February 28, 2012

Lentil Walnut Loaf: Not For The Novice Cook!

Lentil Walnut Loaf.  Just the name makes me cower in fear of dirty dishes......

This recipe must be prepared for a special occasion......not a random Tuesday.   It is time consuming, dish consuming, and unless you're medicated, I highly recommend having culinary experience before attempting to make this dish. 

It did, however, turn out.....and it turned out really well.  It was delicious, hearty, savory, and had a great texture.  Leftovers would be awesome sliced on a sandwich with the glaze.  Oh the glaze.....it's phenomenal!  I doubled the recipe so we had more to dip.  It's like a sweet healthy BBQ sauce.  



I had pondered making this for the past several weeks, but only now succumbed to the temptation. This makes the Butternut Squash Risotto look easy.

At least the risotto requires basically one pot. 

There are multiple steps to this recipe, most of which require a new bowl or cooking device, which makes for multiple dishes to wash at the end of the night.  

CRAP LOAD of dishes!

Preparation is key with this one - I suggest cooking the lentils beforehand.  I started the preparation shortly after 4, and dinner wasn't served until 6. 

The verdict:  It's superb, delicious, and would be sure to "wow" even omnivore guests at holiday meals.  Plus, it makes the house smell amazing! The glaze was key, but of course I would probably eat cardboard with that sauce....

Tomorrow I'm doing the Cheesy Broccoli Orzo again, because it's easy.  

And I deserve it after this one.

Love and Kale,
Ali

                  _________________________________________________

Lentil Walnut Loaf
Yield:  1 loaf, about 8 thick slices

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Splash of veggie broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1 celery stalk or green onion, chopped finely
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/3 of an apple, peeled, grated (makes 1/3 cup grated apple)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup regular oats, ground into a flour
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used 2 slices of bread, lightly toasted, and processed in food processor) 
Sweet Glaze Ingredients: (double it so you have extra for dipping!)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp apple butter
Instructions:
  1. In a medium pot, combine 3 cups veggie broth and 1 cup lentils, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 30 minutes).  Be sure to stir the lentils frequently so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the lentils are cooked, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat over to 350.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, so that it hangs over the edges.
  3. Toast the walnuts in oven, or on stove top, for about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the 3 tbsp ground flax with 1/2 cup warm water and stir well.  Set aside to gel up for about 5-10 min, while you saute veggies.
  5. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, celery and garlic in a splash of broth for about 5 min. Once tender, add carrot and saute another 2 min.  Add grated apple, raisins and walnuts and saute another 2 min.  Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Take about 3/4 of the lentils and process in the food processor until mostly smooth.  Scoop into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Add remaining whole lentils, breadcrumbs, flax egg, veggie mixture, oat flour, and ground flax seed.  Stir well with a spoon, then mix well with your hands, pressing with your fingers.
  8. Dump mixture into the loaf pan and spread with a smooth.  Press down firmly with your hands to make sure it's packed in there.
  9.  Make glaze by combining all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  Spread evenly over the loaf and bake, uncovered, for 45 min.
  10. Cool for about 10-15 min before serving.  

Preheat oven to 350

Use parchment if you want it to be great.  Use wax paper if you want to smoke your entire house out (like I did).

Line your loaf pan, with some hanging over

Loaf ingredients - it's deceiving. 
Toast a couple pieces of bread (of just buy pre-made breadcrumbs next time like I will be doing)


VOILA!  Breadcrumbs

Toast the freaking walnuts
Flaxseeds
Mix your flaxseeds with water to make your flax egg
FLAX EGG NINJA
Chop up veggies
Grate veggies...dear lord....
Add flour

Saute veggies
Mix everything together

Press firmly into the loaf pan
Spread with glaze and bake.
Pain in the ass, but delicious in the end.





February 27, 2012

"Junk" Food Day 4 & I Do Not Want Them, Sam I Am. I Do Not Crave Eggs or Ham!

Update on the transition to a plant-based diet from Ann:


Okay, I never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but this has been the easiest lifestyle change I have ever attempted.

90% of my cravings have dissipated, albeit not the doughnut one.  I do not want meat, I do not want cheese, I do not want eggs. I do not want them, Sam I am!  I don't miss any of it at all. It's soooooo strange!  And for those of you who know me, you're probably shocked.....this is just so NOT ANN!  I know, I don't really believe it either.

People are always asking me how I feel after starting this.....I don't feel much different, except that I know somewhere inside me, my arteries are unclogging and the cancer isn't growing.  With each bite I take, I know I'm helping my health, not hurting it.

I can now take pride in my beautiful grocery cart full of color and health in the checkout lane.  And as for the added work at home preparing meals?   It's surprisingly been more fun than a burden.

Sure, the kids moan and grown occasionally, although a little less in the recent weeks.   I expect that to diminish even more over time.  Jeff seems as happy as a clam, but I also know he's sneaking cheese at work.  But my husband has been so supportive.  He bought me my food processor, measuring cups, measuring spoons, high heat utensils, and for valentine's day, he bought me plastic storage containers for leftovers!  Nothing says love like leftovers properly stored.

I'm also much more comfortable eating out.  The hard part was just changing my old favorite restaurants with the crap meals I used to have, and replacing them with new restaurants that have awesome vegan options.  Ali talked about changing habits and that's exactly what I had to do to finally feel like I could eat out comfortably.  Instead of frequenting China Cottage, where I used to get the Crab Rangoon and Chicken with Broccoli, I go to Noodles & Company and get their vegan Japanese Pan Noodles.  Which are, by the way, crazy good.  I joke quite frequently that I would eat anything if it were covered in those Japanese Pan Noodles.   Anything.

I also got my "VeganXpress" App on my phone which is now invaluable for my dilemma on what to eat when we do head out.  There are more options than I know what to do with....and I don't crave the other things.  Absurd!

I'm looking forward to Mondays, the menu planning, grocery shopping days.  I almost can't wait to get home and start cooking.   I will admit I hate washing all those dishes, but I learned that doubling the recipe makes good leftovers and less washing.  See, the vegan diet is making me smarter! (Okay, so maybe it's just my laziness).

So I'm going to continue the "Junk" Food week with my quick and easy go-to lunch for those picky kids... and as any busy mom knows, sometimes you just wanna get something in those mouths right away to shut them up!   Here's my solution (and they'll never know it's vegan):

Enter, The Grilled Cheese Sandwich.


Ingredients:
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread
  • 1 tsp Earth Balance
  • 1-2 slices vegan cheese (I used Rice Vegan brand that I got at the Kroger in Centerville)
I would give you a description on how to make a grilled cheese sandwich here, but if you seriously don't know how, I'm sorry, you're screwed.

Love and Japanese Pan Noodles,
Ann
The vegan sliced cheese

Spread on a touch of Earth Balance



Vegan cheese really does melt.....

February 25, 2012

Heart Lecture & Your New "Junk" Food, Day 3: Chips!

Well we made it through our first cooking class with only one minor injury.  Let me explain......

Ann and I were asked to cook for a lecture on "Preventing a Heart Attack" by Dr. Harvey Hahn this week.  It was an amazing lecture, full of information that everyone should know.  

Dr. Hahn is a cardiologist and a former carnivore gone vegan.  There were many stunning pieces of data accompanying his lecture (which you may have already heard after reading The China Study or watching "Forks Over Knives"), but I think one of the most stunning parts was his case study.  This man in his late 30s had high blood pressure, was 40 pounds overweight, had high cholesterol, etc., etc.  After going on a plant-based diet, he lost the weight, went off all of his meds, and his blood work was all completely normal.  He's also a cardiologist.  Yup, the case study was of himself.  

