What is The Vegan(ish) Experiment?

Our family (me, my husband D, and our four-year-old Molly) started 2009 with a mostly-vegan, macrobiotic-inspired diet (although I have to admit, the strict macro rules have pretty much gone out the window). I have seen a marked improvement in my chronic migraines, and I'm enjoying proving that we can make amazing, mouth-watering, memorable food without animal products. For a more in-depth intro, click here.

I stopped updating this blog quite awhile back, when life got in the way. I'm still keeping a mostly vegan kitchen, though, and loving it. Have fun browsing my recipes!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 31: Kalamata Olive Hummus

Wow, hard to believe it's the last day of the month. Will we continue our vegan(ish) experiment? I doubt that any of my readers are on the edges of their seats from the suspense . . . I think I've made it fairly clear that we're enjoying the food and its positive health effects. So, yes, we will continue. D has lost around 8 pounds (we finally bought a bathroom scale), my migraines are down to a fraction their previous frequency (only one in the past 10 days ... infinitely better than the 5 a week I was getting), and we feel better all-around.

There's only one drawback so far, and that's that it's harder for me to keep a healthy weight. I have to remember to eat often, because our regular meals have less fat and calories than animal-based meals. I did well the first few weeks of the month, but when Molly was sick this past week and D was in Ireland, I didn't sit down and eat as often as I should have. A few pounds I didn't need (or want) to lose melted off within just a few days, and I'm making a point to eat when I'm hungry, focusing on foods that have healthy fats (like beans and nuts).

I find I have an easier time keeping the weight on if I surround myself with healthy, easy snacks. So today I took some kalamata olives that had been sitting in the fridge for a week, and I made a super-easy hummus:

This took about 5 minutes, and D and I both loved it. I think Molly will like it too, but she is still getting over some of the, um, juicier digestive side-effects of her virus, so we're giving her bland food for now. If you want to make it yourself, assuming my mention of poor Molly's problems didn't spoil your appetite, here's the recipe:

Easy Olive Hummus
1 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained (keep the liquid) or 2 c. cooked chickpeas*
1/3 c. sesame tahini
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2-4 T. lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives (or black olives, if you aren't crazy about the brown ones)
1-2 T. juice from olive jar
fresh-ground black pepper

*To cook chickpeas: soak 1 c. dry chickpeas (with one strip kombu, optional) for at least 6 hours. Drain. Cover with water (at least 1 inch above the beans) keeping the kombu in the water if desired, and bring to a boil. Decrease heat and simmer, covered, for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until tender. Remove kombu at the end, if you don't want specks of it in your hummus.

Place chickpeas and tahini in a mixing bowl. Puree with a hand blender. Add olive oil and lemon juice; puree. Add olives and olive juice; puree. If you want the hummus to be creamier, add a little liquid from the beans or water. Add salt if desired (I didn't find it needed any, because the olives were salty). Drizzle olive oil on top - be liberal with it if you're trying to put on the weight like me! - and sprinkle with black pepper.

Eat with whole-wheat pita chips or fresh veggies, or use as a sandwich spread.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 29: What a Week

I have had the week from hell. D left for Ireland on Saturday, and I've been missing him a ton. On Sunday, Molly got sick. She stayed sick, with her fever spiking to 104 more than once, for three days. I stayed home from work to nurse her back to health. (I always thought I had a lot of respect for single moms ... but now I have even more.) We had a snowstorm, and I got to do all the shoveling (Molly woke up from her far too-short nap right after I started, so I had to put on Dora and run inside every 5 minutes to check on her.) Yesterday morning, when I was holding a sobbing Molly, I just lost it and started to cry with her.

Today is a new day. Molly turned a corner by the end of the morning yesterday, and by the afternoon I had my little girl back. You would've never known she'd been sick. And D is coming home this afternoon; I'm leaving work half an hour early to pick him up. Whew!

Haven't done much cooking while running a miniature kiddie hospital, but last night I did make Couscous with Peanut Sauce from The Vegan Spoonful blog. (I was planning on eating leftovers yet again, but at lunchtime I had bumped into the container full of Caribbean Beans and Quinoa, and they ended up all over the floor. I didn't mourn too much, as I hadn't been crazy about the dish in the first place.)

Anyway, the couscous dish was AMAZING. Make it, even if you aren't crazy about peanut sauce. It does not taste like Thai peanut sauce. I used half peanut butter and half tahini, because I was almost out of peanut butter. That's the only thing I changed about the recipe, and I think it added to the flavor. (In fact, if you're one of those people who isn't crazy about peanut flavors in savory food, I think the sauce could be made with just tahini and no PB.) I also made broccoli on the side, which (as The Vegan Spoonful lady says) is tasty when dipped into the sauce. I can't wait to have leftovers tonight.

In my last post, Amy asked what will happen to this experiment when February rolls around. Well, I guess everyone will have to come back on February 1 to see!

Health update: had a migraine on Tuesday; not surprising with how stressful things were at home. First one I'd had since the previous Wednesday. No pain since then, except my aching back from all the snow shoveling ...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 25: Succulent Spinach, Questionable Quinoa, and Tasteless Tofu

I want to start this post with a health update: no migraine since Wednesday! That's four full days migraine-free. Here's hoping for five!

