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Tag: food

Vegan in Japan (Part One)

History and Practical Tips

We made history running the very first vegan group trip to Japan, and it was a huge success. (And then we ran a second right after!)

While Buddhism-inspired vegetarianism has been part of the Japanese culture since around the 6th and 7th centuries, “veganism” as a concept is very new. In this first episode of what will be a podcast series, I provide a frame through which to understand the challenges and the threads of eating plant-based in Japan, including 

  • the influence of Buddhism and other factors that resulted in a mostly plant-based culture for a good portion of its history
  • how the move toward modernizing Japan — as of 1868 during the Meiji Restoration — instilled the habit of meat consumption 
  • the fact that Japanese cuisine is very regional and dependent upon tradition and location
  • how chefs are revered as the end-all, be-all of food preparation and to question ingredients they use (including animal products) could be seen as a challenge to their skill and expertise
  • the “foodie” fervor surrounding Japanese cuisine can sometimes border on the absurd, which gives rise to elaborate food rituals and ceremonies but can also provide ample material for satirical commentary

In the episode, I also provide a number of suggestions for what to look for generally if you are traveling in Japan as a joyful vegan, including

  • which items to look out for that typically have animal products in them
  • what and how to ask for vegan options
  • where to find the best options, generally speaking

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE!

Pretzels Were Made for Vegans (at Easter)

The History of the Holy Knot

The history of the delicious, soft, pillowy pretzel goes back hundreds of years and demonstrates once again that we have more food traditions that reflect abstaining from animal products than indulging in them. Take a listen to the Medieval origins of this food, how it saved a city, and why it’s associated with Easter.

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Non-Alcoholic Shirley Temple for Dry January

A Classic Mocktail with Quality Ingredients

You know I love me my wine and whisky (Scotch in particular), but David and I have been immensely enjoying a little Dry January.

My husband is a mixologist maven, and he’s proving that to be the case with the non-alcoholic concoctions he’s drumming up this month, including a favorite mocktail of mine from my childhood — from many of our childhoods: Shirley Temples!

I’m happy to say this version is more sophisticated than the ones I grew up drinking, because it’s all about quality ingredients — like anything else. Of course, you can use whatever brands you prefer, but here’s what we use to make spicy, sweet, delicious Shirley Temples!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Maine Root Ginger Beer
  • 1 ounce Grenadine
  • Luxardo Cherries for garnish
  • Ice cubes (I prefer crushed over cubed)

Directions

Fill a glass with ice. You can use a pint glass, but David uses a Collins glass, which I prefer.

Start by adding 1 cup of Maine Root Ginger Beer – its robust, zesty profile makes it superior to other ginger beers / ginger ales.

Next, add 1 ounce (or more) of Grenadine for a touch of sweetness. We also add a little of the Luxardo cherry syrup.

Use whatever maraschino cherries you prefer, but if you want to elevate it, use Luxardo brand cherries. David uses a pretty metal cocktail skewer for the cherries and a metal straw for the sipping. 😊

Let me know if you create your own Ginger Bliss Shirley Temple! Cheers to the simple joys of a well-crafted mocktail by my favorite mixologist! 🍹

Jewish Cuisine

A Plant-Based Celebration of Diversity, Continuity, and Resiliency

On the one hand, “Jewish cuisine” or “Jewish food” is difficult to define, because it is influenced by the foods in the many countries where Jews have emigrated to. And it’s as diverse and adaptive as the Jewish people themselves.

On the other hand, there is indeed something we can call “Jewish food,” characterized by a rich tapestry of flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques, and influenced by the dietary laws and culinary traditions found in Jewish religious texts.

Jewish cuisine celebrates diversity while at the same time serving as a unifying element for a community that has been dispersed across the world.

Let’s explore this together in today’s episode.

Barmbrack (Irish Fruitcake) Recipe

Vegan, Dairy-Free, Scrumptious Fruitcake — for Halloween or Anytime!

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruitcake known for its unique connection to Halloween. The name barmbrack comes from the Irish term báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” It’s a moist, sweet loaf made with tea-soaked raisins and sultanas.

What makes it particularly special is the inclusion of symbolic items baked into the cake. These items, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, and a stick, carry distinct meanings for those who find them. The tradition of including these objects in barmbrack turns it into a form of fortune-telling game.

Barmbrack’s association with Halloween in Ireland is rooted in the tradition of divination and superstition. People would eagerly anticipate the slicing of the barmbrack on Halloween night, as the item they found in their slice was believed to foretell their future.

