Monday, October 31, 2011

Eat Some Greens on Halloween

Happy Halloween! If you're just beginning your vegan journey, be sure to check the labels of your favorite treats. They can be tricky! My own favorite, candy corn, contains gelatin. So sad. And milk chocolate, of course, contains milk. We know from my recent post on TakingTheLongWayHome that there's some really good vegan chocolate out there, and I just found a recipe for vegan candy corn on The Urban Housewife. Wow! It's still loaded with sugary junk I don't normally eat, but it would be fun to make it for a special occasion, like today!

If you're going to indulge in some sweets today (or maybe a tasty wicked brew or two) you'll want to balance all that out with something super healthy. I came up with a salad yesterday that's just what you need. It's made with my favorite super-hero vegetable, kale, along with a super-hero from the sea - seaweed! This salad is quick and easy to make, and loaded with fiber, minerals, and calcium. It's on the salty side, so it will counteract all that sugar we might "have to" eat today, and it tastes wonderful! I took some to a friend's party last night, and knew it was a winner when we all ate it, and someone wanted to take the leftovers home. We jokingly called it "Hangover Salad" for it's green medicinal powers, but I think I'll give it a new name here today...

Super Seaweed Salad

Soak 1/2 bag or more Hijiki in water for about 30 minutes.

While the seaweed soaks, wash and chop enough kale to fill your salad bowl. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil, and "massage" the kale until it's bright green and a little bit tender.

The kale will shrink as it softens, so add more if you want a bigger salad.

Drain the seaweed well, and toss it in with the kale. Add a little more sesame oil if you like, along with tamari and ume plum vinegar if you have it. Too much tamari will make it too wet, so add it gradually. If it's not salty enough for you, throw in a little sea salt to taste. Raw or toasted sesame seeds would add more calcium, and a nice little crunch. I'll be sure to have some for next time. Another good addition would be some raw or marinated/baked tofu, for extra protein.

Mmmm... You know - I'd really rather have this than candy. Now that's kinda spooky...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ask Me!

Yesterday someone asked, in a comment, about B vitamins in a vegan diet. The short answer is, most "experts" agree that we need to supplement B12, which used to be available from plant sources, but has been depleted by overworking our soil. I'll round up more specific information on this soon, but for now, it's a good idea to take a good multi-vitamin with B12. You don't need much, and it takes a long time for your body's stored B12 to be used up. But a B12 deficiency can be very dangerous, so there's no reason to take the risk.

This question got me thinking it would be fun to open up the door for you to ask all the questions you want. I don't always have a new recipe to share, and vegan life isn't only about food. So now you'll see my invitation in the upper right corner of the blog. If you have questions about vegan lifestyle and nutrition, want to know something about my personal vegan journey, or have a recipe you'd like to see vegan-ized, just send me an email and ask away!

I'm not an expert on anything at all, but I'll do my best to find answers we can all trust. It's baby steps and a lifelong learning process, so your questions will help to guide me too. They'll also give me something to write about when I don't have food to share, or like today, when I do have a good recipe but the pictures turned out terrible...

So, yes please. Ask questions! I'll post them here with the best answers I can come up with, and I'll get to as many of them as I can. Send your questions by email to me at


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sweet Black Beans with Fried Pineapple Kale Rice

This blog is becoming a collection of my favorite things to cook and eat. I've thought about writing a cookbook, but that was too overwhelming and mysterious a project. Essentially, I'm giving you a cookbook here, but you have to be patient and wait for the recipes to appear one at a time. Who knows - maybe one day it will magically find itself in a printed version. Until then, here's my next offering. I posted this recipe on my other blog a while back, but it belongs here too. Enjoy some Sweet Black Beans, which I think are especially good with Fried Pineapple Kale Rice.

Sweet Black Beans

Cook some dried black beans with onion and garlic in the water, OR open a can or two of beans.
Drain off excess cooking water (or drain and rinse canned beans)
Season with:
maple syrup
salt & pepper
sweet smoked paprika

I like to make them nice and saucy. They taste kind of like baked beans, but so much better.

Fried Pineapple Kale Rice sounds weird, but it's amazing.

Chop a bunch of curly green kale
Saute quickly in coconut oil, with canned or fresh pineapple chunks.
Add rice and cook a minute or two longer. Kale should still be bright green and crunchy.
Drizzle in a generous splash of tamari to taste, and cover to steam for a couple of minutes.
Serve with Sweet Black Beans. Yum!

This is easy if you have some leftover rice from another meal. Alternately, make the Pineapple Kale separately, and serve it with the beans over a fresh batch of rice.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Go Grocery Shopping

I used to hate grocery shopping, but these days I see it all through different eyes. I love the food and the people I make it for, so it follows that I've also learned to love the process of shopping for it and preparing it. To me it's a creative outlet I'd been ignoring for years. So now when I head out to the market, I think of it as going out to buy Art Supplies.

