3 Layer Polentil Loaf

My apologies for completely abandoning the blog! It’s been a busy few months, in part due to my taking on a new role as social media manager for a fantastic organization called The American College of Lifestyle Medicine. We just had our conference in Nashville, which was incredibly inspiring- luminaries including Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger and the Blue Zones’ Dan Buettner all spoke. In between the fantastic keynotes we were spoiled with delectable whole foods plant-based fare that was as creative as it was tasty.

The finished Polentil loaf! I promise that your efforts will be rewarded.

The finished Polentil loaf! I promise that your efforts will be rewarded.

The tour de force of the conference cuisine was a tamale pie, the recipe for which I’m waiting patiently. That pie has left cornmeal on my mind – so while I had planned on making Gena Hamshaw’s lentil walnut loaf for Thanksgiving, I felt the need to alter things so as to include some of that marvelous maize.

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The result was this polenta- lentil loaf, or as I like to call it, Polentil loaf. (although, frankly, I do wish someone would develop a synonym for the word “loaf”. It’s so unsexy.)  Turns out that Gena’s recipe and my recipe rebelliousness were a match made in heaven. This dish is rich, flavorful and complex- the aromatic lentil layer complements the cornmeal beautifully. The toothiness of the lentils and vegetables create a nice texture contrast with the fluffy polenta.

Dig in!

Satisfying, hearty, and a showpiece all at once- this is comfort food at it’s best! If you’re looking for a show-stopping holiday dish, this might be the one for you. It wins points for both presentation and tastiness.

Polentil Loaf – adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s recipe. Check out her amazing blog The Full Helping!

Ingredients:

Lentils:

  • 1 cup green lentils, dry
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups diced white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot  
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried and crushed
  • 6-8 sage leaves, fresh.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-3 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal, mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 Tbsp  nutritional yeast

Polenta:

  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp  nutritional yeast 
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Cook the polenta: Bring water and stock mixture to a boil, slowly pour in polenta and add salt. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Keep a cover partly on as polenta tends to sputter. When polenta is tender and water absorbed, stir in nutritional yeast.
  2. Place lentils in a pot along with the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil and lower it to a simmer. Simmer the lentils until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid and are tender but not falling apart. Add more broth as needed. When the lentils are done, remove them from heat and set them aside.
  3. Once lentils have finished boiling, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Sautee until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender (about 6 to 8 minutes). Add the garlic and sage leaves, along with the thyme, rosemary, salt and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in nutritional yeast. Check the mixture for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper as needed.
  6. Add ½ cup of the cooked polenta to the lentils and stir until combined. Taste the mixture- if the lentils seem too dry, add a few more splashes of vegetable broth. We don’t want them swimming in broth, but we need to maintain some moisture for the baking step.
  7. Brush olive oil into a loaf pan (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches) Spoon half the polenta on the bottom layer in the pan. Then add the lentil mixture, smoothing over the top. Finally, spoon the remaining polenta on top of the lentils. Smooth the top of the polenta. IMG_0048IMG_0053
  8. Bake for 30 -40 minutes until the top of the polenta is firm. Allow to cool for 5 minutes- if the polenta is still sticking to the sides, run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan to release the loaf. The turn the pan over onto a platter. Voila, beautiful 3 layer polentil wonder.

Crumb-Free Cheesy Lacinato Kale Chips

Somehow I managed to avoid falling in love with kale chips for the first 5 years of their reign. But those days are over, and I am now officially addicted to the green crack. Two drawbacks. One, it’s a pricey habit. My favorite brand runs between $4 and $7 a bag, which I inhale in 2 minutes flat. Drawback two- the majority of the bag disintegrates into crumbs. There’s a perpetual carpet of kale chip dust on the floor of my car, and generally on my face if I’ve been eating them.

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This recipe solves the pesky kale dust issue by swapping out curly kale in favor of lacinato. And because you’re buying simple raw ingredients, it’s way more economical than a packaged kale chip habit. Lacinato (also known as dinosaur, or tuscan) kale is thicker and stays in tact when dehydrating. It also has plenty of ridgy bits to accommodate the sauce, which is important as this sauce is to die for.

Ridgy, but not crumbly. Lacinato kale wins the day!

Ridgy, but not crumbly. Lacinato kale wins the day!

The sauce is actually a queso, and you can never go wrong with a good queso. If you’ve never has queso without the dairy, rest assured that the vegan variety has all of the cheesiness, tanginess and and mouthwateringness of the queso of your youth, but none of the pesky cholesterol, casein or animal protein. The cashews add extra richness, while the miso and nutritional yeast bring an umami punch. It’s so good that you’ll want to find other uses for the sauce- you can use it as a salad dressing, as a sauce for veggies, rice, baked potatoes, your fingers- whatever you fancy.

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For now, let’s use it for the kale chips. I made mine in the Excalibur dehydrator, but if you’re dehydrator-less like most of the planet, you can experiment with making them in an oven. Check out Oh She Glows’ guide to oven baked kale chips for the deets on that route. Low and slow that is the tempo, or so I hear.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch organic Lacinato kale, (kale’s on the Dirty Dozen y’all, so don’t skimp here.) cut into bite size pieces. I actually used Trader Joe’s bag of organic lacinato, it worked pretty perfectly.

