Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions (Not Really)

Like many others, I start off the new year with the usual array of "get healthy," "lose weight," "exercise more" resolutions. After watching "Forks Over Knives," and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," along with a heaping helping of "Food, Inc.," (all available streaming on Netflix for the time being) I decided to launch myself back onto the vegan wagon.

Over the past few days, I have made some of my old favorites, from Steel-Cut Oats with Cranberries and Almonds and Scrambled Tofu for breakfast, to Red Lentil and Quinoa Stew for lunch, but I am always on the lookout for new ideas, especially things that I can make from scratch, because the manufactured protein sources can be expensive.

I got a good recipe for seitan from a friend of mine, and made up a batch last night.


I sauteed a few slices quickly in olive oil and added a touch of Szechwan stir-fry sauce with green beans for a quick dinner.

Tonight I am going to try Vegan YumYum's recipe for Seitan and Broccolini with Clementine Teriyaki, though with a few changes based on what I have on  hand.

Here's the seitan recipe I used:

Baked Seitan


  • 1/2 c. cooked white beans - I used great northern beans, but cannellini should work fine
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce - I used Braggs liquid aminos
  • 1 1/4 cups stock - I used Better Than Boullion's No-Beef Base to make a fake beef stock
  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)- you can omit this depending on how salty your broth is. I omitted it.
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion and porcini mushroom powder (optional) - I made it by grinding up dried porcini mushrooms with a bit of dried minced onion in a coffee grinder


  1. Mix the cooked beans and soy/Braggs in a food processor or blender and then pour in as much broth as needed until everything is all nice and liquidy. Then add the rest of the broth and mix well.
  2. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and then make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients, stirring until everything is well combined.
  3. Turn the mass out onto a board and knead for a few minutes. 
  4. Shape into a loaf and then warp in well-oiled foil (I just blasted it with cooking spray). Then wrap it in another layer of foil. Place in a roasting dish, pour in water to a depth of 1 inch and bake for 1-1/2 hours at 350F or until the packet is firm when you poke it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Coconut-Curry Tofu with Jasmine Rice

The tofu cubes really sucked up the sauce; in the end, they were like little coconut-curry sponges, very tasty. Using the toasted coconut shreds in the coconut milk really amped up the coconuttiness, but I think that it works well with the other flavors, especially the peanut and lime.

If fat content is an issue for you, you can use light coconut milk, but don't be fooled, that still has some fat in it. You wouldn't be wrong to put chopped cilantro in the coconut milk puree which you add to the rice. I love cilantro usually, but I was out of it and was feeling too lazy to go out to the store JUST for that one item, so I said, "No cilantro today." It was just fine and tasty without it.

Coconut-Curry Tofu and Jasmine Rice

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  •  1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t dried jalapeno flakes
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu, pressed, drained, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 t curry powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/8 t dried jalapeno flakes
  • 1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 2 T chopped peanuts
  • lime zest

  1. In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the shredded coconut until light golden, about 5 minutes. Stir constantly and be careful not to let it burn. As soon as it starts to smell toasted and reach a nice golden color, remove it from heat and transfer to a bowl.
  2. Bring 1-3/4 cups water and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add the rice and let boil again.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 18 - 20 minutes.
  4. Puree 1/2 cup of the coconut milk, 1 teaspoon ginger, lime juice, and 1 clove of garlic in a blender.  Add the toasted coconut and blend for a few seconds. 
  5. Mix the coconut milk mixture into the rice and set aside.
  6. Heat some canola oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and saute until golden.
  7. Add the onions, curry, cumin, jalapeno flakes and the rest of the ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the tomatoes and stir everything well.
  9. Serve over the coconut jasmine rice, add hot sauce to taste and top with chopped peanuts and lime zest.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Steel-cut Oats with Cranberries and Almonds

Well, it's snowing again. Still. We've got another snow day for the kids, another day of shoveling a foot of snow at a time, and that means another day of warming, filling foods. My mom gave me an unopened canister of steel cut oats when I was there over Thanksgiving. I'd been meaning to try them out - I'd heard good things about them - and we love oats in this house anyway. I was intrigued by others' description of the chewy texture, rather than the glue-like paste of some rolled oats' dishes.

This version is pretty low-maintenance to boot. Instead of standing over a pot for a half hour, stirring constantly to keep the oats from sticking, you start these the night before and then let them sit overnight to soak. In the morning you just heat them up, sweeten to taste and then serve.

Steel-cut Oats with Cranberries and Almonds
Makes 3 servings

  • 3/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel 
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Agave nectar
  1. In a large saucepan, boil the oats, dried cranberries and orange peel in the water for 1 minute. Cover, remove from heat and set on a heat-resistant surface.
  2. Let sit overnight.
  3. The next morning, uncover the oats and bring them to a boil over high heat.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with the chopped almonds and some additional cranberries if you like and sweeten to taste with agave nectar.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Need Cheesecake

I am on a desperate hunt for an exceptional - not just decent - vegan cheesecake.

Could it be as simple as substituting blocks of Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream for Philadelphia and Breakstone's and using Ener-G egg replacer for those salmonella bombs formerly known as eggs?

It could be, and with the week I've had, I am tempted to comfort eat my way through a cheesecake.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I am going to a family picnic today and since I will no doubt be the only vegan there, am bringing a dish that will appeal to omnivores and vegans alike. One of my favorite summertime bring-along dishes is Tabouli, a cold salad made from bulgur wheat, chopped herbs and vegetables. The dressing is a simply mixture of olive oil and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, augmented with a bit of garlic and S&P. It is a refreshing, light salad and you can garnish it with olives or feta (for the non-vegans).

  • 1 ½ cups bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 1 ½ cups very hot water
  • 4 small persian cucumbers, diced finely
  • 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped finely
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped mint
  • 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Juice of 3 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pepper and salt to taste

  1. Place the cracked wheat in a bowl or plastic container, and pour the near-boiling water over it. Cover and let sit for about half an hour, until the water is absorbed.

  2. Drain out any excess water, if necessary, and squeeze dry.

  3. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together. Whisk with a fork and let sit.

  4. Prepare the vegetables for the salad by dicing them finely.

  5. Stir the bulgur, vegetables, and dressing together in a medium bowl. Taste to adjust seasoning, and then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

  6. I like to garnish it with more chopped parsley and kalamata olives.

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's a sandwich kind of day

I'd been under the weather the past few days with a 3-day headache. Over the past few days I've had plenty of water to drink and eaten as many fresh fruits and vegetables as I could, and it seems to have passed. I think I finally decided that it was from making the switch to a vegan diet. If I recall correctly, I was hit with a killer headache about a week into the vegan diet last year when I made the switch. I can't imagine what else it could have been: it did not feel like one of my migraines, nor was it similar to those awful caffeine-withdrawal headaches. I wonder if this is a common malady for people who cut out all animal products?

Anyway, the pain has passed, and today I really wanted a sandwich. I had an intense craving for bread, so I hunted around my kitchen for a bit and then made a sandwich from a whole wheat flatbread, some of my favorite hummus,* sliced tomato, grated carrot and sprouts.


Today I finally got around to watching Food, Inc. Finally.

I never did get to go see it when it was playing in Ithaca, and I totally missed it when PBS aired it earlier this spring. I'd read the companion book of essays, "Food, Inc: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It" last year even before the movie came out.

I got a kick out of seeing Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farm, because I remember reading about him in Michale Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Joel Salatin is a man who obviously feels quite passionately about farming, real farming on a recognizable farm with a red barn, open pastures of wild grasses and a family working together to tend the livestock, versus the type of farming exemplified by modern agriculture's Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO**), or feedlots.

The segment on Monsanto is worth seeing. The documentary, "The Future of Food," snagged from Snagfilms in my right sidebar, first brought to light some of Monsanto's practices, and "Food, Inc." continues that as it follows a few soybean farmers' battles with the chemical giant over patent infringement lawsuits. Sobering, and it affects all of us, eventually. Left unchecked, Monsanto could eventually own the patents to all soybeans grown and processed in the United States.

I highly recommend the movie if you eat food or know someone who does. Not just meat, but FOOD.


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (15-oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed very well
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup of tahini (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t cayenne

  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste to adjust, adding more tahini or lemon if you like.
  2. Add cumin, cayenne and salt to taste.
  3. Serve as a sandwich spread, or with crackers, pita triangles or as a dip with vegetables like carrots or celery.

  • You can go crazy with the add-ins. Roasted garlic is one of my favorite, as is a mixture of sundried tomato and fresh basil. Chopped kalamata olives and parsley make another nice variety. Hummus is pretty forgiving, actually.

** For more on CAFOs, read CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Last night I needed something heartier than a salad, and while perusing my other food blog, was tempted greatly by the crab & Boursin-stuffed portobellos I had made some months ago. I had two gorgeous portobello caps in the fridge, and some raw nut cheese I'd made from sunflower seeds and pine nuts.

There is nothing remotely crab-like in this recipe, but the nut cheese does give the filling a nice creaminess. I might try different recipes of nut cheeses in this. I am especially fond of some of the cashew cheeses I've made. Those are even creamier than this sunflower seed puree. This was delicious, though, and very satisfying. The nut cheese added a level of satiety that was wonderful.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

  • 1 portobello mushroom
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 stalk celery, diced finely
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • sunflower seed/pine nut cheese*
  • thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • panko bread crumbs
  • vegan butter spread
  • paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Clean the mushroom cap and scrape out the gills.

  3. Saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until soft. Add the celery and carrots and let them soften, about 5 minutes.

  4. Add the garlic and thyme and saute for a minute.

  5. Scoop out about 2 T to 1/4 cup of the sunflower cheese mixture and add to the pan, breaking up with the spatula and stirring well so that it is incorporated into the mixture. Let cook down about 3 minutes or until it is a nice, soft mix.

  6. Scoop into the mushroom cap, packing down well.

  7. Mix the panko crumbs and paprika with 1 T vegan spread (I like Earth Balance) until it makes a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs.

