Macro is Alive and Well at Mana

9 04 2012

Our Meal: L-R Okinomiyaki Pancake, Sauteed Greens with Shiitakes, Kidney Beans, Brown Rice, Sweet Potato Dumplings, Veggie Dumplings

When I started learning about vegetarianism, way back in the 70′s and 80′s, the word on everyone’s lips was “macrobiotics.” While American vegetarians were eating mac and cheese and pizza, followers of Macrobiotics were into something else. If you are not familiar, Macro is a way of eating that is all about balancing the energy in the food, and balancing your body and mind in the process. It’s based on Japanese ways of thinking about food and the Universe, and the food reflects a deeper Asian aesthetic, as well.

In a macro way of looking at healthy eating, food is analyzed as to its yin and yang qualities. Yang foods are heavy and dense, and bring heat to the body. Meat and dairy are very yang. Yin foods are light, diffuse, and cold. Sugar is very yin. All foods have some balance of yin and yang within them, but generally, whole grains are the most balanced, and therefore balancing, foods. Macrobiotics eat 60% whole grains, 20-30% vegetables, and 5-10-% beans and soy, and sea vegetables, fruits and moderate amounts of fat. Small amounts of fish might be consumed. Foods like miso soup, seaweed, sesame and kanten are important. Eating local, low on the food chain, and organic, with no processed or refined foods is a core principle. A seasonal emphasis also promotes balance, with heavier roots and beans in winter and more leafy, light foods in summer. Certain foods, like nightshades eggplant, tomato and pepper and tropical fruits are not recommended.

Of course, that is just a quick summary, but you get the gist of it. Macrobiotics is very plant-based.

Somewhere along the line, Macro just kind of took a back seat to vegan, in recent years, even though the two have much in common.

I was excited to get a chance to go to a macrobiotic restaurant in New York City, accompanied by vegan blogger Sharon Nazarian (her blog here) and vegan pastry expert, Fran Costigan (her website, here). The restaurant, called Mana Organic Cafe, is run by owner Sung Lee, who graciously introduced herself to us, probably because we were photographing our food. It was a treat to share a spread of modern macrobiotic, vegan food.

Of course, when I saw dumplings on the menu, I had to have them. We shared two kinds, one filled with curried sweet potato and one with chopped vegetables. With dipping sauces, they were wonderfully comforting and fun to eat. I also ordered the Okinomiyaki pancake, in part because I created a recipe for one in my book, Big Vegan, and wanted to see how they did theirs. It was a lovely, dense cake, made up of sauteed cabbage and vegetables and mashed tofu, topped with a sweet tomato sauce and some salad greens. On the menu it was billed as macrobiotic “pizza.”


Sauteed Bok Choy, Broccoli, Kale and Shiitakes

I love it when I can get beans, greens and rice in a restaurant, and it was great fun to share a meal with some vegan ladies. It would have been fun to try some nori rolls, soups, and other entrees, which all looked delicious, as we watched them being delivered to other tables. A specialty of the house is the Mana bowl, a big steaming bowl of broth, noodles and vegetables that smelled divine.

Vegans and vegetarians would do well to take a walk on the macrobiotic side, and get into the centering, nourishing foods at the core of the macro way. It can be fun to eat a vegan version of the Western diet, but if you are eating alot of refined food and forgetting your grains and beans, it’s time to start balancing the yin and yang on your plate.

You’ll feel better for it!

Mana, 646 Amsterdam Ave. (212)787-1110

Mana Restaurant’s Menu

Ask For the Vegan Menu at Amazing Thailand

20 02 2012

Soft Springrolls, Sweet Peanut Sauce

I love teaching cooking classes, for many reasons. One of the fun things is that the students often clue me in on restaurants that offer alternative menus. Since I do so much cooking at home, I am usually way behind the curve when it comes to restaurants, so it’s a huge help. This strange phenomenon of the secret special menu is really quite baffling; it’s as if restaurants don’t want the general public to think they are into vegans or something, or that they make weird gluten free food, so they keep it on the need-to-know basis. When I teach gluten-free, I always learn about some new places that are hiding a whole gluten-free menu behind the counter, that my hungry attendees have ferreted out and shared through the grapevine. This happened recently at a vegan class, when I heard a rumor that one of the better-reviewed Thai restaurants in Minneapolis had an actual Vegan Menu.

