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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Restaurant Inspo and Faves

Hello hello!

Today I woke up craving almond milk but with no desire to make it. Ah life without Whole Foods at my fingertips…so hard. While grocery conveniences like store-bought Almond Milk were a regular thing on our trip, the real goods came in the form of delicious restaurants and of course home-cooked meals. I will do a separate post on the home-cooked delights, but below are my top 5 favorite foodie stops from our trip. We had so many delicious meals along the way that it feels criminal to narrow it all down, but what I liked about the ones listed, is that they were all pretty specialized restaurants but at the same time “everyone-friendly” without feeling like they were trying too hard.

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(yes. that is an American flag made out of various Bud cans. cheers, Bub City! source)

1)      Hummus Place– NYC

Hummus Place was a Middle Eastern restaurant that we sort of stumbled upon our last day in New York. We had a few splurges restaurant-wise prior to this meal, but this place was very  wallet-friendly and surprised us by being one of our favorite meals. The restaurant serves simple Mediterranean cuisine but with a healthy flair. The Tabbouleh was served with quinoa and fresh veggies, and the babaganush was so fresh and delicious, I was practically eating it with a spoon. Favorite part: they made Mojitos with anise wine. First of all, I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but wow, how delicious and different.

2)      Pure Food and Wine– NYC

This place was my MUST restaurant prior to the trip. I have such a girl crush on Sarma Melngailis and have read through her cookbooks several times over. She is a genius and one of the original raw foodies of NYC. Pure Food and Wine is raw organic restaurant but it is SO not what you’d expect. The vibe in the restaurant is very nice (not hippy at all) and the food is to die for. You could take any raw foods skeptic to this restaurant and definitely turn them. We tried several dishes, but my favorite had to be the Philly Roll of avocado, kimchee, and creamy cashew cheese with tatsoi, scallions, hijiki and sweet chili sauce. When I saw it on the menu I thought “oh, veggie sushi, no thanks”, but good thing my boyfriend ordered it. I’d also recommend the Lasagna and Purple Haze martini (FRESH grape juice and sake. You read that right).

3)      Frontera Grill– Chicago

I LOVE Mexican food, but it has to be done right. Frontera Grill does it better than right. The owner and chef, Rick Bayless was an anthropologist who went to Mexico to do field research and published a book on the regional cuisine. Today he is one of the leading chefs of Mexican cuisine in the United States and has built an mini empire. Frontera Grill is his more casual restaurant and the food is known for being Mexican but with a twist. My favorite dishes had to be the tamales and goat enchiladas, but truthfully, everything was absolutely delicious. Also, the margaritas there are PROPER and even sweetened with agave. Divine.

4)      Big Grove Tavern– Champaign, IL

Big Grove is one of downtown Champaign’s newest installations and it is really a sweet new spot. The restaurant is based on sustainability principles and keeps its menu seasonal while trying to source all its ingredients from local farmers and butchers. I think you can understand why I was nearly running to this restaurant when I heard about it. On top of building its business on principles I whole-heartedly support, the food is delicious! Win-win and definitely a spot to check out should you ever find yourself in Champaign, Illinois.

5)      Bub City– Chicago

My boyfriend wanted a country night before we left the States and he wanted to try BBQ. Cue Bub City. Bub City is a country music spot in the River North area of Chicago and the fare is of the good old American BBQ variety. I’m talking pulled pork, ribs, waffle fries, you name it. So while the boy got his fix of American BBQ, I found a delicious salad that still fit with that American BBQ genre but completely satisfied my diet preferences that evening (it was vegan!). If you’re in Chicago and want a fun American experience, go to Bub City, they won’t disappoint.

All the above were special meals with special people, resulting in some amazing memories. We had fun 🙂

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Now, someone get me an anise wine mojito.

 

xo,

 

Natalia

Juicy Wednesdays: Coconut Milk

Happy Spring to my South Africans and Happy Pumpkin Season to my Americans 🙂

First off, apologies are in order for the a) hiatus and b) lack of guest post on Friday. Unfortunately life got in the way this past week, but I have it on good order that a sprouting post will be coming our way soon. Regardless, I’m back and today I’m sharing one of my favorite new discoveries: homemade coconut milk.

Now let me just start by making one thing very clear: my love of coconut is only surpassed by one thing: pumpkin. I spoke of my pumpkin infatuation in this post, so I think you can see why this was so exciting. Coconut milk from a can often has so many additives that it loses a lot of its nutritional advantages and picks up some preservatives along the way. Homemade coconut milk is better nutritionally AND in terms of flavor. Furthermore, you can control what goes into the milk and decide how sweet/plain/creamy you want it to come out.

This milk is easy, cheaper than its almond version, and an excellent milk alternative.

