Post-Gluttony Smoothie

I don’t know about you all, but I ate my weight in pie and stuffing this weekend! It was pretty great, but after this long weekend of indulgent fare, I am ready to get back into my good habits again. That means starting my Monday morning off right with a little yoga and a special seasonal green smoothie.

I have a discarded apple from my mother’s awesome centerpiece (they’re turkeys made of apples! I didn’t take a picture!), as well as a good amount of fresh cranberries in the freezer. I bought them not for the sauce potential, but because they’re a healthy treat this time of year. I’ve also got an abundance of lemons due to a special at the local store. It is with these humble ingredients that I bring you this sweet-tart, light, refreshing breakfast.

Ingredients:

1 small apple, or half of a large one (your choice of variety), chopped

1 lemon, juiced

1/3 cup of fresh cranberries, or to taste (they are quite sour)

handful of greens (I had celery and chard)

1 cup cold green tea

1-2 Tbls chia seeds or ground flax seeds

Optional, for sweetness: half a frozen banana or one or two dates

a bit of fresh ginger if you’ve got it, 1/2 tsp powdered if not

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cardamom

And if you are brave, a dash of cayenne!

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

I hope all of you had as delightful a holiday as I did! My manfriend and I spent Thanksgiving day in the country with my family for dinner, then spent the rest of the weekend eating leftovers and snuggling under blankets watching Jessica Jones.

People often ask me what on earth I could possibly eat at a meal centered on a slaughtered bird, but in the 15+ years I have eschewed eating animals, I’ve never gone hungry on this holiday. Most sides can be easily made meatless (stuffing made with vegetable broth, for example), and the rest are mostly vegetables anyway. Since I figured out my sensitivity to dairy, it’s been a little trickier, but we just make the mashed potatoes with almond milk and butter the vegetables with Earth Balance. For a main dish, we used to buy a Tofurkey, but a few years ago my mom started to experiment with making her own seitan-centerpiece for my brother and me. Some of them have been frankly pretty bad, but this year she got it just right! I’ve also brought to the meal a good number of hearty vegan dishes, like last year’s Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole (from Let Them Eat Vegan!) and this year’s foray into vegan potpie…That recipe is to come! Stay tuned!

 

Buddha Bowl

This week’s lunch has been the usual improvisation: What do I have, and how can I combine it so it tastes good?

Starting with starches, I almost always have some cooked brown rice on hand, which is the basis for such a wide variety of dishes.

Next come vegetables. I have some basics like carrots and celery, as well as loads of kale (it was on sale!) and some raw beets.

I also need something proteiny and some flavor. My options were a little limited this week as I had only dry beans and no time to cook them, and very few nuts. I do always have peanut butter and some frozen peas, which I think are the most budget-friendly and convenient sources of protein you can get, aside from lentils and split peas which still have to be cooked.

So let’s get cooking! I decided to forgo the peas since I had some in my oatmeal for breakfast, and whip up some peanut sauce. Three birds, one stone: Flavor + protein + healthy fats.

Beets and carrots were quickly run through the grating disk on my food processor and tossed with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a little salt to make my favorite Easy Beet Salad.

I steamed a couple of stemmed and torn leaves of kale in the microwave in my Tupperwave Stack Cooker, but a covered glass or ceramic dish will also do the trick.

I simply layered the kale, brown rice and peanut sauce on a plate (use a big bowl, it will be easier to stir), and put a hefty serving of beet salad on the side, thinking it wouldn’t be great with peanut sauce. I was wrong; it was pretty good with peanut sauce. There you go, beets are a peanut butter food! Also topped the whole mess with some scallions, since onions are both delicious and good for your heart.

 

I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

Since this is lacking a bean or tofu, I wondered what the actual protein content would be, since folks seem to be obsessed with where vegetarians get their protein. Plugged the ingredients into Google, and based on 1 cup each of rice and vegetables, plus two tablespoons of peanut butter, you end up with around 18g of protein, about a third of what a woman my size needs for the day. Not bad, right?

 

PS – I’ve been eating black bean soup for dinner at work all week.  In case anyone wanted the recipe, you can find a version of it here.

Green Paste

Today I whipped up some easy healthy soup to (I hope) make up for next week’s impending birthday cake and Christmas cookie binge. One of my coworkers likes to joke that all I eat is green paste, and I’m certainly not proving her wrong tonight. Here’s what I cobbled together in about thirty minutes today.  It isn’t pretty to look at, but it is pretty tasty.

