Friday, December 23, 2011

Vegan Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms Recipe


2 cups dried white beans, soaked for at least 8 hours
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
1 stalk celery, cut into two pieces
1 small carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried tarragon, or 2 tablespoons fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large leek, sliced thinly
1/2 pound (about 2 generous cups) mushrooms, either cremini, shiitake, or oyster, or a combination, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them to a stockpot.  Add 4 cups of cold water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 3 minutes. Skim off any white foam from the top.  Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium; add he onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and tarragon.

Simmer for about 45 minutes, until the beans are very tender.  Remove the onion, carrot, and celery (either discard or use in a stock).  Lower the heat to low and continue to simmer while preparing the remaining vegetables.  The beans should resemble a very thick stew, not a soup.  If there's too much liquid, leave the pot uncovered and stir occasionally.

About 10 minutes before the beans are done, place the garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cold skillet.  Heat the skillet over medium heat, allowing garlic to sizzle for about 30 seconds.  Add the chopped leek and saute until soft, 1 to 2 minutes.  Scrape the leeks into beans.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, allow it to warm for about 30 seconds, and add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle the mushrooms lightly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and saute until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes depending on the kind of mushroom.  When most of the excess liquid is gone, add the mushrooms to beans.  Turn off the heat and season the beans with the remaining salt (or more, if desired) and freshly ground black pepper.  Allow the beans to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

B made these for me to bring to Christmas dinner on Sunday, so I'd have a protein option.  We tried a little bit of it for lunch today and it was AMAZING.  I'm curious to see what the family thinks, as I know some don't like mushrooms and others have expressed their dislike of dried beans (preferring mushier canned beans instead.  Oh well, more for me & B then!

"These are simple, homey, French-inspired, stick-to-your-ribs beans fro early autumn days.  The tarragon and leeks really shine through the mild white beans, and the mushrooms add a chewy bite.  This recipe is made with dried beans; canned beans cannot be substituted, so plan accordingly and soak the beans overnight or in the morning before you leave to work." - from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's "Veganomicon: the ultimate vegan cookbook"

Coming to terms with holiday baking

You may have noticed that I've been doing a lot of baking lately.  None of which has really been vegan.  Technically speaking, most refined sugar is not vegan because it is refined with animal bones, and of course, anything containing butter, eggs or honey is an animal product.  So what is this new vegan to during her first holiday season with this plant-based lifestyle???

Find balance...

For my favorite Everything Bread Recipe, I struggled for a while over the use of honey.  For the time being, I've decided to use organic, local honey, and to just be ok with that for now.  If I feel differently later as I continue to grow into my new humane plant-based lifestyle, then that's fine too.

For my to-die-for Whole Wheat Morning Glory Muffins, something that I eat for breakfast every day now, I didn't know what to do.  The recipe contains two eggs.  Watching videos of factory chicken farms makes me feel so guilty about this morning pleasure.  So for now, I've decided to buy only organic, cage-free, vegetarian fed eggs.  If I can talk to the farmer and buy them locally, even better.  If I later find an egg substitute to replace this ingredient then great!  Better yet, I'd love to get my own backyard chicken coop.   But for now, I'm choosing to be ok with using my buying power to support only animal products that I want to support.

Butter.  Hmmmm.  It has always been one of my favorite flavors!  For baking, I've been buying organic butter.  For spreading and cooking, I use Earth Balance.  I hope to eventually look for other vegan alternatives for baking too, but its just so scary to start messing with all your tried and true recipes!

Finally, the sugar issue.  This is something I have not even started trying to conquer yet.  You can buy raw natural sugar that is vegan, but I'm not ready to start experimenting with my recipes to see how this effects them, yet.  Someday, in my fantasy world, I'll find the time to not only bake, but to experiment with baking too.  For now, if I can squeeze 30 minutes in here or an hour there, I'm going to stick with what I know and get the job done.  The point is, at least I'm making everything from scratch, which is definitely healthier and kinder to the planet in so many ways.

