"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Savory Explorations 1: Edamame Hummus

First, I have to say that I'm one of those people who goes totally dumbmus over hummus.

It's something I can eat everyday with just about anything - vegetables, breads, meats, soups, salads, even by itself!

So whenever I get a chance to have some really good hummus, as you have to choose wisely as they aren't all made the same, I am always in for a savory treat.

Since I've been on a detox eating plan for the past week, I've been trying out all sorts of recipes and adding them into my culinary book of shadows. One of those random ideas popped into mind while I was munching on some lightly salted and warm edamame for a protein snack. I decided to not only make my own hummus at home for the first time, but to take my love for edamame and make...wait for it...

Edamame hummus!  *cue in falling balloons and exploding confetti*

Hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas (or garbanzo) beans. But you can make hummus from some other legumes. Even lentils and red beans! Get as creative as you want with legume substitutions. They each will make for a distinctive-tasting, differently-colored hummus.

Living Tree Community Foods Tahini
Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip that is traditionally made with tahini (a sesame seed paste or butter), pureed chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Those are the basic ingredients, but many eateries and culures put their own spin on it by adding in other ingredients or leaving out certain ingredients altogether.

For example, you can make a tahini-based hummus, a roasted garlic-based hummus, a cilantro/parsley-based hummus, a spicy hummus (roasted peppers or lots of cayenne), a yogurt-based hummus or a hummus that uses butter rather than olive oil.  I've had many varieties of hummus and like them all, but I tend to prefer hummus with a good roasted garlic and tahini taste. I also love the flavor of olive oil (premium extra virgin olive oil). Additionally, you can substitute toasted sesame oil for tahini.

Edamame, which is a dish or snack of young soybeans encapsulated in pods (similar to pea pods) are a wonderful replacement for chickpeas in hummus. They are naturally rich and buttery in flavor, a great source of protein, and extremely healthy. You'll often see them served in Japanese restaurants, as an appetizer or entrée, with miso soup before a main course.

I pretty much winged this recipe based on what a traditional tahini has and according to my personal tastes.

Organic, shelled edamame
I purchased some organic, shelled edamame from Whole Foods Market (meaning without pods). These are precooked but they are frozen for freshness. You just need to boil them in water to thaw them.

I made a note of all of the ingredients going into my edamame hummus aside from the obvious (the edamame soybeans):
  • Tahini (between 1/8 - 1/4 cup; it's up to you, taste as you go)
  • Water (loosely 1/4 cup)
  • Lemon juice (1 lemon's worth)
  • Olive oil (3-4 tablespoons)
  • Cumin seeds (1 teaspoon)
  • Green onions (1/4 cup; I really like onions)
  • Cayenne pepper (a dash to sprinkle on top when the hummus is done)
  • Black sesame seeds (sprinkled liberally on top when the hummus is done)
  • Parsley (Italian) (1.5 tablespoons; you can also use cilantro)
  • Garam masala (half teaspoon)
  • Fennel seeds (1 teaspoon; I highly enjoy the flavor of these)
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Garlic (2-4 cloves; or to your taste)
Several of the ingredients I used in my hummus
Make sure you have all of your ingredients gathered around for ready-to-go access, and chop up the necessary ingredients.

Start off by pouring in 3 to 3.5 cups of water in a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil.

Drained edamame soybeans
When the water is boiling, add 1.5 cups to 2 cups of the frozen, shelled edamame. Let these boil for about 4-5 minutes, stirring them occasionally until tender and hot but NOT mushy. Taste one to test when 4-5 minutes has passed.

Take them off the stove and drain the water out.

Ready to process
Place the tender but firm edamame soybeans into a food processor along with the tahini, garlic, water, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin seeds, green onions, parsley, garam masala, fennel seeds (you can choose to add them now or later) and sea salt.

Pulse and blend until the mixture is very smooth. You can choose to have a more rustic edamame (textural) if you want, but I prefer it relatively smooth.

Smooth edamame hummus
Taste the hummus once you are done and decide whether or not you want to add more spices or salt...or anything else. It's up to you, really. Explore!

