People have irrational culinary fears, I get it. Some people avoid recipes using yeast like they are circus clowns in a dark alley. Some people can’t wrap their brains around the idea of plunging food into hot oil without a spotter. I have an irrational fear of mall Santas so I get it, there are just some things we tend to avoid.
Although I assure you, you’d be just fine if you wanted to fry these suckers in hot oil. I also assure you that if you bought a deep fryer your football parties will never be the same. But if you aren’t there yet, I get it.
I spent most of the summer cooking everything I ate on my backyard grill, taunting the grill-less into Sad Face reactions. One of my go-to sides was grilled french fries. I cut them large enough as not to slip through the grates and I learned that soaking them in a salt brine gave you that creamy middle and crispy outside that you really want in your french fries.
Now that most the grills in America are covered in the unsavory film of winter, I’ve switched to the oven method. The salt water soak is still the way to go when you want that creamy/crispy combo, and letting the baking sheet heat up in the oven will give you more of that golden brown outside that you’d get from that scary vat of hot oil.
Although I do promise that if you do decide to deep fry your potatoes, you’ll be fine. It’s not that scary, not like, say a grown man in a red suit that lurks near a Hollister.
In a large bowl add the beer and 1 tbs kosher salt. Add the potatoes to the beer, add just enough water that the potatoes are fully submerged, about 1 to 2 cups.
Cover and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 12.
Move the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven, place a rimed metal baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 425.
Drain the potatoes and rinse well. Place on a stack of paper towels and pat dry. Add to a large bowl, drizzle with canola oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sea salt, black pepper and sugar. Toss until well coated.
Pour the potatoes onto the baking sheet in an even layer.
Bake for 20 minutes. Turn with a spatula and bake until golden brown, an additional 15-20 minutes.
From an outsiders perspective, the question might seems silly. Beer, after all, is made from plants and water. At its most basic, the ingredients to make beer are simple: water, malt, hops, yeast; all of which are clearly non-animal. And while brewmasters have a way of working everything from bacon to whole chickens into their beer, the biggest culprits are more subtle.
Sometimes, the de-veganized beers are easy to spot, a milk stout that uses lactose, or a honey kolsch, but more often than not, our veggie loving beer friends are in the dark as to whether an animal part has made its way into their pints. Since the CDC, the TTB, the FDA and all the other acronym loving agencies that have their grubby paws in what we consume do not require anyone to disclose the use of animal byproducts in the processing of food or beverages, it often gets left off the label (in fact, almost always).
The biggest offenders are what brewers use to clarify beer. While the need for clarifying is often done with non animal ingredients, or replaced with a centrifuge machine, it’s still common for breweries to use ingredients like gelatin or fish bladders as clarifying agents rendering beer not only non-vegan but non-vegetarian. There is also the foam control issue, and I’m not talking about the frothing of the mouth that occurs when your favorite stout is on Nitro, but the desire brewers have to give you that perfect level of foam head on your pints. To gain control on that lovely can’t-you-settle-yet-I-need-a-drink-now head on your beer, brewers have been known to use pepsin (made from pigs) or albium (made from animal blood) to give you the perfect pour.
But if you are one of the growing numbers of craft beer loving veggie devotees, don’t despair. Many, many breweries are hip to your vibe, vegan beer is a concern for many. When it comes to finding out if your beer is sans-beasts, google is your friend. Also, websites like Barnivore give a great and growing list of vegan friendly breweries and beers.
For this recipe I used Sierra Nevada Porter, a vegan beer. In fact, as a company, Sierra Nevada is 100% vegan friendly.
As an addendum to this, it needs to be mentioned that there is nothing wrong with the use of animal products in beer. Milk stout is a favorite of mine, and a good honey kolsch is great to pair with a summer cook out. However, disclosure is key and giving people the information they need to keep the diet they choose is a way to keep us all friends in this craft beer community.
If you’re new to the Craft Beer scene, it might surprise you how many vegetarian and vegans there are here.
While I am a meat eater (clearly, I put bacon in desserts), I did spend three years as a vegetarian. Mostly, this was a response to growing up on a farm and getting up close and personal to the butchering process as well as the jarring realization of knowing the first name of my dinner. It did, however, give me a profound respect for the food I eat and the farms that share that respect.
I still eat vegan quite often, and there are some dishes, like lasagna, that I just think are just better in vegetarian form.
My true and honest feeling about vegan cooking is that regardless of what your typical diet is if you can’t cook a vegan meal that you love, you just aren’t that good of a cook. Produce is amazing, you get to use all the grains, seeds and nuts that you want and by the way, for the most part beer is vegan.
