Tag Archives: magazine

That’s what you get for asking.

29 Jan

As we sat down for dinner on Thursday night, I reminded everyone that I would be grocery shopping after Cub Scouts that night. That meant we needed to come up with ideas for dinner for the next week. I always shop from the week’s menu so I’m not wandering aimlessly through Kroger just grabbing random stuff. Without a plan for meals, how do you even know what to buy? Aside from that, not planning ahead means running to the store several more times during the week to pick up miscellaneous items for that night’s dinner.

So I asked for ideas and they all looked at me blankly. “Okay,” I said, “here’s the deal. Everyone gets to choose one complete dinner. Whatever you pick, I will make.” Well, then everyone had an idea! Jason immediately said “brats on the grill.” I said, “Fine.” (Followed by a look of surprise from him!). Next?

Someone said “panini.” I said, “how about a soup with that?” “Tortilla Soup, please.” Done. Next?

“Can we have taco pasta?” Done.

I said, “How about something with fish?” I think in unison they said “Fish Tacos.” They’re kind of time-consuming, but I agreed, since I haven’t made them in forever.

That left one day, and a bunch of blank faces staring at me. I said, “There’s one more day and the first person who comes up with an idea gets it.” Madison immediately said, “Can we have those vegan chicken nuggets from the store?!” And Logan shouted, “with that purple sauce you made one time?!” (the blackberry-mustard dipping sauce from Eating Well magazine.) I said, “what else do you want with those?” And before anyone else could respond, Madison said “mashed potatoes!” Done.

Well, that was easy enough. Only thing is, we’re eating a lot of taco-ish meals this week! I guess that’s what I get for asking, huh? 🙂

Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday – fish tacos, southwestern slaw, fresh pineapple
Monday – grilled brats (portobello mushroom for me), grilled marinated vegetables, applesauce
Tuesday – taco pasta, salad
Wednesday – vegan chicken nuggets with dipping sauce (June 24 post), mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday – tortilla soup (October 26 post), grilled panini

I guess I’ll worry about the weekend when it gets closer.

Regarding the brats, I had planned on buying the same old Johnsonville brats I usually buy in the summer, along with a pack of vegan brats for myself and Madison. When I got to Kroger and went to pick up the brats, I couldn’t bring myself to buy them. I stood there staring at that package…knowing it was 100% factory-farmed meat. I looked at every single package there. Nothing but factory-farmed meat. I contemplated the turkey brats…for about a second…then remembered all I had read about factory-farmed turkey. Disgusting. I put them back and walked over to the health food section again. I considered vegan brats for all of us, but I knew that wasn’t what Jason had in mind when he said he wanted brats. I kept looking. I finally came across a package of Organic Prairie’s Organic Pork Bratwurst. The front of the package says “Pork used is humanely raised on family farms without antibiotics.” I bought them ($6.99 for 4 brats…not too outrageous).

When I got home, I checked out their website. Organic Farms is a co-op of family farms whose owners believe in farming ethically and sustainably, providing their animals with as much pasture time as weather will allow. Here’s the description for the bratwurst I bought:

Ours start with pasture-raised, heirloom-breed hogs that frisk in the fresh air and sun, yielding the big-hearted flavor and gusto that brats are justly famous for.

If you get a chance, and are in the market for ethically/sustainably raised meats, check out their website at www.organicfarms.com. Be sure to read the sections on pasture-fed animals and some of the descriptions of their farmers. Though I’d much rather buy locally-raised meat, I have yet to find pork raised happily. This suits me just fine for the two or three times a year that I make brats on the grill.

I’ll give you a full report on the taste of the brats after dinner on Monday!


The new year is underway

7 Jan

…and so is my new plan.

What is the new plan? For starters, losing weight has been moved to the top of the list — above the trial and error efforts I’ve been working on for controlling my high blood pressure. I can’t help but think this might be the one thing keeping me from reaching my blood pressure goals. For the past week, I’ve really focused on what I’m eating and how much. And I’ve exercised for 30 minutes, four of the last five days. So far, so good. I can’t wait to weigh in tomorrow and see how I’ve done this week.

