Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Saturday, February 28, 2009

So What DO You Eat?

This afternoon for lunch we made a quick stir-fry with organic basmati rice (which can be found at Trader Joe’s). Since I don’t own a wok, I used a large wide pan with a lid. I added 1 tbsp toasted (dark) sesame oil, 3 large carrots chopped, 1 whole onion chopped in big chunks, & minced garlic & cooked over medium heat. When the onions were translucent, I added an entire bag of frozen broccoli and continued to cook until carrots & broccoli were done but still firm. Then J. made a simple sauce of 1/4 C Bragg’s (you can also use either soy or tamari sauces), 1 1/4 C water, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cider vinegar, 2 tbsp sherry, & 3 tbsp arrowroot powder (you can also use cornstarch), mixed together then poured over the vegetables. Cover with a lid & simmer until sauce thickens. Watch carefully because it will thicken fast once it gets going. When it’s thick enough, remove from heat & serve immediately over rice.

I also made some more biscotti since we’ve been out for 4 days. If I have time I plan to make some cocoa banana muffins to enjoy during the week.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quick Vegetable Soup

J. actually made up this recipe for dinner the other night:

In a stock pot, sauté 1 medium onion (diced) & 2 carrots (chopped) in 1 tbsp olive oil, until onions are translucent. Then add 1 C vegetable juice, 1/4 tsp curry, 1/4 tsp turmeric, pepper to taste, 2 C water, 1/2 of a 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (with juice), 1 C peas and/or corn & bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, toss in either 1 C pre-cooked (leftover) rice of any kind (or any grain for that matter, quinoa, millet, etc.) or a handful of washed baby spinach.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So What DO You Eat?

I made two super delicious things (that were very easy & fast to make) this morning after returning from the grocery store. First, I always like to have a sandwich spread in the refrigerator because I don’t always like to make something new every single meal. There are so many wonderful hummus spreads & other vegetable spreads in all of my cookbooks but today I made one with roasted red peppers (mine were a mix of red & yellow), raw almonds, red wine vinegar, chickpeas, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste, & olive oil. After pulsing the almonds first until very fine in my food processor, I added the rest of the ingredients & blended until smooth. Usually I need to add some water to thin it but this time it came out very smooth and creamy. I’ll eat this in sandwiches with all kinds of raw vegetables the rest of the week (lettuce, baby spinach, onions, cucumbers, avocado, etc.) or with crackers as a snack.

After talking with a co-worker yesterday about food, quinoa came into the conversation. It inspired me to make a salad today with it. Quinoa (say KEEN-WA) is a very old & neglected grain but is slowly coming into vogue. You can find it in most grocery stores easily (I buy the Bob’s Red Mill brand). It cooks just as fast as rice (about 15 minutes) & has a slightly nutty flavor. But it is so packed with fiber & iron that it is a healthy treat to toss in soups or salads. I’ll even cook it like a pilaf with vegetables & spices or make it in a tabbouleh instead of couscous because it’s pretty boring & plain by itself.

I have all kinds of recipes for quick bean salads & I’ve made them so often I pretty much improvise with what I have on hand now. Today’s salad included a can of black beans (drained & rinsed), quinoa (1/4 C dried, rinsed & cooked), 1 cubed avocado, 1 stalk of celery diced, 1/2 of an onion diced, some diced roasted red/yellow peppers (drained), & 1 C of corn niblets (canned & rinsed or frozen & thawed—I usually just pour boiling water over it in a bowl & let sit for 10 minutes).

I made the dressing with 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp grape seed oil (if you don’t have grape seed oil you can just use another tbsp of olive oil), 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad & toss to coat well. Chill until ready to serve. Absolutely delicious!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What’s for Dinner?

Tonight J. made the Caramelized Onion & Fennel Mashed Potatoes from The Garden of Vegan. But again, we didn’t have fennel so he used celery instead.

3-4 medium potatoes, boiled until they can be pierced easily w/a fork (we used a lot more than this because we like leftovers!)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (or 2 stalks of celery)
1 tsp dry sweetener (sugar)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 soy milk (he used hazelnut milk & it turned out well, but rice milk is the ideal in cooking, not as strong-tasting as soy)
2 tbsp flax oil (he used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)

I had actually boiled a lot of red potatoes on Saturday afternoon to use in recipes later this week, so they were already cooked. In a large saucepan on medium heat, sauté the onion, fennel (celery), sweetener, salt, & pepper in oil until onions are translucent. Set aside. Mash potatoes w/milk & flax oil (Buttery Spread). He used our hand blender for this & it worked really well. Stir in onion mixture & mix well.

