Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recipe: Tantalizing Tempeh

"Inhabitants of underdeveloped nations and victims of natural disasters are the only people who have ever been happy to see soybeans." -Fran Lebowitz


When I started preparing my meal for tonight I was really quite thrilled to see the cubes of tempeh that I had started
marinating 24-hours prior. Thus I have concluded that Fran Lebowitz is completely full of shit.

To be fair, I must admit that I wasn't always this excited to add tempeh to my meals. When I used to put very little to no thought into preparing my tempeh, it usually ended up tasting like soft nutty cardboard chunks.
Okay, that may be a little harsh, it wasn't that bad...but it wasn't anything to blog home about either. Quite simply, finding the key to preparing really good tempeh took a little bit of research and a lot of trial-and-error in the kitchen.

After experimenting with a few different types of marinades, I think I finally discovered one that I am confident in recommending to others. I catered this particular marinade to accompany my South America-style dishes, although I am sure it can be tweaked to accommodate your own palette and preferences.

But before I unveil this tempeh marinade recipe, I think it is pertinent to discuss the question: "Why tempeh?"

Some may be surpized to discover that the origins of tempeh are actually quite ancient, first appearing in Japan sometime during the 16th Century. Like my best friend quinoa, tempeh is a complete protein...meaning that it is a great option for all-varieties of herbivore. Tempeh is high in fiber, low in sodium, and since it's fermented it's easy to digest as well. Tempeh may not be as sexy or garner as much attention as it's silky fair-colored cousin tofu, but as far as nutritional values go it's numero uno. If you are interested in learning more about tempeh, or even how to make your own tempeh, I would highly recommend these articles (article one, article two) by Barbara Minton.

Okay, I've tortured you long South American tempeh marinade:


organic tempeh (a 4" by 6" sheet will work great)
1 cup filtered water
4 tablespoons lemon juice (or lime juice), preferably organic and fresh squeezed
2 tablespoons organic nama shoyu
1-2 teaspoons organic cilantro, chopped or minced
0.5 teaspoon organic paprika
0.5 teaspoon organic ground cumin
0.5 teaspoon chili flakes
0.25 teaspoon organic oregano

1 large bowl
1 refrigerator

1. Add one cup of filtered water to a large bowl.

2. Add all ingredients to the bowl of water, stir or whisky gently for several seconds or until all ingredients have equally dispersed.

3. Slice up your organic tempeh into 0.5" by 0.5" cubes (or larger if you prefer).

4. Place your cubes in the marinade so that all but the very tops of the tempeh cubes are covered.

5. Place in your refrigerator and leave it there overnight. ( I usually flip all of the tempeh cubes over in the morning as so both sides get the flavor goodness.)

6. To cook, simply heat some organic safflower or organic grapeseed oil in a pan. Add the tempeh cubes to the pan, and slowly turn and baste each cube every few minutes while cooking.

7. Once your tempeh turns a beautiful golden brown (or rugged dark brown for those of you who like it crispy), add it to your burrito, salad, quinoa bowl, or on top of whatever bizarre concoction you came up with in an attempt to use up all those refugee items that were on the verge of spoiling in your pantry.

End notes: Although it requires a little bit of preparation and planning ahead, properly marinated tempeh can be a completely rewarding addition to a variety of dishes. When you factor in it's high-quality nutritional value, there is no real good reason to continue avoiding it. Unless, of course, you're allergic to soybeans or something like that...which would really suck.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Recipe: Quintessential Quinoa Curry

"Playwrights are like men who have been dining for a month in an Indian restaurant. After eating curry night after night, they deny the existence of asparagus." -Peter Ustinov


Sometimes I like to get creative with my food. There is something to be said for throwing some herbs and spices
together for the first time and seeing how it turns out. I remember the first time I attempted to mimic an Indian dish...I tried to harness the greatness that is Aloo Gobi. It smelled good. It looked good. It tasted like crap. That is the beauty of blogs like this one...I'm only going to post up the ones that actually turn out well.

Lately I've been experimenting with organic apple cider vinegar. A lot of vegetarian/vegan recipe enthusiasts probably noticed that it tends to be used in a lot of herbivore dishes. I would highlight it as a key ingredient to this very simple quinoa side dish.


0.5 cup organic quinoa
2-4 tablespoons organic olive oil
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
1-2 cloves organic garlic
0.125 teaspoon organic turmeric

1 teaspoon organic ground cumin
0.25 teaspoon organic paprika
1-2 pinches celtic sea salt

1 Stove
1 Large saucepan with lid

1. Pour 0.5 cup of quinoa into the large saucepan. Add 1.25 cups of filtered water, and gently stir so that there is no dry pockets of quinoa that won't steam well.

2. Mince or press the garlic cloves, then add all ingredients to the saucepan. Stir gently for a few seconds so that the spices are even distributed throughout the pan.

3. Cover the saucepan with a lid, and turn on the stove to medium or medium-high. Once the quinoa starts boiling, stir it a few times, and the cover it back up and set the stove to low.

4. After all the water as steamed out, turn off the stove, keep the cover on and let it sit and steam for a good five to six minutes (the longer you wait, the softer your quinoa).

5. Serve it up and enjoy! This serving size feeds one to two people quite well.

End notes: I call this recipe "curry"...but it does not fit the description in the traditional sense. It's a simple and easy way to give your quinoa an exotic Indian-esque flavor. If your not a stickler for organic and want something quick, then you can pair this with Trader Joe's vegetable samosas and garlic tandoori naan. I believe it can also be paired with various Thai curries and vegetables quite well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recipe: Sprouted Almonds

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." -Mark Twain


After reading a wonderful article extolling the many virtues of almonds, especially sprouted raw almonds, I decided to finally try my hand at sprouting my own. I must say it was far simpler than I imagined and after tasting a few...I'm convinced that I am going to start sprouting a lot more often!

I tried adding these sprouted almonds with a few medjool dates (my raw candy recipe), and the combination was superior than when I used regular raw almonds. Here is the super easy "recipe"...if you can even call it that:

Raw almonds (they have to be truly raw to be sproutable, a problem for California almonds)
Celtic sea salt

Filtered water

Large bowl
Refrigerator or cooler

1. Wash and rinse-off your raw almonds very very well. Place them in a large bowl, and rinse again so that the water runs clear.

2. Pour filtered water in the bowl so that the almonds are completely covered. You don't need to have them floating in a large amount of water, but at least give them some room to expand...because they will.

3. Add a pinch or two of celtic sea salt.

4. Place in the fridge (or cooler...or other cool spot) for 12 hours or so.

5. Pour out the water, rinse them once more, and place your almonds on a dry towel or sheet. Let them dry completely. Once completely dry, enjoy them or store them in a jar/container for later.

End notes: I have probably over-stated this...but it is really important toi get quality ingredients. Although I like the price of Trader Joe's raw almonds...I consider them neither truly raw nor high-quality. There are some great online vendors where one can purchase high-quality raw nuts and other excellent raw food items. The next step for me is to try some raw Marcona almonds...which could be the best almond variety on earth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reading: Get ready to board the "Nature Cruise of the Century"...

"There is another human defect which the Law of Natural Selection has yet to remedy: When people of today have full bellies, they are exactly like their ancestors of a million years ago: very slow to acknowledge any awful troubles they may be in." from Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


I went through a period in my life where I didn't read a fiction novel for about five years. Ironically, this period began shortly after reading Ishmael, the first book I recommended in this blog, which is technically a "fiction" novel. This period ended in early 2007, and it ended quickly and for the foreseeable future. I have since adopted a "one fiction then one non-fiction" rotational approach to my reading endeavors, and have found that it works quite well for me.

It took me twenty-seven years before I read my first Vonnegut novel...and just thirteen months to read seven more. This may tell you something that you may already know...reading Vonnegut can become a highly addictive habit. Of the eight books of his that I have read, there are four that were particularly memorable for me. Wait, make that five. The two classics Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five need no introduction, and if you were to read Vonnegut for the very first time one of these two novels would probably be the best place to start. I personally started with Cat's Cradle. The Sirens of Titan and Mother Night were both hilarious and extremely insightful...I could have easily chosen one of those two books for this write up...hell, I could have chosen any of the eight books I've read for this write up. He is an author that really grows on you, and it seems each new book of his that you read becomes a favorite. Of all the Vonnegut readers I know, almost everyone has a different book of his that they would consider their absolute favorite. I found that aspect to be a fairly telling bit of how gifted and diverse an author he really is...or rather, was.

