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!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year!

OK, I know New Years Eve is still a few days away, but I wanted to share some fun party food ideas that can be made in a snap. I'm not one to go out to the bar, drinking until the ball drops--I'd much rather stay home and prepare some nice healthy foods for a few close friends to help ring in the New Year.
Mini Pizzas
Start with a package of pita bread. If you have the time and patience, cut the bread with a round 4-5 inch buscuit cutter or sharp metal cookie cutter. Otherwise, simply cut the bread into squares with a knife. I like to do a duo of mini pizzas (makes it sound fancy, dosen't it?), making half of them with basil pesto recipe below, and the other half with a simple store-bought pizza sauce and one or two toppings (chose from red onion, chopped bell pepper, soy pepperoni, capers, chopped olives, etc.) Top each pizza with soy cheese. Follow Your Heart is a fantastic brand.
* 1 cup fresh basil leaves
* 3 tablespoons pine nuts
* 1/2 clove garlic
* 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.

Easy Pan-Fried Polenta Discs
You can find prepared polenta in a tube at most grocery stores, usually by the tofu in the refrigerated section near the produce department. Simply slice the polenta into 1/3 inch thick slices and pan fry over medium heat in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Lay them on paper towels to blot off excess oil once they're cooked. Serve as is, or with dipping sauces like marniara sauce, barbeque sauce or even a salsa or chutney.
Simple "cream cheese" Spread with Lemon and Chive
I was so happy to discover non-hydrogenated Tofutti brand soy cream cheese in my local natural foods store. To make a really simple, yummy spread, take one conatiner of cream cheese and mix it with 4 tablespoons minced chive and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Serve with an assortment of whole-grain crackers.
Mini Fruit Crisps
A fun and healthy sweet treat to serve at parties is individual fruit crisps for your guests to enjoy. Small inexpensive ramekin bowls can be found at most grocery stores or houseware stores. Use any fresh fruit in season (in the winter months, apples and pears are good choices) or you can soak dried cranberries, prunes, raisins or cherries overnight and use them. I have a great crumbly topping recipe in the "two apple recipes..." post. Simply follow the recipe for the apple-cranberry crumble, using any fruit you chose, mixing and matching up to 3 different fruits. Instead of making the whole thing in a large casserole dish, fill each ramekin 2/3 of the way with the fruit mixture, then top with the topping. Place each ramekin on a baking tray and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
Sparkling Cranberry Cocktail
Simply mix 2 parts sparkling water with 1 part cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime in an attractive serving pitcher. Garnish each glass with a lime wedge and/or a few whole cranberries skewered on a toothpick. Cheers!
Veggie Platter
Round the snack bar out with an attractive vegetable platter. I like to use a wide array of colors, textures, and flavors in my veggie platters. Broccoli flowerettes, cauliflower flowerettes, blanched green beans, radishes whole or halved, purple cabbage cut into "chips", celery spears, carrot rounds or sticks, cucumber sticks or rounds are all good choices. Arrange the vegetables around a bowl of homemade dip or store-bought salad dressing. Nasoya brand makes a great "creamy dill" dressing that is reminiscent of ranch dressing--perfect for dipping veggies into. Garnish the bowl of dip or dressing with paprika or fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Paella

For Christmas dinner, I thought I'd make something special for my sister and I to enjoy while the rest of the family ate ham. So, I splurged on a $7 packet of saffron, the most expensive spice on earth. I got the recipe here, on the Whole Foods website. I used long-grain brown rice instead of white rice, which bumped the cooking time up to about 40 minutes. The paella was quite good. I would adjust it in a few ways: first, I would leave out the tomaotes; it seemed to overpower the flavor of the saffron. Second, I would have used marinated browned tempeh cubes instead of the lima beans. Or, use both a cut the lima beans from 1 cup to about 1/2 cup. Overall, we really enjoyed this dish, so give it a try!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies and The Best Fudge

I promised more holiday cookie/treat recipes and here they are! The first time I made this fudge was last year at Christmas and boy is it good! In the words of my Grandma, "This is the best fudge I've ever tasted!" That is a huge compliment coming from her--she has been cooking all her life. Although the fudge has peanut butter in it, you really can't taste it; it's more of a secret ingredient to make the fudge rich and creamy. So here it is:
* 1 cup smooth all-natural peanut butter
* 3/4 cup maple syrup
* 1 cup good-quality dark chocolate chips
* 1 cup walnuts, chopped, optional
Yes. That's it. In order to get the creamiest, smoothest texture possible in the finished fudge, it is important to melt the chocolate chips down first in either a double-boiler or thick-bottomed saucepan. Once the chocolate is melted, turn the heat off and add in the peanut butter and syrup. Stir until well combined. If using nuts, stir them in. Pour the mixture into a non-stick cake pan or casserole dish (you can lightly oil the pan just to make sure the fudge doesn't stick) and spread out in an even layer. Chill in the fridge for several hours until set. Cut into small cubes or squares.

These pumpkin chocolate cookies are moist and tender with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg--perfect for the Holidays.
Pumpkin Cookies
Ingredients: Makes about 2 dozen cookies
* 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened (Earth Balance is my favorite)
* 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sucanat
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup cooked pumpkin (organic canned pumpkin works well)
* 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon EACH: baking powder and baking soda
* 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped pecans, or both
Line two cookie pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the margaine with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir together. Fold in the nuts and/or chocolate. Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the lined pans, about 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 15-16 minutes.

One more thing--the newest issue of VegNews has two great-looking holiday sweet treat recipes--Cranberry Ginger & Pistachio Biscotti and a Jeweled Chocolate Bark. I will be making the Biscotti recipe and will let you all know how it turns out. I've never eaten or cooked biscotti, so it should be an interesting experience for me. Have any of you tasted/made biscotti?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sweet and Hot Walnuts

I can't believe Christmas is a little over a week away! Something I love to do for Christmas is make a huge batch of treats to give as gifts to family and friends. So, for the next week or so, I will share my favorite recipes for things like cookies and fudge so that you, too, can share healthy vegan holiday treats with those you love.
I invented this Sweet and Hot Walnuts recipe as something to spice up my holiday gift basket. I promise, you will quickly become addicted to this sweet and spicy treat! Walnuts are the perfect nut to use for this-- all the crevices hold the spicy sugar mixture beautifully!
Ingredients: (you can expand this recipe to make as much as you need)
* 2 cups raw walnuts
* 1/4 cup sucanat
* 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
* 2 tablespoons canola oil, safflower oil or melted non-hydrogenated margarine
* 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Lay the walnuts in a single layer on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F and toast the nuts just until they begin to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes. Remove them from the oven. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together then add the toasted nuts. Mix well. Return this mixture to the baking sheet and bake about 6-7 minutes, until you can smell the sugar and cinnamon. Keep a close eye on them, as they will burn quickly and easily. Cool before eating.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Veggie-Bean Soup

Mmmmm...there's nothing like a rich, hearty bowl of soup on a cold winter's day. This soup is packed with nutrition and if you add the pasta, it's really a meal-in-one. It may seem like there's a lot of ingredients, but they're all pretty basic--most of which you probably already have in your pantry.
Ingredients (makes about 6-7 servings):
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 or 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 ribs celery, chopped
* 1 large carrot, cut into half-moons
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1 28-OZ can diced tomatoes
* 2 tablespoons liquid aminos
* 1 1/2 cups cooked whole grain pasta (optional)
* 2 cups water
* 1 can (15-OZ) red kidney beans, drained
* 1 can (15-OZ) great northern white beans, drained
* 1/2 cup each: frozen corn, green beans and peas
* Black pepper, to taste
* dash of cayenne pepper, optional
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Begin by heating the oil over medium flame in a large soup pot. Add in the onions, garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaf and dried basil. Saute for a few minutes. Add in the tomato paste to the pot and stir well until it is combined with the other ingredients. Next, stir in the diced tomatoes, aminos, water, and beans. Cover the pot, bring to a simmer and cook over med/low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the green beans and cook another 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and cook 2-3 more minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve with corn bread, whole grain muffins, or your favorite bread.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Best Tofu-Egg Salad

My local natural foods store makes the most delicious eggless tofu salad, but it's usually pretty expensive. So, I created a recipe that is almost identical and just as tasty. I love this salad for lunch--its filling and full of protein. What I like to do is make it the night before and let it sit in the fridge until I'm ready for lunch the next day. Not only does the flavor intensify, but so does the natural yellow color as the turmeric and paprika saturate the tofu.
* 1 block of firm tofu, drained, blotted dry, and cut into cubes
* 1/4 cup lemon-tahini dressing (from my "Fruits, Veggies, and Dips, Oh My!" post), or soy mayo
* 1 or 2 green onions, chopped small
* 1 small garilc clove, finely chopped, optional
* 1 small carrot, finely diced (optional, but adds extra nutrition)
* 1 or 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
* pinch of salt, or to taste
* black pepper, to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
* dash cayenne pepper
* a few pinches dried dill weed
Begin by mashing the tofu cubes with a fork or potato masher, leaving some small chunks. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix very well. Serve stuffed in a pita pocket with lettuce or spinach, tomato, cucumber, etc, with whole grain crackers, on whole grain bread, or on a bed of fresh greens.