Monday, September 24, 2012

Two Simple Blackeyed Pea Recipes

Two Simple Blackeyed Pea Recipes

Blackeyed peas are nutrition-packed: high in calcium, thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, folate and manganese. When I first was introduced to them I was unsure what to make with them, but they actually are very versatile. Here are two extremely easy recipes:

BBQ Blackeyed Peas, Southern style
First, cook beans using soak and cook method here.
Saute 1 onion and 1 garlic clove, chopped, in olive or other veg oil, about 5 min
Add 2 c cooked blackeyed peas, 1/4 c chopped parsley, 1/4 c chopped cilantro, with a little water from the beans
Simmer 2-3 min
Add 2 c barbecue sauce (I like Annie's Naturals, or you can make your own)
Add a little more water from the beans, around 1/4 c
Simmer covered on low heat for 15 min.

I recommend pairing with a thick, whole grain bread and a salad.

Peanut Butter Blackeyed Peas, Ghanian styleSaute 1 onion, chopped, in peanut oil, about 5 min
Add 3 c cooked blackeyed peas
Add 4 tbsp natural peanut butter
Add a little water from the beans, about 2-3 tbsp
Simmer on low 5 min
Add 2 large tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Simmer on low another 10 min

I recommend this one paired with buckwheat groats (kasha), although brown rice would also do, and a side of fall squash such as acorn or butternut.

Both have a nice, hearty comfort food quality with a high level of nutrition!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Potato Latkes, Applesauce, and Cashew Sour Cream

Latkes were always one of my favorites around Jewish holidays. This recipe with all the fixings plus a bonus dessert is 100 percent from scratch, totally vegan, and delish!

3 lbs potatoes, grated (I used red and didn't peel)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Ener-G egg replacers (can be found in health food store)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
Mix well, then let congeal in the fridge for an hour or two.
Heat vegetable oil (safflower is my recommendation, avoid soy or canola) over medium heat in a large frying pan. Drop in tablespoons of potato mixture and flatten slightly with a spoon. Cook 3-5 min on each side. You will know it's time to flip when the spatula slides underneath easily. Makes about a dozen.

Cut 4 apples into chunks. (I used Macintosh, did not peel.)
Put in small pot, add 3/4 c water
Add a tsp of cinnamon
Add a pinch of salt
Bring to a boil, simmer on low 20 min. 

Cashew Sour Cream
Soak 2 c raw cashew nuts in cold water overnight in the fridge.
Drain and rinse.
3/4 c water
1/4 c lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Blend in food processor until smooth.

What I did was then halve the cream, and add to one-half:
1 tbsp agave (maple would work too)
1 tsp vanilla extract
And blend again. I then used the sweet cream to make:

Peach Parfait
Layer crumbled Graham crackers (ok one thing wasn't from scratch), chopped peaches, and sweet cashew cream in individual parfait dishes. Depending on the size and shape of your cups amounts will differ. For my cups, which are conical, I did:
1 graham cracker square
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp peach
2 graham cracker squares
1.5 tbsp cream
2 tbsp peach

Cool in fridge a few hours, then gleefully devour.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To Soy or Not to Soy?

One of the debates I sometimes have with other food-conscious friends is about soy. Is it good for you or bad for you? On one hand, soy is high in protein, low in cholesterol, high in iron, phosphorus, and magnesium, vitamin B6, and fiber, usually calcium-enriched, and extremely versatile. On the other hand, there are arguments such as this one:

"Soybeans are also high in phytates, an organic acids which blocks the uptake of calcium, magnesium, iron, and especially zinc and contributes to widespread mineral deficiencies. In fact there are more phytates in soybeans than in any other grain, bean, or plant studied and these phytates are remarkably resistant to reduction techniques. Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans. The phytates and other anti-nutrients in soybeans are only partially deactivated during ordinary cooking and can produce gas, reduce protein digestion, and create chronic deficiencies in children."
To read this entire informative article, click here

If you look at traditional Asian diets which tend to use soy, they usually use either fermented soy, in the form of miso, tempeh, or tamari; or tofu, which is unfermented, but usually paired with sea vegetables such as seaweed, which effectively counteracts the anti-nutrition qualities listed above. Even the most passionate anti-soy articles I've come across seem to agree that fermented soy is fine, at least in moderation. The problem lies in two places, one obvious and one more insidious:

The obvious issue is those who take on a vegan diet and start replacing almost every food they used to eat with soy. Soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy milk... Most of these foods, aside from not meeting the aforementioned fermentation standards for maximum soy safety, are processed foods, where the original soybean has been transmogrified beyond recognition. Usually if there's that much science involved in any food, it's no longer that phenomenal for you.

