The ecstasy and the agony of a weeknight vegan apple pie

Since we are celebrating the anniversary of Mr. Nake-id's birth, Ms. Nake-id decided to bump dinner up a notch with a vegan apple pie.

Mr. Nake-id offered a few suggestions (yes, he's a Scorpio, it's what they do), such as using the small pyrex baking dish instead of a pie plate; this turned out to be genius. Deeper+bigger=more apples, raisins and walnuts. For the  crust I used my usual recipe, subbing Earth Balance for the butter. The trick seems to be keeping everything very cold, including the bowl and flour, and not overworking the dough. As you can see, the dough didn't get as overworked as the cook.

For the filling: eight organic gala apples sliced thinly, healthy handfuls of chopped walnuts and organic raisins, juice from half a lemon, a heaping tablespoon of Vietnamese cinnamon, a tablespoon of flour, a half cup of brown sugar, two tablespoons of maple syrup and a tablespoon (or two) of cheap bourbon.

Cook on 350 until bubbling and brown, 35 to 45 minutes.

Survey the carnage. Then enjoy.

Movie: Forks Over Knives

If you've read The China Study, the newly released documentary Forks Over Knives will be largely a review. But if you've yet to tackle The China Study (tough sledding that), FOK will give you the gist of Colin Campbell's epidemiological work in China presented alongside that of clinician Caldwell Esselstyn, who used a plant-based diet to treat people with advanced heart disease.

The beauty of watching over reading in this case is the easy *ahem* digestibility of the material (full disclosure, I did fall asleep halfway through) ands the personal stories of people who were supposed to live months and have gone on to live 20 extra years. Makes you look at bacon in a whole new light, huh?

We're not scientists over at Nake-id Knits, far from it. But the evidence is pretty compelling. If anyone out there is of a more scientific bent and has some opinions about methodology, conclusions, etc. from this work, please weigh in. With something as complex as how food interacts with human biochemistry, the more voices the better.

Forks Over Knives, by the way, can be streamed instantly on Netflix.

Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

With the cucurbits coming in fast and furiously, I'm forced to bake--even in this heat. Since there is no turning the oven on after noon, I was at it early making our contribution to tonight's neighborhood dessert party: vegan chocolate zucchini bread. Bet they can't wait for us to show up.

I adapted the recipe from Hell Yeah It's Vegan, who adapted it from another source.

3 tbsp chia seeds whisked into ½ c + 1 tbsp warm water*
½ c oil (I used organic canola mixed with Wildtree butter-flavored grapeseed oil)
½ c applesauce
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups grated zucchini, packed (~3 medium-sized zucchini)
1½ c all-purpose flour
1½ c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
5 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder

1 cup vegan chocolate chips

½ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans.

Mix wet ingredients in one bowl, dry in another. Then combine, stirring until combined. Spoon into loaf pans.

Bake for 45-55 minutes. Revel in the scent eminating from the kitchen; is there anything better than the smell of baking chocolate and cinnamon?

*A note about chia seeds. Yes, these are the same chia seeds of chia pet fame. Packed with protein and Omega 3s, these little powerhouses are the new flax seeds. When mixed with water and other liquids, they create this viscous gel that acts as both a leavening and binding agent. (The natural food bloggers can't seem to get enough of this stuff as a pudding, but you gotta grok that slimy texture.) They're readily available at health food stores; in the Denver area, Sunflower Farmer's Market carries them in the bulk section.

A vegan by any other name...

When Mitch's grandfather came to this country, he and his brothers opened a grocery and private-labeled certain canned goods, such as the strawberries pictured above. Even during the Great Depression these immigrant entrepreneurs thrived by providing city dwellers with a taste of spring.

Today, of course, in some markets we can get fresh strawberries year round, making it easier to make pronouncements like, "I don't eat meat," without starving to death. During the 1930s, it would have been challenging in the extreme to forgo animal products, when families were happy for a ham hock with which to season their bean soup.

To abstain from meat is a privilege. Not only do we know more about nutrition (though, given the complexity of the human body and how it interacts with the foods we consume remains largely a mystery), we also have greater access, depending on our resources and where we live, to greater varieties of foods. Bill Clinton can afford to be vegan. I can afford to be vegan. Could my nephews, who are just starting out and surviving on PB&J and pizza? Maybe. If they paid close attention and shopped sales...and *gasp* cooked. Like that will happen.

In the five months I've been playing with veganism, I've discovered new foods, read a lot and had some fun. I've also eaten meat or fish on a handful of occasions to celebrate or ease things at social gatherings. The hardcore vegans will be blowing poison darts this way, but the fact of the matter is this: Human beings aren't herbivores. But we're also not carnivores; even the most carnivorous members of our household are given to knoshing on the occasional potato chip or blade of grass.

Can human beings flourish on a vegan diet? Apparently, if we watch our peas and cues. Can human beings flourish on the Standard American Diet (SAD)? Apparently, but not well.

Vegans need to be mindful of their B12 intake, a tough draw from plants alone, but easily come by with fortified products like soy milk or supplements. SAD eaters need to watch their fat intake; the way most Americans eat is a prescription for heart disease, diabetes and, probably, cancer.

