Posted tagged ‘food’

Bringing Vegan Wherever I Go

March 10, 2014

It’s 8:00 sharp on Saturday morning.  I am standing in the big, bright kitchen of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Gloucester, MA.  The talented author Janet Ruth Young happens to be on the board of this church, and I happen to know her.   When she asked me to be a guest speaker at her church as part of their green initiative lecture series, I readily agreed.  I cannot imagine passing up a chance to share my knowledge about vegan nutrition, food and recipes.   I am to give a winter root vegetable cooking demonstration and talk.  I know it’s not specifically a vegan topic, but I am going to make it one.  A good one.  No one will notice that they are eating vegan.  They are only going to notice that what they are eating is delicious.

My partner Bill and I weave in and out and around each other and the giant ten burner gas stove, double oven and two-sided sink.  We wash, scrub and peel vegetables at the big sink, then move them over to the chopping area.  Bill is far more diligent and focused than I, and so while I move my knives, bottles of spices and jars of hemp oil, ginger Nama Shoyu salad dressing and equipment I have brought from home, he makes fast work of the vegetable prep.  We have no idea how many people to expect, but I am as prepared as I can be with enough ingredients to feed 30 people.

IMG_1408   Bill and I prepping.  I am a blur…he is steady!

Folks start trickling in early.  Some of my friends come, and there are lots of new faces, too.  I am not nervous doing this any longer, so it is with joy and excitement that I begin.  There are about 20 people, a small enough group that they can all fit into the kitchen and watch everything.  I talk and talk, answer questions, and demonstrate how to cut Brussels sprouts.  I give a brief lesson on massaging kale.  When I explain that I use hemp oil as much as possible because it is easy to digest and filled with nutrients, everyone laughs when I confess that I have it on auto-ship from Amazon. I use a spiral slicer to make noodles from raw carrots, sweet potatoes and beets.  I invite a couple of volunteers to try, too. IMG_1405

While I chatter away, Bill mans the ovens and the stove, roasting a giant baking sheet of the sprouts and another of chopped root vegetables in preparation for a creamy, roasted vegetable soup, toasting pecans in a dry skillet so that I can teach the group how to toast and spice nuts.

The time flies by and soon everyone is digging into the massaged kale and spiral sliced raw vegetable salad.  They barely finish their full plates when I present the warm Brussels sprouts salad served over baby mixed greens, garnished with blackberries, avocado, raw pumpkin seeds and toasted spiced pecans.  I show how to make a balsamic reduction, using Blackberry Ginger infused balsamic from the Cape Ann Olive Oil Co.

IMG_1413   Toasting and Spicing Pecans

IMG_1416    Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Spiced Pecans

The final tasting is of the roasted vegetable soup.  We have roasted garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots.  Bill pulls the hot baking sheet from the oven and we manage to scrape all those lovely, browned vegetables into the stock pot.  We add water, vegan bouillon, black pepper and minced fresh sage to the pot, bring it to a boil, then Bill turns off the heat, purees the giant potful with an immersion blender and it’s ready.  He moves the pot to a serving table and I ladle out hot mugs of the soup to everyone.  It’s hard to ladle soup into tiny blue Willow ware cups, but I pull it off without spilling much.  IMG_1436The group raves and raves about the food.  I answer more questions.  And here I must mention how grateful I am to my friend Krissi, who takes notes for me sometimes and today, hands me a legible list of topics and reminders of what I have promised to give attention to when I email the recipes to the group.  After the event is over, the first thing I do I look for leftovers.  There are none.  Every bite has been consumed.  With enthusiasm!

Clean up today means I wander around, packing up the knives, bottles, jars and other gear while Bill and a woman from the church wash the dishes, pots and pans.  We are finished by 12:45 and I leave tired and happy, knowing I have shared food, recipes, and a lot of what I know about eating a healthy vegan diet with a receptive audience.  I know that those who came today learned enough to make changes in their eating habits—for their health and for their environment.

