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup no-salt added nut butter (we used almond butter)
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (can use other nuts)
1/2 tsp flavoring extract (Vanilla extract usually. Also try mint, maple, coconut, etc. We used maple extract)

In a small stove pan, heat agave and nut butter for a few minutes just until creamy and mixed together. Turn off heat and add cocoa, walnuts, and extract. Mix thoroughly and quickly before starts to thicken, and then pour into a small square pan sprayed with cooking spray. Spread eveny, then place in fridge to harden. Once chilled, cut into squares. We enjoyed these in the freezer - they were firmer yet gooey. Enjoy!

Makes a good amount, but small enough for two people to enjoy over the week. We had halved the original recipe adapted from Gluten Free Vegan Cookbook.

On another note, we recently discovered, which is a great recipe database! We don't have a dehydrator, but it makes us want one, with delicious looking "breads" and desserts. We are planning to make 1-2 raw meals a week - this week it will be raw walnut tacos and raw zucchini lasagna rolls.

July 4th is coming up so fast - that means it's time for watermelon, ice cream, and extravagant cooking! We are behind in our food pics, but will try to catch up soon. Our Physics final is Monday and then we only have a 1 credit Organic Chemistry Lab (yucky) left before we graduate in August. Pray for us so that we stay focused & motivated and don't get too antsy about graduation!

Thanks Equal Exchange for your devotion to fair trade, organics, and quality food! We love Equal Exchange and are blessed to have received such great products.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Corn Obsession

With a fast-paced summer school class, we've had little time to cook elegant meals. We've been doing meals that you eat all mixed together (if that makes sense), such as a corn oat-pilaf bowl and wraps. We've noticed that we tend to eat corn sometimes twice in a day in different forms, such as fresh corn, cornmeal, corn cereal (Puffins), cornbread, corn tortilla chips....

We tried Veganomicon's Edamame Corn Salad with fresh corn kernels. It was nice and sweet without any sugar! We've been using fresh corn like mad - summer has such great produce!
Another great corn dish we ate was a corn & oat pilaf meal. We cut off corn kernels off of 3 cobs and microwaved the corn for a few minutes. Then, we processed some corn kernels with unsweetened almond milk to make a "cream corn". After it was creamy, we added black pepper, a little agave, and whole corn kernels (the cream corn recipe was based off of the World's Healthiest Food's recipe).

To go with the corn dish, we cooked some local sunburst squash with diced onion and banana peppers. We also cooked a mix of oat groats and steel cut oats on the stove. Once the corn, squash, and the oat-pilaf were done, we mixed them together to make a creamy and hearty meal! Yummy, creamy, fresh, and easy to eat! The next day we ate it with fresh tomatoes, slightly heated to soften. The combination of oat groats and steel-cut oats gave a nice texture and flavor.

More Veganomicon Delicacies: We made the Cauliflower Hummus recipe to have for lunches throughout the week, and made the Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu recipe for dinner.

The Cauliflower Hummus is sooo good. We modified it slightly, and didn't use lemon, tahini, or parsley, and replaced the chickpeas with butter beans. We cut the cumin in half, because we didn't want it to overpower the cauliflower flavor. It was lighter than regular 100% bean hummus because the cauliflower substituted for some of the beans. We love beans/hummus, but too much fiber can make you full, and the cauliflower helped to lighten it up for a healthy lunch. It was very good with Mary's Gone Crackers and avocado, and the chives and garlic really enhanced the cauliflower nicely. We will be making this repeatedly with different flavors/spices!

The Chili Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu was good, but too time consuming and not enough wow. The recipe says to use 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup soy/non-dairy milk, but this was too much for just a pound of tofu! We used 2/3 cup each, and we still had a lot leftover. The tofu inside wasn't very flavorful - I think we should have marinated the tofu for a few hours in lime and spices. Next time, we will just follow the curried tofu recipe, marinate the tofu with Mexican spices and lime instead, and then just bake it until chewy, without any cornmeal coating.

What was really good about this dish was that we served it with agave-mustard-lime dressing. It was more like "Would you like a little tofu with your mustard dressing?". We steamed some broccoli, too, which paired nicely with the tofu and dressing. Another side dish we ate with the tofu was cornmeal-crusted tomatoes. We used some of the leftover cornmeal mix and coated sliced tomatoes, then baked it in the oven. It was actually more flavorful than the coated tofu!

For more easy meals, we made mashed sweet potatoes with the skins and used unsweetened almond milk. This was easy to make and so creamy. We served this in a wrap with black beans, nutritional yeast, and sunflower seeds.

Another tasty dish we had was coconut rice. We've never used coconut milk before and decided to try it with long grain Basmati brown rice. We sprinkled some chives and black pepper on top, and served with steamed green beans and curried tofu! Yummy! Of course, we used light coconut milk. Light coconut milk is supposed to taste just as good as full coconut milk but with less fat and saturated fat. Although many sources say that the saturated fat found in coconut is different than saturated fat from animal sources, we feel it is still good to reduce saturated fat consumption when possible.

