A New Cookbook

For those of you who live in the U.S. and know of Americas Test Kitchen-they have a new vegan cookbook- Vegan For Everybody”   My husband bought it for me this week and was very excited for me to look through and start trying the recipes. 

For those of you not in the U.S and have never heard of America’s Test Kitchen, they are a cooking show in which the chefs try countless variations of recipes until finding the absolute perfect one. I constantly hear non-vegans talking about their recipes and how absolutely amazing they are. I have watched a few episode (ones that seemed like they would be less meat centered) and I always wished they would start including vegan dishes. I haven’t had live t.v. in many years so I can’t say whether or not they have started featuring vegan recipes on the show-but I’m delighted they have created an entire cookbook full of vegan food.

Normally when I buy cookbooks I want to support vegan authors and vegan chefs. We are still a minority in the world and I think it is very important for vegans to support other vegans and vegan businesses. I knew “Vegan For Everybody”   was coming out but I didn’t consider buying it. After my husband bought it for me I got to thinking. Yes-we need to support vegan authors and businesses. But, the fact that America’s Test Kitchen (truly one of the most trusted cooking shows in America) is recognizing that vegan food is so delicious and versatile that they are willing to write an entire cookbook about it-I want to support the book! 

I’m excited about how many more people might be willing to try vegan cooking. It’s frustrating for me to say, but I feel like this might validate vegan food for people who are resistant and unwilling to think of vegan food as edible. I really love the last sentence on the back of the book:  

These aren’t just vegan recipes-they’re dishes everyone will get excited about. 

I feel like I frequently need to remind people that vegan food is just food-and everyone can eat it. That’s why I’m so excited that a mainstream, non-vegan cooking show is standing up to highlight this concept. 

As soon as I get a chance to cook something from the book I will definitely share my thoughts and photos. 

Fast and Filling Breakfast

After 7 long months of treatment and recovery for tongue cancer I am finally back to work! I was ready in February but unfortunately for me my previous employer (who told me my job would be there when I was ready to come back) informed me my once full time position was now only part time-as in less than 20 hours a week. Yeah, that doesn’t work for me. So, I had to find a new job and I finally did! I’m really excited to get back to work. I told my husband last night that although I’ve been cancer free for 3 months, only now that I have a job again do I feel like cancer is “over”. 

But this also means I can no longer hang out all morning and eat breakfast whenever I feel like it. I also need to make sure breakfast is fast and will keep me full for several hours! Because I have to brush my teeth after every meal, snacking has become rather annoying. It’s no longer quickly shoveling some food in my mouth and getting back to work-nope, it means eat faster and go find a bathroom to brush my teeth. Not worth it sometimes. 

I know that oatmeal is a popular go to breakfast for many people. It’s cheap, delicious, fast, healthy, and can be made in tons of different flavor combinations. But, whenever I eat oatmeal I’m starving within an hour. No matter how much oatmeal or what I mix in, it just does not fill me up.

I started experimenting with quinoa porridge about a month ago. Not only is it delicious, but it has kept me full for about 5 hours (yes, I timed it). Even better, I can cook a giant batch on Sunday evening and it keeps in the fridge all week! You can make this as a sweet or savory dish-whatever you crave in the morning.

And for the record, at work this kept me full for 7 hours before I had a chance to eat lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 3.5-4 cups water (you can also sub 1-2 cups for your favorite milk or broth)
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (I used quick-cook)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional add-ins: vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder-you get the idea. 
  • Topping ideas: fruit (fresh or frozen) avocado, maple syrup, hummus, seeds, chopped nuts, nut butters, etc..

    How to make it:

    • Combine the quinoa, water, (and milk or broth if using) and the add-ins of your choice.
    • If using regular oatmeal (not quick-cooking) add in now.
    • Bring to a boil and simmer covered on low heat for 15 minutes. 
    • Turn off the heat.
    • If using quick-cook oats, add now. Also add in the chia seeds. Mix everything together. If the mixture seems dry add a bit of water, milk, or broth (you choose)
    • Cover the pot and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes. 
    • You’ll know it’s ready when the chia seeds have absorbed the liquid. 
    • Serve now with toppings or store in a container in the fridge. 
    • For breakfast microwave and add all your favorite toppings. 

