Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Fried" Potatoes

As an omnivore, I was passionate about potatoes.

Julia Child's method for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes had me spellbound and I became famous for them. I would load them with salt, butter, and cream and we would all be in a turkey and potato stupor after our meal.

A road trip always was an excuse to eat McDonald's fries. (And of course grab a cup of coffee and visit clean facilities.)

Baked potatoes? Pass the butter, broccoli, and sour cream.

Hash browns. … And bacon?

My favorite lunch has always been soup and a sandwich with… potato chips. I love chips of any kind. I especially like low-fat, low salt versions because they bring out the best in the potato, but I cannot even  enjoy those with this new diet. Although I have bought them a time or two and eaten some on the way home from the grocery. :-}

A real dilemma in adopting a heart-healthy, vegan, no-oil diet was, "how would I ever again enjoy my potatoes?"

I often cook bread, shaped as round hearth loaves, on pizza stones. The stones cooks the bread with no added oil.

So, I thought, could they also cook potatoes without oil?

Indeed they can. And the potatoes are more awesome than any of the aforementioned delicacies.

First, I turn the oven to 400–450 degrees and heat the pizza stones for at least 20 minutes.

I chop the tators -- russets, reds, blues, or fingerlings -- into small (1/4" pieces) and place them in a bowl. I add salt and Mrs. Dash garlic blend or a garlic pepper mix and toss thoroughly.

Then, I spread the potatoes on the hot stones and cook for 20 minutes. Then, turn them with a spatula and cook for about 15 more, until they have lots of nice crispy brown sides.

If I've made some bean burgers, I can also cook these on the stones with the potatoes and have a very satisfying lunch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Eating a heart healthy diet means eating a lot of salad.

I mean a lot.

Andy can eat salad by the bowlsful with just balsamic vinegar as dressing.


I, however, keep thinking of ranch dressing, which, if made with the traditional buttermilk, does not fit the heart-healthy diet I am following. Some folks believe you can mix up a ranch dressing from silken tofu and seasonings. Some folks rhapsodize about it.

I do not.

I have found, however, an Alessi balsamic vinegar that has been aged in wood for 10 years. Very good. I sprinkle some Italian dressing seasonings into it and enjoy my greens. I also add black beans or kidney beans and diced tomatoes -- and sometimes guacamole.

Our guru, Dr. Esselstyn, does not condone guacamole or avocados in any form because of their high fat content. But I just think of how nutrient rich they are and how tasty and get by.

Our choice of greens for the salad include: baby spinach, spring greens, chopped romaine, a sprinkling of kale, and some diced green onions. Then we add beans and tomatoes and maybe green or red peppers.

Love me some salad!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

hearty pasta with "sausage"

I brought home some Jimmie Dean, er "Gimme Lean," soy-based sausage substitute yesterday.

My husband, Andy, asked: if we are going plant based why do we want something that simulates meat?

Ok, point taken. I agree. I admit to having a bit of distaste for recipes that mimic meat. I do think, however, that a hearty protein-filled dish now and again can be fulfilling.

I was also thinking that when my nephews visit it might be nice to cook them up something healthy that they might enjoy. So, I experimented with "Gimme Lean" sausage and the results were actually … excellent. Andy ate a full bowl. He grumbled a little but I could tell he enjoyed the meal. With salad.

This is a very flexible recipe, so feel free to change quantities and ingredients as fits your mood and your pantry.

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

3–4 tbs of wine, vegetable broth, or water

10 oz whole wheat penne pasta - or other substantially shaped pasta

1/2 roll Gimme Lean sausage

2 cans diced tomatoes. I used one can garlic and herbs and one can oregano and basil.

Lots of fresh thyme, oregano, and basil. Or a substantial sprinkling of dried Italian herbs.



In a large, non-stick skillet, sprinkle a generous pinch of salt, a chopped onion, and minced garlic cloves. Heat until the onion and garlic start to brown on the edges. Deglaze the pan with wine, broth, or water.

