Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nature's Bakery Fig Bars Review

Nature's Bakery is a family owned commercial bakery focused on making all-natural, healthy snacks, encouraging active healthy lifestyles.
Their mission is simple: to deliver quality all-natural snack foods that everyone can enjoy and benefit from. Nature's Bakery believes in keeping things simple and seeking balance in life between nature, activity and nutrition.
Whether you are an extreme athlete or a weekend warrior, a mom on a power walk or a kid on the go, Nature's Bakery delicious, nutritious, well-balanced snack foods are made with you in mind. Nature's Bakery caters to many different people, ages, fitness levels and lifestyles by keeping it simple: all natural ingredients, great taste, balanced nutrition and plenty of energy for life's journeys.

I was happy that Nature's Bakery provided me with samples of their Fig Bars few weeks ago. I received their stone ground whole wheat Fig Bars in Apple Cinnamon, Peach Apricot, Raspberry, Original Fig, and Blueberry flavors. I also received their Vanilla Raspberry and Vanilla Fig bars that are not whole wheat, but at least they are made with unbleached pastry flour instead of regular bleached white flour.

I first tried their whole wheat Peach & Apricot Fig Bar and I was very impressed and pleased! I felt as if I was eating a whole wheat muffin with peach & apricot jam.

All of their Whole Wheat Fig Bars have several things in common. They are all like sweet, fluffy pillows filled with fruit goodness. Their fig base gives their fillings a little crunch that is combined with the distinctive flavors of other fruits, or doubled in the original Fig Bar. The whole wheat dough is very hearty, moist, robust, soft, yet dense enough to hold together well. The bars are not greasy, mushy, or overly sweet. The flavors are well balanced and I like the fact that they have around 110 calories a piece. Each package has two Fig Bars, so around 220 calories total. Not bad for a wholesome, delicious and filling snack! Each bar smells and tastes accordingly to its filling, nothing fake or artificial about it. Each flavor has a hint of fig, but you can clearly taste the other fruits as well.
The Apple Cinnamon smells and tastes almost like an apple strudel with a nice caramel-like sweetness. The whole wheat Fig Bars taste more like little desserts to me so I have been enjoying them with tea in the evenings and at work. I also like them as a pre-run fuel. When I eat one about an hour before my long run, or a difficult workout session, I have enough slow burning energy to get me though my run or workout. I don't feel sluggish after eating these bars which used to happen to me when I ate other grain and fruit based snacks or energy bars. My favorite flavor is the Whole Wheat Peach & Apricot.

The Vanilla Raspberry Fig Bar and the Vanilla Fig Bar are quite different than the Whole Wheat Fig Bars. They are not very moist or hearty and they don't hold together as well. However, the Vanilla Raspberry smells and tastes almost like my favorite Christmas Linzer cookies with raspberry jam filling! The dough is beautifully buttery and cookie-like in my opinion. The Vanilla Fig tastes like a shortbread cookie with fig jam. Very nice!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunshine Carrot Dog Treats

I had tons of left over carrot pulp from last week's juice fast so I decided to make cookies with it last night. One batch of cookies was for Shelly and one was for the humans :-) I usually use left over veggie/fruit pulp from juicing in soups, salads, muffins, cookies and hummus.

Shelly eats mostly grain-free diet but these cookies have some oats (but no wheat). To make a grain-free version of these treats, use about 2 cups of cooked chickpeas and mash them into the cookie mix instead of using oatmeal.

Sunshine Carrot Dog Treats

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup finely shredded carrots (or carrot pulp)
1 ripe medium banana, mashed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients together using your hands. Make sure that the oats are moist enough, adding a splash of water if needed. Let sit about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil or line with parchment paper.
Form small cookies (about 1 inch wide and 1/3 inch thick) and place them on the cookie sheet. Flatten them with a fork.
Bake 5 minutes, flip and bake 5 more minutes. Cool cookies completely before giving them to your dog. Store them in the refrigerator for up to a week.

See my note above for grain-free version.
This recipe makes about 25 cookies. You can make bigger or smaller cookies, but you will need to adjust the baking time.

