Archive for May, 2014

A couple of weeks goes by fast, huh?!

Time flies when you’re having fun.  I like to have fun.  Since the health retreat, I’ve been relaxing like crazy on my days off.  Surfing(or floating on a surf board in the ocean), biking, gardening, cooking, baking, eating, writing, drawing, you name it, I’ve been doing it.

I’m a giant fan of comfort food when I’m eating out and about.  I think we all are; it satisfies those cravings that our bodies wants-sugars, salts, oils-they are necessary sometimes(especially for me-I love them some days!).

There’s a newer business here that makes a bunch of these types of foods called Vegan Comfort.  They specialize in grab & go vegan food that is convenient, delicious & satisfying.  It’s ran by a couple sisters named Kristen & Karly that started it after realizing how much raw talent they had in the kitchen & how much of a healthy impact a vegan diet can give.  They started working with the Riverside Arts Market & have been exploring other options around the area.

I’ve had a number of their items like the falafel wrap, chick’n wrap, hummus, baked beans, curried lentils & cauliflower, and a tortilla bowl with a cashew cheeze sauce.  All of them were delicious & hit the spot.  Super convenient too, I love that I can pretty close to run with all of the food and not cause a mess.

I do have to give it up for my favorite thing they’ve got though–it’s called an Adventure Bar-I’ve had a peanut butter bar, a peanut butter & chocolate bar, and a peanut butter & jam bar(they just keep on getting better!!).  Such a decadent treat for any adventure(haha).

It’s such a great concept that hasn’t been really thought of for around the area in Jacksonville, so if in the area, check Vegan Comfort out.  It’s so worth it & the sisters are super nice too.

On to our recipe.  I got a couple free bags of spelt flour & hadn’t really played with it at all, so decided to make some pancakes out of some of it.  They turned out AWESOME.  So awesome, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures again.  I’ll hook you up with more cute dog pictures & I promise that I’ll start taking more pictures before things are devoured.

As for dry ingredients:

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

& the wet:

1 cup vanilla almond milk
2 t maple syrup
1 t vanilla

Mix up the dry, mix up the wet, & then mix them all together.  That’s it.  Spoon that on a nonstick griddle heated to 350 & flip them after a couple minutes or when they are browned.

If you are really adventurous, put some applesauce on top of them before you eat them.  The syrup & almond milk give them a good sweetness that shouldn’t require much more on the sugary side of things.

I didn’t even use a fork, but that’s how I eat a lot.

Here’s some unrelated pictures of canine companions being cute.

Teaching the little one new tricks with the treats I told you about a couple of posts back.

Teaching the little one new tricks with the treats I told you about a couple of posts back.

He's a fan of popcorn.

He’s a fan of popcorn.

They aren't up to anything.  Anything at all.

They aren’t up to anything. Anything at all.

Just a relaxing day of making faces at cameras.

Just a relaxing day of making faces at cameras.

There's something with these two, I just can't put my finger on it.

There’s something with these two, I just can’t put my finger on it.

"YOU.  Yes, you.  Bring me my food in a saucer made of pure platinum.  Also, a chalice of your finest wine."

“YOU. Yes, you. Bring me my food in a saucer made of pure platinum. Also, a chalice of your finest wine.”

That’s it for now, hope these pictures sufficed.  Enjoy the warmer temperatures & get you some Vegan Comfort food!

Anyone have any cool ideas for veggie comfort food?  Throw them in the comment field below!!

Have a great couple of weeks everyone!!



Health retreat, that is…

And a vegan one at that, which I had the pleasure of being the chef for.

What sucked was having to leave some awesomely fun volunteer work at a concert at the near beginning that was planned far in advance in order to organize things for this retreat, which could have very well been done days in advance or at least done to where we were bringing two-day loads of ingredients, but that’s all a very valuable lesson for the future.  One that won’t be forgotten.

What rocked was my view from the kitchen I worked in all week.

From my perch in the kitchen.

From my perch in the kitchen.

Looking right out the kitchen window.

Looking right out the kitchen window.

We got there & I immediately started working on dinner, which was a roasted asparagus & almond pesto on linguine.  I met a few of the guests for only for a moment.  Throughout the week I’d learn of their eccentricities, not that I was clear from any of those myself, but it was fun to see what different people there were.  I didn’t realize that salad was an expected thing for each meal, so that was prepared quickly while the guests dug in to the entrée.  One of the others I had traveled with made a simple oil & vinegar style dressing & that was immediately put to the side in order to have something a bit more health-conscious and without oil.

