The Dehydration Project: Strawberries

The classic red gems known as strawberries are this week’s feature of my dehydration project series.

I was one of those kids who always wanted the strawberry flavored thing: strawberry lollipop, strawberry chapstick, strawberry gum ball, and even the strawberry flavored fluoride at the dentist office. Ironically enough, I like strawberries in every form except eaten raw. I know, it seems ludicrous! I have internally battled with this myself. I love strawberry ‘everything’ so much, so I don’t know why it is difficult for me to love eating them in their most plain and natural state. I have tried several times to like them raw but it is something I can’t force. Fortunately, there are many other ways to enjoy these delicious delights.

That sets the precedent for today’s dehydration project trial: dried strawberries. Dried strawberries are the perfect little snack or can be added as a nice touch to cereals or homemade granola bars.

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The Dehydration Project: Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • Ripe Strawberries (it’s best to get them when they are in season)

Method:

  1. First wash the strawberries and remove the hull (the green part)
  2. Cut into 1/8-1/4 inch slices. Be consistent with the width to ensure they dry evenly.
  3. Set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F. It took me 8 hours for mine to dry to a nice crispness- but I think a range from 6-10 hours would be appropriate. You will need to monitor them until your desired state is achieved.
  4. Let cool sufficiently- then store, eat plain, or add to cereal or granola

Lessons Learned:

  • My husband tried one and commented they need sugar if they are to be eaten plain. To satisfy some taste buds, a sweetener may need to be added if you are going to eat them like ‘chips’
  • There is no need for any pre-treatment before drying- they keep their natural color just fine!

Coconut Cashew Chews

Pump up your routine with this decadent energy snack. These coconut cashew chews are a simple and scrumptious nom on the go.

I ascribe to the philosophy of “less is more” in pretty much all areas of life: interior design, speeches, blog posts (ha!), and definitely snacks. I love recipes that are easy and incorporate ingredients I already have on hand. These were my thoughts when I was creating these coconut cashew chews. I didn’t have to go on any extra grocery trips to make these and I am so happy with the end result! These noms are my new snacking sensation- Hope you enjoy!

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Coconut Cashew Chews (Stephanie Thiel)

Makes: 9 one-inch balls

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. light agave
  • 1/2 cup oats, ground into a flour

Method:

  1. Blend the cashews and coconut oil in a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend until a coarse ‘butter’ forms.
  2. In a mixing bowl, place the newly formed cashew-coconut butter. Add the shredded coconut and agave- mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the oat flour (1/2 cup oats ground into a flour using a blender) to the mixture and mix until well combined. You may need to use your hands!
  4. Using a one-inch scoop (or your hands will work just fine!) take the dough and form bite-size balls.
  5. You can indulge immediately or freeze for later.

Homemade Yogurt Covered Pretzels

True homemade yogurt covered pretzels. Try out this sweet and salty delight!

I enjoy munching on yogurt-covered pretzels found at local grocery stores. However, they seem to have lots of sugar and other unpronunciable ingredients. This is why I have attempted to create a homemade yogurt covered pretzel recipe that is straightforward and good for you.

These pretzels are a great “nom nom” and the possibilities are endless! I add honey to my greek yogurt, however feel free to use your creativity! (And I would love to hear your ideas and experiments!) I think adding berries would add a nice pop of color to the coating. I will have to try that next time.

Also, I am dabbling with the idea of adding video tutorials to accompany some of my recipes. Here is my first one- I would love to know what you guys think! Enjoy!

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Homemade Yogurt Covered Pretzels (Stephanie Thiel)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tray worth of pretzels (3 handfuls?)
    • I prefer the “flat” pretzels (such as the ‘Pretzel Crisps’ brand, original flavor)
  • 2/3 cup greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1 tsp. honey (optional)
  • One sandwich bag and scissors (to create a drizzling pouch)

Method:

  1. Line a tray with parchment paper. Then lay out the pretzels evenly on top.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 2/3 cup yogurt with the honey until evenly combined. Then, spoon the yogurt mixture into a sealable ziploc bag.
  3. Cut off one of the bottom corners of the ziploc bag. Be sure to make a very small cut. This will allow the yogurt to drizzle out nicely.
  4. Slowly drizzle the yogurt across each pretzel.
  5. Place in the freezer. Freeze for at least one hour.
  6. Eat immediately. (They will melt! It is like a frozen treat)

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Korean-style Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Stuff your mouth with some of my Korean-style chicken lettuce wraps. I offer you my healthy take on a traditional Korean BBQ favorite.

