Friday, March 16, 2018

Refreshing Lenten Dessert

Berries with Vegan Whipped Cream

1 cup any combination of berries
1/2 block silken tofu
2 T safflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
Roasted unsalted almonds
  1. Mix berries in a bowl, place them in individual serving bowls and chill for an hour.
  2. In a blender, blend silken tofu, safflower oil and maple syrup. Chill in refrigerator.
  3. Pour whipped cream over the berries and sprinkle roasted almonds on top.

I used strawberries and blueberries for my dinner guests last night, but of course you can use any combination you like.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sea Vegetables

Sea vegetables are largely ignored in the American diet, which is a pity since they are not only delicious, but, according to Rebecca Wood, "the most singularly nutritious food." Quoted directly from her wonderful book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia:

     Land plants absorb nutrients from the soil, and so their nutritional content reflects their immediate environment. A carrot grown in deficient soil is nutritionally deficient. One grown in good soil is nutritionally superior.
     Sea vegetables, on the other hand, are continuously bathed in the mineral-rich sea brine. They are a direct transformation of seawater and their mineral content is from 7 to 38 percent of their dry weight.

The list of benefits to eating seaweed is long and includes the ability to reduce blood cholesterol and strengthen bones, teeth, nerve transmission, and digestion. Not only that, but according to some, sea vegetables contribute to beautiful skin and hair. 

Sea vegetables are used in soups and beans as well as in vegetable side dishes and can be roasted and sprinkled over grains. I was introduced to sea vegetables by Japanese teachers who used mostly Japanese varieties; arame, hijiki, kombu and wakame. I still use those, but I also like to use American sea vegetables that I order from Larch Hanson, "The Seaweed Man". His website offers a wealth of information about all the sea vegetables he harvests, including easy recipes.

If you're just introducing sea vegetables to your diet and are not sure what kind to start with, consider ordering Digitata Kelp to begin with. You'll use it when cooking beans, and can cook it with vegetables several times a week. Here's what Larch says about Digitata Kelp:

If I had to choose one variety of kelp for my kitchen, I would choose digitata kelp. This may be substituted into any recipe calling for kombu, for digitata’s cooking qualities are much the same. Reconstituted and cooked for fifteen minutes, digitata behaves like a vegetable and becomes softer. Cooked for an hour or more, digitata dissolves and creates a delicious creamy soup stock that the Japanese would call dashi. Just add ginger and tamari. The alginates that are released from the digitata through long cooking are able to bind (chelate) with the large molecules of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes and remove them from the body. Moreover, digitata contains iodine which nourishes and protects the thyroid so that it will not absorb radioactive iodine. My skin always gets softer when I handle digitata which is oozing with slippery alginates. Its softening effects on the body are obvious.

Carrots and Kelp

3 carrots, cut in diagonal slices
2 5" strips of kelp, soaked for 5 minutes
Sesame oil
1/2 t. shoyu
1/2 t. brown rice vinegar

  1. Slice soaked kelp in 1" pieces. 
  2. Heat sesame oil in a skillet and add kelp. Stir to coat with oil, then add chopped carrots. Stir.
  3. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Season with shoyu and brown rice vinegar, mix and remove from the flame.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lenten Spanakopita

Some people might say my children had a deprived childhood; no TV, no sugar, no dairy, no meat (mostly), no school at home and ... spanakopita without feta! The first time they encountered traditional Greek spanakopita, they wrinkled their noses and said they liked the "real" stuff I made better.

This is a great dish for Lenten church potlucks and I often serve it to dinner guests. You could add chickpeas with carrots and onions to the plate, and/or red lentil soup for a heartier meal depending on the occasion and the amount of time (or leftovers) you have at your disposal.

Don't be afraid of filo dough. The very thin pieces of filo can sometimes get stuck to each other, and they tear a lot, causing great anguish to some cooks. But all you need is the final layers to be whole so that it looks nice on top. Save those when you're layering and don't stress about the inside layers.

Steamed Kabocha Squash
Kale and Cabbage
Marinated Cucumbers


1 package filo dough
1 package frozen spinach
1 block tofu
2 T shoyu
1 T umeboshi vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Lots of olive oil

  1. Defrost spinach and filo the night before.
  2. Crumble tofu into a bowl and season with shoyu and umeboshi vinegar.
  3. In a deep pot, heat 1 T olive oil and add crushed garlic. Stir briefly, and then add thawed and drained spinach.
  4. Add seasoned tofu to the spinach and cook, stirring until heated through. Turn off the flame and set aside.
  5. Oil a baking sheet and place 4 sheets of filo dough on it. With a pastry brush, oil the top of the 4 layers.
  6. Count 8 sheets from the bottom of the filo dough and make a fold. (This is just to mark where you stop layering the bottom and add the filling)
  7. Layer 2 sheets of filo at a time, oiling the second sheet with a pastry brush until you reach the fold.  Add filling, and then continue layering and oiling 2 sheets at a time until you reach the end.
  8. Cut into triangles before baking.
  9. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Steamed Kabocha Squash
½ Kabocha squash, seeds removed and cut in wedges

Steam squash for 20 minutes until cooked through. If you can push a fork easily through the squash, it’s done.

Kale and Cabbage
¼ cabbage, sliced in 1” pieces
3 kale leaves, stems removed and chopped in 2” pieces

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add cabbage and simmer 1 minute. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a plate or in a colander.
  3. Simmer the kale 2 minutes, remove from the pot and drain on a plate or in a colander.
  4. Mix kale and cabbage together. Sprinkle with brown rice vinegar if desired. 
Marinated Cucumbers
1 English cucumber
2 t. shoyu
2 t. brown rice vinegar

  1. Cut off the ends of the cucumber and, with the end, rub the open ends to draw out the bitterness.
  2. Slice the cucumber lengthwise and then in thin diagonals. Place in a bowl.
  3. Add shoyu and brown rice vinegar and mix. Let the cucumbers sit for an hour and serve.
These quick pickles will keep for a few days in the refrigerator in a covered container, but will begin to lose their crunchiness after the second day.

