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The beginning of winter is often a time of celebration, as we chase away the gloom with eating, drinking, and socializing. Some of us opt for a more “hygge” approach and like to cuddle up by the fire alone, or with someone we love, wrapped in a cozy blanket. A good vegan beer or wine is perfect for either scenario.

two heartedMany people assume that all beer and wine is vegan, if they even give it a thought. They’re made from fermented grains or grapes, right? We were dismayed to discover that many companies utilize animal products in the manufacturing process. When drinks are filtered before bottling, they often use such substances as isinglass (made from fish bladders), gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells. Unfortunately, vegan beer and wine companies don’t label their products to show they’re safe for consumption by folks who eschew animal products. However, a quick perusal of the internet can help. If you need a few suggestions to help you get started, here’s a handy list.

Deschutes Brewery, www.deschutesbrewery.com. This Bend, Oregon-based brewery is almost completely vegan, with the exception of a few specialty brews. Its beer is available in 28 different states, so you should have an easy time finding it, especially if you live on the west coast. According to their FAQ section: “We do not use animal products in the cellaring or brewing process. The clarifying agent we use in our brewhouse is made from Irish Moss, a red algae. However, experimental beers brewed at our pubs sometimes use lactose, isinglass, honey or other specialty ingredients, but we call it out in the description listed on the menu.” Their popular Jubelale is great for your holiday festivities. Available from October through December, this robust, vegan brew boasts notes of cocoa, dried fruit, and toffee. You and your guests will love it!

Frey Winery, www.freywine.com. Mendocino-based Frey makes the claim of being “America’s first biodynamic winery.” They hold 90 percent of their land as a natural habitat for plants and animals. Since 1980, they have produced vegan, gluten-free wines with no added sulfites. Their 2015 Biodynamic Syrah utilizes the flavors of layered fig, anise, briar and bay leaf. It’s a delicious, elegant accompaniment to any holiday meal.

Bell’s Brewery, www.bellsbeer.com. The Kalamazoo-based brewery is constantly rolling out new varieties of beer, and almost all of them are vegan. Their popular Two-Hearted Ale is a smooth, vegan IPA, dark and not too hoppy. It’s available all year but is perfect for winter consumption. Brewed with 100 percent Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest and named after a river in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this brew never disappoints. You can enjoy it with almost every meal. Unfortunately, if you live west of the Mississippi, you’ll have a hard time locating it, and Michigan state law forbids shipping beer to other states. But it’s ubiquitous in the Midwest and East Coast, so check your favorite store or pub.

All of these offerings are available at stores. If you’re at your local supermarket and can’t find any of them, www.barnivore.com is a great resource for determining which alcoholic beverages are vegan. Just tap a product name into Barnivore’s handy search bar, and the site will let you know if it’s vegan-friendly. There are nearly 43,000 companies in their database. Enjoy responsibly!

sweet potatoMost of the time, we have no idea what to do with sweet potatoes. When we were growing up, our parents treated them as a holiday side dish. Often, they were served from a can and doused with marshmallows. We endured this travesty because we didn’t know any better. Later, we discovered the fresh variety, but remained clueless about how to prepare these hardy, delicious vegetables. They were relegated to the background, and we rarely consumed them, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, when we discovered this recipe for roasted sweet potatoes with red peppers and spicy peanut sauce, we became excited. This meal is vegan, gluten-free, and amazing. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins. They are the perfect autumnal dish. The addition of homemade peanut sauce creates an additional, zesty flavor that will have your friends and family members coming back for more.

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
½ cup creamy peanut butter (organic and sugar-free, please)
¼ cup tamari (not commercial soy sauce, which contains wheat)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
I teaspoon grated, fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons water

ROASTED VEGETABLES
2 sweet potatoes, cubed and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
¼ teaspoon cumin powder
Dash of sea salt

GARNISHES
2-3 green onions, chopped
Crushed peanuts
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sriracha sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 ½ tablespoon of oil and add cumin and a pinch of salt. Place in large pan or cookie sheet, spreading pieces so they don’t overlap. Roast on center rack of oven for a total of 40 minutes. While the potatoes are roasting, toss chopped red pepper with salt and ½ tablespoon oil and arrange in smaller pan. About 15 minutes after you put the potatoes in the oven, place the pan with the peppers on the top rack of oven. Take this opportunity to turn the sweet potatoes over. Continue roasting the potatoes and the peppers for 25 minutes (total time for potatoes 40 minutes, total time for peppers 25 minutes), turning the peppers over after 10-15 minutes. Vegetables should be slightly browned and caramelized around the edges.

