BodyGuruBlog

Health, Wellness, and My "Multi-Life"

PAN Vegan Pledge – Cooking and Community


Photo of Cooking Demo

One of my favorite aspects of the PAN Vegan Pledge is the weekly meetings. Every Saturday, we meet for about 2 hours. The Peace Advocacy Network (PAN) provides us with plenty of tasty vegan food as well as helpful information. During the meetings, pledges can ask questions, share shopping tips, and generally just get to know one another. In addition to casual socializing, we also enjoy a weekly speaker or two. In all honesty, I was a little afraid that the lectures would be filled with horrifying photos of slaughtered animals. It turned out that the fellow who sat next to me last week had exactly the same fear. We bonded over this and laughed as we realized how counter-productive it would have been to make potential vegan-converts lose their appetites over lunch.

At the first meeting, Christopher McJetters shared why he sees veganism as more than a simple food or even lifestyle choice; for him it’s an issue of social justice. At the second meeting Dara Lovitz explained many of the environmental effects of animal agriculture. I plan to devote a separate post to “what I’ve learned,” so please hold on to your questions for a few weeks.

But not all of our speakers are lecturers. This past week we were treated to a cooking demonstration by Rachel Klein (pictured above), owner of Miss Rachel’s Pantry in Philadelphia. I had heard wonderful reports of Miss Rachel’s weekly Farmhouse Table Dinners, so I had been anticipating this meeting all week. Needless to say, she did not disappoint!

photo of food prep

Rachel made two dishes: a simple carrot ginger soup and a baked tempeh sandwich. As you can see, carrots and ginger were two of the primary ingredients in the soup. To this she also added potatoes (she recommended yukon golds or red-skinned potatoes over russets for a creamier texture). To make the soup even richer, she added coconut milk. Much of this was prepped in advance, because we couldn’t really devote the entire two-hour meeting to food prep. Instead Rachel focused on showing us how to make baked tempeh. First off, she recommended slicing the tempeh into thin strips for maximum flavor and a pleasing texture.

photo, marinating tempeh

She then poured soy sauce and liquid smoke over the sliced tempeh, all the while chatting with us and answering questions. “Where can I buy tempeh?” “Can I substitute Braggs Liquid Aminos?” It turns out that Rachel buys her tempeh from Hardena Resto Waroeng Surabaya, a little Indonesian restaurant that also makes their own tempeh, and yes! you can make substitutions (although one pledge pointed out that Braggs actually has a higher sodium content than soy sauce or tamari). As we were shuttled out of the kitchen for Dara’s lecture, Rachel baked the strips on well oiled baking sheets and then constructed the sandwiches. Everything was so fresh and so delicious! Whole grain baguettes were spread with homemade sun-dried tomato cashew “cheese,” layered with the savory tempeh, and topped with thickly sliced, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil.

One thing Rachel noted was that while vegan cooking doesn’t need to be expensive, prepared vegan food can be pricey due to the amount of prep work involved. As an example, she pointed to the lunch she made for us. Carrots, potatoes, coconut milk, tempeh … none of these are high-priced luxury items. But making a cultured cashew cheese requires significant time, labor, and knowledge. Buying what’s organic and in season and producing quality food in small batches also adds to the cost. For me this was a real “lightbulb moment.” Factory farming is heavily subsidized; small family-owned farms that sell at farmers’ markets or direct to restaurants and caterers are not. Now that I know this, and especially because I’ve sampled Miss Rachel’s cooking, you can bet she’ll be seeing me at one of her dinners in the very near future!

photo of produce from farmers market

Duly inspired by the fresh flavors in Rachel’s cooking, I went straight from the meeting to the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market. Peaches, cherry tomatoes, and “fairy tale” eggplant are only some of the wonderful items that I purchased. As I biked home with both my belly and my backpack full, I started planning a Sunday dinner that would highlight fresh summer produce but also leave us with some leftovers for a busy Monday.

photo of tofu and asparagus

Sunday was a real scorcher, but luckily my boyfriend loves to grill. We marinated the eggplant in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Squares of pressed firm tofu were slathered with a simple mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil. And the asparagus was drizzled with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and sea salt. As the my boyfriend set the coals to fire, I started on a pot of quinoa.

photo of dinner

Once everything was ready, I drizzled a bit of vegan pesto onto the tofu to accentuate its flavor.

photo of leftovers as a salad

On Monday I turned the leftovers into a gorgeous salad for a super easy but equally delicious dinner.

