Saturday, December 18, 2010

Incredible Shrinking Greens

Given the frequency with which I prepare greens, you'd think I'd be used to the shrinkage by now. But it never ceases to amaze me. What appears to be enough greens to feed an army (when raw) ends up being this tiny pile of tender yumminess. Just for fun I took a before and after picture of the turnip greens I made the other night:


And after:

Pretty amazing, right?

I used to be intimidated by greens. I didn't grow up with them (except for frozen spinach or spinach salad), and they just seemed unfamiliar. Plus, the first few tries often yielded a stringy, chewy mess. By asking questions over the years (as in, "how did you prepare these amazing greens?"), reviewing cookbooks, and trial and error, greens frighten me no longer. And it's a good thing because they're SO healthy and cheap and mild tasting.

When you're not following a recipe or not sure what to do with fresh greens, I recommend simmering about a cup of vegetable broth or water per pound of greens, then add the greens, mixing them around frequently (good tongs are a must!!). After a few minutes, taste them. Still too chewy? Cook some more. When they're good and tender, remove from heat. Then add them to another dish, like a tofu scramble, bean dish, grain dish, stir fry, whatever. Or just throw on your fave seasonings and serve as is. It's that easy.

The greens pictured here ultimately became smothered with garlic and black bean sauce, added to sauteed onions and veggie chicken strips, served over brown rice. The dinner took about 10 minutes to make (this time I used quick-cooking brown rice because I was in a hurry; I keep some in the pantry for such emergencies). I used pre-washed, pre-chopped Glory Greens, which are becoming easier and easier to find (they come in big orange bags in the produce section of the supermarket).

A few months ago I tasted the most incredible kale at a health food store in Morristown, NJ. I asked the cook how on Earth they got so amazing, and I was told that the kale was first steamed, then marinated all day long in the sauce. What a concept! I'm going to try that next.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cute Holiday Nibbles

I admit I love pretty holiday food. Most of my meals are not all that gorgeous (well, they have "inner beauty," like last night's turnip greens with onions and tofu) so when it comes time for the holidays, serving up attractive food is ultra fun.

First is a recipe that may look familiar -- I can't seem to get enough of my bean salads, which I make every Sunday. I just vary the beans and veggies. Here's my Festive Holiday Bean Salad! Fortunately there are a ton of green and red veggies out there so this is a no brainer.

Festive Holiday Bean Salad
  • 2 15-oz cans cannelini (white kidney) beans, rinsed well in a colander and drained
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh parsley, washed well, rinsed, and chopped
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • sea salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Serve as is, over a big bed of lettuce, or with a whole grain like whole wheat cous cous.

Xmas Tree Appetizers from Pillsbury

If you know me, you know that I indulge in some refined foods on occasion, and holidays are certainly no exception. I love serving both whole food dishes (based on veggies and whole grains and beans), AND refined things that say, "Yes, I really am vegan!"

Here is an idea I poached from I found out from reading December's VegNews Magazine that Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (yes, those ones that come in a can) are vegan. (I know, the packaging is atrocious and the preservatives are scary sounding) but I couldn't resist posting about this because it is so very cute. Of course, you can make your own bread dough and do the same thing.

For this recipe, just substitute vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese for the dairy versions.

Tree-Shaped Crescent Veggie Appetizers

Veggie trays, move over! This colorful tree-shaped appetizer will add an interesting twist to your appetizer buffet.

Prep Time: 30 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr 15 Min
Makes: 32

  • 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups finely chopped assorted vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, carrot, cucumber and/or green onions)


Heat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from cans in rolled sections; do not unroll. Cut each section into 8 slices (16 slices from each can).

Place slices, cut side down, on ungreased cookie sheets to form trees. To form each tree, start by placing 1 slice for top; arrange 2 slices just below, with sides touching. Continue arranging row of 3 slices, then row of 4 slices, ending with row of 5 slices. Use remaining slice for trunk. Refrigerate one tree while the other bakes.

Bake one tree 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute; carefully loosen with pancake turner and slide onto cooling rack to cool. Bake and cool second tree.

Place each tree on serving platter. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder; blend until smooth. Spread mixture over both trees. Decorate trees with assorted vegetable pieces. Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, pull apart slices of tree.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft):
Bake 13 to 15 minutes.

I love this one -- it's already vegan, and they're so pretty and festive. Plus who doesn't like chocolate and mint together?

Peppermint Patties from FamilyFun Magazine

These are the addictive classics, with a snappy, minty middle and a luscious chocolate coating. Packaged prettily, they make perfect gifts. Be sure to whip up a test batch for yourself just to make sure they're really, really good.


  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar (3-3/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 10 to 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 6 hard mint candies (we used Starlight), crushed in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the water, corn syrup, lemon juice, and peppermint extract, then sift in half the confectioners' sugar. Add the shortening. Beat on medium, then slowly sift in the remaining confectioners' sugar until the mixture is well combined.

2. Knead the mixture into a ball (it will be very stiff; if necessary, add 1/2 teaspoon water to make it workable). Use the bottom of a glass pie plate to apply firm, even pressure to flatten the ball between sheets of waxed paper into a circle about 9 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Lay the waxed-paper-covered disk on a cookie sheet and freeze it until it's firm, about 15 minutes.

3. Place the frozen disk on a cutting surface and remove and reserve the waxed paper. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment. With a small round cutter (ours was 1-1/4 inches), cut out circles from the disk, then place them on the cookie sheet. Gather the scraps into a ball, use the pie plate and waxed paper to flatten it again, and cut more circles until the entire disk is used up. Freeze the circles for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Coat the patties one at a time: balance each on a fork and dip it (use another fork as needed to flip the patty in the chocolate), then shake off any excess chocolate before returning the coated patty to the parchment. Sprinkle each patty with a bit of crushed mint candy. Add more chocolate to the double boiler as necessary until all the patties are coated.

5. Harden the finished patties in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and preferably overnight. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge, layered between sheets of waxed paper, for up to one month. Include tags with your gifts instructing recipients to keep the patties refrigerated.

Makes 5 dozen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vegan Latkes Shortcut!

Happy Hannukah, to those who celebrated! Most years, I make vegan latkes (potato pancakes) from scratch. Not an easy task. Last year, I quadrupled a recipe, and for days I couldn't get the onion odor off my hands. Not to mention the oil splatters off the wall. I was in my first trimester at the time so it was really quite horrible. This year, with a newborn and a bunch of other things going on, making latkes was out of the question. But I still wanted to serve this festive food.

So I cheated. I found frozen vegan hashbrowns at Trader Joes, and called them latkes. You can fry them, bake them, nuke them... you really can't mess them up. They are insanely good and Ben loved them (he asked for them every night, and even had one for breakfast this morning!) He never had hashbrowns before so it's kind of funny to hear him go on and on about how much he loves these "latkes." He had 'em with ketchup, with applesauce, with vegan sour cream... any way worked for him!

Since these aren't exactly healthful, I don't plan on buying them regularly. But that's OK -- when they're gone, we can say that we'll get latkes again for Hannukah next year.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When your vegan kid starts to question meat...

I knew it was only a matter of time. Benjamin, my 5-year-old, has been talking more and more about eating meat. Well, lately it's all about turkey, since everyone in his school talked about it for weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Even afterward, he was asked, "How was your turkey?"

Ben is starting to get that he is different than other kids, in that they all eat chicken nuggets and hamburgers and ham sandwiches. I have always told him that "Most people eat animals. In our family, we don't eat animals." He's always accepted this but now he's starting to think more abstractly about this concept and what it means.

I'm not totally comfortable imposing such "weirdness" on my child. It's a struggle that I would think most vegan and vegetarian parents deal with: we want to be true to our ethics and beliefs, and we want to minimize animal suffering, but at the expense of our children suffering?

Ok fine, different suffering. But you know what I mean.

Here is my approach. I tell him, "If you want to eat meat, that is your choice. I will not buy you meat with my money, but you can buy meat with your money or have meat at your friends' houses or at parties. Do you understand that this meat is ground up animals? Real, furry or feathery animals, with blood and a heart and a brain, that had feelings and were killed?"

This way, I figure, he is making his own informed choice, rather than feeling that he HAS to say no to meat. Of course, I spare no detail. And I maintain, why should I? I was told recently that this is "too much information" and I should lighten up. I disagree. I say why not be honest with the kid? Imagine all parents reminded their kids where their food came from! No, most parents lie; is that better? They go as far as to assure their children that the animals they're eating are "not like our pets" and are "meant to be eaten" and "don't feel pain" in order to desensitize them early and preserve this... disconnect that is really unnatural for children but become the norm as adults. Children naturally adore animals and if we allowed them to understand what meat really is, what is so terrible?

Plus, I think that this approach may decrease the likelihood that he will "rebel" and go on a meat binge when he's eight, just to push my buttons. If I don't give him those buttons to push, then there's no drive to eat meat other than curiosity. Exploration of this nature is better than doing it to get a rise out of his parents.

In my heart I think that he will "experiment" eventually, but that he'll ultimately return to a vegetarian lifestyle. But time will tell.

I welcome your thoughts on this and your advice for approaching children and dietary choice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm back! Happy Vegan Thanksgiving!

Hello loyal friends! I've missed blogging and I've missed your comments!

I had quite a few months off, I know; I cut back on computer time as I reached the end of my pregnancy and have been caring for my new little girl, Emily Hannah. She's a few days shy of 4 months old, and things are starting to return to "normal" in our house.

So many times, I've had an idea or found a new food or made a kickin' dinner or observed something interesting and wanted to post it here -- it's amazing how addictive blogging can be. But I needed a few months for family and now that I'm back on track, I'm so excited to share musings, recipes, new products, etc.

So, Happy Hug-A-Turkey Day! I hope you all have a wonderful day and enjoy peace and comfort and joy with the most treasured people in your life.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vegan Brunch Bonanza: Tofu Quiche and Waffle Recipes

This morning I made a lovely brunch with even lovelier friends and their adorable kids. I'm always nervous cooking for omnis but these guys are super about trying new foods, and have no problem with meatless meals. We had waffles and quiche, and the guests brought a gorgeous fruit salad. Unfortunately we ate everything before I thought to take out the camera, but next time I make the quiche (which will be soon because I have dough left for crust) I will post it here. Here are the recipes. They both turned out surprisingly good. The kids loved those waffles.

Tofu Spinach Quiche

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix all, divide in half, roll, and press into pans. Makes 2 pies. I do NOT recommend this pie crust for a dessert; the olive oil in the crust pairs beautifully with a savory pie only.

  • 1 lb firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped (about 2/3 - 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped jarred of fresh sweet red pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp sherry
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed out WELL (to make it easy, do it with a large sieve or a colander with tiny holes)
  • juice of 1 small lemon, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp rice (or apple cider) vinegar
  • few pinches of sweet paprika

1. Press tofu for at least 15 minutes. (I place it between 2 plates and top them with a huge pot of water). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Saute onion and cumin in 1 Tbsp olive oil on low to medium heat for 10 minutes, until onion starts to caramelize. (If using fresh red pepper, add them about 5 minutes into the saute period.) Add sherry and cook until evaporated. (If using jarred peppers, add them now.) Add 1/2 tsp salt and saute a couple more minutes. Place veggies in a small bowl until later.

3. Saute garlic in remaining olive oil over low to medium heat until garlic starts to become a bit golden. Add spinach and saute about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 of the lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute another 2 minutes and remove from heat.

4. Place pressed tofu in a food processor. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Add remainder of lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, white pepper, basil, and vinegar. Process until completely smooth and blended.

5. Add spinach to tofu mixture in the processor. Pulse a few times until just blended. Do not over-process.

6. Scrape tofu-spinach mixture into a bowl. Fold in onions and peppers until combined.

7. Pour into shell, sprinkle on paprika, and bake for 40 minutes, or until tofu is set and crust is golden brown.

Dina's Foolproof Waffles
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 packet instant oatmeal (I used organic flax-blueberry - nice!)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk together dry ingredients. Stir together wet ingredients. Combine all and stir until just mixed. Let sit for at least 5 minutes (gives the oats a chance to soak up the liquid and act as a binder).

Pour into prepared iron (might need to spray with nonstick oil spray) and serve with fresh fruit.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's your biggest Veggie Vent?

It's time to vent! Pet peeve, whine, grouse, kvetch, anyone?

