Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oatmeal with Goji, Mixed Berries, Banana and Walnuts



Sorry about the lack of recipes yesterday. There were a lot of appointments and errands yesterday that kept me away from the kitchen and computer. Yesterday ended on a very positive note with dinner from Ian.

As always I came home with ideas for things I can make at home. We had a nice potato gnocchi with tomato and fennel sauce last night (hold the pecorino). There was an also a little plate of crispy garlic and chili green beans that was vegan without any modification. We love mixed mushrooms particularly when morels are included. The mixed mushroom fricassee with fresh herbs was quite lovely. We got full before we could order the fresh asparagus with pineapple salsa and pomegranate molasses. You can expect to see my variation of all of these recipes in the coming weeks.

This morning it was in the low 50’s so oatmeal seemed like the appropriate breakfast. I had dried goji berries soaking in the refrigerator so I tossed those into the oatmeal to see if we would like them this way. We are always looking for another way to work the goji berries into our diet. Any food with an ORAC value over 25,000 is something I want to make certain we get regularly.

The statistics were given for the oatmeal as three servings since my husband had two bowls and I had one bowl. The frozen berries did a nice job of cooling down the hot oatmeal before I added the banana.

Oatmeal with Goji, Mixed Berries, Banana and Walnuts
Serves 3

Ingredients:

¼ cup of dried goji berries, soaked overnight in ½ cup of water
1 ½ cups oatmeal, dry
3 cups water
1 pinch salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger, powdered
1 ½ cups of frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries and Marion berries)
2 tablespoons golden flaxseeds, freshly ground
¼ cup English walnuts
1 banana, peeled and sliced

Directions:

Combine goji berries (and their soaking liquid), oatmeal, water, salt, cinnamon and ginger and stir to mix. Microwave on high until cooked (a few minutes at most). Add the frozen berries and ground flaxseed and stir to combine. Move the oatmeal to individual bowls and top with banana and walnuts.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 287.55
Calories From Fat (29%) - 84.65

Total Fat - 10.01g
Saturated Fat - 1.04g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 105.9mg
Potassium - 333.05mg
Total Carbohydrates - 49.25g
Fiber - 9.92g
Sugar - 17.55g
Protein - 7.81g

Comments:

Oatmeal was very welcome on this cool morning. We slept last night with the windows open because I love the fresh air so it was a little cool in the house this morning when we got up.

I really liked the berry and banana combination. Walnuts and flaxseeds were added for omega 3 fatty acids. Cinnamon and ginger added flavor and antioxidants. This oatmeal didn’t need the almond milk for flavor although that would have made it rich. I would have included it but since I was out most of the day I didn’t get a chance to make almond milk, so we were out.

Today is another busy day with cooking class and more errands. I hope to have time to post another recipe before I need to leave here. If not there will be an extra recipe tomorrow. I hope you all have good day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Protein Difference in Bean Varieties


(pictured: Moroccan Chickpea Stew)

My friend Reiko asked me about the different amounts of protein in bean varieties and I had to admit it wasn’t something I knew off the top of my head. Of course this meant I had to look it up and create a chart to compare the varieties. Beans have on average 15 grams of protein per cup. Some varieties like lentil, edamame and adzuki contain more and fava beans have less.

Here is the chart I created for Reiko and myself:

Bean - calories per cup - fiber - protein

Adzuki - 294 - 17 - 17
Black - 227- 15 - 15
Chickpeas - 269 - 12 - 15
Edamame - 189 - 8 - 17
Fava - 187 - 9 - 13
Great Northern - 209 - 12 - 15
Kidney - 225 - 11 - 15
Lentils - 230 - 16 - 18
Lima - 216 - 13 - 15
Pinto - 245 - 15 - 15
Split Pea - 231 - 16 - 16
White, small - 254 - 19 - 16

The data above came from the nutrition data website if you want more information.

I believe in eating a variety of all things (beans included) to increase our exposure to micronutrients. What surprised me most was the variation in calories across the different varieties of beans.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Southern Style White Gravy - Cashew Based


(pictured: pinto bean burger, steamed green beans, microwaved potato and white gravy)

I wasn’t certain if I should post this or not since I think all vegans have their own version of a white sauce made with raw cashews. However, I remember being new to vegan cooking and finding a sauce like this and it being a revelation.

My version of cashew gravy is closest to the white gravy you find in the southern US. This is very much like what they would serve with biscuits for breakfast. I made this knowing the bean burgers needed a condiment. This sauce is a very thick white gravy. If you prefer a thinner sauce you can reduce the oatmeal by half and the sauce will still thicken but will be more like a béchamel.

It is important to cook the onions and garlic completely so the harshness they have when under cooked doesn’t ruin your sauce.

Southern Style White Gravy – Cashew Based
Makes about 22 ounces - makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

½ yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup water to sauté vegetables
½ cup raw cashews
¼ cup old fashioned oatmeal, dry (uncooked)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 cups water
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Cook the onion and garlic in water until the onion is tender. Add more water if it evaporates before the vegetables are soft. If you want to add addition flavor to the sauce you can sauté the vegetables in a dry white wine instead.

Place the cashews and oatmeal in the your blender and process until everything is finely ground. This took about 45 seconds in the Vitamix on high. Add the water, kosher salt and softened onions and garlic to the blender and process until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a pan and heat, whisking regularly cook until the sauce thickens.

Store the excess sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will last at least 4 days. I reheat it on defrost in my microwave or on top the stove.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 65.19
Calories From Fat (46%) - 29.89

Total Fat - 3.57g
Saturated Fat - 0.64g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 268.67mg
Potassium - 163.63mg
Total Carbohydrates - 6.47g
Fiber - 0.95g
Sugar - 0.93g
Protein - 2.83g

Comments:

This sauce is good on veggie burgers, potatoes, and vegetables. It also works on biscuits or over grits. The sauce has a slight background flavor of cashew. The onion, garlic and nutritional yeast add a savory umami to the sauce. If you are a big fan of nutritional yeast you can increase the amount in this sauce but then the flavor will be more like a cheese sauce. You can also use this sauce with pasta or in a gratin.

Vicious Mousers – Yeah, Right!



Pictured above are my boys. The oldest boy Massimo is on the left, and the baby Nicco is on the right. My feline children are 8-year-old Turkish Angoras and are still extremely actively. In fact they still act like kittens. They run and play multiple times everyday and love toys, particularly chasing toy mice.

So, you would expect them to catch a wayward mouse that found its way into our house, right? Well I thought they might do something. No chance. I think they believe the mouse is a new show on television to be watched and nothing more.

Not only are my felines terrible mousers but the no kill traps are completely ineffective. I have had the traps down with peanut butter for a month and we have not had a nibble. Either this little mouse is a descendent of Albert Einstein, or I have the world's worst luck when it comes to removing “unwanted houseguests”.

If anyone has a suggestion for humanely catching a little field mouse I would love to hear it. I am a city girl and this is my very first mouse in the house (I had one at work but that is long story) and I am not too happy about sharing my home with the little puffball. I want him to return to his native outdoor habitat, and the sooner the better. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Pinto Bean, Sweet Potato, Millet and Sunflower Seed Burgers


(pictured: burger straight from the oven, not crisped in a pan before serving)

I have mentioned before that I prefer to make my own veggie burgers than buy the frozen varieties. This is another version of veggie burger that doesn’t include the typical vital wheat gluten. We have been eating a lot of seitan lately so I wanted a burger that didn’t have wheat gluten. I believe that too much of anything can be bad and try to change what we eat to ensure we aren’t overdoing any one food.

These burgers are intentionally mild in flavor so that they can work with many sauces and veggies. I always make far more veggies burgers than we will eat in a few days. Having these in the freezer makes a quick meal when I haven’t planned. All veggie burgers seem to hold beautifully in the freezer. I refrigerate the burgers until they are completely cold and then wrap them individually in plastic cling film and store them in a larger zippered freezer bag.

Pinto Bean, Sweet Potato, Millet and Sunflower Seed Burgers
Serves 11

Ingredient:

2 cups of pinto beans, sorted and soaked
8 cups of water, to cook pinto beans
2 bay leaves
½ cup millet, dry
1 ¼ cup water, to cook millet
12 ounce sweet potato, scrubbed and shredded (including skin if organic)
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon cumin seed
2 tablespoons hot crushed peppers (wet hots) - optional
canola oil pan spray

Directions:

Cook the pinto beans in water with the bay leaves until the beans are very soft. This should take about an hour and half. Remove the bay leaves.

