Posts Tagged ‘Goji Berries’

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Yule Log

Yesterday, we had our December meeting for our Inner Transitions book group based around Carolyn Baker’s “Navigating the Coming Chaos.” Winter Solstice seemed like the perfect time to discuss chapters related to Light and Shadow and the mythopoetic self. I was in charge of facilitating the group this time, and a Michigan friend hosted in her lovely renovated farmhouse. For some reason, I have been obsessed with preparing a yule log for Winter Solstice, and several weeks ago I discovered a recipe for a Paleo Yule Log.

I gathered roasted chestnuts from a local Amish farmer and fresh eggs from our Amish friends. This is not a vegan recipe; it contains both free range eggs and local, raw honey. Given our group’s focus on local and sustainable living, it seemed like a better fit than some of the nut and date heavy raw vegan recipes I could have tried. Many of the people in our reading group are actual farmers, and most of us do our best to eat as locally as possible. Obviously, the organic, fair trade chocolate in this recipe didn’t come from Michiana, but the bulk of the ingredients did. You can click here to find the recipe, but I’ll include a couple pictures below. It turned out great!

yule log

Making the yule log, however, was quite the comedy of errors. First of all, David is the kitchen gadget god, so despite my many weeks’ obsession, it never even occurred to me to check if we had the appropriate tools to make the log. I just assumed we did. Never mind that when we moved in here we still ate mostly raw and so never bothered to alert our landlord to the fact that our oven doesn’t work! After numerous guests wanted toast, which took twenty minutes in a full oven, we did buy a small convection oven. That’s what I planned to use for the recipe, not even considering that we needed something called a “Swiss roll pan” and not even wondering if a) we had that type of pan or b) if it would fit in the convection oven.

Even more amusing, I’m not sure I’ve ever baked anything non-vegan before. If I did, then it was probably 20 years ago. David and I had both been vegan for a long, long time, and we still only eat eggs as occasional, deliberate eggs. I sometimes blend a raw one in a smoothie, but even David doesn’t do that. Anyway, this recipe calls for separating eggs, which I didn’t know how to do, and it calls for an electric egg whisk, which it turns out we don’t have. We didn’t even have a good old fashioned egg whisk, because, hey, why would we???

David quickly realized that “my” yule log project was becoming his gift to the Inner Transitions group. Every attempt I made to help turned into a bit of a sitcom moment. For example, I decided to weigh out the cacao and in process, gave the uncracked eggs a major dusting of chocolate. Then, I thought an immersion blender would substitute well for the electric egg whisk. I started blending the eggs, but I couldn’t get the hang of it, so David blended, but those egg whites weren’t getting their stiff peaks. “How about our mini-latte jobby?” I asked. David did a great job with that, while I tried to clean the immersion blender. Um … can you say soap all over the kitchen walls? So David stopped using the latte maker and started correcting my mess, while I took over with the latte maker. How hard could this be? Well, what goes better with soapy walls than fluffy egg white splattered all over the soap?

I moved to clean-up duty, while David salvaged my attempts to help. At that point, I realized, ohhhh, the Swiss roll pan. What the heck is a Swiss roll pan? To which David replied that we really only had one pan that would fit in the convection oven. We hodge-podged together some parchment paper “walls” and stuck it in there for twenty minutes.

Bizarrely enough, everything worked out just right, and I even managed to roll the log without cracking it too much. I didn’t have any holly, but I found some old spruce I had foraged this August and left to chill in the fridge. I added goji berries instead of holly berries as garnish. David is my hero and was much appreciated by our small Solstice gathering. We even had some yumminess leftover for him to enjoy the benefits of all his hard and slightly exasperating work. 🙂

yule log 2

On a not unrelated note, we have become huge fans of chestnuts! Roasted, boiled … these are some tasty little nuts. They’re not too fatty, and the Amish farmer who procured them for me has all sorts of recipes from rice, broth and chestnuts, to chestnuts roasted on an open fire … to soups. You name it, you’ll love it. Who knew?

Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry

I haven’t posted any recipes in awhile, but this one was too tasty not to share!

