Monthly Archives: June 2013

I Heart Smoked Paprika

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You’re scratching your head, trying to remember where you’ve seen paprika. Remember those deviled eggs your mom used to serve up at those hot summer picnics (probably not the best idea)? Yes. That was paprika, a most underrated spice, atop your fluffy yellow bedeviled egg. You probably don’t remember it having much taste. Well, that’s about to change! 

Paprika is a type of chili pepper, dried and ground and used as a spice. High in vitamin C, paprika helps you absorb iron and fight infections. Fresh-squeezed paprika juice, anyone?  (By the way, many fruits and veggies have as much or more vitamin C than oranges, but Sunkist and others are brilliant marketers and have sold generations on the idea that OJ is the best way to get your C. It’s not. Look into it!)  Capsaicin (don’t act like you’ve never heard of this), a phytochemical, is also present in peppers like our lovely paprika, and this is an anti-inflammatory (bye bye gout) and supposed to help with blood circulation for people like me whose feet are always freezing. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do like regular paprika — it is a beautiful shade of burnt orange and looks lovely sprinkled on all kinds of dishes. And then there are the eight varieties of Hungarian paprika, which apparently Hungarians put in all kinds of delicious dishes, especially their goulash. But then — cue celestial music– I found you, Smoked Paprika. Farmers in Spain’s La Vera region dry these amazing chilies over wood fires. Did you hear me?? Not only does this conjure up really romantic images, but smoked paprika adds a deep, woodsy depth to foods.  So, are you ready to try infusing this wondrous spice into some new recipes as you listen to Spanish flamenco and channel your inner chef?  I thought so!

Here are my recent two fave ways to use SP – enjoy! 

Red Velvet Mole Sauce with Black Beans (adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 t. chili powder
  • 2 t. oregano, dried
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. allspice
  • 1-2 t. smoked paprika (in a pinch, add 1/2 as much cumin with regular paprika)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (16 oz)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins (I like golden)
  • 1/4 cup (about 10) crushed corn chips (I like blue)
  • 1 T. almond or peanut butter (I prefer PB)
  • 1-2 T agave syrup
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 2 cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • parsley or cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Saute onions and peppers in olive oil over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and all spices (through paprika), coat onions, cook another 1-2 minutes (don’t burn the garlic, y’all!).

2. Add tomatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then add raisins, chips, peanut butter, and simmer for 15 minutes.

3.  Get out your trusty immersion blender (these are awesome, you need one!) — or put this hot mess in the blender — and blend until smooth. Add sweetener, vinegar, salt, and beans.  Taste and adjust accordingly.

I love to put chunks of sweet potato on this (or other veggies) and serve over brown rice, coconut rice, or quinoa. A big salad would not be unwelcome, either.  It seems like a lot of ingredients, but really a quick and easy dish that makes you look like a pretty deep and complex person.

Smoked Paprika Hummus (inspired by Candle 79, = 3 cups of yummus!)

  • 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 1 cup dried, but I’m not even going there)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 generous teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 t sea salt (yes, it really is better)
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley (optional, but provides a few flecks of color)

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir it up!

2. Dump said bowl into food processor; pulse until mixed, add water to get to consistency you want – probably about 1/4 cup. Scrape down sides to make sure it’s looking perfect!

3. Chill for several hours or overnight, then place in that beautiful bowl you brought back from your last exotic vacation, sprinkle with more SP, and serve up to wild acclaim with red peppers, pita bread, roasted garlic, olives, carrots, crackers. . . endless possibilities!

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The (Real) Costs of What We’re Eating

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How much money do you spend on food? This is a touchy subject for me, as I have made weak and unsuccessful efforts over the years to budget less moola for my family’s groceries. But really, have you ever seen a coupon for organic sweet potatoes or flax seed oil? I rest my case.