We ate this with sautéed spinach and the leftover hummus w/whole wheat crackers.

Since I work a full day tomorrow & have to pack a dinner, I will take leftover potatoes, an antipasto salad (mixed greens, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, Spanish olives, & raw onion slices), more hummus & a pita, some Clementines, a banana, some mixed nuts, & some oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies. I always pack more food than I think I might eat because I hate to not have enough food when I’m away from home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Nice Hot Soup….and Some Great Cookies!

Today we are having another little snowstorm here in Motown. After my flute lesson and flute choir rehearsal this morning (before the snow started), I came home to homemade soup for lunch, courtesy of J.

Potato Vegetable Soup

1 medium onion (diced)
4-5 medium potatoes (he used red, diced into big chunks)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp dried basil
Dash of red pepper flakes
5 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add carrots and spices and sauté a few minutes more. Add water, bouillon, and potatoes. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Use a hand blender to partially blend the soup. Add chopped zucchini and let cook five minutes more. We ate it with some hummus I made yesterday rolled up in warmed pitas with baby spinach leaves.

After lunch I made the super-wonderful and delicious Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sarah Kramer’s The Garden of Vegan. I mentioned these cookies in previous posts but I’ve never posted the recipe. I’ve taken these to share at family potlucks as well as to share with my co-workers and they’re always a big hit. Here it is; I think it’s easier & better-tasting than the chocolate chip cookies.

3/4 C flour
1/2 C dry sweetener (sugar)
2 C rolled oat flakes (I use quick-cook oats)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C soft tofu or 1/2 a banana (I’ve only ever used banana as I never seem to have soft tofu when I need it on the spur of the moment)
1/3 C oil
1/2 C pure maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract (yes, that’s right!)
1 C vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sweetener, rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder, & salt. In a blender, blend together the tofu (or banana), oil, maple syrup, & vanilla. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture & stir. Add the chocolate chips & stir until well incorporated. Drop spoonfuls on a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) & press lightly with a spoon. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let rest on cookie sheet about 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

More Vegan Effects

On Thursday afternoon I had lunch with a friend at the Sprout House in Grosse Pointe Park. I found this little gem of a restaurant/health food store several years ago when I lived in Detroit. I would often meet my friend (then a school teacher at Defer Elementary) there for lunch, which was only about a block from the school. It’s a very tiny health food store but they make fresh organic and often vegan selections daily. When I’m on that side of town meeting friends who live in either Detroit or the Pointes or if I’m subbing at any of the GP Library branches, I often eat here. I enjoyed a very good sesame noodle Asian salad with a cup of split pea soup.

My friend often says that he never eats so “healthily” as when he’s out with me. I don’t preach to people but he is often curious about my lifestyle. He always manages to find something he can eat because Sprout House also makes dishes with meat or smoked salmon, which my friend ate in a sandwich. While there, he discovered Vegenaise in the refrigerated section & asked me about it because he’s trying to cut down on his cholesterol and he misses mayonnaise. He bought a jar, so I’m going to wait and see what he thinks of it!

One other thing I wanted to mention that I have changed since going vegan is that I now use Eco-Dent tooth powder instead of regular toothpaste. It lasts longer than a tube of toothpaste so I don’t have to buy it as often and it’s sometimes hard to find toothpaste without fluoride, but I find this one at Nutri-Foods. Eco-Dent is completely vegan. They also make a floss I like but that’s harder to find. I might buy it online but I have asked Nutri-Foods to re-order it; we’ll see. The web site is http://www.eco-dent.com/dailycare-specialcare-toothpowders.htm if you want more information about the tooth powder.

For an extra daily supplement, I take a vitamin C tablet every day. I like Now brand chewable tablets because a lot of vitamin C tablets are made with magnesium stearate, usually made from animals because it’s cheaper. This brand uses a magnesium stearate that is vegetable-derived. And this brand tastes good, not bitter.

