Peas and Compassion

Cruelty-free crunchiness and shameless veg-elation.


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VeganMofo Day 24: Creamy Seitan-Lentil Pasta

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It has been a rainy, cool, blah day here – the sort of weather that leaves you only wanting to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book – for me, that book is currently Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn. This has been such an important, thought-provoking, and yet emotional read for me. Karen Dawn takes an honest look at everything from factory farming to fashion to vivisection, examining the ins and outs of our use and abuse of animals. Thankfully, the book manages a lighter tone and is full of photos, comics, and inspirational quotes that balance out the heavy topics. Although I am sometimes brought to tears by the information, I think it’s a worthwhile and necessary read.

Anyway, on to the food — with the cold and wet weather, I was craving something warm and creamy. I had some leftover seitan in the fridge, so I decided on this soul-soothing dish that combines lentils, seitan, tomatoes, and spinach in a hearty sauce that pairs well with whatever pasta you have on hand (I used brown rice spiral pasta). The dish is topped with a garnish of fresh diced tomatoes and parsley, which adds a colorful splash to an otherwise dreary day.

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This recipe took a little extra time – I could have saved myself some trouble by cooking my lentils in advance, as well as soaking the cashews for the cream earlier in the day. However, I forgot to do any of that – thankfully, I’ve found that coming home and boiling my cashews briefly, followed with a “quick soak” in the boiling liquid, tends to soften them enough that they blend up easily. The lentils cooked simultaneously with the soaking cashews, which allowed me to pull the remainder of the ingredients together and dice the veggies while I waited.

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Though its a bit of work, the end result is a tender, savory pasta – bits of chewy seitan and lentils give the impression of a “meaty” texture, and the tomato-based cream sauce is pure comfort food. This dish was a huge hit with the entire crowd, with several returning to the pot for second servings.

Creamy Seitan-Lentil Pasta

Serves: 6-8. Prep time: 45 minutes.
Accessibility Notes: Requires a standard blender or food processor, managing of multiple hot pots, and minor chopping.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • ~1 cup finely shredded seitan (I chopped up about 1/2 pack of WestSoy Seitan Strips)
  • 12 oz. brown rice spiral pasta
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • Diced fresh tomato, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

1. In a medium pot, combine the lentils and 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender. Remove from heat and set aside. If you haven’t soaked your cashews in advance, this is a good time to do a quick soak – add the cashews to a small pot, with enough water to cover. Bring to a full boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit while the lentils cook.

2. In a separate large pot, heat 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the shredded seitan. Keeping the heat high, stir the seitan frequently to just brown it, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, transferring to another plate, and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the brown rice pasta and cook for 13-14 minutes (or per package directions), until pasta is tender. (When the pasta is finished, be sure to run it under cool water to stop the cooking process.)

3. Back to the large pot! Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of oil. Sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir everything together quickly, about a minute. Next add the thyme, salt, black pepper, and lentils, mixing well. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer, letting everything cook for 4-5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, drain the soaked cashews and add them to a blender or food processor with the vegetable broth. Blend everything together until you have a smooth sauce. This may take anywhere from 1-4 minutes; I have an inexpensive blender and I let it run about 2 minutes, which gives a lovely, smooth sauce.  Pour the blended cashew cream into the tomato mixture and stir until well-incorporated. Also add the cooked seitan to begin heating through.

6. Next chiffonade the spinach – roll it into a loose pile and using your knife, cut everything into long, thin strips. Add the spinach to the tomato mixture and let it cook about 2 minutes, until wilted.

7. Stir in the cooked pasta spirals and mix until everything is well-incorporated. You may want to let this cook 2-3 minutes longer until everything thickens nicely. When ready, scoop into bowls and garnished with the tomatoes and parsley. Enjoy!

