Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Not Make Risotto

I love risotto.

Ever since I learned how to make it I crave it, especially in the winter. It is more comfort food for me than mac and cheese ever was. The great thing about risotto is it makes a big batch of food, is very simple, it's peaceful to make and looks damn impressive. Plus, you can add almost any flavor or additions to it and make a completely new meal. I've made rosemary versions, saffron, asparagus, mushroom etc.

Oh, and did I mention it' pretty low fat??? Shocking, I know!

I make mine in the most basic way: onions, broth, wine, salt and rice. That's pretty much it. And most of these you should have on hand so it's as good a meal to throw together as it is to make for company.

Here's how it goes:


1 large onion – chopped (garlic optional)
4 Tbl Olive Oil (approximately)
½ cup white wine
2 Cups Arborio rice
6 – 8 cups veggie stock


Pour stock in separate pot to warm

In large saucepan (6 quart with deep sides, ideally) sauté onions in olive oil, about 4 tablespoons, over medium heat until soft. Can also sauté garlic in there if you choose. If you are adding a woody herb like rosemary, you can add it now.

Add rice and sauté about 10 minutes, until there is just a white dot in the center. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed. Stir in stock in ½ cup increments not adding more until absorbed. Keep adding stock until rice is soft all the way through and cannot absorb any more – usually about 30 to 40 minutes and about 8 cups of stock. Add salt to taste.

When the risotto is done absorbing the stock, you can in things like butter squash puree, steamed or roasted veggies, mushrooms or soft herbs such as sage. Really anything you like will go well with this.

For the two of us, this meal makes a great dinner with salad on the side and then travels and reheats for work lunches beautifully.


Image via The Vegan Foodie

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Have No Words

All I can do is pass this along to you and beg you to please consider not eating meat. The emotions I feel are such despair at thinking that these abuses happen and that we blithely ignore or disregard these facts.

A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation reveals unconscionable cruelty to mother pigs and their young piglets at a Hatfield Quality Meat supplier - "Country View Family Farms," in Fannettsburg, Pennsylvania. The hidden camera video provides consumers with a jarring glimpse into the nightmarish world of factory pork production.

MFA's investigation uncovered:

* Workers grabbing piglets by their fragile ears or legs and throwing them across the room and slamming them into transport carts.

* Workers tattooing sows by repeatedly driving sharp metal spikes into their flesh.

* Sows with untreated rectal prolapses and deep, infected sores and scrapes from constant rubbing against the bars of their stalls.

* Workers cutting off piglets' tails with dull pliers and castrating them by ripping out their testes with their bare hands - all without anesthesia.

* Thousands of pregnant pigs confined in two-feet wide metal stalls so small that they could only take one step forward or backward and could not turn around or lie down comfortably.

* Injured, sick and runt piglets being tossed into overcrowded gassing kill carts, slowly suffocating from CO2.

* Workers firing steel rods into sows' heads, sometimes as many as four separate times, before the sows fell and died.

Numerous veterinarians and animal welfare experts have harshly condemned the conditions documented at this "family farm" - which confines nearly 3,000 breeding sows. Dr. Nedim C. Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, asserts, "I can state unequivocally that the pigs in this facility suffered immensely...These people showed complete disregard for the welfare or well-being on the pigs."

The findings of MFA's newest investigation are consistent with those documented at pig farms across the country in recent years - illustrating that animal neglect and abuse are the pork industry norm, not the exception.

Not only are the abuses documented at this facility standard within the industry, they are legal in the state of Pennsylvania. Like most states, Pennsylvania's anti-cruelty statute exempts farmed animals from legal protection. Pigs, like all farmed animals, also lack federal protection during their lives confined on factory farms.

As consumers we can choose compassion over cruelty at every meal. Adopting a compassionate vegan diet is the most powerful action we can take to put an end to needless animal suffering and the conditions documented during this investigation.

I promise to personally help anyone and everyone who will make this switch. It is very simple and easy - you just need an open heart and mind.

