August 26, 2010

What's in your Gin & Tonic? - high fructose corn syrup in tonic water

I'm not much of a drinker. I may have a small glass of wine or beer on rare occasions, or a mixed drink on even more rare occasions. Drinking can make me feel a little sick so the pleasure I receive from it is essentially in the taste of the drink, not in my body's reaction to it. Because I seldom drink, I know very little about ingredients for drinks, and was extremely surprised recently to discover that tonic (as in gin and tonic) is made with high fructose corn syrup. Usually when I'm drinking plain (without alcohol) tonic at an event such as a wedding (in a tall glass with lime as a g&t might be served), it comes from the bar, and I haven't scrutinized the ingredient list on the bottle. Then I forget about it until the next event, and so on.

Recently, I made my first gin & tonic, and here's why. When I was about to leave Madison for Seattle last year, a friend who very much enjoys drinking, invited me over for a farewell drink. She asked me what I liked, and I told her I didn't drink much, but if I did, I'd want a caipirinha. (I also suggested a particular kind of beer called Spotted Cow.) At the time, I didn't realize she'd actually go out and buy the ingredients, watch u-tube videos and mix up delicious cocktails! So, at the end of our visit to Madison this summer, I invited her over for her current drink of choice — gin and tonic. I watched a few bar-tending videos, and decided I was up to the task of pouring things over ice.

My friend has given up her beloved beer, and many other beverages because of a high blood sugar scare, and although she drinks G&Ts, she told me she could only drink them made with diet tonic. Diet tonic? I hadn't realized tonic had calories (though I had noticed it tasted good :D), and I finally got around to reading the labels of the diet and regular Schweppes tonic. It came down to high fructose corn syrup versus saccharine. I was bummed. I'd really had no idea. We drank our G&Ts (I managed about half of mine), which were perfect and delicious on a sweltering late afternoon, she with her saccharine and me with my HFCS — ugh. So I did a little Internet sleuthing and discovered a new tonic water called Q, made with Peruvian quinine and organic agave. Does it matter? I don't know. But there it is. And it isn't cheap! (FYI Whole Foods sells cans of 365 brand tonic water that is made with sugar, not HFCS.)

note: In case you're wondering, my friend did reduce her blood sugar to normal by cutting out sugar and eating lower on the glycemic scale. I don't know the details of her diet but she lost more than 20 pounds, and continues to drink G&Ts while maintaining good blood sugar readings.

August 18, 2010

Happy 101 Award | Tandoor Chef | watermelon smoothie

I recently received a Happy 101 award from Rose, the talented writer of the Dandelion Blog. If you haven't had a chance to read Rose's vegan cooking blog, you should definitely take a look. Anyway, the award asks me to post, in no particular order, 10 things that make me happy. I'm also supposed to pass the award along to 10 other blogs. Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am BAD at making choices. I'm a true Libra, and I tend to agonize over every decision no matter how small, but it really wasn't hard to quickly come up with a list of 10 things that make me happy. I just had to convince myself that it was OK to not worry about whether these were the things that made me most happy, or just happy. :D

1. Sunshine. I didn't realize how much I love sunshine until we moved someplace with a minimal amount. I especially love sunshine on a cold winter day, when the golden warmth makes the air feel fresh and vibrant, and the snow sparkle. I love it in the spring when it feels like hope, and in the fall when it lights up the changing leaves, and makes the transition to cooler days seem more pleasant. Sunshine and summer go together like hugs and kisses.

2. Rain during the night in summer. I love when it rains during the night (my apologies to night people) yet I wake up to a sunny day. Everything is clean and watered — the plants are no longer thirsty, and the new day always seems so full of potential.

3. Salt air at the ocean. When I was growing up, every summer my family went to the same place for a vacation — the New Jersey shore. ( I know. I know.) Down the shore, we called it. My favorite moment of the trip there, was just after we passed the (smelly) bay, and approached the beach town where we stayed, and the smell of salty sea air hit my nose and filled my lungs. I love that gorgeous smell.

