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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Hummus

I go out to dinner with my parents about once a month. They are not vegetarian or vegan friendly at all, and so 90% of the time, I am creating meals off the sides menu while they look apathetically on. It's ok, I love them, but we will never be on the same page. Fortunately, I am fond of salads and broccoli cooked in garlic, so I let it slide.
However, last month they were celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary, and we went out to some fancy Italian restaurant in the city. In their excitement, they ordered an amazing Spinach and Artichoke dip, which looked and smelled absolutely incredible, but was, of course, mostly a cheese dip with a few veggies in it. I was tempted but remained resolute, and when I got home, I immediately starting concocting this hummus dip. I'd seen a market version around and was skeptical of it, but after craving that dip, I decided to try my own. All in all, it's probably not as good as the hot cheesy mess that the restaurant had, but it satisfies in a quick minute, and it's way better for you (and for animals, and probably the environment).

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 c olive oil
3 tbsp garlic
1 c spinach
1/2 (12 oz) can marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
Roasted red peppers (if desired)

Heat olive oil in pan with a tablespoon of garlic. Add spinach and artichoke hearts, and cook until spinach has wilted.
Add chickpeas to your food processor or blender. Add the cooked spinach and artichoke hearts. Pulse quickly to help breakdown the chickpeas with the spinach and artichoke, then add the rest of the olive oil and garlic. Add in garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, tahini and water, and blend until the hummus is smooth and homogeneous throughout. Add red peppers if desired and blend again. Add more water if the hummus is too thick.

You can eat this one a bit warm (it will still be warm when it comes out of the blender) or you can chill it before serving. Either way, it's delicious.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quinoa Kale Soup


Quinoa is the most complete protein that exists in nature (sans flesh), which means that it should be included in every vegan and vegetarian diet.  When compiled with kale, you've pretty much created a perfect dietary meal already.  So quinoa kale soup seemed like a natural recipe when I realized how bad of an idea it was to let Ashley grab the vegetables.

Let me backtrack a bit.  We were grocery shopping earlier this week at the asian supermarket down the road from our apartment, and because we were in a rush because of prior engagements, I left Ashley to grab some produce.  Here's the thing about Ashley and produce; when it's in front of her to eat in the future-- she wants it.  Like, all of it.  So we ended up with around 3 pounds of kale.  I mean, it was a great deal, I think only $1.50 or something, but, well... that's a lot of kale.

Fortunately, the fruits which she had grabbed we will make it through, and we already had some other staples, so there wasn't a whole lot she had to grab.  And on the bright side, without that incident, this delicious soup wouldn't exist!

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of cumin
dash of turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seed
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, diced
1 small stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 cup corn

1 cup kale, chopped
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp of sea salt

In a large sauce pan, add olive oil, garlic, spices, and vegetables, saving the kale for last.

Cook for seven to ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale has wilted to roughly half the size it was fresh.

Add vegetable broth and bring to boil.

Add quinoa and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Add lime juice and sea salt before serving.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Simple Yuba Noodle Soup


This summer has been much like last summer in that it's been cold, rainy, and in other words, made for soup.  When the summers are like this, nothing cheers me up like wonton and noodle soups.  This little concoction is protein-packed by including the dried bean curd, also known as Yuba.  Yuba is an interesting ingredient-- if I were to explain the process which made it, you'd probably not want to even consider eating it.  Yet, I promise you, it's 100% vegan, animal friendly, protein-rich, and it has an amazing texture that is both chewy and tough.  Made correctly, this is a great substitute for chicken-- it's almost like a chicken skin, even, but without the cholesterol.  If you see it in the store (dehydrated),  it will look like brittle sticks in a bag... if you can get it fresh, it is usually available in sheets.  While I've been told the flavor is better when fresh (and I don't doubt it), having dried bean curd for those days you're feeling up to making it is much easier, especially considering how hard it is to find fresh bean curd. 

Anyways, this recipe is a bit intensive, due to the fact that you have to rehydrate the yuba, which involves integrating the flavors you want it to have with the rehydration.  That doesn't mean you should be intimidated by it-- but this isn't a soup you can just throw everything in a pot and leave it alone for an hour while you watch tv/exercise/play with the cats/etc.  Which is fine though, because you wouldn't be on here looking at recipes if you didn't like to cook and try new things, right?!?

