Coffee Talk

Hi there! Long time no see and hellooooo November! Wow, where has this year gone?

coconut coffee

When I was in college my friend and room mate, Rachel, was also a morning person like me. Most mornings we would sit in the living room or at the dining room table and have coffee chats. This entailed conversations that ranged from life’s uncertainties, hopes, and dreams, to gossip and laughing about our previous night’s antics. Oh, college. Anyway, it was a time for reflection, sharing, bonding, and generally just forced us to be present.

Years later, I still try to keep that mindset when I’m sipping on my morning cup of Joe, and it’s the reason I won’t give it up. If you have something in your routine that makes your happy and centered, keep it. A little coffee can be good for you, especially if it’s also feeding your soul.

In the interest of keeping this routine clean and healthy, but also sweet and creamy (because that’s how I take my coffee), I made a delicious all-natural vegan vanilla coffee creamer. Cheers!

Vanilla Coffee Creamer

1 cup of coconut milk

1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, cashew, soy, etc)

4 TBS liquid sweetener of choice (I used honey, but maple syrup would also be delicious)

1 TBS vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Put all ingredients into a saucepan and whisk together while slowly heating. Bring the mixture to simmer for a minute. Whisk a little more until everything is combined. Allow to cool. Enjoy!

xo,

Natalia

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Friday Delights: Vegan Keftedes

Matt comes from a Greek family that is quickly helping me become well-versed in Greek cuisine. Greek food is delicious, fresh, unique, and I rarely get tired of it. Greek food also seems to have two sides: naughty and nice. On the one hand we have tzatziki, Greek salads, melitzanosalta, plenty of grilled seafood, souvlaki, etc. On the other hand we have heavier things like moussaka, taramasalata (MY FAVORITE!), gyros, and… Keftedes. Keftedes are deliciously seasoned fried meatballs that are perfect paired with some creamy tzatziki. In the past I have replaced ground beef with lentils when I want to turn a traditionally meat dish vegan, so I decided to use this method and attempt a vegan keftede. The result was tasty, healthy, and easy enough to add to my weekday dinner line-up.

DSC_0017

Vegan Keftedes

2 cups of cooked lentils (these can be plain or seasoned, just watch the salt if they’re already seasoned)

1/2 cup of ground flaxseed

1/3 cup of water

2 TSB of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp of dry oregano

1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

polenta or cornmeal for rolling

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
  2. Place the lentils, flaxseed, water, and olive oil in bowl and mash until you have a consistency that is malleable but still has some whole lentils for texture.
  3. Add the minced garlic, oregano, mint, and parsley and mix together with a spoon. Then add the salt and pepper and taste. It’s ok to go a little over salty on this one as the saltiness will lessen once they are cooked.
  4. Pour some polenta on a working space and roll 1-2TBS size balls of the mixture in your hands and then in the polenta to give the exterior a nice crunch coat.
  5. Grease a baking sheet, line up the balls, and bake for 20 minutes, turning the keftedes halfway through.
  6. Serve with tzatziki and enjoy!

These are high in fiber, vegan, gluten-free, and naturally healthy. We enjoyed ours with tzatziki, a salad, and rice 🙂

Hope you have a happy Friday!

xo,

Natalia

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

cinco de mayo

¡Hola!

It’s no secret I’m a Mexican food FANATIC, there’s just something about the fresh ingredients and the combination of cilantro, cumin, chile, and lime that really gets me excited about sitting down for a meal (well, more than usual, that is). So naturally, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday I fully acknowledge.

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day (that is the 16th of September), but rather when the Mexican army beat the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (thanks Wikipedia!). We learn something new every day 🙂

Here’s a round-up of some delicious Mexican recipes from around the web:

1. Fish Tacos and Buckwheat Tortillas by yours truly! (note: there’s also a recipe for a delicious beetroot slaw and mango salad in there).

2. Restaurant-Style Salsa by the Pioneer Woman, serve with tortilla chips and guacamole for a yummy vegan starter.

3. Roasted Garlic Guacamole by Rick Bayless, this is a fun take on Guac, but a more traditional recipe can be found here by none other than Eva Longoria.

4. Vegan Enchiladas with Cilantro Avocado Cream Sauce by OhSheGlows.

5. Chicken Mole – complicated, but the traditional Cinco de Mayo dish.

6. Carne Asada for the carnivores, by Mexico in my Kitchen.

7. Vegan Mexican Street Corn by a House in the Hills

8. Tres Leches Cake, because… it’s a holiday. Thanks, Alton Brown.

9. Simple Margarita: 1 part tequila, 1 part Grand Marnier, freshly squeezed lime juice, agave to taste, all in a shaker and then poured over ice in a salt rimmed glass.

