Tag Archives: #vegan

Remembering Pauline

Today I turned off the news and social media to sit outside and watch the clouds drift overhead while I think and write. Once again, Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, עליה השלום, entered my thoughts as she has so often in recent months since she died.

Pauline was Managing Editor for the Chicago Jewish News, where I came to know her. She was also vegan and an animal rights activist long before I considered it. My journey included many detours,  and for years, I wandered back and forth between meat-eating and vegetarianism. Veganism was out of reach for me during most of the years I knew Pauline, an exotic idea somewhere on the fringes of my consciousness.

That is, until it wasn’t, and that is when I really started to appreciate Pauline, her unerring sense of ethics, big heart and impatience with fake news, foggy thinking and peripheral issues. Exploring 100% plant-based eating opened my eyes and consciousness to so much, healed so many mental and spiritual disconnects, that I marvel I didn’t see years ago what I see now. And I miss connecting with Pauline to ask her questions or benefit from her clear-eyed insights.

One day I shared with Pauline a post I had written when Cecil the Lion was killed in a sanctuary. She reminded me that Cecil was one animal, and we cause suffering to and kill billions of animals every day without recognition or comment. When I wondered about eating eggs from backyard chickens, she opened my eyes to the ways in which even backyard chickens happily living out their lives are part of a brutal system.

Pauline always urged me to expand my boundaries of awareness and think more deeply and consciously about the choices I make. At the same time, she never pushed me. Rather, she offered me a friendly, humble but compelling example and responded to my questions directly and with solid information.

I shared another post with Pauline a year after I began a serious exploration of veganism. It was about the mental and spiritual disconnects that happen every day in our lives. I sometimes wonder if full awareness of suffering on the planet might not otherwise overwhelm us.

I first stopped eating animals 45 years ago because I didn’t want to do what was required to put them on my plate. I didn’t want to buy their remains neatly wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, completely removed from the life that was and removing me from conscious responsibility for that death. Then one day after a year of eating only plant foods, I looked down and noticed my leather shoes. How did I miss the fact that my shoes come to me in the same way?

That sudden awareness reminded me how easy it is to put up fences in our consciousness. I thanked Pauline for inspiring me to do the work of breaking down those fences.

Pauline’s compassion was active. She volunteered for a no-kill animal shelter in Evanston, and she was active with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I follow them for a while, then unfollow them when their often graphic pictures overwhelm me. Pauline’s deep compassion for all creatures rested comfortably side-by-side with her tough realism.

Thanks to Pauline, I gradually expanded the range of what I can tolerate seeing and knowing in this world. Breaking down barriers of consciousness in relation to our treatment of animals generated a similar process in other areas. I read and understand U.S. history differently as I do what I read and see in the daily news. I relate differently to the planet on which I live. Never more than superficially political, I began to understand the profound connection between politics, policy and life on the planet. I read the Torah differently and appreciate more than ever the expansiveness and inclusiveness of its ethical consciousness.

And so as I sit to enjoy this extraordinarily beautiful day, watching the clouds overhead, I think of Pauline and wish she were sitting here on my porch with me so I could thank her face-to-face, ask about her thoughts on the news of the day — and serve her a delicious vegan lunch.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Conscious choices…becoming more fully human

Today a book I’ve been excited to read came in the mail: Barbara J. King’s Personalities on the Plate: The Lives & Minds of Animals We Eat. I learned of it from Facebook, which everyone loves to hate but where I learn so much. A friend shared a post from the Nonhuman Rights Project which mentioned the book, and I knew it was something I wanted to read.

I started reading this morning, and I am not disappointed! Barbara King explores through the lens of science the same issue that energizes my own explorations through the lens of religion and, in particular, the Hebrew Bible. The issue that draws us both is what she calls “the invisible toggle switch” in our minds, our “peculiar duality” in relation to other animals, animals we admire in one moment and consume the next.

