Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getch'a Greens On!

I just sent this piece off to the Toronto Vegetarian Association for their next newsletter, but I thought I'd give you a sneak peak.

I have been noticing these food blogs where vegan bloggers are chronicling their daily meals of legumes (mostly soy products), grains, and maybe a token veg on the plate, as if for garnish. One blogger I came across was posting everything online that she was eating for a month, and consumed as many as seven soy products a day, from yogurt to power bars to tofu cutlets. And I’ve noticed that there is rarely a shortage of sugary desserts on these blogs as well. As a strong whole-foods advocate I couldn’t help but wonder: as vegetarians and vegans, shouldn’t there be more of a love for vegetables, not "faux fare", uniting us?

You weren’t told by your parents throughout your childhood to eat your vegetables just so they could affirm who’s boss...

...Vegetables are super sources of much-needed minerals, vitamins and fibre. They also contain particular phytonutrients that scientists are only now getting to know and really understand how they all work together to keep us healthy in a way that a multi vitamin supplement never will. Plus, when our bodies are too acidic, our cells swell and are less capable of releasing toxins - and who wants that? Veggies make your body’s pH more alkaline, which helps us avoid disease.

But how much daily veg is enough? Some say about 5 cups a day (3 cups raw, 2 cups cooked as the weather warms up, 3 cups cooked and 2 cups raw in the colder months) to keep cancer away. (That's more than you thought, isn't it?) Another way to go about it is simply to be sure that at least half your plate is covered with veg at every meal. I make this happen by pouring hot soup over a handful of organic baby spinach or some steamed broccoli or kale, or dolloping chilli over some chopped romaine lettuce and topping it with fresh cilantro and creamy avocado. (Okay, okay, avocado is technically a fruit, with a nutritional profile more akin to a nut, but it’s still very good for you!) Sometimes I'll have a meal that's all veggies, with maybe some toasted seeds and tamari on top. It can be a very satisfying assortment of colours and textures.

And while a rainbow of vegetables will be both visually stimulating and nutritionally beneficial, deep greens – like collards, kale, bok choy, spinach, chard and parsley – have very little starch, get their colour from blood-purifying chlorophyll and antioxidant carotenoids, and contain other important micronutrients like calcium and folic acid. When you up your vegetable intake your body will thrive, and I’m sure it won’t be long before others notice a healthy glow. So getch’a greens on!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Research on local ain't drivin' me loco yet!

I don't have a recipe to post for you this week (sorry!) because my time has been divided between frantically researching for/writing Ripe from Around Here (aka RfAH, aka "cookbook #2"), caring for the 4 year-old and 1 year-old of some friends, and hunting for a house.

First, thanks so much to you for all your well thought out comments on the Vegan vs. Local discussion. I asked that we keep it clean (read: kind), and you did. You were clear and encouraging too, which was much appreciated. I have decided keep the recipes 100% vegan, but as local as possible while still keeping my commitment to whole foods, so you can expect a lot of maple syrup (and some coconut oil)! I'll be putting in a section acknowledging that this may not be the most local cookbook out there, but it's the best-we-can-do vegan resource. I will add that should readers have more of a commitment to going as local as possible than they do to ethical vegetarianism, raw local honey or local organic butter may be used, because even the most adamant of vegans know that not all conscientious foodies have exactly the same values, and we're not going to get the world to go vegan overnight. I will also mention, for vegans, other ways they may still be harming bees, and endangered bats (if they choose agave nectar). How does that sound to you?

I've be researching this week for RfAH, as I said, and learned that the 100 Mile Challenge show from the Food Network, based on the very popular book by James MacKinnon (who's a super guy, by the way) and Alisa Smith, is actually putting episodes up online after they've aired, so even if you're like me, and don't have cable, you won't be missing out. Go to the page linked above, scroll down the middle column, and click on the words "Watch Episodes Online". Finally, a reality teevee show that doesn't nauseate me! (Just be sure to click on "full screen" once it gets going.)

