Friday, November 30, 2012

Almond Banana Oatmeal...

How many of you eat oatmeal everyday? Or even a few times a week? I know I don’t, and it’s not because I don’t like oatmeal, it’s just that... well I’ve never really been a breakfast eater. That’s not to say I don’t like a good breakfast now and again but typically when I wake up early I don’t eat much for an hour or two and then I end up grabbing an apple and making a smoothie. It’s quick, it’s easy, and by that time I’m ravenous so it works. Some fruit and a smoothie for breakfast certainly isn’t a bad way to start the day but there are some days where you just want more, and I feel that oatmeal is one of those unutilized breakfast foods. It definitely is in my house anyway. It also comes with the unfortunate stigma of being bland, flavorless and boring.

But oatmeal Is so good for us. It’s filling, it provides sustainable energy throughout the morning, it gives us beneficial nutrients, and best of all it helps to stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol which keeps our hearts and arteries happy. As for the taste, well, the oatmeal I made this morning knocks the socks off of any other oatmeal I’ve ever eaten. It’s super flavorful, extremely delicious and pretty quick.

I guess because the weather is getting colder now, I’ve started to crave more hearty winter fare, oatmeal definitely falls into that category and since I was still a bit hungry after my morning apple bu not quite ravenous I decided to take the time and make myself a bowl. For lack of ingredient variety and for the comfort of having something familiar I chose to incorporate ingredients into my oatmeal that I generally through into my morning smoothie. Such as banana, almond butter, flax, and hemp. What’s really great about this oatmeal is rather then add sliced bananas on top after it’s cooked, I cook the bananas right in the oatmeal itself. When bananas cook down they develop a truly amazing sweet, full bodied flavor that’s addictive. It made for a super satisfying morning meal that’s kept me full all day. You have to try it, even if you think you don’t like oatmeal!

Almond Banana Oatmeal 

½ C Steel Cut Oats
2 C Water
1 Large Banana
1 ½ - 2 heaping TBSP Almond Butter
½ - 3/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp Hemp Seeds
1 tsp Ground Flax Seeds
2 Dried Apricots Sliced
2 Dried Plums Sliced
Splash of your Favorite Almond Milk (Optional - I used Vanilla)

- In a medium sized saucepan combine the steel cut oats and the water. Bring to a boil, boil for ten minutes then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes until the water has been absorbed to your liking and the oats are soft and creamy.

- During the last 8 minutes of cooking slice the banana into the pot and stir to combine. Also add in the almond butter and stir to combine. By the time the oats are done cooking the banana slices should have cooked down into the oatmeal leaving no chunks. Though a few bits are okay.

- Once oats are done remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla extract.

- Scrape oatmeal into a large bowl if you’re very hungry or divide into two bowls for two smaller portions.

- Top with hemp seeds, flax seeds, and chopped fruit - though you may need more of each of these if your making two portions. Then add your favorite almond milk if you like a wet oatmeal and enjoy!

PS: If you prefer a dry oatmeal this taste amazing just as is, the milk isn’t really necessary. I mostly used it for consistency and for a bit of extra vanilla flavor. Also feel free to experiment with different types of dried fruits. I used Apricots and Plums because that’s what I had, plus I’m quite partial to dried plums in things. Though you could use any dried fruit you like.

PPS: Oatmeal can be made Gluten-Free if you are using Gluten-Free Oats

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Heidi's Seed Crusted Amaranth Biscuits...

More and more lately I find myself interested in cooking and baking more with whole grain flour types that aren’t wheat. I don’t have a problem with wheat, or a gluten-intolerance but I like the idea of expanding my palate, and there is such a wealth of different kinds of flour out there that it seems almost criminal not to try them out. Not to mention that switching up your flours keeps things interesting.

My pantry is well stocked with a variety of flours, all of them organic. I have unbleached all-purpose, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, white rice flour, soy flour, almond flour, buckwheat flour, amaranth flour, and several starches like potato, tapioca and corn. Despite having these things I rarely use the non-wheat flours, and so I didn’t really know what to use nor what to make. Then one afternoon I was sitting at my desk flipping through Heidi Swanson’s cook book “Super Natural Cooking” which is a book I never use and found total inspiration in her recipe for Seed Crusted Amaranth Biscuits. The recipe isn’t gluten-free - which is fine for me but not for those who may have a gluten-intolerance, - but it does utilize amaranth flour which I was really interested in trying out. I also really liked the idea of a seedy biscuit. I love seeds, and anyway I can include more of them into my cooking is a good enough reason for me to try. I particularly love seeds in bread, which probably stems from my childhood. As my mom always makes homemade bread - and it’s the best - and her bread recipes usually include seeds of some kind.

