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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rapini Roots and a Great Pizza Recipe

My grandmother, Mary Montaruli, was an incredible chef. She and my grandfather, Luigi, owned many restaurants throughout their lives. So, as a young child, while my peers were playing in sandboxes, I was hanging out at Luigi's Restuarant, learning a sense of urgency and at a very young age, learning to cook. We lived on the second floor of the restaurant, which was a Victorian mansion, and today, an historical landmark on Long Island. My older sister, Mary Lou, and I share many fond memories of Luigi's.

Even as a young child, though, rapini (sometimes called broccoli rabe), was my favorite vegetable. I have always loved greens, and now that I am plant strong, I love them even more. I've had to re-adjust how I cook, and the word saute has taken on a new meaning, because if I do saute, it is generally in a liquid; bye bye, olive oil! My grandmother always made linguine with rabe, and loads of garlic. She sauteed hers in olive oil (I never knew, until I was an adult, that olive oil didn't just come in gallon cans). Mine is steamed in very little liquid, and it seems to carmelize well on its own.

I steam my rapini and add about ten cloves of freshly peeled garlic. I save the water for future sauteing, or I just drink it. I love its flavor.

What to do with rapini, you ask? Well, last night I made a delicious, plant strong, rapini pizza, and it was delicious. Here we go...and Grandma, thanks for always letting us tag at your side, you taught all of us to be good chefs, and you were the first person who really showed me "field to fork" with the beautiful gardens you always had, long before it was trendy.

Rapini Pizzzzzzza
One head of Rapini
One whole wheat pizza crust, or Ezekial Wrap
Eight cloves of garlic
A melange of freshly chopped vegetables (onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc)
One Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast
3 Tablespoons of finely ground raw cashews*
One Roma tomato

Cut the stems of the rapini off (about one inch), and clean them in your lettuce spinner. Throw them in a pot, and add 2 cups of water. Add garlic. Steam for about 7-9 minutes. Turn off flame, keep covered, and let them cool a bit.

Drain them well, and reserve the liquid. Once you think they are drained well, pick them up with your hands, and squeeze out every last drop of water. You'll have a nice ball of greens and garlic. Put this into your food processor and "whir" until you have a green looking paste. Remember, the better drained they are, the less soupy your mixture will be.

Spread the rapini mixture on your dough, or wrap. Add your veggies. Sometimes, I like to also add Roma Tomatoes sliced into thin rounds. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place in oven, directly on the rack, at 400 degrees.

Just eye the dough for readiness, but generally, the dough will take about 20 minutes, where the wrap will be cooked in about10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with cashew powder. This will look like parm reggiano.

There you have an oil-free, plant strong delicious pizza. It is SO nutrient dense and so delicious.

*If you wanted, rather than the yeast and cashews, you could use DAIYA MOZZARELLA CHEESE, this is dairy/casein/soy free cheese. It has a high fat content, so use it as a treat. It even melts and stretches!

And don't forget about the KALE. You can also make this with kale, but I would suggest adding some lemon juice to the kale for added flavor.

Long before Lidia Bastianich, my grandmother always said, "Tutti a Tavola A Mangiare."

There you have it, a truly delicious and beautiful pizza.

Thought for the Day

I am not trying to convert the world into being plant strong, but I do want to share that I feel fabulous and fit. Really, the way that plant strong food travels through your body will propel you into feeling great in a way that you have never known before.

Let your journey begin with just 28 days, and after that, you make the choice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Better Recycler Now That I Am Plant Strong

Well, this morning on my "walk-out," (that's a cross between a workout and a walk that really makes you sweat), I was looking at the recycle bins in the neighborhood. Street by street on a three mile walk...

In my own neighborhood, bins are neatly stacked and everyone categorizes their recycling. I am amazed with how much you know about people without knowing them. Pizza boxes, beer cartons, loads of diet drinks, and occasionally, a tomato box. I doubt someone called takeout for tomatoes, but it was a pleasure to see such a decorative box.

As I move further away from my house (a mile and a half away), I notice that the recycling theme changes...more of Tony the Tiger and less almond milk. Lots of instant mashed potato boxes mixed with old bottles of Sunny Dee. My thought is that I really do think that socio-economic status really does have social impact on behaviors like recycling your trash.

But, my personal comment is this. The relationship I feel in being plant strong seems to weave a thread into my life. I table top compost in the kitchen, really take deep care in "what goes where." It is a clean feeling, I feel as though I am reducing my carbon footprint in so many ways, not only in what I eat but in how I chose to dispose of it.

Maybe you're not eating plant strong and maybe you don't recycle with a full heart. If Monday is a meatless day for you, then, make that the day that you recycle all the papers in your house. Do something to be plant strong, whether you put something in your mouth, or take it to the curb.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Candle Cafe Review

A tourist if I ever saw one...

The first time I went to Rome, I was awestruck by each and every building, piece of art and fountain my eyes took in. I remember that my heart was bubbling with excitement. Same thing happened when I lived in Brasil and I saw the Roberto Carlos singing fountain for the first time in my tiny town of Cachoeiro de Itapmarin. What I am saying is that it is hard for me to realize that I get to see things in the world, say, that I may have learned in the sixth grade from my teacher, Mr. Harry P. Kent, the best teacher I ever had. Going to Candle Cafe in NYC (the city of my birth) gave me the same goose bumpy feeling I had when I saw the Ferragamo flagship store in Florence. I never believe that I get to be part of these destinations.

Megabusing it to the city, we tore up Lexington Avenue to our final destination, the Candle Cafe, a mecca for vegan eating in NYC. I've been reading about this place since last year when I decided that I needed to feel better and act like a preventive warrior for new "wellth." I'd studied the menu prior to my arrival, and even bought their cookbook as one of my latest reads.

Nothing was a disappointment. The din of the cafe grew moment by moment as each table filled up with all sorts of people. For me, a people watcher, it was Nirvana. The menu, simple, reprinted on recycled paper, was a delight to read. What I liked best was that our food server did not tell me her first name or what the specials were, simply she said, "Here are your menus, I'll be back." I never like to know my food server's name, it really means nothing to me. I prefer a comfy seat, a clean bathroom, and great food.

My friend Aileen and I shared a mezze plate of Middle Eastern dips, a salad and a sandwich. And everything was fresh, delicious and beautifully prepared. It was a relaxing place, even at the peak of noon. I didn't want to leave. What I loved the most was...I didn't have to filter through a menu a find "something" I could eat. This was a menu that was hand tailored for me. I think I even detected kale stains on page three of the menu, really.

I will caution, however, that you need to be cognizant about oil and sodium. Asking what the ingredients are is still a very crucial question, even in a vegan restaurant. I cook and eat without either, so it was important for me to selectively order my food.

If I worked for a magazine as a restaurant reviewer, I'd give Candle Cafe "5 leaves of kale, out of five" in my review, because it was awesome and filled all of my vegan dreams. It was simple and pure, no gimmicks. All real. Just like the food.

Candle Cafe is located at 1307 Lexington Avenue. Make sure you get there on your next jaunt to NYC. I'll gladly lead a caravan of friends on the Bolt or Megabus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Soup's On

Well, tomorrow is a big day. As part of the Immersion, we are in a study, and every eight weeks we have blood work done to measure our cholesterol, and LDL, as well as the BMI and weight. I am a little nervous about one thing; the scale. Only because I am becoming obsessed with the scale and have my own at-home scale calibrated like a Swiss watch...same scale, same time of day rule. But, I am a vegan not to just lose weight. I am a vegan to feel better about myself--not just in the vain sense, but in the overall mind-body way, and it seems to be working! And truth be told, if my cholesterol is less than 150 tomorrow, I am calling CNN. Not really, but someone needs to know the empowerment factor in being vegan! I feel like a caped crusader. Like, I can leap tall buildings at a single bound.

In the kitchen, I am trying to kick it up a notch, and although I am a good cook, I am using recipes from different sources each night in the kitch. Sometimes, my own food tastes the same...you know, garlic, onion, spieces, etc. If I am out for dinner, the next night, I try and re-create the same dish in my own house. Seems to be working.

I went to a vegan potluck at work the other night, and Tahirah Barnes made a delicious kale and white bean soup. I was REALLY proud of her, because she is not vegan, but she converted a recipe to be vegan, and this is what she made. In her honor, I am calling this "Tahirah's Kale and White Bean Soup."

On the "very good" scale, it is a "very-very."

Tahirah's Kale and White Bean Soup

Head of Kale, finely chopped (make sure to remove the center stem)
2 quarts of low sodium vegetable stock
4 cans of cannellini beans (no salt added)
One small (12 ounce) can of San Marzano tomatoes (rinse them to remove added salt)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
Red Pepper Flakes to taste

Add all of the ingredients in a soup pot. I would suggest rinsing the beans with water, first. Cook until the kale is done to your liking. This really is a "20 Minute Soup," but tastes MUCH better the next day.

With a nice hunk of whole wheat bread and a delicious salad, you will think you are doing some fine vegan "dining out." Really, a nice and quick meal.

Thought for the Day...

I was driving the other day and chuckled when I read, "Things may be closer than they appear," in my side view mirror. It made me think that sometimes a situation is really awful to me, but the reality is that it is never as awful as it may appear. So, "Keep a bright light," and check your side view mirror often. Things are not as bad as they seem. :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kale with a "Krunch"

You know that I love kale. So versatile. And so nutrient dense. I juice it. I make it into a thick and creamy smoothie. I eat it raw in salads. I steam it--even make it into soup! I eat kale everyday!

My friend Ruth had introduced me to kale chips some time ago...and I loved them. Ruth has a fancy-smancy food dehydrator and makes all sorts of great treats. I've thought about getting an Excaliber, but my small kitchen can't take another appliance with a plug. My thoughts about making kale chips were set aside...until today.

I received an email from the brilliant Ann Crile Esselstyn who just happened to have sent a recipe for kale chips! How did she know I loved kale chips? Five minutes after reading Ann's email, I was in the kitchen. I made a batch of chips, and took them to work. Everyone loved them, and by the day's end, had given Ann's recipe to ten co-workers and one shopper.

