I’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
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!)
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.
why plants don’t have feelings / sprouted wheat bagel with cashew cream cheese & maitake mushroom bacon
Whether you’re vegan (VEE-gan not VAY-gan, which sounds like we’re from another planet) or not, chances are you’ve probably heard some wild accusations about it. Translation: we only eat hummus, we are from white, wealthy families, we all have tattoos, we are skinny and pale, we don’t eat carbs, we are angry at everyone who isn’t vegan, we only ride bicycles, we love animals more than people, we are hipsters, and we are self righteous liberals. While some vegans may fall into these categories, this is a gross generalization of a growing demographic that in my experience, are a diverse and wonderful group of individuals.
So why all the judgement?
Like religion and politics, food is very personal. Your plate is as powerful as slapping a blue elephant sticker on your car or wearing a cross around your neck. People notice and sometimes, take offense. This is the reality of our world, and there’s no reason to flip out because someone disagrees with your diet choices. If the goal of veganism is compassion and respect for all living things, then we must embrace and accept our own species first! But sometimes, this can happen…
After noticing the tempeh reuben on my plate, a seemingly innocent diner observes: “You’re a vegan?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“But what about plants?” cries the diner with a shocking amount of passion. “Plants can feel pain too!”
“*$%&#!@&$^%#@!” <– exclamation inside my head.
What I actually say –> “Plants don’t have a central nervous system, which means they cannot feel pain in the same way that sentient beings can.”
This is a generally accepted principle, however, there are still some people who argue that plants do feel something when harvested. But even if that is true, it still leaves us with the same options: eat plants & animals (who definitely feel pain and suffer needlessly), or just eat plants. For me, the choice was easy.
Now that you’re feeling moody and want to throw hummus at everyone, why not blow their minds with a creamy, fluffy, and indulgently thick cream cheese that will make you feel like you’re in a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial from the nineties! Cashews play the leading role in making this oh-so-dreamy spread, along with my good friend, the bagel. I adore Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted whole grain onion & poppyseed bagels. Seriously, buy these bagels and let them change your life for the better. Toasted and topped with a huge dollop of herbed cream cheese and crispy maitake mushroom bacon and you are in for a serious taste bud explosion!
Sprouted Wheat Bagels with Cashew Cream Cheese & Maitake Mushroom Bacon
1 bagel, sliced & toasted (I recommend Alvarado Street Bakery Onion & Poppyseed Bagels)
2 cups raw cashews, covered with at least 4 cups of water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 tsp probiotic powder (you can buy a jar of probiotics in capsule form at many natural foods stores; just open capsules and pour out powder)
1/2 cup fresh water
1 T dried herb blend (I recommend Penzey’s Fox Point Blend) or 1 T fresh chives, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 container or 2 loosely filled cups of maitake mushrooms, split apart by hand
1 tsp olive oil or refined coconut oil for sauteing mushrooms
pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
After the cashews have been soaked in water overnight, drain and rinse, then place them in a high speed blender. Add the water and probiotics and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Pour into a small mixing bowl and cover with a piece of cheesecloth. Leave in a cool, dark place overnight.
Remove cheesecloth from fermented cashew mixture, and stir in the seasoning blend and salt. Set aside. In a saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame and add mushrooms. Allow them to brown for a few minutes before stirring with a wooden spoon. Once they are crispy, turn off flame and place on a paper towel to drain.
To serve, spread a generous dollop of cream cheese on a toasted bagel and top with maitake mushroom bacon. Makes about 2 cups of cream cheese, or enough to serve 4 merciless plant eating unicorns.
these are a few of my favorite things / it’s time for the play-offs herbaceous falafel with tahini sauce
Now that it’s 2013 and you’ve actually gone to the gym, stopped eating dessert, and are feeling moody from a lack of alcohol, I thought it was time for a little support. And since you’re going to try to eat a plant-based diet this year (I hope!), you may be wondering what the hell you’re supposed to eat besides kale chips, soy products, and salads. Trust me, the vegan/vegetarian diet is overflowing with variety and deliciousness.
To help you on your way, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite vegan staples and a divinely spectacular recipe so you can start living your vegan dream! Side effects include: visions of unicorns, faeries and dragons, lightness in body and spirit, clearer skin, less inflammation, higher energy, less illness, a feeling of interconnectedness with all beings, and a bolt of good karma that will lead you to clairvoyance (translation: the unicorns tell me things).
