Today’s Quote (3/31/12)

Quote

True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows. – Audrey Hepburn

Artwork by Aida Sabic

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I bought a vegan cookbook…and didn’t even know it *smiles*

Sometimes the best way to get over the middle of the week is to do something outside your everyday routine. My friends and I try to do a weekly dinner night round-robin style (different host and cook each week) usually around mid-week. The company and the food is always great and breaks up the monotony eat.sleep.work. This past Wednesday night, it was my turn to host! I thought I would try my hand out at the my roommate’s German style Gruenkol and Sausage recipe and something from my new cookbook: Terry Walter’s “Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source”. This cookbook is not in your face anything, but is great in its approach and simplicity. I didn’t even realize it was vegan until my friend Emily teased me about meat recipes…

Emily: Have you seen any meat recipes in this book?

Me: What do you mean?

Emily: I think the cookbook is vegan…

Me: No, it couldn’t be! *grabs books and flips to index* Let me check for chicken. *searches…searches…searches again* Dang. There is no chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or any other meat in here. How did I buy this and not even realize it was vegan?!? You know I like balance of both meat and green!

Emily: *laughter* and the carnivore falls *continues laughter*

Me: *sigh* It’s an awesome cookbook…

I own over 50 cookbooks, but it hasn’t been until the last 6 months that I have consistently used one. I bought them for the pretty pictures that made my mouth water instead of looking at what kind of recipes the cookbook offered…more importantly I didn’t look at the philosophy behind the collection of recipes. The result: shelves full of pretty cookbooks that collect a lot of dust. This changed for me with Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cookbook”. A recommendation by a friend that really started my journey towards reevaluating how I look at food, what I cook, and subsequently what I put in my body. Bittman’s book had a great philosophy behind it and fantastic recipes (I have cooked more than a dozen already…and some more than once!) One thing it doesn’t have is food pictures. Same idea with Walter’s “Clean Food”. Great introduction and philosophy to how we approach food and recipes reflect that. “Clean Foods” organizes itself by seasons, which is something that I have really started to enjoy. Seasonal cooking plays directly into sustainable eating. Our society is a global one that continues to grow wider every day. This makes it easy to get imported ham from Spain, olive oil from Italy, figs from Turkey, etc etc. But, these options aren’t always the most sustainable. By purchasing in season and local foods, you can  decrease the environmental effects of shipping foods thousands of miles and into your kitchen. This also allows you to support the local economy (farmer’s markets are great!) Seasonal food is the freshest you can buy and thus tends to be more nutritious…and tastier! Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes…and cookbooks :-).

New cookbooks always come with their staple pantry ingredients that keep popping up throughout. This cookbook was no different and had a few items I had never bought before or cooked with before. So I did some research and wanted to share my spoils of three ingredients heavily featured in “Clean Food”: mirin, grape seed oil, and cashew butter.

  • Mirin is a sweet Japanese condiment with up to 14% alcohol. This sweet cooking wine is made from glutinous wine. Mirin can soften the strong smells of fish and seafood. It is one of the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce.
  • Cashew butter is more often than not unprocessed food in contrast to the ever popular peanut butter (often mixed with salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners, and dextrose).  Furthermore unlike sweetened peanut butter, cashew butter rarely contains any added sugar. Cashew butter has a rich creamy flavor, that is perfect as a spread or an addition to soups, dips, and sauces. Cashew butter is also easy to make yourself (here is an example recipe).
  • Grape seed oil (technically a fruit oil not a vegetable oil) has a moderately high smoke point at about 216 °C (421 °F). This makes this oil ideal for high temperature cooking and also be used for stir-frying, sauteing or deep frying. Because of their insolubility in lipids, the cold-pressed grape seed oil contains negligible amounts of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds associated with the increased health benefits of grape seeds. However, grape seed oil has a clean, neutral taste that allows the food to stand out not the oil.

Here is a preview of the dish I made from “Clean Food” on Wednesday. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder:

Baked Apple Streusel (Vegan)

In sticking with my “cook your own junk food” theme, I decided to try my hand at some apple goodness. 🙂 This recipe was originally a Weight Watchers recipe, and while the portions are small (which isn’t a bad thing), I was very impressed with how quick and easy it was. I only made a few changes to the recipe to make it a little healthier and completely vegan (it was almost there on its own *smiles*). I swapped out the all purpose flour for organic whole wheat flour and the margarine for vegan butter. This recipe was absolutely delicious! (roommate tested and everything) Another added bonus to this recipe the ingredients are things I (and most people) almost always have stocked in the fridge and pantry! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 45 minutes. 4 WWPlus Points (2012). Serves 8.

Ingredients

4 medium fresh apple(s), peeled, cored and thinly sliced (use firm apples) **I would double this next time to get a little bit more volume, but if you do increase the number of apples be sure they are THINLY sliced so they cook easily
1/2 cup(s) unpacked brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour whole wheat flour
1/4 cup(s) uncooked old fashioned oats
3 Tbsp reduced-calorie margarine  vegan butter

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Stir together apples, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice; pour into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
  • Cut flour, oatmeal, remaining brown sugar and margarine together with a pastry blender or fork in a medium bowl; sprinkle over apple mixture.
  • Bake until apples are tender and top is browned, about 45 minutes. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Chocolate makes the world go round…or at least mine :-)

It is amazing how a little bit of chocolate = a lot of happiness. This is all linked to the release of chemicals in our brain that relay “happiness”, but science aside…I love chocolate. Interestingly enough an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine was just recently published that showed an association between regular intake of chocolate and a  lower Body Mass Index (BMI). It was the frequency not the quantity of chocolate that the researchers from the University of California, San Diego found to be tied with BMI status. Previous studies have found that certain kinds of chocolate improve factors related to metabolism, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity; this may be due to the fact that chocolate is rich in antioxidant phyonutrients like catechins and flavinoids. Yet, people trying to lose weight tended to avoid chocolate because of its high calorie count, and the fact it is a…*gasp* sweet. While chocolate will not help one lose weight, it goes back to the fact that we shouldn’t single out one thing (like fat or desserts) and label all as bad. Good, quality food has a  lot of nutrients that our bodies want and need. I thank my lucky stars every day that chocolate is one of them (dark being more beneficial than milk – the addition of milk to chocolate may block the ability of the body to absorb the antioxidants present in chocolate)!! Also, overtly process chocolate is not as beneficial to your health, because like most processed foods…the more something is processed the less nutritious it becomes.

My lovely roommate gave me some chocolate yesterday imported from Germany (hand imported by her husband and his recent trip back to his homeland *smiles*) and it is almost gone. Moderation is key, but sometimes the chocolate cravings win out. Random note: chocolate cravings may be linked to magnesium levels which is why it is hypothesized that chocolate cravings and PMS are linked (a time when a woman’s magnesium levels are generally lower!) Love when science and my body work together *laughs*