Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Today’s Music (this was a favorite for late-night paper writing in college)

I’m proud to say that this post was requested by someone looking for a new way to use pumpkins.  Pumpkins are a veritable Autumnal installation, but they’re not just for pies and pissing off your neighbors while they degrade into a puddle on your front porch.  These gourds are loaded with beta-carotine (which your body converts to Vitamin A), and can be used in savory dishes, as well as desserts.

Why pumpkin sauce?  Excellent question!  Large batches of pasta primavera is one of the staples of my diet; it’s easy to make and store, it’s a great way to get vegetables into your diet, and if you use whole wheat pasta (and make sure to add variety to your diet) it’s a fairly healthy option.  I try to stay away from jarred tomato sauces when I can, and now that Barilla is off of my menu for now, I like alternatives (and shove the free market arguments, the president of the Barilla company is a douche and should be called on his comments).  Now that tomatoes are out of season, and because I have not yet learned how to can, pumpkin sauce works in a pinch.  Here’s roughly the recipe I used; you will need:

  • 1 small pumpkin (not the miniatures, a small large pumpkin…yeah…)
  • About a third of a cup of unsweetened almond milk (you can sub this with vegetable broth or dairy milk, if you would prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder (you could probably use whole garlic here, I would only recommend roasting it so it purees better)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the stem of the pumpkin but do not pierce the skin.  Roast it whole for about 40 minutes, or until it becomes soft; the skin should depress at your touch.  Remove the pumpkin form the oven and let it cool briefly.  Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting!) and remove the skin.  Add the pumpkin flesh to a blender with the almond milk and seasonings, and process until it has reached a smooth consistency.

Add to pasta or store immediately.

I sprung this recipe on some friends without telling them what was in it, and it was well-received.  The texture of the sauce compliments the pasta and vegetables well, and I thought it had a unique, mildly cheesy flavor that mixed will with the garlic.  Try it and tell me what you think.  What would you add?

How do you know who is vegan at a party?

Punchline: Don’t worry, they will tell you.

Sometimes I feel that I’m a man (person) without a country: I love vegan cuisine, I read (raw) vegan recipes and blog sites all of the time, I actively look for vegan alternatives and substitutes in recipes, I agree that the meat and dairy industry are major contributors to climate change and do not ensure animal or worker welfare…and most days, I do not want to talk to other people about being or not being a vegan.

There is no one reason for this discomfort, it arises from several sources of discomfort.  I often joke that it’s because I dislike vegans, but a) this isn’t true and b) that’s no coherent reason for not talking about being vegan.  Let’s turn our attention to the first question: what is veganism?

Human evolution (if you choose to recognize it) tells a story of a groups of homonids who subsisted primarily on plant matter and sometimes seeds, eggs and insects and gradually introduced calorie-saturated meat into their diet, which helped create a mechanism for humans to develop the sophisticated brain we possess today.  Currently, much of the meat, dairy and eggs eaten in this country is raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).  I see veganism as a reaction to a bad system; meat is produced in an efficient yet troubling structure with externalities that veganism recognizes and attempts to remedy or combat.  Sound reasonable?  Yes?  Good.

I will also add that veganism is not a self-imposed, masochistic deprivation, as I think it tends to be perceived.  Nor is it a sadistic plot to force-feed anyone lettuce all day (which this dick thinks eating healthy entails).  It’s a rejection of food and actions that are deemed harmful to themselves, others (including animals), and the environment, and embracing those that are not harmful.

My main problem with veganism is context.  Jargon, slogans and buzzwords are not explanations for why someone is or should be a vegan.  The idea that meat is bad is too simple an explanation for the choice to be vegan, and not necessarily true, either.  Meat is murder.  Yes, technically it is…as is stepping on an insect.  As is killing whales and other marine mammals for food and blubber, which some Inuit communities have been doing for a long time in a responsible manner.  If you really cared about_______, you’d stop eating/buying/using______).  I dislike these statements because they assume that there is willing disdain for the planet or other people from the consumer (Fuck you, Earth!).   Animals are our friends.  No.  Please leave this phrase alone.

**(These are all statements I’ve heard from actual vegans at some point in my life)**

There are, of course, reasonable, coherent explanations for becoming vegan or vegetarian.  Medical science has shown that a plant-based diet with a limited amount of animal protein is optimal for human health.  Lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, and diabetes are real health issues that can be helped by removing animal products from your diet.  CAFOs are a major contributor to global warming and ecosystem pollution.

I have considered becoming vegan several times in my life, but have not transitioned to this day.  Why not?  Because I like the eggs that I get from the farmer’s market and my grocery co-op.  Because much of the food I make is already vegan.  Because I’m cognisant of my health and make sure that I eat well and exercise.  Because I don’t like people freaking out that they might invite me over for dinner and I will be offended by their use of cheese or butter.  Because I don’t like to proselytize.  Because I’m tired of telling people that I don’t support PETA and that PETA doesn’t have the right to condemn someone who eats a grilled cheese or use eggs from a neighbor’s chicken.  Because finding solutions like nutritionally-poor school lunches, poverty, and climate change requires more than just going vegan.  Because purchasing power doesn’t equate to social change.  Because while I can see ditching fish in the future, once in a while I like a slice of pizza from the corner place down the street from me.  Because I don’t want people thinking I look down on them for not being a vegan.  Because I’m not ready yet.

Some things are inexcusable, like the torture of animals and eating fast food hamburgers multiple times a week.  Some things are reasonable approaches to a healthier diet, like taking time to walk each day and substituting meat with other options a few times a week.  My point here is that I’m really not trying to bash veganism; I’m trying to illuminate that becoming a vegan is not an end-all solution the issues related to meat production, but it’s a step in that direction.

I thought that this article was a thoughtful and honest account for what you might expect to happen when you become a vegan.  Please read and share with others.

Chapathis

Today’s Music: Preservation by Del the Funky Homosapien and Aesop Rock

So, this is my first entry in many months. I’m working eliminating ‘life being hectic’ as a valid excuse for anything, so let’s call this post a first step.

I did juggle deleting this blog because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue writing, or if I should just wait out until inspiration struck. As it turns out, people are still reading this blog, which has inspired me to try being creative again, if not in an office right now, then in the kitchen and on the keyboard. Plus, I’m using a full kitchen now (recently moved to a new place in my neighborhood), which means more room and a full oven.

So, if you’re still subscribed or check out my blog from time to time, thank you. I promise to keep putting out posts and recipes as long as people are still reading and eating.

Alright, enough of that. Onto eating…you know, if I were to have a family crest, I think that “Onto Eating” would be on there in Yiddish or Polish or something.

Chapathi (pronounced chapat-hee) is an unleavened flatbread from the Indian Subcontinent. Many of you who have eaten at an Indian restaurant are probably familiar with the flatbread naan; naan differs from chapathi in that naan is leavened bread prepared in an oven, while chapathis, and its cousin the roti, are prepared without leavening on a hot skillet or over an open flame. I like chapathis because they’re quick to make in large batches, and normally go well with what I eat on a consistent basis anyway (curries with lentils or chickpeas, stewed vegetables, hummus, etc.). The first time I had chapathi, I was hanging out in a Sikh temple, a gurdwara, eating lentils and pakoras in their communal dining hall, the langar. I’m going to be writing more about the Sikh faith and food in the coming week, but now, onto rolling out chapathis!

While making a batch this week, I wanted to try throwing in some spices and onion; I was very pleased with the end results. For your onion chapathis, you will need:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour (you can use white flour if you like, but I prefer wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 small yellow or sweet onion (I used half of a large yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin power
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, separated
  • Water, start with one cup and ad more as needed

First, julienne your onion into thin slices. Add them to a large bowl with your spices, salt, flour, and one tablespoon of oil. Mix with a wooden spoon that the onions are coated with flour.

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Add water one cup at a time and mix well until you end up with pliable, if somewhat chunky dough.