Enjoy your weekend, pals. And do make a point of finding out when your local seasonal farmers' market begins this year (mine starts May 11. That's soon!).

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By now, surely you've heard of V-con

The Book: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (DaCapo Press, 2007)

Review by Roxanna Bennett

Overall feeling: This hefty hardback tome is the mother of all-purpose cookbooks. Best-selling vegan chefs Moscowitz and Romano have already carved out a reputation for themselves with their cable access vegan cooking show Post Punk Kitchen and their previous publications Vegan With A Vengeance (just Isa) and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World (both of them). Veganomicon seems a departure from their earlier work; it's a very serious attempt to create the be-all-end-all definitive vegan cookbook. The tenet of the book is "recipes you wish you grew up with" and this informs the tone and recipes throughout the book. Meant to be accessible, comforting and non-threatening, Veganomicon is written with real urban at-home cooks in mind. The recipes are laid out with step by step instructions in a very clear manner and with a special attention paid to timing the various components of a meal. Each recipe is clearly labeled with icons indicating if the recipe is soy-free, gluten-free, low fat, under 45 minutes, supermarket friendly or all of the above. There are several chapters dedicated to kitchen equipment, stocking the pantry and basic preparation techniques which really adds to the notion that the authors are attempting here to create a veritable vegan bible. A menu suggestion plan at the end of the book takes all the work out of combining dishes in a tasty way. Moskowitz and Romero hold your hand throughout the entire process, gently encouraging the nervous cook and offering alternative ingredients or methods where applicable. I felt very much like I was being babysat by my cool older cousins as I read this book and prepared some of the recipes.

Best bits: The authors personalities burst out of the pages, there are friendly and funny intros for almost every recipe. All the basics are covered here, from snacks, breakfast, salad, soups, 'sammiches' like Snobby Joes and Tofu Po'Boy, onto more complicated meals like Eggplant Potato Moussake with Pine Nut Cream. The guesswork of creating the elusive complete protein is covered in the chapter Mix and Match where the recipes are laid out in categories of vegetable, grain and protein, the idea being to cook one of each however tickles your fancy and combine them all for a totally satisfying meal that hits all the nutrition bases. I'm a big fan of the one pot meal, so I was thrilled to find a chapter dedicated to just that with tantalizing recipes for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits (drool), Pumpkin Saag (slurp) and Sweet Squash in Mole Sauce (I could drink a bucket of mole sauce just on its own). There aren't any recipes that rely on fake meats or cheeses and there's a jam packed chapter for creating sauces and fillings to complement other recipes in the book.
You would have thought that the authors had exhausted their dessert repertoire with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World but they pleasantly surprise with a chapter for muffins and scones, another for cookies and bars, a miscellaneous dessert chapter with a kick-ass recipe for vegan ice cream.

Less-wonderful bits: The two-colour design of the book is a bit disappointing and the colour choices a bit off-putting. If this is meant to be an ultimate cookbook it would have been great if the bucks had been shelled out to create a four colour palette and allow for better photography. There is a section in the centre of the book for glossy photographs which cannot be doing the food any justice, the photos are unappealing and slightly garish. The low resolution photos that are tacked onto the end of some chapters or floated in the background behind the text detract from rather than enhance the design of the book.

Whole foods focus?: Somewhat.
Vegan-friendly?: 100 percent!
Eco-conscious?: In that it's vegan.
Web presence?: Yessiree

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

When it comes to conscious food choices, is it vegan vs. local?

I'll admit, I have been lazy about getting into a research and writing routine for this second cookbook, even though I'm well aware that there is a very real deadline looming, if still a few months away. This weekend though, I decided to face reality, dig in, and set a schedule for myself. And now that I'm following said schedule, I see that there is a very big issue on the table: Are the Vegan and Local Food movements in opposition to one another?

In an effort to create whole foods recipes that animal product-free and feature locally-grown ingredients, many of us in North America and Europe come up against some difficult questions:
* Maple syrup is vegan and local, but I can't very well use it every single time I want some sweetness in a recipe. So, do I go for locally-produced raw honey from small-scale hives, or agave nectar from Mexico (which I've just recently learned is often processed with an enzyme derived from black mold).
* There's a similar question around fats: when making fruit crumble and biscuits, do we use non-hydrogenated coconut oil or organic butter from a small-scale local farm? This book certainly won't include butter, but for committed locavores that's the only vegetarian solid fat option. Local sunflower oil isn't always appropriate, and as a nutritionist I'm not a fan of canola. (And I don't know of any olives growing in Canada that would produce olive oil.)
* The same questions apply to coconut milk vs. organic cream, and dairy milk vs. rice or almond milk.

Here are some articles I found in some Google searching:
* from Intuitive Kitchen
* Soy vs. Meat on Grist
* Food-related Environmental Tips on Global Stewards
* "Will You Go Vegetarian?" from Wired
* "Is Honey Vegan?"
* "The Great Vegan Honey Debate" from Slate
* honey question answered on

So I'm asking you now to weigh in on this:
* First: Do you identify as vegan or a locavore? Or both? Maybe you're neither (you just like good recipes or are an all-around whole foodist).
* Then: What would you do if you were writing recipes for a locally-focused vegan cookbook?
* If you're a strict vegan, would you boycott and trash-talk the book if it included honey and maybe beeswax or just avoid the personal use of honey?

I welcome your thoughts, though I ask that you please be kind. Many of us feel very strongly about our food choices, I know, but I'm wanting to open up a discussion here, not gather together a firing squad.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Put the oven on hot

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower

I often like to add my own organic dishes to amazingly flavourful but not as healthy Indian take-out. Allowing some fresh organic baby spinach or steamed broccoli to soak up some of the flavour of the baingan bharta (a roasted eggplant dish) from my fave Indian restaurant balances things out a bit. But here's a simple and flavourful dish requiring little effort that you can make at home. The cauliflower and turmeric are great for your liver, and the other spices are good for digestion. You may choose to omit the turmeric if you've got a lot of other yellow turmericked dishes on your plate (say this one) and you want some visual diversity.

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into smallish florets
1/4 - 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated coconut oil, melted OR grapeseed oil OR olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic, pressed or grated
1 tbsp. garam masala
2 tsp. mustard seeds (yellow or black)
1 tsp. turmeric (optional)
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425oF. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Spread this evenly on the baking sheet so everything rests nicely in one layer. Slide it in the oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring it all once with a spatula half way through the roasting time. Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

An old favourite (a new recipe)

Can you think of a better way than baking to spend a rainy April day? Neither can I!

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

When Ryan said he had a craving for oatmeal raisin cookies the other morning, who was I not to oblige by coming up with a recipe? (You'll notice the cookies photographed have both sunflower seeds and walnuts - in hindsight I though they were a mistake, but if you think you'd prefer then to the walnuts listed below, by all means, go ahead and use 'em!)

2 1/2 cups spelt flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups organic raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 scant cup* softened non-hydrogenated coconut oil or sunflower oil
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

* The oil should measure a cup minus 2 tablespoons (or so).

Preheat oven to 350oF.
Whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl. Toss in the raisins, nuts, and cinnamon.
Mix the coconut oil, sweetener and vanilla thoroughly in another bowl (If you had an electric mixer and the energy to clean it off afterward, I’d suggest you use it). Add the wet ingredients to the first bowl and mix just until all the flour has been absorbed.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto an unoiled cookie sheet and bake for 13 minutes, until golden.
Eat ‘em warm, or allow to cool completely on a rack before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
To join the Facebook group for the book, go here.


about the blog:

about the cookbooks:

While I love hearing from you, and read each and every one of your e-mails, please understand that I just cannot respond to all of them due to the rate at which they're coming in these days!

If you have a question, I might have already answered it here.

in the press

live in person!

come see me:
* Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR, August 26-28, 2011.

...but better yet, check the calendar for details!



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