Friday, December 24, 2010

Seitan Pot Roast

Nothing says comfort food like a pot roast! The centerpiece of many Sunday dinners, it is soul nourishing food. Placed in a crockpot, it's mouth-watering scent wafts through the home, welcoming all who enter. And the best part is leftovers! So many things you can do with them!

Seitan Pot Roast

1 onion, chopped
1-3/4 c. vital wheat gluten
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
1 t. onion powder
1 t. thyme
1-1/2 c. water
3 T. Braggs aminos
1 T. ketchup
3 large carrots, sliced
5 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1 c. vegetable broth
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper

Spread the onion along the bottom of the crockpot.

In a bowl, mix the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, onion powder, thyme and 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the water, Braggs and ketchup. Pour liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Knead this for about 2 minutes. Mold into a nice shape, and place the raw seitan in the crockpot, on top of the chopped onions.

Arrange the carrots and potatoes in the crockpot around the seitan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the the vegetable broth. Place lid on crockpot, turn to low and let cook 8 hours.
Slice the seitan roast and serve with the vegetables. Enjoy!

If you have never used a crockpot, my first piece of advice is - go buy one! When purchasing a crockpot, look for one with a removable liner. They are much easier to clean. They come in many sizes and shapes, so pick one that suits you. I have two. One round, one oval and both large. I've found the oval shaped one does seem to take longer to cook.

The LOW setting is about 200 degrees, and the HIGH setting is about 300 degrees. In other words, it gets hot! Make sure it sits on your counter away from the edge, to avoid any little fingers accidentally touching. One hour on HIGH is equal to two hours on LOW.

Only fill the crockpot one half to two thirds full. The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. If the food and liquid level is lower, the foods will cook too quickly. Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid. Don't lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour. To check progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it's easy to see inside. Liquids do not boil away in the crockpot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crockpot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.

Cooking times. Most people want to try adapting their favorite stews and sauces to the slow cooker. The chart below explains how to adjust cooking times.

Oven/Stove Top Time      Slow Cooker (Low Setting)     Slow Cooker (High Setting)

15 - 30 min.                     4 - 6 hours                               1.5 - 2.5 hours
30 - 45 min.                     6 - 8 hours                               3 - 4 hours
45 min - 3 hours               8 - 16 hours                             4 - 6 hours

The crockpot is ideal for working people who must be away from home all day (or for those days when you must run errands or attend meetings, or for when you're entertaining and want to get the food preparation done early). The food will simmer for 10 to 12 hours on Low if you must be gone all day or you may cook the food in 5 to 6 hours on High. It is a very simple appliance to operate and you will find that the cooked food is very tasty. If you are a working person or one who knows they will have a very busy day, you can do most of the chopping and measuring the night before. Then refrigerate these ingredients until the next morning. If your crockpot has a REMOVABLE liner, you can assemble and refrigerate the food right in the liner which will be easy to pop into the crockpot the next morning. Be sure you don't fill the crockpot so full that the food pushes up on the lid.  Protect the crockery liner. Do not subject it to sudden temperature changes. Do not preheat the cooker and then add food. Do not pour cool water into the crockery liner while it is still hot after food has been removed.

CLEANUP: As soon as you remove the food from the crockpot, uplug it and fill the liner with VERY HOT soapy water (DO NOT ADD COOL WATER!!). Let the liner soak while you eat. When the water has cooled, you can swish out the liner and rinse it and put in in the dishwasher. Mine are crockery and HEAVY, so be careful not to drop and break your liner! NEVER IMMERSE THE OUTSIDE PART OF THE COOKER OR LET THE CORD GET IN THE WATER!! Wipe the outside metal shell with a damp soft cloth and dry with a towel.
I have used a crockpot for years and have only ever had to replace one, when it quit cooking on LOW. They are a fabulously convenient appliance to use, and make dinner preparation a snap, especially on those days when I am extraordinarily busy. Having dinner ready and waiting is a blessing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Raid the Pantry Chili

We've all had those moments when we are confronted with a ravenous horde (otherwise known as our family) and realized, much to our chagrin, that we really should have gone grocery shopping earlier but just didn't manage to fit it into our day. Ack! That's when it is handy to have a few staples on hand in the pantry.

Raid the Pantry Chili

Into a Dutch oven, add:

24 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. paprika
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1/2 c. bulgur
2 c. water

Bring everything to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook about 45 minutes. Serve however you like; my family likes to eat their chili over crunched up tortilla chips.

Chili is a stew-like soup made entirely with meat, chilies, or chili powder (or both) and according to what region of the United States that you live in, it can also include beans. "Con carne" means "with meat."

There are many legends and stories about where chili originated and it is generally thought, by most historians, that the earliest versions of chili were made by the very poorest people. J. C. Clopper, the first American known to have remarked about San Antonio's chili carne, wrote in 1926:

"When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat - this is all stewed together."

According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale, it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as "La Dama de Azul," the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.

It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly "La Dama de Azul" or "lady in blue" of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?

Some Spanish priests were said to be wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as "hot as hell's brimstone" and "Soup of the Devil." The priest's warning probably contributed to the dish's popularity.

The only thing certain about the origins of chili is that it did not originate in Mexico. Charles Ramsdell, a writer from San Antonio in an article called San Antonio: An Historical and Pictorial Guide, wrote:

"Chili, as we know it in the U.S., cannot be found in Mexico today except in a few spots which cater to tourists. If chili had come from Mexico, it would still be there. For Mexicans, especially those of Indian ancestry, do not change their culinary customs from one generation, or even from one century, to another."

If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about chili, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated):

“detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.”

Chili historians are not exactly certain who first "invented" chili powder. It is agreed that the inventors of chili powder deserve a slot in history close to Alfred Nobel (1933-1896), inventor of dynamite.

Wherever it came from, it is one of the most versatile dishes I know of. It tolerates variation to variation, and always come out good.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Better Than a BLT

Bacon. Who doesn't love bacon, the smell of it, the sound of it sizzling in the frying pan. Who doesn't like it?

Well, me. Gross.

I do, however, love the smell of anything made with maple syrup, and thinly sliced tempeh, marinated with a mixture containing maple syrup? Yum! I've tried the fake bacons (facon) out there, but honestly, I much prefer to fry up some tempeh bacon if I want something smoky and maple-y in a dish.

Better Than a BLT

Tempeh bacon (recipe follows), diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
salt and pepper to taste
3 green onions, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Mix everything together. Spread some Vegenaise on two slices of bread, toasted or untoasted, your choice. Add the vegetable/tempeh mixture, top with some romaine lettuce, enjoy! This is better fresh than the next day, so eat up!

Tempeh Bacon

One package of tempeh (I use Lightlife Organic Tempeh)
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
a dash of cayenne
1 t. liquid smoke
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
More olive oil

Slice the tempeh as thin as you can slice it without it falling apart. Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish and soak tempeh in marinade for 1-2 minutes.

Turn saute pan on high, add some olive oil. Lay the tempeh flat on skillet, in a single layer. Allow to cook until nicely brown on one side, about a minute, then flip. Allow to cook for another minute on other side-or until both sides are crisp and browned. Lay cooked tempeh on paper towels to drain and cool. Sprinkle with black pepper and thick sea salt to taste.

