Archives for January 2012

SaveGreenNow Deal Alert!


Happy Hump Day friends! If you missed the 50% off Kaia Foods deal last week from Vegan Cuts, you can sign up for SaveGreenNow and get the same deal this week! 

* VeganCuts and SaveGreenNow are like Groupon for the Eco/Veg*n communtiy.

I cannot get enough of the Kale Chips and am excited to try the sprouted nuts….especially sweet curry sunflower seeds.

I will be doing a review as soon as I receive my Kaia goodies. $30 worth of product for $15 + $5 flat rate shipping. Offer valid for U.S. only

Ruh-roh, it’s officially cold season

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Ruh-roh, it’s officially cold season. Checked the feeds this morning and all I’m seeing is a bunch of sickie-poos! I used to suffer from a yearly visit from the  flu fairy, but have managed to avoid a cold since I started drinking my homemade sage tea recipe here and taking Astragalus when I’m feeling worn down. The tea will soothe your throat and calm a cough, while the astragalus helps boost your immune system. Combine these tricks with a plant based diet, stay hydrated and you’ve got a great defense against the common cold and flu.

Jai- Buddha’s Delight Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Jai- Buddha’s Delight

Gong Hei Fat CHoy! Jai is also called monk’s food and is served at the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. The dish is put together with 12 lucky ingredients.  Allow yourself at least 2 hours to prep for this dish. Shop in Chinatown or an Asian market to find the specialty ingredients. If you are unable to find a certain item, you can easily substitute another vegetable like, carrots or sugar snap peas. Enjoy this dish with family and friends for a healthy, wealthy and prosperous New Year!

Soak for 2 hours in hot water:

1-package mung bean noodles

Soak for 30 minutes in hot water, drain:

1-cup wood ear mushrooms (black fungus)

Half a package of bean curd sticks (cut into 2 inch strips after soaking)

Soak for 10 minutes in cold water:

1 cup fried wheat gluten (dao pok)

8 jadofu (aburage) fried tofu pockets, cut in half

Slice 3 cups shitakes (remove stems), 1-cup water chestnuts, 1-cup arrowroot (see goo), and 2 cups lotus root

Blanch 3 cups snow peas for 30 seconds then shock in ice bath

Shred 1 bunch Napa cabbage, remove core

Skin 1-cup gingko nuts (cut in half to remove sprout to avoid bitterness). Try peanuts as a substitute if gingko is unavailable

Boil 3-inch square piece of black hair seaweed (fat choy) for 10 minutes with a one-inch piece of ginger and a pinch of salt. Drain, cool and squeeze out water

Mix 1 cup reserved mushroom soaking liquid, 2 cups water, ¼ cup tamari soy sauce, ¼ cup sugar, and 2 Tbsp black bean sauce

Heat 2 Tbsp red bean curd and 2 Tbsp fermented bean curd in wok on high heat. Mash with back of spatula until broken into small bits. Add liquid seasoning mixture. Bring to boil for 2 minutes. Add shitakes, wood ears, lotus root, water chestnuts, arrowroot, gingko nuts, black hair seaweed. Cook for 4 minutes, until slightly softened. Add bean curd sticks, fried wheat gluten, fried tofu pockets, noodles. Toss well. Correct seasoning. Add Napa cabbage, snow peas. Serve immediately. Makes about 8 servings.

Downtown@the HiSAM 

Downtown@the HiSAM brings owner Ed Kenney’s  “local first, organic whenever possible, and with aloha always” fare to downtown Honolulu. Get there early ( before 11:30) or make a reservation because this place is packed by noon with both the business lunch crowd and tourists wandering over from Iolani Palace.

For some reason, I was surprised at the lack of veg*n options on the menu. To keep it real, I did not walk up to the takeout counter to see if they had different offerings there. But I did mention to my server that I was looking for a veg option and he recommended the lentil soup. If it wasn’t 87 degrees and 90% humidity today, that may have sounded like a good option. Instead, I opted for the sampler platter with hummus, curried coconut eggplant and poi. All good, nothing great and the portion is kinda manini for $9.

Mediocre lunch aside, I would go back to Downtown just for dessert. The Grapefruit-Campari Sorbet was so incredible, I did the happy dance in my seat. As it melts on your tongue, it’s Campari…then it slides around your mouth and BAM! Grapefruit. $4 for two scoops.

