They're Back! The Perfect Containers to Keep at Work for Reheating Oatmeal, Soup or Leftovers in the Microwave
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Before I get into my backlog of tips for "making life easier" in the plant-based lane--I just want to extend a huge warm thank-you to everyone who generously commented on the blog or emailed me about my Report Card on the Healthy Librarian's 2010 Simple Strategies for Staying Healthy and Happy - What's Working, What's Not, What's New for 2011 I'm truly humbled & speechless! Thank you all for your warm generous beautiful (albeit undeserving) compliments & comments.
You definitely made this librarian one happy lady! There is no doubt about it! Absolutely the nicest, most upbeat, interesting, funny, intelligent, and healthy people read this blog!
The stories of health changes that I've been sent prove one thing: when it comes to our health (and happiness is a part of it), all of us want to be in control--and to know that there's something (in addition to--or instead of only pills & procedures) that we can do for ourselves to get there. Enough of my soap box! Thank you all, again!
It's all of You who motivate Me. There is absolutely nothing better in the world than to find out that these little nuggets of information that I share are somehow picked up by someone else (sometimes half-way around the world)--and can be of some benefit. It's amazing to me how many readers now make Green Smoothies! And there are readers from 197 different countries--some I've never even heard of!
Here We Go - Some of My "Newest" Kitchen Discoveries
Crate and Barrel's All-Glass Storage Containers are Back!
Three years ago when the BPA plastic story hit the news I was on the look-out for some all glass containers that I could use for both storing & microwaving. My sister gave me a no-occasion surprise gift of three all-glass containers from Crate and Barrel. But, when I tried to get more, I found out they were discontinued--and wherever I looked I could only find glass containers with plastic tops. Want more info about BPA & plastics? Probably not, but if you do, it's here and here.
Why do I love my 5-cup (the medium size) all-glass container so much? Simple--I keep it at work & it's perfect for heating up anything I'm toting in a plastic container from home. Could be oatmeal, or soup, or left-overs. The best part is the all-glass top that stays on, and it keeps food from spraying all over the office microwave--oh--and of course there's the no-plastic safety factor. I do use plastic storage containers--but I never reheat anything in them--ever!
It doesn't have to come from Crate and Barrel, if you can find them elsewhere--I was just thrilled to see these back on the market. My favorite one is the 5-cup medium sized one that stays at work. The one's I have are slightly different, with extruded glass handles--and I'm pretty sure my medium sized one is square, not rectangular. You can buy them separately or in a set. Click here for more info.
Saturated Fat-Free Indian & Thai Food - Is Back!!
Extraordinary No-Saturated Fat Vindaloo Curry Made with No-Saturated Fat "Coconut Milk"
So, where did I find no-fat coconut milk? Right there in my kitchen cupboard! I love Thai & Indian food--so I wondered if a no-fat substitute for it existed. And of course it did. This comes from Susan over at The Fat-Free Vegan.
The Coconut Secret Substitution: Add 1/2 tsp. of coconut extract (easy to find at any grocery store) to 1 cup of regular soy milk (adjust if you need less coconut milk). Soy milk has more creaminess, a bit more unsaturated fat & thickness than other non-dairy milks so I think it works best--but feel free to try other kinds of milk.
I've used this coconut milk substitution in my favorite Red Lentil Mulligatawney Soup (recipe originates from my Nashville friend & cook extraordinaire, Dick). Here's the recipe It's quick, delicious, & a meal in itself! Try it.
The Vindaloo Tofu Curry is my adaptation of Robin Robertson's, and it comes from her 2003 cookbook, Vegan Planet. This is my new fave cookbook, filled with 400 incredible & original recipes from around the world. I was tipped off to this bonanza by a reader--a dietitian in Chicago--thank you Betty! Robertson does use oil in her recipes, but they're easily adaptable to no-oil cooking.
My husband & I made this for Sunday night supper & we were licking our chops. It's definitely spicy (not crazy hot)--and seemed to get hotter with the leftovers--so watch out for that. It was fine with me--but if you're spicy-hot-averse just cut down on the cayenne.
Vindaloo Tofu Curry
For the recipe on one page click here
Serves 4 generously. Serve over brown basmati or regular rice (I like Trader Joe's or Rice Expression's frozen microwaveable brown rice when I want to save time--and cleaning another pot)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne (cut this down if you like less heat)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3+ tablespoons vegetable broth
1 16 ounce package of low-fat NaSoya extra-firm tofu, drained, sliced in thirds length-wise. Note: You may use canned, drained chickpeas instead of tofu, if you prefer.
Salt (optional) & freshly ground black pepper
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large (or 3 small) carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
One 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained (I recommend Muir Glenn Fire-Roasted)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup of regular soy milk mixed with 1/2 tsp. coconut extract (Your Coconut Milk)
1. Prepare the tofu. Cut it into 3 large length-wise slices. Wrap them well in a tea towel folding each slice in a separate fold of the towel. Weight this down with a heavy pot or plate weight to press out the excess water--for about 15 minutes. When it's done, cut each slice into 4 equal triangles. You'll have 12 nice triangles. Alternatively, you can just dice the tofu & skip my fancy triangles.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine the garic, ginger, cardamon, coriander, cumin, mustard, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the the vegetable broth. Process until smooth and set aside. You may have to scrape down the sides a few times. We used a processor for this.
