Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bobby Flay's Bitchin' Mesa Grill Potato Salad!

That's right, "bitchin."

It's doubtful that when Bobby created this recipe he would have even had the slightest inkling that some vegan chick in Minneapolis would be swearing with delight as she shoveled fork-fulls of the stuff into her mouth.



I don't know about you, but I think Bobby looks pretty "bitchin'" in this photo...He also looks like he just slipped a disk trying to pick up that skuer of cherry tomatoes.





As I've written before, one of my favorite things to do is rip off the food network stars by taking their recipes and making them into something I can eat. Every time I've done this, the recipes have turned out fantastic, and consequently, more healthy than their original version. (Bonus!)

This time, it was Bobby Flay's turn.

I was watching one of his "Throwdowns" that happened to be on fried chicken and potato salad. Naturally, the fried chicken wasn't what piqued my interest, it was the spuds.

Creamy and smoky with a southwestern flare, this potato salad will make you think twice about putting the old fashioned stuff on your plate ever again.


When I prepared this salad, I used a mixture of purple, red, and new potatoes...Aren't the colors beautiful?


The Vegenaise, lime juice, tomato and cilantro add a refreshing taste, while the mustard, chipotle peppers, jalapenos, garlic, onion, and scallions all add spice and flavor that is so bold it will make you come running back for more.

I did makes a few substitutions from the original recipe, like vegenaise for mayo ,and instead of the ancho chili powder I used one canned chipotle pepper and about 1 tsp of the adobo sauce. It gives it the smoky flavor and some nice heat that will surely give you a little kick in the pants. To prepare, I simply mashed the pepper into a paste and added to the mixture along with the adobo sauce. I also cut back on the garlic by one clove, and used a quarter of a red onion instead of the whole shebang...The flavors are definitely strong enough without it. Trust me on this, and you can always add more if you think I'm crazy. (The recipe below is altered to fit these changes)


Ahhhh...The sauce.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the finished product, garnished with a little cilantro fresh from the garden.


It's time to switch out that old-fashioned potato salad and opt for something a little more flavorful and bold. It's the perfect recipe to honor dad this weekend, so serve this one up for your Father's Day BBQ's and picnics!

Enjoy your weekend with family and friends, and, as always,

Eat Healthy, Stay Happy!

~jenni

Bitchin' Southwest Potato Salad

3 pounds new potatoes (I used a little over 2lbs)
Kosher salt
1 cup vegenaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder OR 1 canned chipotle pepper and 1 tsp of the adobo sauce.
Dash of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/4 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Directions
Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover by 1-inch with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until fork tender, 12 to 15 minutes and drain well. Let cool slightly then slice into 1/4-inch thick pieces and add to a large serving bowl.

Stir together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture over the warm potatoes and mix gently until combined, mashing the potatoes slightly. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste, before serving.

Attitude

Attitude isn't necessarily a culinary recipe, but it is a recipe for success.

[Insert gratitutious "Jenni is such a cheeseball" comments here]

Seriously though, it's how you look at life and how you react to situations that make your life that much more fullfilling.

There's a rather long quotation from Maya Angelou regarding living life, and I wanted to share that with you here.

“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're
gone from your life. I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

There is so much to say about how you react to what life throws your way. You can either take what it gives you and run with it, or continue to let it pile up until you're buried beneath the rubble.

I have a spin instructor who teaches mind-body workouts for both spin and yoga classes. She has most recently started a business, 1000 Petals, and has been speaking for Yoga Calm, a program that encourages bringing yoga into the classroom for children.

I take a few of her classes and not only do I get a great workout, but I also get a little kick-in-the-pants as far as attitude is concerned. One of the most inspirational things I have taken away from her is...

"Life is happening for you, not to you."

Smack in the middle of a 60 second sprint, or during a hill climb, she'll shout those words and just when you feel like you want to fall off of your bike she'll scream "YES YOU CAN!" And that's what will inevitably make you work that much harder.

I take these words as gifts and apply them to my life, where for me, it's about never giving up on myself.

So, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis? Big deal. I'm not going to let it control who I am or where I'm going.

Through diet, exercise, and attitude I took control back from something that was trying to take from me. I respected the illness, but I didn't let it win.

We all have the power and ability to take control and make life happen for us. Whether it's eating more healthfully, listening to our bodies, or taking that first step towards physical fitness, it's all within reach, and it's closer than you've ever imagined.

Be Well, Live Happy!

~jenni

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Avocado Pesto Pasta

I love summer. Mostly because I no longer have to throw on five layers of thinsulate before I leave the house, but also because of what's growing in my garden. Fresh basil, cilantro, dill, mint and rosemary, to name a few, all herbs I use regularly and love having right outside my back door.

Say hello to my gigantic galvanized tub of herbs. Josh decided to throw in a bunch of cilantro and dill seeds to see what would happen and voila!

On to the recipe at hand...

Chalk full of fresh ingredients, this Avocado Pesto Pasta is creamy, bold, and oh so flavorful.

Fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, olive oil, and delicious avocado...Check out the goose! These adorable measuring cups were given to me as a gift from my good friend Danika. They always make me smile...



Preparing this dish is a breeze. Simply combine the ingredients in a food processor and toss with freshly cooked pasta and you're ready to go.


Look at that COLOR! Also, look at my food processor...Although it does just fine for this job, it's a little small for some of my larger jobs, like when I make a gigantic batch of "grawnola." If anyone wants to buy me a larger one, feel free, but I may need a more spacious kitchen to store it in...Like this one...




I wanted to add a little more depth and flavor so I opted to add some sundried tomatoes to top off the dish. To rehydrate sundried tomatoes, simply place in a bowl with hot water and let sit for about 20 minutes.

My favorite antique pyrex bowls that I inherited from my Grandma...I used to have a complete set until Josh accidentally broke one. That day is now referred to as "Doomsday 2007."


Keep in mind, the quinoa spaghetti is not only a fantastic carbohydrate, but it is also an excellent source of protein, calcium and iron, a good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. And last but not least, it contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans.

Finally, the finished product....



Eat Healthy, Stay Happy!

~j

Avocado Pesto Pasta
Serves 6
Recipe by Chloe Coscarelli compliments VegNews.com
Ingredients:
1 pound or 2 packages Quinoa Spaghetti (You can also use other pasta such as linguini, fetuccini or spirals)
1 bunch basil leaves (about 2½ ounces)
½ cup pine nuts
2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to package directions. While pasta cooks, in a food processor, blend basil, pine nuts, avocados, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta. In a large serving bowl, toss pesto with hot, freshly cooked pasta and garnish each serving with a basil leaf. For an extra touch of color and flavor, top pasta with sundried tomatoes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Probiotics

You may have heard Jamie Lee Curtis blathering on about probiotics and yogurt (don’t get me started on eating yogurt for stomach issues when the yogurt itself is most probably prime suspect numero uno in many cases of bowel discomfort) over the television, or you may have seen them in pill form tucked awkwardly in the refrigerated dairy section of your local grocery store.

