Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chunky Noodle Soup

This vegetarian soup doesn't claim to taste like chicken, but it sure is satisfying!

2 medium potatoes, cut in ½ inch chunks
6 oz. whole grain udon or soba noodles
6 c. water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 Tbsp. canola or other light-flavored oil
2 - 3 cloves minced garlic
½ c. whole wheat flour
3 c. dairy or non-dairy milk (unsweetened)
½ c. nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp. sage (dried)
2 Tbsp. parsley (dried)
1 Tbsp. Frontier Salt-Free Herbal Seasoning (if you don't have this, you can use dill, but the depth of flavor is better with the Frontier blend)
2 tsp salt
1 lb tofu, cut into approx. ½” chunks
1 ½ c. frozen peas

Boil potatoes in 6 c. water. When they begin to get soft, add udon or soba and cook for 9 more minutes. When done, turn off heat but do not drain.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrot in 1 Tbsp. oil in a stockpot. When the onion gets soft, add the garlic and sauté for one more minute. Remove from pan. Add the flour and 2 Tbsp. oil, mix well, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly to achieve a smooth consistency. Whisk in the nutritional yeast. Stir in the onion-garlic-carrot mixture, sage, parsley, Frontier seasoning, and salt. Add tofu and frozen peas, then pour in the potatoes, noodles, and their water. Stir and heat until warmed through. Serves 4 - 6.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Barlean's Total Omega Vegan Swirl

Barlean's is well known for their flax oil and fish oil supplements. Last year, they launched their Omega Swirl line - smoothie-like liquids that are great for people who don't want to swallow bulky pills or choke down a spoonful of oily, fishy-tasting nastiness. There was a fish oil Omega Swirl to provide brain-healthy* DHA and a vegetarian flax oil Swirl for those who want omega-3's without the fish. But flax oil does not contain DHA, and individuals' ability to convert flax omega-3's to DHA varies greatly, so some felt that fish oil was a better supplement.

Fish get their DHA from the algae they eat, and now we can too. Vegetarian DHA is isolated from algae, and since it doesn't come from fish, it is less likely to contain certain environmental contaminants that fish can concentrate. Barlean's Total Omega Vegan Swirl contains flaxseed oil for essential omega-3's and lignans, borage oil for GLA, and algal oil for DHA. Check out the Barlean's web site for more information.

Does it taste good? In one word, yes. Even my 9-year-old son liked it, and given that he complains loudly every time I try to give him any other liquid omega-3 supplement, that is a victory.

The flavor is pomegranate/blueberry, but I don't think it tastes particularly strongly of either - I would call it more of a "mixed berry" flavor. It's sweetened with xylitol, a natural sweetener that is low in calories and used in chewing gum as an alternative to sugar that doesn't promote tooth decay. The texture of Omega Swirl is thick and smooth, and not oily at all. Sometimes flax oil tastes fishy to me, but this is not at all fishy. In a nutshell, I don't have to think of creative ways to hide the flavor of this omega-3 liquid in cereal or yogurt or pasta sauce... it's good to go just as it is.

I did want to mention one important thing about Omega Swirl. The package information warns not to feed it to your pets. This is because of the xylitol used to sweeten it. Xylitol has been shown to be harmful to dogs, and even a small amount can rapidly bring their blood sugar dangerously low and potentially result in death. Dog metabolism is very different from that of humans: chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, and other human foods are toxic to dogs as well.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Equal Exchange Mint Chocolate

I'm a serious chocoholic; some might even say I'm a chocolate snob. My favorites are rich, dark chocolates, but I'm pretty versatile when it comes to this favorite food. But after learning about child slavery on cocoa farms in Africa, I make a point of buying fair trade chocolate in order to avoid supporting this deplorable practice.

Today, on a whim, I bought a bar of Equal Exchange's Mint Chocolate with a Delicate Crunch at the Co-op. Equal Exchange is a worker-owned co-op based in Massachusetts. Their mission is "to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world." I like supporting a company like this.

But warm-hearted feelings aside, did the chocolate taste good?

Wow. This is what Peppermint Patties should taste like, well, if they actually contained real chocolate and had enough of it in them. This was some really good chocolate.

The chocolate is 67% cacao - not quite the 72% cacao I usually crave, but it is clearly a dark chocolate. It contains no milk in its ingredients, and it isn't overly sweet. The clean, fresh note of natural mint is strong without being overwhelming. The crunch is kind of like tiny pieces of candy cane - really, only barely crunchy - not like chocolate bars with big rice crisps.

I gave a piece of it to my son, who usually doesn't like dark chocolate. He asked for another. And another. I had to draw the line. After all, I needed save some to share with my husband.

I think we have a new family favorite...

-K.W., mom, educator, chocoholic, and Co-op member