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.”

Okinomiyaki

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





The New Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook

19 03 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza in a Cast Iron Pan

I’ve been singing the praises of cast-iron cookery for years. It’s always been an affordable, natural option for cooking with whole foods. I’ve also blogged about the way it puts iron in the food, and how great that is for vegetarians. It’s a great way to cook with a non-stick pan that doesn’t include chemicals that enter the food and the air and lodge in your body forever. That is one of my more frequently read articles on this blog, so feel free to check it out with the link below.

Link to Article and Recipe for Black Bean Soup

Well, thanks to my involvement with cast iron and the Lodge cast iron company, I was invited to join the amazing group of cooks, authors and chefs who have recipes in the new Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes (Oxmoor House). It’s by no means a vegetarian book, but the recipes that I contributed are. My all-veggie chili is vegan, and the roasted cauliflower pizza has cheeses on it, which vegans can replace with crumbled tofu or vegan cheeses. There are other meatless offerings, as well, and a whole chapter on variations on cornbreads. I love baking pizza, cornbread, and other things I want to be crusty in my cast iron skillet.

The Lodge Cast Iron Collection!

Click Here to Buy The Cookbook

Lodge is a family owned company, that has been manufacturing cast iron in the USA for over a hundred years. The pans are so durable that there are hundred year old pans still in use. A while back I taught a cast iron cooking class, featuring all Lodge cookware. As I expected, there were many questions about how to wash, season, and otherwise care for cast iron pans. Luckily, I have made lots of mistakes with mine, and have been able to recover every time. So, for the people who are afraid that they don’t know how to keep their cast iron in good shape, here is what I have learned.

1. Buy pre-seasoned. It’s a relatively new thing, back in the day you had to buy bare cast iron and slowly build a good coat of seasoning. You will still keep adding, but pre-seasoning make it much easier. Lodge assures me that the process that they use is completely vegan and kosher. Seasoning, for the unitiated, is the process by which the iron, which has a microscopically porous texture, is heated while it is in contact with oil. Each time the pores open and suck in a little oil, which bonds to the surface. The oil changes, too, getting dry and firm, and becomes like a non-stick coating.

Don’t make the mistake I have, of thinking that leaving a thick coat of oil on the pan is going to help. It will dry to a goopy, sticky layer that will smell rancid, because it is. Just rub on oil, and rub it off with paper towels, leaving it shiny. If you get the gunky layer, you will have to remove it (see below)

2. Never scrub. This whole seasoning thing is a big part of the function of the pan. Lodge sells a special bristle brush, that you can use to gently remove any stuck on bits of food. You can rinse, but don’t use soap. Other methods include just dumping salt in the pan and rubbing it out with towels, with no water at all.

3. Never gouge. Once you have this delicate layer of oil forming a seasoning layer on the pan, you don’t want to start scraping around in there with knives, metal tools, and the like. Of course, when you make cornbread or pizza in there, you will want to. You may just want to devote that pan to that purpose, but you will eventually need to fix it.

3. Go ahead and fix it when you do all of the above. If you mess up in any way, whether its by leaving the pan out on the barbecue in the rain, or over oiling, or scrubbing, or using tools that gouge, you can always reclaim the pan. It helps to have access to some tools. A funky, rusty pan can always be reclaimed, with some TLC. My Mother-In-Law used to cook in her cast iron until it was encrusted in stuff, and then every few years her son would take it to the shop and sandblast it back to new.  Lodge recommends that if you see a spot of rust, try just rubbing oil on it. If that doesn’t work, you can go ahead and scour it with a steel scrubbie or fine sandpaper. Other people have used a rotating wire brush that you can attach to a drill. The idea here is to get any excess, chipped looking black buildup or rust off the pan and start with a smooth surface when you re-season. Don’t go any deeper than you have to. Once you have bare metal you need to get oil on it IMMEDIATELY. Bare metal will re-rust just by being exposed to air.

