Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Green and Brown

Our raw diet experiment is going extremely very well for us. Although I haven't lost any more pounds to date, I feel fantastic and energized. And I've become addicted to these for breakfast:

It's Green Lemonade. The recipe is from The Raw Food Detox Diet, which I borrowed from the library. I'm still trying to decide if it's worth buying, as it has some really good salad dressing recipes, but some other ideas that are kinda out there for my too-logical mind (colonics anyone? rebounders?). Anyway, to make Green Lemonade, juice a head of romaine lettuce, a few stalks of celery (or any other combination of greens), a lemon (no need to peel), and two apples. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt a Green Smoothie using my regular $20 blender. We're still pondering the really-expensive Vitamix, although most Green Smoothie makers on the internets seem to sing it's praises.

And as far as desserts, we're covered. These are Raw Brownies from Raw Food Talk (Alissa Cohen's discussion board).

They are topped with the MOST AWESOME vegan chocolate pudding ever. And it's raw to boot. I used cocoa powder (I'm still cleaning out the pantry) and only 1/2 cup of regular agave nectar. I made it again, in Chocolate Monkey form.

I would like to say that I made this just for Princess, but no, adults like to play with their food too.

And although I'm not normally one for liberally sprinkling the blog with gratuitous pet photos, I had to show our youngest waiting patiently for a slice of banana.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where to Start...

(Note: This is obviously being written by the sister that is not going raw, as I think each one of the photos below would not be included in the raw food diet. Just thought I'd clear than up right now, in case anyone reading this thought that Tracy had changed her mind!)

I made Wheat-Meat Cacciatore from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. It was OK, but found myself thinking back to a comment I remembered before about slow cookers. On someone's blog, I think they said that all slow-cooker stuff tastes the same. I disagreed at the time, but found that this recipe tasted exactly like my Half-Day Ratatouille from the same book, despite having completely different ingredients. I didn't find that it reminded me of my mom's cacciatore that we ate as kids (with gross chicken), so I'll have to try and re-create that with seitan instead.

For my snacks this week, I made these fantastic Chocolate Banana Muffins from a recipe I found on the Fat Free Vegan's site. I had my doubts that were was no oil, but they were great! Since Kyle would also be snacking on these, I also threw in some chocolate chips. They were SOOO good!

Speaking of Kyle, it was his b-day this past week, and he asked me to make a cake. He loves carrot cake, but I knew that I couldn't take that on. As a result, he asked me to make my applesauce cake into a b-day cake. So I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 and poured into two 8-inch cake pans (lined with parchment paper with pan sides oiled), and baked for the same amount of time. For icing, I used the Vegan Buttercream from VCTOTW, and piped some chocolate ganache from a parchment paper tube (note: those blobs with squiggles are supposed to be balloons). It tasted great.

On Friday night, Kyle and I ate burgers, and I made Potato Subji as a 'different' side dish to our regular potato wedge fries. No idea where I got the recipe from originally, but it's one of my comfort foods. I don't think Kyle would consider it to be one of his however :( I think I used too much turmeric. In case you're wondering what the black things are, they are popped mustard seeds.

And finally, la pièce de resistance...I did my first gym workout of 2007 today. Sam and I decided to do a workout, then treat ourselves to Starbucks. On the way to Starbucks, I was starting to feel a little guilty about working out, then ingesting a calorie-laden drink, but somehow got over it. What I was not expecting was this:

A VEGAN LOW-FAT CHOCOLATE BROWNIE!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. I had to order one (and clearly I'm the only one in Barrhaven that had, since the edges were quite dry). It wasn't horrible, but tasted like a brownie I would make, so my $1.95+tax was not wasted. I was just so surprised and excited to see something vegan in their dessert case!!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Should We Eat?