  8. Top the mushroom with the bread crumb mixture, packing down well.

  9. Bake for 30 minutes.

Raw Sunflower Seed Cheese

  • 2 cups sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt
  1. Wash/rinse the sunflower seeds very well and then soak in cool water for 6 hours.

  2. Rinse the seeds and let them dry in a colander for at least an hour. You may have to shake them from time to time to let more water out.

  3. In a food processor, process the sunflower seeds, salt and pine nuts until the mixture resembles a fine meal.

  4. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Process again until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. It will form a ball of dough as it moves around your processor.

  5. Process until smooth yet very thick. The longer it goes the creamier it will become.

  6. At the end add the chopped green onions and pulse a few times to incorporate them into the cheese.

  7. Let stand for 30 minutes, then refrigerate or use as a spread immediately.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eggplant in Curry Sauce (Baigan Bharta)

Thank God I love Indian food. When I eat vegan, I make a disproportionate number of Indian-inspired dishes. The past few days my house has had this divine scent of spices lingering in the air. I have a cauliflower loitering around too, and I am very tempted to make aloo gobhi (potato and cauliflower curry) or cauliflower with red lentils in a balti sauce. I toyed with the idea of doing something non-Indian-inspired with the cauliflower, but none of the recipes I looked at briefly yesterday seemed all that appealing.

My one gripe, minor though it is, is that unless I want to eat the same dish for 4 days in a row, I have to halve or quarter the recipe, since I am cooking for one. My kids are still a bit leery about eating anything that has exotic spices in it, but I am sure that I will win them over eventually. My older daughter tried out Chicken Korma a few months ago, and she loves tofu, so I am sure I can find some way of melding the two together. I can even make a vegan variety of the sauce with coconut milk instead of yogurt.

So, yes. Plenty more Indian recipes to come. In the meantime, enjoy this eggplant curry. :)
Eggplant in Curry Sauce - Baigan Bharta

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon red curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Dash cayenne
  • Dash cinnamon* - I am a freak, but I love it in some of these dishes and when I smelled it simmering, something inside me said “Add cinnamon,” so I did. You may not want to do this.
  • 3 T cilantro stalks and leaves
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes - I used 1 15-oz can and 2 fresh tomatoes
  1. Roast eggplant: Preheat oven to 350. Split the eggplant in half. Sprinkle salt on the cut sides and let sit, cut sides up for 30 minutes.

    Brush off the salt and accumulated water and then brush the cut surface of the eggplant with olive oil and place, cut sides down on a cookie sheet.

    Roast for approximately 1 hour.

  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and minced ginger and sauté until they start to get fragrant – don’t let them burn – about 3 minutes.

  3. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onion starts to get translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and stir. Cook another 3 minutes.

  4. Add the coriander, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, turmeric, garam masala and curry powder and stir well to coat.

  5. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir well, cover and let cook down 7 minutes.

  6. While it’s cooking, scoop out the roasted eggplant pulp into a bowl.

  7. Add the cilantro stalks and leaves to the tomato curry sauce. Add the eggplant and stir well.

  8. Taste to adjust the seasoning - as with any of these dishes, you may prefer more or less heat, more cumin, more cilantro, etc.

  9. Now is where I add the cinnamon and extra cilantro. Stir well and serve with basmati rice or naan.

  • Since I am currently avoiding specific carbs, rice and bread, even brown basmati and whole wheat flatbreads, are verboten. I had a low-carb, high-protein whole wheat wrap with my bowl of this curry. I just ripped off pieces of the wrap and spooned the curry in it.

    Perfection. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quinoa Porridge with Apples, Cinnamon and Walnuts

This morning for breakfast, I craved something porridgey. Actually, when I woke at 4 am, I really wanted my usual raw apple breakfast, but my food processor bowl was in the midst of a cleaning cycle in the dishwasher because I had forgotten to run the dishwasher last night. Oops.

Then we had a series of heavy thundershowers roll on through which dropped the temperature here, so I started thinking longingly of a lovely cinnamon-infused rice porridge, but shuddered at the thought of the carb-crash that would bring along with it. For the next few weeks I am trying out a sort of veganized low-carb induction phase in the hopes of speeding up weight loss. Yes, I am impatient, and yes, I know, impatience is not often a great thing. I'm sure I'll go more in depth about my ED issues in another blog along the way. *sigh* You can chastise me there.

Anyway, I plan to stay away from almost all rice and flour-based carbs except for the occasional piece of peanut butter toast or veggies stuffed inside a low-carb, whole wheat wrap, so I nixed the idea of toast or a rice porridge for today's breakfast. Then I thought, "Quinoa, why not do something with quinoa?"

Quinoa is fairly high in protein for a grain, and with a glycemic index of 35 compared to rice's 70, it carries along with it a lower glycemic load than rice. In other words, it won't cause that spike in blood sugar that overly-refined carbs will. Those blood sugar spikes can then go on to cause the dreaded sugar crash, and what follows a sugar crash but a craving for fast energy in carb-form?

In my own experience - no hype, I promise - I find that I have fewer cravings when I avoid those refined carbs. This makes the bread-fiend inside of me very sad, but it's true. My appetite stays in balance, in other words, when I avoid these foods. Quinoa and oats seem to be fairly safe carbs for me, as long as I don't overdo it.