The recipes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Spiced Pecans

Ingredients:

Brussels sprouts
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c pecan halves and pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 T maple syrup

6 cups mixed baby greens or 1 bunch kale*, washed, torn into bite-sized pieces and massaged with 1 T olive oil until volume is reduced by about half
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 bulb fennel
1 avocado
1 orange
balsamic vinegar—I use blackberry-ginger balsamic from the Cape Ann Olive Oil Co. Main St. Gloucester
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half.  Put them on a large baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.  Turn all the Brussels sprouts so that they are cut-side down on the baking sheet.  Place baking sheet on center rack in oven and roast for 18-20 minutes.  The bottoms of the Brussels sprouts should be nice and brown, some of the tops should be dark, too.  Remove from oven, liberally sprinkle with the balsamic, toss to coat, add salt and pepper to taste.

While Brussels sprouts are roasting, heat a small skillet over medium heat on the stove.  Add the pecans to dry pan and toast until they become aromatic, flipping them occasionally to prevent burning.  When pecans are toasted, add olive oil, cinnamon, cayenne and maple syrup.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until maple syrup bubbles. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Wash the rest of the vegetables and fruit. Thinly slice fennel, open the avocado, remove the seed, and slice the avocado across and down.  Use a tablespoon to scoop out the avocado flesh.  Use a paring knife to remove skin from the orange.  Chop the orange into bite-sized chunks.  Reserve juice.

Assemble the salad:  In a large salad bowl, add the mixed baby greens or kale.  Add the orange juice, if any.  Arrange the Brussels sprouts, sliced fennel, avocado chunks, orange chunks and berries on top of the greens.  Sprinkle with 1/4 c more of the balsamic.  Add the nuts to the top of the salad and serve immediately.
*If using kale, massage with a couple of tsp oil until tender before assembling the rest of the salad.

Raw Root Vegetable Noodle Salad

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale, washed, removed from stems and torn into bite-sized pieces
2-3 T hemp oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1-2 medium sized beets, washed and peeled
1 large carrot, scrubbed
1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
1 avocado, halved, pitted and cut into bite-sized chunks
raw pumpkin seeds and toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing (recipe below)

Method:
Place the kale in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the hemp oil and massage the kale for about 3-5 minutes, or until kale is slightly wilted and softened and reduced in volume by half.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and set aside.

*Spiral slice the sweet potatoes, carrot and beets.  Slice the beets last because they are the messiest and will juice on the other vegetables.  If the beets are very juicy, you can rinse them under cold water to keep their juice from spreading too much.  Use kitchen scissors to cut the vegetable noodles into manageable lengths.  Add the vegetable noodles to the kale and dress generously with Ginger Nama Shoyu dressing.  Toss to coat and distribute vegetables.  Arrange the avocado chunks on top of the salad.  Sprinkle the top of the salad with the seeds.  Drizzle a small amount of dressing on top and serve.

Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing (adapted from Life Alive Restaurants)
Ingredients:
fresh garlic cloves, peeled and pressed to fill a 1/4 c measure
1/2 c plus a little more fresh ginger, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 T Nama Shoyu
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
1 c olive oil, or a mixture of hemp and olive oil

Method:
In a powerful blender, add the garlic cloves, the ginger, the Nama Shoyu, and the sea salt.  Add 1/3 c of the oil.  Blend on medium-low until everything starts to move around. Turn off blender and scrape down sides if necessary.
Turn the blender back on medium speed, then to high and blend until smooth.  Take the little inner cap off of the blender cover and slowly drizzle in the remaining oil.  Turn blender on high and blend only long enough to emulsify the dressing.  Transfer dressing to glass jar or bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.  Keeps at least two weeks in the refrigerator.
*If you don’t have a spiral slicer, you can grate the vegetables instead.  It tastes just as good!

Creamy Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
2-3 ribs celery, washed and cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bunch parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
3 double sized cubes vegan bouillon, mix of salted and salt-free
water
1/4 c fresh sage leaves, washed and minced, or 2 tsp dried sage leaves
1 c orange juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
black pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place prepared garlic and vegetables on one or two large baking sheets so that they are in a single layer.  Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat.  Roast in oven 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and slightly browned.

When vegetables are done, remove from oven and transfer to a large soup pot.  Add the bouillon cubes and cinnamon.  Add water to about and inch below the vegetables.  Heat over high heat until steaming.  Remove from heat and puree with immersion blender.  Alternatively, allow soup to cool slightly and puree in batches in a blender or food processor.  Return soup to pot.  Add the orange juice,, sage leaves and black pepper to taste.  Heat until steaming hot, being careful not to let the soup boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve with hearty bread and salad for a delicious meal.  This soup freezes well.

