easy vegetarian recipes

dreaming of bagels / warm lentil salad with mint & parsley vinaigrette

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DSC_0219So I recently found out that I have a wheat allergy. My initial reaction was calm and something along the lines of: %#*&$@#?!, immediately followed by an intense craving for bagels and beer. Look, I’ve been vegan for over ten years, and have found it to be the easiest, best decision of my life (besides marrying my husband and adopting the most amazing creature in the world, Toast). But giving up wheat? Not easy. I love carbs, and have always defended them when naysayers put them down as being fattening and bad for you. Granted, I am talking about sprouted whole grains here, but still, wheat has always been a big part of my life. And I was happy with that.

To rewind a bit, I went to a new naturopath and he ordered a lot of bloodwork. Translation: 12 tubes of blood drained from my body…even the evil nurse who pricked me with the giant needle was taken aback by the order, and said “oh my god this is so much blood!” I looked away and tried to keep my rubber-tubed left arm straight while staring hard at some sickeningly sweet print of a bunch of roses. God I hate hospital art. It’s like they think they can brainwash you into thinking that you’re actually having a good time, surrounded by soft, pretty things like flowers and puppies. I’d rather see a print of a medieval hospital dismembering patients without anesthesia…at least then I could feel lucky about my situation.

Interestingly, I do not have Celiac Disease, just a plain old wheat allergy. What does that mean? It means I can eat rye, oats, and other things that gluten free people can’t. So there. I thought this would make me feel better, but it totally doesn’t. However, on the bright side, I will now be dedicating myself to creating the greatest and healthiest wheat free bread in the world. That post will come soon, I hope. In the meantime, my unicorn friends will be scarfing down sprouted whole grain bagels while I cry myself to sleep.

Now that you’ve found out that you can’t eat wheat, why not gorge on some high protein, springtime dishes? This lentil salad is bursting with flavor, and features a beautiful spring vegetable that makes your pee smell like roses. Poor asparagus gets a bad rap, but this smelly veggie is bursting with folic acid, antioxidants, fiber, and B vitamins!

DSC_0211Warm Lentil Asparagus Salad with Mint & Parsley Vinaigrette 

1 cup french or black lentils, rinsed and picked over

1 bunch fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off

1 cup chopped red radishes

1/4 cup diced red onion

Sea salt & pepper to taste

For the dressing:

Handful of fresh mint

Handful of fresh parsley

2 T red wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp sweetener such as coconut nectar or raw agave

1/2 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

2 handfuls of arugula or spinach

DSC_0217Bring lentils and 3 cups or so of water to a boil, then simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until al dente. Do not overcook the lentils or your salad will be mushy! For the salad, blanch asparagus in a saute pan filled with salted, gently boiling water for 1 minute. Shock in an ice bath to keep crisp, or just run under very cold water. Set aside. Toss dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture comes together, but still has texture. To serve, dress lentils, radish and red onion with vinaigrette and lay asparagus shoots over top. Makes enough for 2-4 unicorns with spring fever.

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why I don’t like gyms / greek bean salad with tofu feta

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So I’m not really a fan of gyms. Translation: a large grey box where humans donning synthetic, dry wick clothing bounce around in place on Star Wars-ish looking machines covered in sanitary spray and old sweat. I’ve signed up at many gyms over the years, each time with a renewed sense of determination that I can and will be like the rest of the world, and find joy at the prospect of running in place inside an overheated, noisy petri dish of human sweat. But I never do. Perhaps it’s the germs, or the potential for crowds, or the sanitary spray that goes on everything, or the big guy who sweats like a beast and then doesn’t clean his machine, and it’s the only one open.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to sweat; I love the burning feeling you get in your chest that simultaneously hurts and satisfies when you reach the height of your endurance. But I can’t do that inside on a lifeless manmade object that tells me how many calories I’ve burned. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, like Sisyphus on his hill, forever compelled to roll that stupid boulder to the top only to watch it fall back down again. There’s no sense of accomplishment, no rush of excitement when the red glowing numbers on my machine flash meaningless data at me or the miniature television plays E! News, and insults women across the globe by its fascination with Kim Kardashian. In a world where we already do almost everything indoors, short of walking from our homes to our cars, how can I stuff myself into another sunless grey box?

