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New Website, www.ecoveggiemama.com

January 14, 2012

Hi, everyone! I just wanted to let you all know that I have started a brand new website, www.ecoveggiemama.com. Here is what you will find on the site:

*I will be writing about my vegan pregnancy and raising a vegan child.

*I will be adding lots of new and delicious recipes; particularly raw recipes.

* I will be sharing my own recipes for natural, homemade personal and home care products.

*”Links & Resources” for all things veg.

*”In the News” for the latest updates.

*And more!

This website will be updated on a very regular basis, so make sure to check back often! 🙂

The Raw Path

August 15, 2011

Mini Eggplant Pizzas with Cashew Cheese

About a month ago, I decided to take the plunge and switch to a raw food diet. I must say I feel absolutely incredible since making this transition! Sometimes, people hear the word raw and automatically assume that it’s extreme, or means lack of variety and spending all day in the kitchen. I’ve actually found the exact opposite to be true. I’ve noticed that the variety in my diet has increased substantially and I often spend less time on my raw meals than I did when preparing cooked food.

I have heard others say that when eating raw foods, you eat with your eyes first, and I couldn’t agree more.  The meals I have been experimenting with are absolutely delicious, colorful, artistic, and yet most are quite simple to make. I’ve never eaten better or felt better in my life and I am so grateful that my husband has been willing to make this transition right along with me.

I haven’t posted any recipes on this blog for quite some time, so I’d like to thank Salette for adding some of her delicious creations! Many of my posts and recipes are now on Facebook, so if you are interested in learning more about raw, you can friend request me personally to see the latest recipes and follow my journey on the raw path. You can also follow the Connect 2 Compassion page for the latest veg recipes and animal welfare news.

Lentil Minestrone

July 26, 2011
lentil minestrone

Lentil Minestrone

Minestrone is traditional Italian vegetable soup, often featuring a legume and a grain. This one features lentils, macaroni, and zucchini squash.

Lentil Minestrone

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 large carrots, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
28 ounces chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups cooked lentils
2 cups whole wheat macaroni
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried parsley

1. Spray a large, non-stick pot lightly with olive oil.

2. Sauté onion over medium heat until translucent.

3. Add garlic, celery, carrots, pepper, and zucchini, and sauté until slightly browned.

4. Add lentils, tomatoes, broth, and water.

5. Add macaroni, stir, and cook for 8 minutes until tender.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (16.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 218.2
Calories From Fat (9%) 18.84
% Daily Value
Total Fat 2.19g (3%)
Saturated Fat 0.36g (2%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 332.48mg (14%)
Potassium 969.66mg (28%)
Total Carbohydrates 42.81g (14%)
Fiber 9.86g (39%)
Sugar 7.63g
Net Carbohydrates 32.95g
Protein 10.97g (22%)
Vitamin A 4411.86IU (88%)
Vitamin C 46.3mg (77%)
Iron 3.55mg (20%)
Thiamin 0.35mg (23%)
Vitamin B6 0.56mg (28%)
Folate 164.83mcg (41%)
Phosphorus 236.03mg (24%)
Magnesium 89.81mg (22%)
Manganese 1.44mg (72%)

Lentil Almond Cutlets

July 25, 2011
Lentil Almond Cutlet

Lentil Almond Cutlet

This is my “company” or Sunday dinner version of lentils. Wouldn’t it be nice if every sit-down restaurant served something like this? Even if vegans are only 1% of the population, most of us have dates, spouses, friends, and family, so restaurants who serve vegan options can increase their sales by at least a couple of percentage points. And in this economy, that can mean the difference between survival and failure. Here, I served my lentil almond cutlet over couscous with salad. Simple, elegant, delicious, and healthy. Try it with a marinara sauce or Creamy Gravy.

Lentil Almond Cutlets

1/2 cup almonds
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
4 teaspoons flaxseed meal
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, grated
8 ounces mushrooms
2 cups cooked lentils
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender; add to a large bowl.

2. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix.

3. Grate the carrots and the mushrooms (or pulse in the food processor or blender) and add to the bowl.

4. Add the lentils and the ketchup.

5. Mix and mash together well.

6. Form into 8 cutlets.

7. Spray a little olive oil on a non-stick griddle and place cutlets on it.

8. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until browned on each side.

