Category Archives: Vegan food

Healthy Recipes to Celebrate Your Labor Day Weekend

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Summer’s almost over, so enjoy this weekend with lots of colorful veggies.

Appetizers

Salads

Burgers/Sandwich/Sides

Desserts

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Inflammation-Fighting Green Goddess Smoothie Bowl

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With superfood ingredients like turmeric, ginger, apple, and kale, you’ll give your body what it needs to fight inflammation.

You’ll feel like a goddess ready to tackle the world after enjoying a smoothie bowl powered by superfoods.

You’ve probably heard that some foods cause inflammation in the body (think: sugar, white flour, dairy), and some foods help your body fight inflammation. The latter is what we’re concentrating on for this smoothie bowl, which is great for post-run recovery, or simply to help you start the day off on a better, healthier foot. It uses turmeric and ginger, which are total rock stars of the anti-inflammatory nutrition world. It also provides a hefty dose of other foods that combat inflammation, such as kale, almonds, blueberries, and strawberries.

The main difference between a smoothie and a smoothie bowl—a current darling in the world of wellness, especially the acai bowl—is the obvious one that you eat a smoothie bowl with a spoon, rather than drink it. But smoothie bowls also tend to be a bit heartier—less water, and often thicker ingredients like nut butters, avocados, or oats. Unfortunately, those kinds of ingredients can dial up the calorie count big-time and quickly. Personally, I think focusing on keeping my high-calorie items chewable, rather than drinkable or slurpable, is generally a good practice. If you do blend them, it’s wise, as with the nuts, to keep it to a small amount.

I do find that a smoothie bowl offers more satiety than a smoothie. After all there are toppings that you chew and you use a spoon, but because it’s blended, it’s still easy to have that “doesn’t count” feeling. On that note, you may want to consider blending your ingredients only until chunky rather than completely smooth, so you’re still required to chew a bit.

A few additional notes:

    • Definitely try for organic ingredients, if possible.
    • If you’re not used to working with fresh turmeric (which is sooo much tastier than the powdered stuff), know that it stains. Don’t set it down on a white counter, for example, and if you want to peel a lot at once, definitely wear plastic gloves. (If I’m just peeling one, I’ll just peel it quickly and wash my hands right away.)
    • I didn’t indicate the amount of water below, but just add enough to cover the ingredients, and add more conservatively as needed so you keep the thickness to that of oatmeal.

INGREDIENTS

Base

      • Thumb-sized amount of fresh turmeric (about the size of a thumb) or a few teaspoons of powdered turmeric (start off with less than that if you’re not used to the taste)
      • Thumb-sized amount of fresh ginger

Blend on high until smooth. Then add and blend:

      • Half of a green apple (more if you like sweeter tastes)
      • Four almonds
      • Four cashews
      • Half a scoop of protein powder (I like either Sunwarrior Natural or Vega Smoothie Vanilla)
      • Handful of kale
      • Handful of romaine
      • Optional: A touch of pure maple syrup or stevia

Blend until desired smoothness.

      • Stir in chia seeds. (Besides being chock-full of Omega-3s, they will also help the smoothie set after about five minutes.)

Toppings

      • Sliced strawberries
      • Blueberries
      • Nuts
      • Cacoa nibs
      • Any other healthy ingredient that sounds good to you!

Servings: About 2 cups

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Artisanal Nondairy and Vegan Cheese that Tastes Good: Kite Hill

Gourmet dairy-free cheeses: Kite Hill Soft Fresh Original and Soft Ripened.

Gourmet dairy-free cheeses: Kite Hill Soft Fresh Original and Soft Ripened.

Most Thursdays or Fridays is pizza night around here. Armed with our cast iron skillets and Whole Foods ball o’ pizza dough, my boyfriend and I create our own versions of pizza faves. His usually includes fresh mozzarella and some sort of turkey pepperoni, while mine is loaded up on veggies and whatever vegan version of cheese I’m interested in creating that week. Sometimes it’s a cashew or almond nut cheese, sometimes a simple mix of tofu and nutritional yeast, and only very occasionally a store-bought vegan cheese such as Daiya mozzarella shreds. The first time I had Daiya “cheese” was at a nearby restaurant that sold only vegan pizzas. It was pretty exciting to have something close to cheese at the time, but since then, I’ve realized I’m not a big fan of most nondairy cheeses. (The tofu cream cheeses you can get at most NYC bagel shops and at a couple places around Boston are the major exceptions.)

