Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thai Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls and Green Papaya Salad

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending a Thai cooking demonstration by restauranteur Brenda Kou, who owns 3 Thai restaurants in Omaha, NE, including Thai Kitchen Lakeside.  She taught me and a few other women how to make these very easy and delicious Thai dishes.

In order to make cooking and eating these delicacies as sustainable as possible, consider the following:
Source as many vegetables as you can from local organic farms.  By supporting local farmers, you are reducing the use of fossil fuels used in transportation of food, thereby reducing your carbon footprint.  Organic farming practices work to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, so again you are further reducing your carbon footprint by supporting organic farmers.  In contrast, the manufacturing of synthetic fertilizers used in conventional farming releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, so purchasing foods that were produced using synthetic fertilizers (which includes animals fed grains that were grown using synthetic fertilizers), unfortunately, contributes to the release of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and therefore to climate change.  I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty about eating.  (I am unable to choose exclusively local organic produce, after all, so I am far from perfect.)  The important thing is to recognize the impact that your individual actions can have on the environment and to consider this when you have choices about the source of your food.  One of the environmental benefits of the recipes here is that they use minimal amounts of energy for cooking, so in that respect the preparation of these food items is better for the planet than the preparation of food that requires larger amounts of energy for cooking!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Twosie Bean and Vegetable Soup for Cold Weather

A few days ago, I noticed some beautiful dried beans in the bulk food section of the market I was shopping at.  They were labelled Jacobs Cattle Trout Beans.  They are large, creamy white with mottled red blotches.  I soaked them overnight, then cooked them in plenty of water in a stock pot with half an onion, some fresh parsley and a dried chipotle pepper (my favorite method of flavoring vegetarian dishes with a meaty flavor).  After about 45 minutes, I added some salt.  I cooked the beans for a little more than an hour in all, then I drained them for use in this and other recipes.

The next day, I started thinking about what I would make for that night's dinner.  I knew I wanted to use those beautiful beans, which I imagined would have a buttery, earthy, delicious taste.  I started looking for inspiration in a vegetarian cookbook that I had and some of my favorite food blogs.  I wasn't really finding anything that grabbed me.  So I decided to create my own recipe using local vegetables that I had in my refrigerator:  turnips, carrots, leeks, tomatoes, swiss chard and a new vegetable (for me) that I had never cooked with before:  parsley root.  I just learned about parsley root within the past couple of days.  I can't remember exactly where I read or heard about it, but someone was either writing or talking about cooking, and recalling that her grandmother (I was imagining a European peasant woman) always flavored soups and stews with parsley root.  This was the first time I had even heard of parsley root, and then the very next day I saw it in the produce section of the supermarket.  I was so excited!  The produce manager in the store told me that the greens on top of the parsley root were actually parsley, so I got fresh parsley in the same "package," which I also utilize in this recipe.

I saw the first snowflakes of the season fall that afternoon, as my soup simmered on the stove.  Hearty vegetable soup and wintery cold weather:  a perfect combination!

Monday, October 21, 2013

White Beans, Kale and Delicata Squash

I just started to read a new report, Trade and Environment Review 2013, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development entitled, "Wake Up Before It's Too Late:  Make agriculture sustainable now for food security in a changing climate."  One of the things it discusses is that extreme weather events will reduce or eliminate the ability of some agricultural regions to produce food.  It also points out that raising livestock uses more planetary resources than growing plants for food. As human population increases and demands greater quantities of meat, as is the current trend, there will be less food available for the global population as a whole.  It predicts political instability and riots as a result.  Sometimes, thinking about large scale devastation and global problems seems out of our individual control.  Yet we as individuals can choose whether we will act in a way that will add to or subtract from the destructive trends of human behavior.  I might not be able to control how all the world behaves, but I can control my own behavior, and to an extent the behavior of my family members.  I hope to influence my readers, as well, who can then influence their family and friends.  We do what we can do.  By consuming plants instead of meat, we use our planetary resources more conservatively to feed ourselves.  By supporting local agriculture, we help to ensure a food supply even if a catastrophic weather event wipes out a major agricultural region that provides food on a large-scale.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roasted Beet, Orange and Feta Salad

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my recipe for millet cakes pictured with a roasted beet salad.  I got the recipe for that beet salad from epicurious.com.  While I was eating it, though, I thought, "this would taste so much better with oranges and a dressing made with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar."  I fantasized about the next roasted beet salad I would make ever since.  I had to get back to the farmer's market to buy more beets.  I had to pick up some oranges at the supermarket.  I continued to develop thoughts about how my beet salad would come together and what flavors I should include.  At the last minute, on the day I was finally going to make the salad, I ran out to buy feta cheese, because I imagined that the saltiness of the feta would nicely complement the sweetness of the beets and oranges.  I was right--I tried it with and without the feta and the feta definitely makes it much, much more delicious.

Sustainable cooking and eating requires local ingredients.  I am proud to say that I purchased most of the ingredients for this recipe from the farmers market.  Beets, shallots, honey and pea shoots are all available from local sources where I live (in Nebraska).  You might even be able to find locally produced feta cheese in many places.

This salad is hearty, so you can serve it with a light main course for a complete and satisfying meal.  We ate it with pumpkin ravioli.  Yum!

Dressing (you will probably have more than you need for this salad):
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
3 TBS Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (I found this at Trader Joe's)
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

6 or 7 small-medium beets
2 naval oranges, peeled and broken into sections
1-2 cups pea shoots

feta cheese

Wash beets and trim greens off.  Wrap tightly in foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour and a half, approximately.  Let cool, then slip skins off with your fingers and slice. 

