Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Delectable Mushroom Soup | vegan, oil-free, gluten-free

MushroomSoup1txtDelectable was the word used by my sister to describe her feelings on this soup, so I figured I’d call it just that – Delectable Mushroom Soup.  Much more fun than plain old Mushroom Soup.  And honestly people, not to toot my own horn or anything but it really is delectable.  I got lucky with this one, for sure.  I had a ton of cremini and chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to Costco) and realized I’d never made a creamy mushroom soup before, and it sounded really good to me.  I was hopeful the recipe would work out so I made copious notes as I went along.  So glad I did.  The best part?  It’s EASY to make!

This soup is rich and creamy but not overly fattening.  I used only 1/3 cup raw cashews which adds fat of course, but not too much.  The items I used for garnish are optional and do add a small amount of fat.  I grated a very small amount of Miyoko’s killer Smoked Farmhouse “cheese”, and a few drops of truffle oil on top of the fresh chives. Deliciously delectable.  🙂


Potato and Cauliflower Samosa Patties

If you’ve ever eaten a samosa at an Indian restaurant (or Whole Foods salad bar for that matter), you know those delectable little things are deep fried.  These patties have that mouth-watering samosa flavor, without all the fat and flour.

This recipe is adapted from Rouxbe, the on-line plant-based culinary school I’m attending. The first time I made these I followed the recipe to the letter but felt they could be improved and made to be lower in fat.  The family actually preferred my version.  Score!

Keep in mind the heat of these will depend on how much of and the type of curry powder you use.  I’m a total wimp when it comes to spice so I only used 1 TBS curry powder (half Penzey Sweet Curry Powder and half Madras Curry Powder).  Use more, or some cayenne, if you like the heat.  They have tons of flavor regardless.  Enjoy!!

Food for Thought: My Afternoon with Pepperoni, Fois Gras and Filet Mignon.

Look at her cute smile!!

I eat a plant-based diet.  Some call it a vegan diet.  I try to stay away from that word when I can simply because the vegan way is considered by many to be extreme, weird and they feel that most vegans have a judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude.  Some of them do, it’s true.  I’ve met many.  And while I struggle with understanding how and why most people don’t consider their food choices, or do but still feel they deserve to eat how they want to eat without regard for their health or the animal’s well-being, I try to be compassionate and non-judging.  It can be difficult, especially after my recent visit to Farm Sanctuary in Orland, CA, for their annual Hoe Down.

Farm Sanctuary has been rescuing sick, injured, miserable animals from factory farms for many years.  These animals, thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Farm, now get to live out the remainder of their lives in peace, free from torture and suffering.   When you visit the Farm and spend time with these beautiful creatures, you can almost feel their gratitude.

Immense sadness came over me as I listened to Susie Coston, National Shelter Director, give a talk about these animals and what life is like in the world of factory farming for cows, pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys – all sentient beings, i.e., animals who love their babies with all their might just as we do, who cry out when they are sad or feel pain just as we do and whose lives are pure misery because we choose to consume them in excess.  Most people don’t think of birds as being aware and/or having feelings, but they are – I witnessed it myself as a giant turkey let me snuggle him and he snuggled me right back.

Who knew snuggling with a turkey would be so nice?!

I am a health advocate and the main reason I promote a whole-foods, plant-based diet is because it’s the ONLY diet that offers long-term protection and lowered risk of disease.  The research is pretty clear on this.  What I’m talking about here goes beyond the scope of health.  I talk about that enough.  Today I want you to see the other side of things.  The ethical side.  Almost every person I’ve ever met likes animals.  They may not all have pets, but they would never harm an animal, nor would they approve of harming an animal.  For the industrial farming practices that exist today to be allowed to continue is essentially doing harm.  These animals are not being raised in humane ways.  They live in horrible conditions, suffering greatly, with beaks being cut or burned off without anesthesia, tails cut off without anesthesia, testacles cut off WITHOUT ANESTHESIA!  I’m confident this is not what anybody would want for their cat or dog.  People are outraged when the story of an abused pet comes light.  Why then, is it okay for these farm animals?  The abuse and suffering is no different!  There is a huge disconnect there.  Of course, that disconnect is what allows kind, compassionate people to continue eating animal foods.  They don’t think about what that food used to be (think…pepperoni) or the life it lived.  If everybody was forced to watch one of those graphic documentaries on factory farming or spend time in a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation), I’m convinced things would be vastly different.  And whether or not these animals were “created” to be eaten is not the issue here.  The issue is the lives they live and the way they are treated, at the hands of humans.  Since animal protein is an unnecessary component of our diets, in other words a luxury, it seems insane that the following stats are what they are.  You may not care to hear these, but I’m going to share with you anyway.

