Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Friday, October 29, 2010

Comfort Food: Oatmeal

Music: Jack Johnson, Brushfire Fairytales

A lot of people might not think of oatmeal as a comfort food. Perhaps, like me, oatmeal conjures up a forgettable meal of disgusting "instant" packets from Quaker. You remember those. Supposedly they were a "whole" food; if so, why was I hungry within two hours?

Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber which gives you a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. It can also reduce your cholesterol.

Lately I've been craving oatmeal for dinner. That's right, for dinner. I have the time to make it (about 10-15 minutes from preparation to table) and I have the time to make it delicious. Part of the fun is deciding what goodness to add to it! Sometimes I just use plain rolled oats but I sometimes also use Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Cereal. Here's exactly how I prepare it:

1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C water
1/2 C soymilk
2 tbsp dates, chopped
1 tbsp pecans, chopped
1 small tart green apple (the kind best used for baking), peeled & diced
sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Place all in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil (watch it carefully so it doesn't boil over--that's a mess!). Reduce heat to low, cover with the lid slightly askew, and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more milk if you like it creamier like I do.

The variation possibilities are endless: use a fresh pear instead of an apple, use walnuts instead of pecans (or even almonds), use dried apricots or cherries or cranberries instead of dates, use rice or almond milk instead of soy.

Just don't like oatmeal? You can still get your oats by making either muesli or granola.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greens & Grains

Music: Eddie & the Cruisers, original motion picture soundtrack

Here's a very quick and easy way to get both greens and grains in one meal. You could use kale, as I did, but you could also use spinach, rabe, or broccoli. I used whole wheat cappelini noodles but you could use soba, buckwheat, semolina, rice, or quinoa noodles instead. And like most vegan dishes, I'm finding that it's just as delicious room temperature the next day. For even more goodness, add sauteed or steamed tofu or tempeh.

From Lorna Sass's Short-cut Vegan:

Sesame Noodles with Kale
1 large bunch of kale
Noodles for 2-4 people (8-10oz)
1-2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 tbsp shoyu or tamari (I used tamari)
1 tbsp sesame seeds (toasting beforehand is optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Slice off & discard the thickest part of the kale stems. I used kitchen scissors to do this & it made it very easy. Then snip the remaining kale into very thin slices. Rinse well in a colander. When water is boiling, add noodles & cook for 5 minutes less than the cooking time instructs. Because capellini noodles are so thin & cook in 5 minutes, I placed both the noodles & the kale in the pot at the same time, boiling them together until tender. Drain it all in a colander, return to pot, and add oil, tamari, and seeds, tossing well. For variation, add chopped fresh tomato, sliced scallions, or shredded carrot. The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eat Your Greens: Bok Choy

Music: shuffled music on the iPod

Today's smoothie: frozen strawberries, beet greens, half o'banana, bit o'avocado

When I was growing up, I only recall my mother preparing cabbage when she made stuffed cabbage (which had both ground beef as well as rice in it). It looked like an arduous task with many steps. I didn't know there was any other cabbage except the large green basketball-size ones until I got to college.

My latest favorite way to enjoy it is with bok choy. The most common way I was using it was in stir fries but this easy and delicious recipe from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet wowed me & now this is the only way I want to eat bok choy (at least for right now!).

In either a steamer basket or a colander set over a saucepan with about an inch or two of gently simmering water, place rinsed bok choy and cover with a lid. Steam until the leaves begin to wilt and the stems are to your desired tenderness (I think I steam mine for 7-10 minutes). Drain and place on a plate. Drizzle a combination of equal parts light oil (olive, almond, flax, for example) and ume plum vinegar (you can find this in health food stores or probably even Whole Foods). Sprinkle a little sea salt & pepper on it if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Using Prepared Tofu

Music: Anne Akiko Meyers, Seasons...Dreams...

Today's smoothie: organic flat-leaf parsley, frozen raspberries, half o'banana

One of the best things about being vegan continues to be my never-ending desire to try different plant foods and my excitement of a delicious new discovery. It's just so wonderful to eat good food and know that it is also nourishing my body.

I use tofu often, however, it wasn't until a few months ago that I tried baked, marinated, and smoked tofu, which can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Two recipes I've tried with them have turned out wonderfully.

Asian Edamame and Tofu Chopped Salad (from Vegan Express by Nava Atlas--thank you, Nava! Love your recipes!)

1 C frozen edamame, thawed
1/4 C pine nuts
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (about 1 C)
1 small red or orange bell pepper, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
4-5 oz. baked tofu, cubed
1/4 C thinly sliced scallions, green parts only
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste.

After cooking edamame according to package instructions, drain and rinse in cold water. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet until golden. Combine all in a bowl.

And, since the weather has gotten cooler, isn't a nice pot of split pea soup just the thing? But I'll bet you've never tasted a split pea soup like this one! Who needs the animal bone (ew!)? Not me. And certainly not your body.

Smoky Green Pea Split Soup (from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
2 1/2 C dried green split peas, rinsed
4 C water with 2 bouillon cubes
4 C water
2 bay leaves
1 pkg (8 oz) smoked tofu, cubed
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and paprika. Cover and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add split peas and cook 1-2 minutes. Add all water, bouillon cubes, and bay leaves and increase heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and let cook 30 minutes. Add tofu, stir in, and continue to cook 18-20 minutes until peas are fully cooked. The soup will thicken. Stir in lemon juice and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Music: WRCJ streaming via Jim's iPod through the stereo

Today's smoothie: organic baby spinach, frozen organic strawberries, half o'banana

A common misconception that many non-vegans have of vegans is that all we eat are salads, potatoes, and pasta. Well, pasta IS a grain, so it is one of the many, many, many grains out there in the big wide world that we eat. But when most people buy pasta, they just automatically buy regular white semolina. After going vegan, and I started scrutinizing labels, I came across several kinds of pasta including whole wheat, brown rice, and even quinoa pasta!

This dish is one of those dishes that is easy to make yet looks and tastes very impressive. (like you cooked it a long time). It's a great dish to make when you have guests; just add a mixed vegetable salad and, if you have time, a green vegetable. It makes lots (always a good thing) so you have leftovers. It's also delicious at room temperature.

Pasta Jambalaya (from Vegan Express by Nava Atlas--THE queen of quick vegan meals!)

8-10 oz chunky pasta (I used whole wheat orzo because it’s all I had on hand that day)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery stalks, diced (I didn’t have so I used zucchini)

1 medium green pepper, diced

One 14-oz package Tofurky Italian or kielbasa-style “sausage” (You could also use Field Roast brand), sliced 1/2 inch thick

One 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 tsp dried basi

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Cayenne pepper to taste

1/4 C minced fresh parsley

Sea salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente then drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or fry pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic, celery, pepper, and sausage and continue to saute until vegetables are lightly browned.

Add tomatoes, basil, paprika, thyme, and cayenne to taste. Bring to a simmer then cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium low heat.

Stir in the pasta and parsley.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Vegan Anniversary!

Today it is three years since I dove into the adventure of being vegan; time flies when you're having fun! And it
has been fun, trying so many new foods and recipes, watching the changes in my health and well-being, and just getting more and more into the flow of a daily vegan lifestyle. I don't even think about it anymore. My shopping is automatic for the things I need to prepare my meals and I have lost the food cravings I used to have: frosted chocolate donuts, Coca Cola, French fries, and boxed cereal to name but a few.

But I'm still making new discoveries about my body. This past weekend, I made some biscotti, which I had not made in awhile either because they are a little time consuming or we just didn't miss it (and, really, who needs the extra calories?). But I've been a little homesick here in Pittsburgh so I decided to make some when it got a little chilly. Well, since then, I've had one with my morning latte every day and guess what? I've got a skin break out! I had also made some spice cookies to have around and now I'm thinking it's the turbinado sugar in these things but I'm not quite sure yet. So I'm laying off the biscotti and the cookies and seeing what happens. Remember when I said that if I forgot to bring my stevia with me when I travel and I eat table sugar I break out? I think I'm finding that sweets with any processed sugar are triggering these break outs. I'll let you know.

Right now, I'm trying to educate my parents on the benefits of a vegan diet and how making the switch will lead them to a more active and less painful aging process so that they can enjoy their time together instead of being in constant pain and discomfort. We watched an online video last night presented by Dr. Neal Barnard, head of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and it was a real eye-opener on why animal foods are so bad for you and also why some people find them addicting. Here's the link if you'd like to watch it. It's a 40 minute presentation but, I assure you, when you have some time (perhaps watch it instead of the regular tv?), it is well worth it. I've sent the link to my parents as well and I hope they will watch it.

I'd like to sincerely thank Jill Ovnik for her helpful and very informative DVD, Change Your Food, Change Your Life (which you can now also rent on Netflix!) and Dr. T. Colin Campbell for his amazing book, The China Study, both of which made me determined to go vegan for life. Here's to your health!