Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recipes, Transitions, Writing, Gardening, & Winning (a ticket to Vida Vegan Con)

Why, hello there! I have to be honest - as we get closer and closer to the wedding (6 weeks-ish away at this point to the ceremony, 10 weeks-ish away from the party), it's going to be more and more difficult for me to post with any regularity. But to those who still visit, still read, still catch up and don't get sick of me rattling on...thanks for joining me on the journey. And I know if I drop off a bit this summer, we'll catch back up in the fall.

I have a lot to say, but I think it best to get on with what CC has been cookin' these days. The San Pedro Group continues. There was a two week hiatus due to summer travel (the two main players went to their property in Hilo, HI, and the rest just felt like taking a break during that time), and now that they're back, I cooked for them Tuesday (they got back last week), and was met with some resistance about how we should move forward as price continues to be an issue. I understand these are not rich people, these are average, working-class, baby boomers, and I have not tried to gouge anyone. The prices are more than fair, and when I check against industry norms for this premium of a service, and when I talk to other chefs/caterers/nutritionists, they all echo what I feel: these folks are getting a DEAL. I have worked for close to nothing because I richly believe in the depth of the need for what I'm providing - they need me, and I want to see them thrive, eating things that edify and hasten their healing and/or weight loss process. But I cannot undervalue myself, and I cannot sell myself short, either.

The San Pedro group has told me at this point, that unless they have at least 10 people, they can't afford to have me cook for them (as stated earlier, the price per person drops as more participants are added), and they have more than enough interested parties, but not enough that are willing to commit to paying weekly to bring down the cost for everyone. It's a little frustrating, but the universe has time and time again brought me to those that need my help, and I trust in that. And I've taken up another part-time job to ensure we're not financially floundering while trying to fund a wedding extravaganza of a summer while I figure out what I'm doing with my life, professionally speaking.

I'm being open to what is, and releasing those things that fall outside my circle of control.

Here's what the San Pedroans have enjoyed since my last post:

The strict religious stance toward TruNorth adherence (absolutely no oil/salt/sugar/gluten) has relaxed slightly, and there was a curiosity about what they missed the soyrizo enchilada week (those that participated raved), so I made the enchiladas again. Here's the recipe in case you missed it the first couple times. For the other meal that week, just to show them what was possible with a little Gardein faux chicken, I made a "chicken" teriyaki stir fry. Here's my stir-fry tips again, and I used Organicville agave-sweetened/gluten-free/low sodium teriyaki. So, this week remained very LOW in added oil/salt, sugar-free, and used only a small amount of gluten per serving (in the stir fry, as the enchiladas are gluten free). I felt good about this compromise, and so did they. Those that are staying true to TruNorth are ready at this point to take the reins in cooking that way for themselves. The other 8 or so people would like to experience a broader range, so to speak, of vegan cuisine...something a little less stringent.

Then, there was the two week break, and then this week, they requested INDIAN FOOD! (Yum! Nice choice! And easy to do TruNorth!) and then let me choose the other meal, and I chose lasagna, since I haven't made anything Italian-inspired yet. And tofu ricotta is so easy and so compelling. There are a lot of great resources out there for vegan Indian, but one of my favorites remains the blog Vegan Dad. A humble dad in Ontario, vegan dad is a master of healthy, vegan, sophisticated creations that are easy enough to make while the kids are screaming in hunger, and tasty enough that said screaming kids will eat to their content without any fuss.

I decided upon a Creamy Chickpea and Tomato Curry, and easily TruNorth'd it:

- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (about 1.5 cans of garbanzo beans, well rinsed, if you go that route)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp low-sodium veggie stock for sauteing (I like Pacific brand - it has no oil and the lowest sodium/serving)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 4 curry leaves (I was able to use some fresh off my curry plant on my garden balcony!)
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced (use less if you're not obsessed with garlic the way I am)
- 500g chopped fresh tomatoes, skinned (ever skinned a tomato? It's strangely satisfying)
- 400 ml can light coconut milk
- cooked rice, for serving (I used brown basmati, but you could do jasmine or even quinoa)

1. Heat veggie stock in a large frying pan over medium heat. Toss chickpeas with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Add spices and curry leaves to the pan and fry for a min, until nice and fragrant. Add more veggie stock or water if it gets to thick. Add onions and garlic and saute for 6-8 mins, until soft. Add a splash of water at this point to deglaze the pan, if needed.
3. Add chickpeas and tomatoes, mix well, and season to taste. Heat to bubbling, then add coconut milk. Simmer gently until ready to serve (over rice). The dish tastes best if it has sat for a while so the flavours can blend. Even better the next day!

Thanks, Vegan Dad! He took a better picture than I did, so, I'm crediting him here:

Next on the TrueNorth'ing-Indian-Vegan-Dad bandwagon, I selected Tofu Saag:

- 1 bunch kale
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 chunk ginger, chopped
- 3/4 to 1 cup water
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp mild curry paste (or powder), or to taste
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Squirt of Bragg's
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, diced
- 3 tbsp soy yogurt (optional)
- cooked rice, for serving

1. Remove the tough stalks from the kale, and cook for 10 mins with a splash of water over medium heat in a large pot with the lid on. Kale should cook down and be tender, but still be a nice bright green.
2. Put kale, onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Add water and blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick.
3. Put kale mixture in a large pot and bring to bubbling over medium heat, stirring regularly. Cook for a few mins. Add tomatoes (juice and all) and spices. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add tofu and cook, uncovered, for 15 mins, reducing heat if it begins to stick. Stir regularly and let thicken. Stir in yogurt, if using, and serve over rice.

YUM! I still have some push-back overall to tofu with the San Pedroans, but I think this was pretty tasty. And packing a serious nutritional punch.

I cut my tofu into smaller cubes (above) than Vegan Dad did (below), because I knew I was making it for people that are still tofu-phobic:

And now...lasagna! The only other lasagna I've ever posted on Curative Cuisine was the epic John's Nightshade-Free Autumn Lasagna. I have to say, I haven't made a lasagna since. That thing, ableit perhaps the tastiest thing ever, is so labor-intensive. It kinda burnt me out on lasagna for spell. But, I thought it would be a great thing to cook for the San Pedroans, a classic always fun to veganize, and because I was considering my (baby boomer! Keep it simple, remember?) audience, I wanted to stay pretty classic/simple about it:

Classic (and Easy) Lasagna__________________________________________________
2 packages gluten-free lasagna noodles
1 cup of Daiya mozarella blend (faux cheese)
1 vegan ground round of some kind (I went for St. Ives, as it was the lowest in sodium per serving)
1 package soft tofu
1 cup nutrtional yeast
juice of 1 lemon
1 jar organic, agave-sweetened, low sodium marinara (I used Organicville)
1 head kale, well-rinsed and de-ribbed
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
water, for steaming

1. In a large lidded pan, steam the kale for a few minutes to soften it. It should be pliable, but still bright green/not completely cooked down. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large nonstick pan on medium high heat, cook the onion and half of the garlic and herbs and all of the sage in a couple tbsp of water until the onions are translucent, add the ground round and mash and flip until well combined and faux ground meat is browned-ish in areas. Set aside.
3. Boil water (perhaps during steps one and two) and cook noodles to instructions on package. Immediately transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop them from becoming overcooked and/or sticking together. Set aside.
4. Combine tofu, the rest of the garlic and herbs, and the lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a food processor and blend until well combined. Do not overblend - you want the tofu to have a crumbly, ricotta-esque quality still. Set aside.
5. Open up the jar of sauce (you can heat on the stove and season to your liking, if it needs it), get out a casserole pan (probably 9 x 12 or something close), and here's the layering construction, from bottom to top: sauce (thin layer to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom, smooth it out evenly), noodles, faux sausage meat crumble, sauce, noodles, kale, sauce, noodles, sauce, tofu ricotta, sauce, grated Daiya cheese.
6. Bake at 350, uncovered for 30 minutes, then turn up heat or broil until cheese has melted and desired crispy edges have been achieved (if this hasn't happened already). Let sit until cooled slightly and congealed, and serve! As usual with lasagna - totally better the next day, when the flavors have had time to sit and blend.

Max and I have enrolled in Farm Fresh To You's organic produce delivery service. Now that finals are in swing for him, and as well as blogging and cooking and writing for the Examiner and wedding prep for me - we're getting a little too busy to shop for the produce we want and are sick of paying Whole Foods prices for out of convenience. I think this is a great service. You can customize what and when you receive completely.

In an effort to use up what we got this week in our Farm Fresh to You box, I made a broccoli & baby bok choy stir fry with cashews and a homemade sauce. More on that perhaps later. Baby bok choy is my recent obsession/the spring veggie of the season, in my opinion. I may devote a whole post to come to baby bok choy.

I also made a summer-inspired FEAST of roasted rosemary and herb fingerling potatoes, BBQ Tempeh, corn on the cob, and mac and cheese with peas:

And the cool thing is - these are all recipes I've posted before:
Corn on the Cob - just peal, boil for a few minutes, earth balance, a little salt/pepper and SERVE!

Since the San Pedro chapter for Curative Cuisine is naturally coming to a close, moving forward this blog may be less about what I'm cooking for others and more of what I'm cooking myself and Max. And I'm okay with that. It will keep me inspired to continue to practice what I preach and continue to be creative.

I am still writing for The as the L.A. Vegan Restaurant Examiner. Check it out, please subscribe if you haven't already, and if you're in L.A. and have a place you think I must review - drop me a line!

I've also got quite the balcony herb/veg garden going on at the moment. It feels so good to grow stuff again! I'm having a blast, and while the harvest may not be a huge bounty, it's the process that counts, and everyone is thriving, flowering, and growing at a crazy pace. Birds have made a nest in my hanging fuschia. I'm trying to not disturb them too much, as there are eggs now! Umm...if anyone has any feedback here on what I should do, let me know! Obviously I'm not touching the nest or anything close to the nest...but I have to water, and I don't want to let the fuschia die. Although, I am vegan, and I'm not hurting baby birds just for a plant, so if a sacrifice has to ultimately be made...I just wish I had put a birdhouse out! I put a birdfeeder out, and totally contemplated a birdhouse. Here is a photo collage:

To see what all these things ARE, you can either check out my tumblr feed, or check out the album in the Curative Cuisine's facebook page. P.S. "like" The Curative Cuisine while you're there! ;-)

And now for some REALLY EXCITING news. There is a Vegan Bloggers Conference (!!) coming up, being headed up by some amazing vegan woman in Portland, and the roster is SICK. By the time I had some money scraped together to buy a ticket...they were sold out. But I didn't cry, because soon after contests started popping up. When I saw Jess Scone of GetSconedPDX post a SONGWRITING contest for a free ticket/VIP goody bag, I knew I had to make a submission. See my the contest rules, me performing my song, and the other entries here, and see how I found out I HAD WON! here. There were some great other submissions, and I'm really proud that I wrote something original and that it was well-received. You can bet your bottom that I am going to get ALL I CAN out of this amazing opportunity, and I'm going to blog the heck out of it, better myself because of it, network like a mother, and just enjoy every moment in Portland (as usual). A Big Thanks! to Jess, and to everyone who supported my submission and celebrated my victory. It's only 6 days after our Vermont Wedding Celebration, so I may be blissed out, I may be exhausted, I may slightly out-of-body, but I will be a WIFE and I will be at VIDA VEGAN CON! So excited. As if this summer could get any better...

In closing, I leave you a picture from my bridal shower/bachelorette party, which took place a couple weekends ago. Me and Liz, my Maid of Honor Extraordinnaire:



Friday, April 15, 2011

Summation of Food Medicine in last week's post...

I just haven't spent enough time with Healing with Whole Foods in my lap lately, so I want to share the food medicine/nutritionally therapeutic properties of the ingredients in the recipes featured last post that my San Pedro vegan program enjoyed on always, I heart Paul Pitchford. Go buy this book if you don't already own a copy.

Tomatoes = tonifies the stomach and cleans the liver, purifies the blood and detoxifies in general, relieves liver heat and blood stagnation, and even though an acidic fruit, as long as used in small moderation, after digestion tomato alkalizes the blood and can therefore be useful in reducing the acidic blood of rheumatism and gout [PP, pg. 544-5]

Green/String Beans = strengthens the spleen-pancreas and kidneys [PP, pg. 511]

Carrots = strengthens the spleen-pancreas, improves liver function, eliminates putrefactive bacteria in the intestines that cause poor assimilation, alkaline-forming, rich in anti-oxidant beta-carotene/provitamin A (anti-inflammatory), contain large amounts of silicon (strengthens connective tissues and aids calcium metabolism) [PP, pgs. 538-9]

Onions = lowers cholesterol, decreases catarrh (phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat) [PP, pg. 547]

Celery = benefits the stomach and spleen-pancreas and calms an aggravated liver, dries damp excesses, purifies the blood, high silicon content helps renew joints, bones, arteries, and all connective tissues and acidic blood that accompanies tissue and nerve inflammations [PP, pgs. 539-40]

Garlic = antibiotic/antiviral/antimicrobial (even inhibits microorganisms associated with degenerative diseases - like Lyme disease, literally), eliminates toxins from the body [PP, pg. 546]

Kale = Eases lung congestion, benefits the stomach, good source of sulfur, chlorophyll, calcium, iron, protein, and vitamin A [PP, pg. 541]

Ginger = helps break down protein, lessens the effect of uric acid from protein on the body, helps aches/spasms [PP, pg. 210]

Sweet Potatoes = strengthens the spleen-pancreas, promotes qi, remove toxins from the body, builds kidney function, rich in vitamin A [PP, pg. 550]

Russet Potatoes = tonifies the spleen-pancreas and the qi energy, neutralizes body acids/contributes to increased alkalinity, reduces inflammation, useful in building and maintaining tissues (including nerves) [PP, pg. 544]

Portobello Mushrooms = rids the respiratory system of excess mucus, has antibiotic properties, increases white blood cell count bolstering immunity against disease-producing microorganisms [PP, pg. 542]

Nutritional Yeast = a nutritional cornucopia and amazing source of vitamin B12 and phosphorus (as with tomatoes, not to be over-used - too much can induce unhealthy amounts of candida-type yeasts in the body, especially in individuals who are susceptible to candida overgrowth, or dampness in general) [PP, pg. 139-140]

Bragg's = contains 16 amino acids, a nice way to season things salt-free with low sodium

Bell Pepper = improve appetite, reduce swelling, promote circulation, rich in vitamin C [PP, pg. 419]

Red Kidney Beans = cooling thermal nature, used in treating edema and swelling [PP, pg. 509]

Parsley = a source of remarkable nutrition (more vitamin C than citrus, one of the higher sources of vitamin A, chlorophyll, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and iron), cuts the effect ofsolanine when served with nightshade vegetables, dries watery mucoid conditions, benefits optic and brain nerves [PP, pg. 548]

Basil = promotes a mental calming and focusing effect in food or teas [PP, pg. 337]

Oregano = oil of oregano is the most potent way to derive its benefits, but those benefits include antibiotic/antifungal/antimicrobial properties, aids muscular pain due to fibromyalgiaand arthritis, and attacks microbes including the spirochete of Lyme disease [PP, pg. 661]

Thyme = same as sage (above) in regard to relationship with anti-parasitic -functioning foods [PP, pg. 660]

Sage = when paired with foods such as carrot, garlic, onion, etc. that have anti-parasitic properties, it strengthens their effect [PP, pg. 660]

Balsamic Vinegar = removes stagnant blood, reduce accumulations in the liver resulting from a rich diet, neutralizes poisons in the body, relieves dampness accumulation/edema [PP, pg. 205]

It's really a full-tilt boogie around here - between wedding planning, the San Pedro group, and out-of-town visitors...but tomorrow's SP menu is going to be de-lish, and of course you'll hear all about it soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by. Also - if you're looking for an amazing vegan Sunday brunch in L.A., look no further.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sometimes One Must Keep It Simple

Sometimes I forget I'm, in essence, cooking for baby boomers. I go in, tempeh-touting and ready to present originally-flavored, palette-surprising creations...and am met with "we miss meatloaf". Or "we don't like tofu". Ugh. I love my SP3 (which is now more like the San Pedro EIGHT! Guess that community dinner was a success!), don't get me wrong - but I am learning that being virtually a private chef comes with a certain power dynamic. At the end of the day, no matter if I'm the expert - these people want to eat things that are accessible to their very-formed mental constructs about food. They have or are working on serious dietary changes already; I can't rock the boat too much. I can't be Captain Tofu. [And not just because I don't own this get-up.]

Remember L in Portland and my commitment to remain free of outcome expectation and think of this always as a ministry of planting seeds? Some may germinate, some may root and flower, some may not - that's not my domain. My domain is the planting of ideas and knowledge fertilization, so to speak.

Yeah, that still needs to be kept in mind (talking to myself here).

I sent out a menu to those that were interested in buying into the San Pedro group for Tuesday, and was really proud of it. Tal Ronnen-inspired deliciousness, painstakingly adapted for TruNorth (no oil/salt/sugar added, all gluten-free, as well as vegan). And then I immediately got e-mails galore poo-poo'ing the menu. So I sent out a revised menu the next day. And lost a person altogether for Tuesday because she was excited for the original idea, and not into the revised one.

I'm not complaining here, I'm just saying that you can't please everyone all of the time. Duh? Duh. But I put a lot of myself into what I make for the San Pedro group, which is fine - but I have to know where I end and the food begins then, if that makes sense. I am not the food I make. You can dislike the food, and I won't take it personally. But then I'm oddly disconnected. Love and Heart are ingredients in everything I'm cooking, cheesy as that may sound. I'd be interested in feedback from other chefs that are deeply impassioned about what they are doing/cooking: is it hard to not take it personally sometimes when the feedback is less than glowing? And they didn't even poo-poo my food...just my menu! Lol. I'm in trouble. Time for an ego check.

So, wanting to honor various said e-mail requests to not use tofu or tempeh, not have anything too spicy, use lots of cooked vegetables at both meals and little to none raw, and not include cole slaw nor split peas, here is what I ended up making those 'boomers, and they liked it, and I love that we are all being authentic on our mutual path of food discovery and that they feel open to communicate their needs and that I am in touch with myself enough to self-reflect around my process of frustration in re-designing this week's menu with grace and acceptance...and even humor. Sooooooo...mashed potatoes and gravy, anyone? ;-)

Menu: Minestrone Soup and Wilted Garlicky Mixed Greens
Ginger Carrots & Green Beans, Grilled Portobellos, and Mixed Russet/Sweet Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy

Minestrone Soup recipe is here. The only difference is I broth-sauteed instead of using oil, and I used straight-up water (kangen water, though, of course) without the bouillon cube(s) for proper liquid ratio.

Wilted Garlicky Mixed Greens____________________________________________
1 head red kale
1 head kale - other (dino/lacinato or green curly)
1 head other green (I used chard this time around)
5-6 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons veggie broth, for sauteing
squirt of Bragg's
squirt of balsamic vinegar
additional broth or water on hand to keep things moist

Wash and de-rib the greens and cut or tear into pieces. Finely mince the garlic and saute in a non-stick pan or wok on low-medium heat in the veggie broth for a couple minutes. Raise the temperature and toss in the greens, flipping with tongs to ensure garlic gets evenly dispersed throughout. Add the Bragg's and balsamic, and keep flipping. As the greens cook down, add additional liquid as needed to keep the pan moist and be careful not to over-cook or scald the leaves.

