Tuesday, March 29, 2016

It's Easy To Make Your Own Tortillas
Whole Wheat Black Bean Tortilla Recipe

Black beans add fiber and protein to these whole grain tortillas.

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So Simple to Make
Home-made tortillas, hot off the grill, are a great addition to any meal. And they are surprisingly easy to make. To add some nutritional goodness to today's recipe, I use King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour and organic black beans. Each tortilla provides 3 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein.

Let's get started!

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Whole Wheat Black Bean Tortillas
Vegan, Dairy Free
[makes Eight (7 1/2-inch) tortillas or a dozen (5-inch) tortillas]

1/2 cup canned organic black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or organic canola oil)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water

Place the black beans, flour, salt, and oil in a food processor. Pulse to blend.

With the food processor running, add water slowly through the shoot until the dough forms a ball.

Remove the dough and roll into 8 balls. If you want smaller tortillas, roll into 12 smaller balls. 

Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan. 
Roll out each ball to the desired size. I use a rolling pin on a a Tupperware Pastry mat. I don't think they sell those anymore but there are quite a few silicone pastry mats available.  Or, if you have a tortilla press, you can use that.

Place each tortilla in the heated pan and cook until the tortilla bubbles, about 1 minute.

Turn over and cook until both sides are brown, another minute.

One of my favorite possessions is my cloth tortilla warmer, a gift I received from my nephew Dave many years ago. NOTHING keeps tortillas warmer than this. Place your tortillas in the warmer as they come off the grill. If you don't have a warmer, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil to keep warm.

Tortilla warmers can keep tortillas warm as they come off the grill or can be used to heat them back up in the microwave.

Black bean tortillas can be served as your whole grain starch with any meal or use them to make quesadillas or fajitas. Our favorite way to eat them is spread with vegan cream cheese.  

Nutritional Information
Per serving (8): 164 calories, 9 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 84 mg omega-3 and 1,003 mg omega-6 essential fatty acids, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 74 mg sodium.

Per serving (12): 109 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 56 mg omega-3 and 669 mg omega-6 essential fatty acids, 3 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 49 mg sodium.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Vegan And Gluten-Free Easter Menu
On Stove Or Instant Pot Recipes

Asparagus Soup
Butternut Squash Risotto with Meyer Lemon Gremolata
Dark Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies

Easter Dinner
Whether you celebrate Easter the Beginning of Spring, here's a vegan and gluten-free menu that is sure to please all your guests and accommodate most of their eating preferences and allergy concerns.

Start with a Soup Course
Since asparagus is in season, begin the meal with a lovely Asparagus Soup blended with leeks and Yukon gold potatoes. This recipe can be made in your Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker or on the stove top. It's not much faster in the Instant Pot so I would save the Instant Pot for the main course, the risotto, where it really makes a difference.

The main course is a Butternut Squash Risotto with Meyer Lemon Gremolata. This recipe can be easily made in your Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker or on the stove top but is much easier in the pressure cooker so that you aren't too busy stirring while your guests are there.

For dessert, try making these Dark Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies made with aquafaba instead of egg whites. Aquafaba is basically bean juice! Although they are good warm out of the oven, these are equally good made the day before and kept in the refrigerator. The cold brings out their deep, fudgy, taste and texture.

Happy Easter!

For additional healthy and delicious holiday recipes and menus, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen,  available on Amazon and iTunes.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How To Grow Your Own Asparagus
Weekend Gardening Project

Dedicate one of your garden beds to asparagus.

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I've Always Wanted to Grow Asparagus
A few weeks ago my nephew Cody brought me five 2-year old asparagus crowns to plant. I was so excited, I bought another 20 crowns. Since I'm inpatient and not getting any younger, I bought more 2-year old crowns. Asparagus is a perennial and will stay in the same bed for up to 20 years but it may take a few years to be productive so although you can start your bed with seeds, if you start with one or two-year crowns, you will be able to enjoy eating asparagus a lot sooner. Male plants are more productive as they do not expend energy producing seeds.

2-year asparagus crowns from Gurney's.

How to Grow Starting with Crowns
Plant in the early spring. Pick a sunny area that has good drainage. A raised bed in perfect. 

Remove all weeds from the area and dig trenches about 6 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches deep. Fill with compost and rich topsoil and form mounds 15 to 18 inches apart. 

Place a crown on each mound, spreading the roots over the mound.

2-year crown on top of a mound.

