Saturday, September 25, 2010

Benjamin Franklin Went Veggie

I'm reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin right now, and imagine my surprise and delight when I ran across the following:

"When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet.  I determined to go into it.  My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep a house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family.  My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity.  I made myself acquainted with Tryon's manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself.  He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me.  This was an additional fund for buying books.  But I had another advantage in it.

My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remaind there alone, and, despatching presently my last repast, which often was no more than a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in which I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking."

This little quoted segment of the writing illustrates two things which make me passionate about being vegan.  First, you'll note he saved a great abundance of money by not eating meat.  This is because meat SHOULD cost more to produce than crops do.  Only in our backward, twisted bureaucracy of corrupt legislation could meat be cheaper than broccoli and potatoes.  Second, it confirms that even Benjamin Franklin experienced the same increase in energy and mental well-being on a vegetarian diet that I have.  It's not placebo effect.  It's actually real.

Just wanted to share.  Finding this made me smile.

Palabok and Lunch With What Ya Got

We're gearing up from the big move from Japan to The Netherlands, and part of that is using up food from the pantry.  Well, I went on a "noodles I've never heard of" expedition long ago, and so I have this huge basket of noodles in my pantry closet that I don't know what to do with.

In my fridge, I had a ziploc full of fresh collard greens, already chopped in ribbons that we had leftover from the Lemony Collards recipe, and I needed to use them up before they spoiled.  I also had a gorgeous package of mushrooms from the local San-A, which is a Japanese grocery store.  I decided to make Palabok and collards with mushrooms for lunch. 

So did we like it?  The verdict is still out.  I'm not really sure.  I love collards, and the mushrooms were lovely.  The texture of the palabok is like glass noodles, but thicker.  It my mouth.  Different sort of texture and relatively flavorless noodle.  It's not my favorite, but your personal preferences might be different.  Overall, it was a satisfying light lunch, and the flavor was killer.

Enjoy the photos!

Palabok and Collards and Mushrooms, Oh My!
1/2 package Palabok, prepared to package directions*
Fresh Collard Greens, chiffonade
Mushrooms, any type, sliced
2T Vegan Butter
1/2T Olive Oil
Garlic, Salt, and Pepper to taste

*See Palabok directions below the recipe

In a large, flat-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter.  Add your mushrooms and garlic.  Sauté until the mushroom aromas really hit you.  Add the collards and sauté just until the wilt begins.  Toss in the palabok and give everything a few minutes to get heated through and well-mixed.  Salt and pepper.  Plate and serve!  I ate mine with Sriracha hot sauce.  


*Palabok comes in a package like the one pictured below.  These are made of "Natural Yellow Cornstarch, Water, and Sodium Polyphosphate."  Following the package instructions, you take out the desired amount and soak it in hot water from the tap for about 10 minutes.


After soaking, remove the noodles directly into boiling water.  Boil for 8-10 minutes until soft.  Remove from heat, but leave the noodles in the hot water for another 10 minutes.  During this time, using tongs, "stir to loosen" the noodles.  Drain and then transfer to a serving dish or, in this case, the pan full of your other ingredients.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Mrs. Land's Vegan Eggrolls

As regular visitors here may have noticed, I have a new cooking buddy.  Bunnary (buh-NAR-Ee) Land is a good friend of mine who I met after she married Derrick, who is an old friend of my husband's.  She immediately fit right in with the Nixes' sarcastic and silly ways.  She and I have since developed a warm friendship separate from her being "Derrick's wife."  I adore her.

Now, Bunnary's family came to America as refugees from Cambodia when she was two years old.  With that first-generation Asian cultural heritage and her Southern raising in Alabama, let me just say this woman can cook some wicked fusion foods.  She loves eating and being in the kitchen just like I do.  What can I say?  We bonded over cooking and produce.

On one of the last occasions I was invited to a "do" at the Land home, Bunnary made these eggrolls especially for me as part of the spread she put out for guests.  I was touched that she went to so much trouble, and then I ate one.  It was so much better than any other vegetable spring roll I'd ever eaten.  She is a magician.  "You have to teach me to make these," I said.  She agreed, and today, she came over and walked me through it.  I hope you'll try these.  They're super easy, and they are really quick to make.  I promise.

I've included Bunnary's tips all along the way with lots and lots of photos.  Don't let the length of the post frighten you into thinking this is "complicated."  It's anything but, and all the chopping is totally worth it.