Ginger Carrots & Green Beans__________________________________________
1 lb. green beans, rinsed and ended
3-4 carrots, rinsed and cut into thin strips
2-3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
squirt of Bragg's
freshly ground black pepper to taste
squirt of rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons of veggie broth for sauteing
(optional additions I didn't use due to the dietary restriction of the San Pedro group: chili paste, chili flakes, sesame oil, sesame seeds)

Saute the ginger in a pan or wok on medium heat for a couple minutes until it softens, then add the beans, carrots, Bragg's, pepper, and vinegar, turn up the heat, and toss/stir fry until green beans are just tender. If the pan/mixture becomes too dry, add another squirt of Bragg's and/or rice vinegar and continue.

Grilled Portobellos_____________________________________________________
[I wish I had pictures of the other side of the caps, because my grill marks were nice!]
4 portobello mushrooms, rinsed, stems set aside for gravy
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Bragg's
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all of your marinade ingredients together and spoon over the portobellos and let them soak it up for about 30 minutes. I grilled these on a grill pan in the oven at 400 degrees and didn't use oil (stuck to TruNorth), which meant I had to frequently be moving them every few minutes so they didn't get too stuck to anything. I kept some marinade aside and spooned over the shrooms every other time I moved/rotated them or so. Start gill side up, and when you rotate, rotate 90 degrees to get nice cross-hatched grill marks. Flip occasionally, but let them spend most of their time gill side up. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the mushrooms and temperature of the grill. It took me about 40 minutes until they were done. You know they're done when you press the center with tongs where the stem was and they're soft and juicy. Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes, which helps the flavors set up. Props to Isa's recipe, which this is a variation on.

Mixed Russet/Sweet Mashed Potatoes_______________________________________
2 lbs (910 g) large sweet potatoes or “yams”, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
4 lbs (1820 g) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120 ml) nondairy unsweetened almond milk
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place yams and potatoes in a large-size pot. Cover with water. Cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 25 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Using a potato masher or an electric hand mixer on low speed, mix potatoes, milk, and pepper until well combined and creamy. Use more almond milk if a creamy consistency is not achieved through mixing alone.

Jessica's Mushroom Gravy (TruNorth style)____________________________________

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 cups finely chopped mushroom/the portobello stems from above finely chopped

3 cups Pacific brand low-sodium veggie stock

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

baby squirt of Bragg's

1 tablespoon marsala cooking wine

2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup of water (entire mixture added)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a lidded small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the veggie stock on medium heat and saute the garlic, thyme, sage, oregano, and basil for a minute. Add onions and mushrooms, and stir ocassionally, cooking down on medium heat until soft and onions translucent. Add a cup of the broth and stir. Let the mixture homogenize for a few moments, and then add another cup of the broth with the marsala, Bragg's and nutritional yeast. Stir and let cook for another moment, then add the 2 tablespoons cornstarch in dissolving water, the remaining broth, and pepper to taste. You may need to turn up the heat slightly when adding the cornstarch so it thickens properly, and any other additional portions of the herbs/pepper to taste to your liking.

So I am indeed the new L.A. Vegan Restaurant Examiner on Check out my first two posts here and here...and if you have a hot vegan L.A. insider tip or recommendation - I'm all ears!

Blessings & Bon Appetit,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Curative Cuisine has A LOT cookin' these days.

Hi there. I don't think I've ever spent this much time in my life in my literal and figurative "apron", so to speak. But I'm into it. And getting more into it by the day. So, I last left you with the San Pedro group. Latin day. So, last week, instead of going over on my usual Tuesday and doing the usual lunch/dinner thing for my San Pedro Three, or SP3, shall we call them - we mixed it up. The way the pricing model I've designed works is that the more people that are enrolled in the group or program of eaters or whatever (I really need to decide on some language here, apparently), the less price it is per person/per meal. So, there is an incentive to bring your friends on board. But of course the friends and family of the SP3 should get a chance to taste this JessicaDoesTruNorth action first, right? This is something we've been talking about. So, we forewent usual Tuesday for a huge Community Meal on Thursday. I made a flyer. The SP3 sent it out.

Now, here's what you need to know about the SP3: 2 out of 3 of them were (or are) employed most of their working lives in community organization of some kind. I started to get a call from one of the SP3 every day in the week that led up to the Community Meal informing me of more RSVPs. The number hit 18. I hit the wall sideways. Max went to Austin for work, so I didn't have my taste-tester/cheering squad that I usually do and I was left alone at home shopping and planning and trying not to freak out. Those of you who have been a part of The Curative Cuisine journey from the get-go know that this was/is a leap of faith for me. I am no great chef. But I am finding out more and more that 1) I'm better than I think I am, perhaps, 2) what I'm making exists in a niche, and is therefore generally accepted in a spirit of "wow, we can't believe you did that" - there are not Iron Chef-level expectations, here, in other words, and 3) if I can be self-employed, I really need to be. Let me re-phrase that: I desire self-employment, and it will happen without me starving, going into debt, or draining our savings. So telling myself I can do this when I'm not 100% sure and just rolling up the damn psychic sleeves and dropping some stories and just pulling it out is all going to inevitably be a part of the journey toward that holy grail called I Am My Own Boss And I'm Actually Paying My Bills.

I know my SP3 like spice and bright palettes, and I was inspired by the fresh supply of new spring produce, so I wanted a lot of fresh/raw food to start, and I wanted a lot of different textures and flavors. I wanted each of those 18ish people to walk out having experienced a taste connection with at least something present. It ended up as a sort of festival of sides meets southwest picnic. So here's where it went:

Fresh Crudites Platter - carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, cauliflower, non-gmo corn/salt & oil free chips, brown rice tortilla triangles.

Dips for Crudites - (all homemade, which kind of goes without saying at this point, but maybe not) - garlic hummus, guacamole, pineapple pico de gallo.

Mains/Sides - jerk asparagus, broccoli slaw, garlicky kale with mushrooms, quinoa pilaf-stuffed roasted bell peppers, 3-bean chili, cornbread, bbq tempeh.

Dessert - baked apples with carmelized maple walnuts and raisins, a la mode with coconut ice cream (the one thing I served store-bought - Larry & Luna's - how could I not? I have no ice cream maker, also, or else I would have probably done my own thing).

And, just as a reminder: all ORGANIC, VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE, OIL-FREE WITH NO SALT OR SUGAR ADDED. So, I chopped. And I shopped. And I chopped. And I shopped some more. I made friends at Whole Foods, where I needed two carts and enlisted a courtesy clerk to be my bitch. I made friends at the Farmers Market, where I wiped this one sweet farmer out of his entire asparagus harvest in one fall swoop. And then I chopped some more. I had a plan, people. I worked it out. The timing of Wednesday from about 5:00 p.m. to Thursday at about 10:00 p.m. was pretty much consciously executed, even down to bathroom breaks. I have a lot of pictures of prep and my day in the kitchen, and not a lot of pictures of finished presentation and people eating because at that point - I was too busy to be taking photos! The SP3 gave an introduction (that was so sweet and amazing - love these people. They are becoming my San Pedro family. That is totally how I want this to always feel), we ate some pupus (Hawaiian for hors de'vours, people), I talked a bit about myself and what we were going to be eating, and then we feasted and we talked and we feasted and I answered questions and we feasted and talked. It was great. I cannot have imagined it going any better. Highlights reel:

- on of the SP3 invited his ex-wife, who has taken a 100-hour course directly from PAUL PITCHFORD. I freaked out like a rabid Bieber fan on her. Everyone was like, "Who's that?". It was awesome.

- I knew I was going to mess up something. I mean, come on. I'm me. I have super human novice kitchen moments all the time - let's be clear. So, at 9:30 p.m. as I'm cleaning up/doing dishes/going to put some leftovers in the fridge, I let out a shriek of giggling as I realize...that the broccoli slaw (two huge bowls of it) are...still in the fridge where I put them at like 3:00 p.m. More awesome.

- I have scheduled a 1:1 meeting with one of the women who was there for tomorrow, and am excited to give her some recipes and knowledge that she needs on her journey.

- Mega interest in the San Pedro group did come out of this. We have gone from 3 to 5, with about 3-4 more watching from the rafters, waiting for the right time. Everyone wants to wait until it's cheaper per person...but I'm struggling to understand why they don't all just JOIN and then there WILL be enough people for it to be WAY affordable per person. But people like to hedge their bets to save a buck, I get it. These are rough times.

- I got to meet the SP3's family. Seeing these people that are becoming so endeared to me that I'm lovingly feeding weekly interact with grandchildren, daughters, neighbors, etc...THEIR people...and share with them what they're doing and reinforce the need to be healthy to sow a rich legacy of wellness in this community...oh man. This is what I'm in this for - THAT RIGHT THERE.

...and so there were enough leftovers to feed a small vegan TruNorth army (especially on the broccoli slaw front - Max is a great disposal system), I went way overboard (when asked about the amount of foods, one of the SP3 was overheard saying, "Yeah. She tends to go mad." LOL! Yes!), but we definitely moved the San Pedro deal and therefore The Curative Cuisine forward about three notches, and...

Whatever I was trying to prove to myself, I think I finally did.

I cannot give a complete Healing with Whole Foods nutritional analysis of everything...there's just too much. But if you have particular questions, as always - holla atcha girl. But recipes! Now that I can do. Didn't think I'd leave you hanging, did you? But first, pictures aka proof:

This was the scene at the leftovers counter by the end. Fresh cut veggies, baked apples, stuffed peppers, extra quinoa pilaf, etc.

Pineapple Pico de Gallo and Guac, yo.

Mushrooms and garlic just waiting for kale.

If you know me, you know I am having a life-long obsession with mushrooms.

Quinoa Pilaf -stuffed Bell Peppers. Love the different colored peppers.

Fuzzy BBQ Tempeh. It didn't taste out of focus.

Prepping veggie mix for southwest quinoa pilaf action.

Eat in color, people.

More pepper babies waiting to be stuffed.

I'm also obsessed with G's Pineapple Pico. Have you noticed? Maybe you should make it already and see for yourself.

Just give me some chips and I'm there.

So, having just reviewed this post so far, I realized I've left out the week before the crazy Community Meal and the week after (yesterday). San Pedro Week 3 Menu was a Teriyaki Tofu Stir Fry for lunch and a huge salad (which my mother would refer to as a "Praise God Salad" - loaded up with veggies, sprouts, seeds, etc. - also known as the "Thrive Salad" sorta-thing, if you are a Brendan Brazer fan like Max and J) and the Mac n Cheese bake for dinner.

I've seriously got to get better at taking pictures of food, people. If you are a photographer and you have some tips or tricks or can tell me what camera I need to buy, I need your help. If you're in L.A., let's trade for food?

I've already posted the recipe for Mac n Cheese back here (I just didn't use oil or Daiya), and Stir Fry Tips here (except, of course, I fried using broth not oil), so there you go. And the San Pedro Week 5 menu (as week 4 was the Community Meal) was *special*. One of the SP3 was out of town, at TruNorth for a fast and cleanse for a week, and the other 2...let's just say they aren't as 100% committed to the TruNorth no added salt/sugar/gluten- and oil-free thing. I literally received an e-mail the night before with the words "and ___ is gone so just regular vegan". Lol! "Regular" vegan. So, I could have gone really slutty at this moment and blown their minds apart with rich, processed, amazing vegan mimicry that would tittilate their dying desire for cheesy meaty-ness. But that's not cool. I decided on a middle ground. A treat for the remaining SP2 that wouldn't undermine the entire journey so far. Faux Chicken Caesar Salad. Using the Gardein Tuscan Breasts, because I wanted them at least to know stuff like that exists. I'd rather have them go gluten than go steak, you know what I mean? And these two are becoming notorious for putting sriracha on everything (I try not to look), so I decided soyrizo enchiladas (which are still gluten free) with a little cheddar Daiya cheese with the heat turned up would really blow their socks off. And it did. NOTE: I remained vegan, no sugar added, and no oil added (I'm so good at broth sauteing now - why would I stop? There was some in the soyrizo, of course), and the only gluten in the whole day was the little bit of gardein each serving of salad had. Yes, I use processed stuff, including 2 faux meats and 1 faux cheese. But it was fun and worth it. Everyone deserves to live a little. It's not burgers and milkshakes, you know?

These may be the best enchiladas I've ever made. Enchiladas I now have down to a science, and they're getting better each time.

Yes, please.

Not chicken. Dairy, gluten, sugar, & oil free.

I kind of want to eat that right now.

High in protein, low in fat.

Alright, you've scrolled long enough, dear reader. Let's catch up on recipe action:

Gardein "Chicken Caesar" Salad was easy enough - fresh organic red leaf lettuce mixed with organic hearts of romaine, tossed in Organicville's V/GF/Agave-sweetened Caesar Dressing with chopped tomatoes and carrots, and I added some pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a nutritional (and crunch) boost. With the Gardein Tuscan cutlets, I toss the basil sauce, rinse each cutlet, cut in half to expose more surface area and rub with a mix of pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and a pinch of allspice before cooking in a hot pan with a little broth so they don't stick for about 5 minutes each side or until desired crispy golden-ness is achieved. Chop, top, and serve on the bed of salad.

The enchiladas were basically the recipe I posted here, with some red chili flakes and chili powder to up the heat a bit. I used 2 things of soyrizo and 2 cans of black beans, also. I used the El Burrito brand of soyrizo, not Trader Joe's, for no reason other than I didn't have any other reason to go to Trader Joe's.

G's Pineapple Pico recipe is here. For the cornbread, I used Pamela's brand gluten-free cornbread mix, and did direct substitutions of applesauce instead of margarine, egg replacer instead of eggs, a squirt of Bragg's instead of salt and agave instead of sugar (making this oil-free, gluten-free, vegan, and salt free). It was easy, and it turned out just fine. The chili recipe is here. The baked apples are basically a version of what I did here with pears, except I didn't use honey nor earth balance (to keep this oil-free) - I used maple syrup, and instead of all those nuts and berries, I just used organic raisins and walnuts. And a pinch of nutmeg. For the BBQ're probably wondering how I did it oil-free. The trick is to use a cast iron pan so you can get it really hot enough to cook the tempeh using only broth, and then adding BBQ (I get crazy and really make sure each one is individually coated each side), and lowering the heat slightly and letting them get the appropriate scald on each side.

And the rest...obviously for the dinner, I multiplied many of these recipes x2 or x3, but here they are, my adapted versions of new classics put forth by Isa Chandra Moskowitz in Appetite for Reduction (hummus, jerk asparagus, garlicky mushrooms and kale) and Susan O'Brien in The Gluten-Free Vegan (stuffed peppers). The guac is all me! I'm an avocado-crazed animal.