Raw Detox/Cleanse week

Even though I have been eating very healthy and mostly very clean foods, I decided to do another raw cleanse, detox and juice fast last week. I did it my way and it was an interesting experience. The first days were just liquid fast, mostly juices, water and herbal tea. Then I added salads and pureed and solid fruits and veggies.
The first day I felt weak, hungry, tired, foggy and irritated. The second day I was even worse, plus I got a horrible headache. And the third day I felt great! Purity, clear mind, and great digestion.
My detox is over and I feel great! I am back to eating grains, legumes, beans, and cooked foods, but I still eat mostly raw. I feel more energetic and clean after my detox. Last week was a very nice break from counting calories. Until last week I was counting calories for the past few months and it was EXHAUSTING!
Last week my body got all the key micronutrients, phytonutrients, missing vitamins and minerals and all the chlorophyl that my body deserved and needed. Here is a peak at my raw detox week. Tons of green juices, carrot juice (Carrot, ginger and lemon were my favorite combo for that week), mixed greens topped with various salad toppings (raspberries, grapes, grapefruit, peas, shredded carrots, shredded beets, raw sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and other veggies), tons of raw fruit and veggies, banana smoothies, spinach smoothies, tropical fruit smoothies, Larabars, and lots of bananas!
Later I added cabbage soup and oil free hummus, lightly cooked veggies and finally some good grains, and more beans and legumes.

Bear eating juiced wheatgrass leftovers that I got at Arden's Garden :-)

And yes, there was a dessert, too! Raw and clean ice cream :-) Pureed frozen banana ice cream topped with mashed raspberries, only two ingredients and amazing flavor/textures :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mac & Cheese ? Yes, please!

Whenever I feed Shelly something mushy or messy I have to tie her long, floppy, hairy ears into this babushka style, otherwise her ears get dirty and I have to give her a bath. Isn't she cute? :-)
Shelly loves pasta a every time I make some, she sits in the kitchen and stares at the boiling pasta and waits for me to drain it and give her some after I rinse hers under cold water. Unfortunately this pasta was wheat based and she cannot have wheat so she only got a piece of sweet potato instead of the pasta the night when I cooked this meal. I usually buy rice pasta, but this time I wanted to make an authentic Mac & Cheese so I got the regular elbow macaroni pasta. I made this dish the night before my raw detox/juice fast week. This recipe was inspired by Roxane's Natural Kitchen blog . Roxane made a beautiful coconut milk cheese sauce using coconut milk and sweet potatoes so I decided to adapt her recipe and make it lower fat, with no added oils and with some other major changes. You can make the whole recipe gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta. I am going to make this Mac & Cheese very soon again since it was mind blowing!
I swapped fresh onion and garlic for powdered versions, I omitted olive oil, bay leaf, tomato sauce, mustard and I used light coconut milk instead of regular. I also added nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor. Enjoy!

Mac & Cheese

1/2 box elbow macaroni (around 8oz) or your favorite pasta, dry
1 large sweet potato, baked or cooked (peeled and mashed)
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/8 tsp white pepper (or try black pepper)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, bring coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add mashed sweet potatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Whisk in nutritional yeast and cook 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Puree the sauce in a blender, or inside the saucepan using an immersion blender. Pour sauce over pasta and stir gently until well mixed.

I cooked the pasta longer to achieve softer, mushier consistency. To cook sweet potato fast, pierce it several times with fork, gently wrap in a paper towel and cook in the microwave oven for 5-9 minutes, or until soft. Peel and mash with fork.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's peanut butter time! Peanut Butter & Co review

Breakfast for peanut butter lovers: Toast smeared with "Cinnamon Raisin Swirl" Peanut Butter on the left, and a toast with "White Chocolate Wonderful" Peanut Butter topped with raspberry jam.

It's Peanut Butter Jelly time!
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are treats (or a lunch) for kids and grownups all over America and UK. PB & J are also one of the easiest, cheapest and no fuss diet staples for many vegans.
You can even find PB & J on many menus in restaurants and diners as an option for children. The first time I heard about peanut butter was when I read old Donald Duck comics and saw Duck Tales cartoons as a kid. I saw that Huey, Dewey and Louie ate peanut butter sandwiches and I had no idea what that was or how it tasted like. I had my first taste of peanut butter when I was 18 years old. Yes, you read that right, I was a peanut butter virgin until I was 18! I worked as a nanny and a housekeeper for British family in Prague. That is where I first tried an imported peanut butter smeared on a toast. You could not buy peanut butter in Czech Republic at that time (they only started selling it in stores a few years ago). I did not like the taste at first though. I fell in love with it when I moved to USA and for the last 7 years I have been trying to make up for the 18 years without peanut butter :-)))

"Dark Chocolate Dreams"

I have been addicted to this dark chocolate peanut butter for over a year now. I love peanut butter and chocolate combination and I don't know anyone who does not....
This is the closest thing to a vegan Nutella that I found at my local Whole Foods. Compared with other vegan Nutella style spreads, this one is very affordable. Imagine if you melted a bowl of Reese's Pieces and placed it into a jar, that is how this stuff tastes like! No, wait, it tastes better, plus it does not contain any dairy or other creepy animal ingredients. This peanut butter is so smooth and thick and it always spreads nicely on everything. I love it on toast, bananas, over vanilla ice cream, blended into smoothies, as a dip for pretzels, in crapes (pancakes), and straight from the jar. I also use it as a cupcake frosting (and muffin frosting here).

Peanut Butter & Co makes more than just this amazing, highly addictive, "Dark Chocolate Dreams" Peanut Butter.

I was ecstatic when they sent me two other "flavored" peanut butters to review. All of their peanut butters are natural and no-stir which is a BIG plus for me. I hate when I put my natural peanut butter in the fridge and the peanut butter gets stiff and I cannot smear it or scoop it out. It takes forever to get it out of the jar and then the stiff peanut butter chunk takes even longer to get soft enough to be smeared on bread. Or sometimes the peanut butter has a layer of oil on top and I have to stir it, while the oil usually gets all over the bottle. I don't have to worry about these problems with Peanut Butter & Co peanut butters. I also love the fact that the flavors I tried were vegan and contained no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. And they are gluten free for those who are on gluten free diet, win, win, win!

Here is what I tried:

"White Chocolate Wonderful"

Just when I thought that nothing could beat the "Dark Chocolate Dreams" Peanut Butter, I found a competition. This flavor is equally as amazing as the dark chocolate peanut butter. Extremely creamy, almost velvet like experience. Sweet and buttery, with a delightful cocoa butter flavor. I ate most of this straight from the jar over the past few weeks.....And some on toast with raspberry jam (my new favorite combination), on plain toast, with peaches, and in banana ice cream.

"Cinnamon Raisin Swirl"

Mmmmmmm......This peanut butter tastes just like a cinnamon raisin bread smeared with peanut butter!!! It is very creamy and the pieces of raisins give it a nice caramelized, sweet crunchy character. The cinnamon and raisin make a really lovely combination. You can even smell the raisins and cinnamon! I tried it straight from the jar with one spoon. Then I grabbed another spoon and another and soon I had a sink full of dirty spoons.....I am a bit ashamed that I ate 1/4 of the jar in one sitting....Well, I still had enough left to add to my oatmeal, to smear on my toast and to eat with banana. I even filled a baked apple with this peanut butter after the apple was fully baked. Sooooo good!

Here is my Dark Chocolate Dreams Raspberry sandwich :-)

I made an awesome breakfast recipe but the picture was horrible so I am not posting it. Here is the recipe though:

Peanut Apple Strudel Oatmeal

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almond milk or water
1/2 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
2 Tbs "Cinnamon Raisin Swirl" Peanut Butter

In a medium bowl, mix oats and milk (or water) and applesauce. Cook in microwave 1.5 minutes. Stir in peanut butter and cook 30 seconds. Let sit 30 seconds, stir and enjoy.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Marble Ice Cream

4 frozen bananas, cut into pieces
2 Tbs "White Chocolate Wonderful" Peanut Butter

Slightly defrost bananas. Place them into a food processor and process 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides several times. Add peanut butter and process until well incorporated. Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Peanuts Smoothie

1 cup almond milk
1 banana, peeled
3 Tbs "Dark Chocolate Dreams" Peanut Butter
optional maple syrup to taste
optional chopped peanuts for topping

Blend everything in a blender until smooth and creamy. Top with chopped peanuts if desired. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Middle Eastern Lentil Bake with Eggplant Steaks

I love lentils! They are healthy little guys that fuel us with protein and fiber and other nutrients. I like the versatility they give us, from lentil salads, lentil purees, lentil soup to different lentil "meatloaves". They don't require overnight soaking which is a big plus. I created this recipe using an interesting spice mix called Baharat. Baharat is a mixture of finely ground Middle Eastern spices. Mine has: allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and cloves. It smells outstanding and tastes exotic. It is a warm, spicy, sweet and delightful experience for my taste buds. You can use a mixture of spices mentioned above, or just some of those depending on your personal preference. When assembling this dish, don't follow my picture but rather make sure you place the potatoes all the way on the top since otherwise your bell pepper or eggplant might get too dry during the baking process. I highly recommend that you cook your potatoes and lentils day ahead and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to bake the main dish.