So, I settled on quinoa and figured I'd prepare it the same way I make my kids their oatmeal, and the result was fantastic. Check it out.

Quinoa Porridge with Apples, Walnuts and Cinnamon

serves 2

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • chopped walnuts
  • vanilla soy milk
  • agave nectar

  1. Put the quinoa, water, 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk, chopped apple and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

  2. Remove from heat and stir well.

  3. Put into 2 serving bowls and add more soy milk until you get the consistency you like.

  4. Add a drizzle of agave nectar if you like and then and add more cinnamon to suit your taste.

  5. Top with chopped walnuts.

Baked Tofu in a Peanut Sauce

I have been making an awful lot of scrambled tofu lately, and while that quickly soared to the top of my Vegan Comfort Foods list, I was looking to do something a bit different from the pan-fried or scrambled tofu dishes.

I love a good savory peanut dish, and thought that it would go nicely with slabs of baked tofu. I had this for dinner last night in wraps made from large leaves of green leaf lettuce along with some spaghetti squash. I couldn't resist and spooned some extra peanut sauce on top. Lovely.

Unfortunately, I scarfed this down before taking a picture. Yes. It was that good.

Baked Tofu with Peanut Sauce

  • tofu
  • peanut sauce, jarred or homemade*

  1. Take a block of tofu and slice it into uniform 1/2-inch thick slabs.

  2. Press the excess water out by placing the tofu pieces on a flat surface lined with a double thickness of paper towel. Cover with more paper towels and place something heavy on top, like a cast iron skillet. Let sit for 3 hours.

  3. Pour some of the peanut sauce in a container. Add the tofu and cover with more of the sauce. Be generous. Cover and put in the fridge and let marinate for a good 6 hours.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350.

  5. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying with cooking spray or brushing it with olive oil.

  6. Lay the slices of marinated tofu on the sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.

  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Take out the sheet and flip over the pieces, hitting them again with the cooking spray and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and delicious. The longer you bake it, the denser and chewier it will be.

  8. Serve over noodles, rice, or in a wrap.

  9. Optional: Garnish with chopped peanuts, lime and cilantro.

Spicy Peanut Marinade

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 T soy sauce – I used Bragg’s liquid Aminos
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t agave nectar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small hot chili pepper, minced - add more to taste if you like it spicy
  1. Mix the liquid ingredients together.

  2. Add the minced chili and garlic.

  3. Add the peanut butter and stir well with a whisk until the mixture is well-combined.


  • I saw an ad for the Tofu Express, which looks intriguing, though really I can do the same thing with a plate, a bunch of paper towels and a cast iron skillet, and it doesn't cost me $40.

    I have to wonder, though, looking at it: Where does the excess water go? Is there a channel for it to run off and away from the tofu?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mock Tuna Salad

The July/August issue of Vegetarian Times had a recipe for a mock tuna salad made from sunflower seeds. I thought it looked intriguing and so yesterday when I was scrounging around for some sort of protein and fat-dense food, I stumbled upon the cup of pureed sunflower seed & pine nut mixture I had left over from my nut cheese-making adventure. I thought that this recipe would be the perfect way to use it up. After making some changes to the recipe based on my taste and what ingredients I had on hand, I found that I was right.

Once I tasted it, I realized how often we may try to mask certain flavors with other, stronger ones. This dish was very reminiscent of my favorite way to prepare tuna salad because of the strong notes of dill and celery imparted by dill pickles, fresh dill, celery and celery seed. I never never eat a can of tuna straight from the can, no seasoning, so really what I usually tasted in my salads were the melange of flavors from the many other ingredients. The nori strips added that fishiness or taste of the sea that you'd normally get from the tuna. All that and I did not have to fight off my cat as I ate it. A very satisfying salad.

Mock Tuna Salad

  • 1 cup soaked sunflower seeds and pine nuts*
  • olive oil or flax seed oil
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 2 dill pickles
  • 2 T fresh dill
  • 1/4 t celery seed
  • small handful toasted nori strips
  • 1-2 T vegan mayonnaise
  • salt
  • pepper

  1. In the food processor, chop the soaked, drained* seeds and nuts very well.

  2. Drizzle in the oil and continue pulsing until the mixture is a rough pâté.

  3. Scrape the nut mixture into a large bowl and add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.

  4. Finely dice the celery and dill pickles and add to the mixture.

  5. Chop up some dill, crumble a small handful of nori strips and add to the bowl.

  6. Add the mayo, celery seed and salt and pepper to taste, mixing well.

  7. Serve on a green salad or in a whole wheat pita.


  • I was making sunflower and pine nut "cheese" and had some leftover pureed nut mixture which I used for this.

    If you are going to make this from scratch, take your mixture of pine nuts and sunflower seeds and put them in a bowl. Cover them with cold water and let sit for 4 hours. Drain them very well and let sit for an hour to air dry. Then proceed with the recipe.

