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.

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.