I've Moved!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

No more new posts on here. See you at www.LaVidaVeggie.com!

Cookbook Giveaway: Radiant Health, Inner Wealth

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at http://www.lavidaveggie.com/. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

To conclude the 2010 Month of Food and to pay forward my good fortune of winning some goodies, I am hosting a cookbook giveaway! Yay!

Radiant Health, Inner Wealth is a cookbook written by Tess Challis. It is the first vegan cookbook that landed on my shelf. I have been happy with every recipe I've made from the book and from Tess' blog, rhiw.blogspot.com. I'd like to share this book with YOU and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is "like" the La Vida Veggie Facebook page. (My friends will be so glad that I've created a special place for all my food and health posts - and you can join me there for veggie chatter.) For a bonus entry, post a link on your blog to my giveaway. Make sure to let me know you "liked" the Facebook page by commenting, and post a separate comment if you linked back. I'll use a random number generator to select the winner. The contest is open until 8:00 Eastern time on Sunday, December 5, 2010. Make sure to check back to see if you won! Sorry, but this contest is open to U.S. only. But you can enter if you're outside the U.S. and designate a U.S. winner to receive the prize on your behalf.

Here's a sneak peek at the cookbook.... good luck!

Slow Cooker Garlicky Lentil Soup

Monday, November 22, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at http://www.lavidaveggie.com/. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***


Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Since I first tasted lentils, I haven’t been able to stop eating them. What an amazing little bean! One of my favorite ways to have them isn’t exceptionally creative, but it is pretty good. A nice, thick soup.

There’s a packaged soup I found at the store that had the best garlicky taste. The stuff was like crack. It was a guaranteed lentil overdose – yes, there is such a thing. Anyway, even though I was thrilled about the taste, I was a little leery of the seasoning, which was a packet simply labeled “mixed herbs”. Hm. After some trial and error, I do believe I’ve matched the taste using all fresh ingredients. No mystery packets here!

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb dry lentils
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 7 cups vegetable broth
Directions:
  • Rinse and drain lentils. Remove any funky pieces.
  • Put all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir a few times just to mix it up.
  • Set slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours.
  • Serve with a salad and some crusty bread. Yum!

Today I am thankful for chickpea cutlets

Sunday, November 21, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Chickpea Cutlets

Dear Lord in Heaven, today I am thankful for PPK's chickpea cutlets.

Maybe that sounds corny, but it's true.

First of all, it's my first recipe out of my recently acquired copy of Veganomicon. I made my first batch tonight! I have been living under a rock all this time. These are Ah-mazing. Lucky you, if you don't have the book, you can get the recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen website.

Second, I spent this weekend alone doing homework and some house projects. Hubby was away on business. I started reading the book "Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows" by Melanie Joy. Wow. Probably not a good time to get into something depressing. I am saddened by the book but also glad that I'm reading it because I'm even more convicted to my dietary choices. Truthfully, I'm really bothered by the fact that I went on so many years eating naively. Not that there's anything I can do about that now, though. I can only move forward and try to let others know in a kind way what is happening.

With Thanksgiving coming up and all the focus being put on the poor turkeys, I am glad that I have a delicious alternative. One that is certainly better than any piece of turkey I've had in the past. I know these already have a lot of rave reviews, but they're true. I'm adding to the cutlet movement - these are going to be a regular for my home!

Whole cranberry and orange smoothie

Saturday, November 20, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

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Smoothies. We all like smoothies. And the best thing about them is that you don't have to have a recipe to make a stellar smoothe - just throw a bunch of fruit you like in a blender and go! What makes this one just slightly different is that it uses whole, fresh cranberries.

A year or so ago I read about the cranberry orange combo in Oxygen magazine. It was outside of my regular smoothie go-to's - I thought, why not? I'm glad I went for it. The original recipe called for honey and protein powder. You can use those if you wish. I also like to add in some spinach, but that doesn't make for as pretty a picture. It makes the smoothie a little murky looking, but it doesn't alter the taste.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that since fresh cranberries are generally on sale this time of year, you can scoop up a bunch and throw them in the freezer for future use :)

Whole Cranberry Orange Smoothie

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup (approx.) whole, fresh cranberries
  • 2 medium oranges (or 1 large orange)
  • 1 cup crushed ice (just a rough guess on this one)
  • Agave to taste
Directions:
  • Peel oranges and remove seeds.
  • Put oranges, cranberries and ice in the blender.
  • Blendy, blendy, blendy until its smooth.
  • If the smoothie is too tart for your taste, add some agave and repeat the blendy, blendy, blendy step.
  • Voila!

Food Matters

Thursday, November 18, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***



I don't want to cop out on a daily post during MoFo, so I am cheating a little. It's a compromise that I have to make in order to keep up with a full-time job and part-time school. But it's still related to food, so no worries :)

"Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food." -- Hippocrates

Yesterday, while I was making dinner, I had documentary playing. I love documentaries - especially ones about food. Food Matters is a 2008 documentary that my sister in law recommended to me. She said it was about eating raw and how that ties into disease as severe as cancer and, well, that was enough to pique my interest. I don't know enough about eating raw to do it intentionally, but after watching this, I'll make a point to incorporate more. Maybe I'll even do a raw food blog round up before MoFo is over!

The official trailer is posted above and the full version is available on Netflix. If you have an interest in food (you do if you are reading this), health and disease prevention, I highly recommend checking this out.

Easy roasted vegetables

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Roasted vegetables

Super simple supper tonight, kids. It was minimal prep, no hovering over the stove, and easy clean up. Score!

About this time last year I wanted to make a heap of veggies with no fuss. I found a recipe for roasted root vegetables from Cooking Light. I did make the recipe as it was written, but then I got lazy. Plus, I wasn't always interested in the veggies called for in the recipe. I now make this recipe with just about whatever I have on hand and eyeball it when it comes to the oil, brown sugar and salt.

Dinner ended up being roasted zucchini, squash, carrots and red onion. I had a small baked potato and baked tofu on the side. Mmmm... And plenty of left overs for tomorrow! So now, a loose recipe for these roasted veggies.

Roasted Veggies
Ingredients:
  • Vegetables of your choice, cut up into pieces that will allow them to cook evenly (e.g. don't put tiny pieces of peppers together with big chunks of potato)
  • Enough olive oil to lightly coat the veggies
  • Two small pinches of brown sugar
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions:
  • Set the oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Place all cut veggie in a big bowl. 
  • Pour olive oil all over the veggies, sprinkle in the sugar and the salt. 
  • Toss, toss, toss. 
  • Put the veggies in a baking pan and put it in the oven. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes, toss, then bake for 20 more minutes. 
  • Note - if you are using less dense or thin cut veggies, you may want to shorten the bake time so they don't get soggy. 
  • When you serve, use cracked black pepper and balsamic vinegar to your hearts content!

Ugly sushi still tastes great

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Sushi guts

Tonight I tried my hand at making sushi rolls. It wasn't a disaster, but it was no work of art. Note that I posted a photo of the sushi guts and not the finished rolls. How do the sushi chefs do it? Dang! I think I had more nori stuck to my fingers than actually holding the roll together. Sushi fail.

