Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Detox/Beans & Greens Soup

I don't know about you guys, but I am feeling a little...bloated.

That may be little too much information, but I can't imagine I am the only one. After a holiday centered around food followed by 1-2 days of leftovers and multiple dinners out with the family, I am stuffed. And I look it, too.

I always need a little post-holiday detox to get my body back in balance. I am not talking "going on a diet," although I am not sure I even know what that means anymore. I just like to take a week to eat things that are really good for my body to make up for all the things that were not. Like that second piece of pecan pie.

My recipe for Beans and Greens Soup is the perfect post-holiday meal. It is made from lots of super healthy ingredients, including collard greens, olive oil, cannellini beans, and a whole lot of garlic. Plus, it also happens to be incredibly cheap (which is great for those of you who held Thanksgiving at your place), and very easy (once you get past that whole soaking the beans thing).

A quick note before we get to the recipe. I have been trying to find a good vegetable soup base for a little while now. I know homemade broth is the best, but let's be real, it doesn't always happen. Some of the organic store-bought broths are pretty good, but they can also be expensive. When I am on the road, I often buy dinner from the Whole Foods hot bar, and every time I read the ingredient list for one of their soups or even grain dishes, it starts with a vegetable base. If it's good enough for Whole Foods, it's good enough for me.

In this recipe, I tried out Vegebase by Vogue Cuisine. I thought it was pretty delicious, and it was both vegan and organic. However, you are welcome to substitute homemade or store-bought vegetable broth for the water in this recipe, and omit the base. It will be just as delicious!

Enjoy your healthy, nutritious soup.

Beans and Greens Soup
Serves 5-7

3/4 cup dry cannellini beans*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4-8 cloves garlic, minced (I like a lot)
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons vegetable base**
2 teaspoons tomato paste
6-7 cups water**
4 cups collard greens, finely shredded
fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
grated parmesan to garnish (optional non-vegan garnish)

1. Cover beans with about 3 cups of cold water. Cover and let soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. (skip steps 1&2 if using canned beans)
3. In large stockpot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and saute until mixture starts to turn golden brown. Add salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and vegetable base. Stir, cooking for one more minute.
4. Add tomato paste, water, and beans. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Add greens, and continue to cook for 20 minutes or until beans are soft. Add water if soup becomes too thick.
5. Remove bay leaves. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.

*Canned Bean Option: To make this soup with canned cannellini beans, replace 3/4 cups dry beans with 1 cup canned beans. Drain and rinse beans. Skip instructions steps 1 & 2. In step 4, add all remaining ingredients (including greens) and cook soup for 20-30 minutes total.
**Vegetable Broth Option: To use vegetable broth instead of base, substitute 6-7 cups broth for base and water. Add in step 3.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Burg Article: Vegetarian Thanksgiving!!!

Check out my new article in The Burg's Thanksgiving edition. Lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes to satisfy everyone at the table. Plus, ideas on how to veganize your traditional dishes!

View the article online here. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quick Recipe: Homestyle Tempeh "Chicken" Salad

A friend of mine recently called upon me to recreate a couple of his favorite foods, a "chicken" salad and a Carolina bbq from a green market in Richmond, VA. He brought them over, we tasted, we examined the ingredients, we tasted, then we tasted some more. It was a really, really hard day.

But in the end, we cracked the code, and came up with some super delicious vegan delights. So now I will share with you this recipe for Homestyle "Chicken" Salad that is super easy, delicious, and really satisfying. 


Homestyle "Chicken" Salad
1 block tempeh
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup red onion, grated
1/3 cup vegan mayo
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

1. Cut tempeh in half. Steam for 10 minutes to reduce bitterness. Let cool.
2. Cut tempeh into bite-size cubes and combine with remaining ingredients in medium bowl.
3. Refrigerate for at least one hour and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forks Over Knives: Hell Yes.

Late last week, I watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives, and I have been unable to stop thinking about it since. I think it is one of the most important films that has been made this year, and that every person in our country should watch it.

A quick synopsis: Forks Over Knives examines the claim that most degenerative diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and obesity, can be reversed by following a whole foods, plant-based diet. The film follows the lives and careers of the pioneers in plant-based cuisine research,  Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (two super cool 70-year-old dudes who look pretty awesome). These two guys discovered the links between animal protein and disease, then went on to solidify their findings with groundbreaking medical trials in many parts of the world. The film also features patients with various ailments including hypertension, insomnia, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. These patients are followed during their treatment, which consisted of a whole foods, plant-based diet alone. In fact, they were asked to discontinue the plethora of medications they were already using. In all cases, the patients reversed their illnesses within 12 weeks.

