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Food Matters

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1/23/2015

It’s pizza time! Making tasty pizza at home does not always require preparing yeast-risen dough. This delectable “pizza with a twist,” recipe is a gluten-free version that is sure to satisfy your family’s craving for a pizza dinner. Polenta as a pizza crust? Yep, it’s fabulous! This pizza develops nice crispy edges as it bakes, and the polenta provides a great base for the fresh tomatoes, artichokes and fragrant basil leaves. You can use any additional or optional toppings you like to make this versatile version your own.

Polenta Pizza

Polenta Pizza Recipe

Makes 4 se­­rvings

Crust:
• 3 cups, plus 2 tablespoons filtered or spring water
• 1 cup polenta (corn grits)
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Topping:
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
• 3 medium-large tomatoes, sliced
• 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• Freshly ground sea salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• 5 to 10 marinated artichoke hearts, cut in half

1. Make the polenta by bringing the water to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low or low. Pour the polenta steadily into the water, while stirring constantly. Stir in the basil and salt. Stir the polenta frequently for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is thickened. (The polenta is ready when it easily comes away from the side of the pan and supports a wooden spoon.)

2. Pour the polenta onto a 12-inch pizza pan and carefully spread into an even layer using a rubber spatula. (The edges of the crust should be slightly raised to hold the toppings in place.)

3. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until firm to the touch. (The polenta crust may be made the day before, covered, and refrigerated overnight.)

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the crust for 12 minutes. Put the pan on a wire rack and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Put the garlic and olive oil (if using) in a small bowl and stir to combine. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the crust by overlapping them in a spiral fashion, leaving 1/4 inch of the crust exposed on the outer perimeter. Sprinkle the garlic over the tomato slices. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil over the tomatoes and garlic. Top with the Italian seasoning and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Arrange the artichokes on top of the pizza. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil over the pizza. Bake for 15 minutes. Increase the heat to 425 degrees F and bake for 15 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is crisp and the tomatoes are bubbling hot. Put the pan on a wire rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice and serve hot.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.



1/15/2015

Everybody loves cake! What better way to help perk up your kitchen on a wintery day than sharing the warmth and sugary smell of a classic cake baking in the oven. My grandma made a German Chocolate Cake that was simply out of this world. It had a rich, thick frosting laden with butter and the dark moist cake was made with eggs and milk. I adored it. So now, I have created a dairy- and egg-free vegan version that tastes much like the original to truly satisfy sweet cravings!

Vegan German Chocolate Cake

Vegan German Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

Frosting:
• 1/3 cup vegan margarine
• 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) soft regular tofu, drained
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup raw unsweetened shredded dried coconut
• 3/4 cup chopped pecans
• 3 tablespoons maple sugar, brown sugar or sucanat

Cake:
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour
• 1 cup pastry flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 3/4 cup maple sugar, brown sugar or sucanat
• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
• 1 1/4 cups sweetened nondairy milk
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 10 whole pecans for garnish (optional)
• 1/4 cup vegan chocolate curls, for garnish optional (see note)
• 1/4 cup raw unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish optional

Instructions

1. To make the frosting, put the vegan margarine, tofu, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the coconut, pecans, and sugar and stir until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9-inch round cake pan.

3. Put the flours, baking powder baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a dry whisk to combine. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and coconut, and whisk to combine. Stir in the nondairy milk, olive oil, and lemon juice and mix just until incorporated. Don’t over-mix or the cake will be tough.

4. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Put the pan on a wire rack and loosen the sides of the cake with a knife. Cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Let the cake cool completely for about 1 hour before frosting.

5. Spoon the frosting over the top of the cake. Gently spread the frosting in an even layer, using an off set spatula (the frosting will be very thick). Garnish with pecans and vegan chocolate curls (if using). Serve at room temperature or chilled. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, the cake will keep for 2 days.

NOTE: To make chocolate curls, slice a vegan chocolate candy bar into small “curls” using a carrot peeler.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.



1/7/2015

Eat your greens. We’ve all heard that eating plenty of leafy greens throughout the year is a healthful addition to any diet. Kale is available all winter long, so it often takes center stage in my kitchen during cold weather months. But how do you make kale taste good? Hmm… To tell the truth, I sometimes have trouble convincing my husband to eat kale, so, when I first prepared this creamy, all-purpose sauce, I rejoiced. He loved it! This satisfying walnut based creation stands in perfectly for dairy based “cream” sauce and it works well on steamed broccoli too, or as a tasty salad dressing.