 

Mexican food is pretty forgiving so have fun today and play in the kitchen. ¡Hasta luego!

 

xo,

Natalia

Quick and Healthy – Aji de Gallina

My mom’s side of the family is from Lima, Peru, and while I was born in Lima, we’ve been stateside since I was nearly 2. Even though my dad is American, we grew up speaking a lot of Spanish at home (fortunately he learned), and when my mom cooked, you could be sure it was going to be a delicious Peruvian meal.

Peruvian food is amazing and my mom’s cooking definitely does it justice (the woman is talented!). Between her ceviche, empanadas, causa, PISCO SOURS… I could go on and on. But my favorite, will always be: aji de gallina. Aji is a spicy yellow pepper found in South America, and it’s pretty much in all Peruvian dishes. The flavor is unique and the color just brings a special brightness to its dishes. Aji de Gallina is a delicious creamy spicy chicken dish, and the rich sauce normally requires a range of ingredients like breadcrumbs/white bread, evaporated milk, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and more. Last night I decided to make a MUCH less complicated version that was also gluten and dairy free. It was far from traditional, but still tasty and gave me my Peruvian fix.

aji de gallina

(I know… I know… I really need to stop with iphone pics and start using the camera. Working on it!)

My Aji de Gallina

serves 3-4

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 TBS of coconut oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • aji amarillo paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • salt and pepper

1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan and cover with water. Add half of the stock cube and bring to a simmer. Cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through. Then remove the chicken from the water and set aside to cool. Once cooled, shred the chicken into bite size pieces. This can be done ahead of time, or with leftover chicken.

2. Heat the oil in a pan. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic, add to the pan and saute on medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the coconut milk and aji amarillo paste – this is the tricky part because aji amarillo paste varies in potency. Use your discretion here based on how spicy your paste is. Mine was fairly mild, so I added 3 tablespoons, but I’ve had aji pastes where 1 teaspoon would have been enough.

3. Add the other half of the stock cube to the sauce and stir until well combined. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer for a few minutes so the flavors can marry. Taste and season with salt and pepper, you may even want to add more aji at this point.

4. Serve with potatoes or rice and garnish with black olives. Enjoy!

Quick and easy peasy. While my mom’s is way more traditional and complex, this was the perfect healthy weeknight dish that hit the spot and had me thinking about my family 🙂

xo,

Natalia

Juicy Wednesday: Almond Milk

Good morning!

Sorry for the hiatus, Friday (August 9th) was Women’s Day, a public holiday (yes… another one…wee!) here in South Africa. We went away for the long weekend so I was unable to blog on Friday, but I’m back!

Today I am sharing a recipe for Almond Milk. Not quite “juice” in its assumed form, but still juice in the sense that the pulp of the almonds is removed, leaving behind a lovely creamy “milk” and suitable dairy alternative. This recipe is simple and the only tools you’ll need are a blender, container to store the milk, and a nut milk bag/cheese cloth/or coffee filter.

In the States, almond milk is readily available at most grocery stores and ranges in price. In South Africa, you’ll be hard-pressed to find almond milk in most health food shops, and when you do it is generally around R80 for a liter ($8…. no thanks). Given how easy and significantly cheaper it is to make almond milk (not to mention, ZERO preservatives), I think I’ll keep making it at home.

almondmilk

Almond Milk

makes 4 cups

1 cup of raw plain almonds soaked overnight

4 cups of filtered water

4-6 dates soaked overnight (optional)

1/2 tsp of vanilla (optional)

pinch of salt (optional)

pinch of cinnamon (optional)

1. Soak the almonds and optional dates in water overnight.

2. Rinse almonds and add to blender with water, dates, vanilla, salt and cinnamon.

3. Blend on medium for at least 1 minute or until the mixture is nice and creamy, then increase speed to high for an additional 30-60 seconds.

4. Carefully strain liquid through a nut milk bag, cheese cloth or coffee filter into a jug or container. You may have to do this step in stages and be sure to try and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Reserve pulp.

5. Enjoy!

This is not like your typical store-bought almond milk. The milk will eventually separate when left alone, so just give it a good shake before every use, store it in the fridge and consume within 5 days.

The pulp can be used for SO many things, so don’t toss it! If you made plain almond milk (no extras like dates or vanilla, etc) then you can spread the pulp out over a baking sheet and dehydrate it in your oven (on its lowest setting) for several hours until the pulp becomes dry almond flour. Alternatively add a tablespoon or two to smoothies, oats, etc. The pulp is loaded with fiber and still maintains many of the nutritional benefits associated with almonds (vitamin E, manganese, copper, riboflavin, calcium, iron, and more).

Drink up.

 

xo,

Natalia