Sunday, March 29, 2009

How about a really good burger?

Oat Tofu Burger:

Oats really lend themselves well to giving a meatless burger consistency.

You will need: (for about 10 burgers)

1 package tofu = 1 pound

½ cup steel cut oats
 - pour 2 cups boiling hot water over them and let sit until absorbed - about 1/2 hour
1 onion - minced
1 cup carrots - minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 egg (optional - vegans just omit or replace with a tablespoon wheat germ)
1 tsp oregano, marjoram, basil or a combination
2 tablespoons oil

1. Set up oats and meanwhile drain the tofu and crumble with your hands in a bowl - chop and add all other ingredients and shape into 10 burgers. For them to hold together well it helps to refrigerate them for half an hour especially if you don’t want to use the egg.

2. Brown your burgers in the oil and serve or store in the fridge for later. They are quite delicious eaten cold.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Organic produce, organic produce on the wall - who is the fairest of them all?

Our friends at the Environmental Working Group have updated their “Dirty Dozen List” of the most polluted and pesticide laden fruits and vegetables brought to you by the friendly and concerned folks at Mega Bucks Agriculture - so if you want to indulge and make sure you have the maximum exposure to pesticides please choose only from these twelve foods, and while you are at it work on your tan at noon not wearing any sun screen whilst sipping Coca Cola out of a PBA lined plastic bottle (which you will not recycle).
If you are one of us - however - and feel you should have some say in which poisons you will subject your body or your children’s bodies to - pay attention - you should be able to rattle off these twelve fruits and vegetables flawlessly even if I came to your house and woke you up in the middle of the night.
There are pediatricians and nutritionists out there who will go as far as recommending NOT to give any of these fruits or vegetables to your children ever, period!

I will give you the list at the end and the link to the full list can be found here, but for those of us who have been using this list faithfully for years after some research I was able to figure out what had changed.

Dropped from the twelve most contaminated list:
potatoes - dropped to #15

spinach - dropped to #14

raspberries dropped to #20.

Newly on the watchlist:

Kale!!! at #8 - way too high for my taste - and will be bought organically from now on

Lettuce - at #9 - not much of a surprise for me - has been on my private watch list forever

Carrots - at #11 - they just moved up from #13 so they were too close for comfort anyway - not such a big surprise and if you buy the big 5 pound bags the price difference between conventional and organic carrots becomes almost negligible.

Also, on the other side of the spectrum - the twelve safest fruits and vegetables - there was a bit of a shakedown - Broccoli, Cauliflower and Bananas, all were pushed out of the twelve least contaminated produce slots and seem now a little less safe at slots #13, #24 (!) and #21 respectively.

On the bright side - Pineapple - Cabbage and Eggplant have taken their spots.

Here are the lists:

Dirty Dozen: Most Pesticide Contaminated Fruits & Vegetables:

You should buy only organic: (from worst to best)

1. Peach
2. Apple
3. Sweet Bell Pepper
4. Celery
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes - Imported
11. Carrot
12. Pear

and just for completion sake: if the money allows!

13. Collard Greens
14. Spinach
15. Potatoes (used to be much higher on the list)
16. Green Beans
17. Summer Squash
18. Pepper - (hot ones - I presume)
19. Cucumber - ( I usually buy the English variety - at least they come sans wax)
20. Raspberries

The consistently clean conventional produce - buy these non-organic: (from best to worst)

1. Onions

2. Avocado

3. Sweet Corn - Frozen

4. Pineapple

5. Mango

6. Asparagus

7. Sweet Peas - frozen

8. Kiwi

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Papaya

12. Watermelon

13. Broccoli

14. Tomatoes ( now if they only tasted like tomatoes…)

15. Sweet Potatoes ( great alternative for regular potatoes - cheaper and more nutritious)

Also, a quick reminder - know your PLU codes = Price Look-Up codes - that is the code that the cashier will put in before they weigh and price your produce. It will either be on the sticker, on the rubber band holding the produce together - like in broccoli bunches or sometime tattooed on the fruit itself.

