Friday, August 30, 2013

The International Vegan Package Swap: My new "culinary" adventure

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to travel the world, tasting different vegan-friendly foods? I do. I dream about it daily actually. About traveling to different parts of world and immersing myself into the country's culture, exploring the different varieties of fruits and vegetables that are native to that country, and learning new cooking techniques, flavor combinations and so so much more. Yes, a culinary world tour would be nice…when I retire! For now, I have to focus on raising my family which means traveling will have to remain a distant dream. But that doesn't mean tasting different foods has to too. THAT can become a reality. All you have to do is participate in All About Vegan Food’s Vegan Package Swap and from there, your vegan food journey around the globe begins. 

Photo from All About Vegan Food

The Vegan Package Swap is a non-profit project started by the author of the blog, All About Vegan Food, as a way to bring vegans from all over the world together to bond over a common interest: food. The idea is simple. Every month, if you choose to participate, you are paired with a swap partner who can either be from within your country or internationally depending on your chosen preferences. During the beginning of the month you chat with your partner to determine their likes or dislikes and then, you go shopping! All you are required to spend is $20 USD or equivalent. It may not sound like a lot but trust me, $20 can buy a LOT! You package your goodies nicely and ship it off by the 15th! Once you receive your package, you can choose to continue to chat with your partner about the goodies you have received. That’s it! The swap is simple to do and worth every single penny! 

I finally jumped on board this month with the Vegan Package Swap and I cannot be more pleased with my experience! Upon receiving my swap partner’s information, I have to admit I did a happy dance as I realized the type of adventure I was getting ready to embark on. My partner was located in the UK but was actually from Poland. Her name, Martyna. She had messaged me asking me the usual questions of likes, dislikes, allergies, etc., but instead of going through a want and don’t want list, we both made it pretty easy on each other. We both stated, we liked whatever, and for anyone who knows me, you know I ain’t lying. I’m always willing to trying anything at least twice. During our initial chat I also learned that she was sharing her goodies with her partner Greg which I thought was a genius idea. When it comes to new vegan eats, eating it is, well, awesome, but sharing it with others makes it way more fun. I may have to consider that next time…if I can get past my greediness of course. :)

After learning about each other a bit, we set out to shop and ship. Shopping wasn’t too hard as I had already pre-planned what I was going to purchase. I even started a list of vegan goodies, categorized by type of snack and price to make it easier for me when I shop for future swaps. Oh, and here's a tip, use coupons when you have them! I was able to send my partner more than $20 worth of goodies thanks to coupons! Yep, shopping was easy peasy. All it took was one trip to Whole Foods (plus a few Filipino treats from the Philippines) and I was done. As for shipping, that was a completely different battle.

Unless you have a company that receives discounts for shipping internationally via FedEx or UPS, then you’re best bet is to go with USPS’ international first-class shipping option. For anything under 4lbs, they charge shipping by weight. Anything over and you’re better off going with the pre-paid boxes which are not large nor cheap, making it NOT worth your least not for this specific occasion. When I first weighed my box it weighed in at around 4.2 lbs which was WAY too heavy. I took a few things out, brought it back and my shipping came out to be $30 for a little over 3lbs worth of goodies. The price was a bit higher than I had anticipated initially (I was aiming for $15-20), but after seeing an estimated price of $140 from our FedEx shipping center at work, I was okay with $30 bucks.  It was estimated to arrive within 6-10 business days, but to my surprise it arrived within 5 to 6 days. I had shipped it on the 15th and it had arrived  on the 21st! That made me feel a bit better about the price; at least it arrived quickly!