For the Queso:

1/2 cup raw cashews

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp white miso

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup water

1) Soak the cashews in a bowl of cold water for at least one hour. Drain the water.

2) Combine the cashews with the rest of the queso ingredients in a Vitamix/ high speed blender or food processor. Process on high until smooth.

3) Grab a pair of gloves. Place cut kale pieces into a large bowl, then pour queso over the kale. Massage queso into your kale so the leaves are evenly coated.

4) Spread kale leaves on dehydrator trays in one layer. You’ll need at least 4 or 5 trays. Dehydrate on high for 4-5 hours- make sure to check your chips at hour 3, then again each 1/2 hour.

5) Store in an airtight container for as long as you can stand not shoving them in your mouth. This won’t be long, I guarantee.

Love Dolphins? Then Please, Don’t Swim With Them.

As I write, it is dolphin slaughter season in Taiji, Japan. With this on my mind, it was particularly poignant to see a Facebook post about a family’s experience swimming with dolphins over their vacation. The outpouring of support for the post via “likes” and comments reminded me that most of us are in the dark regarding the origin of these dolphins.  I was in the dark as well, until I saw the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove.

Each killing season, the Cove in Taiji is quite literally a bloodbath.

Swimming with the dolphins seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, and most think it’s an innocent enough activity. Sadly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. That’s because supporting dolphin swims, shows and aquariums finances the bloody dolphin killings in Taiji.

Each year, fishermen descend on Taiji to slaughter and capture dolphins. Roughly 20,000 dolphins are killed each season for meat, which is considered a delicacy. (a poisonous, mercury laden delicacy at that.) Because live dolphins fetch far more money than dead ones (between $100,000 and $200, 000 each) the same dolphin killers brutally catch and confine additional dolphins who are sold and transported to zoos, aquariums, amusement parks and resorts, such as SeaWorld, Atlantis and countless others. The money these facilities pay dolphin fishermen directly funds the continued killing excursions. The resorts themselves make millions of dollars each year at the expense of these animals.

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Bucket list of blood.

Once in these facilities, dolphins live shorter lives during which they suffer trauma, depression, (as in Blackfish) and physical harm. Their biology makes them appear as if they are enjoying themselves (they’re not actually smiling, it’s just the way their their bodies look) but they face tremendous anxiety, confinement, and lack the usual social connections these mammals generally enjoy in the oceans. You may have fun swimming with them, but their experience is an entirely different story.

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B

Tiny Key Deer at Deer Run B&B. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Ostensibly people swim with dolphins because they enjoy these intelligent creatures. I completely understand this- at one point in my life, I visited aquariums and zoos in attempt to be close to the animals I adored. It took many years for me to realize that I was funding the animals’ misery.

If you do not wish to cause suffering to the animals you admire, please consider other activities that do not harm them. Want to get up close and personal with animals? Visit a farm sanctuary such as Farm Sanctuary, both in upstate NY and California, or Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. If you’re set on seeing more exotic animals, visit Best Friends Sanctuary, or Deer Run Resort in the Florida Keys. I’ve spent time at all of these amazing locations (with the exception of Best Friends) and believe me, it’s a blissful, educational experience for adults and children alike.

You can also observe animals at your local parks- even here in Brooklyn we have hundreds of species in Prospect Park. Or adopt an animal, volunteer at an animal shelter, and hang out with your friends’ pets!

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen

Sweet piglet at Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Please, do not support the criminal animal use industries. There are myriad ways to experience nature and be inspired by animals without harming them; sometimes we just need to challenge ourselves to look outside what we already know.

Learn more about this issue, what’s being done to stop the dolphin slaughter, and what you can do to help in links below:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/captive_marine/facts/swim_dolphins.html

http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/

http://dolphinproject.org/

http://www.ethicaltraveler.org/2014/09/swim-with-dolphins-tourist-trap-leads-to-travel-conference-boycott/

@CarnivalCruise @CoveMovie_OPS @RichardOBarry Don't sell swimming with dolphins excursions. #dontswimwithdolphins

Savory Butternut Squash and Tomatoes

I don’t know about you, but as soon as fall rolls around, I’m ready to eat all of the squash. From October to March you can always count on at least one variety of squash (and a pile of sweet potatoes) residing in my kitchen. They’re truly fall and winter staples.

When it comes to squash, butternut and kabocha are my all time favorites. I’m pretty lazy with kabocha and generally just do a quick steam. But I’m willing to put in the time with butternut. True, it’s rich and savory simply baked in the oven with a brush of olive oil. But this dish, adapted from a 2007  New York Times recipe, turns an already beloved ingredient into a complex and comforting centerpiece. Make it for a dinner party, holiday or potluck and I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

The Times’ original recipe serves as a pasta sauce, but I’ve adapted (and veganized) it into the main affair with the addition of beans. In lieu of said beans, I’ve also used Beyond Meat chick’n or tempeh, either do nicely. Definitely serve it with a heap of broccoli rabe, kale or another dark, leafy green. The garlicky squash and deep greens are the perfect pair. But feel free to round it all out by piling the squash onto whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Either way, this is a satisfying dish that will warm and comfort you on the cold nights to come!

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup sliced shallots

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

1 butternut squash, cubed or shredded

1 can white beans or chick peas

1 Tbsp Nutritional yeast (or to taste)

Pink salt or sea salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute; add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

2. When squash is tender — about 15 minutes  — add beans and nutritional yeast. Stir to incorporate and cook until beans are heated through.

