Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Happy Clam" Chowder Day!

In honor of National Clam Chowder Day I thought I would share my recipe for a truly "Happy Clam" Chowder which is featured in Going Vegan, which I co-wrote with Gerrie Lynn Adams.  No clams were harmed in the making of this chowder, yet this hearty soup is full of all of the seafood-y flavor one would expect from this classic soup.  If you want to get extra fancy, make up a batch of my virtually indestructable bread bowls to serve it up.

And in honor of the clams, I am giving away a copy of Going Vegan to one reader anywhere in the world.  Simply follow the prompts in the widget at the end of this post.

New England Can Kiss My Clam Chowder from Going Vegan, photo by Celine Steen

New England Can Kiss My Clam Chowder
Get ready for weird folks.  I was so excited when putting this recipe together.  I came up with the idea when I was making the Tu-not Salad (also from Going Vegan page 112) and while the jackfruit was boiling in the broth and seaweed, I kept thinking it smells like clam chowder!  So here is my very strange, and very tasty clam chowder, complete with seitan clams!  (It is a lengthy recipe, about 2 hours) but a lot of that is down time, and it only uses one pot, and one small bowl, so not too many dishes.)
*No added oil
*No added salt
*No added Sugar
*Soy Free
*Nut Free

1 ounce (28 g) dried seaweed (hijiki, wakame, kombu, dulse, kelp, anything but Nori), volume will vary depending on the type of seaweed you use
8 cups (1.88 L) vegetable broth
2 cups (470 ml) water
1 cup (235 ml) canned coconut milk
2 pounds (908 g) potatoes, cut into bite sized cubes (I used russets and leave the skin on, but feel free to peel yours if desired)
1 cup (160 g) diced white or yellow onion
1 cup (144 g) vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Add broth to a soup pot with a tight fitting lid.
Loosly tie seaweed in a satchel made from cheesecloth and place in the pot with the broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer for one hour.
After 30 minutes, remove 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the broth and set aside to cool and make the seitan clams.
After the broth has simmered for one hour, add in the water, cubed potatoes, coconut milk, and diced onion.
Cover and continue to simmer, set timer for one hour.
While simmering, make your clams.
Add vital wheat gluten and pepper to a small bowl.
Add in reserved 1/2 cup (120 ml) of broth.
Work with your fingers until a nice dough ball is formed.  Let the doughball rest for five minutes.
Using a non-serrated knife, cut it into a gagillion little pieces.
Add the pieces to the broth, stir to make sure they are not all clumped together.
Cover and allow to simmer for the remainder of the hour (at this point there should be about 30 minutes left on the timer.) Return after 15 minutes to give it a good stir and prevent the clams from getting stuck to the bottom.
Once the timer goes off, remove from heat, and remove the lid.
Using a wooden spoon or a hand masher, break up the potatoes to thicken the soup.  (Don't worry about smashing the clams, they are pretty unsmashable.)

Yield: About 8 cups

-If you use a very low sodium broth you may need to add a little salt to taste.  And if you are like me, a nice squirt of tabasco or sriracha always hits the spot in clam chowder!
-You can also make this soup gluten free by subbing king oyster mushrooms for the seitan clams.
-When choosing dried seaweed, you can use hijiki (my favorite for it's strong sea flavor), wakame, kombu, dulse, or kelp.  Pretty much any seaweed except nori, because nori will dissolve into a gelatinous mess.

Clam dough ball.

Clam pieces.  You can cut them smaller if desired.
New England Can Kiss My Clam Chowder from Going Vegan (page 92.)

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Monday, February 9, 2015

The Engine 2 Challenge Week 4: It's Over and I am a Little Afraid

Last night marked the end of the 28 day Engine 2 Challenge. I was the only participant still standing after the first week, but I powered on, with the support and encouragement of people who were following along with me here on the blog, on Instagram, and on Facebook.  So now what?  Do I start another 28 day challenge?  Do I go back to the way things were before I took the challenge?  I'm not quite sure yet.  

