Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Plant Cafe

Today was the last day of a nice five-day weekend. To make the most of it, I drove down to Petaluma, Corte Madera, Mill Valley, and Tiburon! 

My first stop was Acre Coffee in Petaluma. :) I then wandered around the mall and the shopping center in Corte Madera. I was starting to get hungry and although I had food at home, I headed to a new find - The Plant Cafe. I always imagined the Strawberry Village Shopping Center to be like any old shopping center with a grocery store and a few other random stores. Boy, was I wrong! The shopping center is attractive with several fun restaurants, plenty of outdoor seating, and even a nice bakery. 

After a quick stroll along the shops, I headed to The Plant Cafe. I'm always pretty prepared walking into new restaurants after doing my research online. I ordered the tempeh as it's not something I'd normally cook at home. I thought it was pretty good! I could only finish two of the three pieces of tempeh. I think the cafe is fun and I love that almost everything is organic. They also sell Blue Bottle Coffee, so that's a big plus!






I drove by a few more shops after dinner and guess what I found?! DIM SUM!! :) Harmony Restaurant was packed when I drove by! I need to find myself a date for dim sum or maybe I'll just head there for lunch this weekend!




If I could, I would definitely live in Tiburon. The views are beautiful and it's less touristy than Sausalito. The town was nice and quiet this Tuesday evening, with just a few restaurants and bars still buzzing.




I think dim sum, a walk around Tiburon, and even a walk along the Bay Trail sounds like a good idea in the next week or two. Love it.



Monday, May 27, 2013

Farmers Market, Beach Trip, and Burrito Bowls

Get ready for some pictures!

I stopped by the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market yesterday. It's the third largest farmers market in California and I love it! I'm always so happy there, especially after grabbing some New Orleans iced coffee from the Blue Bottle stand. :)

A few weeks back I was craving dim sum for some reason. I've only had dim sum a few times in San Francisco and I loved each experience. In an effort to find one a little closer to home, I found Tru Gourmet Dim Sum. Unfortunately, they don't have a restaurant I can go to as Tru Gourmet is a dim sum catering service, but they do show up at the Marin farmers market every Sunday. I ordered 6 pieces after seeing how tiny they were. They were pretty good, but too small and far too expensive for the size. I paid $9.50! I'll have to learn how to make my own dim sum! Nevertheless, I always love trying something new.




After a fun walk and picking up a few items at the farmers market, I headed over to the nearby pond where I sipped iced coffee and relaxed for a bit.




I drove back home to drop off my collard greens, basil, cherries, blueberries, sprouted mung beans, and sprouted wheat berries. If you live in the area, be sure to stop by and chat with the seed guy at the Civic Center farmers market. He's friendly, knowledgeable, and very helpful! I asked him which seed was most nutrient-dense and he recommended the mung beans. I also picked up some wheat berries since each bag was just $2.50.




I decided to make lunch and head to the beach. Since the collard wrap I made on Saturday was so good, I made another one to take with me. :) This time with some sprouted mung beans added to the mix!




All ready to go!




After lunch, I finally walked all the way around Bodega Head. I'm not sure why I never did before, but the trail is beautiful and I saw so much more of my favorite spot.






I'm well aware of the famous Hole in the Head, but I've never seen it from up here!













Talk about good for your soul.




Now on to today! I made some amazing blueberry-banana buckwheat pancakes this morning which were based on a previous recipe.

For dinner, I made a burrito bowl using this lovely and very different rice, grain, and lentil blend I found at Whole Foods. This organic "SooFoo" blend is made up of: long grain brown rice, brown lentils, wheat berries, oats, barley, black lentils, rye berries, green lentils, and buckwheat.

Bring 1 cup SooFoo blend and 2 cups water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat and let stand uncovered for 10 minutes.

Once cooked, I added a dash of garlic powder and cumin to a small portion for my burrito bowl.




I made fresh pico de gallo and guacamole and then layered my burrito bowl with rice on the bottom, a few sprouted wheat berries (for extra nutrients), a few black beans, lettuce, bell pepper, corn, a few more black beans, pico de gallo, and guacamole.





Saturday, May 25, 2013

Barnivore and Vegan Wines

I read a few months ago that not all wine is vegan. But I live in wine country! Although I seldom drink these days, I do love wine tasting and I enjoy a beer or mixed drink on occasion. With that said, I finally spent some time really looking into vegan wine this afternoon.

First, according to PETA:

"The majority of people are unaware that wine, although made from grapes, may have been made using animal-derived products. During the winemaking process, the liquid is filtered through substances called "fining agents." This process is used to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness, "off" flavors and colorings, and other organic particles. Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes). Thankfully, there are several common fining agents that are animal-friendly and used to make vegan wine. Carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, plant casein, silica gel, and vegetable plaques are all suitable alternatives. Now, the trick is finding out where you can buy these wines. You can check your local organic or health food stores, local organic winemakers, and co-op's, and most regular wine/liquor stores will order vegan wines upon request."

Good to know! I've spent an hour or two looking for a good list of vegan (and preferably organic and eco-friendly) wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties, but I've instead had to piece together a list from many websites. I finally discovered Barnivore. I already know this will be my go-to website for vegan wine, beer, and liquor. I can also just type in a company's name and see if some or all of their wines are vegan. Not all wineries come up, but I can always do a Google search or email the wineries I intend to visit to find out if they are vegan-friendly. Barnivore offers sample language to use when contacting wineries. Pretty cool!


Collard Wrap

My first try at making a collard wrap and it was SO good!!



Step 1: Soak the collard leaf in warm water for 10 minutes while you prep the veggies.




Step 2: Remove the thick stem by running your knife flat down the leaf.

Step 3: Add hummus and veggies to one side.




I used my new julienne slicer to cut my cucumber, carrot, and radish. You could use a grater instead. I also added bell pepper, avocado, and pea shoots.




Step 4: Fold the top and bottom of the leaf toward the middle and then roll the leaf. Cut in half.





I made yet another soup last night! :) This time with bok choy, broccoli, shallots, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, lemon, cilantro, basil, vegetable stock, brown rice noodles, sprouts, and pea shoots!

Bok choy is loaded with calcium. Check out my post about calcium. 




Either my scale is broken or I really kick-started some well-needed weight loss with these soups! I'm 20 lbs down from October, 10 of which are due to eating a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet. :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Product Reviews


I've had some time to try a few vegan, cruelty-free products, so I thought now would be a great time to share my thoughts. :)

Pureology Super Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner
  • My hair has looked great since using Pureology
  • A bit pricey, but a little goes a long way
  • Perfume fragrance is a bit strong, but it's worth it to have nice hair :) The other Pureology shampoos and conditioners may have better scents. I'll be sure to try them!
  • Approx. $27.00 per bottle

Pureology Precious Oil
  • Love it!
  • I always use one pump of the oil on the ends of my hair after I shower
  • Approx. $12.00

Giovanni Smooth as Silk Shampoo and Conditioner
  • I've tried it once so far and I love the citrus fragrance
  • Seemed a bit drying, so be sure to use a leave-in conditioner afterward
  • Approx. $6-8 per bottle

Palmer's Cocoa Butter
  • I've been using Palmer's Cocoa Butter for years now, so I'm glad to know it's a vegan, cruelty-free product!

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Facial Scrub
  • Love it!
  • Smells great!
  • Keeps my face smooth and clear!
  • $10.00 - $13.00

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap - Lavender
  • Not a fan of the lavender scent! My natural inclination was to grab the lemon, but I chose the lavender soap for my bathroom. Lesson learned. I'll be sure to smell all the scents while in the store and before purchasing the soap next time!
  • The soap itself works great
  • Approx. $3.99 per bottle

Tom's Relaxing Bar Soap
  • Very cleansing
  • Smells like real lavender
  • I'm not sure why I purchased another lavender product! I typically like less fragrance, so I think Tom's Daily Moisture with Olive Oil and Vitamin E will be better for me next time.
  • I only tried the relaxing bar soap at the bathroom sink as I'm still getting through the rest of my Dove bar soap I had before going vegan (Dove is not vegan and is not cruelty-free according to PETA). I may post an update after really testing Tom's soap!
  • Runs at about $2.99 per bar

Additional Resources from PETA:

Cruelty-Free Companies and Products 
Animal Ingredients List
Cruelty-Free Shopping Guide
Shopping Guide to Compassionate Clothing

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Soba

Another soup! These are so easy to put together when you have vegetable broth ready to go in the freezer.




Ingredients:
  • homemade vegetable stock
  • soba noodles
  • shallots
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • soy sauce
  • sprouts
  • fresh lemon
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh basil

Directions:  

Saute the shallots, garlic, ginger, broccoli and chard over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.

In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock with the soba noodles. Once hot, add a little soy sauce to taste.

In a bowl, add the vegetables and pour the stock over top. Add fresh lemon juice, basil, cilantro, and sprouts. Serve.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Conscious Box

I recently "liked" San Francisco Bay Area Vegan Events on Facebook. I'm glad I did because they recently posted a link to Conscious Box. The first box is free right now through an online coupon code. Check it out here. I signed up for the monthly vegan box (you can cancel anytime), so I'll soon be getting a fun box full of vegan beauty, home care, and food products! I'm excited! :)





Monday, May 20, 2013

Citrus Kamut Salad

All ready for tomorrow's potluck!


Vegetables and a kamut berry salad with grape tomatoes, olives, chickpeas, fresh mint, a little lemon juice, orange juice, and orange zest. I'll add cashews to the mix tomorrow! Now if only I had better lighting in my kitchen for these photos...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Udon & Pho

It's time to catch up after a week of dog-sitting! :)

On Friday, I made red potatoes with rosemary, thyme, zucchini, carrots, onion, and black beans. You can't go wrong with red potatoes!



I was on a big udon and pho kick when I was finishing up the semester a couple weeks ago. It was an easy, healthy meal to grab when I didn't have time to grocery shop and cook. The best vegetable udon soup I've had is at Wayne's Sushi in Rohnert Park and the best pho I've had is definitely from Mai Vietnamese in Cotati. So good!!

With that said, I made two fresh and organic soups inspired by udon and pho.


Fresh Vegetable Soup



Ingredients:
  • homemade vegetable stock
  • carrots
  • onion
  • broccoli
  • zucchini
  • edamame
  • corn
  • garlic
  • soy sauce
  • fresh lemon
  • fresh cilantro

Directions:  

Saute the carrots, onion, garlic, and broccoli over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute for about 1 minute. You want to keep the vegetables a little crunchy.

In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock. Once hot, add the edamame, corn, and a little soy sauce to taste.  

In a bowl, add the vegetables and pour the stock over top. Add fresh lemon juice and cilantro. Serve.




Vegetable Brown Rice Noodle Soup
 


Ingredients:
  • homemade vegetable stock
  • brown rice noodles or other noodle of your choice
  • carrots
  • onion
  • broccoli
  • zucchini
  • edamame
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • soy sauce
  • fresh lemon
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh basil

Directions:  

Saute the carrots, onion, garlic, and broccoli over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute for about 1 minute. Keep a little crunch to those veggies.

In a separate pot, heat the vegetable stock with the ginger and brown rice noodles. Once hot, add the edamame and a little soy sauce to taste.  

In a bowl, add the vegetables and pour the stock and edamame over top. Add fresh lemon juice, basil, and cilantro. Serve.


And hang out with your pets. :) Cody is such a handsome cat. Yes, he has extra toes!



My little girl is so happy. :)




Sunset Magazine

I'm happy to see an article about vegan food in the latest Sunset issue. :) 




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Carbon Footprint and (Not) Giving Up

"Some people thought the Live Earth concert handbook was exaggerating when it stated that, "Refusing meat is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint," but it wasn't. This is literally true. Even Environmental Defense, a group hardly known for taking radical stands, calculates that if every meat eater in the U.S. swapped just one meal of chicken per week for a vegetarian meal, the carbon savings would be equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road." - John Robbins, Food Revolution

I've wanted to talk about a particular topic for some time now and that is people trying (and really wanting) to go vegan and finding it unsustainable and too difficult. I keep hearing stories from friends and people I meet about how they tried to be vegan for a month and quit. The first two things that come to mind when I hear that are: 1) you didn't give it enough time and 2) you need variety!!

I talked before about how the first two to three weeks were tough for me, but it's been a breeze ever since. The internet is your best resource for figuring out what to eat and how to be creative with food. Focus less on substitutes for meat and cheese (which aren't good for you anyway!) and instead focus on making meals with a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, whole grains, etc. No, vegan food is not all carbs and yes, you can live without X, Y, and Z! Your taste buds will very quickly change and you'll begin to crave plant-based foods. Believe me, it all gets easier! It's also very helpful knowing a few really great vegan-friendly restaurants in the area for when you don't feel like cooking. :)

On a slightly different note, I'm determined to diminish the negative connotation of the word "vegan" in my little world. I never try to persuade people to switch to a vegan diet, but I sure can highlight the benefits of a vegan diet and all the amazing meals you can make. In addition, I can be the little birdy in certain people's ears to create a vegan-friendly community, particularly at the food venues at my organization. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Homemade Vegetable Broth & More!

I've had a busy evening in the kitchen! I made homemade vegetable broth, rosemary roasted potatoes, green beans with a garlic lemon sauce, stuffed acorn squash, and pea soup! No, I didn't make all this for dinner. :) Here's how it happened...

A few weeks ago, my coworker made some amazing (vegan) minestrone soup for one of our potlucks. I mean, it was crazy good! So I asked for the recipe. She found the recipe from an old Sunset cookbook. Although I didn't make the minestrone soup today, I did make the "root vegetable stock" or vegetable broth that makes the soup so great. I left out the turnip today, but I added a couple extra carrots. Here is the recipe from Sunset:

Root Vegetable Stock

2 tbsp butter (Earth Balance)
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large turnip, coarsely chopped
2 large stalks celery, thinly sliced (include leaves, if any)
2 large onions, chopped
12 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
6 large parsley sprigs
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 whole cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns (optional)

Melt butter in a 7 to 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, turnip, celery, and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden (about 15 minutes).

Stir in water, salt, parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. If desired, add garlic and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Strain and discard vegetables (or keep them for another recipe - see pea soup below!). To freeze, let broth cool and pour into freezer containers. Makes about 10 cups.

This stuff is so good! I'm never buying canned or boxed broth again.

When the broth was done, I separated the liquid from the vegetables and herbs. I decided not to waste the vegetables, so I placed them in my blender, added a little broth and frozen peas, and ta-da! Pea soup! The soup has an amazing flavor thanks to the broth.




Now on to dinner! First, I used my glass hand juicer to make some orange-lemon juice. 1 orange, 1/2 lemon. 




Then I roasted red potatoes and onions in the oven at 350 degrees. In a pan, I sauteed 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 diced shallot, and a handful of green beans. I added a little lemon juice to the green beans just before serving. 








Although I had leftover green beans, I still needed to make something for lunches the next couple days. Since I've had an acorn squash on standby for the last week (they last a long time!), I decided stuffed acorn squash would be great. Rather than making the savory recipe I posted back in March, I made a sweet stuffed acorn squash instead.



Ingredients
  • 1 small acorn squash
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds (or other nut)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1-2 tbsp brown sugar or dried fruit
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • Juice from 1/4 lemon

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. Transfer to a bowl and mix in all other ingredients. Scoop out some of the squash (be sure to still leave a thick edge) from both halves and add to the mix.

Spoon the mix into the squash halves. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve.


Happy Mother's Day!

The Vegan Table

After an early start yesterday and working until 1, I decided to go have fun in the afternoon! I pondered with the idea of heading to the beach, but decided to go shopping instead. I found myself walking around Barnes and Noble in Corte Madera where I was happy to see a large selection of vegan cookbooks.

