Friday, December 05, 2008

Spiced Fruit Compote

This is one of those times in which I wish the internet could convey a sense of smell. I made this compote this morning, and hope to serve it over oatmeal to a brunch guest. I also hope there will be leftovers!

For Chinese medicine buffs: people with "cold" constitutions, who would sometimes find it difficult to eat fruit in the morning, cooking the fruit really helps.

Spiced Fruit Compote

1 fuji apple
2 bosc pears
1 cup cherries
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups apple juice
1/3 cup port wine (optional)
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves

Core fruit and cut to large cubes. Place in large pot with apple juice, wine, and spices. Cook for about fifteen minutes. Eat over oatmeal or on its own.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quick Tomato Soup with Rice

The weather in the magical city of San Francisco has been, well, unpredictable. This morning started with more than a drizzle of rain, then the sun came out, and now it's foggy again. And quite cold, too.

One sure way to overcome the cold is eating soup. At first I thought I'd make some lentil soup, but then I remembered the delicious tomato soup with rice that the lovely people at the Tel Aviv University cafeteria used to make. I decided to do the same, with three healthy twist: using about a cup of leftover ratatouille from yesterday (it was delicious and one day will merit a post of its own), cooking the soup with brown rice, and using quinoa. Here goes.

3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 can Muir Glen diced tomatoes (the fire roasted variety is particularly yummy)
1 large heirloom tomato
1 cup leftover cooked vegetables (optional)
1 healthy handful of parsley

Mash up the garlic, chop up tomato and parsley. Place all of them, and the leftover vegetables, in a big pot. Add the grains and the water. Bring to a boil, then cover pot and cook for another 30 mins. or until grains are soft. Do not be afraid to overcook; the rice holds up quite nicely in the soup, and the comfort food taste actually improves if the rice is nice and soft.

Stay warm! When Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever had was the summer he spent in San Francisco, he wasn't kidding.
6 cups water

Friday, August 01, 2008

Kelp Noodle Salad

The lentil sprouts have grown! They have little happy tails and a crunchy taste. Over the last couple of days I have eaten them in tortillas with tofu spread and in salads. Here's one colorful possibility, made with slippery translucent kelp noodles.

Kelp Noodle Salad
1 package kelp noodles
4 romaine lettuce leaves
4 tbsp chopped green onions
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup lentil sprouts
juice from 1 lime
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil

Open kelp noodle package. Place noodles in a colander and rinse in warm water. Place in bowl with lettuce, green onions, cilantro and sprouts. Mix lime juice, soy sauce and sesame oil; pour over salad and toss lightly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sprouting Lentils

I've posted here before about sprouting, and thought that some might appreciate a step-by-step guide of the process. This is a batch of lentil sprouts that I started yesterday night. I soaked them overnight, and this morning have rinsed them in fresh water and placed them in a colander over a pot. You can't see any little tails yet, but the lentils are already very soft; the sprouting process has begun.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Online Vegetarian Cooking Class with Zehoreet Sheikhi-Bloom!

Hebrew speakers will likely enjoy these recipes! Zehoreet Sheikhi-Bloom teaches how to make rice and chickpea "meatballs" (the secret ingredient: raw tchina) and curried vegetables.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vegan Bolognese Sauce with TVP

Despite the heat and moisture floating around the Tel Aviv area, we felt like having spaghetti bolognese today. The recipe is rather easy, and if you make a large quantity, you can freeze it for future use. It uses soy flakes, or TVP, which is a lovely (and cheap!) substance. It's important to use the smaller TVP pieces that have a similar texture to ground meat. While the taste may not be exactly the same (honestly, I wouldn't remember; I've been vegetarian for fifteen years), great things can be achieved using organic canned tomatoes and herbs.

1 1/2 cups soy flakes/TVP
2 tbsps olive oil
4 large, chopped garlic cloves
1 tbsp schug or hot sauce
3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 can organic canned tomato cubes
2 tbsps fresh oregano
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp rosemary
a bit of salt (optional)

Place soy flakes in a large pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat somewhat and cook for a few minutes, until flakes are soft and the whole thing looks like a (rather unappetizing) porridge. Strain out the water in a collander.

Heat up olive oil in a large pan or wok and add chopped garlic and schug or hot sauce. Sautee a bit, until fragrance is released. Then, add the cooked and drained soy flakes. Mix them up with the other ingredients and keep cooking, stirring occasionally. The less water in the flakes, the faster this will happen. Do not expect the flakes to brown like meat; just dry'em up a bit and mix well with the aromatics.

