Tag Archives: Breakfast

Cookbook review: The Kind Diet

The movie Clueless came out when I was in middle school or thereabouts, a most impressionable, celebrity-obsessed age, and while I don’t remember exactly when I became vegetarian, it was around that time, and I imagine Alicia Silverstone had something to do with it.  Her name has recently resurfaced following the publication of her best-selling book, The Kind Diet, and in search of dairy-free recipes in keeping with my new year’s resolutions, I picked it up at my local bookstore.

Overall, I am pretty excited about the recipes in this book — I’ve already tried out a few and am excited to make more.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in healthy living.

However, there are a few drawbacks:

She makes some unsubstantiated claims. Some of her advice is a little too heavy with the Traditional Chinese Medicine.  I know that this is an ancient practice with some benefits, and I myself have tried acupuncture before with much success — but some of the stuff she writes is just a little wacko.  For example, she says that we should never eat fruit grown outside of our climate, because it “weakens the blood.”  Um….okay.  Easy for a Californian to say!

Her attitude toward meat and dairy is a bit hyperbolic. That meat causes every disease known to man may hold true for fatty, red meats — I tend to agree that those are not healthy in any way, especially in the quantities considered normal today.  But I think the truth is a little more nuanced than she portrays it; certainly, lean meats raised in a natural environment can be a healthy part of your diet if that is your choice.

Too many fake substitutions! As a whole she avoids this pretty well, which was the appeal of the book to me.  But I don’t know how she can claim to avoid processed foods on one page and extol the virtues of soy and seitan on the next.  This is my primary issue with vegan diets overall, however.  She does make a point to say that the most processed soy products (soy milk, all the various fake meats, etc) should be eaten in moderation, but for some reason tofu is okay.  Hmm.

That said, I think the pros outweigh the cons…

Recipes include new, interesting ingredients. Though some ingredients have been hard for me to find (like lotus root), I have been happy to discover recipes for vegetables and products I had never thought to use before.  Daikon root, radicchio, mochi, sunchoke — I’ve seen these in stores but never had any idea what to make with them.  Now I know!

She is not too preachy. She does not advocate converting to a full-fledged vegan straight away.  There are three different “levels” to attain, which allows you to gradually incorporate healthier, kinder eating into your diet.  She also is not one of those snotty, rigid vegans who believe that you cannot be considered a vegan if you dare have one drop of honey every 10 years.  She even admits to occasional cravings of sushi that cause her to grab a piece of fish.  I REALLY appreciate that kind of attitude.  I just believe we should define our approach to life by what we can and are doing to help our bodies and the planet, not what we’re failing to do.

It offers a comprehensive array of recipes. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, on-the-go meals, kid-friendly recipes — it has everything.  There is some great inspiration on these pages for some new ideas I’d never would have thought of myself.

Recipes are energy-intensive and full of nutrition. This is how it meshes so well with my food philosophy.  It offers some terrific ideas for getting the nutrients and vitamins you need on a plant-based diet without any calorie counting.

Overall, I’m pretty glad I picked up this book.  After all, it is the source of inspiration for my new favorite breakfast! Not quite vegan, due to the eggs, but meat, dairy and gluten-free!

Pan-fried mochi with scrambled egg whites and greens


I had never even heard of mochi before but after reading her recipe I was officially intrigued.  I stopped at my grocery store and there it was, in the section with the meat substitutes.  But mochi is not a meat substitute — it is made from  brown rice, processed into a cake.

You buy it in a big block form, cut it into small pieces, and either bake or fry them.  They puff up into strange shapes, get crispy on the outside but retain a delicious creaminess on the inside.  You can serve them sweet or savory, alone or as the grain component of any meal.  You can even cut it into strips and place across your waffle iron to make crispy mochi waffles!

My latest obsession has been eating them with my scrambled egg whites in the morning, instead of a piece of toast.

Ingredients
1 egg
1/4 onion, diced
Handful of frozen chopped spinach, or other green of choice
1 package mochi

Method

Heat a cast iron or other heavy-duty skillet over medium-high eat with about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Cut mochi into one-inch squares using a heavy knife.

Place squares into the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about four minutes.  When the four minutes are up, flip them over and cook for another four minutes on the other side. Add a few drops of soy sauce.

While you are waiting, start sauteing the onion in a separate pan.  When it is translucent, 1-2 minutes later, add the spinach and cook until it is thawed and cooked through. Add a splash of white wine vinegar.

Turn heat to low.  Crack an egg into the pan ( it is safe to eat up to seven egg yolks a week if you have healthy levels of cholesterol.  Otherwise, just use the egg whites — it is low in fat but still high in protein).

Scramble egg as you normally would, stirring continuously to combine with onion and spinach.

So filling, healthy and delicious!

-R

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Steel cut oats: breakfast of champions

I think I need to detox from Halloween’s sugar overload by posting about something healthy — oatmeal!

I start almost every weekday morning with a hot bowl of steel cut oats.  But I was not always a fan of oatmeal.  I used to associate it exclusively with those little packets of microwaveable instant oatmeal — bland, mushy and gross.  But a few years ago, I grew tired of my usual bowl of cold shredded wheat and wanted something new to eat before I left for work or school.  I decided to give steel cut oatmeal a try, and discovered it’s not so bad!

