Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shepherdʻs Pie with Gravy

This dish, like many of my dishes, doesn't have a recipe per se. Sometimes you just have to throw care to the wind and hope for the best. That's what I did with this recipe. 

Ingredients
one red bell pepper, chopped
one round onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 8 oz pkg mushrooms, sliced
TVP (found in health food stores, it is textured veggie protein and is rehydrated with water or broth) or soy crumbles or whatever meat like substitute you are comfy with, or beans)
1 can corn (I didn't have corn so you won't see it in this one but I so wish I did)
vegetable broth (or whatever broth you usually use)
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes or hash browns
pepper and no salt seasoning to taste
nutritional yeast (optional)
Daiya cheese (optional)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350. In a good size pan (or pot) saute (in a little water) the onions, bell peppers, garlic and mushrooms. As water evaporates add more water. While that is sauteing rehydrate 1 1/2 cups of TVP following the directions on the package. When the onions are transluscent, add the rehydrated TVP, corn and fire roasted tomatoes to the pan. If it looks dry, add more broth. There should be just a little liquid on the bottom of the pan. Add seasonings. Let simmer for about 10 minutes on the stove to let the flavors meld. If you need to add more broth, do so.

Pour the mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. No need to oil the pan. At this point, I used hash browns that I rehydrated (not the best choice but they were in the pantry and I had zero potatoes in my kitchen). You can make mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes OR you can use frozen hash browns. I wouldn't bother defrosting them. Remember, if you are making your own potatoes, you can add soy or almond milk to thin them out but not the usual butter or cream! Add some pepper and no salt seasoning if you wish.

Put a nice layer of your potato mixture on top of the filling. The amount is up to you. 
Sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast and Daiya cheese (optional) and pepper.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour.


I actually started the saute process with no water. It's a non stick pan and onions and mushrooms tend to give off some liquid when cooked.

The TVP actually ends up looking like ground turkey. It absorbs the flavors surrounding it and mimics ground beef quite well. Boo hoo no corn!

You could actually add more ingredients and make this hearty part of the dish thicker than what mine turned out to be. Maybe add some beans or other vegetables. I would add chopped zucchini and spinach as part of the saute process for more bulk. The possibilities are endless. 

My daughter's favorite. Had to use it up. Not the healthiest choice. I used two of these for my pie.

That's nutritional yeast sprinkled on top. I also had about 1/2 cup Daiya cheese. Totally unnecessary. I won't use it next time.

I think more of the bottom layer will happen next time I make this.

Hot out of the oven!

Making a gravy was a last minute decision so I had to do a frantic search in my cookbooks and ended up with this two step gravy found in the Happy Herbivore's cookbook. If you haven't purchased it yet, it's a must have in your repertoire of cookbooks. So many great recipes within. I also own her other cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore. If I were you, I would double the recipe below because once you taste the gravy you will want to add more to the top of your Shepherd's Pie. I kid you not.

No Beef Broth (makes 1 cup)
1 tbsp shoyu
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp vegal worcestershire (the recipe is in her book...I just used regular worcestershire)
1/4 tsp onion powder or onion flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp gorund ginger
1/8 tsp pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small pot and bring to a boil. And that part's done. Now go on to the next step.

No Beef Gravy
1 cup No Beef Broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp whole wheat flour or other whole grain flour
pepper to taste

Whisk broth, cornstarch and flour until well combined. bring to a boil over medium heat until it thickens. Add pepper.

I think the next time I make Shepherd's Pie I might add some of this gravy to the filling mixture or I am going to make extra No Beef Broth to rehydrate the TVP. Doesn't that sound yummy?

I was so pleasantly surprised by how delicious this turned out! Thank you Happy Herbivore!

