Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Zucchini, Pepper, and Potato Bake

 Summertime means you've got more ingredients in the garden than you know what to do with.  Around here, that means everyone shows up to work with a bag of what used to be their favorite vegetable as they try to give them out to their colleague.  Every year I hear "why did I plant so many ____".  Well, because you love eating them.  Or you underestimate how much those plants provide.  Nevertheless, you can ALWAYS find a use for just about any vegetable, even if you're tired of eating them!  The great thing about setting aside space in your garden for potatoes, onion, garlic, and shallots is that there is no designated time that you have to pick them... you can pick a handful or so every week for eight weeks-- as long as they are big enough for you to enjoy.  That said, they work as a great filler for recipes when you've got to use up an ingredient you're tired of eating.  That's kind of what happened here.

For the record, my suggestion is, if you're friends-- or even just friendly accquantences with your neighbors, try to plan your garden accordingly with what they are planting.  If you see a dozen tomato plants in their yard and they aren't the kind of people to jar their own sauce, only plant 1 or two tomato plants and be prepared to give up some cucumbers for their tomatoes.  Communal gardening in this way tends to help manage the abundancies of monocrops in a way that doesn't leave everyone gardening pissed off and frustrated at the fact they now hate their former favorite food.

Or, you can just make something like this.

2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into large pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil 
paprika to taste
salt to taste 
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 400.
Cut up vegetables, potatoes, and garlic.

In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt, black pepper, and paprika.

In a large bowl, add vegetables.  Pour bread crumb mix over the vegetables, and mix well.

On pan, spray olive oil evenly, place the vegetables over the olive oil, and spray the top with olive oil thoroughly. 

Bake for 45 minutes- 1 hour, depending on the thickness of your cuts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ugli Tropical Smoothie


It's summer time, so what's better than some tropical flavors to sweeten up the day?  This tropical smoothie shines with the ugli fruit-- a very, well, ugly fruit filled with a delicious flavor profile similar to oranges but with a bit more of a punch.  What's great about the ugli fruit in particular is the fact that it is so easy to peel!  The skin literally falls off after you cut it open-- how easy is that?  Anyways, I try to include some ugli fruit occasionally, because, although they are expensive, it's always good to add some variety to your diet, and these offer something new for most people.  You can find ugli fruit at most asian supermarkets and occasionally at some higher end supermarkets (i.e. Whole Foods).  Of course, you'll pay a premium at the higher end places, but even at asian supermarkets, these are not exactly the cheapest fruit to buy.  In my opinion, though, they are definitely worth it as a treat.

As for the book I'm barreling through at the moment, Guy de Maupassant's collection of stories is a fabulous critique of Parisian culture, identity politics, amongst other many themes that run rampant through his work.  I enjoy including some of his work in the classes I teach, so I've been going through my collections to see what may be on the agenda for the fall. An intoxicating, enjoyable read-- a great profile of French culture in the early 20th century.

1 Ugli Fruit
1 kiwi
1 lime
1 orange
3 strawberries
1 cup kale
1 tbsp flax seed

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Insanity, smoothies, and why it's important to buy the right blender for you

Since the school semester got out in May and I switched jobs, I've had the time and opportunity to finally follow through with all those promises I made to myself.  You know, the ones that start with "when I have the time, I'll ______".  For me, those were: get back to my peak fitness again, keep away from pre-made meals, make a veganized version of the meal plans suggested in the beachbody fitness routines (i.e. p90x) with similar nutritional information, and try to post more on here (and if you haven't noticed, we've added a whole bunch of new sections... some of which are still empty.  I'm working on that).  So anyways, the life of a non-professor is good.  Working a 9-5 (or for me, 7-3) is so simple, and the idea of not having to grade or prep at home is almost baffling.  My first day after work, my thoughts turned to "what did I do back when I had free time? Not like, free time before I had to grade, but free time until I go back to work?" 

So I started working out more than a few days a week again, and I started getting more interested in nutrition.  I've been perusing through a foundations of nutrition textbook and sampling different protein sources, all of which will somehow make its way into this blog, and I've been keeping track of (off and on) the different shakes that have been enjoyable and simple that are packed with protein powder.  Unfortunately, it's frustrating to study this area because it seems like our understanding of proteins is almost nil-- not only do we not understand completely how proteins work in our body (for it was only a few years ago we realized you don't need to mix proteins to make a complete protein chain in every meal, but rather our bodies would contain those proteins for days to develop the right process), but much of the evidence is contradictory.

After slamming my head into the textbooks repeatedly, I decided I would simply try to record my results.  How will they go?  Hopefully, well.

My first smoothie that I subbed I replaced the mixology smoothie with was this Vanilla-orange protein smoothie.  The orange-banana-nectarine was a great way to hide the bitterness of the protein powder (this powder was soy-based... some people have concerns about too much soy protein, but again.. my job here has been to sample and provide an objective opinion).  The recipe was 1 banana, 1 orange, 1 nectarine, 1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened, a handful of ice cubes, 1 serving of the protein, and 1 tbsp of chia seed.  Delicious and nutritious.  Sorry about the bad picture-- this was from my phone after working out, so I was exhausted and dying to drink this.

Anyways, I've been comparing my BMI muscle gain as opposed to the last time I actually followed the insanity regimen, during which I did not use any protein supplement.  As of two weeks in, I've managed to put on an additional two pounds of muscle.  I was hoping that including this additional protein would keep my body from being sore after working out, but alas, it did not.  I did not feel any additional changes, the only thing that was apparent was the muscle addition.  Can't complain, I guess.

One thing I did notice, however, was that I was battling it out with my blender.   The blade area has been increasingly becoming problematic to completely clean, and I often have to soak the blade immediately afterwards to clean it thoroughly; otherwise hard-to-reach cracks build up gunk.  This gunk, for me, began to turn funky colors and I eventually started to feel a little grossed out, and ended up buying a new blade.  This is why it's so important to have a good blender.. otherwise, you're permanently fighting an uphill battle.  Keep on keeping on!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Smooth low-fat Whipped Potatoes


Ever have one of those days that it doesn't seem like anything will ever go the right way again?  Well, for me, that was last week; while I was trying to make an authentic French meal, which included our Butternut Squash Bisque, as well as a simple asparagus in chive cream sauce (which will hopefully be posted shortly) and Jacques Pepin-style crushed potatoes.  If you are familiar with that potato recipe (as Rachael Ray made them famous a while back), then you know that what you see above is most certainly NOT that.  Second, if you're familiar with Pepin's crushed potatoes, he relies heavily on one of France's most loved ingredients-- butter.

Since, if you haven't noticed, we try to make foods healthier if we're making 'traditional' foods veganized, and I'm not a huge fan of using more than just a little bit of butter replacements, I had my work cut out for me.  And to be honest, at first, it was going pretty well.  But when it came down to crushing the potatoes, they fell apart.  Potato after potato fell like the bricks of the Berlin wall.

Angrily, I tried to piece them together.  When I realized all I was accomplishing was burning my fingertips, I decided to just go with it, and whipped potatoes they would be.  And they were pretty darn good.

This time, I actually made them for this purpose, to make them mashed potatoes.  However, because I knew the flavors profile that this had made the last time through, I was able to manipulate the recipe slightly to lower the caloric count and to enhance the flavors to match the texture of whipped potatoes.  So there you have it-- an accident that created something delicious-- how French!

3 pounds baby Yukon potatoes, washed and not peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp butter replacement (Earth Balance is my choice)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk or creamer, unflavored
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp fresh chives
1/2 tsp basil
dash of paprika
salt to taste

Place washed potatoes in deep skillet or large saucepan, adding salt, pepper, basil, and paprika.

Pour vegetable stock over the potatoes and into the skillet, followed by a rubbing of the butter over the potatoes.

Bring to a low boil and cover skillet partially.

Cook potatoes for 15 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.  The broth should dissolve down to have only roughly half an inch of stock left.

Remove lid completely and allow almost all of the stock to evaporate, 3-5 minutes.

With roughly 1/8 inch of stock left, turn the heat down and begin to crush the potatoes as you would for any whipped potatoes.  If the potatoes are not breaking down easily, add more water and continue to boil them.

