Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from the Veggie Guy!

I just wanted to take a minute to wish you a safe, happy, and abundant New Year!

It's been quite a year for The Veggie Guy - lots of happenings (both fortuitous and challenging), and to be honest, I'm still reeling a bit from the whirlwind of activity.

Still, I'm looking forward to the coming year, and all of the opportunities that are coming down the way.

For instance, I've recently joined a Toastmasters group. Through this, I plan to build my speaking skills (and confidence) so I can start doing vegan cooking demonstrations. I believe this will be a great opportunity to help even more people understand the benefits of a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.

Also, my vegan cookbook is well underway - although I've published 3 books, I'm looking for a different publisher for the cookbook... I just need a publisher that understands the unique interests and needs of vegetarians and vegans.

So I'm wondering - what do you have planned for 2009? What accomplishments do you intend to achieve? What opportunities are you lining up for personal/professional/ethical/spiritual growth? I'd love to hear what's in store for you in the new year!

Wherever you are, whatever you have planned... I wish you the best of fortune and prosperity in the New Year!

Lee, The Veggie Guy

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blackened Garlic Asparagus

Here's the recipe for the side dish pictured with my Spicy Eggplant Rolls recipe I posted a few days ago.

I usually like my asparagus steamed, with just a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter. But every once in a while, I prefer a side dish that's a little more... well, bad. Not that this side dish is horrible for you... but breaking out the olive oil twice for the same meal was an unusual experience. Let's justify it by just saying it's comfort food.

Anyway, this is a pretty simple recipe, and can easily be completed in about 10 minutes.

Garlic Blackened Asparagus

1 lb fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 tbsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic; saute for 1 minute.

Add asparagus spears; stir to coat with olive oil. Continue to stir fry for 7 minutes.

Add cumin, basil, and crushed red pepper; stir fry for an additional minute.

That's it... crunchy, garlick-y asparagus with an earthy, slightly spicy taste. It's a good accompaniment that stands up to Italian inspired main dishes, especially those using heavy sauces or lots of "cheese".

Oh, and my wife adds that it works great with a glass of chianti... but that it would probably suck with anything sweeter. I tend to stay away from red wines, so I'll defer to her expertise on the matter. After all, pretty much everything goes well with beer. :-)

Completely irrelevant tangent: I was buying some wine for the New Year's festivities.... you know how if you read the back of the label, it will usually say that the wine evokes notes of cherries, strawberries, or whatever? One particular cabernet - I won't divulge the label - stated that the wine "evokes notes of 'old leather'".


I'm thinking of all the times I've thought, "you know, I really wish I had an alcoholic drink that reminded me of an antique belt." Yeah, there aren't many.

Oh well, I guess I'll never be a good wine snob.

Anyway, that's it for today... may you have an enjoyable and safe New Year's Eve and ridiculous abundance and joy in the New Year!

The (No Life After Leather) Veggie Guy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Social Aspects of Veganism

Laci posted a couple of very good questions a couple of days ago, and I thought I'd address them here.

(By the way, Laci, your link isn't working. If you comment with your blog address or email it to lhrowley AT gmail DOT com, I'll update this post with the link.)

Anyway, here are her questions:

Thanks for the family story! I understand what you mean about being a model, not a punishment. People listen when they are inspired,not when they feel forced. Another question; if Aria (sorry about Samantha) went vegan, would in interfere with her socially as she got older? Also, what do you do when it comes to family dinners and they say "this is what you can bring" but it's kinda light for a main for your self, and you don't want to insult the chef by only eating what you bring? Thanks! =]

If Aria went vegan:

This is definitely one of the touchier aspects of veganism. As a person who had a tough time "fitting in" as a child (hell, I still don't fit in as an adult, but that's another story), I'm quite sympathetic to how veganism could affect her socially.

At least here in the midwest, being vegan is about as "different" as you can get. We live in a city that is nicknamed "Cowtown", so you can imagine that veganism is less than wholeheartedly embraced here. Can you imagine how a kid would feel going to a birthday party and not being able to eat cake or ice cream? I certainly think that it would be a significant social challenge for her. We all know how cruel kids can be...

Here's another aspect of that: If she does make that decision, she's going to have to understand that some kids (and parents) aren't going to get it. I'm anticipating at least a few calls from concerned parents and school staff who think we're forcing that lifestyle on her.