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Lay down a layer of flour on a wooden board or a countertop and knead the dough for a few minutes. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, then divide your dough into 10-12 pieces (or more if you want smaller chapathis). Use a rolling pin to roll one out as flat as you can, taking care not to totally crush your onion slices.

Pour your second table spoon of oil onto a pan, and set it on your burner on medium to medium-high heat for a minute or two. Use a piece of towel to grease the whole pan; your bread is not going to be fried, but the oil while help prevent too much sticking. Carefully lay your rolled-out chapathi on the pan, which should be very hot at this point. Each chapathi should only cook for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side. When brown spots appear on the pan-facing side, flip the bread and allow the other side to cook.

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Ideally, these would be served immediately, but you can allow them to cool and eat them later. If letting them cool, let them rest on a wire rack, or perhaps in your oven if it is not in use. I thought these chapathis turned out very well; they were a little thicker than anticipated, but cooked all the way through. The onion softened and became very sweet during the cooking process, which made for a pleasant mingling of flavors. The spices wasn’t very prominent part of the final product, so if you want a stronger turmeric or chili taste, add more to your liking.

Next week: Sikh and You Will Find…a Hot Meal and a Cup of Tea

Catfish Stew, plus sides

Today’s music selection.

To pull from Bill Maher’s playbook; New Rule: When I don’t write an entry for more than ten days, I will write one big-assed entry that includes a whole meal.

I was originally going to use this entry to write about my position on pork, since I have, I admit, an odd aversion to this particular meat.  Then I decided that this entry should be about horsemeat and how this issue (I refuse to call it a crisis) is part and parcel of a larger food system and demands a critical look at the way we eat and what food is considered “appropriate” or “taboo”.

Then I made a bunch of stew and decided that I would write about that.  First, however, some thoughts about horsemeat:

  1. After all of the crises that have arisen in the last six years alone (peanut butter recalls, tainted spinach, an array of meat that has made people sick, and these are just a few of the issues that have happened in the United States), presence of horsemeat in ground beef should not actually be that surprising.
  2. This should be the rock-bottom wake-up call that when consumers are  removed from the process of raising, slaughtering, and preparing animals and the process left in the hands of enormous corporate groups, it’s not surprising that strange shit pops up in your meat or, for that matter, a wide array of food products.
  3. Using horses for meat is not a new practice. Yes, finding out that your frozen lasagna has some Black Beauty in it is very unsettling, but the taboo of horsemeat, much like the taboo for dog meat, does not hold up everywhere in the world.  This is also not some throwback to a Paleolithic-era diet; parts of Central and East Asia and Europe have eaten horses for centuries.  If anything, I think this incident should open up more discussions about food taboos in the United States and cause us to look critically at what is considered “good food”.

I apologize if these gloss over finer points of the issue, but these are just my immediate thoughts.  The more information I come across, the better developed my argument (or, more accurately, my frustration) will be in the future.

Anyway, onto a horse-free meal!

Passover is coming up; although I’m by no means the most religious person, I usually try to observe abstaining from leavened bread and other foodstuffs not available to people of Ashkenazi descent during this holiday (rice, corn, bulgur and other grains).  I take Passover in much the same way Catholics I know take Lent; it’s an opportunity to appreciate something that I normally take for granted by intentionally not consuming it for a period of time.  As I’ve gotten older and started cooking for myself, not consuming bread and other grains for a week has become much easier.  Yes, it takes more work, and yes, I have had the luxuries of selection and employment that allows me to bring my own lunch, but it’s not really that difficult, and in fact can be a fun opportunity to get creative.  The quinoa sushi I wrote about in my last entry is Passover-friendly and relatively easy to make.  This fish stew is a hearty addition to a Passover-diet, although I should caution readers that catfish is not actually kosher, so find another fish to substitute.  You will need:

  • 1¼ cup of fish broth (see below)
  • About 1 ½ pound of fish fillets, cut into 1-2 inch pieces (here I used fresh catfish and perch from the stock, but cod, halibut, or other whitefish work well)
  • 2 cans of diced or chopped tomatoes (if you have fresh, feel free to use those instead, maybe 4 or 5)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup of red lentils (not kosher for Passover, but I had a little bit in my cupboard that I wanted to use.  Omit around Passover time)
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme
  • Salt and pepper, just a little bit to taste