Middle Eastern Lentil Bake with Eggplant Steaks

Lentil mixture:

1 cup green lentils, uncooked
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, don't drain the juice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp onion powder
2-3 tsp Baharat spice mixture (allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and cloves)-start with 2 teaspoons and add more if you like spicier food

salt to taste

Eggplant "steaks":

1 large eggplant, top cut off
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

4 large potatoes, unpeeled
1 large green bell pepper, top cut off and core removed

To make the lentil mixture:
Place lentils into a large pot and cover with 3 cups of hot water. Add diced tomatoes, including the juice. Bring to a boil. Add minced garlic, bay leaf, onion powder and Baharat spices. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook another 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Season with salt to taste.

Meanwhile, place potatoes into a large pot and cover them with water (add enough water to cover about 2 inches above the potatoes). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with a fork easily. Don't overcook them though. Drain and rinse under cold water, until potatoes are cool enough to handle. Peel and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick circles. Toss soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, paprika, liquid smoke, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and 1/3 cup water together in a medium bowl. Dip each eggplant slice in the marinade and place onto a large baking sheet. Pour the remaining marinade over eggplant steaks and let marinate for 15 minutes.

Slice bell pepper into 1/2 inch thick circles or strips.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat 9x13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place 2 sliced potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Lightly season with salt. Add sliced bell pepper layer (1/2 bell pepper) and a layer of eggplant steaks. Spoon lentil mixture on top and create an even layer. Top with the remaining bell pepper, followed by eggplant and potatoes. Sprinkle more salt over potatoes and cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes. Serve warm.

This receipe makes about 4 large servings (each about 300 calories)

No oil added, low fat, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Healthy Harvest Apple Crumble

Healthy Harvest Apple Crumble

1 large apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Tbs raisins
2 prunes, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Combine everything expect for the walnuts in a shallow 2-quart glass baking dish. Create an even layer of apple mixture, sprinkle with walnuts (and more cinnamon if desired).
Bake 20 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.

This recipe makes 2 servings (around 207 calories each)

I used unsweetened applesauce and oats instead of oats, sugar, margarine, cornstarch, and flour in this recipe to make it healthier and lower calories.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free and it does not contain any added sugar or oils. You can make it fat free if you don't use the walnuts (that would also take away 95 calories from the whole recipe).
This vegan apple crumble tastes great topped with unsweetened soy yogurt.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Raw Cucumber Spaghetti with Spinach Pesto and my new kitchen friend

Look at this beautiful, green pasta! Doesn't it look like "real" spaghetti with rich, creamy basil pesto? Don't run to the kitchen to turn on your stove or to get your pot filled with water. This pasta does not come from a box, but rather from your garden (or the produce section at your grocery store).......What a better, refreshing, low calorie fruit (or in the culinary world vegetable) can you imagine on a hot summer day? Nothing beats cucumbers! They are healthy, yummy, packed with water to hydrate your body, and they smell amazing! I love cucumber salad! I love adding cucumbers into my salads, or eat them plain. When I first started exploring the raw vegan diet, I kept hearing about raw pasta, mainly zucchini pasta. I used to make my raw zucchini and cucumber pasta by hand, using a vegetable peeler. What a time and labor consuming chore! And it looked more like linguini instead of spaghetti......Then I saw a video about making raw pasta using a really neat tool, a tri-blade spiral vegetable slicer (aka Spirooli). I read a few reviews and I had to have it! I am so happy that I got this since it makes my raw meals easy, fun and beautiful! Making raw spaghetti with this is a breeze! No need for electricity! Simply place cucumber, daikon radish, zucchini, sweet potato, carrot or other firm vegetable on prongs, and turn wheel while pushing base toward the blade (use the shredder "strip" blade) and in minutes (or rather seconds) you have a bowl of super long spaghetti.
This spiral vegetable slicer has three interchangeable blades to make everything from shredded cabbage, thin vegetable spaghetti, thicker vegetable noodles, vegetable slices, apple chips, curly fries and much more. So far I have been using it for raw spaghetti, thin potato slices, apple slices and shredded cabbage. I like the suction cup base that keeps my Spirooli tightly and safely locked in place while I am using it. I also like the self contained blade storage underneath the Spirooli so I don't lose the blade, plus they are safer there than laying around the kitchen. The blades are stainless steel and the whole tool is dishwasher safe, but I find it easily washable under warm water in the sink. Spirooli is light and easy to store. The durable plastic is well made and all the parts are designed very well, too. I love how easy it is to use and for some reason everytime I use it I get all excited about looking at the cool spaghetti that are coming out of the Spirooli. And to top it all, my World Cuisine Spirooli came with 1 year warranty. You can get yours on Amazon, it's on sale now :-)