I’ve also been doing some reading. I have loved cooking vegan recipes. I’ve tried so many new foods and learned new ways to cook just about every vegetable and grain. Last weekend, I purchased “Appetite for Reduction,” the newest book by one of the top vegan cookbook authors ever — Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve read her most popular cookbook, “Veganomicon,” and I often cook from my favorite of hers, “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.” Unfortunately, many vegan sweet treats are still high in calories and fat, so it’s time to move away from the baking for a while.

Lucky for me, Isa feels the same way. That’s why she wrote this new cookbook. It’s packed with low fat, low calorie vegan recipes. As she writes in the intro, this is not your mother’s low fat cookbook. This does not contain any fake stuff. It’s straight up, healthy cooking with grains, veggies and beans. The first recipe I made is the first recipe in her book — “Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad.” I’ve only cooked quinoa once in my life and didn’t care for it. This recipe was fantastic! She said she eats this almost every day and I can see why. It’s filling, crunchy and tasty. As a matter of fact, it’s so tasty that my kids couldn’t get enough! Even my salad-hating 6-year-old went back for seconds and the other two said it was their new favorite. The dressing is to die for. We’ve already made the dressing twice and we’ve drizzled it on all kinds of stuff — even noodles. And, it’s adaptable. Start with her basic recipe but change out the quinoa for cooked rice or substitute spinach for the Romaine. I added shredded carrots to mine, but next time I’ll also add tomatoes and cucumbers. I can’t wait to whip up more of her recipes.

The other thing I read this week was an article in the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It was written by Mark Bittman, cookbook author and the author of “Food Matters.” It totally hit the nail on the head for me. It was exactly what I had been trying to figure out for my diet and it made total sense. He writes:

“…I decided to experiment on myself by creating a series of rules that I hoped would not only improve my health but also lead to a new, more sustainable American diet that would feature the sensibility, wisdom, and benefits of veganism and the pleasures of the omnivore way of cooking and eating.”

I love the benefits I’ve received from eating a vegan diet for the last year. And I truly have enjoyed the foods. I also 100% embrace the idea of sustainable eating and the belief that all animals should be treated compassionately, even if they are being raised for food. (I do NOT support factory farming and do not purchase meat products or eggs from my grocery store.)

Bittman explains that this philosophy is often called Flexitarian, though it is very much like the Mediterranean way of eating. He writes:

“I created a personal diet, one that was flexible enough to allow me to enjoy all of the food I love daily (and which could be adapted by others to fit their own schedules), yet one that was strict enough to really have an impact.”

He basically eats a vegan diet, with the occasional piece of meat.

This makes so much sense to me. Now, I know there will be vegans who will desert me because of this. But, honestly, the biggest struggle of my vegan year was what to do when eating somewhere other than home. It stressed me out beyond belief. I grew up in a family where meals were shared with loved ones. Great care was taken to make the meal and it was meant to be enjoyable. Let me ask you this — how enjoyable is it to go to a restaurant and have to nit-pick your way through the menu, requesting multiple changes, and ending up eating steamed broccoli (no butter), rice or noodles (no cheese or butter) and a roll (praying it wasn’t made with egg)? Trust me, there’s nothing enjoyable about it. I spent more time stressing over what to order than any person should have to, only to end up eating a pile of plain vegetables when everyone else was enjoying something they truly wanted.

And — even more stressful? Eating at someone else’s house. We get together regularly with my in-laws for Sunday dinner and games. I have to say my mother-in-law did a great job of making sure I had something to eat that was vegan, but it was often what everyone else was having but without the butter, cheese, dressing, or anything else that would have made it a wonderful dish. Most of the time I took something that I had made, or threw a veg burger into my purse so I could guarantee myself a protein. Totally stressful and completely goes against my philosophy that meals should please your senses, satisfy you, and be an enjoyable event shared with friends and family.

So Mark Bittman’s words really hit home for me. And I am giving his philosophy a try.

Right now, about 90% of my meals are vegan. I’ve had seafood on a couple of occasions, and I’m still eating eggs which I added back to my diet last fall. I also enjoyed some of my dad’s homemade chicken sausage on Christmas morning. I hadn’t had it in a year and I really missed it! I made his Michigan Dried Cherry and Toasted Almond Chicken Sausage with sustainably-raised (aka happy) chicken. It was so good and I didn’t feel guilty about eating it!

I haven’t added any dairy products back in and I don’t think I will. I know I will never drink cow’s milk again. There are so many better, healthier options out there. I wouldn’t mind eating a bite of blue cheese or feta once in a while, but I don’t have a local, sustainable-farmed source for it. So, no cheese for now (unless I’m at someone else’s house and it’s already on the salad).

So there you go. Lots of vegan meals, a small portion of ethically-raised meat once in a great while, and a lot more exercise than last year. I’m excited to see where this leads me. I’m hoping the combination of a re-vamped diet, less stress about eating, and more enjoyment when dining with family and friends will be just the thing that gets both my weight and my BP back to normal.

Even if you have no desire to go veg — please consider reducing the amount of animal products you eat. And look for a local source for your meat and eggs. Not only does that support your local farmer, the products are fresher and taste so much better.

More front-page news!

24 Nov

Nope. Not me. This time, the front page comes from Waynesville, NC, and my mom is on it! How awesome is that?!

In addition to being a professional chef, my mom is a member of the local Master Gardener Association, which is an educational group run through their county extension office. For the last few years, the Master Gardeners have worked with the first- and second-graders at one of the elementary schools to plant, care for and harvest their own child-friendly 3,000-square-foot garden. They even learned how to make their own compost! Recently, the students held a Harvest Festival where my mom taught them how to cook some of the vegetables they had grown and they got to taste a wide variety of foods that many of them had never even seen before. What a great way to introduce kids to a healthier way of eating. Way to go, mom! 🙂

The caption for her photo reads, “Professional chef Jackie Blevins demonstrates how to prepare spaghetti squash to the crowd of first- and second-graders. Blevins is one of nearly a dozen volunteers who work with children at the school’s garden.”

As I wrap up my month of blogging vegan Thanksgiving recipes, I couldn’t have chosen a more fitting dessert recipe — one from my mom’s first cookbook. Her recipe for Apple Crisp is amazing! By swapping the regular butter for Earth Balance and the flour for gluten-free all purpose flour, I easily converted a favorite dessert of mine into a vegan and gluten-free version. My mom serves this with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Since I didn’t have a recipe for vegan caramel sauce, I served this with Praline Pecan vegan ice cream. (If you can find a Caramel Swirl vegan ice cream, that would probably be even better!)

Warm Apple Crisp – Vegan & Gluten Free
serves 8 to 10

4 pounds Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup sugar
1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place apple slices in casserole, sprinkle with brown sugar and toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add butter and rub with fingertips until pea-sized clumps form. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the apples and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

What’s Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce?

9 Nov

Am I right? Whether you like cranberry sauce or not, a Thanksgiving dinner without it is just…unheard of.

I know there are a lot of people who don’t like cranberry sauce and I credit that to the traditional jelled blob, dumped straight from a can onto a serving plate, that many people serve. Yuck. I don’t even consider that cranberry sauce. We always had homemade cranberry sauce at my grandma’s on Thanksgiving. I loved it. It had celery and nuts in it, too, so it was tart, sweet and crunchy. I could eat cranberry sauce on just about anything and, in my opinion, there is absolutely no other way to eat turkey.

But – this will be my first Thanksgiving as a vegan. That means no turkey. In the 10 months that I’ve been eating a plant-based diet, I haven’t missed meat at all. Burgers, chicken on the grill, and BBQ ribs were served at gatherings all summer long and none of that appealed to me. I was actually turned off by the thought of eating those things.

The turkey on Thanksgiving is going to be a challenge. Right now, I’m thinking it’s going to be really hard to enjoy all the usuals and not have turkey with cranberry sauce. So I’m going to have to be prepared with some other delicious options for me. And, I’m pretty sure I will not have any desire to eat turkey once I see it come out of the oven on Thanksgiving day.

Turkey or no turkey, there will be cranberry sauce at this Thanksgiving meal. I have the easiest and tastiest recipe ever, and I will be smearing it on all kinds of things on my plate! Last night, I made a batch to do some recipe testing. I had it for lunch today on top of a baked sweet potato. Fabulous. Tonight I’m going to try it on Gardein chick’n filets for dinner. The recipe contains fresh cranberries and oranges, so it’s tangy, sweet and fresh tasting, and I can’t wait to see how it is on oven-roasted vegan chick’n.

