Monday, January 30, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup

If I were having the British royal family over for dinner, I'd serve them this amazing vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup as a first course. It's so rich, so decadent, so bursting with mushroom and cream flavors, it's fit for royalty...or for a windy, cold day like this past Saturday when I made it. Its lusciousness is not without a calorie cost, though: vegan sour cream and margarine help make this soup spectacular.

Yes, vegan sour cream and margarine are processed foods that come in packages--evil things I usually swear off. But I had fond memories of this soup when I first made it last year, so I splurged this weekend. Really though, the soup is pretty good before you add the soymilk and soy sour cream, so I'd make it without the non-dairy for a healthier version.

Last year when I made it, an omni coworker tried it and loved it, so I don't think omnivores would miss the dairy.

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup
recipe from
  • 3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup vegan non-dairy sour cream substitute
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large soup or stock pot, saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic in vegan margarine for 3 - 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
2. Reduce heat to medium low and add the vegetable broth. Cover and allow to simmer for at least 45 minutes. (Note: stop here for a non-cream but still good mushroom soup!)

3. Add the flour, non-dairy sour cream and soymilk, stirring well to combine. Allow to simmer another 20 - 30 minutes, or until soup has thickened. Season generously with salt and pepper before serving.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Challenge: Pushups & Lunges

I love the Weekend Challenge idea from Women's Health Magazine for those who eat right and exercise Monday through Friday but let the happy hours and dinners out on weekends wreck their eating and fitness routines. Before every weekend, the Women's Health Facebook page posts a new challenge to do a set of exercise before you eat every meal.

I'm guilty of thawing out the vegan cookies in the freezer and eating more on weekends, so I'm excited to give this challenge a try. When I first saw the challenge, I must have looked at an old one to do three sets of 10 pushups before every meal, so I planned to do that this weekend. Last night before going out for dinner to Mad Mex, I did all the pushups.

But today I saw that this weekend's challenge is actually three sets of lunges on each leg before each meal.
So this weekend I'm planning on doing both pushups and lunges before every meal. Are you in? I am!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Accidentally Vegan, Guilty Pleasure Find

Like Meghan, who recently posted a top 10 accidentally vegan junk foods list, I usually turn my nose up at processed junk foods. But on a recent grocery store visit, I entered an aisle I rarely go down: the packaged cereal aisle. Sugary and artificially flavored, these cereals aren't good for you. I know this. But one cereal caught my eye, and when I looked at the ingredients, I found that it's accidentally vegan. Dulce de Leche Cheerios! So I pushed aside my inner voice screaming, "Put it back! It's no good for you! It's high in WeightWatchers points! And it's $4!!!" and bought it.

It's about as good an accidentally vegan junk food as you can get. With vanilla soymilk, it's good. But eaten plain with some vegan chocolate chips, it's almost as sinfully good as a vegan cupcake.

And now back to my regularly scheduled healthy eating broadcast...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spicy Tomato Chickpea Soup

Tomato soup in winter sounds good. Spicy tomato soup sounds better. And spicy tomato soup made with pureed chickpeas? Awesome! This recipe from Vegan Yum Yum is a winner.

Spicy Tomato Chickpea Soup
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil (I omitted the oil and used vegetable broth)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I used about 1.5 cups of chickpeas I cooked)
  • 1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes (or fresh plum tomatoes if in season)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • black pepper to taste

1. Sautee the diced onion in a large pot until soft, about three minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and stir another minute.

2. Add the chickpeas, mustard seeds, and turmeric, and saute until the chickpeas turn golden. Note that if using veg broth in place of oil, keep adding enough broth so things don't stick to the pan.
3. Add tomatoes and salt and simmer 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked through.

4. Add the nutritional yeast if using and the hot water. Either transfer the soup to a blender to puree, or use an immersion blender. This was my first chance to use the immersion blender I got for Christmas. It was exciting and messy at the same time. Bits of pureed chickpeas and tomatoes were everywhere by the time I was done.
But the finished soup was amazing. Hearty and hot, it's a perfect winter comfort food. Plus, it's nutritious, light, and filling.
I liked it so much, I'm thinking of giving out jars of soup for holiday gifts this year instead of my usual vegan cookies. Wouldn't these jars look cute with some festive ribbon?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dr. Vonda Wright on Aging with Vitality

Dr. Vonda Wright
(image from
When I first saw Dr. Vonda Wright before the talk she gave at Carnegie Mellon University last week as part of the university's Fitness Challenge for staff and faculty, I exclaimed out loud, "Wow, she's young!" With her impressive bio as an orthopedic surgeon, author of multiple books, and a national expert who has given more than 200 media interviews in the past two years, I expected her to look, well, older. Turns out that Dr. Wright is the poster child for the subject she's passionate about: healthy aging. 