A day after Martyna and Greg received their packaged I received mine! I had received it at work a few minutes before I was getting ready to head home, so I had to wait to open it. My excitement was so high built that the moment I got home, the first thing I did before even closing the door was rip my package open!
As I looked through the contents of my package, I recognized a few items I had either heard of or seen on previous package photos. Everything else was new to me! The package contained a wide variety of goodies; sweet, savory, ready to eat, ready to cook, grains, fruit, spreads…I loved it! My partner even threw in a few Polish treats for me to try as well! I found my letter and began reading it, taking in all the valuable information my partner shared about the polish treats that I could not read nor understand. As I sat there reading my letter, the feeling of nostalgia immediately hit me. It was like being a kid all over again when I used to write letters to long-distance friends and family. I recalled the anticipation that came with expecting and receiving a letter and that’s how I felt when I had received my package. It was like I was reliving my pen pal years. All I could do at that moment was stare at my letter and smile….until I noticed the goodies on my table, from which then I dug in!

So interested in what I received? Read on! 

It’s funny. I’ve heard of it, seen it, even thought about buying it, but I’ve never, ever tasted it...until now. After reading multiple descriptions, I assumed marmite would be this savory, lightly salty, pate-like paste. Instead, what I discovered is that marmite is a dark brown, potently salty syrup. Even though the taste is one I am going to have to adjust to slowly, I was still thrilled to finally taste this popular treat. I did a bit of googling and I think it’ll taste a lot better if I put it ON something as opposed to just eating it right out of the jar. BAD idea :P

GranoVita Organic Pate
I’m sure someone will agree that the longer you are vegan, especially raw vegan, the more obsessed you are with the yeasty, cheesy taste of nutritional yeast. The moment I laid eyes on this delicious blend of nutritional yeast, onions, herbs and spices I knew I would love it. The paste is thick and tastes VERY much like a pate…not that I have any idea what a pate tastes like, but I do know what it smells like and the two are very similar. It goes great on crackers, cucumber slices and I bet it would be great with pasta or as a unique spread in sushi! Ooh trying that!

Yo-Yo Bear Fruit Roll Ups

The day I had received my package I had laid my goodies out on the table to take a pic. It didn’t take long for my husband to come in and snatch SOMETHING to rip open and eat. He grabbed the organic Raspberry Yo-Yo and devoured one of the two in the package. He said they tasted pretty good and I have to agree. What I loved about these little snacks is that not only are they made with 100% fruit, but the way they rolled them up reminds me of an old favorite: fruit roll ups! These are a perfect alternative to that crappy stuff and the look even got my daughter interested. I also love the unique pineapple flavor! I wish they had these here so I can throw them into my daughter’s lunch box or use them as a healthy Halloween/Birthday treat to give to other kids.

BlackFriar’s Cherry and Coconut Flapjack

I was surprised to see this crumbly pastry arrive in one piece considering the package looked like it had just been through war. The sound of coconut, cherry and oats had my mouth watering the moment I laid eyes on this super rich treat. I decided to have it for breakfast one Saturday morning and found myself attempting to take pics of it as I continued to slowly devour each bite. The taste was rich and sweet with just a small hint of cherries. The oats were additively chewy and the coconut taste was subtle, yet noticeable. The cake was overall just plain, frickin’ good. It was also pretty filling! A good choice for when the need for a guilty breakfast strikes. 

Nakd Bars, Cocoa Orange and Cashew Cookie

I had just finished a run and I was starving for something light and quick. I spotted my two Nakd Bars still waiting to be devoured and so they became my snack for the evening. Okay, they were more like a meal considering I ate both of them, but whatever. Nakd Bars are very similar to Larabars in that they are made with nothing but fruit (dates) and nuts. I was a bit skeptical about the Cocoa Orange flavor considering I don’t like fruit in my chocolate but I was surprised to find the chocolate bar tasted a lot like a Tootsie Roll! I turned the package around to figure out WHY a chocolate bar would taste like a Tootsie Roll and discovered there contained a hint of chocolate flavoring. I can deal with a hint because well it tastes like candy and heck, that made me happy! The cashew cookie was a bit more subtle in flavor, yet still nutty and sweet. LOVE these bars and would definitely request these to be sent in future swaps!