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Sweet Hot Potatoes

February 20, 2013

Koimo sweet potatoes are my new love.  (If you use the link:  the only mention I could find for Koimo sweet potatoes was on Wikipedia.  You will need to scroll down to Japan to read about Koimo sweet potatoes.)  I bought them at Hmart in Burlington, thinking they would behave like the ordinary orange sweet potatoes we eat raw.  The flesh was a creamy white and I expected the same sweet, crisp crunch.  Instead, they were hard, starchy and bland.  Disappointed, I tucked the rest in the back of my vegetable crisper.  One late afternoon while rummaging for dinner possibilities, I decided to roast them.  The dense, buttery sweetness was unlike any other sweet potato I have ever eaten.  I had prepared a simple lentil dal recipe I adapted from my best Indian cookbook—Indian Home Cookingphoto-3I roasted some asparagus and mushrooms and served the dal on top of the Koimo sweets.  Now it’s all I can think about eating on these cold winter nights.

I invited my friend Heather to lunch, wanting to share this incredible pairing with someone else who gets as excited about food as I do.  She writes a wonderful food blog and loves to try new vegetables.  We ate in my dining room, talking about our daughters, running, and of course, food.  In the end, I sent her a link to the Koimo sweets (because, naturally, I had taken a picture of the display at Hmart.)IMG_0024 and she asked for the lentil dal recipe.  The lentil dal is perfect to serve over roasted potatoes of any kind, sweet or not.  It is also delicious spooned into half of a roasted squash, or over rice or quinoa.  You can tweak the heat up or down, depending on how much spice you enjoy.  Here you go, Heather!

Roasted Koimo Sweet Potato with Simple Dal.  Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus for extra beauty and deliciousness.

Roasted Koimo Sweet Potato with Simple Dal. Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus for extra beauty and deliciousness.

Simple Lentil Dal with Fresh Ginger, Green Chiles, and Cilantro  (adapted from Indian Home Cooking)

Ingredients:

1 c lentils (I use yellow split peas, but you can use red or pink lentils)

1/2 t turmeric

1 t salt

4 c water

Tempering oil:

2 T olive or canola oil

2 t whole cumin seeds

3 whole dried red chiles

1/4 c minced fresh ginger

2-3 T chili garlic sauce (found in the Asian section of any grocery store) OR 2 cloves minced garlic and 1 minced hot green chile

1/4 c fresh chopped cilantro

juice of 1/2 lemon or lime (either is delicious)

Method:

Rinse lentils and put into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water.  Bring to a boil and skim well.  Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft, about 20-25 minutes.

For the tempering oil:  Heat the oil with the cumin seeds in s small skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, until the cumin seeds begin to darken and become fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Ad the dried chiles, ginger and chili garlic sauce OR garlic and green chile and cook, stirring, until the ginger softens, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and add a little water to stop the cooking.

When the lentils are soft, remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender, blend until about half of the mixture is smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can mash the dal with a fork, or puree half in a food processor.

Add the tempering oil, stir, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes more.  Stir in the cilantro and the juice.  Serve hot as is, or over roasted sweet potatoes, potatoes, or grain of your choice with a salad or other green vegetable.  This recipe freezes well, so if it turns out that you really like it, double it and save some for a night when there’s no time to cook!

Sunday Night Supper

January 28, 2013

Eileen and Nathan hang out in the kitchen as my husband works his cocktail magic.  The tiny counter space is arranged with martini glasses, St. Germaine, Absolut Wild Tea vodka, an old-fashioned ice crusher, and drink condiments—fresh ginger, crystallized ginger, and fresh lime juice.  He is about to make Wildtinis, a delicious drink we had last summer at Victor’s in Provincetown.  I squeeze by him, trying to reach to stove to stir the soup.

We have our drinks and I finish cooking dinner.  Tonight we are having cream of broccoli soup to start, then tempeh sausage with black beans and coriander chutney.  I roast beets, onions, red bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, red potatoes and broccoli in garlic olive oil until the vegetables are tender and browned.  I steam a basket of fresh kale, and the frilly edges of the greens peek out around the steaming roasted vegetables, making a bright, earthy bed for the spicy tempeh sausage.  There is lemon-peach glazed gingerbread for dessert.