 

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VeganMoFo Day 23: Isa’s New England Glam Chowder

400x84_g2Tonight I decided to pay homage to one of the creators of VeganMofo, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, with her recipe for New England Glam Chowder. The recipe is included in her 2013 cookbook Isa Does It, which has been an amazing addition to my collection. Isa has basically ruled and revolutionized vegan cooking with her cookbooks over the past 10 years, especially Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance. She makes hearty dishes that are full of bold, amazing flavors and she’s an expert at veganizing old favorites and comfort foods – which is why I was excited to see a recipe for a “glam” chowder in the soup and stew section of her cookbook.

This dish has a mild sea-flavor due to the addition of crumbled nori, but it’s also full of mushrooms – including pillowy shittake mushrooms, which soak up the sauce and add a delightful chewy texture. In my version, I used a blend of white button, baby bella, and shittake mushrooms. Isa also uses a savory cashew cream to thicken up the soup – I switched up the cornstarch in the cream with an equivalent amount of arrowroot powder, with awesome results – everything still thickened nicely. We were left with a hearty, delicious stew that definitely had rich umami undertones, with the addition of crumbled saltines and fresh parsley taking it over the top.

20140923_194201The full recipe is over at the link above, and Isa even includes a video so you can get an idea of the work involved (note that this was completely doable as a weeknight meal, the biggest pains of prepwork being remembering to soak the cashews and  peeling those potatoes.) But it’s worth it! I would definitely make this again….and again… and again.


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Inside Out Peanut Butter Smores

I keep thinking I should post something healthy. But I seem to have lost all of my willpower. You see, I recently discovered the magical fluffy puffed joy of Dandies Vegan Marshmallows, which are pretty freakin’ awesome. They make me want to prance and dance and frolic around like a unicorn beneath a rainbow, because they take me back not just to my pre-gan days, but to my childhood. These are the perfect marshmallow – soft and airy and melting on the tongue – but without the gelatin present in conventional marshmallows. [Gelatin, of course, is extracted from the collagen in the skin, bones, and connective tissues of various animals (usually cows), which is why I avoid it.]

But let’s put that imagery aside. Instead, back to the marshmallows —

I’m reminded of my first real snowfall, a doozy of a storm that occurred when I was about 8 years old, at some point in the late 1980s. We lived in the south, which meant that we had no idea what real snow looked like or how best to manage in it. This particular storm only brought about 2 feet of snow, but we quickly found ourselves without power and without a stove – a scenario that would extend for 10 days. Our water pump also ran on electricity, so we began living colonial-style, hauling buckets of snow inside to melt by the fireplace in order to boil them for us. Soon we were cooking all our meals over candle flame – (remember those potpourri holders with tealight candles? They work perfectly for holding ceramic bowls of oatmeal or  tomato soup). It was both exciting and boring all at once.

One of the few joys of that cold period was the making of s’mores. It involved skewering marshmallows over an open flame, and using a chocolate bar to remove the marshmallow from its stake (I suppose we were out of graham crackers, and with the roads blocked with snow, we couldn’t run out to get any). This was a magnificent and wonderful mess of melted chocolate and scalded fingers – which was fine, because it was only about 45 degrees in the house and at least scalded fingers were warm fingers.

Now back to the present — tonight is warm, and we have plenty of power and fresh water, as well as graham crackers and peanut butter. But in order to relive that fun period, we’ve made some inside out peanut butter smores.

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These are the essentials.

Although I realize microwaves are the Devil, I find them infinitely more finger-friendly than open flames and so used mine to melt the marshmallows and peanut butter on the crackers. The chocolate was melted down with a bit of coconut oil and almond milk, then poured over the top in a messy pile. (No one ever said “inside out” was pretty.)

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The result is a pretty darn amazing – it’s a gooey, runny, peanut-butter-chocolate-mallow heaven. Yes, I know – it’s not a “real” recipe. I don’t care that’s it not fancy – after all, I have a vegan s’more and you don’t.

Though to be honest, if you came over… I would share.

Inside Out Peanut Butter Smores

Serves: 6. Prep time: 5 minutes.
Accessibility notes: Requires the use of a double boiler or at least a sense of comfort handling a second pot over steaming/boiling water. Other than that, it’s standard s’more making!

