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Friday, September 30, 2011

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Featured Cookbook: Happy Herbivore

About a month ago, I posted about my ever evolving pursuit of Ethical Eating.  If you’re unfamiliar with Ethical Eating (not to be confused with veganism), please, please follow this link and find out a little about it.  I think you’ll be surprised by the ethics behind some foods and the very simple ways you can make a difference.  Anyway, in response to that post, Tricia asked if I could throw any good vegetarian recipes her way.  I started making a list of a few of my favorites, which promptly got buried under mountains of work.
Then I got a new cookbook.  An awesome new cookbook.  I had spent many hours over at least three visits to the bookstore scouring countless vegetarian cookbooks, trying to find a couple to buy.  While the internet provides millions of great, free vegetarian recipes, I remain loyal to cookbooks.  I like browsing through them.  I like having them on hand whenever I need them.  I even like the way the pages get stained with little droplets of cooking and powdery with flour – cookbooks sort of pick up the life of the kitchen like magic.  I think the bookworm and the pagan in me work together to foster this love of cookbooks.
I went through cookbook after cookbook, but couldn’t find just the right one.  Many of them called for unusual ingredients I had never heard of, or just had very extensive ingredients lists.  Others might as well have been regular non-veg omnivore cookbooks because every other recipe called for soymeat or TVP.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime burgers once in a while, and Punky and MacGyver are all about vegetarian sausage patties, but I wasn’t looking for 105 different ways to prepare “fake” meat.  I can come up with th0se myself.
Then I found it.   It had everything I wanted:
-  Uncomplicated ingredients lists.
-  Simple recipes.
-  Full, hearty, stand alone vegetarian meals that didn’t rely on meat alternatives.
-  Quick prep times for many of the recipes.
Nutritious recipes (believe it or not, it’s very easy to get really unhealthy in vegetarian cooking – fettuccine alfredo from a pouch, anyone?)
Seriously, even if you’re not a vegetarian, this cookbook rocks.  MacGyver and Punky are still omnivores; they still eat meat on the weekends (and probably other times when I’m not around ;-)), but they have loved everything I have made from this cookbook.  These are full, satisfying meals.  You never miss the meat.  When I started the push toward vegetarianism, half the time I just subbed beans for meat and went with it.  And while that works pretty well in a lot of dishes, after a while you miss the meat.  Hence my motivated search for a veg cookbook like this one.
This wonderful book that you should totally try even if you’re not a vegetarian (or vegan, like the author) is called
The Happy HerbivorebyLindsay Nixon
I was so thrilled with it that after preparing just two recipes from the book (and tabbing 8 more for the next couple weeks), I contacted Ms. Nixon to ask permission to share one of her recipes with you all.  Graciously, she agreed.  Not only did she allow me to post one of her recipes here, but she honored me with a short interview:
Q.  You used to be a lawyer, or you are a lawyer but no longer practicing - however you choose to look at it -  how does that play into your current life? 

A.  I am still technically licensed, but I am not practicing anymore. I started happyherbivore.com in law school when I went vegan and it morphed into a healthy weekend hobby when I was a lawyer. Then life handed me a curve ball which, in the end, allowed me to reevaluate my priorities and passions, so I left the law to pursue a new career. I guess I made the right choice because a few months later, I had a book deal :)

Q.  Are your dogs vegan?  (I ask this because I've been contemplating starting on the hunt for a more ethical dog food myself lately)

A.  Yes! They also get home cooked meals. I wrote a great post about them and their diet here on the blog.

Q.  Are you also vegan in other areas of your life - clothes, hair products, etc.?

A.  Yes and no. We don't buy cosmetic products (or other products) that are tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. We even avoid beers and wines that are not "vegan" because they are filtered with isinglass, eggs or something else. We also don't buy clothes or shoes, etc that are made out of leather and we've replaced all of our leather shoes from our pre-vegan days. That said, Scott & I both still own wool coats that we've had for years, before we were vegan. We don't have the resources to replace them (plus, we feel its better to use it then get rid of it anyway). We also will both eat things like whole wheat bread that has a dab of honey in it. We try to source breads (and other foods) that don't have honey but we have very limited options where we live (St. Maarten), so we bend on the honey issue.