Cheers to fresh food and healthy delights! Just for fun here are some funny food quotes:
"Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?"
I eat merely to put food out of my mind. ~N.F. Simpson"
We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman
- LK Sisters

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thank You Bob's Red Mill

Can you guess what one of our favorite food companies is?

Yep - definetely
Bob's Red Mill. And we've been blessed this month to receive FREE Bob's Red Mill food products! We are so appreciative for their generosity. In addition to the free products, we bought a few items from their website, with our Bob's Red Mill Gift Card (that we received as an early birthday present from our mom - she knows what we like!).

These gifts couldn't have come at a more special moment - our birthday is next week, and we've been blogging for a year now!

When we received two huge packages of Bob's Red Mill, we were overwhelmed with gratitude - we don't deserve all this!

We each got two Bob's Red Mill t-shirts, so now we can show off how great Bob's Red Mill is! The back of the shirts says,
"The whole grain and nothing but the grain".

The flours and mixes that we received will definetely come to good use; as a matter of fact, we already used some (continue reading!). We got Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, 7 Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix, Hard White Whole Wheat Flour, Quinoa, and Steel Cut Oats. The hard white flour we've never tried before, so now we are eager to make delicious homemade wheat bread with it.

We also received two professional Bob's Red Mill pens, a bundle of bag clips, and a large bowl scraper, which will be handy for when we make cookies, pancakes, etc.

The food that we bought with our gift card included Peppy Kernels, Blue Cornmeal, and Date Crumbles.

The Peppy Kernels are so unique and tasty. It has rolled oats, rolled wheat, cracked wheat, sesame seeds, hulled millet and wheat bran. The millet gives it a nice crunch! You can have them cold with cereal and fruit, or you can cook it in the microwave like oatmeal. Good both ways!

The Date Crumbles are awesome! Good as a snack alone, mixed in a trail mix, in cereal or oatmeal, and would be good in cookies! The date pieces are coated with oat flour to prevent clumping and sticking together, so there is a nice subtle oat flavor.

Haven't used the blue cornmeal yet, but we are eager to!

So, after receiving all these packages, we quickly went in the kitchen!

Quinoa-Oat Date Porridge

A hearty nutritious breakfast!
1/4 cup quinoa
1/4 cup steel cut oats
Bob's Red Mill Date Crumbles (to your liking - 1/4 cup?)
~ 1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk (could add more depending on how thin/thick you like your oatmeal)
lots of cinnamon
optional: hemp seeds

Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Add quinoa and oats, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Portion into two bowls, add dates and cinnamon, and sprinkle hemp seeds if desired. Makes two servings.

Chai Crunch Pancakes with Cherries

3 Tb flaxseed meal
3 Tb water
2 cups Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain Pancake Mix
1 Tb chai seeds
1 Tb finely ground nuts
2 cups cold vanilla soymilk
2 bags Organic India Red Chai Tea, seeped in the soymilk

2 Tb safflower oil
1 - 1 1/2 cups frozen cherries, warmed in the microwave
cinnamon for sprinkling
powdered sugar and/or agave

In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseeds and water and mix to make a pasty "egg". Let sit for a few minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, add pancake mix, chia seeds, and nuts. Add milk, oil, and the "egg" mixture into the medium-sized bowl, and mix everything just until blended.

Preheat a large skillet at medium heat. Spray with cooking spray, pour batter onto the skillet, making two or three pancakes at a time. Flip the pancakes when the edges begin to brown and bubles show in the center. Cook the other side until slightly-browned.

Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon, top with cherries, and serve with agave, if desired. Enjoy! Makes 10 pancakes (depends on how large/flat you make them!).

Note: We each had two pancakes with 1/4 cup of cherries, and then froze the other servings to have on hand for another breakfast!

Hope you are all blessed with special moments of joy and gladness. May we appreciate all that we are given and enjoy every day! Thanks again, Cassidy!
- LK

Saturday, June 7, 2008

San Antonio

Last Wednesday we drove 3 hours to San Antonio to see our mom and stepdad, who just moved there from Houston. We had a nice time with our mom - we went up to Boerne, TX (30 miles north), which is a cute historic town. While there, we stopped in at Love's Natural Health Food Store and bought a lot of vegan goodies. It was a huge store! Here is a picture of all of the products we purchased that we've never tried before:Lundberg's Koku Seaweed Brown Rice cakes - These seaweed rice cakes would pair nicely with avocado, nutritional yeast, cucumbers, or tofu for a sushi-like snack. We love how it's brown rice, like all of their rice cakes. This flavor is tasty, but our favorite is still the Flax with Tamari Rice cakes.

