Archive for May, 2013

postheadericon Southwest lasagna

mms_picture(11)
This takes about ten minutes to put together (if that), and another ten minutes in the microwave. Longer if you go with a conventional oven (I would guess about 20-30 minutes at 350 deg.), but still a quick meal.


Ingredients:

1 can of refried beans (I used Amy’s traditional)
1 jar of salsa (I used Chi-Chi’s mild)
1 package of shredded cheese (I used Galaxy vegan Mexican shreds)
1 package (8 oz. or so) of cream cheese (I used Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese)
1 box of corn taco shells (it was a box of 12 and I used 10) or you can use tortilla chips if you like and do it as a layered nacho dish
plus sides and garnishes of choice – chopped tomato, jalapeno, guacamole, etc.

I used a 9×9 baking dish.

1. spread a thin layer of salsa across the bottom of the dish.
2. break the shells in half and make a layer of shell halves on top of the salsa
3. spread the whole can of refried beans across
4. spread the whole container of cream cheese over the beans
5. spread another layer of shells on top of the cream cheese
6. put about half of the shredded cheese across the shells
7. spread the remaining salsa over the cheese
8. top with the remaining shredded cheese

I baked in the microwave for ten minutes on high and it came out gooey and soft/chewy. If you like it crispier, it could go longer. Also, a conventional oven might work better for the crispier texture. I like it softer. The cheese melted really well. With a green salad or green smoothie, and some cornbread or some black bean and corn salsa, it makes a quick and filling meal. And the microwave splatter was much less than I had feared (I did not cover it while baking).

Estimated protein and carbohydrate content (based on the above named ingredients):

Protein per serving: 7 grams
Carbohydrates per serving: 29 grams

This was based on my pan being cut into six servings. Depending on your preferred serving size, it could be cut into anywhere from four large servings to nine smaller squares. Hope you like it!

postheadericon About my recipes…

It is my hope that everyone who visits this website will find useful information. As for recipes, though, a quick note: If you are a foodie or gourmet cook, are good at it and enjoy it, first of all, I admire and envy you. Second, you might not find my recipes very inspiring. In theory, I love the concept of unprocessed ingredients and homemade, healthy dishes. In reality, with everything going on in my life, I often do not have the time/energy/interest to prepare anything that isn’t quick and simple. But I still like the idea of choosing the ingredients that I consume (vegan and organic in particular) and having a small role to play in the preparation of my meals. So the recipes I share are based on my versions of meals that are filling, taste good, and provide a choice of ingredients and brands to include. They also tend to be quick, often utilizing the microwave and the one-pot meal idea (think Rachel Ray meets Isa Chandra Moskowitz). I tend to be a simple eater and am happy if something is easy to prepare, filling, and as healthy as possible. So these recipes will reflect that philosophy. There are many well done and beautifully photographed websites about vegetarian and vegan cooking. As time goes on and I expand my link list, there will be links to many of those websites. So if you are ok with quick, uncomplicated, and un-fancy, I hope you like these ideas or are at least inspired to create your own quick and easy dishes. On those occasions when I spend more time in the kitchen and have more gourmet type recipes, I’ll certainly share those too. Bon appetit!

postheadericon Do this one thing to get what you want in restaurants

Many of us who are 1) trying to follow a healthy diet 2) are vegetarian or vegan 3) have food allergies 4) have other food related concerns- are often flummoxed and frustrated when it comes to eating out. As a health-oriented vegan with a gluten allergy, I feel your pain. Seeing plate after plate of hot, filling meals coming out of the kitchen and wondering if I am going to have to settle for a cold salad yet AGAIN (not that I dislike salad – it’s just that I don’t necessarily ALWAYS want one in a restaurant as my meal) got me to thinking about my previous dining out strategy.

In the past, I would gravitate to the salad section of the menu or maybe the appetizers. And if it was one of those wonderful places with a dedicated vegetarian or vegan section on the menu (rare), I would go to that. But otherwise, I would try and piece together a meal with a salad and maybe an appetizer if I could find one.

Now I do things differently in one way. It seems like a small thing, and many of you may already be doing it. But when I started doing this one thing, it made a real difference in my enjoyment of eating out and getting filling, diet-appropriate food. Ready? I now make a point of reading the ENTIRE MENU. I know, right? All that suspense for that?? It’s a tiny, tiny act, after all. And it’s not necessarily one I enjoy, especially when many of the meat based dishes can be quite descriptive in how the meat is cooked. But many clues are hiding in some of those descriptions that can tell you what you really need to know: what ingredients are in the kitchen. There might be an asparagus topping, a vegan sauce, black beans for burritos, or a side dish that is not listed anywhere else on the menu. In fact, a whole variety of sides and ingredients that could be incorporated into a meal for you are often hiding there in the “meat” dishes section of the menu.

pinto-beans-textureAnd although I don’t live near too many vegetarian or vegan restaurants, I have had very good experiences with the strategy of composing my own meal and asking the server to have it prepared. I almost never get told that something can’t be done or that they are unwilling (in fact, I can’t think of any times in recent memory). So now instead of scanning the salad and appetizer section and doing my best, I take the time and read the whole menu, looking for the ingredients I can use to make up my own dish.

