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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the Feast - Part III

After a fabulous feast, you have to wait a while for dessert (sometimes I wait until the next day), but now it's time for something sweet! As I've said before, I'm not really much of a baker, and I find pies especially intimidating. Cobbler makes way more sense to me, so that's what I made for our Thanksgiving dessert. This is a combination of several recipes, including a favorite my Mom used to make.


Apple-Cherry Cobbler

6-8 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced, the amount depending on the size of your pan. Use a mix of different kinds of apples, such as Pink Lady, Fuji, and Granny Smith. 
1 cup dried cherries

Arrange apples and cherries in a baking dish. 
Stir together the following, and pour over fruit:

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 T arrowroot powder

Topping

1 cup quinoa flour (or any flour you prefer)
1 cup oats
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or nut pulp from nut milk)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the above together in a bowl. Place 1/3 to 1/2 half of the topping in a food processor, and buzz in 3 T vegan butter and 2 T coconut oil. Stir back in with the rest of the topping in the bowl, and sprinkle over the fruit. This is enough topping for a large 9x13 baking dish.

Bake at 375º for 45 minutes to an hour, until hot all the way through and apples are cooked to your liking. We prefer them a little bit crisp. Cover with foil if topping begins to brown too much. This is a very sweet dessert, so feel free to cut back on the sugar if you want to. I served it with vanilla Rice Dream Ice Cream, which was the only thing not made from scratch in the entire meal.

I hope you'll enjoy playing with these recipes, and including them in some of your own Holiday Feasts.

Cheers, and Happy Holidays!!!


the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III

Monday, November 28, 2011

the Feast - Part II

I'm back, with more recipes from my terrific Thanksgiving Feast. Today we have Mashed Cauliflower, Chipotle-Orange Cranberries, Sweet Potato Biscuits, and Spinach Salad. Let's go!


First the cranberries, because I love them so much. These are really easy to make, and infinitely better than the kind in a can. I think of these more as a side dish than a condiment.

Chipotle-Orange Cranberries

1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
zest and juice of 2 organic navel oranges
apple juice added to orange juice to make one cup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

Rinse and sort cranberries, and bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Boil gently for 10-15 minutes, until berries pop open and sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

~~~

Both cauliflower and potatoes are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cauliflower is lower in calories and carbs, and is a good choice if you avoid foods from the nightshade group. It's a nice change from the usual potatoes, and just as easy to make. 

Mashed Cauliflower

Boil or steam fresh cauliflower until very tender. Mash by hand, or whip with a mixer, adding vegan butter and nut milk to get the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Think about adding fresh garlic to the cooking water, and stirring in some Daiya cheese and fresh basil to the mash. Oh yum!

~~~

The Sweet Potato Biscuits I tested last week were just the right addition to this meal. So often, bread at Thanksgiving is just filler, and something to sop up gravy with, but these stand alone as a high fiber, high protein, delicious part of the meal. All that, and they're really pretty too. Click this link for the recipe. Here they are, ready to pop in the oven. I cut them smaller this time, so everyone could go back for seconds, which they did!



I don't know about you, but I like to have greens with almost every meal. People tend to wrinkle their noses at salad on a Thanksgiving plate, but I made everyone take some, because I knew the fresh crunchy spinach and root veggies would be so good with all the softer cooked foods, and the gently smoky dressing complimented the other flavors without competing. The colors were gorgeous too. I was right, and they all happily ate their spinach!

Spinach Salad

baby spinach
chopped raw beets, carrots, and jicama

Dressing

1/4 c flax seed oil
1 T rice vinegar
1 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste


That's it for today. Next time, we'll have dessert - a beautiful Apple-Cherry Cobbler!

~~~
the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III





Saturday, November 26, 2011

the Feast - Part I


This Thanksgiving was my first attempt at a major vegan spread. I spent three days shopping and cooking, so I took my time and prepped everything I could the day before the big meal. I had a fridge full of ziplock bags stuffed with chopped vegetables, and even went as far as to measure and bag the dry ingredients for the biscuits and cobbler. I knew I'd be distracted with family and friends in the kitchen, and wanted to be sure I could keep my place. I also have a big spiral notebook I write all my "working" recipes in. It's full of scribbles, notes, and changes. Without it, I'd never remember what I made last night, let alone a month ago. I wrote out the entire menu, and then gave each recipe a page of its own. It worked beautifully, and it never occurred to me as I planned all this that I might be taking on more than my kitchen could handle. I probably was, and even though I had a very good assistant, for a few minutes there I wondered how it was all going to come together. Then, in the last few minutes, the Kitchen Angels arrived, aprons on and hands washed, and miraculously, everything was ready to serve, all at the same time. I'm still kind of amazed.

Here's the menu for our Vegan Thanksgiving 2011:
Nut Crusted Tofu - marinated tofu, baked with a cashew-coconut crust
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms - marinated in a red wine sauce, and grilled on the stovetop
Quinoa-Corn Stuffing - quinoa and polenta, baked with traditional stuffing seasonings
Mashed Cauliflower - simply whipped with vegan butter
Mushroom Red Wine Gravy
Chipotle-Orange Cranberries
Spinach Salad - baby spinach with raw beets, carrots, and jicama in smoky-sweet vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Apple-Cherry Cobbler with Vanilla Rice Dream Ice Cream

Where did all this come from? I'm not really sure, and I can't really take the credit. It all sort of came to me last week, while I was soaking in the hot springs. The stuffing idea was Rick's, and the tofu is my simplified version of Mark Reinfeld's award winning recipe. We brainstormed a lot that day while I made notes and soaked my bones. I guess relaxation is a good thing!

And now I'm going to share all of with you here. There's no need to make all this at once. Try a recipe here and there. They were all big hits at my table, and we all had a hard time deciding what our favorites were. Keep in mind that I was cooking for 5 people, and had lots of leftovers, so you can adjust quantities as you need to. Also, I was cooking my brains out, so didn't get as many pictures as I wanted to. My helpers took a few for me, and I think you'll get the idea. Here we go!



Nut Crusted Tofu

2 blocks of extra firm tofu, each sliced into 8 pieces
Marinate several hours, or over night, in:
          1/2 cup tamari
          1/2 cup maple syrup
          apple juice to cover the tofu

Bake marinated tofu on a shallow baking sheet for 30 minutes at 350º

While tofu bakes, mix a little nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, tahini) with some of the marinade, and set aside. Make the Nut Crust.

Nut Crust

Pulse in food processor until crumbly:
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Remove tofu from oven and flip the slices over. Spoon on a little of the nut butter mixed with marinade, and spread to the edges of the tofu. Bake 20 minutes more.

Top tofu with Nut Crust and bake 10-15 minutes more.


Grilled Portobello Mushrooms & Mushroom Red Wine Gravy

I made these as "steaks" recently. This time I cut the mushrooms into thick slices for grilling. Then I turned the extra marinade into gravy, adding the chopped mushroom stems, thickening it with quinoa flour, and adding some almond milk for richness. It makes more of a wine reduction sauce than a traditional gravy. Here's the recipe from a previous blog.



Quinoa-Corn Stuffing


This recipe make s a vat of stuffing. You might want to cut it down for a normal family dinner...

Boil 6 cups vegetable broth in a large pot.
Add 1/2 cup polenta, and boil gently for 20-30 minutes, till tender.
Add 2 cups rinsed quinoa.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15-20 minutes more, stirring once or twice, until the broth is absorbed.

Saute:
1 chopped onion and 6 stalks celery in olive oil until they begin to soften.
Add 1 chopped apple and 1 cup frozen corn. Cook until hot, and season with salt & pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Stir the saute into the quinoa-polenta, and add more seasonings to taste. Place in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes to an hour, until it's lightly browned in top, and hot all the way through.

Okay - Let's stop here for today. This is going to be a three part blog, so I don't overwhelm anybody, including myself. Here's a picture of the entire meal. There's more to look forward to, so I'll see you back here in a day or two!