Take some vegetables of your choice (I chose organic baby carrots, celery, and red bell pepper) and cut and slice them up as necessary so that you can dip these into the hummus for a complete snack. I left the baby carrots as is, I deseeded and cut the red bell peppers into strips, and I cut and neatly sectioned the celery into small sticks.

I unplugged my food processor and poured and scraped out my hummus into a bowl and swirled it around to my liking. Then I drizzled in some more extra virgin olive oil into the crevices of the dip and sprinkled in my cayenne pepper, black sesame seeds, and a small pinch more of sea salt.

You can even add sprouted seeds (which I just discovered and am now immensely enjoying). Sprouted sesame seeds are absolutely yummy and go well on top of hummus, among many other things...

This dish made for a hearty lunch, and my adventure in making hummus at home was a successful and enjoyable one. I've since prepared this several more times and have experimented with other herbs and spices. I'd love to try red or black lentils next time!

What is your favorite kind of hummus? And what do you like in your hummus?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dextox Journey: Pico de Gallo, Old World Pilaf, and Veggie Stir-Fry

Pico de gallo, old world pilaf, and veggie stir-fry
This was day 2 of my detox, clean-eating journey. I wanted my dinner to be very filling, hearty, tasty, and nutritional, and I achieved established all those results!

I also knew I had to share what I prepared and ate for dinner with you guys.

So, what did I have for dinner? Well, let's take a look below:

1. Pico de Gallo - Organic lime juice from one lime, diced jalapeno pepper, cilantro, tomatoes, green onions, clove of garlic, white onions, sea salt, and cayenne pepper.
Did you know?: You can also use other ingredients such as mango, bell peppers, celery and so on. The basics of a pico de gallo are the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and onions. You can put your own spin on pico de gallo according to your tastes and your level of desire to explore with flavor. White onions can be replaced with red onions for a sweet taste, too. I adore onions, so as you can see I added both white and green onions.
2. Old World Pilaf - a mix of red rice, brown rice, black rice., red lentils, yellow lentils, black eyed peas and green lentils all cooked with red peppers, garlic, celery, and white onions. No salt needed. 
Did you know?: Cooking lentils or beans with salt toughens them. If salt is added, it is best to add it after the beans or lentils are cooked.
3. Indian-spiced Vegetable Stir-frya bit of unsweetened, organic coconut milk, extra virgin olive oil, garam masala, sea salt, fennel seeds, eggplant, zucchini, 2 cloves of garlic, green onions, red bell peppers, baby bella mushrooms and celery
Inside info: I love smashing up garlic with the back of a wide knife or spatula to get to the cloves. So fun! Also, although a really high-quality garlic powder blend can make food delicious and is great to have in your spice collection, you simply can't compare it to the grand and lively taste of fresh, minced garlic cloves.
Everything in these three components was organic except for the jalapeno pepper. I couldn't find any organic jalapenos. Their season is in warmer periods (spring and summer), so I am not sure why it was rather difficult to track down some organic varieties, but I am more than fine with what I bought.

Pico de gallo
To make the pico de gallo, I chopped and diced up all of my aforementioned herbs and vegetables, sprinkled in my spices and fresh lime juice, and mixed well. It was as simple as that. Pico de gallo is very easy to make (and extremely healthy -- perfect for those who enjoy eating raw vegan foods), so one should not have any reason for going out and buying a pre-made supply of it. You can make a big quantity of it ahead of time and store it in the fridge for later use. It can be eaten with a large array of foods. I also enjoy it alone, sometimes. Think of it is as a sort of "ketchup," regarding it's wide appeal and culinary applications.

Grain and Legume Combination
I was able to get a lot of different organic grains and legumes from Whole Foods Market's. Whole Foods has a spectacular inventory of these ingredients in their bulk section, so there's lots to choose from. It's not often I come across black rice. It's got quite the distinctive taste, but it's nutty and flavorsome. I get excited about seeking out different rice varieties. There is so much to explore! So if you've never eaten anything beyond your everyday plain white rice, you are completely missing out!