So anyway I decided to give these biscuits a go. It’s an easy enough recipe to veganize just swap butter for Earth Balance, Milk for your favorite non-dairy milk, and leave out the egg-white. The egg is really not necessary anyway as it’s used for a wash to coat the tops of the biscuits before sprinkling on the seeds. You can achieve the same effect by brushing them with a little melted Earth Balance which is what I did. For the seed mixture I used a combination of poppy, brown sesame, black sesame, and nigella seeds. Nigella seeds are another thing I’ve had in my pantry for a long time and never used, but I’m so glad I took Heidi’s suggestion and tried them in this recipe because they give the biscuits a nice subtle onion flavor which I loved. Also because I only had about 3/4 C left of unsweetened almond milk, I also ended up using about a 1/2 C of Vanilla Almond milk and making up the remaining difference with water. I thought this might make the biscuits sweet, or have them taste like vanilla but it didn't do either. At least not that we could tell. They certainly didn't taste like vanilla, and neither of us found them to be sweet. They were very savory, but because vanilla almond milk is richer then unsweetened almond milk perhaps it did something subtle to the overall flavor or the texture.

Though these biscuits smelt like heaven when they were baking, my husband was rather skeptical about them when he saw them. My husband loves his biscuits, and has always been a ‘traditional biscuit’ kind of guy, not to mention the fact that he’s not as over the moon about seeds as I am. Yet he sat down with a plate of three earth balanced smeared biscuits and began to eat. I waited with baited breath as he took his first bite, and then his second. I watched his facial features change and contort and was ready to call the experiment a fail when he suddenly declared that “These are the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten!” Wow! High praise from him indeed. I took a bite of my own biscuit and had to agree. That’s not to say that we’ll never return to eating the regular kind of biscuit again, but it does inspire my tastebuds to make these more and more often, they are just to good to pass up, and way to good not to at least try.

This recipe used whole what flour and whole wheat pastry flour in addition to the amaranth flour and at first you might think that would make these pretty dense but they are surprisingly light and fluffy, even flaky. They are super moist which I love and have a really great well rounded flavor, thanks both to the flour and the seeds. These biscuits really are a joy to eat, and when you eat them you really feel as though you’re putting something good into your body, like you’re fueling it properly for the day. They’re also very filling thanks to their whole-grainyness. If you have this book you should definitely try these out, and if you don’t have the book it may be worth checking out just for these biscuits alone. I’m certainly glad I gave this cook book a second look, because it’s reminded me that just because a book is vegetarian instead of vegan doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some recipes worth trying.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kyleigh’s All-Time Favorite Salad Dressing...

Some days all I want is a big green salad. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Some lettuce, onion, and maybe a bit of tomato or some dried cranberries will do, with a light sweet garlicky vinaigrette. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all those big honkin’ salads that are complete meals in themselves and contain upwards of fifty ingredients, but when I’m really craving greens, I go for simple more often then not, and while I love all those rich, elaborate, and creamy salad dressings too a lot of times I just want a dressing that tastes ‘clean’ without having to sacrifice on flavor.

This is the perfect summer salad in my opinion, clean and simple, but it’s also the perfect winter salad. It’s great for serving alongside heavier meals like Spaghetti and bean balls, in rich tomato sauce, or for serving next to a big ‘ole bowl of chili, or as a component to a large holiday dinner such as Thanksgiving. It’s a great starter salad, because it’s so delicious, yet it’s flavor won’t overwhelm the main course.

When I first ditched bottled salad dressing’s - years ago, before I ever went vegan or vegetarian - this was the first homemade dressing I came up with, and it was a hit with everyone. Since the day I first served a salad with this dressing to someone other then my husband I have been frequently told by people that they ‘love my salads’ and that I ‘make the best salads’ I don’t know about that, but it’s nice knowing that I’m at least capable of making something satisfying that a wide range of people can enjoy and appreciate. I hope you enjoy this simple dressing too.

