Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Sub: Instead of Salt


ask the doc pass on the salt

I used to do it without even thinking: Reach for the salt shaker before tasting my food and sprinkle with reckless abandon. What I didn’t know then is that too much salt increases our risk of everything from high blood pressure to stroke. Yet for some of us, cutting back on salt is much tougher than it sounds. My taste buds seriously crave the stuff, so what’s a girl with a wicked salty-tooth to do?

Turns out I’m not alone in my sodium addiction. According to public health experts, most Americans consume far more salt than we need—much of it coming from processed, packaged foods. (And it’s not just found in potato chips and frozen dinners; you’ll even find high sodium levels in soda pop and breakfast cereals.) The Centers for Disease Control recommends we eat no more than 2,300 milligrams per day (about 1 teaspoon).

By eating more fresh, whole foods, we’re already on the road to reducing our salt intake. Eating seasonally can also help, since peak season fruits and vegetables are imbued with the fullest possible flavor, negating the need not only for added salt, but sugar and fat, too.

Reducing salt doesn’t mean relinquishing the pleasure that we derive from food. To give each meal a boost while reducing your salt intake, try these flavor-infused ideas:

Dried red pepper flakes When your taste buds tell you they need more flavor, add a dash of red pepper flakes or chili powder. A touch of heat can rev up the flavor without overwhelming it.

Nuts Toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews add a savory richness that can curb cravings for both added salt and extra fat. Try adding a teaspoon or two to steamed vegetables, salads, or pastas.

Citrus zest Fine tendrils of dried lemon, lime, and orange create an extraordinary depth of flavor when used as a garnish before serving, and citrus zest works equally well in sweet and savory dishes.

Garlic Fresh or dried, garlic gives a supercharged flavor boost. Try crushing an extra clove into soups and dips in place of salt.

Fresh herbs Parsley, cilantro, basil, and other green herbs enhance the flavor of everything from soups and casseroles to fruit salads. The more piquant the herb, the less salt you’ll crave.



EZ Tofu Press: A Review

EZ Tofu PressRecently, I was sent the EZ Tofu Press *to try out As I mention in all the reviews here on VegKitchen, I only review products that I personally like and can recommend, and that I feel would make life in your plant-based kitchen easier and more enjoyable!

And so, the bottom line is that I do like the EZ Tofu Press. There is absolutely no learning curve to using it; just place the block of tofu in between the two rectangular plates, tighten the screws, and place over a plate (or as I’ve done, right in the sink, propped on one side so it can drain. If you’d like, you can tighten the screws a little if you’d like a firmer texture for your tofu. The whole process can be done in 5 to 15 minutes.

I’m a fan of using tofu pressing devices. They do a better job of it than using the towel or paper towel method, and especially with the latter, it’s a lot less wasteful. I’m sure that in all my years of using tofu, I’ve gone through rolls of paper towel — multiply that by many thousands of tofu users, and that’s a lot of trees!

Pressing tofu helps it to absorb marinades, sauté to a firmer texture, and in general, pick up the flavors of whatever it’s being cooked or stir-fried with, such as Sautéed Tofu With Green Veggies, below. And if you’re using it uncooked, for instance, mashed  to make something like Tofu Eggless Salad, it holds the dressing better and is less likely to get watery when leftovers are stored.

Sautéed tofu with veggies2The EZ Tofu Press is easy to clean and is dishwasher safe; it is less costly compared to some other tofu presses, and is quite durable. For those who use tofu at least once a week, it’s quite a handy gadget to have in the kitchen.

Full disclosure:
EZ Tofu Press provided VegKitchen these product samples for review, but did not otherwise compensate the reviewer for this post. The reviewer was not obligated to review this product. VegKitchen only chooses to review books and products that we can wholeheartedly recommend to our readers to enhance their healthy, plant-based lifestyles.

* This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!


Nutrition Face-Off: Raw vs. Cooked Spinach

Spinach Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Try it raw: Spinach Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette


Did you know that raw spinach contains oxalic acid, an organic substance that can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron? Oxalic acid binds with calcium, making it unavailable for use by our bodies. It also attaches to quite a few other vital nutrients, and long-term consumption of foods high in oxalic acid can lead to nutrient deficiencies. The good news is that oxalic acid is broken down upon heating, so there is no loss of nutrients in steamed or sautéed spinach.

