Saturday, September 29, 2012

Squash and Gourds... A-Z... Let's continue!

Today, squash types beginning with C include unusual squash types like the calabash, calabaza, carnival, Chinese okra, cinderella squash, cucuzza, and the more commonly-found chayote squash. And… surprise… the cucumber is a squash!


The smooth, pale green calabash bottle gourd is multipurpose squash. Its white flesh is normally used in Chinese stir-fries or dried as strips in Japan. In Central America, its seeds are roasted and ground, then incorporated into a rice, cinnamon, and almond-based drink. The calabash’s dried shell can be used as bowls, containers, smoking pipes, bird houses or ornaments. As a musical instrument, it is made into maracas and the seeds inside rattled for percussion. Their hollow chambers allow for it to use as a string instrument, and it can also be turned into a drum. But perhaps the most unusual use is among the natives of New Guinea, where men wear it as a koteka, or a penis gourd or sheath, to cover the genitalia. The calabash can also be teardrop-shaped and many cultures add weights to the squash to help elongate it and create the typical bottle shape.

 Available late summer and throughout fall.

Calabaza or West Indian Squash

Round or pear-shaped, the calabaza squash ranges from beige to pale sunset colors. As its name implies, it is popular in the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America. It is similar to the butternut squash, but with a firmer and more fibrous texture.


Available year-round.

Carnival Squash

The beautiful carnival squash has a festive pattern with brush-like stripes of deep orange and specks of green. The meat inside is a golden yellow color similar to butternut squash and golden sweet potatoes, and is even creamier and sweeter.

Available year-round, but is best late summer through early fall.

Chayote Squash or Christophen Squash (also called the Cho-cho, on the island of Jamaica)

Also called a vegetable pear because of its shape, the chayote was originally cultivated in Central America. The apple- green squash is mild-tasting: refreshing like a cucumber, tender like zucchini, but crisp like an apple. Like zucchini, it can be eaten or prepared almost in any way. Try munching on it raw, over salad, or deep-fried. Though similar to summer squash, chayote has a firmer texture and usually requires a longer cooking time.

Available year-round, but the peak season is September through May.

Cheese Wheels or Cheese Pumpkin

Also known as the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, this squash is squat and round like a wheel of cheese. The peach or orange exterior makes it a pumpkin look-a-like. They have very sweet flesh and are excellent in pies.

Available fall through winter.

Chinese Okra, Luffa Gourd or Silk Melon

The Chinese okra tastes and cooks similarly to zucchini; the ridges add a decorative element to dishes and crudités (raw vegetable pieces). Neither needs to be peeled or seeded. Look for the young ones—older Chinese okra tends to be bitter, and the rough ridges and spine become tougher with age.

Available year-round, but the peak season is the summer and fall.

Cinderella Pumpkin or Red Etampes

This medium-sized round squash with red-orange exterior and thin green streaks is also known as the red etampes. It resembles the pumpkin that Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother transformed into a carriage. Although perfectly edible, most use the Cinderella pumpkin as a decorative pumpkin.

Available late August throughout the fall.

Crookneck Squash

A yellow squash with a thin curved neck, some have a smooth-skin and some have a warty- skin. Although they are summer squash, the taste is said to be more akin to winter squash.


Cylindrical and green, cucumbers are popular choices for added crispness to salads, snacks, sushi rolls or sandwiches. When cooked they are tender; their taste is mild unless pickled. They are equally refreshing in soups, as a puréed sauce, and in ethnic dishes like the Greek cucumber and yogurt salad, tzatziki and in Indian raita (see recipes for both of these dishes). There are different varieties of cucumbers, but the main difference lies in the skin and seeds. An old wives’ tale has it that either the seeds or bitter skin causes people to burp, which is why “burp less” varieties were developed with thin skins and virtually no seeds.
Who knew—the everyday cucumber is also a squash!

Available year-round.   