Kyleigh’s All-Time Favorite Salad Dressing

4-6 Garlic Cloves
7 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Red Raspberry Vinegar
1-2 Tbsp Water - to thin and dilute as needed.
1 tsp Sugar - more or less to taste
A pinch of Black Pepper, Dried Basil, and Dried Oregano to taste

- Heat a dry skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic cloves and toast until golden brown on both sides, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning or sticking.

- Remove the garlic from the pan and place in a food processor. Add Oil, Vinegar, sugar, and spices. Blend until completely smooth. Taste for flavor and then add water as needed, adjusting oil, vinegar and spices as you see fit.

- Pour over a a big ‘ole green salad and enjoy!

PS: You could use this dressing on virtually any kind of salad but my favorite types of greens to use with this dressing are Bibb, Green Leaf, Romaine, Iceberg and Spinach. Typically I use Romaine more often then not. You also have an endless amount of ‘add-in’ options such as tomato, red onion, green onion, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, olives,  bell pepper, red cabbage, chopped veggies, apples, pears etc.. though I like to keep it simple leaving it around 3-4 ingredients at most.

PPS: If you like you can make this sugar-free by leaving out the sugar, or by adding in another mild flavored sweetener of your choice. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

American Thanksgiving For Two...

Well, I hope everyone had a wonderful American Thanksgiving on Thursday. Mine was quiet, but lovely. Traditionally we go to my husband’s aunt’s house for American Thanksgiving but thanks to a grueling work schedule that had my husband working on Thanksgiving morning and then again on Thanksgiving night he opted to stay home instead. Not an easy decisions for him because my husband loves nothing more then family gatherings, but this year for the sake of sanity and sleep he decided it would be better to stay home.  Of course I was a bit saddened by this decisions at first too, because I love holiday celebrations, but as it turned out it was actually quite nice to just have the two of us together relaxing. I made a lovely dinner, and didn’t have to worry about how long it would take or what time everything had to go into the oven. There was no fuss, no worry, no prep, no concerns about if there would be enough food or if everyone would like everything I was making. I didn’t have to worry about it being ready by the time people arrived, for once I could just relax and take it easy. Truth be told it was also nice not having to be around a big huge Turkey Corpse and listen to people chitter on about how delicious it was. I find that the longer I’m vegan the more this bothers me. In the beginning seeing people eat meat and relish in it didn’t bother me in the slightest, but the longer I’m vegan the more offensive I find it. Perhaps this is a little of my 'twin brother' E’s influence as he is what I call an ‘aggressive vegan’ meaning he’s very ‘in your face’ about his beliefs and has a rather low tolerance for omnivores especially those who are unhealthy. Whereas I have always taken the more compassionate non-confrontational route in my day to day real life interactions with people. Anyway, all that aside , it was definitely nice to have and be part of a purely compassionate and pure Thanksgiving celebration. It made me feel good, and despite the cloud of work hanging over my husband’s head, we were happy.

Home Made Thanksgiving Tofu Roast

Since it was just the two of us I decided to make a simple dinner. I didn’t want to make anything difficult or fussy, or lavish, but something that would be special enough to make it feel like a holiday. So I chose to make Alicia Silverstone’s Thanksgiving Tofu from her book “The Kind Diet.” the Thanksgiving Tofu is a tofu roast, which is essentially like a home-made Tofurkey. I had originally considered buying a Tofurkey or Field Roast instead but since I’m trying to avoid all processed foods at the moment - more to come about this in another post - I opted to try my hand at making my own. The idea of making one from scratch was really appealing to me, and I liked how simple the recipe was.

Roasted Roots

I did do a few things differently, for instance instead of just having plain tofu I added some poultry seasoning and oregano and basil to the mashed tofu before placing it in the cheesecloth lined colander to drain. Then instead of just basting it with soy sauce and sesame oil I also added in a bit of liquid smoke and maple syrup. Just a Tbsp of Syrup and a tsp or 2 of smoke. It turned out very good, and the only thing I would do differently is to bake it uncovered for longer then the recipe specifies. I want quite a firm roast next time with a really crispy crust. This was only moderately firm. I think next time I would also drain my tofu in my tofu press first and then place it into the colander.

