Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Business Cards and Nutrition School

I've been meaning to order business cards for FSTS for well over a year now. I talk to people at farmers markets, when I eat out, and when I shop. FSTS works its way into all kinds of unexpected conversations. So why did I wait so long to order them? I've been trying to come up with a logo, which is really hard! It needs to be somewhat abstract, and colorful, and elicit the idea of the journey of a seed... a seedling... a plant... a vegetable... to market... to kitchen... stove... plate... fork... mouth... stomach! See... it's really hard!

I finally bit the bullet this week and ordered some business cards from vistaprint. They had the perfect design. Without further adieu...

Isn't it PERFECT? There are sprouting seeds and veggies and sprout on a plate! I'm so excited about them! I can't wait to give them to everyone I know. :-)

I made sure to use the back to print some credentials that are currently in the works. You might know that I'm in grad school right now... Business School to be exact. I started my MBA in the Fall of 2010 and am finishing up the core curriculum this summer. I go to Boston University part-time a few nights a week and plan to concentrate in Public and Nonprofit Management and maybe something else (TBD).

But do you see that last line on the back? I'm going to have to use this whole batch of cards by next April, because then... I'll need to put "Certified Holistic Health Coach" on the front of my card. That's right folks! I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition last weekend. I start in May, but have access to some of the optional courses before my official start so I can sink my teeth in as soon as I have a minute to breathe (things are too busy right now, but should calm down in a month). IIN is based in NYC and has a remote learning program that covers a lot of different nutrition theories and at the end of the program, I'll be able to provide Health Coaching. I enrolled because I love to learn about food and nutrition and because some of my favorite people are IIN faculty and IIN graduates. I can't wait to share what I learn with FSTS readers and to share my journey with you. I'll spend roughly 6 hours a week listening and watching online lectures and doing homework. I'll take a few tests along the way and will meet with a Health Coach assigned by the school eight times over the next year. I know a few IIN graduates and they're all very impressive. My favorite cookbook author, Terry Walters is a graduate and just last week I met the founder of a superfood product called BudiBar who also attended IIN. Some graduates focus on coaching. Others teach cooking classes, write cook books, or start food companies. I'm really excited to learn about something that I'm truly passionate about and can't wait to see where this IIN adventure goes!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Have You Discovered Cashew Cream?

I try to limit my dairy intake. While I enjoy aged cheeses, Greek yogurt, and ice cream too much to give them up completely, I rarely drink dairy milk. When I did use milk, I never went through a full quart before it spoiled and rarely purchased cream, so discovering cashew cream as a cream alternative for creamifying recipes has been kinda life changing. Using thick cashew cream in soups also negates the need for unhealthy roux. Ever since I whipped up my first batch of cashew cream, I've made sure to never run out of raw whole cashews.
Ingredients: Cashews & Water. Supplies: Glass Jar, Strainer, Blender .
I first learned about cashew cream at the Boston Vegetarian Festival when Tal Ronnen demonstrated a few of his delicious vegan recipes from The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. He used cashew cream for his creamy celery root soup and explained that cashews were a relatively flavor-neutral carrier of healthy fat.
Rinse raw cashews. Put in a glass jar, cover with water, seal, and soak. Strain and rinse.
To make Cashew Cream:
Rinse raw whole cashews under cold water. Place cashews in a glass container and cover by at least two inches of (filtered) water. Seal the container and refrigerate it for at least four hours but not more than 2 days. When you're ready to make the cream, strain and rinse the cashews, place them in the blender, and cover with water. How much water depends on how thick you want the cream. If you're not sure, use just enough water to just cover the cashews and blend on high until smooth. You can always add more water to thin the cream depending on your intended use.

Soaked cashews... they're a little slimy and slippery, but pretty yummy.
 How and where to use Cashew Cream:
  • Substitute for heavy cream in creamy soup recipes. 
  • Mix with nutritional yeast and herbs for a cheezy vegan dip, topping, or spread. 
  • Stir it into coffee and tea instead of using half and half. 
  • Whip it with vanilla into a delicious dessert topping. 
Into the Vita-Mix with enough water to cover. 
  Benefits of using Cashew Cream in place of dairy: 
  • If you care about the environment, plants are better for the planet than dairy. The dairy and cattle industry contributes more to environmental problems than transportation.  
  • Nutritionally, cashews are better for your bod t than milk!  (source)
    • 3.3 g fiber per 3.5 oz of cashews (there's no fiber in milk)
    • Cashews have almost 6 times the protein of whole milk!
    • Cashews pack tons of vitamins and minerals:
      • 37% RDA of Thiamine (vit B1)
      • 17% RDA of Pantothenic acid (B5)
      • 32% RDA Vitamin B6
      • 51% RDA Iron
      • 82% RDA Magnesium
      • 79% RDA Manganese
      • 85% RDA Phosphorus
      • 14% RDA Potassium
      • 61% RDA Zinc
  • Most people will find cashews easier to digest than dairy. (source)
The finished product is smooth, creamy, delicious, and  versatile!
Note About Blending:
I had been pining after a Vita-mix for a long time and when Chef Ronnen used it to make the cashew cream and blend the soup into a perfectly smooth puree, I started saving for my most expensive (and most used) small kitchen appliance. Now I make everything from lattes and smoothies to hummus and soup in it and see my Vita-mix as the best $450 I ever spent!  That said, you don't need a Vita-mix to make cashew cream. You can use a standard blender or even a food processor, but you might need to strain your blended cream through a cheese cloth or a metal coffee filter if you want a perfectly smooth finished product.

Like the idea, but don't want to go through the easy peasy steps above? I get it. We're all busy! Try to find cashew butter at your local grocer, but keep in mind that roasting brings out the cashew flavor, which is much milder in raw cashews. Nut butters are typically ground roasted cashews. There's also a nondairy creamer made from almonds and cashews called mimicreme, but it does contain disodium phosphate, a chemical food stabilizer known to cause everything from diarrhea to respiratory irritation.  (source)

Check out these recipes made with my homemade cashew cream:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Corn Chowder (No Dairy or Wheat)

I love how kale adds some pretty green to an otherwise monochromatic dish :-)
According to WikipediaChowder is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood or vegetable stews and thickened soups, often with milk or cream. According to Terry Walters, Chowder is delicious AND healthy. Looking for something different to do with my sweet potatoes and kale, I turned to Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You once again and found  another amazing recipe full of nutrition and flavor.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, and corn make this chowder sweet!
Instead of starting with a roux, I simply sauteed an onion2 carrots, and 3 stalks of celery. Then I deglazed the pan with some mirin and added 4 small-medium peeled and diced sweet potatoes, a bag of frozen corn, a quart of veggie broth, and 2 tsp of thyme. I brought it to a boil then lowered the heat and simmered it for about 20 minutes. Then I added a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, approx 2 cups of rice milk and about a half a cup of thick cashew creamI used the immersion blender a little to make the soup even thicker, added a bunch of well-rinsed and finely chopped kale, and returned the soup to a simmer for another 20 minutes. I adjusted the seasoning a little bit with some more pepper and thyme and a pinch of kosher salt. The result was so delicious that even James, who doesn't like corn, ate a whole bowl! 

It looks and tastes so rich and sinful!

This was one of the most filling meals in a bowl that I've ever eaten. One bowl was more than enough to fill me up and this recipe yielded lots of yummy leftovers that make a perfect lunch in a pint-sized ball jar.