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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Comforts: Vegan Fluffernutter Cupcake (Two Ways)

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Today I felt inspired to revisit this recipe. After a slow, wintry Sunday that turned towards a bad day, I needed a bit of sweet, sweet comfort food. I had just a bit of vegan fluff left (it's hot cocoa season up here, people!) and I wanted peanut butter badly. Andy made me think of a "fluffernutter" - for those of you not from New England, it's just a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, probably with your crust cut off, because gross, crust. This time, I left out the chocolate and went for straight unadorned fluff, but don't be alarmed; I drank chocolate almond milk on the side. And for Andy, who is less of a dessert person, I made a PB&J cupcake, which he devoured while screaming at the Patriots. Some of it is still in his beard, but don't tell him, you'll only hurt his feelings. ;)

3/4 c soymilk
2 tsps apple cider vinegar
1/2 c natural chunky peanut butter
1/3 c canola oil
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peanut butter extract
2 tsps ground flaxseed
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt



1/2 c Vegan fluff (or melted vegan marshmellows) Try Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme!
1/2 c confectionary sugar
1 tsp vanilla

ADD (if desired):
1/2 c of your favorite jelly (Raspberry is the best, though, of course)






Pictured: Pure, unadulterated, cocaine.

























Combine milk and apple cider vinegar, set aside for a minute to curdle. Mix in the sugar, peanut butter, oil, molasses, and extracts. Add in the flax seed.

Sift in the flour, baking soda and power, and salt. Stir to combine.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Once cooled, frost with fluff frosting. Swirl in jelly, if desired.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuscan Rice and Bean Soup


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Ahh, diet.  Just that word strikes fear into the hearts of many. While it only means the food you consistently eat, we associate so many negative things with the word. The funny thing about diets (a word I hate to use because of the connotation of restricted eating/enjoyable eating) is that when you have a certain diet (like being vegan), cooking for other people becomes a whole lot harder.  And while we live nearly an hour away from our families, and they rarely make their way around to visiting us, every once and a while we have family come stop by. And even though it's pretty rare for it to happen, something we have learned to do is have a few recipes that we can make that aren't 'scary' vegan foods.  Soups are always at the top of that list because they're easy to make on the fly, you can pretty much throw anything in there, and for the most-part they are either red, white, or yellow--nothing too threatening. 

That said, soups are a great all-round meal as they are chock full of vegetables and all sorts of good stuff. And being December, soup is one of the most important meals for the winter.  It's cheap, warms you, and is easy to make in bulk to enjoy for a few days in a row.  Rice and bean soup, in particular, can be made in so many ways-- it's really up to you with what you want to do with it.  This rice and bean soup was made to use up some of the stuff in the fridge, so it's a little unique in terms of which vegetables and how much of each vegetable is included. In thinking of our Vegan on the Cheap model, a bean and rice soup is good because beans are cheap, rice is cheap, and the watery broth fills you up.  Now don't let that fool you-- this broth is tasty and filled with delicious vegetable flavor.

This past week, as we were looking through our bills, wondering where our money was going, I noticed we hadn't really gone grocery shopping this month all too much.  Now, that's pretty common for us during the summer, as we try to live off our homestead as much as possible, but for the winter, it's pretty rare.  Something we've done differently this year was growing kale and celery through the winter, which has made part of our grocery bill disappear, something which I'll go into detail in a later post about cold frame gardening.  Another change this year compared to last year, which I believe is having a huge influence on our grocery bill is that during the late summer and fall we began to freeze as many fruits and vegetables as we could fit, and we've been digging into those the past month or so (I'll make a point to come back to this post to link to these articles when they're done).  I've gotta say, I'm pretty excited with how well it has worked out, and I'm hoping that next year we can even expand how much we store and grow throughout the winter.  Does anyone have any good materials on winter gardening in cold weather climates?

Anyways, back to the soup.  You might be wondering what makes a soup 'Tuscan'.  Well, Tuscan soups were based on the availability of ingredients, often using leftover soups as the base.  The soups often were made by peasants or cowboys while traveling, as it allowed them to continually reuse what they had and to let nothing go to waste. And since we're using many of the ingredients which were included in traditional Tuscan soups, it seems apropos to name it the same.  After foraging through your cold frame for your veggies, a nice rice and bean soup like this will warm you right up!

5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup diced tomatoes (or 1 12-oz. can)
1 cup uncooked rice
3/4 cup dried Great Northern beans (or 1 15-oz. can, drained and rinsed)
1 cup of celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

If using dried beans, soak overnight the day before.

In medium-sized pot, add olive oil and bring to medium heat.  Add garlic and onion, sauteing for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, celery, peppers, and carrots.  Stir occasionally for another 3-5 minutes.

Add broth, beans, and spices, and bring to a boil.

Add rice and reduce heat to simmer, allowing to cook for 60 to 90 minutes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oatmeal cookie dough green smoothie

Green Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

Making smoothies that taste like desserts is truly an art form.  Unfortunately, a lot of people like to say that they've got a recipe that tastes like a dessert, only to find that the only way I would make that connection is because of the name.  For example, I wanted to have an oatmeal cookie dough smoothie, so I checked Google to see what was out there, only to find out that the recipe that appeared to be quite popular (and whose creator will not be named) didn't taste anything like an oatmeal cookie.  After a few tries, I came up with this recipe, which I think is the closest to an oatmeal cookie that I've found as of yet.

First note regarding this smoothie:  make sure your blender can handle it.  Lots of frozen and hard ingredients.  We've got the ninja as our 'big' blender, and that thing is a monster.  The Ninja never has a problem breaking through ice, and it's actually a really easy blender to use because the engine is on the top piece.  It's surprisingly quiet too, which is great when I'm up at 5:45 in the morning and I'm trying to not be super noisy.  So, if you're in the market for a blender, there's a thumbs up from this corner!

Second:  This recipe makes a lot.  You could cut it in half, but it actually works out quite nicely because when we make a smoothie, we usually make it for two, and this will get you about 3-4 cups for each person, which is enough to really fill you up for a meal.

As for the book in the picture-- Memory Babe is an extremely in-depth critical piece of research on Kerouac's life and watches his writing develop as he deals with the trials of his sexuality, Oedipal complex, and his inability to find solace in his life as both the product of a working-class Canuck family & as a writer of scholarly circles.  It's fascinating to watch how he undulates between groups, and offers new insight into how he developed as a writer and as a human.  As a distant relative, I find this extremely interesting (and actually, in the beginning, the direct lineage to my family is even mentioned, which was kind of cool).  Compiled with the fact that I'm working on a book on Kerouac (I'd tell you more, but I can't until I have made some more headway in the project), and this book is the Bible for me right now.  If you're a fan of the Beats or of Kerouac, this is the best you'll find for a background, and a day-by-day in some instance, which is incredible that this could even happen.

1 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal raw, not instant
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 1/2 cup kale
3 frozen bananas
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flax seed
6 ice cubes
2 tbsp cashews
1 tbsp peanuts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Few Things on Working Out from the Laziest Creature in Our House

Pictured: Black Cat, being more physically active than me.


















Hey, friends. I've said this before, and before that, and probably before that, but I am a workout hating machine. Seriously. My mother instilled in me a great love of all things chocolate, and enjoying those chocolate things with many marathons of Law and Order, and so my free time is spent doing mostly that. I am many other things: a (sometimes pathetic) graduate student, a voracious reader, a painter and a poet, a junk food lover, a baker AND a candlestick maker, but one thing I am absolutely not is athletic. Some of it is leftover from my particularly bad case of mono (before that, I was a bit of a runner, but only barely. About 2 miles a day. And most of that was simply because I was competing with a friend) but a big part of it is just my personality.

And for fun, it drives Andy crazy. He is very active, and he loves being hot and moving around and all that craziness. He would weed our garden in the middle of July at noontime (whereas I would be drinking ice water in a cold bath with a book with coconut milk ice cream all over my face).

He made me start working out with him this past year. After swearing up and down that I would use it, we signed up for a gym right down the street from us. After about 2 months, I was already swearing at him and begging him not to make me go, because I am that lame. But, by month 4 or 5 (when it started getting nicer outside and we weren't wearing six jackets just to go down the street) I was feeling better. I could run again for the first time in years.

Then, he wanted to try P90X. I tried it, hated it, tried it again, hated it more, then tried it again, and then we settled into a routine with it. It was way harder than the gym, but it made my knees hurt less (old soccer injury, procured because I really stunk at soccer) and I got results way faster. Then, Andy got Insanity.