Here's my #1: When there's a vegetable soup on a restaurant menu (be it black bean, minestrone, lentil, or just plain old vegetable) and it's made with a chicken or beef stock. WHY? Make it suitable for everyone! What, will the meat eaters refuse it because it's made with a rich, roasted vegetable stock instead of canned chicken broth? Can you imagine?

Patron: "Hi, I'll have the lentil soup."
Server: "Ok, but you're aware it's made with a veggie stock?"
Patron: "Oh NO! Well in that case I'll have the beef chili."

This morning I came across another common complaint: GVP. The Grilled Vegetable Platter. The standard veggie entree in restaurants and catered events across the world. This blogger wants to start an anti-gvp movement:

Actually I don't mind a (very flavorful and perfectly cooked) plate of grilled vegetables. It's better than a plate of steamed vegetables, don't you think?

Here are a few more veggie things I've wanted to vent about for a while:

  1. "Ah, you're vegetarian! We have a lovely lemon sole this evening..."
  2. All fresh pasta seems to be made with eggs. If they can do it for the boxed version, why not fresh?
  3. Order a salad "without the cheese" because the menu says it comes with goat cheese... and the salad arrives without the goat cheese but with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top (this happens with pasta too)
  4. When you order something at a restaurant "without dairy" or "without cheese" and the server says, "oh it's just a little bit -- you can eat it."
  5. Shopping for a loaf of bread or something similar, and the last ingredient is whey.
  6. Soy milk made with artificial sweetener (8th continent, to be exact. I've emailed them but they just don't get it.)
  7. Otherwise vegan cereals fortified with vitamin D3 (which is animal-derived)
  8. Dark chocolate with butterfat added (but then again, this is a good way to weed out the poor quality brands)
  9. Foods with "less than 2% of the following" and there is an animal ingredient or two... well if it's less than 2%, do you really need it?
  10. Restaurants listing 10,000 entrees, none of which are vegetarian
  11. (Many thanks to my DH Dan for this one): when you order an expensive entree, like linguini with shrimp, hold the shrimp, and you ask them to add sun-dried tomatoes... they don't reduce the price for excluding shrimp, but they charge EXTRA for the tomatoes!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Green Smoothie Yumminess

What took me so long? I've been reading about green smoothies for ages (fruit smoothie with leafy green veggies thrown in) but I just never got up the nerve to try it. Kale and spinach ... in my fruity breakfast? Well what finally got me was this video by Julieanna Hever, fellow vegan dietitian (and quite possibly my new BFF). She promised that I wouldn't even taste the greens. And she was right! The secret is including a frozen banana every time. I've been having one every other day for breakfast (alternating with whole grain hot cereal with fresh fruit and nuts and flax), and I feel great! Watch her video and give it a try! And for more yumminess and great healthy vegan tips from Julieanna, visit her web site and blog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New York City Musings

Last weekend we spent a beautiful, unseasonably warm Sunday in Manhattan. In the morning, Dan, Ben, and I drove in, parked the car in a free "no parking except Sunday" spot, walked to the Intrepid Sea/Air/Space museum (Bank of America cardholders can get in for free during the first weekend of every month), then to Times Square, then took a subway to Greenwich village, and back again. A lovely, full, perfect day. Over the course of the day, I thought of ten NYC things I thought would be fun to share here...

1. I would kill for a vegan hot dog from one of those street vendors in Times Square.
2. NYC public works construction guys are the nicest folks ever.
3. Lula's Sweet Apothecary is still as amazing as the day they opened. I don't know which is better, the incredible selection of organic vegan ice cream, or the friendliness of the owners.
4. The playgrounds at Tompkin's Square Park ROCK.
5. Mahmoun's falafel is quite yummy. They offer whole wheat pitas (bonus!). Extra tahini sauce is a must though.
6. Macoun apples are the perfect sweetness and crispness. And they can be found at the Farmer's Market at First & St. Marks.
7. I just don't get all the hype over H&H bagels. I was told I "had" to have a fresh one. So I did. It is the very definition of mediocre. And at over $1 a bagel, I'm awed that they manage to stay in business.
8. I've never seen so many 5-pound dogs in one day in my life.
9. You can get an "I Heart New York" tee shirt for $2.99.
10. As long as I live, I'll never get to try all of the Indian restaurants in Manhattan. But I'm sure going to try.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

School Lunches, Bento Style

Most school lunches are nutritionally dismal. Recently I took tours of my town's elementary schools in preparation for sending Ben next year, and I peaked at the kids' trays during lunch at one of the schools. Meatball sub, canned peaches, chocolate chip cookie, milk. It's depressing. Truly it is. I've been reading a lot lately about people who are passionate about doing something about changing school lunch; I plan on getting active locally when my son starts kindergarten. One particularly interesting blog, called "Fed Up With School Lunch," is about a teacher who has committed to eating her school's lunch every day for a year. She figured, if it's good enough for the children, it should be good enough for the adults. Read about her adventures here.

Fortunately for many of us, our children do not have to eat what is served in the school cafeteria. They can bring healthy and delicious food from home. In the Pre-K my child attends, school lunch is not an option so he is quite used to bringing a lunch every day. That won't change when he starts in a new school in the fall.

Today, Ben got a fun lunch: three mini pita sandwiches (you can get Mini Whole Wheat Pita Pockets at Trader Joes for $1.49), one with almond butter, one with tofu salad, and one with black bean spread; a homemade vegan banana flax muffin; carrots, celery, and dip; and grapes and strawberries. If you're wondering about that cool lunch box, it is a Laptop Lunch Bento Box, which I've been using for almost 2 years now. I love that thing; it cuts back on waste (no paper or plastic bags needed) and encourages me to include a variety of healthy foods every day (gotta fill those sections!) Most of you out there probably already know about the blog Vegan Lunchbox; the blogger, mom Jennifer McCann, has the Laptop Lunch systems as well (she showcases the one I have in older posts). I think that her family is the best-fed family on the planet!

Anyway, back to school lunch...The sad truth is that many families cannot afford to send their children to school with fresh, healthy food. They qualify for free or reduced school lunch, and since the USDA promises that the meal meets at least 1/3 of a child's daily requirement for nutrients, it should be a trusted program. Unfortunately, the meatball sub meal mentioned above DOES meet these requirements. But imagine if the standards were different -- imagine the meals had to meet OPTIMAL nutrition standards! Antioxidants. Phytochemicals. Fiber. Disease-preventing phytonutrients. The problem, as always, comes down to money: the government provides subsidized foods to school, mainly dairy products and meat. Healthy foods, in OUR system, are costly. It doesn't have to be that way.

In future posts I'll showcase some of the heroic pioneers who are transforming school lunches to make kids maintain a healthy weight, perform better in school, and have reduced risk of chronic diseases that are more frequently showing up in childhood, particularly heart disease and diabetes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Chicken" Marsala and Nutty Quinoa

In a strong yet brief moment of inspiration and short-lived deficit of queasiness today, I took the opportunity to throw together dinner. I have a feeling that my brisk walk today (we finally had a break in this frigid weather: a sunny, bright day) did a lot to lift my spirits and chase away the preggo blues.

I made something I loved from my forever-ago bird-eating days: chicken marsala (click on the photo to zoom in). My version features baby bellas, shallots, and mixed bell peppers, but it's a very flexible recipe. I also made a quick quinoa pilaf. Some might argue that these flavors don't meld well, and actually, I would normally agree, but for some reason they worked well together. Plus I served them with a salad with mustard-tarragon salad dressing (by Organicville).

Dina's "Chicken" Marsala

There's something homey and comforting about marsala sauce. If you don't have soy creamer, unsweetened soy milk will work well as a substitute. Less creamy but still yummy.
  • olive oil or oil spray
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots or 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 10-oz package sliced mushrooms (baby portobellas or button)
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers (they're not a traditional ingredient, but they are tasty IMO, and do boost fiber and antioxidant content. Use whatever veggies you like.)
  • 2 packages Light Life Chick'n Style Smart Strips (you can also use 2 lbs sliced seitan, 4 defrosted Morningstar Farms Grillers Chik'n, 1 package of defrosted Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, OR 1 package defrosted May Wah chicken substitute. Just don't use pre-breaded veggie chicken.)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance margarine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup organic soy creamer (unflavored)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp powdered sage
  • Salt & pepper to taste
First, keep the last few ingredients out on the counter, because you might want to change the amount of wine, creamer, lemon, etc. to taste. The amounts here are mere suggestions (plus I didn't measure; I'm guestimating by memory).