From my perspective, food is the root of every religious impulse. It is through eating that we confront the central paradox of life, that it requires taking life to sustain life. The choices we make define us as human beings and form the substance of religions. Religions provide a framework for confronting this paradox and practices that guide us through it. To the extent that we maintain our “peculiar duality” with respect to eating fellow creatures, we dwell in the land of unconscious living.

My current biblical studies project suggests to me that the profound direction of the Torah, the basis of its myth, ritual and ethical legislation, is toward living consciously. If we take its message seriously, each time we act impulsively, without intention, unconsciously, we are not fully human, we do not fulfill our mission as human beings, and we are an affront to creation.

I don’t say that judgmentally.  I’m one of the most absent-minded people around. It is my work in life to become more fully conscious, to be “awake,” as my son calls it, aware. I have at least three opportunities a day to focus my attention, to work on becoming more fully conscious, and that is when I eat my daily meals. It is through this work that I can become more aware in other parts of my life.

In the Introduction to her book, Barbara King states this as her purpose: “The need for clear-eyed seeing is the central message I want to bring forth in the pages to come: it takes effort, and it pays off, to see the animals we designate as our food. Even as we bring them to our family tables and our restaurants in their anonymous billions, other animals sense, and sometimes suffer; learn, and sometimes love; think, and sometimes reflect. Their lives matter to them, and they should matter to us too.”

Although I am on the path toward veganism, it is not a symbiotic relationship with our fellow creatures that I see as the symbol par excellence of our ethical morass today. It is the billions of animals bred for slaughter in our names and for our use. We have no connection to these creatures. They are anonymous. We take no responsibility for their lives or for their deaths. We take no moments for either gratitude or atonement. Our pleasure in the moment is our only value as we eat.  The “toggle switch” in our lives works very well, and when it does, we are not fully human.

I look forward to reading this book and learning the science of thought, emotion and social behaviors of animals we eat. I look forward to knowing “who is on our plates.” I expect I will weep as I contemplate the reality of the world we have built for ourselves.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Packed Veggie Soup Keeps You Warm & Healthy In Winter

Veggie Soup
Veggie Soup

Finally I’m getting back to cooking, writing and teaching after some election recovery time.  Speaking of recovery, lots of folks around me are getting sick at this time of year, and the heat was off in two locations I frequent, one of them my home. It inspires me to make a delicious, healing, HOT veggie soup to keep us warm and well.

The soup is flexible — go with veggies you have on hand. Speaking of that, I always keep a bag of frozen organic peas and a bag of frozen organic corn around. You never know when they’ll be just the right addition to a dish or bowl.

These measurements were for a big pot, a 3 gallon pot. I always make enough soup to share with everyone in my life.

VEGETABLE SOUP
Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
  • Garlic, 1 TB minced
  • Onion, 1 lg. Spanish, petite diced
  • Carrots, 10-12
  • Celery, 5-6
  • Green beans, 1 quart, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Summer squash, 3 small-med., 1/4-1/2″ dice
  • Frozen organic corn, 1 cup
  • Frozen organic peas, 1 cup
  • 5-6 Idaho potatoes, washed and cut into 1/4-1/2″ dice
  • Greens, 1 Qt., cut up
  • Salt, 3 TB
  • Oregano, 1 TB crushed
  • Hot paprika, 1-2 tsp. (1 tsp. will be plenty of warmth for many)
  • Basil, fresh, 1/2 cup minced
  • Rosemary, 1 tsp. crushed
  • Cannellini beans, 1/2 lb. pre-cooked
  • Diced tomatoes, two 32-oz. cans
  • Water, 4 Qt.

Instructions

  1. Wash and cook the Cannellini beans, keeping extra cooking water when done. While the beans are cooking, prepare the rest of the soup.
  2. Wash and prepare all veggies except the potatoes. Set aside the cut greens to add at the end of cooking.
  3. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a 3 gallon pot.
  4. Saute the minced garlic and petite diced onion for 10 minutes. Add the green beans, celery, carrots, summer squash and zucchini. Cook and stir briefly. With all veggies added, they should come up to about 1/3 of the pot.
  5. Add salt and seasonings, stirring in with veggies.
  6. Add the two cans of diced tomatoes or about 15 fresh petite diced tomatoes.
  7. Add the 4 quarts of water, stir and bring to a low bowl, then reduce heat to simmer and cover pot to cook.
  8. Halfway through the cooking, wash and prepare the Idaho potatoes, leaving the peel on. Add the cut up potato with the Cannellini beans and their cooking water to the pot as well as the frozen peas and corn, and let all continue cooking.
  9. When the soup is done, flavors melded and all veggies cooked, add the greens and cook slightly.

