Curry Lentil Stew

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  Kevin and I spent the weekend in Spokane to pick my parents up from the airport from their two week vacation to the Caribbean.  They came back tan and relaxed, and unacclimated to the nasty weather we have been having in the inland Northwest.  My mom is not usually a shopper when they go on vacations, so I never expect souvenirs, but this time, she brought home a little spice jar of saffron (some of which she shared with me)!  Saffron is a spice derived from the saffron crocus flower that has a rich, earthy, smokey, yet floral scent, and is used in many cuisines for seasoning and as a coloring agent.  By weight, saffron is one of the most expensive spices you can find at a grocery store, and for that reason, I have usually eliminated it from any recipes I make.  Todays recipe has a half teaspoon of saffron, but can easily be replaced with cumin or another spice of your liking.

Curry Lentil Stew
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 c roasted butternut or similar squash, (how to roast squash)
4 c vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 c dried lentils, rinsed
1 T curry powder
1/2 t saffron, or cumin
1/4 t paprika
1/8-1/2 t cayenne pepper (for heat)

Directions:  Prepare the roasted butternut squash.  In a large soup pan, water saute the onions until tender.  Add the vegetable broth and roasted squash.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  With an immersion blender, or in batches with a countertop blender, puree the soup until no chunks remain.  At this point the contents will not be very thick, but water will be absorbed by the lentils, and it will become nice and creamy.  Next, add in the chopped celery and red bell pepper, and the lentils.  Bring to a light boil, and boil until the lentils are the desired consistency, about 20-30 minutes.  Turn down the heat, add in the spices, and stir well.  Serve with pita chips (as pictured).  Enjoy!
Amy's Notes:  For this recipe you can use any squash that you prefer.  This might include butternut squash, acorn squash, or even pumpkin. I roast my squashes in large batches and freeze the insides for later use, like I did for this lentil stew.  I prefer my lentils to be a bit chewier, so I only allowed the soup to boil for 20 minutes before adding the spices and serving.  This turns out to be a pretty thick stew, so I enjoyed mine by scooping a bit of it up with some pita chips.  This stew would also work great in lettuce wraps, I'll definitely be trying that with my leftovers! :)
I took a trip last week to the local co-op, which is the best place to find those unique nutritarian foods, but is significantly more expensive than the normal grocery store.  I ended up getting some interesting things such as nutritional yeast and chia seeds.  I have never eaten chia seeds before, but am giving it a go by adding it to a few desserts and breakfast items.  I will let you know my verdict after I try a few things.  

Have you ever tried chia seeds?  What is your favorite way to eat chia seeds?


Another drug to cure our ails! Just kidding.

My mom sent me an email with this link a quite a while ago, and I just got around to cleaning out my emailbox earlier this week.  I was very pleasantly surprised and entertained.  Here it is:
Regardless of your opinion of PETA, or your meat eating habits, you have got to think this is funny.  Personally, I rarely, if ever eat meat.  This isn't necessarily for animal rights reasons, but mostly about health issues.  I think that in American society today, we have really lost the connection between what we are putting into our bodies and what it looked like in its original form.  It is a really simple concept: hamburger=cow, sausage=pig, deli slices=turkey(often), and wings=chicken.  It is so weird to think that many of us have never seen a real farm (where meat should come from), but we are perfectly fine putting something that comes from the grocery store raw and wrapped in plastic and styrofoam into our bodies.

From studying Environmental Science at Washington State University, one concept that has been engrained in my mind are the feedback loops of cause and effect that exist everywhere, and the meat industry's affect on the environment and consumption is no exception.  One of the stats in the video that surprised me was that for every beef patty produced, enough fuel is consumed that it is equivalent to driving 20 miles.  That is insane to think!  I know that before ANK I had hamburgers every now and then and even more when I was a kid, so maybe my burger life total is around 150 (again I have no idea), then that means that I would have consumed around 3000 miles worth of fuel.  That is more miles than it would take to drive from Seattle, WA to New York, NY.  Holy COW(literally)!  I know that this stat alone will make me probably never eat a beef burger again.

Just the environmental factors behind meat production and consumption have made me think twice and drastically limit my consumption of them.  What is your deciding factor on your decision whether to, or how much and of what meat to eat?


