In the spirit of Christmas I am writing this article on the vivacious and marvelous sunflower, which in my opinion is one of nature's most precious gifts.
I am thankful for its sunny characteristic that consistently brings a smile to my face and fills my spirit with joy. How can one not be fascinated by this unique flower that continuously seeks out the sun. It reminds me of how we should live...by always seeking the sunny side of life.
The sunflower, Helianthus Annus, originated in the American southwest and was eventually brought to Europe and other parts of the world to cultivate. This amazing plant is used not only in the cut flower industry but also for its oil and seeds. The sunflower head is actually a composite of hundreds of tiny flowers which mature into fruits which are what we know as the "seeds." The outer covering of the "seed" is inedible and the inner part is the true seed which we can eat.
Sunflower seeds contribute a wealth of nutrition to us in the form of essential fatty acids (the good fats), vitamin E, protein, fiber, phytochemicals, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, zinc, folate, and iron. These little guys are great for boosting the immune system due to their high content of antioxidants.
Can you believe these tiny little things give us so much? Seeds are truly the spark of life giving us everything we need for vitality, so it is important to incorporate more of them in our diets.
Some ideas on how to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses in your diet include simply snacking on them (in small amounts as they are concentrated in fats), tossing them on salads or in cereals, adding them to stir-fry or grain dishes, and incorporating them into granola or trail mixes.
You can experiment with them and substitute sunflower seeds for other ingredients such as pine nuts in pesto. Here is a simple homemade granola bar recipe that you can make for your family or give away for holiday gifts this season:
Homemade Granola Bars - makes about 5 or 6 bars
1/4 cup raw honey, agave or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats (not quick!)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
pinch of ground cinnamon - or more to taste
In a sauce pan over low temp heat honey with peanut butter until blended. Remove from heat and add vanilla. In a separate bowl combine rolled oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and a pinch of cinnamon. Add the warm wet mix to the dry and stir evenly.
Lightly spray a loaf pan with cooking spry and press the mix evenly in it. Let dry and cut into bars. Simple, healthy, and quick! You can be creative with this recipe and add other ingredients as you like.
So now that your ready to go out and buy sunflower seeds let me add a quick note on how to buy and store them because they can go rancid quite quickly. Purchase raw hulled sunflower seeds from stores with high turnover. Store them in a dark glass bottle in the fridge.
You can sprout the seeds and then roast/cook them for easier digestion. Lightly roasting the seeds can reduce the effects of rancidity. Other than that, go ahead and enjoy nature's gift to us. Happy Holidays!!!
If you didn’t eat yourself into a candy coma last night, we’ve got a delicious (healthy) cookie recipe for ya! As The Juicery Kitchen chef, I am always looking for recipes to tweak– to add some nutrient-density while refusing to compromise on flavor. Click here for one of my favorites!
The day I discovered raw food cuisine, my entire body filled up with passion and excitement. The beauty and creativity of utilizing Mother Nature's raw gifts to create elegant, gourmet, unique dishes had me utterly fascinated.
Now, I did not turn into a raw foodist because of this, but rather started viewing raw foods cuisine as an artist would, using fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as her medium. The vibrant colors of oddly shaped heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs, rainbow chard, or dazzling limes are nature's artistic palette designed for me to create exquisite, delicious works of art.
Gently chopping a handful of garden fresh herbs allows their aromas to be released filling my lungs with their potent and intense smells. Parsley, tarragon, basil, rosemary and thyme, oh my! The culmination of this sensory explosion ends in my taste buds screaming for joy at the pleasure of this live food artistic creation.
Vegan food + creativity = my heaven!!!!
My first experimentation with raw foods cuisine was to make a nut cheese. I was inspired to do this for two reasons...for my inquisitive mind to know what a cheese made out of nuts would taste like and because I know many people who are lactose intolerant and would love to indulge in a cheese like food.
I went to the store, bought some almonds and cheesecloth and decided to experiment. In my research of raw cheeses I learned that many of the specialty vegan cheeses are made with a fermented product known as rejuvalac, but my cheese was not. I went the easy route and was quite pleased with the outcome. If you do want to get fancy, try checking out recipes using rejuvalac and you will be amazed at what types of vegan cheeses you can create.
My first try with nut cheese involved a three day process. The first day I let the nuts soak in a bowl of water overnight. The second day I drained the nuts then placed them in a blender with oil and spices. The result was a pureed nut blend which I wrapped up tightly in cheesecloth and let sit in a bowl overnight to drain. The next day the cheese was drier and similar to a goat cheese consistency. It was delish!!!
My taste testers and I ate it like you would a goat cheese with crackers, but also tried it as a baked topping on stuffed tomatoes. It tasted amazing and eerily like cheese! Of course this way is not raw, but it is still a great alternative to dairy cheese.
Here is my recipe, but as I always say... experiment, have fun, and don't worry about messing it up because this is meant to be an enjoyable and delicious experience. You can add more or less herbs to taste.