The restaurant, located in Uptown across from Calhoun Square, is called Amazing Thailand. It’s a nice place, with dark wood booths and interesting Thai wall decor. And a special, printed, laminated vegan menu, available on request. Awesome. And, in fairness, the vegan menu is on the website, if you can get it to open. But you don’t get it at the restaurant unless you ask.

They say that once you see something three times, it’s a trend, so I am calling it a trend. I dined in Bend Oregon in a Thai restaurant that had a vegan menu, and some years before, sampled vegan options on a menu in Eugene. Veganizing Thai food is not hard, really, so it makes sense. Vegans are already into eating tofu, mock duck, and all the peanuts you can sprinkle on top. Leaving out the fish sauce and eggs still leaves you with loads of flavor and texture.

So, just grab a Thai cookbook and take a look. If there is fish sauce, use soy sauce. Sugar? Vegan sugar or agave. Curry or shrimp pastes? Well, there are vegan curry pastes, Thai Kitchen is one that has no secret fishy ingredients. Shrimp pastes are basically used for their umami, and add salt, and often a dose of chiles. Try a dab of really dark miso instead, and adjust the heat. Eggs? Just whisk up some arrowroot and water to bind things like Pad Thai and thicken the sauce. Then, rely on the flavors of lime, chile, tamarind, palm sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk for a mouthful of Thai goodness. And don’t forget the peanuts.

Spicy Noodles, YUM

At Amazing Thailand, I had the vegetable springrolls, which were pretty much the usual thing. Rice noodles, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, in rice wraps with a sweet peanut sauce. I love those. It would be nice if they offered to throw some tofu in, but why quibble. Then I ordered “Spicy Noodles” with mock duck. The description just listed the veggies in it, so it was kind of a mystery. As you can see in the photo above, the noodles, which look like tubular pasta, were a stretchy rice sheet that had been rolled up and sliced in wide pieces, some of which unrolled, most did not. They were deliriously tender and elastic, and coated in a tangy, spicy sauce. Cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, onions and chiles were swimming alongside the mock duck, which seemed to have been coated with a blend of exotic spice, almost like five-spice. I got medium, which was pleasantly sinus-clearing hot.

The Vegan menu also offers a papaya salad, which can be vegan in Thai style, but my companion got Lao style which is only different in that it has fish sauce. Here is a picture of that. All accounts were that it was delicious.

Tangy-Hot Papaya Salad

It’s interesting that with an under-served vegan market out there, hungry for dinner, so few restaurants are interested in selling them food. Take a trip to Either coast, and there will be actual all-vegan restaurants, as well as plentiful vegan options in other, good restaurants. Here in Minneapolis, we have only one totally vegan restaurant, Ecopolitan, which is also a raw restaurant.

It’s fine by me that places cater to both vegan and omnivorous customers. I get it that they are trying to keep everybody in the party happy, and stay in business. Still, vegans are out there. It’s not that hard to figure out how to make some really good vegan food, and print a menu. Praise to the enterprising restaurateurs who are making things just a little differently so that vegans can enjoy their cuisine.

Now if I only had more time to go out to eat, I could find all the secret menus.

Fudge-Filled Chocolate Heart Cakes for Valentine’s Day

5 02 2012

Mmm, So Decadent....

This weekend, while everybody else is making Superbowl food, I am looking ahead to the next big food event. Valentine’s Day. It’s been a while since I made a new romantic chocolate treat, and it’s time. I’ve been slacking off, resorting to boxed chocolates or candy for a couple of years.

It has been, and continues to be a good excuse to go out to eat. But this year, I may save room for my own dessert, waiting at home.

Valentine’s is a chocolate holiday. Champagne is good, too, but I’m sure that just about everyone in a relationship will be sharing something chocolate  on the big day. If you haven’t heard, chocolate is the healthy food that tickles the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, supposedly giving you a high in the same way that marijuana does. They also say it creates some chemistry that is similar to falling in love. It’s also full of antioxidants and heart-healthy phytochemicals, so we can feel good about eating some on a special occasion.

