Saturday, May 11, 2013

Recipe: Blissful Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, and Cashew Curry

When we pulled a bag of soggy brussel sprouts out of the fridge this evening, we knew our dinner plans were doomed. We were supposed to have a roasted brussel and potato salad for dinner, but I don't do soggy brussel sprouts. I just won't. Luckily, we had lots of odds and ends of vegetables that needed to be used, and I whipped up a phenomenally great curry that took about 35 minutes start to finish. I put brown basmati rice in our rice cooker right before starting (we swear by this little gem), and was just taking the curry off the heat when the rice finished.

This curry tastes oh-so-creamy and decadent, but it's insanely healthy. Seriously. The curry itself is about 275 calories per serving (what!). Check out the nutrition facts at the bottom for more details.

Two notes on the following recipe:
  1. After reading The Engine 2 Diet last week, Ian and I are currently following the eating rules for four weeks to see how we like them: no added oils to cooking, avoiding processed foods in general, but especially any with added oils/sugars, using whole forms of sweeteners and fats, such as avocados, nuts, molasses, and maple syrup,etc.
  2. I estimate that 50% of this curry's awesomeness is a direct result of our homemade vegetable stock. Per Rip's advice in The Engine 2 Diet, we've been making our own stock out of discarded vegetable peels, stalks, bits, and ends. Ian made a lovely stock earlier this week primarily composed of eggplant, onion, and carrots. Personally, we think Rip is crazy for only simmering his stock for 20 minutes. A good stock needs at least an hour of love on the stove at a nice low simmer.

Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, and Cashew Curry

Serves 6

Serve this silky curry over brown basmati rice. As with most curries, you can swap out veggies for what you have on hand. Just adjust your cooking times to reflect the changes. You really don't need oil to saute the spices, but if you feel so inclined, knock yourself out. I promise you won't miss it though. 

To make this recipe truly efficient, measure your spices beforehand, and prep the garlic, ginger, and onion. Start your rice while the pan heats up. Then, while the onion cooks, chop the tomato, and chop the potato and sweet potatoes while the tomato cooks. Chop the cauliflower and puree the cashews while the potatoes soften.

2 tsp garam marsala (I used the Trader Joe's blend with success)
1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp minced ginger
2-4 Tbsp water
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (peels on)
1 potato, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (peels on)
3-4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock, preferably homemade (see notes)
1/2 cup currants (or raisins)
1/2 head cauliflower, stalks in 1/2-inch pieces, florets in bite-sized pieces
1 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1 cup cashews
water or additional vegetable stock
salt to taste
chopped cilantro to serve (optional)

Heat a wok (or dutch oven) over medium-high heat (nonstick isn't necessary but a plus). Once the wok is hot, add the garam marsala, cumin, garlic, mustard seeds, and ginger, stirring to avoid burning. After a couple of seconds, add water to saute, just as much as you need to keep the spices from sticking.

As soon as the spices are fragrant, add the onion, again adding a little water if needed to avoid sticking. Saute for a minute or two until you start seeing a little color on the onion. Add the tomato, continuing to stir frequently. After two or three minutes, add the sweet potato and potato. Stir and add broth to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and add the currants. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking, allowing the potatoes to cook and the liquid to reduce. Allow the vegetables to cook for about fifteen minutes, until the potatoes are almost done.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the cashews: Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree 1 cup cashews with just enough water or stock to cover them until they are completely smooth, 1-2 minutes on high. If you are using a blender, you may need to add slightly more water to allow the mixture to move, which is completely fine.

Add the cauliflower stalks and florets and a little more broth, if needed, and stir everything together. Allow to cook for five minutes, then add the peas and pureed cashews cream. Stirring often, continue to cook until everything is warm through and the cauliflower is crisp-tender, another 5-10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve over basmati rice with cilantro to garnish, if desired.

275 Calories, 11.5 grams of fat, and 7.5 grams of protein per serving. Good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C (69%), and Iron (16%).  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Recipe: Red Lentil Breakfast Pudding

I know it sounds a little crazy - who eats red lentils for breakfast? I certainly haven't! I forget who suggested doing this last night, but what started out as a simple experiment turned into a delicious morning treat that everyone loved.

