Recipe of the Week

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Twice-baked loaded potatoes with coconut bacon!

Like most women my age I have tried my share of diets over the years.  Starting back when I was in college I put on the predictable “freshman 15”, and I tried many ways to get rid of the weight.  I still remember eating a salad bowl full of fruit one day on The Scarsdale Diet.  Oy.  Eventually though, after having a baby or two I joined Weight Watchers and lost the extra pesky weight for good.  Probably the best thing I learned from WW was what a normal portion of food looked like (3 oz. of meat = a deck of cards).  Anyone know what I’m talking about?

Now that I’m vegan and my gold standard (what I aspire to, not necessarily what I achieve) is a whole foods, plant-based diet, I am often revisiting some of the messages I received in those WW days that have little to do with health and more to do with calorie restriction.  This is a long-winded way of saying that for years I believed that white potatoes were the equivalent of white rice and white bread–empty calories with little nutritional value.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  While there’s no place for white rice and white bread on a whole foods, plant-based diet, that is not the case with potatoes.  In fact, baked potatoes (skin included) are a good source of protein and a bunch of other nutrients.  Click here for a quick overview.  As such I’ve decided to bring baked potatoes back into my dinner rotation.  Oh, and did I mention that I love a crispy baked potato?

You may be wondering about these loaded potatoes.  Aren’t they also loaded with fat? Not at all.  There is a small amount of fat in the almond milk and coconut but that’s it.  Yet, these are as delicious and satisfying as they look.  There are four parts to this recipe:  potato mixture, “queso” sauce, pico de gallo and coconut bacon and it’s very simple to put it all together.  First I baked the potatoes for an hour, and scooped the potato out and mixed it with sautéed onion (I did it without oil), cilantro, liquid aminos and spices.  I also added in about 1/2 cup of black beans and two tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk to make it a bit more creamy.  Then I put this filling back in the potato shells and put it back to bake for another 20 minutes.  To make the queso, I blended almond milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, lemon juice, liquid aminos and spices and warmed it all up on the stove.  The pico de gallo is a simple blend of diced tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice.  Finally the coconut bacon is large flake coconut blended with liquid smoke, liquid aminos, maple syrup and water and baked until crispy.   When the filled potatoes were done baking, I spooned the queso and pico over them and added a sprinkle of coconut bacon. These potatoes are simply fantastic and you can check out the recipe here.

This was my first time making queso, pico and coconut bacon.  The queso is truly a cheesy tasting, creamy sauce that would also work well as a dip for veggies or chips.  The pico is tangy and refreshing and I plan to make more to add to salads.  I have to say that while the coconut bacon looks great, I’m not really a fan.  It’s just a little sweet and strongly flavored for my taste.  David loved it though, so if you’ve never tried this vegan staple, I encourage you to make it once and see what you think.  Many folks swear by it.

If you’re a fan of twice-baked and /or loaded baked potatoes this healthy alternative will not disappoint.  And for all you weight watchers out there, it really is okay to eat the whole thing ;).

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Recipe of the Week

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Balela!

We haven’t made too many new recipes lately.  During the hot summer we’ve been eating mostly salads with some combination of greens, grains, beans, hummus and avocado.  When we were taking refuge from the heat at Costco (is that anyone else’s favorite weekend errand?) we found a big container of Balela and it quickly became a favorite of David’s.  So I decided to find a recipe online and make it myself.  This way we can control how much oil and salt goes into the mix.

Have you heard of Balela?   Balela  is a Mediterranean-style bean salad.  The basic recipe is a combination of garbanzo and black beans, tomatoes (the Costco version had sun-dried), red onion, mint and parsley.  The dressing is a zesty emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and jalapeño pepper which has a lovely kick.  The recipe I used is here.  It makes enough for an army so we’ll be eating it for the next week (score!).  This would also make a great Labor Day weekend salad for a crowd.

Even though school is already back in session in Tucson (those poor kids!),  it still feels like summer to me.  I will keep sunning, swimming and eating salads.  If you’re still eating salads where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know how you like it!

Recipe of the Week

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Green Chili Rice with Black Beans!

I haven’t tried a new recipe in a while.  While we were away I mostly trotted out tried and true dishes to minimize time spent in the kitchen.  So it was nice to try something new tonight.  David and I saw Plant Pure Nation last night (more on that in my next post), and I had that on the brain when I went searching for a new recipe on the Forks Over Knives website.  For those of you who don’t know, these movies (made by the same team) focus on the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.  This health-promoting way of eating includes fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  It does not include any processed food, meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, salt or oil.

