Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hail to Kale!!

The vegan world is abuzz with this hottest new taste treat: Kale Chips.

Just Google it if you don't believe me.

So of course, trend-setter that I am, I had to make my very own kale chips and I guess today was just cooking and blogging day, and it's not even raining. (For those of you who don't follow this blog regularly, rain inspires me.)

So here it is -- be the first on your block to host a party featuring: Kale Chips.
Now, admittedly, they are not pretty. Let this be a lesson to us -- beauty is truly in the eye, or taste buds of the beholder.

All I did, while the oven pre-heated to 375 -- and yes, I could have used my dehydrator, but it was 15 minutes in the oven and 7 hours in the dehydrator (give or take) and I wanted immediate gratification, but of course.

I tore up the kale into hearty chip size portions, allowing for shrinkage (a la Seinfeld).
And put all of the pieces of kale into a large pasta style bowl.

In a smaller bowl, I poured about 1/2 cup or so of this incredible Napa Valley balsamic/lemon vinegar; I added a healthy sprinkle of nutritional yeast to give the chips a cheesy flavor, and then my stand-by seasoning of sea salt, with herbs such as rosemary, thyme and basil.

I mixed the small bowl ingredients together and then poured this mixture over the kale pieces, then mixed the kale pieces with my hands to massage in the wet mixture.

On a baking sheet (or two if you got carried away), I placed each piece singularly, but touching so I could put more on the sheet, remember: shrinkage. About 1/2 way through the baking, say at approximately 7.5 minutes, I took out the baking sheet and turned, fluffed, fondled, and removed chips as appropriate.

And when they were crispy, voila! A healthy, but ugly, taste treat. Gordon even tried one and swallowed (as opposed to the nori covered with sesame paste which he had to spit into the garbage.)

When could you use these? Flavor wise, a large bowl of them would be great for a party, but really, honestly, they are just too ugly to put out for entertainment.

Personally, I would make them if I was in the mood for something like popcorn to munch on during a movie. This would be a healthy alternative and the lights would be out so you wouldn't have to look at them. Just saying....

Kale chips. The latest trend. Be the first on your block to make this tasty treat. Recipe on blog

Polenta Continued

So, they ask: and what to vegans eat for supper?

Tonight's supper smelled so rich and earthy as the mushrooms roasted, I almost didn't want to wait. Well, actually, I didn't -- there is one less mushroom for supper.

All I did was take some portabello mushrooms and lay them in a ceramic roasting dish. I used a seasoning blend of sea salt and herbs on top of each mushroom, and then topped each one with a slice of the polenta - recipe below, the one with the white corn and chipolte peppers added. Then I covered it with a rich marinara sauce.

Baket at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To finish, I topped it with a mixture of fresh basil and parsley, which the squirrels are now ignoring (since they are focused on eating every mango on a very large tree in our yard.)

The smell is intoxicating -- the flavor rich and oh so Italian. I am packing it up for supper at the hospital tonight.

Dessert? Gordon brought home so ripe dark cherries -- sounds like a good finish.

Every bite -- healthy, yummy and you can feel very proud of your self that no animal died to feed your body (well, the bumper sticker actually says, "no animal died to feed your fat ass," but I do think that qualifies as standing on the soap box and waving a mean green bean.)

Polenta part one.

The Battle of the Polenta...

Sunday, I was zipping through Publix for a few things for the upcoming week and as an impulse buy, I tossed in my cart a tube of prepared polenta with sundried tomatoes. In the fruit section, I also saw, for my first time, a bright yellow slice of watermelon sitting amount the pink slices. Since Gordon is the watermelon lover of all times, and much less adventurous than I, I chose the pink one for his benefit.

As I was checking out, my favorite bagger, Nigel, a tall, skinny (as opposed to thin) Bit o'the Brit, with bright pink Harry Potter glasses that his wife picked out for him, handed me back the polenta instead of bagging it.

"Take this back and buy the corn meal and make your own -- it is cheaper and better," he says with his British accent and much authority.

"No, I am lazy today. I have corn meal at home, but I just didn't want to stand over a hot stove."