Q.  What was the most unexpected health benefit you got from becoming vegan?

A.  I went vegan initially because I'd heard it would clear my skin and help me lose weight, but I didn't expect it to actually work! A healthy vegan diet has really helped me stay at a healthy weight, which I thought was something I'd always struggle with.

Q.  You are a self-proclaimed big mouth.  I'm sure you've had plenty of people give you flak about being vegan.  What has been your most humorous, enlightening, or infuriating encounter with an omnivore so far?

A.  Anytime an omnivore asks me where I get my protein, I ask them where they get their fiber :)

Q.  What is your favorite wine and why?

A.  I'm actually not much of a wine drinker, though I do enjoy a glass of sangria from time to time. The Nixon household praises hops.

 Bonus question:  You have lived in my favorite city, and the state I currently live in (SC), and now you live on an island (*envy*); how  would you say each of those places, as well as your "vagabond"  lifestyle have affected your veganism and your cooking?

A.  Living--and traveling to-- so many places has a huge impact on my recipes. I draw a lot of inspiration from all the different cuisines I've been exposed to. Each city has also helped shaped me as a chef.  For example, living in New York City is why I focus on quick, no fuss recipes since my kitchen there (where I wrote my cookbook) was tiny.
It's smaller than my mom's closest! Meanwhile island life has really made me value simplicity and cooking with what you have available to you.

Not only is the cookbook awesome, but the author is, too!  Seriously, I could have hounded her with dozens more questions.  I mean, come on – a vegan lawyer who went to school in NY, wrote a cookbook, and is now living on a tropical island where she makes vegan food for her dogs?  We’re talking serious girl crush.

So, without further ado, I give you the recipe I made last night, African Kale and Yam SoupMy comments in green.
I double all the recipes in the book to make enough for all three of us, but the amounts below are from the original recipe, which would be perfect for 2 people.  Everyone ALWAYS wants seconds, and there are rarely leftovers.

whole red onion, small 2 cups vegetable broth 1 whole yam, diced – I used sweet potatoes5 cups kale, chopped 2 tsp chili powder 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp garlic powder ¼ tsp red pepper flakes 1 tsp mild curry powder ¼ tsp cinnamon     1 tbsp yellow miso paste – This is a rather unusual ingredient – the first I’ve encountered after making about 6 recipes from this book – but it wasn’t hard to find, and I’m thrilled to have gotten it because it proved delicious and MacGyver and Punky love Wakkame Miso Soup anyway.
DirectionsLine a medium pot with 1/4 cup of water and cook onions over high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Remember to let the onions sit for at least 5 minutes after you slice them up to maximize their nutritional value.
Add broth, yam, 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium and cook until potatoes are almost fork tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately add kale and remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, until kale is dark green and soft, about 3 more minutes. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, allowing flavors to merge.  See how SHORT that cook time is?  For me, chopping up the veggies for any recipe is always the most time consuming part, but when the rest of the prep is this fast and easy – and the meal is this delicious AND healthy – it’s soooo worth it.  Plus, the chopping in this recipe is minimal, just the onions, sweet pots, and kale.  (The picture above is from the book; the one on the left I took last night.  I always like to compare how good a recipe looks compared to the professional shots, and so far all the ones from
The Happy Herbivore have done quite nicely.)

I suggest serving the soup, which is just a little bit sweet, with a semi-dry Reisling from Washinton State - there are a lot of good organic brands out there, too!  The book also suggests serving with bread, and I wholeheartedly agree.  I'd suggest a crusty Italian bread.

This recipe, after having eaten the 5 Spice Harmony Bowl from the book last week, inspired Punky to announce that Kale is her new favorite veggie because it’s so healthy, so yummy, and so versatile.  I am totally okay with that.

Please let me know if you try the recipe!  I would LOVE to hear what you think of it.  You can find a whole bunch of other awesome recipes on Lindsay’s website.  I also highly suggest the Teriyaki Chickpeas (also delicious on a spinach salad), the Mexican Cabbage, and the Kale Chips – a great, nutritious snack food!