I first heard about Cashew Cream from this guy, and the idea was intriguing, given that I would have a much easier time giving up meat than sour cream and goat cheese. I like the idea of having a creamy element when I want to go non-dairy. This cashew cream was a really beautiful creamy addition to a vegan chili, when sour cream isn’t an option. I wanted to balance the sweetness so I added some acid and some spices, but feel free to experiment. This would also be a great place to add a little chipotle.
Add the cashews to a bowl, pour almond milk over cashews until covered. Let stand for 4 hours.
Drain cashews and add to a food processor with 1/3 cup almond milk, IPA, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and vinegar. Process until smooth, about 5 minutes, possibly longer. Add additional almond milk or beer for a thinner consistency.
In a pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil, onions, red peppers and mushrooms. Cook until onions and peppers have softened and the mushrooms have darkened.
Add the garlic and the soyrizo, stir, breaking up the soyrizo.
Add the stout, broth, tomato paste, black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes and chipotle, allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the quinoa, bulgur, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and garlic powder, simmer until the quinoa has cooked, about 15 minutes. The longer chili simmers, the thicker it will be.
Plate on top of tortilla chips, if desired, top with cilantro, avocado, and cashew cream.
Let’s stop vowing to cut things out of our lives at then beginning of each year, and start promising ourselves we’ll add some great things in.
Can’t we all just agree that those “I’m going to lose weight/stop eating sugar/give up carbs/cut out coffee” resolutions are just going to leave us feeling hungry, guilty and eventually shameful when they go enormously ignored about the second week in January?
Maybe you have a bigger capacity for restraint than I do, or a higher guilt threshold, but I gave up those types of personal promises years ago. Although I do still love a good resolution and tend to make them year round.
How about we agree to ADD things to our lives instead of taking away? There is something about making a decision to add something great to our world that just reminds us what an amazing life we have ahead of us. And adding greatness has a way of pushing out some of those not as great things.
Let’s give it a try.
Here are my favorite food resolutions, all about adding more amazingness, not about taking things away.
1.Start a food tradition: Maybe a once a month Sunday Supper with your family, or a quarterly Food Friends Pot Luck, or even just New Recipe Wednesday where you try a new dish. Food traditions are memories that you’ll be glad you made.
3. Join a CSA or other Organic Produce Delivery Program. Before my recent move, I got a box of organic produce delivered to my doorstep every Wednesday from Love Delivery. Mostly local, in season and very fresh fruits and vegetables. This also gets you to eat more good stuff, because it’s there. And you hate to waste it. Supporting local farmers and eating healthier, it’s a total win. There are several in most cities and states, consult Google for ones in your area.
4. Try New Foods. This is for the picky eaters. Pick one new food a month and cook it, and eat it. Or, order that one thing on the menu that you would never normally eat. After a year you’ll have 12 foods that you never otherwise would have tried. And I’m going to bet you a batch of cookies that you will be surprised at how much you like at least one of those new foods.
5. Master A Recipe or Technique. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to make a soufflé, or homemade pasta. What better resolution to make than the acquisition of culinary knowledge you can someday pass down to future generations? Just go into assuming that the first time may not be a huge success, and by that I mean don’t plan an entire dinner party around skills you haven’t acquired just to end up in tears when your husband has to have pizza delivered. It will probably go fine, and you will probably post the results on Facebook (yay!), but take it slow and know that to master a technique takes a lot of practice, each time you try it you’ll learn something new.
One of my resolutions is to explore vegan cooking more, even though I have no plans to give up meat or dairy. There really isn’t any arguing with the fact that produce is the best thing you can put in your body. The more I focus on the beautiful flavors of fruits and vegetables, without using meat and dairy as a crutch, the better my cooking becomes over all.
Here is a How To Roast Red Peppers post by Kitchen Treaty. If you are going to use them right away, you can skip the oil and the jar.
Creamy Vegan Broccoli Avocado Soup
1 tbs olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 large red potato, peeled and chopped
6 cups chopped broccoli florets
½ to 2 cups water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp black pepper
pinch chili powder
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 lage avocado, diced
1 red pepper, roasted, cut into strips
In a stock pot or Dutch oven heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Add the vegetable stock and potatoes, cooking until the potatoes are almost soft, about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook until the broccoli and potatoes are both tender, about 5-8 minutes. Using an emersion blender, puree until smooth. Add water, if desired, to thin to desired consistency. Add spices and lemon juice.
Garnish with avocados and red peppers prior to serving.
If you want to know how I made the garnishes "float" on top of the soup for the picture, check this out.
