Brussels Sprouts

I have long had a love affair with lightly steamed brussels sprouts dipped in dijon mustard.  At some point, I learned to roast them into crunchy goodness in the oven.  A few weeks ago, I discovered Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  From there it was only a short step to replace the agave with pure maple syrup.  Try not to eat them all yourself.  Or do!  Cruciferous vegetables are very good for you.

Maple Dijon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

1 stalk of brussels sprouts, trimmed, large ones halved

1 tsp oil

1 1/2  Tblsp pure maple syrup

1 Tblsp dijon mustard (Use a smoother one, like Grey Poupon, if you have it; it will stick better than the very grainy Trader Joe’s mustard I used here)

salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk together the oil, syrup, mustard, s&p.

2.  Toss the dressing with the sprouts.  Spread on a baking sheet.

3.  Bake at 400 for 20-30 mins, until the sprouts are golden brown and the leaves are crispy.

Enjoy!

Party Planning

I’m cooking for a crowd this week!  What with my recent belly-aching, I was a little nervous about this party… until I realized that most of the food is healthy and shouldn’t bother my stomach!  Here’s the menu:

Spring Rolls (not deep fried, filled with raw veg, served with peanut sauce)

Black Bean Sliders and Guacamole (to make the sliders, form them into small patties or balls and bake them on a parchment lined pan at 425 for about 20mins, until golden.  No need to flip them.)

Crackers topped with pesto spread and cucumbers

Hummus and veggies

Chocolate Chip Blondies

See?  Even the cookies are healthy!  All I have to do is steer clear of the potato chips and try not to drink too much, and my stomach will be fine.  Now, I’ve got to make all this food by Friday night, and still go to work in the mean time.  I learned from the best (thanks Mom!) to make lots of lists and plan around my work schedule when to make what.  Here’s my mission:

You must be wanting some recipes by now.  Since you know all about hummus and black bean burgers, how about that pesto?  More of thick spread than a sauce, it’s oil-free and has no cheese.  I substituted cashews for pine nuts because who can afford those things?  Plus, I stretched my basil by replacing some of it with kale or arugula.

Pesto Spread

Adapted from Chef AJ’s MVP Stuffed Mushrooms, found in the Forks Over Knives Cookbook

2 c pine nuts or cashews

1 c basil

1 c something else green, like arugula, spinach, or kale, or more basil

4 or more cloves garlic

2 Tbls light miso (I like shiro miso)

Juice of two lemons

1.  Puree all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the S blade, until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Try not to eat it all at once.

Tummy Troubles

Confession:  I don’t always eat as well as I know I should.  Every now and then, I have a rough week and end up eating out too much, or drinking too much coffee (or alcohol, to be honest), or just forgetting the rules of nourishing my body.  I have a super sensitive stomach because of a medication I took in college, so I really do have to be careful what I put in it.

Last week was harrowing.  With an altered work schedule due to a hurricane followed by a snow storm, I didn’t make time to cook much and ended up drinking gallons of coffee and tea.  At work I ended up eating loads of the nasty “kid foods” I try so hard to avoid– white pasta, a wedge of a grilled cheese sandwich, crackers, scrambled eggs, buttery toast.  Add to that some celebratory wine (Obama!), and party food (potato chips!), and my stomach was getting very grumbly by Wednesday.  To top it all off, when I finally got to cooking, I was so stressed out about a personal problem that I turned to my favorite comfort food: cabbage and onions fried in butter, served with pierogis.  All of this combined with overindulgence Friday night at the bar left my poor tummy in tatters.

I spent Saturday napping, watching Mean Girls, and hoping I’d be able to keep food down (I did, but it was a struggle) while sipping ginger tea and broth.  Sometime in the evening, I realized I needed something stronger so I called on my brother, who is something of an amateur herbalist.  He suggested baking soda and lot of water to neutralize the acid, and chewing cardamom and fennel seeds after eating.  I downed a half teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water (blech!) and went to bed early.

Upon waking today I still had the tummy rumbles, but I was determined to eat properly to heal it.  I breakfasted on 1/4 cup of oatmeal with raw honey, ground cardamom, fennel, ginger and cinnamon   When I was sure that that was going to stay put, I made a smoothie out of a big hunk of raw ginger, banana, and soymilk.

Lunch was a bit heartier, but still simple, easily digestable, plant-based fare.  I made mashed potatoes (no oil, I subbed a bit of tahini) and this Kale Slaw (holy delicious Batman!).  I used shredded raw beets in place of the fennel.  So far, so good!  I’m still a tiny bit nauseous, but I feel ten times better and more energetic.  Nothing like plants for what ails you!

I consulted Dr. McDougall today as well (online of course).  He agrees with me on the source of my troubles: “Fatty foods with low fiber content, alcohol, caffeinated and decaffeinated beverages, and irritating foods…and medications are the leading causes of stomach distress.”  Not many people realize that fatty foods can irritate your stomach, but it’s certainly my experience that they do.  Solution?  “Frequent meals focusing primarily on starches will bring quick relief to people with esophagitis, gastritis, and ulcers.”  So that’s it for me:  No coffee, no alcohol, no chocolate, no oil, no dairy, no fruit juice or fizzy drinks.  Definitely no processed kid foods or potato chips!

I’ll keep you all posted on what’s cooking this week.  It’s going to be a busy one, since I’m cooking for a big party on Friday, but I’ll do my best!  Staying healthy is a journey we should share.

