Friday, July 31, 2009

Laotian Style Vegetables



For some unknown reason I wanted Laotian food tonight. I like to mix up the origin of our food, as you may have noticed. Laotian food is reasonably new to me. I was introduced to it at our favorite local restaurant where a couple of the guys in the kitchen are from Laos. The cuisine is quite nice and seems to use a lot of hot Thai chilies, lime and fresh mint. If you like that combination you will like Laotian cuisine.

This dish has a lot of flavor from the chili garlic sauce, lime and mint. It is hot and refreshing at the same time. I didn’t serve this over rice, but it would be great that way or in a lettuce wrap.

Laotian Style Vegetables
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups of zucchini, halved or quartered and thinly sliced
2 Japanese eggplants, thinly sliced
1 cup of fire roasted diced tomatoes
½ - 1 tablespoon of chili garlic sauce (depending on how much you like heat)
1 scoop of stevia (or agave)
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup of fresh mint, chopped

Directions:

Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the red onion, zucchini and eggplant, fire roasted tomatoes, chili garlic sauce, stevia and lime. Cook until the vegetables are as tender as you like them.

Stir the fresh mint into the vegetables just before serving. You want the mint to stay fresh and vibrant. This would be good over brown rice or any other whole grain.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 93.83
Calories From Fat (7%) - 6.64

Total Fat - 0.82g
Saturated Fat - 0.14g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 254.17mg
Potassium - 902.81mg
Total Carbohydrates - 22.9g
Fiber - 7.78g
Sugar - 4.64g
Protein - 4.73g

Comments:

This dish packs a punch of flavor. It you like spicy Asian food you should give this a try. I served it tonight with a whole-wheat tortilla with a little nutritional yeast sauce and fire roasted tomato bits. However, this would be great over brown rice.

Asian Style Cucumber Salad



This cucumber salad is my version of one a Korean friend of mine made when we were in college (almost 30 years ago). I never asked her for the recipe, I made this from memory so it may be a conglomeration of many of the Asian dishes I have had since college. Either way, it tastes good. This looks very similar to my zucchini salad from this morning, but tastes nothing like it.

The cucumbers are a little spicy from the chili garlic sauce. The salad is too spicy for little children, but it should be fine for most adults. If you don’t like a lot of heat you can always start with half the amount of the chili garlic sauce and taste to see if the heat level is good for you. I think I like spice and heat more than most people. I added fresh garlic because I put garlic in almost everything (that is what Italians do, even those of us that aren’t 100%). Garlic is such a healthy food for everything from cancer to heart disease that I think we should eat it everyday. The sesame seeds were added for texture so you could leave them out if you prefer.

Asian Style Cucumber Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon of chili garlic sauce (on the Asian aisle in the grocery store)
1 clove of garlic, grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon of liquid aminos or low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil (the toasted version has more flavor)
1 scoop of stevia powder (1 gram) or agave
2 seedless cucumbers, halved and sliced as thinly as you can
a few thin slices of red onion (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds - optional

Directions:

Whisk together the dressing ingredients (rice wine vinegar, chili garlic sauce, garlic, liquid aminos, sesame seed oil and stevia). Taste the dressing for seasoning. I tend to like my sauce a little less sweet; you may want more sweetener in your version.

Toss the cucumbers and onions into the sauce and refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and serve cold.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 84.8
Calories From Fat (27%) - 22.47

Total Fat - 3.37g
Saturated Fat - 0.54g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 340.56mg
Potassium - 562.65mg
Total Carbohydrates - 20.14g
Fiber - 2.03g
Sugar - 5.05g
Protein - 2.52g

Comments:

This is great to accompany any kind of Asian food. I like to serve it when we have bibimbap or stir-fry. It is also good on a roasted vegetable sandwich with hummus. It is also good served on greens as a salad, or you could serve it on top of seitan or tofu as a relish. It looks pretty with fresh cilantro but I didn’t have any today. This salad works well with almost any Asian dish.

Country Style Breakfast: Crispy Seitan Cutlets, Potato Hash and Raw Zucchini Salad



This morning I wanted a big hearty breakfast. I don’t know why I was so hungry this morning, but whatever the reason a big “country style" breakfast was in order. I decided to crisp a couple of seitan cutlets this morning and serve it with potato hash and raw zucchini salad. It sounds like a lot of work but I had breakfast ready in about 15 minutes.

First I sliced the zucchini and onion thinly and moved it to a big bowl and topped with sherry vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper to marinate while I made the hot dishes.

The hot portion of the breakfast was made this morning in my cast iron skillet. When I put the skillet on the heat to warm up I also set my onion to 200 degrees to keep the cutlets warm while I made the hash.

For the cutlets I crisped them quickly in the cast iron skillet in a touch of canola oil. This took just a couple of minutes per side and then moved them to a baking sheet in the oven.

While the cutlets were crisping I had the potatoes in the microwave getting soft.

Next I placed the sliced onions and poblano pepper in the skillet and quickly cooked them in the skillet until the onions soften and the peppers blister. I then added the potatoes and cooked them until they began to get a little crunchy on the outside. It is important not to move the potatoes around often so that they will form a little crust. Add the sliced roasted red pepper for a couple a minutes and then plate the potatoes. I moved the seitan back to the skillet briefly to make certain that it was warm enough and then moved it to the plate. Add the raw zucchini salad and you are ready for breakfast.

If you are looking for a very filling country style breakfast, we thought this was a very nice breakfast this morning. This breakfast also contains a nice amount of protein (36 grams) and fiber (7 grams). The total fat was a little higher than I wanted (18%), but when that happens I lower the fat content in the remaining meals to get the total down for the day.



Raw Zucchini Salad
Serves 3

Ingredients:

3 cups of zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
a few thin slices of red onion
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
dried oregano, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Allow the salad to sit for a few minutes before serving (longer is also good). You could add fresh parsley or capers to this salad.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 37.67
Calories From Fat (40%) - 14.92

Total Fat - 1.75g
Saturated Fat - 0.26g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 12.84mg
Potassium - 339.41mg
Total Carbohydrates - 5.48g
Fiber - 1.57g
Sugar - 2.15g
Protein - 1.61g



Crispy Seitan Cutlets
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 pressure cooked seitan cutlets – mild flavor
½ teaspoon of canola oil

Directions:

Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and wipe the pan with a paper towel coated with a little canola oil. Cook the seitan for a couple of minutes per side. You want the cutlet to form a nice crust on the exterior. Move the seitan to a 200-degree oven to stay warm while you make the rest of the meal.

Nutritional Information:

Amount per Serving
Calories - 205.74
Calories From Fat (20%) - 41.32

Total Fat - 4.67g
Saturated Fat - 0.4g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 390.31mg
Potassium - 331.19mg
Total Carbohydrates - 11.62g
Fiber - 0.73g
Sugar - 0.65g
Protein - 29.8g



Potato, Poblano, Roasted Red Pepper and Red Onion Hash
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 large red potatoes (approximately 6 ounces each)
1 poblano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion, sliced
2 roasted red peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel that has a little canola oil. You won’t need any more fat than what is on the towel. It works well to use tongs to hold the towel.

Clean the potatoes and pierce them with the tip of a paring knife. Microwave the potatoes until they are just tender.

Add the poblano pepper strips and onion slices to the pan and cook until the pepper skin blisters and the onion has softened. Add the roasted red pepper strips and the sherry vinegar and cook until the red peppers have been heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 198.38
Calories From Fat (12%) - 23.2

Total Fat - 2.64g
Saturated Fat - 0.22g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 155.6mg
Potassium - 1049.43mg
Total Carbohydrates - 40.77g
Fiber - 5.02g
Sugar - 1.15g
Protein - 5.05g

Comments:

This is what I consider a vegan country style breakfast. My grandmother used to make big southern breakfasts when I was a small child. Potato hash was something she included in her weekend breakfast feasts. This breakfast was very quick but somehow felt like a weekend breakfast. Both my husband and I liked the mixture of hot and cold items. We are both fond of the acidity from sherry vinegar, which is why it appeared twice this morning. The seitan cutlets that are pressure-cooked have such a nice tender texture with a little crispiness on the exterior from the cast iron pan. We both enjoyed this weekend breakfast on a Friday before work. I hope you like it as much as we did.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Green Tomatoes Fight Cancer


(sorry it isn't a green tomato photo)

Who knew I would need a picture of green tomatoes for the blog?