As Bunnary likes to say, "Them little ho's is good!"



Mrs. Land's Vegan Eggrolls
There are very few measurements in this recipe, and the reason for that is simple:  you can't screw it up.  Really.  You can change the ingredients around.  You can leave out things you don't like or add things you do like which we have not listed.  Basically, this recipe is a good way to get all the produce that's about to go wobbly on you out of the fridge and into a recipe.  Use what you have.  The staple ingredients for the filling (the ones you really need) are cabbage, glass noodles, and some kind of onion.  Everything else is up to you.  The following ingredients are the ones we used.  

1 package egg-less Wrappers
Shredded Cabbage
Shredded Carrot (we used a vegetable peeler to shave off strips)
Glass Noodles*, softened and cut down to bite-sized lengths
Mushrooms (any kind you like), thinly-sliced
Kale, chopped
Celery, chopped
Green Onion, sliced
Garlic, minced
Cilantro (or parsley), chopped
Canola Oil or Peanut Oil for frying
1/2T Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Bunnary Tip #1:  When chopping your vegetables, make sure you cut them in very thin, elongated strips.  Anything chunky or geometric will puncture the wrappers and prevent you from getting the pretty, round rolls you want.

Once you have your ingredients assembled, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large, flat-bottomed pan and begin stir-frying the celery and mushroom.  After the celery begins to soften, add the cabbage, carrot, kale, and garlic.  Stir this around in the pan until all of the vegetables are soft and pliable.


In a large mixing bowl,  toss your cooked vegetables with the glass noodles and green onion.  Now, add the sugar and the cilantro or parsley and mix that in.  Taste the mix and add your salt and pepper accordingly.  That's it!  You're ready to roll them up, now.



Bunnary Tip #2:  Place a damp towel or paper towel over your stack of wrappers once you open them so that they don't dry out.  You need them to stay pliable.  If they are allowed to get too dry, they will crack and break when you try to roll them.

To roll up your eggrolls, place a generous spoon of your filling onto the corner of your wrapper (see picture above, top left).  Roll the corner over your filling and gently move it into the shape you want with your fingers (see picture above, top right).  Remember that the wrappers are delicate, so don't man-handle them.  Fold over each of the sides into the center (see picture above, bottom left).  Roll all the way to the end of your wrapper.  At the last corner, dab a bit of oil on the tip.  This will be the "glue" that keeps it together until you fry it.  Voila!  Now, you're ready to fry.


Heat about 1/2" of oil in your flat-bottomed pan (we used the same pan for cooking the vegetables...just wipe out the remaining clingy pieces with a towel before adding the fry oil).  Add your eggrolls when the oil is bubbles around the end of an eggroll when you dip it in.  We're not chefs, and we didn't take the oil temperature.  We just put them in by the bubble test.  Allow them to sit for a minute until you start to see some golden brown corners (see photo above right).  Turn them over with tongs and repeat.  Once the eggrolls are crispy and brown, remove them to a plate with paper towels to drain.  Voila!  Serve as soon as they've cooled enough to handle.

Bunnary Tip #3
If you don't want to eat all the eggrolls right away, then reserve some without frying.  Keep the unfried rolls in a ziploc in the freezer until you're ready to eat them.  They freeze beautifully and go straight from the freezer to the hot oil.  No need to thaw.


We ate these while they were still so hot they burned our fingers because we couldn't wait.  We used Mae Ploy sweet chili dipping sauce, but you could use anything.  I highly recommend finding a sweet chili sauce for these.  It was to die.

I hope this was a helpful recipe post for you.  Please try these at home.  They are fantastic.  You may never order takeout spring rolls again.


If you are confused by the lack of measurement, you can look in our photo of the ingredients above the recipe title.  The small glass bowls are 1C containers.  The white square measure cups hold 2T of liquid.  The little painted ceramic measuring cups are 1C and 1/2C from top to bottom.  The large glass bowls in the back are the large and small bowls from the standard Pyrex mixing bowl set.

*What the heck are glass noodles, anyway?  Glass noodles can typically be found in the Asian foods section of your grocery store.  The package we bought is pictured above.  Ours were made from mung bean flour, potato starch, and water.  This is typical for glass noodles, and they are almost always vegan.  It is not flavor these noodles provide (they are entirely flavorless), but texture.  It's unlike anything else, but similar to certain crunchy seaweed salads I've eaten.  