This recipe is so lovely that I can't wait to experiment some more with it. Next time I want to try cooking the lentils with grated carrots for more sweetness and an added nutritional punch, and maybe some cardamom if I can get my hands on some.

//Addendum 5/14/2013: We're working on cleaning up our eating, and so consuming no added oils. I made red lentil pudding this week without the coconut milk/cashews (used soy milk instead) and without the coconut oil, and it was just as tasty!//

Red Lentil Breakfast Pudding

Makes 4 generous servings

Soaking raw cashews in advance will help them blend up smoother and faster, but if you don't have time for this (or forgot!), they'll just need to blend a little bit longer. if you don't have cashews on hand, you can replace cashews with coconut milk in this recipe. See my note about soaking lentils below.



1 1/2 cups red lentils (preferably soaked in advance), rinsed*
1/2 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked in advance), or 1 cup of coconut milk (omit or use soy/almond milk for a low-fat version)
3 Tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1-2 Tablespoons coconut flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or Earth Balance (omit for low-fat version)
salt to taste



Add red lentils, flax, raisins, and 3 cups of water to a large pot or dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the lentils begin simmer, add the coriander and a pinch of salt. Lower heat slightly to maintain a slow simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until lentils break down and the pudding begins to thicken.

In the meantime, blend 1/2 cup of cashews and 1/2-3/4 cup water in a blender until they form a smooth cream (cashew cream). This may take several minutes depending on the strength of your blender and if you've soaked your cashews in advance.

Once smooth, add the cashew cream to the red lentils, which should be done cooking by this time and stir to incorporate. If your pudding seems on the thin side, add 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut flour and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Take the pudding off of the heat. Stir in maple syrup and coconut oil or earth balance. Let pudding rest for five minutes and serve, drizzling more maple syrup over the top if desired.

Regular Version: 450 Calories, 14 grams of fat, and 23 grams of protein per serving. Good source of calcium, vitamin C, and Iron (39%). 

*A note on this recipe: Ian and I are huge proponents of soaking grains, nuts, and legumes with a little bit of acid (we favor lemon juice or apple cider vinegar). Soaking makes for shorter cooking times, but more importantly it breaks down the phytic acid and lectins in foods that make it harder to both digest the foods and get all of the nutrients they have to offer. So what are the benefits of soaking? Easier to digest (less gas!) and greater vitamin and mineral absorption. It also improves the texture of legumes as they cook. As we used soaked lentils, the cooking times may vary if you use grains that haven't soaked. I haven't posted a soaking 101 yet, but this website has!

The Start of Vegan Cheese

We're starting to make our own vegan cheeses. Ian is really excited, and I have to admit that I am pretty thrilled as well. We're starting this project with the knowledge that just as it takes lots of practice to make dairy-based cheeses, it will probably takes us a few (thousand) attempts to get our vegan cheeses how we want them. Luckily for us, most of the legwork has been done already: we're working on a couple of recipes from Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner, who spent an entire year working on her recipes.

Ready for vegan cheese? We are! Here's an update about 14 hours after starting.

Basic Yogurt Cheese

The basic yogurt cheese is pretty straight-forward: Put a colander over a bowl. Line with double layer of cheesecloth, enough so there is some over-hang. Fill with vegan yogurt of choice. Cover yogurt with cheesecloth and let sit for 12-36 hours, depending on what flavor or consistency you want.

I started with 24 ounces of Whole Soy & Co. Unsweetened Plain yogurt. After the yogurt has been sitting overnight, I'm starting to wonder if I made the right choice - this yogurt is quite tart to begin with - is this going to make for a super tart, inedible cheese? I hope not. Either way, we're going to try making our own yogurt next time, one batch with soy milk, the other with almond milk, and see how they taste on their own, and as yogurt cheese.

