Going against the “GRAIN”… Young Black and Vegetarian

 

I was hatched into a family where meat reigned supreme. .. Chicken and pork where a staple in my home the way rice is commonplace in a Latino home. I’ve had so much carnage that I can close my eyes while YOU chew and know intimately how each corner of the pig, chicken, and cow taste all before you swallow. I’m an expert of sorts. My mother is actually very proud of this very thing. In fact on every holiday she has a habit of making mention of my former love for braised. short ribs. She’ll lean in with a warm rib dripping of warm BBQ sauce…sucking the excess before it has a chance to fall through the air. Quite a talent if you ask me…  However.. life goes on. And I grew more enlightened. I traded short ribs for tempeh, and Kool-Aid for green juice smoothies, butter for coconut oil, and all you can eat buffets for temperance. Vegetarianism has taken a firm hold on my heart, and taste buds. For all my friends and family that miss those opportunities to share every deep fried and roasted hoof, paw, wing and other things… Sorry… but I’m not sorry. I’ve evolved. But best believe it’s all for the best. I’ve joined the movement and taken hold on its momentum full force. So I invite you to jump onboard the bandwagon, it’s a great place to be.

Vegetarianism is still a novelty in some circles and so when I’m seen passing on a plate full of flesh I’m either received as a national treasure or a bad omen. Its just the way it goes. But as a minority it has been very important to begin making some major changes in the way i behaved, and that includes what foods I’ve invited into my belly. The decision to drop meat and limit sugar in my life wasn’t an easy road lined with sugar plums and gingerbread houses. It all stemmed from a conversation that I had with my mother. I complained of low energy, and frequent urination. Her advice, see a doctor. (**insert cricket sounds**) In her opinion I was destined for a life of diabetes, and possibly heart disease. Two things that I wasn’t either ready for… nor excited about. So, I took nutrition classes searching for a way out of a bleak future. And in that process, this is what I discovered . African American adults are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician than non -Hispanic white adults. African Americans are 1.4 times more likely to have high blood pressure than non – Hispanic whites. And lastly, African American men and women are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non white Hispanics. And while it is self evident that other minority groups are affected as well, knowing those facts and seeing them play out in the lives of my family scared me straight. Period.

A vegetarian diet, combined with exercise promotes quality of life. Although there is no silver bullet in regards to warding off disease, a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a sound diet is key to a higher quality of life. Incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables into your meal times, while phasing out animal products is a great way to not only ward off disease, but also to control weight gain, and improve the bodies response to allergens. Health is indeed wealth.  and guess what? Vegetarianism is beginning to build momentum in the African American community. In fact several African American celebrities like Erykah Badu, Andre 3000, Reverand Al Sharpton, and Common have all embraced a plant based diet. And while that should’nt be your sole motivation, it should cast a bright spotlight on the fact that healthful living is a movement. So I invite you to join this movement for a higher quality of life, and a more promising future. Leave a legacy of health, because health is indeed wealth. Try this soulful vegan recipe and join the movement.  

Here’s to Healthful Living,

Chef Will Hall

 

 

BLACK-EYED PEA AND SPINACH CAKES (WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO TARTAR SAUCE)

THIS RECIPE IS :

Dairy FreeVegan

SERVES

4

INGREDIENTS

Tartar Sauce 

  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained

Cakes

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 (12-ounce) box firm silken tofu
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 8 scallions, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil

PREPARATION

Tartar Sauce

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayo lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers and stir together. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Cakes

  1. Finely mince the spinach in a food processor and set aside. You should have about 1 cup of spinach.
  2. In a food processor, process the tofu until smooth, then scrape into a medium size mixing bowl. In the same food processor, pulse the parsley, bell pepper, and scallions until finely chopped. Transfer to the bowl with the tofu and add the spinach, black-eyed peas, flour, panko, baking powder, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon four mounds of the mixture into the oil, flattening the tops of each to make a one-inch thick cake. Cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. If cakes become dark brown, reduce the heat to medium. Flip and cook 2 more minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot, topped with the reserved tartar sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

CATSOULIS, JEANNETTE. “Soul Food Vegan Style.” The new York Times 5 May 2011: n. pag. Print.

