Friday, December 31, 2010

Guest Post: I Want Candy. by Ruby

"Can I have one more of those suckers? Please mom? One more? If I clean up this paint, can I have one? Three? I want three more. Please? Please, mom! Mom? Please can I have more? DON'T GIVE THEM AWAY!!! NO! PLEASE MOM NO!!!"

Good grief. The biggest mistake I made this holiday season was becoming inspired to make caramel. I will NEVER again make this mistake, as it resulted in my daughter becoming OBSESSED with candy!

When I say candy, I mean caramel...

And chocolate covered caramels. And chocolate with peanut butter!

We made little candies to give to friends.

It was really so very easy - all it took was a candy thermometer and some elbow grease to stir. I had visions of making several batches, but once the child got a taste of this stuff, she couldn't think of anything else. It was one of those times that make a parent wonder about what really goes on in a kid's mind. If you ask ten million times, for one more candy, maybe on the ten millionth mom (or dad) might say yes? That must be the strategy. But I couldn't let her eat them all, because the whole point was to give them away! So I tried gave them away as fast as I could - believe me. And then we acted like the whole thing never happened.....
The recipe I used was one from Sweetpea Baking Company so I can't really share - but if you google the phrase vegan caramel, I'm sure you won't be disappointed! I will chime in that brown rice syrup is probably a better ingredient than corn syrup in any caramel recipe, though. And use a pan that is wider than it is deep -- your caramel will heat up much quicker. This was so easy and obviously, really good.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Get Me Started on Beans

There's a great line in the movie Waiting for Guffmann that is totally random and lovely, where the narrator says something about just sitting there having some beans....and finishes with "don't get me started on beans." Well, I'm beyond "started" on beans - too late!
I don't understand when people say they don't like beans. Really? You don't like hummus, falafel, or refried beans? No tacos or burritos in your life, no black eyed peas on new years, no chili? What has the world come to if it is acceptable to avoid an entire healthy and varied food group? Beans are an inexpensive and filling protein. They have tons of fiber, are low in fat, are full of protein, add lots of texture and taste, and can be coaxed into many different forms to fill you up. We eat beans all the dang time. Soups, bean burgers or "cutlets" if we're feeling fancy, chickpea flour pancakes, beans with greens, beans as a dip or spread.....refried beans, roasted beans...even bean salad. Behold. And please eat some beans this week, you'll be glad.

Beans Beans the Musical Fruit....I know, I'm a juvenile.
Last night we had a little get together with a couple of friends and we made some snacks. I threw together this lovely bean salad that took all of 10 minutes to prepare - and it was awesome. 

Oops, need a bigger bowl to toss this all together!
Don't Get Me Started on Beans Salad
1 can each black beans, garbanzo beans, black eyed peas, rinsed & drained
1 red pepper, evenly chopped
1 yellow pepper, evenly chopped
20 or 25 sugar snap peas, deveined & chopped
2 T minced shallots
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley or 2 tablepoons dried

Mix beans, peppers and peas in a large bowl. Combine shallots, lemon juice, agave and oil in food processor or blender until creamy. You can also use an immersion blender or with some elbow grease, just wisk until creamy! Add to beans, stirring to coat everything. Stir in parsley. You might want to add a bit more oil or salt and pepper - but you MUST let this hang out in the fridge, covered, for a couple of hours. It improves with time.
Serve with chips or pita or spoons. Enjoy!

Thou shalt love beans and consume them with frequency.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mango Bread with Cardamom, Ginger & Lime

I really do have a thing for mangoes. It could be worse. This bread has a cup and a half of chopped mango (I thaw frozen mango) and a little lime zest to make it seem fancy schmancy. Truth is, it takes all of 10 minutes to throw together and really proves how easy vegan baking is. No eggs required, just some basics you probably have in the pantry, plus picking up some cardamom from the bulk spices. If you don't like cardamom or can't find it, use more ginger. If you don't like ginger, use cinnamon and orange instead of lime. It's a versatile recipe that you could easily adapt. Woo!
Mango Bread with Cardamom, Ginger and Lime = Delicious

We are crazy for mango
Mango Bread with Cardamom, Ginger & Lime
2 Cups white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup WW & 1 cup AP)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chopped mango
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
zest of 1 lime

Preheat your oven to 350º. Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the wet ingredients and combine until they are just mixed. Pour into 5 x 9 bread pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes (or test with a toothpick until toothpick comes out clean). Let it cool for a while before you slice it!

