Living the WELL Life

Balancing Act - by Christina Pirello

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I had the incredible opportunity to testify before the U.S. Department of Agriculture last Thursday and share my story and passion for healthy eating.  I asked the committee responsible for the dietary guidelines (you know, that food pyramid!) to consider the overwhelming research and results that show we can reverse chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes with a plant-based diet. 

A frequent myth I hear often, and one that challenges the mainstream use of a plant-based diet, is that people cannot possibly get all their nutritional needs from a vegan diet.  I'm living proof that you can!  I've created a menu that is vegan, delicious, and will not only leave you satisfied but nutritionally balanced as well.  I even saved room for a little treat, my popular cupcakes!  Be well.     
Farro Salad with Peas, Favas, Arugula and Tomatoes
Tempeh-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Black Bean Soup with Orange Salsa
Artichoke Cappelini with Peas and Lemon
Azuki Bean Tea
Orange-Scented Chocolate Cupcakes

Farro Salad with Peas, Favas, Arugula and Tomatoes

3 cups spring or filtered water
1 cup farro, rinsed well
Sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh/frozen fava beans (or baby lima beans)
1/2 cup fresh/frozen baby peas
2 cups baby arugula
3 plum tomatoes, diced, do not seed
3 sprigs fresh basil, leaves removed, left whole

Place water and farro in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover partially and reduce heat to low. Cook until farro has absorbed all liquid, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oil, vinegar and a light seasoning of salt to taste.

While the farro cooks, bring a pot of water, with a pinch of salt to a boil. Cook fresh fava beans for 3 minutes. Add peas and cook 1 minute more. Drain well and cool in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again. Gently fold fava beans and peas into farro mixture.  To serve, arrange arugula on a serving platter and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Just before serving, stir tomatoes and basil into farro, taking care not to break the grain or peas too much in the mixing. Spoon onto arugula and serve.  Makes about 4 servings.

Tempeh-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

8 ounces tempeh -- steam for 10 minutes, crumble
1/2 cup red onion -- minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 small carrot -- minced
8 large cabbage leaves
avocado oil
2 shallots, diced
1/4 pound cremini mushrooms -- sliced thinly
1 teaspoon kuzu or arrowroot-- dissolved in a small amount of cold water
3-4 sprigs fresh flatleaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Crumble tempeh into bowl, add garlic, onions and carrots. Lay a cabbage leaf on the work surface and place 1/4 cup of filling near the center. Roll the bottom up, fold in the sides and roll up to seal. You may need to secure the roll with a toothpick.
Place the rolls in a deep skillet with a lid. Arrange them tightly. Add water to half cover rolls, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. While the cabbage rolls cook, make the sauce.  Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and sauté shallots with a splash of shoyu until they are translucent. Stir in mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Season with shoyu to taste and simmer for 2 more minutes, stirring often. Dissolve kuzu and stir into mushroom sauce; stir until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. To serve, carefully remove the rolls and arrange on a plate. Spoon sauce over cabbage rolls and serve hot, garnished with parsley.  Makes 4-5 servings.

Black Bean Soup with Orange Salsa

1/2 cup black beans -- rinse, soak for one hour
2 cups water
1 poblano pepper
2 fresh red fresno chilies
1 red onion -- diced
1 lime -- zested and juiced
2 tablespoons dark beer
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs fresh cilantro -- finely minced

Place the beans and spring water in a heavy pot and bring to a boil uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook the beans until tender about 45 minutes. Drain beans and rinse well. Set aside to cool.  Spear chilies with skewers and place over an open flame. Place in a paper sack and set aside for 20 minutes. Clean peppers. Finely minced.  Combine the beans, roasted chilies, red onion, lemon, beer, oil, cilantro and season to taste.

Artichoke Cappelini with Peas and Lemon

1 pound artichoke cappellini (angel hair)
1 cup Pearl Unsweetened or Original soymilk
grated zest of one half fresh lemon
1 teaspoon arrowroot, dissolved in small amount cold water
1 cup fresh/frozen peas
1/2 cup mirin or white wine
juice of one half fresh lemon
2 teaspoons white miso
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley, finely minced

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook cappellini al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well. Do not rinse.  While the pasta cooks, bring soymilk and lemon zest to a boil over low heat, in a deep skillet. Stir in dissolved arrowroot, stirring until thickened, about 2 minutes. The sauce will be quite thick. Stir in fresh peas and mirin and simmer for 2 minutes. Mix lemon juice and miso together to puree the miso. Stir into sauce and simmer 2 minutes more.  Stir pasta and parsley into the skillet and toss gently to coat.  Makes 4-5 servings.

Azuki Bean Tea

1/4 cup azuki beans, rinsed well
1⁄2-inch piece kombu
1 cup spring or filtered water

Place beans and kombu in a sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain out beans and drink while hot. Makes 1 serving.  Note: You may continue cooking the beans in soups or stews.

Orange-Scented Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder, Dutch processed is best
2 teaspoons baking powder
Generous pinch sea salt
1/2 cup avocado oil
1 cup brown rice syrup
3/4 cup soy or rice milk
1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
2 ounces coarsely chopped non-dairy, grain sweetened chocolate chips
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Grated orange zest, for decoration

Chocolate Frosting:
1 cup non-dairy, grain-sweetened chocolate chips
Scant 1/4 cup soy or rice milk
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with papers.  Whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt. Whisk together oil, rice syrup, soy or rice milk and vinegar until smooth. Mix wet ingredients into dry to create a smooth batter. Fold in chopped chocolate and orange zest, spoon evenly into cupcake cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back to the touch.

Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle the cupcakes. Remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.  Make the frosting while the cupcakes cool. Place chocolate in heat-resistant bowl. Bring soy or rice milk and rice syrup to a rolling boil and pour over chocolate. Whisk together until thick and smooth. Cover loosely and set aside for 30-40 minutes to set frosting. Whisk to loosen frosting and spread over the top of each cupcake, garnishing with a sprinkle of orange zest.  Makes 12 cupcakes.


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