Monthly Archives: January 2014

Healthy New Year: Review of 365 Vegan Smoothies

When I heard about Kathy Patalsky’s cookbook, 365 Vegan Smoothies, my first reaction was, “Who the heck needs 365 smoothie recipes?”  After a month of whipping up breakfast smoothies, the quality of Patalsky’s recipes has changed my mind.  While the smoothie-a-day concept still seems gimmicky to me, I’m sold on the value of having a book of well-designed smoothie recipes.

365 Vegan Smoothies begins with more than 100 pages of smoothie-making tips and then moves on to the recipes, which are divided into twelve wellness themes like “detox” and “energize.”  My main complaint about this organization is that there is nothing to divide the chapters.  I would have preferred that each chapter begin with a short explanation of the ingredients that promote particular wellness benefits (rather than having all of that information in the lengthy introduction).

green jungle

Green Jungle Smoothie

Overall, this book delivered on its promise of boosting my fruit, veggie and whole grain intake.  The index is fairly comprehensive, which allowed me to pick recipes based upon the ingredients that I had on hand.  Patalsky also inspired me to invest in some new ingredients like coconut water (which I would never drink plain, but which does make a great smoothie base) and cacao nibs.  Those who cannot eat bananas should be aware that they are frequently used as a thickener.  (In some recipes, I found the banana taste too strong, so I’ve taken to using no more than 1/2 a banana if I want other flavors to shine through).  However, with so many recipes to choose from, there are plenty of banana-free recipes too.  I also like that each smoothie has a nutritional analysis.  I’ve found that the given calorie count is a good proxy for whether I will be hungry for a mid-morning snack.  (400 calories or more and I’m probably set til lunch).

strawberry lime

Fresh Start Strawberry Lime Frosty (page 90)

So far, I’ve made 8 smoothies with generally excellent results.  I began with a fruit smoothie — the Apple Walnut Pie Shake (p. 226) — and then eased my way into more adventurous smoothies like the Green Jungle Shake (p. 132) and the Walnut Carrot Cake (p. 176).  I would never have known that these shakes contained veggies if I hadn’t added them myself.  My favorite so far has been the Crazy Cookie Bar Shake (p. 144), which tastes just like one of those multi-layer coconut cookie bars.  My 15 month-old’s favorite shake was the Peanut Butter Oat Bar (p. 229), which he demanded “more, more, more” of after tasting it.

carrot

Walnut Carrot Cake

 

 

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20 Days of Happiness Part 13 – Barbecue Sandwiches

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

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A SOUTHERN SUPPER AND TRUE DETECTIVE

 Since cracking my first Nancy Drew in first grade, I’ve been a voracious reader of anything in the mystery genre.  From cozies, to police procedurals, to hard-boiled detective novels, to thrillers — I love them all.  That’s why I first envisioned this post as “dinner and a mystery novel.”  Oddly enough, though, I haven’t read a single mystery in the past two months.  Instead, I’ve read parenting books, job hunting books, cookbooks and 90% of Team of Rivals.

As I pondered the possibilities of a Lincoln-themed dinner, HBO saved the day by premiering a new detective drama that pairs perfectly with vegan food.  True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana detectives hunting for a serial killer.  The entire first season was directed by director and cinematographer Cary Joji Fukanaga, who appealed to my inner film-geek by shooting on actual film.  (I attended film school just as digital was beginning to take hold, but my college was old-school, so I spent many happy hours physically cutting and splicing my projects).  The first episode was beautifully shot and I think that the texture that film provides is perfect both for providing atmosphere and for rooting the story in a particular place in time (the show shifts back and forth from the original investigation in 1996 to the reopened investigation that takes place roughly in the present day).  

Because the show takes place in Louisiana, I had to make a decision between doing a Cajun meal or a Southern soul food type supper.  In the end, I went with my absolute favorite take on barbecue sandwiches — soy curls in Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce from Vegan Diner topped with the Sandwich Slaw from the same book.  Although I might be a state or two off in my choice of barbecue sauce style, I deemed the meal sufficiently “Southern” to provide an appropriate accompaniment for my night in.  (It helps that this meal is easy-as-can-be to make.  I used pre-made slaw mix, so I didn’t even need to do any chopping).

For dessert, I thought that the praline cookies from Cookin’ Crunk would be a perfect choice, but my husband was rather vocal in his demand for cream filled chocolate cupcakes.  I used the chocolate cupcake, vanilla butter-cream and ganache recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  Though they fit the theme not-at-all, they were tasty.  And, fortunately, there are seven episodes of True Detective left, providing seven more opportunities to make those praline cookies.

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20 Days of Happiness Part 12 – Spiked Hot Cocoa

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

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Reason to be happy #12: Relaxing with a cup of cocoa after my son goes to bed.

Reason to be happy #12.5: I spiked said cocoa with a shot of marshmallow vodka.

 

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On New Years and Resolutions

Photo courtesy of www.localfitness.com.au

When I lived in Boston, I was a member of a women’s gym that was amazing for 46 weeks of the year.  But for the first 6 weeks of the year, it was miserable.  The locker room was packed so full that I often had to wait 20 minutes just to have a place to stash my purse.  When I finally got to my yoga or step class, I would spend an hour dodging feet and elbows (partly because I’m extremely clumsy, but mostly because the classes were too damn crowded).  I would complain that the gym had sold too many memberships and the staff would tell me to wait it out until February when the New Year’s Resolution crew stopped showing up.  Sure enough, by mid-February, I had my choice of lockers, treadmills and yoga mats.

