Easy Peasy Soy-Free Miso Soup

7 01 2014

Soy-free Miso Soup

I woke up this morning to find Rachel on the couch sick. Offering to make her breakfast, nothing sounded good except for miso soup. I whipped this up in less than half an hour and it tasted fantastic. Plus, it is full of the things she needs to make her healthy again (and what I need to avoid catching what she’s got).

Ingredients:

Olive oil – I used Sicilian Bread Dipping Oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 head of garlic, chopped

1/4 green cabbage, chopped

1/2 cup Soy free miso – I use South River’s Chickpea Miso

Sautee the chopped onion in oil until translucent. Add the garlic and green cabbage, cook for another 3-4 minutes. Next add water to generously cover the vegetables. If you like your soup with more broth, add more water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, or bring down to very low heat. Stir in the miso (add less or more to suit your taste – I like a lot of miso) and serve. Enjoy!

This soup is very healthy because it has an entire head of garlic, which has been shown to be effective in preventing colds. There is also cabbage which is a little known superfood full of vitamins and minerals. Finally, the miso is full of pro-biotics which is why it is important not to add it to the soup until after you have boiled the water, otherwise you will kill all the good bacteria you want to end up in your stomach!

Here are the other things I have in my medicine closet to fight off colds:

How to Fight a ColdOregano oil – Prevents and helps cure a cough or colds that come with a cough.

Netti pot – Drains your sinuses which can help you get rid of a clogged nose, or by regularly flushing out the germs that get up there, keep you from getting sick at all!

Vitamin C chewable – I try to eat citrus instead. A grapefruit in the morning with some local honey is full of vitamin C and the local honey will fight a cold as well. I know this is not 100% vegan, but I have some friends who are very responsible beekeepers and do not feel bad consuming their honey. Sometimes it is easier to just take a chewable so I keep them around.

Tea – Traditional Medicinals makes a number of amazing teas – I keep Cold Care PM, Throat Coat, and Echinacea Immune Support stocked at all times.

Note: I have no medical training, these are simply the items that work to fight colds for me and my family.

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Menu Planning

3 01 2014

Even though I love cooking, food, and generally hanging out in the kitchen there are days/weeks/months where I feel uninspired. I open the fridge to find no leftovers, wish I had bought more frozen burritos, realize there are no vegan restaurants within a half hour drive, and feel dread at the thought of cooking. Often I end up eating lentils, or when I’m feeling less healthy,  popcorn. How do I pull myself out of this downward spiral?

All of the food magazines I flip through while avoiding cooking point to one thing: menu planning. So, to bring life back to the kitchen I actually looked at the long list of “recipes to try” I keep on pinterest and opened the cookbooks to those pages I had sticky marked. Turns out, there are some pretty exiting recipes out there, and sometimes following someone else’s recipe is all I need to get re-excited about cooking dinner. It becomes once again an adventure, time well spent, and hey isn’t that all we ask for in life?

Things I’m pumped about making this week:

Vegetable Curry with Rice

Pizza

Black Bean Enchiladas

Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Sauteed Kale

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes with Baked Beans from Veganomicon

Chickpeas Romesco with Garlic Saffron Rice from Veganomicon

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Let’s see how it goes!





Carrots and veggies, no meat? Oh My

21 09 2013

Today I have a guest post from my friend Bryan Blum, with whom I worked this summer. He describes himself as a non-vegan who appreciates the lifestyle, and wanted to talk about his experience with food and how he came to eat vegetables.

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Realistically, I am the last person who should be writing for this blog. If possible I would probably get a side of steak with my steak and politely ask the waiter for a glass of bacon bits instead of a beverage, so I could dribble some over my main and side steak.

However, after spending practically an entire summer surrounded by vegetables and vegans on an organic farm, my view of the vegan culture has changed dramatically. I used to laugh at the salad eater at McDonald’s while I pounded down my second Big Mac, but now, I can’t even go into a fast food restaurant without questioning the process the meat was obtained. Or if what I’m eating is actually meat.

The change, in all honesty, came from necessity on my half. Living on a farm without transportation, I had three options when it came to eating. 1) Ask one of the nice car-owning farm employees to drive me to the market to buy what I need. 2) Use the vegetables that were literally twenty feet from my cabin door to cook. 3) Starve.

After my social anxiety prevented me from asking someone to go out of their way to drive me some place, I contemplated just not eating since I didn’t have meat, but then realized I would have a hard time explaining to my mother how I died of starvation on a farm.

