Monthly Archives: February 2011

HEARTY VEGGIE LASAGNA

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Whenever I cook lasagna I make a HUGE one and I tend to do it on a weekend or an afternoon when I know I will be home for the rest of the night.  If you are going to go to the trouble to make lasagna, why not have it be big enough to last for a few meals?  When I make this lasagna it lasts my family of 4 (2 of which are children) 3 whole dinners!  We eat it fresh out of the oven one night and then I usually freeze the other 2 sections for 2 other nights.  You pop it in the oven for an hour from the freezer, make a salad, and you have a fantastic dinner!

***NOTE***

I just cooked one of my frozen lasagna sections and IT DOES NOT REHEAT WELL when using gluten free lasagna noodles (they turned to mush).  The lasagna tastes AWESOME the first night and when reheated as left-overs, but unfortunately I can NOT recommend reheating it from the freezer.  Bummer. 

The next time I make this lasagna I am going to cut the recipe in 1/2.

There are a few keys to making great tasting vegan lasagna:

  1. All of the components need to taste good enough to eat on their own
  2. The sauce needs to be very fresh and flavorful
  3. The cheese filling needs to have the taste and texture everyone has come to expect

As for the cheese, it has taken a lot of experimenting, but I have finally come-up with what I call my Vegan Herbed Ricotta.  I am not a big fan of using very much soy in general (A LOT of the recipes you will see for vegan lasagna rely on tofu tremendously), so through trial and error I have come up with a recipe that only uses ½ a brick of extra firm sprouted tofu and the rest of the cheese is comprised of beans, vegan goat cheese, and herbs and spices.  When you think about it, ½ a brick of tofu spread out over three dinners for four people is very nominal.

While it is a time investment to make lasagna, the end result is so very worth it and will pay off when you realize you have made 3 meals!

~

INGREDIENTS

2 packages brown rice lasagna noodles

2 25.5 oz. jars of tomato basil pasta sauce

4 10 oz. bags baby bella mushrooms

2 medium onions

4 small or 2 large zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

Simply Organic garlic salt to taste

1 package Daiya mozzarella cheese

VEGAN HERBED RICOTTA

1 cup vegan goat cheese*

½ package extra firm sprouted tofu by Wildwood, drained and crumbled

15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed

2 10 oz. packages Cascadian Farms frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 packed cup fresh basil

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

* click here for recipe 

~

Preheat the oven to 400°

Place a strainer over a bowl and pour one of the jars of pasta sauce into the strainer.  You want most of the liquid to strain into the bowl.  You may need to stir the sauce a few times to help release most of the liquid.

Strain 1 Jar of Sauce

Strain 1 Jar of Sauce

While the pasta sauce is straining, cook the lasagna noodles according to the instructions on the box.  I am always leery about noodles that claim they do not need to be precooked, so I always precook them.  It really doesn’t add much time to the process since they will cook while you are preparing the other ingredients.

While the noodles are cooking, make the Vegan Herbed Ricotta.  Place the vegan goat cheese and sprouted tofu in a bowl.  In a food processor fitted with the S blade, pulse together the basil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.  You will need to stop and scrape down the bowl of the processor a few times during the process. 

Basil and Garlic

Basil and Garlic

Oregano, Salt, and Pepper is Added

Oregano, Salt, and Pepper is Added

Once the mixture resembles pesto, add the great northern beans and pulse only a few times since you want the beans to maintain some texture.  Gently fold the mixture from the food processor into the vegan goat cheese and crumbled tofu. 

Add Beans and Pulse

Add Beans and Pulse

Combine with Tofu and Vegan Goat Cheese

Combine with Tofu and Vegan Goat Cheese

Once well combined, gently fold in the spinach (which you have squeezed ALL of the liquid out of so it forms a nice dry ball).