The more insidious way that soy creeps into our diets is through processed food. Read the label of just about any food in a package-- bread, crackers, cookies, cereal, candy, nuts, TV dinner, whatever-- and I will bet the vast majority of them contain soy. Soybean oil, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, soy flour-- these ingredients are totally ubiquitous in processed food. I would actually bet that as a vegan who occasionally eats soy junk food such as tofu hot dogs but besides that essentially buys NOTHING pre-packaged, I eat less soy than the average American omnivore who wouldn't know a brick of tofu if she tripped over it but eats mostly processed food. Additionally, if the adage that you are what you eat eats adheres, then those who consume meat, milk, and eggs are probably getting some soy residue, as it is routinely fed to livestock.

If you google "soy benefits," a zillion pages written by seemingly reputable sources (MDs, PhDs) pop up. If you google "soy dangers," an equal number of pages pop up. The same exact thing occurs if you replace the word "soy" in your search engine with the word "dairy." Why might this be? I suspect very strongly that it is because both of those foods are inextricably mixed up in politics, i.e. foods subsidized by the US government and foods distributed by industries which lobby in Washington. At best, both should be consumed in moderation only. I feel there is compelling enough evidence against dairy for me to eschew it from my diet completely, I also don't feel well physically when I eat it. This article here is one of hundreds I've read from a variety of sources which basically say the same thing about why dairy isn't good for you. The potential that the cows were mistreated and the possibility they were given hormones or antibiotics seals the deal for me: no milk in my kitchen. I choose to eat a small amount of soy because I don't feel bad from eating it and every once in a while, I really like a tofu hot dog. Let's face it, no one should be eating a "real" hot dog, made of parts of an animal most of us would prefer not to know about and ridden with salt, nitrates, and additives either. I don't look at the occasional (read-- less than once a month) tofu dog as a health food, nor would I start eating one every day.

I don't think that the potential hazards of soy are any reason at all to give up on a plant-based or 100% vegan diet. It doesn't seem that we really need dairy OR soy to eat well. There's yet to be a study I'm aware of warning us off of lentils or kale. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and things made from these ingredients WITHOUT a bunch of additives seem to be our best bet for optimum health. And for those comfort foods we just can't live without, here are some suggestions:

Milk can be replaced with almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk, or hazelnut milk.
Non-dairy ice cream can be made or obtained using any of those above-mentioned milks, fruit sorbet is also an option.
Raw cashews or macadamia nuts can be made into a host of delicious creams for desserts and garnishes.
Olive oil can be used in many recipes in place of butter, Earth Balance nondairy spread also offers a soy-free option.
Portabella mushrooms can be added to recipes to give that chewy, "meaty" texture often gained by adding soy products.
Veggie burgers can be made from beans, grains, and vegetables.
Seitan, or wheat gluten, while not a super healthy food, also makes a delicious meat substitute and is soy-free. It is often listed as "vegetarian duck" in Thai restaurants.
Daiya cheese, while also a processed food, is made from tapioca and is soy-free. It melts well in recipes.

Whatever your choices regarding soy, I think the lesson to be learned here is, as usual, avoid processed foods, and when possible, choose foods which don't have a label at all.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quick and Easy Homemade Bread

I got this recipe from a fellow dancer. It is a no-knead, no-rise bread without yeast. It literally took about 3 minutes to put together and was very tasty with some non-dairy butter spread, dipped in miso soup, and used to sop up barbecued black eyed peas!

Preheat oven to 400.

3 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp thyme (any dried herb can be substituted--I'm going to try with fresh herbs too)
1/4 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste

1 1/2 c water
1/4 c olive oil

Mix well, I kneaded lightly with damp hands as it was too thick for a spoon.

