Saturday, January 31, 2009

Organic Steel Cut Oats at Jamba Juice

As I walked from my car to the bank, I passed Jamba Juice. Since I don't drink juice, especially not gargantuan smoothies with more than a meal's worth of calories and sugar, not associated, with dark chocolate, I usually don't pay attention to the place. But there on the window was a big poster for Steel Cut Oats and how they've gone beyond instant oatmeal. And to sweeten the deal they are organic and topped with brown sugar (you're supposed to laugh now). They're cooked with soymilk, which seems an odd choice to me but maybe they think that it's what people want, and maybe they do.

The juice joint was packed at 5:30 p.m. I don't understand it, and I know that it wasn't for the steel cut oats because those are only available until 11 a.m. They did offer 3 different toppings for the oats: fresh banana with cinnamon brown sugar crumble, blueberry and blackberry compote with brown sugar crumble and apple cinnamon with an apple compote and brown sugar crumble. These are certainly a step up from instant and for $2.95 might be a decent deal. If I'm ever traveling or find myself starving near a Jamba Juice, I might give their organic steel cut oats a try. But honestly when I'm home, with 3 minutes at pressure in my pressure cooker, for far less than $2.95 I could invite you and a few of your neighbors for breakfast, and we can use organic agave and fruit in-season to top our bowls.

Monday, January 26, 2009

First Light Farm CSA Delivers in Sonoma County

Although I have only met Nathan Boone once I can tell you from my experience with farmers, that he is the real deal. One look at his First Light farm, which wasn't even named when I visited, revealed that his fields are planted and grown from, and with, his heart.

I am pleased to announce that he now has spaces in his CSA and will deliver to Santa Rosa and points beyond. He's looking for people to host drop off points, and if you get 10 people to join his community supported agriculture program, you will get 50% off your membership. IMHO, getting 10 people to do anything, especially if it involves money, is tough.

So, rather than think about the money you could save if you could only get 10 people interested, think about the incredible nutrition that you'll receive by signing up with Nathan at First Light Farm.

There are also other local CSAs such as Tierra Vegetables and Laguna Farm but First Light is the proverbial "new kid on the block" and I want to support Nathan's vision. And quite a vision it is.

Since I eschew CSAs because it doesn't allow me to support many farmers, I won't be signing up. I will still frequent the farmer's market. But if you don't, and have been considering having more fresh vegetables in your life, this might be the solution.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask me or contact Nathan. Eating locally grown food is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and the planet.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Win a Fagor Duo Pressure Cooker and Read my Blog Post

The Meal Makeover Moms are now pressure cooker converts. They are giving away a pressure cooker to one of the people who comments on their blog. Read the post by clicking here.

I hope that you win the pressure cooker. If you don't, maybe you aren't aware that I sell pressure cookers on my website, along with my pressure cooking DVD which is what I think helped "The Moms" get over their pressure cooker fear.

Pressure cooking is easy and with a new pressure cooker it's pretty foolproof. Let me know what you think by posting a comment here. You can also read my pressure cooking blog.

Next month I think that I might be giving away a pressure cooker set. Still thinking about it. Any thoughts? Any questions? Do I hear shrill screams? I hope not. I mean it when I say that pressure cooking can change your life.

Back to Blogging -- The Fancy Food Show and More

After 2 days of standing on my feet and managing the kitchen at SOMA mushroom camp where we served an all-out mushroom meal to 240 happy people, I attended the Fancy Food Show, where I walked the floor of Moscone Center for many more hours.

Luckily at Moscone, I was buoyed by chocolate. I mean lots of chocolate. One of the first booths that I arrived at was Newtree chocolate. They have a functional and nutritional line (right!) that contains roasted flax and rice crisps which are made to resemble a bar made by Nestle. This is quite unlike the bars from my youth as they are made with Belgian chocolate, high quality ingredients and each bar likely retails for around $5. But they score high on the tasty scale, and if you're going to eat something decadent such as chocolate, you really want the good stuff, which for me, is at least 65% cacao content. (They were included in my story on the new chocolates that I wrote for Natural Food Network magazine last year.)

After starting off with chocolate, I was on my quest for new beverages and found 2 very new ones at O.N.E., a company now known for its coconut water. Their newest products are Coffee berry which is just what it says, with the caffeine content of green tea, and cashew fruit. They are unlike any other fruity beverage and worth trying if you are looking for fruit juice. (I don't drink much fruit juice.)

Next I encountered old-fashioned sodas called Fentimans. I generally don't drink soda but had to try this because they had one with dandelion and burdock root, both of which are good for your liver. (They don't make any claims about their drinks.) It was tasty, as were all their products, most of which are ginger-based. If you're going to drink a sweetened carbonated beverage this might be a good choice.

