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Q and A with Vegan Mama, Chef, Restauranteur and Author of Vegan Family Meals: Ann Gentry

6 Jul

As part of Ann Gentry‘s Blog Tour for her new book Vegan Family Meals, we have featured her delicious recipes (Garlic-Sesame Kale Chips and her My Niçoise Salad) with a raw twist here on Mama in the Kitchen.  In her professional life, she has been in the forefront of the Vegan and Green Food Movements: Ms. Gentry owns two Vegan restaurants, Real Food Daily in Santa Monica and Hollywood serving 100% Vegan foods, she hosts a cooking show, Naturally Delicious, she is the author of The Real Food Daily Cookbook and the executive chef to Vegetarian Times magazine. But what I really wanted to get to know was Ann Gentry, the Mama in her own Kitchen… so here is my interview with her, which I want to share with you.

Q&A with Ann Gentry

Carissa: As a Raw Vegan Mama today, I am only too aware of our culture that encourages an unhealthy lifestyle and the Standard American Diet.  How have you been able to bring your children up in a counter culture, being a Vegan chef, restauranteur, author and mother?  How have you created a family culture that allowed your children and husband to embrace the Vegan diet and lifestyle?

Ann: At my house, my kids are vegan.  At birthday parties, or other social occasions at their friend’s houses, they eat vegetarian.  We allow them to eat these “non-vegan” foods from time to time, NOT to supplement their vegan diet as there are no supplements to an already ideal diet, but rather allow them joy, comfort and participation in their childhood social settings. My kids get plenty of protein from beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and soy foods. I love it that they prefer non-dairy Cheeses to cow’s cheese any day.

Carissa: Have your children chosen to be Vegan themselves? 

Ann: I tell them they are in this family for a reason and eating a plant-based diet is one of them! My 12-year-old daughter early on understood the implications of an animal based diet and was perplexed as to how people could live in this world, eating animals while having others as pets.

Carissa: What are (or have been) your family’s top favourite Vegan meals?

Ann: Nachos – corn chip with black beans and my cashew cheese.  Recipe in Vegan Family Meals on page 57.  Tacos and enchiladas made with beans. Mac ‘n’ Cheez – I worked so hard to perfect this recipe for Vegan Family Meals.  The joke around my house is everyone is burnt out eating it.  Recipe on page 152 called Baked penne and cauliflower w/ Cheesy Sauce.   Right now, both kids are eating the Acai Bowl with My Super Hippie Granola everyday.  The granola is also a dish that both kids love to help make.  See first recipes in the book.

Carissa: At your restaurants, what are the favorite dishes that non-Vegan patrons order?

Ann: Most people eating at Real Food Daily are not vegans or vegetarians, instead they are health minded eaters who are looking for clean delicious tasting food served to them in a clean and stylish ambiance with friendly educated service. Everyone has the same favorites, to name a few: the daily specials and soups, all the hot entrees are popular, The Club Sandwich, our burger w/ the Works.

Carissa: I am all for ‘un-processing‘ my family’s food and making everything from scratch, so many Vegan ready-made products are not something I would readily buy.  My boys still crave their meat and don’t like beans at all, what dishes would you recommend a Vegan Mama prepare to help her family transition to a more Vegan diet?

Ann: In the world of plant proteins besides beans, there are the soy products such as seitan also called wheat-meat, tempeh and tofu.  These foods can be made into tasty dishes using condiments that bring texture and flavor to them.  I too stay away from the overly processed faux meats.  I find my kids will eat soy-based dishes such as Frittata on page 17.  The texture is creamy and pleasurable.  Also, nuts and seeds are great sources for protein.

One simple thing that has worked for me is always having one consistent dish on the table.  This is one way I’ve introduced new foods or dishes.  Right now, I always place a bowl of steamed brown rice on the table. This is the fall back to peaky eaters. If they don’t like what I’ve prepared, then they can eat the rice.  This is not a punishment, I just tell my kids our home is not a restaurant, if they don’t like the foods I prepared then their other choice is the rice.   So, you might try new foods you want to introduce using this method.  It has worked for me as my kids love brown rice.  In fact, it is now time to change the consistent dish on my dinner table to something new.