I created a healthy, raw, vegan pesto recipe and I want to share it with you. This pesto goes well over raw cucumber pasta, or as a salad dressing.

Raw Cucumber Spaghetti with Spinach Pesto

2-3 large cucumbers, peeled if not organic
(or use zucchini if you like)

6 oz raw spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup water
6-8 fresh basil leaves
salt to taste

Turn cucumbers into raw noodles using a spiral vegetable slicer, knife, or a vegetable peeler. Drain the cucumbers of excess water before placing them into a large bowl.
In a blender or a food processor, chop pumpkin seeds until they turn into a fine powder. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the cucumber noodles) and blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the blender or food processor as needed.
Pour pesto over your raw pasta and mix well. Serve as a meal or a big side salad.

(This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cup pesto that will keep in the fridge for up to 2-3 days)

I love my raaaaaaaaaaaw spaghetti!!!!

Stay tuned for my future raw and cooked culinary adventures with my new kitchen friend Spirooli.
Do you have Spirooli? What do you use it for?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Giveaway winner

Abbey and Bear picked a winner using a random number generator on www.RANDOM.org  The winning comment is number 14 

Congrats to Michelle and her kitty Miles :-)
Michelle, please, email me your address so I can ship you your prize. 
My email is czech.vegan (at) yahoo.com 

Thank you everyone for entering my giveaway and good luck on the next one! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Frozen superfood smooches" (Doggie treats)

Who screams for ice cream? Me!! Who barks for ice cream? Shelly! Living in Atlanta, we have summer almost all year long. It's seriously hot outside so I like to cool Shelly off after a walk with some fresh water and ice cubes, and some nice homemade frozen doggie treats. I often make a batch of frozen treats using unsweetened applesauce, or a mixture of unsweetened soy yogurt, pumpkin puree and cinnamon. Or I make mashed bananas, soy yogurt and peanut butter. They are all pretty healthy and Shelly loves them! A few days ago I created a recipe based on some healthy superfoods that I give Shelly daily. To make the frozen treats creamy and to add probiotics I used my favorite unsweetened plain soy yogurt from WholeSoy & Co. You can probably use coconut yogurt or other yogurt, just make sure it is unsweetened and all natural. 
Feel free and add more veggies or add some extra fruit based on your dog's preferences. 
You can read my post about the best veggies and fruits for dogs and cats here
These "frozen superfood smooches" doggie treats are loaded with antioxidants, Omega-3's, protein, protiotics, fiber and they contain over 70 minerals and vitamins from kelp, which makes these treats a frozen multivitamin :-)  You can even add this to your dog's food as a supplement. I got the blueberry decoration idea from my friend Kathy and her dog Jo Jo. Kathy often brings Shelly yummy frozen homemade doggie treats. 

WholeSoy & Co featured me and Shelly on their website last week check it out :-) 

Frozen superfood smooches 

1/2 cup frozen green peas 
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soy yogurt (such as WholeSoy & Co)
1 tsp kelp powder 
1 Tbs ground flaxseed 
1/4 cup water (or cold decaf green tea)
12 blueberries for decoration (fresh or frozen)

Blend everything (except the blueberries) in blender until smooth and well incorporated. Pour the greenish mixture into an ice cube tray (I used heart-shaped but any shape will work). Place a blueberry in the middle of each treat and freeze overnight. 

This recipe makes about 12 treats 

The materials contained on this website are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute sole professional advice on any subject matter. I do not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. I do not take any responsibility, either directly or implied, for any damage, injury, death, disease, illness or morbidity caused directly or indirectly to pets, their owners or the general public as a result of following the advice given in this site. The information is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinary or doctor. Please, consult your veterinary before making any changes in your dog's or cat's diet.