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Archive for April, 2010

A decade late: a vegetarian discovery

Posted by kathleenerindavis on April 30, 2010

I decided to make Hilary’s grilled tofu and veggies last night, but I couldn’t be bothered to set of the grill and haul everything from the kitchen to the backyard so I tried out Shawna’s George Foreman Grill. I’m aware that I’m over ten years late on this trend, but man-o-live is this a great cooking machine! I had never thought to use it since I thought the main appeal was the fat drainage that’s not an issue with vegetarian cooking.

However it worked really well for my marinaded tofu, red and orange bell pepper, pineapple, portabella mushrooms, and red onion.  I made it pretty much the same as Hilary (here’s her post), with a slightly different marinade. The results? Delicious!


Posted in Grilling, KK, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Spinach Lasagna

Posted by Hilary on April 22, 2010

I love spinach lasagna, but rarely make it. I stopped following the recipe years ago, and now I don’t even know what ever happened to the recipe. Basically, here’s what you need, but I’m estimating:

For the filling:
10 oz spinach, either frozen or fresh, chopped
~6 oz shredded mozzarella or italian blend
~16 oz (or more) ricotta OR cottage cheese OR some combination thereof
~However much grated parmesan you feel like parting with (optional)
~1 egg to hold things together

For the sauce:
I start with 2 jars of store bought sauce
However much garlic you can stand (we can stand a lot)
1/2 to 1 medium yellow onion
1/2 to 1 red bell pepper (optional)
fake meat crumbles (optional)

And then you need lasagna noodles and extra shredded mozzarella.

These ingredients are for a 9 x 13 pan, but I scaled it down for an 8 x 8 pan in the picture that you see posted.

1. Saute chopped garlic and onion until onion starts to brown. Add in chopped red pepper and saute until the pepper starts to soften. Add in fake meat crumbles and cook the rest of the way. Turn burner to low and add in sauce. Let simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove from burner.

2. Prepare the filling in a separate bowl. If using frozen spinach thaw in microwave and be sure to get all of the excess water out. Mix in all of the other filling ingredients. Add in whatever spices you enjoy (we add oregano, basil, pepper, etc.).

3. To assemble the lasagna start by putting a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your baking pan. Then layer uncooked noodles, sauce, filling, more noodles, more sauce, the rest of the filling, more noodles, and the rest of the sauce (you might have some leftover sauce).

4. Since we are using regular uncooked noodles (do not buy “no cook noodles”), pour about a cup to a cup and a half of hot water over top of the lasagna, mostly around the edges. Cover the pan tightly with tinfoil. The water will help cook the noodles during baking. Bake for 1 hour, covered, at 350 F. Then remove foil and top with shredded mozzarella. Cook for 15 more minutes, or until cheese is browned.

I put the lasagna pan on top of a large baking sheet, as I often get the lasagna bubbling over in the oven (this might be me trying to force a lot of lasagna into a small pan).

Posted in Eating party classics, HilHil | 1 Comment »

Lovely Lunch: Chickpea Sandwich Filling and Smoothie

Posted by kathleenerindavis on April 21, 2010

A Food Babies first? At least for me it might be. I’m always blogging about dinner or dessert, but what about lunch (I think I may have written about some brunch foods before, but never lunch). One of the pluses to being home during the day is that I can make myself lunch everyday instead of relying on the expensive and often uninspired midtown Manhattan lunch selections or packing the same thing every day.

Today’s lunch was particularly tasty and could be packed and taken to work if you are lucky enough to have a job.

Vegetarian Chickpea Sandwich Filling

Serve on toasted sandwich flat bread or pita bread, with lettuce/sprouts/tomato. Other raw, chopped vegetables like celery can be substituted for the cucumber. Make vegan by replacing the mayo with fake mayo or sliken tofu or non-dairy salad dressing.

(makes about 3 servings)


1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

½ cucumber, chopped

½ onion, chopped

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

salt and pepper to taste


Drain and rinse chickpeas. Pour chickpeas into a medium size mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Mix in celery, onion, mayonnaise (to taste), lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

I had it with sun chips and a smoothie (my go to smoothie lately has been strawberries, black berries, vanilla yogurt, soy milk and ice)

Posted in KK, unemployed cooking | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Combining Superfoods: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Walnuts

Posted by Hilary on April 20, 2010

Ah, superfoods. The term has little meaning to an actual dietician. However, it is an easy way to understand that a particular food is basically extra-healthy.

Superfoods include beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt. There are other lists that include things like olive oil, avocado, and dark chocolate.

One of my current projects is to find ways to combine some of these superfoods, so that you get 3 or more in one meal. The easiest way to do this so far: oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts!

Why oatmeal? It’s high in fiber, and thus helps to lower total and LDL cholesterol. Oatmeal also contains plant chemicals with antioxidant properties, as well as B vitamins, calcium, iron, and Vitamin A. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate.

Why blueberries? Blueberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, fiber, and vitamin E. In studies looking at a variety of fruits and vegetables, blueberries have been shown to have the most antioxidants, thus destroying the most free radicals. Actually, the proposed list of health benefits of blueberries is long enough that I don’t want to type it out, so click here if you’re interested.

Why walnuts? Walnuts contain protein, fiber and vitamin E. Walnuts contain a significant amount of omega-3s. They also have a lot of antioxidants, and even some melatonin!

A recipe is probably not needed here. Just cook oatmeal according to package directions. I added a teaspoon of brown sugar to my oatmeal. If your blueberries are frozen (like mine), throw them in towards the end of cooking to thaw them out. If they’re fresh, add them after the oatmeal is cooked. Top with a handful of walnuts.

Posted in HilHil, superfoods, Vegan-friendly | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Hilary on April 19, 2010

Posted in Uncategorized, Words to the Wise | Leave a Comment »

Samoas, Part Duex

Posted by Hilary on April 19, 2010

KK sent me some of the samoas from her “Happy Kapril” post. Kelly ate one and has since been wanting (me) to make some too.

I decided to make the cookie version instead of the bars, because I wanted to try out this fancy cookie press:

As it turns out though, this cookie press is completely worthless, as the ratchet mechanism is not strong enough to push the dough. I have a less fancy-looking, but much better press somewhere (probably back in Michigan) that was given to me by my G-ma S.

I still didn’t feel like rolling out dough and using a cookie cutter, so I hand formed the shortbread cookies by making and flattening small balls of dough. As Katie promised, these things take forever to make. Here’s hoping that Kelly does not request them again for a while 😉

Posted in Desserts, HilHil | 1 Comment »


Posted by Hilary on April 18, 2010

The second question my mom had was about rice. There’s so many types of rice, it can be hard to know what to choose.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

Most people recognize brown vs. white rice to be one of the basic distinctions. Rice itself is the seed of a plant (Oryza Sativa). Brown rice has only the chaff removed, whereas white rice has the bran and germ removed. White rice keeps longer, but has far less nutritional value than brown rice. Brown rice has much more fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium than white rice. It also has more vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B vitamins, selenium, folacin, magnesium, and iron.  Fortified white rice will have a lot of these nutrients added back in later in processing (which makes zero sense to me, why not just leave them in to begin with?). Brown rice is also more environmentally friendly, as it is less processed and thus requires less energy. Brown rice takes longer to cook, but all that means for me is starting the rice cooker earlier (in my rice cooker brown rice takes about 45 minutes and white rice takes about 20-25 minutes).

Rice brain oil (mentioned in previous post on oil) is found in brown rice (not white rice), and contains gamma-oryzanol, a compound thought to help lower cholesterol. Brown rice also has a lower glycemic index than white rice.

Long vs. Medium vs. Short Grain Rice

Long-grain rice is just that, long. It is light and fluffy when cooked. Some people argue that long-grain rice has more flavor. Medium-grain rice is more tender, and sticks together a little more than long-grain rice. Short-grain rice is very nearly round and is soft and sticky when cooked (popular uses include sushi and risotto). Short-grain rice is more glutinous, which may be an important factor for people on low-gluten/no-gluten diets.


We exclusively buy brown rice now. Our favorites are two popular aromatic rices: Jasmine and Basmati. Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice that smells amazing. The cooked kernels are very moist. Basmati rice is also a long-grain rice. When cooked the grains swells only lengthwise, resulting in “free-floating” grains that are less sticky than most rice. Basmati is a popular accompaniment to Indian fare.

In the end I recommend brown rice for nutritional and environmental reasons. Long-grain rices are probably the best starting point for most purposes. Beyond that, there are still a multitude of rices to choose from, so just try what looks interesting until you find your favorites.

P.S. I also strongly recommend a rice cooker. They are cheap and make cooking rice so easy.

Posted in edification, HilHil | 1 Comment »

All About Oil

Posted by Hilary on April 16, 2010

I got a couple of questions from my mom today, so I set off to do some research. Topic one: what’s a healthy oil, especially for high-heat cooking?