Downtown @ The Hisam on Urbanspoon

You’re not still drinking diet soda, right?

You’re not still drinking diet soda, right? No, you’re too smart for that. Don’t let the title of this video fool you.

If you’re unclear about acid/alkaline foods and how they affect your overall health, check out this video. It breaks it down in a very non-scientific speak way,so you won’t be snoozing halfway through.

Think you know it all? Here’s a quick test: Is a lemon acid or alkaline on the pH scale?

If you answered “acid”, you’re wrong…might wanna go watch that video 😉

Is your current diet more acid or more alkaline? 

Rau Om Tofu Misozuke

When I hear that there is a new vegan “cheese” on the market, I stop everything and order two packages of the product, pronto! A vegan cheese truly is the chupacabra of plant-based eating.

Reviews have been touting Rau Om’s tofu misozuke as the holy grail of vegan cheese. A taste so extraordinary, that you would savor the flavor with soju or sake and nothing more. I think one review even compared the tofu misozuke to foie gras…really? Could it be?

My tofu parcel arrived neatly wrapped in parchment and cradled by a piece of bamboo. Tofu misozuke is a Japanese delicacy enjoyed straight up or as a spread, usually with a glass of wine or sake. The non GMO tofu is bathed in miso, sake and sugar. When the tofu emerges after a two month fermentation process, the taste is completely unique .The flavor profile is so deep, you could drown in it, so go easy. Slice into the small block and it has the creamy, buttery texture of a pate. A mere mortal block of tofu has been transformed into an umami wrapped, velvet tongue taste delight.

Because it is marinated in miso the tofu can be on the salty side, so keep that in mind when deciding how to serve it. A good crusty bread will work but certain crackers will  over power due to the sodium content. I used the tofu misozuke in a cucumber maki roll and the flavors were balanced perfectly. The sweet tang of sushi rice paired with cool cucumber and a savory sliver of the tofu were working. If I had to compare the tofu misozuke to something in the omnivore world, I think it’s reminiscent of uni (sea urchin) with the sweet brininess. I think it can be used to bring an amazing depth of flavor to sauces and I’m anxious to play around with this new ingredient.

It would be unfair to compare the tofu misozuke to cheese or foie gras because there is no fatty mouth feel to the tofu like foie.  And I don’t find it to be as pungent as cheese, which can be a good thing. Rau Om has created a delicacy that is unique enough to stand on it’s own without pretending to be anything else. If you aren’t near the Palo Alto or Sunnyvale farmers markets, you can order online (2.5 oz/$7 +shipping). The tofu is perishable so they send the product with ice packs via priority or expedited shipping. If you’re feeling adventurous and don’t mind waiting two months, you can try making it yourself with Rau Om’s recipe here. I’ll be attempting to make my first batch this weekend since the two blocks I ordered were shamelessly devoured. I want more.

Decoding GMO food labels/PLU codes

This article is not new, but I continue to see otherwise credible blogs/news sources post misinformation about PLU codes and GMOs. Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology wrote this article to help clarify what the PLU labels will tell you.

There are two great websites that I reference before food shopping:

The EWG posts the “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” lists that tell you which fresh produce items test highest for pesticide and chemical residue vs. those that test lower. This list changes during the year, so check back every few months or download the App for your phone. Kale was not on the list the last time I checked, but I notice that it is today. 

For packaged and  frozen foods, check out the Non GMO Shopping Guide and the App for your smartphone to take along while shopping.

From their website:

Look for the Seal

What does “Non-GMO Project Verified” mean? 

First of all, let’s explain what it doesn’t mean. It is not a guarantee that the product is 100% GMO free. The reason for this is that our program is process-based, using a set of best practices to avoid contamination. We do require testing of all ingredients (everything being grown in GMO form in North America), but we don’t require testing of every single finished product. Instead, testing can be done at any one of a number of places in the production chain, for example right after harvest. Following the test, which must indicate that the ingredient is below 0.9% GMO (in alignment with laws in the European Union), we require rigorous traceability and segregation practices to be followed in order to ensure that the tested ingredients are what get used in the product.

So in short, what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients.

Companies enrolled in the Non-GMO Project are serious about keeping GMOs out, and work hard to do so. The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada.

Buying products that are enrolled and verified in the Project is a great way to support the sustained availability of non-GMO choices in North America.

My best tip is to start growing your own greens, join a CSA,  get to know and support local organic farmers. Start small and grow big!

Okinawan Sweet Potato & Coconut Rice Pudding

Do you eat a rainbow of foods each day? Colleen Patrick –Goudreau’s book, Color Me Vegan, inspired me to  incorporate more purple and blue foods into my diet. My recipe is reminiscent of a dessert we love here in Hawaii, Okinawan sweet potato and haupia pie.

 Okinawan Sweet Potato and Coconut Rice Pudding

 1/2 of a cooked purple sweet potato

1 cup uncooked rice or quinoa (washed)

2 cups coconut juice (or coconut water)

2 cups coconut milk blended with 10 pitted dates OR 1 teaspoon stevia

½ cup sun dried blueberries

¼ cup flaked unsweetened coconut

Wash and drain your rice. Heat 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a medium size pot on high heat. Add rice and sauté until it becomes translucent, about 1 minute. Add coconut juice, cover with a lid, reduce to medium heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes. When most of the liquid has been absorbed, give it a stir and add half of the sweetened coconut milk mixture to the pot. Mix until you get a creamy consistency, add more of the coconut milk as needed. Add cooked sweet potato and stir.

Garnish with blueberries, flaked coconut and sweet potato hearts. Enjoy!

* If you have not used Stevia before, keep in mind that it is four times sweeter than sugar, so you use less. Stevia is available packaged in liquid or a powder form or you can grow your own stevia plant. It is the only natural sweetener that has a zero glycemic index. I prefer the Sweet Leaf brand because it is the only100% leaf-derived, chemically-free stevia sweetener available in the marketplace today.

What purple/blue foods are your favorites?

My affair with Loving Hut

I know people adore Loving Hut but I’m still determining if I’m going to have the same relationship with the vegan restaurant chain that serves Asian style food in over 40 locations in the U.S. and 200 outlets worldwide. My first time I sampling the food was in Seattle and I remember it being pretty good. So, I called up my omnivore Aunty and invited her to lunch at the Pensacola St. location.

Me: Aunty, do you want to go to lunch?

Aunty: Where? (always suspect I’m taking her somewhere plant based)

Me: Asian food

Aunty: okay!

As we walked thru the front door of the small restaurant, my Aunt notices the big Vegan sign and says “You tricked me! You said we were going to eat Chinese food!” “No Aunty,” I say ” I said Asian food and this is!”

We shared a plate of Crispy Golden Rolls which seemed to put her at ease. If I ever go back, I’ll be ordering these ( see pic). 

After a lot of deliberation, she ordered the Pho ( soup)  which was very heavy flavored with star anise. Instead of the usual tendons and tripe, it’s served with seitan, tofu and a plate of accouterments to top the soup. Her rating on a scale of 1-10 was only a two.

I decided to have the Sea Vegetable Salad which finally arrived at the table a solid 10 minutes after the other people at my table got their soup. My hope was that it would be worth the wait, but it was a bit of a let down. The salad is pretty looking since they use a variety of seaweeds besides wakame but the dressing was flat and tasteless. I did bring it home to try and doctor it up, but what they served me was basically a pile of seaweed with a few cucumbers and not much else.

I read on their website :

Q: Why are the menus different at every Loving Hut? 
A: Every city is unique, and thus we believe in giving our Loving Huts’ chefs the freedom to create great local dishes and entrées. We want to bring out the best of all cultures and show that vegan dishes are not only healthy but great tasting too.

Which would also explain why the food can be super tasty at one location and bland beyond belief at another. On the up side, the staff is friendly and accommodating.

So my second visit at a Loving Hut was just “meh” but I still give them a six on a scale of 1-10 because I am happy to support a restaurant serving plant based food. I think if I go back I’ll try a sandwich or a smoothie…

Loving Hut on Urbanspoon

DIY Build your own Solar Oven

How to Build Your Own Cheap, Simple Solar Oven
I’ve always wanted to give cooking in a solar oven a try and now I have the instructions to build one! Isn’t the internet machine incredible? Solar cooking can be useful in many situations like camping or if you live on an island (like me) that is prone to power outages. Or maybe you’re going to take the big leap and live off the grid. Whatever the reason, you’re lowering your carbon footprint and saving money by going solar. The first thing I’m going to try to bake is…cookies! What would you bake in your solar oven?