I don't call myself a "vegan," beause I'm hedging my omnivorism by eating meat now and again. I tell people that I'm eating a largely vegan diet. This isn't about politics, though it aligns with ideals Mitch and I share about conservation. It's not about ethics, though it jives with how I feel about animals. (Look for the middle-aged lady baby talking the cows at the neighboring ranch, that'll be me.) Like Bill Clinton, my choice is health-related. It's a selfish, privileged choice. But if more of us, who could afford to do so, made that choice (cue rainbows and bird's singing), well, you know, there'd be less pollution, climate change, lower health care costs, blah, blah.

Maybe increased demand would make the choice to eat a plant-based diet a more egalitarian one, too.


Kale chips ahoy!

Not everyone is bananas about raw kale (though the roly-poly bugs in the garden seem to be liking it just fine). Here at Chez Nake-id, we love the stuff. So when organic kale started selling for $3 a bunch, I got out the seed pack and started planting.

Kale is the gift that keeps on giving. While the arugala and spinach went all loose and dishabille in the heat, the kale has kept it togther, producing steadily for months. The kale pictured above is lacinato or dinosaur kale, so named, I imagined, because the store-bought leaves have the consistency of brontosaurus ears. Grow it yourself and you'll be dining on shoots as tender blades of grass; many days I simply run to the garden and pick my lunch.

Two weeks ago in Crestone, our hosts set out bowls of baked kale chips for their guests to snack on. Know what? You can't eat just one.

There are tons of recipes on the internets. You can tart these babies up with everything from lime and chili powder to paprika, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast and fancy vinegars.

Here are the basics:

1 bunch (or two) of kale, lacinato or curly

1 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp good quality sea salt

2 pinches cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash and dry your kale. Cut out the fibrous ribs (I didn't do this because *ahem* my kale is so tender) and roughly chop the kale.

Toss the leaves with olive oil, salt and cayenne and spread out in a single layer on baking sheets. (I used two very large sheets.)

Check for crispness after 20 minutes. Depending on how tightly you packed your kale on the baking sheets, you may need to bake a bit longer. You want them very crisp.

Serve them at your next do. They make for a great conversation starter.

Grumpy Vegan: It's official...sort of

The first vegan cookbook has made its way into the house, Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. You'll find it on many "best of" lists along with Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, The Voluptuous Vegan, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (not completely vegan) and many, many others. These aren't endorsements; if you were to experience the compost-like meals coming out of the Nake-id Cucina, you'd see I know not whereof I speak.

I'm hoping this will start us on the path to more "hit" and less "miss." Sweet squash in mole sauce, anyone?

Antone thinks I should stick to my knitting.

 

Vegan What's for Dinner Contest: We have a winner!

We know what's for dinner this evening. And the next...and the next.

But thanks to Susan (Reflections of a Bad Catholic), winner of our Vegan What's-for-Dinner Contest, we also have Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad and Three-Bean Salad with Olives to look forward to.

Thanks to all who played. Susan will receive two Vera Neumann dishtowels.

Now, what to do about Super Zuke? Zucchini boats? Zucchini air-craft carriers?

 

Vegan skincare rec

While we wait for the onslaught of vegan recipes to come in (Hello!? Anyone out there?!), I thought I'd share a Nake-id beauty tip: argan oil.

You know those expensive moisturizers? Yeah? Me, too. Ditch 'em.

From the pressed nut kernals of the Morrocan argan tree, argan oil is an easily absorbed, anti-inflammatory and full of vitamins and other goodies. 

Even better? It's cheap. Less than $20 for four delicious, organic ounces.

Get yourself some good vitamin A and C serums, then top  off with the magical elixir pictured above and a mineral-based sunscreen. Then swan about, knowing you look your best.

Vegan recipe du jour from Nan Knits 2 Much

Rachel Ray's Chicken Satay Noodle Salad sans chicken!

 

Vegan-What's-for-Dinner Contest Extention

I'm extending the Vegan-What's-for-Dinner Contest through Friday, Aug. 5 due to time constraints. I'll announce on Saturday. A winner will be picked randomly from folks who submit go-to weeknight vegan dinner recipes. The Boca Burgers are wearing a little thin.

The winner will receive two Vera kitchen towels.

In the meantime, enjoy this recommedation from Reflections of a Bad Catholic: Fennel and Pistachio Salad (she subs cashews for the pistachios).

Vegan What's-for-Dinner Recipe Contest

Any Vera fans out there? A post mid-century designer, Vera Neumann broke ground in the textile world by brightening up the tabletop and bringing big prints to sheets. If you're of a certain age, you'll remember that fashionable women everywhere festooned their necks with her scarves. She was huge in the SIxties and Seventies.

Though I'm a freelancer, I regularly collaborate with a team of extremely smart folks, who were in town yesterday for an all-day hoedown. After we made our presentations, we got to pick a surprise or steal someone else's. Since freelancers don't play well with others, I swiped the above.

These are going into the permanent collection at Chez Nake-id. But for the contest, I plan to reward the randomly picked winner with his or her very own veggie-themed Vera dish towels.

Post your recipe by next Tuesday, Aug. 2. The winner will be announced on Aug. 3.

I'll also post recipes contributed throughout the week with links to your blogs of websites.

Thanks for playing!

Vegan Recipe of the Day

Quorn Pasta (from The Crafty Geek)

Combine pasta, green pesto and Quorn, plus toasted pine kernels on top.