4. Dogs. When I walk down the street and someone approaches with a dog, my eyes are on the dog. Often I speak to the dog, ignoring the human, and I've been wondering about this. Is it anti-social, or do I just really, really love dogs? If I remember to look up, the human usually seems happy that I like their dog, because I think they probably love dogs, too, and understand.

5. Family. I love my family, both immediate and extended, and all the people who are part of my family through marriage. What a great bunch! Why can't we just all live in the same place.

6. Friends and acquaintances. Moving away from the place I've lived for 30+ years has given me a new appreciation for my community of friends. I miss these people dearly when we are in our new surroundings. I miss purposely, and randomly, running into them during daily activities. I also appreciate new friends who have extended a welcome.

7. Good books. I love to read. My favorite reads are historical fiction and general fiction, but I read everything — biography, science, journalism, cookbooks, science fiction, etc. I'm currently reading two books by Sherman Alexie and a science fiction book called "The Sparrow." Just finished a young adult fantasy trilogy — "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass." Before that the Nick Kristof book, "Half the Sky" and before that "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer.

8. Long walks. How great is it to walk in a beautiful place, breathing the fresh air, enjoying the scenery, and knowing that in addition to appreciating the experience, I'm getting exercise and benefiting my health. Woo hoo.

9. Making art.
Taking photographs. I love taking photographs, especially of food, and I LOVE when they turn out well. I keep it fun by not stressing too much over the photos that aren't as nice as I want, and instead, try to make the next ones better. I also love working in Photoshop.
Painting. By painting I mean creating a two-dimensional art work, not painting a house, though painting a house is fun, too.

10. Being vegan and knowing that my food choices are not taking the lives of animals.

If you are reading this and see your blog listed here, consider this award yours. Absolutely Green, Amanda's Domestic Adventures, Bitt of Raw, Bread Without Butter, Cooking for a Vegan Lover's Blog, Cooking in Color, Earthsip, Heathen Vegan, The Voracious Vegan, Vegan Awakening.

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The last of my Tandoor Chef frozen entrees
I was recently sent several varieties of Tandoor Chef frozen vegan entrees to review, and here's the last of them. Dal Rajastani (exotic lentils and split peas) was, like the other varieties we tried, well-spiced and delicious. Once again, it tasted like a dish you might enjoy in an Indian restaurant, or had spent hours making at home. After heating in the oven (or microwave), it was ready to serve with rice and veggies that we prepared, for a convenient, fast meal. The two-serving size box says it is gluten-free and vegan, (made in a facility that processes tree nuts, milk, wheat and sesame). (Nutritional info per serving in two-serving box: 130 calories; 6 g fat (no saturated, no trans); 470 mg sodium; 14 g total carbs (2 g sugar, 1 g fiber); 5 g protein.) 

I was kind of surprised to find Vegetable Pad Thai (gluten-free, vegan, made in a facility that processes tree nuts, milk, wheat and sesame) among the Tandoor Chef selections because I was assuming all the foods were Indian, but I guess not. The second surprise was that the box was considered one serving, not two. With more fat and salt than I'd like, I used it instead as two servings, and prepared a vegetable dish to accompany it. It was enough for two of us as part of a meal, and we both enjoyed the flavors and textures of the various components. It was really good.
(Nutritional info per one-serving box: 490 calories; 19 g fat (2 g saturated, no trans); 740 mg sodium; 72 g total carbs (9 g sugar, 5 g fiber); 10 g protein.)

In my last review I said my husband had cooked Masala Burgers and they fell apart, so I cooked one to see what would happen. It didn't fall apart, but I could see why he had a problem.

The burgers consist of whole corn kernels, small cubes of potato and other small vegetable pieces rather than a uniform, mashed consistency, so when you break into them, they tend to pop apart. This was very appealing to me, but you do have to treat them carefully rather than attacking them with a spatula. (Not saying he "attacked" them ... but, maybe ...)

Full disclosure: The Tandoor Chef products were provided free to me, with a request for a review. No attempt was made to influence my opinion.

