Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Comfort Food

Some days you just need something creamy and comforting. Today all I wanted was a brie tartine and a big slab of cheesecake from the Blue Dahlia Bistro. It's one of my favorite restaurants, and that was one of my favorite meals before I went plant based.

Instead, I made this shake from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. Take two frozen bananas (they must be frozen for best results), 1-2 cups of non-dairy milk (the more milk you add, the more liquidy it will be), and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Blend. Pour into a pretty glass and decorate with a pretty strawberry. Drink.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Veggie Meatloaf Nirvana

Lentil Loaf, Potato with Mushroom Gravy, Broccoli Raab
Wow. I am so excited about this recipe. First, I love meatloaf. It's the ultimate comfort food. Throw in some mashed potatoes and gravy, some fresh bread, and hot damn.

The sad thing is, I've never been able to find a good veggie meatloaf recipe. Most of them are made with TVP (textured vegetable protein), which is terrible for you, and the ones that are bean-based tend to dry out easily.

After eating at a vegan restaurant this last Friday and tasting yet another piece of disappointing, dried out veggie loaf,  I decided I had to give this recipe a try.

A rainbow of yumminess
The recipe is from Alex Jamieson's book The Great American Detox Diet, which is a new one on my rotation of favorite vegan cookbooks. You may know Alex from the film Supersize Me (she was the horrified vegan girlfriend of Morgan Spurlock). I've loved everything of hers that I've tried, and she is just an awesome person, to boot!

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that she uses lentils, which I think naturally have a meaty texture. Lentils are also very high in protein, which is great since I'm in the middle of training for a 4-mile swim and want something that makes for a good recovery meal.

I also love that this recipe is full of vegetables—the whole rainbow—and has no oil. It does use olives and walnuts, which add a little fat, great flavor, and texture.

All prepped and ready for baking!
It calls for instant oats, but I just threw regular oats in my blender to cut them up a bit. Worked like a charm.

All of the chopping aside, this was super easy to throw together, although you need to be mindful of preparations and cook time, if you want to eat at a decent hour. I had made the lentils ahead of time and happened to have some cooked brown rice on hand, so everything came together relatively quickly. The cooking time is an hour (40 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered), and it needs to sit for another 10 or 15 minutes out of the oven so it can set.

I promise you will not be disappointed. It is so moist and delicious, and it's got such a wonderful flavor. The walnuts add an unexpected crunch. I served it with a boiled potato, broccoli raab, and the Happy Herbivore's Everyday Mushroom Gravy.

The loaf tasted even better the day after, with the flavors all having a chance to meld together. Tasted good cold, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Evening Called for Biscuits

Today is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. I'm not sure why we need an official day to celebrate eating buttermilk biscuits, but who am I to argue?

By the power of suggestion, this evening I wanted biscuits. Thankfully the person who suggested biscuits was The Happy Herbivore, who has a couple of great low-fat vegan cookbooks that are also part of my kitchen stand-bys.

One way of giving a buttermilk flavor to vegan cooking is to use lemon juice, although I find that it can be hit or miss. I flipped through Everyday Happy Herbivore and stumbled upon this recipe for Lemon Jam Biscuits. A simple drop biscuit recipe, but with the addition of juice from an entire lemon, as well as the zest.

Not exactly a buttermilk biscuit, but it sounded intriguing, particularly her suggestion of topping it with raspberry jam. This was super simple to throw together. I think total prep time was under 10 minutes.

1 c whole wheat-pastry flour (this is key—using regular whole wheat will make it reallllly heavvvvy)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper (easy way to be non-stick and oil free!)
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt
4. Add applesauce and stir until chunks of dough form
5. Add zest and juice of an entire lemon (you should really use organic, since you're using the skin)
6. Add water 1 T at a time just until the dough is wet but not runny.

Drop 5 spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

You seriously need to eat these with the raspberry jam. So freaking delicious.

I find that these biscuits taste best when they're hot out of the oven rather than left over, so it's best if you find a person or two to eat them with.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chili Lime Noodles With All of the Things

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's delicious by itself, but it also makes a great base for adding veggies and other sautéeables (is that a word?).

My only tweak to the recipe itself is to use only 1/2 teaspoon of oil—just to keep the noodles from sticking. I have made this recipe completely oil free before and although it tasted fine when it was freshly made, the leftover noodles were clumped together in a cold, hard rock the next day. 

Note to self: I might try making them oil free again and reheat them the next day in a skillet with a little veggie broth to see if that helps break them up...

What I also love about these noodles is how flavorful they are. The ginger and garlic just taste so fresh, and the sriracha gives it just enough kick to make your sinuses clear.

So. Yesterday I went for an hour-long swim and came home ravenous. Fortunately, I had already whipped up a batch of these noodles the day before, so all I needed to do was sautée up some yummies to go with them. First I took some tofu*, cut it into small slices, and marinated it for about 10 minutes in 1 T low-sodium tamari and 1 T garlic granules. I browned the tofu in a skillet, and then I added my veggies. In my CSA box this week were a bag of snow peas, some fresh grape tomatoes, and a head of cabbage, so I thought those would go together nicely.

