Warm salad of roasted kale, coconut, and tomatoes

Roasted Kale SaladKale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, but up until recently I didn’t do a whole lotta cooking with it. Sometimes I would chop it up and add it to black bean soup or chili, but I predominantly ate it at restaurants. Not any more.

Over the summer I discovered this recipe in Anna Jones’s cookbook A Modern Way to Eat: 200+ satisfying vegetarian recipes (that will make you feel amazing). The salad is so addictive that the hubs and I eat multiple times a week now. I like to cut brussels sprouts in half and roast them along with the tomatoes to add another layer of nutrient-dense yumminess, but the recipe is perfect on its own.

For those wanting to improve their Defense Against the Dark Arts studies: Cancer undoubtedly hates this shit.

Bon appetite.

Serves 4 (At least that’s what the recipe says. Hubs and I have no problem snarfing it down all on our own.) 

What you need

  • 14 oz cherry tomatoes
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 limes
  • 1 head of green or purple kale (about 7 oz), stalks removed, leaves roughly torn into bite-size pieces
  • a handful of unsweetened shaved or dried coconut
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

 

For the dressing

  • A thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
  • 1 red chile, finely chopped

 

What to do

  1. Preheat your oven to 425-degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Halve the tomatoes and place them on a baking tray with some salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil (I use no more than 1 tablespoon), the zest of both limes, and the juice of one. Roast for 20 minutes until blistered and golden.
  3. Next, pile the kale on to a baking tray with the coconut. Pour over the soy sauce and toss well until everything is coated. Roast in the oven with the tomatoes for the last 5 minutes of their cooking time, until crisp.
  4. Meanwhile, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl with the juice of the second lime. Taste and add a little more seasoning or lime juice if needed, letting your tastebuds guide you–remember the dressing will be less punchy once it hits the salad. Pull the kale and tomatoes out of the oven and transfer to a big bowl. Toss with the miso dressing, adding a little at a time and tasting as you go. Serve still warm.

 

This entry was posted in Recipes.

Squash, Tofu, and Red Onion Roast

I cannot overstate how much I love this dinner. It’s easy to make, and it’s beyond scrummy–sweet, tangy, a bullseye on umami.

Why waste time chatting about it? Let’s just get right into the recipe, from Robin Asbell’s fabulous cookbook Big Vegan.

Make this.

 

What you need:

  • 1 lb winter squash, peeled and cubed
  • 12 oz firm tofu, drained, pressed, and diced
  • 1 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp agave syrup
  • 2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

 

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º. Put the squash, tofu, and onion in a large roasting pan. Drizzle them with the canola oil and toss to coat. Cover with foil, then roast for 20 minutes. Shake the pan to turn the cubes. If it feels like they are not moving, open the foil and turn them with a metal spatula. (I usually roast on a silpat mat, which keeps food from sticking.) Cover and roast until tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 20 minutes more.
  2. In a small cup, stir together the tamari, agave syrup, ginger, vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil. Pour them over the contents of the pan, and mix to coat. Roast, uncovered, until the liquids are absorbed and the pan is nearly dry, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot.

(Recipe says it serves 5. We got about 3 or 4 servings out of it.)

 

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Best. Sloppy. Joes. Ever.

Craving cafeteria-style comfort food? I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

“Snobby Joes” from Veganomicon is the perfect blend of yummy and healthy. Using lentils instead of meat, this recipe looks, tastes, and feels like the sloppy joes I ate as a kid.

One note: The chili powder in this recipe gives the joes a bit of a kick. Try cutting it to one or two tablespoons if you don’t like spicy. You can always add more in later if you want.

 

What you need:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chile powder (See note above.)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2–3 tablespoons maple syrup (I used two.)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 4-6 buns, sliced in half horizontally

 

What to do:

  1. Pour the lentils and water into a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
  2. About 10 minutes before the lentils are done, preheat a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more.
  3. Stir in the cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup to taste and the mustard, and heat through.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can’t wait.

The book says they like to serve these open faced; I’m a traditionalist. I like my sloppy joes cafeteria style served on a full bun and with some fries. In this case, I roasted some potato wedges with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, fresh dill, salt, and pepper.

Best. Fries. Ever.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Stew with Orange and Rosemary

Two things: I love this stew. And, Cancer hates all those vegetables!

From the cookbook Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson, the “Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Stew” is an absolute winner. Tommie and I were both highly disappointed last night when we realized we were full and could not fit another spoonful into our bellies. I knew I had to share it with you. Enjoy!

 

What you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ thick half-moons
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into 1/4″ thick rounds
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or one 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon minced orange zest (from one medium to large orange)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried (I always recommend fresh!!!)