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia, almost certainly in Central or East Java. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan.

In the West tempeh is usually sold in cakes 6 by 8 by 3/4 inch thick. These are sliced then served fried, baked, or steamed. When fried, tempeh's flavor and texture are meaty, resembling those of southern fried chicken or fish sticks. Before cooking, soy tempeh contains 19.5% protein, compared with 17.9% for hamburger and 21% for chicken, on average.

Tempeh is a wonderful, high protein, southeastern Asian treat. Not only does this collaged cake of fermented soybeans have a distinctive nutty taste but its nougatlike texture readily absorbs the different flavorings with which it is cooked.

Tempeh processing could be the oldest food technology in the history of Javanese people. The people of Java, without formal training in microbiology or chemistry, developed a remarkable family of fermented foods called tempeh. Serat Centhini/Centini, a book published in the 16th century, indicates that tempeh had been produced and consumed by the time of its publication. Tempeh might have been introduced by the Chinese who are making a similar product, soybean koji, which are dehulled soybeans fermented with Aspergillus molds. The use of Rhizopus as tempeh starter in Indonesia may have been due to its better adaptation to the Indonesian climate. The earliest reference to tempeh by a European appeared in 1875 in a Javanese-Dutch dictionary. In Indonesia, traditionally and in dictionaries since at least 1875, the name for this food was written témpé , with various accents being used, especially to indicate the ay pronunciation of the final letter "e." Soy tempeh was called témpé kedelé . In August 1972, when Indonesia modernized its language as part of an Indonesian-Malaysian effort to make the two similar languages even more similar, the accents were dropped and the word came to be spelled tempe (still pronounced TEM-pay).

The rise of tempeh's popularity in Java and its spread to other parts of Indonesia and other countries of the world began in the 20th century. In the 1970s the banana leaf as container for the production of tempeh was replaced by the use of plastic bags.

In Europe, tempeh is known through the Dutch who once colonized Indonesia. In 1895 the Dutch microbiologist and chemist Prinsen Geerlings made the first attempt to identify the tempeh mold. The first tempeh companies in Europe were started in the Netherlands by immigrants from Indonesia. The first English written article appeared in 1931 the book "Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies ", written by J.J. Ochse. The earliest popular article about tempeh was a 7 page story published in France 1982 in Le Compas.

In the USA, tempeh has been known only since 1946 with the publication of "Possible Sources of Proteins for Child Feeding in Underdeveloped Countries", in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the 1960s there was new interest in tempeh with research in tempeh at the Cornell University (New York) and at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center (Illinois). In 1961 Mary Otten was the first to begin making tempeh.

Great deal of the credit for introducing tempeh to the American public goes to The Farm, a large spiritual and farming community in Summertown (Tennessee).

The first commercial tempeh shop was started in 1975 by Mr. Gale Randall in Undadilla, Nebraska. An article by R. Rodale in "Prevention" in June 1977 brought him and his shop national prominence.

In the 1980s when the tempeh industry expanded, the media showed new interest and a lot of articles appeared in scientific journals. During 1983 about 1 million commercial tempeh was produced.

If you want a more detailed history of tempeh, and it is rather quite long, I discovered, you can read more in History of Tempeh: A Fermented Soyfood from Indonesia.

Soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. Just 4 ounces of tempeh provides 41.3% of the Daily Value (DV) for protein for less than 225 calories and only 3.7 grams of saturated fat. Plus, the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels, while consuming protein from animal sources tends to raise them, since they also include saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition to healthy protein, some of tempeh's nutritional high points include:

Riboflavin: 4 ounces of tempeh provides 23.5% of the DV for this B-vitamin. A nutrient essential for the transfer reactions that occur to produce energy in the mitochondria, riboflavin is also a cofactor in the regeneration of one of the liver's most important detoxification enzymes, glutathione.

Magnesium: Tempeh also provides 21.9% of the DV for Nature's blood vessel relaxant, magnesium, in just 4 ounces. In addition to its beneficial role in the cardiovascular system, magnesium plays an essential role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including those that control protein synthesis and energy production.

Manganese and Copper: That same 4 ounces of tempeh will give you 72.5% of the DV for manganese and 30.5% of the DV for copper. These two trace minerals serve numerous physiological functions including being cofactors for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

In addition, soy foods like tempeh are rich in dietary fiber. When eaten, the fiber in tempeh binds to fats and cholesterol in food, so less is absorbed. In addition, tempeh's fiber binds to bile salts and removes them from the body. Since the liver gets rid of cholesterol by transforming it into bile salts, their removal by fiber forces the liver to use more cholesterol to form more bile salts, leading to lower cholesterol levels overall. The fiber in tempeh also provides preventative therapy for several other conditions. Fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins and remove them from the body, so they can't damage colon cells. Tempeh, which is made from high-fiber soybeans, may therefore be able to help reduce the risk of colon cancer. As a matter of fact, in areas of the world where soy foods are eaten regularly, rates of colon cancer, as well as some other cancers, including breast cancer, tend to be low.

If you have never tried tempeh, this is an excellent time to do so!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Minestrone

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

Where I live, the summers can be unbearable. We don't get snow, and, on the rare occasion it flurries, people will rush outside to stare in wonder, attempting to create a snowball out of the slushy stuff. What the heck, I do it, too, despite having spent my childhood and a small portion of my adulthood living in states where the weather was described by locals as *Winter and July*. I don't miss the snow much, but have to admit that new layer of white on the ground can be breathtakingly beautiful!

Despite the fact that where I live now, we can sometimes be found wearing shorts in the winter, those days that dip toward freezing invite a fire in the fireplace, curling up with nice hot cuppa and a good book, and something warm and yummy for the tummy.

Winter Minestrone

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
One large carrot, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
One turnip, peeled and diced
One rutabaga, peeled and diced
One bunch collards, rolled and sliced
Two cans diced tomatoes
One can garbanzo beans, drained
One can kidney beans, drained
One quart water
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, carrot, celery, turnip, rutabaga and collards, until a little softenened and brightly colored. Add the tomatoes and beans. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer about 30 minutes. Season to taste.

This makes a very mild, but filling, soup in a very short time. Serve with a good bread for dipping and enjoy!

Before becoming vegan, I never ate turnips or rutabagas. No reason other than when I was eating a meat-based diet, there was little variety. We tended to stick to the tried and true, rather than seek out new and different foods to experience. Now I look for things I haven't tried. It has been like a new world of food has opened up to me! Sad, really, to make that realization. I watch non-vegans now, and how they are so hesitant to try new things. I don't mean exotic foods, I'm talking vegetables, like okra or turnips or fennel or eggplant. As for me and mine, we savor each new dish, each new ingredient, finding varieties of ways to use them - and are having a blast doing it! Cooking has once again become an adventure, and never a chore.

A "true" root vegetable should meet two conditions: grow underground and play the role of a root for the plant, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. The following vegetables are examples of true root vegetables: carrots, horseradish, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, salsify, and turnips. They are actually the taproot of the plant, which is formed from the very first root that the seed put out.

Generally, though, the term is used for any underground part of a plant that we eat. Even though onions and leeks are both related, we would call an onion a root vegetable but not a leek, as leeks grow aboveground.

