Browse Tag by Low Cholesterol
Brunch, Italian, Main Dishes, Mediterranean, Sides

Eggplant-Tomato Stacks w/ Vegan Ricotta

eggplant ricotta close up

These eggplant-tomato stacks are inspired by a recipe for eggplant parmesan I found in The Meatless Gourmet, a cookbook published in ’95 by Bonnie Hinman (co-author of the Lean and Luscious book series, as indicated on the cover), a cookbook of my mom’s that for as long as I can remember has sat nestled between New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant (1987). That book always fascinated me due to its endorsement by Francis Moore Lappe (author of Diet For a Small Planet) and influenced by Mollie Katzan, founder of Moosewood Restaurant, author of Moosewood Cookbook, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Despite my infatuation with those books ever since I can remember knowing what “vegetarian” meant, as I grew older and cut out dairy, eggs, etc. I wondered why the moosewood recipes involved so much butter and cream. The book is gorgeous and deliciously vintage in terms of typography and photography; however, I always found it confusing when turing to a page that exhibited a photograph of a very thin, vibrant-looking individual (or group of individuals) riding bikes or picnicking, when the majority of recipes involved such an asinine amount of fattening diary products.




Of course, this version is vegan—and eliminates the carb- and gluten-laden breadcrumbs and the oil typically present in eggplant parmesan or similar dishes.

Eggplant Ricotta Stacks

Ingredients

1 eggplant
1 beefsteak tomato
1 batch vegan ricotta (see below)
prepared marinara sauce, optional
greens for garnish/side, optional

eggplant ricotta stacks
eggplant stacks ricotta

for the vegan ricotta
5oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp cashew butter
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 artichoke hearts (from a can packed in water)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
black pepper

Add 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water to a blender or food processor. Let sit for 2 minutes until it forms a gel.

Add the cashew butter, artichokes, lime juice, and 2 Tbsp water/brine from the artichokes. Add more water/brine if additional liquid is needed for the ingredients to blend. The result should be mostly smooth, enough to pulverize the chia seeds and artichoke hearts—with a texture that resembles a thick sauce. Set aside. Mash/crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands, to achieve a texture similar to ricotta cheese. Add the cashew-artichoke mixture gradually, and stir to combine. Cover, and set aside.




Slice eggplant cross-wise to create circular pieces of 1cm thickness. Spread pieces on a lightly oiled broiler pan or cookie sheet large enough to avoid overlap (a little overlap is ok, and probably unavoidable depending on the size of your eggplant). Broil on low for 6-7 minutes on each side, until lightly browned, turning once. As the eggplant browns, slice the tomato in “standard” cuts i.e. like the type you would find at a sandwich bar or the kind served on hamburgers.

Remove eggplant from oven. When cool enough to touch, proceed to make the stacks.

Create stacks in layers with a piece of eggplant as the base, spread the vegan ricotta, then add a tomato slice; top with another slice of eggplant, then another layer of vegan ricotta, topped with another slice of tomato. In other words: eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato, ricotta, eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato.

3 eggplant ricotta stacks

When finished, broil stacks on low for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the tomatoes don’t appear fully cooked, return to the oven for another minute or two, checking to make sure they don’t burn.

Enjoy with a side of greens i.e. baby kale (pictured) and marinara sauce for dipping i.e. the Engine 2 oil-free, no-sugar-added tomato-basil marinara sold exclusively at Whole Foods and is suddenly all the rage and I purchased in order to review it (in an upcoming post)

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Breakfast, Brunch, Cleanse, Dessert, Detox

Holiday Detox Survival Kit, Part 3

edamame

The key to a detox or cleanse lies in the ability to eliminate unnecessary foods and substances. To cleanse from that bottle of Pinot Noir or the sweet potato fries at the hipster establishment you dined at yesterday with an unsuccessful date you paired with via OK-Cupid, you might find yourself at a loss for what to eat or drink while watching reruns of The O.C. and cursing your problems. That’s where easy breezy omni-dieting comes in handy. Continue Reading

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Main Dishes, Skinny Pasta, Soups