For example, finding a ring meant one would be married within the year, while discovering a coin signified good fortune. Today, barmbrack remains a beloved treat during the Halloween season, and the tradition of including symbolic items continues to be a fun and cherished part of this festive time in Ireland.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas)
  • 1 cup strong brewed black tea (cooled)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp marmalade or apricot jam (for glazing)

Directions

  1. Start by brewing a strong cup of black tea and letting it cool. Once cooled, pour it over the mixed dried fruit in a large bowl. Make sure all the fruit is submerged. Cover the bowl and let it sit overnight, allowing the fruit to plump up.
  2. The next day, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line a 7-8 inch round cake tin with parchment paper.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  4. Stir the applesauce and vanilla extract into the soaked dried fruit.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the fruit mixture, stirring until well combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove the Barmbrack from the oven and let it cool in the tin for a few minutes. Then, transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Once the Barmbrack has cooled, warm the marmalade or apricot jam in a small saucepan. Brush it over the top of the cake for a glossy finish.
  10. Slice and serve your vegan Barmbrack. It’s best enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.

This vegan Barmbrack is a delicious treat for Halloween or any time you want to savor a spiced fruitcake with a bit of Irish tradition.

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes) Recipe

Vegan Colcannon — Plant-Based, Nutrient-Dense, and Delicious!

Colcannon is a wonderful example of traditional Irish cuisine, resonating with the principles of “cucina povera” or “poor cuisine” reminiscent of Italian cooking, as I’ve previously explored elsewhere, especially in my podcast.

Both culinary traditions share a common thread of resourcefulness and thriftiness, elevating humble ingredients into wholesome, comforting dishes. Just as “cucina povera” in Italian culture transforms simple ingredients like bread, olive oil, and tomatoes into exquisite creations such as Panzanella, colcannon epitomizes the Irish approach to turning basic staples, such as potatoes and greens, into a heartwarming, belly-filling, and flavorful masterpiece.

These culinary legacies, rooted in simplicity and tradition, remind us of the enduring connections between food, culture, and our own ancestral stories — especially for those of us with Irish roots.

Ingredients

  • 4 large russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chopped kale (curly kale works well)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your preferred plant-based milk)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Boil the Potatoes:
    • Place the diced potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water. Add a pinch of salt to the water.
    • Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.
    • Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.
  2. Prepare the Kale:
    • While the potatoes are cooking, blanch the chopped kale in a separate pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until it’s bright green and tender.
    • Drain the kale and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Mash the Potatoes:
    • Use a potato masher to mash the cooked potatoes until they are smooth and free of lumps.
  4. Add Plant-Based Milk and Vegan Butter:
    • To the mashed potatoes, add the unsweetened almond milk and vegan butter. Mix well until the butter has melted, and the mixture is creamy. Adjust the milk and butter to achieve your desired consistency.
  5. Fold in Kale and Green Onions:
    • Gently fold the blanched kale and sliced green onions into the mashed potatoes. Ensure they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  6. Season and Serve:
    • Season the colcannon with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
    • Serve your vegan colcannon hot, and enjoy this comforting and flavorful dish!

This vegan colcannon is a delicious, plant-based twist on the traditional Irish dish, perfect for a hearty meal any time of the year, especially around St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.

Did You Know?

Traditionally, colcannon was a cherished dish served during Allhallowtide, a period encompassing All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween / October 31st), All Saints’ Day (November 1st), and All Soul’s Day (November 2nd). This hearty Irish fare, consisting of mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, and often accompanied by hidden treasures like rings and coins, was not only a delicious treat but also a part of festive fortune-telling rituals.

Vegan in Bordeaux

Finding delicious plant-based meals in this historic city

Eating vegan in Bordeaux is easier than ever before. Not only are there vegan-only and vegetarian-only restaurants, being a diverse, cosmopolitan city, there are numerous international restaurants and cafes. Join me on a vegan journey to Bordeaux in today’s Food for Thought podcast episode!

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

Ecoles de Vin — for the least expensive glass of wine you’ll ever drink!

Da Bartolo Osteria Pizzeria — great pizza marinara!

Tripletta PIzzeria — great, authentic pizza marinara

Monkey Mood — vegan Indonesian restaurant

L’échoppe à Sushis – L’échoppe à Poké — Japanese / Poké / Vietnamese restaurant (non-vegan with lots of vegan options

Dis Leur — vegan tapas bistrot

Au Nouveau Monde — Québécois pub with vegan options, including poutine

TY’K Affinage — vegan cheesemaker in Brittany, France

Joyful Vegan Trips — all-inclusive vegan trips around the world

Rising Food Prices, Healthy Food Choices

How to Eat Well on a Budget

Those who already know the health, ethical, and environmental benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet also know the economical advantages as well.