Then, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes and the herbs (and salt, if desired). Continue cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until most liquids evaporate and you're left with a lovely vegan sauce. You can cook your pasta at the same time, then mix'em together in the wok, or layer pasta in the place and place sauce on top. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Persian Brown Rice with Spice Mixes

Today we made, for the second time, a successful and fragrant batch of Persian brown rice! We owe our success to two sources: Mira Efrati's new book Tasty from Nature, and our inspiring visit to the fantastic spice store in Beit Lechem HaGlilit this afternoon. I urge all Israeli readers to head there when they can and buy some lovely blends; there are delectable and unique herbal tea blends and some wonderful mixtures for rice, soup, and other yummy foods.

Mira Efrati's book, which aims at providing macrobiotic foods, actually makes great strides toward making healthy food palatable; to be honest, it does so at the expense of health, and includes sugar (albeit brown) in many of its sweet recipes. I think it would be particularly useful for people making the transition to healthy whole foods who don't have a lot of experience cooking. It does, however, offer fabulous tips on how to make a basic sourdough and yeast whole grain bread, and on how to make various types of rice based on a basic Persian recipe.

We modified the recipe a bit, so that the rice wouldn't burn the bottom of the pot, and used one of the delicious spice blends; this one included, in addition to a variety of "red" spices which gave the rice a wonderful reddish hue, onions, pine nuts and pecans. But I bet you could use the basic recipe with any spice mix you have. Here goes.

2 cups long grain brown rice
lots of water for stage 1
1 cup water for stage 2 (possibly a bit more)
a pinch of salt
2 tbsps olive oil
5 tbsps dry spice mix

Rinse rice in water several times, then place in pot with tons of water and salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until rice is barely chewable but not ready yet. Drain rice into a collander.

Then, coat bottom of pot with olive oil. Layer half the rice on top, then layer spice mix and other half of rice. Make a "hole" in the rice hill, so steam can escape. Drizzle about 3/4 cup water on top.

Place a towel on top of the pot, then place the lid. Cook for about 15 minutes, then check if water has evaporated; if rice is still dry, add the rest of the water. Cook until soft and fragrant. Yum!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

White Beans and Vegetables in Masala Spices

I'm almost done grading, and some culinary sustenance was necessary for the process! Yesterday evening I made what I think is a better version of my good ol' White Beans with Carrot and Celery. Try this version and tell me which is better; I think the addition of caramelized onions, tomatoes, and especially Indian spices, makes this one more interesting.

The spices themselves come from a jar I bought at the Asian grocery store a while ago; the jar is labeled "Biryani Masala", but, upon close inspection of the ingredients, contains what is basically identical to a Garam Masala mix.

White Beans with Carrot and Celery

1 1/2 cups large white beans (butter beans work great!)
1 large onion
4 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 big juicy tomatoes
olive oil
1 tbsp Garam Masala

Soak beans in lots of hot water for a few hours. Discard the liquids.
Start cooking the beans in fresh water in a covered pot.
In the meantime, heat up olive oil (more than you think) and start caramelizing the onions. When they begin to have a golden color, add Garam Masala and continue stirring.
When onions are caramelized, chop celery stalks and carrots into little cubes, add and stir enthusiastically. Add a bit of water if necessary to deglaze the pan. Then, add chopped tomatoes, too. Cook for another ten minutes, until the entire house is fragrant and the tomatoes wilt and release their goodness into the veg mix.
Then, add the cooked beans, and cook for another five minutes so everything absorbs the flavors.
This tastes even better reheated the next day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tofu "Egg" Salad

One of the common side effects of visiting the Old Country is the fact that one ends up spending lots of time with friends and relatives, and therefore ends up eating out quite often and barely cooks. "One" meaning me. Fortunately, Tel Aviv restaurants boast an abundance of vegetables, grains, and beans, and it's quite easy to eat healthful and delicious foods. Only yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting at Puah, a delightful place in Jaffa's flea market, and eating quinoa with vegetables and mung beans in tchina, tomatoes, and spinach.