I was reading about my favorite topic this evening, cancer, and found a fascinating item. Green tomatoes were studied for their ability to induce cancer cell death and were found to fight the following cancer cell lines: breast, colon, liver and stomach. Isn't it amazing how often these new studies come out about vegetables fighting cancer? Can we ever eat enough fruits and vegetables?

I knew that lycopene in tomatoes was a cancer fighter, but it was news to me that green tomatoes were also good for us. Looks like I will be trying to find new ways to add green tomatoes to our meals.

Since this was news to me I want to share it with everyone. Don't pass up those green tomatoes at the farmers' market this week. I know I will be buying some if I see them.

Crispy Seitan Bites Over a Green Salad



I needed to make dinner tonight much earlier than I had planned. Salads are always a great option when you are in a hurry for a meal.

This salad is filling due to the amount of protein it contains. The crunchy exterior on the seitan is a nice counterpoint to the tenderness of the interior of the “wheat meat”. I did not add fat to the dressing on this salad due to the amount that was contained in the seitan. The resulting salad was a great combination of hot crunchy seitan on cold lettuce and tomato with a little acidity from the sherry vinegar.

Crispy Seitan Bites Over a Green Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 pressure cooked seitan cutlets – mild flavor
2 tablespoons of hot sauce
3 tablespoons of white corn meal, stone ground
½ tablespoon of canola oil
2 heads of leaf lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
5 Roma tomatoes cut into bite size pieces
½ tablespoon of sherry vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Slather the seitan cutlets with the hot sauce. Dredge the cutlets in the white corn meal. Allow the cutlets to sit for 5 minutes so the coating will adhere better.

Meanwhile heat a heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat with the canola oil inside. You want the pan to reach approximately 350 degrees before you add the cutlets so that they don’t absorb as much oil. Cook the seitan until it has browned on the first side (approximately 4 minutes). Then gently flip the cutlet and cook the other side until it is browned (approximately 3 minutes). If you aren’t serving dinner right away you can hold the crisped seitan in the 200-degree oven for at least 30 minutes without hurting the exterior crispiness.

Place the lettuce in your salad bowl. Top with the tomatoes. Sprinkle each salad with a little of the sherry vinegar.

Cut the seitan into bite size pieces and top the salad. Salt and pepper the salad as desired. Serve immediately so the seitan is hot and the salad is cold.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 310.49
Calories From Fat (20%) - 61.78

Total Fat - 7.03g
Saturated Fat - 0.59g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 811.69mg
Potassium - 995.79mg
Total Carbohydrates - 29.57g
Fiber - 4.62g
Sugar - 5.08g
Protein - 34.1g

Comments:

My husband thought the tender seitan interior was perfect on top the salad. I am always surprised when something that was unplanned turns out better than anticipated. I don’t know that I would have used this type of seitan on a salad if my husband hadn’t come home earlier than usual but now I am glad I did.

If you like your food spicy I would suggest adding more hot sauce, or increasing the heat by adding cayenne or chili powder to the cornmeal. The cornmeal added a nice crunchy texture that both my husband and I liked with the salad. If you always dredge your food in flour give cornmeal a try, it adds much more texture to the food.

Overall the salad was good, filling and had reasonable nutritional statistics and it tasted good.

Pressure Cooked Seitan Cutlets – Mild Flavor


(pictured: an entire recipe of cutlets cooling on a half sheet pan)

I normally make seitan roasts, but sometimes I want a cutlet instead. Since I hadn’t posted the cutlet method before I thought that would be a good post for today.

To make the seitan cutlets you use the same technique as for the roasts until you get to the stage where you are forming them. I find it easiest to take the seitan dough from the mixing bowl and place it on my cutting board and cut it into 8 approximately even pieces. I then return 7 of the pieces to the mixing bowl and work on one piece at a time. I form the dough into a rough oblong disk shape with my hands (similar to making pizza dough) and then finish by rolling the seitan with a rolling pin until it is the thickness I want. The seitan will be difficult to roll since it continues to snap back. I usually end up smashing the outside edges of the dough thinner with my fingers. I form all 8 cutlets before I move to the next step.

While I am rolling and smashing the cutlets I heat my cast iron pan over medium heat with a little canola oil (2 tablespoons is more than enough). Next you want to crisp/brown both sides of the seitan in the skillet before you simmer it. The seitan will expand a little in the oil don’t overcrowd the pan. I crisp my seitan in two or three batches. After the seitan is browned I move it to the simmering cooking liquid. Don’t worry if the cutlets seem too small to you. They approximately double in size in the pressure cooker.

You can cook the seitan in a pressure cooker, in the oven, on the stovetop or in a crockpot. My favorite method is the pressure cooker. I think the pressure-cooked seitan has a nicer texture. However the crockpot method also works well. If you are interested in the crockpot method it is found in this recipe.

I use the seitan in cutlet form when I plan to make a recipe where the “meat” is the center of the plate. Cutlets work well with a piccata sauce or Milanese style. I think you get the idea.

Pressure Cooked Seitan Cutlets – Mild Flavor
Makes 8 cutlets

Ingredients:

5 cups of master cooking liquid or water seasoned with soy sauce, onion, garlic, and/or tomato
1 ¾ cups water
1 tablespoon of onion flakes or powder
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons of marmite (yeast extract spread) - optional but nice if you have it
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup tapioca flour (can substitute wheat flour)
10 ounces box of vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons of canola oil to sauté cutlets (one tablespoon will not be absorbed)

Directions:

Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer in your pressure cooker (lid off) while you make the seitan dough.

Combine water, onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, and the marmite and whisk to combine. Taste the liquid for salt and pepper and adjust to your taste. Add the tapioca and whisk to combine. Add the vital wheat gluten and knead until all the gluten is wet and a dough has formed.

Heat your cast iron pan over medium high heat with the two tablespoons of canola oil. You want the pan to be approximately 350 degrees before you add the first few cutlets. Brown the cutlets on both sides and add them to the simmering liquid in your pressure cooker. When all the cutlets have been browned on both sides and moved to the pressure cooker make certain you have enough cooking liquid on your cutlets (you want them all to be in the liquid) and lock the lid and bring the cooker to high pressure.

Cook the cutlets for 30 minutes on high pressure and then take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool naturally. In 15 minutes check to see if the pressure indicated has dropped. If not, use the quick release button to release the pressure manually.

You can now use the cutlets or refrigerate them until needed.

If you are going to use them right away I move them to a half sheet pan so that they will cool and dry out a little. I do this so that I can coat them with a little flour. For most recipes I normally end of pan crisping the cutlets and this is easier if they are cool enough to handle since I will need to dust them with flour.

The cutlets that I am not using right away I like to refrigerate in the cooled cooking liquid and then wrap them in plastic cling film for the freezer when completely cold. They will keep for a month (at least) in the plastic cling film inside a freezer bag. I think they would last longer but we always eat ours before they have gotten any older. I also save the cooled cooking liquid and store it in the freezer to use when I make the next batch of seitan.

Nutritional Information (per cutlet):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 185.85
Calories From Fat (12%) - 21.43

Total Fat - 2.42g
Saturated Fat - 0.23g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 390.31mg
Potassium - 331.19mg
Total Carbohydrates - 11.62g
Fiber - 0.73g
Sugar - 0.65g
Protein - 29.8g

Comments:

What I like about making seitan in the pressure cooker is that it is fast (ready to use in well under 90 minutes), and the texture has nice meat like chew that reminds me of a steak cooked medium rare. It is not too tough, but not too soft either. Pressure-cooking is my favorite method for cooking seitan. If you don’t have a pressure cooker I think the crockpot is the next best method in terms of texture, but it takes a long time. When I use my crockpot for seitan I let it cook overnight while we sleep, so it is ready for dinner the following day.

The flavor of this seitan is mild, much more like chicken or pork than beef. However it doesn’t taste like either chicken or pork, it tastes like seitan. When I first starting vegan cooking I wanted my food to taste exactly like the recipes I used to make with meat. It took me a year or so to realize that meat substitutes were never going to taste exactly the same as meat. I now appreciate seitan for what it is and don’t expect it to taste like meat. While the taste is not the same the texture is very close. For us I found the texture was more important. We wanted our food to have a "meaty" chew that is necessary is some recipes.

