Thursday, February 28, 2013

I'm Bananas Over All-Fruit Ice Cream

Did you know you can make ice cream out of frozen bananas? I knew it could be done, but for some silly reason I though I needed a Vitamix to make the magic happen. I'm still waiting patiently for my Vitamix to appear, but maybe it's a good thing I don't have one yet, so I can show you that you don't need to spend $500 on a blender just so you can make the world's easiest, and dare I say, most delightful ice cream.

If you have a food processor, you can whip up this treat in mere minutes. I have to say, it was a little bit like riding a mechanical bull (which, yes, I have in fact done - once). The food processor jumped all over the counter while I held on tight. But unlike the bull, after a little bit of coaxing, the bananas and berries surrendered, and low and behold, we had the most luscious, smooth, creamy bowl of ice cream you could ever imagine. We ate it all up, right there on the spot, forgetting that we had chocolate sauce to pour over it. Dang. I guess I'll just have to make some more.

Banana-Berry Ice Cream

2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 pitted dates, soaked in about 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes or more (keep a jar of dates soaking in the fridge, so you'll have them for emergency ice cream binges)

Place the bananas, berries, vanilla, and dates in the food processor, saving the date water to add if needed. Blend until smooth (or leave it a little chunky if you like), stopping frequently to scrape the sides of the bowl. If it seems too thick to blend, add the date water a little at a time. The finished ice cream will be kind of a soft serve consistency.

This ice cream can be frozen for later, but I think it's best eaten right away. And since it's all fruit, there's zero guilt. Eat it for breakfast if you want to. I won't say a thing.

Variations: Try any kind of frozen berries or fruit in place of the strawberries. Add nuts. Add cocoa or cacao powder and extra dates for more sweetness. Add chia seeds for extra nutrition. Stir in chunks of chocolate, fruit, or nuts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Heavenly Vegan Hollandaise

Rick and I ate buckets of hollandaise last week, all in the name of research and good recipe development. Not exactly a terrible thing to have to do, and a whole lot healthier than if I were making the stuff out of butter and eggs. The recipe is ready to share, so in preparation for our Gluten Free March, here's a lovely sauce that can dress up darn near anything you choose to drown in it... I mean, serve it with. Test this recipe, and make any changes that suit you, so you'll have it ready to roll forevermore. Maybe a little more turmeric or lemon, or less salt, or even extra cashews in place of the tofu, for those who are anti-soy. (If you're not sure why you're anti-soy, re-visit my post from October of last year, What About Soy?) Every day's a holiday with hollandaise! Watch for my upcoming recipe for the fabulous Veggie Benny!

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce

8 oz. (1/2 block) silken tofu
1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked 1 hour or more
1/4 cup raw pine nuts, soaked with the cashews
4 T nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp herbs de provence or basil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until very smooth. Warm over low heat in a saucepan. This sauce is so good on so many things, and it won't send you into cardiac arrest. Enjoy! No eggs + no butter = no guilt.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BMI - Another Look at Your Healthy Body

Many thanks to Olivine's Charm School for the wonderful photo.
I will probably always cringe when I hear the words, "bikini season," but I know a lot of people are starting to think about showing more skin soon, and for some, the post-holiday shape-up is still underway. One of the reasons I decided to try a vegan diet in the first place was to lose weight. I was over 50, and on the fast train to Frumpsville. I had almost resigned myself to just letting it all go, nearly convinced that it was inevitable to gain weight and slow down as I got older. I'm glad I was only nearly convinced, because in fact, I was absolutely wrong about all that. Since going vegan, with the help of exercise, which I added later, I've lost somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds. I don't know exactly how much because I refused to own a scale for years. But when I started running last year, I decided to allow one back into the bathroom, to help me keep track of my progress. As it turns out, the scale actually began to help cheer me on, rather than discourage me, because adding the running to my already healthy diet really started to change my body. I have noticed that "over 50" it's more of a work in progress than it would have been in my younger years, but it's still working, and I'm still working at it.

A common misconception is that all vegans are skinny, even emaciated, weaklings, although just a little bit of research will turn up loads of well-known vegan athletes who disprove that stereotype in one fell bench press. At the other end of the spectrum, it's completely possible to be a chubby or even fat vegan. Just because a food is plant based doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy. Fritos and Oreos are vegan, but a steady diet of them won't get you into swimsuit shape. The point is, we're all different, we can all be better, and a vegan diet can help us with everything from weight loss to disease prevention and reversal.