International Store Finds, and Awesome Panang Curry!

What a great weekend it was!  Saturday was great because we got to see our WSU Men's Basketball team beat California in a game that came down to the final seconds, then we went to a local pub to have some beer and played some games like Apples to Apples and Jenga.  Sunday was spent watching football, then cooking with some exciting purchases I made earlier this weekend from an International Store in downtown Pullman.  I have seen in blogs that I read that these types of stores can have great inexpensive and interesting food finds, and this one definitely did.  Here are my finds:

Coconut Milk
Panang Curry Paste
Spring Roll Paper

I was most excited about the curry paste, which was a bit pricier ($3.50), but for the amount that came in the jar, it did not seem so bad.  I only used a small amount of the paste for this recipe, which will stretch pretty far on its own.  As I was cooking a meal with these ingredients, I just about flipped a b**** when I saw the nutrition labels. The Panang Curry Paste, is mostly spices so it has very little calories, but has an insane amount of sodium, so beware next time you buy curry paste!  Also, the coconut milk is very high in fat.  I don't know what I was expecting, but coconut milk is not a diet food!  I used it this time, with quite a bit of added water to dilute it, but next time I think I will use coconut water with some almond milk (a much healthier option in my opinion).  

Panang Curry Spring Rolls
brown rice
black rice
1 can coconut milk
1 c water
1/4 c panang curry paste (or equivalent of curry powder)
1 t cumin
1 t dried basil
1 fresh jalapeno (optional)
2 t minced ginger
6 cloves garlic
8 grape tomatoes (~1/2 c)
3 c garbanzo beans, cooked
1 onion, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped
several mushrooms, quartered
shredded carrots
green onions, sliced
spring roll paper

Directions:  In two saucepans, prepare the brown rice and black rice.  In a large saucepan, heat the coconut milk and water with the curry paste, cumin, and basil over low-medium heat.  Whisk until well combined.  In a food processor, process the jalapeno, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes (***the jalapeno made my curry super spicy, so maybe go for half a jalapeno, or omit it if you don't like hot foods***).  Continue to process until it is a paste and combine it with the curry sauce.   In a large skillet, water saute the onion, broccoli, and mushrooms until the broccoli is tender.  Add the garbonzo beans and sauteed vegetables into the currry saucepan.  Heat the curry to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes, covered.  
In a small bowl, combined the desired amounts of brown rice, black rice, and curry and mix to prepare for the spring rolls.  I used these instructions for preparing the rice paper.  Place a good amount of the curry rice and veggies in the center of the wrap, add shredded carrots and green onion as desired.  Wrap like a burrito.  Drizzle the curry liquid sauce over the wraps and sprinkle with more green onions.  Enjoy!
 Amy's notes:  I used brown rice and black rice, but for this recipe you can you either or.  As I said earlier, omit the jalapeno from the recipe if you do not like hot foods, or if your curry paste or powder already has enough spice to it already.  Some alternatives to rice paper might be tortilla wraps, butter lettuce, collard greens, etc. if you can't find or don't want to use rice paper.  Next time I make this recipe I will be using the following replacements:  coconut water and almond milk instead of coconut milk and water, no jalapeno, and steamed collard greens for wraps.
I don't often make exotic foods at home, but I have to say that I really enjoyed making something new.  Cooking for me is all about trial and error, and learning your likes and dislikes.  Every time I make something for the blog I am constantly making notes for myself on what I should do differently next time.  Unfortunately, I am only cooking for one and have a limited food budget, so you guys get to see my first try on most recipes.  I hope everyone enjoys my experiments as much as I do, and I hope to hear from anyone that has tried a variation of any of my recipes.

As a side note, I have started reading The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn.  I think I know most of the information that is given in the book, but I'm just looking for another book to help keep me motivated.  I do have a Vegas trip for Spring Break to kick my butt into shape for now; Kevin and I just booked our stay earlier last week!  I keep chanting to myself "you are not allowed to bring extra fat to Vegas" and "think of that sexy short dress you want to wear dancing!"

What do you find yourself chanting to stay motivated to eat well and exercise?


