Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bringing in the 2011 New Year, Vegan style!

Welcome to a beautiful new year!  Now are you ready for a beautiful new you?  The greatest New Year's resolution that you can make for yourself is to transition to a vegan lifestyle.  Why vegan?  Veganism is great for your conscience, your health, the environment, and, most importantly, the animals.  You vote with your plate 3 times a day.  By abstaining from all animal products, you're no longer supporting a cruel and disgusting industry.  These animals are abused, neglected, pumped with hormones and antibiotics, and forced to live in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions all before they end up on your plate.  Did you know that 80% of antibiotics used in the US are given to animals?  Most of these are laced in their feed as preventative measures, because of the conditions they are forced to live in.  This leads to superbugs and antibiotic resistance in humans.  Oh wait, there's more!  Those hormones that given to these animals to make them grow faster and larger, well, those end up in the meat, milk, eggs and other products that you consume.  Yuck!  Since the FDA stinks in implemantation and oversight, there's no guarantee that those organic animal products are any better.  So how do you ensure you don't promote this evil industry?  Go Vegan!

I'm here to help you with your quest to veganism.  Here's my challenge to you for the new year.  Give veganism a test drive!  That's right!  Just a test drive.  I dare you to go vegan for the month of January.  You don't think you can do it?  Well, then try it for a week, a day, anything that you think you can accomplish.  Believe me, it's easier than you think!  I'll be blogging every meal I make for 2011, complete with recipes and delicious pictures.  Not only that, but I will give you helpful advice, shopping tips, product recommendations, and restuarant guides in order to help you further.  Even when I go out to eat, I will give you a detailed description of the meal and how to order vegan in restaurants.  If you click through my profile to my set of links you will find some great resources to help you get started.  Everyday becoming vegan gets easier and easier as more products are created and better labeling introduced.  Have you ever seen that big green V on packages?  Easy to recognize, easy choice. 

I also want you to send me any recipe that you've been dying to veganize!  I'm up for the challenge!

Before I give you my first set of recipes, I want to give you a word of advice.  Take a vitamin.  Even if you're an omnivore, you should be taking a vitamin.  I can't stress this enough.  Most importantly, make sure you're taking a vitamin that has B-12.  Vegans can only get B-12 from their fortified foods (non-dairy milks, cereals, tofu), nutritional yeast, bars and such.  Since I stress getting your nutrients from whole foods, rather than processed and packaged foods, it's hard to get B-12.  Well, that is unless you're eating lots of dirt on those vegetables of yours.  (I often don't fully scrub my organic veggies for this reason.)  Even so, you should make sure to take a supplement.  It's dangerous if you don't.  The vitamin that I take is VegLife's Vegan One Multiple.  It includes my B-12, Vit D, and my other essentials.  I get mine down at Community Pharmacy right off of State Street in Madison.  Otherwise you can purchase yours on Amazon for the low price of $7.57!  Buy it here. (I do suggest you buy locally, though.)  If your local co-op doesn't have it, then request it! 

So how did I bring in the New Year?  Black Bean, Zucchini and Olive Tacos with Garlic-Lemon Yogurt, Homemade Hummus and Spiced Pita Chips, and Salted Caramel Pecan Bars!  Whoever says they like food to much to be vegan is nuts!  These recipes are from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz here, Veganomicon here, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar here.  The latter are by Isa and Terry Hope Romero.  I highly recommend all these books!  Appetite for Reduction includes 125 low fat vegan recipes.  Remember, as a vegan it's still possible to eat unhealthy.  The thing to remember is everything in moderation and also be active! All these recipes can be made soy free (see my side notes), and the tacos and Hummus are both gluten free.

Black Bean, Zucchini and Olive Tacos
Gluten & Soy free (Remember to omit the Garlic-Lemon Yogurt if you want this Soy free.)

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 zucchini, diced small (~ 1lb)
2 jalepenos, seeded, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic (or 4.  I always double garlic, as a rule. :) )
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6oz.) can salsa verde
1 (16-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Ad the zucchini and jalapeno to the oil and sprinkle with the salt.  The salt will draw the moisture out of the zukes.  Sautee for about 7 mins, until the zukes are lightly browned.  If the mixture looks a bit dry, just add a little bit of water.  Add the garlic, olives, cumin, and coriander and saute for 2 mins more. 

Add the salsa verde and black beans.  Cook for 5 more mins, the salsa should reduce a bit so the mixture is juicy, not soupy.

Place the tortillas in a moist paper towel and heat in the microwave on high for 1 min.  Serve with Garlic-Lemon Yogurt and chopped scallions.

