Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kale Surprise Smoothie

I like the vegan diet, but my face doesn't.

For several months now, I've been noticing that my face is redder than normal, and it has more 'bumps' on it.  These don't seem to be normal acne bumps - they're smaller and harder and don't pop.  They also persist for months.  I was getting more and more bumps.  I put it down to exercising more, cold weather and hormones - after all, isn't a plant based diet supposed to be good for your skin?

20 years ago a dermatologist said I had rosacea after I complained about a few similar bumps and redness around my nose. I've had redness and bumps on and off since then, and none of the topical treatments I've tried have made a difference.  Since this latest flare up was the worst I've experienced and it coincided with adopting a vegan diet, I finally realized that perhaps what I was eating was aggravating the rosacea.  I looked up common diet triggers for rosacea and sure enough, ALMOST EVERYTHING I ATE WAS ON THE LIST. Since being on the plant based diet, I had hugely increased the quantity and frequency in which I ate these foods.

The good news is, (I hope), that if diet can aggravate the rosacea, then perhaps it can also cure it.

For the past 5 days I have attempted to eliminate the common rosacea triggers such as high histamine foods, histamine release triggers and foods high in tannins.  The avoid list includes:
  • spinach
  • chocolate
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • cherries
  • bananas
  • dates and other dried fruits
  • blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries and other berries
  • apples, peaches, plums
  • citrus fruits
  • fermented foods - like yogurts, pickles
  • soy - including tofu and soy sauce
  • red beans, black beans
  • cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg
  • vinegar - including condiments like ketchup and mustard
  • alcohol - especially red wine
  • tea
Other common triggers are aged/processed meats and aged cheese - but of course those had already been eliminated.

This restricted diet has been much harder than adopting the vegan diet. Is there nothing tasty left in this world?  All my favorites are on the list!  After recovering from a few moments panic, I realized I still had some good choices.  I've been living on: butternut squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, white beans, mangoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, lentils, artichokes, quinoa, oatmeal and pasta. oh, and peanuts, almonds and coconut milk. I've just added kale back in yesterday, and chickpeas should be fair game.

I am very pleased to be getting positive results.  My skin has definitely improved, although I am worried there is a placebo effect involved, and skin redness is very hard to judge objectively.  I believe the red spots have shrunk and overall, my face is less red.  My itchy eyes, which I thought was allergies to dust or mold, are no longer itchy.  Also, I hadn't realized that my skin was itchy until I stopped absentmindedly scratching my neck.

It's been interesting to look for recipes that can meet this criteria.  All my 'go-to' recipes have to be modified or set aside for a while.  My plan is to stay on this restricted diet for about 2 weeks, then start to slowly add foods from the list and see if any of them trigger a rosacea flare up.  It's been a fun exercise to think about which food to add back in first.  Do I add the one I miss the most? or the one I suspect might be a trigger? or ones that I don't expect to be triggers? or the most nutritious?

I'm using an iphone app to track what I eat and correlate it to symptoms.  I'm hoping to identify a few triggers which I  can put on my permanent avoid list (please, don't let it be chocolate!).  Another possibility is that if it is a histamine tolerance issue, then I'll be able to eat all the foods on the list, but I'll just have to watch my overall daily intake of histamine containing foods.

So, that leads me to the 'Kale Surprise Smoothie'.  I've included kale in previous smoothie concoctions, but those have always contained fruit.  Since all my favorite smoothie ingredients are on the avoid list, I also avoided smoothies.  I've never made a vegetable-only (no fruit) smoothie, and I was expecting to really dislike it.  However, this one was not bad.  Surprise!

  • 1/2 c. frozen kale (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T flax seed, ground
  • 1 T raw honey
  • 1 T almond butter, raw, unsalted (I used Trader Joe's)
  • a shake of salt
I usually don't add sweetener to my smoothies, but I tasted it without the honey and almond butter and it tasted 'grassy'.  The honey, almonds and the shake of salt really improved it.  It's good enough to make it again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Herbivore Cheater Pad Thai and others from HHA

I checked Happy Herbivore Abroad by Lindsey S. Nixon out of the library and had to renew it, I've been using it so much.  I'm definitely going to buy one of her books, just have to decide which one to start with.  Here's a quick run down of whAt we've tried recently from HHA.