4. Re-season. Once you have scrubbed or sanded, rub the surface with some high heat oil, preferably solid shortening. There is an organic one that I keep around just for this. Turn the oven to 350 F, put a sheet pan lined with foil on the bottom rack, and put the pan upside down on the rack above it. Bake for at least an hour.

Cast Iron Cauliflower Pizza

Don’t ignore cauliflower as a tasty pizza topping. Here, while you prep the crust, you can roast the veggies to sweet tenderness and then use them on the pie.

Serves 6

1 1/2           cups  white whole wheat flour

1           teaspoon  quick rise yeast

1/4      teaspoon  salt

1           teaspoon  honey

3/4           cup  warm water

2        tablespoons  extra virgin olive oi, divided

8             ounces  cauliflower florets,  3 1/2 cup

1/2           cup  onion

1/2         small  red bell pepper, chopped

2             cloves  garlic, sliced

3             ounces  feta cheese, crumbled (Or equivalent firm tofu crumbled, with a dash of rice vinegar and pinch of salt)

2             ounces  Asiago Cheese, shredded (Or equivalent Daiya shreds or cashew cheese)

1/2           cup  chopped parsley or basil

canola oil and sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 F. Make the dough, in a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Stir the warm water and 1 Tbs olive oil in and knead to make a soft, barely sticky dough. Add a little more flour if needed. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise while you prep the veggies.

In a large roasting pan, toss the cauliflower, onion, bell pepper, garlic and remaining olive oil.Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. The cauliflower should be soft and golden browned in spots. Let the veggies cool slightly. Oil a 12 inch cast iron skillet and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Punch down dough, then shape into a large round. Press into the cast iron pan and press it up the sides about an inch. Sprinkle in the roasted veggies, cheeses and herbs. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is crisp in the center of the pizza and the cheeses are melted and golden. Tilt the pan and use a spatula to lift the pizza onto a cutting board to cut in 6 pieces.





Crunchy Sunflower Seeds, The Hippies Were Right

5 03 2012

The Sunny Seeds

When was the last time you thought about sunflower seeds? Were you cracking the shells at a summer picnic or ball game, or filling the birdfeeder with the shiny black seeds? I know that  I forget, sometimes, that sunflower seeds are such a nutrition powerhouse. I don’t think I am the only one who associates them with old-school hippie food, something we used to sprinkle in salads and bake into granola back in the day.

Well, sunflower seeds are much more than a little crunch on a salad, and they are just as exciting as the chia and flax seeds that are so hot right now. Recently, folks with peanut and nut allergies have been embracing sunflower seed butter, and in my neck of the woods, an enterprising farmer is making a lovely cold-press sunflower oil. (Read about it here.)

So, I am reminding myself to eat more of these tasty seeds. Sunflower seeds are a prime source for phytosterols. Phytosterols are the plant based compounds that lower cholesterol, so effectively in fact that they are made into special margarines and pills for that purpose. Phytosterols are so similar to cholesterol that they compete for absorption in the digestive tract, decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.The food highest in them is sesame seeds, followed by sunflower, which delivers  280 mg per 100 grams.

They are also a good source of magnesium. Magnesium calms nerves, muscles and blood vessels, and helps with detoxification and cancer prevention, and recently was shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The seeds also deliver lots of folate, the important B-vitamin that prevents neural tube defects and is good for your brain function.

Just 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds has 61% of the Vitamin E you need for the day. Vitamin E is a powerful fat soluble antioxidant, reduces inflammation and helps with all conditions in which inflammation is a part. It also prevents cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaque in the arteries. Vitamin E rich foods have been linked to reduced risks of stroke and alzheimers disease.

Are you motivated to get some sunflower seeds into your life? The most common way to eat them is as a snack, and roasted sunflower seeds pack easily to accompany you on your busy life. Think of them whenever you might use nuts, whether in a muffin, cookie, bread or salad. Add them to your granola or hot cereal, or use them as a crunchy coating or casserole topping.