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped shallots or onions, and cook for about 3 minutes or until translucent. Next add mushrooms, and cook for about 8 minutes, until most of the moisture is expelled from the mushrooms. Then add the peppers, and saute until the peppers start to soften. Saute for another minute or two, and transfer the veggies to a bowl.

Dredge/toss the veggie "chicken" in the flour until well-coated.

Return skillet to stove and melt the margarine with the olive oil. Add the "chicken" and fry until golden brown on all sides. You may need to do this in two batches. Remove the "chicken" from the pan (add to the veggies if room in the bowl, to avoid having to wash an extra plate). The skillet should have tiny bits of floury "chicken" -- leave them in the pan.

Return skillet to stove and pour in the broth, marsala wine, creamer, lemon juice, and sage. Let simmer for about 2-3 minutes (it should thicken a bit). Then, add back the "chicken" and veggies and coat with sauce. Let the sauce boil gently for about 4 minutes; it will thicken nicely. Taste, and adjust by adding salt and pepper, and more lemon juice, creamer, and/or marsala.

Easy Quinoa Pilaf

Since the "chicken" recipe has quite a bit of fat, this oil-free recipe goes quite nicely.
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups water or vegetable broth (I used a little of each)
  • 1/2 cup sliced and blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • pinch cinnamon
Rinse quinoa well by running plenty of water through a sieve filled with the grain. Combine quinoa and water/broth in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil.

Meanwhile, toast almonds in a dry pan or in the toaster oven. Keep a close watch so they don't burn.

When quinoa begins to boil, add almonds, cranberries, and cinnamon and give it a stir. Turn heat to low and cover, cooking for about 1o minutes or until all water is absorbed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pregnancy Reflections

This post is neither educational nor interesting; it's also off-topic. I just wanted to get my thoughts down on "paper," as I've been reflecting a lot on this pregnancy.

I'm not the first woman to be pregnant, and I don't feel particularly special. What I do feel is bewildered. Bewildered and curious about how women over thousands of years handled the challenges of pregnancy. About how they endured pregnancy again, again, and again. And again. And how in spite of the challenges of pregnancy, they produced healthy, well-developed offspring.

I feel so nauseated, so disgusted, so lousy, so exhausted, and because of this, I think I actually am experiencing a touch of depression (and I consider myself a generally well-adjusted, content, and happy person; I've never been depressed before). I wonder if many pregnant women experience this, or if I'm among a "lucky" minority. I wonder if it's because I'm older (my first pregnancy, 5 years ago, wasn't this intense). I also wonder if feeling this way is a function of modern life; if women felt better when life was simpler -- small-town, little-house-on-the-prairie lifestyle. I wonder if being indoors so much, if dealing with the stresses of a career and modern life (on top of the usual responsibilities of mom and homemaker) explains why this pregnancy is kicking my butt to the moon.

I don't know. What I do know is that feeling this way makes it nearly impossible to work (I'm behind on all of my projects), impossible to clean the kitchen (the smells are overwhelming and just the sight of crumbs in the sink makes me gag), and I just want this to be over and done with already. I have about 26 more weeks to go.

I've been contemplating the ironies of pregnancy. How the most nutritious foods are often the least appealing. And how the junkiest foods are often irresistible. How I am sure that a glass of wine would relax me and make me feel better, but can't have it. How I'm getting a lot of help (thanks, family) but am still behind. How I feel utterly debilitated during one of the most critical periods of my life: I'm responsible for the healthy development of another human being (what is more important than that?), yet taking good care of myself is more difficult than ever. So why can't I catch a break?

Scientists don't really understand exactly why pregnancy causes these symptoms; it is known that nausea tends to increase with an increase in pregnancy hormones (though this is not the case for all pregnant women) but the mechanism remains a mystery. For me, it's a different kind of nausea than, say, motion sickness. I've been able to reverse motion sickness in seconds by eating a small piece of candied ginger; if I have ginger now, I just feel additionally nauseated.

For dinner tonight I had a bowl of cut up fresh fruit. And honestly it's all I could imagine keeping down. To have to actually plan to get enough protein is something I'm not at all used to; in general I love all sorts of healthful foods and get enough just as a function of getting enough calories from a variety of plant foods. These days, I can't read my own appetite at all (the thought of eating sends my stomach spinning, but often it's a sign that I need to eat something), again, ironic, considering that now more than ever, my appetite should dictate how much I need.

I know what to do: I know the nutritional guidelines for vegan pregnancy inside-out, and I've helped other women eat optimally throughout their vegan pregnancies. It's just particularly challenging to follow those guidelines.

I'm not worried about the baby. I got an ultrasound last week and all is well. In fact, according to my tests, my risk of carrying a baby with Down's is about 1 in 2300, while an untested 38-year-old has a risk of 1 in 114. I have not lost (or gained) any weight, and the baby's growth is right on track. So I'm not apprehensive about the pregnancy's outcome; I'm just sick of being sick, as they say.

Here's to hoping that as I become further immersed into the second trimester, these symptoms dwindle away so I can feel human again.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Food Cravings & Aversions During Pregnancy

I might be having a vegan pregnancy, but I'm not sheltered from the usual symptoms: "morning" sickness (my version is nausea all day, at its worst in the evenings), disturbed sleep, exhaustion, food cravings, food aversions, and being emotional (earlier today, I found myself laughing and sobbing simultaneously).

I'm almost at my 13th week, a time when the less comfortable aspects of pregnancy ought to be ebbing. But for me, not yet! Hopefully soon.

Being a dietitian and all, I've heard some pretty strange stories of food cravings and food aversions. I have come to the conclusion that there is no "normal" or "abnormal" -- we are all different. Each pregnancy is different too. When I was pregnant with Ben, I ate hummus on a toasted sesame bagel with a thick slice of tomato... almost every day. This pregnancy, I can't even look at hummus! With Ben, I craved minestrone soup all the time; I couldn't get enough. Now, I can take it or leave it.

The surprise craving for me these days is INDIAN FOOD. I dream about rich aloo chole, crisp samosas dipped in thick tamarind chutney, roti stuffed with vegetables, and hot, flavorful dahl with ghee-free nan for dipping. Unfortunately, cooking makes me nauseated. But even if it didn't, I cannot cook Indian food like they do at the restaurants. And it's unrealistic for me to eat out very often. One product that satisfies my craving and requires no dining out or cooking is a frozen Indian burger from Trader Joes, called Vegetable Masala Burgers. They are So. Good.

Do you know of any healthful, easy-to-prepare Indian specialties? I've tried those meals-in-a-pouch and find them a bit too spicy. I like flavorful, but mild on the spicy scale.

I get a lot of questions about diet during pregnancy. Is it ok, for example, to feed our cravings, or should we stick to a meal plan? If we crave something, does that mean that it has some nutrient our body needs?

Here's my take on these questions. First, for the most part, I think it's fine to feed our cravings. That said, we have to look at the "craved" food amongst the big picture. So if I'm craving cherry coke, it's really not ok to have a 2-liter bottle every day and little else. But if I'm craving raw cauliflower, it IS ok to eat massive amounts every day. Trying to include healthful foods around the craved foods is really a good approach.

If I'm craving a food, is it because my body needs some nutrient it contains? No, probably not. It's nice to think that our bodies are THAT smart, but unless you're in a dire state of starvation, your cravings are probably a result of your preferences. There's no evidence to suggest that your potato chip craving is your body's way of getting its much-needed sodium, or that a magnesium deficiency explains your yen for chocolate.

What about food aversions? Should you eat your greens (my biggest aversion, when cooked anyway), even though they make you want to vomit? I vote NO. I have, unfortunately, many food aversions with this pregnancy. And many are healthful foods (although I have aversions to many junk foods as well). Forcing down foods that we are averse to you will just make mealtimes that much more unpleasant. If you have committed to eating 5 veggies a day but a pile of veggies makes you sick, give yourself a break. Eat more fruits, or eat a salad (if you crave it) or get Chinese sesame tofu with some chopped veggies if you can stomach that. As a health-conscious vegan, you already have a nutritional edge over folks (believe me, there are so many) whose main source of food comes from a drive-through.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Something amazing happened this week. So marvelous, so stupendous, so incredible, I have to share.