YOU Can Help Reverse Climate Change- Don’t Pass the Buck

400,000 people turned up to the People’s Climate March on Sunday here in New York City. The consensus is clear- we don’t want to drown under rising oceans or burn up under depleted ozone. But how many of those marching really want to do what it takes to turn this thing around?

I salute the thousands who took to the streets. The vegan contingent was impressive, and I sincerely hope that their signs were a beacon to the rest of the march. But sadly, my vegan brethren were just a fraction of those marching. The majority ate the very meat, dairy and eggs en route that are responsible for an estimated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.

I don’t doubt that the marchers are concerned for the state of the planet. But I do question whether the majority are truly willing to be part of the solution.

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's Instagram feed

From Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Instagram feed

The marchers wanted to inspire the U.N. to take notice of the environment. But to me this seems like passing the buck. Rather than acknowledge their own respective roles in the environment’s decline, it was simpler to blame climate change on “world leaders.”

In any case, giving the U.N. this task does not absolve us of responsibility as individuals. Any potential U.N. action would mean little if the rest of us are unwilling to affect change. Activism does not end with holding a sign. In my mind, activism implies taking real action, and in the case of the environment, the most important action we can take is abstaining from eating meat, dairy and eggs.

 While it’s hard to avoid hearing of animal agriculture’s devastating environmental consequences, few seem to make the connection that their personal food choices impact our planet. Perhaps it is denial, perhaps laziness. Nevertheless, throughout the day Sunday I saw countless posts from proud meat eaters on the march. In some cases, literally holding a picket sign in one hand and a burger in the other. Anti-fracking signs notwithstanding, they simply continued the behavior that keeps climate change on it’s current, deadly trajectory.

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

The Cowspiracy team, a new documentary on this very issue

Which is why Sunday left me feeling skeptical. This is the same skepticism I reserve for campaigns like pink ribbons adorning buckets of chicken. KFC wants us to think they’re fighting breast cancer, but in reality they’re selling carcinogens (like PHIP and HCAs) in big greasy buckets. The same principle applies to many of the marchers. Saying you want to rid the world of a scourge is great, be it breast cancer or global warming. But back up the idea with action. Don’t sell or consume the product that contributes to it’s very creation.

In other words, if you want to affect change, BE that change.

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

photo: Marisa Miller Wolfson

But who knows, there could be hundreds of thousands who went to the march and didn’t have an inkling about the dark side of the meat, dairy and eggs they eat. So let’s just say you went to the People’s Climate March for the fun of it. And perhaps, for the first time, you made the connection- it’s not just the transit sector, fracking, the factories and generally other people in other places far beyond our control. Suddenly you realized that global warming is the result of our collective behavior, beginning with what we eat every day. That’s a lot to take in. So where do you go from here?

Where to go next? How about your local farmer's market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Where to go next? How about your local farmer’s market! Photo: Lauren Krohn

Look at it this way. You’re in a really powerful position- you can play a part in reversing climate change RIGHT NOW! You can contribute to a better world by voting with your pocketbook as well as your fork. It’s in our hands, and the longer we tell ourselves it’s someone else’s problem, the bigger the problem gets.

And if you’re reading this post when it’s hot off the press, you’re in luck. It’s Monday, which means it’s Meatless Monday! Clearly there’s no better place to start. So try one meatless day, or one meal if that’s all you’re ready for. (mind you, there’s no sin in making it a Meatless Tuesday if that’s the day you’re reading. Or you know, in general.)

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they're even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Yes my friend, vegan pancakes exist and they’re even better than the other kind. Photo: Lauren Krohn

And don’t forget, while animal-based meat fuels global warming at an alarming rate, plant-based meats such as Tofurky, Field Roast, Beyond Meat and Gardein are sustainable foods that use a tiny fraction of the resources used for animal-based “foods.”

Listed below are some of my all time favorite food blogs, each of which demonstrates that animal-free food is diverse, decadent and fun. It’s not all salad people, believe you me. In this day and age, any dish you can imagine can be made vegan.

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry  on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Virtually anywhere on earth, you can find phenomenal vegan fare. I had this coconut curry on a tiny remote island in the Florda keys. Photo: Lauren Krohn

Not only will you help our earth by ditching animal flesh and secretions (yup, that’s what eggs and dairy are,) you’ll be helping yourself to a life with a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases. There are quite a few other reasons, including ending world hunger, and, oh yeah, the welfare of billions of exploited animals.

So let’s eat. If you want to get lunch right now, check out Happy Cow. Find vegetarian & vegan food anywhere you travel, or right at home!

Or get cooking with some of my favorite

Recipe Blogs:

www.ohsheglows.com

www.olivesfordinner.com

www.kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

www.forkandbeans.com

www.theppk.com

www.thesweetlifeonline.com

www.bittersweetblog.com

www.veganeatsandtreats.com

www.veganricha.com

www.meettheshannons.com

Or maybe your interest is piqued on this issue, and you’re ready to learn more about animal “agriculture”‘s place in global warming. Then check out the powerful documentary Meat the Truth.