As a society, we are actually spending less than ever before on food, much of it processed convenience foods high in sugar and fat, and we pay a crazy-high price for this way of life, to the tune of $190 billion last year (according to Forbes) in obese-related heath care bills. I believe if we are buying healthy, mainly whole foods and actually eating them, it’s worth it — we are worth it — even if this means we have to live more simply and sacrifice in other areas.

But many Americans don’t have much of a choice — and our way of eating is quickly spreading around the world. Let me tell you, it was surreal to walk out of Westminster Cathedral after hearing an impromptu organ recital that bought tears to my eyes and smack into a  . . .McDonald’s. What the what? No, thank you.

I recently read Terry McMillan’s The American Way of Eating (2012) and reread Eric Schlosser’s sobering Fast Food Nation (2001) in preparation for the class I’m teaching this fall. Both authors make the point that, regardless of socioeconomic status, people generally want to eat healthy food, and they have an understanding of what that means. But when you live in a “food desert,” have $3 to feed your kids dinner, or just got off work at 5 am, you’re most likely going to “choose” calorie-dense, processed foods over a head of broccoli. Corn, wheat, and soy crops — the main ingredients in prepackaged foods — are heavily subsidized by the government. Fruits and veggies? Not so much.

I was not surprised to read in the Huffington Post this morning that Oslo, Norway is often ranked as the most expensive city in the world — this year coming in behind only Tokyo, Osaka, and Sydney. The stressful part of our visit to Norway last week was the prohibitive cost of food — and we didn’t even order meat dishes, the most expensive items on the menu. We could never have afforded to travel there without Ryan’s conference funding offsetting many of the costs.

Fifty years ago Americans spent a third of their take-home pay on food; now we spend just 13% (less than most other nations), and the USDA recommends we spend at least 25% in order to eat healthy.  We need to stop seeing good food as a luxury; it is a necessity — and we need to work to make it available to everyone.

                                      

A Vegan Abroad!

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I just returned from a great 8-day trip to London and Norway.  As you can probably surmise, I love to explore new places, meet new people, and, of course, try new food.  And, while this summer has been a series of fun adventures and yummy eats, it has also occasionally led to a growling stomach.

Most of the time I find it easy to eat the way I want. Many American cities now have entire restaurants devoted to vegan or vegetarian cuisine, and I admit I’m quite spoiled.  Things can become a bit more gastronomically tricky when traveling abroad, however.

Although London is no longer synonymous with breakfasts of meat, eggs, and beans and boasts one of the largest number of ethnic restaurants in the world, we still had to actively seek out veggie cuisine. And we did. Dad and I enjoyed savory crepes, Italian gnocchi, Indian curries, vegan sandwiches and chia coconut milk pudding with fresh raspberries at a French cafe across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Love.

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After two short days in London, Dad and I met Ryan in Bergen, Norway. We then traveled the following evening to Sandefjord, near Oslo, where Ryan was presenting some of his recent research at a whaling conference.

From walking through the fish market in Bergen –where Ryan tasted his first (and he says last) sample of whale meat — to staying at a hotel in Sandefjord down the street from the whaling museum (and in which breakfast was served out of a pretend whaling boat), we got a sense of how important seafood is in Norway.

Norway is a beautiful, friendly, meat-lovin’ kind of place, not exactly the perfect culinary match for a vegan traveler.  For good or bad, I have what I call high hunger tolerance, which means I’d usually rather not eat unless I can find something appealing to me. (In contrast, Ryan will eat almost anything when hungry, as evidenced by him dipping stale “fruit nougat” candies into a dwindling jar of peanut butter as we drove through the fjords.) Still, even I eventually got hungry and had to compromise. Because of the exorbitant cost of food in Norway ($9 for a latte, I kid you not), I gave in to the temptation of free afternoon waffles in our hotel lobby even though I’m quite sure they were not vegan. For me, breakfast in our “whaling ship” consisted of dense, seeded breads toasted with jam, and we snacked on $4  raisin rolls. As I told my dad on several occasions — “See, man can live on bread alone, we’re proof!”   Fortunately we discovered a Thai restaurant near the hotel so Dad and I ate there two nights in a row whilst Ryan was served up platters of Rudolph and Moby Dick, etc.