Soft Fresh Original on left; Soft Ripened/Brie-style on right, which comes wrapped in a wood-style round box

Soft Fresh Original on left; on right is the Soft Ripened-Brie-style, which comes wrapped in a wood-style round box

The problem is that most of the readily available nondairy cheeses are a mix of ingredients like tapioca flours and oils, they’re quite processed, and, well, they taste like it. I’m glad they exist but like I said, eating them is a rarity. For many people who eat a vegan or plant-based diet, cheese is pretty much the last frontier. Hands down, it’s the thing I miss the most, and last week I had a wicked craving that had me vowing to finally order some Miyoko’s Kitchen artisanal cheese from California, which is the only cheese I’ve heard about that’s supposed to rival the real thing. The only problem was that I wanted something now. So after researching a bit, it turns out that there’s a whole vegan cheese revolution going on, well, at least the start of one, with a number of companies creating game-changing vegan cheese. And one of those gourmet nondairy cheese companies, Kite Hill, is widely distributed to Whole Foods across the country. In other words, there’s been an artisanal vegan cheese option right under my nose and I didn’t even know it! So, to the store I went for the second time that day, where I picked up two of the Kite Hill flavors: the Soft Fresh Original, which I’ve seen compared to a farmer cheese or basket cheese, and the Soft Ripened, aka, vegan brie.

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Soft Fresh Original on left; Soft Ripened/Brie-style on right

Tastewise: They were both absolutely thrilling. Unlike most nondairy cheeses, the Kite Hill cheeses have just a few ingredients and are made using traditional cheese-making techniques. The company first transforms almond milk into curds and whey, then cultures and ferments the curds. According to the site, the two I bought are aged as well, though I’m guessing the Soft Ripened/Brie-style is for longer. The Brie-style flavor even has a rind just like its dairy counterpart. But these plant-based cheeses don’t just look good, they taste so much better than anything else I’ve purchased ready-made.

The Soft Fresh Original has a sort of tangy flavor and what I think of as a stinky quality (light, but in that yummy cheese way). It is absolutely delicious mixed with a little olive oil, salt, and garlic powder spread on sourdough and topped with vine-ripened tomato slices. The Soft Ripened/Brie-style tastes very close to what I remember Brie to taste, so you could pretty much do anything you’d have done with Brie. (My favorite used to be Brie and grape quesadillas.)

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An assortment of mini pizzas topped with either the Original or Soft Ripened

So back to pizza night…Neither cheese seemed 100% appropriate as a pizza cheese, and I didn’t think you’re really supposed to cook with them (though after that night I read the FAQs and you can). Anyway, I decided to create four mini pizzas and test different toppings. I carmelized some onions, and had that and (on different ones) olives, fig jam, and arugula and did different cheeses on them. One I made more traditional (tomato sauce, etc.). I cooked the pizzas then put the arugula and cheese on at the very end, so they were just warmed. They were all delicious, and definitely satisfied my cheese craving.

Of course, these vegan cheeses would be appropriate for someone with a dairy intolerance as well. I’m not promising they will 100% satisfy if you’re a dairy cheese eater. I’ll have to test that at some point with some willing participants (i.e., someone more adventurous than my aforementioned boyfriend), but I bet the satisfaction comes close.

Kite Hill has other cheeses—a truffle dill and chive, a ricotta, and a couple cream cheeses—and they have a couple ravioli options. I won’t likely be exploring vegan cheese every day, but I am definitely going to broaden my tastes in this category. In the future, I’ll try the other Kite Hill flavors, for sure. I’ll also order some of the Miyoko’s cheeses at some point as well (check out the beautiful photos). The Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf is sold out right now, but that’s what I have my eye on. And I will definitely look into some other brands I discovered in this research (such as Punk Rawk Labs, which is based in Minnesota, not California like Kite Hill and Miyoko’s). It’s just nice that people who can’t or don’t eat dairy cheeses are getting some options!