Spring Salad with Yams

I don't have a very distinct eating schedule.  Some days I have an early lunch and dinner, and some days I don't get to have lunch till nearly 3 p.m., and am not hungry for dinner until at least 9.  Because of this inconsistent eating schedule, I have a hard time getting in all of the vegetables and fruit that I need to in a day.  Usually I eat something like soup for lunch and say that I will have a salad for dinner later, but that usually doesn't happen because salads take extra effort to make than heating up leftovers do.  So in order to change that pattern and get more greens in for the day, I have started making salads every day for lunch.  Each week when I go grocery shopping I think of the "featured salad of the week" that I want.  Last week was a nutritarian taco salad with chopped romaine, black beans, mushrooms, green onions, tomato, and bell peppers with guacamole and salsa.  This week, I was craving something more unique for my "featured salad," so I combined some unique ingredients to make a delicious Spring greens salad with yams, gorgonzola cheese, and a grainy mustard vinaigrette. 
As a side note, it has been snowing so much in Pullman!  We had our first snow day we've had in years on Thursday.  This is one of three or four snow days we've had since Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980.  Needless to day, it has been cold and nasty, so Kevin and I have been staying in and watching movies and TV.  On top of relaxing, I've gotten a lot of chores and cleaning done.  It's been so nice :)

Spring Salad with Yams

2 c mixed spring greens
several baby carrots thinly sliced
desired amount of red onion, thinly sliced
2 T parsley, finely chopped
frozen edamame
crumbled vegan gorgonzola-like cheese
1 large yam, peeled and cut 1/2 inch thick

Mustard Vinaigrette:
2 T grainy mustard
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T fruity vinegar
1/2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk till combined.  Prepare frozen edamame as directed by package, and allow to cool.  In a large bowl, toss together the spring greens, carrots, red onion, and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the mustard vinaigrette.  Set aside.  Heat a medium sized skillet and spray with non-stick spray, or use a misto.  Place the sliced yams in the skillet and cover with a lid while each side fries for several minutes, until each side is slightly charred.  Then, while keeping the heat high, add water, 1/4 cup at a time.  The water will quickly boil and steam to cook the yams.  Keep the lid on while the water is boiling off, and keep adding water as needed.  Fry the yams until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Remove skillet from heat, and while the yams are still hot and sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese and the chopped parsley.  Serve the salad on a large plate sprinkled with gorgonzola cheese, with one cup of the cooled edamame on one side and a few slices of yams with gorgonzola on the other.  Enjoy!

Amy's Notes:  I just threw together the ingredients for the vinaigrette, so don't feel like you have to stick exactly to my recipe, just add whatever you like and adjust it to your taste.  The oil in the dressing can easily be left out, so feel free to do so.  For this recipe I had frozen edamame from Trader Joe's, which I boiled for four minutes, strained, and ran under cold water to cool.  As pictured, I prepared my yams in a skillet, but they can easily be baked instead.  Also, if you are not a fan of gorgonzola, feta or even parmesan can replace it, or cheese can be completely omitted.

If you got a snow day, what would you do with it?


Paula Deen, Something You Just Can't Keep Ignoring

Ok, this is a subject I have been a bit hesitant to blog about because I wasn't quite sure what my thoughts on the subject were, till now.  As I'm sure most of you have heard by now: Food Network star Paula Deen has come out to the public that she has Type 2 Diabetes.  And I won't be the first to say that this is no surprise to the health food blogging community.  Obviously we see the apparent cause and effect that is occurring here.

I've been hesitant to post on this because, at first, I felt bad for Paula.  I've grown up enjoying cooking shows not because of what they were cooking, but because of the beautiful kitchens, the wonderful gadgets, and warm inviting personalities.  Paula Deen is no exception to this pattern.  Personally, I have never made any of the recipes I have seen on Food Network, and I definitely wouldn't now that I eat nutritarian.  This does, however, create an issue for those that do copy her style of eating when we are living in a nation that such a huge (no pun intended) obesity and Type 2 Diabetes problem.
The issue about Paula's T2D is not that she has it, but that she has had it for nearly three years and has decided to announce it to the public only after making a deal with Novo Nordisk to promote their diabetes drug.  When hearing this news, I immediately made up my mind: this is scummy and shame on her!  If she's has diabetes for three years, she knows the severity of the condition when it comes to affecting your daily life and health.  I'm sure she was not jumping for joy when she was diagnosed, so the next logical step for her would have been to discontinue or change the thing that created the problem in the first place: her overly indulgent, butter-fried, over-sugared, over-salted diet, AND the shows that largely broadcast that diet to the public.