When the beans have cooked for an hour start the millet cooking. Combine the millet and water in a pan with a lid and cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stop cooking when all the water has been absorbed. Allow the millet to sit in the pan undisturbed for 10 minutes so it will continue to steam.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

Shred the sweet potato and move it to a large mixing bowl. Add the pinto beans, millet, sunflower seeds, salt and cumin. Use your hands to knead the mixture firmly. You want the beans to begin to break up in your hands. As you knead the mixture will begin to form a single mass. If the mixture seems too dry add a little of the bean cooking liquid.

Using a half cup measure fill it completely and from it in your hands into large flat patties about 5 to 6 inches across and ½ inch thick. Place the burgers on your baking sheet and continue forming burgers until the mixture is gone.

Spray the burgers lightly with canola or olive oil pan spray. I use a mister that is sold for oil so I can add my own organic oil.

Cook until the burgers are lightly brown on top. Be careful not to cook them so long they dry out. They should be done in about 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

When you are going to serve these I recommend that you crisp the exterior in a heavy bottomed skillet that is lightly coated with oil. Be gentle when flipping these or they will fall apart. The vital wheat gluten (which I omitted this time) is what normally keeps my veggie burgers firm.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 225.79
Calories From Fat (17%) - 38.47

Total Fat - 4.55g
Saturated Fat - 0.47g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 285.13mg
Potassium - 672.88mg
Total Carbohydrates - 36.55g
Fiber - 7.8g
Sugar - 2.22g
Protein - 10.52g

Comments:

It has been more than a year since I made veggie burgers without adding vital wheat gluten and I had forgotten how tender they are without the gluten. They hold together as long as you are gentle with them but I wouldn’t recommend that you put these on the grill as I expect they would disintegrate. If you want a firmer burger you can add vital wheat gluten (about 6 tablespoons) it does make a better texture.

The flavor is good, but fairly mild. The burgers themselves definitely need a sauce or condiment. Mini slider sized versions of these would be good in a whole-wheat pita with a tofu cucumber sauce and fresh vegetable salsa.

Sunflower seeds are a nice crunchy component of the burger. I also like that they add healthy phytosterols that fight cancer. The shredded potato adds a light sweetness to the burger.

Healthy Low Fat Chopped Salad



This is a healthier version of the salad I made on Saturday. I wanted to post this version so that you can compare the fat statistics.

Pickled onions that are referred to in the recipe are something I have be doing for a while now since my husband is not a fan of the acrid nature of raw onions but I want him to him them because they are so healthy. As a compromise I thinly slice the red onions and store them in a jar in the refrigerator covered in white wine vinegar. The vinegar takes down the harshness of the onion. They will keep a week in the refrigerator this way. We always have a jar in our refrigerator.

Cooked beans are something else I always have in the refrigerator or freezer. I make a minimum of a pound of beans a week to include in our daily salads or to add to soups or stews. It take a long to make a cup of beans and it does a pound so why not use your time more efficiently and make extra and store them in the frig and/or freezer.

Healthy Low Fat Chopped Salad
Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ cup cooked white beans, no salt added
1 yellow tomato, cut into bite size pieces
1 cucumber, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons pickled red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup baby spinach, torn if large
1 pinch kosher salt
2 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon hulled hempseeds

Directions:

Combine everything and toss so the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Serve immediately on a chilled plate.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 242.28
Calories From Fat (11%) - 27.05

Total Fat - 3.13g
Saturated Fat - 0.48g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 363.9mg
Potassium - 1592.16mg
Total Carbohydrates - 43.86g
Fiber - 13.6g
Sugar - 5.22g
Protein - 14.44g

Comments:

I was planning to have this salad before warming the leftover vegetable ragout for lunch. However, this salad was so filling it became my entire lunch. I don’t have room for anything more at this time.

Raw vegetables and fruits are so much more filling than I ever thought possible. If you have two salads a day, as Dr. Fuhrman suggests in “Eat To Live” it really is difficult to consume excess calories. For me the best part is all the nutrition we get from the volume of fresh produce we eat.

Pecan and Walnut Butter with Cinnamon and Ginger



I am trying to get to the point that the majority of the fat we consume comes from nuts, seeds and avocados with occasional fat from oils. As you all know I spend far too much time reading about health and nutrition and I am beginning to come around to the idea that oil is an inferior form of fat since it is processed and nuts, seeds and avocados are consumed in their natural state. While the Italian in me loves good unfiltered extra virgin olive oil that has now been relegated to the occasional treat at our house.

If you are wondering what difference it makes to consume oil versus nuts I will try to explain it as I understand it. Nuts, seeds and avocado are high in fat, like oils. However, the whole foods also contain fiber and other micronutrients that are removed when the whole food is processed and turned into oil. Also it is easy to pour a couple of tablespoons of fat into a dressing or sauté but it take more work to eat the equivalent in nuts and seeds, making it a more deliberate action.

Regarding oil I only buy organic and cold or expeller pressed varieties. Other forms of oil use chemicals to extract the oils and that is something I don’t want us to consume. It is more expensive but given the amount I use it doesn’t amount to much in terms of our total food budget.

I try to spread our fat consumption over all our meals. Each smoothie I make includes flaxseeds for a dose of healthy omega 3’s first thing in the morning. Since lunch is frequently salad those now have hempseeds, sesame seed or pumpkin seeds included for a mid day dose of omega 3’s and I have been trying to dress most of our salads with only vinegar or lemon juice. Much to my surprise it works fine. Our afternoon snack is normally an apple or banana with nut butter. At dinnertime there is usually one dish with a nut or seed garnish. I don’t add a lot of nuts or seeds to our meals, just a teaspoon or so because I don’t want us to get too much fat. I also realize that I have to include some fat so our bodies can process the fat-soluble vitamins most effectively.

When we initially tried to follow the “Eat to Live” plan I have to admit it was a very difficult adjustment at first. But I think that was because we went from omnivore to low fat vegan literally overnight. It was tough to change everything that we were used to at one time. Since we have eased back into the "Eat to Live" plan from a fairly healthy diet it has been much easier this time.

Today’s nut butter is pecan and walnut with a little cinnamon and ginger for flavor and antioxidants. I wanted to try a nut combination today for variety. Cinnamon was added to assist our bodies in processing the fruit sugar that is inevitably consumed with the nut butter. Ginger was included since it goes well with cinnamon and is anti-inflammatory. Initially I made the nut butter without the agave. However I think it needs a little sweetener to bring out the flavor of the nuts. If you like you can add the agave at the end of processing. That is what I did this time and it worked fine.

Pecan and Walnut Butter with Cinnamon and Ginger
Makes just over 1 cup

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 pinch kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon – optional
½ teaspoon ginger, powder – optional
2 teaspoons raw amber agave, or to taste

Directions:

Put everything in the food processor and process until smooth. You will need to stop the processor and scrape down the sides a few times while processing. During the first minute or two it will appear that the nut butter will not get smooth. If you continue to scrape the sides and let the processor continue to work the nut butter will become smooth in time.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 96.29
Calories From Fat (84%) - 81.01

Total Fat - 9.68g
Saturated Fat - 0.87g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 17.94mg
Potassium - 63.1mg
Total Carbohydrates - 2.33g
Fiber - 1.34g
Sugar - 0.49g
Protein - 1.76g

Comments:

The cinnamon and ginger flavors are not as pronounced as I expected. I thought the flavor would increase as it sat in the refrigerator. Next time I will definitely increase the cinnamon and ginger by 50%.

Including pecans added time to the processing of this nut butter. Where the walnut butter took about 1 minute this version was in the food processor at least 5 minutes. I don’t think that pecans added much flavor. Walnut is still the dominant flavor in this nut butter. Unless my husband loves this I will probably go back to all walnut butter but will add cinnamon and ginger.

I need to get back into the kitchen now. Pinto beans are on the stove for a different variation of bean burger for dinner tonight. Our CSA had sweet potatoes and am going to try to shred them and add them to the pinto beans with some sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Expect a recipe for that burger later today, assuming I like how it turns out.