A lot of people think vegan food is somehow different from, uh, "normal" food. Really? Come on, now! By definition, omnivores eat everything, so it follows that what you'll find in a well stocked vegan kitchen is simply a portion of that everything that America is used to expecting. Most of what we eat around here is pretty "normal," meaning you've actually heard of these foods, and can easily locate them in most markets. Sometimes I'll use exotic ingredients, but most of the time I work from a fairly simple list of staples. With a few basics on hand, it's always easy to come up with a good meal without having to run to the store every day.

If you're new to vegan cooking for yourself, or if you have a vegan guest coming for dinner, and aren't really sure how to put a meal together, an easy formula is - half vegetables, raw or cooked, one quarter whole grain, and one quarter protein, like beans or tofu. This isn't written in stone, of course. Mix it up, serve a variety of fresh whole foods, and don't stress out over protein. We don't need nearly as much as certain industries would have us believe we do.

You can check out Alicia Silverstone's own list for a trip to Whole Foods. Here are some of the things I like to keep on hand. I love that my friends are beginning to realize they'll always be well fed here!

Kale - My number one favorite vegetable. Dark and leafy, it's a good source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and fiber, and even has 2 grams of protein in a one cup serving. You can use it in all sorts of cooked dishes, as well as salads. When using it raw, I usually "massage" it to soften it up a bit. Oh, I have such a crush on kale!

Vegetables - Broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, avocados, frozen corn and peas, lettuce - Mix and match in soups, stir-fries, salads, wraps, and sandwiches.

Zucchini - This could be in the list above, but I also like to "spiralize" it to use in place of noodles.

Fruit - To be honest, we eat far more veggies than fruit in our house. I usually buy what's in season, and keep a couple of bags of frozen berries around for smoothies. We also buy bananas year round, to use in smoothies and in Chia Seed Pudding.

Lemons & Limes - I use these two fruits almost every day. They're essential seasonings in my kitchen.

Whole Grains - Brown basmati rice and quinoa are the two I use most often, but there are so many more to play with.

Beans - I usually cook beans from scratch. They're just so much better that way. I particularly like black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans. Buy canned beans if you're pressed for time.

Tofu & Tempeh - Wonderful, versatile sources of soy protein that adapt to all sorts of dishes.

Food For Life's Gluten Free English Muffins - These are my current breakfast obsession.

Tortillas - I get organic, whole grain torts. Try Ezekiel, sprouted corn, or whole brown rice varieties for wraps, burritos, and tacos.

Bread - I usually buy Ezekiel sprouted grain bread for sandwiches and toast.

Flackers - These flax seed crackers are my favorite for snacks and appetizers.

Whole Grain Pasta - Rice and quinoa are two favorites.

Olive and Coconut Oils - I use these for cooking, and also on my skin and hair. Really. Olive oil is best for lower temp cooking, while coconut oil can take more heat, and comes in refined and unrefined varieties. I like the unrefined because it smells so good and coconutty.

Coconut Milk - It adds richness to sauces and curries, and makes wonderful whole grain hot cereals.

Vegenaise - I think it's every bit as good as "real" mayo.

Earth Balance Buttery Spread - I buy the organic version.

Popcorn - We use a hot air popper and season with Earth Balance mixed with a little olive oil, and nutritional yeast and sea salt.

Sea Salt - The good coarse kind. It's full of minerals and tastes far better than standard table salt.

Truffle Salt - It's expensive, but I love to use it in cashew cheeses.

Herbs and Spices - Use what you like. You can't get it wrong.

Nutritional Yeast - Good on popcorn and perfect for making cheesy sauces and dips.

Tamari - Great for seasoning all kinds of things, and nice in stir-fries and salad dressings.

Miso Paste - Adds a nice richness to sauces, and makes the best soup ever.

Seaweed - You might need to work up to this one, but I use it often to season soups and other dishes.

Dijon Mustard - Another all-around handy condiment, for sauces, sandwiches, and dressings.

Peanut Butter - For sandwiches, snacks,  and sauces.

Curry Paste - I like the green kind for an easy sauce.

Raw Almonds and Cashews - I make milk and cheese from these.

Chia Seeds - High in anti-oxidants and omega 3's, these super seeds do so much more than grow green hair on silly little statues. I sprinkle them in all sorts of dishes, and make a wonderful tapioca-like pudding with them.

Whole Grain Flours - I'm not a big baker, but I always, always, always use whole grains.

Maple Syrup - A lovely, natural sweetener. Agave is good too. Honey is not really vegan, since it's made by bees.

Extras - Raisins, Dried Fruits, Unsweetened Coconut, Walnuts, Tamari Sunflower Seeds - Nice extras to toss into various dishes.

There are also lots of packaged vegan foods that can make your life really easy. You don't see them here, because I prefer to start from scratch most of the time, but we do use them now and then. I recommend them as great transitional foods to get you started, and also for traveling, when "road food" can be pretty sketchy.

So, wow... getting to the end of this, I see that there's about twice as much as I thought there would be. No big deal. Go to the store. Get what feels easy and comfortable for you, and add to it as you go along. We all like different things, so buy what you'll use, and what makes you feel like you have what you need. With a few of your own favorites around, making good vegan meals for yourself and those you love can be really easy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kung Powerful Tempeh

I'm a big fan simple one-bowl meals. They're often the easiest to make, and there's something so comforting about a beautiful bowl of everything-I-need resting in my hand. When I'm cooking for a party, I'll usually spend most of the day making several dishes, so everyone can mix and match the way they like. But for regular evenings at home, more often than not we'll go with easier one-bowl choices, which also happen to be our favorites.

I'm also a big fan of Kung Pao dishes, but I always find them a little heavy on the peanuts, and lacking in really good vegetables. I'm not all that concerned with the authenticity of traditional dishes. So when I modify these recipes, I want them to taste amazing, and I want them to be super-nutritious. The version that follows is exactly what I wanted, and it was a huge hit here last night. It has everything I think a good Kung Pao should have, and nothing I don't, like those evil little red peppers that most people push to the side of their plate. And, it was easy to make, which to me is some powerful goodness.

Kung Powerful Tempeh

The first thing to do is marinate the tempeh. I used one package, cut into small cubes. If you aren't familiar with tempeh, don't be intimidated by it. Because it's made from soy, be sure to get a good organic tempeh. It has to be cooked, so some recipes will call for a pre-steaming, or cooking it in the oven. No need for either of those here. Just mix up the marinade, toss in the tempeh cubes, and let them soak until it's time to use them - at least 30 minutes, but longer is more than OK. You could also use tofu if you prefer.

Tempeh Marinade

2 T toasted sesame oil
1 T hot pepper sesame oil
3 T tamari
3 T maple syrup
3 T grated fresh ginger
1 large, or 3 small cloves garlic - chopped
1 T ume plum vinegar (or lemon juice)

While the tempeh marinates, start a batch of rice. I like brown basmati for most things.
Next, chop all your vegetables. I used mostly green veggies, with some carrots for a hit or orange.
This is what makes it so Kung-Powerful!

bok choy or cabbage
green onion

You'll also need:
1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts and/or cashews
1 tsp or more crushed red chile flakes
another splash hot pepper oil (optional)
coconut oil for cooking

When the rice is done, heat up a large skillet or wok, with a 1-2 T of coconut oil, on medium (or slightly higher) heat.
Throw in the nuts and red chile flakes, and let them toast in the oil for a minute or two.
Add vegetables in the order listed above, cooking for about 1 minute between each addition.
Add the tempeh and marinade, and a little more pepper oil if desired.

Gently mix everything together, and add a little water if it seems necessary. When it's bubbling hot, cover and turn off the heat, so the tempeh and crisper veggies can steam for about 10 minutes. 

Serve with rice, and top with extra nuts, chile flakes, or pepper oil to taste.
I seriously had delicious dreams about this all night... 
Must make more... very soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I've been pondering recipes for some hearty, "man-pleasing" dishes, because I know some of you are cooking for family members who would really rather be eating meat, but are humoring your vegan dabbling in hopes that you'll be over it soon. I want to help you win them over to the healthier, more compassionate Veg Side, so last night I made my first Shepherd's Pie. It was good, but not perfect, and it took a lot longer to make than I thought it would. I wasn't going to say anything about it at all, except that Rick really went kind of crazy for it (being vegan between parties), so I thought maybe you could modify it a bit and wow the omnivores in your life.

As I got going on this, I realized there were several steps to be done before I could put it all together and bake it. You need a crust, a gravy, a mashed topping, and a veggie filling. The first thing I did was get distracted by a lovely, delicate cauliflower leaf. I can't help myself. Art is everywhere. I talked about this in my other blog today, if you're interested, but I'll try to stick to the cooking part here. 

I eventually steamed and mashed the cauliflower, making my alternate to mashed potatoes for the top of the pie. You could of course use regular mashers if you want to. Next I made a crust out of nut pulp left from a batch of almond milk, mixed with chopped mushrooms, a little quinoa flour, and some chia seeds. I baked it for a little while before filling it, and although it tasted really good, it was still a bit too moist. You might want to use a regular sort of pie crust if you're good at making them, or even buy one ready to fill. 

The gravy was delicious, made with onions, quinoa flour, mushrooms, broth, and a splash of wine. Once it was thickened, I filled the crust with peas, carrots, corn, and broccoli, poured the gravy over the veggies, and spread the mashed cauliflower over the top. I baked it for 30 minutes at 350º, but by this time I had been making dinner for almost 2 hours, and we were starving. I hesitate to show you the following picture, because I forgot to even take it until after we'd eaten. That's how hungry we were. But you get the idea...

Basically, this was really good, full of flavor and truly satisfying. Try it yourself, with your own customizations. You could also add some tempeh or veggie burger crumbles for more texture and "authenticity." I'll make this again, with a little work on the crust mostly. When I get it really right, I'll take better pictures...

