April 19, 2011

Holiday foods | Vegfest | Vegan by the Bay | Vegnews

Swiss chard and broccoli rabe

We hosted a vegan Passover Seder for eight, last night, and except for the matzoh ball failure, all the food turned out just as I hoped. I won't bore you with details of the Seder itself — I'll just get right to the food — but I will tell you a little story related to last year's Seder. About a month ago, Miss E was playing in the little room we call the "TV room," when she retrieved a small, towel-wrapped package from a low shelf. She unwrapped it, and with a little squeal, began to eat a half-piece of matzoh. "I think Miss E found last year's Afikomen," said her Papa. We all had a good laugh, and vowed to do better this year in the Afikomen department. In case you don't know, the Afikomen is a piece of matzoh that is broken off at the beginning of the Seder and hidden for one of the children to find after dinner, when it is supposed to be eaten for dessert. The child who finds it is usually rewarded with money or some other prize. Miss E was the only child at the Seder last night, and her mom took her on an Afikomen hunt. She found it, and was rewarded with three Dora band-aides (she is obsessed with both Dora and band-aids) and a dollar bill.

Since I'm on the subject of matzoh, I'll mention that this year we bought Yahuda whole wheat matzoh, and it's the best I've ever tasted. It actually tastes good. Even the confirmed matzoh haters at our Seder were chowing it down.


Charoset appears on the Seder plate and is part of the ceremony. I made mine with apples, an orange, toasted almonds, dates, date syrup, cinnamon and lemon juice.

After the service, we began our meal with soup. There were supposed to be matzoh balls in the soup but unlike last year, they disintegrated as they cooked, so I rescued whatever pieces I could, and added them to the soup, such as they were. The soup was made with dashi — Japanese stock made from soaking dried shiitaki mushrooms and konbu in water. (I soaked mine overnight.) While not exactly traditional to Passover, it made the perfect base for further enhancement with carrots, celery and baby bella mushrooms. The soup was oil-free but incredibly rich in flavor. Best soup ever. Sorry, no photo.

walnut/string bean paté

After the soup course, the table was laden with holiday foods, some of which are pictured here. At the top of the post is a fabulous Swiss chard and broccoli rabe dish that was brought by our daughter-in-law. I'm not fond of chard, but I loved this version, and highly recommend it. Directly above is the walnut and string bean paté I found on Diet Dessert and Dogs blog. I used to make this exact thing with fresh string beans, but Ricki made it with canned, and I figured with all the cooking I was doing, why not save a little time and try the canned version. We found a no-salt-added can of green beans and I have to say, the result was terrific. Everyone commented on how delicious it was. I used Ricki's excellent recipe but added an extra 1/2 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika and some fresh lemon juice for a little extra zip. The picture was taken today of the leftovers, but last night it was served in a larger bowl, covered with sliced green onions.

It's really called mock chopped liver, and tastes like I remember the real stuff tasting, only much better, without any of the bitter under-taste or unhappy animal-associations of the real thing. The recipe is not a newer vegan version of an animal food, it's really quite a traditional recipe coming from the kosher dietary traditions that some Jews follow, that forbid meat and dairy at the same meal. Because it is made with vegetables, it can be served with either meat or dairy. I have a couple of older Jewish cookbooks that contain similar recipes, as well as other "mock" recipes for use at dairy meals. (There are two other versions of mock chopped liver, made with mushrooms and walnuts, on this blog.)

Roasted garlic asparagus with mushrooms

What would a spring holiday dinner be without asparagus? Our youngest son roasted asparagus and garlic, and I stir-fried a lot of sliced mushrooms to serve over the top. I've been craving mushrooms lately, so you'll notice them in more than one dish.

Quinoa pilaf with spinach and olives

Not long ago we tested a recipe for millet pilaf for The Urban Vegan's upcoming cookbook. I loved it, and based last night's quinoa dish on that recipe. Our version contains spinach, celery and black olives, and brings a huge jolt of flavor to the taste buds.

Cranberry-apple sauce

I made cranberry-apple sauce, which Miss E loves, and a large fresh salad with baby greens, red cabbage, cucumber, celery, grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and avocado (not pictured). I also made a large pan of potato kugel. The stars must have aligned while I was making the kugel because when I took my first mouthful, it was like I was eating my mother's version. I got it right! (For the Passover version, substitute matzoh for bread. I made a double recipe and used three slices of matzoh.)

For dessert we had a raw pineapple-cherry pie garnished with Coconut Bliss mint galactica ice cream. Still full.

If you are observing Passover this week, Happy Passover. If you'll be celebrating Easter, Happy Easter. If you observe neither, Happy Spring.



Yes, it seems like it took place ages ago, but I never got around to recapping Vegfest. What can I say — I ate lots of foods I wouldn't normally eat, along with some things that I'd like to eat again. What usually happens is we taste so many things we can't remember what they were, and I guess that's true for this year, too. Our work station was near to the folks from Theo Chocolate, and they brought over some lovely samples for us to try. Really good samples. Yes, I'd like to try the chocolate again.

This was my view looking out from my work station, and looking at real, unadulterated apples kept me centered. Last year I was much too close to SO ice cream and Mighty-O Donuts and had self-control issues ...

You can read other, more entertaining recaps, here and here.


Our youngest son and his girlfriend left today for California, where they are moving. He asked me if I knew any vegan bloggers in the Bay area, so I'm asking — who out there is blogging from San Francisco? He'd like to start reading your blogs! I miss them already, and they haven't even gotten there yet.


VegNews is good news

Vegan hot dog in a vegan whole wheat bun. ©2011 cookeasyvegan.blogspot.com

Now that VegNews has taken responsibility for their actions and pledged to reform, I'm ready to forgive and move on. As a graphic designer, I was somewhat sympathetic to their need to use occasional stock photos, but NOT happy when they misrepresented the very basis of their existence by substituting photos of animal foods for vegan ones. When an organization is cavalier about misrepresenting information in one area, it can lead to questions about their honesty in other areas, but I hope the vegan community will support VegNews in moving forward and regaining credibility. Rebuilding trust is a process. Let's be open to it.

April 12, 2011

The Natural Vegan Kitchen, review and recipe | Mighty-O wins

The Natural Vegan Kitchen, by Christine Waltermyer, is my kind of cookbook. The recipes are a fusion of vegan and macrobiotic cooking, with whole, unrefined foods that are delicious and satisfying. There are a few more raw foods and less salt as well as more "cultural variety in meals, such as Mexican, Indian and Italian versions of macrobiotic recipes" than you usually find in traditional macrobiotic cooking. The recipes are appealing, well-balanced and easy to prepare, making them suitable for beginners as well as experienced cooks. We loved the meals prepared with Christine's recipes.

Moroccan Stew

I asked my husband to choose a few recipes to test, and he must have been feeling nostalgic, because two of the recipes he chose began with the word, "mom's," as in Mom's Vegetarian Beef Stew and Mom's Potato Salad. He also chose Moroccan Stew Over Couscous.

Mom's Potato Salad

All three of the dishes were easy to prepare and wonderful, though we drastically reduced the amount of mayo in the potato salad because I can't stand gloppy salads. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other salads and salad dressings like Arugula with Pecans and Pears, Creamy Pumpkin Seed Dressing and Raspberry-Poppy Seed Dressing, as well as the lovely-sounding grain, bean and vegetable dishes. Most of the recipes are marked as gluten-free, or can be made gluten-free.

Moroccan Stew over Brown Rice Couscous

I'm happy to be able to share one of the recipes with you, courtesy of The Book Publishing Company.

Mom's Vegetarian Beef Stew served over brown Basmati rice

Mom's Vegetarian Beef Stew (Reprinted with permission. Please do not re-post.)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed (or other) oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 cups cubed and peeled rutabagas (we used turnips)
  • 4 large carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 cups bite-sized seitan chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
  • 1 tablespoons kuzu starch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water (or arrowroot or cornstarch)
  1. Heat the water and oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of the salt. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the rutabaga, carrots, broth, remaining salt, and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Add the seitan, peas, tamari, and kuzu mixture. Cook for 5 minutes longer.
  5. Serve hot, with a slice of your favorite bread for dipping.
Christine Waltermyer is the founder and director of the Natural Kitchen Cooking School, with classes offered in New York and New Jersey. With more than a decade of experience in the field of natural cooking, Christine is a masterful chef and teacher, specializing in macrobiotic and vegan cuisines. She teaches cooking classes for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's (PCRM) Cancer Project and has co-taught with legendary natural food leader Michio Kushi at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book. All opinions are my own, humble opinions.

Head over to The Book Publishing Company Web site where you can enter to win a vegan cookbook.


The Mighty-O Donut wins on the Food Network

Miss E tucks into "a pink one."

Sara Beth Russert is The Food Network's first doughnut champion. Sara Beth makes the famous vegan, organic Mighty-O Donuts in the Walingford neighborhood in Seattle, which just happens to be a few blocks from my house. I'm not going to pretend that ANY doughnuts are particularly healthy, but if you look at the ingredient list of a Mighty-O Donut versus a "normal" doughnut, there's a vast difference in both the number and kinds of ingredients you'll find. The ingredient list of a Mighty-O looks pretty much like it would for a baked good you were making at home. Even though I live around the corner, I rarely go there, because I don't eat a lot of fried foods, but I'm still happy that an organic, vegan doughnut won first place! Congratulations Mighty-O! I did head over to Mighty-O the other day with Miss E in tow, and after touching and smelling every flower between my house and the shop, and collecting numerous walking sticks, we each enjoyed a freshly-baked doughnut. Actually, she enjoyed the glazed top half of her doughnut!

April 01, 2011

Omnivores ascend faster and higher...

I got this information in an email from Dave, the coordinator of the Vegan meet-up group in Madison, Wis. I apologize to Dave for stealing it, but I thought it was important enough to share.

"I thought this would be of interest to group members. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine tracked the lives of 250 omnivores and vegetarians for 40 years. Here's the write-up about it I saw on the Vegetarian Times' website...

In 1970 two graduate students at UC-Berkeley, Frank Owens and Oliver Larson, decided to study the long-term effects of a vegetarian diet. They selected 250 undergraduates (half omnivore, half vegetarian) and began with detailed interviews, physical exams, and lab tests. For the last 40 years they've gotten updates on their subjects primarily through annual written questionnaires.

The study is ongoing, but Owens and Larson published a number of findings in The New England Journal of Medicine. In addition to confirming the widespread assumption that a vegetarian diet significantly increases the chances for a longer and healthier life, they also found:
  • Omnivores ascend faster and higher than vegetarians on the corporate ladder — even after normalizing for differences in the number of vegetarians who seek corporate work.
  • Vegetarians are 42% more likely to vote and 79% more likely to serve on jury duty. However, the relatively small percentage of vegetarians in the general population diminishes their influence in society.
  • Vegetarians marry four years later on average, but are 32% less likely to divorce. Researchers attribute the delay to vegetarians being more selective with dating partners. They say this ultimately leads to a stronger relationship, which shows in the lower divorce rate among the vegetarians in their study.
  • Vegetarians report being 29% happier than omnivores. Researchers did not find a correlation between happiness and income or standard of living once a minimum threshold is reached.
  • Vegetarians give 317% more to charitable causes than omnivores. While the percentages are roughly equal for those who give anything, the amount donated by vegetarians is more than three times that of omnivores.
  • Omnivores are 26% more likely than vegetarians to serve time in prison for committing a felony, while vegetarians are 32% more likely to be a victim of a white collar crime or confidence scheme. Researchers believe that hormones given to many farm animals effect the functioning of the human brain's prefrontal cortex, which has been linked to aggression, honesty, and gullibility.
For more information on the UC-Berkeley study, read all the details on The New England Journal of Medicine's website.