Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who Knew?

Music: Becoming Jane, soundtrack**

Today's smoothie: baby spinach, fresh pineapple, bit o'avocado, banana

I've known for a long time now that onions, part of the allium family of plants, have wonderful antioxidants that help prevent many chronic diseases and cancers. And readers of this blog know that they are my all-time favorite vegetable, be they red, white or yellow onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, even chives. Raw or cooked equals absolute deliciousness in my humble opinion.

So I picked up another neat little tip from Jim the other day and my co-worker Donna will just love this one. (She loves onions, too--bad breath? too bad for you!).

From the latest issue of that kinda sorta weird magazine, Mary Jane's Farm, comes a handy dandy tip to keep those pesky winter germs away. During the 1918 flu epidemic, a doctor apparently visited a farm woman whose family managed to stay healthy. Her tip? Dishes of unpeeled onions in each room of her house. When this doctor observed these onions under a microscope, he found traces of the flu in the onions. Wow! Yet another reason to make friends with this strong-smelling but very tasty vegetable.

I'm going to put an onion in a bowl on my desk at work on Monday. Working with the public as I do, I'll try anything. Boy, will that start a lot of conversations.

**In case you didn't know, I am a student of everything Jane Austen. This includes all the novels, minor & unfinished works, film adaptations & their respective soundtracks. I am an English major who has been fascinated with her writing for many years. I re-read the novels often and in the last few years I've begun devoting my reading to literary criticism of her works as well. I'm a member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) as well as its Michigan chapter. Sneer if you wish, but what other author (besides, of course, Shakespeare) is still discussed so much today, almost 200 years after her untimely death?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Do You Eat Enough Beans?

Music: Peter, Paul, and Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary**

Today's smoothie: frozen peaches, banana, collard greens, avocado

Sometimes some of the best meals are the old favorites. This is simply black beans, basmati rice, and a side salad. Beans are so easy to make; you don't have to soften them from dried, just buy organic canned, saute some vegetables for flavor, add your beans, and warm through. Start your rice before you start the beans and you have a meal in less than 30 minutes. Yum!

Beans are one of the best sources of protein and fiber for vegans. In fact, women especially should make sure to eat 1 cup of beans, peas, or lentils every day; it's great for regulating hormones.

And beans are good for everyone as a source of incredible fiber. Many people claim they can't digest beans; the more you eat the more your body gets used to them. Additionally, if you use canned beans, rinse and drain them well as this will help. Alternatively, if you use dried, drain the soaking water and rinse the beans several times before cooking.

**I grew up listening to Peter, Paul, & Mary on my parents' stereo. They all had such beautiful voices. My brother would sing "Puff, the Magic Dragon" without fear whenever asked. Now it just makes me sad because we don't have the relationship we used to. One of my favorite songs has always been "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," despite its very somber meaning. The most popular version was by The Kingston Trio but this version is just as nice. Rest in peace, Mary Travers (1936-2009).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mom's Refried Beans

Music: Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark

Today's smoothie: dandelion greens, frozen strawberries, frozen blackberries, banana, avocado

Since I'm Mexican, one of the great comfort foods of my childhood is refried beans. My mom's (and her mother's) recipe for the simple pinto bean was absolutely delicious. They were simply softened (usually in a pressure cooker--something I'm afraid of, esp. ever since Jim had an explosion incident with one early in our marriage), then refried in small batches in a pan on the stovetop. Of course, they were refried in lard which I most certainly do not eat now.

But somehow, mine have never achieved that certain taste that I remember. So I've come up with my own recipes over the years and most recently, using some simple vegan recipes in my cookbooks, most notably the recipes in Sarah Kramer's books. They're delicious but not exactly the same.

My mom still makes refried beans and she always saves some for me. This was a batch I took home with me last weekend. She doesn't use lard anymore but, rather, vegetable oil. They still have that taste I remember so well. Thank you, Mom!

I stuffed some into a whole wheat tortilla (Mission brand from Hollywood market), with fresh parsley and avocado.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vietnamese Salad

Music: sampling various artists on iTunes based on a recent issue of Rolling Stone.

Today's smoothie: dandelion greens, frozen raspberries, banana, bit o'avocado

I'm on the email list for actress Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, GOOP. I especially enjoy her "newsletters" called MAKE, since they usually include amazing food recipes, many of them vegan or easily "veganized." This is one of them. It's a tad bit time consuming with all the chopping but the taste was so good it was worth it. It's got bok choy, watercress, peanuts, carrots, cucumber, basil, mint, cilantro, & Napa cabbage and the dressing is garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, ginger, and shallots. The dressing recipe called for fish sauce but I don't use that so I just left it out. I topped it with some sauteed firm tofu. I cannot wait for summer when I can use the fresh herbs from my garden; I think my fresh lemon balm would taste great in this salad!