As more restaurants become vegan/food allergy/medical diet aware, the cooperation I have experienced will hopefully only increase at restaurants everywhere. So happy menu reading and happy dining!

postheadericon Arsenic in rice – what you can do to reduce your risk

Rice – a staple grain for thousands of years all over the world, a good source of fiber and nutrients, and allergies to it are rare in western countries. Not to mention that for gluten free individuals such as myself, it is a go-to grain. Pretty good news all around, right? So the recent data report released by the FDA about arsenic levels in rice products is quite concerning.

black-beans-and-rice-on-stovetop
Why is there arsenic in our rice? Elemental arsenic is common in the environment, so a tiny amount would be expected to be found in a variety of plant and soil samples. Arsenic is also an ingredient in pesticides, particularly those that were used on cotton crops in the south. In addition, rice grows particularly well in water flooded areas, so it is more efficient at taking up arsenic and storing it, thereby passing it along to those of us who consume it. So what are rice-lovers to do?

Not consuming rice at all is, of course, an obvious way to avoid the arsenic in it, but for many of us who depend on rice and rice products, we may not want to take that step. Fortunately, there are a few other options.

1. Alternating rice with other grains can reduce exposure, and fortunately, even for gluten free individuals, there are other good grains out there, such as quinoa, amaranth, and teff, just to name a few. For gluten consumers, the options are even more varied.
2. Look at where the rice is grown. Rice grown in California tends to have lower levels than rice grown in the Southeastern U.S., and rice grown in India (such as basmati rice) also has lower levels.
3. Rinse rice well before cooking, and cook it in a lot of water. This can significantly lower the amount of arsenic. No Meat Athlete has detailed instructions on preparing and cooking rice to reduce arsenic levels.
4. Watch the supplemental foods, too. If you are vegan and use rice milk, consider almond, soy, or hemp substitutes. If you snack frequently on rice chips (as I do), consider potato or corn (preferably non-GMO) based snacks. If you are gluten free and bake a lot, look for potato or other non-gluten based flours sometimes instead of always using rice flour.

No doubt more testing will be done and further recommendations made. Until then, use your best judgement as to how much rice you and your family consume. And keep checking the FDA consumer update page for more information Personally, I am not giving up rice. But I will probably be alternating more with other grains and rinsing, rinsing, rinsing!

postheadericon Food poisoning season is here

Of course, it’s always here in the sense that food borne illness can occur at any time and in any place. But in summertime, we tend to hear more about it, when hot summer days make it more difficult to purchase and enjoy food in a safe temperature zone. Some foods, such as chicken and beef, have a higher risk of being contaminated with bacteria that can cause illness. But even vegetarians and vegans are not living risk free. We have all heard about tainted spinach, tomatoes, and sprouts over the last few years, and with intensive agricultural practices not likely to go away anytime soon, contamination of produce from nearby animal farms is always possible.
baby-spinach

So what can we do? Turns out, one of the most important things we can do is also the most obvious and easiest. Wash produce – WELL. Quick rinses do not get the job done most of the time, and soaking does nothing but perhaps spread bacteria around where it wasn’t before. The best thing to do with produce is to wash it really well under running water. I like to use the produce cleaner that you can buy at almost any grocery store. It’s main purpose is to remove pesticide residue, but I like to think it helps to remove some of the grime and bacteria, too.

And what about the “prewashed” greens and salads? Some say rinse, some say don’t. A 2010 study done by Consumer Reports found significant levels of bacteria in a number of samples tested. Personally, I like to give a good rinse under running water, but if the greens are organic, I will skip the produce cleanser. But I still give it a good rinse, I don’t care how many times the package says it was washed. Even if there are no illness-causing bacteria lurking, my instincts want to avoid any possibility – plus it helps my mind avoid the “yuck factor” – just in case anything is hiding.

So enjoy the bounty of the season and stay safe!

postheadericon Running vegan – shoes, that is

mms_picture(14)

Although at some point there may very well be something here about vegan fuel for cardio days, today’s focus is on the shoes. Speaking of cardio days, I do like a short distance run or medium/long distance ride on my cardio days, especially at this time of year. And since my running shoes are going to need a replacement in the not too distant future, I thought I’d research the options. Please bear in mind that I have not physically read any labels – this is information I retrieved through product reviews or through the company’s own website. So what vegan option are there for running shoes? Here are a few possibilities. If anyone knows of any others, please feel free to add to the list:

Asics: Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81

Brooks: probably the premier name in vegan running. The company states that, with one exception (The Addiction Walker), all of their shoes are vegan, INCLUDING the glue (an often overlooked ingredient).

Saucony: the bullet line and the jazz low shoe line are vegan

New Balance: has been known in the past for many synthetic leather options, but the company makes no guarantees regarding the glues used – too bad, used to be a go-to brand for me

The following additional information is from Vegan Runners UK

Asics: All running shoes with N in the label/product code are vegan
Mizuno: All running products are vegan friendly
Newton: All are vegan
Pearl Izumi: Leather-free are vegan friendly
Puma: Not vegan
Reebok: Not vegan
Saucony: Leather-free are vegan friendly