Korean food is more than just eating dinner- it is a communal experience. I cannot count how many times I went out to eat Korean BBQ with various friends in Seoul. The only downside for me was that I don’t eat red meat, and Korean BBQ is always pork or beef. This motivated me to create a lettuce wrap recipe that involved chicken. And my mission was a success! These wraps are absolutely divine! I melt every time I get to eat this for dinner. If you are new to Korean cuisine, I encourage you to give this recipe a go!

Notes on how to set the table:

  • Place the chicken in the middle of the table for all to share
  • Each person gets their own individual rice bowl
  • Each person also gets their own Ssamjang (dip) dish
  • Serve the lettuce leaves on a platter or bowl. Your guests can rip off pieces of lettuce to make their individual wraps
  • Chopsticks recommended 😉

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Korean-style Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Stephanie Thiel)

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped white or yellow onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 3 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tsp. gochujang
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One head romaine or red leaf lettuce
    • Use a lettuce that is sweet (I don’t recommend green leaf because it is too bitter tasting)
  • Ssamjang (Korean soybean paste) to dip
  • White or brown rice (one bowl per person)

My favorite brand of teriyaki sauce to use:

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Method:

To cook the chicken:

  1. In a large skillet, saute the onions (with olive oil) on low-medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes.IMG_0739
  2. Chop the chicken breasts into bite size pieces. Add to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste.IMG_0740
  3. Add the teriyaki sauce and gochujang. Stir until the sauces are evenly distributed on all chicken pieces. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.IMG_0748
  4. Then, turn the stove heat to high. Cook until the liquids are cooked out and the chicken begins to nicely caramelize. (About 10 minutes).IMG_0749

Instructions to serve:

  1. Assemble and eat with your hands!
  2. Take a piece of lettuce (about 1/3 of a leaf).
  3. Place on the lettuce leaf about 1/2 Tbsp. rice, piece of chicken, and some Ssamjang paste.
  4. Wrap the lettuce around the contents. Then, proceed to stuff into your mouth.
  5. You of course can add more of less rice, chicken, or Ssamjang paste onto the lettuce wraps. You will learn what you want more or less of in each bite.

IMG_0800I would love to hear your feedback if you try this recipe! 🙂

 

Black Bean Brownies (Vegan + Flourless)

Beans, beans, the magical fruit- the more you eat the more you… get to make delicious brownies! Presenting a moist and delectable brownie recipe that is vegan, flourless, and oozing with chocolate.

I keep my eyes open for dessert recipes that are simple to make and light to indulge in. Black bean brownies are awesome because you can omit flour, butter, and other unwanted ingredients. As I was scouring through vegan black bean brownie recipes, the ingredients seemed too foreign to me. I bet some are not even available in Hawaii (okay, I might be exaggerating, but Hawaii does get the short end of the stick sometimes).

Finally, I came across what looked like the perfect recipe. I found it on Chocolate-Covered Katie’s healthy dessert blog (link at end of recipe). I love it because the brownies are moist and not overpoweringly sweet or rich. The ingredients and method couldn’t be more straightforward. I hope you enjoy my slightly modified version of the recipe.

Happy Friday everyone!

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Black Bean Brownies (Vegan + Flourless)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor or high-power blender, combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Blend thoroughly until the mixture is well combined.
  3. When done blending, stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (typically an 8×8 pan, but I used a round cake pan).
  5. Cook the brownies in the oven for 15-18 minutes (until firm).
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

You can see the original recipe here from Chocolate-Covered Katie’s blog.

Baked Sweet Potato “Curly Fries”

Satisfy your “salt” tooth with curly fries. Baked in an oven, these are a healthy and easy way to prepare sweet potatoes and satisfy that munchie bug!

Before you start visualizing deep fat-fried, crispy curly fries, keep in mind that these fries are baked to retain the natural goodness of the sweet potato. Therefore, they’re cut curly but not so crisp if you were to bread and fry them.

These sweet potato curly fries are as simple as it gets. You could try adding garlic, chili powder, or other spices to mix up the flavors though. Kick back and relax with some curly fries- you deserve it.