What to do:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the fennel and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered and stirring, until the wine is reduced by one half, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, tomatoes and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes soften, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini and beans. Simmer until the ingredients are tender and the desired consistency is achieved, about 15 minutes. If a thicker stew is desired, puree 1 cup of the stew in a blender or food processor and stir back into the pot. (I used an immersion blender and liked the consistency.)
  3. A few minutes before serving, stir in the orange zest and rosemary. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6

 

In Search of Healthy Food

As I sip my decaf coffee with a splash of soy milk outside my favorite portable office, the Buzz Bakery and coffee shop, I reflect on how difficult it is to find healthy and tasty vegan foods away from my own kitchen. I think about this a lot actually.

Vegetarians and vegans can find a surprisingly vast amount of foods in restaurants and shops, but most of it is ladened with fats, sweeteners, and chemicals. I used to think that the unhealthy food issue was limited to us non-animal eaters, but I now believe it to be a systemic problem.

In the April 2012 Washingtonian Magazine, food-critic Todd Kliman answers this reader question: “Our country is facing a health crisis. Why aren’t many chefs changing their menus to reflect that?” Great question Reader! I want to know the answer too.

Here’s what Todd replied:

“Restaurant food isn’t constructed to be eaten four times a week — it’s constructed to be an indulgence. The problem is that people eat out more than ever. I suppose chefs could make a symbolic stand by lightening their dishes and making them less decadent. But would that really have an influence?

“Chefs are generally wary of making their food lighter. Even Italian chefs, such proponents of using olive oil, slather on butter to give dishes a finishing richness. They’re not much concerned with people’s diets. They’re concerned with getting people in the door and keeping them coming back.”

Because of my generally incredibly healthy diet as well as the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder and only have half a pancreas, when I eat something with too much fat in it, I immediately feel uncomfortable and sometimes even quite nauseous. And nine out of ten times when I eat food prepared outside of my own kitchen, I feel pretty lousy. My social life suffers because of it. I’d love to join friends for dinner at a restaurant, but I can only do so if I’m prepared to feel crummy afterwards.

There are two places in the DC metro area where I’m guaranteed a tasty meal that won’t make me feel sick: the healthy Indian food truck Rolls on Rolls and the chain Le Pain Quotidien. If I can find others I plan to start a running list on this site — part healthy food honor roll/part information for people who want to eat well.

I wonder if we’re approaching a tipping point in America. Will we as a nation become so unhealthy that even the most gluttonous will discover the need to eat healthier foods and choose home-cooked produce over butter-ladened foie gras? The cynic in me says Never! But as Rolls on Rolls and Le Pain Quotidien seem to have loyal followings, perhaps the market for healthy eating is brightening. A girl can dream.

Specialized Women’s Ride Day

(Courtesy of Spokes)

Ladies — Did you ride?

Yesterday women across the country hopped on their bikes and rode in events hosted by Specialized for Women’s Ride Day. I headed out with a friend to Spokes in Asbhurn to join more than 100 others and had a great time. It was my first just-for-girls event.

I’ve mentioned the incredibly fit chick who rode past me while I was barely able to walk my bike up a hill at my first Livestrong event and how she motivated me to get into shape like her. Well it’s hard for me to judge how I’m doing when I ride primarily with guys. At 103 pounds I’m tiny for women; forget about competing with men!

So I thought that by doing the Women’s Ride Day event I might be able to get a sense of how fit I really am now and also maybe make some new friends along the way.

Spokes offered two categories of rides: a fifteen-mile recreational ride and a twenty-five mile fitness/century-training ride. I chose the longer one. Within each category we were set off in groups of ten to twenty with a leader and a sweep (no woman left behind!).

The recreational riders ranged from first-time event riders needing assistance putting their helmets on correctly to avid townie riders to even one ElliptiGO rider. Everyone stared in amazement at her “bike.” My friend noticed that the ElliptiGO had carbon fiber components. Nice!

Our fitness ride was advertised as 14-16 mph, and honestly I wasn’t sure how I’d do with that. I’ve been riding my hybrid a lot more than my road bike this “winter,” and I thought maybe I’d be huffing to keep up. Not an issue. I fit right in.

Early on in the route the one man joining our crew told me he loved my bike — a Specialized Amira in black with neon green accents. Turns out our guy was the Specialized regional rep. It’s not a coincidence that this women’s day was a Specialized creation. I believe they make the best women’s bikes around. He asked if I am a sitting or standing climber and I mentioned that I have traditionally sat, but since losing so much weight this year I’m finding the need to stand more. He said that my bike is built for standing. So I played around with it on the few climbs we faced, and I loved it. I climbed with ease and with speed. A new technique to work on this season. Fun!