Flaczki Sojowe aka Vegan Soy Tripe Soup

YES, you read that right! Vegan “Tripe” Soup! A simple dried soup mix that can easily be prepared with a bit of soaking and some boiling. The soup smelled very much like “chicken” noodle soup and even had a similar taste. As it boiled it thickened beautifully and filled the room with the comforting scent of warm veggies and herbs. My daughter was drawn in by its scent and asked to taste it as soon as she could. She enjoyed the taste, but she knew the “chicken” wasn’t chicken. I tried. What I found interesting was the soy tripe strips. They were soft, spongy and chewy with a slight soy flavor. As the soup sat the soy strips seemed to alter the flavor a bit, but it was still satisfying none the less.
Ainsley Harriot’s Lemon, Mint and Parsley/Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous

I made the couscous for dinner one night to share with my family. Since the packets only served two I decided to make both for us to all try. The Lemon, Mint and Parsley CousCous was my daughter’s favorite. It had a slightly tangy flavor with strong notes of mint and subtle hints of parsley. It reminded me a bit of tabbouleh except with more grain and less herbs. I enjoyed the flavor of the Roasted Vegetable one. The chunks of tomato gave every bite a burst of sweet tanginess. Both were flavorful yet at the same time subtle. They weren’t seasoned much at all in terms of salt and the spices and herbs were not too strong. It served well as a side dish to compliment the main course. Both were good.

Pad Thai Stir-Fry Sauce

In need of a lunch, I decided this Pad Thai sauce would be perfect to use to make raw zucchini noodles. The sauce was really sweet, a tad savory and subtly spicy. I heated it a bit to thicken as I noticed it contained starch in it. I tossed it with some zucchini and carrot noodles, topped it on top of a salad with tomatoes and green onions and enjoyed the next day. While it was a bit too sweet for my liking, I still enjoyed the combination of flavors. I noticed the ginger, soy and the chili in each bite. It made for a great dressing!

Dairy Free White Chocolate Buttons

Now we all know I’m a chocolate fanatic, but you normally see me eating the dark stuff. I’ve never been a huge fan of white chocolate except when it came in the form of a cookie loaded with macadamia nuts (yumm!). At least that was until these little buttons reminded me how yummy it can be! I guess I never realized how tasty white chocolate was until I stopped eating it completely because, well, it wasn’t vegan. I looked at that little bag of buttons and thought to myself I wouldn’t really care for them until I opened them and vowed to only eat one button a day! These little jewels taste JUST like white chocolate, but without the creamy mouth feel. I like them as any chocolate lover would, and I’m sure my attempts at trying to save them in hopes of making at least ONE White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie will completely fail. **Note to self, ask for these again from future UK swap partner. Make that three bags so I can make cookies**

Budya aka Pudding

I personally don’t care for pudding, but I was willing to give these a try because, as I said, I will always trying something at least twice. I whipped up the Vanilla Cream flavor one first and found that I didn’t care for the taste nor texture. I thought maybe I didn’t follow Martyna’s instructions correctly so after asking her again, I made a second attempt, this time with the Cream flavor. Again, it just wasn’t my thing. I think it was a combination of the texture and the scent which reminded me a lot of sunscreen. Even though the pudding wasn’t my thing (personal taste preferences, that’s all), I am still very grateful that Martyna sent them to me. I still got to try something new because the ingredients, texture, even taste was completely different from what we have here in America. It’s interesting to discover the different ways the same type of food is made and enjoyed.

Organic Green Tea Chai
I was happy to see tea added to my package! I am definitely a tea person and seeing these little packets made my day. Upon reading the description I had expected a heavily spiced tea, but what I discovered was a light, almost bitter free earthy green tea with only a very small hint of chai spice. I actually love the light, earthy taste as opposed to the heavy spices. I also enjoyed the fact that the green tea wasn’t too bitter. Very refreshing.

