Salad Extravaganza

Today is World Vegan Day, which kicks off World Vegan Month. So in honor of World Vegan Day I wanted to share something that even the most devout carnivore can enjoy… Salad. Yes, you read that right. Salad. To most salad is a bowl of lettuce with a tomato, cucumber slices, and maybe some croutons or cheese. It can be monotonous, boring and unsatisfying.  Well, with a little planning and experimenting it can also be adventurous, fun and very satisfying! And yes, I’m still talking about salad here for all you who veered into the gutter. ;)

On a weekend or a day that you aren’t running around like a mad-person, buy and prep (wash, chop, and pack up) all the veggies for your weekly salads. Here are some ideas that may help you with your (drum roll please)… Salad Extravaganza! (It simply must be said with enthusiasm!)

Lettuces:
Romaine
Baby spinach
Arugula
Mesclun (baby mixed greens)
Endive
Kale
Watercress
*I prefer to skip on iceberg it’s kinda blah and the darker the greens the better they are for you.

Veggie additions:
Red cabbage
Cucumbers
Carrots
Broccoli (fresh, raw)
Cauliflower (fresh, raw)
Tomato
Zucchini (fresh, raw)
Onions
Bell peppers (fresh, raw)
Mushrooms (fresh, raw)
Edamame (de-shelled)
Corn Kernels
Celery
Olives
Pepperoncini
Artichoke hearts
Hearts of palm
Avocado (technically not a veggie, but neither are tomatoes so… ;))

Fruit additions:
Apples (Fresh, raw)
Pears (fresh, raw)
Citrus fruit sections: Try pink grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, clementines(or mandarin oranges).
Berries (fresh, raw): any berries. Try blueberries or strawberries.
Dried fruit: Try raisins, cranberries, apricots, apples.
Pomegranate seeds

Other additions:
Beans: Try chickpeas, black, red kidney, pinto. (drain and rinse canned beans)
Nuts: Try walnuts, pine nuts, slivered or sliced almonds…
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Flaxseed *Use ground flaxseed as whole is not always digested and just passes through your system.
Hemp seed
Chia seeds
Nutritional yeast
Vegan cheese
Vegan bacon bits
Croutons
Grilled tofu or tempeh

Any combination of any of the above sections will make a delicious, satisfying, and healthy salad. And those are just what I could think of there are plenty more options out there for you to find.

Dressing ideas… Instead of plain ol’ red wine vinegar and oil, try different flavored vinegars. There are fruit and herb flavored vinegars out there. Or you can make your own if you’re that adventurous. I am not… yet. ;) But here are a couple of sites that may help you on your vinegar adventure: About.com Herb Flavored Vinegar or Mother Earth Living Herb or Fruit Flavored Vinegars

My Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette is easy and pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. It’s equal parts Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar, 1/2 a part oil and 1/2-1 tsp of Thyme. Combine and dress salad. When I make it I use 1 Tbsp each of mustard and vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp of Thyme. Making a dressing is that easy so throw together whatever sounds good to you.

I try to have everything prepped and ready to go so I can just toss a salad together in the a.m. and run out the door or in the p.m. after work with minimal fuss. This way you have a healthy lunch to bring to work or school and no need to spend money on going out to eat. So you’ll help yourself in more ways than one. If you prefer to eat your heavier meals at lunch and lighter dinners (this is what I try to aim for) then you have nothing to worry about when you get home after a long day, it’s all waiting for you in the fridge.

Salad is always something I enjoy eating, but I know it can get boring so I try to mix it up with different additions and dressings. Like some other aspects in our lives, we gotta keep our healthy foods exciting and new or they just get boring. ;) I hope this has helped to spark a new love of salad in you and bring your creativity into the kitchen.

Speaking of creativity in the kitchen… After reading many different ways to make hummus I finally decided just to throw a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and give it a whirl.

I love, love, love marinated artichoke hearts. They are absolutely one of my favorite things and I could easily eat an entire jar in one sitting. I don’t do that, but just sayin’ I could. *grin* So for me they were a natural addition to the hummus.

As I say every time I use my food processor: I need a new one! In a few more years it may be classified as an antique. Anywho, it got the job done and it’s delicious.

Tahini Hummus with Artichoke Hearts:

1 – 15oz can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1.5 Tbsp tahini
1/4 cup of marinated artichoke hearts (quartered)
Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon
2 Tbsp of the liquid from the artichoke hearts
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1-2 garlic cloves (chopped/minced)
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
black pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp oil

Put chickpeas in the bowl of the processor and pulse until they are broken down. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil). Let it run and drizzle the oil in, if you feel it’s too dry. Once it’s to the consistency you like remove it from the processor and serve immediately or refrigerate. As for the lime, I had 1/2 a lime leftover from another recipe so I used that. I believe lemon juice is usually used so use what you have, use a whole lemon or lime if you don’t want half of one lying around. Make sure to refrigerate leftovers. It’s all natural and there are no preservatives so try to eat it within a few days… I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that. *grin*

**Variations: instead of artichoke hearts try roasted red peppers, olives, feta or pine nuts. Or a mixture of some or all of them!