Dr. Hahn is just one of many, many examples of how plant-based diets can treat and prevent disease.  This truth is finally becoming more and more widely known and accepted - because it's getting more and more difficult to deny the overwhelming evidence:  Plant-based diets reduce your risk of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

So anyway, we (and by "we" I mean "me") made several goodies for the lecture for people to sample - it was a crazy day of prepping lots of yummy food including kale chips, sweet potato & black bean quesadillas, spinach lasagna, oil-free salad dressing, and raw brownies.
Not amused at Ann taking a picture while both me and my kitchen are a disaster..... 

As for the injury part - well while we were making our spinach lasagna, Ann had to run across the street quick to pop the neighbor kid's kneecap back into place with spinach on her hands.  All in a vegan-nurse's day's work........

So when we were finally done, and all kneecaps were back to where they should be, we left the sink full of dirty dishes and food processors and Project Kale was on their way!

Food packed and ready to go!

When we got there, we had to put everything into sample sized cups - a tedious task, although we laughed and had fun because, well, that's just what Ann and I do when we're together!
Excitedly distributing kale chips

We set out our goodies, along with lots of other vegan goodness that others brought, and listened to Dr. Hahn's awesome lecture:

Recipe below

Recipe here

Recipe here

Recipe below

Recipe here.



Dr. Hahn rocked!!

Thank goodness there were leftovers - and enough food for us to chow down on.  'Cuz we tore up the Bibimbab......plus it was fun to try to say.  It was a plant-based feast and it was awesome.  

Next up, we'll be cooking for kids - stayed tuned for more details on this fun event!

So let's get back to our theme this week - "JUNK" FOOD!

I saw a recipe online for microwavable, oil-free potato chips.  I immediately thought it sounded insane, but I wanted to give it a try.  Sometimes, you just want something crunchy to munch on, but not all that oil and salt that will undo all of the good choices you have been making.  

So here are a couple of options for healthy chips - Kale Chips and Microwave Potato Chips.

Kale chips are apparently an acquired taste.  I loved them right away (ate the entire pan the first time I made them).  However, some people need to taste them a few times to really enjoy them.  And maybe they just won't be your thing - that's cool.  You can make the Potato Chips instead.  But they're worth a shot because they're ridiculously easy to make and super, duper healthy.  

So here's a couple of chip recipes (along with the 3,2,1 Dressing recipe) for your munching pleasure.....plant-based junk food is the best junk food.

Love & Kale,
Ali

                               ________________________________________________

Kale Chips

Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • A touch of olive oil or water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Lemon zest 
  • Other seasonings as desired:  garlic powder, Old Bay Seasoning, cayenne pepper, chili powder, curry powder, etc.
Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash your kale, de-stem the leaves and break into uniform size (don't have to be OCD like me, but just try to get them all to be about the same size so they cook evenly).
  3. Put kale onto a non-stick baking sheet and spray with a little bit of olive oil or water.
  4. Sprinkle just a touch of salt and your seasoning, if using.
  5. Bake for 7 minutes, turn the pan once, bake for 7 more minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and toss with a little lemon zest.  Enjoy!
Put your kale leaves onto a baking sheet, spray with oil and season

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 13-14 min, turning the pan once 

Toss some lemon zest on top and serve!



Microwave Potato Chips
I got the idea from this amazing site.  I made salt and vinegar chips by dipping my potatoes in apple cider vinegar before cooking.  This recipe was much more time consuming to me than I thought it was going to be.  Mostly just because you can only microwave a few chips at a time, and so to make a whole plate of chips, you need to do it in shifts and it just seemed like it was taking forever.  But the result was very, very tasty!  I will be making them again, but will be sure to have some things to do while they cook instead of staring at the microwave, waiting for it to beep.....