Cucuzza or Italian Squash

“Cucuzza” is the general term for squash in Italian, so it makes sense that the cucuzza is also called Italian squash. Its long, curved and bottom-heavy body also earned it the title of “bottle gourd.” It can be prepared just like zucchini and has the same tender, mildly-sweet characteristics

Available summer through fall. 

Cushaw Squash (See green-striped cushaw)

There might be some that I didn't mention here. If you think of something I left out, leave me a note and I will make sure I include it in the next installment.


Source: The Nibble

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Squash and Guords A-Z... Let's begin!

Let’s begin with A

Acorn Squash
Acorn squash comes in green, gold and white. Known for its compact size, one squash provides one (generous) or two portions. The defined ribs make an attractive vessel: the halves can be hollowed out after baking and used as decorative bowls for mashed squash, squash soup, rice or stuffing. Naturally sweet and slightly fibrous, acorn squash can be substituted for buttercup squash, which is generally drier, or butternut squash, which is nuttier.

Available year round, although the all-white or all-yellow acorn squash peak late August to December.

Ambercup Squash

Compact and weighing less than three pounds, the ambercup squash has a pumpkin-colored shell with an occasional stripe that encases a deep vibrant orange flesh. It is comparable to buttercup squash but slightly drier; the dryness lends itself to cooking because the water content can be controlled in soup, stuffing or rice pilaf.

Available June to November.

Autumn Cup Squash
Under its forest-green shell and sparse green stripes, the rich, meaty autumn cup squash is so flavorful that its yolk-colored flesh pops in the mouth. Compact but substantial, the autumn cup squash is a velvety joy.

Available September through December.

Australian Blue Squash or Queensland Blue Winter Squash

The hefty Australian blue squash has teal-gray skin encasing bright orange flesh. The flesh is very similar in taste and appearance to a pumpkin; the two can easily be substituted for each other. Australian squash or Queensland Blue Winter Squash is also known as the Jarrahdale Pumpkin, named after Jarrahdale, Western Australia’s first timber town, in 1872. The town is also known for its farms, orchards and art galleries.

Available September through December.

Let move on to B…

Baby Boo Pumpkin

A miniature white pumpkin 2 to 3 inches in diameter. There’s not much flesh, so the baby boo pumpkin is mostly used for decoration.
Available throughout the fall.

Banana Squash

Ranging from 2 to 3 feet in length, the log-shaped banana squash has a pale cream- or peach-colored exterior and golden, cantaloupe-colored flesh. It averages 10 to 12 pounds, although grocers often sell it in more manageable cuts. It is common for banana squash in home gardens to grow up to 40 to 50 pounds or more. Bush Pink Banana Squash is a specific heirloom squash with pink skin and orange flesh.

Available year-round, but peak season lasts summer through early fall.

Buttercup Squash

Squat and green with vertical gray or pale green stripes, the decorative buttercup squash with tender orange flesh has a flavor similar to sweet potato.

Available year-round, but peak season lasts from early fall through winter.

Butternut Squash
A creamy-colored gourd with a bottleneck shape, the butternut squash is one of the more common varieties of squash. It tastes like a nuttier version of the sweet potato and can be baked or steamed.

Available year-round, but peak season lasts summer to early fall.

Come back tomorrow for squash C through D

Source: The Nibble

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Look what we found today!

Little Aiden and I had a great playdate with wonderful friends today, and later came across these great finds.

A basket ful of gourds and squash.

Little Aiden seem to have fallen in love with one in particular...

Just a few hours of rest and I will come back with more for our series on Squash and Gourds. See you soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Squash and Gourds... Vegetables or fruits?

The word “squash” is derived from “askutasquash,” which literally means “a green thing eaten raw” in the language of the Nahahiganseck Sovereign Nation, the native Americans who controlled the area surrounding Narragansett Bay in present-day Rhode Island, portions of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts. The squash is versatile. While some require cooking, others, like zucchini, can be prepared in every conceivable way: raw, sautéed, grilled, steamed, boiled, broiled, baked, fried, microwaved or freeze-dried. Easily puréed for soups, cakes, pies and quick breads, it also can be spiced and added to rice pilafs, cubed and grilled on skewers, added to stews and made into famous dishes like ratatouille and pumpkin pie. Served alone or as a side dish, the diverse flavors of squash lend itself to any occasion.

