Food, Vegan Recipes

Mediterranean Polenta with Kale in Tomato Sauce


I’ve been plotting on this meal all week and finally tried it out today. On my last trip to the market, I bought fresh kale and pre-packaged polenta for the first time and I’ve really enjoyed their variety and yumminess.

In Lieu of a Recipe:

I made the tomato/onion sauce in the Vitamix a few days ago and froze it. This morning I thawed it out, poured it into a small sauce pan and added a handful of shiitake mushrooms. I also added a teaspoon of agave syrup, a few capers and squeezed in a touch of fresh lemon juice.

While that was simmering, I massaged a big bunch of kale and sautéed it with a pinch of sea salt in a generous amount of EVOO. Then I added four slices of Roma tomato, which I sprinkled with basil.

In a small pan, I sautéed four slices of polenta in even more EVOO. (This is certainly not a low fat recipe). I then added the kale to the polenta and sprinkled it all with freshly ground black pepper. I left the slices of Roma tomato in the stir fry pan, but turned off the eye.

Meanwhile, I emptied my stove (which I generally use for storage) and set the broiler to low. I sprinkled the kale/polenta mix with 1/3 cup of Daiya vegan cheddar. I put the small pan in the oven and let it broil for about 5 min, until the tomatoes were a touch crispy and the cheese was bubbly.

To plate it up, I put a few spoonfuls of the sauce down first, then layered the polenta/kale/cheese mix, alternating with more sauce. Finally I garnished this delectable dish with the grilled tomatoes, capers and basil.

Words cannot describe how amazing this was. And it’s gluten free/vegan!

Life Musings, Vegan Recipes

My Rawish, Veganish, Gluten-freeish Eating Experiment – 1 Month Results

So, one of the most exciting things going on in my life these days has been a pretty radical lifestyle change.  A month ago, I was sick.  In the stupor of this illness, I realized my fridge was bare and that I’d need provisions to recover.  Around this time, I also discovered that many of the folks I correspond with on Twitter — academics, nondual types, spiritually minded folks — are also into vegan and raw foods.  They made suggestions for things I should add to my grocery cart.  People started sharing meal ideas, recipes, books, vegan websites and even documentaries.  For reasons I cannot account for, I was particularly open to these suggestions and approached it all with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Eggplant burger with grilled shiitake mushrooms, onions and vegan cheese on gluten free bread
Eggplant burger with grilled shiitake mushrooms, onions and vegan cheese on gluten free bread

First, let me explain how I was living (and eating) prior to this lifestyle change.  I was drinking 2, 3 sometimes 4 cups of coffee a day (frighteningly easy to do with a Keurig machine).  I had not been sleeping well for months and I was feeling very lethargic – something that’s pretty unusual for me.   I had a persistent headache and I had put on about 10 lbs in the last quarter of 2012.  My meals were heavy in protein and carbs.  I love meat, cheese and bread — preferably French.  A typical jaunt to the grocery store would have me buying ciabatta baguettes, steak, chicken, creamer (for my coffee), some exotic, expensive cheese.  The only vegetables I liked buying were bok choy, brussels sprouts and cabbage.  My staple meals were pasta, fajitas, Asian stirfry dishes and the like.

I thought my choices were relatively healthy because I selected whole wheat products, organic produce and grass-fed meat and dairy.  I tried to match equal portions of protein and carbs in my meals, following a habit I picked up from past forays into Bill Phillip’s “Body for Life” program.  But otherwise, I didn’t follow any rules.  I ate whatever I wanted.  And I often felt like passing out after those meals.  I associated such feelings – being bloated and tired – with satiation.  I didn’t know that another way was possible.

Burrito lettuce wraps with mango salsa, cilantro, vegan cheese and chiles
Burrito lettuce wraps with mango salsa, cilantro, vegan cheese and chiles

In any case, a month ago I decided to tip-toe into a veganish, raw-ish lifestyle.  At first, I said I would do it just for a few days – until I got over my cold.  Then I extended it for a week, then another week.. and suddenly a month had passed.  In the interim, I’ve lost about 12 lbs – effortlessly.

