July 29, 2013

Essential Green Smoothies by Madeline Eyer

I've mentioned before on this blog that I don't care for green smoothies — "yes" to leafy green veggies and green juice, but "no" to fruits and vegetables blended up and poured into a glass. Just the thought made me feel more than a little queasy. Not that long ago I was asked to review a green smoothie e-book but declined, saying I probably wasn't the right person for the job.

It must have been fate that at a recent birthday party for a friend, I complimented one of the guests on her recently published cookbook, and she asked if I'd like a free copy to review on my blog. I knew she was a Certified Raw Food Coach, and I'd previously tasted some of her amazing creations, so I said, "sure!" What I didn't remember was that the book was a raw green smoothie book. I decided to face my fears head on, and accepted the book with a smile — and a bit of well-hidden trepidation.

Simply delicious

Madeline Eyer says in the introduction to her book, that green smoothies are usually made in a proportion of 60/40 fruit to leafy greens, and that is a good place to start. However, as your taste buds and body adjust, it's best to eventually reverse the proportions. I stuck with the recipe proportions for my first few smoothies, not wanting to push my taste buds, but, as it turned out, I had nothing to fear. My first smoothie was called simply delicious. And it was. Really. As I drank it I heard the words, "yummo, yummo, yummo," coming from my lips.

Banana float

Smoothie number two was called banana float, and it was equally, if not even more, delicious. The color was a deep purplish tone from the addition of blueberries. The recipe called for beet greens but in the introduction Maddy says if an ingredient is missing from the pantry, just substitute another. I didn't have beet greens but I did have a bunch of red chard from our next-door-neighbor's garden, and chard tastes like beets to me, so I used it. I was pretty nervous stuffing chard into the blender, but the resulting smoothie was amazingly delicious. I loved it! If you'd like to try it, you can find the recipe for the banana float here. (Just click on the book pages to enlarge them.)

Jungle juice

If I weren't an experienced green smoothie drinker, having already had three (I made one of the smoothies twice!), I might have been alarmed by the brown color of jungle juice, but I bravely took a sip and was delighted to find I loved it. Although it may look like chocolate, it was actually the addition of frozen cherries that turned the smoothie such a dark, rich color.

Mango majesty
The last smoothie I sampled was the mango majesty — another wonderful jar of deliciousness. I guess I don't dislike green smoothies anymore — or at least not the smoothies in "Essential Green Smoothies." They are very fresh, flavorful and clean tasting — not heavy or too thick.

Essential Green Smoothies, unlike most cookbooks, is fully illustrated, with the artwork of Royce Richardson filling every page. And each recipe is accompanied by a paragraph of facts about one of the ingredients and why it is beneficial to one's health. The wonderful little book provides not just delicious, healthful recipes, but visual gratification and loads of useful information as well. (Did you catch the word "delicious" in the last sentence?) Each of the green smoothies I whipped up was a delight.

Note: The recipes call for edible essential oils, but most of the oils can be substituted with fresh lime, lemon, ginger or grapefruit as noted in the directions. Also, the recipes require a high speed blender such as a VitaMix or Blendtec.

Full disclosure: The cookbook was given to me by the author for the purpose of a review. I was not paid. All opinions are my own.

July 25, 2013

Yuba rolls | Costco revisited | Good chips gone GMO

You may or may not recall my San Francisco post from 3-23-13 where I described how we purchased yuba wraps from the Tofu Yu stand at the Marin farmers market. Since it was impractical to fly back to San Francisco to get another package whenever I wanted, I had to figure out how to reconstruct something similar at home to satisfy my cravings. Whenever I eat yuba, I want to eat it again soon after. I love its chewy texture.

I raided our freezer and found a package of frozen yuba, and a package (for better or worse — probably worse) of fake ham that we'd purchased at two different Asian markets. The ham didn't contain wheat but was probably not gluten-free, but I used it anyway.

This was the first time I used frozen yuba sheets and didn't know what to expect. Previously I'd only had access to yuba that had been tightly rolled into long, 1-inch diameter tubes, and dried. I would soak the tubes in water until they softened, then cook them in soups or stews.

