Monday, January 24, 2011

Luna's Living Kitchen In Charlotte

John and I spent a couple of days in Charlotte around Christmas before heading to New York to see my family. While our visit in Charlotte was quick, we were able to have a meal from Luna's Living Kitchen. John and his Dad headed to South Boulevard one evening to pick us up a healthy and delicious dinner. They arrived back home with three compostable boxes filled with vegan and raw goods.

Luna's is an all raw and vegan restaurant that uses local and organic food. Since hearing of this restaurant, I have been enticed. We do not have a place like this in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and I am envious of the Charlotteans that have access to this place on a daily basis. Having lived in Charlotte, I never expected that they would get a raw vegan restaurant. Especially not before this area.

The three gluten free meals that we tried exceeded my expectations. We shared the meal with John's parents, who also enjoyed the fare. Each dish had a depth of richness that you might not believe it possible from raw food. I am always amazed when I consume well-made raw meals because such care is put into the layers of flavors, presentation, color, and richness. The time and attention to each detail of Luna's meals was impressive and kept me wanting more of the heavenly flavors. The food was so rich in vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and protein that I felt an appropriate level of fullness and satisfaction when we finished. I have found that it is hard to overeat when dinning on raw foods. Even if one were to overeat, it would be on healthful foods that power your body instead of those that are filled with saturated fats, sugar, oils, and animal proteins that take away from your body.

Pictured in the order they appear in the bullet list below.

The three dishes on the menu that we tried were:
  • Lunasagna- Layers of zucchini noodles served with sun dried tomato sauce, spinach, crimini mushrooms, and a green cashew cheese.
  • Freestyle Wrap- Vegetables , sheered cabbage with almond sauce and a cashew crumbs wrapped in collard leaves
  • Nasturtium Heaven- Local greens served with salsa verde, sunflower pate, and veggie rice on nasturtium leaves.
While I loved all three of the dishes, my favorite was the Lunasagna. The green cashew cheese against the sun dried tomato sauce worked perfectly together. While I love vegan lasagna that is cooked, this lasagna was even better. It was pleasing both to my eye and mouth. Each bite was a burst of layered flavor. The thought of this dish makes my mouth water.

In addition to being impressed by the taste and presentation, I was delighted that many dishes on the menu are gluten free. The staff had an impressive knowledge of their menu and the items that did and did not contain gluten.
It felt good to partake in a meal from a restuarant where I didn't have to worry about accidentally eating gluten.

Next time we visit Charlotte, we are sure to visit Luna's Living Kitchen. I am excited to try all of the gluten free options on the menu as well as the teas, juices, smoothies, and treats that they have to offer. I was impressed that this dinner was able to satisfy the palates of two vegans and two omnivores. If you are ever in Charlotte, I recommend stopping in for a meal!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Long Lasting New Years Resolution

It is the time of year again for New Years resolutions. They are made and then often quickly broken. I normally don't make New Years resolutions as nothing could live up to the resolution that I made 17 years ago.

In early 1994, I decided to make a resolution to give up meat and become vegetarian. This was all before I was even aware what it meant to go vegetarian. The Internet was still new to our house and I certainly did not get online and research the subject. I just felt a calling from God to be vegetarian and to fight against the suffering of other living creatures. The 14-year-old Amanda decided that
she was in charge of the food she ate and that meant that her meals would no longer cause animals to suffer and die.

I started gradually by giving up processed meats, then red meat, then lastly poultry and fish/seafood. This was a shock to my whole family. I think they felt like it came out of no where. At the time I was not an animal lover (those who know me now, know how crazy I am about animals!). I just knew this was what I had to do. I felt immense guilt every time I consumed an animal and imagined the pain and suffering it endured. I couldn't live with that death in my body or on my hands. I felt something I might have never felt before, compassion.

