Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chickpea Socca with Greens and White Bean Purée

Yes, I made more socca stacks! This time the socca pieces were sandwiched between layers of tomato sauce, sautéed kale, white bean purée and caramelized leeks. (I love caramelized leeks!) This recipe is from You Won't Believe it's Vegan! by Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty.

Lacy Sher and Gail Doherty used to own the restaurant Down to Earth in Red Bank, NJ. Red Bank is about an hour south of us on the NJ Parkway. Dennis and I used to drive down there every once in a while just to eat there because the food was so amazingly delicious. We were hearbroken when the restaurant closed and we could no longer get our favorite vegan dishes. I stumbled across this book in the bookstore by chance, and after flipping through it and recognizing the dish names, I quickly realized that it was a cookbook full of Down to Earth's recipes. I almost started crying right there in the bookstore when I realized that I could once again have my favorite Down to Earth dishes. But of course, I would have to cook them myself.

This socca dish isn't difficult, but each layer needs to be cooked in it's own dish or pan, so I did make quite a mess. It was so delicious that I was worth it though. Dennis loved it so much that he said "I feel sorry for people who are not me" !

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lucy's Cookies

In case you haven't heard, Starbucks now sells vegan cookies! They are made specifically for people with food allergies, so they are free of peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs. This is big news as it means that both vegan foods and gluten-free foods have gone mainstream! They're called Lucy's, and Lucy was the name of my favorite cat, so that's one more reason for me to like them.

Dennis was sweet enough to come home from Starbucks with all three flavors - Cinnamon Thins, Chocolate Chip and Sugar. The cookies are crisp rather than soft and chewy, but that doesn't mean that they are lacking in flavor. You don't have to be vegan or have food allergies to enjoy these cookies. They're the perfect tea-time treat for everyone!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant

Last night I went to Mesob Restaurant in Montclair with my friends from work - Kris, Liz, Vanessa and Kevin, and Erin, who used to work with us. I've eaten there many times, and Liz and Vanessa have eaten there with me once before. It was the first time for Kris, Kevin and Erin, and they were all quite pleased.

The food is absolutely delicious. We ordered the vegetarian sampler and had everything from the vegetarian menu. There were dishes made with chickpeas (the chickpea biscuits are my FAVORITE!), lentils, split peas, collard greens, potatoes, cabbage, portobello mushrooms, and green beans. The great thing about eating at Mesob is that I can order anything from their vegetarian menu and not worry about food allergies, because it's all Dianne-safe.

The food is not eaten with forks, but instead pinched between pieces of bread called injera. Injera is a flat, pancake like bread made out of teff flour. Teff grains are very tiny - smaller than 1mm in diameter! It is believed that teff originated in Ethiopia 4000 BC and 1000 BC. It's a very nutritious grain that contains high levels of iron, protein and calcium and dietary fiber. It also has high levels of phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, boron and zinc. It does contain gluten, but it's okay for people with celiac disease, because it does not contain the gluten-fraction that causes celiac disease.

If you live in the area, I highly recommend Mesob. If you don't, see if there's an Ethiopian restaurant near by that you can try out. You won't be disappointed!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chickpea Confetti Casserole

This recipe is from Dreena Burton's Eat Drink and Be Vegan. It's a super simple and very tasty dish that uses red bell pepper, fennel, chick peas, quinoa and vegetable stock. All of the ingredients are put into a casserole dish and baked in the oven. The quinoa cooks in the casserole dish, so it's a good one-dish meal. I had both regular and black quinoa on hand, so I mixed them together to give the dish a little extra color.

It's been a looooong time since I cooked fennel, and it was nice to have something different for a change. Fennel provides an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. It is also a very good source of folic acid, phosphorous, iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Fennel is often used medicinally, and it's known to treat digestion problems, menstrual disorders, respiratory disorders and eye problems. It also contains large amounts of anticancer compounds, so it's a food that should really be eaten more often.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chickpea Helper

This recipe is based on Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Tempeh Helper Recipe, which is based on Hamburger Helper. I made Tempeh Helper once before and it was delicious, so I decided to make it again and make it soy free this time. I used lightly mashed chickpeas and I added a little chopped onion instead of tempeh. And of course, I used brown rice pasta instead of wheat pasta. Other than omitting the garlic and using wheat free flour, I followed Isa's recipe. I served it with a side of broccoli, because broccoli's really tasty with Cheezy Sauce. This meal was reminiscent of the Mac Daddy I made a few weeks ago, but without the half our wait for the meal to cook in the oven. Dennis described it as "scrumptacular", so I'll definitely be making it again!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ratatouille with White Beans

This is another recipe from The Vegan Table. It's listed as a spring recipe, but since it's warm and stew-ish, I thought it would be nice for winter as well. And it was.