And whenever I feel a cold coming on I immediately begin take echinacea capsules, 2 capsules three times a day after every meal. I’m a big believer in taking this herb immediately upon feeling cold symptoms. At home in the summer, my husband will often dig up the root of the plant (they are also known as purple coneflower) and we’ll either eat it raw or steep it in a tea infusion. Again, a lot of capsules use gelatin but I’ve found a brand at Nutri-Foods called Solaray that uses vegetable cellulose instead (you must read labels!). It’s not cheap but I don’t often need to take them as it is. I keep a bottle at work and a bottle at home because you never know where you’ll be when you start feeling ill.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Have Never Slept Better in My Life…

since becoming vegan! I can’t believe it. When I lived in Detroit (2001-2004), I was so unhappy there I had insomnia almost every night for almost a year. It was terrible as I’m sure many people know who have had it! So, being a librarian, I did research, reading every book & article I could find, as well as watching DVDs, listening to meditation CDs, you name it. One of the best books I found was Deepak Chopra’s Restful Sleep.

I refused to take a drug or go to the doctor for it but I did try melatonin and valerian, which worked sporadically. What finally helped was developing what experts call “sleep habits.” I tried to establish a routine that would trigger my body that it was time for sleep. This included going to bed at the same time (and then getting up at the same time) every day. For me this turned out to be in bed as close as possible to 10pm and up around 6am (incidentally, this is what Deepak Chopra suggested in his circadian rhythm charts in his book), reading quietly or listening to soft music before bed (instead of using the computer or watching television, which are considered too stimulating to the brain), not eating anything heavy before bedtime (if the body is digesting, it’s not concentrating on relaxing for sleep), and not consuming caffeine after 2pm. Of course, after I moved out of Detroit my sleeping improved even more, but I would still awaken during the night & longed to find that sleep I used to enjoy as a child when I would sleep through the night.

Since becoming vegan, I have found it. Now the only time I wake up in the middle of the night is if my cat jumps on my bed, which luckily isn’t too often. I cannot believe that changing what I eat has improved my sleep, but it has and I’m very grateful!

For lunch yesterday (and leftovers tonight!), I just made a simple stir-fry with that same garlic sauce recipe I blogged about on January 23rd, using baby spinach, chopped zucchini, chopped broccoli florets, carrots, & onions served over brown rice with a side salad of lettuce, onions, Spanish olives, & avocado with lemon & olive oil as dressing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Vegan Effects

Around the same time that I decided to go vegan in 2007, I began to also make some of my own homemade personal beauty products. I did this for several reasons. First, I had had a book in my personal library for several years called Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox, which is filled with recipes for making all kinds of beauty products at home. Using great recipes in this book, I now make my own facial cleanser, shampoo, conditioner, body cream, & mouthwash. I’ve experimented with several different recipes & found the ones that work best for me. The author also has 2 other books on the same subject.

Another reason I decided to do this was to save money. And finally the biggest reason was because I wanted to know exactly what was in the products I was using. I began researching ingredients in books at the library, like A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients and A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives both by Ruth Winter. And I didn’t like what I was finding. A lot of the ingredients were animal-derived as well so that was yet another reason.

I use herbs from my garden, fresh in the summer or dried in the winter, to make a lot of the recipes (body cream, shampoo, conditioner for example) and I like knowing exactly what I’m putting on my body.

On Valentine’s Day, I took some vegan chocolate chip cookies to share with my co-workers leaving the rest at home, much to my husband’s delight. One Facebook friend wanted the recipe, so here it is, from La Dolce Vegan:

2 C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 C sugar

3/4 C vegan margarine (at room temperature)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 C soft or silken tofu

3/4 C vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, & salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl with a mixer or food processor, blend together the sugar, margarine, vanilla extract, & tofu until smooth. Add the tofu mixture & chocolate chips to the flour mixture & stir together well. I had to blend it a little with my fingers to get it to stay together. The recipe goes on to say to drop spoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet (I put parchment paper on mine so the bottoms don’t burn) but I just formed little balls by hand, then flattened them slightly on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden brown. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. The recipe says it makes 24 cookies but I made mine smaller & got 48!

Today was also a potluck at the library for a retiring librarian so I made a Rice & Bean Salad from How It All Vegan. The most amazing thing about this recipe is that there is absolutely no oil in the dressing!

1 C cooked rice (I used 2)

1 red onion (I used 1/2 of a white onion)

2 or more medium tomatoes, diced (I hate winter tomatoes so I left them out)

1 red pepper, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 C corn

2 C cooked or canned black beans or kidney beans (or a mix; I just used 1 15-16oz can)

1 avocado, diced

6-10 sprigs cilantro, chopped (I used 1/2 tsp dried)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

dash of cayenne pepper

juice of one lemon

dash of Tabasco (I used 2 dashes!)

