Category Archives: food

Oh, hi there

I did not mean to abandon my blog, dear readers!

greenvelvetpumpkin
I’ve been incredibly busy and quite disoriented since moving this summer (just to a new apartment) and then starting the professional phase of my dietetics program. I’ll save you from the details and more excuses.

I love this blustery, rainy fall weather. Especially because it means it’s comfort food season! To me, Indian curries fit that description perfectly. I’m making an improvised veg curry right now from some eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper we got from the farmer’s market and coconut rice. I found a couple of amazing sounding recipes online for another time while getting ideas for dinner. I’ll save them here so you can also benefit, if you’re inclined.

Baby Eggplant Curry

Zucchini curry

I think getting my hands on some coconut meat is my next culinary endeavor. How delicious do both of these dishes sound?!

Are you excited about fall? What are some of your favorite cooler weather recipes?

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Learning your way around the (vegan) kitchen

Warning, a bazillion links ahead.

If I had a dollar for everyone who’s said to me some variation of “I’d be vegan if someone else cooked for me,” well, I wouldn’t be living in this crappy little college apartment. Although changing things about your diet can seem daunting, I’m here to tell you that you can make gradual changes and eventually be able to see that cooking and eating vegan is really not that difficult, and neither is making sure you’re getting balanced meals. Yes, it’s a learning process, but learning is exciting! I looked at the challenge of learning how to cook for myself as a fun opportunity to eat better and less expensively and hone some creative kitchen skills. It feels awesome when you create something delicious from scratch and it’s darn healthy, too. I also want to say, you do not have to be a chef to make delicious vegan food for yourself at home! I’m definitely not.

I’m under the assumption that you probably cook at home at least some of the time, right? And that if you’re balancing your meals already you are loading up half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with a whole grain (brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, bulgur, farro, etc.) of some sort, and the other quarter with a protein dish. So, if you’ve got that down, you’ll see how easy it is to swap out the meaty/cheesy portions of food for plant-based deliciousness. If you haven’t gotten that down, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that Americans are not eating enough vegetables and whole grains and are counting entirely too many French fries as vegetable servings. But if you’re reading food and nutrition blogs, you’re probably looking to change that, too.

The first thing I’d suggest is picking one of your favorite meals, say tacos. There are a ton of ways you can make them meat and dairy-free and still full of flavor! The easiest, most obvious route is to use some sort of (not totally full of weird, processed ingredients) veggie crumble instead of meat. The next thing I would think of, and the way I usually like my tacos, is to use seasoned black or refried beans and then load your tacos up with your favorite veggie toppings, like shredded cabbage, tomato, onion, and of course avocado and salsa! Seasoned lentils make another great taco filling, as do grilled or sautéed Portobello mushrooms, red peppers  and onions, or grilled marinated tofu or tempeh. Really, the options are endless. Do a Google search for “vegan tacos” and see what I mean.

On that note, not to be obvious or anything, but Googling for vegan recipes is one of the simplest things you can do to get some great meal ideas. People have asked and vegans have answered the question “what do vegans eat, anyway?” in a major way! If you’re a cookbook fanatic like me, there are hundreds out there. There are books on everything from simple comfort food to decadent, restaurant quality meals. Some of my favorites are Veganomicon, How it all Vegan (the first vegan cookbook I ever bought, aww), The Inspired Vegan and Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry, and Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

Some more tips for adding more vegan meals to your repertoire:

  • Try veganizing one meal at a time. Breakfast is an easy one. You can make fruit smoothies, oatmeal with berries and flax or chia seeds and soy, rice, almond, hemp, or coconut milk, tofu scramble, pancakes, muffins, etc.
  • Acquaint yourself with the basics of vegan nutrition. You’ll feel a lot better when those questions about where you’re getting your protein roll in and you can be ensured you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. The Vegan RD is one source I trust. She also co-wrote a book Vegan for Life that I highly suggest reading and has another on the way called Vegan for Her.
  • Try eating vegan one full day of the week to start out. Meatless Monday is great to participate in if you’re trying to eat more vegan meals.
  • Plan ahead and cook up enough beans, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, etc. to get you through the week. Wash and chop your veggies so they’re ready to grab and go. Add these ingredients to a variety of dishes so you don’t get bored of eating the same thing all week.
  • Check out the wealth of  free vegan recipes online and the vegan cookbook section at your local bookstore or library.
  • Replace the meat in meals with beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, mushrooms, eggplant, and on occasion vegan burgers, sausages, and other vegan meat-like products (check nutrition labels if you’re trying to watch your sodium or fat and look for products with minimal ingredients).
  • Replacing eggs and dairy in baked goods is simple once you know there are other options. This is a great guide to getting started (vegan) baking up a storm.
  • Make sure you’re eating your vegetables! Remember, half your plate should be vegetables. Ginny Messina, The Vegan RD mentioned above, has just come up with a great vegan plate graphic that will help you determine the right food proportions of your plate. Farmer’s markets are great for trying new varieties of the freshest, in-season vegetables. Farmers are usually happy to share their favorite way to prepare their vegetables, too.
  • Try a vegan meal-plan to make things easy, like the free one at PCRM.org  or the Happy Herbivore’s , which you pay a fee for.
  • If you are so inclined,  purchasing Kris Carr’s book Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen,  gets you free access to cooking videos  by her and chef Chad Sarno. I learned a new thing or two from watching these.
  • Another amazing cooking resource that you can access from your own home is Spork Foods online cooking classes! These sisters are amazing and make learning cooking so fun. It feels like you are actually there having a dinner party with Heather, Jenny and their students.
  • Keep in mind why you want to make this change and let it inspire and keep you motivated. Is it because you’ve recently learned the suffering that animals raised for food endure? Do you want to be healthier? Are you trying to lighten your ecological footprint?
  • The most important thing is to not stress about it, relax, and enjoy the endless possibility for trying new foods and flavors! It’s not about being perfect and you don’t have to change everything overnight.

As a side note, I’m super happy that one of my best friends who had been going back and forth with being vegetarian has been texting and calling me lately with vegan food recommendations. People make changes at their own pace when and if they’re ready. I never pressure, but I’m always here for support.

Do you have any specific questions or suggestions you’d like me to address?

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Filed under food, health, meal planning, nutrition topics, tutorials

Just a quick, checking in post

Another busy week for me, but what’s new when you’re a full-time student? The end of the semester is approaching and so all major assignments and papers are piling up. Exams will be in a couple of weeks, oh boy!

To own up to my good intentions, the meal planning went well for a few days and then I got sidetracked again. I have been preparing a lot more simple, quick meals at home, though. One thing that I’ve recently started doing that helps a lot is to buy frozen, chopped greens. I used to only buy fresh and then stress about using them up before they got wilty. My favorites are the leafy green mix from Whole Foods I mentioned in my last post, spinach, and collard greens. Instead of having to wash and chop my greens, I can just throw them into a pan with some water or into whatever recipe I’m using them in, such as stir-fry, curry, or soup. They are a time-saver and are just as, if not more, nutritious as fresh greens since they are flash frozen almost immediately after being harvested. That doesn’t mean I don’t still appreciate fresh kale from the farmer’s market!

Before I get back to my paper,I wanted to share this article from a (more or less) local cardiologist, Why I’m a Vegan: A Cardiologist Explains.

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WIAW

I don’t officially do What I Ate Wednesdays (yet?) but today I have a few things to share with you.

I adore food blogs with artful pictures of meals, starting with photos of trips to the market and all the ingredients what went into it, along with lengthy descriptions of the background of the dish, preparation methods, etc. etc. But right now I don’t have time to write posts like that and possibly never will. So I will enjoy the blogs of people much better than me at doing it, but I suspect that a lot of you also enjoy pictures of simple food that can be whipped up quickly on a week night.

Food doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to make to be delicious and healthy. This dinner I made last night of braised bok choy and tempeh finished with a drizzle of hoisin sauce definitely fits in with that. Bok choy contains a good amount of calcium, along with vitamins A, K, C, folate, and is in the cruciferous class of vegetables known for their anti-cancer properties. The fact that it is also delicious makes it a good leafy green to include in your weekly meal rotation.

Braised bok choy with tempeh and hoisin sauce.

Braised bok choy with tempeh and hoisin sauce.

All I did for this was lightly brown my tempeh strips in a little oil, set aside, and then use the same pan to saute the bok choy until the greens were tender but the white stalk was still a little crisp, and then added the tempeh back to the pan and drizzled it all with a little organic hoisin. So simple, so good. Tempeh is a great source of protein and has a great, nutty flavor. Here’s another post about the nutrition benefits and another way to prepare tempeh (from one of those amazingly detailed blogs with great photography!).

Tonight I felt like Indian food and luckily I happened to have all the ingredients on hand to make chana saag (or chole palak), one of my favorite dishes.

chana-saag (2)

Chana saag with biryani

I loosely followed this recipe at Manjula’s Kitchen, one of my favorite sites for Indian recipes and instructional videos. I used Whole Foods 365 brand frozen mixed greens (a blend of collard greens, kale, and mustard greens) instead of spinach, a small onion and LOTS of minced garlic, canned crushed tomatoes instead of fresh, used only 1 TBS of coconut oil instead of  3, and I didn’t have asafetida so I used a few squeezes of lime at the end of cooking for a little tartness. The biryani came from Trader Joe’s and heated through very quickly; it took less than 10 minutes. The raisins and apples in it added a nice sweetness to this dinner. SO incredibly flavorful and full of all kinds of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties from the turmeric and other spices. It only took about 10 minutes to prep everything and about 20 minutes to simmer the chana saag. It’s healthier than getting restaurant Indian food, as that’s usually full of oil (or ghee and cream) and too much salt.

And finally, a little pre-Easter treat I ordered for myself from the best chocolate shop in the world, as far as I’m concerned.

The Harlot Box

The Harlot Box

This box of exquisite truffles are a mix of  pomegranate (with rose petals on top) and lemon (with lavender blossoms on top) Read more about Lagusta’s Luscious chocolate shop here. I truly have never had such divine, decadent chocolate and her ethics align nicely with mine, so it’s a win-win. I ordered a few treats for my boyfriend for Easter, as well, but I HAD to get myself something as long as I was making an order.

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Filed under food, recipes, what I ate wednesdays

Getting Organized

In the interest of roping our household food spending bill in and getting back to making more home cooked meals, I hearby declare that this weekend I am going to clean out my fridge and make a meal plan for the following week. I just made a meal plan for my symposium project, so it should be a no-brainer to do it for myself. To make it even easier, Kris Carr has made a printable meal planner/shopping list template that you just fill in with the meals you want to make for the week. She also offers up some great tips to keep meal planning and cooking as simple, quick, and enjoyable as possible.

Also, bonus tip: how to get perfectly browned tofu by Isa Chandra. I guess I’m going to have to try to re-season my cast iron pan or buy a new one if it’s unsalvageable. Mine has been sitting sadly in the cupboard after a botched attempt at seasoning made it all gummy and gross probably almost two years ago.

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National Nutrition Month and Healthy Challenge Check-In

March first begins National Nutrition Month! If I’d had more time to plan, maybe I would do some sort of theme on the blog for this month, but since my blog tends to be food and nutrition oriented anyway, I’ll just go with posting whatever comes up.

So far I’ve had some good days and some not-so-good days with improving my eating for the Spring Healthy Vegan Challenge. I had some deadlines for school assignments last week and not a lot of food options at home, so I did get some Whole Foods pizza for dinner one night (cheeseless with lots of veggies at least!) and ate a frozen Masala Burger (they are actually pretty tasty) from Trader Joe’s another. Yesterday afternoon, however, I was able to do some grocery shopping and stock up on some more veggies and healthy staples. I made this colorful and delicious cauliflower and cashew curry by Dianne Wenz, aka Veggie Girl, for dinner and served it over brown rice. I added cubed sweet potato and a frozen veggie mix that included peas, lima beans, green beans, carrots, and corn instead of the green beans in the recipe and extra red Thai curry paste because I’m a spice/bold flavor lover.

spring break 003spring break 010 Someone got her camera back!

Spring break officially started for me yesterday after class, so this week I’m looking forward to making some healthy food at home and working on my symposium project research. I know, I totally know how to do spring break! This is the difference between being in school in your late teens/early 20s and being in school in your 30s :)

This morning I had a slice of toasted, sprouted, whole-grain bread with a smear of spinach hummus (not pictured). For a late-morning snack I made a cherry-blueberry smoothie with frozen fruit and just enough unsweetened soymilk to blend it.

smoothie

We have very little natural light in our apartment for better photos, sadly.

For lunch I’m planning on making a wrap with an Ezekiel sprouted tortilla, some baked Italian tofu, onion sprouts, carrot, tomato, avocado, red onion, and a bit of the spinach hummus. For dinner we’ll probably have leftover curry.

I’m still working on the getting motivated to exercise part. Yoga break today, perhaps?

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Sunday night dinner experiment- beetroot ravioli

After that wonderful dinner last Thursday I was inspired to try something new in the kitchen. Since I’ve had my copy of Crazy Sexy Kitchen bookmarked up but haven’t really made anything since I bought it a few months ago, I decided to pick something I’ve been longing to make: the Beetroot Ravioli with Cashew Cream Cheese.

I soaked my cashews overnight Friday and then Saturday made the cashew cream cheese and let the flavors meld in the fridge.

Because I can NEVER leave good enough alone with a recipe, I tweaked it a bit. Since it was a cold, miserable day, I decided to roast the asparagus with a little balsamic vinegar and salt instead of shaving it and serving it as a raw salad. I actually roasted the sliced beets, too. What?! Why did I do that? Well, my slices, even though I did them with a mandoline slicer, were not exactly paper thin and were too hard and crunchy for my tastes. I ADORE roasted beets and thought it would work out just fine.

Beet ravioli

Beet ravioli

And it did. So delicious! And I have left over cashew cream cheese to spread on bagels and crackers since you only use half of it for the recipe.

I look forward to making more recipes from this book!

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