After 12 hours of sitting (about 9:00 am this morning), the yogurt cheese was supposed to have a sour-cream like texture and taste. We're looking for something a bit thicker, to spread on bagels, or perhaps as part of a topping for broiled peaches (with some sugar added, of course), so we're going to let it sit until this evening.

UPDATE: We let the yogurt cheese sit for 36 hours total. It ended somewhat thick - thicker than sour cream, but not quite as thick as cream cheese. The cheese was tart and smooth, very tasty. We ate some spread on crackers (the baby loved it). The rest I beat with a little vanilla and some sugar to make a sweet cheese to eat with broiled peaches and to dip apple and pear slices in. It was hella good.


Before reading through Artisan Vegan Cheese, I'd never heard of rejuvelac. Rejuvelac is basically a fermenting agent made from sprouted grains. It's a necessary component in many of Schinner's cheese recipes.

This rejuvelac is Ian's baby. He measured out a cup of steel-cut oats (which we are about 95% sure will work), topped them with water, and covered them with a double layer of cheesecloth to sit for 12 hours. Our recipe states that you should keep the rejuvelac in a nice warm area, out of direct sunlight, so ours is hanging out next to the hot water pipes in the kitchen, getting cozy with a vase of dried lavender.

This morning he rinsed them off, put them back in the jar, and added just enough water to moisten them. We're supposed to do this once or twice a day for two or three days, until they've sprouted little tails. Once the tails are about 1/4-inch long, you place them in a larger container with about 4 cups of water. 12-14 hours later, you have rejuvelac. 

I'll post further updates and pictures as we move forward.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vegan Cheese?

We've been vegans for about nine months now and have yet to have a vegan cheese that either of us have been satisfied with. Despite the buzz, Daiya is a little gross and doesn't really taste like cheese, rice-based cheese is just disgusting, and the Trader Joe's Italian Cheese blend, while melty and the closest in taste that we've found, made the baby choke when we made pizza in January and is generally unavailable. It's been a bit discouraging.

My lovely sister-in-law (Hilly Flora of Nadi Yogi) sent me a copy of Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner for Christmas. I have to admit that the cookbook has been sitting, ignored, on the cookbook shelf for several months. I really don't have a good excuse for this. Mostly I'm just lazy.  But no longer!

Ian picked up the needed ingredients to start two cheese recipes in the coming two weeks: air-dried cheddar and a quick yogurt cheese. We're starting our rejuvelac this evening with hopes of some good vegan cheese by next weekend. I also noticed that we have everything to make the cashew cream cheese on hand... so I might get that started tonight too. And who knows, perhaps a cheesecake will follow? 

I'll update to let you know the results and perhaps share a recipe or two from our experiments. Okay, I'm rolling up my sleeves. To the kitchen!

Has anyone tried any recipes from this cookbook? Or any other vegan cheese recipes that have turned out well? (or not so well?)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dairy Intake Linked to Breast-Cancer Mortality Rates

I saw an infographic on Facebook claiming that breast cancer survival rates were hindered by dairy consumption. Ever the skeptic, I checked out the facts. Turns out, it's legit:

"Women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products were more likely to die during a 12-year follow-up, compared with those who consumed the least, according to a new study published by the National Cancer Institute. Researchers followed 1,893 women who had previously been treated for early-stage breast cancer as part of the Life After Cancer Epidemiology Study. They found that the participants who consumed one or more servings of high-fat dairy products per day, compared with none to less than half a serving, were at a 64 percent increased risk for dying and 44 percent increased risk for dying from breast cancer. Dairy products monitored included cow’s milk, cheese, dairy-based desserts, and yogurt."


Another reason I'm happy I'm a vegan.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wish you could talk to a long(er)-term vegan? Me too.

Check it out: VEGANISM: A TRUTH WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Essentially, it's a hell of a list of long-time vegans talking about their experiences and beliefs.

Two Three thoughts:
  1. This is a seriously cool list of really amazing thoughts and people.
  2. A single blog post is not the best format for this list. I recognize this. But check it out anyways.
  3. The blog author... needs some writing help. The bad writing gets in the way of the message. Okay, that's off my chest. (phew)