A few of my favorite things (and yes, one of them is definitely The Sound of Music. Luckily, my mother is Julie Andrews, minus the voice and ability to play musical instruments). FYI, all of the items below should be organic because your health and happiness are the most important thing in this life, not to mention you’ll be supporting sustainable farming practices, eliminating pesticides and herbicides from your diet, and saving the environment. Hooray for money well spent!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for 90% of my cooking, this is my oil. Rich in healthy, monounsaturated fats and absolutely delicious. Get rid of your canola, sunflower and safflower oils (which are oftentimes bleached, deodorized and overly processed) and embrace olive oil!
- Coconut Oil – virgin & Refined. Not all saturated fats are bad people! Coconut oil is an amazing source of lauric acid, which has been shown to raise the good HDL cholesterol in the blood, in addition to being anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, good for the skin, and a blood sugar stabilizer to name a few! Refined coconut oil is perfect for higher heat cooking. Virgin coconut oil is great for raw desserts and granola.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – my favorite vinegar. Tangy, fermented, full of probiotic goodness. Use in dishes that need a punch of flavor or drink it in the morning with water for some alkalinizing power!
- Brown Rice Vinegar – another great vinegar, especially in stirfries with toasted sesame oil and tamari.
- Tamari – naturally brewed wheat free soy sauce. Tamari is great in stirfries, soups, salad dressings, everything!
- Miso – I adore miso and use it in soups, salad dressings and anytime I need a salty, umami flavor in a dish. Miso is a fermented soy condiment that contains all the essential amino acids (a complete protein), and restores your system with probiotics and antioxidants. I highly recommend South River Miso. Nothing else compares to this company!
- Tempeh – yes, fermented whole soybeans look like brains, but they taste amazing in burritos and pasta sauce. And tempeh is super high in protein, essential fatty acids and probiotics. Yum!
- Tofu – not all soy is bad…local & organic tofu is a great addition to your diet. Super high in protein and a total chameleon in dishes from ricotta to chicken to eggs! I highly recommend The Bridge (a local CT company!)
- Quinoa – my favorite grain (but it’s actually a seed!) Rich in protein, calcium and iron…even better, it cooks in 15 minutes, and has a nutty delicious taste. Add to any veggie dish or as a topping for salads.
- Nuts – specifically raw cashews, pecans, and almonds. I use cashews pretty much everyday whether it’s fermenting into a savory “cheese”, adding a creamy base to a soup, or creating the most decadent cream sauces you’ve ever tasted. Pecans and almonds are great in raw desserts or toasted and topped on salads. I could not live without nuts…and that’s good because they’re full of antioxidants and healthy fats!
- Avocado – literally my favorite food on earth. Rich, creamy taste, full of folate, vitamin E and good fats for a healthy heart and delicious in just about everything: salads, dressings – and great in my raw key lime tart dessert!
- Kale – my other favorite food. This superfood is a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. It will also turn you into an elven warrior princess or prince. I like it raw in salads, sauteed in stirfries, added to soups, and baked into cheesy kale chips. I eat kale pretty much everyday, and yes – I am an elven warrior princess.
- Mushrooms – I’m growing them on my windowsill right now! I love every kind of mushroom, especially maitake and shiitake, for their earthy deliciousness and anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and immune boosting qualities.
- Ginger – oh, how I love thee. Buy a hunk of ginger root, peel it, and use a microplane grater to add this anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial nutritional powerhouse to soups, dressings, stirfries, tea, and more!
- Garlic – ginger’s good friend, and also anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use them together in a soup for an immune-boosting and flavorful punch to a winter’s day.
- Onions – we have a saying in our house that we’re always “cookin’ onions”. And there’s a good reason too: onions are the most comforting vegetable I know. I put them in all of my soups and stirfries, or raw in salads. Not to mention, they’re full of antioxidant flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, and sulfur (good for your liver!) In fact, I can’t think of anything I don’t put them in, except maybe my coconut milk ice cream…
- Fresh herbs – dried herbs and spices are great, but fresh is always the best. My favorites are cilantro, basil, and thyme. They take any dish to the next level of flavor! Try cilantro in my tempeh burritos or in an asian stirfry!
- Sprouted whole grain breads – ditch the white flour in favor of sprouted whole grain breads. Sprouting whole wheat grains improves digestibility, and eating complex carbohydrates won’t spike your blood sugar as much as white bread, will digest more slowly, and will be more satiating = you’ll need less of it to feel satisfied.
- Tahini – nutty, creamy puree of sesame seeds that is commonly used as the base for a kick-ass hummus recipe. I use it in my Miso Hungry salad dressing, which is tangy and creamy like a healthy blue cheese!
- Nut milks – I prefer Edensoy Original Extra soy milk, which is organic, cane sugar-free, fortified with vitamins, and oh so creamy. There’s also almond, hemp, rice, coconut, and many others. Whichever one you prefer is great, just make sure you read the ingredient labels and avoid milks containing refined sugars!
- Spreads – if you’re craving butter, please don’t eat margarine! Instead, grab some Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread. It tastes just like butter, and although a processed product, it is non-GMO and organic so in moderation a great alternative to butter. You can also use almond butter or fermented cashew cheese as a delicious spread alternative to butter!
Now that your pantry is packed full of plant-powered goodness, why not make some tasty & herbaceous falafel! Falafel is one of my favorite chickpea creations, but it is usually deep-fried and not super healthy. My version is pan-fried in a small amount of oil so you still get a satisfying crunch without the greasiness. Top with tahini, lettuce and cucumber and your body will look like Gisele’s or Tom Brady’s (depending on your preference) and you’ll be ready for the play-offs…Go Patriots!
for the falafel:
- 1 aseptic package (Fig Foods or 365 Organic) or can (Eden) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
- 3 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 T garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp arrowroot powder (find at Whole Foods in spice section – a healthy alternative to cornstarch)
- Pinch of paprika & sea salt
- Fresh black pepper
for the tahini sauce:
- 1/2 cup sesame tahini (Once Again Organics)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh water
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- Pinch of paprika
In a food processor, combine all falafel ingredients and pulse about 20 times, or until mixture comes together but is still chunky. Form into 10-12 flattened discs. Heat 3 T refined coconut oil on medium heat in a large saute pan, then add patties and cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. In a high speed blender (VitaMix!) add tahini ingredients, then blend until emulsified and creamy. To plate, place 3 falafel patties on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and drizzle with tahini sauce. Or steam collard greens (remove stems) in a small amount of salted, boiling water, then fill with falafel, veggies and sauce. Serves 2-4 unicorns with ripped Patriots jerseys and deflated footballs (translation: unicorns are football fans, not players).
When the calendar year comes to an end, it’s time to let go of what you did or didn’t do and start anew with a clean blackboard and fresh set of chalk. Translation: it’s almost New Year’s and you’ve been naughty. But despite our best efforts, many of us will end up writing our lofty (or not so lofty) goals for the new year until our theoretical board is more scribbled upon than a kid’s homework doodles. But hey, it’s always a good idea to be better today than you were yesterday. And many of us tend to slack off in the same category. Translation: your body is increasingly fluffy and your gym membership is comparable to paying taxes i.e. you’re essentially giving your money away so that other people can bounce around on an elliptical machine. Solution? Think smaller…not just in the literal I-wish-my-waist-was-as-small-as-either-of-the-Beckam’s way, but in the sense that you need to hone in on the specific food or foods that are forcing you to pretend to love the new one-piece bathing suit trend. Maybe that inner tube around your waist isn’t to protect you from sinking to the bottom of a pond after all, but a manifestation of a gluten intolerance or an overconsumption of sugary foods?
Diets that target the elimination of a specific food or food group are increasingly popular in a culture of perpetual busy-ness. I don’t believe in diets because they are targeted for quick weight loss and aren’t usually suited for long term weight solutions. If you’re overweight and sick all of the time, it’s due to an unhealthy lifestyle, and chances are it won’t be fixed by a short term diet. So to prove that dieting is crazy, I’ve comprised a list of popular diets and broken down the scientific jargon into layperson’s terms. Translation: I make fun of them and then tell you to stop dieting and go vegan. Yay!
Atkin’s: Pound down on bacon, cheese and cream and lose weight. That’s right! It’s called water weight aka the result of glycogen depletion, not some metabolic miracle. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll probably end up with a stone over your head from congestive heart failure. Ask Dr. Atkins about it…oh, wait, he died from a heart attack.
Paleo: Pretend that you’re Fred Flintstone and eat what the cavemen used to eat: lard, tallow, duck fat, foraged berries and nuts. Yummy! Or go hipster and join a farm where you can slaughter your own animal to get “in touch” with your carnal, inner warrior self. Side effects include loss of touch with reality, high cholesterol, and angry neighbors after you shoot their guinea hens with a homemade tomahawk.
Macrobiotics: You want to look like Gwenyth Paltrow, not her fat suit from Shallow Hal. This diet makes a lot of sense, but you’ve got to like seaweed and brown rice…a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And steamed food. And you have to chew your food at least 30 times before swallowing it. So unless you have a 3 hour lunch break or no life at all, this diet ain’t gonna cut it.
South Beach: Carbs are evil. Eat sand and fish. Side effects include wobbly walk and disorientation of the Hunter S. Thompson variety. Okay, not exactly but its got the word “beach” in the title so I couldn’t resist.
Weight Watcher’s: Confusing point system that creates a community of strange people who only talk about food in terms of their number value as determined by Jessica Simpson, who still thinks tuna is chicken.
Jenny Craig: Give Jenny all of your money and she’ll send you crappy food with no taste, but you’ll lose a million pounds just like Jennifer Hudson and become rich and famous!
Solution? Make your new year’s resolution less about dieting and more about a lifestyle change…and cut out one thing. Okay, three things: dairy, sugar and animals. It might be a challenge at first, but you’ll ultimately become as hot as Olivia Wilde, develop abs like Usher, a voice like Carrie Underwood, strength like Mike Tyson, Jared Leto’s eyes, and the comedic genius of Ellen (yup, they’re all vegan!) Now that you’re considering vegan stardom, why not try out this amazing aromatic lentil soup? Lentils are packed with protein, iron, trace minerals and fiber so you’ll be satiated long after you’ve finished your meal (and as a bonus you will see at least one unicorn by the end of the day.)
Aromatic French Lentil Soup with Curly Kale (adapted from The Artful Vegan)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed through a garlic press or minced
2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and serrated
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted dry in a pan over low flame until fragrant, then ground with a mortar and pestle
1 tsp caraway seeds, prepared the same as above
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp thyme, rubbed between your palms
1/2 tsp allspice, or combine equal amounts of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper & cinnamon
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup sherry
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz. can of organic chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups french lentils, cooked*
6 cups homemade stock or 4 cups No-Chicken Stock + 2 cups water
1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup white miso (I recommend South River Miso)
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
In a soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium flame. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion begins to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cumin, caraway, dill, thyme, allspice, and bay leaves. Stir and saute for another couple of minutes, then deglaze with sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrap off any pieces of the mixture that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, sweetener, lentils, vinegar, and stock. Bring to a boil, then lower flame and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the flame and whisk in the miso. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaves. Serves 6 dieting unicorns suffering from malnourishment and hallucinations.
*To cook lentils: In a medium sized pot, add 2 cups of lentils and 4 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender but not mushy.
everyone’s still talking about the election and I’m like “hey, I made fennel & spinach salad with poppy seed dressing!”
Since the election is over, I thought I’d talk politics. Ha! Just kidding. I’m so burned out from all the political mumbo-jumbo that I’m seriously considering living in a hut in the woods somewhere. Except just writing those words conjures images of Cabin Fever and Misery type horror movies. So I’ll stay and tell you something of vital importance: Obama has very large ears and a great smile. Romney always looks like has to pee, but is charming in that smug businessman type of way. There, I said it. Okay fine, do you really want to know my thoughts in a nutshell? Focus on the economy and leave the social issues out of it. Let Americans love and marry who they want, smoke marijuana if they want, speak their minds if they want, wear unitards and walk backwards if they want. I’m vegan and I love you, but don’t tell me what to do. I’ll cook you yummy food and be your friend, but only if you hug unicorns, believe in faeries, and laugh and dance. Name me that party and I’m so in.
And speaking of parties, last night I joined forces with Kathryn from The Inner Space pilates and yoga studio and Kim, owner of The New England Pasta Company for a holiday cooking demo led by yours truly. My good friend Kathryn led an informative discussion on mindful eating during the holiday season and Kim offered up her beautiful kitchen for the demo. The menu was 100% vegan and free of gluten, sugar, and night shades! Hooray!
In addition to the baked apples, I prepared a simple but decadent warm fennel & spinach salad with toasted hazelnuts and rich poppy seed dressing. Cashews and a Vita-Mix play the lead roles in creating a creamy, I-can’t-believe-this-doesn’t-have-dairy-in-it masterpiece dressing.
Warm Fennel & Pear Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts and Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing
for the salad:
6 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup raw hazelnuts, toasted in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned
1-2 bulbs of fennel (depending on size), tops discarded and thinly sliced
Pinch of black pepper
for the dressing:
Combine the following ingredients in a high-speed blender…
3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked if preferred
1/2 cup water
3 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 T coconut nectar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
Once dressing is creamy and emulsified, remove from blender and pour into a large bowl. Now stir in 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds and toss with the spinach leaves. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add a splash of olive oil and turn the flame to medium heat. Once hot (look for striations in the oil), add sliced fennel. Cook for a few minutes without stirring until it begins to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt, flip, and cook the other side. When the fennel is crispy and brown, turn off flame and allow fennel to cool slightly. To arrange salad, place four or five slices of pear on each salad plate and top with dressed spinach, hazelnuts and warm fennel. Serves 4-6 unicorns who wish they could’ve voted for a vegan president.