Voila!
There is just two of us at home now and this HUGE pan only lasted us 2 nights. Needless to say, we didn't even consider a raw salad. That's a fault! And a habit I aim to break. Always start with the salad!!!! I shall make that my February challenge...a raw salad before the meal. My husband could not stop going back for more. And I must admit that I went back for more a couple of times. Easy to overdo it with a delicious dish like this. Salad first. Make it your mantra.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lianabars

A friend of mine introduced me to a Larabar. I didn't want to eat it but she assured me it was nutritarian. It had two ingredients; peanuts and dates. YES! I took one bite and fell in love. Hesitantly. That afternoon I went to Target to buy my own secret stash but one look at the price tag made me realize that my love affair with Larabars would not go beyond that first bite.

Until the same friend gave me another one. And then I realized I had to pursue this yummy dessert/snack but on my own turf and not Target's. Seriously, two ingredients? I could do that! I upped it to three ingredients but it'll totally be worth your effort, as little effort as it is.

Lianabars

Ingredients:
2 cups peanuts
4 cups pitted dates (soft ones--Costco dates are perfect for this)
2 tablespoons peanut butter (no added sugar or oil!)


Put the peanuts in a food processor and blend up to a bread crumb texture. Pour it all into a small bowl.

Whir up half of the dates until it forms into a ball.

Add one tablespoon of peanut butter and half of the peanut mixture.

You have to break up the date ball with a spoon so it will blend well.

When it's done blending it will look like this. Pour it into a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper or wax paper. Repeat the same process with the other 2 cups of dates, blending, adding a tablespoon of peanut butter, and the rest of the peanuts. Pour it into the same pan.

Dampen your hands. That way you can use your fingers to press down the mixture. Pack it in there well.

My parchment is too short. Yours should be long enough to overlap all the way.  Find something flat and big to press down on the Lianabar slab to flatten it nicely. One of my cookbooks did the job just fine. Refrigerate for two hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and take it out of the pan and place on a cutting board.

Delicious! Perfect texture.

Cut it into pieces that suit you.
Lianabars
And wrap pretty to give to the friend in the office that shares with you.

You don't have to call yours Lianabars. You can call them So Duck Soup bars. Because they are. So Duck Soup.

Palusami

Is your mouth watering? I already ate half of this. Look how moist it is!
Palusami, at least I think this is what it's called, is one of my favorite Polynesian dishes and it can be made totally EAT TO LIVE!! And now I have discovered an even easier way to make it: THE CROCKPOT! With absoutely no water added. I kid you not. And somehow, cooked in the crockpot, it comes out softer and lighter. So so delicious. And moist. Without water! Amazing.

*Disclosure - Two people who tried it got the "itchy throat" from the taro leaves. Two felt absolutely nothing. I think the next time I try it I will cook it on high for two more hours and see if that makes a difference. I think it was from the bundles at the top of the crockpot. If you try this let me know how it works for you! I am posting this recipe because it shows you HOW to make the palusami. You may choose other methods to COOK your palusami that are guaranteed to melt those calcium oxalate crystals. I found an interesting article about the crystals found in kalo here. If you're steaming, steam for about 2 hours. Make sure you don't let the water dry out! If pressure cooking, one hour should suffice. You can also bake it in the oven (found this recipe). Whichever cooking method you choose, I hope you enjoy the results. It hits the spot!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 - 2 lb. taro leaves
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 cans coconut milk
foil paper
Crockpot


After washing your taro leaves, lay about 6-8 of them one on top of the other so they are flat. I like a lot of taro leaves. You might want to use less and make mini palusami. You really can't go wrong with this recipe.


Add a handful of onions (probably about 1/2 cup) to the center

Pour in enough coconut milk to fill the middle. Remember, you need to also "wrap" the leaves around all of this without the milk spilling out. I would say it's about 1/2 - 3/4 cup, depending on how large your leaves are.
Start to fold the leaves up.


You're going to gather them towards the top and then...

 fold them carefully so the milk doesn't spill out

Wrap in tin foil

place the palusami in a crockpot

Ready to go! I have about 6 in here. I put it on high for 8 hours and then it went on warm for two hours (overnight)

YUM!