His hair practically stood on end as his eyes widened and shone through his pink frames, "WHAT??!! You have corn meal at home and you are buying this?? Take this one back -- or I will take it back for you."

"No really, I want this one," (I lied a bit -- frankly I didn't give a damn Scarlett, but I just wanted to speed up the process since a line was forming.) "I promise to try it from scratch next time, honest."

Looking disappointed, he bagged the prepared polenta, "You won't be disappointed. My wife makes it and there is no comparison."

And just when I thought we could get moving, and I am sure the folks behind me were hoping it was so, Angela, who was checking me out said, "Why didn't you get a yellow watermelon?"

To which I replied, "Well, never having tasted one, I wanted to stick with a sure thing."

"Oh, but they are so much better -- do you want Nigel to run back and get you a yellow one -- they are so deliciously sweet -- you will love it."

Now here, in a perfect world, I would LOVE Nigel to run back and get me a yellow one, but the line was looking surly and I thought I'd just better bring this whole experience in for landing, so I said, "Thanks, but I'll get one next time."

"If you're lucky," she said, "We rarely get them."

And she was right - I have yet to see one since, but I am on the BOLO (be on the look out).

Now, this story would not be complete if I would not share with you the fact that I did, with Gordon's sage coaching and preparation of the polenta mold, (a sophisticated term for the large dog food can he washed, de-labeled and took off both ends), I in fact, made homemade polenta.

It was embarrassingly easy. Standing over the hot stove, my tush! I am embarrassed that I even said that. I used Bob's Red Meal Corn Grits in a 2:1 ratio (water:grits) and it did not take 5 minutes start to finish.

Of course, being genetically incapable of following instructions, at the last minute, before I spooned my polenta into the mold, I added a drained can of white corn and chipolte peppers, stirred the mixture and then molded it and just put it in the refrigerator.

What can you do with polenta? The possibilities are endless -- it boggles the mind.

The post and photo above will show one way, with portabello mushrooms and marinara sauce.

I like mine cold just sliced on a dish.

You could top them with black beans and salsa,

or just salsa.

Gordon, not being anti-sugar like I am, fried his (not being anti-oil like I am) and topped it with maple syrup. He made his own mixture so as not to have lumpy corn and chipolte in it -- but I bet the sweet and the spicy would also be good.

You decide. Let me know your creations.

LUNCH - as pictured on blog below.

So many people ask me incredulously: What do vegans eat for lunch?

As if it is a pathetic existence of lettuce and chopped carrots. Although, I have to admit, my taste buds have changed since my junk food days and I actually like lettuces (so many varieties, so little time) and carrots and even.....drum roll....celery.

My main problem is picking what to make or eat with a long lifetime of choices.

Today's lunch was so quick and easy and really satisfying. (photo below)

I merely plated a live/raw organic corn tortilla (once you have tasted one, it will be difficult to ever liked the processed (or dead, sorry) ones again.

I spread over it the creamy mixture of blended butter beans and artichoke hearts, this time seasoned with chipotle pepper. This mixture is a snap to make in the processor and is rich and creamy and can assume any personality needed depending upon the seasonings you add.

Next, I crumbled a black bean patty that I bought at the Granary, but they look easy enough to make. I just used about 1/3 of it in today's lunch.

Sprinkled on some thinly sliced Vidalia onion.

Spooned a few spoonfuls of a medium heat salsa.

And finished with a hearty amount of fresh, chopped cilantro. (which I had to purchase because the squirrels won the battle of the fresh cilantro in my herb garden.)

For me, I liked it at room temperature. Hot food fans may want to warm it to marry the flavors a bit.

easy peasy -- healthy and delish!!!

What do vegans eat? Description on blog. Yum!

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's all about texture

Something about this day brought memories of a time I was in Tiberius, Israel, and went to an open air market for lunch. I had the very best falafel and hummus sandwich in the world for all time. Really.

There is no way for me to ever reach this paradigm again, so I won't even try.
But in calling back the memory of this orgasmic mouthful -- sorry, but true, I remembered that the texture of the ingredients had a lot to do with the enjoyment of this sandwich.

So today: Texture it is.

I wanted a smooth and creamy spread for my creation. If you scoff at this -- just go read the ingredients on a jar of mayo and come back to this posting. I can remember having mayo sandwiches -- now the thought makes me gag. So here is my creamy spread alternative.

Easy peazy:

Just add to the bowl of a food processor with an S blade:

1 drained can of butter beans
1 drained can of artichoke hearts (the non-marinated can)

Spin until creamy.

This mixture tastes good in and of it self, but it SCREAMS for self expression.
Today I mixed in Vindaloo seasoning from Penzeys to give it an Indian kick.

My sandwich tonight therefore is TEXTURE, Texture, texture!

I took the mid-size whole wheat pita pocket - the one that is the size of a fist, and added my creamy dreamy spread,
then some boiled sliced red skin potatoes with skins
some match-stick carrots
a few oiled and herbed but thoroughly drained and patted with a paper towel, sun dried tomatoes.

Wrapped it up and it awaits me during my night shift.

And in case I am still hungry,into a tupperware container:

I chopped up another boiled red skin potato
tossed in a chopped yellow pepper (1/2 -- I saved the other 1/2 for breakfast tomorrow)
more carrot match sticks
and lots of thick, chunky, gourmet salsa (Jack's is my fav)
I shook up the container to mix well, and added it to my lunch bag along with several clementines for dessert.

Easy -- tasty -- full of texture so I can mindfully chew and savor each healthy bite.

And why aren't you vegan? Okay, okay -- I am waving the proverbial green bean again. Sorry.

The Story Behind the Garden of Eden Vegan Blog

For those of you who knew me prior to December 30, 2009, I was a veteran of the fast food culinary institute. My son, when he lived with me would ask if I had ordered the "Shabbat pizza" yet as the sun was setting Friday nights.

My idea of a good meal was a McFish sandwich, fries with extra salt, and a medium diet coke.

Everything was better covered in a rich creamy sauce and the idea of a naked baked potato was as foreign to me as walking naked in Manhattan.

In June of 2009 I decided to formally become a vegetarian. Although I had dabbled with this, it was not until I read Skinny Bitch that the gauntlet was thrown.

Now being a vegetarian does not sign you up for good health. I was proof of that. Chubby when I started, I indulged in pizza, french fries, cheese, cheese, butter, cheese, pizza......and became very over weight, tipping the Toledos at 200 pounds at 5'4". And taking an assortment of meds for cholesterol and GERD and who knows what else.

As the decade was waning, and with my 60th birthday approaching in the year 2010, there was a perfect storm that snapped my beak and got me in gear. The same friend who gave me Skinny Bitch, turned me on to the John McDougall website. At the same time, there was a Grand Round lecture at the hospital where I work on the book Eat to Live, and at the same time, I was tired of how I looked and felt and needed to make a change.

I regret that I did not start this blog when I changed my lifestyle, but it is better late than never.

My weight is down about 35 pounds, my size has gone from a tight 16 to a loose 12. And I am on no meds, although my vegetarian doctor and I will review my blood work within this month to see if I need anything (like b12) boosted.

I began as a Vegan Minus. Or what I call a Garden of Eden Vegan.

As you know, a Vegan eats no animals nor animal products - none. But then I subtracted oil, sugar, and processed foods.

That is a big subtraction -- but it is this subtraction that helped with weight loss, lack of cravings, increased energy, health, and vibrancy.

Now I am dabbling in raw foods and have signed up to learn with Russell James (google him).

I like the taste and health aspect of raw foods, but worry about the increased calories. So I will (hopefully) use the raw creations as a supplement to my Gan (Hebrew for Garden -- I am in a Hebrew mood today) Eden Vegan lifestyle.

My doctor said that I should write a book about this since most of her patients need it. I said, "Who, or how many, would want to do this?" We shall see. It has been easy (no cravings) and exciting as life and energy unfold before me, just as it was meant to be. (It didn't unfold over a fried fish sandwich, extra tarter sauce.)

Join me or not. Walk with me the whole journey, day trips, part of it, or not. This is my 60th year -- buckle up life, here I come.