Nutrition Ambition

Welcome to my vegan food blog! When it comes to food, my philosophy is that taking time to lovingly prepare your own meals can result in better health and greater life satisfaction. I use natural, whole ingredients to create nourishing, exciting meals which replenish mind, body and spirit. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wild Rice and Sage Stuffed Squash

In celebration of my mom's birthday, I made this fancy stuffed squash. Ok, it's not that fancy, but it is a little time-consuming, but really lets the person you're making it for know you care. The time spent cooking it is well worth it. In all honesty, the reason I made this was not only just to give my mom a yummy, healthy birthday dinner, but also to try out a new recipe for Thanksgiving. Let's hear it for ulterior motives.
Ingredients for the best stuffed squash you can make:
* 2 medium-size acorn squashes, cut in half lengthwise and seeds and fibers scooped out. Pierce the outer skin once or twice with a knife to let steam escape. before cutting your squashes, make sure to wash the outside with warm soap and water.
* 1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed
* 1 1/2 cups water or stock
* 3 slices whole grain bread, toasted and buzzed in the food processor
* 1 generous teaspoon ground sage
* a couple pinches dried rosemary, crumbled
* a couple pinches dried marjoram
* 2 celery ribs, cut into small pieces
* 4 medium-size mushrooms, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine or olive oil
* handful toasted pecans, chopped
* small handful dried cranberries
* black pepper, to taste
* 1 or 2 tablespoons liquid aminos
Start by combining the wild rice and the water or stock in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 50 minutes to 1 hour. While the rice is cooking, put the squashes cut side- down on a lightly oiled baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35-40 minutes, just until they are tender. Do not over cook the squash, as it needs to hold its shape. Meanwhile, saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and celery in the margarine for a couple minutes. Combine this cooked onion mixture with the breadcrumbs, pecans, black pepper, aminos and herbs and stir. When the rice is done, stir it into the breadcrumb mixture as well. Fill the cooked squashes with the stuffing, cover with some foil to hold in the moisture, and bake another 10-15 minutes, until heated through.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Mushroom Barley Soup

">If everyone were to take responsibility for their own lives, we would have a completely different world." --James Levin in A Celebration of Wellness
Several months ago, when out to dinner with Rutiger and his family at a veg-friendly diner, I ordered the most amazing mushroom barley soup. I finally got around to re-creating it and I think my version is pretty darn close--rich and very flavorful, perfect for these cold autumn days. Although mushrooms contain lots of water, they are also quite nutritous. Iron, selenium, protein and the B vitamins are what you can look forward to in most mushrooms--besides the plain old white button mushrooms, which lack most nutrients.
* 1/3 cup uncooked barley, rinsed
* 1 cup mushroom or "beef" style stock
Combine these ingredients in a saucepan, cover, bring to a boil. Reduse heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid but is still slightly firm. Meanwhile...
* 2 celery ribs, preferably with the leaves, cut into small bits
*2 tablespoons olive oil
* one 8-OZ container baby portabella mushrooms, de-stemmed, cleaned and cut into small bits
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* plenty of black pepper
* 1/4 cup dry red wine
* 3 cups mushroom or "beef" style stock
* 1 cup water or additional stock
* 1 tablespoon Braggs, or to taste (depending on how salty the stock is)
Heat the oil in a medium-size soup pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have reduced in size and given off some liquid, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and cook another minute. Season with black pepper and add the wine. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients including the cooked barley. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes. Adjust the Braggs and black pepper seasonings as necessary. Enjoy! Makes about 5 servings.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Well-Stocked Natural-Foods Pantry

I have found over the years that cooking healthy meals is much, much easier (not that it is difficult) when you have a few basic healthy, mostly inexpensive, staples around the kitchen at most times. Here's just a short list of things I like to have around:
Dry Goods:
* Oats *whole wheat pastry flour *spelt flour *sucanat *wild rice *brown rice * Quinoa *kasha (roasted buckwheat) *millet *sunflower seeds *raw almonds *raw cashews *pumpkin seeds *whole grain pastas *soba noodles *dry cereal and granola *dry lentils (brown and orange) *raisins *dried plums
Canned Goods:
*beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, refried)
Seasonings and Oils:
*extra-virgin olive oil *organic canola oil *rice vinegar *balsamic vinegar *red wine vinegar *nutritional yeast *bragg liquid aminos *pure maple syrup *numerous different dried herbs and spices in small amounts (cinnamon, curry powder, cayenne, oregano, chili powder, crushed red pepper, basil, marjoram, paprika, turmeric, ginger, bay leaf, rosemary, etc)*sea salt *black pepper *vanilla extract
Refrigerated and frozen foods:
*tempeh and tofu *fruit and veggie juices *natural peanut butter *almond and/or soy milk *sprouted grain bread *ground flax seeds *frozen fruit and veggies like peaches, blueberries, peas, corn, green beans, edamame, etc.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables--these vary by the season:
* potatoes (white and sweet) *broccoli *Brussels sprouts *lettuce/greens *carrots *avocados *tomatoes *oranges *apples *bananas *grapefruit *kiwi *pears *lemons *squashes *onions *garlic *fresh ginger
*green tea *herbal teas *barley grass juice powder