Steel cut oats are less processed than the more ubiquitous instant and old-fashioned oats.  They are not “rolled” flat, leaving part of the bran (and thus important nutritional content) intact.  As a result, they take longer to cook, but I much prefer the taste and texture of steel cut oats.

When I first started eating them regularly for breakfast, I would set them up on the stove top as soon as I woke up, showering and getting ready while they cooked.  To cook them this way, combine one part thoroughly rinsed oats with approximately 2.5 parts liquid and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  I usually use plain water but many prefer milk or cream.  If you like a thinner consistency, just add more water.

It is possible to ease or lessen the time spent preparing steel-cut oats in a variety of ways, however.

Overnight oat preparation: Before going to bed, bring the oats to a boil, cover, and turn off heat.  After soaking in hot water overnight, you should be able to heat them on the stove or in the microwave for just about 8-10 minutes the next morning.

Slow cooker:  You can cook steel cut oats overnight in your slow cooker and they will be ready when you wake up.  Here is a recipe from Alton Brown.  If you have a large and cumbersome slow cooker (as I do), I have also seen versions where the oatmeal is cooked in a bowl placed inside a slow cooker filled with a few inches of water.  It is worth experimenting with, but I personally did not like the texture of my oatmeal made in a slow cooker.  Thus I ultimately settled with this method:

Programmable rice cooker:  I have extolled the virtues of my rice cooker before.  One of its many benefits is the ability to wake up to a steaming pot of steel cut oats.  The rice cooker I own has a porridge setting which, after some initial experimentation with the amount of water, is perfect for oatmeal.

There are myriad ways to enjoy your oatmeal.  I vary my mix-ins from time to time, but most often default to a few teaspoons of honey, some cinnamon, a tablespoon or two of ground flax seed (for flavor, extra fiber and omega 3 fatty acids), walnuts, and frozen berries of some sort.  When I don’t have honey available, I’ll use some of my homemade strawberry jam to sweeten it up.  Adding in fresh or frozen fruit is a great way to make sure you are getting your 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day.  Lately my fruit of choice has been frozen wild blueberries.  They are small and therefore thaw more easily when mixed in.

This Washington Post discussion has numerous additional suggestions, including some interesting savory curry-flavored oatmeal.  I will have to try that soon.

With its high fiber content, oatmeal keeps you fuller for longer, so you can make it through the morning hours free of hunger pangs.  I can’t start my day without a nutritious breakfast — I’m glad I finally discovered the wonders of oatmeal!

-R

Weekend Morning Breakfast

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, though I know quite a few people who ignore that advice.  Personally, I am simply a wreck without devoting a few quiet minutes each morning to reading the newspaper over a cup of coffee and something healthy to eat.

As much as I love the occasional bagel or waffle, that much sugar in the morning just makes me feel icky the rest of the day.  So during the week, I most often make oatmeal, which I’ll write about later.  But every weekend I look forward to sharing a leisurely breakfast that is indulgent but deceptively healthy.

The first thing I do is make the coffee, obvs.  A french press is really a must.

If you have trouble getting your 5 fruits and veggies in a day, I find that breakfast is a natural time to add those into your diet.  I make it a point to eat at least one piece of fruit each morning — this time of year, that mostly means peaches or plums.

If you are looking for ways to introduce more leafy greens into your diet, which are very dense in essential nutrients, I actually like fixing these for breakfast.  There are a couple ways I’ve made this:

Eggs poached in a “nest” of greens — adapted from Barbara Kinsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Saute some onions and garlic, when soft and translucent, add some tomatoes (fresh or dried both work well).  Add a splash of vinegar if you want.  When cooked down some, toss in a bunch of fresh or frozen leafy greens such as chard or spinach.  Cover pan and let the greens steam slightly, but not too much, about 1-3 minutes.

When greens are cooked down, use a spatula to make little depressions in the mixture.  Crack an egg into each depression, or “nest.”  Cover pan to steam the egg for about 3 minutes for a very runny yolk to 4 minutes for a harder yolk.

Scrambled eggs “Primavera”
This happens to be the version that Mr. R and I made this morning!  Follow the instructions in the first paragraph above.  Drop the eggs in, let them warm up for just a moment, and mix them together with the veggies.

Continue to mix them in the same way you would scramble an egg until they are thoroughly cooked.  Do NOT mix the eggs/break the yolks prior to putting them in the pan.  This destroys the consistency. For an added touch of creamy deliciousness, drop in a dollop of crème fraîche/sour cream/cream cheese, whatever you have on hand.

Serve over whole wheat toast.  Or, as we did this morning, with a side of pan fried potatoes seasoned with Old Bay.  And coffee, of course.

It seems like a lot, but the veggies add quite a bit of volume, which makes this breakfast very satisfying without weighing you down.  Potatoes have been much maligned by low-carb fad diets, but to me, they come from the earth, they are REAL food, and provide significant vitamins and minerals.  Just make sure you peel them if they are not organic and avoid potatoes that are green below the skin or sprouting, as this indicates increased concentrations of solanine, a toxic defensive  chemical common to solanaceous plants.

Well, tomorrow is Sunday, another day for a leisurely weekend breakfast — enjoy!

-R