Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas Time!

Dear Readers, thank you for your amazing support in 2011. Here's wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season! I'll be back right after the new year and look forward to helping you realize lifetime resolutions! Santa presented me with an early present...a new slick camera for taking better pictures for the blog! Be prepared for lots of what-I-ate-for dinner shots! Cheers, Nicole

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dates Stuffed with Peanut Butter


I'm so proud to be half Lebanese, and am convinced that growing up around international cooking really helped develop my taste buds to be more adventurous and innovative.

I think the best desserts are Middle Eastern pastries, but honestly, a lot of them require a LOT of work (and more butter than I care to think about!) So, when I was trying to come up with a simple Lebanese treat, this came to mind. You know I love a quick, simple dessert. And if the dessert is made with two ingredients? That's a homerun!

When I was a kid, one of the treats my mother used to prepare for us was stuffed dates with peanut butter. Dates are deliciously sweet and sugary. Paired with an all-natural peanut butter and you can't go wrong. In fact, I'm willing to bet most kids wouldn't complain about this different dessert.

All you do to prepare this treat is to buy some whole pitted dates, put a little dab of peanut butter in the middle (or almond or sunflower butter) and that's it! My Mom liked to roll them in sugar (and as kids we didn't complain), but I make mine as pictured.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kath Eats Real Food

A blog I follow on a daily basis is one called Kath Eats Real Food. Although Kath isn't vegetarian, I love her approach to food, cooking, eating and life. She and her husband Matt, who now own and operate their own Great Harvest Bread Company in Virginia, are very passionate foodies who post what they eat three times a day. And no one seems to work wonders with leftovers like Kathy and Matt. Here is a nice video blurb about Kath Eats Real Food. And in case you're wondering, it's Kath who turned me (and hopefully you!) onto kale chips.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Frosted Spiced Gingerbread

One of the best vegan blogs is my personal favorite, ohsheglows.com. I depend on her blog for inspiration and fool-proof recipes. That's one of the best parts of cooking blogs: the blogger (usually!) has tried the recipe a few times and only recommends what works. And I love passing along to my readers easy, sensible recipes that work!

I made this amazing gingerbread this past Thanksgiving for my father, who is the gingerbread lover of the family (and newly a vegetarian...go Dad!). But I didn't except to love it. I know it would be good...but it was GOOD!!!! And baking it in a loaf pan was really pretty and different. The plan it to make it Christmas Day for dessert (and breakfast the next morning...shh!)

Adapted from Fat Free Vegan.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or canola), softened (a little pricey, but worth it)
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • Chia egg (1 tbsp chia + 3 tbsp water) (I did the same, but with ground flax seed)
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (OR 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 th tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a regular sized loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly oil on top. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Combine the following ingredients (pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, coconut oil, molasses, chia egg) in a medium-sized mixing bowl and blend well. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir well. Stir in the toasted nuts. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth out with wet spoon, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan. While it is baking, make your spiced buttercream frosting (see below). Serves eight 1-inch slices.

Spiced Buttercream Frosting

Buttery, sweet, fluffy, spicy…and vegan to boot! The perfect Fall-spiced frosting.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter Stick, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup icing sugar (aka: confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (yes, a full tablespoon!)
  • 1 tbsp almond milk (as needed to thin out to desired consistency)

Directions: Whip the Earth Balance with a mixer until smooth. Now add half of the icing sugar and blend well, stopping to scrape the side of bowl as needed. Now add in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk (if needed). Mix well. Add in the remaining icing sugar and blend for several minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once the Gingerbread has fully cooled, spread on the icing using a wet spatula.

Veganmama note: this frosting is the bomb, and I'm not a frosting lover.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tiny Sweet Peppers that are soooo good!


Have you seen these tiny sweet peppers at the market? The only places I've seen them are Trader Joe's and Market Basket, but I'm sure if MB carries them other local markets do as well. What they look like are a bag of hot peppers (they are about that size), but they aren't hot at all. In fact, they are perfectly sweet and are the perfect snack with a nice hummus. They tend to run about $2.99 a bag, and are so good you might be able to even trick your kids (and fussy friends) into eating them!

I haven't done this yet, but I'm going to get 2-3 bags and just roast them all at once with a wee bit of olive oil. Yum!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Post Punk Kitchen

I love reading blogs. In fact, I'm not embarrassed to say that I spend a good hour a day reading decorating and vegetarian blogs. What can I say? It's one of the ways I find "me" time and relax. And since I literally don't turn on the television until about 10:00 most nights, I feel zero guilt. Blogs serve as a major source of inspiration and creativity, especially in the kitchen.

Before Thanksgiving I hosted some good friends for dinner and one of my foodie guests was excited to make a vegan dessert for the event. Although I tried to give her the easy way out ("just pick up something from Whole Foods' bakery!") she rose to the occasion and baked up a delicious apple crisp. If you're ever a guest in my home, I welcome anything you bring (vegan or NOT!), so don't freak if you ever get invited over for dinner :) But consider yourself lucky...I've become a pretty darn good vegan cook!