Serve the hummus with veggies of your choice (carrots, cucumbers, or even zucchini slices) or you can make your own pita chips. I used whole wheat pitas brushed them with oil on both sides, sprinkled with salt. I baked them in a 350*F oven until they were just golden on one side and then flipped them. Once they are golden brown wait for them to cool a bit before serving. **Variation: You can mix a little lime juice into the oil before you brush them and then sprinkle on some spices. Try cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic and/or onion powder… whatever your heart desires.

I truly believe what we eat affects our health and our health affects our happiness. The better we feel the happier we are. Do you feel good after eating your meal? If yes, then great. If no, it may be time to rethink what you’re eating and give something different a try. Just a friendly suggestion from someone who has been there and slowly, but surely, made the changes.

Thank you for stopping by! Much peace and love to you all.

The Holidays Are a-Comin’!

The holidays are coming up quick! For most of us that means out-of-town visitors or traveling. This Thanksgiving we are headed to my in-laws and I’ve decided to bring some vegan dishes to share with them. I mentioned in Fallin’ In Love that I had made Pumpkin Pie Brownies for my sister-in-law’s birthday to test them out for Thanksgiving. They were so delicious I can’t wait to make them again for Tofurkey-day! I will also be making my lentil loaf that I mention in Falafel Lotta Flavor. I am going to try adding some spinach to the recipe and use almond flour instead of bread crumbs. I will be testing the new additions this week and will share the results, of course!

Before we get into recipes I wanted to share something I think is pretty nifty. Traditionally Thanksgiving is centered around a huge turkey roasting in the oven for hours before being carved and served. While I cherished that tradition for most of my life today I feel differently about it. So I am seriously thinking of donating the money I’d normally spend on buying a huge frozen turkey and “adopting” one instead. For as little as $30 you can sponsor a turkey on one of the three Farm Sanctuary shelters. If you are interested in starting a new Thanksgiving tradition or simply sponsoring any farm animal at the Sanctuary please visit them at: Farm Sanctuary Adopt-A-Turkey. There are some vegetarian recipes to be found there as well.

Pumpkin Pie Brownies:

NOTE: I got the recipe from Oh She Glows Thanksgiving Recipes but I made a few very minor changes based on what I had available to me. The recipe below is how I made it, the differences are minute, really.

Pumpkin Brownie Layer:

1 cup canned 100% pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance)
3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Pumpkin Pie Layer:

1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)

Pecan Topping:

1/4 cup margarine (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat over to 350F and grease a pie pan
For brownie layer: with a mixer or by hand, mix together the oil, pumpkin, vanilla, and sugar until well combined. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and mix until incorporated. Place mixture in pie pan. Wetting the back of a spatula smooth the batter evenly.
For pumpkin pie layer: In a large bowl combine pumpkin, vanilla, and milk. In a small bowl combine cornstarch, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add the dry to the wet and mix well until any lumps are gone. Pour on top of the brownie mixture and spread evenly.
For pecan topping: Mix all ingredients well and sprinkle over the top of the pie.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove and let cool for 20-30 minutes and then chill for 1.5 hours.
Serves approx 8-12 slices.

**I did not chill the brownies because I forgot to, but they were eaten within a couple of hours after I made them anyway. My mom sliced them into squares, not pie slices, so do what you will! They’ll be delish no matter how you cut them.

I also made the Twice Baked Bar Nuts from Oh She Glows Thanksgiving recipes. I already had roasted unsalted nuts so I didn’t bake them twice and I call them Rosemary Candied Nuts.

Rosemary Candied Nuts:

2 1/4 cups mixed unsalted nuts (I got a mix from Nutrition Smart, it had almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts. I’ve been trying to avoid peanuts but you can use whatever nuts you like)
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (I had dried so I used 1 tbsp)
Pinch of cayenne
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter (Earth Balance) – divided: 1 tbsp as is, and 1 tbsp melted

Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. **If your nuts are not already roasted: Spread them in one even layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. WATCH THEM, nuts burn very quickly. Remove them and let them cool.** Mix rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt and 1 tbsp of Earth Balance in a small bowl. In a larger bowl mix nuts and melted butter then add the other ingredients and mix well. Spread back onto baking sheet and bake for another 10-12 minutes until golden, watching them closely. Let them cool.

NOTE: I found there to be too much salt and too much rosemary flavor. However, I am not huge on salt normally and the rosemary may have been stronger because I used dried? Not sure but either way they were very good and I will make again just less rosemary and salt.

Next I plan to finally share my hummus recipe (if it turns out okay. *grin*) and a banana bread recipe I came up with over the weekend. Right now I’m all bundled up in my kick-ass peace sign slipper socks and Hubby’s old sweats because it’s 60 degrees outside. As we know, that is already too cold for me and it’s dropping even more, apparently it will be getting into the 40′s. Blech! I know that’s nothing for most people, but I’m a true Floridian and it’s too cold for me! Brrrrrrr! Stay warm my friends.

With that said everyone in Hurricane Sandy’s path are in my thoughts. Hurricanes are no joke and I hope everyone took this one seriously. Sandy is big and nasty and I hope every took the necessary precautions. I wish you all the best and much love and safety to you all.

Peace and Love

Fallin’ In Love

Hi Peeps!

So, I lied a little bit… I never made the hummus, I don’t know why. It should be a simple thing to make but I keep putting it off. Silliness! I did make a few other things this past week/weekend and they were delicious.

I made Pumpkin Pie Brownies for my sister-in-law’s birthday to test them out on a large group before I make them for Thanksgiving. I found the recipe on a blog that I have been following for a while, but I will share that recipe later. Today I want to share the Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and my Fall-tastic Granola recipes that I made this weekend.

Morning Zen Smoothie

Most days my breakfast is a smoothie. I use 1 scoop of Garden of Life Chocolate Raw Meal, a couple of handfuls of baby spinach, 1 tablespoon hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 banana, 1 cup of almond milk, and 1 cup of ice. Throw it all in a blender “liquify” it and done! Simple as that.

Morning smoothie ingredients

But sometimes I want something different that’s where granola comes in… I started making granola years ago. My husband always requested it, friends and family always said how good it was, so I entertained the notion of starting a business making granola and selling it online… didn’t pan out though. Mainly because I chickened out and didn’t try. It’s a scary thought, putting yourself out there. Maybe one day… Anywho, I got a hankering for granola over the weekend so I made some, with some small variations from my original recipe and it came out very yummy!

We don’t really have a fall in South Florida, so I ‘falled up’ my granola recipe… I have to admit I hate cold weather so having Florida seasons works for me, although I do like the fall because the time falls back so the sun will rise during I run in the a.m. so I don’t have to run in complete darkness. In case you aren’t aware, Florida seasons: summer, hotter summer (hurricane season), summer with cooler nights, summer with a week or so of coldness (below 70 for me is friggin’ cold!). I will say the past few “winters” have been pretty winter-ish dropping into the 30′s and 20′s a few times, which is when I said “I’ll never leave South Florida! Never, ever, ever!” I HATE it, my poor dog doesn’t get out much when it gets anywhere below 60. My neighbors, who must all be from up north, look at me like I’m insane when I’m bundled up like I’m in the North Pole just to go to the mailbox! I’ve seen snow once and it was what the lady at the store I was buying gloves at called “warm snow”, whatever that means. It was on a mountain and it was hard and wet. Not fluffy and fun like in the movies and there was nothing warm about it! I had fun watching my cousin and Hubs on a sled but I was too scared and didn’t try it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on too much. I can see how a kid may have fun in it when it’s freshly fallen, which I hear is when it’s nicer, but I’ll take the heat and humidity, thank ya very much!

So back to the granola… The recipe below is a variation of my original recipe. I used to only use honey and never tried maple syrup. For this recipe I used maple syrup because to me it brings out a more fall-y type of feeling, I also had pecans on hand so I used them instead of walnuts and/or almonds. Any nut you love works, just chop up the bigger ones and only use unsalted. I also only use raw nuts, I think they get roasted or toasted up enough in the oven, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to use some that were already roasted.

Kim’s Fall-tastic Granola:
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind. The ones that are a little thicker.)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp oil
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 300*F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combine well. Transfer to baking sheet in one even layer. Here’s where I’m not 100% sure, my oven runs hot. I have a thermometer hanging inside the oven and it is usually 5-10 degrees hotter than what I set it to. I baked it for 7 minutes, then stirred it up then baked it for another 5, stirred it and then another 5 minutes. (I’m a little paranoid about burning it. *grin*) Bake it until it’s just turning golden brown mixing it up halfway through. WATCH IT! It will burn fast! Let it cool and voila! Enjoy by itself, with some almond milk for a cereal, in yogurt, sprinkled over some ice cream, or whatever your imagination thinks up.

NOTE: 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice was kind of mild so if you want more of that flavor maybe do 2 tsp, or 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and 1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg or whatever spice combo you like. If you want it sweeter you can do 1/2 a cup of maple syrup but I was trying to cut down on the sugar content.

My mom mentioned stuffed peppers last week and I remembered the ones I had at the Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom restaurant in Orlando and how ridiculously good they were. So I thought I’d make some. As usual I scoured the internet looking at a number of different vegan and non-vegan recipes and came up with the following…

Cornucopia Stuffed Peppers:
1-2 tbsp oil
3 bell peppers, cut in half (long ways, through the stem to the bottom)
1/2 bell peeper, diced
1/2 large onion diced
1 medium zucchini, diced (you can use yellow squash as well or a combo of both)
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, diced (I had baby bellas, but white button would work, or any other type you prefer)
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 – 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and all water squeezed from it
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 – 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup quinoa, cooked
Your favorite pasta sauce
Your favorite vegan shredded cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350*F. In a large mixing bowl add cooked quinoa and the drained tomatoes, beans and spinach. Line a casserole dish with tin foil and place the pepper halves in it.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add diced pepper, onion, zucchini and mushrooms. Saute until onion is translucent add garlic sautee for another minute, then add thyme, tarragon, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, stir to combine. Next add the tomato paste stir to combine. Add to the bowl with the quinoa, tomatoes, beans and spinach and fold/stir together until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture into the pepper halves to desired fullness, kind of squish it down so it gets in all the nooks and crannies. Then top with a little of the pasta sauce and shredded cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the peppers start to turn brown and the cheese has melted (mine didn’t melt it just got crunchy, still good though. ;))

NOTE: You can roast the peppers beforehand in the oven to make them softer if you’d like. Just wrap them in foil and bake until they are just soft, I don’t recommend making them too soft as I suspect they wouldn’t hold up to the stuffing. I didn’t do this but I saw in a few recipes that others do. I liked them still a little raw and crunchy… I also left the veggies a bit on the chunky side, if you prefer them smaller chop them a into smaller dices, but don’t over cook them on the stove top. Remember they will be cooking more in the oven once you stuff the peppers.

Random thoughts/tips:

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: These are just tips I either use myself or have read about.

Ladies… and guys, with long hair. For wet hair use a wide toothed comb instead of a brush to work out any tangles. To prevent split ends try brushing or combing from the ends up. Start at the ends and gently work out any knots and then continuing this working your way up to the roots. This way if you have particularly knotted hair you won’t be bringing them all down to the end and creating a huge bundle of knotted mess. Working them out at the bottom and going up to the roots will get them out while they are small and prevent tearing your hair. Do this for dry or wet hair, especially before blow-drying.

Oily hair?
1. When you condition (whether after you wash your hair or if you’re just wetting it) only condition from the nape of your neck down to the ends, avoiding your scalp. The hair at the scalp is newer and usually not damaged so why bother using conditioner on it and making your scalp any oilier than it already is.
2. I read that adding 1 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/2 tsp or one squirt of aloe vera gel to your shampoo will help. None of the articles specified, but I assume they meant each time you wash your hair, not added to your big bottle of shampoo.
3. Another home remedy suggestion is witch hazel, dilute it (I read 1:9 ratio – 1 tbsp witch hazel to 9 tbsp water… or even mixing witch hazel and mouthwash together) dab it on your scalp with a cotton ball. I’ve seen some article just leave it at that and others say to rinse after a little while.
4. Also avoid over-brushing, apparently brushing brings out oil on your scalp so try not to go all Marsha Brady when it comes to brushing.

Dandruff?
1. Try using a Tea Tree oil shampoo. I still recommend condition from the nape of your neck down as too much oil can also cause dandruff.
2. Something I’ve read and my new hair stylist (her salon is all natural and organic *yay!*) suggested is apple cider vinegar… Stinky but supposed to be effective. 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup water in a spray bottle sprayed onto the scalp and hair (avoid your eyes, ears, and face) then wrap your hair in a towel and let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour and then wash out of your hair. Do this once or twice a week.
3. A friend of mine started incorporating flax seed into her diet. Anywhere she can she sprinkles it on and she said it’s helped with her dandruff problem. Flax seed is good for so many other reasons it’s worth a try.

Another conditioning tip: Use a wide toothed comb in the shower while the conditioner is on, this will distribute the conditioner evenly and help detangle it. You will end up with better conditioned and less knotty hair when you get out of the shower.

I try to use only natural or organic shampoos to prevent any harmful ingredients from stripping my hair of it’s goodness. My favorite right now is Nature’s Gate Jojoba it smells so good and leaves my hair soft and smooth. I will confess I never do anything to my hair… I’ve never dyed it and I rarely, veeeeery rarely, blow dry it. I think I braided it once or twice but normally, it gets washed, conditioned, combed and usually tossed up in a quick bun or pony. I’m trying not to do this when it’s wet but it’s a hard habit to break. Once it started growing back after treatment I vowed never to cut it! Just let it grow! I did get trims here and there to clean up the ends a bit, but I let it grow to my waist before I really got it cut. And then it was only because it was annoying me when I ran. I told the stylist to do what she thought was best and maybe try layers for the first time in I have no idea how long. She took about 5 inches off and layered it. She was/is awesome and I’m so happy I found her (Thanks to my friend E for recommending her). It’s now grown a few inches and is almost back to where it was so I may be visiting her again soon. So, I don’t do much with my hair but I love my hair and even if I don’t wear it down often at all it’s still my pride and joy so I try to take care of it the best I can, hence the specific combing/brushing and lack of blow drying (which I will admit has to do with laziness as well *grin*).

I’m off to spend time with Hubs and The Emmers (our dog Emmy, she has so many nicknames *smile*).

Emmy-girl!

Thank you for sharing in My Veganture, much peace and love to you and yours!

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Falafel lotta flavor

Hello there my Veganturers!

October 9th would have been John Lennon’s 72nd birthday. In honor of that I wanted to share this. I believe it could happen one day, some day…

I decided to start my chickpea recipe experiments with falafel. I’d never had falafel before, but it’s balls of chickpeas with spices I figured how bad could it be? Not bad at all actually, not bad at all. I started by sticking to a recipe I found online and after I found I loved them I made another batch with a little tweaking of my own. The first batch – following the recipe – had a whole small onion and some red pepper flakes. I felt it had too much onion and heat for my liking. Some may prefer more onion and/or heat, like my best friend who happened to be visiting for the weekend and was my taste tester, but not so much for me. (P.S. my BFF renamed the falafel “Kimballs”… Yeeeah, I think I’ll stick with good ol’ Falafel, thank ya very much. ;)) I like my heat out-of-doors in Mother Nature, not in my food. Okay that’s a lie… I do like a little heat but I’m a spiciness wimp and this was too much… for me. The onion was really my main complaint, there was just too much. Maybe the recipe creator’s small onion was smaller than mine? Anywho, here’s my recipe…

Vegan Falafel:
1-15 oz can of chickpeas
1/2 a small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp dried cilantro
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste

Process chickpeas in a food processor or mash with fork. I used a food processor and pulsed until they were crumbled but not smooth. Toss in a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls smooshing – yes, smooshing- them a little so they are not perfectly round, and bake for 15 minutes or so on each side, until golden brown, at 350*-375* F (if you bake them add 1 tsp baking powder) or sautee in a little oil over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. I used enough oil to coat the bottom of my pan and sauteed them until they were golden brown in each side. I served them with a little tahini sauce I threw together.