Servings: 8

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (5.3 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 229.6
Calories From Fat (29%) 67.47
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.07g (12%)
Saturated Fat 0.74g (4%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 472.19mg *20%)
Total Carbohydrates 31.03g (10%)
Fiber 10.51g (42%)
Sugar 4.04g
Net Carbohydrates 20.52g
Protein 12.29g (25%)
Vitamin A 1196.16IU (24%)
Iron 3.78mg (21%+
Vitamin E 2.69mg (27%_
Thiamin 1.43mg (95%)
Niacin 10.25mg (51%)
Vitamin B6 1.51mg (76%)
Folate 163.35mcg (41%)
Vitamin B12 1.01mcg (17%)
Phosphorus 279.94mg (28%)
Magnesium 101.55mg (25%)
Copper 0.49mg (25%)
Manganese 1.4mg (70%)
Selenium 18.23mcg (26%)

Rotini and Lentil Balls with Salad

July 24, 2011
Rotini and Lentil Balls with Salad

Rotini and Lentil Balls with Salad

A delicious, healthy take on an old favorite with the power of lentils. I included the nutrition data for the entire meal, to show how healthy and complete a vegan meal can be.

The gluten in the lentil balls gives the best texture for me on the stovetop. If you are sensitive to gluten, you can substitute oatmeal–pulse it in the blender first–or oat flour; cooked rice–again, pulse it in the blender–or rice flour, or cooked quinoa or amaranth–those last two are both very “sticky.”  You can also broil the lentil balls for about 12-15 minutes or bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Broiling or baking will likely give you a firmer texture without the gluten. (It is just too hot here in Arizona for me to use the oven!) Refrigerating the mixture for a few hours or overnight before cooking also helps.

Lentil Balls

1/2 cup almonds
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
4 teaspoons flaxseed meal
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, grated
8 ounces mushrooms
2 cups cooked lentils
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender; add to a large bowl.

2. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix.

3. Grate the carrots and the mushrooms (or pulse in the food processor or blender) and add to the bowl.

4. Add the lentils and the ketchup.

5. Mix and mash together well.

6. Form into 48 balls.

7. Spray a little olive oil on a non-stick griddle and place 12 balls on it at a time.

8. Cook, turning frequently, until browned on all sides.

9. Continue cooking remaining mixture, or refrigerate until later.

Servings: 8

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (5.4 ounces).

Whole Wheat Pasta

10 oz pasta, whole wheat

1. Choose pasta shape you prefer: penne, bow ties, elbows, spaghetti, angel hair or linguini, etc.

2. Bring water to a boil over high heat, using at least twice as much water as the amount of pasta. Do not add any salt to water.

3. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Drain pasta, and add to recipe or serve (do not rinse).

Servings: 10

Pasta Topping

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp salt

1. Blend ingredients until completely ground and use as you would parmesan cheese.

Servings: 20

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Serving size: 1/20 of a recipe (0.3 ounces).
Garden Salad

12 cups mixed salad greens
24 cherry tomatoes
12 tablespoons fat-free vinaigrette

Servings: 6

Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (7.6 ounces).

Nutrition for one serving of entire meal
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from menu items.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 511.77
Calories From Fat (26%) 132.19
% Daily Value
Total Fat 15.61g (24%)
Saturated Fat 1.73g (9%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 1415.63mg (59%)
Potassium 1486.27mg (42%)
Total Carbohydrates 66.85g (22%)
Fiber 13.06g (52%)
Sugar 16.62g
Net Carbohydrates 53.79g
Protein 33.03g (66%)
Vitamin A 2622.88IU (52%)
Vitamin C 57.78mg (96%)
Calcium 203.89mg (20%)
Iron 7.71mg (43%)
Vitamin E 4.9mg (49%)
Thiamin 3.54mg (236%)
Riboflavin 0.39mg (23%)
Niacin 27.17mg (136%)
Vitamin B6 3.72mg (186%)
Folate 316.03mcg (79%)
Vitamin B12 2.7mcg (45%)
Phosphorus 480.79mg (48%)
Magnesium 171.93mg (43%)
Zinc 4.59mg (31%)
Copper 1.05mg (53%)
Manganese 2.1mg (105%)
Selenium 41.51mcg (59%)

Palak Dal with Grilled Naan

July 22, 2011
palak dal with naan

Palak Dal with Naan

Most dals use yellow, orange, red, or pink lentils; that is, those without skins. They come out mushier, almost like pea soup. I used green lentils, with the skins. They have almost three times the fiber as the skinless variety, so this dish has more body than a traditional dal. Palak Dal, by the way, means Spinach Lentils. I serve it with whole-wheat naan bread from Trader Joe’s. Cheater’s alert: only after I had completely fallen in love with TJ’s naan, and was going to enter it in my ingredients database, did I discover that it contains eggs. So I am including a recipe for whole-wheat naan, and I promise that I will actually make it next time!

Palak Dal

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
5 oz baby spinach, rinsed
5 grape tomatoes, quartered
2 cups cooked lentils
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground mustard seed
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup soy milk

1. Spray a non-stick pan with a small amount of olive oil.

2. Sauté onions in oil with garlic, stirring often.

3. Add peppers.

4. Cook until onions are transparent, and then top with spinach, lentils, and seasonings.

5. Cover and cook on low until spinach is just wilted.

6. Stir in soy milk and cook until heated through.

Servings: 4

Grilled Naan

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups whole-wheat flour
3 Tablespoons soy milk
1 cup soy yogurt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3 Tablespoons melted margarine
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/4 cup water

1. Combine dry ingredients (less 1/2 cup flour) in large bowl, set aside.

2. Combine soy milk, yogurt, and margarine.

3. Heat in microwave until warm (45-60 seconds).

4. Beat flax seed with water until foamy.

5. Add yeast and Egg Replacer, mix.

6. Add to dry ingredients.

7. Mix.

8. Add additional flour if needed to form soft dough.

9. Knead 15 minutes until dough is elastic.

10. If dough is sticky, add more flour.

11. Place in greased bowl and cover with damp tea towel or lid.

12. Allow to double in size, about 1-3 hours.

13. Preheat George Foreman grill. (Can also be cooked in a skillet if need be, but the grill works great!)

14. Divide dough into 8 sections and roll into balls.

15. Flatten either by hand (for a more rustic look) or with a rolling pin. (How thin you roll them depends on how chewy/crispy you like them.)

16. Cook on grill until lightly browned.

Servings: 8

Nutrition
Serving size: 1 serving of Palak Dal and 1 serving of Grilled Naan.
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from menu items.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 455.06
Calories From Fat (15%) 70.12
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.96g (12%)
Saturated Fat 1.36g (7%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 799.08mg (33%)
Potassium 992.44mg (28%)
Total Carbohydrates 80g (27%)
Fiber 18.51g (74%)
Sugar 5.58g
Net Carbohydrates 61.49g
Protein 21.83g (44%)
Vitamin A 4076.56IU (82%)
Vitamin C 47.15mg (79%)
Calcium 227.54mg (23%)
Iron 8.27mg (46%)
Vitamin E 2.04mg (20%)
Thiamin 0.54mg (36%)
Niacin 5.79mg (29%)
Vitamin B6 0.62mg (31%)
Folate 295.53mcg (74%)
Phosphorus 477.64mg (48%)
Magnesium 176.24mg (44%)
Zinc 3.58mg (24%)
Copper 0.61mg (31%)
Manganese 3.29mg (165%)
Selenium 51.41mcg (73%)

Lentils

July 22, 2011
Lentils

Yellow, Red, and Green Lentils

Lentils are legumes that grow on bushy annual plants about 16 inches tall. Lentils grow in pods that contain either one or two seeds that are round, oval, or heart-shaped disks that are convex on both sides, like a lens. Lentils originated in central Asia or the Near East, and have been part of the human diet for up to 13,000 years. Along with wheat and barley, they are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Lentils have long been eaten with barley and wheat, which originated in the same regions and spread together throughout Africa and Europe.

Lentils are mentioned many times in the Old Testament. The first mention tells the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob in exchange for stewed lentils (a “mess of pottage”). They’re also mentioned as a part of a bread that was made during the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people. In Jewish tradition, lentils are considered as food for mourners, because their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.

Lentils were a staple in the diet of ancient Iranians, who ate them daily in a stew poured over rice. In Shia Islam, lentils are believed to have been blessed by seventy prophets, including Jesus and Mohammed.

Before the 1st century AD, lentils were introduced into India, a country whose traditional cuisine revolves around the lentil dish known as dal.

Italians traditionally eat lentils on New Year’s Eve to bring money in the next year, most likely because of their round coin-like shape. In many Catholic countries, lentils are a staple food during Lent.

Lentils are sold in many forms, with or without the skins, whole or split into halves. While the most common types in the United States are green and brown, both whole with skins, lentils are also available in black, yellow, orange, red, and pink colors. Yellow, red, and orange lentils are usually without skins, and sometimes split. The different types offer varying consistencies, with the whole brown and green lentils retaining their shape better after cooking, while the yellow, orange, red, and pink generally become soft and mushy. While the flavor differs slightly among the varieties, they generally feature a hearty, dense, earthy, and somewhat nutty flavor.

Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that snares bile (which contains cholesterol)and carries it out of the body. Insoluble fiber not only helps to prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Yellow, orange, red, and pink lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green or brown lentils (11% rather than 31%).

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive and cardiovascular systems, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels by preventing blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, lentils can help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Researchers compared two groups of people with type 2 diabetes who ate different amounts of high fiber foods. People who consume 50 grams of fiber per day versus the standard 24 grams of fiber per day have lower levels of both blood sugar and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). A high-fiber diet also reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and Very Low Density Lipoprotein–the most dangerous form of cholesterol.

In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, lentils can increase energy by replenishing iron stores. Lentils have about twice as much iron as other legumes. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Children, adolescents, and menstruating, pregnant, and lactating women have increased needs for iron, and lentils are a low-fat way to get it.

Lentils also contribute to heart health through their significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages artery walls and is considered a serious risk factor for heart disease. Folate, along with vitamin B6, convert homocysteine into cysteine or methionine, both of which are harmless. Folate is especially important for women of childbearing age because it reduces the risk of birth defects.

Lentils also provide magnesium, which is a calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries relax, which lessens resistance, lowers blood pressure, and improves the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. A deficiency of magnesium is associated with heart attack, and immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart.

With approximately 26% of their calories from protein, lentils, like other legumes, have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp. Lentils are one of the cheapest protein sources available, and are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and India. Proteins in lentils include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine. Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids, including methionine and cysteine.

In addition to their fiber, magnesium, iron, folate, and protein, lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum; they are a very good source of manganese and a good source of phosphorus, copper, thiamin and potassium—all with virtually no fat. All this nutrition is just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils.

Lentils also have “anti-nutritients” such as tannins, trypsin inhibitors, phytates. Tannins are astringent, bitter plant compounds that bind to and block the digestion of proteins and other compounds. The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in your mouth when you eat unripened fruit or drink red wine. Tannins play a role in protecting plants from predation. They also have been shown to give substantial protection against cancer (including cancer of the stomach and lungs) when eaten. Some tannins also inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Phytic acid (or phytate when in salt form) is a phosphorous compound in plant tissues, especially bran and seeds. Like tannins, phytic acid protects the seed until the proper conditions are met for it to sprout and grow. Humans can’t digest phytate; worse, it bonds with certain minerals and prevents them from being absorbed. On the plus side, small amounts of phytates in food slow down the absorption of sugars and regulate insulin levels.

Trypsin is an enzyme involved in the digestion of protein, so trypsin inhibitors prevent the digestion of certain proteins.

Phytates and trypsin inhibitors can be reduced by soaking the lentils in warm water overnight. Traditionally, people have soaked and sprouted seeds, nuts, legumes and grains in order to get the optimal nutritional benefits. Once soaked, the phytic acid is deactivated and released into the water and the enzymes and minerals in the food are more readily available for absorption into our bodies.

Lentils also contain purines, which can be broken down to form uric acid. Excess accumulation of uric acid can lead to gout in some people. Animal-based proteins are much more likely to cause gout, due to their higher levels of purines and their tendency to cause acidosis in the body. Purines from plant foods don’t seem to have that effect. Because dietary fiber speeds food through the digestive tract and may bind uric acid in the gut for excretion, the fiber in lentils and other vegetables may explain the lower the risk of gout from vegetable proteins versus animal proteins.

Lentils are relatively tolerant to drought and are grown throughout the world, primarily in Canada, India, Turkey, and the United States.

Lentils are available prepackaged and in bulk bins. I buy organic lentils in bulk at Whole Foods or Sunflower Market for about $1.99 per pound. As with any other food in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the lentils are covered, and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure maximum freshness. Whether in bulk or prepackaged, make sure that the lentils are whole, and there is no evidence of damage from moisture or insects. Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Stored this way, they will keep for up to 12 months. Don’t mix lentils that you purchase at different times, as they may have varying degrees of dryness and require different cooking times.

Canned lentils can be found in some grocery stores; however, avoid cans that are lined in white, because these contain bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor.

Before soaking dried lentils, spread them out on a plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones or debris. Next, place the lentils in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water. Place them in a bowl. Add clean filtered water double or triple the quantity. Cover with a lid or plate, and soak overnight. When you want to use them, drain them and rinse well.

Germinated Lentils

Here are my lentils after soaking overnight. See the tiny beginings of the sprout?

Dried lentils can also be sprouted by leaving in water for several days, draining and rinsing every 4-8 hours. Sprouting improves their amino acid profile.

To cook lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of soaked lentils. Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover. Green and brown lentils usually take about 30 minutes, while red ones require 20 minutes.

These cooking times can be slightly adjusted depending upon the final use. If you are going to be serving lentils in a salad or soup and desire a firmer texture, remove them from the stove top when they have achieved this consistency–typically 5-10 minutes earlier than their usual cooking time. If you are making dal or some preparation that requires a mushier consistency, achieving this texture may take an additional 10-15 minutes.
Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

Lentils are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in the Middle East as mujaddara or mejadra. Rice and lentils are also cooked together in khichdi, a popular dish in India. A similar dish, kushari, is made in Egypt and considered one of two national dishes. Lentils are used to prepare inexpensive and nutritious soup all over Europe and North and South America. Lentils are commonly cooked in Ethiopia in a stew-like dish called kik, or kik wot, one of the dishes people eat with Ethiopia’s national food, injera flat bread. Yellow lentils are used to make a bland stew, which is one of the first solid foods Ethiopian women feed their babies.

Enjoy these nutritional powerhouses!

Recipes that use lentils include:

Lentil Almond Cutlets

Lentil Minestrone

Palak Dal

Rotini with Lentil Balls