Most of us have read at least one news story about a parent who was charged with child endangerment for forcing the child to adopt a vegan diet. These stories typically paint a horrific picture of a child suffering from severe malnutrition - in some cases, the children have even died as a result of the parents' actions.

These kinds of stories set the stage for people to want to step in and set the child/parents straight. These people are well intentioned, of course, but they mistakenly confuse healthy veganism with the kinds of diets adopted by the crazies you read about in the news.

The challenge here will be for her to be able to explain how a balanced vegan diet offers all of the protein, nutrients, and vitamins needed for proper growth and health. She's also going to have to be prepared for the fact that some people just aren't going to listen, no matter what the facts say.

So there are definitely some troubling social aspects to consider. It's a lot easier for an adult to shrug off mean/stupid comments than it is for a child, who has an innate need to be accepted.

I'd never discourage her from becoming vegan, but I would definitely want to educate her about the types of social issues she's going to have to deal with if and when she makes that decision.

On family dinners:

I've found that if you explain to the host beforehand that you're vegan, they usually won't expect you just to eat a side dish. It's pretty important that you make sure they understand what vegan means, though - many omnis don't know the difference between vegetarians and vegans. (Of course, even if you're vegetarian, there are still those who will ask if you eat fish - they're not being stupid, just misinformed.)

One of the most useful things for me in this situation is to simply point them to my blog for recipe ideas. I've never had a host say outright, "No, I won't try to make a vegan dish." In fact, they usually appreciate the challenge. And it almost always turns out decently.

It can be a little uncomfortable asking a host to cater to your dietary needs as a vegan - in fact, it can feel downright imposing. But think about this - let's say you're hosting a dinner, and one of your guests adheres to a strict kosher diet. Would you tell that person, "Hell no, we're having bacon cheeseburgers and you're going to like it"? I wouldn't. But I would greatly appreciate that person taking the time to educate me, so I could prepare something acceptable.

So I would take the time to educate, offer to bring a dish or two... and then if the host is offended, it's not your fault.

Laci, thanks for your thoughtful questions. It's nice to do more than just post recipes and complain about the Ohio weather. Any of you can feel free to post more questions, and I'll be happy to blog about them. Think of me as your own personal Dear Abby... only bald, grumpy, and vegan.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Spicy Eggplant Rolls

So I've been wanting to try out this recipe for about a week now, but with all the holiday goings on, I just haven't really had time. Well, with a bit of the chaos out of the way, I was finally able to give this a go. (The fact that I was dragging my feet on taking down the tree and clearing the present-opening mess out of the living room might have had a bit to do with it too.)

I'm still calling these "eggplant rolls" even though, as you'll see in a minute, the damned things didn't really "roll" as I had envisioned. So I lose a few points on artfulness.

Anyway, here we go...

Spicy Eggplant Rolls

1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/3" strips and salted on both sides, like so:

3/4 cup Veggie Shreds mozzarella cheese
1/2 medium onion, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, stems trimmed
4 tbsp olive oil (not pictured... solely the fault of the Veggie Guy)
Cayenne pepper (also not pictured... not sure who to blame this one on)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Using a kitchen towel, press moisture out of salted eggplant slices. (This removes the bitterness that can ruin the whole shebang).
Fry eggplant slices in olive oil, sprinkling each side with cayenne pepper. 1 - 2 minutes per side is sufficient. You want them soft, not charred.

Place eggplant slices in a large baking dish. Fill half of eggplant slices with spinach leaves, red pepper slices, onion slices, and mozzarella "cheese". Fold in half, and cover with a bit more "cheese".
(Note: I use Veggie Shreds because it more or less melts like real cheese, especially in covered dishes.)

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

The finished eggplant rolls pictured above are served with blackened garlic asparagus, which I'll cover in a later post.
The verdict? My wife thought they were quite tasty, and even commented that I should have done a video demonstration instead of just posting pictures. Yeah, that was my original plan, but sometimes these things just don't work out.
I thought they were very good too, although I have to admit I'm miffed about the whole "roll" concept not panning out. I was envisioning something that looked like a sushi roll, only with eggplant.
Softening the eggplant slices requires a bit more oil than I'm used to, but it's still far healthier than, say, eggplant parmesan (or most anything that omnis eat, for that matter).
And, I'm proud to say that this meets the coveted "30 minutes or less" criterion, so you can get this on the table without screwing around in the kitchen all night.
Well, that's about it for the moment... I'm told it's time to but together the 3-story Barbie Dream House I've been putting off. Better go dust off the Dictionary of Colorful Expletives...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Is My Family Vegan Too?