the Feast - Part I
the Feast - Part II
the Feast Part III

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More Power to You - Power Balls


I have my Vegan Thanksgiving Feast all planned, and will start the prep work today. I'm sure you've got your meal all figured out by now too, so I'll share my recipes after the holiday, and maybe you can use some of them later in the season. Meanwhile, we can all use some extra energy this time of year - quick bites of pure fuel that can keep us afloat on the busy days ahead. Store bought energy bars can be okay, but many of them are loaded with processed sugars, which are totally bad for us, and besides, they're ridiculously expensive. I got a version of the following recipe from my friends Kat & Kathleen, and proceeded to mess with it until it was super simple, and extra good. I call them Power Balls because they pack a real nutritional wallop, but best of all, they're a tasty treat. 

These are a great snack to take along just about anywhere. I'll sometimes munch one or two with a cup of tea and call it lunch. I think they're quite fancy enough to call them cookies, but you could dress them up by stirring in things like tiny chocolate chips and chopped dried cherries, and maybe roll them in organic powdered sugar and give them as holiday gifts. I might do just that.

Here's the basic recipe. Please feel free to play with it. You can't really mess these up.

Power Balls

Buzz together in a food processor:
2 cups coarsely chopped dried fruit
          Dates are especially good, but try adding in some apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, etc.
1/4 cup maple syrup
          You can also use agave or brown rice syrup.
1/4 cup peanut butter
          Or use cashew or almond butter. The original recipe calls for coconut oil, which is extra decadent.

Add, and pulse until medium-to-finely chopped, but not pureed:
1/2 cup nuts and seeds
          I like cashews, walnuts, almonds, and sunflowers seeds, in any combination.
1/4 cup chia seeds
          These are a Super Food favored by the Aztecs for strength and stamina.
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

It will look something like this...


Roll into small balls, and place on a baking sheet. No baking though! Just place them in the fridge for an hour or so, and then store refrigerated in an air tight container. They'll keep for at least a couple of weeks, but I'll bet they get eaten long before that.


Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! And if you're cooking a Vegan Feast, yay YOU!!!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegan Video Stars

Talented, inspired, creative, silly, fun, amazing self-produced Vegan Video Stars are popping up all over the internet, and some of them are really worth watching. Not only do they offer some great vegan education and recipes, they do it with style and humor. The entertainment value alone makes it worth checking some of them out, even if you're not vegan. I'll get you started with three of my favorites.

At the top of my list is Vegan Drag Queen. Oh yes, darling! Honey LaBronx is the most adorable vegan, activist, drag queen you could ever hope to meet. Well, I certainly hope to meet her. She has some fine cooking skills, a terrific outlook, and a slightly naughty sense of humor that probably won't offend most of you too much. You can watch Vegan Drag Queen's cooking show videos on her website, or find them on YouTube. Here's Episode One. Go Honey, go!



Next up, Vegan Black Metal Chef. This one left me speechless the first time I saw it, but VBMC has developed a huge following, so clearly, a lot of people like this stuff. I wonder if they're watching it for the black metal-ness, or for the food, which is actually quite good. Check out this version of Vegan Pad Thai. Fair warning, Vegan Black Metal Chef can be kind of a potty mouth at times. But oh... what a cool knife he has!



After you've recovered from VBMC, check out the Vegan Zombie. This one's been around quite a while, but I don't get out much, so I've only just discovered it. At first I wasn't sure about the connection between vegans and zombies, but it does get your attention, right? Then I read the "about" page, and well, that cleared it all up... "The zombie apocalypse is coming and we will be ready. Infection will originate from within the meat flesh the people zombies consume. Vegans will be one step ahead…"
There's a movie trailer that will help you understand what TVZ is all about, and here's the most recent of many, many cooking videos. Weird stuff. I love it.



So I'm wondering... if I wanted to do a cooking show, what would my gimmick be? I have absolutely no idea, but the wheels are turning... Meanwhile, I'm going to watch more of these tasty videos.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits


I have big plans for Thanksgiving this year. Some of the recipes can be trusted to improvisation on the big day, but there's one in particular I don't want to leave to chance. I'm not really a baker, and I want the Sweet Potato Biscuits to be perfect, so I decided to take them for a test drive. As it turns out, there was no need to worry. This is a simple, traditional biscuit recipe that takes no real "skill." If you can Measure Stuff and Stir Stuff, you can make these! They came out perfect the first time. So perfect, in fact, I made a second batch because my taste testers ate them all up and wanted more.

I had two fat sweet potatoes sitting on the counter, so I poked some holes in them with a fork, threw them in the oven and baked them until they were nice and soft, then pureed them in the food processor with just enough water to make them smooth. I had more than enough for the biscuits, so some of it became my grandson's first homemade baby food. I'm so proud. He's been eating sweet potatoes from a jar, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to cook something for him. And yes, of course you can buy canned sweet potatoes or yams. Don't beat yourself up if you decide to go that way. It's faster and easier, and your biscuits will still be wonderful.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
(These amounts make about 6 biscuits. You might want to double the recipe!)

1 cup sweet potato puree
1 cup flour (I made one batch with quinoa four, and one with whole wheat. Nobody had a real preference.)
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T maple syrup

Stir everything together just until mixed, and turn the dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle a little flour on top, and pat dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares. Place biscuits on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes. Mine took the full 20 minutes at our 7,000 foot elevation.



They came out moist and flaky, and just so lip-smackin' good with a little vegan butter. You could call them scones if you want, and serve them with jam for breakfast, but I think they'll be just perfect with our Thanksgiving dinner, and maybe yours too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vegan Hot Springs Getaway

It's not always easy being vegan in New Mexico. Most of the time I cook at home, and now and then we'll go out for Thai food, or make do with chips, salsa, and guacamole if we're out for margaritas with friends. When we travel, we take some of our own food along for the ride, and trust that we'll find something - at least a salad - on restaurant menus along the way.

Rick and I took a mini-vacation to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa over the weekend, to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Ojo, as the locals call it, is close to home, but worlds away. It's an easy day trip from Taos, but we chose to spend a night, so we could really soak our bones and relax. We took along a small cooler filled with snacks, like nut cheese, crackers, champagne, and a southwest-style sushi that was a big hit with my sweetie.

To make this weird-but-wonderful finger food, follow the instruction in my original post, Sushi Made Simple, but fill the rolls with nut cheese, rice, chopped lettuce, black beans, carrots, and chopped jalapenos. I was out of avocado, but will add some next time! The dipping sauce was a spicy chipotle mayo, made with vegan mayonnaise, chipotle powder, a splash of jalapeno juice from the jar, and a little stevia or sugar.




I tend to overstuff my sushi, which makes it messy to roll up. Scale it down a bit of you can, or just scoop up what falls out and tuck it into the next roll.


The Artesian Restaurant at Ojo has something for everyone, including vegans. All menus can be found on the restaurant link, although they don't seem to be quite up to date. You'll get the idea though - they serve the sort of beautiful food you'd expect at a spa resort. Nobody goes hungry.

We ordered several things to share, which tends to confuse servers, but gives us a nice variety of things to taste. We had the Green Chile "Fries," which were fresh, crisp, and wonderful, and the Spinach Salad with prickly pear vinaigrette instead of the cumin vinaigrette, which has egg in it. The hostess was eager to help us choose vegan items, once we told her what we were wishing for.

The Tortilla Soup was so good we asked for the recipe, which we sort of got. It's a tomato-based soup, thickened with corn tortillas, and seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Garnished with little crispy sliced tortilla strips and avocado, this soup was lick-the-bowl good, and I'll be making at home soon.

Last, we shared the veggie-stuffed Chile Relleno, served with a darling little Quinoa Tamale, which was actually some wonderfully seasoned quinoa (was that a hint of nutmeg?) artfully served in a corn husk "bowl". The spicy red chile sauce was just right, and we didn't miss the goat cheese one bit. No room for dessert, we took a walk around the grounds, and then relaxed by the outdoor camp fire with the rest of our bottle of wine, and some bits of good sea-salted chocolate we'd brought from home.