Train Food

I’m posting from the Ethan Allen Express on Amtrak, traveling from NYC to Vermont. Since you can’t always be sure that there will be healthy or satisfying food on the train or at your destination, I like to pack a meal when I travel. Amtrak tells me there is a vegan burger in the snack car on this train, but I don’t trust it to be any good, or cost-effective for that matter. Add to that my recent memory of a friend having eaten an Amtrak hamburger and promptly throwing it up, I further resolve to never eat the food produced on these trains.

I had to use up some veggies before I left town, so here I sit with the little container of delicious I cooked up this morning. You could use fresh garlic and ginger in the sauce if you wanted to, I just didn’t have any lying around.

sweet potato

It is hard to take a good photo with a cell phone on a moving train.

Sweet Potato, Tempeh, and Mustard Greens with Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cake of tempeh (I like Trader Joe’s, which is only $1.79 and made from a blend of soy and grains for a milder flavor)

1 bunch of mustard greens, coarsely chopped

Sesame seeds, optional

salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large deep skillet, heat about an inch of water over high flame. Add the sweet potatoes, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2. Add the onion, tempeh, and pepper and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft, adding a little more water if necessary.

3. Put the mustard greens in the pan. They’ll take up a lot of space at first, but don’t worry, they’ll shrink down a lot. Cover and let them steam a few minutes, then gently stir, cover again, and let them wilt completely.

For the sauce (amounts are approximate; please taste and adjust accordingly!):

3 or 4 Tbls tamari or other soy sauce

2 Tbls apple cider or rice vinegar

2 Tbls smooth natural peanut butter

1 Tbls maple syrup or honey

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp chili powder (could use a pinch of cayenne if you like things hot!)

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1. Whisk together all ingredients until well blended, then pour over the hot vegetable mixture, stirring to coat. Top with sesame seeds and some black pepper, if you like.

Breakfast Scramble with Swiss Chard and Peas

One of my favorite easy meals is a tofu scramble.  It’s a great way to introduce tofu into your diet without too much trouble, and in fact, I made my first when I was in junior-high and just learning to cook plant-based food.  That first recipe came in the Vegetarian Started Kit I had ordered from PETA, and was the first time I made something edible from tofu.

The simplest scrambles are usually tofu, onion, potatoes, bell peppers, and whatever else you have lying around, plus a sauce.  My first had barbecue sauce on it, and I know I’ve eaten it with ketchup when I was really feeling lazy.  Today’s scramble is a little more gourmet.  I found some beautiful Swiss chard at the farmers’ market, as well as sugar-snap peas that I somehow resisted the urge to polish off raw on my walk home (cherry tomatoes didn’t fare so well).  I’ve found that chard is rather bitter on its own, so from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I got the idea to add an orange to it to balance that out.  Also more reason to use those sweet sweet peas!

For this recipe, you need a big deep skillet or a wok.

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1 pkg extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s because it’s only about $1.99!)

a big bunch of Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, stems reserved

sugar-snap peas, stringed (oops, didn’t measure them!  use as many as you like)

1 orange, peeled and chopped, reserving all the juices

1 bunch of scallions

1-3 Tbls tamari or soy sauce (I did measure this! So proud of myself)

sesame seeds (optional)

black pepper to taste

1.  Drain the tofu and squeeze out as much water as you can. When I have the time, I like to cut mine into 4 slabs and brown it in a non-stick pan over medium-high flame before I scramble it.  You can skip that step and just crumble it into the pan if you want.

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2.  If you browned it, break up the tofu slabs with a wooden spoon.  Add the chard stems to the pan with a little water and put a lid on it to soften them up for a few minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, steam the peas.  I did this separately because I know that sugar-snaps are awful if overcooked.  They need only 2 or 3 minutes to get bright green.  You want them to still be sweet and a little crunchy.  Then drain them and set aside.

4.  Add the chard leaves to the big pan and put the lid back on after giving it a good stir.  If they don’t all fit, have no fear!   They’ll cook down enough in a few minutes to add the rest.

5.  Once all the greens have wilted, add the orange, scallions, tamari, and sesame seeds.  Stir and cook uncovered for a few minutes to blend the flavors, then add the peas.  Stir it some more, adjust the seasonings, and serve with fresh ground pepper.

Enjoy a healthy and hearty meal!  Depending on how big your appetite is, you should be able to get 4-6 servings out of this.  Don’t worry about eating too much!  The bulk of this is greens, so it has lots of nutritional punch and few calories.

Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are this crazy health-nut thing that I always thought sounded completely revolting.  Kale  and spinach in a fruit smoothie??  Yuck!  Or so I thought.  Sometime last fall, my roommate got a new blender and decided to try a green smoothie.  Well God bless her, because I tried making one soon after (taking careful notes on hers, of course) and with some tweaking found it delicious.  Here’s a loose formula:

1/2 c unsweetened plant milk (I like almond or soy)

1/2 c water

1 frozen, very ripe banana

1/2 c thawed frozen greens (spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, etc) OR a big handful of raw greens (Only go this route if you have a really good blender.  It doesn’t work so great with an immersion blender)

1/2 c other fruit (mango, strawberries, blueberries, etc), fresh or frozen

Optional:

a date or two, pitted (hides any bitterness from the greens)  OR some other sweetener.  But dates are a whole food, so I like to think they’re good for me.  Also, honey freezes in the blender.

a spoonful of ground flax seed

and if you really want it to be hearty and thick, add about 1/4 c dry oatmeal.  I do this for a meal on the run.

1.  Blenderize until smooth.  Sometimes it works better if you add things one at a time.

2.  Enjoy drinking something sweet and cold and good for you!  And if you use strawberries, try not to look at it.  Go for blueberries if you’re concerned about appearances 😉