Bob's Red Mill Buckwheat Pancake and Waffle mix - what could go wrong with Bob's? We love Bob. We've heard that buckwheat makes especially good pancakes - what's your favorite toppings for pancakes/way to prepare pancakes?

Amy's Tamale Verde black bean frozen dinner - good, especially the Mexican rice and Tomatillo sauce, but the tamale wasn't anything different. It was like the tamale pie with a lot of cornmeal crust. It also contains too much sodium - about 700 mg!

Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract - great quality stuff.

Frontier Veggie Pepper - black pepper jazzed up with some red bell pepper, onion, garlic, and celery!

Sambazon Acai & Mango Smoothie - tasty! We've been on an Acai kick lately, and have recently purchased pure Acai (without sugar, Genesis Today's Acai 100) to enjoy an ounce every day for antioxidants and other health benefits.

Mr. Krispers Multi-Seed Chips - baked and multigrain, with poppy seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, brown rice, and corn.

Ruth's Chai Goodness Original - claims to be a hot/cold cereal. Serving size is two tablespoons, and contains chai seeds, hemp seeds, and buckwheat (prism-shaped with a nice crunch, so cool!).
We haven't yet eaten it as a cereal, but we did enjoy it in soy yogurt for a nice granola-like parfait! Very nutritious!

Clean Well natural hand sanitizer - safe with no hazardous chemicals and biodegradable!

For meals, we had the pleasure of cooking dinner for our parents in their nice kitchen (compared to our apartment kitchen with a screwed-up oven and small counterspace).
We tried the Avocado Orange Salsa recipe from Student's Go Vegan cookbook, and served it with Mary's Gone Crackers, corn-on-the-cob, and spicy Mexican pinto beans. We enhanced it by adding diced tomatoes. It was fresh and flavorful, with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, oranges, and lime juice. Yummy and so simple!

One day during the week, we had a lot of cilantro that needed to be used up. We made cilantro pesto and made a wrap with roasted chickpeas, spinach, and cucumber slices. It was so tasty and healthy. Why is it that meals that are so simple are the best?

For another dinner, we sauteed portabello mushrooms marinated in balsamic and oregano, then drizzled olive oil on top when ready to serve, and paired it with orzo and fresh steamed green beans.

Well, summer school Physics for just 4 weeks is very fast paced and tiring. Wish we could sleep as long and soundly as our cats do!

Stay tuned for a FABULOUS Bob's Red Mill post soon!

Peace, LK

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Baking Demo

Another recipe contest we're entering using Equal Exchange Chocolate. We decided to show you an amateur cooking demo to show you the making of our dessert!

Our recipe - Almond-Graham Apricot Bars with Dark Chocolate Glaze. These bars contain very little ingredients (all organic) to make it simple and natural. You could adapt it to keep it more raw if you didn't want to bake it.

~ 2 cups dried apricots, unsulfured

1 cup almonds, no salt added

1 cup crushed graham crackers, ~24 graham squares (We use Health Valley's Oat Bran Graham Crackers)

8 Tbsp natural creamy almond butter, no salt or oil added (We usually use Eastwind Creamy Almond Butter, but the store didn't have it this time, so we used Maranatha's Almond Butter)

~1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (We used Simply Organic brand)

~1/3 of a 71% Dark Chocolate bar, about 8 squares (We used Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate)

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 1:
Soak apricots in water in a small bowl for a few minutes.
Place soaked apricots in a blender or food processor. Add vanilla extract, and process till blended and chopped up nicely. It will be like apricot paste!
Put the apricot "paste" back into the bowl.

Step 2:
Grind almonds in the food processor till chopped up finely. Place in a medium-sized bowl.

Step 3:
Grind graham crackers till crushed into graham cracker crumbs. Place in the bowl containing the almonds.

Step 4:
Mix graham cracker crumbs and almonds, then add the almond butter to bind the mixture together.
Place graham-almond mixture into a square baking pan and press down to make a crust.

Step 5:
Bake crust till slightly brown, about 3-4 minutes.

Step 6:
Place apricot paste on top of the crust and try to spread it over the whole area to make an apricot layer.

Step 7:
Bake 7-8 minutes.

Step 8:
Melt chocolate. We just put it in the microwave for a few seconds. Make sure to stir and check on the chocolate periodically so it doesn't burn. Just heat till melted throughout.

Step 9:
When the apricot bars are done baking, drizzle the melted chocolate over it to your liking.Step 10:
Let the bars cool in the fridge for a while before slicing them. The first bar you'll cut will crumble just because it would be difficult to get it out of the pan. Actually, as time passes, the crust gets less dry/crumbly and holds together better.

Note: This was our first attempt at these bars, so we may make some adjustments next time to make the crust less crumbly (agave?) or add more apricot layer. You could even sprinkle some shredded coconut on top. It still is very tasty and a nice & healthy treat!

Enjoy, LK Sisters