Blueberry, Apple, Pumpkin, Banana Bread

In the previous post, I shared about my abundance of pumpkin purée, thanks to my fairytale pumpkin. This is just another concoction using that pumpkin and a whole lot of fruit. I had no idea how it was going to turn out, but I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised! Give it a go, and tell me what you think!

Blueberry, Apple, Pumpkin, Banana Bread
(Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Low-Sulfur)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes
Makes 16 squares.

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You have this to look forward to!

Ingredients:
2 cups pumpkin (1 can pumpkin purée)
1/2 pint blueberries
2 small apples (peeled and chopped)
2 small very ripe bananas
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup dried cherries (or other dried fruit of choice)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/8 cup honey
1 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
coconut oil (to grease the pan)
1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine brown rice flour, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (If using a flour other than brown rice flour, the mixture may need to bake longer. Brown rice flour tends to need more liquid so it will not be as dense or as grainy. I promise that this recipe does not taste dense or grainy.)

3. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, mashed bananas, honey, vanilla, lemon zest, almonds, and dried cherries. Once thoroughly mixed, add blueberries and apples. (If on a low-sulfur diet, omit dried fruit, and replace one banana with another cup of pumpkin.)

4. Pour mixture into 9-inch, greased baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until fork is clean when testing the center. The top should be a nice golden brown.

This makes for a great breakfast or guilt-free snack!

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Guilt-Free Mélange Muffins

One of my roommates recently tried a healthy muffin recipe from Pinterest. She and my other roommates raved about them. When I heard the ingredients, I immediately thought, How can that taste good? But because 3 dozen muffins disappeared within a matter of days, I figured I’d try this recipe for myself (with a few adaptations, of course). And I must say, this recipe is addicting. You don’t even know you’re eating veggies!

You can view the original recipe here. But, honestly, I challenge you to try my version. 

Yes, these muffins are vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free. I know what you probably think when you hear those words, because I used to think the same things. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

Guilt-Free Mélange Muffins
(Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Low-Sulfur)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Makes 18 muffins

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Ingredients:

2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 large apple (peeled and chopped)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds (or nut of choice)
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 ripe banana (if on a low-sulfur diet, omit banana and use an extra cup of pumpkin purée)
2 cups gluten-free oat flour (I also tried the recipe with brown rice flour and also chickpea flour.)
1/2 cup raw honey
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine carrot, zucchini, apple, coconut, and almonds in large bowl.

3. In another large bowl, combine pumpkin, flour, honey, coconut milk, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda, salt. Add ripe banana, and mash into the mixture.

4. Combine both mixtures. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. (I used coconut oil to grease the tin, but you can also use muffin cups.)

5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. After cooling for about 10 minutes, remove from pan to avoid excess moisture at the bottom of the muffin.

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Just make sure you use some self-control when eating these, because they’re that good!

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To read about how my diet has changed, check out these previous posts: Fighting for Joy: DiscouragementFighting for Joy: AttitudeFighting for Joy: It Continues (Part 1 and 2)Farmers Market JuhaFood for Thought.

Food for Thought

After undergoing treatment for heavy metals these past 10.5 months, my way of thinking about food has drastically changed. I never realized how much diet plays into your overall health, especially foods with sugar, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and preservatives. After all, food was probably the major cause of my metal toxicity. As a result of nearly a year on a sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, low-sulfur, mostly organic and antibiotic/hormone-free diet, I can honestly say that I don’t want to go back to a “normal” diet, especially now that I’m feeling so much better! (You’re probably wondering what on earth I have been eating for the past year. You can view the original diet plan here. Some other foods have been added back in because my food allergies went away!!) And all those who were around me at any point in this process know that I still have a weakness of Kettle Brand potato chips. I don’t think that will ever go away.

But, despite all that God taught (and has been teaching) me spiritually, I’ve also learned how to make wiser decisions in food choices. I’ve learned that fruit and honey are naturally sweet as they are, and I’ve learned that food in the simplest of forms actually tastes best. Who would’ve thought that minimally processing foods would actually bring out more of the simple, natural flavors? And even more, who would’ve thought that this once sugar-and-chocolate-addict would actually prefer homemade desserts without added sugar? Amazing, isn’t it? And I bet some of you are cringing at the idea of not having sugar in desserts, but trust me, with the right ingredients, you can totally do it!

Though I could talk for days about food and what I’ve learned through this process, I decided to spare you all the scientific and technical jargon, get off my soapbox, and actually post my recipes. These recipes are pretty easy, and most of the ingredients can be found at a normal grocery store. (If I’m able to do these recipes in Slovenia, I’m sure you can do this elsewhere!)

Without further ado, here’s my version of Roasted Red Pepper and Coconut Alfredo, inspired by one of my favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh, Eden.

Roasted Red Pepper and Coconut Alfredo Sauce
(Vegan, Gluten-free, Low-sulfur, Sugar-free)IMG_3233

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 medium red peppers
1 medium zucchini (sliced)
1/8 cup water
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon basil (I used dried, but fresh works, too.)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (fresh ground pepper works best)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.

2. Cut red peppers in half. Clean out seeds. Place face-down on baking sheet. (I put parchment paper on the baking sheet first.) Bake for 15 minutes, or until the peppers begin to turn dark brown on the outside.

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3. Purée cashews, coconut milk, and water in a good blender. (The blender worked better than a food processor for this dish.) Blend until smooth.