Ring Around the Snow Peas

Halfway through I added my cold, already cooked noodles, and just stirred the whole thing until it was warm.

Can I get a 'nom?
I topped with some crushed unsalted peanuts, and voilà! The perfect recovery meal.

*If you're concerned about pesticides and GMOs, you should really use organic tofu. I like Wildwood Sprouted Tofu because it's more nutritious than the plain old kind.

Also, tofu really needs to be marinated in order to taste good. Most people who say they hate tofu hate it because someone dumped it out of a package onto a plate. My favorite (and the easiest) marinade is 1 T tamari with 1 T garlic granules, but you can use any sort of marinade that you would use for meat and it should absorb the flavor.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dolmas! ...and a Mediterranean Feast

Dolmas with hummus, za'atar wedges, & salad
I love dolmas! Stuffed grape leaves filled with rice, fresh herbs, and yummy bits. These can have meat in them or be vegetarian, but I don't eat them that often. They tend to be pricey at the store and are typically packed in oil. Even before my low/no oil days, the greasiness of them turned me off. 

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn how easy they are to make! I love this recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. It's so light and flavorful and fresh. It also contains chickpeas, so you have a nice little bit of protein there.

So colorful!
I did decide to use oil in mine, because I thought the mixture would be too dry without. However, I only used 1 tablespoon instead of the 3 that the recipe calls for. That worked great for my tastes. 

I bought a bottle of grape leaves at a store by my house called Fiesta...they have a great international section there (although they also have some questionable looking produce and fish. And once I bought some cupcakes there that had mildew on them, but that's a whole other story).

Unfortunately, grape leaves typically come in gigantic bottles, so that means you either need to eat these on a regular basis (probably not a hard thing to do) or share with a friend. 

This tastes great on top of salad as well
The ingredients are pretty quick to throw together. Once you've got everything in the bowl, just mix it up, and then you're ready to roll your leaves!

Ready to Roll!
The rolling up part can be kind of tricky, and I can't really say that I'm all that great at it. I ended up just tucking the loose ends under so my dolmas looked pretty, and then I basically just shoved them in my mouth. The lemony-ness of the dolmas works so well with the spicy dill, and the chickpeas add a nice texture. Better yet, I don't feel like I have to scrub my hands with dish soap to get the oil off them afterwards.

Tuck and roll...
As I was making the dolmas, I decided I'd go ahead and up the Mediterranean ante by making some Engine 2 Hummus. I sprinkled a little paprika on top, just to make it pretty. 

I scooped up the hummus with homemade za'atar wedges, also from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth. I took a sprouted grain tortilla, sprayed a tiny bit of olive on it, then sprinkled za'atar—a blend of sumac, thyme, and other spices—on top. Then I baked at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, flipped, then baked for another 5. The tortilla comes out nice and crispy and flavorful. Just break apart the pieces and scoop. If you're wondering where to buy za'atar, I've been able to find it pretty easily in the bulk spices at my grocery store. If you have an ethnic food store, that's a good place to look for it as well. And there's always ordering online.

Sprouted tortilla with za'atar
This food combo has made for a great lunch/dinner and is also a really easy snacky item. The dolmas store well in a sealed container, and I just grab a couple when I'm feeling hungry. If you are too lazy to do the whole wrap-up-in-grape-leaves thing, you can always just throw together the mixture and serve over salad. You can also just keep the mixture in a tupperware and wrap up a dolma or two (or three) at your leisure.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

ZOMG Potato Leek Soup! (or Vichyssoise, if you want to be fancy)

Potato Leek Soup/Vichyssoise
So after posting about my CSA box the other day, the CSA gods decided that I needed to blessed with more veggies. My cousin Denise also gets a weekly box and was heading out of town this weekend, so she offered me hers. I gladly accepted. 

I was too lazy (and too busy) to take pictures of everything in this box, but one of the exciting items was a bunch of beautiful leeks. I immediately thought potato leek soup—even though it's already 80 degrees in Austin and not exactly soup weather. However, I've always been a rebel. And besides, I figured I could always eat it cold and call it vichyssoise (and then you would all think I'm fancy!). I scanned online for some recipes and finally settled on using this one as a base, but I decided to bastardize it...quite a bit.

All the flavors mingling together
First, although my original intent was to add the turnip that came in my CSA box, I forgot about it until I had already chopped everything and started sautéeing, and by then I was too lazy to go back a step. 

I began by chopping up three leeks, along with a small yellow onion and some fresh garlic (yes, from the CSA box!). I threw them in my pot and, since I don't like using oil, used some Chicky Baby broth (from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth) to sautée. Chicky Baby is pretty damned to die for, but if you don't have the book, then you can use vegetable broth. There are also some vegan no-chicken broths that you can buy, or you can make your own. This recipe looks decent. If I were using it I would probably omit the soymilk powder and just use plain organic sugar (if I even used sugar at all).