So, I grabbed some vegetables from the field,  googled vegetarian/vegan recipes, stole spices and oil from the community and commercial kitchen (and by steal I totally mean borrowed; I’m definitely restocking everything from my college dorm), and made myself dinner.

After a week of this, I noticed something very peculiar; I didn’t die. I spent a whole week without eating meat or cheese, and I was still a functioning human being. I didn’t know what to think of that.

Later in the summer, I was joined by vegetarian and vegan teenagers on the farm, and for convenience shared meals together. Since my cooking talents are one level below prison chef, the others cooked, and I was again deprived of meat and dairy. The same results occurred: no death.

Not only was I not dead, I actually found myself having more energy than I usually did. Waking up, although still painful, became easier (slightly). I didn’t always need to take a nap immediately after work. I didn’t change anything but my diet, but I noticed the difference.

And with a little push from a friendly vegetarian, I stopped eating cold cut and other unhealthy processed food. My meat dairy intake has dropped exponentially, and I feel healthier because if it.

Does this mean I will convert to my newly respected vegan lifestyle? No. Blame it on the bacon. I believe the only reason people can be vegans is because they haven’t tried that crunchy, fried pig meat. However, I now have a better understanding of how to eat better after living in a vegan environment, and this comes at the perfect time too, as I am about to head off to college where yesterday’s meatloaf is today’s chicken parm.

So I thank you vegetarians and vegans for helping me put down the Baconater from Wendy’s and add some lettuce and tomatoes. I may not be one of you, but you have certainty gained my respect.





Thinking Holistically About Cancer

29 06 2013

If you read my blog a lot you might have noticed quite a few of my recipes come from my good friend Meredith Hickson. Well today she has written a guest post that asks us all to think critically about current cancer treatment methods and the importance of healthy living:

Every year a website called Cancer Monthly (http://www.cancermonthly.com/) hosts a scholarship program designed to promote “out of the box” thinking around cancer treatment. They invite students to read about the life of a special cancer victim named James “Rhio” O’Connor and then discuss how his story has inspired them to think differently about treating and preventing cancer.

Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the protective sacks that surround internal organs. Mesothelioma is associated with exposure to asbestos (you can learn more about mesothelioma here: (http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com). Classic approaches like chemotherapy or radiation haven’t proven effective in its treatment. Rhio’s case was deemed untreatable, but he didn’t interpret his diagnosis as a death sentence. He worked with his doctors to develop his own, holistic treatment plan. He outlived his prognosis for many years by studying his body and his illness, and choosing natural pathways to healing.

As a medical student who believes deeply in holistic (or “whole person”) healthcare, Rhio O’Connor’s story resonates with me. His approach to battling cancer is an affirmation of my core belief about wellness: good health is a product of healthy living and emotional stability over time.

Rhio’s story is an excellent example of something we hear about frequently: people surviving a terminal illness by utilizing treatments beyond what Western medicine has to offer. The success of those patients may lie in the difference between Western medicine and the healing practices of other cultures. Non-Western medical traditions often view each person as a system and attempt to balance that system as gently as possible. Western medicine goes after the illness exclusively without worrying too much about what caused the illness or how toxic the cure may be.

When I hear that someone has been diagnosed with cancer, I imagine the hours of painful therapy, the stress placed on the patient’s family, the pile of medical bills—all of it undertaken without any real certainty of survival. If the day comes when I find myself walking out of an oncologist’s office with a bad prognosis, I wouldn’t immediately resort to the standard course of treatment. As a scientist, my first step would be to collect the data: what is the likelihood of my survival on this drug? If I do survive, what will be the long-term impact to my health? I would also want to speak with people currently undergoing that treatment and ask how the drug has altered their quality of life. Many common cancer therapies are extremely hard on both body and mind.

Whether or not I opted for a chemical or surgical treatment, I would make changes to my lifestyle to fortify my body. I would educate myself on how its normal functioning is weakened by my cancer and tailor my diet to counter its effects. The root cause of cancer is often poisoning (from radiation, toxin-laced foods, or dangerous substances like asbestos in our environment). With that in mind, I would attempt to manage my cancer by relocating to an environment low in pollutants.

