Banana tofu smoothie

I made this up as an easy way to get extra protein into my vegan teenager. Warning: do NOT tell your 9-year-old there’s tofu in this.  I made that mistake, and now he’s on to me. Now he thinks I put tofu in everything. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I’ll never tell.

2 bananas, frozen
3 cups rice milk
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 container soft (silken) tofu

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
  2. Don’t even think about telling your kids it contains tofu. Really. Don’t.

Sun tea

I’m not usually an iced-tea kind of person, but I can’t resist sun tea. Somehow the slow brewing in the sun makes for a mellower glass of tea. You can use any kind of tea. I like to use a combination of mint, chamomile, and lemon teabags.

4-6 tea bags
agave nectar to taste
8 cups water

  1. In a two-quart glass container, add the tea bags and water. Cover and place in the sun outside (or inside, if you have an area where the sun will strike for 3-5 hours).
  2. When the tea has brewed to the strength you prefer, remove the tea bags and place the container in the refrigerator. Serve over ice with agave nectar (or your favorite sweetener).

Indian fried rice

When I first made this 15 years ago, I thought it was pretty weird to cook with fruit and nuts. Now I do it all the time. My husband and I have lots of fun sneaking weird ingredients in the dishes we cook and not telling anyone until after the fact: “Could you taste the apple I put in that soup?” or “Yeah, we had an apricot lying around, so I added it to the stir-fry.” Anyway, this recipe lends itself well to invention–try different vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts to mix it up a little. This works well as a main dish or as a side dish to a curry or stew.

3 tablespoons canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, grated
2 cups frozen peas (or fresh if you’ve got ’em)
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup raisins
3 cups brown basmati rice (any long-grain rice will work)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups water

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the peas, cashews, and raisins, and cook until heated.
  2. Add the rice, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, pepper, and salt and mix.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Sugar-free, vegan crispy rice treats

This simple recipe uses peanut butter and agave nectar to hold things together. You can try maple syrup, corn syrup, or brown rice syrup instead of agave nectar.

1 cup sugar-free peanut butter
1 cup agave nectar
8 cups crispy rice cereal

  1. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot over low heat, stir the peanut butter and agave nectar until they are well-combined.
  3. Remove the peanut butter mixture from the heat, add the crispy rice cereal, and stir until the cereal is well-coated.
  4. Press the cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish and let cool. Cut into 18 squares.

Sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate white bean “ice cream”

Ok, it sounds weird, but when you’ve gone ice cream-less for awhile, this is a real treat! The problem with store-bought alternative ice cream is that you can often find dairy-free OR sugar-free, but usually not both. So, after buying a Cuisinart ice cream maker (it makes frozen desserts easy!), and looking at it for awhile to gather enough courage to try it out, I set out to make my own. I don’t particularly like the taste of soy, and after a couple of failed attempts at making tofu ice cream that doesn’t taste like soy, I had a brain wave. Why not use white beans instead? Everyone seemed to like the results, so here’s the recipe.

It’s best to eat this as soon as you make it, because it freezes very hard. If you do freeze it, just microwave it in 10-second intervals until it’s soft enough to eat.

2 cups cooked white beans (navy or Great Northern)
2 cups rice milk
3/4 cup agave nectar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sugar-free chocolate-hazelnut spread

In our carefree lives before food allergy screening, we loved Nutella. We still do, but now we can only look at it wistfully. Fortunately, I came up with this wonderful concoction. This spread is not as smooth as Nutella, but if you’re able to grind everything finer than I’m able to with my food processor, your results might be smoother. It’s great to use as a spread on breads, cake filling, cookie or cupcake frosting, or “ice cream” topping (dilute a little with water or rice milk first). Or you can scoop spoonfuls out of the container and eat it by itself, which is apparently what everyone in my family seems to do.

By the way, don’t tell anyone there are beans in it. They’ll never be able to figure it out, and they just don’t need to know.