For this tasty cake, I wanted to try out my latest fun food, chia seeds. I have been remiss in not trying them in baking sooner, and have been playing with them for a while. Like ground flax, they have a magical ability to replace eggs. Just grind them in a spice or coffee grinder, then mix with water. Then, the rest of the time, add them to smoothies, hot cereal, and puddings. If you don’t have chia, just use flax.

Fudge Filled Chocolate Hearts

I have heart shaped ramekins that hold a little more than a large muffin cup, so you could make 6 cupcakes with this recipe. I made five cakes. Depending on how much time you have, you can either eat them warm, right out of the oven, and they will be like molten chocolate cakes, or you can chill them , trim them, and coat them with ganache or glaze for a showy presentation. If you want to use edible red flowers, like nasturtiums, or raspberries or strawberries, put them on the ganache while still fluid.


1/2 box mori-nu firm silken tofu (6 ounces)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup1 tablespoon arrowroot

vegan chocolate chips, melted


1 tablespoon chia seeds, ground

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup extra dark cocoa (you can use regular cocoa, too)

1 pinch salt 1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

oil for ramekins


1 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

5 tablespoons non-dairy milk

1/2 cup vegan powdered sugar

milk, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Make the filling. In a food processor, puree the tofu until smooth, scraping down repeatedly. Once it is pureed, add the rice syrup, vanilla and starch and process until well mixed, scraping down a few times. Melt the chocolate, and add it quickly to the puree, then process to incorporate smoothly. Transfer to a piping bag of a large zip-top bag. Reserve.

2.  In a cup, stir the ground chia with the first measure of non-dairy milk, then let stand. It will thicken. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda. Whisk to mix. In a medium bowl , mix the oil, maple, vanilla, vinegar, and remaining non-dairy milk. Stir the chia mixture into that and then add it all to the dry mixture. Stir until well-mixed but don’t over-stir.

3. Use a heaping 1/4 cup of batter in each ramekin, and use your wet finger to push it out to the edges. Then, cut the corner off of the plastic bag of filling, and stick the tip into the center of the ramekin, pushing it almost to the bottom. Squeeze the bag to pipe the filling into the center of the batter. Do this with each cake, there will be plenty of filling, and you can pipe more in if there is some left over.

Piping in the Fudgy Filling

4. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the cake and filling puff up, and a toothpick inserted in the cake part comes out dry. Cool on racks. If you want to eat them now, just dust with powdered sugar and dive in.

5. For ganache, melt chocoalte and non-dairy milk together, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly as you flip the cakes out of their ramekins and trim the cake flush with the filling with a serrated knife. Place upside down on serving plates and coat with ganache. Mix powdered sugar with enough non-dairy milk to make a drizzle, then decorate the cakes on the plates.

Warm Out of the Oven, MMMM

Heart Full of Fudge

Milk-Free Milks Make Their Move (and Scary Video Follows)

30 01 2012

Bump the Bottle





Have you ever bought soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk? How about quinoa milk, lupine milk, or pea milk? Well, if you are buying non-dairy milks in the US, you are part of a growing group. Industry group Packaged Facts estimates that total U.S. retail sales of dairy alternative beverages reached $1.33 billion in 2011.The rise is due to many things, such as food allergies, lactose intolerance, avoiding BGH/BST, and vegan diets. But the one factor that seems to have fueled the bump was the move of the milks into the dairy case.

For many years, the non-dairy alternatives were in aseptic boxes, and in conventional stores, they are stashed in a tiny health food section, next to gluten free cookies and canned carrot juice. (Does anyone drink that canned juice? Ick.)Now that Silk and So Delicious broke the cold case barrier, suddenly more people are opting for non-dairy half gallons. Soymilk is still number one, but barely. Almond milk has suddenly taken a big 79%  jump in sales this year, and that is wonderful. 11% of adults consume soy milk, while 9% enjoy almond. Rice is number three.

Oh, and the lupine, quinoa and pea milks? They are all milks made and sold in other countries, but who knows, we may be seeing them soon enough. Pea protein powders have made an appearance, and I’ve read that lupine (a high protein bean related to the flowers in my front yard) is a great source of inexpensive nourishment in other parts of the world.