I know that I enjoy every reader of my blog whether I have directly talked to them or not, and I'm sure that Paula is no exception to this feeling either.  She has to love her fans that have made her so famous and loved (and rich).  But, if you do love, or even respect your fans, how could you continue to advertise these terrible choices that lead to terrible health issues?  Shame on her.

A whole other issue is the Food Network.  As I said earlier, I spent time as a kid and teenager, and even now sometimes watching the Food Network because of the aesthetic beauty of it all.  I'm envious of the kitchens and gadgets the Food Network stars get to use, and I always loved the presentation of food (something I am still learning to make better for my blog recipes).  This is not only an issue down to an individual, but down to the responsibility of the Food Network.  It is not right to be promoting lifestyles of eating that encourage a national problem such as Type 2 Diabetes.  We need to demand better of the Food Network to provide chefs that not only have pretty kitchens, cool gadgets, and warm personalities, but that can make great tasting healthy foods.  By this I am not meaning "healthier" than deep fried mac n cheese wrapped in bacon, but something that nutritarians, vegans, or plant-strong vegetarians might eat.

I found this article while looking into Paula Deen T2D news and found that I fell between two opinions.  Here are the three that the article provides:

1.  Moderation is the key, and home cooks need to take responsibility for what they eat.

2.  Paula missed the opportunity to encourage people to eat healthier and make better choices.

3.  It is irresponsible of Paula Deen to not change how she cooks on her show, and to appear in Nova Novartis ads that supply her diabetes medication.

I find that I'm somewhere between opinions 2 and 3, although I think all three are valid opinions.

Where does your opinion fall?  Do you have an opinion that falls out of these three categories?


Snow, Snow, Snow and Creamy Celery Soup!

Brrr!  It is so cold here in Pullman, and we have gotten several inches of snow over the weekend.  Now, this doesn't seem too out of the ordinary for Pullman winter weather, but I think the cold is hitting me more because my parents are lucky enough to be in the Caribbean on vacation at the moment, where I'm sure snow is the last thing on their minds.  In order to try and stay warm, and to keep from making a trip to the grocery store while the weather is so bad, I went in search of another yummy pureed soup to try within the blogosphere.  I had a bunch of celery that was getting a bit wilt-y to eat raw, so I decided to try a Creamy Celery Soup.  I got the basis of my recipe from Healthy Girl's Kitchen, the recipe is found at this link.  If you have not checked out HGK's blog, I would highly suggest it.  It is one of my personal favorites :)
As I mentioned in my last post, I get cravings for celery, and I'm happy that I do because it is such a yummy and healthy vegetable!  I'm all for feeding my healthy addictions, and this recipe does just that!  If you are not as big of fan of celery, the actual celery "taste" is not very strong because the other flavors in the soup work so well with it.  If you really don't like celery, this recipe could easily be changed to use asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or even carrots.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Creamy Celery Soup

1 large head of celery (~1.5 lbs), trimmed and chopped into 1 in pieces and including the leaves
1 T coconut oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/4 t dried rosemary
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
5-6 c vegetable broth (depending on desired consistancy)
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced

Directions:  In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the clery and leaves, onion, and rosemary.  Cover and stir frequently until celery is very tender (approximately 20 minutes).  Add the broth, potatoes, and parsley, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once at a boil, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes covered, or until potatoes are very tender.  Remove soup from heat.  With an immersion blender, blend soup well until creamy.  Salt and pepper as desired, and serve topped with parsley and parmesan.

Amy's notes:  The cooking oil in this recipe can be coconut or extra virgin olive oil, but you also have the option to admit the oil and saute in water.  If you do water saute, be sure to add water as needed when sauteing the celery and onion so nothing is burned to the bottom.  This is a very versatile recipe when it comes to herb seasonings, so feel free to improvise!  I know that fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, to thyme would be great in this.  The amount of vegetable broth used in this recipe is up to you.  I would suggest anywhere from 5 to 6 cups depending on how thin or thick you like your pureed soups to be.  I used 5 1/2 cups and found it perfect for me.  This recipe has three potatoes in it, and one of them is a sweet potato.  I know that grocery stores in my region label sweet potatoes as the potatoes with a pale orange skin and a yellowish inside, while advertising yams as the brown orange skinned potatoes with bright orange insides.  Make sure that you know the difference!  I don't know how this recipe would taste with a yam potato in it, but it definitely would not retain its pretty green color (I imagine it would be more of a brown green color).

