Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vegetarian Cooking for Teens and Parents

On February 20 nine students met the challenge of our "Basic Vegetarian and Vegan Cooking for Teens and Parents" class at Vernon Hills High School. The aspiring vegetarian and vegan cooks learned how to prepare brown rice, black beans, and slow simmered root vegetables. Then they split into four teams. Each team blanched radish roots and greens and then steamed carrots and broccoli.

Then it was time for Stir Fry Mania. Each team stir fried green peppers, collard greens, and mustard greens, but each team's dish had a different taste. One team cooked an East Indian style stir fry with onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. The second team cooked an East Asian stir fry with onion, ginger, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. The third team cooked a Northern Italian stir fry with garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. The fourth team cooked a Latin American stir fry with cumin, cilantro, tomato, jalapeno pepper, and lime juice.

The participants left with a homework assignment – to make a meal based on whole grains and vegetables and write a comment to this post to tell us what they made and how it tasted.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our Winter and Spring Cooking Classes

Veggie Cooking Around the World is offering a series of cooking classes that focus on planning and preparing scrumptious whole grain and vegetable dishes to enhance your table. All  classes are held at Vernon Hills High School, Vernon Hills, Illinois from 6:30-9:30 pm.  A sample meal is served in the class.

CLASS 1    Basic Vegetarian and Vegan Cooking for  
                     Teens and Parents                                                          February 21
Learn the healthy, whole grain approach to vegetarian and vegan eating. Instructors Jim and Amy will show you how to cook grains, beans, and hearty soups. You will learn four easy ways to cook vegetables.

CLASS 2    French Vegan Cuisine à la Julia Child                       March 20

  "All of the techniques employed in French cooking are aimed at one goal: how does it taste" - Julia Child.  In this class Jim and Amy will create a rich tasting vegan meal by adapting traditional recipes from French Cuisine. While Julia offers Boeuf Bourguignon, we will prepare Non Boeuf Bourguignon. Instead of Chocolate Mousse made with eggs, butter, cream and sugar, we will show you a recipe for Chocolate Dream Mousse with the same richness and texture as the classic variety. The meal will include soup, vegetable (fagots de legumes aux fine herbes) and salad. How will it taste? Register and find out.


CLASS 3    Healthy Plant-Based Brunch                                        April 24
Learn how to make a satisfying brunch with hot multigrain cereal, whole-wheat sourdough pancakes, corn muffins, tofu scramble, miso soup, blanched roots and greens, and fruit salad.

The classes are easy, fun and for all skill levels from beginner to chef.  

Class fees are $39 each plus an ingredient fee payable to Amy and Jim on class night.

To Register contact District 128 Community Education Program at
(847) 932-2176 or (847) 932-2171
or register on line at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stop Wasting Food Now

Do you want to to save money and time and help the environment? Of course you do. You can accomplish all 3 goals by wasting less food. Americans waste 25% of the food that they buy according to American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom. Here are 3 things you can do to reduce your food waste.

Make a Little List

Keep a shopping list on your refrigerator. It doesn't have to be fancy. A simple notepad will do. When you run low on any of your staples, just add that food to the list. Down to your last 2 onions? Add it to the list. Is the millet near the bottom of the jar? Add it to the list. Are you going to make a special recipe? Add any ingredients that you don't have to the list. When it comes time to go shopping, survey your fridge and cupboards for any other items that are low, and add them to the list. Your little list is now a power shopping list. When you go shopping you will be able to buy everything that you need, and you will not have to make those emergency, time-consuming trips to the store to pick up one or two missing items.

Win the Supermarket War

When you go to the grocery store, you are going to war. On the other side is an army of marketing psychologists who have designed your local supermarket to entice you to buy food that you neither want nor need. From the layout of the store, which forces you to traverse the entire store to pick up a carton of soy milk, to the placing of items on the shelves, to the pricing of those alluring special bargains, everything in the store is designed to entice you into buying more. And it works! Researchers asked shoppers entering grocery stores about the items on their physical or mental shopping lists. When they checked the shoppers' carts at the checkout line, 60% of their purchases had not been on their shopping lists. For the creepy details see Supermarket Science - Stores Use Many Strategies to Sell You Their Products.

Your power shopping list can help you slay the supermarket Goliath. You know that it has the items that you really need. Your decision has been made. It's a done deal. You have overcome the wishy-washy indecisiveness that otherwise would have allowed you to succumb to the 2-for-1 special deal on slightly decayed artichokes. Yes, you can still get a few bargains, but your power shopping list will shield you from undue temptation.

