Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Meet Oliver & Have Some Coconut Soup.

Happy 2014! The end of the year really flew by. I'm going to share a little recap of the past month, and then share a coconut soup recipe that I made for dinner on this first evening of the new year.

First of all, the most exciting part of December was meeting Oliver.

Oliver picked us to be his forever family when we visited the Oregon Humane Society last month, and we couldn't argue with his sweet demands for cuddles. He traveled all the way from California, where he was rescued from a kill shelter.

He's the perfect friend for me because he loves going for really long walks, especially in parks where he can say hi (and give kisses to) as many humans and dogs as possible.  He also likes to cuddle, which has been nice, because none of our cats like to spend time on our laps.

This picture is from Christmas, when we went for a walk with my sister and brother-in-law and their pup companions Niko and Leroy. This is also before Oliver got all of his dreadlocks cut off.

We started the new year off right today with a long walk along the beach at a nice park in North Portland. I'm not sure that Oliver had ever been by the water before, and it was great watching him explore the new territory.

It's been a while since either Tim or I have had a dog. We've both considered ourselves cat people, and weren't sure how we would do with a dog. But, we both love animals, and I started feeling like there were so many dogs without families, and we had the room and the means to give at least one dog a loving forever home, so here we are and it's been awesome. Oliver adds so much love to our family. And the cats are adjusting fairly well, actually much better than we predicted. So, look forward to Oliver updates!

Other December activities included finishing my 5th term of grad school, traveling to see family, having several holiday celebrations, restarting my Bikram yoga practice after a three year hiatus, and making a lot of soup. Seriously, we have soup about five nights a week, mostly because it's fast, healthy, and we both enjoy it. So, why not?

The latest creation was tonight's mushroom coconut soup. This is a brothy, sweet, and slightly tangy concoction that reminds me of a soup I've had at our favorite vegan Thai restaurant.

Mushroom Coconut Soup

4 cups sliced mushrooms
2 medium onions, cut into thin slices
5 cloves garlic, chopped small
2 inches ginger root, chopped small
2 medium carrots, chopped
8 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 can coconut milk
4x 2 inch pieces of lemongrass
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, sliced thin
juice of 1 medium lime
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste

In a soup pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in some of the vegetable broth or olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the carrots, broth, water, and lemongrass. Simmer until the carrots are tender. Add coconut milk, cilantro, green onion, lime juice, pepper and pepper flakes, and salt.

This makes a huge batch and will provide some nice lunches for us this week.  I'll probably serve it over spinach, baby kale, or quinoa. And some sriracha will probably make an appearance at some point, too. 

I hope your new year is off to a great start, and that you've enjoyed a great meal to kick off 2014. Cheers!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fragrant Red Lentil & Shiitake Soup for Stormy Weather

Portland was stormy yesterday, so I happily fired up the crockpot for the first time this season.  When I use the crockpot it's usually for soup, chili, or stew made from whatever scraps I have in the pantry and fridge. 

I started by soaking 10 dried shiitake mushrooms in 4 cups hot water.  After about 10 minutes I removed the mushrooms and cut them into thin slices.

Into the crock:

4 cups vegetable broth of your choice
4 cups soaking water from mushrooms
10 sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 medium sweet onion chopped small
1 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon berebere spices (I buy mine pre-made, but a quick google search will tell how to make your own)
1 teaspoon cardomom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt-free seasoning of choice & fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)

Cook on the medium or high setting for 6-8 hours.

The best thing to do when using the crockpot is leave the house, so you can come home to really good smells. 

Happy Friday, everyone! I'm linking this recipe up to Carrie On Vegan's Health Vegan Friday post.  Stop by when you have a chance to see all of the Fall recipe goodness happening over there.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Golden Pumpkin Harvest Soup with Apple and Mushroom

I was going to share another salad, but with the cold rain and the end of daylight saving time, I decided to go with soup instead. Dinner has been hot, homemade soup for at least a week now.  Nothing feels more warming and nourishing than a big bowl of brothy vegetables and beans.

Along with craving warming foods, I've been thinking about the holidays, and wanting to incorporate some of my favorite seasonal flavors into healthy meals.  Pumpkin is at the top of my list this time of year.  So, pumpkin soup happened.

