Tag Archives: cooking

Proud to Eat Granola!

29 Nov

Poor granola — and I don’t mean a granola bar in fancy packaging — I mean plain granola.  Although its popularity as a breakfast food is growing with places like Starbucks offering it, it still seems to end up as a joke, sometimes in connection with mocking language, particularly about people who prefer to eat healthfully or are perceived to be something of a “hippie” (regardless of whether or not they are).

In fact, I had an unpleasant experience at a doctor’s office this summer.  I explained a minor problem I was having and requested both an allergy test and a certain type of hormone test that a nutritionist had recommended to me.  The doctor scoffed at the idea, said she didn’t know what the test was supposed to tell me, and why I was asking for it.  When I explained about the nutritionist, she said derisively, “Sometimes these earthy granola types tell people to do the craziest things.”  She then went on to suggest I take medicine for this minor problem — for an indefinite amount of time.

Well.  That was the last appointment I would have at that doctor’s office.  If she had recommended the medicine alone, then perhaps I would have felt sorry for her lack of training in nutrition, for example, that would otherwise have allowed her to recommend something beyond pharmaceuticals.  But that comment — “earthy granola types” — spoken about one of her own colleagues (in the sense that they both work for the improvement of people’s health) was unprofessional and dismissive.

But that word granola had me thinking — I’m not sure why she used it, but she was by no means the only person from whom I heard it in a similar context.  I actually don’t even eat granola on a regular basis, but that experience makes me want to reclaim the food with pride!

And so recently I realized that the book I am reviewing, Scatter Vegan Sweets, has not 1 but 6 variations of granola, and 5 granola bar recipes.  A perfect opportunity to take back granola!

With her permission, here is the recipe, by Wendy Gabbe Day:

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats

2/3 cups almonds

1/2 cup coconut shreds (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup almond butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit .

2) Lightly oil a 13 x 18 inch (or similar) baking sheet (I prefer parchment paper — it’s easier to clean up!)

3) In a bowl, combine the first four dry ingredients.

4) In a small saucepan, combine the remaining five wet ingredients and heat on low until liquefied.

5) Pour the wet mixture into the dry ones and mix thoroughly.

6) Spread evenly on the baking sheet.

7) Bake 20 minutes, then stir.  Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool to crisp up.

All the ingredients, shown here.

First I put together the dry ingredients:  oats, almonds, coconut, and salt.

Next, I measured and assembled the wet ingredients:  rice syrup, maple syrup, water, almond butter, and vanilla.  Instead of measuring each ingredient separately, I actually combined them within the measuring cup to reduce the messiness.  As long as you can remember some middle school math and add fractions, it’s totally possible.  Furthermore, when measuring out the almond butter that is not in liquid form, you can measure it by judging how much of the other liquids it displaces when you add it to the measuring cup.  As you scoop spoonfuls in, the liquid level will rise.  Easy!!!!

Heat all the wet ingredients together….

….until they blend.

Add them to the dry ingredients and mix.

Spread onto a cookie sheet…

… so that it makes one really big granola bar!  After baking, it can easily be crumbled and kept in a jar.

Serve over soy yogurt, or just eat by the handful.

This recipe is only one of many possibilities for granola as a breakfast food and as a counter-attack on anyone who wants to call you an “Earthy Granola Type!”

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Bringing Pizza Back

28 Nov

No doubt you my have heard countless vegans name pizza as one of their most missed foods from B.V. (Before Veganism).  Pizza and probably Macaroni and Cheese, the latter being my most missed.

In B.V. times, I would order just extra cheese — no toppings — on my pizzas, but all that changed when I gave up cheese.  Along with the peace of mind that goes with the cessation of stealing calves’ milk, I also changed my pizza habit — tons of veggies toppings, and no cheese — if and when I had pizza at all.

At home, I would do the same on my pizzas, complete with veggies on tomato sauce and a whole wheat crust.  Then one day I discovered Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheeses.  These cheeses satisfied my husband’s craving for cheese, but were still a bit of a pain for me to grate by hand — at this point I had gone without cheese pizza for so long that it didn’t seem worth the trouble of all that grating.  Furthermore, the taste was just OK, and the melting was one step up from competing vegan cheese makers.

And then there was Daiya.  I first discovered it at the Vegetarian Summerfest I attended this past July in Johnstown, PA, where in addition to other ridiculously delicious foods three times per day, we were provided with pizza — lots of pizza — at both lunch and dinner.  I had a slice at every meal — probably to make up for lost time!