My favorite cranberry sauce recipe actually came from Family Fun magazine a few years ago. They had an article on getting your kids involved in making the Thanksgiving meal and this was one of the recipes. It is so unbelievably easy that my littlest guy could probably make it, so put your kids to work on this one. I love the flavor of the fresh cranberries and citrus-y orange. It beats the can off of that jelled stuff!

The recipe is Cranberry Orange Relish and can be found here. I’ve never had to use the extra water due to sticking. It does get thicker as it cools. Also, be sure it’s completely cooled before you stir in the lemon juice, to maintain that fresh lemon flavor. Definitely garnish it with orange zest. I only had one orange in my fridge and I didn’t think to save any zest for garnishing before I tossed it into the food processor. You can make this 3 or 4 days in advance and just store it covered in the fridge.


Football season is officially over!

7 Nov

Can I hear a woo hoo? As much as I love watching my son play football and my daughter cheer her lungs out, I am so ready to have a commitment-free weekend. Not to mention, no more weeknight dinners at 7:30 p.m. to work around the practice schedule!

The Bedford Hornets did a great job this season, and I’m considering Brady the most-improved player on his team. By the end of the season, he was running and tackling like nobody’s business, along with just getting the hang of catching a pass during a game. I can’t wait to see him (hopefully) run a touchdown next year when he moves up to the junior level. You rock, buddy!

After a chilly fall day of playoff games today, I came home and got busy on some new recipes.

Yesterday, while grocery shopping for produce, I noticed they now have fresh pomegranates available. In case you aren’t familiar with pomegranates, they are a fantastic source of antioxidants. Research indicates they may contain two to three times more antioxidant power than red wine, blueberries and other well-known sources. Just one more thing I can add to my diet to fight my high blood pressure.

I grabbed a beautiful, deep-colored one because my kids love the little red, juice-filled seeds. I also picked up a few Bartlett pears that were perfectly ripe.

I have a huge collection of recipes, many of which are torn from magazines and stuffed into a binder because they sound interesting. One recipe I’ve been meaning to make forever is a vinaigrette dressing with rice vinegar and fresh ginger. What a perfect combination with the pomegranate and pears. And what a perfect start to a Thanksgiving meal!

Pear & Pomegranate Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
serves 6

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 ripe Bartlett pears
6 cups mixed baby greens
seeds from half a pomegranate*
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, water, sugar, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside. Peel and core the pears, then thinly slice. Place the pears into the bowl of dressing and toss to coat. Divide the mixed greens between six salad plates. With a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the dressing and divide evenly among the plates. Drizzle the remaining dressing on each salad. Top salads with pomegranate seeds and red onion slices. Enjoy!

*To remove the seeds from a fresh pomegranate, use the tip of a sharp knife and cut into the skin only. Slice through the skin all the way around the center. Pull the fruit apart, pop out the little red seeds and rinse them.

Bon Appetit magazine: I like where you’re heading.

3 Nov

I’ve been a Bon Appetit magazine subscribe for a long time. Years, actually. And I’ve made many, many recipes from the magazine and the Epicurious website. I love the unique ingredients, the unusual flavor combinations, and the overall “gourmet-ness” of the recipes.

But when I went vegan in January, it seemed like none of the recipes would work for me anymore. Too much meat, cheese, cream and eggs. I decided to take a break from my subscription for a while and started receiving Vegetarian Times instead. Last month, my kids had a magazine sale at school. To help support the school, my mom ordered a bunch of magazines including Bon Appetit for me again. I’m so glad she did.

For one thing, my first issue arrived yesterday and it’s their annual big, bad Thanksgiving issue. For another thing, there are recipes actually geared to those on special diets! There are 25 recipes marked as “vegetarian,” twelve that are vegan, and one that is specifically made with gluten-free flour. Since I’ve been toying with the idea of trying a gluten-free diet, I saw that recipe and knew I had to give it try.

And so begins the first of my Thanksgiving recipe testing…with Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Biscuits from the November 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.