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(coconut dreams)

Coconut Milk

2 cups of dried coconut (soaked overnight)

3-4 cups of water depending on your creaminess preference

1 tsp of vanilla (optional)

Pinch of salt

1TBS of liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup and honey are all good options)

  1. Find dried coconut that is shred into larger pieces if possible (preferably organic), finely desiccated coconut won’t have the same effect. Measure out 2 cups and soak in water for at least 6-8 hours.
  2. Drain the coconut, place in blender, add desired amount of water (3 cups yields a creamier milk than 4 cups) and blend for 1 -2 minutes, until the mixture looks nice and creamy.
  3. Strain through a nut milk bag, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and reserve pulp.
  4. Place the milk back into the blender with optional vanilla, salt and sweetener and blend for 30 more seconds.
  5. Enjoy! Store the milk in the fridge and give it a good shake before every use, should keep for up to 5 days.

The coconut pulp can be spread on a baking sheet and dehydrated (oven at 50C or a dehydrator) for several hours until it becomes coconut flour. If the texture comes out clumpy after several hours of dehydration, just give it a spin in the blender or food processor until it resembles fine flour.

Some health benefits of coconut milk: high levels of magnesium, selenium, calcium, copper and vitamin C. The results of these include: good for the skin, nervous system, joins and bones!

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, coconuts!

 

xo,

Natalia

 

Friday Delights: 4 things

Happiest Friday to you all and I hope all you South Africans are staying warm… talk about a cold front!!!

Today I’m sharing 4 delightful things that I’ve got on my mind at the moment:

1. Have you heard of Lorde? She’s this Kiwi teenager singer-songwriter, who has a really nice sound and I just can’t get enough of her song “Royals”. Here it is for your listening pleasure: 

2. This weekend we’re hosting a lunch and I’m thinking these beet crostinis, and these butternut croquettes might have to happen. Sneaky veggie treats for the meat eaters in attendance. Note: those butternut croquettes are delicious and so easy.

3. Hot Toddies. I’m really loving these at the moment, and I have to say… it’s probably one of the healthiest cocktails out there. I use the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 teaspoon of raw honey, hot water and some whiskey. So comforting. I’ve been told Hot Toddies are “good for the soul”, so I’m going to go ahead and keep telling myself that.

4. It’s August. While that’s delightful in some respects (Spring is around the corner, USA trip is coming up, etc), where did this year go??? They say life only gets faster, so even if your weekend is jam-packed, take a minute to soak it in, slow down and really enjoy every moment. That’s my goal 🙂

 

Enjoy your weekend and stay warm (preferably with a Hot Toddy)!

xo,

Natalia

Kitchen Sink Cooking = “Tabbouleh”

I’m a huge advocate of using what you’ve got in your fridge and cupboards, and I like to call it “kitchen sink cooking”. A lot of happy kitchen accidents have been born this way and it ensures no food goes to waste (a HUGE pet peeve of mine). The other night this “tabbouleh” was born out of just that and I’m happy to say it will probably be making a reappearance soon.

Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgar wheat, but I try and stay away from gluten so I made mine with brown rice (note: if you want a more bulgar wheat/couscous texture, you can use quinoa, we just didn’t have any in our cupboards). I also added chickpeas and spinach to make the dish a more well-rounded meal, and heated it because it’s winter and warm food is necessary.

 

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Tabbouleh My Way

For the bowl:

1 cup of brown rice

1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (approximately 1 can, but I used dried chickpeas and it came out to be 1.5 cooked)

2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup diced tomatoes

2 cups of chopped spinach

For the dressing:

1/2 cup of hummus (homemade is always better, but store-bought is fine)

1 avocado

juice of 1-2 lemons

dash of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

toppings:

1 bunch of finely chopped green onion

1/2 cup of chopped mint

 

1. Cook brown rice in 3 cups of boiling water or vegetable stock until absorbed (approximately 40 minutes)

2. In a large pan or wok heat the sesame seeds for 1-2 minutes until toasted, constantly stirring them so they won’t burn.

3. Add garlic and give it a stir. Add spinach and tomatoes, mix well and then cover so the spinach can steam. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of water. Turn the heat to medium/medium-low.

4. After a 2-3 minutes the spinach should be lightly steamed and wilted. Add the cooked rice and chickpeas to the  wok, give it a good mix and turn the heat off.

5. In a bowl mash the avocado then add the hummus and lemon juice until a thick sauce-y consistency is achieved, you may need to add more lemon juice or a bit of water to thin it out. Add spices to taste.

6. Dish out the rice/chickpea mixture, pour a liberal amount of dressing and top with desired amount of green onions and mint (note: a lot of green onion and mint really crisps up the dish nicely, so don’t be shy).

7. Enjoy!

 

Enjoy your Friday pretty people!

 

xo,

 

Natalia