Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Recipe: Roasted Garlic & Potato Bisque

Many thanks to a co-worker for steering me to the gorgeously photographed vegan blog, Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes--what a great name!-- for this delicious (and easy!) recipe. I cannot do justice to the photos for this so you must see this blog for yourself.

I was a little shocked at first that the recipe calls for two heads of garlic but you roast them before blending them into the potatoes, coriander, and vegetable broth mixture. The result is a very creamy, smooth, and extremely flavorful soup that is perfect for the cold winter days. We enjoyed this for several nights of dinners after work with some homemade bread.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Foods I Never Heard of Until I Became Vegan

Raw oatmeal: oat groats (soaked overnight), pecans, dates,
banana, almond milk, & flaxseed meal sprinkled on top

Many people assume vegans don't get much variety in their diet with the elimination of dairy, meat, & eggs but I eat so many different things now, my mind is boggled at the things I buy and eat now that I hadn't ever heard of before.

Consider these:

  • Spirulina--used daily in my smoothies, a superfood to give me more chlorophyll
  • Quinoa--this cooks in just 15 minutes (as quickly as white rice) but is packed with fiber & protein (which white rice doesn't have)
  • Tempeh--this is a sort of gourmet soybean product as it takes a little longer to prepare
  • Seitan--this is wheat gluten but the texture resembles chicken so you can play with flavors
  • Flaxseed--this is a powerful superfood of omega 3s; also can be used as an egg replacer in baking
  • Cacao--yet another superfood; this is raw chocolate I use in my hot chocolate & granola
  • Coconut water--exactly what it says; I buy young coconuts & break them open to get the water & use in my smoothies. This is also a fabulous probiotic.
  • Coconut sugar--I don't use this but Jim does, in his coffee & also in baking; a minimally processed sweetener
  • Stevia--another minimally processed sweetener, I use sparingly in my hot chocolate (about 1/8 tsp)
  • Almond milk--soak almonds for 6-8 hours then blend with water; fresh "milk" in my muesli
  • Hemp seed nuts (also known as hemp hearts)--another superfood; I put these in granola & muesli and also salads
  • Bulgur--another grain that cooks quickly; used in tabbouleh & other Middle Eastern dishes
  • Barley--this grain takes longer to cook but is so delicious; I use it in casseroles & salads
  • Millet--yet another grain; great in cereal & breads
  • Amaranth--this is actually a seed but is used as a grain; wonderful in hot cereal
  • Muesli--this is a raw cereal I make weekly, with rolled oats, nuts, & dried fruit
  • Oat Groats--minimally processed oats; I soak them overnight in water, drain & rinse in the morning, then pulse lightly in the food processor.

Perhaps some of you have heard of these foods--I hadn't. But now I use all of them. So in addition to all the wonderful fruits and vegetables I eat, I add these foods to my lifestyle as well. And that's something I never did before.

Variety is the spice of life* and I enjoy all the variety in my diet.

*Paraphrase from William Cowper's The Task

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bolivian Quinoa Stew*

Despite the unseasonably warmer weather this weekend--in the 60s here in Pittburgh!-- this recipe looked so easy and delicious, perfect to re-heat for a busy work week. I found the recipe in the monthly co-op newsletter, The Co-operator, published by the East End Food Co-op, a surprising resource for quick and healthy recipes.


1 C quinoa, rinsed well and drained in a sieve
1 2/3 C water

Bring water and quinoa to a boil then lower to simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa has sprouted "tails." Set aside.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 C onion, diced
1 C celery, diced
1/2 C carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14 oz (or so) can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
2 C vegetable broth (I use 2 C boiling water to 1 cube vegan bouillon cube)
1 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes, in juice (or 2 14 oz cans other canned tomatoes)
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf (optional--I never have this so I always omit)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
minced fresh cilantro, for garnish

In large stock pot, saute onion, celery, carrot, garlic & green pepper in oil until onion is translucent. Add rest of ingredients (EXCEPT vinegar & cilantro), stir, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with 2-3 tbsp quinoa topped with cilantro. Add some whole grain bread (preferably toasted!). Enjoy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Raw Dessert Balls*

Music: Christmas songs on shuffle on my iPod.

(Mostly) raw, delicious, and filled with super foods! And best of all, very easy to make.

10 dates, pitted
6 tbsp sunflower seeds (or any other nut: walnut, pecan, almond, etc.)
2 tbsp cacao nibs
4 tbsp shredded raw coconut
4 tbsp flax OR chia seeds
1 tbsp brown rice syrup (OR raw honey)
1 tbsp raw coconut oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2-3 pinches of salt

We halved the above recipe but left the amount of cacao nibs (2 tbsp) the same for a more chocolate-y taste.

--Place all dry ingredients (EXCEPT cayenne & salt) in food processor and blend until powder consistency.
--Add dates, cayenne, salt, and blend again.
--Add syrup & coconut oil and blend again.
--Roll into balls, place on place in freezer to solidify. Store in freezer.

Optional: roll in cacao powder or serve plain. Close your eyes and savor...

*Adapted from Radiance Central.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Music: Cecilia String QuartetDvořák: String Quartet #13, 6 Cypresses, 2 Waltzes

2012 has been a year of getting more comfortable in what still feels like a new place to me. I can find my way around Pittsburgh now without getting lost--as long as all my routes are open. 

SouthSide Works, Pittsburgh
Here's a recap of my year:

The Good:

My health. I've been vegan for five years now and I would never, ever go back to eating animals again. We also strive to eat something raw with every meal and, last summer, ate almost exclusively raw with help from our CSA as well as the East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze. Life free of stomachaches, high blood pressure, common seasonal illnesses, insomnia, and prescription drugs is wonderful.

My finances. Since moving to Pittsburgh over two years ago, we have managed to live on only one income. This has resulted in a savings of almost 40% of our income.

Enjoying cultural events in the city. We've taken advantage of some wonderful music and cultural events, from free music performances at the library, to shows by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. We've also visited downtown's Light Up Night events. And we have  found some good restaurants for those rare occasions when we eat out: Ali Baba in Oakland and Kassab's in Southside.

New Diversions:

Becoming more comfortable & confident in my job. I still can't believe I work at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the Reference Services department, one of the most highly respected positions (in my opinion); I feel honored. I get to do fun things like order books, answer all kinds of questions, do chat reference, play with e-reader devices (like an iPad, a Nook Tablet, & Kindle Fire), try out new services (such as Zinio for free magazines and Freegal for free music), and write for the library's award-winning blog, all in a day's work!

Jim earned his MBA. After going to school for both his Bachelor's degree and his MBA for eight years, I'm looking forward to more husband attention in 2013. 

Thankfully, the next part isn't as long as the first. Things are looking up!

The Not-So-Good:

Difficulty making new friends. It doesn't help that I'm not a late-night person, that I'm vegan, have no children, am in my forties, and work full-time. I am instead focusing on keeping my Michigan friendships and making sure I don't lose them.

Missing Michigan and that sense of 'home.' It still doesn't feel like home here; it feels like I'm on an extended visit. It's hard to explain. When I visit Michigan twice a year, I'm comfortable with the oh-so-familiar. People ask me for directions and I don't even have to think about it. 

Michigan will always be home
What I Hope to Accomplish in 2013:

Arrange with an attorney to set up a revocable living trust, durable power of attorney for health care, and financial power of attorney. I just wrote about this for the library's blog.

Set a schedule for posting to this blog. Just like I have deadlines for the library's blog, I need to do the same with my own personal blog.

Visit historic places I'm now closer to. We already have a trip planned to Jefferson's Monticello, but I also hope to see Old City Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, and Mount Vernon