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Chef Kayla's Blog

Vitamin D
February 12. 2018
 
Vitamin D is produced as a result to the body’s exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Vitamin D also occurs naturally in fish, fish liver oil, egg yolks and fortified milk. It is essential for building strong bones because it helps the body utilize calcium from the diet. Low levels of the vitamin are associated with Rickets which is a condition that occurs when bone tissue doesn’t sufficiently mineralize, resulting in soft bones and skeletal deformities.
 
Symptoms of low levels include muscle fatigue and bone weakness. Over time this can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. In some cases, there have been ties between insufficient levels of Vitamin D and asthma in children, cognitive impairment in older adults and even cancer.
 
Outside of diet and sun exposure, there are several factors that can contribute to insufficient Vitamin D levels in certain individuals. In some cases, the kidneys can’t convert the vitamin to its active form. Other people suffering from conditions like Crohn’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis or Celiac Disease, can’t properly absorb it in their digestive tracts. Furthermore, obesity can cause issues since Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells. Individuals with a body mass index of over 30 tend to have low levels.
 
Sunscreen blocks the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Light skinned people need 10-15 minutes of exposure per day, while dark skinned individuals and the elderly require 20-30 minutes. If you follow a strictly plant based diet and do not meet these sun exposure minimums, supplementation is recommended.



Butternut Squash with Maple, Pecans and Sage
February 5, 2018
Serves 4 as a side dish
 
Butternut squash is an excellent source of potassium and fiber. This recipe is really simple and it makes a great dish during the Winter.
 
1 large (or 2 small) butternut squash, peeled and cut in thin half moon circles
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. minced sage
3 tbsp. chopped pecans
 
Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the butternut squash, oil, maple syrup, paprika and salt together in a bowl. Mixing well to fully incorporate. Spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and roasted.
 
Remove the cooked squash from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with sage, pecans and serve



Blueberry-Almond Granola Bar
January 22, 2018
Makes 9 Bars
 
These granola bars make a great afternoon snack. You can wrap them individually in plastic wrap and hold them refrigerated for up to a week. You can also swap the blueberries and almonds for different nut/ fruit combinations.
 
1 heaping cup chopped dates
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup almond butter
1 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup dried blueberries
 
Pulse the dates in the bowl of a food processor until a thick paste forms. Transfer the paste to a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients, folding with a spatula until everything is incorporated.
 
Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with plastic wrap. Pour the granola bar batter into the pan and, with your hand covered in a sheet of plastic, press the batter evenly into the bottom of the pan.
 
Refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting into 9 equal squares.


Basic Risotto
January 15, 2018
Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as a side dish
 
Risotto is great any time of year and with this basic plant based version, you can add in whatever veggies and herbs you want to keep it seasonal. In the photo, we did a summer version with shredded zucchini, roasted tomatoes and corn and fresh basil and rosemary.
 
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
½ yellow onion minced
1 tbsp. minced garlic
3-4 cups good quality vegetable stock, keep hot in a pot on the stove
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
 
In a large heavy bottom pot, heat the oil or butter, over a medium flame. Add the onions and garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add in the rice and stir 2-3 minutes to give the rice a nutty toasted flavor.
 
Using an 8-ounce ladle, add 1 cup of stock to the rice mixture, along with the thyme and bay leaf. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed and repeat this process until you have used three cups of liquid. At this point season the risotto with salt and pepper and evaluate the texture. If the rice seems too aldente, add the remaining cup of stock. The finished risotto should be creamy and soft.
 
Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and add cooked vegetables or herbs before serving. 


Vitamin B12
January 8, 2018
 
A thoughtful, well rounded plant based diet can easily provide all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle. The one exception to this is the vitamin B12. All vitamin B12 is made in the digestive tracts of animals. Plants have no need for it, which is why they don’t produce it. Eliminating animal foods from one’s diet means that supplementation is necessary because B12 is vital for a number of body functions, such as cell division and formation. It is also involved in the metabolism of fats and proteins.
 