The important part of tonight's dinner was not the aesthetics of my rolls (veggie rolls, of course). It was the fun I had getting it all put together. I went to the Asian market and bought chopsticks, a rolling mat, nori and some wasabi; I carefully sliced all my veggies and made rice; and I rolled my little heart out. Bonus points for the hubs jumping in on the fun and trying to make a roll too. We worked really hard for those ugly little rolls and despite their looks, they were pretty tasty!

I recently read an article in Wired magazine about a scientific study that ties together the effort put into a meal and the enjoyment of eating it. It's called "Why Making Dinner is a Good Idea" and likens the effort of making dinner to that of assembling Ikea furniture. Sure, the final product might not be top notch, but you built it and therefore appreciate it so much more. So I guess my sushi fail was still satisfying because of the effort I put into it. The article goes on to suggest that overeating and obesity could be linked to not enjoying food in the same sense and thus a person eats more and more achieve that same satisfaction.

So, could today's lesson be cooking effort = food satisfaction = healthier people? Hmm. Who knew ugly sushi could lead to such insight?

Leeks, you took me by surprise!

Monday, November 15, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Creamy Leek and Almond Pasta

I've never ate nor cooked with leeks before, and yesterday was as good as any day to change that. I am recipe testing for "Quick and Easy Vegan One Dish Wonders," an upcoming cookbook for Carla at The Year of the Vegan. The recipe was Creamy Leek and Almond Pasta. See that picture up there? Yum! I think I'll be trying out leeks in a few other things because I really liked their flavor and texture. Not at all like a green onion, which I assumed it would be based on the way leeks look!

If you haven't tried using leeks yet and would like to give it a whirl, Real Simple has a quickie demo video that explains how to clean and prep them.

Creamy Leek and Almond Pasta

McTofu breakfast sandwich

Sunday, November 14, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

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Back in the day, I was a fan of McD's breakfast sandwich, particularly the ones served on an English muffin. Today, obviously not. But, just for kicks and giggles, I wanted to see if I could come up with something in my own kitchen using my preferred ingredients. The McTofu breakfast sandwich was born.

I used firm tofu cut into slabs and rubbed in the same seasonings I do to make scrambled tofu. Then I melted some cheddar on top. It was piled high (or not so high, actually) on a lightly buttered, toasted English muffin. The only thing that was missing was a sausage patty, which I thought that I had on hand and it turned out I didn't. With the sausage and butter and the cheese it's not a regular breakfast item, but it was kinda fun to make. It tasted pretty good, too! The only thing I would do different is slice the slabs thinner, get the cheese meltier, and make sure I had the sausage patties on hand.

Score: Sarah -1, McD's - 0.

SprouTofu Veggie Burgers

Saturday, November 13, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Wild Wood Organics SprouTofu Veggie Burgers

We all have nights where we're working away and all of a sudden we realize we're hungry but don't have energy to put something decent together. Um...tonight for example. Enter Wild Wood Organics' SprouTofu Veggie Burgers. Sold in packs of two, they can be found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. At my Whole Foods, it's right next to the tofu and tempeh and priced about 3-ish dollars. Not bad considering they're organic and don't contain any weird ingredients.

DSC_0007I've had the Southwest style burgers several times. They are just the right amount of spicy. The texture is firm enough to bite into, but not chewy. You can see lots of vegetable bits in the burger, too. I'm sure you can nuke them, but I do a quick warm up in a skillet. I looove these with with some guacamole.

Mom's Veggie Chili

Friday, November 12, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Veggie Chili

This is the best veggie chili ever because it's the one my Mom makes. She found the recipe years ago and it was an instant hit with our family! Since then, I've made a few minor tweaks, but nothing that impacts the way the chili turns out.

I have several things I love about this chili. First, it reminds me of home, and I love anything that reminds me of home. Second, it's really a "clean-out-the-fridge" kind of meal. I've added everything from summer squash to random left over beans, to over ripe tomatoes. The final thing I love about this chili is that it freezes so well. A lot of times I make a double batch just to load up the freezer with portions to pull out on a busy day.

Without further ado...

Mom's Veggie Chili

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium pepper (green, yellow, whatever), chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz zesty diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 15 oz garbanzo beans
  • 30 oz chili beans

Directions:
  • Saute zucchini, pepper, onion, carrots, celery and garlic in oil until tender.
  • Stir in tomatoes, bouillon, soy sauce and cumin; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add beans and heat through.

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

Breakfast beer bread

Thursday, November 11, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

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If you have flour, baking powder, sugar and a bottle of beer, you can have a loaf of fresh bread come out of your oven in just shy of an hour. Throw in some extra goodies and you can squeak it by as breakfast bread!

I think this would be good with a variety of dried fruits mixed in. Maybe even some seeds or topped with ground flax seeds. It tastes delicious served warm with some Earth Balance or peanut butter.

Breakfast Beer Bread
Inspired by the Food Network


Ingredients:
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 raisins
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 bottle of beer 

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). 
  • Add the beer and stir until just mixed.The dough will be sticky.
  • Pour into non-stick bread loaf (or pan sprayed with no-stick spray).
  • You can carve a line down the middle of the dough so as it cooks it looks like a split loaf.
  • Bake for 55 minutes.
  • Remove from oven. Let cool and serve.

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Maple Candied Walnuts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Maple candied walnuts

I love the way roasted nut stands smell…you know, the ones that they have in the malls during the holidays or on a busy street sidewalk, filling the air with cinnamony sweet goodness.

Making your own is pretty easy, and it makes your kitchen smell awesome to boot. Then you have 1) an satisfying snack for your sweet tooth, 2) a perfect “jar” gift (just put the nuts in a pretty container for a host/hostess gift), and 3) a killer topping for salad. If I manage to have any left at the end of tonight, I'm going to crush them up a little and have them ready for my oatmeal in the morning. Yum!

Maple Walnuts

Ingredients:
  • 2 parts walnuts
  • 1 part maple syrup
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line a baking pan with tin foil (I normally try to avoid this but the mess can be a real pain to clean, so tin foil saves the day). Create a tin foil lip all the way around the pan so the maple syrup doesn't escape its fate of coating the nuts.
  • Put two parts walnuts and one part in a large bowl and toss until all the walnuts are covered
  • Spread the mapley walnuts on the pan
  • Roast for 10 minutes. Stir, reigning in all the syrup that escaped and sprinkle on a little cinnamon (optional). Roast for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool. I'm warning you that you will want to eat these right away but they are super hot right out of the oven. Give them a few minutes to cool.
  • Use the nuts however you'd like. Eat them straight up or save them for an occasion.
  • Be glad that you used tin foil because now you don't have to scrub your baking pan.

Maple candied walnutsMaple candied walnuts

Forks Over Knives screening and dinner at Darbster's

Sunday, November 7, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The new site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***



Saturday turned out to be a grand day to be a vegan. I attended a screening of Forks Over Knives, a movie due out in the spring that addresses the need for people to adapt a plant-based diet. Think The China Study meets Hollywood. One of real-life patients that was in the film (actually, the one featured in the movie trailer) attended the screening and gave a testimony to how much it has changed his life. There were some veggies in the audience, but only a few. I think that he really made impression on people. For me, and I'm assuming any other veggie, it was motivation to keep going. The movie is still doing screenings and will also do premieres. Just check out their website www.ForksOverKnives.com to see if they are hosting an event near you.