Overall we find this to be a cook recipe and technique for cooking seitan. If you haven’t tried pressure cooking your seitan you should give it a try. I think you will be very pleased with the results.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spicy Collards with Caramelized Red Onions



My maternal grandmother was a Southern Belle from South Carolina. She cooked in a very southern style most of time. Collard greens were often on her dining table in the summer. Her version of collards included pork and was cooked for a very long time. My collards have a lot of flavor, but they also retain more nutrition.

Collards are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which I like to include in our diet to assist in fighting cancer. Cruciferous vegetables retain more nutrition when they are lightly cooked. Since collards are a tough vegetable in order to enjoy them lightly cooked you need to slice them thinly.

Spicy Collards with Caramelized Red Onions
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon of red crushed pepper
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 bunch of collards (15 large leaves), thinly shredded (amounted to approx 5 cups shredded)
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar, or to taste

Directions:

Cook the red onion in a heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) until the onions have softened and begun to caramelize. Add the crushed pepper and salt and cook for another minute before adding the collards and sherry vinegar. Cook the collards until they wilt. This should occur in less than 5 minutes over medium/low heat. Collards are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and retain more of their nutrition when lightly cooked.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 24.47
Calories From Fat (8%) - 1.97

Total Fat - 0.24g
Saturated Fat - 0.03g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 127.36mg
Potassium - 79.8mg
Total Carbohydrates - 5.15g
Fiber - 2.11g
Sugar - 0.21g
Protein - 1.42g

Comments:

These collards have a lot of flavor. They are sweet from the caramelized onions, hot from the red pepper and acidic from the vinegar. I thought they were a nice combination of flavors. My husband thought they were a little too chewy. I frequently have to remind him that lightly cooked vegetables are more nutritious. Overall I would say they had a good complex flavor, and a nice chew.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zucchini, Brown Rice, Wheat Germ and Sunflower Seed Burgers


(pictured: zucchini, brown rice, wheat germ and sunflower burger cooking in cast iron)

The Don Lee Burgers we purchased at Costco last week inspired this burger recipe. We liked the inclusion of seeds in the Don Lee burger so I decided to try them in a homemade veggie burger to see how they worked. I included wheat germ to this burger to add more plant phytosterols.

I was reading an article this morning on the role of plant phytosterols in cancer angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) and apoptosis (cancer cell suicide). Since I didn’t want to buy Take Control or Benecol margarine I decided to find out what foods contained phytosterols. I found a nice table at this site.

So, now that you know what I added wheat germ I will go back to the burger recipe. The zucchini was included to provide moisture so that the gluten would develop without added liquid. The paprika adds vitamin C to the burger. The raw sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and are anti-inflammatory. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of phytosterols (a nice bonus). Additionally, sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium, another nutrient that is reported to fight cancer.

These burgers are higher in calories and fat than most of my veggie burgers. The wheat germ and sunflower seeds are both calorie dense from fat. The fats they contain are healthy. In order to get back to our 12% fat target I will add a good portion of grain and vegetables to our dinner to get the overall numbers into line.

Zucchini, Brown Rice, Wheat Germ and Sunflower Seed Burgers
Makes 4 large burgers (about 6 or 7 ounces)

Ingredients:

2 cups of zucchini, finely shredded
¼ of a red onion, finely shredded
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 ½ cups of brown basmati rice, cooked (cold is fine)
2/3 cup of wheat germ
½ cup of raw sunflower seeds, unsalted
½ tablespoon of garlic powder
½ tablespoon of onion power
½ tablespoon of sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten

Directions:

Wilt the zucchini, red onion and kosher salt in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook until the volume has reduced by half. Move the zucchini mixture to a wire sieve and allow the excess fluid to drain away. This will happen in 5 or 10 minutes. You want the zucchini to retain some moisture that will be needed for the gluten.

Lightly grease your cast iron pan with canola oil and heat it over medium heat while you mix the burgers.

Move the zucchini mixture to a large bowl big enough to mix all the ingredients. Add the rice, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, kosher salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Now add the vital wheat gluten and knead to develop the gluten. This should only take a few minutes. If the gluten does not fully incorporate add water a tablespoon at a time and continue to knead to develop the gluten. A few minutes of kneading is sufficient.

Form the mixture into four roughly even burgers. Cook the burgers in the cast iron pan over medium heat until brown and crispy on each side. This took approximately 4 minutes per side at my house.

These are good hot or room temperature.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 283.06
Calories From Fat (26%) - 74.88

Total Fat - 8.94g
Saturated Fat - 1.04g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 484.58mg
Potassium - 520.05mg
Total Carbohydrates - 35.5g
Fiber - 6.21g
Sugar - 1.96g
Protein - 18.55g

Comments:

The taste of these burgers was very good. The texture was much more dense than I expected and I am assuming that is from the wheat germ. However, my husband and both thought the texture was good even though unexpected. My husband did suggest that I make the burgers a little thinner. I will try that next time. These burgers are very filling.

Overall, we both enjoyed these burgers. You can expect to see more variations that include wheat germ and sunflower seeds in the future.

Product Review: Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties


(pictured: package from Costco)

Sometimes I don’t have time to make my own veggie burgers, and I don’t have any of mine stashed in the freezer. I try to keep veggie burgers on hand for quick meals. A few weeks ago when we went to Costco noticed that they were carrying a new vegan veggie burger. When Costco adds a new healthy product we always buy it with the hope that they are monitoring sales and it will influence their future buying decisions. This time we bought the Veggie Patties from Don Lee Farms.

I always check the ingredient list before I put anything into the cart. I will not feed my family anything with processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated fats. I also don’t buy foods with ingredients that sound like a science project. If it doesn’t contain all food, it doesn’t come home with me. This seriously limits our choices and most of food we buy is still in its whole form these days.


(pictured: Don Lee burger with Arugula and Walnut Pesto from dinner last night)

Ingredient list of this package:

Fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, celery, bell peppers); bread crumbs (wheat flour); sunflower seeds; flour; salt; carrageenan; soybean oil; spice; natural flavor.

Is this ingredients list perfect? No. I am not thrilled with the “wheat flour” and "flour" which are undoubtedly not whole wheat. I am also not thrilled with the soybean oil since it is something I don’t buy. The natural flavor is a little vague, but is probably okay. I would prefer that the salt were sea salt or kosher salt. Carrageenan is a gelatin like agar agar so that doesn’t bother me. Overall the ingredient list is acceptable for an occasional veggie burger.

Nutritional Facts for 1 burger:

Calories: 170
Calories from fat: 50 (29%)

Total Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 380 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 17g
Dietary Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 4g

These burgers have more calories and fat than most of my veggie burgers. If all the fat was from the sunflower seeds I would be okay with the overall fat level. These also have much less protein and fiber than mine. The sodium level of the burgers is excellent.

Taste and texture:

The taste was quite good. The red pepper, carrot and onion flavors were identifiable. I thought I could detect the texture of the sunflower seeds but I am not certain. These were much softer than the burgers I make. The texture was pleasant even though it wasn’t what I was accustomed to. The burger crisped nicely without added fat, probably due to the amount of fat in the burger.

Overall:

The flavor and texture was good and the nutritional statistics was acceptable. I will continue to buy these as an emergency inventory item when life gets hectic. I would purchase them more often if the flour and bread used were whole wheat the oil were canola or olive.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Arugula and Walnut Pesto



Most people think pesto is always made with basil. However this can’t be further from the truth. Pesto in Italian means pounded and is the generic name for any number of sauces made in a mortar and pestle.

Tonight I made an arugula and walnut pesto because I like the bitterness of arugula. I also like that arugula is another member of the cancer fighting cruciferous vegetable family. Walnuts and chia seeds are high in omega 3’s. I used the chia seeds in place of olive oil and it worked well.

If you are looking for a sauce that is different from the usual basil pesto this is a healthy pesto that has big flavor.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto
Makes ¾ cups of pesto – 12 tablespoons

Ingredients:

1 bunch of arugula (approximately 1 cup, packed)
¼ cup of walnuts, toasted
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons of water, filtered
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

Directions:

Place the arugula, walnuts and garlic in the food processor and blend.

Put the chia seeds in the water and allow to stand for 10 minutes so that the seeds absorb some of the water.

After 10 minutes put the chia seeds and water in the food processor with the arugula. Add the kosher salt to the food processor and puree until thoroughly combined.

Use this pesto with pasta, on sandwiches or crostini.