Friends Don't Let Friends: Eat Canned Soup

Canned soup, while handy, is loaded with salt and other yucky stuff. There are some fresher options but still they aren't as good as homemade. And please... don't eat those horrible packages of ramen noodles.

Here are two easy soup recipes that don't take too much time to make, are easy to freeze in individual portions and can then be reheated when you need an easy lunch or dinner. The hubby would like to say that reheating is as easy as popping it in the microwave or in a pan over medium-low heat to defrost while you are relaxing with a beer or glass of wine watching tv.

Tomato-Basil Soup

10-12 medium sized roma tomatoes

1 medium onion sliced

1 large bunch of basil or two small containers



Chili flake

2 cloves of garlic

4c of veggie broth

2c of water

2-3tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin, if you don’t have regular then use canola)


I don’t mind the skins, but if you don’t know the source of your tomatoes you should remove their skin. So start by getting a pot of water boiling, then put in the tomatoes, and be sure to cut off the stem end. Leave them in there for about 1-3 minutes. If you are going to skin them, take them out and drop them in ice water, the skins should come off easy. Otherwise just drain them, remove from pot and set aside.

Add oil to pot, then sauté the onion for about 10 min or so, and then add the tomatoes. Let them sauté for 10 min or so, mashing them when you can, then add the broth, water, spices (not the basil yet). Get it to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour. Stir about every 15 minutes or so. Then add the chopped basil. Leave it on the heat for about 20 min or so. I then use a stick blender to puree the soup, which is how I like it. You could let it cool, and then put it in a blender. After that you can eat it, freeze it for later.

Potato-Leek Soup

6 medium potatoes, chopped, peeled

3 medium leeks or 2 large leeks

1 2inch piece of ginger

Fresh rosemary


4c of veggie broth

2c of water

2-3tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin, if you don’t have regular then use canola)


NOTE: Leeks are grown in sandy soil and get dirt and grit caught in them. So slice the leek lengthwise and put it in a bowl of cold water. Spreading the layers and shaking them to get the grit out. If they seem really dirty you might have to do with a couple of times.

Get your pot with some oil going, and then add the leek and sauté for 5-6 min then add the chopped potato. Let them sauté for 10 min or so, mashing the potatoes when you can, then add the broth, water, spices, rosemary. Get it to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour. Stir about every 15 minutes or so. Leave it on the heat for about 20 min or so. I then use a stick blender to puree the soup, which is how I like it. You could let it cool, then put it in a blender. After that you can eat it, freeze it for later. It will occasionally get yellowy foam on top; this is from the oil, just stir. This recipe uses no cream; I don’t think you need it. The potatoes make it creamy enough.

Serve with a nice roll or crusty bread for dunking.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Eat Crummy Stir-fry

We eat a stir-fry at least once a week. It's veggie-filled, tasty and pretty quick. Faster and healthier and much more delicious than any kind of strip mall take-out.

Here's the hubby's simple stir-fry and sauce recipe. You can add what ever veggies you like... that's what makes it so versatile!

Serve over steamed rice.

Sauce -

1 bunch of scallions, greens only, essentially what you have left over from the veggie list.

1-3 small thin chilies (more or less for how spicy you want it)

1 1/2C water

1-2 in. piece of ginger

3 cloves of garlic

1-2 tsp of toasted sesame oil

1 Tbps soy sauce or tamari

Optional: 1-2 Tbsp of chili-garlic paste or sauce.

Veggies -

1 small broccoli head

1 Napa Cabbage

3 bunches of baby bock choy

1 med-large carrot

1 zucchini

1 bunch of scallions, whites only

For the sauce put it all in a blender and blend, if you want it to all be liquid, if you have bits of chili that is okay but you don't want chunks. You might have to blend for a minute, let it sit for a minute then blend again. It should be a pale green looking sauce.