I hadn’t been briefed on this little tidbit of crucial information that it might be something of a very little to no-SOS(salt, oil, sugar) retreat, but I can adapt really fast.  I made a dressing with a cup of tahini, half of a cup of water, a quarter cup of umeboshi plum vinegar, and a quarter cup of lemon juice.  It will thicken up, so just add a little bit of water to make it how you would like.

The next day, I arrived at eight in the morning to get everything set for my daily food demo, lunch & dinner.  This way I didn’t have to have a surprise.  Fortunately, I made sure to soak some garbanzo beans in some water overnight for the first demo, a simple hummus base recipe consisting of a couple of cups of garbanzo beans, two tablespoons of lemon juice, three cloves of garlic, half a cup of tahini & some cumin.  I added the cumin as needed, just kind of playing it by tongue.  I’m used to making hummus with olive oil & salt, but decided that a bit more lemon juice & some extra garlic might compensate for that, which it did.  Lastly, I added water until it was a desired consistency.

For lunch that day, I made a red lentil coconut soup with turmeric & coriander(among other things) and an avocado kale salad.  Easy to start, that’s the key.  A lot of people don’t know how to make this stuff, so the less ingredients or processes, the better.  What it looked like was awesome:

Told you, AWESOME.

Told you, AWESOME.

Dinner was a stuffed butternut squash where I pulled the insides out & made a kind of mish-mash with water-sauteed celery, onion, & mushroom, added some cooked quinoa and threw a lot of it back into the shell, baking it for a little bit longer.  I had a salad ready that day.

The next day for the demo I took four cups of those cooked garbanzo beans and added them to a minced mixture of a quarter cup of lemon juice, a tablespoon of oil(minimizing it as much as possible, you can probably leave it out, but I like the bonding it does), a cup of parsley, a tablespoon of cumin, and a couple of cloves of garlic.  I pulsed the processor just until the beans were chopped up really small, then added a couple of tablespoons of flour & water to make it a somewhat sticky falafel cake.  I baked those cakes for about 15 minutes on each side in a 425 degree oven.  Those go great with that tahini-based salad dressing I outlined a few paragraphs ago.

Lunch was a sweet Thai cilantro rice noodles dish as well as spinach mixed with mandarin oranges, roasted almonds, & a blackberry vinaigrette I whipped up.  It made a pretty refreshing meal for a day of physical activities for the guests.

It's yummier than it looks, and it looks mighty yummy.

It’s yummier than it looks, and it looks mighty yummy.

One of the guests was a lady that required me to cut up her salad at first, then started requesting a cup of carrot juice before every meal.  Throughout the retreat she had a lot of requests;  so many, in fact, that I just went with the idea that she was trying to one-up everyone & so I started giving random people carrot juices or special things to make everyone feel good.  Random acts, huh?  They’re a great thing.

For dinner, I was slated to make another pasta dish, but I rearranged the meal plan so there wouldn’t be a bunch of carbohydrates all in one day.  Instead, I made a sweet & sour sauce for some baked tempeh squares and roasted asparagus.  I’d like to think the presentation was pretty badass.

Pretty badass.

Pretty badass.

Very badass.

Very badass.

A few of the guests had to ask about tempeh & what it was.  What I basically told them was that it is fermented soy beans made with a culturing process that made it turn into a kind of cake form.  It is great for the digestive system, being that it is not processed much versus the veggie burgers you buy in a store freezer.

The next morning, I came in to one of the guests doing dishes.  She insisted on doing them & helping me out, which I didn’t really object to.  It’s always good to have a helper in the kitchen, and she was more than a help all week long.  I found out all kinds of things about her family, life, & thoughts, and even shared a lot with her.

For one of the demos, I just made some pineapple coconut muffins that were to be served after lunch.  Another demo was brought into the mix since it was raining outside, so I made a simple tofu scramble.

It started raining worse a few minutes later.

It started raining worse a few minutes later.

Lunch was a vegan Caesar salad(capers are really awesome for this) with falafel patties & a yam bisque.

Simple & tasty.  I'd say it was a win.

Simple & tasty. I’d say it was a win.

I kind of got a little hint that pasta wasn’t the way to go, so for dinner the original idea of a broccoli pasta soup turned into a broccoli quinoa that I spiced with some tarragon, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, carrots and garlic.

Not bad for just coming up with something, right?  It's kind of what I do.

Not bad for just coming up with something, right?  The fork is for the salad not pictured if you didn’t guess.

The next morning, I demoed a veggie lasagna with sweet potatoes, kale & spinach, a tofu scramble, and some scratch-made sauce because the sauce that got picked up had a lot of oil in it & I figured that people seeing that might make things a bit weird.  It didn’t make the stove top look bad though.

Not bad at all.

Not bad at all.

The lasagna was the dinner for the evening, so that made my afternoon pretty easy.  I made lunch, which was a simple make-your-own-salad bar, just a lot of chopping, dicing, and I even made an oil & salt-free cilantro citrus dressing in addition to the other dressings.  It’s just a lot of fun for me to be able to jump outside of the box and make something like that.  It was only a half of a cup of minced cilantro, a quarter cup of lime juice, three-quarters of a cup of water, a teaspoon of cumin, and a couple of tablespoons of corn starch to thicken it a bit.  Everyone seemed to like it so much that it didn’t make it back to the kitchen.

After lunch, I made a simple vegan gelatin by bringing four cups of apple juice to a simmer, add a quarter of a cup of agar flakes & mix them together.  I mixed in a quarter of a cup of apple sauce and then poured it into a container with mandarin oranges in it.  After that, I threw the container into the fridge & let that set for a few hours until after everyone was done with the lasagna dinner.

I got a chance to talk with a couple of the guests that were twins for part of the afternoon while a storm came in & give them some advice on cooking and baking, as well as learn a bit from them too.  They had to leave early the last day, and so we got to say our goodbyes then, but it was really nice to talk to them & learn some stuff too!

The carrot juice lady had me blanch & blend her entire salad so it would be like a soup.  I might just have to do that for meals in the future, that was an easy & tasty soup from what I heard!

On the last day, I had a couple of food demos.  The first was a peanut butter jelly ball, which was two cups of peanuts, a cup of dates, a cup of dried cherries, and a tablespoon of vanilla mixed for a while in a food processor and then formed by hand into little tasty balls of enjoyment(can I call it that?).  The other was a layered coconut pecan chocolate bar, which was more decadent than what I wanted to serve, but it was the last day & everyone did great with their goals.

For lunch I made a herbed quinoa that I cooked in some grape juice & water(to dilute the juice tang).  Just another throw-a-bunch-of-stuff-together recipe.  We also had a salad(as became the norm).

For dinner, a pizza party was slated.

I wasn't covered in flour at all.

I wasn’t covered in flour at all.

I made up a gluten-free thin crust pizza dough & made a sauce(I really wish I had grape jam for that, have you ever had jam in sauce??!!  It’s so damned tasty.) for the people to put on their pizzas.  It was set up kind of like a build-your-own pizza bar, but I left the bosses behind to do that while I said my goodbyes.  I didn’t have time to hang out & Melissa was waiting on me.

The experience, as a whole, was a blast.  I got to play around with food & do things that I thought were good decisions with meal plans(they WERE good decisions).  I met a lot of people, got asked a lot of questions, and learned a lot of cool stuff.  I created a bond with eight people who, chances are, I’ll never see again, but they will always remember the week we shared & the food that we enjoyed together(except for the pizza, I missed that.  I did sneak a couple of the dessert bars and jumped off of a sugar cliff though).

I worked all day and most of the night, going home to cook dinner, fall asleep exhausted, and do it all again for a week solid.  These are great memories of a job that I worked through & through and rocked it all week long.  It definitely sets me up for the future with events like this-a week-long retreat will be a breeze next time and I can tell people who as long as they have a couch for me to crash on and a meager pay, I could cook some tasty balanced vegan grub for them all week long.  Maybe a month.  Who knows, but it will always be a great starting point!

Here’s a couple random pictures from the time.  If any of the food that I didn’t give recipes for sounds good, throw a comment down below & I’ll post the recipe for you!  Have a great couple of weeks & enjoy the food!!

A picture in a hallway.  This made me miss my pups.

A picture in a hallway. This made me miss my pups.

The guard dog had armor.

The guard dog had armor.

My personal assistants all week.  The green onions I cut at the beginning, and the piggy I found on the counter.

My personal assistants all week. The green onions I cut at the beginning, and the piggy I found on the counter.

You can't tell me these pups didn't miss me with how scrunched they got when I went to bed.  *If hiring me for a month, these two come as well*

You can’t tell me these pups didn’t miss me with how scrunched they got when I went to bed. *If hiring me for a month, these two come as well*