  • The nori added a hint of the sea to this. The original recipe called for dulse flakes, but I have no idea where to purchase those or other seaweeds. I can find nori pretty easily in my grocery store, so I used that.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jicama, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime-Agave Dressing

The sprightly (yes, I said sprightly, can you dig it?) flavors of this salad dance on the tongue.

Seriously, that is all that I can descriptively say about this dish. Good God, is it tasty! With each successive bite, my Mmm-mmm-MMMMMMs got progressively louder and more impassioned.

Everyone knows that the mango's distinctive sweetness pairs well with the luscious, creamy and fatty mildness of the avocado, but tossing in julienned strips of jicama* adds that crunchy dimension that makes this an especially satisfying salad. The lime juice and agave nectar give the dressing a bright sweet-tartness which fades to a slight after-burn from the cayenne.

In short, it is FABULOUS.

Jicama, Mango and Avocado Salad with Lime-Agave Dressing

Serves two

  • 1 jicama
  • 2 mangoes
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 T agave nectar - non-vegans may use honey, although that will change the flavor
  • 1 T flax seed oil (or quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • pinch cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cilantro for garnish

  1. Make the dressing by juicing the lime, and then whisking it with the agave nectar, flax seed oil, cayenne, salt and pepper. Taste to adjust the seasoning.

  2. Pour into a large bowl.

  3. Peel the jicama and slice into thin strips. Place in the bowl with the dressing and toss with a fork to coat.

  4. Cut the mango flesh into cubes and add to the bowl.

  5. Cut the avocado flesh into cubes and add to the bowl, tossing well to mix.

  6. Pour into two bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and eat.

  • I prefer the lighter flavor of agave nectar to honey now. Honey tastes almost cloyingly sweet to me since I have stopped using it.

  • See my thoughts on jicama here.

  • Never cut a mango before and are not sure how to do it? The best way to learn is to see someone else cutting it, and since I neglected to take step-by-step pictures (I have no tripod anyway), and because I am feeling lazy today, I will link you to an excellent demonstration: How to cut a mango

  • Need to know how to cut an avocado? Check it out here:

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Feel Good

No, I really do. I've only been back to eating vegan for a few days and I have been sleeping better, feel less sluggish and, praise be, my jeans felt less snug this morning when I put them on.

I really doubt that I've been burning huge amounts of my fat stores the past 2-3 days. Most likely it is just my body finally getting rid of all that water I've been retaining - I've felt like a camel for the past month, one of the many reasons I dislike summer. I honestly have no idea if eating vegan has had anything directly to do with getting my fluid retention under control, but I am grateful for whatever is doing it.


I had my new favorite raw apple breakfast this morning. I've been looking forward to eating this when I get up in the morning now, though there will still be those morning when I need a plate of scrambled tofu to stand in for a mess of eggs.

  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into 8ths - today I used a Ginger Gold
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 T almond butter
  • 1 t whole flax seeds, ground
  • 1 t agave nectar
  • nuts, berries and seeds - I used a trail mix I made of sunflower seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted edamame, dried blueberries and goji berries.
  1. Pulse the apple, oats and almond butter in a food processor until chopped.
  2. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with ground flaxseed, agave nectar and nuts, berries and seeds.

So, my younger daughter and I went to the grocery store this morning and spent a fortune in the produce aisle - insert generic rant about the high cost of healthy foods versus the low cost of crap, processed foods - but I have a fridge packed with greens and my counters are overflowing with baskets of fruits and vegetables, the stuff of culinary inspiration.

Possible meals for the next week include:
  • some Indian-inspired cauliflower curry, like this or Aloo Gobi

  • marinated roasted eggplant and zucchini on homemade multigrain sub rolls,

  • a salad of raw green beans with fresh lemon juice, flax seed oil, garlic and dill,

  • spaghetti squash with tomato and fresh basil- somewhat like this one

  • sweet and spicy carrot salad,

  • mango, jicama and avocado salad in some sort of lime and agave dressing -I'm winging it, as you can see, (8/14 update: I made it - here)

  • avocado and cucumber soup with fresh dill

  • any number of fresh fruit smoothies

Now, about cheese. I still have not pin-pointed what it is about cheese that is so appealing: is it the taste itself or the creamy, full-fat mouthfeel of the stuff?

I have really enjoyed the cashew cheeses that I have made, though I have to make sure to process everything until it is truly creamy. It takes a lot longer than you might think for the nuts to break down all the way to a rich, creamy texture. Mind you, when it is grainy, it is still mighty tasty, but more like a nut butter than a nut cheese.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this blog post on raw nut cheeses and saw that some of them were based on a recipe for raw cheese with spring onions. I started soaking the sunflower seeds and pine nuts and just have to process everything in the Cuisinart. I am also thinking about doing a few fancy things with a probiotic capsule, some cheesecloth and a strainer that I saw yet another person doing with their sunflower seeds cheese, so this ought to be very exciting. lol

I am looking forward to tasting the result. I'll post pictures and my adapted recipe as soon as I've got them.

Let's see, what else? Midway through writing this I realized that I had forgotten to pick up some ginger root. Ok, so I remembered to put down the jicama on my list -and surprise, surprise, my store actually had it - but I neglected the ginger root which is necessary for at least 3 of my planned recipes. Where is my head?

So anyway, that means another trip to the store. My 7 year-old is thrilled to pieces (not really) about another trip to the store today, though I have to say, she is being adventurous and trying out these dishes.

All good things come to those who wait, right?

Have a great Friday the 13th!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red Lentil and Quinoa Stew

This was so good that when I tasted it to adjust the seasoning at the end, I uttered something that was both really profane and really, really obscene. For the sake of people's sensibilities, I won't repeat it here.

Once again, I am at the scraping the pantry stage of the grocery cycle where I challenge myself to create delicious dishes with just what I have on hand, forcing myself to make substitutions as needed. Since I am eating vegan again, this brings along an additional layer of complexity as I may try to veganize old recipes.

At the moment, I have very few vegetarian/vegan specialty items like tempeh or seitan, but one thing I do have in abundance is a whole mess of dried legumes. I am silly with them, in fact, from black-eyed peas, to black beans and great northern beans to a variety of split peas and lentils. I made my wonderfully spicy lentil soup yesterday with those earthy brown lentils, and today decided that I needed more spice and more lentils, so I adapted my take on red lentil dhal and created a red lentil and quinoa stew.

After I had devoured my bowl of the stew, my 7 year-old daughter came over and sniffed the bowl cautiously before asking me, "Is this some kind of soup, Mommy?" I told her that it was, and that it was yummy, and she asked for some, saying, "It looks like a carrot soup," "Yes," I said, "There is some carrot in there," and ladled out a bit for her to try.

"YUM!" She said, giving me a thumbs-up.

Sometimes Mommy just flat-out rocks the house and gets it right.

Edit: The kid scarfed down two bowls of this stew. That's right, TWO.

Red Lentil and Quinoa Stew

  • 1 stalk celery, diced finely
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1/2 cup of grated carrot
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped (about 2 T)
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 5 cups water or broth
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • chili powder
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • hot sauce

  1. Heat 2 T olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion and celery and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the bell pepper, carrots and garlic, stirring well.
  4. After 5 minutes or so, when the vegetables have softened significantly, add the tomato and stir well.
  5. Add the spices and let cook for a minute.
  6. Add the red lentils and quinoa, turn the heat to high and add the water and the tomato paste.
  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, keep covered and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning. Here's where I add the hot sauce.
  9. Simmer uncovered another 15 minutes until the lentils are no longer crunchy. Fish out the bay leaf.
  10. Serve, adding more hot sauce as your palate dictates. Today, my palate commanded a heavy hand with the Cholula.

  • I used half red quinoa and half white quinoa (1/4 cup each), but it would be delicious with either one of those or black quinoa if you can find it.
  • I could not find my coriander powder in the horror show that is my spice cabinet, but I did have a jar of coriander seeds, so I broke out my handy mortar and pestle and crushed them up.

    If you decide to do this, be sure to crush the seeds very thoroughly so you don't have to bite down on the sharp husks of the coriander seeds. Although I use whole coriander in some Indian dishes, those sauces tend to simmer for a very long time, softening the seeds. If this is too much work for you, then make sure that your coriander powder is easily accessible.
  • I was purposely vague about the seasoning amounts today because, well, I didn't even measure anything out, I just "salted" everything, although I can tell you that I used about 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds and about the same amount of ground cumin, and only 1 bay leaf.
  • Speaking of salt, as you can see, I used none in this recipe, though you are certainly free to S&P this dish to your liking.
  • If you are itching to garnish this with something, I'd go with chopped cilantro. I realized way after the fact that I have a bunch of cilantro languishing in the crisper of my fridge. Sometimes I think that the crisper is where veggies go to die. Things get lost in there. Tsk.
  • Hot sauce - After years of being a Frank's aficionado, lately I have been reaching for Cholula, but have been meaning to try some of the hot sauces made by the folks of our own Dinosaur BBQ right here in Syracuse.

    They have Devil's Duo Pepper Sauce and a Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce. If those sauces are near as good as their barbecue slathering sauces and rubs, I predict that they'll be out of this world.

    Click the picture to go to the site.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chipotle-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

I made Indian spiced roasted chickpeas a few months ago, and quite literally devoured them almost immediately. I need to consider portion control when eating these as a snack, but my goodness, they are delicious, and can be made very cheaply especially if you use dried beans in place of canned.

Here is a handy-dandy conversion chart for most bigger beans like black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and chick peas.

A standard can of beans is 15 ounces. Small bags of beans you get at the store are usually 1 pound, but sometimes 2.