Cheater Pad Thai - earned a 4 from kids and adults.  We even used the frozen stir fry vegetables (usually I hate frozen veggies) and it was delish.

Aloo Gobi - earned at least a 3.  My son said it was delicious and had seconds and ate the leftovers.

Vegetable Korma - 3 or 4.  I added in some coconut milk I had leftover.  Made this extra delicious.

Thai noodle soup - 3.  Not bad but I made it too salty and spicy for our tastes.  Cut back on the chili sauce next time.

Sushi Hand Rolls - 4.  We loved these.  Called it Lazy Man Sushi and let everyone roll their own.  Served with some leftover teriyaki sauce .  Cucumber, carrot, avocado, nori, oven baked teriyaki tofu.

Barley Mushroom patties - 3 - My son really enjoyed it, my daughter didn't care for it.  Husband thought it was a bit bland - he should have added salt?  All was gone by the end of dinner though, no leftovers.  We all liked the texture of the barley.  Served with improvised tomato balsamic salad, oven sweet potato fries and roasted zucchini.

Sunshine Muffins - 2 - I'm eating these and my daughter had a couple, but they have a bitter after taste.  I only added 1/2 c of sugar so maybe it's not covering the taste of the white whole wheat flour?  Also used 20 oz. of fresh (slightly blended) pineapple instead of canned. I like the moistness and the crisp top.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Scott Jurek's Lentil - Mushroom Burgers from Eat to Run

Made these burgers from Scott Jurek's Eat To Run book.  Excellent.  Maybe 5... although they're only the second veggie burger recipe I've tried.  My husband described them as 'inoffensive', my son tried to eat two and my daughter, who originally did not want to try one, declared it 'really good'.  I think they're really delicious - I love the texture and the taste.

It seems you could make almost anything passable if you stuff it into a bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, corn salsa and enough ketchup, but my family does not agree. These, however, are good enough to eat alone as a patty.

I made them pretty much as directed, except I accidentally used pecans instead of walnuts, and I used smoked paprika instead of regular.

Served with roasted red potatoes.

Kid-friendly: yes
Kid-rating: 4 (average of 2 and 4)
Husband-rating: 4
My rating: 4 maybe 5
Ease of prep: medium - high. I used the food processor for most of the chopping, but I had to cook the lentils in one pan, saute the onions and mushrooms in another, fry the burgers in a third pan. Slick and Prepare the toppings.
Cleanup: medium - high. pot, saute pan, fry pan, food processor,measuring cups, knife and cutting board
Nutrition: A - this one is packed with good stuff- mushrooms, kale, onions, beans, nuts
Overall Rating: 4

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Last night we had samosa stuffed baked potatoes, inspired by this recipe on Leaf Parade (love the blog name!)  I tried a samosa flavored baked potato recipe before starting this blog, but now I don't remember which recipe - was from a Happy Herbivore book? That's why I keep this blog... there's so many sources of good recipes I can't remember what's what.

I really enjoyed the potatoes, not much of a stretch given how much I love samosas.  My husband is meh on Indian spices so he put some leftover Scott Jurek chili on a plain baked potato instead.  My daughter preferred to eat a plain baked sweet potato (which she only picked at).  My son, however, ate the insides of the samosa stuffed potato, but didn't eat the skin.  His craziness is my gain, though, because I gobbled that crispy shell right up.

I had to make a few mods (of course) to fit what I had on hand:
Omitted: butter, salt, carrots, crushed red pepper, chickpeas, fresh cilantro
Added: chopped broccoli, frozen corn, dried cilantro (as a condiment)

Sauteed the veggies in vegetable broth instead of butter to keep it all vegan.

Yummy!  Will make again despite mixed reviews from the fam.  It works just to make 4 baked potatoes, samosa-ize two of them, and let my husband and daughter customize their potatoes to suit their whims.

Last night, we also tried making a fresh tomato soup in the Vitamix I got for Christmas.  My son made the whole thing. We loved how the soup got heated right in the blender and the idea of using an avocado for creaminess seems perfect.  Sadly, we didn't love the bitter taste of the soup, nor the foaminess.  Do all blender soups have a foamy consistency?  Maybe the raw garlic added bitterness?  I think we'll try it again when tomatoes are riper.  January tomatoes are not a good candidate for fresh tomato soup... and we didn't have fresh basil... and we only had half an avocado.  The recipe is on this page.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vegetable Barley Soup and Breadsticks

It was -12 degrees yesterday.  Soup was necessary!