Put beets with orange sections and pea shoots into a bowl.  Pour dressing on, toss, then crumble feta cheese over all.  Serves 3-4.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Kale and Tomatoes (Optional: With Chicken)

Last weekend, I cooked a couple cups of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) in the slow cooker.  It was really easy.  I woke up on Saturday morning, rinsed the chickpeas in a colander, put them in the slow cooker with a bunch of water and an onion, turned the slow cooker on "low" for 10 hours, and went about my day.  Later in the day I added some salt.  At the end of the day, I unplugged the slow cooker and let the chickpeas sit in the water for another hour or so, until I felt like scooping them out of the water with a strainer and putting them into a container in the fridge until I was ready to use them.  A very laid back way to prepare chickpeas, and much better for the planet than the canned alternative (think of the resources required to process the chickpeas in a factory, to put them in cans, to transport the cans to the supermarket, to transport the empty cans to a recycling facility and then the resources required to recycle the cans).

The next day, I made a small batch of hummus with some of the chickpeas.  (Use the search bar in the upper left hand corner of this blog to find the best hummus recipe.)  Last night, I knew I needed to finish the rest of the chickpeas.  I could have put them into the freezer right after I cooked them, and then there would have been no pressure to use them quickly, but I neglected to do that, so I needed to come up with a recipe.  I spent the day imagining how to prepare the chickpeas.  I have had dishes in the past that included chickpeas and canned tomatoes in a stew.  I had a couple of perfect, large juicy tomatoes from last weekend's farmers' market on my counter.  I decided to sacrifice one of them for this dish.  I also had a bunch of kale that needed to get consumed.  And I had garlic and onions on hand, as I try to always have these essential ingredients available.  As an aside, all of these vegetables except the chickpeas came from the farmer's market, so this is a true locavore recipe.  I had leftover brown rice from the night before, enough for the three of us who would be eating dinner together.  Simple supper!
I decided to be nice to the non-vegetarians in my family and provide meat for those who wanted it.  So I bought a skinless, boneless chicken breast (organic, and hopefully sustainably raised) and cut it into chunks.  I sprinkled Italian seasoning, salt and pepper on the chunks and then stir-fried them in a separate frying pan in grapeseed oil.  After the chickpea, tomato and kale dish was finished cooking, I transferred some of it to the frying pan with the chicken and heated it all for awhile before serving.  Thus I had a vegan meal as well as a meal with meat in it, all in one, more or less!  All delicious and easy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Baked Marinated Salmon

I believe that it is best to avoid animal products if one wants to do the utmost to protect the environment through one's eating and cooking practices.  I find it difficult to do this all the time though, and I do love seafood.  So once in a while I allow myself to splurge.  (Once in a while is better than every day, right?)  One can lesson the negative impact on the environment by purchasing wild caught seafood rather than farmed seafood.  I hear that there are some responsible farmed seafood sources, but do not feel comfortable evaluating them.  It is difficult to know whether any particular seafood farming source is truly environmentally friendly.  So I avoid all farmed seafood.  Luckily, wild salmon is still in season, and it is one of my favorite seafood dishes.  This is a quick and easy way to prepare it, and the result is good enough to serve to any foodie guest (unless they are vegan!).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mediterranean Millet Cakes with Kalamata Olives and Capers

Last night I wanted to make a roasted beet salad for dinner, but a roasted beet salad is just a side dish.  I needed something else for the "main dish."  I wanted something vegetarian.  I did not want beans.  I did not want pasta.  I kept going back to those Asian flavored millet cakes that I last posted, but I did not think the Asian flavoring would go well with the beet salad.  I thought mediterranean flavors would go better.  So I decided to adjust the recipe I developed for the Asian millet cakes so that it would go better with the beets.  There are lots of mediterranean flavors, but kalamata olives and capers say "Mediterranean!" to me.  And I had a luscious home-grown tomato on my counter, which would go marvelously with the olives and capers.  I used the idea of cooking carrots and onions in the water with the millet  to impart a slightly sweet flavor, as it had worked well with the Asian millet cakes.  I did not have feta cheese but I bet that would go well with these.  If you have some in your refrigerator, try adding a little to the mixture if you are adventurous enough (I cannot vouch that it will work, since I did not try it, though I definitely will try it another time).  Or you could just try sprinkling a little on top so that if it turns out not to be good you haven't spoiled the whole batch.  I am pretty sure the flavors will go well together, though.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Savory Asian Millet Cakes

Millet is a very nutritious grain, with over 80 nutrients.  It is especially high in protein, manganese, tryptophan, magnesium and phosphorus.  Developing a repertoire of grain-based dishes will help you reduce your need for meat in your diet, which will in turn help preserve the Earth and our environment.  

I like to buy millet in the bulk section of the health food store.  To be extra kind to the environment, I take a clean jar with me to the store, have a cashier weigh the jar as I enter, then I fill it with millet and have them subtract the weight of the jar from the total weight.  If you find a store that sells bulk foods, and it does not have a clear system established for weighing containers before filling them, you should ask.  As more and more people indicate their environmentally conscious preferences for systems that reduce waste, businesses will respond with solutions that demonstrate their desire for sustainability.

A number of years ago, I had millet cakes from the prepared foods section of a supermarket in Baltimore.  I absolutely loved them, but never saw them again in that supermarket or anywhere else.  I tried to duplicate them more than once, with disappointing results.  I posted a quinoa recipe awhile ago that was adequate but not delicious.  This one is delicious.  It probably doesn't taste exactly like the millet cakes I ate so long ago, but I am pleased with the results of my experimentation and will definitely make it again.  Simmering the vegetables with the millet imparts a slightly sweet flavor, and the Asian seasoning is subtle but good.  I chopped the zucchini and carrots in a food processor, because that was the appliance I had on hand.  I might have tried shredding the zucchini and carrots if I had had a shredding attachment available.  Feel free to try that--and let me know in the comments how it affects it!  As an alternate method of preparing these, you could use leftover millet from another dish, and add sauteed carrots, zucchini, and celery along with the other additions to make the patties.

These cakes make a nice supper, with a green vegetable or salad on the side.  Leftovers are great warmed up for lunch.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Orange Kale and Chicken

I try to use as many local ingredients as possible.  Kale is a vegetable that you can probably find at your local farmers' market, if you don't grow it yourself.  I even included kale in my garden this year, which speaks to the ease of growing it.  Increasing the proportion of plants to meat in your diet will help sustain our planet, as plants require fewer resources to grow than animals do.  As the human population increases, and as a greater number of people globally become more affluent and eat more meat as a result of their new affluence, our food resources will become more strained.  By reducing your own meat consumption, you can set an example for the rest of the world to help sustain our planet.  

This dish includes a small quantity of chicken, relying on vegetables included in the meal to fill people up.  I find that cutting boneless chicken into bite-sized chunks and combining it with vegetables enables me to reduce the amount of chicken I cook for people.  When I serve whole pieces of chicken, I allow a piece per person, otherwise I think people would not feel they were getting an adequate amount of meat.  Using chunks of chicken hides from people the actual quantity being served, so it allows the cook to reduce the amount of meat in a way that does not make people feel cheated. While I have pretty much eliminated meat from my diet, through a gradual process, I still cook meat for other members of my family who do not want to take such extreme measures.  Last night, I created this dish and served it with roasted delicata squash slices, tossed with a lemon tahini dressing (I got the recipe from epicurious.com), and a Spanish rice dish.  I served myself only the kale from this dish, while other members of my family ate the chicken cooked with the kale.  It was a filling, wholesome and delicious meal.

2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
½ large onion, cut into strips
Dash seasoning (or other spice blend, or use a mixture of salt, pepper, oregano and maybe basil or marjoram)
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 bunch kale, leaves stripped from ribs and chopped
1 cup orange juice
1 TBS soy sauce

Sprinkle chicken liberally on all sides with Dash seasoning.  Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Cook garlic, stirring, briefly—be careful not to burn it.  Add onions and stir.  Cook until onions begin to become translucent.  Raise heat to high and add chicken.  Brown chicken on all sides.  Mix orange juice and soy sauce.  Add kale and orange juice mixture to pan.  Reduce heat so that liquid simmers gently.  If it seems like all the kale won’t fit into the pan, be patient.  Stir the kale into the juice and, as it cooks, move it to the top and move uncooked kale to the bottom of the pan.  It will lose volume as it cooks and you can continue to fold more kale into the pan.  Continue cooking and stirring kale under the chicken as it cooks so that everything is coated with the orange juice mixture.  Simmer until chicken is cooked through and kale is cooked, about 15 minutes or so.  Serves 3-4.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Green Beans with Asian Dressing

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best.  I love fresh green beans, best when eaten within a day or two of picking.  This is the time of year to enjoy them!  I was raised eating green beans with melted butter, salt and pepper.  Delicious, but not so good for your arteries.  Others have served me green beans with sesame oil, which is nice, but a little bland.  I wanted to develop a simple way to prepare green beans that was heart-healthy and delicious.  And not much more complicated than smearing them with butter.  This is a real winning recipe, in my opinion.  My 12 year old nephew couldn't stop eating them--he even picked them out of the pan with his fingers after we had finished eating dinner!  The highest compliment, and makes cleanup easier!  I think the secret is in the ume plum vinegar, which gives the dish a bit of oomph.

1 lb. green beans
1 tsp sesame oil
1 TBS ume plum vinegar
2 TBS tamari or soy sauce

Steam green beans until crisp-tender (I cooked them in just a little boiling water in a wide skillet, covered, for a few minutes).  Mix sesame oil, ume plum vinegar and tamari or soy sauce and toss with green beans.  Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Watermelon, Tomato, Basil and Feta Salad

Sustainable eating requires eating foods that are in-season, grown locally.  Tomatoes, watermelon and basil are plentiful now in New England, and hopefully where you live, too.  I have to admit that the feta cheese I used for this did not come from a local farm.  If you can source it locally, all the better.  The combination of watermelon, tomato, basil and feta is amazing.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised, if it seems strange to you.  When I first served this at a picnic the other evening, I forgot to put the dressing (balsamic vinegar and olive oil) on and it tasted great without it.  You could try it both ways and see which you prefer.  

3 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom), cut into bite-sized chunks
½ small seedless watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ lb. crumbled feta cheese
3 TBS good-quality balsamic vinegar
6 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

Combine tomatoes, watermelon, and basil leaves.  Mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil together and pour over all.  Toss.  If you expect entire salad to be eaten soon, sprinkle feta cheese over all and toss.  Otherwise, sprinkle feta cheese generously over each individual serving.  Serves 10-12.  Make sure you get watermelon, tomato, basil and feta in each bite.  The combination is fantastic!

Wonderful picnic food!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yellow Squash Casserole (Vegan)

Summer brings yellow squash, one of my favorite vegetables when locally grown and fresh.  The smaller ones are sweeter and more tender than the larger ones, so I like to choose small squash at the farmers' market or farmstand.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is a custard casserole that has dill, goat cheese and eggs.  I wanted to see if I could adapt the recipe into a vegan version, because by eating plant-based foods and reducing my consumption of animal products I am doing a little bit to help the planet.  Animal farming contributes more to environmental degradation than plant farming does, especially when practiced on a large scale.  A lot of material I have read recently also says that a plant-based diet is healthier, so I am trying to limit my consumption of animal products for that reason, also.  
To adapt the original recipe, I substituted silken tofu, nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar, and maple syrup for eggs, milk, goat cheese, and sugar.  I wasn't sure how well it would work, as I am unfamiliar with cooking with nutritional yeast and ume plum vinegar, but I have read that these ingredients can enhance the flavor of dishes in a nice way, and that nutritional yeast has a cheesey flavor.  I also have seen various "quiche" type of recipes that use silken tofu instead of eggs.  I thought maple syrup might add a nice sweet flavor to complement the tang of the vinegar and nutritional yeast.  I was very pleased with the result.  I think I like this even better than the goat cheese and egg version!  I found myself scraping the ramekin with my fork to get every last morsel.  The nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar and dill combine to make a slightly tangy flavor that makes me want more.  I think this might be what they call "umami."  This is pretty quick and simple.  You can make it in a larger casserole dish, but using these smaller vessels allows you to save leftovers in a way that will present itself at the next meal as freshly made.  If you decide to make the casserole in a single vessel, just bake it a little longer.  

4 small yellow squash, sliced into rounds
1 small yellow onion, diced
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
11.5 ounce package silken tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup corn meal
handful of fresh dill, chopped (equivalent of about 2 TBS)
1 TBS ume plum vinegar
1 TBS maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or 375 degrees convection bake).  Put yellow squash and onion in saucepan with water to cover.  Add salt to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, until squash is tender enough to mash with a fork.  Drain squash and onions (reserve broth for another cooking use that requires vegetable broth) and transfer to a bowl.  Add tofu, nutritional yeast, corn meal, dill, ume plum vinegar, and maple syrup.  Mash all together with a fork.  Grind black pepper over all and mash together some more.  Transfer mixture to individual ramekins or small loaf pans that have been coated with coconut oil.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rustic and Super Easy Jam Tart—With Homemade Jam in Breadmaker

One of my good friends sometimes invites me over for morning coffee and something yummy that she has baked.  Once she made a delicious jam tart that lingers in my memory, often in the morning while I am drinking coffee and wishing that I had a piece of jam tart to eat with it.  I searched for easy recipes and could not find anything that could just be whipped up at the last minute, with little effort.  Most pastry recipes require refrigerating the dough, which takes too much time for a last-minute decision to bake something that I want to eat soon.  So I developed my own recipe, using approximate proportions that I read in other recipes and substituting ingredients that I feel might be more wholesome and nutritious than those called for in other peoples’ recipes, and using my own techniques for simplicity. 

I happened to have some strawberry jam on hand which I recently made with my breadmaker, so I will start by telling you how to make that.  Now, with summer firmly underway, we can pick or buy fresh berries in abundance.  Quick—before they go bad in your refrigerator—make some jam!  Then use the jam for the jam tart some morning.  And be as kind to the planet as possible when procuring your ingredients.  Picking the fruit yourself, or purchasing it from a local source, is best of all.  Consider the energy used to get the fruit from the farm to your kitchen, most likely dominated by fuel required to transport it.  The closer you live to the source the better.  The fruit will taste better if it is local, too, as it is probably fresher and picked when ripe that way.  Nutrients are lost as time passes after produce is picked, so the fresher it is the better for your health.

Strawberry Jam in Breadmaker (Don’t be intimidated, as it only takes about 5 minutes of prep time!):

3 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely crushed with a potato masher or fork (substitute any fresh berries)

Lemon juice squeezed from ½ lemon

3 3/4 TBS powdered fruit pectin

1 cup sugar

Put crushed berries and lemon juice in bread pan and sprinkle fruit pectin over all.  Let sit 10 minutes.  Add sugar.  Program breadmaker for jam cycle and press start.  Let jam sit in breadmaker for about 15 minutes after cycle ends, then transfer into clean jars and let cool on counter before putting lids on and refrigerating.  Keeps in refrigerator for about 2 months.

Dough for Jam Tart:

1 stick (8 TBS) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cups coconut sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 pinches salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees convection bake).  Cream butter and sugar together until well-blended.  Stir in lemon zest.  Add pastry flour and salt and mix well.  Add egg and vanilla and mix well.  When you can form dough into a ball, put in middle of parchment paper.  Rub some flour onto a rolling pin and roll dough into roughly a 7”-8” circle on parchment paper.  Allow the dough to be thick enough so that you can fold it inward without it falling apart.  Spoon into the center of the dough circle about a jar of jam and spread it evenly towards the edge, leaving a couple of inches of dough around the edge so that you can fold the dough inward over the jam.  Using a flat spatula, fold the edges of the dough carefully towards the center, leaving jam exposed in the center.  If it breaks a little, use your fingers to carefully smooth out the dough in that area.  Bake for about a half hour, until golden brown.  Serves 8.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kale, Potato and Cherry Tomato Blend

This morning, a friend of mine blessed me with a gift of some kale from her garden.  I returned home and thought how nice it would be to have the kale for lunch, at its freshest.  The key to a simple but delicious meal is to start getting the hang of using what you have.  It takes time, it is an evolution, but I find that I do well with a few vegetables combined in familiar ways.  I used to follow a recipe in a cookbook by Deborah Madison, The Savory Way.  Now I find that I use the basic concept of this recipe and others that I have grown accustomed to preparing, but I feel free to change things according to what I have and sometimes I like to simplify things.  The easier it is to put some nice, fresh ingredients together, the more likely you are to cook healthy, sustainable food instead of relying on prepared foods that are more taxing on the planet.

So to prepare my lunch today, I pulled out a medium-sized yukon gold potato, a clove of garlic, my trusty olive oil, and 5 cherry tomatoes that were the last of a pint I had used over the weekend.  I also found a dried hot red pepper in the back of my basket where I keep potatoes, which was given to me by a friend last fall, from her garden.  I'm not sure what kind it is, I only know that it is small and red.  It gave this dish an obvious and very nice punch!

1 yukon gold potato, sliced thin 
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 bunch of kale, leaves stripped from the stem and chopped
olive oil
5 (or however many you want to use) cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 small dried red pepper, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Parboil potatoes:  place sliced potatoes in a small pan of boiling water and boil for a few minutes, until tender.  Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic.  Using a strainer spoon, transfer the potatoes from the pan of water to the skillet.  Cook, stirring occassionally, for a few minutes.  Next add the kale and saute until kale is tender.  Drizzle some more olive oil over the kale as you cook it, for good measure.  Stir occassionally.  Add salt, pepper and chopped red pepper, then cherry tomatoes.  Cook a few more minutes, stirring everything together, until everything seems cooked.  Serves one as a main course.  (This was all I ate for lunch).  You can adjust the amounts of greens, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes if you want to serve more people.  Yum!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vegan Lemon-Blueberry Scones with Hint of Coconut

I am trying to see how much I can use old recipes that I love, substituting plant-based ingredients for animal products that are standard.  I am thinking more and more about the health benefits of making such substitutions, and also want to what I can to decrease support for the massive agribusinesses that harm the environment by raising animals for food.   I have been making lemon blueberry scones using a recipe from Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe Cookbook for some time now, with rave reviews from friends and families.  It took me a while to get up the nerve to try substituting out the butter and heavy cream called for in this recipe.  Would the scones be any good without butter and cream?  I finally decided to give it a try.  I substituted coconut oil for butter, rice milk for cream, whole wheat pastry flour for regular flour (regular flour is not, of course, an animal product, but I figured whole wheat pastry flour would make them more wholesome and wondered if they would still taste good--they did).  On a whim, I decided to throw in a bit of shredded coconut, which was hardly detectable in the final product.  These turned out delicious.  It is hard to say whether they are as tasty as the original Cook's Illustrated recipe; I think I would have to taste them side by side to say for sure.  But I will definitely make these again.  Maybe I will never go back to the original recipe.  This also has given me the confidence to try substituting coconut oil and rice milk in other baked goods I make.  You should, too!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 TBS sugar
1 TBS baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
3 TBS shredded coconut
1/3 cup coconut oil
zest from one lemon
½ cup dried blueberries
1 cup rice milk

Pulse several times to mix flour, sugar, baking powder, sea salt,  coconut, and lemon zest in food processor.  Add coconut oil and pulse 12 times to blend.  Transfer to mixing bowl.  Stir in blueberries and combine ingredients until everything is blended.  Transfer to floured surface (I put it right onto floured parchment paper), knead and pat into a disk.  Put it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Remove from freezer and cut into 8 wedges.  Separate wedges and spread out on baking sheet.  Bake in 425 degree oven (400 degree convection oven) for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wheatberry, White Bean, Jicama, Orange and Avocado Salad

I have been reading a new book, Whole:  Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, the man who wrote The China Study.  It discusses how and why a plant-based diet prevents and fights against diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  It also discusses, more as a side note, the negative environmental effects of raising animals for food and the morally reprehensible treatment of animals raised on large, corporate farms for food, including dairy cows.  My reading is pushing me more and more towards veganism.  It is a process, for sure, but I am finding that my tastes are changing, so that it becomes easier and easier to choose meals that don't contain animal products.  Yesterday, I went out for lunch, and most of the choices included meat and/or cheese.  I ended up ordering a vegetarian panini that had fresh mozzarella.  As I was eating it, I wished I had asked for the sandwich without the cheese, even though no vegan combinations were listed on the menu.  Even though I have always loved fresh mozzarella cheese, I found that I am now craving the cleaner tastes of fresh vegetables without cheese.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Creamy (Without the Cream) Broccoli Soup

Figuring out ways to eliminate animal products from dishes I like is my current passion.  Our planet would be so much better off if humans did not eat meat.  It is hard for our environment to absorb all the waste products that come from large factory farms.  Methane from livestock--both from digestive processes and manure storage in holding tanks or lagoons-- is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  Excessive quantities of manure leach into ground water and surface water.  Local meat from small farms definitely is kinder to the environment than meat from factory farms, but it is challenging for most of us to purchase local meat.  I find it easier to eliminate meat from many meals than to buy local meat for daily consumption.  Also, the more I read, the more convinced I am that a diet devoid of animal products is healthier than one that includes animal products.  While I have not eliminated animal products completely from my diet, I am trying to reduce my use of animal products substantially.

I have been fantasizing about creating a vegan version of Cream of Broccoli Soup that tastes as good as a couple of fabulous broccoli soups I have had in restaurants over the years.  I really like broccoli soup, but there have been occassions when I absolutely loved it.  Whenever I eat something especially good in a restaurant, I try to detect the various ingredients that give it the subtle taste I enjoy.  Sometimes I ask the waiter or waitress and find out secret ingredients that way.  I remember once eating a broccoli soup at the Museum Cafe in Baltimore, many years ago, that had fennel in it, and that soup was particularly memorable.  I don't know if this version is as good as that one was, but I tried.

I began this soup with a mushroom broth.  I made stuffed mushrooms the other day, and then something else with mushrooms in it yesterday, and saved all the stems when I cleaned the mushrooms.  When I prepare portobello and shiitake mushrooms, I remove the stem and usually throw it away.  I decided, this time, to save them in a container on the counter until I felt like making broth.  This morning, I put the mushroom stems in a pot, along with a quartered onion, a carrot, some salt, peppercorns, a couple of sprigs of thyme, a handful of parsley, and a bunch of water--enough to cover everything, and since I wanted enough broth to make a batch of soup for dinner, I made sure there was enough water to end up with enough broth for a batch of soup.  In the end, there was about 6 cups of broth.  I just eyeballed it, though.  This process took about 5 minutes.  I put the pot on medium heat and did a bunch of things:  went to the grocery store, did laundry, started spreading mulch in the garden . . . The point is, you can make your own broth, using leftovers, without spending much time.  It is best if you can at least be in and out during the cooking time, but if you can't, throw it all in the slow cooker!  Using leftovers in this way is the greenest way to cook.  You are using up stuff that would end up in the trash.  You are saving all kinds of natural resources by cutting out the food manufacturer that processes broth, packages it, emits goodness-knows-what into bodies of water and the air, and then more stuff into the air by transporting it to the store where you buy it.  And--BONUS!--you are making something wholesome.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vegan Black Bean, Tomato and Avocado Tortilla

My "go-to" quick dish for black beans often involves tortillas and cheese.  I have been reading more and more information suggesting that cheese really is not that good for you, so I have been thinking about how to make things I like without using cheese.  I have read that nutritional yeast--an ingredient I do not have much experience with--can sort of substitute for cheese.  Not exactly.  It doesn't give you that gooey wonderfulness that cheese does.  But then, it doesn't clog your arteries, either!  But it is supposed to offer the elusive umami that I read about, which I do not entirely understand.  In any case, I set out to use some black beans that I had cooked in my slow cooker (see another post earlier this month) with tortillas in a simple, tasty dish.  I wanted it to satisfy my hunger this evening without contaminating my body with any animal products.  I like what I came up with.  You could make this dish for lunch, a snack, or a light supper, as I did.

½ cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup cooked black beans (preferably cooked using my slow cooker method with a dried chipotle chile in the pot—save the chile after it cooks)
handful of cilantro, about ¼ cup, chopped
juice of ½ lime
1 TBS nutritional yeast
¼ tsp sea salt
1 scallion, chopped (use both white and green parts)
6 corn tortillas
½ avocado, diced

Mix cherry tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, lime juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt, scallion in a bowl.  Add a little bit of chopped chipotle chile leftover from cooking in the slow cooker with the black beans.  (You might try adding a little chopped jalapeno instead if you like things spicy).

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium flame.  Cook each tortilla for 20-30 seconds on each side, then transfer it to a plate.  Fill tortilla with a spoonful or two of mixture, then fold over so it is a semi-circle.  Heat filled tortillas for 1 minute in a microwave, then top with diced avocado.  Makes 6. (I ate 4 for supper--I was hungry, so plan on 2-4 per person for a meal, maybe even 6 for someone really hungry).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Black Bean Quesadillas

These quesadillas make a terrific snack, lunch, or light supper.  Last week, I made a batch of spicy black beans in the slow cooker and the same day I made quesadillas for dinner.  Then I froze the black beans that were leftover, stored them in a small container in the freezer, and made quesadillas for lunches on several different days.  Super quick and easy!

2 small corn tortillas
spicy black beans (from yesterday's posting)
3 chopped cherry tomatoes (you could use bottled salsa instead if you don't have cherry tomatoes on hand, though this will add extra spiciness)
shredded cheddar cheese, or a blend of cheddar and montery jack

For each quesadilla, heat cast iron skillet, then put in 2 corn tortillas, one at a time,  for a few seconds on each side.  Place one tortilla on plate.  Put layer of black beans, then diced tomatoes, then cheese on top of tortilla.  Cover with the other tortilla.  Microwave for about 30 seconds.  Serve with guacamole and/or sour cream if desired.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spicy Black Beans in Slow Cooker for use in recipes

I accidentally discovered how fantastic a dried chipotle pepper is in a pot of black beans.  I wanted to try cooking black beans in my slow cooker in order to use them in simple, quick & easy recipes, rather than opening a can of beans.  This is easier than opening a can of beans, except that you have to do it ahead of time.  I was afraid to salt the beans too early because I was afraid the salt would make them tough.  But I wanted the beans to absorb some kind of flavor as they were cooking, so that they would not be too bland.  These actually turned out to have quite a bite to them, probably because the dried pepper I used was quite large.  Use a larger pepper if you like spicy hot food, or a smaller pepper if you prefer a milder flavor.  In any case, these beans have great flavor for use in mexican-style recipes.  Tomorrow I will post a simple quesadilla recipe using them.  You could also try them in tacos, bean dips, or whatever mexican-style foods you like.  If you have a mexican-style recipe you like that uses meat, try substituting these beans for the meat for greenplanet eating!

1 cup dried black beans
12 cups water
1 large dried chipotle pepper
1 onion, cut in half

Put all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours.  Add 1 tsp salt after 3 hours.  Remove onion and pepper.  Drain to use in recipes.

