Holiday Recap, and Cooked Recipe of the Month!
December 28, 2009

031-500x375017-500x3752I’m ba-aack!

It feels so nice to be writing; this last week was the longest I’ve gone without a substantive post since I started my blog. I hope you all had fantastic holiday celebrations, involving dear ones and delicious food. Did anyone grace a festive table with a raw dish or two?

I spent my Christmas nestled at my Mom’s. Holiday or no, Mom’s apartment (where I grew up — a staggering six blocks from where I live now!) is just about my favorite place. Knowing that I’d be making traveling for a few days after the Christmas Eve and day meals, I arrived prepared, with two bags of groceries. They included two heads of kale, three frozen liters of my butternut squash and apple soup, three cups of pre-made root vegetable mash, pre-cut salad veggies (shredded carrots, beets, and red cabbage), a container of red quinoa, 2 cups of my cashew cheese with dried cherries, four Larabars, 2 cups of homemade trailmix, a small container of hemp protein, four apples, two bananas, and a partridge in a pear tree. Always come prepared, folks: if you’re going to be traveling hither and yon to holiday celebrations — even to homes where you expect a fully stocked vegetable bin — it never hurts to have food that you can, and will, enjoy at the ready.

Mom and I enjoyed a cozy Christmas dinner, featuring hits from this year’s Choosing Raw Thanksgiving menu. The next morning, after some cozy gift-opening, juice, and a shared green smoothie, I headed to my father’s home in Westchester, where I enjoyed leftover kale salad and warmed up my butternut squash and apple soup for my stepfamily. My diet has never been a bit hit in my Dad’s home, but I’m pleased to say that my stepsisters and stepmom raved about the soup!

And on Saturday, I hopped on the train to travel to my happy place — Chatham, NY, where (as you may remember), my best friend’s folks lives. Chloe’s parents and sister are as dear to me as family, and it was wonderful to have a second Christmas celebration in their warm company. It was also great to enjoy a pastoral winter: frost on fallen leaves, black branches against a pale blue sky, snow patches on icy hay fields, the smell of chimney smoke. Here are a few snapshots from the journey:







Beautiful, no?

My weekend in Arcadia involved the usual assortment of raw favorites and un-cooking: kale salads, avocado salads, nut pate wraps, fresh, local cider. It also involved some cooking-cooking! Nothing seems to invite cooked meals quite like snowy woods and the prospect of dinner by the fire (and oh, my friends, there were lovely fires built). And since I’m long overdue for a cooked recipe of the month, I figured I would share with you two of the recipes I enjoyed upstate.

The first involved my fun new ingredient: red quinoa. In truth, there’s not much that’s new about red quinoa: it’s just like white quinoa, only a different color! Quinoa actually comes in a variety of shades, from white to pink to yellow and red. Red quinoa lends a lovely hue to side dishes, but has the same nutty and delicious taste as regular quinoa. Since kale and root vegetables were the stars of my weekend meals (’tis the season, after all), I decided to incorporate the latter into my quinoa dish. The result was a warm, comforting, and very filling dish!

Red Quinoa and Root Vegetable Pilaf (serves 2-4)

1 cup red quinoa, dry
dash salt
2 cups water

1 large carrot stick, cut into small cubes
1/2 medium sized turnip, cut into small cubes
1/2 large yam, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp saltDash pepper

Rinse the quinoa under a faucet till the water runs clear. Place it in a pot with a dash of salt and put it over a high flame. When the mix comes to a boil, lower the flame to a simmer and leave the lid of the pot on, but slightly ajar. After twenty minutes or so (check it at fifteen), the quinoa should be fluffly and cooked through (you’ll know it’s ready if the outer rim of the grain seems to have popped off).

While the quinoa is cooking, steam the cubed root veggies till tender.

Combine the cooked quinoa with the steamed veggies. Season with cinnamon, agave and salt, and enjoy!

This is an optimal winter entree: protein-rich, rich in complex carbs, well combined, tasty and highly nourishing.



It’s pretty, too!

Sadly, my trip home from Chatham was a bit of a disaster: the train was over an hour late, and we kept along at a snail’s pace all the way to Manhattan. The train was also freezing cold, so when I arrived home tonight, chilled to the bone and with a runny nose, I was ready for soup. And since I had leftover yams and a bushel of kale on hand, I decided to put them to good use.

This soup is inspired by a KERF recipe: Kath’s butternut squash and kale soup is a definite favorite in the Choosing Raw kitchen, and I’ve wanted for some time to give it my own spin. My version uses yams in the place of squash, obviously, and my own soup base, rather than the Pacific brand. I also added ginger, cinnamon and curry for a warming kick! The result is akin to my butternut squash and apple soup, but thicker and richer (i.e., perfect for a cold winter’s night).


Gena’s Kale and Sweet Potato Stew (yields about 5 cups)

3 large yams, cut in smallish cubes
2 large stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh apple or orange juice
2 dates
2 packets stevia
1 1/2 tsps salt
Small cut of fresh ginger (I used about 1/2 inch; you could also use 1/4 tsp dry ginger)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
Dash cloves
2 tbsps olive oil
3 cups raw kale, chopped

Steam the yams till fork tender. Take 2/3 of the yams (reserving 1/3 for later) and place them in a blender with all remaining ingredients except for the olive oil and kale. And the mixture is blending, add the oil in a thin stream till the whole mix is smooth and creamy.

Transfer the soup back to a large pot. Add the reserved yams and the 3 cups kale. Re-heat the soup till very warm, and the kale is kooked through.

Serve this alongside a leafy green salad for a perfect dinner, or on its own for a hearty lunch.


It was a definite winner!

Now it’s your turn, friends! How was your holiday? And do you have any special recipe successes (or failures) to report? I’d love to hear more about the weekend.

And before I forget, there’s still time to vote for me in the Best of Raw 2009 awards!!!! Simply scroll through the categories, looking for best raw educator, best raw website, and best raw blog. I would appreciate your support so very much.

Also, please head over to the lovely Averie’s blog to check out my guest post yesterday on my top five tips for optimal digestive health.

Have a great night, and stay warm!


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  1. I started experiementing with quinoa and wanted to see other people’s results and that is how I came to your site. I buy my organic quinoa at Costco. So far, I made quinoa with different varieties of rice (sometimes with spices added), quinoa and rice porridge, and quinoa by itself all in an induction heating rice cooker.

    My main question is do you know how much the nutritional value is lost by rinsing quinoa. For example, I know that in Asia, people there suffer from vitamin deficiencies (mainly B complex, like B-12) because they rinse off pratically all the vitamins when they wash the rice. As a result, the cooked rice is now empty calories. Does it still make sense to eat quinoa after it’s been rinse so much (i.e. when the water is clear?)

    The unrinsed cooked quinoa doesn’t taste bitter at all, but there can be a slightly bitter aftertaste 5 to 10 minutes after the meal.


  2. […] Continuing the theme of poaching other people’s vegan recipes, last night I made Gena’s Red Quinoa and Root Vegetable Pilaf. If that doesn’t sound like health food, I don’t know what does. Isn’t it so […]

  3. sounds like you had a wonderful holiday! thanks for sharing those recipes – I just made something similar to that red quinoa dish you made – I love red quinoa! and your soup looks so hearty and delish! Hope you have a great new years!

  4. I love the red quinoa dish, it looks so hearty and delicious. Quinoa is one of my very favorite things to eat, I wish so much that we could find it with more regularity over here in the land of sand.

    Your holidays look like a lot of fun! Your happy place (your friend’s house out in the country) is stunning! I can’t imagine a more perfect place to spend Christmas. Just looking at the pictures made me feel chilly!

  5. I love quinoa! However, I prepare it first by soaking the grains for 6 hours. Then I rinse well with fresh water and cook on the stove for about 10 minutes.

  6. Those recipes look delicious. I can’t wait to try them! Do you have any advice for times when you have to take an antibiotic? I am assuming staying away from sugar and maybe a probiotic? Anything else I should consider?

  7. The pictures are gorgeous! I don’t know how you keep up such an amazing blog packed with consistently helpful and heart-warming information:) Happy Holidays!

  8. Gena,
    I just want to say what a joy it is to read your blog every week!-I am going to try out the butternut squash/apple soup tonight! I added your blog to my blog roll on Happy New Year! Jan

  9. I love how prepared you were for your trip…such a great idea to carry things with you. I wish I could bring that much stuff when I fly places!

  10. You had such a cozy holiday! Well, minus the train ride. Hope you’re able to relax some more with your time off this week.

    My holiday was anything but raw, though I contributed my raw carrot cake balls, among other desserts. My hosts seemed to like the taste, but I’m not sure it was exactly love at first bite. I will admit to perhaps overdoing the spices, but I thought the texture was great and even crumbled a bunch in to a bowl of oats. Love those flavors!

    Also love red quinoa–it’s just that much prettier. Kind of dying for your stew too, sitting in this freezing office!

  11. Both the soup and your quinoa recipe look delicious, nourishing and satisfying. So glad you had wonderful Christmas celebrations both in the city and upstate. What a beautiful home and location! My holiday was great, though I think I’m still on West Coast time and need to get a recap post up stat!

  12. Happy holidays Gena, sounds like you are having some sweet ones with just the right balance of warmth and fresh raw meals. All the best to you as we roll into the new year and I do hope 2010 brings us to share a green smoothie together- my side of the border or yours… no matter.

  13. NIce to see you had such a great xmas! Good thing your mom is so close or else tugging all that food along would have been exhausting! Red quinoa is the first type that I tried and liked.. for some reason the white kind didn’t hit a good spot- but the red one- even though I know now that it tastes the same- really made me sing.. love this sweet potato kale combo.. this is on the to make list for sure!

  14. Gorgeous pictures of Chatham, that is just what I imagine rural East coast looking like, but have never been there. Red quinoa is so gorgeous, I love eating it – partially because it’s beautiful! Glad you had a good Christmas!

  15. I always love the pics you take from your trips there! I love the Red quinoa dish! it looks simply perfect!

    Glad you are back!
    Happy New Year

  16. Those recipes look awesome. I’ve never tried red quinoa before.

    I really liked your guest post on Averie’s blog; full of great information on digestive health, something super interesting to me as I suffer from Crohn’s disease. I’ve been working on not guzzling water at meals and on food combining and it does make a huge difference. Thanks for all the great info!

  17. Both your visits sound wonderful (and what scenery!), as do both of these recipes! I can’t wait to try the quinoa. I’ve tried red quinoa before and remember thinking, “well, it’s just like the white!”–glad you said it 😉 My best success this season was some lemony roasted potatoes–super easy and just phenomenal.

  18. Oh the food looks so good as do the nature shots! Sounds like you had R & R, just what you needed! Thanks for linking back to your most awesome post! on my blog, thanks again!!!! And of course, red lentils being pretty, you’re so right, they are! And kale and sweet potato stew…yum! Anything kale makes me happy! 🙂

  19. I’m so glad you had such a relaxing holiday! Those meals look fantastic and much like what comes out of my kitchen every day. I love it!!!

  20. Sounds like you had a nice holiday, thanks for sharing everything! And those yummy recipes, I love red quinoa!

    Have a great New Year, Gena! See you in a few weeks! 🙂 XOXO!