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PAN Vegan Pledge – Week 1

vegan word cloud

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently registered for the PAN 30 Day Vegan Pledge. Now some of you might be wondering, “But weren’t you already vegan?” In a word, “No.” I cut out meat and what I called “big dairy” two summers ago as an experiment prior to a Yoga Workshop Weekend. What I mean by “big dairy” is that I cut out foods like pizza, but I wasn’t so picky that I wouldn’t eat an almond croissant (my favorite pastry) or chocolate bar. I was still, however, eating fish and seafood. As a fitness instructor, I was a bit concerned about attempting a sudden, radical overhaul of my diet, but I also didn’t want to cause problems for my family on holidays (my Mom often orders a sushi platter as part of our holiday dinners).

Two things happened to make me think harder about eating fish and seafood. This past December, my boyfriend and I were walking through a market while traveling in Thailand. All of a sudden a fish leapt out of a bucket and hit me on the leg. I screamed, the ladies in the market laughed, and my boyfriend wished he had been filming. I just thought, “Yeah, I don’t think I need to eat that.”

photo of Thai market

But months prior to that episode I had caught an advanced screening of Cowspiracy, an extraordinarily well researched and well presented documentary on the un-sustainability of animal agriculture. As a result, I had already drastically cut back on my fish and seafood consumption even before being hit by that flying fish.

Cowspiracy Image

I went into the Pledge knowing that all I really needed to eliminate was pastries and … wine. I know what you’re thinking, because I had the same thought, “How can fermented grape juice not be vegan?” It turns out that most wines undergo a process called “fining” to remove sediments and other unwanted particles. And wine makers have long used animal proteins, in particular egg whites, gelatin, casein – which is derived from milk, and isinglass – obtained from the swim bladder of fish, as fining agents. Fortunately, there are vegan wines out there. In fact, I made sure to ask Tria, my favorite wine bar, which of their current selections were vegan. Lucky for me, this season’s favorite summer sipper, Txakolina Arabako, Xarmant, ‘14, is vegan. Fellow wine connoisseurs also put me on to Barnivore, a website and app that allows you to search their massive database to find out whether or not your favorite wine, beer, or liquor is vegan.

But back to the Pledge itself … as part of the pledge, we meet every Saturday for 5 weeks. The meetings include lunch and some kind of informational session, like a lecture and/or cooking demo. At the first meeting we received Goodie Bags full of coupons, a strategically chosen issue of Vegetarian Journal, cruelty-free products for our home and our bodies, and snacks. The Vegan Pledge is free, so everything in the bag was donated by this year’s sponsors.

contents of the pledge goodie bag

At the meeting we were also paired with our mentors, experienced vegans to whom we can turn when we have questions or for moral support if we can’t stop dreaming about summer barbecues. I had just come from teaching an intense hour of Spinning, so I had a hard time not eating everything in my bag. Luckily, Philly’s amazing Blackbird Pizza paid us a surprise visit. I wish I had had the foresight to take photos of all the food, but I was so busy piling my plate with crackers, spreads, salads, nachos, and cookies (the pizza arrived fashionably late) that my hands were full. But I promise to take some action shots of the cooking demos in the following weeks.

All in all it’s been remarkably easy to stick to the plan this week. At times I’ve been exceptionally hungry – which lead me to wonder just how many calories I’ve been consuming in pastries and wine – but then I realized that it’s also been an exceptionally intense week in terms of fitness instruction. By Friday I was dead tired and starving, so I put together a quick dinner of pasta tossed with sautéed mushrooms and vegan pesto with some broiled zucchini on the side – which I ate before I could photograph.

photo of vegan pesto

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Kicking Off 30 Days of Vegan with Sloppy “Jacks”

20150712_192259

Guess who’s back? After two trips to Thailand – December and May – to volunteer with Elephant Nature Park (I know, I should devote a post or two to that) I fell off the blogging wagon. But I recently signed up to join a 30 Day Vegan Pledge and decided that it would be an experience worth sharing.