5 cups vegetable broth or 5 cups water
1 cup red lentils
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups potatoes, cut in ½ inch cubes
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 T olive oil
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t.turmeric
1/2 t. sea salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1.     In a large pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add vegetable bouillon cubes, if using.
2.     Add lentils, onions, potatoes and garlic. Lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes until the lentils and potatoes are soft.
3.     In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and add cumin, turmeric and salt. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, until the spices become aromatic. Be careful not to scorch the spices.
4.     Pour the spices into the soup.
5.     Add chopped cilantro and lemon juice, simmer another minute.
6.     Serve with croutons, garnished with chopped cilantro

For fresh croutons, you can cut 3 inch wide pieces of French bread, slice them in half and fry in oil until golden on both sides. Cut into cubes and add to hot soup.



Risotto comes to us from northern Italy originally. Made with arborio rice and cooked in broth, it becomes a creamy grain dish that only needs a vegetable side dish or two to make it into a simple meal. Many risotto recipes include meat broth and parmessan cheese as well as some sort of vegetable in the risotto itself. 
The recipe here is made with vegetable broth and nothing but the arborio, oil, tomato paste and broth for the risotto. If you've never made risotto before, try this very simple way of preparing it and then get creative. Or just enjoy it this way and add side vegetables. 


1 T olive or safflower oil
2 Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes (with salt)
1 T tomato paste
1 ½ cups arborio rice
About 6 cups water
3 T lemon juice

1.     Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add bouillon cubes and tomato paste. Stir until the bouillon cubes are softened.
2.     Add rice and stir to coat with the oil, tomato and bouillon mixture.
3.     Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then simmer on medium flame until the water is mostly absorbed.
4.     Add more water and cook until absorbed. Keep adding water until the rice has become soft. The rice should be soup-y, but not liquidy when done. Turn off the flame and stir in lemon juice.

Note: The rice will continue to absorb water after you’ve removed it from the flame. To reheat, add more water and simmer until hot.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Meal Number One with a Kick

What do you make for dinner when you feel like you need Meal #1 but have spent the weekend traveling and cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen and want something with a little more kick than rice and beans? This is what I was feeling like on Wednesday morning, the day after returning from my weekend in Chicago cooking for my oldest sister who was recovering from pneumonia.

"Fun" food beckoned, but I also felt the need to ground myself in order to be able to focus and make good use of the rest of the week. So I scrounged around my cupboards and in the refrigerator and discovered that, not only did I have (most of) the ingredients for falafel, but I also had leftover aduki/kombu/squash, a whole kabocha squash, and that Timothy, God bless him, had bought greens while I was away.

The resulting meal had the crunchy/oily presence I was craving, but I didn't need to go back for seconds on the falafel because I filled up on aduki beans and steamed squash. I had no garlic so I made the falafel without, and discovered that I liked them even better without the garlic. I didn't make tsaziki sauce because that definitely does need garlic. 

On another occasion, when I don't feel the need to include Meal #1 along with my falafel, I might make something like the meal in this picture which is not as soothing and satisfying as the one with aduki beans, but is delicious and has its place as well. 

Because I've already posted recipes for aduki beans with squash, I'm including here the menu and recipes for the meal I didn't make on Wednesday, pictured here. 

Yellow Rice
Falafel with Tsaziki Sauce
Blanched Watercress
Tomato/Scallion Salad

Yellow Rice
2 cups jasmine rice
1 T olive oil
1 Rapunzel bouillon cube (with salt)
3 cups water
1 T lemon juice

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the rice. Stir to coat with the oil.
  2. In a separate pot, boil 3 cups of water and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. Pour the broth over the rice.
  3. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over a low flame for 25 minutes.
  4. Turn off the flame and stir in the lemon juice.

Falafel with Vegan Tsaziki Sauce

½ onion diced
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 15 oz. can chickpeas
3 T juice from the can
1 t. cumin
½ t. cayenne
½-1 t paprika
½ a lime worth of juice (or lemon juice)
½ T olive oil
Pinch sea salt
1 t. pepper
½ to ¾ cup rolled oats
1 to 1 ½ cups bread crumbs

1.     Place onions, parsley, garlic, chickpeas and juice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, lime juice, olive oil and salt in a blender and blend.
2.     Transfer chickpea mixture into a mixing bowl and add rolled oats and bread crumbs. Mix together with your hands.
3.     Form patties or small balls. Deep fry in safflower oil.

Note: Deep frying oil has to be the just the right temperature for success. Not hot enough and the falafel will disintegrate into an infuriating mess in your oil. Too hot and they burn and fall apart.

To test the oil, drop a small amount of falafel in the oil. If it drops to the bottom and rises in a leisurely manner, the oil is just right. If it drops and sits at the bottom, it’s not hot enough, and if it drops and then rises immediately to the  top it’s too hot.

I do my deep frying in a very small cast iron pot as it’s easier to regulate the heat that way. If you put too many patties in the oil at a time, the oil cools and you have the mess I mentioned above.  Quite infuriating, but more than likely everyone has to have this experience to figure out just the right temperature for deep frying.

Vegan Tsaziki Sauce
            In a bowl, combine 5 T veganaise, 1 T lemon juice, 1 clove minced garlic and ½ dill pickle, minced.  Serve with falafel.

Blanched Watercress
1 bunch watercress, chopped in half and rinsed

Bring water to a boil and add watercress. Remove immediately and drain.

Tomato/Scallion Salad
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
¼ t. sea salt

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl.

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