And now, back to the food...

Today I made Sesame Spinach:

But before I give that recipe....

I realized today that I have had a lot of luck with all the new stuff I've been cooking. I've liked everything so far. Why did I suddenly come to this realization? Because my good-luck streak ended: I have now made things, two days in a row, that I didn't particularly like.

The first was Caribbean Beans and Quinoa, a recipe from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen blog that looked really tasty. My mom gave it high marks after she made it. And I can say, after making it, that it is a good recipe ... all the flavors are well-balanced ... but it just wasn't my thing. So check out the recipe, and by all means try it - I think many or most people would be into it, and I myself didn't dislike it, but I won't make it again. (A note if you decide to try it: it did not have nearly enough salt for me. I think this may be because I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and olives from the olive bar at the supermarket instead of from a jar.)

The second was this week's baked tofu. I didn't make tempeh this time, because D is out of town through Thursday, so we don't need as much lunch fixin's. (No, that's not a misplaced apostrophe - it's the plural of fixin', which is a contraction.) I thought it would be cool to try and invent an Indian marinade based on garam masala, dry mustard, a little bit of cayenne, and ginger. And the marinade smelled good. But it didn't soak into the tofu at all. I think I needed to include some fat in it. Next week, I will try it with olive oil, and I'll post the recipe if it's good. As for this week, I have bland tofu for my sandwiches. Luckily, I made some fast-and-easy roasted red pepper hummus yesterday, so its flavor should help mask the tasteless tofu!

And now, the Sesame Spinach. Finally I invented something good! (I haven't even let myself search the 'net for it ... I don't want to know that I wasn't the first inventor.) This recipe takes 10 minutes, makes your kitchen smell heavenly, and adds a nice, light bit of flavor to the spinach without overwhelming its naturally good taste.

Sesame Spinach
1 10-oz. bag spinach
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. canola oil
salt and pepper

Toast sesame seeds in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

Turn heat down to medium or medium-low and add oils. (Sesame oil smokes easily, so put it on medium, but watch closely and be prepared to turn it down if necessary.) Stir sesame seeds into oil. When oil is heated, add spinach. Stir to coat. Cook, continuing to stir, for a few minutes until it is as "wilty" as you like it to be.

Let rest for a few minutes before serving. The spinach goes down to a fraction of its original size, so this only serves 2-3. A great way to get your greens!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 23: White Bean-Cauliflower Soup and Chard

I found a yummy-looking cauliflower & roasted garlic soup recipe at VeganDad's blog recently. However, I like to have more protein in my dinner, or I tend to wake up hungry in the middle of the night ... and heavy garlic is a definite trigger for my migraines ... and, well, isn't any dish really better with ginger?

So I made some navy beans and brown rice on my day off Monday, which leads me to...
Tip #2 for Easier Vegan(ish) Cooking
Plan your menu over the weekend, and prepare any needed
beans and rice ahead of time to save your weeknight hours.

Even though I was feeling all responsible and plan-ahead-y, I didn't think to soak the beans overnight. So I used the quick-soak method, and it worked great.

Here is the White Bean-Cauliflower Soup:

And the Swiss chard (on rice) that we had on the side:

The soup was mellow, but at the same time unbelievably rich and creamy. Tasting its smooth goodness for the first time, I had a hard time convincing myself it wasn't full of heavy cream. Also, it smelled uncannily like roast turkey when we reheated it the next day, and it tasted even better because the flavors had a chance to mix overnight. D and I both agreed so strongly that this smelled like turkey (and in that mouth-watering way, not in an, "isn't that weird???" way), that we thought it would be a good vegan Thanksgiving or Christmas soup. Molly even liked it!

The last time we bought chard, we got a not-so-good bunch that was just too bitter to eat - even though this is our go-to chard recipe, tested before with great success. I'm glad we tried it again, because it's restored our faith in chard. The juicy piquancy of it balanced out the soup well, and it, too, was better the next day.

One more off-topic comment before I type up these recipes: D's grandfather in Ireland ("Granda"), with whom he lived for three years in college, passed away yesterday morning. He had been extraordinarily healthy at the age of 88, and would have probably lived another decade if not for the infection that struck him about a month ago. My heart goes out to my husband and his mom, who are flying there tomorrow night. We will miss you, and I wish I could be there with you to help share the load.

Here are the recipes:

White Bean - Cauliflower Soup
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and then chopped coarsely
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 - 1 c. water or broth
3-5 cloves garlic*
About 2 c. cooked (1 c. dry) white beans (I used Goya Small White Beans, quick-soaked and cooked according to package instructions. Can be prepared a day or two ahead of time. I added 1 strip of kombu, and removed it when the beans were done.)
1/2 c. nutritional yeast
Unsweetened soy milk**
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F (~200°

Peel garlic cloves. Put them on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, and fold the aluminum foil into a packet around them. Roast in oven 15-25 minutes, until soft and turning golden-brown.