Nutritional Information (per tablespoon):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 18.17
Calories From Fat (77%) - 13.97

Total Fat - 1.67g
Saturated Fat - 0.16g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 39.87mg
Potassium - 19.28mg
Total Carbohydrates - 0.66g
Fiber - 0.28g
Sugar - 0.1g
Protein - 0.48g

Comments:

This is one of our favorite pesto flavor combinations (arugula and walnut). I have substituted the chia seeds for the extra virgin olive oil I normally use, and the flavor and texture are just as good. This pesto makes a great spread on top of a veggie burger or on a sandwich. It is also great on pasta and would work well on the zucchini spaghetti. If you like the bitterness of arugula you will love this version of pesto.

Green Tea with Ginger, Pomegranate and Lemon



We change our morning beverages with great regularity. I get bored with the same beverage (unless it is a double shot of espresso) every morning. Recently I was reading an article about the benefit of consuming green tea with vitamin C. According to the science by pairing green tea and vitamin C the antioxidants were able to withstand the non-acidic environment of the intestines allowing you to absorb 5 times more of the catechins.

Then I read another article that indicated that it is the ascorbic acid, not citric acid that protects the catechins. The second article indicated that you should have 1/10th of a teaspoon of ascorbic acid to each 8 ounce cup of green tea.

Well, now doesn't that just make everything clear as mud? Either way, I think I am going to continue to add lemon, since I know it has other nutritional benefits. I am also going to try the ascorbic acid in the tea. I will you know soon if it changes the taste of the tea.

Another article was discussing a Japanese study that showed that drinking green, and not smoking, extended your life span by years. The amount of green tea made a difference, as did whether you were male or female. But I already drink 10 cups of green tea a day so this article encouraged me to continue doing what I am.

Now, we don’t normally add lemon to my green tea, but for potentially 5 times more health bang for the same amount of tea we were ready to give it a try. Both my husband and I thought this was a very nice combination that we enjoyed drinking. I added the pomegranate juice because it is another nutritional superstar that is reported to fight cancer.

Green Tea with Ginger, Pomegranate and Lemon
Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 green tea bags
16 ounces of almost boiling water
¼ - ½ inch of fresh ginger, thinly sliced into coins
2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice
1/8 of a lemon

Directions:

Brew the tea and ginger for 10 minutes so that all the maximum amount of nutrients will steep into the mug. When you remove the tea and ginger slices, add the pomegranate and lemon juice and drink within 2 hours of brewing so that you will absorb the maximum amount of nutrients possible.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 34.78
Calories From Fat (5%) - 1.57

Total Fat - 0.08g
Saturated Fat - 0.03g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 17.66mg
Potassium - 306.46mg
Total Carbohydrates - 8.8g
Fiber - 0.25g
Sugar - 4.76g
Protein - 0.23g

Comments:

This tea is good hot, room temperature or cold. However, remember to drink it within 2 hours of brewing to get the entire nutritional bang the beverage has to offer. According to the doctor that wrote “Anticancer”, you should consume your freshly brewed tea within 2 hours.

Black Truffle Popcorn



On weekends we normally watch a movie or two. My husband loves movies while I think movies are okay. I love truffles, and he thinks they are okay. To compromise I watch a movie with him and he shares black truffle popcorn with me. This is just another one of those quirky reasons we have been together for over 20 years now.

I realize that black truffles seem a little decadent to be used on popcorn. Wait until you try this before you pass judgement. If you like truffles, you will love this! Be certain to put the truffle oil and salt on the popcorn while it is still hot. The heat from the popcorn opens up the aroma of the truffle and it is nothing short of intoxicating. I will warn you, once you have had truffled popcorn it is hard to go back to the boring stuff you are accustomed to eating.

Black Truffle Popcorn
Serves 2

Ingredients:

¼ cup of white popcorn kernels, not popped
1 teaspoon of black truffle oil
½ teaspoon of black truffle salt

Directions:

Pop corn in an air popper. Drizzle with black truffle oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle on the black truffle salt and toss to coat. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 143.64
Calories From Fat (23%) - 32.7

Total Fat - 3.67g
Saturated Fat - 0.52g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 472.36mg
Potassium - 90.44mg
Total Carbohydrates - 24.13g
Fiber - 4.19g
Sugar - 0.3g
Protein - 3.59g

Comments:

As my husband says “you are either a truffle lover or you aren’t”. Since I love them and he doesn’t I think that makes us a perfect match since it means more truffle for me. Seriously, if you like truffles this really is the best possible popcorn you can imagine. It isn’t too oily or too salty. The aroma is amazing. This is my favorite snack.

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes


(pictured: raw zucchini spaghetti)

Julienned zucchini is something that I have been doing for a few a years now. Sometimes I make it with pasta and sometimes I make it without pasta as a side dish. It is a wonderful dish to make in the summer time when the zucchini are plentiful. It is also a great way to use up large zucchini. The bigger zucchini give a much better “spaghetti” yield since the flesh of the zucchini is the only part you need for this dish.

Zucchini is mostly water, like all vegetables, and will release the water and become very limp if cooked for too long. The zucchini spaghetti is better if it is cut using a larger julienne setting (if you have that option) on your mandoline. If you use the really fine setting the texture isn’t quite as nice.

This pasta has a hint of a spicy undertone from the red pepper flakes, but is not what I call hot. The most dominant flavor in this dish is the basil and then the garlic. The fresh tomatoes add a nice fresh burst of flavor. I also like the coolness of the tomatoes compared to the hot pasta.

Zucchini and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pesto and Fresh Tomatoes
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 large zucchini (approximately 4 pounds)
16 ounces of whole wheat spaghetti
6 quarts of water, filtered
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 cup of packed fresh basil leaves (more would not be bad if you have it)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin will develop)
¼ teaspoon of oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced

Directions:

Use the julienne blade for your mandoline and slice the zucchini into “spaghetti”. Stop when you get to the seeds in the center turn the zucchini a quarter turn and slice again until you get to the seeds. Continue until all the zucchini is julienned. You can save the zucchini seeds for soup, or throw them away.

You can use a vegetable peeler to make zucchini pappardelle if you don’t have a mandoline and it works just as well. If you use a vegetable peeler I would pair the zucchini with a thicker pasta like a fettuccini or pappardelle. Ultimately you want the pasta shape and size to be similar to the zucchini.

Bring the water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Add the whole wheat pasta to the boiling water and stir for the first two minutes to keep the pasta from sticking together. Many people will tell you to add oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, but this does work and causes other problems. The reason the pasta sticks is the starch that is released into the water as the pasta cooks. If the starch is not disturbed by stirring it will cause the pasta to form a lump.

If you add oil to the water you will lightly coat the pasta exterior with oil when it is drained which will keep if from absorbing the sauce as well. Sorry for the rant, the oil on pasta issue is a hot button for me. Every time I hear someone on TV recommend adding oil to the pasta water it gets my Italian up. If you have any Italian friends, you know this isn’t good.

Process the basil, olive oil, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes in your food processor, blender or until the basil and garlic and thoroughly pulverized.

When you pasta is almost cooked (you have a minute or so remaining on the timer). Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the basil mixture. If the basil starts to dry out add a little of the starchy pasta water (now more than a ladle or two). When the pasta is cooked add it to the basil pan and toss to coat. Taste the pasta for salt and pepper before adding the zucchini. You want the zucchini in contact with the hot pasta for the shortest time possible.

Add the raw zucchini threads to the pasta pot and toss to evenly distribute it into the pasta. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped tomatoes just before serving.

You can garnish with a few basil leaves, whole or julienned if desired.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 269.29
Calories From Fat (12%) - 32.66

Total Fat - 3.79g
Saturated Fat - 0.58g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 415.41mg
Potassium - 962.62mg
Total Carbohydrates - 52.18g
Fiber - 6.49g
Sugar - 7.28g
Protein - 12.17g

Comments:

This is a good refreshing summer pasta dish. You could make it with all zucchini and warm it quickly in the pan and leave out the pasta altogether. I wanted this to be a one dish meal so I added the pasta. If you weren’t watching your fat as closely as we are it would be great with a few toasted pine nuts on top or a few sprinkles of almond feta on the top. It would also be great with a few olives in the sauce or on top the pasta.

Green Salad with Chickpea, Zucchini and Nigella Seed Burger



At our house we use burgers for sandwiches, but we also use them on top of salads. I like the contrast of cold and hot in a salad and this is easy way to do this that is also healthy. I tend to like textural variety in my salads, not just cold and hot. I also like the variation of crunchy (lettuce and sprouts) and soft (tomato and burger), and full bodied (burger) and airy (sprouts). As you can see I like to play with my food. I think food (particularly healthy food) needs to have a lot of things going on to make it exciting. All of us have had those recipes that might have been healthy but they were boring. For me, varying the texture can make a big difference in how much I enjoy a recipe.

I used the red oak lettuce because it has more nutrients than light green lettuce. We are fortunate to have a great variety of lettuce to choose from at our organic CSA. The broccoli sprouts were included for their cancer fighting ability. If you don’t like the taste of broccoli, the sprouts may be a good solution for you. The broccoli sprouts are much higher in sulforaphane and the taste is very mild (like other sprouts).

Overall this is a very healthy salad with the protein from the beans, the omega 3’s from the chia seeds, and the sulforaphane from the broccoli sprouts. The only issue I had with this salad was that it was a little too low in overall calories to make a complete meal.

Green Salad with Chickpea, Zucchini and Nigella Seed Burger
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon of canola oil
2 chickpea, zucchini and nigella seed burgers
1 head of red oak lettuce
1 large or 3 small fresh tomatoes (approximately 1 cup, diced)
½ cup of broccoli sprouts
2 tablespoons of lemon, cashew and chia seed dressing

Directions:

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet. Cook the chickpea burgers over medium heat until browned on both sides. This should take about 4 minutes per side.

Wash and spin-dry the lettuce. Tear into bite size pieces and place in the bottom of the bowl.

Cut the tomatoes into bite size pieces and place them on top of the lettuce.

Put the broccoli sprouts on top the tomatoes.

Cut the hot and crispy chickpea burgers into bite size pieces. I cut mine into sixths. Top the salad with the burger bites.

Drizzle the salad with the lemon, cashew and chia seed dressing and serve.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 218.54
Calories From Fat (24%) - 51.72

Total Fat - 6.03g
Saturated Fat - 0.65g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 157.32mg
Potassium - 897.76mg
Total Carbohydrates - 29.61g
Fiber - 9.65g
Sugar - 6.88g
Protein - 13.82g

Comments:

We thought this was a tasty salad with a lot of textural variation. For a salad it had a nice amount of protein (almost 14 grams). The fat was just a little higher than I wanted, but if you add some nice fruit to this meal the overall calories go up and the fat percentage goes down to a healthier range. If you are looking for a quick low calorie salad this one is very tasty.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seitan and Crimini Stroganoff over Brown Basmati Rice



I haven’t made stroganoff for about a decade. The beef and sour cream version was a favorite of my family long before I became health conscious. I have one of the early versions of the New York Times Cookbook, which had a fantastic recipe for stroganoff. The version that I used to make from that book included Dijon mustard. While that isn’t a standard stroganoff ingredient it doesn’t seem like stroganoff to me without the Dijon.

This stroganoff flavor is mild and very reminiscent of the original. The lemon juice is used to replicate the acidity of the sour cream. The Worcestershire sauce helps to simulate a meat flavor. The coconut milk and cornstarch thicken the sauce without adding an excessive amount of fat.

Overall we thought this recipe was similar to the beef version we remember but a much healthier version. I love that the dish came in at 9% fat and with 38 grams of protein.

Seitan and Crimini Stroganoff over Brown Basmati Rice
Serves 6

Ingredients:

6 servings of Pressure Cooked Seitan Roast
1 red onion, sliced very thin
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes before cooking so that allicin will develop completely)
12 ounces of crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
1 cup of water, filtered
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
12.3 ounces of low fat silken tofu
½ cup of reduced fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon of fresh dill, minced – for garnish (optional)

1 ½ cups of brown basmati rice
3 cups of water, filtered

Directions:

Spray a heavy bottomed skillet with canola or olive and heat. Cook the onion and garlic until caramelized.

Start the brown rice in the pressure cooker so that it will be ready when the sauce is done.

Clean and slice the mushrooms into approximately ¼ inch slices. Add the mushrooms to the onion pan once the onions have caramelized. Cook the mushrooms for a few minutes so they will brown a little.

Add the water, lemon juice and Dijon mustard to the pan and turn up the heat to so that the liquid simmers.

Meanwhile slice the seitan as thinly as possible using a serrated knife. You want the final seitan to be thin strips, like for Chinese food. Add the seitan to the simmering pan. Cook to heat the seitan completely.

Put the silken tofu, coconut milk, cornstarch in the food processor until the tofu is completely smooth.

When the seitan is completely heated through add the tofu mixture and lower the heat to low. You want the liquid to very gently simmer. Stir to evenly incorporate the tofu into the pan liquid. Add as much Worcestershire as you like. I used approximately a teaspoon of Worcestershire to our dinner.

Taste for salt and pepper and serve over brown basmati rice. Garnish with fresh dill if desired.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 403.16
Calories From Fat (9%) - 34.85

Total Fat - 3.85g
Saturated Fat - 1.47g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 443.66mg
Potassium - 701.03mg
Total Carbohydrates - 53.62g
Fiber - 3g
Sugar - 2.17g
Protein - 38.46g

Comments:

We both thought the texture and mouth feel of the sauce was very close to the original. The flavor of the sauce was definitely “stroganoff like”. It would be difficult to replicate the flavor exactly without the consommé.

According to my husband it was delicious. Since my husband doesn’t normally rave I am going to say this meal is husband approved. I thought it was very good as well. My biggest compliant is that it wasn’t photogenic. I like my food to be pretty, and this has a pretty monotonous appearance. The taste made up for the lack of photogenic appearance.

Update:

This stroganoff reheats beautifully in the microwave. The dairy original doesn't reheat well in the microwave, so I was a little skeptical of how this recipe would reheat. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it reheated. I used 60% power to reheat the leftovers and the sauce consistency remainded perfect and the seitan was tender.

Whole Wheat Wrap with Chickpea, Zucchini Burger and Lemon Chia Seed Dressing



This morning we had what most people would call an unorthodox breakfast. We have meals like this for breakfast all the time. I like to have “leftovers” for breakfast. Leftovers make a quick meal for this in the morning when I am not overly functional.

I used a few of the burgers we had last night for breakfast this morning. This time I warmed them in a cast iron pan with a little oil. My husband and I both agreed that we preferred the burgers with a bit of a crust. I made a sandwich of the burgers with some greens, dressing and whole wheat flat bread.

We had the remainder of the blackberry fool this morning as well. This time I mashed the berries in the tofu to see if I we liked that better (sorry I didn’t take another photo). We both decided mashing the berries made no difference in terms of flavor.

Our breakfast this morning ended up being a little over 400 calories. We try to have breakfast be around that size each day. We have found that it needs to be about 400 calories to hold us to lunch.

The best part of this meal is that it took a minimum of effort and was ready in 10 minutes. In terms of nutrition this morning we covered many bases. We had soy, dark berries, turmeric, nigella seeds, whole grain, leafy greens, and omega 3 from the chia seeds. I love a healthy cancer fighting meal that also tastes fantastic.

Whole Wheat Wrap with Chickpea, Zucchini Burger and Lemon Chia Seed Dressing
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 whole wheat flat bread
1 teaspoon of canola oil
3 chickpea, zucchini and nigella seed burgers
4 cups of mesclun greens, cleaned and spun dry
1 tablespoon of lemon, cashew and chia seed dressing

Directions:

Heat canola oil in a heavy bottom skillet (I used a cast iron pan). Crisp the chickpea burgers in the pan over medium heat. You want the burgers to form a nice crust and warm through. This will take about 4 minutes per side over medium (assuming you are using a heated cast iron pan). Cut the heat burgers in half so they will fit well on the sandwich.

Place the greens on the whole wheat flat bread. Top the greens with the burgers and drizzle with the lemon chia seed dressing. Serve hot.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 356.42
Calories From Fat (22%) - 78.92

Total Fat - 9.67g
Saturated Fat - 1.24g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 533.71mg
Potassium - 752.83mg
Total Carbohydrates - 50.83g
Fiber - 17.61g
Sugar - 6.6g
Protein -25.8g

Comments:

This is a tasty and filling sandwich. My husband and I are both recommending that you crisp the burgers in a heavy pan to add another texture to the sandwich. Even though we had these burgers last night, they tasted different this morning since I did not have the acidic vegetables on the sandwich. The flavor of the burgers was able to come through more this morning. We liked the little bit of heat from the hot crushed peppers (wet hots) as well as the flavor from the nigella seeds which tastes like onion. Overall, this was a tasty breakfast that is also good for you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blackberry Fool



One of the dishes we learned this week at cooking class was blueberry fool. However, that recipe was made traditionally with heavy cream. It tasted good, but my stomach was very upset from the fat for hours after class. Of course I wasn’t going to serve my husband all that saturated fat and sugar, so I decided to try to make a healthy version. This is my first attempt at making a low sugar, low fat berry fool, or mousse and it exceeded my expectations for a first attempt.

The chia seeds were used to give the tofu a thicker texture. That part of the experiment worked well. What I didn’t like was the grainy texture that the mousse had initially. I allowed the mixture to sit overnight in the refrigerator and the graininess almost completely went away. I added coconut milk for a little fat so the mouth feel would be a little closer to the original. Again, the coconut milk did what I had envisioned. The stevia was a little too dominant in the final flavor of the dish. Next time I will reduce the stevia a little, or substitute agave for a portion of the stevia.

Blackberry Fool
Serves 4

Ingredients:

12.3 ounce package of low fat silken tofu
½ cup of light coconut milk
1 tablespoon of chia seeds, ground fine in a spice mill
3 scoops of stevia powder (each scoop, which came in the container = 1 gram)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of raw amber agave
1 cup of fresh blackberries

Directions:

Put everything but the fresh berries into the food processor and puree until thoroughly combined. Allow the mixture to stand for 20 minutes so the chia seeds can absorb the water and puree again. Refrigerate the tofu mixture overnight to allow the seeds to completely absorb the liquid and lose their grainy texture.

Lightly mash ¾ of the blackberries into the tofu and spoon into individual serving cups. Alternately you can layer the berries and tofu in the dish. Top with the remaining berries and drizzle each serving with ½ teaspoon of agave and serve cold.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 65.57
Calories From Fat (25%) - 16.23

Total Fat - 1.92g
Saturated Fat - 0.56g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 75.37mg
Potassium - 121.59mg
Total Carbohydrates - 6.91g
Fiber - 2.88g
Sugar - 2.31g
Protein - 6.32g

Comments:

The nutritional statistics associated with this recipe are amazing. I love that this recipe is low calorie, contains omega 3 fatty acids, and soy protein. I can't find anything not to like about this recipe from a nutritional perspective.

The final texture of the tofu base was quite good. The chia seeds and coconut milk changed the texture enough that the tofu didn't have a tofu mouth feel. The flavor was good, but not quite perfect. The stevia was a little too dominant in the end. My husband thought maybe a little more vanilla and sweetener would be good in this recipe. He did tell me he liked it a lot and thought it was “almost perfect”. Now, I was more critical of the recipe, but sometimes we don’t agree on everything.

I like the concept of a vegan berry fool so I will be working on perfecting this in the coming month. My husband loves dessert and I want to perfect this so he has another option in addition to my tofu chocolate mousse.

Update:

We had the remainder of the blackberry fool this morning with breakfast. This time I mashed most of the berries in the tofu (which is more like the classic). The mashed berried added nothing in terms of taste. They did mask the slightly brown flecks from the ground chia seeds. You can make this either way, layering or mashing the berries.

Chickpea, Zucchini and Nigella Seed Burgers



Veggie burgers are one of my favorite things to make. I love that you can season them any way you choose. These burgers are chickpea based with a little vital wheat gluten for the added chew. Raw zucchini was added for moisture, flavor and nutrition. The hot crushed peppers add zip to the burgers, which we like. The turmeric and nigella seeds were added for both flavor and their cancer fighting ability.

Chickpea, Zucchini and Nigella Seed Burgers
Makes 7 burgers

Ingredients:

1 cup of dried garbanzo beans, picked through and rinsed
6 cups of water, filtered
1 large zucchini, shredded
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of nigella seeds
½ tablespoon of turmeric
2 tablespoons of hot crushed peppers
½ tablespoon of powdered garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten

Directions:

Cook garbanzo beans in water until tender. Drain beans thoroughly and move to your food processor. Process until all the beans are pulverized. Move the pulverized garbanzo beans to a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

Place shredded zucchini in a colander and mix with kosher salt. Allow to stand for 15 for water to drain. Squeeze zucchini of excess water and move to the mixing bowl.

Add nigella seeds, turmeric, hot crushed peppers and powdered garlic to the garbanzo and zucchini. Mix the ingredients thoroughly so the ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste the mixture for salt and pepper now. Add the vital wheat gluten and knead the mixture to thoroughly incorporate the wheat gluten.

Form the mixture into seven even patties and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake the patties for 25 minutes, or until firm and cooked through. If you like a crunchy exterior you can place the patties in a hot cast iron pan for a couple of minutes on each side.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 130.72
Calories From Fat (13%) - 17.14

Total Fat - 2.04g
Saturated Fat - 0.23g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 78.88mg
Potassium - 360.66mg
Total Carbohydrates - 20.01g
Fiber - 5.79g
Sugar - 3.65g
Protein - 9.42g

Comments:

Both my husband and I liked this burger variation. The texture was softer than more usual burgers, but was a good change. I normally add a lot of more vital wheat gluten to give them a more meat like chew. In the summer we like to eat food that has a lighter feel.

I served this burger with a fresh salsa of cucumber, tomato, purslane, sherry vinegar and avocado. The avocado was added for Omega 9, and the purslane for included for the short chain Omega 3. I served a little lemon chia seed dressing on the burger for moisture (and because I am a sauce fiend).

The extra burgers will freeze and reheat well. I like to wrap mine in plastic film and then store them in zippered freezer bags. They make great lunches, and quick dinners since they can be defrosted in the microwave and then crisped in a pan.

Overall we both liked these burgers. Tomorrow I will try them reheated in a cast iron pan to see if we prefer them with a crunchy exterior. If we do I will update this post.

Update:

Today we crisped the burgers in a teaspoon of canola oil in a hot cast iron pan. Both my husband and I agree the crust on the exterior adds a lot to these burgers. Even though we are trying to keep our total fat percentage extremely low (below 13%) we feel the crust on these burgers is necessary. One teaspoon of canola oil add 40 calories and 4.5 grams of fat (0.33 grams of that saturated) to the recipe.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spicy Seitan and Eggplant with Green Tea Rice in Lettuce Wraps



Anything in a lettuce wrap is popular at our house all summer long. I knew I wanted something Asian tonight which is why I made the green tea rice earlier today. Initially I thought of making something like bibimbap. Then I changed my mind and thought of lettuce wraps and ultimately decided to make something that combined both ideas. Many of my recipes come from unorthodox combinations of other recipes and this one is no exception.

The seitan was included for protein, and "meat like" chew. The coconut milk was added to the sauce to make it somewhat creamy and to tame the heat a little on the tongue. I used the full 4 tablespoons of chili garlic sauce and ….. needless to say I needed the “cream” to tame the heat a little. The ginger and garlic provide antioxidants as well as cancer fighting phytonutrients.

This is versatile method that can be used with many different fillings. I plan to make other variations of this throughout the summer.

Spicy Seitan and Eggplant with Green Tea Rice in Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 servings of pressure cooked seitan – mild flavor, cut into ¼ by 1 by 2 inch strips
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into ¼ thick diagonals
1 red onion, slivered
½ tablespoon of liquid aminos
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, minced
14 ounces of tomato sauce
¼ cup of light coconut milk
2 – 4 tablespoons of chili garlic sauce (depending on how much your family likes heat)
¼ cup of green onion, sliced
1 cup of green tea short grain brown rice
1 head of red leaf lettuce; cleaned, dried and leaves separated

Directions:

In a large saucepan combine everything except the rice and lettuce. Heat over low until the eggplant and onion are soft. Cool to approximately 140 degrees before serving so that it doesn’t wilt the lettuce. The cold rice will also help keep the lettuce fresh. You can also serve this filling cold if you want to take it for lunch and don't have access to a microwave.