Now you might be wondering, “What is the PAN Vegan Pledge, and how it is different from just, well, going vegan?” The PAN Vegan Pledge is organized by the Peace Advocacy Network, and it’s quite a comprehensive program. The program coordinators have paired each of us “pledges” with a vegan mentor and put together a series of 5 weekly group meetings that include lunch, lectures, and a few exciting cooking demos! I’ll be blogging about those meetings and my experiences with the pledge as the weeks pass, but I wanted to kick things off by sharing a recipe.

For at least a year or two, I’ve been hearing a lot about using jackfruit as a meat substitute, especially for some form of barbecue. Since it was fairly close to 4th of July, I thought I’d give it a shot. I decided to aim for something that resembled the vinegar-based sauces of Southern pulled pork but with some of the additional textures and flavors of an old favorite, sloppy joes.

Serves around 8:

  • 2 20 oz cans of jackfruit in brine or water
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar*
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

* For a sweeter flavor, use only 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and double the brown sugar

photo of canned jackfruit

Some recipes will specify jackfruit in water and not brine. I checked the sodium contents on a variety of brands and found that they varied wildly. I chose the brand with the lowest sodium content per serving, and it turned out to be packed in brine and not water. Just make sure that the jackfruit is “young” or “green” and not packed in syrup. Open the cans – then drain, rinse, and chop the jackfruit. It will look like this.

photo of jackfruit after it has been rinsed, drained, and chopped

Smash and mince the garlic, and chop or dice the pepper and onion according to your preference. In a large, heavy pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Throw in the garlic, paprika, onion, and pepper. Sauté everything to mix and soften the vegetables.

photo os chopped green peppers and onions

After a few minutes, add your jackfruit and sun-dried tomatoes. Full disclosure: I originally wanted to make this more like a saucy sloppy joe, but I didn’t have any tomato paste lying around. Then I remembered that bag of sun-dried tomatoes! They are optional, but they do add a wonderful flavor, color, and texture to the recipe.

photo inside cooking pot

Add the cider vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, and molasses. Give everything a stir, lower the heat to medium, and cover. If the mixture is dry and everything is sticking to the pot, then add 2-4 tablespoons of water before covering. Let everything simmer until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded, about 20 min. I served this on sandwich flats topped with a bit of bbq sauce and a quick and easy slaw made of napa cabbage and a store-bought lemon tahini dressing.

photo of open-faced sandwich

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#GIVINGTUESDAY a new campaign

GT-THUNDERCLAP

Some of you might remember that last year I created an Indiegogo campaign for my birthday called Birthday for Giving. The campaign was more successful than I ever imagined so I decided to raise funds again this year.

I’ve created a dual-fundraiser in support of Friends of Asian Elephant hospital in Thailand. Created by Soraida Salwala in 1993. FAE is the world’s first elephant hospital. And since its inception it has helped over 3,600 elephants!

FAE is probably best known for Mosha, the baby land-mine victim who was not only saved by FAE but has been outfitted with a prosthetic limb and is now a permanent resident. Since she was only 2 years old when she lost her limb, she seems more comfortable and natural with her prosthetic limb than Motala, an older victim. In fact, Mosha has received numerous adjustments to her prosthetic on account of her active lifestyle.

Mosha, now 9 years old and thirving thanks to FAE

Mosha, now 9 years old and thriving thanks to FAE

In addition to Mosha and Motala, FAE has also come to the rescue of elephants poisoned by contaminated soil, injured through their work in the tourist industry, or in need of maternity care, among other health needs. Because FAE survives on donations, it seemed only natural to direct this year’s fundraising efforts in their direction.

Those living in the Philadelphia area will be able attend I <3 Elephants: a night of yoga and film at Studio 34 (registration for the event is available on their website). The evening will begin with a Breathe and Flow yoga class taught by studio owner Angela Norris and culminate in a screening of Eyes of Thailand, Windy Borman’s award-winning documentary about FAE. For those living outside the Philadelphia area (or who don’t like yoga), I have created an online campaign. To learn more about my campaign and to donate, click on the banner.

I <3 Elephants demo

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Chia Paradise Pudding

Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh

Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh

For years now, I’ve had this idea that Morocco would be the perfect place to spend Christmas. Years ago I’d been fixated on Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky. And while I have no interest in wandering lost in the desert, the prospect of spice markets, sandstone walls, maybe a holiday hammam has always seemed alluring. More recently, the double helping of Yves St Laurent biopics out this year (the photo above is of the Majorelle Garden, which St Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased in 1980) – has reanimated my fantasies of tented banquets in desert oases.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I say, “Those who can’t go, cook.” So sometimes I find myself taking a basic idea – like a standard soup – and flavoring it with daydreams. As the weather turned from summer to fall, and the semester hit me like … a desert sandstorm?