And since it’s nearly spring, and the first green shoots of crocus have sprung from the damp, cold earth, I feel even more compelled to run outside and breathe the fresh air. I also feel like eating something crisp and refreshing. Solution? A high protein blast of Greek bean salad with tofu feta! This salad is a cinch to make and will satiate your belly long after that gloriously muddy hike with your pup. This dish would also be perfect as crudite on whole wheat toast, or as a topping for pasta. Here I’ve served the salad over a giant collard leaf, but I recommend trying it tossed with baby arugula or some crisp romaine. Warning, this recipe makes a lot of feta. I suggest only using half of it for the salad, then storing the rest in your fridge for later use as a delicious protein-rich topping or snack!
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Greek Bean Salad with Tofu Feta

For the salad:

1 can navy or cannellini beans, rinsed

1 tomato, chopped

1 handful kalamata olives, chopped in half

2 T red onion, diced

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 handfuls romaine or arugula lettuce *optional

For the feta:

1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled by hand (I highly recommend The Bridge, a local CT company!)

Splash of fresh water

2 T chickpea miso (I recommend South River Miso Company)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp sea salt

1 T dried italian herbs

2 T nutritional yeast

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all feta ingredients except for the tofu. Now gently fold in crumbled tofu and coat with mixture. In a salad bowl, add all salad ingredients and 1/2 of the tofu feta. Season with extra red wine vinegar if needed. Makes enough for 2-4 mud-covered unicorns experiencing post-hike bliss.

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watching the oscars / not your mom’s chicken noodle soup

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DSC_0302Every year I watch the Academy Awards. Translation: every year I fall asleep while making fun of the oscars. So why do I watch? Why does anyone want to watch overpaid celebrities parade down a piece of red carpet, stuffed into sparkly gowns and tuxes while the paparazzi clicks away and scary Joan-Rivers-types ask “What are you wearing?” Do I really care about who wins best actress- or even worse, best dressed? Nope, not at all. But I put it on anyway because I somehow feel like I’m skipping christmas if I don’t. It’s ridiculous. This is similar to how I feel about 99% of the Olympics. I like to watch the equestrian show jumping, which is minimally covered (or sometimes not at all), so in the end I usually see more of Michael Phelps than horses. Or even better, I get the privilege of watching a Ryan Lochte interview.

But I digress. Back to the glitz and glam of the oscars. Oh I’ll be watching, decked out in my finest yoga pants and hoodie, hoping that my girl crush, Jennifer Lawrence, picks up a golden statue. But the best part is, while I sit on my couch with my furry children snuggled up next to me, I can indulge in the ultimate winter comfort food…vegan chicken noodle soup. Don’t worry, there isn’t any weird vegan chicken in this recipe, but sadly, I didn’t think that “miso noodle soup” would bring back as many golden childhood memories as “chicken noodle soup”. In this recipe, I omit the dead bird and add delicious ingredients like collards, miso, and ginger. This is the perfect winter soup, and even better for those days when you’re feeling under the weather. Ginger and garlic are a match made in heaven, not just for their taste and good looks, but for their antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that will kick that sickness right out of your body. This recipe is gluten free, soy free, nut free, animal free, and guilt free…hooray!DSC_0277

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Not Your Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup  

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped (I use the side of my knife to smash the garlic, or you can use a garlic press)

1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled & grated

1 bay leaf

4 cups stock (homemade or Imagine No-Chicken Stock) + 2 cups water

1 small handful of spaghetti noodles or noodle of choice, broken into thirds (I recommend Jovial brown rice spaghetti)