We eat leisurely in the dining room, candles lit, and catch up on a month’s worth of time.  We talk about their upcoming wedding, Nathan’s band‘s CD release party at Oberon in Cambridge, Eileen’s circus tours.  They ask about our lives—the kids, our jobs, and soon the space between us magically melts together in a lovely spell that only good company, food and drink can work.  In the end, the soup was the favorite and I promised the recipe.  It takes about 15 minutes to make this from start to finish, even if you have to make the cashew cream fresh.  I try to keep some cashew cream in the freezer—it makes any soup or chowder extra rich and yummy.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

1 large onion, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

2 large crowns broccoli, washed and chopped coarsely, stems included

6 c vegetable stock or vegetable broth

2/3 c cashew cream

1/3 c nutritional yeast

generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

minced scallions, green ends only, for garnish if desired

Method:

In a soup pot, combine the onion, garlic, broccoli and vegetable stock or broth.  On stove top, bring pot to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover.  Boil soup for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat/remove pan from heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree soup until there are no chunks left.  (To puree without an immersion blender:  allow soup to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer in small batches either to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth, then return soup to pot.)

Return pot to stove and turn heat to medium-low.  Stir in cashew cream, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, and black pepper until well combined.  Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes more, or until very hot.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with minced scallions.  Serve with warm, crusty bread as a starter, or add a hearty green salad for a meal.

Shhhh…Secret Vegan Cooking Class

January 22, 2013

I am preparing for my fourth vegan cooking talk and demonstration.  The secret is that it is not technically a vegan cooking class—I have been invited by the Essex County Garden Club to talk about how to use winter vegetables.

The back story: Last spring I joined a CSA.  I bought one share for our family and had the pleasure of visiting Alprilla Farm each Wednesday afternoon to choose whatever I desired.  Each week I brought home a giant bag packed to the brim with the most beautiful organically grown vegetables.  The selection was vast—eight or nine types of greens and heirloom tomatoes, several types of beets, onions, carrots, peppers, kale and squashes.  Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, beans, soy beans, and much, much more.  Whenever I arrived, I met someone new and fun to talk with about how to prepare and eat the bounty offered.  I met a woman named Nina who seemed to be on my schedule and she would follow me around, asking what to do with celeriac, or how I managed to get my kids to eat kale.

It turns out that she is the event planner for the Essex County Garden Club.  One afternoon, she asked if I would be interested in sharing my knowledge about vegetables—why they are good to eat and how to prepare some of the more daunting ones—and I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity to teach how to cook vegetables.  It would also be a chance to share vegan cooking with a lot of people— a chance to be on the offense about being vegan!  I knew I would be be able to show the beauty in the way I choose to eat without having to do anything other than be myself.

So I’m in my kitchen.  I want to show off, thus I have been prepping all day.  I clean, peel and dice beets, carrots, red potatoes and sweet potatoes.  I wash kale and tear the leaves from the stems.  I spiral slice beets and carrots.  I make ginger nama shoyu dressing for steamed vegetables.  I scurry out to my garden and cut fresh rosemary and sage.  The show-stopper will definitely be the beet and carrot “noodles” turned from the spiral slicer because I also make my delicious vegan Alfredo sauce with mushrooms.

I make raw ginger cookies for dessert sampling, too, taking the time to press out the dough and cut hearts with a cookie cutter, because it’s close to Valentine’s Day and I love to share these amazingly simple and flavorful treats.  (And because Nina, who came to one of my vegan cooking classes here in my kitchen and tried one before, asked so nicely.)

Raw Ginger Cookies

Raw Ginger Cookies

The plan is to roast some vegetables in garlic olive oil, steam some and serve with quinoa and ginger nama shoyu dressing, and boil the noodles and serve with the Alfredo sauce.  Then cookies.  I know everyone will ask for the sauce recipe, so here it is.

Prep for Essex County Garden Club
Vegan Alfredo Sauce with Mushrooms top center and middle row second bowl in

Vegan Alfredo Sauce with Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1/2 c cashew cream*

3 T olive oil or flavored olive oi, divided (I like to use mushroom sage oil for this recipe, but plain is fine)

1  12 oz pkg sliced mushrooms

1 large sweet onion, diced

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 c peas, fresh or frozen

2 c vegetable stock or vegetable broth

1/3 c nutritional yeast

1/4 c minced fresh sage leaves

1/4 c orange juice concentrate

3 c raw baby spinach

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, turn heat to high, and cook, tossing every few minutes, until mushrooms begin to brown and they release their liquid.