Take note that there are many kale chips on the market, but all are not fat free...these are. You will love them...crunchy, sweet, and as Ann said, "these are addicting!" And, they are!

Thanks, Ann, for a great recipe!

Kale Chips

Head of Kale, stripped from stem and cut into bite sized pieces
Mrs. Dash. to taste
One Lemon
Nutritional Yeast (can be found at WFM in bulk or in Whole Body)

Oven is set at 275 degrees

Spread kale on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle ZEST of the lemon, then, squeeze the juice from the lemon over the kale. Sprinkle on Mrs, Dash, and then sprinkle with nutritional yeast. The yeast will look like cheese, so sprinkle it as you wish. (I am light handed with the yeast, others really go heavy-handed).

Place in oven, and "bake" for about 30 minutes. Halfway through the process, I moved the center pieces to the edge of the pan...

The finished pieces will be crispy and sweet. You will love these. Even the biggest kale skeptic won't be able to stop eating these!

A note on Nutritional Yeast...
Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of parmigianno cheese. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn. It can also be used in mashed and fried potatoes, as well as putting it into scrambled tofu or eggs. Some movie theaters offer it along with salt or cayenne pepper as a popcorn condiment.

In case you forget how many blessings you have, make sure you count them, everyday!

Kale Power!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New York Minute Veggie Burgers

Since returning from my Engine Two Immersion, I no longer eat ready made veggie burgers. Many of them are loaded with fat, so I started making the "New York Times" Veggie Burgers that appear in the "Engine Two Diet Book." They are good, but you really need loads of time to get them together. I am always looking for shortcuts..whether it be on road, or in life. That's when I came up with these really good burgers.

My best friend in the kitchen is actually my"Vidalia Chopping Wizard(VCW)." Makes you think that you will be chopping lots of onions, and only onions. But the truth is, it cuts uniformed pieces of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs, which actually help to cook your foods uniformly. I even use it to chop cilantro, parsley, and of course, my most beloved kale. The funny thing is that I picked up my VCW at a drugstore, not too far from the shampoo aisle.

So, you wanna make delicious veggie burgers, at perhaps a maximum time of ten minutes. Here's what you'll need:

1/2 can of 365 Organic Fat Free Refried Black Beans
1/2 pepper, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
1 stalk of celery, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
1/2 yellow onion, again, chopped on the smaller grid
1 cup of cilantro, finely snipped with shears
1 carrot, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
2 garlic gloves, grated
1 baby bello mushroom (or a mushroom about 1 1/2 inches), finely chopped
1/2 can of Muir Glen NO SALT ADDED Diced Tomatoes
2 envelopes of instant oatmeal (I like the Organic 365)
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Now, do this...

Mash the beans, add all of the chopped veggies, pepper, and garlic. With your hands, mix together well. Now add tomatoes and oatmeal. Form into four ounce burgers. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes...I like my dry, so I bake for about 45 minutes. Though not my mode of cooking, some people do like to hear the sizzle of the pan, so, you can use whatever it is you like to skillet cook with...spray stuff, oil, etc.

These are really good. And, really, you can get them together in a New York Minute!

Live plant strong. No exceptions.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Love Cilantro--Try this Oil Free Dressing

There's a lot of learning when you become a vegan. I'll be honest, on my days off, like today, I plan menus for the week, and shop for its ingredients. It takes a lot of time, but I see it as an investment in my health. And, remember, I am making lunch and dinner, so I need to really prepare well. I am not a fan of leftovers, so I really do make a lot of food so that my lunch and dinner are totally different meals. That's just me.

One thing that takes time shopping is reading labels. I try my best to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, but sometimes, I need "staples." I am learning that things I once thought as healthy are almost pure crap. My new motto is, "If it ain't from the ground, don't keep it around."

I have grown very fond of cilantro, which, as you may know, are the leaves to the coriander plant! I see it more than a garnish, and now incorporate it into the actual base of salads instead of lettuce. It is full of vitamins C and A. The small graph below gives you a better understanding of cilantro and just how wonderful it is.

Coriander leaves, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 95 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates 4 g
Dietary fiber 3 g
Fat 0.5 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A equiv. 337 μg (37%)
Vitamin C 27 mg (45%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
And, here's a recipe for Cilantro Dressing...I know you will like it. Good on tomatoes.

Cilantro Dressing

Head of Cilantro
2 Lemons or Limes
2 cloves of grated garlic
1/4 cup of water
half an avocado
salt (your choice)

What to do:

Snip the cilantro and place it and all the other ingredients into your blender. Use the juice of the lime (or lemon) to BLEND until you have a smooth looking dressing. If it is too thick, add more water. You won't need oil, as the avocado kicks in for you. However, if you need to, olive oil might work. Remember, I am oil free.

Get some Heirloom tomatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices, pour dressing over tomatoes. You have a perfect salad.

This is an adventure. Being a vegan works for me, and I hope you will give thought to just trying the vegan life for 28 days. Not forever, just for 28 days. I've listed various resources throughout the blog, but if you have any questions, let me know. In the meantime, try the salad dressing and have a gorgeous day!