Isn't it beautiful?

You can find the recipe here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bicycle Man

Music: Collective Soul, Blender

Today's smoothie: parsley, banana, avocado, frozen strawberries, Clementine

Believe it or not, Jim has been biking to work every day all this winter. He was influenced by reading No Impact Man and rationalized that biking was faster and easier than driving the 1/2 mile to work every day. Not to mention the wear and tear on the car and the waste of gasoline.
With his car, he would have to brush off the snow (5-10 minutes), drive to work (less than 5 minutes), then park 3-4 blocks away and walk to his building (5 minutes). By biking, he can just bike right to the door and bring the bike indoors in only 5 minutes! He did prepare for doing this. He bought rain gear from the local REI store in Troy, a snowboarding helmet (also from REI), some head and taillights from Target, and he packs his lunch along with his laptop in a backpack. He says it's just a habit now. Additionally, he's getting more exercise, not only from biking but also by walking for 30 minutes in town during his lunch hour. So he's keeping his lost 30 pounds in check.

Some people have asked if it's difficult to bike in the snow. He says he just takes it slowly around curves and avoids areas that haven't been cleared of snow if at all possible. He's lucky in that his route is almost all residential with only one major crossing at E. Eleven Mile Road.

Pretty cool. Wish I lived that close to my job!

Jim came up with this delicious soup recipe that has a nice texture that mimics the creaminess of cheese. He used a recipe from LuAnn Bermeo's Amazing Meals ( but then changed a bunch of stuff around. This is the recipe he made. Oh, and sorry there's no picture but I wasn't home to take a picture!

This is delicious!

Jim's Mediterranean-Style Soup

4 C water

4 tsp chicken-style seasoning

2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (found at Whole Foods or Nutri-Foods)

1 15-oz can (or 2 C) beans of your choice (chickpea, red, black, pinto, etc.)

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 C grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.) cooked separately

1 tsp of the following (but adjust to taste):

dried oregano

dried basil

1/2 tsp of the following (but adjust to taste)

garlic powder

sea salt

Cook everything EXCEPT the grain for 30 minutes in large soup pot until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat & let cool 10 minutes. Using immersion blender, blend soup to desired smoothness, leaving some chunks if you want or blending it all. Add the grain and cook additional 10-15 minutes until warmed through.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Titles Are Hard

Music: Fuel, Angels and Devils & Something Like Human on shuffle

Today's smoothie: parsley, banana, bit o'avocado, 2 Clementines, frozen strawberries

As you can see, I couldn't think of a clever title for today's post.

Last Friday night, I went to my nephew's big varsity basketball game (Waterford Kettering against rival Waterford Mott High School). I have to admit I was reluctant to go because I'm not a sports fan at all but I wanted to hang out with Jim, see my wonderful sister and brother-in-law, their kids, & my mother-in-law. Also, I was curious to see the recreation center at Oakland University, where the game was to be played & also from where I graduated in 1990. It turned out to be a really fun evening and I'm so glad I went.

That said, one of the enticements to encouraging me to go was Jim making me dinner since he gets home long before I do. He cooked some arborio rice, topped it with his delicious tomato sauce with Field Roast grain "sausage," and I made a quick side salad of mixed greens, raw onions, chick peas, avocado, lime juice, sea salt & pepper. I also had a slice of toasted rye bread (with tons of seeds) with Earth Balance Buttery Spread.

By the way, it was a great game and Kettering won, 66-64!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dinner on the Table

Today's smoothie: dandelion greens, fresh pineapple, banana, bit o'avocado, 2 Clementines

I made this complete meal from the wonderful cookbook, Vegan Express, by Nava Atlas. If you're new to vegan cooking, this is the must-have book in your kitchen. All of her recipes are fast, easy, fresh, & delicious. I've loved every recipe I've made from it.

Cornmeal-Crusted Seitan

1/4 C yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground (I used Bob's Red Mill)

1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 1/2 tsp all-purpose spice

1/4 tsp salt

2 8-oz packages seitan stir-fry strips or 1 pound fresh seitan, cut into thin strips (I used West Soy from Nutri-Foods/Whole Foods/Trader Joe's)

1-2 tbsp olive oil, as needed

1. Combine cornmeal and 3/4 C boiling water in a large heat-proof mixing bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir. Add the flour, nutritional yeast, seasoning, & salt, and whisk together.