Here are some great places to learn more about veganism, the why’s, how’s, and who’s-

www.joyfulvegan.com

www.vegansociety.com

www.farmsanctuary.com

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/

Home

Nutrition& Health

www.theveganrd.com

www.veganhealth.org

www.PCRM.org

www.nutritionfacts.org

www.drfuhrman.com/library/articles.aspx

www.veganforher.com/nutrition/the-plant-plate/

I leave you with a great video from the people at Chomping Climate Change, where you can find everything you need to know about the link between animal agriculture and the environment. For our planet, for our future, for the animals, for health- so many reasons, just one solution. Be that change. What do you have to lose?

Questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments! 

Eating My Way Across the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

If you can believe it, this was my first trip to the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, now in it’s 4th year. And yes, I have been missing out. Each year this festival brings in loads of food vendors showcasing their tasty new products. Additionally there are many inspiring nonprofits in attendance, and an impressive roster of speakers. I won’t have the chance to go in depth on the festival background or the important organizations there this past weekend, but please stop over to the VFF’s website for more info.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

Robyn and Stephanie chow down on some soul food.

With scores of vendors, I can hardly review all of the products but I’m going to rave the pants off quite a few standouts!

1. Marty’s Fast Foods

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I was barely in the doors when the sweet & tangy aroma of barbeque beckoned. It wafted into the main space trumping every other marvelous scent. We were basically getting a contact high.

Just inside the main entrance, a mob of hungry festivalgoers thronged around the Marty’s Fast Foods stand, a restaurant set to open soon in our town. My mom’s mantra, “Don’t buy the first thing you see” echoed in my brain as it often does, (did anyone else’s mom say that too?) but an hour later, my nose kept pulling me back to those drumsticks. And after hearing several superlative reviews from friends, I plunked down $3 for 2: one BBQ and one Buffalo. Best $3 ever spent! At least in recent memory.

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The drumstick itself was really succulent. Not even remotely dry like some of the plant-based chickens of old. There’s a crunchy coating that isn’t at all greasy, all smothered in a just-sweet enough, tangy barbeque sauce. It was truly heavenly. The Buffalo flavor was also pretty good, but I preferred the sweet vs savory richness of the BBQ sauce. (Incidentally, the Buffalo drumstick was generally served with a Bleu cheese dressing, but I was never a fan of cheese, even the plant-based variety, so I passed on that.)

2. DF Mavens Ice CreamIMG_0579

Just next to Marty’s was some of the most dangerous stuff at the Festival. I’ve been reading about DF Mavens for months now- they’re slated to open a store in the East Village soon. But this was my first opportunity to try their product. Nothing could have prepared me for the deliciousness that awaited. This is the ice cream to end all ice creams. Creamy and rich with incredibly intense flavors, it’s just an inspiration.

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Perhaps I should have been a bit shy about trying 6 flavors, particularly when dozens of drooling customers awaited their own samples. But alas, shyness has never been my strongpoint. DF Mavens makes both almond milk based and coconut milk based  varieties- of the former I sampled the Mocha Almond chip, Chocolate Almond Fudge, and Mint Almond Cookie. All were incredibly tasty, with a rich and intense chocolate flavor. I also tried the coconut based Madagasacar Vanilla Bean as well as Chocolate.  The vanilla was some of the most vanilla-y vanilla I’ve ever tasted. So much so that it challenges your idea of vanilla.

I’m going to be in big trouble when the store opens.

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3. Earth Balance PopcornIMG_0557

I’m late to the party here, as it’s been around for a year. But this stuff is addictive. The Aged White Cheddar popcorn tastes exactly like the Smartfood I binged on as a kid. But it’s not full of harmful dairy with all it’s saturated fat, cholesterol and carcinogens. The buttery flavor is also tremendous. Next time I see a movie, I’ll be smuggling some Earth Balance popcorn into the theater. The only problem is deciding which kind.

4. Alchemy CreameryIMG_0633

I’m somewhat ashamed that I’d never heard of Alchemy Creamery. They have some pretty unique flavors as you can see above- I had the honor of tasting the Salted Peanut butter and Marzipan. Both were incredible. Their ice cream has a rich mouthfeel without feeling too heavy. Super smooth and the flavors are intense. If I hadn’t eaten my weight in DF Maven’s minutes earlier I would have tried some more.

5. One Lucky Duck

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I’m a big fan of macaroons, and also a macaroon snob. But I have to say, these are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps even the best! I also tried a marzipan-esque, peanut buttery cookie (the striped one, above) that was also divine. By this point I could barely shove it in any longer but One Lucky Duck’s pastries were so damn good I took one for the team.

They have a store in the Chelsea Market, but I’ll try to forget this information stat.

6. Upton’s Seitan

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I eat Upton’s all the time, it’s my seitan of choice. So there was really no need for me to sample any, but if there’s Upton’s seitan in the house, I’m going to have to eat it. I think I tried the Canadian Bacon and the seitan crumbles, the former of which I’d never tasted. Really delish. I can totally envision the bacon on a pizza, and the crumbles in chili or a tofu scramble. Or a lasagna. Or a savory pie. It’s versatile stuff. Oh, and I’ll have the opportunity to try it in any of these recipes since I pocketed about 10 coupons.

I tried plenty more, but I have to wrap up the food portion of our journey. Have a look at some of the other foods a bit further below, all of which you can get your hands on by visiting the exhibitor page.