Try these tasty cookies, for a little bit of sunflower goodness.

Sunflower Seed Nutrition Info:

¼ cup/%DV

Vitamin E 61%,B1 34%Manganese 34%, Copper 31% ,Tryptophan 31%, magnesium 28%, selenium 26%, B6 23%, phosphorus 23.1%,  folate 19%, calories 11%

Sunny Cookie

Sunflower-Maple Cookies

Makes 12

Use toasted sunflower seeds for these, and check them for freshness before buying. The great taste of a fresh sunflower seeds is easily ruined by sitting in a bin for too long.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, stir the coconut oil, maple, and vanilla, then stir into the dry ingredients. Scoop 2 tablespoon sized portions of dough and form into 3/4 inch thick cookies. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. They won’t spread much.

Bake for 12 minutes, switching the position of the pan halfway. Cool on racks. Keeps for a week, refrigerated.





The Only Winter Tomato

3 03 2012

Sweet Grape Tomatoes

It’s the dead end of Winter, here in Minnesota, and as much as we love the roots and greens, we crave a little taste of summer. I must admit, when I want a taste of true tomato, the only fresh tomato I even bother with these days is the grape tomato.

The grape tomato, a pear shaped or oblong version of the cherry tomato, is pretty much available in all the grocery stores these days, but it wasn’t always so. They really emerged on the market in the ‘90s, where their dependable taste made them a hit. The Santa Sweet is a trademarked variety, owned by a Philadelphia company that has made them as familiar as the old cherry tomato. I keep an eye out for the assorted packs of multicolored pear and grape tomatoes, with yellow, red, purple and orange little tomatoes. I know they are not local, but they actually taste like tomatoes.

The main difference between these little ovals and big tomatoes is that they are really sweet. In fact, the yellow ones can be so lacking in acid that once they are dead ripe they taste kind of flat, so don’t wait to use them up. I like growing the red and yellow pears because they grow quickly and profusely, even in less than optimum spots in the yard.

My winter habit is buying my pints of Grape tomatoes, setting them on the sill, and letting them keep ripening as I slice them onto sandwiches, throw them into salads, and the usual. If I don’t get to them fast enough, they often start to crinkle and shrink. This is actually a sign that it’s time to roast them off.

Sliced and Juicy

Slice the grapes in half, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400 for 35-40 minutes, uncovered. Give them a shake, and if they are really wet, roast another 10, but basically, just cook them til they shrink and concentrate into flavor bombs.

Roasty tomatoes

Now, with a sprinkling of sea salt, they are ready to keep on hand for sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, wherever a pop of tomato flavor will add some summer joy to life.

Today I toasted up some multi-grain ciabatta, smeared it with dijon, and piled on sliced avocado, the roasted tomatoes, and chopped spinach. A sprinkling of good salt and pepper on the tomatoes and avocadoes was all I needed. It tasted like summer.

The taste of the Sun

aaah. Summer. I can dream.





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.

video





The New Fast Food, for Meatless Mondays and Beyond, with The Veggie Queen

16 01 2012
The New Fast Food pressure cooking cookbook

Come On, Get a Pressure Cooker!

I have to come clean. Like so many people, I am a source of frustration to my friends. One friend in particular, I know. You see, some years ago, I decided to get all into pressure cooking, bought a lovely, safe, easy to use one, and set about cooking up beans and grains. I even created a class about beans and grains, and toted the cooker along, hoping to spread the word about how well it worked. Yep, the pressure cooker was a real solution to the two basic ingredients of a healthy kitchen that people always complain about taking too long to cook.

The classes were fun, but hardly anyone wanted to take them. I taught them a couple of times to small groups of people, and went back to doing it the way my students were familiar with. And I, old dog that I am, fell back into my old ways of cooking grains and beans in a pot. When it came time to write my book, The New Whole Grains Cookbook, I tested all the grains repeatedly in the pressure cooker, so that I could put those numbers in there. And then I hung up my shiny Kuhn Rikon Duromatic, just about forgetting about it.