While garlic is cooking, chop onion and celery and saute over medium heat in a large pot in olive oil. When onion is starting to brown, add cauliflower and ginger. Pour water or broth over cauliflower until the cauliflower is about half-submerged. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until cauliflower is very soft (about 10-15 minutes, depending on how small you cut it).

Add garlic, beans, and nutritional yeast. Stir over medium-high heat until entire mixture is very hot. (Remember, you'll be adding soy milk, which will cool it - so make it hot!) Remove from heat and blend thoroughly with an immersion (hand) blender. (You could do this in batches in a food processor or standard blender, but it will take longer.) When the entire mixture is creamy, add soy milk in small amounts and blend until it is at desired texture. (We made it pretty thick.)

Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle cayenne pepper on top to taste. If desired, garnish with parsley. (We only had dried.)

*We used 3 cloves. The roasting mellows the garlic so much, though, that I think I'll try more next time. Unlike the recipe that inspired this recipe, this is not supposed to have a heavy garlic flavor - but I wish I could've tasted it just a little bit more.
**I use Silk Unsweetened. If you only have "Regular" (i.e., sweetened) soy milk, I'd recommend thinning with water instead.

Lemon-Pepper Swiss Chard
2 bunches Swiss chard
2 T. vegan margarine
1 t. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 c. lemon juice
White wine (optional)
Salt and pepper

Wash chard. Trim stems and cut chard into 1/2-inch wide strips.

Melt margarine in a large stockpot over medium heat, stirring so it doesn't burn. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir until garlic is starting to brown. Add chard; stir to coat. Turn heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook 8-10 minutes, until chard reaches desired consistency (we like it really soft.) Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and, if desired, a splash of white wine. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 20: Baked Tofu & Tempeh

Happy Inauguration Day to you all! Whatever your political beliefs, I hope everyone is inspired to see the barriers that were broken down today. Here's my favorite post so far about history being made. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, whatever - be prepared to get choked up if you read it.

I've been making baked tofu and baked tempeh every Sunday, so that we have a tasty sandwich fillings for our weekday lunches. This week, I made them on Monday instead - we had the day off in honor of Martin Luther King.

In an attempt to make our lunches not too boring, I make a different marinade every weekend. I've tried Szechuan-style, lemon-tahini, and (before our experiment officially started) peanut. All were very good; I think we liked the Szechuan the best.

Wondering what to try this week, I rememberd that my sister, C.Beth, had posted our mom's garlic lime chicken recipe (a family favorite growing up) a few weeks ago. I decided to adapt it to make it vegan (the original recipe had Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies), and see if it would work as a tofu/tempeh marinade. Yay! It was the best we've made so far. Molly loved it - and the only tofu we've ever gotten her to eat is the little pieces in miso soup. Tempeh is something she had, until she had this recipe, refused to try.

Baked tofu and tempeh are not particularly pretty, so I didn't bother to take a picture. But here are the recipes:

Vegan Garlic Lime Marinade:

2 T. tamari, or 3T. regular soy sauce
2 T. lime juice
1 clove (or 1 t.) minced garlic
1/4 t. dry mustard
fresh-ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients - my favorite way is to throw them all in a Ziploc and shake. The Ziploc will come in handy if you are using this for tofu.

Marinated Baked Tofu:

1 lb. extra firm tofu, pressed*
1/4 cup of the marinade of your choice, or one recipe of the Garlic Lime marinade, above.

After pressing the tofu,
cut it into 3/4-inch cubes** - some people prefer to do slices instead. Marinate in a Ziploc bag for at least one hour in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Place marinated tofu, in a single layer, on a cookie sheet. (To ease clean-up, line the cookie sheet with aluminum foil.) Bake for 45 minutes and turn tofu. Bake for another 30 min - 1 1/2 hours, until it is brown and crispy all over. Baking time will depend upon how much moisture you have pressed out of the tofu and how thick the pieces are. (If you don't have a lot of time, you can use a 350
° or even 400° oven and bake until browned - but it will not be as crispy.)

*To press tofu, put a few layers of paper towl on a cutting board. Place the tofu on the cutting board and, using something like a can of soup to wedge under it, place the cutting board in the sink at a shallow angle. Place a plate on top of the tofu and a heavy can on top of the plate. Leave at least one hour. This gets the moisture out of the tofu so that it can bake up nice and crispy.
**I prefer to cut it myself rather than buying the pre-cubed. The pre-cubed tofu, at least the brand I have tried (Nasoya), is smaller than I like.

Marinated Baked Tempeh


1 package tempeh, cut into 1/4-inch slices (slice the short way, not the long way - your slices will be about 1" x 3" x 1/4".)
1/4 cup of the marinade of your choice, or one recipe of the Garlic Lime marinade, above.

Place tempeh in one layer in a baking dish (line with aluminum foil for easy clean-up). Pour marinade over tempeh and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Bake tempeh for 30 minutes. Turn slices and bake for 30 more minutes, or until browned on both sides.

