Top Ten Reasons to Stay Up Late with a Pharmacist and a Prescription for Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Raw Almond Joy Larabars

Top Ten Reasons to Stay Up Late with a Pharmacist

1. Pharmacists can do more than lick and stick.
2. Pharmacists have a long duration of action.
3. Pharmacists Rx rated.
4. Pharmacists find new routes of administration.
5. Pharmacists do it over the counter.
6. Pharmacists are patient lovers.
7. Pharmacists accept third parties.
8. Pharmacists have a quick reconstitution time.
9. Pharmacists do it without breaks.
10. You will want no substitution.

[Kinda funny or kinda geeky? Or maybe only pharmacists find this funny because we're so geeky? :)]

So do you love Almond Joys but hate that all that fake, processed chocolate and sugar?  Or tired of spending well over a dollar for one measly Larabar?  Well, go buy the ingredients or bring them out of your kitchen pantry and give this prescription a try.  And if you have this prescription filled now, you’ll get homemade Larabars within less than a few hours.  No wait times, and no pharmacist consultations. So what are you waiting for?  Stop gawking at food porn and make some of these already.  Go on.

Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Raw Almond Joy Larabars

4 cups medjool dates, pitted
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
4 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)

Soak the medjool dates in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the soaked dates, raw almonds, cacao chips, shredded coconut, and chia seeds into a food processor. Pulse until no chunks remain. Scrape the bowl down if it begins to clump. [This required a lot of patience. I may process the raw almonds first separately, followed by the cacao chips until coarsely ground. Then the medjool dates so it is not so chunky.]

Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the pan using your hands and/or spatula.

Refrigerate for 2 hours for it to set. Slice into desired size and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  [This recipe yields delicious homemade Larabars that are simply to die for.    You won't want to freeze them.  I know because, well, I came up with ridiculously amazing concoction :)]

Vegan and Gluten-Free Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame

When I think of Japanese food, I think of a carnivorous feast full of sashimi, nigiri, and sushi rolls; chicken or pork tonkatsu; chicken, beef, or salmon teriyaki; porky udons; and much, much more.  Everything but vegan.  Six months ago, I would have snubbed at the idea of a vegan Japanese meal.  I would have thought, “such a sad waste of calories” at that time.

Interestingly, since I’ve made the decision to eat less meat, and more veggies, my palate has become more open-minded to vegan and vegetarian fare.  I seek out vegan or vegetarian restaurants when I’m traveling.  We recently visited the East Bay and headed to the Gourmet Ghetto (aka, Berkeley) for some vegan/vegetarian Japanese food at Cha-Ya.  I have to admit, I was still a little hesitant about vegan Japanese food because I had some doubts that it was going to be as good as your traditional Japanese meal.  We ordered miso soup; sunomono; udon with vegetable tempura; and pickled burdock and pickled melon sushi rolls, and a seaweed salad sushi roll.

The dinner was ridiculously amazing and filling!  I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and how much I look forward to going back.  What stood out the most was the simple but savory miso soup that oozed with umami.  Oh.  My.  Word.  It was just delightful.  I like a good miso soup, and I order it just about every time we dine at a Japanese restaurant.  Most places are either too salty or too stingy with the tofu and wakame.  I can honestly say that Cha-Ya offers some of the best miso soup.

I left Cha-Ya feeling inspired to cook up some vegan Japanese food at home.  I started with a vegan miso soup.  It turned out pretty good… it’s definitely a close second to Cha-Ya’s :)

Miso Soup with Tofu and Wakame

6 cups vegan dashi (6 cups of water + 12 inch piece of kombu soaked overnight)
3-4 tablespoons gluten-free red miso paste
1-2 tablespoon gluten-free white miso paste
1 block firm tofu (fresh if possible), drained and cubed
2 tablespoons wakame, soaked in water for 5 minutes, drained and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped

When ready to make the soup, bring the vegan dashi up to a simmer (not a full boil), then take out the kombu. Bring to a full boil, and then add the wakame and simmer for one minute.

Place a small strainer over the broth. Add the miso [a little bit at a time to your preference, since miso varies in saltiness] by dissolving and pushing through the strainer. [The strainer helps to avoid a lumpy miso soup. Lastly, do not boil the miso or else you risk ruining the miso flavor.] Add the tofu and green onion.

Serve immediately.

