Monday, April 30, 2012

CT Vegetarian Fest Recap

What an exciting weekend!  I am so happy to have been a part of the first Connecticut Vegetarian & Healthy Living Festival hosted at the CT Convention Center in Hartford this weekend.  Thank you to all who attended, volunteers who ensured everything ran smoothly (and for tracking down that elusive food processor!), vendors and non-profits who showcased amazing products and services, provided musical entertainment, and who screened the  brilliant documentary Vegucated.  It was a fabulous opportunity to connect with others of like-mind, and perhaps even open some minds (and hearts!) to the benefits of vegetarianism.

I've read anecdotal reports that approximately 5,000 people attended the event... in Hartford!  And not even for a UCONN game!!  Great job publicizing and spreading the word in advance!  In addition, hundreds of bags of canned goods were collected for organizations such as Food Not Bombs and the Connecticut Food Bank.  I hope someone enjoys the canned mango I donated!

I had a great time giving my presentation, "Waking the Taste Buds:  Foods of Spring."  It was a tough slot since Chef AJ and Ellen Jaffee Jones (Vegan on $4 a Day) were also presenting at the same time.  Decisions, decisions.  I was glad to see about 35 people huddled in close to hear me talk about healthy spring foods like asparagus, radishes, and quinoa.

I think the Asparagus, Radish, and Quinoa Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette, Pistachios and Herb Oil was a hit!

Here's some of the nice feedback I received:
"The class was extremely informative.  Mary was very kind and entertaining, and the quinoa salad was simple and delicious!  I will be going home to make some!  This class was sure a highlight."
" I enjoyed learning about the health benefits of some of the ingredients like asparagus.  Mary was very nice.  Thanks for the class!"
"Delicious recipe.  Easy to make.  Great idea to take along for upcoming cookouts, picnics, etc.  Informative nutrition information."
"Great recipe!  Very knowledgeable, personable presenter." 
[special thanks to:  Michael for photos, my cooking assistants Devin & Jessica, Carol for the good mood (ring), and my awesome mom, the roadie, editor, head cooking assistant, and everything else!!] 

yay - microphone!  wish I had my guitar!

nice crowd! 

 mixing the vinaigrette

here's the herb oil in progress 

getting it all lined up and ready to go

my mom doing her thing 

leftovers work really well in zucchini boats!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Waking the Tastebuds: Foods of Spring

I've been preparing all day today for my presentation this weekend at the first annual Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival at the Connecticut Convention Center, and all I can think about is asparagus!  It's one of my favorite vegetables because it has that elegant, chi chi look, and yet it's so easy to prepare.  Just a quick dunk in a pot of boiling water, then a rinse of ice cold water and it's done.

I'm going to be demonstrating how to make a quick and easy salad with it along with a more common spring veggie, the radish.  These are like the yin and yang of the vegetable world:  One is prized and classy, while the other is more like the uncouth cousin nobody likes having around.  And yet, somehow, they come together in perfect familial harmony in the recipe I will be demonstrating on Sunday:  Asparagus, Radish and Quinoa Salad with Dijon Dressing, Chives, and Pistachios.

This is the same recipe I prepared for the "Planting a Chef's Garden" presentation I did last week, but it was such a hit that I decided to reprise it this weekend.  Plus, this will be a chance for those who weren't able to attend last week to get a taste.  It's so easy to make.

I hope you can stop by, say hello, and try a sample.  I'll also have cookbooks and aprons for sale - wheeeee!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Food Revolution Summit

This revolution will be televised... or even better, broadcast live on-line!  

During the week of April 28-May 6, there will be three interviews broadcast daily hosted by best-selling author, John Robbins. Tune in to learn cutting edge disease-beating, health-activating, age-reversing information that will help you and your family thrive and make a difference in the world. 

I've registered early and am looking forward to participating in this historic event.  You can join me by registering today:  

Food Revolution Summit Registration

Names you might recognize include NY Times best-selling authors Dr. Joel Fuhrman (Eat To Live) and Marianne Williamson (Spiritual Principles for Weight Loss); expert doctors such as Dr. Dean Ornish (Preventive Medicine Research Institute) and Dr. T. Colin Cambell (The China Study); culture-changers and icons such as Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and Rory Freedman (Skinny Bitch); natural health pioneers such as Joseph Mercola ( and David Wolfe (Radiant Health Now); and food system innovators such as Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), and many more inspiring visionaries.