But what exactly are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that replicate the beneficial organisms found in the human gut which help us digest and process food. Also called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria,” probiotics can be found as supplements or in foods such as soy beverages, yogurts, miso, tempeh, and kombucha, an ancient, fermented tea consumed for it’s amazing health benefits. (Honest has recently come out with a great line of kombucha....The "Lemon Ginger" is my favorite and when you purchase a case of it at Whole Foods you get a 10% discount)

Through research, it has come to light that many health issues are related in some way to the process of digestion. Consumption of probiotics on a regular basis play a critical role in improving our digestive health, which is interconnected to every single function in our bodies...In other words, you really are what you eat.

One of my favorite ways to get a daily dose of probiotics is in my morning smoothie.


So Delicious has come out with a coconut milk based yogurt that is not only free from the common allergens (dairy, lactose, soy and gluten), but is also cholesterol free (it's vegan!), an excellent source of Vitamin B12, and contains both pre (prebiotics are food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms already in people's colons) and probiotics for "enhanced intestinal health."

They also make a delicious Coconut Milk beverage that I use as the base for my smoothie.

Here's a quick recipe to help you on your way to a better, more healthy digestive system.

Eat Healthy, Stay Happy!

Happy Tummy Fruit Smoothie

1 cup So Delicious coconut milk (I like the vanilla flavored)
1/4 cup So Delicious coconut yogurt
1 banana
1 handful frozen strawberries
1 handful frozen raspberries

In a blender, add the soft ingredients first, followed by the frozen ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Phenomenal Frittata

When I first started eliminating dairy and eggs from my diet, I was leery of recipes claiming to have all the answers for acceptable substitutes, especially when it came to eggs and cheese. Through my experience, I have come to realize that there are many fantastic ways to get the flavor and texture you're seeking without compromising your dietary choices or lifestyle.

I came across this recipe that was created by Allison Rivers Samson (owner of an award-winning artisan bakery and confectionary boutique, offering delectable organic, vegan sweets) in the June 2010 issue of VegNews magazine.

While gathering the ingredients for this recipe I was introduced to kala namak, a necessary ingredient for imparting the "egg flavor" in the dish. As a matter of fact, I practically became obsessed with the stuff. Kala namak is an Indian black sea salt that is pinkish gray in color and imparts a sulfuric taste similar to eggs...Seriously....It tastes EXACTLY like hard-boiled eggs. You can sprinkle it over your morning tofu scramble, or use it wherever you want a little egg flavor...But be careful, it's potent stuff!

The garbanzo & fava bean flour is what gives the dish an eggy texture, and also supplements as a great source of protein with 6 grams in every 1/4th cup. When preparing, you may find that the flour mixture may get a bit lumpy. After the cooking process was complete, I poured the mixture into a large mixing bowl and ran my hand-mixer through it for about four minutes. I still had a few lumps, but it didn't make a difference in flavor or texture when the dish was finished.

I also went a step further and added 1/2 cup of Daiya vegan mozzarella to give the frittata a more decadent finish, because who doesn't like decadence?

The recipe calls for broccoli and onions, but if you'd like, you can mix it up and add or replace with your other favorite veggies. Next time I think I'll try mushroom and spinach, or roasted red pepper and shallot...The combinations are endless!

Have it for dinner with a salad...


Or have it for breakfast with fresh fruit...


Eat healthy, stay happy!

~j

Italian Frittata
Serves 6

4 cups water
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups garbanzo fava bean flour
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1 cup onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2 cups broccoli florets cut into small bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp kala namak
1/2 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella (optional)

Oil a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add water and salt. Gently whisk in the garbanzo bean flour to combine completely. Whisk occasionally as the mixture begins to boil to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As it begins to thicken, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place a saute pan over low-medium heat and add margarine and onions. Saute for 5 minutes, then add basil and marjoram and cook for another 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

In a large bowl, combine cooked garbanzo bean mixture , vegetable, kala namak, and vegan cheese (if using), until well mixed. Spread evenly into oiled dish. Cool completely in the refrigerator for two hours. (This step imparts the egg-like texture, so don't skip it!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake the frittata for 20 minutes, or until hot in the center. Move the frittata up to the top rack, turn on broiler, and broil 3-5 minutes, until the top has browned. Serve warm with your favorite side dishes.

(This dish also reheats well in the microwave!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Ginger

Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties have been valued for centuries. Native to southeast Asia, ginger has been a renowned herb in ancient Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian writings, and has been prized for it's culinary and medicinal properties including it's cleansing effects by removing toxins and creating balance. Traditionally, ginger has been used to treat a variety of ailments from nausea, to colds, to general inflammation.

During the past thirty years, scientists have uncovered the mechanisms that make ginger an effective anti-inflammatory agent. This discovery identified ginger as a natural remedy that shares pharmacological properties with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Subsequent research revealed that ginger reduces inflammation in an additional way, beyond that of NSAIDs, which means it has dual powers to reduce inflammation and pain.

Ginger adds a unique, spicy flavor to your food and can be consumed many different ways. Some of my favorites are through juicing or adding it to spice up a stir fry or a salad dressing.

To cook with ginger, you will first peel the skin with a paring knife, or a potato peeler. The ginger is then ready to be prepared by either slicing, mincing, or grating.

One of my favorite suppliers of ginger goodies are The Ginger People who make everything from pickled ginger (which you will usually find at your local sushi bar), to candied ginger, to juices and sauces. These people have it down.


You can also buy ginger in the capsule form which allows you to take it as a daily supplement.

Eat healthy, stay happy!

~j

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Organic?


There are many reasons to eat organic, ranging from the preservation of our environment to the health benefits associated with natural growing practices. In fact, one of the best ways to experience the energetic nature of food is to eat it in its pure and natural state. If you've ever eaten organic food, you probably noticed that it tasted fresher and more flavorful, the colors are often more vibrant and the food itself is void of the waxy texture that is created by the use of harmful chemicals.

It's important to take into consideration that in the grocery store organic food is generally more expensive than conventionally grown food. If you're shopping on a tight budget, spend your money on fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and more specifically, the fruits and vegetables that don't have a peel or can't be peeled like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, peppers, herbs (cilantro, parsley, rosemary), lettuce, etc...

