Butternut Squash Farfalle & (Vegan) Cheese!

I got some positive feedback about my barbecue “pulled pork” quesadillas, so I’m introducing another comfort food recipe! I consulted one of my favorite vegan cooks, Angela Liddon, author of the Oh She Glows blog and cookbook by the same name – and found a recipe on her blog for mac and cheese!  I used the same ingredients she did at slightly different amounts, but I baked the mac and cheese at the end for that extra gourmet texture.  The cheesy sauce was easy to make and I already had all the ingredients in my pantry.  It was a huge hit in our house – we ate it 3 nights in a row until it was all gone!  Every time my husband would eat it, his eyes would get really wide and he’d ask, “You’re sure you wrote down the recipe, right? You have to make this again, exactly the same way!!!”

Let’s talk about nutritional yeast.  Sounds unappealing to eat if you haven’t heard of it, but it’s a useful and healthy cheese replacement with its nutty, cheesy taste. It’s a yeast that’s usually grown on molasses, then deactivated with heat. (Yes, it’s vegan because yeast is a fungus, like mushrooms.)  It has lots of B vitamins and vitamin B12 may be added, so it’s good for cell building.  It is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids your body needs, all in one place.  It has no saturated fat or sodium.

Compare this with dairy.

-Dairy products are loaded with saturated fat, and cheese has tons of sodium.  Saturated fat and sodium increase your risk of heart disease and strokes, two of the leading causes of death in the United States and developed countries.  The compound choline in dairy and eggs is converted by your intestines and your liver to TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide), which increases risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks.

-Cheese is actually addictive – the mammalian body’s metabolism of casein, the milk protein, turns it into casomorphins which are opiate-like chemicals that encourage a nursing calf to bond with its mother by activating its brain’s pleasure centers.  No wonder so many of my friends say, “I could give up meat, but I can’t give up cheese, I love it too much!” Casomorphins can make you feel a little like you got a small dose of morphine, which may not sound bad, but there have been studies that show that in children who cannot metabolize it well, it is associated with sudden infant death syndrome and autism.

-Cheese can also contain inflammatory cells due to cow mastitis, an infection of the udders.

-Casein, the dairy milk protein, was implicated in increasing the rate of liver and breast cancer development in rats and mice. Countries with higher animal-source dietary fat have higher rates of breast cancer. (Campbell T., The China Study 2005)

If all this information doesn’t make you want to lay off the cheese for your own health and well-being, visit my post about how dairy cows in factory farms are subjected to a lifetime of suffering and sickness, or watch any number of the documentaries to educate yourself: Conspiracy, Earthlings, Vegucated, etc.

Now, for the recipe!

Serves 8

Time: 60 minutes

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Ingredients:
4 pounds of butternut squash, peeled
-2 cloves garlic
-EVOO – 4 tablespoons
-1 tablespoon Coriander seeds, crushed into small pieces
-Salt and pepper
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-Cut peeled butternut squash into 1-2 inch cubes
-In a casserole dish, put all ingredients together

-Bake for 40 minutes in 450 degrees

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In the meantime, make the cheese sauce:
Cheese sauce ingredients:
-3 tablespoons vegan butter
-3 tablespoons corn starch
-2 cups unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
-12 tablespoons nutritional yeast (or to taste)
-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon each garlic powder and onion powder
-Salt and pepper to taste
-2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
-Optional: small pinch of cayenne pepper
Cheese sauce instructions:
1. Melt the earth balance in a sauce pan over low to medium heat
2. Add the almond milk and corn starch, mixing together until almost smooth
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, took together for 15-20 minutes total, tasting and adjusting (maybe adding more yeast)
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Start cooking the pasta – 8 servings (I used farfalle) until al dente
4. Once the butternut squash is done, take 2 cups of the cooked butternut squash and combine with the cheesy sauce in a blender. Blend together to liquefy.
 Cut up the 1 large bunch of kale into 1-2 inch pieces
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Once the pasta is done, drain and then add the raw kale, mix together, then add the sauce and the extra roasted butternut squash. Mix all together in the pot.
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Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, pour the pasta mixture and then sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.
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PREPARE TO LOVE THIS DISH!!!

Sources:

http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/03/butternut-squash-mac-n-cheeze/

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-cheese-crack-science-20151023-story.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/263528-what-are-the-benefits-of-nutritional-yeast-flakes/

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/carnitine-choline-cancer-and-cholesterol-the-tmao-connection/

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cows-milk-casomorphin-and-autism/

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/confessions-of-a-cheeseaholic/

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/get-know-nutritional-yeast

Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas M. Campbell. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2005. Print.