I experienced outstanding customer service. Beyond my wildest dreams.

Back in September, during Dan's and my trip to Portland, we were shopping at Herbivore, and a cute wallet caught my eye. It looked and felt like leather, but it was faux leather, made of recycled materials, and with colorful embroidery. My old wallet was falling apart so I decided to buy it and support this vegan store. Well I've never got so many compliments on any sort of "accessory" before. It's a great wallet -- fits all my stuff without bulking out, and closes with a magnetic snap -- the only problem is that last week, the stitching at the edge was starting to come out. I was going to take it to a professional shoemaker or someone similar, but first I decided to call the company which, I discovered by looking inside the wallet, is LAVISHY, a Canadian company.

A real live person answered right away and listened to my story. She took down my name and address and promised a replacement. Pretty impressive. I asked if she wanted me to send back the old one. No thanks, she said.

The NEXT DAY, no kidding, an overnight package arrived from Canada -- with a brand new wallet, a duplicate of my own. I couldn't believe it!

If you do a google search or google image search for "Lavishy Wallet" you will see their collection. I could not find my particular wallet online (but the one pictured above is close enough; mine has 4 smaller butterflies with embroidered green swirly flora). Their newest collection (including wallets with dogs, cherries, flowers, birds, more) can be seen via slideshow here: In addition to wallets, they have checkbooks, cell phone holders, change purses, handbags, passport holders, and luggage tags. They also have a beautiful line of fashion jewelry.

I'm the last person anyone would go to for fashion advice, but I will tell you that I'm brand loyal, and that LAVISHY can count on my sale whenever I'm looking for a new accessory for myself or one of my girlfriends. THANK YOU LAVISHY!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Soy can actually INCREASE longevity in breast cancer survivors

There seems to be widespread fear around soy and breast cancer: I have heard unsubstantiated claims (from the general public), everything from soy causing breast cancer to needing to completely avoid soy products if you already have breast cancer.

Thankfully, those fears can be put to rest: a recent scientific study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that soy can help decrease risk of death and decrease the chances of a breast cancer relapse. The study looked at a 4-year outcome period amongst 5,000 breast cancer survivors, and measured their intakes of soy foods in their diets. Women with the highest soy intakes had a 29 percent lower risk of dying and a 32 percent lower rate of their breast cancer returning than those who had the lowest intake of soy.

What I think is a very important point here is that these are not women who took soy supplements, or packed their diets with isolated soy protein. Tofu, soy milk and fresh soybeans (cooked soybeans or young soybeans, aka edamame) were the soyfoods most commonly consumed. So the study is NOT suggesting that breast cancer survivors eat soy bars, soy shakes, soy meat alternatives, and soy ice cream all day: the most protective soy foods are those that are the least processed/fractioned: tofu, tempeh, natto, miso, soy milk, and just plain soybeans.

Much of the worry and confusion surrounding soy and breast cancer stem from the fact that soyfoods are super sources of isoflavones, naturally-occurring, estrogen-like compounds. To many, that sounds like we're "eating estrogen," but actually the opposite is true: Breast cancer depends on estrogens to grow, and soy's "weak" estrogens compete for space on cell receptors and bind there, but do not exert estrogen's dangerous effects. So in essence, isoflavones are thought to BLOCK estrogen's deleterious effects.

In addition, the study authors reported that the results eased previous concern that isoflavones might interfere with tamoxifen, a cancer drug designed to block estrogen. The study found higher soy food consumption was beneficial regardless of whether a patient was taking tamoxifen.

The USDA recommends a daily intake of 25 grams of soy protein; this study suggested that 11 grams is enough for a significant benefit. This works out to be 1 to 2 servings of soy a day.

Click here for the study abstract, and option to purchase the full text:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Fast food linked to diabetes risk

Not that it's shocking or anything, but yet another study, this time from the December issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that people who eat fast food are at an increased risk for diabetes.

Here's the link to the study summary per Reuters:

In a nutshell, the study, based on the eating and lifestyle habits and health outcomes of 44,000 black women over 10 years, reports that those who ate fast food burgers or fried chicken at least twice a week were 40 to 70 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who never ate such foods.

Maybe our national health care overhaul should include an adjustment on our premiums
based on fast food consumption. Now, wouldn't that be something?