Defrosted Spinach

Defrosted Spinach

Liquid Squeezed Out

Liquid Squeezed Out

Gently Fold In Spinach

Gently Fold In Spinach

Completed Vegan Herbed Ricotta

Completed Vegan Herbed Ricotta

Now that the noodles are done cooking, rinse them under cool water.  Once rinsed, lay them out in a single layer to prevent sticking (I use sheet pans).

Without washing the food processor bowl (save yourself some time, there is no real need) place the mushrooms one bag at a time into the food processor and pulse until they are fairly well chopped, but maintain some texture.  Pour the mushrooms into a large pot.  Repeat with the other three bags until all of the mushrooms are chopped. 

Pre-Sliced Mushrooms into the Processor

Pre-Sliced Mushrooms into the Processor

Roughly chop the onions and place them into the unwashed food processor bowl.  Pulse until finely chopped and add the onions to the pot with the chopped mushrooms.

Onions and Mushrooms

Onions and Mushrooms

Turn the burner onto medium and cook the mushrooms and onions down.  Place the lid on the pot to speed-up the process.  Once the mushrooms and onions are cooked (approx. 10 minutes), pour them into a strainer to strain out all of the liquid.  Once strained, salt and pepper to taste.

Cooked Down Onions and Mushrooms

Cooked Down Onions and Mushrooms

Strain the Liquid Out and Season to Taste

Strain the Liquid Out and Season to Taste

Chop the zucchini into 1/8” wheels and sauté on medium heat with 1 tsp oil.  You want the zucchini to brown very slightly.  This should only take 3-4 minutes.  Flavor the zucchini with garlic salt to taste.

Saute the Zucchini

Saute the Zucchini

It is now time to assemble the lasagna.  Pour one third of the unopened pasta sauce (NOT the pasta sauce you are straining) into the bottom of a 10” x 12” deep casserole dish.  Follow with a layer of lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the Vegan Herbed Ricotta, 1/3 of the Daiya, and 1/3 of the mushrooms, and another 1/3 of the sauce.

1/3 Jar of Pasta Sauce

1/3 Jar of Pasta Sauce

Layer of Noodles

Layer of Noodles

1/3 of the Herbed Riccota

1/3 of the Herbed Riccota

1/3 Daiya, 1/3 Mushrooms, and Another 1/3 Sauce

1/3 Daiya, 1/3 Mushrooms, and Another 1/3 Sauce

Follow with another layer of noodles, 1/3 of the Vegan Herbed Ricotta, all of the zucchini wheels, most of the remaining mushrooms (reserve some for the top of the lasagna), most of the remaining Daiya (reserve some for the top of the lasagna), and the last 1/3 of the jar of pasta sauce.

Noodle Layer, Herbed Riccota, Zucchini

Noodle Layer, Herbed Riccota, Zucchini

Mushrooms and Daiya

Mushrooms and Daiya

Top with the last layer of lasagna noodles, the ENTIRE jar of the strained pasta sauce (reserve the liquid for an alternate use…you will not need it for this recipe…if you put it into the lasagna it will become soggy), any remaining mushrooms, and the remaining Daiya.

Last Layer of Noodles, Strained Pasta Sauce, and Remaining Mushrooms and Daiya

Last Layer of Noodles, Strained Pasta Sauce, and Remaining Mushrooms and Daiya

Cover the lasagna with a piece of foil that you have oiled on the inside so it won’t stick to it.

Cook the lasagna for 1 hour at 400°.

 
 
 

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

Hearty Veggie Lasagna

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Cheese, Gluten Free, Main Dish, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

VEGGIES and WHOLE GRAINS THAT KIDS WILL LOVE – Guest Blog by Alexandra Jamieson

Alexandra Jamieson

Alexandra Jamieson

I first became aware of Alexandra Jamieson while watching the documentary Super Size Me.  Due to her vast knowledge base as a professionally trained healthy gourmet chef and certified health and nutrition counselor, Alexandra was the right person for the job when it came to whipping Morgan Spurlock back into shape after he gorged himself on fast food for the documentary.  She successfully accomplished the task at hand and that led to her book, The Great American Detox Diet.  She has also penned Living Vegan For Dummies and Vegan Cooking For Dummies.