In the morning, I remembered to bring my phone/camera to breakfast, but forgot to take a picture of my Tofu-Spinach Scramble until it was half gone. That's how good it was!


Back in my own kitchen now, I have some new things to try, and am happy to report that Ojo Caliente is, indeed, very vegan friendly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Portobello Mushroom Steaks


Pondering dinner options one night, Rick said, How about portobello burgers and sweet potato fries? Since my husband is still "vegan between parties," and we haven't been to any parties lately, I took this to mean he was in the mood for something on the "meaty side" of vegan. I agreed that sounded pretty good, and it would have been good, except that once I got going, I changed it all around to where it was more like a steak dinner, worthy of a good cabernet, than a mere burger bite with a beer.

With two big beautiful portobello mushrooms to work with, the wheels started turning quickly. Tucking thin slices of fresh garlic between the fins, I next made a big batch of marinade. Coating the rounded surface of the mushrooms, and filling the finned side, I left them to soak it up while I started some polenta.

Mushroom Marinade
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 c red wine
2 tsp powdered mustard
2 T vegan worcestershire (Annie's Naturals makes a good one)


It takes a while (and some muscle power) to make polenta from scratch, but it's really easy, and so much better than the kind you buy in a tube. For two people, start with a cup of organic dry polenta and 3 cups of veggie broth or water. Heat to a boil, then reduce to low,  and stir in some dried basil, a little salt, and some chopped walnuts. Cook slowly, stirring fairly constantly until it's thick and creamy. You might need to add more broth as you go, allowing the polenta to cook to a soft consistency.

Between stirs, you can chop up a simple green salad and mix up a creamy-cheesy dressing made from nut cheese, a spoonful of vegan mayo, nut milk, a little vinegar, and garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

When the polenta is done, cover it and remove it from the heat. Now heat up a grilling pan and drain excess marinate from the inside of the mushrooms. When the grill pan is hot, give it a quick shot of cooking oil spray, and gently press the mushrooms onto the pan, round side down. After a few minutes they'll begin to soften and droop a little bit. Check the underside, looking for nice grill marks, but no burning. Flip the mushrooms and cook a few more minutes. They should take about 10-12 minutes total.



While the mushrooms are grilling, pour the remaining marinade into a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil, and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, to reduce some of the liquid. This makes a wonderful, intensely flavored sauce for the finished dish.

To serve, spread a thick layer of polenta on part of the plate, and top with a mushroom. Finish with the reduced sauce, and serve with green salad topped with sliced avocado, and maybe a sprinkle of seeds or nuts.

Variations:

Slice and marinate the mushrooms, and sauté them instead of grilling them.

Add a little flour to the sauce to make it more of a gravy.

Serve with rice, pasta, or potatoes instead of polenta.

Serve the mushrooms burger-style, on whole grain buns, with salad and sweet potato fries.
(Great idea, Rick!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mac n' Cheese


We've talked about cheese before. It's the heroin of the dairy world, full of lovely, soothing opiates, and truly an addictive substance. Going vegan is easy in a lot of ways, but for lots of us, the most challenging when it comes to cheese. In my case, I mourned the loss of my beloved mac n' cheese, and then I started looking around for good vegan versions of this ultimate comfort food. There are hundreds of different riffs on vegan mac n' cheese out there. Everybody has their own idea of how to make it, and what it should taste like. I've seen endless recipes using either tofu or nuts. Almost all of them include nutritional yeast, which is the Secret Key to the Vegan Cheese Universe. It has that rich, smooth, nutty-cheesy flavor we crave, plus it's good for us.

I remember the days when I was a single mom with two kids, living on next to nothing, and making a lot of creative use of the "blue box" mac n' cheese. It was fast and easy, the kids liked it, and well, it was cheap. My favorite way to eat it was straight from the pan with a wooden spoon. In fact, I still like my mac n' cheese that way, but these days, I make a much healthier, tastier version. I served this to a table full of friends the other night, and even though some of them still eat the "real" kind (we're going to have to talk about "real" one of these days), they said mine tasted even better. Hooray! Another score for Team Vegan!

The thing about mac n' cheese is it should be fast and easy to make. Granted, a good homemade meal is going to be messier and more time consuming to fix than a chemical meal from a box, but my mac n' cheese is still quick and easy, and well worth the extra bit of cleanup. There are several ways to go about this dish, depending on what you already have on hand.

Method 1 - If you've made a batch of Basic Nut Cheese from the pulp left from Basic Nut Milk, you're half way there! Just slowly warm the cheese in a sauce pan with some liquid to thin it down. Try nut milk, vegetable broth, and even a splash beer or wine for a snazzy grown-up flavor. You may want to add more seasonings, like nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, or herbs, and consider a blop of vegan butter for extra richness. Once it passes your own personal taste test, pour it over your favorite cooked macaroni. I like whole wheat or rice elbow noodles for that authentic mac n' cheese look.

Method 2 - If you have a cup or so of nut pulp left from making nut milk, you can throw it in the food processor and blend it up with a bit of liquid to make it as smooth as possible, then transfer it to a sauce pan, add more liquid, nutritional yeast, salt, mustard powder, and other seasonings as above.

Method 3 - If you're starting from scratch and are in a hurry, soak a cup of cashews in water for about 20 minutes. Drain and process as above, with liquid, nutritional yeast, and seasonings. Cashews make a smoother, creamier sauce than almonds do, plus they require much less soak time. They're the speedy "blue box" of vegan mac n' cheese!

I've read that adding artichoke hearts to cheese will give it a nice Swiss cheese flavor. I'll be trying that soon! You can also add canned or cooked pumpkin to take the flavor in another direction. Experiment with herbs and vegetable additions to create your own favorites. There's always room in the world for another vegan mac n' cheese recipe!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good Vegan News

I do a lot of stumbling around the internet, and sometimes I land in something really great, like a free online book I can share with you! The Ultimate Vegan Guide, by Eric Marcus, is available online for free, on Kindle for just 99¢, and in paperback for only $8.95. I haven't actually read it yet, but I popped it onto my free Kindle for Mac, which also makes it readable on my free Kindle for iPhone. Sometimes technology makes my heart sing out loud.

Also, Mark Reinfeld has just won Best Recipe of the Year at Vegan.com, for his Mediterranean Pistachio Crusted Tofu with Saffron Quinoa Pilaf. Oh YUM! I want to try this right now. For breakfast. But the best part of this news, for me anyway, is that I'm taking Mark's 10 Day Vegan Immersion course in April. I get to learn from this guy! I'm so excited! I think I'll go cook something!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creamy Bean Soup


I make this soup all winter long, using various types of beans. It's rich and comforting, and simple to make, which is exactly what I want on a cold November night. I used black-eyed peas this time, but black beans, adzuki beans, or white beans are all good in this soup. If you use canned beans, it's quick to put together. If you cook your own beans, it takes longer, but tastes that much better.

Creamy Bean Soup

Soak 1-2 cups of beans in water overnight.
Bring beans to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans, and set them aside. This reduces the gassiness. You could also cook the beans ahead of time and save them to add to the soup near the end of cooking time, just to re-warm them. If you're really in a time crunch, use canned beans.

In your soup pot, saute some chopped onion and garlic in coconut oil.
Add the soaked, uncooked beans and cover with water or broth. Bring to a boil, and cook the beans till tender - usually about 1-2 hours - adding water or broth as needed to keep the beans covered. I use a large box of veggie broth, and add water too.
~Skip this step if using canned or pre-cooked beans, and just heat the broth, and then add the following:

Add a can of coconut milk and a chopped sweet potato.
Season with cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and a blop of peanut butter.
Simmer until the sweet potatoes are done, adding more liquid if you think it needs it.
Add some finely chopped kale or spinach and cook for a few more minutes.
Just before serving, add a generous squeeze of lime and some chopped fresh cilantro.


This is a good one to serve to non-vegan friends with a big hunk of crusty bread, and maybe a salad. They'll never miss the meat.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sushi Made Simple

We had a few friends over last night, and I made Miso Happy Soup, which is always a hit. I wanted something fun and compatible to start with as a little appetizer, and my usual work-night nut-cheese & crackers or chips & guac from the local really good Mexican place just didn't seem right. I decided it was time to try making sushi, which was a little scary, but I'd helped a friend make some years and years ago, and figured I could work it out. I was right. It turned out beautiful and delicious! Everybody loved it, which always makes me so happy.


