Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's new, what's old, and what's current!

Hey Everyone!

I have finally gotten back on my feet with cooking since I made it back in Florida from my trip to Missouri. I have actually cooked more than I have posted, but some of my dishes haven't turned out as good as I would have liked them. I have such a listing of recipes that I need to try over again to get it right. I know that I talked previously about posting some traditional Jewish recipes, but these recipes involve an egg substitute. I do enjoy using Ener-G Egg Replacer, but I have also been trying to experiment with other egg replacements. For example, you can use ground up flax seed mixed with water, or 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu to equal one egg. These are perfectly good substitutes, but some are better than others in different recipes. I tried to make Kasha and Shells, but usually the kasha is coated with egg. For this recipe, I used the flax seed version, but it turned out just okay. I also tried to make homemade kugel, and for this I used the tofu version for my egg. It didn't turn out awful, but the consistancy was not what I wanted, and I just wasn't confident with how it turned out. Another thing with traditional Jewish dishes is, although oh so yummy, they are all very high is carbs and not the healthiest of dishes. So, I end up making them, and then I am stuck eating them because it's too much food to waste. So, I decided that I will eventually perfect them over time, but at this time I am going to stick to healthier recipes that make me feel lighter and give me more energy rather than weigh me down. I find that latkes, kasha, and kugel are pretty heavy and that's why they are only eaten on occasion. And truth be told, I intended for this blog not only to reflect the vegan lifestyle, but also a consistently healthy lifestyle.

Yom Kippur was last week, and I did fast for the day. I did drink tea and water though, so it wasn't a true fast. I also went to work, so I didn't fully observe the holiday. The day was actually so refreshing because after work I went to infusion tea and broke the fast with the best gazpacho in town and a half of a veggie burger sandwich while reading my book, The Omnivores Dilemma. I also did a hot infusion yoga class later, and then went and saw the movie Religulous (which I highly recommend). I was thinking about the holiday of Yom Kippur and it occurred to me that it is actually pretty unhealthy. I believe that many people binge eat the night before, and then traditionally the family gets together to break the fast with a big feast. It's not healthy to shock your body like that. When going on and off a fast, you are supposed to slowly wean yourself off of food and then back on it. Generally you should eat light to get your body used to taking in less food, and then getting your digestive system used to food entering the body again.

I really feel like it is important to hold up traditions, which is why I still fast. I don't really do it for religious reasons as much as I do it for myself and feel that it is cleansing. I do not pray to any specific diety or go to services, but I just focus on what I would like to change about myself and how I will go about doing that. Among keeping traditions, I also think it is important to start new traditions, and that is what I did this past Yom Kippur with breaking the fast with a light and nontraditional dinner and then doing yoga. I think I will do that every year.

I have also been doing more research on obtaining all of the nutrients and vitamins into my diet that I need to keep an eye on now that I have stopped eating animal products. These vitamins and minerals are B12, Iron, Zinc, D, Omega 3's, and protein. I have been doing a lot of research on this, and I try to get all of these vitamins in my diet during breakfast. I talked to my cousin Brittney, who is a dietitian, and she mentioned to me that Iron is something that vegans need to watch because the iron in plant and animal products absorbs different than Iron in meat. I looked it up and there is heme and non heme iron. The iron in plant and grains are non heme and there are things you can do to help the absorption into your body. One thing is to mix iron with vitamin c. So, what I do is eat a cereal fortified with iron, B12, Vitamin D, and zinc. Some good cereals that I found are: Kashi Heart to Heart Toasted Honey Oat (please note that this cereal does contain honey), Publix Greenwise Raisin Bran, and Health Valley Organic Fiber Multigrain Flakes. Then I top it off with strawberries, which are high in vitamin c. I also top my cereal off with a granola blend which is high in fiber. I find that this keeps me full and helps me eat less throughout the day. Then, I use hemp milk (which I recently switched to) because it contains omega 3s and the essential amino acids (protein). I do want to mention that protein is pretty easy to get into your diet and it is really the least of concerns for any vegetarian or vegan, but using the hemp milk does guarantee that I am at least starting the day off getting protein into my diet. I also read that tea contributes to blocking the absorption of iron into your system, so I refrain from drinking or eating anything besides water until about an hour after I eat breakfast. I am still looking into the absorption studies for iron and zinc and I plan on going to get my blood tested in the next few months to make sure I am not deficient in anything.

