Friday, November 28, 2008

Yummy Yams

Vegan yams that rocked the house on Thanksgiving day! People were asking for leftovers and recipes all through dinner.

Yummy Vegan Yams

about a dozen yams and or sweet potatoes
olive oil
1 can coconut milk
1 fuji or gala apple, cored
1-2 tbsp agave nectar

1 lb bag pecans
approx 1 cup whole almonds
approx 8-10 dates, pits removed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground clove
1 tbsp cinnamon
approx 2 tbsp agave nectar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wash and dry whole yams, chop off ends.
Lightly coat in olive oil (I rubbed it on with my hands), and place on baking sheet.
Bake yams for 50-60 minutes depending on size until skin is loose. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.
Reduce oven temp to 375 degrees.
Remove skins and place yams in large mixing bowl (or stand mixer if you have one). Puree apple in blender and add to yams along with coconut milk and agave. Whip together (I used my electric hand mixer) until smooth. Pour into 9x13 baking dish.
Place topping ingredients except for agave in food processor or blender and pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Spread over yams in thick layer, then drizzle with agave.
Bake in oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fruit Salad and Vegan Green Bean Casserole

With Thanksgiving upon us here in the U.S., I thought it appropriate for a little post on how to keep your holidays healthy- or at least mostly so.
With family who eats a healthier, but more traditional American diet (at least more traditional than mine), I wouldn't dream of forgoing all the treats and turkey, but I am trying to keep my animal product and refined sweets consumption below 20% and below 10% if possible.
Last night we had a family Thanksgiving dinner due to the fact that my parents will be out of town and we will be with the in-laws on Thanksgiving. It was a sumptuous meal. My food assignment? Green Bean Casserole and fruit salad. The fruit salad was easy.

Best Fruit Salad

fresh pineapple
fresh strawberries
fresh blueberries
fuji and gala apples

This might just rock with some shaved coconut on it, but it was amazing in it's natural flavor combination. The berries provide excellent antioxidant properties to neutralize those free radicals coming from your animal protein consumption. (Gobble! Gobble!)

The casserole was a touch trickier, but not too bad to figure out. Usually it is a simple concoction of canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup (or as I've come to think of it 'cream of gray squares' since there is really no discernible mushroom in there), and French's French Fried Onions. My quest was to find a better way- if not perfectly healthy, then at least better than msg-ridden, nutrient-sapped mush. Here's what came of it... and it was a hit!
(I failed to check the label on the fried onions, but they are kind of essential to the dish and we have to allow ourselves a little wiggle room on a holiday!)

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Frozen or fresh green beans (enough to fill 9x13 casserole dish)
French Fried Onions (not the tiny can, the big one)
Homemade Cream of Mushroom Recipe:
approx 3 cups fresh mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
approx 1/4 cup mushroom broth or vegetable broth
2 tbsp natural margarine or vegan butter spread
approx 4 tbsp whole wheat flour
approx 1 1/2 cups rice milk
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tsp bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaf)
approx 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In blender combine all but 3 or 4 mushrooms and broth until mostly smooth. Set aside.
Heat butter spread in medium/small pot on medium heat. Add flour slowly and whisk together. Whisk in mushroom mix.
Gradually add rice milk while stirring.
Chop remaining mushrooms and add to pot.
Stir in seasonings.
Bring mixture to bubbling and reduce heat to low simmer for about 10 minutes.

Place green beans in 9x13 baking dish.
Cover with mushroom soup.
Stir in about 1/4 can fried onions.
Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Remove foil, add remaining onions on top and return to oven for about 5 minutes until onions are crisp and slightly browned.


Soon to come:
My version of holiday yams/ sweet potatoes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vegan Split Pea Soup with Hearty Whole Wheat Mini Loaves

Flavorful split pea minus the ham hocks. This one takes some time on the stove, but very little prep time.

Vegan Split Pea Soup

1 medium sweet onion, diced
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or micro-grated
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped carrots
1 lb dried split green peas, rinsed and picked through
2-3 cups vegetable broth
approx 3 cups water
2 tsp paprika
approx 3 tsp sea salt
approx 1/2-1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1-2 cups frozen corn kernels

Heat oil in bottom of large pot. Saute onions, garlic and carrots until onions are translucent. Add broth, water, peas and seasonings. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally, then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let cook for approximately 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour half of soup mixture into blender and blend until smooth, then mix puree back into pot. Add frozen corn in separate bowls just before serving to help cool soup and for flavor.

My kids decided it was 'Swamp Soup' good enough for any little ogre.

Whole Wheat Mini Loaves

1-2 tbsp active yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp agave or honey
1-2 tsp sea salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
approx 2 cups whole wheat flour

Place warm water and agave in mixing bowl and stir together. Add yeast and let sit for approx 10 minutes until foamy. Add salt, oil and gradually add flour, mixing well until soft, but dough ball is formed. Knead well for about 5 minutes, then place in oiled bowl. Roll dough so that it's coated lightly in oil, then cover with a towel and let sit in a warm place for 40-60 minutes or until doubled. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and divide to form 4 mini loaves. Place loaves on oiled cookie or baking sheet and bake in oven for 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving with soup.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From my Mama's book of tricks- Zucchini Pizza

This one, I am sure, my mother came up with from summers of late nights, hungry kids and piles of extra zucchini. Even people who don't like zucchini like this recipe. It's quick and easy.

The recipe is for one pizza, which will feed 1-2 people depending on the size of tortillas and the size of appetite.

Zucchini Pizza

2 large tortillas
about 1 - 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded zucchini (patted between paper towels to remove moisture)
approx 1/2-3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
sprinkling parmesan cheese
1 small can tomato sauce
2-3 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together sauce ingredients in bowl.
Place one tortilla on a baking sheet or pizza pan and spread with a thin layer of sauce. To this, add a 1/2-1 inch layer of shredded zucchini and cover that with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Top with other tortilla. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the top tortilla and top this with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.
Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until edges are crispy and cheese has melted. Let cool slightly, slice like a pizza and enjoy!

Make it more healthy:
Add corn kernels, mushrooms, shredded carrots or spinach on the inside.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Potato Millet Hash and Baby Bella Green Beans

These ones turned out SO yummy!

Red Potato Millet Hash

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, micro-planed, minced or pressed
about 10 medium sizes red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2-3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, chopped (I used about 4-5 mini red peppers and threw in a couple orange ones just for color)
approx. 1 1/2 cups precooked millet
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 tbsp paprika
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes until soft.
Add potatoes and mix in well, then add vegetable broth, millet, red pepper and corn.
Season with paprika, salt and pepper. (This will take a little more salt than you think, since potatoes absorb salt.)
Stir well, reduce to medium low heat and cover pan with lid. Let cook, stirring occasionally to keep potatoes from sticking, until potatoes are soft (about 30 minutes).

Baby Bella Green Beans

3 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced or micro-planed
approx 8 baby bella mushrooms cut in fourths.
approx. 3-4 cups fresh or frozen green beans
Sea salt to taste.

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms and green beans and saute until green beans are cooked through. Season with sea salt to taste.

These two recipes together make an awesomely yummy and healthy dinner and leftovers that are in high-demand.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Calcium Without The Cow

One of the first question that comes out of the American mouth when presented with our 90% plant-based diet is, "How do you get your calcium and protein?"
This article addresses the question nicely, and adds a little broader perspective to the business-based American Diet.


Calcium Without the Cow
Charles R. Attwood, M.D., F.A.A.P.

A note from the school dietitian was handed to me by a young mother of a 7 year old boy. "Billy's diet has come to our attention," it read, "because he no longer selects milk in the cafeteria." He had recently given up milk at my suggestion because it worsened his asthma and eczema. The note went on to conclude, "Milk is absolutely necessary for for protein and calcium!" This last sentence was heavily underlined. I quickly realized how concerned Billy's mother was, because there was also a history of osteoporosis among several elderly members of her family.
This dilemma is encountered most frequently by families who are trying to reduce saturated fat and animal proteins in their diets. They've read that both may increase the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, but worry about calcium balance and bone density if milk, the chief source of saturated fat for children, is discontinued. I often reassure concerned parents that some bowing of their child's legs is normal up to the age of 3, and is not due to a calcium deficiency or rickets. Dental decay in early childhood, causes the same concern, but ironically it is partially due to the frequent bathing of the teeth with milk, rather than a calcium deficiency.
Why is this paranoia so common among Americans? The milk-calcium-bone density myth has been created and perpetuated by the intense lobbying of the dairy industry throughout the lifetimes of most adults living today.
Throughout kindergarten and grade school, most of the nutrition teaching aids were supplied by the American Dairy Council. As a result, most parents, teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges, and significantly, members of congress grew up with the not unbiased view that milk is a necessary and wholesome food for both children and adults. The council's most effective campaign tool has been to link milk, calcium, and bone density.
To further confuse the consumer, milk and infant formulas have been fortified with vitamin D, which is necessary for proper calcium absorption. It may also be obtained by eating sardines, herring, salmon, tuna, egg yolk, and fish oils. However, none of these are necessary, because it's manufactured in adequate amounts by exposure to as little as 10-15 minutes of sunlight about three times a week. Rickets may be prevented in children getting no sunlight--such as the totally disabled, by a vitamin D supplement, if the parents do not wish to feed them fortified milk.
The true connection between milk and strong bones isn't exactly what the dairy industry has been telling us all these years. Calcium balance, the relationship between the intake and loss of the mineral determines bone density, mostly during childhood and adolescence. Good bone density attained by the age of 18 usually lasts a lifetime for people consuming a balanced plant-based diet and remaining physically active. Milk and other dairy products, although rich in calcium, are high in animal protein, which has been shown to create calcium loss through the urinary tract. A 1994 National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference concluded that calcium balance and bone density depended at least 3O percent on the ratio of intake to loss, not on calcium intake alone. According to a report in Science magazine in 1986, evidence is accumulating that calcium intake (considered alone) is not related to bone density
This may explain why countries consuming the most milk also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Exceptions exist, but a common determining factor seems to be the high protein consumption in populations who require very high levels of calcium intake. For instance, the RDA of calcium in the United States is up to 1,200 mg daily. This is much higher than the World Health Organization's recommendation of 500 mg. for children and 800 mg for adults. Areas of the world where dietary protein is very low have low national recommendations. In Thailand, for example, the recommended daily intake of calcium is only 400 mg. for all ages. Elderly South African Bantu women, who consume a very low protein diet (5O grams daily, compared with 91 grams for Americans) and only 450 mg. calcium daily, have no osteoporosis despite the calcium drain of nursing an average of 10 children. On the other hand, Eskimos, consuming a very high protein diet (250-400 grams) of fish, and a calcium intake of over 2,000 mg daily, have the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world!
Now, let's take a new look at milk and dairy products as a calcium source, regardless of their protein content. Calcium expressed as mg. per 100 calories instead of per gram show milk and cheese at the bottom of the list and green vegetables at the top (see chart).

Calcium in Milligrams per 100 Calories
Watercress...................... 800
Turnip greens.................. .650
Collard greens................. 548
Mustard greens.................490
Spinach........................... 450
Broccoli.......................... 387
Swiss cheese................... 250
Milk (2-percent).............. 245
Green onions................... 240
Okra............................... 213
Cabbage......................... 196
Whole milk..................... 190
Cheddar cheese.............. 179
American cheese............. 160

At first glance, one may conclude, "but I would have to eat so much more spinach or kale to get adequate calcium." Not so, individuals on a plant-based diet generally eat as many total calories as meat and dairy-eaters. In other words, adequate amounts of vegetables are BETTER SOURCES OF CALCIUM THAN MILK AND CHEESE. Also, consider that a cup of broccoli contains about the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk. But wait! Haven't we been told that many green vegetables contain oxalic acid, which reduces the absorption of their calcium. This too, has been exaggerated by the dairy lobby. A 1990 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that greens such as broccoli and kale have high levels of calcium which is absorbed at least as well as that in milk. Excellent calcium balance on a non-dairy diet is easily attained because ALL vegetables and legumes contain calcium, and collectively it's more than adequate. This calcium stays in the bones, unlike much of that from the high protein-containing dairy products.
Now it begins to make sense. In cultures where the most protein is consumed, the calcium requirement for good bone density and protection against osteoporosis may be UNATTAINABLY high, without supplements -- it's a Catch-22. But for the majority of the world population, and among those consuming a plant-based diet in Western countries, calcium requirements for normal bone density are easily obtained without milk or other dairy products. Milk, it now seems clear, is not the solution to the malady of poor bone density. It may be a part of the problem, and you can have your calcium without the cow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I've read all sorts of conflicting reports on microwaves and what they do to the quality and health of our food. The evidence is scary enough that I've decided to wean us off of ours. We only really use it for defrosting once or twice a month and microwave popcorn on occasion, but the biggest thing is reheating food. I always make enough food for leftovers and those usually get reheated in the microwave.
So my search began once again for a better way.
I have found a few good solutions.
1. Flashing
This has nothing to do with showing body parts. It's a great way to reheat food in the oven without re-cooking it. It works well with food that isn't too dense or that can be spread out.
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees and put the food in- preferably in a thinnish layer on a pan, pie tin or cookie sheet and let it go for 5-10 minutes. This works great for grains in the morning. I also reheated my Pad Thai this way in a pie dish. Delish.
2. Bathing
Once again, no nudity here. This is good for defrosting. Basically, you seal your food in a ziploc bag (if needed) and give it a nice warm bath in a bowl. Change the water out if needed. Works great for frozen fish or shrimp and also for frozen fruit and veg.
3. The counter top toaster oven with convection
This will probably be my next purchase with my Home Depot gift card. Big enough to fit a 12" pizza or a medium sized casserole. Since it's smaller than a standard oven, it preheats faster, takes up less energy and doesn't heat up the whole kitchen. The convection feature cooks about 33% faster.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veggie Pad Thai

My family is not big on spicy, so this one is super mild and really tasty.

Veggie Pad Thai

16 oz rice noodles (not too thin)
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 White or yellow onion, coarsely diced
1 cup chopped red and yellow bell peppers
3/4 cup chopped carrots
about 8 asparagus spears chopped in 2 inch pieces
about 2 cups fresh broccoli
about 8-10 baby bella mushrooms cut in quarters
Sauce (Recipe below)

Soak noodles according to package instructions.
Make sauce (see below).
Place broccoli, mushroom and asparagus in steamer and steam lightly.
Heat coconut oil on medium high heat in the bottom of a large skillet or pot and saute onion, peppers and carrots on medium heat until onions are translucent.
Add noodles and sauce to pot and stir fry for about 3-5 minutes- til noodles are al dente. Add steamed veggies and combine well.


4 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 red bell pepper
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
juice of 1 lime
5-6 small/medium cloves fresh garlic
1/2 to 1 tsp powdered ginger
1/8- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c water
3 tbsp corn starch

Put sauce ingredients in blender and blend until smooth, then bring to a simmer in small pot, stirring occasionally until thickened.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

This one is another slight adaptation from The Original Fast Foods book. I must give credit where credit is due!

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 1/2 cups chopped carrots
2 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 medium yellow onion
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups water
2 cups organic vegetable broth
3/4 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp Vogue instant chicken base (msg free)
5-6 cups fresh broccoli
1-2 cups frozen corn kernels
Salt and Pepper (always fresh ground)
(The OFF recipe calls for nutritional yeast instead of chicken base to give a cheesy flavor- I had none, but I would love to try it that way as well. This also renders the recipe vegetarian/vegan friendly)

Combine 1 cup carrot, one cup potatoes and all of the broccoli in steamer and cook to desired firmness.
Bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil in a large pot, add 1 1/2 cups each of potato and carrot as well as the onion. Cook until soft and pour the whole thing (water and all into blender with cashews and chicken base (or nutritional yeast). Blend until smooth and return to pot. Stir in vegetable broth. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add steamed vegetables to blended mixture along with corn. Stir well and enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roasted Garlic Dressing

I didn't have all the ingredients I wanted for a recipe I had brewing in my head, so I improvised. It wasn't one of my best and I hope to tweak it with the right ingredients at some other time, but the dressing was so yum that I thought I'd post that recipe and some suggestions for it's use here.

Roasted Garlic Dressing

1 head fresh garlic
about 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1-2 tsp sea salt

Chop the top 1/4 off of the head of garlic and drizzle/rub with a little olive oil. Wrap tightly in tinfoil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.
Remove from oven and foil and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Squeeze all the garlic cloves out of the head and put them in a blender (I use my magic bullet) with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, parsley and sea salt . Pulse until smooth.

This would be awesome on a lentil or quinoa salad, roasted potatoes, the rainbow roasted veggies (see prior recipe), a fresh green salad, spinach salad, the possibilities are endless!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet Potato Pasta

This is a new creation that got the family approval. Healthy and delicious.

Sweet Potato Pasta

approx 12 oz whole grain pasta (I used spaghetti, but other types would work)
3 medium or 2 large sweet potatoes or yams
2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
approx 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 14 oz can coconut milk
approx 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
sea salt to taste (approx. 1-2 tsp)

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and toss with a little olive oil.

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes. Steam until soft (about 15 minutes).
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft.
Add corn and spinach to oil and onion and mix to coat.
Place steamed sweet potatoes and coconut milk in blender and blend until smooth.
Add smooth mix to pan with spinach and stir well.
Add basil, garlic and oregano. Stir over medium low heat until heated through.
Serve over cooked pasta.
Enjoy with a colorful green salad!

Our Favorite Dessert- Berry Delicious Pudding

This comes from my mother-in-law- thanks Joyce!
Dessert can be healthy too!

Berry Delicious Pudding

1 box silken tofu
2-3 cups frozen strawberries (you can use blueberries or other berries as well, but strawberries are our favorite by far!)
2-3 tbsp agave nectar

Run some water over the strawberries to thaw a bit, then put it all in the blender and smooth it up.
This one reminds me of the very yummiest strawberry pudding pop.

What about breakfast?

I post a lot of dinner ideas, and they almost always make enough for leftover lunches the next day, but what about breakfast? The goal is nutrition. I pack as much in as possible so that when nutrient needs are met first thing in the morning, we end up snacking less on junk throughout the day and I send my family off knowing that they have what they need so that I don't have to worry about what they consume when they are away. Here are some of our easy favorites.

Ultimate Nutrition Smoothies
Sometimes these are more nutrient packed than others. It depends on how badly I need to go shopping! Fruit is a seasonal thing as well, so we have to take that into account. Sometimes I send half the apple or pear in my son's lunch and only put half in the shake, it just depends.
Here are some ideas.
1/2 c water (mostly to help the blender work better!)
1 cup 100% grape juice
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup ground pumpkin seeds
2-3 tbsp ground sunflower seed kernels
1 banana
1 apple
1 mango
1 pear
2 cups fresh spinach (makes the color interesting, but doesn't change the flavor much)
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 peach (or enough frozen slices to equal 1/2-1 peach) white and yellow peaches have different flavor so sometimes I add both
1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
1/4 cantaloupe
1/2- 1 cup frozen honeydew melon
1-2 cups frozen or fresh strawberries

You get the point- throw in whatever you can and believe it or not, it tastes fruity and delicious. You have to blend it really well and it helps (at least with anything but a vitamix which could very possibly puree a baseball) to add things a few at a time and blend well.
My kids love this, but sometimes will only drink it with a straw. They have it almost every morning with a whole wheat toast with agave and cinnamon.
Since I am not keen on the idea of getting up at 6 am before my husband leaves for work and turning on the blender, I make a big blender full the night before and store it in the fridge in airtight water/blender bottles (a thermos would work well too) and Aaron drinks it on his way to work. It doesn't separate and stores really well. We try to have these 5 mornings a week.

But for cold mornings when we are low on the fresh stuff:

Sweet Whole Grains

(From my sweet friend Nae)
You can mix this up however you care to. I cook up a big batch in my rice cooker and keep it in a tupperware in the fridge, then warm up however much we need in the morning.
2.5 cups of whole grain
(Spelt, brown rice, pearl barley, wheat... or a combination of any or all)
7.5 cups water
Cook until water is absorbed.

It the morning:
warm 1-2 cups of cooked grains. Add 1-2 tbsp coconut oil and 1-2 tbsp agave nectar per cup of grains. Mix it up and enjoy!

We like to have at least one fruit with our breakfast, which you can eat separately or chopped up and mixed in.