Saturday, March 12, 2011

Baby, I Like It Raw (Or Do I?)

Apologies in advance if the title makes that god-awful song stick in your head all day. This may also be an appropriate time to mention that consistency and dedication are not my two strongest suites, at least when it comes to writing (as evidenced by the massive gaps in posts). If I could ever improve these skills, perhaps my book would get written!

But any way, let's talk about going raw. And despite all of the double entendres this phrase might ensue, I'm still talking about food. One of my best friends and I are going on a yoga retreat next weekend...a yoga DETOX retreat. Sounds exciting, right? I'm actually thrilled, and I love the Prama Institute and all of the workshops it hosts, so if you ever get a chance to go to one, you should! In preparation for this weekend of juice fasting and 4-a-day yoga practices, the institute recommended trying a vegetarian (check) and/or raw diet for the week leading up to the retreat.
My initial thought is "ok, awesome!" and I naturally suggest it to my friend in my enthusiastically spontaneous manner, to which she obviously has no choice but to respond "do I have to?" Yes. We will suffer in companionable rawness! But now that I'm actually supposed to be doing it, I'm realizing that this is no cake walk. Literally, because you can't have cake.
Here are some problems I foresee:
  • No bread. UM...WHAT?? I already gave up meat and cheese, damn it, do you have to take my carbs too?? And for my faithful readers (bless you), have I posted a recipe or picture that does not involve some form of blissfully delicious starch?
  • Salad gets old...fast. Maybe it's my lack of creativity when it comes to vegetables, but seriously, 6 days of salad? And you can't really make it exciting with roasted veggies or grilled tempeh, or even beans. So..um...what am I supposed to do with all of this baby spinach? Don't get me wrong, I adore spinach, but eating anything repetitiously not only destroys any affection you had for it in the first place, but it also kind of sucks. B-O-R-I-N-G.
  • I'm going to get fat. Ok, probably not, but the fact that all my protein seems to be coming from nuts worries me, as they have a very high fat content. It also worries me because a little bag of raw cashews is $3.99, and that is so not ok (considering I need a ton of it).
  • I have no idea what a pomelo is, or how to eat it. My knowledge of fruits and vegetables is shamefully lacking, and while it has improved drastically since becoming vegan, I am clearly falling short of raw standards. I'm typically and apple and bananas kind of girl when it comes to fruit, and since there seems to be a wider range of flavors in fruits, I decided I'd try some of the more exotic ones. Therefore, I have a pomelo,  four minneolas, and something else that resembles a grape fruit, if that grape fruit were Morgan Freeman (it has freckles), and I have no idea what to with them. Eat them, yes, but how? And did I even get ripe ones? No clue.
  • No caffeine. Ugh.
So, why the heck would I even do this?? Excellent question. But, despite the negative tone to which I am approaching this challenge, I do think it has health benefits, and it's something different. While I have been doing remarkably well on my vegan journey, french fries are still unfortunately vegan, so my dining choices are not always the most health conscious. In addition, I recently began a new job that requires a lot more responsibility and effort, so I have not been cooking, and have been surviving on vegan junk food (nacho night EVERY night!). I feel kind of gross, and I want to remind myself why I started this whole thing to begin with. And honestly, without a little challenge now and then, what kind of life would we have? One lazy, happy, and filled with bread.

If you have any raw delights you would like to share, for the love of god, PLEASE send them my way! If not, I will be crying into my massive bowl of spinach every day. Look for the "post-raw" post next week (or in another month...whichever comes first). Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We Are What We Eat, and I Refuse to Be Fatty Goose Liver

Most people I meet think of a vegan diet as one of deprivation, but I'm here to tell you that couldn't be further from the truth. I've been "hardcore" for almost a month now, and I've eaten (and even prepared) some of the best food I've everhad. And I came to the conclusion, after keeping track of various Twitter posts of fellow vegans, that vegans as a whole are totally obsessed with food. Like, we think about it all day long and dream about it at night. Literal visions of sugar plums (with organic raw sugar, of course).

