How to open a pomegranate

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Because of their high antioxidant levels, pomegranates frequently appear on "super foods" lists and they are touted to have benefits for a variety of ailments. I have read that they may slow the growth of prostate cancer, combat heart disease, reduce the risk of breast cancer, prevent lung cancer, provide relief from arthritis, cure diarrhea, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Wow. That is a lot from one fruit! I'm not sure of the depth of the studies that support those claims but, that aside, pomegranates are indeed high in fiber and vitamin C and they taste great in salads or smoothies or on their own.

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How to open a pomegranate

Step 1: Score the pomegranate into four sections. Be sure to cut through the skin.

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Step 2: Pull the pomegranate apart into four sections.

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Step 3. Hold the sections, one at a time, upside down in hand over a large bowl. Hit the pomegranate section with the back of a wooden spoon (pretty firmly) to knock the arils (seeds or pips) out. A word of advice: this can be messy so be prepared with a dish towel and don't wear your favorite white sweater!

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For a little extra help, Martha Stewart demonstrates this technique here.

Vegan chocolate dipped pumpkin butterscotch cheesecake bites

Wow. This is one of my favorite desserts ever. I had a batch of cashew ricotta in my fridge and thought to myself, "this sure looks like it would make a good cheesecake..." That is how this recipe was born.

These cheesecake bites are not low fat or low calorie, but they are vegan and a truly a decadent treat! There are quite a few steps here, but each of these layers comes together pretty quickly.

Vegan Chocolate Dipped Pumpkin Butterscotch Cheesecake Bites

Crust
1 cup pecans
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon coconut (or brown) sugar
  1. Line a bread pan (or other small pan) with plastic wrap, letting it drape over the side (you will use the plastic to lift the cheesecake out of the pan later).
  2. Process all ingredients in a food processor until they start to stick together and form clumps. Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan.
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Butterscotch
2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine, melted
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon rum or butterscotch extract
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well.
  2. Pour into a skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until it starts to thicken.
  3. Pour butterscotch over prepared crust.
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Pumpkin cheesecake
1 1/2 cups cashew ricotta
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons coconut oil or coconut butter
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour over the butterscotch layer in the prepared pan. Place in freezer for several hours or overnight.
  2. Remove frozen cheesecake from the freezer and lift it out of the pan using the plastic wrap. Cut the cake into ~1 inch squares and return from the freezer until the chocolate coating is ready. You may want to leave the squares in the freezer and take out only a few at a time as you're dipping them.
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Chocolate coating
12 ounces of vegan chocolate, chopped (chips work too)
1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
  1. Place chocolate and shortening in a glass bowl. Melt on a low power setting in the microwave (stirring every 15 seconds) or in a double boiler.
  2. Dip each cheesecake square in the chocolate using a toothpick or tongs. Place the dipped squares on a wax or parchment lined baking sheet and use a spoon to pour a little more chocolate over the top.
Store the finished cheesecake bites in the fridge. These have a little condensation on them because they are still cold. They taste good at any temp!

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Happy (early) weekend! I'm off to Lake Tahoe for a training weekend with Mama Bootcamp. Think warm thoughts for me, it is supposed to be COOOOLD!

Cashew ricotta (vegan)

I have a new favorite thing- cashew cheese! I was looking for a way to create a creamy topping for a dessert pizza when I stumbled on this recipe for cashew cheese. She is right when she said that "instant gratification it is not" (I actually soaked my cashews for two days and then let the "cheese" sit overnight at room temp). This yummy and very versatile recipe is, however, totally worth the wait! It does freeze well too, so you can make a batch and freeze what you won't be using right away.

I'll first share this super fast pizza recipe with you. I know that I just wrote about pizza, but this cashew cheese is 1000 times better than any vegan cheese out there.

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Super Fast Pizza with Cashew Ricotta "Cheese"
Serves 2

2 whole grain pitas
~1/2 cup (or more) jarred pasta or pizza sauce
~1/2 cup (or more) cashew ricotta
1 clove of garlic, pressed
Veggies of choice
  1. Top the pitas with sauce, cashew ricotta, garlic, and veggies or other toppings. Place in oven and turn heat to 425°F (218°C). Bake until toppings are cooked, ricotta is golden, and bread is toasted.
I drizzled my cooked pizza with olive oil then sprinkled fresh-cracked pepper and chopped basil on top. YUM!

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Pizza is basic, but I have something really special coming up next. Think dessert. Think fall flavors. Think A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I'm going to make you wait until tomorrow for that one, though! Seriously, you're going to love it!

G'night.

Pumpkin maple waffles

A month or so ago I made up a vegan waffle recipe that turned out to be my new favorite. Contrary to my usual way, I actually wrote down the recipe instead of thinking I'd remember it later. I'm so glad that I did because, with a couple of small tweaks, it was exactly what I needed this morning. We have some serious crockpot weather today (cold/rainy), so I needed to start the day with something cozy. It had to be pumpkin waffles. Had. To. Be.

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Vegan Pumpkin Maple Waffles
2 tablespoons flax meal (ground flaxseeds)
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup margarine, melted (I prefer Earth Balance)
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose or bread flour
1/2-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 teaspoons baking powder
  1. Combine the flax meal and water in a small bowl and set aside. Plug in your waffle iron to preheat.
  2. Combine flours, pumpkin pie spice, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  3. Add milk, pumpkin, melted margarine, maple extract, and maple syrup to the flax mixture and mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine (don't over-mix).
Let the batter sit for a couple of minutes before you begin cooking the waffles. It should be pretty light and fluffy.

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You can top these waffles with margarine and maple syrup, powdered sugar, nut butter, whatever makes you happy!

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Don't forget the hot tea or freshly ground coffee!

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Special events and one last thank you

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for and supported me through the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog contest. I was not selected to advance to the fifth challenge, however I am honored to have made it to the top 100 bloggers! Please consider checking out the remaining contestants and supporting them through to the end- I can't wait to see who will be the next "food blog star"!

Now, I have a few exciting things going on in my local world that I want to share with you!

Fox 40 News:
First, I was on TV! Lorri Ann Code of Mama Bootcamp (I am the Mama Bootcamp Food Coach) and I were on Fox 40 news in Sacramento on October 6th. We were on a segment that we called "Eat this, not that" where we shared some of the scary caloric details of common fast food items and some healthier homemade alternatives. You can see those segments here and here.

Classes at Whole Foods Market (Sacramento location):
Secondly, Lorri Ann and I are also teaching classes at Whole Foods Market in Sacramento. On October 9th we taught "Healthy Foods for Families" and we have two more classes scheduled in November and December.

November:
Saturday, November 20th
Mama Bootcamp presents: Eating for Immunity
Noon to 2pm $20 to benefit WEAVE

Learn how eating well and caring for your body can bolster your immune system during cold and flu season. Think that eating healthy takes too long? Think again! This class will cover healthy meals and snacks that you can prepare quickly for your whole family. You will also learn about the importance of self-care to nurture yourself through cold and flu season and beyond.
To register for this class online, click here.

December:
Saturday, December 11th
Mama Bootcamp Presents: Healthy Holiday Treats
Noon to 2pm $20 to benefit WEAVE
This class with teach you how to prepare healthier versions of your favorite holiday treats. Being healthy isn't about sacrifice, it is about nurturing your body with an abundance of delicious whole foods! Learn how to recreate family traditions and get a head start on a healthy new year.
Register for this class online!


Space is limited for both classes, so please sign up soon. I hope to see you there!

Foodbuzz challenge #4- Please vote for GetNatured!

The Foodbuzz Project Food Blog challenge #4 is off and running and I'd again love to have your voteVoting closes at 6pm PDT on October 14th (this Thursday), so please vote for GetNatured soon!

Thank you! <3

Foodbuzz Project Food Blog challenge #4: Grilled pizza

One of my all-time favorite meals is grilled pizza. If you've never grilled pizza at home, you're in for a treat! I do not have any special pizza-making equipment, so this pizza can be made on a gas (or charcoal) grill without a pizza stone.

This recipe is vegan if you omit the cheese or use a vegan cheese alternative (I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella).

Grilled Pizza Recipe

Assemble the ingredients:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup cool water

*A note about flour: Using "00" flour (if you can find it), makes the most authentic Italian thin-crust pizza. If you substitute whole wheat for some or all of the flour, you will get a thicker and more bread-like crust.

Proof the yeast:
Dissolve the yeast in the warm (not hot!) water then add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Set aside to "proof" for 10 minutes. It should foam up if the yeast is active. If it does not, your yeast may not be active or the water may have been too hot.

Combine:
Combine the olive oil, cool water, 1 tbsp sugar, and salt.

Mix:
Put the flour in the bowl of a mixer or food processor. With the mixer/processor running, add the oil mixture then the yeast mixture.

Knead:
When the dough forms a ball, remove from the mixer/processor and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth.

Let rise:
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for about 1 hour.

Separate and roll:
For 4 medium to large pizzas, separate the dough into 4 smaller balls (or more balls for smaller pizzas). Roll each ball to about 1/4 inch thick and place them on baking sheets. 

Tip: to minimize sticking, sprinkle the baking sheets with cornmeal.

Preheat grill and assemble and chop the toppings:
Preheat your barbecue grill on high and assemble and chop the toppings of your choice. 

Tip: Slice toppings as thin as possible because the pizza will cook quickly on the grill!

Grill the crust:
Reduce the barbecue heat to low and place the dough directly on the grill. Cook on ONE SIDE ONLY until nicely browned. Remove and place on a baking sheet, cooked side up. 

The crust will smell amazing when it is cooked- like fresh-baked bread!

Add the toppings:
Top the crust with your favorite sauce(s), veggies, cheeses, etc. Don't be afraid to top every pizza differently! For vegans: this pizza was made using Follow Your Heart Mozzarella.

Grill:
Make sure that the grill is on low heat and place the pizza on an oiled piece of aluminum foil and close the lid. The bottom of the pizza will brown very quickly (in 5 or so minutes), so watch it closely! Remove the pizza from the grill when it has reached your desired level of doneness.


Slice and enjoy!

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