Posted tagged ‘recipe’

Stress, Boxing and Granola

May 31, 2015

There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:

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Nuts and Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!

 

 

Catching Up, Eagle Sighting and Raw Cashew Cream

November 4, 2014

Blogging has taken a backseat these days—there have been a myriad of changes in my life and I have been busy focused on adjusting to divorce, moving, a new relationship, and a significantly greater workload.  No complaints here, though.  Life is good.  My ex and I have remained friends, my new relationship is a blessing I was not expecting, and work is physical and fun.  I am still teaching vegan cooking in a group setting on a monthly basis, as well as in private settings for individuals.  I am still running!  Definitely not the 50+ miles each week like last year, as I am doing a lot more personal training and wellness coaching for work, as well as teaching group fitness three times each week for the Recreation Department of my town.

This morning I had the opportunity for a long run.  My early client cancelled last minute and I found myself racing through Halibut Point State Park, enjoying the late fall scenery with it’s nearly-bare trees, glass-surfaced quarry and vast expanse of ocean view.  With the hours of cross-training I have been logging with work, running feels easier than ever.  This was one of those days where breath, legs and mind were all on board from the moment I stepped out the door.  I felt as though my feet barely touched the ground and I don’t think I heard a single song on my playlist after the first mile.  Running is meditation just as much as it is physical exercise, maybe even more than ever before. I did get to see an eagle perched on a treetop as I ran home. Not that I noticed it myself—a pram-pushing mama pointed it out for me. Magnificent.

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Teaching vegan cooking is a joyful experience.  The people who come to my classes are enthusiastic, open-minded, and excited to learn each month.  My amazing photographer has been recovering from a broken ankle, so I am sorry to say I have none of her beautiful pictures to share in this post.  She is coming along nicely in her healing so am hoping to she will be back soon to take photos and notes for me.  It makes me realize how fortunate I am. It’s amazing how good people are to me and how much I depend on the kindness, generosity and skills of those around me to help me get through and be successful in this life.

In the meantime, I want to share a very easy cashew cream recipe.  I posted earlier about cashew cream and the recipe called for roasting the cashews first.  That recipe is delicious!  This recipe is even creamier than the first, and without the roasted flavor, it is even more versatile.  Used in vegan chowders, cream soups and cream sauces, the rich, thick texture lends a sensual mouth-feel and no one ever misses the dairy.

Raw Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

1 c whole raw cashews

filtered water

Method:

Rinse the cashews in cold filtered water and drain.  Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl and cover with filtered water.  Soak for at least 20 minutes, but overnight is a great choice.  Without soaking, the cashew cream will not be as creamy.

Drain and rinse the cashews after they have soaked.  Place in high-powered blender and add 1 c filtered water.  Blend on low until the cashews start to move around easily.  Turn blender speed to high and blend until completely smooth.

I always double this recipe and freeze what I don’t use.  It’s great to have a stock of some basics ready to go when I find myself standing in the kitchen, pondering what to make for dinner.  Consider pasta primavera, pasta al invierno, sweet potato and corn chowder, creamy tomato soup, creamed spinach with cumin, cayenne and cubed tofu—bring it on, winter!  Hearty food awaits!  More to come…

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!

The Essex County Garden Club Winter Event

January 24, 2013

Prepped and packed, I drive in the icy twilight to South Hamilton.  It is easy to find the hostess’ house and I navigate the long driveway, park, and take a deep breath.  This is my biggest gig so far, this group of 25 women coming out in the bitter cold to listen to me talk about and watch me cook vegetables.  I am not nervous, but even so,  butterflies dance in my belly as I open my trunk and gather three heavily loaded bags to bring into the kitchen.  Leslie, the hostess, emerges from her garage to greet me with her bright welcoming smile.  She offers to carry one of the bags and I allow this, beginning what is to be an evening of both humble submission and powerful opportunity.

I have been allowed to arrive early and have an hour and a half to set up.  Using some of Leslie’s kitchenware and some of my own, I fill a large pot with water and set it on the gas range.  I place steamer baskets in two smaller pots and add enough water to meet the bottom of the metal steam baskets.  I empty my bags and cover the counter with bowls of vegan Alfredo sauce with mushrooms, chopped, diced and spiral sliced winter vegetables and my large cutting board.  I take out my three best knives and lay them in a tidy row atop the board.  I ask for a pretty plate to arrange the raw cookies I have made for the end of the event, and I am given a beautiful white pedestal dish.  I arrange organic sugar-coated, heart-shaped cookies so that what is already pretty and delicious is now looking absolutely gorgeous.  She takes the cookies and puts them in her dining room with the other goodies for munching.  I sneak in and take them back to the kitchen.  I am going to save them for the end.  I want to tell about these treats, how easy they are to make, and how amazing a raw vegan cookie can be.  I want to have their full attention when they take the first bite of that cookie.

