Tag Archives: carnivore

Go MSG-free: Tasty Thai Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato and Chickpeas

Thai yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potato over millet - YUM!

“Stop goldfishing*,” I tell my husband as he plows through a bag of Doritos that’s roughly the size of a bathtub. “I can’t. They’re addictive!” he pleads as I pry them from his bright orange hands.

(*Goldfishing – [gohld-fish-ing]. Noun. 1. The act of a person who eats non-stop with blatant disregard for the physical limitations of his/her stomach. 2. Stuffing oneself to the point of spontaneous gastric explosion, like a goldfish.)

Really, he can’t stop? C’mon, like an invisible hand is shoving Doritos in his face. Well, after some research, I’ve found that actually, that’s pretty much what’s happening. The makers of the florescent nacho-flavored triangles of doom use a secret ingredient to turn consumers into goldfish: MSG.

MSG-fed lab rat

No, this rat has not swallowed a beach ball. Poor little guy has been fed MSG to make him obese.

Did you know that scientists actually use MSG to induce obesity in lab rats and mice (ironically, so they can test products to ‘cure’ obesity in humans)? In fact, scientists found that when they give MSG to mice, it increases their appetite as much as 40%. When people eat it, it turns us into mindless eating machines. But that’s not its only harmful side effect. There are all kinds of other nasty ailments associated with MSG, including asthma attacks, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, chest pains and headaches. Some scientists are even speculating that it may cause – and exacerbate – autism.

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and it’s in lots of packaged foods, from chips to salad dressings, sauces to microwave meals. If you spotted MSG on a label, you probably wouldn’t buy the product, right? So those sneaky manufacturers hide MSG behind different names like “autolyzed yeast,” “soy protein isolate,” and “hydrolyzed protein.” For example, Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls contain maltodextrin and yeast extract – both of which are forms of manufactured glutamic acid, the ingredient in MSG (and yet they have the balls to advertise that they’re MSG-free. Campbells does the same. Bastards!) As for Doritos? They don’t even bother hiding it on the label, and the chips are basking in MSG – no wonder John can’t put down the bag! It’s not just in packaged foods, either. Tests found that most chicken, sausage and even parmesan served in restaurants is flavored with MSG. (Yet another great reason for carnivores to convert into vegetarians or vegans!)

The good news is that the antidote is simple: cook healthy foods from scratch to eliminate MSG from your diet (and from that of those you love, especially those who sometimes have goldfish-like tendencies). There are lots of other ways to add flavor than with MSG. One of my favorites is by making meals in the pressure cooker. Cooking under pressure retains the nutrition of food while also amplifying the flavor naturally. And bonus –  you can cook an entire meal from scratch in 15 minutes using the ultra fast pressure cookers, even soups and stews that normally take hours!

Today’s recipe is my take on an incredibly flavor-packed and super healthy Thai-style yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes. (Special thanks to Lorna Sass and her fabulous “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” cookbook – I’ve altered one of her recipes to give it my own twist). If using a pressure cooker, the gorgeous sweet potato flavor enhanced with yellow curry will be utterly infused into every molecule of coconut milk. It is divine! This has become one of our favorite meals, and it’s quite nutritious. So I don’t really mind if John goldfishes on it. 🙂

I’ve also created a non-pressure cooker version of this recipe for those who don’t have one (but I highly recommend you get a pressure cooker – they are phenomenal and it will become your go-to kitchen tool). Here’s the one I use, which I adore (click on the text and it will take you to Amazon where you can buy it): Fagor Splendid 4-quart Pressure Cooker.

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas over rice

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 20 minutes (if using pressure cooker)

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
2 cans coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
1.5 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp yellow curry paste* (it’s hard to find in stores, so click here to buy a really yummy one)
½ cup cilantro, minced
½ cup fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp MSG-free tamari soy sauce
a handful of roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Cooked rice or millet

For the pressure cooker method:

Drain and rinse chickpeas. In your pressure cooker pan, combine all the ingredients except the basil, tamari, peanuts and rice/millet. Lock lid, then bring to high pressure over high heat. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Use the quick-release method (by running cold water over the locked pressure cooker until the pressure comes down all the way). Remove lid, tilting it away from your face to let steam escape. Add the basil and tamari and mix well. Serve atop rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

For the non-pressure cooker method:

Take the unpeeled sweet potato, prick with a fork and microwave until it’s slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Cool a bit, then peel and chop into 1” cubes.

Also, you’ll need to used cooked chickpeas – 3 cups (or roughly 2 cans) will work perfectly well.