Cover the crowns with two inches of soil and water thoroughly. Gradually fill the trench as the plants grow and the stems appear. When the trench is filled, add a thick layer of mulch and water regularly.

If you start with seeds or 1-year crowns, do not harvest the spears in the first year but let the asparagus go vegetative so that the crowns can get established. Cut down the dead foliage in the late fall. The second year, lightly harvest and only harvest spears that are thicker than a pencil. 

After the third year, a full crop can be harvested. If you plant 2-year crowns, it will still take 2 years to have a full harvest. Rodale's Organic Life warns that "a 2-year crown is not worth the added cost, tend to suffer more from transplant shock, and won't produce any faster." I still opted for 2-year crowns just in case they get a bit of an edge. We shall see!

Picture from Rodale's Organic Life.
 After harvesting, allow the ferns to grow which replenishes the nutrients in the soil for the following year's production.

Asparagus ferns -
Picture from Vegetable Gardener.

I'm super excited about adding this new vegetable to my garden and can't wait to see the first spear pop up!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Vegan-Friendly Las Vegas, Who Knew?
VegeNation And More

I never would have thought my new favorite
vegan restaurant would be in sin city!

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Las Vegas Has Certainly Changed
Years ago, when I worked for IBM, I attended a Head-Disk Media show in Las Vegas every year. And later, as a CEO, I held sales events there. It's a great place for that sort of thing. But I really hated the place. The smoke, the rich food, and the constant "ding ding ding" of the casinos drove me nuts. But after taking a 10 year break, Doug and I decided to go there for a 4-night, 5 day mini vacation. Boy were we surprised!

First of all, we managed to find a lovely hotel called The Mandarin Oriental that does not allow smoking and does not have a casino. How great is that! The wonderful food options in Las Vegas were even more surprising.

Vegan Las Vegas
When you go to a place like Las Vegas, you surely don't expect to find healthy, plant-based meals. But to my surprise, there were lots of options available. So many, that I spent 5 days singing "Vegan Las Vegas" to the tune of Elvis's "Viva Las Vegas." In fact, I still have that ear worm going on!

Vegan Las Vegas
Vegan Las Vegas
Vegan, Vegan, Las Vegas!

We were only in Las Vegas for 5 days but we ate at VegeNation twice and still didn't get to try all the wonderful and tempting items on the menu. Doug, his brother Don, sister-in-law Patti and myself tried to order as many different things on the menu as we could possibly eat. Here are the ones we tried and our ratings (1 to 5 stars, 5 stars being the best):

Green machine - 5 Stars
A fresh blend of parsley, cucumber, avocado, and grapes. 
Lasagna - 4 Stars
This was a nightly special and not usually on the menu.
Black Bean Chili Stuffed Sweet Potato - 5 Stars
I could have eaten this every day - so yummy.
Wok Sauteed Vegetables - 3 Stars
The veggies were good but the selection could have been more interesting - mostly peppers and cherry tomatoes.
Muchas Gracias - 5 Stars
Organic sweet potato quesadilla, black beans,
chipotle crema. Patti's favorite dish!
Hot Tamale - 5 Star
Non GMO masa, pumpkin, green chili and lentils.
This was one of my favorites.
Daniel Negreanu - 3 Stars
A meatball grinder. A bit too much bread.
Bao Wow - 5 Stars
Asian BBQ! Tofu, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, bao bun.
Flavorful sauces. Don loved this one.
Curried Red Beans and Quinoa - 4 1/2 Stars
Very flavorful.
East West Tacos - 4 1/2 Stars
Wonderful but Doug thought the
shell could have been a bit crispier.
Out of Africa - 5 Stars
Africa yam stew, okra, collard
greens, spicy peanut broth.
My Little Dumpling - 3 Stars
Steamed shiitake and spinach dumplings.
Dumplings a bit doughy but very tasty.
Chocolate Tacos - 5 Stars!!!!
These were amazing. Dessert taco shells filled with
chocolate pudding and topped with goodies.

Besides the food being wonderful, the wait staff couldn't have been friendlier!

Super friendly staff!
Visit VegeNation at 616 Carson Ave #120, Las Vegas.

There's More!
I would have to spend a month or more in Las Vegas to test out all of the vegan options. Although I didn't get there, Wynn and Encore feature plant-based high-end dining. According to their website, "Every restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore offers a vegan and vegetarian menu that is designed and prepared at the same caliber as any of the signature items served...Our chefs partnered with collaborating vegan chef Tal Ronnen to craft unique and healthy fare to be enjoyed at any time of the day."

