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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.

Image result for taiji cove

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.

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/

A Compassionate Thanksgiving

This post began as a simple link to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s marvelous new Thanksgiving video. But since she is my patron saint of inspiration, it doesn’t surprise that it developed a tiny life of it’s own. (I’ll still get to the video, which you must check out.)

The spirit of Thanksgiving is obviously in it’s etymology- so each year I wonder, shouldn’t the day be just that- a day to give thanks? Like many others, I find it hard to feel thankful when a dead bird lies before me on a table, when the air is thick with the smell of her body and so many others in neighboring homes. Obviously the 45 million turkeys have nothing for which they need give thanks. And is the destruction of our planet a cause for thanksgiving? Turkey “farming” yields massive carbon emissions, thus substantially contributing to global warming. Are we really thankful for the foodborne diseases, such as avian flu, MRSA, and super-strains of Salmonella created through animal agriculture? And are the world’s hungry thankful that millions of turkeys are raised on grain that could otherwise keep them fed year-round?

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

On this day, as ever, shouldn’t we behave in a fashion worthy of thanks? Imagine the collective good we could accomplish in changing just one meal. It’s really quite easy to have a joyous, meaningful holiday and decadent meal without killing innocent animals.  When you think about it, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, so most of the foods are inherently plant-based. Why not build your holiday around these beautiful, nutrient dense foods? Below are just a few of the many fabulous vegan foods I have made or enjoyed on Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Coconut sweet potatoes

Mushroom gravy

Roasted root vegetables

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted butternut squash

Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Garlicky string beans

Cranberry sauce

Tofurky Roast & Celebration Roasts

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin cheesecake

Cookbook author extraordinaire, Colleen Patrick Goudreau makes a gorgeous, cruelty-free Thanksgiving easy to envision in this wonderful video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zljsYQ3jjWE&feature=share

What plant-based foods are you planning to make for Thanksgiving this year? I’d love to hear the menu!