Carissa: I am a Raw Vegan Mama and wonder do you have any favourite Raw Vegan Foods?

Ann: I appreciate living foods and on occasion really enjoy them as a meal. My all time favorite is Lydia’s Luna Nori Crackers.  Not only are they raw and vegan but they are gluten free too.  I love these, so satisfying, great with any spread or dip.

Carissa: Thank you Ms. Gentry!  I very much appreciate your time and your generosity in sharing your wonderful Vegan tips with all of us!

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Vegan Family Meals Blog Tour: My Niçoise

27 Jun

Last week on the Vegan Family Meals Blog Tour, I  re-created Ann Gentry’s Garlic-Sesame Kale Chips RAW with great success.  This week, I am attempting to re-create her Niçoise salad – mostly RAW.  This is DELICIOUS!!!

Ann Gentry's My Niçoise

Ann Gentry’s My Niçoise

Serves 4

8 ounces slender green beans (such as haricots verts), trimmed

4 medium red-skinned potatoes (about 1 pound total), cut into ½-inch-thick wedges

Vinaigrette:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

 Salad:

1 large head butter lettuce, leaves separated and larger leaves torn in half

3 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges, or 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 log Peppercorn-Crusted Tofu Chèvre (recipe follows), sliced into rounds

¹⁄3 cup

olives or kalamata olives

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1½ tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and submerge the green beans in a bowl of ice water just until they are cold. Drain the green beans again and pat dry. Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a steamer basket set in a saucepan filled with 1 inch of simmering water. Cover and steam until they are just tender and still hold their shape, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Vinaigrette: While the vegetables are cooling, whisk the lemon juice, shallot, mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil to blend well.

Salad: Arrange the lettuce on a serving platter or in a large shallow salad bowl. Place the green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with enough of the vinaigrette to coat, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the beans, potatoes, and tomatoes atop the lettuce. Arrange the tofu cheese slices amid the vegetables. Sprinkle the olives, capers, and parsley over the salad. Spoon more vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.

Tofu Chèvre:

Makes 1 (13-ounce) log

1 (12-ounce) container waterpacked extra-firm tofu, drained and halved
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons yellow miso
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Set the tofu in a colander and set the colander over a bowl to collect all the liquid that drains from the tofu. Cover the tofu with plastic wrap, then place 3 heavy cans, each at least 14 ounces, on the tofu to weigh it down. This weight will help extract all the excess liquid from the tofu. Refrigerate the tofu for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Mince the garlic in a food processor. Pat the tofu halves with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture, then add the tofu to the food processor. Add the miso, 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, and the salt, and blend until the mixture is very smooth, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap flat on the work surface. Scrape the tofu cheese onto the center of the plastic wrap, then wrap the cheese, forming a log. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Unwrap the cheese log and place it on a baking sheet. Brush the log lightly with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Bake just until the cheese is warmed through, but the center is still creamy, about 25 minutes.

Serve warm or cold.

Peppercorn-Crusted Variation: Coarsely grind whole black or multicolored peppercorns, then sprinkle them over the cheese, patting them gently to adhere.

Sunflower Niçoise

Sunflower Niçoise – a Mostly Raw Niçoise

I follow everything on the recipe, except for:

1. I steam the potatoes and the green beans in the same pot.  The potatoes are first steamed for 4 minutes, then I simply add the green beans to the steamer for an additional 4 minutes.  If you want your salad completely raw, simply omit the potatoes and add raw jicama and raw green beans.  (Note, I never did well with raw green beans…)

2. I make a Raw Sunflower Chèvre instead.  I simply substitute the tofu with soaked sunflower seeds.  Soak 1 cup of sunflower seeds overnight.  Rinse and drain.  Mix in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients: garlic, miso (I used unpasteurized white miso), oil and sea salt.  Use a small ice cream scoop to place tablespoons of the soft cheese onto a texflex sheet, flatten if you wish.  Place in a dehydrator for 1 hour on 150F, then decrease to 105F for the next hour.  The cheese will be a little crusty on the top, but still soft inside and at the base – perfect for this salad.