Tofu and/or Tempeh Sandwich
Spread hummus or tahini on both inside surfaces of a split pita pocket. Add baked tofu and/or tempeh and any or all of the above: shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, bean or alfalfa sprouts, spinach or other greens, sliced bell pepper, etc.... Pack for lunch with a piece of fruit. This is really really good!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day 18: Snowed-In Coconut Soup

I've been making menus on the weekend, so that I can do grocery shopping on Sunday and have my week planned out. Well, today things did not go as planned. The 2-4 inches of snow we were supposed to get turned out to be more like 8, coming down fairly heavily all day until mid-afternoon. (And we're supposed to get another few inches overnight. Nice.) So I didn't get to do my morning grocery shopping trip.

I was all excited about trying The CrockPot Lady's Thai Coconut Soup, but was missing several of the main ingredients. Well, you know what they say about Necessity's maternal instincts. I used the recipe as an inspiration, creating Snowed-In Coconut soup from mostly frozen, jarred, canned, or dried ingredients. I doubt that it tastes very similar to the original recipe, but it was good!

If you want to re-create my pantry-, fridge-, and freezer-based adventure, here's the recipe (it is 100% vegan, unlike the inspiration recipe, which contains fish sauce.)

Snowed-In Coconut Soup

4 cups vegetable broth*
1 can coconut milk**
2 T. lemon juice & 2 T. lime juice***
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. chili paste (LOVE this stuff, which we get at the Asian store, but easier to find this stuff in the supermarket)
1 T. tamari or 1 1/2 T. regular soy sauce
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 c. dried mushrooms****
8 strips roasted red bell peppers
8 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (I used the stir-fry mix: broccoli, green beans, carrot strips, sliced mushrooms, onion strips, and diced red bell peppers)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions: Combine broth, coconut milk, juices, ginger, chili paste, soy sauce, and garlic in a crock pot. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook on high 2-3 hours.
If desired, add salt, more chili paste and more lemon juice at the end.

I use Vogue Cuisine Instant Vegebase, a low-sodium, MSG-free powder. It is $3.49 at Whole Foods and makes 20-25 cups of broth when added to hot water.
**When I use coconut milk, I always use 1/2 can of regular and 1/2 can of lite, to cut the fat. I then mix the remaining half-cans and freeze them in a Ziploc. I usually forget I've frozen them and open two new cans the next time I am cooking a coconut dish. So today I found three bags of coconut milk in the freezer - score!
***We recently found this amazing brand, Sicilia, that is not-from-concentrate. It tastes fresh-squeezed, unlike the "Real"Lemon/Lime from-concentrate juices.
****I used 5 dried shiitakes and about 1/4 c. of dried black cloud fungus, available in Asian stores. Tastes WAY better than it sounds.... It's the brownish-black stuff sticking out of the soup in the pic. If you can find an Asian store, the dried mushrooms there are SUPER cheap.

End-of-week health update: 2 migraines, a 60% reduction from last week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 16: The Health Effects, So Far

Our vegan(ish) experiment officially began two weeks ago last night. One of my main purposes for starting this experiment, aside from just being more generally healthy, was to decrease my migraines.

I've been getting 5 migraines a week for several weeks now. It's hard to describe how physically and emotionally difficult it's been to have pain more days than not. And I've been concerned that the prescription pain medication I've been taking nearly every day would lead to rebound headaches. Eventually, the brain starts depending upon the analgesic effect of pain pills.

So where am I now?
  • I did not have a migraine Monday, January 12.
  • I did not have a migraine Tuesday the 13th. I checked my migraine log that my neuro makes me keep: the last time I'd gone two full days without a migraine was December 16-17.
  • I did not have a migraine Wednesday the 14th. The last time I'd gone three full days without a migraine was Thanksgiving weekend.
  • The migraine I had on Thursday the 15th was mild; I caught it early and the meds worked fast.
  • I did not have a migraine today, Friday the 16th.
So something is working. And it's not just the headaches; I feel like new. I have more energy. I have less of that general feeling of malaise that I think many of us start to have semi-regularly in our late 20s or early 30s. After I eat, I feel rejeuvenated instead of weighed down.

Something is working.

And now, a jerk back to reality: I have not been doing this experiment in a controlled, scientific way. To really test the vegan(ish) diet on myself, I should try to change just my diet, and nothing else. And, of course, a double-blind or even triple-blind trial is what a real researcher would do.

But this is not a university research department, this is my life. And I am sick of pain. So I have made other changes besides my diet.

I haven't had coffee since New Year's. I still drink tea, but I find that the lower levels of caffeine in tea make it produce much less of a "crash" than coffee does.

And my neurologist has helped me make some changes, including preventing and better treating neck tension (a big trigger for me). She also put me on a new migraine prevention/reduction drug. (It's one I've never taken before, but is actually not a "new" drug.)

The drug she put me on is supposed to take 3 weeks to take full effect. The doc said that sometimes people start to feel an effect after the first full week.

I started it last Saturday, 6 days ago, and Monday is when my three day no-migraine run started. I can't imagine that such a long-acting drug would have taken effect within 2 days. I really think that I have the positive lifestyle changes to thank, more than the drugs.

Something is working. And I have been breathing the world's biggest sigh of relief for the last five days.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 13: Comfort Food and an Interview

First, tonight I made one of those casseroles that just screams, "Comfort Food!" A creamy, flavorful, gooey, messy dish ... with breadcrumbs on top, of course. It's another recipe from The Vegan Spoonful blog: Chickpea Divan. If you take a look at the recipe, note that I used unsweetened soy milk (not soy cream) and whole wheat panko breadcrumbs, left out the vegan mayo, added some mixed frozen veggies, and used white cooking wine from the cupboard.

Whether you are vegan or not, Try this recipe. Beth, this is one your carnivore hubby will love! And Chickie, if her tastes are anything like Molly's, will love it too.

The pic:

If you're wondering what that stuff under the chickpeas is, it's millet. This whole grain looks a lot like quinoa when you buy it, but it cooks up very fluffy - almost creamy, like mashed potatoes. Like quinoa, it cooks fast - 25 minutes - and requires no soaking. A nice thing to keep around.

So that's the comfort food. And now, the interview. Mary Murtz, who writes a wonderful blog that I enjoy and is a fellow vegan(ish) experimenter, posted her answers to an interview meme that's going around. Here's the rules:
  • The blogger (in this case, me) answers five questions.
  • If you, a fellow blogger, want five new questions to answer, reply to this post with the words, "Interview Me!" I got my questions by replying to Mary's post a couple of days ago.
  • When you post your answers to the five questions I send you, you agree to interview your commenters if they ask for it, just as I am agreeing to interview you.
  • One more thing: if you don't have a link to your email on your profile page, I'll just post the questions as a comment on your blog.
Hope that makes sense. So here are Mary's questions and my answers:

1. What one sentence advice would you give your daughter about growing up to be a strong woman? I would tell Molly to relish asking questions, to be comfortable with being unsure ... because being sure about life would mean she thinks she's got it all right, and that would mean she has no room for growth. Growth is what makes it all worth it.

2. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you that you have NOT already talked about on your blog? Once I was at a bar, listening to a band I love. I looked at the clock and thought it was almost 1 AM (closing time). The band finished a song and I yelled out, "One more!" - hoping they'd play all the way up till the moment the place closed. The singer looked at me and said, "I hope we do about 10 more..." and I realized it was almost midnight, not almost one. I still turn red when I think of that.

3. If you could change anything about yourself (NOT PHYSICALLY) what would it be? I would be one of those incredible people who functions just fine on 4 hours of sleep per night, with no consequences. (I guess that's kind of physical, but whatever...)

4. Assuming all goes as you wish, what will you say at the end of the year when someone asks you what your proudest accomplishment was? I inspired and taught young people while still giving a more-than-fair amount of energy and time to my family and friends. (Managing to achieve my fantasy in the answer to Question #3 would help with this...)

5. What movie that other people loved did you absolutely NOT love, and why? I thought The English Patient was one of the most overrated movies ever. Same for Titanic.

So, if you want five new questions, created by me, that you can answer on your blog ... just reply, "Interview Me!"

P.S. Typing this small so as not to jinx the migraine gods... 2nd day in a row with no migraine today. First two-day break I have had since December 16-17 (my neurologist makes me chart my migraines.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 11: Red Bean Hummus, Lentil Soup, and Collard Greens

Sunday is becoming my cooking day. Today I made Szechuan-marinated baked tofu and tempeh for this week's lunches (no picture included; it's pretty boring-looking), plus...
Red Bean Hummus

Moroccan Lentil Soup

Chipotle Collard Greens

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the Red Bean Hummus recipe, made with Azuki / Adzuki / Aduki beans (the spelling varies, as it's transliterated from the Japanese characters.)

The amazing collard green recipe is from the Homesick Texan, one of my favorite food blogs. Even though I no longer can eat most of the stuff on this blog, her blog is still worth reading for the wonderful stories and the amazing food photography. For those of you who love your greens with lots of ham and/or bacon, give these a try. The smoky chipotle peppers made me not even miss the meat, and the strange-seeming addition of peanut butter did not make them taste very peanut-y, but did give the sauce such a nice, smooth mouthfeel that I had to put it on rice just to soak up as much of the goodness as I could! This was a team effort, and was one of both my and D's favorite dishes we've made so far.

The Moroccan lentil soup is a recipe from The Crockpot Lady, a very cool blogger introduced to me by my sister, C.Beth. The Crockpot Lady spent all of 2008 using her slow cooker every single day. Many of her recipes are vegetarian or vegan, and almost all are gluten free (she has a child with celiac disease.) I changed the recipe a little -- blackeye peas instead of pinto beans, no chickpeas, and 3 cups of broth instead of 4. The soup sat for about 9 hours, and it was so flavorful. I made it with less cayenne pepper than the recipe called for, so Molly could eat it -- and she gobbled it up. It still had a little bit of spice, but she had her milk, so she was fine.

