Hawking GREAT Fare…

The husband and I were invited to a party for a friend at Pican in downtown Oakland on a Saturday evening. We had never been to Pican (California inspired Southern comfort food in downtown Oakland). All who have been there sing its’ praises, and I soon found out these praises were legit. We were there for light bites and drinks, which was probably better in the long run for my – at times – over-stimulated digestive system. Some family members and friends say I am super healthy and very disciplined, but when things don’t work well with the digestive system to the degree that I have experienced, you learn to just bypass those foods and find WONDERFUL tastes in and an appreciation for super natural foods. However, it can at times be hard for me to remember my dietary downfalls when tempted by a scrumptious corn meal and maple battered fried chicken breast in front of me. So, before getting sucked in to a couple days worth of stomach issues, (which probably would have been TOTALLY worth it) we said our good bye’s to our hostess and were on our way to grab dinner. We headed back towards the car, remembering the place we had parked outside of: Hawker Fare. The menu looked Thai, or what we could relate to as street Thai food, having had some experience with what has become a food truck nation in San Francisco. We were both excited to venture on in.

Upon entering Hawker Fare, the atmosphere made us comfortable and not as square as we think we are getting. We don’t drink very much (in fact my husband has cut down on even enjoying a beer or two per week or lattes because of some stomach issues) and we eat as healthfully as we can, when we can control it. This is due also to budget; we don’t eat out very much. SO…when we do, we want to take advantage of the amazing food that the Bay Area has to offer, while accommodating a shoe string budget that we allow ourselves for eating out. There was some really interesting electronica/hip hop/trance/dance music in the background, but it wasn’t playing so loud as to make the restaurant seem too hip for its own good. And the staff were super kind, were obviously really pumped about the menu themselves and happy to serve us, even thought we came in about 15 minutes before closing. Colorful and bold street art and random music and vintage movie posters spanned the walls. My favorite was what looked like a vintage flyer that read off, for each day of the week, an animal body part that was going to be served for that given day. Ethically uncomfortable? Or a sign of using the whole animal and respecting the food chain in all its glory? I think so. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat, and the  meat I do eat usually comes in small amounts and, these days, in the form of organ meats (pates). I also love vegan and raw cuisine. But, when in Rome…and when the waitress mentioned that their beef “larb” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larb) also had tender tripe mixed in? I was willing to give it  second shot, despite having had tough and unmasked textured tripe in Morocco. THAT was an experience.

Our order: we got the green papaya salad, the beef larb and the “Kao Mun Gai”: poached chicken served with a salted mung bean sauce, fresh cucumber and cilantro leaves. The papaya salad and beef larb were really refreshing and had very complex flavors from some of my favorite ingredients mixed together: red onion, mint and cilantro. The Kao Mun Gai also came with a fried egg on top, so the side sauce made for a great accompaniment to the cracked and oozing yoke. It was delicious. Plus, it being 9:30pm, it’s always hard to properly digest heavier foods that close to hitting the sack.

The beef larb – cooling, savory and complex flavors to make a great starting dish to dinner

Crisp Green Papaya salad with fresh ground peanuts for a crunch

Some interesting facts about cilantro, mint and the infamous mung bean, which can all be found in South East Asian cuisine:

Cilantro: from the carrot family, cilantro supports the spleen, stomach, bladder, and lungs and help as a diuretic. It supports perspiration and can treat a fever, as it is subtly spicy, but doesn’t usually provide as much discomfort as certain peppers can. It aids digestion, relieves intestinal distention and can help with nausea, soothes inflammation and quenches thirst. It is also believed that cilantro can be used to remove toxins, including heavy metals, from the nervous system and body tissues. The fresher it is the better!

Mint: this is a very cooling herb that I often forget about putting with savory dishes. it supports the lungs, liver and helps to disperse pathogens, i.e. viruses, and promotes the circulation of energy, blood and the lymph system. The essential oil of mint is also very useful and helpful: inflammation, nausea, indigestion, fever, flatulence and headaches may subside with its use. Mint tea with lemon and honey? Yes please.