Heat the remaining T oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook about 7 minutes, or until onion is soft and beginning to brown.

Add the cooked onion to the mushrooms.  Add nutmeg and crushed red pepper flakes, stir, and cook for another minute.  Add the vegetable broth or stock and bring to a boil.  Stir in the peas.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the cashew cream and the nutritional yeast.  Reduce heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Add the sage and the orange juice concentrate.  Stir well to incorporate.  Remove pan from heat and fold in the baby spinach.  Grind a generous amount of black pepper into the sauce, taste, and add a little salt to taste.

*another way to make cashew cream:  soak 1 c raw cashews in cold filtered water for at least an hour but overnight is fine, too.  Drain, rinse, and drain again.  Pour soaked cashews into a blender and add 1 c filtered water.  Blend until smooth.  Use for this recipe.  Freeze any leftovers for next time.  Keeps at least 3 months in freezer.

All packed up and ready to go.  No room left in the fridge!  Notice that somehow my kombucha scoby jar is front and center on the top shelf.

All packed up and ready to go. No room left in the fridge! Notice that somehow my kombucha scoby jar is front and center on the top shelf.

Vegan Cooking Demo #3

January 14, 2013

At dinner one night with a group of friends, one of them thought it would be a good idea if I started teaching them how to cook vegan.  The women who are in this little group with me are thoughtful about what they bring when we eat together, but I always bring both an entree and a dessert so I know for sure I will not go hungry, in case someone forgets that chicken broth is not vegan, or that eggs are not okay if they are in a cake.  Sometimes they just don’t know how to make a cake without any animal products.  “What should I use instead of eggs?  Ground flax seed?  How would that work?”  or “What would I put in the salad if you don’t eat goat cheese?”  (The answer to that one is easy—leave out the cheese, or at least offer it on the side.)

I thought it was a good idea, but I am a bit shy about standing in front of a group and talking about, well, anything, really.  I am comfortable in small, informal settings with people I know.  Stage fright hits when I am standing in front of a roomful of people and expected to perform in any way, even just cooking.  My friend Michaela, the one who is a superb baker and who has the most imploring big brown eyes asked again and again until I finally conceded.  Vegan cooking lessons for everyone.  In my kitchen.  Second Sunday of each month at 2 pm.

I thought it would be good to start with desserts, an area that seems the most challenging for bakers who want to try making vegan sweets.  I double and triple checked my recipes, trying things out ahead of time, and my family benefited from multiple batches of cookies and muffins.  I scrutinized recipes I make regularly, making sure the measurements were exact.  I prepared a sheet of vegan baking substitutions and handouts of all the recipes.

I was shaking as I began the first session, but after a few minutes, I forgot I was being watched and just started chatting away as I measured, mixed, and baked.   I planned to pull off three different recipes—giant, crunchy, chocolate chip cookies, molasses ginger cookies, and the famous Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin recipe.  I printed the blueberry muffin recipe right off of the internet, using it like a worksheet so everyone who came could see how easy it is to figure out the substitutions.  1/4 c silken tofu for each egg.  Soy or almond milk in place of dairy milk.  Vegan margarine in place of butter.  Organic sugar.  I made the muffins with the changes, and no one could believe how delicious they were—just as good, if not better than the original recipe.

It went well.  Really, really well.   “Is it okay if I invite a friend next time?”  “Can I bring my niece?”  “Could you please email me a link to your blog?  To that website?”  “What was the name of that book you read?”  My cell phone began ringing—strangers calling.  “I heard you are giving vegan cooking lessons.  Do you have room for one more person?”  “How much does it cost?”

The answer was, of course, yes!  And it’s free.

The second lesson focused on entrees, and I demonstrated how to make homemade seitan, a chewy and delicious main course.  I also showed how to make cashew cream, and from that, made a vegan Alfredo sauce with mushrooms, peas, and kale, served over spaghetti squash.  We ate dinner together at the end of that demo, and I happened to have enough raw ginger cookies to pass around for dessert.  “Raw cookies?  How do you do that?”  “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!  Could you share the recipe?”  It was a small group, easy to please, full of excitement for learning vegan cooking.  Then another round of phone calls and suddenly a bunch of people, some of whom I have never met, are sitting in my kitchen, raptly watching me chop, stir, process and talk about why I am a vegan.  And a vegan cook.