I know that in my experience, the last few years have seen great improvements in taste and variety. I’ve also been thrilled that fortification has become almost standard in the non-dairy milk category. It just makes so much sense to add some calcium, B12 and other nutrients that vegans need. It makes it really easy to go dairy and egg free and not have to think about how much B12 you are getting, as long as you put the fortified milks over cereal, into sauces, or in coffee or tea.

For flavor, I go back and forth between Almond and  So Delicious Coconut milk. Coconut is the best tasting, to my palate, because its made from a sweet nut. It’s fortified with B12, so a cup has half your daily requirement, and it has some D, and trace minerals. It is low in protein, so don’t look for it to replace the protein of milk.

Next tastiest is Almond milk. All brands are a little different. Basically, since its made from almonds it contains the same good fats, and its lower in fat and calories than lots of other milks. Look on the label to see if your brand is fortified with B12.

Of course, soy milk has been my go-to for decades, and it’s still the highest in protein. I buy vanilla enriched, which is high in protein and has added B12, calcium and other nutrients to make it comparable to cow’s milk. The vanilla is pretty sweet, which covers up the soy taste, and kids love it.

Hemp milk is very good for you, one cup has all the Omega 3 fats you need for the day. I have used it in baking, but the taste, so far, is a little strong for me to mix into my latte.

Rice milks are popular for people with food allergies, with their neutral taste and benign rice source. I find them a little thin, and they are not particularly nutritious, not a lot of protein.

Oat milk is higher in fiber than rice milk, and has a nice neutral taste. Again, since its made from grain, its not very high in protein.

The sales of non-dairy milks have not gone unnoticed by the Dairy Industry. If you want to see a silly, somewhat desperate attempt to make non-dairy milks look bad, click on the link below. The Got Milk folks think they can convince you that shaking a carton of almond milk a couple of times will traumatize your children.


How To Be Conscious, Gluten-Free, and Thrive

30 04 2011

Scrambled Tofu, Corn and Collards

I’ve always had a soft spot for whole foods cooking. Not the packaged, half white, trying to be conventional food kind of whole foods, but the old school way. The kind of cooking that involves a pot of whole grains and a pile of chopped veggies, and maybe some tofu, or beans that you actually soaked and cooked yourself.

I recently connected with a kindred spirit, Leslie Cerier, the author of Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, A Seasonal Vegetarian Cookbook (New Harbinger Publications, $17.95.) Cerier has the crazy idea that basing a gluten free diet on whole grains can be really diverse and good for you, and good for the planet.

Says Cerier: “Eat as much local, seasonal and organic food as possible, and cook for health, vitality and pleasure.”

Cerier has packed the book with plenty of gluten free recipes, as well as recipe templates that allow you to improvise with what’s in season. Both celebrate whole grains that don’t contain gluten. “Four of the gluten free grains, quinoa, teff, amaranth and oats are complete proteins and very quick-cooking. They make a great meal, and you can mix and match, and try different methods of cooking them, for infinite variety.”

To show you how, she has cooking charts and measures for cooking grains, and several recipe templates, and suggestions for varying and subsituting. “If you take a creative approach to what’s in season you can have great variety. If you are cooking like an artist, and your plate is really colorful, you have great nutrition on the plate. A meal of brown rice, tofu, and cauliflower is not as exciting as a plate of black rice with red lentil curry, which is full of antioxidants.”

Cerier prefers to teach people in her classes and books, to make foods their own. “It’s really fun when people who take my classes come back and say they used my recipe as a jumping off point. Then I know I have done my job.”

Don’t expect recipes for breads just like the wheat flour ones you grew up with. “Alot of gluten free books use xanthan gum and potato starch and make refined products that are gluten free. These are foods that I eat for energy and vitality. They are nutrient dense.”

Using all real food, Cerier gives you tasty recipes for breakfasts, mains, sides, sauces and dressings, and desserts. If you have ever wanted a good recipe to try teff, definitely check out this book, even if you are not gluten-free. In fact, Cerier has no gluten intolerances herself.

