Thursday, March 31, 2016


Best Blog Tips

I am suffering from a bad cold today.  This my third day, but the worst one.  I'm hoping that it will improve rapidly from here.

I wasn't very hungry at all and skipped breakfast today, but I thought that I should make some sort of light, but nourishing soup for lunch-- full of garlic and ginger in a tasty broth.  I used what I had in the house, and this is what I came up with-- very delicious, and, importantly, very fast and easy to make, even when not at your best.

I hope you enjoy it-- even if you don't have a cold.

Printable copy

Servings: 6

9 cups very tasty vegan "chicken-y" broth (I use "Better Than Bouillion No-Chicken Vegan Soup Base")
1 cup water
1 cup broken up dry Soy Curls
(OR use 1 1/2-2 cups thin commercial vegan "chicken-y" strips, or strips of "Chicken-y" seitan, or thin strips of  extra-firm tofu)
4  oz. buckwheat soba noodles, broken in half (or other thin noodles of choice)
6 oz. kale leaves (stripped off stems), thinly sliced (other greens could be used instead)
4 Tbs grated fresh ginger
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
Optional: up to 1 Tbs soy sauce/tamari
dark sesame oil
chopped green onions

In a large pot, bring the broth and water to a boil.  Add the remaining ingredients (except for the Garnishes).  Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes.

Taste the soup-- if it's not too salty, add up to 1 Tbs tamari/soy sauce, if desired.

Serve each bowl with a drizzle of dark sesame oil, a sprinkle of green onions and more Sriracha on the side.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 124 calories, 16 calories from fat, 1.9g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 831.6mg sodium, 198.4mg potassium, 21.4g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, less than 1g sugar, 8.7g protein, 3.6 points.

Enjoy (and, if you're under-the weather like I am, get well soon)!

Sunday, March 20, 2016


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You might have noticed that I haven't been posting much for the last few months.  Since I retired  from the library where I worked for 36 years, I have been slowly trying to weed out my belongings and re-organize the storage in our small house-- particularly in my office, closets and the kitchen.  So, that has kept me busy.  But, aside from that, my husband and I are striving to eat less and to eat more simply-- not just because of reduced income, but also because we are getting older and need to keep an eye on our health.  We are both well and active, but need to lose some weight.

Consequently, we eat homemade soup almost every day for lunch (sometimes we switch it up and have soup for dinner and a more substantial meal at lunchtime). We also eat bean dishes frequently. The following recipe is a variation on one that I wrote for the 1st (2008) issue of Dr. Neal Bernard's Program for Reversing Diabetes (I developed almost all of the recipes in that book.-- all virtually fat-free, low in sodium, high-fiber, vegan.)  It has remained a favorite over the years and is so easy to make. (I cook my own beans of various kinds and freeze them in 2-cup quantities.)  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 6
The combination of black beans and sweet potatoes is always enticing, but especially so in this soup with Caribbean flavors.

4 cups cooked or canned (2/ 19 ounce cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cup tasty vegetarian broth
4 tsp tomato paste
3/4 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce/tamari
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic granules
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 bay leaf
1 Chipotle vegan sausage, crumbled (or use a large vegan Italian sausage and add some Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste)-- I prefer Field Roast
4-6 green onions, chopped
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and diced

Mix together the beans, broth, tomato paste, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, garlic granules, allspice, and thyme in a blender or food processor. Puree briefly.  (You can also do this inside the soup pot with a hand immersion blender.)  Pour into a medium-sized pot.

Add the bay leaf, crumbled vegan sausage, green onions, and sweet potato.  Bring to a boil, stirring now and then.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. (Or you could cook this in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot for about 7 minutes, and use natural pressure release for at least 10 minutes.) Serve hot.