How to watch the Amgen Tour of California (and gluten-free blueberry waffles)

food, recipe, gluten-free, rice, waffles, blueberries, gluten-free waffle

I started cycling a few years ago to get back into shape, and not because Lance Armstrong made it cool. It was a great way to spend time with my partner, social networking, to be outdoors, and not to mention all the accoutrements. I love geeking out on all the gears and accessories when I get excited about a new hobby/toy/activity. I spent so much time obsessing, I mean, researching and buying the right road bike, accessories, and jerseys. I spent a lot of my time at the local bike shops, online bike stores, and ebay. I didn’t realize how expensive the sport was, but I was in too deep to back out. Someone mentioned to me early on when I start cycling that it is expensive at first, but the gear sticks with you for a long time. And it’s true, I haven’t bought much for my road bike since my first initial hoarding :)

Anyway, I’m digressing from the title of my post. I was super excited when the Amgen Tour of California first rolled through our town two years ago. I really wanted to be at the sidelines as they rode through, but I couldn’t get the time off from work. Instead, I recorded the event and tried to watch it, but didn’t understand the overall concept of the competition. I did some more research, this time on the actual sport, and have really come to appreciate cycling. So as the Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California rolled through our town again this year, I thought I’d share with those who are interested but unfamiliar with the sport, how to watch/understand road cycling races.

The Amgen Tour of California is broken up into eight stages/days, starting in Santa Rosa, CA, and riding their way to Los Angeles, CA, which approximates about 800 miles on a road bike. Seven of the eight days are road races, while the other day is an individual time trial race. To win the overall race, individual times to finish each stage are added up to determine the overall winner.. Interestingly, a cyclist does not have to win all or any of the individual stages to win the overall race. Stage races also have other classifications and awards. For example, the stage winner (i.e., first person to cross the finish line for that day) wears the leader’s yellow jersey on the next day of racing. There is also the “King of the Mountains,” in which a cyclist earns this jersey by collecting points at designated King of the Mountain locations located at the top of mountains and hills. Only the first three cyclists to reach the top on rated climbs receive points towards this award.

I know, fascinating, right?!

Stay tuned for my next post on common strategies employed to win the road race competition.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Blueberry Waffles

2 cups rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 “eggs” (Ener-G Egg Replacer)
1 2/3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen or fresh bluberries

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Fold in the blueberries.

Spray the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray, and ladle the batter onto the waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 waffles.

Baba Ghanoush

We just finished a 30 day pescatarian diet with no dairy, carbohydrates, or sugar.  Oh.  My.  Word.  That was an incredibly hard challenge.  It was harder than our 30 day vegan challenge!  The no dairy thing wasn’t the issue.  It was the no carbohydrates or sugar that I had a hard time with.  We used fruit as a way to satiate our cravings for an after-dinner dessert, but that only lasted for a little while.  By the end of the second week, I was jonesing for bread and butter, frozen yogurt, cookies, and chocolate.  And do you know what was the worst tease?  My work place had a Strawberry Day event with all things strawberry desserts, and a few going away parties with the best cake from my favorite bakery, and I couldn’t have a lick of it.  Ugh.  I think I was drooling as I watched my coworkers eat cake, pies, tortes, strawberry punch, and cookies.  Such a tease.  Sigh.  The diet was worth it, I guess :)

To celebrate our first day of eating carbohydrates, I decided on a Middle Eastern and Greek meal centered around a filthy amount of pita bread.  Yes.  I said it.  I am a glutton for pita bread.  Okay.  So, honestly, we only ate one pita bread for the vegan seitan gyro sandwich, alongside a few wedges of pita dipped in some baba ghanoush.  But nonetheless, I still heart carbohydrates.

Baba Ghanoush

3 medium globe eggplants, cut lengthwise (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to your liking
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush cut side of eggplants with extra virgin olive oil. Place eggplants cut-side down on baking sheet and roast until until very tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl, and discard skin. Mash the eggplant with a fork until it is smooth, but still has some texture. Stir in the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita, pita chips, vegetables, or however you fancy baby ghanoush :)

Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

The smoking adventures on the Big Green Egg continues… this time with trout.  I wanted to venture out with another type of fish since I’ve smoked salmon [we're a big fan of smoked salmon] every weekend since I purchased the Big Green Egg, which was almost four weeks ago.