Next…Victoria Moran

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There were plenty of talented speakers over the course of the weekend, but I purposefully planned my visit to coincide with Victoria Moran‘s talk. I had previously seen her speak at Farm Sanctuary – her energy, charismatic yet down to earth nature and of course her brilliant mind had a huge impact on the audience. Once again, Victoria brought it with an inspiring talk on staying vegan.

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She touched on many interesting points regarding dedication as well as vegan recidivism. In addition to hearing her always enlightening perspective, I also learned a tremendously interesting fact- I never understood the mechanism behind dairy’s addictive nature. It actually contains addictive, morphine-like compounds called casomorphins. Casomorphins are protein fragments derived from any mammalian milk, it’s a strong incentive for infants to nurse. No wonder cheese is so addictive, all that casomorphin condensed into a brick- it’s like cocaine!

I wish I had recorded her whole talk, but you’ll just have to hear her for yourself someday, and read her newest hugely successful book, Main Street Vegan.

In case you’re not hungry yet, feast your eyes on some more food porn below. And get to New York next year for the 5th annual Vegetarian Food Festival!

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

Treeline Cheese, a very authentic nut cheese people rave over

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The Regal Vegan, popular catering company with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

The Regal Vegan, with their highly sought-after Faux Gras

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Beyond Sushi, all vegan sushi near union square and in the Chelsea Market

Beyond Sushi, looking tantalizing. But what a tease putting it right there with the DO NOT EAT sign!

Pretty lavander chocolate cupcakes

Pretty lavender chocolate cupcakes

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Yeah Dawg, everyone's favorite veggie dog.

Yeah Dawg, everyone’s favorite veggie dog.

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Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Yummy chocolate bunnies. The chocolate is pretty delish, just like the easter bunnies I remember.

Lentil Soup: A Momentary Thaw

This winter, people. Lord help us. As if the mountains of snow here in NYC were not enough, I’m hobbling around in a camwalker boot due to a fractured talus bone. While I’ve been a trooper despite the injury, I draw the line when it’s snowing and/or the roads and sidewalks are a sheet of ice. This means I’ve been in a lot, which translates to a lot of cooking.

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Soup is high on the agenda in this kind of weather. While I had made half dozen other dishes, another round of snow had me craving lentil soup. I generally go straight for The Post Punk Kitchen’s Rustic Winter Stew, but said dish takes just a bit more planning and time. Because the white menace had me trapped in the house devoid of several key ingredients, I set upon making more of an impromptu, easy soup.  All you really need are dry lentils, an onion or garlic, (both are good, but one will suffice) and spices you already have around. I was so pleased with the results that it’s now going to be on the menu at all times.

Why two kinds of lentils you ask? These little red guys will fall apart and give you a nice thick broth, while the green ones will keep their shape.

Why two kinds of lentils you ask? These little red guys will fall apart and give you a nice thick broth, while the green ones will keep their shape.

This soup has more comfort than a fuzzy blanket. Served with greens and baked potatoes or squash, you have the perfect meal packed with protein, iron, calcium, a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s also really fast and easy to make, so even if it’s 6pm, you can be eating in about an hour, chop to simmer, with a minimum of effort.

A good deal of the broth gets absorbed by the lentils, so when I feel like a brothier soup I make the dish as is, then dilute it on a per-serving basis with some water and add a dollop of red miso for punch. Definitely thaws you out and has a ridiculously high cozy factor. Run, don’t walk to the kitchen now! (but take it from me, be careful not to trip.)

Yield: about 6 cups
Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 small onion, diced medium
2 cloves garlic, minced note: Feel free to use either onion or garlic, both are ideal but one will suffice.Use an extra garlic clove if using only garlic.

1/2 teaspoon cumin
Several generous grinds fresh black pepper
2 grinds pink salt or sea salt

2 bay leaves
1 cup green lentils
1/4 cup small red lentils
2- 3 carrots, chopped
About 1/2 package Crimini mushrooms (or the whole thing if you dig them as I do.)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp Nutritional yeast

Method:
Preheat a medium- large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in olive oil, along with a dash of salt, for about 1 minute. Add the garlic, cumin, pepper and salt and saute a minute more.
Add the green lentils, bay leaves and vegetable broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally for about 20 minutes, until lentils are slightly softened.

Lower heat to simmer. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until lentils are nearly soft. Add red lentils, carrots and mushrooms. Check carrots and lentils for done-ness after 5 minutes. The red lentils should fall apart, but not the green ones. Add nutritional yeast, stir and let sit for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to meld and water to absorb more into the lentils. As always, serve with extra nooch and sriraja.

High Protein Plant Powered Breakfast

I’m back, with an epic post that has something for everyone. If you’re tired of answering “where do you get your protein?” you can officially defer to this post. If you’ve ever wondered where a vegan gets her protein, you’re in the right place. And if you simply want an easy recipe to start (or end!) your day with all the macro and micronutrients you need, this is also a good place to start.

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This week I decided to switch my old cereal breakfast for a bigger bulk, higher protein (more specifically, higher lysine-keep reading!) higher fiber, higher phytochemical breakfast that would sustain me through the day.