Combine all in a bowl, stir & chill before serving.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Vegan Delights

The last two days have found several new dishes in the refrigerator to enjoy in the next few days. Yesterday for lunch I made Chickpea Smash to have in sandwiches. The recipe is in one of my first blog posts(Jan. 13).

For dinner yesterday, J. made the Pasta with Fresh 5-Minute Roasted Red Pepper Pesto from La Dolce Vegan. This is so easy & fast, I even tried it cold for lunch today and it was just as delicious.

All you do is blend 3/4 C roasted red peppers (drained), 1/3 C walnuts (we were out so he used Brazil nuts), 1/2 C fresh basil, 1/4 C fresh parsley, and 1 garlic clove (he used 2—1 is better) in a food processor or blender (we used the food processor). Then while blending slowly add 1/4 C olive oil. Cook any pasta (he used rotini), drain it, then return to pot. Add the pesto to the noodles & toss well. So good!

I had to work all day today so I also got a homemade dinner tonight. What could be a better Valentine’s gift? He made a Risotto-Style Barley recipe from a really neat cookbook, Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. It’s not a vegan cookbook but it’s full of so many whole food recipes that I couldn’t resist. Instead of barley, he made it with farro, which according to the book, is an ancient grain from Mesopotamia. The recipe is quite involved but, if you want the recipe, contact me & I’ll be happy to email it to you. If you get the book, it’s on page 68. My husband did make one mistake, though. He purchased an almond-based cheese from Nutri-Foods that he thought was vegan but he didn’t read the ingredients closely enough. It is made with casein, which comes from milk and I could taste it. We thought it would be just as good without any cheese but then it wouldn’t have been creamy, or a risotto for that matter which is always made with cheese. I have not liked any vegan cheese out there so I do without but J. wanted to experiment so…

But the best part was dessert. You just gotta have some chocolate on Valentine’s Day, right? From the December 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine (pg. 268), he made Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes. Instead of egg he used soft tofu. Here’s the recipe:

3/4 C all-purpose flour

2/3 C unsweetened cocoa

5 tsp instant espresso powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 C unsalted soy butter (omit salt if using soy butter with salt added)

2/3 C sugar

2/3 C packed brown sugar

1 C soft tofu

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 (2.6 oz) bar dark (71%) chocolate, finely chopped

2 tbsp powdered sugar

1) Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, salt

2) Beat butter w/mixer at medium speed 1 min. Add sugars & soft tofu & beat till well blended (about 5 min.). Fold flour mixture into sugar mix; fold in chocolate. Divide batter among 10 4-oz ramekins (we don’t have so he just used a round glass pie dish); arrange on a jellyroll pan. Cover & refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4) Let ramekins stand at room temperature 10 min. Uncover & bake for 21 min. or until cakes are puffy & slightly crusty on top. Sprinkle evenly w/powdered sugar; serve immediately.

Heavenly!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

But How Do You Get Your Protein?

Aargh! The most common (& after awhile, annoying) question all vegans get. Americans are obsessed with protein. The biggest sources of protein are dairy, eggs, & meat, but you can also get all the protein you need from eating a variety of beans, grains, vegetables, fruits, & nuts every day. With dairy, eggs, & meat, you’re also getting a lot of fat and cholesterol along with all that protein (along with everything that that animal ever ate, which I’d rather not think about). In fact, most meat-eaters get too much protein. Rather than get into all the particulars, I refer to this site for a great explanation: http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_hot_protein.html That said, I do not count my grams of protein every day. Do meat eaters? I think not.

For lunch today I made a huge pan (gotta have some leftovers!) of roasted red potatoes, carrots, & big chunks of onions cooked in lemon juice (1/2 fresh lemon) & olive oil (2 tbsp) with sea salt & pepper to taste. I served it with some soy chorizo as well. And clementines, & a scone & cafe latte for dessert of course.

For dinner, we ate fried tofu sandwiches. You take some firm tofu, cut it into slices (usually 2 slices per sandwich), pat & dry them with a towel. In a frying pan, put in some toasted (dark) sesame oil & Bragg’s, then add the tofu, turning to coat both sides. Sprinkle some all-purpose spice* on it. Cook on med-low heat, turning until both sides are lightly browned & tofu is firmer, usually less than 10 minutes. On toasted bread, spread on some Vegenaise, & pile on the lettuce, onions, avocado, tomato, or cucumber—whatever you like. We ate it with the leftover coconut-lime basmati rice.