Another thing I want to talk about are the negative studies of soy products. All of these studies are completely inconclusive and there are many more positive studies relating to soy than negative. I hear things such as soy may cause memory loss, breast cancer, dementia, and so on. I have read many of these studies and they are all very cloudy in the description of how they conducted these studies. For example, the study where they found soy products caused memory loss did not mention if the people they studied were vegetarian, vegan, how long they were consuming soy, how much soy they consumed, when they began and ended consuming soy, and if hey had medical problems to begin with. They also conducted this study on the elderly living in Indonesia who eat very differently than Americans. I also wonder who funded this study.... was it the animal or dairy industry? We also know that soy reduces bad cholesterol and that it is heavily eaten in Asian cultures "at a much younger age than people in the United States. In fact, the average woman living in East Asia eats about 10 times the quantity of soy foods as the average woman in the United States. Yet, East Asian women have lower rates of breast cancer than women in the United States." (http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/nutrition_bc/foods/soy.jsp) But, this could be effected by many things since there are many differences in the way we eat compared to the Japanese.

Soy is almost unavoidable, especially if you eat processed food or fast food. Soy lecithin is in almost everything as an emulsifier, and I think that it is important to know this so you know what you are consuming. Corn is actually used in almost everything that we eat that is fast food or processed, and soy is used in the agriculture industry the same way. If the price of corn is at a high, these products will most likely be using soy until the price of corn goes down. This is why you see the ingrediants say: This contains one or more of the following: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sunflower Oil, Soy Lecithin, Corn Oil, Etc. So, most likely, you have consumed more soy than you know. My point is that it is important to know that so that you make sure you are eating soy in moderation if you feel you need to watch your soy consumption. This is one of the reasons I switched to hemp milk, and I do order extra veggies a lot instead of tofu as a protein substitute. I love tofu to death, but even though these studies are inconclusive, it's better to be safe. Remember... Moderation is key!

Well, I think I have blogged enough this weekend!

Love,
Monica

Chocolate Ganache Topped with fruit



Serves 3

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of vanilla soy milk (or plain)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

about 1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup dried banana
about 9 strawberries, sliced

In saucepan, heat soy milk. You don't want it to come to a boil, but just medium heat. Once it's reached that point, turn off heat and pour in chocolate chips and maple syrup. I actually heated the milk in the microwave for 4 and a half minutes. Mix well until a smooth creamy consistancy. It should start to thicken as it cools. Once it's smooth, pour into a small bowl or make it pretty in a martini glass, and top with the fruit listed above, or any fruit of choice.

Delights and Afterthoughts:

Last night after I finished my dinner, I had a little bit of a sweet tooth and was looking through my cabinets to see what I could make for dessert. I remembered that I had some semi sweet chocolate chips, and the thought of eating melted chocolate sounded yummy. Then, I remembered that a few months ago I made a Chocolate Ganache topping for some vanilla cupcakes, and I thought I could use that as a base and maybe make it a little more decadent by adding maple syrup and fruit. The fruit even makes it seem like a healthier dessert even though downing about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips a serving doesn't seem that healthy, so save this for special occasions! If you wanted to make it even more decadant you could add powdered sugar and cinamon to top the fruit, but the dessert is rich enough without all of the extras.

It's really easy! Hope you like it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pancakes with Fruit Toppings




It's football season, and one of the things that I look forward to all year are the tailgates. One thing that I look forward to the most though is what I like to call "breakfast tailgates." There is just something about getting to the University in the morning, setting up, and eating breakfast with friends outside that is just so comforting. I think it reminds me of when I was younger and used to go camping. This was the first breakfast tailgate of the season for UCF football (Go Knights!) and I thought this was the perfect time to try out some vegan pancakes. This was my first time making pancake batter, so I did borrow a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Moskowitz as a base for my pancakes. Here is is:

Serving size: About 6 pancakes

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons canola oil (plus oil for pan or griddle)
1/3 cup water
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Blueberries
Strawberries

Wash blueberries and place in a bowl
Wash and cut strawberries and place in a bowl.
Place in refrigerator or over ice until ready to serve.

I find it easiest to mix the dry ingredients separate from the wet ingrediants and then mix them together. So, first mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Then in another bowl, mix together the canola oil, water, soy milk, vanilla, and maple syrup.

Then, pour the wet ingrediants into the dry and mix while you are pouring it until combined. Just continue to mix, but do not overmix. You still want some small lumps. If it is too mixed then the pancakes will turn out tough and rubbery.

Preheat skillet or griddle to medium heat. You can test the skillet by pouring a small amount of water on it, and if it the drops bounce, then it is ready. You don't want it too hot either. It shouldn't be smoking.

When ready, apply a thin layer of canola oil, and take a ladle or spoon and pour the batter out in a circular motion so that it's an even pancake. And, make sure to use the same amount of batter every time so they are around the same size. Cook the pancakes until browned at the bottom and bubbles start to form at the top. This should take about 4 minutes. Then, flip pancake and cook until browned on the other side until the pancake is barely firm to the touch.

When finished, choose your pancake and top with blueberries and strawberries.

Delights and Afterthoughts:

I honestly had no idea what to expect from these pancakes since this was my first time making them. I made the batter the night before and cooked one just to make sure I didn't totally screw up! I was very happy at how they turned out, so I went ahead and chilled the batter overnight and felt confident that everyone would be happy with them that showed up to the breakfast tailgate.

When my friend John was finished cooking them on the griddle, I went ahead and set out the fruit and everyone that showed up early grabbed a plate, some pancakes, and some fruit toppings. They turned out to be hit, so I can't wait to make some other variations.

Some variations that I think would be tasty are:
**Chop the strawberries up pretty small and cook them in the pancakes.
**Fold the fresh blueberries in while cooking to make blueberry pancakes.
**It might also be nice to add some almond extract
**For special occasions, like valentines day, fold in some chocolate chips or substitute chocolate soymilk instead of vanilla soymilk.

There are just so many options!

Let me know if you try these out and how you made them!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tempeh Piccata with Bell Peppers over Angel Hair Pasta




One of my favorite dishes when I wasn't vegan was a chicken piccata by Giada De Laurentiis. One of the things that i have been doing is going through my old cookbooks and finding my favorite recipes and making them vegan-style. So, for this one I decided to make a Tempeh Piccata with Bell Peppers over angel hair pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons earth balance "butter" or non-hydrogenated margerine
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 package whole wheat angel hair pasta
  • 1 package tempeh (I used garden veggie, but any kind will do)

Directions

A. First, remove the tempeh from the package and cut in whatever shape you desire. I cut the tempeh in triangles.

B. In a small saucepan over medium high heat (or in the microwave), melt 4 tablespoons of "butter" with 5 tablespoons of olive oil, add salt, pepper, vegetable stock, lemon juice, and capers. Use this as a marinade for the tempeh, and chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour.

C. Cut all of the bell peppers in a cube shape. I'm sure thin slices would also be nice.

D. Chop parsley and set to the side.

E. Boil water with a splash of olive oil, and add angel hair pasta. Turn heat to medium, and stir frequently to make sure that it doesn't stick together, and don't overcook. When the noodles are done (8 to 10 minutes), drain the pasta and never run water over it. When pasta is finished it comes out a little starchy and it is a common misconception to rinse with water. The reason that you do not rinse is because when the sauce is added to the noodles the starch helps the sauce stick to the pasta. If it still bothers you that the noodles are starchy after you drain them, then just toss with a small amount of olive oil.

F. When you are ready, add the tempeh and all of the marinade to a large skillet. Cook about 5 minutes on each side, and then add the bell peppers. Cook just until the peppers are cooked through, but still crisp. That should just be about 3 more minutes.

G. Remove the bell pepper and tempeh from the skillet with a slotted spatula and place in large bowl.

H. Continue to stir the sauce, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Add remaining 2 tablespoons "butter" to sauce and whisk vigorously.

I. Add noodles to the large bowl with the tempeh and bell peppers, add parsley, pour sauce over the top, and toss everything together.

J. You're ready to eat!

Delights and Afterthoughts:

This dish is wonderful because it is really easy to make. If you don't have time to marinade the tempeh, then that should be fine if you want to just throw the tempeh and bell peppers in the skillet with the sauce. I just find that you get a deeper flavor when you marinade it a bit. Also, keep in mind that tempeh can be a little bitter and an acquired taste, so if this is your first attempt with tempeh, you may want to start out with a neutral flavor such as original, five grain, or flax. This was my first time using garden veggie tempeh and the flavor was a little overpowering if you are not used to tempeh.

I love this sauce and I think it would really be good with anything. I just used what I had in my pantry and refrigerator. I think that this would also be good with tofu or just veggies such as broccoli, zuchini, mushrooms, and carrots. I have always found that angel hair pasta works best with this sauce, but it would also go well with something like couscous or penne pasta.

There are also many things you can do to incorporate to it to make it your own. For example, adding garlic would be excellent, or adding chilli powder, a jalapeno, or tobasco for a little bit of spice.

I hope you have fun with this and enjoy it!