NOTE: for the garnish shown in the photos, have some cooked brown rice ready and kept warm -- short grain is great for this because it is stickier than long grain.  When you have the soup served out in wide bowls or soup plates, pack a 1/2-cup measuring cup (rinsed with water before using) with the rice, pressing down so that it is compact.  Overturn the measuring cup over the soup, tapping the bottom of the cup to dislodge the packed rice intact. (You may need to use a knife to help dislodge it from the cup, but I've never had a mishap with this. This time I used a straight-sided measuring cup, but a slope-sided cup makes a pretty mound and the rice may be easier to dislodge from it.) Repeat for all the servings.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 261 calories, 28 calories from fat, 3.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1161.5mg sodium, 677.7mg potassium, 45.2g carbohydrates, 13.3g fiber, 5.6g sugar, 16.1g protein, 7.6 points.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016


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From the time I was 4 to 11 years old, my family lived in a winery in the beautiful Livermore Valley of California, just south of San Francisco (where we moved when I was 11).  My father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina, was the official host at the Cresta Blanca Winery (now Wente Brothers Vineyards).

A view of the vineyards with the Cresta Blanca (white crest) in the background.
My father, Alejandro Urbina, in white, hosting a group of visitors
Several families lived at the winery, and a few of the single employees, as well. One of my dad's colleagues was a young Japanese-American bachelor who used to sometimes come over and cook for us.  Our favorite meal that he cooked for us was a very simple but delicious dish of fresh green beans and hamburger in a sweet-ish soy-based sauce.  I later discovered that this dish is a common homemade favorite-- a type of okazu.  What is okazu, you might ask?

To explain, here is a quote from a little essay on okazu

"Most Japanese-English dictionaries translate okazu as side dish. This is not quite accurate...      
At a family dinner, a person normally eats three bowls of rice; seasoned food is eaten between bites of rice -- chopstick portions, to be precise. Okazu is an accompaniment in this sense; it plays a supporting role. But in substance, the dishes that constitute okazu correspond to what is called entrée in the western menu. Vegetables are usually designated as side dishes, and the staples like rice and potato are considered accompaniment to the main dish. By contrast, in Japan, each meal is called go-han, the word for cooked rice -- as opposed to raw rice, which is kome...

      So, a spouse may walk into the kitchen and ask: "What's for dinner?" A Japanese husband would ask his wife: "What is the okazu today?" Saying this, he is asking what's for dinner, not what's the side dish."

This particular okazu is very popular, and rightly so. It simple, quick and fresh (low in fat, too). In Japan, this is often made with ground pork, and in North America, with hamburger. It is so easy to veganize with a vegan hamburger crumble substitute, ground seitan, or even minced sauteed mushrooms, and makes a wonderful family meal.  As children, my sister Karin and I loved it. Here is my recipe, which I think is very like what I remember from my childhood.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 6

2 tsp oil
12  ounces commercial vegan ground meat sub (such as Yves "Ground Round") OR ground seitan (or even crumbled up veggie burgers)
NOTE: A possible GF and soy-free sub might be 2 packed cups sautéed minced mushrooms--measured after sautéing.
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs small green beans, cut in half
3/4 cup hot water
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbs soy sauce/tamari
steamed short grain brown rice or converted/parboiled rice
Optional for serving: Sriracha sauce

Heat the oil in a medium skillet or sauté pan.  When hot, add the "Ground Round" or ground seitan, along with the garlic and ginger. Reduce heat to medium-high and stir-fry until it browns a bit.  Remove from the pan.

Add the water and green beans to the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium, cover and cook until they are just tender-- about 7 or 8 minutes.

There should be just a bit of water left in the pan.  Add the brown sugar and soy sauce and cook, uncovered, on high heat until it reduces a bit. Stir in "Ground Round" mixture.

Serve hot over steamed short-grain brown rice or converted/parboiled rice.

NOTE: Some versions of this dish call for a bit of chili in some form or other.  I don't remember it that way, but you can serve some Sriracha sauce on the side for those who like a bit of heat, if you wish.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 144 calories, 19 calories from fat, 2.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 781.2mg sodium, 565.6mg potassium, 21g carbohydrates, 7.1g fiber, 9.4g sugar, 13.4g protein, 4.3 points.