The biggest lifestyle change with trying to eat a mostly vegan diet, is all the homemade cooking and preparation in advance that needs to be done!  I have found I really need to use my weekends to plan for the week ahead, because there are very limited fast-food or pre-packaged options available to me.  Which really is a good think if you ask me anyway :)

Well, speaking of which, I better get back to my vegan Rustic White Bean & Mushroom dish that I'm bringing to pass at Christmas (to make sure I have a protein too).  See, always have to think ahead!

Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies


1/2 cup salted butter - softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 package of Andes® Crème de Menthe Baking Chips

  1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2.  Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed.
  3.  Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then flour.
  4.  Chill approximately one hour in the refrigerator.
  5.  Measure out approximately 1 oz. of dough. Form a ball and slightly flatten.
  6.  Raise oven rack one level above the middle and bake on non-stick baking pans.
  7.  Bake at 350° F for approximately 8 - 10 minutes.
  8.  Cool on pans for two minutes before removing.
4 dozen cookies.

I made these for the first time this Christmas, and they turned out to be the most "Christmasy" thing I actually baked this year!  They are surprisingly good, not overwhelmingly minty, and just the right amount of sweetness & chocolate.  I can't wait to see what my family thinks of them this year... I have a feeling a certain mint-loving cousin is going to be a fan!

Brickle Drop Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 package Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet or use parchment paper.

2.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended.  Add eggs, beat well.  Stir together, flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar, gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in toffee bits.

3.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly, remove to wire rack.  Cool completely.

This recipe comes from the back of the Heath English Toffee Bits package. The toffee bits give it a crunchy, chewy texture and it’s not a cookie you can usually buy at a bakery or store.

White Chocolate Macademia Nut Cranberry Cookies


1 c butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 c all purpose flour*
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz white chocolate chips
1 c macadamia nuts, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries

*This recipe is for the original white cookies, to make chocolate cookies like those shown in the picture below, omit 1/2 c flour and add 1/2 c cocoa!
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt with electric mixer until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, beat well.
  4. Stir together flour and baking soda (and cocoa for chocolate cookies), gradually add to butter mixture beating until well blended.
  5. Stir in white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts and cranberries.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter onto ungresed cookie sheets.
  7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set (edges should be golden brown on white cookies, and the center should be set).
  8. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet to wire rack to cool completely. 
I first made these when I moved to Milwaukee for graduate school and didn't have much money to buy Christmas gifts for friends and family.  I made these to give away instead and they have become a favorite holiday treat for all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whole Grain Morning Glory Muffins Recipe

1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed natural brown sugar
1/1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Fuji apple, cored, peeled and diced*
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped**
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried flaked unsweetened coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; break up any brown sugar lumps with your fingers of a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and vanilla, then add to flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Add apples, raisins, carrots, walnuts and 1/4 cup of the coconut and stir gently until well combined.

Spoon batter into 16 paper-lined muffin tins,*** filling each about 2/3 full.  Top evenly with remaining coconut and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

*I used the organic local apples I had on hand, and sliced them rather than diced

**I omitted the walnuts

***I used a pan of 6 giant muffins instead, and omitted the paper lining as I wanted a crunchier outside to my muffins.

Nutrition: Per serving (1 muffin):
200 calories (110 from fat), 12g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 21g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 14g sugar), 3 g protein.

I've been hunting for a good recipe for these muffins for a while now.  I buy one almost every morning at work from the Alterra Coffee shop on campus (The Grind).  The coffee shop doesn't offer the nutrition information, but they will show you an ingredients list if you ask for it.  This recipe from Whole Foods is the closest I've found to the ingredients used by Alterra.  This one is missing ingredients such as wheat germ, and has extra ingredients such as walnuts, but now that I've made them once according to the recipe, I feel confident that I can experiment and tweak it to get them tasting even closer to my beloved Alterra muffins!