Fast forward to hanging out with my friend, passionate pressure cooker advocate and vegan dietitian, Jill Nussinow. Jill loves her pressure cooker, and just can’t understand why, after all these years, Americans have not come around to embracing the speedy pot. You see, Jill, also known as the Veggie Queen, isn’t one of those people who compromises on good, healthy food. No, when she found herself raising a son and living a busy life, she didn’t go over to the dark side, and use the time crunch as an excuse to stock up on frozen pizzas and mac and cheese.

Instead, The Veggie Queen made the time-saving pressure cooker a daily-use utensil at her house. In her quest to put meals that she believed in on the table, she created a repertoire of veggie filled, colorful, all whole foods meals. And thanks to her hard work, we can all learn how to make real food fast, with The New Fast Food, The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes.

Buy The Book Here

Thanks to Jill, I dusted off my pressure cooker, and got cooking. I tried some of the basics, simple veggies cooked alone, grains and beans, all came out great.  Indian food is always a hit at my house, so I did a test run with her recipe for Quick Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Curry (pg185) I followed her instructions, and everything cooked perfectly. Where Jill’s ease with the cooker really comes into play is in the multi-step cooking instructions. It’s not complicated, she just has it worked out so that you cook the longest-cooking thing for a while, release the pressure, add another group of ingredients, cook some more, release, and add another group, for a few minutes longer. It’s a neat trick, allowing you to move beyond just cooking beans, to cooking a full one-pot meal based on beans. It all goes quickly, really, and with the new generation of cookers, quick release on a pot is just as easy as pushing a button.

So if you are as serious about eating whole, fresh foods as you are about saving time, it’s time to listen to the Veggie Queen. This book is a valuable addition to your cookbook shelf, with all the info and motivation that you need to explore this neglected technique. Her website, http://www.theveggiequeen.com/, is also a treasure trove of free information about the wonders of pressure cooking, as well as eating more plants.

For my part, I will try to keep my pot in rotation, and sing the praises of the pressure cooker once again!

The Curry, Over Quinoa

Quick Chickpea Curry with Summer Vegetables

Be aware that you need to soak the beans for this. Also- yes, it is really just one cup of water. One of the points Jill makes in the book is how the pot cooks with less water, and concentrated nutrients into the food. She also suggests that you can use whatever veggies you want in this.

10 Minutes High Pressure; Quick Release

3 Minutes High Pressure; Quick Release

1 Minute High Pressure; Quick Release

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large onion, thickly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1-2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups chickpeas, pre-soaked

1 cup water

2 medium potatoes, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 cups green beans, in 2 inch lengths

1 cup yellow squash (I used zucchini)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch cayenne or chipotle powder

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

METHOD

Heat the canola oil over medium heat in the pressure cooker, and saute the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, curry adcumin and saute for another minute, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the chickpeas and water.

About to add the chickpeas

Cover and bring to high pressure. Cook for 10, then quick release and add the potatoes, stir, and bring back to high pressure for 3 minutes.

Quick Release, just press and the steam escapes

Quick release again, and add the tomatoes, green beans, and squash.

Potatoes. then Zucchini, Beans and Tomatoes

Cover and bring to high pressure for 1 minute. Quick release, add the salt and taste to adjust the seasonings. If the mixture is too liquid, simmer to thicken. Garnish with cilantro, and serve over rice or other grain.

Open Up the Pot Carefully...





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!





Robin Robertson’s Quick-Fix Vegan Cookbook Makes Speedy Easy

19 12 2011

Super Nachos

 

 

 

 

When you get down to it, most people find that the biggest barrier to eating well is time. Planning, shopping, cooking, all take time, and it’s way easier to just grab some fast food. Well, if you are using that as your excuse to not eat balanced, whole foods vegan meals, your excuse is now officially crumbling before your eyes. Robin Robertson, one of the most prolific cookbook authors I know of, has now conquered the time-crunch-and done it deliciously.

You can’t stand in the cookbook aisle and not know Robin Robertson’s name. She is the author of 19 cookbooks so far, and seems to have an amazing ability to just keep cranking out useful, creative books.

In her latest, Quick-Fix Vegan Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less (Andrews McMeel $16.99), Robertson cuts to the chase and puts together good food simply. If you were thinking of slapping together a sandwich, you may as well make on of hers, full of vibrant veggies and flavors, instead of the same old pb and j. It doesn’t really take much more time.

The book is filled with global flavors, making the most of the exciting tastes of far-flung places, like Morocco, Vietnam,Mexico and more. Vegan food is an adventure when you search the world for the dishes with great tastes that can do plant-based.

The very first chapter is an introduction to the mind-set of a fast cook, called quick-fix vegan basics. Right away, she says to be flexible- if you don’t have an ingredient, substitute. Arrange your space and tools for easy access, and set up your pantry are just a few of the things she urges you to do to get fast meals on the table. She also gives you a run-down on which whole grains cook fastest, and which ingredient short-cuts are worth trying. It’s a great intro to the fast and furious way of getting real food on the table.

With chapters on Starters and Snacks, Stovetop Suppers, Pasta, Soup, Sandwiches, Salads and Make Ahead Bakes, Robertson displays a skill for cutting out unnecessary steps and ingredients. A quick chop, a fast cook, and you are eating dinner, and it’s vegan. She also has chapters on condiments and desserts, essential add-ons for the hurried cook.

It was a real pleasure making dishes from the book. Like everyone else, I don’t have a ton of time, so quick is always good. Reading and cooking from Robertson’s recipes, I admire the way her mind works. As a fellow recipe developer, I can appreciate a well-crafted recipe. These recipes are simplified, but still interesting, and follow the shortest path from point A to point B. Simple looks easy, but it takes skill to make it that way.

I also appreciate the use of whole foods, like beans, nuts and seeds, and the near absence of mock meats. Just because you are in a hurry, doesn’t mean you have to go in for vegan bologna or burgers every night, in Robertson’s kitchen.

Another useful and practical book, from Robin Robertson. I’m sure there will be more to come.

That Nacho Sauce Was Fast

Super Nachos

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans or one 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)

1 cup tomato salsa (divided)

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, divided

salt and pepper

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon mellow white miso

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

6 cups tortilla chips

GARNISHES: 1/2 cup vegan sour cream, 1/3 cup sliced black olives, 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos, 2 tablespoons scallions

Pereheat the oven to 400F. Grease a -inch baking dish. In a small saucepan, heat the beans with half of the salsa, 1 tsp chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, mashing and stirring, until hot, about 4 minutes. Spread in the dish.

Halve, pit and chop the avocado and reserve.

In a small skillet, mix the nutritional yeast, flour, miso, lemon, mustard, onion powder, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and the non-dairy milk. Whisk until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk over medium heat until it boils and thickens.

Spread the chips over the beans, then drizzle the sauce over the chips. Bake until hot, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with remaining salsa and all the garnishes.

I used fresh red fresnos instead of pickled jalapenos, and I didn’t have the vegan sour cream.

Vietnamese Tofu Wraps, mmmmm

Vietnamese Tofu Wraps

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut in 1/4 inch wide strips

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce, plus more for serving

4 10 -inch flour tortillas

vegan mayo

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 carrot, shredded

1 cup cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons bottled jalapenos

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, turning frequently, 7-10 minutes. Add the hoisin, soy sauce, and 1 tsp sriracha, stirring to coat the tofu. Take off the heat to cool. To assemble the wraps, spread the tortillas with vegan mayo and drizzle with srirach to taste. Arrange 1/ of te tofu in the center, then top with cucumber, carrot, cilantro and jalapenos. Wrap and serve.

Goodies, Ready to Roll





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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