I started with the idea from this Ellie Kreiger recipe for Tuscan Vegetable Soup, but due to lack of ingredients and forgetfulness, it's also improvised, as seems to be the case with all my cooking. My mother in law made me the same soup (without the cheese, but with green beans and butternut squash cubes) over Christmas vacation and it was delish.

I also served breadsticks made from the leftover pizza dough I made from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (blogged here).  I just scooped out some refrigerated dough, tossed it in some flour to make it workable, and let it sit for a while to warm up while I did other things.  When I was ready to bake it, I cut it into 8 pieces and shaped each piece into a stick, put it on my perforated bread pan and popped it into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  A hit with the family.  Next time, I will up the percentage of the whole wheat flour as no one complained about the texture. Keep upping it until they complain?

To round out the meal we also had sweet potatoes cut into fries, tossed with a dollop of oil and Penzey's sandwich sprinkle and roasted in the oven, and brussel sprouts sliced in half and given the same treatment.

Here's how I actually made the soup.
Vegetable Barley Soup

  • medium onion
  • garlic clove
  • 2 carrots, roughly chunked
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chunked
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 c. fresh green beans
  • 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 28 oz diced canned tomatoes with basil
  • 1 c. barley, cooked
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Threw onion, garlic clove, carrots, and celery into blender and pulsed until chopped. Water sauteed all of it while I chopped a small zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes and cut the ends off the green beans and chopped them into 1 inch pieces. Once the onion mixture looked like it was softening, stirred in the pepper, thyme and sage and cooked until fragrant.  Then added in the green beans, zucchini, broth and tomatoes.  Cooked until veggies are soft. Stirred in the cooked barley.

Served with salt, pepper, italian seasoning and cilantro as condiments.  I thought it was good without the salt, but my son and husband added some.

Next time, I wouldn't cook it as long because I would have preferred for the green beans to keep their color and crunch.  Also, I might have cooked the barley in the soup, and just added in the green beans and zucchini when the barley was close to done.  Also, beans, spinach or butternut squash would have been a good additions.

My 8 year old tried it without complaint but didn't eat it.  She filled up on the breadsticks, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.  My son and I had two bowls, and my husband ate his, but said he prefers his barley soup with beef in it. eh... nope.

Overall, a veggie filled, satisfying meal.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Scott Jurek Minnesota Winter Chili

Yesterday, I had a banner day in my vegan kitchen.  I churned out no less than 3 recipes that were highly rated by my family:

Minnesota Winter Chili - Scott Jurek (in Eat To Run)
Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry - improvised
BBQ pizza with homemade crust - very similar to one the previous one I made at the link, but used a home made crust from this cookbook.

Scott Jurek is an ultramarathoner, vegan and pretty good cook from what I can tell from the recipes included in the book.  I just finished Eat To Run and found Scott's story inspiring and the recipes intriguing. If it weren't -15 degrees (plus windchill!) I would have gone out running, but instead I made do with cooking.  Besides the chili, we also made the Multi-grain Strawberry pancakes (also heavily altered), and although not really a hit with the family, they definitely have potential and will try again with different grains, and maybe with blueberries.  I had to improvise a bit on the chili since we just returned from 2 weeks of traveling so I had to make do with what was on hand.  Here's what I did:

Put the following into my blender and pulsed until chopped:
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 carrots
Put it all in large pot with:
  • 16 oz. sliced white mushrooms
Water sauteed all of it until softened. Added these spices and stirred until fragrant:
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Then added the following:
  • 1 28 oz black beans
  • 1 28 can diced tomatoes (with basil leaf)
  • 1 28 can of water
  • 1 c frozen TJ's roasted corn
  • 1/2 c farro berries
Simmered it all until farro was cooked, about 40 minutes.

Served with salt, hot sauce and Penzey's Arizona Dreaming as condiments. Cilantro would have been delicious, as would have avocado if we'd had any.

We loved the meaty texture of the farro and mushrooms.  My son, who does not like beans and was reluctant to even try the chili, ate 3 bowls.  My husband also liked it. They said they missed the flavor of the meat, but the chili was pretty satisfying.  Only my daughter didn't like it very much.  She likes beans, but does not like mushrooms.  She likes her beans sweet, not savory, so I think she was disappointed.  She ate a few bites but preferred the BBQ pizza and stuck with that.

Kid-friendly: yes
Kid-rating: 3 (average of 2 and 4)
Husband-rating: 4
My rating: 4
Ease of prep: medium - not too much chopping or measuring
Cleanup: medium - pot, blender, knife and cutting board
Nutrition: B - could have added more veggies, but this was full of whole foods
Overall Rating: 4

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A real winner!

After a series of 'just tolerable' meals, last night's dinner was a welcome success. I made two kinds of pizza, both vegan, despite the repeated requests for cheese.  I just said to the kids, "You are welcome to add cheese to your slices if you want... if you can find any in the fridge."

We all like different things on our pizza.  When we order out, my husband and daughter love BBQ chicken pizza, my son likes mushroom and I'll eat practically anything, but I've been gravitating towards vegetables recently.  In the past, we have all felt cheese to be an absolutely necessary ingredient.  The most recent time we ordered from our favorite pizza place, I ordered their roasted vegetable pizza without the cheese.  It was OK, but no one ate it but me.  Last night's pizza was way better than that.

I got the idea from the Engine 2 BBQ pizza from the original Engine 2 book.  The recipe is not on the E2 website, and I modifed it, so I'll give my ingredients & process here:
  • 1 Trader Joe's bagged pizza crust (left out on the counter for an hour before shaping)
  • store bought Bourbon BBQ sauce (leftover from a summer BBQ, but coincidentally vegan)
  • large handful of fresh baby spinach, cut into ribbons
  • 1 c. frozen pineapple, thawed
  • 1/4 c. raw cashews, finely ground
  • a few pinches of oregano
Shaped the dough into a rectangle and put into a jelly roll pan on top of a silpat mat (dough filled the pan).  Spread some BBQ sauce on top. Sprinkled some oregano with a heavy hand.  Arranged the spinach evenly, then topped with the pineapple.  Sprinkled the ground cashews on top. Baked in 425 oven (on convect) for 10 minutes.

Would have been great with carmelized onions, or fresh red onion too.  My daughter and I loved it.

My son doesn't like BBQ pizza so I made a mushroom pizza for him.
  • 1 Trader Joe's bagged pizza crust (left out on the counter for an hour before shaping)
  • store bought Marinara sauce
  • large handful of fresh baby spinach, cut into ribbons
  • package of sliced mushrooms
  • red wine
  • 1 tsp. Penzey's Bouquet Garni spice mix - salt free spice mix of savory, thyme, oregano & more
  • shake of salt
  • 1/4 c. raw cashews, finely ground
Water sauteed mushrooms until they released all their moisture and got a bit brown, deglazing the pan when needed with a splash of red wine.  Added some Bouquet Garni and shake of salt to the mushrooms.  Shaped the dough and put it on a cookie sheet with a silpat mat.  Spread some sauce over the top, added the spinach, mushrooms and cashews as evenly as possible.  Baked at 425 (on convect) for 10 minutes.  This one was also tasty. My son ate half the pizza and gave it a thumbs up although he said something about the cashews getting caught in his braces.

The kids did rustle up a chunk of Parmesan cheese from the bottom of the fridge drawer and grated a bit on top of their slices.

Both pizzas could have handled more spinach as neither had any kind of spinach taste and the kids did not even attempt to pick it off.  A bit of slivered fresh basil would also have been nice also.

I am excited to experiment further with this idea of cheese-less pizza.  I thought the cashews were a terrific alternative to cheese. Daughter liked them, son was so-so.  Next, I will try using a whole-wheat crust (although that might put the kids over the edge), adding more spinach, and maybe sweet potato slices or a small handful of black beans.  Roasted teriyaki eggplant and zuchinni are also worth a try. Regarding the crust, a multi-grain crust with some texture like from unground oats might give some added interest.  I'll be on the lookout for a dough recipe like that.

Kid-friendly: yes
Kid-rating: 4
Husband-rating: n/a
My rating: 4
Ease of prep: medium - mushroom prep, slivering spinach, grinding cashews
Cleanup: medium - pans, silpat, food processor, dough board, knives, spoons
Nutrition: C - BBQ sauce is mostly sugar, TJ's dough is white flour. Not enough veggies.
Overall Rating: 4