This was hard to defend for a teenage girl with raging emotions. My parents were tame and accepted my new life quickly. My extended another story! In time they became some what supportive, but I still find myself defending my views during every visit. The first holiday with them after becoming vegetarian was a nightmare. Meat was waved in my face, there was name calling, and accusations.

I'm not a quitter and I pushed through the ridicule and grew stronger in my views. Many said it wouldn't last. That it was a fad that would fade in college, if I even made it that long. They were all wrong! I only got stronger in my views. In college, and more so in graduate school, I began contemplating veganism. I read all about eggs and dairy and saw that vegetarian meals weren't as cruelty free as I had thought. There was still death and suffering on my hands. I knew it was the right thing for me to progress to veganism, but it took me a while to get there.

So, I find myself in present day as a gluten free vegan.

As I contemplate other New Years resolutions, I can't think of one that I could feel this passionate about or show this much commitment. My resolution from 17 years ago still benefits my health, the environment, and animals.

Here is to powerful and long-lasting New Years resolutions!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stuffed Artichoke Goodness

Many find the task of making fresh artichokes daunting and for good reason. Trimming, clipping, and scrapping out the choke is not the most riveting thing one can do in the kitchen. It is tedious, prickly, and takes a while. The reason I engage in this almost torturous activity is because few things can compare the sweet and rich result of a freshly made artichoke. Sure, the premade ones in the store are good, but they don't even hold a candle to freshly made artichokes. Just thinking of the sweet choke center makes my mouth water.

I grew up eating artichokes, both jarred and fresh. We had them on pizza, in salads, in pasta, and made them fresh. One of my favorite dinners was when my Mom would make stuffed artichokes for the two of us (my Dad wouldn't touch them). I thought the prep took a while, but I loved the end result! Sometimes we would even dip the stuffed leaves in a buttery Parmesan mix.

John also shares my love of the choke. When I became gluten free, I was sad that I would have to forgo the stuffed choke. Then one day an idea popped into my head. I had horrid gf rice tortillas in the fridge that I couldn't stomach on their own. They were nothing like a tortilla should be and were too firm to roll up for a burrito or enchilada. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to make bread crumbs. I didn't have to wait for them to get stale as they already had that quality. I got
out the coffee grinder and ground up the tortillas. And to my delight, the "bread" crumbs tasted a lot better then the whole tortilla.

Stuffed and Steamed Artichokes
  • 2 cups of gf breadcrumbs (see note above)
  • 3 medium sized garlic gloves, minced
  • Ground black pepper
  • Dried Italian spices
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large artichokes
Prepare the stuffing for the artichokes by mixing breadcrumbs, garlic, pepper, spices, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl. Save the cut lemon to rub on the cut artichokes.

Fill a large soup pot with an inch of water. Squeeze in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Place the steamer basket in the pot and bring the water to a boil.

Now on to the chokes. Wash each choke in cool water. Trim an inch of the top of each choke. After each cut, rub the lemon on the cut choke to prevent browning. Use a spoon remove the center of the choke. The point is to remove the prickly hard leaves and the hairy stuff right above the heart of the choke. It will take a while, but keep digging! Next trim the stem off the bottom and rub the lemon across the cut to prevent browning. Compost all of your clippings.

Spread the leaves out so that they can easily be stuffed. Place the stuffing mixture into the center of each choke and within the spread leaves. Once you have stuffed all of the chokes, please them stem side down into the boiling steamer and place a lid on the pot. It will take about 15 to 30 minutes to steam you choke, depending on the size.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vintage Dresses on Etsy

Over the past few months, I have been trying to update my Etsy store. I am slowly adding products to and working on creating others. One of the things that I need to improve is the quality of the photos for the shop. It is hard to capture the essence of some of my pieces. It is a work in progress and I am on the look out for help and tips.

Recently, I have added several vintage dresses and aprons. The most recent additions were two dresses from the 1980's. Below is one of the examples.

Please stop by Newman Improved to see the other vintage dresses and aprons for sale.

Thanks for looking!