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My best advice for my fellow food-conscious travelers is to toss in a few emergency nut and fruit bars (Kind brand is good) to keep in your backpack for those moments when you’re tempted to throw caution (and your bowels) to the wind and buy that hunk of street-fried whatever.  Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated — this will help control your appetite and gives you energy and a clear mind for navigating that foreign subway map. And above all, be flexible. Enjoy your experience — don’t freak out about trying something new or having a few bites of mozzarella with your pasta. Life is meant to be savored!  That said, I’m still going to give you a yummy vegan recipe based on my favorite London dessert:

 Chia-Coconut Pudding with Berries
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar (or you can use maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries, blackberries – you get the idea)

Directions:

1. Combine the coconut milk (or almond, if you prefer) and agave syrup in a quart jar, then shake well. Add chia seeds and zest and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.  The chia seeds will take on a texture similar to tapioca when soaked in the milk. They’re also supposed to be very good for us, so this is a win-win in my book.

2. Smoosh the raspberries in a bowl and add some raw sugar or stevia, to taste. (I’d probably leave the blueberries whole!) Put berry mixture on top of the pudding when served. You can also add crushed nuts such as almonds or pistachios, or grated coconut. These might be too adorable served in small mason jars or ramekins, but you could try it.

Switching up –and Tossing out–the Soda

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Like fast food, soft drinks used to be — and I would argue still should be — an occasional treat. Now these sodas are ubiquitous — and many people drink them all freaking day.  And no, for the fourteenth time, Orange Crush has nothing in common with orange juice (which you should not be drinking either, but that’s for another day).

Yours truly used to drink at least one Diet Coke a day, often with a healthy (a-hem) lunch of a burrito or, if I was scheduled for a luxurious 4-minute lunch break, just to wash down a giant pretzel and florescent cheese whiz I’d purchase at one of the high school cafeteria carts where I taught.  I’ve always enjoyed the fizz of a soda with spicy food, though now I try to get my pizzazz from sparkling water instead.  Once in awhile I still rock a Diet Hansen’s Root Beer (sweetened with Stevia), but you’ll usually find me with a mug of coffee, tea, or fancified water.

Anyone who has not been living under a rock will probably agree that sodas are a major source of empty calories in the American diet, as well as a crazy-huge factor in our obesity and diabetes epidemics. Apparently our bodies don’t recognize — or aren’t satiated by — calories derived from sugary beverages, so you end up eating just as much as you otherwise would, then crave more sugar and calories. A nasty cycle. Further, one 12-ounce can of soda is the equivalent of eating 13 teaspoons of sugar. Really, the only winners I can see here — aside from Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper — are dentists as they crown you with many crowns.

Much controversy fizzes around diet sodas — are they any better for us?  Well, more than a few nutritionists believe diet sodas actually make us hungrier (yahoo for 4th meal!).  Then there’s the oh-I-can effect, such as “oh-I-can eat a slab of deep-fried pizza dough because I am drinking a Diet Coke,” or “oh-I-can skip my workout as I only had a Diet Sprite with lunch.” Devoid of nutrients and full of chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and such lovelies as brominated vegetable oil (egads!), diet sodas are, at best, a sad substitute for water, and at worst can have serious side effects.  Some medical studies have shown a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome – a condition that many thin people also have which raises your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. Awesome, eh?  Further studies have revealed connections between diet soda drinking and such fabulous effects as weight gain, preterm delivery, and depression. I don’t know about y’all, but I’d rather get deliberately depressed watching a sad film starring Ryan Gosling than buy cases of soda and not even understand why I’m in such a funk!

If you’re a major soda drinker, try gradually cutting back.  Begin by replacing one soda a day with sparkling water or water infused with citrus, fresh mint or other herbs, berries, and/or cucumber slices.  Keep a pitcher in the fridge and pour it into a fancy glass or a sporty water bottle (bonus: you’ll feel and look more athletic, I promise). Get your healthy drink on this summer! Your body and budget will thank you for it. 🙂

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Leggo Your Eggos, Peeps

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I know it’s hard to imagine, but I don’t miss the straight-up scrambled, hard boiled, or poached eggs I used to eat (especially the seemingly always-runny plate when I ordered “well done”).  I do miss — and so occasionally indulge in — bread pudding or other desserts made with eggs. My fridge is probably egg-free 90% of the time.  But when I do procure a few eggs for family or friends, I try to get them from a friend with chickens (best) or buy organic.

I gave up dairy for dietary and health reasons, but have become increasingly concerned about the ethics of food production, including the treatment of animals.  When you buy and consume industrially-produced meat and dairy products, you are supporting an unhealthy (antibiotics, hormones, and possible infections such as e coli and salmonella) as well as cruel (overcrowding, no fresh air, throwing away live male chicks, clipping tails and beaks, etc.) business.  So, on all levels, regardless of what you choose to eat, it’s just best to buy organic and local when possible!

But you only eat “free-range” or “cage-free” eggs, so that’s safe and healthy, right? Nope. Actually, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no definitions for cage-free or free-range (as in, I could keep chickens in my car and call them free-range — a bad idea on oh-so-many levels). . . and the CDC estimates that for every reported case of salmonella poisoning there are actually 38 unreported incidents.  Why risk it?

“Organic and pasture-raised” – this is what you should look for on your labels. My family likes an occasional scrambled egg or french toast, and we have company this week, so I just paid seven dollars here in Kona for a carton of such eggs a few days ago. Ouch. But I’m willing to walk by my favorite lotion and vegan scones to buy organic. (Okay, I’m being dramatic to make a point. You know I walked right back over to the scones.)  Did you know that at Whole Foods you can actually get a bio of the hens who laid your eggs – and a signed egg shell for $9.95 (I’m totally serious about the bio!).  I’m not sure we need to take it this far, but I’m passionate about supporting humane practices at every level of the food chain, whatever we decide to eat.

Speaking of, my other “beef” today has to do with militant definitions of being vegan or vegetarian or herbivore or paleo or clownivore. . . “If you’re a committed vegan, you don’t eat eggs. Ever.”  Well, okay, if you haven’t ingested one calorie of animal-derived protein for 999 days and 7 hours, that’s awesome — and I love being part of a community of like-minded and like-eating peeps — but this attitude doesn’t do animals or our food system any favors, and it certainly doesn’t win vegans any friends.  Rather, it may perpetuate an image of vegans as condescending and disdainful, when what we all need to do is encourage our circles to consume sustainably, responsibly, and compassionately.

The basic problem, as I see it — and this applies to our entire food supply, not just eggs — is that most Americans are more interested in cheap food over quality food. We have got to demand healthier food across the spectrum.  Now go out there and make your bad self a tempeh scramble. . . yummmmmy! 🙂

Tempeh Scramble (from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s brilliant Vegan Brunch —have I mentioned that I LOVE her?)
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb tempeh, cubed
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
4 large leaves swiss chard, torn into pieces (or any leafy green)
Directions:
1. Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute the tempeh in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 7 minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned.
2. Add red bell pepper and onion and drizzle in remaining oil. Saute for about 5 minutes until veggies are softened but still slightly crunchy. Add garlic and thyme and saute for 2 more minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper. Add greens and saute until just wilted. Serve immediately.

Vegan Hawaiian Poke!

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I know I reeled you in with that title.  Haven’t you always longed to know how you might create a dish with tastes of the Pacific in the comfort of your state-side home? No? Well, it’s delicious and easy, so be adventurous and check it out.  

Poke (poh-kay) is a traditional Hawaiian dish usually made with raw tuna, Hawaiian sea salt, seaweed, chopped vegetables, kukui nuts, shoyu, and spices, and served with rice or noodles (or both — live on the edge!).  There are a variety of pokes created and served in Hawaii; it is a versatile, adaptable dish that can take on a variety of favorite flavors.

All of these ingredients sound divine to me. . . except the raw fish.  (I mean, I can see eating raw fish back in the day, but now that we have discovered fire it just seems lazy.) Before you accuse me of being a total dud and never eating exotic foods, I will have you know that I tried tuna tartar many years ago, and I can still feel that spongy, gelatinous texture on my tongue. Not so much.

Not a vegan to be held back by lacking a main ingredient, however, I did some poking around  and found several recipes for vegan and vegetarian Hawaiian poke.  I have made variations of these recipes three times during our stay in Kona, and I do believe my hybrid version is a souvenir I will replicate and enjoy for many years to come.  Try creating this vegan poke in your own kitchen!  It comes together best if, while you cook, you’re listening to the ukelele, wearing a grass skirt, and sipping a pina colada (and possibly being fanned with palm fronds, but if you can manage that you should pass this recipe on to your personal chef).  

Vegan Poke with Noodes and Rice

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 package udon noodles
  • 2 cups cooked coconut rice (1 cup rice, 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk, pinch salt)
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 bunch broccolini, cut into sections
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 cup edamame (optional)
  • 2 T macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh seaweed (optional; I couldn’t always find it, even here!)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp tamari
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • Salt to taste

1) Make sure you get the extra firm tofu (like organic wild wood), and not the silken kind or you will be sending me hate mail! Pat down the tofu block with paper towels, cut into cubes. 

2)  To make the poke, mix 1 1/2 T of the tamari, 1-2 T lime/lemon juice (about 1/2 a medium lemon), carrot, sesame oil, green onions, nuts, seaweed (if you are using it, yahoo for you!) and garlic. Pour over adorable tofu cubes and marinate in the fridge 30 minutes or longer (even all night you wild thing!).  Stir occasionally.

3) Cook rice according to instructions. Boil noodles; drain and rinse with cool water, set aside.

4) Heat olive oil in wok or other appropriate pan. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes over medium high heat. Turn heat down to medium, add 1-2 T water and broccolini (or regular broccoli if you’re thinking “what the freaks is broccolini?”) and edemame (if frozen) to heat through (cover with lid to steam veggies).  

5) Add kale and noodles until kale wilts and noodles are hot. Add more tamari if it seems dry.

6) Serve with tofu mix on top of the veggies and noodles with coconut rice on the side. Top with extra green onions and nuts or pickled ginger (I even added chunks of avocado yesterday — did I mention versatility?) Of course it’s plenty of carbs and you can leave out the rice or noodles, but we liked it best with some of each. Don’t judge.  ImageImage

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One Lovely Blog Award

Poppy of bunnykitchen.com has nominated my blog as one of her “One Lovely Blog” awards, I’m so happy! Thanks, Poppy. 🙂

Random Facts About Me:

1. I am one of seven siblings, one from the same parents, two step-siblings, two half sisters and one adopted brother.

2. For high school I went to a boarding academy in the middle of fields in Washington state. When I arrived in the late 80s we could not wear jeans to class!

3. I ran my first (and last) marathon in 2006.

4. I have lived in 8 different states over the past 15 years and visited 14 countries.

5. I became a vegan 3 years ago and have never looked back – I feel so much better!

6. I hate socks and would like to live in a place where you can either wear boots or sandals all year around.

7.  I want to write a memoir, even if no one reads it!

Here are the blogs I would like to nominate for the “One Lovely Blog” Award:

1. http://www.crazyrawvegan.com

2. http://www.alotonyourplate.wordpress.com

3. http://www.katelikestocreate.com

4. http://www.thekitchn.com

5. http://www.theppk.com

6. http://www.ohsheglows.com