Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Homemade Bagels

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I love bagels, and whenever you go out to get a fresh bagel somewhere, you usually never know if you're getting a bagel with eggs or without.  And if you make bagels, often times the recipes call for tons of ingredients, most of which you don't have on hand. This simple vegan bagel recipe is delicious and, obviously, egg free.  The image shows my recent batch, black currant bagels!  Got to love when currants are in season!  This recipe makes 1 dozen bagels that are roughly 4-5 inches wide, or you can make them smaller to keep from stuffing yourself each time you have a bagel.

Sponge:
1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water

Dough:
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp agave nectar

Finishing touches:
1 tsp baking soda for the water
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Toppings for the bagels such as seeds, salt, onion, or garlic

 The night before:

Start with the sponge.  Heat the water to 90 degrees or so, add a pinch of sugar, and pitch the yeast in the water.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes, and mix with the flour.  If you are including something that you want inside your bagel (i.e. currants, blueberries, etc.), this is the time to mix it in.  Cover bowl the mixture is in with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.

(Two hours later):
Remove the plastic wrap and stir the yeast put aside for the dough into the sponge. Add the 3 cups of flour, the agave nectar, and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. You need to work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while still mixing in the bowl or while kneading. The dough should be more stiff and more dry than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.

Place the dough on a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.

After kneading, split the dough into a dozen small pieces about the size of a fist. Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made or have run out of dough, cover them with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes.

20 minutes later, shape the bagels.  To shape the bagel punch a hole in the center of each roll with your thumb and rotate the dough, softening the edges to look like a doughnut.

Place the bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so of space between one another (use two pans, if you need to). If you have parchment paper, line the sheet pan with parchment and spray it lightly with oil before placing the bagels on the pan. Cover the pan with plastic and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, place the bagel sheets in the fridge for the night.


Bagel eating day:

Preheat the oven to 500 and bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Since I brew beer, I have a nice 3 gallon pot to get boiling.  The little extra room is nice when you're boiling the bagels.  Adding one tablespoon of baking soda to the pot to alkalize the water is suggested to replicate traditional bagel shop flavor.  I don't know if it works, but the bagels come out delicious, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it-- right?

When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side for another minute.


Before removing them from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan. Remove them one at a time, setting them back onto the sheet pan, and top them right away if you are adding a topping, while they are still slightly moist. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled and topped.

Once all are boiled, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5 minutes until the bagels begin to brown.  This can be hit or miss, sometimes I need to only bake them another 5 minutes, other times it takes up to 25 minutes.  Keep on top of them to make sure you don't burn them.  Remove the pan from the oven and let them cool for as long as you can without succumbing to temptation.  Usually, for me at least, it's not very long.  Enjoy!



Caloric Info
Servings 12
Calories324.4
Total Fat: 1.5 grams
Sat Fat: 0.2 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.6 grams
Monosat. Fat: 0.1 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 534.7 mg
Potassium: 88.6 mg
Carbs: 65.5 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 grams
Sugar: 1.3 grams
Protein: 10.6 grams

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette


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Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and I never realized how amazing it was until high school.  Even then and up through college, I was always a bit nervous about trying to cook it.  I would buy it, leave it in the fridge, ignoring it as though it would someday cook itself, and when I realized it was starting to go bad, I would salvage what I could and deep-fry what was left, since that was the only way I knew how to cook it and I knew it would be pretty hard to mess that up.  Fortunately, like a fine wine, with age my ability to cook asparagus has grown exponentially.  The problem that comes up now when I buy asparagus is now more in the direction of 'which way do I want to cook it this time?'  This particular recipe is a delicious light summer asaparagus recipe that works well paired with spring salad, a light Italian soup, and a glass of light Zinfandel.  Relaxing at the table while watching the summer evening stroll by is what this kind of side dish is for-- enjoy it!

2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
3 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 minced small red onion
1 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

In a medium fry pan, add water so that it has about an inch of depth of water.  Add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil.

Blanch the asparagus in fry pan with salted boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Do not overcook or your asparagus will become, well, floppy.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (balsamic vinegar, red onion, olive oil, garlic, and pepper).

Remove from heat and rinse under cold water.  Drain well.

Place the asparagus on serving plate and spoon the vinaigrette over the asparagus.  Top with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pictures of the garden and the cats here at La Vita Vegan because everyone loves cats!

It's that time of year here at La Vita Vegan, and our garden is in its prime.  Our cats are also in their prime, soaking up the sun and loafing around the house, perched in the windows and sniffing the smells of the city.  We are the potted plant people in our neighborhood-- fortunately the smaller houses on the street all have gardens as well (as it's predominantly an immigrant neighborhood), and we don't look too out of place... yet.  Our garden is creeping up the fence of our neighbor to the south, but he's got himself a beautiful pear tree, which I'm hoping to convince him to let me take a graft of (it's a dwarf-- only about 8 feet!) which can stay in a pot until we buy a pot.




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This is a wild mint that we replanted in a pot-- it smells fabulous and is already hardened off from the cold, so there's hope for this to stick around for a while!

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This is our fig tree-- it looks like we're going to get about 5 pounds of figs; not bad for a potted fig tree!

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Our grape vines found an old bench buried between our yard and our neighbors and decided to call it home!

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Another potted plant-- our rose bush that we've managed to have through 4 apartments.  Hopefully it's next home will be in the ground at our future house!

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This was an experiment.  Being italian I grew up with lupini beans as a staple in my diet.  My grandfather used to buy them at a place in Pawtucket and dried and soak them himself, which gave them a much better flavor.  I was only able to find a place online that sells them dried in Brooklyn, and I was curious if I could get them to grow so I could dry my own lupini's, but it doesn't appear that I will get any lupini's from it this time...  I know they grow in really warm weather, but this summer was a bit chilly so I think I'll try them again next summer.

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A first time plant for us, this celery was a lovely addition to our garden.  I'm looking forward to adding some fresh, organic celery to our recipes!

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Blackberry bushes (more like a stick at this point, but there's hope)!

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Cranberry bush!

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My bike has been overrun by the flowers!

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This kale was a first-timer as well.  From seed it started strong, but the random bursts of extreme heat are not faring well for it, whereas the cool temperature that has defined this summer has been great.  I'm expecting a great crop this fall.

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Carrots are another first-time plant this year!  I think I overdid it!

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Black Cat/BP/George finds solace cuddling around the second wild mint plant in the sunroom, while Sam has passed out at the door to the sunroom with the sun beating down on her!

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