So— here I am at the beginning of my third group vegan cooking demonstration, this time teaching how to make vegan cheeses.  My friend Krissie was kind enough to bring her camera and take a few shots of the event.

I am holding up a package of agar-agar, a type of seaweed used as a thickener for many vegan cheeses.

I make three different cheeses in one hour.  The first is  smokey cashew cheese from the fabulous website:

 http://www.olivesfordinner.com

  Krissie got a great shot of the smokey cashew cheese.

The second is pine nut cheese, adapted from a recipe a friend found online while trying to impress me with her vegan cooking skills.  (Not that she needs to try—my friend Stephanie is an amazing cook and I always leave her table with a happy, full belly.)

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Beet-Ravioli-with-Pine-Nut-Goat-Cheese-Rosemary-Cream-Sauce-Aged-Balsamic-Vinegar-354390

I have made this entire recipe as it stands and was a bit disappointed, especially in the pine nut cheese.  The lemon was far too strong, so I eliminated the lemon zest, and instead of using the full amount of lemon juice, I used a little less than half the amount and used organic apple cider vinegar for the remaining volume.  I added about 2 tsp fresh rosemary to the processor along with everything else and wound up with what is perhaps the best nut-based ricotta cheese ever!  It freezes very well, so go ahead and make the full recipe, then divide into 1/2 cup containers and store in the freezer.  This is amazing in a vegan lasagna, or on a whole wheat pizza with a little vegan pesto, some tomato sauce and some caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms.

The final cheese is tofu feta.  Tofu feta is tricky.  There are a lot of recipes out there and I have tried many.  This one is truly delicious and easy.

http://www.ourveggiekitchen.com/2010/03/tofu-feta.html

My captive audience.  I’m making tofu feta in this one.  Beneath the orange pot lid is a block of tofu.  The block is wrapped in a clean dishtowel and the weight of the lid is pressing out the excess water so that the tofu will absorb more of the marinade.

I serve the tofu feta mixed with some chopped cucumbers, halved baby grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, all dressed with a dash of hemp oil, a bit of lemon juice, a sprinkle of oregano, and some freshly ground black pepper.

For a quick and easy tasting of the pine nut cheese, I cook a box of pasta, add a couple of cups of chopped fresh broccoli, a can of drained chickpeas, and some red sauce.  I pour that into a casserole, dollop on the pine nut cheese, and heat at 350 ° for about half an hour.  There are no leftovers!

Sometime during the lesson, my friend Jane raises her hand, old-school style.  “I think you should get paid for this, Elizabeth.”

“Oh, no, I don’t want to take any money for this.  I am truly okay doing it for free.”

“No, we should at least reimburse you for all the ingredients.”

“No, it’s really fine!”

And so on, until, as I stand behind my kitchen counter, trying to talk and cook and be entertaining and all that, one after another, my audience comes behind the counter.  They tuck bills into the front pocket of my jeans.  I am uncomfortable with this, but at the same time, secretly thrilled that anyone is willing to pay me to teach how to cook vegan.  After they leave, and I clean up, I empty the contents of my pocket onto the counter.  I think— I could make a living doing this—and my gratitude is immense for the generosity and kindness of my friends and the friends they have brought to me.

Vegan Twice-Baked Potatoes

November 27, 2012

My husband and I attended the Boston Vegetarian Society’s Food Festival a few weeks ago. We had the opportunity to sample dozens of delicious vegan foods and to pick up a wide assortment of vegan propaganda—one of my favorite parts—like stickers that said “Praise Seitan” with a little pentagram graphic and t shirts with the slogan “Only Kale Can Save Us Now!”.   We were fortunate to have the chance to listen to lectures by world famous chefs, physicians, and film makers.  One lecture in particular, given by Dr. Pam Popper, motivated me to revisit our nutritional standards once more.  Her philosophies and advice are based on cause-and-effect studies, rather than correlation studies.  This makes the most sense to me.

Cause and effect studies are studies that show direct relationships between an event and a result.  An example is that if you stand under water, you get wet.  Simple.  I am not saying you cannot prevent the water from touching you, either by using an umbrella or a waterproof jacket with a hood; but it is obvious that when water touches you, it causes you get wet.