Taliouine Saffron

I had holiday plans … plans to study machete fencing in Haiti, aspirations of returning to Thailand – this time to volunteer at Elephant Nature Park … and the old dream, Christmas in Morocco. There is a lovely spot in Philadelphia called Down Dog Cafe. They serve an elixir, although they do not call it that. It’s a kind of smoothie: almonds, dates, saffron, almond milk, a touch of spice. It’s both cool and frothy, light yet nourishing.

The idea: Morocco, Down Dog’s almond date smoothie, breakfast …

Chia Paradise Pudding

  1. Take 2 tbsp of chia seeds and soak them in a cup of coconut milk (almond, cashew, they all work and impart their own subtle flavors)
  2. Throw in a pinch or two of saffron (saffron needs to be stewed or soaked), a dash of cinnamon, maybe 1/4 tsp of vanilla, something sweet like date sugar or jaggery if you wish
  3. After 15 or so minutes, add a few drops of orange flower or rose water (be sparing, 1/8 tsp could overwhelm it)
  4. Shake and refrigerate overnight
  5. In the morning serve over fruit – I used raspberries, but consider dates and sliced oranges for the full effect

chia pudding

More soon …

Related Links

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Recipe Backlog Part 2 – Veggies Galore

photo of cooked vegetables

An Explosion of Freshness

This is a simple plate of vegetables – most from our farm share: spring onions, steamed potatoes, steamed collards, and roasted kabocha squash (the squash is from a local Asian grocery). When vegetables are fresh, they need little to no embellishment. All that you see here was prepared simply and barely seasoned (the lighting is also poor – in “real life” the vegetables are brighter).

photo of collards on the stove

Collards

Clean the collards in several rinses of water. Chop and steam lightly (they should retain their bright green color). Finish by “stir-frying” with olive oil and sea salt.

photo stream of kabocha squash

Kabocha

Kabocha is an Asian squash whose creamy texture and rich flavor is often compared to chestnuts. The skin is edible, although I like to peel it randomly to create pretty patterns (the skin can get a little hard during roasting; it softens if you steam it). Simply roast kabocha as you would butternut squash.

photo of spring onions

Spring Onions

These look like big scallions! Simply wash and remove any wilting or brown outer layers. I roasted these with the squash, but they are equally or perhaps more delicious when grilled.

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A Backlog of Recipes 1 – “taco” stuffed peppers

Wow! has it really been so many months since my last blog post? Although the Spring Semester and all that crazy weather really took a toll on my blogging, I somehow managed to photograph several meals and remember how I made them. This particular photo generated recipe inquiries when I posted it on Facebook. Hopefully it arrives better late than never!

heeSunday Supper - Vegan Taco Stuffed Peppers

Vegan Taco Stuffed Peppers

Way back in April I was determined to use up a bunch of odds and ends cluttering my kitchen. Whole Foods had featured gorgeous bell peppers and avocados on sale; our CSA had included two onions – one very small; we had one or two scallions, a bunch of cilantro on its last legs, a package of vegan “ground beef,” and an almost empty jar of salsa in our refrigerator. Because the weather was warming up, my mind turned to warm-weather foods. Taco stuffed peppers seemed a terrific way of satisfying both my desires.

Ingredients (feeds 2):

  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 package vegetarian ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • spice mix (I used a tsp of cumin and a pinch of ground chili)
  • optional – frozen or canned corn
  • cilantro
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used three-color quinoa)
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime

This is super easy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking pan. Split the peppers in half and remove seeds and any white membrane. Arrange the pepper halves in the pan so that they lie flat and support one another.

Dice the small onion and slice the scallion – put them in separate piles. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and grease lightly. Sauté the onion until it softens. Crumble in the vegetarian ground beef, add the corn if using, sprinkle with spices, and stir to blend. Once everything is combined and warm, taste and adjust. Remove from heat. Spoon the filling into the peppers. Cover and bake for approximately 20 minutes (more or less depending upon how firm you like your peppers).

Meanwhile … rinse the quinoa and cook according to directions. Once the quinoa has absorbed all the water, quickly stir in the scallions, cover the quinoa again, and let steam for 5-10 minutes).