Oil-Free Garlic Hummus________________________________________________________________

1 can chickpeas, liquid reserved

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons veggie broth

½ teaspoon paprika

Squirt of bragg’s

1 tablespoon (or less) tahini

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If more liquid is needed for proper ratio, use 2-3 teaspoons of the chickpea liquid.

Salt-Free Party Guacamole______________________________________________________

6-8 avocados

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Cilantro (fresh, 1-3 cups, finely chopped)

3 teaspoons garlic powder

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mashing avocados until desired consistency. To prevent browning if it's going to sit out, store with a couple avocado pits in the bowl with the guac. This and the lime juice help.

Broccoli Slaw (basically Isa's "Coolslaw" recipe with a bag of Trader Joe's organic broccoli slaw instead of traditional cabbage mix)_______________________________________________________________

¼ cup cashew pieces

2 tablespoons chopped white onion

½ cup water

5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I found this to be a lot. Try 3-4 and go from there.)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I added a bit more dijon, also)

1 teaspoon agave nectar

Squirt of bragg’s (if you haven't noticed, I tend to do this in leu of salt. Very low sodium, and salty tasting)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 (14 oz) bag organic Trader Joe's broccoli slaw mix

Soak the cashews for at least a couple hours to overnight. Drain the water. Leave the coleslaw out for a few hours before preparing the salad as it will take the dressing more if it has time to wilt slightly. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend for at least 5 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides often, until completely smooth. It’s really important that you blend for the full time and soaked the cashews well, otherwise your dressing may be grainy. Pour the coleslaw mix into a mixing bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Let it sit for at least 45 minutes to get the cabbage nice and wilted so that it will absorb the dressing. Stir occasionally. Taste for salt=bragg’s and chill until ready to serve.

Garlicky Kale with Mushrooms_____________________________________________

1 teaspoon veggie broth, for sauteing (if I don't have enough homemade, I use Pacific brand low-sodium veggie stock)

6 cloves garlic, minced

Squirt of bragg’s

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

1 lb. kale, coarse stems removed, leaves sliced or torn into pieces

Several pinches of freshly ground pepper

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the broth for about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Add more broth if you need to in order to not burn the garlic. Add the mushrooms and squirt the bragg’s. Let them cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the moisture has released and the mushrooms are slightly browned. Add the kale and pepper, and use tongs to sauté for about 10 more minutes. Add splashes of water if the pan seems dry. The kale should be tender and cooked down pretty well. Serve immediately.

Jerk Asparagus____________________________________________________

2 teaspoons veggie broth, for sauteing

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1 pound asparagus, coarse ends removed

Splash of Bragg’s

¼ teaspoon allspice

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Lime wedges, to serve

Use cast iron pan. Preheat over medium high heat and sauté the ginger and garlic in broth for about 30 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and thyme, plus a splash of water. Let it sizzle for a few seconds. Add the asparagus, salt, and spices. Use tongs to toss and coat, adding a few splashes of water if it seems dry. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the ends are slightly frizzled. Serve immediately.

Southwest Quinoa Pilaf-Stuffed Bell Peppers__________________________________________

3 bell peppers of varying colors, halved

1 tablespoon veggie broth, for sauteing

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup frozen frozen peas

2 carrots, finely chopped into small dice

2 cups of quinoa, rinsed well

Squirt of Bragg’s

4 cups veggie broth (or 2 cups veggie broth and 2 water, or what have you)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bring 4 cups of veggie broth/water/liquid to boil in a large stockpot with the rinsed quinoa. Cover, lower heat to simmer, and let simmer for 45-50 minutes or until tender and cooked throughout. While the quinoa is cooking, in a separate large pan, sauté onion on high heat in 1 tablespoon of veggie broth until softened, then add carrot, peas, Bragg’s, and pepper and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, then add the cooked quinoa (when it is finished and fluffy), toss until combined thoroughly, and set aside. Clean and half each bell pepper, fill with quinoa, and bake in a large baking dish, with about ¼ cup of water in the bottom. Bake for about 30 minutes. The peppers should be soft, so if they are not, add another 5 or 10 minutes. You don’t want them to collapse, so check often. Serve hot.

Reasons to stay tuned:
- I appreciate it greatly. :)
- More tasty vegan recipes all the time.
- More exciting news from Curative Cuisine...involving a certain someone becoming the L.A. Vegan Restaurant Examiner for!
- I can't believe I'm typing this...but I tweet now. Follow me for fun if you do this whole twitter thing, too @CurativeCuisine.
- I've been getting creative in my new at-home kitchen (which is almost ready to be unveiled), trying to find ways to use the random leftover produce The Curative Cuisine's endeavors leave us with. More on that in posts to come.

And now...a moment of gratitude. For you. I have 18 followers. This astounds me. The amount of supportive feedback I get humbles me. I couldn't do this without you that have stood for me and for my excursion into cooking and blogging and into discovering the truth of how curative our cuisine really can be.

Mahalo Nui Loa,
Max and I at a wedding in La Jolla recently. My favorite person to feed.