Root vegetables have never been very fashionable. Throughout history, they were largely seen as peasant food.

Before there was agriculture, there was the turnip. That’s how old the turnip is. Turnips were cultivated some 5,000 years ago and may have been eaten as long as 5,000 years before that. Turnips were as important to the Romans as potatoes were to the Incas. Believe it or not, the venerable tradition of the “Jack o’ Lantern” started out with turnips, not pumpkins.

All turnips have a snowy white flesh. The differences in varieties mostly involve outside coloring and size. Some have reddish rings around the crown of the vegetable, others purple. Flavors are essentially the same although larger turnips (3 or more inches in diameter) which appear later in the winter tend to be more pungent than the smaller (11/2 to 2 inches) turnips that appear earlier in the season. Major turnip varieties include Purple top, White Globe, White Egg, Golden Ball, Amber and Yellow Amberdeen.

A 3.5 ounce serving (100 grams) of turnips has 30 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of protein and dietary fiber, 60% of the Daily Values (formerly the RDA) for vitamin C, 2% for iron and 3% for calcium. Turnips are also a fair source of potassium and folic acid.

The history of the rutabaga is much shorter, but a little livelier! In the early part of the 17th century, Swiss botanist Casper Bauhin crossed a cabbage with a turnip and got a rutabaga, sometimes called a yellow turnip. It became popular in northern Europe and, in fact, derives its name from the Swedish rotabagge. (Rutabagas are sometimes called swedes.) Rutabagas were adopted by the British in the early 1800s as economical cannonballs. Although they did not pack the same explosive force as cannonballs they made quite an impression. This practice was discontinued when the Brits noticed their foes cooking the spent rutabagas in their soups.

Instead of white flesh, rutabagas have a yellow-orange flesh that, like yellow-flesh potatoes, give an impression of richness or butteriness. They’re also sweeter and denser than turnips with less moisture. On the outside rutabagas are half yellow-orange, while the other half is burgundy or purple. To increase their shelf life, most rutabagas are waxed. Commercially available rutabagas tend to be larger than turnips. The three main rutabaga varieties are American Purple Top, Laurentian and the Thomson Strain of the Laurentian.

A 100 gram serving of rutabagas contains 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram each of dietary fiber and protein, 11% of the DV for vitamin A, 43% for vitamin C, 6% for calcium and a small amount of iron. Rutabagas are also a decent source of potassium and folic acid.

The major turnip and rutabaga producing states are California, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington. A significant amount of both is imported from Canada.
Both rutabagas and turnips are members of the mustard family. The good news is that because turnips and rutabagas are in the same family as cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, they have many of the same health benefits, particularly as cancer fighters.

So do be sure to try turnips or rutabagas, and this minestrone is an easy way to do it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crispy Tofu

I have been collecting recipes since I was 15. In human years, that was a long time ago! But seriously, I am the recipe queen. When I became vegan, I did start going through my collection and tossing many that were meat based. I stopped doing that when the proverbial light bulb went off, and I realized I could veganize just about anything! Well, most anything, but you get the idea. It has led to some rather tasty new dishes!

Crispy Tofu

1 package of extra firm tofu, frozen in the package, boiled, sliced thin
Plain soy milk
1/2 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 c. garbanzo bean flour
1/4 c. chopped pecans
2 T. flaxseed
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. salt
pinch of black pepper
Olive oil

Pour soy milk into a flat bowl for dipping purposes. Mix up all the dry ingredients in a separate flat bowl for dipping. Heat oil in frying pan.
Dip tofu slices first in milk, then coat well in the dry ingredients mixture. Fry in oil until nicely brown on one side, flip and fry on other side. Serve.

You can serve it with any kind of gravy of your choice.

My family laughs at me, claiming they always know when Mom has been frying based on the amount of smoke in the house. Ha ha. Because this teasing in not unwarranted, I have learned a few things about frying along the way.

•Choose an oil with a high smoke point. The idea here is that there should be as big a difference as possible between the smoke point of the oil and the cooking temperature recommended. For frying at 375ºF, try canola, safflower, or grapeseed oil. If you prefer olive oil, like I do, the olive oil grade "olive oil," is excellent because it has a higher smoke point (410º F) than virgin or extra virgin oils.

•Use a spatter screen to protect you and keep your stovetop clean. Seriously, otherwise you will have little dots of oil on everything in a two foot radius.

•If you are deep frying, leave a margin of at least 2 inches at the top of the pan to prevent oil from overflowing when food is added and help keep spattering contained.

•Just before you start to fry the food, sprinkle about a quarter teaspoon of coarse kosher salt into the oil to keep it from splattering.

•Be sure the food is patted dry before immersing it. Drops of moisture can cause spattering. No kidding! Any moisture will make the oil spit and if you don't want to get popped, watch the moisture! Coat pieces well with dry ingredients to help cut down on any spattering.

•Lower food gently into hot oil; don't drop it from high up.

•If using tongs, keep them pointed downward to prevent hot oil from dripping down the handles. Having done this more than once with boiling water, I can attest to this!

•Work in small batches. The temperature of the oil decreases as soon as you add food to it.

•Monitor the oil temperature carefully and make sure it doesn't go above what the recipe specifies. As particles collect in the frying oil, the smoke point lowers, which increases your chances of fire. I use a metal strainer type utensil to remove as much of the particles as I can.

Frying need not be a scary or even dangerous cooking method, if you follow some simple rules. Enjoy!


Friday, November 26, 2010

These Vegetables are Very Gay

That's happy for those of us that remember the word differently!

I'm not sure how I found it. Probably looking for something else, and it popped up in a search. However I found it, though, it was fun to watch.

I'm talking about the Hardcore Vegan Chef and his cooking dvd. Language warning! The recipes were simple and delicious sounding, the cooking tips handy and all done in an entertaining style - if you are in your early twenties. I'm not, but that didn't detract from the recipes for me.

It was a day or two later when I realized I needed to take a dish to the potluck we always have when my women's group gets together. A delicious vegan soup and salad were already being planned, so I wanted something that would work with it. I remembered one of the recipes I saw whipped up by the Hardcore Chef, and voila! Instant success! He titles it Vegetable Medley of Hardcore Gaiety. I just call it yummy!

2 cucumbers, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
2 cans chickpeas, drained
2 cans whole black olives, drained
A handful of fresh parsley, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of oregano, celery salt and thyme

It's all very simple; mix the veggies together. Mix the olive oil, vinegar and seasonings until well blended and pour over the veggies. Stir until all are well coated. Serve.

It was quite a hit at my meeting, and even a bigger hit back home. We served it atop mixed greens with some extra dressing and literally devoured it. It was so simple to throw together and yet very tasty.

Try the recipe. Check out the dvd. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warming Ginger Vegetable Soup

When I think of ginger, it was pretty much limited to gingerbread. I think that was the extent of my exposure to it. If I ever used it, it was always in powdered form. When I became vegan, I'd see recipes calling for fresh, grated ginger. I even went so far as to buy a fresh ginger root from the grocery store. It sat and got all withery because I just had no clue what to do with it.