W.H. Wilson Tang, M.D., Zeneng Wang, Ph.D., Bruce S. Levison, Ph.D., Robert A. Koeth, B.S., Earl B. Britt, M.D., Xiaoming Fu, M.S., Yuping Wu, Ph.D., and Stanley L. Hazen, M.D., Ph.D. Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk. New England Journal of Medicine 368:1575-1584.

 

 

Chef Edwin Sander from Amsterdam Cooks Thai Green Curry

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having my Dutch friend Milou (she helped create and writes for the blog http://www.ourground.nl), and her friend Edwin Sander stay with us.  Edwin is a professional chef (https://www.facebook.com/edwinsanderfoodcreativ) in Amsterdam, and we were thrilled and honored when he agreed to cook for us.  Imagine how excited I was when he said I could write down his recipe and take pictures of the food for my blog!  Edwin made us a delightful green curry which tastes way better than most restaurant versions I’ve had.

Curry contains chili, cilantro, and turmeric, which are so beneficial for your health.  Here’s why:

-The active molecule in chili, capsaicin, has been known to fight inflammation of the stomach, decrease high blood pressure, and reduce your body’s reaction to pain. A recent study has also shown that capsaicin decreases mortality from heart disease, cancer, and lung diseases.

-Cilantro, aka coriander, lowers blood pressure. The nitrates in cilantro directly relax the blood vessels in your body.

-Turmeric (curcumin) prevents cancer as an antioxidant, carcinogen-blocking, and antiproliferative substance.  This means that turmeric blocks transformation of normal cells to tumor cells and then prevents the growth of tumors and their spread to other parts of the body.  It is rare that compounds in food work as well as turmeric does in preventing cancer, so when you get the opportunity to use it, I highly suggest you do!

Thai Green Curry: serves 6

Prep: 15 minutes; Cook time 30 minutes

4 tablespoons coconut oil

2 onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

100 g Vegan green curry paste
3 cans coconut milk
2 persian cucumbers
2 red bell peppers
1 head broccoli
1 cup of raw green beans
1 pineapple, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 limes for their juices and to make lime zest (about 2 tablespoonfuls total – tutorial video here: lime zest)
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
Optional: 1/8 cup chopped dill
Optional: 1 teaspoon of turmeric per person to add to the curry as it boils
Fresh steamed rice
4 pieces of Gardein chicken scaloppini
*To cook all the vegetables the same way through, cut them to the same size.
1. Saute garlic and onions with coconut oil for several minutes until onions turn opaque
2. Add 100 g curry paste (less if you don’t want it super spicy!) and stir for a minute.
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Then, add 3 cans coconut milk on heat medium high to bring to a boil. Reduce to low-medium heat and continue to simmer, uncovered, and stir occasionally for 20 minutes while it reaches the desired texture.
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Remember to add the turmeric if you want to make this super anti-cancer! Also, add 2 limes’ juice while it simmers.
3. Prep the rest of the vegetables at this time: Cut the ends off the green beans and cut to 1 inch long pieces, cut the broccoli into 1 inch florets, red peppers to 1 inch pieces, and cut cucumbers in half length-wise.
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5. Pan-fry the Gardein chicken in 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 5 minutes on each side. When it’s done cooking, chop into 1 inch pieces. Meanwhile…
6. Bring curry to a boil again. Add the green beans, let cook for 1 minute, followed by broccoli, cook for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, then add the red peppers.
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7. In a bowl, arrange the cucumbers, pineapple, and “chicken” over rice.
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8. Pour your curry the ingredients.  Add the chopped cilantro, dill, and lime zest, as well as the juice of 1 lime spread over each bowl. And it’s time to serve!
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Edwin making sure our meal looked like it was created by a professional.
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Sources:

Lv et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. BMJ 2015;351:h3942

Oaklander, Mandy. The Intriguing link between spicy food and a longer life. Time Magazine; published August 4, 2015.  Accessed online 9/29/2015.

W. Park, A. R. M. R. Amin, Z. G. Chen, D. M. Shin. New perspectives of curcumin in cancer prevention. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2013 6(5):387 – 400.

Webb AJ, Patel N, Loukogeorgakis S, Okorie M, Aboud Z, Misra S, Rashid R, Miall P, Deanfield J, Benjamin N, MacAllister R, Hobbs AJ, Ahluwalia A. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension. 2008 Mar;51(3):784-90. Epub 2008 Feb 4.