To serve, place a little cold rice on the lettuce leaf and top with the spicy seitan and eggplant. Allow enough room in the leaf that it can be rolled like a taco and eaten by hand.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 246.29
Calories From Fat (9%) - 21.02

Total Fat - 2.45g
Saturated Fat - 0.35g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1300.11mg
Potassium - 833.24mg
Total Carbohydrates - 41.44g
Fiber - 7.09g
Sugar - 6.61g
Protein - 19.75g

Comments:

This recipe is not authentic by any stretch of the imagination. It is something I dreamed up while thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. I like the crunch and freshness of the lettuce against the softness of the rice. There is plenty of spice and flavor in this vegetarian dish. If you want extra crunch you could add a little cucumber. A few peanuts would also be nice in this dish if you like. A few broccoli sprouts would be great on top if you are serving the filling cold.

If you like bibimbap and lettuce rolls I think you will like this recipe I know I did.

Pressure Cooked Seitan Roast - Mild flavor



This seitan is a little softer than the pressure cooked seitan lunchmeat due to the addition of the tapioca flour. By including nutritional yeast, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce this seitan also has more flavor than the lunchmeat version. These are the flavors I normally include in seitan and I wanted to use it here since this seitan would be used as a “chicken or pork” substitute in the coming week.

I always use an entire box of vital wheat gluten when I am making a roast. Seitan roast freezes better than beef or chicken. Unlike its animal counterpart I have not had seitan deteriorate from freezer burn even after a month. I like to keep at least 4 servings of seitan in the freezer at all times for those nights when I haven’t planned dinner and don’t know what I am going to make. You can defrost it in the microwave and then heat it up on the stove in any number of sauces.

If you are unfamiliar with the blog and don’t know what I mean by seitan master stock you can read more about it here. Essentially I make a simmering liquid that I use for my seitan and then I save it in the freezer until I need it. I add more water and seasoning to the master stock as necessary. The roast will absorb some of the master stock so that you will need to add to it each time. I reuse the seitan cooking liquid because it gets more flavorful as you use it. I adapted the concept from Asian cooking and it works well with seitan.

Pressure Cooked Seitan Roast - Mild flavor
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups of water
4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of vegan Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup of tapioca flour
10 ounce box of vital wheat gluten
5 cups of water or seitan master stock, for simmering

Directions:

Warm the water or master stock to a low simmer in the pressure cooker while you make the seitan dough. I like to taste my simmering liquid and add seasonings until I like the flavor. Some of the simmering liquid will be absorbed into the roast so don’t be afraid to season the cooking liquid.

Whisk together water, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce and tapioca flour until thoroughly combined.

Add vital wheat gluten to the wet ingredients and knead until a stiff dough forms. I kneaded my dough for under 5 minutes. Form the seitan dough into a fat log shape that will fit into your pressure cooker. Cut at least 24 inches of cheesecloth and wrap the dough with the cheesecloth and tie the ends with kitchen twine. I try to make certain the roast has at least two complete wraps with the cheesecloth so that it doesn’t bust out of the cheesecloth and get misshapen. It won’t hurt the flavor or the texture; it will only make the final roast look “odd”.

Lower the seitan roast into the cooking liquid. You want the liquid to come most of the way up the sides of the roast. If you are short of liquid add a little water and season until you like the flavor. I normally add Marmite, vegan Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and onion powder to the cooking liquid.

Cook the seitan under high pressure for 30 minutes. Then allow the pressure to release naturally. When the seitan has cooled it can be refrigerated or frozen in a roast shape or cut into cutlets or shaved depending on how you plan to use it. It will hold in the refrigerator for 4 or 5 days. If you don’t plan to use in a few days it also freezes and defrosts well.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 163.99
Calories From Fat (4%) - 5.89

Total Fat - 0.66g
Saturated Fat - 0.1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 342.12mg
Potassium - 279.35mg
Total Carbohydrates - 10.54g
Fiber - 0.56g
Sugar - 0.31g
Protein - 29.2g

Comments:

I use this seitan roast in place of pork roast, or chicken cutlets. It has a mild flavor that doesn’t compete with sauces for top billing. No, it doesn’t taste like pork or chicken, it tastes like seitan. The texture however is very close to medium well animal protein.

When I first started cooking vegan at home I wanted recipes that tasted like what I was accustomed to. It has taken a while but I now appreciate seitan for what it is, a vegetarian protein that provides nutrition while not harming animals in the process.

You can change the flavor of this seitan by taking dried porcini mushrooms and grinding them into a powder in your spice grinder or Vitamix. The porcini powder makes a wonderful addition to the seitan. You can add it the roast or the cooking liquid, or both.

Green Tea Short Grain Brown Rice



My friend Reiko mentioned green tea rice one day at cooking class. I forgot about it until this morning when I was thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. Is this recipe authentic? Probably not since I made it without a recipe. However, the techinque worked, it is healthy, tastes good, and in the end those things are all that matter to me.

I used my pressure cooker because it is quick. However, you could make this your rice cooker or on top of the stove if you prefer. The oil was included in the recipe only because it was made in the pressure cooker and the oil keeps the rice from foaming.

Green Tea Short Grain Brown Rice
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 cups of short grain brown rice
4 cups of water, filtered
3 tablespoons of green tea leaves
2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Directions:

Rinse the rice thoroughly to remove the exterior starch and then drain. Place the rice and all the other ingredients in your pressure cooker and bring the cooker to high pressure and then cook for 18 minutes and release the pressure quickly.

Cool the rice and refrigerate until needed. I plan to use the cold rice for vegetable “fried” rice, cold rice salad, and for Korean style seitan with rice in a lettuce wrap. When I make rice, beans or other grains I always make extra so that I can use it for other meals later in the week. If we don’t finish the rice in 4 days, I store it in the freezer to use later.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 180.83
Calories From Fat (12%) - 22.32

Total Fat - 2.62g
Saturated Fat - 0.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 241.22mg
Potassium - 34.07mg
Total Carbohydrates - 40.27g
Fiber - 3g
Sugar - 0g
Protein - 3g

Comments:

I am not certain how to describe the taste of this rice. It tastes somewhat of green tea, but I would say it has a more mineral undertone than a tea taste. The mineral back note is pleasant maybe more so because it was unexpected. My comments apply to the hot rice. If the taste changes when cold I will post an update.

No time to cook - no problem



If I had a dime for each time a friend said to me, “sure the way you eat is more healthy, but I don’t have time to cook like you do” I would be a very wealthy woman. It is frustrating for me to watch the people I care about do things that I believe are harmful to their health. If I could convince one person to eat a more healthy diet I would feel as though I had been successful in life. I have spent so much time reading about health and nutrition that I truly believe that the consumption of the Standard American Diet (SAD ... how appropriate) is harming this country one meal at a time.

For those of you that think I cook every meal, everyday that is absolutely not true. Yes, I do cook most days, but I don’t cook all our food fresh everyday. I use my freezer and refrigerator as repositories for quick items I can toss together and have a fast but healthy meal when I don’t have the time or inclination to cook. I always intentionally make leftovers so that I don’t have to cook every meal, every day.

Yesterday I spent a large part of the day out of the house. We went to cooking class so there was no dinner in our house. Dinner leftovers are my favorite next day lunch. This morning I had to scramble to find lunch for my precious husband before he ran out the door to work. My freezer and refrigerator inventory came to rescue, and quite beautifully I might add.

Lunch today was a whole wheat pita (from the freezer), toasted to defrost it and packed in paper towel while still warm to absorb the moisture developed from the toaster. I also added a few frozen falafel to be reheated in the microwave at lunchtime. A little lettuce, salsa fresca from yesterday, and lemon chia seed dressing and we had healthy and tasty pita pockets for lunch. An apple and peanut butter for dessert and all was right with the world, in less than 5 minutes.

Why have I posted this entry you ask? What I want everyone to realize is that you don’t have to cook constantly to have healthy meals everyday. When I cook I always make more food than we will consume in that meal. Dinner leftovers become lunch (or sometimes breakfast) the next day. If we aren’t eating leftovers for breakfast there is usually a smoothie in the blender (love that Vitamix) with a toasted Ezekiel English muffin with peanut butter and banana. As you can see I really only cook dinner each day. If you also have a pressure cooker making dinner doesn’t take much time either. I hope this has given you something to think and ideas about how to incorporate more healthy meals into your family’s diet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tomato, Cucumber and Cilantro Salsa Fresca



I make variations of this fresh sauce (salsa fresca) a few times a week. It is very versatile and adds acid (from the sherry vinegar) and crunch (from the cucumber) to any dish you pair it with. It is good on salads, sandwiches and on top of hot dishes.

Tomato, Cucumber and Cilantro Salsa Fresca
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, cut into small dice (approximately 1 cup)
¼ cup of fresh cilantro, minced
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon of oregano, dried
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine everything in a bowl and toss to evenly coat vegetables with sherry vinegar and olive oil. Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator until needed.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 19.8
Calories From Fat (33%) - 6.52

Total Fat - 0.77g
Saturated Fat - 0.09g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 76.48mg
Potassium - 161.5mg
Total Carbohydrates - 3.16g
Fiber - 0.86g
Sugar - 0.54g
Protein - 0.64g

Comments:

I use this to top cooked food that could use a lift from fresh food with crunch. This is good on enchiladas, veggie burgers, seitan cutlets, Tofurky sausages, falafel…. you get the idea. This fresh sauce is also good on salad, or tossed with other cooked veggies (either cold or hot). It is also nice on a roasted vegetable sandwich with hummus. I also like to put this on top of grilled bread.

Green Bean, Wax Bean and Red Potato Salad with Chia Seed Dressing



I bought two kinds of beans at the farmers’ market because I like the color contrast. I knew I would use them together; only I had no idea how I was going to use the beans. Typically I make a salad with green beans and potatoes that is dressed with a basil pesto. However, that salad has made too many appearances at my house so I needed to make something different.

When you are trying to reduce the fat in your food the first thing you notice is that the flavors don’t seem to be as intense. This is the reason I usually try to add lemon juice, sherry vinegar or pickled peppers (hot crushed peppers) for flavor. The acid in these items add a lot of flavor to recipes. In this salad I used lemon juice and zest in enhance the flavor. Adding lemon juice to hot vegetables and potatoes is one of my favorite tricks for increasing flavor. If you haven’t tried it yet please do it makes a big difference in terms of flavor.

This salad is hearty and filling without adding many calories. It makes a nice low calorie dinner with fruit salad, or a piece of crusty bread.

Green Bean, Wax Bean and Red Potato Salad with Chia Seed Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pint of green beans, tipped
1 quart of wax beans, tipped
1 pound of red potatoes, scrubbed
1 lemon, juice and zest
6 cups of mesclun greens, cleaned and spun dry
4 tablespoons of the lemon, cashew and chia seed dressing

Directions:

Bring water to boil in a pan that has a steamer insert to steam the beans.

Pierce the potatoes with a paring knife so steam can escape. Microwave the potatoes until just tender. Allow to cool until you can handle them then cut into bite size pieces. Move the potatoes to a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and zest.

Cook the beans for 3 – 5 minutes depending on how crisp you like you beans. Remember that lightly cooked vegetables contain more nutrition. Move the cooked beans to the bowl with the potatoes and toss so that they to can absorb some of the lemon flavor.

Refrigerate the beans and potatoes until ready to serve.

Toss the greens with a tablespoon or two of the dressing. Place the dressed greens on the bottom of the plate and top with the beans and potatoes. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad and serve.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 155.18
Calories From Fat (8%) - 13.01

Total Fat - 1.56g
Saturated Fat - 0.27g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 56.51mg
Potassium - 919.04mg
Total Carbohydrates - 33g
Fiber - 7.32g
Sugar - 1.31g
Protein - 5.81g

Comments:

This is another example of the whole being better than the sum of the parts. Both my husband and I enjoyed this salad. The lemon juice adds a lot of flavor to this salad. I like the crunch of the beans contrasted against the softness of the potatoes. If you are looking for a salad that doesn’t contain mayonnaise, this one has a lot of flavor for a few calories.

If you aren’t trying to keep your fat level as low as we are I would suggest adding a few toasted slivered almonds to this salad. That would add another texture that would be very nice. A little crumbled almond feta would also be nice on this salad. A few capers sprinkled on top would also be good, and I would have added those had I thought of them yesterday.

Lemon, Cashew and Chia Seed Salad Dressing



Using chia seeds in dressing is the brainchild of my darling husband. I would love to credit for the idea, because it was so smart, but it wasn’t mine. We were in cooking class a few weeks ago and he casually mentions that chia seeds might be a good way to reduce fat in salad dressing. Now, my husband doesn’t cook, but periodically he comes up with a brilliant kitchen idea like this. Chia seeds may become my new go to ingredient in salad dressing. Not only do they help make a nice thick dressing, but also they reduce the overall calories while providing omega 3 fat to fight cancer.

Since I wanted something that was a little Caesar dressing like, I also used raw cashews in this dressing. They add good color and mouth feel to this dressing. I am so amazed that I could make a nice creamy dressing for a mere 17 calories a tablespoon that doesn’t contain any scary ingredients. If you are looking for a low calorie dressing this one is worth a try. It does contain fat, but it is healthy fat so I don’t think it is too bad for us in moderation.

Lemon, Cashew and Chia Seed Salad Dressing
Makes 1 ¾ cups – or 28 tablespoons

Ingredients:

zest and juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons of chia seeds
1 cup of filtered water
½ cup of raw cashews
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
¼ teaspoon of oregano
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of fresh dill, minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Place zest, lemon juice chia seeds and water in the blender and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate until needed.

Nutritional Information (per tablespoon):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 17.01
Calories From Fat (60%) - 10.18

Total Fat - 1.22g
Saturated Fat - 0.23g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 35.31mg
Potassium - 34.88mg
Total Carbohydrates - 1.58g
Fiber - 0.39g
Sugar - 0.12g
Protein - 0.55g

Comments:

This is my first attempt at making a dressing with chia seeds but it is fantastic. The inclusion of chia seeds makes a great thick dressing. I love that the overall calorie count is so low and the fat is mostly omega 3. Expect to see many more salad dressings with chia seeds from now on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beet, Apple, Carrot and Cucumber Juice



For breakfast this morning we had a piece of two whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana slices. Since the bread was posted previously I didn’t bother to take its picture or post the stats again. However, I did make a vegetable and fruit juice this morning that I have not posted previously.

Those of you who know me know how much I love my Vitamix blender. I use that blender everyday, and sometimes more than once a day. That blender makes the best smoothies, juices (with the fiber) and quick soup. If you haven’t tried a Vitamix I highly recommend them. I waited a few years to buy one due to the price tag and now I can’t imagine not having this blender.

Since our breakfast was devoid of vegetables I decided to make a vegetable and fruit juice. My husband is not crazy about tomato based juices so I didn’t want to use tomatoes. Then I remembered the baby beets I bought to make a salad. Two little baby beets were enough to make this juice a beautiful magenta color. This juice tasted mostly of apple.

I really enjoyed this juice and particularly the nutrition it packed. One serving of this juice contained over 6900 IU of Vitamin A (the RDA is 3000 IU’s for adult males). Vitamin A is required for normal functioning of the immune system and plays a critical role in the development of white blood cells, which is important for preventing and fighting disease. Studies in cell culture and animal models have documented the capacity for vitamin A to reduce carcinogenesis significantly in skin, breast, liver, colon, prostate, and other sites.

To increase the nutrition of this juice, I used organic products and scrubbed the skin, but left it on the vegetables when they were “juiced”. With all the nutritents in and just under the skin I think it makes a big difference in terms of overall nutrition to leave the skin on the fruits and veggies.

This juice is mild in flavor and tastes mostly like apple, with a little beet flavor in the background. We liked this juice enough that I may make it everynight and keep it in the refrigerator to have with our breakfast. This juice is a tasty way to get a little extra vegetable nutrition in each day.

Beet, Apple, Carrot and Cucumber Juice
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 baby beets, scrubbed
1 apple, scrubbed and cored
1 large carrot, scrubbed
4 inches of seedless cucumber
1 cup of filtered water

Directions:

Cut fruit and vegetables into chunks and place in your blender with the water. Blend until completely smooth. You may need to add additional water depending on the power of your blender. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 85.69
Calories From Fat (4%) - 3.3

Total Fat - 0.4g
Saturated Fat - 0.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 66.21mg
Potassium - 490.55mg
Total Carbohydrates - 21.1g
Fiber - 4.46g
Sugar - 13.59g
Protein - 1.89g

Comments:

This juice tastes like apple with a little beet in the background. The overall flavor is mild, but pleasant. Both my husband and I liked this juice. I plan to make this juice regularly and keep it in the refrigerator so that we can add a little extra nutrition to our diet when we are thirsty.
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