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.

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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

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Juicy Wednesdays: Fat-Burning Juice

So this morning I had a kitchen-sink cooking moment when I gathered everything I could find to make a nice juice, and accidentally made a juice that is perfect for anyone trying to shed a few. Please note, this juice has many other benefits aside from being a weight loss aid, it’s excellent for general detoxing, plus it’s refreshing with a nice amount of zing.

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Fat-Burning Juice

serves 2

1 cucumber

1 grapefruit

1 apple

1 lemon

1 thumb of ginger

Peel the cucumber, lemon, and grapefruit. Juice everything. Enjoy!

 

Benefits:

Grapefruit contains an antioxidant called naringenin that can help your liver breakdown fat. Grapefruit also has high levels of Vitamins A & C which are great for your immune system, and can beautify your skin. Lycopene, a phytochemical found in grapefruits, has powerful antioxidant properties which helps fight free-radicals in the body.

Cucumbers are full of skin-friendly minerals (magnesium, potassium, silicon). They also flush out toxins and have a soothing effect on the body.

Apples are a good source of pectin which aids in digestion. Apples are also very high in Vitamins A & C, and many other minerals. Furthermore, Apple juice is an excellent source of fiber and sufficient fiber is one of the keys to weight loss.

Ginger aids digestion and has many anti-inflammatory properties, but it works as a weight loss tool by having thermogenic effect on the body that helps activate your metabolism. Hence… the burn!

Lemon is just an all-arounder. It naturally alkalizes the body, aids in digestion, fights fluid retention, and is another Vitamin C superstar. I rarely exclude lemons from my juices.

 

xo,

Natalia

St. Patty’s Day FOMO

Happy St. Patty’s Day!!!

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I love holidays. One of the things I miss the most about living Stateside is that we go ALL OUT for holidays, and Chicago especially goes all out for St. Patrick’s day. Between the parades (yes plural, the South Side has their own), dyeing the Chicago River green (45 pounds of eco-friendly vegetable dye are dumped into the river every year), the city practically turns into one huge day party. Since the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, the big celebrations happened over the weekend, but since today is the official day, here’s what I’m doing to “celebrate”:

 

1. This recipe, except I’ll be nixing the cheese, subbing one cup of water for coconut milk, and sprinkling a little parmesan on top. <-spinach turns the dish green, therefore making it festive.

2. Wearing green. Duh.

3. If I didn’t have to work, I’d totally be drinking this right now, but no worries, a big glass of wine awaits me.

4. On repeat.

 

Hope everyone had a fun weekend, and don’t forget to wear green today!

 

xo,

Natalia

My three favorite R words…

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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Most of us are familiar with these three R words, but it doesn’t mean we implement them. I’ve certainly been guilty of throwing a wine bottle (or two… or more…) in the trash before, but I know the importance of Recycling and I know it is something I need to be more proactive with.

Recyclables include:

  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Glass

In South Africa, those that are primarily responsible for recovered and recycled waste, are our informal recyclers… aka bin-pickers. While it’s not the safest job, at least someone is doing it, but we could certainly make it a little easier for them by rinsing and separating our recyclables before putting them out. Then, these guys wouldn’t have to dig through our garbage and the recyclables wouldn’t be contaminated with food. Want a more formal recycling route? There are private companies that organize curbside collection for a fee, otherwise you can schlep to the closest drop off point and deliver your recyclables yourself. You can find more information at Treevolution’s “Guide to Recycling in South Africa”.

Ultimately, it’s not just about Recycling though, the other two R’s are also important and applicable to daily living. Reducing consumption and Reusing where we can, are steps in the right (green) direction. Give it a shot! Maybe make May your month of dedicated recycling 🙂

 

Enjoy your Tuesday my Recyclababes!

 

xo,

Natalia

Recycled Windows, Sunsets, & Love

This is a sweet story that resulted in an innovative sustainable design idea, which proved to be EVERYTHING. I came across this story while perusing Inhabitat, a website that runs a lot of sustainable design stories, and loved it so much that I had to share.

We all like a good sunset, right? Well, when couple Nick Olson (a photographer)  and fashion designer Lilah Horowitz were on their first date, they admired the sunset and discussed dreams to one day build a house in which they could fully enjoy the magnificence of a beautiful sunset. One year later, they quit their jobs and set off on a road trip from Pennsylvania to West Virginia where they finally settled to begin building something spectacular.

To optimize sunset viewing within their home, Olson and Horowitz came up with the idea to build a “facade of windows” for the house. On their road trip they collected windows from garage sales, antique shops, flea markets, etc and used these windows to build an entire facade of their new home. Has your jaw dropped yet? Pretty amazing right? Have a look at the pictures below.

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Check out the full story here

 

Just to really show off, the couple even built the rest of the house out of recycled wood. I’m finished! So green, so inspiring, and so beautiful!

Hope you’re having a good start to the week!

xo,

Natalia

Friday Delights: 5 things

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be cool….

Happy Friday! The weekend is in sight 🙂

Today I am sharing 5 things I’m currently finding delightful that I hope you will too:

1) I have a huge nerdy culinary crush on Mark Bittman. I said it. Mark (it’s cool, he said I can call him by his first name) had a column called The Minimalist in the New York Times Dining section (that I stalked) for years, was the lead food writer for Times Magazine (also stalked) and also the author of a few books. Recently, Mark published a book called VB6 where he encourages readers to eat like a vegan until dinner time. My heart.

2) I gave up gluten/wheat for lent this past March and immediately noticed major differences. While I do not have a gluten intolerance, I found that avoiding it makes me feel better, and since I’m an avid baker, a healthier flour option was already an urgent need. I’ve been experimenting with affordable alternatives and have fallen in love with Nature’s Choice Gluten Free Cake Flour. This flour’s main ingredient is brown rice flour (winning!), but it also incorporates soya flour, sago flour, potato flour, tapioca and sea salt, to give your baked goods a lovely texture that is very similar to your classic wheat flours. Brown rice flour= healthy carbs. I love it.

3) Davines hair products. I have been using Davines products for almost a year now and when I say these products saved my hair… I mean it. I have long hair, which is fun, but requires a good hair care regime. Davines are phenomenal and the best part is that they’re a sustainable brand that incorporates sustainability principles in their ingredients, production and distribution. They are a natural brand with environmentally-friendly practices, and the products speak for themselves. Love love love.

4) It took me a long time to find a Stevia that I could stomach (most are horribly bitter), but Canderel Green, not only can I stomach you, I like you. Stevia is tricky… it’s the preferred safe sweetener (low in calories, all natural, etc), but it tastes like garbage, and the after taste is even worse. Let me honest… it does not taste like sugar or other sweeteners, but it’s also not full of foreign ingredients that are known carcinogens. It’s all-natural and I like it in my morning cuppa.

5) With VB6 as an inspiration and Spring in the air, I’ve decided to start not only eating vegan before 6 (that’s already pretty much in order) but eating vegan AND raw before dinner time. With that in mind, I’m going to start sprouting regularly. Sprouting is a great way to get in some raw protein, enzymes and vitamins, plus it diversifies your meals. Watch this space, my resident sprouter (aka boyfriend) will be doing a post next week explaining the process and some benefits.

Have a delightful weekend!

xo,
Natalia

Green Eating on a Budget

Hi! How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was lovely and one of the highlights had to be this:

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Lots of beautiful sunshine and lots of juice. A jug full of green juice makes me giddy. *sigh* It’s the little things…

 

Today’s post is focused on green eating in an affordable manner. Healthy eating has a terrible reputation for being expensive and therefore unsustainable to the average Joe. Food isn’t cheap, but I don’t think being healthy has to be pricey and the economics behind food prices and investments in our health and environment, need to be considered when buying food. Yes, coconut oil is more expensive than your over-processed vegetable oil, but so are the health risks you’re likely to encounter as a result of using it. Below are my guidelines for eating green on a budget:

1. Buy in Bulk– Healthy grains like quinoa, millet, and brown rice are more expensive than generic white rice, but when bought in bulk it becomes affordable and worthwhile to incorporate these ingredients into our diets. The same goes for things like coconut oil, flours, legumes and many fruits and vegetables. The key is to look at the unit price of most grocery items. There you will see the price in terms of weight for each packaged item and you can determine which is the cheapest over all. Perishables can be bought frozen and used later, and grains and legumes have a long shelf life.

2. Eat Seasonally– In season fruits and vegetables are better for you, the environment and your wallet. Because they are in season, they have not been imported from another part of the world and since they are in the middle of their own harvest, they are readily available and need to be sold.

3. Use discretion when buying organic- Yes, organic is much better, but no, it is not imperative that you buy EVERYTHING organic. Print out the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen for 2013 sheet and use this to carefully pick and choose where you want to invest in organic produce. 

4. Buy Local– Go to your local farmer’s market or order a farm box. Not only does this support your local farmers and cut back on emissions from transport, you’re buying the produce from the source and therefore there are no store markups and the food is usually organic.

5. Plan ahead– There is a slight art to green shopping on a budget, but 90% of that simply comes down to planning. Plan what you will eat during week, know what you need and know what you have in your cupboards so nothing goes to waste. This isn’t to say that everything must go according to your meal plan, life happens. But if a dinner invitation comes along and you know that you won’t be eating something, try freezing it or incorporating it into another meal.

6. Homemade is better– processed foods can add up and not have much return. While we often pay for the convenience of store bought goods, homemade is usually tastier, healthier and more affordable. One of my favorite examples is muesli. Store-bought “healthy” muesli can be very expensive and is often loaded with added sugars, preservatives and sometimes even… trans fats. I mean, really? If we’re going to go there, let’s just have the donuts please. While homemade requires the extra effort, it’s worth it. You are in complete control of what goes into the food and ultimately it will be more affordable and have a higher return on your health.

7. Eat less meat– I’m a believer that if you’re going to eat meat, then regard it as a luxury and not a staple. Meat is expensive and reducing it from your diet will aid your health and cut back on your costs. If you’re going to buy meat, then best you buy organic/free-range because that factory raised stuff is not only incredibly unethical, it’s very very bad for your body. I’m not here to preach or represent PETA, it’s just the truth and I’m pretty sure no one wants hormone-infused food in their bodies. Rather find a local butcher who can tell you exactly where the meat is coming from and how it is produced. Then, ask if you can buy in bulk and freeze to save some money.

 

Bottom line: Healthy and green eating are not always the cheapest options, but part of eating is nourishing our bodies to invest in our health and longevity. Spending a little extra on better quality ingredients, means you may not have medical bills coming out of your ears in the future. Furthermore, it invests in the environment and means you’re treading a little more lightly 🙂

 

Happy shopping!

 

xo,

Natalia