Over seven days, you'll get training, inspiration and practical know-how from modern day heroes of health and sustainability. You'll get answers to burning questions, tools for dealing with family and peers, and practically useful insights, ideas, motivation and tips, all from the comfort and convenience of your phone or computer. I'll be listening and I hope you will, too.  Please join me for this exciting event!

It's VegWeek!

If you haven't already heard, today marks the kickoff of VegWeek, an opportunity to take the 7-day veg pledge.  It's easy to start the week with Meatless Monday... then all you have to do is carry it through for a few more days to see how it feels.

For 7 days, celebrate the many benefits of choosing plant-based foods -- for your health, the planet, and the animals.  It's a fun way to discover new and delicious meat-free meals.  You can make it official by signing up for the Veg Pledge right here, where you can receive a VegWeek starter pack with literature and free coupons.  You may even win prizes from some of the awesome sponsors like Gardein, The Vegg, and Field Roast, to name but a few.

A great recipe to start the week off with is my Gluten-free Black Bean Quinoa Cakes.  They're packed with protein, easy to make, and are a great alternative to frozen veggie burgers.  Plus, they're so delicious you may never want to go back to eating hamburgers!  Give them a try, and take the Veg Pledge today!

Gluten-free Black Bean Quinoa Cakes with Fresh Salsa and Guacamole

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gluten-free Vegan Toffee Apple Crisp

Today was a drizzly, cold Sunday, which felt much like the spring I remember and not the balmy spring we've been having.  So it's no surprise that on this lazy afternoon I was craving a warm and comforting fresh-baked treat.  I poked around my kitchen for something that would work in a dessert and found four apples -- two Granny Smith and two Gala -- so I decided to turn them into an apple crisp.

I recently went to a new restaurant in Watertown, CT where my dining companion raved about the apple crisp.  It was topped by a melty scoop of ice cream, but I navigated around it to taste a spoonful tip of the apple part so I could get an idea of what he was so ecstatic about.  Aside from the butter, the flavor that came forward was luscious caramel toffee.  With that in mind, I set about recreating a gluten-free vegan version which I could eat and serve with confidence to non-vegans.  I think I hit it on my first try.

The recipe is modified from Tasty Yummy's version of apple crisp, but substitutes traditional oats with buckwheat flakes since I'm also sensitive to oats.  I used ground almonds to provide a crunch and some richness to the crisp.  For sweetness I used a combination of organic sugar and maple syrup.  But the real decadence comes from the coconut oil.  When these ingredients combine, a heavenly melty toffee results.  Top it with a generous dollop of NadaMoo! Maple Pecan ice cream.... ahhh... perfection.

Gluten-free Vegan Toffee Apple Crisp
In a large bowl, combine filling:
4 apples, sliced into 2-inch chunks
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl maple syrup
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup almonds, finely ground
1/2 cup cream of buckwheat (uncooked)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 Tbl maple syrup

In a food processor, grind slivered almonds until finely chopped.  Add buckwheat, rice flour, cinnamon, sugar, oil, and sea salt and process until clumps form.  Pour apple mixture into 8"x8" pan and spread topping over the top.  Drizzle with maple syrup.  Place in preheated 375 degree oven and bake 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Planting a Chef's Garden

It's been a busy week here at Well on Wheels headquarters.  On Wednesday I did a presentation called "Powered by Plants:  Healthy Whole Foods for the 21st Century Athlete" at New Milford Public Library. Even though there weren't many traditional athletes in attendance, all of the feedback afterward indicated that the nutrition information I provided was very helpful for the layperson considering a plant-based diet. Two people even commented that I've inspired them to try going vegan right away!  Woo!  That's always nice to hear.

The next day I was in Orange, CT giving a presentation called "Planting the Chef's Garden."  This was a fun one since I did a mini cooking demo of my new favorite spring vegetable salad, Quinoa with Asparagus, Radish, Pistachios, and Dijon Vinaigrette.  I also accompanied this with some clover sprouts drizzled with parsley and oregano oil and garnished with pretty little pansies from my garden.  Attendees also left with their very own pea seedling which I started last week.  It's so exciting to see them sprouting!