For years, it has been my pleasure to give people the tools and resources they need to eat healthfully and compassionately – affordably. And by “affordably,” I’m not talking about eating cheap food.

Cost goes well beyond dollars and sense, and eating healthfully affordably means considering all the costs of our consumption – costs to our health, to the Earth, to the people who produce it, to the animals, and to our spirits. 

Eat at home.

People often complain that they don’t have time to eat and cook healthfully, but if we were really honest, we’d realize that it’s not that we don’t have the time; it’s that we don’t make the effort.

If we have the time to pack the family into the car, drive to a restaurant, wait for a table, decide what to order, wait for the food, pay the bill, and drive back home, then we have time to chop some vegetables and make a delicious, inexpensive meal at home. 

Be a savvy shopper. 

Instead of looking only at the retail price for items in the grocery store, look at the unit price. The “unit price” tells you the cost per pound, quart, or other unit of weight or volume of a food package and is usually posted on the shelf below the food.

Instead of paying for brand names and packaging, buy your dried foods from the bulk bins, including pasta, grains, flour, oatmeal, lentils, beans, even herbs and spices. Fill them up in containers and bags you bring from home. 

Cook from scratch.

Not only is it less expensive to cook using food from the bulk bins, such as beans and lentils, but when it comes to baking, nothing beats starting from scratch – both in terms of taste and cost.

For instance, one batch of a dozen Drop Biscuits from my cookbook The Joy of Vegan Baking costs about $1.15; that’s $.10 per biscuit. This goes for any baked good – especially those made without dairy or eggs. When you buy cake mixes in a box, you pay a lot of money for what is essentially just flour, sugar, and baking powder. 

if we don’t have time to be sick, we need to make time to be healthy. 

~Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Choose nutrient-dense foods.

Get the most bang for your monetary buck and your nutritional buck. When we eat “empty calories” (foods and beverages that have the same energy content of any other calorie but devoid of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, amino acids, and fiber), we spend precious calories (and dollars) and receive no benefit in return. So in terms of cost-savings, consider nutrient-density the goal.

Plan ahead.

We should never decide what to have for dinner at dinnertime. Knowing the night before – or at least that morning – and preparing in advance prevents us from making unhealthful and expensive choices when we’re already hungry. Planning ahead when we shop is also helpful so that we buy just what we need for the meals we’ve planned instead of falling victim to impulse or empty-calorie purchases. 

Also, bringing healthful snacks when we hit the road ensures that we’ll be covered when hunger hits. Vending machines rely on our not having planned ahead, so make some snacks ahead of time and bring them along.

These are just some ways to increase our savings as well as our health. After all, if we don’t have time to be sick, we need to make time to be healthy. 

Let’s Talk Turmeric

Turmeric needs a cape for all its super powers!

I’d like to give turmeric some love. As you already know, it’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, but that’s really just the beginning.

  • It has been shown to have anti-tumor effects, inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells
  • It’s been shown to improve brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline
  • It’s been shown to have a positive effect on heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease and improving cardiovascular function, and so much more!

For years, I’ve been incorporating turmeric into my daily diet, but as I focus on healing my broken ankle bone, I’m upping my turmeric game — both in terms of consuming more of it, yes, but also (mainly) in terms of increasing its bioavailability — in other words…increasing my body’s absorption and use of it.

Increasing turmeric’s bioavailability

Turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, has low bioavailability. It’s considered hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t mix well with water. In other words, it’s quickly metabolized by the liver and excreted from the body.

That’s not what we want. Not only do we want to CONSUME the nutrients that make us thrive and heal; we also want our bodies to be able to ABSORB and USE them. Otherwise, we’re not getting the full potential of the healthy plant foods we’re eating.

Fortunately, there are two significant ways to increase the absorption of curcumin:

  1. Black pepper — black pepper contains piperine, a compound that can increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%!!
  2. Fat — curcumin is fat-soluble, which means it should be eaten with a source of healthy fat, such as coconut milk, almond butter, or avocado.

It’s not that I wasn’t doing this before, and it’s not that I’m not using NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain management and inflammation reduction, but I’ve definitely made some adjustments:

  • I’ve increased my intake of turmeric.
  • I’m consuming turmeric with fat and black pepper.

Prior to breaking my ankle, I was trying to eat 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric a day, but while I’m focusing on healing this break, I’m eating about a teaspoon a day. That’s specifically because its anti-inflammatory properties reduces my pain, promotes faster healing, and supports my immune system, which of course is also critical for overall health.