Also, take the time to read labels. If you're not buying organic, it's important to make sure that what you are eating is safe. Stay away from processed foods and foods with a high level of preservatives, and make sure you can not only pronounce everything that is on the label, but also recognize that food source as an actual food source. Example: MSG Monosodium Glutamate. It doesn't grow on a tree, or in the ground, but rather created in a lab and has been shown to increase the occurrence of asthma in those that are sensitive to the substance.

Here are just a few reasons why we should eat more organic...

Organic farming puts less strain on wildlife and the environment; these methods result in less air, water, and land pollution and produce less global warming gases.

The President's Cancer Panel suggests consuming organic food to avoid pesticides which have been linked to several types of cancers.

Organic standards prohibit the practice of genetically modifying crops and ingredients.

Organic food is void of harmful food additives, flavor enhancers, artificial sweeteners (i.e. aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup), contaminants (i.e. mercury) or preservatives, that have been linked to a multitude of health problems.

If you choose to consume animal products, be aware that organic farming standards prohibit the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified vaccines in farm animals. In addition, organic meat and dairy with the labels "free range" and "pasture fed" means that the animals were treated in a more humane and ethical manner.

Although studies have been performed that have yielded mixed results, it has been shown that organic fruits and vegetables contain up to 40% more antioxidants than conventional produce.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eating For Your Health


For those of us dealing with chronic inflammation, it’s important to recognize and understand that what we put in our bodies has everything to do with how we feel. Eliminating processed foods along with consuming more whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, along with foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, allows the body to become more balanced. The "anti-inflammatory diet" uses the right combination of these fats, carbohydrates and proteins to keep inflammation in check.

I recently came across Dr. Weil’s Anti Inflammatory Food Pyramid. (Notice that at the top of this pyramid is dark chocolate and red wine...I knew I liked Dr. Weil, but I also have to remind myself that just because it's at the top, does not mean it should be consumed in that order.) According to this pyramid, you should eat approximately 40 to 50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent of your calories from fats, and 20-30 percent from protein. He encourages you to eat brightly colored foods (kale, watermelon, blueberries, summer squash etc…) that are rich in phytonutrients, which are nutrients found only in plant based foods and have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Here are some examples of healthy, inflammation reducing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins…

Carbohydrates: Basmati rice, wild rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, brown rice pasta, lentils, beans, along with raw vegetables and fresh fruits

Fats: olive oil, canola oil, nut oils (such as walnut oil), nuts such as walnuts and almonds, avocados, hemp seeds and flax seeds and flax seed oil that can be added as a supplement to a salad, or smoothie…

Proteins: Edamame, soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy nuts, salmon, mackarel, sardines, quinoa is also rich in carbohydrates and protein. There are also hemp, pea, rice, or soy protein powders available to add to your morning smoothie. One I use almost every morning is Vega’s Whole Food Smoothie Infusion.

Remember: This is not simply a “diet”…This is a lifestyle change. Making the time to plan your meals and eating healthy as well as mindfully is a necessary step to guarantee your success!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Juicing and a little Raw Foods 101.


Being that I have previously shared my obsession with kick-ass kitchen appliances, I am sure you will both understand and forgive my brief absence here at The Healing Plate due to the addition of my new toy.

A few weeks ago I purchased the Breville Compact Juice Extractor. (Don’t let the name fool you…Although it’s smaller than their larger juicers, I don’t know if I’d classify it as “compact.”) Since I brought it home, I’ve been a juicing fool and have even recruited Josh into my addiction, who now instead of his morning coffee has switched to juice to rev up his engines.

Let’s take a moment to explore the benefits of juicing.

Why make your own juice instead of just buying it from the store? First of all, drinking fresh juice is better than drinking store bought juice because many valuable enzymes and nutrients are lost during the pasteurization process. Pasteurization is a process that heats the product to a temperature high enough to kill certain bacteria and enzymes that unfortunately, can also affect the nutritional content of the juice itself.

Also, when you drink fresh juice, you can be certain that there are no additives or preservatives, therefore, what you are getting is 100% pure, natural juice.

This is one of my favorites, Apple, Carrot, Ginger, Kale, Beet juice...The ginger adds a kick, the beet makes it earthy and the apple and carrots make it sweet. YUM!



Earlier I had mentioned enzymes and nutrients that are in the fruits and vegetables. It is important to recognize that when you cook your food many of these nutrients and enzymes are either lost or broken down during the cooking process, making it more difficult for your body to digest the food in it’s altered state. Juicing your fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure you are incorporating these valuable nutrients and enzymes into your diet.

Look at the beautiful color of the pulp...Which by the way, is excellent for your compost!


You may have heard of the Raw Foods movement; a lifestyle where people consume the majority of their foods in their natural, raw, and unprocessed state. On a trip to Manhattan, I came across a raw foods restaurant called Pure Food and Wine. Josh and I stopped at the Juice and takeaway bar for lunch one day and were thrilled with the intense flavors and unique presentation of their menu. During that trip, I bought their book, Raw Food Real World and read it from beginning to end in one night. I was intrigued and excited to try the recipes. After tinkering around, Josh bought me the Vita-mix blender, and later an Excalibur food dehydrator. Needless, to say, I was hooked, and a few years later was thrilled to preorder Sarma’s new book Living Raw Food

Although I don’t eat exclusively raw, I do eat a large portion of my foods in the raw state, and whenever I have cooked food, I try to incorporate something raw like a salad, or fresh fruit into the meal. The intensity of the flavors and brightness of the colors are so brilliant, it keeps you coming back for more!


I'm soaking the nuts and seeds to make a batch of "Grawnola", and Macadamia cheese...Both recipes in Raw Food Real World.



Okay...Back to juicing. The good thing about juicing is you can pretty much juice anything and it’s going to taste good. Try mixing in greens such as kale and spinach with apples, oranges, carrots, pears and ginger to not only get a healthy serving of fruit, but also your greens and veggies! Make sure if you’re going to juice the peel, like with apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers etc…That you are buying organic, otherwise you may want to peel your food before running it through the juicer to avoid ingesting pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Here is one of my favorite juice recipes, and a great way to get your day started out the right way!


Serves 2

1 apple
1 orange
1pear
2 medium carrots
½ cucumber
1 handful fresh kale
1 one-inch piece ginger

Wash all ingredients, peel the orange (leave some of the pith on, it’s a great source of fiber!) and run through a juicer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Polenta Lasagna


Being that I spent the majority of my last post raving about Daiya Vegan Cheese, I thought it would be appropriate to post a recipe using the product.