I still have a few things in my box to try including:

Sojowe A’la schabowe aka soy cutlets
Buckwheat Groats
Kallo Organic Vegetable Stock
Cukier aka Vanilla Powder
Grzaniec Korzenny aka warm cider blend

I will update this post when I get a chance to try these!

While this project is fairly new, only launching in March of 2013, it has already gained thousands of followers and hundreds of participants, with the numbers increasing rapidly each month. It’s a great experience and a wonderful adventure that very few can pass up! Even non-vegans are getting involved! I highly recommend you give a try, even if it’s for only one time. I promise you, you will have one of the best months ever.

I cannot wait to continue my culinary adventure around the globe next month. I wonder where it’s going to me next. Hopefully to a different country! Maybe to Brazil? Switzerland? Australia? My anticipation is already building! I plan on continuing this project for the next three months and then every other month after that (because honestly, it can be a BIT pricey) until either this project ends or until I get tired of it...which we all know THAT will never happen!

So cheers to a whole new adventure! Who knows WHERE it will take you!

Oh, and THANK YOU All About Vegan Food for creating the International Vegan Package Swap!! Best. Idea. Ever.

AND a DOUBLE THANK YOU to Martyna and Greg for being my swap partners. I couldn't have asked for better partners for my first swap. And the package rocked!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Restaurant Review: Genghis Grill (Chantilly, VA)

As a family of foodies, seeking out restaurants has become sort of a new, fun hobby of ours. We love finding new places and trying new foods. The only rule is that if it’s a sit down, it has to accommodate both of our diets, and of course, there are always bonus points if the place is local. Our new hobby has brought us on many adventures, both the exciting and disappointing, bonding us together in a classic way; over good food. We have traveled far, even out of state, to try new food, but finding places close to home that we can go to for a delicious quick fix is always convenient, especially for those busy weekends. One of our go-tos: Genghis Grill. 

Conveniently located right by Costco’s and Target in the center of Chantilly, VA is a Mongolian-style restaurant specializing in personalized dining. The concept? Build-your-own stir-fry bowl. The idea of building your own meal to be freshly cooked and served in front of you isn’t new, but finding a restaurant featuring this style of dining isn’t easy either. At least not yet. While Genghis may be viewed by many as a local restaurant, it is actually a chain still making its way around America. Most of Genghis’ locations are dispersed throughout the southern hemisphere of the US with plenty of northern states to still reach. As long as the desire to create your own personalized meal remains popular, Genghis should have no issues reaching those northern states within the next couple of years. However, what if the idea dies out or gets boring? Then what is Genghis to do? Build a menu of course.

Genghis Grill has recently released a new “We Build It” menu that features new, chef created menu items that are prepared and brought straight to your table. Yep. You don’t have to get up from your table and waste 10 minutes debating on what combination of protein, veggies, spices and sauce you want to serve over your preferred bowl of starch. It’s a great addition to the restaurant that not only provides convenience, but also options. 

While the menu does offer a few “Grill creations”, bowls similar to what you can create on your own, it mostly features, new items that stray away from the typical stir-fried bowl. From tacos, to salads, to wraps and now, a kids menu, Genghis Grill has made dining easier for families with little ones and more appealing to their returning customers.  As returning customers, the announcement of a new menu featuring delicious sounding eats had us itching to return and give it a try. So we did thanks to Genghis' marketing team who had contacted me a couple of months back asking if I was interested in trying out the new menu. The only deal was that in exchange for a $25 GC I would provide an honest review of their new menu items. Sounds good, right? It did, until I realized I would have to write this....

Last Sunday afternoon for lunch, my family and I stepped in to Genghis with high expectations. The first thing we noticed were the digital menus located on each and every table. Not only did the new mini-comps contain the entire menu, but it also contained games to keep both children and adults entertained while waiting for the food to be cooked. I liked the new addition but wondered what its purpose was considering we still had paper menus and we didn’t use it to pay for anything. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out. I’m curious. 