2. Heat a large non-stick skillet or grill pan (we used Cuisinart's Green Gourmet Grill Pan for the tofu--see below) over medium high heat. Sprinkle the tofu with a little salt or pepper (I used Trader Joe's Everyday Mix) and cook on both sides until golden brown or grill marks appear. This can take from 6-10 minutes, total. Transfer to a plate. If skipping the triangles--just brown the tofu cubes in a skillet.
3. Heat up your largest non-stick frying pan or a large saucean. Add the onions and carrots, and keep stirring occasionally until the onions are transluscent, about 5 minutes. When the vegetables start to stick to the pan, add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth or water to deglaze the pan and keep them from sticking. Add the bell pepper, and continue cooking and stirring until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, adding a little broth or water when necessary.
4. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, the peas, and "coconut milk" and bring to a beginning boil. Reduce the heat to low, and adjust seasonings. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the tofu and cook uncovered on low for 10 minutes so the the tofu can absorb the flavors of the sauce. If the curry is too thick, add a little water to it.
6. Serve hot over rice.
My Cuisinart Green Gourmet Grill Pan
Eco-Friendly Safe - about $50 at Bed Bath & Beyond with a Coupon
Grilled Tofu with Spicy Sweet Sauce
Grilled Veggies Made Inside in the Middle of Winter!
More Grilled Tofu - Ready to Top a Salad, Stir-Fry, or Stuff in a Sandwich--OK, I've Got a Thing for Grill Marks!
Isa's Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad Topped with Grilled Tofu--Yes, This is Really My Picture
You get the idea? I LOVE this pan.
Gorgeous grill marks without oil. Easy breezy cleaup even with sticky sauces. You can heat it up real high--before adding the food because it is not made with Teflon--and the high heat prevents sticking. It's made with a water-based Ceramica nonstick surface that won't peel off, and is free of PTFE and PFOA. Can go in the oven and is safe up to 500 degrees. Grilled portobellos, tofu, vegetables, whatever. Only thing missing is panini press to push down on vegetables or sandwiches. I'll find one, I'm sure.
Kicking Green Smoothies Up a Notch with Dr. MGs Power Green Smoothie - It Powers Her All Day
First off, I've got to tell you about son #2--the grad student who rarely cooks. He recently kicked up his green smoothie-making a notch, too. He used to make his with mild spinach, heavy on the fruit. He's moved into the kale world, and adding carrots in to the mix. In his words, "Oh yeah, kale really does make a difference. Mom, did you know there's a web site all about the benefits of kale? 365 Days of Kale. Written by a cancer-surviving dietitian. Check it out!" I did--you should, too.
Now back to Dr. MG. She's a busy first year medical resident with whom I correspond occasionally. She's got a crazy busy schedule--but Dr. MG is serious about nutrition & a nutrient-dense diet. She blogs about medicine & life as a resident at Cold Fever Girl.
A couple weeks ago she picked right up on my comment that Dr. Esselstyn isn't a huge fan of smoothies, because he's concerned that they're too fruit heavy--and he thinks it's better to chew your food--not drink it. Here's why I got hooked on green smoothies back in 2008.
Here's what Dr. MG had to say:
"Hey, green smoothies don't have to have too much fruit!
For today's smoothie I packed the hopper full of dandelion greens, dino kale, parsley, and arugula.
Then I added a lemon, baby beet, carrot, small knob of fresh turmeric root, chia seeds, wild blueberries, and a few frozen strawberries.
I admit I'd never choke this down without a nice thick glass straw, but it truly fills me up, gives me more energy, and my skin tone looks better than it has in years. Can't get around the no chewing, tho'."
Not enough info for me. "Tell me more." I wanted more exact amounts. Dr. MG delivered & here's what she wrote back. Honestly, I'm going to try some of her ingredients: Fresh turmeric, the power-packed antioxidant--I never knew it came in any other form but powdered in a jar--beets, cayenne? Wow!
"My smoothies are limited only by the size of the Vitamix container.
I cram as many greens as I can into the hopper. Dandelion and arugula go bad fast, so I try to use them within a couple days of purchase. Kale, parsley, and cabbage keep longer. Oh, and I include the stems!
Today, I had no room for celery, but I usually add that, too. I usually add 1-2 carrots. Any size will do, but mine tend to be smaller as I buy them in 1 lb bags.
I add raw beet to most smoothies, either a single baby or a chunk of a larger one. Gives it a deep fuschia color.
I usually add half-to-one cup of frozen wild blueberries in every smoothie plus one other fruit. Today I added ~5 organic strawberries. I know they're not in season, but they add a nice flavor. I often add half a lightly peeled grapefruit.
Orange gives a very nice flavor, too. A peeled lemon or two is refreshing.