A quick response to a question posted on my Vegan Mexican Casserole post:

"When you went vegan, did you take your family too?"

Well, yes and no. I guess I'm a little different than some vegans, because I don't have any desire/need to try to force my views on anyone else, even my own family. Call it old age, but I've found over the years that trying to force your views on someone is a pretty good way to get them to do the opposite of what you want.

Instead, I favor the "lead by example" approach. I do what I do, and if someone else is interested, great. If not, then pushing isn't going to help.

When I decided to go from vegetarian to vegan, I sat down with my wife and discussed the changes that would naturally surface as a result of this choice. Since I am the one who spends most of the time in the kitchen, I knew that going vegan might translate into a kind of "force", because I would be cooking and serving vegan meals for the family.

Fortunately, my wife was very supportive of the change, and decided to go vegan with me. Our motivations are primarily health-related, so it wasn't too hard for us both to get on the same page.

Aria, for the most part, is vegetarian by choice. She's old enough to understand that hamburgers come from cows, etc., and she's decided that she doesn't want any part of that. We were vegetarians long before she was born, so she didn't have to deal with any major "omnivore to vegetarian" shift.

Obviously, if and when she decides to go vegan, we'll support that, too. I don't feel it's right for me to tell her that she can't have cheese pizza at school, or ice cream at a friend's party. I know my daughter well enought to understand that this would only foster resentment.

Some of you may disagree with my approach, and I respect that. But I know I don't deal well with having changes forced on me, and I don't think most other people do either. My daughter sure as hell doesn't take kindly to it. My job is to educate and support, and the rest is up to her.

So there you go, a very long-winded answer to a simple question. The support I've received from my family has been wonderful (why else would my wife agree to record my silly videos), and I've been very fortunate that they've been receptive to my journey into veganism.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vegan Mexican Casserole

Ok, so I did manage to try out a new recipe last night... and since the family is sleeping in this morning, I thought I'd do a quick post.

This vegan Mexican Casserole came in at about 30 minutes - I decided to cheat and use canned vegetables (mostly), so if you're using fresh chopped tomatoes and such, it would probably take considerably longer. Either way, it's well worth the time.

Vegan Mexican Casserole

6 corn tortillas, cut into 1 inch strips
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small can black olives, sliced
White vinegar
1 tsbp extra virgin olive oil
1 package taco seasoning
1 can golden corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (not drained)
1 package Soyrizo
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package Veggie Shreds Cheddar and Pepperjack "Cheese"

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In separate bowls, add enough vinegar to cover the onions and olives. Let sit for at least 5 minutes to marinate.

In a medium saucepan, combine tomatoes, black beans, and taco seasoning. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Add olive oil to a medium skillet and brown Soyrizo according to package directions.

Drain olives and onions.

Layer corn tortilla strips, soyrizo, corn, chiles, onions, olives, tomato/black bean mixture, and "cheese" in a casserole dish.

Cover casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.

As you can see from the picture, my baking-dish-to-plate execution left a bit to be desired. I was envisioning a neat sort of lasagna-like stack, but it all fell apart as soon as it hit the plate. Maybe it was repulsed by the tacky gingham-and-sunflower pattern, which was, I believe, the result of a wedding gift gone awry.

I wish I could say that the green blob appearing here is my made-from scratch guacamole, but the truth is, the avocados at the store were in a pretty sorry state. A few were still green and hard as a brick; the rest were pitifully over-ripe. So I ended up buying the guacamole from the deli. Not bad, I guess. Just not good either.

Okay, time to venture out for some last minute holiday purchases. We had freezing rain last night (I nearly killed myself on the driveway), but strangely, it's back up to about 50 degrees today.

I leave you with a pic of my smug daughter, who had just conned us out of and early gift - Spongebob pajamas. Is it any wonder the kid is spoiled?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from The Veggie Guy

I seem to have done myself in with the Kahlua cheesecake. My wife liked it so well, she talked me into making a couple for work, two for the Christmas shindig at the in-laws, one for my dad... so I've turned into a cheesecake making machine! :flex:

As much as I'm dying to do a video demonstration for my eggplant rolls, the last minute runnings about for the holidays are going to absorb most of my time. So that may just have to wait for a bit. But I'm happy to leave you with that bit of antici-




wait for it...


-pation. After all, nothing says Happy Holidays like a chain-smoking transvestite in faux leather.

So today is wrapping up things at work, getting some last minute items taken care of for the business, and possibly, the enjoyment of a frosty alcoholic beverage.

Tomorrow is wrapping presents, running to the store to get wrapping paper/gift bags/tape/bows/whatever else we've forgotten. We let Aria open gifts on Christmas Eve, watch movies, have a glass of wine (Aria gets cherry coke with grenadine), and try to rest up for the day ahead...

Christmas day is driving, driving, eating, driving, eating, driving... with Aria picking up more loot at each stop.

So hopefully I'll be back in the swing of things by Friday. In the meantime, I leave you with a video demonstration for Chocolate Espresso Truffle Pie.

Whatever you're celebrating this season, I wish you good times, safe travels, and excellent company!

- Lee, The Veggie Guy

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recipe: Vegan Kahlua Cheesecake

Could it be? The Veggie Guy... Captain Savoury, Defender of the Cayenne Pepper, Enemy of All Things Sweet and Yummy... has baked something?!

Well, don't get too excited - it's just a cheesecake. A vegan cheesecake, but still...

(And before we get into all this... yeah, I know there's a bit of debate over whether Kahlua is really vegan. This site says it is. So I'm going with it.)

Okay, so here's the roundup:

1 graham cracker crust (Arrrowhead mills makes a ready-to go crust that is vegan. If you want to make your own, feel free.)

1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips

1 tbsp En-R-G egg replacer

2 tbsp turbinado sugar

1/4 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp Earth Balance non-dairy butter

1 cup (8 oz) Tofutti vegan sour cream

16 oz (2 packages) Tofutti vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Soften Tofutti cream cheese (I was in a hurry, so I cut it into chunks and microwaved it for 1 minute).

In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate chips, Earth Balance, and Kahlua. Melt on medium heat, stirring frequently.

Mix En-R-G egg replacer, turbinado sugar, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Add Tofutti sour cream and mix with a fork. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth.

Pour in 3/4 of the melted chocolate mixture and blend.

Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from oven, let set for 15 minutes. Drizzle some of the chocolate mixture over the cheesecake. If you want to get all artsy about it, sprinkle chocolate shavings on top.

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until you can't stand it any longer and have to tear into the cheesecake with your bare hands.

Do I have documentation of my foray into dessert making?

Yes indeed:

So there ya go. The Veggie Guy has made dessert, and the kitchen didn't implode. Perhaps I'm turning over a new leaf. Or I could just regain my sanity before I do something really dangerous, like baking bread...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Avocados for Fat Loss?

I was having a discussion (as it often happens) with a couple of omnivorous friends yesterday about the relative merits of vegetarian vs. omnivore diets. This happens a lot - when people find out I'm vegan, they typically want to talk me out of it, as if I've just had my head up my arse for all these years, waiting for someone to come along and enlighten me.

Quite a bit of the discussion was pretty rote, at least for me, but one comment stuck out in my mind:

My friend, a diehard meat eater, said, "meat isn't any worse for you than vegetables. Just look how fattening avocados are!"

I thought the statement a little odd, but really, that's the conventional wisdom in the omnivorous world. Avocados contain a high amount of fat; therefore, they are fattening.

So, discounting the niggle about an avocado being a vegetable (it's not - it's actually a large berry), I thought I'd do a little digging, and see if that statement really had any merit.

Well, it turns out that a medium avocado has about 30 grams of fat - as much as one of those fast food quarter pound hamburgers. That's quite a bit, especially since keeping fat intake down is a central tenet for most weight loss and health programs.

But eating an avocado and eating a hamburger are not the same thing.

Animal fats are saturated fats - meaning that they contribute to low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, which cause the body to store these fats, rather than use them to reduild cells and detoxify the body. It also increases the risk for heart disease.

Avocado fats are monounsaturated - the "good" fats that supply high density lipoprotein (HDL), which lowers cholesterol and reduces the chance of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are easily assimilated by the body and turned into raw energy. In other words, the body knows what to do with these fats... so it doesn't shove them off to pad your butt.

Also, avocados contain the enzyme lipase, which actually breaks down fat that is stored in the body. So not only do avocados not contribue to weight gain, they actually facilitate fat loss.

(Now, don't get the idea that you're going to drop a couple of dress sizes in a week by shoveling down avocados day and night. The fat burning effects of lipase are rather mild - this is something that you can see happen over months, not days.)

Finally, organic avocados contain enzymes such as protease which detoxify the body. Because toxins are stored with excess fat, these toxins are released into your body when the excess fat is burned. This can cause bloating and water retention (both are a really great time). Protease works to eliminate these toxins, helping you achieve steady weight loss.

So am I saying that the avocado is a "superfood" for weight loss? No, not really. To achieve rapid weight loss, you'd pretty much have to eat the things exclusively for weeks on end. I'd wager that you'd forever swear off anything green before you'd see results worthy of a spot on the cover of People Magazine.

Plus, I'm always a little leery of "superfood" claims anyway - most of these claims are artfully spun by some guy trying to, say, figure out what the hell to do with a crate of dried goji berrys. Antioxidants? Ah-ha! Goji berries are now the key to eternal life! But I digress...

Superfood or not, I think it's safe to say that avocados are not the hip-bulging beasts that most of us think. And you certainly can't compare them to a slab of meat, in my opinion.

I eat them pretty much every day. And I just recently got back the results of a screening I had to do at a health fair for work (well, it was either that or take a 20% hike on my health insurance). My cholesterol is in the low-normal range, and my HDL levels are in the high-normal range. I was scored as a low risk for heart disease.

And if you've seen my videos, you know I'm not at any risk of being called "chunky" anytime soon....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spinach Pomegranate Salad

One of the things I like best about this time of year is the availablity of pomegranates. The seeds from these fruits are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as betacarotene, making them a great nutritional source. Plus, they're downright tasty!

So I decided to whip up a salad using pomegranate seeds. Trouble is, it turned out so wonderfully that I forgot to take a pic before we devoured it. (The fact that my daughter was using the digital camera to chronicle the adventures of her Barbie dolls didn't help the matter either.

But anyway, here you go.

Spinach Pomegranate Salad

1 lb baby spinach leaves, torn into pieces
1/2 lb watercress sprigs, chopped
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate (remove bitter white membranes)
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tbsp black pepper

Mix spinach, watercress, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts in a large salad bowl.

Mix olive oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, and lime juice. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Sprinkle black pepper on salad mix, and pour in dressing. Mix well and serve.

I don't usually post salad recipes in the winter, but this salad is a great choice with a hot bowl of soup.

Visit this post to find out how you can help the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Alagille's Syndrome Alliance without spending a penny. I'd be eternally grateful!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Contest for the Alagille's Syndrome Alliance

First, my apologies for not posting a new recipe for a few days. I've gotten mired in a ghostwriting project - one of those "what the fvck was I thinking" projects. Bah. New recipe coming soon, I promise.

Ok, so on to my rediculously off-topic post. As some of you know, my daughter has Alagille's Syndrome, a rare, life-threatening disease. She's been through 8 surgeries (including open heart surgery when she was 6 months old) in her 5 years... with more to come.

I'm participating in a contest to donate to the Alagille Syndrome Alliance, a non-profit that supports research for a cure for this disease, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which was kind enough to send us to Disney World last year. Basically, I've submitted a post to a new social bookmarking site, and the post that gets the most 5-star votes wins a cash prize.

So if you'd like to help, it would be greatly appreciated. Here's the link to my post - all you need to do is go to the site, register (just make up a username and password - no email address required), and then visit the post and rate it 5 stars. The rating bar is above the image in my post.

My goal is to get 500 5-star votes by next Tuesday (Dec. 16) at midnight EST, when the contest ends. If you can pass this along to anyone who might be willing to vote, it would be a great help.

Pimping of this post is also much appreciated!

Hopefully, you've never heard of Alagille's Syndrome before... but as you can guess, this is a very important thing for me. One day, I hope to see a cure for this disease... and perhaps this contest will help me do my part in facilitating a cure.

Thanks for your help! (And again, I'll get back to vegan recipes very soon!)
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