If you win the supermarket war, you will obviously save money, but you will also help the environment, because people eventually throw away a lot of the food that they purchase on impulse. Modern agriculture uses water, exhausts our soil, produces greenhouse gases, and pollutes our waterways. Of course, we need to improve our agricultural practices, but we will also reduce our environmental impact if we do not produce food that finds its way into our garbage cans instead of our stomachs.

Allow Yourself a Second Helping

Allowing yourself to eat a second helping will reduce the amount of leftover food that you throw away. How's that? Well, if you have the idea that taking a second helping during a meal is a sign of gluttony, then you will pile your plate full of food when you take your first helping. Often you will not eat all of that first helping food and will throw it away. Instead, take a first helping that has about three quarters of the food that you think that you will eventually eat. When you are done with your first helping, you will not be as hungry, and you will be able to make a realistic assessment of how much you should put on your plate for your second helping. You can even put a little bit less for your second helping than you think you will eventually eat, and go back for a third helping. I have used this method for years and never leave food on my plate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lentil Barley Soup


This rich tasting and satisfying lentil soup is inspired by the Eastern European lentil soup that I ate as a child.  It’s great on a cold winter night served with homemade sourdough rye bread and a salad.

¼ cup dry lentils
¼ cup hulled barley
¼ medium onion, sliced
¾ pound of several root or round vegetables (such as winter squash, carrots, rutabaga, sweet potato, or potato) sliced into ¾ inch cubes
3 ounces sliced cabbage
2 ounces sliced collard greens or kale
bay leaf
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
6 pinches salt or to taste
2 tablespoons oil


At least six hours before you plan to cook the soup cover the lentils and hulled barley with water and let soak.

Sauté the onions in a large pot for a minute or so, add the cabbage and greens, and continue sautéing for another minute or two.  Add the root and round vegetables and the lentils and barley and cover about 2 inches above the ingredients with water.  Add the bay leaf and cumin.

Bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes.  Add the salt.  Add water if necessary.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the lentils and barley are completely cooked.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gena's Sourdough Success

Gena was in our sourdough bread class. She encountered some challenges on her first batch of bread, but scored a perfect 10 on her second try.  Here are her photos.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sourdough Bread Class - Dec. 6, 2011

The participants in our December 6, 2011 wild yeast sourdough bread class at Vernon Hills High School will mix a wild yeast dough in the class and bake the bread the next day at home.  They will also begin capturing wild yeast from the air.  This post is for class participants to add comments and describe their adventures with wild yeast bread.

The sourdough bread class web page has links to our bread recipes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Three Sisters

Thanksgiving is a vegetarian holiday, especially when you invite the Three Sisters, corn, beans, and squash. One of the participants at our Vegan Thanksgiving class earlier this month pointed out that, when planted together, corn provides the stalk on which the beans can climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn, and the broad squash leaves shade the ground and prevent weeds from growing. The Three Sisters also go together nutritionally. They include a grain (corn), beans, and a vegetable, the three pillars of a plant based diet.

Enjoy these recipes from our class. Go to for links to all the recipes from the class.

Pumpkin or Squash Pie

One 9 inch unbaked whole-wheat pie crust
1 pound cooked, mashed pumpkin or squash (about 3 cups)
10 ounces firm tofu
1/2 cup sweetener of choice
1/4 cup barley malt or 2 tablespoons molasses (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
One to 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Blend all the ingredients until smooth in a food processor or in batches in a blender.  Pour into the unbaked pie crust, and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350°F, and continue baking for an additional 40 minutes, or until the pie has risen and feels firm.

Serve either hot or cold.  You can bake it several days in advance and reheat it before serving.

Miyoko Schinner, The New Now and Zen Epicure, page 205.

Beans and Cornbread Casserole
from The Miso Book, the Art of Cooking with Miso
John and Jan Belleme
Serves:  4 - 5
2 cups pinto beans
5 cups water   
3” piece kombu (optional)
1½ tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup diced bell peppers
1 rib celery, sliced
1 Tbs red or barley miso mixed with 1 Tbs water
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbs whole wheat flour
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
2 Tbs rice or maple syrup
½ - ⅔ cup water (use greater
amount if omitting egg)
1 Tbs vegetable oil

Day before  Cover the beans with plenty of water and soak over night (6-10 hours)
That day  Bring beans and three cups water to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, and soak 1 - 2 hours.  Drain the beans and place in a pressure cooker* with 5 cups fresh water and
kombu, if using. Cover and bring to pressure, reduce the heat, and cook 50 to 60 minutes.  Allow the pressure to return to normal. (Instead of pressure cooking you may boil the beans in the fresh water until soft, 60 minutes or more.)  Add the salt, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery.  Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  The mixture should be thick like chili, but not dry.