And why shouldn't we be? What goes into our bodies has a profound effect on the whole of our lives. It impacts the way we look, the way we feel, how long we'll live (in the general sense), and how we act. Vegans are (again, generally speaking) well-read and have done extensive research on what goes into their bodies, and know first hand what a big impact it has. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a relatively healthy relationship with food and I can't wait to try out new recipes and experiment with new foods. (AND I've lost 5 pounds this month already! :-D)

Here are some of my latest creations:




 Vegan Mac&Cheese Redux: The first time I made vegan mac&cheese, it was great. This time, it was phenomenal! I was actually missing a few componenets of the original recipe, so I had to improvise. I had no milk (I usually use almond milk or coconut milk), so I just used water, which didn't seem to impact the taste at all. So the cheese sauce was a block of "Follow Your Heart" vegan cheddar, plus 4oz. vegan cream cheese, and 1/2 cup water, plus garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. Oh, and nutritional yeast! That is something I could never imagine eating, but it really does add a nice "cheesy" flavor, and the flakes dissolve, so you don't feel like you're eating fish food (it seriously does look like fish food). Then I cook brown rice macaroni, threw in some onion and broccoli, and the pièce de résistance...butternut squash.
Remember that part I said earlier about trying new foods? Well, let's talk about this little guy. I've eaten butternut squash before, but never prepared it myself, and I have to say, I'm not really sure the trouble is worth it. Granted, I didn't know you're supposed to boil/bake it BEFORE trying to peel it, so I had several near death experiences. I'm also pretty sure that counted as my strength workout for the week. However, once it was cut up and stripped of it's skin, it was very easy to deal with. You then just grab a masher and go to town, adding butter (a.k.a. Earth Balance) and whatever else. Toss it all together, top it with some whole wheat breadcrumbs...Voila!! Cheesy, butternut-y perfection that is healthy and free of any animal products!





  Almond Herb Pâté: Having not grown up as a polo player named Reginald, I have never had pâté in my life and only just discovered that "the most famous pâté is probably pâté de foie gras, made from the fattened livers of geese." Uhhh...thank you, Wikipedia. Now, if that doesn't make you sick (vegan or not) you obviously have something against geese or you have a stomach of iron. This pâté is happily goose liver free, and fairly healthy. Again, I was missing a fair amount of the intended ingredients, so a little imagination went a long way. First, almonds (obviously), soaked for a few minutes, then rinsed and drained. Then a variety of herbs and spices--I think I used fresh dill, dried taragon, pinch of cayenne, salt, white pepper, and maybe something else--with a tablespoon of oil, 1/2 cup of water, and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Ideally, you would have a food processor, but I only have a little hand blender thingy (which I LOVE), so I used that. It came out chunky, but it really works well. The main difference between mine and the recipe is that I used the other 4 oz. of vegan cream cheese I had available, instead of the avacado it called for. A big difference, I know, but I think it worked out great. It's very fluffy, but still has crunchy almond bits, and a wonderful, fresh flavor that tasted great on those whole wheat crackers.

Now, if any of you are thinking "Well gee whiz, I need a big fancy kitchen and lots of high tech gadgets to make all this fancy vegan food," think again, my friend. First, please refer back to the bit about using a hand blender (they cost all of $20 or so), and second, feast your eyes upon my "gourmet" kitchen...




Yep, that's it. Literally one counter top of workable space and a mini-stove. But guess what? It works just fine, and I'm every bit the fully functioning vegan as one with a full-sized kitchen. And can I just say, thank god for Ikea. We stocked up before we left the big city! Now it's NYC living...in a tiny town in the South. :-)

That's all for now. I've been making a lot more than that, but I don't want to make you hungry with all the photos, so I'll save them for another post! ;-) If you have any wonderful recipes, send them my way!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year's Confessions

Happy New Year!