8 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 vegetarian buillion cubes
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp light oil
2 fresh carrots, sliced or diced
4 stalks of fresh celery, sliced or diced
1/4 cup green onions, diced
1/2 big all purpose onion, diced
to taste, salt (some like this as a salty broth, so use trial and taste)
2 sticks of dried bean curd
vegetarian noodles

This recipe requires that you follow the order of steps very specifically.  Start with the oil on the pot, and then lightly fry the onions, celery and carrots for 8-10 minutes.

Add 2 cups of water, spices, 2 buillion cubes, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast.  Mix well.

When the water/buillion begins to boil, break up the dried bean curd, and allow them to soak in the buillion.  Add water when the buillion begins to get low and it appears that there is only an inch or so left in the pot.  Cook like this for 15-20 minutes.

Add the rest of the water and buillion cubes.  When water begins to boil, add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes, then enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Garden 2012 Layout

This year's garden took a bit of a twist.  I did a bit of reading over the winter to figure out where I could make changes to improve things, which, compiled with the issues that I had last year, led to a pretty different looking garden.  Using primarily Toby Hemenway's book "Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture", I reconfigured what I wanted to grow on a three-dimensional plane in order to get more from my garden.  While Hemenway pushes forward great ideas in terms of long-term growth (i.e. perennials), his section for seasonal gardening is regretfully thin.  Fortunately, the ideas from his book translate fairly easy, it's simply a matter of trying to pair the plants together correctly.

As the chart above shows, the east side of the garden, where I had shade issues last year, became a home to lettuce and carrots.  The idea was that the carrots would occupy the underground space, while the lettuce and their light root system would overtake the ground layer, which would have a longer season anyway because of the shade.  Similarly, the Kale would be hidden below some of the canopy of the shade.  As of now, the kale has grown a bit too slowly for my taste, as well as the lettuce.  However, the carrots seem to be doing quite well, which is leading me to wonder how the soil quality is.

Speaking of soil quality-- I did add a bag of hummus to the garden.  The soil seems a bit depleted, so I was hoping that adding the hummus would help add some sustenance and also aid in the soils absorption of water.  I'm feeling as though, however, the soil is still nutrient deficient, as the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants aren't growing too quickly.  Growth seems a bit stunted, and I had hoped the nitrogen-fixing of the beans from last year in the place where the tomatoes were placed would help.

To continue with the idea of layering the plants, I had included a cucumber plant, which I had wanted to run rampant below the tomatoes and peppers, but they seem to be growing too slowly and I'm imagining that the plants will only grow 3-5 feet at the longest, based on their growth pattern as of yet.  Which, of course, means weeds are taking over and eating up the nutrients. 

Returning to the eastern section of the garden, the celery seems to be doing well.  Better than last year, at least-- I'm not really sure why, considering everything around them (other than peas and beans) aren't doing particularly well.

I had also hoped that the squash would take over the section that last year had been almost abandoned because of the soil depth issue-- I had added 2 cubic yards of soil to give it a little more depth, but I have seen almost no growth this year, which has been a bit frustrating. 

Lastly, the section against the sunroom has been doing pretty well.  The garlic was left over the winter, and has grown very quickly (and thickly).  I paired the garlic with onions, shallots, and potatoes, covering the entire section, with a few squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and zucchini which I believe would provide coverage from weeds.  So far, that has worked around the shallots, but the plants around the onions seem to be growing slowly-- although not as slow as in the other bed.

Of course, the slowness of growth could simply be because of the cool, rainy summer we have had this year.  Who knows!  I'm hoping for the best.  How's your garden going?  Any tips you'd like to pass off to help me?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Homemade Italian Salad Dressing


Salad dressings are always a battlefield... you walk down the isle of the grocery store, trying to pick out the few that are vegan or vegetarian, trying to find ones that aren't super high in sugar or loaded with aspartame or some other chemically-produced over-stimulating garbage, and eventually you give up and go with old reliable-- Italian Dressing.  Still, you look at the ingredients and there are preservatives and all sorts of laboratory-sounding names and you feel as though you picked the best out of a bad selection.  All of that suffering ends now.

