Eating My Veggies

Astounding news here in Southwestern Ohio! We (Cincinnati) actually made it into VegNews, in print, in an article titled Veganville USA! I was anxiously waiting my copy (thinking this was probably some obscure little blurb on their website) and it seemed to take forever. I had to see if for myself. I thought I was hallucinating one night when I saw on a local website that Cincinnati was one of the five veg-friendly cities you wouldn’t expect, as determined by VegNews. We are certainly not as veg-friendly as Portland, LA, anywhere in California, or NYC. However for a former meat processing capital (that’s why we have the Flying Pig Marathon, in reference to the past), it’s pretty exciting.

I have a recipe you have to try, if you have the Peas and Thank You cookbook by Sarah Matheny, for Lime-Tahini Sauce (I also found it as Lime-Tahini Dressing online, kinda illegally copied, but not by me!). I made Sarah’s Kale Sunshine salad last week, pictured here, which is similar, but has a lemon-tahini dressing. I followed everything exactly, but added the golden raisins.

kale sunshine salad from P and TY

I preferred the lime-tahini version of the dressing I made tonight. In fact I gobbled the rest of my kale down making this after dinner, when I really intended to save the salad for tomorrow! I found that the dressing looked 1000% better when I threw it in my blender, after first lazily just trying to whisk it. Sorry I don’t have a picture, seems to happen whenever I love something…

We’ve had good-looking organic lacinato/dinosuar kale at our grocery lately. Just de-stem it and chop it up…I find it pretty yummy with any dressing (store-bought works too) rubbed in, with your fingers. It lasts a few days with the dressing on it, unlike most salads, so it’s perfect for work too. Don’t be afraid to try this, seriously, if you haven’t had it. It’s like spinach with a little texture.

Here’s my own recipe I made last week, born of the necessity of a super-fast dinner (between an appointment and an evening meeting I needed to attend). I had portobello mushrooms from my delivery. I knew I should marinate, but no time. I knew I should research flavorings, but no time. So I added some oil to my cast-iron pan on medium, sliced the portobellos, and threw them in. I added salt and pepper at some point, cooked them until soft but not mushy, and placed them on these Trader Joe’s whole-wheat tortillas, with Muir Glen organic mild salsa and avocado. I was still a bit late for my meeting, but my belly was happy! Hubby liked them too. I had not noticed these tortillas at Trader Joe’s before, unfortunately. They are delicious and seem more like homemade. A nice price too, for 12 tortillas, about 2-2.50 I think.

portobello soft taco

If you’ve ever had a home renovation project that involved clearing out several rooms, you’ll relate to why I haven’t been posting much. Chaos!

Hope your summer is going well so far! What veggies are you eating?

Un-recipe for Grilled Hummus Sandwich

Hello!

A quick “un-recipe” for you to celebrate my Veggieversary #3! (Three years this past weekend since I decided to eat vegetarian). Hooray!  It’s been an awesome journey, and I’m living the way that I think I always knew deep down was right for me.

Why is this an un-recipe? Because I’m not good with precision when I experiment, which I suppose gives you more freedom too, right? This grilled hummus sandwich has been a regular thing for me this year because I do always have sandwich bread to use up. And it has cilantro. See the connection? Just kidding, there isn’t much of one, but I love anything with cilantro. LOTS of it. I did not follow a recipe with this…just sort of thought of it as making grilled cheese for my boys for lunch one Sunday.

ingredients for hummus sandwich

Grilled Hummus Sandwich-vegan version

2 slices sandwich bread

hummus-pre-made or go for making your own

Earth balance buttery spread or you favorite non-dairy margarine/spread

Optional: fresh cilantro leaves, Romaine lettuce leaves (or any green you prefer), green or other assorted slices olives, sliced tomato, sliced onion, black bean and corn mix (I keep a batch in my fridge most weeks), or anything else. This is great for helping use up leftover odds and ends of produce.

