Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gearing Up for Vegan MOFO

One simple post before the crazy-fun of Vegan MOFO begins!

Now what is Vegan MOFO, you may ask?

It's the Vegan Month of Food!  During the month of October, food bloggers from all over the WORLD will be taking the pledge to write about Vegan Food each and every day, for the entire month (or for at least 20 posts)!  Some folks have themes, and some fools, like me, are just gonna "wing it".

But, I will promise you this:

  • Fun posts
  • LOTS of food porn
  • Vegan make-overs of some of my family's favorites
  • New juicing combos 
  • Quick and simple weeknight meals
  • Vegan cookbook reviews and 
  • a once a week, a "Veganization" of a Food Network Magazine recipe...  
Whew!  That should keep me quite busy...

Tonight we are celebrating with my nephew for his 15th birthday at Friendly's, so for breakfast / lunch, we decided on a simple snack of apples and peanut butter:

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I admit, this entire past week has flown by, and I have done a real lousy job of preparing and packing lunches.  Since the apples around these parts are really coming into season, I've been stocking up on some deliciously crisp, New England apples for both juicing and snacking.  So now, when I am running out the door, instead of skipping breakfast or forgetting lunch, I'll grab an apple, and scoop a tablespoon or two of natural peanut butter into a tiny to-go plastic container, and have a quick and simple meal on the go.

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Perfect to eat right at your desk at work.  You know what they say:  An apple a day, smothered in peanut butter... (well, close enough) ^_^

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pasta with Zucchini in Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

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Still looking for some creative ways to use up your garden zucchini?  Try this recipe out!

Pasta with Zucchini and Lemon Cream Sauce

1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
(today we have pipette pasta by Barilla)

Their shape is somewhat similar to macaroni, but the tube is wider and bends in the middle, just like a pipe!

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1 large zuchini, diced into small cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, optional

For the Zucchini Sautee:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add olive oil and garlic, and heat until garlic is golden and fragrant.
Add in crushed red pepper if using.
Next, toss in the diced zucchini, and stir to coat with olive oil and garlic.
Add Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste.
Sautee 8-10 minutes, or until soft but not mushy

For the sauce:
2 cups water
1/2 cup raw cashews
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons

Combine all the ingredients above into a blender, and blend until super smooth, and no bits of nuts remain. If you have a decent blender, there is no need to soak the cashews for this sauce.  My blender is an Oster, nothing fancy like a Vitamix or Blendtec, and it handles raw nuts quite well.
Pour the blended liquid into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Be sure to whisk continuously.  Reduce to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened.

*SHORTCUT: I have been experimenting with microwaving sauces and gravies at 1 minute, 30 second intervals to thicken them, instead of simmering on the stove.  I use my pyrex 4 cup glass measuring cup which is microwave safe , and holds a good amount of liquid. My microwave is weak, so I start out at 1 minute 30 seconds, to get the mixture hot, (sometimes it doesn't always get there, but sometimes it does) and then do 30 second increments from there, whisking in between, until the sauce is thick.  

It worked like a charm with this sauce, and it left me free to sautee the zucchini on the stove, without having to constantly whisk the sauce.

Pasta should be boiling at this point, in plenty of salted water.  Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl.

Pour thickened lemon sauce over cooked pasta and gently mix, then top with your garlicky, sauteed zucchini.  
Enjoy ^_^

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Benefits of Friends with Gardens: Butter Beans and Greens

I feel truly blessed that I have so many friends and colleagues who were kind enough to share the fruits of their gardens with me this Summer.

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My dear friend and colleague, Elaine, brought me this gorgeous bounty from her brother's garden.  Elaine's brother's garden is his livelihood, so this is more than just a backyard patch of tilled soil with  His vegetables are featured throughout Farmer's Markets in the East Bay all Summer long, and Elaine has her pick of all vegetables, anytime.  I am so pleased that she though of me!

I have to say, these tomatoes we the most, red, ripe and luscious tomatoes I have had in a while.  Nothing like Summertime!

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I made this salad above for an afternoon lunch with my dear friend, Neil.  The WHOLE salad looked spectacular, but alas, I lost the picture of the full platter on Instagram, due to an iPhone glitch.  Here are the leftovers I took to lunch the next day, which, I think, still looked good.