And, in case you’re interested, here are the links to a couple other vegetarian recipes I love from before I got The Happy Herbivore:

Curried Beans and Kale
Spinach Brownies – you have to try these; you won’t believe it!

Disclaimer:  I was not asked to write this post, nor have I been compensated in any way for doing so.  I just happen to love this cookbook and the associated website and wanted to share them with my wonderful bloggy friends.
Originally posted:
Feb 22, 2011 12:09 PM

Curried Kale and Sweet Potatoes - Hands Down Family Favorite

Originally posted:
Jan 8, 2010 7:47 AM

We went fully vegetarian this week mostly to make up for our sins over the holidays, but also because Punky has started to exhibit increased sadness over the animals that die for us eat. We usually eat a lot of vegetarian foods, but we do have lean meats with dinner a few times a week. This week, though, we didn't. All veggies, and it went swimmingly (except for one cocktail party we had on Base - Marines don't do vegetarian options all that well).

Last night, I tried a new recipe,
Curried Mustard Greens & Beans with Sweet Potatoes. It was awesome! MacGyver and Punky LOVED it. I only wish I would've thought to take a picture before we all ate most of it. In addition to being super nutritious and yummy, it was beautiful!  The picture was taken with my phone and doesn't nearly capture the vibrant colors in this dish!

The recipe is from a site I've mentioned before,
World's Healthiest Foods.  I love WHFoods.  I get a weekly feed from them with the in-depth nutritional profile of various foods, and there are a bunch of super healthy, easy recipes that you can search according to what ingredients you want to include and what you'd like to exclude.

The recipe is below.  I substituted dark kidney beans for the garbanzos because MacGyver doesn't like garbanzo beans, and I added ground flax seeds (we add flax - or wheat germ, etc. to pretty much everything).


Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes

  1. Bring water to a boil in a steamer with a tight fitting lid. Peel and slice sweet potatoes in fairly thin slices so they will steam quickly (about 5-10 minutes).
  2. While steaming potatoes, slice onion and garlic. Heat 1 TBS broth in 12 inch skillet. Healthy Sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent. Add 1/4 cup broth, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, and mustard greens. Stir occasionally until mustard greens are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Mash sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you need to thin potatoes more you can add a little broth. Serve mustard greens with mashed sweet potatoes.