Squash and gourds are normally used as and mentioned as vegetables, but are actually fruits! Because they aren’t sweet, they are typically used as vegetables. But by botanical definition, fruits have their seeds on the inside. Squash are fruit, like tomatoes.

Squash can be a caloric bargain with a nutritional bonus.
Depending on the variety, a half a cup of squash ranges from 50 to 125 calories.
In one 4-ounce serving, squash provides 20% or more of your recommended daily value of magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C and E (vitamin E is found in the seeds).
Squash is also a good source of calcium.
High in nutrients and flavor, squash is also remarkably high in antioxidants and beta-carotene.
The terms “summer” and “winter” squash only loosely refer to when the squash is harvested—most are available year-round. The terms more accurately group the squash by durability.

Summer Squash

Summer squash are thin-skinned and bruise easily (think zucchini), so look for firm, blemish-free ones with taut skin. Typically, the smaller ones are sweeter and more tender. Summer squash are moister(they contain more water) than winter squash. Summer squash are good for about a week in the refrigerator before they begin to soften and wrinkle.

Summer squash, like zucchini, are thin-skinned and begin to soften in a week or so.

Winter Squash

Winter squash, on the other hand, have hard, thick rinds (think acorn squash). They are so hardy that you may find yourself needing a hammer to tap the knife’s handle when trying to cut one in half. This thick skin puts longevity on their side: You can keep winter squash fresh in cool, dark places for one to three months. Winter squash are drier (they contain less moisture) than summer squash.

Winter squash, like acorn squash, have very thick skins that make them more durable.

Squash Tips

Avoid storing squash near apples, avocados or passion fruit, all of which are natural ripening agents that release ethylene gas. While they are great to throw into a paper bag to aid the ripening process of other fruits like pears, bananas and tomatoes (and to quicken plant flowering), they only discolor and decay zucchini and other dark green squash.
When storing winter squash with a woody stems, such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, turban squash and pumpkins, leave a 4-inch (or longer) stem on the fruit. Fleshy or softer stems, such as those found on banana and hubbard squash, can be cut to one 1 to 2 inches. This helps to retain moisture.

Vegan Zucchini Lasagna

Serves 9 (or a hungry brood of 4)


9 lasagna noodles
1 block (16 oz.) firm or extra firm tofu, drained
2 TBSP olive oil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 large zucchini peeled and slice lengthwise
1 24 oz. jar marinara sauce
Vegan cheese (optional)
Vegan parmesan (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water, and then boil lasagna noodles for 10 minutes. Once done, drain and add cold water.

In a food processor, blend the tofu, oil, salt, oregano, garlic and nutritional yeast until smooth and the consistency of ricotta.

Peel and slice the zucchini lengthwise with a mandolin.

In a 9x13 baking dish, add ½ cup of the sauce.

Pat dry 3 lasagna noodles and add to the pan. Spread half the tofu mixture (you might have to use your hands), then layer with half the zucchini, overlapping slightly.

Add ½ cup sauce then layer with 3 more noodles, the remaining tofu, and the remaining zucchini. Then top with another ½ cup sauce.

Top with remaining 3 noodles, and then pour the remaining sauce on top.
Cover the pan loosely with foil, then bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

During the last 5 minutes, top with cheese and sprinkle with parmesan if desired.

Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

Stuffed acorn squash is a popular vegetarian entree for Thanksgiving or any fall evening. This stuffed squash recipe is a vegetarian and vegan balanced meal with healthy and high-fiber beans for protein. Stuffed squash recipe courtesy of Bush's® Beans

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash


3 acorn squash
1 28 ounce can vegetarian baked beans, drained
4 tbsp. barbecue sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup 
4 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. vegan butter or margarine


Cut each squash in half widthwise. Slice ¼ inch off the rounded end of each half so the squash sits upright without wobbling. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard (or save for roasting).