Add the milk or creamer and remaining ingredients, blending thoroughly.  If the mixture seems to still be too liquified, allow the excess water to burn off before taking off heat completely.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chilled Broccoli-Citrus Salad

It's been steamy here in Boston; so steamy, in fact, I feel like every day we're breaking new records.  When it's this hot, there's nothing that can get me to turn on the oven for more than a few minutes, which means you've got to get creative with some cold foods.  What makes it even more difficult in our house is that the cats love to sleep on the hardwoods in the kitchen to cool down, as we don't have air conditioning, so the challenge is to work around the rotating obstacle course we call our kitchen.

This dish was inspired by Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen, which is one of my favorite vegan cookbooks (and also one of the first I ever owned).  One of my favorite things about the book is his his holistic approach to cooking and eating, in which he often provides suggested soundtracks for each meal, as well as the occasional book or film.  It's a really cool idea, one which we kind of manipulated with our smoothies, which are always paired with some interesting books.  He creates this dish (which he calls 'chilled citrus-broccoli salad', which sounds too citrus-based considering what it really is in my opinion) as a next-day affair, in which you leave the broccoli to absorb the citrusy goodness in the fridge overnight.  I've manipulated the recipe slightly, as I think his is a bit oil-heavy.  For those of you that have tried it-- let me know how it compares!

2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 large heads of broccoli, florets separated
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp light agave nectar
1 tsp fresh, chopped basil
3 cloves garlic, minced
7 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add the sea salt.

In a blender, mix all of the ingredients except for the broccoli and olive oil.  Add the oil slowly while blending.

Boil the broccoli for 60-90 seconds, making sure that all of it is bright green

Drain the broccoli and add to a mixing bowl.  Pour marinade from blender over the broccoli, and with your hands rub the marinade thoroughly over the broccoli.

Cover and chill overnight.  Serve cold.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Creamy Spinach Sauce


Everyone loves pesto sauce-- but it isn't cheap and it's usually not vegan.  Even to make it at home isn't very cheap, so I came up with this recipe on a whim (pictured above covering some gnocchi), and decided it was a good enough alternative that other people should know about it.  It's slightly cheesey, thanks to the cashews and nutritional yeast, and while you'll know it's not pesto, it's good enough on its own to mix up your sauces for pastas.  Let us know what you think!

16 oz. spinach
1 cup non-dairy creamer (I use Trader Joe's)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 white onion, sliced
1/2 vegetable broth buillion cube
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 dash paprika
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or grinder, crush the cashews. 

In a blender, mix all of the spinach but one handful, the cream, and the cashew crumbs.
In a medium fry pan, heat the oiland add the garlic and onions until carmelized, 5-8 minutes.  While this is carmelizing, chop up the handful of spinach.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, chopped spinach, and all other ingredients except the spinach/cream mix.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add spinach/cream mix to fry pan and turn heat down to low.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.  If it gets too thick, add a little oil.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kiwi Kale Smoothie

This kiwi kale smoothie was really just a way to use up the lingering old kale and kiwi buried in the back of the fridge after cleaning it out.  Of course, those aren't the only two things in it, and this is a great way to pack in some good old vitamins, but using them up was the primary objective of it.  I ended up pairing this smoothie with Edward Glaeser's Triumph of the City, which critiques the development of cities (primarily in the United States, although developing world countries-- I hate to use that phrase, but second-world can get a bit 'messy', so to speak-- do make an appearance).  He focuses primarily on the evolutionary aspect of the urban sites that encapsulate cities-- identifying the development as a growth cycle focused primarily on access which leads to industrialization, and in successful cities, a redirection of that industrialization into education and white-collar development.  Using examples of Boston (go team!) and New York City against cities that have not evolved with the times (i.e. Detroit, Cleveland, etc.), he suggests that the evolution of the urban space as a success is predicated by the development of competition within the urban spaces.  Detroit, for example, is not successful in its long-term growth because it relied mainly on one source of power-- automotives.  Anyways, Glaeser has a solid, interesting book here, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested.  Now back to drinks!