To see my Coconut Oat French Toast, click on the picture:
Why would a meat eating cheese monger such as myself want to make something vegan? Several reason, not the least of which are my friends and family who can’t or wont eat dairy. As meat eaters, it is even more important for us to experiment with vegan and vegetarian food and not hang on the crutch of animal products with the exclusion of other foods. We need to have all types of recipes in our arsenals, not just to accommodate those who might be guest at our tables, but in order to discover foods that we didn’t know we loved, because we didn’t think food with "vegan" labels applied to us. In exploring vegan cooking I have discovered what an amazing texture vegetable shorting lends to frosting, how rich and beautiful coconut milk tastes, and how fruit purees can be a flavorful stand in for butter.
Dairy free baking is something I want to lean towards more. Only using milk products when other substitutions would compromise the overall product, but in many cases vegan substitutions make the end result just as good or even better. Plant based foods just feel better in my body and if the taste of the food isn’t harmed then why would I make any other choice?
I started exploring dairy free cooking when three friends where coming over for dinner. One was kosher (meat and dairy can not be served together) one was allergic to cow’s milk and the other was breast-feeding a baby who couldn’t have dairy. All three needed a dairy free meal. I realized how much dairy I use. Why? I love plants, produce, vegetables, fruit…why all the milk?
These brownies where really good. Not just "good for vegan" but just really good. So fudgy and intensely chocolatey, even Tater couldn’t keep her little fingers off them.
She took a bite and then carefully put it right back where I had place it. So cute, I love that kid.
Chocolate Coconut Vegan Brownies
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (can sub coconut milk)
In a bowl, beat together the coconut oil and the agave nectar until well combined. Add the soy milk and coffee and beat again. in a separate bowl, add the cocoa powder, flour, shredded coconut and salt and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, don’t over mix.
Spray a 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray (or line with parchment paper) and pour bater into prepared pan.
Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes. You don’t want to overcook these or they will be too dry. Allow to cool before cutting into.
For an extra treat, serve warm topped with coconut milk ice cream.
*Note: Coffee intensifies the flavor of chocolate, with no trace of a coffee taste. If you don’t like coffee, or don’t have a coffee maker, stop by a Starbucks and order a black coffee, use 1/3 of a cup and freeze the rest in ice cube trays for use in future chocolate baking.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that these are as good as the real thing. Those potato skins loaded up with bacon, sour cream and cheese that are somewhere around 62 calories per bite. But these make a great lunch durring my "I am GOING to lose those final 3 pounds" week. And they reheat really well, so you can make a batch on Sunday, and reheat them through out the week for lunch. With a side of this salad.
I’ve run the numbers and have come up with 62 calories each potato half, but that completely depends on the size of your potato and the amount of flesh you scoop out of it.
My Husband added fat free sour cream and shredded cheese. If you add a tbs of fat free sour cream and a tsp of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese, it will about double the calories in the potato. But, if you like it more and that will make you eat less, it may be worth it.
Also, this dish is:
Kosher for Passover
Skinny jeans friendly
Skinny Potato Skins
4 large red potatoes
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced, stem removed
1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced, stem removed
Pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork and microwave on high for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and allow to cool until enough to handle. Cut in half and scoop out most of the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of the walls in tact. You can save the potato middles for mashed potatoes or potato cakes.
Place thinly sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, and garlic on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with fajita seasoning (or the homemade blend) and toss to coat.
Roast the vegetables in the oven for 15 minutes or until soft and the mushrooms have browned, tossing every 5-8 minutes with a heat safe spatula.
Place the skins on a baking sheet and brush the insides with melted smart balance light, sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, allow to cool slightly.
Fill each potato skin with fajita veggies and top with Pico De Gallo.
The night after I joined the Bone Marrow Donor registry I had a dream that I was a Bone Marrow match for a little boy who was dying of Leukemia. But in my dream, I had joined the registry one month after he died of the disease. I had the lifesaving cure just walking around in my body and I had no idea until it was too late.
Horrible, I know. But It happens, I’m sure. This morning, when I woke up, I got an email for the registry, and whenever that happens I have a flicker of hope that I am one of those people who has the opportunity to donate. I want to. I want to use the marrow I grow so easily in my bones to save the life of someones else’s Tater, because I would want you to do that for me, if she is ever in need. Of course, if I ever am a match, I’m sure the news won’t come via email so as you have probably suspected the email was just an update about the progress being made by the Be The Match foundation.
Now that I have this platform, I want to use it to reach out. To help save the life of someones baby. What if it is you. What if you are the one who holds the key to a cure inside your bones.