Now enjoy, and stay warm and healthy this winter!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Election 2016: Keeping the Faith

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One thing that all major religions have in common is a powerful message of hope. Judaism expresses its hopeful message in a variety of ways, in its sacred texts, its prayers and liturgies, its mandated ethical activity and its rituals.

Ritual is non-verbal communication. In Jewish practice, ritual reminds us who we are and does that through describing our relationship to G-d, our fellow creatures and nature. It creates a space in time when we restore the harmonious relationships G-d intended for creation. We call the Sabbath, for example, a “foretaste of the time of the Messiah,” 24 hours in the present that reflect the way our world will be every day when Messiah finally comes.

Typically our ritual practice revolves around Shabbat and life cycle and year cycle  occasions. I’d like to explore the idea of how ritual can work for us in another framework.

Today, 12 days after the election of 2016, I woke again feeling as though I had suffered a profound loss. It reminds me of when my Dad died in the sense that it is both an emotional and a physical sensation. It is jarring to see life go on as usual around me and difficult to reconnect to it. It occurs to me that in Jewish ritual, I have the tools to help myself reconnect in a positive, life-affirming way.

I am thinking of the rituals associated with death and mourning. A Kittel is a white garment worn for the Passover Seder, on Yom Kippur, for the marriage ceremony and in death. What can these occasions possibly have in common? Each represents a profound transition from one state of being to another.  It feels to me as though this country is living through one of those profound marking points in its history, one of those moments like the murder of President Kennedy or the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11, that we will look back to and know the ground shifted under our feet. Engaging in a ritual that takes note of this profound transition from one state of being to another seems appropriate.

“Sitting Shiva” (Shiva meaning seven) refers to the seven days of mourning following the death of a loved one. For seven days, a community cares for the mourner, visiting, bringing food, making certain there is a Minyan to recite Kaddish. It is a time for condolences, yes, but also a time to remember and reflect, to share stories of the one who left the earth, to listen to the mourner sharing his or her memories. While the mourning period doesn’t end with the conclusion of Shiva, this space in time is an important step back toward life. And that is something that we, who share these feelings, must do — remember those steps we have taken, those things we have accomplished and prepare ourselves to go back to work.

And finally, Kaddish. I remember a song that I particularly loved when I grew up in my Dad’s church, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” It was a powerful hymn when the congregation sang it together, and I felt the meaning of holiness viscerally. I haven’t checked, but I suspect the song was inspired by the Kedushah (same root as Kaddish), a central Jewish prayer with a section that begins, “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh,” that is, holy, holy, holy. Kaddish, also meaning holy, is recited several times during every service, bridging between sections of the service and the Mourner’s Kaddish at the end of the service. The prayer requires at least 10 people (a Minyan, so it is important that for each day of Shiva, a mourner has at least ten people from their community to support his or her Kaddish).

These are the words of Kaddish, with a nod to the awkwardness of gender-specific pronouns. I don’t usually change them for the sake of familiarity and smoothness of flow within a community that allows me to enter a ritual space. I know G-d is neither male nor female but both. I am making an exception because of the context of this discussion, when many whom I know and love are especially sensitive to misogyny in our leadership and culture:

Glorified and sanctified be G-d’s great name throughout the world
which S/he has created according to Her/His will.

May S/he establish Her/His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.

May Her/His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be S/he,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

S/he who creates peace in Her/His celestial heights,
may S/he create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.

The prayer is a profound affirmation of hope and faith at a time when one is most tempted to question the ultimate nature and purpose of human existence. It anticipates establishing G-d’s kingdom on earth.

And what is that kingdom? For that, I look to the first chapters of Genesis, 1-3.  That kingdom in the Garden, as G-d created it, is one in which human beings live in the right relationship to G-d, their fellow creatures and the rest of creation. It is a harmonious system of differences, without the sense of otherness, fear and enmity that characterizes our world.

The rest of the Torah and all other sacred Jewish scripture, its laws and teachings and discussions, its prayers and its rituals, tell us how we can live in the real world beyond the Garden, doing our best in a messy existence to live in right relationship to G-d, our fellow human beings, our fellow creatures and the planet — and to keep the faith that someday the ritual spaces we create will extend throughout creation.

In a time when we seem tragically far from that ideal, when our leaders cynically focus on our “otherness” stirring up us/them fears and hatreds, when we breed 9 billion animals every year in this country just to slaughter them, when we edge closer and closer to making this beautiful earth uninhabitable for organized community, it is easy to lose faith.

I believe each of us must return to our sources to find those vehicles that help us reconnect to life and community after loss, maintain faith and hope, and do our work in the world, whatever it is for each of us, to create a better future.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Vegan Spinach Pesto

Vegan Spinach Pesto on Homemade Challah with Tuscan Bean Soup

OK, I’m in love. I made a Shabbat dinner for our scholar-in-residence weekend, and the visiting scholar was the first (and only) female rabbi in Italy. Of course I decided to make an Italian inspired dinner. Of course it had to include pesto.

Now I used to make a number of dishes with a delicious organic pesto I found at Costco. If you know me, you know I use almost no commercial food products, but this one passed muster with me since it was organic, had few ingredients, none that were unpronounceable and none that I didn’t recognize as real food. Then I started working on this vegan thing. Couldn’t use it.

In researching for this meal, I found the following recipe in Pinterest, provided by Baker by Nature.  I enjoyed the preview you see here — with a bit of my homemade Spelt Challah and some of the Tuscan Bean Soup I made for the dinner. The recipe didn’t use the requisite Parmesan cheese, and I was a little uncertain, but the result was, nonetheless, amazing. I couldn’t get enough. I hated to have to use the quart I made for the dinner and can’t wait to make my own quart to consume at home!  Oh, I doubled the recipe to get a quart.

It does occur to me that I didn’t miss the cheese partly because of the extra virgin olive oil (use a good one!) and partly because of the pine nuts, a traditional part of this recipe. Those pine nuts are ridiculously expensive, though. I may try it another time with peeled almonds or perhaps raw cashews (cashews because, like pine nuts, they are soft and rich). For now, tho, this is how I made it, and it’s wonderful!

Vegan Spinach Pesto

  • Spinach leaves, 2 very big handfuls
  • Basil leaves, 1 very big handful
  • Pine nuts, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 5 cloves
  • Salt, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of one small (about 1/8 cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 3/8 cup (max. 1/2 cup)

I rarely use black pepper in anything, and I usually opt for hot paprika over crushed red pepper. Honestly, I don’t remember for sure what I did in this case, but I would guess I did use the crushed red pepper, perhaps a little rounded, and skipped the black pepper.

I chopped the spinach and basil very slightly and put everything into a food processor, starting with the garlic and pine nuts, then the greens, and finally the seasonings. I pulsed it all a few times until it was evenly chopped, then ran the processor until everything was granular and even. I added the oil and lemon, then pulsed again. The original recipe called for more oil, but I like it better with a little less.

As I said, I’m in love! Can’t wait to make this again.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Let’s Talk (No) Turkey

Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin -- happy for you and happy for our turkey friends!
Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin — happy for you and happy for our turkey friends!

“Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless.
Christmas dinner’s dark and blue.
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey’s point of view.” – Shel Silverstein

If you are vegetarian and the rest of your family and friends are not, you will likely come to that moment when you need to figure out how to serve an important . . . say, holiday . . . meal.

For many years, I prepared two meals. Difficult. I like to cook and take pride in good results. Cooking without tasting is like, well, driving a car with your eyes closed. Don’t much want to go there.