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Stir the miso into the bean mixture, then pour the mixture into a 3-quart casserole.  Set aside.

To prepare the cornbread topping, combine the corn-meal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, if using, along with the syrup, water, and oil.  Add to the cornmeal mixture and stir until just blended.  Do not overstir.

Spoon the batter over the bean mixture.  (It will partially sink into the beans, but will rise as it bakes.)  Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread crust is firm and golden. Serve hot.


Learn How to Make the Original Bread
Almost all the bread we eat today is made from commercial yeast, but it hasn't always been that way. Before about 1800 everyone made yeast bread with wild yeast. Yes, commercial yeast is convenient, but nothing can beat the taste of wild yeast, sourdough bread. Learn how to make this tasty loaf at our wild yeast bread class on December 6 at 6:30 PM at Vernon Hills High School. This will be a hands-on class, so you will make bread. To sign up call Donna at 847-932-2176 or Madeline at 847-932-2171 or register online at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hard Cider the Easy Way

I've always wanted to make home brew, but I don't want to do a lot of work, so I became really interested when I came upon Sandor Katz's recipe for quick and easy hard apple cider in his book, Wild Fermentation. I bought a gallon of apple cider from the Libertyville farmers market. I made sure that the cider had no preservatives. I put the plastic jug on my kitchen counter, took the lid off, and covered the top with a single layer of cheesecloth, which I held down with a rubber band. Then I waited. Since I capture yeast for my sourdough bread starter from the air in my kitchen, I figured that the same good guy yeasts would start to grow in the cider. I took a taste of the cider every day to monitor the progress. During the first few days the cider was still sweet, but definitely had some alcohol and some fizz. I knew that the yeast was alive and well, eating the sugars in the cider and creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. As the days went on, the cider became more alcoholic and less sweet. On the sixth day I capped the cider and stopped fermentation by putting it in the fridge, where the cold temperature stops the yeast from working. It's important not to let the fermentation go too long, because if you do, the cider will turn sour.

Is the cider good? Take a look at the photo. I started with the full gallon, and now it's about one half gone, so it's obvious that I like it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Veggie Cooking Fall Classes

Elegant Vegan Japanese Cuisine
October 4, 6:30 - 9:30 PM
Vernon Hills High School, 145 Lakeview Parkway Vernon Hills, IL

Satisfy your inner Geisha or Samurai with the ease and elegance of
preparing a plant-based Japanese style meal.
Class fees are $39 each plus an ingredient fee payable to Amy and Jim on class night.
To register contact the District 128 Community Education Program at
(847) 932-2176 or (847) 932-2171
or register on line at

Eating Low on the Food Chain
October 8, 10:00 AM - Noon
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st Street Brookfield, IL 60304

How livestock damage the environment and how to help by eating more plants and less animal products. 
Includes a sample mini-meal.
$35 for zoo members, $45 for non-members
To register call 708-688-8361 or
online at and click on the "View Schedules" button

Vegetarian, Vegan, Whole Grain ... What's It All About?
October 11, 7:00 - 8:15 PM
Indian Trails Public Library, 355 South Schoenbeck Road, Wheeling, IL 

Amy and Jim will explore vegetarian, vegan, and whole grain eating in this interactive presentation. 
They will compare plant-based diets to the typical American diet and discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of each.  They will serve a sample vegan, whole grain mini-meal.  Register by going
to, click on Calendar, go to October 11, and click on our event.

A Traditional Thanksgiving Feast-Vegan Style
November 1, 6:30 - 9:30 PM
Vernon Hills High School, 145 Lakeview Parkway Vernon Hills, IL

The class will create a savory Thanksgiving meal using traditional grains,
fruits and vegetables available to the pilgrims and the North American
First Nations peoples.
Class fees are $39 each plus an ingredient fee payable to Amy and Jim on class night.
To register contact the District 128 Community Education Program at
(847) 932-2176 or (847) 932-2171
or register on line at

Baking Sourdough and Wild Yeast Breads
December 6, 6:30 - 9:30 PM
Vernon Hills High School, 145 Lakeview Parkway Vernon Hills, IL

Jim will share the secrets learned in his indefatigable search for the perfect
loaf of bread.  He will demonstrate how to “capture”  the wild yeast in your
home to make your own sourdough starter.  The class will prepare sourdough
whole wheat bread and more.
Class fees are $39 each plus an ingredient fee payable to Amy and Jim on class night.
To register contact the District 128 Community Education Program at
(847) 932-2176 or (847) 932-2171
or register on line at