We’re All Irish On St Patrick’s Day

12 03 2012

First things first, I’m not Irish. I have some Scottish blood mixed with my all-American mutt lineage, which may make me a stone’s throw from it. But when St Paddy’s Day rolls around, we can all be Irish for a day. The idea of a simple, rustic cuisine based on local, peasant ingredients appeals to everyone. For vegetarians, well, we skip the corned beef and go straight to the cabbage.

The story of the potato famine is well-known, a lesson we have been learning over and over since pre-history. A population dependent upon a single crop for its survival was devastated by a blight on that crop, and people were left with nothing to eat.

If you read the history of this terrible time, you’ll understand two things. One is why the Irish have been so angry with the British for so long. The second is that hunger in this big world is always politically based. During the famine, wealthy British landowners continued to grow crops for export, filling warehouses and ships with grain while Irish families starved and died in the streets outside. The British government did little to help, insisting that bailing out the people would create dependency, and preferring to follow a “laissez faire” philosophy. There was plenty of food to be had, if the people in power had been willing to bring it.  Thousands of people died.

Pretty good reason to drink some beer, huh? Well, while you’re Irish for a day, raise a glass to the indomitable spirit and strength of the Irish people. Maybe the next time you get a letter from an organization fighting hunger, consider eating potatoes and cabbage for a week and donating what you save on food to help.

I’ve always thought it was a tiny bit of justice that the foods that were relegated to peasants were often secretly nutritious. The 1% have historically lorded it over everyone by eating lots of meat and fat, while the hard working farmers were left eating plant foods. Of course, it’s cold comfort to know your greens prevent cancer if you are starving, but we have to look for something positive in all this.

Peasant Food for Today

So for St Patricks Day, let’s celebrate the lowly root vegetables and cabbage. Traditional potato dishes, like Boxty, a mash of potatoes with butter and scallions, are the kind of rib-sticking, easy food that fuels physical labor. Today, I thought it would be fun to eat a version of Colcannon, another classic Irish dish. Instead of white potatoes, I’m going to up the nutrition with a big sweet potato, and celebrate the cabbage, the most peasant of all peasant foods. Of course, you can use potatoes, too.

Yes, in a karmic payback, the cabbage that was fed to peasants and livestock is now known to be a superfood. Like all members of the brassica family, cabbage has a slew of anti-cancer chemicals and antioxidants. Cabbage offers up something called glucosinolates, which are allies in preveting colon, prostate and bladder cancers. Common cabbage is also rich in polyphenols, which are both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant chemicals.  Cabbage also lowers cholesterol and helps create a healthy environment in the digestive tract, keeping good bacterial balance.

Cabbage is high in vitamin C, but really stands out for providing 66% of the vitamin K you need in one cup. It’s one of those very low-calorie foods that you can eat lots of to feel full and satisfied without gaining weight.

Especially with potatoes.

Peasant Food

Colorful Colcannon

For my updated colcannon, I roasted off a big sweet potato and then put it in the fridge to get completely cold. That way it will be easy to cut in chunks, as well as save me time in the kitchen. You can do the same thing with three medium yukon golds for a more traditional colcannon. If you are ovo-lacto, an Irish Cheddar would be a good thing to shred over the colcannon.

1 roasted sweet potato, cold (about 1 1/2 pound)

1 tablespoon Earth Balance or olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cups cabbage, chopped

1 teaspoon caraway seed or celery seed

2 cups spinach, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the cold sweet potato into chunks, reserve. In a large cast iron skillet, heat the fat, then add the onion. Stir for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat to soften and brown a little. Add the cabbage and caraway or celery seeds and keep stirring, let the cabbage get very soft and browned in spots. When it’s all soft and sweet, stir in the sweet potato and stir until heated through, then add the spinach and stir until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste.

In the cast iron pan, sizzling





A Sexy Salad for The Big Night

13 02 2012

Well, it’s time for the big Valentine’s romantic meal, and lots of people are making reservations for gourmet restaurant feasts. They will dine on oysters and steak, cream doused pastas, and then a big chocolate dessert, all accompanied by plenty of alcohol. Then, if they are lucky, they will head home to pursue romance in the bedroom.

Unfortunately, that big, heavy meal and all that alcohol will probably only hinder their activities. In fact, they may find themselves slipping into a sugar coma before they even get started.