Procedure:

Heat your non-stick pan on medium. Spread Earth balance or similar spread on one side of one slice of bread. Place this in the pan, buttery side down and then carefully put a big old layer of hummus all over that piece. Add the extras that you think can stand up to the heat. For me (this week at least) that was the cilantro, olives, and black bean and corn mix. Put your other buttered slice on top (buttery side facing outward) and cook until both sides are browned, flipping the sandwich carefully when appropriate. Take off the heat, open your sandwich and add the toppings you did not add initially, like lettuce.

This time my cilantro was a little too warm and wilted, so I may wait until the end or mid-way through next time.

grilled hummus sandwich

Enjoy the creamy, warm, yumminess!

What I’ve Read Lately…Whole by T C Campbell

Whole by TCC

This was not a quick easy read. At times I felt like I was pushing myself as if I had an exam coming up or a paper to write. But I wanted to read it and get the big picture. This won’t be a detailed review, but here are a few pearls I am taking from it. You’ll see why there’s an apple in my photo…

First, a quick but necessary summary: As anyone who knows of Dr. Campbell, The China Study, Forks Over Knives, etc. will recall, he advocates a whole-food plant-based diet (no animal products) without added oils/fats that don’t occur naturally in a whole plant food. One of the main points of his book is that the whole food is better than the “reductionist” view of researching and supplementing certain nutrients and adding them to foods, which by default will be a processed food.

One example he alludes to is, don’t eat globs of ketchup for the lycopene, eat fresh tomatoes for all the nutrients the whole food provides. We don’t even have a grasp of everything that is potentially in our plant foods, he purports, but they will lead us to much better health than animal foods and processed stuff. We are missing the forest for the trees by focusing on research and foods with endless combinations of single nutrients/vitamins, etc. instead of what has already been shown to bring better health (refer to The China Study for his evidence).

Yep, I agree with him pretty much. He’s brilliant, he fights the “system” and the greed of U. S. corporations, government policy makers, and influencers. I think the book reads as the book of an older man who wants to make his point STRONGLY, because folks, he’s just about 80 years old.

Here’s what struck me:

His example of a colleague, Professor Liu and his team…they found that 100 g of fresh apple had an antioxidant, vitamin C-like activity equivalent to 1, 500 milligrams of Vitamin C. But when they analyzed the 100 g of whole apple, there were only 5.7 milligrams of vitamin C….The vitamin C-like activity from 100 grams of whole apple was an astounding 263 times more potent as the same amount of the isolated chemical … (p. 152-153).      (Obviously, in the context of why the whole food is better than worrying about the individual nutrients. Dr. Campbell is not into supplements).

“the livestock population of the US consumes five times as much grain as the country’s entire human population”  !! (p. 166).  (In context of why our current food patterns are terrible for the earth).  O.k., as a citizen in a country with plenty of food insecurity, this just makes me mad. Some statistics just make my jaw drop, and this is one of them.

Here’s an interview I found online with Dr. Campbell that summarizes some other concepts of the book, that are just as important.

Here’s another interview with the New York Times in 2011 that summarized his concepts also.

Although I am somewhat skeptical about ever buying into anything 100%, I do recommend reading something by Dr. Campbell. His life’s work is about something real, and we (I don’t mean this judgmentally, I am referring to society as a whole) need to thoughtfully consider it.

Recent Discoveries and Strategies

Finally, a really free Saturday. It’s early afternoon and I’m still in pajama pants. I even threw caution to the wind and paid the paper girl in wild hair and full pajamas!  I just wanted to say hi, hope you are having a good weekend, and spread some veggie cheer and ideas.

1. Today I cooked the basic tofu scramble from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She has it on her blog here. Wow, I found this recipe was way better than I expected. Tofu and I have a contentious relationship, to say the least. The only change I made was to reduce the cumin-I used 1 and 1/2 tsp instead of the 2 teaspoons. I’ve just learned that sometimes her recipes overwhelm me with too much cumin. Seriously, if you have been afraid to try a tofu scramble, this is delicious. Sorry, forgot to take a picture. Here’s a picture of the book I seem to be obsessed with.