My ugliest meal yet!

My ugliest meal yet!

Green Paste Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium bunch of kale or other greens, coarsely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can butter beans, drained, or any other white bean
3 small onions, or one giant one, or two mediums, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
whatever herbs you have hanging around
salt and pepper
2 Tbls soy sauce
1/2c whole wheat couscous

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about half full). Add bay leaf, onions, garlic. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes.
2. Add kale, herbs, and tomato paste, simmer 10 more minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
4. Add beans and turn heat back up to low, adding soy sauce and other seasonings to taste. If it tastes too acidic, add a spoonful of sugar.
5. Dump in the couscous, stir well, turn off the heat and put a lid on it. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is tender.

Enjoy!  I garnished it with some pepitas.  It was also good with nutritional yeast and a dash of hot sauce.

The Green Pancake Challenge

Earlier this week, one of my friends invited me over for St. Patrick’s Day pancakes.  I immediately offered to make them because…well, she knows why.  Then she challenged me to make them green – WITHOUT artificial coloring!  Not being one to turn down a challenge, I got to work.

I immediately thought of savory pancakes, like zucchini or potato with spinach, but that seemed like cheating.  We wanted a pancake to eat with maple syrup, that just happened to be green.  Then it occurred to me that if I can make a green smoothie sweet and delicious in spite of its spinach content, why not a pancake with spinach and banana?

My first batch started with my regular pancake recipe as a base, which includes a banana and a flax egg, simply with the addition of half a cup of frozen thawed spinach, squeezed as dry as I could make it and blenderized with the milk.  They were tasty, but tasted very strongly of banana and were much too moist and dense, as well as so thick that they couldn’t be cooked through.  (I’ll save that batch for when everyone’s really wasted.)  I did think that with a few minor modifications  they’d make great muffins.  Since my heat was out this morning yet again, I made the changes and baked some fabulous bright green muffins.

Mixing up my green batter.

Mixing up my green batter.

While the muffins were in the oven warming my apartment, I got back to work on the pancakes.  I added more milk and halved the banana, while also upping the sugar content to make up for the lost sweetness of half a banana.  I’m not totally convinced they really needed more sugar, but I included it here, since I haven’t tried making them with less.  After cooking the first two, I could tell they still weren’t perfect, so in a burst of inspiration, I threw in a handful of oatmeal.  Pancake perfection!  Moist but not soggy, not too dense or too airy, and bright green inside.  The Green Pancake Challenge is won.  Plus, you get two recipes in a single entry!  Happy St Pat’s, and happy eating.

Ingredients for Green Pancakes:

1 c white flour

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c rolled oats

2 T sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

a dash each of cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice

2 c plant milk (I used almond)

1/2 very ripe banana

1/2 c frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as you can

2 T maple syrup

2 T canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

1.  Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2.  Blend wet ingredients until smooth in a blender.

3.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.  There can be some small lumps; it’s important not to overmix!

4.  Fry them in a non-stick skillet over medium heat like any other pancake, and serve with maple syrup.

Shamrock cake!

Shamrock cake!

Ingredients for Green Muffins:

3/4 c white flour

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 c sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp each ginger and cardamom

2 T ground flax

1/2 c frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible

1 1/2 c plant milk (I used almond)

1 very ripe banana

1 tsp vanilla

Optional but highly recommended: 1/2 c mini semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375F and lightly oil a muffin tin for 12 muffins.

2.  Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

3.  Blend wet ingredients until smooth in a blender.

4.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

5.  Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake for about 25 mins, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

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My Big Fat Vegan Breakfast

This isn’t a recipe.  It’s more like, “what I ate this morning,” and I’ll warn you, I don’t eat normal breakfast foods very often.  Sure, I love a good bowl of oatmeal as much as the next person, but I ate it every day for so many years that I actually have oatmeal burnout.  Cold cereal is also delicious, but it doesn’t last long in this busy New Yorker’s belly.  I like to think outside the cereal box!  Here’s what I ate this morning before trekking off to the Brooklyn Museum (followed by a job interview, followed by work, followed by another long walk.)

I started with a whole grapefruit and a cup of Lady Grey tea.