As regular blog readers know, I’ve got a yard full of dandelions, and aside from harvesting the flowers for dandelion wine and dandelion jelly, I also gather dandelion leaves. Bags and bags of dandelion leaves! Sometimes I put them in green smoothies with frozen pineapple, banana and filtered water. Sometimes I steam them and just top with a hint of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. And sometimes I’ve been known to eat them wrapped around a slice of raw manchego. Tonight, I decided to make a dandelion soup.


Goji soup ingredients

I don’t measure when I prepare food, but here’s a guestimate:

Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry


1.5 cups dried red lentils
filtered water to cover the lentils
1 strip of kombu seaweed
1 clove of garlic, pressed

half bag of gathered dandelion greens
half bunch of cilantro (not pictured)

three handfuls of dried goji berries
1 16 oz. can of coconut milk
Thai Kitchen green curry paste to taste (I used two generous scoops)


Cover the lentils with filtered water and begin to boil. Add in the kombu (for better digestion) and a clove of pressed garlic.

As the lentils and water begin to boil, put the dandelion greens and cilantro into a blender. Add enough filtered water (not the boiling water, but more water) to blend the greens into about a quart of nice, bright green liquid.

Add the blended water and greens to the pot of lentils and continue to boil. Watch to make sure the lentils don’t foam over. Turn down to low once you’ve established a rolling boil, at which point, you can add the three handfuls of goji berries and let it all simmer.

When the lentils are soft –about twenty to thirty minutes — add the coconut milk and green curry paste. Simmer for ten more minutes to meld the flavors. Serve and add a hint of sea salt to taste.

Goji soup

Goji berries hail from the nightshade family, just like tomatoes. Asians often add them to soups in order to impart a rich sweetness. In this soup, they perfectly balance the bitterness of the dandelions and go well with the subtle cilantro flavors. The spicy-sourness of the green curry rounds out the flavors, with the kombu adding that hint of fish flavor usually found in non-vegan curry dishes.

I got the idea for this soup while craving red lentils, noticing that I really needed to use up the rest of our cilantro, and researching where to plant my two new goji berry bushes:

Goji plants

Apparently, the bushes love full sun and can grow to sizes of eight to twelve feet in height and diameter. That’s a lot of goji berries! It also requires careful planning, since they like to spread once happily planted in their spot. I haven’t decided whether to plant them next to each other (with space in between) for a full goji hedge — a “fedge” (food hedge) in permaculture speak — or if I want to plant them in different areas to increase the odds of finding appropriate growing conditions. In the meantime, I will definitely add goji berries to soups again! Also known as wolfberries, these little gems pack a nutritional wallop: from beta carotene to anti-oxidants to fountain of youth chemicals and blood thinning capability.

Although I still consume the vast majority of my food raw, some things benefit from cooking. The boiling process mellows the sugars of the dried, sticky goji fruits, and it allows the dandelion greens to form a short-term herbal infusion, making some of the nutrients more bio-available than in their raw state. Besides helping with allergies and providing high vitamin A and calcium, dandelion greens offer so many benefits that I’m just sending you to the following link: click here to read a long list of dandelion health benefits. The results of eating kombu include: vitality and youthfulness, detoxification, adding essential trace minerals, and easier digestion of legumes.

Speaking of legumes, the red lentils made the list of the top ten healthy foods, due to their high fiber, high antioxidants, magnesium and folate. Additionally, scientists recently found a compound in nuts and lentils that blocks the growth of cancerous tumors.

Cilantro chelates mercury and heavy metals, and garlic does everything from boost immunity to thinning blood to keeping away vampires –psychic and otherwise. 😉 Coconut milk contains phosphorous for strong bones and manganese for good blood sugar levels, along with Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and various amino acids. A healthier option would involve cracking your own coconut to avoid the BPA in cans; however, I keep these cans on hand for very occasional, spontaneous meals. I’m a Lazy Raw Foodist even when I cook! The Thai Kitchen brand of curry pastes, including this green paste, are (as far as I can tell at this time) vegan. I keep both red and green flavors on hand, because they make fabulous soups and nori wraps on very short notice.

Most importantly for my purposes tonight, this superfood soup tasted savory, sweet, tangy and all around amazing! It had so many rich flavors that I can’t believe I only used water and no vegetable broth. TGWHL: Thank God/dess We Have Leftovers! 🙂