Rhio O’Connor’s story is evidence that spiritual balance is vital. Many cancer patients struggle with depression. I wouldn’t wait for a depression diagnosis to start various forms of therapy: support groups, but also stress-relieving meditation, yoga, and massage. Although Western medicine continues to seek chemical “silver bullets”, the simple pathway from stress to illness is well documented.[i]

While many people have used diet, mind-body techniques, and natural medicines to beat cancer, these treatment options remain too expensive for many. This is because insurance providers look to Western doctors to determine what’s “effective,” and Western doctors rely on money from pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of potential treatments. Pharmaceutical companies won’t fund testing of something they can’t make money from. Drugs and surgical instruments bring in huge profits for “Big Pharma”. Helping a cancer patient choose her diet more carefully does not. Neither do meditation or yoga classes.

Despite this vicious cycle, there actually has been a fair amount of research on the effectiveness of holistic cancer treatments. A good diet (leading to increased energy, a strong immune system, and a healthy weight) has been identified as a powerful tool for cancer patients.[ii] Studies from all over the world have concluded that cancer victims who do look to other medical traditions for help feel stronger and may survive longer.[iii],[iv],[v]

For me, however, the best medicine is always preventative medicine. What we really owe to the memory of both cancer survivors like Rhio O’Connor, and the victims who even the most state-of-the-art treatments could not save, is the promise of a cancer-free society. Holistic medicine, which outlines healthy lifestyles for disease prevention, is the key.

Holistic practitioners will tell you that where you live is part of how you live. There is a growing body of research indicating that environmental toxins contribute to the incidence of many cancers, including those that afflict children.[vi],[vii] One of the best ways to protect you and your family from cancer is to be aware of your environment: how clean is the air, the water? What manufacturers are active in your area and how do they dispose of their wastes?

If you do live in a relatively toxin-free environment, the next step is to take a hard look at your diet. There are established links between diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes and an increased risk of developing certain cancers.[viii],[ix] So good, balanced nutrition is crucial. Choosing foods high in cancer-fighting antioxidants may also help. Antioxidants have become a fad with health-conscious people, but they are nonetheless very powerful. These substances, found naturally in many plant foods, break down toxins that might otherwise poison your cells and lead to cancer. To help you include as many sustainable antioxidants in your diet as possible, there’s a little chart at the end of this post that shows which high-antioxidant foods are available in which seasons.

Diet alone can’t prevent conditions like obesity that place you at higher risk for cancer. Choose forms of exercise that not only help you maintain a health weight but also reduce stress. Your body and immune system are in their best fighting shape when you are strong and relaxed.

A final thought: cancer may not be catching, but it is a social illness. It attacks individuals but everyone feels its repercussions. As diseases like HIV have taught us, the best way to defeat a social illness is by banding together as society. We should be inspired by figures like Rhio O’Connor to fight back: explore any treatment options open to us, refuse to let big industries drive choices about our health, and work together towards a higher quality of life that will reduce the risk to future generations. More than any drug, those are the components of a lasting cure for cancer.

Seasonal Antioxidants


[i] Uchino, B. N., Smith, T. W., Holt-Lunstad, J., Campo, R. & Reblin, M. (2007). Stress and illness. In Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G. and Bernston, G. G. (Eds), Handbook of Psychophysiology, 3rd ed. (608-632). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[ii] Brown, J. K., Byers, T., Doyle, C., Courneya, K. S., Demark‐Wahnefried, W., Kushi, L. H., … & Sawyer, K. A. (2003). Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians53(5), 268-291.

[iii] Downer, S. M., Cody, M. M., McCulskey, P., Wilson, P. D., Arnott, S. J., … & Slevin, M. L. (1994). Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patiens receiving conventional treatment. BMJ, 309(6947), 86-89.

[iv] Boon, H., Stewart, M., Kennard, M. A., Gray, R., Sawka, C., Brown, J. B., … & Haines-Kamka, T. (2000). Use of complementary/alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in Ontario: prevalence and perceptions. Journal of Clinical Oncology18(13), 2515-2521.

[v] Molassiotis, A., Fernadez-Ortega, P., Pud, D., Ozden, G., Scott, J. A., Panteli, V., … & Patiraki, E. (2005). Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology16(4), 655-663.

[vi] Toppari, J., Larsen, J. C., Christiansen, P., Giwercman, A., Grandjean, P., Guillette Jr, L. J., … & Skakkebæk, N. E. (1996). Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 104(Suppl 4), 741.

[vii] Landrigan, P. J., Schechter, C. B., Lipton, J. M., Fahs, M. C., & Schwartz, J. (2002). Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives110(7), 721.