Tip:  If you don't use them all the first day, spread the remaining cooked beans on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and freeze them.  Once they are frozen, transfer them to a container in the freezer.  You can easily take out small portions of beans for quick and easy snacks or meals.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

White Bean, Kale and Wheatberry Soup in Slow Cooker

There are many reasons to try to reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products.  Unfortunately, human population growth is taking its toll on the planet, as food production becomes massive and industrial.  When food production was more localized, the Earth could more easily repair itself and adjust to the impact of food production.  Food production now relies more and more on unnatural processes.  Fish farming, feeding corn to cows (not the food they would eat in natural circumstances), chemical usage to produce ever larger crops (in part to feed livestock) and to make animals grow faster all contribute to environmental degradation.  Each of us can make a small, positive impact on this frightening trend by reducing our support of the types of businesses that harm the Earth most severely.  These types of businesses would include large-scale meat and dairy producers, most fish farms, and large food processors.  It would be difficult, probably impossible for most of us, to eliminate support of all of these food producers, but we can try to think about the source of each of the items we purchase at the grocery store and make choices that favor small, local companies over large, national and international ones.  Since plant production uses fewer planetary resources than animal production, this soup is a green choice, and very easy to make.  The vegetables and herbs provide plenty of flavor, and the beans and wheat berries are substantial and filling, so why would you think you need to eat meat?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stir Fry for Vegetarians and Carnivores at the Same Table

Yesterday I received in the mail and started reading a new book, Healthy Eating, Healthy World:  Unleashing the Power of Plant-Based Nutrition, by J. Morris Hicks with J. Stanfield Hicks.  It seems to pull together and build upon other books that have greatly influenced my thinking about what I eat:  The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell, and Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, as well as other books that I have not read but apparently also discuss the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Yesterday morning, I had pulled a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer and anticipated making a stir fry for dinner with chicken, veggies, and teriyaki sauce.  After reading the first chapter or so of this new book, I decided I really did not want to eat meat for dinner.  Yet I knew that others in my family would not appreciate or feel satiated by a meal of stir-fried veggies and rice alone.  So I decided to cook the chicken in a separate pan from the vegetables, using the same sauce to flavor the contents of both pans.  That way the people who wanted chicken teriyaki could have it, and I could just eat vegetables.  I used the vegetables that I found in my refrigerator. One thing that you might be unfamiliar with is black radish.  I bought this vegetable from a local farm, not knowing what it was or how to prepare it.  I have enjoyed it raw, dipped in hummus, and decided to see what it would taste like in a stir fry.  It was delicious!  If you don't have access to this vegetable, you might try substituting another crunchy white vegetable--jicama, jerusalem artichoke, or water chestnuts?--  for similar effect.

Now, I have posted Asian stir fry dishes on this blog with sauces I concocted from scratch.  Sometimes, though, I prefer the ease of pulling a bottle of Trader Joe's Soyaki Sauce from the pantry to quickly and easily flavor a dish.  It is definitely better for the planet, however, to make your own sauce (think about cutting out the middle-man factory that produces and packages the sauce, and all the pollution a factory creates).  If you want to combine the ideas in today's recipe with a homemade sauce, feel free to use the search bar in the upper lefthand corner to look for "stir fry" and  find a recipe I posted previously with a homemade sauce.  Those of you who decide to go with Trader Joe's Soyaki or another bottled sauce, just know that, once in a while, I share your imperfection.  We can try to compensate for our imperfection by taking some other action to counteract planet destruction:  maybe replace a plastic-packaged item in our shopping cart at the supermarket next time with an item that is sold in-bulk (ideal) and put it into a recycled container we bring from home (even more ideal), or at least replace the plastic-packaged item with something packaged in a non-plastic container.

It is time to start cooking!  First, slice the chicken breast into strips.  I used 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves to serve 3 people.  Place strips in a bowl and pour enough sauce over them to cover.  Toss so that all strips are covered with sauce.  Marinate on the counter while you make the rice and prepare the vegetables for cooking.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Vegan Black Bean Soup in Slow Cooker

Within the past couple of months, I have read or heard from at least 3 different sources with good culinary reputations that soaking dried beans is unnecessary if you cook them slowly for a long enough time.  So I decided to try a black bean soup in the slow cooker without soaking the beans the night before.  It turned out fine, so I guess those culinary experts are correct.  I wonder why the "old wives" wisdom says that you need to soak beans the night before?  Although I developed this recipe myself using a combination of flavors I have become familiar with over the years, I have to thank Deborah Madison, a cookbook author I admire, for the idea of using chipotle pepper to give black beans that smoky flavor that a carnivore would get from cooking the beans with a ham bone.  

Even though I love beans cooked with a ham bone or a smoked pork hock, I am trying to make that transition to completely vegetarian beans as my contribution to better planet sustainability.  If we eat meat, it is very hard to limit ourselves to locally and sustainably farmed meat unless we eat only at home and purchase such meat exclusively.  Industrially raised animals tend to eat antibiotics, food laced with pesticides, and possibly hormones.  The resulting manure returns to the soil and those chemicals leach into our water supply.  Even if we try to buy organic meat at the supermarket, it is likely to come from a place that is unkind to the Earth, or possibly unkind to the animals.  

As I learn more and more about climate change and the human activities that contribute towards this catastrophe, I resolve not only to act in a way that takes fewer resources from Earth, but also to try to inspire others to increase their environmental thoughtfulness.  If each of us pursues this, perhaps we can change the negative course our planet is on.  The idea that my future grandchildren or great-grandchildren might suffer extreme hardships, perhaps even struggle to survive, due to climate change causes me to shudder, and to think hard about what I can do about it.  

Sustainable eating is one way to help combat climate change.  Methane gas is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and agriculture is the primary source of methane gas emissions globally, with methane production coming from animal digestive processes.  We can reduce the demand for livestock by eating plants instead of meat, and thereby reduce carbon emissions.