Ingredients:

  • 12 graham cracker squares
  • 6 Dandies
  • ~3 tbsp fresh grind peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet non-dairy chips
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp almond milk

Directions:

1. You may use either a double-boiler, if one is handy, or fill a medium pot of water with about 1 1/2″ of water and bring  to a boil. Once the water is rolling nicely, in a second, smaller pot, add the coconut oil, chocolate chips, and almond milk. Place the smaller pot inside the first and let the chips melt, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding.

2. Meanwhile, spread ~1/2 tbsp of peanut butter or less on one side of each of the 12 graham crackers. Add Dandies to six of the coated crackers and affix the remaining 6 crackers on top to make “sandwiches”, using the peanut butter as your glue. Pop these in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate for about 15 seconds, watching carefully – the Dandies and peanut butter will just melt into an ooey, gooey mess. Mash the tops of each “sandwich” down slightly to help everything blend.

3. Once the chocolate is completely melted down and the almond milk well-mixed, pour the topping over each cracker generously. If you want to get fancy, use a pair of tongs and try dipping the sandwiches, or use a knife to spread the topping around – I personally was only considering how fast I could get them into my mouth.

4. Try to restrain yourself from licking up all the extra, but don’t judge yourself harshly if you can’t. Let everything cool for 2-3 minutes and then share with everyone, or better yet, hide them all in a bowl and curl up quietly in a corner, trying not to smack your lips as you lick your fingers clean.


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A Little of My Vegan Story

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This post isn’t exactly about food – except that it is a small bit of my story and how I came to adopt a vegan lifestyle, the bumps along the way, and why I’m here now.


I can’t exactly remember the first time I went vegetarian — I remember many nights as an 8 year old, poking at meat loaf or scooting chicken around my plate in an attempt not to eat it, despite my father’s admonishments to clean my plate. I was definitely an animal-lover – we were also caretakers to a dog, two birds, 15 fish, several hamsters, various turtles, and at one point (post Hurricane Fran), a pair of baby squirrels. I know that at various points in middle and high school, I made the declaration that I wanted to go vegetarian. My parents, being the good people they are, did not make fun of me or attempt to force me to continue to eat meat, but rather concerned themselves with making sure that I was eating well (even buying vegetarian cookbooks and attempting new meals!). But though my parents were accepting, many of my peers were not – just try ordering a Big Mac with no beef in front of other 13 year olds (yeah, I cringe now, too). I found the social aspects of being vegetarian harder to navigate, and at some point, I went back to eating meat. This pattern resurfaced again, in high school, and again, in college.

During college (back in the later days of the 20th century), I was lucky enough to intern with an environmental nonprofit with a mentor who was also vegan, and I lived in a town with a wealth of glorious vegan options at restaurants, with a health food co-op only a bus ride away. It was infinitely easier to eat vegetarian and/or vegan here, with a few  exceptions – I didn’t have the support of my then-husband, and I was a terrible cook (in hindsight, those two things might have been linked). I also suffered from depression, which seemed to zap away at my energy for preparing meals (when I wasn’t trying to eat my way to happiness through mass consumption of soda and chocolate) – in hindsight, those two things might have *also* been linked.

Veganism was, for my then-husband, a scary unknown, a couldn’t-be-nutritious fad, and one of my Wild Liberal Tendencies (see also: pursuing an environmental science degree; dyeing and chopping my hair repeatedly; various body piercings; visiting Buddhist temples; attending various antiwar, feminist, and LGBTQ events; reading books on homebirthing and midwifery; etc. – all a part of the path I have walked to become the person I am.) To give him some credit, the meals I experimented with back then often appeared as a foul-tasting witches’ brew, and those early attempts at vegan cheese were pretty scary. But he objected  fiercely when it came to raising our children vegan, and had no desire to eat vegan himself. When we moved out of our delightful college town and back into a rural setting, things only deteriorated more – the local stores didn’t carry vegan butter or even tofu, and soy milk that didn’t come lumpy from cans was hard to find. I didn’t have Donna Klein’s Supermarket Vegan or Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap back then, either, and we were frequently strapped for money so buying “fun” ingredients wasn’t really possible. Veganism, hence, became a rather lonely existence for me – as well as one more ugly fight in a marriage that was already brimming with issues. So once again, I gave up and returned to old habits.