In my neighborhood we have this little Italian restaurant named Fat Lorenzo's that is known primarily for their fantastic pizzas and fresh Italian foods. Every so often I'll drive by and catch a whiff of whatever goodness is baking in their oven and fantasize about the days when I used to be able to eat lasagna...*sigh*...And then I am swiftly brought back to reality by the horn of an oncoming vehicle. (Day dreaming while driving is not one of my talents.)

So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this recipe. The rosemary polenta is an excellent stand-in for the traditional lasagna noodles, while the roasted eggplant gives depth, and the mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, and fresh herbs paired with the marinara sauce leaves any lasagna lover's palate satisfied.



The Daiya cheese is perfect in this dish and will remain creamy and melty even when reheated the next day...Did I mention how much I love this stuff?

When I make this dish again (and you can bet your sweet ass I'll be making this again), I'll make sure to thin out my polenta a little more and add a tad bit more marinara to each layer, but other than that, this was absolutely perfect.

Enjoy!

Polenta Lasagna
Serves 6
Recipe from Vegetarian Time
s

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups polenta or cornmeal
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable Filling
1 large eggplant
1 large red bell pepper
2 cups diced mushrooms
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. minced fresh basil
2 Tbs. minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup cooked beans
4 oz. Daiya mozzarella style cheese plus more for the top
3 cups nonfat marinara sauce


1. To make polenta, in large saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta. Stir with whisk, and cook until polenta is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour polenta into two 8x8-inch baking pans until 3/4-inch thick. (You will need two layers of polenta.) Alternatively, pour polenta into 1 large pan and, when cool, cut polenta into two layers to fit size of 8x12-inch lasagna pan. Smooth and level surface with spoon. Let cool, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

3. Preheat oven to 400°F.

4. To roast eggplant, using a knife tip or fork, punch several holes in eggplant, and roast for 45 minutes, or until flesh is soft and skin is charred. Alternatively, grill or broil eggplant. Cut in half and, with spoon, scrape soft flesh from skin and chop coarsely. Increase temperature to 450°F.

5. To roast pepper, either roast it on your gas range until the outside is charred and place in sealed paper bag until cool and safe to handle or place on baking sheet, and cook, turning, until skin chars and flesh softens. Remove from heat, peel, seed and cut into strips. Set aside.

6. Unmold polenta, taking care not to break. If using two 8x8-inch pans, cut the pieces so they fit in 8x12-inch lasagna pan. Reserve single piece of polenta for top layer.

7. Reduce heat to 350°F.

8. To make vegetable filling, in saucepan, combine mushrooms, onions, garlic and 1/4 cup water, and cook over medium heat, covered, until onions are soft. Uncover, and cook until liquid evaporates.

9. Transfer to large bowl, and stir in eggplant, pepper, basil, oregano, beans and Dayia mozzarella-style cheese. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in bottom of lasagna pan. Top with layer of polenta, add layer of filling, spreading it evenly, then another layer of polenta. Add remaining marinara sauce. Top with Parmesan-style cheese. Cover baking dish, or make double layer of parchment paper under aluminum foil to cover dish.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thai-Spiced Stew




Given my somewhat neurotic love for all things Thai and all things soup, when I came across this recipe I was happier than a pig in...Well...You know where I'm going with this.

First off, preparing this was not only simple, it was delightful. The beautiful colors of the fresh vegetables all combined in the soup pot were picture-perfect. I wish I would have taken a photo while the ingredients were in their raw state, but the fact is, I couldn't wait to taste the finished product.

Oink.

I modified the ingredients to my taste, adding a little more curry paste than the original recipe called for, and also adding the red chile paste that gave it a little heat. I also substituted the sugar with agave nectar. Agave nectar is low glycemic and a healthier option for those who are sugar sensitive.

If you'd like to get fancy, you can add a little more by topping with diced avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, both go great with the coconutty, curry flavors famous in Thai cooking.

Enjoy!


Thai-Spiced Stew
By Nava Atlas & Kristen Haney
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly slices
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1-1⁄2 pounds), peeled and diced
3 cups water
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into narrow strips
1-1⁄2 cups frozen green beans
1 teaspoon red or green curry paste, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon red chile paste
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass (optional)
One 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
Salt to taste
One 8-ounce package Thai peanut-flavored baked tofu, diced (optional)
Cilantro leaves for garnish

In a soup pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.
Add the sweet potatoes and water. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are about half done.
Add the bell pepper, green beans, curry paste, sugar, and ginger. If using lemongrass, cut each stalk into 3 or 4 pieces, and bruise by making long cuts throughout with a sharp knife. Stir into the soup pot. Simmer the stew for 10 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter, salt, and tofu. Return to a simmer, then cook over very low heat for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender and the flavors are well integrated.
Remove lemongrass pieces. Taste to adjust seasonings, particularly the curry paste if you'd like a spicier stew, as well as the salt, sugar, and ginger. Serve at once, topping each serving with a few cilantro leaves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CSA Season is near!


Ahhh...Spring. The time of year for rejuvenation, to start fresh, to plant seeds and prepare to watch the magic.

Yesterday, Josh and I were in our backyard clearing away the remnants from last season, and discovered the tips of eager hostas, tiger lillies, wild onions, and other amazing garden fare that although were hidden under the brush and a recently melted blanket of snow, were definitely not forgotten.

We cleared the herb garden where I caught the scent of fresh thyme. The earthy scent made me excited to once again walk outside to gather fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.

If I only had the space to grow more!

And that, my friends, is where the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program comes in handy.

A CSA is a farm share, and provides individual families the opportunity to partner with local farmers. You become a member of a CSA by purchasing a share of the farm's harvest and in turn, receive 18 weeks of fresh, organic produce throughout the growing season (June through September) that is typically delivered on a weekly basis to a local drop site.

Costing between $500-$700 per full share (some farms offer half shares for half the cost) that will feed a family of four, you will receive a wide variety of produce depending on your chosen farm's offering. Typical produce, by season, includes,

Spring: Kale, Broccoli, Lettuce, Bunching Onions, Radishes, Spinach, Salad Mix, Swiss Chard, Sugar Peas, Collards.

Summer: Basil, Beets, Bell Peppers, Cabbage, Carrots, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Melons, Garlic, Green Beans, Jalapenos, Leeks, Lettuce, Bulb Onons, Parsley, Potato, Sugar Peas, Specialty Peppers, Summer Squash, Sweet Corn, Roma Tomatoes, Zucchini,Turnips, Parsnips.

Fall: Basil, Beets, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts,Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Eggpant, Leeks, Lettuce, Storage Onions, Parsley, Pie Pumpkin, Potato, Radishes, Spinach, Winter Squash, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Turnips, Zucchini, Kohlrabi, Kale, Collards.