Cut all the veggies up, leave broccoli florets mostly whole, but you can split them. Slice cabbage in thin strips, same with the bock Choy. For the carrot use a shredding peeler, you can get them at any kitchen store for about $5 it looks like a peeler with teeth. Basically you want thin shreds of carrots. Peel the zucchini and cut into 1/2in to 1inch pieces.

Then stir fry, when it comes to stir frying speed is everything. So have all stir fry ingredients standing by, heat oil in a high side pan. I use Tea Oil, available at Whole Foods, the advantage is you can heat it up really hot and it doesn't smoke. You can use the oil you want but avoid olive oils and don't use anything dairy based. When the oil is hot dump the broccoli, carrots and zucchini in and start stirring, keep stirring for 4-5 minutes, then put in the cabbage and bock Choy, keep stirring for another 4-5 minutes.

I then put in the sauce, keep in mind this doesn't make a thick sauce, the advantage is it is light tasting and very fresh tasting. I put on the sauce then cover for about 2 minutes to give it a little steaming, then plate over rice. You can garnish with sprouts, fresh cucumber or some more of the scallions. Remember whatever you are going to use have it sitting when you are cooking.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Thoughtful Video

I found this to be a very thoughtful overview video. It's around 11 minutes but worth watching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Year Ago: We Still Miss You Napoleon

One year ago our brave boy Napoleon was taken from us. We think it was by a hawk.

I still mourn for him. It was such a shock and my heart hurts. I miss him every day. I can't even explain how much I loved him.

Napoleon was the reason we became vegetarian and then vegan. How could we care so much for this rooster and know that millions upon millions of baby roosters are ground up alive as a part of the egg industry, hens are brutally debeaked and crammed into cage and millions more are abused and killed for us to eat.

Napoleon had been injured buy a dog several months earlier and was nearly killed protecting his girls. He was very good and brave during his care but he missed his girls. If you don't' think chickens have feelings you should have seen them calling to each other across the yard (Napoleon stayed on our porch during his recovery) and then the emotional reunion...

We love and miss you, Napoleon!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Documentary Review: King Corn

On the weekends I like to watch documentaries. There are so many great ones (and some crummy ones) out there and I like to learn. So I'm going to start incorporating some to share with you.

Today I watched King Corn, and per the trailer summary it is about:

King Corn tells the story of two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. As the film unfolds, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America's most-productive, most-ubiquitous grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they learn raises questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

Some snippets I took away from this:

- Rancher says- no grass, cheap feed, confinement lots means cows are "market weight" & killed in 5 months vs years.

- Rancher: America wants and demands cheap food.

- Professor: ground beef isn't really meat. It's fat disguised as meat.

- Predominantly the food/corn grown is to feed... Cattle. Which actually is fatal to them.

- HFCS, obviously, was created and is so prevalent because the government pays farmers to grow an excess of corn. This started in the 1970s.

- Our agricultural yield "improvements" have degraded the nutritional aspect. Basically we're growing acres of sweetener not food

- 1 in 8 New Yorkers have diabetes (many undiagnosed) much if this contributed to soda consumption

- 1 soda a day doubles your risk of developing diabetes.

- "We subsidize the Happy Meals but we don't subsidize the healthy foods"

The more I learn about the food supply and government subsidies, the more appalled I am.

Learn more:

King Corn site - http://www.kingcorn.net/

King Corn YouTube Channel

More free documentaries - http://www.freedocumentaries.org/

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cooking without Eggs.

For many people transitioning to veganism eggs can be a sticking point, especially when it comes to baked goods. It's easy to take eggs out of the main part of your meal but baking is as much science as it is art. Ingredients are coupled in specific ratios to create specific reactions. It's less easy to improvise.

But once you understand the purpose of each ingredient in different types of recipes, it can be much easier to swap out the eggs for another less cruel (and healthier) alternative.

Remember folks - these are just ingredients! You can still have the chocolate cake, or muffins or whatever it is you are emotionally attached to.

What I find even more interesting is that eggless (and baking without dairy too) is not a new thing at all. Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents went through the WWII and Depression era where these ingredients were rationed so they had to create meals without using them.