However, this morning my foodmaking instincts pushed me into the kitchen. This surprising step may have had something to do with the towering stack of exams I'm grading, which act as a wonderful incentive for cleaning the house, ironing shirts, and doing any other sort of menial labor. Not that these exams, in specific, aren't good or interesting. It's just a universal feature of exam grading. Many homemaking and other chores would never get done had their performers not had a pile of exams to grade as an alternative.

Anyway, I craved egg salad, and I didn't want to make it with eggs. I grabbed a couple of recipes from The Tofu Book, a local vegan bible authored by legendary Zehoorit Sheiikhi-Bloom, which my dear pal and master vegan cook Amit photocopied for me a couple of days ago. Faithful readers may recall Amit from the fabulous tchina cookies we made a while ago, and will therefore have ample cause to trust him; and the recipes are, indeed, excellent. Alas, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I had to make the alchemy work with what I had at home. So, here, for your enjoyment, are all three recipes.

The Quick and Easy One

300 grams tofu
1/3 cup tofu-based mayo (here I would use Shizen Tofu; North American readers are warmly recommended Vegenaise)
1 tbsp mustard
1/2 chopped green pepper
1 chopped celery stalk
2 chopped green onions
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Mix with other ingredients. Serve cold.

The Rich One

450 grams tofu
3 tbsps mayo
2 tbsps oil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp dry dill
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp sesame
2 tsp brewers' yeast (optional)
1 1/2 tsp mustard
2 chopped green onions
1 chopped celery stalk
1/2 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Heat up oil in pan, lightly fry tofu and drain again (optional). Place tofu in bowl and mix with other ingredients.

The One I Made

300 gr tofu
1/3 cup tofu mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/3 white onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Mix with all other ingredients.

P.S. my version improves when green onions and celery are added; I added them a few hours later and they made the whole thing taste even better. This makes a great meal with a nice salad on the side.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sweet Passover Dessert

This Passover, I'm a guest, not a hostess. My cooking contributions include a slightly modified version of the greens quiche I made last spring (this time, with green garlic in lieu of leeks!), as well as a simple and special dessert: date/pecan/raisin balls.

It is a very simple and easy recipe, and there are countless versions, of course; you could add a bit of wine (port or sherry would work really well), and any sort of nut or dried fruit. I like the spices in this combination, and it looks quite pretty in its little "home" -- a pod-shaped Tunisian serving dish.

25 medjool dates (the meaty, squeezable kind)
a big handful of dark raisins
a big handful of raw pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup grated coconut

Pit dates and place in food processor bowl. Process until smooth (it will become sort of a soft ball after processed).
In the meantime, chop pecans to little pieces.
Place date ball on a cutting board, and work pecans and raisins into it.
Add spices and keep working the "dough".
Make little balls from the mixture.
Roll little balls in coconut.
Place in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Happy Spring, and Happy Freedom Holiday. May it bring freedom to many people of the world who are in bondage as we, fortunate enough, get to enjoy a meal with our relatives and friends.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Split Personality Spring Soup

Is it a sweet root vegetable soup? Is it a green soup? None - and both!
Lots of new vegetables at the farmers market today. One vegetable whose arrival I particularly welcomed was green garlic, which has a very short season. I was excited to see it in San Francisco, because Israeli markets host green garlic this very same season; they come out right in time to smile at everyone for Passover.
Also, today was the first day I saw sweet potatoes of all colors and ilks lying around. So, I had to get some.

The soup I ended up making will accompany my mejedderah these coming weeks, because I am inundated with work and will be happy to come home to something warm and homelike to eat. So, I made a large pot. It isn't too hot yet for eating soup, and spring nights here are still somewhat chilly, especially when one feels a bit alone and homesick, as often happens to me when I'm far away on Passover.

So, here goes:

6 carrots
2 yams
1 sweet potato
1/2 cup caramelized onions (see Barbara's instructions and make tons - they're very useful)
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup chopped gai-lan, or other greens
2 heads of green garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley

Slice up all vegetables any way you like.
Place caramelized onions and chopped green garlic in bottom of pan. Sautee with a bit of olive oil. When they become fragrant, add all other vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes.
You could, I suppose, use a stick blender to puree this, but I kind of like the vegetable chunks and the aromatic broth. Enjoy!