To go with the pad thai, I prepared a dish of Japanese eggplant, long beans, tomato, tofu, leftover sweet corn, red curry paste. I'm not providing a recipe because I didn't like it much. The texture of the eggplant was wrong — kind of mushy instead of velvety-soft. My husband liked it but not me.

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Breaking out of my smoothie rut
Maybe the title is misleading since I'm still having smoothies every day, but at least I'm having different smoothies. This one was particularly delicious. It started with chunks of yellow baby watermelon which, when blended, provided the liquid needed to blend the other ingredients. The 40 ounce blender jar was about 3/4 full of chunks when I started. I added 4 ounces of coconut milk yogurt, several strawberries and about a cup of frozen mango chunks, and processed everything as smooth as my blender was able to do, meaning there were still some small pieces of mango left. The watermelon was a fabulous addition and the smoothie was great!

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Vegan wedding cake directory

I recently received a note from Ashley Lane about a project she's working on. (If you're a vegan food blogger you may have received the same note.) Here's what Ashley had to say:
My cousin is a wedding cake vendor (in Utah) and I've convinced her that we need to create a (nationwide) directory of other bakers who can make vegan wedding cakes, on her website ... to help the vegan community with this problem (I'm vegan, btw). I would love to ask you for a big favor. Could you create a quick blog post asking your readers if any of them had a vegan wedding and if they could contact us here: ashley@onesweetslice.com to tell us where they were able to get their vegan wedding cake. (wherever they live)? I'd love to turn this into a complete resource ... but finding a vegan wedding cake baker in every state is more work than I thought ... so I'd really, really appreciate your help! :-)

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You can win a dessert e-cookbook from Ricki!

Ricki, from Diet, Dessert and Dogs is hosting a giveaway for her fabulous new dessert e-cookbook. Visit her blog to read about it and enter the drawing.

August 14, 2010

So many entrees ... so little time | Refrigerator tea

Now, I'm not trying to make everyone jealous by describing the dinner we shared with the Madison Vegetarian Meet-up ... but I probably will. Thanks to fearless leader Dave, the meet-up group enjoys an amazing vegan meal at a different restaurant each month. This month, we were lucky enough to be in Madison for the July meet-up at Lee's Asian Bistro, a new restaurant on Monona Drive. When the dinner began, I was wondering if the modestly-sized plates of food would be enough, but by the end I was stunned that the waitstaff kept bring out more dishes. By the time it was over, I was waddling around like a beach ball on legs. I really liked everything, too, except maybe the sesame ball dessert, which may have been a little too authentic. (Had it been served without the syrup, as an appetizer, I may have felt differently. As a dessert, well, hmmm, not so sure.) The food was very fresh and tasty, and didn't seem overly salty or oily. My only complaint (not that a complaint is even warranted) was that the color palette was a bit brown, as the meal leaned more heavily on starch, and more lightly on vegetables.

We started with spring rolls (pictured at top of post) which were fresh, crunchy, delicious, and accompanied by a really good peanut sauce. This was followed by papaya salad, crunchy and interesting.

Next came vegetarian lo mein.

Followed by pad Thai.

And a cold Vietnamese rice noodle dish that I almost finished before I remembered to take a photo.

Vegetable fried rice came next.

And then a dish called vegetarian's delight, which was accompanied by a large plate of delicious sticky rice.

Dessert number 1 (yes, I'm not kidding, there were two desserts) was sesame balls in syrup. Two balls came floating in a tall glass of sweet liquid. They were interesting. The outside was kind of OK but the inside ...
was seasoned mung bean paste. This may have been a little too weird, or maybe I was a little too full to appreciate it. I've tried to eat — and make — aduki bean desserts in the past but I have to admit that they are not my favorite.

But then came dessert number 2. Seriously, I shouldn't even have eaten more than a bite of dessert number 2, but in fact, I ate the whole thing. Inside that egg roll wrapper was a gooey fried banana. Now you can understand why I felt like a beach ball on legs as I waddled out of the restaurant.

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The day after
Salad!