Last year for Thanksgiving, my family went to Field of Greens, a local restaurant that serves some delicious vegan food, for their Thanksgiving buffet. I became absolutely addicted to their vegan ham, but that is another story. The hot beverage we couldn't get enough of was a ginger apple cider. Spicy. Different. Yummy. That was probably my first introduction to fresh ginger.

Months later we returned to listen to author Rynn Berry talk about the history of veganism, famous vegetarians and touch on his new book, Becoming Raw. I got a soup and sandwich while there, and the soup was a ginger carrot soup. Once again, fresh ginger, and, once again, delicious!

I was now ready to tackle fresh ginger on my own! Thus, this ginger vegetable soup seemed perfect! It is adapted from a wonderful recipe in Love Soup.

Warming Ginger Vegetable Soup

One small butternut squash. peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 onions, cut into bite sized pieces
3-5 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite sized pieces
Olive oil
Sea salt
4 c. vegetable broth
3 T. finely chopped ginger
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
2 t. rice vinegar
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. agave nectar

Put the cut up squash, onions and potatoes on a cookie sheet and spread out to form a single layer. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle sea salt over the vegetables. Toss well to coat evenly. Roast for 30 minutes at 400, stir, reduce heat to 375 and continue roasting another 20 minutes.
Dump roasted vegetables into a Dutch oven. Add the broth, ginger, cilantro and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer 30 minutes. Puree the soup and add back to pot. Bring back to a simmer, add the lemon juice and agave nectar. Serve!

It was very tummy warming and tasty. I served it with a simple salad and some good crusty French bread. You can add a dollop of Tofutti sour cream, if you'd like, but we didn't.

Ginger's current name comes from the Middle English gingivere, but ginger dates back over 3,000 years to the Sanskrit srngaveram meaning "horn root" with reference to its appearance. In Greek it was ziggiberis, and in Latin, zinziberi.

Although it was well-known to the ancient Romans, ginger nearly disappeared in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Thanks to Marco Polo's trip to the Far East, ginger came back into favor in Europe, becoming not only a much-coveted spice, but also a very expensive one.

Ginger is mentioned by Confucius (551-478 BCE), and in the Koran. Medieval Europe thought it came from the Garden of Eden.

Through out history famous world figures such as Henry the VIII revered the benefits of ginger. Believing ginger aided in preventing one from getting to the plague.

Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, which became a popular Christmas treat.

Jamaicans and early American settlers made beer from it; and today, natural ginger ales made with fresh ginger are available as a digestive tonic. These should not be confused with most commercial brands of ginger ale as these contain so little ginger that they are nothing more than sweetened soft drinks with no medicinal value. To make homemade ginger ale: Take fresh ginger and flatten the unpeeled root. Place one cup of the flattened root in a gallon of water and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat, strain, and add honey to taste. It can be drunk as is or added to carbonized water.

Ginger (botanical name Zingiber officinale) is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It is native to Southern Asia and has long been a staple addition to Asian cuisines.

Ginger is quite popular in the Caribbean Islands, where it grows wild in lush tropical settings. Jamaican ginger is prized for its strong, perky flavor, and this island currently provides most of the world's supply, followed by India, Africa and China.

The gnarled, bumpy root of the ginger plant is the source of this wonderful spice.

The efficacy of ginger rhizome for the prevention of nausea, dizziness, and vomiting as symptoms of motion sickness (kinetosis), as well as for postoperative vomiting and vomiting of pregnancy, has been well documented and proved beyond doubt in numerous high-quality clinical studies. The use of this ancient medicine for gastrointestinal problems (stimulation of digestion) has been given scientific approval. Today, medicinal ginger is used mainly for prevention of the symptoms of travel sickness.

A study on motion sickness done by ("The American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory") located in Salt Lake City. Results showed that ginger was compared to Dramamine, for relieving motion sickness. It was proven ginger had a significant benefit in their experiment with a controlled study. One group taking Dramamine the other ginger, the group that took the ginger withstood a spin test for 6 minutes, while the Dramamine group became nauseous within 4 1/2 minutes. So next time you fly, opt for Ginger Ale, if you have a problem with motion sickness or that unsettled stomach.

The proprieties in Ginger have shown to aid in lowering blood cholesterol. It is also is effective in thinning blood, which aid in dissolving blood clots (Study Conducted by Cornell University Medical College). Other curative benefits include: relieves menstrual cramps, decreases headache discomforts, helps to regulate blood sugar, anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, which aid to strengthen the immune system. Ginger is also high in both calcium and iron, so in turn helps with strong bones, and decreases adverse discomforts of arthritis. It is claimed that Ginger increases blood flow to the extremities, so helps with cold feet, and hands.

How much is too much? To get the benefits of Ginger, it is recommended to include 2-4 grams daily in your diet. There are many ways to get the required beneficial dose. From ginger snap cookies, to Chinese food, and let's not forget Ginger ale. You can also eat raw or blanched Ginger or brew it up in tea. The tea is great to aid in relieving menstrual cramps, and headache. To use topically, oil of ginger can be rubbed into sore joint to provide pain relief. Ginger capsule can be purchased at your health food store, if you prefer to take Ginger in pill form. Ginger is not recommended for children under 2 years of age.

I keep a bag of crystallized ginger around after reading all the benefits of it. According to Lydia Walshin, of The Perfect Pantry, "Crystallized ginger is fresh ginger that has been peeled, cut into small knobs, boiled in sugar and water, and then rolled in sugar crystals." It can also be sliced thin and boiled in a combination of sugar and honey, then rolled in more sugar until it resembles rock candy. Crystallized ginger is shelf stable for up to two years. It can be used to relieve inflammation, motion sickness and indigestion. It helps open the lungs and bronchial tubes to relieve asthma symptoms. It is a soothing remedy for colds and sore throats, especially when combined with honey. As a vegan, I would substitute agave nectar or maple syrup.

.Relieve Asthma Symptoms

Mince crystallized ginger and mix it with honey, water and black pepper. The crystallized ginger helps open sinuses and bronchial tubes while the honey soothes the throat and eases the urge to cough. Boil crystallized ginger, remove pan from heat and place it on a trivet. Lean over the pan with a towel or other cloth draped over your head and the pan. Take long, slow breaths of the steam. Hold your breath for five to 10 seconds every five breaths, then resume inhaling the steam. This helps calm the bronchospasms and anxiety that accompany asthma attacks.

Relieve Indigestion

Ginger's ability to calm upset stomach has been known and documented for many years. Chew a small piece of crystallized ginger while you are still lying in bed. This eases morning sickness and dizziness. Boil crystallized ginger with honey and lemon. mix with club soda and sip whenever you feel nauseated or bloated.

Soothe a Cold

Eat warm gingerbread made with chunks of crystallized ginger, and drizzled with honey. Drink tea made from crystallized ginger, honey, lemon and a small pinch of salt. Make a compress of crystallized ginger to place on the chest or around the throat to relieve congestion.

Stop Smoking

Keep a bowl of crystallized ginger near any place where you used to smoke. Chew crystallized ginger instead of reaching for a cigarette. Inhale steam from crystallized ginger to help open your lungs and encourage you to cough out all the buildup from years of smoking.

Relieve Pain

Chew crystallized ginger daily if you have rheumatoid arthritis or other pain. Apply warm compresses of crystallized ginger directly to affected areas if you have a sprain or strain. Crystallized ginger has proven to be almost as effective as ibuprofen in relieving inflammatory pain, at much lower cost.