The recipe is not vegan, but was easily converted. I substituted Earth Balance vegan butter for the regular butter and made my own vegan buttermilk by stirring 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar into a 1/2 cup of almond milk. I used the brand of gluten-free flour recommended by the magazine.

The flavor of the finished biscuit was really good. Just a little hint of sweet potato, a nice nuttiness from the toasted pecans, and mild sweetness from the maple syrup. And I liked how the top cracked little. If you smear on some (vegan) butter while they’re still warm, it melts into the cracks and crevices. Mmm…

My only complaint with them is that they didn’t bake up big and fluffy. They are moist on the inside and firm on the outside, but not tall and light like a traditional biscuit. The next time I make them, I think I will not roll them quite as thin and bake them at a slightly lower temperature, so they end up a little thicker when done. Otherwise, quite delicious. My kids loved them!

The original recipe is here. My veganized version is below.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Biscuits
makes 16

1 large red-skinned sweet potato (about 1-1/4 pounds), pierced with fork
1/2 cup plain almond, coconut or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/3 cups gluten-free flour plus additional
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegan butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

Microwave potato until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Halve; scoop out 1 cup flesh. Cool.

In a small bowl, stir the apple cider vinegar into the almond milk and set aside.

Blend 1-1/3 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter; pulse to coarse meal. Add potato, almond milk mixture, and syrup. Process to blend. Add nuts and pulse to blend.

Sprinkle work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the food processor with floured hands. Pat into 9-inch square. Cut into 16 biscuits. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 18 to 22 minutes. Enjoy!

Just another Manic Monday.

28 Jul

Remember The Bangles? They were one of my favorite groups in high school. And their Manic Monday lyrics do a good job of describing how my week started. Actually, the mess started last week, but Monday was the worst.

I woke up last Thursday with a headache. By noon, it had turned into a major stiff neck. I figured I must have slept on it wrong or something, but I woke up Friday morning and it was even worse. I couldn’t turn my head left or right and it hurt. So I called my beloved chiropractor and he was on vacation! Nooo! The earliest they could get me in was Monday at 3 p.m. So I took the appointment and dealt with the neck thing all weekend.

Finally…Monday’s appointment. I told Doc what was going on and he helped me relax then did one heckuva big crack on my neck. I’ve never heard it that loud and I’ve been to the chiropractor a zillion times. Whew!

When we left there, it had settled a little and I was starting to feel better. We headed down the road and were only about 2 miles away when BAM! I got rear-ended by the car behind me. So much for my newly-adjusted neck. I had noticed the cars in front of me braking quickly so I looked in my rearview mirror and could see the guy behind me was coming fast. I tried to swerve into the center turning lane to get out of his way, but he slammed into me anyway. After calling 911, I called my chiropractor and told him what happened. We made an appointment for the next day so the boys and I could get checked out.

The police arrived and the other guy got cited and we left to head home. Thank goodness I had already planned an easy dinner, right? Yeah… By the time we got home it was almost 6:00 so I started dicing potatoes as fast as I could to get them in the oven and I managed to slice off the edge of my finger with the knife. ARGH! WHAT A DAY!

I do have to say, though, that dinner was a total success. Jason helped me get the vegs diced and into the oven for roasting — redskin potatoes and onions, plus zucchini and yellow squash from our garden, tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Yum. But the best part was the sandwiches we made. Tomato & Provolone Sandwiches from the August 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine. Did I say YUM already? I could eat these every day for lunch. I totally veganized the recipe and even the kids loved it. The recipe makes an herb-infused mayonnaise spread so I substituted Veganaise for the mayo. Then you use big, juicy fresh tomatoes and provolone cheese. I used smoked provolone soy cheese slices. (It’s the only fake cheese I’ve found that tastes good and melts). Rather than use the broiler, as in the recipe, I assembled the sandwiches and put them in the George Foreman Grill so they were toasty like paninis. Oh, man. Delicious! And so fast and easy to make.

So my neck is a mess again. Bruising, swelling, and bucketloads of pain. He did a minor adjustment Tuesday, but wanted to let it have a few days to settle and get the swelling down so I’m going back in on Friday morning. But, on a good note, Eating Well challenge recipe #6 is a success!