Specializing in fitness over 40, Dr. Wright herself is fit, vibrant, and radiant--and she's 45 (or will be soon, I think she said). Some of the highlights from her inspiring talk are:
  • We can die from not being physically active! Sedentary death syndrome accounts for some 33 diseases that can kill people, like heart disease and diabetes. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can decrease the risk of many of these diseases.
  • When polled, 70% of people said that physical activity is important; only 30% of people exercise regularly, though.
  • 70% of what determines how we age is due to our lifestyle. Only 30% is genetic.
  • Research shows that a 60-year-old man is equally as strong as an 85-year-old man who does resistance training.
  • A good indicator of how healthy your weight is (better than BMI) is your waist-to-hip ratio. Divide your hip measurement (around the biggest part of your butt) by your waist measurement (right below the belly button). You should be under .8. If you're over 1, you're "a disaster!"
  • One 30-minute exercise session can provide feel-good feelings for up to 12 hours.
  • Strive for an intense physical exercise (high-impact exercise like running and plyometrics that "bash your bones") every other day.
Dr. Wright explained that previous research on how people age (think of a frail, shuffling old man using a walker) is based on those people being sedentary. Her research proves that physically active people can look and feel youthful as they age. She gave many examples of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s who are living with vitality because they incorporate fitness into their lives. One amazing photo showed a 92-year-old patient she works with--who regularly windsurfs!

Her message was clear. It's our choice: we can choose to be frail, weak, and unhealthy as we grow older, or we be can be strong, fit, and healthy and live our golden years to the fullest. I choose fitness. I choose vitality!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Restaurant Review: North Country Brewing Company

This weekend my husband and I celebrated our 13th when-we-met anniversary. On Saturday we headed north to visit small towns, play in the snow, and have dinner at the North Country Brewing Company in Slippery Rock.

First we stopped at McConnell's Mill State Park. Pittsburgh got about four inches of snow Friday night--our biggest snowfall of winter so far--and this area up north got about eight inches. I nearly had a heart attack from the terror of driving down the winding, narrow, slushy/slippery road to get to the mill in my nine-year-old VW Golf, but we made it safely.

It was a winter wonderland! Everything looked so pretty with all the snow. We stopped at the old mill and the covered bridge first.

 Then we went on a little hike through a forested trail along the river.

We realized that we'd never gone hiking in winter before. It was a lot of fun and so pretty. I loved the frozen  waterfalls, though a little hard to see in the following picture.
We left the park and drove up to Volant, a tiny town north of New Castle with a few cute shops. We stopped at Volant Mills, a restored old mill, and got hand-made pickles and candy and visited with Mabel, a friendly black-and-white kitty who lives there.

Then we headed to Slippery Rock for dinner at North Country Brewing Company. They had a number of veggie selections, including Hummus Pita, Falafel Pita, Black Bean Burger, Portobello Reuben, and Breaded Zucchini Sub. We got the Pub Pretzels as an appetizer, served with a spicy mustard. The pretzels were deep-fried and crispy--definitely not light and healthy--but absolutely delicious. I got the Artichoke Sub with marinated, grilled artichokes, tomatoes, and red onions (I ordered it without cheese). It was also delicious! I never drink beer, but in the spirit of being at the brewery, I got a Raspberry Beret beer. Yum! It was fruity without being overly fruity, light, and refreshing.

I also liked the brew pub's environmentally friendly focus. The owners have their own farm and raise their own cattle for beef that's served in the restaurant. They also grow vegetables for the restaurant. They use the spent grains from the brewing process to feed their cattle, and the majority of the restaurant waste is composted. They also contribute some proceeds to the local fire department and lead a community clean-up initiative. Here's a recent Pittsburgh City Paper article about their environmental initiatives.