Upscale vegan dining at the Wynn and Encore Las Vegas.
Also from the Wynn and Encore.

China Town
Although this area is called China Town, it's not like the areas you will find in New York City or San Francisco. It's just a nondescript area but you will find some very good vegan restaurants there. We visited the Veggie House on 5115 Spring Mountain Road one day for lunch. This restaurant specialized more in fake meat dishes although there were certainly a lot other types of vegan food besides that. Here were some of the dishes we tried. 

Yee Shang Eggplant 
Soft, not deep-fried, sautéed eggplant.
Spicy Veggie Cajun Fish
Chow Fun
With bits of vegan "meat".

Even Burger Joints had Vegan Options!
I was really surprised to find vegan options at Holsteins burger joint. This is definitely not a vegetarian restaurant but they did offer a great salad and an "Urth" Burger with a house made vegan patty with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sprouts and avocado.
They also offered a delicious alcoholic milkshake called the Vegan Coconut Raspberry Shake made with coconut sorbet, raspberries, Skyy raspberry vodka, 3 Olives coconut vodka, toasted coconut marshmallow, and soy whipped topping. Not exactly a health shake but oh so delicious!

Enjoying a vegan coconut raspberry shake at Holsteins.

So if you haven't been to Las Vegas in a while, you may be surprised to find out there are some wonderful things to do and plenty of great places to eat. We will definitely be back!

Friday, March 04, 2016

Banza Pasta - Great Source Of Vegan Protein
Baked Banza Pasta With Kite Hill Vegan Ricotta

Baked Banza Rotini with Kite Hill almond ricotta
provides more than 20 grams of protein!

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Where do you get your Protein?
Whether you are a vegan who is darn sick of getting asked "where do you get your protein", or one of the many people who are looking for ways to get more protein in their diets from sources other than meat and dairy, I found a product you might be interested in.

Banza pasta is made from chickpeas. So it's gluten free and contains a boatload of protein and fiber. A two-ounce serving of Banza pasta has 14 grams of protein, 8 grams of dietary fiber, 3.5 grams of total fat, and only 24 net carbs. That's more protein that 2 large hard boiled eggs. Ounce for ounce, it provides as much protein as a steak! All this while having nearly half the net carbs of regular pasta.

It comes in various shapes. Shells are great in soup, elbows for vegan mac and cheese (see the mac and "cheese" recipe in my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen), and penne and rotini for various other delightful recipes. 

Shells, rotini, penne, and elbows
Banza shells in soup.

I'm not sure how long this offer is good for, but if you send a friend a $10 coupon, you'll get a $10 coupon of your own for each referral. That's two free boxes each. Forward THIS LINK or share it online.

One Warning
When you cook the Banza pasta, it makes a lot of foam. Remember, you are cooking beans and, like beans, they foam up. So make sure you cook them in a large pot of water and skim the foam off after it forms or it can easily boil over.

Banza pasta foams during cooking. Just skim it off.

Here's an easy recipe for baked Banza pasta with Kite Hill's new Almond Ricotta. Together the dish provides 23 grams of protein!

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Baked Banza Pasta with Kite Hill Ricotta
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

Extra virgin olive oil for greasing the pan
Bunch of kale, ribs removed and thinly sliced*
1 (8-ounce) box of Banza rotini or penne
1 (8-ounce) tub of Kite Hill almond ricotta
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
Go Veggie Parmesan topping (optional)

* You can also use spinach.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees C. Lightly grease a 7"x11" casserole dish with extra virgin olive oil.

Steam the kale until cooked, drain and set aside.

Cook the Banza pasta according to the directions on the package. Make sure you cook it in a large pot and skim the foam as it forms. When cooked, drain and return the hot pasta to the pot. 

Stir in the cooked kale. Then, break up the ricotta into teaspoon-size pieces and add to the pasta. Finally, stir in the tomato sauce.

Vegan Ricotta made from almond milk

Place in a casserole dish, top with Go Veggie parmesan topping or some nutritional yeast and bake until heated, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve!

Per serving: 399 calories, 16 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 39 g net carbohydrates, 11 g dietary fiber, and 268 mg sodium (if using tomato sauce with no added salt.)

Update on Packaging
I just received an email from Team Banza that they are changing the product packaging. The product remains the same. Here's what the boxes now look like:
You can order directly from their WEBSITE.