2. A friend who is a vegetarian and works full-time gave me this suggestion: She buys a case of black beans and a case of canned corn at Costco. She mixes a can of corn and a can of black beans in a storage container and then makes things from it all week. I tried this (I bought the beans but used my frozen corn instead-I cooked it slightly). During the week, I added it to lentil enchiladas for two meals. Later in the week,  I pulled out Veganomicon (also by Isa Chandra Moskowitz) and found the essential ingredients of a vinaigrette-equal amounts red wine vinegar and oil, salt and pepper-and poured it over the mix. I added in lots of fresh cilantro and LOVE it. I made a light but satisfying dinner last night when I got home late.

3. I fixed this Gardein brand Mandarin Orange Crispy “Chik’n” for myself one night after work after everyone else had already eaten (I work long days, but only 2 days per week). Plant-based and very very tasty.

4. Meal Planning. This structure has helped me to make one list and one shopping trip per week usually (as long as I use the planning system, ha ha). I didn’t want to blog about it until I used it over a decent period of time. I have a history of meal planning failure, or should we call it opportunities for growth… I have used this system for most of the weeks since the new year began. I plan at least three cooked dinners, usually including one or two new recipes,  and try to make enough for leftovers. I might cook something simple for my lunches at work or home. “Other” is usually a dessert or just something fun I want to try if time permits.  I make a thorough shopping list and then make one big trip to the grocery for the week. I adapted mine from a similar sheet used by Diana at Veggie Next Door blog, who is obviously much more structured than me. Here is mine…created with the table function in Word.

meal plan chart

What have you been cooking? Whether you are a full-time vegetarian or not, I’m curious what you think of Gardein products if you have tried them…Let me know!

Things lost and things gained in Boston

**Note: This is a non-food post.

The following is a summary of my stream of consciousness since the events of Marathon Monday in Boston. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, until my family moved away when I was 15. I was able to run the Boston Marathon in 2009. (Written before the events of Friday).

I’m so glad I got my chance to run the marathon pre-2013. Before this happened. I’m sad for those people who never got to the finish line They were going to make it, worked so hard for their moment, and events, actually pure evil, got in the way. Who knows if they will make it back again. I’m sure the organizers will let them come back, but not everyone can afford it when coming from out of town. In the future, there will be kids who don’t get to come watch mom or dad. Whether they will realize it or not, some will dismiss bringing the family because it’s obvious the marathon could be a target again. Kids will miss the chance to catch a game at Fenway, visit the duckling statues in Boston Common, and see Paul Revere’s house, Old North Church, and Old Ironsides.

I’m grateful I made it a point to enjoy my day there, running in Boston so many years after we moved away. I carried a disposable camera, made mental notes of the things I saw and experienced. I remember the biker bar with “Highway to Hell” blasting, the Twizzlers handed to me, the chalkboard giving the current Red Sox score, the turn under the bridge as we entered the Back Bay, and aiming for that darned Citgo sign. Oh, and after all those years of watching Heartbreak Hill, it was actually way less steep than I expected. But the downhills–worse–as noted by my trashed quads and slow performance that day. So many iconic sights I had only seen on TV. Will it ever be the same for the others? Will they look forward to meeting their family at the finish line without any worries for safety?

My younger son was only 9 the year they waited at the finish on Boylston, close to that poor little guy’s age, the boy who is no longer with us. My sons had adorable first communion pictures too…

I’m profoundly bothered by the events of Monday. Of course I mourn the injuries and passings of innocent bystanders. But it’s more. The great marathon, really the only one I knew about as a kid. We watched it every year on TV, who wouldn’t? The drama of Rosie Ruiz (she took the T and acted as if she had won the women’s race!), Boston Billy, Joan Benoit, and world records. Patriot’s Day was a day off and a day to marvel at this amazing event that came to our town. We didn’t go to see it live, heck, we were not a running family. But I believe there had to be a reason I joined the high school track team out of the blue. The only thing I can figure is my spark came from my fascination for the Boston Marathon. Running has been a part of my life for so long and so has this marathon. I celebrate the joy and the inspiration it has brought into my life. I mourn that it is now changed forever.