Daiya melts — it melts — it really melts!!  Daiya really tastes more like mozzarella, or cheddar, more so than other brands.  Daiya is already grated when you buy it in a small package.  Yes!  Daiya has brought pizza back to many of us now, and the beauty of it is that it mostly tapioca starch — it’s actually soy- and gluten-free, which means it can be embraced by people with allergies too.

I have had to travel far to get my Daiya, since my nearest Whole Foods is 45 minutes away, and no one else by me sells it. But I have good news:  I went to my local health food store and was speaking to the owner, and I asked him directly if he had heard of it.  He actually had not heard of Daiya but immediately offered to order it for me.  Within three days, he had a box of it!  No more traveling for Daiya!

One bag will yield me enough cheese to satisfactorily cover two pizzas, each with an approximately 12 inch diameter.

So this weekend I made four pizzas for a party at my house:  a grilled zucchini and eggplant, a onion and mushroom, a “meaty” one with Tofurky Kielbasa and Yves Pepperoni slices, and a just plain cheese mix of both cheddar and mozzarella Daiya cheese.

Of course, I wouldn’t eat pizza every day, but it is great to have an alternative that I can confidently recommend to other vegans, and most importantly the uninitiated veg-curious.  Truly, now there is nothing missing from the vegan world!

Below are some pictures — unfortunately with a house full of people, I did not get a chance to take the pictures until after they had already had slices pulled from them:

So What Do Vegans Eat For Thanksgiving?

23 Nov

Typically one of the first questions posed to a vegan by a non-vegan is “What do you eat on Thanksgiving?” (As if turkeys were the only choice otherwise).  I had the good fortune of attending two vegan Thanksgiving so far this season.  The first one was smaller, with 12 people in attendance, but the second one was much larger — perhaps close to 3o people.  Such an event is the perfect place to answer that age-old question, with an abundance of delicious examples.

Below are some photographs of foods from the second, larger Thanksgiving Potluck I attended, hosted by Vegetarian Society of South Jersey.  I apologize for the grainy quality of some of the photos, and for the fact that I did not have the opportunity to track down all the people who contributed a dish in order to get all the ingredients and information accurately.

Orange You Glad For Black Beans?

22 Nov

Don’t get me wrong — I love hummus, and believe chick peas (garbanzo beans) are the world’s most perfect bean.  However, every now and then I like to try something else for my veggie dip or spread.  Lo and behold, I had the opportunity to test a new recipe for a black bean dip by vegan cookbook author Robin Robertson.  As a tester, my job is to prepare a recipe exactly as directed by the author, and write feedback on its taste, practicality, portion size, and directions.  While I have permission to photograph and blog the recipes, I cannot reveal the exact recipe — you’ll just have to wait for Ms. Robertson to publish her next book!

The recipe I tested was called Spicy Black Bean Hummus with Orange — intriguing.  Spicy and citrusy?  I had to sign up to try it!

I gathered all my ingredients, which basically would include black beans, tahini, jalapenos, salt, cumin, garlic, and cilantro.

The beauty of this recipe is that it was remarkably quick using the food processor.  First, I put in the garlic, jalapenos, and salt.

The orange flavoring would come from the zest of an orange.  I love using a microplane in order to zest.  I usually do it over a small bowl or plate, so I do not lose any of the zest.  I did not zest it directly over the other ingredients, because I needed to measure a precise amount for this recipe.

With the zest ready and the garlic and jalapenos already chopped, I added the remaining ingredients and whirled it around in the food processor.

The bean dip was meant to be garnished with cilantro, which I cut on a board with a chef’s knife instead of using a food processor.  Years ago, I used to get lazy and use the food processor for both my parsley and cilantro, much to my mother’s chagrin.  She insisted that it ruined the herbs, and I wouldn’t listen until I finally tried cutting them instead and tasted the difference.  Yes, indeed, the food processor cilantro or parsley ended up pulpy and watery, while the hand-minced herbs retained a better texture and flavor.  When chopping cilantro, I always include the stems too, because they are just as tasty!

A final garnish around the black bean dip.

Delicious!  I can’t wait to read what the final version of this recipe will be, and try it again in the future.

Bitter About Buckwheat No More

21 Nov

After my treasure hunting expedition in the kitchen yesterday, I came across ingredients I had long forgotten in the bottom of my deep freezer.  One of these was kasha, also known as buckwheat groats.  I purchased them once, almost a  year ago, in order to make a breakfast meal that turned out absolutely disgusting.  The concept and pictures seemed promising — it was a chocolate pudding with fresh strawberries and soaked buckwheat groats.  But the groats are bitter, and they just didn’t do anything for me that couldn’t have been achieved ten times better with rolled oats.

But I hate wasting food, and so the buckwheat sat in my freezer until now.  And it probably would have continued to stay in my freezer for months to come, had I not come across a recipe by Wendy Gabbe Day, author of the book Scatter Vegan Sweets.  I am currently reading it and writing a review for the American Vegan magazine, and just recently read the recipe for a buckwheat smoothie.  Perfect timing!

What sets Scatter Vegan Sweets apart from other vegan cookbooks is the fact that Wendy focuses exclusively on gluten-free, nutrient-dense ingredients with low fat, low sugar, and no oil.  The book includes sweets that are not limited to desserts, such as breakfast foods and the smoothie I made today

With her permission, here is Wendy’s recipe for her Raw Berry Buckwheat Smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats (soaked overnight)
  • 1/3 cup raw nuts (soaked overnight)
  • 4 medjool dates (pitted, and soaked overnight if you do not have a high speed blender)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 frozen bananas (chopped)
  • 1-1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (or other frozen fruit)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (or other frozen fruit — I used raspberries)
  1. In a bowl or jar, combine the buckwheat and nuts and cover with water.  Soak overnight or for 4-8 hours.  (This water will be discarded).
  2. In a separate bowl or jar, soak the dates in 1 cup of water overnight of for 4-8 hours.  If you’ve got a heavy duty blender, you can skip soaking the dates.
  3. Drain and thoroughly rinse the buckwheat and nuts.  Place in the blender.
  4. Add the dates and date water to the blender.  Blend thoroughly.
  5. Add the remaining four ingredients and blend until smooth.  Add additional water, if needed, for smoother consistency.

The idea would be to think about what you’re having for breakfast tomorrow morning, and soak the necessary ingredients over night.  Once you wake up, it really is hardly any work at all to make this smoothie.  Last night, I did measure out and soak the groats and nuts in water, but I forgot about the dates.

This morning, I blended the buckwheat and walnuts in the blender, as the recipe specified, but unfortunately, I do not have a high speed blender.

So before adding the dates, I put the dates and the 1 cup of water in the food processor separately to ensure that they were thoroughly chopped.

Once chopped I added them, water and all, to the blended buckwheat.

The frozen fruit was the last step, in which I did substitute raspberries for strawberries, since that was all I had.

I was pleasantly surprised that all the fruit and dates completely obscured the bitterness of the buckwheat.  The walnuts gave the smoothie body, and the buckwheat had a milkiness to it after having been soaked overnight.  This smoothie was different for me, however, because it wasn’t a green smoothie. This one actually did not contain kale, spinach, dandelions, or lettuce like my typical green smoothies — my husband was thrilled to see that this morning’s smoothie was indeed pink, and not green or brown!!  I will definitely make this smoothie again with the remainder of my buckwheat groats — and who knows?  I might even buy some more that won’t live in my freezer for a year.

 

Pecan Tofu Lima Bean Rice Salad? (When Husbands Invade Kitchens, part 2)

19 Nov

Earlier this week, I found myself running some errands until well after the dinner hour.  Thankfully, I have a husband who is not only creative, but also gets a move on when something needs to be done — in this case, dinner.  What I love about him is how he can concoct fascinating meals using what’s already in the fridge, usually in a 5-15 minute time period.  Which leaves me wondering, why am I the cook in this relationship?  I do love to cook, but I will admit that he can assemble the most interesting meals, such as in the Tempeh Takeover! I blogged about earlier this week.

Sometimes, we just have salad for dinner — and by salad, I mean we each get our own family-size bowl (there were two like the one pictured above).  In that case, our salads usually include not only greens and veggies, but also a starch or protein as well.  My husband found some leftover rice and leftover lima bean salad that had some corn and zucchini in it.  He put both of these onto a bed of mixed baby greens and added cherry tomatoes, celery, and pecans.  Then he cut up a block of tofu (raw) and assembled the pieces around the salad as pictured.  Then, he topped off the salad with balsamic vinegar, walnut oil, and curry powder (yes, it is his favored seasoning, as I mentioned in Tempeh Takeover!)

The salad was delicious, but we both agreed that the tofu should have been cooked, especially since it had been a block of tofu I had previously frozen.  Sometimes I freeze entire blocks of tofu, then thaw them in the  refrigerator, in order to create a more spongy texture that can absorb marinades before cooking.  Unfortunately, my poor husband opened up one of these tofus, instead of a regular one that might have been ok to eat raw in this salad.  Either way, it was a night I didn’t have to prepare dinner!

Clean-the-Fridge Stir Fry with Szechuan Sauce

18 Nov

This week has been crazy, as I worked on several projects that were much more time consuming than I had anticipated.  Meanwhile, grocery shopping did not happen, much less any house cleaning, including the refrigerator.  About every other week I make it a habit to go through the fridge, discard any old leftovers and use up produce or packaged goods that are about to expire.

Tonight’s dinner turned out to be largely inspired by the results of a refrigerator clean-out.  I came across some old spinach, broccoli, one zucchini, and a piece of ginger.  All looked like today would be their last chance at a dignified end as food, rather than trash.  I also found pineapple chunks and minced shallots that were about to expire, and jars of marinara and Szechuan sauces with only small quantities left.

The Szechuan sauce beckoned me in the direction of a stir-fry, so I searched for some more vegetables and a starch.  I thought about fried rice, but didn’t feel like waiting for brown rice to cook.  Instead, I looked in my pantry and found Chinese noodles (reminiscent of Ramen noodles).  In addition, I found some fresh carrots, Brussels sprouts, and an onion.

For today’s stir-fry, I cut the carrots into matchsticks, following a strategy taught to me by a friend.  I started by cutting diagonally along the carrot in order to make thin slices that were about 1.5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.

Then I cut into each carrot slice lengthwise to make the matchstick.

I sauteed about 1/3 a medium onion, coarsely chopped, in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, for about three minutes in my wok.

I then added the carrot matchsticks and mixed them, allowing them to sauté for almost ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the carrots and onions cooked, I worked on cutting the Brussels sprouts, zucchini, and broccoli.  My broccoli was already cut up from a previous meal prep, but I did have to slice my zucchini into 2 inch chunks, and my Brussels sprouts into quarters after first removing the bottoms.

Once the ten minutes passed, I checked that my carrots felt tender on the outside with just a bit of crunch on the inside, since they would continue cooking more thoroughly after mixing in more ingredients. I added all the green vegetables except for spinach.  I mixed everything with about 1/4  cup vegetable broth to prevent sticking, and covered the wok with a lid.

While the vegetables steamed with the carrot and onion mix, I put water in another pot for boiling my noodles, and also began mincing my ginger with a microplane.  This ginger was definitely getting old, because it wasn’t as juicy as fresh ginger, but nevertheless, I minced away.

I love microplanes, because they are very  handy for zesting citrus fruits and mincing nutmeg too.  Below you can see what the ginger looks like after mincing.

After accumulating about 1.5 tablespoons of ginger, I added the rest of the Szechuan sauce from the old jar (about 5 tablespoons), the rest of the marinara sauce (about 1/4 cup), and half the jar of shallots (2 ounces).

I blended these ingredients with a whisk, and mixed the sauce into the stir-fry.  At this point, my water was also boiling for my noodles, so I put them in the pot.

Once the noodles were back to a rapid boil, I knew they’d only take about 3-4 minutes to cook, so it was a perfect time to add my spinach to the stir-fry, since it only needed to wilt in the stir-fry.  I mixed in the spinach and also threw in about 1/3 of the pineapple jar as well.

After testing them for an “al dente” texture, I drained the noodles in a colander.

I immediately added about half the noodles to the stir fry and mixed it thoroughly.  The entire package of Chinese noodles was just too much, and I prefer to have a stir-fry that is more vegetable than starch.

The final entree was delicious!  We did add soy sauce once it was plated, because I didn’t even think of it while cooking, but otherwise the Szechaun/marinara blend was delicious but not overpowering.  Both the pineapple and the ginger were just the right amount to give it a distinct, but subtle flavor.  I was very pleased with how the carrots softened and had a natural sweetness, while the Brussels sprouts had absorbed a lot of the sauce’s flavor.  However, the noodles did break apart, which I wasn’t expecting — I’m thinking that maybe they had continued cooking with the heat of the stir-fry.  Perhaps next time I should bring them together on the plate instead of the wok, or boil them for less time.

Overall, it was delicious, and I am looking forward to having some for lunch tomorrow.  In the mean time, I have to think about what to do with the rest of the noodles, shallot, and pineapple I didn’t use today!