Mung Beans: of sproutable seeds, mung bean ranks at the top with alfalfa seeds as easy to sprout, tasty and easy to use for many things: making into noodles or used for dal, in Indian cuisine. They are great legumes to eat in hot weather as they disperse body heat. Try a mung bean mash stew with coconut curry. SO tasty.

A DEELISH mung bean stew. Spinach, coconut curry, beans…

Next time you are in OAKLANDISH territory, pay a visit to Hawker Fare. It will take you into a really interesting part of Oakland where there is a heavy insurgence in its rich culture, expanses of empty corporate space, and where super creative people are setting up shop and making Oakland into an amazing place to venture into.

More on Hawker Fare:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/hawker-fare-oakland

http://sf.eater.com/archives/2011/07/12/the_early_word_on_hawker_fare_in_oakland.php

http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2011/06/04/hawker-fare/

REFERENCES:

Wood, Rebecca. (2010). The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY. Penguin Books.

Warming Persimmon Cinnamon Apple Sauce

SUPER easy to make, especially if you have a Vitamix. It grinds those apples up in no time and leaves you with a perfect consistency.

I used organic Fuji apples (they are SO sweet. This recipe is in no need of any added sugar in any form).   :)

What you’ll need:

  • 6-8 organic Fuji apples
  • 2 large persimmons, or 3 Fuyu variety of persimmons, ripe (you can tell if the 2 larger persimmons are ripe if they are COMPLETELY squishy to the point that they feel gelatinous. The fuyu are usually ripe if they are slightly soft).
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • 1 tsp salt (Pink Himalayan is my favorite)
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice apples into about 8 slices per apple, leaving skins on, and line them up on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out, let cool for 10 minutes. Slice persimmons in half, leaving skin in. Throw both into blender with ginger, cinnamon, salt, water and persimmons. Blend on low starting, then ramp up to medium and high until apple sauce consistency desired is met. I like mine slightly chunky.

Fuji’s awaiting their fate…

The apples ready for baking

This applesauce was plain apple ginger. The persimmon version came out a rich, bright orange. And in this batch, I tried lime juice (too limey, but lemon zest might be nice) and I added in ground clove and nutmeg. Very festive for the holidays!

Now, I always get questions about organic vs. non-organic. Of course, most people just don’t want to buy them because of the premium that they think they are paying. On the contrary; non-organic apples,for example, are on the Dirty Dozen list (referenced here http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/) so be sure to buy your apples and other fruits listed in the Dirty Dozen organic at all times. There are certain foods that are ok to buy off the shelf without the organic certification. And the BEST way to shop for produce, which is more sustainable, local, fresh AND organic all in one swoop, is subscribing to a CSA in your area (http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/) or visiting your nearest farmer’s market. Here is a little article that I put together on a friends’ blog that gives you the haps on why going organic is better for you and better for your wallet in the long run: http://inthiscitysf.com/2011/10/25/why-organic/). EMBRACE ORGANICS!

Three Stone Hearth Goodness

I was driving along Tunnel Road in Oakland, running errands, when I got a phone call from my favorite community supported and employee operated cooking and teaching kitchen Three Stone Hearth! I was off the waiting list for their Full Moon Feast; my husband and I were next in line. AWESOME. We have ordered some goodies from them over the past few months (and one of the women who started Three Stone went to Bauman College!) I had my first liver pate, my first African bean fritters (or akara) and my first taste of an amazing mung bean stew from an order placed with Three Stone, not to mention the fact they that are one of a FEW resale options for purchasing raw cow and goat milk. With all I have learned about pasturized milk, not to mention the fact that it is pasturized down to the bare bones of its’ naturally occurring nutrients, this is such a breath of fresh air. You don’t even get a lot of calcium out of that glass of non-fat milk. Bummer. If you are lactose intolerant, raw goat milk can be something to try out in small doses. The goat milk rocks my world. Three Stone gets their milk from Claravale Farm.

Back to the feast. Three Stone Hearth hosted its Full Moon Feast (they do 2-3 per year, I think) on Saturday. The meal was prepared by the current Cooking and Culinary Traditions Program students as well as staff and worker/owners. Following the meal there were two really interesting and informative interviews with Alexis Koefoed of Soul Food Farm whose chickens were used for the meal and Marco Vangelisti of Slow Money Northern California, speaking about investing in local and sustainable food systems, i.e Soul Food Farms and Three Stone Hearth. I absolutely loved the ideas posed in these interviews, which aren’t complex ideas, but that we as people living amongst other people don’t even look to anymore – sharing, sustaining each other and small businesses, etc.. The concept discussed by Marco was simple: slow our money down. Slow Money looks to invest in smaller but sustainable companies, whose sustainability is only questioned because of having to compete against larger corporations and a bottom line that is harder to balance when most people shop at place like Target and Safeway. Yes, smaller farms and organic food and produce can be more expensive. But your health care bills and those doctors visits, the drugs you take and the extra time it costs to deal with your diabetes or IBS cost more, over time. It is so cool to think that just eating more quality food could actually make you cut down on healthcare costs, should you choose to make this budgetary shift. The average American spends 13% of their income on food. LET’S PUSH IT UP A BIT TO 17 OR 20%! Perhaps we can look at cutting costs and think twice when buying clothes or housewares, video games or that new iPhone model to replace a perfectly good one. We can all manipulate our budgets to spend more money on food. It’s just a matter of changing the way we think about spending money, to whom that money goes and how FAST it is going.

Here was the menu for the night. It was marvelous, and we even bumped into one of my teachers’ at dinner!

Appetizer
Naturally Leavened Pizzeta with Dungeness Crab, Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and Your Family Farm Egg Aioli (my gluten free option was just as yummy: Gluten-free Pizzeta on Grindstone Quinoa Ciabatta)

Main Course
Ballotine of Chicken
Soul Food Farm Pastured Chicken is de-boned and stuffed with Bellwether Farm ricotta, Bloomsdale spinach and house-cured duck prosciutto then oven-roasted until golden brown.
Miso-Glazed Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Riverdog Farm Root Vegetables with Fennel and Chestnuts
Relish of Pickled Beets and Onions
with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, beet kvass and fresh dill

This chicken was so tender and makes you appreciate pasture raised chickens. It was probably the best chicken I have ever had.

Roots, shoots and tubers. Simple, so amazing and warming.

My plate – so colorful with the beets, brussels sprouts, chicken and root veggies

Salad
Pan di Zucchero in a Styrian Pumpkinseed Oil Vinaigrette
with Blood Orange, Pomegranate, and Fuyu persimmon

Bitter greens post-entree, which helps with digestion. The bitterness aids in liver function.

The husband chowing down – talk about eating the rainbow…

Dessert
Platter of Sweets and Savories:
Caramels with Fleur de Sel
Crescent Cookies with Housemade Cranberry-Apple Preserve
Bari Dates
Shaved Fiscalini Farm Vintage Bandage Wrapped Cheddar Cheese

I had two of the caramels (top left). They were literally melting on the plate. SO amazing.

Beverage
Sassafras and Ginger “Root Beer”

The ginger “root” kombucha. Our table drank it up quickly; it wasn’t too sweet, and very refreshing before the meal and throughout dinner

Sign up with Three Stone Hearth! Make some space in your budget for this amazing resource of healthful, sustainable, local and organic food stuffs. You won’t regret it. EMBRACE THE COMMUNITY KITCHEN!

Our wonderful chefs, who were clearly working so hard to provide us with such a scrumptious, warming and building dinner. They didn’t even sit down to eat together until we were all served and satisfied. THANK YOU TSH!

How to stop squirming when you find bones in your fish – AND EAT THEM!

I am going to try to convince you that eating a little fish bone here and there will not hurt you. Rather, it is a great way to get calcium into your diet. And eating omega 3-rich sardines is just the way to get past the icky-ness.