PLU Code Type of Produce:

4060 4 digit code - conventional broccoli
94060 5 digit code starting with a “9” - organically grown broccoli

84060 5 digit code starting with a “8” - genetically engineered broccoli
( why do we worry about mouse genes in our oranges - well, it is all the rage in Europe… read up here)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Flexetarian Vegetarian Conundrum:

After being a vegetarian for almost 20 years I have been every kind of vegetarian you can think of.
From the occasional vegetarian - I guess that is how most of us started out - some teenage rebellion combined with a disdain for everything ordinary - I went through a couple of try-outs, that would go really well for a few weeks and than fall flat.
Than later came the ovo-lacto phase, which morphed into years of being a happy vegan, which morphed into years of being a happy raw food vegan to - right now.
Where am I right now? Well, to be quite honest - I am back to square one - being an ordinary ovo-lacto vegetarian. How did I end up back here? Not that there is anything wrong with being just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of vegetarian, mind you!
The economy has a lot to do with it for me.
Going back to organic eggs and organic milk seems to be cheaper when in a severe crunch, and so a dedicated vegan is sent back three squares and becomes a regular vegetarian once again. At least for now.
Especially in winter - when produce is available to me almost exclusively in the supermarket or health food store - at a high price and so-so quality, I cannot imagine trying to be a raw fooder on a limited budget.
Now, I know that some of you manage it somehow - I would love to hear how you stick to your vegan, raw fooder or other guns in times of economic distress.
Comments anyone?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who is ready for spring?

For all of you who are sick and tired of citrus, winter squash and collard greens - I am so with you on this.
I can’t wait for spring and thought it may be a good idea to peek a little into what’s to come.
March is a great month in the produce department because after three months of relatively little variety ( citrus, citrus, citrus and winter squash ad nauseum) new things are all of a sudden in season. It hasn’t quite happened in my local stores but for me the absolute indicator for the change of seasons and the arrival of spring are the aptly named “spring onions”.
So let’s see what we will be able to purchase for a reasonable price:


Fruits: pineapple, Mexican mangos, citrus (especially Valencia and Blood Oranges), rhurbarb

Veggies: spring lettuce, endive, artichokes, mustard greens


Fruits: pineapples from Hawaii, asparagus, avocado (haas), rhurbarb,mangos, first strawberries (careful!)

Veggies: asparagus, spring cruciferous - especially broccoli, first summer squash, spring onions (with green tops), garden peas, romaine lettuce, artichokes, new potatoes, spring carrots, spinach

Monday, March 2, 2009

Seitan Bourginon

This is a lovely recipe - which is simple, yet elegant and a cheap treat for yourself or when you have guests coming.
I will give you two variations - one is the quick approach - the other is the “no work at all since I am going to dump everything into the crock pot” approach. Either way very tasty!

For either version you will need for 4 servings:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 small onions peeled, 2 minced and two cut in fours

5 medium carrots roughly chopped in rounds

2 sticks celery roughly chopped

1 cup whole mushrooms - any kind will do - or omit if you are not a mushroom fan
1 cup leafy greens - kale, collard or spinach work well - or omit
3 cups homemade seitan - if using store bought - one tub will do
 if you need a refresher on how to make your own seitan check here
1 tablespoon tomato paste - diluted in ½ cup water or broth
or use canned crushed tomatoes ( which you will have to drain) about ½ cup total
2 cups potatoes quartered - or left whole of they are small

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 cup heavy red wine 

1 bay leaf - can be omitted or substitute dried basil, oregano or sage

3 cloves garlic - grated

1 teaspoon thyme dried - or ½ teaspoon fresh thyme

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped or omit but rather nice if you have it at hand

salt and fresh pepper

two tablespoons flour or instant mashed potato to thicken the sauce

Crock pot version:

1.Add all ingredients into crock pot, except for the fresh parsley and flour/ instant mashed potato.

2. Cook on medium for 6 - 8 hours. Add the fresh parsley and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer into serving dish - draining some of the liquid. Thicken the drained liquid with some of the flour/mashed potato and mix back in with the rest of the dish. Serve with side of potatoes and wilted greens or a green salad.

On the stove version:

Can be cooked in under 30 minutes - and is still a great dish.
Adjustments to be made - you want all the veggies to be chopped finer.

1. In a steamer basket set the potatoes to steam over water.

2. Saute the onion, carrots, celery and garlic until soft and aromatic.

3. Add the drained tomatoes, mushrooms, seitan, parsley, spices and soy sauce and saute for another two minutes.

4. Add the red wine, and season with salt and pepper - cover and simmer for another 10 minutes over low heat.

5. Check on the potatoes - pierce with a knife to ensure they are soft all the way through - set aside and let cool.

6. Transfer the bourginon to a serving dish - draining the liquid. Mix the liquid with just enough flour or instant mashed potato to give it some substance then mix it back in with the veggies and serve with the potatoes rubbed in a bit of sea salt.