So my advice to you, if you want to get lucky on Valentines, and all year long, is eat a light meal of plant-based aphrodisiac foods.

These foods, unlike their sat-fat laden alternatives, actually nourish the sexual systems. Believe it or not, guys who eat right don’t need Viagra. In fact viagra was inspired by a chemical that you can get from a good diet, nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is made in the body from l-arginine, and it has the unique ability to relax the blood vessels. It’s really good for circulation and heart health in general, but that particular action is helpful for the now famous ED, or erectile dysfunction. L-arginine is high in meats, but also in beans, nuts and seeds.

That’s right, the natural foods version of viagra is right there in a healthy pantry. OK, viagra is an amped up version that works right away, while the one you get from food needs to be a part of your diet daily to make a difference. And why not? The plant foods that contain l-arginine are delicious, and healthy for you in so many ways.You can also buy it in supplement form, if you want to make sure you are taking care of your circulation.

If thinking about sex will get the dudes to eat nutrition all-stars, then so be it, bring on the sexy stuff.

So, for a pre-romance meal, try this sexy salad.

A few handfuls of Arugala provides a peppery, mineral rich base, that has long been considered an aphrodisiac.

Sprinkle on some cooked black beans, rich in l-arginine, which converts to nitric acid, the blood vessel relaxing compound that inspired the invention of Viagra.

Top that with sliced avocado, which replenishes your good fats, potassium and vitamin E that helps produce hormones for keeping things flowing.

A few sliced cherry tomatoes, or “pomme d’amour” as the French used to call it, boost your vitamin c and the lycopene needed for prostate health.

A drizzling of a nut or seed oil amps up the Omega 3 fats for your heart and necessary good circulation, as well as more hormone production.

Top that with a generous sprinkling of sunflower seeds, which pack plenty of zinc that men need for sexual health.

Squeeze a lime over the pile and shower it with minced red chiles, which raise your metabolism and warm your lips in a provocative way.

A sprinkling of coarse salt and some cracked black pepper is all you need.

Save the dessert for after the romance. You’ll have earned a treat.





A One-Size Fits All Resolution

2 01 2012

Chop 'em and boil 'em!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 is just beginning, and the new year is a good time to start a new habit. Call it a New Years resolution if you want, as long as that doesn’t mean you will forget about it by February. I propose that just about everyone out there could live better and feel better if they eat more vegetables. Simple, and genuinely easy, just more veggies, every day.

Of course, eating more veg is going to take a plan. Take a look at your routine, and ask yourself-where can I add veggies? Even the vegetarians and vegans can spend a day eating cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, and if you don’t really pile them up at dinner, your all day total is a few slivers on the sandwich and the cup or so tossed in with the pasta you threw together. I know, I’ve done it myself.

9 servings a day is ideal, which is about 8 ½ cups. You may ask, how will I eat all that? Well, one great benefit of eating more veggies is that you are probably going to lose weight. All that fiber and goodness just fills you up, so you eat so much less of other foods that you can’t help it.

So, here are some ideas for adding significant amounts of veggies to your daily life.

Veggies at breakfast. Instead of the sweet foods we tend to eat, try a savory scramble, loaded up with veggies and tofu. Miso soup is a great Japanese tradition at breakfast-just add more veggies. Or, a smoothie that combines fruit with spinach or other greens will camouflage the veggies in a sweet shake.

Click to go to a Green Smoothie Recipe

Smoothies are Easy

Veggies as snacks. Buy bags of things like baby carrots, or whatever snack veg you like. If you need a little dip or dressing to make them appealing, go ahead. If cooked veggies appeal to you more, blanch a bunch by dropping them in boiling water, then drain and chill to take with all week. I like to eat raw mushrooms, sliced zucchini and other veggies while I cook, with a little salt. Keep some handy. If you are hungry between meals, stay full this way.

Veggies at meals. Plan to have salads and or veggie soups at your meals. Buy the bagged salad, some tomatoes and cukes, or whatever you like on salad, and make a simple dressing for the week. Make the veggie soup recipe below, or your favorite vegetable soup. If you start the meal with salad and soup, you will never make it to dessert.

Juice. If you have a juicer, now is the time to drag it out of wherever you have hidden it, and use that January New Leaf energy to get juicing. I admit, my Champion was in the basement, and I have installed it in the kitchen, cluttered as it feels. I worked up to this by buying wonderful green drinks at my Coop when I shop, and grabbing a fresh juice whenever I could find one. I’m finding that this is also a great way to use up kale stems, celery leaves, and other leafy greens.

Slip Them in. Whenever you are cooking, even putting a sandwich together, always add a vegetable, more than you usually would. Maybe you can keep roasted red peppers in the fridge for sandwiches, or bagged spinach to add to just about anything, from pasta to tofu.

Just do it.

For a super simple veggie soup for the week, bring one of those boxes of veggie stock to a boil in a big pot. Add a couple of chopped carrots, an onion, a couple of ribs of celery. Once the veggies are tender, add a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Bring back to a simmer and add a bunch of chopped kale or other greens, or a couple cups of chopped cabbage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This soup can be reaheated as is, or you can take some out each day and season it differently. Try it curried, with a can of beans, or try it Italian style with lots of fresh herbs and garlic. Puree it for a sauce, or whisk some miso with water and stir it in.

Eat More Veggies, it’s just that simple.

Happy 2012-it’s already starting off a little greener!





Raise a Glass of Bubbly, with Extra Fruit, for New Years!

26 12 2011

Fruit and Bubbly, Meant for Each Other

I think it’s no secret, I love a Nice Glass of Wine. In fact, at one point I noticed that almost all of the photos of me on Facebook depicted me holding a glass, and I promise that it is because the snaps are taken at festive moments, not because I always have a glass of wine in my hand. Honestly.  But this time of year, we all have parties and dinners to attend, and to be honest, alcohol has its downsides. In moderation, it can be a healthy thing, and the current science shows that a little drinking prolongs life. Maybe it’s because we relax and loosen up a little, and bond with the people around us.

It’s that moderation thing that seems to get people in trouble.

So, you have a few options, when it comes to drinking in a healthy way. Because it’s so easy to quaff a tasty drink quickly, I like to make mine weak. A personal favorite is to mix my wines, which are relatively low alcohol to begin with, with fruit. It’s a healthy way to have each glass contain less alcohol, as well as keep you busy eating the wine-soaked fruit. Have a few bites of cracker or some nuts in between, and you will keep the consumption down.

A great side benefit of this kind of mixing is that you can start with a relatively inexpensive wine, too. No need to go to that $50 bottle of champagne when you are making a sparkling cocktail. A $10 bottle of Prosecco will be fine.

A classic combo like the bellini is a common theme at my house. You can make a fruit puree, like the peach puree of the original bellini recipe. It’s easy, and I have made bellinis with everything from rhubarb to mango, whatever is in season. Just peel it and chunk it and put it in a pan with some sweetener, organic sugar is easiest, agave, works, too. Frozen fruit will do in a pinch. Boil and stir until the fruit is soft, then puree. Adjust with a squeeze of lemon or more sweet, if needed, and there you go. I’ve also made purees of raw fruit, when its really good.

Not up for that? Put a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds, raspberries, halved grapes, or sweet pitted fresh cherries in each glass and top with prosecco or cava. Add some juice to make it sweeter and more fruity-Apple cider and minced apples make a great spritzer, topped with sparkling wine. The bonus with small berries and pomegranate seeds is that the bubbles from the sparkling wine make them float up and then drop, making your drink lively and pretty.

For a great red wine version of the same idea, go for sangria, or mulled cider and wine. Sangria is basically red or white wine, with lots of chopped oranges, lemons and whatever else suits your fancy, cut with some ginger ale or club soda. Most recipes call for some liquor, but just leave that out. I know it’s kind of a summer drink, but why not? Add pears and apples for a wintry feel. Mulled cider and wine is perfect for the season, with spices, hot cider and just enough red wine to give it a little character. Leave it on the stove long enough, and the alcohol may well evaporate, anyway!

All of these drinks have official recipes somewhere, just google. Just ignore that part where you are supposed to add some liqueur to the mix. It not only adds alcohol and sugar, but usually tastes unnatural. These fresh drinks taste like wine and real fruit, no fake flavors. Stay away from adding shots of strong spirits, when you make something tasty and fruity, or people may not realize that they are guzzling hard liquor until it is too late.

Of course, you can use sparkling cider or de-alcoholized wines, too. Sober people deserve interesting cocktails, and you may just want to alternate non-alcohlic drnks with your occasional alcoholic one. I like to set this up with some flexibility, It’s easy to have sparkling cider right next too the prosecco, and just have your pitcher of fruit puree to add to the glass.

Bellinis all Around!

 

Bellini for Lightweights

Puree ripe mango, kiwi, or raspberries with sweetener, or cook some frozen fruit with sweetener and puree.

Mix 1/3 of a glass of fruit and 2/3 prosecco or cava. If you are a real lightweight, go for half and half.

Stir carefully, it will foam up and out of the glass. I often find it is best to use a large-bowl glass, like a cabernet glass, so you have room to stir and bubble. You will get more aroma that way, too.

For a crowd, you can also mix it in a pitcher.

Basic Sangria with Variations

If citrus isn’t your thing, try it with Pears and apples floating in the wine, or those expensive imported bing cherries at the market, with cherry juice instead of orange.

Serves about 4

1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja reds, Zinfandel, Shiraz)

2 Oranges, juiced

1 Lemon cut into wedges

1 Orange cut into wedges

2 Tbsp sugar or agave, to taste

2 Cups ginger ale or club soda

Choose your Fruit, Add Red Wine





The Latest Numbers on Meatless Eating-Yes, It Is Growing

12 12 2011

Chopped Salad with Thousand Island, Big Vegan Style

For much of my life, I liked believing that there were lots of vegetarians out there. I wanted to believe that our numbers were swelling exponentially, every day. Even when I was the only vegetarian I knew, I held out hope that if I got in a car and drove far enough, I would get to some veggie nirvana. Back then, we didn’t really have any numbers, and anyone you talked to was stuck with their own experiences. If you worked in a Coop or a vegetarian restaurant, you might think half the world were vegetarians. If you lived in a small town in the Midwest, you might not know a single one.

Well, thanks to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) we have numbers. If you have been feeling like vegans are getting some attention lately, well, their numbers have doubled since 2009. Extrapolating from the results, 7.5 million people call themselves vegans. There are 15 million people who call themselves vegetarians, and still eat dairy and eggs .

In the latest poll, done by Harris Interactive for VRG over the phone, between March 30 and April 3 2011, it becomes clear that even as the numbers for dedicated vegetarians and vegans grow slowly, the numbers for people who eat vegetarian often are growing much more quickly.

These numbers show a real mainstreaming of the idea that you can enjoy meatless meals, even if you love meat. Basically, 17% of Americans don’t eat meat, fish poultry at many meals but less than half, 16% more than half. That adds up to about a third of the American population opting for meatless some of the time.

The number that said that they eat meat at every meal was 48%, which is still a little scary, since that is a lot of animal foods for anyone to consume. I didn’t think anybody was still eating it at every single meal, which shows how much I know.

Other interesting results confirm a few things that you may have suspected. There are more vegetarians out West (think California) than down South (think Texas,) and more women than men are vegetarians, but not by much. A hopeful number is that equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats are veg-heads, possibly the only thing the two parties can share, these days.

So, after all these years in the vegetarian movement, it’s nice to hear that our numbers are growing. Every little bit helps, and we have to give credit to everyone who has done her part to build awareness and make veg look appealing and do-able. From the animal rights activists, to the chefs and authors, to the hot celebrities who endorse a plant-based diet as they look great on the red carpet, everybody has a role to play. Powerful books and films have been getting the word out, and people like Bill Clinton have put a face on the miraculous cure of a good diet. Campaigns like Meatless Mondays have helped put the veggie option in front of millions of people, and many of them are choosing to go that way, at least some of the time.

So, be of good cheer, in this season of giving, since we give the world a present every time we don’t eat meat. Our message is getting out, my friends, and that is something to celebrate.





Recycling the Leftovers, With a Little Spice

27 11 2011

Spike That Relish with Chipotle!

So the big feast is over. Did you knock yourself out, baking for weeks, up before dawn to start cooking? I’ve done that. Or did you sail effortlessly into a family gathering, where all you had to do was bring your wonderful self?  I hope you had a blast, either way. Whether you shared your meals with omnivores or ate with fellow veg-heads, you probably have the universal end result. Leftovers.

So, like millions of other people, you are facing that declining curve of interest in foods that in many cases, you only eat once a year. Stuffing? Mmmm, can’t wait, love it like crazy, but eating it for four days in a row, well, it gets old. I have the added experience of making Thanksgiving dishes for a couple of weeks beforehand for my blog, and preparing them for private clients who love having all the sides ready to re-heat when the big day comes. By the time I get to Thanksgiving, I’m ready to add some spice and interest to the usual flavors.

So, what am I doing about my left-overs? Well, I was lucky and didn’t have many. The one that I really need to repurpose is my cranberry orange relish. You know the one, a pound of cranberries, an orange, zested and pulp removed, and a cup of sugar. You grind that in a blender or food processor and it is a fresh, tart, traditional side.

It’s also something you only need a spoonful or two of on the side of the plate. So what will I do with the remainder?

I decided to go Mexican.

Putting it together

I took my cranberry relish and stirred in some salt and chipotle powder until it was spicy and smoky. I sautéed a couple of onions and a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil, then into the sauté pan I tossed a package of chicken style seitan and seasoned that with ground cumin and salt. I shredded some romaine that I bought for Holiday salad, and got out some leftover cashew cheese. Of course, you could use another dairy or non-dairy cheese, whatever is handy.

Voila, a whole wheat tortilla brings the whole thing together into a hearty burrito.

Thankful for another meal, I will dive in and relish the heck out of my relish.

Chewy, Creamy, Tangy, Hot.





Thanksgiving is Almost Here, Bring a Big Salad!

20 11 2011

The Pepitas and Pomegranates Make it Pop!

The big day is almost here. If you have already been testing and planning, you’ve been sampling some festive fare. If you put the whole thing off for the last minute, well, you still have time. We’ve shared (virtually) some Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Sauce, Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing, and maple-Dijon Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Today, it’s time to talk Turkey.

Homemade Mock Turkey Roast with Stuffing

For those of you who miss the turkey on holidays, or just want a home-style vegan meal anytime, this is a good way to mock up a bird. It’s really not much trouble, now that we can use gluten flour to make mock turkey with no kneading required—and lots of tasty, chewy goodness. Serve it with Basic Mushroom Gravy and all the traditional trimmings.

It’s great fun to share your vegan food with family and friends, so go for it. The salad will certainly win some converts. Enjoy!

Mock Turkey

2          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g minced onion

2          cloves garlic, minced

2          cups/255 g gluten flour

1          cup/115 g chickpea flour

½         cup nutritional yeast

1          tsp salt

6          oz/170 g reduced-fat or regular firm tofu, drained and pressed

1          cup/240 ml vegetable stock

¼         cup/60 ml tamari

½         tsp ground sage

Stuffing

1          cup/55 g cubed bread

1          tsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g chopped onion

¼         cup/60 ml vegetable stock

½         tsp ground sage

½         tsp dried thyme

½         tsp salt

2          tbsp walnuts, chopped

The Mock Turkey in a Wide Loaf Shape

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F/180° C/gas 4. Oil a 3- to 4-cup/720 to 960-ml metal bowl or a small loaf pan. Put a teapot of water on to simmer for the bain marie later.

2. To make the mock turkey: In a small sauté/frying pan, heat the oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until soft and sweet, 5 to 10 minutes. Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until very smooth. Add the stock, tamari, and sageto the tofu and blend. Add the onions and all the oil from the pan and puree. Stir the contents of the blender into the flour mixture until smooth. Scoop about two thirds of the dough into the oiled bowl.

3. To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in a small sauté/frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until soft and clear. Add the bread, stock, sage, thyme, and salt and stir until the bread is soft. Stir in the nuts.

4. Press the stuffing into a ball (or if you are using a loaf pan, into an oblong) and press it into the center of the mock turkey dough, then cover it with the remaining dough. Flatten the top, brush it with oil, and cover with foil. Put the bowl in a baking dish and pour in boiling water to make a bain marie. Carefully transfer it to the oven and bake for 2 hours. When the “turkey” is quite firm, take it out of the water bath, then put the bowl on a rack to cool. Run a paring knife around the edge to loosen it, then invert it onto a cutting board or platter. Slice the “turkey” and serve it with gravy and trimmings.

Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate

From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)

Serves 6
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.

Score the skin in quarters, then break open

1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed

the pith around the arils floats in water....

1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.








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