After the event, I caught up with a couple ladies from across the room having heard that they were veggie. They'd mentioned during the post-film discussion that they were newly veg so I wanted to tell them about all the awesomeness going on with MoFo. Of course they were super excited. Who wouldn't be? So off my new acquaintances and I went to a vegan/raw restaurant that I'd never been to.

They took me to Darbster in West Palm Beach (Florida), which I probably would have driven past if I'd not been following them. It was cozy and friendly...even dog-friendly! The menu had lots of good options, the prices were pretty decent, and the staff was outstanding. I really enjoyed the whole thing. I ordered Hearts of Palm Cakes because it was something new for me and because it was highly recommended. It was so good that it made it difficult to be engaged in the dinner conversation when all I wanted to do was shovel the whole thing in my mouth. When I go back (not if), it will be hard not to default to ordering that because I liked it so much. The other stuff that was coming out of the kitchen looked pretty darn good, too. No picture of the food from me because I dove in faster than I realized it was a good opportunity hahaha. But you can go to their website www.Darbster.com and check out their menu and lots of (unstealable) pictures of their food.

Veggie and Pesto Stromboli

Saturday, November 6, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***


Veggie and Pesto Stromboli

Instead of our usual Friday night pizza, I decided to play around with making stromboli. It didn't seem too difficult based on what I read, so why the heck not? Here's what I came up with.


Ingredients:
1 pre-made pizza dough (you can make your own if you are ambitious)
Pesto
Daiya mozzarella cheese
Cooked or sauteed spinach (remove as much water as possible)
Steamed broccoli
Sun-dried tomato Tofurky
Marinara sauce (for dipping)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to pre-made dough specifications. (Mine said 425 degrees.)
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Try to get it rectagle-ish. Mine came out more like an oval, which was fine because I could stretch it a bit in the folding process.
  • Spread pesto all over the dough. Go nuts.
  • Layer ingredients down the middle, lengthwise. (I did cheese first so I'd get a nice layer of cheesy goodness all together. I only used about 1/2 bag of Daiya and it was noticeably cheesy but not overpowering.)


  • Fold one side of the dough toward the center, covering the ingredients. Then fold the other side in. For extra measure, you can seal the dough on the fold line with a little water.
  • Carefully move the uncooked stromboli to a baking pan. (If I were clever, I would have thought to move the rolled out dough to the baking pan before even adding pesto. Then there would be no worries of carefully moving a stuffed stromboli. Oh well.)
  • Bake according to your pre-made dough specifications. (Mine said 15 mine). 
  • Stromboli will be ready when the crust is golden brown and stromboli  makes a  hallow sound when you tap it.
  • Serve with some warm marinara sauce on the side.
Note: I'm not sure what to say about letting the dough rise before using it. When I make pizza, I let my dough rise before I roll it out. In this case, the dough didn't rise much before I started getting impatient. Also, some recipes suggested stuffing the stromboli and then letting the dough rise. Regardless, what we had last night was pretty darn tasty for not being 100% on what I (or the dough) was doing!

Second note: sorry for the grainy pics. I didn't realize that the ISO on the camera was so high until we had eaten half the stromboli.

Third note: Mmmm...leftovers...


Veggie and Pesto Stromboli
Schmear pesto and add filling















Veggie and Pesto Stromboli
Fold in sides













Veggie and Pesto Stromboli
Bake until golden brown












Veggie and Pesto Stromboli
Enjoy!

A movie and popcorn kind of date night

Friday, November 5, 2010

***If you were directed here through Vegan MoFo, please click through to my site at www.LaVidaVeggie.com. The site and feed was available too late for the MoFo team to incorporate. The text during MoFo will be the same, but starting in December, I won't keep this site updated. Thanks, and happy MoFo-ing!***

Popcorn and a movie

Friday nights are typically our night in. We’re tired from a long week and just want to unwind. I won’t lie – this usually involves pizza, wine and a movie. With it being Guy Fawkes Day and all, we’re going to watch V is for Vendetta. And you can’t have a good movie without some popcorn!

It’s been a while since I’ve bought microwave popcorn. Sure, the convenience is great, but when you cook it on the stove, it’s just you and the kernel…and a little bit of oil. It’s very easy and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it. You can follow the directions that are listed on the package your corn kernels came in or wing it, like I do.

Just pour a couple tablespoons of oil in a pot (preferably one that has a matching lid). Set the heat on medium and pour in your kernels. Resist the urge to add a lot of kernels because you’ll overflow! These little guys start taking up a lot of space FAST. Keep your lid on so oil and kernels don’t start flying out. If you’d like, you can swirl the pot around a bit during the cooking process. I promise it won’t be long before you hear the popping noise. Pay close attention to when it slows down so you can remove the popcorn from the burner before you toast your treat. Pour the finished popcorn into a great big bowl.

As if the popping part wasn’t fun enough (I love watching the kernels pop!), now you get to top the popcorn. We like ours with some sea salt tossed in. Simple but tasty. One of my favorite combos is salty popcorn and chocolate because, of course, chocolate makes EVERYTHING better!

Happy movie watching!

Mr. Q. Cumber

Thursday, November 4, 2010

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When I think of cucumbers, I think of sliced with salt, adding crunch to salad, or being a standard salad feature. I do not think of soda. However, a few months ago I heard that this drink was going to be coming out and lo and behold, today I saw it being sold at my local smoothie spot. I had to get one. I figured it could be bad since I do really like cucumbers in ice water (yes, it's good!). The soda was definitely good although even though it's what I expected, it wasn't. I guess it was just more of being used to soda being certain flavors, most of them very sugary.

Mr. Q. Cumber, you may be a new treat for me. We could even become Facebook friends :)

My drink has what in it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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I’m a girl who likes a drink (or 2 or 3) now and then. To my unpleasant surprise, I found out that not all adult beverages are void of animal products. It blows my mind that someone wants to do that to my liquid indulgence. Honey I can deal with. A lot of the other stuff like isinglass from fish bladders – ew. Good thing for Barnivore.com.

If it’s not already old news to you, this is a site that has the low-down on what’s vegan and what’s not in the alcohol realm. They even have iPhone/iPod apps so you can take the info with you while bar hopping. The apps are how I came across it. I have the full collection: vegan wine, vegan beer, vegan liquor. A lush? No. Well…no. Prepared? Yes.

And for the record, Hornitos tequila is vegan :)

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

Slow cookers are such a great tool, especially for those who don’t have as much time to cook as they would like! If you don’t have one already, score yourself one during the holidays when they go on super sale. Then you can experience just how great it is to have a meal cooking for you all day long with so little effort. It’s so awesome to come in from a long day and have something that smells good and is ready to go. Mmm mmm mmm.

I found a gem of a slow cooker black bean soup recipe last month and I’ve already made it several times. This is not just soup for me, though. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s perfect for soup the first day and then turns into a side dish, salad topping, taco filling, bean dip or burger building material the following days. You could easily make a huge batch of this and freeze some for future use, too.

Here’s the scoop.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:
1 pound dry black beans, soaked overnight
4 tsp diced jalapeno peppers
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce

    Directions:
    Drain black beans and rinse. Combine beans and broth in a pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Combine beans broth, jalapenos, and soy sauce in a slow cooker. Season with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Cook on high for 4 hours. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for 2 hours, or until you are ready to eat. Enjoy!