“I eat gluten free because it expands my choices, and the nutrients are just off the charts. I’m a whole food vegetarian, so I’m not looking for ways to make gluten free hot dog buns or pizza, because I don’t eat those things.”

So if you love whole foods and eating seasonally, this is a good book for you, and if you need to avoid gluten, give these whole foods vegetarian recipes a try. You can shrink your carbon footprint and reap the benefits of ancient grains. You will feel so much better when you eat real food!

Veggies sizzling in the pan

Scrambled Tofu with Sweet Corn and Collard Greens

I admit that I was drawn to this dish by a rush of nostalgia for the many tofu scrambles I have prepared and eaten in now-defunct vegetarian restaurants. That and my obsession with eating leafy greens. Turmeric is a brilliant anti-inflammatory, and nutritional yeast is loaded with B12 that vegetarians may need.

Serves 3 or 4

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped collard greens

1 cup green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 cup coarsely chopped scallions

2/3 cups fresh corn kernels, steamed

1 teaspoon turmeric

14-16 ounces soft tofu, 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon tamari

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the collard greens, green beans, scallions, corn and turmeric and stir. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until the veggies brighten in color and become fragrant. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes, until the tofu takes on the golden hue of the turmeric. Stir in the cliantro and cook for a minute more. Take off the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and tamari. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. (Variations below)

Stirring in the Tofu


Substitute other greens, like spinach, tatsoi, chard or even broccoli, whatever is freshest and most vibrant.

Substitute mushrooms, summer squash, zucchini, or asparagus for the greens and green beans.

To take the flavor in a different direction, add a few cloves of chopped garlic when you saute the vegetables, and substitute basil for cilantro.

Cerier has a website, where you can see what she is up to:

Here is a gluten free vegetarian recipe for amaranth (not by Cerier):

Amaranth and Roast Veggie Salad

Kansha, More Than A Cookbook

19 10 2010


I made the Eggplant Sushi

A cookbook is, by definition, a collection of recipes. What makes each collection unique is the overall philosophy and organizing principle that shaped the group of recipes within. There are healthy cookbooks, decadent cookbooks, and cookbooks for just about every approach to food.

It’s rare, though, to see a cookbook that expresses a deeper philosophy, and then really  brings it to life in every step, every dish, and every photo.

Such a book is hitting stores soon, Kansha, Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions by Elizabeth Andoh (Ten Speed Press $35). Kansha is the Japanese word for an approach to food that wastes nothing, using every edible part to prepare nutritious, beautiful meals, while preserving energy and resources. It also is vegetarian. It’s also true to its Buddhist roots, by presenting the cooking process as a meditation on your gratitude for the food and the work of everyone who brought it to you.

A short word, but a big thought.

And a big, beautiful book, with mindfulness in every recipe.

Full disclosure, I am proud to count Elizabeth Andoh among my friends in the world of food, and to have discussed Kansha with her back when she was in the process planning and developing. At the time, she was making decisions about how to translate traditions from Japan to the American vegetarian.

She succeeded, and in doing so, has created a new classic, and a book that will be essential to any Vegetarian or non-veg who wants a taste of Temple cookery. In the history of meatless cuisine, the Buddhists of Japan have a pivotal role, practicing a meatless lifestyle since the 6th century. Shojin Ryori, which translates as “earnest effort” is a style of cooking that relies on simple, pure ingredients prepared in often laborious ways. Andoh has adapted recipes that will work in the home kitchen, to give you a feel for the real thing.

Kansha also contains Andoh’s takes on macrobiotic fare, which is an eating style inspired by Japanese ideas. She adds some truly traditional dishes that are easily made vegan, and then creates some recipes that bring the Kansha ethos to simple, modern dishes that cooks may find exciting and maybe even familiar.

Andoh’s previous book, Washoku, Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed Press $40) was also a lesson in a Japanese way of thinking. Washoku brought Japanese ideas about balancing color on the plate to balance both nutrition and aesthetics to the American audience. The idea of balance bubbles through both works.

Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

Andoh is a much respected teacher, and takes the time to describe every step of the process, whether it is washing rice or forming a dumpling. Implicit in all these loving descriptions is the Kansha aesthetic, as you are guided to make an earnest effort, pay attention, and do it right.