Nikujaga

NikujagaEntering the winter months, we can’t go wrong in preparing healthy stews and soups for ourselves, our family, and our friends. I had a nightmare last night in which a nurse held me down with a flu shot needle/syringe in her hand. No joke. I recall screaming at her “just because I passed up the free flu shots at CVS…doesn’t mean I want your injection”. Oh, the horror. My dream state (a futuristic, fantastical version of real life) mandated flu shots in an Orwellian sort of way. In other words, Big Brother finally caught up with us. I have nightmares over flu shots as a result of the time I traveled to Mexico to work and the employer required vaccinations. I was 19. As a vegan of 4 years at the time, the fact that the hospital exclusively used egg-based up-the-nose vaccinations (which I later found is also legal in the States) freaked me out. The thing was–if I didn’t comply and go through with this vaccination I would lose the opportunity to work and travel abroad. The verdict? As I predicted, I got sick. I stayed in bed for a week, suffering from influenza. In other words, I got sick from the flu vaccine.

…Moving on to the point of this post, which describes and documents my decision to eat soup every day as opposed to subjecting myself to the terror of flu shots:

Nikujaga

I first discovered the traditional recipe for Nikukjaga whilst perusing the shelves at an Asian market. I experienced this recently, and found that the market in question sells shiritaki noodles for a fraction of the price it goes for at Safeway, Lucky, Fred Meyer, HEB, or other brand-name stores. The purchase I made influenced me to study happiness economics, or the economics of happiness. As a person on a limited budget, I can identify with many other individuals in the USA, I assume. So, to avoid over-intellectualizing things–I’ll continue with the ways in which you can make this dish in a paleo-vegan fashion.Nikujaga (2)
Nikujaga or 肉じゃが is a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and stewed in sweetened soy sauce and vegetables. Potatoes often make up the bulk of it, with meat mostly serving as a condiment. The stew typically boils until at least 90% liquid reduces.

Nikujaga is a common home-cooked winter dish, often served in place of or to accompany miso soup.

To Veganize Nikujaga:

First off, we will of course eliminate the beef. Second, make sure you have carrots, onions, green beans on hand. Preferably, you will have ginger, garlic, and onion. The paleo-vegan “cheat” I used in this recipe is diakon radish to substitute for additional potatoes. Also, daikon is often used in Japanese cuisine. The recipe for Nijujaga that I found on a package of shiritaki noodles from a Korean market did not call for it, but in my adaptation it eliminates 20 carbs per serving. If you don’t have access to that type of radish, use any other radish. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

PaleoVegan Nikujaga:

Ingredients

2 x 4″ square pieces kombu seaweed
2 cups water
1 small red potato, chopped
4 green beans
1/2 large diakon radish, chopped
1 onion, minced
1″ piece ginger, minced
1 tsp red chiles, granulated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 package shirataki noodles, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups water
1 pkg. stevia granules (equivalent to 1 sugar packet).
1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

Method

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add the kombu seaweed, cover the pot, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Drain and rinse shirataki noodles. Heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil (or your oil of choice) in a wok or soup pot over medium heat. Saute the potato, onion, carrot, ginger, red chiles, and diakon radish. Once you’ve sauteed the vegetables, reduce heat to low.

Remove kombu from the water and add water to the soup pot. Now add the drained and rinsed shirataki noodles, the 2 Tbsp sake, and 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce. Stir. Cook until most of the water evaporates, or when the texture begins to resemble a stew.
Nikujaga (1)Enjoy frequently, especially during flu season. Add fresh-cut lime as a garnish, to improve the flavor and increase the Vitamin C content.

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Breakfast, Main Dishes, Salads, Sides, Snacks

1 Food You Should Learn to Make in College

…when you don’t want to eat like this:
college-food-pyramid (1)

College is difficult to navigate on many levels, with or without the dreaded “freshman 15”. In my case, as a raw vegan, I could’ve avoided it easily with a bit of planning ahead–but unfortunately (as a raw vegan entering college at 17) there weren’t any resources geared toward people of my demographic. Sure, vegan how-to guides for college students existed…but most of those focused on the need to appeal to a younger or otherwise “college-age” crowd, i.e. the irony was so thick you could cut it with a knife. *Disclaimer: The copy in those books never ceased to be clever, and for that I think they’re great. I adapted many of the recipes to suit a raw food diet and later said recipes actually became quite helpful. That said, the avocado-date-kale smoothies I made in the dorm kitchen prior to moving out did not do me many favors in terms of staying fit. The walks from work to school and drinking coffee instead of breakfast did. I’m not saying you should skip breakfast, in college or otherwise. Knowing your body takes time. It’s complicated. The recipe that saved my physique, taking the place of too much fat and sugar, as well as too much coffee, in order to stay alert and not fall asleep in class…is this:wakake-carrot-tahini