I thought I hated P90X, but what I felt for Shaun T bordered on criminally insane. Some of his routines made me cry from physical exhaustion and humiliation  But, I couldn't argue with my new, very strong muscles. I had to buy bigger pants solely to fit my giant quads into them (which, as a lady, is actually embarrassing).

Andy found Hip Hop Abs about a month into our Insanity adventure. I watched one of the on a day off, and laughed out loud at how ridiculous it was. The next day, though, I was tired from our routine, my thighs ached, and I was running a bit late (I work out before I go to work). So I settled on the Hip Hop Abs workout, because it is less intensive and shorter.

I loved it. It didn't make me feel as exhausted as P90X or Insanity did, and I could moved afterwards. I even did a bit more working out once I was finished with it. It's a great program to wake up to, and besides the totally awkward and strange pelvic thrusting slash crabbing (seriously, do this workout ALONE), it's really effective. After a while, you could actually see my abs muscles (which, as a junk food person, has never ever been the case). And, while that was great, I wasn't a total wash for the rest of the day, either. I had energy. I took the stairs at work! It was crazy.

The best part was, I didn't want to bargain with myself. When we'd do the 40-60 minute workouts, my sneaky food-loving brain would be all "Hey Ashley, you worked out really really hard today. You earned that cake, girl!" and I'd end up ruining any headway I'd made. But with Hip Hop Abs, I couldn't bargain that much. It was only a 20 minute workout, after all. I'd have to take the stairs to help compensate for the brevity  I couldn't afford to eat that cake. I'd have time after my workout to make a green smoothie, instead of toasting a bagel or eating a pound of corn flakes.

And so I was much healthier and much better off doing this strange and awkward 20 minute work out than I ever was doing the more serious stuff. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Under $2 'Green' Shampoo Challenge; Buy This, Not That -- Green Edition

You've gotten your holiday shopping done, right?  So if you're anything like me, that means you're probably pretty poor for the next few weeks.  What can I say, I like making people happy.  
 This blog post was created because of the lack of clear information available for people wanting to buy green products (whether in terms of being chemical free, not tested on animals, or local made (i.e. made in USA) which would eliminate carbon footprint) but didn't want to spend top dollar on brands like seventh generation or any other expensive brand touted for being green or earth-friendly.  While there's nothing wrong with asking more money for providing this service, it obviously comes at a premium to the consumer.  Whether or not this is ethical is another discussion, one which I may or may not attempt to challenge in the future.
For the purpose of this blog, my intent is to shed light on brands that are not traditionally recognized for their 'green' intentions, but nonetheless offer an opportunity to buy a product that is aligned with your personal views. 
Some might ask, why not look at websites run by groups such as PETA, or other Vegan-associated or eco-friendly associations?  Well, anyone that is familiar with these websites knows that they can be quite daunting, and tend to marginalize store-brands, and even often-times name the subsidiary companies without ever speaking of the numerous brands that fall under their umbrella (i.e. Herbal Essences is not listed on many of these websites because they are owned by Proctor and Gamble, which IS listed-- but unless you know that Herbal Essences is owned by Proctor and Gamble, this information is useless).  Some people might suggest that people check the back of bottles or products to check which corporation owns each product and just remember those lists of the few major corporations, but that can be daunting, and often companies attempt to abdicate their conglomoration-ism (maybe a word?  no?) by listing the company under another subsidiary of theirs.
In short, it is not easy, and often times people want to just say "I want a product that doesn't test on animals-- if it is not eco-friendly, I'll at least feel better knowing it wasn't tested on animals (or vice-versa), how do I find this without having to dig through layers of information on companies and multi-national corporations?"  While it would be great if we could all buy local products that were earth-friendly and animal-friendly, a form of conscious capitalism (or another alternative-- you choose which you'd like to see) hasn't been formed yet to allow these to be feasible options for a majority of society.  When this becomes a communal pejorative, then this website will no longer need to exist.  Until then, this is a means to have access to the information you need to make informed decisions on which products are the best for your personal ethical concerns.
Our first post for Buy This, Not That -- Green Edition will focus on what I find to be a rather surprising, yet comforting fact.  Those of us on a budget tend to find things such as soap, shampoos and conditioners to be a rather bane part of our existence, and search for the cheapest product to get the job done.  What I'm talking about here is the battle for the 'under $2' shampoo and conditioners.  Can there be such a thing as a green $1-2 shampoo or conditioner?  Sure!  Let's take a look at what's out on the market.

First up:


White Rain

White Rain, a subsidiary of Unilever, commonly offers their shampoos and conditioners at (comparatively) rock bottom prices in relation to other brands.  Nearly every major chain carries their products and they often sell between 79 cents and $1.99, depending where you shop.  The product is distributed by Huish Inc., out of Utah, which doesn't test on their own products (and of course, is made in the USA, which gives this product a smaller carbon footprint).  Unilever, however, has been recognized for testing on animals, but has recently offered a product line called "naturals", which offers shampoos and conditioners infused with flowers and other essences.  While this offers a slightly more natural alternative for your mane, it offers very little in terms of actually moving away from a chemical-laden product.

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  D+
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C
Price and Availability:  A


V05


V05, owned by Alberto-Culver, has for a long time offered a great product made in the USA without testing on animals.  Usually you can find V05 at nearly every major store and it can usually be found for between 85 cents and $1.75.  In 2010, Unilever purchased the company, and as of August of last year (2011), Unilever sold Alberto-Culver to Brynwood Partners.  Brynwood Partners's activity in cosmetics (and their interest in becoming cruelty-free by 2013) gives hope again for the product, but doesn't negate the fact that they are still actively testing on animals.  Manufacturing this product in the USA gives it a thumbs up on its carbon footprint, but we'll see where this product goes in the future.

Final Grade:


Animal Friendly:  C-
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C+
Price and Availability:  A


Suave


Suave, based out of Chicago, IL. is another product owned by Unilever, which means it is tested on animals.  Again, this product can be found between 79 cents and $1.79.  Much like their partner White Rain, they offer a 'naturals' line which offers flower and other natural extracts to provide vitamins and other natural essences.  Again, much like White Rain, this 'naturals' product doesn't really make it much more environmentally friendly. Second this product is made in the United States, which is great for its carbon footprint.  If you haven't noticed, companies like Unilever own the market, and often times you'll never know (many of these brands do not list that they are owned by this company, but will list another mediary name which is not recognized by most of society).

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  D+
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C+
Price and Availability:  A


Lucky & Herbal Nature by Delta Brands


Lucky & Herbal Nature, unlike the products listed above, are not owned by Unilever.  Instead,they are  owned by Delta Brands.  Again, unlike the products listed above, Delta Brands absolutely refuses to test on animals and is dedicated to providing eco-friendly packaging (albeit, almost all shampoos are now sold in recyclable plastic containers).  Delta has been GMP approved, although that may be due to the fact that the product is made in Europe, which is not great for its carbon footprint, but better than Asia.  However, Herbal Nature is actually made in the USA, which is great.  Delta does not try or pretend to try to be natural, but the list of ingredients appears to be much shorter than other similarly priced products.  I haven't seen their shampoos and conditioners in too too many stores, but it's not overly hard to find and often sells for around a dollar.

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  B+
Carbon Friendly: C+ Lucky, B+ Herbal Nature
Environmentally Friendly: B
Price and Availability:  B+

Conclusion:

It seems that Herbal Nature offers the best shampoo and conditioner for the price range of around one to two dollars, which offers an economical way to shop with your ethics in tact!  Lucky comes up as a close second, so it appears Delta is doing a great job of being economical and green!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vegan on the Cheap #2

Happy 12/12/12!

The poor vegan's bible, as I dub these posts, are crucial for the financially-challenged.  There's nothing wrong with being financially challenged; I work for a non-profit and teach in an alternative night school, so I'm quite intimate with the cash-strapped lifestyle.  The important part is to recognize what you can and cannot afford.  What's more important, however, is to be able to look at long-term costs.  I'll explain.

You're poor and shopping at the local low-cost market.  You see the cheap olive oil, priced at only $3 for a half liter-- you say, hey, how can I go wrong with that price?  Well, that's $6 a liter.  Not too bad.  However, there's another container of olive oil and it's huge-- 5 liters!  But, it's the good stuff-- extra-virgin cold pressed.  Liquid gold.  And at $19 bucks, it better be-- that's a lot of freakin' money!  But is it really?  At the price of the cheap stuff, $6/liter, 5 liters of the cheap stuff would cost $30-- more than the good, expensive brand!  While it hurts your wallet at the moment, you're actually saving money by buying the better brand because of the bulk amount you're buying.  That's right, you're saving money AND eating healthier!