I buy fresh whole perch at the farmer’s market when I can get it, but I always end up throwing away the bones and head.  This past week, I thought I’d make better use of them and make a batch of fish stock.  I’m not particularly adept at filleting fish and taking the bones out, but cooking is a learning process and I’m improving.  The fish stock will be the most time-intensive part of this recipe, but it won’t require constant attention.  For the stock, you will need:

  • About 1 pound of filleted fish carcass, which can come from about 3 pounds of fish (heads, spines, the works; if there’s a little flesh on the bones, that’s alright)
  • 5-6 cups of water (I think I used a little less, but up to 6 cups should be fine)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped (you can add the skins if you like, but I chose not to)
  • Two cloves of garlic, whole
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • Any vegetables you want to add, such as carrots or celery (I had none on hand, so I used none)

Add all of your ingredients to a large pot and cover with water, enough so that the contents are covered by about an inch (here’s where you’ll figure out how much water you need).  Cover and bring the mixture to a boil.  Some scum might appear at the top as the soup heats up, but don’t panic, this is normal.  Just skim it off with a wooden spoon and discard.  Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a low to low-medium heat and simmer for about three to four hours.  Your soup should come to look something like this when it’s ready:

 

 

Strain out the fish and vegetables and discard.  You will have more broth than you need for the stew recipe, but extra soup is a good thing to have around.  If you’re using the broth within a couple of days, it can stay in the fridge.  Otherwise, freeze it.

This is what the boiled down contents looked like:

A word of warning: your kitchen will smell very fishy from the stock, so ventilate as necessary.

Now onto the stew.  Once your vegetables are all prepared, heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Sauté the vegetables for a few minutes until the onions and shallots are softened but not mushy.  Add the lentils and the chopped tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes.  Add the herbs, salt and pepper, and stir them into the mixture.  Add in the fish and the broth and simmer until the fish is thoroughly cooked.  Some of the stew might reduce as you cook, but this is alright.  Feel free to add more seasoning after you add the fish, or to include some different spices like red pepper flakes, cayenne, or coriander.  Also, adding chopped potatoes or turnips with the fish adds some body to the stew.  Serve hot.

The stew came out really well and was very filling, but side dishes are always fun (unless, you know, they bite you or something). Here are two I made to go along with the stew.

Kohlrabi “Fries”

This is kohlrabi, also known as a German turnip, so you know it’s never funny.

Kohlrabi belongs to the cabbage family, and can be served in a variety of ways, including roasting, steaming, and in a gravy or curry sauce.  When eaten raw, it tastes similar to broccoli stem, only slightly sweeter.  Kohlrabi is low in calories and full of fiber and vitamin C.

I used both the kohlrabi that are pictured and several that were larger and more spherical.

The “fries” are healthy alternatives to those made from potatoes, especially the frozen kind.  You will need:

  • Several kohlrabis (I recommend two or three of the large round ones, otherwise you will need a big bunch of the small varieties)
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced or finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and whatever else you want to use to season

Preheat the oven to 400°. Peel the kohlrabi and slice them into thin rounds, maybe ¼ inch thick, and the rounds into fries.  Mix the garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl with the oil, and add the kohlrabi.  Stir to coat well, and add them to a glass or ceramic baking dish.

Before

After

 

Bake for about 15 minutes, then shuffle them with a spatula and continue baking for another 10, or until they are starting to brown lightly.  Remove, let cool to handle, and serve.

 

 

 

Braised Collard Greens

I have a strong affection for collard greens.  See?

This was at a Green “Collard” Jobs rally in Massachusetts years ago. I think I was twenty in this picture. You’ll note the lack-of-a-haircut

To cook up these greens, you will need:

  • 1 large bunch of collard greens, stemmed and chopped (but not diced)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ½ of a yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté your garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions start to soften slightly.  Add the greens and the lemon juice, and reduce heat to low-medium.  Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring continually, until your greens are well wilted.  I used two lemons for this recipe, which was a little much; one should be enough.