Not only is this a great way to incorporate more fresh produce into your diet, it also supports your local farmers that will in turn, support your community. Plus, you get to experiment with new recipes and find fun things to do with kohlrabi, collards, and bok choy!

For a CSA near you, visit the Local Harvest Website, an organization that has compiled a nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets and other local sources of sustainably grown food.

Stay tuned this summer for weekly installments of fun and creative recipes inspired from my CSA!

Happy Spring!

~j

Friday, March 12, 2010

Red Pepper-Carrot Soup


Every once in a while I make a new recipe and I hate it. Usually, it's because it's too bland, and when you're making a meal the last thing you want it to be is bland.

Incidentally, that is the first thing I thought when I tried this soup. Boring and bland. Even after adding a little cumin into the mix, I still didn't think this could stand on it's own.

Fortunately, I was planning on serving it with the Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps, a dish that has so much flavor and is so bold on it's own that it welcomes a more mild side, where this soup fits that bill to a tee.

The roasted red peppers and carrots in the soup are wonderful additions to the strong flavors of the lettuce wraps and it's mildness is a welcome reprieve from the heat of it's sidekick.

When I roasted the red peppers I placed them on the burners of my gas stove-top, slowly rotating them until the outsides were black. I then enclosed them in a paper bag and let them sit and cool before peeling off the skin. This will save you time over how they suggest you do it in the recipe, but if you don't have a gas stove, you can stick to the instructions.

Red Pepper-Carrot Soup
Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine February 2010
Serves 6


2 large red bell peppers (1 lb)
plus slices for garnish, optional
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin (I added this in for more flavor)
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bell peppers on baking sheet, and roast 1 hour, or until skin is wrinkled and blackened all over, turning peppers occasionally with tongs. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap 10 minutes to steam. When peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off blackened peel, and remove seeds.

Heat oil in 2qt saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, cumin, and bay leaf, and stir 10 seconds. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and salt. Cover, and cook 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent.

Add 4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, 25 minutes.

Transfer carrot mixture to blender, add bell peppers, ad puree until smooth. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish servings will bell pepper slices, if using.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Spaghetti with Torn Fresh Basil



Life can be a bit hectic. I get that. Which is why I want to remind you that when life gets crazy, it's important to remember to take care of yourself.

We live in a country where faster and cheaper is supposed to be "better." But when it comes to our food, we need to stop and take the time (or make the time) to make sure that we are feeding our bodies the best that is available.

After all, for all our bodies do for us, it's the least we can do to return the favor.

The following is a quick and easy recipe filled with fresh veggies, grains, and protein. Being that it is void of meat or tofu, you may be asking yourself, where is the protein?

Remember the quinoa spaghetti from the last recipe? High in protein, (6 grams per serving) quinoa has all the essential amino acids, is easy to digest, and is also high in fiber and iron.

With all its natural, whole goodness, this recipe raises the temperature of my spring fever...Warmer days are on their way!

Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Spaghetti with Torn Fresh Basil
Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine February 2010
Serves 6


2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 package Quinoa spaghetti
1/2 cup torn fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together mushrooms, asparagus, onion, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large roasting pan. Roast 20 minutes, or until mushrooms and onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Add tomatoes to pan, and roast 7 to 10 minutes more, or until tomatoes shrivel and soften. Transfer vegetables to bowl. Add wine to roasting pan, stirring to scrape off any stuck-on bits from the bottom of pan. Return roasting pan to oven 5 minutes and let the wine cook off.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Stir cooking water into reduced wine in roasting pan.

Return pasta to pot. Add wine mixture and vegetables, and toss over medium-low heat until heated throughout. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in torn fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ginger-Peanut Salad



Remember the days of your youth when you were stuck in a church basement amongst a sea of cold pasta salads and random vegetables such as carrots and celery that were mysteriously encased in jello?

Whenever I hear the words "cold salad" I think exactly of that. That is, up until now.

I'm a sucker for Thai food. The peanut sauces, the ginger, garlic, cilantro and richness of the flavors are what inevitably bring me running back for more.

The original recipe calls for soba noodles, which are not gluten free, so instead I substituted quinoa spaghetti.

Let's talk about quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah").

Referred to as "The Mother Grain" by the Incas (who were so amazed by it's benefits that they held it to be sacred), quinoa is very high in protein, contains a balanced set of amino acids making it a complete protein, and is also high in fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, and iron. Not only is quinoa gluten free, but it is also low-glycemic making it an excellent choice for diabetics.

When prepared in it's natural state, quinoa has mild, slightly nutty flavor and it's texture is light and fluffy making it an excellent (and more nutritional) stand in for couscous or rice. (Stay tuned for more recipes containing quinoa!)

But when it comes down to it, the sauce in this recipe is the kicker. The creaminess of the peanut butter along with the sassiness of the ginger, garlic, and cilantro make me want to pack my bags, convert to Buddhism and move to Thailand. It's just that good.

So the next time you find yourself looking for a cold salad to bring to a picnic or a party, (church basement optional) give this one a whirl...You won't regret it!


Ginger-Peanut Salad
Recipe, in part, by Melynda Saldenais as published in the Whole Foods Market flyer
Serves 4

1 8 oz package quinoa spaghetti
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1 Tbs agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
2 tsp tamari
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp fresh lime zest
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced(1 1/2 cups)
1 small red bell pepper, sliced (1 cup)
1 large carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
2 Tbs chopped peanuts, optional

Cook noodles according to package. Rinse under cold water, drain.

Puree peanut butter, vinegar, agave nectar, ginger, tamari, garlic, lime juice, lime zest, and 1/4 cup cilantro in blender until smooth, adding 2 to 3 Tbs warm water to thin, if necessary.

Toss together noodles, veggies, and peanut butter mixture. Garnish with remaining cilantro and peanuts, if using.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Apple-Parsnip Bisque


I know...MORE SOUP!

Just stick with me here people. It's cold and I've been busy therefore, soup it is!

When many people think of a bisque they immediately calculate how many spin classes it will take to work off the bowl of richness that will undoubtedly end up on their thighs.

Not this bisque.

At first glance you may think this soup looks "creamy."

Good eye, because it is and mainly in part to the roasted vegetables. You see, when you roast vegetables their flavors concentrate which lends a richness without the addition of cream.

The sweetness of the apples combined with the natural spiciness of the parsnips and the earthiness of the sage and thyme allows this soup to stand on it's own.

I paired it with my gluten-free vegan jalapeno corn bread topped with a drizzle of honey.