1 (15-oz.) can of beans equals
  • 1/2 cup dry beans, before cooking
  • 1 1/2 cups beans, after cooking

1 (1-lb) bag of dry beans equals
  • 2 cups dry beans, before cooking
  • 6 cups beans, after cooking
  • 4 (15-oz) cans of beans

Chipotle-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 28-oz can of chickpeas
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chili seasoning*
  • sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Drain the can of chickpeas into a colander and rinse very well under cold water.
  3. Dry them thoroughly. I like to shake the colander a bit, and then let them sit for a while. Then when I am ready to season them I dry them even more with a paper towel.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the chickpeas with olive oil, chipotle seasoning and salt, making sure that everything is coated nicely. You can taste to adjust the seasoning or wait until they are done to add more.
  5. Spread onto the cookie sheet.
  6. Roast for 30 minutes, then take them out and shake the pan to move them around a bit and then roast for 20-30 minutes more checking to be sure that they are not burning.
  7. Add sea salt and taste to adjust seasoning if necessary.
  8. Put in a large bowl and eat immediately.

* Chipotle Chili Seasoning

I made this to replace the sodium-laden packet of taco seasoning for that 7-layer Taco dip. It was so good, that I've decided to use it in everything that might be considered remotely Mexican.

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, or pulverized dried chipotle chili
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika - if you can find pimentón, smoked Spanish paprika, use this
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

  2. Store in an airtight container, like an empty spice jar.

The Self-Loathing Omnivore; or, Hi, It's Me Again.

Yep. I fell off the vegan wagon almost a year ago and tried unsuccessfully to climb back on a few times, and here I go again. I jokingly call myself the Self-Loathing Omnivore. I really want to be vegan for a variety of reasons, but am just terrible at resisting certain temptations.

The thing is, I am a really rotten ethical vegan because I do not honestly care what other people eat, at least not enough to support legislating food ethics. I think that until the day when mammals start talking to us as equals, that the decision of what foods are ethical to eat remains a personal decision.

I am mostly concerned about the health issues associated with what goes in our bodies. I am wholly opposed to industrial agriculture and a corporate culture of food production whose emphasis is on monetary profits rather than nutrition or labor equity.

Most selfishly of all, I am concerned about my own physical health and that of my kids.

My biggest problem was dealing with the cheese cravings. I can go without meat, chicken, sausage, eggs, no problem. It is the siren song of cheese that had me dreaming about piping hot pizzas and loaded cheese fries last year while I was on a vegan diet.

I have no idea how to counter that other than simply by gritting my teeth and gutting my way through it. Most of the vegan cheese substitutes I have tried so far have ranged from merely mediocre to downright revolting. I do enjoy a nice homemade cashew cheese, but even though it make a tasty vegan substitute, it does not match cheese's melty wonderful mouth-feel.

So. Here we go again! :)

This comic wasn't especially relevant, but my God it was funny!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spicy Peanut Noodles

I absolutely love peanut butter. I prefer natural varieties. My current favorite is Smucker's Naturals, chunky, of course. I haven't bought the standard sugar and salt-laden pb in so long that when I had some a few months ago at someone else's house, I was shocked at how cloyingly sweet it was. Plus, for some reason, the texture struck me as unnatural and kind of icky.

Food confession: I love peanut butter so much that I will sometimes eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon and call that a snack or a mini-meal. Now, I don't particularly care for peanut butter paired with sweet foods, except when combined with chocolate of course; I generally prefer peanut butter with savory foods. When I crave a peanut butter sandwich, I am more likely to add wheat germ and sunflower seeds instead of jam or jelly.

A nice spicy peanut sauce will really make my taste buds happy. Pair it with chicken, or tofu like I did today, toss in some noodles, and we're in business.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

  • Cooking oil (peanut or canola)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 onion, halved and then sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • the whites of 2 green onions, chopped
  • Minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1/4 package of tofu, pressed of water and cut into strips
  • Noodles, vermicelli, spaghetti, Chinese noodles, whichever you prefer - today I used a block of ramen noodles
  • 1/3 cup peanut sauce, jarred or homemade*
  • Sesame oil
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Green onions, chopped (optional)
  • Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Pour some oil into a large skillet, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and let sit.

  2. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain the noodles, put them in a bowl and toss them with 1 T of sesame oil. Let sit and cool.

  3. Over high heat, sauté the onions, ginger until onions are just starting to brown.

  4. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

  5. Add the strips of tofu and cook until golden brown.

  6. Add the peanut sauce to the skillet, stirring to coat well. Taste frequently and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add more of the sauce if you like.

  7. Toss the drained noodles into the skillet, mixing everything well.

  8. Garnish with chopped peanuts, green onion and sesame seeds.

*Homemade peanut sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 T honey or agave nectar
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T. chili oil
  • 1 chopped hot chili
  1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.

  3. Add water to thin the consistency if you find it necessary.

  4. Refrigerate any unused sauce in a tightly-lidded container.

  5. You may use more or less chili pepper to suit your taste for spiciness.
  • I might start a series of recipes titled "Things to Do With Ramen Noodles."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Purple Smoothie

I've mentioned Green Smoothies here before, now it's time for the Purple Smoothie which also has a green, or at least blue-green, element to it with the addition of the spirulina.

The "superfoods" in this drink (antioxidant-rich blueberry and EFA-packed flaxseed oil ) ought to keep even Dr. Oz happy. It is very tasty. I get a touch of the spirulina taste, which doesn't bother me at all, but if you're not all that keen on algae, knock the powder down to about half the amount or omit it entirely.

