Friday, January 28, 2011

Walnut-Lentil Stuffed Mushrooms and Crispy Tenders

Few days ago I found a great recipe for Walnut-Lentil Stuffed Mushrooms in the newest issue of Vegetarian Times Magazine (January/February 2011, page 70). Lately, I have been trying to get more Omega-3 fatty acids into my diet, especially DHA. I take a daily vegan liquid supplement with flaxseed oil, borage oil and DHA algal oil to get enough Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. The liquid supplement provides me with plenty of essential fatty acids, but I am trying to get more through my diet.
Unfortunately pure DHA is found mostly in fish oil and the vegan version (made from algae) can be a quite expensive supplement. The good news is, according to Vegetarian Times Magazine, your body can convert ALA (found flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil ) into DHA :-)
I have been trying to eat walnuts, ground flaxseed and extra flaxseed oil (on top of my supplement) almost everyday.
This recipe has walnuts and walnut oil so it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. I loved the stuffing so much that I made an extra batch of the walnut-lentil stuffing and used it as a pate the next day. For the pate I cut back on the sage a little since I found it a bit overwhelming for the pate.
I used Edward & Sons "Not-Chick'n bouillon cubes" dissolved in water instead of the vegetable broth and it added a wonderful flavor that a vegetable broth could not. I served the stuffed mushrooms with baked Gardein's Crispy Tenders and a salad. I like Gardein products for the taste and because they use ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, kamut and millet) in their products, plus it is very convenient.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dirty Rice

I created this recipe when I needed a quick, filling and tasty dinner few years ago. I make this dish quite often and I wanted to share the recipe with my readers. This time I didn't have any avocados so I used 8 oz frozen pepper strips instead. I cooked them along with the onion. I served the Dirty Rice with salsa verde for an extra flavor kick. The original recipe does not include the pepper strips, but you can use them along with the avocado. Enjoy!

Dirty Rice

1 Tbs oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 15-oz can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked rice
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1-2 tsp cajun seasoning
salt and black pepper to taste
tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips (optional topping)


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add corn, beans and cajun seasoning, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in rice and cook 2 more minutes. Gently stir in diced avocado and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips, if desired.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Teeccino Herbal Coffee giveaway and How I kicked my caffeine habit

A long time ago, caffeine and I used to be friends, but now we are enemies. I had to kick my caffeine habit last February. I have been caffeine-free for almost a year now :-)

Caffeine is a benign chemical (alkaloid) that is well-tolerated by most people. It is a very popular legal psychoactive stimulant that is consumed all over the world. I grew up in a family that didn't allow kids to have any caffeinated beverages (besides tea), because they thought that kids were hyper enough already. I had my first glass of Coca Cola when I was 10 or 11 years old, and my first cup of coffee when I was 17. During my childhood Coca Cola was more of a treat during birthdays, holidays and other occasions, not a diet staple like in other families. When I was 17 years old, I became addicted to Nescafé instant coffee with milk and sugar. I loved the taste and I enjoyed the caffeine lifts that my morning and afternoon coffee provided, but I hated the jittery feelings after. However, my desire for a cup of delicious coffee was stronger than all the unpleasant feelings that followed after. As a teenager, there were times that I would go to a party and drink about 8 bottles of Red Bull Energy drinks during one night. My heart was racing and I was all bursting with energy, but I didn't feel bad. When I moved to USA, I started to drink more brewed coffee instead of the instant coffee, and quite a lot of soda, including Coca Cola and Mountain Dew that are both high in caffeine. When I became a vegan I learnt to like my coffee black, or with some soy creamer, coconut creamer, or almond milk.

Unfortunately, I became very sensitive to caffeine over the years. I started to feel very drowsy in the morning, alert after a cup of coffee and then drowsy again, but too wired up to sleep. I started to have irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), chest pains and anxiety. I was nervous, my stomach was upset and I experienced frequent heartburn. Last February I made a strong cup of instant coffee and about 20 minutes after I thought that I was having a heart attack, which turned out to be a panic attack. That experience was so painful and horrifying that I decided to kick my caffeine habit for good. I quit cold turkey.

I started to drink a lot of herbal, fruit or decaf green teas.

For the next few weeks I suffered from horrible caffeine withdrawal, such as headaches, irritability and fatigue. I was extremely tired all day, especially in the mornings. Few weeks later I started to feel better. I stopped feeling foggy. I wasn't a zombie in the morning anymore and I started to have more energy. However, I had strong coffee cravings so I decided to try decaf coffee for a while. That didn't work because the decaf coffee gave me heartburn. Not to mention, decaffeinated coffee isn't always 100% caffeine-free. It may contain 3 - 6 mg caffeine per 6 ounces cup. Since last February I have been on a mission to find a good tasting coffee alternative that would not give me heartburn.

So far I found these two brands that I really like.

This natural caffeine-free coffee alternative looks and smells just like a regular ground coffee. When it comes to taste, it is very similar to coffee, but I would say it tastes even better than coffee. It slightly reminds me of New Orleans’ chicory style coffee.

I brew Teeccino Herbal Coffee in my French press. It brews just like a regular coffee. This herbal coffee is non acidic so it does not cause a heartburn. It contains prebiotic-inulin from chicory root that improves digestion and intestinal health. It also contains a heart-healthy potassium and soluble fiber. Teeccino comes in many varieties and flavors, plus light, medium and dark roast. I personally prefer the light and medium roasts.

I have been buying the Mediterranean variety in Almond Amaretto, Hazelnut, and Original flavors at my local Whole Foods Market for several months now. They don't have a big selection at my Whole Foods Market, but Teeccino has tons of other flavors and varieties online. They were so nice and sent me some samples of other flavors to try.

Some of the main ingredients in the Mediterranean varieties are organic carob, organic barley, organic chicory, organic dates, almonds and figs. The Original flavor contains organic orange peel, the Almond Amaretto has natural amaretto flavor and the Chocolate Mint has organic cocoa, peppermint oil and organic peppermint leaves. The Mediterranean variety is slightly sweet so I don’t feel like I need too much sugar in it. I liked all the flavors, except for the Chocolate Mint. Maybe it is because I was never a big fan of Chocolate Mint ice cream and other stuff with that flavor.

The Maya varieties have similar ingredients, plus organic ramon nuts that have been wild-crafted in Guatemala, from a small family farmers. The Maya herbal coffee varieties that I tried were Caffe, Chai (with organic ginger and organic cardamom), and Chocolate (with organic chile flakes).

They also have some flavors in convenient tea bags that brew just like a tea, but taste like coffee.


They have a great suggestion for kicking the caffeine habit- Mix 3/4 regular coffee to 1/4 Teeccino. Then gradually decrease coffee and increase Teeccino until you are caffeine-free.

Another great coffee alternative is Pero. Pero is an American name for European brand Caro). I have been drinking Caro ever since I was a little kid. I was thrilled to found it in USA after I moved here. The name is different here, but the ingredients are the same (barley, malted barley, chicory and rye). Pero is an instant all natural beverage that tastes very good. It is very easy to prepare since it dissolves instantly in hot water. I don’t like it plain though, I only drink it with milk (almond or coconut) and sugar. That way it tastes amazing and reminds me of my childhood. I buy Pero at my local Whole Foods.

I decided to share 5 of my Teeccino Herbal Coffee trial sizes (each brews 6 cups) with one lucky reader.

I will pick one random comment on January 31st, Monday evening. There are several ways to enter this giveaway, but you have to leave a comment for each option to count, if you leave one big comment with everything in it, it will only count as one. The more comments, the better the chances are to win.

Mandatory entry:

# Leave a comment telling what is your favorite coffee alternative or if you prefer real coffee.

Extra entries:

# Become a follower of this blog and leave a comment that you did or that you already were a follower

# Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment that you did with your Twitter name

# Follow Teeccino on Twitter and leave a comment that you did with your Twitter name

# Tweet about this giveaway and leave me a comment that you did (1 tweet per day is allowed). Include @CzechVeganBlog and @Teeccino in the tweets.

