Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recipe: Family Favorite Marinara

One of our greatest challenges as vegans is living among non-vegans, particularly family and friends. I'm often asked how to make food that's appealing to even the "committed carnivore" (perhaps you know someone like this!).  My answer is always: take the familiar and make it fabulous!

Summer vegetable lasagna with fire-roasted tomato marinara 

If your family traditions are Italian like mine, you'll want to master a good lasagna, ravioli, or polenta dish.  These are familiar favorites that everyone knows and loves.  You'll want your meals to taste as good as they look.  So a garnish of fresh herbs, a drizzle of parsley oil or vegan pesto, or handful of toasted pine nuts sprinkled over the top will add visual interest and stimulate the appetite.

Penne with marinara, parsley pistou, and cashew crema

Starting with a foundation of a basic marinara made with fresh basil and fire-roasted tomatoes is essential.  It can be tossed with spaghetti and vegan meatballs, used as a dipping sauce for breaded tofu mozzarella sticks, slathered on pizza, or combined with a tofu ricotta for calzones.

Deep dish pizza with peppers, onions, fire-roasted tomato marinara, and herb oil

Having authentic flavors is key to a successful dinner with non-vegans.  Always have some cans of crushed tomatoes on hand so you can whip up this quick and easy sauce in minutes.  It will taste like you worked all day in the kitchen stirring a hot pot of bubbling tomatoes.

Sun-dried tomato marinara on zucchini noodles

Another technique I use is to add "flavor bursts" for all types of cuisines:  Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, West African, French, Chinese, Indian, etc.  Combining fresh herbs, dried spices, and the elements of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and savory makes food satisfying and delicious.

In my private cooking lessons I teach which spice goes best with each cuisine, how to add variety to otherwise ordinary meals (to make them fabulous!), and how to achieve balance through color, taste, and texture.  In just a couple of hours I can help you master these skills and show you how to transform mundane meals into gourmet feasts.

Contact me for details!

Family Favorite Marinara
1 20 oz. can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion, diced
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
10-12 large basil leaves

In a large sauce pot on medium heat, sautĂ© onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, and salt, and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to thicken. Meanwhile, stack basil leaves, roll into a cigar, then slice very thinly into a chiffonade.  Stir half the basil into the sauce just before serving, then use the remaining as a garnish on top. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Recipe: Loaded Oatmeal

When I'm presenting to an audience of new vegans or those who are "vegan curious," I'm often asked what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  My cookbook Easy Peasy Vegan Eats is filled with over 100 quick and easy recipes for salads, soups, entrees, and other delicious meals that can be eaten for lunch or dinner, but when it comes to daily breakfast, many people don't have time to prepare tofu scramble or pancakes (even though those recipes from my cookbook are both fabulous!).

What to do?  I start each day with a breakfast loaded with superfoods that fills me up, warms me up, and keeps me energized all morning.  It takes just a few minutes to prepare and is perfect on a cold winter morning.  The oatmeal can be soaked in unsweetened almond milk overnight in a large mason jar, then all the toppings added in the morning for a meal that's easily transportable to your office.   Or you can cook your oatmeal on the stovetop the traditional way to make a hot breakfast at home.

I like to add some combination of fresh and dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and spices that work together synergistically to boost the immune system.  The oatmeal is loaded with fiber and protein which will help fill you up and aid digestion.  For natural sweetness, I use about 10 drops of liquid stevia in the almond milk, then I add fresh and dried fruit, typically a banana, some berries, and raisins or dried cranberries.  Berries are among the healthiest fruits since they're high in antioxidants and natural cancer-fighting phytonutrients called anthocyanins.  A handful on your loaded oatmeal is ideal.

Nuts and seeds are high in protein and omega-3 oil which helps lower bad LDL cholesterol.  I use about a tablespoon each of flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Be sure to grind your flax seed with a spice mill or coffee grinder in order to better digest them and absorb their nutrients.

Finally, the spice of life!  Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory superfood that has tremendous health benefits.  It has been used to treat cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, lupus, cancer, alzheimer's disease, and so many more.  Even if you're fortunate not to have any of these conditions, turmeric works as a preventative, and just 1/4 tsp a day can improve your body's natural defenses.  Add a few twists of fresh-cracked black pepper to increase the absorption. I sprinkle turmeric, powdered ginger, and Ceylon cinnamon on my breakfast cereal, oatmeal, or in a smoothie every morning. The flavor may take some time to get used to, so start with a little less, then gradually add more as your tastes adjust.

Loaded Oatmeal
(1 serving)

1 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (add a few drops of Stevia for sweetness)
1 Tbl ground flax seed
1 Tbl ground hemp seed
1 Tbl chia seed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts
1 banana
8 blackberries (or any other berry, fresh or frozen)

Combine water and oatmeal in a pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 5 minutes until creamy. Alternatively, place in a Mason jar to soak overnight. Pour into a serving bowl and stir in almond milk.  Top with remaining ingredients.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Heart Healthy Foods

February is Heart Health month, and what better way to take care of our hearts than with the food we eat?  Take the advice of Dr. Kim Williams, the former president of the American College of Cardiology, and choose a plant-based diet free from meat, eggs, and dairy.  Dr. Williams went vegan after a routine blood test showed his LDL levels were dangerously high, even though he thought he was eating a healthy diet with low-fat milk and skinless chicken.  After conducting extensive research, he realized that animal products are not healthy foods to consume, particularly for those at risk of heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure can take a toll on our hearts.  The good news is that these degenerative conditions are largely reversible through diet, physical activity, and stress management.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a cardiologist at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, is one of the pioneers in the therapeutic use of a plant-based diet to treat and reverse cardiovascular disease.  He has been recommending a plant-based diet to patients with heart disease for decades.  According to Dr. Esselstyn,

"My program is a nutrition-based therapy that has been scientifically-proven to reverse heart disease. Coronary angiograms (X-Rays) of the patients in my study show an actual reversal of the disease. To experience these benefits, my patients must stick to my plant-based diet program strictly, but the effects are more than worth the effort. For those that are very sick, it is the most effective treatment option–far less dangerous and more effective than invasive surgical procedures such as stents and bypass (except in acute emergencies), and much more effective than drugs alone. Traditional cardiology has relied on technology to ease the symptoms of heart disease, but has not addressed its causes. My approach is not another stop-gap solution, it prevents heart disease from occurring in those who don’t yet have the disease, and it heals the body and reverses the disease when symptoms are present."
While making this switch may seem like a dramatic change, compared to open-heart surgery and a lifetime of medication and related side effects, more and more people are choosing this less-invasive alternative.  What they're discovering is that it's not only easier than they thought, but delicious, too!

Heart healthy foods are loaded with fiber which helps cleanse fat from arteries and the digestive tract.  The anti-oxidants present in plant-based foods reduce inflammation, repair cell damage, and aid in new cell growth.  Synergistically, these foods work together to boost the immune system and restore healthy gut bacteria that aids in digestion.  You'll want to make these superfoods part of your daily eating routine.

Greens - dark leafy greens such as kale, collard, spinach, Swiss chard, plus cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli
Beans & Legumes - loaded with fiber and protein - black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, as well as hummus
Garlic - a natural antioxidant that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
Mushrooms - lower cholesterol and boost immune system, shiitake is among the best
Berries - blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, goji berries
Probiotics - aid in digestion and boost the immune system - fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, apple cider vinegar
Nuts & Seeds - lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss - almonds, pistachios, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
Herbs & Spices - incredibly concentrated antioxidants - turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, Holy Basil (tulsi), green tea