Pan Gravy 

Per Alicia’s suggestion I also stuffed the tofu roast with her cornbread stuffing. Which was excellent. I didn’t have Sorghum and because I didn’t want to use a full cup of Maple Syrup I used half Maple, and half Molasses and it worked out fantastic. I will definitely make this stuffing again, and the only other thing I did differently was replace the nuts with cranberries because my husband doesn’t like nuts.

Green Salad with Awesome Dressing

To go along with all of this I very simply roasted some root vegetables - carrots, parsnips, scarlet turnips, celery root and onion - in some oil, salt, pepper, garlic and lemon. Then I made Robin Robinson’s Pan Gravy and Cranberry Apple Relish from her cook book “Party Vegan” both of which turned out fantastic. The cranberry apple relish was particularly good. I made only 2 changes to it, I used a ½ cup of brown sugar instead of a full cup, and I used pomegranate juice instead of water. Amazing! It was the perfect combination of tart and sweet so I’ll definitely be making this again. Also the gravy both smelled and tasted so similar to my Grandma’s pan gravy, so much so in fact that it’s hard to believe this gravy didn’t actually have pan drippings in it!

Cranberry Apple Relish

I also made a simple green salad of Bibb lettuce, red cabbage, and green onion, topped with my all-time favorite home-made salad dressing - I’ll provide the recipe in a follow up post tomorrow.

Cappuccino Mousse Pie

Then of course you can’t have a celebration without dessert. I chose to make Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Cappuccino Mousse Pie from their book “Vegan Pie in the Sky” and it was incredible. The pie is mostly almond milk with some sugar, 4 tbsp espresso powder and 1/4 cup of chocolate chips but it tastes so rich and decadent you’d think there was cream cheese and tons of chocolate and all sorts of bad nasty stuff in it. This is a pie so rich you can hardly eat more then one slice, and it is fantastic. It’s also one of the easiest pies in the book to make, and comes together super fast. So if you have this book you should definitely make it!

The rest of the day was spent simply. We slept in, we enjoyed each other’s company. We took our dog for a couple of walks. The weather was a bit strange, it started off sunny and became increasingly gloomy as the day progressed. Eventually it became very rainy and windy while we were out walking and so dark that it almost seemed like it was midnight when it was only four o’clock. Though it was rather warm most of the day and evening. I quite enjoy that kind of weather, coming from Vancouver I am no stranger to rain, or high winds, nor am I a stranger to gloomy weather or dark afternoons. So these things often remind me of home, especially considering Canadian Thanksgivings have a tendency to be rainy. Though I also thought the weather was appropriate considering the violence of the occasion. As if the gods were crying for all the slaughtered turkey’s.

A shot of the roast sliced open, you can kind of see the stuffing
peeking out, sorry I forgot to take a picture of it on it's own.

While I was cooking I enjoyed the inactive time by reading “Cloud Atlas” and then after my husband left for work I spent the night watching movies, which is not something I normally do but since it was a holiday I thought ‘to hell with school.’ So I watched almost the entire audio-commentary for David Fincher’s remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and then I watched “The Hunger Games.”

A close up of my delicious plate! 

All in all a good holiday, I hope you enjoyed yours too!

PS: We also indulged in this delicious bottle of Organic, Vegan, Red Wine from South Africa, YUM!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Adopt A Turkey, Don't Eat One!

Tonight we find ourselves on the eve of American Thanksgiving and people all across the country are preparing themselves for big meals and family fun. However this holiday, almost more then any other, seems to be the most difficult for vegetarians and vegans. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and when I first moved to the states it made me pretty happy to be able to celebrate it twice. Once in October for Canada, and once in November for America. I first went vegan on Thanksgiving Day, 2 years ago, and I thought it would be difficult, but it wasn’t. I had already been vegetarian for nearly six months by then and the switch was easy. I didn’t feel as thought last year was particularly difficult for me either, mentally or emotionally. I prepared a wealth of vegan foods and treats and ignored the things on the table that I didn’t want to see. This year however I feel a deep twinge of sadness. Thanksgiving is suppose to be a day of thanks, a day of peace, a time for us to sit and think, and reflect on our lives and on our year. It’s a time for us to appreciate what we have and give thanks for it. Yet everywhere I go this year I’m faced with the reality of what this holiday truly is. It’s a celebration of carnage, it’s a day of violence, and cruelty, and people everywhere turn a blind eye to it in the name of - or for the sake of - ‘tradition.’ Last year I wrote a post detailing how the Thanksgiving ‘traditions’ that we cling to today are the furthest thing from traditional, if you’re interested you can read that here - Thanksgiving: Reexamining Traditions - This year I find the myths and lies of Thanksgiving just a little harder to swallow, but mostly I just feel sad. I feel a deep, resonating sadness for the millions of Turkeys who’s lives are being extinguished in the name of thanks.