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Hotter than ...
It's been breathtakingly hot and humid this past week, and although I enjoy the heat, for the last couple of days it's really not been comfortable to engage in activities more strenuous than reading ... and sipping iced tea. I've been keeping two pitchers full in the refrigerator at all times. Because my body can't handle caffeine very well, I use decaffeinated tea and herbal tea, and I've read that brewing herbal and decaf tea in the sun leads to bacterial growth in the liquid. (Caffeine somehow retards the growth of bacteria in the sun-brewing jar for about two hours.) It's hard to believe it's true after all the sun tea I've consumed without a problem, but I've decided to play it safe and brew in the fridge. I use one teabag for each cup of cold water. Most directions say to brew the tea for 12 to 24 hours but I find that the tea tastes good to me after about four hours in the refrigerator, though sometimes I forget about it and brew it much longer. Remove the teabags when the tea is strong enough to please your taste buds.

August 09, 2010

Long beans | Eggy tofu on toast | Orange-mango smoothie

Madison has a fantastic, award-winning farmers market that covers both sides of the four long stretches of sidewalk that circumnavigates the State Capitol grounds. When our kids were young, it was a Saturday morning ritual for our family to trek to the market by 8:30 a.m. to avoid the huge crowds of the later morning, and buy veggies. We always ran into people we knew, and the excursion was as much a social as a shopping venture. After the market we'd head to the Civic Center for a free Kids in the Crossroads theater performance.

The market has only increased in popularity over the years, and now it seems even 7 a.m. is too late to avoid the masses. So we now shop at one of the many smaller markets that have sprung up all over the city. The west-side market we frequent is in a parking lot, but what it lacks in scenic charm is made up for with convenience and great vendors, many of whom sell organic produce. We were at the market on Saturday when I saw something I'd not seen before at the market.

Madison is home to a large population of Hmong families, and many of these transplanted citizens have continued their family heritage of farming, selling their wares at local markets. In addition to typical veggies familiar to Mid-Westerners, they often sell more unusual Asian vegetables, and as we walked along the row of market stalls, I excitedly rushed up to one that had bunches of long beans. The smiling vendor asked if I'd ever had them, and I said yes, but I'd never seen them at the market before. He laughed, and said that's because most people wouldn't know what they were! I bought a big bunch for dinner. As we walked the rest of the market I found Yellow Finn potatoes, and Anaheim peppers that drew me in with their fragrance. I started cooking a dish in my head, and really looking forward to dinner. My resulting long bean dish is not authentic Asian fair, but a yummy concoction of what I felt like eating, with Asian influences. You could make this with regular green beans if you're not lucky enough to find long beans at your local Asian market. When cooked, long beans are a little chewier and firmer than green beans, but still tender.

Long beans with tofu, potatoes and peppers
  • 1/2 of a 14 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, sliced into small slabs
  • 2 med. yellow potatoes, 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium veg. broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • oil (1 tablespoon or less)
  • 1 bunch long beans, ends removed, chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 green Anaheim pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek, or red curry paste
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon natural sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • crushed roasted peanuts
  1. Place the potatoes and stock in a large wok. Lay the tofu on top of the potatoes. Cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender but still firm. Remove to a plate, scraping out all the stuck on bits with a spatula. (The stock will have evaporated.)
  2. In a small amount of oil, cook the garlic in the wok. When it starts to turn golden, add the beans and pepper, and stir-fry a few minutes until the beans are crisp-tender.
  3. Add the potatoes and tofu, tomatoes, sambal, soy sauce and sugar, and stir-fry a minute or two until the tomatoes are hot. Check seasonings.
  4. Mix in the lime juice and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with peanuts.
  5. If desired, pass small bowls of chopped cilantro, chopped parsley and extra peanuts at the table.
lunch, the next day with additional tomatoes and hot sauce

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The green Owl revisited

Angel food cake: photo by Betsy Haynes


In the short time we've been visiting Madison, we've been to The Green Owl four times! Yes, we like it there, but it's also the only vegetarian/vegan restaurant in town, and everyone wants to go there with us, because, you know, we're vegan. Every time we go we try something different, and this was the case last week when we went for our third visit.

Macro plate: photo by Betsy Haynes
I was feeling kind of overfed, from all the eating out we've been doing, and wanted a simple meal, so I chose the Basics Plate, a macrobiotic supper of kidney beans, brown rice, and steamed kale topped with lemon-miso-tahini sauce. It was just what I wanted and I really enjoyed it.

Lava cake: photo by Betsy Haynes
But then I was tempted by dessert. My friend Betsy ordered the vegan angel food cake with raspberry sauce, and I got chocolate lava cake. The vegan angel food cake falls into the "how did they DO that?" category for its uncanny resemblance to regular angel food cake. My dessert was yummy but not so startling as the cake. I would love to have the recipe for the angel food cake, just so I could see what was in it! READ ON.

GUESS WHAT: Sadly, the angel food cake eaten by my vegetarian (but not vegan) friend wasn't vegan after all. Well that explains why it was so real, and also lets me off the hook trying to reproduce it. I received a very apologetic note from Jenny Capellaro, the Green Owl's owner, who was very upset that we had somehow gotten the impression that the cake was vegan. She really intends that people avoiding all animal products can feel safe eating in her restaurant.

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What else are we eating?

I was tempted to make vegan fried eggs, à la Zoa, for dinner, but realized that with the limited "vacation pantry" we're working with, that wasn't possible. I don't have vegan mayo or Earth Balance, nor do I have a food processor. So I opted for just the "white" of the egg, made from plain sauteed tofu finished with Indian black salt (kala namak). I placed it over avocado on lightly-toasted sourdough bread. It tasted so much like egg, with the richness of the avocado subbing for the yolk, it was kind of freaky. With the addition of steamed broccoli from the farmers market, and a cucumber and tomato salad, it made a satisfying light supper for a hot evening.

Thanks to our recent tenant, our garden is bursting with tomatoes, and there's parsley and basil growing in pots on the deck. My husband jokes that everything we make has to have tomatoes, so I made a salad with sweet English cukes from the farmers market and tons of yellow and red cherry tomatoes from the garden, plus parsley and basil. The veggies are so fresh and flavorful they need only the tiniest bit of simple dressing.

August 06, 2010

Having a great time, wish you were here! Grilling, chocolate caramel sauce, smoothies! | Tandoor Chef

After reading about our friends Claire and Alan's adventures assembling their fancy gas grill and grilling fabulous summer meals, I couldn't wait to be invited out for a summer feast. Believe me, we weren't disappointed — Claire outdid herself with amazing food. We started with a wonderful version of guacamole made from a recipe Claire got from her daughter. It was so full of flavor I couldn't stop eating it. I love avocados, and this was the best guacamole I've had in a long time.

Guacamole ingredients (personal preference decides quantities)
  • ripe avocados
  • finely chopped onions
  • chopped red bell pepper
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime juice
  • salt, pepper cayenne
  • chopped tomato
Mash avocados and mix in all remaining ingredients except tomatoes. Add tomatoes last. Claire burried a pit to the bowl to keep the avocado from turning brown.

On the grill, Claire cooked slabs of lightly oiled eggplant until they were perfectly charred, then served them covered with an amazing olive-garlic sauce, on a bed of home-grown lettuce.

The grilled eggplant with black olive dressing came from "Fresh and Fast" by Amanda Grant. The dressing contained capers, garlic, black olives, cilantro, parsley and olive oil, and was incredible. Here's another recipe, from the blog archives, for spiced olives, that would probably also be wonderful with grilled eggplant.

Zaytun Musabbeh (Spiced olives from Lebanon) by Sureyya Gokeri (serves 6 to 8)
  • 1 lb. pitted green olives or marinated olives
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 firm tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh red or green pepper, chopped
  1. Place olives in a bowl (rinsing the brine is optional) and chop into small pieces.
  2. Add the dried spices to olive oil and then rub into the olives by hand.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the tomatoes and peppers.
  4. Add the tomatoes and peppers just before serving.
There were also grilled zucchini and portabella mushrooms.

And a spicy carrot and cabbage slaw.

This is what my plate looked like.

For dessert Claire baked a plum tart from an old family recipe.

And I brought two versions of chocolate caramel sauce plus fresh fruit to spoon over vanilla ice cream.

I really wanted to make this, but am unlikely to stand over a hot stove for three hours in the summer heat. I might possibly be too lazy to do it in the winter, too, so I was forced to come up with a ridiculously easy (but extremely delicious) version of fake caramel sauce.
Chocolate caramel sauce #1
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup plain soy yogurt (I used Silk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used TJ's bourbon vanilla)
  1. Warm the syrup over low-medium heat in a small pot. After a minute or less, when bubbles start to form at the edges, turn the heat to simmer and stir in the chocolate chips. It will take less than a minute for the chips to melt. Stir until combined and creamy.
  2. Have ready, 1/4 cup yogurt in a small bowl or 8 oz. glass measuring cup. Add a large spoonful of the chocolate mixture to the yogurt, and stir to combine. Add this back into the pot and stir until smooth and uniform in color. Remove from heat.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  4. Use as is or refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools but will still be gooey and spoon-able when cold.
Chocolate caramel sauce #2
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk (I used TJ's)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used TJ's bourbon vanilla)
  1. Warm the syrup over low-medium heat in a small pot. After a minute or less, when bubbles start to form at the edges, turn the heat to simmer and stir in the chocolate chips. It will take less than a minute for the chips to melt. Stir until combined and creamy.
  2. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk, and stir to combine. Stir until smooth and uniform in color. Remove from heat.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  4. Use as is or refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools but will not be as thick as version #1. It will be more like a thick syrup.
Two of us preferred the yogurt version, and two preferred the coconut version, but we all liked both!

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Mango mango mango


Lately I've been blending up a sunshine-colored breakfast smoothie that's worth waking up for. It's not green, and I feel slightly guilty about that, but it's my favorite shade of orange, and it tastes great.

Mango-orange-yogurt smoothie
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (I used silk)
1 cup frozen mango chunks (more or less for thicker or thinner smoothie)
Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Sometimes the consistency is so so thick I can eat it with a spoon, like soft serve, and sometimes it's like a thin shake.

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More Tandoor Chef samples
We tried two more of the Tandoor Chef frozen food samples I received from Deep Foods. The first was Channa Masala, a delicious chickpea stew. Once again we were impressed with great flavor that reminded us of the kind of food we might expect at an good Indian restaurant. The package contained two five-ounce servings which was just the right amount for us when served with rice, kale and raw veggies. Each serving contains: 160 calories, 7 grams total fat (.5 grams saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 20 grams total carbs, 5 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, 6 grams protein.

Next we tried Vegetable Masala Burgers. These didn't work as well for us as the other products we sampled. My husband cooked them , following the directions on the box, and they fell apart when removed from the pan. They tasted good — mostly of potato — but were kind of high in fat for their size, while low in fiber and protein. We served them alongside pasta with fresh tomato sauce and raw veggies. The box holds four burgers, and each one contains: 120 calories, 8 grams total fat (1 gram saturated fat), 360mg sodium, 12 grams total carbs, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram sugar, 2 grams protein.

August 01, 2010

I Used to eat healthy food | Tandoor Chef Kofta Curry | Miss E bakes

One can get addicted to restaurant dining. Normally we eat out very little but lately we've been eating out so often — dinner with friends, lunch with friends — you know how it goes when you're on vacation. I've been trying to counter all the salt and grease with lots of fresh salads, veggies and fruit, in between the restaurants, but I'm not going to lie to you, what you see above was my breakfast on Friday. That's right, breakfast. It's the leftovers from a dinner at Monty's Blue Plate Diner a vegetarian-and-vegan-friendly greasy spoon in Madison Wis. You're looking at the remaining half of a Heathen Vegan Shoplifter's Delight: grilled portobellos, tempeh, red onions, avocado and lemon-tahini dressing on sourdough French bread. With a side of waffle fries. Extra grease? Check. Too much salt? Check. Tasty? Unhuh. My husband had the same thing but he had the "low carb" version served in a wrap, with a salad instead of fries. I felt guilty eating my crispy, greasy, spicy fries, but obviously not guilty enough to order the salad. If I could have had the yummy kale chips from The Green Owl instead of the fries I certainly would have ordered those; I would have. But clearly my behavior has become unhinged, and my ideals have taken a temporary (let us hope) vacation.

But, see here — here's the leftover Saigon salad that I made from Zoa's recipe. See, I still do eat fresh food. I had the leftovers for lunch (not on the same day as the sandwich; I was too full for lunch.), which adds up to two dinners and two lunches of Saigon salad without getting tired of it. I started with a big bed of salad greens and a small mound of soba, on top of which went the leftover salad. I topped it with peanuts and nori for the perfect lunch.

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Tandoor Chef, from Deep Foods

The folks at Deep Foods, Inc. offered to send me samples of their line of frozen, vegan Tandoor Chef foods, and thinking that they'd come in handy while we were "vacationing" in Madison, I happily accepted. They sent five different varieties, and we tried the Kofta Curry for dinner Friday night.

We had just spent two days trying to clear our nearly totally plugged bathtub drain. We tried the baking soda-vinegar-hot water routine, and endless rounds of plunging, all to no avail. (Readers of this blog know that we lived in Seattle last year, and are back in our Madison home for a few weeks getting it ready to rent again for next year.) The plunging pulled up gross black gunk and glitter (sigh) and I feared the worst. I'd earlier fished up a large elastic ponytail holder from the sink drain, and suspected a serial drain stuffer may have been living in our house. We waited all day for our plumber to call back, and when he finally did at 4:30, he recommended a rooter service. (Greg's Rite Now Rooter 279-0858 if you're in Madison!)


The happy end of the story is the drain was stuffed with the normal variety of grossness, and by 7 P.M. it was cleared. I hadn't eaten since breakfast (ahem) and we were both hungry and tired, so Indian food from the freezer seemed like a great idea. I chose the Kofta Curry because dumplings are such great comfort food, and we were feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the house stuff we've been trying to do. We don't have a microwave so used the conventional oven method of baking for about 28 minutes. We also made brown rice, salad and broccoli. The curry was spicy and delicious. The dumplings, light and flavorful. I was very impressed and thought it tasted great. Here's what the Web site says:

In the early 1970's, Mrs. Bhagwati Amin's love for good authentic cuisine gave birth to a hobby. She had a passion for sharing the cuisine and culture of her homeland, and served delicious food to friends and neighbors at every possible opportunity.
Soon, small Indian store owners sought her abilities. As a result, she worked nights and weekends to satisfy her desire to make and serve high quality foods for the broader community. Many advised her to open a restaurant, but she knew that the time required to run a restaurant would detract from her family's needs.
In just a short time, her products became very popular. In 1977, Mrs. Amin and her husband began work on what is today Deep Foods – producing a full line of Tandoor Chef frozen appetizers, entrées and side dishes that delight households across the United States. Today the Tandoor Chef brand remains a family affair, now incorporating the second generation who spends a great deal of time in the kitchen, dreaming up new entrées for you to enjoy.

The box contained two servings, 100 calories each. Each serving had 7 g of fat, 400 mg of sodium, 1 g of fiber, 2 g of sugar, 6 g total carbohydrates and 1 g of protein. The nutrition facts for the Tandoor Chef dinners vary widely depending on the variety, so I'll provide that information for each item as I review it.

I'm looking forward to trying the other meals, and will highlight them during the next couple of weeks.
Full disclosure: Tandoor Chef sent me free samples of their vegan products but did not require or influence my review.
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Miss E makes cookies
Here's a photo (taken with a phone and emailed to me) of a very serious Miss E making cookies. Although her Mama claims to have helped, Miss E says she made them "mine own self." When I spoke with her on skype, I asked if the cookies were vegan. "No," said Miss E, "chocolate chip!"

Now that Miss E knows how to bake, I'm looking forward to creating lots of kitchen masterpieces with her!

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