Oil is categorized in a number of different ways, so I’ll try to address some major points.

First, it is important to consider the type of fat each oil is composed of. We want to have the least amount of saturated fat, which raises total blood cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. We also want the least amount of trans fat, which raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. What we do want is monounsaturated fat, which lowers total and LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol, and polyunsaturated fat, which also lower total and LDL cholesterol.

Next, consider that oil is either pressed or chemically extracted. Oils that come from soft fruits or nuts (e.g. olive, walnut, avocado) only require pressing. You’ll notice that these are often labeled as “cold pressed”. Some oilseeds are harder and cannot be cold-pressed (e.g. soy, canola). These are pretreated via a non-toxic process (like steaming) before pressing. Other oils are extracted with toxic chemical solvents, including hexane (scary chemical of the week!), and undergo very high heat processing.

Moving on, unrefined oils are filtered minimally, removing only large particles. They may look cloudy or have sediment that settles. Unrefined oils are thought to have greater nutritional value than refined oils. Refined oils are filtered and strained to a greater degree, often using additional heat. This type of processing is reported to reduce both nutritional value and flavor. The only pros of refined oils are a longer shelf life and a higher smoke point (for high-heat cooking).

For high heat cooking, the most important thing to know about an oil is its smoke point. You absolutely do not want to cook an oil hotter than that point, as the oil can destabilize and become not only gross tasting, but carcinogenic.

I typically keep 3 oils on hand, extra virgin olive oil (smoke point 406 F, but 320 F for unrefined), expeller pressed canola oil (smoke point: 225 F unrefined, 400 F refined), and sesame oil (smoke point 350 F unrefined, 410 refined). However, after the topic of coconut oil was brought up to me, I wanted to check out some alternatives.

Several oils are now being touted by various groups as “the healthiest oil”:

1. Coconut oil (Smoke point: 350 F)

This one proves to be pretty controversial. There are strong naturopath advocates, and websites chock full of glowing testimonials. Commenters on various websites are claiming that is cures everything from Alzheimer’s to Autism (uh, really folks?)! Coconut oil truly does contain lauric acid, which is a disease-fighting fatty acid found in breastmilk. Researchers on this side claim that coconut oil stimulates the thyroid (and is thus a good natural treatment for hypothyroid), which leads to lowered cholesterol. There are also claims of weight loss effects, anti-cancer effects, and antimicrobial effects.

But, here’s what the detractors say: One fact that is not contested is that coconut oil is very high in saturated fat (one source said 92% s. fat). In fact, coconut oil is one of the few plant-based sources of saturated fat. This is a hard stumbling block to get over. Click here for a 2003 SPC document summarizing research on coconut oil; pp. 12-14 specifically address links to cholesterol and heart disease.

From the linked document: “Overall, there is strong evidence to show that the main types of saturated fatty acid found in coconut (and in most foods rich in saturates) are effective at raising blood cholesterol levels and so increase the risk of developing heart disease. The individual effects of different fatty acids needs further research.” The research cited suggests that coconut oil raises all cholesterol, good and bad. But rahr!, proponents shoot back saying old (biased) research was done on hydrogenated coconut oil, and they are using organic unrefined, pressed oil. I have no answer on this one people. Try at your own will.

2. Macadamia nut oil (Smoke point: 389 F)

This is popular in Australian cooking. Proponents say macadamia nut oil is one of the highest in monounsaturated fat (even better than olive oil). The ratio of omega-3 to omega 6 in MNO is 1:8, which is purportedly great! MNO contains palmetolaic acid, which is thought to lower cholesterol.

3. Avocado oil (Smoke point: 520 F refined)

As with macadamia nut oil, avocado oil also has one of the highest concentrations on monounsaturated fat (again, higher than my beloved olive oil). Also, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is favorable. Avocado oil contains beta-sitosterol compounds, which help prevent LDL absorption. Vitamin E rounds out the list of benefits.

4. Rice brain oil (Smoke point: 490 F)

This one is popular is Asian cooking and perhaps the secret to great tempura. It contains vitamin E, antioxidants (Tocopherols, Tocotrienols, Gamma Oryzanol, Phytosterols, Polyphenols and Squalene), and micronutrients (can someone define “micronutrient”? Is it just a tiny nutrient?). Animal studies have shown that TRF (a concentrated fraction of vitamin E) extracted from rice brain oil and fed to rats lowered total cholesterol (2005, in Food and Chemical Toxicology). Similar studies found that TRF stimulates liver enzymes that clear toxic substances from the liver, thus having a positive effect on liver tumors. Critics say it contains too much omega-6 linoleic acid  (the omega-3: omega-6 ration is about 1:35) and not enough monounsaturated fat.

My personal choice for up to high-heat cooking: Organic refined canola oil,  maybe. I could still be persuaded. I’m very finicky. I’d like to try some of these others, especially avocado oil for high heat, but there’s no way I’m finding that in Idaho :/

P.S. Feel free to offer information here. I can tell there’s a wealth of information I’m not completely tapping and I may revisit the issue in the future.

Edited to add…

5. Safflower oil (Smoke point: 225 F unrefined; 450 F refined)

Safflower oil is good in that along with many of these other oils, it contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fat (about 76%). However, it seems that the monounsaturated fat is pretty much all omega-6 linoeic. From the research I’ve done so far it seems that we really want omega-3 linolenic acid to be in there too.  However, if you really want something high in linoleic acid, safflower oil contains the most linoleic acid of any known seed. A plus for safflower oil is that it also has vitamin E.

6. My current canola oil (Smoke point: 425 F refined)

After I posted this I went and looked more carefully at my canola oil. What I was mainly worried about after reading was the possibility of genetically modified ingredients (common in canola) and of course the smoke point. After I examined the bottle I decided I was pretty happy with my my current high-heat oil.

Plus, canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains both omega-6 and omega-3, with a great ratio of 2:1!  Canola oil is made from rapeseeds (they had to change the name on this one), which are often sprayed with pesticides, so my only beef with my current bottle of oil is that it is not organic. But hey, that’s easily rectified in the future.

This is Spectrum expeller-pressed refined canola oil for medium to high heat:

Click here for a link for cooking oil smoke points.

Posted in edification, HilHil | 1 Comment »

Special Edition: (formerly) Secret Ma Beazley Coffee Cake

Posted by kathleenerindavis on April 16, 2010

Mark’s mom makes a super yummy coffee cake for him whenever he goes home, it’s so popular that she often makes several, sometimes sending us home with two or three. I asked and asked for the recipe and a few months ago Mark gave it to me. I made it for the first time today. It’s currently cooling, I’m told it’s best to wait overnight before eating, so I plan to have it Sunday morning with coffee and the New York Times.  I’ll let you know how it is.

Please note the following:

1. This recipe is far from good for you, but very very yummy. Eat at your own risk.

2. This recipe is for three cakes, but since I am but one little lady in a little Brooklyn apartment, I cut it in half and only made one cake.

Secret Ma Beazley Coffee Cake recipe

(Makes 3 cakes)
4 1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups crisco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix those together and remove 2 cups for the topping

2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 beaten eggs

Pour batter into 3 cake pans. Spread the 2 cups of the topping evenly over 3 cakes.

Posted in KK | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

On fake meat and hexane

Posted by kathleenerindavis on April 15, 2010

If you read Food Babies, you probably also read other food-related things, or the news. And boy oh boy has the whole “veggie burgers are filled with toxic chemicals” story been all over the news in the last couple of days. It’s great ammo for meat eaters to tell vegetarians to get off their health-conscious high horses. But I don’t think everyone should be so quick to panic, and I especially don’t think it should be reason to call it quits with soy all together. Yes, fake meat isn’t the best for you food in the world (it is after all still a processed food with lots of preservatives, and processed foods are a little removed from being real food even when they aren’t pretending to be a “beef” burger or a “pork” hot dog.

First, the soy that’s in these veggie burgers is isolated soy, which processed in a different way than the soy that’s in soy milk or tofu which is whole soy. Whole soy, btw can actually be very good for you. Also, it’s unclear if hexane cooks off, or if the amounts in the products are large enough to be harmful or not. I think there needs to be a whole mess of change and regulations in how our food (of the meat and non-meat variety) is produced. But I don’t know that raising the flag of panic around fake meat is necessarily a good way to go. For a lot of people just starting out with vegetarianism, or life-long meat eaters who need to cut their cholesterol after a heart attack or other life-threatening illness (like many in my family), fake meat can be an easy and tasty alternative. Not that we should tolerate anything hazardous in our food, but I’ll still take trace amounts of hexane over life-threatening amounts of e coli any day.

Mother Jones on the topic

Gothamist on the topic

(cross posted on Full of Wit)

Posted in KK, Tofu | Leave a Comment »