      Chocolate Chip Cookies

      Monday, November 1, 2010



      The first day of my first Vegan MoFo! Yay! I’m so excited to be a part of this and can’t let the little grey cloud that is my fear of not having enough time to do everything I want get me down. I will do as much as I can and enjoy it. The beauty of the internet is that for the most part, this stuff will be around for a while. I will read what I can as it’s being posted and then do some catching up over the holidays. With more than 550 Vegan MoFo participants I have to be okay with it!

      Let’s get started :)

      I had my first rendezvous with beans in baked goods. Seeing as those are two of my favorite things, I don’t know what on earth took me so long. I made Happy Herbivore’s butter bean chocolate chip cookies (subbing white beans for the butter beans) and wasn’t disappointed. Thank you Happy Herbivore, for making me feel less guilty about eating such a treat! I’ll definitely be making these again and am looking forward to telling my friend whose son has egg, dairy and nut allergies how awesome and safe these will be for her kiddo.

      Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

      If I get my butt in gear to make holiday cookie baskets, these will definitely be a part of them. Hmm…that gets me thinking…I wonder if I whip up some dough how it would freeze? Having ready-to-go cookie dough in the freezer could be wonderfully helpful yet dangerous.



      Quinoa Loaf

      Tuesday, October 5, 2010

      Quinoa Loaf


      Quinoa is so underrated. It took me many times reading about its magic powers (seriously) in different health and food magazines before finally getting some to try myself. Read for yourself how awesome this it really is and then hunt down a bag. You’ll likely find it in the same aisle of the grocery store where they have bags of rice. I have only found it sold in about half the grocery stores in my neighborhood, so don’t give up if you don’t see it. Ask for the store manager and request that it is purchased in the future; maybe he or she can help you out. In the meantime, it’s highly likely to be at a store like Whole Foods.
       
      Here’s what you need to know about quinoa:
      • It’s an ancient food source, meaning people have been eating the stuff for ages 
      • It's super healthy and actually a complete protein as well as a good source of fiber
      • It cooks in about 12 minutes, just simmer it in water (even better in veggie broth) and voila!
      • It’s compatible with about anything you think of to make a tasty side – veggies, beans, nuts, seasoning, etc.
      • It’s not limited to just sides! You can make patties, loafs, breakfast cereals and so much more!
       
      One of my favorite ways to make quinoa is in a loaf. This recipe is from Whole Foods. I like it because not only is it good, but it makes great leftovers! My favorite ways to eat it is in a wrap (with spinach and spicy mustard or garlicky hummus) and as a slice with a side of roasted veggies.
       
      Quinoa Loaf
      from Whole Foods


      Ingredients:
      1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
      8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
      Salt and ground black pepper to taste
      1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
      3/4 c. rolled oats
      2 c. cooked quinoa ( Learn to Cook: Quinoa)
      1 c. frozen green peas
      1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley and/or 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
      10 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
      1 c.  chopped red onion


      Directions:
      Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch loaf pan with oil; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.


      Meanwhile, put beans, oats and 1/2 cup water into a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, bean mixture, quinoa, peas, parsley, tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan, gently pressing down and mounding it in the middle. Bake until firm and golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Set aside to let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.



      Biscuits and Jam

      Thursday, September 16, 2010

      Biscuits and Jam

      Hello, Sunday morning. Why don’t we ring you in with some biscuits and jam? Not any ordinary tube biscuits and off-the-shelf jam, but some quality, made from scratch kind of cookin’.

      To pull together this meal, I had to do a bit of pre-planning. I knew for some time that I wanted to make vanilla peach jam shared by Seasons & Suppers, it was just a matter of getting peaches on hand and setting aside a few minutes for the project. Last week while at a local Saturday farmer’s market, I mentioned to the owner that I was hoping to make that as my next batch of jam. She’d tried my recent attempt at mango lime jam and really liked it, so she offered to sell me all the ugly peaches she had on hand at a big discount…provided I brought her some jam the following week. Deal! Cheap organic peaches and something to hold me to following through on the jam. In fact, the peaches were very ripe, so I had to make the jam that same night if it was going to happen at all.

      The recipe was easy to follow. I liked it because it was made without commercial pectin – it was just the natural pectin from lemon seeds! Cool! It calls for using cheesecloth, which if don’t have on hand can be purchased at your local fabric store. Also, I asked the blog author about omitting the butter. She said that the butter could certainly be left out (which makes the recipe vegan) and that its purpose is just to help minimize foaming. Any foam that does appear can be scooped up. I actually didn’t notice any foam on my batch. I saved some of the jam for Sunday morning and the rest went into small containers for freezing. One of those containers goes back to the farmer’s to hold up my end of the bargain.

      I also had my eye on a biscuit recipe. I wanted something quick so I could make it with little effort in the morning. There’s nothing like a fresh from the oven biscuit! I found a great biscuit recipe at Happy Herbivore. It’s actually part of the author’s biscuits and gravy recipe, but it was easy enough to figure out what I needed for just the biscuits. I was pleased with how easy the recipe was to make and to salvage, seeing as I nearly screwed it up in my half-away state.

      The end result? Great big biscuits and fresh vanilla peach jam. I have had biscuits and jam for most of my life and although these were not identical to what I grew up with, I certainly had no complaints! As a matter of fact, I am already thinking about how these might taste with some savory spices rolled in…it would probably make a pretty good dinner biscuit!

      A Joyful Kitchen: Roasted Pumpkin

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      Pumpkin makes my heart sing. I am happy to eat it all year round, but it really feels right to be eating it in the fall. Too bad I'm living in Florida and it still looks every bit of summer as it did on the 4th of July. Oh well. Pumpkin makes me feel like I am back in the Midwest where fall brings cooler temperatures and beautiful new scenery.
      So there's pumpkin to be eat that doesn't come in a can? Yes, it's true. Roasting a bit of pumpkin is so easy and can be made very healthy. This is not the kind of pumpkin dish to be slathered in butter or covered in marshmallow! Just enjoy the flavor of the pumpkin for what it is. This is also not a strict recipe so there are no measurements. Experiment and see what flavors you want to draw out the most.


      Roasted Pumpkin

      Ingredients:
      Fresh pumpkin (I use Jamaican calbaza because it is handy, but others would probably work, too)
      Walnuts
      Dried cranberries
      Maple syrup
      Cinnamon
      Olive oil

      Directions:
      Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Discard the seeds of the pumpkin (or set aside if you plan to roast them as an additional treat). Remove the skin of the pumpkin. (It may be easier to carefully chop this off instead of trying to use a peeler.) Cut the pumpkin into approximately 1 square inch pieces. No need to be exact here. The important thing is that the pieces are roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

      Toss the cut pumpkin, walnuts, dried cranberries, maple syrup and cinnamon into a baking dish. Remember, the quantity is going to be to your liking. Add a drizzle of olive oil - just enough to prevent sticking to the pan. Stir everything together to make sure the pumpkin has been evenly coated. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully stir the ingredients and cook for another 20 minutes.