The four, flat sheets of yuba in the package I defrosted were something entirely different. They were enormous. To use them, I folded them in half, then kind of followed the rolling directions from a recipe on the Vegetarian Times Web site. I sort of followed their ingredient list, too, using green beans, carrots, scallions and vegan ham, but I made an Asian-influenced tomato-based sauce to spread inside and on the top. It wasn't hard at all (maybe a little awkward rolling the sheets) but the results were amazing.

Writing about the sauce brings me to something I'd like to confess. Back on 11-23-10, I wrote a rather sarcastic post about our first ever excursion to Costco on a "guest night." I said I didn't think we'd be joining Costco any time soon. Sigh. Well, we did join, and now go there at least once a month. Costco has been increasing their organic offerings on a regular basis, and there are things we buy there to have on hand, as well as things we buy just to eat. For example, they now sell six-can packs of organic beans, large cartons of Mary's Crackers (a personal weakness), organic frozen corn and frozen fruit, various organic fresh fruit and vegetable choices, chia seeds, hemp hearts, big jars of olives, etc. Last night we got organic baby kale, organic spinach, organic broccolini and organic cherries. And lately, we've been buying glass jars of organic crushed tomatoes. The tomatoes are really good, though if they didn't contain salt I'd like them even better. They are very thick, with very little liquid. And, they come in cool jars that look like canning jars. I use the jars to store stuff in the pantry, and also to drink smoothies from.

As for the sauce I made for the yuba rolls — it was created on the fly from whatever ingredients seemed like a good idea at the time — my favorite way to cook. I think of the flavor I want, then figure out what I need to add to create it. Into the VitaMix went tomatoes, ginger, garlic, granulated onion, five-spice-powder, rice vinegar, a little agave and Chinese red pepper. (Maybe other things that I'm forgetting.)

After the rolls were cooked, I sliced them into one-inch pieces to serve, and the finished rolls were a big burst of mouth pleasure. Next time I might use only veggies, or possibly add some soy curls, since the ham was a one-time indulgence.

In case you're unfamiliar with yuba, it's made by simmering soymilk and skimming off the sheets of skin that form on the top. It can be found fresh, frozen or dried, in Asian markets and tofu shops.


Food Should Taste Good now GMO
My last bag of FSTG chips.

Another item I used to occasionally buy at Costco was Food Should Taste Good Multigrain chips. The chips have been my go-to chips for parties, or just when I felt like having a chip or two. They've appeared on my blog a dozen times as I made dips, spreads, nachos, whatever. In the past, the chips were made by a small company, and were GF, organic, non-GMO, etc. etc. I was staring at a small bag of chips the other day thinking something about the package didn't seem right, when I realized the word "organic" was missing from the label. Then I couldn't find a non-GMO statement on the bag. After googling the subject, I learned that General Mills bought the company in Feb. 2012, and is now producing them as part of their "natural" line. Ha! In my humble opinion, genetically engineered foods are not natural. This is a perfect example of why we have to read labels and ask questions even when we've been using a product for years. Maybe I'll just eat celery and carrot sticks instead of chips. Bummer.

UPDATE: FSTG chips are now carrying a non-GMO mark on the package. Perhaps General Mills realized that their customers care about the food they eat. I'm not sure if the chips are again made from organic ingredients, but at least they are non-GMO.

July 21, 2013


This year, after years of enjoying barbecues at our son and daughter-in-laws house, we finally made the decision to buy our own small gas grill. We've had charcoal grills in the past but hardly ever used them, but now that we have our handy gas grill, we've been barbecuing left and right. We love our grill, by the way, and use it quite often. We tend to be a little repetitive in what we grill but since we only have ourselves to please, why not grill what we like best? We especially love to grill tempeh, zucchini, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, eggplant and corn.

I made an impromptu barbecue sauce by blending jarred, crushed tomatoes (more about the tomatoes in a future post) with a bunch of other ingredients, and brushing it on the tempeh as it grilled. It was great. My husband, who prefers to use recipes, found a recipe for barbecue sauce in "Complete Vegetarian Kitchen," by Lorna Sass, and has been marinating and grilling tempeh with the excellent sauce rather frequently. A Vitamix blends a fast, thick, smooth sauce in seconds with whatever ingredients you care to throw in.