I have to thank my friend Tracy for this idea, because it was hers. She is also crazy about mango, and is lucky enough to live near a super-cool produce market that often has dollar bags of really ripe mangoes! She buys 'em up and peels and chops them, then freezes them for later. It's so smart to buy ahead if you see a bunch of almost bad bananas or mangoes or whatever...just freeze them and you'll be ready for smoothies or banana bread or whatever. Who can resist 10 bananas for a buck? Not me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes

I believe there should be something green at every meal. Breakfast can be an exception, but lunch and dinner better feature some green on the plate or I feel imbalanced and like I'm missing out on nutrition. But when I can make a breakfast that is delicious and exciting for my almost six-year-old daughter AND has something green, well, I will.

Let me introduce you to zucchini pancakes.
A short stack with a lot of yum. Quick, too!
Basically, I take pancakes, and add zucchini. It's not really rocket science, though it did make me sing a song this morning about how I feel so smart that I should work at NASA...I digress... but, good, fluffy pancakes made at home can be hard to come by....they are often thin and not quite done in the middle, and why does the first one not work as well as the rest?  All that really bums me out. Plus, when you add something that has moisture to pancakes, like zucchini,  you need to get your moisture ratio right. The last thing you want is to not love your pancakes!
To insure pancake love, you must:
1. NEVER over-mix your batter. You've met over-mixed pancakes. They are thin, difficult to flip and too wet in the middle. You know yourself if you are an over-mixer. Admit it. Move on. See step two.
2. If you are guilty of overmixing (and it's okay if you are) please leave your batter alone for a bit. Set it aside for 10 minutes, go wake up the kids, load the dishwasher, get dressed... just wait until a few bubbles begin to form on the top before you begin pancaking.
3. Properly pre-heat your skillet. If you use cast iron, this means it must be good and hot before you spoon batter into it, then spray it lightly with canola oil. If you use non-stick (which I do for pancakes) then you must pre-heat it with a very light spray of canola oil applied for a minute or two.

You will be rewarded with fluffy and tasty pancakes soon, promise!

I love when these babies are all fluffy but slightly crispy on the outside.

I never re-spray oil between pancakes. For some reason, it just works out better not to.

My little lady will eat 2 - 4 of these little ones, depending how hungry she is!

Sweetish Zucchini Pancakes
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup WW & 1 cup AP)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk of choice (rice, soy, oat, hemp) or water, or a combination you like
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini

Wisk the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the the milk, oil and vanilla. At this point, pre-heat your skillet. Add the wet to the dry ingredients, mixing a few times, then add in the zucchini. DON'T OVERMIX. See above instructions if you do.
When your skillet is hot, spoon batter onto hot skillet, taking a moment to spread it out. We use the 1/4 cup to make pancakes b/c we like little ones. Use what you like!
cook until bubbles are forming on top and the pancakes are looking dryish on the sides. Flip, cook for another minute or two. Keep in a 170º pre-heated oven until the gang is ready to chow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What our Bird eats for lunch

If I ask Ruby what she wants to eat, she'll likely answer one of two things; yogurt or a "roll up." What is a roll up you ask? THIS is a roll up.
Wheat tortilla, avocado, tofutti cream cheese (non-hydro), mache, carrots, 2 tofurky slices. Rolled up!
 I'm not sure when it started, but this child will eat just about anything if it's rolled up in a tortilla. In particular, though, this combination is her absolute favorite. I'm happy to make it for her lunch because it's got whole grains, veggies and good protein. She'll have fruit too, and maybe some sweet potato, peas & corn, or broccoli. Sweet potato is another favorite of hers, and she'll eat the other veggies about half the time...