The site my friend used for her apple crisp is The Post Punk Kitchen. Love the name, since I like to think of myself as a post-punk mama. I have bookmarked the site as a reliable place for great recipes. And they go in very interesting directions with cooking. It's fearless. It's original. It's PUNK! Check it out! And just for fun, here is a favorite video from a favorite punk band.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A chip worth crunching!

I know as well as anyone that sometimes you just need to satisfy that salt craving. One of my recent discoveries (now available just about everywhere, as far as I know) is this line of chips by Food Should Taste Good. I've tried a few of the choices, but my favorite are definitely the sweet potato chips. They are not exactly a health food, but they are certainly a smarter choice than a lot of other chips. And that's what Veganmama is all about: trying to choose something healthier over something else. So, the next time you're craving that salty crunch, give these chips a try and let me know what you think!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A little planning goes a long way!




I know very few people who actually enjoy thinking about what to make for dinner. And until I starting coming up with a monthly plan, I too would roam around the market asking myself, "What's for dinner?" Shopping without a plan is tricky and I'd often find myself just grabbing old standbys that weren't necessarily the most nutritious, and certainly weren't the most innovative! I understand being busy and not feeling like you have time to plan meals. However, it really doesn't take much time at all. In fact, I'm convinced if you just set aside a little time once a month, you can stop thinking about it. I don't know about you, but that seems a lot simpler to me!

Over the summer, I started setting aside about 30 minutes at the end of the month into planning next month's menu. 30 minutes! That's all. And I don't have a fancy system. Here's what I recommend. Sit and make a plan. It really doesn't need to be complicated. Here are my tools:

1. I have a three-ring binder that I use to collect the recipes I actually use all the time, and also new ones I print off of vegetarian blogs. It's simple, easy to deal with, and is a collection of only the BEST recipes. If I tried a recipe and it's just so-s0, it doesn't make it into the binder!

2. I have 3 or 4 cookbooks I use regularly (and continue to share those favorites on this site). I have many (many!) other cookbooks that I like to reference every once in a while, but I usually stick to a few. If I didn't find something to make in my binder or want to try something new, I reach for a cookbook.

3. I do my main cooking Monday/Wednesday/Friday. So, on a given month, I am planning 12 meals. That might sound like a lot, but it's simple. If you're looking to simplify even more, assign a type of meal per day. Maybe you choose one day for soups, or another day for a pasta dish.

Trust me, thinking about planning my meals just once a month has really made an impact on my approach to cooking and grocery shopping. On the off days the meals are simple (burritos, lentils and rice, etc.)

If you're someone who likes to kick off the new year with a resolution, I wonder if you might want to think about incorporating a meal calendar into your routine. Just try it! :) It makes a lot more sense than the old "I'm going to lose weight or drink less" resolutions that no one seems to keep!

Friday, December 9, 2011

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta


I've sung the praises of the blog "Oh She Glows" before, and once again she has posted a wonderful SIMPLE dinner recipe. I know a lot of people live for pasta, but I've never been a big fan. When I'm really craving something, it's definitely not a pasta dish. However, all bets are off with this recipe! And it's exactly as she says: very creamy! I only used 1 garlic clove, which was plenty, and instead of fresh basil, I used the fresh puree basil that comes in a tube (located in the refrigerated section of the market for about $3.50). I urge you to try this recipe as soon as possible and then let me know what you think! My whole family loved it!

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

Creamy, thick, and rich with lots of garlic flavor and a hint of lemon. This is my newest favorite pasta dish. The avocado works wonderfully in this recipe to create a sauce so creamy and thick, you will think there is cream hiding in there.

Inspired by My Recipe.org.

Yield: Serves 2 (my yield was 3)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted (make sure it's good and ripe)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish (USE FRESH!!)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I used 3 and it was quite garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic use 1 clove)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used 3oz of spelt and 3 oz of Kamut spaghetti)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Please note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce. Please serve immediately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sesame Almond Balls




Believe me, I understand cravings for sweets. Because it's easy to lose site of healthy eating during the holidays, I wanted to share a recipe I just made (in about five minutes, if that!) from the book CLEAN FOOD, by Terry Walters. What I like about this is that every ingredient is something I keep stocked, so they are easy to make when a craving strikes. Also, the ingredients are not creepy fake food: they are all real :) And the best part? No guilt. Because as you may have figured out, I don't mix guilt with eating. That's just bad news!

Sesame Almond Balls

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup toasted almonds (I used sliced)
5 dates, pitted

Place 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a small bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, combine remaining ingredients and process to form a stiff paste or meal. Form into tablespoon-size balls and roll in reserved sesame seeds to coat. Serve immediately or store in airtight container for up to four days.

I like to chill them in the fridge so they harden up a little.

Makes about 10 balls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food Rules, Rule Number One




If you've been following me for a while, you know I'm a fan of the author Michael Pollan, who so beautifully writes about food. Part of the appeal is that he breaks it down to a simple science, which is remarkable in our very complicated world of food. When did it all become so complicated? I doesn't need to be! (that's why you're reading veganmam!)