We find that most fresh vegetables look and taste so good right off the grill that they don't really need enhancement, unless you'd like a sprinkle of herb salt or grind of pepper. I usually enjoy my corn plain, but have you ever tried rubbing a small amount of umeboshi plum paste on freshly cooked corn? It's a good substitute for butter and salt.

Here's a simple dinner of tempeh, zucchini, potato and curried cauliflower kimchi. (The potatoes don't looked cooked, do they? They were, though.) Tonight we're having tempeh (duh), potatoes, coleslaw, kale salad, quinoa with roasted veggies and parfaits! (Company coming!)

July 15, 2013

Dinner-size salad

On a hot night when I don't feel like cooking, a salad for supper is very appealing. The ingredients are flexible — I can add whatever I happen to have in the refrigerator. Salad greens (or other greens like kale or cabbage) are usually on my ingredient list for the base, but the night this salad was made, our fridge was sadly lacking in green things. A quick trip to Whole Foods for a box of salad mix solved the problem, and I was able to use up pantry items for the remaining ingredients.

In addition to the salad mix, the bowl contained four shredded carrots. a cucumber thinly sliced on the diagonal, halved grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and toasted chickpeas. Because the salad mix contained so many different greens like spinach, chard, frisse, romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, etc., it seemed much more complex than you'd think with the few extras I added.

The chickpeas were from a can — rinsed and drained well. They were toasted in a hot wok in a small amount of olive oil until they began to develop dark spots. The heat was turned off and the chickpeas were tossed with a good sprinkle of smoked Spanish paprika, a grind of pink salt (from Costco) and about a teaspoon of liquid smoke.

The dressing was made from tahini and umeboshi plum paste, similar to this one, but without lemon and sweetener, and with the addition of several finely shredded basil leaves from my garden. (I don't measure the ingredients when I make the dressing so I'm not sure exactly how much I made. Probably more than in the recipe.) It was a LOT of salad but we ate it all, and it was exactly the refreshing, yet filling, dinner I was craving. I meant to sprinkle on some pumpkin seeds, but that will have to wait until next time. Do you ever have "just a salad" for supper? What are your favorite ingredients?

July 11, 2013

Faux gras and Basilcotta from The Regal Vegan

My son and daughter-in-law were on the East Coast last week visiting family and friends, and they just returned home. We stopped over at their house to say hi to Miss E and her parents because we hadn't seen them in so long, and we were presented with two spreads from the Regal Vegan that they had packed in ice and brought back with them.

It turns out that Taryn has been friends with Ella Nemcova, founder of The Regal Vegan, since their college days, and Ella came up from New York to visit Taryn in Connecticut. She brought Taryn a lot of samples of her signature food products, and Taryn was kind enough to bring some home to share.

Honestly, I don't know how she resisted eating all of it before she returned home. It's absolutely fabulous. There are currently two varieties — Faux Gras™ which is made from walnuts, lentils and slowly caramelized onions blended with a few other wonderful ingredients, and Basilicotta™, made with fresh basil and raw cashews. Both spreads are perfect, creamy mouthwatering and satisfying toppings for crackers or crudities.

I loved both versions, but my favorite was the Faux Gras™. It was the best of the best walnut-and-lentil paté I've ever tasted, and I just wish it were available in Seattle.

July 07, 2013

Visitors from Wyoming | Chihuly Glass Museum | Fremont | Vegan Iron Chef cookbook

It's been so sunny and pleasant here that I forgot to write a blog post — I just want to be outdoors enjoying the perfect weather. Most of the days have been  sunny and in the 70s, but we had a couple of very hot days, too, and on the hottest day so far, Laurie (otherwise known as Laloofa, author of Mehitable Days) and her husband BW breezed through town and spent some time with us. They had a list of places they wanted to see, so we worked through their list, and added a couple of things, and had a lovely time touring Seattle. There wasn't enough time to see much — you need more than part of a day to visit all the attractions in Seattle, but we managed a few.

We started with the Dale Chihuly Glass Museum down at the Seattle Center. Ken and I had never been to the museum, which opened in May 2012, so we were touring it for the first time, too. There were photographers wandering around offering to take our photo, and although I declined the first offer, I said OK to the second, and am glad I did, since I'm the one taking pictures and never usually appear in any of the photos.

I'm just going to post all my photos without much explanation so you can get an idea what the museum is like.

What you're seeing here and in the next two photos is the ceiling in what was my favorite room. It was gorgeous, with fantastic colors and shapes.

Even as I review my photos, I still love the ceiling images the best. I spent so much time looking up at the ceiling I started to get a stiff neck.

There are both indoor and outdoor components to the exhibit, and although there are many exciting aspects to the gardens, I preferred the indoor rooms. I've seen photographs of other spectacular outdoor installations, and was actually kind of disappointed with this one.

I really liked the glass 'shrub' that dominated the outdoor space, and I think it was my favorite garden piece. I wanted one for my garden at home.

Here it is from a different direction.

Here's a photo of Laurie blending in with the glass exhibit.

We were with a couple of tourists, one of whom just wouldn't stop taking pictures.

After we left the museum, we were walking through the Seattle Center complex when we came upon something that was almost better than the museum. At the fountain we viewed one of the most joyful sights I've seen in a long time. Dozens of small children cavorted around the huge water spewing mound as it went from almost no spray through a succession of intensifying fountains — all set to exciting music — culminating in an explosive blast that shot 120 feet in the air, sending the little ones running and screaming away from the water monster.

I'm sorry I didn't get a shot of the super tower of water, but I was laughing and shreiking along with the kids, some of whom got pounded by an incredible amount of liquid.

When we were finally able to tear ourselves away from the vicarious thrills provided by the fountain, we headed to nearby Kerry Park where Laurie and BW wanted to get photos of the Seattle skyline. Our access was a little limited as there was a wedding party having their photos taken, but we did our best to capture the view.

Next stop was lunch. From a long list of suitable dining spots I provided, our guests had chosen a vegan Thai restaurant because they don't have access to much Thai food in Wyoming. Arraya's has an all-you-can-eat vegan lunch buffet, and although they had planned to order from the menu, the buffet was too beguiling to pass up. Even though it wasn't the plan, we all ate a little more than perhaps we should have. Oh well.

We had originally planned to tour a fair trade chocolate factory in Fremont, but had to eliminate the tour due to time constraints, so we did a little jaunt through the Fremont neighborhood instead. (You may recall a recent post where I covered the Fremont Solstice Parade and the nude bicyclists.) No tour of Fremont would be complete without a photo with the controversial Lenin statue, and here's BW taking full advantage of the photo op. This is a genuine Soviet sculpture that was originally installed in Poprad, Slovakia in 1988. It was removed after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and found lying face down in a scrapyard by a Washington resident named Lewis E. Carpenter. Carpenter financed the purchase and transport of the statue by mortgaging his house. You can read more details by following the link I've provided.

After viewing Lenin, one must also see the troll under the bridge. Although you can't see it behind the models, the troll holds a real Volkswagen beetle in its hand.

And there is also the Waiting for the Interurban statue to consider. Citizens are allowed to dress the statue for one week at a time, then must remove the statues' attire so the next outfits can be applied. I don't believe I've ever seen the statue naked, so to speak.

One last sight I'd like to leave you with is the sign that we found on a telephone pole not far from where we had lunch. All the little tear strips at the bottom were gone.

We had a lovely time with our visitors and hope they will consider staying a bit longer next time.


Vegan Iron Chef e-cookbook - free download

If you've read this far, I've got a special treat for you — a link to the Vegan Iron Chef e-cookbook that you can download for free. And guess who has a recipe inside! (No, I'm not a vegan iron chef but yes, I do have a recipe in the collection!) It looks like a great little book. I just want to give you a heads-up that the page numbering is a bit off because in a PDF the automatic numbers start with the cover, and in this case the recipes start on page 4. So, if a recipe is supposed to be on page 18, it's really on page 22. Follow this link to the e-cookbook, and enjoy!