Monthly Archives: May 2014

Maximum Weight Loss

The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss

Last night I was reading one woman’s story about how she cured her severe psoriatic arthritis by following John McDougall’s Elimination Diet. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. An elimination diet is a methodical plan to isolate the foods that are causing your problems and Dr. McDougall only recommends it for those with severe health issues. Thankfully, this diet is not for me. Did you ever notice that while you’re reading one article on the internet that you somehow get lead into another? After reading this woman’s story I went to McDougall’s site and read about his Maximum Weight Loss Diet. I adopted a plant-based diet in August 2012. I lost about 25 pounds and my cholesterol and glucose levels were lowered. As I became more creative with my plant-based cooking, my weight loss plateaued.  This is probably because I’m still eating white flour, refined sugar and high-fat plant foods like coconut milk/cream, avocados and nuts. (I shouldn’t use the word “probably”. . . I know why I’ve hit this plateau. It’s not from eating too much spinach.) While plant-based fats are healthier than animal fats, they are more calorically dense than vegetables and fruits. While I feel good, I would like to lose more weight. So I thought I’d get the book and try the Maximum Weight Loss Diet. Well, wouldn’t you know it Bruce bought the book months ago, so I have no reason to put it off for another day. After skimming the book, it looks like I will be eating more of green and yellow vegetables; a little less whole grains and starchy vegetables; a little bit of fruit; and NO refined flour, sugar, nuts or fats. This is what a truly whole food, plant-based diet is. If it sounds severe, it isn’t. I can eat a lot as long as it’s a whole plant food and I can eat as often as I like.  And based on my experience when I first eliminated meat and dairy from my diet my body adjusted rather quickly. Many diet experts suggest that you let others know when you start a diet, in part because it makes you accountable to others. So, I’m inviting you to follow my progress, help keep me honest and hopefully take away something for yourself. Stay tuned and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

28 May 2014

A-Day-at-the-Beach Quiche Revisited

Zucchini Quiche 007As promised, I reworked the Broccoli Quiche recipe and substituted sauteed zucchini for the broccoli. The only thing I would change would be to make more onions and zucchini next time. Feel free to add some fresh or dried herbs such as oregano, basil or thyme. You know the saying . . .  never stop improving. Now, I’m ready for a day at the beach! Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Zucchini Quiche

1 small onion, chopped1 plum tomato, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small zucchini, diced or sliced
16 oz. firm tofu
½ cup cashew cream
¾ tsp. Indian Black salt, or regular salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. turmeric

Saute onion in non-stick skillet about 3 minutes, adding water or vegetable broth to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes and sauté another minute, then add zucchini. Continue cooking, adding water as need to prevent sticking and zucchini is soft and golden.

Zucchini Quiche 001Zucchini Quiche 004Add tofu, cashew cream cheese, salt, nutritional yeast, mustard and turmeric to bowl of food processor. Process until combined. Remove to mixing bowl and fold in vegetables.

Pour into 8” glass pie dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Makes 8 slices.

 

26 May 2014

Asian Pear Salad

Asian Pear Salad 003Asian Pear 001

I was shopping in one of my regular farmer’s markets the other day and spotted some Asian pears. Asian pears are kind of an odd fruit that could spark some debate. Is it a pear or an apple? While it’s referred to as a pear, I’ve never had one that gets soft when it ripens, as is typical of other pear varieties. It stays crisp, more like an apple. And it never seems to get sweet and juicy the way a pear does. Actually, it’s a rather bland tasting fruit. Many years ago I came across a recipe for Asian pears that turns this blase fruit into a tasty and refreshing dessert. Asian Pear Salad can be made with as few as four ingredients; Asian pears, toasted almonds, raisins and Amaretto. I decided to add in some gogi berries since this is my latest craze. Gogi berries are a natural source of melatonin, which can help you get a good night’s sleep. You may have noticed that bottle of Lazzaroni Amaretto in the background of some of my posts, but today it made it’s way into the foreground. I originally bought the bottle because it’s pretty, but the Amaretto is one of the nicest ones I’ve sipped. As with most of my recipes, I encourage you to change it up to suit your mood by trying different liqueur and nut combinations. Try making a tropical version with Malibu Rum, dried blueberries, coconut and pecans. Or Frangelico liqueur with dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts or pignoli. Oooh, that sounds yummy. I’d love to hear what you come up with! Happy Memorial Day and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

25 May 2014

FDA Warns About Low Dose Aspirin (Another Reason to Be Vegi-curious)

Just read this article and it’s quite disturbing. The FDA is now saying that there’s evidence that taking aspirin on a routine basis does not have any benefit for those who have not previously suffered a heart attack or stroke. In fact, there is not enough benefit of taking aspirin to outweigh the risks of the potential bleeding it may cause. Well, isn’t that just great? My mom has been on this regimen for years and suffers from ulcers for which she’s on two other medications. This is infuriating.  Most people on the baby aspirin regimen do so on the advice of their doctor. At the risk of sounding too “preachy”, this is one of the many reasons to follow a plant-based diet. By following a plant-based diet, you reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, so there would be no need for you to follow the baby aspirin or any other pill regimen. To stay healthy, stay off the pills. To stay off the pills, stay healthy. That’s my circle of life. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/low-dose-aspirin-not-healthy-for-healthy-people-says-fda

 

 

22 May 2014

A-Day-at-the-Beach Quiche

Broccoli QuicheI always enjoyed hearing stories about my grandparents from Brooklyn. My Mom’s family lived within walking distance, albeit a long walk, to Coney Island. Whenever they went to the beach, my grandmother would make “cuccuzelle” and egg sandwiches, which was a zucchini omelet on Italian bread. I continued that tradition when Bruce and I started dating and going to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. When I stopped eating eggs, I stopped making these delightful sandwiches. Being somewhat of a romantic I wanted to preserve this tradition, especially with summer upon us.