Coleman, Christina. “The 15 most annoying things about being a Black Vegetarian.” . Global Grind, 10 May 2013. Web. . <http://globalgrind.com/2013/05/10/most-annoying-things-about-being-black-vegetarian-list/&gt;.

DiJulio, Betsy. “Pea and Spinach Cakes (with Sun-Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce).” . The Blooming Platter, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. . <Pea and Spinach Cakes (with Sun-Dried Tomato Tartar Sauce)>

medina, jennifer. “Fast-Food Outlet Stirs Concerns in a Mecca of Healthy Living.” The New York Times 11 Dec. 2011, sec. Loma Linda Journal: n. pag. Print.

Tinuoye, Kunbi . “Are more African-Americans embracing veganism?.” theGrio. N.p., 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 7 July 2014. <http://thegrio.com/2012/02/27/are-more-african-americans-embracing-veganism/&gt;.

“We’re in!.” OMH Content. N.p., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 July 2014. <http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=62&gt;.

High Regard for Rhubard

 

 

 

 

There are some subtle signs that spring is here… that new life is beginning to sprout, blossom, and dazzle. Rhubarb is that sign for me, second only to strawberries.  And what a coincidence, rhubarb and strawberries go great together. This cousin to celery, is pretty sassy, rich, and a bit outspoken (tart).  We all have cousins like that, when its their season, they tend to make their presence known, that’s rhubarb.   Its like she (rhubarb) begs for attention, lots of sugar and like things.  Total red carpet treatment.  She demands that you love her.    I watched a man fall in love  just last week.  He simply couldn’t resist her pull.  It was actually quiet entertaining to watch him try. From a distance I noticed the delivery man place the case of rhubarb on the table, receive a signature,  and wave goodbye.  The first chef on the scene fingered through the full case of rhubarb, clearly checking for quality.  Even from where I stood  it was clear when like turned to love, and love to lust. He was a  man brazen with inspiration. New eyes. And so I watched in quiet anticipation to see where his creativity would take him.

This type of enthusiasm is common this time of year. Everyone and their mother is running to their nearest farmers market, farm, food coop and grocery store for a look at the seasons finest.   Only to waltz into their kitchens and create the best pies, jellies, jams, salad toppings and other exotic creations.   And why not ? Our beloved Rhubarb is one of the lowest calorie vegetables.  Rhubarbs red flesh ( the red stalks are the best; they’re less acidic, and more tangy) is packed with vitamin K ( responsible for promoting bone health, and reducing neuronal damage in the brain). Rhubarb also contains high levels of several B-complex vitamins like folates, niacin, B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.  With all of these health benefits, the choice for rhubarb is an easy one.  Head to your nearest farmers market, food coop or grocery store, and find the reddest variety, with crisp stalks. Avoid the limp stalks like the plague.   If for some reason the top leaves are still attached, peel them off and discard them, theyre totally unsuitable for consumption.  And then try this delicious recipe from  the Vegetarian Times.  

 

Cheers,

 

Chef Will Hall

 

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Squares

Serves 12

These tangy-sweet squares will keep, covered, in the fridge up to 4 days.
Filling

  • 4 Tbs. orange juice
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 ½ cups diced frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup hulled and sliced strawberries
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated orange zest

Crust and Topping

  • 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
  1. To make Filling: Mix 1 Tbs. orange juice and cornstarch in bowl. In pan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, zest and remaining juice. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; partially cover, and cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until rhubarb is tender. Add cornstarch mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. To make Crust and Topping: Combine oats, both flours, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and salt in large bowl; blend with fork. Add orange juice and oil; blend with fork until crumbly.
  3. Press 2 cups oat mixture into bottom of 9×9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread rhubarb mixture over crust. Stir almonds into remaining oat mixture, and sprinkle over filling. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack. 