Luckily we don't have these same problems but, just as many attribute the economic problems of the time to the fact that there was too much of everything, we're seeing the same thing but in terms of food options. Our health is suffering because we have food at every turn... and little of it good.

But let's get back to the purpose of eggs in baked goods. Eggs are generally used for 3 purposes: binding, moisturising and thickening. And there are may other (vegan) ingredients that can easily fill these requirements.

Depending on what the original purpose of the egg ingredient, you can use an egg replacement, vinegar and baking soda, ground flax seeds, pureed fruit, or silken tofu.

I've made:

Chocolate chip walnut cookies -

Blueberry pancakes -

Pumpkin pie -

... And tons more. There are a number of great cookbooks and online recipes. Heck, just search "eggless baking" and you are sure to find a ton of resources. The Joy of Vegan Baking is one of my new favorite cookbooks and she has a great overview on this information too.

Besides reducing the horrors of the egg industry, these replacements are healthier and much easier to keep on hand... and they're usually less expensive too.

Happy baking!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Not Like Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are cruciferous veggies and are related to cabbages, broccoli and kale. They've been cultivated since almost Roman times, but at least the 1200's, as far as we know.

And I think they've been maligned almost as long.

Personally I blame poor cooks for this perception. There are many recipes out there that including steaming and boiling, which, to me, do little to bring out the best in these delicious gems.

But what veggies were not abused by mid-century cooking methods, especially cabbages? These uninspired cooking methods and negative associates were then handed down again and inflicted upon us. I had no idea how many vegetables I actually liked until I started cooking them for myself. Buying fresh, experimenting with grilling and roasting and bringing out the pure flavors of the food in the best way possible. I've never been a person who likes to drown their vegetables in butter, cream sauces or cheese and as I continue to cook and expand my repertoire of ingredients, I'm finding myself liking formerly avoided things more and more.

I did a quick video of my favorite way to cook and eat Brussels Sprouts, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt.

Brussels sprouts are best eaten in the Fall through the Spring when they are at peak season. I especially love to get them still on the stalk. They're so cute!

Enjoy the video... and enjoy your veggies!

More info:

Health info on Brussels Sprouts

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Drink Instant Hot Cocoa

I am a hot cocoa and hot chocolate snob. See those adorable snowman mugs and pitcher? I have those just for hot cocoa. And yes, there is a difference between hot chocolate (the latter is made the French way and, ideally, drunk at Angelina's in Paris.)

Hot chocolate is made from several kinds of melted chocolate and creme, is very rich and almost like a melted ganache. Hot cocoa is what we drink here in America much more often and is lighter.

I like mine sugary and somewhat bitter from the cocoa powder.

Here's what I use for two servings. The great thing is you can totally adjust this for taste and number of people.


3 Cups non-dairy milk. I prefer Almond Breeze but you can use any you prefer.

1/2 Cup ground cocoa powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar


1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/16 tsp (just a pinch) of cayenne powder

To make:

Put granulated sugar in a medium sauce pan and sift in ground cocoa to remove any lumps. This will ensure you get an even mix.

Pour in 1/2 cup of the non-dairy milk and whisk together over medium low heat to create a slurry. A slurry is similar to creating a roux and is used to better integrate a solid (the sugar and cocoa powder) into a liquid. If you dumped all the milk in at once it would not evenly incorporate.

Then, when the cocoa, sugar and milk is well mixed, add in the remaining milk and turn the heat up to medium. Keep stirring with your whisk to combine well.

Once you have everything well stirred together, I pour in the vanilla extract and sprinkle in the cinnamon and cayenne. These are optional. You could also add in a bit of peppermint extract or even almond or nutmeg. Totally to your taste.

Once this is well warmed, pour into mugs and top with frothed milk or drop in some vegan marshmallows. You can even sprinkle on a bit more ground cinnamon.

Best enjoyed snuggled on the sofa with a puppy or kitty, of course!