Should you avoid raw spinach in your green drinks and salads? Is cooked spinach always the superior choice? Both fresh and cooked spinach contain about the same amount of macronutrients in a 100-gram serving (roughly 3 1/3 cups raw or 1/2 cup cooked spinach). Both servings are about 23 calories, 3.8 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of protein, 0.3 g of fat, and a whopping 2.4 g of fiber, which is 10 percent of the daily value.

Raw Spinach Benefits: There is no need to shun raw spinach simply because it contains oxalic acid. It is also rich in many essential nutrients, some of which are more available to our bodies when we consume them raw. These nutrients include folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium.

Cooked Spinach Benefits: When you eat spinach that has been heated, you will absorb higher levels of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable.

Spicy Spinach with Sunflower Seeds

Try it cooked: Spicy Spinach with Sunflower Seeds

Iron 411: Both raw and cooked spinach are excellent sources of iron, containing twice as much as other leafy greens. A 100-gram serving of raw spinach contains 2.71 mg of iron, whereas cooked spinach contains 3.57 mg. Keep in mind that iron absorption is influenced by how much iron you already have in your body and by other nutrients that you eat with your meals. For instance, vitamin C facilitates iron absorption, while other substances like tannins and polyphenols inhibit iron absorption—so the amount of iron we absorb will vary regardless of whether or not spinach is cooked.

As with other vegetables, there are pros and cons to both raw and cooked forms. Eating a wide variety of plant foods is important for good health, and eating plant foods in both raw and cooked form will provide you with the richest array of nutrients.

Remember to look for fresh spinach that is bright green and appears freshly picked; spinach that is older and paler in color has been shown to contain lower concentrations of nutrients.


Ask A Chef: Grace Crossman of Goldie’s in Asbury Park, N.J.

interior shot of Goldie's (photo by Kaitlin Kall)

As gourmet vegan cuisine becomes more mainstream, restaurants specializing in artfully prepared, nutritious, and animal-free meals are popping up everywhere. Goldie’s in Asbury Park, N.J., is one such restaurant where the elegant ambience complements the beautifully presented food. Executive chef Grace Crossman has played an integral role in developing the mouthwatering menu that keeps Goldie’s packed with vegans and non-vegans alike.

What can you expect to find on the menu? Imagine starters such as butternut squash soup with chili oil and toasted walnuts, and salads of escarole and frisée with shaved kohlrabi, parsley, crostini, and a cashew dressing. Does a sandwich of smoked tempeh with plum, basil, and lemon-roasted garlic butter sound as scrumptious to you as it does to me? How about a dessert of roasted figs and vanilla bean panna cotta topped with pecan streudel?

In addition to their regular menu, Goldie’s will be filling special orders for Thanksgiving for those who want to leave the cooking to the pros. It’s sure to be a memorable feast! I chatted with Chef Grace to get a few of her tips for holiday entertaining.

Goldie's Executive Chef Grace Crossman (photo by Andrew Holtz)

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful opportunity to show family and friends how delicious plant-based meals can be! What is one meatless meal that your holday guests particularly enjoy?

Chanterelle mushrooms are wonderfully textured with a beautiful bright orange color. I toss them in olive oil and roast them with garlic, cooked farro, and herbed vegan butter. Preparing the mushrooms in this way leads them to cook slowly in their own natural juices, intensifying their flavor. For a simple meal, I might serve this with a little salad made of the whole leaves of fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, and chervil, with some shaved celery and radishes dressed in lemon juice and olive oil.


Do you have any tips to make Thanksgiving meal preparations easier and less stressful for those of us who aren’t as confident in the kitchen?

Never underestimate the beauty of simple food! A meal does not have to be complex and time-consuming to be satisfying and impressive. Sometimes it’s the complicated, overthought dishes that will work against you. Begin with good quality ingredients and focus on balance and simplicity. Get as much done ahead of time as you can, so when it’s time to serve your guests you just need to assemble the dish.


What is your favorite meal to prepare around the holidays? And what is your favorite to eat?

I love to make pies around the holidays. They are not exactly a meal, but leftover pie does make a great breakfast! Pie seems to me to really embody the holidays and the cold months in general. I make a freeform pear tart that is becoming pretty popular with my family.

I love to eat all of the classic vegetable sides: mashed potatoes, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, yams, all of the little things that are so typical of the holidays and of the season. My mother makes mashed potatoes with rutabaga, and it is one of my favorite things.


Chickpea Waldorf Salad

Chickpea waldorf saladA Waldorf salad is a salad traditionally made of fresh apples, celery and walnuts, tossed with mayonnaise, and usually served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal. The addition of chickpeas, tart cranberries, and a seasoned mayonnaise make it even more delectable. Contributed by Jennifer Strohmeyer, from Virtually Vegan Mama.

Serves: 6 to 8

  • 2 cups Red Delicious apples, chopped
  • 2 cups Bartlett pear, chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup red grapes, halved
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • ½ cup vegan mayonnaise (or Cashew Cream)
  • ¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoon tarragon wine vinegar
  • Sea Salt (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground nutmeg (optional)

Combine apples, pears, celery, walnuts, cranberries and grapes in a large serving bowl, set aside.

Combine mayonnaise, tarragon wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and tarragon leaves in a medium bowl; mix well. Toss with apple mixture and season with sea salt(optional) and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Chill before serving. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg (optional) right before serving for a fall twist. Serve on top of fresh salad greens or on rolls.

waldorf salad2 jennifer strohmeyer


Brown Rice and White Beans with Shiitakes and Spinach

SpinachBrownRice Robin RobertsonThis homey pilaf is infinitely versatile. Instead of rice, you can make it with quinoa, wheat berries, or bulgur. You can also swap out the white beans for cooked lentils, black-eyed peas, or chopped seitan. Or add some heat with a minced jalapeño chile. Recipe from One-Dish Vegan © 2013 by Robin Robertson. Reprinted by permission of The Harvard Common Press.

Serves: 4 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms,
    stemmed and sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or 15 to 16-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill or basil

Heat the oil or water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, and add the scallions and spinach, stirring until the spinach wilts. Stir in the beans and dill. Cook for 5 minutes longer, or until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve hot.

Spinach Brown Rice 2 Robin Robertson


Single Guy Breakfast Pancake (Chapati)

When my good friend Dominic told me he’d mastered making a single morning pancake/crêpe using just flour and water, I wasn’t just skeptical. No milk? No eggs? How could it possibly be good?

Dom’s argument was that as a single parent, when his daughter wasn’t around, he didn’t want to make a whole batch of pancakes or crêpes just for him. So, he’d been experimenting with stirring just enough water into some flour to make a crêpe-like batter, then cooking it in a greased skillet for a single, large pancake (as he called it) that he could slather with jam.

I chalked up his thinking of this concoction as “good” to his being 1) single and 2) a guy. I teased him about it until he insisted on making me one.

As I watched his fork-stirred batter puff up and brown in the pan, it occurred to me that his “pancake” looked more like an Indian flatbread – a chapati!*—and it was looking awfully good. I began revising my opinion then and there. After all, there are lots of yummy foods that are made with just flour and water. Bread, tortillas, pasta.… And so, it was no longer a big surprise when Dominic flipped the pancake onto my plate and it turned out to be absolutely delicious.

In fact, it was so delicious, I asked Dominic make me another one. Only this time, I made him write down exact measurements. The recipe is below. I imagine you can triple or quadruple it to serve more people, but as is, it’s a fantastic option for a quick one-person breakfast or an accompaniment to soup or salad. You could probably even wrap it around a filling, like a taco.

*Chapatis are unleavened flatbreads made by cooking a round of dough on a hot griddle.

Dominic’s Breakfast Pancake
Makes 1 pancake

½ cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt, optional
1 tsp. butter, oil, or margarine

1. Mix flour and salt in small bowl. Whisk ½ cup plus 1 to 2 Tbs. water into mixture with fork until smooth.
2. Heat butter, oil, or margarine in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in batter, and swirl around to coat bottom of pan. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until pancake is browned in spots on bottom and beginning to puff in places. Flip with spatula, and cook 5 to 7 minutes more, until pancake is browned and dry on both sides, flipping 2 or 3 more times if necessary to cook evenly.