Maple Oatmeal Bread Recipe

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 cups bread flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp gluten
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast or 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Place all the ingredients in the pan according to the order in the bread machine's manufacturer's instructions.  Set crust on dark and program for the Basic cycle; press Start. (This recipe is not suitable for use with the Delay Timer.)  The dough ball will be firm but springy.  If it seams too stiff, dribble with some water during kneading.

2. When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread from the bap and place it on a rack.  Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

*Got this recipe from a co-worker who makes it weekly.  I tried it earlier this fall and it was AMAZING!  It was very hearty and not too sweet, could make a very healthy whole grain daily bread!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Everything Bread Recipe

1 1/4 c water
2 T honey
2 t oil (any variety)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c bread flour
1/2 c rolled oats
4t gluten flour
1/4 c sunflower seeds*
1/4 c pumpkin seeds*
1/8 c sesame seeds*
2 T poppy seeds*
2T flax seeds*
1/4 c millet or quinoa
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 t yeast

  1. Add water, oil and honey to the bread machine
  2. Add dry ingredients (flour, oats, seeds, quinoa, salt) - mix these up all together in a separate bowl and then add. 
  3. Make a small indentation in mixture....then add yeast, making sure it's not touching any of the liquid ingredients
  4. Set bread machine on whole wheat cycle
  5. As it is mixing, check the may need to add a little bit of water

*you can substitute any other seeds for the above, or double up if you're out of something and the bread still turns out great.

Got this recipe from a friend who was raving about it.  I'm so excited to try it!

Vegan Minestrone Soup Recipe

The day before soak 1/2 pound each of dried pinto beans and dried great northern beans.
4 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, large chop
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 14oz can fresh cut tomatoes
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
your favorite small pasta such as bowties, penne or shells

  1. Melt butter in a large soup pan
  2. Add onion and garlic
  3. Saute until translucent
  4. Add carrots and potatoes and sweat on law heat, covered for 8-10 minutes
  5. Add tomatoes
  6. Drain soaked beans and add to soup
  7. Cover with water to 1 inch above vegetables, add Italian seasoning and bay leaf
  8. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. While soup is simmering cook 1/2 pound of pasta according to package directions
  11. Serve hot, adding pasta as you serve
  12. Garnish with Parmesan cheese

This recipe was made for me by my grandmother for lunch yesterday.  She had all the granddaughters over for a heritage baking day, and served four types of soup for us to sample for lunch, including this vegan one for me!  It was a little mild, but with some salt and pepper added, it was very hearty and satisfying.  The carnivores who tried it added some Parmesan cheese on top, and found that to be even tastier then!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Texas Caviar Recipe

1/2 onion, chopped 
1 green bell pepper, chopped 
1 bunch green onions, chopped 
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped 
1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered 
1 (8 ounce) bottle zesty Italian dressing 
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained 
1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained 
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, mix together onion, green bell pepper, green onions, jalapeno peppers, garlic, cherry tomatoes, zesty Italian dressing, black beans, black-eyed peas and coriander. Cover and chill in the refrigerator approximately 2 hours. Toss with desired amount of fresh cilantro to serve. 

This is a recipe one of my dear friends (whom I met studying abroad in Scotland) makes for parties.  It is a dip to be served with corn or tortilla chips.

She will often modify this recipe with some of the following changes: usually not as much jalapeno, no coriander, sometimes double the beans, or use black eye peas, sometimes even adding corn or Hominy.

Marinated Vegetable Salad Recipe

5 c. broccoli florets
2 cucumbers, peeled & sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled & thinly sliced
1 (8 oz.) Italian dressing
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients except the tomatoes and salt & pepper well in large covered bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and toss. Season with salt and pepper. 

This could be made with any assortment of vegetables.  I think cauliflower, radishes, mushrooms, olives, regular tomatoes, and even black beans or chickpeas would all be really good in this one too!