But the point is that adding two of the above fruits really doesn't break the sugar bank. On rare occasions I'll add half a banana or a whole one if I'm serving someone less accustomed to weird smoothies. :-)
I get the turmeric at Whole Foods. For the sake of accuracy, I should add that it's a rhizome, or an underground stem. It has a fairly unique flavor that is stronger than the powdered version.
Fresh ginger (also a rhizome!) goes wonderfully in smoothies.
Savory smoothies (e.g., lemon/parsley/tomato/beet/celery) do very well with a little cayenne.
MG's Mixing Technique:
I fill the container about 3/4 full with water after I add the solid contents.
When blending, I always wrap a clean rag around the tamper and spout to avoid splash.
About That Glass Straw:
I want to emphasize the importance of a good glass straw to get these smoothies down. At a minimum, the veggie bits get stuck in teeth and blueberries/beets stain.
For more strongly flavored smoothies, the straw really softens the flavor. You can water the smoothie down more if it's too thick for a straw.
I use smoothie straws from glassdharma.com. They're strong, not too expensive, and have a great warranty. The skinnier version is great for tea or coffee. Be sure to get the pipewire cleaner (comes with all sets or is available for sale). Hope this helps. I'm the first to admit that this approach is unconventional, but I know I'd be a lot less healthy without my veggie-heavy smoothies. Let me know how your smoothie adventures go!
Smoothie Words of Advice from the Doc:
You know, I should add that I really don't use recipes for the smoothies. I buy whatever looks good at Whole Foods (oh, how I miss California farmers markets!) and chuck it into the VitaMix.
My rule of thumb is that if you can eat it raw then it's fit for the VitaMix!:-)
I might limit certain potent ingredients if I'm serving the uninitiated since I can see how my smoothie tastes have evolved since I started doing this last June. Another great perk is that my produce never goes bad anymore!"
Homemade No-Oil Salad Dressings in a Minute
Jane's 3-2-1 Salad Dressing
OK, I admit it. I first saw this recipe in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease more than 2 years ago. Then I saw it in Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet. Never tried. Then, when librarian-colleague Mary brought some into work for me to try about a month ago, I was hooked. As Mary says, "You could eat this with a spoon." It's that good. And that easy. Even son #2, who's totally hooked on Paul Newman's high-fat-Parmesan Caesar Dressing, gave it a thumbs up!
Jane Esselstyn's 3, 2, 1 Salad Dressing
For a copy of this dressing on one page click here
Makes about 1/3 cup--enough for 5 or 6 salads
Every time we eat our daughter Jane's salads we ask, "What is this delicious dressing?" It is easy to make and to adjust to personal taste. (says Ann Esselstyn)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (my tip: use a good thick balsamic--Olive Tap's are great)
2 tablespoons mustard of choice (I like grainy Dijon. Mary uses honey mustard)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
Chef Del's Sweet Mustard Dressing & How to Really Saute & Caramelize Without Oil
Chef Del is an extraordinary plant-based chef affiliated with Dr. Pamela Popper's Wellness Forum in Columbus, Ohio. He's not much for writing down recipes, but he has a $5.00 little book that's called, "Great Salad Dressings from an Oil-Free Kitchen" If you want a copy, call 614-888-3663 or check out his website. It will give you all kinds of delicious options for mayo-like & oil-like salad dressings that will expand your cooking repertoire.
Chef Del is the one finally taught me the right way to saute vegetables without oil. I was doing it all wrong--really steaming them by adding vegetable broth to the pan before adding the vegetables.. With his technique you get gorgeous browned caramelized vegetables and nothing sticks. There's a video on Del's site that explains it in detail. Tip: Quickly hit the video's stop button to disable the music. Andy--you'll love this--Del uses a cast-iron pan!
Sweet Mustard Dressing
For a copy of this dressing on one page click here
Makes 2 cups
"At my first restaurant job we used to make honey mustard dressing with a lot of mayonnaise. It was good but I've grown to like this version better--it's healthier and I like the kick the cayenne pepper adds to it." Try it on a salad, or spread on top of a vegan "meatloaf" sandwich.
1 package light silken tofu (MoriNu)
1/3 cup prepared mustard
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar (or less to taste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.
Dr. Robert A. Vogel & Paul Tager Lehr's B.Y.O.B.B. of Fiber
Vogel's the University of Maryland cardiologist extraordinaire who's a pioneer in testing how different foods affect the endothelial linings of vessels--using the brachial artery tourniquet test. Click here to read more. Lehr runs the Pritikin Center. This handy acronym comes from their book, The Pritikin Edge.
"It's easy to remember the five best natural sources of fiber. Our Pritikin nutritionists stress BYOBB (no, they're not talking about alcohol)"
- B is for beans (1/2 cup cooked = about 5-6 grams)
- Y is for yams (1/2 cup cooked = 3 to 5 grams)
- O is for oats (1/2 cup cooked = 3-5 grams)
- B is for barley (1/2 cup cooked = 3-5 grams)
- B is for berries (1 cup = about 5 grams)
If you have your own favorite plant-based tips, products, tools, substitutions for speeding up cooking in the plant-based lane, please share!