You might think, well, that's money I need to spend somewhere else.  And it can be tough when almost every penny is being counted and spent on essentials, but that's why I introduced Vegan On the Cheap #1 first-- learn how to curb your basic spending habits in terms of food before buying larger quantities.  That new money to spend gives you leverage!  And if I'm starting to sound like that intro to finance class you took in college, well, it should.

Of course, some things aren't really influenced by bulk.  Our health foods store sells nuts, berries, and grains by the pound, so even if we buy bigger items, it doesn't really make a difference.  But it does make it so you don't have to go out and spend gas/bus fare so frequently.  And some places have a 'charge' on the containers they include.

For example, a grocery store down the street from us buys 50 gallon drums of olive oil.  You can fill up a container the provide, with the initial costs of the small container being $5 (2 liter) and the large container being $10 (5 liter).  To fill up the small container costs $10, and the large container is $20.  First fill-up for the small container is $15, and the large container is $30.  While the $30 up front is daunting, you're getting more than double the amount of oil already, and will continue to save money with each filling.

Okay, okay; you get it.  Buying in bulk can save lots of money, but don't always assume that buying in bulk is automatically cheaper.  What else can I do?  There's got to be other things that can help.  Well, you're right.

Another HUGE thing to keep in mind is buying premade foods.  Say it with me: Make Food at Home.  Make. Food. At. Home.  Make-food-at-home.  Let's look at the easy example; pizza dough.  Water, flour, salt and yeast.  A jar of yeast, enough to make 100 pizzas, costs about $3.  Your water is practically free.  A couple cups of flour-- ballpark is around $.30.  A tablespoon or two of oil-- you can even use vegetable oil, which typically is less than half the cost of olive oil; even going with our $3 half-liter of olive oil, a tablespoon is roughly $.05.  A dash of sugar and salt, being generous and giving them $.05 cents total, means it costs about $.43 to make pizza dough.  And that's an expensive home-made pizza dough.  Those pizza shells at the grocery store are at least $2.50 each, and your home-made dough will taste 5x better.  And at $2 saved a pop, you can enjoy that pizza knowing you've saved boatloads of cash for good sauce and other toppings.

Hopefully this helps you a bit if you're struggling to find ways to afford the vegan lifestyle.  Keep checking for Vegan on the Cheap, a/k/a The Poor Vegan's Bible #3!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pepitas

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So you think that those pumpkins you bought for fall would be just tossed out in the garbage?  Not in this house!  Ashley merrily grabbed the pumpkins, pureed the guts, and fleshed out the seeds, knowing that I love munching on seeds.  Pumpkin seeds are great because they are packed with zinc, which is a crucial vitamin in a healthy diet, and one that can be accessed fairly easy in pumpkin seeds.  However, unlike sunflower seeds, the shells for pumpkin seeds are more easily broken down in your mouth and more digestible.  While the shells don't have any zinc, the endosperm envelope does, and it would be tricky to eat one without the other.  That said, it's easier to eat the shell.

Pumpkin seeds also are packed with various forms of vitamin E, so while they're not chock-full with high levels of E, the different varieties more than make up for it (and they're finding more varieties as of this writing!).  Bottom line:  Pumpkin seeds are fantastic for you.

Anyways, so Ashley stored a bunch of these after making some pumpkin puree so that I could roast some seeds for a snack.  We made a batch when we had pureed the first pumpkin a week earlier, and she begrudgingly tried them to find out that she in fact did like them-- and you will too!


3 cups of Pumpkin seeds ( at least that's the qty we got from our pumpkin)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1.2 tsp. garlic powder
salt to taste

Get a pot of water to a boil.  While water is heating, try to remove as much pumpkin pulp as possible.  If you can't get it all off, don't worry, after boiling it should be a bit easier.  Add seeds and allow to boil for ten minutes.

Preheat the oven at 250 degrees.

Drain seeds and get rid of all the pumpkin membrane.  Dry seeds with a towel and place in a bowl.

In another bowl, add the spices, mixing thoroughly.  Add seeds and make sure to cover seeds with spice mix.

On a baking plate, add parchment paper and spray/spread vegetable oil.

Bake for 1/2 hour, flip seeds, and bake for another 15 minutes.  Sample some, and if they are not crunchy, continue to bake them another 5 minutes.

Homemade pumpkin seeds, while delicious, do not store very well.  Keeping these in an airtight container is the best way to store them, and keeping the container in the fridge will give you the maximum time to eat the seeds.  Even like this, seeds will only last 3-5 days, so make sure you don't make too many seeds.  And if you do make too many, share them with your friends!  Let us know what different spice mixes you try with your pepitas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Chicken" Seitan Pot Pie

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Sorry for the quick photo - we were much too hungry to wait. I will make it again and replace!
















The holidays make me crave simpler times. Sometimes, all I want for Christmas is to sit at the dinner table and eat whatever my family is eating. But with two brothers who are avid meat-lovers, sometimes the mocking never ceases, while I eat a pile of corn and a roll or two. Any other meal, holiday, or season, it's not a big deal, but come December, it makes me feel a little left-out.

Not that I would ever eat meat (and I am generally criticised for apologizing to the turkey). But every once in a while, a delicious gravy or a heavenly pot pie sounds amazing.

Well, fortunately for me, and I guess turkeys everywhere, I was flipping through a cookbook and stumbled across a simple seitan recipe. I've made it before, but I guess the timing was off. Anyway, I started thinking. Why not make a "chicken" seitan, and use the leftover broth for the gravy?? And then make that into a pot pie?? And so I did, because I am a genius and Andy is really, really lucky.

For the seitan:

Come off it, you've made seitan before! Right? Okay, well, it's actually really simple. Basically, seitan is a wheat gluten dough that is cooked in broth to flavour it. It takes a while, but is all around a decent faux meat in the end. If you aren't a faux meat person, you could just make the gravy and forgo the seitan part, but I think it's worth it.

Well, if you really haven't made it before...here it is!

You can use any pie dough for the crust, including some store bought brands (I think Pillsbury is vegan). Or you could make your own:

1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c vegan shortening
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsps ice cold water

All of the ingredients should be chilled. Cut the shortening into the flour until is all small crumbles, the size of peas or so. add the salt, and then add the ice water in tbsps, until the dough is formed. Separate the dough into two balls, then wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate your dough for about 45 minutes, and then when it's ready, roll it out!

--

Okay, so now your broth is cooled down, and your seitan should be resting. Chop it up into bite sized pieces, and add it back into the broth.

To the broth, add 3-5 tbsps of corn starch (the amount depends on how much it has cooked down, etc) until it resembles a thick gravy. Add in your desired vegetables, fresh or frozen: I used baby carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, and corn. You can add in potatoes, too, if you like, but you should have them boiled and all cooked before you add them to the gravy, so do that separately first. Then, cook them in the gravy until everything is nice and warm.

Roll our your dough and place the bottom crust in the pan. Cook it alone for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the edges are a bit browned. Then, add in your gravy with vegetables, place on your top crust, and brush it with a bit of olive oil (and add a few air holes by poking through the crust with a knife).

Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chicken Style Seitan

Ahh, The Seitan Verses















When we first went vegan, we were skeptical of seitan. I, for one, was much happier buying Gardein faux meats and pretending seitan didn't exist, until I realised that most of the faux meats I was buying were essentially seitan! And whether you pronounce it "satan" or "sey-taan" or even "see-tin", this recipe is pretty much to die for if you are looking for a quick chicken substitute. My tastebuds were on the market for a good chicken-y potpie a few weeks ago, and this definitely filled the void.

Broth:

2 1/2 cups water
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp tumeric
3 tbsps canola oil
1 tsp lemon juice

Whisk in all ingredients in order into a large saucepan. Heat on medium for about 10 minutes and then turn heat to low once it starts to boil.

While your broth is cooking, make the seitan cutlets:

1/2 c vital wheat gluten (available at your local health food store)
1/4 c chickpea flour
1/2 c water
3 tbsps cooked broth (above)

Combine the wheat gluten and chickpea flour in a large bowl. Add in the water and broth, and knead dough with your hand until set. Then separate into four or five cutlets, and add to the broth.

Cover the pot and simmer for about 35-40 minutes on low heat, until cutlets are firm.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Vegan on the Cheap

I remember when we were in college and I had friends that would always say "yeah, I'd love to give to stop eating meat, you know, it's so bad for the environment and it's bad for our bodies, but I live on campus and I've got no money; I can barely afford what I DO buy, how am I going to be able to afford to make salads and buy vegetarian alternative stuff for sandwiches?"  Well with that attitude, you won't.  It's actually pretty fairly easy to eat vegan cheaply, it's just a matter of knowing which types of foods you should be buying instead of those veggie meats and such.  Of course, as a newly borne vegan/vegetarian, it's particularly hard not to rely on those replacement foods, but if you're truly motivated to do so, you definitely can.  Whenever my friends did bring this up, I would recommend to them to start with 1 meal a day, then two, and then a few days at a time to try eating more than just one meal that they've figured out for a lunch or a dinner.  Once it's not scary, it's relatively easy, the key is to not begin eating vegan or vegetarian just by simply substituting veggie alternatives for meats; doing this doesn't develop any new habits and their new expensive habit is not a long-term solution to being a healthy vegetarian.

There are tons of books that cover basic skills that every vegan or vegetarian should know; how to soak beans; how to make bread; what are tempeh, tofu, and seitan; how to cook with TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein; what are the different types of rice; how to eat seasonally; you know, the basics.  And you can find plenty of books regarding simple vegan meals that will taste delicious and you won't even realize they're vegan.  This is all good and well, but life doesn't let these things happen easily.  Either you're living in a dorm where you can't really cook, or you can't afford a blender, or you don't have cabinets in your kitchen to store stuff so you can't stock up on basics because you live in a ghetto apartment, or you simply work so much that the only way you could prepare meals would be to cut into time spent sleeping.  These are all examples that we've had to live through since being vegan, so I personally can attest to the struggles of these situations. 

What I'm trying to do here is not tell you how to live given your circumstances, but rather give information that you can use for when you are in these circumstances; when you are poor and working around the clock and can't really cook that often, it's so challenging to try to meet your health concerns, your ethical concerns, and still not look too weird at work when you show up with your lunch from home while the meat-eaters in the office look at you like you've got three heads.  With that said, There are a few things that work fairly well, and it's very simple to eat vegan on the cheap.

First Rule:  Don't buy brand names without coupons or sales.  Period, end of story.  There's no need for it, especially when you're poor.  If there is a great sale or something, stock up! 

Second Rule:  Always scan the clearance section for dried goods, canned goods, and produce that's getting close to expiration.  There will always be good deals here, and some grocery stores will bag a few bad fruits with a bunch of good stuff for a couple bucks just so they don't have to fill up their dumpsters.  They're practically paying you to throw the bad vegetables in your compost pile.

Third Rule:  Buy seasonal.  This can be tough during the winter, which brings me to rule #4.

Fourth Rule:  Store excess produce in the freezer when appropriate.  Berries, fruits, and some vegetables store well in the freezer.  If you can, or feel comfortable canning, go for it, although start-up costs can be a big dis-concerning.

Fifth Rule:  If you have room for a plant or garden, use it.  If you don't enjoy gardening and are looking at it from a practical perspective, choose the most expensive vegetables that you enjoy and grow those.  For most people, that means tomatoes.

Sixth Rule: Waste nothing.

Pretty straight-forward, right?  It's not complicated, it's just whether or not you can train yourself to not jump at the first delicious expensive thing that catches your eye.  Once you've trained yourself for those six rules, pay attention to the big ten foods you should be looking at to keep your bills down.

#1:  Dried beans.  Pound for pound, dried beans are the cheapest source of protein in the world.  Not only this, they will store for literally years without preservatives, so they are healthy and easy to work with.  Soak them overnight or boil them for a few hours (if you're crunched for time as well as cash, fill up a bowl of water and add a cup-- they'll swell to over double in size) and you can add them to your dinner.  You'll have to try out the beans after they've been soaked to make sure they've softened completely because the longer they've been dry, the longer it takes for them to soften, so you may need to soak a few days or boil as well as soak, which can been time consuming.  Soaked beans also are typically a bit harder than canned, and are often surprisingly different tasting than their canned cousins, which shouldn't be too surprising but should be slightly horrifying, since all they've added is preservatives.  Try out different beans, you may find that some beans you enjoy dried moreso than others.

#2: Rice.  Rice is a great way to create a base for just about any meal-- you can use rice with beans, with sauces, with fake meats and in soups.  Quick, filling and very easy to make, rice is cheap, reliable, stores well, and doesn't require a genius to make it. 

#3 Pasta.  Almost every vegetarian I know was always known as a 'pastafarian' by their family for only eating pasta when they saw them eating for the first time as a vegetarian.  Why?  Because if your family isn't vegetarian and they're not going to cook vegetarian, there aren't many options if they visit home.  They choose pasta because it's quick, filling, can be manipulated by its shape, grain, and sauce, and it's something they already know how to cook.  Added to that fact that it's cheap, and it should be no surprise that pasta works as a great base ingredient for vegetarians that are poor.  Another awesome fact that makes pasta even better is the fact that it's also high in protein (typically 6 grams per serving).  While many people shudder at the mention of pasta, thank you no-carb mentality, it's not the evil that many want you to believe-- civilizations have thrived on those grains for thousands of years!

#4 Dried lentils.  Similar to beans-- buy dried (although lentils are much less commonly found canned-- probably because they're not a popular American food) and soak-- although lentils soak much more quickly than beans.  You can use lentils almost the same exact way you'd use beans-- in fact, they are from the same family of plants!  They store for long periods of time, are incredibly cheap, are high in protein, and cook easily.

#5 Ramen.  Yes.  The dreaded Ramen.  Not incredibly good for you (although not as horrible as many tend to believe), but quick, incredibly cheap, and extremely portable.  The reason I bring in Ramen is because if you're as poor as I was, Ramen is necessary.  What's important to note is that the brand you buy does matter.  Of the two big American brands (Top Ramen and Maruchan), the only one that is veggie-friendly is Top Ramen's Oriental style noodles.  Typically sold for around 5/$1, you can't really complain when your lunch cost you $0.20.  Just don't make it a habitual thing-- once you've got a few more pennies, dish it out for something a little better.  We're fortunate that we live in an Asian neighborhood, and we have an Asian supermarket which carries a ton of brands that all have different varieties, qualities, and prices which help mix things up if you want something a little healthier but enjoy the portability of Ramen.  To return to the healthiness of Ramen, while it's been crowned the king of college foods from dorm to dorm across the globe, Ramen is simply two things; noodles and spice.  Don't forget that.  Vegetable broth, some spices for the unique flavoring of your soup, and noodles.  That's it.  Most brands don't include Monosodium Glutimate (MSG); your biggest concern should simply be the amount of sodium in these meals, which your body will forgive you for if you're eating more fresh (unpreserved) foods during the rest of the day.

#6 Cabbage.  This one shouldn't be a surprise.  Cabbage can be cooked in almost any way, and if you're not a fan of cabbage, maybe you're a fan of brussel sprouts?  If that's the case, just cook cabbage the way you cook your brussel sprouts-- they're almost the same thing!  Personally, the only way I can eat cabbage is in soups, unless it's red cabbage (salads) or bok choy (stir fry).  Unlike most vegetables, cabbage is almost never influenced by seasonal prices, which makes it a great ingredient if you can stomach it.

#7 Corn.  Corn during the summer is a god-send.  Sometimes sold at 10/$1, how can you beat those kinds of deals?  Freeze up as much as you can and stuff your face with the rest.  Steam it, bake it, grill it, blend it, add it to soups-- your options are practically endless.  Much like most vegetables, buying seasonal is the only way it's cheap, and corn probably fluctuates more than any other fruit or vegetable in price.

#8 Potatoes.  Seems like the Irish were onto something.  Potatoes are almost always cheap, can be stored for a fairly long amount of time, and much like all the other foods listed can be put in almost anything.  Soups, mashed, baked, grilled, and plenty of other ways can work to make the potato the centerpiece or peripheral part of your scrumptious meal.  The best thing about potatoes?  They're nutritional powerhouses, with almost every vitamin you need (not to mention phyto-nutrients, which is for another discussion), barring B-12.  Sweet potatoes are actually usually cheaper than regular potatoes, and offer a nice break in your potato consumption.

#9 Apples. Although seasonally apples are incredibly cheap, as long as you stay away from expensive supermarkets, they can run under a buck a pound, which is probably at any given point the cheapest any fruit will be that doesn't lose much of its weight from its shell (i.e. bananas).  Full of good vitamins and natural sugars, apples shelf extremely well for a fruit (especially in the fridge), and if prepared correctly, can be stored in the freezer for a long period of time as well.

#10 Carrots.  The orange carrot is cheap, versatile, and is full of great vitamins and nutrients.  With a price that doesn't really fluctuate and an incredible shelf life, carrots are a great thing to keep in the house.  Carrots work in salads, soups, can be grilled, roasted, and pretty much cooked any way you want to cook them.  A solid choice to keep in the fridge for any of your meal decisions.

