Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nooch Me Again!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

Since I'm not supposed to eat dairy, I'm not supposed to eat cheese. (BOO! HISS!) I love cheese and it has been the toughest thing to give up in the dairy group.  Every now and then I go off the reservation and have some. And every time I pay dearly for it with rashes and acne, and lately even with some facial puffiness and horrible itching.

You'd think that would be enough to get me to stop fudging on it, wouldn't you?

Let's just say I'm pretty smart, but I've never claimed to be all that bright.

In the past two years, I've become well acquainted with nutritional yeast. It's used by a lot of vegans and vegan chefs and it really does lend a "cheesiness" to dishes.

Nutritional Yeast - now isn't that a sexy name, huh?

How about "Nooch?"  Does that do it for ya? Just so ya know, nooch is the nickname for nutritional yeast.

So, you ask, what in the hell is this stuff?

Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It comes in flake or powder form. No, it is NOT the same as the active yeasts used in making bread. It's also quite healthy for you. Low in calories, fat, and salt, nooch is full of fiber and protein and super packed with vitamin B.

It can be found in health food stores or at Whole Foods, but can be expensive in those markets. I buy mine from Amazon and get a lot more for about the same price. 

Here's a great article about it on the Huffington Post.

Okay, so now you know what it is, let's see what you can do with it.

Pretty much any vegan dish that needs a cheesiness spin to it will call for some nooch. It can be added to cashew cream, which I talked about in an earlier post, to make a great "cheese" sauce.

Add it to a basic tomato pasta sauce to give it a cheesy boost.

You can mix it with baked tofu to make a yummy "cheese" sandwich spread or dip. Here is my recipe for that:

1 package of pre-baked tofu, teriyaki flavor works best
1/4-1/3 cup vegan mayo (start with less and add a bit at a time to get your desired consistency)
2 tbsp nooch
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Toss the ingredients into a food processor and pulse, and you have a protein packed "cheese" spread. I love it on toast or crackers or even grilled with slices of tomatoes. It's also great with celery. And go wild with adding your own favorites to the blend such as pimentos, cilantro, fresh basil, or diced chilies,

Yes, this golden goodness is "cheeseless"!
Another favorite thing I do with nooch is make vegan "Parmesan cheese."  I love this stuff! I use it on cooked veggies, pasta, anywhere I'd use regular Parmesan cheese. Last night I added it to risotto. I always have a batch of this in my fridge. It's super easy to make and only takes 5 minutes.  Here is the recipe I use, which I got from Minimalist Baker.

And don't miss these 3 ways to make Mexican cheese - yes, I'm talking queso!  Also from Minimalist Baker and perfect on chips, nachos and dips.

I've even used nooch in omelettes, both egg and tofu based, and in vegan quiches.

Some nooch enthusiasts sprinkle it on popcorn and cheeseless pizza, and mix it into rice, mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower. It's uses are endless.

So if for any reason you must give up cheese, don't despair, just buy some nooch and learn how to use it!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering the Good

Taken about 6 years ago
Tomorrow marks a year since my brother, Thomas Arthur Jaffarian, passed away from complications of liver disease. I've been thinking about him a lot lately, which is natural.

Thom and I were never close and there were many patches of time when we didn't see or speak to each other for years. Sometimes I didn't even know where he was if I had wanted or needed to reach him. Even his kids didn't know where he was a lot of the time. Every now and then he would pop up or we would track him down through some of his online contacts.  He was just that way. He had a lot of personal demons, more than most of us.

To be honest, I have a lot of not so good memories of my brother or my family. Thom and I couldn't have been more different in the paths we chose for our lives. But he was my brother and I loved him and today I'm going to remember some of the good things:

    Walking me to school when I was in first grade. I have old home movies that my mother took of my first day of school and Thom holding my hand as we walk up the street, me with my little lunch box.
Playing board games with me when we were kids even though we were five years apart.

Coming to my defense when other kids picked on me.

Giving me my beautiful nephews and niece: Tom, Derek and Lindsay.

Nights playing cards with my mother and Thom's first wife, Marlaine, with whom I am still as close as a sister.

Going on kiddie rides with me when I was too small to ride them alone. There is one photo of Thom and me that I still remember and wish I could find. We're on one of those rides for really small children. I'm only about four and look terrified and Thom is mugging for the camera, obviously not thrilled to be on a ride for babies. I'll post it if I find it.

He was a wonderful wood carver and I have two of his pieces that I will always treasure. The one to the left is my favorite.