Her school cafeteria is mostly vegetarian. I thought that all the meals were vegetarian but I did see "tuna salad" on the menu a few weeks back. (Obviously they need a refresher about fish not being vegetables) And sadly, there is dairy lurking in lots of the meals, whether it's some butter in the bread or eggs or what have you. Otherwise, there are lots of good choices, and I've seen some good looking salad greens come on the plates the kids get. But being that Ruby is just in kindergarten, we are slowly getting involved....and the on-site kitchen, with the food made right there every day, with items grown in the school garden make me REALLY want to get involved! And that "mostly" veg menu can easily be more vegan friendly. Right? Yes! I've emailed the in charge person, and look forward to hearing back. Regardless, I make her lunch everyday. I like to.
Here's her tiffin, clearly marked. Josh stenciled the bird on our thrift store table. Nice, huh?
It's funny, even though there are lots of books on lunches and I know tons of folks blog about it all the time, it's tough to come up with new stuff 5 days a week!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One stop on the journey to giving a damn.

Just how do we wind up being the person we are today?

I grew up Catholic, lying in bed at night, scared of dying and going to hell. Those were the days! I honestly thought that if I stopped thinking, my brain would stop, and then I would die, and that original sin and my boredom in church cast me straight to hell. What a gory imagination fueled by fear of god. Thankfully, I realized over the years that I wouldn't drop dead by spacing out and that lightening wouldn't strike me down if is said the word shit.

But so much of that Catholicism has stuck with me, in the form of what I like to think are some good qualities in my personality. Things to make my mom proud, hopefully. For example, I am compassionate and don't always put myself first. I shelve my ability to have a cow burger or a chicken wing because I know how much suffering and pain it causes the animal for me to consume them. More difficult for many to understand, I also say no to cheese, eggs, and all those hidden dairy ingredients, and things like gelatin, etc.,  because I also know the much better disguised pain those animal foods cause. Just because I might want it, because it tastes good, because it's easy, because it's tradition or because everyone else eats it, doesn't make it right.

Church helped me learn right from wrong, too. It's right to listen to people and let them speak their thoughts and feelings, it's right to keep an open mind, it's right to give time and money to do and create good in this world. It's right to simply be kind! It's wrong to yell, it's wrong to hit your dog or your kid, and it's wrong to be selfish. It's wrong to be greedy. Knowing these things, it's easy for me to say no to foods that have animals in them, because it would be my own selfish desire to eat it winning over if I do. If I can cause less suffering and create more kindness by not eating eggs, I will. It's so easy! It's not like I have to actually do hard work, or sweat, or spend a lot of money to do it. Right?

There are lots of phrases that I learned in Catholic school or at mass, too. One of my favorites is, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." That is one powerful combination of words, and though I do make fun of Sarah Palin, I do my best to live by these words. They perfectly describe the thought process I have when I think about eating animals. If the tables were turned, I sure would hope the cow would choose compassion. I wouldn't want to be kept pregnant my whole life, never allowed to be a mom to my babies, helpless as I watch them be taken away to live their own sad, lonely, and painful lives. I don't want to force that on anyone or anything! Even Sarah Palin!

Another phrase is "make me an instrument of your peace," it's from the prayer of St. Francis, who is the patron saint of animals. Just the fact that there IS a patron saint to animals, and he's as popular as St. Francis, is pretty amazing. Then again, there are patron saints of just about everything.... but, what is sad is the connection to those words is completely severed when it comes to what people consume. Doesn't matter if you're Catholic or Buddhist or Muslim, you can sow love, pardon injury, give hope instead of despair, instead of eating bacon for brunch after you worship your god of choice. Somehow, that simple action of choosing compassion becomes a crazy loony concept on the drive between the holy house and the pancake house.

I don't practice any religion now except compassion and being kind. It's in everything I do, every choice I make. Where I shop, how I get there, how I speak to people, and yes, what I eat. It's giving a damn at every single turn. I'm no saint, that is for damn sure. I know I can do better. But I try to lessen suffering wherever I can, for animals, people, places, and myself.

The book that I'm working on, Eat Like You Give a Damn, will hopefully show people how easy it is to make more caring choices about what to eat. I'm talking basic vegan recipes for those new to plant based eating and the vegan curious. But I also want to expand the average person's pantry to include some super delicious foods they might not currently consume. Ultimately, this is to save animals and to make life better for people. I mean, caring about others, whether human animal or not, simply giving a damn - is just about the coolest thing there is.

Here are two reasons to Give A Damn. A lifetime of health for my little person & the love of a very bad dog.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Down to the last little crumb

One of the things that drives me batty about our world today is bread crumbs. I don't stay up nights obsessing about it, but I have a strong opinion of what exactly a bread crumb is. It should not have whey (milk protein) in it, it should not have added high fructose corn syrup, milk solids, or any number of other unspeakable ingredients. Bread crumbs should not come in a paper canister with a plastic lid, and don't need to be flavored "Italian" or whatever. Why Italian, anyway? How limiting.

Simply, bread crumbs should be crumbled bread. I know, so boring. But yet, so binding! Which is often the  point, right? Like, that grain meatloaf holds together so well with bread crumbs! Or, such a toasty good and crunchy topping. As in, mac-n-cheese with garlicky bread crumbs is delicious! So paying $3 or whatever for processed, sodium rich, rancid smelling bread crumbs with fake Italian seasoning is just plain wack.

Glad I got that off my chest.

I love making bread crumbs! I save all the ends that are just not good enough for toast or sandwiches. If the baguette gets hard on the counter, I just save it. That little bag of mini-bagels Ruby had to have - but didn't get eaten on the road trip? No worries. Toss them all in the freezer, let 'em pile up. At some point, I'm overwhelmed with the random bags and baguettes, or I'm out of bread crumbs, and so I make more. Thaw out the whole mess of random ends and such, then put them through the cuisinart until they are crumb-tastic. If I must soften the bread before whizzing in the food processor, I just toss it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it's ready to rock. Soon, my freezer has lots more space and I'm ready to feed the army of hungry vegan warriors I've invited over for dinner.

I have bread crumbs for my chickpea cutlets, my mac-n-cheese, my meatloaf, my pasta with garlicky bread crumbs and red pepper flakes....and they are real bread! Either "fresh" or toasted if I want. See?

It seems criminal to not finish a loaf of Dave's Killer Bread,
but it makes damn good breadcrumbs!

Cups and cups of crumby bread.

Now I'll just store this in the freezer, and they'll be good for months & months!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chickpea Flour Pancakes

I love pancakes. Savory pancakes....sweet pancakes are good too, don't get me wrong, but today we are talking about a different kind of pancake. Made with beans! Woo!

You see, my friend Kittee is vegan and gluten-free, as well as an Indianophile - meaning she is all about Indian food. She's traveled to India and can cook up a storm to sate your Indian cravings, indeed. Well, she once told me about chickpea pancakes, when we were discussing vegan omelets or something...and she shared a ton of her Indian cookbooks with me, too. Then I finally got around to getting Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and quickly remembered the chickpea pancake concept...well, let's just say the HERBIVORES ARE HOOKED!

This lovely has cumin, cayenne, garlic, onion, and peas.
It's not flipped yet, still getting set in the skillet on side one.

Here is the real deal. Topped with curried spinach & onions, plain soy yogurt & chutney.
We had these for dinner, and then breakfast the next morning! I love savory breakfast, it doesn't bother me one bit to have garlic breath in the morning. And another amazing thing about these is the batter; I just tossed it in the fridge overnight (covered) then gave it a real good stir in the morning, and they were, dare I say - even better the next day! All that chickpea protein and some vegetables filled me up so much I didn't even think about lunch until after 2pm. I'll share the recipe soon, it's so very easy and I'm sure totally inauthentic.