      This week I added in vanilla and cinnamon while cooking. I mixed in a chopped banana and a big spoonful of peanut butter.


      I also made a smoothie made with frozen mangoes, strawberries, 4 kale leaves, water, and flax seeds. I’ve been making smoothies with lots of kale for the past few weeks and have noticed a slight boost in energy. I’ll let you know after 2 weeks of working again if it’s still giving me an energy boost 😉

      Big Bill’s Nachos

      I have to give my father-in-law a lot of credit. To paint a picture for you-he was a college football player, first generation American-Swede, and a third generation carpenter. He is tough as nails and as his nickname suggests, he’s a big guy. He always jokes that since he has pure Viking blood, he has to be big and tough. He is exactly what you imagine a “meat and potatoes” guy to look like.

       He also loves to cook. Now that he is retired he cooks all week long. He watches cooking shows, studies the recipes, and puts his own creative spin on each dish. We are always blown away with each new creation.

      When I decided to become vegan I became his ultimate “challenge.” Like many, he is accustomed to making meat the centerpiece of a meal. He has accepted the “challenge” of cooking vegan meals for me and has never created a dish less than spectacular.

      My husband and I were going to stop by their house in the middle of a very busy day and he offered to make us some nachos. On the phone he made it seem like my nachos would be nothing more than some chipe, beans, and salsa. My expectations were really low. As soon as I saw the massive tray of vegan nachos he created, I was blown away. 

      Homemade refried bean mixed with his own spicy tomato sauce, roasted sweet potato, tomato, and corn, and homemade salsa, shredded lettuce, homemade corn salsa, and fresh limes for garnishing. This is his version of “throwing something together last minute”. I mean. It was glorious. My husband ate a bit of my vegan nachos and the meat and cheese version-he admitted the vegan ones were WAY better. 

      I was, of course, so excited to devour them I completely forgot to take a picture. Luckily he gave me a run down on how he made them so I could recreate them at home. It was easier than I thought and just as delicious! 

      Below are the ingredients I used in my version, feel free to get creative and make adjustments based on what you have and your own preferences.

      Ingredients 

      • Tortilla chips
      • A bit of oil for roasting veggies
      • Sweet potato, peeled and chopped
      • 2 medium sized tomatoes, quartered with insides scooped out
      • Can of black beans or refried beans
      • 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes if using black beans (you could also use a few scoops of tomato paste with some water to thin)
      • Seasoning for the beans (I used ~1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder)
      • Frozen corn (however much you like on nachos)
      • Garnish ideas-salsa, finely chopped parsley (or cilantro if it doesn’t taste like soap to you), sliced avocado, vegan sour cream, freshly squeezed lime juice, shredded lettuce, green onions, fresh tomatoes, really anything you like!

      What to do

      • Coat the sweet potato in a bit of oil and roast at 400 until it is cooked to your liking (for me ~30 min)
      • Coat the tomato and corn in a bit of oil and roast on a separate sheet (may roast faster) (for me ~20 min)
      • Pour the black beans into a pot with the spices and the crushed tomatoes. (I only buy canned beans that are only soaked in water, so when making refried beans I don’t drain or rinse.) 
      • Heat the beans over medium heat and crush with a potato masher. Turn heat off when the beans are as thick as you like. 
      • Place the chips in a baking dish (I used a pie dish)
      • Layer with the topping in any order you’d like.
      • Place in the over for 5 minutes.
      • Garnish with your choice of toppings, enjoy!


        Broccoli-Peanut Stir Fry

        Last week broccoli was super cheap at the grocery store. I couldn’t help myself and bought a ton…like 7 big heads of broccoli. Broccoli is my favorite vegetable so the fact that I had no actual plan to use it all meant nothing to me in the moment. Tonight I had a craving for broccoli and something peanuty. It was really easy and really yummy.