The book of his that I am going to recommend here is one of his later novels...
Galápagos, which was first published in 1985. This novel does not have the following of his other well-known works, but is still as pertinent today...actually, more so than it was when it was first released. There are a few reasons why this book seemed to resonate a little more strongly than some of his others...I believe a lot has to do with the timing of when I read it. I was finishing up graduate school, very disillusioned with American society/culture, and looking forward to traveling abroad to escape the insanity of Southern California. It was an very idealistic outlook at the time, but also very insightful...

To give some ideas of what this book is about without divulging any of the plot, I would say it is a book about evolution, popular culture, and the capabilities of the human brain. That is all I want to say about this story, as I do not want you go go into the book with any pre-conceived judgments of what the book is about.

You could say this is more a recommendation for reading Vonnegut's works than just reading
Galápagos...and that's probably the best route to take when approaching his novels. I hope you're able to find the one book of his that resonates strongly with you...and when you do, be sure to tell others about it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Recipe: Raw Candy

"We're always attracted to the edges of what we are, out by the edges where it's a little raw and nervy." -E. L. Doctorow


This recipe is so simple it really should not be called a recipe.
It's an easy fix for those who get a hankering for something sweet, but not so unhealthy that you feel bad or guilty afterwords. My solution to this raw candy that is comprised of two simple ingredients: OrganicMedjool Dates and Organic Raw Almonds (real raw almonds, not the fake steamed kind). Like most edible concoctions, the better the ingredients you use the better the results.

Organic medjool dates
Organic raw almonds
(These will be used on a one-to-one basis.)

None really...

1. Cut or pull open your medjool dates, and pull the pits out. (Make sure you completely get rid of the pits, as mistaking one of them for a skinny almond could prove disastrous for your teeth.)

2. Place one or two almonds inside each medjool date.

3. Push and close the medjool date back together. Now you have your very raw candy to's really that simple.

End notes: High-quality medjool dates are really good for you...and are a staple of typical middle eastern breakfasts (usually consumed with flat bread and yogurt). I purchased my dates from the People's Food Coop in PDX, and I would behoove you to find a good source for your dates too if your a big fan of them. The medjool dates at Trader Joe's are very inexpensive, but also very mediocre...but they're an acceptable alternative if you have no other options. Ditto with the almonds. ;) I know a lot of people who do not like the taste/texture of dates...does anyone have an other simple recipes for healthy raw foods on the sweet side of things?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recipe: Black Bean & Quinoa Burrito

"Beans are neither fruit nor musical." -Bart Simpson


Black beans and quinoa may be my favorite combination of any two foods...ever. As simple as they may seem, I really love them so much that I have incorporated them as a staple of my diet. Not only do they taste wonderful,
but their nutritional value may be unparalleled.

Black beans provide a virtually fat-free high quality protein, t
ons of naturally occurring antioxidants, and a high fiber content that moderates blood sugar levels after a meal. It's tough to find a legume that nutritious --and delicious.

I would call quinoa a vegetarians best friend. I heard many refer to it as a "super grain"...but that would be incorrect as it is a seed, not a grain. The historical significance of quinoa and the rise of the Incan Empire is well documented, and we are quite forunate that the seed was able to survive after it was deemed "worthless" and burned en masse by Spanish Conquistadores. The beauty of quinoa is that it is a complete protein...that is, it can supply all the essential amino acids the human body cannot synthesize itself. This is a tremendous benefit for herbivores whose diets often lack many of these amino acids which are typically found in flesh/meat.

During my time traveling and living in parts of Central and South America I noticed that it is not common for black beans and quinoa to be paired together. In Central America the traditional plate "casado" (meal of the day...which literally translates to "married") consists of white rice and black beans...usually supplemented with fried plantains...and occasionally chicken or beef for the "affluent". Black beans popularity seems to drop significantly south of Ecuador...they are virtually non-existent in southern Peru and Chile. Quinoa seems to take over here where the black beans popularity wanes...with Quinoa being readily available in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The one unifying element of this burrito is the avocado...also know as aguacate or palta. It runs the gamut and is popular across all the Americas. (These observations are largely based off of my personal experiences on the western half of South America.)

0.5 cup organic quinoa
1-2 tablespoons avocado oil
1-2 pinches of celtic sea salt
1.5 cups organic black beans (canned or soaked/sprouted)
0.5 cup chopped organic tomatoes (whatever your favorite variety)
2 handfuls organic spinach (chopped if desired)
1 handful fresh organic cilantro, chopped
0.5 cup fresh organic onion (
whatever your favorite variety)
1 organic avocado, sliced into small wedges
2-4 cloves organic garlic, sliced...then minced/pressed 10 minutes later
~1 tablespoon organic ground cumin
~1 teaspoon organic paprika
~1 teaspoon organic oregano
1 organic lime or lemon
1-2 tortillas/wraps (or chard/kale for a vegan alternative)
(optional) organic salsa
(optional) hot sauce (cholula and tabasco are my favorites)
(Most of these measurements are estimates...I usually just do it all by sight.)

1 Stove
1 Cutting board
1 Large saucepan with lid (for simmering quinoa)
1 Medium pot (for black beans)


1. Put the half cup of quinoa in the large saucepan, and add 1 - 1.25 cups of filtered water. Add avocado oil and celtic sea salt, then turn on heat and simmer on low until water has evaporated (8-12 minutes).

2. While your quinoa is simmering, rinse your black beans well and stick them into a suitable pot and fill with filtered water just below the level of the black beans. Add the cumin, paprika, and oregano...then stir it up good so it's evenly dispersed with the beans. Cook the black beans on medium or medium-low, but don't let them boil aggressively. (You can add the onions at this point if you like them soft, or at the end of you like them crunchy...or do half-and-half.)

3. At this point I usually peel my garlic cloves and slice them three-quarters deep, both vertically and horizontally. Apparently this starts the allinase reaction which helps boost ones immunity...let them stand until the quinoa is done simmering.

4. Prepare all other ingredients...chop up your tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Prepare your spinach (or other leafy greens), and slice up your avocado. I usually season my avocado with a little celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Once the water has evaporated from the quinoa (the trick is not to leave your quinoa too soggy, and to not let it burn) turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes (this produces softer quinoa). Now mince or press the garlic gloves into the black bean concoction, stir it up well, and let it cook for a little while longer.

6. If you're making vegetarian burritos, you can use traditional tortillas or wraps. I used Trader Joe's organic olive oil wraps for this one. Heat your tortillas/wraps over an open burner until it has reached your desired warmth. For vegan burritos, try using chard or kale as the wrapping device.

7. Lastly, scoop the quinoa on to the tortilla/wrap, then the black bean concoction, then add the rest. Throw on some fresh salsa, lime, and/or hot sauce to spice it up a bit. Hopefully yours turns out as well as mine really hit the spot on that cold winter night.

End Notes:
I highly recommend modding this recipe to fit your own personal tastes. I'm a bit of a garlic and cilantro fiend so I throw a lot of those two into mine...find out what works best for you and your preferences. I also encourage you to return back and share your experiences and any suggestions you may have.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reading: A Telepathic Gorilla?

"From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories --the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after." -Jim Britell


It is only fitting that my first "reading" post focus on the short novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. For those of you out there (yes, the one or two of you) who read my introductory post, this is the book that sat on my shelf collecting dust before I reluctantly decided to pick it up and read it (in order to avoid attending a Super Bowl party). Those who have read Ishmael already probably found that situation incredibly humorous and filled with irony. Those who have yet to read it, well, let me
share a few brief thoughts on why I found this book so illuminating.

Ishmael is a very easy read. By "easy" I mean the dialogue is simplistic and somewhat haphazardly written...however, the context is completely fascinating. I found myself ruminating on the key points of this book endlessly for days afterwords. Reactions to the book are often mixed. This book may challenge your fundamental understanding of how the world came to be the way it is...or you may think it's simply a neat little story about a telepathic gorilla...or you may find it to be slanderous anti-Christian hogwash. I believe the more open one is to the challenges presented by Ishmael, the more likely one is to grow in the understanding of him/herself and the environment around them.

Whether you borrow it from a friend, check it out from the library, or buy/lift it from a store...acquiring Ishmael and deciding to read it when you are ready is the best advice I can give. What one may ultimately learn from Ishmael depends entirely upon the reader...