27 million land animals are slaughtered each day.  That’s 1 every 12 seconds.

9 billion land animals are slaughtered each year in this country (most of them chickens; that number was 1 billion a little more than 50 years ago).

24 million ducks go to slaughter every year.

113,152,000 pigs and piglets go to slaughter every year (most are 6 months of age).

250,192,000 turkeys go to slaughter every year.

The average meat eater is responsible for 33 land animal deaths each year. 

What do you think about that last one and the wording?  Responsible.  Like it or not, that’s how it is.  Meat eaters may not take the knife to the throat, but by virtue of purchasing what’s produced, thereby supporting the factory farming industry, they are responsible.  Sounds harsh, I know, but people need to wake up.  The business of industrialized, factory farming is deplorable and needs to change.  The only way that will ever happen is if we stop eating so many animal foods.

This is Stacy. She loves having her belly rubbed.

Don’t be fooled into thinking organic or free-range are any better.  Unless you are farming yourself, or getting these ‘foods’ from a small, local farm, it’s still industrialized farming, no matter how you slice, grill or scramble it.  Hormones may not be added (though be aware – they still exist naturally in the meat), and antibiotics may not be used, but there is no individual care in the mass-production business, and great suffering takes place.  Not to mention what the massive pollution is doing to our lakes, streams, oceans and air.  People who could not care less about animals and their well-being should at least care about the planet we all share.

I’m not insisting everybody quit eating animal products (though the research does support dairy as an unfit food for humans; and, btw, dairy cows suffer the most), merely that we should be eating much less, and consider our food choices before eating with abandon.  We must do something to change the factory farming industry.  Every burger ordered or package of chicken purchased is saying we tolerate these abhorrent practices.  It’s giving these companies permission to continue what they are doing.  These practices are not only causing unnecessary suffering to so many animals in order to satisfy our palates, they are destroying our planet.

You may not care about animals the way I do.  That’s your prerogative.  But I’d be willing to bet money you could never torture one.  Just remember, next time you cut into your chicken breast or bite into that burger, you are eating an aware, feeling, loving creature who suffered immensely for your pleasure.

Just some food for thought…

This sweetie asked me and Chef AJ if we’d pose for a picture. How could we say no?

I ate 2 bacon cheeseburgers for dinner.

Well…sort of.  Got your attention didn’t I?  Let me explain….

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants seem to really be gaining popularity and popping up more and more.  This is amazing and wonderful!  The fact that it’s happening means there is a demand for it, and I couldn’t be happier about that.  There is just one problem.  Much of the food at these restaurants is the opposite of healthy, despite the fact that it’s plant-based.  Sure, you won’t find a fatty piece of meat smothered in cheese, but you may be surprised to realize the amount of fat and calories that are in many of the dishes offered at these “healthy” restaurants.

I know this from experience.  My family and I often eat at a vegan restaurant called The Veggie Grill.  Most of the options are transitional foods – so, they are made to resemble the real thing, however, they are made from plants.  For example, their “carne asada” is made from soy protein.  These items are great for people moving away from the standard American diet.  Personally, I don’t care for that type of thing.  I didn’t enjoy the taste of meat before I changed my diet for good – I don’t want something that tastes just like the real thing.  Plus, I try to eat only whole foods, and faux meat products aren’t that.  So, I would usually get a sandwich made with a tempeh patty, or my personal favorite, the All Hail Kale.  This salad is marinated raw kale, some quinoa, raw red cabbage slaw, a handful of slightly sweetened walnuts, served with a ginger-papaya dressing (the same thing in which the kale has been marinated.  A very light dressing – or so I thought).  Sounds light and healthy right? Wrong.  I spent some time looking at their Nutrition Facts page on their website and was amazed, and saddened, by what I found.  If I were to eat that salad the way I listed it above (and I did eat it), WITHOUT using the side of dressing, the grand total for grams of fat would be…drum roll please…..FIFTY THREE.  I’ll put it another way.  53!!  If I had added tempeh which I often do, and used the dressing, the fat count would have been 73. That’s more than TWO bacon cheeseburgers!  I realize it’s without cholesterol and mega doses of saturated fat, but still!! I emailed the company hoping the numbers were typos (no luck) and was told they use rice bran oil in the marinade which is why its so high in fat.  And since it’s pre-marinated, you can’t ask for it without.  Well, you can ask, but you won’t get it.  I was also told the only way to reduce calorie/fat content would be to order a lunch size portion – which is still 28 grams, btw, and not enough food in my opinion.