        What to do

        In a large frying pan saute 1 small onion and 2 garlic cloves. Add chopped broccoli. (I used about 8 cups) Fry the broccoli for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Stir in about 1/4 cup of water, cover, and turn the heat to medium low. Allow the broccoli to steam, stirring occasionally, and add more water if needed. 

        While the broccoli is cooking you can cook some rice or noodles-I went with soba noodles today. If you choose brown rice, I’d recommend starting it before getting the broccoli going. I also steamed some strips of tempeh while the broccoli cooked. Tofu would also go really well with this dish. 

        To make the sauce all you need is 2 tbsp. of soy sauce, (I used low sodium) 1/4 cup of natural peanut butter, 1/4 cup of warm water, and about a tsp of curry paste. (If I could have sugar I’d definitely add some maple syrup!) Just mix everything in a bowl or large measuring cup. Check the broccoli with a fork and when it is cooked to your liking-pour in the sauce and mix. 

        Toss the noodles or rice in a bowl and add the broccoli and lots of the sauce. Top it off with fried tofu or steamed tempeh. Enjoy!


        Soul-soothing African Peanut Stew from Oh She Glows

        wp-1490190451048.jpgI absolutely love the Oh She Glows cookbooks. Angela Liddon has created incredibly delicious, affordable, versatile, and healthy recipes. My favorite part is that she uses real whole foods throughout. I have both cookbooks now- The Oh She Glows Cookbook and Oh She Glows Everyday. Whenever someone asks me for a cookbook recommendation, they are my first picks. They are seriously so good!

         

        This soup recipe is one of my favorites. It is from the original Oh She Glows Cookbook. It reminds me of when my grandmother would make me tomato soup with a pb&j for lunch, the perfect combination of sweet and savory. Yes, a pb&j instead of grilled cheese-don’t knock it til you try it 😉 Essentially, it’s a delicious and comforting bowl of soup.

        I made a few minor changes, mostly based on what was in my kitchen. I left out the jalapeño, used canned whole tomatoes instead of diced, I had no parsley, and used cashews instead of peanuts for garnishing.

        Ingredients (that I used):

        • 1 tsp olive oil
        • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
        • 3 cloves garlic, minced
        • 1 red bell pepper, diced
        • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
        • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
        • Salt and pepper, to taste
        • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
        • 4 cups broth (made from boullion)
        • 1.5 tsp chili powder
        • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
        • 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
        • 2 handfuls kale, chopped
        • Raw cashews, for serving

        How I Made It

        1. In a big saucepan saute onion and garlic on medium heat until onion is translucent. ~5 min
        2. Add in bell pepper, sweet potato, tomatoes. Turn heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 min
        3. Add 3 cups of broth, chili powder, and cayenne.
        4. Pour remaining cup of broth into measuring cup. Add in peanut butter and whisk until combined. Add to pan.
        5. Cover and let simmer on low for 15 min or until sweet potato is cooked.
        6. Stir in kale and chickpeas and cover for additional 5 minutes or until kale is wilted.
        7. Add cashews after serving into bowls.
        8. Enjoy!

        How Cancer Changed What I Eat

        When my doctor told me I had stage 3 tongue cancer I thought my life was over. I thought for sure cancer would be the thing that killed me. My team of doctors had to tell me several times before I believed them that really, my cancer was curable-no, not just treatable-but curable. I had no idea that was even possible. They told me bluntly that it would be a very painful process, but they would completely cure my cancer. Even now, after I have healed I question it. But they then give me the test and scan results showing that the cancer is in fact, gone. I was incredibly lucky.

        Because of the high dose of radiation blasted at my neck and tongue I was left with damaged salivary glands. Saliva helps rinse food away from our teeth. Since my glands aren’t producing as much saliva anymore, food sticks to my teeth longer. This leaves me with a high risk for developing cavities and also certain foods are harder to eat now.