Anyway, after everything was nice and soft and sautéed, I plopped six Yukon Gold potatoes in the pot, covered them with Chicky Baby broth (again, you can also use veggie broth!), and let them boil for about 20ish minutes, until they were fork tender.

Lovely cashew cream sitting in my Vitamix
While they were cooking, I made my secret ingredient: cashew cream! This is one of my favorite vegan tricks to make things rich and creamy with nowhere near the fat that regular dairy cream has. Simply take 1/2 c cashews and 1/2 c plant based milk (I used almond) and blend. It makes a beautiful thick cream that you can use just as you would its evil dairy counterpart (well, I don't think you can whip it). If you don't want to make your own cashew cream (although I don't know why you wouldn't because it's super easy), you can buy MimicCream at the health food store (they also make a kind you can whip, but I have yet to try it).   

With my cashew cream made, I finally turned the heat off the soup. I used a knife to cut up the potatoes a bit, then used my immersion blender to get everything nice and smooth. And then—then!—I added the cashew cream. It blended beautifully into my soup, giving it a luscious creamy texture and taste. 

I topped my bowl of soup off with some chopped green onions, salt, and plenty of pepper. Once I started eating it, I decided to add a lil' Tabasco as well, which did the trick nicely. I instantly regretted not having made some fresh bread, but a toasted slice of Ezekial did just fine as an accompaniment, as did a spring salad with tomatoes and balsamic. 

And, YUM.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's in the CSA box

I've recently started getting CSA boxes. CSA—or community sponsored agriculture—is this nifty idea whereby you buy a subscription from a local farm (or in my case, from a local online grocer that buys from local farms) and each week you get a box of veggies that are freshly picked and in season. The subscription ensures that farmers have a regular outlet for their product, and that you are always supplied with lots of fresh veggies. Veggies that are in season and local have a much higher nutritional content than veggies that have been shipped in from out of town. For more on that phenomenon, see my recent article in Austin Fit Magazine.

For me, getting this box every week is like Christmas. Full of pretty colors, interesting new things to try, lots of possibilities for interesting and healthy meals. I originally was a little phobic about whether I'd be able to eat all my veggies within a week, but I have to say I've done pretty well. Which means my body has also done pretty well.

Anyway, I've decided to take a page out of Food Craft and take photos of my CSA box ingredients, along with my ideas for what to do with them. So, without further ado...

Straight from Poteet, Texas, these guys are beautiful, fat, and sweet. Strawberries tend to go bad quickly, so I'm trying to eat them in the next couple of days. So far I've been cutting them up and enjoying them on my morning cereal. I've also dipped one (or two) in the leftover icing from those cupcakes I made the other day.

I will admit, when I first saw this peaking at me in the box, I thought it was kale, and I was really excited. I realized as soon as I pulled it out of the box that it was a head of lettuce, and although that's not as exciting to me as kale, I'll still make some good salads. I also imagine I'll use this for my "Happiness Bowl" from Radiance 4 Life (sadly, this recipe is not posted online, which is really unfortunate for you. You should totally buy this book just for the recipe).
Green Onions
I've never seen green onions quite so fat and delicious as these. I plan to put some of these bad boys in my aforementioned Happiness Bowl, and I am also contemplating making spring rolls (which is a great way to use up a lot of veggies). I also feel like I need to sautée the bulbs and put them in something...again, probably the Happiness Bowl.

Swiss Chard
I've already eaten about half of this, and it's only been two days. How, do you ask? In my green smoothies! I love them, especially after a workout. Easy to consume and a natural energy boost. If I want to get in extra protein after a workout, then I just add a few tablespoons of hemp protein powder.

Here's where I'd love your input. I am not all that crazy about radishes. Perhaps that's because I've never known how to cook and eat them. I've typically had them cut up in salad, and I find them bitter and boring. I remember in my college course, "Business in the French Speaking World," we learned that the French like to eat raw radishes with butter. That's not really an option for me either. So I'd love your suggestions, if you have them.  And if I find a recipe I like, I'll post it here.

Texas Grapefruit
I have an ongoing love affair with this fruit. When I was a kid, the only way I could tolerate grapefruit was with a whole bunch of sugar poured on top. Texas grapefruits, eaten in season, are the sweetest treat around. I could easily eat two in a day (and I have). Needless to say, I was pretty happy to see that there are still some Texas grapefruits to be had. I'll be eating my two grapefruits with my breakfast for the next few days (or for a snack, if the spirit moves me).

A nice big bag o' broccoli accompanied my box this week. I'll probably steam it, sautée it, or try out a recipe from Delicious Vitality that I just found. 
I think the real question here is, "What won't I use this for?" Also, it's kind of cool to see what garlic looks like in its entirety, as opposed to the pristine white bulbs we buy in the grocery store.

Once again, I'll be soliciting your advice on what to do with turnips. I've never cooked them before. I think I've had these before in roasted form, so I'll probably do that again, unless anyone else has other suggestions?

So: There you have it! This week's CSA box from Greenling. If I manage to eat most of this by next week, I'd say I'm doing pretty well. Stay tuned for an update (and hopefully some recipes!)...