The recipe uses eggplant, red bell peppers, zucchini, red onions and tomatoes, and then cooked white beans are added close to the end. Since a vegetable's nutrients come from it's color, I tell my clients that they should try to have at least four colors on their plates at every meal. This meal is very colorful, which means it's also very nutritious. The recipe was easy to make and the end result was delicious. The great thing is that it made about 5 servings of food, which means Dennis and I will have tasty leftovers for lunch. I'm a big fan of the "cook once, eat twice" theory!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pizza Night!

Sunday used to be pizza night in our house, but my food allergies have put a halt to that tradition. Dennis and I would buy a pre-made whole wheat crust and top it with veggies and Vegan Gourmet soy cheese. We revived our tradition yesterday and made a gluten-free pizza crust using a recipe in The Gluten-Free Vegan by Susan O'Brien. We topped the crust with tomato sauce, broccoli rabe, mushrooms and Daiya vegan cheese.

The crust was made with Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free flour and potato flour. The recipe doesn't call for pre-heating it before topping it, but I think we will do so the next time we make it because it was a little bit doughy in the middle and it seemed thin. We'll probably make more than one batch the next time we make it so it will be a little thicker too.

Daiya is a new vegan cheese on the market, and currently none of the stores around me carry it, so I had to mail order it. It's becoming more popular, so I think it's just a matter of time before my local Whole Foods carries it. It's made with tapioca and somehow melts like dairy cheese, which most soy cheeses don't do. I have to admit that it's not my favorite vegan cheese, but it is growing on me, and I'm happy to have a soy-free cheese option.

I'm happy to have pizza night back and am looking forward to experimenting with doughs and toppings!

Like what you're reading? Then check out my healthy living newsletter!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner Party

My friend Karen and her husband David had Dennis and I over for dinner last night. Karen and David aren't vegan but she was able to make a delicious food-sensitivity free meal! She made mushroom risotto with a recipe from The Vegan Table along with a black eyed pea dish. Karen proved that it's possible to have a vegan with food allergies over for dinner!

I said I'd bring the dessert, so I made apple crisp recipe from Clean Food. I picked up some hemp milk ice-cream to along with it. I'd seen hemp milk ice cream in the store many times, but hadn't tried it until now. It was delicious! I think it has become my favorite dairy-free ice cream.

There was a little bit of apple crisp leftover, so Dennis and I brought it home and had it for breakfast this morning. Since it's made with fruit, nuts, oatmeal and maple syrup, it's a healthy breakfast treat!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sushi Night

Last night my friend Elizabeth and I went out for sushi. As much as I love to cook, it was nice to have a night off! We went to Sushi Hana in Montclair which has a nice vegetarian selection. I had sweet potato rolls and vegetable rolls with spicy peanut sauce. Please forgive the blurry photo. I forgot my camera so I had to take the picture with my iPhone. After dinner, we went to see The Young Victoria, which was excellent! If you're in to period pieces and historical drama, I highly recommend it.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mushroom Risotto

This mushroom risotto recipe is from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table. The recipe is pretty simple, and uses onions mushrooms, Arborio rice and vegetable broth. I've never made risotto before and didn't know that broth had be scooped into the rice and stirred until it was absorbed, and then more broth is added. It took about 20 minutes to cook, and the risotto was so delcious that it was totally worth the the time spent stirring. The dish is garnished with parsely and chopped olives. I served it over sautéed kale in order to get my daily greens in. I will definitely make it again!

If you're wondering why I don't post complete recipes of all of the meals I cook, it's because they're from cookbooks and I don't want to anger any authors or publishers. All of the books I mention are available on my Amazon Affliates Store.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pad Thai Again

I know I've already made Pad Thai, but it's extremely tasty and pretty easy to make, so I think it's going to become a regular meal in my house now. This time around, the sauce wasn't as thick but it still tasted peanut-buttery yummy. I used spicy Thai chili paste in the sauce to give it a nice spicy kick. I remembered that I'm sensitive to corn, so I didn't add baby corn like I did the last time. The stir-fry consists of sugar snap peas, broccoli, red bell pepper, mushrooms and peanuts. I did have mung bean sprouts this time, so I added them to the stir fry at the end, along with some scallions.