One thing I did notice is they weren’t as flavorful, I think because I forgot to double up on the cumin (2 tsp instead of the 1 I listed above) in this recipe and I am sure leaving out the pepper flakes had something to do with it. So I will keep tweaking until I find the perfect recipe, but I must say these were still really good.

Tahini Sauce:
1/4 cup tahini
4 oz of yogurt (I used almond milk yogurt)
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste

Just combine all ingredients together and serve with falafel.


My next chickpea experiment will be hummus. I know I keep saying this but I’ve been hesitant to make my own. I love hummus so much I don’t want to mess it up! This weekend I will suck it up and try it out. I have this huge jar of tahini and about 10 cans of chickpeas so I might as well give it a whirl.

I made some lentil chili but I wasn’t pleased with how it turned out. Yeah, um, apparently “chipotle peppers in adobo sauce” are hot as hell! So did not know that at first, but I found out real quick. I’ll wait to share that recipe once I get it to super yummy – and not tongue blistering – status. I did make a lentil “meat”loaf that I love!

Lentil Loaf:
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups of cooked lentils (I used canned, you can use dry. If you do I believe you would only need 1 cup of dry lentils)
3/4-1 cup of walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax & 1/4 cup of water)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp thmye
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seed into 1/4 cup water and set aside. Sautee the onion and carrot until onion is translucent and the carrot is tender. Put the lentils in a large mixing bowl and add the onion carrot, garlic, walnuts, and seasoning. Combine. Add the breadcrumbs and tomato paste and the “egg”. I tried to mix with a spoonula but ended up just using what my favorite Food Network chef calls the kitchen’s best multitasker: my hands. Mix well and then transfer to a loaf pan lined with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or oiled. Top with your favorite pasta sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce or try the glaze I found online. (I didn’t care for the glaze, but a few others said they like it.)

Glaze:
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
(I added a little garlic powder just for the heck of it)
Combine and spread on top of lentil loaf.

Bake at 350* F for 40 minutes. It looked good and sturdy until I tried to transfer a slice to my plate, it held up better than other lentil loaves I’ve made but I think I need to use more bread crumbs, maybe a whole cup instead of half a cup. It was delicious anyway… or should I say lentil-icious! ;)

It ain’t pretty, but it is definitely yummy!

My new loves:
While wandering around my local health food store I saw something interesting: Matcha green tea and peppermint dark chocolate. I thought: I love matcha green tea, peppermint, and chocolate… So add them all together and it must equal goodness. It’s all in the math really and you can’t argue with math so…

Sooooo friggin’ scrumptious! Well, I thought so. Hubs and my falafel-taste-testing-BFF weren’t as keen on it as I was… more for me! If you want to check out the company here is there site Fearless Chocolate. Lots of goodness all around.

I had been looking into getting a spiralizer to make vegetable “spaghetti”. I just couldn’t decide if I wanted to spend the money on one or not so I kept putting it off. Then I found the Zyliss Julienne Peeler… It was on sale at my local grocery store for $4, it works wonderfully and it’s pretty. How could I go wrong?

I made some zucchini “spaghetti” to try it out. I sauteed it in a small amount of oil over medium heat for just a few minutes to warm it through, not cook it just warm it through. I used some jarred marinara sauce I had on hand and sprinkled a little mozzerella rice cheese on top but Hubs preferred it with just salt and pepper. Next I plan to try eggplant and beets. Of course, I’ll let ya know how it works out.

Running:
I’m a slacker! I cannot get myself out of bed in the a.m. for the life of me! When I get home from work it is too hot or raining or… Fine! I’m just a slacker! Buuuut, I have my bestie runner friend (the falafel eater) who will be running the 2013 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k with me, she is way faster than I am so I must get my booty out of bed and run before work. I know I said I wasn’t going to concentrate on speed but it’d be nice to keep up with the BFF! So my goal this week: Start getting up and running at least 3 times a week. There. I’ve now “held myself accountable”… We shall see how well it worked. ;)

We have walked the Race for the Cure every year since I was diagnosed. 2007 started the tradition and Team Tata Troopers hasn’t missed one since. I decided to run the 5k this year and then meet the rest of my team at the start and walk it again with them. I look forward to it every year, as it’s usually a beautiful day along the water with over 20,000 kick-ass peeps supporting an important cause. The most kick-ass peeps being all the survivors and the families and friends of lost loved ones that attend. It’s truly an amazing sight to see and I can never keep myself from crying when they play Melissa Etheridge’s “I Run For Life”… If you’re in the West Palm Beach, FL area on Saturday, January 26, 2013 you should head to Flagler Drive and check it out. It’s starts around 7 a.m.