For the longest time I had the same breakfast, it went something like this- in a big bowl: an apple or some kind of fruit chopped, Ezekiel cereal & low fat granola mix, flax seeds, about 1/4 cup hazelnuts, some raisins and goji berries in almond milk. Pretty healthful, but not really satisfying for very long. Often I’d be hungry directly after eating that cereal, but when I ordered a hearty tofu scramble at weekend brunch, I’d barely be hungry for dinner.

The original breakfast, still a good one but lacking in  staying power.

The original breakfast, still a good one but lacking in staying power.

Part of the inspiration for the new breakfast was last Sunday’s brunch. I finally made it over to Champs, a killer vegan diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My fabulous brunch cohort Michelle had the obvious advantage as she’s eating for two! I was sort of jealous of her state on this particular trip, as it’s impossible to make a decision off their profuse menu.

 Inside Champs

Inside Champs. Excuse low-qual iPhone photos in this section!

Champs is a stellar establishment- you can get anything from a very imaginative tofu scramble to pancakes to biscuits and gravy to a pancake SANDWICH! They also have veggie burgers and inventive salads – definitely the most amazing kale salad dressing I’ve ever had. And that means a lot coming from someone who doesn’t love a kale salad. The atmosphere is also pretty groovy, and there’s a pretty neat scene too. For all this there’s obviously a wait on the weekend, but nothing is more worthwhile. Don’t forget the fact that they have unbelievable desserts. Which you’ll love if you have a modicum of room after brunch. (Probably not gonna happen.)

The lovely Michelle ready for a brunch throwdown!

The lovely Michelle and I prepare for a brunch throwdown!

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After much deliberation, I decided on the tofu scramble with potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and veg sausage. (you can choose your own scrambling ingredients- more tough decisions!) Now there are tofu scrambles and there are tofu scrambles. It doesn’t take much to put some tofu into a pan, but the spices and techniques involved play a major role in its success. In fact, the day before I ate at Blossom, who for $15 gives you about 2 tablespoons of mediocre, uninspired tofu scramble. I literally left hungry, and it wasn’t anywhere near as delectible as Champs. (for brunch at Blossom, order the breakfast burrito. You can’t lose there.)

 A perfect tofu scramble and accompaniments

A perfect tofu scramble and accompaniments

Champs selfie as Michelle orders a takeout cupcake for her man.

Champs selfie as Michelle orders a takeout cupcake for her man.

Getting back to this breakfast transition. My default upon awakening, as is the default for many, is to go straight for the sweeter, higher carbohydrate foods. But that’s just because my body is craving glucose, the building block of all body operations. Eating something with more bulk and protein is a good technique for longer sustained energy. Particularly if you’re heading out for some exercise- I need that energy for my long swims these days.

This tofu scramble recipe, served with smoky black beans and greens, (if you like, in a whole-grain tortilla like Ezekiel) gives you a heap of protein, and it’s very high in the amino acid Lysine. Lysine is an essential amino acid, one we must get from foods. It’s one of the more important building blocks our body uses to synthesize protein, and it’s also incredibly important for maintaining bone health. While it’s easy to get enough Lysine on a vegan diet, it does take a modicum of planning. However, when we get enough lysine, chances are we’re going to be set for protein for the day. So you cut two carrots with one knife.

Foods that are high in lysine include tofu, tempeh, soy meats, lentils, and seitan, next in line are other legumes. Decent sources include quinoa, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds. If you’re interested in learning your exact Lysine needs, consult the handy dandy table over at Jack Norris’ phenomenal site.

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Energy for a busy day!

I decided to geek out and do a nutritional analysis of my original breakfast compared to my proposed long-term energy breakfast. And then for good measure, I threw in the average Standard American Diet (S.A.D) breakfast with a caloric equivalent to the tofu scramble breakfast. The SAD breakfast: 2 hard boiled eggs, 3 strips of bacon, 2 slices of white toast and 1 Tbsp of butter.

While my cereal had ample protein, calcium, fiber and a plenty of other micronutrients, calorie for calorie, it doesn’t supply much by way of antioxidants, lysine and a number of vitamins. On the other hand, weighing in at 150 calories less than my cereal, the scramble breakfast provides a whopping 86% of my protein requirements for the day, (take that protein skeptics!) a good deal of which is lysine. Close to all of the protein I need, half of the iron and more than half the calcium, plus vitamin and phytochemical levels that are off the charts. All at around 25% of the recommended calories for the day. That’s nutrient density people!

So let’s take a look at the SAD breakfast. Sure, there’s lots of protein, (but ahem, far less than the plant-powered breakfast!) but it’s animal protein which has been linked to a bevy of diseases, including cancer. Add that to the fact that the SAD breakfast is devoid of phytonutrients that protect us from cancer – (they are only found in plant foods) so we have cancer risk with no cancer protection. You also get some trans-fat, and even the most conservative government- sponsored USDA people can’t advise a tolerable upper limit for that substance. Talk about a recipe for disaster.

Along with that animal protein comes 68% of the day’s saturated fat (compared to 5% on the plant-based breakfast, but it’s apples and oranges since plant-based fat does not pose the same risk of animal fat) and 481 mg of cholesterol. Plant based foods have no cholesterol. I could compare so many other aspects of these two meals, but it would be more of a paper than a post. You can view the breakdown yourself below. Scroll below the comparison to get to the recipes.2-Day_Comparison_Reportsm 2-Day_Comparison_Report-2

So let’s cook! As always, I recommend using all organic ingredients. Particularly the onions, peppers and tomatoes- some of the highest in pesticides. And always organic soy so it’s non-gmo.

