Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Corn & White Bean Chowder

Today the temperature dropped and with the cold front came strong, gusty winds. When my commutes get chilly, I find myself needing soup for dinner when I get home! Before Christmas it was pea soup (Peas, onions, spices, blend. Couldn't be easier!) but today I decided that I just had to have corn chowder. I chose to add white beans to thicken the soup instead of potatoes because white beans are a good source of complete protein. These thick pureed vegetable soups are a little heartier than your traditional vegetable soup, and they feel more satisfying while still providing a rainbow of micronutrients. Best of all, they couldn't be any quicker or easier. Just microwave some frozen vegetables & puree!

Soups are just so hard to make look pretty...

Corn & White Bean Chowder

1 can white beans
1 cube vegetable bullion
1 large onion
3c water
2.5c sweet corn
1T garlic
spices to taste (I used garlic, onion, paprika, & black pepper. Basil would also be nice)
Optional: 1-2T cornstarch for thickening

1. Chop onion.
2. Microwave onion and frozen corn until warm (~5 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, drain & wash beans.
4. Add all ingredients to large food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.

Enjoy with some crusty bread and a salad for a good dinner!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Orange-Ginger French Toast

A few weeks back, my brother and I met up with our resident-significant others for a getaway weekend in Gettysburg PA. It was lovely! Despite spending 23 years of my life in Pennsylvania, I had never visited Gettysburg and it turns out that fall is an amazing time to do that. History and foliage aside, one of the highlights of our trip was (not too surprisingly) brunch at Lincoln Diner. When we inquired, our waitress recommended the french toast without hesitation. She said that it was award winning, and the secret was that the cook skipped the eggs and used pancake batter made with orange juice to dip the bread! Of course, I decided to try this, adapting my favorite pancake recipe, and the results were delicious. This is by far the easiest and most delicious vegan french toast I've ever made!

Orange-Ginger French Toast

1c flour
2T baking powder
3/4c orange juice
1/2c vanilla almond milk
generous amounts ginger and cinnamon
8 slices whole wheat bread

Preheat skillet. Mix flour, baking powder, orange juice, and spices to make batter. Dip bread into the batter, evenly coating both sides. Cook, flipping as usual halfway though. Top with warm maple syrup (or cranberry sauce if you still have any left over from Thanksgiving). Enjoy!

The view from Little Round Top

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rosemary Roast Brussels Sprouts

Just a quick post to give you an interesting, quick, and healthy recipe to bring to an upcoming Thanksgiving celebration! Most people overlook Brussels sprouts, with bad memories of their bitter leaves from childhood. Did you know that many bitter vegetables sweeten as you roast them though? While many people think that you need oil to roast vegetables, that's not true! I made a simple glaze of balsamic vinegar, vegetable broth, garlic, and rosemary, which skipped the oil & definitely filled the house with some happy smells as it was cooking. If that's not enough to convince you to try this recipe, may I remind you of the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables, including a correlation with cancer prevention?

Rosemary Roast Brussels Sprouts

4c fresh Brussels sprouts
1 large onion
1c vegetable broth
1/4c balsamic vinegar
2T nutritional yeast
1/2T powdered garlic
1/2T dried rosemary
salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Meanwhile, quarter fresh Brussels sprouts, slice the onion, and add both to a mixing bowl.
3. Add vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic, rosemary, and salt to bowl. Stir to coat the vegetables.
4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Spread vegetables evenly across sheet.
5. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring halfway to ensure homogenous baking. Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2016

As American as Apple Pie

We are a nation of deplorables and nasty women. This is what makes America great. We are a huge country and thus come from a diversity of backgrounds. From our farms, to our universities, to our cities, and our businesses, our differences make us great. For those of you who were "shocked" that Trump won: look around you. We tend to surround ourselves with those who think like us, but you don't have to look far to find someone that's different that you. If diversity and a difference of opinion makes you uncomfortable, that's bigotry too.

Now, perhaps I'm biased. Let me explain where I come from. I am a liberal. Note that I say that I'm a liberal, not a Democrat. I am so far left that I know that this nation will never elect a President that accurately represents my political views. I've decided that I'm ok with that. I believe that safety, food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care are all basic human rights: I am a socialist.

I am also from Allentown, Pennsylvania. My hometown entertains a weird political microenvironment that has accurately predicted the results of every single Presidential election since the Great Depression or something outrageous like that. We have urban poverty, farmers and cornfields, immigrants, high school pregnancies and drop outs, and a suburban middle class that often doesn't take note of (or worse, fears) those who don't see the world the same way they do. As a scientist, it's my job to be observant, and I like to think that I grew up with my eyes open. Like I said, I'm a flaming liberal and my best friend was a conservative. Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make them wrong.

On to this election...

I will be honest with you. I cried the day after the election. I cried because of what Hillary stood for to me. I cried because our country made a public declaration to me that as a woman, I am still a second-rate citizen.* As long as you are a man, when it comes to leadership, it is more ok to be black than it is to be a woman. But, that wasn't the only issue at stake.

If she had won, how many other hundreds of thousands would have cried instead? Cried because they felt the same frustration of being the backbone of the country and still being told that they are second-rate? Cried because they didn't want more of the same: they wanted their voices heard and they want change.

If we're all honest with ourselves, the frustration is not with each other. Our mutual frustration is a product of a faulty political system. The 2016 Presidential Election presented us with an impossible choice between two flawed candidates. We chose to see the best in the candidate we voted for, which meant that we had to overlook some serious problems. For me, Hillary's presidency would have represented affirmation that women are equals in this country.* Unfortunately, sexism is still a reality and as much as I wanted to believe it, having a woman as president won't make that disappear.

#imstillwithher, but I'm terribly disappointed in the liberal response to this election. We were aghast when in the 3rd debate, Trump said that he wouldn't accept the results if he lost. But suddenly, it's ok for us to protest democracy? Because we are "right"? In observing this election, there has been so much hate. Trump has been spewing hatred and intolerance, but actually his supporters (the ones that are friends with me, at least) have not. Ironically, Hillary was very civil, but Hillary supporters have been calling Trump supporters every nasty and deplorable name in the book. Apparently, this scolding, name-calling, and belittling was supposed to shame Republicans into thinking our way?

Let's go back to what we've identified ourselves as in this election: "deplorables" and "nasty women." Insults thrown at us by the opposite party. We are all an integral part of the web here, people. I'm scared too, but instead of "unfriending" people because they are different, let's stick together. We've been scared before, we've disagreed before, and in the end we are the great nation that we our today. Our differences were what made this country strong: it's time to embrace them. Let's stand together for love and tolerance. It's as American as apple pie.

Yes, I used a filter. Turns out, that even though brown sugar is tastier in the crumble, it's less photogenic.

Easy Apple Crumble Pie


1 1/3c flour
1/2t salt
1/2c chilled butter Crisco (yes, Crisco is vegan. Not healthy, but vegan)
4T ice cold water

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until combined. Roll out and then flip into pie pan. Cut down to size. It's that easy!
(To make this even easier, buy a crust. But a crust made with butter Crisco will really rock your world. Or, to make it gluten free, just skip the crust)

Crumble Filling

4 apples, sliced and cubed. I like to leave the skins on.
1/2c rolled oats
1/4c Earth Balance buttery spread (or vegetable oil)
1/2c brown sugar
1/4c flour (omit if making gluten free)
1T cinnamon

Cube apples. In a separate bowl (or perhaps the one you made your crust in, dish economy!) combine oats, Earth Balance, brown sugar, flour & cinnamon.

Putting it together...

Preheat oven to 400F. Put apples into crust, top with the sugary oats mixture. Create a "shield" with aluminum foil and place it over the crust to prevent it from getting burnt. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until apples are tender. Enjoy one of the great parts of being an American!

*Gross oversimplification of a very complex election. This is a blog post though and if I went into detail on all of the issues I felt were represented, no one would read it.

#keepitkind Comments of love and tolerance only, please.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pumpkin Cornbread

It's (unfortunately still) winter, so I have been making up a big crock pot full of chili just about every other week. I think chili is an intensely personal thing. I shared one of my chili recipes early on, but really I switch it up just about every time I make it, and most of the time I just wing it with whatever ingredients and spices I am feeling. Besides the tomatoes, the only other thing that I usually have with my chili is cornbread. I just love cornbread! Unfortunately, most cornbread has a good amount of sugar and oil in it, which isn't the best for you. So, I took it upon myself to create a cornbread that still satisfied but you could feel good about eating. After many iterations of pretty bad sugar and oil free cornbread, I finally discovered the secret ingredient. Pumpkin puree! Using applesauce to replace the sugar and pumpkin to replace the oil gives a moist and slightly sweet cornbread, without leaving the cornbread too bitter or apple-y. It's the perfect complement to a good chili or soup on a cold winter day!

Pumpkin Cornbread

1 1/4c whole wheat flour
3/4c cornmeal
2t baking powder
1T flaxmeal soaked in 2T water
1/2c almond milk
1/2c water
1/4c apple sauce
1/4c pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix dry ingredients, then add in wet. Add batter to a greased 9 inch round pan (or take it up a notch with a cast iron pan). Bake 20 minutes or so until a toothpick comes out clean. Split 8 ways, each piece of this cornbread is only 100 calories with 1g fat, down from 170 calories and 7g fat in the original recipe. Delicious!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Louisiana Hot Hummus

Since moving to Pittsburgh, I've been quite lazy about making my own hummus. I live a 3 minute walk (downhill) from Greek Gourmet, which is reputed to have the best hummus in Pittsburgh. Spoiler alert: they do in fact have the best hummus! My favorites are their Garlic, Sweet Potato, and Honey Habanero hummuses, which are all so good that I could practically drink them. Unfortunately, some weeks I just can't get there before they close at 7pm so I have to fall back on my own hummus making skills. I've found that I prefer savory white bean hummuses when I make my own (again, inspired by Greek Gourmet's amazing Smoked White Bean hummus) because I can get a creamier texture without adding a ton of oil. Plus, like chickpeas, white beans are a complete protein, and deliver good doses of vitamins B, C, E, K, and calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Wow! This week, instead of just trying to replicate Greek Gourmet's smoked hummus flavor, I decided to kick it up a notch. Through most of grad school, I was obsessed with Sriracha as my hot sauce of choice, but being back in Pittsburgh reminded me of my old favorite, Louisiana hot sauce. The vinegary taste of this hot sauce takes this hummus up to the next level, making it good enough to get me through until my next run to Greek Gourmet!

Louisiana Hot Hummus

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
3T Louisiana hot sauce
1T liquid smoke
1T smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic
1t apple cider vinegar
1t powdered onion
sea salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. Process until smooth, then enjoy with veggies, pitas, or on a sandwich!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins

Bananas... the original super food of endurance athletes. Renowned for their potassium and easily digestible sugars, bananas are also packed with C and B vitamins and micronutrients. Unfortunately for me, even after repeated attempts to make myself like them, I've never been a huge fan of bananas. With my quest for recipes with that minimize added sugar, I decided that I should give bananas one more go. Last week, bananas were on sale for $0.29/ lb at our local grocery store so I committed to experimentation by purchasing two pounds. I've become pretty good at using applesauce in my recipes (like my chocolate peanut butter muffins last week) so I decided that I'd take it slow and try for a chocolate banana muffin, substituting banana puree for applesauce. The result was these muffins, which are like a new and improved banana bread. Adding cocoa powder, which is rich in flavanols, can improve circulatory function and enhance recovery. I did add sugar to these, but I think if you are really against it, you can substitute the banana for apple sauce in last week's make a really portable and balanced breakfast treat. Alternatively, these are decadent enough that you can go the other direction, whip up some icing, and make these into full-fledged cupcakes. Enjoy!

Chocolate Banana Walnut Muffins

2c flour
3/4c sugar
1/2c unsweetened cocoa powder
1t baking soda
2t baking powder
1c crushed walnuts
1 flax egg (1T ground flax seed plus 2T water)
2 ripe bananas
1c almond milk
3/4c water
1T apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Mix flax egg and set aside.
3. Mix dry ingredients, then add crushed walnuts.
4. Add bananas and almond milk to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. (I hate the texture of bananas, so this helps eliminate banana chunks in the muffins.)
5. Add flax egg, banana & almond milk, and water.
6. Stir in apple cider vinegar.
7. Add ~1/3c batter of greased muffin tins.
8. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 18 muffins

Chocolate Cranberry Walnut option:
Substitute 1/2c applesauce for the banana and add 1c dried cranberries when you add the walnuts. My husband loves these!