In a large, deep sauté pan, sauté garlic and ginger in 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add curry paste, tomatoes, cilantro, coconut milk and chickpeas. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes, then return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook at a low-boil for 12 minutes. To thicken the sauce and infuse more of the sweet potato flavor, break up some of the sweet potato chunks with the back of a fork. Then blend in the basil and tamari, serve over rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

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Vegan Valentine’s: Delicious Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

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“Wait, that’s vegan? They don’t look vegan. Are you sure they are?” asked my chocoholic friend as he stared wide-eyed at the vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes I made for him. When he bit into one of the moist, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes, his face lit up with pleasure, but then he squinted his eyes and asked again: “Are you sure these are vegan?! They’re really, really good!” I laughed and said: “Yep, I made them myself and I swear they are! Your wife doesn’t want you to die from clogged arteries, and neither do I, so these are made without any animal fat. They’re much better for you.” I still don’t think he completely believed me though! 🙂

That got me to thinking: what do carnivores think vegan baked goods look like?  I took a poll among my meat-eating friends and found that this is what they visualize when they think of baked vegan treats:

That used to be the case for my carnivore, but I’ve been working hard to change his mind.  He’s finally realizing that vegan cupcakes aren’t dry, dirt-encrusted bricks wrapped in hemp leaves. Top bakers and chefs all over the world are recognizing the health benefits of desserts free of animal products and we’re seeing more and more incredibly tasty and inventive recipes from them. This vegan chocolate strawberry cupcake recipe is by chef Chloe Corscarelli, who used these yummy and pretty little cakes to win the Cupcake Wars competition. Most impressive: she was competing against people using whipping cream, butter, and every other animal fat you can imagine, and these amazing cupcakes kicked all of their booties. Score another point for Team Veg!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, give these beautiful cupcakes a try and see if you can convert a carnivore or two yourself!

vegan chocolate strawberry cupcakes

Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Serves: 12
From fridge to table: 1.5 hours

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting and finishing:
2/3 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 2/3 cups plus 1 tbsp sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp soy milk (or rice or almond milk)
1.5 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line 12-cup muffin pan.

To make cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup water, the oil, vinegar and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Divide batter among cupcake cups. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool completely in pan.

To  make frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla to mix. Beat in nondairy milk, 1 tbsp at a time, and beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Cut tops off of cooled cupcakes and set aside. Smooth about 1 tbsp of frosting onto each decapitated cupcake and cover with a few strawberries. Replace top and then add a dollop of frosting and few slices of strawberries. Dust cupcakes with a little powdered sugar. Then enjoy!

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole Pleases Everyone, Even Avocado-Hating Carnivores

Throughout my childhood, my sister used to pin me down and squish guacamole through her lips and let it drool down to my nose before sucking it back up. Ughahhhkkk! That memory still makes my whole body quiver with disgust. So now you understand the basis for my lifelong hatred of avocados. But they’re so dang good for you! They’re packed with fiber, b-vitamins and 20 essential nutrients. I really, really want to like the Mighty Avocado, and since it’s such a filling and healthy food, I also want my carnivore husband to love it too. Unfortunately John doesn’t like the texture and thinks it’s just too cliche: “Is there some kind of requirement that every Californian has to love that snot?!” (Judging by the avocado consumption habits of our friends, it must be a California state law or something).  I knew this would be one of my biggest culinary mountains to climb.

After many tries with numerous recipes (and a couple of times that John rinsed his tongue under the kitchen sink) I hit on one that has *finally* turned us into avocado fans – Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole. Every time I serve it, there’s a tortilla chip traffic-jam at the guacamole bowl. It’s got such lovely and unique layers of flavor! The gorgeous ruby-colored pomegranate seeds add a beautiful brightness on your palate with a sharp little pop of unexpected flavor, while the tropical mango provides a velvety hint of sweetness. This dish is so good that it’s conquered the lifelong emotional scars left by my sister’s avocado-torture technique, and has even inspired my avocado-hating carnivore to enjoy it. So just think how much you’ll love this dish if you already like regular old guacamole! Trust me – this recipe will knock your socks off. And now is the perfect time to make it since pomegranates are in season, and grocery stores are also full of ripe mangoes.

Just whatever you do, please do not pin down your loved ones and squish guacamole through your lips to torture them…unless they really deserve it. (For the record, I never deserved it because I’ve always been a perfect angel.) 🙂

Pomegranae-Mango Guacamole

Serves: 6-8
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

4 ripe Haas avocados, pitted
1/4-1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup onion, finely chopped (I prefer white onion in this recipe, but it can work with yellow if that’s all you have in the pantry)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
The seeds from one pomegranate (which will yield about 3/4 cup). Be sure to save a few seeds for a pretty garnish
3/4 cup finely chopped mango
Tortilla chips

In a large bowl, mash the avocados and immediately mix in 1/4 cup lime juice to prevent the avocados from browning (because brown guacamole is just gross). Add the chopped onion, jalepeno, smoked sea salt (to taste) and mix well. Taste and add additional lime juice and salt as desired. Gently stir in the mango, pomegranate seeds and cilantro. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds, serve with tortilla chips, then watch it your guacamole disappear!