*All purpose spice mix:

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

Combine all ingredients; store in an air-tight container (I just use an old spice bottle). Makes approx. 1/4 C. This usually lasts me for several months.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Full Page Ad…for a Fruit!

I rarely look at magazines but I was looking through one the other day and, after the customary full-page “Got Milk” ad, an ad for high-fructose corn syrup (yes, that’s right!), the prescription drug ads (do you have this illness? get a drug!), and an ad for beef (poor Elsie), I came across a full-page ad for Hass Avocados! I couldn’t believe it. Is this what vegetable growers have to do to get people to eat more vegetables? The milk and meat industries have such huge lobbies to get their word across, I was very happy to see this.

As a librarian, I was curious as to whether, like tomatoes, the avocado is a fruit or a vegetable. According to Answers.com,

‘The history of avocado takes us back to the Aztecs and their language, Nahuatl, which contained the word ahuacatl meaning both “fruit of the avocado tree” and “testicle.” The word ahuacatl was compounded with others, as in ahuacamolli, meaning “avocado soup or sauce,” from which the Spanish-Mexican word guacamole derives. In trying to pronounce ahuacatl, the Spanish who found the fruit and its Nahuatl name in Mexico came up with aguacate, but other Spanish speakers substituted the form avocado for the Nahuatl word because ahuacatl sounded like the early Spanish word avocado (now abogado), meaning “lawyer.” In borrowing the Spanish avocado, first recorded in English in 1697 in the compound avogato pear (with a spelling that probably reflects Spanish pronunciation), we have lost some traces of the more interesting Nahuatl word.’

Very interesting, don’t you think?

I so need to get to the grocery store tomorrow without fail! I’m out of some vegetables especially onions! I use them in practically everything I make.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Little Bit of Spring in the Air

I can’t believe how warm it is outside! They say we’ll hit 55 degrees (or even break a record). While it feels nice I’m a little worried about the freeze-thaw effect on my plants. J. says that snow helps protect the plants during very cold weather. And as it’s only February 10 there’s a lot more cold weather to come.

But it feels like spring today; it’s even sunny! A real Michigan winter treat.

I’m thinking a lot about the herbs I’m going to grow again this summer. Parsley, sage, lemon balm, thyme, oregano, lavender (my special favorite), and J. will grow his endless supply of basil! I’m also going to grow my cherry-size tomatoes; I change every year the kind I buy. Sometimes I get the little pear-shaped yellow or red ones, sometimes grape-size. The grocery store “cherry” tomatoes are just too big. The size I prefer are the kind you can just pop in your mouth. Of course, I still slice them because I think they look really pretty inside! I also plant green peppers & jalapenos for my salsa. I get all my herbs, peppers, & tomatoes from Royal Oak in Bloom every Mother’s Day. I’m too impatient to start things from seeds, but J. does.

Today I made some Coconut-Lime Basmati Rice and black beans to go along with the leftover salad from yesterday. The rice recipe is from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan while the black beans is my own recipe.

1 C dry brown basmati rice (you can also use regular brown rice instead; sometimes I use white basmati rice—I just cook the rice for only 15-20 minutes instead of 35-45 minutes)

1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk

1/2 C water

2-2.5 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 tsp sea salt

In a saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, water, lime juice & salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, stir, then reduce heat to low, cover, & cook for 35-45 minutes until liquid has absorbed & rice is cooked.

Black Beans

Put 1/2 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a saucepan with 1/2 of a chopped onion and chopped green pepper (if I can’t find organic green pepper I leave it out). Cook until onion is translucent. Add 1 can of black beans (with liquid), sea salt, pepper, & cumin to taste. Add 1 tsp sugar and stir. I usually also add green Spanish olives (with the pimientos) for a nice color & flavor. That’s it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

So What Do You Do When You Eat Out?

This can be a problem, but it isn’t the end of the world. If I eat at family gatherings I just make sure to bring a big enough dish I can share. Usually, I try to bring a dessert, too, because I don’t want to miss out on the fun!

I rarely eat out at a restaurant. Over the years, I’ve found myself annoyed by the service, poor food quality, & high prices. That said, when I do eat out, I try to go to a vegan restaurant. Not always easy but there is my favorite restaurant, The Inn Season, in downtown Royal Oak. I’ve never tried the Om Cafe in Ferndale but I hear that is very good, too. In St. Clair Shores, I also like the vegan options at Steve’s Back Room (their 5 bean salad is my absolute favorite). If it’s not a vegan restaurant, I just ask lots of questions like, making sure vegetables aren’t cooked in butter but oil instead and that they don’t put cheese on my salad or mayo in my sandwich. Most restaurants can be very accommodating.