The Perfect Mejedderah

Hi all,
I've finally found the secret to a great mejedderah (a traditional Middle Eastern rice and beans dish), very similar to the one my grandma makes.
My grandma used to make this very often, and we'd be thrilled when we smelled it from outside their home. Her version had white rice, whereas mine has brown long grain rice, but other than that, it's very much like hers.
Which is wonderful; because I don't know about you, gentle reader, but my memories from home and childhood are very much memories of scent and taste. Shabbat lunches at my grandma's were a delight; she is a wonderful cook, and though she hosts less than she used to, she still has a touch for everything edible and an amazing combination of creativity and order.
The other place I enjoy eating mejedderah is in a small restaurant in a gas station near my parents' home. Theirs is very brown and delicious, but not like my grandma's. I suspect their spice palette is different.
Anyway: I've been making mejedderah ever since I started living on my own, and something wasn't quite right. Ever. And I just figured out what it was.
My onions weren't caramelized enough.
I'm so glad I realized this, because now I'm eating a nice bowl of mejedderah as I work, and thinking of grandma. The technique for browning them properly is well-explained by my dear pal Barbara, right here, and I strongly recommend you make plenty, because they are so useful for quite a variety of foods. I combined them today in my split-personality-spring-soup, made with various sweet roots and spring fresh greens.

2 large yellow onions
lots of olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup brown lentils

Slice onions thinly and brown them in a heavy onion skillet, according to Barbara's instructions.
Place about half the browned onion in a pot with the rice and the lentils. Over a high heat, swish around rice, lentils and onions, until everything is glossy and shiny and happy.
Then, add 3.5 cups of hot water. Wait for a boil, then lower the heat to a medium flame, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pot.
When all rice and lentils are ready, mix them with the remaining caramelized onions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rice, Mung Beans, and Rice noodles with Turmeric, Fennel and Roasted Garlic

I was somewhat hungry this evening, but haven't gone shopping in a while, and therefore the fridge was disturbingly empty. Nevertheless, I managed to dig some leftover uncooked grains and beans from the cupboard, and with the help of a few spices, made something that might count as a decent dinner.

I think this would be much better if vegetables were added to the cooking water (carrots and celery come to mind).

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup mung beans
1 cup boiling water
1 handful brown rice noodles (of the vermicelli ilk, broken into 2-inch pieces)
5 cloves garlic
1 heaping tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp black pepper
(optional and probably recommended): chopped carrots and celery

Wrap garlic cloves in aluminum paper, and roast in oven for about 30 minutes.
While garlic is roasting, place rice and beans in pan with boiling water. Bring to a second boil, then add turmeric, fennel and black pepper. Lower fire to a medium and close lid.
After about ten minutes, add noodles. Mix well and close lid again.
After another five minutes, add peeled roasted garlic cloves; mash them a bit with a wooden spoon, either before adding or in the pot.
Continue to cook until rice and beans are tender.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Very Short Post About Breakfast

One Asian pear.
One persimmon.
Two tablespoons of strawberry-mango quinoa granola.
Juice from one blood orange.
'Nuff said.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Greens Stir Fry

I know I've posted numerous stir-fry recipes here and quite a few recipes for greens. But this particular combination was such a success that I really wanted to share it.

One of the advantages of shopping at the farmers' market is that there's always kind people to tell you what to do with the wonderful vegetables you buy. In Tel Aviv, the Chubeza farm used to email us a lovely newsletter with recipes. Here in Noe, I simply start a conversation, just like I did yesterday at the market, when I saw a bundle of greens that seemed familiar. They were curly and springy and happy. "What are these?" I asked the farmer.

"Oh", he said, "these are pea shoots".

"And what do you do with them?" I asked, perplexed.

"Stir fry", he said. "They're very yummy".

They were also a dollar a bunch. I bought the happy curly green shoots and made up the following recipe:

7-8 long pea shoots
10 leaves of rainbow chard
1 tbsp combination of soy oil and sesame oil (some stores sell them mixed in a bottle; if not, mix your own. Here's some info on how they interact when used for cooking)
4 garlic cloves
5-6 sundried tomatoes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
a drizzle of soy sauce (optional)

It's kind of self-explanatory, but nevertheless: warm the mix of soy and sesame oil, slice garlic thinly and sautee. When aroma is released, chop up rainbow chard, pea shoots and sundried tomatoes and add them to the mix. After a couple of minutes, add pepper and/or soy sauce. Simmer for about five minutes total, until the tender greens begin to wilt (the volume will decrease significantly). Eat over brown rice or any other grain, or, in my case, be so excited about the veg and eat them before your grains are done!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Juice Fast Adventures

(image from Juicey Lucy's website)

I figured that some of you might want to hear a bit about the experience of doing a juice fast; the concept of not eating solid food for ten days may seem quite daunting for some folks. In fact, it is not a challenging or difficult thing to do if one is willing and able to pay for the logistics, and has amazing benefits.