Wakame-Carrot-Tahini Bowl

I invented this after acquiring a food processor at Goodwill in February 2008 that I noticed while in search of cassette tapes (this was pre-smartphone/iPhone, obviously) for my 1996 Subaru Outback. I admit I’m a bit of a blender snob (if that’s a thing; I doubt it is) so the 1985 Oster blender caught my eye immediately. So did the 1981 food processor. Ironically and to my sheer and utter delight, I found both that day. After that fateful second-hand shopping spree, inevitably my raw (and later, paleovegan) recipes started to require a food processor or blender. Take note, parents and grandparents of college students or other progeny with hectic schedules: sometimes you can’t take the time to eat a salad. It is, however, possible to throw said salad in a blender, pour it in a coffee mug, and drink it on the way to class or to work.

Despite the monologue regarding blenders, this post concerns a recipe that doesn’t require one. (It was merely to foreshadow upcoming posts for future recipes geared toward paleovegan college students). This wakame-carrot-tahini bowl incorporates every component of the type of meal that scientific studies have proven to meet the requirements of satisfaction regarding the human palate. It’s true: see this article. It also contains 160 calories…about the same as a Luna bar, a Lara bar, or other “bar” I previously relied on for a “snack”. It does contain fat (13g) but the absence of oil makes it paleo. I lost 10 pounds after eliminating oil, avocados, and bananas from my diet. *Note, I’m not against the consumption of avocados or bananas. In fact, I actually really like them. It’s just not natural, in my opinion, to eat them in non-tropical regions of the world. If you live in a tropical climate and those fruits are available in-season, locally…you should incorporate them into your otherwise balanced paleovegan diet.

wakake-carrot-tahini (2)

The Need for Seaweed

I’m discovering more and more how significant a part seaweed plays in a paleovegan diet no matter where you live. Seaweed is available and sourced naturally from one end of the earth to the other. Wherever there’s ocean, seaweed exists. Granted, some states and provinces are landlocked…but never more than halfway across a continent from a beach. Eat seaweed. But do take note of the semi-recent radiation scare re: Fukushima…and also be aware of the fact that only hijiki seaweed is thought to have been affected. So, avoid hijiki if you’re worried about the potential radiation (which many studies show did not actually affect the seaweed) but don’t worry about other varieties. Seaweed contains iodine, a nutrient missing in most other foods but considered important according to science. A member of the algae family, the plethora of seaweed available falls into three different categories: brown, red and green. The most commonly used by chefs throughout the world are the brown varieties such as wakame (the seaweed used in this recipe) followed by kelp (of which there are so many varieties I can’t list them here). Then there is red seaweed, a subgroup of seaweed that includes nori (the type used in sushi).
wakame-carrot-tahini

 Wakame-Carrot-Tahini Bowl: The Recipe

…so easy and satisfying, you’ll kick yourself for the times you brought ramen noodles to school or microwaved frozen dinners for late-night sustenance.

ingredients

Makes 1 serving

3/4 cup dry wakame seaweed
1 cup raw julienned carrots (or you can use a vegetable peeler to shave off noodle-like pieces).
2 Tbsp raw tahini (or you can use roasted, which some people prefer and is the type generally used in hummus and babaganoush)

method

Put wakame in a small bowl or mug. Pour enough water over it to cover and let sit for 10 minutes (wakame is perhaps the quickest to hydrate of all the seaweeds, hence the use of it in this “quick and easy” student-friendly recipe).

After wakame is hydrated, there shouldn’t be much water to drain. It depends on your salt preference. If you like ramen noodles or recently stopped eating meat or cheese, don’t drain it. If your taste buds are more fine-tuned (having gone vegan at least 6 months ago), drain at least part of the water.

Add raw tahini to the carrot pieces to coat them. Then add carrot to the seaweed, stirring as you would a salad.

Eat.

…and await more raw vegan and paleovegan recipes. Focus on your studies and let me take charge of your meal plan. You’ll thank me later.