I love celery!  What happens to be your healthy "addiction"?


Everything Green and Peanut Sauce

Welcome to another post on ANK that involves my yummy Peanut Sauce!  However, today I would like to discuss trigger foods before getting into the great recipe below.  I know that some people have, what I like to call trigger foods.  Weight Watchers describes this eating/diet upsetting phenomenon as follows: "Trigger Foods:  A trigger food is a specific food that sets off a course of overeating where control is lost and excessive amounts are consumed."
The most common foods are ones that most people would describe that they get a "craving" for, and have a ton of calories that can be consumed easily.  For example, I get cravings for celery, but that is not a trigger food for me because it is so low in calories (and mechanically filling).  However, I also get cravings for peanut butter (salty store-bought kinds), which does pack a higher caloric- and fat-punch than celery, and tends to make me only want to consume more once I've started.  Other common trigger foods could be chocolate, cookies, ice cream, candies, etc.

The reason I wanted to discuss this today is because I had an overeating episode yesterday, and afterwards, while having a stomach ache from too much food, I was kicking myself and wondering "why, oh why did I let myself do that!?"  I thought about what exactly had made me start:  

I was sitting on the couch with my fiance (it's so fun to say that now!) and watching old seasons of Arrested Development.  For Christmas from my parents, all of us had received a big bag of whole, un-cracked assorted nuts in our stockings.  The nuts were sitting on my table so Kevin and I started digging in.  His favorite are the walnuts, while I was enjoying having the almonds, peanuts, and pecans. After eating that for a while I got a small craving for more peanut stuff.  This craving was small and could have easily been ignored, but this time I unfortunately gave in.  I found my stash of these peanut butter filled pretzels that got left at my apartment after our Halloween party last fall.  These are essentially the perfect trigger with lots of calories and salt, and my specific trigger peanut butter.  I don't know what came over me, but I just could not stop until I looked down, saw how much was gone, and made Kevin hide them from me again.

It's moments like these that I know we all kick ourselves for, but how do we stop them?  Well, that would depend on your trigger food.  Some solutions are as simple as: don't stock that item in your house, but I use peanut butter in a lot of my cooking, so I can't do that.  My solution:  only allow myself to eat peanut butter that I home make from un-roasted and unsalted peanuts, also I will only use it when cooking vegetable based recipes rather than eating the peanut butter by itself.  The fact that the salt isn't in the peanut butter I will be using and it won't be my main flavor, this trigger food will have less of an effect, and hopefully never lead me to another trigger food binge again.

Now on to the recipe!  This recipe inspiration comes from my future father in law, Bob, who took jars of my peanut sauce that I had gifted for Christmas, and made a wonderful dish full of more veggies than I could have imagined would fit into one dish!  This recipe makes a lot!  It has lasted me most of the week, and has gotten make greens intake to increase dramatically.

Everything Green and Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce:
1 c natural peanut butter
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/2 c water
1 t minced garlic
1/2 t minced ginger
1/4 t wasabi powder (1/2 t wasabi paste)
1 t red pepper flakes
1 c extra water

1 T coconut oil
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1-2 green bell pepper, diced
1 leek bottom thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
1/2 small green cabbage, chopped
7 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
1/4 c jarred jalapenos, roughly minced
1 head of escarole, chopped
1 large bunch of beet greens, thicker stems removed and chopped
2 large handfuls of spinach

Peanut Sauce:  In a large skillet, combine all ingredients except the extra water and heat over medium heat, whiskey constantly.  Bring to a slight simmer for 3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Greens:  In a large saucepan or dutch oven, over medium heat, heat the coconut oil to a liquid (coconut oils come in the form of a solid and a great oil for hot cooking), then add the cayenne pepper and stir until well mixed.  Then add the onion, bell pepper, and bottom of the leek to the pot, and stir occasionally while the onions cook.  