      That's it! You can get the kitchen cleaned up well before this is done baking and your house will smell nice to boot :)

      5 Ways to Help Vegetarians Survive Non-Vegetarian Potlucks

      Friday, September 10, 2010

      A couple times a year, my office hosts a potluck luncheon. Starting with the first one I attended, I saw that they were really meat and starch fests. Everyone seemed to be content with it, so I didn’t want to criticize, but this time ‘round I DID want to bring a little something different to the table. Literally. 

      Usually, I’m the veggies and dip girl, which I don’t mind. The trouble is, I end up with very little on my plate and hunting down sweets a few hours after lunch. Since our last potluck, I have become much stricter vegetarian and dabbled in veganism, so I knew I needed to come prepared. Sure, I could fill up on dinner rolls, but that’s not exactly nutritionally dense food. I like some bang for my bite. I also don't want to gorge on the dairy and egg dishes. I'm to the point where I'm trying to avoid that as much possible. Rather than the veggie tray provider I’ve been typecast as, I brought veggie chili. (Vegan, in fact, but I didn’t label it so because it was pushing my luck enough to bring meatless chili. Vegan labels might scare my co-workers off all together!) It went over well, and I didn’t end up leaving the luncheon hungry.
       
      Are you going to a potluck? Need ideas how to manage so you aren’t left peckish due to an abundance of meats and no plants? Don't leave yourself to the mercy of others, especially because there's a great chance that they don't know your personal food preferences. Here are some ideas to get you going…
       
      1. Talk to the coordinator
        Make the effort to chat up whoever is coordinating the event. See if they are requesting special items, doing a sign up, or letting things go as a free for all. At least you will know what to expect when you arrive at the potluck. Thanks to asking in advance, I was comforted knowing that I would have at least a veggie side dish and fruit dessert to count on.
      2. Eat in advance
        Don't walk in on an empty stomach! You run the chance of getting irritated with lack of choices or caving in to something you normally wouldn't. My bad today...I was running on empty when I joined the luncheon and definitely made some food choices I wish I hadn't. I definitely won't do that again.
      3. Pack some extra snacks
        You don't have to bust your extra chow out in front of everyone, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have some back up snacks set aside. You know, just in case things don't work out as well as you hoped. I had a salad stashed during today's luncheon and fortunately had enough that it wasn't called for. Delicious spinach for another day...mmm...
      4. Bring a vegetarian dish
        Don't be shy! Bring a veggie dish that you know YOU will like. That way you know you have at least ONE good option there! Plus, you're doing the community good by potentially introducing them to something new. I'll admit, sometimes I'd rather be the person chipping in a few bucks or bringing the chips to the potluck, but that won't carry me very far when the actual meal comes around. I say suck it up and sign up for one of the featured dishes. My contribution today was veggie chili, something I knew I could fill up on if I needed to.
      5. Enlighten others
        You don't have to gloat about what you're eating (or rather what you're not), but don't sit facing the corner. Have a good time socializing and if someone asks you about your food choice, enlighten them. My trouble is that I get excited and start to ramble. Today I had to force myself to stay quiet when I was repeatedly offered a dessert smothered in gelatin. I wanted to tell the world what they were eating! But I didn't think that doing so while they were scarfing it down would be very appropriate timing. By playing it (mostly) cool today, I got some great feedback from my co-workers on the chili. Many of them enjoyed it and several commented on how they were surprised how good it was without meat. Go figure!  

      Taking the Good with the Bad

      Thursday, September 9, 2010

      One week ago, I received some very sad news. My grandmother, who we called Mamaw, passed away. I was expecting the news to come any day because she had been in hospice for quite a while. However, I did not expect the news to come of the first day of a much anticipated vacation.

      Fortunately, I made several trips cross-country in the last few months to see Mamaw. We talked and laughed, and I was able to do some special things with her to help keep her mind off her condition. I'm so glad I made that effort while she was here. I learned the hard way how much that matters from not having done so when my grandfather was ill years ago.

      So there I was, only six hours away from  home and six hours away from my final vacation destination. I could go to a funeral or I could go to my college stompin' grounds and attend my sorority reunion. All the times I had gone home while Mamaw was alive (and through numerous phone calls), I had discussions with my parents about flying in when Mamaw did pass. It was inevitable, so might as well be emotionally prepared, right? We all agreed whole heartedly that time and money was better spent visiting while she was with us, and I was content with that decision...until the very day when I had to act on the decision.

      I was standing with my husband and mother-in-law at the moment. I was choked up, but not the emotional wreck I had been several months prior when Mamaw's health really took a turn for the worse. It was as if I had finally come to terms with it.

      I remembered the discussions with my parents and how Mamaw did not want me to spend time crying over her...yet it was hard to accept the fact that I wouldn't go to a funeral when it was so possible to do so. I had paid all the respect in the world to her. I had been in touch with my family throughout her hospice stay to offer my support. I had said my goodbyes every time I ended a visit with her.

      I turmoiled over my decision for the whole day. It wasn't until a late evening phone call with my dad that I felt better about what I was going to do. He said he'd do the same thing if he were in my shoes. Considering this was his mom that had passed, I counted that as his blessing.

      So I didn't go to the funeral. It sounds sooo weird to say and equally so to write it! I was really worried about what the extended family would think of it all. I didn't want them to misunderstand this as any kind of disrespect. My parents doubted it would be an issue and said they would take care of anything that came up. They felt that anyone attending the funeral would know better because the of life-long relationship I'd had with Mamaw.

      I traveled to my sorority reunion, staying in contact with my family the whole time. I planned out a special memorial dinner with my younger sister, who happens to be attending the same school that I was headed to. We took time away from the social activities to spend together and made a classic Mamaw meal: greens, soup beans, cornbread, fried potatoes and sweet tea. We ate and laughed and talked about life...it was good. Sure, I missed seeing my family that would have attended the funeral, but over the dinner my sister and I made, we built a memory. Mamaw would have wanted it that way.

      During every moment of my vacation, I was surrounded by people I care about, laughter, reliving memories, and thoroughly enjoying life. Someday, when I am in Mamaw's shoes, I want my family out doing the same. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't sit around waiting for something to happen. Do things that will allow you to look back and smile. Get busy making every moment count because you never know when you are going to enjoy your last one.

      Love you, Mamaw.

      A Joyful Kitchen: Scrambled Tofu

      Monday, August 23, 2010

      Scrambled Tofu

      Hello, tofu. I love you.

      I am sitting here asking myself how I could have possibly waited so long to try scrambled tofu. It sounds a little extreme to any egg lover (I am a reformed egg lover) to scramble tofu in an egg's place. Absurd. Outrageous. Insane.

      I am here, my friends, to assure you that my scrambled tofu was not just tastier than scrambled eggs, but infinitely healthier. Thanks to guidance from the Post Punk Kitchen and AllRecipes.com, I put this delicious little number together for brunch over the weekend.

      By the way, I'd like you to know my egg-adoring husband loved this and even went back for seconds. We had our scrambled served up in a whole wheat tortilla and some fresh fruit on the side.


      Tofu Scramble

      Ingredients:
      1 package firm or extra firm organic tofu
      1/2 tsp turmeric
      1/2 tsp garlic powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      a couple dashes onion powder
      pepper to taste
      1 cup peppers, onions and tomatoes, diced
      1 link Tofurky sun-dried italian sausage, diced

      Directions:
      Prep your veggies and sausage by dicing them in small-ish pieces and setting aside. There is no perfect size, you just want them to be able to get a little tender by the time the tofu warms through.

      Mix together the turmeric, garlic powder, salt, onion powder and pepper in a small dish. This will help the flavors evenly distribute when you add them to the tofu.

      Drain any water from the tofu. Give it a couple good squeezes to get the excess out. Don't press the tofu because removing too much water can leave you with a dry or rubbery scramble.

      In a non-stick pan (you can spritz with olive oil if you wish) over medium-low heat, crumble the tofu to resemble scrambled eggs. Sprinkle half of your seasoning over the tofu and toss. The tofu will start picking up hints of yellow from the spice. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning and toss. Finally, add in your veggies and sausage and - you guessed it - toss again. Notice that you are not stirring...you don't want to make tofu slop. Just toss it together and the scramble-y texture should stay in tact for you.

      Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. (The heat and temperature may need to be adjusted according to your range.) Your final product should come out moist (but not soggy), a bright yellow, and very flavorful. Serve in a whole wheat tortilla and enjoy!

      Don't be afraid to swap out the veggies for others that you may like! Just remember that denser veggies may need to be pre-cooked so they're the right consistency at the end of your tofu cook time. Some shredded zucchini or sauteed spinach might be really nice in there.

      A Joyful Kitchen: Healthy Lunch Ideas

      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      Sure, it's great to take lunch to work or school every day because it saves money and is usually healthier. But who has the time? We're all busy, so making gourmet lunches is pretty challenging. I personally have to think about mine at the beginning of the week so I know what to grocery shop for, then make time each night to put things together.

      At a loss for what kinds of things to tuck into a lunchbox? Here's a short list to get you started.
      • Peanut butter sandwich - yes, it's about as kindergarten as you can get. But dress it up with some fresh sliced fruit instead of sugar-laden jelly. Skip the fluffy bread for some hearty Ezekiel bread and you'll really stay full for the afternoon.
      • Vegan yogurt and a hearty muffin - this meal will suit your lunchtime at the computer (I hope you have a chance to get away though!). You can toss in some fresh fruit to your vegan yogurt, which is super easy to make at home, and get that comfort food feeling from a tasty carrot spice muffin.
      • Mexican salad - this is easy to throw together and make exactly to your liking! Pick your favorite greens and top with some black beans for protein. Add as much as you like of corn, chopped tomato, green pepper, cucumber, avacado, cilantro and onion. Instead of a heavy salad dressing, have some salsa or a fresh lime ready on the side. When you are ready to have lunch, pour the salsa or squeeze the lime on top. Waiting for this last step saves you from a soggy salad. Want a stricter recipe? Here's Tess Challis' Sexy Mexi Salad.
      • Veggie wrap - you can't go wrong when using hummus! How about a pita or tortilla schmeared with some hummus and filled with your favorite veggies and some sprouts? Yum! If you want to add tomato, you might consider packing it on the side and adding just before eating.
      • Soups and chilis - one of my favorite things on a cold or dreary day is a warm lunch. I often freeze my soup and chili so I can pull a portion out of the freezer on a whim. When it comes to lunches, a frozen individual serving not only is a quick save when I have nothing else on hand, but it also helps keep the rest of my lunch cold while it defrosts.
      • Leftovers - sometimes I don't want to have the same thing for lunch every day. What I do in that case is make extra servings of dinner and then package that up as lunches. What looks like a lot of extra effort to bring in a nice lunch is merely a little thinking ahead!
      • Fresh fruit and veggies - don't fall prey to a vending machine. Make sure you have snacks packed. I love fresh fruit and veggies during the day. Depending on your work/school environment, you may want to peel and chop things in advance. Awesome fruits are apples, oranges, peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwi. Great veggies are broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, pepper slices and maybe some hummus to dip them all in. Of course there are many more fruit and veggie options, but these are just get you thiking.
      Don't forget to think green when you're packing a lunch. Invest in a basic reuseable lunch bag - they are under 10 dollars for a nice insulated one and it will last you years. Also get some reusable containers so you can minimize the number of baggies you use. And how about having some spare silverware to pack with your lunch? Instead of disposable forks and spoons, just bring yours home and was them. All of a sudden, the garbage you produce every days has gone way down.

      Whether you are packing lunches year round or just getting ready to start a new school year, there are lots of ways to make a healthy mid-day meal. Don't give up. Don't let excuses get in the way of putting something together. Having a solid lunch can make all the difference in your energy through the afternoon!

      Girl Meets Daiya...and Gardein!

      Tuesday, August 17, 2010





      Today was my first encounter with Daiya cheese. I had read about lots of people using it, fared well with a different style of cheese alternative, and decided to give it a go. Not too shabby, although I have to admit that it will take a bit of getting used to. On first impression, I thought that it was a bit salty. On a positive note, it melted very well.

      Tonight was a first for using Gardein, too. I had tried it at a local restaurant, so I knew what to expect but it was still a first time cooking with it. I basically used it just like I used to use chicken. I have to note that the pre-cooked Gardein was a little weird to handle. It was reminiscent of small chicken cutlets and it kind of put me off. It cooked up well, though, and I know it's just veggie protein so I am going to have to get used to the way it looks/smells/feels when it's just out of the package.

      So what did I whip up with these two wonder-products? A vegan version of Mexican food I grew up with. Tonight we had quesadillas on made with Daiya and roasted peppers, onion, zucchini, tomato and Gardein. For sides I had smashed pinto beans and fideo with a smidge of avacado thrown in for fun. Overall, I thought the meal came out well. My husband really thought so - he had two plates full before I even made a dent in mine! This surprised me because he was born and raised in Wisconsin. I thought he would be extra critical of the Daiya but he thought that it had great flavor. I was floored.

      So, that leaves me with Daiya and Gardein on my "continue to use" list. I am sure that I can find some tips for preparation somewhere online, and that with practice both these products can come in very handy.

      A Joyful Kitchen: Recipe Testing

      Sunday, August 15, 2010

      So, since my last post, my resolution to focus more on need-to-get-done tasks quickly faded. My procrastination slightly improved, but my self-challenge not to watch 24 didn't go so well (better than normal, at least) and my Facebook hiatus was an epic fail. Sigh, there is always the chance to try again. If we succeeded on the first try every time, life would be blah, right?

      What I did get done was a bunch of cooking. I tried out a bunch of new recipes and loved them all! I have them listed and linked to below, each with my own notes. No pics here, though. Just click through and the source will have a photo for you.
      1. Homemade vegan (tofu) yogurt - This recipe from Happy Herbivore was so easy! I followed the directions as written and then blended in some blackberries and strawberries. The recipe made more than I could use at one meal, but I wasn't sure about saving the yogurt over night. Just to be safe, I used it as a base for a smoothie later in the day. Yum!
         
      2. Whole wheat, fat-free pancakes - Another recipe from Happy Herbivore. The hubby and I enjoyed these for breakfast, served with the yogurt listed above, as a matter of fact. They were especially good with some maple syrup. I had planned on freezing a couple pancakes to toast up next weekend, but we ate the entire batch! Oops! Next time I will plan on making a double batch so I have extras on hand. Growing up, my parents always threw a couple pancakes in the fridge or freezer to enjoy a few days later. It's nice to have a "comfort" breakfast in a matter of minutes.