One year I decided to bite the proverbial bullet. I relented on my principle of no manufactured food and bought a soy “turkey”, a brand which will remain unnamed. Shaped like a ball with twine around it, it looked like a basketball. It even had its own little package of (no)turkey gravy.

I made everything else my family loved: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberries, breads, desserts. Then there was the (no)turkey.

Back in the kitchen, I arranged my (no)turkey as nicely as one can arrange a basketball on a platter. It still had the appearance of a basketball but a nicely arranged and decorated one. Everyone was waiting. I brought it out and placed it on the table. Stunned silence. Finally one of my sons spoke. “Really, Mom?”

Another of my sons, old enough to know better, did what one usually does with a basketball. He “passed” it to his brother, who unfortunately missed it. It landed on the floor, and my beagles, who would eat anything without even sniffing, rushed toward it…stopped, sniffed, and walked away!

OK, so that didn’t work. After that year, though, I was determined to find a delicious, festive vegetarian Thanksgiving entree. These Stuffed Pumpkins sell out every year in my (former) cafe. The perfect entree for a veggie crowd, they are also an impressive side dish for people who require a real turkey.

STUFFED PUMPKIN
Pumpkin and Stuffing (serves 4+ as a meal, many more as a side)

  • 1 Sugar Pumpkin
  • 2 Cups (Pre-cooked) Brown Basmati Rice
  • 2 Cups (Cooked) Chickpeas
  • 4 Cups Almonds/Raisins/Craisins/Apples
  • 4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 TB + 2 tsp. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch Hot Paprika

Cut off top of pumpkin. Cut stem to 2 inches. Scrape out seeds. Season inside of pumpkin with olive oil and honey (unfiltered sugar for vegans). Rub outside of pumpkin with olive oil. Roast one hour at 350.

Cook two cups brown rice. Set aside. Sauté almonds, raisins, craisins and apple slices with olive oil, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch hot paprika. Add to rice with chickpeas. Stir together and re-season. Set aside.

Apples and Cranberries

  • 3 Baking Apples
  • 6 Cloves
  • 1 LB Bag Cranberries
  • Pinch Cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 Oranges
  • 2 TB Honey (Unfiltered Sugar for Vegans)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup White Sesame, Toasted

Halve and oil the apples. Bake with cinnamon and cloves.

For sauce, juice orange and add 2+ TB honey (or sugar). Reduce sauce. Add cranberries and cook very briefly. Remove cranberries. Reduce sauce further. Recombine sauce and berries.

Assembling Pumpkin Meal
Fill pumpkin loosely, replace pumpkin lid, wrap loosely in foil. Roast one hour at 325. Warm remaining stuffing and apples separately.

Plate pumpkin and surround with extra stuffing. Place roasted apples on stuffing around pumpkin. Top apples with cranberry sauce. Garnish with white sesame.

Healthy, happy Thanksgiving to you and to our turkey friends everywhere!

Slice from top to bottom of the Stuffed Pumpkin, and serve up this beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving meal.
Slice from top to bottom of the Stuffed Pumpkin, and serve up this beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving meal.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes Signify a Sweet Six Years

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes

This delicious sweet potato preparation is both sweet and spicy from the natural sweetness of the potatoes and the crushed red pepper.

The salad marks a special “anniversary” for me — it was six years ago to the day on Halloween that I opened my cafe on the Square in Woodstock, Illinois, beginning my life as an accidental restauranteur and my romance with one of the most wonderful towns in the world.

Apropos of Halloween, I began my restaurant career with a bit of a “trick.” As I said, I was scheduled to open on October 31. On October 29, I was scrambling around trying to finish the final setup in the Cafe and get ready for final health department approval on the 30th.  My menu boards were on the wall, and my menus printed. Then I got a call that the fire department had not approved our countertop fryers that we planned to use for falafel, our main menu item. Hmmm.