Survivor Stage Race for the Cure 2012 (not the best pic but…)

Okay, I’m off to eat some Lentil-iciousness for lunch. Peace, love and happiness to you all!

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Let them eat cake!

Hi Peeps! I hope everyone is doing fabulously!

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was introducing coffee back into my life. I love it, it’s been one of my favorite things for a long time, but it’s also been one thing I could never give up. So when I started my Veganture I did something of a ‘cleanse’, I still ate solid food, but I made sure it was as clean and pure as possible. No sugar, no additives, no caffeine, etc. Therefore coffee went bye-bye. After the cleanse period was over (21 days) I still wanted some so I started drink a cup in the morning again… I have been so tired every day since! I was so happy that I hadn’t been tired any more and thought it must have been the food I was eating or not eating that I cut out or added in that made me feel better. I now have some suspicions that maybe, just maybe, I’m not sleeping as well now that I started drinking coffee again? So sadly this weekend I will have to go through the caffeine headaches as I cut it out of my life once again… for good this time. Boo.

Anywho… My birthday was this week, Moms too, so over the weekend she had the fam over for dinner and some cake. She made some delicious vegan dishes as well as some carnivorous dishes, that I am sure were equally delicious. The vegan side of things was a big crockpot full of ratatouille and some roasted cauliflower with green olives and chickpeas… So freaking yummy! My cousin made one of my most favorite things in the food world: artichokes! I was in vegan heaven. ;) I skipped dessert but still blew out the candles and had a cup of coffee while everyone enjoyed the cake and homemade chocolate chip cookies… Needless to say this was a major test for me and I passed.

                                  

I was thinking about making a vegan cake for myself, but I hate baking and when I do try to bake it never turns out right so I nixed the idea pretty quickly. The next day while shopping I found that Amy’s has a vegan chocolate loaf cake in the freezer section so I did get one of them so I could have a little cake. It is so good and now I know for future events that I can have my cake and eat it too!

One night before the Amy’s vegan chocolate cake I wanted dessert so I chopped up an apple into cubes and warmed it in the microwave, just until it was slightly warm. Then I drizzled almond butter over it and sprinkled on some cinnamon… Um, yum!! Totally hit the spot!

I also tried out a new recipe for dinner and tried polenta for the first time. I bought polenta already made and just had to slice it and warm it up in a pan until the slices were lightly golden on both sides. I put the polenta on a plate and spooned my Kale & Mushroom Ragu over it and ate. I will admit it’s dishes like this one that make me miss Parmesan cheese, but I sprinkled some Rice mozzarella over it and that helped. I prefer Rice cheeses because they are soy free, and the mozzarella tastes pretty much like mozzarella, I have to try the cheddar next…

Kale & Mushroom Ragu:

1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 cup Oinions,chopped
1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
2 cups Mushrooms, chopped
4 cups Kale, chopped
1-14.5 oz can Diced Tomoatoes, with juice
2 tso Tomato Paste
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (note: I found it to be too much, next time I will use 1/2 tsp)
1/4-1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
Black Pepper to taste
A pinch of Nutmeg (I don’t know, Rachel Ray swears by it when cooking greens so I tried it)
A pinch of Sugar (takes away some of the bitterness of the tomatoes)

Over medium heat warm oil in a pan/pot add onion, once onion is translucent add garlic. Sautee for a minute or so and add mushrooms and kale, cook until kale begins to wilt and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan/pot. Turn heat to low and simmer until kale is the texture you’d like it to be. Serve over polenta, quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta… or just eat it as a side.

I haven’t ventured into my chickpea recipe experimentation’s yet but I plan to very soon and of course I will share how it goes… good or bad. :) I am trying a lentil chili tonight, I will post the recipe and the outcome soon.

Running:

I caught a stomach bug two weeks ago, apparently it hit a lot of people in my area. I ended up missing the 10k I had mentioned, which is probably for the best since I hadn’t trained as much as I should have. I started a free training plan on my Runkeeper app and I did go to the gym a couple of times last week to run on the stupid mill to get back in the swing of things. Have I mentioned how much I hate the treadmill? I am sure I have, and I am sure I will again. I have one at home but I thought the gym might give me more motivation to stay on it longer, you know people running next to me and just the whole workout/fitness vibe in the air… I was able to do 25 minutes each time before I wanted to pull my hair out and moved on to the eviliptical… Oh, I mean elliptical. You probably can’t tell, but I just don’t like doing cardio in the gym, the weight machines I don’t mind but the hamster wheels and stairs-to-nowhere I simply can’t stand! They are no good for the attention span challenged like myself. I just prefer being outside in the open air, even if I do get dive-bombed by mockingbirds and swallow the occasional bug… just extra protein to get me through the run. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. ;)

Monday, finally, I got my butt outside and ran through my neighborhood and I remembered how much I love running. I fall out of love with it from time to time and end up taking a break. My problem ends up being… me. I get too competitive with myself. I try to go faster each time I go out without giving myself time to build up to it and then I get discouraged when i can’t make it through an entire run because I’ve overworked myself so I stop running for a while. So I decided to stop posting my runs where my friends can see them and just keep a log for myself, I hope this will stop me from trying to prove something to myself… or whoever it is I seem to think I am trying to prove something to. ;) It helped me on Monday, I was able to run 30 minutes straight, only slowing a couple of times to drink water, and I kept my pace steady and didn’t kill myself the first half so I was able to make it all the way through. Yesterday was a 40 minute steady run and I did it, I was totally pooped afterwards but I finished the 40 minutes with only slowing to sip my water… and I had to, just had to stop and pet an adorable little pit puppy (my puppy – 4 years old – is the cutest dog ever, she’s a mix of who-knows-what). But I got through the entire 40 minutes and I did better than I thought I would. Tomorrow’s training plan is to run 10 minutes fast, walk or jog 5 minutes slow, then 10 minutes fast again. This makes me nervous because I don’t feel like I’m built for speed, but we shall see. It’s only 10 minutes, right? (HA! Only 10 minutes… Hmmm…)

That’s all for now, my peeps. I hope you all have a lovely evening and weekend. I will post another update, hopefully with more recipes, soon. Peace, love, and health to you.

Organic or bust?

Hi! I know, no posts for a week or so and then two in one day! I meant to post Soup for you over the weekend but never got around to it so I posted it this morning before work.

Being that my diet consists of mainly fruits and vegetables I try to buy as many organic products as possible. In my area there isn’t always the best selection of organic produce available so I rely on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list to help me pick my bounty of goodness. They are also helpful with cosmetics, sunscreens, etc. It’s a very informative website if you’re interested.

Going organic can be pricey, especially if your only option is to buy from your local chain supermarket. I’ve found that at health food stores and sometimes farmer’s markets (locally grown produce) the prices are cheaper than the big chain stores. However, they’re still more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. So to prevent busting your bank account when trying to switch to organics check the Clean15/Dirty Dozen list first and prioritize your purchases. Heck, I literally stand to the side in the produce section and pull it up on my phone if I need to.

The list is actually two lists the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, the clean list has the top 15 produce items that have the least pesticides and the dirty has the top 12 that have the most. There is a more extensive dirty list to look at as well. So basically, if you want to start slowly adding more organic produce into your diet start by purchasing only organic for the dirtiest ones.

Apples are #1 on the dirty list so I make sure to only buy organic apples. I buy a 3lb bag of them at the supermarket, they are $2.00 more than the non-organic 3lb bag of apples, sometimes less if I can get them on sale or at my local health food store. Avocados are #4 on the clean list so I buy a bag of 5 non-organic avocados from Sam’s club (closest bulk store to me). Mainly I do this because a bag of 5 from Sam’s is a little over $6, in the supermarket ONE non-organic avocado can be almost $2.00 or more, the health food store sells organic ones for $1.69 each. So the math and the list have spoken.

*Sweet corn is on the clean list, however because there is no law to require companies state whether their brand/product uses GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients I prefer to stay with organic with corn and soy products, including when they’re in their whole forms. There are some companies who use GMO free ingredients and they will tell you right on the package. I like to look for products that have the Non-GMO Project badge on them. The Non-GMO Project site will give you more information on GMOs and what you can do to help, if you’d like to. If you want another site to review GMOs and how they can affect you check out the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s GMO post , which I found through an online magazine I follow (Organic Connections).

Organic means that the produce was grown without using pesticides, synthetic (read: chemicals) fertilizers, GMOs, etc. They are grown as naturally and cleanly as possible. When buying organic products other than produce check the labels. “100% Organic” means just that, the product is made with 100% organic ingredients. “Organic” means it’s at least 95% organic. “Made with” organic ingredients is at least 70% organic. And anything less than that will just have specific organic ingredients listed in the ingredient section. For more information on how products are certified organic and how it works check out the National Organic Program (NOP). There are varying opinions or statements on whether the nutritional make-up of organics is higher than non-organics, but as I said I choose organic as much as possible because they are cleaner and more pure than non-organic…besides I think they taste better.

Try it yourself. Do a blind taste test. Get one organic apple and one non-organic apple (same variety: Gala, Granny Smith, etc. so they are not obviously different) and have someone hand you one at a time without you knowing which is which and try to guess which is the organic one. I’ve done it and the organic tasted better to me. Let me know how your blind taste test turns out, I’m interested to know what you think.

I hope this has helped provide some insight and cost cutting tips to help you start your venture into organics. If you’ve liked what you read please “Like” it and/or “Share” it by using the buttons below. And please follow me by entering your email address in the space provided at the upper-ish right of the screen.

Peace and love to you all!

Soup for you…

Hi all! I hope all is well with you and yours.

A little update… I had introduced some sugar back into my diet. I had a cereal craving (usually pretty rare for me) so I bought some organic toasted oat o’s and…. Can you say chocolate chip cookie dough coconut milk “ice cream”? I saw it and had to try it… well, no more! I’ve said before, a few times, that since beginning my veganture I have never felt better. Well, when I decided to try adding these things into my diet I started to not feel so great. I am not saying everyone has to give up all sugar all the time, but I personally feel better without it.