There it is; a full meal to impress your friends.  Or a full meal that will provide you with a bunch of leftovers, since your friends are probably all chumps, anyway.

Wait, wait, it’s pronounced…Keen-wah? (Quinoa Sushi)

I dislike when bloggers and vloggers start a post with something akin to “I promise, I’m not dead!” whenever they create an entry after a hiatus, so I won’t begin that way.  As it were, I’m writing from beyond the grave right now, and let me tell you, I have not found a decent bagel place around here yet…

Okay, that joke was sort of lame, but I am back after a break.  I had multiple matters to attend to the last several weeks, but I’m back to posting regularly.

I was feeling particularly unadventurous the last several weeks, and most of my cooking reflected that.  However, I had a bunch of quinoa that I had no idea how to use an needed a creative solution.  Despite its grainy appearance, quinoa is actually a seed from a family of plants that include spinach and beets.  It’s packed with protein, fiber, and calcium, and can be a good substitute for rice.  I’ve seen quinoa used in a number of ways, from cold salad dishes to burrito fillings to morning grits.  Chances are, if you know a vegan, this little seed has probably come up in conversation or made an appearance at a potluck.  However, it comes with a word of precaution.

If you read environmental blogs or magazines that include pieces on agriculture and environmental issues, you might have noticed that quinoa had been in the news lately.  Quinoa has become so popular is countries where it is not grown (the US, parts of Europe, and Japan, among others) farmers in parts of South America where quinoa is grown and harvested (Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador) have faced a hike in quinoa prices that adversely affect local food systems.  Peruvian and Bolivian communities have had trouble affording a product that was once a dietary staple, and have begun to rely more on imported foods and meat.  Some economists predict that the rise in prices has actually helped these countries bring in more money and reduce poverty, while others see this as negative by-products for global palettes changing and demanding more quinoa.  Here is one report that diffuses some of the panic over the global quinoa trade.

My advice? Like meat and fish, enjoy quinoa from time to time, but not every day. Buy in bulk and through fair-trade whenever possible. And if you’re going to brag about something, don’t brag about eating quinoa.

So, after standing in my shower for a few minutes (it’s true, you can do some great thinking in there), I decided to try out making sushi.  I never got really into sushi (something about raw fish bums me out, which is probably why I am still reluctant to try ceviche), but here’s an alternative that’s healthy, relatively easy to make, and won’t break the bank.  The most expensive thing in here is the salmon, and I got that from the farmer’s market from a gentleman who sells at a fair price.  You will need:

1 cup quinoa

1 tbs of white vinegar

1 avocado

2 salmon fillets

3-4 nori sheets

Makes 4 rolls (about 24 individual sushi, depending on how thickly you cut)

Cook the quinoa in 1 ¼ cup of water or vegetable broth, until all the liquid is gone and the quinoa is soft.  Stir in the vinegar, mix well, and then let it cool enough to be handled.  I put it in a bowl in the refrigerator for about 12 minutes.

While the quinoa is going, cook the salmon fillets.  I brushed them with olive oil and put them in the (preheated) oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, flipping once halfway through.  Feel free to lightly season them with some black pepper or other spice (hopefully nothing with a very overpowering flavor).  Allow to cool to handling temperatures.  Cut into strips.

Cut the avocado in half, and then cute each half into strips lengthwise.  Remove the skin from the slices.  Get a small bowl of water ready for the folding process.

Take a clean dishtowel and fold it in quarters, about the size of your nori sheet.  I recommend doing this over a cutting board or a very clean surface.  Lay the nori, smooth side down, onto the towel.  Spoon out the quinoa over nori, between half of the sheet an two-thirds up.  Spread the quinoa so it fully covers to the edges and is evenly spread (you shouldn’t pile it on, just a smooth layer).  Put a few pieces of salmon and avocado at the edge of the nori roll atop the quinoa.  Dampen the uncovered section with some water, and get ready to roll.

The important thing is to not roll the sushi loosely, otherwise it will come undone.  My process was to roll the edge with the salmon and avocado very tightly first and make sure you have a good tuck.  This makes rolling the rest of the way easier.  When you are at the edge of the other quinoa side, wrap the remaining nori tightly and dab with some additional water if necessary to make sure it stays in place.  If you haven’t done this before, I recommend going on YouTube to check out a video of someone rolling sushi; the visual aide might help.

      

(I feel like the captions should include a joke about rolling a joint.  Again, trying to keep it family-friendly on this blog.)

Once you’re all rolled up (stop laughing), take a sharp knife and carefully cut the roll into pieces.  The sharper the knife the better; none of the knives I own are particularly sharp, so I ended up piercing the roll with the tip and slowly sawing back and forth downwards.  I ended up losing some of the quinoa out of the ends each time I did this, so either cut very slowly or make sure your blade is sharp.  I would recommend using a katana, but that feels sort of offensive.  Serve your sushi with soy sauce, some wasabi, or some chili sauce.

The end product has a light taste that absorbs the flavor of your condiment of choice.  I liked these because they made for a quick dinner on the go the next day and left me feeling full without feeling overstuffed.  Feel free to experiment with different fillings; try thinly sliced carrots, daikon radish or pickled vegetables, or mix the quinoa with brown rice for a different texture.

Until next time, keep eating….or you know, you’ll starve to death.

Next week: A report on pork, or, “Ham No Fear, Underhog is Here”

Valentine’s Day Nachos (but not really)

I received a request from a friend to do a Valentine’s Day themed blog post; something romantic or sweet that reflected the spirit of the holiday.  I thought about what Valentine’s Day means to the people I care about and how they might enjoy celebrating.

So here it is, Nachos for One.

Nah, not really.  That’s more bleak than I care to be.

I normally wouldn’t give a crap about Valentine’s Day, but what the hell, it’s not a terrible day outside; I’m on an upswing from a string of several stressful days, and I’ve got the Ethiopians playing in the background.  Time to bust out some sweetheart recipe.

Sweet Potato Banana Bread

This quick bread is fairly healthy and pretty simple to make, although I would have let mine sit in the oven for a bit longer so it fluffed up properly.  You will need:

  • 1 small sweet potato (about a cup’s worth), mashed
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs (I didn’t have enough, but you can use ¼ cup of applesauce for each egg, so ½ cup for this recipe)
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ cup of sugar (which I replaced with ¼ cup of agave nectar
  • A hand full of dark chocolate chips (I used about 1/3 cup)

Yield: 1 loaf

So, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Mash the bananas while you prepare your sweet potato.  I just put min in the microwave for about six minutes and let it cool enough to handle.  In a large bowl, blend together your bananas, sweet potato, eggs (or egg replacers), sugar, and oil.  Mix until it’s well incorporated.

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Combine them well, and then stir it into the bowl with the banana-sweet potato mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

  

Lightly grease a baking pan (I used an 8×8, but you can use a loaf pan if you prefer).  Add your batter and place in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can remove a toothpick cleanly.

This isn’t exactly what you might consider typical Valentine’s fare, but I think most typical Valentine’s fare sucks.  There is only so much candy you can eat (or should eat); those little hearts are chalky and it eludes me why we still buy them if general consensus is that they’re awful (although I have the same question about fruitcake around Christmas); and big, romantic dinners tend to be heavy on the meat, fat, and cholesterol.  This bread is sweet, and the bananas and sweet potatoes are actually heart-healthy foods, which seems more appropriate for this kind of holiday.  And if you’re worried that it doesn’t quite seem to fit the Valentine’s Day bill, here’s how I presented it to my sweetheart:

(The food on this blog won’t kill you, but you might get diabetes from how sappy I can get)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

(yes, you!)

Eat this! (not every title can be a winner, but check out these Raw Burritos)

I love Sunday mornings.  Since college, I’ve appreciated having one part of my week being dedicated to being intentionally slow.  Sometimes I troll recipe blogs or watch silly YouTube videos with my partner (this has become a favorite).  Today, I’m spending it drinking my coffee at a leisurely pace (I’m on my second cup already) and writing about raw food burritos (and no, I don’t meant steak tartar and crunchy rice wrapped up in a tortilla).

I’ve been reading a lot recently about raw vegan diets and, a more recent phenomenon, the Paleo Diet, one that tries to recreate a diet that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed.  The Paleo Diet stresses consumption of “fresh meats…eggs…seafood, fresh fruits, [vegetables], nuts and seeds and healthful fats”, while avoiding, well, pretty much everything else, including dairy, salt, and often caffeine, alcohol, and marijuana*.  Raw food diets are a little more self explanatory: your diet consists of raw fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, some roots, and perhaps some fermented foods and salts.  All of your food is prepared fresh, and cooking is essentially limited to dehydration.

There are ups and downs to both diets, the most evident being the many (but not all) adherents to either diet are often self-righteous tightwads.  Seriously, spend a few hours with a groups of raw vegans and see if can resist grinding your teeth.  These diets are easier to follow in locations where access to fresh vegetation is more readily available; having spent five miserable winters in New England, it’s easy to see why adhering to raw veganism might be difficult.  The Paleo Diet sounds like a great idea at first glance, but depending on meat, and often red meat, as the bulk of your caloric intake can lead to high risk of heart disease, kidney problems, and certain cancers.  On the bright side, these diets do advocate for increased consciousness of what you are eating, when you are eating throughout the course of a day, and greater food preparation at home rather than depending on prepared and packaged food.  Furthermore, both the Paleo Diet and raw veganism advocate for an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise, meditation, yoga, and other activities.  At the heart of both diets is increasing your nutritional intake and trying to eat in harmony with your surrounding environment, and it is hard to be angry at that.

For me, these diets are exciting opportunities to try a new recipe, which brings me to the burritos.  I apologize for not having pictures to accompany this post, so bear with me.

Raw food or raw vegan burritos are essentially a handheld salad on the go.  They’re a fun addition to dinners and potlucks (or Superbowl parties, which I will be hopping tonight), and they are highly versatile; there is no right or wrong way to enjoy these.  There are really only two ingredients that I think are necessary for raw burritos.  The first are collard greens, which will serve as your tortilla.  Collards are related to kale and cabbage, and are extremely healthy; the leaves have high quantities of fiber and calcium (great for people who are avoiding dairy), and also pack Vitamins A, C, and K.  The second necessity is avocado.  I like adding avocado because it provides a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat (the kind that helps maintain low cholesterol levels), Vitamin E, and fiber, and it adds a creaminess that goes will with whatever else you are adding to your burrito.

Here’s the process:

Peel and mash your avocado. Using a sharp knife, shave the stalk of the collard green leaf off so that your leaf is flatter and more amenable to folding.  Lay your leaf out flat and spread some of the mashed avocado.  Add your other vegetables, not so much that your burrito will be overstuffed and burst, but enough to have a good blend of flavors.  Fold the bottom of your leaf (the broad top part without the stalk ending) up and over to create a pocket, and then fold the two sides of the collard leaf over the middle, one over the other.  If you want, feel free to attach a twist tie or rubber band to the middle to hold the burrito together.  That’s it!  The fillings are up to you, but here are some ideas:

  • Bean sprouts
  • Grated root vegetables (I like shredded carrot and turnip mixed with lemon juice)
  • Brussel sprout leaves
  • Nut butter spread
  • Bell peppers
  • Chopped tomatoes or red onion added to the avocado
  • If you’re not avoiding animal products, some shredded cheese or some filleted fish (this won’t make it a raw burrito, but what the heck, enjoy it)
  • Make an accompanying dipping sauce

For some further journalistic explorations raw and Paleo diets, check out these exciting pieces from NPR:

Have you experimented with a raw food or Paleo diet? What were your experiences?

*Note: “Roots, Leaves, and Everything Else” in no way advocates for the consumptions of cannabis except as prescribed by a physician.  For more information about marijuana legislation and activism, please check out NORML.  For a great movie about marijuana consumption, check out Half Baked.  Seriously, it’s worth watching.