After I lost enough poundage to feel pretty good about myself, I came across the idea of checking out my BMI. Body Mass Index estimates the amount of fat in our bodies, based on a simple calculation using height and weight. It's not precise, but it is a good tool for helping to get real about our health and goals. It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking we're "just big boned," or "a little chubby," when in fact we might be officially obese, which of course leads to all sorts of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and "bad" knees and backs. A quick BMI calculation might be just the nudge a "slightly heavy" person needs to get out of denial and on to a healthier life track. A reality check can be an uncomfortable thing, but it's not as uncomfortable as a heart attack.

For me, having been what I would call fat (see my Before picture on the My Story page of my website), it was good to find out that I'm now smack in the middle of the "healthy" range of weight for my height. Having struggled with my weight for years, I had a hard time really seeing my new and improved body accurately. I still want to lose a few more pounds before the next half marathon in June, but now it's simply because when I have less to haul, the running is easier.

There are lots of online BMI calculators out there, but the one I like best is on the Mayo Clinic site. They offer a version for adults, as well as one for children, explain briefly what BMI is all about, and offer simple suggestions for making improvements, such as eating fruits, vegetable, and whole grains. More and more, eating a plant based diet is just what the doctor orders. Bikini or no bikini, it just makes sense to do all we can to take good care of these lovely bags of skin we've been given to live in. And whatever your choice of swimwear, I'd much rather see you on the beach than in the hospital.


Are you happy with your weight and health? If not, what's one simple change you can make right now to get you going in a better direction? "Weigh in" here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another PV Giveaway!

Ready for another PV Giveaway? Me too! Enter to win this super happy, sterling silver necklace by leaving a comment on my blog. Comment on any, and as many posts as you like. I'll randomly pick the winner next Tuesday, February 26th. Please be sure to sign your name to your comments. If I don't know who you are, I can't announce you as the winner!

PS - Get another chance to win by adding your name to the PV Mailing List!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest Chef in My Kitchen

Rick used to do all the cooking around here, back when I was a beadmaker with my nose to the torch day in and day out. He still likes to cook, but I rarely let him into "my" kitchen anymore. That's just mean, right? So when he said he wanted to make his famous Curried Black Eyed Peas last night, I untied my apron and stepped to the other side of the counter, camera and notebook in hand. I think I'll let him cook more often.

Curried Black Eyed Peas
serves 6-8
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T garlic, grated
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cumin
4 tsp curry powder
2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable broth or water
4 (15 oz) cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp maple syrup
2 cans lite coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 T lemon juice
tamari to taste

Saute the onion in a little water, over medium heat, for 2-3 minutes (Rick actually used about a tablespoon of oil, but I would have stopped him if I'd been in the room.)
Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, and curry powder, and cook for a minute or so.
Add roma tomatoes, and cook until they start to break down.
Add the broth, and bring to a boil.
Add the black eyed peas, salt, maple syrup, and coconut milk, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and cilantro.
Serve as a soup, or over rice or quinoa.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Naked Cupcakes for Breakfast

I made cupcakes for my sweetie for Valentine's Day, and updated my old favorite recipe for Chocolate Black Bean Cupcakes to come up with this new version, which I think is even better. Like the original recipe, these have some rather odd ingredients, but don't be afraid. They're totally delicious, and incidentally, full of healthy goodness. I replaced the oil with apple sauce, so they're now much lower in fat. And I replaced the expensive maple syrup with organic cane sugar, making them much more economical to throw together. I also added a little bit of raspberry jam to the middle of each cake for an extra something special. The frosting is a sweet, rich "buttercream," made with cashews instead of the traditional (vegan) butter. These are excellent even without frosting too. Maybe good for a special post-Valentine's breakfast, hmm?

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup organic granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mild chili powder

1/2 cup (packed) dried, pitted prunes
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp white or cider vinegar

all-fruit raspberry jam

Soak the prunes in water for about 15 minutes to soften.
If you're going to make the frosting, start the cashews soaking now too. (see below)
Line a muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
Preheat your oven to 350º.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Place soaked, drained prunes and all other wet ingredients (except jam) in a food processor, and blend until smooth. You might still see small flecks of beans, but that's okay.
Stir blended wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
Divide the batter between 12 cupcake liners.
Place about a teaspoon of jam on top of each unbaked cupcake, and gently press it into the surface of the batter.
Bake at 350º for about 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven and elevation. The toothpick test is tricky with these, so it's better to check the top and sides for firmness.
Allow to cool completely before frosting, or enjoy them naked. The cakes, I mean. Of course it's up to you... ;o)

Cashew Buttercream Frosting
makes enough for about 2 dozen cupcakes, and can be frozen

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked an hour or more
2 cups organic powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
almond milk, or other non-dairy milk

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews, and place them in a food processor, along with the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pulse to blend, adding only a few drops of milk at a time until the frosting is blended to a smooth and spreadable texture. Frost completely cooled cupcakes, and save any extra frosting in the freezer for next time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gluten Free Experiment

Heads up, my Gluten Free Friends! Rick and I are going GF for the entire month of March, not because we have to, but because we're curious to see if we'll feel better without the gluten. Neither of us has a gluten sensitivity that we're aware of, and we already feel pretty darn fabulous. But if it could get even better, we'll take it.