Ingredients:
  • 1 russet potato, washed (you could probably use a sweet potato!)
  • Parchment paper
  • Non-stick spray
  • Salt
  • Other seasonings as desired:  Vinegar, Garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, etc.
Instructions:
  1. Thinly slice your potato with a mandolin thingy.
  2. Spray your wax or parchment paper with non-stick spray or oil (see below to see what happens when you don't).  Place slices on the paper, on your microwave tray.  Make sure they're not touching each other or they'll stick together (again, see below)!
  3. Sprinkle with a little spray of oil, if desired, salt and whatever seasoning you want (I dipped mine in apple cider vinegar for vinegar chips - the flavor ends up being very mild, so they would still be kid-friendly).
  4. Microwave for about 5 minutes, until you see dark spots start to appear.
  5. Let stand for about a minute, then microwave another 1-2 minutes until they look golden - but not really dark!
  6. Take them out and eat them!  Enjoy!
That's pretty much all you need!

I didn't spray the paper and made them a little too thin the first round....



....so they stuck to the paper. Sigh.

Second trial I dipped them in vinegar - yum.

I also sprayed the paper with oil first - to prevent sticking.

Turned out great!  This batch was just a little too dark, but still yummy and crunchy!!

Here is the oil-free dressing recipe that was a huge hit at the lecture!  This amazing recipe is so easy, a monkey could make it.  Plus, it's super healthy containing virtually no fat, no oil, and amazing flavor.  I make a big batch and keep it so I have some dressing all week.  Plus, you can play around with the ratio to adjust to your taste!  I got the recipe from the Forks Over Knives book.

3,2,1 Dressing

Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Garlic powder, optional
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions:
  1. Throw everything in a bowl and whisk together.  DONE - enjoy!


February 22, 2012

Your New "Junk" Food, Day 2: Cheesy Broccoli Orzo


Since we're on this "new junk food" kick this week, I decided to make a classic Mac & Cheese dinner healthy and plant-based.  Something familiar, tasty and of course plant-based/whole foods is exactly what I got.  


Cheesy Broccoli Orzo!  




I'd compare it those Lipton rice meals... except instead of Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Chicken Fat, Corn Syrup, Cream Cheese, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Chicken (Dried), Sodium Caseinate, and Disodium Inosinate Guanylate.....it has some almond milk, nutritional yeast (see benefits in this post), a bit of whole grain flour, and a touch of olive oil.  

Yeah that sounds better to me too.  

Delicious, kid-friendly and nutritious - with a ton of vitamins and minerals, including calcium and fiber, with the broccoli, the vitamins and minerals with the nutritional yeast, protein with the almond milk, and only 2 tbsp of fat (with the olive oil and Earth Balance) in the entire dish, this ain't your typical Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  It's better tasting and needless to say, about a million times better for you.

And to top it all off... it was quick AND easy!  Perfect for busy moms with picky kids. It will be on the table in less than 30 minutes and only has 5 grams of fat and is packed with over 11 grams of the all-important fiber per serving.

You could add any variety of veggies to this that you'd like - peas, spinach, etc.  You're only limited by your imagination!


The cheesy sauce would also be great over rice.... or cardboard for that matter.


Love & Kale,

Ali

                               _______________________________________

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo
 
Yield:  4 servings and lots of leftovers.
Print here.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of Whole Wheat Orzo
  • 1-2 Heads of Broccoli (I used fresh, but this can easily be made with a bag of frozen)
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 1/2 cups of almond milk
  • 2 tbsp of unbleached all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil.  Chop broccoli and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until tender.  Fish out the broccoli and set aside.
  2. Now pour the orzo into the same pot and cook for 10-12 minutes (I like mine a little Al dente).
  3. While Orzo is cooking, prepare cheese sauce. In a blender (not a food processor... I learned this the hard way) blend olive oil, vegan butter, almond milk, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and nutritional yeast until smooth.
  4. After the Orzo is finished cooking, drain it and place it back into the pot on the stove.  Turn the heat down to low and add the cheese mixture in with the orzo and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, add broccoli and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Chop your broccoli

Boil for a couple minutes

Set broccoli aside 

Add orzo to the boiling water

Ingredients for the cheeze sauce

Finished cheeze sauce

Adding cheeze sauce to the orzo

Toss in the broccoli and it's done!