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Main Dishes, Skinny Pasta, Soups

Vegetable Broth + Paleo Vegan Pho

National Blog Posting Month, Nov 10 prompt: What knowledge do you have that others don’t? Write a “how to” post about anything you’ve got skills for, small or large.vegetable-broth-101Sure, you can buy it by the carton. It’s less of a hassle than running around the produce department, gathering carrots, parsnips, celery, etc., only to return home and realize you’ve forgotten the onions or another key ingredient. We’ve all been there with some recipe or another. However, store-bought vegetable broth contains too much salt in my opinion–while the low-sodium kind lacks flavor. With a bit of planning and mere minutes of prep time, it’s easy to make your own. I guarantee you’ll notice an improvement in the flavor and body of soups and stews. More elaborate recipes might have ingredients you don’t recognize (which won’t be the case at the end of this tutorial. More on that later). We’ll start with a basic, unintimidating recipe that utilizes everyday ingredients for use as a prototype for more complex broths and stocks in the future. When I’m short on time, this is my go-to recipe:

Basic Vegetable Broth

Makes approximately 2 quarts
Tip: Don’t peel anything or discard the scraps. Things like the tops of carrots or celery, stems, etc. contribute to the flavor and nutritional value of the broth/stock. Obviously, discard any spoiled or rotten parts.

Ingredients

1 gallon water
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup carrot, chopped
2 cups tomato, quartered
1 medium bell pepper, cut
2 cups parsnip, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 whole peppercorn
1 tsp red pepper flakes (like the kind they give you at pizza restaurants)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Add all ingredients to a large stock pot. Bring to a full boil and reduce to simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low to continue cooking (covered, to maintain the flavors and vitamin content of the vegetables) until the liquid is reduced by half.

Pour broth through a filter/sieve/colander, with a bowl or pot underneath it that is larger than the circumference of the filter (to avoid wasting any broth).

Asian-Style Vegetable Broth

asian-style-soup-broth
Using the basic vegetable broth recipe as a base, you only need a few more ingredients to emulate the flavors of a Chinese-style noodle soup or traditional Vietnamese pho. You can experiment with combinations of different ingredients, so the following are merely suggestions or guidelines. I recommend using ginger in all combinations if you can. As with any broth recipe–you don’t need to peel the root since you’ll remove it before serving/adding the noodles and toppings.

Ingredients

1 x 4″ piece ginger root, unpeeled, sliced
5 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
ginger-rootcinnamon-sticksstar-anise
4 cups vegetable stock (see above recipe)
2 cups water

Method

Simmer 20 minutes on medium heat

Paleo Vegan Pho

vegan-pho

Ingredients

6 cups Asian-style vegetable broth (see above recipe)
2 x 8oz package fettuccine-style shirataki noodles.

Toppings

4 scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced. Remove the seeds for less heat.
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 Tbsp vegetarian “fish sauce”, found in Asian markets, natural food stores, some conventional grocery stores, and online. *However, many of these brands contain preservatives and food coloring/caramel color, and even the natural brands contain sugar. Vegetarian “fish sauce” is very easy to make with all natural ingredients & no added sugar:

Combine 1/4 Tbsp pure powdered stevia extract OR 12-18 drops Stevia Liquid Concentrate (for more info, see the Stevia Conversion Chart) with 1 cup warm water + 1/4 cup canned pineapple juice (if you use fresh, I’m totally impressed) and 1 cup 2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari or 1 Tbsp regular tamari. You can also use conventional soy sauce like Kikoman brand if you’re not worried about the additives. When I’m traveling or living abroad it tends to be the only thing available, anyway :)

fresh cilantro, shredded
fresh Thai basil leaves
lime wedges
chili garlic sauce

Method

In a large pot over medium heat, add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon sticks to 4 cups vegetable broth (diluted with 2 cups water) and simmer about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare shirataki noodles according to package instructions.

Reduce heat to low and remove the ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Stir in 4 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce and let simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain shirataki noodles and divide among 4 bowls. Top with broth, scallions, cilantro, basil leaves, jalapeno, red onion, and bean sprouts. Serve with chili garlic sauce and lime wedges.

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Salads, Sides, Skinny Pasta, Snacks

Sea Spaghetti: Better than Kelp Noodles

saladLately I’ve seen quite a few recipe posts that feature kelp noodles, especially as a carb-free replacement for noodles. The type of kelp noodle these recipes call for is stripped of its outer green/brown layer in order to resemble vermicelli or bean thread aka glass noodles. This process removes not only flavor but also vitamins and minerals. While still a decent alternative for the paleo inclined, I prefer to use sea spaghetti, or Himanthalia elongata, a species of kelp with a natural noodle-like shape (no processing required).

Nutrients in Sea Spaghetti vs. Kelp Noodles

According the the nutrition fact labels of kelp noodle brands on the market, a 4oz serving contains 4g dietary fiber, 15% calcium, and 4% iron. In contrast, a 4oz serving of sea spaghetti contains 5% dietary fiber and 25% calcium, 400% vitamin C, 40% potassium, 29% magnesium, and 56% iodine.

Unprocessed kelp like sea spaghetti and other sea vegetables play an important role in staying healthy and balanced, especially when following a paleo-vegan diet. I try to eat some form of it daily; if not as a meal, in the form of spirulina, blue-green algae or chorella supplement. I’m kind of a sea vegetable connoisseur, and I enjoy the natural flavor and texture of all varieties. Considering the reduced nutritional value, bland flavor profile, and vaguely chemical aroma prior to cooking/soaking, kelp noodles just don’t do it for me.

Also, considering the cost of some varieties it seems like a waste to make the splurge and not benefit from the vitamin C, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium naturally present in kelp.

Where to Buy Sea Spaghetti
Sea Spaghetti is harvested in Brittany and the west coast of Ireland. Shipment to the United States or elsewhere can be costly, especially direct from the manufacturer. Fortunately, like other retailers in the UK and Europe, some manufacturers of sea spaghetti have partnered with Amazon.com to significantly reduce the cost of shipping as part of an overall purchase of $25.

I have not ordered sea spaghetti online, but tried it at a raw vegan potluck and purchased some from a friend who bought it wholesale to reduce the cost. I later discovered it on sale at an Asian grocery store in San Francisco for $1.99. It was merely labeled “dried seaweed” but the flavor and texture seemed like sea spaghetti. *Edit: It was arame, which looks and tastes very similar so if you can’t get the real thing I recommend it. Look for “long arame” at Asian grocery stores.

How to use Sea Spaghetti, Arame, etc.
Soak overnight or for at least an hour if you choose to use it raw. You can also boil it or cook it under 115 degrees Fahrenheit so it is technically raw according to the principles of a raw food diet. To use as a replacement for spaghetti (as a raw foodist) soak it first and heat on low until the water achieves warmth to your liking/dietary requirements. For those who don’t follow a strict raw diet, heat it as you would regular pasta. If this is the case for you, there isn’t a need to soak it first (though some experts say this is more optimal for nutrient absorption). Use in place of spaghetti in any recipe, in a salad, or by itself. I like it with sesame seeds and no dressing or other ingredients (see photo, above). It’s also great with tahini and carrots, a recipe I developed my sophomore year at college and rediscovered a few days ago. I’ll post the recipe soon.

After visiting a few other Asian groceries and a bit of internet research, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that any “string” or “sea tangle” seaweed would function as sea spaghetti. Not all of us can or want to pay $25 in shipping for Irish or French sea spaghetti. I no longer keep in touch with the aforementioned friend from the raw vegan potluck, and haven’t met anyone else who wants to buy it in bulk. That said, I think it’s a great product and perfect replacement for wheat or rice or quinoa or other grain pasta…but other seaweeds can work just as well. Enter: arame and other types that are often marketed as wakame or kombu but are cut in strips to resemble spaghetti also. I was never a huge fan of spaghetti anyway, but the sheer novelty of the fact that seaweed can emulate it so easily and pack such a profoundly more potent nutrient punch–I had to write this post. Not to mention the fact that it’s carb-free and causes weight loss while flooding your body with more nutrients. Did I mention nutrients? Oh yeah, I did.

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Breakfast, Main Dishes

Low-Carb, Fat Free, Delicious Blended Soups

I’m a huge fan of blended soups, year round. Besides gazpacho and other raw soups, I wasn’t always this way. Between 2005 and 2007 I swore by a 90% raw diet but in February 2008 learned to compromise a bit…and found that hot steamed vegetables and vegetable soups ward off cravings for things like refined carbohydrates and sugar. Also, raw fruit i.e. bananas or avocados transported here from a tropical climate in the middle of winter never did me any favors in terms of staying fit or feeling energized enough to exercise. So over the years of revising my diet (I initally stopped eating raw after an argument with my significant other at the time who had cooked a vegan dinner for me and I dismissed it for not meeting the standards of the way I preferred to eat) I actually ended up losing weight after that fateful evening, since I made the compromise to cut out avocados and nuts if I were to integrate cooked vegetables and beans–and it turns out I “thrive”, so to speak, on a lower fat, reduced carb diet as opposed to a high fat, 95% raw, fruit-laden one. Granted, I always eat at least one raw meal or “snack” per day, even if it’s a handful of carrot sticks, sliced cucumber, or celery. It’s difficult, when you have a full-time job or are a student with a full schedule, to stay hydrated and maintain energy levels–and things like chopped veg or packaged “baby carrots” or cauliflower florettes have been lifesavers for me. When I worked part-time as a full-time student in college, I think most days I started with a quad-shot espresso, a double shot after school and/or before work, snacked on raw vegetables or an apple on the drive between Ashland and Medford (from my work to my night classes), brought a cup of coffee to the night class, and maybe ate some leftover cooked vegetables upon returning home if I had a paper to write for a different class, or some math homework, or something (there was almost always something). On days that I didn’t have night class I rode my bike instead of using my car, and thus burned more calories so I usually relied on something like a soy latte or a bit of trail mix to stay alert whenever there was a lull in the day.

Although I’d abstained from grains for 4 years prior to 2010, I’ve made compromises. For example, in January 2010 when I volunteered in Ecuador I ate quinoa because vegetables were expensive and raw vegetables not always safe to eat (though I did eat a lot of raw cucumbers and cabbage, and other things that come with a “wrapper”), and because quinoa is cheap and budgets for volunteer accomodation in Ecuador are very, very minimal. Ironically, quinoa is considerably cheaper than white rice in markets there, an explanation for which can be summarized as: white rice is a symbol of affluence, associated with developed nations, and quinoa is a symbol of poverty. I also ate oatmeal with chopped mango and papaya for breakfast, because the walk to the school I worked at involved a few miles (much of which was an uphill climb). I didn’t consider myself any less healthy for eating some grain, or any less vegan for eating the vegetables out of a soup made with chicken broth and subtly handing the broth to my ex-boyfriend to make it look as if I ate it all (to avoid offending the person who prepared the soup and so generously offered it to me). Living/volunteering abroad is material for its own article, so moving on…there was also the time when I had to taste-test every item on the menu at the restaurant I worked at in college (as was required of all employees). Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, since at most restaurants the majority of dishes are not vegan. At this one on the other hand, every single wrap, panini, salad, and beverage could be adapted to accomodate vegan customers. For example, cheese could almost always be replaced with hummus, aoili with veganaise (actually, come to think of it, there was a vegan aoili), milk with soymilk, cream with coconut milk…and all of the breads/wraps were vegan by default. Looking back on that time, I recall my then-significant other coming in handy in this situation also (I would order the wrap or panini to-go, take a bite to say I’d tried it, and he was happy for the free lunch–and I’d eat an apple or have another coffee or something). Thanks, ____, for bailing me out of eating wheat (and chicken broth).

Anyway, I thought this post required a detailed backstory in order to express my deep, profound love for blended vegetable soups. The recipes I’ve created or adapted are very low calorie (to put that in context, I think they’d measure in at 0 Weight Watchers points, or would be considered “negative calories” by some diet philosophies). Sadly, most blended soups offered at restaurants contain unneccessary ingredients like heavy cream, and the vegan ones often have a coconut milk base (which is totally unnecessary, and tastes revolting once you start making your own without it). I cannot stress this enough: a “creamy” texture and body can be achieved very easily through the utilization of cooked carrots and kale or collard greens. Even Indian dahl–which is normally lentil-based, is defined by the spices (FYI–cooked carrots and/or cauliflower or green beans provide the same texture as lentils, + more vitamins, minus the carbs. Get the spice ratio right, and the difference is undecipherable).

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mean to imply I’m a hater of coconut milk. To the contrary–I wish the rest of the world would jump on the dairy-free alt-cream bandwagon. Even Thai restaurants, bubble-tea shops, and Asian bakeries in Chinatowns in cities across the United States, have abandoned coconut milk in favor of dairy cream (a fact saturated with irony–considering that in the traditional cuisine of most Asian cultures, dairy is nill). Example: my friend took me to a creek-side Thai restaurant in the heart of Ashland, Oregon (where roughly 60% of the population doesn’t eat dairy) for my birthday last year, and we ordered Stoli-infused thai iced teas with coconut milk substituted for heavy cream (my idea, since the presence of coconut milk in the kitchen was a no-brainer) and for each $9 cocktail $3 was added to the bill ($24 for weak cocktails was–even though I wasn’t responsible for the tab–kind of a buzzkill…on principle). After that night, I decided to stop relying on cashews or tahini for a “creamy” texture in the soups and salad dressings I make. Now that I’ve stopped, both seem much too rich…a flavor/texture that leaves me unsatisfied because the “creaminess” dulls the natural richness of the vegetables and the kick provided by the meticulously calculated spice-salt-stevia ratio. To prove this theory, I utilized my NutriBullet (BTW any food processor or blender will work, just maybe not as quickly) to re-create all of the blended soups I’ve tried over the years and loved at restaurants around the world. Each example includes a description of where and when I discovered the soup, and how to eliminate the empty calories (sugar and fat) while achieving the same (if not more satisfying) flavor profile.

Curried Carrot Soup

Paleo Carrot Soup Continue Reading

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Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Main Dishes, Salads, Sides

Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Eateries in The World

In my life, throughout my travels and time periods lived in foreign countries and in the USA, I have found hidden gems as well as better-known and/or popular vegan restaurants, food carts, etc.  I would like to share these establishments with fellow and prospective vegans, as well as anyone who might be interested in broadening their culinary/dietary/foodie horizons.  One stand-out restaurant is mentioned per category.

Latin

Gracias Madre – San Francisco, CA

gracias-madre-instagram
Photo credit: Yelp

100% vegan, local and organic. Committed to their love for food, the earth and the divine feminine, as well as consciousness-raising on the planet. The brainchild of Cafe Gratitude.

Continue Reading

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Main Dishes, Sides, Snacks, Vegan Cheese

5 Ingredient Tofu Ricotta

pizza101
Lately I’ve tried to avoid soy products entirely. However, sometimes faux-cheese cravings are hard to avoid– especially when wheat and other forms of gluten, corn, oil, and nuts are out of the question (I’m trying an elimination diet, and soy has always been the lesser of dietary evils throughout my life). Next week I will experiment with eliminating seeds if soy proves to be a problem. Whatever your situation in terms of dietary preferences or allergies, I want to share this recipe for a low fat, low carb, oil-free vegan alternative for ricotta cheese… because it is so close to the “real thing” it made me pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I used Westsoy Organic Tofu because it was on sale for $.59 at Grocery Outlet. I usually use Surata brand because it’s more local (made in Eugene OR), though apparently the on-sale impulse buy was a score because I found Westsoy to be the superior choice for this recipe.

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Italian, Main Dishes, Mediterranean, Skinny Pasta

Heirloom Tomato Fettuccine with Cilantro-Pesto Cheez

vegan heirloom tomato fettuccine

My relationship with pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguini, etc.) is interesting. My dad was obsessed with pasta. Pesto pasta, that is– always accompanied by sliced black olives. I remember feeling guilty for eating a few of them whole before slicing and bringing them to the table. My dad’s love for pasta was unwavering and unabashed. Whatever the circumstance– from a potluck or wedding reception to my birthday party or brown bag lunch in the summers for day camp– most every time it was a reused plastic yogurt container filled with pesto pasta, with a smaller reused plastic container of carrots and celery, and an apple from the tree in the backyard. While I got a lot of flack from my classmates for the lack of sugar… no “fruit by the foot”, Go-gurt, jello pudding or snack paks in there…the only packaged “sweet” I ever got was a Nutrigrain bar (remember those?). Anyway, both my parents were very committed to eating right…but it was never as if they decided to “go on a diet” or “cleanse” from years of bad eating or lack of exercise. Continue Reading

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