Apple Parsnip Bisque

2 pounds sweet apples (such as Fuji) peeled, cored, and quartered
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into one-inch dice
1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice
1 large yellow onion, cut into 6 pieces, layers pulled apart
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
10 large sage leaves
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (stripped from stems)
8 cups plain rice milk

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss together apples, parsnips, sweet potatoes, onion, oil, salt and pepper. Arrange evenly in an 11 x 17-inch pan with an edge. Place in lower third of oven and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring veggies and rotation pan every 15 minutes. When everything is fork-tender and nicely browned, remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

2. Working in batches, puree apple-vegetable mixture, sage and thyme in a blender or food processor, adding enough rice milk to allow soup to move freely. Process each batch for 2-3 minutes to ensure a smooth texture,

3. Pour soup into a medium saucepan. Stir in any remaining rice milk. Simmer gently for 15 minutes to infuse flavors.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Healing Thoughts; When Life Comes Knocking


Photo: Fort Snelling, January 2010

I've been taking a writing class to help me compile and refine the content I have for a book that I am writing about my life with RA. The class has been a great resource for me, and has allowed me to explore more of my experience, and recount it in ways that are not only more creative, but also more personal and therefore more interesting.

We were given an assignment to do some "discovery writing." I decided to pick a phrase that I have thought about more than once throughout the recent years. "When life comes knocking."

I wanted to share my writing on this subject because I strongly believe that the way I took control when things started to go south had just as much to do with my recovery as the food I was eating.


***********************************************************

Life can come knocking at your door at the most inopportune time. Like when you just get out of the shower, have your hair up in a towel and are waltzing around the house in your bunny slippers…

“KNOCK KNOCK.”

You answer the door, and there is Life, staring at you with a big old box marked “fragile.”

You close the door, carry your package that life just handed you to the kitchen counter and open it.

When you look inside, you are devastated that not only is it not the package you were expecting, but it’s one you never thought you’d ever receive.

Nine years ago Life knocked on my door.

When I first opened the package Life handed me, I wasn’t sure what it was. I had to weed through a few years of styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap until I knew exactly what I was dealing with.

After spending a considerable amount of time in the dark, not knowing what it was that afflicted me, that prevented me from doing everyday things without a significant amount of pain, I was finally able to see what I was given.

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

This package that life had dropped off finally had a name, and it came to me in a gigantic nonsensical heap of unmatched wooden building blocks.

I was relieved, but now what would I do with it?

It was big and it was awkward. It caused me unimaginable pain and made me question how exactly I was going to get through life carrying it on my back.

It wasn’t something that I could hide in the back of a closet, or display proudly on a mantle, and I certainly couldn’t “re-gift” it. …I wouldn’t re-gift this package to anyone.

And that’s when it hit me.

Taking this package for what it was will do nothing for me, it’s what I do with it that will make all the difference in the world.

I started with the first block. I researched diet and it’s effect on autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. I learned about foods that create inflammation, such as wheat, eggs, dairy, and red meat.

After that I was able to pick up the second block and make the necessary changes to take my life back by eating a gluten free, mostly vegan, whole foods diet.

After those first two blocks, things started to get easier.

The pain had decreased significantly allowing me to pick up more blocks and claim this package as my own.

I was able to add more familiar blocks, taking the things that I had previously enjoyed in life such as group cycling, step aerobics and yoga that allowed me to incorporate who I was into what I was becoming.

Suddenly, I was no longer consumed by this package Life handed me, it was me who consumed the package.

Sometimes we don’t know exactly how strong we are until we take on Life at full force. Often it takes overcoming obstacles and experiencing pain to appreciate the true joys that Life offers.

Most importantly, it prepares you for when the next time Life comes knocking, you’ll be ready.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Holy Moly Guacamole!


By looking at the above photo, you may be thinking to yourself, "What the hell happened to Jenni's kitchen?"

THAT, ladies and gentlemen is what happens when I make guacamole-It's like hurricane Don Pablos came through and transformed my kitchen into Little Mexico.

For those who are unaware of the awesomeness of my guacamole, prepare yourself, and for those of you who are aware, you no longer have an excuse to not make this and instead have me make it every time we get together.

With that being said, being that the Super Bowl is only a few days away, I thought I would post my recipe for guacamole, and let you be the judge.

Here's the deal with guacamole. It's great as a stand alone appetizer with chips or veggies, but it's also a great substitution for cheese on Mexican food, and since I have yet to find a soy cheese good enough to take home to mother, I'm more than happy to stick with the guac.

Now, on to the avocados.

How do you know when they're ripe? Easy. If you can throw them through a window, they're not ripe. OR, instead of getting yourself kicked out of the grocery store for breaking shit, you could just feel them and if they are soft enough to lightly squeeze but not smoosh (That's right, I wrote "smoosh." The technicality of all of this is amazing, isn't it?), they are ripe.

I have to mention that I never measure anything when I make guacamole, so these measurements are on the conservative side. If you want to add less or more of any ingredient, please do so-It's your guac for crying out loud!

This batch is large enough to take to a party, so you will probably want to halve it if it's just for a few people...Or not. Whatever blows your skirt up.

Holy Moly Guacamole!
5 ripe avocados.
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, insides cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds discarded, minced
1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
Lawry's Seasoned Salt to taste
Few drops (or more if you're not a complete wuss) of Cholula hot sauce or Tobasco
One small handful freshly chopped cilantro

Peel and avocados and remove the pit. Place in bowl and mash with either a fork, or a potato masher, whichever is easier.

Add the lime juice and stir, then and the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stir-Fried Shiitake Mushrooms with Tofu and Bok Choy



Let's forget about the fact that during the evening my kitchen has horrible photographic lighting, and instead, let's talk about stir-fries.

They're generally quick, easy and an excellent way to incorporate whole grains, veggies and protein into one bowl.

I snagged this recipe out of the February 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine where it was incidentally placed in a grouping of recipes that all contained mushrooms.

Mushrooms.

Either you love 'em, or you hate 'em.

I happen to love them. They add an earthy taste and they are also very good for you, bringing to the table oodles of potassium, selenium and B vitamins. They are also one of the few plant sources of vitamin D...And we could all use a little more vitamin D these days. (Especially us folks living in Minnesota in February.)

Here's the deal. The main reason why I love this recipe so is the use of fresh ingredients, no frozen "stir fry mixes", just good fresh food. The bok choy adds an excellent crunch, as the tofu takes on the flavor of the ginger and the garlic and the spice of the sriracha, while the earthiness of the shiitake mushrooms make this a perfect, well rounded dish.

I served this with brown basmati rice and a cup of green tea.

Enjoy!