My folks are living in Italy for the next few months, so I was feeling a bit "Mediterranean".

Butter Beans and Greens
Here we have:
1 can of Butter Beans (cleaned out mom's pantry before her trip, thank you)!

Rinse and drain beans, then toss with:
2 chopped scallions
1 minced fresh red chili pepper, seeded (from the Farmer's Market)
2 roasted red peppers, chopped (another score from mom's pantry)
olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
Set aside

1 organic heart of romaine, chopped
2-3 cups fresh arugula (from the Farmer's Market)
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped (from my dear friend, Tara's garden)
2 large garden tomatoes (from Elaine's garden)
1/3 cup kalamata olives (clean out the fridge)

Dress the salad greens with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss with remaining vegetables, and then top with the beans.

We enjoyed this with a fresh baguette, and some pasta with roasted zucchini, eggplant and sweet peppers (pictured above) and tomatoes.  Buon Appetito ^_^

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Chilis from the Farmer's Market - the one I used was right in the middle :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Watermelon Juice - Hydrate in Style

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As the days of Summer draw to a close, I'd like to reflect back on one of the season's most popular fruits:  The Watermelon.  What backyard cookout would be complete without one?  As its name suggests, watermelons contain large amounts of water, which is fantastic for hydration.  The fresh juice can not only re-hydrate and cool you, but also provide vitamins and nutrients that promote health, and reduce the risk of disease.

The beautiful, red flesh of the watermelon contains high quantities of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps prevent the risk of strokes and other ailments like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, colon cancer and asthma.  Another benefit is that watermelon is a great source of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure levels, keeping your heart healthy.  Watermelon juice, I read, also helps to lower risks of age-related macular degeneration that may lead to loss of vision in elders.  My granny suffers from macular degeneration, so I found this fact particularly valuable.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not just the red flesh that can be consumed or juiced.  Watermelon RIND is full of minerals and nutrients, and excellent for juicing.  Scientists have discovered that the white rind has high concentrations of citrulline, one of the next great phyto-nutrients now being studied.   Citrulline actually converts into the amino acid arginine which helps remove ammonia from the body.  It is also suspected by researchers that it relaxes blood vessels, therefore lowering blood pressure, which is always a good thing if yours tends to be high.

The juice pictured above actually came from six (6) watermelon slices that were given to me from Campus Dining, where I work.  I was walking back to my car, and they were just wrapping up an outdoor cookout that they catered for the students. There was quite a bit of leftover food, including veggie burgers, they they were wrapping up and giving away, So I scored two veggie burgers and the watermelon.  They were just as glad to give it away, and I was pleased to make good use out of it ^_^

Now before I run my watermelon through the juicer, I usually make sure to trim off the thin layer of dark-green, outer skin.  Or, you can wash and scrub the outer layer very well in order to remove any dirt or pesticide residue, before slicing, and adding to your juicer.  Organic watermelons are expensive here, so I usually end up peeling off the dark green.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

When Life Gives you Zucchinis, Make Zucchini Bread

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Another Summer, another beautiful garden in Uncle Bob's back yard.  And once again, the zucchinis are a-plenty...  and huge.  I have already sautéed and juiced my way through one giant zucchini, so I thought I'd try something different.

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Zucchini Bread Mini Loaves
(adapted from Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick Goudreau)

3 Tbs ground flax seed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup apple sauce, unsweetened
1 Tbs white distilled vinegar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

  • Preheat oven to 325. 
  • Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans.
  • I was tempted to use my Kitchen Aid for this, but didn’t feel like hauling it out of the closet.
  • So, In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the flax meal and water until thick and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the apple sauce, oil, vinegar, sugar, and stir. 
  • Next, add in the zucchini and vanilla.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the all purpose and wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
  • Whisk to combine. Add in the nuts and raisins.  
  • Stir the dry mixture into the zucchini mixture. 
  • Divide the batter evenly into the 4 mini loaf pans and bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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These loaves were moist, and full of flavor, with just the right amount of sweet.  I did cut way back on the sugar from the original recipe.  I halved the amount of oil and replaced it with half unsweetened applesauce.  I also thought I'd try replacing some of the white flour with a bit of whole wheat pastry instead.  The results were great.  I found I had to cook my mini loaves much longer than the original time stated in Colleen's directions, so I adjusted it a bit in my directions above.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Juicing Romaine? Another Green Juice - Based on the Ritual Cleanse

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Yet, another Green Juice - based loosely on the Ritual Cleanse

I think of all the juices I make, GREEN juice has to be one of my favorites.  I've been researching tons of Green Juice variations, as well as copy-cat "cleanse" recipes online (Ritual CleanseBlueprint Cleanse), and many of the green juices I come across contain Romaine lettuce.