Roughly 46 million turkey’s are killed in the United States each year for Thanksgiving alone. That’s a stark, astonishing number. Imagine that as people. 46 million people is the entire population of Spain. 46 million people is more then the population of Canada! There are more Turkey’s being killed in the U.S. for this one day, then there are people in Canada. If that doesn’t make you feel a little bit sick, and help put things into perspective for you I don’t know what will. It’s almost incomprehensible to me, but the worst part of it is that these beings are treated horribly, and live miserable lives. Most of them grow up in factory farmed situations where they have no connection to their family unit. They’re taken away from their parents, stuffed into cages, with other birds, beaten and mutilated. Their beaks are trimmed, their toes are clipped off, and their snoods are removed. Over the decades that we’ve been breading these poor animals for food, we’ve engineered them to have such large breasts that many of them can not walk. They are even so top heavy that they suffocate under their own weight, or their lungs and other organs collapse. Due to the way that we’ve bred them, and because of their gargantuan size, turkeys can no longer fly, and they can no longer reproduce naturally on their own. All turkeys need to be artificially inseminated.

This month the animal advocacy group Mercy For Animals released two new undercover videos that were recorded at Butterball Plants. These videos capture workers beating turkeys, stomping on their heads, throwing them into crates, throwing them across rooms, kicking them, breaking their wings, snapping their necks, throwing them into machines, poking them with pitchforks and other tools. Unfortunately the problem is not just with Butterball, every year videos emerge from different poultry producers that reveal the same things. These are common practices in the poultry industry because unlike beef cattle and pigs poultry have no protected rights. It doesn’t matter if your turkey is a factory farmed turkey, a ‘free range’ turkey, or an organic turkey. There are no cruelty standards for poultry in the U.S. and the term ‘free-range’ is a meaningless one anyway because it isn’t regulated by any governing body. Anyone can say their animals are free-range. Organic is a term that’s regulated but it has nothing to do with how the animals are treated. It only related to what the turkey’s were fed, and ensures that those turkeys weren’t given any artificial hormones or antibiotics. It doesn’t protect the turkey’s from harm.

The saddest thing about this is that Turkey’s are loving, and gentle creatures. Turkey’s raised as pets are as loving as dogs. They even follow their human caretakers around. They like to cuddle, snuggle and be petted, stroked and scratched. They will climb right into your lap and fall asleep purring. They are intelligent and happy creatures, with as much desire to live as anyone else. Mother turkey’s are very protective of their young and will risk their own life to save their babies if they perceive a threat. A mother turkey will even attack a predator to ensure the safety of her young. Turkey’s are also family orientated, and often eat their meals together as a family. A brood typically holds together for 4-5 months and male siblings in a family maintain a social bond for life. Mother turkeys teach their young babies crucial skills about what to eat, the layout of their homeland, how to avoid predators, and a variety of important social skills.

Turkeys are beautiful creatures that deserve our love, our respect, our compassion and our protection. Last year my husband and I took part in Farm Sanctuary’s “Adopt a Turkey: Don’t Eat One” program and it brought me so much joy. This year we once again adopted a turkey, a male named Gabel - as in Clarke Gabel.  I encourage everyone to choose compassion over killing this year and adopt a turkey instead of eating one! There are so many wonderful vegan foods, so many great pre-packaged holiday treats, or things you can make yourself that there really isn’t any need, and you won’t miss it. Instead you’ll feel the inner peace and happiness of knowing you did something good not only for yourself but for another.

Adopt a Turkey don’t eat one! And have a lovely cruelty-free Thanksgiving this year.

For more information check out these pages

Farm Sanctuary - Adopt a Turkey!

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Holiday Feasting Vegan Style

All Images found through Google Images

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Great CSA Experiment...

Beautiful Bounty!