I usually feel a bit intimidated when I ride with a group and Tommie and I will break away from the pelaton to ride on our own, but I found yesterday’s environment to be so mellow and friendly that I stayed with the pack the whole time. I reconnected with one rider that I had actually met a couple years ago at the Spokes in Alexandria, and I chatted with others about things like pedaling techniques, clips vs cages, work, and family. One rider’s husband and children cheered from the side of the road as we passed them at mile twelve.

A number of the women asked if Spokes leads rides like these more often (they do!), and that made me smile. I hope that yesterday’s ride inspires them to get out on their bikes more. Cycling might have started out as a man’s sport, but it’s perfect for women too. And with the summer-like winter we’ve been experiencing in the northeast, there’s never been a better time to ride than now.

Tomorrow we join Tim Johnson on his Ride On Washington in support of Bikes Belong into DC. Stay tuned…

Is There a Nutritionist in the House?

One pound of sunchokes (A.K.A. Jerusalem artichokes) braised in one pound of butter with an added tablespoon of rendered pork fat amounts to only twelve grams of fat per serving. That’s what the Washington Post tells us today in its Sunchokes Braised in Butter recipe.

Really?

I’m not being snarky here, I’m just surprised and wonder if they’ve got the nutritional information correct.

The recipe says to submerge a pound of small sunchokes in four sticks of melted butter (along with some herbs, salt, and pepper), cover with aluminum foil and bake. When the chokes are tender, pull them out of the butter vat and then swirl them around in some heated pork fat on a hot skillet.

End result? According to the Post, two servings of: 290 calories, 5 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.

How did they figure out the fat content? Did someone weigh the butter before and after to determine how much got absorbed into the sunchokes?

I’ve never tried sunchokes and was excited to read the recipe, but vegan or no I would never (knowingly) eat any dish with this much butter and a skosh of pork fat. After two bites my digestive system would go on strike.

The recipe reads as ridiculously gluttonous to me, and so I’m going to go on a mission to find a delicious and healthy sunchokes recipe. There must be a better way. I’ll be sure to share my findings with you.

Note to my MacBook: “Sunchoke” is ONE word — not two. Give a girl a break!

Vegans — How Do You Get Calcium?

In January I told you how whenever someone learns that Tommie and I are vegans they ask how we get enough protein. We were caught off guard recently when one of his coworkers asked Tommie a different question. He wanted to know how we get enough calcium in our diets.

Interesting question.

In truth, Tommie and I don’t think much about how many individual nutrients we consume each day. Instead, we live by four simple diet rules:

  1. Eat only plant-based foods.
  2. Eat predominantly real foods (i.e. unsalted, unsweetened nuts and fruits for snacks).
  3. Aim for the most nutrient-dense foods (like the king-of-all-foods kale).
  4. Eat a rainbow of colors each day.

That’s our formula. My diet has grown progressively healthier over the past year — pretty much sticking to our rules — and the only nutritional supplement I take is a daily multivitamin. But I digress. We’re here to discuss calcium.

Renowned researcher T. Colin Campbell tells us that too much protein can result in calcium loss: “High-protein diets — especially protein of animal foods — can cause the body to excrete more calcium than it gets. For example, a person eating 142 grams of protein a day — which some Americans do — will excrete twice as much calcium in the urine as a person taking in a more moderate 47 grams.” To him it’s not only important to think about how we ingest calcium, but also how we retain it, and that translates to: eat a plant-based diet.

While I find Dr. Campbell’s research and conclusions compelling, and the Physicians’ Group for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) certainly agrees, many in the medical community do not (yet) embrace them. Dr. Campbell recommends that we get our calcium from foods like leafy greens and beans, but organizations such as the Linus Pauling Institute and MedlinePlus still say that dairy is the best source.

Whether you are a vegan, pescatarian, vegetarian, or omnivore it’s still important to eat a rainbow of colors each day, so it’s good to know that the following plant-based sources give us calcium too (from PCRM):

  • Collard greens — 266 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Tofu — 253 mg per 1/2 cup (raw, firm)
  • Soybeans — 175 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Dried figs — 140 mg per 10 figs
  • Great northern beans — 120 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Kale — 94 mg per cup (boiled)
  • Butternut squash — 84 mg per cup (baked)
  • Sweet potato — 76 mg per cup (baked)
  • Broccoli — 62 mg per 1 cup (boiled)
  • Brussels sprouts — 56 mg per 1 cup (boiled)

Note: My devotion to this blog knows no bounds. I wrote this post while my kitty Curtie sat on my lap purring, nudging, drooling on the keyboard, and typing in his own thoughts. He’s not a vegan. In fact, he’d like to eat his sister Briscoe right now because she currently smells like the vet. 

My New Addiction: Broccoli-Kale Sandwiches

I discovered Indian food when Tommie and I started dating — chicken korma to be specific.

Growing up I ate your standard dinner of broiled chicken with herbs, a side of veggies, and a salad. I had never experienced an explosion of flavors like the combination of spices, garlic, ginger, and cream in Indian food before.

So for the next six months I went coo coo for curry. Regularly heard conversations between Tommie and me:

“What are you doing?” “I’m having korma.”

Or,

“What should we get for dinner?” “Ooh, let’s have korma!” “Again?”

Then finally one day the thought of eating Indian food repulsed me. I ate it so much that I ate it too much. Korma became a verb. I kormaed my korma.

I’ve kormaed many a food in my life, and right now I’m kormaing Broccoli-Kale Sandwiches. Tommie too. We’ve eaten them at least ten times in the past month. I found the initial recipe from Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan cookbook, but I’ve tweaked her “Fast Broccoli-Kale Sandwiches” recipe to get more meals out of the dish, with tons of flavor and with less fat.

With that, I present to you your next food addiction: Broccoli-Kale Sandwiches. Be careful, though. You might korma it.

What you need:

  • 3 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
  • 8 cups chopped fresh kale (about a small bunch)
  • 4 tbsp tahini paste (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (To get the most juice out: Microwave the lemon whole on high for a minute. Let it cool. Then slice it in half and squeeze.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 whole wheat pitas, warmed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

What to do:

  1. Prepare a steamer and bring the water to a simmer. Put the broccoli and kale in the steamer and cover. Cook for 3 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender. Drain and cool, then pat them dry with a towel.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Add the broccoli and kale and toss to mix. Stuff the pitas with the broccoli mixture and tomatoes. Serve warm or cool.
  3. Tell me this isn’t the best sandwich you’ve made in ages.

How I Kicked My Antacids Habit

A week after the surgeon took out half of my pancreas and my spleen I developed the most disturbing hunger pangs — after I ate. Made me nuts, but I thought it must be a short-term side effect from the surgery and I’d feel better in a week or so. Nope. Not only did the hunger pang feeling stay, but it was joined by a cough.

My gastroenterologist put me on Prilosec — the little purple pill. (Someone’s doing an effective advertising job.) Hunger pangs stayed; coughing got worse. He switched me to Nexium. Hunger pangs stayed; I sprayed spit all over a classmate’s music score when a post-lunch cough caught us both by surprise. I asked my allergist for help. He put me on some kind of cough suppressant for two months. Cough dissipated while taking the meds and immediately returned when they ran out.

I asked my surgeon about the cough and he suggested I try a different gastroenterologist. So I went to a new guy at Georgetown who performed an endoscopy and said, “I think your stomach might not be emptying quickly enough.” (Anyone who knows my story well knows that that was what the first doc said to me when there was actually a tumor on my pancreas and my stomach was just fine.) I smiled, thanked him, and ran away.

A year later I found a new gastroenterologist, Dr. Email. After a nice email exchange he had me come to the office for an exam. Long story short, Dr. Email said that some antacids work for some; some work for others. As my cough and hunger pang sensations definitely sounded like acid reflux symptoms to him, he switched me to Pepcid. Once a day didn’t work, but 20mg twice a day did. Cough gone! For the most part. If I pushed myself to a new level of fitness in the gym or on my bike, or if I ate something really fattening my cough would return.

And so for the last three years I’ve taken 20mg of Pepcid with breakfast and with dinner… until last week.

Remember when I went down to Charlottesville to see the endocrinologist about my blood sugar issues? To level out my blood sugars he suggested I stop eating processed foods like boxed cereals and energy bars and instead eat steel cut oats for breakfast and fruits and nuts for snacks. He also said that he wanted to wean me off of Pepcid.

“I haven’t been able to live comfortably without it since my surgery four years ago.”

“But if you eat healthier, I don’t believe you’ll need it.”

“I eat an extremely healthy diet now.”

“But you haven’t eaten this diet.”

I said that I’d give it a try, and while I believed that his tweaking of my diet would level out my blood sugars, I couldn’t believe that such a slight modification to an already healthy diet would get rid of my cough.

It has. I’ve now gone ten days without coughing, and I’m no longer taking any antacids. Prior to this I haven’t been able to go four hours without a cough since my surgery, so I don’t believe this is a fluke.

When I watch shows like The Biggest Loser or movies like Forks Over Knives I’m amazed to see people get off their statins or diabetes medications by simply improving their diet and exercising more. I’m equally amazed that by eating for the most part only foods that are nutritious and real, I’ve been able to defeat a health problem that stumped three gastroenterologists, a world-class pancreas surgeon, and an ear-nose-and-throat doc.

Friends think I’m sacrificing something by living the way that I do, but they’re wrong. I don’t need butter and wine and pork to live a fulfilling life. I’ve never enjoyed food more, and I’ve never felt better. And now the only pill I take is a multivitamin.

How about them apples!