Mix baked beans, barbecue sauce, maple syrup and brown sugar in small mixing bowl. Divide mixture evenly among squash halves and top each half with ½ tablespoon vegan butter or margarine.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Cover lightly with foil if filling starts to dry.

Serve and enjoy!

Come back tomorrow for the second installment of the Squash series.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Little Aiden chooses... PUMPKINS!

The pumpkin is one of those vegetables that is symbolic of fall – it makes us think of harvest, of holidays, of frost, of lengthening nights and the oncoming winter. And yet, the only way it usually gets to the table is in a store-bought pie, or perhaps a can of pie filling that goes in a pie we made ourselves. But pumpkin can be so much more -- and since pumpkin keeps for 6 months whole or for years in a can, it can be a year-round addition to our diets.

Pumpkin is incredibly rich in vital anti-oxidants and vitamins. This humble backyard vegetable is very low in calories yet a good source of vitamin A, flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants like lutein, xanthine and carotenes.

The pumpkin grows on a vine that creeps on the surface in a similar fashion like that of other members of the cururbitaceae family (cucumber, squash, cantaloupes...etc.). It is one of the most popular vegetable that is grown as a commercial field crop all over the world including in the USA.
Pumpkins vary greatly in shape, size and colors.  Giant pumpkins generally weigh from about 8-13 pounds with the largest capable of reaching a weight of over 55 pounds. Golden nugget pumpkins are flat, smaller in size and have sweet creamy orange color flesh.

Although pumpkins generally feature orange or yellow color, some pumpkins are dark to pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray. Rind (skin) is smooth and usually lightly ribbed. The color of the pumpkins is due to yellow-orange pigments in their skin and pulp.
In structure, the pulp feature golden-yellow to orange color depending up on the poly-phenolic pigments in it.  The pumpkin has hollow center, with numerous small, off-white colored seeds interspersed in the net like structure. Pumpkin seeds are great source of protein, minerals, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkin is very low calories and has no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is a rich source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. Dieticians often recommend pumpkin in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
Pumpkin has the highest levels of vitamin-A vegetable in the cucurbitaceae family providing about 246% of RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers. It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α and ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.

Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula luteal in the retina of the eyes. Therefore, it helps protect from "age related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly.
Pumpkins are Rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. They are also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Pumpkin seeds are good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are good for heart health. In addition, they are a very good source of protein, minerals and many health benefiting vitamins. The seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain. Pumpkin seeds contain no cholesterol.

For the seeds, let them dry on paper towels, then oil and salt them (and any other seasonings you want) and slow roast them in a 250 F oven until they smell good – about 45 to 60 minutes. Stir them every 15 minutes or so

Here are some fun recipes we have tried:

Pumpkin, Pear, and Shallot Soup

Serves: 4


2 lbs. of pumpkin or butternut squash, seeded and cubed
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cubed
3-4 shallots, peeled and cut into slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons oil
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch cardamom
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 450 F

Place the pumpkin or squash, pears, shallots and garlic in an ovenproof baking dish.

Drizzle the oil over and roast for 35-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Puree the roasted vegetables with the vegetables stock, add 2 cups full first and then more according to how thick or thin you want the soup to be.

Add the cinnamon and coriander and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Reheat the soup in a pot and serve with croutons and garnished with a couple of sprigs of chives.

We all love soup, but little Aiden has a special place in his heart for them,  so we are always finding new soup recipes or creating soups with all sorts of ingredients… here is another :

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Serves: 4


1 small or medium fresh pumpkin, de-seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1 potato, peeled and cubed
1 med. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbs. oil
2 cups vegetable bouillon
¾ cup soy cream (optional)
2-3 tablespoons mustard (brown grainy variety)
Salt and pepper to taste
Radish chips to garnish (optional)


In a large pot, sauté the onion in the oil, add the garlic, pumpkin pieces and potato.

Pour the vegetable broth over and cook until all the ingredients are soft.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or a food processor.


Add the mustard, salt, pepper and blend until smooth.

I would suggest that you taste it now. We find that it is so lovely at this stage that we would not want to add any kind of cream.

Season to taste with a pinch of sugar, a bit more salt if you want or perhaps a little bit more mustard.

*If you are serving this for the holidays, you could consider thinning the soup with a bit of white wine or dry vermouth.

Garnish with radish chips.

Vegan Pumpkin Banana Orange Smoothie

Serves: 4

1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup pumpkin puree, chilled
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 ripe banana
Dash of ground cinnamon as optional garnish


Put the soy yogurt, pumpkin puree and orange juice in a blender and whiz to a smooth consistency.

Add the spices and banana and whiz once again.

Season to taste with additional seasonings if you feel they are needed.

Garnish with a bit of cinnamon and enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Here comes FALL!

Today marks the first official day of fall! Let's see where it takes us. Every year we look forward to a little trip to a local farm for apples or pumpkin picking... this year we just might make a bigger splash. Stay tuned for where our Fall adventure takes us.

I can't wait to see what new recipes we might find or what great new concoction we might whip up in the kitchen. Both Adrian and Aiden have their favorites, maybe we will put our heads together and come up with wonderfully delicious new meals, treats and desserts... definitely desserts.

Come back tomorrow!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Oh My... GINGER!

Ginger is the underground stem, or rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale. It has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. The ginger herb is thought to originate in the Himalayan ranges in Southeast Asia. It is now widely grown all over the world at commercial scale.
The plant grows to about a meter in height featuring thin grass like dark green leaves and bears small yellow flowers. Its root features knotty finger like projections that grow downward from the ground surface. Fresh raw root has silver gray outer surface. Cut sections feature creamy white, yellow, or red colored crunchy flesh depending upon the variety. The root often contains fibrils running through its center, especially in over-matured. Its pungent, spicy and aromatic smell is due to essential oils and phenolic compounds such as gingerols and shogaols.

Health benefits of ginger root

Ginger has been in use since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory, anti-flatulent, and anti-microbial properties. Ginger root contains many essential oils such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, farnesene and small amounts of β-phelladrene, cineol, and citral.
Gingerols help improve the intestinal motility and has anti-inflammatory, painkiller (analgesic), nerve soothing, anti-pyretic as well as anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may reduce nausea induced by motion sickness or pregnancy and may help relieve migraine headaches. . It also has been used to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, and painful menstrual periods.
Zingerone, which gives pungent character to the ginger root, has been found to be effective against E.coli induced diarrhea, especially in children.

Ginger root is low in calories and contains no cholesterol, but is very rich source of many essential nutrients and vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and pantothenic acid (vit.B-5) that are essential for optimum health.
It also contains minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
In addition to being used as a medicine, ginger is used throughout the world as an important cooking spice. It also has been used to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and painful menstrual periods.

 Precaution: People with gallstones should ask their doctor before taking ginger. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger and will be having surgery or placed under anesthesia for any reason.
People with heart conditions and people with diabetes should not take ginger without asking their doctors.
Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding should talk to their doctor before taking ginger.
Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.
Possible Interactions: Ginger may alter the effects of some prescription and nonprescription medications. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginger without first talking to your health care provider.
Blood-thinning medications -- Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you take blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin.
Diabetes medications -- Ginger may lower blood sugar, raising the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
High blood pressure medications -- Ginger may lower blood pressure, raising the risk of low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.

Alternative Names:
African ginger; Black ginger; Jamaican ginger; Zingiber officinale

Credit for some of this information goes to: (

Carrot Apple Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk (A Joy the Baker Recipe)

Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 small apple, peeled and sliced
4 to 5 cups sliced, peeled carrots (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add sliced apples and diced carrots and cook for 3 minutes more.

Turn flame to medium-high and add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce flame to low and simmer, uncovered, until carrots and apples are softened, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from the flame and let rest for 10 minutes.

Blend the soup in batches in a blender. Be sure not to fill the blender more than halfway full or hot soup will explode everywhere. Not cool. Also, when blending hot liquids in a blender, leave the blender lid slightly ajar to let some of the steam escape.

Once all of the soup is blended, return to the pot. You may decide that you want you soup a bit thinner in consistency. Add more vegetable broth if you’d like. Taste, and add a dash of fresh ground nutmeg, as well as salt and pepper to taste. The soup won’t need much pepper, as ginger is pretty spicy.

Serve with a drizzle of quality olive oil, a sprinkling of fresh cracked pepper, and a few carrot top sprigs… cause you’re fancy, and whatnot.

Soup will last, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Soup also freezes well. Thaw in the fridge before reheating

The Best Pumpkin Muffins (

Makes 1 dozen muffins


1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼  cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
½  teaspoon ground ginger
¼  teaspoon ground allspice
1/8  teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pureed pumpkin (Fresh or from a can; do not use pumpkin pie mix)
½  cup soy milk
½  cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons molasses


Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.

Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


Fold in a cup of either chopped fresh cranberries or chopped walnuts, or a mixture of the two.

Mango Ginger Sorbet (A Sara the Vegan Mom Original)


⅔ cup water
⅔ cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
5 cups cubed mangoes, fresh or frozen
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup coconut milk

Bring the water, sugar, and ginger to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Heat for 3–4 more minutes until sugar is dissolved and a syrup forms. Allow to cool.

Purée the sugar syrup, mangoes, and lemon juice until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish and freeze.

Stir every 30 minutes until a smooth ice cream forms, about 4 hours. If mixture gets too firm, transfer to a blender, process until smooth, then return to freezer.

Have fun with your ginger!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Let's talk about COCONUT... WATER

Coconut water is the nutritious clear liquid inside the coconut fruit which is packed with vitamins and minerals. There is usually more water in a young coconut, since the water is replaced by the white coconut flesh as it matures. Therefore, for drinking purposes, coconuts are harvested off the trees when they are still young and green. A single coconut usually provides an 11 ounce serving of water, and it is low in calories and fat but rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A few key nutrients in coconut water include Laurie acid, Chloride, and Iron, as well as important electrolytes such as Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, and Phosphorous. In fact, the potassium content in coconut water is close to twice the amount in a banana.

Boosting Energy

Abundant in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, coconut water makes a wonderful energy drink. Coconut water has less sugar and sodium content compared to most sports drinks, while packing more Potassium, Calcium, and Chloride, which makes it a better choice to rehydrate, replenish and boost the body's energy levels after any strenuous activity or workout.

Cardiovascular Health

According to researchers, individuals with high blood pressure usually have low potassium levels. Therefore, drinking coconut water on a regular basis can be quite effective at regulating blood pressure due to its high concentration of potassium and auric acid. Similarly, some recent studies have found that coconut water can help increase HDL (good) cholesterol, which makes it a wonderful natural treatment for maintaining good cardiovascular health.


Rich in Potassium and other minerals, coconut water helps to regulate our internal fluids and replenish and rehydrate the body.  The electrolyte balance in coconut water has been found to be similar to that of the plasma in human blood.. In an emergency, it can even be used as an intravenous treatment for immediate hydration.* Therefore, drinking one cup of Coconut Water twice daily during digestive tract abnormalities, hot temperatures, and after strenuous workouts can help re-hydrate the body quickly.

Digestive Problems

Coconut Water contains Laurie acid which our body converts into monolaurin. Monolaurin has great antiviral, antiprozoal and antibacterial activity which helps fight against intestinal worms, parasites, lipid-coated viruses and other gastrointestinal tract infections in children and adults. Additionally, the water from coconut may not only act as an antibiotic but it can also rehydrate the body.

Weight Loss
Coconut water is a natural electrolyte and isotonic beverage which help increase the body's metabolism. Therefore, it can greatly benefit people who are struggling with weight issues.

What are the Side Effects of Coconut Water?

Fresh Coconut Water is one of the best natural drinks on the face of the earth. It does not have any known side effects. It is considered to be safe for children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women. If you are taking potassium supplements coconut water is recommended to regulate your potassium levels since it is high in potassium.


Melon Tango

2 cups muskmelon*, cubed
2 oranges, juiced
2 cups coconut water
2 tsp. sugar
A pinch of black salt

For the garnish, a few mint leaves

Liquefy melon in blender. Strain it.
Combine all the ingredients and mix well.
Serve chilled, poured into glasses and garnished with mint leaves.

*Muskmelon is a round melon with firm, orange, moderately-sweet flesh and a thin reticulated light-brown rind.In Australia and New Zealand, it is called rock melon due to the rock-like appearance of the skin of the fruit.
 It belongs to the same family as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin and gourd, and like many of its relatives, grows on the ground on a trailing vine Cantaloupe is normally eaten as a fresh fruit, as a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard.
Coconut-Mango Madness


2 cups coconut water
2 large ripe mangoes, cubed
A couple leaves mint


Combined all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth
Chill and serve.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Let's talk about COCONUT...MILK!

Coconut milk is defined as the liquid expressed from the meat of the coconut with water added. Coconut milk is a very nutrient-dense food containing calcium, Omega 3 fats, fiber and protein. It is a sweet and luxurious treat that you can add to smoothies, or just take alone as a nutritional supplement. Try cooking with coconut milk, because the chemical compositions of the oils in the milk don’t change; it doesn't lose its nutritional benefits like some oils.


Coconut milk is a good source of fat for the body. Coconut oil contains several different types of fat, such as saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, Omega 3 fats, Omega 6 fats and monounsaturated fat. Your body actually needs a certain amount of healthy fat for your heart, brain and health. Omega 3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation, as well as lubricate your cells and joints.


Coconut milk is very sweet, yet it contains a small amount of sugars such as glucose and fructose. The body does need a small amount of sugar to use as energy. Coconut milk is very dense, so even though it is rich, it only contains about 1 to 2 percent sugar. This is why the milk has a thick, sweet taste.


Coconut milk also contains a good amount of calcium. One cup of coconut milk contains about 200 IU (International Units) of calcium. Your body needs calcium for healthy teeth and bones, as well as your immune system. Coconut milk also contains trace minerals such as sodium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and copper.


Coconut milk contains very small levels of protein. The type of protein found in coconut milk are alanine, cysteine, arginine and serene. These are easily digestible, simple proteins. Your body uses protein to maintain and build new cells. Your hair, nails and skin are made up mostly of protein.


Coconut milk is high in iron, with 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It also has 110 percent of the daily recommendation of manganese. Coconut milk is also high in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, folate and vitamin C. It also contains vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin, choline and pantothenic acid.

Here are a few recipes that you can use coconut milk in. Enjoy!

Mangoberry Smoothie

Featuring Silk Pure Coconut Original Silk-Pure Coconut

Serves 2

1 cup Silk Pure Coconut Original coconut milk
½ cup fresh or frozen mango pieces
½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
½ tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon agave
½ cup ice


Blend until smooth. Sip with a bendy straw.

Pumpkin Bread

Featuring Silk Pure Coconut Original Silk-Pure Coconut

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 15-ounce can pumpkin, or 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup applesauce
2/3 cup Silk Pure Coconut Original coconut milk
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl whisk together flours, brown sugar, soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin, oil, applesauce, Silk Pure Coconut and maple syrup.

Combine wet and dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Don't over mix. If using walnuts, fold most of the nuts, reserving ¼ cup to sprinkle on top. Divide batter between the prepared pans and sprinkle with reserved nuts. Bake for 60-75, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature or freeze.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

¼ cup gungo (pigeon) peas*
1 clove of garlic
1 green scotch bonnet pepper
Black pepper
A pinch of salt
2 cups rice
coconut milk (or coconut [to make coconut milk], cut coconut in small pieces and blend with about 3 cups water in a blender. strain the blended solution with a strainer to separate the milk.