Depending on your pantry, you may need to make a trip to a Japanese foods store to make many of these recipes. Luckily, once you stock up on dried kampyo (gourd strips) misos, sea vegetables, Japanese rice, and some seasonal veggies, you should be good to go.

In cooking from Kansha, I was impressed by how timeless the message of frugal, environmentally sound kitchen practices is. The recipes are so mindfully presented that you can’t help but absorb Kansha like a delicious marinade. Sure, I followed a recipe to make a tasty eggplant sushi, and along the way, I thought about the rice, the eggplant that I bought from a farmer that morning, and about using the skin of the eggplant as a kind of mock-eel. I already compost my trims, but Kansha takes it to another level, suggesting that you make crisps from your veggie skins, and finding ingenious ways to serve every little bit.

In a generous gesture, Andoh is also hosting a website for the book, where she will post lessons and share her vast knowledge with us on the web. go to for a taste of that.
And Thanks to Elizabeth Andoh, for creating an entry into this peaceful world.

Shirataki Noodles

Bill Clinton Sets a Good Example!

4 10 2010

We all remember his love of burgers and fries!

Some of us remember a time, a few years back, when Bill Clinton was not the best role model. In fact, wives around the world were probably holding his behavior up to their husbands as an example of how NOT to behave.

Well, that time is passed, and Slick Willy is now a global problem solver, peacemaker, and father of a new bride. His daughter Chelsea’s marriage is credited as the impetus for his latest change. Yes, the age-old desire to see one’s grandkids has motivated the former President to go vegan.

This is no fad diet that Clinton has adopted. After his much publicized heart troubles, he made the small, comfortable changes that post-heart attack Americans do. Less red meat, a few more chicken breasts. But it didn’t take long for his stents to clog, requiring another medical intervention. Clinton faced some hard choices.

“After I had this stent put in, the truth is that it clogged up. The cholesterol was still building up,” He said in a CNN interview. “I had read that 82% of people who went on a plant based diet have begun to heal themselves, and their arterial blockages cleared up. We now have 25 years of evidence”

Clinton was inspired by the work of Caldwell Esselstein and Dean Ornish, as well as The China Study.

He now lives on a diet of beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables. He starts every day with an almond milk, fruit and protein powder shake. He has lost 24 pounds.

I’m sure that Mr Clinton has lots of resources for finding great ways to eat vegan, not the least of which is the means to hire a private chef. Some talented person could make sure that the president has a varied and exciting diet to keep him both healthy and interested.

Let me say, if Mr Clinton is reading this, I would love to show him just how delicious a healthy, artery-healing lifestyle can be. Even with the strict Ornish-style plan he is probably following, which is pretty low-fat as well as vegan, he can have some crazy good meals.

So Bill, if you are out there, don’t get in a rut. That almond milk smoothie may seem like the greatest thing, right now, but you need to shake it up. You used to love yourself some junk food, so we know you like to eat. The best healthy diet has to be tasty and varied, or you might find that even thinking about the Grandkids will not keep you from pulling that motorcade over for a double cheeseburger.

I wish Mr Clinton all the luck in the world, and I truly hope that he will influence a few more people to cut out some animal foods. That is a great example to set.

Tempeh and Wilted Frisee Salad with Rosemary and Capers

Tempeh is a chewier, more nutritious soy food than tofu, and I find that many meat lovers enjoy the texture. Sauteing the tempeh in heart-healthy olive oil gives it some moistness and crispy edges, and then it all gets a zing of piquancy from vinegar, capers, and slightly bitter Frisee. Serve a quinoa pilaf with lots of caramelized onions alongside for a high-protein meal.

Serves 2
4 ounces tempeh, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 large shallots,thinly sliced
1/4      teaspoon  salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
5 ounces  frisee lettuce, 4 cups
2 large roma tomato,sliced in spears
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Prepare a pot with a steamer for the tempeh, a folding steamer is fine. Put the tempeh and rosemary into the steamer. Bring to a boil and cover, steam for five minutes. Take out to cool.

In a large pot, mix the oil, vinegar, garlic, shallots, salt and pepper. Place over medium high heat, and add the tempeh. Stir constantly and stir fry until the tempeh is browned. Toss in the
frisee, tomato and capers. Take off the heat and turn the endive in the pan until the endive is slightly wilted. Serve immediately.