 

Cauliflower-Currant Quinoa

 

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Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it has all the amino acids that your body can’t make on its own, all in one place.  It is also packed with fiber, which helps your blood vessels steer clear of clots, and your colon clear of … you know.  (But besides talking about feces and food all in one place, I’d like to also remind you that fiber is also anti-cancer, as it decreases the amount of time that toxins in the food you consume interact with your intestines!)  This dish also has healthy leeks and cauliflower, which I talked about in a previous post, and is brightened with fruity currants.  Almonds complement quinoa’s nutty flavor.

Here’s some other fun facts of why this dish is great for you:

-Almonds and other nuts have phytosterols (plant sterols), which lower your cholesterol.  How do they do this? They act like cholesterol in your gut, binding to the same receptors on your enterocytes (small intestine cells) that cholesterol molecules use to enter your blood stream.  Therefore, the cholesterol molecules can’t bind to these receptors, and they are led through and out of your colon.  Plant sterols are so effective that their effects are additive to the most commonly used cholesterol-lowering medications: statins. (Marangoni, Pharmacol Res. 2010 Mar;61(3):193-9)

-Polyunsaturated fatty acids (you’ve heard of them as omega-3’s, omega-6’s, and perhaps alpha-linoleic acid) are abundant in nuts, tofu, soybeans, and flaxseeds. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp) They’re beneficial for lowering your levels of bad cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, and they also help in other inflammatory conditions. A study of 2514 people in Australia age 49 and over showed that increased nut consumption was protective against mortality from inflammatory disease (examples of these diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma). (Gopinath et al. 2011 ). Another group examined patients in the Physicians’ Health Study, a cohort of over 20,000 male U.S. physicians, and found that increased nut consumption was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality, including cardiovascular mortality, in a linear fashion. (Hshieh et al., Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):407-12).  The largest study that came out in 2015 pooled the results of 15 studies, and found that nut consumption is associated with decreased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality. (Grosso et all., Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr;101(4):783-93.)

Recipe (serves 4, takes 30 minutes):

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 head cauliflower

2-3 leeks, diced

1 large carrot or 2-3 heirloom carrots, diced

1/4 cup currants

4 tablespoons coconut oil

1-2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 teaspoon each allspice and cinnamon powder

Salt and pepper adjusted to taste

  1. Cook quinoa: in a saucepan on medium, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add 1 cup quinoa. Toast quinoa in oil for a few minutes until the nutty fragrance develops, then add 2 cups water and bring to a boil, then simmer.
  2. In a pan on medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil, then add leeks and cauliflowers. Saute for several minutes until the leeks get more translucent and the cauliflower softens; then add the almonds and currants and spices. Cook all together until the quinoa is ready.
  3. Once the quinoa is cooked, add it to the mixture. Adjust spices to your taste preference. Enjoy!

 

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Chickpea and veggie couscous

I wrote about the incredible health benefits of legumes before: http://shemakeswaves.com/2015/06/linguine-with-lentils/

Here are even more reasons to eat them.

Chickpeas have been used by the Uygur people of China to treat hypertension and diabetes for 2500 years, and the science explains why they work. They are higher in fiber than wheat and have saponins that bind cholesterol in the gut, explaining why they are so effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels. Their starches are relatively resistant to breakdown in the small intestine, which leads to lower blood glucose levels and decreased insulin resistance. Therefore, they can decrease the onset and severity of type 2 diabetes.  Chickpeas contain phytosterols, which lower blood pressure. Finally, they contain B vitamins, including thiamine and folate; calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. In summary, chickpeas are beneficial to health and help treat our most common ailments, and I would recommend everyone add them to their diet to reap the rewards.

A. K. Jukanti, P. M. Gaur, C. L. L. Gowda, R. N. Chibbar. Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.): A review. Br. J. Nutr. 2012 108 – Suppl – 1:S11 – 26.

Mushrooms are used in this recipe, and they have great fighting power against breast cancer, the most common cancer affecting women throughout the world. They work by inhibiting the enzyme aromatase, the key enzyme that synthesizes the estrogens that feed breast cancer growth. Just an average of five mushrooms a day can inhibit breast cancer.

Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A, Chen S. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr. 2001 Dec;131(12):3288-93.

Chen S, Oh SR, Phung S, Hur G, Ye JJ, Kwok SL, Shrode GE, Belury M, Adams LS, Williams D. Anti-aromatase activity of phytochemicals in white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Cancer Res. 2006 Dec 15;66(24):12026-34.