I realize I'm a little late, and I've been absent for a while, but we all know how the holidays can be. Anyway, it's 2011 and I am a hard core vegan! It's only been about two weeks, but I have to say, I'm really loving it! Here are some things I've noticed in the past two weeks:

  • I feel thinner. I do not have numbers to back this up yet, but when I eat it's hardly ever to the point of feeling disgusting, as all those veggies seem to simply convince me I'm full way before that. Let me also add that before January, when I was 75% vegan, I had lost two inches off of my waist and an inch everywhere else just by cutting out most of the dairy. So, something is working.

  • Cooking is awesome! If you've read the blog before, you know I was never much of a cook, but I've bought 3 vegan cook books and am checking out more at the library, and I'm just having a blast! And the food is GOOD (*gasp*)!

  • People are fascinated by my journey. Ha, that sounds extremely pretentious, but I actually do get questions on a daily basis, especially from my coworkers. To back up my claims of deliciousness I usually bring food, which so far has gotten excellent reviews. I made a vegan chocolate ganache pie to take tomorrow...we'll see how it goes!

  • I honestly have zero desire to eat meat. In fact, I kind of get grossed out by meat. I have no problems with other people eating it, but the thought of eating it myself makes me a little nauseous. And really, I haven't had many dairy cravings either. There are some terrific substitutes, like "So Delicious" ice cream sandwiches made from coconut milk that would make me punch a baby if that baby was standing between me and the ice cream sandwich. 

  • Here's where it gets controversial...speaking of dairy, I really have to say that I do NOT like the Daiya cheddar "cheese." I know, I know, just thinking this breaks about 30 vegan laws, but I just can't help it. The taste is too rich and it dominates whatever you put it in, and you can't forget for a minute that you are eating fake cheese. The mozzarella isn't nearly as bad, but the cheddar and I can't be friends. :-(

  • My skin is looking gorgeous! I typically have oily, acne-prone skin, but I've felt great just going out in my vegan tinted moisturizer for the past few days, and today I didn't even put on concealer! 

  • I have a ton of energy! And this is without coffee, mind you. I've noticed an abundance of energy, which is not typical. My job requires sitting most of the time, so just to get out some of this crazy energy I'll walk across the building, just for some movement.
I realize that I'm making this sound too good to be true, so please remember that it's only been about two weeks. And I'm not eating totally healthy--my husband and I were snowed in for about two days this week where we did nothing but eat junk food. It was vegan, but it was still junk. And, as a result, my energy today was much, much lower, so obviously it's been all the veggies giving me energy, not simply vegan food. But I feel good, I'm looking good, and I truly believe in what I'm doing and that it's good for my body and for the environment. I'll keep posting as I go, and we'll see what else changes!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bea-U-T-ful V-E-G-A-N!

Now that Thanksgiving is over I can finally deliver the make-up post I promised, and, because of the delay, I've discovered even more wonderful stuff for your animal-free face!
Makeup is one of my favorite things. Ever since my mother allowed me to get my first taste of mascara, I've loved experimenting with colors, creams, and liners (and not always to good results). When I made the choice to become a vegan and became aware of the many animal products that can be found in most makeup--eggs, urine, whale intestines, fat, ground up bugs--I was worried about committing to a vegan beauty routine while still looking good. Urban Decay was the first mainstream company I found that has a good variety of vegan products, and while not everything is vegan, they don't do any animal testing and have at least one of every type of product that is vegan. (*I recently found out that they are discontinuing their vegan mascara, which is a bummer, but good stuff is still out there!)

Here are before and after pictures of my Urban Decay makeover I had at Ulta a few weeks ago:
Before     
After 
The "after" picture isn't the best, but it's the only one I've got. The makeup artist used the Vegan Palate on my eyes (which I now own), and I use it pretty much every day! There's a disclaimer on their website that says the shadow primer was found to not be vegan, which is really disappointing because I loved it. But maybe it will come back veganized! So, Urban Decay is great for separate items, although it is fairly pricey.

The mascara I'm using I absolutely LOVE, and is from a brand named ZuZu Luxe. I found it in the nearby health food store, and after doing research on it, it appears that everything is vegan. Hip hip, hooray! The black mascara is seriously awesome--I love big, fat lashes, and this delivers. I haven't tried anything else, but my next trip will definitely see the addition of several items. While a little cheaper than Urban Decay, it's still not "Covergirl" prices.

For pocket-friendly beauty items, Target actually has a few lines that cater to vegans. Giovanni makes great hair products, and they really are great. My shower is full of them! (Be forewarned, their website is extremely melodramatic). There is also a brand I just saw this week called ONE that carries solid shampoos and other soaps and hair products. Not all of them are vegan (some contain wax and honey) but I bought one that is and am excited to try it out! They don't have a website than I can find, but hopefully your local Target will have them with the other natural products.

This ends my personal experience with actual products, but I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the following companies (and can't wait to get my hands on their stuff):

LUSH Cosmetics--not really makeup, but cleansers and delectable body products abound! I've got a shopping cart full of goodies I'm waiting to buy!
Juice Beauty--someone recommended this to me. Not everything is vegan, but I've linked the page that lists the vegan items.
Pin-up Cosmetics--just dying to try out some of this stuff. I love anything retro!


Here are some other helpful links that should be of assistance:
http://www.mymakeupmirror.com/MakeupWithoutCruelty.php
http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/animal-ingredient-guide.aspx
http://www.veganbeautyreview.com/2010/06/glam-it-up-with-rock-n-roll-vegan-makeup.html

And please, if you have favorites share them with me!! I can never know too much about makeup!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cold Weather, Hot Soup, Satisfied Vegan

The weather is getting colder (woohoo!), and tonight it's supposed to get reeeaaalllyy cold, so what better food than soup for dinner? My husband loves soup, and I love anything that's easy to make, so with crockpot in hand I ventured to make Split Pea soup for the first time. The recipe I used called for vegan "chicken" bouillon cubes, but the nearest veg-friendly store (an hour away) didn't have any, so I just used vegetable broth. If you don't mind your soup looking like baby food, this is a good one! Some onions, carrots, garlic, spices, and peas, and there you go!
This particular recipe also called for vegan bacon, diced into chunks, which adds a really nice texture. Because the soup took about 4 hours to really cook through all the way (on high) I decided to also make some "tuna" salad with some leftover tofu.

I was kind of nervous about the tuna salad, because the only veganaise I've ever tried before was disgusting, but this wasn't so bad. I also added a little mustard, salt, pepper, green pepper, and carrot, and it was really delicious! The texture is more of an egg salad feel than tuna, but I didn't care, as it made my tummy smile.





While we're on the most wonderful subject of food, I'd also like to give some free advertising for a cake company in Wilmington that offers vegan cupcakes and cakes. Again, where I live there aren't a lot of companies or restaurants that cater to vegans, so even though this one is an hour away, I am totally the kind of person who will drive an hour for a delicious cupcake. And it was PUMPKIN, therefore orgasmic. Thank you, Hot Pink Cake Stand!


Just a quickie blog post to give you some easy fast recipe ideas--tomorrow I'm getting a vegan makeover from an Urban Decay representative, so stayed tuned for that adventure! I'll be posting before and after pics, as well as reporting on some other vegan-friendly cosmetic companies.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cooking...EEK!

Around here it is virtually impossible to eat out vegan. Heck, half of the town doesn't even know what a vegan is (including my family), so the restaurants are typically a meat/dairy fest. The 2 or 3 choices that I do have get expensive, and repetitive, so I'm being forced to learn how to cook. Luckily, I'm having a pretty good time, and if I could just convince my husband to do the dishes every day, I just might cook every day. ;-)

Here are a few things I've made that have been super easy and super delicious. It's a full day's menu!

Breakfast: Soy yogurt (I was pleasantly surprised to find it was delicious!) sprinkled with Grape Nuts for extra fiber, and some fruit. One day I put in blueberries AND Grape Nuts and it was super!

Lunch: Vegan mac 'n cheese. There are a lot of recipes out there--the one I used was out of Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, but I sort of made it my own as I went along. Unfortunately, both of the fake cheese I bought for this had Casein in it, which is a milk protein and on the vegan blacklist, so mine was only 90% vegan. Be sure to read your ingredients! 