Here was how simple it was for me to get on the list:
Go to a donation center, give blood, sign a form.
It can be even easier for you. You can click here, fill out a form online and order your cheek swap kit through the mail. It’s so easy.
It took about twenty minutes. Although it did cost me about $50 at the time, I can now put my mind at ease that I am doing what I can. $50 is a lot, more to some people than to others, but it was worth it for me know that I wasn’t the reason that someone was dying. That I wasn’t caring the lifesaving cure inside of me while someone was dying, over a mater of $50.
Click here to find out how you can get on the list of Bone Marrow Donors.
Here are some simple facts about Bone Marrow Donation and how and why to get on the list:
Q: If I join the Be The Match Registry, how likely is it that I will donate to someone? A: On average, one in every 540 members of Be The Match Registry in the United States will go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to a patient. We cannot predict the likelihood that an individual member will donate because there is so much diversity in the population. However, if you are between the ages of 18 and 44, you are 10 times more likely to be called as a marrow donor than other members of the Be The Match Registry. That’s because research shows cells from younger donors lead to more successful transplants.
Every person who joins the registry gives patients hope, and new patient searches begin every day. You may never be identified as a match for someone, or you might be one of a number of potential matches. But you may also be the only one on the registry who can save a particular patient’s life.
Q: How do I become a bone marrow donor? A: The first step to become a bone marrow donor is to join the Be The Match Registry. Doctors around the world search our registry to find a match for their patients. If a doctor selects you as a match for a patient, you may be asked to donate bone marrow or cells from circulating blood (called PBSC donation).
Q. Does bone marrow donations involve surgery?
A: The majority of donations do not involve surgery. Today, the patient’s doctor most often requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical.
Q. Is Donating painful or involve a long recovery?
A: There can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects of donating PBSC. Due to taking a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation, PBSC donors may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue. PBSC donors are typically back to their normal routine in one to two days.
Q. Is donating dangerous or weaken the donor?
A: There are rarely any long-term side effects. Be The Match® carefully prescreens all donors to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them. We also provide support and information every step of the way.
Q. Once you have been chosen as a match do donors have to pay to donate?
A: Donors never pay to donate. We reimburse travel costs and may reimburse other costs on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Does race or ethnicity affect matching? A: Racial and ethnic heritage are very important factors. Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Today, there simply aren’t enough registry members of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Adding more diverse members increases the likelihood that all patients will find a life-saving match.
Members of these backgrounds are especially needed:
Black or African American
American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian, including South Asian
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Hispanic or Latino
This in no way relates to Chipotle Hummus. Except that maybe those lazy summer days, hanging out with friends, enjoying a spicy dip, are gifts that you maybe able to give another person, if you are a match. And if you get on the registry, and get to donate marrow and save someones life: I will be really jealous.
15 ounces garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-3 tbs water
salt and pepper to taste
Crudites for serving
In a food processor, add the garbonzo beans, tahini, chilies, garlic, cumin, olive oil, lemon juice and process until smooth. Add the water until you reach the consistency that you prefer, more water will equal a creamier hummus. Salt and pepper to taste.
I find that this dip tastes best with the cool crunch of fresh vegetables such as cucumber slices, sliced peppers and carrot sticks.
I get asked a lot of questions as a food blogger. Some are about food. Some are about blogging. Some are more personal. But one of the most common questions I get asked is, "How do you stay so skinny when you cook so much food?!"
First, it’s hard. Really.
Work, being a mom, a wife, a blogger. AND trying to stay in shape is a lot of work.
Here are some of the rules that I use to a balance food blog and skinny jeans:
1. I don’t eat fast food. It is a really rare occasion when I do, and never, ever, ever for dinner. More of a road trip occasion, or an I’m running late so I’m going to grab the one sandwich under 400 calories at Quiznos occasion. And no chips, and an unsweetened iced tea.
2. I always eat breakfast. Once in a while I have fatty things, like that french toast I still can’t stop thinking about. But 5 out of 7 days, its 2 slices of reduced calorie whole wheat toast (or whole wheat english muffin) with 1/2 tbs peanut butter each. For breakfast, you want the trifecta: low cal, high protein, good carbs.
3. I read ALL the labels of everything I put in my mouth. And just assume that you will have more than the serving size. For instance: most cereal puts a "serving size" of 3/4 a cup. Really? That’s less than my cup of coffee. You will probably have more like 2 cups. So that cereal that you think is only 175 calories. It’s probably more like 430. Thats like eating a burger. But at least the burger is worth it. Bottom line, if you are counting calories, measuring your food is a BIG part of that.