The rices, beans, and lentils were placed in a medium pot and covered well with water, enough to where I knew the mix would not dry out but also not be mushy from way too much water left over after absorption. I left the mix without powdered spices or salt. As I mentioned above, salt toughens legumes when it is boiled with them. In order to add more flavor, I chopped up red bell pepper, white onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and some celery, and placed it in the water with the rice, beans, and lentils. 

Cooked old world pilaf
Once the old world pilaf was brought to a boil, I turned down the heat, placed a lid on the pot, and let the mixture cook for 25-30 minutes. Once that time was up, I completely cut the heat, kept the lid on, and let the hearty combination sit for 10 minutes to further cook in its steam. 

Keep in mind that brown, black, and red rices will have a chewier texture and more visceral mouth feel than plain white rice has, which is one of the qualities I enjoy about eating them.

Vegetable Stir-fry
The vegetable stir-fry was also very facile. It was simply a matter of chopping up all of my selected vegetables, adding the garam masala, salt, and fennel seeds, heating up a pan with extra virgin olive oil, and placing everything in the pan.

As the vegetables cooked for a bit, I poured in some organic, unsweetened coconut milk. Not a lot, just enough to lightly coat the vegetables and stir it further in. 

I love anything coconut. Coconut milk is also good for use in smoothies, vegetable soups, and fresh juice blends. It's a proper substitute for using dairy-based cream or dairy milk in certain recipes.

I cooked the vegetables until they were tender and still retained some of some of their crunch and texture.  In fact, everything in the skillet could have been eaten raw, but I couldn't resist preparing a succulent stir-fry.

This meal, overall, was so fulfilling. I enjoyed every bit of it and went back for more of everything with food left over for tomorrow's lunch! With these sorts of recipes, you can eat a good amount and not be concerned about consuming too many calories (if that's what you're worried about). This meal was packed with tons of nutrients and had very little fat.

This also shows that if you wanted to become vegetarian or even vegan, you can do it and know that delectable meals and foods are quite easy to prepare. There's a lot of misinformation out there about vegetarian, and especially vegan eating. A lot of people assume there's not much to eat and choose from and that the food tastes unpleasant. That's simply not true. Vegetarian and vegan eating requires that you become far more intimate and educated about your health and food. You need to research properly, understand more about nutrients, and it's an excellent push to explore all sorts of ingredients, dishes, and ways to prepare foods that you probably never tried. As a fellow food explorer, that's never a bad thing.

I can't say that I'd ever see myself becoming exclusively vegan, although the idea intrigues me, because I enjoy eating poultry, dairy, and seafood once in awhile, but I love incorporating vegan eating into my diet. 

Many vegan foods are also perfect for my detox eating regimen. The body digests and metabolizes these foods without a lot of strain and effort. That's got to feel better at the end of the day. I can already feel a difference and I am on day 3 of my detox journey. :)

If you've got any tips, advice or comments about vegetarian/vegan, raw food eating, or detox "dieting" in general, please feel free to share your thoughts! I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Detox Journey - Clean Eating

Today is my first day of detox eating or clean eating. I've been stewing over doing this for quite a while and finally took the plunge.

Why did I decide to put myself on a detox eating plan?

Well, I've been enjoying so many decadent and rich foods, lately, and I'd like to flush my body out by eating holistically. I'd simply like to become healthier inside and out.. I've been doing some research for the last several weeks to make sure that I know what I'm doing and what I'd like to do, specifically.

Although "diet" would be an appropriate word to use here, I hate using it because society has bastardized and corrupted the word. When most people think of the word "diet," they immediately start to think about weight-loss obsession, competitive social vanity, keeping up with the Joneses, constantly weighing on scales, starving oneself, madly counting calories, and the like - basically a series and complex of unhealthy and counter-intuitive behavior.

That's not what I want to do embark upon or nurture, at all. I simply need to restart my system and get back into a healthy way of eating with regular activity, so I can establish balance. Desserts and my usual fare of savory treats and delights certainly will not be permanently abandoned, but for the time being I am putting those indulges on hold.
Inside Info: I have a backlog of dessert recipes (as well as savory) I'll be posting, however. So look for those.

Now about a detox diet; when people think of detox, they normally associate that word with alcohol and drug addiction recovery, but detox can also refer to the way one approaches their diet in hopes of maximizing their health and well-being. A detox diet (or eating plan) cleanses and revitalizes the body...and mind.