Kale with Cream Sauce

Steamed Kale Recipe with Walnut “Cream” Sauce

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Greens:
• 1 large bunch kale, washed and very thinly sliced

Sauce:
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
• 1/2 teaspoon Italian style seasoning
• 1 teaspoon tamari
• 1 clove garlic, halved

Instructions

1. Steam the kale until wilted and quite soft but still bright green, for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the leaf. Transfer the kale to a medium bowl.

2. Put the walnuts, water, Italian seasoning, tamari and garlic into a blender and process until creamy in texture, adding more water if needed, two tablespoons at a time, to achieve desired consistency. Pour the sauce over the steamed kale and toss until the kale leaves are evenly coated. Serve immediately.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.



12/23/2014

These cute little cookies are actually tiny sweet tacos. These gems are great to make with the kids on Christmas day. Made from whole-grain tortillas, these confections are best eaten while they are still warm. Pop them in the oven right before supper and they’ll make the perfect homemade holiday dessert. This recipe is featured in the current season of “Jazzy Vegetarian” on Create TV.

Vegan Taco Cookies

Cherry and Chocolate Taco Cookies

Makes 8 cookies

Ingredients

• 3 8-inch whole-wheat or brown rice tortillas
• 1/4 cup maple syrup, plus more as needed
• 48 to 60 (about 1/4 cup) vegan dark chocolate chips
• 12 to 24 dried cherries, cranberries, or raisins
• 1/4 cup vegan powdered sugar

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

2. Cut four rounds out of each tortilla using a 3 to 4-inch cookie cutter. Place a cut tortilla round on a plate. Brush both sides of the tortilla round with a very thin layer of maple syrup using a pastry brush, making certain to moisten the edges well. Repeat with the remaining rounds.

3. Arrange 4 to 5 vegan chocolate chips down the center of each tortilla round. Add 1 or 2 cherries next to the chocolate chips. Fold the far edge of the tortilla over the filling, sealing the edges of the tortilla together, pressing firmly with your fingers. Further seal the edges by pressing the outer tongs of a table fork firmly around the outer rim of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Put the taco cookies on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake 5 minutes, then check to make sure the edges of the taco cookies are still sealed. If not, remove from oven and reseal. Bake 5 to 7 minutes more, or until chocolate is melted and the edges of the cookies are slightly golden. Transfer each cookie to a wire rack. Dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. These must be served warm!


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.



12/9/2014

You don't need a ton of stuff to  cook like a pro. Build this small set of high-quality knives—recommended by our favorite food writers and editors—and you'll be ready to tackle any recipe that comes your way.

Chef's Knife

CHEF’S KNIFE
Essential for chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing

To Buy: Try the reasonably priced but high-quality Mac Knife Chef Series Chef’s Knife, 7-1⁄4 inch; $60 via Amazon

Paring Knife

PARING KNIFE
Necessary for peeling small fruits and veggies

To Buy: A top pick at Cook’s Illustrated, the Victorinox Swiss Army 3-1⁄4-inch Fibrox Straight Edge Paring Knife is effective and affordable; $10 via Amazon

Santoku Knife

SANTOKU KNIFE
A supersharp, lighter-weight multipurpose knife for meat, fish and veggies

To Buy: Wüsthof offers a 7-inch hollow-ground Santoku; $70 via Crate & Barrel

Carving Knife

CARVING KNIFE
A long knife with a strong blade for slicing meats and carving chicken and turkey

To Buy: Try the German stainless steel Zwilling Pure 8-inch Carving Knife; $67 via Zwilling

Bread Knife

BREAD KNIFE
Effortlessly cuts bread into neat slices

To Buy: They don’t take much abuse, so you don’t need an expensive one. Try the Dexter Russell Traditional Scalloped Bread Knife; $24 via Amazon



12/9/2014

This plan gets you through the first half of the week with no fuss. Factor in 1-1⁄2 hours to roast the chicken and veggies. If Monday is not ideal for this, move the time-intensive cooking night to Sunday.

