Off the Shelf Veg Cookbook Report: The Happy Herbivore

To keep the cookbooks in circulation, I've committed to trying at least one new recipe a week from a new source.

Last night was bitterly cold at the bus stop, so a warming soup seemed just the thing. The Happy Herbivore offered this very doable, good-looking stew, African Kale and Yam Soup. (Lindsay Nixon's schtick is fat-free and low-fat vegan recipes.)

I used hot Chimayo chili and a medium yellow curry and eliminated the red pepper. Oh, yes, and added demon salt to taste. It was sweet and spicey and savory and satisfying and muy caliente--in a good way.

I could see this going into regular winter rotation. Definitely impressed and will be trying more of Ms. Nixon's delicacies.

Enjoy.

Hello 2012!

Resolutions have been given short shrift around here this season. Just the usual be better (wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend), do more (yoga, writing, spinning, juicing), be more (compassionate, spiritually curious, health-minded) kind of stuff.

We continue our veg-ness in various forms. In support of the ongoing vegan hilarity at Chez Nake-id, the unrepentently omnivorous sibling presented the books above. Vegan for Life is an important addition. Having sussed out the science from the lore (there's no data yet that gluten is the devil or that raw food will get us closer to God), registered dieticians Jack Norris and Virginia Messina present the latest and greatest information about what is and is not true about vegan nutrition along with helpful menus to get us there.

The Happy Herbivore has been receiving good notices for offering low-fat, tastey recipes long on the comfort-food theme--and lots of pictures!

Which brings me to the next resolution: Make delicious vegan meal for unrepentently omnivorous sibling.

Nake-id Healing Soup

Now that chicken soup is no longer part of the wellness arsenal, Dr. Nake-id has had to turn to plant-based remedies to ease the man-cold on premises.Armed with fresh vegetable broth, I whipped up an Asian-inspired nostrum designed to boost the immune system and detox the bod.

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 celery stalk, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

1 Tbs sesame oil

1 cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated

1 12.8-ounce package soba noodles

vegetable broth

chopped cilantro for garnish

soy sauce

dulse flakes

And Sriracha hot sauce!

Saute onion until translucent in sesame oil. Add next four ingredients and sauté for another two-to-three minutes. Add rehydrated mushrooms and 4 cups vegetable broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Bring soup to boil and add soba noodles, cooking until done. Season to taste.

Get well!

Grumpy Cheap Vegan: Homemade vegetable broth

Mr. Nake-id has a man cold. (Unlike the gentleman depicted in the linked video, he's bearing up good-humoredly--at least today.)

Since I've take to freezing the onion skins, carrot bottoms and rangy vegetal bits from all the slicing that gets done around here, I had a nice stash of trash with which to make a nice vegetable broth.

Homemade vegetable stock is ridiculously easy to make, and if you're given to parsimony, will make you feel like a home-ec virtuoso. Instructions follow:

1. Dump your bag of garbage into a large stock pot and add enough filtered water so your vegetables can swim about freely. (It takes about two weeks to a month to acquire enough chard veins and broccoli stems to make it worth your while.)

2. Augment with one onion quartered, a stalk of celery cut into chunks, one carrot, a yam and as much garlic and you can force yourself to peel.

3. Season with two bay leaves and eight or so peppercorns.

4. Bring to boil covered. Then simmer uncovered for an hour. Allow to cool.

5. Strain into second large pot with a colander, pressing the liquid out of your veggies. (Purists use cheese cloth for straining. Given the bulk of my veggies, I find the cheese cloth to be too flimsy.)

6. Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste and simmer for another 20 minutes to blend flavors.

The beauty of this is that it's completely adjustable based on what you've frozen and have on hand. Our bag of frozen vegetable matter contained everything from the holy trinity of onions, carrots and celery to broccoli, bits of tomato and mushroom, potato, and maybe a fennel bottom or two. When making your broth, you can add whatever you feel might be lacking. If you need a little extra flavor, add an organic veggie bouilleon cube.

I get about two to three quarts. Use immediately or freeze for later use. (Compost your scraps.)

Tomorrow: Nake-id Healing Soup!

The 12 Days of Vegmas

The 12 Days of Vegmas

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A Veganomicon cookbook.
 