Wash peas and soak in 2 cups of water.

Pour peas and water in a pot with the garlic and bring to boil.

Cook peas until tender adding more water if necessary.

When peas are cooked add coconut, salt, whole pepper, black pepper, thyme and escallion.

Let season simmer.

Wash rice, if necessary, and then add to the pot. Use a fork to mix everything together.

Cook on a low until the rice is tender.

Serve and enjoy!
*You can also use red kidney beans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let's talk about COCONUTS!

"The Tree of Life"

The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera. Early Spanish explorers called it coco, which means "monkey face" because the three indentations (eyes) on the hairy nut resemble the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing."

The coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations. On many islands coconut is a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food eaten. Nearly one third of the world's population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures coconut has a long and respected history.
Coconut has an edible kernel or meat, water and oil; all three serve as a rich source of nutritious food and medicine. Coconut is easily digested, rich in nutrients and minerals, and antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic, and antioxidant. Coconut lowers blood sugar, protects the liver and improves immune function. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Caribbean, Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.
In the Philippines and Mexico, coconut is also fermented into a probiotic-rich wine called "tuba." The water is used traditionally in rural areas for re-hydration or when people are too ill to eat much solid food.Coconut water has also been used intravenously since it's compositions closely resembles that of human blood plasma. Coconut water is also sterile while in the coconut.

Coconut Oil
While coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fiber and nutritional content, it's the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine.
Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food.
Coconut oil has been described as "the healthiest oil on earth." What makes coconut oil so good? What makes it different from all other oils, especially other saturated fats?

The difference is in the fat molecule. All fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. There are two methods of classifying fatty acids. The first you are probably familiar with is based on saturation. You have saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Another system of classification is based on molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid. Fatty acids consist of long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. In this system you have short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT).

The vast majority of fats and oils in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids you consume are LCFA.

The size of the fatty acid is extremely important. Why? Our bodies respond to and metabolize each fatty acid differently depending on its size. So the physiological effects of MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from those of LCFA more commonly found in our foods. The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids. Both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, milk, eggs, and plants (including most all vegetable oils) are composed of LCFA.
MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. MCFA help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is primarily due to the MCFA in coconut oil that makes it so special and so beneficial. Coconut oil is very heat stable so it makes excellent cooking oil. It is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity. Coconut oil can be used in cooking and baking and also applied to the skin.

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake 


2 cups almonds
1 cup dates
2 cups raw cashews
2 cups fresh grated pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup agave
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. ginger


Soak cashews in water for at least 1 hour, then drain.

In a food processor, blend the almonds and dates until finely chopped.  Add a tablespoon of water if that helps to get things moving. Press the mixture into the bottom of a spring-form pan.

Wash-out the food processor and blend all other ingredients until combined and creamy.

Pour mixture into spring-form pan and smooth out the surface. Cover with aluminum foil, and let it set in the freezer for at least 4 hours. This will harden the coconut oil and set the cheesecake. After this time, transfer the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. When opening the spring-form pan, gently insert a knife along the edge of the cheesecake, so that it does not stick to the edge of the pan.

Apple & Plum Crumble


2 large cooking apples
6 large plums
2 tbsp. raw sugar (agave would work well too)
Pinch of Cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/3 cup hardened coconut oil (place in fridge for a few hours if liquefied)
½  cup raw sugar
¾  cup oats


Mix the sugar, flour and coconut oil to make a crumbly mix. Add the oats and leave in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 390oF.

Peel and chop the fruit (I left the skins on the plums to maintain a nice color and cooking them made them soft and barely noticeable).

Place fruit in a saucepan with the sugar, Cinnamon and lemon zest.

Simmer on low heat until the fruit is soft.

Place in a 9×9″ oven-safe dish and top with the crumble topping.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is brown.

Credit for these two wonderful recipes goes to vegangela  Enjoy!

I will continue our talk about COCONUTS tomorrow.