It fooled my grandfather, and my skeptical co-workers thought it was delicious (which it certainly was)! My non-vegan hubby ate THE ENTIRE THING, so all I got was that one bowl. Bummer! Next time I'll make it with real vegan cheese and hide some away. Pair with some veggies and you have a delicious, filling lunch!

Dinner: I'm all about the easy cooking, and vegan stir-fry is about as easy as you can get. Add all the veggies you want, some organic noodles, and some tempeh, and yuuummmm! I put broccoli, bok choi, onion, carrots, green onions, mushrooms, and peppers. I also marinated the tempeh in "Soy Vey" (extremely flavorful and delish) teriyaki sauce, and then used that sauce for the stir-fry as well. Ta-da!





And now for my favorite part, Dessert: I kept mentioning these cookies on my Twitter page, and was super excited about making them, and they turned out to be every bit wonderful as I dreamed they would. Again, I am not a natural cook or baker, but these were SO EASY!! They literally take about ten minutes to make, TOTAL. Here's the website I got the recipe from. I couldn't find any vegan chocolate chips, but I did find a vegan chocolate bar that had almonds in it, so I chopped that up and put it in. My little oven also runs extremely hot, so I put them in for 2 minutes, turned them, and cooked them for another 2 and they came out nice and gooey like I like them! If you prefer crunchy cookies, leave 'em in for another minute or two.

I really can't begin to describe how delicious these cookies are. Everyone loved them! Hubby says they taste like Almond Joys (I used coconut oil instead of canola oil), and the 4 batches I made were gone in 2 days!




So, so far so good! I'm finding it much easier to be vegan than I thought, although I'm still transitioning and still learning. Cosmetics are my next big research item, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Junk Food sans the animal parts

I was sitting on the couch watching TV when it hit me--a chocolate craving. I love chocolate, probably as much as I love cheese, but it's the milk chocolate I like and not dark chocolate (blech). So what does a vegan virgin do? Google "vegan junk food." It's not sophisticated, but it is effective! Of course dark chocolate was at the top of everyone's list, which my unrefined taste buds just can't get down with, so I have to keep moving down. Various non-dairy ice creams were also listed, which they only sell in one store in my town, and that store is only open from about 11am to 11:45am, so that was out. Then I found this wonderful list of vegan friendly candy that made me run out to the convenience store and stock up. Twizzlers are A-Ok and available everywhere, including most movie theaters, so that's a wonderful option. I happen to love Twizzlers, including biting off both ends and using it as a straw in orange juice (try this, it will change your life), so that was a big relief. Also on the list, and readily available, are Airheads, Blow Pops, Jolly Ranchers, Lemonheads, and various other things you haven't indulged in since you were 10. Go ahead, indulge your sweet tooth and your inner child at the same time! For those of us who also like gummy things, a lot of gummy products contain gelatin, which of course is a vegan no-no. So this site is a good place to order vegan candy online, or give you some good brands to pick up if you live near a Whole Foods or something similar. They have vegan candy bars without dark chocolate! Hooray for rice milk!

Beyond the sweet things there are some really good fast food options at Taco Bell that are super. If you're not a big Taco Bell fan your fast food options are kind of limited to french fries and the paltry fruit options some chains carry, so good luck with that. I, however, lurv Taco Bell and their vegan options really taste great, even without the cheese (I promise). My fav is getting the Nachos Bell Grande without the beef, cheese, or sour cream, and then adding guacamole. They also made me laugh once, because misunderstood something I said and made me a hard taco with beans in it instead of beef, so that's also an option I suppose! I also get the bean burrito, al fresco style, and the crispy potato soft tacos. I'm still trying to figure out if the sauce on those potato soft tacos is vegan--it tastes so good, so if it's not I'll probably cry, but you can always substitute guacamole for anything.

I'm sure there are lots more vegan junk food options I'm unaware of, so if you know them, pass them on! In a few weeks I'm going to make the 2 hour trek to my nearest Whole Foods, so I'll explore the aisles and let you know what I find.