Put into loaf baking pan and bake for 40 min. Cool a bit before trying to remove from pan.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vegan Lasagna

I never like lasagna as a kid, and the ricotta cheese always upset my stomach. This recipe is a hybrid of several I found, and it is tres delicious and much lighter than its dairy equivalent.

Tofu Ricotta:
2 14 oz packages of firm tofu, drained and squeezed for excess water
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp olive oil
1tsp sea salt

Combine the above ingredients in a food processor and blend til smooth.

Vegetable Tomato Sauce
4 cups of fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup of basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup water
Sea salt to taste

Combine the above ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat about 15 min. Cool, transfer contents to the food processor and blend til smooth. Return to saucepan and add:

1 lb mushrooms, chopped
1 lb spinach, chopped

Simmer another 10 min over low heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a dash of salt and add 12 strips of whole wheat lasagna. Simmer uncovered for 10 min.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Use a 13" x 9" baking pan. Your layering should go like this:
3 strips Pasta
3 strips Pasta
3 strips Pasta
3 strips Pasta

Bake in the oven for 45 min and then let set for at least another 30 min before serving. Serves about 6, or 3 days of meals for 2. Goes great with a spinach salad!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vegan Sources of Calcium

Recently a friend of mine who is pregnant mentioned a dilemma she had: while not officially a vegan, she had never eaten much dairy as she felt it had a negative affect on her sinuses and digestion and she disliked the taste. However, she knew it was important to get adequate calcium during her pregnancy. With milk being one of the most common food allergies, she is far from the only person who has a conundrum of this sort. Other reasons to eschew milk products are the high fat and cholesterol levels in whole milk and cheese, the cruelty towards dairy cows in factory farms, the frequent use of hormones to induce milk production, and the fact that no other species consumes the milk of a different species. The dairy industry would have us believe that milk is the only viable source of calcium, but this simply is not true. If you consider many Eastern cultures which consume no dairy whatsoever, it becomes logical to imagine that it is possible to get plenty of calcium, even during pregnancy, without milk.

A cup of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. Below is a list of other calcium-rich foods and their calcium amounts. When researching this, I found quite a stupendous amount of plant-based foods which have calcium, I stuck to those which have 100mg or more for this list.*

 Green Veggies
Collard greens: 1 cup: 350 mg
Turnip greens: 1 cup: 250 mg
Kale: 1 cup: 180 mg
Okra: 1 cup: 170
Bok choy: 1 cup: 160 mg
Mustard greens: 1 cup: 150 mg

Nuts and Seeds
Tahini: 2 tbsp: 130 mg
Almonds: 1/4 cup: 90 mg

Beans and Legumes
Black-eyed peas: 1 cup: 210 mg
Tempeh: 1 cup: 215 mg**
Navy beans: 1 cup: 125 mg

Blackstrap molasses: 2 tbsp: 400 mg (wow!! this rich sweetener is also super high in iron!)
Various dried fruits such as figs and apricots also have some calcium

Additionally, all non-dairy milks such as almond, rice, hemp, and soy are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D to bring them to levels equal  to or greater than that of milk. Calcium fortified cereals and orange juice also abound. I wanted to point out, however, that all of the aforementioned foods are whole foods with nothing added to them, so one need not rely on synthetic supplementation to get plenty of calcium daily.

* I searched and cross referenced multiple internet sources for this information and the amounts listed were consistent. Interestingly, when I came across a website which had USDA information on calcium, among the foods listed as sources of calcium were tacos, cheeseburgers, pizza, eggnog, and onion rings. Actually it is difficult to identify any actual foods in their list. I wish I were kidding. These are the SAME PEOPLE telling us we will crumble to the ground with paper bones if we don't drink milk. In any event, as with any source, please DO cross-check my information for your own edification!

** Among the info I found, many soy products including soybeans, tofu, and soymilk were listed as high sources of calcium. I included only tempeh in this list because of various controversies around soy products as related to reproductive health. Because tempeh is fermented it is supposed to be safer to eat. Obviously, it is not necessary to eat soy OR dairy in order to get adequate nutrition, but tempeh is protein-packed and yummy.