Here’s an overview of the changes I’ve made. In parentheses is the percent of the time I follow these guidelines on a daily basis:

  • Replaced coffee with alternative drinks like hot lemon water and ginger root tea (100%)
  • Cut out all meat and seafood (100%)
  • Cut out all wheat (95%)
  • Replaced dairy with vegan products (90%)
  • Introduced raw meals and juices (100%)
  • Introduced gluten free products (100%)
  • Replaced sugar with honey and agave (97%)
  • Added superfoods green drinks (50%)
  • Finally started taking the vitamin supplements that had been sitting idly on top of my fridge (95%)
Thai lettuce wraps with hummus, fvegan cheese, broccoli/carrot slaw, ginger and peanut sauce
Thai lettuce wraps with hummus, fvegan cheese, broccoli/carrot slaw, ginger and peanut sauce

Other than meat, dairy and most gluten products, I can eat whatever I want. When I tell folks this, most of them snark “But there’s nothing left!”  Oh, but that’s a myth!  There is LOTS and lots of food I can and do eat.  I’m having so much fun with discovering new, delicious recipes.  I do not feel like I’m on a diet.  I am often full and nurture myself with hearty meals.  I feel free to do whatever I want (and this sense of liberty is important to me).  If there are donuts at a meeting, I will have a bite.  But overall, I find myself naturally choosing to make healthier decisions – not because I want to lose weight or reach a certain goal – but because my body feels better when I feed it with raw, vegan, gluten free goodies.

Sauteed spinach with garlic, grilled onions and vegan cheddar
Sauteed spinach with garlic, grilled onions and vegan cheddar

Not all of my meals have turned out well.  The whole guacamole-over-cabbage idea was certainly a mistake.  But for the most part, I have found it easy and exciting to come up with creative, delicious and nourishing things to eat.

Side effects of this new lifestyle:

  • I feel GREAT!
  • Natural detoxification
  • I’m sleeping better.  I wake up early, without the need for an alarm. I have more energy.
  • The headaches are gone.
  • My digestion is great.
  • After meals, I feel energized and happy. No more lethargy or bloat.
  • My body is naturally losing weight
  • My appetite is decreasing
  • My eyesight seems to be improving
  • Pain and tension in my neck and shoulders has decreased

Things I typically buy now:

  • LEMONS! Can’t get enough
  • Almond butter
  • Avocados
  • Daiya vegan cheese (a revelation.. absolutely incredible)
  • Lifeway probiotic kefir
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Boston lettuce (for lettuce wraps)
  • Gluten free bread
  • Gluten free pasta
  • Vegan / gluten free sauces
  • Beans
  • Kefir
  • Almond milk

New information I’m learning about myself:

  • I don’t like salads, but I love lettuce wraps
  • I like cooking some vegetables, so a completely raw lifestyle is not for me
  • I feel more energetic now that I’ve cut out coffee
  • Hot lemon water – or just hot water itself – is very internally soothing
  • I love the taste of lemon juice on just about anything
  • A sprinkle of “real” cheese or a serving of 99% lactose free kefir agrees with me, but any substantial serving of dairy upsets my stomach
  • I absolutely love eating (and making) fresh guacamole
  • I’ve learned that giving up meat is relatively easy, because I’m such a condiment girl. If I have the right spices and sauces, I’m good to go.

Staple meals and snacks for me now include:

  • Lettuce wraps
  • Soups
  • Vegan cakes
  • Raw juice (especially apple, carrot, ginger)
  • Raw chocolate
  • Nut crackers
  • Gluten free pasta with vegan cheese
  • Spinach sauteed with garlic and grilled onions (I actually eat this for breakfast sometimes)
  • Eggplant burgers (Dominex brand.. incredibly good, and a nice gluten free alternative to veggie burgers)

In terms of fast food, I find myself attracted to Thai and Japanese takeout.  I’ll get vegetarian sushi (I’ve just discovered sweet potato tempura.. amazing!), dumplings or vegetarian pad thai.

For now, I don’t have any grand goal, but my plan is to pretty much stick to this for the time being.  I’m sure I’ll have meat again one day, but that day is not to day.

Potato onion galette with vegan cheese and spinach
Potato onion galette with vegan cheese and spinach
Broccoli and carrot slaw with thai peanut sauce
Broccoli and carrot slaw with thai peanut sauce
My homemade raw chocolate
My homemade raw chocolate with crystallized ginger and pistachios. Yes, it was amazing.