I am now a vegan lifestyle coach and educator, and I assume that many of my future clients will be interested in going vegan in order to prevent or reverse diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  I typically use olive oil in my cooking, particularly when I’m sautéing vegetables, and I think it’s important that I’m comfortable cooking either with or without oil.  Plus, I think it’s better for my own health to limit how much oil I consume.  The Forks Over Knives website is full of oil-free recipes and you can link to this one here.

This dish may be missing the oil but not the flavor.  The first step is creating a poblano pepper, mild green chili, spinach and cilantro puree (plenty of flavor right there!).  The puree is added to vegetable broth and the rice is cooked in that.  While the rice is cooking, you sauté an onion.  In order to sauté without oil, you stir the diced onion over medium heat and add water (one tablespoon at a time) if the onion starts to stick.  Once the onion is translucent you add jalapeño pepper, black beans and cumin.  I added some salt at this point because that’s my preference, but you can easily skip it.  Once the rice is cooked you mix all the ingredients together, sprinkle with lime zest and serve it up.

Our dish came out much creamier than the original recipe.  I’m sure that’s a technique thing (me and rice!) but in the end, David and I both enjoyed the consistency which was rather risotto-like.  The poblanos and jalapeño added just the right amount of heat, and neither of us missed the oil.   So I learned something new today, and I will definitely consider using this oil-free approach in other dishes.

So guys, what do you think about oil?  Yea or nay?

Recipe of the Week

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Tofu Tikka Masala!

This dish is a take off on Paneer Tikka Masala, which I’ve never actually had.  I have had Chicken Tikka Masala which was one of my favorite Indian dishes in my pre-vegan life.  I figured that the firm tofu would work well and I was excited to try to replicate some of the delicious flavors of the dish I enjoyed.  The result was a tasty and authentic Indian dish, but not quite the same as the restaurant version.  I found the recipe for this dish on the One Green Planet website and you can take a look at it here.

I made this dish pretty much as written.  I did add a fair amount of salt and the juice of half a lemon for some much-needed acid. I had to track down some spices (cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds), but I had the rest of the long list of spices on hand.  And of course, this dish is all about the spices, sautéed in a bit of oil “until a nice aroma fills the kitchen”.  That nice aroma is likely to be filling my kitchen for the next few days 🙂

I was most impressed with the creamy consistency of this Tikka Masala.  This is all achieved using only one teaspoon of oil and a quarter cup of soy yogurt for marinating the tofu and peppers.  Like many “creamy” vegan dishes the creaminess comes from blending the slowly-cooked vegetables and spices in a high speed blender.  No butter or cream in sight.  Kind to the animals and much better for our health.

Flavor-wise I liked this dish but I think I can do better with it next time.  First, I would leave out the cinnamon stick.  This might be less authentic, but I’m just not a fan of cinnamon in savory dishes.  I should know this about myself already but I keep trying.  If this doesn’t bother you, keep the cinnamon in there.  Second, I think I cooked the spices a bit too long.  While I didn’t think they were burning I detected a slight bitterness.  Plus the color of the sauce was deeper than I expected, and I think it was from the same problem.

So I recommend this recipe.  If you have more experience cooking Indian food than I do (i.e. you can do better with the spices)  give this a try.  It’s a lot of satisfying flavor and creamy texture in a surprisingly healthy dish.

Recipe of the Week

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Sushi!

How gorgeous is that?

Before going vegan I never ate sushi.  Never even tried it.  I wasn’t a big fish lover in general and raw fish held no appeal for me. Hmmm, maybe I was on to something.  Since going vegan I had one sushi roll at a Chinese/Thai place here in town.  I liked it well enough but wasn’t feeling the need to run right home and make my own.

Turns out though, I recently found out that my iodine is low.  I wasn’t too surprised about that mostly because I don’t use iodized salt and I haven’t been eating any sea vegetables.  Well, I do need to up my iodine and in keeping with my “food as medicine” philosophy I decided to investigate dulse flakes, nori and kelp noodles.  I thought I’d have the most luck sprinkling dulse flakes into some faux tuna salad, but on my first attempt to make a raw sunflower seed type thing, the dish was so nasty it went straight in the trash.  I just couldn’t handle the “essence of fish”.  Okay, so no dulse for me (at least not in that form).

And that brought me to option #2, the nori. And that brought me to sushi.  At least with sushi I knew that a tasty dish was possible. When I was searching for recipes, I was delighted to find that the Minimalist Baker had an easy recipe that even used a kitchen towel to roll the sushi up.  Sounded like a win to me.  You can check out the recipe and her technique here.

You can really put anything inside these rolls, and we settled on carrots, cucumber, tofu (I had some Whole Foods sesame tofu on hand), avocado and red pepper.  You can use short grain white rice to make the rolls, but we used sushi rice that we found at Whole Foods.  Interestingly I had always assumed that the “sticky” rice found in sushi had to do with the grain, but the rice is made sticky by adding a rice vinegar/sugar/salt mixture to it.  We followed this recipe exactly as written, and it worked out great.  Luckily David was on hand to do the rolling since I was all thumbs!

These little rolls were delicious.  We dipped them in a wasabi/soy sauce mixture that David whipped up and served it all with a green salad with some miso dressing:

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So while creating this dish might have been more a labor of necessity than a labor of love, I feel pretty great about how it all turned out.  I can get some of the nutrition I’ve been missing in a really tasty way, and I discovered a fun dish that I could easily serve to company.

Before I do that though, I really do need to pick up some chopsticks 🙂

Recipe of the Week

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Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad!

With the weather heating up here in Tucson we’ve been shifting our attention from stews and soups to lighter fare.  Several nights a week David and I find ourselves grazing on big salads for dinner, and a fresh quinoa salad with a dollop of hummus over greens is one of my favorite combinations.

I have a few quinoa recipes already in our rotation, but I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.  When I found this recipe, with its Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients, I decided to give it a try.  Just look how gorgeous it is!  You can link to the recipe here.

Because quinoa is such a light and fluffy grain, I prefer it to be lightly dressed.  This recipe calls for just two tablespoons each of sesame oil and rice vinegar and that’s just enough to flavor the whole dish.  The rainbow of veggies (carrots, purple cabbage, red pepper, yellow pepper and edamame) is such a visually pleasing and crunchy mix.  Minced fresh ginger adds a nice bite to the otherwise mild salad.

This salad is really versatile.  It’s hearty enough for dinner and light enough for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack ( I’ve been munching on the leftovers while I’ve been writing this post). Plus, the vibrant colors are a great addition to any pot luck or picnic table.

So if you’re ready to lighten things up where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know if you like it!

Recipe of the Week

Rigatoni Bolognese!

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This recipe is just fantastic.  But before I talk about the food I want to talk about this beautiful book:

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Gene Baur, head of Farm Sanctuary, is the face of the animal welfare movement.  There are three Farm Sanctuary locations in the US, and this organization does so much, not only to save hundreds of animals who might otherwise be slaughtered or abandoned, but to help us understand that when we kill animals for food or clothing we are killing someone, not something. You may have seen Gene Baur recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and if you haven’t you can see his interview here.  Great stuff.

It takes a lot to get me to buy a hardcover book, but as soon as I saw this one I knew I wanted it on my shelf.  The subtitle says it all:

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer and Feeling Better Every Day

“Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” makes a case for veganism by educating the reader about all the usual things (animals, environment, health) but through the stunning photographs and stories of animals being rescued from hellacious circumstances (i.e. factory farming) we come to know the individual animals and their personalities.  These stories help us see  that there is no difference between dogs and cats and cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens and pigs.  We arbitrarily create these distinctions so that we can continue eating animals that would very likely be our friends and companions in other circumstances.  As we start to understand this about our culture and ourselves it becomes more difficult to participate in the enslavement and torture of any animals.  This book beautifully illustrates that truth.

This book also contains scores of mouth-watering recipes by some of the best known vegan chefs around.  This recipe uses Gardein meatless crumbles which I had never tried before and I was delighted with how it worked out.  I actually couldn’t find the Gardein brand so I used Beyond Meat crumbles.  This recipe is a classic bolognese full of carrots, celery, onion and garlic.  I couldn’t find the exact recipe from the book online but I did find a similar version here.  Of course, I encourage you to get this book and enjoy all it has to offer, including this wonderful recipe.

As I continue to share recipes and other aspects of my vegan journey, I hope that it is becoming clear that veganism is about abundance, and not deprivation.  Yes, I eat very, very well, but I benefit mostly from knowing that the choices I make every day are consistent with what I believe.   If you love and have a deep respect for all animals, both human and non-human, and you are not vegan, please consider giving it a try.  Living our values is a beautiful and fulfilling experience.

Recipe of the Week

Mexican Bean Salad!

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As the weather warms up, I’m shifting my attention from soups and stews to lighter and cooler fare.  My love affair with beans, however, continues.  This simple and oh-so-flavorful dish gets recipe of the week honors not only because it’s delicious, but because the recipe makes enough for an army.  We’ve been eating it for days and we still haven’t seen the bottom of the bowl.  This is good though–less time cooking means more time for blogging!

Bean salad recipes abound and I think I settled on this one because it’s such a feast for the eyes.  The recipe is from allrecipes.com and you can link to it here.  This salad is all raw and I used canned beans which made it a snap to put together.  If you look over the ingredients you may see some quantities that look pretty large like a full tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup each olive oil and vinegar.  But as Ina Garten is fond of saying “it’s a lot of salad”.  In this case she’s right.  I made the dish using the exact quantities written.  The only change I made right off the bat was to substitute garbanzo beans for cannellini beans but that’s just my taste preference.  As other reviewers noted, you can really cut the oil and vinegar by half and still have the beans well-coated, but  I actually liked having the extra vinaigrette dressing pooling at the bottom of the bowl.  I could dip in (or not) if I wanted more liquid along with the beans.  I also used Trader Joe’s fire roasted frozen corn which held up really well and added some nice smokiness.  The only change I would make next time is to reduce the amount of sugar to one tablespoon since the veggies are plenty sweet on their own.

So, if you’re ready to get your spring on or you need the perfect pot-luck dish, this bean salad will not disappoint.  Hope you’ll give it a try!

 

 

Recipe of the Week

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Black Beans and Rice!

Really?  So much excitement over black beans and rice?  Well, yes, it’s that good, and my only criteria for a “recipe of the week” dish is that it has to taste great.  Check.

Before I get into this simple, but full-of-flavor recipe, I’d like to share a photo of my latest kitchen gadget:

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I finally had to admit that I am incapable of consistently making a good pot of rice.  Just when I thought I had those proportions down I would end up with something gummy or crunchy.  I resisted the urge to buy a rice cooker probably because its utility seemed kind of limited.  But in my vegan life, rice is a staple so it had to be done.  The good news (aside from consistently good rice) is that I found this smallish model at Bed and Bath, and with the 20% off coupon it cost less than twenty bucks.  So now I set it and forget it.

On to the beans and rice…

When I searched for a basic recipe I realized that folks out there are getting very creative with their beans and rice.  Asian- inspired, Indian-inspired, etc.  But I just wanted something that had a Mexican vibe, good flavor and a little kick.  Plus I wanted it to be an easy “any night” kind of dish.  So I settled on a recipe from the “Tasty Home” website, and you can link to it here.

Here’s a look at the ingredients–mostly items I usually have on hand:

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I followed the recipe as written except I used canned diced tomatoes with jalapeño and cilantro which added just a bit more heat.  The bean mixture starts with a quick veggie sauté:

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Once the veggies are soft, you add the rest of the ingredients and let the whole thing simmer for about 15 minutes.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

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I love the color in this dish!  You can just see both how delicious it will be and how good it will be for you.  The addition of some apple cider vinegar (every dish needs some acid!!) makes this simple dish a craveable meal.  Spoon it over your perfectly cooked rice (yes!), and it’s done.

Finally, this recipe, which makes 5-6 servings, is very inexpensive and takes no time to prepare.  I used canned beans but you can cut the cost even further by making your own black beans. If you are short on money or time this recipe is definitely for you.   I hope you’ll give it a try.

 

 

Recipe of the Week

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Divine shredded kale salad!

I’m calling this my recipe of the week but we had it twice this week and I have bunches of kale all ready to go for round three. It’s that good.  This recipe is from Oh She Glows (thanks for another great one Angela!) and you can take a look at it here.

I was drawn to this recipe not only because the ingredient list is full of stuff I like (pecans and dried cranberries) but also because it was inspired by a salad at True Food Cafe up by my old stomping ground in Scottsdale.  My two sons still live up there and I’ve been planning to stop by True Food when I’m visiting next week.  Any mention of Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix or Arizona gets my attention.  I live in paradise!  So back to this simple, but elegant salad…

You know, I’m not really a kale lover but I am committed to having lots of it in my diet.  The nutritional benefits are just too good.  I juice with it daily and throw it into soups and most salads.  But in this salad the kale is the star of the show.  The dressing is a simple garlic lemon vinaigrette.  Those crunchy sprinkles are a “pecan parmesan” made with toasted pecans, nutritional yeast, salt and a bit of oil.  The kale is shredded (how I like it best), dressed with the vinaigrette, sprinkled with lots of the crunchy pecan mix and topped with the cranberries.  The trick though is to dress the salad a few hours before eating to let the flavors come together and let the kale soften up some.  Wouldn’t want to do that with iceberg lettuce or romaine–you’d have a soggy mess.  Score another one for kale!

Whether you enjoy this salad as a main dish with some crusty bread, as a side with some soup or loaded into a tortilla for a lunch wrap I promise you won’t be disappointed.  And your body will love you for it.