Sunday, March 25, 2007

Weekend Eats

I'm still catching up a little from blogging while I was traveling. In Orlando, we found this great little veg place called Garden Cafe. It was reminiscent of Grasshopper. I ordered the Spicy Orange Beef which was very good. If you are ever in the area, stop by this restaurant. It is a little out of the way when you are in the touristy spots, but it is worth the drive. My apologies for the photo, it was taken with my phone.First up an herb storage tip courtesy of aunt. (BTW - She insists I give credit to Rachel Ray where my aunt viewed this nifty little idea) I've always had so much difficulty keeping herbs from the supermarket fresh. In the summer I grow my own and clip as needed. In the cold months, I pay lots of money for way too much of a single herb and they dry out quickly. My aunt/Rachel says wash the herbs when you get home, then wrap them in a wet paper towel and put them in a ziploc. Sooooo simple, but the parsley and mint both fared very well.

Onto the food...

This weekend I tried a couple of new recipes. I'd never made tabbouleh before. It is so easy, you just need to do lots of of chopping. I'm loving the fresh summery taste and the weather is just starting warm up too.

Next up. Lolo over at veganyumyum posted a how-to on roasting peppers awhile back. This was another first for me. I didn't use the gas stove top, but I did use the broiler. This recipe is for Fleh-Fleh Mishweeyeh or Syrian Broiled Pepper Pickles from A Fistful of Lentils. These are mighty tasty. The peppers are sweet and the garlic, salt, cumin, and cider vinegar add lots of punch!

Peppers after broiling and the skins were removed.
Pickles after slicing the peppers and adding the brine.
Next up, there have been a ton of people raving about the Soul Vegetarian Restaurant on the PPK boards. In particular, everyone seems to love the Mac 'n Cheese. I googled and found this article online with a bunch of recipes including that one. This is very cheesy especially after adding a bit of salt. We scarfed this down. Though it makes a huge batch, so there are leftovers.
A quick note - I used Tinkyada brown rice pasta for this. It holds up well and I kind of dig the the flavor. The regular cooking instructions on the bag have an asterisk. When followed, it points to a second set of energy saving instructions. Huh? I was perplexed but flipped over the bag. It said, boil for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 min or so. You know what, it worked? I'm thinking, this can be done with regular pasta. Can you imagine how much energy is wasted cooking pasta all the time if it could be done this way? I know it is just a small amount, but multiply that by how many times you cook pasta or rice in a year. How about the rest of the world? I'll let you know how that test goes in the future. If you try it, let me know.

Let's see, what else...

Carrie asked for some details on the PPK potluck. Someone picked the theme of orange, so all food had to be some shade. It was about 20 people. I met a couple of local veg bloggers. Nikki from Iloveheeze and lolo mentioned earlier. It was also nice to meet some of the PPK personalities from the forum. Examples of some of the food: butternut squash pizza, lasagna, quiche with orange pepper coulis, curries, salads, samosas and lots of desserts including sweet potato and pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and an orange creamsicle cake from Vegan Treats. Someone posted a few pics on the PPK forum. Believe me, there was a ton more food. I think we all started talking and then the photos ceased to be snapped. Can you find me in the pics?

Also Carrie, the orange ginger tofu recipe was from the PPK database. It was good, but if I made it again it would need some tweaking. Maybe it would be better with some sesame oil or cracked red pepper for spice.

Bazu asked about the pumpkin brownies. The chocolate part was espresso brownies, sans espresso from La Dolce Vegan. The pumpkin piece was veganized from this recipe. All I did was use egg replacer and sub apple sauce for about half the oil (and skip the frosting). This batch of pumpkin brownies makes at least double what you need for the swirl, so either halve the recipe when you make it or you'll be cooking a extra pan of pumpkin bread/brownies.

To assemble, pour the chocolate brownie batter in the pan. (9x13 -ish) Then scoop blobs of the pumpkin batter on top. The cream cheese swirl was my own concoction. It was approximately 1/4 cup of Tofutti cream cheese, a tablespoon or so of powdered sugar, a tablespoon or flour, and enough soymilk to make it batter like.

Scoop the cream cheese mixure on top and then swirl all three with a spatula.

Kleo asked for a bird update. Tommy is doing much better thanks to some vitamins I found online. She's got all kinds of new feathers growing in and the vet was really blown away when she saw her last week.

Though today she had a particularly bad day of screaming/biting me/feather pulling. Tommy hates when I read a book or magazine. Attempts to bite me, usually ensue shortly after opening any type of reading material. Since I was home all day and she got lots of snuggle time, I wasn't sure what the deal was with her attitude. When I started doing dishes Tommy began screaming and saying, "Tommy, Tommy, Tommy" over and over. This made me think she wanted a bath, so I got her spray bottle and gave her mist bath. She really enjoyed this and it seemed to calm her down. Maybe the new feathers growing in were irritating her and she need the bath to help out.

At any rate, that's my crazy Tommy bird. I'm still catching up on all the blogs...only about halfway through my list.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Well, hello again!

Wow, I am doing a poor job blogging. I take pictures, but never make it over here to post.

First off, did any of you read the article about Al Gore's electric bill. What the heck? His bill for the year is more than 20 times the national average. I suspect the national average is higher than someone who is environmentally conscious. Come on Al, use some fluorescent bulbs, turn off some appliances, or get some solar panels.

Don't get me wrong, I really respect what Mr. Gore is doing as far as educating the public. He has really opened so many people's eyes. On the other hand, if you don't practice what you preach then some of your credibility is certainly lost. The Inconvenient Truth was a very thought provoking movie. After watching the movie there were two nagging items in the back of my mind.

1. He was never seen in a hybrid vehicle in the movie. Al was always driving these gas guzzling huge cars.

2. He never mentioned the major effects that the Western diet has on the environment versus a vegan/vegetarian diet. Maybe he was afraid he wouldn't be taken seriously if he touted diet as a way to help. Even so, has he made any diet changes of his own?

I'll step down from my soap box now and post some food pics.

First up Lemon Cous Cous from The Mcdougall Quick and Easy Cookbook. This recipe was quick and easy, but lacked a little in taste. I chopped up some extra dill and added sun dried tomatoes the next day.
Next I made pumpkin cream cheese swirl brownies and orange ginger tofu for the PPK Boston potluck. We had an orange theme, hence the pumpkin. The recipe is a conglomeration from a veg cookbook and some recipes I veganized off the net. If you'd like I can post details. I failed to take a photo of the tofu and I'm using lolo's pic of the brownies.

A cauliflower recipe from My Kitchen in Spain. My sister though the house smelled like bacon because of the smoked pimenton. This cauliflower was ok, but honestly I would have preferred to eat the vegetables plain.
The Gumbo z'Herbes with Cajun Tempeh Bacon at Fatfreevegan caught my eye. I made up a batch of this soup which was humongous. The recipe could have been cut in half or quarters. Honestly, I hated the soup. It just wasn't flavorful enough. With every bowl, I found my self adding more herbs or spices or thinking of other ways to use it. I skipped a photo of the green soup, but here's a shot of the Cajun Tempeh Bacon which I enjoyed. When I make it again, I'll use more spices and less sweetener. BTW - This was made with Lightlife tempeh, there are links for a $1 off coupon in other entries below if you'd like one.

Now that I've been introduced to the PPK forums, I see even more great recipes. Isa (VwaV) posted a new recipe for lemon bars. In the past I was never a huge fan of lemon bar, but cooked these up anyway. Pure lemony goodness! Perhaps fresh lemon juice and real sugar make them more satisfying than the processed monstrosities I've tried in the past.

The crust was ok with 1/4 cup less margarine and it could also cook for about 10 minutes less time. It was crispy, but good. This photo was snapped really quick this morning sans flash and since it was overcast, the color isn't great.
Last pic is my lunch today. I had some Lightlife cold cuts left from the freebies they sent. Before my veg days I obliviously enjoyed a sub on french bread that went by the name of South Beach Club. This was no diet sandwich. Today's incarnation of it was much healthier. Besides being half the size it contained veggie turkey, veggie bologna, 2 bacon smart strips, a slice of toffuti cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of vegan mayo. In a pinch these deli convenience foods are handy.

I'll be making the blog rounds over the next few days. Sometimes lurking is bad, I forgot to stop by PiscesPlace and wish Kleo a belated birthday. ...Must leave more comments.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Cancer Project

The Cancer Project is a group of doctors, researchers, and nutritionists who have banded together to help educate the public on cancer prevention and also survival. They often host free cooking and educational classes all over the country and I was lucky enough to attend one a few weeks back. (Click here to see if there are any upcoming classes near you.)

What did I learn? Well first, I'll write about what I learned from a health stand point and at the end I will share the few cooking tidbits.

So we all know that one factor that contributes to the likelihood of developing cancer is tobacco use. Did you know that the National Cancer Institute says 80% of cancers are due to factors that can be controlled? Furthermore 35-50% of those factors are due to foods. (To read about the other factors and see them in table form, click here.) Suddenly, it easy to see that we have quite a bit of control over our future.

The Cancer Project advocates a diet free of animal products. Many studies have shown that people/societies who eat more animal products have higher rates of cancer. (Side note: They mentioned numerous studies on milk/dairy. The Dairy Council's study that shows milk aids in weight loss is rather questionable and has not been duplicated. Also it appears that the increase in cases of Juvenile Diabetes can be linked to milk consumption.)

They recommend lots of fruits, veggies, and grains. Societies where the fat intake is less than 10% of their total calories have significantly lower rates of cancer. (Fat increases estrogen production in both men and women. Estrogen helps cancer cells mutliply faster.)

Also 30-40 grams of fiber per day is very important. Why? Fiber is what helps your liver eliminate waste (potential cancer causing compounds) from your blood stream. If you don't have enough fiber, then the waste continues circling through your body. I am paraphrasing a bit here, but one of the doctors there actually compared your body to a walking trash receptacle when you are not getting enough fiber. What foods contain fiber? Fruits, vegetables and grains are all fiber rich. Meat, fish, dairy and egg products contain absolutely no fiber; however they do contain fat, cholesterol, hormones, chemicals, and various other troublesome compounds.

What about someone who already has cancer? I can't remember the exact statistic, but I believe if they consume/or switch to a vegan diet they are 40% more likely to survive.

One interesting health factoid for those us in more Northern parts of the world. In the winter it is very likely that our body can't produce enough vitamin D even if we spent all day in the sun. The doctor speaking at this workshop highly recommended a Vitamin D supplement.

Well, what did they cook? The chef prepared a few different recipes including delicious hummus with cumin in it, guacamole with peas to lower fat content (similar to the mockamole I made awhile back), two different veggie stir fries, a pasta dish using pasta that was 50% brown rice, and smoothies. They sell a cookbook on their site and also give it away to attendees of the four day cooking workshops. The first half of the book is nutritional/health information and the second half is recipes. It is also available free via download. The videos they show at the workshops are available via streaming media in the resources area of their site.

Cooking tips... I've only got a two for you unfortunately. How do you peel ginger? I've always cut it, almost making a square. The chef showed us how to scrape it almost like you would peel a carrot if you were using a knife instead of a peeler. It saves a whole lot of ginger.

The other thing the chef did that was pretty neat was water sauteing. He skipped oil with the veggies and added just enough water to keep them from sticking to the pan. It was necessary to add a bit more water at times. This even worked with onions, you could see them caramelizing. Often I use less oil than called for. On occasion in the past I have water sauteed spinach or asparagus (as it is almost like steaming). It had never occurred to me that I could skip the oil altogether on other veggies.

Anyway, I hope this post is helpful and I highly recommend checking out their site for more information. For me going vegetarian had most to do with political/economic and environmental issues. As I learned more about animal rights issues, I made the switch to vegan. Health benefits were just a plus. The information from The Cancer Project makes these benefits seem very important as well. Even going by the minimums in the NCI statement where diet can cut the cancer risk by 1/3, that is pretty significant. Next time someone asks why you are vegan, now you have more great reasons!

I'll try to respond to some of the questions and comments to my previous post tomorrow. I'm traveling and the Internet connections are spotty.