After I lost my fabulous food contributor, Arielle, I hit up the Internet in search of a replacement for the monthly column. I found Giovanna Garcia of A Purified Life through Yelp of all places! She’s a nutritionist and certified natural chef living in San Francisco (you can read more about her here) with such an infectious passion toward health and wellness. I’m so excited to have her join the Drifter & the Gypsy team as a monthly contributor. Without further ado, Giovanna, take it away…
Summer is probably my favorite time of the year. The amazing colors and flavors just blow me away. Not to mention the nutrient value of these colorful foods. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and hydrating properties to get us through the hot days. Nature truly knows best, so it’s important to eat seasonally to get the nourishment our bodies need at any given time of the year.
This simple mango salad is beautiful, delicious, and a no-brainer to make. It makes for a perfect summer meal or snack. My suggestions is to serve it with a side of homemade seed crackers (recipe here) or throw a handful of nuts on top for some extra crunch (& protein!), but that’s entirely optional.
SUMMER MANGO SALAD
- 1 large mango, diced
- 1/4 red onion or 1/2 cup radishes, sliced or diced
- 1/2 avocado, diced
- 1 cucumber or zucchini, cut in half and sliced
- Small handful of chopped fresh mint
- Juice of 1 lime
- Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
- Pinch of chili flakes
- Pinch of sea salt
Place all ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve on a bed of greens or as is along with a side of seed crackers.
Summers in San Francisco are known to be a bit different from summers elsewhere in the United States. While my home back east gets sunny and hot, hot, hot, SF gets foggy and chilly. I personally love the blanket of fog that comes rolling down our famous hills, but it does take some getting used to. This simple recipe for rice and beans is hearty enough for a nippy evening, yet keeps the sense of more tropical climates at the tip of the tongue with added lime and cilantro: the perfect balance for a summer in San Francisco.
This recipe is very simple and can be made in large batches at the beginning of the week to tide you over for lunches on-the-go and easy dinners. Feel free to throw the rice and beans into the same container for storage and handling. The effect will be the same! Pack a big kale salad to start you off, then heat up a bowl of the rice and beans for a hearty, fibrous meal that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
SIMPLE RICE AND BEANS
-1 c. water
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
-1/2 c. short-grain brown rice
-1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
-1 tsp. olive oil
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
-1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
-Juice of 1 lime
-Freshly cracked black pepper
-1 avocado (optional)
For the rice:
Combine the water, salt and smashed garlic clove in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, returning to a boil, then reduce the heat to low until all of the water is absorbed. Set aside.
For the beans:
Heat the oven to 450°F. Place the halved cherry tomatoes in a baking pan and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, then bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until juicy and fragrant. Remove from the oven.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and ground herbs and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the drained black beans and roasted tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the beans to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Place a helping of the brown rice into a bowl, add a helping of the black beans, and top with sliced avocado and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
Sometimes a girl just wants a cute, old-fashioned red velvet cupcake. And this chick delivered… with a healthier, gluten-free, vegan twist of course!
This recipe really came about as I was looking through old film photos. A few years back, I made a big batch of rich, cream cheese-covered red velvet cupcakes to share with my family and friends. I carry such wonderful memories of that day, but couldn’t quite remember feeling my best after eating those cupcakes. I figured I’d try making new memories by revamping the old recipe with a new one. They’re mighty yummy if I do say so myself!
Let me elaborate on a few perhaps strange or unfamiliar ingredients I use:
Chia eggs are so versatile in vegan cooking to replace regular eggs and are simply made by soaking chia seeds in a small amount of water so they can create a gel.
Mesquite flour is a gluten-free flour ground down from the bean pods of the Mesquite tree. This flour lends a sweet, nutty, almost cocoa-like flavor to these cupcakes that is to die for. Feel free to sub this out with more buckwheat flour, teff flour or brown rice flour if you’re unable to find it.
Finally, I use arrowroot starchto help the coconut cream icing thicken up a bit more to create a lovely top to my cupcakes. I prefer this to corn starch because most of the corn used is genetically modified and should generally steered clear of. If you don’t have/can’t find arrowroot starch, feel free to leave it out or sub with corn starch.