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Favorite Breakfast - Avocado English Muffin

Recipes don't always have to be recipes, and good, healthy, satisfying food doesn't have to be complicated. Today I'm sharing my favorite breakfast with you, and it's about as easy as it gets. In Rick's family, Avocado Toast is a tradition that goes back to his childhood in southern California, where avocado trees grew in everyone's backyard. There's something so simple and soothing about a friendly piece of whole grain toast, lightly buttered, and layered with sliced avocado and a little salt. Mmmm, you can keep the bacon and eggs. This is heaven to me.

My "upgrade" changes it just a little bit. My experiment with going gluten free is working well, and I've found a few really good options to gluteny breads. One is Food For Life's gluten free english muffins. These are wonderful, and made from brown rice. I like the seedy variety.

Serve them up any way you normally like an English Muffin, or try it my way, by toasting and "buttering" with Earth Balance Buttery Spread, adding a generous layer of sliced avocado, followed by a fat slice of tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt, or even better, gomasio. I eat this almost every morning. In fact, I'm going to go make one now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

UnStuffed Bell Peppers with Cheesy Wine Sauce

This is sort of a convoluted "recipe," but I'm presenting it this way so you can see how an idea sometimes evolves from dream-state to plate. I thought I was going to get to cook for a small group of vegans who are visiting the hotel Rick works for, and stuffed bell peppers were mentioned as something they wanted. I never really liked stuffed peppers as a kid, so haven't done much with them as an adult. It seemed like something worth trying, so I decided to sleep in it. A lot of times good ideas come to me on my sleep, and that's what happened here.

The dream-thought was red bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, apples, jalapenos, and toasted pine nuts, and topped with some kind of sauce... It still sounded good when I woke up, so I tried it with what I had on hand, which was not red bell peppers, but some lovely poblano peppers that needed to be used. I mixed the stuffing stuff in a bowl, packed it into the peppers, and baked them for about an hour. Then I made a creamy, cheesy sauce with white wine, and served it all up for dinner.

They were good, but to be honest, I wasn't thrilled. Just as when I was a kid, I felt that the ratio of pepper to stuffing was off. Too much pepper, and when they're baked, they stay kind of bitter, at least to me. Rick liked the dish, but I decided to take it a bit further. And the sauce was perfect, so I had a good place to start.

For round two (the next day), I bought some red bell peppers, cleaned them up, pressed them as flat as possible, and put them under the broiler for about 15 minutes, until they were nice and black. Then I put them in a paper bag for a while, until they were cool enough to handle. This steams the charred skins so they're easy to peel off. Ta-da! Homemade roasted red peppers!

I had some of that good sauce left, so I just reheated it. Here's what was in it:

Cashew Wine & Cheese Sauce

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 30 minutes or more
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp truffle salt (or sea salt)
1/2 tsp paprika
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 rounded tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup nut milk

Blend everything in a food processor, and warm slowly in a saucepan.

I added some currants to the stuffing, because the apples didn't quite enough sweetness in contrast to the jalapenos. I steamed the stuffing for a couple of minutes, just to heat it up, then put it aside in a bowl while I steamed some kale for about 3 minutes (I like to sneak greens in wherever I can), and then the peppers, just to heat them up again.

I layered everything on the plates, stuffing at the bottom, then kale, then peppers, and poured the warmed sauce over the whole thing. Success! This was good. The currants weren't necessary, since the roasted peppers are a little bit sweet, and oh so smooth and tender. And next time I think I'll have some extra toasted pine nuts to sprinkle on top, for a little more crunch, and because they're pretty.

In my opinion, UnStuffed Peppers are the way to go. It was delicious, comforting, healthy, and beautiful to boot. Too bad I don't get to cook for the tour group. I have them to thank for inspiring this dish, and I'll bet they'd love it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bo Rinaldi

I was listening to an interview on The Aware Show the other day, with Bo Rinaldi, who has been vegan for 50 years or so. It was great. The guy is very down to earth and engaging, and really knows his stuff. He's the chef who co-founded Vegan Fusion with Mark Reinfeld, and Mark is the one I'll be taking cooking classes from in April. It appears that the interview is no longer available to listen to online. Dang! I really wanted to share it with you here. But since I can't, I'll share the two things I heard that really made sit up and listen.

The first was about gluten. Although Bo is not a nutritionist, and is the first to say he's no expert (yeah, right), he talked at length about gluten in our modern diet, and went so far as to say he thinks almost everyone is gluten-sensitive to some degree, because of the way wheat has been modified over and over again, and the amount of it in our diets. While some people get really really sick if they eat gluten of any kind, others just feel kind of... icky.

I think I fall into the second group, so I paid attention, and even made notes. I notice that when I eat a lot of bread I get sort of... rumbly in the tumbly. There are already so many things I don't eat. Then again, there are so many things I do eat that make me feel almost super-human, so I decided to try going gluten-free for a while and see what happens.

The main gluten bad guys are wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Sheesh... I love all of them. The good non-gluten guys are quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and millet. OK. I use a lot of quinoa and rice, but need to explore the other two. It's been about a week now with no gluten, and not only is my rumbling much diminished, I have more energy, and I think I've lost a little weight. This pleases me. What can I say? It's nice when clothes that were marginal suddenly actually fit. It's not the most important thing, but it's not nothin' either.

I think I'll stick with my self-experiment a little longer and see how it goes. It's actually no big deal. I can live without bread, and I know that cooked whole grains are way better for me anyway. I also buy good brown rice tortillas for things like wraps, burritos, and even pizzas, so there's a "bread thing" if I need it. And I found organic sprouted corn tortillas that just make me want to eat tacos every day. I'll keep you posted as I go along.

The other thing Bo (see, I liked him so much, I feel on a first name basis with him) talked about that really yanked my ear to the speaker was the connection between cancer and sugar. I've known for years that sugar is not food, and I feel so much better when I stay away from it. Things like cupcakes are a rare treat, and a bite or two of good dark chocolate at night is about the extent of my sugar eating most days. But I had no idea that sugar and cancer are kind of magnetically drawn to each other, and that in the absence of sugar, some cancers will just give up and go away.

Bo talked about his mother, who is in her 80s, and was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. She was under the care of doctors, but was also smart enough to listen to her son when he suggested that she go on a strict vegan diet, and eliminate all sugars, including fruits and alcohol. She had a little watermelon each day as a treat, but otherwise she stuck to it, while she prepared to go through chemotherapy.

Here's the good part. When she went to her doc for the pre-treatment appointment, the cancer was completely gone. Can extreme diet really do this? I don't know, and I'm glad I've never had to test this theory on myself. It's worth researching, I think, just in case, and of course I totally intend to stay well, which is one of the many things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Positive thinking can be as powerful as positive diet and lifestyle.

A few years ago a doctor told me I had high blood pressure, and I could either take pills, or try "extreme diet." I opted for the diet, and despite a "family history" of high blood pressure, mine came right down, and has stayed there. It makes more sense than ever to eat to stay well, rather than to cure illness. And if I come across access to that great Bo Rinaldi interview, you can bet I'll share it with you before it gets away again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kitchen Sink Enchiladas

Sometimes I plan ahead, and shop for a specific meal, and sometimes I just look in the fridge and make use of what I already have. That's my favorite way to cook. It's so... Tasajara...

We go through quite a bit of nut milk, which means we also make a lot of nut cheese. I'm working on other ways to use the nut pulp, but last night I had an excess of cheese to use up, so I made a batch of red chile, pulled out tortillas, black beans, and veggies, and started layering.

This is one of those sort of un-recipes, where I leave you on your own to a certain extent. It's easy. If you think you need exact amounts to make a dish, this is good practice in loosening up and playing with your food. If you want to use canned enchilada sauce, that's OK. If you want to make your own red chile, even better.

First a note about chile. The Official State Question of New Mexico is, "Red or Green?", meaning red or green chile on your food. Chile with an "e" is not the same thing as chili with an "i" at the end. Chile is a sauce, and chili is the chili-beans we all probably grew up with, often from a can. We make two different kinds of chile here, out of either red chile powder, or fresh green chiles. And then there's green chile stew, but that's for another day.

Red Chile

Saute 1/2 an onion in a little olive oil until soft.

Sprinkle in 3-4 heaping T chili powder and a dash or two of cinnamon, and stir to "roast" the chili powder for 1-2 minutes. This is the most important step in making a good red chile. You'll smell the chile change and sweeten, which makes the finished sauce taste rich and lovely, rather than harsh and powdery.

Sprinkle in 1-2 T flour and stir in quickly to make a roux.

Gradually pour in one 32 oz. box of vegetable broth. (I've also used beer, water, or mushroom broth.) Season to taste with garlic powder, salt, tamari, and maple syrup. A little bit of sweet makes a big difference. Let the sauce slowly heat and thicken, and then set it aside while you prep the enchiladas.

Kitchen Sink Enchiladas

12-24 corn tortillas, depending on the size of your baking pan - I love Food For Life's organic sprouted corn tortillas
nut cheese
black beans
sliced mushrooms
chopped kale
sweet-hot jalapeno slices
Red Chile sauce - above
Daiya cheese - optional

If you have other veggies to use up, this is a good way to do it. Chop everything up, and cut the tortillas in half so they'll fit against the edges of the baking pan. Lightly oil the pan, and place a little sauce in the bottom to cover. Then layer tortillas, nut cheese "blobs," beans, veggies, and sauce, with a sprinkle of Daiya if you're using it. We decided it didn't really need it, but then we're used to less of a "cheese bomb" than we used to eat. After 2 layers of everything, place a final layer of tortillas on top, and spread with sauce. Bake at 350º for about an hour. If using Daiya, sprinkle a little more on top about 10 minutes before it's done. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

This is great with a simple green salad. Rick declared this the best meal I've made in weeks. I'm not so sure, but I think he was just missy some ooey-gooey cheesy comfort food. This did the trick.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Say Cheese! - Basic Nut Cheese

We saved the nut pulp from yesterday's Basic Almond Milk, and today we're going to make CHEESE out of it! I love the no-waste aspect of all this. The reward for being so green and handy in the kitchen is a really easy, super-delicious cheese spread that's as addictive as "real" cheese, but in a good way. (We talked about this yesterday. Go back and read it if you missed it.) This cheese is so good, even our non-veg friends devour it. It's great with crackers or bread and fruit, or as a veggie dip. It makes a lovely schmear in a burrito or quesadilla, and can be used as a filling in enchiladas or as a layer in lasagne. You can flavor it in endless ways, with different herbs and such, and when you use different types of nuts for the milk, the cheese you make later will be different too. I love this stuff.

Basic Nut Cheese

In a food processor, place:

pulp from 1 batch of nut milk
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 tsp truffle salt or sea salt (the truffle salt adds a lovely earthy round flavor)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika (I like to use half regular, and half smoked paprika)
2-3 rounded tsp dijon mustard
2-3 tsp lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar

Gradually add olive oil, flax seed oil, or a combination of both as you blend. Scrape the sides of the bowl often, and give it an extra minute or so once it's smoothly blended, so the cheese will be as creamy as possible. Adjust seasonings to taste, and store in a glass jar in the fridge. I honestly don't know how long it keeps... we eat it up too fast!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Milkless Monday - Basic Nut Milk

Maybe you're already meatless, but still include dairy in your diet. It's all baby steps, and I applaud every little step you take in making yourself, and the world, better. Remember, it took me years to get myself off dairy. And that is because cheese is truly addictive. The casein in milk contains honest-to-goodness opiates, which are concentrated in cheese. No wonder we love it so much. Hello, my name is Kim, and I am a recovering cheese-a-holic.

Here's something to think about - all mothers' milk is designed for the particular babies of those mothers. Human milk is the perfect food for human babies. We don't make cheese out of it, or offer a nice cold glass with cookies to anyone else in the family. Goat's milk is perfect for baby goats. Whale's milk is perfect for baby whales. And cow's milk is perfect for baby cows. It's designed to turn a little cow into a great big cow really quickly. It can do the same for us. And keep in mind too that when baby cows grow up, they no longer drink milk. It's only for the babies.

You think you need milk for strong bones, right? Wrong! Animal protein (milk and meat) actually tends to leach calcium from our bones. The countries that consume the lowest amounts of dairy actually also have the lowest rates of osteoporosis, while our "superior" American diet leaves us with brittle bones and a long list of other ailments that can be avoided and often reversed if we just leave the animal products out of the equation. There are plenty of plant sources of calcium, like kale and sesame seeds, to name just two, and these are absorbable by the human body, unlike the animal sources. Google it yourself, or start here, at the VegKitchen, for more thorough information. I don't make this stuff up. Is it really surprising that Corporate America has got us all believing "milk does a body good?" There are enormous profits at stake for the dairy industry. When it comes to your health, ask a lot of questions, and be really cautious about believing someone who wants to sell you something...

There are lots of yummy, healthful alternatives to dairy, like soy, coconut, hemp, oat, rice, almond, and other nuts. I don't love soy milk. Frankly, it makes me gassy. But coconut ice cream is amazingly wonderful, and almond milk in my tea is a no-brainer. I used to buy it in boxes, until I saw how easy it is to make it myself. I love to amaze my friends with this simple process, I love how good and fresh the nut-milk tastes, I love that I know exactly what's going into it, and I love that I no longer have all those clunky milk boxes to throw away, because Taos doesn't recycle them.

To make your own nut milk, you'll need a blender, a nut milk bag (I got mine on Amazon because I couldn't find one locally), some raw, preferably organic nuts, and water. Filtered water is usually suggested in the recipes I've seen. We have good clean well water, so I use that. If you have icky city water, you might want to buy spring water for this.

Basic Almond Milk

Soak 1 cup of raw organic almonds in water for 4-6 hours, or overnight ( I often use half almonds and half raw cashews. Experiment!)

Drain and rinse the almonds.
Place in blender with 4 cups fresh water. (For variety, try different kinds of raw nuts, add vanilla bean or extract, or a couple of pre-soaked dates for a sweeter milk.)

Blend on highest speed for 30-60 seconds, until it looks... milky! You'll still see tiny brown flecks. That's OK. Be sure to hold the lid on... you knew that...

Pour the milk through a nut milk bag, into a bowl, and gently squeeze the liquid from the nut pulp.

Pour the milk into glass bottles. I use wine bottles with these great stoppers I found at Target. Nut milk will keep in the fridge for several days.

And don't throw out the pulp! You can use it in desserts, smoothies, sauces, and CHEESE! We'll make some tomorrow!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guest Blogger, Paul Graham

Have you been reading Eating Vegan in Vegas? I think you should. Paul Graham is a friend from high school, who happens to be vegan, and happens to live in Las Vegas. He's taken it upon himself to spend an entire year blogging about his dining adventures, and what he has to share with us is just wonderful. Even if you never go to Vegas, you'll be inspired by all the beautiful meals Paul shows us. And on Sundays he tends to cook for us at home, which gave me the idea of letting him do some of my work for me, while I direct traffic back to his blog. Today he's made pizza, and I love pizza, so I want to share this one with you. Live, from Las Vegas, the beautiful Spinach, Mushroom, Sundried Tomato & Grilled Artichoke Pizza.

For the how-to's, and a really good read, visit today's entry on Eating Vegan in Vegas.
Thanks Paul, for doing my blogging for me today! 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chocolate Black Bean Cupcakes. Really.

I've been playing with this recipe for over a year, posting it once or twice along the way on my other blog. If you have those versions and love them, keep on using them. But I really think this version is perfection in a little paper baking cup, and I'll stop messing with it now.

I usually don't tell people exactly what's is in these until after they've tasted them. Then it doesn't matter. Minds and mouths are wide open, and black beans and prunes suddenly seem like perfectly obvious ingredients to include in chocolate cupcakes. I'm not really much of a baker, but these always work for me, and I love serving them because I know they're actually food, packed with protein and fiber, and not just another mindless sweet treat.

Chocolate Black Bean Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

If making Cashew-Almond Coconut Frosting, start nuts soaking per recipe below.
Preheat oven to 350º

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients:

1 c flour - I use quinoa flour for its protein content, and because I avoid gluten, but whole wheat works well for these too.
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder

In a food processor, combine:

1 c cooked black beans - I cook mine from scratch, but you can use canned beans if you like.
12 large dried prunes - soak the prunes in some water for a while first if they're very dry and hard.
4 T water

Blend until fairly smooth, and then add:

1 c brown rice syrup (agave or maple syrup work well too)
1/3 c coconut oil (coconut oil is good for you - google it)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (this combines with the baking soda to help the cakes rise)

Buzz up the wet ingredients until well mixed, then gradually stir the wet ingredients into the big bowl of dry ingredients. This is a rather thick batter. Spoon it into a lined cupcake pan, and bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. At my high altitude of 7000 ft, it takes 25 minutes.

Cool the cakes on a rack for a while before frosting them, or just eat them plain and warm. So good!

Cashew-Almond Coconut Frosting

Soak 1/2 c raw cashews and 1/2 c raw almonds in water for about 2 hours.
Drain and rinse nuts, and place in food processor.
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c agave or maple syrup
1 T orange liqueur - optional
Blend well, scraping sides of bowl often. Depending on your food processor, the frosting will be somewhere between a little bit crunchy and super smooth.
1/4 c unsweetened coconut, and blend until mixed in.

You can stretch this amount of frosting to top 12 cupcakes, but I like to put a more generous amount on just 10 of them, leaving 2 unfrosted. It seems there's always someone who prefers naked cake, or is allergic to nuts. These are great either way. You can't help but feel the love when you eat these little cakes. And if you happen to have heart shaped teacups, so much the better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Potato Dog Treats

It was suggested that I carry out the beginnings of a theme this week, and proclaim today Witchy Wednesday, since it's October and all. What would I make? SandWitches, of course! I love the idea, but I'm not prepared for that today. Maybe next week. Today I have a treat for your dogs that's not at all tricky to make.

I'm not convinced that dogs can, or should, be vegans. They have the teeth, speed, killing power, and intestinal tract of a true carnivore. And while I know a lot of vegan humans insist that a dog can be perfectly happy and healthy on the right plant based diet, I think there might be a distinction between surviving and thriving. So I feed my dogs good quality "regular" dog food, even though it doesn't fit in with my own personal ethics.

I've noticed though, that more often than not, I'll find them under my feet in the kitchen. I knew they liked tomatoes and raw zucchini, but they've never shown much interest in other veggies. A couple of days ago, our big, lovely mutt Lucy wouldn't give up, so I tried an experiment. I gave her a bite of tomato. Yum! Then some carrot. Gone! Cauliflower. More please! Even red bell pepper was a hit. Little Heidi-the-Wiener-Dog came in to see what all this snacking was about, and sure enough, she snarfed all her veggies too. Huh. This was new. I began to wonder if my dogs were "catching" my vegan habits.

One of their favorite things is "bone time" in the evenings. Ever since Lucy was a puppy, we've given her rawhide "bones" to chew on. She was one of those super-chewy puppies, and these kept her from eating our shoes. As she got older though, even the biggest rawhide roll became a mere treat. She no longer chews them. She chomps them. No matter how big the bone, she devours it in 5 minutes or less. Heidi will chew hers for a little while and then get tired, so Lucy will steal the second one if we're not looking, and wolf it down like the wild thing she's descended from. I can't imagine that all that rawhide is good for her gut, and I know it's not good for the cows it comes from. So, since they seem to like vegetables so much these days, I decided to try something else.