Ginger is pretty amazing, and the spicy taste makes it worth it. I hope you try some ginger the next time you cook!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Asian Barbecued Tofu

When my family and I Chinese takeout, we are usually limited to the same thing, time after time - fried rice with mixed vegetables and a vegetable spring roll. Sure, we like it, and it's a pretty handy and quick meal when we are so inclined. But I have to admit, it does get boring. Some places will offer a few other vegetarian selections we could choose from, but honestly, I have just not been that impressed with them. So as we usually find, being a vegan is mostly best served by cooking at home. Lucky for my family I love to cook!

I got in the mood for some barbecue the other day, but didn't want to make the seitan for it, since I was kind of hungry right then. After glancing through my recipes, I settled on this:

Asian Barbecued Tofu

One onion, chopped
One garlic clove, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. Dijon mustard
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne
Olive oil
One package extra firm tofu, frozen, boiled, squeezed and sliced about 1/4" thick

In a food processor, combine onion, garlic, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, salt and cayenne and process until saucy. Put in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Fry tofu in olive oil in batches, until nicely brown on both sides. Add barbecue sauce to the tofu, simmer together for about 10 minutes. Serve.

I actually expected this to be more traditionally barbecue tasting than it was. It would have gone nicely with some rice, but I served mine instead with some vegan mac and cheese and green beans. I realized it was more Asian when my daughter came home, asked what was for dinner and before I could respond said, "It's Chinese food, isn't it?" So, Asian Barbecue Tofu was born.

If you are new to tofu, I think it may be initially an acquired taste. I have to admit I didn't care for it at first. It wasn't until I learned about the freezing and boiling technique that I begin to not only like it, but love it! I still prefer it sliced thin to cubed, and for any dish that doesn't call for creamy, like lasagna, I always get the extra firm variety.

Tofu is very popular in the Orient today but was first used in China over 2000 years ago. While the details of its discovery are uncertain, legend has it that it was discovered by accident when a Chinese cook added the seaweed nigari to a pot of soybean milk, causing it to curdle; the result was tofu.

The oldest evidence of tofu production is a Chinese mural incised on a stone slab. It shows a kitchen scene that proves that soymilk and tofu were being made in China during the period A.D. 25-220. The oldest written reference to tofu appeared also in China at about A.D. 1500, in a poem "Ode to Tofu" by Su Ping.

Kento priests, who went to China to study Buddhism, brought tofu back to Japan during the Nara era (710-794). Tofu was eaten as part of a vegetarian diet for priests for their protein content. The word "tofu" is first mentioned in Japan in the diary of the Shinto priest Nakaomi. Tofu was used as an offering at an altar. In 1489 the word "tofu" was first written in the actual Japanese characters. Tofu gradually became popular among the nobility and the samurai class. During the Edo era (1603-1867), tofu became popular among ordinary people. The cookbook "Tofu Hyakuchin" was published in 1782 and sold very well.

In 1603 the Spanish dictionary "Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam" was the first European document with reference to the word "tofu". Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete described in his book "A Collection of Voyages and Travles" how tofu was made. The first English reference to tofu was in 1704, when Navarrete's book was published in English.

Tofu was first produced (non-commercial) in France by Paillieux in 1880. Hirata & Co. started to make tofu in San Francisco in 1895. The first Westerner who produced tofu on a commercial scale was T.A. Van Gundy in 1929 when he started the company La Sierra Industries in California.

Tofu is sometimes called "the cheese of Asia," because of its physical resemblance to a block of farmer's cheese. Tofu is a highly nutritious, protein-rich food that is made from the curds of soybean milk. Off-white in color, it is usually sold in rectangular blocks.

Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots, and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol).

Soy has also been shown to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause. Soy foods, like tofu, contain phytoestrogens, specifically the isoflavones, genistein and diadzein. In a woman's body, these compounds can dock at estrogen receptors and act like very, very weak estrogens. During perimenopause, when a woman's estrogen fluctuates, rising to very high levels and then dropping below normal, soy's phytoestrogens can help her maintain balance, blocking out estrogen when levels rise excessively high, plus filling in for estrogen when levels are low. When women's production of natural estrogen drops at menopause, soy's isoflavones may provide just enough estrogenic activity to prevent or reduce uncomfortable symptoms, like hot flashes. The results of intervention trials suggest that soy isoflavones may also promote the resorption of bone and therefore inhibit postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Additionally, most types of tofu are enriched with calcium, which can help prevent the accelerated bone loss for which women are at risk during menopause. Calcium has also been found useful in rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which calcium may help to reduce the bone loss that can occur as a result of this disease. Tofu is a good source of calcium. Four-ounces supply about 10% of the daily value for calcium and contain only 70-90 calories.

Think a meal without meat equals a meal without protein? Think again. Four ounces of tofu provides 9.2 grams of protein, that's 18.3% of the daily value for protein, and it comes virtually free of saturated fat (less than 1 gram), and at a cost of only 86 calories. Here's how it compares to a few other foods. For each 100 calorie serving, tofu contains 11 grams of protein. By comparison, 100 calories of ground beef provides 8.9 grams of protein, and a 100 calorie serving of cheese contains 6.2 grams.

Tofu provides 14.4% of the daily value for omega 3 fatty acids in just 4 ounces.

A large percentage of the conventionally grown soybeans in the United States come from genetically modified (GM) seeds. If you are limiting your exposure to GM foods, choose organically grown soybeans (and foods such as tofu, tempeh and miso made from it), since the current USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of GM seeds for growing foods to be labeled as organically grown. Many commercially available brands of tofu are made from organic and non-genetically modified soybeans, and, as an added bonus, most organic and non-gmo tofu brands are the same price as conventionally produced tofu. Look for Nasoya brand, Mori-nu organic and other organic tofu brands.

Try some the recipes I've posted using tofu. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Okra Gumbo

Okra seems to be one of those foods that you either love or hate. Most people I know who won't eat it object to the sliminess of the cooked okra. I can see how they would find that unappealing, but I also know it is all in how it is prepared. I like mine pickled, fried or in a gumbo.

Okra Gumbo

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
One green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes
One bag of frozen sliced okra
1 t. file' powder
1 t. thyme
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne
2 cans kidney beans, drained

Saute the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic in the olive oil. Add water, tomatoes, okra, file' powder, thyme, salt, black pepper, cayenne and kidney beans, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer 30 minutes. Serve over rice. Add additional seasonings, if you'd like.

I picked up some Magic Swamp Dust while visiting New Orleans earlier this year. My family is fond of using it, go figure, when I make anything remotely Cajunish.

Not sure what I'll do when we run out!

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians by the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The seed pods were eaten cooked, and the seeds were toasted and ground, used as a coffee substitute (and still is).

Okra came to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, probably brought by slaves from West Africa, and was introduced to Western Europe soon after. In Louisiana, the Créoles learned from slaves the use of okra (gumbo) to thicken soups and it is now an essential in Créole Gumbo.

Today okra is popular in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America and the Southern U.S. It is not a very common vegetable in most European countries, except for Greece and parts of Turkey.