Fast forward 10 years later – well past the birth of children, bouts of therapy, a divorce, a lot of bitterness, several moves, a promotion or two, a desire to get back to myself, dips into vegetarianism and back again, a new relationship, and a new marriage – when I was approached by a co-worker who wanted to adopt a vegan diet after reading Eat to Live and The China Study. At some point I’d made mention of my vegan past, and she wanted me to share my knowledge. Although I told her I was probably not the right person for the job, it turned out to be a very good thing – in order to better help her, I began re-reading vegan resources and devouring books on vegan nutrition, as well as animal advocacy. We frequently had lunch together, and I found myself once again dropping the animal products from my diet. Although at first I was focused on the health benefits, it wasn’t long before I decided I wanted to rededicate myself to a vegan lifestyle with the goal of practicing what I called “radical compassion”. I realized at that time that I wanted to live (and not just talk about) a life in which I acted according to the principles of compassion and non-violence – not just in the bounds of my family or my friends, but towards the strangers I met day-to-day, towards individuals I did not know halfway around the world, and of course, to the millions upon millions of animals with which we share a planet. This meant that I wanted to live in a way such that I opened up my heart to love, to kindness, and to empathy. This meant that I wanted to make every day a practice to not inflict pain on others, to the extent that I am able. It fell into place – complimenting my involvement in environmental and human rights campaigns over the years and my optimistic attempts to be the change that Ghandi encouraged. I remember riding along in my car one day on my daily commute, listening to a Food for Thought podcast, and it was as if my heart cracked open as I realized that this was part of who I wanted to be – or rather, this was part of who I had spent my life trying to be.

I admit that I had some reservations – there was still the scariness of navigating social situations (a fear that still arises from time to time). There was the concern that my wonderful new husband or my children would completely freak out or object. There was the concern that other family members or friends or coworkers would just find me flat-out crazy. There was the fear that as in the past, I’d find it too difficult to keep up. Thankfully, I learned that I had the support of my husband, that my family members, friends, and coworkers already thought me eccentric and crazy, and that it is easier to be vegan now that it was 10-15 years ago (also, I am a much better cook). And of course, I’ve learned that it’s not just about myself, and what I’m eating today – it’s about trying to walk a little more gently on this earth.

I tell you all of this because I want you to know I don’t have a perfect vegan story. I don’t see myself as any brighter or more evolved than anyone out there reading this. I’ve bumbled and stumbled and fallen along the way. I don’t proclaim that veganism is perfection, and I’m not seeking perfection or purity. That said, as my journey has continued, I have become more aware of the cruelty inherent in our food system (having visited both pig and turkey factory farms), of the unsustainable practices that are wreaking habit on our environmental resources (having researched the air, water, and greenhouse gas pollutants from such operations), and of course, the presence and power that is in each of us when we make our everyday decisions to purchase or consume items that may have contributed to suffering (hint: it’s more than you think).

It is not my desire to browbeat people into following in my footsteps, or to tell people what to eat, or how to act. But it is my desire to share with people the peace and joy I have found in living a life practicing compassion towards all living beings, and in following a lifestyle that is kinder to the earth. It is my desire to be here as a friend or a support for people who are interested in veganism (because if I’ve learned anything on this journey, it’s that a good support system is vital). And it is my desire to pass along how easy it is to make even small changes that can reduce suffering (to both the animals and to the humans who work in farms & slaughterhouses), improve one’s health, and help the environment for future generations. That sounds like a lot, but it boils down to three very simple words that have shaped so much of my activism over the years: Do No Harm.

And that is why I am here.