[viii] Calle, E. E., & Thun, M. J. (2004). Obesity and cancer. Oncogene23(38), 6365-6378.

[ix] Giovannucci, E., Harlan, D. M., Archer, M. C., Bergenstal, R. M., Gapstur, S. M., Habel, L. A., … & Yee, D. (2010). Diabetes and cancer: a consensus report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians60(4), 207-221.

[1] Uchino, B. N., Smith, T. W., Holt-Lunstad, J., Campo, R. & Reblin, M. (2007). Stress and illness. In Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G. and Bernston, G. G. (Eds), Handbook of Psychophysiology, 3rd ed. (608-632). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Brown, J. K., Byers, T., Doyle, C., Courneya, K. S., Demark‐Wahnefried, W., Kushi, L. H., … & Sawyer, K. A. (2003). Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians53(5), 268-291.

[1] Downer, S. M., Cody, M. M., McCulskey, P., Wilson, P. D., Arnott, S. J., … & Slevin, M. L. (1994). Pursuit and practice of complementary therapies by cancer patiens receiving conventional treatment. BMJ, 309(6947), 86-89.

[1] Boon, H., Stewart, M., Kennard, M. A., Gray, R., Sawka, C., Brown, J. B., … & Haines-Kamka, T. (2000). Use of complementary/alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in Ontario: prevalence and perceptions. Journal of Clinical Oncology18(13), 2515-2521.

[1] Molassiotis, A., Fernadez-Ortega, P., Pud, D., Ozden, G., Scott, J. A., Panteli, V., … & Patiraki, E. (2005). Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology16(4), 655-663.

[1] Toppari, J., Larsen, J. C., Christiansen, P., Giwercman, A., Grandjean, P., Guillette Jr, L. J., … & Skakkebæk, N. E. (1996). Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 104(Suppl 4), 741.

[1] Landrigan, P. J., Schechter, C. B., Lipton, J. M., Fahs, M. C., & Schwartz, J. (2002). Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives110(7), 721.

[1] Calle, E. E., & Thun, M. J. (2004). Obesity and cancer. Oncogene23(38), 6365-6378.

[1] Giovannucci, E., Harlan, D. M., Archer, M. C., Bergenstal, R. M., Gapstur, S. M., Habel, L. A., … & Yee, D. (2010). Diabetes and cancer: a consensus report. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians60(4), 207-221.





Feeding the Hungry Ghost Book Review

8 03 2013

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, the New World Library sent me a free review copy of Ellen Kanner’s new book Feeding the Hungry Ghost. In all honesty, I probably would never have thought to pick this book up and read it. First, I’ve never read a memior-style cookbook before and I didn’t know if I would like it. Second, the title didn’t really peak my interest and I wasn’t sure from the descriptions that this was the kind of book I would like.

However, I had a free copy, so I might as well give it a chance, right? And boy I’m glad I did! This book is a gem. The recipes she gives us, 50 in total, are wonderful. Most of her recipes seem fairly easy to make, use ingredients you probably have on hand, and vary in flavor. The most likely thing you are going to need to buy is a spice here or there. While many vegan cookbooks I have read try and tell us how we can re-create our favorites in a vegan version, this cookbook just gives you straight up hearty vegetarian food. Plus, I found that I could make quite a few of these things in Senegal. I’m happy I have this book, because I think it will give me ideas on how to make less expensive day-to-day vegan food.

The stories she told to go along with the recipes were also fun and interesting. She does a good job of describing the recipes and fitting them into a story. In fact, if you like reading food blogs, you will probably enjoy reading her book. My only complaint with this book is that sometimes her arguments seemed poorly supported. For example, she would talk about how important it is to eat local and the following recipe involved mangoes. Later in the book it became clear that she lives in a part of Florida where mangoes grow. However, for most of us in the U.S. mangos are not local, and if you don’t point out that they are local where you live, it is confusing.

In conclusion, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and check it out. In the meantime, let me give you a little teaser: I already talked about her fabulous Veggie Bhaji in my Vegan Valentine’s Day Feast post.

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So today I will give you a recipe for what she calls “well-being in a bowl”. My friends describe it as a vegetarian chicken noodle soup. It is comforting and healthy feeling: the perfect bring a sick friend soup soup.

