Monthly Archives:

February 2011

Classic Hummus

Smoked paprika adds the perfect vibrant red, finishing touch!

I ate a lot of hummus growing up. PB&J may have been my grade school staple, but hummus was definitely my high school jam. I’d eat a hummus sandwich for lunch nearly everyday, seemingly never growing tired of the creamy spread slathered between wheat. At the beginning of each week, I’d break out the food processor and whip up a huge batch, of course snacking on tons of carrots and hummus along the way.

I continue to love hummus, although up until just recently, it had been awhile since I had made it myself. I’ve been guilty of buying tubs of my favorite Sabra at the grocery store for exorbitant prices. But, after gratefully opening up a spankin’ new food processor for Christmas, I knew it was time to start making hummus again myself. So this past week, that is what I happily did.

I like to make my hummus a little more on the stiff side because I most often use it for filling sandwiches. But if you’re looking for a creamier-styled dip, simply add an extra tablespoon or two of tahini and a little more chick pea water.

Classic Hummus

-1 large clove garlic, or 2 small ones
-3 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
-1-14.5 oz. can chick peas, drained and rinsed, reserving liquid
-1/4 cup sesame tahini
-1/2 tsp. cumin
-1/4 tsp. paprika
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/4 cup parsley

Chop garlic in food processor. Add chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, and spices. Process until smooth. Add parsley and pulse until combined. Serve with mixed crudites, pita, crackers, and/or bread, and top with a sprinkle of paprika and minced parsley, if desired.

Creamy Whipped Wheatberry Porridge

When I think of wheatberries, “creamy” never automatically comes to mind. Wheatberries are instead one of chewiest grains I have yet to come across. The nutty kernels are obtained through the wheat grain, which is stripped of just its outer hull. The method produces whole wheat grain kernels known as wheatberries.

Lucky for us, the minimal processing leaves the wheat grain with nearly all of its nutrients in tact. Score!…Think tons of fiber, protein, iron, and antioxidants galore. Can’t go wrong with that, right?

The minimal processing also leaves the wheat with an extra chewy texture, its signature attribute that makes the berries perfect for adding to dishes like soups and salads.

However, I decided one morning I wanted to turn this nutty grain into a warm and luscious breakfast. And the thought of chewing through a whole bowl of wheat berries upon just waking up made me want to jump right back under the covers. To avoid an early morning mouth workout, instead I decided to throw those wheatberries into the food processor and whip them up into a modern-day Goldilocks delight. Who knew wheatberries could taste so good, creamy or chewy?

Creamy Whipped Wheatberries

(Serves 2)

-1 1/4 cup cooked wheatberries
-8 oz. strongly brewed green tea
-Scant 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-2/3’s of a banana
-Salt, pinch
-3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
-Maple syrup, drizzle
-Soy milk or almond milk

Place wheatberries, tea, bananas, cinnamon, and pinch of salt into a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue whipping for a few minutes to create a light consistency. If not hot, place in pan or nuke in microwave until warm. Top with walnuts, maple syrup, and a splash of soy milk.

Q and A with Kathy Freston

Photo credit: Charles Bush

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I gave you a brief 411 on Kathy Freston, the best-selling author who led Oprah and 378 of her staff members on a week long vegan challenge. Freston recently released her latest book, the Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, which details the physical and environmental benefits of taking on a vegan lifestyle. If you missed it, check out yesterday’s post to learn more about the vegan author/mentor before going on to read the following Q and A.

What was the most challenging part of going vegan for you? How to you advise others to overcome this obstacle?

The most challenging part of going vegan was the fear that I would lose out on all the traditions that I grew up loving – turkey at Thanksgiving with family, weekend barbeques with friends, pizza in a pinch.  But what I found was that I didn’t have to give up anything at all.  I simply chose vegan versions of the things I loved, like Gardein turkey or chik’n instead of real turkey, veggie burgers and dogs instead of meat based ones, and pizza made with nondairy cheese and veggie sausage rather than the unhealthier stuff I’d grown accustomed to.  When done this way, switching to vegan was a breeze.  My advice is to lean into a veganist lifestyle: Give up eating one animal at a time, and replace those meals with plant-based ones.  Give yourself the time and space to find your way without all the pressure of leaping into a drastic change and risking failure.

Hardest meat or dairy product for you to give up?

I loved anything with chicken. It was my go-to protein. When I learned that 9 out of the 10 billion animals killed a year for food are birds, I was pretty upset. But I discovered Gardein which is a high protein meat alternative made from vegetarian proteins like amaranth, quinoa, soy, and wheat. Anything I made with chicken I can make with Gardein, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

In a recent article on Oprah’s website regarding “5 things you know for sure,” you state: “I’ll be forever grateful that alcohol is vegan. An occasional martini is good for the soul.” However, not alcohol is actually vegan. Wine and beer often involve the use of animal-derived ingredients during standard processing procedures. What are your thoughts on this?