This unanticipated change meant that at the zero hour, I had to create another menu with new centerpiece dishes, rewrite the menu boards and print new menus.  In those anxiety-ridden hours, I created Ful Pockets and Grateful Pig Breakfasts. I make my falafel with fava beans, and Ful is a fava bean dish that doesn’t involve frying. The Grateful Pig Breakfast included popular items we could make on our approved hot plates, and that included Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Shakshouka (eggs poached in Matboukha, or Moroccan salsa). Originally served warm, eventually both the Ful and the Moroccan Sweet Potatoes became part of our cold salad repertoire.

Well, I did it, and the health department came in and approved us to open late in the day October 30. Finally I was able to shop and start cooking so we could open the next morning, on Halloween. I got back to the cafe with groceries around 7 PM and spent the night cooking. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time we opened the next morning, but we opened right on time and starting serving up the foods people had come to love through the Woodstock Farmers Market.

One of those items was this zesty Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad. I serve this salad either cold or hot. Sometimes it’s part of a mezze, or Middle Eastern appetizer table before a meal, and sometimes it’s a side dish with a meal. I put it into pita pockets or taco shells with other items — it makes a great taco filling along with some black beans, chopped red peppers and cilantro dressing. And of course I still sometimes serve it up as part of a Grateful Pig Breakfast, which became very popular.

MOROCCAN SWEET POTATOES

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
  • Sweet potatoes, 3 medium-large, petite diced
  • Tomato, 1 large plum, petite diced
  • Garlic, 2 tsp. crushed
  • Fresh ginger root, 1.5 TB peeled and minced
  • Onion, 1/4 cup chopped
  • Crushed red pepper, 1 – 1.5 tsp. (to taste)
  • Salt, 1.5 tsp.

Instructions

  1. Saute garlic in 4 quart sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except potatoes, and saute briefly.
  3. Add potatoes, cover and steam at medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook until just tender throughout.

What I love about Middle Eastern mezze is the amazing rainbow of colors. This is one of the dishes that adds such beauty to the table.

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes - the prep
Moroccan Sweet Potatoes – the prep

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Zen and the Art of Peeling Potatoes

Sweet Potato Soup – oh, so creamy with not a drop of cream!

Printed in The Woodstock Independent, January 2013

“Avoid food that makes health claims. Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.” – Rule # 2 from Food Rules by Michael Pollan.

One food I have never much liked is Candied Yams. It’s hard to experience the glorious flavor and sweetness of the yam itself buried under those ubiquitous marshmallows. Ah, here we are again . . . Real Food vs. Food Products. I present to you the ingredient label on a bag of marshmallows: corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, dextrose, water, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate (a thickener or emulsifier), artificial flavor and blue 1. Hmmm.

It’s hard to imagine opening a bottle of tetrasodium pyrophosphate to add to a dish I’m making. And if our food had real flavor, we shouldn’t have to add artificial flavor, right?

That doesn’t mean I want to skip the yams or sweet potatoes. Although not the same, yams and sweet potatoes are both satisfying, flavorful and versatile veggies with many health benefits. Both are fiber rich and high in potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, zinc and copper. Both low on the glycemic index, they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar like so many other foods we eat. Unfortunately those marshmallows pretty much obliterate the benefit.

Sweet potatoes and yams may impart a somewhat different taste and texture to recipes. Due to their nutritional differences, it’s worthwhile experimenting with both. Sweet potatoes are extremely high in Vitamin A, supplying eight times the daily requirement in one serving. Yams have a better balance of essential fatty acids, heart healthy Vitamin B6 and C, but sweet potatoes have more calcium, iron, Vitamin E and protein. In addition, sweet potatoes are loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds.

I make a Sweet Potato Soup that is deliriously simple and amazingly delicious. Without an ounce of dairy, it’s oh so creamy. A visiting vegan tasted it and determined she couldn’t have it because it was loaded with cream. I assured her it wasn’t . . . but there you go. That’s the amazing thing about Real Food. Its qualities may surprise you with great taste — unlike tetrasodium pyrophosphate, which I doubt would surprise anyone.

Besides, unlike tetrasodium pyrophosphate, sweet potatoes and yams are good for “vegetating.”

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. – Alan Watts

Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 6 Sweet Potatoes (about 5 lb.), peeled and chunked
  • 2 Large Spanish Onions, chunked
  • Fresh Ginger Root (peeled slices, enough to make 2 well-rounded TB if minced)
  • 1.5-2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Hot Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Quarts Water

Directions

  1. Peel and chunk sweet potatoes and onion.
  2. Peel and slice ginger root.
  3. Add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to soup pot.
  4. Add onion, ginger root and potatoes along with seasonings.
  5. Add water barely to cover, approximately two quarts. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are soft.
  6. Puree in batches in VitaMix or conventional blender. Adjust thickness with more water if desired. Adjust seasoning.

Healthy, happy eating.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

Well, it’s about to be frightful, anyway. Coming into the end of summer here. 🙂  This post was written two or three years ago when it really WAS winter, sometime in the vicinity of Groundhog Day in Woodstock, Illinois, backdrop of the movie by the same name. It appeared in The Woodstock Independent.

Just a few days ago the Groundhog saw his shadow.  Easy for him to do.  He went back to his burrow.  I, on the other hand, have to leave mine every day, and I’m freezing!  I seem to have lost the ability to keep myself warm no matter how many layers I pull on before I brave the cold and wind and snow.

I decided it’s time to become proactive.  The last time I made this decision was in the winter of 1982/83.  In that year, as in this one, wind chills plunged to 40-60 degrees below zero.  I found myself never wanting to leave my burrow . . . that is, my home . . . and specifically, my fireplace.  I needed to take action, so I bought a winter camping tent and a sleeping bag designed for use in the most frigid climes and went winter camping to toughen up.

That worked pretty well.  It carried me through a few years.  But this is 22 years later, and my tent and I are a little older and worn.  My thoughts turn to other solutions. Here is a question that bubbled up: could I raise my body temperature with food?  It seems logical that I could, so I began to do some research. Here is what I found:

YES!

“How?” is another question. I found several answers.  I chose those that made sense to me based on this thought process: It requires energy (expressed as heat) to process food.  In fact, food processing may warm your body as much as two degrees (every degree counts in this weather)!  The more energy a food requires for processing, the more likely it is to heat your body.

So which foods require more energy for processing?  One estimate is fats require 3%, carbohydrates require 7%, and proteins require 20% of the energy (calories) they supply for processing.  I would therefore expect that protein is most likely to heat your body and complex carbohydrates next most likely.  Fats are least likely.  But does that correspond to the reality?

Turns out it does!  Lean protein tops most lists of warming foods, followed by complex high fiber carbohydrates like whole grain breads, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, almonds and apples. Root veggies like sweet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and ginger require more energy to digest than above-ground veggies.  Above ground veggies recognized for their thermogenic properties include cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.  Spices and spicy foods like cayenne, peppers, salsa, chili and mustard stimulate metabolism by as much as 20% or more and can also warm you.

OK, so now I needed to apply that to my vegetarian lifestyle, all-carb all the time.  Beans, grains and nuts top my list because in addition to the fact that they are high fiber complex carbs, they are a great protein group with complimentary amino acids.  Isn’t it interesting that the veggies most effective at raising body temperature are also the most readily available during winter and are, in fact, considered winter veggies?  So winter veggie stews . . . bring them on!  And be sure to make mine spicy!

It turns out that warming the body is really about exercising the metabolism and giving it a boost, so the same diet should be great for weight maintenance as well.  Indeed it is!  Just be sure to include good fats in your winter warming project for satisfaction and to help you avoid craving sweets (which are not warming, just inflammatory . . . and that’s a whole different story).

In the final analysis, keeping warm is all about making your body work, whether it’s camping in frigid weather or exercising in the cold with light clothing or making your metabolism pump harder.  This year I’m opting for exercising indoors in my fleece and enjoying some hearty, spicy veggie stews.