In case you didn’t hear Prop 37 - The Ballet initiative in California that would have made labeling of all GMO containing products sold in the state mandatory by law - didn’t pass. A sad day for California and for the United States. Monsanto and other pro-GMO companies like General Mill, Dupont, Hershey’s, Nestle, Kellogg, Kraft and so forth spent over $44 million to lie, deceive and convince California voters to vote no on prop 37 instead of yes. When the initiative failed, Monsanto through a huge GMO party at their headquarters. It was a sad day for sure, but there is at least one good thing that came out of it. Awareness. I think people are more aware then ever about GMO’s, this election garnered so much publicity that it was hard to escape it, especially if you lived in California. People are aware, consumers are concerned and they’re fighting back harder now then ever. Monsanto won this battle, but I don’t think they will win the war.

The single most important thing we can do to show these corporations that we are not going to take it anymore is to vote with our dollars when we go to the store. Buy all organic from now on, or as much organic as you can afford. Boycott all of the companies that were against GMO labeling and helped fund the lies that Monsanto spread. Boycott all the organic brands that those same companies own - because General Mills and corps like them actually now own many organic brands. Another huge step would be to start making more things yourself at home with wholesome ingredients. Make your own breads, make your own jams, dips, sauces, and spreads. In the end it’s really cheaper and healthier for you to do that anyway.

Look at that Kale!

You can also join a CSA which is something My husband and I decided to do after we found out Prop 37 failed. A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and they’re fantastic. Every state should have one just Google for CSA’s in your area. Typically what a CSA is, is local community farms growing organic produce and distributing it locally, they grow what’s in season, and for a certain amount of money either per week or per month you are delivered fresh local organic produce. This is great because it not only supports organics but it also supports local agriculture. It’s better for the planet, it’s better for us, and it forces us to go back to nature a little bit by forcing us to eat what’s seasonal. We as a species have completely lost our understanding for eating seasonal foods. We’re far to use to getting pineapple in the dead of winter, and sweet potatoes in the summer.

Beautiful Tat Soi

I have known about CSA’s for years, and I’ve always been curious to join one, but I always thought it was too expensive or I just wasn’t sure if it would be as good as some people said It would be. After prop 37 though my husband turned to me and said we had to do something different, and I agreed. We started buying only organic foods, something we didn’t previously do because some non-organic stuff was cheaper and some stuff just isn’t available as organic. We’ve decided now that if it isn’t available organic then it probably isn’t worth it and so we change our menu plan. This was great for about a week and a half until I realized that it was very expensive indeed to do as we were doing. We were buying less food to keep costs lower, but still you walk into a Whole Foods and see a pound of organic apples for $3 and realize a pound is only 2 apples and you start to wonder if there’s a better way.

Check out that Cabbage! It's bigger then the pumpkin!

Enter in the CSA - this is great for us for two reasons. 1) We’re getting good, local, organic produce that’s in season for a reasonable price. 2) We’re not supporting big Organic retailers like Whole Foods. With the recent GMO scandal surrounding Whole Foods, and then their complete refusal to financially support Prop 37 even though financially they were more then able to donate a significant amount to the cause without it making a difference to them, we’ve realized that Whole Foods isn’t the savior or angel it claims to be. It’s a business, and in the end the only thing that matters to it’s corporate goons is their bottom line. How much money are they making? That’s what matters. How can they make more money? And they will do anything and everything they can to keep their sales high, and keep people coming in. That includes deceptive marketing and flat-out lying. I honestly don’t trust them as a company, I don’t trust their integrity, and I don’t trust many of their products. If you go into one of their stores and start reading labels your mind will be blown.

Scarlet Turnips! and Pie Pumpkin! 

The solution for us then became to support them as little as possible. That’s why we chose to join a CSA. The one we picked is a local, Chicago based CSA that serves the greater Chicago and Milwaukee areas. They grow organic fruits and vegetables. They also have free-range eggs and grass-fed meats which I wish they didn’t have but for the omnivores out there it’s good for you to know that, things like that are also an option through a CSA. Their prices are reasonable, they deliver, and they make their driving routes as eco-friendly as possible. Which means they only deliver to certain areas on certain days to keep their fuel cost low. I like that. My delivery day is Friday, and so this morning I was excited to see the truck pull up to my driveway and a man with a large biodegradable box come walking up to my door.