I have a 2% rule, and that means that if something has a tiny bit of something derived from an animal, I’m not going to drive myself or a waiter crazy about it.  It doesn’t do the animals any good if I, or any vegan, come off as annoying and difficult to please, so I do my best.  That means if I’m at a restaurant, I don’t grill the waiter about whether or not there might be egg in the bread. I try and present vegan as accessible and likeable.  And I’m a big believer in progress, not perfection!

Have you sworn off all leather products? If so, at what stage in your vegan progression did that come about? If not, could you share your thoughts on wearing animal products like leather and wool?

I don’t wear or use any leather, but that came long after I stopped eating animals. I think as we become more conscious and thoughtful about what happens to animals as they become our food or accessories, we naturally and easily make the decision to not purchase those products because it just doesn’t sit right in the soul.  As for wool, I don’t buy any from Australia, as they practice meulsing there, a painful process of cutting the sheep’s flesh to save money.  Eventually, I would like to give up wearing wool too, but as with all things, it’s a process in getting there.  My goal is to keep moving forward. As a note here, I really just encourage people to look at their food choices. No need to overwhelm yourself with too much at once.

What was the best part about working with Oprah?

Oprah is a real teacher. She truly wants to help people  live their best lives.  I love that I was a part of that in the area of eating consciously. It was a true honor to be able to engage in the conversation of thinking about where our food comes from.  I think the show was pretty historic!

You inspire many people to work towards becoming vegan and also help many find their own way to lead an overall healthy lifestyle. Who or what inspires you and keeps you balanced in your everyday life?

I’m inspired by the nutritional scientists and doctors who come out with the astounding research about how vegan food is so good for our health.  These dedicated people, along with the environmental scientists, animal protection organizations and spiritual leaders who point to the benefits of not eating animals, keep me excited that good things can and do happen when dietary changes are made.

I heard you make some mean “veal” picatta, replacing the veal with seitan…what’s your favorite meat substitute to use?

I love Gardein because it looks and tastes so much like the chicken and beef it replaces.  I also love Field Roast sausages. I slice them and put them in pasta or sautee them in a mix of onions and peppers like the Italians do so deliciously.

Favorite vegan cheese? Daiya because it melts beautifully.  I make cheese toast with it, or pizza, or melt it on burritos.

Soy milk or almond milk? Silk soy creamer for my coffee or tea. It’s so smooth and thick and it mixes just like cream.

Steel cut vs. old fashioned oats? Any other favorite breakfast cereals? Love steel cut oats soaked overnight with apple juice to make the oatmeal sweet!  My favorite breakfast is a bowl of brown rice (I make a pot of it twice a week and keep it in the fridge) with chopped dates and almonds in it, and hot soy/rice/almond/hemp milk poured over.  I rotate the milks all the time.

Favorite vegan restaurant? What’s your favorite vegan dish you’ve ever eaten? I love Candle 79 in New York. They make the best Seitan Picatta over mashed potatoes… delicious.

What was on your plate last night? I kept it simple last night: lentil soup, big salad, cheesy toast.

Favorite indulgence? It’s Decadent soy ice cream in Cherry Nirvana. It’s to die for.

I’ve read you aspire to have your own veganism-based TV show on the O network. Is this nearing reality? What would be the premise of the show? Boy would I love to talk vegan on a tv show all the time!  It’s not in the works right now, but you never know. There’s a lot of buzz on the “V-word” right now, and the phone has been ringing!

Care to share a quick recipe with readers? The Gardein Fried Chicken by Art Smith would bowl over any hardcore carnivore.

Kathy Freston Leads Oprah and Staff to Go Vegan

Photo credit: Charles Bush


So on the 1st of this month, Oprah dedicated a whole episode to the topic of “veganism.” Um, awesome! The show included special guest Michael Pollan (who holds my dream title of a food expert/journalist), along with New York Times best-selling author Kathy Freston. Also seeing a few minutes of screen time was Lisa Ling, who gave us a stomach-churning peek into Cargrill’s slaughterhouse. (Cargrill is the biggest producer of ground beef in the world, so props to them for allowing Ling to take a look around and report from inside the plant. Also props to them for keeping a comparatively cleanly and non-ruthless environment, although ending the life of millions of cows is an inherently brutal procedure.)