After being seated, we ordered two appetizers: edamame beans and potstickers. It didn’t take too long for either one of them to come out. The edamame beans were hot, but also overcooked. The outer shell was way too soft to bite into that it was almost mush. If you’ve ever had cooked edamame beans, you know that the outer shell should be fresh and tough but soft enough to break the seam and push the bean out. It should never be as soft as these were. It made it difficult and almost annoying to eat. Thankfully the seasoning was good enough that we made it through and ate them anyways.

As for the potstickers, while they weren’t crispy where browned and cooked, indicating they were most likely sitting a bit before serving, according to my husband, they were still good enough to eat. He mentioned that he preferred them hotter, with more crisp, but other than that, good.

While nomming on our appetizers, we ordered our drinks and meals. My husband chose the Korean BBQ Steak Tacos; for my daughter, the Pepperoni Pizza; and for me, the only meal that seemed vegan, the Thai Coconut Tofu Bowl. I asked the waiter if he knew if the bowl contained any animal or seafood products and unfortunately, he couldn’t give me a confident answer. Based on my own knowledge, I decided to trust my instinct and go with it. I figured since Genghis labels their sauces as vegetarian/vegan that they would have at least ONE vegan-friendly bowl.

Again, we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. All three meals were freshly cooked, steaming hot and ready to be devoured. They looked appealing to the eyes, which of course is a must considering we eat with our eyes first. Too bad they looked better than they tasted.

The first thing I noticed when I got my bowl was the size. It was WAY out of proportion. It was larger than the bowls we receive when building our own. It contained at least 3 cups of rice and it was topped with a mixture of white potatoes, green beans, carrots, onions and firm tofu with more potatoes than anything else. While I enjoyed the creamy, spicy, coconutty taste, which met my expectations to the tee, I was disappointed by the variety of veggies. Not sure why I was expecting more considering I read what was on the menu, but I guess the mixture seemed off. With Thai Coconut I was thinking potatoes, onions, peas…maybe carrots? Overall the bowl was delicious. It wasn’t anything new, at least not to my experienced palate anyways, but it was still good. I would just recommend variety, less starches and a smaller bowl! It was a waste of food as all I could eat was the tofu, green beans and a few potatoes. I barely put a dent in it. I do have to give kudos on the firm tofu. I was really expecting the soft stuff considering that’s what’s available at the Build-It bar. Would I order it again? Maybe.

My husband’s Korean BBQ Tacos looked amazing! They were stuffed with marinated beef, topped with a dry cabbage slaw and drizzled with a spicy asian sauce..which turned out to be mayo based…which my husband hates. Strike one. The menu I guess is a bit vague on its descriptions? Or maybe my husband was just expecting something soy based, not cream based. He stated it tasted like mayo and spice and didn’t have a strong flavor. The beef, he stated, was also “weird in taste”. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t like the taste. He couldn’t determine if it was the spicy sauce or if the marinade just was not his thing. The tacos were overstuffed with way too much slaw and not enough meat. He pretty much kicked most of it off. After 1 ½ tacos my husband threw in the towel. I’ve never seen him NOT eat all of something before, even if it wasn’t the best. To him they just were not good.

As for my daughter’s pepperoni pizza, what was thought to be an open-faced tortilla pizza turned out to be a pizza quesadilla. The menu stated it was “Pepperoni Pizza” with two tortillas, but I guess we didn’t put two and two together. The sad part is, it didn’t contain any pepperoni!!  Our waiter came over and asked if we wanted beef, chicken or cheese…so we opted for cheese completely confused by his question. When her meal arrived we realized why. The quesadilla was grilled well, but a bit too well for my daughter. She’s not a fan of the burnt, grilled taste on her tortillas. That plus the confusion of what she was receiving completely threw her off and she too refused to eat her food. Instead she ate my rice and potatoes.

With the negativity brewing from both my husband and daughter, I knew it was time to leave. We paid for our meal, tipped our waiter and headed out discussing the entire way home our experience. My husband stated he would never try the menu again, even if they paid him too…ouch…but that he WOULD return for the occasional build-your-own bowl. Sadly, I have to agree. My bowl wasn’t bad, but I would have preferred to just make my own. At last there would have been way more veggies.

So if you plan on going to Genghis Grill, and I encourage you to make a visit, just make sure you build-your-own bowl. The service is great, the drinks are rocking and the experience is a must.  Plus, if you have a family with different diets and/or different palates, this restaurant is the best place to go. There’s nothing like customizing your own meal and at the same time, having all the other dirty work done for you. Everyone will leave happy and satisfied. Oh, not to mention, the prices are great. 

As for Genghis, don’t stray away from what you do best. Even if it is the only thing you do, there are plenty of restaurants who specialize in one type of food or one style of cooking. Look at the overflowing number of Japanese hibachi-style steakhouses. Our suggestion is to either improve the taste of your menu items and adjust the descriptions to provide more clarity on the ingredients or keep the menu as a second option.  

I do want to thank you, Genghis for the opportunity to the try the new menu and I hope this review provides you with the valuable feedback that you were seeking. I hope this helps you improve as you continue to grow and evolve.
Best wishes...until next time.


Calm Down, It's Just My Opinion - Even though a large portion of our meal was provided to us for free, this generous offer in no one changes my honest opinion.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

B7DRC - August Edition: Cool down with this vibrant, bright Kendall Fire smoothie

It’s Day 5 and sadly my last day of being completely raw. I hate to break a challenge but unfortunately, I sort of had no choice. This stupid cold forced me to reschedule my cooking class from last Saturday to this Saturday. While I am very excited for this class, I’m also sad to have to end this challenge so soon. The good part is, the next challenge is only 4 weeks away. Yeah!

Yesterday evening I got into a bit of a “cooking” frenzy and trust me when I say my kitchen mess could have spoken for itself. It was insane! The good part is, I came out with some pretty yummy eats that I’m looking forward to sharing with you today.

Early Morning:

I went straight for the green tea. Not only was I oddly exhausted but my throat was a bit dry and sore from sleeping. I figured a warm green tea with a pinch of honey was exactly what I needed. Thankfully, it worked.


Being that it’s Friday, we’re running pretty low on produce. Besides a few herbs, a peach and maybe some leftover root veggies, my fridge has been emptied of all fresh fruits and veggies. So instead of trying to stretch out a peach or risk making the mess that comes with eating a grapefruit, I decided to make a smoothie instead. This recipe comes from a little organic café that just opened in my new home’s “downtown” called Hidden Julles. They sell several different kinds of smoothies, but this one in particular caught my attention NOT by its ingredients but by its name, Kendall Fire. 

Inside is a beautiful blend of peaches, bananas, strawberries and fresh grapefruit juice that results in a vibrant, bright red orange smoothie that is deliciously tart and sweet. It had become a favorite of both me and my husband’s. So much so that I’m afraid to add greens to it in fear it may change the flavor!

Kendall Fire
Recipe from Hidden Julles Café
Makes 16 ounces

  • ½ grapefruit, well peeled of all white, seeds removed
  • 1 small peach
  • 1 small banana
  • ½ cup strawberries
  • Splash of water
    1. Blend and sip and seriously, enjoy!

I saw a salad on Cleanse America’s FB page yesterday afternoon that looked both beautiful and tasty. I figured since it was after all, leftover Friday and since I haven’t had a salad all week, that Friday would be the perfect day to enjoy a salad for lunch. The picture didn’t mention a dressing so I pulled up a simple sweet onion dressing to go along with it. It was a perfect combination.

Taste the Rainbow Salad
  • 2 cups of leafy greens, chopped
  • ¼ cup corn off the cob
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup shredded beets
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • 2 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Sweet Onion Dressing
    • ¼ cup cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
    • ¼ cup sweet white onion
    • 1 ½ Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
    • 2-3 dates
    • Pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Add all the salad ingredients into a bowl and arrange as desired.
  2. In a high speed blender, add the dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Serve the salad with the dressing on the side.

We all love hummus right? I mean, I’m addicted to it ALMOST as much as I am to peanut butter. Everything between the texture to the flavor to the versatility puts hummus on the top of my must-make list. It’s practically a staple in my home…except during the raw challenges. 

For some reason I just can NOT find a good raw food recipe for hummus that not only is similar in both taste and texture, but also doesn’t contain a butt load of fats. I’ve tried zucchini hummus, cucumber hummus and now I’m on to sunflower hummus. This one, I know, is loaded with healthy fats, but it’s also the closest I have gotten so far to the chickpea version. The texture is thick and slightly gritty and the taste, just like hummus. I’m actually pretty satisfied with this version of raw hummus and I definitely plan on making it least until I find an even better recipe ;)

Sunflower Seed Hummus
Recipe by Beth Mickens
 Makes around 1/2 cup

  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds, soaked for an hour or two then drained
  • 1 Tbsp raw tahini
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Water as needed for consistency
  • 2 leaves of fresh basil (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a small bullet-style blender, add the drained sunflower seeds, tahini, garlic, lemon and about ½ Tbsp of water to start. Blend until smooth adding water as needed. You’re looking for a thick, slightly chunky dip…nothing too smooth so add water sparingly.
  2. Serve with raw veggies or raw chips.

I didn't eat my snack til real late so no dinner for me. I did sip on my husbands Kendall Fire as I sat and watched them down burgers at Hidden Julles. :) Gotta love those two, my daughter and hubby. They always keep me entertained.

Well, enjoy your Friday peeps! Super Foods Cooking class review coming tomorrow!!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

B7DRC - August Edition: Raw BLT Bites and a Berry Beet Jucie!

Wohoo it’s Thursday and also Day 4 of Brad’s Raw Challenge. With it being Thursday and all, it seems almost necessary to post a #tbt (aka Throw Back Thursday) recipe. I figured since I haven’t made anything sweet this week (I’ve been slowly nibbling on one of Hail Merry’s amazing raw chocolate mint tarts!), I would share one of the very first raw desserts I made during one of my very first challenges!

We all know how much I LOVE my cacao powder, so it should be NO surprise that I had at least one chocolate treat a day. What WAS a surprise was that I had a dessert that week not MADE of chocolate but accompanied BY chocolate. In other words, it wasn’t the main ingredient! Shocking! Instead, it was a simple banana ice cream with a hardened chocolate shell topped with raw coconut, pecans and cacao nibs.  I recall this very treat and I have to admit, it was really good. I especially loved the chocolate shell which had a nice crack to it before it melted into my mouth into a smooth, creamy syrup. I’m thinking we may just need to make this again. Recipe here. Happy #TbT!

Now to get back to present…

Early Morning:

This morning I decided to have an old favorite: an Apple Cider Vinegar tea. I added about ½ Tbsp into a mug of warm water and added 1 teaspoon of raw honey to sweeten. Yumm! 


For breakfast I had, what I like to call, a Fully Raw Kristina fruit platter. I know, it’s not much of a platter in comparison to what the beautiful Kristina can devour but it definitely was inspired by her. If you have no clue who am I talking about, Kristina is the genius behind Fully Raw, an organic co-op in Texas. She provides hundreds of families with fresh, organic produce so that they can live healthy, happy, raw-inspired lives. She’s a vibrant, energetic woman who’s passionate about eating and living healthy through raw foods. 

If you have some time, check her out! Here’s her YouTube page. It’s loaded with videos on healthy, raw eating along with some delicious raw recipes!

My Fully Raw platter is filled with peach slices, grapes and a banana.


Inspired by my raw eggplant bacon, I decided to make simple raw BLT bites for lunch. This dish is really quick and easy to whip up and even easier to eat! While I have to admit the eggplant bacon doesn’t exactly TASTE like bacon (I think that’s due to the lack of liquid smoke), it still works well with this particular dish. In my opinion, the eggplant bacon is good enough to be eaten as is as a snack, but that’s boring… unless I took a funny pic of me gnawing on it. Maybe next time. :)

Eggplant Bacon

Recipe adapted from Raw and Simple

  • 1 eggplant, any size
  • Salt
  • 4 Tbsp of nama shoyu or GF tamari
  • 4 Tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp of raw honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of garlic and/or onion powder (optional)

*NOTE: Most recipes call for cold pressed olive oil but I didn’t really care for it last time so I didn’t use it this time. However, there seemed to have been a difference between the two. The first one was more flavorful than the second one so maybe the oil IS needed. If you decide to add oil, add 4 Tbsp of cold pressed EVOO.

  1. Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, thinly slice the eggplant, length wise, into long, thin slices (think bacon!)
  2. Place the slices in a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 1-2 hours.
  3.  In the meantime, blend together the remaining ingredients and pour into a medium sized bowl.
  4. Once the eggplant has been allowed to sit, rinse, thoroughly drain and press the water out by placing the slices in between paper towel and gently pressing down.
  5. Add the eggplant to the marinade and toss to coat. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Some recommend overnight but it’s up to you J
  6. Carefully lay out the slices onto your dehydrator tray and dehydrate between 110 and 115 degrees for 24-48 hours or until crispy.
  7. Allow to cool and store in an air tight container.

Raw BLT Bites
By Beth Mickens

  • 5-6 leaves of Bibb Lettuce
  • 1/3 cup of cherry tomatoes, halves
  • 1/3 cup of eggplant bacon, chopped into pieces
  • Oil-Free Cashew “Mayo”, to drizzle
    • ¼ cup of cashews, soaked
    • 1 tsp of lemon juice
    • 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
    • ¼ tsp raw honey
    • Pinch of salt
    • ½ clove garlic (optional)
    • Water as needed

  1. Layer bibb lettuce leaves onto a plate
  2. Fill each leaf with a Tbsp or more of tomatoes
  3. Add about 1 Tbsp of bacon
  4. Drizzle with cashew mayo
  5. Serve immediately.


After talking beets with fellow challenger Ang, I went on a search to find a yummy beet smoothie that I would hope satisfy both our palates. I’m still on the prowl for a smoothie containing, whole raw beets….well at least a yummy sounding/tasting one…but I DID come across this one which I know will be loved! While this recipe is supposed to be a juice, I changed it up and turned it into what I like to call a “Jucie” aka a juice smoothie. 

It’s fruity, sweet yet still contains a little bit of rooty earthiness. The consistency is more that of a thick juice when enjoyed later on in the day or that of a frosty if enjoyed right after blending. Either way, it’s yummy and well, that’s all the counts!

Berry Beet Jucie
Recipe adapted from Flora Foodie
Makes enough to fill 1 1/2 - 16 ounce jars

  • 1 small beet, chopped
  • 1 small apple, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped

  1. Add all three into a high speed blender. Add about ¼ - ½ cup of water and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag.
  3. Pour the beet juice back into the blender and add the following:

  • 1 cup blueberries, frozen
  • 1 cup strawberries, frozen
  • ½ banana

  1. Blend on high until well blended and smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy!


While I did nibble my way through half of dinner, I stopped myself short and made a simple avocado half to enjoy instead of scraps. Yes, folks, I finally had some sort of dinner this week! This avocado meal contains just tomatoes, green onions, lime juice, salt and pepper inside an avocado half. Simple, easy and oh so filling!

Now where’s dessert!? *searching….*

Do you guys have any #TbT recipes to share? Any old faves??