Thursday, March 22, 2018


Best Blog Tips

It's not so nice out now, but last week we had some sunny, warmish days-- enough to make me think of making a hearty salad for lunch instead of a soup.  It was almost shopping day, so I studied the contents of my refrigerator and freezer for what needed using and/or what was available, colorful and tasty.  I already had some of my staple low-fat balsamic vinaigrette made (see recipe below), so I kept that in mind as well.

So, here's what I came up with on short notice. It was easy to throw together and a hit with my husband (and also fed us for two lunches).  I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!


Serves 4

1 lb. slender fresh young green beans
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 medium onion (whatever kind you like-- I used a white one), chopped
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen sweet corn kernels
1 cup red grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
about 1/2 cup Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below) or similar type of vinaigrette
1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite vegan Parmesan substitute (I used EarthIsland/FollowYour Heart)

Pick over the green beans, removing stems, and cook until tender, but not limp.  Cook them however you prefer-- they can be steamed, microwaved (in a tiny bit of water in a covered casserole), or brought to a boil just covered in water on the stove, then simmered for a few minutes, u ntil done to your liking.

Drain the beans in a colander and run cold water over them until they cool off a bit.  Leave in the colander to drain further.

Saute the onion in the sesame oil until they are softened and a little browned around the edges. set aside.

Spread the corn kernels on an oiled baking sheet and place about 4" under your oven's broiler.  Broil until they start to char a bit, toss them a bit with a spatula and mound them up a bit in the middle of the pan and broil for a few minutes more.  Set aside.

When everything is ready, toss the green beans, onion and corn together in a medium-sized serving bowl with the sliced grape tomatoes and salad dressing.  Divided between serving bowls and sprinkle each serving with some of the cheese.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 204 calories, 34 calories from fat, 4g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 172mg sodium, 458.7mg potassium, 29.9g carbohydrates, 5.8g fiber, 5.4g sugar, 8.3g protein, 5.2 points.


This is a good basic dressing for many types of salads. 
Yield: 1 1/2 cups  Servings: 12
1 serving= 2 tablespoons

1  cup Fat-Free Oil Substitute for salad Dressings OR aquafaba (unsalted chickpea broth from canned or home-cooked) 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar (I prefer Costco's Kirkland  Signature brand, which is affordable, yet aged for 3 years and contains no wine vinegar or caramel color, unlike the 60-day-aged supermarket IGP brands. See
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt

Whisk, shake, or blend the ingredients together well, bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 50 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 175.5mg sodium, 12.9mg potassium, 2.6g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, less than 1g protein, 1.5 points.


Monday, March 5, 2018


Best Blog Tips

I apologize heartily for having neglected this blog in the past few months, and for not writing a post for over a month!  There's been a lot going on lately, on top of which, DH and I are just getting over a very long and uncomfortable cold (not the flu this time, but not fun!).

One thing that is taking up a lot of my time has been a diagnosis of pre-diabetes!  I almost fell off my chair when my doctor told me this.  It may be an inherited tendency-- we don't know.  So, I've been working up my exercise regime, which I had not been keeping up as well as I should have (especially while sick), and spending much of my time poring over books, websites, and charts to do with the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load, and tailoring my already-pretty-good vegan diet to this advice:


"The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Also known as "blood sugar," blood glucose levels above normal are toxic and can cause blindness, kidney failure, or increase cardiovascular risk. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. Low GI foods tend to foster weight loss, while foods high on the GI scale help with energy recovery after exercise, or to offset hypo- (or insufficient) glycemia. Long-distance runners would tend to favor foods high on the glycemic index, while people with pre- or full-blown diabetes would need to concentrate on low GI foods. Why? People with type 1 diabetes and even some with type 2 can't produce sufficient quantities of insulin—which helps process blood sugar—which means they are likely to have an excess of blood glucose. The slow and steady release of glucose in low-glycemic foods is helpful in keeping blood glucose under control.

But the glycemic index of foods tells only part of the story. What it doesn't tell you is how high your blood sugar could go when you actually eat the food, which is partly determined by how much carbohydrate is in an individual serving. To understand a food's complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly the food makes glucose enter the bloodstream, and how much glucose it will deliver. A separate value called glycemic load does that. It gives a more accurate picture of a food's real-life impact on blood sugar. The glycemic load is determined by multiplying the grams of a carbohydrate in a serving by the glycemic index, then dividing by 100. A glycemic load of 10 or below is considered low; 20 or above is considered high. Watermelon, for example, has a high glycemic index (GI) (80). But a serving of watermelon has so little carbohydrate (6 grams) that its glycemic load (GL) is only 5."

So, I'm not making desserts these days, getting used to my morning latte without a teaspoon of brown sugar, using a few dates in my oatmeal instead of sugar on top (dates have alot of fiber, which counteracts the sugar in them), learning about resistant starch and low glycemic grains, and experimenting with making low GL bread with them (adding some bean flour, or okara [soy pulp] from my soy milk making, and/or some vital wheat gluten flour helps, too)

Who knew that converted/parboiled rice carries a lower glycemic load (GL) than brown rice and has? (The process creates resistant starch while protecting most of the nutrition of the whole grain rice.) We are loving parboiled basmati rice! (Here's a fairly simple explanation of resistant starch.)  And my beloved semolina pasta is low GL, especially if cooked al dente and then refrigerated. The resistant starch remains when reheated. Ditto for potatoes. Buckwheat, oats, bulgur wheat, rye and quinoa are also good choices.
We already eat lots of vegetables and fruits and protein-rich legumes, soy products, and seitan, and a pretty low-fat diet, so I don't have to change much there.