2. Add the seitan to the bowl and stir to coat evenly.

3. Heat the oil in wide nonstick skillet. Arrange the seitan in a single layer or work in batches. Saute over medium-high heat on all sides until the cornmeal turns golden brown. Keep heated in the oven in a pan at 150-170 degrees until all are cooked.

I served it with her suggested side dish, Curried Cashew Couscous. Couscous is not only fun to say (as my brother-in-law Shaun likes to say) but it needs to be cooked in a dish since it's quite dull all by itself. I often throw it in salads to bulk things up. I use 100% whole wheat couscous I buy from Trader Joe's.

Finally, I steamed a bunch of dinosaur kale, then sprinkled a little sea salt & pepper on it and the tiniest bit of almond oil.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weekend Breakfast

Music: Coldplay, X & Y

Today's smoothie: red chard, frozen peaches, banana, bit o'avocado, 3 tiny Clementines

I've made this before but instead of using Gimme Lean brand meatless sausage, I used an Oat-Sage patty that Jim had made and froze the week before. We're trying to get away from buying processed mock "meats" and making our own & freezing them instead.

The recipe for the Oat Sage patties is from LuAnn Bermeo's wonderful cookbook set, Amazing
Meals ( Reheated in the same pan that I sauteed a slice of firm tofu (in a little bit of oil & sprinkled with some all-purpose spice), it was absolutely delicious in a toasted sprouted grain English muffin from Food For Life. These are the best English muffins I've ever had, even when I wasn't vegan! I spread a little bit of Earth Balance Buttery spread on it & topped it with some fresh sunflower sprouts that Jim has been growing lately. So good!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's Mochi?

Music: Deb Talan, Something Burning**

Today's green smoothie: red chard, 3 teeny tiny Clementines, 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, bit o'avocado, 1 banana

In her book, The Kind Diet, Alicia Silverstone raves about something called mochi. I had never heard of these but they sounded delicious and worth trying. That's one of the best things about being vegan that I never did before: tried new things in my cooking. I used to think I ate a variety of foods in my diet but was I ever wrong!

Along with a salad and some smoky flavored tempeh (from Amazing Meals by LuAnn Bermeo,, I prepared some mochi, which are little Japanese rice cakes steamed and pounded into paste, then formed into shapes. The ones I found at Nutri-Foods were sweet brown rice flavored and cut into little rectangles. Traditionally they're eaten as a snack but I made it part of my meal. When they're cooked, they puff up. You can saute, grill or bake them; I sauteed them at medium heat with a lid on the pan and, when I lifted the lid, they had puffed up nice and soft. I flavored them with a little shoyu (raw soy sauce) and sea salt and pepper. It tastes like rice but is very chewy. You have to make sure they cook long enough to puff up or they're a little hard to chew. You could also flavor them sweetly with agave nectar and cinnamon and enjoy for breakfast. After all, it is a grain.

**Deb Talan is half of the folk duo The Weepies. But before she met her husband, she was a fairly successful solo artist. Her voice is so unique, deep but tiny sounding. It's unexpected but I love it. And the fact that she writes all her own material impresses me even more.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tofu Salad

Music: The Fray, How to Save a Life & The Fray on shuffle on my iPod

Today's smoothie: mixed greens, some frozen cherries, 3 tiny Clementines, some frozen blackberries, banana, bit o'avocado

Tofu Salad, adapted with variations from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

1/3 of a block of 14-16 oz. tofu (really, I think as much as you want; you could use the whole block)

1/4 C fresh/frozen peas, thawed

1/4 C finely chopped celery

3 olives, chopped (optional)

2-3 slices of kosher dill pickles, chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped onions

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (you could probably used dried, but use less)

1 tbsp Vegenaise

1 tbsp umeboshi vinegar

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peas & blanch for 3 minutes or until peas are bright green. Drain & set aside.

Wrap the tofu in a cloth and place on a plate. Place a second plate on top of the covered tofu, & place a weight on top of it for 10 minutes to press out the liquid. Bring water to a boil in a steamer or a pot with a sieve over it. Unwrap the tofu and place it in the steamer basket or sieve. Cover & steam the tofu over the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove tofu and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a fork to make it crumbly. Add the peas, celery, olives, pickles, onions, parsley, Vegenaise, vinegar, & lemon juice.

Eat as is over mixed greens or use as a sandwich filling on bread or wrapped in a tortilla or whole wheat pita bread.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Still Smoothie-ing

Music: The Monkees**

Today's smoothie: curly kale, banana, 1/2 cup fresh/frozen cranberries, 3 of the teeniest Josie Clementines I've ever seen, bit o'avocado

Well, it has become a habit. Since November, when I returned home from my retreat. I make a one quart (that's 4 cups) smoothie every day and drink it between breakfast and lunch. They taste so good and my cheapo blender is still holding up. We didn't get the Vita-Mix blender for Christmas; we're holding off a bit longer since it's so expensive.

My smoothie does not replace a meal and I don't know that it ever will. I just love getting all those greens mixed in with the sweetness of the fruit. Jim has even put figs in his. Some of my favorite fruits for smoothies include pineapple, blackberries, peaches, citrus of any kind (can't wait to try lemons and limes, too, especially in the summertime), and raspberries. Oh, and I can't wait to also try all the wonderful herbs in my garden, too! Sigh. Summer, how I miss you!

**Yes, I love the Monkees! So there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Come on-a My House

Today's smoothie: kale, banana, frozen peaches, bit o'avocado

My house is very tiny, too small to have a party. But I do enjoy having friends over my house to enjoy a meal I cooked for them. This time, our good friend, Maria Elena, joined us. She loves food as much as we do, so I wanted to make something special. What a perfect time to try new vegan recipes.

Barley Casserole (from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone)

2 cups hulled barley (I used pearled)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 carrots, chopped fine

2 celery stalks, diced

5 tbsp Braggs (the recipe called for shoyu but we didn't have and since shoyu is like soy sauce, you could also use soy sauce)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder

3/4 C tahini dressing

I cooked the barley early in the day since it takes 1 hour to cook. First, I rinsed it in a sieve, then cooked it according to the package. I then put it into a container & put it in the refrigerator for Jim to use later.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, & saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes or so. Add carrots, celery, shoyu, salt, basil, oregano, & garlic powder and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Add barley and stir over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Taste seasonings & adjust if necessary.

Transfer half the barley mixture to an 8" x "12 baking dish (or pan); drizzle half the Tahini dressing on top. Add second layer of barley mixture and top with the remaining dressing. Bake, uncovered, until heated through, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Tahini Dressing:

1/4 small onion, diced

1/2 C tahini

1 tbsp shoyu (or Braggs or soy sauce)

Pinch of garlic powder

Pinch of paprika

1/8 tsp dried basil or 1/2 tsp chopped fresh basil

Pinch of dried oregano

Combine all in small bowl.

Cuban-Style Roasted Yams (the recipe called for sweet potatoes, but I had yams so there you are) also from The Kind Diet:

3 large yams, peeled & quartered

4 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.

Place yams in a large mixing bowl, toss with 2 tbsp of the oil, & season to taste with sea salt & pepper. Spread potatoes on baking sheet, & roast until they can be easily pierced with a knife but still offer some resistance, about 30 minutes. Let cool about 15 minutes.

Transfer potatoes to large bowl & toss with garlic, lime juice, parsley, & remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This salad adds a nice raw crunch to the warmed casserole & yams.

Spinach & Red Cabbage Salad with Oranges (I used Clementines) & Almonds from Vegan Express by Nava Atlas:

1 smallish head of red cabbage, shredded

1/2 bag of organic baby spinach, washed & dried

2 Clementines, peeled, sectioned, & chopped into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces

1/4 toasted sliced almonds

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar, or to taste

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Combine all in large bowl & toss.

This piece of chocolate was part of a large bar in my stocking this year; it about sums it all up.

**I'll admit that, while kind of, well, depressing, this music is suiting my mood lately what with family health problems and my own job situation being questionable. I've always loved old music but this is quite unique. It was the period in American music between the wild gaiety of the roaring 20s but before the late 1930s true swing and big band scene. Almost like folk music, which is what it really was I guess.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lentil Stew

Music: Henry Mancini on my iPod

Today's smoothie: parsley, banana, frozen cherries, 2 clementines, bit o'avocado

This has to be one of the best stew recipes I've ever tried. So easy, so delicious! From Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet:

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 large onions, cut into chunks

2 celery stalks, diced

1 carrot, sliced

1 potato, cut into chunks

1/4 C shoyu (or soy sauce or Bragg's)

5 C vegetable broth (I used 5 C water plus 2 vegan bouillon cubes)

3 tomatoes, cut into chunks (I used 1/2 can of petite diced)

1 1/2 C brown lentils

Combine spices in a small bowl. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat, then add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, & potato. Stir in half of the spices and the shoyu. Cook, stirring often, for 7 minutes or so or until the onions begin to soften.

Add the water, broth (or bouillon cubes), tomatoes, & lentils. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer with lid askew for 30 minutes. Add remaining spices and cook 20 minutes longer or until lentils are soft.

I served it over organic brown rice. SO good!