I generally forgo New Year’s resolutions because making a half-hearted attempt to be better in January because that’s when everyone else is doing it seems like a recipe for failure.  This year, though, I have some goals that I want to accomplish and starting in January gives me that much more time to accomplish them before the year ends.  First and foremost, my goal is to get rid of the number one source of unhappiness in my life — my job.  I hope that by posting my goal here, I will be accountable to myself and remain committed to finding a new job.

Healthier eating is a popular New Year’s resolution and, in that spirit,  I’m also working on reviews of two healthy cookbooks: 365 Vegan Smoothies and Appetite for Reduction.  I’ll be using the reviews as an opportunity to up my intake of vegetables and whole grains because, even though I eat a fairly balanced diet, I often fall short in these areas.  I’m also working on an in-depth review of Isa Does It, along with my own tips for getting home-cooked food on the table during the work week.  Finally, I’ll be continuing with my happiness series.  My goal is to bring all of this content to you before the New Year’s Resolution Crew stops hitting the gym.

 

 

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Cookbook Obsession: Review of Bake and Destroy

Natalie Slater has appeared on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars as a judge and on the Cooking Channel’s The Perfect 3.  She also blogs at bakeanddestroy.net.  Yet, somehow,  despite my love of cooking shows and food blogs, I had no idea who Slater was until her cookbook came out.  Then, because the internet told me to, I dutifully ordered a copy.  I have not been disappointed.

Bake and Destroy is an adorable 192-page paperback featuring lay-flat binding, funky illustrations and color photos throughout.  Slater has her priorities in order, so the book begins with desserts, but it also includes breakfast items, main dishes and sides.  Most of the recipes are baked (as the title suggests), but there are also a few stove-top and crock pot recipes.

The recipes are wildly unique (whoopie pies that look like hamburgers, falafel waffles, green bean casserole pizza . . . ) and have fun recipes notes describing the inspiration for each.  After my first read-through, I wanted to make pretty much everything, but I restrained myself because many of the recipes are decadent special occasion only food (deep-fried cream corn, Samoa Joe cupcakes . . .).

So far I’ve made:

Samosa Pot Pie (p. 121)

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Although it contains potatoes and peas, “samosa” didn’t come to mind when I had my first bite of this pie.  This is really more of a curried vegetable pot pie.  It was pleasant enough to eat, but not knock your socks off good.  I served it with store-bought chutney, which provided a little extra ooompf.  Recipe notes: I had to add more water than called for to get my crust to come together.  I also had some difficulty getting the top crust to attach to the par-baked bottom crust.  However, the end result was a crunchy, flaky, golden-brown crust.

Chicago Style Sammich (p. 111)

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According to the recipe, this sandwich has all of the flavors of a Chicago-style hot dog.  It features mushrooms, onions, spinach, cheezy sauce and pickle relish on a toasted roll.  I thought it was easy to make, fairly healthy and tasty.  I’d definitely make it again.  I was especially happy with Slater’s cheezy sauce, which was pantry friendly, tasted good and thickened up nicely.  Recipe note: I did not need to refrigerate my sauce as stated in the recipe notes.  It thickened up just fine sitting on the stove while my veggies were cooking.

Black Metal Forest Brownies (p. 41)

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Super fudgy brownies with a cherry swirl.  Make these now and top them with ice cream.  You’re welcome.  Recipe note: Mine took longer than 35 minutes to cook.  At 35 minutes, my sides were set up and the middle was wet but not “crackly.”  After 40 minutes, the middle was still pretty wet, but I had brownies instead of molten chocolate cake.  I’m not sure if I ever achieved crackly-ness.

Verdict:  This is a unique addition to my cookbook collection filled with fun special-occasion recipes.  Invite some people over to share your creations.  Don’t be like Veggie Husband and me, who polished off a whole pan of brownies by ourselves in three-days’ time.

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20 Days of Happiness Part 11 – Tofu Scramble

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  For my next 10 posts, I’ll focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

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WEEKEND BREAKFAST ON A WEDNESDAY OR HAPPY NEW YEAR

Ah, the joys of sleeping in and then enjoying a big breakfast on the couch in your jammies — two things I know nothing about now that I have a kid.  Fortunately, I still get the joy of a hot breakfast on Saturday provided that it takes 15 minutes or less to cook (which is approximately the time that my son is willing to be entertained by his grandparents on Skype before he sets out in search of electric sockets in which to insert metal tools).  Our Saturdays are divided roughly 70/30 pancakes/tofu scramble.

This New Year’s Eve, my husband subtly hinted that he was in the mood for tofu scramble by purchasing a package of tofu and giving it to me “in case you feel like making tofu scramble.”  Weekend breakfast on a Wednesday sounded pretty good to me, so I kicked off the New Year by making the Sleepy Sunday Morning Scramble from Sara Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan AKA the Only Tofu Scramble I Ever Make.  It is the only scramble I ever make because it is far and away the tastiest version I’ve tried (and I’ve tried at least half a dozen).  For those new to scramble, you will find that it looks freakishly like scrambled eggs, but tastes almost nothing like them.  Still it is satisfying in its own right and pairs wonderfully with a toasted bread product and maybe some veggie sausage.

She who starts the new year with tofu scramble, toast with lavender berry jam and a good cup of coffee is surely starting the year off on the right foot.

Wishing you peace and joy in the year to come . . .  

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