The Devious Vegetarian: “Drunken Soledad O’Brien” Stili (a stew/chili cross)

Behold: I am a devious vegetarian genius!

Continuing down the road to duping my meat-worshiping husband into becoming a vegetarian, I took a brilliant detour that led me to BoozeTown. As you may have figured out by now, I will gladly exploit John’s weaknesses in order to create a veg meal that suppresses his urge to make a face, is packed with protein and healthy ingredients, and that also helps him forget about his “meat deprivation.” That means that I have to chef up foods that are so delicious and satisfying that they blow his mind. With goals so lofty, can you blame me for playing dirty? I think not.

But I must admit, this stroke of culinary intelligence almost makes me feel like I’m cheating. The secret was to think of what John loves most in this world. The answer: beer. Not just any beer, but super strong IPA. I realized that if I could successfully combine beer with vegan ingredients, I might just create a masterpiece that he’ll not just love, but that he’ll actually ASK me to make him in the future. And thus, the “Drunken Soledad O’Brien Stili” was born.

Like it’s namesake, this Stili has a little bit of everything in it. Think of it as a cross between a chili, a stew and a pub. It’s got a spicy Cuban flair, hearty American microbrew beer, and some potatoes to satisfy John’s Irish stomach. By the way, what the heck ethnicity is Soledad O’Brien? Is she African American? Scottish? Hispanic? Lemurian? All of the above? My guess is that her beauty is in her funky blend, and the same holds true for this rich, delicious, beer-infused stili.

The carnivore verdict? One taste and John’s face lit up. With dancing eyebrows, he exclaimed: “Oh Mah Gawhd. This…is…awesome!” I hope you and your converting carnivore like it, too!

Time to table: about 45 minutes

Serves: 6 hungry people

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (with seeds)

1.5-2 lbs small, creamy-tasting potatoes, chopped into 1” cubes (such as Yukon Gold creamers or fingerling potatoes) (I used some misshapen Finn potatoes that I grew in our garden)

1 tsp smoked sea salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp high quality chili powder

12 oz. microbrew dark beer (I used 21st Amendment’s “Back in Black IPA,” one of John’s’ faves.)

1 – 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes (I like Muir Glenn since it’s organic and has much more of an authentic tomatoey taste the other canned tomatoes)

3 – 15 oz. cans of beans (I used black beans, pinto and aduki, but really, you can use whichever are your favorites)

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tbsp chipotle sauce **

2-3 tbsp maple syrup

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

**(Chipotle sauce is super easy to make. Just buy a can of “chipotle peppers in adobo sauce” – in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores – and just blend the whole thing until it’s smooth. Wow, the flavor is smokey, deep, lush and delicious, and it adds so much to dishes like this. I like to freeze my leftover chipotle sauce in ice cube trays so that it’s easy to use in the future.)

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add red pepper, garlic and jalapeño and stir/cook until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and stir/cook for 3 minutes. Add the smoked sea salt, pepper and chili powder and stir well to fully coat ingredients. If you don’t have smoked sea salt, seriously, buy some – it adds so much depth of flavor! I buy mine from SpiceHound.com – I like the alderwood smoked sea salt. Note: it’s important that you add the salt before the beans. Why? Because salt stops beans from cooking and keeps them intact. If you don’t add it, the beans will turn to mush -blahkkk.

Add the beer and stir for a couple of minutes to boil off some of the alcohol. Add the tomatoes, beans and broth. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent the beans from scorching on the bottom of your pot. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring often. Taste the chili as it cooks and you’ll see that the flavors deepen as it cooks. Once it’s almost ready to serve, add the chipotle and maple syrup, stirring well, and allow to cook for 5 minutes more. Then remove from heat, add cilantro. Serve with a couple of tortilla chips crumbled on top, and of course, beer or a margarita. Enjoy!

Defeated by an elephant turd

Operation Carnivore Conversion experienced some serious setbacks during the holidays. Sadly, John’s willpower failed when confronted with “blackjack steak,” which was especially demoralizing for me since this marinated tri-tip looks like an elephant turd. Seriously – he fell off the veg wagon for this ugly black slug. Can you believe it? I’m still struggling to understand how meat-eaters can gnaw on something like that looks like this. Hearing his moans of pleasure, I believe we have identified John’s kryptonite.

You won this round, blackjack, but I will win the war. See, John has other weaknesses that I’m more than willing to exploit. For example, he would rather eat lint than grocery shop, so his only chance of getting blackjack is if our friends bring it over. Ha ha, gotcha blackjack!

Unfortunately for me, one of our smart-ass carnivore friends overheard me celebrating this fact so he launched a counter-mission called “Operation Enduring Meat” and vowed to slip John a blackjack every now and then. Dammit!

Well apparently it’s game on! Now I have to work extra hard to make veggie meals ultra appealing so that John will crave them. Hopefully one day, he too will wonder how the hell he ever ate something that looks like an elephant turd!