Okay, I know these aren't the best pictures, haha. In fact, some of them are downright blurry!  That's what happens when someone else handles the iPhone but I'm grateful to have the help :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's Not All Roses

February 1 will mark one year from when I started my first Eat to Live challenge. One whole year. I can't believe I actually made such a drastic lifestyle change and stuck with it for one whole year. Plant strong! Can I get a woot woot?

And while I feel like a freaking cheerleader about healthy diets, I have to let you all know it's not all a bed of roses. Yes I am experiencing great health benefits (I haven't been sick all year long, my energy level is incredible, my PMS is definitely better, my blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels are all superb). Yes I do NOT ever go hungry. Yes I actually enjoy the food.

But there is a down side. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. Eating a plant strong diet as outlined in the book Eat to Live is no piece of cake.

1. Some of the ingredients are pricey here in Hawai'i (tahini, organic veggies and fruits, ... okay. Non nutritarian ingredients are also pricey. Maybe I should scratch this one).
2. There's a small matter of the gassiness. Hmmm...all those beans? Could be. But what makes up for this is the LACK of any chance at constipation. Does the word REGULAR mean anything to you?
3. Chinese restaurants are not great options. So I have basically given up all Chinese food unless I make it myself which is not ideal on Chinese new year. I am sure that if I ate in some rural area in China, maybe someplace in which the famous The China Study was done, it would really be healthful but other than that you can usually bet that a lot of oil, sugar, salt, msg and questionable meat is in your Chinese meal.
4. You're pretty much limited to just drinking water as a beverage. Sure you can add some lemon to it, maybe some mint leaves but basically that's it. No juice. No soda. I don't even want to discuss coffee (I will NEVER EVER give up coffee, go ahead and call me a sinner). Fortunately I am loving water more and more everyday. In fact, I prefer it. 
5. Desserts, other than fruits, are not easy to come by. It's not like you can run to your local bakery and buy something sugar free, refined flour free treat. Nope. You gotta make it yourself. And it's not that hard but heck, I AM TIRED SOMETIMES! So not having nutritarian desserts readily purchasable sucks. Larabars are the saving grace. I love the peanut butter ones. But expensive and really, with the two ingredients of peanuts and dates I'm sure I can make it myself. Alright. I'll try it.
6. Cooking. In general. I'm still not great at it. But it is getting simpler. I am satisfied with much more simplicity than I was in the past. But I am constantly trying to figure out new things to try. Seitan. TVP. 
7. Watching others eat themselves to death. It is bothering me more and more but I need to say less and less. Food is such an addiction. I get it. They probably do, too. If people ask for help or advice, I'll give it (and try to shut me up after that!). Otherwise, mum's the word.

I'm not going to do the upside post. I think every post I do is an upside. And if I did one it would be at least 4 times as long as this, but definitely the benefits are PRICELESS as the commercials say. Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So Duck Soup's 'Ono Lasagna

Nothing to get me going in the kitchen like a new challenge and the wisdom to plan for the week. Yup. It only took me one year to learn this. And I suppose not having anyone home on a Sunday makes it a lot easier to get some cooking duties taken care of.

Last up on the agenda today was making a variation on Chef AJ's Disappearing Lasagna. It is oh so delicious. I made a few changes so I'll just go ahead and list the ingredients and steps that I used. But you're going to need to read the WHOLE thing to get it right, all the way down to the end.

Ingredients

Filling No. 1:
1 container firm tofu (I buy the cheapest I can find in the refrigerated section)
2 oz. fresh basil leaves (or dried if you don't have fresh) - any combination of Italian seasonings would work in place of fresh basil
1 cup pine nuts, raw cashews or hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic (or more)
1/4 cup low-sodium miso (I used regular miso)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 pounds frozen chopped spinach or 1 pound frozen chopped kale (I used fresh chard that I chopped up and cooked on the stove in a small amount of water)

 2 small to medium round eggplants, sliced thin
2 small to medium zucchinis, sliced thin
(these will be used as "noodles" in lieu of using whole wheat lasagna noodles)

6 cups oil-free marinara sauce (I used two jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce and mixed it with another two cups of tomato sauce)

Filling No. 2:
16 oz sliced mushrooms (2 containers)
2 or more garlic cloves
1/4 cup tamari (I used shoyu)
1 large onion
1 can olives, rinsed and drained, then sliced or chopped

Faux Parmesan:
In a food processor, grind 1 cup raw cashews or almonds, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast and 1 Tbsp of salt-free seasoning, until a powdery mixture is achieved. If you like it more chunky, process less.

Instructions:
Make the filling in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade, by adding tofu (drain out the water), basil, garlic, lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast, nuts and red pepper flakes. Puree until smooth. Add drained cooked greens and process again.
In a large non-stick saute pan, saute chopped onion in 1/4 cup water until translucent, adding more water if necessary. Add garlic, mushrooms and tamari and saute until browned. Taste mixture, adding more garlic/tamari according to your taste. Cook until mushrooms appear to be glazed and there is no more liquid left in pan.
Pour 3 cups of the sauce in a 9"x13" lasagna pan (or larger if you have OR use two smaller pans). Place one layer of sliced eggplant on top. Cover eggplant with half of tofu/spinach mix, then with half of mushroom mix. Place a layer of zucchini on top and add remaining halves of tofu and mushroom/onion mixture. Place one more layer of a mix of zucchini/eggplant on top and smother evenly with remaining sauce. Sprinkle olives on top of sauce and sprinkle with faux parmesan. (by this time I was too tired to make faux parmesan so I just sprinkled on some mac nut crumbs, nutritional yeast and a Trader Joe's salt free seasoning).
Hopefully at this point, your sauce isn't running over the top of your pan! It makes a LOT!

Bake uncovered 375 degrees for one hour. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves A LOT of people :-)

My main point that I would like to make is that you do NOT have to make recipes exactly as they are written out. If you'd rather use whole grain lasagna noodles instead of eggplant and zucchini, do it! If you hate onions, omit them. Like bell peppers? Put them in! 

I saute EVERYTHING in water. Start with a couple tablespoons - 1/4 cup and just keep adding as it evaporates.

After the onions become close to translucent add the mushrooms, garlic and tamari/soy sauce

That looks just about ready. The liquid is pretty much gone.

This pan is slightly larger than a 9x13, maybe 10 x 14?

On top of the 3 cups of marinara I layered thinly sliced eggplant

This is half of the tofu mixture. Kids would never know it is full of  greens.

On top of the tofu mixture goes half of mushroom mixture, then a sprinkling of chopped olives.

Next is a layer of thinly sliced zucchini and then the other half of the tofu mix

Then a layer of eggplant interspersed with zucchini (using leftovers of both) and the rest of the sauce. Two jars was not enough so I mixed in about a can of a seasoned tomato sauce. You can use Italian stewed tomatoes and that would probably work well! A little extra sauce won't hurt it but not enough sauce makes it quite dry. Not good.

Sprinkle on some chopped olives then the faux parmesan (in my case it's mac nut crumbs, nutritional yeast and a salt free seasoning.
Ta-da!!!!

Tastes way better than it looks
So here is what I learned. Next time I use zucchini and especially eggplant as noodles I have GOT to roast them in the oven. So might I suggest slicing them thinly, placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and probably roast for about 40 minutes, turning them over halfway through. This will make them softer as the cooking time of one hour in the oven was NOT enough. I could eat the zucchini but the eggplant was not quite done. And it was difficult to cut. If in doubt, go with whole grain noodles. But I will definitely do the zucchini and eggplant with the pre-roasting (or grilling if you can). The tofu mix was fabulous and the topping of mac nut crumbs and nutritional yeast worked out great.

It was so delicious I could not stop eating which I usually don't do as a nutritarian. I usually stop when I'm full. But I could not stop. I went back for more about 4 times. And I have enough leftovers for at least another meal or two. Click here for the original recipe, compliments of Healthy Girl's Kitchen recipe section of her blog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New 6 Week Challenge Starts Today!


After I completed my first challenge a year ago, I was so sure that the Eat to Live 6 week challenge could help others, especially my own family and friends, that I recruited people to start new challenges. This will be the sixth challenge since my very first on Valentine's 2011 and we have 50 official challengers and probably a few more unofficial challengers. Join along!

Here is my first email sent to my Kung Hee Fat Choy Eat to Live challengers. I wish them all the best of luck! 

KUNG HEE FAT CHOY

So excited! Happy New Year! I have some great info for you:

Good news: You can eat all the fruits, veggies, beans (any kine, all kinds) you want. 
More good news: You can even eat SOME (LIMITED quantities) seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
GREAT news: You do NOT need to ever be hungry. You will never have to be hungry again.

YAY!

DO NOT eat any salt, sugar, oil, dairy, refined grains, meat. of any sort. Nothing that was born with eyes. Do not drink anything but water. The only time you'll use 100% juice is to put in a small amount to make smoothies and dressings. Eating refined carbs (i.e., flour, white rice) is like eating sugar. That's what it turns into when you eat it. Right away. Sugar. 

BAD NEWS (but it's really good news in disguise): You may experience nausea, headaches, and lightheadedness. Alcoholics and drug addicts experience horrible withdrawal symptoms when they quit cold turkey. You are going cold turkey to the most addictive food ingredients: Salt, sugar, fat. So you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Acknowledge it and ride it out. Maybe it's coffee. Who knows. But stay with it. It won't last. You'll get over it. You can do it. Six weeks. Don't get weak on me. You might want to take it easy on the exercise if you do anything at a high intensity. I learned the hard way in kickboxing class. Had to make a quick getaway after about 15 minutes so the class wouldn't see me puke and then faint. Fortunately I did neither but it was a close one!

MORE bad news: (gee, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it really is more good news in disguise) You may also experience an inordinate amount of gas (too bad you can't bottle it up and run your car!) and loose poop (your body never had such great fiber!) but that should get better as time passes. Your body adjusted to the crap food and lack of fiber and gave your regular poop (or maybe not) but now that fiber is your friend your body is not used to it and will have to take some time to readjust. Enjoy it :-) You will experience what one challenger refers to as "RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES" in the bathroom. No time to sit and read your magazines. In and out. And maybe multiple times a day. Yay for you and your bowel system.

Use tofu. Eat soybeans. Instead of dairy milk use  soymilk (or almond milk or rice milk or any other of a number of choices. Just make sure it is UNSWEETENED). I know there is some controversy with soy. But I don't worry about tofu and the milk. I don't consume a lot of it. People should worry about the fats they are consuming and the hormones and antibiotics in meat. 

Which reminds me: CHECK LABELS for ingredients! Don't assume that if something says 100% whole wheat it is. Well it might be made with whole wheat but it might also contain sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup). DO NOT BE FOOLED. DO NOT GET SUCKED IN. If there is salt, sugar, oil, MSG, any of those, especially in the first five ingredients DO NOT GET IT! And trust me, companies are T R I C K Y !!! Makes me futless, I tell you. READ! Stay informed.

You are doing what others think they CANNOT do. But it's totally doable. Is it hard? Heck yeah. Sorta. Can you do it? Heck yeah. I've seen people do it all the time. Regular people. Like you and me. Seriously. There's nothing special about those who have done it. But oh my oh my those who have done it before are changed. They look different. They feel different.

You may have a gluten issue. You may be old. You may have a super busy job and kids or in laws at home. No excuse. You can do it. It's six weeks in a lifetime. And if you're getting this email you've agreed to commit to the six weeks challenge. Hope you read the book or you have NO IDEA how important this is.

What are you going to use to sweeten your dressings/smoothies/anything? Use dates. Equal parts dates and water, blend it up. Date syrup. Yum. It works well. Just gotta use it within the week.

You experienced challengers -- take it to a new level! You had a successful challenge in 2011. Now's the time to rev up that engine, make up for all the holiday indulgences.  Re-read the book to pick up new pointers. Best of luck to you!

Did you weigh yourself? I double dare you to just weigh yourself on the first and last day of the challenge (which, btw, is March 5). I also hope you have recent cholesterol screening, blood pressure, blood glucose, A1C data. You're going to be amazed by the change. And hopefully your doctor will learn a thing or two from you. Make your appointment for 6 weeks from today! Make that 6 weeks and a day!

PREPARE FOR SUCCESS!

And don't forget to check out the So Duck Soup blog and "like" us on facebook. We have some great meal ideas!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Salad Dressings - Planning to Succeed

EAT THE SALAD FIRST!

That's Dr. Fuhrman's mantra. Eat the salad first. I have it on my refrigerator. But if you ask me the only way I'm even going to CONSIDER eating the salad first is if it tastes as good or better than what comes next. So what's the trick? Well obviously, when I watch the students go through the lunch line with their one piece of lettuce and about a tablespoon of dressing, the answer is: GREAT DRESSING! And toppings. But great dressing is the trump card. 

Ever try to find a dressing, in the grocery store or cookbook, that doesn't have oil, sugar or salt? Close to impossible (though there is one particular brand at Whole Foods in the produce section). So to plan for success (my mantra) I set out to make three new dressings today: One from Julieanna Hever's book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition,  one I modified from Lindsay Nixon's Everyday Happy Herbivore, and one from Rip Esselstyn's The Engine 2 Diet. All three books have yummy recipes. And they can all be purchased on Amazon! That's where I got mine!

Sharing the recipes with all of you. On my pics I put post it notes on the bottles so I could actually REMEMBER which dressing is which. My mind does not cooperate in that area. Not only do I need to put the name of the dressing but I need to put what book and page I got it from! Yay for finally figuring out a good system. Of course cutie stickers would probably work better but hey, I'm into simplifying.

Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette (based on the recipe from Everyday Happy Herbivore)
The recipe only makes a small amount so I had to quadruple the recipe and it STILL made the least amount. I am providing the quadrupled recipe below.

8 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp water
2-3 dates to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.



Creamy Miso Dressing (from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition)
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. tahini
3 pitted dates
1 tbsp low sodium miso paste
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp unsweetened rice vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/3 tsp red chili flakes
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder (optional)

In a high powered blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and blend or process for 1 minute or until dressing is smooth and creamy.
(My notes; While I did grate the ginger, I didn't mince the garlic. I figured since I was using the food processor that would suffice. My dates were a bit dried out so I should have soaked them for a while before making this dressing, that's just an fyi in case you have the same issue. I used the 5 spice. I really like the flavor. If you don't have it in your pantry, don't bother. It doesn't add THAT much to the flavor).
This is Tahini. And cheaper than those that actually say Tahini.


I love my microplaner for grating ginger

Should have soaked the dates in warm water



Orange Hummus Dressing (from The Engine 2 Diet)
3 tbsp hummus
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp ginger, peeled and grated

Whisk or blend all ingredients together.
(My notes: I only had those little Cuties. So I used two of them and it made a perfect 3 tablespoons when I used my juicer tool. You could also use tangerines or maybe even some orange juice concentrate. I also used Dijon mustard because that's what I had.)


All three dressings were nice and tasty. I used some Starbucks bottles that were given to me by my daughter.  We'll definitely be using all three dressings this week for our dinner salads. 

With three dressings ready to go, I started making my salads to take to work for lunch.
salad dressing first, then beans, and anything else on top! I even sprinkled on ground flax seed and almond slivers on top.



Planning for success.