4. Snack well. I like to get the most food possible for the least amount of calories. It’s like a game. But I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, and even when I did, those 100 calorie packs aren’t really a calorie bargin. I want 2, and if I’m going to eat 200 calories, I’d rather have a snickers. This is one of my go to snacks: 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced, drizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with salt and chili powder. It’s like 15 calories. I also do that to radish slices. Crispy and salty. Like chips, but good for you.
5. Know your weaknesses. I know I like to cook big breakfast on the weekend, and eat more for dinner when I get to cook for other people. So on the weekdays, I eat a low dairy, high plant, low fat diet. Such as: Salads with low-cal dressing (or just balsamic vinegar) or even my favorite salsa instead of dressing, non-dairy soups, roasted veggies with skinless chicken.
6. Know your calories. I have the Lose It app on my phone (it’s free) and I try to stay under 1,600 calories a day during the week. Give up calories where you can, but don’t feel like you have "earned" an extra slice of pie. That just ruins all the work you did. The truth is, unless you are an Olympic swimmer who burns 14,000 calories a day, you will never reach your goal weight with exercise alone. Never. You have to get your eating in check. Can you indulge? Sure, once in a while, but make sure you make up for it but eating lots of plants. Don’t starve yourself, it makes your body store everything as fat. So you are hungry and still gaining. That sucks. Think of calories like you think of money. You only have so many (probably around 1,700 a day if you’re a girl) to spend before you go "into debt" (meaning: gain weight). Is that mediocre lunch really worth half of your calorie budget? Do you like that White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks 600X more than a regular cup of coffee? Because that’s how many more calories are in it (a venti White Chocolate Mocha, with whip has 620 calories, a plain cup of coffee has about 5 calories). Spend where it counts, cut when it doesn’t.
7. Find the WHY. I have a Masters Degree in Psychology. Did you know that? It’s true. The mental part is hard. Probably harder than being hungry, is being unmotivated. Write a list of WHY you want to stay (or get) in shape and post it everywhere, and keep updating it. And talk yourself down when you do want to grab for that bad stuff. Oh, and don’t keep in the house, it just makes it that much more difficult for yourself.
(pretty much my WHY for everything good in my life)
8. Replacement behaviors. This is an important part of therapizing yourself. Find your bad habits and replace them with good ones. For me: 3pm candy jar. My coworkers all have them, and I do as well. Instead of wandering around chatting with the intention of snacking, I walked my office building for 15 minutes, stairs and all. Now, my candy jar is filled with candy I don’t like and I’m not even tempted to eat, just for those people who come to visit with the intention of snacking.
9. Just have one. If you really want to try a new recipe for cupcakes, pie, cookies, thats OK. Try and plan to make them when you can give the rest away. For me, most of the fun of cooking is having a recipe in my head and trying to figure out how to make it work in the kitchen. But most of my food, the sugary, high fat stuff, is given away. Take it to the office, or to a friends house, or let your husband take it to his office. Find a charity, like a women’s shelter, that might want it. Or throw it out. It sucks to waste food, but is it really doing any good taunting you from the fridge? Or, you can make a half or a quarter of the original recipe using an online site like Half Recipe.
10. Move a lot. Even though exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as we would like, it’s still important to move. For me, it’s spin class. Because it’s the most amount of calories I can burn in the least amount of time. If I really push myself, do everything that spin guy is yelling at me to do, I can burn nearly 700 calories in an hour. Thats a lot. Do that 3 times a week and thats 30 lbs a year. Find something that you will actually do, and do it. A lot. Spoil yourself with dance class, then treat yourself to shrimp cocktail (fairly low cal treat).
11. Water is essential. Get a water bottle and carry it around like a security blanket. First, it flushes out your body. Second, the human thirst reflex is so weak, it is often mistaken for hunger. Drink a lot of water and you will eat less and glow more.
Now onto the recipe. This makes 2 large entree sized portions, at about 330 calories each, or 4 side salad portions at about 165. If you want a little more, you can add 3oz grilled skinless chicken.
Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
1 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh kale, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 large roasted red bell pepper, chopped
2 tbs shallots, minced
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp raw honey (sub agave for vegan)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted, boiling water until fork tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, allow to drain. I did a guest post of Eating Rules about the proper way to cook quinoa, if you are interested.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, sweet potatoes, sage, kale, cranberries, and red pepper. In a small bowl, add the shallots, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Drizzle over the quinoa salad, tossing to coat.
Legal Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionsinst. The ideas presented here are just what works for me.