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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