Stir-Fried Shiitake Mushrooms with Tofu and Bok Choy
Serves 4

1tsp cornstarch
2 Tbs tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp Thai chile sauce, such as sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp agave nectar (This is my own addition, I like my sauce a little on the sweet side)
3 Tbs canola oil, divided
1 14-oz pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 lb box choy, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms

Whisk together cornstarch and 1 tsp water in a bowl. Whisk in soy sauce, ginger, chile sauce, garlic, sesame oil and agave.

Heat 1 Tbs, canola oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry tofu until golden brown; transfer to plate. Add 1 Tbs. canola oil to wok. Stir fry bok choy 4 minutes; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 1 Tbs. oil to wok. Stir-fry mushrooms for 2 minutes, or until tender. Return tofu and bok choy to wok. Stir in soy sauce mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute or until hot.

Gratuitous Nutritional Chart
PER 1 CUP SERVING: 267 calories; 13 g protein; 17 g total fat (2g saturated fat) 18 g carb; 0mg chol; 396mg sodium; 5 g fiber; 5 g sugars

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food And Inflammation; Dairy's Dirty Little Secret

Inflammation. It can show itself in forms as obvious as joint pain, acne, and asthma , to forms less obvious and often silent, like heart disease.

In the last few years there have been more studies on how diet has a direct affect on the inflammation in your body. In other words, certain foods we eat have shown to increase inflammation therefore triggering pain and discomfort.

Among those common food related pain triggers (or common allergens) are meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy and certain citrus fruits. Many of these foods play major roles in issues such as joint pain, migraine headaches, asthma, digestive problems, and may be the triggering factor of many autoimmune diseases.

Interestingly enough, a large part of your immune system actually hangs out in your intestines and GI tract. When your body is intolerant to a certain food, your immune system kicks in which creates inflammation.

For example. As we age, we loose the enzyme to digest dairy. When our bodies can't digest something, it can cause our immune system to recognize that food source as trouble and may trigger an inflammatory response.

Lactose intolerant? You see commercials and advertisements for over the counter remedies everywhere. We are all lactose intolerant to some extent.

If you really stop to think about it, we are the only species that drinks milk from another species. Does it really "do a body good?"

When I stopped eating all dairy over three years ago, one of the first things I noticed (besides a significant decrease in joint pain) was that my nails weren't as brittle and were much stronger.

But more interesting than my finger nails, is that when you look at the countries that have the highest consumption of dairy (sourced form the cow) per capita, they also have the highest rate of osteoporosis per capita.

Food for thought, no?

So what can you do to fight inflammation?

You can start with eating a mostly plant based diet made up of real food. In other words, get rid of that processed crap.

A few years ago I read Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food" where he outlined a few simple rules that I always stick to when grocery shopping. A few of them being;

1). Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (or better yet, your local farmers market, when you can.). It's where all the healthy stuff is.
2). If it has more than five ingredients, don't buy it.
2). Make sure those five ingredients can be pronounced by your average third grader.
3). If your great great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't buy it.

Eat foods like leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa (that is not only hight in protein but also in fiber). Beans, nuts, seeds and legumes are also another excellent source of protein and high in dietary fiber.

Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to lower inflammation, aide in cancer prevention, increase immune function, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. It was also shown that Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferrers who took Omega 3 supplements had benefits comparable to those taking NSAIDS (Non-sterodial-anti-inflammatory-drugs.)

Foods that contain high amounts of Omega 3's are flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and pecans, or if you're into fish choose cold water oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.

The most important thing is to realize that you don't have to sacrifice taste in order to be healthy. It wasn't until I went mostly vegan (with the occasional exception of fish...Escolar you complete me) that I realized how much I had been missing, and how much flavor and depth are in the foods that we often ignore.

Keep your eyes open for more recipes...Coming soon!

Happy eating!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rosemary Socca


For those of you who aren't particularly familiar with French cuisine, the Socca is a flat cake made up primarily of chickpea flour and olive oil, baked in an oven in a cast iron pan and served warm.

Great for gluten free folk, socca is an excellent addition to salads or served as an appetizer with a tapanade or topped with vegetarian antipasto such as marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and or roasted red peppers.

I was first introduced to socca while visiting L'Etoile, a fine dining restaurant in the heart of downtown Madison, WI. One of the many great things about this restaurant is that their menu is inspired by local, sustainable farms and therefore changes regularly.

When my brother-in-law's girlfriend made reservations, she informed the manager that a gluten free vegan would be in tow. Their response? No problem! We'll have a dish prepared especially for her.

And what a dish it was!

Savory chickpea pancakes (socca) with steamed baby bok choy and a wild mushroom ragout. The flavors were exceptional and I was absolutely amazed at the socca. I knew the moment I tasted it I had to go home and figure out how to make it myself to share with as many people as possible.

So, I did, and they're fabulous!

You can thank me later.

Socca
Recipe in-part from RecipeZaar

Ingredients
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, both green and white parts sliced thin
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaf, minced
Directions

Place heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet in oven and preheat to 450.

In a large bowl, sift chickpea flour, pepper and salt together. After sifting, add rosemary leaves.

Whisk in warm water and 2 tbsp olive oil.

Cover the bowl and allow the batter set for at least 30 minutes, which should have the consistency of thick cream. Stir sliced onion and pressed garlic into the batter.

Remove skillet from oven. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the hot pan, pour batter into pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pancake is firm and the edges are set (top may not be browned).

Set socca a few inches below your broiler for 1-2 minutes, just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut into wedges and serve hot, with toppings of your choice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Skinny on Sulfates


I love me some wine.

And lately you have more than likely heard or read about the benefits of drinking wine in moderation.

(Key word being moderation, for an example of drinking wine in excess, see the above photo of my husband.)

These benefits range from lowering the risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer, to actually decreasing the decline of brain function (Above photo possible evidence in that particular study).

First of all, there are many different theories on whether or not people with RA or other autoimmune diseases should be drinking any alcohol, period. For me, it's (again) all about balance.

So, if we're going to be drinking wine, what kind of wine should we be drinking?

Through my expertise (ahem) on wine consumption, I have found that I react to wine containing added sulfites.

Almost all wines contain natural sulfites, however many wine makers add sulfites to stop fermentation, and also to act as a preservative. Although all forms of sulfites can cause reactions, I found that drinking wine with added sulfites raises the chances of having an adverse reaction to the wine.

When picking up a bottle of wine I always look for the organic wines that contain "no added sulfites." Wines bottled after 1987 must provide notice on the label that they contain sulfites.

My favorite wine comes from the Orleans Hill Winery. Not only are they sulfite free, but also vegan, organic, and mighty tasty.