Update:

My husband liked the cinnamon level on this nut butter and doesn't think he would like more added to the next batch. I don't know if this is because his palate is more sensitive to the spice than mine. But I wanted you to have both opinions, mine and his. He did also tell me he shared this at work and the other guys liked the nut butter too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vegetable Ragout over Thyme and Olive Polenta



When we have dinner out I assume that we had more fat and calories than we realize and try to eat cleaner for a few days. This dinner is very clean (no added fat) and filled us up with few calories. When I want a light meal I frequently turn to mushrooms since they are so low in calories. This vegetable ragout is mostly mushroom, which is great for protecting women against breast cancer.

If you are looking for a clean dish after over indulging this one will fill you up without weighing you down.

Vegetable Ragout over Thyme and Olive Polenta
Serves 6

Ragout Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
3 stalks celery with leaves, finely diced
4 large carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
2 zucchini, finely diced
¼ - ½ cup water to “water sauté” vegetable
3 cups dry red wine (used Amarone)
approximately 3 cups water
4 tablespoons tomato paste
24 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
½ tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tablespoon thyme, dried

Polenta Ingredients:

2 cups polenta, dry
6 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon thyme, dried
8 olives, thinly sliced

Directions:

Water sauté the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, zucchini over high heat in as much water as is necessary. When the harder vegetables are soft (this should happen in about 10 minutes) add the remaining ingredients and cook another 30 minutes during which time some of the water will evaporate.

For the polenta combine the polenta and water and stir to thoroughly combine before turning on the heat. Add the salt, thyme and olives. Cook until the polenta is soft. When all the water has been absorbed taste the polenta to see if it is soft. If it isn’t add a little more water and cook it longer.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 366.71
Calories From Fat (4%) - 15.27

Total Fat - 1.73g
Saturated Fat - 0.17g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 997.66mg
Potassium - 1195.61mg
Total Carbohydrates - 56.79g
Fiber - 7.2g
Sugar - 8.2g
Protein - 9.28g

Comments:

This recipe in intentionally “clean”. Some people may find it too low in fat. Since the fat is so low you can safely add a little drizzle of good quality olive oil or pine nuts to this dish as a garnish and still have a healthy meal.

You may find this dish seems to need salt. I stopped adding salt because of the sodium in the dish. When the sodium gets close to 1000 on one meal I start to get concerned and stop adding sodium. It seems to help to finish the dish with a light sprinkle of sea salt on top. I think it hits your taste buds first and makes the entire dish seem saltier.

The servings for this dish were very generous and quite filling. I couldn’t have eaten more than 1/6th of this recipe at one time. Additionally the nutritional information was also good on this recipe. One serving contains over 9400 mg’s of Vitamin A, 100 mg’s of calcium, 55 mcg’s of folate, 225 mcg’s of phosphorus and 30 mcg’s of selenium.

The omnivores didn’t say anything but I know they thought this was too healthy. I wanted to warn you not to try this on people that don’t have a healthy over all diet. The low level of fat is obvious. A little nutritional yeast sprinkled on the top, or in the polenta would add umami to the dish that would be nice. The next time I will add fresh chopped parsley and/or rosemary to the polenta. Both would work well with the wine and mushroom in the vegetable ragout.

Chopped Green Salad with White Beans



Yesterday we spent all day running around. One trip I forgot to mention was our stop at the health food store. I must admit I have hippy tendencies, as you may have imagined, and spend far too much time and money at the health food store. Some of my favorite finds from this trip were brown jasmine rice, red quinoa and Christmas lima beans. However, the concentrated organic pomegranate juice was my favorite item this time. We started using it last night by the teaspoon in our ginger green tea. It comes in a little bottle and doesn’t take up much room in the refrigerator, which I think is a major bonus given the amount of produce I have to store each week. My husband likes the pomegranate concentrate since it is an intense flavor rush. If you haven’t purchased this before I think it is worth looking for to see if it is available near you. It really works well added to our hot green tea.

We eat salad most days of the week, sometimes twice a day. I don’t post most of the salads because I wasn’t certain they were very interesting. For those that are new to veganism or considering more vegan meals I think it helps to get a more full picture of what we eat on a daily basis and for that reason I am posting today’s salad.

Lunch today was a simple chopped green salad. Arugula is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and a green I like to add to all our salads to fight cancer. The remaining vegetables were those I had in the refrigerator that would go together. Beans were added for additional fiber and protein. This salad is light in calories but high in nutrition. Here is what we had for lunch.

Chopped Green Salad with White Beans
Serves 2

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch oregano, dried
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked white beans, drained (no salt added)
1 cup fresh diced tomato
1 cucumber, cut in half-length wise then into thin half moons
8 cups arugula, rinsed, spun dry and torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons red onion, finely sliced

Directions:

Combine the dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano) and whisk. Add the beans, tomato, cucumber, arugula and onion and toss to combine. Serve cold.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 218.15
Calories From Fat (20%) - 44.1

Total Fat - 5.06g
Saturated Fat - 0.53g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 176.99mg
Potassium - 1141.12mg
Total Carbohydrates - 33.81g
Fiber - 12.96g
Sugar - 6.18g
Protein - 11.91g

Comment:

This salad was very filling for the calories it provided. I considering making us a second dish but neither my husband nor I had room for more food.

One of the things I find most interesting about eating a high vegetable and fruit vegan diet is how low in calories it is given the volume of food. I also love knowing that we are getting high levels of nutrients from this meal. This salad was high in Vitamin A (2750+ IU’s), calcium (225+ mg), folate (235+ mcg), vitamin K (105+ mcg) and phosphorus (245+ mg) in addition to tasting good.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Very Full Day and Recipe Ideas



Today started early at our house because we were going to northern Virginia to the outlets in Leesburg. We met our friend Louis to make a long morning of it. All three of us love to go outlet shopping. It was toss up who spent more money today, but I think my husband was the big winner.

I always stop at the Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel Outlets. If any of you have a Williams Sonoma Outlet near you and drink wine get to the store quickly. They had Riedel wine glasses marked down 60%. It was a great deal and even though we didn’t any more wine glasses I grabbed another set of eight.

A few new plates happen to leap into my shopping basket. They were so pretty and would make such nice photo back drops for the blog that I couldn’t resist.

After shopping we came home and ran by the library. I was very disappointed that they didn’t have the book Rose recommended “Never Be Sick Again”. I read the reviews on the book and Rose is right it looks like something that I will love so I can’t wait to read it. Looks like I will be ordering another book from Amazon.

The library had two cookbooks that I don’t own so I grabbed them to see what they are about. The books are “The Healthy Hedonist” by Myra Kornfield and “The Vegan Family Cookbook” by Brian P. McCarthy. I will let you know what I think of the books after I have had a chance to read them. Do any of you have these books and if you do what do you think of them?

Also at the library was a book on exercises for the BOSU ball “Get On It! BOSU Balance Trainer” by Aronovitch, Taylor and Craig. If any of you are thinking of getting a BOSU ball it is great for working the core and stabilizer muscles but I wanted more ideas for what to do with it. I skimmed the book on the way to the restaurant and discovered the BOSU is so much more versatile than I realized. I can’t wait to begin putting the book to use tomorrow.

We ended our day at our favorite neighborhood restaurant were our friend Ian’s specials have inspired me yet again. Ian had a fried green tomato pizza with basil pesto, sweet banana peppers, goat cheese and crab on the menu tonight that sounded amazing. I think this pizza would be wonderful without the crab and with almond feta substituted for the goat cheese. Additionally there was also grilled wild boar over sweet potato mash with brussel sprouts and a dried cherry demi glace. Seitan cutlets would be a great substitute for the boar, and a red wine and dried cherry sauce would be similar to the demi. I don’t expect to develop a healthy vegan version of demi anytime soon, but then again anything is possible so maybe I will be able to develop a recipe eventually.

I always get inspired when we stop at the restaurant. Ian is such a talented chef and my husband calls him my muse. I know Ian is so much more than that. My cooking has improved exponentially from knowing Ian. Each time we see Ian he opens my eyes to a new flavor combination or technique that has made me a better cook than any cookbook I have ever read. Thank you Ian for sharing your talent. You are always an inspiration to me and anyone else that chooses to open their eyes and learn. I can never thank you enough for all that you have taught me about food.

In addition to the food we always enjoy everyone at the restaurant. For a couple of years the restaurant was our home away from home. It was great to see everyone tonight and we had a wonderful time as usual. Thank you all for always making us feel like part of the family.

Sorry for the lack of recipes today. As you can see I haven’t spent much time at home and none of it was in the kitchen. I hope you all had a happy productive day too. Expect a few recipes tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crispy Rice Paper Wrapped Lemon Baked Tofu with Salsa and Baby Spinach

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(pictured: crispy rice paper wrapped lemon baked tofu on salsa and baby spinach with lemon tofu "jus")

Sometimes I surprise myself and this is one of those times. I saw a recipe for a chicken wrapped with rice paper months ago and made a note in my recipe journal to do something with rice paper. The original recipe was deep-fried which only happens on very rare occasions in my kitchen. Baking normally works in place of frying so I thought it was worth a try. Wow, am I glad I tried this.

The rice paper baked up crispy like an egg roll with a lemony tofu inside. Crispy rice paper wrapped tofu has become my new favorite recipe. This one may even get repeated a few times this year. Expect to see many more crispy rice paper wrapped recipes; this is my new favorite technique at the moment. I love the crispy crunch of the oven-fried rice paper wrapped on the tofu. There are so many options for this technique my head is spinning and I can’t write them down fast enough.

Crispy Rice Paper Wrapped Lemon Baked Tofu with Salsa and Baby Spinach
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Crispy Tofu Ingredients:

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch oregano, dried
1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
14 ounces extra firm tofu, thoroughly drained
4 spring roll wrappers
oil spray (canola or olive oil)

Salsa and Salad Ingredients:

2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 cucumber, finely diced
1 tablespoon white balsamic, or to taste
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups baby spinach, rinsed and spun dry

Directions:

Combine the marinade ingredients (lemon zest and juice, salt, oregano and oil) and whisk to combine.

Cut the tofu into quarters that are approximately 3” by 4” by ½”. Place the tofu in the marinade and refrigerate for at least one hour, overnight would not be too long to marinate the tofu.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place the tofu and marinade in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes flip the tofu and bake for another 30 minutes. After the second 30 minutes flip the tofu and bake another 30 minutes. The tofu should now be a little firm and very “lemony” and lightly browned. Use a little dry white wine or water to loosen the fond (brown bits) on the bottom of the pan and reduce it over low heat to create a lemon tofu “jus”. You can thicken this sauce with a little cornstarch dissolved in water before serving if you like. If you want to be really finicky strain the sauce of the bits of oregano and lemon zest before serving.

Increase the over heat to 375 degrees.

Fill and low shallow pan (larger than the rice paper wrappers) will warm water. Place one wrapper in the warm water at a time and leave it in the water until it softens completely which should take about 30 seconds. Remove the wrapper to a flat surface covered with a sheet of paper towel. The towel will help you to be able to lift the wrapper. Place the baked tofu on the edge of one wrapper and wrap the tofu like you would a present and place it on a parchment lined half sheet pan with the seam side down. Normally I would use silpat but food browns better when indirect contact with the metal so parchment works better in this situation since you want the tofu to be crispy. Spray each paper wrapped tofu with oil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes flip the tofu over and bake the other side for 10 minutes. You want the rice paper wrapped tofu to be evenly crisp.

When the tofu has finished baking move it to a paper towel and blot the excess oil. Serve with fresh vegetable salsa or sautéed veggies of your choice.

Combine the tomatoes, cucumber and balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To plate, place the baby spinach on the bottom, top with salsa and finish with the crispy tofu. Top the tofu with lemon tofu "jus” if using.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 177.66
Calories From Fat (47%) - 83.98

Total Fat - 9.96g
Saturated Fat - 0.78g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 135.46mg
Potassium - 846.51mg
Total Carbohydrates - 13.4g
Fiber - 3.72g
Sugar - 6.7g
Protein - 13.02g

The nutritional information above assumes a teaspoon of oil is absorbed by the rice paper from the oil spray. I suspect the fat is overstated but would prefer to be conservative with my numbers. It must be all those years in accounting that I can't shake the need to be conservative with my numerical estimates.

Comments:

I am totally in love with the baked rice paper wrap technique. The results exceeded my expectations. The crispy egg roll like skin on the lemon tofu is a complete winner. If you don’t try any other recipe on my blog try this technique it works really well.

My husband told me this was his favorite savory tofu recipe that I have made so far, so I guess that means it is as good as I thought it was. I had intended to serve this as an appetizer but we both enjoyed it so much we ate both servings and made this the majority of our dinner. It was so good that nutrition went out the window tonight. Glad we had our green drink at least that part of dinner was super healthy.

If you are wondering why I didn’t use lemon juice in the salsa I was concerned the recipe would be “too lemony” and thought the sweetness of the white balsamic would be a nice counterpoint. Regular balsamic would have stained the vegetables a dark color, which is why I used white balsamic. If you don’t have white balsamic you can substitute a white wine vinegar gastrique instead.

11 Cancer Fighting Foods



I read an interesting article on the Stanford School of Medicine Health Improvement website called Live Strong Live Well for cancer survivors that I wanted to share with everyone. The information that caught my eye was regarding the 11 foods cancer survivors should be eating. We consume all of these regularly, but the author does a nice job of explaining why each food group is important.

The foods included on the list are:

- beans
- berries
- cruciferous vegetables
- dark leafy greens
- flaxseeds
- garlic and onion family
- grapes
- green tea
- soy
- tomatoes
- whole grains

I found it particularly notable that soy was included on the list since soy has some fanatical detractors that seem to become unhinged at the mention of the food. I have never bought into the hype that soy is detrimental, but do agree that soy isolate protein powder is probably best consumed in moderation if at all. Traditional soy foods have been consumed for thousands of years and those populations have the lowest levels of cancer and heart disease.

If you get a chance take a look at the article on the Live Strong Live Well website it is very well written and informative.

Goji Berry, Mixed Berry and Banana Smoothie



Yesterday I was watching the Dr. Oz show and one of his guests made a smoothie with goji berries in it. We have consumed goji berries for a few years at our house but we always put them in our hot green tea.

I had not thought of using the goji berries in a smoothie before seeing this show but wanted to give it a try. In order to encourage the dried goji berries to break up completely in the blender I soaked them in water overnight in the refrigerator to completely rehydrate the berries. The goji berries didn’t change the taste or texture of the smoothie.

If you are unfamiliar with goji berries you may be wondering what health benefits they have that can justify the price producers charge for them. According to the ORAC system goji berries have a value over 25,000. I have not seen any other food come near this value. For comparison blueberries have an ORAC value of 2,400. As you can see 10 times the value is significantly higher than the “superfood” blueberry. The ORAC system was designed to standardize the antioxidant value of foods so they could be compared. The higher the ORAC value the more health giving the food.

Goji berries are also reported to dramatically increase the immune system thereby increasing our resistance to disease. Goji Berries are also antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. They are also high in vitamin C and a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids. We purchase our goji berries from Amazon. They have the best price on the unsweetened dried goji berries that we have found.

Goji Berry, Mixed Berry and Banana Smoothie
Serves 2

Ingredients:

¼ cup of dried unsweetened goji berries, soaked overnight in ½ cup of water (put soaking liquid in smoothie)
1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries, unsweetened (blueberry, raspberry and Marion berry)
2 bananas
1 ½ cups almond milk
2 tablespoons golden flaxseeds, freshly ground
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground

Directions:

Place everything in the blender and puree until completely smooth. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 304.17
Calories From Fat (21%) - 63.06

Total Fat - 7.13g
Saturated Fat - 0.57g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 120.75mg
Potassium - 658.11mg
Total Carbohydrates - 61.05g
Fiber - 11.83g
Sugar - 31.29g
Protein - 6.91g

Comments:

Next time I will reduce the banana to one and increase the frozen berries by ½ a cup. The flavor was good but there was a little too much banana flavor in this smoothie.

We had this smoothie this morning with ½ a green drink and were ready to start our day. I always feel better knowing we are getting so much nutrition first thing in the morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creamy Broccoli and White Bean Soup



Lunch today was leftover ravioli and raw veggies with an apple and walnut butter. While the ravioli is tasty, it isn’t exactly nutrient dense. I decided a pureed soup, and green salad would be the perfect nutrient dense high volume meal we needed for dinner.

This soup is a healthy version of traditional cream of broccoli soup. I used white beans to create the creamy texture and they worked extremely well. The final texture of soup is like velvet. My husband was huge fan of “cream” soups so I try to accommodate him whenever I can and this soup works beautifully as a cream soup substitute.

Broccoli was chosen because it is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and known to both promote suicide of cancer cells (apoptosis) and block new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) to the cancer. Boiling broccoli destroys the sulforaphane and indole 3 so I use it straight from the freezer to the blender to maximize the nutrition. Tomato was included as a garnish for color and textural contrast and because tomato and broccoli have a synergy that makes them more effective together than apart.

The primary flavor in this soup is broccoli and there is a slight bean background. After that the individual flavors are difficult to identify. I really liked this soup and it was quick to make. I used the blender to process the soup so it would do the work of breaking down the cell walls of the vegetables to maximize the nutrition we got from the vegetables.

Creamy Broccoli and White Bean Soup
Makes 4 – 2 cup servings

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin can develop)
8 cups broccoli florets, raw or blanched and frozen
2 cups cooked great northern beans (no salt added)
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
2 cups water
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 cup raw tomato, finely diced – for garnish
flaked sea salt, to taste

Directions:

Sauté the onions, garlic and salt in the canola oil until soft and translucent. Add everything (except tomato) to your blender and process until completely smooth. If you have a small blender make the soup in two batches. Add additional water to reach the consistency you desire. If you have a Vitamix blender you will not need to heat the soup, the friction from the blender will do it for you. Otherwise heat the soup gently on low heat for as short a time as possible to minimize the loss of sulforaphane and indole 3 that occurs when broccoli is boiled.

Season the soup with sea salt to taste. Garnish each serving with tomato and serve hot.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 214.19
Calories From Fat (16%) - 33.7

Total Fat - 3.54g
Saturated Fat - 0.36g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 555.4mg
Potassium - 1025.54mg
Total Carbohydrates - 32.71g
Fiber - 7.6g
Sugar - 2.52g
Protein - 12.87g

Comments:

Texturally this soup is so close to a cream soup that it is scary. If you like cream soups I hope you try the cooked beans in the blender method.

We enjoy broccoli at our house, so this soup is one that we love. If you want to take the flavor up a notch you can drizzle this soup with a fresh herb infused oil, or unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. A few crispy whole grain croutons would also be good on top of this soup. Tofu sour cream would also make a great garnish for this soup. You can in add raw spinach to this soup (add it to the blender) to increase the nutrition if you choose.

Each serving of this soup has over 4600 IU’s of Vitamin A, 140 mg’s of Vitamin C, 150 mg’s of calcium, 200 mcg’s of folate, and 260 mg’s of phosphorus.

Favorite Health and Nutrition Books



I love to read about health and nutrition. As my husband can attest, I am obsessed with feeding him healthy food. The problem with my health obsession was that with two degrees in finance I had no science in college so I really was starting at ground zero regarding nutrition. Not one to let something stop me I dove right in and read every book I could get my hands on regarding health, nutrition and cancer. I am one of those nerdy people that always read endnotes. When a book has 50 plus pages of scientific endnotes I am much more likely to read that book. Over the past five years there have been a few books that stood out to me in terms of the quality of information and research.

I was having an off line conversation with someone regarding the health and nutrition books I have learned the most from and wanted to share the list with everyone. Here are what I consider my go to books:

- “Anticancer” by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, great information about lifestyle changes you should make to prevent and/or fight cancer
- “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, if this doesn’t change the way you eat nothing will
- “Food: Your Miracle Medicine” by Jean Carper, a well researched book
- “Eat for Health” by Joel Fuhrman, MD, a classic book everyone should read
- “Eat to Live" by Joel Fuhrman, MD, this one started me down the vegan path
- “Life Over Cancer” by Keith Block, MD, indispensible if someone you love has cancer

Some of these books are current and others are older, but all of them contain good information. If I had to choose two books it would be “”Life Over Cancer” and “Eat for Health”. However if you can pick any of these up at the library I hope you take a look at them. Each has a different style and focus but all of them contain excellent information. The book by Jean Carper was definitely ahead of its time. I have had this book for at least a decade and still use it as a resource when I have a question about a particular food.

Do you have any favorite books on health or nutrition? What are they and why do you like them? I know I would like to know and I imagine others are also curious.

Mixed Berry Smoothie



When rereading “Eat For Health” last week I was reminded that we should be eating three servings of fruit each morning with breakfast. By eating three servings of fruit at breakfast you are getting a good start on the pound of fruit the doctor recommends you eat each day.

We don’t have a lot of time to eat breakfast in the morning at our house so smoothies are quick to make and to eat. I make many different variations of smoothies but this is one of the easiest and most nutritious.

The dark berries are high in anthocyanins, which are powerful disease fighters. According to the doctor that wrote “Anticancer” berries inhibit the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) to cancerous tumors. Freshly ground flaxseed is included for omega 3 fatty acids, also shown to fight cancer by slowing tumor growth. Cinnamon is included to assist the body to process the natural sugar in the fruit. Ginger is included for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as for flavor.

Mixed Berry Smoothie
Serves 2

Ingredients:

3 cups of frozen mixed berries, unsweetened (used blueberries, raspberries and Marion berries)
3 cups of almond milk, unsweetened
2 tablespoons flaxseeds, ground
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Toss everything in the blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 246.14
Calories From Fat (34%) - 83.54

Total Fat - 9.35g
Saturated Fat - 0.47g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 231.38mg
Potassium - 461.32mg
Total Carbohydrates - 39.36g
Fiber - 10.12g
Sugar - 21.69g
Protein - 5.18g

Comments:

We like this mixed berry smoothie and find it to be filling and very tasty. This smoothie and half a serving of green drink and we had breakfast packed with more nutrition than the majority of American’s get all day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quick and Simple Red Sauce



I wanted a very simple red sauce to go with my plain and simple ravioli filling. Since I made a white sauce yesterday to go with the sun-dried tomato filled ravioli I went with tomato sauce today. A fluid green pesto would have also been a good choice but I wanted tomato sauce tonight. This sauce takes under 20 minutes and has a big tomato flavor due to the simplicity.

Quick and Simple Red Sauce
Makes 28 ounces – enough for ¼ of the ravioli dough

Ingredients:

14 ounces tomato sauce
14 ounces diced canned tomato
¼ teaspoon thyme, dried
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh basil, torn or julienned
flaked sea salt for garnish - optional

Directions:

Combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and thyme and cook for 10 – 15 minutes. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Use this sauce as the bed for the ravioli. Place the sauce on the bottom of the plate and put the ravioli on top. Top with fresh basil and little flaked sea salt.

Nutritional information (for the entire recipe):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 168.24
Calories From Fat (8%) - 13.06

Total Fat - 1.55g
Saturated Fat - 0.22g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 2381.89mg
Potassium - 2264.62mg
Total Carbohydrates - 37.2g
Fiber - 10.89g
Sugar - 27.32g
Protein - 8.84g

Comments:

This sauce is intentionally simple so that the flavor of the filling can shine. I didn’t want the filling to get lost in the sauce. Since tomato can be a big flavor I kept it light by using it sparingly in the bottom of the dish.

Fresh basil is a classic to combine with tomato and worked perfectly here. Flaked sea salt as a garnish adds nice textural contrast.

Ravioli Filling - Plain


(pictured: plain filling seasoned with thyme, garlic, oregano and black pepper in a plain red sauce)

Yesterday was hectic and I was hoping that today would be a little better, but life had other ideas. The battery in my car was dead when I tried to leave to run errands before cooking class. No big deal my husband was going to pick one up on his way home from work.

However, he somehow locked his keys in his car in the garage downtown at 7:30 pm when he was leaving work. We have been together for over 20 years and I don’t remember him ever locking his keys in the car before. This happened so late he missed the last express bus that would drop him off near our house. Since my car has a dead battery I couldn’t go pick him up downtown. The last option was to catch a bus in a part of town that concerns me after dark. Thankfully he made it home fine, very late (after 9pm) but fine.

Today doesn’t seem to be our day. I guess it is a good thing I had to miss cooking class tonight. There definitely seems to be bad karma at our house today that could have caused something worse. Here is hoping tomorrow is a little better. Enough whining, here is the ravioli filling I made today.

This was another experiment based on necessity and leftovers. I had ravioli dough from yesterday and was making almond milk again today. I wanted to make a plain filling that I could flavor with pine nuts, fresh minced herbs, hot peppers, mushrooms, or truffle oil and this is what I came up with. The flavor is bland, like ricotta is bland but doesn’t taste like a ricotta. It is however a nice vehicle to carry other flavors, like ricotta. This recipe is loosely based on the recipe I posted for Vegan Pate de Champagne.

Ravioli Filling - Plain
Makes enough for 60 ravioli assuming ½ tablespoon filling per ravioli and plain

Ingredients:

almond pulp from one batch of almond milk
4 ounces of potato, scrubbed and cut into chunks (with peel if organic)
4 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup of water

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine everything in your blender and process until completely smooth.

Pour the mixture into a pan (I used 4 small mini loaf pans) and place the smaller pan(s) in another pan and fill the larger pan with water half way up the sides of the smaller pan(s).

Bake for 60 minutes and then turn off the oven and allow the mixture to remain in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove from the oven and water bath and allow the filling to cool on a rack.

The ravioli filling is now ready to be flavored any way you choose, or you can use it plain and flavor the sauce instead. Take the filling and mash it up with a fork and mix it with the flavors of your choice. Use this filling with the pasta dough I posted earlier today.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 546.83
Calories From Fat (50%) - 275.3

Total Fat - 33.67g
Saturated Fat - 0.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1891.49mg
Potassium - 524.07mg
Total Carbohydrates - 44.65g
Fiber - 3.4g
Sugar - 1g
Protein - 5.71g

Comments:

If you are looking for a plain ravioli filling that doesn’t taste like tofu this is nice mild option. When I used ricotta I always flavored it and plan to do the same thing with this mixture.

The texture is very similar to well-drained fresh ricotta, but with a less fatty mouth-feel. Tonight’s ravioli will be this filling with finely minced garlic, oregano, thyme, extra salt, and black pepper.

Saffron and Shallot Almond Milk Sauce


(pictured: ravioli on a pool of saffron and shallot sauce topped with fresh diced tomato)

This sauce was made intentionally light because the ravioli filling is high in fat. It was healthy fat, but still fat. I wanted a sauce that would be creamy without a lot of fat.

A few weeks ago we made a saffron cream sauce in cooking class. This sauce is loosely based on the sauce from class except without all the saturated fat and calories you would expect from a sauce of reduced heavy cream.

I used this sauce as a pool on the bottom of the plate and placed the ravioli on top the sauce and then finished with fresh-diced tomato for freshness. The sauce added a nice lightness to the ravioli and fresh tomatoes.

Saffron and Shallot Almond Milk Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup shallots, finely minced
2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
2 pinches saffron
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoon water
1 pinch kosher salt, to taste

Directions:

Sauté the shallot in the canola oil until soft. Add the almond milk and saffron and simmer to reduce by 25 percent. Combine the dissolved cornstarch into the starch and whisk to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes so the sauce will thicken.

Serve the sauce in a pool on the plate with the ravioli and diced tomato on top.

Nutritional Information (for the entire recipe):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 201.59
Calories From Fat (58%) - 117.7

Total Fat - 13.05g
Saturated Fat - 0.53g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 587.73mg
Potassium - 516.25mg
Total Carbohydrates - 18.11g
Fiber - 2.08g
Sugar - 0g
Protein - 3.04g

Comments:

The saffron flavor is subtle in this sauce. I was surprised by the richness from the sautéed shallots and almond milk. Cornstarch was used in place of a roux since I wanted a lighter body to the sauce.

This sauce would also be good over vegetables, veggie burgers, or crispy seitan cutlets

Semolina and Sprouted Whole-Wheat Ravioli Dough



Making homemade ravioli is easy, but time consuming. If you don’t have a pasta machine I don’t recommend you try to make ravioli dough by hand. It can be done, but it isn’t easy and normally isn’t rolled thin enough to be pleasant.

This dough has a soft tender texture when cooked. Semolina is light flavored flour unlike the assertive flavor of whole-wheat flour.

If you plan to make ravioli, this is something that is better made ahead since it takes so long. I made mine not long before dinner and was rushing even though I started the dough an hour before dinner. The rolling and filling process always takes longer than you expect it to.

One important thing to remember when making ravioli is that the dough is best worked with when it is first rolled. This means you will roll a sheet or two of dough, fill and form the ravioli and then roll more dough.

Semolina and Sprouted Whole-Wheat Ravioli Dough
Makes enough for approximately 72 ravioli - 2 inch square

Ingredients:

2 cups of semolina flour
½ cup of sprouted whole-wheat flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup of water (more or less)

Directions:

Add dry ingredients to your food processor and pulse to combine. Slowing pour the liquid into the processor while it is running. Stop when you have added ¾ of the water and check the dough texture. Reach into the stopped food processor and grab a chunk of dough the size of a walnut and ball it up in your hands. If the dough sticks together you have added enough water. If it doesn’t turn the processor back on add the water a tablespoon or two at a time and then test the dough consistency.

Remove the dough from the food processor onto a large piece of plastic cling film. Gather the dough into a ball with your hands and wrap it completely in the plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes (on the counter is fine) before beginning to roll the dough. When the dough has rested you are ready to roll the dough.

Get your pasta machine (or Kitchen Aid pasta attachment) set on the largest setting. You will also need a large surface to lie out the rolled dough. I use a half sheet pan. Have your flour nearby in case your dough is too damp and needs to be dusted.

Start by cutting off a chunk of the semolina dough that is about ¼ cup in size. This will be enough for two sheets of dough. Begin by flattening the dough with your hands into a reasonably thin flat rectangle. If the dough feels a little damp to the touch lightly dust it with flour and run it through the machine, which you have on the largest setting. If the dough tears it was too thick but this won’t hurt anything. Fold the dough into thirds and run it through the pasta roller again. Continue to fold and roll and pass the dough through on the highest setting. Do this at least 6 times, but more times would also be good. As you do this you will feel the texture of the dough change and become silkier. Dust your dough with flour, as you need it.

After you have rolled the dough on the largest setting at least 6 times you are ready to move the pasta setting down one. I roll the dough twice on each setting as I reduce the thickness of the dough. If you dough gets too long to handle easy cut it in half and make two sheets. Continue rolling until you reach the smallest setting on the pasta machine. Since ravioli is double thickness when filled you want your dough as thin as possible.

When you are finished rolling this one small batch of dough it is time to fill the ravioli. Use a ½ tablespoon measure and place the filling on the sheet of dough about 1 and ½ inches apart. The filling should be on one side of the dough since you are going to fold the dough over on itself to encase the filling.

Use a pastry brush, or your fingers, to moisten the area of dough around the filling to help it seal properly. Now fold over the dough and press the dough together. You want to remove as much air from the filling pocket as possible. This gets much easier the more times you make ravioli.

Use a fluted pastry cutter or knife and separate the sheet of filling dough into ravioli. Lay the filled ravioli on a non-stick half sheet pan, silpat or parchment lined half sheet pan, or a pan that has a light coating of flour. The ravioli can be held in the refrigerator on the sheet pan covered completely covered with plastic cling film for hours. I have made these at lunch and served them for dinner. They will probably hold longer than that if well wrapped but I haven’t tried that.

To cook the ravioli fill a large flat pan with water and bring it to a low boil. Add the ravioli to the pan a few at a time; you don’t want to overcrowd the pan. When the ravioli float they are ready to be served.

Nutritional Information (for the entire recipe):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 1382.4
Calories From Fat (6%) - 83.7

Total Fat - 13.51g
Saturated Fat - 0.5g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 311.14mg
Potassium - 623.67mg
Total Carbohydrates - 287.25g
Fiber - 25.03g
Sugar - 2g
Protein - 50.35g

Comments:

Making ravioli can be intimidating but it isn’t something you need to be concerned about. Ravioli are actually easy to make, but are time consuming. This is great weekend meal, especially when the weather is getting cooler.

I love making ravioli, but it wasn’t always like that. Tricks I learned in cooking class made ravioli much easier to make. I have included those tricks in the directions above but I wanted to repeat them here so they didn’t get lost.

You want the ravioli dough to be a little on the dry side. That is why I suggest adding ¾’s of the water and test the dough instead of waiting for it to form into a ball. Dried dough is easier to roll out.

Rolling the dough many times on the first setting is actually kneading the dough. The multiple folding and rolling of the dough on the first setting results in a much more resilient dough that doesn’t rip or fall about when cooked.

If you have access to a pasta machine I hope you will try making your own ravioli. I find it to be a meditative process.

Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli Filling



Yesterday was an odd and busy day at our house. First it was my husband’s birthday. Happy birthday plus one sweetie! For his birthday I made a special dinner (homemade ravioli). He doesn’t often get food just because it tastes good. I am such a pain when it comes to nutrition that I decided he needed a nice meal that was all about taste, but not ridiculously unhealthy. I can’t serve my sweetie anything that is too bad for him.

So, I knew I was making ravioli yesterday afternoon but then, my father called yesterday morning and asked me how to roast a turkey breast so I volunteered to make it for him. This resulted in an obsessed me cleaning the kitchen of any possible salmonella contamination before I started the ravioli at about 5 pm. Sometimes I am such a geek when it comes to potential contamination. I even got out the bleach, which is something I don’t do often since it is so toxic. I was swamped yesterday which is why I didn't post anything. Now I need to catch up today on what I made yesterday.

I made the ravioli filling a few days ago knowing the ravioli was on the agenda. This filling kept fine in the refrigerator for three days. The dough and ravioli recipes will follow shortly.

Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli Filling
Makes 1 batch – enough for 48 ravioli filled with ½ tablespoon each.

Ingredients:

Strained almond pulp leftover from two batches of almond milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
3 tablespoons of oil (olive or canola)
2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
10 sun-dried tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine everything in your food processor and process until the mixture is an even light red.

Place the flavored almond mixture in a baking dish (I used 4 small loaf pans) and bake until it begins to set up. The time will depend on the size of your baking dish. I baked mine for about an hour in a water bath.

When the spread was cool it was the texture of well-drained ricotta. This was exactly what I wanted for ravioli filling.

Nutritional Information for the entire recipe:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 847.45
Calories From Fat (92%) - 778.97

Total Fat - 109.12g
Saturated Fat - 3.18g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 4650.46mg
Potassium - 780.35mg
Total Carbohydrates - 18.21g
Fiber - 3.4g
Sugar - 9.22g
Protein - 3.33g

Comments:

This recipe came from a desire to use the strained almond pulp that results when you make almond milk. We drink a batch of almond milk every day. This results in a lot of almond pulp. In the past I have added the almond pulp to veggie burgers, but that doesn’t use up the pulp fast enough. The ravioli filling is based on the almond feta recipe that was in Vegetarian Times earlier this year. I posted my modification of that recipe here.

Since the almond skins remain when making almond milk the color of the pulp is mostly white, with little flecks of brown skin. I added the sun-dried tomatoes for flavor and to obscure the almond skin flecks. The resulting product tasted great and was a dark pink/light red color. As soon as I tasted it I knew it would make great ravioli filling, and it did.

If you have more filling that ravioli dough this also makes a really tasty spread for a cracker or bread. We had some spread on cucumber rounds and the flavors worked well.

Now that I have found a few uses for the almond pulp I won’t be throwing it away any more. I plan to make many more items with the almond pulp. I have half of my ravioli dough left from yesterday and need to make almond milk again this morning. Don’t be surprised if you see another ravioli filling today or tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Bobbie’s Seitan" modified from the Silver Palate Basics



Anyone in my age range remembers “The Silver Palate Basics Cookbook”. It was the “Joy of Cooking” of its day. It was one of the first cookbooks I actually used on a regular basis when I was learning how to cook. One of the wonderful things about the book was that the recipes worked exactly as written. How often have all of us followed a recipe that didn’t work? There are still many wonderful recipes in this book that still work today since it was a book ahead of its time.

Today’s dinner recipe was originally called Bobbie’s chicken and called for a whole chicken. My husband and I loved the original recipe but I haven’t made it in years. I decided the seasonings were really what we liked about the original recipe. My version keeps the flavor but loses most of the fat and calories.

"Bobbie's Seitan" modified from the Silver Palate Basics
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Steam/Baked Seitan Cutlets with Ginger, Mustard and Lemon
2 cups of water
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon ginger powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch saffron
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
1 lemon, juiced

Directions:

Cut the seitan cutlets into bite-sized pieces. Combine the water, mustard, ginger, salt and saffron in a heavy bottomed pan and whisk to combine. Add the onion and seitan pieces and cook over medium low heat until the onions are soft. This should take about 30 minutes.

When the onions are soft add the cornstarch and cook for a minute to form the gravy. Add the lemon juice to the sauce and whisk to combine and turn off the heat. Cooking the lemon juice can result in a bitter taste so I like to add it at the last minute and heat it the least amount possible.

This is good over pasta or rice. However, tonight I think I am going to serve it over millet and broccoli. I think I will serve the leftovers over baked potato tomorrow.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 137.6
Calories From Fat (8%) - 10.7

Total Fat - 1.2g
Saturated Fat - 0.19g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 393.75mg
Potassium - 334.8mg
Total Carbohydrates - 14.68g
Fiber - 1.98g
Sugar - 2.55g
Protein - 17.81g

Comments:

This turned out really well, and was a little flash from the past for my husband and I. The dish is tart from the lemon and flavorful from the ginger and mustard.

In the past I liked to serve this over egg noodles or white rice. Tonight we are having it with millet and broccoli and a nice fresh salad.

My husband loved this tonight but thought he would like a little more sauce next time. Since my husband is not a sauce fan that comment really tells me know much he enjoyed the sauce. On a related note he thought the seitan texture was better than usual. Apparently I need to work on more variations using the steam and bake technique I developed this afternoon.

Steam/Baked Seitan Cutlets Seasoned with Ginger, Mustard and Lemon



I have volunteered to show a non-veg friend of mine how to make seitan in a couple of weeks. Given that she doesn’t have a pressure cooker I thought I would play around with baking seitan since I have not prepared it this way in at least a year.

The seasonings for this recipe come from "The Silver Palate Basics Cookbook" and a recipe called “Bobbie’s Chicken” found on page 403. Both my husband and I loved that recipe and I decided to veganize it today so I used the cooking broth flavors and added them to the seitan itself. I will be posting the recipe for “Bobbie’s Seitan” later today.

First I made the wet ingredients and tasted them and found the flavor to be a little strong. However, once the breadcrumbs and vital wheat gluten were added the flavor became much more subtle. The flavor is noticeable but not overpowering. I think this could be used in many places where chicken would have been used provided the recipe would work well with a subtle ginger background.

The texture of these cutlets is denser than the pressure-cooked version. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I wasn’t certain how else to describe it. The cutlets are tender, due I believe to the combination baking and steaming cooking method I used. If you like a crust on your seitan you can air dry it on a rack and sear it again in the cast iron pan. This worked well to give it a more "meat-like" chewy texture.

Steam/Baked Seitan Cutlets Seasoned with Ginger, Mustard and Lemon
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 cups of water
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ tablespoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 lemon, zested (save juice for the sauce recipe to follow)
2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
10 ounces vital wheat gluten
pan spray to brown the cutlets
1 ½ cup of water to steam bake the cutlets

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine water, mustard, ginger, onion flakes, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and lemon in your blender. Process to thoroughly combine.

Pour the wet ingredients over the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Allow the breadcrumbs to stand for at least 10 minutes so that the breads become soft and thoroughly saturated.

Add the vital wheat gluten to the wet ingredients and knead to combine all the ingredients.

Begin heating your heavy (preferably cast iron) pan over medium heat while you make the seitan dough.

Form the seitan dough into a log and cut into eight pieces. Using your fingers shape the seitan into cutlet shapes that are about ½ inch thick.

Sear the exterior of the cutlets in the preheated pan that you sprayed with pan spray. Cut for a few minutes on each side (until the cutlets release from the bottom of the pan). You will need to sear the cutlets in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan.

When both sides are seared move the cutlets to the big roasting dish. Use a dish that is large enough to fit the cutlets in a single layer, with room for them to expand a little. I used my turkey roaster, since what else will it get used for these days.

Pour the half-cup of water into the baking dish with the cutlets and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes add the remaining cup of water and cook for an additional 20 minutes. The first part of the cooking is to primarily bake the cutlets and firm the interior and the second half is to make them tender. You could substitute dry white wine for the water if you want more flavor in the cutlets.

They are now ready to use, as you like. Cut them up and use them in chunks, serve them as whole cutlets with a sauce. Slice them on the bias and cover them with a tasty sauce and make a sandwich. The options for using these are almost endless.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 218.15
Calories From Fat (9%) - 19.67

Total Fat - 2.2g
Saturated Fat - 0.35g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 618.24mg
Potassium - 297.09mg
Total Carbohydrates - 17.79g
Fiber - 2.45g
Sugar - 1.78g
Protein - 32.17g

The numbers above assume that a teaspoon of canola oil is absorbed in the cutlets when they are being seared. This may be overstating the fat, but I would rather take a conservative approach.

Comments:

The flavor of the final cutlets is subtle but not bland. The primary flavor I detected was ginger, followed by mustard and lemon. I plan to use these cutlets when I need a chicken substitute.

The texture was better than I expected. I think getting a sear on the cutlets first and steam baking them made a nice texture. I tasted them both straight from the oven and after a sear in the lightly greased cast iron pan. The seared version was the clear winner, but I am a big fan of textural contrast so that is the version I expected to like.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, and you don’t want to buy one, this cooking method uses the best of both baking a steaming. The cutlets were not at all spongy like they can be when they are simmered directly in broth.

Homemade Walnut Butter



During the fall we eat a lot of apples. Both my husband and I love apples and will gladly eat them raw cut into wedges. We both prefer them with a little nut butter. Today I made a lightly sweet homemade walnut butter to smear on our apple wedges.

All nut butters are easy to make but walnut butter is faster than most. It took me longer to clean the food processor than it did to make the butter. I think once you have made your own walnut butter you won’t buy it again.

Homemade Walnut Butter
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

2 cups of English walnuts
1 teaspoon of agave, or to taste
1 pinch of kosher salt or to taste

Directions:

Put the walnuts in the food processor and process until the nuts are smooth. You may need to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice while processing. After the nuts are a smooth butter add agave and kosher salt to taste.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 85.28
Calories From Fat (83%) - 70.91

Total Fat - 8.48g
Saturated Fat - 0.8g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 15.98mg
Potassium - 57.82mg
Total Carbohydrates - 1.85g
Fiber - 0.9g
Sugar - 0.35g
Protein - 1.98g

Comments:

My recipe is lightly sweet but you can increase the agave if you prefer sweeter nut butter. Walnut butter is one of my favorite nut butters. It is also good with a little cinnamon and nutmeg in it. Enjoy.

Green Drink September 2009 Update



As you know I read a lot of books on nutrition and health. When I was reading the book “Life Over Cancer” the doctor recommended supplementing our diet with green drinks. He didn’t suggest any particular brand but it was clear he meant grass and sea vegetable drinks. Needless to say off the Whole Foods I went to find a green drink. Having no idea what to buy I started with the one that had no added sugar and was expensive (assuming the increase in cost meant it included more nutrient dense ingredients).

My first taste of this green drink was eye opening, and not in a good way. I couldn’t believe people drank enough of this stuff to keep the company in business since 1992. My husband and I both tried to drink it occasionally always with the same result.

Last weekend we decided we were going to drink a half serving each morning and evening until the container was empty to see if we would get used to the taste. The craziness thing happened, we are now both accustomed to the taste and it is no longer something we have to do but something we choose to do. It took about 6 servings but we both found that our taste buds grew to accept the beverage and the taste that was once assertive is now mild to both of us.

Why am I sharing this story? There are few reasons. First, I do believe that adding more greens to your diet is healthy and provides the body with nutrients that help it to operate at peak efficiency. Second, if you try something that is good for you and don’t like it, give it a few more chances. I would have never expected both my husband and I to grow to accept the green drink, but we have. The taste is now very mild and not the least bit offensive. How this happened I don’t understand but it did and I am happy that we kept trying to drink it until our body accepted the flavor.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy day.

Mixed Frozen Berry, Peach and Walnut Smoothie



This weekend I was rereading “Eat for Health” for the third time and it caused me to want to include more smoothies in our diet. If you haven’t read the book yet the doctor is a big proponent of natural food and particularly smoothies. The doctor explains that plants are composed of cells whose walls are cellulose that humans don’t have the enzyme to break down. This means that in order to get the maximum benefit from the foods you eat you need to chew your food until it has liquefied. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t do this all the time. However, if you use a blender it does the work of breaking down the cell walls for you. Rereading this section of the book reminded me that I needed to use my blender more often for maximum nutrition. Expect to see more blended soups and vegetable drinks in the coming months.

I used a fruit combination to get the maximum amount of nutrition in today’s beverage. Dark frozen berries are packed with nutrition. In the book “Anticancer”, the doctor explains the benefit of eating berries in terms of their cancer fighting abilities. We try to keep a big bag of frozen berries in our freezer at all times for quick berry drinks and desserts. Oatmeal was included to thicken the beverage. Cinnamon and ginger were included for their antioxidants. Flaxseeds and walnuts were included for their omega 3’s.

I gave the nutritional numbers for three servings since my husband and I split this smoothie 2/3's for my hubby and 1/3 for me.

Mixed Frozen Berry, Peach and Walnut Smoothie
Serves 3

Ingredients:

2 peaches, peeled and pitted
2 cups of mixed frozen berries, unsweetened (raspberries, blackberries and Marion berries)
½ cup oatmeal, dry
½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
½ teaspoon ginger, powdered
2 tablespoons golden flaxseed, freshly ground
1/3 cup walnuts
2 cups almond milk, unsweetened
1 scoop of stevia, or to taste - optional

Directions:

Place everything in the blender and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 285.02
Calories From Fat (42%) - 118.4

Total Fat - 13.84g
Saturated - Fat 1.16g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 113.47mg
Potassium - 443.56mg
Total Carbohydrates - 37.45g
Fiber - 8.98g
Sugar - 16.55g
Protein - 7.15g

Comments:

This smoothie was tasty and filling. The peach flavor doesn’t stand up to the berries, but does help with the final texture of the smoothie. Berries were the dominant flavor in this smoothie. We like having a little cinnamon in our smoothies to assist in processing the natural fruit sugar more effectively.

I also like starting my day with almost 9 grams of fiber. If you don’t want to use oatmeal I have also included a small amount of cooked white beans in our smoothies in the past. Start with ¼ cup of cooked white beans and taste the smoothie before adding more. I have found ¼ cup isn’t noticeable in most smoothies and depending on the strength of flavor of the other ingredients you can frequently add more.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

North African Barley Risotto with Merguez Flavored Seitan Sausages



The weather today was cool here. I don’t think we got above 73 degrees. When the weather is cool I like to make warm hearty meals. Risotto has been a family favorite for a long time, but now I make it with barley since it is more nutritious. Barley risotto does take twice as long as rice, but I think the extra fiber and antioxidants are worth the time.

This dish needs the crispy peppers and almonds added at the end for textural contrast. The flavor is reasonably subtle, but complex. Be careful not to add too much saffron, as it can get bitter like turmeric. Next time I may double the raisins and almonds in this recipe. I had expected this to make 6 servings, but in was so filling that we all ate less than I expected.

North African Barley Risotto with Merguez Flavored Seitan Sausages
Serves 8

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely minced
2 cups of pearled barley
½ cup pinot grigio (or other dry white wine)
10 - 12 cups of boiling water, or light vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of kosher salt, added slowly according to the recipe
3 merguez flavored seitan sausages, sliced in half lengthwise and then into ¼ inch half moons
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 pinches saffron threads
¼ cup golden raisins
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely minced (or you could use mint, or a combination of the two)
1 red bell pepper, finely minced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely minced

Directions:

Sauté the onion in the canola oil until soft, but not brown. Add the barley and cook for a few minutes to toast. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan. When the water has evaporated add the water or vegetable stock 1 or 2 cups at a time and stir to begin developing the creaminess. Add the seitan sausages, cumin, coriander, saffron, raisins and lemon zest after the first addition of water. When the water is mostly absorbed add more water 1 or 2 cups at a time. Continue to stir after each addition of liquid. Taste the liquid in the risotto pan after each liquid addition and add a little salt if necessary. I find if salt is added a little bit at the time it seems to go through the risotto more completely. When 2/3’s of the water has been absorbed check the barley to see if the texture is soft enough. The entire cooking process will probably take 45 minutes. Barley risotto is much more time consuming than Arborio rice prepared in the risotto style.

Add the lemon juice when the risotto has reached the right consistency. I think cooking lemon can turn it bitter so I like to add it once the heat is turned off, when possible. You can also add the almonds, cilantro, and peppers at this time.

Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 324.41
Calories From Fat (15%) - 48.54

Total Fat - 5.66g
Saturated Fat - 0.55g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 306.04mg
Potassium - 378.55mg
Total Carbohydrates - 51.62g
Fiber - 10.14g
Sugar - 5.05g
Protein - 17.08g

Comments:

I was surprised how filling this dish turned out to be. The crispy raw bell peppers and crunchy almonds add a lot to this dish. If everyone at your house likes mint that would be great in this dish. We had a mint hater at dinner tonight so I had to use cilantro exclusively.
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