When the onions begin to get tender (about 5 minutes) add the mushrooms and cabbage.  Toss as you stir and add a 1/2 c of water to keep the pan moist and as not to burn the bottom.  

After 5 more minutes, add the garlic, jalapenos, and tops of the leek.  

Allow for the cabbage and other ingredients to cook down a bit.

Add the large amount of chopped escarole and an additional 1/2 c of water.  Cover the pot with a lid and allow for the escarole to steam itself on the top of the pot.  This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.  Check it occasionally as not to steam off all of the water and burn the bottom.

After the escarole has steamed, stir the pot and add the beet greens.  Allow to cook while continually stirring and turning the ingredients.

Nearing the end of cooking, add the spinach and turn the heat to low.  Fold in spinach.
Next, reheat the peanut sauce, add one cup of water, and stir until it is reheated.  Add the thinned sauce to the pot and stir.  To serve, make quinoa, cous cous, or brown rice, and pour a heaping amount of the greens and sauce mix on top.  Enjoy!

Amy's Notes:  This recipe is very versatile to whatever greens you like to use.  Next time I would have liked to use kale (but I could not find it anywhere!).  Also, I happened to have beet greens because I had bought beets, but a lettuce similar to beet greens could be collard greens.  Keep in mind, whatever greens you might want to use, the cooking times of each as to not turn them into mush.  For example, kale and collard greens would take longer to cook, whereas spinach needs little to no cooking time. 

Do you know what your trigger food is?  What are your strategies to avoid bingeing on these foods?


To soy or not to soy?

An interesting topic that was brought up by my sister-in-law while the family was together for Christmas was the topic of soy products.  She said that there had been some research she had read that suggested a correlation between soy products, which contain hormone-disrupting ingredients, and fertility, and developmental issues in infants and children.  My sister-in-law is a Masters of Science in Genetics and Cell Biology, so she hears of these things and comprehends it much than I will ever hope to.  She did, however send me a few interesting links to websites that have helped me to understand the topic much better.  ***I am by no means an expert on this topic, so anything I write should be taken as any information that is presented to you through any form of media (thank you college for teaching me that): with a grain of salt and as an opinion until you research the evidence for yourself.***  

The general argument of the research I have looked at is that there is evidence that the consumption of soy products, which contain plant compounds that are estrogen mimics, can be harmful to fertility and development when consumed in unfermented forms (not soy sauce, but including Tofu and TVP).  Hormones, such as estrogen, are chemicals released from glands or cells in our body for the purpose of sending messages quickly throughout the body to do or not to do a wide range of functions.  These functions might include telling your body to release insulin, control of the reproductive cycle, or even activation or inhibition of immune system responses.  The interesting quality about hormones that would make them such a health concern is their potency.  Only a very very small amount (imagine a drop of water in a large lake) of a hormone is needed within your body to get the message across for the right response.  So can you think of why eating something with compounds in it that might mimic those hormones that work just fine in small doses might be of concern...?

Common sense would tell us that hormones are a good thing, and in this case, too much of a good thing could be developmentally disastrous.  Lately soy products have been advertised as a health food alternative, "but animal studies suggest that eating large amounts of those estrogenic compounds might reduce fertility in women, trigger premature puberty, and disrupt development of fetuses and children." The specific compound in soy products that acts as estrogen mimics is genistein.  An article explains the research supporting the claims against soy: 

"One study showed that genistein led to reduced fertility and abnormal embryo development in female mice. They were fed one to ten micromoles in their drinking water for four days. The highest doses were associated with fewer eggs that were successfully fertilized and increased cell death in developing embryos. Wen-Hsiung Chan at Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan conducted the study, which was published in July in the journal Reproductive Toxicology.
In another study, young female rats were fed high, medium, or low doses of genistein. Those fed the largest quantities from birth to weaning had reproductive effects later, including early puberty and irregular estrous cycles (similar to the menstrual cycle in humans). High doses also led to smaller litters."
While these studies were done on rodents, it could mean important conclusions for the reactions of the same compounds in another type of mammal.... humans.  Just some food for thought... or more thoughts about food choices.  In all reality, I probably won't avoid any and all soy products forever, but what I have read will definitely affect the choices I make at the grocery store.  I encourage you to to click on the links I've provided and read up on the same stuff on this important subject.  If toxicology and hormone mimics interest you more beyond these articles, I would suggest reading "Our Stolen Future" by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers.
What are your opinions on soy products?  Does information like this make you start to fear processed foods of all kind?  How do we make the food choices we do when we really don't know the long term effects of consuming them?