 

References: 

Rhubarb nutrition facts and health benefits. (2014, January 1). Nutrition And You.com. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/rhubarb.html

Salute Spring! Ten Ways to Enjoy Rhubarb Compote. (2009, May 9). Simple Bites. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.simplebites.net/salute-spring-ten-ways-to-enjoy-rhubarb-compote/

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Squares. (2005, April 1). thevegetariantimes. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/strawberry-rhubarb-crumble-squares/

50 First Dates

 

One… two, three dates would’nt do. We would  eat the entire pack if we did’nt get this thing under control.  That’s a fact.  It was something like a synchronized feeding frenzy, a date with dates.  We’d split them both open to reveal the slim seed covered by here creamy gooey-ness.  Seeds got tossed, fingers got super sticky, and our mouths were made to feel satisfied. At each bite, we’d promise ourselves and the dates that this mouthful was in fact going to be our last. We made promises we had hoped to keep, but at each turn, we decided that these promises were made to be broken. Each of fifty or so of these delicious fruit were  all eaten as if they were our very first.   It was a  simple recipe for love.

I know what youre thinking… Chef Will… you’re in love with just about everything (there’s some truth to that, delicious and nutritious food is my passion) but dates fall into an entirely different category.  They can be enjoyed as a simple and gooey snack, or as a sweet element to  more meals than you can shake a stick at. And according to the California Dates website (http://www.datesaregreat.com/health-nutrition/ ) dates have antioxidant qualities and have the ability to help keep the heart healthy because of its low saturated fat, trans fat,  and fiber.  Dates are also known to carry a natural balance of calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and  potassium which are all understood to harmonically lower blood pressure.  And to be honest that should be enough evidence to take your time, fall in love and make each fifty of so feel like your very first.  Here’s an adaptation of a recipe that I used to go gaga for ( in addition to one bonus recipe). Give it a try and …. please do enjoy!

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Vegan Cashew French Toast
Ingredients:
4 slices of bread *preferably stale-gluten free if that floats your boat
3/4 cups cashews
*3/4 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup almond milk or soy milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla *or to taste
1 tbs. honey/maple- for serving
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*1/8 tsp nutmeg – or to taste
In a blender, combine cashews and milk. The consistency should be similar to pancake or waffle batter. If it’s too thick, add more water or milk. Next,  mix in vanilla, dates and pulse until very smooth.
Coat bread on both sides evenly and let excess drip off. Heat a skillet with cooking spray or coconut oil and cook each slice a minute or so on each side. Again, be sure your skillet is not too hot as these burn quickly. * be mindful that the first slice or so might come off very “raggedy”, but take your time and trust that youre about to taste a lil piece of heaven.
Spread on vegan margarine and add whatever toppings you like! Enjoy!

Chickpea and Date Tagine

Chickpea and Date Tagine

Serves 8

North African tagines often combine sweet and savory foods to play off the spices used to season them.
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 1 cup pitted dates, halved
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 10 minutes, or until starting to brown, stirring often. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and cinnamon, and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and 1/4 cup water; simmer 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toast couscous in small saucepan over medium heat 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Add 1 3/4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

3. Stir dates and lemon juice into tagine, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve over couscous, sprinkled with cilantro.

References:

California dates health and nutriton. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.datesaregreat.com/health-nutrition/

Chickpea and date tagine recipe. (2011, 12). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/chickpea-and-date-tagine/

Corleone, J. (2013, 12 18). Fresh dates vs. dried dates. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/527815-fresh-dates-vs-dried-dates/

Date image. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.clifbar.com/blog/detail/how_about_a_date2/

Vegan cashew french toast. (2012). Retrieved from http://photofueledfood.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/vegan-cashew-french-toast/

Coconuts Oil and Other Cautionary Tales

In the past, I’ve dedicated this blog to share my love for fresh produce, and its connection to optimum health.  As they say, an apple a day can keep the doctor away.. or something like that.  But in my heart of hearts I’m certain that prevention is key and that we all have the power to make simple every day decisions that will ultimately affect us in the long-term. However, eating well has a few more benefits than would be imagined by most people. Meaning; eating well actually has a direct impact on our natural beauty. What we eat effects just how our natural beauty asserts itself. Your diet can directly impact just how clear your skin is, how white or strong your teeth are, and just how strong or healthy your hair appears. This is my life,  I can speak from experience, you can believe that.  The proofs in the pudding.  With that in mind, I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with one of my closest friends, Ceramic artist Delores Hayes (Twitter @Artistdeloresjhayes) .  Delores is a beautiful creative, free spirit (*picture a modern-day flower child) complete with wild, untamed locs. Just the other day we were deep in a conversation about health, wellness, and pottery (weird mix  I know) when she suddenly interrupted me to ask if I had any useful knowledge about what she could do nutritionally to aid in the growth and strengthening of her locs.  “Of course I’m not a hairdresser, ” I said as a disclaimer, “but I could tell you some things that have worked for me”. With that said, I leaned back in my chair, adjusted the phone with one hand, my glasses with the other, and decided I’d  get straight into my Dr. Oz act.  Actually I stopped short of my act and  decided that I’d just refer Delores and my other friends who were curious about such things to really good sources for that  kind of information.  The truth is, a healthy body will produce a healthy head of hair. I can attest to those facts personally, but I think you’d rather hear it from Nikki Walton of Essence Magazines’ CurlyNikki  (@EssenceMag #AskCurlyNikki).  Its understandable that health and beauty secrets are easier to  hear from a woman… I get it she’s prettier, I’m not jealous (*breaks pen, and wipes ink off of face)

Another very special Sista in my life, Rosie Love, ( proprietor of Land of Milk and Honey Natural Hair Care Products takes a very natural approach to her hair care, and it sure shows.  Rosie’s stunning beauty is an embodiment of self-love and also a living testimony to little girls who shed tears at their mothers feet , hoping that the nightmarish combing sessions , will fade away like acid wash jeans… one day.  By some coincidence Ms. Love’s secret to hair care starts on the inside as well.  Like I always say, “health is wealth”.  When I cornered Ms. Love for some hot hair maintenance tips to share with my readers ; two things happened, she bobbed and weaved in hopes that she could avoid a chance to share her hair secrets ( so humble, so beautiful).  And then she gave me a short list of her hair do’s and donts.  ” 1. Keep it simple 2. Keep it protected 3. Like all things in life hair requires balance! The yin and yang of Hair is strength and moisture! 4. Love your hair and it will love you back! AND lastly; 5. Learn YOUR hair!”  In other words, take care of yourself, and your hair and it will yield dividends in the form of gorgeous locs.  Rosie also goes on to mention the importance of eating vegetables/fruit every day, especially dark green leafy and coniferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts )*all super foods, and garlic. Ms Love also places a lot of emphasis on drinking plenty of water. The take home message, keep it simple, eat well, and love thyself. To contact Rosie Love of Land of Milk and Honey , email her your natural hair care questions @Info@LOMAH.com .

One day, very very long ago.  I was rescued from hair purgatory myself,  by an angel that bore grace, moisture and unrefined coconut oil (Spectrum brand to be exact-found in most food Co Ops , & Whole Foods) in her bosom …true story.  I was on the doorstep of disaster and contemplated the possibility a life with limp, dry locs.  It was a fate most fatal for a man like myself.  This messenger from some heavenly place in the clouds found me at my lowest, and offered me a solution that literally saved my social life.  She massaged coconut oil in my hair after a luxurious shampoo, and natural conditioner.  I remember in those moments how everything in my life took on a newness, a rejuvenation.  I had been rescued and I would now walk the earth with rich moist, locs. Yours truly was the cats meow, a walking work of art.  And I tell you why, coconut oil is a force to be reckoned with. First of all, a little goes a long way.  It’s as natural a moisturizer as you’re going to get, assuming that you choose a non GMO , extra virgin, unbleached, and basically minimally processed version.  Coconut oil is known as a great moisturizer of sorts. Ms. Rosie Love has coined it ” the efficient humectant”.   In other words it  has the capacity to help draw moisture from the air into our hair. Which makes for a miracle moisturizer in my opinion.  This same wonder moisturizer is said to bind to the protein structures, and reinforce the hair fibers thereby making them stronger.  That just happens to be a very long winded way to say that coconut oil protects our hairs’ moisture content, while strengthening it.  So, with all that said, be cautioned, green veggies, fruit, rest, and coconut oil may be good for your health.