Nina, the event planner for the club, arrives a little while later.  She is the reason I am here and the butterflies that have been fluttering inside me rest quietly.  I feel more comfortable now that her sweet familiar face in the room as I finish setting up.

I take the spiral slicer out and place it on the roomy granite-topped island counter.  I know this will impress even the most doubtful of the attendees.  I have a beet, a carrot and a sweet potato all ready to turn into colorful vegetable noodles.  I transfer cooked quinoa to a glass bowl for heating.  I transfer the creamy, spicy sauce to the biggest bowl I can find and it is filled to the brim.  I wonder if I have made too much.

Before I can think about maybe being nervous after all, the door opens and opens and opens and suddenly the kitchen and dining room are packed with women.  They chat, fill their glasses with wine and set out appetizers and desserts—carrots and celery and dip, crackers and cheese, trays of cookies and brownies.  I am starving, so I cut up a carrot, open my jar of homemade ginger Nama Shoyu dressing, dip my carrot sticks in, and nibble.  And wait.

At last, Nina stands beside me.

“Are you ready to get this going?”

I nod, and she tries to quiet the room.  She taps the side of a glass bowl with one of my knives.  She taps it again.  Someone notices, and pushes out a powerful “Shhhhh.”  All conversation stops.  Well, almost all.  I take a deep breath as Nina introduces me.  She tells them she used to stalk me at our CSA pick up and we all laugh.  I’m on.

I am lightheaded as I look at how many women stand in front of me, waiting for me to begin.

But I do.  I ask how they take care of their kids—if they give them music lessons, enroll them in sports, send them to good schools.  I ask them if they monitor their homework, their computer time, their television time.  Some nod, others don’t.  Then I ask them if they cook with their kids.  I see lots of heads nodding.

“What do you cook with them?  What do you make together?”

“Cookies!”

“Brownies!”

“Cupcakes!”

And I’m in the thick of it right away.  I ask if they cook dinner with their kids.  If they teach them how to prepare vegetables—to wash, scrub, peel, chop, roast, steam—-and the room is quiet.  I boldly remind them that what their kids put into their bodies is one of the most important things to think about.  I try not to sound preachy as I suggest that cooking time can be together time, family time, teaching time.  So that when their kids grow up, they know how to feed themselves with healthy food.  Healthy food that will nourish their bodies the same way all the other things we all see as important nourish their minds, spirits and bodies.

As I talk, I set up for the roasted vegetables, making sure the oven is preheated, spreading diced beets on a large baking tray and drizzling them with garlic olive oil.  I ask a woman to help me and she puts the tray in the oven, setting the timer for me.  I set up the rest of the roasting vegetables, showing off the Brussels sprouts I have harvested from my garden just the other day.

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Brussels sprouts harvested from my winter garden, with carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes, ready to roast. Photo credit: Heather Robb

I answer questions about kale and kale chips, peeling, chopping and steaming vegetables all the while.  The first big hit of the evening is the spiral slicer.  No one can believe how perfect and beautiful carrots and beets are when they are turned into noodles.  I slice a carrot, then I get a volunteer to slice the beet.  I help her a bit and in a moment, glossy, deep-red strands of beet pile up on the counter.  I take my kitchen scissors and cut the long strands a bit to make them more manageable.  I get them into the boiling water.  Carrots first, 3 minutes.  Beets next, 5 minutes.  I drain them, then sample them out, ladling the Alfredo sauce on top.  The chatter that had started up again is gone as each woman tastes the small plate of food she receives.

“How did you make this sauce?”

“Why is it so creamy if you didn’t use cream?”

“How can this be vegan?  Isn’t there cheese in here?”

I pause and talk about cashew cream and nutritional yeast, how to make what is often dairy-based taste just as good, if not better, vegan.  There are a lot of questions about nutritional yeast, and I do my best to answer them.  I do not have all the answers, but can easily direct.

Then the steamed vegetables are done and I pour them into a bowl.  I shake and pour the ginger Nama Shoyu dressing over the steaming bowl, then plunge my hands in to toss the dressing.  I hear gasping, but it’s really not that hot.  Nina and another woman offer to plate the samples.  Heaping scoops of quinoa pillow the pile of glistening dressed vegetables.  The room grows quiet again as the women taste what they have been given.

Mixing Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing into steamed vegetables

Mixing Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing into steamed vegetables
Photo credit: Heather Robb

“Oh!  This dressing!  What is it?”

“Can I have this recipe?”