This is a simple, tasty, and filling couscous. The cornerstone is the chickpea.  For the first time, I used dry beans, which tasted fresher than the canned version.  Using dry beans requires a little planning – you have to soak them for 6-8 hours in water before you cook them. I soaked them in the morning, and then cooked them for dinner. Of course, you can still use canned beans.

Dried garbanzo beans instructions:

Soak 2 1/2 cups dry beans in 6-8 cups of drinking water for 6-8 hours.

At the end of the 6-8 hours, drain and rinse in cold water.

Bring 6-8 cups of water and garbanzo beans to a boil. Then reduce heat, and with lid partially open, simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

While the garbanzo beans were cooking, I proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

Serves 6

Time: 1 hour

Vegetables:

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 large zucchini, processed into slices

1 large yellow squash, processed into slices

2 cups of mushrooms, processed into slices

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half

2 teaspoons each: ground coriander, oregano, and tarragon, divided into 2

1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

1 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat version).

Couscous: cook according to package instructions while cooking the vegetables. If no instructions, do the following: boil 1 1/4 cup of water, add 1 cup couscous, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed.

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat for about a minute, then add the chopped garlic.

2. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms.

3. Add half the spices and the parsley. Saute ingredients for 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.

4. Add the cooked garbanzo beans, the rest of the spices and olive oil, and then saute for a few more minutes.

5. Add the cooked couscous and stir together. Serve.

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As always, thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for the helpful information!

Linguine with Lentils

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This dish is based on a Tuscan-style pasta I loved at a restaurant.  Think of it as “spaghetti Bolognese” but substitute lentils for meat to make it healthy and hearty, without the deleterious impacts of animal products.

Lentils (and other beans) are really good for you.  They lower the glycemic index of other foods you eat them with, and keep working for hours afterward.  That means that your blood sugar won’t spike if you eat a healthy serving of lentils with your pasta.  Legumes lessen blood sugar spikes by stimulating your good gut bacteria to produce a hormone that slows the rate at which your stomach empties the food out into the intestines to get absorbed.

(T. M. Wolever, D. J. Jenkins, A. M. Ocana, V. A. Rao, G. R. Collier. Second-meal effect: Low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1988 48(4):1041 – 1047)

 Legumes have also shown to improve people’s lifespan.  In cultures where legumes are consumed frequently – Japan (soy, tofu, miso), the Mediterranean region (garbanzo, white beans), Sweden (brown beans, peas) – longevity is increased with increased intake in legumes. (Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20 ). A study of nearly 6000 people in Taiwan showed that not eating legumes was associated with increased risk of mortality in women due to increased metabolic syndrome (the precursor to Diabetes and heart disease).  Increased risk of metabolic syndrome was seen in both women and men. (Public Health Nutr. 2012 Apr;15(4):663-72.)

What nutritional value do legumes provide?  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients, such as iron and zing, similar to seafood, meat, and poultry. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium and folate, which are also found in other vegetables.”  (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf)

So, you can count legumes as both a vegetable and a protein source!  Score!

I made the tomato sauce with an onion/garlic base, foods which are the best at fighting the growth of many different types of cancers (see my leek soup post). Tomatoes, which are among the richest vegetable/plant sources of potassium (NOT bananas, by the way, which rank 50th!), reduce the risk of vascular diseases, therefore reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

(D’Elia L, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 8;57(10):1210-9.)

Spaghetti with Lentils

Servings: 6-8

Time: 1 hour

Lentils:

1 cup of lentils

2.5 cups water

1 vegetable buillon cube

1 bay leaf

Combine lentils and above ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, until water is absorbed (30-45 minutes) and/or lentils are medium soft.

Combine the lentils with the sauce in the last step, below.

The sauce:

3 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup of strained tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1-2 cups of loose basil, then chopped roughly

1-2 cups of loose parsley, then chopped roughly

1 teaspoon sage

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute together until the onions become opaque.

2. Add the tomato paste, strained tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and sage. Turn heat down to medium-low, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Try not to let the mixture come to a complete boil.

3. After 10-15 minutes, add the parsley and basil. Continue to cook until the parsley and basil have wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the lentils are cooked, pour them into the sauce. Cook together on low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.

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Pasta: There are all sorts of pastas out there.  You can use whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, or whatever else you prefer.  I ended up using the pasta I already had on hand. A spaghetti or linguine works best.  I cooked enough pasta for 8 servings, al dente, according to the instructions on the box.