Below I’m including some links to other taste tests and articles on the new vegan cheeses, some of which mention other companies. If, like me, you haven’t heard of this brave new world of delectability, do take a look!

 

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20 Vegan Recipes for Your Memorial Day Barbecue or Plant-Powered Get Together

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Appetizers

Salads

Burgers/Sandwich/Sides

Desserts

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Quick and Easy Vegan African Peanut Stew

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Peanut butter and warming spices make this Vegan African Peanut Stew with Chickpeas a cozy and delicious treat.

Generally speaking, I like to eat light, cool food during warmer months and heavier, hot food during the colder ones. So, even though it’s spring, when yesterday the weather turned a bit chilly, I realized I was craving something heartier than the things I’ve been eating lately (for example, Socca with nut cheeses and vegetables). In addition, for weeks now, I’ve had this really strong craving for peanut butter, but it’s generally not something I like to have around since it’s a definite weakness of mine. But when I had a lightbulb moment that crashed those two cravings together, I remembered the convenient excuse for peanut butter in a bowl, err, I mean, my love for African Peanut Stew, and realized I would just have to indulge myself. (It’s all about balance, right?)

My introduction to African Peanut Stew/Soup was at a Christmas celebration a few years ago. The idea of both peanut butter and coconut milk as star ingredients of a dish was truly scary (read: calories, fat), but I couldn’t exactly say no since the hostess had made a special batch vegan just for me by replacing the chicken with chickpeas. The first taste and the ones that followed were so sumptuous, I couldn’t help but relax and savor every bite. So, not surprisingly I associate that dish with happy times and cozy gatherings, not to mention special occasions. The warming aromas of ginger, cinnamon, and curry, not to mention peanut butter, makes for a decadent and soothing homey feel that is all about the pleasure food was meant to be.

Last night was just a Wednesday, but with the aromas of all that in the air, it felt like a special occasion, and the actual eating of the stew was a definite treat. And as my boyfriend eats very little of the kinds of food I eat (though he has become more adventurous and healthy over the years), I got it all to myself. Again. Even cold it’s awesome. (I checked before I had some for lunch today!)  The best part is it’s actually really easy to make. You could also do in the crock pot if you wanted to go the longer and slower cooking route.

Many versions call for coconut milk and most have chicken, but I don’t eat the latter and since the soup is not the lowest-calorie soup a person could have, I figured I would leave the coconut milk out as well. In addition, just about every recipe you will see is slightly different and may include, for example, celery, red bell pepper, and other ingredients not in this one. But the stew is like a chili in the sense that you can customize it for your taste. Regardless of the way you choose to customize it for your taste, I hope you enjoy it!

(Note: You know how sometimes you meet a person in real life after seeing their photo, and you’re like, ‘holy heck, this person is beautiful and photos don’t do him/her any justice!’ Well, that stew photo up there is like that. Partly because the beauty is in the flavors and the aroma, and partly because, clearly, I need to do some food photography study. It’s on the list, I promise! But all that’s to say, don’t hold that photo against my poor little stew.)

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for cooking
  • One onion (I used Vidalia to add more sweetness)
  • One sweet potato
  • 3 or 4 cups vegetable broth or water (more or less depending on the thickness you want)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Approximately ¼ cup chopped ginger root (or if eyeballing amount, it’s about three thumb-sized roots, or equivalent)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1T curry powder
  • Kosher, sea, or pink salt to taste
  • Fresh pepper to taste
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1T tumeric
  • A few shakes of cayenne (about a teaspoon or so)
  • 4T chunky natural peanut butter
  • One small bunch of kale (lacinto, if possible)
  • One bunch of cilantro (it might look like a lot, but it cooks way down, but if you’re not a cilantro lover, do use less)
  • 2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, aka, garbanzo beans (or one large one)
  • Approximately ¼ small jalapeño or Serrano chili (optional, and to taste)

Top with:

  • Sriracha to taste (by which I mean lots and lots!!)
  • Crushed peanuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash all your veggies and drain and rinse your chickpeas. (Or work these steps in as you do other steps.)
  2. Coat soup pot with a little olive oil, then add finely chopped onion and sweet potato. Heat on low until softened. (It helps to add a splash of water after about five minutes. Also, watch closely and stir often to prevent burning.)
  3. Chop garlic and ginger. Add some of your water or broth to a blender, then add garlic and ginger, and blend on high until fully blended.
  4. Add tomatoes to blender and more of the water or broth and all spices except for the jalapeño or Serrano. Blend until smooth.
  5. Finely chop kale and cilantro in between other tasks.
  6. At this point, add to the blender the full amount of liquid you will be working with and to that add the sweet potatoes and onion. Blend until smooth and pour back into soup pan.
  7. Finely chop desired amount of jalapeño or Serrano. Be careful not to touch the chili—I used a knife and fork—and also be careful washing the utensils and cutting board. The juice can burn your skin, and the fumes can be hot.
  8. Add peanut butter, then taste and add more if desired. Add rinsed garbanzo beans, kale, and cilantro. Heat on very low for desired amount of time. This is a dish you can keep closer to raw or not, depending on how you like it. I heated mine just until veggies had softened.
  9. Serve hot (though it tastes delicious cold too), and top with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts if desired and lots of sriracha (which, on the other hand, is mandatory).

 

Serve over couscous or rice, or with toasted scali bread topped with Earth Balance.

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Whole Foods Now Carries 365 Everyday Value Non-BPA Cans

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If you’re vegan or vegetarian, or are simply trying to eat a more plant-based diet, chances are you probably eat a lot of beans. I used to just pick up whatever brand appealed to me. But after learning how toxic BPA is, I pretty much stuck to Eden brand for my canned beans, which is widely available but kind of expensive. (Isn’t part of the point of beans that they’re supposed to be cheap?) I do cook mine from dry as much as possible, but the convenience of canned beans means that they are sometimes the go-to, especially during busy times.

Now, Whole Foods has their own brand of non-BPA beans, and they’re quite a bit cheaper than the Eden brand. Plus, I swear they taste fresher than most canned foods, which I attribute to the fact that they’re so new.

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Fall Pumpkin Soup with Maple Coconut Cashew Cream (Vegan)

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Yesterday, fall arrived officially, and with it, nice long walks or runs in cooler weather, cozying up with great books, and, of course, all things pumpkin. To usher in the new season, I spent many hours in the kitchen using almost every dish in my quest for a yummy pumpkin soup, rich in protein. Since I tend to be quite experimental in the kitchen, the results are never guaranteed, but I was thrilled at how this pumpkin soup with red lentils turned out. This might even replace my longtime favorite, chickpea lentil soup (which I’ll post another time). Next time I will double the amounts so I can freeze more of it.

On the health front, red lentils are a great source of protein, and pumpkin, lentils, and cashews are considered superfoods. As for packaged coconut milk, there’s far more back and forth, but I think it’s a fine in treaty moderation. The entire carton of coconut milk has 20 grams of fat, which isn’t bad spread over the entire amount of the soup. The cashews are, of course, high in fat, but you only need to drizzle a bit of the cashew cream onto your soup.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

INGREDIENTS

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

  • Small to medium pie pumpkin
  • 11-ounce carton So Delicious Lite Culinary Coconut Milk (or equivalent amount/style)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 4 cups water for lentils
  • 2 cups water for soup (or broth if you prefer)
  • 4 T fresh ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 T nutmeg
  • Dash of chili powder
  • Cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. or so of olive oil

Maple Coconut Cashew Cream

  • ½ cup cashews soaked for 2 hours to overnight
  • A splash of water
  • Splash of coconut milk from the coconut carton above
  • 1 T maple syrup

Servings: About 8 cups

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You’ll need about 2 cups of pumpkin for the soup. My pumpkin was 3.5 pounds, which yielded the two cups, plus about a cup more to make pumpkin butter or to simply have on hand.
  2. Wash pumpkin thoroughly under running water; be sure to scrub well to get all dirt off from skin. Dry, cut off top, then cut pumpkin lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and pulp. You will have to work at this—those strings like to hang on—and set aside.
  3. Place cut sides down on shallow baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes, until soft but not too mushy. (Begin testing at 40 minutes, then use judgment as to how often from there.)
  4. For red lentils, pour four cups of water into pan, and put flame on high. Take lentils and spread out on flat wide plate or baking sheet to examine and sort, looking for any stones, dirt or damaged lentils. Rinse throughly in fine mesh strainer moving them around to make sure you’ve rinsed from all angles. Once rinsed, place lentils into the pan of water that’s been heating. Bring to boil, then lower flame and simmer gently will lid tilted, until lentils are soft but not mushy. Scoop off the foamy stuff that rises to the top (you’ll need to do that a few times). Start checking the lentils for doneness at 10 to 15 minutes, though the recommended time on the package is 20 to 35. If they get a bit too mushy, it’s no big deal, because you’ll be blending them into the soup.
  5. While pumpkin is baking and lentils are cooking, finely chop onion, then sauté on very low in enough olive oil to just smear the bottom of the pan. You can do this in a large soup pan that you will transfer the blended soup to in order to save using another dish. Stir onions at regular intervals to prevent from sticking. Onions will be done when they reach an almost caramelized consistency.
  6. While onions are cooking, wash and peel the ginger. Finely chop, then add to onions. If you would like a stronger, fresher ginger flavor, simply set aside. You can add the ginger during the blending process.
  7. Now separate pumpkin pulp from the seeds as best as you can easily, just using your hands. What you can’t separate easily, soak in water. After you’ve separated all the seeds from the pulp, dry them a bit, then lay flat on baking sheet. Salt them lightly.
  8. When pumpkin is ready, take it out of the oven, and allow it to cool for a bit. Leave oven on and place baking sheet with the seeds in there. Bake for 15 to 30 minutes, until crisp. Take them out every 5 minutes or so and stir them around so they don’t stick or burn.
  9. Add cashews to blender, splash with just a bit of water, then enough of the coconut milk to almost cover the cashews. Add the tablespoon of maple syrup. Blend thoroughly until the mixture has a cream-like smooth consistency. Pour into small dish or measuring cup (which makes the mixture easier to drizzle on soup). Pour out as much as you can, but don’t worry about cleaning it afterward. You’ll blend the soup in here and any residue will add to the taste of the soup.
  10. Back to the pumpkin: Scoop out two cups.
  11. To blender, add ginger, onions, and coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Then add pumpkin, lentils, some of the water, and your spices. Blend until a smooth puree, and taste at each stage so you don’t add too much water. If you’ve decided to bump up the spices (per the notes below), don’t add more than the baseline amount until you’ve got everything blended. It’s always easier to add more spice than take it away!
  12. Once blended, pour the amount of soup you want to eat now into the pan you cooked the onions in or a new one, and heat on low until desired temperature. Freeze or refrigerator the rest.
  13. Pour heated soup into bowls, drizzle with cashew cream, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Serve with small salad, and toasted sourdough bread topped with Earth Balance.

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Notes and Modifications

  • Halve the cinnamon and nutmeg measurements for a more subtle pumpkin-pie-spice flavor. Same for the ginger.
  • Alternatively, for a more warming and stronger pumpkin-associated spice flavor, bump up the amount of the ginger and cinnamon, especially, but as mentioned do so only a bit at a time, continuing to taste.
  • This is a savory soup. If you want a sweeter soup, add a bit of maple syrup to the soup. The cashew cream will sweeten the soup slightly when mixed in, but not much.
  • The chili powder is a different flavor entirely and is only meant to add a subtle complexity. If that’s the flavor you wish to make stronger, hold back on the other spices.
  • So Delicious promises their packaging has no BPA. The entire carton of Lite has 20 grams of fat, which spread over the whole soup, doesn’t seem to bad, but if that worries you, go easier on the coconut milk and replace some liquid with broth. As for the cashew cream, if fat is of concern, leave that out of the equation.

WEIRD PUMPKIN FACTS

  1. You can eat the skin!
  2. Pumpkin is a great DIY beauty ingredient.
  3. Apparently, a lot of people make their pumpkin pies with butternut squash. (But then isn’t it just squash pie?)

Happy fall!

Do you like fall? What favorite fall things about it, if so?

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