Too Much Meat Puts Girls at Risk

13 06 2010

Too many burgers put girls at risk

In the last century, girls have undergone a curious change. The age at which they grow breasts and begin menstruating has dropped. 40 years ago, girls grew breasts 2 years later, and got their periods several months later. This might not seem like much, but the earlier that these events occur, the higher a woman’s risk of developing cancer in her lifetime.

This trend has been studied and noted for many years, notably in the Falling Age of Puberty… Study by the Breast Cancer Fund (click below)

The China Study and many others have noted the trend, and it is generally assigned to a number of factors. A rich diet, obesity, and hormones from meats and plastics have often been pointed to as causes.

A recent study singles out one factor as the cause- too much meat.

The research, led by Dr Imogen Rogers from the University of Brighton, involved a study of 3,000 girls taking part in the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s study.

The doctors looked at the girls’ dietary intake at the ages of three and seven years and how likely they were to have started their periods by the time they attended a research clinic aged around 12½ years.

They found that girls who had a higher intake of meat and protein at three and seven were more likely to have started their periods by 12½ years old than girls who ate less meat and protein.

Their report found 49 per cent of girls eating more than 12 portions of meat a week at the age of seven had started their periods by age 12 ½, compared to only 35 per cent of those who ate less than four portions of meat a week.

The experts are careful to emphasize that this in no way means that girls should become vegetarian. They can’t say that. So, if you are someone who just has to feed your family meat, cut back. Way back. Children are perfectly healthy on a balanced vegetarian diet, I promise you. The myth that more meat builds stronger kids is leading to such over-consumption that children are suffering for it later.

Feeding children a healthy diet can be challenging, but it’s worth doing. They need to be eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, anyway, so less meat just makes more room for those. Just don’t announce it and make it tasty.

For a previous post on the benefits of soy foods for girls, and a recipe for delicious chocolate pudding, click the link below.

Or try this simple vegan burrito recipe on foodista!

Vegan Veggie Burritos

Don’t Blame the Bean for the Burger!

27 04 2010
Just a little sprout, nothing to fear

Don't fear the bean

Oh, the terrible things we do to food. It just makes you want to shadow the stuff from seed to plate, if you only had the time. Thankfully, we have the good people at Cornucopia Institute to do some of the heavy lifting on this one.

Recent articles, notably in Mother Jones, based on the study by the Cornucopia Institute)( have blown the lid off of the soyburger industry and its dirty little secret. As people have been pushed to try soy based burgers as a healthy alternative, the industry that makes them has been using hexane and often acetone in their processing. This process leaves measurable residues of these neurotoxic chemicals in the burgers, despite the manufacturers theories that they must just evaporate in cooking. Unless your soyfood is labeled as organic, not “contains organic ingredients” or “made with organic soybeans” it may well be part of this hexane tinged group. In fact, the Cornucopia study reports soy protein bars, powders, and infant formulas have been found to have 10 times the acceptable limits.


Hexane is listed as a “hazardous air pollutant” by the EPA, and at this time, 70% of the hexane emissions in the country are from the soy and grain processors-not the gasoline manufacturers. Hexane converts to ozone and is a danger to the people who have to work and live around it. This fact alone is a good reason to stop supporting its use by buying these products.

Why on earth would a healthy, natural food need to have a neurotoxin hidden in the mix? It’s all about getting the fat out. Our freakout about fat motivates the market, as your typical healthy shopper wants a nice, low fat content on the label. The soybeans are processed in a hexane bath, which strips the oil out of them like a good solvent should. The remaining denuded protein is then processed further to make the fat free soy powders and chunks that consumers think will keep them slim.

Is this shocking news? I know it dates me, but back in the 80′s I lived in soybean land (Central Illinois) and everybody in my healthy food world knew that the burgers and powders were made with solvents. The soy juggernaut was all about making cheap soy oil, and once the oil was out, the manufacturers had lots of fibers and protein left over. The earliest burgers were widely shunned in the whole foods world because they were known to be solvent extracted and crazy over-processed. We had groovy tofu burgers we made by hand, and okara burgers made from the stuff leftover from making soymilk.