Pollan wrote a best-selling book called Food Rules, which is a handbook of sorts with simple rules of eating. It's sensible and it's a nice book to dip into when you're feeling like you're slipping and losing sight. He recently revised the 2009 edition to include some new "rules" and a beautiful new cover.

Over the next few weeks I'll share some of his food rules. Read them, think about them and try them out. I truly believe sometimes it's the smallest (but consistent) changes in our lives that can be so profound.

FOOD RULE NUMBER ONE:

Eat Food.

What? That's it? Yes! EAT FOOD. Not "edible foodlike substances" you find on the grocery store shelves, but REAL food. That's it! Real food is exactly what you think it is: apples, celery, beans, bread, oatmeal, nuts....real food. Not Pringles, Pop Tarts, Chicken Nuggets, Trix Yogurt. Real Food.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Keeping it simple in the kitchen



I really do (honestly) enjoy cooking, and I'm lucky enough to have time most days to cook a healthy meal from scratch. Most days I do. However, I'm a busy mother and an active woman, so there are some nights when I need a super simple meal and I need it quickly! Here are some of my go-to semi-homemade dinners you can turn to in a pinch:

1. Falafel

God bless falafel! The best of the street foods!

Falafel (/fəˈlɑːfəl/; Arabic: فلافل‎, [falaːfil] ( listen)) is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. Falafel is usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze.

Much to my great joy, you can now find already-made falafel at most grocery stores. Most of the time you find it next to the hummus. How do I serve it? With a side of hummus and pita or pita chips, and topped with pickles. That's it! Enjoy with a side salad and you have a perfect little meal.

2. Vegetarian Meatballs

Vegetarian meatballs are another quick and easy option that are now available everywhere. Although I'm not a big fan of pasta (never have been, it's not some weird carb thing!), sometimes I crave a little whole wheat fettuccine, tomato sauce and veggie meatballs. Super easy to make and tastes great for leftovers. And with a meal this simple, jazz it up with a nice spinach salad.

3. Good ol' Beans and Rice!

There's something so perfect about beans and rice. Thinking back to my 20's, beans and rice was something I could easily eat three times a week. Cheap, super good for you and cheap! Craving some beans and rice recently, I accidentally "invented" a cool dish in a pinch. I had made a nice big pot of brown rice and wanted to top it with black beans and salsa. I looked in my pantry and noticed I only had kidney beans. While I'm a fan of kidney beans, it wasn't what I had in mind. So...I topped the brown rice with the rinsed beans and poured a really good bbq sauce on top. Three ingredients that went really well together. Again, quick, cheap and wicked good!

What's your simple vegetarian dinner in a pinch?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What about ice cream, Veganmama?



Ice cream? I get it.

I grew up wanting nothing but ice cream when I wanted a treat. A softball game win was rewarded by ice cream. Trips to Maine were incomplete without trips to the local (amazing) ice cream parlor (Smiley's and the Mrs. and Me!). Ice cream represents a lot to a lot of people, and I don't judge! But I wanted to write a post that reminded readers there are options, and the options are starting to get REALLY good!

Believe it or not, I hadn't tried non-dairy ice cream until Thanksgiving. I'd made a gingerbread (vegan, along with the most incredible icing ever!) and felt it would be best served with a scoop of vanilla. My expectations were low (kind of like my carrot juice post!), but I was really surprised how good it was! And everyone who tried it agreed, even my kids! And the nice thing about it, it's not the kind of taste that makes you want to polish off the whole pint. It's refreshing, it's flavorful and it's good! Have you tried some? Not sorbet, but the coconut or soy-based products out there? They are a little pricey, but they're worth it. Trust me!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrot Juice


About four months ago I bought some carrot juice, assuming I wouldn't like it. Not to be a pessimist, but I thought it would be a little over-the-top for me, so I bought it for my husband. Plus, I'd never been much a juice drinker. I always figured, why drink calories I could eat instead?

My first sip was just okay. I thought, "Okay, I can finish this, but it's just so-so." Then something happened. I realized it tasted creamy?! At first I thought it was because I hadn't had cream or milk in a while, but then I realized it just tastes that way! After that first cup, I was hooked.

I've tried some different brands, but Bolthouse Farms is my favorite. I love to drink it mid-afternoon or after a long workout. Here are the stats of a glass of their yummy carrot juice. That's a whole lot of Vitamin A and C!

Nutrition

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup


I'm sure I'm not the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the culinary treats of the holiday last week, but is looking forward to a simple meal that leaves you feeling nourished instead of stuffed! I love this everyday soup because I usually already have all the ingredients in the pantry and it's quick and nutritious!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup

1 quart of vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans black beans, but DO NOT drain
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
Tabasco (3 to 4 drops, or to taste)

Saute onion, celery and garlic in a small amount of vegetable broth until softened, about five minutes. Add remaining broth, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Cook briefly, then add sweet potato and season with salt, pepper, Tabasco (if you choose). Cook 20 minutes, until potato is soft.

That's it, folks! I have to say, I've made this soup for years and it's always the one my Dad asks for :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What the BULK!?!?!


Welcome back to What the Bulk Tuesday! Today the bulk item I'll be featuring is the beautiful French green lentil. Lentils are one of my favorite things because they are so darn flavorful, even with nothing added to them! Ever cook up lentils in just a little vegetable broth? I highly recommend it. I cook up a batch once a week and we can eat them over rice, plain, thrown onto a salad, etc. This recipe is for a nice little lentil walnut salad, that can be eaten on its own or over salad greens.

Lentil Walnut Salad

1/2 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 T walnut oil
1 T sherry vinegar
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chives (use the fresh stuff, peeps!)

In a 2-quart saucepan, place lentils and enough water to cover by 1 inch; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20-25 minutes or until lentils are just tender. Drain; set aside.

In bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add lentils, walnuts and chives; toss to combine.

That's it! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Clean Food by: Terry Walters - Dark Leafy Greens



A lot of my favorite recipes come from Terry's book "Clean Food." Her Energy Squares have become a staple in our pantry to satisfy my sweet tooth! Here she is talking about the importance of dark leafy greens, a nutritional powerhouse!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bulgur Walnut Loaf

Next week is one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving! No other holiday is more fun for foodies. It will be extra special this year because we'll have a dining room filled with family from afar. One of my cousins attending (who just happens to be an amazing musician...concert after dessert?) will be making a turkey for half the group. The other half (4 of us! Not just veganmama!) will be forgoing meat as our main entree. And I promise you, those forgoing the meat will NOT miss it. I'll be cooking up a feast for the senses! One of the dishes is this bulgur walnut loaf, which beautifully compliments vegetarian side dishes.

Bulgur Walnut Loaf

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup uncooked bulgur
2 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 T chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups finely chopped carrots
1/3 cup barley miso (at Whole Foods) diluted in 1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp dried thyme or 2 t fresh
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried sunflower seeds
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached white flour

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the bulgur. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for ten minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic about five minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and simmer for three minutes. Stir in the diluted miso and add the thyme. In a blender or food processor, grind the walnuts and seeds to a medium yummy pulp!

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cooked bulgur, carrot mixture, ground walnuts and seeds, and both flours and mix together well. Pat the mix into an oiled 9 inch loaf pan and bake one hour. Cool before slicing.

*Top with vegan gravy!

What the BULK!?!?!


Welcome back to What the Bulk Tuesday! Each week I post one of these updates I can't believe a whole week has already gone by. This week I'll be sharing a little secret with you...I used to not be a fan of couscous. I know, I know, who doesn't like couscous? It has a cute name, it's good for you and it's a cinch to prepare. It wasn't until I tried WHOLE WHEAT couscous that I fell for it. And I didn't just fall for it, I fell in love. Here's why: It's super cheap ($3.19 a pound, which lasts a while!), it takes ONE minute to cook (hello!) and it's a perfect addition to a meal. Want a fun breakfast? Serve it warm and drizzle with a little maple syrup, cinnamon and dried fruit. A simple lunch? Add it to your tomato soup! Want to stretch a meal? Add it to some roasted vegetables already in your fridge to give the meal more substance. I buy the WHOLE WHEAT variety at Whole Foods (pictured above) and keep a jar of it in the pantry. The boxed white couscous you find at the market is okay...but why not go whole grain and forgo the added sodium of the boxed variety? Cousin Patricia, walk on down to your swank Manhattan Whole Foods and hook yourself up :)

My "recipe"

1 1/2 cups water (or veg. broth)
1 cup whole wheat couscous

Boil water and cook the couscous for one minute.

Turn off the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5.

Fluff with a fork.

That's it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)


Broccoli Rabe: Don’t let it scare you! It's not only a cool-sounding side dish at your favorite restaurant. It's a perfectly easy dish for you to prepare at home!


Sauteed broccoli rabe with olive oil and toasted pine nuts (modified from the book “The Vegan Table” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau


2 T pine nuts

2 pounds broccoli rabe, thick stems trimmed 1 inch from the bottom

2 T olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (to give it a KICK! optional)

salt, to taste

juice from ½ lemon, lime or orange (use the fresh stuff!)


Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden grown, tossing occasionally. Remove from heat.


Meanwhile, add about 2 inches of water to a medium sauce pan. Bring it to a boil. Place the washed broccoli rabe in a colander and place it over the steaming water. Rest a large lid ove the whole thing to let the rabe steam for about 3 minutes. Then, immediately plunge the greens into a bowl of ice water. Let it rest in the ice water for about 2 minutes, then drain (don’t skip this step! It keeps the rabe nice and bright green!)


In a large skillet over medium heat, warm your oil. Add garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Add drained rabe, pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Saute about 5 minutes, until it’s tender, but still a little firm. Before serving, sprinkle with nuts and squeeze on the lemon juice.


A terrific side dish! Bitter, savory and crazy good for YOU! Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Quinoa: 101



When I saw this video, I thought, "Hum...my readers should know this." This woman shares some valuable information. And you'll be more prepared for making "What the Bulk?!?!?" recipes! Enjoy, and have a happy and healthy weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kabocha Squash totally rocks!


I mentioned before that this is the season I'm going to try all the funky squashes out there at the markets. Have you tried Kabocha Squash? Oooh, it's good. Good like you want to roast the whole thing and eat it all up in one sitting good. I found this recipe from justhungry.com and wanted to share:

Sweet and spicy roasted kabocha squash

  • 1/2 small to medium sized kabocha squash
  • 3 Tbs light brown, natural cane, or muscovado sugar, plus a bit more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper or hot chili powder, more or less to taste (hot! yum!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • Oil for drizzling - pumpkin seed oil is preferred, or use toasted sesame oil, argan oil, or walnut oil (see notes)

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Line a baking sheet or two with silicon baking liner or parchment paper.

De-seed and cut the squash into slices about 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick. (Use a sturdy knife for cutting squash or pumpkin, on a stable surface, and be careful!)

Combine all the dry ingredients. Toss the squash slices in this until coated thoroughly. Add the soy sauce and toss well again.

Spread the slices in a singler layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle over them with the oil, and optionally sprinkle more sugar on them. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn over, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle more sugar, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

*Make sure you let me know if you make this!*

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Black Bean Lettuce Bundles


Last week I had the enormous pleasure of helping Karen Ring, the "Healthy Eating Specialist" at the Bellingham, MA Whole Foods teach a class on packing a healthy lunchbox. We focused on presenting the kids (and moms!) who came to the class with delicious and FUN options for lunch. When I'm packing a lunch for my kids, I try to focus on something substantial, something creamy, something crunchy and something sweet. One of my personal favorites is one of the "Health Starts Here" recipes from Whole Foods: The Black Bean Lettuce Bundle, which serves 4, or one hungry Veganmama. They are sort of a Mexican-inspired lettuce wrap. ENJOY!

2 cups cooked no-salt-added black beans
1/2 large avocado, mashed
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup mild low-sodium salsa
8 large romaine lettuce leaves

Mash beans and avocado together with a fork. Mix all remaining ingredients, except lettuce. Place approximately 1/4 cup of filling in the center of each lettuce leaf and roll up like a tortilla.

What kid wouldn't like this instead of the old PBJ standby?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What the BULK!?!?!



Welcome back to another What the BULK!?!?! post, where I take the mystery out of cooking the bulk grains you find at your favorite market. This week's bulk is Israeli couscous, which looks like little pasta balls. This is a very simple side dish that is surprisingly savory and takes just minutes to prepare. How great is that? Don't be scared off by it looking bland, it's really not. The garlic and the broth really give it great flavor!

Couscous with Golden Raisins

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cups Israeli couscous
One 14 ounce can vegetable broth
2/3 cup golden raisins

1. In a saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the couscous and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer until the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the raisins.

That's it! I like to serve this with a side of bitter greens and roasted squash. A perfect fall dinner.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smoothies




Before I went vegan, I didn't understand why so many people went nuts for smoothies. A simple Google of "vegan smoothies" will result in videos, images and recipes for more smoothies than you could imagine! And not just a wide variety of tastes, but a wide variety of colors and pronouncements of health. I sort of considered smoothies calorie dense sweet treats and didn't give them much thought. Why bother, when I was still eating icecream and frozen yogurt? Well, here's why you should bother (you knew it was coming!)...They take 5 minutes to make, they are super good for you and you can make them as thick as those Blizzards you enjoyed as a kid.

My daughter enjoys routine and each day after school looks forward to a snack that will fill her up, but also satisfy her hunger (and sweet tooth) until dinnertime. Often kids have after school activities that require a nice dose of protein to feel full. Knowing that I was interested in trying to make smoothies, my husband surprised me with a Ninja "Warrier" kitchen tool. I was a little skeptical that I would need something so odd sounding to make a smoothie (wasn't my blender good enough?), but I LOVE the thing because it's very powerful for crushing ice. Sure, the Vitamixer is the best of them all, but I'd never complain about my Ninja! Soon enough, I was making my daughter and I a smoothie every afternoon after school. Because the options are endless, we haven't grown tired of them! I kid you not, when I whip one up, it tastes like the best homemade icecream and is completely dairy free, with no added sugar. And after you eat it you don't feel bloated or tired. The image above is one of my typical blends, consisting of almond milk, ice, a frozen banana, a handful of berries and topped with granola. That's it! Are you more a chocolate person? Do you realize you can use unsweetened cocoa powder (yes, the baking cocoa powder from the market) and it adds all the chocolate flavor without any sugar? When I figured that out I felt like I had hit the lottery. Chocolate, peanut butter banana smoothie? OKAY!

Here are a few options we love:

Start with a few ice cubes (say, 4 or 5)

Use about a cup of non-dairy milk (we love unsweetened almond). More or less, you decide.

Add a frozen banana (peel them and THEN freeze them in a zip-lock bag...keep a stash on hand!)

Then, have fun: add some frozen or fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mangos, peaches)

Want it chocolatey? Add about 2 T cocoa powder (the unsweetened stuff). Chocolate goes best with raspberry, banana or strawberry.

Whirl it up and enjoy! We like ours really thick, but you can adjust to taste.

Want an extra dose of vitamins that the kids (and you) will NOT taste? Add a cup of baby spinach (fresh). It's especially yummy mixed with berries. We did this "Shrek" drink on Halloween, a simple blend of spinach, berries and almond milk. Sounds gross, but tastes great.

You can also jazz it up with a teaspoon of chia seeds or ground flax.

A lot of recipes call or a date or two thrown in for sweetness. I find mine sweet enough as is.

And last but not least, if you like a little crunch on top, add some granola (we love Bare Naked)! Later this week we'll film ourselves making one, so keep an eye out for a fun video!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease is something that needs even more attention than it already gets. I'm here not so much to promote a vegan diet, but to promote eating in the most heart-healthy way (which I personally believe is a plant-strong diet). That said, I feel we all need reminders of the importance of taking care of our hearts, especially women. I think it's easy to forget it's the number one cause of death for women. And with the weight issues of children today, it's certainly going to be present in the next generation. Doesn't that just pain you? Here is a video I found that gives some statistics of heart disease and women.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The 16th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival





John and I enjoyed experiencing our first "foodie" fair this past weekend, visiting Boston for the 16th annual Boston vegetarian food festival, brought to you by these lovely people:
http://www.bostonveg.org/ Can you see how excited I am in the picture? The festival hosted everyone from natural food vendors, authors and magazines. There were artists selling organic t-shirts and bags, where I picked up a cool t-shirt! I won't lie, it was very crowded and most of the vendors were short on space, but the sight of so many like-minded folks in one big room was awesome. I think I was smiling the entire morning. Are you familiar with Cafe Indigo? They make a FABULOUS vegan carrot cake that is so special Whole Foods carries it in their Bellingham bakery. Stop by and visit them if you're heading up North to ski this winter. Can you believe how beautiful some of the desserts were? I tend to focus on the sweet stuff around here, but there were lots of great savory choices for lunch. John had a big Carribean plate for lunch including plantains, some crazy cool cabbage thing and some bbq tofu. I had a plate of brown rice, southern-style bitter greens and baked tempeh. Did I mention almost every table had free samples? We tried everything from different organic chocolates to a whole table of hummus! We tasted sunflower butter, funky energy bars, sunflower milk (who knew?), soymilks, almond milks, vegan cheese and a assortment of other tasty treats. Here are some shots of the day, which do it no justice!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whole Foods' Pillars of HEALTH

As you can imagine, I'm a fan of the store Whole Foods. I get about 25% of my groceries from them. Not so much because of cost, but because of distance (when oh when will they ever open a store in Mansfield, MA? PLEASE?) I love their bulk items and the whole vibe of the store. One of the things that impresses me the most is that they've come out with what they refer to as the "Pillars of Health." In fact, they are printed on their re-usable shopping bags if you ever forget them!

1. Eat WHOLE foods: This makes so much sense, and I find kids really get this one! It’s about eating real food, peeps! Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, soy…not something made in a factory filled with scary ingredients you can’t pronounce.


2. Eat a PLANT STRONG (a.k.a. vegan!) diet. I find it amazing and exciting that Whole Foods came out and made this statement. In fact, their whole “Health Starts Here” campaign is based on this principle. Have you noticed the Health Starts Here recipes on their web site? Check it out!


http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/browse-recipes.php?CID=health-starts-here


3. Eat NUTRIENT DENSE foods. Whole Foods says, “Choose foods that are rich in micronutrients when compared to their total caloric content. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. For guidance on this, look for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) scoring system in our stores.” The whole ANDI scoring system is so cool I'll be writing a separate post about it!


4. Eat HEALTHY FATS : Whole Foods says , “Get healthy fats from whole plant sources, such as nuts, seeds and avocados. These foods are rich in micronutrients as well. Work to eliminate (or minimize) extracted oils and processed fats.” I get it, we all crave something fatty, but once you switch over to treats like nuts, your taste buds change.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What the BULK!?!?!




It's Tuesday and time for another "What the Bulk?" post, where I try to demystify the items you can buy in bulk at your favorite market. Today's bulk is QUINOA (pronounced, "keen-wah") and it's one of my favorites. Not only is it a nutritional powerhouse (packed with protein), it tastes great and is versatile. I chose this particular recipe because it involves BUTTERCUP squash, the new love of my life. I decided this fall would be the season to try new varieties of squash and try not to be intimidated by them. To the left is a picture of what buttercup looks like. And above is a picture of this recipe made (with some homemade cranberry sauce, Gardein meat-less tips and a spinach salad.) Yum!

Buttercup Squash and Quinoa, Apricot and Sage Stuffing


From “Clean Start” by Terry Walters

I’m SO glad I tried this recipe! Not only did I get over my fear of cooking squash that wasn’t acorn or butternut, I just discovered a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving!


2 small buttercup squashes

2 T olive oil, plus more for rubbing squash (I sprayed it with olive oil)

1 cup quinoa

1 ½ cups veg. stock

Pinch of sea salt

6 shallot cloves, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

6 dried apricots, chopped

2 T chopped fresh sage

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T mirin (get in the Asian section of the market near soy sauce)

Zest of 1 lemon

2 T lemon juice (use fresh lemon!)

½ cup toasted sliced almonds (toast them, it really gives a better flavor!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash squash and cut in half or quarters, depending on the desired serving size. Scoop out and discard seeds, rub skins with olive oil and place open-side down on parchment-lined baking pan. Roast 25 minutes or until soft throughout. Turn off heat, but leave squash in oven to stay warm until ready to serve. (Note: even if you only make this much of the recipe, you can simply enjoy just this lovely squash as is!)

Meanwhile, combine quinoa in pot with stock. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside, but do not fluff yet.

In Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté shallots and celery in 1 T olive oil until soft. Add apricots, sage, parsley and mirin and sauté 3 minutes longer. Fluff quinoa and fold into shallot mixture. Add lemon zest and juice and remaining T olive oil and sauté 3 minutes longer or until heated through. Remove quinoa from heat, and squash from oven. Fill individual squash boats with stuffing, garnish with toasted almonds and parsley sprinkled on top.

Serves 4



Wildflour Bakery





I love to bake and often daydream about what my bakery would be like if I were to open one. Although cupcakes are the trend, I've never been a fan. I used to think a place that only served cookies was the way to go. After going vegan, I realized I would want to open a place that catered to sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) while also baking in a health-conscious way. Well, the good news is that I don't have to invest in my own bakery, as Wildflour Bakery is pretty much exactly what I'd open! And somehow I think frequenting a place is a whole lot easier on my family than my opening my own! Wildflour Bakery is located at 727 East Avenue, Pawtucket RI, next door to the Garden Grille, my favorite vegetarian restaurant. I love being able to walk into a place knowing I can enjoy everything on the menu! And as a bonus, the people who work there are super cool and don't seem to mind when veganmama comes in and goes crazy with the old camera! Please visit their site at:

http://www.wildflourveganbakerycafe.com/

And here is a extra little peak inside:


video

Friday, October 28, 2011

Festival This Weekend!

Vegan Black Metal Chef Makes Delicious Dishes With Hellfire and Brimstone - ABC News


You know the old saying, you can't judge a book by its cover? In celebration of Halloween on Monday, I thought there was no better way than to include a clip of what is probably one of the funniest cooking clips out there: Vegan Black Metal Chef! This guy really serves it up! My favorite part? When the interviewer asked him if he ever feels silly. He flatly replies, "No," as if he's shocked someone would ask. I love people who just go for it in life! And you know, metal and SEITAN go pretty well together... Click on the link below to enjoy a small clip:

Vegan Black Metal Chef Makes Delicious Dishes With Hellfire and Brimstone - ABC News

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Kibbeh

The picture on top shows the kibbeh just before baking...the one below shows the middle stuffing. Looks amazing, right? It tastes even better!


In the spirit of interesting pumpkin recipes for the season, this is my new take on an old family recipe. I'm half Lebanese (like Shakira, I'm sure you see the resemblance?), and kibbeh is one of those recipes people think of when they think Lebanese food! Traditional kibbeh is an Arab dish made of bulgur or rice and chopped meat, then covered in olive oil, topped with pine nuts and baked. A couple of years ago, a great cook in the family developed a kibbeh recipe for the vegetarians in the family. This pumpkin kibbeh recipe is my take on that family member's dish. I found it on line and we love this recipe! *Disclaimer: yes, it's a bit of work, but it's the sort of thing that you can eat for a couple days in a row and is sooooo good, it's worth the extra effort! Plus, it'll really impress your friends!*

Pumpkin Kibbeh

1 cup fine cracked bulgur wheat (all grocery stores now carry it!)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (I used canned. NOT pie filling, but canned pumpkin)
3 T flour
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander (don't panic if you don't have it, just skip it)
pinch allspice
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground sumac (I used zartar, more on zartar at a later date...)
1/2 tsp. pomegranate molasses (don't panic if you don't have, but get some at a specialty store!)

Soak the bulgur in very hot water for 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Place onion and garlic in food processor and blend, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Stuffing:

2 T olive oil
Remained of the small onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, crushed
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
pinch allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground sumac
1/4 tsp. pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted)
1/2 cup cooked chick peas, coarsely chopped.

Cook onions in a little olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add spices and molasses and cook for a minute more. Add spinach, cover pan and let spinach wilt. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.

To assemble:

Spread a little less than half the kibbeh in the bottom of an oiled 8x8 pan. Add the filling, and then dollop the remaining kibbeh over the filling and do your best to spread it to form a uniform cover. Drizzle olive oil over the top and then cut into a diamond pattern on the top. Bake at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes, until lightly browned.


