Make Mine . . .

. . . (no, not mink), but fake meat. People often wonder why vegetarians and vegans choose to eat “fake meats”, in other words, something that resembles what you’re trying to give up. Isn’t that a contradiction? As a chef and caterer specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines, I find that “fake meats” can offer an easy way for people to ease into meatless choices and a more plant-based diet. Making a major dietary shift can be challenging enough, without having to rethink the whole menu plan. To me, it makes perfect sense to ease the transition into a different way of eating by keeping some familiarity while venturing into new territory.

 

“Fake meats” have come a long way in the last couple of decades. You’ll find excellent products in the deli and frozen sections of most markets. Some of my favorite products include Field Roast‘s grain burgers, Beyond Meat’s “chicken strips”, and Lightlife’s “fakin’ bacon” (a smoked tempeh). Any of these products can be chopped up, simmered in a tasty sauce and added to tacos, sloppy Joes or your favorite rice or pasta dish.

Cauliflower Rock!

Here’s a warming side dish for a cold day. Cauliflower can be cut into florets, tossed in a mix of olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and garam masala.

Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes and toss with chopped mint and cilantro for a stunning side dish to complement any creation.

Biscotti–Make Your Own!

Afternoon project: chocolate hazelnut biscotti . . . thank you, Martha Stewart, you’re the best! Biscotti are “twice cooked”: the dough is initially formed into long flat sausages and baked until firm. Once the mass has cooled, the loaves are then sliced into quarter inch slices and baked again, which gives them the crunch. You’ll find many different recipes for biscotti. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and your friends will be wowed. This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s “Baking Handbook”. I love her recipes – they’re easy to follow and always turn out well. Stay tuned for a fabulous gluten-free version . . .

YUMMY COOKINESS . . .

Whatever you call them, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, or your own pet designation — they’re easy to make and always a hit. Here’s the trick.

Mixing the cookies with soft butter is most efficient, but the dough will be sticky. Some recipes suggest refrigerating the dough and then forming the cookies into 1” balls . . . but that’s a pain in the you-know-what.

Do this – form the cookies into 1” balls while the dough is soft, and then place them into the fridge (or freezer) until they’re hard. Place the hard cookies into the pre-heated oven, and the cookies will stay round. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Spice Up Your Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Salsa

12 oz. fresh cranberries
½ c parsley
2 Tb lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
½ jalapeno chili, chopped
1 small red onion
½ c fresh orange juice
2 Tb orange zest
5 Tb honey
1 Tb cilantro

Finely chop the red onion, chili, parsley and cilantro and place it in a bowl.
Coarsely chop the cranberries in the food processor and add to the onion and parsley mixture. Fold in the orange and lime juice, honey, and zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Gluten-free vegan desserts, oh my!

Sugar-laden holidays right around the corner appear to be inspiring my obsession with desserts at the moment! Here is another fab vegan treat, this one made from rice. You may be familiar with kheer, a popular Indian rice pudding, made with milk and flavored with cardamom, saffron and raisins. My favorite rice dessert is Burma Superstar’s fabulous black rice and coconut pudding, which I’ve been able to approximate in my own kitchen. Here’s how:

Start out with sticky Thai black rice, e.g. Lundberg Black Pearl Rice. I usually soak the rice in salted water for a few hours, before draining and cooking according to package directions – but you’ll need to reduce cooking time and cooking liquid. Rice should be soft but not mushy. Drain and place in a heavy bottom pan with coconut milk and simmer until rice is creamy; sweeten, to taste, with organic sugar (try Billington’s dark Muscovado sugar). Toast some unsweetened coconut flakes in a dry pan, until toasty brown and fold into the rice; save a few sprinkles for the top. Serve warm, with fresh raspberries or slices of mango, and a scoop of Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream . . . heavenly!

Making Your Next Holiday Mixer AMAZING!

With corporate Holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds.

Healthy and delicious appetizers.

A great menu is one that delights and surprises – with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration, e.g. gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. While many Holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that’s healthy AND delicious? Try it – you’ll like it!

Lattes and Loutoutins

There’s many ways to treat ourselves to something special, sometimes it’s a steaming latte, sometimes it’s an extravagance, like a pair of CFM shoes. The best treat we can give ourselves, however, is to invest in ourselves. Our health is our most valuable asset, and the best way to insure good health is to eat REAL FOOD. Buying fresh, organic foods can seem more expensive than some convenience product, but you’re getting real nutrition instead of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: salt, sugar, fat and a bunch of chemicals. And good health looks better on anyone than a pair of ridiculously expensive shoes!

Is that food on your plate?

If it came out of a package with a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s not food, Dude! It’s a food product, scientifically formulated by one of the manufacturing giants to deliver the right amount of addictive flavor to keep you coming back for more and to keep eating long after you’re full.
The magic flavor hook is delivered by prodigious amounts of sugar, fat and salt. Cravings induced by sugar, according to an article in the NY Times are “comparable to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine.” You may think you’ve chosen your meal, but it has chosen you. “Convenience” foods may be convenient in terms of saving time and effort, but they take a huge toll on your health. And when your health suffers, all your energy and resources go into trying to get well again. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If you want to remain healthy and vital, eat real food. Watch for our educational blog on eating simply and well.

O Comfort Food, O Comfort Food

‘Tis the season, but when it comes to comfort food, we gotta have rootsrulewhat we gotta have! It’s a cultural thing. The English have Marmite and the Australians have Vegemite. The English say that Vegemite is disgusting, and the Australians say that Marmite is disgusting, and Americans think they’re both disgusting . . . don’t laugh, it’s a touchy subject. My mother, who was Australian, used to feed us kids slices of toast, slathered with butter and a thin layer of Vegemite. I loved it! The theory is it will curb children’s sweet tooth . . . it worked for me, and I still sneak a taste every so often.
Here’s a comfort food we all agree on: a side of roasted root vegetables to go with your favorite Holiday meal. Be adventurous – try rutabagas, turnip, beets, root celery (celeriac), parsnip . . . slice them into desired size, toss them with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary, and place them in a hot (400 deg) oven.