Adding mung bean sprouts is a good way to add a little extra nutritional value to a meal. They contain vitamins A, B, C and E as well as calcium, potassium and iron. Sprouts are also a high source of fiber, are easily digestible and contain a high concentration of enzymes facilitating the digestive process. They also add a nice crunch and mild flavor to meals, so add some sprouts to your sandwiches, salads and stir-fries!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chili Night!

Chili's always a good, easy to make one pot meal. I'm incapable of making a small portion of chili, so Dennis and I always end up eating it for weeks. I've had people ask for my recipe, but the truth is that I don't really have one - I just throw lots of stuff in a pot. I usually use a large can of diced tomatoes and a large can of tomato sauce and I add a can each of pinto, kidney and black beans. To that I add chopped zucchini and summer squash, chopped onions and a variety of peppers, including some spicy ones. I use chili powder and cumin to taste to spice it up. I usually add a cup of tvp, but I left it out this time, since it's soy. I let the chili simmer for a while - usually a few hours - before we eat it.

I usually make cheesy double cornbread to go alongside my chili, but since I'm avoiding corn, I decided to make chickpea socca bread again. I got a little experimental with it this time and added a chopped chili pepper and a little nutritional yeast, which worked perfectly with the chili.

Not only was this meal delicious, it was extremely nutritious. The chili is packed with lots of healthy veggies and beans. Beans are a great way to add high-quality, plant-based protein to your diet. They are high in iron, B vitamins, calcium and fiber and are low in fat. So make some chili and don't feel guilty when you go back for a second helping!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Collard Greens with Rice and Black Eyed Peas

This is a recipe from my friend Donna that I altered slightly. I chopped up half of an onion and sautéed it for a a few minutes and then added chopped collard greens. Then I added Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley, vegetable broth and a can of diced tomatoes and let it all simmer together. Once the rice was almost cooked, I added a can of black eyed peas. This meal is nice and warming and is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter's evening!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grilled Cheese!

I really had a hankering for something cheesy, so I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, that's right, grilled cheese sandwiches. These sandwiches are made with rye bread, vegan rice cheese, tomatoes and Earth Balance soy-free margerine and they tasted delicious! Along with a nice bowl of soup, they're the perfect lunch for a cold winter's day!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blossom Restaurant

Yesterday Dennis and I went in to NYC to have dinner and see Eddie Izzard perform. The food was delicious and Eddie was hilarious, so it was a great evening!

We went to Blossom Restaurant for dinner. I've only eaten there once before, but I've eaten at Blossom Cafe many times and it's a favorite of mine. The restaurant is much more upscale and the food is equally as delicious. I started out with a Black-Eyed Pea Cake which was super tasty. For my entrée, I had the Vegetable Mezze plate, which consisted of roasted fennel, brussels sprouts, sweet potato puree, tri-color cauliflower, kale and quinoa. The kale was the best I've ever eaten and I raved to Dennis about it so much that the guy sitting next to me ordered a side of it. The dish was surprizingly very filling for a plate of vegetables! If you're ever in NYC and are looking for a good vegan resturant, give one of the Blossoms a try!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week Three Begins

I've known about my food allergies for about a month now, but it's only been since January 1st that I've completely eliminated all of the foods that I'm sensitive to from my diet. People keep asking me how I feel and what I'm eating, so I thought I'd address the questions in a blog post.

First of all, I don't miss wheat! That's right. I don't miss it all. There are many other grains that breads, pastas and baked goods can be made of, and they're all really tasty, so there's really nothing to miss.

I do miss garlic and spinach. I've been cooking other greens such as kale, boy choy, collards and chard, but I do miss spinach. I love garlic, and it's tough not to cook without it. Luckily, they are not foods I'm severely allergic too. I have a slight sensitivity to them, and once my system has healed, I can add them back into my diet.

I've been enjoying cooking. I had been in a rut with my cooking before, but after I found out I couldn't eat wheat, soy or corn, I pulled all of my cookbooks down from the book shelf and started looking for new meal ideas. I've made some delicious dinners that I probably wouldn't have made otherwise.

I do not feel deprived. In the past few weeks, I've had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oatmeal, pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, scones, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, chocolate smoothies and hummus with rice crackers among other things. How can I complain about what I can't eat when there is so much that I CAN eat?