Due to increased interest in American regional foods, these bright green, tender pods have gained more respect as a vegetable in the U.S., aside from its use as a thickener.

Purchase young, tender but firm pods. They should snap easily in half. The best varieties are a rich green color. Avoid pods that are dull and dry looking, blemished or limp. If you grow your own and know someone who does, you want to smaller pods, not the really long ones. Mature okra is used to make rope and paper! (Avoid those old woody pods!).

Store in a paper bag in the warmest part of refrigerator, as temperatures below 45 degrees can damage okra. It does not store well, so use within 2 or 3 days at most.

Do not wash until ready to use, or it will become slimy. When preparing, remember that the more it is cut, the slimier it will become. Aluminum pots will discolor it.

Okra is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, protein, riboflavin, niacin, iron, zinc and copper.

Gumbo is often used interchangeably with okra. The word gumbo is derived from the Bantu word kingumbo, which means “okra.”  There are apparently different types of gumbo: gumbo is typically divided into either "Creole" or "Cajun" varieties. Creole refers to the combinations that were traditionally common in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. In these areas, significant portions of the population were descendants of settlers from France or Spain, and were known as Creoles. The Cajun combinations were often found in Southwestern Louisiana, which was populated primarily by Cajuns, descendants of the French-speaking settlers who were expelled from Acadia in the mid-18th century. Creole gumbo most often consists of seafood, tomatoes, and a thickener. This variety is generally not as spicy as Cajun gumbo, as cayenne pepper is used much more sparingly. Before the latter half of the 20th century, celery was rarely used in Creole gumbo, but it is now much more common. Cajun gumbo is usually identified by its dark roux, cooked until it is a color "a few shades from burning". The roux is used with either okra or filé powder. Seafood is popular in Cajun gumbo, but the southwestern areas of the state often use fowl, such as chicken or duck, and sausage. The fowl is generally not deboned, and onions, celery, and bell pepper are not strained out of the dish. Cajun gumbo is usually topped with parsley and green onions.

My okra gumbo defies those labels, made cruelty-free, not made with a roux, but is darned good nonetheless!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie

The weather where I live is temperamental. It just can't make up its mind if it wants to be cool or hot. It's November and one would think it would be tired of being so hot all of the time, but it can't seem to decide if it is ready for cool. My telling it to stay cool just doesn't seem to be convincing enough. Happily enough, though, it is staying at least reasonable in its temps and I am not having to run either my air conditioner or my heater. I guess that will have to do for now.

When planning my meals for this week, I had looked at soups and chilis. Wishful thinking on my part. Then this pot pie recipe made its appearance and was different enough from the usual for me to go with it.

This recipe is adapted from the book Savoring the Day by Judith Benn Hurley. The book is not a vegan or even a vegetarian cookbook, but it is lovely nonetheless. I like the book because it has nice ideas to travel through one's day, following natural rhythms.

Chunky Vegetable Pot  Pie

1 bag frozen sliced carrots
1 bag frozen Brussels sprouts
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pkg. sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. curry powder
1 double crust pie crust, frozen or homemade

If you decide to use fresh produce instead of frozen, steam the veggies the appropriate length of time until they are tender. I went with frozen for convenience. Thaw the frozen veggies and mix with remaining ingredients. Spoon into pie crust, top with second pie crust and poke holes in the top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

I did cut the Brussels sprouts in half and trimmed the stalks from the cauliflower for mine.

On a vegan list I'm on, the question was asked what vegetable could we be happy to never see again. I was, but shouldn't have been, I guess, surprised at how many people listed Brussels sprouts. While I wouldn't say they are at the top of my list of favorite vegetables, I do still like them.

Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. While the origins of Brussels sprouts are unknown, the first mention of them can be traced to the late 16th century. They are thought to be native to Belgium, specifically to a region near its capital, Brussels, after which they are named. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the 16th century they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands and remained a local crop in this area until their use spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe during World War I. Brussels sprouts are now cultivated throughout Europe and the United States. In the U.S., almost all Brussels sprouts are grown in California.

Production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began around 1800, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. The first plantings in California's Central Coast began in the 1920s, with significant production beginning in the 1940s. Currently there are several thousand acres planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California, which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. The harvest season lasts from June through January. They are also grown in Baja California, Mexico, where the harvest season is from December through June.

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are a very good source of numerous nutrients including folate, vitamin A, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1) and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium. In addition to these nutrients, Brussels sprouts contain numerous disease-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane, indoles, glucosinolates, isothiocynates, coumarins, dithiolthiones, and phenols.

Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.

Brussels sprouts may have unique health benefits in the area of DNA protection. A recent study has shown improved stability of DNA inside of our white blood cells after daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in the amount of 1.25 cups. Interestingly, it's the ability of certain compounds in Brussels sprouts to block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that researchers believe to be responsible for these DNA-protective benefits.

You'll find nearly 100 studies in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.) that are focused on Brussels sprouts, and over half of those studies involve the health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable in relationship to cancer. This connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention should not be surprising since Brussels sprouts provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of Brussels sprouts: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems - including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis - and found preliminary evidence of an ability on the part of cruciferous vegetables to lower our risk of these health problems. Yet regardless of the specific cardiovascular problem, it is one particular type of cardiovascular benefit that has most interested researchers, and that benefit is the anti-inflammatory nature of Brussels sprouts and their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. Of particular interest here has been the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane, which is made from glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) found in Brussels sprouts. Not only does this ITC trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system - it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.

In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed Brussels sprouts was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), Brussels sprouts bound 27% as many bile acids (on a total dietary fiber basis).

If you've never tried these miniature cabbages, you should. This recipe is a good way to introduce yourself to them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Panko Encrusted Seitan Cutlets

I am always on the lookout for new things to try or new ways to do it. I have numerous cookbooks and have been collecting recipes since I was 15 years old. It's fun to look through some of the recipes I have and sometimes I wonder *what was I thinking* or *OMG this sounds gross!* It amazes me sometimes what some cooks will come up with and think it will be even marginally palatable. And then there are those that I think sound odd but when tasted, are really quite good!

None of that, however, applies to this dish. From the moment I saw it I thought it would be scrumptious. It was!

Panko Encrusted Seitan Chops

1 c. panko breadcrumbs
3 T. fresh chopped rosemary
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

Make the seitan using the Seitan with Satan recipe, except substitute garbanzo bean flour for the nutritional yeast. Also, this time around I used Braggs Aminos in place of the soy sauce. No other reason than I was out of soy sauce! Let it drain after cooking. Slice into cutlets, about little less than 1/2 inch thick.

Mix the bread crumbs and other ingredients together.

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high. Press the cutlets into the breadcrumb mixture until nicely covered, then place in the oil in the frying pan and cook until nicely brown on one side. Flip and brown on the other.

I served it with apples and dried cranberries baked in maple, ginger and brown sugar. My daughter noted that running her cutlet pieces through the mapley liquid added a really nice additional flavor to the dish.

If you've never had seitan (pronounced say-tahn) before, you are in for a treat. Seitan is derived from the protein portion of wheat and has a chewy texture. If you are a non-vegan or a vegan convert, it is a great substitute for meat, especially if you are trying to limit your soy consumption. According to Barbara and Leonard Jacobs in their excellent book Cooking with Seitan, "seitan has been a staple food among vegetarian monks of China, Russian wheat farmers, peasants of Southeast Asia, and Mormons. People who had traditionally eaten wheat had also discovered a method to extract the gluten and create a seitan-like product."

You can make your own, like I do, or buy it commercially made. You will find it in tubs or vacuum packs soaking in marinade in either the refrigerator or the freezer section of many natural food stores. You may also find frozen or fresh gluten in Asian markets by the name Mi-Tan. As gluten is a low sodium and extremely lowfat protein (containing around 10 mg. sodium, 0 g. fat, and 7.5 g. protein per ounce in its raw state), additional processing is what may add unhealthy attributes. Most of the commercially prepared seitan contains a considerable amount of sodium (up to 100 mg. per ounce). If you choose to deep-fry the gluten, the fat content will jump from virtually zero to the number of grams in whatever oil is absorbed (at 4.5 grams per teaspoon).

Like I said, I prefer to make my own, because then I can change up ingredients (as I did in this recipe) to suit me. I haven't tried changing up to flavors to mimic different meats, like pork, poultry or seafood, but I do happen to have a cookbook that gives the ingredients to do that very thing. Definitely on my list of things to try!

Try this dish. I think you'll like it!

Seitan on FoodistaSeitan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chickpea Patties

We love falafel. I think it was one of the first *foreign* dishes we tried after becoming vegan. Previously, our ethnic adventures had pretty much been limited to Chinese, Mexican and Italian. Mediterranean food had never been in our repertoire. I'm not even sure when first we tried falafel, but we've been hooked ever since.

When I came upon this recipe I thought it was a nice take on falafel, making me think more of the vegetarian style cutlets I had experimented with in my early mom years, when I was making better efforts to feed my family nutritiously. Funny, now that I think about it, those early years provided a pretty good base, but I am so much happier that we have gone complete circle and then some.

Chickpea Patties

Olive oil
One onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 t. salt
black pepper to taste
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
few cloves of garlic
2 T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 T. Braggs aminos
1 t. dried thyme
2 c. cooked brown rice
3/4 c. quick oats

Saute onion, celery, salt and pepper in olive oil until soft. In a food processor, puree garbanzo beans, garlic cloves, Worcestershire sauce, Braggs, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt. Add sauteed vegetables and 1 c. of the brown rice. Whiz again in the food processor to blend well. Add last cup of rice for one more whiz around. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the oats. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Form into patties and fry in more oil on medium high heat. Fry until golden on each side.

I served it with tahini on the side.  They came out nicely crispy.

Garbanzo beans, which may also be called chickpeas, are a member of the legume family. Instead of having the flat oval shape of most beans, garbanzo bean are a pale cream (though some other colors are available) and mostly round in shape. These legumes were domesticated very early, possibly even 5000-10,000 years ago, and evidence of their use is found in archaeological digs in places like Turkey, France and Israel. Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho (PPNB) along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. They are found in the late Neolithic (about 3500 BCE) at Thessaly, Kastanas, Lerna and Dimini. In southern France Mesolithic layers in a cave at L'Abeurador, Aude have yielded wild chickpeas carbon dated to 6790±90 BCE. By the Bronze Age, chickpeas were known in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece, they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert, or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram, and punic chickpeas. They were both cooked down into a broth and roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius - I mentioned him in an earlier post here - gives several recipes for chickpeas. Carbonized chickpeas have been found at the Roman legion fort at Neuss (Novaesium), Germany in layers from the first century CE, along with rice.

Chickpeas are mentioned in Charlemagne's Capitulare de villis (about 800 CE) as cicer italicum, as grown in each imperial demesne. Albertus Magnus mentions red, white and black varieties. Nicholas Culpeper noted "chick-pease or cicers" are less "windy" than peas and more nourishing. Ancient people also associated chickpeas with Venus because they were said to offer medical uses such as increasing sperm and milk, provoking menstruation and urine and helping to treat kidney stones. In 1793, ground-roast chickpeas were noted by a German writer as a coffee substitute in Europe and in the First World War, they were grown for this in some areas of Germany. Chickpeas are still sometimes brewed instead of coffee.
They are used in making hummus and falafel and most often seen in Mediterranean dishes. I also use them to make a vegan tuna salad that we really like. Good on crackers or even as a sandwich.

The popularity of garbanzo beans may be due to their inherent nutritional value. A cooked cup (164 grams) is an excellent source of dietary fiber, and provides substantial levels of important nutrients like iron and folate. They also are a high protein food, with just under 15 grams of protein per serving. These nutrients are paired with relatively low calories, only 269 per cup.

Garbanzo beans have a light, buttery flavor. They’re not strong in taste, and will readily absorb most other flavors, spices or seasonings. We even eat them straight out of the can, they are just that nice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shepherdess Pie

I love autumn. I love foods associated with autumn. I love to cook. Hmmm, sounds like a match made in heaven! That's what you'll think when you eat this.

Shepherdess Pie

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
10 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
3 stalks celery, sliced
8 cloves garlic, sliced
Olive oil
1 t. poultry type seasoning
dash ground cloves
dash nutmeg
pinch anise seeds
1 t. paprika
sprinkle of Braggs aminos

Make mashed potatoes in the way you like. I don't peel the potatoes, just wash and but into eighths. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and turn to simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20-30 minutes, depending on how many potatoes you are boiling and how small you cut them. When done, drain the water, add some soy milk or vegetable broth, salt, pepper, sprinkle of basil and oregano, a little bit of nutritional yeast and mix away!

Saute the onion, garlic, rutabaga, carrots, celery and squash until onions have wilted. Add spinach and spices and mix up.

Pour cooked veggies into a casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes, being sure to seal all edges.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Comes out sizzling and delicious!

The history of shepherd's pie is one of meat and potatoes. Mine, however, is cruelty free. It lends itself to any variety of ingredients, but always topped with potatoes.

Cottage pie refers to an English or Irish meat pie made with ground beef and with a crust made from mashed potato. A variation on this dish using ground lamb is known as shepherd's pie. Unlike standard pies, cottage or shepherd's pie does not include a bottom pastry crust.

The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (cf. "cottage" meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers).

In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top.
The term "shepherd's pie" did not appear until the 1870s, and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie", regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton. Several countries have their own version: 
In Ireland and parts of Canada  the dish is commonly called shepherd's pie even when containing beef.
In the United States a similar dish is called cowboy pie. In New England the most common recipe for shepherd's pie consists of ground beef, canned creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and cream of mushroom soup.
In Quebec, a similar dish is called pâté chinois (Chinese pie).
In France, a similar dish is called hachis Parmentier.
In Jordan, Syria and Lebanon a similar dish is referred to as "Siniyet Batata" (literally meaning a plate of potatoes), or "Kibbet Batata".
In Russia, a similar dish is called "Картофельная запеканка" (Kartofel'naya zapekanka, or "potato baked pudding").
In Chile a similar dish is called pastel de papa (potato pie).
In Argentina a similar dish is called pastel de carne (meat pie)
In the Dominican Republic this is called pastelon de papa (potato casserole), it has a layer of potatoes, one or two of meat, and another of potatoes, topped with a layer of cheese.
In New Zealand it is also referred to as a potato-top pie, and is commonly filled with ground beef.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is Your Wine or Beer Vegan?