Meanwhile, cook 1 ¼ cups brown or white jasmine rice on stovetop or rice cooker until water is absorbed. Prepare the sauce in a large bowl and set aside. When rice and vegetables are done, scoop rice into dish, top with roasted vegetables, and then pour a generous dollop of peanut sauce on top. Add liberal amounts of your favorite garnishes and dig in!

This meal serves 3-4 people and can be served alone or with your favorite beverage. It’s hearty and delicious, and we doubt that you’ll have any left over. Perhaps you should make some more tomorrow.

vegan-lentil-loaf-recipe-3377145-10_preview-5b292ae01d64040037decd0a

Fall is a nostalgic time, when we long for familiar comfort food. Nothing is more filling and heartier than meatloaf. However, if you’re following a vegan, gluten-free diet, like we are, you’ll want to forgo meat in favor of this savory lentil loaf. It’s moist, satisfying, and, frankly, much tastier than the carnivorous version. Try it, we think you’ll agree.

INGREDIENTS
1 ½ cups brown lentils, washed
3 ½ cups water (or vegetable broth)
2 small onions (try red for an additional kick)
2-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt (NOT the iodized version)
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
2 cups cooked short-grain, brown rice
¼ cup ketchup or barbeque sauce (check labels to make sure there is no soy sauce, which contains wheat)
¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning (try fresh oregano and basil)
Additional ¼ cup ketchup or barbeque sauce

INSTRUCTIONS
Boil lentils in water or vegetable broth for half hour until they are soft enough to mash with a fork. Drain them and pour into large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, fry onions and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Your kitchen will smell wonderful, and you’re just getting started!

Mash lentils thoroughly with fork or spatula, then pour the onion/garlic mixture into the bowl with them. Add the spices, rice, ¼ cup ketchup or barbeque sauce, and the additional olive oil, and stir until ingredients become a savory mash. Grease a large baking pan with more olive oil and spread mixture inside. Spoon a layer of ketchup or barbeque sauce across the top of the lentil loaf, making sure it is distributed evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Every 20 minutes, briefly remove pan from oven, and spoon or baste an additional thin layer of ketchup or barbeque sauce across the top of the loaf. Serve with your favorite steamed vegetables, a salad, and/or a loaf of gluten-free bread. This amazing dish serves at least 6 people, unless everyone is very hungry. Once you start eating it, you’ll find it quite hard to stop.

The loaf keeps well in the refrigerator and makes a nice lunch or reheated snack at home or in the office. It stays moist and fresh for several days. You’ll be glad you took the time to prepare this amazingly inexpensive, delicious meal. Welcome to autumn!

bread

Some folks persist in thinking that folks who follow a vegan, gluten-free diet eat nothing but nuts and seeds. If you have a friend or relative who harbors this belief, slice a couple of pieces of banana bread from this rich, moist loaf and place them in front of her/him. Then sit back and smile. S/he will be singing a different tune after the first bite and might even beg you for the recipe. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is to make this bread, and how delicious it tastes. Here’s how:

INGREDIENTS
1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend (Bob’s 1/1 is still our absolute favorite for baking).
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder (check label to make sure it’s aluminum-free)
½ teaspoon sea salt
7/8 cup organic turbinado sugar or coconut sugar (these sugars are always vegan, unlike
commercial sugar, and they taste much better, as well)
1/3 cup coconut oil or organic canola oil (coconut oil is our favorite—naturally sweet).
2 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup water

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
¼ cup vegan, gluten-free chocolate chips (be sure to check ingredients on package)
¼ cup poppyseeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If you choose coconut oil, heat in pan on stove top or for 15-20 seconds in microwave until
liquefied. In large bowl, mash bananas with fork until all lumps are gone. Pour coconut or canola
oil into bowl and combine with banana mixture. Add apple cider vinegar, water, and vanilla
extract and beat to a nice froth. A large spoon will do well for this task. Blend in the dry ingredients, starting with baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then add the sugar and flour. When all ingredients are thoroughly combined, grease a small bread pan with coconut oil and pour mixture inside. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Meanwhile, your entire kitchen will be filled with the most delectable aroma!

Serve as is, or with maple syrup, Earth Balance, vegan butter, almond butter, or any other topping of your choice. It’s great for breakfast, dessert, or a late night snack. Serves 4-6, but two people can gobble down this bread in a matter of hours, if not sooner. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.