The finished product:

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Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for providing helpful nutritional information!

Leek cauliflower potato soup

When I first started cooking, soups were a total mystery to me.  I knew that I loved them, but making them seemed complicated, so I left that to my mom and restaurants.  But actually, making soups is really easy!  You should try it!

This soup is especially easy, and it’s super nutritious. There aren’t a lot of ingredients, and it turns out with a pleasant, mild taste.  I incorporated cauliflower because it’s super nutritious: packed with most of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals.  Additionally, cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts) activate immune cells in the gut during eating via a receptor (AhR).  They are also some of the most active anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer vegetables out there.  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-broccoli-receptor-our-first-line-of-defense-2/

Leeks are also super nutritious. They are part of the allium family of vegetables which includes garlic and onions. Leeks have a milder taste than onion. They are also one of the top most potent inhibitors of cancer growth (stomach, brain, kidney, pancreatic cancers), along with the rest of the allium family.

http://growyourownhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/anticancer.pdf

Finally, potatoes aren’t very nutritious, but you can add them for the taste and the familiarity. Or you can choose to omit them and add another head of cauliflower. If omitting the potatoes, another delicious option is to add a can of coconut milk to the soup instead of 1 of the cups of water; coconut milk makes the soup sweeter and a bit fattier.

Almond milk adds protein, and if buying from a store, is usually fortified with calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12.

Prep time: 15-20 minutes  Cook time: 1:15 total  Serves: 8

Ingredients:

2 medium to large leeks – chop them into small pieces

1-2 heads of cauliflower – chopped into small pieces

3 Yukon Gold potatoes (optional) – mostly peeled, chopped into small pieces

4 tablespoons extra virgin first cold press olive oil

2 tablespoons vegan butter

4 cups of water and 1 vegan bouillon cube or 4 cups of vegetable broth (if doing the coconut milk option, 1 can of coconut milk and 3 cups of water or vegetable broth)

2 cups non-sweetened, non-flavor-added almond milk

Herbs: 2 teaspoons each of tarragon, thyme, and parsley

Salt: 2 teaspoons or to taste

Pepper: 1 teaspoon or to taste

Directions:

Put a large saucepan on the stove over low to medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and leeks. Saute for 10-15 minutes, until leeks get soft.

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Add the cauliflower and saute an additional 5 minutes. Now add the potatoes, water, almond milk, bouillon, herbs, and vegan butter (or coconut milk, if using that) and bring to a boil.

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Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until the cauliflowers and potatoes soften. Stir intermittently, every 10 minutes or so. Take off the heat and allow to cool. In batches, put soup into blender and liquefy. Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can add a bit of parsley on top to make it pretty.

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Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for the nutrition information!

A child’s perspective

I was walking through the grocery store the other day, when I saw an eye-opening interaction between a child, who appeared to be about four years old, and his father.  They were standing next to the fish display, and the child was staring at the rows of marine life organized on the ice. It went something like this:

Child: Daddy, why are all of those fish dead?

Dad: The fishermen killed them.

Child: Why did they do that?

Dad: Um… I don’t know…

Son: But they didn’t have to kill them, right, Dad?

Dad: They killed them so we can eat them.

Son: But killing is wrong.

Dad then steered his son away from the fish display.

This interaction reminded me of the simple purity of a child’s thoughts.  I’ve loved animals since I was little.  My first books all featured animals of various sorts, and I loved those characters; loving those characters in turn encouraged me to learn how to read.  Whenever I saw a real, live animal, it was a magical experience.  I wanted to get to know them, to touch their fur, to interact with them.  I had respect for them.

And yet, somehow, meatballs in soup with carrots and potatoes, chicken with rice, and various other animal-based meals appeared in front of me.  I was urged to eat them because eating them would make me stronger and help me grow.  The connection between loving animals and then turning around and eating them, was, I am sure, quickly reasoned to be just a matter of fact.  The conversations likely went something like, “Where does this meat come from? A cow? But I like cows. It was born and grew up to become meat for me to eat? I have to eat it or I won’t grow? Okay…”

I don’t blame anyone for conditioning me to eat meat.  I don’t blame people who are conditioned to eat meat for doing so.  However, we have options now.  I encourage you to think about what, or who, you are really eating.  When I started to do this, it felt like such a relief, to be rid of the dissonance between loving and respecting animals’ lives, and eating them too.

A cute video touched me recently.  I highly recommend watching it: