Sunday, March 31, 2013

Red Potatoes with Maitake Mushrooms

I love my swiss muesli and overnight oats during the week, but nothing beats a meal like this on the weekend! For brunch today, I made red potatoes with maitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, black beans, tofu, rosemary, fresh parsley, and avocado. I served the potatoes with spinach and grape tomatoes.



 Maitake Mushrooms




Happy Easter!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

El Coqui

I finally checked out El Coqui in Santa Rosa. This Puerto Rican restaurant serves plantains with nearly every entree. I ordered the vegan "Vegetarano" with black beans (more than I could eat!), Spanish olives, avocado salad, Spanish rice, and plantains. You have the choice between sweet plantains and fried green plantains. I asked for both. My favorite was the sweet plantain. I will definitely check out El Coqui again! The restaurant has great food and a fun atmosphere.





Banana Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes

I loved the Banana Buckwheat Pancakes I made a few weeks back, so I decided to make them again today. I left out the chia seeds this time and added cinnamon and a handful of dairy-free chocolate chips. I noticed the mix wasn't as thick without the chia seeds, so I added a little extra flour. The pancakes turned out great. Banana, chocolate, strawberry goodness!



While making my pancakes, my little girl was watching from the top of the fridge... :)




She was looking out this window where I have italian parsley, basil, and cilantro growing.




My friend from work gave me several succulents yesterday. For some reason, I decided to go buy a few more from Home Depot! So now I have a few outside and several inside. :) I was convinced my cats would start chewing these in a second. Thank goodness they don't care for them. I was amazed!! This means I can have plants inside now and maybe even create a centerpiece on my table. I do need a few more pots though. So pretty!






Oh, and I received the lab results from yesterday's blood test. All is good! Everything is normal as usual. A few things are better, but mostly everything is the same as it was. :)

AND... (yes, I have many things to blog about today!) Apparently my dad has been sharing interesting articles on Twitter that I didn't know about. Including:

Whole Foods' Brilliant Cross-Contamination Plan
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

And here are a few articles and websites I've checked out recently:

57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan
Veg News
Vegan Daily News
Veg News: Local Vegan Guide to San Francisco
Friends of Animals: San Francisco Vegan Restaurant Guide

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tofu Salad

Lunch today was a tofu salad. Lettuce, carrots, black beans, avocado, sunflower seeds, and tofu. I browned the tofu in a pan over medium-high heat before adding it to my salad. I didn't use any dressing. The avocado provides all the dressing I need!



Dinner was another sweet potato. I'm definitely on a sweet potato kick! This time I sauteed onion, mushrooms, swiss chard, and kale for my stuffing. Before serving, I added a little thyme, fresh parsley, salt and pepper. So good!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Healthiest Diet

I have to mention that my doctor just told me a vegan diet is "the healthiest diet there is!" :)

I'm going in for my yearly blood test tomorrow. I'm interested to see if anything is different since starting a vegan diet.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Black Bean and Kale Baked Potato

 
 There's a potato under there!



See it?

 
 
I went to California Fresh (formerly Fresh Choice) for dinner last night and decided to take one of the plain baked potatoes home with me for an easy lunch! I know, I don't think you're supposed to walk out with potatoes, but I skipped dessert if that helps! :)
 
Since my potato was already cooked, I threw together the veggies. I sauteed onion, carrots, kale, and tomatoes. I also added black beans and parsley to the mix and brought some plain soy yogurt in a separate container for my vegan version of sour cream. Such a good lunch :)
 
Dinner at California Fresh was easy. I made a big salad with beets, carrots, cucumber, broccoli, beans, sunflower seeds, and a few other toppings. Most items were labeled with common allergens. I also grabbed some really good vegetable soup. The only downside was I wasn't absolutely certain which dressings were vegan. I was trying to take my time looking at the labels, but other people were waiting behind me. I settled for the balsamic in the end and next time I'll tell the people waiting in line to go around me!
 
A few suggestions for a new vegan:
 
1. Ask questions
2. Check the labels
3. Take your time! Especially in restaurants and grocery stores.
 
P.S. Sorry the photos aren't great. I just use my iPhone. Who wants to buy me a new camera?? :)


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I've come a long way since my first blog post for Savory Sweet Potatoes. Here is an upgraded version. :)




Ingredients:
  • 5 or 6 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
  • 5 chopped kale leaves
  • 1 can navy (or cannellini) beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Scrub the sweet potatoes and use a fork to poke several small holes in each potato. Use about 1 tsp olive oil to coat the potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour depending on their size.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, start steaming the kale over medium heat.

In a pan, saute the cubed tofu over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and navy beans. Cook until hot. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and any other seasonings of your choice. I threw in about a teaspoon of thyme and a little salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the tofu mix and the steamed kale. You can tell the kale is cooked when the leaves have softened and have cooked down quite a bit. 




When the sweet potatoes are cooked (do a squeeze test to make sure they give a bit), cut open each potato and start piling on the mix!

I served my sweet potatoes with steamed asparagus and a dollop of plain soy yogurt. Trust me, it's just like sour cream and it's SO good!




Bon appetit!



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tofu Scramble

For brunch today, I decided it was about time I try a tofu scramble. Because I'm not a huge fan of scrambles in general, I mixed cubed and crumbled tofu together.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 small block firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 4 chopped kale leaves
  • 1/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
  • Spices/seasonings of your choice

These "brown beech" mushrooms arrived to my doorstep this week from Farm Fresh To You. I decided to use these fun little mushrooms in my scramble this morning.




Directions:

Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to brown a bit and begin to soften. Add the crumbled and/or cubed tofu and saute for about 2 minutes.



Add the kale and saute until the leaves start to soften. Then add the tomatoes.



Before serving, add any spices and seasonings. I tried 1/2 tsp turmeric (good for your brain and turns the scramble yellow!), 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and about 1 tbsp fresh parsley.


I served my scramble with sliced strawberries and freshly squeezed orange juice.

And no, I couldn't finish this! I made a bit too much.

On another note...

I keep trying nutritional yeast in my recipes, but I'm learning I'm not a big fan. Many vegans use it as a source of B12 and to provide a nutty, cheesy flavor to their dishes. For me, I think I'll skip the yeast in most of my dishes and continue taking my daily multivitamin that has the necessary amounts of B12 and vitamin D. :)

On the topic of vitamins, I was nearly sucked into buying the gummy vitamins because they look so easy! Luckily I had the thought to check Google while standing in the vitamin aisle. I first checked how effective gummy vitamins are and found that the body doesn't absorb as much from gummy vitamins as from regular tablet vitamins. I also remembered reading something about gelatin being an animal-by-product, so I wanted to double check that fact. Gelatin is in fact an animal product.

Wikipedia explains:

"Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and horses. Food-grade gelatin is produced mainly from two raw materials, beef skin and pork hide. Photographic and pharma grades of gelatin are generally made from beef bones, although some beef bone gelatin is used by the food industry. Gelatin is an animal protein unlike many other gelling agents used by the food industry."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stuffed Tomatoes



Ingredients:
  • Two large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 5 kale leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp oregano

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut a 2-inch opening at the top of each tomato. Scoop out the juice and pulp and set aside in a bowl.

In a pan, saute the onion over medium-high heat. Add the chopped carrots followed by the minced garlic. After about a minute, add the corn, kale, and the juice and pulp from the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the quinoa, oregano, and salt and pepper (optional). Then start stuffing your tomatoes!

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes and serve.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gone Bananas

Somewhere along the way I saw several recipes for making ice cream with just one ingredient. Bananas!

I bought two small ripe bananas last night, peeled and sliced them, and threw them in a bag in the freezer over night. Silly me didn't check one of the recipes to see that I needed to use a food processor instead of my blender. Maybe some blenders will work, but not mine. Note to self (and all of you): try using a food processor and maybe check out this blog or this one.

I had to add a little almond milk to get my bananas going in the blender. My ice cream turned out like the ice cream my brother and I would stir and stir until it was all melted and my dad would be telling us kids to knock it off! Good times. :)

I'll try making the ice cream again soon! Maybe I'll even post a picture or two. I will also try these amazingly simple two-ingredient cookies my friend told me about! You just need two large ripe bananas and one cup of oats. I think I'll make mine with rolled oats, chocolate chips, and bananas. I'm looking forward to making them!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fiesta Lime Rice

I was looking through my fridge tonight thinking about what I should prep for lunches this week. I decided on a Fiesta Lime Rice recipe, which I bookmarked a few weeks ago.

I adapted the recipe slightly and used a rice medley.


I cooked the rice and added black beans, corn, red onion, grape tomatoes, cilantro, and the juice from half a lime. Add a little avocado and it's even better!



I also prepped a fruit salad with grapefruit, orange, kiwi, and apple. Now my fridge is full of little containers that should last a few days!

Breakfast tomorrow will be a Swiss Muesli I found in the bulk section of Whole Foods. It should be good!

Gaia's Garden and Yogurt Farms

I was looking up vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants on Happy Cow a few days ago. I came across Gaia's Garden in Santa Rosa. They offer a vegetarian buffet and have great reviews.

My meat-loving friend and I headed to Gaia's Garden last night. We walked in, paid, and then walked through the buffet. They have plates and bowls of varying sizes which I loved. I walked through and made a salad in a small bowl. I typically just drizzle balsamic vinegar over my salads, but I was happy to see a few vegan-labeled dressings. I tried the Almond Blend. For my main entree, I tried the polenta with marinara sauce, beet soup, steamed veggies, green beans almondine, and a little brown rice. My friend had a large salad, lasagna, curry, and vegetables.

We sat down and the live music began. Last night's band was The Harvest Band. My friend and I both really liked them.

Back to the food. I was impressed to see all the items were labeled. I knew exactly which items were vegan. I loved the Almond Blend dressing and you can even buy some to take with you. The chickpeas had an amazing flavor. They had to be homemade. The vegetables were cooked to perfection and the beet soup was rich and flavorful. The owner (I believe he was the owner) was so helpful and so nice. I'll definitely be back and it sounds like my friend will be too!

After dinner, we headed to Yogurt Farms. They offer a wide variety of frozen yogurt, ice cream, and toppings. We called ahead to ask about their non-dairy options which are currently a marionberry sorbet and a butterscotch frozen yogurt. I sampled both and decided on the marionberry sorbet with sliced strawberries on top. It was a sweet ending to a fun, adventurous evening. :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chipotle

I stopped by Chipotle earlier today to see what it was all about. They just opened up a new location in Sonoma County. Although I briefly looked on Chipotle's website before going, I didn't quite realize how vegan-friendly they are. They actually have the word "vegan" on their menu board! AND people aren't running away after reading it!

So today I splurged and ordered a burrito. I was deciding between the vegetable burrito (peppers and onions) and the sofritas burrito (shredded tofu braised with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos and aromatic spices). I kept hearing the girl behind the counter say the sofritas was a great choice, so I tried it. I'm glad I did! I really liked it and apparently it's a new menu item for Chipotle.

In the process of building my burrito, I also chose the cilantro-lime brown rice, black beans (keep in mind the pinto beans are cooked with bacon), salsa, and guacamole.

Needless to say, my burrito is all gone! I'm still so full. Next time I will probably skip the tortilla and just go for the burrito bowl.

For more dietary info, check out the "special diet page" on Chipotle's website.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wingin' It Pea Soup

I wanted to make something quick, easy, and healthy tonight. I don't think you can go wrong with this pea soup!



Ingredients:
  • 1 10oz bag of frozen peas
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

Directions:

Saute the onion and garlic in a large pot for about two minutes.

Add the water (or vegetable broth), peas, broccoli, carrots, and potato to the pot. Simmer until cooked.

Add the fresh parsley and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender.

Pour the puree into the pot and reheat. Just before serving, add the lemon juice. I added just a little bit at a time until I had the right flavor.

Serve with bread or crackers and enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Sauce

Spaghetti squash is by far my favorite squash right now! It is so easy to make. Yes, this was my FIRST TIME making spaghetti squash. Where have I been?!


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash upside down on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.
 

While the squash is roasting, start making the mushroom sauce. I mostly followed Emily Malone's recipe.

Slice and saute 1 package of mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for 5 to 10 minutes.


Add 1 cup of almond milk. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook down a bit. Stir frequently.

Add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (a great source of B12!). Add one more cup of almond milk. Keep stirring. I left out the creamer and cornstarch from Emily Malone's recipe because I didn't have any. I instead added a bit of flour to thicken up the sauce. After the sauce has thickened, add salt and pepper to taste and get ready to pour. 

Once the squash is cooked, use a fork to pull the flesh out in strands. Serve the spaghetti squash with a big spoonful of mushroom sauce on top! :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hummus Stuffed Pita



Hummus is very easy to make and it's great for sandwiches! I make mine without tahini and oil to keep it extra healthy. :)

Ingredients:
  • 1 can organic, low sodium garbanzo beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley

Directions:

Add the ingredients to a food processor and blend. Add a tablespoon or two of water if the consistency is too thick. Today, I also added 1/4 cup corn into the food processor for a touch of sweetness.

Spoon the hummus into pita bread and complete the sandwich with your favorite toppings. I added lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and freshly made pickles. Enjoy!


P.S. I went to Boathouse Sushi last night for dinner. They have great choices for vegans. I had the Tofu Roll and the Futo Maki Roll (root vegetables). My favorite was the Tofu Roll!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I love Saturdays because I have extra time to play around in the kitchen. I made stuffed acorn squash for lunch today. 


Ingredients:
  • 1 small acorn squash
  • 1/3 cup cooked quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah")
  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 4-5 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (preferably meyer lemon)
  • 2 tbsp hazelnuts, chopped



Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Carefully cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash upside down on a baking sheet (no oil). Roast for about 30 minutes. Flip and set aside.


Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender. Add the quinoa, kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. Cook, stirring, until greens wilt, about 2 minutes. Transfer mix to a bowl. Scoop out just a little squash from both halves and add to the mix. (I found an ice cream scoop to be most helpful!) Be sure to still leave a thick edge on the squash. Mix in the nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper.

Add the mix to the squash halves. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

For each serving, add 1 tbsp chopped hazelnuts and a little lemon juice. I prefer using meyer lemons (they have an amazing smell and taste), but you can use any kind of lemon.



Recipe adapted from: Whole Living

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Jar Kinda Day!

I started off with an overnight oatmeal with soy milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, blueberries, strawberries, and walnuts.


After having a salad for lunch and another salad for dinner at Mary's Pizza Shack, I decided to treat myself to a chocolate mousse tonight. I mashed up an avocado, mixed in 1/4 cup melted semi-sweet (non-dairy) chocolate chips, one tablespoon cocoa powder, about a teaspoon of maple syrup, and a dash of vanilla extract. After refrigerating the mousse for 15 minutes, I pulled the jar out of the fridge and added oranges, strawberries, and chopped almonds on top.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Challenges

My coworkers and I are heading to Mary's Pizza Shack after work tomorrow. Yes, a pizza place where nearly everything is made with meat and dairy products! Well, I did my research. I printed the menu from their website and even sent an email to Mary's Pizza Shack asking about their vegan options. Unfortunately, I never received a response to the email I sent on Monday. Nevertheless, I'm prepared and I know my options. I will likely order the house salad with extra beans and no egg, salami, or cheese, but I can also try:
 
  • Bread sticks
  • Bruschetta
  • Penne Primavera with vegetable broth
  • Linguine Marinara
  • A veggie pizza without cheese
  • Possibly the soup of the day

I will be sure to ask if any of these items include dairy (butter, cheese, milk, etc).

To end the night, here are a couple videos to get you thinking. I like Rip Esselstyn, but he seems nervous!

 


 And this TED Talk by Jamie Oliver is a bit old, but I like his enthusiasm and passion.




P.S. I will soon be making spaghetti squash or stuffed acorn squash, so get excited! :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Don't Settle For Boring!

This week is crazy busy for me, so I haven't had much time to make exciting new meals. Despite my busy schedule, I always make sure to keep my meals varied and satisfying to keep me on track.

Lunch the last couple days has been salad, but not just some ordinary salad! I've been using my food processor to do a rough chop of carrots, celery, apple, cashews, cilantro, and a little lemon. I add this mix onto lettuce, add a scoop of beans, a few cherry tomatoes, and top with sprouts. I don't even need dressing!

I recently learned that a few of my readers are new to cooking vegetables. I'm on the search for a really great website that shows you how to cook a wide variety of vegetables. I will also start incorporating tips on my blog. In the meantime, I recommend going to your local bookstore to look through the cookbooks, check out YouTube, or Google a specific vegetable. Here is one website to get you started: How to Cook Vegetables. I personally prefer steaming, sauteing, baking, or broiling. I never microwave, boil, or fry. Start with a few basics (broccoli, zucchini, etc) and slowly expand your selection. If you're not into plain vegetables, try searching "broccoli recipes" or "spinach recipes" to add some flavor and get you started.

I've mentioned before that I get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box each week. If you're new to cooking vegetables or looking to incorporate more organic, reasonably priced fruits and vegetables, I highly recommend Farm Fresh To You (You're welcome FFTY!). I know they're not based in Sonoma County, but I've never been happier with a CSA box. The company provides door-to-door delivery service, recipes, great prices, and an easy online system. You can modify your delivery schedule and exclude certain items from your box. So all you weirdos (only kidding!) who like fennel can have mine and I'll get a substitute item. The fruits and vegetables not only look good, but they taste great too! :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Look out, she's a vegan!

Not many people know I'm on a vegan diet, but the few who do reacted like this:



Yet if I said I'm on a raw or whole-foods diet, they wouldn't think twice. They would probably want to join me! I was talking with two coworkers today and we were discussing an upcoming office potluck. I said I'd bring a really great vegan dish. They cringed! It's not like I'm in my laboratory fixing up some crazy meat-like substance. I focus on healthy, whole foods!

After work tonight, I stopped by the local natural foods store again. I picked up just a few items and headed to the vitamin aisle. According to Kaiser Permanente and many other websites, I need to start taking B12 and Vitamin D supplements. The employee assisting me asked if I was a vegetarian. When I told her I was a vegan, she said "Oh!" with her eyebrows raised high. Hmm... I didn't expect that reaction in the natural foods store. I guess I should get used to this because I'm loving what I'm doing. I'm feeling healthier, losing a little weight, and making sure to get all the nutrition my body needs. 

On another note, I stopped by the Sunflower Center for dinner last night. I knew this would be my go-to restaurant when I'm not up to cooking. Plus it's a relaxed place and I don't feel awkward flying solo! I've been to the Sunflower Center in Petaluma once before with my mom. We had the ginger lemonade, raw green soup, and the raw sampler plate. I tried the Cowgirl Crepe last night. It was huge! I thought it was pretty good, but I still prefer making my own food at this point. If you go to the Sunflower Center, be sure to check Groupon.com for a great deal!