Respectfully Yours,

Chef Will Hall

References:

Kitchens, S. (2013, 09 24). Coconut oil for skin, hair, body: 6 things to know about the super ingredient. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/coconut-oil-benefits_n_1625631.html

Laquita, T. (2009, 04 13). Natural hair online support groups. Retrieved from http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2009/04/natural-hair-online-support-groups/

Love, R. (2013, 12 18). Interview by Chef Will Hall []. Coconut oil and other cautionary tales., Retrieved from chefwillhall.wordpress.com

Walton, N. (2012, 10 24). Ask curlynikki: Healthy hair starts within. Retrieved from http://www.essence.com/2012/10/25/ask-curlynikki-healthy-hair-starts-within/

The Black Girl, W. L. H. (2011, 12 21). The benefits of coconut oil. Retrieved from http://blackgirllonghair.com/2011/12/the-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

Stranger things than CRANBERRIES

Tonight was a night full of lessons.  For the most part,  I played the teacher, but I must admit, the biggest lessons were taught to me by my two sons.  It all started with my youngest son Maxwell’s invitation to beat me in checkers – that’s right, this kid invited me to a friendly game of checkers where he would hypothetically embarrass me, and therefore teach me a lesson     ( *shaking my head* these are his words not mine).  I suggested that I teach him a few things, providing that he was open to learning, instead of revisiting the day where I crushed him. He preferred the option to learn, and so we moved forward with a “friendly” game of checkers.  A few hours later, he felt empowered enough trash talk again, so we took a snack break in hopes that a healthy treat and some water would be sobering to  his young mind (* this kid is hilarious)  At the mention of a snack, my eldest son Will walks in (so typical) and suggests a few healthy treats before we could get into our next lesson – a game of  ” Go Fish “.  So we grabbed some unsalted pistachios, some water, fruit and made light conversation.  In my sleepy stupor I looked up to see Will smiling while rinsing something in a bowl.  It could’ve been anything for all I could tell.  So I gave myself a light smack on the face, and prepared for what looked like part two of snack time.  “Whatcha got there?” I asked while rubbing my eyes.  “Fresh cranberries Dad” he answered while tossing a few in his mouth the way most children eat jelly beans.  I grabbed a few myself, and got right down to business.  And then my son asked the question that woke me the way only expresso can. He looked  me in the eyes and said  ” Dad is it strange that I like fresh cranberries?, people always say that I’m a strange kid because I eat them”  I grabbed both sides of his face, and gave him a crazy wide eyed look, while still crunching on a mouthful of cranberries.  “Son, you are absolutely beautiful, cranberries are dope, and so are you, whoever tells you that you’ve got strange taste buds is the problem,… tell em Dad says so” I said.  (*and so begins the conversation on what “DOPE” means)  “Yes, son, there are stranger things than cranberries”.  As the night progressed we moved from checkers, to cards, to movies      ( the movie really did watch me), and that cranberry conversation never left my mind.  All I could think about was how crazy a world we live in.  In a land of information, childhood obesity has become our norm, whereas my son is made to feel like an oddity for his  love of whole foods.  I woke up suddenly in the wee hours of the morning impregnated by this question, and all others born from my lil mister’s original thought- Is it so strange for a child, or anyone for that matter to love fresh cranberries? Do people realize the health benefits of cranberries?  Does America understand cranberries integral role in this countries history…. even before colonization?  After rising  in the early am for a restroom run, I sat on the edge of the bed, and contemplated it all.  After 10 minutes of deep thought, i decided that this was no time for sleep.  I needed some answers that sleep would’nt offer.

Native Americans were very generous to the Pilgrims that settled in the Americas.  They sheltered them, taught them how to survive the harsh winters, how to plant, hunt and how to thrive on indigenous foods. They shared super foods like cranberries, and so in short the Pilgrims and all other such vandals survived, consequently the New America was created. Cranberries were called the  sassamenesh, and  ibimi by native tribes because of its bitter, sour taste,  and later, the “cranberry” by the early settlers due to its resemblance to the Sandhill crane.  Native Americans used the cranberry as dye for clothing, medicine, tea ( the leaves), for hunting bait, and an all purpose food. Yes, the Native Americans recognized the many benefits of cranberries early on. Pemmican, which was made from dried venison and cranberries would be stored in pouches and eaten as quick energy food on long journeys.  Cranberries have been recognized by the USDA Food Composition and Methods Development Lab as having antioxidant qualities. Antioxidants are key in reducing the effects of oxidation, or aging in the body. Cranberries are great for cleansing the kidneys and bladder of toxins. They also boast disease fighting properties, so cancer and heart disease can take a hike.  And thats great news!  Besides all of that cranberries are delicious.  Whether you use them to make juice, sauce, relish, cakes, cookies or accent a simple salad, cranberries are a wonderful way to add color and great flavor to any meal.  So why again would anybody question a young boy for loving cranberries’ life giving properties? Like I said, there are things much stranger than cranberries.  Try this decadent cranberry bar recipe from The Vegetarian Times and reaffirm your love for one of Americas native super foods.

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Cranberry Bars

Makes 25 bars

These vibrant-hued bars look great on an autumn dinner table. The sweetened condensed milk gives them a texture similar to Key lime pie.
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 7 oz. fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make Filling: Bring cranberries and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes, or until berries have burst and are tender. Cool. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth, and strain mixture through sieve. (You should have about 1 cup purée.)

2. Transfer purée to bowl, and whisk in condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in egg yolks.

3. To make Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, and coat with cooking spray.

4. Whisk together flours, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Press into bottom of prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F, and pour Filling into hot Crust. Bake 23 to 28 minutes, or until custard is set. Cool, then chill until firm.

5. Use foil to lift baked dessert out of pan, then remove. Cut into 25 bars. Serve cold or at room temperature.

References:

Aubrey, A. (2010, 11 15). Bow down to the medicinal power of cranberries. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131272331/bow-down-to-the-medicinal-power-of-cranberries

Cranberry bars. (2011, 11). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/cranberry-bars/

Cranberry image. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appforhealth.com/2012/12/cranberries-small-berries-with-a-big-health-benefits/

History of cranberries. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cranberries.org/cranberries/history.html

Whitman-Salkin, S. (2013, 11 27). Cranberries, a thanksgiving staple, were a native american superfood. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131127-cranberries-thanksgiving-native-americans-indians-food-history/

Young, vegetarian, and very relevant (*Meatless Monday Special)

About 13 or more years ago, when most of my closest friends were still cramming back burgers laden with bacon, cheese, some type of rich condiment, and  enough lettuce, tomato and possibly onion to give the whole mess color; I was flaunting my new green lifestyle.  I’d sit down to colorful, carefully prepared meals; hey I’m a Chef so it was going down like a live Bob Marley concert at each and every meal.  My friends would be sure to shake their funky forks in my face, as their lips glistened with animal fat; mouthing “I don’t care, I love meat”.  All I could ever manage to  do was just chuckle and enjoy my meal, quietly, ….ignorance is bliss.   I’ve plenty of memories of  sitting through family gatherings, and crew lunches at work,  struggling to enjoy my meals as I was always the topic of discussion. Somehow my love of plant based foods became the brunt of jokes, while feasting on a dead carcass was “hot in the streets”.  As I grew in knowledge, my meals, and my lifestyle became more sophisticated.  I added exercise, supplements, meditation and all complementary elements into my repertoire and I prospered for it.  I gained lean mean muscle, better breathing, clear skin, and vibrant health.  In contrast, my cronies, well, …each and every one has gained a lot of extra body fat.  They complain not only of their problem areas, but also of the general lack of energy, loss of sex drive (yikes-shoot me when that happens) and  irritability. Well, guess who became  a sounding board, and a go to when my loved ones wanted to make life changing adjustments? Boy that felt good….  Then something happened that not only validated my lifestyle, but blew my mind- Russell Simmons announced that he was going vegan *insert fireworks here*  Now I’m very aware that there were many vegetarians  and vegans before myself, or Uncle Russ.  For example; Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci , and Pythagoras were all vegetarians before it was the hip thing to do.  But when Uncle Russ made that monumental move it shed a very different light on  us African Americans.  And then Rosario Dawson went and made it all sexy ( Listen: http://youtu.be/kKuzyO0WykI).  Since then one of the hippest presidents to bop into the White House; Bill Clinton claimed his vegan lifestyle and brought a little bit more prestige to us “salad eaters”.  Suddenly in my mind I had more in common with the upper echelon. Being a lover of all things green and in between went from a fad to something of more legitimacy. Talk about validation!  Then things got down right dope on  December 4th, 2013  when Jay Z aka HOVA ( Listen:  http://youtu.be/1tWmyPMf3wU) professed his vegan status.

Being a vegan/vegetarian has its health benefits, plenty of em.  Why else would we who grew up gnawing on flesh, bone and sinew change palates, and lighten our plates in such a dramatic way? Some of the more obvious benefits are; a trim waistline, increased energy, decreased rate of heart disease, reducing the rate of cancer, and the cool factor -that’s right you’re automatically that much cooler being a vegetarian (trust me).  Being a vegetarian promises longevity. In fact citizens of Okinawa, Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world based on a 30 year study of 600 centenarians. Citizens of Okinawa enjoy a diet that is predominately plant based.  Okinawans also consume animal products such as fish  and seafood (its an surrounded by water, why not? ), they also include physical activity as part of their recipe for healthy living.  But I digress, back to vegetarianism-  reliever  of menopausal symptoms,  regulator of digestive systems         ( yes enjoy dropping a deuce daily my friends), inspiration for more fun and colorful meals, and  reducer of  all kinds of pollution.  All HAIL VEGETARIANISM!  As the new year approaches, you still have time to clean out your pantries, brush off your food processors, write new shopping lists and prepare to turn up with your new sexy self.  Your friends will roll their eyes at you, and  crack jokes at your expense, but by spring time lets see who has the last laugh.  Here’s an easy, but tasty recipe from The New York Times  to get you cranked up like a true veggie head.

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

You don’t have to make this vegetable-rich dish in a paella pan, though if you do, you’ll get a nice layer of crusty rice on the bottom. Serve it as a main dish or as a side.

1 quart  vegetable stock or garlic broth

Generous pinch (about 1/2 teaspoon) saffron threads

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1 green pepper, cut into strips

2 cups medium-grain rice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and grated on the large holes of a box grater; or peeled, seeded and chopped; or 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice

1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths

2 or 3 baby artichokes, trimmed and sliced (may also use frozen artichoke hearts, sliced)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen lima beans

1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Crush the saffron threads between your fingertips, and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon warm water, and set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy frying pan, an earthenware casserole (cazuela) set over a flame tamer, or a paella pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice. Cook, stirring, for one minute until the grains begin to crackle. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they cook down slightly and smell fragrant, about five minutes. Stir in the saffron with its soaking water, scraping in every last bit with a rubber spatula. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Add the stock, green beans, artichokes and chickpeas or lima beans. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer without stirring until the liquid has just about evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peas. Continue to simmer until the rice is dry, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

Yield: Serves six to eight.

Advance preparation: This does not have to be piping hot, so it can be made an hour before you wish to serve. If you make it further ahead than that, you can reheat it in the pan.

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 432 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 81 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 13 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 324 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 61 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 196 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 10 grams protein

References:

Arielle, G. (2011, 08 23). 10 black celebrities that dont eat meat. Retrieved from frugivoremag.com/2011/08/10-black-celebs-who-don’t-eat-meat/5/

Arielle, G. (2011, 08 23). erykah badu image. Retrieved from frugivoremag.com/2011/08/10-black-celebs-who-don’t-eat-meat/

Benefits of vegetarianism: Vegetarians live longer. (2008, 07 21). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/13/benefits-of-vegetarianism_n_112431.html

Why go vegan or veg?. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/why-go-veg-learn-about-becoming-a-vegetarian/

Richardson, J. (2007, 12 17). Beyonce and jay-z on vegan diet?. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/beyonce-and-jay-z-on-vegan-diet.html

Rose-Shulman, M. (2911, 08 23). Simple vegetable paella. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/health/nutrition/24recipehealth.html