I bought four whole trouts yesterday, excited to cure and smoke it.  But when I got home, I didn’t realize that the pin bones and spine were still intact.  Ugh.  I felt almost immediately overwhelmed by the idea of removing the bones.  I YouTubed some videos on how to filet trout, and got right in.  [YouTube always comes in handy for situations like this!]  Luckily, the sweet filet knife I recently got came in handy for this daunting task.  It took some time and hacking at the fish before I got the hang of deboning and fileting fish.  Needless to say, I finished without cutting myself [unfortunately, I accidentally cut myself often in the kitchen... it's a combination of clumsiness + hurriedness], throwing swear words left and right,  or giving up , but all four fileted fish looked pretty hacked up.

The final score:
Me 4
Trout 0

Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

3 pounds trout, about 3 to 5 ounces each, skin on, pin bones and spine removed, and fileted
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the trout filets with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.

Rinse the trout under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours up to 24 hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish. [I allowed mine to dry in the refrigerator for 12 hours.]

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and your favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. Smoke for about 3 hours. Remove from smoker, allow to cool, and enjoy it with some creme fraiche, cream cheese, on a salad, or pick at it like we did :)

Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad with Avocado

I need to read more.  I feel well-informed of current affairs from reading various news media, but I don’t read enough books.  I used to love thumbing through books, especially historical fiction novels that had something to do with China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Now I spend the majority of my day at work staring at a computer screen, only to come home to stare at a computer screen perusing through different food-related websites, my blog, and anything else of interest.  And then there’s the television.  I’m addicted to my television.  How pathetic, right?  I love my Bravo station.  Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County?  Yes, please!

The sad thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a book for leisure.  I even bought myself and my partner a Kindle in hopes that it would encourage me to buy books on-the-fly to read, but instead, it sits on my nightstand collecting dust.  At least my partner uses her Kindle and puts it to good use.  She has finished three books in a matter of three days, and working on a new book as we speak, while I sit here lazily on the couch, blogging, watching a recorded show of The Voice, and perusing through Food Gawker and Tastespotting.

Maybe I should finish this blog post and pick up my Kindle :)

Any good book suggestions?  What about Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto?

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado (adapted from Epicurious)

1 pound large shrimp
1 large ear of corn, husked
2 lemons, halved
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper

5 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice from grilled lemon
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Butterfly the shrimps by slicing almost through lengthwise, while leaving the shell on shrimp. Devein the shrimp, if necessary. Toss with olive oil, juice of one lemon, and season with salt and pepper.

Place the lemons, corn, and shrimp on the grill. Grill the shrimp two minutes on each side, until the shells are pink and the shrimp opaque; the lemons for about one minute, or until there are charred grill marks to caramelize the sugars of the lemon; and the corn has also developed charred grill marks around the diameter of the corn.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When cool to handle, cut the kernels off the corn cob in a shallow bowl, and peel the shrimp. Arrange the lettuce on two plates or bowls [however, you like to serve your salad], layered with corn, black beans, avocado, and shrimp. Divide dressing between two plates. [You could toss the salad with the dressing instead. I think the salad looks "prettier" when arranged this way.]

Makes 2 servings.

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken (now that’s a mouthful!)

I smoked all day today.  I woke up and went straight to the backyard to smoke.  I was jonesing, so much so that I woke up at 7 a.m. today, when I should’ve slept in on a Saturday morning.  I hope my neighbors didn’t mind my early morning smoking habit.  My hair, clothes, and skin smells of smoke.  I’m amazed that my lungs were able to take that much in, as if I were still in my early 20s.  It even kicked up some of my allergies.  I can’t wait to shower and scrub this smell off.  The problem, though, is that I’m addicted.  I love smoking… food, that is.

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken

1 (3 lb) whole chicken, spine removed
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
4 jalapenos, sliced
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Place spatchcock chicken in a large glass bowl, breast side down, filled with water. Add the cilantro, garlic cloves, and sea salt. Carefully “stir” the water to mix all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients into a paste in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the cilantro paste underneath the skin and the entire exterior of the chicken. Set aside.

Heat the smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions to 250 degrees F. If you are using a BGE, place a drip pan on the inverted plate setter. Place the chicken in the smoker, and smoke [I used applewood] until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and the thighs reach 175 degrees F, or when the juices run clear, about 3-4 hours. Remove the chicken from the smoker, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes tented with foil.

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