Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bill Clinton Goes Vegan

One of the most exciting news stories of late is that former president Bill Clinton has embarked on a vegan diet to combat heart disease.  Back in 2004, President Clinton underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery, and in February of this year, he had a followup procedure after experiencing chest pains because grafts from the operation five years ago became obstructed.  Maybe it was his daughter's upcoming wedding and that he wanted to live to see his grandchildren, or maybe it was a change of heart (so to speak), but after his latest close call, Mr. Clinton sought out an alternative to surgery to regain his health.  And he found Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. 

For years, Dr. Esselstyn has been advocating a low-fat plant-based diet to his heart patients at the Cleveland Clinic as a means to repair blocked arteries and improve blood flow to the heart.  His groundbreaking book, How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, has saved many lives.  This is the same advice he gave Mr. Clinton this year, and for six weeks that was the plan he followed.  As a result, Bill lost an incredible 24 pounds and started to regain the energy and stamina he was so well-known for during his presidency.  Another turning point for him was the discovery of the book, The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, which offers scientific evidence that establishes conclusively the overwhelmingly superior health benefits of plant-based diets.  This is the definitive answer for anyone concerned about their health who wants to learn how to prevent disease naturally.

I am excited that President Clinton has made this paradigm shift and that he appears healthy, happy, and humbled by the experience.  It really seems like eating a plant-based diet has transformed him on many levels. This is wonderful news that I am pleased to share.

See him here on CNN live speaking about his new diet.

Easiest Soup Ever

Whenever it's rainy outside, I seek comfort in a bowl of soup.  In this case it was red lentil dal for lunch.  This is such an easy process that you probably don't even need a recipe, but here it goes:

Place about a cup of rinsed red lentils in a soup pot with a 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, about a teaspoon of turmeric, and 3 cups of water.  Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 15 minutes.  When lentils have softened, remove ginger and stir in about a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, squeeze of lemon, and a giant handful of fresh cilantro.  Add water if you like the soup thinner.  That's it.  Done.  And even though it's about zero calories, it's surprisingly filling and satisfying. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cake

It's the season for apples and this is the time of year when I crave my grandma's Lithuanian Apple Cake, which was a staple of childhood.  It was moist, sweet and brown sugary, with a hint of crispness to the crust.  Nothing fancy, but somehow oh so good. 

Since I can't eat wheat for health reasons, it was my mission to create not only a vegan version of this cake, but also one that was gluten-free.  I never had my grandma's original recipe (she never wrote these things down either!), so I've had to work from memory.  I've tweaked it over the years and recently came up with a recipe that harkens back to the original, but that is much healthier.

I used about 8 Macoun apples, but if you like things a little tarter you can use Granny Smith (which I often do, as a tribute to my grandma). They cook down significantly, so don't let the minimal batter worry you when you mix them in. The cake cooks up nice and brown, then gets moist as it cools, and even glistens the next day as if it's loaded with oil even though it's not. I made the recipe as two 8x8 square cakes, but you can also do it in a 9x13 pan.

As difficult as it will be, you must resist the temptation to cut into the cake before it has cooled completely. I couldn't wait and ended up with a heaping pile of crumbled cake on my plate (still delicious, nonetheless). When I cut a piece the next day it held together nicely.

It is moist, but with perfect crumb. You will really think you're eating something decadent after the first bite. I hope this becomes a fall favorite in your family!

For more delicious autumnal apple desserts, take a look at my post on how to make Apple Cider Donut Muffins.

Grandma’s Lithuanian Apple Cake (gluten-free vegan version)
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (Red Mill)
1 cup brown rice flour
½ tsp xantham gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups Sucanat
3 Tbl ground flax seeds, plus 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup apple sauce
½ cup apple cider
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups sliced apples (about 6-8)
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, xantham gum, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, flax seed mixture, coconut oil, cider and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Stir in apples and walnuts. Spread batter into oiled 9x13 pan and bake 40-50 minutes (or two 8”x8” pans baked at 25-30 minutes), or until edges are lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean. Let cook, then top with powdered sugar.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lentil Redux

There's no need to be boring and predictable if you're vegan.  Sometimes it just requires a little creativity and planning ahead.  Take lentils, for example.  Yes, plain old ordinary and often maligned brown lentils, a staple of vegetarian cookery.  "Hippie food," if you will.

Moroccan Spiced Lentils with Raisins, Cumin and Cinnamon and
Brown Basmati Rice garnished with Fresh Cilantro

On Sunday I made a great big pot of lentils with butternut squash and collard greens from my garden.  I've been enjoying this lovely concoction through the week in various incarnations.  Yesterday it was Moroccan Spiced Lentils with Raisins, Cumin and Cinnamon and Basmati Rice granished with Fresh Cilantro.  The trick here was that just before serving I melted about a teaspoon of coconut oil on top for extra richness. 

For lunch today I'm planning Curried Lentils, perhaps with some Grean Beans Mallum on the side.  Tonight I think I'll mix the lentils with tomato sauce and toss them with pasta.  And if there's anything left tomorrow, it'll be lentil burgers on gluten-free bread for lunch because I have a tomato in my garden that will be perfectly ripe by then and would go nicely on top with a few fresh basil leaves. 

Any other ideas for what to do with a pot of lentils?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pan-fried Tofu with Fennel Picante and Oven-roasted Potatoes

When I talked to my mom on the phone last night, she was in the middle of making baked hand cut French fries.  It was pure torture not to be there to enjoy some.  But since I had a couple of Russet potatoes in my fridge, I decided to do some roasted potatoes myself. 

I didn't have a plan for what I'd eat along with them to turn into something substantial for dinner, but as they were cooking the aroma just made me think:  fennel.  As in, fennel sausage.  Not that it was a craving for meat necessarily, but more like a distinct scent memory of that Italian peasant dish of pork with peppers and onions, or even sausage and peppers.  I contemplated mixing up some tofu in my food processor with gluten-free bread crumbs and seasoning, then decided that would be too time-consuming and possibly risky.  I just wanted the flavor, after all.

Instead, I sauteed some chopped onion in a pan, then as it started to brown I pushed it to the side and laid down some slices of tofu, letting them cook for about 5-10 minutes on each side until they were golden and firm.  Then I threw in a generous handful of fennel seeds, a chopped tomato, red pepper, and picante sauce and let it all cook for about 5 more minutes until it became thick.  In about the same amount of time, my potatoes were perfectly cooked after a couple minutes under the broiler.  The assembled meal was exactly the flavor profile I was craving - perfect!

Vegan Cooking Party

Want to celebrate a birthday in a unique way?  Why not have a cooking party with Well on Wheels as your host?  We create a menu together, I show you how to make the recipes, you get to eat and enjoy good food with your guests.  This is what a group of friends did recently and I was happy to be a part of it.  We started the meal with a lovely salad of Baby Spinach and Heirloom Tomato Gremolata.  This was quick, easy to make, and a big hit with everyone.

The main course was Ratatouille with Butter Beans and Polenta.  We made the polenta from scratch by gently boiling some corn meal in water with some seasoning, then poured the mixture into a pan to cool. 

Alternating slices of polenta were stacked with the Ratatouille and Butter Beans, then garnished with basil chiffonade and chopped parsley for a pretty presentation.

For dessert I did a gluten-free vegan Chocolate Pudding Cake and served it with fresh figs and raspberries.  The cake was ooey gooey in the center and firm on top.  Even though it doesn't make for a pretty presentation (it's tough to get the slices out without them oozing into a big chocolate mass on the plate!), it still tasted good. And the fruits added a nice sweet contrast to the rich chocolate.

I hope this new foray into gluten-free vegan cooking becomes an adventure for all those attending!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cobbler in a Cup

This weekend I tested a recipe for a Gluten-free Peach Cobbler, which came out good (how can anything made with fresh, ripe peaches not be good?), but it was more slump-like and cakey than cobblery, so I've been craving something more authentic ever since.  I didn't want to bake another whole pan of cobbler (or eat that much, which I easily could), and I only had one peach, yet I still wanted to satisfy that craving.

So I decided to try a trick another food blogger used recently for making single-serve chocolate cake in a cup:  use the microwave.  This was something new, and I figured if it didn't work I could just dump out the gooey mess and at least try to salvage the peaches.  To my great joy, the entire thing was not only edible, but incredible!

I started by slicing that lovely peach into eighths, then I sprinkled it with a little bit of Florida Crystals and cinnamon.  I mixed the batter in a separate little cereal bowl.  Because I made it gluten-free, I used 1 tablespoon of rice flour and 1 tablespoon of all-purpose gluten-free flour (but you can just use 2 tablespoons of regular unbleached white flour if you don't have to worry about gluten), 1 tablespoon of Florida Crystals, 1/4 tsp baking powder, pinch of sea salt mixed together with 1 teaspoon of melted coconut oil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla soy milk until thick dough forms.

Drop dough on top of peach mixture. It won't look too pretty at this point, but trust me, you will be amazed.  Microwave your mug of peaches and dough for 3-4 minutes, until peaches shrink, and the dough becomes cakey.  It will start to smell just like a peach cobbler is baking in your kitchen!

And there you have it:  fresh "baked" peach cobbler in less than ten minutes.  (And gone in under 5!)

Curried Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Chickpea Soup

This soup was created with my motto "everything tastes better with curry" in mind.  I had about half of a container of Imagine Butternut Squash Soup left today from making Butternut Risotto for a client (yummm), half a bag of spinach, and half a can of chickpeas.  Since I knew spinach and chickpeas go together nicely, and I've used canned pumpkin in curry, I figured this soup idea wouldn't be much of a stretch. 

Oh, yeah, I also had about 6 Brussels Sprouts, which I halved and sauteed in olive oil first.  Then I tossed in the spinach and let it cook until wilted.  I sprinkled the veggies with about a teaspoon of curry powder, half a teaspoon of turmeric, and some sea salt and let it cook just a few seconds more until the lovely fragrance permeated the air.  I deglazed with about a tablespoon of Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk, about a cup of the butternut squash soup, and half a cup of water.  I let this simmer for a couple minutes, then served it topped with chopped green onion and a handful of fresh cilantro.  Supper couldn't be any easier or more satisfying on a cloudy and gray day like today. Even though it filled me up, two steaming bowls just weren't enough!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Summer Squash with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I've been loving this roasted red pepper sauce, serving it recently on baked tofu and with black bean and brown rice stuffed zucchini.  For lunch today I tried it with a simple saute of zucchini and yellow squash. 

It worked really nicely all tossed together on top of a mix of quinoa and brown basmati rice.  With an extra little drizzle of olive oil at the end, it picked up a rich, glossy texture as well.  I'll definitely be making this as a side dish more often. 

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
12 oz. roasted red peppers

2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl red wine vinegar
¼ tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
¼ tsp sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1-2 Tbl water

Puree together ingredients in a blender until smooth sauce forms, adding water if necessary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Week's Menu

There's a proliferation of stringbeans in the garden right now, and so I decided to feature them in a few of this week's entrees.  We've also had a change in weather, with cooler nights followed by warm, breezy days.  This makes me want to incorporate some of the late summer/early fall vegetables like butternut squash, corn, and Brussels Sprouts into a few recipes.

One meal I made was Three Sisters Stew on Baked Polenta.  The "three sisters" refers to corn, beans, and squash, which are companion plants that grow in perfect harmony:  the tall corn stalks serve as a trellis for the climbing bean vines, and their feet get shaded by the squash which grows along the ground.  This stew was made with tomatoes as a base and a little sprinkle of cumin and oregano which add a lovely savory quality that perfectly balances the sweetness of the squash.

Meal #2 was Baked Tofu with Harissa, Mashed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts Amandine.  I love this Harissa sauce, which is made with roasted red peppers, paprika, red wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt.  You can add some cayenne, too, if you like things spicy, but I just enjoy that rich roasted red pepper taste.  It's amazing how such simple ingredients can have such a depth of flavor.  

The third meal for the week is my favorite:  Red Lentil, Corn and Millet Croquettes with Stringbeans and Cilantro Curry.  The little croquettes are seasoned with coriander, a light lemony contrast that balances well with the spicy green curry. 

I liked this so much that I made a version for myself for lunch the next day.  You can make the curry by combining cilantro, ginger, coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric, and sea salt in a food processor if you want it chunky, or in a blender if you want it smooth.  I made it smooth for lunch and the sauce developed a deep emerald green color.  Sprinkle the top with some shredded coconut for some added crunch and a pretty snowy contrast to the green mound on top of the hill.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Baby Spinach, Cherry Tomato and Avocado Gremolata

Today I picked about a handful of cherry tomatoes from my garden, plus I had half a pint from the store, and a bag of baby spinach that needed to be eaten, so I decided to combine them to make this yummy and simple salad for lunch.  The avocado was a bonus, and I needed the extra calories to get me through the afternoon.

The gremolata is made with fresh lemon zest, lemon juice, and a bunch of parsley chopped up really fine.  I decided to add some tahini for body and tamari for flavor, and they all seemed perfectly happy blended together in a bowl. 


Simply stir everything together to make a thick dressing, then toss with your drained spinach and tomatoes.  

Slice half an avocado and lay over the top.  Garnish with plenty of fresh cracked pepper. Simple, beautiful, and delicious!