This Italian Dressing is delicious, simple to make, and healthy.  You can choose to follow the ingredient list I have below or use it as a basic formula for other Italian dressings.  The rule is-- 1 cup oil for 1 cup vinegar.  Add spices.  Shake.  The rest is up to you!

1 tbsp garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
 1 tbsp dried basil
 1 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 dash paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup white vinegar

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Most Simple and Universal Chocolate Pudding


I am probably the biggest proponent of junk food the vegan community has ever seen. If it's covered in sugar or remotely associated with chocolate, I'm all about it.

Yesterday, after being forced to do P90X with Andy (yes, forced, I am also a very lazy creature) I felt the universe OK'ed a lapse in the dessert-free world I call my house.

I'd seen someone use coconut milk to make a very simple whipped cream, and it had been in my head for a few days when I had another thought: why couldn't I make a chocolate pudding with coconut milk? It wouldn't even be that bad for me!

So, I started whipping a can of coconut milk. It definitely was an arm workout, but in the end, it was pretty fluffy and light, which is exactly what I wanted. Then, I just added 1 cup of cocoa powder, and 1/4 c agave nectar, and whisked it again.

Here's the great part: It's so good, and so easy, this chocolate pudding can be anything. I used it as a dip for some amazing strawberries, and then I ate some of it like pudding, and then, when I was done enjoying that thoroughly, I froze it, and today ate it as an ice cream. You could even use it as a chocolate whipped cream. Really, there are some amazing possibilities with this.

And if you aren't feeling the agave route, try smashing some banana, or some strawberries, and using that as a sweetener. This will definitely weigh it down, though, so you might not be able to use that as a whipped topping, but as an ice cream, the banana addition is especially delectable.

Keep on keeping on, vegan junk food lovers!

Sweet and Sour Rice


Every Sunday, I face this dilemma. I've got to make lunch for work for at least Monday and Tuesday, and I always start by feeling overwhelmed. And, as Andy will delight in telling you, I have very little food common sense, so if I don't make a good, veggie-full lunch, I will spend the workday staring at every vending machine and pondering the nutritional value of a lunch comprised entirely of pretzels and chewing gum.

So, that brings me to Sundays. I usually stand at a loss in our kitchen, munching on toast, and murmuring to myself. And though it provides endless hours of amusement for Andy, it mostly exasperates me. So I find things I like (I am very much a creature of habit) and I make them in bulk. And this little recipe is one of those things I like very much. It's so easy I can make it for 2 or 3 work days, and I don't mind eating it that often either! Plus, look at that wonderful colour palette!

1 c instant brown rice
2 c water
3 tsps chilli powder
1/4 c unsweetened, plain applesauce
3 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 c diced fresh pineapple
1 c diced fresh broccoli
1/2 c diced red pepper
1/4 c diced green onion
1/2 c diced white onion
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 dash paprika
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 dash crushed red pepper

Bring the water to a boil and add in rice. Once rice starts to fluff up and cook, add in applesauce, soy sauce,  vinegar, pineapple and veggies. Reduce the rice to a simmer once the veggies are in for a few minutes, and add in your spices one at time, adjusting for your personal tastes.

I think fried tofu would make an excellent addition if you are looking to bolster your fullness factor in this rice, but it's good as is, too!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mini Tacos

It seems like everything is getting smaller these days: pants sizes, adorable animals, and even food. For the states, this is probably a good thing, as portion sizes everywhere are way out of control. However, when we stumbled across the new trend of everyone making these tiny little tacos, I'll admit I was skeptical. Why wouldn't we just make regular tacos? But, after thinking that I'd totally adopt 27 teacup pigs, we decided to give this one a go (plus, Andy said no more pets). And they were amazing, and totally awesome to eat while we watched the Celtics lose to the Heat (and helped Andy forgot about the pain of having the Celtics and the Patriots lose so far).
The recipe calls for Wonton wrappers, but make sure you buy a brand that is vegan! The Nasoya uses eggs, and so your best bet is to hit up any Asian food market that you have in your area. Check the label, but 9 times out of 10, the Asian brands use tofu instead of eggs. Or, you can make your own, of course!