Unfortunately, the things people do to soy, and the sick foods that they produce, just pile on the bad news for soy. The innocent bean, rich in protein and oil, packed with beneficial plant chemicals, gets a bad rap because manufacturers make bad decisions. And then they keep it secret, so nobody feels very trusting.

The side issue in the Cornucopia report is the sneaky way that manufacturers sidestep organic rules, and buy suspicious soybeans from China that are probably not organic. Lots of familiar brands are participating in practices that organic consumers would find appalling, and the PDF link above will take you to that eye-opening list.

Just as before, whole soy is good, tofu, tempeh, edamame, soymilk, miso, etc are really healthy, safe, and natural. “Natural” products like Clif bars and Amy’s soy burgers are not-but they shamelessly market themselves as such.

The mantra is the same-eat real food, not messed with, and keep it low on the food chain. Don’t immerse your food in paint thinner to strip out the oils. A little water will do a much better job in the kitchen.

Burgers that use Hexane:

Amy’s Kitchen

Boca Burger, conventional

Franklin Farms

Garden Burger

It’s All Good Lightlife

Morningstar Farms

President’s Choice

Taste Above

Trader Joe’s

Yves Veggie Cuisine

Hexane-free products:

Boca Burgers “Made with organic soy”

Helen’s Kitchen

Morningstar “Made with organic”

Superburgers by Turtle Island



Or, try this very simple, easy-looking recipe at Foodista!

Oat Burgers

The Power of Suggestion-Another Reason to Keep Secrets

13 04 2010

MMMM, let's bake up some sawdust bars!

Does your mind play tricks on you, when it comes to food? Oh, believe me, as much as we all like to think we are objectively assessing our food choices, we are actually easily led. Take the latest study on the ease with which a simple word can change how you feel- physically- after eating.

The study, done at the University of Chicago and published in the Journal of Consumer Research, posed the question-will telling people that something is healthy, versus telling them it is tasty, have a different outcome on how full they feel after eating?

Are you kidding? Have you ever served someone food and called it healthy?

In the first experiment, researchers asked 51 college students to sample a chocolate-raspberry protein bar. Students were either told they were sampling “a new health bar,” containing lots of protein, vitamins and fiber, or a “chocolate bar that is very tasty and yummy with a chocolate-raspberry core.”

Later, when asked to rate their hunger, those who ate the “health” bar rated themselves as hungrier than those who ate the identical bar described as “tasty,” according to the study.

But here is where it gets weird.

A third group of students was asked to examine the bars and rate their hunger but they did not eat either bar. Their hunger levels were about the same as students who ate the bar described as “yummy” — meaning that eating the “healthy” food actually made them feel hungrier than if they hadn’t eaten a bar at all, the researchers said.

So, eating something healthy actually made people hungrier than eating nothing. Even after examining what must have been a verrry appealing bar.

This research is very similar to the work done by Dr Brian Wansink, of Cornell University. In his book, Mindless Eating, he described many such studies, all of which showed time and again just how subjective our perceptions of fullness and taste are. One of my favorites was the one where they told half the group that a bar had soy in it, and half that it was a new energy bar. Every person who thought it had soy thought it was gritty and funny tasting. The others thought it was tasty. The bar had no soy protein.

I tell this story often when I am teaching about healthy cooking. Cooking delicious, health promoting fare is a great gift. It’s also best not discussed. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Putting a basket filled with steaming warm buns on the counter with a stick of butter next to it is a great way to lure a kid to eat some whole grains. Just don’t say anything about it.

Seriously, I cook all kinds of food including healthy and vegan, and when I see those labels, even I wonder if it will taste crummy. Unfortunately, in my case, it comes from experiences eating sawdust-y vegan muffins and shudderingly tasteless fat free dishes. The best vegetarian, vegan, whole grain or even gluten free foods are the ones that can stand on their own. I know we have to label them so that the people who want them will know what they are.

But I wish we could just leave it to the tastebuds. Then the person who takes a bite of food can just experience it, free from labels and preconceptions. Maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself liking and being satisfied by something that is


Good for you.


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