The innocent looking All Hail Kale Salad. Same calorie count and nearly twice as much fat as a bacon cheeseburger.

According to diet-centered medicine experts, we should be consuming a diet consisting of no more than 15% fat.  So, for somebody consuming 2000 calories a day, that’s 30 grams of fat.  This number should be less for somebody trying to lose weight or reverse a disease.    Puts that 73 grams for a supposedly healthy salad into perspective doesn’t it?

Some examples of menu items and their values:

Grilled “chicken” wrap = 690 calories, 34 grams of fat.  Kid’s mac-n-cheese = 470 calories, 27 grams of fat.  Portobello mushroom burger = 360 calories, 17 grams of fat.  They do offer a few soups, a green salad, and chili (if you get it without sour cream) that are lower in fat, but the majority of menu items are up there.

I’m pleased as punch that these restaurants exist, as I said.  And I’m not saying we should avoid patronizing them.  What bothers me is they really aren’t making much of an effort to make the food healthy, while making it plant-based (and I realize by virtue of making it plant-based it’s already healthier, but we can do better here!).   Creating a kale salad consisting of over 50 grams of fat, (sans dressing), is almost irresponsible.  I get that a “burger” and sweet potato fries is going to be fattening, vegan or not, and these are meals people need to be careful of regularly consuming, but a kale salad???  C’mon!

Reason for my rant is this.  I want everyone to beware and understand that just because something is vegan or plant-based does not mean it’s healthy.  I’m thrilled restaurants like this exist but people need to realize they are like most other restaurants – they want to sell what tastes good.  Fat tastes good.  And no matter what they tell you, fat is fat.  Good fat, bad fat, doesn’t matter.  It’s gonna end up on your bod if you eat too much (and create a slew of health problems in the process).  That being said, food CAN taste fabulous without being so high in fat.  So pay attention wherever you are dining.  Become a smart restaurant consumer and know exactly what you’re eating by looking at the posted nutrition facts (ask if you don’t see them anywhere).  Don’t assume, as I did, that just because it tastes nice and light, it is, or that if it’s being served at a vegan restaurant it must be good for you.  You know what they say about assuming.

Again, to reiterate: I am NOT trashing The Veggie Grill or anybody else.  I applaud them for going against the grain and for being successful!  I just wish they’d make more of an effort to create truly healthy food, not just food that looks like it.  As consumers we are charged with looking out for our best interests.  We simply can’t assume this is being done for us.

Red Lentil and Rice Soup

RedLentilRiceSoupWhy are they called red lentils when they are pink, and become yellow once cooked? Weird.  All I know is they make an amazing soup!  Unlike other types of lentils, these cook and break down quickly, and end up soft, almost as if they have been pureed.  The first few times I made this soup it was on the stove, but recently I used the crock pot and it was even better.  There really is something to slow cooking, allowing the flavors to build and grow.  Either way, it’s an easy, delicious meal, any time of year. One of our favorites!!

Potatoes in a Taco = Super Delicious!

When I was on Maui last week, we ate at a cool restaurant called Monkey Pod.  They had an interesting menu filled with varieties of different foods, all using sustainable, local ingredients.  I was super excited when I saw Potato Tacos on the menu.  I wasn’t super excited to see, when the server brought them to the table, that they were made with french fries.  Yikes!  As you can imagine, they were very greasy (don’t worry, I didn’t finish them, and I picked out many of the potato pieces).  The wheels immediately began turning in my head as I thought about how best to recreate a healthy version of the dish.  Here’s the recipe!  It was delicious, even made without french fries.  See what you think!