Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Story, Part II, and Stewed Cabbage with Rice and Lentils

Yes, I've been away for too long. Lots going on - vacation planning, a new laptop, training hard for two up-coming events - a sprint-length triathlon in August and a 10-miler in October. It might seem early to be training for an event in October, but you have no idea how hard I have to work to get my head ready for a long distance run! My body is ready looong before I get my head into it!

Now on to the next part of our story, and a quick recipe.

Our Story, Part II
So Paul and I find ourselves a family of four. Two very busy daughters keeping us running constantly and both of us in grad school. No time to plan for or cook healthy meals. Most of our meals during that time were either Hamburger Helper-type deals or fast food. Junk and more junk. During this time, Paul and I reached our heaviest weights. I maxed out at around 254 pounds, Paul at 432. I was wearing a size 24 and Paul's jeans were a whopping size 60.

This is Paul and me at a family reunion in September of 1998.

During this time, Paul was diagnosed with hypertension and Type II diabetes. Before long he found himself on 8 different drugs to contr
ol the two diseases. The diabetes was a bit of a wake-up call. I began to cook more and we began to pay more attention to the amounts of food we were consuming. Paul dropped around 60 pounds. I didn't.

The new resolve didn't last and Paul regained all of what h
e had lost. Then a series of events began that turned our lives upside down. I will condense this very long story to the bare bones. No, there were no tragedies. Paul decided to change careers. He had been doing psychiatric social work for many years and thought it was time for a change. He quit his job and went to work managing a woodcrafters' supply store.

It was a disaster. He hated it from
the moment he started. And when I say he hated it, that is an understatement. He lasted all of 3 days. The store owner was furious with him, but Paul knew it was not where he belonged, so after those 3 days, he quit. And was unemployed. He was only unemployed for two weeks, but those were very long weeks!

Now, anybody who knows my husband at all knows what a conscientious and responsible person he is. To be unemployed with a family was devastating to his sense of responsibility. The anxiety was overwhelming. He began having panic attacks. He couldn't sleep or eat. To manage the anxiety, he began taking long walks. And lo and behold, by the time he started his new counseling job, he had lost around 15 pounds!

He kept walking every day. In the rain, in the heat, in the snow. And the weight kept coming off. I was becoming more aware of the types of food we were eating. I was preparing more fresh vegetables and we cut fast food out completely. I lost a few pounds, but nothing compared to what Paul was loosing!

Then Paul began "branching out". He started going to the gym. I hated him for it. Because he dragged me alon
g with him. I would walk on the indoor track and mutter mean things while he pumped away on the elliptical machine. You see, I had long since made up my mind that I was fat and would stay that way for the rest of my life. Not because I liked it, but because I didn't think I could do anything about it.

To be continued..........

And now for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner......

Stewed Cabbage with Red Lentils and Rice
1 cup red lentils

1 cup basmati rice
5 cups vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garlic granules
1 tbs dehydrated onions (or 1/2 tsp onions granules)
1 tbs caraway seeds

2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced (I used 1/2 red cabbage and 1/2 green)

NOTE: Seasonings for this are flexible. Use flavors and amounts that suit your taste!

In a large dutch oven or soup pot
, bring bring broth to a boil. Add lentils and rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add cabbage, tomatoes, and all seasonings. Return to a boil, them simmer covered for another 15-20 minutes, adding water or more broth if it starts to stick or gets too thick. It should be somewhat saucy.

I served this over mashed potatoes and it was soo
oooo savory - comforting and delicious!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our Story, Part 1, and my Broccoli Rice Casserole

I've been waiting to tell our story for awhile until I felt a little more comfortable with the whole blogging thing. But I didn't want to wait too long because our story is so very vital to the whole reason Paul and I are vegan to begin with. I think now is the time. So, here is Part 1 of how Paul and I became vegan.

In The Beginning……A Love Story
I moved to Louisville from Western North Carolina in 1994 to attend seminary. I was a single mom with two daughters, aged 9
and 11. I met Paul three weeks after moving here while we were registering for our first semester of grad school. It really was love at first sight. It just took us a few weeks to figure that out. A very few weeks. In fact, we met in the registration line on August 27th. Our first date was homemade pizza (the theme is already developing…..) at my house on November 11. On December 19th we picked out my engagement ring, and on March 26th, 1995, I became the wife of the most awesome man in the world. (That isn't hyperbole. It is the absolute truth.)

Now let me just go ahead and put this out there so you don't start trying to count on your fingers later on in the story. Yes, I am a cougar. At this writing, I am 50 years old. Paul is approaching his 40th birthday in the next few weeks. I attribute our relationship to God's wonderful sense of humor.

Our wedding was a bit ecclectic. We were married in an after-church ceremony in a Southern Baptist churc
h by a woman pastor and an Episcopal priest. We wrote our own non-traditional vows. And we had no music. Which was strange because I was working towards a masters' degree in music. Our reception was a HUGE potluck lunch in the church basement (the theme continues) where we did have a string quartet, our only financial indulgence.

That's Paul, third from the left, and I'm right next to him in the pink dress. (This is the only digital wedding picture I have.)

You may be wondering what the "theme" is here. Well, the day Paul and I were married, our combined weight would have tipped the scales at somewhere close to 600 pounds. Yup. We were rather large people.

To be continued........

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Of course, broccoli casserole is mandatory at any potluck in the south, and especially at church potlucks. Here is my ve
ganized version using Delight Soy popcorn chicken nuggets, which are optional in this recipe but totally delish!

Rice and veggie mixture:

2 - 2 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 c celery, chopped
1 veggie bullion cube
appropriate amount of water, depending on whether you cook on the stove or in a rice cooker

Cook rice and veggies together with the veggie cube either on the stove or in a rice cooker. While it is cooking, make the sauce.

3/4 c flour

3/4 c nutritional yeast
3 c water
2 veggie cubes
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp spicy mustard

1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbs Bragg's
juice of 1/2 lemon
3-4 tbs Earth Balance

Combine the flour, nutritional yeast, water, and veggie cubes in a pan and
bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened. Stir in garlic granules, mustard, lemon juice, and Earth Balance. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the following to the sauce:
16 oz frozen chopped broccoli, cook
ed according to package directions
4-6 oz chopped mushrooms
12-16 oz popcorn chicken, sliced (optional, or substitute chicken-style seitan or even tofu)

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray and combine the rice and veggie mixture with the sauce. Stir gently to evenly distribute the sauce. If you want to, at this point you can add a bread crumb topping.

Bake for 30 minutes.

This may look like a lengthy process, but it comes together pretty quickly if you have all your ingredients at hand. An
d oh my, it is so good.

Next time, Our Story, Part 2.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Review of Daiya Vegan Cheese and Field Roast Italian Sausages

If you live anywhere close to Kentucky, then you know what the first Saturday in May means! It's DERBY DAY! And where I live, Derby Day is almost a sacred holiday. I have mixed feelings about horse racing. I am very much aware that there are abuses that happen in horse racing. Living in Kentucky, however, and being a horse lover, I also know how these animals are treasured and well-cared for in most situations.

Some horses were just born to run, like Secretariat and Seabiscuit and Affirmed and Man O'War.... My favorites of the past few years have been Big Brown - shame on his trainer - and Barbaro (what a heartbreak). I love Rachael Alexandra and Zenyatta and I will never, ever forget Eight Belles. These horses and fillies run / ran for the love of running and winning.
Others, well, not so much. But we won't go there today. Today we shall celebrate the most beautiful and fastest horses in the world! (And some of the ugliest hats.....) And our hearts will be thrilled with the majesty and power of these amazing and magnificent animals!

Today's post includes pizza made with Daiya vegan cheese as well as cabbage and white beans cooked with Field Roast vegan sausages.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Whole Foods now ca
rries Daiya vegan cheese. The first time I bought it at Whole Foods I had to get it from the deli, but now you can find it in the dairy section along with other vegan cheeses. The deli had the italian blend style, but the dairy section, at least in my local store, carries only the cheddar and mozzarella styles.

As I have already said, this stuff is a bit pricey. The deli charged $8.99 per pound. For the pre-packaged Daiya it was $4.39 for 8 ounces. It is so worth it, in my opinion, though, especially if you are making pizza. It is melty and stringy just like real cheese. And, as far as I can remember, its tastes pretty much like it too. Below is a pizza I made this week using Daiya. It has mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, vegan pepperoni, vegan sausage (which I'll talk more about below), and Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce. I used pre-made organic whole wheat crusts, also available at Whole Foods.

This was seriously good!

This next dish uses Field Roast vegan Italian sausages. Field Roast products have been around for several years. They are made from gluten and vegetables. I first tried them when I used their stuffed roast for our Thanksgiving meal. It was pretty good, but I wasn't inspired to keep purchasing their products. They recently began making vegan sausages, however, and wow, do we love these! I have used their chipotle sausages which are quite spicy but most often I get their vegan Italian sausages, which I used for the pizza above and for the dish coming up next. Field Roast also makes sandwich slices, which are quite good as well.

This dish was a quickly thrown-together meal this week - pretty much a pantry challenge deal.

Cabbage and White Beans with Italian Sausage

2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs caraway seeds (always with cabbage!)
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (I used cannellini beans)
2 field roast Italian sausages, sliced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
lots fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add olive oil and then the onions and cabbage. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5-6 minutes. Add sliced sausage and cook until it browns and vegetables are tender. Add caraway seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt. Add the beans and stir gently to combine. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until heated through.

I served this over oven-roasted potatoes. To prepare these potatoes, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut 2 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes into 1-2 inch cubes. Toss in a bowl with 2-3 tbs olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and black pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast until they are brown and crispy. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the potatoes!