We were all served a lot of canned tuna growing up. Remember the Starfish Tuna brand, with the happy tuna wearing glasses on the side of the cans? He might not be so happy when he learns how much mercury he might have in his system. Sad but true. Tuna fish are REALLY large, thus harbor some of the highest amounts of toxic mercury in their systems. Most of us have heard about this issue and try to stay away from tuna more often these days. But my childhood memories take me back to yummy tuna melts and tuna salad sandwiches. Thus, I have a new way to get this memory back AND get a whole lotta nutrition into the diet: SARDINES!

Sardines move in schools that stick together very closely. VERY cool to watch in action.

For some reason when I ask people about sardines, they think I am referring to the SUPER salty hairy fish garnish on caesar salads: anchovies. Sardines are not as salty, traditionally, are really scrumptious, and pack a whollup of nutrients. They are a great source of omega 3′s, Vitamin B12 (a great alternative for people who don’t want to consume as much meat), Vitamin D and protein. They are small little suckers, but dump a whole can (drained) into a bowl with a few ingredients and there you have a great sardine salad to top some toast, crackers or a salad. THE KICKER HERE IS: to get the most out of sardines, it is best to purchase them with their bones still intact. Trust me – you can’t even tell they are there. They are very soft and small; this is why these kinds of fish are a better alternative than tuna. They are too small to absorb enough mercury, so this cuts back on that worry. Be sure you pick a good brand; Whole Foods has plenty of options. The Vital Choice brand has pure, healthful and sustainable canned seafood, and they post updates on news surrounding the seafood industry: http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/viewContent.asp?idpage=2

Some good brands. Best bought with bones, in water

Another GREAT resource for keeping up with what seafood is safe when craving that salmon or halibut, visit the Monterey Bay Aquariums’ Seafood Watch webpage: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

SARDINE SALAD

  • 1 can sardines, drained, with bones
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard, or whatever kind is your favorite that is NOT neon yellow  ; )
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (either rice or red wine)
  • 1/2 finely chopped purple onion
  • Finely chopped fresh dill, to taste
  • Sea salt and and fresh ground pepper to taste

Break up sardines and mix all ingredients together with a fork. Serve on crackers, toast, endive or on salad. (would it be so lame if I said, “BONE-appetit!”? Well, there you have it…). EMBRACE (small) FISH!

Great served with Mary’s Gone Crackers. Bones? What bones?

Super Simple Salad (aka I’m lazy and don’t feel like cooking)

We all go through phases – whether you are into knitting one moment, switch to canning and preserving and then are on to making your own clothes the next, we all like to experiment with what could become lifelong hobbies. And then some of us go through cooking frenzies. All about the lentils one week, soups and stews the next, then cobblers and crumbles…the list goes one and on. I go through days when I just don’t feel like cooking. Plus, I like to ease into the art of the raw food diet, which can be somewhat intimidating. Whether cooking is new to you and you have mastered the scrambled egg, or you are making your own kombucha, pate and almond milk, this is a great recipe for a lazy dinner or lunch. And, the ingredients are raw – raw fruits and veggies are the BEST form to eat them in to get their naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Stay tuned for more experiments with raw food and here are some of my favorite resources for recipes and ideas!

  • http://aniphyo.com/
  • http://therawfoodworld.com/
  • http://iloverawfood.net/
  • http://oohlaraw.wordpress.com/
  • http://www.rawfoodrecipes.com/recipes/
  • http://rawjudita.blogspot.com/
  • http://goneraw.com/

SUPER SIMPLE SALAD (feel free to improvise, add or take out – but keep raw!):

  • Lettuce (any kind, I used little gem lettuces that came in my CSA box, 3-4 heads (they were really little)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (again, from the CSA box. Check out ways to get the seeds out of the skin without a huge pink mess below)
  • 1 avocado, scooped out and diced
  • 2 carrot, sliced and diced
  • 1/2 purple onion, sliced and diced

Wash and chop the lettuce. To get the pomme seeds out of the casing, fill a large bowl with water and separate the seeds. The casing will float to the surface of the water, the seeds will sink and you won’t have hot pink stains all over the place. AND I MEAN STAINS.