Big News, and a New Year!

Hello All!  What a great break I had these last few weeks, but I am very happy to be back in my kitchen and blogging again!  Some exciting things happened to me on Christmas Day.  Kevin surprised me (I was extremely surprised because we had skyped that morning and he was clearly at his parent's home on the other side of the state) by showing up Christmas night kneeling by a lit fireplace in my parent's family room.  I said yes, and was followed shortly after into the room by my entire family with glasses of champagne! 
This is probably the happiest I've ever been caught in a picture :)..... and the ring!

 It was such a wonderful moment that I will never forget.  It was so special to me that it was a moment we shared alone together, followed by getting to celebrate with my entire family.  If any moment in my life was perfect, it was this one.  I am so excited to start planning a wedding, and most importantly, starting to plan our life together.  I love you Kevin!

And back to nutritarian blogging!  For Christmas I was very happy to receive an immersion blender, an 8 cup food processor, some bamboo stirring spoons, a beautiful turquoise dutch oven, and a great recipe book called Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies that Save you Time and Money by Robin Robertson.  Robin is the author of many great vegan and vegetarian books, as well as a blogger.  Find her at VeganPlanet.blogspot.com.  This is my first official vegan recipe book, and I'm very excited to start trying recipes from it.  I will let you know when I am making recipes from it, my general opinion on each, and ultimately if I would recommend the book or not.

For my first day back I thought that I would make a great hearty soup.  These pictures were taken from my computer camera, so forgive the quality of them.  The original recipe came from The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon.  This cookbook was a present to my Mom for Christmas and I had her scan this recipe to send to me because it sounded oh-so-good.  The end result was fairly satisfying, however, next time I make it I will use canned corn rather than frozen.  I know using canned corn adds more sodium to the recipe than frozen would, but because I used frozen, I felt that I did not quite get the sweet flavor I was hoping for.  Even better would be to use corn from fresh cobs, so I will re-try this recipe when corn harvest comes again in the late summer.  For this recipe I got to use my new dutch oven and food processor!

Aztec Corn Soup

1/4 c uncooked quinoa (or amaranth)
2 c frozen corn, thawed
1- 4 oz can green chilies, drained
1 c non-dairy milk (I added 1/4 c extra)
1/2 c canned white beans, drained and rinsed (I added, but not in original recipe)
1/2 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 t pure maple syrup
white pepper, to taste
To serve as topping: hot sauce, chopped jalapenos, pico di gallo, guacamole, sour cream, green onion, sliced black olive, cilantro 

Directions: Cook the quinoa uncovered in 1 cup of water for 15-20 minutes or until cooked and most of the water has been absorbed.  In a food processor, process cooked quinoa, 1 1/2 cups of the corn (reserve 1/2 c), green chilies, non-dairy milk, and (I added) 1/2 cup of white beans.  Process until smooth or to desired consistency.  Return to a large saucepan (in my case, an awesome dutch oven) and stir in 1/2 cup of reserved corn, and 1/2 cup of black beans.  Heat thoroughly and add maple syrup and white pepper as desired.  Garnish with one or combinations of the provided toppings.  Enjoy!

Amy's notes: As I've mentioned, I added 1/2 c of white beans to the pureed part of the recipe, and this is because I usually expect pureed soups to be runnier than I like them to be.  This soup would be just fine without the added beans and added non-dairy milk, so I would suggest to go with the original recipe with no white beans and only 1 cup non-dairy milk.  Overall, I thought this recipe was flavorful and filling.  My favorite part of the recipe was getting to top it with whatever sounded good to me at the time that I was eating it.  I particularly enjoy it with 2 T pico di gallo, some picante sauce, and cilantro to garnish.

As you can tell, cooking and food is a hobby of mine, so one of my favorite wedding planning subjects will be the catering. 

Are there any opinions or suggestions for food in catering for weddings that you have from experience?  What is the food you remember enjoying the most from your wedding, or that you wish to have at a future wedding?