Monthly Archives: March 2020

And on it goes: Day 5 of Quarantine: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

God knows by now we all need a cookie!  I have been focusing on everyday foods that bring optimal health but at times like this we do need a treat too every now and then.  These cookies are perfect because they are incredibly delicious and indulgent, but the ingredients themselves are not too bad so in the grand scheme of things these are a much better choice than some other items you may have hiding in the pantry, say Oreos.  Yes Oreos are vegan, but they are also full of chemicals and crap that none of us should be eating, especially now. Even better Raw VEGAN cookie dough has no raw eggs so go ahead and have some raw cookie dough, no worries about salmonella from these!

The recipe is very similar in proportion to the classic toll house cookie so it may seem somewhat familiar.  It is great when plant based alternatives of classic favorites don’t have to deviate too much from the original.  So the big swap outs when it comes to making cookies plant based, swap the butter with coconut oil, same texture so it creams beautifully and use the classic flax meal and water substitute for the eggs.

1 egg = 1 tsp. flax meal+ 3 tsp water, let sit for 5 to 8 mins

otherwise the recipe is much the same, just be sure to choose a vegan, semi sweet chocolate chip, there are many on the market. So here it is:

1 cup coconut oil, ideally organic

1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar

2 tsp flax meal +6tsp water, mixed together and allowed to sit for 8mins

2 cups flour, whatever type you like

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup nuts pecans, walnuts, whatever you have

  • pre heat oven to 350 degrees
  • begin by creaming together the coconut oil and sugar until fluffy
  • add flax meal and water mixture and continue beating until nice and fluffy
  • add flour and baking soda in 1/2 cup increments and continue to mix
  • once the flour is thoroughly combined add chips and nuts
  • dough will be stiff so put a glove on and use your hand to mix in the chips and nuts well
  • place 1 ounce flattened balls of dough about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet
  • bake for 8 to 12 minutes until tops begin to crack
  • let cool and enjoy.

ONE THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT THESE DON’T LAST QUITE AS LONG AS REGULAR COOKIES AND DRY OUT QUICKLY.  BE SURE TO FREEZE WHAT YOU DON’T INTEND TO EAT WITH 2 TO 3 DAYS.

The Quarantine continues: Day 4 : BEANS AND GREENS

Bean and greens are without a doubt one of the Optimal Kitchen’s favorite combos when it comes to feeding ourselves well.  This combination of fiber rich and protein packed beans paired with vitamin and mineral rich dark leafy greens gives the body everything it needs to thrive.  What is even better is beans are cheap and versatile and greens are just as varied and are one of the simplest things to grow if gardening is your thing.  You don’t need to take my word for it, cultures all around the globe have been pairing leafy greens with legumes for thousands of years.  I always like to look back at what humanity has been eating over the long term to help find clues as to what foods are best for us today.

You can do just about anything with beans and greens, have it as a side dish for grilled fish or meat or tossed with pasta or rice for a complete meal.  But one of my favorite ways to enjoy this power packed combination is in soups. This recipe is a classic Italian take on a beans and greens soup

.

WHITE BEAN AND ESCAROLE

2 tbs. Olive Oil

1 onion diced

3 carrots diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

¼ cup basil threads

1 head of escarole washed and cut into small strips

1 can white kidney beans, rinsed

1 quart chicken or vegetable Stock

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot over medium/high heat sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil until translucent

  2. Add escarole and then garlic and sauté another minute or 2

  3. Add stock that is already heated and toss in kidney beans

  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes

  5. Add basil and season to taste                                       

At the Optimal Kitchen we don’t ever want you running out to the store because you don’t have one of the ingredients in our recipes, we know there is always a substitute so this chart is to help you use whatever you have on hand to create your own fantastic beans and greens soup. You can make several variations of this basic recipe by simply

adding some pasta or chicken sausages to make it a bit heartier, or instead use Kale and Red Beans or Swiss Chard and Black Beans, you can even use Chinese cabbage and Edamame with some fresh ginger, whatever sounds good to you. Always add some freshly chopped herbs like basil, parsley, oregano or cilantro at the end, not only do they add great flavor but these leafy green herbs are full of the same vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals as vegetables. Look at the chart below and simply choose an item from each column to make your own creation.