Humans can store B12 in the liver. In some cases, this supply can last for up to three years, but an overt deficiency occurs when this supply drops to zero. Signs of a deficiency can include anemia, extreme fatigue, nervous system damage and some researchers are even beginning to correlate ties between B12 deficiency and mental health issues like depression.
 
The recommended daily amount of B12 is 2.4 micrograms. Plant based eaters can obtain this by consuming at least two daily servings of fortified foods, such as plant milks, juices, nutritional yeast and bars. Alternately, a supplement may be used. If you do choose to take a supplement, be sure that it is chewable or dissolves under the tongue to ensure proper absorption. B12 supplements come from bacterial cultures rather than animal products, however a few companies do include gelatin in their formulas so be sure to check labels.


 
 
Thai Tofu in Lettuce Cups
Serves 4
December 18, 2017
 
14 ounce extra firm tofu
3 cups basil, finely chopped
2 cups shitake mushrooms, minced
2 tsp. chopped garlic
4 tbsp. Tamari
3 tbsp. vegan Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
½ cup roasted cashews, chopped
2 heads Butter Lettuce, leaves separated and cleaned
chili flakes, to taste
 
Remove the tofu from the package and gently squeeze the tofu over a sink to drain excess liquid. Crumble the tofu over a medium bowl and use a fork to mash until it resembles the texture of ground meat. If needed, massage the tofu with a clean kitchen towel to remove moisture.
 
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes, until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook another 4 minutes until the mushrooms begin to release their juices. Add the tofu to the pan and cook 8-10 minutes stirring often until the tofu begins to brown.
 
While the tofu is cooking, combine the tamari, hoisin sauce, and vinegar in a bowl. Mix until well combined.
 
Pour the sauce mixture over the tofu and cook 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Transfer the tofu to a platter and top with the crushed cashews.
 
To eat, spoon some of the tofu mixture into a lettuce leaf. Sprinkle with chili flakes, if desired.
 
Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwich
December 9, 2017
Serves 2
 
For the Spicy Mayo
2 tbsp. Vegan Mayo
2 tsp. Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha
1 tsp. lime juice
 
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
 
For the Cucumber Salad
½ small cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp tamari
3 Tbsp. cilantro leaves
3 tbsp. torn basil leaves
3 tbsp. torn mint leaves
 
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
 
For the Tofu
½ carton tofu, drained and sliced into ¼ inch thick steaks
¼ cup cornstarch
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 each 4 inch pieces of fresh French Baguette, sliced open horizontally
 
Season each tofu steak on both side with salt and pepper. Dredge the steak in cornstarch, shaking off any excess.
 
Add the oil to a medium size saute pan and heat over a medium high flame. Add the tofu steaks to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes per side until crisp and golden brown
 
To Serve: Spread the spicy mayo on the inside of the sliced baguettes. Insert a tofu steak in each sandwich and fill with the cucumber salad. Serve immediately.


Calcium
December 1, 2017

The skeletal structure is a storage system for Calcium and it provides a steady supply of this mineral to the blood stream. Calcium is needed for a variety of different body functions including muscle relaxation and nerve cell transmission. The body does a very good job of ensuring that calcium levels in the blood remain consistent and because of this, it is difficult to measure deficiencies that may be occurring in the skeleton until Osteoporosis sets in later in life. It is therefore important to eat a variety of different foods that contain calcium so that the skeleton remains healthy throughout life.
 
Vegetables like kale, collard greens, broccoli and turnip greens are all excellent sources because the body can absorb up to 50 percent of their calcium content. Other excellent sources are fortified plant milks and juices and also tofu, which is generally processed with calcium sulfate. Six to eight serving of calcium rich foods each day is ideal. One serving is roughly equal to a ½ cup of fortified plant milk, ½ cup of calcium rich vegetables, ½ cup tofu or tempeh, or 2 tablespoons almond butter or tahini. By eating a wide variety of these types of foods, you can ensure you are getting the proper daily dosage. If you have any doubts, a calcium supplement may be taken to make up the deficit.