Unlike semolina or rice noodles you might be familiar with, these do not require cooking to prepare.  Simply take the desired amount of noodles from your package and put them in a bowl of hot water to soak.  By the time we're ready to use them, they will be ready to use.  Nifty, eh?  IF you choose to omit glass noodles from your eggroll mixture, you will need to double up on the cabbage.  I strongly recommend you not do that.  Get brave and try something new.  Glass noodles are well worth the effort in this recipe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The 1:29 Project Moves to The Netherlands

As most of you know, my husband is an active duty U.S. Marine.  He has recently been selected for and graduated from training at the MCESG Academy in Quantico, VA.  What the heck does that mean?  Well, it means we're leaving Okinawa, Japan and moving to The Hague, Netherlands.  Ashley will be the detachment commander for the American embassy there, and we will be leaving for that new post at the end of October or in early November.

I will continue posting as usual until things get crazy with the move.  Then, as I did in February, I will disappear from the internet for several months.  I'm sorry, but this time it will not be voluntary.  I promise to be as regular with posts and pictures as I can be throughout.

Just wanted to give the heads up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God Likes Clean Vegans

"Cleanliness is Next to Godliness."

There are so many reasons why that statement is true.  I have trouble being godly and I have trouble with the whole keeping my self, my house, and my stuff clean all the time thing.

I mean, I can clean like a champ once per month on a high caffeine consumption day, but keeping things together and tidy and sparkly...every day?  Yeah, that is a very tall order I haven't learned how to fill, yet.  It's a lot of work to do all that when you have a husband, a beagle, a kid, and a natural predisposition for general sloth.

I know.  You thought I was the second incarnation of Martha, didn't you?  Oh, don't be sad.  It's okay.  It's kind of a vibe I cultivated so that my friends and family wouldn't figure out I was lazy and refuse to love me.  I should probably devote some time to these issues in therapy, but I'm just too gosh-darned busy for that kind of introspection right now (note:  that was humor).  The point is:  I'm not like Martha, and my home has probably been cleaned in a manic frenzy which ended less than 5 minutes before you arrived...every time you have ever been over to my house.

I know it's a lot to take in.  Just breathe.  The shock will pass.

As I begin to mature, and as the general quality, cost, and sentimental value of our possessions rise, I'm getting better at handling my home like a grownup.  I'm not as lazy about housework as I was 5 years ago.  I take better care of the house in general and my family in particular.  Since becoming vegan, I have been altogether more conscious and conscientious in my general efforts toward organizing our little Nix corner of the world .  I don't think that's a coincidence.

Cleanliness is next to godliness because, when your home and body are clean and cared for, the mind will slow down and focus on important things.  Order in the home lowers anxiety, and it happens automatically.  Think about the last time you really scrubbed down a room in your home.  When you were finished, and you looked over all the sparkly surfaces with the pleasant scent of cleaners lingering, possessed with full confidence that everything in that room was clutter-free and in its rightful place...didn't you immediately feel the tension just leave your body?  Order and cleanliness are things you need for any decent spiritual and philosophical reflection.  If you keep an orderly house, an orderly mind inevitably follows.  When your thoughts are clear, you can pray better, you will feel better, and you will be better able to care for others.

So, let's talk about cleaners, shall we?

Homemade Vegan Cleaners
My friend Bunnary and I have an obsession with vinegar.  We read a site with 1001 tips for using vinegar around the house, and got a bit ridiculous about it.  In that process, we have learned a lot about household cleaners and how to keep things tidy the old school way.

Let me recommend the following cleaners to you.  You will need to buy a few plastic spray bottles from the gardening section of your favorite department store, and you probably have the rest of what you need already hiding out in your home.  These cleaners are seriously cheap, completely safe, and they can outperform and totally replace about 2/3 of the products you have cluttering up your cabinet and shelving space.

Bye-bye Windex!
and 409 and Clorox counter wipes and Lysol and CLR and Jet Dry and Brasso and Tilex and...

To get you started, you will need a nice all-purpose glass and surface cleaner.  Look no further than white distilled vinegar.  In a spray bottle, mix 1 part vinegar to 1 part water.  This will clean mirrors and glass better than ammonia products at a fraction of the cost.  In addition to glass, you can use it to shine surfaces.  I have metal and Formica counter tops.  On both, the vinegar cleaner gets up the grease, kills the germs, and leaves a nice sparkle.  The aroma of vinegar might not be your favorite, but it dissipates in less than an hour, and all that's left is clean.  Plus, if your babies or pets get ahold of it, you don't have to be frightened.