# "Like" Czech Vegan in America on Facebook and leave a comment that you did

# "Like" Teeccino on Facebook and leave a comment that you did

# Mention this giveaway, with the link, in a blog post, and leave a link to the post in a comment

# For extra 5 entries-make any recipe from Czech Vegan in America blog, and blog about it. Leave 5 separate comments for the entries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nacho Mom's Fire Roasted Vegan Queso review

Few weeks ago I bought my first jar of the new cheesy dip phenomenon known as Nacho Mom's Ultimate Vegan Queso. I loved it! They recently came out with a new product- Nacho Mom's Fire Roasted Vegan Queso. I could not wait to try it.
The new Queso is not only vegan, fat-free, soy-free, and low in calories (the whole jar has only 160 calories) like the original Queso, but it is also gluten-free. That is great news for people on gluten-free diet. I don't mind gluten so it does not matter to me.
This Fire Roasted Queso has very similar ingredients like the original one, but they changed the flour to gluten-free and added fire-roasted chipotle peppers. I love chipotle peppers! They fire-roasted the tomatoes as well. It has a nice punch of spicy and smoky flavors while being very smooth and cheesy at the same time. I love it! I used it as a dip, of course :-) I also used it in few of my recipes. I think that this one is even better than the original version.

I topped my bean chili with vegan sour cream and Fire Roasted Vegan Queso and it was delicious!

I added some Fire Roasted Vegan Queso to my Mexican Quinoa dish along with bell peppers, onions, corn and avocados.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Czech goulash with bread dumplings

Have you ever tried goulash? The original goulash comes from Hungary. Czech goulash is a bit milder than its Hungarian cousin, though both rely heavily on sweet paprika. Every Czech family and every pub cook has his or her own recipe variation. Czech Goulash is traditionally served with bread dumplings, but you can also serve it with bread or potatoes. The traditional version with dumplings can be found in every Czech pub and restaurant, it is one of the most popular dishes that you can eat in Czech Republic. It is often served with a glass of beer to flush it down nicely. I make my own vegan version of the goulash.
A very important note about paprika. I only use Czech or Hungarian paprika (the sweet-mild version, and a little bit of the hot-spicy version). If you live in USA, please, don't use the regular cheap paprika from a grocery store, it does not have any flavor, it just adds color. I learnt that the hard way when I made a goulash for my family six years ago. Buy the Hungarian paprika, it is not hard to find and it is not too expensive.
I usually make my goulash using seitan, but today I made it with my favorite "beef" (Beefless Tips) from Gardein. It was wonderful.
If you make the goulash with this Gardein "beef", follow the recipe bellow. If you use seitan, add it to the goulash after you add the liquids, not at the end of cooking.

I haven't made dumplings since I moved to America almost six years ago, because I was afraid that the flour that is sold here would not work for the dumplings. The original flour that is used for making dumplings is quite different from the regular flour here. It is is more coarse.
I found a recipe that uses all-purpose flour so I decided to try it. The recipe was adapted from The Vegtastic blog. I tweaked it a bit, but it turned out quite good. The dumplings were a little slimy on the surface (because of the very fine flour). If you decide to make the bread dumplings, please remember, not to cook it for the recommended 25-30 minutes or it will get hard!
The best method for boiling the dumplings: cook one side for 10 minutes and then flip it and cook the other side for 10 minutes. I made the dumplings using the recommended bread, but you don't need to use bread. I used unsweetened almond milk and more salt. If you use the recommended 1/2 tsp salt, the dumplings will not be salty at all. I used 1 tsp and it was very good.

Czech Goulash

1 9-oz pkg Gardein Beefless Tips (or 9 oz seitan, cut into chunks-read note above)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs. canola oil
3 cups warm vegan "beef" broth (I used 2 cubes of Not-Beef bouillon from Edward & Sons and 3 cups water)
1 1/2 Tbs. flour
3 tsp. sweet paprika or 2 tsp. sweet paprika and 1 tsp. hot paprika (see note above)
1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/4 cup plain tomato sauce

salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, caraway seeds and flour and cook 2 minutes stirring constantly. Pour in the warm broth and tomato sauce. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more broth or water if the goulash becomes too thick. Prepare the Gardein Beefless Tips according to the package directions. Add them to the goulash. Sprinkle the marjoram over the goulash (rub it with your fingers to release the aroma) and cook 2 more minutes, uncovered. Season with salt and pepper and serve over bread dumplings.