On Friday, we went to the Japanese restaurant around the corner for a mostly-macrobiotic (but not at all vegan) meal. We already go there often, and it'll probably be a weekly treat for us on this new diet. $23 at this place gets you a meal for two, including salad, miso soup, a good-sized sashimi platter, veggie and shrimp tempura, rice, and ice cream. We said no to the ice cream, so the only non-macro thing on the menu was the white rice (which Molly eats far more of than I do). It's a nice treat, especially when you add on edamame and a spicy tuna roll like we did, and super-cheap!

Saturday was D's dad's birthday party, at a pizza joint called Flatbread in Portsmouth, NH. They use all organic ingredients, and they try to buy local - although they aren't able to do it for many of their ingredients this time of year. We ordered their vegan pizza (it's not on the website, but is on their normal menu), with tomato sauce, caramelized onions, garlic oil, olives, and mushrooms. It was so flavorful that I didn't even miss the cheese! Any New Englanders out there really need to try this place. I did, however, have half a cupcake for dessert. If there's any time to cheat, it's at a birthday party.

And, finally, the promised recipe: Red Bean Hummus. A bit of background first, though. Adzuki beans are the beans behind the red bean ice cream and other red bean-paste desserts you find in Asian shops and restaurants. They are not sweet, but are often put into sweet recipes. This was my first time making them. I think they taste more like pinto beans than any other type, although they look like miniature kidney beans. They're about the size of lentils and, like lentils, do not have to be soaked. I put this recipe together, using the hummus recipe from Vegan Spoonful as my inspiration. The flavor is a little different from regular hummus, and a nice change.

Red Bean Hummus


1 1/2 c. dry adzuki (azuki, aduki) beans
1 strip kombu seaweed (optional, but will help tenderize, flavor, and de-gassify the beans)
6 c. water

1/2 c. tahini (sesame paste)
4-6 T. lemon juice
2 T. lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 T. ground cumin
3 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
cilantro to garnish (optional)

Add the beans, kombu, and 3 c. of water to a pot. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from burner, add the other 3 c. cold water, and bring to a boil again. Simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are tender.

If desired, remove kombu (I didn't - it blends in well, and the flavor is very mild after it's been boiling for an hour and a half.) Drain beans and pour into a food processor or mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients and pulse, either with the food processor or with an immersion (hand) blender. (A regular blender will work too, but you'll probably have to do it in small batches.) If it's too thick, you can add a little bit of water. These beans are not as dry as garbanzo beans.

When finished, transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top and garnish with fresh-ground pepper and cilantro.

Eat with whole-wheat pita (baked into chips or not), fresh veggies, etc ... or it makes a great sandwich spread!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 7: Tempeh tacos!

Monday, I was back to teaching after a nice, nearly-two-week Winter Break. We now have a little routine set up: come home, cook and eat dinner, and then I prepare the next day's lunch while Donal does the dishes. We're not only eating healthier, we're also saving a ton of money on lunch. Previously, I would usually eat frozen dinners (all-natural, but still not the best), and he usually got soup or a sandwich from a cafe.

Monday, we had leftover barley-mushroom soup (see the Day Four post). Even better the second day! I added some spinach to it while reheating it on the stove.

Lunch every day has been some variety of tofu/tempeh sandwich: hummus on whole-grain bread or whole-wheat pita with marinated tofu and tempeh, shredded cabbage, spinach leaves, and sometimes shredded carrots. We've also been bringing fruit, and we both brought a few days' worth of quinoa pilaf, made with veggie stock, to keep in our fridges at work and round out the meal. Click here to make your own marinated tofu (we did the lemon tahini marinade this time); for tempeh, use the same marinade but cook at 300 for just 30-40 minutes (turning after 20 minutes).

Snacks are nuts, wasabi peas, and dried fruit. I definitely get hungry more often on this diet, and I have the tendency to lose weight when I'm busy if I'm not careful, so the tasty snacks we've been eating have been crucial.

On Tuesday, we had tempeh-peanut saute with bok choy and spinach on whole-wheat pasta. The recipe was from The Self Healing Cookbook. It was good, although not our favorite dish so far. I didn't take a picture of this one.

Tonight, I was going to make couscous with peanut sauce ... but we are all peanuted-out. So I made tempeh, pinto bean, and rice tacos instead:

Because I grew up in the Southwest, this was comfort food for me. And a plus: our pantry held some organic taco shells with only oil and masa (corn flour) as the ingredients, unlike the hydrogenated oil-ridden ones sold by the big brands.

Here is the recipe [Edited on 5/11/09 to add: I prefer the other tempeh taco recipe I invented, which you can find here!]

Tempeh, Pinto Bean, and Brown Rice Tacos

2 T. canola oil or olive oil
1 package tempeh (available in the produce section, near the tofu)
1 package of natural taco seasoning, or use the recipe here like I did (I omitted the corn starch)
1 cup water
1 can pinto beans, drained
2 c. cooked brown rice

Taco shells, heated in the oven for 5 minutes at 350
Shredded cabbage
Chopped cilantro

Crumble tempeh into ground beef-sized crumbles. Heat oil in a large skillet and add tempeh. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes until tempeh is browned. While tempeh is browning, mix dry ingredients of taco seasoning (if you're making your own) into 1 cup of water. After the tempeh is browned, add beans and heat through. Add water/seasoning mix and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone. Turn off heat, add rice, and stir.