Vinegar can be used for many things around the house.  You can boil vinegar water on the stove to remove odors, spray it in your trashcans to deoderize and kill germs, and repel ants by spraying it full-strength around the windows and pathways they use in your kitchen.  It's a miracle product...for about $2/gallon.

Adieu, Mr. Clean!
and Fabuloso and Mop n' Glo and Spic n' Span and Resolve spray

I have just discovered a new floor cleaner.  I got this tip from Martha's Homekeeping Handbook, and it is really fantastic.  I've used it to scrub fingerprints and schmoo from the walls, degrease my kitchen stove, and as the title would clean floors.  It's very easy to make.  In an empty, clean spray bottle, mix 1C water, 1C rubbing alcohol, and 1C white distilled vinegar.  To this, add 9 drops of your favorite dish liquid.  Voila!  Clean floors, walls, toilets, sinks, and doors with it.  You can also use it to very effectively pull up stains from carpet.

Adios, Pine Sol!
and Magic Eraser and metal scrubbers and Goo Gone

Allow me to introduce one of the oldest, most familiar, yet for some reason the most elusive cleaning products in human history.  Meet pine oil.  My darling friend Meghann introduced me to pine oil.  He is my friend, and he can be your friend, too!  Now, I'm not talking about Pine Sol.  I mean pine oil.  It is a highly-concentrated cleaner that is usually sold in bulk to industrial cleaning companies.  They use it in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes for both its anti-bacterial effect and strong scent.  Pine oil, when you open the gallon jug it typically comes in, is an amber liquid with a pine scent so potent it will make your eyes cross.  A modest cap full added to a spray bottle filled with water is all you need.  The thick golden fluid will immediately turn the water into an opaque white liquid resembling milk.  That's what you want, and if your pine oil doesn't have this effect...then it isn't real pine oil.

For some reason, pine oil has fallen out of fashion in favor of the pre-diluted brands of cleaners we buy in department stores.  Yea, Capitalism.  It's a real shame, though, because pine oil will do the toughest jobs in your home all by itself.  It doesn't need all the other stuff the companies mix it with to make a marketable product.

I have used diluted pine oil to clean crayon and sharpie marker off walls and floors.  I have used it to get dried carpet glue up off of tile.  I have used it to clean up rotten potato residue off the floor of my pantry (oh my dear God in Heaven...that smell was the worst thing I've ever dealt with).  Basically, if the job is nasty or smelly or requires the big guns, pine oil will get it done.

Pine oil is not toxic and it is a natural product refined from pine trees.  Don't allow your pets and children to consume it.  It will make them vomit from what I understand.  It is totally safe otherwise, and you can use it with confidence.  If you have trouble finding real pine oil to purchase, you can order a gallon jug of it here.  Note that Pine Sol and the popular-with-green-types brand called Super Pine contain only negligible amounts of pine oil.  Though effective cleaners in their own right, neither of these brands is the real deal, and both are considerably more expensive in the long run than a plain gallon of pine oil...which will last an average household for YEARS.

Tot Ziens, Ajax!
and Comet and Soft Scrub and Brillo

When nothing but an abrasive scrubbing cleaner will do, you don't need anything but good old baking soda.  Some baking soda on a sponge or scrub pad with water and a bit of dish soap (or the floor cleaner I described above) will scrub and shine steel sinks and appliances, floors, tile, grout, etcetera.  You just don't need those other things.  If you really like your abrasives, may I recommend the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day brand.  Her cleaners are safe, vegan, and they all smell gorgeous.


I hope some of you like this post and will try some of these natural cleaners.  I'm quickly learning to use them in place of almost everything else on the cleaning aisle.  Let me know how it goes...and remember that God likes clean vegans.  /wink

Monday, September 20, 2010

I am NOT a Hallelujah Vegan...and You Shouldn't Be, Either

What the heck is a Hallelujah Vegan, you ask?  Oh, trust me I will tell you.  I'm seriously peeved about this one, and I'm breaking my rule about blogging while angry for it.  I'm white-hot pissed right now.  Keep reading; you'll see why.


I've been writing in this blog off and on for a while now.  I don't get a lot of comments, but I seem to get some page views pretty frequently--from all over the world, actually--and that keeps me motivated.  Today, I couldn't resist the temptation, and I Google'd my own blog.