My friend Charlene shared a perfect example of a correlation study:  If you eat ice cream, you are more likely to drown.  Sounds crazy, right?  The reason those two events are lumped together in that way is that people eat more ice cream during the summer months, which is also when more people are likely to go swimming.  And drownings are most likely to occur from swimming accidents.  The only connection is that both activities take place during summer.  The lack of connection between eating ice cream and drowning ends there.  Eating ice cream does not cause anyone to drown.  So why would we draw a solid conclusion from that correlation?

Many of the studies we see on the news or read about in health magazines are based on correlation rather than on cause-and-effect.  Many studies are also funded by those involved in making money from the sales of certain agribusiness products, and by drug companies who are far more interested in selling their drugs to mask or relieve symptoms of our lifestyles and diets rather than finding and eliminating the actual causes of our health problems.  No one makes money by taking away or solving the problem, and yet, if we eliminate the causes or solve the problems, we improve our health.  We don’t need to take medications.  We don’t need to give our money to conglomerate agribusiness, or to drug manufacturers.

So, back to Dr. Popper.  She talked about altering biomarkers with medications, and how taking a cholesterol drug changes the reading of your blood cholesterol.  It changes the number.  It does not necessarily change the way your arteries respond to eating foods that contribute to clogging your arteries.  Or how taking medication for type 2 diabetes does not necessarily change the way your organs manage the glucose in your system, or the breakdown of body functions over a long period of time that occur as a result of type 2 diabetes.  The diabetes still affects the whole body, even though the drugs change the numbers.  This doctor addressed how diet—what you eat every single day—is what creates the actual change in the body.  Diet alters biomarkers, and also alters every single physiological aspect of the body, its organs, and its functions.

The aspect of her lecture that hit me the most was about fat consumption.  She discussed how fat consumption negatively affects our health.  She suggests, after studying cause-and-effect studies for many years, that we should consume far less fat.  The actual numbers?  10-15% of our daily calorie intake.  If you eat 2000 calories each day to maintain your weight, only 200-300 of those calories should come from fat.  It sounds like a lot of calories when you look at the numbers, 200-300 calories.  That’s a whole breakfast.  But 1 tablespoon of oil, any kind, is about 120 calories.  I can eat that in a few minutes, just with a can of smoked almonds beside me while I watch a movie!  She suggests that if we need extra calories, we eat them in the form of starchy vegetables and legumes.

What about the good oils?  Dr. Oz says olive oil is good for us.  And coconut oil?  Isn’t that supposed to be the new wonder oil?  And walnut oil?  Avocados?  Oil is fat.  Period.  Eat some fat, but make sure it comes from the foods we eat.  There is no need to add oil to get fat into our bodies.  We require such a small amount that there is plenty in 1/4 of an avocado, a tablespoonful of nuts, or a handful of seeds.  10-15 % is enough.

So I bought her book, Solving America’s Healthcare Crisis.  I started reading into her research.  I’m sold.  And now, I am attempting to cut back our fat intake.  The easiest way to start is to STOP ADDING OILS TO OUR FOODS.  There is plenty of fat in what we eat without adding more fat.  So, more roasting, more steaming.  Less sauteing.  And if I do saute, I try to use only a teaspoon of oil, then add a tiny bit of water at a time to keep the food from sticking or burning.  So far, it’s working out well.  I’m not sure we have reached the optimum low levels at every meal, and I cannot obsess on this all day long, but I can definitely be more aware, and prepare our meals with more emphasis on vegetables and less emphasis on added fat.

Potatoes, which are loaded with nutrients and filling starch, are not my favorite vegetable.  I do like french fries, and although delicious, they are loaded with oil.  To work on my new goal of not adding oil, I have been trying to come up with a way to eat them that excites my taste buds while also giving me enough calories to meet my dietary needs.  I had a beautiful stock of organic potatoes from my CSA share from Alprilla Farm and an empty belly.  I foraged around in my refrigerator and pantry, filled my steamer basket with water, scrubbed nine organic golden potatoes, and an hour later, served this delicious dinner to my family.  I made extra, so we could have them for dinner a couple of times, and lunches for the week.

Vegan Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ingredients

8-10 potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork

2 c broccoli florets

1 c mushrooms, diced

4 c kale, washed, leaves pulled from stems and cut into bite-sized pieces or 4 c baby spinach, washed

1 can rinsed black-eyed peas

1 c plain almond milk, maybe a little more or less

1/2 c nutritional yeast

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced

1/2 c minced scallions, green ends only

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method

Heat oven to 400 ° F.