So now you look at this website and say, okay, so what kind of meal do I make out of beans, rice, pasta, lentils, Ramen, cabbage, corn, potatoes, apples, and carrots?  That's not your goal here, your goal is to learn to use these as core ingredients (or, in Ramen's case, a meal or side dish) for your cooking.  When lettuce is on sale, you can make a salad with carrots, apples, and cabbage.  Broccoli is on sale?  You can make pasta with beans & broccoli, or soup with broccoli, potatoes, carrots, lentils, and cabbage.  See how it works?  By using these as 'core' food, you can build hundreds of meals without breaking the bank!  Now, we hope you find this helpful, and if you've ever got questions we're here!  Let us know if this helps, or if you found a way to have a cheap vegan diet!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roasted Balsamic Red Salad Pizza

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Every once and a while, the traditional red sauce, cheeze (of whichever variety you choose), and garlic pizza simply doesn't hit the spot.  It's not that it's not delicious (because it is), but you want something more.  And not just adding onions, or peppers, or mushrooms, but reconstructing what a pizza can be.  Enter artisan pizzas.  While artisan pizzas are almost always thin crust, it would go against everything that I believe in to make a thin crust pizza.  That's where this recipe comes in. 

Inspired by a restaurant down the street from our home, this pizza is a perfect mix of the delicious, fresh flavors of a salad with the crunchy, garlic-y profile of thick crust pizza.  One Sunday afternoon, we were considering ordering pizza from a delicious Vegan pizza place that delivers, but after going back and forth on the options they offered, we decided nothing in particular appealed to us, even though we wanted pizza.  Our solution?  Take the parts of the pizzas we both wanted and put them together.  Genius!

1 pizza dough, homemade or other.
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 peperoncino pepper, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tsp basil, dried
1 cup red lettuce, roughly shredded

Prep pizza dough as needed.

Prep all the vegetables and place in small bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the vegetables, coating everything evenly.

Place bowl in refrigerator and allow vegetables to marinate for at least a half an hour.

Preheat the oven at 375 and stretch out the dough if necessary.  Using a brush, spread the olive oil and vinegar mixture over the dough.  Add all of the vegetables to the pizza, except the lettuce.

Drain remaining mixture over the pizza, and keep the lettuce wrapped up.

Leave pizza in oven for 15-20 minutes or until beginning to brown.  At this point, add the lettuce and allow the pizza to cook for 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going Eggless: A Multi-Directional Approach to Baking without Eggs

There's more than one way to replace eggs in a recipe. Baking is a science - you want to keep the balances between liquids and dry ingredients the same, while maintaining the correct PH levels to make your baked goods rise.

I am still learning this balance, so most of the time, I am winging it too. But, here are a few (generally) no fail egg substitutes, and a few general rules about them.

I suppose I should start by mentioning that I'm referring solely to eggs as you would use them in baking. If you are looking for more breakfast-y eggs, we have some good recipes already here. Try Scrambled Eggs, or our Vegan Breakfast Sandwich.


Egg Replacer: Okay, this one is kind of a no-brainer. You can use this powered stuff in just about anything, and it's pretty simple. Personally, Bob's Red Mill is the way to go, but EnerG is pretty good too (and usually cheaper). The package gives specific instructions, but it's 1 tbsp with 2 tbsps of water for each "egg".

Silken Tofu: 1/4 c of silken tofu is about 1 egg. You'd definitely want to use this in a denser baked good, especially if you don't feel like blending the tofu to get it completely smooth (although you should). If you use the boxed, shelf tofu, add a bit of water or soymilk to help get a smoother, creamier texture.

Banana: 1/2 of a normal banana also works well. I wouldn't use this in everything, as sometimes the banana taste can linger a bit (particularly if your banana is very ripe). Mash it up or puree it before you add it into your batter.


Flax Seed: I'll start this off by saying I actually don't use this method. I find that making it correctly is kind of difficult, but making it incorrectly is pretty easy. When I first started using it, I couldn't ever get it right, and maybe that just made me a bit prejudiced. But, anyway, combine 1 tsp flax seed and 1 tbsp water. Blend until the mixture thickens. Or, try whisking together ground flaxseed (the same measurement) with water.

Applesauce: This one is a bit trickier to get right. It's about 1/4 c of applesauce to an egg, but you are upping your liquids a bit as well. I've had some luck adding in a bit of baking powder when I use applesauce (which is not that often).

A Few I've Heard (But Haven't Yet Tried):

Pumpkin: 1/4 c pumpkin is said to also work as a substitute. I'd imagine it works the same way as applesauce, but with the same caution as banana: the taste probably does linger a bit, so make sure you are using it in something that you wouldn't mind having a bit of pumpkin in!

1 1/2 tbsp oil, 1 1/2 tbsp soymilk, 1 tsp baking powder: This one I stumbled upon while doing a little research. I can't guarantee it will work, especially given that most of those ingredients are in your recipe already in varying degrees. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

German Apple Cake


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Fall is just about over in New England. It's a little sad, since it is my favourite season, but at the same time, there's nothing like a New England winter. It's cold and quiet and makes everything seem more cozy. Of course, if you asked Andy, he would say that winter is the worst up here, if only because he has genes from southern Italy. Winter makes him a crotchety old man. And though every winter he loathes to hear me say it, I love this season too.

But, with the end of fall and the first snow (today, of all days!), all I want is apples. Apple cider, apple pie, apple tart - you name it, I've baked it. This apple cake, adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, is light and tasty and absolutely perfect for breakfast, provided that you are one of those cake-for-breakfast type people, which I obviously am.

This is a great one for the holidays, as it fulfills all the necessary components: fat, sugar, apples, cinnamon. Bam! All in one cake.
 
For the cake:

3 apples 
1/2 cup vegan butter 
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce 
2 tbsp soy milk 
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp artificial caramel extract (if desired)
1 1/2 cups ap flour
2 tsps ground cinnamon 
2 1/2 tsp baking powder


For the topping:
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves


For the caramel sauce:

1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c water
1 tsp vanilla
dash cinnamon
1 tsp artificial caramel extract


Cream together butter and sugar. Add in applesauce, soy milk, cinnamon, and vanilla, mixing well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Line a pie pan with a circle of parchment paper to keep the cake from sticking. Pour in the batter and spread lightly.

Peel, core and slice 3 Macintosh apples and boil for 2-3 minutes (for more apple delectability, boil in 1 part water, 1 part spiced apple cider). Remove them from heat and strain them, and add them onto your cake in a circular pattern.

Combine all the topping ingredients and sprinkle on the cake. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

While its baking, you can make the caramel sauce. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then reduce to medium to simmer. Add in cinnamon and extracts. Cook until mixture is gooey and thick, and allow to cool. Drizzle over the cooled apple cake once its done.

Cheers!

Memphis Style BBQ Sauce

    Barbeque sauce is delicious.  We really can't get enough.  Our fridge always packed with at least five different varieties at any given moment.  This Memphis Style BBQ sauce is about as watery as I can put up with, yet it's still thicker than your typical Memphis style BBQ.  Memphis style is usually a spicier sauce, but not 'hot wings' type hot sauce, but rather the heat that sticks to the back of your throat after you've scarfed down the sauce paired with an initial biting vinegar kick.  It's good stuff.

    1 cup apple cider vinegar
    1 cup ketchup
    1 tbsp onion powder
    2 tbsp minced garlic
    1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
    2 tbsp molasses
    3 tbsp yellow mustard
    2 tbsp brown sugar
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2 tsp paprika
    1 tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 tsp dried basil
    2 tsp dried oregano
    2 tsp dried marjoram
    dash of cumin
    1/2 tsp liquid smoke
    salt to taste


    Mix all ingredients over low-medium heat in a saucepan.  Allow to simmer for 1 hour, or until desired consistency.

      Saturday, November 17, 2012

      Curry 'buttered' corn and kale

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      Since we're getting close to the Thanksgiving festivities, it only seemed right that we played with some American foods to spice things up-- and what better way to spice things up than to add some curry to a classic!

      This dish was created in the midst of a black bean burger night, when we wanted a side, but we couldn't decide on something we both wanted.  I wanted a steamed kale type dish, Ashley wanted a peas n' mashed potatoes deal; unlike Congress, we met somewhere in the middle.  Not in the mood for plain old boring corn, we added some kale.  And some curry.  And got a little crazy with it.  But don't worry, I promise; it's delicious.