Alexandra Jamieson has been featured on Oprah, The Final Word, 30 Days and The National Health Test with Bryant Gumble, and the award-winning documentary Super Size Me.

Alexandra is now married to Morgan and they have a young son Laken which gives her great insight into tips and tricks for getting young children to eat and enjoy healthy food.

To learn more about Alexandra and the services she offers click here

I hope you enjoy her contribution…

Kid Friendly Grain Molds

Kid Friendly Grain Molds

Even though I stock my house with natural food, keep fresh fruit on the table at all times, and offer healthy snacks at every turn, my son sometimes turns his nose up to my offerings.

I’ve noticed that Laken refuses beans in almost every state lately. He’ll eat lentil soup, but when presented with home cooked chickpeas, sauteed pintos or black bean soup, I invariably hear “I don’t like beans, Mama!” This is a little upsetting because I think he needs beans on a regular basis for protein and minerals. Eating a variety of beans provides iron, potassium and zinc, and I don’t like to feed him soy every day. Yes, he eats some tofu and organic, unsweetened soy yogurt, but I would rather not go overboard on the soy products.

I’m going to assume it’s just a phase – just like the four month stretch when he decided he didn’t like avocados anymore. Funny, he happily devoured avocados daily for 2.5 years, then one day decided they were no longer acceptable. It was probably my insistence that he “liked them before” that made him refuse.

A few weeks ago I started making mixtures of veggies, beans and whole grains and pressing them into kid-friendly shapes using these awesome Japanese sushi molds and nori paper punches. If anyone knows how to make food cute, it’s the Japanese!

Knowing that marketing to kids works (see Super Size Me!) when it comes to junk food, I thought “why can’t marketing healthy food work too?”

The recipe is really easy, and my son happily ate several pieces for dinner. Here’s how it works:

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (any beans would work)

1 cup cooked whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, etc)

Directions:

- Saute the olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and beans with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron skillet which lends some iron content to the final dish.

- Combine the cooked veggies, beans and grain in a food processor and pulse 10 times.

- Press the veggie and grain mixture into the molds and hand pack them. Place molded animals on a plate and use the nori paper punch to create mineral rich nori eyes and a mouth.

These healthy, yummy grain animals are a perfect snack or side dish with some steamed veggies.

You can order sets like this by clicking here.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Beans/Legumes, Gluten Free, Grains, Guest Blog, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Sides, Vegan, Vegetarian

HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Homemade Corn Tortillas

It’s confession time…I bought yet ANOTHER kitchen gadget (My husband is always teasing me about all of my kitchen gadgets)!!!

I have been eyeing the tortilla press in the Williams-Sonoma catalogue for some time now and I finally broke down and ordered it from their website.  Trust me, paying the shipping cost is worth it because I know if I actually went into the store I would do a lot more damage to my finances.

Fresh tortillas are soooooo good.  Has anyone gone on the Mission Tortilla Factory tortilla tour at Disney’s California Adventure?  That’s what I was dreaming of when these puppies were cooking.  The kids really went crazy for these and they were crazy easy to make.

The recipe comes from the back of the Maseca Instant Corn Masa Flour bag.  I may experiment and change the recipe for fun next time, but it is oh so good just as the recipe reads…

INGREDIENTSmakes 16 tortillas

2 cups instant corn masa flour

1 ¼ cups water

¼ tsp celtic or Himalayan salt

TOOLS

tortilla press

plastic wrap

 ~

Cover both sides of the tortilla press with plastic wrap.  Make sure that the inside sections of plastic on the press are smooth.

Plastic Wrapped Tortilla Press

Plastic Wrapped Tortilla Press

Combine the masa flour, water, and salt in a bowl and mix well.  Add more water if the mixture is too dry…you want the dough to form a nice workable ball.

Mix the Masa Flour, Water, and Salt

Mix the Masa Flour, Water, and Salt

Mixing In Progress

Mixing In Progress

Finished Dough

Finished Dough

Once the batter is mixed well, form it into a 4 inch disc and cut the disc into 16 equal parts. 

16 Sections of Dough

16 Sections of Dough

Take one of the sections and use your hands to roll it into a ball (cover the remaining sections with a damp towel so the batter does not dry out).  Place the dough ball onto the prepared tortilla press. 

Dough Ball Ready for Pressing

Dough Ball Ready for Pressing

Use the lever and press the plates together.  When you open the press the tortilla should be uniform.  Carefully use a spatula to release the tortilla from the plastic.

My Daughter Making a Tortilla...Love the Gloves!

My Daughter Making a Tortilla...Love the Gloves!

Ready for Cooking

Ready for Cooking

Heat a nonstick pan to medium heat (no oil needed).  When the pan has come to temperature, put the freshly pressed tortilla in the pan and cook for approximately 50 seconds on each side.

In the Pan

In the Pan

Nice and Brown

Nice and Brown

Repeat with the remaining dough sections.

For  printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Breads / Crackers / Muffins, Gluten Free, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Sides, Vegan, Vegetarian

KALE IS THE NEW BEEF T-SHIRT

Great T-Shirt

Great T-Shirt

I came across this fun t-shirt a few weeks ago and ordered one for myself.  What a great walking advertisement for healthful eating!

Since the women’s shirt is fitted, I wore it to my last yoga class at Yoga Works and didn’t have any issues with it riding-up during my downward dogs (It drives me crazy when that happens).

To purchase this T-Shirt click here.

While we are on the subject of clothing, I thought I’d share one of my favorite workout pants.  I have quite a few pairs of Hard Tail yoga pants ($58.00) and find that my T-Party pants are very comparable and a FRACTION of the cost at $25.00 (they come in 15 colors).  To shop for T-Party yoga pants click here.

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ORANGE WALNUT STUFFED DATES

I am always trying to create healthier desserts.  I was inspired to make this dessert by some dates I had seen stuffed with cheese (I didn’t try them, but like the idea of stuffing dates).  Since the dates are so sweet, the filling does not need to be…it would be overpowering if it was.  I love how the orange flavor in the filling is subtle, but is definitely there.

These stuffed dates would be a great ending to a nice meal (or passed around on a platter as a sweet hors d’oeuvre).  Brew some Celestial Seasonings Tangerine Orange Zinger herbal tea and offer the dates to your guests with sliced mandarins on the platter as well.

Photo Courtesy of Celestial Seasonings

2 stuffed dates should be more than enough for each person.  I did not make all 36 dates the last time I made these, so I froze the remaining filling to use on another occasion…I’ll let you know how it works out.

INGREDIENTS – makes up to 36 stuffed dates

1/2 cup So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
1/3 cup orange juice (from approx. one orange)
2 Medjool dates
1 cup walnuts
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cashews
zest of 1 orange + more for garnish
36 dates for stuffing
 

Place the coconut milk, orange juice, dates, walnuts, and cinnamon into your high speed blender and blend until smooth.

Once smooth, add the cashews and orange zest and blend until smooth.

Put the completed filling into a pastry bag and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (2 hours is best).

Prepare the dates by slicing lengthways down to the pit.  Open the date carefully (you do not want to tear it in half) and use your fingers to form the date into a circle with the hole on top.  Remove the pit.

Pipe the refrigerated filling into the prepared dates.

Top each filled date with a sprinkling of cinnamon and orange zest.