Spoon tempeh, bean, and rice mixture into taco shells. Top with shredded cabbage.

This was a quick dinner - about half an hour; we took a shortcut and used the 10-minute boil-in-bag rice I keep in the pantry for emergencies.

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I'll write about my burgeoning correspondence with Jessica Porter, the author of the Hip Chick book. I had emailed her, and she emailed back a really nice, very cool reply -- with a bunch of links for me on the scientific research that's been done on macrobiotics. I've been putting off writing back to her until I can look into the links, but suffice it to say, I feel bad about being snarky in my review of her book! I was impressed by her desire to discuss the philosophy and science behind macrobiotics with me, in spite of my transparent skepticism in my blog (which she read.) More on this later, but Jessica, if you're reading this -- thanks so much for the email, and I will reply soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 4: Shopping and Stew

We did a big shopping trip the day before yesterday - a little Asian store near our house (we're lucky to live in a big Asian neighborhood, because many ingredients in macrobiotic recipes are Asian ones that are more obscure to most Westerners), Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. We bought a ton of stuff to stock our cupboards, including millet, hulled barley, dried garbanzo and adzuki beans, tahini, tempeh, tofu (super-cheap at the Asian store, and made right down the street from the school where I teach), wakame and kombu seaweed, miso, tamari, brown rice syrup, brown rice vinegar, dried mushrooms, nutritional yeast, quinoa,...

This was my first time ever of buying 12 out of the above 16 ingredients, although I had tried all but the brown rice syrup and nutritional yeast. I had bought tofu, dried mushrooms, quinoa, and tahini in the past. It was all a little pricey when added together ... but many of the ingredients will last a long time in the fridge or pantry.

A small sample from our trip:

Yesterday afternoon, I made hummus from the wonderful recipe at The Vegan Spoonful blog. I've made hummus before, but never from chickpeas that I cooked myself. I don't know why I've always been so afraid to cook beans (rather than buying them in a can) - it was simple, but it does require soaking overnight, so not good for a last-minute dish. I added kombu to the soaking and cooking water (a type of kelp - I had no idea there were so many varieties of seaweed out there), which helps tenderize the beans and prevent their more ... pungent side effects.

I didn't take a picture of the hummus. It turned out really pretty, with coarse-ground pepper, a few chickpeas, and a swirl of olive oil on top. And then I took one of the homemade pita chips I'd thrown together in 10 minutes and ruined the pretty picture. So click over to the recipe to see how the hummus is supposed to look! It was really, really good. Molly LOVES it. She eats it with a spoon. She calls it "Thomas" instead of "hummus." ("More Thomas, please, Mama!")

Finally, for dinner, we put some of our new ingredients to work on Barley Mushroom Soup from The Self Healing Cookbook. I don't want to put the recipe in this post, because it's copyrighted and I didn't really adapt it enough to call it my own. But basically, it's a kombu-and-mushroom broth with barley, sesame oil, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaf, dill, cabbage and miso all added in at various points. It was really, really, really good. Thick, somehow creamy (without any "creamy" ingredients), and surprisingly filling! It was even better tonight when we had it for leftovers.

Here is a picture (I looked at my camera manual and am getting slowly better at food photography):

I've done more cooking, too - marinated and slow-baked tempeh and tofu for lunch today, with enough extra to bring during the week, and quinoa pilaf to bring for lunch. Maybe more on that stuff later, but leave a comment if you're interested in the recipes (or search around my delicious.com page, under the "vegan" label).

Needless to say, I'm enjoying the adventure!

P.S. I have mentioned tempeh several times, without ever explaining what it is. It is sort of a cultured soybean cake, with other whole grains added in. The one I used today had millet, barley, and brown rice in it. It has a really good texture and is a great meat alternative (one that doesn't add all kinds of unpronounceable stuff to make it taste like meat - it doesn't taste like meat, it tastes like tempeh. And that's good!) It can be sliced or crumbled. Tempeh is cultured, just as yogurt and many cheeses are cultured. Here's a good picture - you can see what a complex texture it has.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day 3: So Far, So Good

Well, everything is not going according to planned ... but that's a good thing.

We started out as expected, with Chickpea Curry and Escarole Siciliano on Thursday night:

The escarole is a bit strong for Molly, but I think she would eat that curry every day if she could. I adapted the recipe quite a bit from the allrecipes site, so scroll down to the end of this post if you want to see how I made it. The escarole was made without recipe adaptations; click here if you want to try it. It is SO good, and a nice way to eat greens if you are afraid of the dreaded over-boiled lump of pre-frozen spinach that you grew up with.

That dinner brings up ...
Tip #1 For Easier Vegan(ish) Cooking:
When making rice, make LOTS extra. It keeps in the fridge for a
few days, and is great for fast lunches ... and even breakfasts!

I was planning on making marinated tempeh and miso soup for lunch the next day, but we have a 2-year-old with a cold who was not up to heading to the Asian store and Whole Foods on Thursday night. So Friday rolled around, and I was stuck: what to do for lunch? I'm sure we'll do our share of PB&J, but I was hoping to do more actual cooking for this long weekend before I'm back at work on Monday.

So I opened the fridge and saw leftover rice (see Tip #1, above), leftover canned kidney beans and petite peas (Molly's go-to meal when she doesn't like what we're having), corn tortillas, and a bag of onions. And I made...

10-Minute Bean-and-Rice Tacos

We ate these so fast that I had to take a picture of the leftovers in an ugly Gladware container, instead of on a slightly prettier plate. So it's an extreme close-up. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

That didn't even use up all of my rice; I'd made so much extra on Thursday that I still had a good-sized serving left in the fridge. So this morning, I made a little breakfast rice - warm rice, soy milk, cinnamon, and chopped prunes (yes, I like prunes. You should try them sometime.) Rice for breakfast may sound weird (except to about 2 billion Asians), but it's really no different from eating other grains like oatmeal. It was tasty and filling. (Macrobiotic people aren't huge soy milk fans, because it is still processed food. However, I don't think I could do this transition without it. I bought Silk Unsweetened, and it turns out I like it better than the normal soy milk - which, to my surprise, has sugar added. Also, it's fortified with the vitamins and minerals you'd normally find in milk.)

By the way, I'm doing the tempeh tomorrow, and will post about it then. We still have leftover taco filling and curry to eat for lunch today. That's why it's a good thing that all is not going as planned - the leftovers are stretching further than expected.

And now, for the recipes! (If you aren't interested, scroll down anyway for a show-off pic of Molly on Christmas morning)

Chickpea Curry with Rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped large onion (or two small)
2 tsp. chopped garlic (I use the jarred stuff, a welcome shortcut)
2-3 tsp. chopped, peeled ginger (or 1/2 - 1 tsp. ground ginger)
8 whole cloves
1-3 tsp. ground cinnamon (depending on how much you love it)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin (or less if you aren't as much of a cumin fanatic as me)
1 tsp. ground coriander
halve all of the above ingredients and add 1 Tbsp. garam masala spice mix (available in the Indian aisle or from McCormick in the regular spice aisle - this adds SUCH a good flavor)
1 Tbsp. curry powder (optional)
salt to taste
1 pinch cayanne pepper (we leave this out so it's not too hot for Molly)
2 (15-oz.) cans garbanzo beans, UNDRAINED
frozen vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots - whatever you have on hand)
chopped fresh cilantro (we didn't have any this time, and it was still good)

Heat oil in a large skillet or saute pan. Add onions and cook until they are starting to turn brown and caramelized on the edges. Add spices, garlic, and ginger and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add garbanzo beans and frozen veggies. Bring to a boil, turn heat down, and simmer for up to 45 minutes - the longer, the better.

For a nice cold-weather variation, soften some chunks of carrots and parsnips in the microwave (just until starting to get soft) and add them instead of frozen veggies.

Serve over brown rice (we found some yummy brown basmati) with chopped cilantro on top.
Serves 6-8.

10-Minute Bean-and-Rice Tacos
1 T. canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 c. leftover brown rice
1 c. kidney beans
1/2 c. petite peas or other veggies
2 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
salt to taste

6-8 corn tortillas, softened (wrap in paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds; turn over and add 20 more seconds if necessary)
salsa (I like Trader Joe's salsa verde; D likes their habanero lime)
lettuce, spinach, or other raw greens; cilantro; sliced radishes; or whatever taco add-ons you prefer

Fry onion in oil over medium heat. When softened, add other ingredients. Stir until well-mixed and heated through. Spoon a small amount of mixture onto the center of each tortilla, add salsa and garnishes, fold over, and eat!
Serves 3-4.

The Promised Show-Off Picture:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Day 1: The Experiment Begins!

Well, we're starting tonight! As soon as Molly wakes up from her nap, it's off to the store for groceries. Luckily, the supermarket around the corner has a nice selection of bulk foods and health food. And we'll have to hit up the Asian store and Whole Foods for a few things, too.

I promised my readers a menu, and I've made one. We're starting off with a dinner composed of two dishes which we already know and love - and they both happen to be vegan-macro-friendly. I've planned out our meals for the next 8 days, but will just share today and tomorrow with you for now. Check back for pictures and reviews of the dishes.

Breakfast every day is cereal with soy milk. I'm not a huge breakfast person.

Thursday, 1/1:


  • Chickpea curry on brown rice (one of our favorite dinners; contains a nice blend of spices but no curry powder. Molly likes it too!)
  • Escarole Siciliano (we LOVE this greens recipe. We are using 1 head of escarole tonight.)
Friday, 1/2:

  • Leftover chickpea curry
  • More Escarole Siciliano, made fresh from a second head of escarole

And finally, a preview of what's to come in the next few days: barley mushroom soup, baked tofu with lemon-tahini marinade, quinoa pilaf, tempeh peanut sauté, homemade hummus, couscous with peanut sauce ... yum!

So it begins!

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