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Favorite Sammich

Moby and Kelly might think the Pan Bagna is the ultimate sandwich, but my grilled artichoke- spread sandwich is the best-- in my eyes, at least. So there I was, one day, watching the Food Network when all of a sudden, I got a mean craving for a grilled cheese sandwich. Being the creative, immaginative girl that I am, I invented this artichoke spread, slathered it on some multi-grain bread, grilled it, and The Best Sandwich That Ever Was, was born. Here's how you can experience sandwich bliss:
Ingredients for the spread:
* one 12 OZ block firm tofu (do not use silken), patted dry and cut into rough cubes
* one 7.5 OZ jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained of most of the liquid
* 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 small garlic clove
* 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
* Salt, to taste
In a food processor, combine the artichoke hearts, garlic, pine nuts, and lemon juice and buzz until smooth. Add in the tofu cubes and olive oil and process again until smooth and creamy. If you have time and can control yourself, let this spread chill in the fridge for at least and hour, to let the flavors absorb into the tofu. Once this has happened, spread a little Earth Balance margarine on one side of two slices of sourdough bread, then on the other side, spread on your artichoke mixture. You can also add slices of tomato, greens, roasted red pepper, or any other veggie on top of the artichoke spread, if you want. Finally, grill the sandwich in a pan over medium flame until golden brown. I like to press the sandwich down with a saucepan lid (like a panini) while it is cooking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ginger-Seasme-Lime Tofu

Several years ago, I used to get the most amazing packaged lime-seasme tofu at the natural foods store--you know, the kind that comes already marinated, cooked and ready to go. They have since stopped carrying it and I long for that tofu with the little package of dipping I invented my own recipe. The marinade for this tofu is simmilar to the sauce in the spicy soba noodle post, but not quite the same. In fact, I used the leftovers from this recipe in the noodles and it was quite tasty. Serve this as the main dish along with maybe some broccoli and rice for a yummy, light dinner. Don't forget the chopsticks!
* 2 tablespoons tahini
* 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about the juice of one juicy lime)
* 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh ginger
* 1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
* 1 teaspoon seasme oil
* 3 tablespoons liquid aminos or soy sauce
* cayenne pepper to taste
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 block firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch thick squares or triangles
Wisk all the ingredients (except for the tofu) together in a large, shallow dish and lay down the tofu in a single layer in this marinade. Keep in the fridge for about 6-8 hours, carefully tilting the dish every now and again to stir up the marinade and re-coat the tofu with all the flavors. When the tofu is marinated, gently remove it from the dish. Pre-heat a large skillet or fry pan over medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of canola or peanut oil. When the pan in nice and warm, add the tofu and cook about 3-5 minutes on each side, until crispy. Sprinkle with some white and/or black seasme seeds, if you wish.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shepherd's Pie

This is something my dad would make quite frequently and was always really good. Now that I'm vegan and do my cooking for myself, I wanted to re-create this childhood favorite to suit my new tastes. If you've never savored this dish, I can sum it up by saying it is a layer of vegetables in a sauce covered with mashed potatoes and baked in a casserole. Don't say the word "casserole" with Rutiger in hearing range; he will pretend to be sick and say the word as if he's dying. Although I will never get him to taste this creation, you all should give it a try. Although it is a bit time extensive, the results--a warm and hearty one-dish meal-- are worth it.
* 1/2 cup uncooked brown lentils, picked through and rinsed
* 1 1/4 cup water
* 1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
* 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
* 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
* 2-3 carrots, cut into small chunks
* 1 packet "chicken" gravy mix
* 1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, dried rosemary, and dried marjoram
* salt (or liquid aminos) and pepper to taste
For the potato topping:
* 4 medium-size russet potatoes, baked whole or peeled (or steamed) and boiled until tender.
* 1/2 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk, warmed
* 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 tablespoon olive oil or non-hydrogenated margarine
* 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
Start by combining the lentils and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 1 hour until the lentils are tender. Meanwhile, mash the potatoes with rest of the topping ingredients and set aside. When the lentils are cooked, combine them with the veggies. Next, prepare the gravy according to the package directions and mix in the dried herbs and seasonings. Mix the prepared gravy with the vegetables and lentils and spread in the bottom of a casserole dish, then top with the potatoes. Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with some olive oil, nutritional yeast and paprika. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, until the top of the potatoes are golden.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spicy Soba Noodles w/ Peanut Sauce and Broccoli