As much as I tell myself that animal foods can’t be faked, I always seem to want to defy that fact. And so it is with eggs. I wasn’t one to eat eggs every day, but sometimes breakfast doesn’t seem like breakfast without them. I thought about how other plant-based cooks approached the egg dilemma. Some vegan-friendly restaurants offer what is called a “tofu scramble”. The few times I’ve ordered one in a restaurant, it’s been laden with grease. (And who knows what kind of cross-contamination is happening on that griddle behind those swinging doors.) I’ve tried making scrambles at home without much success.  I decided to develop a recipe for quiche instead of a scramble for a few reasons. Even a scramble made in the controlled environment of my own kitchen would require the need to add oil to the skillet. I also like the idea of making a quiche since you can get several servings from the recipe and it’s easy to transport to Sunday brunch at a friend’s house, to a picnic or to the beach.

So back to the recipe. It seems that tofu is one of those foods that can be an acquired taste and I haven’t quite acquired it, yet. What seems to help is to cut the tofu effect by adding cashew cream. The cashew cream lightens up the consistency of the tofu and gives it a softness found in scrambled eggs. I decided to saute some garlic and onions with the broccoli before combining it with the tofu mixture. I didn’t have zucchini on hand, but I will try it in the near future and give you an update. Why not try sauteed mushrooms, spinach, or peppers and onions?  I used Indian Black Salt since it has a slight sulfur taste similar to that which is found in hard-cooked eggs. I bought it at an Indian grocery store, but you can always use regular salt if you can’t find it. I was quite pleased with the results. When the forecast calls for sunshine and blue skies, you know I’ll be packing up my sunscreen and quiche and heading for the beach. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

A-Day-at-the-Beach Quiche

2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped
1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped broccoli
16 oz. firm tofu
½ cup cashew cream
¾ tsp. Indian Black salt, or regular salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. turmeric

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute garlic, onion and broccoli in non-stick skillet, adding water or vegetable broth to prevent sticking.

Add tofu, cashew cream cheese, salt, nutritional yeast, mustard and turmeric to bowl of food processor. Process until combined. Remove to mixing bowl and fold in vegetables.

Pour into 8” glass pie dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Makes 8 slices.

 

20 May 2014

Food For Thought: Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease

ProductWhen people ask me why I changed my diet to eating only plant foods, I simply tell them it was for health reasons. I’m not very good at detailing all of  the scientific and medical research that was behind the decision. After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, I was convinced that a plant-based diet was the answer to many health problems. One of the doctors in the film is Caldwell Esselstyn from the Cleveland Clinic. What impressed me was that he was given a group of 24 patients with heart disease because there was nothing else that their cardiologists could do for them. Dr. Esselstyn put them on a whole food, plant-based diet. Six patients withdrew from the program. Of the eighteen patients remaining, none of them had any cardiac events after twelve years. Pretty amazing. If you want to hear about it from Dr. Esselstyn, watch his video on YouTube or read his book How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Dr. Esselstyn mentions endothial cells in his video.The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels forming an interface between circulating blood and the rest of the vessel wall. The video is under ten minutes, so please take the time to watch it. The ten minutes you spend watching this video today can have a great impact on the rest of your life. Thanks for taking care of you and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

18 May 2014

What To Do About Kohlrabi?

I picked up my Highland Orchard CSA package on Friday and unpacked a kohlrabi. A cultivar of the cabbage family,  also known as German turnip, it is high in fiber and vitamin C. I was surprised to learn that 25% of its calories come from protein. Nothing wrong with that! I based my recipe on one that contained olive oil and pecorino. You can add a small amount of olive oil if you like. I don’t think the cheese would have worked with this particular salad, even in my omnivorous days; so don’t even think about using it. If you already own a mandoline, this is the perfect time to dust it off. If you don’t have one, you can slice the kohlrabi and apples with a chef’s knife or a vegetable peeler. Luckily, I have a renegade mint plant that has been peeking through some day lillies on the edge of one of our flower beds. It usually gets trimmed away by the mower or weed whacker, but I’ll have to tell Bruce to me more careful from now on. Funny how something that used to be a nuisance is now a real gem in the garden. Anyway, the salad is quite refreshing and reminiscent of lemon sorbet. If you’re ever confronted by a kohlrabi, don’t despair. Just grab your mandoline and start slicing your way to a delightful treat. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Shaved Kohlrabi and Apple Salad
¼ cup sliced almonds or blanched hazelnuts, toasted
1 large kohlrabi, peeled and sliced on a mandoline
1 apple, sliced on a mandoline
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Olive oil (optional)
Salt to taste (optional)
1/8 cup fresh mint leaves, made into chiffonade or chopped
Toss kohlrabi, apple, lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar in bowl. Add mint leaves and toss gently. Portion onto salad plates and sprinkle with almonds or hazelnuts.

 

 Kohlrabi Kohlrabi Kohlrabi

17 May 2014

Plant-Based Solution: Coffee Creamer

Mushroom Spinach Stuffed Shells 011Happy Saturday! Bruce and I are gearing up to dig up some shrubs today, so I thought I’d write a quick post while enjoying a cup of coffee. Oh, how I look forward to my first cup of coffee of the day. Have you noticed that coffee drinkers are very particular about their coffee? Take me, for instance. I’ve been a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for years. I have my morning coffee in a vintage Dunkin Donuts mug that I found in my desk when I started working in Hoboken in 1987. (One man’s junk is another’s treasure!) I always enjoyed my coffee with half & half; any type of milk was just too watered down. Giving up dairy products was more difficult than giving up meat. I wasn’t willing to give up drinking coffee, and was lucky to find Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer. It is creamy, like half & half, but has only 15 calories and 1.5 grams of fat per tablespoon. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you might try the Silk brand which is available in most grocery and health food stores. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference and this is one of those little things. Thanks for being Vegi-curious!

17 May 2014

Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries and Spiced Pecans

Spinach Salad 013

Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries and Spiced Pecans

Is it just me or have we lost Spring? There seems to be a trend in the northeast of going from 40 degree weather to 80 degree weather, basically from late winter to early summer. It’s unfortunate since Spring can be such a nice time of year in the northeast. I associate Spring with budding trees, flowering azaleas and lilacs, and greens. But the greens I’m talking about are the edible kind . . . kale, lettuce, arugula, chard and spinach. Greens seem to grow nicely in the slightly cooler temperatures of the Spring or Fall, so now’s the time to take advantage of what the season has to offer in the way of greens. The thing about greens is that a lot of people think they’re boring. But try to recall enjoying a salad at your favorite restaurant. There’s usually a lot of things happening on that plate. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts . . . and most likely a dressing that contains olive oil. And I bet that salad was equivalent to what you might tip your server. You can create a salad at home that’s just as tasty; is low fat and therefore healthier; and can be made at a fraction of the cost.

I came up with this recipe because this is what I had to work with. I had a bag of fresh spinach in the fridge that I picked up from an Amish farm stand in Toots Valley, PA. I found some dried cherries and pecans in the pantry. I love candied nuts, so I decided to make some spiced pecans.You can use any type of nut and/or spice combination you like. I wanted a dressing that was reminiscent of the classic spinach salad without the egg and bacon bits, so I opted for a Honey Dijon. A word about honey: since it comes from bees, it is not considered a plant or vegan food. You can substitute agave or maple syrup if you prefer.

If you’ve been following Vegi-curious, you probably know by now that I don’t like to waste a thing and that goes for food containers. Just last week Bruce commented that I might be a container hoarder.I’ll admit that I do have a habit of saving containers that have more life in them. Some of my favorites are the mason jars from Green Mountain Gringo Salsa, the stubby jars from Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, glass spice jars and bottles with caps that dispense droplets of liquid. I especially like to re-use hot sauce jars for salad dressing because you can shake a little or a lot of dressing on your salad and they pack nicely in your lunch bag.  Hoarding? Not really; I refer to it as “re-commissioning”. Now get out there and get yourself some greens before it gets too hot. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cherries and Spiced Pecans

Dijon Dressing

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey, agave or maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in glass jar and whisk or shake to emulsify.

Spinach Salad 008

Spiced Pecans

1 cup pecans
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (or spice of choice)

Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper. In non-skillet heat pecans, maple syrup and spice until syrup coats the pecans and evaporate. Remove to parchment paper, separating pecans so they don’t clump together. Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Spinach Salad 001Spinach Salad 005

Salad

4 cups fresh spinach, torn into pieces
¼ large red onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup dried cherries
½ cup spiced pecans
Dijon dressing to taste

In a large bowl, toss spinach and onions with dressing. Plate salad and sprinkle with cherries and pecans.

 

15 May 2014

Home Ground Chinese Five Spice

Specialty spices can be pricey and if you don’t use them often enough they lose their strength. I like to buy whole spices and create my own spice mixes. You can usually find inexpensive spices in the international aisle of your grocery store and place in the freezer if you won’t be using them within a few months. I find that a coffee grinder is the best piece of equipment for grinding spices. Just make sure you wipe it clean after each use to prevent it from developing any strong flavors. I use Chinese Five Spice for the candied pecans in the following post. I might even try it the next time I make Vegi-curious Brownies. Thanks for being Vegi-curious!

Chinese Five Spice

If using whole spices, grind in coffee grinder before measuring. Store in air-tight container.

2 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground star anise
1 Tablespoon ground fennel seeds

 

15 May 2014

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