Baked Sweet Potato “Curly Fries” 

Ingredients:

  • One large sweet potato
    • Use a potato that has a very wide diameter. If the potato is too narrow, spiraling the curly fries will be challenging
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground peppercorn

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the skin off of the potato.
  3. Use a spiralizer tool (see basic zoodles recipe for further spiralizer details) to shape the potato into “curly fry” shape. Use the largest attachment on the spiralizer.IMG_0609
  4. Place the curly fries onto a baking sheet.IMG_0621
  5. Drizzle with about 2 tsp. olive oil. Using your hands, mix the fries to ensure they are all coated with the oil.
  6. Generously sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven to flip. Then, bake for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown. (About 20 minutes total cooking time)IMG_0663
  8. Let them cool and eat up! Nom nom nom 🙂

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Kimchi Fried Rice

For the adventurous or the wanna-be adventurous mouth, I present kimchi fried rice. Spice up your everyday dinners with this popular Korean dish.

Let’s face it, Korean food can be intimidating- both to eat and to cook. Even though I lived in Korea, I will never be able to cook as well as the native grandmothers do. Some of the best food Korean food I have eaten was in the homes of the local people.

Now now… Don’t be discouraged. You can still cook Korean food in your own kitchen. Get your feet wet with this kimchi fried rice recipe. It’s straightforward, vegan, and only as spicy as you make it.

Just to note before you get started. Koreans are notorious for not measuring. There is no science or precision to this. I give good guidelines, but overall trust your taste buds.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Stephanie Thiel)

Serves: 2-4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 1 small white potato, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2/3 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
    • Use a little more if you like it spicy!
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Dash of sesame oil
  • Olive oil (or other oil to cook with)
  • Optional: seaweed
    • I love to eat kimchi fried rice with a side of seaweed

METHOD: (pictorial version; an in-depth text-version following)

  1. Sauté the onion and carrot. (Medium heat, 5 min.)IMG_0425
  2. Add the potato and continue to sauté (5 min.)IMG_0426
  3. Add the chopped kimchi and continue to cook for about 5 min.IMG_0446
  4. Turn the heat on high.
  5. Add the cooked rice, gochujang paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well.IMG_0448
  6. You may need to add some olive/cooking oil to allow the rice to fry.IMG_0450
  7. Enjoy! I like eating it with seaweed!

METHOD: (Text-version & details)

  • In a large frying pan, sauté (in olive oil) the diced onion and carrot on  medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Next, add the diced potato to the pan. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes, or until potato has softened and onions are caramelized.
  • Chop the kimchi. Then add it to the pan. Fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Now it’s time to add the cooked rice to the pan. Crank the heat to high.
  • After you have added the rice, add the gochujang paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Stir well so they are evenly distributed.
  • At this point, you may need to drizzle some olive oil to better fry the rice.
  • Fry for about 5 minutes, or until done.
  • Enjoy!

Basic Zoodles

Mamma Mia! Pasta noodles made out of zucchini?! …  I certainly have jumped on the zoodles bandwagon- have you?

The term ‘zoodles’ refers to the hot health craze of zucchini noodles. This healthy pasta alternative is made using a food spiralizer tool. You simply insert the zucchini onto the machine, turn the crank, and voila! Zucchini noodles are created right before you eyes.

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I finally invested in a food spiralizer, and it is definitely one of my favorite kitchen tools yet! They are not that expensive and are really quite versatile. Besides zucchini noodles, you can also create various ribbons and shapes using several other fruits or vegetables. My spiralizer came with 3 different attachments, and I have fun playing around in the kitchen with it.

And zoodles taste amazing. Seriously.

I love making zoodles not only because they are healthy, but they are also quick and easy to make. When I need to whip up dinner in a jiffy, I just pull out some zucchini and vegetables I have on hand and throw together a delicious main or side dish.

