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)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recipe: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting [The Cupcake Adventures]

I'm posting this recipe REALLY late, but these are the little beauties that everyone loved at Felicity's first birthday party, now almost two months ago. I also made these in Minnesota for our little New Years day party. My father, who adores carrot cake above all other cakes, really loved them. Carrot cake may also be my favorite form of cake... yum, yum, yum.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

I prefer to make my carrot cake cupcakes in the miniature form, but that's up to you. If you want to bake regularly sized cupcakes, keep them in for 25-28 minutes. This makes about 30 mini cupcakes or 10 regularly sized cupcakes.

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can be replaced with all-purpose flour if you don't have this)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2/3 cup evaporated can sugar or sucunat
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup vanilla soy or coconut yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1/4 chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line mini-muffin tin with liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix sugar, vegetable oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Sift in the the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices, and mix until smooth. Fold in carrots, walnuts, raisins, and coconut.

Spray the cupcake liners with nonstick baking spray and fill into about until about two-thirds full. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until a toothpick inserted through the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly and pipe on cheese cream frosting (recipe below).

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, room temperature
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Cream together margarine, coconut oil, and cream cheese until just combined. Use a handheld mixer to whip while adding the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup batches, then add vanilla. Mix until smooth and creamy, for 2-3 minutes. Chill until you're ready to use.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Recipe: Creamy Green Smoothie

I get headaches. Lots of headaches. Most of them are pretty low-grade, but I also get migraines on a regular basis. Someone suggested that I try trace minerals as a way to prevent headaches and shorten their length. I'm willing to try pretty much anything at this point, so I purchased a three-month supply (with only the happiest and best of thoughts).

I'm on the fourth day of adding trace minerals to my day... and no headache today (I've had a headache almost consistently from Thanksgiving). I'm optimistic. In full disclosure, I've also started (and had my dosage upped) a prescription to try to break the headaches, so it could be that as well, or the combination of the two. I'm also trying to be really intentional about drinking lots of water, though this hasn't seemed to make any difference in the past.

The trace minerals are a little disgusting-tasting. I tried adding them to water, but it made it taste like really strong well water. No bueno.

So I've been making daily smoothies to put by drops in. I thought tonight's was particularly yummy and tangy, and so I'm sharing. Granted, as I parsed out the calories in this bad boy, it would be a much better breakfast smoothie, but it seemed like a better nutritional choice than the coconut sorbet in the freezer, so we'll call it a win-win.

Creamy Green Smoothie
One large or two small servings. You can use a whole avocado if you want to, just be aware they are quite calorie-laden.

1/2 avocado
2 kiwis, peeled
1/4 cup chopped pineapple (frozen, preferably)
1/3 cup chopped mango (frozen, preferably)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or coconut milk

Pop everything in your blender, adding water as needed until you've reached your desired consistency. If you don't have frozen fruit, you may want to add some ice as well.

Nutritional Information (for 1 serving):
380 Calories
18 grams of fat
8.4 grams of protein
Good source of dietary fiber and iron, and very high in Vitamin C

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Six Months Vegan!

Today marks our six month anniversary of going vegan. I know it isn't a terribly long time, but it's something both Ian and I are very proud of. I also want to say, in case I haven't on this blog: going vegan was a very easy transition.

Six months ago Ian and I decided to not purchase anything that supported the industry of enslaving or killing animals. We both thought it would be difficult and that many things would be hard to give up. Admittedly our process was gradual in that we did finish using non-vegan items we'd purchased beforehand, such as cheese and butter.

In celebrating this landmark, I want to go back and talk a little more about what our transition was like, and what helped and motivated us, and what challenged us as fledgling vegans.

Transitioning to Veganism


Getting Excited About New Recipes: Both of us love to cook, although I'm typically the one in the kitchen at the end of the day whipping up our meals. Part of the adventure I loved about becoming a vegan was learning new ways to prepare old favorites like eggplant, mushrooms, and tofu, and exploring new ways of approaching food, like making cashew cream or using nutritional yeast to add a cheese-like 'pop' to a sauce or dish.

For me, getting on pinterest to find fun recipes and reading through new cookbooks was essential. I would have been much more reluctant to take our commitment to veganism seriously had I not had exciting new recipes to look forward to making and eating. Much like finding an exercise that you love helps you actually get moving, exploring fun and interesting recipes and foods helps you get excited about being a vegan.

Finding Replacements that Work for You: Ian and I didn't struggle with craving meats and dairy items as much as I thought we would. That said, we haven't found a cheese alternative that we love, and we both still drool a little when we pass the gyro cart on our street corner. (However, looking at the hunk of meat that is roasting is a little revolting, and that sensation overrides the positive smell).

I found the book The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman to be a great place to start with finding good replacements for our comfort food. We would have had a difficult time with the changes had we not had some honest-to-goodness comfort food available for meals. For us, this manifested primarily in Soyriso for Trader Joes, sauteed with grated potatoes, salsa verde, and a pinch of nutritional yeast, crammed into tortillas with some fresh greens. Maybe I'll blog about this later - it's seriously yummy and actually decently not-too-bad for you.

When I'm really wanting eggs, I make scrambled tofu.

When I find myself looking longingly at the pastry case at Starbucks or Oren's, waiting for my coffee, I go home and bake up something fabulous that I know is good for my body and the planet.

When I'm craving a cold treat, I grab sorbet or coconut milk ice cream from the corner store. I am also excited to try making frozen banana ice cream this week - yum!.

Locating Weaknesses: This is one of the trickier parts of becoming a vegan; it's hard to know in advance what is likely to trigger a relapse in commitment or positive eating changes. For us, it came down to several things:
  • Eating Out: We love to cook, but when we've had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Ian and I tend to get take out or eat out. While we've cut back to about once a week, it was imperative that we found vegan options for our time in Ann Arbor, and then when we moved back to New York City. 
  • No Time to Cook: We keep about 1-2 meals worth of easy dinners (no more than 15-20 minutes in preparation) in the fridge/freezer at all times.
  • Thinking, Why am I vegan again? Like many convictions, sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we're doing the more difficult thing when everyone else doesn't seem to care. When we first moved back to New York, I sometimes found myself walking past old favorite haunts, like the two bakeries I used to love on Amsterdam Avenue, angry that I couldn't pick up treats any more and trying to remember why veganism mattered at all. To counter-act this and keep myself fervent about veganism and my food choices, I listen to vegan podcasts. My favorites are Vegetarian Food for Thought by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (currently my favorite vegan cookbook author) and Vegan Solutions for a Sustainable Environment (though this one rarely updates, there are some real gems here!). Some other popular podcasts I'm looking forward to trying are So You Want to be a Vegan and Vegan Cooking with Love. I've also watched this fantastic talk by Gary Yourofsky several times.Haven't seen it? You should.
At the end of six months we are happy to be vegans. We are happy to be doing our part for animals, our bodies, and the environment.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Temptation vs. Conviction

Ian flew away for an interview this morning and won't be back until tomorrow night. I finished putting the baby to bed about twenty minutes ago, and just ordered some food for myself online (one of my favorite perks about living in NYC - free delivery from basically anywhere!). As I completed the order, I just realized - I wasn't even slightly tempted by anything with dairy, eggs, seafood, or meat. I ordered my pad thai with vegan mock duck, requesting they omit the eggs, with a side of seaweed-wrapped tofu.

Last time Ian was gone I was seriously tempted to break vegan. There were several times when I looked over pizza menus online, and I remember drooling over the idea of coconut-shrimp.* I spent tons of psychic energy thinking about where I was going to go and what I would eat.

But I didn't. It wasn't even that my own beliefs stopped me from going through with eating animal products (cravings overruled ethics). Rather, I knew that I couldn't hide it from Ian. I'm a terrible liar. I can't keep secrets about gifts before Christmas, and please don't tell me about a surprise party. I'll try to not say anything, but will somehow be obvious in that (I just get so excited!). I knew that Ian would be disappointed. And that made me feel awful. (Of course the moment he arrived home, I confessed my struggle with great shame, because that's who I am).

And this was... a month ago? Maybe two?

I'm not exactly sure why I'm not driving myself crazy this time. Maybe it's that I just got through Christmas without much compromise** in a household where my brothers claim to be carnivores (and it's almost true, these guys eat so much meat) and my dad is on an almost-exclusively protein diet, which mainly consists of meat and dairy. Maybe it's that I had to explain my veganism to several people/relatives over the holidays, which lead to a strengthening of conviction. Perhaps its the documentaries and podcasts on veganism that I'm exposing myself to at least twice monthly. I've also recently stopped craving cheese, and milk and meat are beginning to sound 'gross' to me. It's probably a combination of the above.

It feels good to know what I believe and why I believe it, and tonight, it feels damned fine to be a vegan.

* In the airport on the way to Minneapolis, I did eat a shrimp dish as I could not find any available vegan options, and I personally believe that between eating vegetarian with milk/cheese and eating seafood, seafood is the smaller evil. I must confess, shrimp are still delicious. I'm very sorry, shrimp everywhere.

** I did end up eating sweets with dairy in them twice while visiting family. Ian would say my justification is bunk, but in circumstance #1 it was some trifle that wouldn't be good the next day and was going to be thrown out, and in circumstance #2, I was visiting an aunt's house and there were homemade cookies. So I had two. I really shouldn't have eaten any, but I did.