      3 cups corn
      1 cup kale
      1 tsp curry
      2 tbsp Earth Balance butter
      1 tbsp olive oil
      1/2 tsp onion powder
      2 cloves garlic
      dash of salt
      crushed black pepper

      In a small mixing bowl, add butter and spices.  Mix as thoroughly as possible, although this can be a bit of a challenge because the butter is still solid. 

      In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add olive oil.  Add garlic, stirring occasionally until browned.

      While garlic is sauteeing, add Kale to butter mix, covering the kale thoroughly.

      Once garlic is browned, add corn.  Stir and cook until bright yellow.  Add kale mix, and turn heat to low.  Cover.

      Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      Serve.

      Thursday, November 8, 2012

      Pumpkin Spice Cookies

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      Okay, how adorable are these little guys?

      As I've mentioned, the closer we get to Thanksgiving here, the more I crave pumpkins and apples. These guys were no exception. Besides the fact that they are a bit of a pain to make in a crunch (given the reduction of the pumpkin), they are soft and light and all-around delightful, even to people who don't necessarily love pumpkin.

      1 c pumpkin puree
      1/2 c margarine
      1/2 c sugar
      1/2 c brown sugar
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1/2 tsp cinnamon extract
      1 1/4 c flour
      1/2 c oat flour
      2 tbsp cornstarch
      2 tbsp vanilla almond milk
      1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      1/4 tsp cloves
      1/2 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp salt

      Choice of autumnal sprinkles

      In a saucepan over medium heat, reduce the pumpkin until you have 1/2 cup (about 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently).

      In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and margarine. Add in the cooled, reduced pumpkin and add the extracts. Sift in the dry ingredients in order and mix. Drop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, press sprinkles gently into the top of each cookie, and bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

      Tuesday, October 30, 2012

      Apple Pie Smoothie

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      It's fall, and fall means many things here in New England; fresh pumpkins, squash, corn, apples, cider, and all the other flavorings of the crisp, cool season.  In a vegan house, it's really no different-- except we don't get distracted by basic 'meat and potatoes' meals!

      Anyways, a quick update on things here in the city.  We survived hurricane Sandy, barely, and we got to watch some crazy waves and winds at the beach down the street from our house, but we did lose power for 24 hours or so.  Fortunately, we didn't open the fridge or freezer during that time so nothing spoiled!  We found our dinner at a local bar that was doing Monday specials so that helped offset the misery of being trapped indoors all day without power.  Hopefully the storm didn't barrel over you too badly either!

      Also, we've been a bit bad at keeping up on here lately (I'm sure you've noticed); both of us are working two jobs during the school year so as time moves on this becomes less and less of a priority-- but hopefully that will be changing come the spring semester.  If things go as planned, we should be free to spend more time writing recipes, reviewing cookbooks, making awesome t-shirts, spending time gardening and plotting out garden stuff, and spending more time focusing on work-outs that meet the attributes of vegan and mostly vegan diets.

      Back to the foods...

      Before making this smoothie, I was hoping to find a recipe online.  There literally was not one apple pie smoothie recipe online-- not one!  So, this was a trial by fire-- lots of guesswork and tinkering to get this one right.  Totally worth it, though.  This is delicious and at least you won't feel too bad if you want to eat an entire apple pie.

      1 Apple
      3 shakes of Cinnamon
      2 drops Vanilla extract
      1/2 cup oats
      1 1/2 bananas, frozen
      1 cup, almond milk
      1 tsp, maple syrup

      Tuesday, October 23, 2012

      The Most Amazing Vegan Mac N Cheese Recipe Ever

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      It's not like me to be a big braggart, but when it comes to comfort food, especially Mac N Cheese, I am wonder woman. When I first became vegan, mac and cheese was what I missed the most.

      Then, Andy and I took a trip to Charleston, SC a few months after I'd gone vegan. We made a pitstop in Richmond, VA, and found a vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurant called Impanema in the city center. They had a great tofu burger which came with an amazing side of vegan mac and cheese. At first, I thought nothing could even come close to my childhood favourite dish, but my gods, their mac was amazing.

      When we got home, I started thinking. They told me they couldn't divulge their recipe secrets, but they did say, with a wink and nod, that they couldn't serve it to people with a nut allergy.

      It took some time (about 4 years, actually), a bunch of tests and a lot of failures, but in the end, I love this mac more than the boxes (even Road's End, which is an incredibly Vegan easy boxed version of the favourite).

      I wasn't sure I wanted to share it with everyone at first, because then I couldn't have a "secret" recipe, but when even my non-vegetarian friends ate it and asked for seconds, I decided the world should have this one. Plus, I've seen cashew inspired mac floating around the internet a bit and thought I could jump in on the action!

      As a PS, it's not very diet friendly, this recipe. That's what makes it really good, I guess, so I make zero apologies on that point. You also really need to have an exceptional blender or food processor to get the cashews down, or skip this step and use cashew butter - the unsweetened, unmodified kind.

      1 c cashews (I use unsalted, roasted)
      1/2 c canola oil
      1/2 c non-dairy butter
      1/4 c nutritional yeast
      1/2 - 3.4 c unsweetened almond milk
      salt & pepper to taste
      1/2 tbsp turmeric
      1 tbsp garlic powder
      1 tbsp onion powder
      1/2 tsp paprika
      dash of red pepper
      1 tsp mustard powder
      2 tsps lemon juice


      Start by blending down your cashews in a dry food processor or blender, until they are broken apart and in small chunks. Add the oil in, and blender for 3-4 full minutes, or until completely smooth.

      In a small saucepan, heat the non-dairy butter with a splash of oil to keep it from burning. Once it's all melted down, add the nutritional yeast, and then add the cashew and oil blend from your processor. Turn your heat down to medium-low. Stirring frequently, slowly add in the first 1/2 c of your almond milk. Then, add in your spices, and the lemon juice, whisking or stirring after each addition. If the sauce is too thick, add another 1/4 c of almond milk. If it's too thin, add a bit more nutritional yeast, or 1 tsp of arrowroot powder, whisking thoroughly after you add it.

      That's it!. Pour the sauce over cooked elbow macaroni and there you go. You can add in some tvp chilli "meat" for a heartier meal, or mix this with a can of tomato soup and bake at 350 degree for 15 minutes or so and get a creamy tomato-y casserole.

      Wednesday, October 3, 2012

      Tapout XT notes, what to do when you're expecting (to get sick), and more...

      So you may have noticed that here at La Vita Vegan we have been a bit quiet on the blogging front.  Well, September is a strenuous month for us, as we both work in education, so we've been a bit busy.  I promise, though, we'll start kicking it up now that we've gotten into our routines and are (finally) healthy.  Finally healthy?  I thought you were vegan!  Being vegan doesn't make you God-- and sometimes with the things I see posted on the internet for pro-veg sites, I begin almost think most people believe that a vegan diet makes you invincible.  Alas, it is not true.  Your diet is not medicine.  You cannot eat away your cancer.  You cannot eat away many of the problems you may have.  To twist veganism into an anti-medicine/pseudo-scientific holistic health regiment which cures all only makes veganism appear to be out of touch with reality.  Sorry if it offends you, but food is not medicine.

      This is not to say diet cannot have an impact on your health.  Of course it does.  But don't overestimate its value.  Because you eat broccoli and kale every day doesn't mean you won't ever have a tumor, or a disease, or cancer.  To paraphrase Slovej Zizek-- I imagine the day all of these health nuts are in the hospital, dying, dying of nothing...

      Anyways, the point of bringing this up is that we have both been sick.  Ashley managed to get Lyme disease, which was swiftly followed by shingles, which was swiftly followed by the cold that I had caught from (probably) one of my many students.  Diet will not make this not happen.  It is not an indictment on a leafy diet that we were able to get sick, nor does it suggest that we eat unhealthily.  Overworking is one great way to put yourself at risk of getting sick, regardless of diet.  For example, my day job has me at work from 7-3, and then I teach night school until 9 o'clock at night, at which point I make the 45 minute trek back home, only to repeat for the rest of the week.  Over-exhaustion x 120 kids = 1 sick teacher/adviser/career specialist/any other hats I wear during the day.

      So while trying to figure out my schedule, working out usually goes on hold.  That's the reason I dropped the ball the past 2 years, and I didn't want to fall into that rut.  What had happened in the past was I would try to keep up a 6-day-a-week workout schedule, and within 2 weeks I'd be down to 1 or 2 days, and ultimately say "whatever, 2 days isn't even worth it then" and drop it until school got out, with the plan that I'd get on the bandwagon when I got to rest up.  Two years later, I still hadn't gotten onto the bandwagon full-time.  This year was going to be different.  I would allow myself time to adjust into my schedule and work out 3 days a week until I felt I was ready to add another day.  Two weeks into the school year, however, I managed to get sick.  A nice phlegmy head-cold.  Love it.

      At first, I thought, hey, I'll work out a little.  Or should I?  Well, this is a great question. I haven't been sick in almost six years, I can't even remember what I've done in the past.  The thing about working out when you're sick is that when you get the blood pumping, it helps clear everything out.  You feel great!  You almost forget that you're sick.  And then a half hour passes by and you feel like a zombie.  The trick with working out when you're sick is to remember that you are, in fact, sick.  Don't overdo it.  With that, it also is important to remember how you're sick.  Is it a head cold?  Is your chest congested?  If it's your lungs, running probably isn't a good idea.

      As I was dragging myself through work, work, workout, I ended up dropping Tapout XT.  Why?  I found myself getting frustrated with the workout program and how it works so hard to have very unique exercises; while I thought the workout was very good at producing results, I found myself getting tired of getting in awkward positions for most of the moves with bands wrapped around weird parts of my body.  There was something about these moves that made the workouts feel slow and very long.  I found a few that I enjoyed-- Buns & Guns being one of them, and there are definitely moves that I'll be taking with me to my free weight workouts, but I don't think I'll be spending time on this workout soon.  I found myself, to be honest, going back to Insanity & P90X.  I'm hesitant to start a particular hybrid workout from these, and I've been floating on what I've enjoyed.  Much of the arms work from P90X I've memorized, so I've been including half of an arms workout before doing an Insanity, which has been good as of yet, but the time it's eating up has been killing me.  Hopefully Insanity 2  will tackle this when it comes out, as Shaun T has stated that he addressed the issue of arms workout in this new one.

      How's your workout going this fall?  Have you held strong so far as the season has changed?

      Sunday, September 30, 2012

      Pumpkin Pancakes













      Pumpkin is a relatively new addiction of mine. I've always wanted to like it, especially when October rolls around, but I just couldn't make myself try anything but our Pumpkin Spice coffee. Maybe it's the colour, or the consistency, or maybe it's just because, as I've mentioned before, I am apprehensive of everything in the squash family, but I just couldn't picture myself enjoying it.

      Fortunately for me, tastebuds change. And thank goodness for that, since this morning was the perfect morning to enjoy these pancakes. It's officially fall in New England, and today we were treated to cool weather and a bit of rain, and, of course, red and orange trees.

      3/4 c canned pumpkin puree
      2 tbsp canola oil
      1 1/2 c vanilla almond milk
      2 tsp apple cider vinegar
      2 tbsp maple syrup
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1/2 tsp cinnamon extract, or more vanilla extract
      1 c AP flour
      1/2 c brown sugar
      2 tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp ginger
      dash of nutmeg


      Whisk together all wet ingredients until well mixed. Add in dry ingredients, beginning with flour, but be careful not to over mix; stir until just combined. Using your 1/4 measuring cup, pour batter onto a hot pan and cook thoroughly on each side until golden brown.

      Top with maple syrup, cinnamon and powdered sugar. It's pretty much everything to love about autumn in breakfast form.

      Thursday, September 6, 2012

      cinnamon bun smoothie

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      This cinnamon bun smoothie is based on three or four different recipes I had seen for a cinnamon bun smoothie online.  Apparently a lot of people have different ideas of what cinnamon buns taste like, because they were all completely different.  Anyways, this one is a new variety that, in my honest opinion, blows the other ones out of the water.  It was a few nights ago, during that quick switch to fall that occurs here in New England, that the spiced foods of fall came nibbling at our tongue.  Expect to see lots of pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, and the like now that it is that time of year.  We are working on an apple pie smoothie, which I haven't seen a version of online, so once I've got it finalized, you'll be one of the first to ever try it (because as we all know, if it's not on the internet, it didn't happen)!  So this smoothie is a great way to start your day on the weekend, and is sure as heck a lot less messy than an actual cinnamon bun, plus this is without all the bad fats.

      I paired this smoothie up with John Berryman's The Dream Songs because this collection of poetry was one of the first readings I had in college, and I remember wondering why they didn't teach us this kind of stuff in high school.  And then I remembered what high school I went to, and any questions were put to rest.  Anyways, this collection of poetry follows Berryman's thought process as he identifies the dreams of life-- his hopes-- and the failures of those dreams to materialize, as imagined through the song-- the cronings, really.  Within this formerly 2-volume collection, Berryman pens profound, beautiful images and thoughts.  The collection is without a doubt his best work, and if you're interest in modernist/post-modernist & confessionalist poetry, this is a must.  When I wrote my undergrad thesis on John Ashbery and the French Avant-Garde, I kept thinking of this collection and how wonderfully Berryman could have been thrust into the same sphere as Ashbery, with his confessionalist style-- in particular, Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror collection, in which the image of 'self' is reaffirmed through a narrative voice. 

      Alas, to the smoothie:

      1 frozen banana, sliced
      1 cup milk, any kind
      1/4 cup oats
      1/2 tsp cinnamon
      1 tbsp ground flax
      2 tbsp either vanilla protein powder (your choice) or soy/almond milk powder
      1 tbsp pure maple syrup
      Splash of vanilla extract

      Saturday, September 1, 2012

      Insanity Wrap-Up and some thoughts on Joint Safety...

      Well Insanity is done, and my time with Shaun T has been fun.  My final week I kind of slacked, and I feel bad that I didn't manage to be more on top of my game for the last week for my results.  I've attached my results below-- not bad at all in retrospect, for someone who simply did not have time to work out for the past year.  As you can tell, the chart below is 13 weeks long, in comparison to the 9 weeks that Insanity is supposed to run.  I looped the first section of the program to make up for my out-of-shapeness, and it's interesting how you can see when I added protein powder to my diet and where I didn't (I'll give you a hint-- weeks 4-8).

      In total, I was able to drop 7% body fat-- 11.37 lbs of fat and 12.57 lbs of muscle was added.  What's not seen on the chart is that I also added 1 1/2 inches to my arms, which to be honest, surprised me, as Insanity isn't exactly heavy on armwork.  I also lost almost 3 inches around my chest, which means my old shirts are finally starting to fit comfortably again, and also 3 inches around my thighs, which when added to the 3 and a half inches lost around my waist means my old pants no longer look like they're two sizes too small.  Can't complain about that.

      Final thoughts on Insanity; I enjoyed the program and Shaun T is a great motivator.  The warm-up was definitely one of the most painful things about the workout because I found it too long for a warm-up and it was almost identical for each workout, which I find a bit boring.  He is extremely heavily focused on legs and upper/lower abs, and you will get in shape from his workouts, but I felt that the obliques, arms, and (somewhat, but to a lesser extent) the chest were ignored.  Squats and push-up jacks were the only real opportunities to work on these areas, which is a bit frustrating because of the simple fact that those are the 'show' muscles-- the ones everyone notices.

      I wasn't surprised to not get the results of the people on TV, and no, it has nothing to do with diet.  Part of this was the fact that I was probably about 85% accurate with doing the exact workout, and probably missed about 6 or so over the course of the 14 weeks.  Second was the fact that I didn't stay on top of my protein intake (which has nothing to do with being vegan but rather muscle growth in general).  Thirdly, it's summer time, which means I spent a-many nights drinking with my friends and travelling/bumming around the East Coast, which means lots of take-out and the like.  Lastly, those results on TV are A-Typical; this is best seen in Insanity, which is one of the things I love about it.  Look at the people he has working out with them.  Other than a few of the women, almost all of them are not ripped to the nines, even though there are numerous examples of 'fit' people (for example, the triathelete).  No one looks like they got out of a muscle magazine, and that's fine, because that's not how you'll look afterwards.  Now only if they didn't use that in their advertising (but hey, I'm sure Shaun T had less control over the advertising than he did of the people he would work out with).

      The real last issue I have with Insanity comes down to the workout's construction.  Because of the fact that much of the workout involves jumping at maximum speed and lots of jumps from plank position, your wrists, ankles, and knees take a fair bit of abuse-- higher than most workouts.  While Shaun T does what he can to work you through the exercises with minimal damage, that doesn't mean you'll do it correctly, or that there isn't any abuse at all.  I could definitely feel it in my ankles, which have always had problems, and I've heard similar complaints from friends. If you feel comfortable with your ability to keep your joints from snapping, then I'd say don't owrry about it.  For a first-timer, this can be a significant downside.  My biggest concern would be for people that haven't worked out in a significant amount of time; you get into a routine of working out and eating healthy for a few months and then wham! You bust your ankle.  You lose your routine.  You fall off the bandwagon.  Those are the people I'd be most concern about.

      Anyways, I'll be taking the next week off from a specific plan to kind of do what I want, and then next week I'm planning on jumping into Tapout XT, which is a bit more muscle-intensive.  The bands needed for the workout, plus what I've seen from it, suggest there will be much more muscle building, so I'll be getting back on the protein bandwagon and I'll definitely be posting the results.


      Monday, August 27, 2012

      Hearty Vegan TVP Chili

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      This vegan chili is meaty without the unhealthiness of vegan fake meats.  TVP, also known by its long name-- textured vegetable protein-- is, you got it, high in protein, and has a similar texture to ground meat.  If you look around on our blog a bit, it's a staple in a few other foods including Mini Tacos and Sloppy Joe's, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's a perfect fit in something like a hearty chili.  It's football season again, so the chili is coming out!

      1 cup celery, chopped
      1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
      1 banana pepper, chopped
      2 large carrots, chopped
      6 bread & butter pickle slices, chopped
      1 cup corn
      1 1/2 cups TVP
      1 red onion, chopped
      1 white onion, chopped
      4 garlic cloves, minced
      1 green bell pepper, chopped
      1 15 oz. can, red kidney beans
      1 zucchini, chopped
      2 tbsp bbq sauce, your preference (I'm using a homemade Kansas City Style BBQ).
      1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
      1 tbsp steak sauce
      2 tbsp soy sauce, low-sodium
      5 cups vegetable broth
      1 tsp chili powder
      1 tsp basil
      1 tsp oregano
      2 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil

      In a large pot, add olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic, frying for 3-4 minutes.

      Add celery, peppers, carrots, pickles, corn and zucchini.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

      Add beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and add TVP, sauces, and spices.

      Simmer for at least one hour and enjoy.


      Thursday, August 23, 2012

      Quinoa and Red Kidney Beans

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      Quinoa, nature's perfect protein, is delicious. Unfortunately, it's a bit expensive, so we try not to buy it too frequently.  But when we do, it doesn't stay in the house long.  This was something that I had tried when the director of the program I teach invited us over to her house for a Christmas party.  She is gluten-intolerant, and this was one of the dishes she had prepared.  Now, every time I make it, I recall that moment when I had first tried it.  It is a bit strange how certain foods and smells can bring you to a frame of mind that you had years past, and it's interesting how you cannot rationalize when it does and does not occur.

      Anyways, this is simple and a great, delicious meal-- especially if you're a first-time quinoa eater.

      1 tsp vegetable oil
      1 white onion, chopped
      3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
      3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
      1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
      1 tsp ground cumin
      1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
      salt and pepper to taste
      1 cup frozen corn kernels
      1(15 ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
      1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

      Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes.

      Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

      Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through.

      Mix in the red kidney beans and cilantro and again simmer until heated thoroughly.  Serve warm!

      Saturday, August 18, 2012

      Cake batter smoothie

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      This cake batter smoothie was a bit of a challenge to put together-- there were plenty of cake batter smoothie recipes I had seen online, but none of them I really 'bought'... to me they had all tasted like a thick vanilla shake.  This one, however, is a bullseye.  No one will mistake it for something else.  I paired it with David Henry Hwang's M Butterfly for this reason; this novel is about the observation and identification of sex, sexuality, and identity as it exists in its performative stage, much as this shake is identifiable for its flavorative (yeah, I made that word up.  Suck it, Harvard) values in that it is very much what it is not.  So yeah.  Read that book-- it's pretty awesome.  You can knock down a couple of these drinks while you're doing it-- add some Kahlua while you're at it and you'll be in great shape.

      2 frozen, large banana, as ripe as possible
      1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
      2 tbsp melted coconut oil
      1 cup almond milk
      2 tsp butter extract
      1/2 cup pineapple chunks, frozen
      1 tbsp chia seed
      1 tbsp flaxseed meal
      handful of ice cubes

      Monday, August 13, 2012

      Israeli Couscous Chickpea Risotto

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      I know it's normal, but I still always get asked the question, "Don't you get tired of eating salads and pasta?"  Well, yes, it would get tiring, just like how it must get tired of eating steak and cheeseburgers for every meal.  Overgeneralizations can make any logical train of thought seem ludicrous.  I'm sure you've all had those experiences when you've come inches away from taking the nearest heavy object to the skull of the person that refuses to stop bombarding you with questions and accusations about your diet, lifestyle, and sexual habits, but that will never sway stupidity from, well, being so stupid.  On the spot, there are always only a handful of things I can think of that I eat (on those rare occasions that I play along with their arrogance).  And you can't even bring up meat fillers, even if they are home-made, because then the critic will cite that as proof that you can't 'really' give up meat, you're just changing the source.  It's really like a game of chess, except in this game you've only got a few pawns and a queen, and the opponent doesn't have to follow the laws of the game.  To attempt to create a dialogue regarding ethical consumption, unsanctifying human life, and anthropological epistemiology is akin to using a whiffle ball bat to break down a brick wall.



      Anyways, this was a conversation I attempted to avoid recently.  It appears the most obtuse folks are almost the most stubborn, and after figuratively and literally cornering me on the subject, I was forced to have this dialogue with a man who scoffed when I mentioned hominoid... ahem, human evolution-- "so you're trying to tell me that you believe in evo-LUTION?  No wonder why you eat grass".  Needless to say, the dialogue turned to the almighty and his rule to give us dominion over all living things (although not said so eloquently).  Attempts to discuss the diet of Eden led to (I'm not kidding) talking about how in the Simpsons when Homer was Eden he ate bacon.

      The point for me bringing this up is that no matter what, you cannot educate those that refuse to be educated.  You cannot let yourself get wound up because of another's stupidity.  You cannot disprove what others believe to be inevitable fact.  And for that reason, I laughed, shook his hand, and left him to live his life.

      This recipe, based from an Israeli Couscous recipe I had many years ago, seemed fitting after this discussion.  I hope you enjoy it as well.








      1 tbsp olive oil
      1 red onion, chopped
      1/4 cup green onions, chopped
      2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
      1 cup chickpeas, either canned or already re-hydrated
      1 cup israeli couscous
      1 cup orange juice
      1 cup vegetable broth
      1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
      1 tsp ground cumin
      1/2 tsp paprika
      1 tbsp lemon juice
      salt and pepper, to taste


      Heat oil in large skillet (with lid) over medium-high heat.

      Sauté red onion, garlic, and green onion for 2 minutes.

      Stir in remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper).

      Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.


      Remove lid and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
      Serve.

      Thursday, August 9, 2012

      Viennese Potato Leek Soup

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        Soups, contrary to popular belief, are both a cool-weather and warm-weather food.  On rainy summer days, a nice bowl of warm (not hot) soup can be the perfect food.  This is a simple recipe that incorporates the potatoes and carrots in season and is a delicious year-round vegan Viennese Potato & Leek Soup.  

      This year, with the crazy weather we've been having, has been reeking havoc on our crops, and our potatoes were the one that took the biggest hit.  They survived and were doing extremely well until early-mid July, at which point the stalks started dying off, for whatever reason.  This seemed to be the case with the onions as well, which seemed to just suddenly begin to die off in chunks.  Fortunately, one of the great things about growing potatoes and onions is that even if their greenery dies off, the root is still good to eat and in a safe, healthy store space.  That said, it's always important with potatoes to make sure to cut off any significant green areas on the potatoes, which will be the top part of the potato which has been poking out of the surfice.

      The potatoes in this soup were all from our garden, and they were delicious!  Make some of your own and let us know how it is!

      7 cups vegetable broth
      2 cups onion, sliced
      2 1/2 cups sliced leeks
      1 tsp dried marjoram
      8 cups russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
      1/4 cup soy creamer
      1/2 tsp ground black pepper
      1 pinch ground cardamom
      1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
      salt and pepper to taste
      1/2 cup chopped carrots
      1 cup diced potatoes
      1 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil

      Place 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons broth in a large, non-stick pot over medium heat. Allow to warm, and add onions, leeks and marjoram. Saute for 15 minutes.

      Add the potatoes and the remaining broth, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

      Add the cream, ground black pepper and cardamom. You can choose to puree some, all, or none of the soup in small batches by placing it in a blender. If you don't have a high-quality blender, you'll end up with a grainy texture, so if this is the case I wouldn't recommend it.

      Add carrots.

      Remove 1-2 tablespoons of the broth from the soup and place in a large skillet over medium heat.

      Add the mushrooms to the large skillet and saute until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are golden in color. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

      Add the mushrooms to the pureed soup. Stir together and serve.