I was horrified at what I found.  Apparently, there is a whole group of people who call themselves "Hallelujah Vegans" and follow a diet they've called "The Genesis 1:29 Diet."  I swear on every ounce of integrity in my body that I never heard of these folks before today.

These so-called hallelujah vegans are following a restrictive diet based on a book written by a guy named Gordon Tessler entitled, The Genesis Diet.  There's no specific description of the eating plan or any nutritional science that backs up whatever it is that Tessler convinced these people to do.  All you see on the Amazon page is a handful of glowing and vague reviews proclaiming Tessler's prescience in "diagnosing" health problems.  Diagnosing?  Seriously?  He's not an M.D.  He's a PhD, and good luck finding out what he is actually a doctor of...because I couldn't.

This man is scary.  Everything I found about him paints the picture of a total sheister charleton type who goes around getting people all excited about buying his book by calling it "biblical."  He's got his various books and DVD's  for sale in a number of questionable-looking places.  It's a very Scientology-sounding type of quackery with "body scans" and "healing rooms."  I mean, that's so straight-up Friend of Xenu that I can't believe there are people who went for it.  Tessler is described in multiple places as an "expert" in nutrition and "biblical health."  Huh?  What does that even mean?

Every online diet review you find for the Genesis Diet is pretty much the same:  no specific information about the diet because they couldn't find any...but it's not recommended because it's too low in calories, too high in carbs, and too low in protein (which begs the question, "how do they know all that if they don't know what's in the diet plan?").  Sigh.

There are sites online devoted to trashing veganism because of the frightening results some people had from following Tessler's diet.  One of them is called "Losing Your Mind to the Genesis Diet," and they drone on and on for pages and pages about how meat and cheese are the only way to get quality protein (because the Genesis Diet frowns upon beans and legumes and they were idiotic enough to eat that way until their gums started to bleed...nice!).  Apparently, the authors of this anti-veg site, which I will not dignify with a link, are either lying to cover up a political agenda against veganism or they were on a pseudo-starvation diet that some nut job convinced them was scriptural...because they were stupid.

I'm devastated to think I might be associated with this guy or his book or the diet or any of this drama because of the name I chose for my blog.  I'm angry and crestfallen to find that when someone Googles my blog, the entries they will see on top of my link are related to all this drama and nonsense.

At first, I thought I should change the name of my blog...but I'm not going to do that.  I picked it because I felt inspired by reading Genesis 1:29...for myself.  All this other tomfoolery has nothing to do with my family or our little project.  I have loved the title I chose here and been proud of it, so I don't think I should have to give it up.  But going forward, let me just get a few things straight:

1.)  Nothing in Genesis 1:29 suggests you should go hungry or that you should neglect staples of nutrition.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Genesis 1:29 describes bountiful variety in God's gift of all plant life for our use and consumption.  It certainly doesn't say you shouldn't eat chickpeas or peanuts...for God's sake!!

2.) Veganism is not a diet.  It's a commitment to eating healthfully and plentifully without harming anything in the process.  It's about standing up for moral integrity against a corrupt system of "food" production in the developed world which has strayed from basic humanity and the laws of nature.

3.) You do not need animal protein to be healthy, but you do need protein.  Eat beans and legumes.  Eat nuts.  Eat whole grains.  Make sure you know where your protein comes from...and eat some every day.

4.)You don't need dairy calcium to be healthy (in fact, a lot of research indicates that dairy consumption hurts calcium absorption more than it helps), but you do need calcium.  Eat lots of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.  Drink calcium-enriched non-dairy milks (like soy milk or rice milk).  Know where your nutrients come from, and eat them.

5.) Educate yourself about vitamins B12 and D, and make sure you meet your body's needs for them.  It's not hard and nothing has to die in a factory farm for you to do it.

6.) Serving God through veganism is about stewardship.  It's not about penance or deprivation or some mystical and rigid adherence to the terminology in any particular Bible verse.

God didn't make the Bible difficult to understand.  He didn't hide the truth from you and then show it to "Doctor" Tessler so he could sell it to you.  You don't need to buy anything or consult moon phases, runes, or experts in "biblical health" to understand nutrition.  If you are  Eat well.  Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, fats, and colors...and eat calories.  You need them.  Listen to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau...not Gordon Tessler.  Her podcast is free, and she is an acknowledged, non-crazy expert in vegan nutrition.