When you are ready to plate, scoop the avocado flesh into a small bowl, squeeze the juice of 1/4 lime over it, and roughly mash with a fork. Plate everything and garnish with fresh cilantro, salsa, and more lime.

NOTE: vegetarian “meats” are often salted, and conventional taco seasoning (which you can use to season the filling) often contains a significant amount of salt.

Ready for Plating

Ready for Plating

What to do with leftovers? Taco salad! I used spring mix, blue corn chips, diced avocado, leftover quinoa and taco filling, and salsa. Even better the next day – and a better photo too!

photo of taco salad

Taco Salad

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Black-Eyed Pea Chili

photo of dried peas

Back in February I planned to work on two vegan items: a baked pasta and black-eyed pea chili. Baked pasta had been on my mind because I just love noodles. Thick vs. thin; short vs. long; rice vs. wheat … pasta offers so many delicious choices! In all honesty, despite the fact that Asian noodle bowls have become my default quick meal, I would be hard pressed to choose between a steaming bowl of Chinese-style, dumpling noodle soup and a plate of penne all’arrabbiata.

My desire to create a black-eyed pea-based chili, on the other hand, is owed to chef Matthew Gansert. A local gastropub had been featuring his vegan black-eyed pea chili. It was a perfect winter dish: wonderfully rich, spicy, and served with homemade tortilla chips, which formed the perfect scoop. (Don’t even get me started about his vibrant millet salad!) But earlier this year the gastropub changed “concept,” Matthew headed to Brooklyn, and with him went the chili.

Never one to sit and sulk I thought, “Well I’ll just make my own chili.” But there was a slight problem: since it had never occurred to me that I might someday need to make it myself, I never paid his chili the “right” sort of attention. That is, I simply savored it–never noting various vegetables, never peeling back its layers of flavor. So instead of trying to recreate it from memory, I decided to start from scratch. My chili certainly isn’t that chili, but it suits the eclectic weather we’ve been experiencing: hearty enough to chase away lingering snows, but bright with a spring-like mixture of fresh herbs added just before serving.

photo of chili in pot

Ingredients:

  • 1-1 1/4 cups of dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper (more or less, I used marash, go easy if using cayenne)
  • olive or other cooking oil
  • can or pack of diced, stewed, whole, and/or fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable broth
  • salt to taste
  • generous handful of chopped herbs (I used scallions, fresh oregano, parsley, and cilantro)

photo of fresh herbs

Directions:

  • soak the peas overnight in plenty of water, drain and rinse when ready to cook
  • dice the pepper and onion (your choice, I went big enough that they wouldn’t fall apart during cooking)
  • smash and mince the garlic
  • heat oil in a big pot over medium heat (enough oil so that the bottom is lightly covered)
  • sauté the onion until it starts to soften, add the pepper and garlic and stir
  • add the spices and stir until fragrant (this happens quickly)
  • add the soaked and drained beans, tomatoes (with their juice), and vegetable broth, stir
  • bring the pot to a boil, adding water if need
  • cover and simmer on low until beans are tender (mine took little over an hour)
  • check your chili, if it’s a bit watery, open the lid and let some of the excess liquid boil off
  • just before serving mince one or two scallions and coarsely chop herbs, stir in just before serving or sprinkle on individual servings

bowl of chili

NOTE: I ended up not adding any additional salt because the tomatoes contained enough to for the entire pot. That said, I think I could have doubled the tomatoes and turned up the heat by doubling the chili pepper.

Related Links:

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Valentine’s Day Shout Out

Jumbo Size Thanks!

Jumbo Size Thanks!

Wow! Has it really been over a month since my last blog post? In my defense, I’ve been busy. Busy with a new semester, busy with training … but I think that the surprising amount of snow that has fallen on Philadelphia has contributed greatly to my sluggishness. Whenever it snows and we get a day off, I hibernate, more or less. I don’t mean that I sleep all day (although I do try to maximize time spent in pajamas), but I end up reading novels, making soup etc.

