The Blender Girl’s Cauliflower Soup

This vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free cauliflower soup from Tess Masters’ cookbook The Blender Girl (Ten Speed Press) gets its luscious, creamy texture from soaked nuts. Masters is a big fan of soaking nuts, seeds, dried fruits and grains to improve the texture (for nuts, seeds and dried fruit) and reduce cooking time (for grains). Soaking the nuts is also easier on your blender and ensures they break down to a creamy consistency. Masters uses a high-powered Vitamix blender, which pulverizes the soup to a silky-smooth consistency. If you’re using a less high-powered blender or food processor and want a perfectly smooth texture, strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve after blending. You can also take a cue from Masters and stir a protein-rich cooked grain, such as quinoa or millet, into the finished soup to give it extra nutritional punch. However you garnish it, this cauliflower soup is even tastier the next day. (Want your own copy of The Blender Girl? We’re giving away one copy to one lucky reader. Click here to enter.)


Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut Chips

I’ve been wanting to do a kale salad for a long time, and this is the one I wanted to make. Rubbing breaks down the cells and softens the kale, yet leaves all of its meaty taste.


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon tamari sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey, liquified
2 tablespoons minced scallions
4 packed cups Tuscan kale (also called dinosaur or black kale), zipped, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup julienned radicchio
1 cup cilantro leaves
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup toasted, unsweetened coconut chips

Shake together the oil, lime juice, tamari sauce, cider vinegar, honey and scallions in a tight-sealing jar.

Place the kale in a large bowl and rub a handful at a time between your palms as if you were warming your hands together. You’ll feel the kale “soften” after 15 seconds or so. Then grab another bunch and do the same thing until you’ve rubbed all of the kale.

Toss the kale, radicchio, cilantro a generous pinch of salt and pepper together in the bowl and pour dressing over top. Toss well to thoroughly coat and top with avocado and coconut chips.

Serves 2


Carrots with Coconut, Lime and Cashews

Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy came in the mail yesterday and I had about 40 recipes tagged within the first 40 minutes. This dish featuring carrots was one of them. I’ve been on the lookout for seasonal vegetable recipes that take a different direction than I might, while keeping everything short and simple for busy nights. This one from Deborah Madison hit that spot perfectly. I’ve embellished a bit to make it into vegan main dish, but you could pull back to the basic carrots, coconut oil and lime and serve it as a side dish. Either way, I cannot recommend  heartily enough.


The USDA’s Twisted Message

While researching an article about veganism for this month’s issue of Natural Health magazine, I interviewed Neal Barnard, M.D. When it comes to vegan matters, all roads eventually lead to Barnard, who’s the founder of the vegan advocacy group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

I confessed that, no, I’m not a vegan.

“What’s holding you back?” he asked.

My deep love of cheese. I couldn’t–still can’t–imagine a life without Parmigiano-Reggiano, cheddar, goat, Manchego…

“You know, cheese really is addicting,” he countered. “At 70% fat, it’s the nutritional equivalent of Vaseline, and I really think it’s the reason for so many tubby kids these days.”

He also observed that Americans eat an insane amount of cheese–about 30 pounds per per year, per person. “Americans eclipsed the French in cheese consumption some years ago,” Barnard added.

The USDA–the same government agency responsible (jointly with the Department of Health and Human Service) for developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans–is working with fast-food companies to develop new ways to encourage Americans to eat more cheese, which we all know is contributing to our collective obesity epidemic.

When Barnard says cheese is addictive, he’s not exaggerating. He devotes a chapter to cheese in his book, Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings (St. Martins), explaining how cheese contains concentrated levels of morphine-like opiates that occur naturally in cow’s milk (similar opiates are found in human breast milk, too–they help calm an infant). He also discusses USDA-funded programs to boost cheese consumption, and an article in The New York Times this weekend–“While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales”–details how this government/industry relationship works.

That’s right, the same government agency responsible (jointly with the Department of Health and Human Service) for developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is working with fast-food companies to develop new ways to encourage Americans to eat more cheese, which we all know is contributing to our collective obesity epidemic. On the one hand the USDA shakes its finger at us for being too fat, while on the other it works with Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Subway and other fast-food chains to develop tempting new menu items featuring cheese.

Where’s the moderation in Pizza Hut’s Ultimate Cheese Pizza, which features a pound of cheese per pie and was promoted with funds from the USDA’s Dairy Management marketing entity?

The USDA wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, it maintains that, eaten in moderation, cheese has a place in a healthy diet. We agree with that. A sprinkling of feta on your salad is moderation. But where’s the moderation in, say, Pizza Hut’s Ultimate Cheese Pizza, which features a pound of cheese per pie and was promoted with funds from the USDA’s Dairy Management marketing entity?

We reported recently about the upcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, which the USDA and HHS are finalizing now. Those guidelines are important, since they influence key programs like standards for school lunches. As the Advisory Committee’s report notes, the amount of saturated fat Americans eat is a key concern, and cheese is the top contributor of saturated fat in the American diet. We’ll be curious to see how prominently cheese is featured in the final version of the the guidelines.

Vegan Tempeh Fajitas

Tempeh is a firm, chewy cake made from fermented soybeans, and its dense texture makes it a hearty yet cholesterol-free and very low-fat stand-in for meat. It’s a staple of vegan cuisine. You can crumble into chili, or slice it and throw it on the grill. Here, we use it as a substitute for beef in fajitas. Tempeh does well marinated (it really soaks up the flavors). For this weeknight-friendly recipe, combine the tempeh with the marinade in the morning, pop it in the fridge, and then finish the recipe in the evening. We use plain old soy tempeh, but you can use other varieties, such as flax or three-grain. Serve with salsa (either End-of-Summer Pico de Gallo or Fiery-Sweet Peach Salsa) and a dollop of Guatemalan Guacamole.


“Taste of the East”

Win a free copy of The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East (DaCapo Press)!

Always looking for exciting Meatless Monday inspiration? Curious about vegan cuisine? This week’s giveaway is for you.

Much of Asian cuisine is inherently vegan (or really easy to adapt for vegan dishes), and that’s only part of the reason why we love this cookbook by Mark Renfield and Jennifer Murray. It’s packed with 150 mouthwatering recipes, divided by country (India, Thailand, China and Japan). Plus, there’s a really cool “Fusion” section that spotlights flavors from other parts of Asia with recipes like Uzbekistani Chickpea Salad and Tibetan Dumplings. They even have directions to make key condiments, like Fish-Free Sauce.

Renfield is the founding chef of the vegan Blossoming Lotus Restaurant (originally in Hawaii, now in Portland, Oregon); Murray is an expert in vegan and raw cuisine. Many of the book’s recipes are inspired by their world travels.

We’re giving away one free copy of The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East to a lucky NOURISH Evolution member.

But, friends, you have to play to win all this bold flavor.

So here’s the deal. Normally, we’ll have a link here where you can go to the Weekly Giveaway group forum and sign up to win. But we’re having a bit of a glitch setting up new forums at the moment, so just leave a comment here to be entered to win (important: be sure you’re signed in to NOURISH Evolution so we can find you … or sign up, if you haven’t alreadyonly NOURISH Evolution members are eligible to win).

Lia will announce the winner in next Friday’s Friday Digest!

Good luck!

Fancy Food Show Roundup Part I

Last weekend, the NOURISH Evolution crew scoured the aisles of the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for companies that really embodied our values of enjoying food that’s healthy for our bodies and the earth. Here, the first in my three part series (I’ve got a lot to say and didn’t want to overwhelm you) on our 18 favorites:

Village Harvest Frozen Fully-Cooked Grains – You may not think of brown rice as cutting edge; but these are—and the quinoa too. In this truly unique product line, Village Harvest cooks various grains to perfection (honestly, Alison and I were both marveling how their quinoa was cooked better than ours at home), and then freezes them instantly. Which means all you have to do is heat and eat. I love the idea that I can have brown rice or a medley for dinner even if I don’t have 50 minutes to cook it. And if I need even more of a boost I can reach for their “Un” Fried Brown Rice or Spicy Thai Brown Rice, both of which have surprisingly few ingredients (all of which are readable), low amounts of sodium, and a clean, simple taste. Because these grains are flash-frozen and kept frozen, there’s no need for chemical preservatives—and you can truly taste the difference. Seek them out in your grocer’s freezer case.

Ayala’s Herbal Water – I’m not a soda person, so I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the influx of naturally flavored waters coming onto the market. But some of them taste like your Britta does when you come home from a two week vacation. Not this one. With a crystal fresh taste and flavors like Cloves Cardamom Cinnamon (just a hint of spice in the aftertaste) and Lemon Verbena Geranium (my favorite . . . gorgeously perfumed), these are just what I’ve always wanted in a water.

KIND Bars – I’ve been a fan of KIND bars for a while now. Where other bars are a lot of filler, KIND bars are essentially just dried fruit and nuts. They’re super-satisfying, low in sugar, reasonable in calories and packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats. A winner all around.

Dragunara Organic Sweet Chili Sauce – Finding this was kismet. The night before the show a Brussel’s Sprouts with Chile Sauce dish was a standout at dinner. But I was lamenting that all the chile sauces I’ve ever seen are loaded down with thickening agents.  Then the very next day I rounded the corner at the end of an aisle and found Dragunara, made with just five ingredients: water, sugar, chiles, vinegar and salt. Finally, a chile sauce with bright, zippy, natural flavor. I got so excited I think I freaked people out.

Chuao Chocolatier – Alison and I had just hit ‘overload’ when Brooke from Chuao (pronounced choo-WOW) Chocolatier deftly finagled us into a tasting. Which really wasn’t that hard to do once we’d eyed the flavors, like panko, caramelized chocolate nibs and anise. What struck me immediately was that these innovative flavors were paired with high quality dark chocolate, as opposed to the more common milk chocolate. During a grilling on production practices, Brooke taught us that despite being without Organic and Free-trade certification, the people behind Chuao chocolates (Venezuelan-born brothers) are working to ensure sustainable production and social responsibility within the Venezuelan cacao market. And, for those who have no will power with an open chocolate bar, Chuao offers individually-wrapped mini bites of just 100 calories each. I’ll definitely be seeking these guys out.

Field Roast Grain Meat Company — I have to admit; I walked right by these guys the first time. But then Nicki tasted through the line and was so excited by it that she all but ran me back to the table.  And I’m glad she did. Founder David Lee combines ancient Chinese and Japanese vegan preparations with the European tradition of charcuterie to create sausages, meat loafs and pates—all without meat—that are superb. The Celebration Roast, a vegetarian roast stuffed with a puree of butternut squash, apples and mushrooms, and the Italian sausage were my favorites.

Mushroom, White Bean and Sage Soup

If you have mushroom stems stashed away, make this with homemade Mushroom Stock. This gluten-free, vegan soup is hearty enough to make a meal with nothing more than a hunk of good bread.