24 vegan wonton wrappers
1 cup shredded lettuce
Vegan cheese (for this, I used Vegan Mexican Shreds by Galaxy Nutritional Foods)
2 cups TVP
1/2 c onion
1 can pinto beans

For the TVP:
2 tbsp bbq sauce, your choice
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp steak sauce
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
dash of paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp your favorite sauce (for this, I used the Taco Bell sauce)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.

Using a muffin tin, place 1 wonton wrapper in each muffin cup, and fold the edges so they will form a cup. Bake your wonton wrappers at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Once the water is boiling, add to a mixing bowl with your TVP, all of the ingredients listed above.  Allow to sit and soak for 8-10 minutes.

Once your TVP meat is ready, sautee your onions and pinto beans with a bit of garlic and 3 tbsps of olive oil. Add in 1/2 tsp of chili powder. Once everything is hot and onions are nice and red but not floppy, add your beans and onions to the TVP meat.

Fill your little tacos however you like (personally, I do cheese first, because the hot wonton and then the hot TVP makes it melty and delicious) and enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vegan Cashew Ranch Dressing

This cashew ranch dressing won't fool anyone, but it's delicious, very healthy, and offers some variety for those looking for some DIY dressings.  I've noticed that the longer I cook, the less I can stand using premade dressings, sauces, dips, etc. and because of this I've started making more and more of our own dressings.  I'm hoping in the future to restructure the website to include sections for dressings, side dishes, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, smoothies, and desserts, but to make it worthwhile we need to have more dressings!  Which salad dressings do you want to see veganized?  I'm considering trying a Caesar-- what do you guys think?

Anyways, this recipe requires a good blender.  A good, small blender, if possible.  The magic bullet is perfect for this one, especially since of how small of a recipe you're making.  This will make you about 1 2/3 cups of ranch dressing.  Well, probably 1 1/2, because you be taste-testing it once it starts to come together!

1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
1 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used Earth Balance)
2 tsp chia seeds
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp salt (optional or to taste)
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp cilantro
2 tsp nutritional yeast

Place all ingredients except parsley and chives into blender and process on high until smooth and creamy.

Add parsley and chives and blend on low only long enough for them to mix in.

Check seasonings and add more as needed, but it's crucial to remember that the flavor will get more pronounced over time. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. Stir or shake before serving.

My guess is that this will last a few weeks, but I haven't really tested it out (so far, it hasn't lasted longer than about 10 days without getting eaten).  Good luck with your vegan ranch dressing!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Brussels Sprouts are one of those ingredients that every time I pass them in the vegetable isle, I wonder-- "hrmm, I'd love to buy those but I never know what to make with them," and continue walking past.  A week ago, however, I picked some up.  A friend of mine is notorious for grilling a delicious batch of Brussels Sprouts, so I figured I'd give them a shot.  I ended up getting three tries to create a delicious quick little side dish out of these.  Many people (including Ashley) tend to get a bit nervous about eating/trying Brussels Sprouts, because they can appear to be a bit intimidating-- they are like mini cabbages.  And there aren't many people that would like to just munch on some cabbage.  Still, this simple recipe is a great breakthrough for people fearing the great vertical cabbage.

1 pound Brussels sprouts
olive oil spray
2-3 tsp. garlic
balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees.
Prepare the sprouts: cut about 1/8-1/4-inch off the stem end, and remove all discolored or dried leaves.  This can quickly get out of control-- use your best judgement.  Just because a little corner is a bit yellow, the whole leaf doesn't need to go! Cut the sprout in half, from top to bottom (through the stem end).

Spray a glass baking dish lightly with olive oil.

Add the sprouts and toss them with the garlic and a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Give them one quick spritz of olive oil, and put them in the oven.

Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and roast for 10 to 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, pour them into a serving bowl, and toss them with another teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Serve sprinkled with Vegan Parmesan, if you like.