Anyway-- I have alot to learn, but I've lost 6 pounds without really trying to and we're eating well.  I hope to have some good new recipes for you soon.  In the meantime, here are some old favorites from two of my older cookbooks.

Thanks for your patience!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 4
(From my book, "Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen: All Vegan Recipes", Book Publishing Co., 2000)
Corn is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you thick of Chinese cooking, but, when it was imported from the Americas, the Northern Chinese took to it readily.  This soup, which often contains chicken or crab in its non-vegetarian incarnation, is extremely popular, even at formal banquets, but it's inexpensive, quick and simple to make.

6 ounces smoked tofu, cut into small dice (You can sauté the cubes in a bit of oil to brown, if you like, but that's optional.)
4 cup low-salt vegetarian "chicken-y"  broth (such as Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken broth paste)
14-15 ounces canned creamed corn (this product contains no dairy ingredients)
1 cup frozen petit pois (baby peas)
1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
pepper to taste
1 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. cold water
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 Tbs soy "bacon" bits OR 2 T. chopped vegetarian "ham" 

Mix the broth, creamed corn, peas and soy sauce (and the optional soy "bacon" or "ham" at this point, if you're using it) in a medium pot or saucepan.  When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook gently until the peas are barely tender.  Add the smoked tofu, pepper to taste, and dissolved cornstarch, stirring.  Simmer until the soup thickens, then drizzle the sesame oil on top and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 177 calories, 41 calories from fat, 4.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1249.5mg sodium, 240.5mg potassium, 28.9g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 6.5g sugar, 10g protein, 5.3 points.


Printable Copy

Serves 4

My Peruvian father, Alejandro Jaime Urbina, loved Japanese food, so he took us to Japanese restaurants fairly often when we were growing up in San Francisco.  It was always such fun to watch the kimono-clad server quickly make the sukiyaki right in front of us. This is my vegan version. 

(From my book, 20 Minutes to Dinner, Book Publishing Co., 1997)
All you need is a pot of steamed rice to go with this wonderful Japanese classic.  If you have a large electric skillet, you can cook this at the table in true Japanese style.
NOTE:  If you do not have shirataki noodles (clear Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam), substitute Asian rice vermicelli, or bean thread noodles (also called "cellophane" noodles, made from mung beans), which have first been soaked for 15 minutes in warm water.  If none of these is available, substitute 2 c. fresh bean sprouts.

Shirataki Noodles
**Have all of the ingredients arranged in piles on a platter when you begin to cook.

1/4 c. Japanese soy sauce, or tamari (or  soy-free alternate, see note below)
1/4 c. honey, sugar, or alternate
1/2 c. water
2 T. dry sherry or mirin (Japanese rice wine)
Soy-Free Soy Sauce or Tamari Replacement: Substitute this mixture tablespoon-for-tablespoon for the soy sauce called for if you have a soy allergy. 
**Mix 3/4 c. water, broth or mushroom soaking liquid mixed with 1 T. EACH yeast extract paste (such as Marmite), soy-free gravy browner (like Kitchen Bouquet), and salt.  This replaces 15 T. (slightly less than 1 c.) of soy sauce.
**To replace some of the complex qualities that a good fermented soy sauce or tamari supplies, use some dry sherry or Japanese mirin wine, and/or mushroom broth or concentrate as some of the 3/4 cup liquid in the recipe.

Sukiyaki Ingredients:

For a soy-free version, omit the tofu and either use 1 1/2 lbs. seitan,  OR  use the 8 oz. seitan called for and double the amount of mushrooms
1 lb. regular medium-firm tofu 
8 oz. seitan, very thinly-sliced 
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut in half (or you can use thick slices of portobello mushrooms, or whole criminis) 
10 oz. cleaned spinach leaves, sliced 1" thick
1 (8 oz.) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
1 bunch green onions, cut into 2" lengths OR 1 large white onion, sliced
2 to 4 cups fresh, cisp bean sprouts
1/4 lb. dried shirataki noodles, soaked in warm water 15 minutes (see Note above for substitutions)

**(Put a pot of  rice of your choice on to cook before starting the recipe.  Short grain white rice is the Japanese choice, or you could use short grain brown rice, if you prefer.)

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and set over low heat while you prepare the ingredients.

Heat a large heavy skillet or large electric skillet (my choice).  Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally and brown the halves on both sides in the hot pan.  Remove from the pan and slice the pieces about 1/2" thick.  

Place the sliced tofu, seitan, mushrooms, spinach, and bamboo shoots (and the white onion, if you are using it instead of the green onions) in separate piles side-by-side in the hot pan and pour the sauce over it all.  

When the sauce is bubbling and the spinach begins to wilt, turn everything over carefully, not mixing it together.  Make room for the green onions and soaked noodles (and/or bean sprouts), and cook for a few more minutes, until the spinach and mushrooms are cooked and everything is hot. 

Serve immediately with steamed rice, dividing the ingredients equally between bowls.

Nutrition Facts (without rice)

Nutrition (per serving): 434 calories, 63 calories from fat, 7.8g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1190.2mg sodium, 1330.1mg potassium, 66.9g carbohydrates, 7.7g fiber, 22.8g sugar, 31.2g protein, 12.9 points.