Tofu Scramble adapted from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Makes 4-6 portions

Ingredients:

1 pkg Nasoya light firm tofu (or organic tofu of your choice)

1 Field Roast apple sage sausage, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds

1 tsp olive oil

1 pkg crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast (or more for a cheesier taste)

1/2  tsp paprika

1/2 tsp Tumeric, for the yellow color. (I didn’t use it here, but for the photos sake I should have!)

salt & pepper

optional(well, mandatory really 🙂 Sriacha or other hot sauce for serving, extra Nutritional Yeast.

Method:

Before cooking, drain the tofu: Place tofu on a plate between two folded paper towels, then cover with a second plate. You can also place any sort of weight on top of the plate. Allow tofu to drain while you prepare the vegetables.

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add mushrooms and pepper and sauté until the peppers and mushrooms are tender.

Meanwhile, using your hands, crumble the tofu in a bowl to create the consistency of course breadcrumbs.

Add to pan and stir to combine. And sausage, spices and nutritional yeast and sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook (uncovered) until tofu and sausage are heated through.

For crispier sausage, sauté (can be dry sauté) in a frying pan and incorporate at just before serving.

next…

Easy Smoky Beans *plus* how-to soak and cook dry beans.

Canned beans can also be used here, just buy them organic and in BPA-free cans.

Ingredients:

1 cup dry black beans

2 chopped tomatoes (or about 10 oz canned)

1/4 tsp liquid smoke

dash of sea salt

optional: 1-2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast sriacha or other Hot sauce

Note: These beans also taste great with some onion or garlic, but because they’re also in the scramble I don’t include aromatics here. If you serve them with something else, try either or both during the second half hour of cooking.

Method:

Prep the beans: Soak overnight. Discard water. Very important, unless you want to offend yourself and those around you with horrible gas!

Place soaked beans and fresh water in a pot. For every cup of soaked beans add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Cover the beans and simmer on low for about an hour, or until beans are soft.

Add chopped tomato, liquid smoke and a pinch of salt. Cook until tomatoes are soft. If desired, add 1-2 Tbsps nutritional yeast for added depth. And hot sauce, always hot sauce!


Serve it all up with a heap of steamed kale or collard greens, and if you like, roll it into an Ezekiel tortilla. It’s really a perfect breakfast. Enjoy! Full breakfast nutrition info below. And if you’re here in New York City, visit Champs, you won’t be sorry.

The nutrition info below is for 1/5 of the scramble recipe, 1/3 cup black beans, 1 mini Ezekiel tortllla, and 2 cups Kale.

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Holiday Dessert Roundup

Hello blogosphere! So sorry that I abandoned you recently, things have really heated up at school and the work is pretty intense. Next week I will see my first volunteer nutrition client, I’m really excited to put everything I’ve learned to good use! It’s really amazing that I have the opportunity to help someone on the path to going vegan. In fact, during my training I will be helping several people go vegan.  So many people responded to my ad for a volunteer client- it was unbelievably inspiring and of course, affirming. Affirming, because I went into this field as a response to what I felt was a need. Seeing this need all around me is an everyday inspiration as I toil away at school! I’m looking forward to helping these awesome people and making the transition effortless.

Chloe Coscarelli's awe-inspiring Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Chloe Coscarelli’s awe-inspiring Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll get more original content up, but for the moment I want to share some of these amazing holiday desserts I’ve been seeing around. The internet is on fire with gorgeous vegan desserts this season, and I, for one, am drooling. I have to make some time to bake it some point, or else I’ll never get to taste any of these! Hopefully you’ll fit some into your holiday celebrations, and please, send me a slice!

What treats are you planning to make over the holidays?

http://www.thesweetlifeonline.com/2012/10/31/almost-raw-pumpkin-pecan-cheesecake/

http://www.veganricha.com/2013/04/spiced-apple-cake-vegan-recipe.html

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/well/vegetarian-recipes/#recipe/chocolatepumpkin-bread-pudding

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/plant-based-recipes/pumpkin-pie-custards-with-brulee-topping

http://www.thesweetlifeonline.com/2013/01/13/raw-chocolate-hazelnut-cheesecake/

http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2013/11/21/sweet-potato-maple-mousse-pie/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/plant-based-recipes/gianduja-chocolate-mousse-cake-vegan/

http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=1488&catId=11

http://bunnykitchen.com/2013/11/29/wonderful-nuts-review-and-raw-chocolate-salted-almond-tart/

Your Soon-to-be Famous Mushroom Gravy

Growing up, my Mom made a divine mushroom gravy but once a year. That day was usually Rosh Hashanah, when our house ran wild with rambunctious children who, quite literally, climbed the walls. (My cousin had an unusual talent for doorway climbing.) For a few brief moments we kids were seated for dinner at a card table added to the end of the heftier legitimate table. I was seated only between frequent trips to the buffet for more of that unforgettable mushroom gravy.

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By the time I had graduated from the kids’ table I was vegetarian, and suddenly that gravy was even more integral to my holiday repast. I ladled gobs of the stuff over chewy barley noodles and sundry side dishes while the rest of the family spooned it upon the “roast.”