“Is there ginger in here?”

The dressing is the second big hit.  It’s a recipe I kind of stole from the restaurant Life Alive in Lowell, MA.  There are two newer branches, one in Cambridge and one in Salem, and it’s one of my favorite places to eat.  I always get the same thing—the Goddess bowl, which is their signature dish.  I am addicted to the dressing.  I am so addicted that I have spent hours trying to duplicate it.  I finally nailed it a few months ago and now can share it with confidence, even if I have to sheepishly confess that it is absolutely not my recipe, only an adaptation of theirs.

I remember to talk about GMO foods, the “Dirty Dozen“, and, of course, I include bits and pieces of my vegan life.  I talk openly and honestly about the nutrients in food, the importance of a varied diet.  I offer information about general health, what is not good about dairy products, and explain exactly what vegan means:  no animals.  No animal products.  So, yeah, no cheese, so yogurt, no butter, no  fish.  I was asked if I miss any of it.

Not for one second.

The timer goes off for the roasted vegetables.  The woman whom I have volunteered to be in charge of the oven turns and pulls two heavy trays of roasted beets, Brussels sprouts, onions, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes from the dark, high heat.  I take each tray and do my best to fill the last giant bowl without dropping anything on the floor.  The trays are heavy and I am already tired.  I sprinkle the vegetables with fresh rosemary that I have cut from my garden this same morning, and add a bit of salt and pepper.  I steal a Brussels sprout and a sweet potato chunk before the final round of sampling begins.

The women eat and chatter, and I stand back, wondering if I have missed anything.  My notes have been tossed to the back counter, unneeded.

I space out for a minute and then notice a tall, gorgeous woman passing around a tray of chocolate-dipped macaroons.  I go over to her and touch her shoulder. I know  she has taken the time to make this beautiful, time-consuming dessert, and it breaks my heart to say these words.  I say them anyhow.

“Um, please.  Would you mind holding back on those?  I have a little dessert and I am afraid that if everyone eats one of those, they won’t have room to try mine.  You could pass them out after…”

Her face flushes and she looks down, then up at me.

“Oh, I’m sorry!  I didn’t know.”

I honestly could cry as I look at her, but I hold steady.

“That’s okay.  Thank you for bringing those.  They look great.  Mine are really small—so everyone will still have room for yours after.”

The pedestal with the heart-shaped raw vegan ginger cookies is passed around.

“What’s in here?”

“These are really good!”

“Is is nutmeg?  Do I taste nutmeg?”

With the last of my “crowd energy”, I give the ingredients and tell them there is a link to the recipe on my blog.  They line up to collect my card and I promise each eager face that I will post right away and include the recipe for the dressing.

Energized by a couple of my cookies, I work the crowd afterward.  I thank everyone for coming, and seek out the women who have helped me throughout the evening.  I am touched by their excitement for my cooking and by their welcoming smiles, their food confessions, their desire to make even small changes in the way they prepare food and eat.

I return to the counter, prepared to clean up and find that the women have done it for me.  Everything is washed, dried, and stacked neatly for me to pack up.  Nina and I are the last to leave, and she offers to carry one of the bags out to my car. I tell her that would be great.

Ginger Nama Shoyu Dressing (adapted from Life Alive restaurant’s version)

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.

This is amazing drizzled onto warm steamed vegetables, although it is also good on cold salad.

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.

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

May 11, 2012

Tomorrow is the big day!  I can barely wait to run the Twin Lights Half Marathon.  I am trying my best to rest and relax, which is work for me.  This morning looks perfect for a long run—the sun is out, the temperature hovers around 50 °,  and I am going crazy from resting.  I stick with my plan, though, and make a date for a lunchtime bike ride with my husband. What to do with myself for the morning?  Cook!

Carb-loading has never been a big concern for me, but this time, since I am working from a plan for this race, I figure I should follow some advice from Runner’s World and other runners.  I am also still succumbing to food daydreams.  My visions of roasted tomato sauce lavishly enveloping thick pasta stuffed with creamy ricotta and garlicky vegetables have reached a pinnacle and I must prepare this pre-race feast for dinner tonight.

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

Ingredients:

1 pkg manicotti pasta

For the tofu ricotta:

1 pkg firm or extra-firm organic tofu*

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 c nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp sea salt

For the vegetables:

3 T olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, diced fine

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 c grated carrot

1 small red bell pepper, diced fine

1 16 oz. pkg frozen spinach (I prefer the loose frozen spinach—that big frozen block just irritates me.  Too hard to defrost!)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

sprinkle/pinch crushed red pepper flakes

10-12 large fresh basil leaves, minced

For the sauce:

8 cups tomato sauce of your choice (I used the final container of last summer’s roasted tomato sauce from my garden. You can use any sauce you like.)

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 7 minutes.   Drain, rinse, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables and tofu ricotta:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the spinach, black pepper, sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until spinach is no longer frozen.  Turn off heat, stir in the minced basil leaves and set aside.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tofu ricotta:

In the bowl of a large food processor, combine the tofu, lemon juice, marjoram, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes and salt.  Pulse to combine, scraping the sides if needed.  Process for 30-60 seconds, or until tofu mixture is mostly smooth.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Combine the tofu ricotta with the vegetable mixture, either in the skillet or in a bowl.

To assemble:

Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a large baking or lasagna pan and spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Fill each of the manicotti pasta tubes with the tofu ricotta and vegetable mixture.  Place each tube in the baking pan on top of the tomato sauce.  Continue filling the tubes until you either run out of pasta or filling.  (I ran out of pasta, so cooked some jumbo shells to use up the rest of the filling.)    Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the manicotti.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Serve as an entree with a leafy salad.  These freeze well, too and heat up nicely in either the oven or the microwave.

*If there is one food to buy organic only, it’s tofu.  Most of our country’s soy is GMO and grown in toxic fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals that do not wash off.  It’s worth paying the extra quarter or so for the organic version.

Vegan White Chili

April 27, 2012

True confession:  I have food dreams.  Sometimes they come at night, other times, they are daydreams that take me by surprise with their palpable force and clarity.  I dream of steaming soups, stews, chowders.  I dream of piles of delicate appetizers, light first courses, savory second courses, rich desserts.  Homey, hearty, exotic, erotic.  In these dreams, herbs, spices, fresh vegetables and very specific flavor combinations take root in my mind and I am unable to forget them until I make them a reality in my kitchen.  The chocolate dreams I shall keep to myself for now.  I will share this one instead.

Last week I started dreaming about white chili.  I have only had it one time in my life, and although it was pretty good, it was not what I thought it would be.   It was more like soup, it had chicken in it, and although I was not vegan at the time, somehow chicken just did not seem right.  The white chili dream pops into my mind all week as  I am driving,  folding clothes, or trying to focus on a client’s form as they lift weights.  I know I have to make it.

I am in a hurry to make dinner tonight.  I dig around in the refrigerator and the cupboards.  I find tempeh and white beans.  Immediately the details of my white chili food dream fill my head and I hurry to pull the rest of the ingredients out and assemble them on the counter.

I tell my friend Charlene about it  and her first question is, “You have all that stuff in your pantry?”  Of course I do!

Vegan White Chili

1 block tempeh, any kind

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 large sweet onion, cut into small dice

2 ribs celery, cut into small dice

1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, or more, to taste

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 15 or 16 oz can small white beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-16 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 c corn of your choice, I used Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted frozen

3 c vegan vegetable stock

1 tsp Mesquite flavor liquid smoke

1 tsp South African smoke seasoning blend (also from Trader Joe’s)  or 1/2 tsp smoked salt

2 tbsp masa harina (fine corn meal) mixed with 1/2 c cold water

3 c washed baby spinach

For Garnish:

fresh lime juice

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

*toasted pepitas

tortilla chips

extra hot sauce—I am currently drinking Tabasco chipotle hot sauce with most of my meals, but use whatever you like for more heat.

Method:

In a medium nonstick skillet, crumble the tempeh into bite-sized chunks.  Add water until tempeh is just covered.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until water is absorbed, about 10-12 minutes.

While tempeh is cooking:  In a large skillet or stock pot, saute onions, celery and red bell pepper in the olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and chipotle pepper and saute for 2 minutes more.  Add vegetable stock, drained beans,  corn,  liquid smoke,  South African smoke seasoning blend or smoked salt.  Turn heat to high.

When the tempeh is dry, stir in the cumin and coriander until incorporated.  Add the tempeh and spice mixture to the bean mixture.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until bubbling.  Stir the masa harina and water together once more and add to the chili, stirring well.  Cook for about 5 more minutes, or until thick and bubbling.  If too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup or so, until you like the consistency.  Add baby spinach and fold gently until spinach just wilts.  Serve hot with a drizzle of fresh lime juice, a generous sprinkling of cilantro, and a couple of tablespoonfuls of toasted pepitas, with warm tortilla chips on the side.

*You can buy raw or already toasted pepitas.  I like to buy raw ones and toast them myself.  For this recipe, I toasted 1 c raw pepitas in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat until they started to darken.  I removed the pan from the heat, tossed them in 1 tsp garlic olive oil, and sprinkled them with 1/2 tsp each ground cumin and sweet Mexican chili powder.