VEGAN RED VELVET CUPCAKES
Makes 1 dozen
- 2 tbs. chia seeds
- ⅓ c. water
- 1 c. mesquite flour
- 1 c. buckwheat flour
- ½ c. almond meal
- ⅔ c. coconut sugar
- 2 tbs. cocoa powder
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. sea salt
- ¾ c. melted coconut oil
- 1 c. almond (or other plant-based) milk
- 1 tbs. vanilla extract
- 8-10 drops natural red food coloring (ie: India Tree on amazon.com) or beet juice
- 1 can coconut milk, refrigerated for at least 8 hours
- 3 tbs. maple syrup
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tbs. arrowroot starch
For the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds and water and let sit for 5-10 minutes to create a “chia egg.” Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: the mesquite flour, buckwheat flour, almond meal, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients: the “chia egg,” melted coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract and red food coloring. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well incorporated.
4. Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners, then spoon your batter in. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a rack before icing.
For the icing:
1. Open your can of chilled coconut milk, being careful not to shake it.
2. Scoop off the top layer of coconut cream and place into a medium-sized bowl or KitchenAid mixer (save the coconut water in the bottom of the can for another recipe!).
3. Add maple syrup, vanilla extract and arrowroot starch to your bowl, then use an electric mixer on a low speed to begin the whipping process.
4. Gradually increase the speed of your mixer until your icing becomes fluffy and all the ingredients are incorporated.
5. Transfer your bowl to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set up, then ice your cupcakes and enjoy!
The icing can be made the day before the cupcakes and the remainder stays in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Growing up, we had a huge, fragrant basil plant in our side garden. Every summer I’d relish at the chance to go out and help my mom pick basil to make a batch of her famous pesto. We would add it to pasta, spread it on pizza crust, even eat it straight out of the container it was so good! Needless to say, I’ve never lost the taste for the stuff and pesto will always hold a place in my culinary heart, hence this recipe!
This specific recipe was in fact inspired by my sister. When I went to visit her with my mom in April, she offered to make an artichoke pesto with pasta and vegetables for dinner. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but it sounded pretty awesome to me. And it was. Totally delicious! So I decided to try making my own version, sans the cheese and oil!! Can you imagine? But, it turned out really well, very creamy and flavorful even without dairy!
Feel free to use this pesto recipe as a jumping off point. Try it on a piece of toast with vegetables, on a pizza, as a dip for veggies. OR, try this pasta dish! I encourage you to use seasonal and local vegetables from your area for this recipe. Switch things up by steaming some vegetables, using some raw, and roasting others. For the dish I photographed, I steamed the crowns of broccoli and cauliflower, chopped up their raw stems to add, used some raw arugula, and roasted some cherry tomatoes for that classic Italian flavor. Try out any variation you’d like! Have fun and enjoy.
Spring Basil-Artichoke Pesto
Makes 1 cup pesto (8-10 servings)
- 1 (8 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2/3 c. raw walnuts
- 1/2 c. basil, packed firmly
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
Combine the artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and walnuts in a food processor and purée. Add the packed basil leaves, garlic cloves, salt, and pepper and puree again until smooth. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon based on your preferences. Pesto can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Makes 2-4 servings
- 8 oz. gluten-free pasta (I used Quinoa + Brown Rice Fusilli)
- Steamed vegetables (broccoli crowns, cauliflower, green beans, etc.)
- Raw vegetables/greens (thinly cut broccoli spears, arugula, baby spinach, etc.)
- Roasted vegetables (cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, etc.)
- Raw walnuts, for garnish
Cook the pasta according to package instructions and drain. Spoon 1/2 cup of your pesto into the bottom of a large bowl and top with the warm, drained pasta. Add your prepared variety of seasonal vegetables, then toss to get a good coating of the pesto on everything. Do a taste-test and add more pesto, salt, and/or pepper if you wish. Serve with a small sprinkling of walnuts to garnish. Enjoy!
Raw chocolate has to be one of the best things I’ve discovered since pursuing a healthier, plant-based lifestyle. It’s incredibly easy to make and versatile as all get out, not to mention deeeeelish! These little chocolate treats are a vegan, refined sugar-free take on a standard crispy caramel bar.
The ingredients for these Crunchy Caramel Cups are exponentially better for your body than a traditional overly-processed candy bar because:
1. You can actually read what they are 2. They are all whole, plant-based foods 3. They have a beneficial effect on your body
Raw, virgin coconut oil provides the body with good-for-you fats that improve hair, skin, and nails as well as boosting your metabolism and thwarting further cravings. Raw cacao is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients while helping to promote cardiovascular health. Pure maple syrup is unrefined and therefore contains many minerals and vitamins that are vital to bodily functions, making it superior over processed white sugar. Quinoa is a complete protein that contains many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber to keep you full. (note: the crispy quinoa cereal I use has no added oil/seasoning/etc.) Last but not least, dates are a low-glycemic food that is loaded with fiber – meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar or cause a sugar crash!