And let me emphasize that I eat only ground turmeric (or freshly grated turmeric root) — not a curcumin supplement. Curcumin is just ONE of the many healthful compounds of turmeric. The magic of whole plant foods is that all of the components work together to create the beneficial effect. Isolating one nutrient means missing out on the combination.

Here are some ways you can incorporate turmeric into your diet:

  1. Golden milk latte: Mix turmeric powder with plant-based milk, black pepper, and a touch of maple syrup for a warm and comforting drink.
  2. Tofu scramble: Sprinkle turmeric powder on scrambled tofu, and add black pepper for an extra boost. (Enjoy my recipe for classic Tofu Scramble!)
  3. Turmeric hummus: Mix turmeric powder with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice to make a flavorful dip, and add a little bit of olive oil for a creamy texture.
  4. Turmeric grains: Mix turmeric powder with brown rice or quinoa, and add a tablespoon of coconut oil or coconut milk to make it more flavorful and bioavailable.
  5. Turmeric roasted chickpeas: Toss chickpeas with turmeric powder and a pinch of black pepper, and bake them until they’re crispy for a healthy snack.(Check out my Crispy Chipotle Chickpeas recipe; add turmeric to the other delicious spices I recommend!)
  6. Turmeric salad dressing: Mix turmeric powder with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, and a touch of maple syrup for a tangy and flavorful salad dressing.
  7. Turmeric lentil soup: Add turmeric powder to a lentil or bean soup, and add a little bit of coconut milk for a creamy texture and / or oil to increase bioavailability.
  8. Turmeric smoothie: Add turmeric powder to a smoothie with almond milk, banana, and a little bit of black pepper for extra absorption.
  9. Turmeric salad dressing: Mix turmeric powder with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and agave nectar for a tasty and healthy salad dressing.
  10. Roasted veggies: Add turmeric powder to roasted vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower, and drizzle them with a little bit of olive oil for healthy fat.

Tofu Scrambling to Heal my Broken Bones

I recently broke my ankle (ouch!), but I’m not letting that stop me from healing as joyfully and deliciously as possible. Inspired by my best friend who broke BOTH HER ANKLES at the same time, I’m documenting the nutrient-dense meals I’m eating with a focus on bone-healing nutrients.

And we’re starting with this 𝑻𝑶𝑭𝑼 𝑺𝑪𝑹𝑨𝑴𝑩𝑳𝑬 with bell peppers, carrots, red onion, spinach, turmeric, and avocado!

TOFU

First up, we’ve got TOFU, which is a total powerhouse of plant-based protein and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, all of which support my 𝒃𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒕𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒓𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚.

BELL PEPPERS AND CARROTS

Then, we’ve got BELL PEPPERS and CARROTS, loaded with vitamins A and C, which are essential for 𝒃𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈. Plus, they help produce collagen, which is crucial for 𝒇𝒊𝒙𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒅𝒂𝒎𝒂𝒈𝒆𝒅 𝒃𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒊𝒔𝒔𝒖𝒆𝒔.

RED ONIONS

Next up, we’ve got RED ONIONS, packing a punch of flavonoids and quercetin, which have 𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒊-𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒎𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒙𝒊𝒅𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔.

Translation: they’re gonna help 𝒓𝒆𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒘𝒆𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒑𝒂𝒊𝒏 in my ankle and keep me feeling good overall.

SPINANCH

Spinach is a fantastic source of vitamin K, which is essential for bone health and helps with the absorption of calcium. It’s also packed with other vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium.

TURMERIC

TURMERIC is the next superstar ingredient, with its curcumin providing 𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒊-𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒎𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒙𝒊𝒅𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒏𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒕𝒔 that help with inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are major players in 𝒃𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈.

And last but not least, we’ve got AVOCADO, with its healthy fats, vitamins K and C, and potassium, all supporting my 𝒃𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒕𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒎𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒉 𝒆𝒙𝒕𝒓𝒂 𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒎𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒅𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔.

Tofu Scramble Recipe

Of course you can add whatever veggies, spices, or herbs you like! Here’s a nice basic nutrient-dense scramble! (More recipes in my library of On-Demand Cooking Classes; you get video demonstrations + printable recipes!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons water or 1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, orange, or green), diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 16-ounce package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup raw spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the water or oil in a sauté pan.

Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and carrots, and sauté for another few minutes, until the onions and peppers are tender.

Next, using your hands, crumble the tofu into the pan to create the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs, and stir to combine.

Add the spinach, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and sauté for about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tofu is a bright yellow color and thoroughly heated. Season to taste, and serve.