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:

And here is a extra little peak inside:

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.


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


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!

Monday, October 17, 2011

In defense of food!

A good friend has loaned me some of her favorite foodie/healthy eater books and I’m finally reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, which is an excellent read. Michael Pollan has already given us a lot to think about with his books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules. He writes in a very sensible, no-frills way about food and I appreciate that. I was very drawn to this particular paragraph in the beginning of In Defense of Food which reads, “All of our uncertainties about nutrition should not obscure the plain fact that the chronic diseases that now kill most of us can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food: The rise of highly processed foods and refined grains; the use of chemicals to raise plants and animals in huge monocultures; the superabundance of cheap calories of sugar and fat produced by modern agriculture; and the narrowing of the biological diversity of the human diet to a tiny handful of staple crops, notable what, corn and soy. These changes have given us the Western diet that we take for granted: lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of everything – except vegetables, fruits and whole grains. " HUM……it really makes you think, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to slice a pomegranate!

As many of you know, I'm half Lebanese. And we Lebanese know our pomegranates! One of the challenges of cutting one is getting to the good stuff without getting the (highly stainable) juice all over the place! I know there are many different techniques, but this is my tried-and-true method! And when you're shopping for one, don't even bother buying one unless it has the POM brand sticker on the fruit. The heavier the fruit, the riper the seeds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Soup's On!

There's nothing better than a beautiful seasonal soup that is both easy AND delicious. This is a soup/stew that never fails. In addition, it's so good for you! The people who attended my first Vegetarian Tasting Night were big fans.

Butternut Squash/Carrot Curry Soup (My mother-in-law’s recipe)

6 large carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise into thirds

½ large butternut squash (you can even cheat and get it already peeled and cut)

1 large onion, cut into eights (just a regular old onion)

olive oil (just enough to cover the vegetables, but don't go crazy!)

1 teaspoon curry (don't let the curry scare you!)

Preheat oven to 425. Spread vegetables on a cookie sheet. Pour some olive oil over it and mix. Bake about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.Transfer to a soup pot. Add a quart of vegetarian broth. Whirl with a handheld blender and add curry last.

Vegetarian and Vegan Celebrities

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Energy Bar Recipe!

Energy Bars (from the cookbook "Clean Start")

Warning: These are crazy good!

1 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter)

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 ¼ cups crispy brown rice cereal

½ cup roasted almonds

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

¾ cup ground flax seeds

¼ cup dairy-free chocolate chips

In a medium pot over low heat, whisk together peanut butter, brown rice syrup and maple syrup. Remove from heat and set aside. In separate bowl, combine rice cereal, almonds, coconut and ground flax. Fold dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture until all ingredients are incorporated.

Line 8x8 inch baking dish with non-stick foil. Spoon in batter, sprinkle with chocolate chips and press firmly and evenly into dish. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from fridge, cut into squares and store in airtight container. Makes approximately 36 bite-size squares.

Energy Bars, a healthier dessert!

I usually buy my vegan chocolate chips from Whole Foods, but I found this "Enjoy Life" brand at Target. Who knew? They sell both mini chips and chunks for about $3.50 a bag. I prefer the taste of the chips from Whole Foods, but these are not bad and my kids are NOT complaining!

Here are most of the ingredients for the bars. Shown here are the brown rice crisps, ground flax seed and unsweetened coconut (I love you, Bob's Red Mill!), natural peanut butter (I sometimes use sunflower or almond butter), sliced almonds (I toast mine), the chips and brown rice syrup (get at Whole Foods).

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Engine 2 Diet" author Rip Esselstyn on The Today Show

Firemen, the hottest vegans out there!

Have you read "The Engine 2 Diet" by Rip Esselstyn? Rip is a firefighter in Texas who, with the rest of his firehouse brothers, went plant-strong and turned everyone's health around. The book is an interesting and quick read and offers tons of great recipes that are uncomplicated and emphasize old favorites. What's particularly interesting about Rip is that he was a professional athlete for years and was plant-strong the whole time!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Make sure you know your cholesterol numbers!

My father-in-law knows I love to read about health, so last Christmas he was kind enough to get me a copy of a book that he had read and (as a result) then went vegan. His intention was to reverse his heart disease by his diet. I had never heard of such a thing and was VERY skeptical. The book he gave me was Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.” Dr. Esselstyn, who is older than my father (but totally crush-worthy) was a surgeon, clinician and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic for more than 35 years. The guy knows hearts! And just as cool, he went vegan over 20 years ago, when most of us didn’t even know the term. His radical (but actually not so radical) philosophy is that we can abolish the heart disease epidemic by changing our diets. What an amazing notion! Who wouldn’t rather do that than undergo the pain and physical trauma of surgery, not to mention all the other health issues that go with being overweight/at risk for heart disease? The book goes into a lot of detail about this idea. When the book was given to me I thought it would be a fun read (I know I’m nerdy), but what I didn’t expect was how true to home it would hit. It got me really thinking about my own father. My dad, at 49, had quadruple open-heart surgery. At NO time did any doctor ever recommend a vegetarian/vegan diet to the man. In fact, when he had his first (of two) open heart surgeries, the staff tried to serve him a hamburger in recovery! Is it just me, or is that horrible? After reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book, I learned that if you change your diet and “follow a plant-based nutrition program to reduce your total cholesterol level to below 150mg/dl and the LDL level to less than 80 mg/dl, you cannot deposit fat and cholesterol into your coronary arteries.” In fact, Dr. Esselstyn goes on to say that “A person who maintains a blood cholesterol under 150 mg/dl for a lifetime will NOT develop coronary artery disease.” Why was this the first time I was hearing this? I mean, I thought I was pretty well read on the subject. I also just assumed I’d be one of millions of people taking Lipitor to lower my cholesterol. So, almost for kicks, I thought I would stop eating dairy and see what happened to my cholesterol. I had already been a vegetarian, so this wasn’t a big shift. I’m pleased to say that after just SEVEN weeks, my total cholesterol dropped 27 points! I laugh at myself because getting those test results were so exciting! All kidding aside, how great is THAT? Who knows how low it will go over the next year? When’s the last time you had yours tested? It’s important and takes just a few minutes. Plus, you can make corny vampire jokes to the phlebotomist.

Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.: Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kale Chips, my new addiction

The very busy and cool blogger Kath of Kath Eats Real Food is the one who turned me onto the idea of getting my daily dose of kale from a chip! I can’t make promises, but a lot of kids (and picky adults) like these. I know for me, kale chips really satisfy the crunchy/salty craving!

Kale Chips

I like to buy the already washed and cut kale, but nothing is better than fresh kale from a farm stand! Wash and tear the kale into bite-size pieces. Mix in a little olive oil and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. I like to bake mine for about 16-19 minutes at 375 degrees. Give the kale a good shake halfway through. Season with sea salt or kosher salt. If you find you like them more well done, go for it!

Kale Chips

The first Vegetarian Night at my house

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting five people for my first vegetarian tasting night. We enjoyed a tasting menu and then had about an hour to talk about everything from heart disease to grocery shopping. What I found interesting was that some things that are very much a part of my everyday diet are very new (and unusual!) to others. I came up with the idea to have a tasting night because I thought about what it would be like to be someone who was curious going vegetarian, but didn’t know where to start. I wanted to show others how fun and easy it is!

Here is what my guests enjoyed:

  • Kale Chips
  • Butternut Squash/Carrot curry stew
  • White Bean and Yellow Lentil Dips
  • Quinoa with Roasted Beets
  • Escarole with Chickpeas and Caramelized Onions
  • Raw Balls

The night gave people the chance to taste premade items and also watch me make some of the meal. Once people saw how easy it was, it took some of the mystery out of it! I’m planning on offering these get-togethers on a quarterly basis for a small fee per person. It’s a nice night out and a great way to spend some time with others who are interested in health and trying new things!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chef Tal Ronnen Teaches Ellen His Meatless Stew Recipe

The thing about protein...

Where do I get my protein if not from dairy and meat? I’ve been at this a long time, so trust me when I say one of the first questions a vegan/vegetarian is asked is “Where do you get your PROTEIN!” Well, let me tell you a thing or two about protein. First off, most Americans get too much of it. And when that protein is coming in the form of saturated fat from meat and dairy, it doesn’t do a body good! Somewhere along the line, we have become more focused on individual nutrients and vitamins, instead of looking at eating well as a WHOLE. Protein is a very important thing, of course, and I’d like to share some ways this girl gets hers. Amazing plant-based proteins I eat include: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, seitan, tempeh, tofu, avocados, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, beet greens, nut butters, peanuts, walnuts, whole grains, soymilk. cashews, protein powder added to soy smoothies….I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but you get the idea. Although unprocessed foods are always best (more on that later!), one of our favorite frozen meat substitutes is a product line called GARDEIN. Have you tried it? Their meat-free beefless tips are 150 calories a serving with 18 grams of protein. No trans fats, no cholesterol. At about $4.00 a bag, you can’t go wrong! I think the type of protein you consume is far more important than the amount, don’t you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Forks Over Knives - Official Trailer

Forks over Knives, a must-see movie!

Please take a moment to watch the trailer to the movie "Forks Over Knives" (great play on words there!) which is an eye-opening movie about the way food can harm or heal. Leaders in the field of "plant strong" eating are interviewed and explain the information in a very understandable and visual way. If you have Netflix, you can watch it free by streaming it. Have you seen it? If so, please comment and give us your opinion! I personally think it's an outstanding movie because it's based on FACTS!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Turns out Alicia Silverstone isn’t so Clueless!

Have you seen or read Alicia Silverstone’s book “The Kind Diet?” A dear friend of mine loaned me a copy a few months back, and it’s actually a very good read. Not only does she talk about the health and moral benefits of eating well, she includes many good recipes. I’ve tried about a third of them, and keep coming back to this particular treat. Friends who were here last week for my first (of many!) vegetarian tasting night had the pleasure of snacking on this dessert.
Raw Balls (The Kind Diet)
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pitted dates
½ cup raw carob powder (I use unsweetened cocoa)
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup nut butter (almond or peanut)
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup chopped almonds (I only do this step half of the time)
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (get the unsweetened kind at Whole Foods)
Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add the dates, and pulse until well combined with the nuts. Add the carob or cocoa powder, syrup, nut butter, vanilla and salt. Process until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the almonds and pulse a few times until combined. Form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls with your hands. Roll the balls in coconut (or chopped nuts). Place in a sealed container in the freezer until hardened.
I leave mine in the freezer because I like the texture.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

And so it begins!

Welcome to day one of my new blog, veganmama. I appreciate your interest and it is my hope that friends will find this blog easy to relate to, a place of inspiration, and their go-to site for amazing vegetarian recipes! I've recently realized that not only eating a vegan diet, but also teaching others about it, is something I'm very passionate about. That I should go "vegan" actually hit me with such clarity, that I call myself a "born again foodie." Yes, I'm the same Nicole who was baking up unhealthy cookies and treats for friends for years. Sure, I still like to bake! But now I am baking and cooking responsibly and with a different purpose. Part of what makes life so exciting is the changes we make along the way. Perhaps you're here because you're looking for change? Whatever the reason, thank you and welcome aboard!