I've been feeling better. I have noticed an increase in my energy level, my skin has been looking better and my hair feels thicker. My digestion has also started to improve, and I no longer feel bloated all the time. I've also lost three pounds. I'm sure I will be seeing more improvements as the weeks move along.

And so begins week three of my elimination diet. I already have ideas for meals that I want to make and I'm looking forward to eating out in NYC this evening!

Friday, January 15, 2010

White Bean Mushroom Leek Quiche

I occasionally make a delicious tofu spinach mushroom quiche using a recipe from 101 Cookbooks, but since tofu (and spinach) is off the menu for now, I thought I'd have to go without it for a while. But I was wrong! I was quite happy to find a soy-free quiche in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch. The recipe uses cannellini beans and walnuts as a base and the quiche is made with mushrooms and leeks. Instead of walnuts, I used raw cashews that I had soaked overnight. You wold think that a quiche would be difficult to make and consume too much time, and you'd be wrong. The recipe was easy to follow. Most of the time spent on this dish was either in chopping veggies or waiting for the quiche to cook in the oven.

The base of the quiche was smooth and creamy ,and the mushrooms and leeks made it quite yummy. Dennis liked it so much he had two helpings! I plan on making this again and playing with different fillings.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baked Pumpkin Ziti with Carmelized Onions

This is another recipe from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It's a really interesting twist on baked ziti that uses puréed pumpkin instead of tomato sauce. The pumpkin purée is mixed with tofu ricotta, carmelized onions and some spices and then mixed with the cooked ziti. The dish is then topped with breadcrumbs mixed with spices and margerine.

It was pretty easy to alter this recipe to fit my allergen-free diet. I used rice pasta and rice bread crumbs, both of which I bought at Whole Foods. (I was happy to recently discover that the local Shop Rite also stocks them.) Instead of tofu ricotta, I mixed up a batch of the same cashew ricotta that I made for the lasagna tart a few weeks ago. As you may have figured by now, I'm not big on lots of onions, but the carmelized onions in this recipe were really tasty. After cooking the ziti mix in the oven for half an hour, I popped it under the broiler for a few minutes to get the top of the bread crumbs a little crunchy. In true broiler fashion, the top burnt because I turned my back on it for 5 seconds too long. The dish still tasted great though, and everyone wanted to know what smelled so good when I reheated leftovers at work today.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes with Socca

I don't really have a name for this dish, although it is very chili-like. It's something I make regularly because it's simple and comforting. I sautée peppers of all colors and kinds (sweet and hot) with some chopped onion, and then add a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of kidney beans and let it simmer for a while. I usually serve this with grilled polenta, but corn's off the menu for now. I thought about making some rice to go with it, but then I remembered the socca I made recently. Socca is a flat bread made with chickpea flour and is reminiscent of polenta. So I quickly cooked up some socca in the oven and grilled it in a grill pan on the stove top. Socca is delicious and easy to make, so I'm sure I'll be making it often.

Chickpea Socca
1 cup chickpea flour
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat ovent to 450 degrees and oil a large baking pan.
Wisk flour, water, salt and pepper together. Wisk in olive oil.
Pour socca mixture into pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until socca is firm.

Socca is versitle and can be used to make lasagne like stacks. Try different fillings, including tomato sauce, sautéed veggies, and steamed leafy greens. Also try experiment with different spices in the socca mixture before baking.

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My friend Irina and I were recently wandering around the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, and I was pleasantly pleased to find rice tortillas made by Food For Life. Unfortunately, my local Whole Foods does not stock them, but I might have to have a word or two with the manager about that.

I decided to make quesadillas with them. I used refried beans and a little bit of rice cheese for the "glue" to hold them together. I stuffed them with sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms and then I baked them in the oven for a few minutes. Dennis whipped up some guacamole to top them with, and I made some sautéed chard and mixed them with a little bit of the pepper mixture that didn't fit in the quesadillas. The tortillas turned a little flakey in the oven, but that didn't take away from the taste at all - they were delicious! I'm going to be really upset if I can't get these tortillas locally!

Like what you're reading? Then sign up for my healthy living newsletter!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Rolled oats is always good for a quick and healthy breakfast. Although, if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, it's probably best to stay away from oatmeal. Oats do not contain gluten themselves, but they can be subject to cross contamination in processing.

I don't like the texture of plain oatmeal, so I like to load it up with stuff. This time, I used sliced bananas, goji berries, pumpkin seeds and hemp milk. After the oatmeal was done cooking, I mixed in chia seeds, hemp seeds and ground flax seeds.

Flax, chia and hemp are full of the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which so many diets are lacking. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in the normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Deficiencies are responsible for a huge range of symptoms and disorders including abnormalities in the liver and kidney, changes in the blood, reduced growth rates, decreased immune function, depression, and skin changes, including dryness and scaliness. Adequate
intake of the essential fatty acids results in numerous health benefits including prevention of atherosclerosis, reduced incidence of heart disease and stroke, and relief from the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis, menstrual pain, and joint pain.

Along with my oatmeal, I mixed up some vanilla chai Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer with cold water and a banana. Vega contains protein from hemp, yellow pea, brown rice and flax as well as essential fatty acids and blue-green algea. It's important for me to make sure I get lots of protein because I have an amino acid transporter deficiency, which means the protein I'm ingesting doesn't always get to where it needs to go in my body.

This breakfast should keep me full and fuel me up until lunch time!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes!

My friend Jessica is a bit of a chocoholic. She sent me this recipe for dairy and gluten free Milk Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Agave Frosting from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen blog about a month ago. We had a mini potluck lunch with our friend Deana today, so I made them for dessert.

These cupcakes are made with sorghum flour, tapioca flour, cocoa powder and xanthan gum, among other things. They baked up moist and fluffy and didn't taste much different from "regular" cupcakes. The sugar free frosting that goes along with the recipe was a little weird because it kind of tasted like chocolate flavored shortening (which it basically is).

The cupcakes were really tasty and we all enjoyed them for our dessert. I'll definitely make them again, but I think I'll play with the frosting recipe a little next time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry

This is another favorite from Veganomicon, but I've made it so many times that I no longer follow the recipe. I omitted some things and threw in some others. The stir-fry consists of onion, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers and cashews. Pineapple and quinoa are added at the end. I also sautéed some Swiss chard to go with it.

If you're unfamiliar with quinoa, you MUST try it. Quinoa is packed with protein. It's considered a "perfect protein", meaning it contains all essential amino acids. It is high in magnesium and iron, and also contains lots of B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and phosphorus. Quinoa is gluten free so people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can eat it. It cooks up quickly, so it's good for a quick dinner. It also makes a nice breakfast cereal when cooked with rice milk, nuts, seeds dried fruits and cinnamon. And if you're wondering how to pronounce it, it's keen-wa!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gluten Free Vegan Penne with Vodka Sauce

After all of the elaborate cooking I've been doing lately, I wanted to make something simple. I decided on penne with vodka sauce with sautéed broccoli rabe.

Penne with vodka sauce use to be a favorite before I went vegan, and it's something I've missed. There's a recipe for it in Veganomicon, so I finally decided to give it a try. The recipe calls for raw almonds, which make tomato sauce creamy when ground up and blended in. I used raw cashews instead, and they worked quite well. The recipe called for half a cup of nuts, and I think I might increase that to a 3/4 or a full cup the next time I make this to make it a little creamier. I used multi-grain gluten-free penne that was made with rice, quinoa and amaranth. I've been cooking with rice pastas latey and wanted to give something else a try. It was good, but I think I prefer the rice pasta.

This is a nice, simple, quick and tasty dinner for a night when you don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mini Muffins

I had some bananas sitting around turning brown and I needed to find something to do with them. I certainly couldn't eat them as is, because the banana is pretty much the only fruit I won't eat "plain". I don't mind banana bread, banana muffins, banana pancakes or banana smoothies, but I can't just eat a banana. The texture really bothers me - it's what I imagine eating paste would be like.

So I turned to my trusty cookbooks and looked to see what I could make. I found the answer in the Babycakes cookbook. The recipe was for a banana chocolate chip tea cake, but it called for 6 bananas, and I didn't have that many. So I cut the recipe in half and made mini muffins instead. The only substitution I made was swapping out coconut oil with canola oil. All of the recipes in Babycakes use coconut oil which is off limits for now, but it can easily be swapped out with another oil. These mini muffins turned out to be the perfect treat, and they don't remind me of eating paste at all!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Cold Winter's Night

I'm not exactly sure what prompted me to make such a huge dinner, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the bitter cold we're experiencing here in the North East. The vegetables took a while to chop, but the meal wasn't difficult to prepare at all. Dinner consisted of roasted butternut squash, roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed broccoli with mushrooms and onions and chickpea croquettes.

Brussels sprouts used to be one of the few veggies I disliked, but I discovered that roasting them makes them delicious. I used to roast them with slivered almonds, but they're off the menu now and that's okay, because they're good on their own. I used to roast squash with lots of garlic, black pepper and salt, but since I can't do that again for a while, I used sea salt and red pepper flakes. Red pepper gives the food a good flavor and is a nice substitute for black.

The chickpea croquettes recipe was in the October issue of Vegetarian Times. I've made several types of chickpea patties before, and I think this recipe is by far the best. Dennis said that they were so good "they should be served in restaurants"! The croquettes are held together with chickpea flour, which acts as a nice binder. I used chickpea flour earlier in the week in Wild Mushroom Socca, and it's quickly becoming my favorite to cook with. I'm going to have to look for more recipes that use it.

This was the perfect hot meal for a cold winter's night!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Comfort Food

With this crazy elimination diet, you might think that everything I'm eating is green and super healthy. Yes, I am eating lots of green, healthy food, but sometimes a girl needs something warm and comforting. Enter the Mac Daddy.

This recipe is from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The basic Mac Daddy is macaroni and tofu covered in a cheesy sauce made with nutritional yeast and I've made it a few times in the past. There are several variations on the Mac Daddy though, and one uses mashed chickpeas instead of tofu. Others involve adding various veggies. So I decided to try out the variations. I made rice pasta macaroni which tastes almost identical to wheat pasta. I mashed up some chickpeas and then added broccoli to mix. The result was a warm and comforting meal that pleased both my taste buds and my tummy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wild Mushroom Socca

I woke up with tummy troubles this morning. It was as if I ate wheat encrusted soy cakes served on a corn tortilla. I'm not sure what caused it. Was it the spelt pasta I ate for dinner yesterday? The gluten free pancakes? All of that hummus I had at my friend's birthday party last night?

So I decided to stay away from most floury kinds of food today. Except chickpea flour. Chickpea flour is good. I made Wild Mushroom Socca Stacks from the last issue of Vegetarian Times for dinner tonight. Socca is a flat bread made from chickpea flour and is slightly reminiscent of polenta.

I doubled the recipe so that I could have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I'm not sure if I should have used a larger pan for the socca or not, but I had to cook it for close to half an hour before it firmed up nicely. I got lazy and used premade sauce instead of making my own. I also used a lot less onion than the recipe called for, which I always do because I don't like when my food is too oniony. I served the socca stacks on a bed of sautéed kale. Not only do sautéed greens make for a pretty presenation, they are crammed full of essential nutrients. Leafy greens are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, E and K. Green vegetables are the foods that most missing from modern diets.

This recipe was pretty easy to make and was really tasty. Dennis said it was like "restaurant food" and went back for seconds. I'm already looking forward to lunchtime tomorrow so I can have another serving. Yum!

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

I've been cooking up a storm for the past week and a half, trying out recipes and experimenting with different grains and flours. The fridge is almost empty and it's time to go grocery shopping again. I wanted to make something quick and easy with what was left. I had three different containers of left over tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes, so I combined them. I had some onions, mushrooms, a chili pepper, and swiss chard that I sautéed together, and I added some chick peas that were also hanging out in the fridge. I cooked up some spelt noodles and mixed it all together for a rather nice, quick and easy dinner.

When I would buy pasta in the past, I would also get the whole wheat kind. I think the spelt noodles actually taste better than whole wheat pasta. It's not as grainy and cooks up softer. If you're not sensitive to gluten, I would suggest trying it instead of wheat pasta.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lasagna Tart

This recipe is from 101 Cookbooks. It was published in June, but it was far to hot to have the oven turned on for over an hour, so I saved it for the cold of winter. I made a few small changes to the recipe. I used spelt flour for the crust, and I don't have any pie weights, so I cooked it for 20 minutes without covering it and weighing it down. I doubled the tomato sauce recipe, and I used a cashew ricotta instead of cheese. (See recipe below.) This was the perfect meal for a cold winter's night!

Cashew Ricotta
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for an hour or more
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons water

Process all ingredients in a food processor until fluffy and ricotta-like.

Gluten Free Girl

In my search for wheat-free cookbooks, I came across Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern. I've only read three chapters, but I'm already really enjoying it. Ms. Ahern isn't vegan, so I certainly won't be trying most of her recipes. Gluten-Free Girl is about living with celiac disease, which, fortunately, I don't have. In fact, the tests showed I don't have a sensitivity to gluten at all. But I can relate to a lot of what Ms. Ahern writes about. She grew up in the suburbs eating packaged and processed foods, like I did. She always never quite felt right and doctors couldn't find the source of her health problems, much like my own childhood.

I was a very sickly child. I always had a cold, sinus infection, ear infection, etc. When I was about 5, I had my tonsils removed because I was contracting tonsillitis too often. The doctors were going to put tubes in my ears, but apparently removing my tonsils fixed whatever the ear problem was.

I always had horrendous environmental allergies. Cleaning products gave me headaches. I had to be pumped full of antihistamines to visit friends with pets. I was always tired and didn't have much energy. A doctor once told my mom that my immune system was compromised because we lived across the street from a gas station at one point in my childhood. That could have been part of the problem, but I doubt it was the whole reason for my constant illness. My parents both smoked, which I can't image helped.

In high school I was out sick so often that my teachers had to take a vote to let me graduate. I had frequent sinus infections and terrible headaches. The many doctors I visited would run tests and the conclusion would always ben that I was prone to sinus infections and headaches. Antibiotics and steroids were often prescribed. One doctor told my mom that it was psychosomatic and recommended a therapist. My freshman year of college I was so sick that I had to drop out start over again the next semester. I had to take summer classes to make up for missed time so that I could graduate with my friends.

I went vegetarian shortly after turning 21. I pretty much had to teach myself to cook, because my mom's idea of a vegetarian meal was a bag of frozen peas, corn and cubed carrots. I ate lots of cheese and egg salad to make up for what I thought was a lack of protein. I felt slightly better on my new diet, but I was still plagued by constant debilitating headaches.

About 8 years ago I decided to go vegan. I had read that cows' milk could cause sinus problems, as it is a mucus producing food. After a little while on my new diet, I realized that my headaches were becoming more infrequent and I was feeling a little better. It made sense that giving up dairy products would cause my sinus problems to clear up, but I still suffered from low energy and the feeling that "something wasn't quite right". Over the past few years, I've gained weight that I can't get off, my hair has been breaking off and falling out, I've had low energy and I haven't been able to get rid of stubborn acne. My eyes frequently fee dry and burn, and I can't wear contact lenses despite the fact that my eye doctor says there's nothing wrong with them. I've also had a lot of intestinal problems that I've been trying to ignore, though it's not easy. It's been frustrating since I eat a pretty healthy diet - much healthier than the Standard American Diet that most people eat.

So now after seeing a doctor who knows about food allergies and finding what foods I have sensitivities to, I can see what was wrong all of these years: I was eating the wrong foods. The food I had the biggest reaction to was eggs, and test also showed that I'm highly allergic to cow's milk, so it makes sense that my headaches subsided after going vegan. But after going vegan, I began to eat lots of soy and I started snacking on nuts regularly. I do eat wheat and corn, but certainly not in the amounts that the average person does. (The tests showed that my intolerance to wheat is really high. Corn and soy weren't so bad, but I did have reactions to them.) Food allergies are usually inherited, and this is something I'm sure I've had my whole life, along with my environmental allergies.

Despite the fact that I now have to eliminate about 50% of the foods I used to eat on a regular basis, I'm pretty happy to find out what the culprit to my maladies has been. I'm looking forward to having more energy and feeling better. I promise to keep you up to date on my progress!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Banana Cream Pancakes

Happy New Year!

Last night I went to a vegan potluck New Year's Eve party. There were lots of dishes containing wheat, soy and corn, and I ate a little bit of everything. But with a new year comes new beginnings, so today is the day I eliminate everything on my food sensitivity list and start my diet anew.

And what better way to start than with pancakes? This banana pancake recipe is from Dreena Burton's Eat Drink and Be Vegan. The recipe called for spelt four, but since I've been using spelt a lot lately, I decided to use Bob's Red Mill's Gluten Free Pancake Mix. I didn't realize until I got it home that it contained corn, but the amount is so small that I don't think it's a problem. Dreena's recipe uses coconut milk, which I switched with hemp milk. The recipe also calls for nutmeg, which I used, but I think I'll switch it for cinnamon the next time I make it. The pancakes were quite tasty though, and this was the perfect breakfast to start out a cold winter's day!