I have been trying to decide why this film had such a big impact on me. I mean, I am already a vegetarian and I promote healthy eating. I eat a vegan diet probably 95% of the time, occasionally eating some cheese or a piece of fish when I want. Don't I already know this stuff? Why did this film hit me so hard?

There are a couple different answers to this, but here is the first. I had no idea that the connection between meat and cancer had been so clearly established. The film features a number of studies showing that countries who consume the least amount of meat have the least number of cancer-related deaths, and countries with the highest meat consumption have the highest rate of cancer-related deaths. So basically, eat lots of meat, get lots of cancer.

Why is this not public? Why is this not a huge story on every news program? "We Now Know How to Prevent Cancer!" is a pretty big freaking deal, right? And yet, we hear nothing. The promotion of veganism (a word carefully avoiding in the film to avert negative connotations) is still considered to be a "fringe' idea and associated with terms like hippie, liberal, animal-lover, and tree-hugger. When in reality, we should be associating veganism with cancer-hating, heart health-loving people. Why do people get so mad when you suggest that we should consider eating less meat?

Another reason this film shocked me was the proven concept that a plant-based, whole foods diet can actually reverse many chronic illnesses. Major dietary reform can reverse the progression of type II diabetes and heart disease in many cases, which means less pills, less surgeries, and less repeat patients. In a country that is struggling to health pay for the healthcare of a sick and aging population, isn't this a ridiculously important finding?

I rarely get this worked up, and I usually keep my dietary convictions to myself. I like the way I eat, and when people ask me about it, I tell them and help them eat better. But this film pissed me off. We are a smarter people than this. Currently, over 1/3 of our children are obese. Who can honestly say that we do not have a problem here?

Before I move on, I do need to mention the criticism of this film. Some reviewers call into question the conclusions drawn by these studies, saying that there were not enough factors tested, causality and correlation aren't the same, etc. Some also have a problem with the film interchangeable talking about meat and processed foods as part of the problem.

In short, the film is not perfect, and that's ok with me. What is impossible NOT to determine from all the information gathered is that a choosing plant-based, whole foods diet is one of the best health decisions you can make in your lifetime.

This film re-energized my own health goals. As I said, I have been a vegetarian for about 4 years now; however, sometimes I forget the simple fact that whole = better.  . While I already have a healthy diet, I have a tendency to rely on vegan mayo, non-whole-grain breads and tortillas, chips, crackers, and some other pantry items that are not quite in their natural state. I also tend to use as much oil as I want in every single dish. Don't get me wrong, I will still treat myself to deliciously sinful vegan sandwiches once in a while (and blog about them), but when I'm not getting fancy, I'm gonna keep it clean.

So, to conclude this epic blog post...
I am not suggesting that everyone in this country needs to be vegan. I'm not even vegan. I don't think that choosing a healthy lifestyle has to be about absolutes. It's about what comprises the majority of your diet that counts. What I hope is that we, as a country, can acknowledge the fact that we are in bad health, that our diets are to blame, and that we have the power to change it.

I encourage all of you, vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, carnivores, junk-food-junkies alike - to watch this movie and share your thoughts. 

I will leave you with a recipe adapted from the companion book to the film. I made some changes and the result was pretty scrumptious. Enjoy!

Easy Quesadillas (Adapted from Forks over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health)
Cheese Filling Ingredients
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon water
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon miso
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Quesadilla Ingredients
Ten large whole-wheat tortillas
1 jar salsa
1 can vegan refried beans
1 cup cooked greens (i used collard)
1 bunch scallions

1. Combine cheese filling in food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if neccessary. Consistency should be thick but spreadable (like hummus).
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
3. Spread a thin later of "cheese filling" on one tortilla. Top with a thin layer of refried beans, sprinkle with greens, spread with a few drops of salsa and cover with green onions.
4. Top with the second tortilla and gently place in heated skillet. Dry fry for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Flip carefully.
5. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
6. Serve hot topped with additional salsa if desired.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Burg Article: Perfect Pumkpin

Here is my latest article in The Burg featuring the quintessential autumn vegetable, pumkpin. They're not just for carving! The article features my recipes for Thai Pumpkin Curry and Classic Pumkpin Butter.

Click here to view the online version of the article. 
Happy Halloween!