Italian Spreadable Nut Cheese
1 cup whole blanched (skins removed) almonds
3 Tablespoons cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove of peeled garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh parsley
1.) Place almonds in a bowl, cover fully with water, and let soak overnight. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
2.) Place almonds, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices in a high speed blender and puree until a smooth creamy paste forms (about 5 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
3.) You can eat this as is by shaping it into a round or rolling it into a log. You may drizzle more oil and sprinkle more herbs over it, or use it in raw foods creations such as rawsagana or rawvioli's. Or you can forget the raw thing and bake it alone or in dishes. If you want to get more liquid out and make it drier without baking then place mixture into a triple layer of cheesecloth. Tie up into a ball and place over a bowl. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to drain. The next day discard remaining liquid, remove from cheesecloth and place on a serving platter either in a round or roll up in wax paper to make it resemble a goat cheese log.
Add different herbs or no herbs at all if you want. You may also add water to the first stage of blending but then you will definitely have to place the puree in a cheesecloth to drain overnight. Experiment to see what consistency you would like and what flavors you enjoy the most.
Have fun with this amazing culinary art of creating dishes with raw foods. Experience the RAWvolution and enjoy!!!
Ah, the joys of autumn...the vibrant colors of the trees tantalizing the eyes, the crisp air refreshing our bodies, and of course the fun and joy of the approaching holidays.
This is the time of the year that we enjoy the amazing pumpkin which gives us the gastronomic satisfaction of yummy pumpkin pie and the creative satisfaction of making a scary jack-o-lantern. The other wonderful thing about the pumpkin is its often overlooked seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain enormous amounts of valuable nutrients and are darn tasty too.
A tradition of mine every Halloween is to pick out the perfect pumpkin, open it up and pull out all the seeds to toast, and then carve it. The seeds are easy to get to and fun to pull out as they are surrounded by the squishy pumpkin strings inside that are just plain fun to handle. It makes you feel like a kid again!
Once you separate the seeds from the pumpkin strings, rinse them off and let them dry on paper towels. You can then put them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with spices such as salt or paprika, or cinnamon and sugar, or what ever flavors you want them to have, and then toast them in the oven. Yummy!
So aside from how yummy they are you ask, "what are their nutritional benefits?" Well, according to research pumpkin seeds have high concentrations of zinc. Zinc is important in the treatment and prevention of male prostrate problems, enhancing wound healing, and helps support the immune system.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and niacin. These little guys are a powerhouse of nutrition and are easy to incorporate in your diet.
So get a pumpkin, have fun creating a work of art, and don't forget the seeds. Toast them and enjoy!
After recently indulging in a handful of fresh almonds and Brazil nuts that I soaked overnight, I was definitely feeling nuts for nuts. The rich, meaty taste and delicate crunch of these earthy delicacies reminded me of how satiating they can be. I wanted to consume more than the proportioned handful I gave myself, but the little nutrition angel on my shoulder reminded me about moderation with nut consumption.
Nuts are known to be high in calories and fats, but are nevertheless a part of a healthy diet in moderation. Luckily their high fat content is mostly in monounsaturated fat, A.K.A. the good fat. Yippee! Monounsaturated fat, unlike the big bad saturated fat, is a valuable macro nutrient important in the normal functioning of your amazing body.
Nuts also are filled with necessary nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, fiber, phytonutrients, and minerals. As part of an enjoyable and healthy diet you can count your serving of nuts as part of the protein group. A portion size of 1/3 cup of nuts is equal to 1 oz. meat. Try incorporating these grounding life sources as a mid morning or mid afternoon snack for an energy boost.
When buying nuts, purchase those that are super fresh, unsalted, and organic if possible. It is best to buy un-shelled nuts which have a longer storage life. Nuts can go rancid quickly and you do NOT want to eat rancid nuts as they wreak havoc on your body. Once the shell is removed make sure to store the nuts in closed, glass containers in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity.
I also highly recommend soaking your nuts to release their enzymes which will help you digest them better. Place the nuts in a glass cup and cover with water. Allow them to soak overnight, rinse, dry and store in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. You can eat them raw, dehydrated, or lightly roast them to bring out their flavor (350 degrees for 5-10 minutes). Yummy!
Good ways to add nuts to your diet aside from just snacking on them include adding them to cereals, granola or muesli, and salads. You can also use them to accentuate casseroles, pastas, vegetable dishes, or encrusting tofu (check out this recipe by one of my favorite vegan chefs) I was once served a unique dish that consisted of tofu encrusted with toasted macadamia nuts, spices, and a popular Colombian coconut seasoning called Titote which is normally used to make coconut rice. Oh my goodness was that an explosion of flavor that tantalized my sweet tooth and made me feel instantly transported to a tropical island.
So once again, be creative and have fun with Mother Nature's ingredients. Food is a total sensory delight and also livens our spirit. Eat good quality and fresh nuts in moderation and maybe you'll go nuts for nuts!
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.