We thought we would be eating OPD style (that is, Old People Dinner style) when we got there at 5, but it was packed and lively. According to our waiter, it's usually busy. No wonder--great food, good veggie options, good beer, and an environmentally friendly focus. Two thumbs up!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exercise for the Health of It

I first heard the term skinny-fat in this Women's Health Magazine article about type 2 diabetes in young, slim women. Another term is "TOFI—thin outside, fat inside. Nearly undetectable from a person's appearance, TOFI happens when fat that would normally build up under your skin (hello, thunder thighs!) gloms onto your abdominal organs instead. This visceral fat is way worse than any muffin-top chub—it can cause inflammatory substances to affect your liver and pancreas, and lower your insulin sensitivity, putting you at risk for type 2. With TOFI, you might look slim, but your insides are behaving as if you are obese."

Yikes! The article goes on to say, "A big skinny-fat risk factor? Neglecting exercise and regulating weight through food choices alone, a behavior plenty of young women in our diet-obsessed, desk-strapped culture are prone to. Turns out, breaking a sweat is key in lowering blood sugar, because even moderate exercise causes muscles to suck up glucose at 20 times the normal rate (regular workouts are also the only way to shed visceral fat)."

If that's not enough motivation for those who don't exercise regularly, consider these statistics from the January 2012 issue of Shape Magazine:
  • Get moving for just 15 minutes six days a week and you'll increase your lifespan by three years, according to a Taiwanese study.
  • Working out boosts your energy and reduces stress. Plus a Duke University study found that 45 minutes of cardio three days a week may be as effective as prescription drugs for treating depression.
  • Research published in Circulation found that 2.5 hours of exercise lowers a woman's risk of heart disease by 14 percent.
Still not sold? Consider these 21 other benefits from Fitness Magazine. And remember that exercise doesn't just mean going to the gym. Walking, playing tag with your kids, cranking up the music and dancing around the house, skiing, and playing sports all count. Just get moving--your body (and mind and spirit) will thank you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Two Bad Recipes (Hey, I Tried!)

Why don't I create original recipes? Because they suck! This past weekend I tried my hand at creating recipes to submit for possible publication in the new Happy Herbivore cookbook.

First was Masala Breaded Tofu with Masala Gravy (I had it with steamed kale.) Indian-spiced breaded tofu with an Indian-spiced gravy--what could go wrong with that? The recipe may have turned out...if my mouth hadn't caught on fire. The gravy was so hot I teared up. I would have tried to alter the spices but then thought, "Is breaded tofu really an original recipe?" I didn't want to chance it so didn't alter or submit. I'll include my recipe for those who love fire with their tofu or for those who want to play around with it.

Masala Breaded Tofu

2 tbsp chickpea flour
2 tbsp whole wheat white flour
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 block extra-firm tofu, drained
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flours and spices in a shallow bowl.
  3. Cut the block in half then cut into 16 slices
  4. Cut the small side of the block into 16 thin (1/4 inch thick) slices
  5. Dredge the slices in the breading.
  6. Place the slices on the lined baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and spray the other side lightly. Bake for 10 more minutes.

Masala Gravy

1 cup vegetable broth
2-3 tbsp of leftover tofu breading (3 makes it super thick, so it's more like a sandwich spread)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry

Stir it all together and heat in a small pot, stirring constantly, until thick.

Next I tried Mushrooms Stuffed with White Bean, Sundried Tomato, and Leek Puree. Doesn't it sound good? Well, it wasn't. It sucked! I sauteed some leeks in veg broth then processed them, some fresh parsley, cannellini beans, and sundried tomatoes. I added the puree to portobello mushrooms and baked them. Now, I like all the ingredients, so how this turned out so awful, I don't know. I hate being wasteful and throwing food out, but I could not eat these. Down the garbage disposal they went...along with my dreams of having my recipes published in a cookbook. :-( Although, I did get the idea from Mark Bittman's Pureed White Beans with Fresh Herbs recipe (which I love), so I'm not sure how original this was anyway.

Well, I've learned my lesson: be good to plants and use them only in other people's recipes--not my own!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pimp My Oat Bran

One of my go-to breakfasts is a big bowl of oat bran cooked with soymilk and fruit on the side. Oat bran is the outer shell of the oat grain and is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It's so fabulous, it even has its own website! I buy bags of it from Trader Joe's for $3 each that last forever, so it's very inexpensive compared to prepared cereals. I mix in some flax seed meal for a filling breakfast that has 14.5 grams of protein, so I'm full until lunch. (1/3 cup oat bran has 7 grams of protein, 1 cup of 8th Continent soy milk has 6 grams of protein, and 1 tablespoon of flax seed meal has 1.5.) Plus, it's delicious!

But lately, I've been getting bored with my standard bowl, which is
  • 1/3 cup oat bran cooked with 1 cup soy milk for 2 minutes, then stirred and left to thicken for an additional minute
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed meal and 1 tablespoon maple syrup mixed in after it's thickened

Recently I've tried to add some spices to make it more interesting. Dashes of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice were both good. I also tried adding a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder...yum! It was like a bowl of warm, mushy Cocoa Pebbles! I added a tablespoon of peanut butter along with the cocoa powder but didn't love it as much as just the cocoa powder.

I'm not sure what else to try. Maybe sliced banana and walnuts? Dried cranberries? I'm not a big fruit-in-cereal person and prefer to have it on fruit on the side, though. Any other suggestions for pimping my oat bran?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Switching It Up: Back to Weight Machines

Probably the single most important thing I did to lose and maintain weight was to focus on strength training. Previously I'd only done cardio...and previously was never successful at losing weight. But research shows that strength training is critical for weight loss and maintenance, according to this article from Women's Health Magazine:

"You'll Lose 40 Percent More Fat
If you think cardio is the key to blasting belly fat, keep reading: When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn't pump iron. Why? The lifters' loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle.

Other research on dieters who don't lift shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat, while 25 percent is from muscle. Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn't improve your reflection in the mirror and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost. However, if you weight train as you diet, you'll protect your hard-earned muscle and burn more fat.

Your Clothes Will Fit Better
Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50, you'll likely lose 10 percent of your body's total muscle. Worse yet, it's likely to be replaced by fat over time, says a study. And that increases your waist size, because one pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle.

You'll Burn More Calories
Lifting increases the number of calories you burn while your butt is parked on the couch. That's because after each strength workout, your muscles need energy to repair their fibers. In fact, researchers found that when people did a total-body workout with just three big-muscle moves, their metabolisms were raised for 39 hours afterward. They also burned a greater percentage of calories from fat compared with those who didn't lift.

Lifting gives you a better burn during exercise too: Doing a circuit of eight moves (which takes about eight minutes) can expend 159 to 231 calories. That's about what you'd burn if you ran at a 10-mile-per-hour pace for the same duration."

Read the full article for more reasons why strength training is key to good health.

When I started working with a personal trainer last year, he explained that when your body becomes used to doing something, you won't progress. I only worked with free weights previously, so Tom showed me how to use the weight machines and created a program for me to ensure I don't plateau. Following this program, I finished a week of rest last week after a few months of free weights. This week is the first of the next six weeks using weight machines again at the gym. It's good to do a new routine, and I'm sore after one day at the gym--a sign that I'm building muscle.

Not only does switching up your routine ensure you continue to progress, but it's also fun to start something new. Doing the same exercises week after week, month after month, can get boring, and that can make people stop altogether. So if you've been doing the same strength training routine for a while, switch it up. If you're not strength training, you should be! Shape Magazine, Fitness Magazine, and Women's Health Magazine all have free strength training routines you can do at home with no or minimal equipment to get started.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Veggie Burgher 1st Anniversary

When people say how hard it would be to start eating vegan, I tell them the truth: "It was easy." Switched to a plant-based diet in April 2010 was so easy for me because of the large vegan community online who is eager to share recipes and knowledge and offer support. This community of vegan bloggers and Twitter-ers embraced me and made my journey into veganism fun.

A year ago today, I started this blog to join the conversation of vegans and offer support to others who, like I was, are vegan-curious. While chronicling my cooking and baking successes and failures for the past year, I met so many fantastic people online and was inspired by so many wonderful blogs.

But I also questioned this blog's purpose. I don't make my own recipes, take gorgeous photos, or do the wonderful daily meal chronicling that so many others do so well. So when I asked myself what value I can add to the blogosphere, I realized that I've been successful at something difficult: maintaining weight loss. Statistics vary, but this article from MSNBC reports that more than 80 of people who lose weight gain it all back within two years. Yo-yo dieting--losing a lot of weight, gaining it back, losing it again, etc.--is very unhealthy. Regaining weight burdens your arteries and skeletal system, may stress the liver, and may weaken cancer-fighting cells, according to this article from Women's Health Magazine.

I'm not a doctor, personal trainer, or nutritionist. But I do know what's worked for me, and I think those experiences could help others. And I need the motivation too to continue maintaining. So this year I'm shifting my blog's focus slightly. I'll continue to post about healthy, plant-based meals (and the occasional treats that, while not healthy, are essential to weight loss and maintenance, I think). But I'll also be posting more about fitness, something I'm probably more passionate about than cooking and baking, and other tips for a balanced, healthy lifestyle that supports a healthy weight.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you'll stick around this year. Here's to a new year for Veggie Burgher! (And for those not from Pittsburgh, locals call themselves Burghers...I'm not just misspelling burger!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Creamy Broccoli Dal & Sweet Potato Bake

This weekend I made two recipes from Vegan Yum Yum.
First I tried the Creamy Broccoli Dal (recipe below), which the book describes as a cross between cream of broccoli soup and red lentil dal. I had no idea how this would turn out, but it was amazing. It combines the best tastes of both soups--the comfort food goodness of creamy broccoli soup and the Indian spices of lentil dal. I loved it, as did my omnivore husband. Bonus: it was very quick and easy to make.

First I chopped up some broccoli in my food processor. The recipe calls for the whole stalk. Note to cut off two inches from the bottom and peel the rest of the stalk to remove the tough skin.

Next I sauteed chopped onion, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and split red lentils in some olive oil.
I added the chopped broccoli and some water and let it cook for 20 minutes. Then I added soy milk and the spice mix and immediately devoured.

Creamy Broccoli Dal
from Vegan Yum Yum
Serves 2
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used 1 and stirred often)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red lentils (Masoor Dal), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups whole broccoli stalks, peeled and finely chopped (I used one whole stalk including florets)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or salt to taste)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, but I used it)

  1. Heat the oil on medium-high to high in a pot. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, chopped onion, and lentils and saute, stirring often, until the seeds start to pop and the lentil color starts to lighten. You may need to add some cooking spray to prevent everything from sticking, or just stir constantly like I did.
  2. Add the broccoli, water, and salt. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli and lentils are tender and the soup is thick.
  3. Add the soy milk, soy sauce, lemon juice, and spices. Turn down the heat so it doesn't boil, and let it cook for a few minutes until everything is warm and the flavors have meshed. Stir well and adjust the seasonings if needed (I added a bit more salt), and serve immediately. 

I also made the Creamy Sweet Potato Bake. This recipe calls for the Vegan Yum Yum Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce. I made this sauce last year in the Creamy Broccoli Mushroom Bake and wasn't happy about having to use margarine. So this time, I made the Happy Herbivore Instant Vegan Alfredo Sauce but adjusted the spices so they were similar to the Vegan Yum Yum version. It was delicious! Full of flavor and rich and creamy, this sauce would be great over steamed veggies or even, as the HH cookbook suggests, with crusty bread as an appetizer.

Once the alfredo is made, it's just a matter of cooking the veggies and pasta and then cooking everything in a casserole dish. The final dish was very good but...a.) The recipe called for cooking the sweet potatoes until tender but not falling apart. I under-cooked mine, thinking they would cook more in the oven. They didn't, so some of my potatoes were a little hard. b.) While delicious on its own, the alfredo sauce's taste gets a little lost in the final dish. Plus, it deconstructed a little in the baking process and balled into little tofu bits, making it look a little ricotta cheese like. Maybe the more fattening Vegan Yum Yum alfredo would hold up better in the oven. Despite these things though, it was a pretty decent winter casserole. I'd make it again with some tweaks.

Creamy Sweet Potato Bake
from Vegan Yum Yum
Makes a whole casserole dish--you'll have leftovers.

Alfredo Sauce
I combined the spices in the Vegan Yum Yum Alfredo and the basic recipe of the  Happy Herbivore Instant Vegan Alfredo.
  • 12 ounces Mori-Nu tofu
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast 
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
  • few dashes ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour (Note: I totally forgot to add the whole wheat flour. Maybe if I would have, it would have held up better) 
  1. Puree all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
  2. Cook 2 cups ziti, penne, or fusilli pasta according to package directions. 
  3. Steam 1 head of chopped kale. (The recipe called for cooking it in the pasta cooking water in the last minute, but since the kale would lose nutrients in the boiled water, I steamed it.) 
  4. Chop up about 1.5 pounds of sweet potato (1 large potato or two small ones, or more if you want more potato) into bite-sized cubes and either microwave or boil them until very tender. Note that they won't become more tender in the oven.
  5. Combine the cooked pasta, kale, sweet potato, and alfredo sauce in a big bowl. Pour into a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray, top with some breadcrumbs if you want, and bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cauliflower Gets Respect

When I looked up the Vegetarian Times recipe to make Roasted Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce this past weekend, I saw this comment, "We make this recipe all the time. A great way to fix a less than exciting vegetable."

"What??? How is cauliflower not exciting?" I wondered. It's fabulous roasted with a bit of olive oil and some sea salt, it's great breaded, it's good in curries, and it can be used to make a yummy reduced-fat hummus.

I think cauliflower is pretty exciting, but for those who feel ho-hum about cauliflower, here's a reason to eat more: The January 2012 issue of Shape Magazine reports, "...a recent Dutch study revealed that people who ate the most white-fleshed fruits and veggies--roughly two to four servings a day--were 52 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who consumed the least. Researchers believe pale produce's fiber and flavonol antioxidants, such as quercetin, may help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check."

Monday, January 2, 2012


I won't be joining the masses at the gym this first week of the new year. Instead, I'm focusing on rejuvenation.

Before I worked with a personal trainer last year, I had no idea there was such a thing as exercising too much. Tom made me realize that overtraining can be harmful to your body, and rest and recovery are just as important as exercise. In addition to taking a day of rest each week, something I rarely did before I worked with Tom, I now take a full week of rest every few months. Tom told me that this period of rest will help my body perform better when I start the next phase of my fitness program. Rest doesn't mean just sitting around on the couch though. Tom defined rest as no vigorous cardio or strength training. Instead, he encouraged me to walk and do yoga, so I'll be doing lots of that this week.

To help my body recover and rejuvenate, I spent today cooking healthy staples. I ate too many vegan cookies over the holidays, and now my body is craving whole, natural, nutrient-rich foods.

First I made Roasted Vegetable Stock in my slow cooker (recipe). Roasting the veggies first makes this a very flavorful stock. I'll freeze it so I can use it to make a comforting winter soup in the next few weeks.

Next I made Mostly Whole-Wheat Baguettes from the Food Matters Cook Book by Mark Bittman. My great weakness is white bread, especially baguettes, and I ate way too much over the holidays. These baguettes are make with a combo of whole-wheat and white flour, so they have some whole-wheat goodness with the satisfying texture of white bread. I froze one loaf and will eat the rest with the very spicy Red Beans and Rice I made yesterday (recipe).

Because I cooked a big pot of chickpeas to make hummus for New Year's Eve and didn't use them all, I also made Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon (recipe). I love these! I doubled the recipe and froze some for a future treat. I also made a creamy dijon gravy to go with them. The gravy was also great over steamed kale.
After just one day of eating good-for-me-foods and no cookies, I feel rejuvenated already. I'm looking forward to a few sessions each of Ashtanga Yoga and Yin Yoga this week before starting back on weight machines at the gym next week.

Here's to a week of rejuvenation! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello, 2012

Happy New Year!

I spent New Year's Eve with my favorite creatures--my husband and cats. Every year I plan a "party" for just us. I'm not into going out to a crowded bar to get jostled by strangers, nor do I want to clean up the house and do lots of work to host a big party. Instead, I make my favorite foods, we celebrate in our own style, and it's always a lot of fun.

Last night I only made a few things because I planned to eat cookies and drink and didn't want to combust with calorie overload. I used to make hummus so much that I got sick of it and stopped making it for months, so last night I made my favorite hummus from warm, just-cooked chickpeas (recipe here). Yum! I haven't had really good, homemade hummus like this in a while, so it was a great treat. I also made Roasted Cauliflower in Lemon-Tahini Sauce, which I also love. (Vegetarian Times recipe here).
Note that the cookie plate had the same amount of food as my appetizer plate...but I didn't eat the cookies all at once!

I also treated myself for breakfast this morning. I made Eggnog French Toast from the first Happy Herbivore Cookbook and a Happy Herbivore Peanut Butter Smoothie.
Because I heard somewhere that it's good luck to eat beans and rice on New Year's Day (is this a vegan thing?), I'm making Red Beans and Rice in the slow cooker while I visit my family. It should be ready by the time the Steelers game starts this afternoon.

Hope everyone enjoys the first day of 2012. Here's to a new year!