1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup cooked red beans (adzuki beans would probably work very well, too)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Ghirardelli’s for taste, Dagoba for fair trade, Hershey’s for price–take your pick)
1/2 cup agave nectar
rice milk as needed for desired consistency

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place them in the oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly toasted.
  2. In a blender or food processor with the blade attachment, grind the hazelnuts. Add the red beans and grind. Add the cocoa powder and agave nectar and grind until well-mixed. Add rice milk a little at a time until the mixture is the desired consistency.

Potato and pea curry

This dish is great served over brown or white basmati rice, along with your favorite chutney.

1/4 cup canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or ground ginger if you don’t have fresh)
3 large potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (peel them first if you prefer)
2-3 tablespoons curry powder (to taste)
1 (12-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups frozen peas (or fresh if you have them)
1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup (or to taste)

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions about 5 minutes, until tender.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook until slightly browned.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato sauce and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Add the salt, peas, and agave nectar or syrup and cook until the peas are heated through. Adjust the seasonings as necessary.

Vegan dolmas

Ironically, we discovered our family loves dolmas while humoring my husband and going fishing with him. Apparently, it’s called “fishing” and not “catching” for a reason, and he was intelligent enough to bring all kinds of weird canned foods. Here’s a vegan version–feel free to experiment with the filling!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts (chopped almonds work well, too)
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dill weed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (8 oz) jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions until tender (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add nuts and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in rice, tomato paste, raisins, salt, dill weed, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, and lemon juice.
  5. Cut stems off grape leaves. Place a grape leave veined side up. Place 1 tablespoon of the rice mixture near the stem end, fold in the sides of the grape leaf, and roll it up. Continue until you run out of grape leaves or filling.
  6. Place the filled leaves, with the seam side down, in a single layer in a greased baking dish (I prefer glass for this, but metal is ok, too). Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until heated through.
  7. Serve warm or chilled.

Yellow split-pea soup

This is the easiest soup ever, and gets rave reviews from my kids. I will never understand how something that takes 3 minutes of my time can be so popular, but I’ll take it!

2 cups dried yellow split peas
7 cups water
salt to taste (usually about 1 teaspoon)
Hungarian paprika to taste (usually about 1 teaspoon–regular paprika is ok, too)

  1. Put the yellow split peas and water in a crockpot and simmer on low for 6-8 hours (or overnight), or on high for 3-4 hours.
  2. Add salt and paprika.

Palm oil

Some of the recipes in this blog contain palm oil. Palm oil (not to be confused with palm kernel oil) has been the subject of much debate. It is high in saturated fat, but low in cholesterol and high in antioxidants. While some studies have indicated that saturated fats contribute to heart disease, several studies about palm oil have shown it to help lower cholesterol levels and improve LDL/HDL ratios.

In addition, the increased demand for palm oil due to the biodiesel industry has led environmental groups to protest its use.

My advice (and I’m not a doctor) is to use environmentally-sustainable red palm oil, and to use it sparingly. You can also get environmentally-sustainable palm shortening, which is odorless and colorless. For example, I use it in some desserts, but not on an everyday basis. In general, my family consumes less fat–especially “bad” fat–than we used to by following the “typical” American diet. Personally, all of my test results are within normal now, instead of high in every category; I no longer have high blood glucose, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, or a bad LDL/HDL ratio.

Palm oil is derived from the oil palm, and is found in the fleshy portion of the fruit (mesocarp). Palm oil is 50% saturated fat and 50% unsaturated fat. More specifically, palm oil contains approximately 44% palmitic acid, 5% stearic acid, 39% oleic acid (monounsaturates), and 10% linoleic acid (polyunsaturates).

Recent studies have compared palm oil with other oils to understand the effect it has on blood cholesterol, and have found that it has similar effects as olive oil on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Red palm oil not only supplies fatty acids essential for proper growth and development, but also it contains an assortment of vitamins, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients important for good health. In addition to beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene, it contains at least 10 other carotenes, along with tocopherols and tocotrienols (members of the vitamin E family), CoQ10, phytosterols, and glycolipids.

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