Friday, October 30, 2009

The Café Muse

I went there for a grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, a grilled cheese sandwich...and yes, I ate it. Let me tell you why.

A few months before I became a vegan, I saw an episode of the Oprah show in which they selected what they thought were the 10 best sandwiches in the country. Two of the sandwiches were from restaurants in Michigan, Café Muse and Zingerman’s. Café Muse was chosen for its grilled cheese sandwich. Well, loving cheese as much as I do, a trip to Café Muse immediately shot to the top of my summer “list of things to do.” But summer days became weeks, and soon I became a vegan. So the conflict began...

That grilled cheese sandwich was calling my name. I really wanted that sandwich, but cheese was no longer on my list of foods to eat. What to do, what to do… Now, I know vegans would say, “Don’t eat it,” but I’ve been eating grilled cheese sandwiches my entire life and there’s something very comforting about it (I should really re-read the post "Transitioning"). So, after six weeks of eating a fat-free vegan diet, I went in to have my blood work done, and as a treat to myself for being so good (which I was), I got in my car and drove to Royal Oak in search of Café Muse.

Now, I hope I haven’t lost any Michigan readers, because here’s where it gets good. Joy of all joys, the chef at Café Muse cooks vegan too! Along with my sandwich, I ordered a vegan carrot soup that was "happiness" in a bowl and there were other vegan dishes in addition to the rest of the brilliantly prepared food (ahhh… another restaurant to love).

So I returned with one of my beautiful daughters. We sat down and I ordered the veggie burger. It was excellent. I noticed menu items like steel-cut oatmeal with apples, vegan muffins and tofu scramble, and it seems other vegan dishes often make an appearance depending on the whims of the chef. Café Muse is located in downtown Royal Oak, which is a lively, fun community to visit. It’s a small restaurant, lovely inside, and when the weather is good they have outdoor seating. It's a great spot for breakfast or lunch, and soon they will be open at night for go!

Oh yes... that grilled cheese sandwich? It was wonderful, and it certainly deserves the noteworthy acclamations it’s received. And just so you know, it’s made with organic sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes and basil. Then the chef uses cheeses like havarti and fontina, grills it in a European style butter and tops it off with honey… oh my. Believe me, it’s worth the trip, and it’s a great place to go to eat, vegan or otherwise.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Okay, I know it's a lot of squash recipes for one month, but I have a lot of squash! This is a naturally sweet recipe that my family loves. It comes together easily and it's a satisfying dish. My thanks to Susan for her help.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4

2 acorn squash – approximately 1.5 lbs each

2 C. rice - I used Lundberg Wild Blend, a blend of whole grain and wild rice
4 C. water for cooking rice

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. fresh sage, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped (1/2 C.)
1 apple, diced, with the skin on
1/2 C. dried cranberries
2 T. chopped walnuts
1/2 t. sea salt
Pam – non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly spray with Pam. Cut the acorn squash in half and seed. Place squash cut side down on the sheet pan and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. When the rice is nearly finished cooking, heat a non-stick saute pan over medium high heat and toast the walnuts stirring for about 3 minutes, remove and set aside. Spray the non-stick saute pan with Pam and heat the celery, garlic and sage together stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the rice, apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt and pepper. Mix well. Divide the mixture between the squash shells and warm in the oven for 10 minutes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quick & Creamy Not Cream of Tomato Soup

I’d like to introduce you to Susan, one of my three incredible sisters. She is a great cook and has long been a health enthusiast. Recently she read the book, “The Engine 2 Diet,” and became fascinated with the idea of being able to reverse heart disease. She is now eating vegan and loving it. Her husband (a wonderful man), like many people, prefers his potatoes with meat; so we have a similar challenge and she has promised to send me only the vegan dishes that her husband enjoys eating. The recipe that follows is her creation. I made it the other night and couldn’t believe how quickly it came together (boy, she took that “quick, easy and delicious” part seriously)! It’s a tummy pleaser! Thank you Susan!

It was a cold fall day and I wanted a healthy and creamy soup fast! This recipe was all three! Even Mr. Meat & Potatoes thought it was excellent. (Please don’t tell him it was made with soymilk!)

Quick & Creamy Not Cream of Tomato Soup

20 minutes
Serves 4

Non-stick cooking spray
1 medium onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 - 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
16 oz. non-fat plain soymilk (I used Westsoy)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. Fresh basil leaves, chopped

Spray the bottom of a stockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Spoon the onion into a blender or food processor with the tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Return to the stockpot, add the soymilk and heat on medium-high heat until simmering. Season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with basil.

What Our Hearts Require

This post is an article written by my Uncle Gene, a professor of philosophy and author of the book, "Everyday Philosophy." The topics he writes about emerge from "off-the-cuff answers" he gives to student questions in his classroom. Not always satisfied with his answers, once home he expands on these ideas in short articles that become the contents of his periodical, “Gene's New Philosophical Review.” I am lucky to receive these thoughtful observations, and I fell in love with this one. As always, when I asked my uncle if I could post this article, his answer was yes. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did.

“What to do? What to do? One can have a heart attack from too much
worrying. Eat well, sleep well.” --Maury Tretakoff.