Whole Grain Guide
November 12, 2017

The term “whole grain” refers to the entire seed or kernel of a grain plant. It includes three edible parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Whole grains are amongst some of the most beneficial foods we can include in our diets. Research shows that they help prevent against heart disease, diabetes and even colon cancer.
 
Unfortunately, nearly 95% of the grains most people eat are refined. This is, in large part, because in the 1800’s the milling industry began a new processing method in which they removed the bran and the germ. It seemed like a smart change at the time because it allowed grains to sit on grocery store shelves for longer amounts of time without spoiling. However, in terms of nutrition, it was a big mistake.
 
When purchasing grains for your family, be sure to check the label for the phrase “100% whole grain.” Anything else may mean your missing out on the important nutritional benefits of these foods. Below are just a few whole grains you will wants to stock in your pantry
 
Whole Wheat: Can be found in breads and pastas which are rich in fiber.
 
Oats: Rich in antioxidants. Skip processed version like instant oatmeal and opt for cooking your own.
 
Brown Rice: Contains antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Basmati, Jasmine, Red or Black version are all delicious and nutritious.
 
Freekeh: This is an Arabic grain that is low in carbohydrates with four times more fiber the brown rice. It also acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which helps with digestion.
 
Quinoa: This is a South American power food and although technically considered a seed, it is an excellent source of protein and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
 
Couscous: Delicious and quick to cook. Be sure to purchase the whole grain version which has more fiber that regular.
 
Corn: Whole, organic corn is extremely healthy. It is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium and phosphorous.
 
Bulgur: Although it is minimally processed, it is still an excellent source of fiber and protein and it is delicious in tabouleh. 


Lentil Burger
October 23, 2017
Makes 4 burgers
 
This burger was inspired by a recipe featured in the May 2017 edition of Cooking Light magazine. We made a few alterations to the burger patty itself and opted to make the yogurt sauce plant based by using Coyo coconut yogurt instead of traditional dairy yogurt the recipe called for. The result is a really delicious combination of flavors and textures. These burgers would also work well with traditional toppings if cabbage and yogurt sauce is a little too wild.
 
For the Burger
1 ¾ cups cooked lentils, drained and patted dry
½ cup grated carrot
½ cup grated zucchini
1 tsp. cumin
½ yellow onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup tahini paste
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 whole wheat buns
 
In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
 
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the lentils, tahini and cumin. Process 3-4 times until coarsely chopped. Transfer the lentil mixture to the bowl with the onions.
 
Add carrots, zucchini, panko bead crumbs and cilantro to the same bowl. Using a spatula, fold the ingredients together until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
 
Divide the burger mixture into four even patties. Store the burgers, covered, in the refrigerator for at least two hours before pan searing. They can also be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to three months.
 
For the Sauce
¼ cup Coyo Coconut yogurt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. tahini sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
 
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
 
For the Cabbage
1 ½ cups thinly sliced cabbage
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
 
Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.


Tempeh Reuben
Serves 2
October 9, 2017
 
This sandwich is super indulgent for when you are craving something salty, crispy and flavorful. Serve with a lightly dressed green salad to balance out the richness of the sandwich
 
For The Sauerkraut Sauce
½ cup prepared Sauerkraut, drained
½ teaspoon brown sugar
2 tbsp. Veganaise
2 tbsp. finely chopped pickles, plus 1 tbsp. pickle juice
1 tablespoon ketchup
½ teaspoon horseradish sauce
 
For the Sandwiches
4 slices Sprouted Rye Bread
6 slice cooked Tempeh “Bacon”
¼ Cup shredded Mozzarella Vegan cheese
2 tbsp. Vegan Butter
 
For the Sauce
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
 
For the Sandwich
Lay out two slices of bread and divide the sauerkraut sauce between them. Top each with three slices of tempeh “bacon” (you can break the bacon in half to evenly cover the bread) and divide the cheese evenly. Top each sandwich with the remaining slices of bread and butter both sides with vegan butter.
 