P.S. Now that the perpetrators have been found, and the city came together in dramatic fashion, I have no doubt the marathon will come back stronger than ever in 2014. But changed too. Writing this piece was therapeutic for me last week.

Cheese, you are a problem! And pizza…

As I started really moving toward a plant-based diet (i.e. vegan), I didn’t miss cheese too much at first. Yeah, right, for about two days. But once I got over the first week or two, I honestly didn’t think I craved it anymore. Ha. I was fooled. Sure, I had my trusty bag of Daiya cheddar shreds in the refrigerator drawer where I used to keep about 6 types of cheese at any given time. I didn’t break into them often, and frankly didn’t think I liked them much anyways. So why bother?

Then I started to really miss pizza. Sure, I tried versions of bare pizza with sauce and some toppings. The result was ok, but it didn’t have that “it” factor I was craving. As I have read more, I have seen this concept discussed again and again. Vegan experts generally agree that when one has trouble with feeling full or satisfied on a plant-based diet, it may be due either to not meeting calorie requirements (believe me, not the case with all the cooking I’ve been obsessed with) or missing the creaminess/fat that comes with animal products. Others talk about casein in dairy/cheese being addictive and opioid-like, but I’m not convinced on that. It may very well be true, I don’t know. I just wanted pizza.

You might wonder why I will go on and on about Daiya brand. I don’t have any endorsements or free products, but wouldn’t that be nice? I like the fact that it is oriented toward vegans and additionally toward people with food allergies. No dairy or nut products (they do state that coconut is the exception). The products are soy and gluten-free, which is less of a concern for me, but critical to others. I can’t have cashews in the house due to a child’s severe allergy, which means no cashew cheese recipes. Therefore I seek safe yummy “cheese.”

I tried it with a pizza made with sub rolls and really liked it. This is not gourmet here, but I hope it might help if you are looking for an exceptionally easy and delicious pizza. It should work on any crust; I’ve just been in “fast and easy” mode and have used pre-sliced rolls. I am now CERTAIN I like Daiya cheese (a lot!) when heated and much less when not.

Pizza!

Ingredients:

Hoagy or Sub rolls, any bread or crust could be used, just be aware I started with an already baked “base” to my pizza

Muir Glen brand Organic Pizza Sauce

Freeze-Dried cut basil (Fresh would be great but it was not available or attractive in Feb/March)

Toppings: I only used sliced green olives each time, but add any you want

Daiya brand mozzarella shreds

Directions:

(Set oven to broil.  I used broil-high and my oven rack in the second from the highest position).

1. Place your sub rolls or bread open side up on a baking sheet. Spread with the desired amount of pizza sauce.

2. Liberally sprinkle basil over sauce

3. Add toppings (cook vegetables slightly ahead of time if they won’t be soft with the short cooking time)

4. Add Daiya mozzarella shreds

5. Broil (mine took 6-8 minutes) as you watch very closely for light browning of the cheese.

6. Enjoy!

sub roll pizzas

 

If you have any tips on vegan cheese or pizza, I’d love to hear…

 

 

More Cooking from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Here are the other recipes I tried from Isa’s cookbook, as I cooked along with the VegCookbook Club. Moving onto a new cookbook in April.

Basic Scrambled Tempeh-I should have actually read the little box on the page that suggested steaming the tempeh before making the recipe to reduce bitterness. It was a little too savory for me, but I’m pretty sure it will be fine with the steaming and maybe a little  mustard dressing as a sauce/dip. Greens for brunch are a grand idea.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins-Very good. Love the lemon flavor that comes through from fresh lemon juice and zest.

Roasted Butternut Squash-Of course I loved it. Approximately 50% of all posts I’ve ever done involve squash in some way or other. Apparently I was too busy eating to take a picture.

Roasted Potatoes-The basic version was delicious. I couldn’t stop tasting my way through a large cookie sheet, almost.

The Perfect Pancakes I made a few weeks back in my first post on this book were, well, perfect. I still plan on the pumpkin pancakes as soon as I can. I ate too many of the muffins and potatoes last weekend and couldn’t bear the thought of pancakes. Hmmm, maybe I can’t count as a real brunch aficionado.

Basic Scrambled Tempeh from Vegan Brunch poppyseed muffins from Vegan Brunch roasted potatoes from Vegan Brunch

 

I loved this cookbook and will be obtaining my own soon. I am really lucky to be able to borrow books like this from my library as I try them out.

I appreciate Isa’s sentence at the end of the introduction: “Nothing is as delicious as a day off, good music playing, warm food for your belly, and the knowledge that you did it all without harming any of our fluffy friends.” Yes.

Have a wonderful weekend and may it include a nice brunch!

Spot-checking my plant-based diet

I recently downloaded a new (free) app called My Fitness Pal onto my iPhone. I had read in a blog (I truly don’t recall which one) that it was a useful way to “check” how you are doing with getting the appropriate number of calories or nutrients. Personally, I worry a bit over getting the optimal amount of calcium, iron, and protein. This app is very useful. You can search the database for foods that are already in there (most of mine were) or scan a bar code. Then you can adjust for how much you ate. For instance, when I have steel-cut oats in the morning, I eat 2 servings, which was easy to adjust. The app can even adjust for fractions of a serving. I was impressed that the database had the basic information for a recipe I made from the Peas and Thank You cookbook, although it didn’t have the level of detail to include the smaller nutrients such as calcium and iron for that recipe. Therefore, my calculated numbers for calcium and iron are probably below what I consumed.

So, how did I do on my spot-check day? I was pleasantly surprised. Iron was just fine-and I learned that my steel-cut oats and squash and hummus are awesome sources of iron. Calcium was ok too, considering I take a supplement. My diet provided 63% of my requirement, and my supplement provides 66%, with 2 tablets. Therefore, I just took one calcium tablet that evening. I’ve never been good at getting enough calcium through food, and that’s ok with me. I’ll work on that at some point. The winners for providing calcium were kale (curly kale in a smoothie and baby kale in a salad) and squash.

After calculating my nutrient intakes with this app, I’ll be heading to Costco a lot more often for their amazing peeled and cut butternut squash. I love their 2 pound package for 3.99.

cut up butternut squash

Butternut squash rocks the nutrition numbers…(this picture is from my own labor-intensive butternut squash cooking in the fall)

When it came to protein, never fear Mom, I came in at 49 grams. This is a bit over my requirement of 43 grams. I calculated my requirement a few years ago using the US Recommended Daily Allowance. I used the low end of the 10-35% of calories protein recommendation, because I believe that is most appropriate and healthful. I did cut my intake a bit close, however. Maybe I’ll make sure to add a little more protein with some nuts, which I usually do snack on every day, and might have forgotten to enter.

I think I will use this app once in a while, but I don’t want to use it every day–it’s time-consuming and I don’t want to be obsessive over intake. It might be something you want to try to perform a spot-check of your diet. Let me know how it goes if you try it.

Have a great week! I’m going to try to share my super-easy recipe for n0-dairy pizza this week or very soon. I think I finally am onto something in my pizza experiments.

 

Cooking from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Isa's pancakes

I started with a simple recipe from this month’s cookbook Vegan Brunch as I cook along with the VegCookbook Club. I can already tell I want to own this one (and guess who got an Amazon gift card for her birthday?). I did try to buy this locally to support our last brick and mortar book chain, but none in the city had it.

The pumpkin pancakes quickly caught my eye in Vegan Brunch. But I decided to play it safe first with the “Perfect Pancakes”.

They were delish and were also nice as a snack later. This was my first try at pancakes in a cast iron skillet. I would love feedback on what I encountered: I sprayed lightly with cooking spray (I was following her instructions for using cast iron which are given with the pumpkin pancake instructions) and the first side browned well. The second side, which hit the less oiled pan surface, was a teeny bit too crispy and didn’t look as nice. Do I spray again as I flip the pancakes, possibly spraying the other pancakes?  I’m asking in case I serve these to company. I usually cook pancakes for visitors, so I would love to have a great homemade version to whip out. This will meet the need.

In that spirit, I took a picture of the aftermath, i.e. how much cleaning and washing by hand were left when it was said and done. This was pretty light for me. Not pictured were: skillet, spatula, whisk, and bowl, which are hard to avoid whether you used a mix or not. I’d say, this certainly is a good recipe from the clean-up perspective.

pancake cleanup

I told my son he was the luckiest kid in the world-pancakes ready at 3:45 when he walked in. As for me, I’m already dreaming about those pumpkin pancakes.

I’d also like to try some savory recipes and master one sure recipe for guests. I’m thinking of trying Mushroom, Leek, and White Bean Pie or Basic Scrambled Tempeh, which has greens, onion, red pepper, garlic…

Have a good one!

Writing and musings…

When I first started out with this blog, I had a goal to write a post once per week. At times that has been really hard. Pathetic, I know you are thinking! But I came somewhat close, like maybe 80% of the time? You would think this weekly thing would not be strenuous, but as food-oriented bloggers know, cooking, experimenting, photographing…they all take time.

Recently–as I approach my first year of blogging anniversary–life has taken some interesting twists. Yes, it is the stuff of everyone’s life–work, family, friends, illnesses, deaths. It’s just the way life is. It has made me question this weekly goal, to wonder if there is really meaning in it. I am not paid to do this. I don’t get the yearly performance evaluation, thankfully. I probably knew it all along, this had come to cause me stress, another deadline hanging over my head and written on my to-do list. Logically, this led to: Do I really want to do this at all? I had to go back to why I started a blog…

Once I found the blog world, admittedly years after the rest of the world, I wanted to be able to interact with others within these blogs. It struck me, this was my perfect chance to write too! My desire to write originally had nothing to do with food. It had started with a thought, that I would like to write a story about a true (very inspiring and touching) incident with one of my young patients. I started it, and I think it could have been a neat little piece. Not professional, but maybe not bad for a medical person with no creative writing experience and a writing/grammar education eroded by a move to a new state in high school. Well, the wonderful world of HIPAA kept gnawing at me. HIPAA is the legislation that enforces and ensures privacy regarding medical records and information. I don’t want to be messing with it, trust me. I knew that no matter what, I could not disguise my story, and if I tried, it would ethically bother me and  the story would lose its beauty. That project conclusively went to the back burner. However, my desire to write for pleasure was soon confirmed via a well-crafted magazine article, which was kind of like a written life coaching session. My enthusiasm for all I was learning from the blogosphere and newly-found cookbooks was the perfect reason to start this blog. I am not sure why I felt goals and pressure had to come along.

The conclusion of this rambling is that I’m going to reduce the expectations I have placed on myself.  I will definitely still write here, but probably less predictably. I still have a passion for healthy, simple, vegetarian cooking and eating. I recognize that I want to write, but to what end, I’m unclear. I’m not sure if this writing pursuit will show itself on this blog, or possibly on a new blog not centered on food. I may find a creative writing workshop or class. And I may even have to put these ideas on the shelf for the time being. I haven’t felt much space and time for creativity recently.

As far as veggie blogging, I do have one tip/thought this week, and for me, it’s BIG. Finally, thank goodness, a non-dairy, not full of chemicals and artificial creations, coffee creamer. I will admit, I did not know if I would ever find a creamer that did not give me a daily reminder of how I missed my coffee the old way with dairy creamer. As I’m trying to explore and stick with a plant-based diet, this was a nagging problem. The winner is (after trying multiple soy, almond, and coconut options for months)…Trader Joe’s! If you ever have this can’t-find-decent creamer issue, this might be worth a try.

soy creamer

Thanks for reading and have a great week. Hope to see you soon.