Isn't that Tat Soi gorgeous? Yum!

Since I’d never ordered from a CSA before I wanted to order just a small amount first to see what it would be like. I ordered the vegetable double box which for $25 is suppose to provide enough vegetables for 2 people for the week. In the box I got garlic, scallions, parsley, carrots, scarlet turnips, sweet potatoes, kale, pie pumpkin, green cabbage, lettuce, and tat soi. Whether or not it’ll be enough for the week I’m not sure - we sometimes eat a lot - but we’ll find out next Friday how it goes. As for the quality of the produce, I couldn’t have asked for better. Everything looks super fresh, nothing is wilted, nothing is brown, and all of the veggies actually have a smell. Do you notice most of the time you buy stuff at the grocery store it doesn’t smell like anything? These vegetables are fragrant and beautiful. Also the carrots, the cabbage and the kale are huge. I could probably get 3 or 4 different meals out of that one cabbage! I am probably most excited about the Tat soi which I have never eaten before or even heard off. It’s a Chinese green apparently so I can’t wait to make something Asian inspired with it.

Depending on how well this box of veggies serves us this week I will probably order both another veggie box and a fruit box for next Friday. Check out CSA’s in your area, and keep voting with your dollars when you shop at the grocery store! If we demand better, companies will have to comply or risk going out of business.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Product Review - KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink...

Have you heard of KeVita? Well, if you haven’t you just might want to check it out. I’d seen KeVita around for a while and was always sort of interested in it, but I didn’t realize it was vegan until a couple of months ago, up until then I assumed it was some kind of dairy Kefir, but it’s not. KeVita is a sparkling probiotic drink made with a blend of probiotics and a certified KeVita probiotic culture. It is then fermented with coconut water. Though it can also be fermented with tea or purified reverse osmosis water. It is similar to Kombucha, but lighter in flavor, without the tartness and vinegary flavor that is characteristic of Kombucha.

Personally I think it’s pretty damn delicious, and refreshing and so I’ve been drinking it a lot lately. Up until I gave KeVita a try I was drinking a kombucha almost everyday, then I tossed kombucha to the wayside and started drinking KeVita everyday. Now I split my time between these two loves, drinking a couple of KeVita’s a week and a couple of Kombucha’s a week.

I love their Mango coconut, Lemon Ginger, and Pomegranate flavors the best, but they also have a Pomegranate Coconut, Pomegranate Black Tea, Living Greens, Coconut, and a Strawberry Acai Coconut that are quite good also. What I really like about them other then their flavor is that they are low-calorie. They are much lower in calories then Kombucha is. Depending on the drink they range between 5-45 calories per serving, and each bottle contains two servings. So if you pick the lowest calorie flavor that’s only 10 calories for the whole bottle which is a pretty good deal. I also like that they’re low in sugar, and that they’re certified organic. They’re also gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan, and non-GMO so they can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.

Because I find KeVita refreshing, energizing, vitalizing, and reinvigorating I typically drink a bottle in the mid to late afternoon when I’m starting to feel that mid-day hump. I find them particularly refreshing and helpful after getting back from an afternoon walk, when I’m just preparing to start on my homework. Though I also utilize KeVita’s awesome power on days I need to be up extra early, or on extremely busy days, or when I work nights and need something in those last three hours to keep me sane, awake and moving!

If you like Kombucha I think you’ll like KeVita so you should go out and give it a try. However even if you don’t like Kombucha you should give KeVita a try because like I said, it’s a lot milder. If you don’t like Kombucha because of it’s vinegary flavor, you’ll definitely be pleasantly surprised by the mild, and fruitful flavor of KeVita. Next time you’re at your local health food store or grocery look for it, and if you don’t see it make an inquiry!

KeVita Homepage

Monday, November 12, 2012

Umeboshi Noodles with Black Soybeans and Collard Green Ribbons in Soy Broth...

I know with all the toppings it's kind of hard to see all
the awesomeness in this bowl

If you know me, or If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you probably know that Asian Cuisine is one of my favorites. I love the duality between the simple fresh ingredients and the bold complex flavors that are so characteristic of Asian cooking. I also love bowls and one pot meals, especially on cold days. Well, today was a cold day, and I was feeling particularly inspired thanks in part to the reading I’ve been required to do for my Chinese Medicine class, as well as my most recent trip to Mitsuwa, the Japanese Market in Arlington Heights.

My last trip to Mitsuwa was a couple of weeks ago, and I was on a mission for Miso and a variety of Japanese noodles. These are things I can find easily in the health food stores in my area, however they’re roughly half the price at Mitsuwa, which is way more economical considering how much miso I go through. As for the noodles I found exactly what I wanted, a ton of Udon, Soba and Somen, and then I found some packages of Green Tea flavored noodles, and Ume flavored noodles. Ume of course referring to Umeboshi, the tart, sour, slightly sweet plum typically used as a paste or made into vinegar in Japanese cooking. I’d never seen Ume noodles anywhere else before, nor had I even heard of them, but they were bright pink and beautiful, and contained no weird or nefarious ingredients and so I bought a package.

I really had no idea what I was going to do with them once I got them home, and so they’ve just been sitting in my pantry for the past couple of weeks. Until today. Today, for whatever reason was the day I decided to give them a try. Initially I was a bit stumped as to what to pair them with, or what kind of dish to put them into because I wasn’t sure what their flavor would really be like. Eventually I decided to go with traditional Asian seasonings such as garlic, ginger, sesame, and tamari, and picked my vegetables according to what I had on hand and what I thought might make the most startling contrast. Green, orange and black I thought would all look fantastic against the bright pink noodles, and I had really been trying to find a use for the solitary can of Black Soybeans left over in my pantry from a squash stew I made a couple of months ago.

Now, I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how this would turn out. I was kind of just flying by the seat of my pants so to speak. Whenever you just start tossing things together there is always the risk that you’ll under season or over season whatever your making, or just make a bad call on an ingredient. So when we sat down to eat I was a little hesitant and a bit skeptical, particularly of the noodles since I had no idea what to expect from them. Turns out there was no real need to worry because this delicious hearty bowl really blew me away. The flavors were exactly what I was looking for, rich - complex - and warming, and the entire thing came together in the most delicious way. The Ume noodles in particular were fantastic, and now I can’t wait for my next trip to Mitsuwa so I can buy myself some more packages. If you see Ume Noodles in your area pick some up, and make this dish!

Umeboshi Noodles with Black Soybeans and Collard Green Ribbons in Soy Broth.

8oz Umeboshi Noodles
1-2 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger grated
1 Medium Sized Leek sliced
1 Bunch Collards - ribs removed cut in ribbons
4 oz Enoki Mushrooms
1 15oz can Black Soybeans
A Few Dashes of Ume Vinegar
1 tsp Japanese 7 Spice

For Broth 

1 1/3 C Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Low-Sodium Tamari
½ Tbsp Agave nectar

For Garnish 

1 Large Grated Carrot
½ Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar per bowl
2 tsp Sesame Seeds per bowl

- Cook Ume Noodles according to package directions. Then drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking and set aside, until ready to serve.

- While Noodles are cooking heat 1 Tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and sliced leek. Saute over medium-high heat until the leek has softened, and garlic is fragrant. About 5-7 minutes.

- Add in the collard green ribbons, then cover and cook for three minutes. Then add in the enoki mushrooms and cook another 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the collard greens are bright green and tender. If the pan starts looking dry during this time you can add an additional 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil.

- Lower the heat and stir in the black soybeans, ume vinegar, and 7 spice seasoning. Replace the lid and let sit over low heat until the soy beans are warmed through then turn the heat off. And set the pan aside until ready to serve.

- To make the broth whisk the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and ume vinegar in small sauce pan. Then bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Let simmer one minute then turn off the heat.

- To serve divide the noodles into two bowls. Then divide the broth and the collard green mixture evenly among them. Top each bowl with grated carrot, sesame seeds and the rice vinegar.

PS: Black Soybeans by the way are pretty interesting. They look like a black bean but a bit lighter, and taste a regular soybean or maybe a blander edamame. Outside of health food or specialty stores I don’t know how easy it is to find them, the brand I used was Eden Organic’s but if you can’t find them you could always sub in regular soybeans, edamame or black beans if you want to keep the contrast. Shiitake mushrooms would also be good if you don't have Enoki.

Once I mixed it all up you could better see those lovely
Pink Ume Noodles!