So many people are off the gluten these days, for varying reasons, and I get a lot of requests for GF recipes. March is for you, GF darlings! There's a world of wonderful food out there, just waiting to be enjoyed. I'm starting my exploration early, because I suspect there will be a certain amount of trial and error, particularly when it comes to breads and such. I made a pizza crust last night that was actually quite delicious. There's science in this, and I'm doing my research. The resulting dough was a mix of a gluten free focaccia recipe, and a favorite pizza dough recipe from Tassajara. I'm glad I wrote it all down as I went, because this one is repeatable, and I will certainly share it in March!

I'm stocking up on exotic flours, and wishing really, really hard for a great big Kitchenaid mixer (in a pretty color, maybe with tulips painted on it) to help me with all the stirring I'll be doing. One day these big companies will be clamoring to give me their appliances, but for now, I have a very nice olive wood spoon and a strong arm. At least I can take this equipment anywhere in the world.

If you have Gluten Free wishes, please post them here in the comments. I am taking recipe suggestions, and I want to know what's missing from your GF life. Tell me!

(And remember - tomorrow is the drawing for the PV giveaway! You still have time to post comments all over my blog, as many as you like. You could win the sterling silver Bird Necklace!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everyday Dressing

It was a busy weekend, so all I have for you today is a salad dressing. But maybe you need a little nudge to eat more greens, hmm? Even though the weather is still cold, Rick and I have a big salad for lunch almost every day. Eat salad, be happy!

This is a "hybrid" dressing - a cross between the thick and creamy Cheesy Basil Dressing that Rick loves, and the lower-fat Kim's Favorite. We usually end up blending the two together anyway, so this is a good compromise that we both love.

Everyday Dressing
1/2 cup raw cashews - soaked for 20 minutes, then drained and rinsed
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste
2 T tamari
2 T mustard
1/4 cup vinegar - any kind you like
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup water

Blend everything together on high speed until smooth. Store in a glass jar or bottle.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cashew Oyster Burgers

Don't panic, vegan friends - I'm talking about oyster mushrooms here! Burger week at my house has turned up two real winners - the Walnut Burgers from Monday, and these fabulously fishy (but not too fishy) patties. These were great on grainy buns with the usual trimmings, but I also think they'd make lovely little appetizer-sized oyster cakes or sliders.

Cashew Oyster Burgers
1 cup raw cashews, lightly toasted and finely chopped
4 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup flour
1 T nutritional yeast
3 T flax seed meal
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kelp granules
1/2 tsp salt - or to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T tamari
1 T mustard
1 tsp vegan worcestershire
2 T water

Mix everything together using your hands. Shape into 3 or 4 patties and cook over medium-low heat in a non-stick frying pan until both sides are browned.

These are good with homemade tartar sauce: vegan mayo, mustard, and chopped pickles. Yum.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The First PV Giveaway!

I love to enter online giveaways. I rarely win, but it makes me feel connected to join in the fun. Since I have my pretty new Etsy Shop open now, I though it would be fun to celebrate with a giveaway of my own. Good idea, yes?

I'm offering this sweet little Bird-on-a-Branch necklace to one lucky winner. It's sterling silver, with a little XO on the back, and comes on a stainless steel chain. (If you don't win, you can scoop one up in my Etsy Shop, where 5% of all sales go to A Well Fed World!)

To enter, leave a comment on this post, or any other February post until the 13th. Comment on as many posts as you like. I'll choose the winner in a random drawing on Valentine's Day!

I know you're out there - I can hear you chewing! Put down your fork for a sec and leave a comment already! Somebody has to win, and it might as well be you!
xoxo Kim

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Team Mates

I want you to meet my husband, Rick. This slightly goofy picture was taken on New Year's Eve. I like it because it shows us looking shiny and healthy and ready for all the good things a new year has in store. As you know, I've been vegan for almost three years now. Rick has been along for the ride the whole time, although he was a little less enthusiastic than I was for a while. I jokingly told people he was "vegan between parties," which was pretty accurate. Cheese, of course, was the Naughty Temptress who would slink up to him at the hors d'oeuvres table and tug at his sleeve. He really didn't even try to resist, and I waited patiently for him to get it out of his system. We're talking about cheese here, not another woman for heaven-sakes.