Meal Plan: May 15th

Back in May, I started making Weekly Meal plans to streamline our shopping and maximize our visits to the local Farmer's Markets.  While I make no promises, I am going to try to post more of our meal plans here.  Starting next week ;-) 
For now, here is my post from the very first meal plan, May 15th, 2011:
Many times over the last few years I have contemplated it.  Its definitely a good idea.  It would cut down on shopping trips and save me 30 minutes of rummaging in the cupboards waiting for inspiration to strike.  Ive even tried it once or twice, but it was never really wholehearted.
Well, recently one of my new favorite blogs, Manager to Mom, recently took the Weekly Meal Planning Plunge, and has inspired me to give it another go.
Now, Ive been doing pretty darned good for a number of months on the dinners.  Im rather freaking brilliant at creating something delicious out of really random odds and ends in our kitchen.  If you follow my Twitter feed, which you totally should, SINCE everyone who knows anything follows my Twitter feed -à you already know that Im quite into the #whatsfordinner tag.  I enjoy coming up with nutritious, ethical meals, and I enjoy sharing what I come up with.  But by the third or fourth day in any given week that I find myself staring, vexed, at a box of brown rice and an artichoke, my creativity and my patience start to run rather thin.
And I hate mid-week grocery jaunts.  Im not a quick shopper, so the nights I have to pop to the store for green peppers or whatever, dinner is always late, and I hate that.  Eating relaxed family dinners around the table is important to me, and I hat when theyre rushed because bedtime is looming.
So this week, Im making a plan.  Im picking out five dinners, running through the recipes, getting all the ingredients at once, and well see how it goes.  I typically only plan two meals ahead, so this will definitely be a change.  I am NOT planning each particular day (as in Monday well have this and so on) because moods change and I never know for certain how much time Ill have on a given night.  But I will have five recipes, and all required ingredients, handy and ready to go this week.  So here goes:
1)  Well start with some Salsa Bean tacos to use up a few leftovers we have lingering in the fridge.  The idea is based on the Wizard Rollups recipe from my very favorite cookbook The Happy Herbivore.  We have beans and leftover salsa, which are the main ingredients.  We also have some left over taco tempeh and homemade guac (if its still good), so all we really need for these are whole wheat tortillas and maybe some spinach, peppers, and tomatoes (might be able to get the peppers and tomatoes from the garden, yay!).
2.)  Red Lentil Dal – I have been wanting to make this for a while but havent been able to find red lentils, then this weekend I checked out a new natural foods store here in town and found them!  So we need an onion, garlic (pretty sure we still have some), we have all the spices, vegetable broth (we pretty much always have this, but I always buy more anyway because we use it so often), diced tomato, tomato paste (I often skip the tomato paste in recipes because they never require a whole can and I hate throwing out the rest, but I really want to make this recipe right, so well see), and we MAY need coriander.  Pretty sure weve still got plenty of brown rice, and if not Ill just serve it with whole wheat cous cous or quinoa since we have lots of both.
3.)  Black Bean Burgers – I try not to use too much soy meat.  I love some once in a while, and I swear by veggie chicken nuggets and meatless balls, but all in all I like to keep a variety in our diet, which means not simply replacing meat with not meat.So Im really looking forward to trying these burgers.  Not so sure what MacGyver and Punky will think of them since theyre both big texture people.  We always have lots of black beans on hand, but I usually pick up more at every shopping trip so we dont run out, fresh cilantro – might leave this out or sub parsley, neither MacGyver nor I like cilantro much; we have fresh oregano in the garden and the other spices in the cupboard; I think we have breadcrumbs; Whole wheat buns (without HFCS!!).
4.)  5 Spice Harmony Bowl – MacGyver and Punky loved this dish the last time I made it, and it is soooo super simple.  This time I think Im going to make it with 3 colored quinoa instead of brown rice just because the quinoa is so pretty in an already pretty dish.  Got the spices last time I made this dish; will need a couple sweet potatoes and some greens (collard, turnip, kale – which we have in the garden!, etc.) – might wait until the Farmers Market for this one.  And more veggie broth.  See why I always buy it?
5.)  Salad – Punky is a big salad kid and we have tons of Chinese lettuce and veggies popping in the garden, so all Ill need to get is some organic spinach and/or organic mixed greens and any veggies not in the garden.  Im thinking chickpeas for the top.  Maybe Ill make some teriyaki chickpeas, Punky and MacGyver are wild for those.
Recipes 2 – 4 as well as the teriyaki chickpeas for recipe 5 all come from The Happy HerbivoreI seriously, seriously love this book.  Check out the website and try out one of her recipes today!
Whats on your menu this week?

Healthy Surprise Brownies

      I originally posted this recipe back in 2009, and have made it a number of times since, but haven't yet updated the recipe.  These days, I add even more spinach and use organic and local (when available) veggies in the recipe.  Next time I make these from scratch, I'll be sure to update this with a step-by-step.  In the meantime, here is the original post from March 17th, 2009:


Made brownies with Punky last night, and they friggin rock - AND they have spinach and carrots in them! Why, what did you think they had in them? Haha.
The recipe was an experiment based on a similar recipe I read. I just used a box of Betty Crocker Low Fat Brownie mix, left out the water, and substituted in ½ a cup of pureed spinach and ½ a cup of pureed carrots.
Punky was a little incredulous at first. "Didn't you know brownies had spinach in them?" I asked.
"So - chocolate is healthy?"
"It is if it has spinach in it."
I let her lick the spoon as proof. You couldn't taste the spinach at all. I didn't try them when they were warm, but cooled off, there isn't a trace of spinach (or carrot) taste - but it's in there! Rock.
Next time, I'm going to make the brownie mix from scratch with whole wheat flour.