Now, up until this point in our juicing journey, I was going SUPER-green by using KALE as my leafy green of choice.  I never in a million years thought to juice Romaine lettuce.  To me, Romaine is SALAD.  I can eat that plain, in a bowl, any day. Why would I squeeze all the liquid out of its leaves?

But there it is: Romaine is in almost EVERY green juice I see.  So today, I decided to finally add some in to ours.

Ritual Cleanse Green Juice -Variation #1
6 romaine lettuce leaves
4 kale leaves
2 celery stalks
1 large cucumber
3 pineapple spears
1" piece of ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon

Now, I love me some kale, and there's been some mighty fine Tuscan Kale on sale at the Colt State Park Farmer's Market this Summer.  But, I have to say, the Romaine lettuce added something really mild, crisp, and fresh to this juice.  It was delicious! And, as an added bonus, it adds even more gorgeous, green color, and MORE liquid to the juice. (Which is good because I've been blowing through celery and cucumbers like nobody's business since we got the juicer)!

So, what exactly is it about dark green leafy lettuces like Romaine that make them nutritional powerhouses? 

Well, for one, the greener the leaf, the stronger the nutritional profile.  Sorry Iceberg, you just do not stack up here.  For juicing, be sure to go for the nice, dark green, outer leaves.  Lettuce juice, I've discovered, is a rich source of vitamin A, K, E, C, and folate, while also being high in the minerals silicon, manganese, calcium, magnesium and chromium.

Every time I juice a new ingredient, I always like to read up on what makes that particular fruit or vegetable so nutritious.  

Here we have some fun facts from Juicing for

Health properties of lettuce juice:
Anti-anemic:  Lettuce contains a relatively high amount of chlorophyll and iron, which are essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin in blood red cells.
Anti-oxidant:  Lettuce is rich in anti-oxidants, especially beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E.  These substances help cleanse the body from toxins, prevent the damage caused by free-radicals, prevent premature aging and lower the risk of chronic diseases and cancer.
Bone health: There is evidence that lettuce has a protective effect on bone health, due to its high content in vitamin K which is required for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a bone protein which helps strengthen bone tissue.  This bone protective action is particularly effective in preventing osteoporosis-related fractures in post-menopausal women and older adults.  Lettuce is a good source of calcium and phosphorous, as well, which play a key role in bone structure and health.
Constipation:  Thanks to its high fiber content, lettuce and its juice can help stimulate the function and motility of the intestinal tract, relieve constipation and cleanse the colon.
Cough:  Lettuce juice contains anti-cough agents, which can help relieve irritable cough, as well as the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
Hydration:  Lettuce juice is an excellent source of hydration at the cellular level. They are refreshing, thirst-quenching and help rehydrates our cells and releasing toxins and harmful fats from our congested cells.
Purifying:  The purifying effect of lettuce is the result of the combined actions of anti-oxidants (which help neutralize harmful substances accumulate in the body), potassium (which promotes diuresis, thereby helping eliminate toxins from the body) and fiber (which helps cleanse the colon).
Sedation:  Lettuce latex has been used for centuries by physicians as a substitute for opium, due to its natural sedative and painkilling properties. Today its medicinal use is limited to treat sleep disorders, nervous excitability, anxiety and restlessness, especially in children and elderly persons.  Drink a glass of lettuce and celery juice an hour before bedtime to have a restful night’s sleep.  Also helpful whenever you feel anxious or nervous, to keep yourself calm and relaxed.

Not too shabby for one of the most common leafy green vegetables.  I almost always have Romaine lettuce on hand.  Throwing 3 or 4 leaves into our green juice will really stretch the life of our produce, and boost the vitamins and nutrients in the final juice as well ^_^