The decision to go on the juice fast was rather spontaneous, though I'd been toying with it for a while. A dear friend had visited me from abroad, and, as a good San Francisco host, I ended up schlepping him with me to various fantastic restaurants and overindulging in food. I felt somewhat heavy and congested and had eaten a few things that didn't exactly agree with me; and so, when I met Lisa from Juicey Lucy's on Saturday morning at the farmers market, I told her I wanted to go on a juice fast for three days. She happily agreed, and the crew made me a set of five juices to go, packed in cute mason jars with handles.

Some experts in Traditional Chinese Medicine recommend going on a cleanse or a fast twice a year, most importantly in the spring. As Elson Haas explains in his Staying Healthy with the Seasons, the spring is associated with the liver and is a particular beneficial time for renewing the digestive system.

Five 16 oz. juices is more than enough food for one day, as I found out; I wasn't hungry at all, and the flavors were fresh and delicious. Each of the juices was different. Some of them were more earthy than others, heavy with beets and carrots; some of them had more liver cleansing properties and contained celery and cabbage. Lisa kindly put some apple in each of them, making them more palatable. The order of drinking them was quite intuitive, except that every morning started with 2 oz. of wheat grass juice, followed by an alkaline green juice with flax seeds.

After three days of cleanse I felt that I could go on for longer, and eventually did the fast for the full ten days. On busy working days, Paul delivered the juices to me in the morning in a cute ice box and I took them with me; nothing quite like going to a luncheon at work, having everyone around me eating sandwiches and fries, and feeling quite content sipping a reddish drink from a big mason jar!

In addition to the juices, I indulged in tea made of fresh mint, and, on occasion, in a clear broth I made with the remaining organic vegetables in the fridge. I recorded some of my adventures and feelings.

For the first three days I felt absolutely normal. I didn't feel pangs of hunger. Those days, on a weekend, helped me relax and go into myself; I was quite content sitting in the garden and knitting.

On Day Four I felt well, save for about half an hour of extreme exhaustion in the morning, that went away as suddenly as it came on. I was thinking about some vivid, colorful dreams I had, and really wanted to go back to sleep. Other than that, I could notice that my hair had gotten shinier and my skin was glowing. Swimming that day was big fun.

On Day Five I had a bit of a runny nose, but none of the splitting headaches juice fasters often report having. I was also a tad constipated; after discussing it with Lisa, she mixed up some psyllium seeds in my morning alkaline juice. That really did the trick.

On Day Six, had another half-hour exhaustion pit in the middle of the day while swimming in the pool. Fifteen minutes of rest and I was like new. I also realized I had lost some weight. And still, I wasn't hungry at all. Some of my juices contained things like nettles and dandelion greens, but there was always one the was tasty and sweet, which Lisa lovingly called "dessert". I noticed that my tongue had been coated in yellow, which is a typical reaction during a cleanse.

On Day Seven I noticed a few things. The exhaustion moments went away, and my swimming workouts were a joy. I even felt propelled to learn new things, and a lovely lady at the pool taught me how to do flip turns. In the evening I felt a tad hungry, but after having had some mint tea the hunger went away. I was very attentive to noise, too, and felt very calm listening to music and to the sound of the wind outside.

On Day Eight, a dear friend invited me to come to a jazz show at Yoshi's, which has a lovely sushi restaurant. Upon consulting with my juice people, I decided to eat miso soup and, possibly, a green salad. I got the salad first, ate something like three leaves and a few sprouts, then gave the rest to my friend (who enjoyed every bite). Just didn't feel the need to eat solid food at all. Then, the miso soup arrived - I drank the soup, which was delicious, and ignored the toppings (didn't feel like eating them somehow).

I also noticed a few other things:
1. My sense of smell had become very sharp. I could smell a cigarette from blocks away, and could identify which restaurants are on the other side of the street without even crossing it. Body odors in Muni were separately identifiable (not always a good thing!).
2. A white spot on one of my fingernails had disappeared.
3. My skin became incredibly soft and glowing. I did have breakouts once in a while, but they were very small and went away quickly.
4. While at Yoshi's, I realized that I didn't really enjoy alcohol very much. Of course, I didn't drink any (juice fast), but I probably wouldn't want to drink any even if I were eating. I realized I much prefer tea, and became determined not to drink things that didn't agree with me, even if social situations created a bit of a pressure to do so.
5. Bowel movements (sorry, guys, but want to be sincere and let you know everything that's happening): none of the dramatic, bulky, strange-looking detox stuff that people report on. Apart from slight constipation in day 3, which was promptly resolved the next day with some psyllium seeds, I felt absolutely fine.

On Day Nine I realized that, when I sang, I felt the sound vibrating in my entire chest. It positively tingled with the singing. I was happy and alert, and had some conclusions to ponder on during Day Ten.

First of all, I realized that I eat way, way too much. I don't need as much food as I eat. I should remember that, if I eat a big meal, the other meals of the day should mostly be fruit and veg.

Second, as mentioned, if I don't feel like drinking alcohol, I shouldn't drink it. There are tons of social situations in which I can have a cup of tea or juice while others have a beer. An occasional cocktail won't kill me, but it isn't much of a pleasure.

Third, I should remember to have whole grains (rice/quinoa/buckwheat) every day. It's really important.

Fourth, I should eat both raw and cooked veg every day. Raw is important, but winter is cold and I'm not a very large person. Cooked roots will do me good.

When Day Ten was over I had to give some thought to going back to eat again... I decided to combine a few solid foods with some juices, to make the transition easier. It wasn't easy to go back to solid food, as my stomach had shrunk, and the half-pomelo I ate in the morning was quite enough to deal with for almost the rest of the day. I did have some wheatgrass juice and an alkaline juice in the morning, and a smallish bowl of vegetable soup in the afternoon. Some carrot juice and a few spoonfuls of guacamole, with lots of herbal tea, did the trick.

A few more days of a similar diet - juice in the morning and the afternoon, a smallish soup or salad later - were quite good for me, and that's how I made the transition to eating again.

Many of the benefits have stayed with me; I've been able to keep the weight off, but more importantly, my senses are still sharp and I still feel terrific. I really recommend this. When done properly, with folks who look after you, are attentive to your needs, and make you delicious concoctions with fresh, organic vegetables, it is not a cheap pleasure, but if you can afford it, it is highly recommended.

One of the challenges is continuing to consume green superfoods. Alas, there is no easy wheatgrass juice source next to my house; so, I have a green food powder mixed with some organic apple juice for breakfast. Whenever I feel like having a juice with a meal, I have to settle on carrot, usually, because fancy organic juices aren't easily available daily near home or work. But every Saturday I bring my mason jar with me to the farmers' market, and let Lisa and her crew treat me to some lovely juice and one of their delicious tempeh burritos.

This is probably more than you wanted to hear about the juice fast; the bottom line is that it is a wonderful experience, not as hard or dramatic as it would seem (possibly because I was eating quite healthfully to begin with), and highly recommended. Thank you, Lisa, and everyone; and best of luck to those of you who would like to give it a try!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book Review: Becoming Vegan

My fabulous feeling after the juice fast has propelled me to read more about reducing the amount of eggs, fish and dairy that I eat. I came across Becoming Vegan, hoping it wouldn't just be a diatribe about how moral it is not to eat animals; and it didn't disappoint me.

In Becoming Vegan, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina attempt - and succeed - to give an intelligent, nutrition-savvy reader a concise collection of all the information he or she needs to plan a vegan diet. While their style may seem a bit dense for readers who know nothing about nutrition, it is refreshing to read a food book that does not dumb down, or simplify, matters for the readers. The book is loaded with recent scientific findings about nutrition, and does not gloss over the possible deficiencies of vegan diets as some others do.

The book assumes that its readers have chosen to explore veganism due to ethical considerations, and its opening chapter provides a short history of vegan movements and organizations. I'm sure this is helpful for many people who might otherwise feel completely alone in their food choices. It then proceeds to tackle the big nutritional questions of enough plant protein, healthy carb choices, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. In doing so, the book maintains a healthy balance between numerical tables of nutritional values and practical, down-to-earth advice. Calculating our protein needs is simplified by a formula, and various options are suggested for doing so.

The book goes beyond offering the information, and actually makes menu suggestions for people with different caloric needs, ranging between smaller, inactive folks (1,600 calories) to athletes (4,000 calories). It has a special chapter designed for athletes, which provides good advice on nutrition during training. It also has fabulous information for pregnant and lactating women, which does not gloss over the concern about nutritional deficiencies and emphasizes the importance of feeding babies properly. Other specialized chapters are those aimed at seniors (with lots of practical ideas for simple vegan meals) and at people who are overweight, underweight, or suffer from eating disorders. These are very thorough, and they maintain rigorous scientific objectivity; at no point do readers feel that they are being lectured to, but rather respectfully offered useful information.

One quibble I have has to do with the book's overreliance on prepared commercial "fake meats". I understand the book focuses on the transition to veganism, a stage at which it might be easier for folks to look for store-bought substitutes for stuff they are used to buying. I also understand why such folks might be turned off by the usual vegan/raw literature that might push them to sprout, soak and dehydrate stuff, all of which is fine and good, but isn't very practical on a daily basis. And, I also understand that, in some cases, commercial processing might make some nutrients more easily available, as in the case of calcium. Nevertheless, in recommending lunch "meats", for example, the book neglects to acknowledge that some of them contain lots of wheat gluten and might be problematic for folks suffering from celiac or other intolerances. Perhaps some attention can be given to "the next step" of veganism in the next editions. Another issue has to do with the advice on "vegan diplomacy" offered at the end of the book, which might work in some social situations but not in others.

These are, however, very minor quibbles for an otherwise excellent and helpful book. I think anyone transitioning to veganism, or just in the process of minimizing animal products, would enjoy this book and get lots of benefits from following its information and advice closely. In a publishing market full of hype, superficiality, and dumbing-down, it's great to be regarded by authors as a responsible adult who can read tables, make choices, and personalize information.

My Favorite Wrap

My favorite wrap, these days - one that does not require any sophisticated cooking and relies on store-bought stuff - consists of the following delicious combination:

Sprouted Corn Tortillas!


Any kind of stone-ground mustard!

Tons and tons of fresh salad greens from the market!

And -

Baked Tofu, thinly sliced!

A good substitute for a sandwich, this is something you could not only eat at home, but wrap and take with you. And, given how busy I am (and the lack of time to cook to my heart's content), it'll have to do for a while.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Back! And bearing a quinoa salad offering!

Hi, everyone!

After a long LONG absence, I'm back! A few folks emailed inquiring when I'd be posting again... I was extremely busy - what with moving to a new country, starting a new job, getting a new home together - and didn't do much cooking. Things are beginning to settle down, so I'll do my best to start cooking delicious, healthy food again.

These days, I'm hailing from the beautiful city of San Francisco, where I shop for my vegetables in several wonderful places: the Valencia Farmers Market, a little grocery shop full of healthy wonders and devoid of pretension; the Noe Valley Farmers Market, close to my house, where every Saturday is like a block party of meeting neighbors, listening to local musicians, and seeing new and exciting vegetables; and the Civic Center Farmers Market, which happens every Wednesday close to work.

The beauty of shopping in farmers market need hardly be explained to those who have incorporated the experience into their daily routine. Somehow, the vegetables feel so much more alive when they are out in the open, sold by the people who lovingly grow them, and generate fun conversation and recipe exchanges among neighbors. There are always people selling ready-made healthy foods; in Civic Center, I can always get interesting salads and fun vegan, wheatless "lasagnas" from the young and enthusiastic crew of Alive!, and on Saturdays I enjoy fresh juices and fantastic tempeh burritos from Lisa, Paul and their crew of helpers from Juicey Lucy. Lisa is a fabulous person, and I recently got to know her and some of her family and friends while going on a ten-day juice fast.

The juice fast was a fabulous experience; I feel wonderful, and am as committed as I ever was to eating healthy and organic. It was almost difficult to go back to eating again; but, fortunately, this city really lures one into eating wonderful foods, so the difficulty was short-lived.

My schedule these days makes it difficult to cook much at home, but I do make fun stuff sometimes. Watch this space for reports about delicious wraps and date-nut rolls with raisins and coconut, and today, here's a quick recipe for a quinoa salad, which reminds me a little of tabouleh.

1/2 cup quinoa (white or brown, or mixed)
6 fresh celery stalks
1/2 cup fresh parsley
juice from 1/2 lemon

Cook quinoa in 1.5 cups water until ready; leave in pot to cool a bit. Chop celery and parsley into tiny bits. Mix with quinoa and lemon.