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VeganMoFo Day 20: @GlobalVegan’s Black Bean Chili and Cilantro Pesto

If you’re ever looking for a good starter vegan cookbook that has over 400 recipes from around the word, pick up a copy of Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet. As I noted in a previous post, there’s a new up-to-date version out if you’re looking to one-up me in the vegan cookbook collection department, and there are even a few sample recipes posted here. I reference it again tonight because we decided to dig in to one of my favorite recipes, Black Bean Chili with Cilantro Pesto. This recipe stews together onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, and chili powder with black beans and lemon juice (which always gives a black bean soup/stew “zing”), then combines a rich pesto of cilantro, almonds, garlic, salt, and olive oil. I know some of you are pulling a face because you don’t like cilantro – to those of you I say phhhfttt, more for me!

100_4226 The pesto is absolutely what makes this chili – I left a little out for garnish, but I could probably eat it with a spoon. Once mixed in with the olive oil and almonds, the cilantro takes on a much milder personality, which well compliments the smooth black bean and pungent chili/cumin flavors. Seriously, this is good eats – excellent over brown rice, with a little jalopeno hot sauce, or sprinkled with vegan cheddar.


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VeganMoFo Day 19: Cashew Alfredo & Noodle Medley

400x84_g2Tonight’s dinner features a cashew-based creamy alfredo sauce paired with a mix of zucchini and whole wheat noodles and lightly cooked veggies. As a bonus, it’s easy enough to pull together in about 20 minutes.

100_4196I had the idea to pull together a cashew alfredo after stumbling across an alfredo recipe in Mistress Ginger Cooks and this awesome post from Sprouts and Chocolate with 10 different cashew cream recipes. Personally, cashew cream completely changed my vegan life and made everything 1000% more awesome. Here it becomes a lovely garlicky sauce that can practically be eaten off the spoon. (But if you save it for your pasta, your family will thank you.)

Cashew Alfredo & Noodle Medley

Serves: 6 Prep time: ~20 minutes.
Accessibility notes: Requires chopping; you will need a spiralizer and/or good julienne tool, as well as a blender or food processor. You’ll need to manage at least two pots and be able to lift a large pot of boiling water to drain.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. whole wheat fettucine noodles
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into half moons
  • 1/4 cup whole cashews
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter
  • 3-4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder (may sub cornstarch)

Directions:

1. First, place the cashews in a small bowl with enough hot water to cover. Let soak about 15 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, use a spiralizer or julienne tool to cut the zucchini into wide noodles, and set aside. Now is a good time to chop the broccoli and carrots; set these aside when complete.

3. Once the water is boiling, add the whole wheat noodles and set a timer for ~9 minutes. About three minutes before the end of the cooking time, throw in the zucchini noodles, broccoli, and carrots.

4. As the noodles cook, drain the cashews of water, then blend them with the soymilk, dijon, salt, and pepper. This may take a few minutes to get the sauce completely smooth.

5. Meanwhile, melt the 2 tbsp of Earth Balance in a small pot over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the cashew mixture from the blender, stirring well. Whisk in the arrowroot powder with a fork, letting the mixture thicken for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

6. When noodles are al dente and veggies are just tender, drain everything and return the noodles to the pan. Pour the thickened cashew alfredo sauce over everything, stirring well to coat.

7. Enjoy!


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VeganMofo Easy Supper: Meatless Meatball Subs

400x84_g2Holy crap, it is Day 18 of VeganMofo!

Tonight supper followed a long, hard run, so I was in a hurry to throw together something quickly that would satisfy my post-run famishment.

So I threw together some Meatless Meatballs (Whole Foods’ 365 Brand):

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The fact that they are actually sold as “Meatless Meatballs” makes me giggle every time.

Heated those up in some marinara:

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First time using this, but it was quite good!

Mixed up my favorite el cheapo cheezee sauce in a separate pot:

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Chee(z)e! From my kitchen cupboard!

And stuffed it all into some wheat rolls before baking in the oven for a few minutes:

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Just a few….

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This is my Get-in-Mah-Belly Food.