Butternut Squash and Carrot Stew with Quinoa
This is one of my favorite Middle Eastern style recipes.  I love the warm, golden color from the butternut squash, carrots, paprika, and turmeric.

Stew
2-4 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp peeled, minced ginger
1/2-1 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
6 plum tomatoes, petite diced
2 TB fresh lemon juice
3 cups 1-inch cubes peeled butternut squash
2 cups 1-inch cubes carrots

Quinoa
2 TB olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 bunch fresh mint

Stew
Cover the bottom of a pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Add chopped onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute briefly.  Add plum tomatoes and juice of two lemons. Bring to a simmer.  Add remaining seasonings.  Simmer briefly.  Add peeled and cubed butternut squash and carrot pieces.  Stir, and place a tight lid over the pot to steam the mixture until squash and carrot are fork tender but not mushy. Check periodically for moisture content, adding a bit of water if necessary.

Quinoa
Cover the bottom of a small sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Add chopped onion, minced garlic and slivered almonds.  Saute briefly.  Add chopped carrots and remaining seasonings with 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water, stir, cover tightly and cook until done (10-15 minutes).  Chop the mint and cilantro together.  Add half to the stew. Reserve the other half as garnish.

A nice way to serve this beautiful meal is to place a portion of stew on a plate, leaving an opening in the middle.  Place an ice cream scoop (1/2 cup) of quinoa in the middle of the stew.  Garnish with remaining mint and cilantro.

Happy, healthy eating!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

No-Tuna Salad…Delicious!

No Tuna Salad, all plated up and pretty. It would be great as part of a Stuffed Juicy Tomato dish when the tomatoes come out this summer.
No Tuna Salad, all plated up and pretty. It would be great as part of a Stuffed Juicy Tomato dish when the tomatoes come out this summer.

Finally! A new permanent addition to my vegan repertoire.

I’m not big on substitutes, so I’ve had a hard time working my way into a vegan diet. I like eggs and cheese, and despite the claims that people can’t tell the difference between vegan cheeses and the “real thing,” I  haven’t been successful in making anything remotely satisfactory.

So…I approached this substitute with some doubt: Tuna Salad without tuna? OK.

I have to tell you, though, this was a taste treat. The texture is right. The taste is right. It was really delicious, and I’m salivating for another one as I write this.

The Woodstock Farmers Market fresh tomato helped as did the homemade spelt challah, but as you see from the intro picture, I also enjoyed the chickpea “tuna” all by itself as well, and it was great!

So here’s what I did: I just made “tuna” salad the way I always used to except that I used chickpeas (dried, cooked, drained and slightly mashed) in place of tuna and Just Mayo from Hampton Creek instead of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise. I want to tell you, Hampton Creek got that Mayo knocked! It’s delicious, and the consistency is just right.

This was so easy to do. I’m looking for vegan things to make that I love and that are really easy. This is the first item I’m going to add to my permanent folder other than my longstanding Middle Eastern favorites that are mostly vegan anyway.

Chickpea "Tuna" Sandwich on Homemade Spelt Challah
No-Tuna Sandwich on Homemade Spelt Challah

Ingredients

  • Chickpeas, dried, 1 cup
  • Just Mayo from Hampton Creek, 1/4-1/2 cup
  • Celery or red bell pepper, 1/4 cup chopped
  • Onion, 1/4 cup chopped
  • Pickle Relish, 1/4 cup (actually I used homemade spicy pickles, chopped)
  • Green olives, 1/8-1/4 cup chopped
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.

Instructions

  1. Rinse and cook the chickpeas in water to cover until done. Drain and mash slightly.
  2. While chickpeas are cooking, chop the celery, pepper, onion and olives and set aside.
  3. When mashed chickpeas cool, add the reserved chopped veggies and Just Mayo and salt to taste.
  4. Add a little ground pepper if desired.

Enjoy!! Now maybe it’s because I put all the things I always used to use for tuna salad into this chickpea salad that it tasted the same. Or maybe it just did taste the same, even better. Doesn’t matter. I just enjoyed eating it and can’t wait to have it again.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.