This recipe was inspired by my favorite thing to get at Noodles & Company: spicy Indonesian peanut saute. I made it healthier, but still really yummy. It took me several attempts to perfect it, but it was worth it. This recipe makes 1 serving, but you can easily expand it to however much you need.
Here's how to make this super tasty and quick dish:
* 1 cup or so cooked soba buckwheat noodles
* 1/2 cup or so of lightly steamed broccoli
for the sauce:
* 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1 1/2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
* 1/2 clove garlic, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
* 3/4 teaspoon liquid aminos or light soy sauce (or to taste)
* cayenne pepper, to taste
* 1/4 cup cold water
* 1/4 teaspoon corn starch or arrowroot (optional if you like more of a liquidy sauce)
Wisk all the sauce ingredients togther in a small bowl. Add to a small sauce pan and heat over medium and stir until the sauce begins to thicken (if you use the thickener). Turn the heat down to low and add in the noodles and broccoli. Heat through, then serve immediately. Enjoy! The sauce is also good over just plain broccoli, other veggies, or rice.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Best French Toast (with blueberry syrup)

What better way to start a Saturday than making an extra-special breakfast? French toast is by far, the easiest, quickest and yummiest breakfast food you can cook-- in my opinion, at least. I have spent many years perfecting this recipe, and trust me--it's good!
* 6 slices of sturdy whole grain bread (sprouted grain bread works perfectly)
* 1 cup vanilla soy or almond milk (or you can add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the mixture)
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (really yummy--gives it a rich flavor)
* 1 tablespoon flour
Start by heating a large pan over medium heat and spreading a little canola oil in the bottom. Wisk everything but the bread together in a shallow bowl. When the pan is hot, dip (don't soak) the slices of bread in the mixture on both sides and lay on the hot pan. Cook until golden on both sides. Please Note: the secret to really good French toast is not whether or not there is eggs is the batter, but whether or not you move the bread around while it is cooking. For heaven's sake, leave the bread alone until it is ready to flip!

To make the extra-special syrup to go with your extra-special breakfast (if you can't multi-task, I suggest doing this either before or after you make the toast) combine 1/3 cup thawed blueberries (or any other fruit beside bananas) and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. If you want, you can heat it gently before pouring over your French toast.

To finish all this off, I like to put some Earth Balance margarine and a little extra nutiritional yeast over the top along with the syrup.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pan Bagna

Don't ask me what the words "Pan Bagna" mean--all I know is that it is the name of a delicious sandwich, the recipe of which you can find in Moby's book, Teany Book. Although every one of the recipes in the book look amazing and all of which I intent to make at some point, this one really sparked my interest. Probably because of the hyped-up paragraph leading up to the actual recipe, claiming this is the sandwich I was born to make and eat.

I do have one note of caution if you decide to make this sandwich--and you must--use the olive tapanade sparingly. I am not ashamed to admit I had never tasted olive tapanade before making this, and I must say, it is amazing. My point is, although it is wonderfully tasty, a little goes a long way! I slathered it on my sandwich rather thickly and it ended up over-powering the rest of the ingredients with its salty-garlicy pungetness. Also, the book gives a specific order to lay on the veggies and you will be well-advised to follow the order.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Roasted Beet Soup

After watching a recent episode of Food 911 with Tyler Florence, my interest in beets has been sparked. He made Russian Roasted Beet Borscht for this guy who had adopted kids from Russia. A very sweet story indeed. Anyway, the recipe wasn't quite vegan, not to mention it makes enough for a whole bunch of beet-lovin fools. So I changed a few things around to make it 1.) even healthier 2.) vegan and 3.) a smaller batch. It is deeelicious and very good if you make it a day ahead of time to let the flavors intensify. Not to mention the color is absolutely beautiful. Enjoy! **PS. remember to leave the skin on both the beets and the apple--there is some good nutrition lurking in these peels!
* 4-5 small beets, leaves removed, scrubbed well and skin left ON
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* black pepper
* a few pinches dried thyme
Combine these ingredients in a packet of aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, until a knife is easily inserted into the beets. Meanwhile...
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, chopped
* 1 large carrot, chopped
* 1/2 small green apple, cut into cubes and skin left on
* 2 teaspoons olive oil
* 3 cups good-tasting vegetable stock
* 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown rice syrup
* Salt and black pepper to taste
combine the remaining oil, onion, carrot, apple and garlic in a large sauce pan and cook just a few minutes over medium. Add in the stock, vinegar, and syrup and bring to a simmer. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. When the beets are done, unwrap them and let cool enough to handle. Cut them into small chunks and add into the soup. Pour the drippings in the foil from the beets into the soup as well. If you have a immersion stick blender, blend the soup until smooth--otherwise, blend in a blender. Season to taste. Makes about 4 servings.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I Heart Teany

I recently got Teany Book for a steal at the Bargain Book Barn (ok, that's not really what its called but I wanted to alliterate) and I love it! I suggest everyone get this book. As the cover says, it has everything--vegan food, tea, romance, stories, and cartoons. The stories and antics inside are very cute and funny as are all the little pictures of Moby and Kelly doing silly things like pretending to be hip-hop stars and kissing tea robots. Check out the "flip-book" style cartoon in the bottom right corner of the book too! Did I mention Teany Book is also filled with wonderful recipes and beautiful food pictures? You will definitely be seeing what I cook out of this book, so stay tuned.