I’d like to use Valentine’s Day to send my long-promised Shout Out to everyone who donated to my Birthday for Giving campaign! Jumbo size trumpet blast thanks to:

Angela Yecco * Diana Erbsen * Cris Hellerstein * Maryanne Desantis * Deirdre Woods

Alexander Marvel * Carly Bodner * Linda Johnson * Kim Corson * Susan Ingalls

Matthew Johnson * Christina Celentano * Kimberly Brickley * Danielle Thomson

Kristina Rozan * Ximena Lara Reyes * Caroline Stein * Kelly Britt * Carmen McLean

Thomas Anthony Dixon * Molly Campbell * my family

Indiegogo * and all my anonymous donors

Both the Asian and the African elephant face the threat of extinction from habitat loss and rampant poaching. You are all such angels – your generosity has given these amazing creatures hope.

In the past few months the United States has crushed six tons of seized ivory to send a message to poachers and traffickers that illegal trade will not be tolerated. See the Fish and Wildlife Services page for answers to common questions. Following the U.S. lead, several other nations have destroyed their stores including China and France, with the Philippines to follow later this year.

Meanwhile, the Elephant Parade finished its U.S. run in Dana Point with a fund-raising auction back in 2013. The latest U.K. Tour has begun and will feature the winner of a Robin Hood-design contest. Of course, I’m crossing my fingers that they will announce an East Coast U.S. location this year.

Thank you all once again, and don’t be a stranger to my blog – I’m determined to create a vegan black-eyed pea chili and baked pasta in the coming months, so stay tuned for the recipes!

Happy Valentine's Day to all Ele-Angels!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all Ele-Angels!

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Happy 2014: Celebrating the New Year, Japanese Style!

photo of kagami omochi

kagami omochi

Happy 2014 everyone! My family has always celebrated New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with Japanese traditions. On New Year’s Eve my family would share a steaming pot of ramen as we watched the ball drop over Times Square. Although it is more traditional to eat soba (buckwheat noodles), ramen are quick and simple–and were more readily available when I was growing up. My mother always told me that long noodles would guarantee a long life, and to this day I make sure both to eat noodles on New Year’s Eve and to call or email to let her know. This year my boyfriend and I enjoyed a quick pre-party snack of pan-fried noodles with napa cabbage and scallion, but in the past I have served up everything from Japanese-style noodle soup to spaghetti aglio et olio.

photo of soba noodles

soba noodles – click for the full story

On New Year’s morning, we always awoke to the sounds and scents of ozoni in the making. Ozoni is a delicious soup that features mochi, or cakes made of steamed and pounded sticky rice: Mochi-Making video. These days you can find ice cream-filled mochi at some Japanese restaurants or red bean-filled and sesame-coated fried mochi balls from a dim sum cart all year long, but I always associate mochi with the first few days (or week) of the year. The photo at the top of this post features kagami omochi, which is a traditional Japanese New Year’s decoration. Click on it for full details.

Ozoni recipes vary by region and according to family tastes. At base, it consists of mochi cakes that are warmed, softened, and served in a broth. I’ve linked several recipes below. In the past I have made my broth by stewing a split chicken breast, seasoning the broth with mirin and soy sauce, and adding anything from sliced bok choy to mustard greens (a delicious surprise when I was unable to find any Asian greens), and dried shiitake mushrooms. This year I am trying my hand at Kansai style, which features a shiro (white) miso-based broth. Apparently, Kansai or Kyoto-style ozoni also favors round balls of stewed mochi, but I can only find rectangular pre-packaged mochi in my area. It tends to be a bit hard, so I pre-heat it in my toaster oven–350 degrees, lightly greased with toasted sesame oil–until it starts to puff up before adding it to the soup.

photo of packaged mochi

Packaged Mochi

I’m a few days behind on my ozoni making, so I cannot upload any photos. I can, however, offer a quick snack suggestion: norimaki mochi.

  1. Heat one piece of mochi per snack in the toaster oven as described above (you can also use a microwave, but keep an eye on it and stop the cooking as soon as it starts to balloon).
  2. While the mochi is baking, mix about a tablespoon of soy sauce with a teaspoon of sugar on a small plate or bowl.
  3. I like to warm my seaweed for a crisper texture and that toasty aroma. Holding onto one corner, gently flip a piece of nori over a burner (electric or gas) repeatedly until the color starts to change, and you smell the seaweed.
  4. Roll the mochi in the soy sauce-sugar mixture (the heat of the mochi will melt the sugar), wrap in seaweed, and enjoy!

Up next: final details and shout outs on my #Indiegogo Birthday for Giving campaign!

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