There are all sorts of detox eating plans out there (Master Cleanse, raw food, Clean Diet, Diuretic Diet, Eat Stop Eat, Quantum Wellness and the list goes on), but I wanted to construct my own. I also didn't want to do anything gimmicky. I wanted it to be something I could follow organically through knowledge-seeking and a drive to simply take care of myself.

My detox eating plan looks pretty vegan, for the most part.

 My rules are as follows:
  1. No dairy (eggs, butter, milk, cream, and the like)
  2. No meat
  3. No caffeine and alcohol (although red wine-based vinaigrette salad dressings are allowed)
  4. No refined sugars, no added sugars or refined foods
  5. No wheat/gluten
  6. No preservatives (if I can help it)
  • Lots of organic fruits and vegetables prepared in a number of creative and tasty ways (pressed juices, salads, hearty soups, stir-frys, steamed dishes, raw, and so on)
  • Organic legumes cooked in different ways (beans of various kinds, lentils, peas, etc.)
  • Whole grain rices (black, brown, etc.)
  • Nut and drupe milks (coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc.)
  • Lots of water (as usual) and naturally decaffeinated herbal teas 
  • Frequent meals and snacking (3-4 a day)
  • Healthy and safe supplements ("Green" blends and cleansing, antioxidants nutrients)
  • Organic nuts and seeds (unsalted, but can be toasted beforehand or through my own effort)
I will also plan each day's eating in advance, not anally, but loosely. With this way of eating, I have to plan so that getting in 3-4 meals a day is easier and convenient.

This first week I'll spend concentrating on establishing this rhythm and the second week is when I bring back regular physical activity. I don't plan to do really hardcore or excessively strenuous exercise at this stage, but I do plan to get adequate sessions of physical activity in (at least 30-40 minutes). Again, I am trying to be as organic as I can. But I aim to get in 3-4 days of good physical activity a week (or more if I simply and organically feel up to it).

I have also banished scale-weighing and measurement-taking. I find these activities make me neurotic, and in this society, we've come to define ourselves by numbers far too much (age, weight, income, etc.). We've abandoned intuition and instinct. This is why the scale can decide what kind of day we'll be having as soon as we step onto it. That should never be the case. It's just a number (save for situations where people with serious or debilitating illnesses, that cause weight loss, need to have their weight monitored).

What we should pay attention to is how we feel and how we look with the aid of our own eyes and natural assessment.

I spent about two and a half hours at Whole Foods Market, today. Maybe more time than that as I kind of lost track but realized it was night once I stepped outside with my grocery bags. LOL Yes, that was a long while to stay in there, not only did I need to look around and carefully select, but I've always loved their stores and it's a pleasure to look around and figure out what I'll place in my shopping cart. It was even more intriguing to shop with this eating plan in mind. I made sure that nearly all of my items were organic and I had to become even more acquainted with label-reading than I usually am. Whole Foods' produce inventory is at least 65% organic and I think nearly everything else is at least locally grown and cultivated. I find that impressive.

I also find it strange and illogical...

Produce (and other items) should be organic by default. It shouldn't be this special category that we seek out. In fact, I'll even say that organic production should be mandatory law.

Anyway, as a result of shopping heavily organic, I spent quite the penny in there.

I also picked up some great supplements. I purchased:

ChlorOxygen Chlorophyll Concentrate

Vibrant Health: Green Vibrance

No placebo here, that's for sure. I felt a surge of energy not long after I took these supplements with plain water and/or with coconut water. It was that kind of energy surge that you get once a workout starts or the energetic sensation you might feel right after vigorous exercise. You sweat a bit more, feel slightly more hyper and refreshed, your pores feel more open, and you have a desire to move. I felt that about 15-20 minutes after taking both of these. So, although this is the first day, I do recommend trying these out and seeing for yourself. I made some pretty good choices, here.

I will share some recipes with you guys as I journey through this detox path. It is temporary, but I'm off to a very productive and exciting start and felt like my food blog was a great place to share my experiences since it's still all about the exploration of food!