I’ve been thinking lately about what types of food support humans in the healthiest way. There is much controversy over where to start to look – primates, early humans, hunter-gatherer tribes, modern-day cultures with the longest life spans, etc. While being vegan makes me feel a whole lot better than I ever remember feeling on the SAD diet of my teens, I know that I’m still not at the optimal level of health that I know I can achieve. Over the last year, I’ve eaten more fruit than ever, and I’ve had fewer colds and only a couple of cold sores, which for me is a direct indicator of my physical and emotional state of health. However, too many vegan cupcakes and holiday cookies and lack of a structured exercise routine outside of walking the dogs have left a few excess pounds on my body that it just doesn’t need to haul around.

It’s obvious that humans can adapt to their environment, and if the earth is going to support its growing population much longer, we can’t all eat food from only one region. Pete came across a movement that advocates eating only the food that grows within a 100km radius around your home. The simplicity of that idea really appeals to me, but it would also mean that being vegans during the long cold winter, we wouldn’t eat a whole lot of fresh food. We can practice this concept during the spring/summer/fall months, and we plan on doing this by joining a CSA, picking berries at local farms and shopping at farmer’s markets. We can buy locally produced maple syrup. But we will always rely on imported food.

I started to read more about the raw food movement, and its fundamental message resonates with me. Fresh raw fruits and green vegetables should form the main portion of our diet. In addition, raw nuts, seeds and sprouts provide fat and protein. We started drinking fruit smoothies and vegetable juices for breakfast instead of our usual homemade granola and soymilk with orange juice. We eat melons and berries for morning snack without the usual soy yogurt. We eat green salads for lunch. If we are hungry, we snack on raw nuts and dried fruits. I bought a book by Alissa Cohen called Living on Live Foods and tried some of the recipes for dinner and dessert. They were really good. Here is the Mock Salmon Pate over a green salad.

And for dessert, Banana Butter Berry Pie (next time, I would make just the crust and Layer One. It was yummy enough to stop there).

Both of us went through a day or two of feeling light-headed, nauseous and feverish that is described as going through “detox”. We both feel like we have more energy and don’t feel sluggish or sleepy in the afternoon at work. After the first week, Pete lost five pounds and I lost four. Our skin has started to feel softer. Our digestive systems feel like they are tuned up and running cleanly. It is clear that this way of eating is very close to the optimal diet for humans.

One clue that raw food might be the best for us comes from the fact that we have been feeding our dogs a raw carnivorous diet for over six months. They don’t eat grain. Their bodies are lean and muscular, even our 13-yr old shepherd. They are in perfect health. Their coats are soft and shiny, their teeth are white and they love their food. After seeing how they have responded to raw food, I intuitively know that’s what dogs, who are carnivores, were intended by nature to eat. Obviously I don’t feel humans are carnivores, and I choose not to be an omnivore. But the experience with our dogs leads me to believe that the living part of raw foods leads to good health and makes me question whether grains promote good health for humans.

Although I accept the basis of the raw foods diet, there are a few missing links for *MY* optimal diet that I need to fill in with my own preferences and philosophy. I really think that everyone needs to do this individually. There are a few claims made by the raw foods movement that I feel are not well substantiated by scientific evidence and are glossed over when the authors of books describe the benefits of the diet. The first is the concept of enzymes. The argument is that live food contains enzymes that the body uses to digest the food and therefore does not tax the body’s own limited supply of enzymes. From what I’ve read elsewhere, the enzymes that the body uses to break down food aren’t exactly the same enzymes that are contained in food. I’m not a physiologist or whomever it is that studies this subject, so I’d like a clearer and fair explanation of the health benefits of raw foods relating to enzymes before I am convinced that all foods consumed should be raw. The second claim is that nutrients are best suited to be absorbed by the body when food is in its raw state. I’m not sure that this is true for every food, and I wonder if there aren’t foods out there that have valuable nutrients that are only available to the body when the food is cooked. The most obvious example to me are the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. I think they taste horrible in their raw state. Lightly steamed, however, I love both of them. Broccoli contains tons of nutrients and phytochemicals, and I wonder if breaking down some of the cell walls via steaming with clean water allows the body more access to them. I’m willing to sacrifice a few enzymes to reap the benefits of tasty healthful broccoli. Again, I’d like to see more discussion of this issue in a non-biased form.