I made this side dish this summer before going vegan, and had used 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese as well, though I think it would be just as good vegan style and plan to make it that way next summer with my fresh garden and CSA veggies!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Traveling as a Vegan: Some Lessons Learned

I travelled for work for the first time today since adopting my whole foods, plant based lifestyle. My two ventures into chain restaurants have already demonstrated that dining out requires a level of mindfulness that I wasn't quite prepared for... And anyone who knows me can testify that I'm not the most observant person you'll ever meet.

I had a two hour layover in Chicago over the noon hour, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to find a nice sit-down restaurant in which I could order a nice vegan meal. Had I been in more of a rush and needed to do a "grab and go" option, I fear my choices would have been very limited and doubtless I would have experienced some "what can I eat?" anxiety.

After checking out 2 "local" airport restaurant menus and discovering that they had no decent vegan items on the menu, I decided to check out Chilis, figuring a chain like that might offer more of a variety for people with food restrictions.

After my experience with the first two restaurants, I was so elated to discover that you could substitute black bean burgers (my favorite!), for any burger, that I quickly glanced at the list of burger choices, and upon seeing an avocado burger on the menu, quickly sat down and ordered what I thought was going to be a healthy and totally delish meal. I was so proud of myself for going from restaurant to restaurant to find just the right one for my dietary requirements.

Imagine the disappointment on my face when this amazing black bean avocado burger on a beautiful whole wheat bun was placed in front of me, only to have (upon closer inspection) a nice big melted slab of swiss cheese in it, as well as a creamy ranch sauce! This was all listed in the burger's description on the menu, but I had been so excited to find my vegetarian meal that I didn't look for vegan related concerns... It was delicious but I was soooo sick a half hour after eating this that I almost missed my connecting flight because I was stuck in the bathroom! How gross is that? It was so embarrassing to be the last one to board the plane after that awful experience. Lesson #1 Learned: read the menu description carefully and don't get cocky about your food choices.

I was actually quite queasy for half the plane ride until I succumbed to a food coma induced by the massive amounts of calories and processed food I had just eaten and fell asleep... At 1:30pm! Lesson 2 Learned: my body is now HIGHLY sensitive to anything I put into it and there can be no cheating without negative physical reactions!

So here I am at a Green Mill restaurant after another adventure in vegan-dining out. This time I looked at the menu in detail in advance and knew they had a spinach tortellini that seemed like an ok option. They also substitute garden veggie burgers but I didn't want ANOTHER burger so I opted for this pasta dish without the Parmesan cheese on top. It had a cream base, but I just didn't feel like eating a house salad for dinner so I decided to look the other way. Also, I should note that in an effort to be more mindful this time, I even asked the waitress what she recommended for vegetarian dinner options in case she would suggest something not ordinarily offered on the menu.

I was feeling kind of ok about my choice until the waitress threw me a curveball by asking if I wanted soup or salad with my pasta. The soup was a cheesy broccoli (even though I had just told her I try to eat vegan), so that was an easy choice, I asked for the house side salad with the cucumber dill dressing.


The salad came with Parmesan cheese piled on top (although to their credit, the pasta had none, just like I had asked for it to be). And of course the dressing was some sort of creamy based thing. It was served to me with a delicious, very white, fluffy bread and an herbed butter spread, no margarine available. Lesson #3 Learned: be one step ahead and think broadly about things that might normally contain dairy so you remember to be very upfront and clear with your server about what you can and cannot eat so they can help you order a meal that meets your dietary needs.

I'll be on the road for 4 more days so it will be interesting to see if learned anything from these valuable lessons and improve my dining-out skills at all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 9, 2011

6 weeks in and 11 lbs down!

Today marks 6 weeks since I started my journey toward eating a mostly plant-based diet and I'm down 11 pounds!  I lost this much back in January when I went on Nutrisystem for two months, but as soon as I went off their pre-packaged food, I gained it all right back again.