Vegan Family Meals Blog Tour: Kale Chips

23 Jun

Mama in the Kitchen is proud to be part of Ann Gentry‘s Blog Tour for her new book Vegan Family Meals.  Ann Gentry is the creator of Real Food Daily, organic gourmet Vegan restaurants in Santa Monica and West Hollywood that serve 100 percent Vegan foods grown exclusively with organic farming methods.  She has successfully promoted and raised the standard of Vegan Cuisine through her work as chef, author and mother.  This week, the Vegan Family Meals Blog Tour is on Kale Chips.  Although Ann Gentry’s Kale Chips are baked, her recipe can easily be adapted to a delicious raw dehydrated family snack.

Ann Gentry's Kale Chips

Anne Gentry’s Kale Chips

Serves 2 to 4

1 (8-ounce) bunch large curly kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
¹⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 2 large, heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spin the kale pieces in a salad spinner, or pat them with paper towels, until they’re dry. It is important that the leaves are very dry, as oil doesn’t mix with water.

Cut away the center spine from each kale leaf and discard the spine. When removing the spine, go ahead and cut through to the top of the leaf so you have 2 pieces. Keep the leaves as halves, or cut each piece in half again. (I cut or tear these pieces so I get 4 pieces from each leaf, or I just leave them as whole as possible, since the kale shrinks to less than half its size while baking.)

Place the kale, oil, and salt in a large bowl and, using your hands, rub the oil to coat the kale pieces thoroughly. (Be prepared to get your hands oily and salty.)

Arrange the kale pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets and then bake until they are crisp, about 25 minutes. Check the kale every 10 minutes or so and turn some pieces over if they look too toasty. The kale chips will stay crisp and fresh for up to 1 week, stored in a sealed container or bag.

Variations: Wash, cut, coat, and bake the kale according to the directions above. Instead of seasoning the kale with just olive oil and salt, try any of these variations. Because some of these variations include maple syrup, which makes the kale brown faster, cooking times will range from 15 to 25 minutes, so check the kale often to determine doneness.

Vinegar and Sea Salt: Combine 1 tablespoon vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, or brown rice), 1 tablespoon olive oil or a neutral cooking oil, and ¹⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt.

Maple-Coconut: Combine 2 tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut, 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1 tablespoon sunflower oil or a neutral cooking oil, and ¹⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt.

Garlic-Sesame: Combine 2 tablespoons sesame seeds or hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon olive oil or a neutral cooking oil, 1 tablespoon tamari, and 1 clove garlic, minced.

Hot and Spicy: Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil or a neutral cooking oil, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, ¹⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¹⁄8 teaspoon chili powder, and ¹⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt.

Kale Dust for Popcorn: Crush the baked kale chips with your fingers or with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder. Sprinkle the crushed kale over popcorn. It’s colorful and nutritious; my kids love this one.

Garlic-Sesame Kale Chips

Raw Kale Chips Version

Follow the recipe above and dehydrate instead of bake, but read my notes first. I use Lacinato Kale here instead of Curly Kale.  I tried the Vinegar and Sea Salt and the Garlic-Sesame recipes today.  We wished the Vinegar and Sea Salt was stronger in flavor, but we were happy with the Garlic-Sesame Kale Chips.

Notes:

1. For an easier and quicker method to remove the spine of kale leaves, I don’t use a knife – I just use my fingers.  I hold the end of the spine and slowly tear the leaves off as I move my fingers up the spine.

I use my fingers to separate leaves from spine

Easy does it! No need for knives!

2. I soak my Kale leaves in water and vinegar, then rinse in water to clean them and dry them in my salad spinner.  Click here for my Top 5 Ways To Clean Produce.

3. I prefer to keep my kale leaves whole.  I figure I can simply cut them into smaller pieces after they are dehydrated, if needed.

Massage Dressing into Kale

4. I massage my leaves by hand in my preferred dressing.

5. I place my dressed leaves on my dehydrator mesh screens – haphazardly.  I don’t even bother to lay them in one layer properly… it would take too much time.  Plus, they dehydrate well without the added effort.

6. Some people prefer to dehydrate their kale chips at 105F until dry.  I set my dehydrator at the maximum heat of 150F for 1 hour (the kale will not have an internal temperature of 150F, the internal temperature will be below 105F and this step quickens the dehydration proces), then decrease it to 105F thereafter.  My chips were ready in 4 hours.