My New Favorite Veggie Burger

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This is not the first veggie burger I’m writing about and I doubt it will be my last, but so far it’s definitely my favorite.

This is a sweet potato and black bean burger that I saw a few days ago on Minimalistbaker.com and it looked so delicious that I had to get right to it.  Actually, I was able to get right to it because it uses ingredients that I already had on hand–sweet potatoes, black beans (I used canned), brown rice, walnuts, scallions, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, salt and pepper. The link for the recipe is here.

These burgers come together very easily and are baked which means almost no oil and very easy clean up.  All good.  The burgers have some kick but are not too spicy, and they have a nice firm texture.   I ate mine on a pile of greens, and David had his on an English muffin with a big slab of avocado:

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The Miso Mayo has been in our fridge for a while:

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The burgers are kind of Southwest and the Miso Mayo is kind of Asian but hey, it worked.  You can really doctor these burgers up any way you like.  I’ll be trying different combinations because I have a bunch of leftovers.  Leftovers are very good.

I pretty much followed this recipe as written except that I used canned beans, upped the salt to 1/2 tsp ( 3/4 tsp would have worked even better) and I made each burger 1/3 cup size instead of the recommended 1/4 cup which makes more of a slider size.  I did learn a neat technique for forming the burgers.  The recipe suggests lining your measuring cup with plastic wrap, filling the cup with the raw burger mixture (which is delicious btw) and inverting the cup over the baking sheet.  When the burger drops down onto the sheet with the plastic wrap on top you can gently press on the plastic wrap to form the burger.  I meant to take some photos of this but I was too busy being enamored with this simple technique to remember the camera.  Here’s a shot of the burgers ready to go in the oven:

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Much neater than my usual “eyeball it” technique.

These burgers are satisfying and incredibly nutritious.  Actually, I think the truth is that these burgers are satisfying because they are nutritious.  Since becoming vegan I’ve definitely experienced a shift in what I crave.  While I still have my bits and bites of sweet desserts and I love my coffee (decaf now!) sweet and creamy, most of what I crave is what’s good for my body–colorful veggies and fruits (have you tried sumo tangerines?), beans, lentils and whole grains.

It feels amazing to have taken the steps to make such a significant change for the better–better for myself, better for the animals and better for the environment.

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Plant Power!

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I am not a competitive athlete.  I played tennis in high school and I ran a four-mile race back in the 90’s.  Exercise wasn’t a major part of my life until I moved to Arizona when I was in my forties.  I just couldn’t resist the gorgeous terrain and beautiful weather.  I became a regular hiker.  And while I routinely hike at a pretty good pace I’m not much into timing myself and tracking my “progress”.   Historically, the more I hiked the better I felt, both mentally and physically, and the more easily I could manage my weight.  Not very complicated.

While being vegan is undoubtedly a gift to the body, and I’ve been starting to feel the effects of improved nutrition (better sleep, no gluten sensitivity, lighter and leaner). I hadn’t given very much thought to how the change in diet would impact my hiking.  I started thinking some about this when I listened to podcasts of two very accomplished athletes discussing their competitive successes which were fueled by plant-based, whole foods diets.  The first athlete, Mark Frazier, is an ultra-marathoner (his website, “No Meat Athlete” is here)and the second is Brendan Brazier, a former professional Ironman triathlete and ultra-marathoner (his website, “Thrive Forward” is here).

What I learned was that neither of these athletes went vegan for ethical reasons. While they have feelings about this now, these guys were each seeking an eating approach that would best lead to improved athletic performance.   And we’re talking crazy high-level performance here.  After trying out different combinations of food, they each settled on entirely plant-based diets.  One often-mentioned benefit to the vegan diet was improved recovery time.  Faster recovery = more training.  This certainly made sense to me since I believe that our bodies have an incredible capacity to heal themselves if given the best nutrition.

So four months after going vegan, this got me thinking about testing out my own level of hiking fitness.  And that brings me to the Phoneline Trail in Sabino Canyon.  David and I hike all over this canyon but there’s a half mile stretch of the Phoneline Trail that has always given me fits.  It’s not the steepest part, but it is a section of sustained incline with no switchbacks (oh how I love switchbacks).  When we first moved into our house I routinely climbed this section of the trail and I seldom did it comfortably, even after several months.  Eventually it started to dampen my enthusiasm (bad!) so I devised different trail combinations and avoided that part.