If you're going to get all fancy and pair a wine with a meal, the general rule of thumb is to pair lighter wines with lighter meals such as a Chardonnay with a salad, or a Pinot Grigio with a grilled fish, whereas red wines go with heavier dishes such as pastas and Tater Tot Hotdish...

...Just seeing if you were paying attention...

We all know that Tater Tot Hotdish goes best with Boone's Farm straight out of a paper bag.

But that's an entirely different post.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Apricot Glazed Salmon with Butternut Squash Risotto and Roasted Asparagus


First off, you may be wondering where salmon comes into play in a food blog that is primarily vegan. I say, it's all about balance.

Awhile ago I discussed my occasional love for seafood. I've been known to grill up a salmon fillet or two, bake some cod, stir fry some shrimp, or belly up to the sushi bar with a few friends and a black lacquered boat full of raw goodness.

The one thing I do make certain of when buying seafood is that it's fresh and it's caught as sustainably as possible. The good folks at Whole Foods do an excellent job at making sure their fish meets these standards, and that is why I buy all of my seafood from them.

Simply put, if you're going to eat fish (or any type of meat for that matter) know where it's coming from and how it got from it's home to your plate.

Moving on.

One of my favorite things to do is to watch Rachel Ray and find a way to rip off her recipes and make them something that I can eat.

A few months ago Rachel made Apricot Glazed Chicken with Butternut Squash Risotto and Roasted Broccolini. Being that I am not a fan of eating chicken, and I don't use any butter or cheese in my cooking you would think this recipe would be a challenge.

Wrong.

As we learned earlier, the natural creaminess of risotto makes it easy to skip all the unnecessary butter and cheese that many recipes call for. So, while Rachel was busy loading on the artery clogging cholesterol, I was busy imagining myself bathing in a silken pool of butternut squash and sage.

Also, being I am not a fan of vegetable hybrids, I chose instead to serve this dish with grilled asparagus drizzled with olive oil and a touch of salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

About the glaze, if I remember right Rachel's recipe seemed a bit boring, so I decided to add a little kick to my glaze and chose to make one with a bit of ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and a little honey. The sweetness of the glaze is a great compliment to the salmon and lets the flavor of the fish shine without being too heavy or overpowering.

All in all, my version of Rachel's meal turned out to not only be healthier, but also just as, if not more "delish" than the original.

Enjoy!

Apricot Glazed Salmon
1 1/2 cups apricot nectar (juice)
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Lowfat cooking spray

1 12-ounce fresh skinless salmon fillet, about an inch thick

1. In a small saucepan, stir in all ingredients for the glaze then bring to boiling at medium-high. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil your baking dish. Generously coat the salmon with some of the glaze and cook the fish 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. For the last five minutes place the fish under the broiler, turn on high and use a pastry brush to baste the fish with some of the apricot glaze every few minutes.
3. Serve salmon with glaze.

Butternut Squash Risotto
One 32-ounce container (4 cups) vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
One 12-ounce box frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
Nutmeg
Salt and pepper
10 leaves fresh sage, slivered

1.In a large saucepan, bring the veggie broth and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low.

2.In a large skillet, heat the olive oil 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. When the oil is rippling, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast for 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.Add 2 ladlefuls of the warm veggie broth to the rice and stir until the liquid evaporates. Repeat with the remaining broth, cooking the risotto until creamy, about 18 minutes. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, stir in the squash; season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Top with the sage.

**NOTE** This recipe makes a VERY large batch of risotto that is supposed to serve 6, so if you don't want to be eating risotto into 2011 you can halve this batch and it will be more than enough for two or even four people.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew


Being that the weather here in Minneapolis is barely making it out of the negative digits these days, I decided to make this dish last night to warm myself up. Good news. It worked.

Butternut squash, red potatoes, cumin and saffron cooked together in a stew complimented with crisp preserved lemons and green olives....Mmmmmm...And you know what the best part about this dish is?

The leftovers.

Well, the leftovers and it's simple to make.

The only issue I came across was locating the preserved lemons which I ended up finding at Cooks of Crocus Hill (for you Twin Cities folk). However, they also can be found at Sur La Table. If you don't have either of those stores nearby, you can simply substitute some lemon zest and call it a day.

Now on to the green olives. I don't think they're entirely necessary for this dish to be good, in fact, the next time I make this dish I will more than likely either omit them, or just use a half a cup instead of the whole shebang. Either way, it's your choice...If you love green olives, then knock yourself out!

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew
Recipe courtesy Aida Mollenkamp
1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound butternut squash, large dice
3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
Pinch saffron threads, optional, but I HIGHLY recommend them
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (recommend: Cerignola)
Basmati rice, prepared for serving
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish

Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over basmati rice garnished with cilantro and almonds.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Listen To Your Body


The human body is a miraculous instrument. Taking into consideration everything we do in a given day from something as simple as getting out of bed, to something more complicated like driving a vehicle, to a completely automatic response such as breathing, we do almost ALL of it without even a thought.

And that's the thing, how much do we really think about our bodies and are we listening to them when they are talking to us?

I didn't consider the complexities of my body nearly as much as when I started noticing the symptoms of RA. At that point it was hard not to listen because my joints were literally SCREAMING at me, which made it difficult to ignore.

Our bodies tell us things every day, and we do a pretty good job of ignoring them. We're tired, we drink caffeine, we have a headache we take pain pills, we have acne, we spend billions of dollars trying to clear it up. But have we ever stopped to consider that there may be underlying causes to our ailments?

Recent studies, along with my own personal experience, have shown that there is a link between diet and auto immune diseases and the food that we put in our bodies has a direct effect on our overall wellness. In other words, you eat like crap, you feel like crap. Plain and simple.

Or is it?

Eating is an automatic response to our bodies telling us that we're hungry, but it is also an emotional process that incorporates feelings such as comfort, joy and pleasure.

At my last check-up my doctor asked me why I thought more people who have similar health issues don't take a proactive approach and try eating more healthy. My response was that many people don't know that the food they're eating may be the cause of their problems, and also that food is such an emotional subject that it takes time for people to not only come to terms with it, but also to adjust to a new way of doing things.

With that being said, there needs to be better education on holistic alternatives for the general medical community and less emphasis on "there's a pill for every problem." Not saying that I don't believe in modern medicine, I do however believe that our bodies have the remarkable capabilities of healing themselves and not only are we not always listening to them, we're not giving them enough credit.

It's time we make a conscious effort to listen more to our bodies and what they're telling us, and to take the time to figure out what we can do to live more happily and healthfully. After all, it's the least we can do.