So make this vegetarian version of black bean soup in your slow cooker to take one small step towards saving our planet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Smoothie with Berries, Banana, Pear, Apple and Various Superfood Powders

I know that I have posted smoothie recipes before but I am discovering more and more superfoods that I add to the daily smoothies I blend.  Also, I discovered something interesting the other day when I mixed up my morning routine a little bit.  Usually, I start my day with a cup of coffee and some toast.  Later, I might drink some of the smoothie that I blended for my son, if there is some leftover.  But then this one day I made more smoothie than usual so that I could have a whole, tall glass.  I found that it gave me so much energy that I did not even WANT a cup of coffee.  I did not feel my usual craving for caffeine.  Isn't that interesting?  It must be all these superfoods.  I don't know if it is one of them or the combination of all of them, but it has to be a good thing.  I don't think there is any other breakfast that gives me such an energetic start to the day.   Certainly not what I formerly would have thought was a hearty breakfast:  bacon and eggs or pancakes or french toast.  None of those things replaces coffee!  And I was not even seeking to eliminate coffee from my routine.  In fact, I have not eliminated coffee from my routine, because I like it.  But I have started making enough smoothie every day so that I can have a whole glass for myself.  And I skip the toast sometimes, because the smoothie is usually enough to fill me up for awhile.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pasta with Vegetables and White Balsamic Vinegar

I am on an email list for America's Test Kitchen, and periodically receive recipes that have been tested and are usually good.  Recently, they sent me a recipe for pasta with pan-roasted vegetables, which I adapted to include many more vegetables, what I had in my kitchen, and what I thought would taste best.  The main thing I got from them was the technique of cooking the vegetables in the pan with a cover to steam them, an interesting idea.  The result was a nice vegetable sauce with plenty of flavor.  Together with the whole wheat pasta, this dish seems hearty enough to fill you up for a main-dish supper.  With all the various nutrients from the different vegetables, you don't need to worry about getting a well-balanced diet.  This provides lots of nutritional balance.  Grated parmesan cheese is a nice touch at the end, though if you are following a vegan diet you will not include this.  It is good either way.  I put a pot of water on the stove to boil, then cut up all the vegetables and put them in little bowls, so that when I started cooking them, they were ready to throw in the pan.  You can cook the pasta while you are cooking the vegetables--just don't forget to ladle out some of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lentil Soup with Mushroom Broth and Spinach

I recently visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Reading the information on the exhibit signs heightened my awareness of why we should choose organic food whenever possible.  Agricultural runoff pollutes the rivers, oceans and lakes.   It depletes oxygen from the water, making it difficult or impossible for some aquatic species to survive.  Yet some other species, such as jellyfish, thrive in the new environment, both because they can live in the polluted conditions and because their predators, such as sea turtles and fish, are diminishing in number.  Did you know that jellyfish populations are increasing at alarming rates in the ocean?  Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible to help maintain our aquatic ecosystems.

I make lentils frequently and have posted recipes in the past.  I often use instant or prepared broth.  The other day, I wanted to keep the animal products out of my meal, and I had run out of the vegetable bouillon I often keep in my pantry.  Luckily, I had dried mushrooms in my pantry, and lots of basic vegetables in the refrigerator.  The result was a broth more delicious than store-bought, and easy to make.  It made a big difference in the final dish.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stewed Tomatoes and Green Chilies With Pork Over Cheesy Polenta

Here's another dish to use up that leftover pork from the pork shoulder we cooked in the slow cooker (posted 2 days ago).  My husband and kids LOVED this.  You should definitely try it.  And it is so easy to make.  Why is it green planet eating?  Because by using up leftovers, instead of throwing food away, you are conserving resources.  Feel good about it.  It saves money, too.  The pork shoulder used in the slow-cooker pork is an economical cut of meat, because it is very fatty.  The 9 lb. shoulder cost about $15, and this is the fourth meal made from it--and there is still more meat leftover for additional meals!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pork and Vegetables With Sage and Lemon Zest In Reduced Cream Sauce

I whipped this up in less than a half hour, and it was quite good.  I got the idea after watching "The Taste," a TV show on ABC.  One of the cook-contestants prepared a winning dish that she described as "braised pork in cream with lemon zest and sage."  All the judges loved it, so I thought that I might try to create a dish using leftover slow-cooked pork with cream, lemon zest and sage.  Since I am always trying to come up with ways to use smaller portions of meat with lots of vegetables, I pulled out what I had in the fridge:  broccoli, a carrot, a zucchini, a red pepper.  I figured that the pork that was braised in cream on the TV show had lots of flavor coming from the pork cooking in the cream.  Since I was starting with pork that was already cooked, I didn't have the juice that comes out from meat that is cooking and can flavor a sauce so nicely.  So I thought that if I started the dish with a sauteed onion, that could offer some flavor to the sauce.  The other vegetables also offer flavor.  This dish might not be as good as what people were eating on the TV show--I would not say it is "to die for"--but for a quick weeknight meal that is nicely palatable, I recommend it to you.  Everyone in my family enjoyed it.  It goes nicely with a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris!

1 onion, chopped
1 TBS coconut oil
1 carrot, cut lengthwise into 2” matchstick pieces
1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 2” pieces
¼ red pepper, cut into 2” strips
1 c. chopped broccoli
¼ c. orange juice
2 TBS fresh sage leaves, chopped
grated zest from 1 lemon
½ pint heavy cream (possibly a little more)
2 cups cooked pork (such as leftovers from slow-cooked pork shoulder)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute chopped onion until translucent.  Add carrot pieces and zucchini pieces and continue to sauté.  Meanwhile, microwave chopped broccoli and orange juice together in a glass bowl, covered, for a minute.  After carrots and zucchini have cooked for a couple of minutes, add red pepper, fresh sage and grated lemon zest and stir.  Pour in heavy cream and turn heat to high.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until cream becomes thick, then spoon out microwaved broccoli and add it to the pan, along with the cooked pork.  Add a little more cream if it seems to need more sauce.  Stir until pork is heated and all meat and vegetables are coated with cream sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over couscous, rice, or another simple grain.  Serves 4.