Posted tagged ‘olive oil’

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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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.