Monday, October 24, 2011

What the BULK!?!?!?

Welcome again to my Tuesday post: What the bulk? Where I try to demystify how to shop the bulk aisle at your favorite store! Today's post includes a little video I took (using one hand and one shot, so show the love!) explaining how I make a big old batch of cereal for the family to eat all week long. The recipe changes with what we have on hand in the pantry, but this is the general recipe.
One of the fun things about eating simply like this is that you can eat it cold or hot. If cold, pour the milk of your choice on and let it soak about 5 minutes, just to soften the oats. If hot, pour milk on and microwave about one minute. Enjoy and let me know if you make some!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Bread with three ingredients? Crazy!




Total disclaimer: at first I wasn't going to share this recipe with my readers because, 1. it's not exactly all natural and 2. I'm a baker, and using gimicky recipes just isn't my thing. However, I saw this on a trusted blog, tried it, and it was fantastic. At first you might be thinking, "this will never work!" but it does...and it's great!

Easiest Pumpkin Bread...evah.
1 box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix
16 ounce canned pumpkin (not pie mix, but just pumpkin)
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice

Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Then, spread it in a greased 8x10 pan. Bake 30 minutes at 350 (I baked mine longer, say about 35 minutes). Presto, you're done! It comes out nice and moist, the way it should be.

To jazz it up, once it's dried, drizzle with a glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 T cider
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good for you, Bill!



I'm really impressed (and maybe this is a little biased of me) that a man from the south, at his age, has gone plant-based. Part of why I like to sometimes showcase famous vegetarians is to show how common the plant-strong diet now is! The world is changing. And like Bill said, the evidence is there that shows major health benefits. Good for you, Bill! And thank you for being honest (uh, hum) and straightforward (uh, hum) about it ;)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tofettes


I'm so happy to report that tofu has come a LONG way. Gone are the days of having to slice and press tofu for hours. I mean, who really takes the time to do that? Now, thanks to companies like Creative Chef, you can buy your tofu already pressed and seasoned! My favorite is called "Tofettes" which can be found at most grocery stores. Although I try to cook four nights a week, sometimes this mama needs a break! I love to serve up Tofettes with a whole grain (brown rice or quinoa) and a green vegetable. Best part? You zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds...and that's it! They come in multiple flavors, my favorite being barbeque and hot and spicy. Have you tried Tofettes?

The Smallest Winner



I recently had the pleasure of being invited to speak to some “smallest winner” participants at my local YMCA. The smallest winner is a weight-loss and weight-training program, but also focuses on lifestyle, which is where people like me come in! I was invited in as the expert vegetarian, since it’s something I’ve done for so long. And you know what, I'm very happy wearing that hat! I found the people I met to be very inspiring and interested. I spoke to the group for about half an hour, then we played a game. I handed out blank pieces of paper and asked them to write down different ways they thought vegetarians got their nutrition. We talked about where vegetarians get protein, healthy fats, calcium and whole grains.


Today I’d like to share with you how I like to get calcium! This list is not complete, so feel free to add your two cents to the comments! But here is a start: leafy greens (kale, spinach, dandelion greens, bok choy), broccoli, sesame seeds (!), tofu, peanuts, peas, black beans, baked beans, blackstrap molasses, corn tortilla, fortified orange juice, almonds and almond milk. The milk industry would love to have us all focus on milk for calcium, but there are a lot of great non-dairy options out there to explore, without any of the side effects. And remember, it’s far more important to think about your diet as a WHOLE, rather than just focusing on individual nutrients. If you are eating a well-balanced meal, you’re very likely getting what you need. And it all else fails, just eat tons of kale chips!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What the BULK!?!?!


Welcome to my new Tuesday post: What the BULK?!?!? I've decided every Tuesday, I'll post a recipe or at least a simple preparation of something you can get in the bulk aisle of your favorite health food store or market. I know it can be intimidating, and I'm here to help! Let's start with one of the big nutritional powerhouses: QUINOA (pronounced, "keen-wah")

Quinoa salad with chickpeas, beets and herbs (Better Homes Magazine, I think)

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup of shoepeg frozen corn or shucked cooked fresh corn!

1 15 ounce can chickpeas

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

3 T snipped fresh basil

2T snipped fresh parsley (flat-leaf)

¼ cup olive oil (you can use a little less if you want)

2 T lemon juice

1 cup diced cooked beets (I cheat and just cut up sliced canned beets)


1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve (make sure it's fine) under cold running water and drain. This process rinses away some of the bitterness. In saucepan bring broth to a boil. Add quinoa and return to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool (Note: if you only do this, you already have a great side dish for everyday dinners!)

2. Prepare your corn. Rinse and drain chickpeas. In bowl combine quinoa, corn, chickpeas, onion and herbs. For dressing: in a bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add to quinoa mixture and toss to coat.

3. Cover and let stand at least one hour; or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Bring to room temp before serving. Service in bowls over organic baby spinach or just on its own.


See, not so hard!