Serve with sliced oranges or mandarins as an accompaniment.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Dessert, Gluten Free, Raw, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

REGAL CINEMA’S – fruit, nut, and snack pack

Photo Courtesy of www.regmovies.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.regmovies.com

Movie Snack Pack

Movie Snack Pack

My husband and I went to the movies this weekend to see Unknown and I forgot to bring myself a snack…yep, movie theater popcorn really is as bad for you as they say!  I was excited to see that Regal is now offering a more healthy alternative in the form of raisins, almonds, and pretzels.  While the almonds do have safflower oil in them, it is still a major improvement over other movie concessions!!!  I love seeing theaters taking steps in the right direction!

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Filed under Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian

ITALIAN QUINOA WRAPS

Italian Quinoa Wraps

Italian Quinoa Wraps

 Yesterday as I was contemplating what to have for lunch, the basil and quinoa in the fridge started calling me…the rest just sort of fell into place when I looked at what I had on hand.  The collard greens came from my most recent Farm Fresh to You delivery.

 
INGREDIENTS – Makes 6-8

6-8 large collard green leaves

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 ½ cups chopped ripe tomato

½ cup rough chopped fresh basil

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

¼  tsp salt

Pepper to taste

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ cup pine nuts

 ~

Add the chopped tomatoes to the food processor and pulse.  You want to maintain some of the tomato’s texture, so do not puree it. 

Pulse Tomato

Pulse Tomato

Next add the basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Pulse again to incorporate.  Set the mixture aside to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Add the Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Balsamic

Add the Basil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Balsamic

Wash the collard greens and dry both sides.  Remove the lower stem and most of the rough bone in the middle of the leaf.

Trim and Bebone the Collard

Trim and Bebone the Collard

Place the quinoa in a bowl and add the tomato mixture to the quinoa.  Stir to combine.  Add the pine nuts and mix well.

Add Tomato Mixture to Quinoa

Add Tomato Mixture to Quinoa

Add the Pine Nuts

Add the Pine Nuts

Assemble the wraps by placing 1/3-1/2 of a cup of the filling onto the top third of the collard green leaf.  Roll the leaf tightly as you would a burrito being careful to overlap the bottom portions that were separated by the removal of the rib (you don’t want the filling to fall out).  Repeat this step until all of the wraps have been made.

Add the Filling

Add the Filling

 I made all six and plan to keep them in the fridge as lunches or snacks for the rest of the week…we will have to see how long they last though since I have already eaten two of them!

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Grains, Main Dish, Quick, Vegan, Vegetarian

HAPPY BELATED ALMOND DAY!

Visuals in this post courtesy of The Almond Board of CA

Visuals in this post courtesy of The Almond Board of CA

Yesterday was Almond Day, so Happy Belated Almond Day!

When eaten in moderation, almonds are a great addition to your diet.  Here are some ideas on how to incorporate more almonds into your diet from the Almond Board of California (Yep, California has an Almond Board):

  • Tossed in a salad
  • Topping a bowl of porridge
  • Before or after a workout
  • In a tasty trail mix
  • Why not include in the trail mix at the office?
  • In a delicious, healthy dessert
  • In the glove compartment
  • As a late-night snack
  • As appetizers at parties
  • Sprinkled over entrées
  • Don’t forget the Maple Almond Granola recipe I posted from Earthbound Farms!
  • Also remember to use almond milk as a good dairy milk alternative

Below is a visual of what one ounce of almonds looks like:

1 handful= 23 almonds = 1 ounce

1 handful= 23 almonds = 1 ounce

One serving of almonds 28(g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat. 

Almond Nutrition Facts

Almond Nutrition Facts

Just make sure you don’t overdo it.  Limit your daily consumption to an ounce.  If you have heart disease it is best to avoid nuts due to their high fat content.

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Filed under Education, Gluten Free, Specific Food, Vegan, Vegetarian

CHEEZY HEMP NACHO SAUCE – Guest Blog by Kristen Suzanne of Kristen’s Raw

Kristen Suzanne

Kristen Suzanne

Today’s guest blog is by Kristen Suzanne, who is a leader in the raw food world.  She is an accomplished Raw Food Chef and former competitive bodybuilder. Through radio, television, books, classes, and her blog and email newsletter, Chef Kristen Suzanne helps people live life to the fullest with the healthiest cuisine in the world.  To learn more about why Kristen chose the raw food lifestyle click here.

Enjoy her post…

Cheezy Hemp Nacho Sauce

Cheezy Hemp Nacho Sauce

Hemp foods, now widely available in health food stores across the country, are taking the natural foods world by storm! A true “superfood,” hemp is high in protein, has excellent ratios of all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, tastes absolutely delicious, and is amazingly helpful to the environment due to its fast growth and lack of need for herbicides or pesticides.

Hemp is not your typical granola fare — it’s a subtle and delicious dream come true for foodies and connoisseurs of everything exotic and unique!

Let me tell you, this recipe is so good! I mean, like, really really awesomely delicious. I’ve made it every week for the past five weeks because we seriously cannot get enough of it. I’ve made it for lots of different people (non-Raw and Raw) and they all love it… I’m talking “lick-the-bowl-please-give-me-more” loving it. It’s perfect for showing off at the next party you attend or host. And, of course, it’s full of nutrition… hemp seeds (complete protein, essential fatty acids), red bell pepper and garlic (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals), and more. So, without further ado… here it is!

CHEEZY HEMP NACHO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS – Yield approximately 1 1/2 cups

1/3 cup water
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 red bell pepper, seeded, rough chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup hemp seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon chili powder*
2 teaspoons tamari, wheat-free
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan crystal salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder

*My favorite is by Simply Organic

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy. This can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. · Use this for dipping fresh veggies or corn chips (Raw or not – it’s up to you!)

Serving suggestions:
· For those eating cooked vegan foods, this is an awesome sauce on top of veggie burgers
· This also makes a delicious Raw vegan dressing on a hearty salad with romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and cucumbers. You could even sprinkle on some Raw vegan taco meat and Fun Corn Chips for a tortilla type salad.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Cheese, Gluten Free, Guest Blog, Raw, Recipes, Sauce / Spread / Jam / Yogurt, Vegan, Vegetarian

SEABIRDS – OC’s Vegan Food Truck!

This Saturday we went on a family adventure (led by my hubby) to experience the new food truck craze.  Downtown Anaheim was having an art walk and five food trucks came to provide the food.  The trucks parked in the parking lot of the training facility for the Anaheim Ducks.

My friend Anita clued me in to the fact that there is now a vegan food truck in our area (Seabirds) and since they were scheduled to be there I was excited to go and try them out.  If Seabirds hadn’t been there my food choices would have been major slim-pickings!

Here is their menu from last night:

I opted for three menu items; the nachos, portobello sandwich, and a gluten free cookie for my little girl (she’s GFree).

The nachos were very tasty and had just the right amount of spicey kick to them.  My only criticism is that the chips were a tad too greasy.

The sandwich was very flavorful.  The marinated portobellos were on spot!  My husband and son loved it too.

My daughter loved the cookie by Sweet Raya so much that when any of us got near it she literally started freaking out because she thought we were going to try to eat it.  Too cute!  I did sneak a bite ( a girl has to do her research, right?) and can tell you that it was really good…much better than it looks.

All in all it was a really great night.  The kids got to paint, watch other painters, and listen to bands.

I definitely recommend trying the food truck craze.  The next time I have the opportunity to eat at Seabirds I will be getting the grilled veggie burrito…I saw one of them and it looked really good!!

There are sites out there that track where the trucks will be.  One site to check out is www.roaminghunger.com

Click on the links below to learn more about that trucks that were there last night.

Seabirds

Kogi BBQ

Barcelona On The Go

Crepes Bonapart

Chunk-n-Chip

Have any of you tried Seabirds or another vegetarian food truck in your area?  What is your favorite menu item?

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Filed under Food Journal, Gluten Free, Restaurants, Vegan, Vegetarian