Add the Gimme Lean sausage and break into small pieces with a wooden utensil.

Add the cans of diced tomatoes and continue to break down the sausage.

Add herbs and pepper.

Let the mixture simmer solidly on high while you cook the pasta, according to package directions.

Once the pasta is done, add it to the sausage and tomato mixture and stir thoroughly.

Serve with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kale and Potato Soup

If you're like me and other midwesterners you probably don't cook a lot of kale. Maybe you've never even tried it. Like other "greens"—collard and mustard—kale has been primarily enjoyed by southerners. Here in the midwest it's a curly garnish on a plate of meat and potatoes.

My grandma, who hailed from Arkansas, loved her greens and vinegar, fried okra, and catfish or carp caught in a local lake. My sister and I usually stayed with her for at least a week every summer. Suppertime was an experience. Do you know how slimy and hairy okra can be to a nine year old? Or how many bones one encounters trying to eat an Illinois carp? For that matter, have you ever taken the dinner leftovers out to a garden and tossed them onto the "worm pile," used as a fertilizer to grow more, uh, okra?

Sorry, I have strayed from my recipe. My point is that after all these years of cooking veggies and making soup, I have never tasted the amazing concoction called Kale and Potato Soup.

Man, this is some good.

I read the recipe in Laurel's Kitchen and had to modify it to accommodate a no fat, no dairy diet. A few months ago, I would have maybe read the recipe but then noticed on the same page what looks like a scrumptious Potato and Cheddar Soup and just gone for that. No question.

I would have never known how awesome soup can really be. Here is my modification of Laurel's recipe.

1 large yellow onion, chopped into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (or water if you prefer, but really…)
2 large russet potatoes (or 3–4 medium ones) cubed - leave the skins on for a hearty, rustic soup
3 cups fresh kale, destemmed and chopped into small pieces
4 cups vegetable broth (or 4 cups water with Swanson's vegetable flavor enhancer added)
salt and pepper to taste

This is the simplest soup I have ever made, and also one of the best.

Saute the onion in a hot, salted pan until you see brown bits start to form.

Add the chopped garlic and saute a bit longer.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add the potatoes, broth, and a pinch or two of salt.

Let this simmer for a while until the potatoes get very soft.

Meanwhile, steam the kale with a small amount of water in a separate pan. (Laurel cautions that if you add it to the potato mixture to steam, it will develop too strong a flavor. Better to steam it separately, drain the water, and just add the soft kale to the finished soup.)

Use an immersion blender to puree about half of the potato-onion mixture. (Or, transfer some to a blender or food processor. Puree and return to pot.)

Add the steamed kale. Blend it all together with a spoon.

Wonderful soup for a fall or winter evening!

Kale descended from wild cabbage originally grown in Asia. It became popular in Germany, Holland, and Scotland and was brought to the US in the 1600s by the English. Kale is at its height during the winter months, when the cold temperatures make it the sweetest.

BTW, I recommended that anyone wanting to eat a more healthy diet buy a copy of Laurel's Kitchen. Many great and simple recipes and a plethora of reliable nutrition information. Although some recipes include oil, eggs, and dairy, most can be modified to avoid these.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lovely Marinara (no oil)

Here’s a thick, rich, dark red tomato sauce made without oil. Surprisingly, the supermarkets overflow with a hundred different tomato sauces. But I have yet to find one that doesn't contain oil. (Though I have heard that they do exist.)  More surprisingly, you will find that you don't miss oil one bit. I am wondering how we came to believe the old saw that "oil carries the flavor" in food. I'm just not sure it's true in all cases.

In the case of tomato sauce, I am sure it is not. Besides which, making your own is so easy—why pay for the canned variety?

1 large onion, chopped
5–6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup hearty red wine or, if you'd prefer, vegetable broth or water
2 large cans whole stewed tomatoes (make sure they don't contain added oil or sugar)
1 large can tomato paste (the only ingredient should be tomatoes)
4 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
1 fresh red pepper, diced
3-4 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped with stems removed**
2-3 tsp fresh thyme, chopped with stems removed
4 tbsp fresh basil, chopped with stems removed
1–2 tbsp dried Italian seasonings
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stainless steel pot, add the chopped garlic and onion, along with a pinch of salt. Saute until the onion begins to brown. Add the wine or broth and deglaze the pan, stirring until all the brown bits are loosened from the pot.

Empty the cans of whole tomatoes into the pot and puree with a stick blender (or chop in a stand blender or food processor before adding.) Empty the tomato paste into the pan and stir well.

Let this simmer for 2–3 hours on low. You may wish to set the lid at a slight angle. This will allow steam to escape, and the sauce to thicken, but prevent it from spitting onto your counter.

Add the diced Romas, red peppers, and fresh herbs. Let simmer on low for another 1–2 hours. Wait for it to turn a deep red color with a hearty thickness.

Taste—and add enough dried Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to please your palate.

Stir thoroughly and serve over whole wheat or quinoa pasta.

**Fresh herbs really make a difference in any sauce. But if you can't find them or fit them into you budget, use more dried herbs. I have been shopping at a local Kroger store that regularly discounts near-date herbs and often has specials on large bundles of basil. Of course if you live in a temperate climate, you can grow them year round. If you live in Illinois, like me, you can grow fresh herbs all summer long.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Berry Smoothie! (No dairy)

I've been trying lots of vegan, no fat recipes lately. Here's a very easy, delicious one. Make it thick and eat it like ice cream or add more almond or soy milk for a nutritious drink.

1 cup frozen berries (my favorite is a mixture of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

1 very ripe banana (Can be frozen. When you have overripe bananas and no time to use them, peel them, place in plastic bag, and freeze.)

Enough soy or almond milk to reach the consistency you prefer.

Place berries and banana in a powerful blender. Set on lower or "chop" level or use ice crusher feature. Slowly add milk -  a tablespoon at a time. Eventually set on higher level or "puree" setting. And blend thoroughly.

If you let the frozen berries sit in the blender for 10–15 minutes they will be easier to blend.

This is a great drink to make as you run out the door in the morning. Let the berries stand while you shower and they'll be ready to blend for a great treat for your commute.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Creamy Potato Broccoli Soup (no dairy and no oil)

Today's cooking experiment avoiding meat, dairy, and oil:

Creamy Potato Broccoli Soup

You won't miss the cow's milk, butter, cheese or bacon!

2 cups broccoli
3 baked potatoes (Whenever you make some, cook a few extra for soup the next day.)
1 onion
1 cup soy or almond milk
pinch salt
garlic pepper (as much as you like)

Clean and chop the broccoli into smallish pieces. Use a small paring knife to remove the woody skin from the stem and be sure to chop off the bottom inch or so, which can often be tough. Steam broccoli in a small amount of water for 4–5 minutes.

Skin the potatoes and dice into small pieces. 

Saute the onion in a dry cast iron or stainless steel pot. Once the edges start to brown, deglaze* the pan with a few tablespoons of water.

Add two of the potatoes to the pan. Stir up with the onion.

Slowly add the milk, just a little at a time.

Use an immersion (stick) blender** to whip the potatoes, milk, and onions into a thick paste.

Add salt and garlic pepper.

Drain the broccoli and add it to the pan, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pieces to add later.

Continue to blend, adding water until the soup reaches a light, creamy consistency.

Add the remaining potato and the broccoli pieces and heat.
Serve immediately with some toasted whole grain, no oil bread.

*Deglaze:  After sauteeing, add liquid (usually water or wine) to the browned bits in a hot pan to create a sauce.

**I use a Cuisinart immersion blender for creaming soups. You can also add the ingredients to a food processor or stand blender.