At work last month, lunch was ordered in and I just contacted the office to find out my options. They got me a sub from Jimmy John’s that I could eat (vegetable but no cheese or mayo, mustard instead) & I brought some cookies to share with my co-workers (oatmeal chocolate chip) that I could eat. So I do plan ahead. I even brought a lunch just in case my lunch was accidentally missed or given to somebody else. But it worked out & I was just appreciative that they could give me what I want.

In the past year, several relatives have been very thoughtful of J. & I and brought vegan options to the family potlucks or made sure that there was something we could eat. This was unexpected but very nice of them nonetheless.

I just made the Spinach, Artichoke, & Chickpea Salad from The Vegan Express Cookbook. I didn’t have carrots (ran out), cherry tomatoes (out of season & not very good in the market now) black olives (don’t like) or red cabbage (not something I have on a hand all the time) so just left them out.

4-6 oz baby spinach

1 15-oz can/jar marinated artichokes, drained & chopped

1 C thinly sliced red cabbage

1/3 cup oil-cured black olives

1 C drained & rinsed canned chick peas (who measures? I just use the whole can)

1 C cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 C baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 C drained & sliced jarred roasted red or yellow peppers

2-3 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp (I used 1) olive oil

Lemon juice to taste (I used 1/2 a lemon)

Combine all & enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Good Stuff

I was off today so after my flute lesson & flute choir rehearsal this morning, I did a little baking. Well, really a lot of baking. Two things in one day is a lot of baking for me. So, about 2 hours in the kitchen (and reading while the baking was going on).

I like to make my own biscotti to enjoy with coffee every morning. Store-bought biscotti is too soft & too large; mine are about 2-3 inches long and narrow, the perfect size to go with my coffee. The recipe I use was originally from Prevention magazine eons ago and it called for eggs. I have “veganized” it. This is my top-secret super-delicious biscotti recipe that even my husband’s Neapolitan grandmother says is wonderful! It’s a little time-consuming (which is why I only make it on my days off), but so worth it!

1 3/4 C flour (I use unbleached white)

3/4 C sugar (I use turbinado)

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp flaxseed meal + 6 tbsp water= 2 eggs

1/4 tsp lemon extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Sunspire organic semi-sweet chips from Nutri-Foods)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet & set aside. In a mixing bowl, put the flaxseed meal & water in & stir to combine. Let that sit for about 3 minutes to thicken. Then add the extracts & sugar & blend for about 2 minutes. I use my stand mixer but a hand-mixer will also work. Then add the flour, baking soda & chocolate chips & stir with a spoon (not the mixer) to moisten all the ingredients. If it becomes too thick to stir, combine it with your hands. Form 2 logs, about 1/2 inch high and 8-10 inches long on the parchment paper/baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on) & let cool 10 minutes. Remove logs one at a time & on a cutting board, cut slices on a slight diagonal (with a long bread knife) into little logs. Put the little logs back on the baking sheet (I usually re-use the parchment paper, but you can add a fresh sheet) & bake for 12 minutes. Then turn them all over & bake the other side another 12 minutes. Let cool. I then store them in an old 1940’s canister lined with wax paper. They keep for several weeks. They are supposed to be hard & crunchy, so when you dip it in your coffee (or tea or hot chocolate), they soften for eating. This batch usually lasts for about a month, with 2 people eating them so, if you’re cooking solo, you’re set for awhile (unless you just can’t help yourself & eat more than one per day)!

After this, I made a sort-of scone recipe from The Everyday Vegan. It’s packed full of whole grains, nuts, & dried fruit. Delicious & good for you, what could be better?

Squirrely “Scones”

1 C ground oats (just take rolled or quick-cook oats, pulse in a food processor or coffee grinder, until it’s the consistency of flour)

1 C barley flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 C toasted pecans (I just used walnuts, & I didn’t toast them)

1/4 C flaxseeds

1/4 C sunflower seeds

1/4 C dried apricots (or raisins)

1/4 C chocolate chips (or carob chips or more dried fruit)

1/4 C sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tbsp flaxseed meal

3/4 C soymilk (or rice milk)

3 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp canola oil (I used almond)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients EXCEPT flaxseed meal. In another bowl, combine the flaxseed meal with the milk & stir through. I let this sit for about 3 minutes to thicken. Then add the maple syrup, vanilla, & oil & stir through. Add the wet mix to the dry mix & stir until well combined. Let mixture rest for about a minute. Then drop large spoonfuls (about 1/2 cup each) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper & bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Test with a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven & let cool for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

Friday, February 6, 2009

So What DO You Eat?