Aloe drinks were prevalent. And I also saw a drink made from with hibiscus, and another with rose juice.

I could go on and on about what I saw but will now just write a short round-up. Be on the lookout for more gluten-free products, tea of all types, especially in biodegradeable bags and packaging, more chocolate than you'd ever want to eat (and I mean ever), exotic fruit in lots of different items and the next great thing. It just could be roasted flax from Flax USA in North Dakota (which I will be giving away in March for National Nutrition Month).

And if you want to get an amazing tea maker, to go with all that tea be on the lookout for the Analon one that has 6 different settings for your type of tea. But you better start saving your pennies now for later, as it comes with the hefty price tag of $350.

The one thing that I did get while there was an amazing grinder called The Spice Ratchet which I will be selling along with my new herb and spice blends which are in the works.

I am still sorting through all my Fancy Food show information so expect to hear more, hopefully before you see it on store shelves.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

John Ash Encourages Sprouting and So Does The Veggie Queen

If you read my previous post you know that I had the privilege of taking a cooking class with John Ash. The most amazing part of the class for me was when John talked about sprouting arising from his hippie days.

I have known John about 20 years and I just can't imagine John as a hippie. I'd have to see the pics to believe it. But I did see his sprouter from those days, and it is very cute. He said that he's had it for many years but it was in just fine shape. They sell a similar one on Amazon for $10.95.

John also encouraged people to sprout with the simple method: quart glass Mason jar, cheesecloth and a rubber band. I have used that method often but sometimes substitute a paper towel for the cheesecloth. I also have a green plastic sprouting lid and a wire mesh lid that fits into a quart jar ring.

I tried my green plastic lid most recently, inspired by Ash who encouraged everyone to go out the next day, Saturday, and start sprouting. He brought his "home-grown" fenugreek sprouts to the class in their sprouter. It was a touching moment.

John also talked about how he's not a gardener and how sprouting fulfills that desire to grow something. That's just my style, too. I had no idea we had that in common.

I was remiss in following Chef Ash's directions to start the next day, as I started sprouting on Sunday, not Saturday, by soaking some French green lentils, along with broccoli, radish and mustard seeds, in a quart jar with my new, green sprouting lid. I found that the holes in the plastic lid made pouring the water out a bit more difficult. I also removed the lid to add water to do the twice a day rinsing.

By day 3, the sprouts seemed ready so I took them out of my kitchen cupboard, where they had lived upside down in a bowl, and put them near a light-filled window so that they could get cholorphylled up, and get green.

This morning I had a half-full quart jar of my own beautiful sprouts. I have been sprouting for possibly as many years as John but I'm not sure as he is a bit older than I. I can tell that having,and growing, sprouts satisfies some deep needs for each of us.

And now, on to the next batch -- I have a 1 pound bag of spicy mix so I had better get to it. Might throw in some red quinoa, just for kicks. Oh, the possibilities are almost endless.

Growing sprouts is very exciting and provides almost immediate gratification, if you can wait a few days. It's hard to realize that each bean, seed or nut actually contains the energy of an entire plant that will yield many more. Give it a try.

A photo will appear as soon as I learn how to use my new camera.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

10 Things that The Veggie Queen and John Ash have in Common

I was going to write a post specifically about 1 subject when it dawned on me that John Ash and I share a number of characteristics which I wanted to share with you. Not quite as interesting as Letterman but...

Here goes:
  1. Our names start with the same letter
  2. We both live in Sonoma County -- Santa Rosa to be exact
  3. We're writers
  4. We encourage people to use local ingredients
  5. We're each cooks and not bakers or gardeners
  6. We're each irreverent when we teach and love to share stories
  7. We've shared the same behind-the-scenes person, who we both adore
  8. We support local and encourage others to do the same
  9. We encourage farming without poisons, or the Cide sisters as John refers to them (pesticide, fungicide and herbicide)
  10. We've both been sprouting in our kitchens for many years

And it's the last one that I will really post about next time. So, be on the lookout for more about sprouting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Relish Culinary Mushroom Cooking Class with John Ash

It's rare that I get to sit in a cooking class. I am usually the one at the front of the room doing the talking. But I just had the chance to attend a cooking class by local, and big deal, chef John Ash. I have known John almost as long as I've been in Sonoma County, which is about 20 years.

Three times I have been a finalist in the KSRO recipe contest that he and co-host Steve Garner have each year. This year I was the grand prize winner for my Spicy African Sweet Potato, Tomato and Ground Nut Stew recipe. The topic was peanuts or peanut butter and this recipe contains the latter. Read my post for more info about my winning.

As a result of the win, I got tickets for a cooking class at Relish Culinary in Healdsburg, a cute little town in Wine Country, just 15 minutes from where I live. The tickets were originally for a Wild Game class with John but I was not wild about that idea so I waited for something more apropos. And mushrooms it was.

Next week is SOMA Mushroom camp where I am the sous chef -- 2nd in command, putting out dinner for about 200 people. This is my big cooking gig of the year. I know a bit about mushrooms and if you want to learn more in-depth information by reading about them on The Veggie Queen site.

I wanted to be anonymous in the class but Relish owner Donna del Rey introduced me fairly early on. Then John mentioned that I am a Registered Dietitian and he deferred to me more than once. I felt quite honored.

John did a great job entertaining and educating the group about mushroom cooking and used a variety of mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol plus dried wild ones that included porcini, black chanterelle and candy cap. The food was rich and delicious and accompanied by fine local wine.

Chef Ash (someone asked a question of him as Mr. Ash and I felt kind of strange calling him John at that point) shared his tips and techniques for making food taste great such as adding sugar to balance flavors and using citrus juice to perk things up. He even commented on his irreverence in teaching, which appeals to my sense and sensibility (if I have any).

It was a divine evening for me. I even had my friend and assistant Ellen accompany me, and she drove. This made winning the recipe contest even better.

I am going to do another post about John Ash and sprouting, so watch for it.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Tempeh -- Don't Serve Without a Warning, Tempeh Vegetable Stir-Fry

I just had the most fascinating email chat with Mark Scarborough about tempeh. Now, how often does one get to do something like that with a kinda famous cookbook author? Not part of my usual day.

Mark described his current desire for tempeh and vegetable stir-fries arising from having raised his own pigs and dealing with the aftermath in his meat-filled freezer . This may not be something that you can relate to, I can't (or it might be, don't know) but in any case, whatever it takes to get people eating more tempeh is just fine with me.

Here is what Mark said about tempeh, "Tempeh is a very hard sell--but I'm really not sure why. Maybe it's that slightly fermented taste? Or the texture? I certainly wouldn't serve it to most people without warning."

Do you need a warning to eat tempeh? I certainly don't but I do believe that Mark has a better handle on what people eat than I do. (I wear vegan- and vegetarian-colored glasses.)

Here's what Mark said about tempeh, "I do indeed like tempeh. We slice it up into a simple, sweet/sour/spicy stir-fry with snow peas, thinly sliced shallots, and thinly sliced red bell pepper. Had it for lunch today, in fact. Hoi sin, soy sauce, sambal, shaoshing, vinegar. Nothing complicated--but over sticky, short-grain brown rice, I think it's a great dish."

Here's my version of Mark's description with a tweak or 2. I like to steam my tempeh first which opens it up to absorb more marinade. Mark doesn't steam or marinate it. Your choice. Either way, it's likely to be delicious.

Mark Scarborough's Tempeh Vegetable Stir-Fry by The Veggie Queen

1 8 ounce package tempeh, any kind, sliced into thin strips (I particularly like Turtle Mountain Spicy tempeh)
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1-2 teaspoons sambal oleck or your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons Shaoshing wine (optional)
1-2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup sliced red pepper (in season) or carrots (in winter), thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup snow peas, stemmed, cut in half on the diagonal

Steam the tempeh for 5 minutes over boiling water.
While the tempeh is steaming, mix together all the liquid ingredients in a shallow pan and stir to combine.
Add steamed tempeh to liquids and let marinate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 30 minutes.
Remove tempeh from the marinade.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the tempeh and shallots. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the red pepper or carrot and stir for another 2-3 minutes, until the pepper or carrot is getting cooked through. Add the marinade and the snow peas. Cook until the snow peas are bright green.
Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more of any of the ingredients until it tastes right to you.
For me, I would garnish this with cilantro but that's because I love cilantro.
Serve over short grain brown rice.

Feel free to let me know what you think by emailing me at

Monday, January 05, 2009

The 'Veggie Queen Finds All Kinds of Tea at New Mexico Tea Company

I just wrote about tea for Vegan Culinary Experience online magazine but somehow I didn't know about New Mexico Tea Company when I wrote the story. They contacted me on Twitter about their rooibos tea with vanilla and blood orange. And I am looking forward to trying it.

If you've read this blog, you know that I am a big tea advocate so I am drooling a bit, into my tea cup, as I look at the New Mexico Tea company website. Heck, if I had put a link to the site in my story, I wouldn't have had to write anything at all about tea -- it's all on there. From white to green, black and oolong to Pu-erh plus 41 herbal tisanes, which are more up my alley.

If you're into tea and don't have a wonderful tea shop, like I do here in Sonoma County at Infusions in Sebastopol, then check out New Mexico Tea Company online or next time you are in Albuquerque. I can honestly say that I have not yet tried their products but love the way that they have divided up the tisanes into categories, including medicinal.

Remember that plants are your best medicine, so get them everyday. Tea certainly makes the grade and will enhance your life if you give it a chance.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Veggie Queen's Healthy Resolutions 2009

I'll start by saying that I don't make resolutions, I set goals. Here are the goals that I am suggesting that people adopt for 2009. They are all related to health but not necessarily eating because we are not only about what we put in our mouths (even though sometimes it seems that way).

1. Give Up Bottled Drinks to Save the Planet and Your Waistline

The only thing that I drink in a bottle is the water that I put in it. While this doesn't make me perfect (darn), it helps me maintain a healthy weight and I feel good about not contributing to the massive number of bottles going into the waste stream. I am also not consuming the extra calories from sweetened drinks. The current estimate is that Americans are getting one-third of their calories from drinks. That fact amazes me. So switch to water, and put it in your stainless steel or glass bottle. Or make your own tea and put it in there. At home or work, drink tea or Teecino. One cup of coffee a day is probably OK (but not for me).

NOTE: According to my RD friend and colleague, Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD/N, the 1/3 of calories may be an overestimate. Jeff says that it could be anywhere from 250 to possibly 600 calories a day consumed from drinks. Just one 12 ounce soda, and most these days are in the 16 to 24+ ounce range, has 140 high fructose corn syrup calories. You can do the math.

2. Pay Attention to What you Put in Your Mouth, and Forget the Diets

In a few weeks I will be presenting a program called Diets Don't Work. I truly believe this. I also believe that we are all different, and that what works for me, not might work for you. I can tell you, though, that choosing unprocessed food is always the best choice. Since life isn't perfect, sometimes you'll have to make choices other than the best ones. In those cases, do the best that you can. Planning helps a lot. I notice that I tend to eat whatever is in the house. So, pay attention to what you buy on a regular basis. You know that I am always going to recommend that you have lots of vegetables around -- fresh or frozen are best, except for corn and tomatoes, in which case canned is OK.

3. Change Your Attitude (if and when you need to)

What you think about what happens is your only reality. If you think something is bad, or you cheated, or ___________ (fill in the blank), that's how it is. Take a deep breath and step back to assess the situation. I often realize that things could often be worse. And I told myself this even when everything was wiped off my hard drive on my computer (twice last year). If your glass is half-empty, get a new glass or a new way of looking at your glass. We are all lucky, just not every day. My favorite saying, "Things always work out, they just don't always work out the way that you thought that they would."

4. Learn to stretch

I do yoga on a regular basis. The stretching that I am referring to has to do with both my mind and my body. Even if you start by devoting just 5 minutes a day to warming up your muscles and giving your back a good stretch, you will benefit. After 13 years of doing yoga every week, my back is in pretty good shape, and when it gets out of alignment, a good twist will often get things back to "normal" (eliminating a trip to the chiropractor). So, really the recommendation, is change your "normal" so that it includes stretching every day.

5. Move, Learn, Love and Laugh More

Very few people exercise too much so if you can squeeze in a little more movement, do it. But don't fall into the trap of saying, "I worked out so now I can eat ice cream, cookies, have a beer, or ??" That doesn't work. You're not fooling your body.

Learn something new as often as you can by reading, listening, watching and interacting with others. The interaction is good no matter how you get it but if you're just sitting at the computer, it can be a pain in the butt. Live interaction is good.

They say that the people who live the longest after chronic illness such as heart disease are the ones who have the best support systems. So, connect with other people in whatever way you can. There are a few older men that I see at the farmer's market twice a week. I know that they go there as much to socialize as to shop. And that's good. I always stop and say hello and have a conversation if I have the time. (Now I know why a trip there takes so darned long, it's all those men...) Appreciate the people in your life, have gratitude for what you've got and spread the love.

I almost forgot laughter but I believe it may be the best medicine since it's free and you decide whether or not to take it. Figure out what makes you laugh and find it. Read jokes, comic strips (Dan Piraro is not only a nice guy but a vegan artist who writes the strip Bizarro. Many of those make me laugh.), movies, watch comedy, listen to my friend Jeff Novick give one of his nutrition presentations, laugh at yourself, watch You Tube videos -- or whatever gets your funny bone twitching. I always feel better after I laugh, especially at myself or from a funny movie (sight gags really get me). Whoop it up today.

For more specific eating tips, check out this newsletter by friend and fellow dietitian and health coach Kathy Nichols.

I hope that your 2009 got off to a great start, if not start over.

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