Purple Smoothie

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T flaxseed oil
  • 1 scoop Michael's Super Defense powder
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I like vanilla flavored whey protein powder, but a soy protein powder ought to work for those who are vegan)

  1. Blend everything up until is is thick and creamy.

  2. Drink it down.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snack Time: Roasted Chickpeas

This high-protein snack is incredibly addictive and it definitely satisfies my craving for a crunchy snack. I sat down with a bowl of these while watching Snakes on a Plane this weekend and attacked it like those vipers flying through the air attaching themselves to people's jugulars.


I like how versatile it can be just by changing the spice mixture you use. This past weekend I was on an Indian food kick, so I seasoned them with garam masala and red curry powder, but I bet they would taste good with a chipotle chili seasoning mix.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 28-oz can of chickpeas
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon red curry powder
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Drain the can of chickpeas into a colander and rinse very well under cold water.
  3. Dry them thoroughly. I like to shake the colander a bit, and then let time sit for a while. Then when I am ready to season them I dry them even more with a paper towel.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the chickpeas with olive oil, garam masala, red curry powder and turmeric, making sure that everything is coated nicely. You can taste to adjust the seasoning or wait until they are done to add more.
  5. Spread onto the cookie sheet.
  6. Roast for 30 minutes, then take them out and shake the pan to move them around a bit and then roast for 20-30 minutes more checking to be sure that they are not burning.
  7. Add sea salt and taste to adjust seasoning if necessary.
  8. Put in a large bowl and eat immediately.

And now for a close-up.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 14: A Food Journal Again and Thoughts on Choking

I'm keeping a food journal again to help me keep track of what I'm eating. There is just something about seeing it written down starkly - as long as I am completely honest with myself - to give me perspective on what I am putting in my body.

Thursday, January 14

  • Scrambled tofu with tomato, onion and carrot
  • 1 10-oz. glass of water with multivitamin and 3 SlimQuick Hoodia tablets

  • 1 mug of authentic Korean ginger tea - Ginger is supposed to help digestive ailments.

    I don't know if I'm having reflux issues or what, but it's worth a try. The thought of seeing a gastroenterologist and getting scoped is enough to make me cry. I have no problem being knocked out and cut open for a surgery, but scopes skeeve me. :/

  • 10:30 snack - raw apple "granola"

    • 1/2 Granny Smith, cored, but with the peel still on
    • 1/4 cup of oats
    • 2 heaping T raw sunflower seeds
    • 2 T almond butter
    • drizzle of agave nectar
    • pumpkin seeds
    • 1 T ground flax seeds

      Process the apple, oats and sunflower seeds until finely chopped, then add the almond butter and pulse a few times until mixed well. Top with ground flax seeds, agave and pepitas.

  • 1 10-oz. glass of water

  • Zucchini pasta and raw marinara sauce
  • 1 10-oz. glass of water



  • I really did well with my food yesterday even despite the sour cream on my 2 bowls of lentil soup. Not vegan, I know, but I wanted it. And it was good.

    Two of my meals were flat-out raw: the Raw Apple Breakfast and Zucchini Pasta with Raw Marinara sauce. I made a spicy lentil soup which was vegan, but then I nixed that by topping it with a dollop of sour cream.

    My snacks were all vegan and raw except for the occasional mug of hot tea.

    Also, I drank water regularly, every few hours, every time I had something to eat. I think that really helped keep cravings under control.

  • Something weird - last night I woke up choking on something. Before I went to bed last night it felt as though there might still be a fragment of a lentil stuck way back on the soft palate part of the roof of my mouth. Maybe I breathed it in last night and choked? Sometimes I do wake up choking on nothing but my saliva.

    When I woke up last night, after trying to cough it out, I got up and drank some water. Nope, didn't help. Then I got back up and had 4 whole wheat crackers with cheese and another glass of water.

    I can still feel something in there though and no amount of clearing my throat or coughing is helping.

  • Something gross - I have a choking phobia. This may be a bit TMI, but one time during my last pregnancy I woke up choking on a tiny bit of vomit. I was actually choking and panicking until I could cough it out, but the acids burned my throat for days. I have only ever had problems with reflux and heartburn when I was pregnant, but maybe now that my weight is up, it's recurring?

  • Another weird thing - I have that same sensation that everything is being forced up inside me as I had when I was pregnant during the end of the 2nd trimester and the 3rd trimester. It just feels as though there is something more in there than just my organs. I don't know, could that be just a sign that I've got too much fat hanging around in there? I mean I am nowhere near The Biggest Loser-morbidly obese, so I wouldn't think that that would be a problem.

    I mean, sure wouldn't it be cool to find out that there is one of those 50-lb, benign tumors loitering in my abdomen? So maybe I'm not overweight because of lack of exercise and eating too much. *sigh* I can dream, right? I'm always hoping for a Deus ex Machina, but no. My only choice to to make better choices for myself, NOT hope for some freakish medical anomaly!

  • So anyway, it feels as though something is literally shoving things back up my throat. I am not eating a lot in one sitting (except for my 2 small bowls of soup last night), so why should I feel over-stuffed?
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