Place potatoes directly on oven rack and bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until tender.

While potatoes are baking, steam broccoli and kale  for about 5-7 minutes, or until just tender.  Set aside.  If using baby spinach, add the spinach for the last minute only.

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Heat skillet and add mushrooms.  Saute until mushrooms release their liquid, about  5 minutes.  Set aside.

Pour black-eyed peas into a large bowl and mash them well with a fork.  Add 1/2 c of the almond milk and the nutritional yeast.  Stir to combine.

When potatoes are tender, carefully remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cutting board.  Turn oven temperature down to 350 ° F.  When just cool enough to handle, slice each potato open length-wise, scoop out the flesh, and add to the black-eyed peas and almond milk mixture.  Set aside the skins.

Using an electric mixer or a potato masher, combine the potatoes  with the black-eyed peas and almond milk, adding more almond milk until the mixture is thick, as for mashed potatoes.

Add the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, scallions,  salt, and  black pepper.  Mix well.  Fold in the broccoli, kale and mushrooms.

Use a large spoon to generously stuff each potato skin.  Place the stuffed potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake again, this time for about 20 minutes, or until hot through.

Serve two halves for a meal, with a green salad dressed with lemon juice or your favorite balsamic vinegar.

Curried Veggie Burgers

August 2, 2012

Ah, summer and burgers.  The grill.  The bun.  The condiments!  I love veggie burgers— at least I love the idea of them.  Easy to heat and eat, can dress them up for company, or down for a quick summer supper with some lovely greens on the side.  The problem?  Some are bland.  Some are squishy and too fragile.  Store-bought varieties often have ingredients I do not recognize.  And, unfortunately, many online recipes fail when it comes to texture, flavor, and nutritional punch.  After a moderately successful attempt at an online recipe that tasted great but would never stand up to a bun and serious condiments, I finally marched myself into my kitchen, ready to face the veggie burger challenge.

I dug around in the fridge, knowing these burgers would have to include some leftovers.  Quinoa, small white beans, mushrooms, and a bowl of fresh ginger would be the main ingredients from which to build.  I wanted lots of veggies, so took out most of what I had and lined it all up on the kitchen counter.  I wanted lots of flavor, so dug around in the spice cupboard and came up for air holding handfuls of Indian spices.  I chopped and diced, sauteed and sprinkled.  I even measured, just in case I liked the end result.  Good thing I did!

Currie Veggie Burger with Indian Paratha, Chutneys, Onions and Greens

Ingredients:

1 c cooked quinoa

1 c cooked small white beans

2 T ground flax seed

2-3 T coconut oil

2 c peeled, diced sweet potato

1 c diced mushrooms

1/2 c minced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

1/4 c minced fresh ginger

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

4 c fresh kale, tough stems removed; chopped fine

3 T curry powder

1 t turmeric

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t salt

1/8 t cayenne pepper

1/3 c water

1 c frozen green peas

olive oil (for the cookie sheet)
Method:

Process the quinoa, half the beans, and the ground flax in a food processor until mostly smooth.  Set aside.

In a large, heavy, nonstick skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sweet potato, mushrooms, onion, garlic,  ginger, red bell pepper and kale.  Saute until the kale begins to wilt.  Add the curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper.  Stir and saute the spices into the vegetable mixture until incorporated.  Add the water, cover, lower heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes.  Uncover and remove from heat.  Spoon half of the vegetable mixture into the processor and process until the mixture is mostly smooth again.

Scrape down the sides of the processor and spoon the mixture into the vegetables that are left in the skillet.  Stir everything together until well mixed.  Fold in the remaining 1/2 c white beans and the peas.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Generously oil a cookie sheet with olive oil.  Use an ice cream scoop or cup measure to divide burger mixture into 10 rounds, each about 3/4 c.  Press and shape into patties on cookie sheet.  Bake 15 minutes.  Gently turn with spatula and bake 15 minutes more.

These can be served right away and are great with Indian condiments, such as coriander chutney, tamarind chutney, and onion chutney.  We liked them on Indian paratha with all the condiments and sliced onion, tomato, and bell pepper.

As the burgers cool, they firm up quite a bit.  They can be frozen and reheated on a cookie sheet at 375° for 18-20 minutes, or heated in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat until crisp on the outside and heated through.