1 kiwi
3 ice cubes
1 cup, kale
1 tbsp chia seeds
3 strawberries
1 banana

Sunday, July 8, 2012

St. Louis Barbecue Sauce

St. Louis BBQ Sauce is often associated with pork, being a sweet, tangy, and slightly smokey flavoured sauce that compliments rather than overtakes the flavors of the food you're cooking.  That doesn't mean it can't be used in vegan cooking!  Vegan cooking is all about experimenting and breaking into new boundaries; what can one make that is new and unique-- something no one has ever done before?  The bounds are limitless and we truly are on the verge of a food revolution.  I don't need to tell you-- I'm sure you've seen the (obvious) vegan movement, the locavore movement, the movement towards organic, sustainable farming.  While these all exist and often complement one another, those of us in the kitchen are driven to make new and creative foods, extrapolating profiles and textures from our past lives to create our work.  This sauce is representative of that-- while it belongs to a food & culture that does not belong to the vegan world, it still offers a great chance to create new and unique vegan foods.

That said, I am an avid fan of BBQ foods, and I'm always looking for new ways to try to make veganized version of said foods.  I continually keep homemade BBQ sauces in the fridge and I'm always buying new ones during our trips around the country.  This is my favorite version of a St. Louis BBQ sauce-- I've eliminated the watery-ness of the sauce-- the only reason I'd find a need for it is if I were grilling large batches-- but for my purposes, I don't find it necessary.   In my experiences, watery BBQ sauces are always ultimately messy BBQ sauces, but if you'd like to water it down, all this needs is 1 cup of water and you're good to go!

 2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp light agave nectar

Add all ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Mix thoroughly, and simmer for 1 hour.  Allow to cool down and place in your favorite bottle or container.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mayan Corn & Black Beans

I know, this picture looks familiar, right?  Well, this little side works great with a burrito, and even is a great thing to include inside the burrito with the Mexican Rice!  Back when I was single and working in Porter Square in Somerville, there was a fantastic Salvadorian/Mexican restaurant that was literally a hole in the wall near my office.  For lunch, I would stumble over, in a computer-induced coma, and order my lunches in Italian (as they spoke no English, and I little Spanish), at which they would nod, laugh, and fill up a giant plate with the delicious delicacies of their homeland.  The restaurant was simple, usually quiet, and had poor lighting, none of which took away from the greatness of their meals.  One thing that they often put on the side of their dishes was a corn and black bean dish-- not quite a salsa, but not quite a side-- it turned out to be an all-round utility for the plate-- you can add it to your burrito, mix it with your rice, eat it as a side-- pretty much whatever you can come up with is game.  Sadly, I have heard that the restaurant recently shut down (gentrification at its finest, ay), but it will continue to live on in memory and in this recipe. 

1/2 pound dry black beans
1 white onions, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup olive oil
1/3 cup corn
2 cups water
2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
1/4 cup red wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepperto taste

In a saucepan over medium, add olive oil and add onions and garlic. 

Saute for three minutes and add black beans.  Stir for 1-2 minutes, add water and bring to a boil.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hrs.

Add the tomatoes, wine, salt, and pepper, and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes (or until the beans are tender)

Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the beans slightly, but only about 1/4 of the beans.

This mixture should mound softly and be moist but not watery. Adjust by cooking longer or by adding water.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mexican Rice


A solid Mexican rice is the base of every good burrito and taco.  My concerns with going out to eat at most Mexican places is their use of chicken broth in their rice, even if they say they do not (why would they scare away business, right?).  I know, I just ruined your local burrito place that doesn't speak English-- sorry.  Anyways, I've got about 4-5 different types of rice that I make, depending on which style of burrito I'm in the mood for.  This one is a full-bodied, zesty rice that can go in the burrito and as a side.  Don't be afraid to mess around with this recipe to suit your tastebuds and/or the rest of the recipe (as shown above)-- as you can see I paired it with a Mayan Black Bean and Corn side.

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp chicken seasoning
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice.  

Stir rice constantly, until golden brown. While rice is cooking, add spices and seasonings.  

Stir in onions and cook for 3 minutes. 

Stir in tomato sauce and vegetable broth; bring to a boil. 

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.