         

        No More Sugar

        The biggest change to my diet has been the elimination of sugar. I don’t mean sugar from fruits, vegetables, or carbs (thank goodness!) I mean actual sugar-cane sugar, corn syrups, rice syrups, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut nectar, coconut sugar etc. Those are the kinds of sugar that cause cavities. As I discovered, they are added into a ridiculous amount of foods. Foods I never imagined having sugar. Obviously they are added into desserts, candies, and many condiments. As I started reading the labels of my favorites foods I was shocked. This is no exaggeration- I read the label of every brand of bread, bagel, english muffin, cereal, tortilla, dressing, condiment, cracker, sauce, chip, and pretzel at the three different grocery stores. (When you’re off work for several months, you get bored and have a lot of time to spend at the grocery store) Most of my favorites are now off limits. Ughh.

        I did find options, however. You know how vegans have a giant mental list of vegan friendly brands and foods? My list now also includes sugar free. The list is very limited, which can be very frustrating. I have been making more from scratch but there are times when I really wish I could go to the store and just buy what I need. I am sure in due time, this will change. Many people want to cut back on sugar nowadays. It’s only a matter of time before there are more sugar free options.

        Giving Myself a Break

        I have worked really hard to make sure that day-to-day I do not eat sugar. However I need to be realistic. I am well aware that at restaurants or if I am invited to someone’s house, there is absolutely no way for me to control eating sugar. As I discovered, it’s in everything. I finally gained the courage to eat at a restaurant a few weeks ago. For months food caused me so much pain I never thought I would be healed enough to trust another person’s cooking. On top of that, I had a lot of anxiety that sugar would be in everything I ordered and instantly cause a cavity to form in my mouth.

        But I can’t keep myself locked inside my house forever. I want to be able to eat at a friend’s house or at a restaurant without anxiety. I was incredibly anxious as I ate at the restaurant, but I did it. It was delicious and scary. The second I got home I brushed, flossed, and did my fluoride treatment. The whole time imagining a cavity developing on every single tooth. Then I ate at another restaurant a week later. Delicious again. Scary again. But hey, at least I did it!

        Chickpea Nuggets

        The other day I made a ton of chickpeas. Now comes the part when I need to figure out what to do with all of them. This recipe for vegan nuggets from Connoisseurus Veg has been sitting in one of my Pinterest boards for a long time; laziness kept me from making them. The recipe is fairly simple but it does take some time. I made them by myself but I think it would have gone much faster to have a second set of hands.

        The original recipe calls for liquid smoke, but apparently that has corn syrup (which I can’t have because of the cavity risk) so I just didn’t put it in. The recipe also calls for panko breadcrumbs, but apparently those have sugar mixed in too….arg! So, I opted for a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs and chickpea crumbs I found at the store. I would have used all homemade breadcrumbs but I was half a cup short.

        Nugget Ingrewp-1489959396197.jpgdients:

         

        • 1-14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
        • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
        • 1/4 cup diced onion
        • 2 garlic cloves
        • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
        • 1/2 cup cornmeal
        • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
        • salt and pepper to taste

        Batter Ingredients:wp-1489959441114.jpg

        • 1 cup unflavored cashew milk
        • 1/4 cup ground golden flaxseed (you can use any kind)
        • 2 tbsp. flour

         

         

         

         

        Coating Ingredients:wp-1489959458746.jpg

        • 1 cup cornmeal
        • 1 cup breadcrumbs
        • 1 tsp. paprika

         

        How I made them:

        • Put the artichokes in a food processor and pulse a few times.
        • Add the rest of the nugget ingredients in the food processor and process until finely chopped.
        • Put the mixture in the fridge while you make the batter and coating mixtures.
        • Shape the nuggets into small pieces.
        • Dip each nugget first in the batter then the breadcrumb coating. I made mine way too big the first time around. They turned out well but the smaller batch was a lot easier to cook.
        • Find your biggest skillet and pour oil so it is about 1/8 inch deep. I used vegetable oil.
        • Turn the skillet on medium heat.
        • Place nuggets into the skillet. Leave a little bit of room between each so you have room to flip them.
        • I cooked the larger nuggets about 5 minutes on each side and the smaller ones about 3 minutes on each side. I think I may have cooked the larger ones a bit too long so maybe 5 minutes on one side and 3 on the other would have been better.