My family and I like our beverages. Tea, water, juice, the occasional soda. Oh, and beer and wine. Now, me, I'm not a beer drinker. I'll cook with it every now and then, but two things I have just never acquired a taste for are coffee and beer. I get teased because I don't even like the smells, unlike some non-coffee drinkers I know. I swear, open a fresh container of coffee and from anywhere in the house I will come into the kitchen insisting something is burning. Seriously, that is how it smells to me. Not appealing at all.

But wine? I like wine. Not all wine, and will admit to being a bit of a wienie about it. It has to be sweet. You can keep your dry wine, I don't want any! So imagine my surprise, and disgust, when I learned not all wines or beers are vegan! What the heck? It's made from grapes and barley and hops and wheat and it's all vegetarian, right?


Many wines are made using animal-derived ingredients to assist in the processing of the wine. While these
ingredients are largely filtered out of the wine before sold, the use of animal ingredients in the creation of the wine may make them unsuitable for consumption by vegans. Typically these ingredients are used as processing aids in the "fining" or filtration part of the winemaking process to help remove solid impurities such as grape skins, stems, pips, to remove the yeast used in the fermentation process, or to adjust the tannin levels. This is done to create a clearer, brighter, better tasting and more presentable wine.

Wine is clarified, or cleared, after fermentation. Some of the ingredients used include:

- edible gelatins (made from bones)
- isinglass (made from the swim bladders of fish)
- casein and potassium caseinate (milk proteins)
- animal albumin (egg albumin and dried blood powder)

It isn't any different with beer. Many beers are conditioned using the same fining agents as those used for wine. Finings are a substance put into the beer to clear out the yeast and particles. As with wine, isinglass, egg whites and caseins are often used for fining. However, bentonite, a mineral derived from clay, is also sometimes used.

My go to source now is Barnivore. If your preferred brand or label isn't listed, they even tell you how to contact the company and get the info you need.

Now I can imbibe without worry, and still be cruelty free!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkin Alfredo

Every time around Hallowe'en, I like to try something with pumpkin in it. I'm not a big sweets eater, so it typically means something main dish. I found this and couldn't wait to try it!

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 package fettuccine noodles
1 package soft silken tofu
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flaxseed
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
olive oil and sea salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, combine all sauce ingredients together in a food processor. Blend until smooth. When pasta is finished cooking, drain, rinse and return to pot. Toss in a light amount of olive oil to evenly coat the noodles. Combine the sauce with the pasta and mix well. Throw some pecans on top!

The flavor was very nice and mild, not as spicy as I expected. I put whole pecans on top, but I think mixing in some chopped pecans would be a good idea.

I tried making the sauce in the blender at first, but that didn't work so well. Definitely use a food processor for getting a good blend of the ingredients. The flax seeds add a nice little crunch.

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C. References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin." Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They called pumpkins "isqoutm squash", and used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine finding the seeds to be useful in eliminating intestinal parasites. The tribes also used pumpkin seeds to treat kidney problems. The seeds are still used to prevent kidney stones, but it is not known how this works. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

A 2005 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 68 percent of Americans have a magnesium deficiency. A magnesium deficiency can eventually lead to serious conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes if left untreated. One way to make sure you don’t fall into this category is to regularly incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet. Pumpkin seeds are so high in magnesium that just one quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 87 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium for an adult. A great source of phosphorus and manganese, pumpkin seeds also contain protein, iron, calcium, zinc and a variety of vitamins including B, K and A. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the zinc in these seeds has proven to help prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. Omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin seeds create a natural anti-inflammatory effect so arthritis-sufferers can find relief without the negative side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Phytosterols, a naturally occurring compound found in pumpkin seeds, have been found to be helpful for lowering LDL cholesterol. Pumpkin seed oil helps keep testosterone from inflicting damage on the male prostate cells and therefore helps reduce prostate cancer development. Pumpkin seeds help ease difficult urination by inhibiting enzymes associated with prostate enlargement. Pumpkin seed extract can also help those with incontinence issues by increasing testosterone levels and strengthening the pelvic muscles.

I can find pumpkin seeds year round at my local grocery store in the bulk aisle. I'll definitely be using pumpkin seeds much more often!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Stew Will Put a Spell On You!

I love stew. Always have. My mom would typically makes hers in a pressure cooker, and the smells permeating the house were heaven sent. I wanted something reminiscent of those days, so when I came upon this recipe, I had to make it.

Witch's Stew

Seitan, cut into chunks (I made my own, using the recipe from Seitan with Satan, more on that later!)
1-2 lbs. potatoes, chopped into quarters
5-6 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finally chopped
1 bag frozen peas
4 c. vegetable broth or stock
Olive oil
2 vegetable boullion cubes mixed with 2 c. boiling water
1 c. unbleached flour, mixed with 1 tbsp. onion powder and 1 tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 tbsp. thyme
1/2 tbsp. sage
1 c. unbleached flour, mixed with 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 c. water (I actually used the leftover flour from above and the leftover broth from making seitan earlier)

1. Dredge seitan chunks in flour/onion powder/garlic powder mixture.
2. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Toss in seitan chunks and cook until heated through and slightly browned.
3. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add vegetable broth, vegetable bouillon/boiled water mixture, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Allow to cook for at least 35-40 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are mostly cooked through.
5. Add frozen peas, thyme, and sage and mix well. Add flour/soy sauce/water mixture slowly, and stir well - this thickens the stew. Allow to cook for 10-15 more minutes, or until peas are completely heated through.

I really liked the flavor of this, and didn't even add any salt or pepper to it.
I made my very first batch of seitan for this, rather than buying it premade from the store. It was remarkably easy, made the house smell divine, and came out pretty darned good, I thought, for my first attempt. I am definitely going to make my own seitan from now on.
I wondered about the history of stews, since they are not only popular now, but are often mentioned in different books I read, both fiction and non-fiction. It seems stews are mentioned  in the oldest cookbook known. There are recipes for lamb stews & fish stews in 'Apicius de re Coquinaria', whose identity is uncertain, there having been 3 Romans by that name in the period 1st century BC to 2nd century AD. The most famous and colorful of the three was M. Gavius Apicius, who taught haute cuisine under Tiberius and who legend has it exhausted a vast fortune on his lavish dinners, finally killing himself when his funds no longer permitted him to eat to his tastes.What is known is that the book has survived, and there are recipes for stews of lamb and fish in it. There is an English translation of Apicius for those so inclined.
There were also stew recipes by one Taillevent (French chef, 1310-1395 whose real name was Guillaume Tirel), who wrote Le Viandier, one of the oldest cookbooks in French. It mentions ragouts (ragoût), which is the French word for a main-dish stew.
There is archaeological evidence of practices going back 7,000 or 8,000 years or more of other cultures using shell of large mollusks, like clams, and turtle shells to boil foods in. And, no doubt the development of pottery, perhaps 10,000 years ago, made cooking even easier.
All I know is making stew is one of the easiest things to do and very flexible, ingredients-wise. So whip up a of stew and enjoy!
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