Garlic-Lemon Yogurt

1 cup unsweetened plain yogurt (Wildwood is perfect)
2 to 3 cloves garlic
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon (~3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar

Scoop the yogurt in to a small bowl.  Use a Microplane to grate in the garlic and then the lemon zest.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the agave.  Use a fork to mix well.  Taste and adjust the garlic and lemon according to your taste.  (I wouldn't overdo it with the garlic in this one.)

Nutritional info:
Serving 1 taco, 1/8 recipe
(including 1 tablespoon of the yogurt)
Calories: 160, Calories from fat: 25, Total fat: 2.5g, Saturated fat: 0g, Trans fat: 0g, Total carb: 29g, Fiber: 8g, Sugars: 2g, Protetin: 7g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 290mg, Vitamin A: 4%, Vitman C: 25%, Calcium: 6%, Iron: 10%

Gluten and Soy free

2 (15oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (I usually use a little less, otherwise the lemon is overpowering.)
3 tablespoons tahini
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed, or grated
1/4 cup water, more or less for desired thickness
Pinch of ground cumin or ground coriander (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Paprika to taste (use the smoked Hungarian!)

Plce half the chickpeas and olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Pulse several times, stopping to stir with a rubber spatula.  When the mixture is almost pureed and creamy, add the remaining chickpeas and oil, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cmin and a little salt.  Pulse until creamy, scraping down sides while doing so.  Season with salt and pepper and other spices to taste.  Transfer to an airtight container and chill for 30 minutes before serving.  For picture perfect Good Housekeeping, add the hummus to a serving dish, sprinkle the top with some olive oil, paprika and sliced kalamata olives!

Easy Easy Easy Pita Chips
Soy free (check labeling, as soy is added as a preservative in some pita bread)

4 white or whole wheat pitas
Olive oil for brushing (or olive oil spray for ultimate laziness!)
Sprinkle each pita chip with one or more of the following spices:
    Garam Masala
    Garlic powder, cumin, cayenne and salt, or
    Lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt

Be creative!  My favorite combos are just Garlic powder and salt and Garam Masala and salt.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Slice open a pita along the edges and carefully open and separate each half.  Cut into desired sizes for each chip.  (I get the Trader Joe's whole wheat pitas in the 8 count package and I divide each slice into quarters.)  Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with your seasoning(s) or choice.  Spread pitas on a cookie sheet (they can overlap a bit) and bake for 8 to 10 mins, until golden brown and crisp.  Be careful not to burn!  Cool on cookie sheets and store in plastic bags.  That is, if you don't eat them all right away!

Salted Caramel Pecan Bars
(For a soy free version, look for soy free Earthbalance spread and use a non-dairy milk such as Almond, Rice or Hemp.)

Makes 16 gooey bars!

For the Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
A big pinch of salt
3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, slightly softened (Earthbalance is perfect for all your baking needs!)
For the Pecan Topping
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup nondairy milk
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons melted non-hydrogenated margarine
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13X2 baking pan with aluminum foil.  Make sure the foil completely covers the pan and has ~2 inches folded outside the edges.  Spray the bottom and edges generously with non-stick cooking spray.  

The Crust: 
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Use a pastry cutter, 2 knives held together, or just a plain fork to cut in the margerine until it forms a fine crumbly mixture.  Pour the mixture into the baking pan and press down firmly and evenly, making sure to press it down all the way to the edges of the pan.  Bake the crust for 8-10 mins until firm and very lightly browned.  Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

The Pecan Topping:
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and non-dairy milk until foamy.  Stir in the dark brown sugar, brown rice syrup, melted margerine, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  Fold in the pecans and pour the mixture onto the crust, using a spatula to spread it evenly.  

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 28-30 mins or until the topping is raidly bubbling.  Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 20 mins, then move it to the refrigerator to finish cooling and setting.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.  
Optional: For the salted caramel version, just sprinkle the top of the bars with your favorite coarse grained gourmet salt immediately after they come out of the oven. 

To slice completely cooled bars, grab hold of the foil and carefully lift and place on a cutting board.  Peel away the foil and cut bars with a heavy, sharp knife. 

Okay, you can stop drooling and make some for yourself already!


  1. Did you use WHITE tortilla!!!!!!
    For me its like eating white refined flour bread.

  2. Don't worry, I didn't use white tortillas! If you look in the recipe, it calls for corn tortillas, which is exactly what I used. I never eat white tortillas either. I prefer whole wheat tortillas, but I was going for a gluten & soy free recipe here, so corn was used instead.