Here's an excerpt from another happy attendee:

Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed your session last
night at the Case Library in Orange. I just made the quinoa salad
that you had and my husband tasted it and loved it too. What a treat!!! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

An ooey gooey Chocolate Lava Cake that's vegan and gluten-free

I've been scanning my brain and my cookbooks this past week searching for ideas about what to make for Easter dessert.  While the default option is always chocolate, I wanted to do something a little different, and yet I didn't know what exactly that would be.  So, when I went out for dinner recently at a "regular" restaurant and my friend ordered the Chocolate Lava Cake, a lightbulb clicked on in my head.  Hmmm... could I make it vegan AND gluten-free AND decadent?

I remembered that my mom had given me a recipe for a Molten Lava Cake that she had veganized and which I made for dessert at my Great American Meatout party a couple of years ago.  But the recipe called for soy milk, and I've recently been cutting back on the amount of soy I've been consuming, so I decided to give it a try with almond milk and soy-free Earth Balance.  This is a three-part recipe, but it comes together really quickly, and even though it looks like you've made a mistake after Step #3, don't fret!  The result will be fabulous.  Or at least that's what I'm hoping as I sit here waiting for the timer to beep.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

Melt some Earth Balance margarine and mix with wet ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix topping.

Combine wet and dry ingredients, and stir.

Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with topping.

Pour hot water over the top.  (yes, I know it looks weird)

Success!  Ooey gooey bubbly Chocolate Lava Cake!

Gluten-free Chocolate Lava Cake
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 cup vegan sugar
2 Tbl cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup vegan milk (I used almond)
2 tsp melted Earth Balance margarine
3 Tbl maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix next 4 ingredients.  Combine wet with dry and mix until smooth batter.  Pour into ungreased 9x9 pan.  Combine vegan sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl, then sprinkle over top of the batter.  Pour hot water over the top, but do not stir!  (this will look like a big mistake, but trust me... this will all work out in the end).  Immediately place baking dish in preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until sides and tops are firm and center is bubbly like lava.  Best served immediately (who could possibly wait?), but it will get more solid and pudding-like in consistency when cooled.  This also reheats nicely.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Give Easter a tropical flare with this Mango Tango Flan

Several years ago I was on a quest for the perfect vegan flan recipe, and I decided to take a shot at creating it myselfI was striving for authentic creamy lusciousness, albeit without all the eggs and condensed milk. I think I came pretty close. The key was to cook that caramel syrup almost to the point where you think you've gone too far (I stopped a little too soon and ended up with a soupy syrup in the end), and to heat the soy milk mixture just long enough to melt the agar agar, but not overboil it (lest you want a wedge of rubber on your plate). I made the flan with soy milk, and have since tried modifying the recipe with extra rich Silk creamer and some Tofutti cream cheese for extra creaminess.  I've even done it with coconut milk, which changes the flavor to something more tropical.

Recently I was reminded of my original inspiration for this dessert, a Mango Tango Flan which was more like a loose cheesecake with a nut crust than a custardy flan with caramel top, though nonetheless delicious.  As Easter approaches, I was thinking this would be a festive centerpiece for the dessert table since it's so colorful and flavorful.  This recipe can be found in the Friends of Animals cookbook, The Best of Vegan Cooking by Priscilla Feral (2009), and my original version follows below.

Mango Tango Flan
1 cup finely ground walnuts
1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats
1 Tbl corn starch or arrowroot
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl coconut oil, melted
In a food processor, pulse walnuts and oats until they are finely ground.  Pour into a bowl and mix with other dry ingredients.  Stir in maple syrup, vanilla, and oil.  Spread batter into a oiled 8” spring form pan.  This is a sticky batter, so use a spatula (and you may need to wet your fingers to press it into place).  Prick batter with a fork, then bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.
1 cup mango papaya juice
1/2 cup water
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe banana, peeled and diced
2 Tbl agar agar flakes (or 1 1/2 tsp agar powder)
1 12 oz. container firm silken tofu (Mori Nu)
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
In a small pot, simmer mango, juice and water on medium high heat for about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and set mango aside in a blender.  Return pot of juice to burner and dissolve agar agar in it.  Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, then simmer for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour thickened liquid into blender with mango, banana, tofu, syrup, vanilla, salt and turmeric.  Puree until smooth (you may need to do this in batches).  Pour filling into springform pan with cooled crust and refrigerate for several hours before serving.
3 Tbl apricot preserves
2 Tbl water
Heat preserves and water in a small sauce pot until it becomes a liquid.  Bring to a boil for about a minute.  Once filling has set, pour glaze over the top and garnish with “half moon” slices of lime.  
(modified from “Apricot Crème Pie with Caramel Crust,” The Ultimate Un-Cheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak)