Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Take the Stress Out of Daily Vegetable and Vegan Cooking

I tell you, I love to talk food, nutrition and health no matter what time of day it is and pretty much wherever I happen to be (which is often somewhere food related). Yesterday I was out walking my dog just before 7 a.m. when I ran into someone that I know, a former cooking class student. She no longer walks because of a bad knee or foot, or something, so she rides her bike. First we discussed the importance of keeping moving and how important exercise is for health. And then the subject turned to eating.

E. told me that she has fallen off the healthy eating wagon and feels as if it takes a lot of time to prep all the vegetables and cook all the brown rice and other things. I told her that when I am home and cook every week night, that we end up with enough food for a week and a half. So I don't actually cook everyday.

In fact, my goal when cooking is to make enough so that it lasts for a number of days (usually 3 or 4) with some to freeze. Right now, I am pressure cooking a pot of brown rice that will easily make 4 to 6 servings, depending upon how hungry I am and if my family wants it.

My husband grew up a "white bread" kind of guy but over the years he has changed his habits some but not completely. Given a choice and without thinking, which is how most people react with food, he will almost always choose the white product over the brown. This doesn't happen much at home because there just aren't always those white options.

But back to the cooking... Literally my timer just beeped to remind me that I was baking sweet potatoes -- 2 pounds of them. You see, I don't just make food for 1 meal since it doesn't make sense. I don't mind eating some of the same foods again in a day or two. I mostly make all the foods that I enjoy eating so whether it's sweet potatoes and brown rice, or quinoa and black beans or blanching vegetables, I almost always make more than I can eat.

And then I just pretend that someone cooked for me when I pull the food out of the refrigerator or defrost it from its hiding place in the freezer. When I shared that with E. I could see the sparkle in her eyes.

"I hope that I inspired you," I said. "Oh, you did," she told me.

And I hope that I can do the same for you. The easiest way to eat more vegetables, whole grains, beans and other whole foods is to make them easy to eat. That means cooking them in advance and enjoying them when you want them.

If you wait until you're hungry and/or tired, it's just too late.

Here's to happy cooking, and a healthy holiday season. Get started cooking now.

I have to go so I can enjoy my first servings of sweet potatoes, brown rice and greens, which I will likely have again, either for Thanksgiving or the following day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Veggie Queen's Favorite Fall Salad For Thanksgiving

I actually have 2 favorite fall salads but this is the most special of them because it uses fresh pomegranate arils (seeds) in it. This salad gets people's attention which I like. No one will say that it's boring. If there are any ingredients that you can't get, substitute, except for the pomegranate seeds which is essential.

Bright Autumn Salad
Serves 4
Most of these ingredients are native to my area of Northern California. If you cannot find them, substitute the most colorful and freshest seasonal fruit. You are aiming for a colorful salad that is sweet, tart, crunchy and bitter. I imagine that the Native Americans living where I do would have served this for their Thanksgiving meal using local, wild bitter greens instead of endive or radicchio.

1 medium head radicchio or 3 small heads of Belgian endive, sliced into shreds, or arugula (any bitter green)
2 fuyu (firm, flat Asian) persimmons, seeded if necessary, and diced
½ POM wonderful fresh pomegranate, cut, arils (seeds) removed to be used to equal 2 cups (save the other half to make more salad or just double the recipe)
2-3 kiwi, peeled and diced
¼ cup or more dried cranberries
¼ cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1-2 tablespoons raspberry or other fruit vinegar (optional)

Cut the bitter greens or reds into shreds. Put on a plate.

In a medium bowl, combine the persimmons, pomegranate, pineapple guava, and most of the cranberries and almonds. Arrange the combined mixture over the shredded bitter greens. Top with the remaining cranberries and almonds. Drizzle fruit vinegar over the top, if desired, right before serving.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Veggie Queen attends The Green Festival in San Francisco

This past weekend I went to The Green Festival in San Francisco. This was my second time but the first time I went with my husband and son who rushed me through the place in about 1 1/2 hours. It was record time and I really didn't get to do what I wanted. So, this time I went alone. And it took me twice as long and I did get to see what I wanted, maybe more than I wanted, and also less.

The Green Festival is definitely consumer oriented. I would say about half the booths are green and eco clothing. Now, we all need to dress each day but it seemed like too many clothes for me. I got about halfway through and felt burnt out. I did see my favorite friends from Indigenous Designs, and bought a cute organic cotton hooded sweatshirt from No Enemy (gotta love the name) in purple. And I almost missed the No Enemy guy but saw Adam, the kombucha guy wearing another No Enemy shirt and he sent me packing back down the aisle.

Adam's hibiscus kombucha (I will get the name of the company which I believe is Kombucha Botanica) was the best tasting that I have ever had. My farmer friend Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm, here in Santa Rosa, is a kombucha fan. (That reminds me that Larry never returned my glass jar that contained kim chi, so he doesn't get any more until he does.) Generally, I don't care for kombucha and get my fermented food in other ways. But back to the Festival.

The area for the speakers is not big enough so I missed seeing Amy Goodman and Van Jones. Oh well. And Andy and Amy Berliner of Amy's Kitchen were going to be on at the end of the day, when I was long gone. So, mostly I walked through the booths.

There was raw food to sample but at some of the booths, they seemed to target younger people, and I obviously wasn't one and was almost ignored. That was disturbing.

I bought an Ahhh Natural mineral bag system for my hot tub so that we can give up chemicals. I can't wait to get it going so that the tub no longer makes me itch.

Rainbow Grocery was in attendance, handing out apples and pears. There were other food samples but many of them were from companies such as Organic Valley and Earthbound Farm. Clif handed out bar samples and there was a whole tasting area where if you donated $1 to Farm Aid you could taste all kinds of things, including Sunshine Burgers, which has a very tasty Southwest burger, but that wasn't being sampled that day.

If you like chocolate then the Green Festival would be a good place to go. And magazine samples were in big supply ranging from pubs like The Nation, Ode, Good to Vegetarian Times and my favorite VegNews.

The highlights for me were the new Choice pyramid tea bags that are biodegradable, an herbalist who had travel packs and To-Go Ware's stainless lunch carriers. Also, Fungi Perfecti had a booth with their mushroom kits and Paul Stamets was going to be there at 2 p.m. but I was trying to leave to get back to Sonoma County.

Interesting trip but I can just as easily be green right here. I also had to make a choice between the Green Festival and the Farmer's Market. The market seems much greener to me, with far fewer clothing and chocolate choices -- overall more mellow and less crowded. Staying close to home has its benefits.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Veggie Queen talks Pressure Cooking on KRCB radio

In just a little while (7 p.m. PST) I will be on air on Mouthful with Michele Anna Jordan, discussing pressure cooking, on KRCB, our local public radio station (90.9 and 91.1). I haven't been on the radio for a while and it should be interesting since what I do and talk about it so visual. Luckily I have a video clip about pressure cooking that's from my DVD featured on my 2nd website. I know that you can also add video here but I haven't yet done it.

Since I just shot a number of segments a couple of weeks ago, I am going to work on getting them on here, and also loading more of them on You Tube. You can find me there at TheVQ.

I hope that if you get a chance you will listen to me live on KRCB. If not, I am going to see if I can get a copy of it and post clips on my website or right here on my blog.

I wish that I were a bit more of a tech nut but I prefer being a kitchen and cooking nut, or just eating nuts to playing with the computer.

Please continue to join me, here and there, as you can.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wild Rice Makes Great Vegan Thanksgiving Feast

I don't post many recipes but this is a really good one that will get people thinking about traditional foods. Wild rice is one of them. And here it is paired with fresh and dried fruit, spices, nuts and sherry. It is delicious the first day and for a few days after. I try to claim as many leftovers as I can but my mother-in-law always asks to take some home. How can I say no?

Fruited Wild Rice
Serves 8 to 10
(Based on a recipe found in Gourmet Vegetarian Feasts, Martha Rose Shulman, Thorsons, 1987)
Serve as a side dish or stuff a squash such as kabocha, buttercup or white pumpkin with this mixture. In any case it is delicious.

1 1/2 cups wild rice
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup chopped dried raisins, cranberries and tart cherries, or your favorites
Sherry to cover the dried fruit
2 small apples, peeled, cored, cut in half crosswise and sliced thinly
1 large pear, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup slivered almonds or other nuts
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook wild rice in the water for 55 to 60 minutes until the rice grains are split open (or cook in the pressure cooker with 3 cups water for 25 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release). When done, drain rice from cooking water and put in a large bowl.

While the rice is cooking, soak the dried fruit in sherry to cover. Drain fruit after 30 minutes and set aside. (You can save the sherry in the refrigerator for future soaking, use it in salad dressing, for a stir-fry or an after dinner drink.)

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté apples, pears and almonds about 2 minutes. Add the apple juice and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add 1 tablespoon honey, spices, cooked wild rice, drained fruit and salt to taste. Cook together another few minutes, stirring. Correct seasonings, adding lots of pepper if you like it. Remove from heat. Serve mounded on a plate or stuff into a partially pre-baked squash and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 45 minutes until the squash is thoroughly cooked and the filling is hot.

I am sending this to http://www.funandfoodcafe.com/ for their Vegetarian Holiday recipe round up. I know that no matter what it's a winner for my family .

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quinoa Shines in the New York Times but I am The Quinoa Queen

I usually wear a large button on my chef's jacket that reads, "What's Quinoa?" And I have to say that I am probably responsible for teaching hundreds, if not thousands, of people how to cook quinoa. So, I heard that one of my favorite cookbook authors, Martha Rose Shulman, had an article in the New York Times about quinoa. I completely admire Martha for writing about quinoa but I don't think that her recipe is the best way to cook the grain. She likes to cook it in a lot of water and then drain it. I prefer to put in the right amount of water to start and keep all the nutrition in the grain. The recipe is featured in my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

And it is a highly digestible grain packed with nutrients, especially protein. If you eat quinoa, you will feel great. Or at least I do.

Find the article on the New York Times website from November 3, 2008. I'd put the URL in for you but I am having a bad computer day so you have to look for yourself.

I have recently posted a You Tube video of me showing you how to pressure cook quinoa -- 5 minutes at pressure. It will hopefully keep me reigning as The Quinoa Queen.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Veggie Queen Beats the Meat and Wins KSRO Recipe Contest with Vegan Recipe

I was the big winner in the KSRO recipe contest which was all about peanuts. There were 4 of us who were finalists. 2 of us were named Jill. I guess that the Jills had a better chance of winning.

I entered my recipe for Spicy West African Sweet Potato, Tomato and Ground Nut Stew. I am shortening the name to West African Sweet Potato Ground Nut Stew which is still a mouthful but a bit shorter. Most of the ingredients were locally grown except the peanut butter, and the sweet potatoes came from a couple of hundred miles away.

I wasn't at all nervous about winning the contest because I have been in the running twice before for my Brown Rice Sushi Salad and Salad with Spiced Almonds and Strawberry Dressing. But I'd not been the big winner. As the big winner, I got more prizes -- the best one possibly being the most practical, a $50 gift certificate for G & G market which is where the live broadcast was held. The other prizes were pretty cool, too -- tickets to a wine and food event, cooking class tickets to Relish Culinary with John Ash, who was one of the judges, and an overnight at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa. I am so thrilled that my cooking and recipe development is paying off, in a most delicious way.

I want everyone (except those who are allergic to peanuts or peanut butter) to be able to make this recipe -- it is quite delicous and different. And did I also say that it looks great on a plate. But still no photos from me.

If you'd like to get the recipe you can email me at jill@theveggiequeen.com or go to my website http://www.theveggiequeen.com and sign up for my email newsletter.

Steaming Vegetables And Why There are Better Ways

A conversation today at the farmer's market brought home something interesting that I know but don't often discuss -- steaming is a fine way to cook but it really doesn't add any flavor to vegetables. We were talking over some Christmas lima beans -- the fresh shelling kind. Robin Butler, the farmer, said that she steams them. I recommended that the young woman braise them by sauteing them with some onions and garlic and then adding some broth, and cooking them for about 10 minutes or until they are done. I bought some but haven't yet cooked them but will report more here.

But back to steaming --- it is a fast and good way to cook but that's all it does unlike pressure cooking where you can actually infuse flavor easily into your vegetables. Even just a squirt of Bragg's liquid amino acids, or a sprig of herbs in the pot, or even better a little saute of onions and garlic makes a huge difference in how vegetables taste. They taste great without the use of fat for flavor.

So, now you know that I don't often steam my veggies. I used to before the pressure cooker came into my life but now I have a better, faster and more delicious way.