BEANS

GREENS

BROTH

EXTRAS

White Beans

Escarole

Chix Stock

Herbs

Red Beans

Kale

Vegetable Stock

Potatoes

Black Beans

Swiss Chard

DicedTomatoes/Stock

Cooked Pasta

Edamame

Napa Cabbage

Ginger Soy Stock

Rice

Soup has a significant therapeutic value that goes beyond simply the ingredients. There is a comfort and warmth that soup provides the body that is simply unmatched by any other foods. Soups are nourishing to the body and soul but even better as prices rise on produce as they inevitably do every winter, learning to make delicious homemade soups will ensure you not only eat all your veggies this winter season but you won’t break the bank while doing it.

The Quarantine Continues: Day 3 :ALL ABOUT HUMMUS

The news gets worse by the day and my heart aches for my hometown of NYC which is reeling from this pandemic and it looks like things are bound to get worse before they get better.  That said I hope everyone is staying put and only venturing out to exercise.  Now my vegan daughter eats a lot of hummus and it is no surprise that the large container, pint sized, I purchased on my last venture to the store which was Friday March 20th, was completely gone by Tuesday afternoon.  I have decided I will wait until Sunday, so I can also pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times which I am dying to read,  before I venture to my small locally owned grocery, which I have heard has the best cleaning policies around. So we are stuck eating whats on hand.

Lucky for her I did have a bag of dried chickpeas, which I had set out to soak in cool water overnight. The next morning I rinsed them in cool water and then placed them in a stock pot and covered them with water, added a bit of himalayan salt, a 1/4 tsp baking soda and cranked the heat.  Let them boil away for 20 mins or so and be sure to skim any of the foam that gets produced.  Once they are soft remove from heat, drain in a colander and  rinse with cool water.

Now for those of you that don’t normally soak and cook your beans you will be amazed at the amount that $1.00 1lb bag of garbanzo beans turned into. So I took half the beans and placed them on a cookie sheet where I tossed them in oil and sprinkled them with my family’s  favorite new seasoning from Trader Joe’s and roasted them at 350 for 30 to 40 mins until crispy.

Now take the rest of the beans and using a food processor, blender, or even an immersion blender which is what I used since my large food processor is at my work kitchen, blend the remaining beans, a few garlic cloves, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbs. of peanut butter or tahini, 2 tbs of olive oil.  Keep blending and drizzle warm salt water into the mixture until you reach your perfect creamy consistency.  The best part is this makes about a quart of hummus and a pint of delicious roasted chickpeas which I hope will tide us over until I decide to make my next venture out in public.

The Quarantine continues: Day 2 Use your produce : make Wontons

So my governor Charlie Baker has now shut down all non-essential businesses for 2 weeks so it is official we are in.  I now fear the grocery store a bit and will wait until I have exhausted the majority of my supplies before heading out.  I am lucky though because I stocked up on a wide variety of produce the last time I did venture out and I realized afterwards that many of my choices had naturally long lives making them ideal choices for this pandemic.  The goal is to have as little contact as possible with the outside world, whether you are going out to shop or using delivery services.  So when shopping try and do enough for a week at a time and consider these produce suggestions which easily last 7 days in the refrigerator.  Unless they are on sale and you plan to eat them right away avoid purchases of fresh berries, fragile greens and perfectly ripe fruits. This is not a time for waste and you want to make sure your family is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to keep our immune systems strong so fresh vegetables and fruits are key.

LONG LASTING PRODUCE

  1. cabbage (lots of sales to due to St. Patty’s day glut)
  2. winter squashes
  3. sweet potatoes
  4. onions, shallots, garlic (allium family)
  5. carrots
  6. brussel sprouts
  7. pineapple
  8. green bananas
  9. apples
  10. citrus (oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes)

Hopefully you have some produce supplies left and this recipe is a great way to use up whatever you have on hand and since it is getting chopped up fine and mixed with a bunch of other veggies it is ok if it is a little past its prime.

 VEGETABLE WONTONS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 scallions

1 small head of cabbage (any variety) (about 2 cups chopped)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

3 carrots grated, about 1 cup

3 tablespoons good quality soy sauce (I prefer tamari)

¼ cup oat bran or bread crumbs

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 package of wonton wrappers ( nasoya is a good brand)

a beaten egg for an egg wash or corn starch and water for a vegan option

1. In a saucepan heat both oils then toss in scallions and sauté for 1 minute, add Bok choy and ginger and sauté for another 2 minutes.

2. Add grated carrot and sauté for 1 minute, then add soy sauce and continue to cook for another minute. Turn off and stir in oat bran or bread crumbs, if mixture seems to dry add a bit more soy sauce, if it seems to wet add a bit more bread crumb.

3. Lay out wonton skins and spoon in 1 teaspoon filling. Brush 2 touching sides with egg wash and fold into a triangle.

4. Brush the peak of the triangle and fold in the other 2 sides to shape the wonton.

At this point you can either drop the wontons into boiling stock for a delicious soup.  Steam them or even put on a cookie sheet and spray with olive oil and bake at 425 for 10 to 15 mins until the skins are crispy.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce suggestions: Duck Sauce, Soy Sauce, Peanut butter and soy sauce blended together, or whatever you like!

 

A Guide to Surviving Week # 2 in Quarantine

Many of us are starting week #2 of quarantine and trying our best to establish an actual routine.  So many of us thrive on routine, knowing what to expect and executing those tasks as needed.  This idleness, loss of purpose for those of us who are supposed to be at work or school is rough.  Sure we do some work remotely, but let’s not kid ourselves, it isn’t the same and we are all grieving our fundamental loss, our sense of purpose.

In the past we have heard retirees complain they are bored  and we say to ourselves, “are you crazy?” what I would give to have some time.  Well your wish has been granted because all of a sudden so many of us have more time than we know what to do with. For some of us this extra time will be a gift.  Time to finish projects long put off, maybe start a new hobby we have been wanting to try but simply didn’t have time, maybe you just love to read and now is your chance.

That said even these diversions can only hold us so long and finding a routine is the only way we will all survive this.  Feeding ourselves is one of  our most basic routines and I keep hearing from parents during this time that they feel like all they do is feed their families.  While this is probably true, I am grateful to at least have that purpose and am trying to make the best of it.  So I am sharing some recipes that we made yesterday.  Empanadas, which were essentially filled with the turkey meat from Saturday night’s tacos and for the plant based folks we filled them with the black bean and hominy filling from the same taco night.  Use whatever you have on hand for filling, this is a time to be sure to use everything you have on hand and WASTE NOTHING!!!!!!!!!! Empanadas are fun for the whole family to make, in fact once you make the dough, let everyone fill them themselves and don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy press to make them.  Simply cut the dough into circles and fill one side, fold over into the shape of a half-moon and press the edges with a fork.

So let’s try and make the best of all this and may this recipe bring your family some happiness through small acts such as this.

EMPANADAS

DOUGH

2 ½ tsp. Active dry yeast

1 ½ tsp. Sugar

½ cup milk

2 eggs beaten

1/3 cup sour cream

5 tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 ½ cup All-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup Cornmeal

¾ tsp Salt

  1. In a large mixing bowl place yeast with sugar and ¼ cup of milk and let rest of 5 min to activate the yeast
  2. Once it appears foamy go ahead and add the remaining milk, eggs and sour cream and butter
  3. In another bowl stir together flour, cornmeal and salt and using an electric mixer beat flour mixture into egg and milk mixture until the dough is smooth and elastic
  4. Form the dough into a large ball and place in an oil bowl and turn to coat with oil
  5. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours and the ounch down the dough

FILLING

Traditionally empanada filling is made with beef or pork but to give a bit of a healthier twist we are making our empanadas with ground turkey. Like most fillings you can swap out and change some ingredients just be sure to keep the balance of flavors and textures the same. It is important to make sure the filling is moist but not wet or you will end up with some soggy empanadas.

1 medium onion finely chopped

1tbs garlic minced

2 jalapeno peppers minced (optional)

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tbs. Chili powder

1 tbs. Dried oregano

½ tsp. Cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground Cloves

2 tbs. Oil for cooking

1 lb ground turkey

¼ cup tomato paste

28 oz can diced tomatoes

1/3 cup raisins

½ cup pimento stuffed olives chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Over medium heat saute onions in oil until soft and add garlic, jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, clove and oregano
  2. After 3 min add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking up any lumps
  3. Add tomato product, olives,raisins and salt and pepper to taste
  4. Simmer for additional 15 mins until the liquid has evaporated

PUTTING THE EMPANADAS TOGETHER

pre-heat oven to 425

take dough and seperate into 24 balls and cover with a damp cloth

on a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a flat circle, use a knife or cookie cutter for the edges

Place a small amount of filling on one side of the circle and fold over the other side to form a turnover, crimp the edges

Cook on an oiled baking sheet for 10-15 mins. Until golden brown