This recipe I am posting today is a basic one I use pretty much all the time. It’s like my “zoodle base” if you will. Then I vary the sauce to top the zoodles depending on my mood. Sometimes I use a tomato-based sauce for a spaghetti alternative. When I am craving Japanese food, I will cook these zoodles together with teriyaki sauce. –  Use this zoodle recipe as a base, and employ your creativity adding other vegetables, sauces, etc.  I hope you enjoy- Welcome to the zoodle bandwagon y’all! 🙂

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Basic Zoodles (Stephanie Thiel)

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium green zucchini squash
    • It is important they are not too thick or thin in diameter to allow maximum efficiency with the spiralizer tool
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • Olive oil (for sautéing)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. First, prep all of the vegetables. Chop the onion and carrots into small bite size pieces.
  2. Next, prepare the zoodles. Wash the zucchinis, and cut both ends off. Attach onto the food spiralizer tool. Turn the crank until all of the zucchini is converted into noodle shape strands.
  3. Use a frying pan/skillet on the stove to cook the onion and carrot. Sauté them on medium heat (in olive oil) until tender. This takes about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper.
  4. Then add the zoodles to the same frying pan. Stir occasionally and keep cooking on medium heat until the zucchini noodles have softened and become slightly translucent (About 5-8 minutes cook time).
  5. At this point you can serve them plain, adding some salt and pepper for taste. I like to top mine with either a red pasta sauce or teriyaki sauce- depending on my taste buds’ mood.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Tip: If you are cooking for a larger crowd, the rule of thumb is about one zucchini per person.

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Roasted Asparagus

They say “less is more”- and roasted asparagus is no exception! Although this recipe is super basic, it is an absolutely divine way to eat these green spears.

Being married and cooking for two can sometimes be challenging- especially if the wife (ahem… me!) is trying to eat more vegan meals while the husband’s country roots will not permit him to shake meat from his diet. I am sure you guys have a similar problem! Regardless of your marital status, it can be challenging to please every mouth. For this recipe I enjoyed the asparagus plain, but wrapped some cooked bacon around two bundles of asparagus for my husband. This way we were both happy, but still essentially ate the same thing for dinner. This is a “his and her” plate if you will:

IMG_0160Okay, enough of the trying-to-eat-vegan wife rants… Onto the recipe!

Shown below are the before and after roasting pictures, respectively.

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Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
    1. It is important to wait until it is preheated before you put the asparagus in the oven! This will allow the asparagus to roast without becoming mushy.
  2. On a baking sheet, line up the asparagus.
  3. Drizzle about 2 Tbsp. olive oil over the asparagus. Then roll around the asparagus in the pan to ensure they are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Generously sprinkle with coarse sea salt and ground black pepper.
  5. Place asparagus into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
    1. Don’t cook it longer than this! You may think it doesn’t look done, but if you keep it in any longer it will be too mushy and not so fun to eat. Trust me, I have learned from experience!
  6. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool before serving.
  7. Enjoy! 🙂

The Dehydration Project: Pears

Pears take the spotlight this week in my dehydration project series! Welcome to my first go at drying pears and pear fruit leather.

Homemade pear fruit leather is one of my all-time favorite childhood snacks. Recently, I asked my mom how she made it. I discovered she would use the leftover pears she canned from the previous year to make the leather. Since the canned pears were already processed with sugar and pre-treatment, she would simply blend the pears for the leather. Back then, if I knew this fact I would have not eaten any of the canned pears to hold out for more leather!

Anyway, for this post I used only fresh pears (no canned). I made one batch of pear slices and another batch of fruit leather.

Pre-treatment:

Whether your dry pears whole or make leather, it is important to pre-treat your pears before you dry them. This will prevent them from browning. I used a “fruit-fresh” produce protector (ascorbic acid mixture), but I have heard you can use lemon juice or pure ascorbic acid as well.

First, I peeled, cored, and sliced the pears into 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick pieces. I placed them in a tupperware container to coat them with the pre-treatment. I recommend following the directions associated with the product you use. For me, I mixed 2 tsp. preservative with 3 Tbsp. water, and tossed to coat the fruit. I then let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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I will explain my method for each of my experiments in a nut shell:

Trial A: Dried Pear Slices

  • I used 5 pears (peeled, cored, sliced, and pre-treated)
  • Place them evenly on dehydrator trays
  • Dry them at a temperature of 135 degrees F.
  • Remove individual pieces when dry. Some will dry quicker than others.
  • Total dry time took between 11 and 13 hours.
  • The results were nice moist pear tidbits- love it!

Trial B: Pear Fruit Leather

  • I blended 2 pears until smooth. (Make sure the pears are peeled, cored, and pre-treated)
  • Pour onto a fruit leather tray for your dehydrator. Be sure to spray the tray with non-stick cooking spray. (so you can remove the leather when done!)
  • Dry at a temperature of 135 degrees F.
  • Total dry time only took 5 hours.
  • Outcome = Delicious (but not the same as my mom’s!)

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