Another food that I feel has a lot to offer but requires cooking are beans and lentils. Yes, they can be sprouted, but my body often craves slow-cooked beans for a reason. I feel they have health benefits of their own and since many major cultures that are studied for their longevity include cooked beans and pulses in their diet, I think I should too. One particular bean that I’d like to keep in my diet but really keep an eye on its concentration is soy. I think vegans tend to consume a lot of soy protein and I wonder if it’s too much. There have been lots of studies done on soy and results have been very conflicting. I think moderation is the key to soy’s benefits, so I’ll stick to edamame, tofu and minimal amounts of soymilk.

So that’s pretty much the gist of what I’d like to eat over the next while (and probably what Pete will be eating) and see how my body reacts. Mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, focusing on raw green salads, with smaller portions of lightly cooked vegetables, cooked beans, raw nuts and seeds, sprouts, and with minimal grains and refined sugars. I’ll detail our progress here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sprout it Out

In my attempts to add more raw food to our family's diet, I stuck out my chartreuse thumb and tried my hand at sprouting. It was surprisingly simple and rewarding. And tasty.

First, we stopped by Rainbow Foods for some alfalfa seeds.

Here's how to sprout:
In a clean mason jar, put 2 tblsp of seeds and about 2 cups of water. Place a piece of cheesecloth or as shown here, fine plastic mesh over the jar and secure with an elastic band. You can even use the ring of the canning lid to hold it, if you have it around. Another mesh material that could work well is the plastic canvas grid found in craft stores for needlework, if you cut it to fit in the canning lid ring. Let the seeds soak for at least 6 hours, or up to 12 if you have the time.

Drain the water by inverting the jar and giving it a gentle shake. Keep the jar inverted so the water drains completely, either in a bowl or a dish drainer.

Twice a day, fill the jar with water and let it drain immediately. Keep doing this for five days.

After a few days you will see little tails growing out of the seeds!

At the end of five days, the sprouts are ready to harvest. Give them a quick rinse with water

and let them dry thoroughly before storing in the fridge. Ours lasted for about a week before we finally ate them all.

They were a crunchy addition to salads and Mango Summer Rolls.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm Still Seeing Red

Although I'm a few days late for Valentine's Day, this could have been my entry for Vegetable Love. However, this homemade Tomato Soup from 125 Best Vegan Recipes was just an idea to have with grilled 'cheese' sandwiches last night.

I really liked the soup, and felt better about eating it than I would had it been Campbell's. However, despite my use of the immersion blender, I couldn't get it to be so smooth as I have always been used to. It was still very tasty and 'hearty' though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I {Heart} Pizza

My sweeties and I feasted on Isa Pizza Crust with tomato sauce, Basil-Tofu Ricotta, grilled zucchini hearts, eggplant, peppers and 'shrooms, baked on slate tiles.

I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day!! A little Vegetable Love for all!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sarah vs. Major Coffeehouse

Kyle and I are huge fans of a certain major coffeehouse. Despite making lots of treats for my beau, he often orders a pumpkin scone with every drive-thru order. If you have read this blog, you will see that I love to cook. And it's not like I'm jealous or something, but I like to make treats that make my sweetie happy. As a result, I had to compete with the major coffeehouse and make my own darn pumpkin scone at home that would mimic what he probably pays 3 bucks each time for.

So here was my attempt. Based on Kyle's description of what he bought, I think it's pretty close. Kyle said it was similar but more moist, as the ones he would buy were probably baked elsewhere and shipped to the store, causing it to be not as fresh. The recipe calls for two kinds of 'icing' (glaze and a drizzle), as that's what the original scone features, but to cut down on the work, you could make only the glaze and add the spices to that and avoid the drizzle part.

Pumpkin Scones

4 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup pumpkin purée
¼ - ½ cup soy creamer (use less if using fresh pumpkin purée, add more if using canned pumpkin)

1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons soy creamer

1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons soy creamer
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch each of ginger and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Use a pastry blender to add in Earth Balance until thoroughly mixed. In another large bowl, whisk together pumpkin and soy creamer.