      3. Instant vegan alfredo - Last Happy Herbivore recipe of the post, I promise! I just happened to be surfing their blog and came across so many goodies I couldn't help myself. The alfredo sauce was awesome. We love alfredo but I always cringed at buying the stuff in the jar. This beats anything I've tried and it's so much more healthy. We enjoyed ours over linguine, steamed broccoli, and some Tofurky sun-dried tomato "sausage". It's worth mentioning that the leftovers worked out just great, so this could be a dish I could make a night ahead or pack for lunch. Mmm...

      4. Polenta with balsamic kale and white beans - I scored this gem from a site called C'est La Vegan. It was soooo nice. And easy! I served this with fresh sliced heirloom tomato. It has such beautiful color and great taste (thanks to the balsamic vinegar!) that I think it's one that I will note to make for guests.
      All the recipes I tried out were pretty easy. I just take a bit longer the first time through because I'm double checking steps and whatnot. After a few tries, any of these would something quick to whip up. Also, don't let the word "vegan" scare you! I would proudly serve any of these dishes to a non-vegan or non-vegetarian.

      I already have a list brewing for the coming week. I plan to make some vanilla peach jam, a bean-based veggie dip, and something that will provide me my first Daiya cheese encounter. By next weekend, I need to have a short list of some good freezer meals put together. I want to do a bit of cooking ahead before I start my fall classes and have to cut back on my time in the kitchen. It's a bummer because I have some non-recipe cooking I really want to try out, too! All in due time, I suppose. In the mean time, I have some dishes to wash!

      A Joyful Kitchen: Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

      Saturday, August 14, 2010

      I couldn't wait to share this! And of course, I don't have a picture handy, but this is so easy you won't need one.

      My husband and I drink breakfast smoothies most days of the week. It's a great way to get fresh fruit in, easy for enjoying on the drive to work, and light on the stomach - yet filling. Here's the catch, we don't load up on junk in our smoothies. With every week, I look for a new way to make it interesting and add more value. That way we don't get bored of this very nutritious part of our day.

      This week's new item was carrot juice (Bolthouse Farms brand, specifically). I was just waiting to finish off the pomegranate juice before busting it open. I think I'm in love.

      Fruit and Veggie Smoothie for Two

      Ingredients:
      2 mangoes
      2 bananas
      2 cups fresh spinach
      1/2 cup carrot juice
      A little bit of crushed ice

      Directions:
      Toss everything in the blender and put the pedal to the metal! Add more carrot juice depending on your thick/thin preference. To make it for just one person all you have to do is use half the called for ingredients. Easy.

      Spinach AND carrot juice, you ask? You can barely tell it's there. When I drink this, I taste banana with a hint of mango. The smoothie is intensely green (spinach, remember?) but don't let that scare you. Just think of all the goodness this is doing inside of you. Saying that it has loads of vitamin A is an understatement.

      Really want to amp this up? You could toss in some peanut butter (yum!) or hemp protein powder.

      Turning off "time sucks"

      Thursday, August 12, 2010

      Laura Denoux, contestant on The Biggest Loser Season 7
      Today I saw Laura Denoux, a contestant from The Biggest Loser Season 7, give a presentation about her weight loss and healthy living. She said that contestants were actually training 6-8 hours a day. This isn't breaking news, but it is a good reality check for the times I compare my slow gained results to Biggest Losers' dramatic weight loss.

      I have been working on getting into better shape myself, so hearing Laura's spiel was just the reminder I needed. I struggle to get to the gym as often as I would like because I have a full-time job and I am a part time student. Ok, I am making a bit of an excuse there, but it (among other necessary life functions) really does keep me from spending 6-8 hours a day working out.

      I do have "time sucks", though...
      1. Facebook! Enough said.
      2. 24...I am sucked into the storyline so bad that it is not uncommon for my husband and I to rack up 2-3 hours a night watching the show on Netflix.
      3. Too much time planning and not enough time doing. I probably spend more effort dwelling on something than it would take to do it.
      Sadly, this takes time away from a lot of the things I know I need to get done! Then I end up feeling behind and frazzled. No good!

      My resolve? No Facebook, Netflix or procrastinating for the rest of the week! My reward is a completed to-do list, which has been neglected for far too long, a chance to check in on my happy little Facebook world, and snuggle during an episode or two of 24. Plus, I am positive I am going to get a lot more gym time in. Get ready, get set, go!

      Sugar Shock

      Tuesday, August 10, 2010

      I successfully made my first batch of jam. It was mango lime freezer jam (a few steps shorter than traditional jam) and it turned out to be a beautiful shade of orange with little green slivers. More important than looks was the taste, though. It was like having a slice of key lime pie smothered in mangoes, which to me is awesome. The downside was how much sugar was used. No matter how pleased I was with my work, I couldn't ignore the sugar shock.

      Ok, this wasn't literally sugar shock I was dealing with, but I was shocked at the amount of sugar the recipe required. I looked online for other suggestions but didn't come across anything substantial. Most of what I read said that without enough sugar, the jam wouldn't set right. Fine. I can use less sugar...but I want to know how much less sugar I can get away with before it's not jam anymore. Anything is better than the five cups of sugar called for in the recipe that only used three cups of fruit.

      Dealing with sugar is such a pain. It's not just the sugar that we know about, but more sadly, the sugar that is hidden in everything we buy. Just the other day, I was enjoying my tofu ice cream and realized that it had corn syrup solids in it. If high-fructose corn syrup is awful for you, I can't imaging that corn syrup solids is much better. Unless I find out otherwise, that's the last time I'll buy that product! Just last week the CBS health blog posted about a report from UCLA that basically shows that high fructose corn syrup feeds cancer cells. Awesome!

      "The study, conducted by scientists at UCLA, found that pancreatic cancer cells grew faster when "fed" with fructose. Study author Dr. Anthony Heaney, associate professor of medicine and neurosurgery at the university's cancer center, said it was likely that fructose would also speed the growth of other cancers as well."

      I am very glad to have been ridding my home of high fructose corn syrup products. It does take effort to let go of favorites that are laden with the stuff (farewell, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ), but it's best for me in the long run. And I do try to help others become aware of what's in their food, but don't want to come off pushy. Besides, sometimes what they're purchasing is what they think is best for their budget. What have you had to let go of? How do you encourage others to read labels and decide to skip the high fructose corn syrup products?

      A Joyful Kitchen: Recipe Testing

      Sunday, August 8, 2010

      I am all about trying new recipes. After several years of experience and some real stinkers, I've learned how to select my experimental cooking more wisely. Here's my thought process before jumping into new recipes...

      • Is this something I've been able to taste before? Could have been a friend's cooking, at a restaurant, etc.
      • Does it call for ingredients I am familiar with, or better yet, already own? Spices are too expensive for me to buy for just one occasion. If I buy a new spice, I prefer to know that it will actually get used before going bad.
      • If this is a recipe found online, how are the reviews? So often you can learn a ton from others readers' comments.
      • Do I have the time to follow through with making the recipe? Ugh! There's nothing worse than seeing all your ingredients go to waste because you were too busy to cook!!