Heat a large heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the sandwiches to the pan and toast on each side for 3-4 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted inside. Transfer to a cutting board, slice in half and serve.


How to Get Your Protein From Plants
October 2, 2017
 
Building a meals centered around plant proteins is the new ideal in terms of healthful dieting and leading a more sustainable lifestyle. This way of eating has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. In light of these recent connections, China’s health ministry is now recommending that its citizens reduce meat consumption by half and the French government is boosting investments in alternative proteins and micro algae. Furthermore, the latest dietary guide for Americans recommends including high fat, protein rich, plant foods like avocado and almonds in one’s daily diet. There are so many ways to experiment with plant based proteins. Below is just a bit more information on the different options on the market.
 
Pulses include dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. They are extremely affordable and rich in nutritional benefits. Not only are they high in protein, packing in up to 9 grams per half cup serving, but they are also good sources of fiber, iron, folate, potassium and magnesium.
 
Pulses are considered a sustainable crop to grow because they require very little water relative to meat based proteins and they have the ability to reuse nutrients in the atmosphere, making them less reliable on fertilizers. It is best to cook your own beans, lentils and peas from the dried state. This allows you to control the sodium content and other additives that manufacturers might add. If time is an issue and you need to rely on a canned version, look for an organic, low sodium brand in a BPA free can and be sure to rinse them well before use.
 
Pulses can be blended into dips and spread, tossed in soups and salads or fashioned into burgers. Anyway, you imagine it, they are versatile and delicious.
 
 
Tempeh is made by packing fermented soy beans into blocks that can later be sliced into strips, crumbled or seared whole. Because tempeh uses the whole soy bean, it is less processed than tofu and has higher levels of zinc, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, as a result of the fermentation process, it has probiotic benefits. There is roughly 5 grams of protein per ounce of tempeh.
 
Tofu is made from soy milk that has been coagulated and pressed into blocks. It comes in different consistencies from silken (which can be pureed into sauces or smoothies) to extra firm (which can be grilled, baked or seared). Tofu is rich in calcium as a result of the calcium sulfate that is used in the coagulation process. Protein ranges from 4-10 grams per ounce, depending on the style of tofu.
 
Whole Grains include quinoa, faro, spelt, teff and amaranth, just to name a few. These grains are popping up in cereals and baked goods but they also can be transformed into delicious salads and side dishes. Whole grains contain up to 6 grams of protein per half cup serving.
 
Nuts and Seeds vary in nutrient offerings but are generally rich sources of unsaturated fats, fiber, protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Hemp seeds in particular are a protein powerhouse, packing in 9 grams per ounce (more than chicken, beef or pork). Nuts and seeds can be tossed in salads  and used as garnishes in entrees, but also are delicious whipped into butters and blended into milks.


Blistered Green Beans with Cashew Ranch Dip
Serves 4-6
September 25, 2017
 
These smoky green beans make a great side dish or snack during the summer when the Farmer’s Markets are selling beautiful beans.
 
For the Cashew Ranch
¾ cup water
1 cup cashew, soaked 1 hour and drained
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. dried dill
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
 
Cajun Seasoning
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp crushed red chili flakes
1 tsp. brown sugar
 
For the Beans
1 pound fresh green beans or Haricot Verts, ends trimmed
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ of the Cajun Seasoning
2 tsp. Tamari
 
For the Cashew Ranch
Combine all ingredients, except for the fresh parsley and chives, in the bowl of a blender. Pulse on high until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more hot sauce or lemon juice as desired.
 
For the Cajun Seasoning
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to evenly incorporate. Store extra seasoning in an airtight container for up to three months. It makes a great addition to veggie burgers or grilled vegetables.
 
For the Beans
In a mixing bowl, combine the green beans, olive oil and ½ of the Cajun seasoning. Toss until the beans are nicely coated.
 
Heat a large heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Working in two batches, add the green beans to the preheated pan and sauté 8-10 minutes until the green beans get browned and begin to blister. Add 1 tsp. tamari to the pan, toss and then remove the beans from the heat. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process with the second batch of beans.
 