So.  If you see someone referring to themselves as a hallelujah vegan or to their "diet" as the Genesis 1:29 Diet, know that they have no relationship, connection, or affiliation with me...and then RUN the other way as fast as you can.

Crabby Salad

Before I went vegan, one of my favorite things to eat for lunch was a simple seafood salad.  I would make it with fake crab meat (made from white fish and all kinds of artificial flavorings), mayonnaise, and an assortment of vegetables and spices.  I really missed that salad.  This week, it occurred to me that I could very easily replicate it with tofu.  I have read several recipes that seek to replicate tuna salad and egg salad, so I figured I had the basic idea down.

The following recipe is my ingenious concoction.  It was bliss to eat and a cinch to make.  I hope you try it.  I made a small amount to feed myself and my daughter.  If you have a larger group or a larger appetite, this will easily double.

1:29 Project Crabby Salad
1/2 block Extra Firm Tofu, cut into very small cubes
1/4C Mayonnaise**
1 stalk Celery, small dice
1/4C Red Onion, small dice
1 sheet Toasted Nori (seaweed), cut into c.1/3" pieces
1/3C diced Fresh Tomato
1/2 can Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1/2tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1T Fresh Lemon Juice
1tsp Dill Weed (I used dry.  If using fresh dill, use 1.5tsp)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Paprika for zing
Your favorite salad greens, cut or torn into fork-able pieces

Measurements are approximations.  I didn't measure when making use your eyeball judgment and personal taste when adding ingredients.  I plan to add avocado and cucumber to the mix next time I make this.  You could put in bell pepper, use more lemon juice, omit the nori if you don't care for it, add heat in the form of know, just make it your own. Food is supposed to be joyous and fun! 


About nori:  Nori is a seaweed which is toasted and sold in sheets.  You are likely familiar with nori as the wrapper on sushi rolls.  It has a salty and sea-like flavor which recalls the flavor of fish.  It added the perfect flavor to this crabby salad.  To prepare it, I took one sheet of nori and cut it into small pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors (see photo above this text on the right).

Put the diced tofu into a medium-sized bowl.  Pour your lemon juice over the tofu, and sprinkle in your Old Bay.  Toss lightly to coat and set aside.  In another bowl, toss the mayo, celery, onion, nori, tomato, beans, and dill weed together.  Prepare your serving bowls by setting them up with the beds of fresh greens.  Now pour your mayo mixture into the tofu bowl, and mix everything together until creamy and well-distributed.  Taste test and then add your salt and pepper.  Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, put a nice 2/3C serving in the middle of each of your bowls over the greens for a lovely presentation.  Sprinkle with paprika for some color and zing.  Voila!

** A Note about Mayonnaise
Now...I still eat mayonnaise.  It is not a vegan ingredient because chicken's egg yolks are used in the making of it.  I accept this because I craved it hard after going vegan.  It was the one omnivorous food I thought about and missed and wanted...all the time.  For most people, that one food is dairy cheese.  I assumed, in the beginning, that I would miss steak or cheese or bacon.  You know...the usual suspects.  But I didn't miss any of those foods, and I certainly didn't want them on a regular basis.  If anything, those foods and the smells associated with them repulsed me for the most part.  No, I didn't have an issue with cheese.  For me, the downfall was egg mayonnaise.  Cole slaw, salad dressing, sandwich bread, and a number of other things which constitute my very favorite foods use mayonnaise and cannot be approximated without it.

As most vegans know, there are many vegan mayonnaises on the market in the United States, but there are not any sold here on Okinawa that I have been able to find...and believe me, I have looked.  I mail-ordered some Nasoya brand eggless mayo from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe (AWESOME store with incredible customer service.  Please visit them), but I had to throw it out.  It was horrible.  I mean, I was literally disgusted by the flavor and the smell, and I just simply could not eat it.  Vegenaise is a brand highly-recommended, but I can't get it here, and I can't order it via delivery because of the necessity for keeping it cold.  I also understand that Wildwood Garlic Aioli is a widely-preferred product, as well.  This, too, is unavailable for me while I remain in Okinawa.  So, I decided to eat my egg mayonnaise until a proper substitute can be found.  I will continue to look for good substitutes in my world travels with the Marine Corps.  Until I find one, however, I'm a vegan who eats mayonnaise...and I'm okay with that.