I become obsessed when it comes to stuff like this.  If I decided I wanted to eat this way for the rest of my life, I could.  But do I?  Not really.  The thought of never having deep fried Toffalo Wings drenched in melted buttery buffalo sauce dipped in creamy ranch really freaks me out.  Much in the same way an alcoholic must feel when they decide to give up alcohol, I have an obsessive and unhealthy relationship with food.  (Which makes my career choice as a food blogger and cookbook author a pretty difficult one.)

But an obsession with a "diet" I fear is even more destructive than an obsession with food in general. Too restrictive. Eliminating entire food sources (Hello coconut, I really miss you!) seems overdramatic.  But when I went to see Rip speak, he mentioned that people who struggle with overweight or other diet related health problems do not have the luxury of moderation. Then in the next sentence he said, however this is a plant strong diet, not plant perfect.

So I think that is my plan for the future.  I will strive to be plant strong, not plant perfect.  If that means a slice of pizza (not 4) at a party with friends, so be it.  If that means a drizzle of Vegenaise or olive oil makes it onto my burger or pasta when I am dining out, I won't have a freak out over it.  Yeah, I will be plant strong, not plant perfect.

It was a really busy week for me at work with lots of meetings, lots of projects, and a bit of disappointment.  But I kept myself strong by doing a couple of night hikes on Signal Hill.  Once with my sister, and once with my man and the girls.  It's a helluva hike, but so worth it when you get to the top and have a 360 degree view of what appears to be the entire world.  The twinkling lights and cars snaking through the freeways so tiny they look like toys.  It really reminds one of how many people there are in this world and how important it is to do everything we can to protect it.

So let's get to what I did eat this week.  I had an absolute sweet tooth on Tuesday, which is rare for me. So I turned to an old favorite, a date roll.  2 ingredients make these little guys the best thing since sliced vegan cheese.  Dates and walnuts.  They are like nature's toffee.  Chewy and syrupy sweet, one or two of these rich little guys is plenty. While at work I depended heavily on the salad bar for my lunches.  I bought enough salad on one day to last me for three meals, and letting it sit mixed up in the fridge really got the flavors to meld together and make the veggies tender.  And while the weather has been seasonably warm here in Southern California, it is like a freaking ice box at work, so I like to heat up the whole bowl in the microwave so I feel more like I am eating a bowl than a salad.  The one above was brown rice, tofu, corn, carrots, spinach, rainbow chard, green onions, raisins, sunflower seeds, nooch, black pepper, and the Health Starts Here Sesame Ginger dressing.

Buckwheat Soba with Tahini Sauce
This dish uses whole buckwheat soba noodles as a base tossed with veggies and a rich tahini sauce. It tastes great hot or cold making it a perfect make ahead meal for easy lunches throughout the week.

1 (8 ounce) package of buckwheat soba noodles

For the Tahini Sauce:
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried (If you have fresh ginger, even better!)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
red chili flakes to taste

For the Veggies, you can add any veggies you like, in this one I used:
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1 (14 ounce) can no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
dill and black pepper to taste

To make the sauce, stir together all ingredients until smooth, or add all ingredients to a shaker and shake to mix.  If using a blender, reserve the chili flakes to stir in afterwards.

To make the veggies, add the broth to a pan and heat over medium high heat until it begins to bubble, this will be fairly quick since it is such a small amount of liquid.  Add in the vegies and cook until heated through, spinach is wilted and broccoli is a vibrant green.

Add cooked veggies to the noodles and toss with desired amount of sauce.  You can use any leftover sauce as a salad dressing, dip for veggies, or even as a topping for tacos (See below!)

Yield: 4 servings

Tacos!  I had a bunch of leftovers in my fridge on Saturday, so I made kitchen sink tacos (left).  I mixed together leftover brown Jasmine rice with chopped spinach, broccoli, cucumber, carrot, red onion, cilantro and chickpeas.  I dressed it with the remaining Walnutt-y Spinach Pesto from week 2 and the Tahini sauce from above.  I grilled up some corn tortillas, toasted some pine nuts (I think sunflower or pumpkin seeds would have been great here too!) and piled it in.  then I sprinkled the top with some nooch and gave it a good squirt of sriracha.  Yum.  Leftovers made lunch and dinner for Saturday.