The show centered around a challenge led by Freston who guided Oprah and 378 of her staff members on a one week vegan expedition. In between much discussion about poop and bowel movements (I wish I would’ve counted the # of times busy poop schedules were mentioned), more than a few of the staff members revealed that they will be sticking with the vegan diet, at least for some additonal time. Energy levels, headache cures, regularity, and other positive health benefits were all credited as reasons why many of the staff members will at least be making some kind of changes to their diets. Many also happily saw some weight loss, with a combined total of 444 pounds lost among staff members. Rich, the video editor, alone shed 11 pounds. Just to reiterate that, that’s 11 pounds in one week. Yeah, pretty cool stuff when it’s sourced from a switch to a healthy diet, which is what Freston guided staffers into doing. This certainly wasn’t a week of chips and french fries style of vegan eating, although Freston did show staff members that American classics like pizza don’t have to be thrown out the window. (Simply ditch the cheese for Daiya, and you’ve got yourself a killer vegan pizza.)

Freston has influenced far more people than just Oprah and her staff to increase their awareness of their food choices. After having lunch with the 7-year vegan during a recent interview for Vanity Fair, journalist John Heilpern ended up concluding his article by stating, “I will never become an alfalfa-and-brown-rice man, but since my lunch with Kathy Freston I have decided to give up eating all meat.”

And I’m sure her influence will only continue to spread. Following her last best-selling book, Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness, at the beginning of this month Freston released Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, which has quickly became one of Amazon‘s top sellers.

Freston uses a very friendly, empathetic approach in how she advises people on making the shift to veganism in the Veganist. “I encourage people to lean into a veganist lifestyle, gradually giving up eating one animal at a time,” she told me. She also acknowledges that you have to find what works for you, which I’m a huge advocate of.

Growing up on ribs and fried chicken, she knows that eliminating animal products won’t be easy for everyone. But she also knows the benefits of doing so.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a Q and A I held with Kathy Freston to get to know this vegan-champion a little bit better. In the interview, Freston discusses some of her own obstacles she faced when going vegan. She also sheds light on working with Oprah and divulges some of her favorite vegan treats. Yum.

Fennel & White Bean Soup in Butternut Squash

I really enjoy making soup. Creating new soup recipes are almost as fun as slurping up the results. Okay, that’s definitely an overstatement. But I do love how effortlessly the flavors of the ingredients come together to form a pot full of natural deliciousness.

This recipe was devised by the side of my fellow foodie mom in her inspirational kitchen this past weekend. As with many of my recipes, ingredients that were readily available (i.e. fennel and mushrooms) were united to form the heart of the meal. Other complimentary ingredients were then pulled from the refridgerator and cupboards as my mom and I went back and forth until we constructed a soup in which we could be more than proud.

“More salt?” “Yeah, but just a tad. Don’t go too crazy.” “Oh, much better.” “Do we have any more thyme? Let’s do another half tablespoon of that.” “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.” “How about we serve it in the squash?” “Hm, that’s an interesting idea.”

Alas, a delicately flavored soup was created and paired with the sweet, nutty flesh of one of our favorite ingredients—butternut squash. I’m a huge fan of butternuts, especially when slightly caramelized after being roasted in the oven. When I saw that my mom simply cut the squash in half and placed it in the oven, rather than slicing it into thin circles, I thought, why not pour the soup into it’s de-seeded stomach? So that’s what we did. Quite delicious if I do say so myself.

If the fennel fronds are in good shape, make sure to use them as a garnish. Not only do they add a nice hint of bright green, but they also add the perfect touch of fresh, crunchy flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup Bowls with Fennel and White Bean Soup

-1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus a drizzle for coating squash-1/2 large onion, chopped
-1 head of fennel
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
-1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
-15 oz. can great northern beans, or other white beans
-3 cups water-3/4-1 tsp. salt
-Fresh ground pepper
-2 medium butternut squash

Preheat oven 400F. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice butternut squash in half and discard seeds. Rub with olive oil, and bake skin side up for 35-40 minutes, until squash is soft.

Meanwhile, remove stalks and fonds from fennel and set aside. Chop fennel bulb.

In a large saucepan, saute onion, fennel, and garlic in oil until onions are translucent and fennel is tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Puree 2/3 of the fennel mixture with one cup of the water until smooth. Add the rest of the water, mushrooms, and thyme to pan. Simmer until mushrooms are tender.

Return pureed fennel mixture to pan. Add beans, salt, and fresh ground pepper, adjusting to taste. Bring to a low simmer, and let cook at least 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Sprinkle salt with freshly ground salt. Serve soup in the body of the baked squash. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, and garnish with fennel fronds.

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