As a young man he was good looking and strong. He didn't always made the best decisions or take the best paths in life, but isn't that true of us all?

Several years before my father passed, he gave me his old Kodak projector and our old home movies. In the next year, as I'm getting rid of a lot of my personal things in preparation to hit to road for retirement, I want to take the time to go through those old films and see if there is anything worth salvaging and having transferred to DVD. I've been meaning to do it for YEARS, but you know how it is, time just slips away. Now it will be a major item on my To Do List as I clean out my apartment. I want Thom's children and grandchildren to see those movies. To see how Thom and I were as kids. That there were good times and fun times.

Be at peace, brother.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Oh The Places I'll Go!

Oh The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Not too long ago I announced that when I retire in a few years that I plan on buying an RV and traveling this beautiful country. Since then I've been doing a lot of research on what type of RV I'd like. And I've done a lot of research on what things I need to take and what I need to leave behind.

Yes, I know I'm three years from retiring, but I'm compulsive (read anal) when it comes to things like this.

Now I'm focusing on making a wish list of places I want to see. Topping the list are two destinations that couldn't be more different or far apart: Key West, Florida and Alaska. Something tells me I won't be seeing both of those in one year, but who knows!

Also on the list are the Smoky Mountains and Bryce Canyon. I'd also like to see Hilton Head, Martha's Vineyard, both North and South Dakota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Austin, TX, Big Sur, and drive across Canada. Places I want to revisit: Sedona,Vermont, New Orleans, British Columbia, Wisconsin and Maine.

And, of course, along the way, I'll be zig-zagging between friends and family and seeing as many of my wonderful readers as possible.

In looking at the various styles and floor plans of RVs, one thing is for sure, it must have a very comfortable set up for writing! (And a decent bed and bathroom.)

The biggest challenge of this retirement plan is putting it aside for now and concentrating on the deadlines still on my plate and the books still to write. After all, I also need to build up my book income to help finance my life on the road. RVs and gas cost money.

But I know from my pursuit of becoming a published author that to reach a goal, you must focus on it. You must have it in your sights, even while you are doing other tasks that must be done. Long term goals must constantly run in the back of your brain like security software runs on your computer. Every now and then you bring it to the forefront and concentrate on laying another brick to the path of that goal, until the long-term goal becomes a short-term goal, and eventually a reality. I'm already taking steps toward dismantling my life in Los Angeles. Not drastic steps, but steps needed to get me started.

And OMG, do I have a lot of crap to get rid of!

Meanwhile, I have other more-pressing goals that also need to be addressed, like new books to write and establishing myself as an independent author.

Just some of the bricks to be laid on my Yellow Brick Road...

Monday, May 09, 2016

Pea Green With Taste!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I love peas! There, I've said it. Out loud.  With no shame.
  • I love them dried in split pea soup.
  • Fresh in soup.
  • Added to casseroles and pastas.
  • Raw in salads.
  • Pea pods sauteed up in a stir-fry.
  • Peas are a cheerful veggie with its bright color and willingness to be added to most any dish, hot or cold.
  • The only way I won't eat them is out of a can.

These little guys are super healthy too!

One of my favorite recipes is this creamy asparagus and pea soup from Minimalist Baker. I make it quite often. At the same time, I usually make this lemony mushroom asparagus pasta or some other pasta with asparagus.  I use the tips of the asparagus with the pasta and the stalks for the soup. Since they're just going to be pureed for the soup, they don't have to look pretty.

I often add a handful of peas to recipes that don't even call for them, both hot and cold. I have a favorite curried cauliflower salad that I adapted from the famous Mendocino Farms cauliflower couscous salad. Here's the basic recipe, BUT in mine I reduce the pasta by half and add a ton more carrots and only half the mayo ... and I add peas!

Another favorite recipe is this cauliflower and chickpea coconut curry from Oh My Veggies. Near the end, while it's simmering, I add a cup of frozen peas that have been partially thawed under the faucet. They also add a lot of bright color to an otherwise beige dish.

This week I made these samosa inspired potato and pea patties from Minimalist Baker, which are also chock full of ... you guessed it ...peas! BTW, I bake the patties in the oven to save on calories and fat. The cilantro based green chutney is to die for!

And let's not forget another health benefit of peas. If you need an ice pack, simply slap a bag of frozen peas on your injury.  After the swelling goes down, you can cook them up and eat them!

There is always a bag of frozen peas in my freezer ... always. I may not always have ice, but I always have peas!