I found The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This is by far the best vegan cookbook I've found. The recipes are simple, wide-ranging, and easy to follow. I see myself making nearly every recipe in the book. 




Other popular Colleen Patrick-Goudreau cookbooks include:
  • The Joy of Vegan Baking
  • Color Me Vegan
  • Vegan's Daily Companion
  • Being Vegan
  • The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

On one of her podcasts on Compassionate Cook, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau mentions an annual Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise. Although it's a bit pricey, the 7-day cruise sounds so fun!

"Holistic Holiday at Sea is a body pampering, relaxing, and educational vacation aboard the new MSC Poesia, one of the world’s most luxurious ocean liners. A perfect combination of luxury, fitness, knowledge and entertainment, our 7-day holistic cruise stops at exotic ports of call and offers a wide variety of lectures, workshops, and private consultations by leading authorities in the fields of alternative health and holistic healing. All this while dining on specially prepared natural foods, swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, and lounging in saunas and Turkish baths." - A Taste of Health

I know it has been a while since I've posted a recipe, so I'll share with you what I made for breakfast today. :)

Apple Carrot Kale Juice

2 apples
3 carrots
5 kale leaves
1 orange

Mix in 1 tbsp chia seeds before drinking for added health benefits!

P.S. I recently updated the Documentaries & Books page to include resources and blogs. Check it out! :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Books & Hair Products

Now that I finally have some free time, I picked up my kindle that has been waiting patiently on the bookshelf (oddly enough) and I started reading Vegan Diet & Animal-Free Lifestyle - A Journey Into Veganism by Hanna Getty. The book has already added to my wealth of knowledge about living a vegan lifestyle.

A few fun facts:
  • Casey Affleck, Alicia Silverstone, Brad Pitt, Mike Tyson, Alec Baldwin, Alanis Morissette, Ozzy Osbourne, Shania Twain, Jason Mraz, Fiona Apple, and so many more people are vegan (or at least were when the book was published in April 2012). 

Produce stickers
  • 4-digit numbers starting with 3 or 4 indicate products grown conventionally by commercial farmers
  • 5-digit numbers starting with 9 indicate products that have been grown organically on sustainable farms
  • 5-digit numbers starting with 8 indicate products that have been modified genetically (GMO)

Although this isn't the first time I've heard this, I have yet to check this out at a grocery store.

I'll offer more insightful tidbits as I learn them. :)

I will soon be reading John Robbins' The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World. The book has amazing reviews. John Robbins walked away from a comfortable life with the family business, Baskin Robbins, to live a life focused on health and fitness. His plant-based diet has kept him strong, healthy, and looking very young! My friend was completely inspired by him at a food conference in LA last week. 

On another note, I have been somewhat careful with my words to say I eat vegan, rather than I am vegan. It's not that I don't want to be an all-encompassing vegan, but I can't say I am when I'm using up all my old hair and beauty products and carrying around an old leather purse. I haven't had the need yet to really dive into the product side until today. There also seems to be a much larger learning curve when it comes to vegan products than food. I might stumble a bit at first, but I'll learn and share with you all what I find. I'm sure I'll be adding a products page soon enough!

My first vegan hair care purchase was Pureology shampoo and conditioner today. When I talked to my coworker about vegan hair products a few weeks ago, she raved about Pureology. Luckily, she mentioned that a little goes a long way (because it's concentrated and a bit pricey) and that the shampoo lathers really well for being sulfate-free. I'm looking forward to trying it! I've also heard good things about Giovanni hair products.

Update 5/11/13: I really like the "Super Smooth" Pureology products, but the perfume-like fragrance might not be good for some people.

I'll leave you with a quote for the night...

"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." - Buddha


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Groceries From Around the World

I'm still here! :) I was busy finishing up my finals for the semester. I'm just about done. I have a presentation tonight and then I'm free for summer!! Now I can focus on making fun meals, kicking up the exercise, reading about veganism, and just enjoying life.

Today, I will leave you with something quite fascinating that has been flying around at work:

Peter Menzel's What a Week of Groceries Looks Like Around the World