On the second day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Two tofu pups
And a Veganomicon cookbook.
 
On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Three French fries

Two tofu pups

And a Veganomicon cookbook.
 
On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four B12s

Three French fries
Two tofu pups

And a Veganomicon cookbook.
 
On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Five colonics!
Four B12s

Three French fries
Two tofu pups

And a Veganomicon cookbook.

 
(Moving right along)

On the [twelfth] day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
12 doctors clapping
11 friends a freaking

10 vegans tooting
Nine bovines beaming
Eight squashes steaming
Seven salads spinning
Six kale chips crisping

Five colonics!
Four B12s

Three French fries
Two tofu pups

And a Veganomicon cookbook.

Buy local seitan: If you're going to the devil anyway...

Last night Mr. Nake-id and I attended Chomp, the vegan community dinner sponsored by the vegan advocacy organization, Plants and Animals. This month's theme, L'Chaim!--vegan Jewish food.

How could we resist? Curious about Green Spaces Denver, which provides reasonably priced, solar-powered workspaces for triple-bottom-line (people/planet/profit) freelancers and entrepreneurs, we decided to suck up our decades and go, knowing the crowd would skew young.

We sat near three lovely young people, who came because they had never tasted Jewish food. We know from Jewish food. There was cabbage, cholent, pierogi (kreplach), bialys and rugelach. And a beet, carrot patty (raw, we think) topped in a pear sauce, they were passing off as latkes. All delish, especially the rugelach, but hard to equate with the Passover fare and meals at the Carnegie deli enjoyed over the years. 

We let our young friends know that we're new to the veg thing and that we're having to do some reframing; if it doesn't involve dead poultry or cream cheese how can it be Jewish? Come to think of it, Moses probably didn't eat a lot of chicken, either.

We came home with the log pictured above. The Denver Seitan Company is a wheat meat start-up currently offering Chickenesque, Sicilian and SmokySpicey flavors. We're grateful; my own attempt yielded seitan that would have given flubber a run for its money.

We loved the scene. Green Spaces is an open, lived-in venue, which provides a home for Plants and Animals' events. Music blared and people of all ages flopped unselfconsciously on sofas and gathered at tables for easy conversation.If you're of a mind, take a bite out of Chomp, it's so much more than vegetables on a plate.

10 cool gifts for vegans under $20

10 gifts for vegans under $20

  1.  Two bottles of Frey Vineyards’ Organic Natural Red. Great price point for organic. Award-winning. With great organic, vegan cred.
  2. An e-copy of Crazy Sexy Diet from our favorite neighborhood bookstore, The Bookery Nook. We love the Crazy Sexy Diet for its accessibility, compassion and complete absence of self-righteousness. (Not that we’re juicing, but we think about it.)
  3. A weird-vegan-food kit. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, Himalayan salt and nutritional yeast. Don’t ask.
  4. A donation to your vegan’s favorite animal shelter or farm sanctuary.
  5. A gift certificate at your local health food emporium. Or in lieu of that, Whole Foods.
  6. A homemade vegan dinner. At your place!
  7. A bottle of domestic, organic olive oil.
  8. A gift-card to Chipotle. (OK, not vegan overall but accessible with plenty of vegan options.)
  9. 100% Pure Lip Glaze. (Assuming your vegan wears such things.) Fruit-pigmented, vegan and gluten-free.
  10. Herbivore t-shirt. Subtle. Non-judgmental. Made in the USA.
  11. Bonus: Copy of the film Vegucated. The latest in the convert-inveterate-carnivores genre.

Gluten-free vegan pumpkin cornbread

See. It's not air. You really can make a gluten-free vegan pumpkin cornbread that tastes like...cornbread. Really good cornbread.

With tomato-fennel soup ready for dinner, I scurried around the Internets looking for something quick and starchy to make, knowing soup wouldn't sustain Mr. Nake-id. Cornbread seemed the perfect thing: autumnal and just a bit sweet to offset the tarty tomatoes. And there was cornmeal in the fridge.

Then I wondered whether it could be made gluten free.

This recipe turned up, which I combined with this newly veganized favorite, Sage and Honey Skillet Cornbread. The bread is crumbly, full of corn flavor with just a hint of sage. Definitely Thanksgiving-worthy!

The recipe follows:

    2 cups organic yellow cornmeal
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1 cup pumpkin puree (I used canned)
    1/4 cup butter-flavored grapeseed oil or neutral-tasting oil
    1 cup nondairy milk
    8 or 9 whole fresh sage leaves
    1/4 cup agave nectar, or to taste

    Preheat oven to 425. Spray medium-size cast-iron skillet with cooking spray and lay sage leaves in bottom of skillet.

    Carefully pour batter into your skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and invert onto serving plate.

Spaghetti Vegan: Kelp noodles

There has been a lot of experimenting with foodstuffs around here. And after seeing these curly wonders recommended enthusiastically by raw food types, I bought a bag.

Then they sat in the refrigerator for a month. Or two.

After sampling nori sheets used as sandwich wraps in lieu of tortillas (nori are those dried sheets of seaweed surrounding sushi rolls), I was suspect. Nori has a strong oceanic smell, or more bluntly, it stinks of fish, putting this writer off her feed. So it was with great trepidation that I snipped open the kelp noodle pack.

The noodles are translucent and bouyant and not at all redolent of fish. I had read to cut them up a bit, so as to prevent slurping, and to rinse well. All of which I did. I then incorporated them into a salad of sliced carrots, cucumbers and peanuts drenched in an almond-butter "peanut" sauce you can find here.

Don't expect 100 percent durum semolina pasta. The noodles have a healthy vegetal crunch (marinating ameliorates this, apparently), a neutral taste and make a fine low-calorie bed for Asian salad. But they are not linguine.

Strict raw foodists fuss that the noodles are too highly processed to be raw. As these things go, it's hard to tell. I wondered about their nutritional content, given their albino aspect. (A good source of calcium and trace minerals, not much else.) For gluten-intolerant folks and calorie watchers, Kelp Noodles are probably a welcome treat. For my noodle analog, I'll stick with spaghetti squash.

Vegan: All or nothing

I've never been very good at absolutism. Whether you're talking religion, company culture or even my much-loved political party, I can't seem to go "all in" (with the exception of monogamy--in my case, for--and the death penalty--against).

Age has a way of making the grey areas grow even larger. A piece decrying the evils of capitalism as promulgated by the U.S. had me in its thrall until I thought about the rights I enjoy as a woman and writer in this sumptuary of dog-eat-dog hedonism. That I can publicly hold that our free markets may be too free-ranging while acknowledging the glories of our First Amedment makes our wabi-sabi American experiment shine compared to nations who organize around higher-minded principles--God, for instance. God, in the hands of people seeking to govern, can be one dark, absolutist judge.

So yanking this harangue back to food: Anthropological data suggests that humans are omnivorous. This doesn't mean that our bodies are ideally adapted to eating meat, it just means that we've done so for a very long time. That we can eat and digest wide varieties of foods has made it possible for us to adapt to climates as warm as the Sahara and as cold as the Arctic.

In spite of the fact that I'm trying to eat a largely vegan diet, I don't think humans are natural vegans. Few beasts are strictly herbivores or carnivores. Have you ever seen a cat eat a potato chip or a dog, a cracker? Or a cow, by-products of factory farming?

A body of research (The China Study and their ilk) seems to suggest that a whole-food, plant-based diet is more healthful. Vegans, however, have to be particularly mindful to get certain nutrients, vitamin B12, mainly. But Standard American Diet eaters aren't getting some of the nutrients they need, either. Look at the national waistline and diabetes statistics.

Plagued with high cholesterol from a young age, I finally decided to try a vegan diet. I have not been perfect. Last night, for example, when presented at a restaurant with the choice of a green salad and a vegetarian pot pie bubbling in emmentaler (it was 20 degrees outside), what do you think I did?

This morning, though, I was back to my vegan chia seed muffins and coffee with almond milk; veggie burgers and acorn squash are on offer this evening.

There may come a day when I'll choose the green salad over the pot pie, but yesterday was not the day. Judge me, fine. I'm not judging myself (not too much, anyway) and I'm not judging anyone who eats meat, either. Who am I, a lifelong omnivore, to cast aspersions on your plate?

The other day, I was thumbing through a magazine, the stated purpose of which was to "help us become better vegans."                   

That's all well and good, but many of us are still struggling to become better people.