 

Throw in the pomme seeds. Slice and dice the avocado and onion. Throw in some raw goat milk cheese if you want a little extra something.

    

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp mustard (preferably whole grain)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine or rice vinegar
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing together and pour it over salad. Toss.

EMBRACE YOUR LAZINESS!

The RAINBOW Connection

Taste the REAL rainbow

Since there is a new Muppet movie out, I thought I would dedicate this short but sweet post about eating a RAINBOW of fresh, whole foods to our dear friend Kermit the Frog. I grew up loving the Muppets (I totally watched Muppets Take Manhattan a couple of weeks ago) and as I read the lyric, “Someday we’ll find it. The Rainbow Connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me” I think of how many wonderful natural foods there are out there to explore and make up new recipes with. The Frog knows his shizz.

Here are some of my favorite foods from ALL colors of the RAINBOW. Try to pick something from every color throughout your week!

Mother Nature rocks my world with those colors.

Antioxidants to the rescue!

Betacarotene.

Can’t BEET its nutrients

Add to water and its a great liver stimulant…

Nature’s butter…

Radishes. Very refreshing.

My favorite way to cook it? In moussaka.

Comforting and Creamy Winter Squash Lasagna

We all see butternut squash show up on menus and in households around the fall and winter seasons. Butternut squash soup or roasted with pepitas and cinnamon, pureed with a little butter and sage. Mmmmm. I had never actually cooked one before, and as with any squash, it is much easier than it looks. This lasagna, however, is elaborate, but TOTALLY worth it. Use it as a good way to practice coordinating a more complicated dish. One day you might be having 30 people over for a holiday dinner or Thanksgiving, and just doing the bird is complex enough.   ; )

Talk about easier ways to enjoy squash with an almond sauce, steamed, with cinnamon and a little coconut oil or butter (after posting the original recipe for the lasagna and my changes.

First off, some nutrition facts about butternut squash.

The butternut squash in all its glory

The butternut squash in all its glory

  • A great source of antioxidants! Contains health-supportive carotenoids, like what we think of in orange foods, like carrots.
  • Many of the carbs in winter squash comes from starch in the form of polysaccharides. These have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
  • Like any produce this one is best to buy organic. Support your local Farmer’s Markets or join a CSA! Resources cited below.
  • High in vitamins A and C the mineral manganese and dietary fiber
  • Winter squash even contains good fat, including the anti-inflammatory omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While that amount is only about 1/3 as high as the concentration of ALA in foods like flax seeds, it’s still a great resource!
RESOURCES FOR NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
www.whfoods.com
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray, N.D.
RESOURCES FOR ORGANIC PRODUCE:
Farmer’s Markets:
Beautiful!

Beautiful!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH LASAGNA Yields: 10-12 large servings
  • 2 butternut squash, cut in half length wise
  • 1 (9-ounce) package brown rice lasagna sheets, do not pre-cook as they will fall apart (a great gluten free alternative to pasta)
  • 1 onion, carmelized (in olive oil or coconut oil, sauteed for about 10 minutes and set aside)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco or whatever hot sauce you have on hand
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 container of full fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup and 1/2 cup raw goat cheddar cheese, grated
  • * 1/2 cup really good, creamy, stinky goat cheese, if you want a REALLY good béchamel sauce (I bought something called “Cabricharme Fromagerie Coop de Mean” – ask a Whole Foods cheese person. It was legit.) Or, just use more of the goat cheddar.
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (European preferred)
  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 4-½ cups milk or coconut milk, warm
  • 5 leaves of chard
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1-¼ teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons curly parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Butternut squash purée: Preheat the oven to 425°F. First, caramelize your onion in the olive oil, and set aside. Next, cut the butternut squash in half, vertically. Remove the seeds and the strings in the center. Place the halves, flesh side down, in a shallow (maybe 1 inch) pool of water in a casserole dish and steam for about 1 hour or until super soft. Let the butternut squash cool in the water, and keep the water for later. Scoop out the flesh into a food processor or high power blender (again, here is where the Vitamix rules). Add honey, tomato paste, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. Mix about half of the caramelized onions and add the Tabasco. Bring the over down to 375°F.

The fancy cheese to add for fun - makes it rich, but amazing!

The fancy cheese I added for fun. Made the bechamel sauce SO creamy.

With the onions

Béchamel sauce:In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Don’t burn it. Bring the heat back up to medium-high and add the flour. Stir with a whisk until flour absorbs the butter and forms a paste. Add the milk in 3 stages and stir well until fully incorporated and thick, with the heat at medium high. When thick and minimal lumps, reduce the heat to low. Add 1 cup of the goat cheddar cheese (and the fancy cheese if you want REALLY creamy) and nutmeg and about 1/2 cup of the butternut squash water if the sauce is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

First step, adding the flour to the butter. It thickens to a paste quickly.

Throwing it all together. Anticipating the meal.

The end result of the bechamel sauce. SUPER thick (with the squash peaking in the forefront after its steam bath).

Assemble lasagna: In a 14” x 10” x 3” high buttered casserole dish, spread a layer of caramelized onions first, then layer uncooked lasagna sheets to cover, and sprinkle with about 3 tbsp of water. Spread a layer of butternut squash mixture over this, followed by some ricotta cheese. Spread about 2-3 ladles of béchamel sauce over, then another layer of uncooked lasagna pasta and the 3 tbsp water. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. Finish with the rest of the béchamel sauce, top with rest of the goat cheddar and bake for 30 minutes at 375°F (until golden brown on top).

Chard, reminding us to eat a RAINBOW of foods.

When done, remove from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. Cut into squares and garnish with parsley.

Alternatives: Replace the squash with garnet yams  (but leave skins on and blend with the rest of the yam, same as the squash).

*For a super simple butternut squash pasta dish, make brown rice pasta (i.e. penne or spaghetti), steam and blend the squash with the honey, thyme, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Caramelize an onion and sautee chard. Toss all together with 1/2 cup of goat cheddar, grated, mixed in until melted. Garnish with parsley. Not as creamy, but a faster alternative. EMBRACE SOME WINTER SQUASH!

B-Fast

In order to effectively BE FAST, efficient and productive during your day, it is important to eat BREAKFAST! There are so many options. Soft boiled eggs, scrambles with veggies, yogurt, smoothie/green shake, fruit, oatmeal (steal cut, or gluten free oats. Bob’s Red Mill has a GREAT gluten free oat). I have been on a cottage cheese kick lately, having learned that most essential amino acids that our bodies need can come from cottage cheese (“essential” meaning we need to get them from food, as our bodies cannot produce them). I have struggled with dairy for a while – milk is NO BUENO for my digestive system. But goat products, i.e. cheese, milk and kefir, do my body good. I decided, however, to try a good quality cottage cheese, and heard that Cowgirl Creamery makes a good one. I am just scratching the surface regarding controversy surrounding milk, and after an interesting discussion last night with a doctor about high progesterone levels in milk due to cows being pregnant during milking, there is still so much more to learn. Organic milk is not left out of this, either. I will post more on this topic after some questions to Claravale Farm: http://claravaledairy.com/faq.html. Got (potentially breast cancer-inducing) milk? Crazy.

But I digress. This, by the way, might happen a lot in order to get all of the things that I am learning out of my head and into an arena to prompt discussion. Back to Breakfast.

A few weeks ago we (“we”, referring to my favorite person, my husband, and I) went to Venus on Shattuck in Berkeley. We had a scrumptious breakfast – I chose one of the specials, of Indian inspiration. This consisted of a veggie curry scramble and veggie/root vegetable latke inspired hash cake creations. REALLY good. They came with a banana cinnamon curry yogurt dipping sauce. I think it even had cardamom in it, throwing back to traditional Indian cooking, as well. The husband had lemon ricotta pancakes with a dark berry syrup, as I recall. Good for a REALLY fast metabolizer. On the side, we decided the try the oatless granola with fruit, which was refreshing. A baked cashew, walnut, almond, honey, coconut and chia granola over plain yogurt with papaya, berries, kiwi and banana could have been my whole meal. But we were excited about the place…and hungry.

Venus Breakfast Granola

No Oat Granola at Venus

It is a rarity for us to eat out, even on the weekends. And many creations of mine are whipped up quickly before class or pondered over simply from what I have lurking in the fridge. Here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks and the reintroduction of purer forms of dairy products:

I haven’t had St. Benoit yogurt in FOREVER, and forgot how good it is. I tried dairy in really small quantities to see how my body could handle it, over the past few weeks, and so far so good. I have only been eating up to 1/2 cup of it in one sitting, usually in the morning.  This dish was:

  • Just under 1/2 cup honey St. Benoit
  • Just under 1/2 cup Cowgirl clabbered cottage cheese
  • Chia Goodness seed mix I found the other day (1-2 tbsp) (The buckwheat and hemp seeds, raw, both give a great, subtle crunch to the dish, and the chia seeds get soft and are great for the digestive system and good omega 3′s!)

And two soft boiled eggs on the side. I usually have a cup of herbal or detox tea (favorite is Traditional Medicinals Detox tea’s) and a glass of luke warm water with the juice of half a lemon to start stimulating the liver to work (the brain tastes bitter, the liver knows to get moving!). The best soft boiled eggs in the world will be another post altogether.  :)

Moving on, I made a similar breakfast to go for school, which included brown rice from the night before (plain), apple, Chia Goodness, cashew cream and cinnamon. Cinnamon is a GREAT natural sweetener. Put it with anything naturally sweet, i.e. apple, and it pops the taste in your mouth. Plus cinnamon has amazing properties: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68.

Apple, chia goodness, cottage cheese, cashew cream

Apple, chia goodness, brown rice, cinnamon, cashew cream

Per the honey in this batch of cashew cream, check ‘em out: http://www.volcanoislandhoney.com/contact.htm. It is OUT OF THIS WORLD…and potent. You don’t need much for it to go a long way (Treat yourself. I know, I know, it’s pricey). We took a tour of the farm on the Big Island this summer, and it knocked my socks off to learn how incredible bees really are. When you eat as much honey as we do as a sweetener, you tend to need less and less is certain recipes, if it is pure. Local is great, too. We bought some of the ginger honey during our visit.

Cashew cream

The smoothest cashew cream I have ever attempted, thanks to the Vitamix. Cashews, soaked in water overnight, coconut milk, raw ginger honey from Hawaii, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract.

Island Honey - Silk

Santa came early this year. Island Organic Raw Honey – SILKY SMOOTH!

I have over a dozen persimmons right now, some waiting to ripen and some that you can eat like an apple. The fuyu persimmon doesn’t try your patience as much. The variety that most of us have in our backyards are the larger, less squat shaped persimmons, which take a while to ripen. This morning was a bowl of cottage cheese, a fuyu persimmon, diced, pomegranate seeds, Chia Goodness and cinnamon, plus some tea. Love the crunch of those seeds.

Persimmons are AWESOME!

Waiting for their time. Cookies or pudding, perhaps?

And for a savory breakfast, I cooked up some soft boiled eggs and tossed them with avocado, cherry tomatoes and dulse, a sea vegetable seasoning. For a bit more bulk it could have gone into a nice mineral broth with brown rice or quinoa. SO GOOD.

Egg, avocado, cherry tomato, and dulse, added later

Whatever you have for breakfast, make it hearty, maybe have more calories (good calories) than usual, balance some good carbs with fat and protein and mix it up between sweet and savory. If your breakfast usually consists of a quick cup of coffee running out the door, and a Starbucks muffin, you’ll probably feel that 3pm sugar crash earlier than lunchtime. EMBRACE HEALTHFUL FOOD!

Oh Gratitude, oh Gratitude…how lovely are your restaurants…

I am sure I am one of 10 kagillion Berkeley and Bay Area natives who are going to be posting, commenting and blogging about this, and many of you will probably think to yourselves that it was a strange place anyway; too expensive and “so Berkeley.” But Cafe Gratitude, which is closing the doors of all of its restaurants, including Gracias Madre in San Francisco’s Mission District, is “so Berkeley,” and that is a GOOD thing. More things should be “so Berkeley.”

It is not my intention to seem dogmatic in the context of speaking about Cafe Gratitude, in that the cuisine of the restaurant is THE WAY to eat. I understand; to each their own. However, would anyone, in their rational mind, want a McDonald’s on every corner, or an establishment like Cafe Gratitude, if you had to choose? (and you could still enjoy McDonald’s every once in a while; it just wouldn’t be so readily available). Cafe Gratitude is healthful, makes you feel good and is a joyful place to visit, even if it is just to try a raw cacao truffle or a piece of key lime (cashew) pie as an adventure. Here is what I am choosing to focus on: that there really is something for everyone on the menu, at least to try once. It might not be a favorite place for the general public, but it is a wonderful resource. It supports the fact that there is still so much more that we ALL need to learn about health, and that a place like Cafe Gratitude teaches, but doesn’t force feed (no pun intended). Not to mention the fact that, in times like these, we should all rise towards being more grateful for the good in our lives, showing gratitude to the people who bring us happiness, not the materials that superficially bring us this feeling that is fleeting. Admittedly, we all, as humans, struggle with this every day. For me, writing about it helps to create balance between these thoughts, flushing out times when I have a bad day and want to buy a pair of shoes. I can really get SO MUCH MORE from good food, good relationships and a healthy lifestyle than from a pair of shoes. If you’re grateful and you know it, clap your hands. And keep clapping.

For my classmates, friends and me who have enjoyed it’s unique atmosphere and philosophy, it is truly the end of something special. The Gratitude philosophy had in their minds what many altruistic and righteous spokespeople of the food movement have been communicating about (i.e. Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Joshua Rosenthal…the list could go ON AND ON). Thankfully, they have been pushed into the spotlight more, as well. Aside from the goodness, realness and wholeness of the food, to me and to many others, Cafe Gratitude is crucial, uplifting, exciting, cleansing, mysterious, different, raw, healthful, meaningful, experimental, important, whole, real and true. It is to be appreciated. For more information and to support Cafe Gratitude, please visit a few of their support networks:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Gratitude/54188889030

http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-gratitude-berkeley

Here are a few fun pictures from a first trip to Gracias Madre (not raw, but some of the best food that happened to be Mexican-inspired vegan) with my dear friend Maggie.

The spread, with a basket of fresh blue corn tortillas. We had roasted sweet potatoes with some spices and grilled onions, sauteed kale with pepitas, mushrooms with cashew sour cream, black bean puree and brown rice.

Dessert – I think I remember it being a dulce de leche-esque cashew “cheez” cake with sprinkled toasted coconut and cinnamon nut milk “ice cream”

I also made my own attempt at the “I AM COOL” mint cacao shake, with a recipe to follow.

  • 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs (I know, I know – they are bitter. But the honey or dates will help and they are cacao in it’s purest form!)
  • 8 ounces cold or semi-frozen nut milk (hazelnut might make a bit of a nutella-type flavoring? Yummm…)
  • 1 few fresh mint leaves (5-8)
  • 1 tbsp honey or three dates or 2 tbsp date sugar
  • 1 scoop of Vital Scoop (from Bauman College. It has whey in it, but it is the best green powder I have tasted that has a tinge of sweet coconut flavor, but not overpowering. A great additive to a shake like this to sweeten without adding too much sugar and a great way to get some greens supplemented!)

And, of course, the Vitamix or one comparable to it is best here. Blend away until super smooth!