The re-upholsterers said to Dr. Rosenman: "You guys must be psychiatrists. No other Doctor’s office that we have done has all the chairs worn out on the edges. You must have a lot of anxious patients." This came as a surprise to Drs. Rosenman and Friedman, because they were both cardiologists, and had not thought much about the emotional or psychological aspects of heart disease. This led them to years of research, and eventually a book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart, 1984.) The book chronicles the correlation between certain behavioral patterns, and the likelihood of heart disease. (Incidentally, Dr. Friedman had two heart attacks when he was 55; he transformed his behavior, and lived to the ripe old age of 90.)

Since heart disease is the number one killer in America, it might be worth reflecting on what the doctors had to say. To most of us, it seems clear that family history, smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, and a lack of exercise are accurate predictors of the likelihood of heart disease. More recent research has identified anger and "free-floating hostility" as frequent precipitators of heart attacks, but the basic formula developed by Rosenman and Friedman remains intact. (Recent criticisms are aimed at “Type A Behavior” not being a good identifier of what stress really is.) They defined "Type A Personality" as "a particular complex of personality traits, including excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency." Now the unpleasant fact is, we live in a culture that demands a lot of competitive drive, that rewards aggressiveness, that generates all kinds of situations that try one's patience, and all of us are given more and more things to do, and have less and less time in which to do them.

Fortunately, there are ways to "reengineer" our lives so that Type A-induced heart disease is less likely. We can begin by eliminating events and activities that are of minimal importance. Some people start by canceling the newspapers and magazines they do not need to read, or withdrawing from organizations to which they have already made their contributions. The second step is to spend as much of your day as possible in a milieu that promotes peace. That may seem ridiculous to a harried worker or a mother of five, but there are still "vestibules of peace" that can be established, moments of sanctuary where thoughts can be gathered, good intentions formulated, and some kind of tranquility found. In this culture of group-think and group-action, we all need time to be alone, time to take our own pulse, time to be sure we have the creative energies necessary to actually produce benefits for ourselves and others.

We are all afflicted with sources of hostility, from the phone that rings during meals, to the undeserved parking ticket, to whatever else that seems to be our own personal demon. Learning not to respond with hostility is a task befitting a stoic philosopher, but there are things we can do to minimize the impact of an environment that sometimes seems downright hostile. We can avoid some of the people or situations that persistently aggravate us, and we can learn to walk away from situations that have built-in escalation clauses. But most important, we can reengineer our responses, so that we tone down the rhetoric, defuse explosive situations, and rise above battles that are not worth our time or energy.

We live in a society that focuses more on having than on being. Much of our economic activity is centered on increasing our possessions, whether that is a bank account or a garage full of unused athletic equipment. How much healthier we would all be, and how much less busy would cardiologists be, if we could concentrate on being the persons we might most want to become, instead of merely being owners of goods of passing significance. Instead of focusing on increasing possessions, what we really need is a philosophical reorientation, so that we can focus on being rather than having, on doing what is intrinsically worthwhile, rather than on letting time disappear into black holes. Our minds and bodies benefit from working, and working hard, but our hearts require leisure. Unless we step back and take time to find delight in life, we are in danger of being swallowed up by our own Type A Behavior. We do not want to wind up sitting on the edge of our seats, in some cardiologist’s office, worried about what our charts might say…

Roasted Buttercup Squash

My family has always enjoyed roasted squash as a side dish, but its usually coated in butter and brown sugar. So the challenge was to provide added flavor to the squash(because that's what they are used to) without the fat. Buttercup squash is a sweet variety of squash so that was a good place to start. I made two glazes and this was the one my family all agreed was blog worthy.

Roasted Buttercup Squash

1 Buttercup squash - cut in half, seeded, and sliced into quarters
Pam - non-stick cooking spray
Dry roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with the non-stick cooking spray. Lightly spray the flesh of the squash and roast flesh side down for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip so the other edge of the squash will become caramelized as it continues to roast for 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and flip it onto its skin. Brush a layer of the glaze onto the flesh and roast for 5-10 minutes more, or until tender. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

The Glaze

½ C Balsamic vinegar
1T Honey

In a small pan, simmer the balsamic and honey mixture until it is reduced by half (15 – 20 minutes).

Note: You will end up with leftover glaze and its great on veggies or greens. If you can't find buttercup squash, you could use Kabocha or acorn.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

One morning I walked into work and found two bags of squash sitting on my desk. It was the last of a co-workers bountiful garden. As I looked it over, the butternut squash was staring me in the face, so I went home that night and made it into soup. This recipe is a big bowl of comfort.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash (3 – 3.5 lbs) - peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 t. fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (just a little)
3 leeks - white parts only, washed well and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 C. coarsely chopped cauliflower
2 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 bouillon cubes, low sodium vegan vegetable (I used Rapunzel, one cube for every 2 cups of water)
6 C. water
3 large leaves of sage, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay aluminum foil on the bottom of a sheet pan and spray it with Pam. Pour the cubed butternut squash onto the sheet pan and lightly spray the top of the squash with Pam. Sprinkle the squash with the salt and cracked pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, add the chopped sage and stir. Continue roasting for 15 minutes or more until soft.

In a large pot simmer the water, bouillon cubes, celery, cauliflower and leeks until the vegetables are tender. Once the squash and sage are finished in the oven, spoon them into the pot with the other vegetables. Remove from the heat and blend the soup in batches using a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Serve.