1 handful or about 4 large collard leaves, ribs removed and leaves stacked, then chiffonnade into thin ribbons

2 T dark miso (I recommend South River Miso 3 Year Barley)

Sea salt & fresh black pepper to taste

In a soup pot, heat oil over low to medium flame and add onion. Stir and allow to cook for a few minutes, or until soft. Add carrots, celery, garlic, grated ginger, & bay leaf. Stir to incorporate ingredients, then pour in stock and water. Raise flame and bring soup to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 2 minutes, then lower flame to a lively simmer and add collard ribbons. Allow soup to simmer for another ten minutes, or until noodles are cooked (cooking time will depend on what kind of noodles you’re using). Turn off flame. Dip a glass into the soup and remove a little bit of broth. Combine miso with the broth and mix until miso has broken down and become incorporated. Pour miso mixture into soup, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve to 4 overpaid unicorns wearing Stella McCartney gowns and Neil Lane diamonds.

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snowpocalypse / new england no-clams chowdah

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DSC_0015I’m a big fan of storms, especially ones involving blankets of snow and the necessity for roaring fires, daytime pajamas & copious amounts of tea. And thanks to the sensationalism of The Weather Channel, Americans like me can become easily convinced that this storm is going to be the most “crippling blizzard since 1978”. Because let’s be honest, once a storm has a name- and this one has two– it means we’re doomed for a snowpocalypse! I am however, still confused as to why this storm has two names, but I’ve already decided that blizzard Nemo is a lot freaking cooler sounding than blizzard Charlotte. I know at first you might think of that do-gooder fish looking for his dad, which is all good and fine, but what about Captain Nemo! The bad ass anti-hero scientist! That’s the kind of blizzard name that will inspire millions of Americans to go spend thousands of dollars on a generator.

But since I already have one, the only thing I need to do is wash my softest pair of yoga pants, buy lots of food, and make a creamy bowl of vegan clam chowdah! (Yes I have to say it like that. I can’t help myself). Don’t worry, there aren’t any fake clams going into this yummy soup; in fact, just thinking of them conjures flashbacks of my first (and only) time eating a fake soy shrimp. Translation: rubbery, dyed pink processed soy dumped into a bowl of broth and noodles that tasted like a fish made out of plastic. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of faux meats. However, if you’re making the transition to a plant based diet, and you’re craving a little familiarity, faux meats can be helpful in bridging the gap. Just keep your consumption to a minimum and remember that very processed soy products are usually GMO and contain soy protein isolate (a highly processed carcinogenic form of soy). In this recipe, I use king trumpet mushrooms, which have a nice chewy texture and even look a little bit like clams when chopped up. Sauteed with veggies and a generous dollop of cashew cream and you will become Bill Murray from What about Bob?. 

Vegan No Clams Chowdah!

1 T refined coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

4 king trumpet mushrooms, chopped into small, clam-sized pieces

Splash of white wine, any variety is fine

Pinch of paprika

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp white truffle oil

2 1/2 cups stock ( I recommend Imagine Foods No-Chicken Stock)

2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight

3 T nutritional yeast (I buy it in bulk from Whole Foods and other natural foods stores)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tsp tamari or shoyu

Optional toppings:

1 crumbled nori sheet or a few shakes of Eden seaweed gomasio (this is great if you want a little taste of the sea without the sea creatures)

Dash of hot sauce (I tend to put hot sauce on everything!)

Funny Seasonal Ecard: Everyone's freaking out about the blizzard, and I'm like 'Hey, I made vegan no-clams chowdah!'

In a wide soup pot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Saute until soft, then add potato, celery and chopped mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, scraping up any bits of veggies that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with paprika, onion powder and truffle oil, then pour in stock and bring to a lively simmer. Allow to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, or until potato can be easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, rinse soaked cashews and pour into a high speed blender. Add 4 cups of fresh water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add cashew cream, nutritional yeast, tamari and lemon juice to the chowder. Simmer on low heat for another five minutes. Season with fresh black pepper and sea salt. To serve, ladle into soup bowls with a big hunk of whole wheat sourdough bread. Makes enough for 4-6 snuggling unicorns in pajamas, ready to embrace the snowy wonderland.

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protein & the vegan elephant in the room / soba noodle veggie bowl in coconut ginger broth

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“How do you get your protein?” says everyone I’ve spoken to about veganism, ever. Yes, it’s repetitive and sometimes I have to find my happy place (translation: sparkly cave with unicorns) before I can calmly reply without cursing the popular media, western doctors and nutritionists across the globe that have brainwashed our culture into equating veganism with kwashiorkor syndrome. “Wait, what is that?” asks those same people. Oh, never heard of it? I respond coyly. Hmm, maybe that’s because it’s the name for severe protein deficiency and it’s never been documented in this country. Hooray! If you’re vegan or vegetarian you will survive after all! I don’t mean to sound cynical, and at one time I asked the same question to my sister when she first went vegan. Unfortunately, It’s the result of repeated whisperings that blow into our innocent ears from social media, parents, doctors, pretend doctors, and friends that over time harden into an accepted truth without personal investigation. It’s the same reason you think that milk is good for your bones, that cane sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup, that meat is the richest protein & B12 source on the planet, and that all soy is bad for you and will cause breast cancer. In a nutshell, you can thank the meat & dairy industries for brainwashing you, little by little, through clever advertising that we don’t even realize is affecting our opinions. So instead of marketing propaganda, let’s turn to plain old common sense.

Take a look at our fellow plant-based animal friends: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, bison, and hippos. These are some of the largest and strongest mammals on the planet, but they don’t look like they’re having any problems with protein intake do they? Gorilla5

And it just so happens that vegetables and grains are chock full of protein: spinach, broccoli, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, oatmeal, whole grain breads, cacao, quinoa, seitan, beans, and artichokes to name a few! In fact, nearly all vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain protein in them. Fruits, alcohol and sugars on the other hand, are low in protein so if you plan on being an alcoholic fruitarian, then yeah, you’ll risk becoming deficient in protein (and friends), but if you eat lots of vegetables and whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds you’ll be a veggie-powered superhuman! So next time someone asks you where you get your protein, gently point out the literal vegan elephant in the room…

Now that you’re armed with confidence and gorilla strength about your protein intake, why not rub it in a little more and make a cozy, protein-filled soba noodle bowl in a coconut peanut broth! Peanut butter, chickpeas, broccoli and whole grain soba noodles are great sources of protein. This dish is perfect on a day like today – a freshly snowed, gray skied wintry heaven.
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Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

1 package soba noodles (I recommend Eden)

1 T refined coconut oil

1 small yellow onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 inch knob of ginger root, peeled

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 head of broccoli, chopped

1 T mirin

1 T tamari or shoyu

2 tsp brown rice vinegar

1 T maple syrup

1 can coconut milk 

1/4 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter

1 aseptic package or can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Top with sriracha or favorite hot sauce (optional)

Cook soba noodles according to package directions in a large pot of salted, gently boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. In a deep saute pan, heat coconut oil on medium to high heat, and add onions or scallions. Cook for a few minutes, then add garlic and use a microplane grater to add ginger knob. Toss in broccoli, peppers, and carrot and continue to saute until veggies are bright and beginning to soften. Deglaze with mirin and use a wooden spoon to scrap up any pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the coconut milk in and bring to a lively simmer, then reduce heat to low and add brown rice vinegar, tamari, maple syrup, peanut butter, chickpeas and chili powder. Simmer and stir occasionally until ingredients are well mixed and peanut butter has melted into the coconut broth. Remove from flame and toss mixture with soba noodles and cilantro. Drizzle with sriracha or hot sauce. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with shiny, flowing manes and rippling muscles from their protein fabulous vegan diets.

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