So in light of cutting the sugar out of my diet… again, I went through my fridge to see what veggies I had on hand and figure out what I wanted to do with them. I had some kale and bok choy that was beginning to wilt and decided I should use it before it went to waste. I have been eating a lot of stir-fried and sauteed veggies and saw that I had some vegetable broth so I thought to myself “Self, let’s make some soup!”.

Soup, especially vegetable soup, has got to be one of the easiest things you can make. You basically toss a bunch of veggies in a pot with broth or stock and – Ta-da! – you’re done! It requires very little prep, which equals very little clean-up (which is my favorite thing about it!). Though, I am not the biggest fan of eating soup so I like to make mine more full of veggies than broth. It tends to be more like a stew consistency than a soup.

So here’s my recipe for my:

Itasian (Italian & Asian) Fusion Vegetable Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp minced garlic
1-2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp thyme
1/2 Tbsp basil
1/2-1 tsp of Italian seasoning
1/2-1 tsp of kosher salt
1-14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1-32oz container of vegetable broth
2-3 cups of bok choy, chopped
3-4 cups of kale, chopped
1-2 cups of frozen edamame, out of the pod
1 Tbsp tomato paste
black pepper to taste

Add oil to pot on medium heat. Add onion and sautee until translucent then add garlic. Sautee, while stirring for a minute or two. Add bay leaves, the other herbs, and the salt. Stir to combine, then add the tomatoes stirring again and cooking for a couple of minutes. Then add the broth and stir in the rest of the ingredients. I turn up the heat to bring to a boil and then all the way down to let it simmer until done… I will confess I moved on to something else and kind of forgot about it so I let it simmer a little too long, but it is still really delicious. I am not too sure about the retention of nutrients but I’m sure it’s still very good for me. I will suggest that you don’t over cook it, try to cook it as little as possible so there is still a bit of a crunch to the veggies.

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Note: I didn’t actually measure out the kale and bok choy, these are my estimations based on what I had left in my fridge. But that is the best part of most of my recipes: put what you want and however much of it you want in there, including the seasonings. I may have over estimated the italian seasoning I put in, but just use what you like. I am just starting to get myself used to more seasonings so I tend to go light on them… for now (except thyme, I love thyme!).

I’m going to be venturing out a little more from my comfort zone and trying new recipes. I can only eat so many stir-fries and soups! Again, I like cooking, it allows you to be creative with your food. Buuut, I do not like baking, it’s too strict and usually has more clean-up. I’m not good with rules! *grin* So I started my venturing by trying to make chickpea veggie burgers. A lot of what I make now or have made in the past (including my carnivorous recipes) were from me looking at a few different versions of one thing and making up my own version. It usually works out pretty well… not so much with the chickpea veggie burgers. Chickpeas are my favorite bean to use in most everything I make.

I roast them in the oven with a little oil and whatever seasonings I feel like and use them on salads for some protein (and instead of croutons). Or… I will just put them in a container straight from the can (after rinsing them) and add a little oil and seasonings and use them on my salads that way. I used them in my Mediterranean Delight and I absolutely love hummus! So I figured I’d make them into a veggie patty… I read 3 different versions and tried my own, (I wanted one without bread crumbs) so here it is…

1-15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp kosher salt.

Place chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until creamy (mine never got this way, it stayed crumble-y which is where I think part of the problem cam in…). Place into a medium to large mixing bowl, add quinoa to bowl. Place the sunflower seeds in food processor next and pulse until a fine powder (again never got there, I think I need a new food processor, mine is ancient. Hmm…). Add to bowl with chickpeas and seeds. I sauteed the onion in a little oil until translucent and added it to the mix, then add the rest of the ingredients and combine well.

Makes about 4-6 patties depending on how big you want them. You can bake them in a 400*F oven for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Or you can pan fry them if you prefer. I baked them, when i went to flip the first one it fell apart. The rest were seriously cracked and starting to crumble on their own. When they were lightly golden brown I took them out of the oven and tasted them, they tasted really good but ended up just crumbles on my plate.

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I am not sure what caused them to be so dry, maybe it’s because the chickpeas never got smooth and creamy, maybe it’s because the sunflower seeds never got completely to the fine powder stage, maybe I needed more lemon juice or tahini? Maybe it’s all of the above… but they were yummy so maybe they’re worth a little more experimenting with. Yeah, I think so. I’ll let you know when I try them again and how they turn out.

Feel free to provide input, I’m learning as I go, so if anyone has expertise they’d like to share I’m all for it. My next task is to find uses for tahini, you can’t buy just a little bit of it so I have a whole jar in my fridge now. I want to try my hand at hummus so that may be the next recipe you see here, but not just any ol’ hummus. Nope, it’ll have my very own twist to it!

Little side note: I decided to drink coffee again. It was one of my favorite things and I miss it! I don’t add sugar, only almond milk and I never really drank much, just a cup in the a.m. and I really can’t find anything wrong with that. So I’m adding it back in. I’ll let ya know how it goes. ;)

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Do you have any recipes you’d like to share? Tell me about them…

Like what you’ve been reading? “Like” it and “Share” it using the links below… also enter your email in the box on the upper-ish right of the screen to receive emails when I post (you can control how often you receive them).

Wishing you all peace, love, and experimental recipes (really, try having some fun with your food!).

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