This time, I'm not really dieting at all.  I'm not watching portion sizes and I'm not counting calories.  I'm just consuming mostly plant-based foods with a local, organic, humanely raised animal product thrown in about once a week or so.  I do not drink caffeine and try to stay away from artificial sweeteners whenever possible.  I also try to abstain from refined and processed sugars and carbohydrates.  Basically, I'm trying to do the whole Micheal Pollan "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" thing.

I haven't felt deprived or hungry at all, and yet the weight has been steadily falling off each week!  About 11 lbs in 6 weeks averages out to 1-2 lbs a week which is what the experts always recommend, so I feel really good about that.

I've been walking about 3-5 times a week with my dogs (like a good hour-long walk, not just around the block so they can do their business and stretch their legs a few times a day).  I'm sure that's helping some too.  I'd like to kick that up to more like 4-6 times a week with a day lifting weights in the little gym in our apartment complex.  Before my wedding I lost 20 pounds over the course of about 6 months, just by watching what I ate and lifting weights once a week (no cardio, eesh!).  So I'm hoping a combination of cardio AND lifting on a very light routine will really help me continue the downward spiral of weight loss.  I'm not looking to be my 21-year-old size again or anything, but getting down to an "average" weight can only be healthy and positive, so that's what I'm going to shoot for.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quinoa with Black Beans and Mango Salad Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango* 


Top secret: It isn't rocket science--you can make a salad like this with any leftover grains, beans, and fruit you have around.  It is a really straight forward salad that uses simple, fresh ingredients.  Each bite will bring new flavors to the table--mango, scallions, cilantro, red peppers... you never know what you're gonna get!  Best of all, it takes practically no time if you have some leftover quinoa on hand.

TIP:  If you don't have any leftover quinoa, don't sweat it; it's easy and fast to prepare.  Bring 1 cup of dried quinoa and 2 cups of water to ta boil in  a small pot.  Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed.  Then remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.  Set aside to cool, and once it has cooled you can prepare this salad.

1 mango, peeled and cut into small diced pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced as small as you can get it
1 cup chopped scallions
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbs red wine vinegar
2 tbs grapeseed oil
1/4 tspn salt
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed)
a few leaves of lettuce for garnish

COMBINE the mango, red bell pepper, scallions, and cilantro in a mixing bowl.

Add the red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil, and salt and stir to combine.

Add the quiona and stir until everything is well incorporated.  Fold in the black beans.

You can serve immediately or let it sit for a bit for the flavors to meld.  To serve, place a few leaves of lettuce on a plate ans scoop some salad on top.  This tastes good chilled and is even better at room temperature.

I made this recipe once exactly has listed above (and the pictures shown reflect that first attempt).  It was good but didn't knock anyone's socks off that I shared it with.  I made it a second time today and this time used two small apples instead of mangoes, added a diced up zucchini, and used 2 15-oz cans of black beans instead of one.  Also, I might have gone a little heavy on the cilantro last time so this time I lightened up on it a bit.  I'm taking it to a pot-luck later today so we'll see if my modifications make it more of a crowd-pleaser.

*Recipe from Veganomicon: the ultimate vegan cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, pgs. 84-85.

Vegan Lentil Salad Recipe

Lentil Salad*

Thyme, tarragon, and garlic flavor this easy-to-prepare and hearty lentil salad.  Serve over red leaf lettuce (or whatever kind of fancy-shmancy lettuce you can get your hands on) with oil and vinegar on the side.  Having some warmed pita bread on hand wouldn't hurt, either.  For a cute hors d'oeuvre idea, spool small scoops of salad into endive leaves.

4 cups vegetable broth
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tspn dried tarragon
1/4 tspn salt
1 cup uncooked French lentils
1 small red onion, chopped very finely (about 1/3 cup)
1 small tomato, seeded and diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 radishes, grated (about 1/3 cup)
1 small carrot, grated
Several pieces of freshly ground black pepper

2-4 tbs olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 clove garlic, minced

BRING the broth, thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, tarragon, and salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan.

Add the lentils and bring again to a low boil.  Cover the pot with the lid tilted, allowing a little steam to escape.  Let cook for 20 to 25 minutes.  The lentils should be soft enough to eat but still firm enough to not lose their shape.

While the lentils cook, stir together all the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Drain the lentils in a mesh colander (so that the lentils don't fall out the holes). 

Let cool, giving the colander a few shakes every couple of minutes so that they drain and cool faster. 

Once the lentils are lukewarm (about 15 minutes), remove the bay leaves, chunks of garlic, and thyme sprigs.

Add the lentils to the dressing along with onions, tomato, and radishes and toss to combine.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and chill for at least half an hour.
When chilled, serve over lettuce with oil and vinegar on the side.

*Recipe from Veganomicon: the ultimate vegan cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, pgs. 84-85.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles Recipe

7 C Sliced Pickles (about 1/8 inch)
1 C Sliced Onion
2 C Sugar
1 C White Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Celery Seed

Cook sugar, vinegar, celery salt and salt up to a boil an then pour over cucumbers & onions. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

"Favorite" Cucumbers Recipe

4 Large Cucumbers, sliced thin
1 Onion, chopped
1 C Mayonnaise
4 Tbsp Vinegar (white or cider)
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt

Mix together and serve chilled

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

What to do about dairy? Is soy a good alternative?

This Morning's Soy Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte
I was craving something warm and comforting this morning, so I decided to swing by the coffee shop at work today and get a latte. 

In the old days I would have ordered a small (or "tall") sugar-free vanilla latte with skim milk, no whipped cream.

Of course now, with my commitment to a healthier lifestyle, I needed to make a few modifications. 
  1. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners, so I had to get a "regular" flavor shot (as I get better at this, I'll probably want to cut the flavor shots out completely). 
  2. I've been off of caffeine now for exactly four months, so of course I had to choose decaffeinated espresso.
  3. Finally, as I'm trying to refrain from all dairy that I do not know where the milk comes from or how the cows live, I chose soy milk.

This cow at a modern California dairy has a swollen udder.
Today’s large farms tend to confine dairy cows in drylot
feedyards (shown) or inside barns.1 The animals commonly
suffer udder infections, metabolic disorders, and lameness.
In addition to abstaining from dairy for ethical and even environmental reasons, I have been reading a lot about the health effects of dairy.  The information I have found has made me consider cutting out dairy from my diet completely, even if I find milk, cheese, or yogurt produced from grass-feed, free-range, humanely treated cows.

Our bodies are not meant to drink any milk except our own mother's milk, and only while we are infants.  Humans are the ONLY animals that drink another species milk, and the only animals that drink milk after infancy.  That right there should tell us something about how unnatural our society's obsession with dairy is.

Click here for info on this spoof.
In the U.S. alone, about 80% of African Americans, 90% of Asian Americans, and 60% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant.  People with lactose intolerance experience gas, discomfort, and sometimes diarrhea upon drinking milk.  Those who can digest cow's milk are mostly of white European descent and are thought to have a genetic mutation that occurred thousands of years ago in our evolution so that we could survive on a herd's milk under harsh environmental conditions.

Cow's milk has been linked to obesity, breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  It underlies asthma and allergies, and messes with our hormones. 

In 1900 American girls started menstruating, on average, at the age of 14.  Today, they begin at 12 1/2, with the first signs of puberty showing up in some girls as young as 7. 

These stats really hit home for me, as when we were growing up we used to drink at least 3 servings of milk (thankfully skim) a day , and I got my period just before my 11th birthday!

All of the reasons above have made me try to avoid most dairy whenever possible.  It has been about a month now, and when I have eaten "humane" dairy on occasion, I notice a difference right away in how my body reacts!  I feel gassy and bloated, and a little sluggish afterward.  That's all the proof I need that our bodies are not naturally made to digest cow's milk!  Of course, cheese and ice cream are soooo good, so it may come down to the the occasional hard decision for me, knowing full well what the consequences will be when I choose to indulge.

So this morning I got a Soy Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte, a perfect Fall pick-me-up!

Or was it?

I've also been coming across a lot of information about the negative health effects of soy, one of the most disconcerting to me being the links between soy and infertility.

Soy and Fertility
Soy is an excellent source of protein and also a phenomenal source of phytoestrogen (also called isoflavones) - a plant form of oestrogen that mimics our own natural hormone.  

Some research has shown that eating large  amounts of soy may throw off a woman's natural hormone levels, increase her menstrual cycle length, and affect ovulation.  

There is also some inconclusive research showing that eating too much soy may reduce a man's sperm production, which may be due to the phytoestogen  mimicking natural oestrogen.  Too much estrogen is never a good thing when it comes to sperm production.  The soy-sperm link is more pronounced in overweight and obese men, probably because they already produce more of the natural hormone than thinner men.
So, what am I going to do about milk?  Probably what I have been doing already.  Refrain from cow's milk (but if I ever HAVE to buy it, it would be organic), and limit my consumption of soy milk to rare treats at the coffee shop.  At home, I enjoy almond and coconut milk in my cooking and smoothies, and have become obsessed with Dark Chocolate Almond Milk for a sweet treat when I am craving something like ice cream.  I am not concerned about getting enough calcium, as I can get plenty from plant-based sources, but that is a topic for another post.

I am very concerned with consuming too much soy in other food products now that I've made a commitment to this new plant-based diet.  It seems that at restaurants, you'll often find the token veggie burger (aka, soy product) as your only option on the menu.  At home, I plan to continue exploring whole grains and legumes as my main sources of protein, and reserve soy products for when I'm on the road or in social situations where I don't have access to the types of natural foods I'd prefer to be eating.

I'd love to hear from other vegetarians out there, to hear what their favorite sources of protein are, and to learn more about their own opinions on the so-called "dangers" of soy.  I am still very much in the learning, or "information gathering" phase of this lifestyle change, and welcome all the advice or stories I can get!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oven Roasted Leeks, Beets, Zucchini & Eggplant Recipe


2 leeks
3 beets
1 zucchini
2 small or 1 medium size eggplant
3-4 tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beets, trim and scrub the skin. Quarter or chunk them. Trim and clean the leeks by splitting in half and then washing out all of the sand. Cut the leeks into 1/2" pieces. Trim and clean the zucchini and eggplants and slice into 1/2" pieces, then quarter or chunk them.

On a cookie sheet with sides toss the beets, leeks, and garlic cloves with olive oil. Roast in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture once. Continue to roast a little longer until the beets are cooked through.

Everything will caramelize and it's wonderful!

This recipe is featured on at the 8 o'clock position on the dinner plate above!

Recipe of the Day: Vegan Split Pea Soup

Vegan Split Pea Soup

My soup simmering before adding the other vegetables


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, saute the oil, onion, bay leaf and garlic for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the peas, barley, salt and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, parsley, basil, thyme and ground black pepper. Simmer for another hour, or until the peas and vegetables are tender.
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 247 | Total Fat: 2.2g | Cholesterol: 0mg

This recipe was so good!  It can get a little thick, so add more water if you like your soup on the runny side.  I had read a review that mentioned adding the spices during step one to really infuse their flavor, but by doing that, I found the flavor to be a little too peppery for my taste.  This made for a delicious hardy autumn meal and I will definitely make it again!

My vegan split pea soup served for dinner with oven roasted brussels sprouts and oven roasted leeks, beets, zucchini, and two kinds of eggplant.