Well, this weekend I decided to get back on Phoneline.  I didn’t really expect to see a big difference.  Man, was I wrong!  Not a huff or a puff.  Zip, zip and it was done.  I didn’t feel tired, winded or depleted. I finished the rest of the hike (probably another few miles) feeling totally energized. While it’s impossible to say definitively that my vegan diet caused the improved performance, the ease with which I scampered up that trail was pretty hard to ignore.

It’s exciting to consider that in my mid-fifties I can, with a change of diet and consistent, reasonably intensive exercise turn back the clock and potentially feel and perform better than I did a decade ago.

Plant power is very, very cool.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Guests Vegan Style

Going vegan means there are lots of “firsts” that go beyond all of the firsts associated with changing to a new and unfamiliar way of eating.  In other posts I’ve written about all the foods– miso, cashew cream, nutritional yeast, lentils, beans and green juice that were new to me.  Several months into this journey cooking with these ingredients has become pretty much second nature.

From a vegan lifestyle standpoint, there are different kinds of “firsts”.  So far, we have experienced our first time traveling on a plane, going on vacation, visiting family, eating out and even shopping for holiday gifts.  Each year I send Anne a Hanukkah box full of goodies that I select.  I had to consider whether I would buy a leather wallet (nope) or a cookbook that included non-vegan food (nope).  So beyond food, there’s lots of research and planning that goes on once we step outside our own homes and engage more in the culture we are a part of (we are trying to change?).

So this past weekend, David’s son, Jason and his girlfriend, Kristen, flew across the country to visit with us for three days.  It was the first time we had guests (non-vegan) staying in our house since we became vegan.   We knew they would be completely respectful of our vegan home, but we also wanted to make sure they had a great time with us (it was their vacation after all), ate well and felt welcome.   And that meant some planning.  Our time spent together was really fun and relaxing and I thought I’d share how we balanced our needs with theirs.

Jay and Kristen were due in Thursday night, and we knew they would not have had dinner.   We figured we’d eat before they arrived and take them out to one of their favorite local places.  The plan was to cook dinner for us that could be reheated for lunch the next day. We chose our favorite vegan mac and cheese (recipe here): DSCN2058

and smoky tomato and lentil soup (recipe here): DSCN2223

I also baked a yummy pumpkin bread earlier in the day figuring that it could be toasted for breakfast or snacked on while we were hanging around.  Here’s a look at my breakfast this morning (recipe here): DSCN2336

At dinner at our favorite local bar and grill, they ordered non-vegan items off the menu and we had drinks and munched on chips and salsa.

On Friday we started the day with smoothies (banana, strawberries, blueberries, rice milk) and we all munched on toast, cereal and english muffins. Easy peasy.  For lunch we all enjoyed the reheated soup and mac and cheese giving us plenty of energy for an afternoon hike in Sabino Canyon.  We had lots of nuts,chips, pretzels and fresh fruit around for afternoon snacking.

Friday night we also went out to dinner to our neighborhood Italian place (one we had scoped out for ourselves weeks earlier).  We happily ate penne pasta with tomato, spicy peppers and mushrooms and Jay and Kristen made their own (non-vegan) choices off the menu.  We shared a bottle of red wine and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday was all about hanging out and watching football.  The cold beer was ready.  We had plenty of nosh around and this arrived just in time:

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This vegan cheese is all the buzz and for good reason.  We ordered a package of four of these handcrafted vegan cheeses before the new year and they arrived just in time for the game.  Our pack included a smoky English farmhouse cheese, some garlic/herb which was tangy and creamy, this winter truffle and some sun dried tomato that we haven’t tried yet.  These are quite tasty and as Kristen said,  “if you didn’t say they were vegan, no one would know”.  High praise if you’ve ever tried any of the other commercial vegan cheeses.  If you want to know more about this product, the website is here.  I totally enjoyed being able to serve “cheese and crackers” and everyone loved it.

Saturday night dinner was a chance for me to do my vegan thing in the kitchen.  Jeff joined us, and I made one of our favorite dishes, Tempeh Creole.  I’ve written about this one before and here’s a look at it:

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Jay and Kristen were surprised by the meaty texture and the transformation of the tempeh from its packaged form to this.  Kristen and I had fun dicing, slicing and putting this dish together, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. By this point I was ready for some convenience food so I served this for dessert:

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Actually I served the chocolate walnut fudge flavor, but when I went to take a picture of it this morning the container was nowhere to be seen.  Hmmm…  This stuff is delicious, especially if you like coconut.  We let ours soften up for a while before serving and the consistency was super creamy and delicious.

After a lovely weekend full of talking, eating, drinking, hiking and football we said goodbye yesterday afternoon.  Jay and Kristen were very open-minded about eating our vegan dishes (they even enjoyed our afternoon green juice), and we tried to offer a variety of familiar and tasty vegan dishes.  At the same time we made plans to take them out to eat so they would have the opportunity to eat other non-vegan foods while we were together.

I’m offering up this post as a way to show people who are already vegan or just thinking about it, that it is possible (and fun!) to get together with family or friends, remain true to a vegan lifestyle and also be considerate of others who eat differently than we do.   There’s no question that it takes a bit more planning.  Knowing in advance which non-vegan restaurants work well is one important part of the equation because it is definitely harder as a vegan to just “run out for a bite to eat”. But what better way to show out-of-town guests that you care than to plan for their arrival and serve an array of tasty foods?

I believe that the best way to encourage others to consider veganism as a way of life is to show them “how it’s done”.  I can’t say that Jason and Kristen loved every morsel of our vegan meals, but they certainly saw that it’s possible to live compassionately, cook delicious food and still live and love in the culture that surrounds us.

Mean, Green and Delicious!

I never thought I’d drink one of these:

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Juicing is not a new thing, but before David and I started our own daily juicing my experience with vegetable juice was…well it was probably that V-8 back in the 70’s!  A few years ago my son, Michael and his then-girlfriend went through a bit of a juicing phase and I really wasn’t curious about why they were doing it or how they felt about it.  I think I had a hard time imaging that something this color (it really is a gorgeous shade of green) wouldn’t taste super-“earthy”–like grass.  I never imagined it could taste delicious.  But it absolutely does. More on that in a minute…

The idea of juicing got going for us while we were in Mexico.  During our down time in our room we watched lots of movies on our Kindle Fire and the first one was this:

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This is the story of entrepreneur, Joe Cross, an Aussie who went on a 60-day juice fast while traveling across the United States and filming his interactions with the folks he met along the way.  His reason for embarking on this was to both lose weight (he was over 300 lbs at the start of the fast) and clear up a debilitating autoimmune skin disease.  His juice fast accomplished both, and he has since helped thousands of people “reboot” (pump up their nutrition) with juice.  You can link to his website here.  I recommend this movie–it’s both very entertaining and informative.

For me, the most compelling part of this movie was the disappearance of Joe’s autoimmune disease.  I believe in the body’s ability to heal itself if cleared of toxins and given proper plant-based nutrition.  Juicing helps with both.  By juicing, it is possible to consume lots of the amazing micronutrients in vegetables and fruits without needing to consume baskets of food.  Admittedly, you are leaving out the fiber, but I consume plenty of fiber in my vegan diet.  I can struggle however, to get enough dark leafy greens, even with my nightly salad.

So David and I decided to treat ourselves to a good quality juicer and we chose this Omega:

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Kind of cute, no?

Breville and Omega are the two most popular brands of juicers.  There are pros and cons to both, and after watching lots of side-by-side demos on youtube we decided to go with the Omega, mostly because it handles the leafy greens better and has less air so the juice is a bit denser/more nutritious.  It does take more time than using the Breville because you have to cut up your veggies into smallish pieces rather than jamming the whole lot down a chute.  Surprisingly, clean-up is very quick and easy.  If you’re in the market for a juicer, I recommend taking a look at some of these comparison videos.

If you’ve never juiced you may be wondering about the process, so I thought I’d take some shots of today’s juicing.  The recipe for the green juice you see above ( the Joe Cross “mean, green” juice) is:

4 celery stalks

1 large cucumber

6-8 kale leaves (I like Tuscan)

2 granny smith apples

1/2 lemon (peeled)

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Here’s the pile of veggies, washed, cut and ready to go:

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I did peel the lemon before juicing.  The cucumber was organic so I didn’t bother peeling that.  The juicer can pretty much handle anything.  After about 5 minutes of feeding the veggies into the juicer the set up looks like this:

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The (very dry) pulp is pushed out while the juice drops out the bottom.  There’s a mesh dish on top of the juice that further strains the pulp:

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And here’s the daily output  (I refrigerate David’s until he gets home) :

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This green juice is so refreshing- a bit sweet and a bit tart.  And the more I drink, the more I crave.  There’s no question that the mix is exactly what my body needs.  This amount of veggies makes about 24 oz of juice which David and I share.  I could easily chug down the whole thing myself!

I am continually learning about ways to bump up my vegan nutrition, and adding one good “infusion” of juice a day feels like an important addition to my diet.  I have my juice mid-afternoon, my prime noshing time.  I’ve noticed that I feel less hungry and have more energy after drinking the juice.  I can’t think of a diet (vegan or non) that wouldn’t be improved with some good quality green juice.

If you’re not sure if this is for you, Whole Foods has a juice bar and they offer a similar green juice plus some other brightly colored options.  If your experience with juice is as limited as mine was, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, both by how the juice tastes and (more importantly) how you will feel.  Definitely worth a try.

Since I’m a juicing newbie, I haven’t ventured beyond this basic recipe but I’m always interested in recommendations.  If you are a juicer and you have a favorite blend I’d love to hear about it.

So down the hatch and here’s to our good health.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disconnects and Cynicism

I don’t watch television commercials these days if I can help it.  I imagine you don’t either. But lately I’ve been watching live football games and have had to endure (when I didn’t think to mute the sound) the usual barrage of car, electronics, beer and junk food ads.  And there are two campaigns floating around now that I just can’t get out of my head.  The first of these is from the good folks at Chick-fil-a:

 

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This “Eat More Chikin” cow campaign has been around since 1995.  I’m sure I’ve seen the ads and billboards before, but I doubt I paid much attention.  Basically, the Chick-fil-a fast food chain used ads like the one in the photo above to encourage burger-eating fast food customers to switch to chicken.   But last night we saw an ad that just blew me away.

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This ad uses a live cow, and you can link to a video of the ad here (Click on the ad called “Missing”)

In this spot, the live cow looks imploringly at a woman chowing down on her fast food burger;  after being stared at by the cow she sheepishly looks down at the burger in her hand, connecting the meat on the bun with this very alive and soulful creature in front of her.  Her shame is apparent once she has some awareness.

If this was an ad from PETA I would be most impressed, unfortunately the message is to eat more chicken.  In other words, see your burger as an “individual” (her name is Mabel) and sentient being, but quickly do a disconnect, ignore that blooming awareness and…have a chicken sandwich?  This ad arouses our sense of compassion for animals and at the same time asks us to ignore those feelings.  We are so used to disconnecting from our own humanity when it comes to what we eat that the uncomfortable message of an ad like this barely registers.

And that brings me to another ad that can only resonate with a population that is in a complete and total fog:

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This ad is from Foster Farms, a huge poultry company (factory farming at its worst) on the west coast.  In this campaign the “amazing chickens” are performing classic rock songs.  You can watch one of the spots for yourself here (apparently someone out there thinks this is funny).

After seeing all this “amazingness” one’s natural impulse, I suppose, is to want to run out and eat those chickens right up!  HUH?  The cut from the singing to the bag of frozen nuggets is just too bizarre for words.  So, the message (I guess!) is that amazing animals should be eaten.  Well, come to think of it, those service dogs do look pretty tasty.  This is so cynical and beyond disturbing.

Since going vegan, many people have told me that they don’t like being told what to eat.  Frankly, I think I’m the least of their problems.