Golden Pumpkin Harvest Soup

1 medium sweet onion, chopped small
1 large Fuji apple, chopped small
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 can cannellini beans (about 2 cups)
1 can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons herbs de provence
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardomom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste
salt-free seasoning to taste (I use Spike)
4 green onions, sliced fine

Water saute' onion, mushroom, and apple until tender.  Add beans, pumpkin, broth, apple cider vinegar, herbs, and other seasoning.  Stir well and simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes.  Serve garnished with a generous amount of sliced green onion. 

And, because I have to put it on everything, this soup was sprinkled with a heaping spoonful of nutritional yeast. It was delicious. The pumpkin makes the broth rich and hearty, and the chopped apple adds just a little bit of sweetness. The mushrooms add a nice chew, and the apple cider vinegar brighten up the flavor. The sliced green onions are a must. This turned out to be a nice dinner that didn't take much effort. And, healthy!

I'm going to be experimenting with more pumpkin soups, trying to find the perfect one to serve at a holiday meal. If you have any suggestions for pumpkin soup, I'd love to hear them.

Have you had a chance to stop by Healthy Vegan Friday this week?  There are sooo many Fall inspired healthy treats to peruse.

I hope you have a great week. Stay warm!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bejeweled Superfood Salad

Juice cleansing was a nice little tune-up for my digestion and my taste buds.  I've been sticking to lighter foods, mostly fruits and vegetables.  Breakfast has been green smoothies, gigantic salads for lunch, and soup and/or salads for dinner.  

I usually feel a pretty significant dip in my energy levels as the days get shorter and the Oregon gray skies move in for the winter.  I'd like to do more to prevent the seasonal slump this year.  Sticking with unprocessed foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will help keep my mood and energy level in a better place.

I made this salad for lunch a few times last week.  I kept thinking that it looks festive, and would be nice to serve at a holiday gathering.  It's packed with nutrients and I thought it was really satisfying, thanks to the tahini and pistachios.  

Bejeweled Superfood Salad

1/2 bunch green curly kale, washed, stems removed, and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 small lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons tahini
5 romaine heart leaves, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped very small
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons pistachios
1/2 cup microgreens

Whisk together the tahini & lemon juice.  Massage into the kale for a few minutes.  Add chopped romaine and broccoli to kale mixture, toss to coat with dressing.  Top with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and microgreens.  

This salad is a nice, light lunch by itself, or would be great with a butternut squash or sweet potato soup.  

I'm submitting this recipe to the Healthy Vegan Friday recipe link-up over at Carrie On Vegan.  If you haven't checked it out yet this week, it looks like there's a nice collection of Fall eats.  

I hope your Monday is off to a nice start.  I'll be back in a few days with another salad a Fall inspired soup creation.  Until then, have a great week. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Unintentional Juice Cleanse

Thanks for all the sweet messages regarding our elopement!  I've been feeling celebratory, for sure.  This is a special time of year, with Fall arriving and holidays approaching; and being newlywed has added that extra element of being on a love buzz. It's been nice.

I mentioned in my last post that I was doing a little change-of-the-seasons juice cleanse.  It started out as drinking juice for a day because I was too busy at work to eat.  But I felt so good at the end of the first day, that I decided to juice the next day.  Then the next.  And before I knew it, almost five days went by.

It was perfect timing.  I'd been indulging rich foods and a fair amount of wine.  Drinking juice for a few days was a nice way to transition into healthier meals full of more vegetables and less Daiya.

Every day I made juice. It was labor intensive and I supplemented my efforts with daily treats from the Portland Juice Press in my neighborhood. They have a seasonal flavor: kale, grape, and cucumber that is amazing.

My favorite homemade juice was kale, romaine, celery, cucumber, and lemon.  Second favorite was the same blend with coconut water added instead of lemon juice.  I did about 2 parts juice to 1 part coconut water.  Tim likes straight-up green juice without lemon or coconut water, so I made some of that for him, too.

The swampy orange colored concoction tasted a lot better than it looked.  It was kale, celery, carrot, lemon, and apple. I shared it with a coworker and she couldn't believe how good it tasted, and also thought I had sweetened it with something. I think she suggested sugar.  Funny.

So, after 5 days of juicing I was feeling really good.  Definitely lighter, and my digestion was back on track.  Also, after 5 days of juice, salad and fruit tastes really good.   

Remember those glowing, sunny pictures of my walk in the park on my last post?  Well, this is the same park just a few days later.  We've been having some serious fog in the mornings this week.  I love it. 

Ok, I have quite a bit of school reading to do, but I wanted to take a break and say hello here.  Also, I created a salad I'm obsessed with, and I'm going to post about it next time.  It's really pretty and will be perfect for the holidays. Until next time, take care!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Let's Catch Up! Fall Stuff & My Elopement

October is buzzing by, and I'm not surprised.  This has always been one of my favorite months.  I love the transition to Fall, leaves turning yellow and orange, sunny but cooler days, soup, hot tea, and Halloween.  October was also the month that I met Tim, three years ago.  So, it only makes sense that October would be the month of choice for our elopement.

Yep, that's right.  We got married on the first day of the best month of the year.  It was (sort-of) secret, quiet, and super fun.  And where in the world is the best place for a secret vegan elopement?  Portland! And we happen to live here, so we took a stay-cation and kept the celebration close to home.

My sister and her husband were our only witnesses, and the perfect short ceremony took place just a few blocks from our house.  The above picture was taken at home, right before the wedding.  The one below is in my mom's backyard, right after we presented her with some gluten-free vegan wedding cake and asked her if we could have the "reception" at her place. 

October is a very romantic month, if you ask me. The cooler weather leads to more cuddling, and the changing leaves and baking stuff and scary movies... love, love, love.  Or maybe I'm just all blissed out on honeymoon vibes.

October is also prime time for apples in the NW, so I've been using them in everything: smoothies, juice, oatmeal, dipped in peanut butter, and dessert.  One of the best things I made was an upside down apple cake.  I used the pineapple upside down cake recipe from Babycakes Covers the Classics, and subbed apples.  It turned out great.

We ate this for breakfast and dessert, until it was gone.  I think this recipe is versatile and would be delicious with almost any fruit.  I really loved it with the company of coffee in my mummy mug:

And it wouldn't be Fall for me without some long walks in local parks.  Especially first thing in the morning when the sun shines through the trees and everything looks golden.


So, Fall is off to a nice start.  I love the energy I get when the seasons change.  I've actually been on a change-of-the-season juice cleanse, and I'll post more about that in a few days.  Until then, have a fantastic Fall weekend!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Health Conference Musings: The Big Picture

Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition conference, here in Portland.  There were 340 attendees, mostly health care providers, and the speakers included physicians, dietitians, and lifestyle medicine practitioners.  It was a fun day full of evidence-based information about the effects of a whole foods, low fat, plant-based diet on health.  I'll be posting more about specific topics that were covered at the conference, but today I want to highlight the big message that came across with all of the speakers:

A plant-based diet of whole, unprocessed, lower fat foods has been shown to 
prevent and reverse chronic diseases, which are often a result of lifestyle choices.

Chronic diseases are mostly lifestyle diseases.

The speakers reported the latest research on cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, cancer, longevity, and Alzheimer's.  The message was similar across all topics.  In most situations, a plant-based diet has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of these conditions.  There are some on-going studies that are looking at the effects of a plant-based diet on health, if you're interested:
And a study that Brenda Davis, RD, was involved in, looking at the effects of a plant-based diet on diabetes in the Marshall Islands:
I was impressed with the evidenced-based information that was presented.  As a health care provider, it is important that my interventions are supported by solid science-based evidence.  Lucky for us plant-based practitioners, there is a lot of growing evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.  I highlight the word healthy, because just like any other eating style, a vegan diet can include a lot of processed junk foods that won't lead to health promotion or disease prevention. 

What is scientifically considered to be a healthy plant-based diet that will promote health and prevent disease?  In a nutshell:

Eat plants, as they are grown.  The less processing, the better.  
This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices.  

This is the diet that lifestyle medicine practitioners are prescribing to their patients with serious, chronic diseases.  I don't have any serious medical problems, but after the conference I have definitely been reassessing my affinity for vegan junk food and trying to incorporate a higher percentage of the healthy plant-based foods.  Here is what I've been having as a health breakfast the past few days:

oats, chia, flax, coconut, raisins, banana (cooked in water)

Healthy lunch:  kale with tahini sauce, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, nooch

The health conference has piqued my interest in reading more of the research that's being published about plant-based diet and health.  I also met some really cool people who are working to educate the public and health care providers about the latest findings, and I'll be posting about them, too.  So much was covered that I want to address, and I feel like most of the people and/or topics deserve their own post.  

In the meantime, I hope you're having an awesome week.  Happy Fall, by the way.  This is my favorite time of year!