After my shower, I scarfed a mango with some unsweetened soy yogurt and a spoonful of ground flax (omegalicious?).  I wouldn’t normally bother with something like soy yogurt since it’s not especially tasty, but I’ve been on antibiotics, so I need to repopulate my gut with some good bacteria.

After that, I microwaved some frozen kale and leftover lentils, threw in the juice of half a lemon, some avocado, and a dash of Slap Ya Mama.  I added a side of beet salad, topped with sunflower seeds.

Friday, I am ready for you!

Black Bean Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Collards

This is a hearty, nourishing stew that is perfect for a cold winter day.

Ingredients:

1 lb or so of dry black beans, soaked and cooked, cooking liquid reserved (I removed about 2 cups of cooked beans to store in the freezer for another day)

2 big sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 or 3 medium onions, chopped

5-10 cloves garlic (you can leave them whole or mince/crush)

1 bunch of collard greens, stemmed (keep the stems!) and chopped

2 bell peppers, any color, seeded and diced

1 small can tomato paste

Seasoning suggestions:  bay leaf, oregano, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, fresh hot peppers, etc.  A squeeze of lime is nice for serving, too.

1.  Start with your cooked beans simmering in their own broth.  Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, and any other dried seasonings you choose to use.  Save fresh herbs for the end.  Keep it simmering while you chop other things.

2.  Finely mince the stems from the collards.  I did this by putting them into the food processor whole and pulsing until they were in little tiny bits.  I also threw the onions and half the garlic with them, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because it’s necessary.  Feel free to chop everything by hand if you are less lazy than me, or don’t have a food processor.

3.  Add the sweet potatoes, minced stems, and tomato paste to the pot.  You may need to add a little more water at this point too.  Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft and flavors have melded, 10-20 mins.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, then add the peppers and simmer some more.

4.  Steam the collard leaves until bright green and tender, or if you have a big enough pot (I don’t), just throw them in the soup with the peppers and cook until they wilt.  Add any fresh herbs once all the vegetables are soft.  Serve the stew over the steamed greens and garnish with some hot sauce and nutritional yeast, or a squeeze of lime or a dash of apple cider vinegar.

I like this soup because there’s so little waste.  Why throw those stems away?  When I make collards or kale on their own, I always chop up the stems and saute them with the onions, so I thought, “Why can’t I put them in the soup too?”  The results are delicious, and I hardly had to put any scraps in the garbage.  Bonus of extra fiber!

Stretching

Spent too much over the holidays?  Budget shot from too many nights out, plane/train/bus tickets, and gifts for your family and friends?  Yeah, me too.  All will be well when I get paid tomorrow, but in the meantime, I need to make the most of what I’ve got in the pantry.  (Improv Soup, anyone?)

Upon my return to the city over the weekend, I whipped up a red lentil and sweet potato soup with some curry and other spiced.  As I recall, there’s not much in it besides onion, carrots, celery, 2 big sweet potatoes, and half a pound of red lentils.  It’s tasty, but I can make it last longer by doing a few key things:

Adding brown rice (I get it on the cheap at Trader Joe’s for $1.09/lb)

Adding more vegetables (frozen spinach and others are often less than $2/lb)

Adding a can of tomatoes (watch for sales and buy a whole lot!)

I was planning on doing all of these things until I discovered that I am out of canned tomatoes.  Fortunately I had a couple cans of pumpkin, which is a natural addition to sweet potatoes and spices.  I’ve also added cooked brown rice, some frozen green beans, and a 10oz package of frozen spinach.  For more seasoning, I threw in some more spices (fennel, mustard, cumin), minced fresh ginger, and a just starting to shrivel jalapeno.  Some salt too.

Throw it all in a big pot (except for the rice, which you should save for the end so it doesn’t suck up all the broth) and simmer until it tastes good, adjusting the seasonings as it cooks. The only thing I’d change about my soup is that it could use another onion.  What’s really important though, is that I turned three servings of soup into ten.  I’ll eat like a queen until my paycheck clears!

Almost any dish can be stretched into soup this way.  I have a few servings of Wheat Berry Salad that could probably stand the same treatment if necessary.  Just add water, onion/carrot/celery, and some beans or canned tomatoes, simmer, and voila!  Soup.  Even if you’re not broke, it’s a great way to use up leftovers that you’ve grown weary of.

 

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!

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.