I also watched the movie Chef.  And while it has some gratuitous scenes filled with gruesome shots of dead animal flesh and secretions, that movie did light a fire under my ass to get in the kitchen more and really start creating the dishes that define my culinary point of view, regardless of whether or not I use added oil or salt!  So on Sunday morning before work, I made up a batch of Smokey Hominey and Pinto Bean tacos.  I had a few before I left for work, and then packed it up in a kit before leaving so I could assemble them at work, which is where I took the picture above.

Smokey Hominy and Pinto Bean Tacos
PLEASE make sure to cook your tortillas!  Most often, they are not fully cooked when they are packaged, and are brittle and taste pretty bad.  If you heat them up on a griddle or in a dry frying pan, they soften, become more pliable, and the nuttiness of the corn shines through when toasted.  Serving raw tortillas is as bad a sin as I can think of. Pfft.  >End of rant<

For the sauce:
1 box soft silken tofu
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon sriracha, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the filling:
1 (24 ounce) can no salt added hominy, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added pinto beans
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional

For the tacos:
Street size corn tortillas
2 cups chopped raw spinach
cilantro, as garnish if desired
green onions, as garnish if desired
additional nutritional yeast, as desired

To make the sauce, add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Set aside until ready to use.

To make the filling, in a mixing bowl, toss together filling ingredients, except veg broth and liquid smoke.
Add veg broth to a large pan and heat until it begins to bubble, this will happen quickly as it is such a small amount of liquid.
Add in the hominy mixture and cook until heated through, and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat and stir in liquid smoke if using.

To assemble the tacos, layer together two toasted tortillas and add a generous pile of chopped spinach.  Then spoon in about 1/4 cup of the filling, then top with cilantro, green onions and a sprinkling of nooch if desired.  Finish it all off with a drizzle of the sauce and enjoy.

Yield: This filling is enough for 24 street sized tacos.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Engine 2 Challenge Week 3: Making Lasting Lifestyle Changes

Let's just start this post off with a huge thanks to Rip Esselstyn himself.  He is touring the country and making lots of stops.  I was lucky enough to catch his appearance at the Whole Foods Market in Huntington Beach on Tuesday, earlier this week.

I have to admit, the crowd that was there, was pretty difficult.  I mean, like hecklers at a comedy show, there were people arguing every point he made.  "But what about raw milk?" "What's wrong with lean meat?" "What about the specific vitamins you can get from bison and not anywhere else?"  I mean, seriously?  Why would anyone come to a lecture and appearance by a VEGAN, PLANT STRONG, lifestyle promoter and ruin it for the rest of us trying to get and stay inspired on what is a very difficult journey for many. 

But, Rip took it like a champ, and at one instance, with a finger point that could have shot plant-powered lasers straight through her heart, he responded to one question with such poise, facts,  inspiration and passion that my eyes welled. "No, raw milk is not okay, goat's milk is not okay. Chimp milk is for baby chimps, goat's milk for baby goats...And furthermore, it is not sustainable to raise animals for food...billions of animals are killed every year..."  He hit every talking point right on the head.

And...he's a really nice guy.  Afterwards he hung around to sign books and take pictures, and even passed out Engine 2 bracelets.  How can you not be inspired by this guy?

Week three wasn't as difficult, as I am settling in to this way of eating and my tastebuds have certainly adjusted.  It was a very busy week, filled with meetings, appointments, and of course my daily full-time job, so I admit to have fallen off the wagon on the exercise front (shy of one short walk) and did absolutely no workouts this week. (Insert head bowed in shame here.)

I made a couple of new recipes this week, tackled a restaurant dinner, fell in love with Sumo tangerines, most likely offended my well-intentioned, sweet and loving mother in law when I refused to eat the food she bought for me, and tackled Superbowl Sunday with some yummy potatoes and a storebought fat-free vegan queso.

The recipes. I started the week off with Mac and Peas.  Inspired by the mac and peas my friend and talented chef Rachel Safran made, I was inspired to make an Engine 2 approved cheesy sauce.  And I did.  The secret ingredient?  Carrots!