To make this easy delicacy, you'll need a sushi rolling mat, nori sheets (the outer wrapper of seaweed), cooked rice, and your choice of veggie fillings.
These are easy to find in many grocery stores and Asian markets, or order this one for $4.95 from Crate&Barrel.
I buy these in our local market. You can also order them from Amazon.

I'm not much concerned with making anything too traditional, so I used brown basmati rice. It's so much healthier than white rice, and it worked great. I filled some of my rolls with Super Seaweed Salad (for a salty-fishy flavor), avocado, and carrots. Others were filled with nut-cheese, avocado, bell peppers, and tamari-toasted sunflower seeds.

I made two sauces - the traditional wasabi-tamari mix, made with real wasabi. I learned that most of the wasabi you get in restaurants is actually horseradish dyed green, because the real deal is so expensive. But, you can get a jar of real wasabi powder for about $7 in many markets' Asian food sections. Just mix a little with water until it forms a paste, and let it sit for about 10 minutes to develop its flavor. Then mix in tamari to taste. Easy! My other sauce was actually the favorite here last night. It was just a splash or two of tamari, maple syrup, and pepper-sesame oil. It had that nice sweet-salty-spicy teriyaki sort of thing going on.

Now for the how-to. I found the following 9 minute video from HealthyVegan, and it was really helpful in giving me the basics, and showing me the technique for rolling the sushi into tight little bundles. Watch and learn!



Fun, huh? I can't wait to make some more. And I know what I'll be bringing to pot lucks from now on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Question - Hair Loss on a Vegan Diet?


Thanks to IKnowHair.com for the image!


"Hi Kim...love all the info you send my way...Just a quick question...I have always had long, pretty thick hair...I am almost 8 months into my vegan journey and I am losing hair in mass quantities....My diet has been very good..with plenty of legumes...grains...quinoa...greens...fruit...veggies...tofu....Just curious if you ever had this problem??? Overall I feel great and have no plans in stopping my vegan journey...I also supplement B12 and have sun warrior protein shakes a couple of times a week...Any thoughts... Thanks!"
Stacy


Hi Stacy,
Thanks for your question. I have not experienced this problem, so I had to do some research to find out what could cause a healthy vegan to lose her hair. There's no definitive answer, and of course I have to recommend that you check with your doctor to rule out anything serious. There are several things to look at more closely in your diet though, and the rest of us should do the same, to be sure we keep it all in balance. Everyone, no matter what their diet preference, needs to pay attention to good nutrition. We know it's absolutely possible to maintain a healthy vegan diet, and our bodies will certainly give us clues when something is out of whack. 

Insufficient protein and B12 can be major causes of hair loss, but these don't appear to be the issue for you, Stacy. A condition called "Telogen Effluvium," which is a temporary increase in normal daily hair loss can be brought on by rapid weight loss, which sometimes happens to new vegans. It can also be brought on by any number of drugs, including oral contraceptives, as well as by over-use of vitamin A. Deficiencies in iron, zinc, or lysine are other common causes of hair loss.

Take a close look at your stress level, in combination with nutrition. Stress, as we know, can bring on all sorts of physical problems, including hair loss. You might be getting a signal to decompress a bit, or make some changes in your work or home life.

Another thing to look into is hormone imbalance, which often results in thyroid imbalance. This can be one of the joys of menopause, and is also sometimes caused by eating too much soy in combination with insufficient iodine. 

I would look at all these possibilities individually, and see if anything jumps out. I wish there was an easy answer! At least there are several things to explore, and it's probably as simple as adjusting your supplements a bit. I really appreciate your question Stacy, and look forward to answering others that are coming in. I'm learning a lot, and have ordered several books to have on hand to help me in my research. With good vegan nutrition, and good vegan recipes, we can all be Super Vegans! Please check the sources listed below for more in-depth information.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

World Vegan Day!

Happy World Vegan Day! Just a quick greeting today, and a link to my favorite magazine, VegNews, where you can read more about today's celebration! Enjoy!