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Harira (printed with permission from New World Library)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

1 tsp turmeric

3 zucchini or yellow squash, or a mix of the two, chopped

2 red bell peppers, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped (I left this out)

Pinch of saffron or ras el hanout (optional but very nice)

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes or 4 gorgeous ripe tomatoes, chopped

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

6 cups vegetable broth

1 small handful whole wheat vermicelli or angel hair pasta, broken into bite-size pieces (please substitute a gf version – I used rice pasta)

1 tablepsoon active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm vegetable broth or water

Juice of 1 or 2 lemons

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Lemon wedges for serving (optional)

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and turmeric. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens and turns golden, a few minutes. Add the zucchini, red bell peppers, celery, and, if you’ve got it, the saffron or ras el hanout. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables become tender, 5 to 8 minutes more.

Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Add the broken pasta, yeast mixture, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Continue cooking 3 to 5 minutes more, until the angel hair softens, stirring occasionally. Season with sea salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

Serve with extra lemon wedges, if desired.

note: New World Library sent me a free copy of this book but the views expressed here are my own. In no way was I pressured or encouraged to write a certain way.





Birthday Chickens

13 02 2013

For my birthday, Rachel bought me two female chickens: Rhianna (right) and Adele (left). She got them in the market from a Pulaar man who brought them from his village to sell as food. For now, they have a three month reprieve while they live with us. When I leave I will give them to my closest friends here and hope they can join their flock.

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She also got this great chicken coop in built. It doesn’t have a bottom, so we can move it to different places in the yard when it starts to get dirty. We’ve covered the back area to provide them with a dark space to make them feel safe (this is where we put their nesting boxes).

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Since reading Farm City (an amazing book) I have been yearning to raise chickens, and I’m so excited to finally have the chance! I don’t know much about it at all, but after talking to friends and advice from the internet, I am slowly finding my way. Our first week with the chickens we kept them in the coop to teach them where their new home is. Now, I let them out every afternoon (or all day if I’m home) and let them forage for bugs. It is very peaceful to watch them scratch, fly, and cluck all day long. Getting them in at night was quite difficult at first (we have some scratches from the barbed wire fence), but becomes easier each time we do it.

Although these ladies are able to forage for their food, I want to provide them with the best nutrition possible. I can’t buy commercial chicken feed where I live, so I’ve made up a concoction that I put in their house in the morning and evenings. I’ve been told if I burn old bones (fish bones for example) and pound them into a powder I could add it to this feed and they would be getting all the nutrients they need. I have yet to try this, but hopefully will in the coming weeks. In the meantime I am throwing them lots of kitchen scraps (carrot peels are their favorite), and treats (popcorn and watermelon), in addition to this “chicken feed” (see below).

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Ingredients

1 kilo millet

1 kilo corn (slightly crushed)

1 kilo (sorghum- I’m thinking of taking this out bc they don’t seem to like it)

1/2 kilo ground peanuts

Combine in bucket – will last about 1 week.

Chickens are great fun and I hope you consider having some too! Just make sure you are getting them from a good place. In the U.S. buying chicks commercially can support some awful practices thus I recommend trying to get them from a friend or farm sanctuary. Also make sure you will have enough space for them to be happy and preferably a place to let them roam. Finally think about any animal friends that might become predators — my dog is definitely trying to eat the chickens but we are working through it.

If you have any experience with chicken raising please leave some advice in the comments!

Note: If these hens lay eggs I intend to eat the eggs however I  will not post those recipes on this blog because I would like this to be a strictly vegan space. I believe in eating in the most moral way possible in any situation you encounter. In this situation I believe these eggs make that cut.

I do not in any way endorse eating eggs from places where you don’t know or aren’t satisfied with 1. how the hens our treated 2. where the hens come from or 3. what happens to the hens when they are “done laying”.

We do not need to eat eggs, but if we do want to eat them let us only do so in a way that respects the animals, the planet, and ourselves.





Magazine Giveaway

17 12 2012

Zinio would like to offer all of you, my wonderful blog readers, 10 free subscriptions to the magazines of your choosing. So, the first 10 people to comment with your first and last name, email, and magazine of your choosing will get a free subscription! They offer a lot of popular magazines, and you can browse their selection here.  UPDATE: I have given out the free subscriptions already, but please check out their discounts (below).

Zinio is also offering 50% off digital magazines, check the offer out here. Additionally, Better Homes and Gardens is offering 30% off their magazines. Check this offer out here.








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