         

        I ended up with about 30 nuggets. They tasted fantastic. Next time I make these I will definitely make them all the smaller size…much easier to work with! I threw about half in the freezer for any lazy days in the near future.

        Since every brand of ketchup and barbecue sauce has some type of sugar added in, I just used some marinara sauce. (Why no sugar?…Check out my page titled My Cancer Story-Does anyone have a sugar-free ketchup brand recommendation? I miss ketchup!) I also roasted up some Brussels sprouts as a side. wp-1489973508982.jpg

         

         

         

         

         

        Cooking beans from scratch

        wp-1489693921823.jpg

        Dried Chickpeas

         

        Cooking beans from scratch used to intimidate me. A lot. Mainly because I thought it would take forever and I didn’t think I could possibly find the time for it. During my time off work for cancer treatment however, I lost the excuse of not having time to do it. I was busy for literally 1 hour a day. After radiation, I had nothing else on the schedule…so I finally decided to try cooking beans from scratch. And guess what, it was super easy and didn’t take as much time as I thought-not a lot of active time that is. You do need to be home while these are cooking. So choose a day when you know you will be off work or working from home.

        Step 1-Figure out what beans you want to cook. (I chose chickpeas today) 

        Step 2-Measure out how many beans you want to cook (Keep in mind they triple in size: 1 cup of dry beans=3 cups cooked beans. I started with 3 cups of dry chickpeas)

        Step 3-Sort through and pick out any broken beans or debris as you place them into a giant pot.

        Step 4-Fill the pot with water-the water should be about 2 inches higher than the beans.

        wp-1489694656944.jpg
         

        Beans at beginning of the soak (top) and at the end of the soak (bottom)

         

        Step 5-Soak the beans. You have two options here. First, you can just soak them in cold water for 8-12 hours. (This is for when you have planned enough in advance and you know you want to cook beans tomorrow-soak them while you are sleeping). OR use the quick-soak method (for when you planned to cook beans today but forgot to soak them last night) Bring the beans to a rolling boil and turn off the heat. Cover them up and leave them for 1 hour. (Easy, huh?)

        Step 6-Drain and rinse the beans.

        Step 7-Put the beans back in the pot and refill with water, again about 2 inches above the beans.

        Step 8-Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover.

        wp-1489695109387.jpg

         

        Step 9-Find something to do while the beans are cooking. Hanging out with your cat is a good option.

        wp-1489853723677.jpg
        Cooked beans ready for the freezer (jars) and the fridge (container)

         

         

        Step 10-When the beans are cooked to your liking, drain them and place into desired containers for the fridge or freezer. I recommend letting them cool on the counter before putting them away.

         

        Generally speaking, most beans take about 1-2 hours to cook. This depends largely on the size of the bean and how fresh they are. In most cases, you will have no clue how fresh the beans are-unless your farmer’s market is that awesome. I looked up lots of cooking charts online and they all had different cooking times listed. In my experience chickpeas and kidney beans each took about 2-2.5 hours to cook after quick soaking. Black, pinto, and great northern beans took about 1-1.5 hours to cook after quick soaking.

        Don’t let the cooking times worry you!! Check them after 1 hour-can you easily mush them with your fingers? Awesome! They’re done! Still hard? Leave them for another 30 minute and check again until they are cooked.

        If you’re feeling adventurous, cook 2-3 types of beans in separate pots so you have a bigger variety in the freezer. Or put a few different types of beans in the same pot. The favorite combo in our house is to cook pinto, kidney, and black beans together and later turn it into chili.

        Here’s the best part about cooking beans from scratch-it’s much cheaper than canned beans! The other day I bought a 4lb. bag of dried chickpeas for only $2. That’s roughly 16 cans of beans! 16 cans of beans where I live would cost about $20-30.  The dried beans sound like a much better deal to me!

        I know everyone is really busy these days. Devoting 3-4 hours to cook beans when you can buy them in a can may sound ridiculous. But if you can find just one day a month to make an enormous batch of beans from scratch, you won’t regret it. Beans will keep in the fridge for about a week and in the freezer for months. Seriously, your belly and wallet will thank you.

         

         

         

         

         

        Nachos

        Ready for an easy nacho recipe? I mean really easy.

        Ingredients:

        wp-1489695999897.jpg
        Tortilla chips, pre-made (or canned) beans of your choice, vegan cheese of your choice, salsa or your choice.

        How to make: Put it all on a plate. Microwave. Eat.

        wp-1489696732803.jpg

        You can get fancy and add some shredded lettuce, avocado, or vegan sour cream. I just didn’t have any of those things…next time.

        What I ate-3/13

        I wasn’t very hungry for breakfast today, but skipping breakfast all together never works well for me. I always end up regretting it about 30 minutes after I leave the house.

        I decided to make a smoothie. I had LOTS of cucumber I needed to use up (they were on sale for 3/$1-how could I pass it up?) I threw in about half a cucumber, about 1 cup of frozen fruit (mix of strawberry, mango, peach, and pineapple) and about 1 tbsp of hemp hearts. I usually use some type of milk with smoothies but I was out, instead I just used about 1\2 a cup of water.

        If you haven’t used or heard of hemp hearts I highly recommend them. I’ve been seeing them at every grocery store lately-same aisle as flax and chia seeds. They are a great source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, loaded with minerals and vitamins, contain all essential amino acids, full of protein, and are high in fiber. They have a slightly nutty flavor-delicious in smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal, salads, soups, you get the idea. 

        On Sunday we went to my in-laws’ house to celebrate my husband’s birthday.  I am the only vegan in the family; everyone eats a typical American style diet. In the past month however, my mother-in-law, in an attempt for a healthier lifestyle, has been following a vegan diet. Of course, I have been giving her loads of recipes to try and also cooking food for her to sample. So far, she has enjoyed everything I’ve suggested and feels better overall. I had offered to bring some food over yesterday but she said she wanted to do it all. I failed to take pictures of the delicious food she prepared. She made: roasted cauliflower, buffalo cauliflower wings, a roasted beet, carrot, and apple dish, and a roasted sweet potato and black bean salad. I managed to snag some leftovers of the salad and had it for lunch today. It was fantastic and simple-roasted sweet potato (with a little salt and pepper), precooked black beans, toasted pumpkin seeds, a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice, and topped with a bit of fresh parsley. Yesterday I had it warm and today I had it cold. It was great both ways.

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         For dinner I made a “clean out the fridge” meal. I’m trying to avoid grocery shopping as often (saves a lot of money) and so I have been making up a lot more recipes based on what’s left in the fridge. (This is when having a well stocked pantry full of grains, beans, lentils, and seasoning comes in handy!)  In the fridge I had some cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale. 

        I started with cooking a mix of brown and green lentils in broth and some millet. Then I simply sauteed half a chopped red onion, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, and the chopped mushrooms (about 1.5 cups) for 10 minutes.(in a bit of olive oil) I added about 1 tsp of garlic salt and threw the tomatoes (about 2 cups) and a handful of chopped kale in for an extra 5 minutes.

         If you haven’t tried millet, please do. It’s full of protein and best part-it cooks in about 15 minutes. So while you’re busy chopping and cooking your veggies, the millet can be simmering in the background. Normally I cook millet in the same pot as my lentils-just add them about halfway through the lentil cooking time and add extra liquid. I guess I wanted extra dishes or something today because I cooked them separately. 

         
         And here’s this guy…I think he knew it was snowing out because he wanted extra cuddles to stay warm today.