      This may seem a bit on the conservative time, but for me, it's worked. It keeps me expanding my palate (and recipe collection) at a reasonable rate. Plus, it limits what I experiment with to one or two times a week. This week I don't freak hubby out with too many new flavors :) Well, I can't blame it on him. We are all creatures of habit and there are some recipes that I don't want to accidentally work out of rotation. Nevertheless, it keeps eating interesting!

      So here are some of the new cooking adventures I am embarking upon this week:
      1. Freezer mango jam: I am going to base the recipe and instructions off of three different sources to come up with my own. I've never made any kind of jam before, but I think I can handle it. I just hope I'm not going to waste the ingredients by throwing caution to the wind and not following a recipe to a tee the first time.
      2. Vegan spice cake: I used a recipe from Peace a' Cake as a base last night and it turned out pretty good. (I served it up with fresh peaches instead of frosting - yum!) I am going to make it again with a few more tweaks and test it on my co-workers. If it goes well, I'll post it.
      3. Tofu alfredo sauce: I found an excellent recipe from Happy Herbivore. I'm planning to serve the sauce over linguine with steamed veggies and faux sausage. I make this meal with Paul Newman's jarred alfredo sauce as a quick dinner, but would like to see how I do making the sauce on my own.

      There are so many more things I would like to try, but I have to keep it realistic. Sadly, in a few weeks I'll be starting school again with a nine credit course load...plus I work full time. My goal is to keep writing and cooking even if it is only once a week or so. After 16 weeks I'll have a lighter course load and can hopefully make a bigger time commitment to my personal interests. Thinking about it all makes me cringe, but if I stay positive and proactive it will pass before I know it!

      I am the bag lady.

      Saturday, July 31, 2010

      Admittedly, I am one of those people who will load up with bags to the point where I can barely walk just so I don't have to make two trips to the car. Are you? If not, I'm sure you know someone who is. One thing that has made my life easier is reusable bags that are sold at practically every store these days. They only cost about a dollar and are absolutely wonderful, yet so few people use them. I don't get it. You don't even have to be all about "green" to get something out of their use.

      Sure the bags do make carrying in groceries (and transporting them, too!) much easier, but they do so much more. Just think about it... If you grocery shop once a week, you easily acquire 10+ plastic bags. That's a low number because we all know that baggers tend to put only one or two items in each plastic bag ;) So let's take that 10 and multiply it by 52 weeks a year and that's 520 plastic bags being brought into your home each year! Ridiculous! Can you honestly say that you get a second use out of all those bags? No, they probably go into the garbage or add to a cluttery corner. So cut the crap out of the equation. Spend five bucks and get yourself some reusable totes. Need more convincing? Here are some good reasons:
      • Less plastic going into landfills
      • Less clutter coming in your home
      • Less groceries getting spilled all over your car
      • Less to carry in from car
      • They look spiffy!
      I agree it takes a bit of a habit to get into using them, so you have to think about your own routine and have the bags where you'll remember to take them and use them. That may be in the car or in a certain spot by your home. Maybe you keep a running grocery list. You could add "TAKE BAGS" to the top of that list.

      I have definitely gotten into the routine and have now been able to take it a bit further. I keep about five totes stored at home and grab them along with my shopping list when I head out to the grocery store. They've held up very well for more than a year. To eliminate flimsy produce bags, I found some reuseable mesh ones with a drawstring that I take with me, too. I have a spare tote tucked away in the car for unplanned stops at the grocery store. And here's the kicker...I have a cute fabric bag that tucks itself into a pocket that I keep in my purse for double back up. I even bust this out when I am buying non-grocery store items. And I have no shame using one bag to carry all my purchases from different stores in situations like shopping at a mall. Call me crazy, but I hate hate hate bringing home unnecessary plastic bags. I may be the local bag lady, but I do my sanity and the earth a favor :)

      For the love of baking!

      Thursday, July 29, 2010

      There is something special about biting into a warm gooey cooking or having an awesome piece of cake with a fresh cup of coffee. Fortunately for me (and even more fortunately for my husband!) I like to bake. I mean really like it as in having visions of friends getting together a baking up a storm just for the fun of it. :) As if knowing what crap was in pre-packaged baked goods wasn't enough incentive, knowing that I can make something better at home pretty much seals the deal that I don't need to sacrifice my health for my sweet tooth.

      This week, I had the chance to try an awesome new recipe from Post Punk Kitchen. The Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies are killer good. My expectations were definitely exceeded and I was very happy with how quick they were to whip up! My husband gave the thumbs up right away and we both took some in to work where we got a lot of good feedback. I'll admit, the cookies aren't for everyone because they do pack a lot of kick. But if that's a problem, the recipe could probably be modified to use less or no cayenne pepper at all. Even though I liked the recipe as it was written, I am going to see how it fares with using applesauce instead of oil.

      Speaking of applesauce...

      I had the opportunity to attend a vegan baking class by Veronica Menin of Peace a' Cake, hosted at Whole Foods. She is a sweetheart and obviously very passionate about making delicious yet healthy goodies. She made an orange chocolate cake on the spot and I will vouch for how tasty it was! The reason "applesauce" led me into this is because she uses applesauce in the recipe instead of oil. And as a vegan, she also wasn't using eggs or butter. I've used applesauce as a sub before, but I was so pleased with the recipe she showed us that I am going to try using it a bit more. Tonight she also introduced me to spelt flour. She explained that she finds it to be lighter for baking and easier on digestion. Sounds reasonable to me! The final eye-opener I had was yacon syrup. I have never heard of it before! It did great in the recipe, Veronica swears by it, and supposedly it is an extremely healthy vegan option. I have some reading to do! We all had samples of the yacon syrup and I can describe it as very similar to molasses...maybe just a little lighter, but with the same kind of depth in flavor. It was just sweet enough and I could see it being used in a lot of ways.

      So much goodness going on in baking in just one week! I'm looking forward to experimenting a bit more this weekend.

      Walk it Off!

      Monday, July 19, 2010

      Wow, when I came home from work did I have a brain full! It wasn't that work was following me home, so to speak, but I was letting myself get caught up in a lot of "what-if's" of my personal life. It's all good stuff, but it still had my thoughts going a mile a minute. I couldn't focus on anything but the multiple combination of hypothetical situations, none of which I could do anything about today.

      Ever been there?

      A couple years ago, I probably would have made an emergency trip to the store to buy a personal pint of ice cream and zoned out in front of the television for the night. Ahhh...drowning my thoughts in food. Thankfully, I have gotten better with dealing with days like this and I know the solution is in my tennis shoes! I lace 'em up and head out the door.

      There is nothing like a brisk walk to clear my mind. No, the weather's not perfect. No, I don't always feel like glistening (I don't sweat - I glisten!). And no, it's not as easy to get into as being lazy is. But the payoffs of getting outside for a walk are huge! Totally worth it!

      By walking today...
      • I burned at least 300 calories
      • Got my vitamin D from the sunshine
      • Saw some cool little animals
      • Spent less time getting over my thought tornado than I would have on the couch
      • And most importantly, I came back feeling a lot better!
      No walk needs to be huffing and puffing for miles to work. Even a stroll for 10-15 minutes can be really helpful.

      Now, if I can just get people that I pass and greet to quit looking at me like I'm crazy, I think I'll be all set. While I'm working on that, give walking therapy a try for yourself!

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