Serve the green beans hot with the ranch dressing on the side as a dip, or lightly pour the ranch over the top of the beans, if desired.


Veggie Bowls
September 18, 2017
 
Our obsession with eating out of bowls broke out in 2016 with the rise of acai, poke and Buddha bowls. Not only is it a convenient, portable way to eat, but psychologically speaking, the flavors and textures of the meal are more easily captured with each bite and some believe that this leads to greater satiety. Bowls also allow for creativity, customization and the format works well across so many different flavor profiles. There are no hard and fast rules for creating a delicious veggie bowl but here are a few ideas to get you started. Choose at least one or two items from each category.
 
Whole Grains
Quinoa
Rice (brown, black, red or white)
Wheatberries
Bulgar
Teff
Spelt
 
Protein
Beans (black, pinto, white, kidney)
Lentils or Black Eyed Peas
Chickpeas
Seared tofu
Crumbled tempeh
 
Greens
Spinach
Kale
Spring mix lettuce
Chopped Romaine
Thinly Sliced Seaweed
Shredded Cabbage
 
Veggies (Anything you like)
Roasted sweet potato
Tomatoes
Shredded carrot
Shredded cucumber
Caramelized onions & peppers
Corn
Roasted broccoli or cauliflower
Peas
Edamame
Thinly sliced radish
Avocado
Raosted root vegetables
 
Flavorings
Hummus
Olives
Salsa
Harrissa
Hot sauce
Pesto
Sun-dried tomatoes
Vinaigrettes
Vegan Ranch dressing
Teriyaki Sauce
Miso Dressing
Tahini Sauce
Guacamole
Fresh lemon & olive oil
 
Garnishes
Fresh Herbs (basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, dill)
Seeds (sesame, hemp, chia, sunflower, pumpkin)
Nuts (almonds, cashew, walnuts, pecans, brazil)
Dried Fruits (cranberry, raisin, goji berries)

 
Trends in Plant Based Eating
September 11, 2017
 
Back in 2012, when we began the mission of shifting MUSE’s lunch program to a plant based format, we were met with a fair amount of opposition. There were concerns over how our students were going to get enough protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. Would they really turn down a beef slider in favor of a veggie patty? Would swapping out dairy yogurt for a coconut alternative be noticed? What if the students didn’t eat anything? The notion of eliminating a major food category seemed radical.
 
Fast forward, five years later and attitudes are changing. Not just at MUSE but across the foodservice industry as well.  All you have to do is flip through the pages of cooking magazines or check out the industry trends of 2017 and you will notice that plant based foods are getting noticed and the attention isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. With brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat developing vegan burgers that bleed like a real beef patty and rival it in taste and texture, cutting back on meat consumption is becoming more likely even for hardcore carnivores. Ingenious uses of aquafaba (the liquid that remains after cooking chickpeas) are proving that you can make delicious vegan baked goods without the eggs. In the beverage category, plant based milks, fresh pressed juices and unique beverage like kombucha are driving down sales of dairy milk and soda across the board. To top it all off, hospitals, schools, universities and restaurants are introducing programs like “Meatless Mondays” and getting rave reviews from their customers and clientele.
 
With medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity on the rise, people are beginning to seek out healthier, non-traditional ways of eating and cooking and the creativity and innovation in the plant based market is proving that we are only just getting started.  Not only are there health benefits associated with eating less meat and dairy, but as we are coming to see, it leaves a gentler imprint on the environment as well. By eating one plant based meal a day, each person can save 194,667 gallons of water and reduce their carbon emissions by 772 pounds in a year.
 
As we enter in to the 2017-18 school year, we have the opportunity for a new beginning. It’s a great time to reset our goals and try some new things. Here at MUSE, we hope that one of those goals will be for you and your family to join us in our OMD challenge: eating one plant based meal a day for the planet. We will be featuring weekly recipes, photos, information and advice on this blog and we hope that you will check back in often to stay inspired along the way. We wish you a fun, fulfilling and safe school year. Welcome back!