Basically, one of these chocolatey, crispy, caramely cups is a far superior choice for a snack or dessert than any conventional, store-bought chocolate bar. Make a batch and give them to friends for a taste test: I know mine approve!
Crunchy Caramel Cups
Makes 12 cups
- 1 cup virgin coconut oil
- 3/4 c. cacao powder (or non-alkalized cocoa powder)
- 1/2 c. maple syrup
- 1/4 c. crispy quinoa (or crispy brown rice cereal)
- 8 dates, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
1. Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.
2. Slowly melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Take off the heat when it’s completely liquified and add the cacao and maple syrup. Use a whisk to combine until smooth. Spoon a tablespoon of the liquid chocolate into each cupcake liner then add a spoonful of the crispy quinoa on top. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to set.
3. Meanwhile, drain your soaked dates and cut out their pits. Place into a food processor or high-powered blender and puree on high until a smooth date-paste forms. This is your raw caramel.
4. Remove the cupcake tin from the freezer and place a teaspoon-sized ball of the caramel on top of each chocolate disk. Wet your fingers and press each dollop of caramel out so it creates a thin circular layer. Top this layer with two tablespoons of your liquid chocolate in each cupcake liner. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, or until set and enjoy!
Making a healthy, filling, and delicious dessert doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen. These creamy, heavenly-spiced popsicles are a cinch to create and only require a bit of patience in the freezer before you indulge.
The coconut milk in these pops provide a helping of good-for-you fats while the chia seeds lend omega-3 fatty acids and fiber to keep you satiated long after you’ve had your dessert. I’m a huge fan of aromatic herbs and spices, like this chai spice mixture. It gives a pop of flavor without extra calories and actually helps to boost your immune system and other body functions. Amazing Mother Nature!
Chai Chia Pops
Makes 10 Popsicles
- 1 (13.5 oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 c. water
- ⅓ c. maple syrup
- ¼ c. chia seeds
- 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until combined. Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes until the chia seeds have expanded and stir again. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and let them set in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Enjoy!
When cooking for a group of people, the search for a universally-friendly dish can be overwhelming. The host wants to keep things healthy, yet interesting. Some guests might be gluten-free. Some guests have allergies. Some guests are vegan, and even others dread the thought of “vegan food.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all. As a host, it can be a struggle. Big salads are often the easiest meals to prep, but can be boring for some people. On the same token, you don’t want to be slaving away in the kitchen all evening. What to do?!
I have a solution. These Millet-Polenta Cakes with Arugula Pesto are hearty enough for the vegan-skeptics, easy enough to prepare beforehand for the host, and flavorful enough to keep everyone happy–not to mention they’re vegan and gluten-free! Feel free to double the batch and cut the polenta into larger-sized cakes to serve as a main dish, or keep them smaller as an appetizer. No matter what, these are sure to impress your guests with their beautiful presentation and Italian-inspired flavors.
Makes 9 cakes
- 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 c. millet
- 4 1/2 c. water
- 1 1/2 tbs. salt
- 1/2 fine polenta cornmeal
- 3 c. arugula
- Small handful of toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the millet and saute for another minute. Being very careful, pour the water into the saucepan. Add the salt and turn the heat up to high to bring the water to a boil. Using a wire whisk, keep the water moving as you slowly pour the cornmeal in. Reduce the heat to medium-low, keeping the polenta mixture bubbling very slightly. Use the whisk to keep the mixture moving slowly until it thickens to the texture of a porridge (between 20-30 minutes). Remove from the heat.
Oil a 9×9 inch glass casserole dish and pour the hot polenta mixture in, using a rubber spatula to level the top. Put the dish in the fridge for about an hour, or until the polenta has set. Turn the cooled polenta out of the casserole dish and onto a cutting board (you should have one large square of polenta). Use a sharp knife to cut the polenta into nine 3×3 inch cakes.
To plate: Lay a polenta cake over 1/2 cup of arugula and top with the Arugula Pesto (recipe below) and leftover chopped almonds. Enjoy!
Makes about 3/4 c. of pesto
- 1/4 c. almonds
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 oz. arugula (about 3 c. packed)
- 1 tsp. nutritional yeast
-1 1/2 tsp. salt
- Black pepper to taste
Toast the almonds in a 425ºF oven for 7-10 minutes, or until fragrant.
In a food processor, puree all ingredients (including almonds) until smooth. Serve over Millet-Polenta Cakes.