Lots of cooking going on during this busy week.

Though he doesn’t cook as often as he’d like to, yesterday my husband made us a quick dinner. He sautéed organic zucchini in olive oil and oregano and made Boca Chik patties with Vegenaise, lettuce, & onions on wheat buns.

Today for lunch I made a kind of modern Mexican dish. I made a Chipotle Lime Two-Bean Hummus from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, which is made in the food processer with kidney beans, chickpeas (1 cup of each type of bean), 4 tbsp lime juice & 1 tsp lime zest, 2 tbsp tahini, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 1/2 tsp chipotle hot sauce (Tabasco), 1 tsp agave nectar (this is a liquid sweetener similar to honey, which is used to make tequila), 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cilantro, & a little water (1-2 tbsp) to thin it as needed. I also cooked some soy chorizo with a little vegetable oil. I then spread the hummus on some tortillas, laid a handful of baby spinach leaves on each, sprinkled the chorizo on top of that, rolled them up, then baked them at 350 degrees for 5 minutes in my toaster oven.

For dinner, J. made his old standby, mostaccioli pasta with his grandmother’s tomato sauce, and green peas.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So Have You Lost Weight?

I actually get this question a lot. Many people assume that because I am vegan that I did it to lose weight. Again, this was not my goal and, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve lost weight because I don’t own a scale & I have always hated knowing how much I weigh. Who cares? A few people have told me that I have lost weight but I’ve always gone by how my clothes fit, how I feel, & how I look in the mirror to myself.

I’ve never had a weight problem (thank goodness) but the only time I have been a size I didn’t want to be was when I briefly lived in Detroit. I was very unhappy living there and got up to a size 10 which, for a petite person, is too big. That’s when I started walking almost every day for 30-45 minutes; I then dropped to a size petite 6-8 depending on the brand/style of clothing, which is where I’m at right now.

Being vegan isn’t a diet for me, it’s a lifestyle and a way of eating. Like exercise, it’s something that’s part of my life and something I need to do to feel healthy and well. If I have lost weight because of it, great! It’s just as important for me to be prescription-free, sleeping well, feeling good, and looking good.

Yesterday I made a new soup recipe: Garden Carrot Soup from Sarah Kramer’s The Garden of Vegan. I doubled the recipe & made some changes to the original because I like having leftovers.

8 carrots, chopped

1 leek, sliced (I used an onion)

3 tbsp dark (aka toasted) sesame oil

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

In a large stock pot on med. heat, sauté the carrots & onion in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger, salt, pepper, nutmeg, stock, & water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked. I then took my very useful and handy hand blender & blended part of the soup (I like the carrot chunks) until it got a nice orange color to it. Yummy, warm, & just the thing in these freezing temperatures!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You Wouldn’t Think It Would Have Animal Ingredients…

When I became vegan, I discovered I had to really start reading food labels vigilantly. Several products that I automatically assumed were vegan were not. Among them:

Chewing gum. I’m still researching this one but haven’t yet found a vegan one. There are too many ingredients to list that might be of animal origin depending on the brand, too. So I will report if and when I find a vegan version because I really used to like to chew gum once in awhile.

Some mints. I used to like Altoids but they are made with gelatin. I have found an alternative in Myntz from Trader Joe’s. Now if only that company would make a chewing gum!

Morningstar Farms Chik Patties and burgers. They contain milk & eggs.

Some soy yogurts are made with a milk-based culture. I used to love O’Soy vanilla yogurt but they use milk. Silk soy yogurt doesn’t but I don’t like it. So I do without.

Potato chips. I love to have potato chips with a sandwich; it just doesn’t seem right without them. But when my husband went on a road trip to the Porcupine Mountains last year, he bought some and brought the rest home. When I read the label, it said it contained milk & eggs! Crazy! But finding vegan potato chips isn’t difficult.

Chocolate. I used to love milk chocolate but obviously it has milk. I found a brand at Nutri-Foods called Choco-Milk & it’s made with rice milk and is very good. My husband likes dark chocolate which usually doesn’t contain milk anyway. But most chocolate contains milk. I have to even buy a brand of chocolate chips at Nutri-Foods that is made with soy instead of milk.

Mayonnaise. A lot of people forget that this has eggs. I have found a substitute in Vegenaise at Nutri-Foods. I cannot tell the difference. It’s great in dressings and on my tofu sandwiches.

Yesterday for lunch (and later at the library) I made the Spinach Salad with Grilled Tofu & Apples from The Garden of Vegan. It was so good! Here’s the recipe:

1 lb. medium-firm tofu, sliced into strips or cubed (I used firm, cubed)

1 tbsp dark sesame oil

5 tbsp olive oil (for dressing, I used only 4 tbsp)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 cups spinach leaves, washed & drained (I used an entire container of Earthbound Farms baby spinach)

1 Granny Smith apple, chopped

1 cup fennel (I didn’t have, so I just used 1/2 of an onion, chopped)

In a large fry pan on medium-high heat, sauté the tofu in the sesame oil until browned. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, salt & pepper. In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, apple, & onion (or fennel). Top with dressing & tofu. I just tossed all the tofu & dressing with it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I Love Animals

I saw a headline today in the newspaper about elephants in circuses and how it’s going to court to keep them out of circuses. I didn’t click on the details of the article because I have such a hard time reading about cruelty to animals. I just can’t think about it. And it’s not even the main reason I became vegan in the first place! I have always loved animals and am constantly amazed by their beauty & their strength. I own a cat and I love how affectionate she is, how she asks me to hold her (by putting her paws on my knee), how she greets me at the door, and sleeps alongside my leg at night.

As a child, I hated circuses and zoos. I still remember going to the circus back in elementary school on a class trip and feeling sad and crying as I watched the bears and elephants being commanded to do things they were never meant to do. I thought there must be something wrong with me that I couldn’t enjoy watching this. I still feel this way. Even if a book has a storyline that involves cruelty to animals I can’t read it. In fact, I had started reading a mystery series a few years ago about a cat sitter but, in the beginning of the second or third book (I can’t remember now), the author described a kitten who had been killed in a particularly cruel way. That was it. I returned the book to the library and stopped reading that series. I’m really sensitive that way.

So I guess you can say my love of animals is my second reason for becoming vegan.

By the way, the icing I made for those vanilla cupcakes last night came out amazing! You blend 1/4 cup soy margarine (I like Shedd’s Willow Run), 2 tbsp soy milk, 2 tsp vanilla, & 1 3/4 cups of powdered sugar (I use Florida Crystals brand). I used my Sunbeam Mix Master & it came out so smooth, creamy, & sweet. I will definitely be making these again.

And for lunch today I made an impromptu stir fry with sliced carrots, onions, & celery, cooked in a little bit of peanut oil with garlic powder, sea salt, & pepper. I ate it with the last of the leftover brown rice, along with an orange, cafe latte, & my delicious vanilla cupcake!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A little of this ‘n that

Hooray! It's February and that means spring is coming closer every day! Today it was sunny and almost 40 degrees; definitely something to be happy about.

Today was pancake day so J. made some Banana Bliss pancakes from the Vive Le Vegan cookbook by Dreena Burton. But instead of using chopped bananas, he put them in the blender along with the other wet ingredients of soy milk & almond oil before mixing with the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, & sea salt. Divine.

This afternoon I made a tomato chickpea soup with herbs to enjoy for dinner (& later during the week). I am out of garlic cloves (how the heck did that happen?!) so I just cooked some orzo pasta in 4 cups of water, then added a can of chickpeas (drained & rinsed), a can of diced tomatoes, some garlic powder, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tbsp basil, 1 tsp dill, 1/2 of a bouillon cube, & salt & pepper to taste. It looks delicious.

And to have some dessert for the week, I made the vanilla cake recipe from How It All Vegan, but I made 12 cupcakes instead. I will make some icing for them later on. I plan to make this recipe to take to work to share with my co-workers the week of my birthday in May. I like to celebrate so this will be fun. It’s also a chance to see if this is a good recipe or not.

For dinner last night after my recital (so glad that’s over!), we ate leftover refried beans, brown rice, & sautéed spinach with tortillas. I’m so happy that we almost never waste food.

I recently got the monthly e-newsletter from Jill Ovnik’s site (the Vegan-Gal of DVD fame) and it brought to mind a question she posed once. What are some of the strongest & largest animals in the animal kingdom? Elephants come to my mind but also gorillas & horses. These amazingly strong animals do not eat meat; they are herbivores & eat a plant-based diet. Pretty cool.