Add combined dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix, then form into 2 balls of dough. Pat out one ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 10-inch circle. Use pizza wheel to cut dough into six wedges. Transfer wedges to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Bake until golden for 15 minutes. Transfer baked scones to a wire rack to cool, with parchment or wax paper underneath to catch drips.

While scones cool, prepare glaze. Mix until smooth. Spread about 1 tablespoon of glaze on each scone as it cools. Prepare drizzle mixture, and use a fork to drizzle each scone decoratively.

Makes 12 scones.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Back to Reheating Quickly...

Hooray - I finally got a new microwave after being without for nearly two weeks. My Kenmore died, and I decided to go the Panasonic route this time. So far, I think the Genius likes food ultra hot, so I won't be using the sensor reheat button again, and I have to cut the time in half that it took in my old microwave to heat up soymilk for cocoa - my first attempt left a very smoky smell and left me wondering if the mug I always used is really microwave safe. I do like the mirrored-front for discreetly checking if there's anything in my teeth during a dinner party. But I'm just so happy that I can easily reheat instead of relying on my toaster oven (not ideal for reheating rice) or the stove (which requires me to dirty a pot).

I haven't made any new and exciting meals lately, but I made some treats that I have never posted before. First, a tasty applesauce cake that a former colleague made for my b-day one year - sadly, one of my more happier memories, as I recall how surprised I was when my whole team and all of management got together for the presentation. I am not often surprised, so it always makes me smile when I think of how stunned I was.

Anyways, we all ended up getting laid off a year later...here's the tasty recipe:

Yummy Applesauce Cake

1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix oil and sugar; then add applesauce. Combine dry ingredients and add to applesauce mixture; beat until smooth. Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch square baking dish.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

When Kyle saw the cake, he shouted, "Carrot Cake Icing! Carrot Cake Icing!". I had purposely decided NOT to ice the cake, given that I was trying to find healthier desserts with less sugar, as he has made comments on several occasions that he has 'put on weight since meeting me'. Regardless, it would be fun to make this into cupcakes that are pretending to be carrot-based, given that I have no luck with carrot-based creations. I could ice them and none would be the wiser.

I also made Big Gigantoid Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from VwaV. I have made these before, but I guess I never posted the pics on the blog. When going through my blog photos however, I noticed a mild obsession with Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies, as I had a ton of those photos. I love this recipe so much. I made some subs - I used 1/4 cup of applesauce, then topped up with canola oil to cut down on some of the oil (I wouldn't go nuts on replacing the oil, as I found the cookies turned out rubbery when I tried that before). I also added chocolate chips for you-know-who. Finally, they weren't gigantoid, but rather normal cookie scoops since I don't need to get stuck eating one big cookie. They are my most fave PB cookies out there.

Tonight, Kyle and I are going to try to veganize a major coffeehouse's Pumpkin Scone. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Things to do with Rocks and Vegetables

This week I borrowed the Alford/Duguid book Flatbreads and Flavours from the library. One of their suggestions for authentic flatbreads is to place a piece of unglazed quarry tile on the bottom rack of your oven to replicate a hearth-like baking surface. I bought two slate tiles at Home Depot for about $2.50 each. I placed them in the oven before turning it on to preheat, then I made their Naan with Onion and baked it right on the surface of the tile.

The bread was soft but the bottom was slightly crispy, and it never stuck to the tile. It tasted very much like the naan I've had in restaurants. I have also baked pizza on the slate with great success.

To accompany the naan, I made VwaV's Curried Split Pea Soup and let it thicken a bit so we could scoop it up with the bread.

Yesterday I needed to clean a few leftovers out of the fridge and managed to create a dish which didn't require me to be constantly present in the kitchen while it was cooking. Pete said that he really enjoyed it. I didn't measure out the ingredients at the time, but wrote down my best guess.

Asian Roasted Vegetables

1 lb extra firm tofu, cut into 2-3” long sticks
3 sweet potatoes, cut into ¼” thick “fries”
1 red pepper, cut lengthwise into strips
3 portobello mushrooms, gills removed, sliced lengthwise
¼ cup whole almonds
1 package soba noodles (or other asian noodles)

5 tbsp peanut oil
3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp asian chili-garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee brand)
Salt and pepper
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Nori strips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In one dish, marinate the tofu in 2 tbsp peanut oil, 2 tbsp tamari, 2 tbsp mirin, 1 tbsp rice vinegar and the chili-garlic sauce.
In another dish, marinate the portobellos in 1 tbsp peanut oil and 1 tbsp tamari.
In a 9x13 glass pan, drizzle the sweet potato and red pepper strips and almonds with the remaining peanut oil and rice vinegar. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the sweet potato mixture in the oven for 20 mins. Stir, and add the tofu and portobellos without adding their marinade to the pan. Roast for another 20 mins, stirring after 10 min.
Warm the leftover marinade in a small saucepan on the stove. Cook the noodles according to directions. Serve the veggies over the noodles, drizzle with marinade, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and nori strips.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Real" Canadian Superstore Ignores Vegans

I sat down with a large grocery superstore's "Healthy Insider's Report" to read about their new organic products. We don't buy veggies at this store, but we usually get soymilk, tofu and other pantry staples there, as they are well-priced and the store is a five minute drive away. They have a fairly well-stocked natural food section and carry many organic products that we use. So I was a little more than annoyed when I saw this page entitled "Vegetarians Rejoice!". They have finally decided to identify their vegetarian products with a symbol. Not an internationally recognized vegetarian symbol, but one of their own creation. They guarantee that the product is suitable for "lacto-ovo vegetarians". Because they are the most "common type". They go on to describe that there are different kinds of vegetarians, such as "flexitarians, freegans and vegans!" but they only label for lacto-ovos because they are the "most common type". It annoys me that they try to discredit veganism by grouping them with flexitarians (who eat meat products when it suits them) and freegans (who are a pretty fringe group that wouldn't buy products at this superstore anyway). They could have said "vegans, fruitarians and raw foodists" or something similar. It is generally pretty easy as a lacto-ovo vegetarian to skim a list of ingredients to determine if the product contains meat. It is harder for a vegan to wade through ingredients like "whey powder" and "dried yolk". They could have easily adopted a variant of the vegetarian symbol to indicate if the product was vegan.
It would be hard for us to boycott this store, as there is only one other local grocery that carries some of the similar products at a higher price and the "locally owned" natural foods store is a twenty minute drive into the city, but we will definitely make an effort to buy less there. And I'll be sending "President's Choice" a copy of this post.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Southfork Ranch Creations

While watching one of my fave TV shows on DVD, I whipped up some muffins. In my last post, I had indicated that I was going to make a Banana Split Loaf from Vegan Planet. Upon reading the recipe, I discovered that I didn't have any pineapple, as specified in the recipe. I should have known that it would call for that, as my childhood version of a banana split never included pineapple, and I've noticed that our family was likely the only one to not include pineapple judging from many other banana split-inspired recipes.

I then modified my own recipe for banana muffins to include walnuts and swirls of homemade strawberry jam. They were tasty, but very sticky.

I also had made a Glazed Orange Seitan stir-fry from January 2007's issue of Vegetarian Times. It was awesome! I thought it tasted like a yummy homemade version of something take-out (this is supposed to be a compliment). It was very sweet and sour-ish, and I loved it. With seitan, edamame and cashews, it was very high in protein.

A couple of nights ago, my mom made one of my fave recipes from the pressure cooker - Chickpea Vegetable Medley from The Complete Vegetarian Kitchen by Lorna Sass. I love how it gets so much flavour from the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and butternut squash. Served over rice, it's definitely one of my comfort meals. It was also nice not having rely on a microwave to make it, since mine broke this week, but I'm not looking forward to reheating the leftovers in a toaster oven.