I had no veg roast at those family dinners as I came late to many vegan staples like Tofurky. Somehow I lived 30 years without even laying eyes on one! When that day finally arrived, I immediately took notice of the mushroom gravy recipe on the side of the box (originally from The Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler.) It had been years since Mom had made her famous gravy, so my nostalgic palate was ready._MG_1019

Over the last ten years I’ve worked hard to find the perfect amalgamation of Mom’s gravy and that of the Tofu Cookery. Many a gathering from New York to Cleveland has sampled these attempts, and fortunately every rendition has been a resounding hit. One midwest Thanksgiving I received the props every vegan covets- the gravy was ranked as best dish (at a very impressive table) by an omnivore. I think my aspiring chef ex-mother in law was vaguely annoyed.

My mom’s gravy was a brothy one. That was her intention, but I do recall my plate taking on the appearance of soup. On the other hand, I’ve never liked thick, creamy gravies, so the one you find here is a  compromise- thick enough to stick to your Tofurky/Field Roast etc but not so thick that a fork will stand up in it. In my opinion, that’s what your mashed potatoes are for. Which, by the way, are the perfect vehicle for this gravy. But if you like super thick gravies, no problem,  just use more flour in the roux.

Before roux & nooch

Before roux & nutritional yeast

After adding roux. Just the right thickness.

After adding roux and nooch. Just the right thickness.

This past weekend I brought a batch of our recipe along with cranberry sauce to my friends’ annual pre-Thanksgiving feast. All of which, is vegan, of course. The hosts are fabulous cooks- the hostess is famous for killer mashed potatoes, the host for an unbelievable all-from-scratch un-turkey. The event truly yields a cornucopia of delicacies. In addition our hosts’ talents, the rest of the group really brings it when it comes to potlucks. (Scroll below the recipe for some more snapshots from the evening)

Because the un-turkey was running a bit late, we began our feast with the dishes guests brought- pumpkin breads, mashed potatoes, several versions of mac & cheese, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, garlicky kale, baked tofu, cranberries, salads, etc…

Just a small section of the buffet.

Just a small section of one of the buffet tables.

Nick's famous un-Turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing.

The famous un-turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing. See the steam rising? It was delectable.

So when the gorgeous un-turkey emerged from the kitchen, every drop of gravy had already been consumed. It was no tragedy, however, the un-turkey was so succulent it needed no adornments. But bottom line, the gravy was once again a smash. As will you be when you make it. So get cooking!

When possible, I cook gluten-free for crowds because I know a lot of gluten-intolerant or sensitive folks, thus I’ve used brown rice flour for the roux. And I find it doesn’t lump.

I generally use all fresh herbs in this recipe, but if you can’t find fresh rosmary, thyme and sage, (sorry, no parsley here!) you can definitely get away with 1 fresh, the other 2 dried. It’s more complex with all 3 fresh, but it will still be phenomenal with just fresh rosemary.

You’ll need two pans here. I tend to make the roux in a small pan and do the rest in a huge one.

Giant pan works best for this.

Giant pan works best for this.

A note on cleaning all those mushrooms: some people are under the false impression that you can’t clean mushrooms with water. They’re wrong! You won’t want to wet them in advance, but right before using them, it’s no problem. Here’s a good method. Get a large bowl, dump the shrooms in, then pour water over them. Submerge them a few times, rinse, repeat. You get the vast majority of dirt off in one fell swoop, then touch up with a towel as you’re cutting. Easy.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from Tofu Cookery, Louise Hagler
Enough to feed a large group (10-25, depending on how much they like gravy!)

Ingredients:
2 pkgs. mushrooms, sliced (together, 16-20 oz) : I suggest 1 white button, 1 crimini
1/2 Cup sliced onions
3 Tbsp Olive oil, divided
1/4 Cup brown rice flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
About 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped (more if you really dig sage)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method:

Lightly sauté the onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil for about a minute in a large pan. Add the sliced mushrooms and incorporate. Add the stock, along with the soy sauce, herbs and black pepper. Lower the flame while you make your roux.

In a small pan, make the roux. Combine and bubble the flour and 2 Tbsp olive oil over low heat for one minute. Scrape the roux into the larger pan, I generally use some stock to thin it toward the end, then pour the thinned roux in. Whisk into the stock, then add your nutritional yeast. Cook (on low-medium flame) until thickened and mushrooms are tender.

For all of you in the US, I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving! And now some snaps from yet another fantastic Harvest Feast.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat. This was just one of the tables full of food!

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

It's an exciting moment, obviously!

It’s an exciting moment, obviously!

Check out that steam!

Check out that steam!

Eleanor's colorful plate of goodies

Eleanor’s colorful plate of goodies

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Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

Lovely Robyn.

Robyn, one of the beautiful Moms at the soiree.

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Sorry Rae,, I was never very good with that thing.

Sorry Rae, I was never very good with that thing.

Grace's amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Grace’s amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Always fashionable Rachel!

Rachel, another vegan babe.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

Our lovely hostess, Susanne, and LiLi. Everyone has someone/thing to hold here. Always something to do chez Susanne/Nick!

Many a set of full arms!

Susan spearheads the activities committee

Susan spearheads the activities committee

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the painting. Only Jen's prettier and not at all spooky.

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the groovy painting. Only Jen’s prettier and not at all spooky.