Eventually my sweetie began to realize that the cheese he was sneaking at parties and at work was not making him feel very good... or very well either. Without being too pushy, I took whatever openings I could get to educate him on the perils of dairy, and the sad existence of factory farmed animals. He's an open-minded guy, so he paid attention, and eventually decided he was ready to go all-in. You can imagine my delight, having my Favorite Person finally on my team. Not only do I want him to live a long and healthy life with me, it really helps me to feel like I'm not the only vegan on the planet sometimes.

Rick is probably still not quite as dedicated as I am to the "vegan cause," but then that's not his style. I'm not exactly an activist, but I do get more caught up than he does in things I feel strongly about. So I won't be surprised (or scolding) if he doesn't ask if the wine is vegan in a restaurant, or doesn't mind that there's a squiggle of sour cream on his no-cheese enchiladas. The important thing is, he cares, he's paying attention, and he's talking to people about what he knows about the food industry, which makes me feel stronger and even more committed to my little mission to save the world. Rick will be showing up more and more here, so when I mention "we," now you'll know who I'm talking about.

Rick and I are both attending the VidaVeganCon Blogger's Conference in May of this year. He has a blog he rarely tends to, but he wants to get back to it, and he wants to make a difference in the world, same as I do, but maybe in a different way. And who knows - maybe he'll guest blog for me here now and then. I'd really like that, and I think you would too. Rick, Everybody, Everybody, Rick. It's time you all met.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recipe Box Revival - and Walnut Burgers

Another Meatless Monday! Let's get this week started with some fun inspiration and something good to eat...

Like many of you, I have an ancient recipe box, stuffed full of ragged little cards, handwritten with recipes that tell the story of my early cooking life. Most are written in my own handwriting, and many are in my mom's, which always makes me feel a sense of happy connection to her, even though she's been gone for over 20 years now. And I still laugh every time I see the comic she clipped and mailed to me back in 1989. It's lived in the lid of the box all this time. Sigh... food has such magical powers to transport us back in time.

I've been flipping through this little metal box lately, with an idea to update and veganize some of the old recipes. I suppose there could be a book in it, but first things first. I need to see how much usable material I have here, and then start working my way through it. It sounds like what could be the start of a really fun project.

Part of my idea is to recreate these recipes in a handwritten format, because it continues the tradition of re-writing favorite recipes on cards to share with friends. There was a time when you might take a dish to a party, and when several people would ask for the recipe, you'd go home, and hand copy it onto a 3x5 card for each of them, knowing that everyone else stored their recipes in a little metal box, just like you did. Writing recipes by hand now also adds another layer of creativity to the cooking itself, which i find rather lovely.

If you google "hand drawn recipes," you'll find that a lot of people are making wonderful art out of written recipes. I don't really know how to draw, so my personal style in this will be less artful than some. Still, I love the idea of drawing, and I always have a stash of colorful pens, pencils, and pastels around. I've moved them to the kitchen now. It seems like where they really belong. And I always love an excuse to buy a brand new "64" box of crayons. Very exciting.

I brought a sketch book to the kitchen with me last night when I tackled my old recipe for Walnut Burgers. I always make notes when I cook, but the sketch book felt really wonderful and different from a regular lined spiral notebook. I never stay in the lines anyway. What I ended up with for my first attempt at "drawing a recipe" is more of a doodle gone wild than a drawing, but I kind of like it anyway. And the best part is, the burgers were terrific. Possibly my best yet. I want to try some variations, so this might very well turn into "burger week" at my house, but I don't hear anyone complaining. Here's my first "recipe card" for you. If you click on the photo, it should enlarge to a more readable size. And no, that is not a banjo at the bottom - it's a frying pan. I trust that my drawing skills will improve over time.

And in case you can't read my handwriting, here's a transcript...

Walnut Burgers
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 T dry basil
1/4 tsp powdered sage
1/4 tsp powdered thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp vegan worcestershire
3 T tomato paste
3 T flaxseed meal mixed with 3 T water

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Shape into 3 or 4 patties, and fry in a non-stick pan over medium heat, until browned on both sides.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies

A cupful of dried banana chips that my grandson wouldn't eat were the inspiration for this recipe. I bet he'll go for the cookies!

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup unsweetened dried banana chips, chopped
1/2 cup raisins - optional
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips - optional
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
3 T flax seed meal
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350º
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Whisk wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients to form a stiff dough.
Form balls of dough with a tablespoon and your hands. Flatten the balls onto a prepared cookie sheet (oil, parchment, or silicone baking liner).
Bake for about 13 minutes, depending on your oven and altitude.