I've seen sweet potato snacks in stores, and have read that they're really good for dogs, but they're expensive, so I've never bought them. I figured this was something I could easily make myself, so I did a little googling, and sure enough, recipes abound. Basically, you're just dehydrating slices of sweet potato. It takes a while, but it couldn't be simpler.

I got a couple of nice straight sweet potatoes, so they'd be easy to slice, and cut them into slices about 1/4 inch thick. I also cut a few into little bite sized pieces, so some are chews, and some are treats. (Well, to Lucy, it's all the same.) I placed the slices on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (one recipe I saw called for parchment, but this worked fine), and baked them at a 250º for 4 hours, turning them over half way through the baking time. Most recipes I read called for only 3 hours of baking, but they were much too soft at that point, especially for Lucy. Keep in mind that we're at a 7,000 ft. elevation here, and I imagine baking time would be different at sea level. Cook your taters accordingly. They were still kind of soft, but leathery when I took them out of the oven, and they toughened considerably as they cooled. The tiny pieces only needed about 2 hours of baking, so I took them out before the large ones.

It smelled like Thanksgiving in my house the whole time these were cooking, and the dogs seemed to know there was something good in their future. The taste test shows... they're a hit!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tasty Tofu Tuesday - Baked Marinated Tofu

Meatless Monday is so much fun, why not extend it to Tofu Tuesday? I've been wanting to try some baked marinated tofu for a while now, and today is the day.

I sort of like the flavored baked tofu you can buy at the store, but find it kind of rubbery. I looked around the internet and skimmed a few recipes, and found that some cooks like to press some of the liquid out of the tofu before marinating, while others throw it right into the marinade without taking the extra step of pressing. I thought I'd try it the simplest way for starters, so un-pressed is what we have here.

I started this yesterday afternoon, so the marinade could do its magic overnight, but you can try giving it a couple of hours, or whatever you have. I think it will still work well. And of course you can eat tofu any day of the week. Start this today, and eat it tomorrow, you crazy rebel.

I cut the tofu into 8 even slices, as shown.

Then, in a plastic container (with lid) just large enough to fit all the tofu I mixed up the marinade as follows:

1/4 c tamari
1/8 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 c maple syrup
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 T grated fresh ginger

I placed the tofu into the container with the marinade, snapped on the lid, and flipped it over to coat all the tofu evenly. I prefer a glass container for most things, but the snap on lid of the plastic makes it easy to flip it periodically.

I left the tofu to soak overnight in the fridge, and then baked it this morning on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, at 350º for about an hour, turning it over half way through. It came out nicely browned, firm, but not rubbery, and really, really delicious. I'll also save the marinade to use in something else, like maybe a stir fry, or as a sauce for cooked rice or quinoa. (One nice thing about vegan cooking is you don't have to toss marinades that have had uncooked meat soaking in them. Nothing goes to waste.)

I might use my beautiful tofu in sandwiches, a stir fry, or even tacos, thanks to the great ideas in my friend Paul Graham's blog today. Or I might just munch on it as-is. Here's to a very Tasty Tofu Tuesday!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Miso Happy Soup

I posted this recipe a while back on my other blog, Taking the Long Way Home, and it was even featured on BlogHer, where I also post now and then. I want it here too, because it's such a favorite in our house, and because it's so easy to make, and so adaptable. We've just wrapped up a long, busy weekend, with visiting family and friends. It was a whirlwind of fun and food, but today I'm tired, and hubby-dear has a nasty cold. It's a perfect day for an easy (and worthy) re-post, and to make a nice pot of this lovely, comforting soup. 

Miso Happy Soup

To make about 4 big bowls of soup, saute in a little oil (I like coconut oil):
1/2 a small onion - chopped
1 stalk celery - chopped
2 carrots - quartered lengthwise and chopped
4 cloves of garlic - sliced thin

When the carrots are still crunchy, add:
4 cups water
1-2 cups cooked brown rice (or cooked quinoa or noodles)
1 cup frozen corn
4 fat pinches of chopped, dried seaweed (I prefer wakame)

Heat to almost boiling and reduce heat to simmer. Never boil miso or you'll kill it.
In a small bowl or cup, place 4 heaping teaspoon "blops" (probably more like 4 official tablespoons) of miso, then ladle a little of the soup broth into the miso. Stir until it's dissolved, adding more broth to thin it down a bit more. You can use any kind of miso you prefer. We happen to have red miso in the fridge today.

Pour the miso-broth into the not-boiling soup and blend. Add tamari to taste, and it's ready to serve. Garnish each bowl of soup with half an avocado, chopped in small pieces. This makes it wonderful.

Of course, as always, the amounts are approximate, and variations are endless. Other veggies, beans, and tofu are good additions, as is a dash of crushed red pepper. You can also turn this into tortilla soup by adding black beans, chopped green chiles, a splash of hot sauce, and either corn tortillas you've cut up and fried in a separate pan, or in a pinch, some crumbled tortilla chips. No matter how you make it, I know it will make you so happy!