4. Add garlic powder, basil, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt. Blend thoroughly.

5. Add roasted red peppers. Blend until smooth.

6. In medium skillet, pour olive oil and sauté zucchini until golden brown. Pour Alfredo over zucchini and simmer until hot.

Serve with grilled chicken over your favorite pasta! (My favorite is brown rice pasta.)

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Here’s to clean eating! Dober tek!

Farmers Market Juha

I’ve always had a hard time resting well. Until last year, I thought rest meant being a vegetable, relaxing on the couch and watching movies, hanging out with friends, or reading. And I really didn’t understand the concept of spiritual rest or resting in the Lord. At the beginning of last year, during my first year of full-time ministry, I spent the first few Saturdays doing movie marathons. But then, when it came to Sunday, I was still tired, stressed, and worried about the week to come. I didn’t feel mentally, physically, or spiritually rested; I just felt dread over my lack of preparedness for the next week. Thankfully, my good friend and ministry coach pointed that out to me right away. “I don’t think you’re resting well,” she said, concerned about my well-being. When I asked what that really meant, she replied with a question, “What brings you life?” She said that I can glorify God by doing activities that bring me joy and refreshment. So, I asked God to reveal the activities that give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him.

Flash forward to the present. Though I feel like I’ve adjusted to a new city and back into ministry pretty well, especially after a summer of ministry partner development, I’ve realized in the last few days that I haven’t exactly been resting well. And this made me think, What can I do that will give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him? I’ve decided that the things that currently bring rest are having “me” time, taking walks, exploring new places (at my own pace), shopping at outdoor markets (or just grocery shopping in general), budgeting (It’s like a game for me.), exercising, reading books that capture my affection for God, cooking and baking, writing, and spending time with friends in small group settings or one-on-one.

So today, I decided to do a good majority of these things. But rather than giving you a play-by-play of my day so far, I wanted to share a few snippets.

First, I explored a new part of the city, the Saturday Farmers Market. (It really made me miss the Athens farmers market, especially because I just love fall in Athens. And it’s such a happy place.) The Ljubljana Farmers Market is probably about 5x bigger, though. And although it’s a dreary, rainy October day here in Ljubljana, the market was alive with color, live traditional Slovene music (complete with accordions!), and the joyful chatter of fellow food-lovers. In fact, Melissa, one of my friends/teammates who met me there, said, “It’s just so happy here.”

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To get to the market, I had to walk through souvenir vendors with their Ljubljana snow globes, jewelry boxes, hand-painted pottery, clocks, and wooden toys. I was surprised by the number of tourists still in town at this time of year! I then emerged into another part of the market, the “Bio” section. Everything in this area is certified organic and fresh. There were rows of seasonal produce — apples, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, peppers, and zucchini — rows of cheeses, grains, dried meats and salamis. I even found a raw, organic, and vegan stall that sold pumpkin and sunflower seed crackers. (I splurged and bought some, of course!)

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On the other side of “Bio,” my nose led me through what I call the “Alley of Flowers.” The fresh scents, as well as the pinks, purples, and reds, brought a smile to my face. They illuminated the gray day. Not to mention, those who were selling the flowers constantly greeted me with a friendly “Dober dan” or “Dan,” which means “good day” or “hello” in Slovene.

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At the opposite end of the Alley of Flowers, I came upon the conventionally grown produce, the biggest part of the market. It takes up the entire square. There were stalls upon stalls upon stalls of apples, apple cider, pumpkins, peppers, lettuces, grapes, pears, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and much more. Best purchase of the day: a kilo of green beans for €1 from a sweet, elderly female farmer with a warm smile.

I finished my time by swinging through the grains and baked goods, and then through the fish and meat markets. (For you Pittsburghers, the fish market is a lot like Wholey’s in the Strip, especially the smell! Mmm mmm.)

After two hours of meandering through the markets, I lugged my multiple kilos of goodies back to my flat, in the rain. I was cold and my feet were soaked. I decided the best remedy was to make potato soup. But potato soup quickly turned into, “let’s throw all my veggies in and see what it tastes like” soup. (The recipe is below.) And let me tell you, that soup was good for my soul. So delicious!

I’m so thankful for a day to rest and be refreshed. (It’s not even over yet!) And I’m thankful that I serve a God who wants me to rest from my work and also provides rest in Him.

So let me ask you, what brings you rest, joy and refreshment? Have you taken time to do that lately?

Recipe: Farmers Market Juha (Vegan, Gluten-free, Low-sulfur, Sugar-free)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
Makes about 5 servings.

Ingredients:

7 small potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 dozen cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 medium green peppers (diced)
1/2 small cabbage (chopped)
1 large carrot (peeled and shredded)
1 medium zucchini (shredded)
1 cup of fresh green beans (chopped)
1/2 cup millet (or rice)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, curry, garlic powder, coriander

1. In a large pot, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat on medium. Sauté the potatoes for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the potatoes start browning, add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and stir.

2. Add the cabbage, beans, carrot, zucchini, green peppers, and tomatoes. Stir. Turn heat down to medium-low. (You want the veggies to cook down but not get too soft.)

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3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. (Fresh cracked pepper tastes better, in my opinion.) Add 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and a pinch of coriander. Stir thoroughly. (For a very low-sulfur diet, omit the curry, garlic, and coriander. Rosemary is a great alternative.)

4. Allow mixture to cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Add salt and pepper to taste.)

5. Add 1/2 cup of millet or rice. (Brown rice will take longer to cook.) Adding millet or rice will thicken the soup because it absorbs a lot of moisture. If you like your soup thinner, you may need to add a little water.

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Serve hot. And enjoy!