For this recipe, you can substitute any eggless mayo you like to make it completely vegan.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lemony Collards for Lunch (and how to Chiffonade)

I went to the local Japanese produce store last week, and I had some things threatening to lose their freshness.  My friend Bunnary and I were both in the mood for collard greens today, and so we took to the fridge and concocted the following lunch dish made from leftover pasta, 3 day-old grape tomatoes, and some gorgeous brown cap mushrooms which had gotten a little too close to the back of the fridge and were wilting under a slight ice glaze.  Sounds horrible, right?  No.  This stuff was insanely good, and it was just what the stomach wanted for a hot, sunny midday.

Bunnary's Lemony Collard Lunch
1 bunch Collard Greens, washed and cut chiffonade (see picture below)
1 small Yellow Onion, small dice
5-10 Grape Tomatoes, halved
Mushrooms of your choice, chopped to bite-size pieces
1/2 Lemon, zest and juice
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 good handful Fresh Basil, cut chiffonade
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2 servings Cooked Pasta, your choice

In a hot pan, sauté the onion and red pepper flakes in about 1T of vegan butter or olive oil.  When the onions are soft (about 3 minutes), add the mushroom, garlic, and that order.  Stir fry until the collards begin to wilt.  Add the tomato, lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  When the collards are al dente, the dish is ready to eat.  Make sure all the flavors are well mixed.  Remove from heat, stir in the already-prepared pasta, and enjoy!


How to Cut Collards (or any other leafy vegetable/herb) in a Chiffonade
The lovely Bunnary Land demonstrates while I take pictures...

Remember that you can click on any of these thumbnails for a larger, detailed view.


First, cut the thick stems off to the base of the leaves.  Stack your leaves as best you can on top of one another.  Next, roll the leaves up into a nice tube shape.


Cut the roll in half, and then assemble the halves next to one another facing the same direction.  Using a sharp knife, slice across the cut face of the rolls in the desired thickness.


What you end up with is a nice pile of these beautiful ribbons.  This is perfect for stir-frying.  With fresh basil leaves, you follow this same process, just a smaller scale.  The cooked greens look like our last photo here in the recipe above.  They were just perfect.  And how you cut collard greens in a chiffonade.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kale & Squash In a Soup

About two weeks ago, I made a soup recipe from the Toni Fiore podcast called Curried Zucchini Soup.  It was a very simple recipe, and it was seriously good.  This week, I bought a ton of curly kale and a bag full of ugly little yellow squash that looked lonely in the reduced for quick sale section.  On a night that just felt like a soup evening, my friend Bunnary and I decided to couple the ingredients and make something out of them.  It was so scrumptious and perfect with just the right amount of spice and a tremendous amount of flavor.  This soup would be good with either yellow or zucchini, but we think the best way would be to mix a bit of both in together.  Here's how we made it:

Kale and Squash In a Soup
1 bunch Curly Kale, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
4 small or 2 large Squash, chopped into spoon-able pieces
1T Mild Curry Powder (or dry spice mix of your choice)
1tsp Hot Curry Powder (or red chili flakes if you prefer)
6C Vegetable Stock or Bouillon
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

The Ingredients
Before Simmering for 15-20 minutes

Put just enough oil in the bottom of a soup pot to sauté your onion into submission over medium high heat.  Once that goes soft, add the squash and the dry spices, both mild and hot.  Get the garlic in there and stir it around just long enough for the garlic aroma to come out of the pot at you.  Once that happens, toss in the kale and the liquid.  Cover and lower heat.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the kale is wilted to a texture you like.

You could serve the soup just like this, but we used the immersion blender to break it up a bit because that's what Toni Fiore did in her recipe for Curried Zucchini Soup, which was the initial inspiration for this soup.  It also thickens the soup up a bit, which Bunnary and I both preferred to a brothy texture that evening.  If you do use an immersion blender, just pulse it around a bit until you get some thickening.  Don't puree the soup.  Part of the joy of this particular recipe is the large bites of squash and chewy kale.  You don't want to get rid of all that.

Hope you like it as much as we did.  It is seriously awesome stuff.

**A note about the spices we used:   Here on Okinawa, we enjoy the presence of CocoIchibanya curry houses and the pantry items they sell from the restaurants.  The hot curry mix I used is the orange bottle you see in the photo above left.  It's VERY hot, and so 1tsp was more than sufficient.  Adjust your heat ingredients to your own tastes.  I don't like typical yellow Indian curry powders, so I used a McCormick spice mix heavy on ginger.  Any curry-like spice mix will work for you.