Roasted Chicken
Photo by iStock

Monday: Roast Chicken & Root Vegetables

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a pasture-raised chicken and peeled, chopped root vegetables in a roasting pan and cover with olive oil, salt and pepper. (Prepare enough veggies for leftovers.) Cook, basting chicken occasionally, for about an hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching bone) registers 170 degrees. Allow chicken to rest for 15 minutes before carving. After dinner, remove meat from chicken and store with the leftover veggies in the fridge.

Tip: To accommodate more people, turn your oven up to 450 degrees and buy an extra package of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Roast them with your whole chicken by placing them on top of the vegetables. Monitor doneness with a meat thermometer, as they will cook more quickly than the whole chicken.

Tuesday: Chicken & Veggie Tacos

Add tortillas and tons of accoutrements—crumbly queso fresco, mild green chilies, salsa and sour cream—and last night’s home-cooked fare is transformed into a new meal. Simply shred the leftover chicken and heat the chicken and veggies. Then let everyone take their turn at the taco bar.

Wednesday: Chicken & Veggie Frittata

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a deep skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté any veggies you have around, then add the leftover chicken and roast veggies. Season with paprika and warm through, then spread the mixture into an even layer. Sprinkle with cheese. Break 6 large eggs into a bowl and whisk to combine, adding 1⁄2 cup milk or cream if you wish. Pour into skillet to cover the chicken and veggie mixture. Let cook for 1 to 2 minutes until you see the edges beginning to set. Transfer to oven and cook for 10 to 20 minutes. When done, the eggs shouldn’t run if you slice the frittata with a knife. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Bonus: Leftover frittata makes a great on-the-go breakfast when heated and served in a roll, or you can place it on top of salad greens for a yummy lunch.



11/28/2014

I love curry. It’s safe to say the majority of us do, considering the dish’s proliferation across the globe. Curry originated in India, and it’s strongly associated with Thai, Indonesian and other Southeast Asian cuisines, but today curry is a popular dish nearly everywhere in the world. Many curries are defined by their inclusion of a curry spice mix, typically made up of turmeric, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cayenne and sometimes mustard. Aside from the obvious reasons to eat curry—it’s delicious and infinitely versatile—there are many health reasons to indulge in a curry craving. Here is a collection of my favorites.

Three Bowls of Curry

1. Fight Cancer: Curry is an effective (and delicious) delivery mechanism for turmeric, one of the most effective medicinal spices on the planet. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a potent and well-researched antioxidant, making it useful in cancer prevention. Two other curry spices are also cancer fighters: Cardamom contains phytochemicals thought to specifically ward off hormone-responding cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers; and cumin is particularly good at preventing colon cancer. Most curries also include a number of highly antioxidant vegetables such as bell peppers, chilies, snow peas, carrots, broccoli, garlic and more.

2. Up Your Uptake: Many people take turmeric supplements, yet our bodies utilize curcumin much more effectively when it’s consumed with fats (this helps the curcumin be directly absorbed into the bloodstream rather than through the intestines) and piperine, a constituent of black pepper—in fact, curcumin’s bioavailability increases by about 2,000 percent when it’s consumed with just 1/20th a teaspoon of black pepper. Guess what’s in nearly every curry recipe you might care to eat? Turmeric combined with fat and black pepper. 

3. Alleviate Pain: Ginger is ubiquitous in curries, and both ginger and turmeric (which are related plants) are potent anti-inflammatory herbs, making them effective in relieving the pain of arthritis.

4. Improve Digestion: Curry contains a number of herbs thought to improve digestion, including ginger (one of the world’s most well-known digestive aids and nausea-fighters), cumin and cardamom.

5. Improve Brain Health: Turmeric helps reduce a buildup of plaque in the brain, meaning it can enhance cognitive function and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, cumin contains iron, which increases blood circulation, leading to enhanced cognitive performance.

6. Eat Good Fats: Curries contain coconut milk, a type of healthy fat thought to aid in weight loss by helping us feel satisfied and even possibly increasing metabolism.

7. Stay Well: A number of ingredients in curry are antiviral and/or antibacterial. Coconut milk is a rich source of lauric acid, which our bodies convert into monolaurin, thought to fight influenza viruses. Likewise, curry’s garlic and onions may help ward off sickness. The cumin and bell peppers in curry also make it a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.

8. Stay warm: Herbalists call some foods “warming,” because they help improve circulation, making us feel warmer from the inside out. Curry contains several of these foods including ginger, cayenne, cardamom, garlic and black pepper. This winter, warm yourself with a hot, comforting bowl of curry.





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