Smoky Mac and Peas
Soy free, no added oil, no added sugar, no added salt, and can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free pasta. Make a batch of this to have easy meals throughout the week, as a base for additions like spinach, red peppers, kale, beans, broccoli...pretty much anything your heart desires.

1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups frozen green peas (of course you can also use fresh or canned, I just prefer frozen)

For the sauce:
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce, optional, more or less to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
black pepper, to taste

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, strain and return to pot.  Stir frozen peas into warm pasta to defrost them.
In a separate pot, add vegetable broth, cashews and carrots.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer , cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add in remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.
Using a stick blender (or very carefully transferring to a tabletop blender) puree until smooth.
Stir sauce into macaroni and peas to thoroughly coat. Add black pepper to taste.

Yield: 8 Servings

Salad rolls.  The salad rolls on the left are store bought.  I bought them at Whole Foods Market, from the sushi section.  Inside the rice paper wrappers is romaine lettuce, carrots, cabbage, cucumber and tofu.  They came with a no-oil added peanut sauce (although it did have a little agave added for sweetness.)

Inspired to make my own salad rolls by the amazing Kittee Berns (author of Teff Love, the mastermind behind the Papa Tofu zines, and the blogger behind Cake Maker to the Stars) I decided to make my own.  I was stoked to find BROWN RICE PAPER!!! at Whole Foods Market.  You guys, salad rolls are so easy to make.  Basically, if you like salad, just make a salad and roll it up in rice paper.  Then dip it in a delicious dressing or sauce and boom.  It's how to make salad portable!

My salad rolls are filled with spinach, avocado, cucumber, red onions, green onions, cilantro,  finely chopped broccoli, carrots, asparagus, and smoked tofu.  (I made a peanut sauce from scratch, too, but I made it too liquidy, so that recipe will need a bit more tweaking before I share it.)

This weekend proved to be a little challenging.  My husband and I wanted to try out a Lebanese restaurant we have driven and walked by a gagillion times, so we finally went in.  Perusing the menu, the descriptions of the clearly marked dishes were pretty elaborate, so we made the best choices we could, choosing options that didn't list olive oil in the description.  We decided opting for an assortment of appetizers to share was the best option.  On our table was tabouli (I abstained as it was floating in oil), almond basmati rice, rice and veggie stuffed dolmas and a white bean soup.  Verdict?  Everything was ridiculously salty.  Im not sure if it's because my tastebuds have now adjusted to lower salt items, or if the food really was that salty.  Dan agreed, way too salty.

Saturday evening, we planned on stopping by Dan's mom's house to visit for a bit, but when we arrived, she had made a huge spread of food, so we figured we would stay for the evening.  Unfortunately, she bought hummus, pita chips, and Tofurky.  All very delicious, and very thoughtful of her, but not foods that are allowed on Engine 2. So I excused myself to step out for a minute and grab a salad of the salad bar of the market down the street.

Which brings us to Sunday. Superbowl Sunday. A day full of food and booze and good times. Naturally, I volunteered to work so that I wouldn't be tempted with all of the chips and dips and Toffalo Wings and whatever other deep fried deliciousness that was bound to be lurking around. Instead, I made myself a batch of potatoes, that should last me a few days.  They are red potatoes, boiled, then drained, and to them I added, chopped spinach, green onions, dill, garlic, stone ground mustard, a splash of unsweetened almond milk and a splash of veggie broth.  Super yum, hot or cold.

While at work, since the game was on, and everyone was in the spirit, I treated myself to some Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso, which, although a little high on the sodium scale, is completely fat free and only 15 calories per serving.  That means, even if I ate the whole jar, it would only be 120 calories! I paired it with the Ryvita Crunch Pumpkin Seed Crackers, which in my opinion are the best tasting low sodium, whole grain, oil free crispy cracker available.  The two paired quite well together.

Overall, I would say this week was a success.  My pants are feeling looser. I feel good. I feel energetic. And I think I might just finish this challenge!

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All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni