Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Herbivore Abroad Cookbook Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to the poster of comment #6 (otherwise known as "e.")! You have been randomly selected as the winner of the Happy Herbivore Abroad cookbook giveaway winner! I will get in touch with you with further instructions on how to get your cookbook. To all of those who entered the giveaway, or who simply want a copy of the Happy Herbivore Abroad cookbook, it is always for sale on It is priced super well, and definitely gives you a lot of bang for your buck as far as cookbooks go, so it's worth the investment. Happy Cooking!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Herbivore Abroad Cookbook Giveaway!

About the Book: Happy Herbivore Abroad is the third cookbook by Lindsey S. Nixon. Lindsay is a super talented plant-based chef, that focuses on making delicious recipes with whole foods, no oils & minimal fats, and always 100% plant-based. This book in particular is awesome because she has created plant-based versions of SO many recipes from countries all over the world that I NEVER thought could be made vegan. This book has everything from cassoulet, to paella, to curries and much much more. Read on to find out more about the book, and leave a comment in order to enter the giveaway for this fabulous cookbook! **Open to U.S. and Canada Residents Only**
Why I think this book stands out above the rest:
- All of the recipes call for everyday ingredients: You won't need to make a run to a specialty market or scramble last minute because you don't have some obscure ingredient.
- The photography is amazing: I know this is silly, but they always say you eat with your eyes. I love seeing what a dish will look like, and there are not only photographs of pretty much every recipe, there are also photographs from Lindsay's travels abroad.
- The flavors are spot on: I have had the privilege to have traveled to many countries, and have actually tasted the non-vegan versions of a lot of the dishes that Lindsay has in her book. Lindsay's recipes are ridiculously spot on when it comes to ratios, flavors, and textures. So many dishes that I never thought could be entirely plant-based, Lindsay has managed to create delicious recipes for.
- The recipes are easy to make: Okay, so you need to dedicate more than five minutes, but the recipes are not overly complicated and never really need more than half an hour of prep work. There are no crazy techniques or weird cooking tools. Lindsay has really created recipes that can be made by anyone with a basic knowledge of kitchen tools, and by anyone who does not have too much time to sit around and make labor intensive meals.
My Favorite: Paella!
My Experience with the Cookbook: I have absolutely loved having this cookbook! I have made almost every recipe in the book at least once (I only have 3 left that I haven't tried) and they have all tasted delicious! My dad and brother, neither of whom are vegan love every dish that I make from this cookbook, and they even have their own favorites that they often request. There are so many amazing dishes in this cookbook, but my personal favorite is the Paella. It is simple and delicious, and I have made it innumerable times since receiving the cookbook in the mail.

Author Lindsay Nixon Answers some of my questions: I had the opportunity to ask Lindsay some questions regarding this cookbook and plant-based cooking in general. Here is our mini-interview:
Q: What is the most common "criticism" you get from non-plant-based eaters for your diet, and how do you respond to it?
A: I'm very lucky that I don't get a lot of criticism. Some people will ask where I get my protein, but they're genuinely curious. A few people will try to slam me with anecdotal evidence about how someone's grandpa ate bacon and lived to be 99. I usually respond by saying history is full of people who beat the odds but what happens for one person, doesn't translate for the rest of us. So one person lived to be 99 and bathed in bacon, what about the 1000s of people who do the same but don't make it to 30, 40, 50, 60, etc.
Q: What is your favorite recipe in your new cookbook and why?
A: Asking a chef to pick a favorite recipe is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child :)
Q: How hard/easy was it to communicate your dietary needs while abroad and how well did people handle your requests?
A: I speak other languages, which certainly makes things a bit easier -- but I find people are generally happy to accomodate, especially if you say you have an allergy :) I also take a little phrase book with me, so I know terms in other languages, and how to communicate my needs in their language. 
Q: What are your top 5 tips for any plant-based eaters planning to travel abroad soon?
A: Have patience. Remember that there is so much more to traveling than eating. Go to the farmer's market or supermarket -- you can find food there. Research ahead for options if you can. Ask the tourist office for help. Get a phrase book!
Q: What is your all time favorite plant-based meal that you have had and why? (can be from your travels abroad or at home)
A: I could never narrow it down to just one :)
Q: What is your response to the problem of getting enough Omega-3 EPA/DHA in ones diet, since plant-based eaters only taking in the ALA form of omega-3s, and humans are very inefficient at converting ALA to DHA/EPA (which is the form that this fat needs to be in, in order for it to be utilized by humans)? 
A: I don't really hear this, but I'd direct them to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's website. He explains this in detail, and is way more educated on the topic than I am. Jeff Novick is also a good resource.
Q: Were there any dishes that you saw abroad, or have tried before you went plant-based that you have not been able to recreate using only plant-based ingredients?
A: Nope!
Q: In your travels, which country do you think it was easiest to maintain your plant-based diet in?
A: Overall I think they're all about the same. It's a lot like America in that it's easier to find vegan fare in the bigger cities compared to the smaller, more remote areas. Some cuisines lend themselves to be vegan a bit better -- like Italian food, which can be vegan if you leave off cheese. Some countries have large fresh markets -- like Spain, Italy and Croatia, which can make it find fruits and veg on the go a breeze. Still, some of the best vegan food I've had abroad was in lesser known places. It's a mixed bag. 

Leave a comment with your favorite type of food (from any country/region out there) and I will do a random drawing at the end of the day to see who wins a free copy of the Happy Herbivore Abroad Cookbook! You can get additional entries by sharing a link to this post on facebook and twitter, just comment again with a link to your facebook post or your tweet!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry, Happy Everything!

My dad and I ready for our Christmas Morning long run.
This picture is from last year, but we definitely went on a long
 run this christmas morning as well. It was glorious :)

Merry Super Belated Christmas, Happy uber-Belated Hannukah & Happy Holidays to everyone! So Sorry that I have been super absent from posting this week, the combo of the Holidays, GRE studying, and my birthday (its on the 28th......aka today) is the ultimate black hole to my free time (Sorry in advance to Stephen Hawking for my terrible and probably inappropriate use of black holes in my analogy). Anywhooooo, don't forget about the Happy Herbivore Abroad Cookbook Giveaway! Its going to be tomorrow (December 29th) so check back to enter the giveaway and read about how awesome the cookbook it!

Quick Running update: It just so happens that on this very day I ran 8.2 miles in 1:12 hours. That means I was running an average of 8:50 or 8:55 pace!! This is super exciting for me, I know it might not be that exciting for some of you super speedy runners out there but to this lazy, laid-back runner that is amazing! I actually think that it was a post by one of my favorite running bloggers, SkinnyRunner that motivated me to push it throughout the run. If you haven't read her blog before, you should definitely check it out. She has a great sense of humor, writes about running in an interesting and engaging way, doesn't take herself too seriously, and always has really interesting non-running posts. Oh yeah, and she's gorgeous and always has cute clothes, which is a bonus; consider this my holiday gift to you ;)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lessons Learned from a Long Run Gone Bad & Remembering the Important Things

That smile disappeared literally seconds after taking
this picture........just goes to show you that no matter
how fine you feel, you need to be smart about how
you're running.

How I Almost died (okay, so I'm exaggerating......alot, but I felt like death for awhile): I finally went on a longer run today (I think about 13 miles, but I wasn't wearing my watch) and I'm pretty sure I ran that distance much faster than I've ever run it before......I'm talking potentially sub 2 hours, which was awesome. However the not so awesome part is that I felt like death afterwards. I think I hydrated very poorly because soon after I finished my run I developed the chills, nausea, and a 101 degree fever to top it all off. The weird thing is that I felt 100% fine throughout my run, but soon after I stopped the disgusting symptoms hit. Fortunately my Dad and brother were super sweet and helped me out a lot, and I am feeling much better now.
The Solution: My temperature is normalizing after getting some fluids in me, and my chills have also subsided. I think it was a combination of an upset stomach due to stressing over the GRE, lack of hydration, and running a distance at such a new speed.
The Running Lesson: The takeaway lesson is that even if you feel fine during a workout, you may still not be fine; make sure that you remember the important things:  hydrating properly and making sure that you build up properly to any speed & distance combo that you plan to pursue. 

Orange Spiced Cupcakes with Sage-Infused Maple Icing!

I know I haven't posted in quite a few days, but I have been super intensely stressing for the GRE since I'm taking it in a week, and I promise that I'll post more regularly once I'm done with that! These past few days have literally consisted of running, eating, sleeping, studying, and a little bit of pinterest time for my mental health. I finally have some time though, and I wanted to post the second cupcake recipe I entered into the Earth Balance's "Made Just Right" competition. I also have some VERY important running information that I posted in a separate post just after (above) this post. Here is a preview of the cupcake:
Orange Spiced Cupcakes with Sage-Infused Maple Icing
Orange Spice Cupcakes with Sage-Infused Maple Icing
As promised, here is the recipe for the second set of cupcakes I entered into the Made Just Right Earth Balance competition! There is a part of the recipe for the Icing that needs to be DONE AHEAD, so scroll on down to that part before starting the rest. Enjoy!
Ingredients for the Orange Spice Cupcake:
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose white flour
- 1/2 cup cake & pastry flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup earth balance eggnog
- 1/2 cup melted earth balance shortening (melted just until liquid, make sure it is as cool as possible before using) I had to use just over one stick of solid earth balance to get exactly 1/2 cup liquid earth balance, so make sure that the 1/2 cup is measured when liquid
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp orange zest
Directions for Cupcake:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. In a large bowl mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside. 
3. In a medium bowl mix together the eggnog, melted earth balance, vinegar, vanilla, and orange zest until evenly combined. 
4. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry while whisking with a large form. Mix until everything is evenly combined. Then whisk for 10 more seconds. Do not overmix as the cupcakes will come out too tough.
5. Scoop into a pre-lined cupcake tray. The batter should only be between 1/2 to 3/4 of the way to the top of the hole.
6. Bake for 16-20 minutes, it usually takes about 18 in my oven but other ovens may vary. The cupcakes are done when  a toothpick inserted int he middle comes out clean.
7. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool.

Ingredients for Sage-Maple Icing:
- 1/2 cup earth balance shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 8 oz (1 package) pack tofutti cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp maple syrup.
- 2 bunches fresh sage (about 1/3 cup sage leaves)
Do Ahead: Directions for Sage-Syrup (to be used in the Sage-Maple Icing Recipe that follows):
1. Remove the sage leaves from their stem, and add to a small, heavy-bottomed pan along with the maple syrup. 
2. Bring maple syrup to a boil while stirring the mixture, and then immediately reduce to low heat for 5 minutes. 
3. Set aside this mixture for at least another 5 minutes so that the maple is really infused with the flavor  of the sage. 
4. Remove the sage leaves and make sure the syrup is at least at room temp before using in the following recipe. 
Sage-Maple Icing Directions:
1. Make sure the earth balance is at or slightly above room temperature such that when it is mashed with a spoon it is smooth and slides, rather than forms sharp/crumbly pieces. Also make sure your cream cheese is at room temp.
2. In a mixer on the “whip” setting (slightly low medium speed) cream together the shortening and cream cheese until evenly mixed. 
3. While the mixer is on, steadily sift in all of the powder sugar & salt, occasionally scraping down the sides.
4. Lastly, add the room temperature sage-infused maple syrup and continue to mix until even. 
5. Chill in fridge for at least 5 minutes before icing the cooled cupcakes. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Perfect Pairs: Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Curried Cream Cheese Frosting

Speaking of perfect pairings, here is an interesting and delicious flavor pairing: they are Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with a Curried Cream Cheese Frosting. This picture is a sneak peak of the recipe to come later in this post:
Running in the Rain and/or Cold: So it's that time of year again......the trees are bare, the temperature has dropped, and best of all I can see my breath! For me running & the rain are a perfect pair, layering up for super-cold runs......not so much. In all fairness, I actually enjoy running in the rain and in the cold, but what I don't like is running bellow a certain temperature. I think that my lower limit of pleasant running is about 50 degrees; once it drops bellow this I don't enjoy the extra clothing/accessories needed to keep warm. I like to feel light and free when I'm running and all the extra things make me feel anything but. However, despite the cold weather annoyance, running is still awesome, and running in the cold, crisp air is so refreshing, so I have some tips on how to stay warm on those cold winter runs without adding 500 lbs of clothing.
Perfect Pairing: All black outfit and candy cane socks.
Yes, I am actually committing the ultimate running sin
and wore socks with capris, I'm a cool kid. 
Running tips for the Cold and Rain:
- Wear gloves: A lot of heat that is lost is lost through the extremities; instead of adding a sweater, add on a pair of gloves and you'll be surprised at how much warmer you stay. Also your hands won't get numb which is always a plus.
- Ear cover/ Headband: I prefer really thick headbands that are made out of lightweight workout material, that are wide enough to cover my ears. People tend to lose a lot of heat through their ears, so this will also be great for keeping you warm on a cold run. I personally love this headband from Lululemon.
- Thicker Socks (or double up on socks): This is for the same reason as the gloves; people just lose the most heat from their extremities, so keeping the ends of our extremities warmer helps with our overall body heat.
- Compression Running pants: I really don't like running in anything other than shorts, but when it gets cold enough I will begrudgingly put on some pants/capris. I really like compression pants and capris because they are lightweight, skin tight (aka they don't chafe), and they still keep me warm. I like these pants from Nike and these capris from Lululemon. 
- Lightweight Rain Jacket: I love running in the rain, my only hesitation is getting soaked in my clothing and catching a cold. A lightweight rain jacket is the perfect solution. This one from Stoic is great quality and super light; it's made for men but I just bought the smallest size and it was fine. The great thing about this jacket is that if it stops raining, it's so light that it's not weighing you down, and it won't make you get too hot if it starts to warm up.

Cupcake Time: 
Chocolate Orange Cupcake with Curried Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
Earth Balance Competition: So Earth Balance, the brand that makes a lot of vegan margarines, butters, nut butters, soy milk, "egg" nogs, and other vegan yummies is currently having a bake-off competition. The requirement for entering the competition is that you use at least one of their products in your recipes, I actually ended up using two. I used their SoyNog (vegan version of eggnog) and their Shortening. Now usually I'm not a fan of using processed fats and oil, and refined cane sugar in recipes, but it's the holidays and everybody deserves to indulge every once in awhile. 
How I came up with my recipes: I was coming up with the cupcake recipe completely on my own, without looking up any other recipes for reference.....that's right, just me and my food science textbook and lots of test batches of cupcakes. It took quite a while to come up with the right ingredients (chocolate chips vs cocoa powder, pastry flour vs all purpose flower.....etc), the right ratios, and most importantly the perfect flavor pairings. However, the results were well worth it; I have come up with two extraordinary cupcake flavors that incporporate a lot of traditional holiday flavors, but in new and unexpected ways. I will share the Chocolate Orange Cupcake with Curried Cream Cheese Frosting recipe today, and the Orange Spice Cupcake with Sage-Infused Maple Icing in a day or two.

Ingredients for Chocolate Orange Cupcake: 
- 1 cup all purpose white flour
- 1/2 cup cake & pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
This is what the batter should look like
when it's done.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup melted earth balance shortening
- 1 cup earth balance eggnog
- 1 tsp instant coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp orange zest
Directions for Cupcake:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. In a large bowl mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl mix together eggnog, melted shortening, instant coffee, vanilla, and orange zest.
4. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry while whisking with a large fork. Continue to mix until the batter is even, shiny, and a little sticky. Do not over mix as this will make the dough too tough. 
5. Scoop into pre-lined cupcake tray. The batter should only be between 1/2 to 3/4 of the way to the top of the hole. 
6. Bake in the oven for 16-20 minutes. Mine usually are done around 18 but it varies from oven to oven. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes our clean.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.
Ingredients from Curried Cream Cheese Frosting: 
- 8 oz vegan tofutti cream cheese
This is what the frosting should look like
when it's done. 
- 1/2 cup room temp earth balance shortening
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 cayenne
- 1/8 cinnamon
Directions for Frosting: 
1. Make sure the earth balance is at or slightly above room temperature such that when it is mashed with a spoon it is smooth and slides, rather than forms sharp/crumbly pieces. Also make sure your cream cheese is at room temp.
2. In a mixer on the “whip” setting (slightly low medium speed) cream together the shortening and cream cheese until evenly mixed. 
3. While the mixer is on, steadily sift in all of the powder sugar, occasionally scraping down the sides.
4. Immediately add in the spices and salt, and mix until smooth and even. This may take up to a minute or two, but stop the frosting periodically to make sure that it is not over-mixed. If over-mixed, the oils will start to separate, so avoid over-mixing.
5. Cool the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes before frosting cooled cupcakes. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe, check back in a day or so for the Orange Spice Cupcake with Sage-Infused Maple Icing Recipe! And stay warm on your cold-weather runs!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vegan Paella and Other Amazing Things...

Veganizing Cuisines of the World

Garnished with green onions and lemon wedges
Inspired by my travels: I love traveling, and one of the best parts of traveling in my opinion is sampling the cuisines of different cultures and regions. I have had the opportunity to travel to many different states within the United States and so many amazing countries outside of the United States, and have learned so much from all of these travels. Many dishes that I have tried in the past that have a special place in my heart are not traditionally vegan friendly, but luckily most of these dishes have been veganized in Lindsay S. Nixon's Happy Herbivore Abroad. 

Today's Recipe: I am still working my way through this cookbook, but the very first recipe I tried was the Paella. Paella is one of my favorite dishes, and I have definitely missed it since I went vegan. Now thanks to this amazing cookbook, I have a simple, easy, and delicious recipe for vegan paella. I am doing a giveaway of Happy Herbivore Abroad later this month, so keep checking back to see when I post it! I can't share any of the recipes on my blog, but I can share a picture of the delicious paella I made based on Lindsay's recipe. I followed Lindsay's recipe but made two additions: I added 1/2 cup white wine and I also added vegan soyrizo.

Boozin' it up with TJ's
Well this isn't really a miracle considering Trader Joe's always manages to have great tasting products at even better prices, but I found a fantastic Chardonnay for $8.99. I was actually drawn to this wine because it is "Reserve" from Chile, and my chef friend told me that this usually means it is a better wine. Then I saw the name of the wine "Casillero del Diablo" and the little devil's head on the bottle; this sealed the deal. I am really glad I purchased this wine, I usually prefer Rieslings but I really enjoyed this Chardonnay. This wine is a little less sweet than I tend to prefer, but I like really sweet wines; despite it not being as sweet as I would have liked, I still really enjoyed this white wine. It is definitely a mid-bodied wine as far as white wines go, with vanilla and peach notes. The label said that it also has hints of pineapple and citrus, but I didn't pick up on these.....maybe I'm just not enough of a oenophile (that means wine lover). The wine goes well with citrus-ey or acidic dishes, like the paella I made!

Running News:
Since I am still wary about aggravating my recently recovered knee, I have been keeping my runs limited to flat ground. I have been running about 7 or 8 miles on all of my runs, and I actually bumped up my pace by one minute per mile this past Sunday which made me really happy. I ran an average of 9:30 minute miles, but my first few miles were 10:00 minute miles and my last few were 8:30s and 9:00s. I'm excited to be running again, but my 100% flat running rule has limited me to running loops repeatedly near where I live. However I got a nice surprise on my sunday run when I noticed these beauties growing in someone's front yard. That's right, that right there is a massive family of shrooms. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Green Gift Guide: Environmentally Friendly Gifts for Any Occasion

Holiday Gift Guide
I know that shopping for holiday gifts can be hard and sometimes frustrating, so I have made a list of some of my favorite environmentally friendly gifts to give & receive. There are tons of environmentally friendly products out there, but I don't really feel comfortable recommending products that I don't own or haven't used, therefor all of the products I list I either own or have used on multiple occasions (aka I know someone who owns them and am probably being an annoying moocher). 
This is a terrarium on the larger size, but you can get
much smaller (or larger) ones if you want.
- Succulent Terrarium: I love The Juicy Leaf (right around the corner from me in SoCal) and Skinnyskinny! Okay, somehow I managed to find two very interestingly named businesses......but regardless, they create gorgeous terrariums! These are lovely decorative plants ranging from $35 to $200, that will last a lifetime and are much more environmentally friendly than purchasing a bouquet of roses or orchids that have been sprayed with pesticides and potentially shipped in from the other side of the planet. So you decide, beautiful succulent terrarium that lasts a lifetime......or scary, drugged up flowers from someone's backyard in china.
- Vegan & Green candles for $30; I like either SkinnySkinny or Vance Family Soy Candles: I know that it might be harder to find vegan and earth friendly candles, but it is important not only for the planet but for your own health. Most regular candles produce a toxic soot that you can't see, as well as harmful aromatic compounds such as benzene and toluene that linger in your home and get inhaled by all who are near. Even high end brands have been found to have traces of lead in their wicks, which as we all know is highly toxic and should be avoided at all costs. On top of this, it is just more sustainable to use a vegetable or soy based candle because they are sustainable, and come from renewable sources, whereas standard candles come from a petroleum byproduct (aka where gasoline comes from) and this is obviously not sustainable.
Gorgeous Agate Coasters & Plates from Vivaterra
- Agate Plates & Coasters from VivaTerra: This is pretty straightforward; these coasters ($59 for set of 4) and plates ($65) are simple agate rocks that have been cut and polished, which is much more environmentally friendly than the materials and production that go into producing most standard coasters and plates. Not to mention these agate products are breathtakingly gorgeous!
- Reusable Water bottles, thermoses, or food containers from Klean Kanteen: I know that their products are on the pricier side, but they are one of the few companies making reusable food and drink containers that actually uses eco-friendly materials and production methods. My logic is if you are trying to do the earth a service be using reusable food and drink containers, you might as well buy them from a company that values environmentally sustainability in their practices as well; otherwise you are giving money to a company that doesn't give a you know what about the cause that is motivating you to buy their product.......a little hypocritical, no?
- Mini Meyer Lemon tree from Vivaterra: This is a great gift if you know that this person is into cooking or uses a lot of lemons. It is obviously an eco-friendly gift since it is a live plant that will continue to grow and produce fruit, and it is a dwarf version which means it can be kept indoors as a decorative plant rather than having to eventually be planted (although you could do this if you wanted to). Obvious advice: if the person doesn't like lemons or already has a lemon tree, this is probably not the gift for them......but you probably already figured that one out.
Soooo good....
- Root of the Earth Bowls from Vivaterra: These bowls come in many sizes and range in price from $39 to $140. They are made from "discarded root balls" of old trees, whatever that means.......but who cares, they are gorgeous and look even better when filled with fruits and veggies! Yay!
- A juicer, I recommend the Breville Juicer: Yes, this is a relatively intense gift; but if you are looking for a big gift for someone in your life that is all about health and fitness (and doesn't already have a juicer) the $240 is well worth it. Plus you can probably pier pressure your loved one who you give this to into making you any juice your heart desires..... or at least that's what I would do ;)
- Vitamix Blender: Any blender from the Vitamix Family of Blenders is an awesome gift, and it's not just for fitness fanatics. Chefs love these as much if not more than avid smoothie drinkers. You can use the blender to make hot and cold soups, nut butters, doughs, hot and cold sauces, and yes, smoothies. These blenders are far more powerful than your everyday blenders, and will blend up things that would cause any other blender to let out a loud moaning/screaming noise and die. These blenders run from $380 all way through the $700s, but they are well worth it!
- And now for an obsession that is especially close to my obsession prone-heart....Alkemie Jewelry: Alkemie Jewelry is an environmentally and sustainably focussed jewelry company that makes amazing jewelry from 100% reclaimed metals right here is Los Angeles. Their designs are gorgeous, intricate, unique, and so detailed that it might just blow your mind. Their jewelry is not the cheapest, but it is well worth it for the quality and artistry of their pieces. I have a ring and a bracelet from them, and they look exactly the same as they did when I bought them over a year ago, so they don't do that wierd thing where they turn black or rust. I'm sure there is a more scientific term for that gross thing that happends to bad jewelry, but let's be real, you all know what I'm talking about.
- Framed Picture of you & them in an Environmentally Friendly Picture Frame: This is a great way to add a personal touch to a gift for someone that is hard to shop for. It is also a good budget friendly option since all you have to do is print out one photo and find an environmentally friendly picture from (or make your own)
- Any of the Cookbooks from the Happy Herbivore Family of books: There is The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, The Everyday Happy Herbivore, and Happy Herbivore Abroad. I absolutely love these cookbooks and have made almost every recipe in the first two, and am working my way through the third. The recipes are ridiculously easy, but they definitely don't taste like it; somehow Lindsay manages to create layers of flavor in her dishes without tacking hours on to the prep time of the recipes. Just a reminder, I will be doing a giveaway of Happy Herbivore Abroad later in December, so stay tuned for that!
- A Healthy Vegan Cookbook with lots of comforting recipes would be Appetite for Reduction: Another great vegan cookbook that I just recently finished cooking my way through. This book has a very diverse mixture of recipes, all of which are healthy! The recipes range from light & delicate to hearty & filling and that is why I love this book.
- A Great Non-fiction book, I would recommend Born to Run: This is a New York Times bestseller and has been around for a few years. If you are even remotely into running, mysterious athletic tribes of people that have been cut off from civilization for hundreds of years, nutrition, or just really intense story-telling, then this is the book for you.
It is so much more than a running book, in fact I would describe this book first as a story that follows what seems like a wild goose chase for a lost tribe of people in the copper canyons of mexico, and then as a revealing look into human nature and the nature of love, and lastly as a story that has running woven all throughout.
- An autobiography on anyone who the gift receiver is interested in, I would recommend Eat & Run: This book is an autobiography of Scott Jurek (world famous ultra runner) that is compelling and inspiring. The book has a lot about running throughout, since Jurek is after all an ultra runner, but it is not only about running. One thing I loved is that Jurek ends each chapter with one of his favorite recipes.

I hope you all have fun shopping for gifts for the Holidays! Just remember that as long as your heart is in it, it doesn't matter if a gift cost $5 or $500, because your loved ones will appreciate your thoughtfulness! ........I know I would ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Zone out to Get in the Zone: Running & Studying

First of all: I want to apologize in advance for more sparse posts this month, I am taking the GRE at the end of December (ahhhhhhh!) and my studying is kicking into high gear. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same amount of posts, but more will be restaurants reviews and random thoughts, and less recipes since recipe posts and recipe testing take so much more time. I promise that after December 31st I'll go back to posting more recipes, but the lack of recipes doesn't mean a lack of exciting posts!
Giveaway this Month!: Sometime in the month of December I will be doing a giveaway of the amazing cookbook "Happy Herbivore Abroad" by Lindsay S. Nixon. I was also sent a free copy of the book to review, and thus far the recipes have been delicious! I have made a vegan paella and an amazing vegan cassoulet that my dad and brother were both in love with.

Running Question: Where do you all stand on zoning out during a run? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comment section!
yep, still riding that runners high.....half an hour after my
run was finished ;)
My Answer: My personal opinion is that I should try to be fully aware of my surroundings on all my runs, and usually be aware of my pace and breathing for the sake of getting faster and getting a great workout BUT every once in awhile I think it's nice to just go out for a run with no pressure and just let your mind roam free. I had one of these "free runs" earlier today and it was awesome; no garmin watch, no time goal, and no distance goal......just running until I felt like stopping. I don't know how fast I was going (I would guess somewhere around 9:30 or 10:00 minute miles) but I got to think about so many things that I have going on, and actually figured out how to deal with a few issues that I have been unsure of how to deal with. I also clearly organized my schedule for the rest of my day, and came up with a much better study plan than what I was doing before. Running provides a lot of mental clarity, and it a great time to think about things that are bothering you or are at the back of your mind during the day but that you rarely get to address. By running and letting myself zone out for the entire run, I was able to run off a lot of stress I have, and was actually able to focus better when it came time for me to study.
Tips for going on a "free run":
- Go on a route that you have run before: Going on a run where you plan on zoning out is no time to try a new route
- Go on a SAFE route: This is pretty straightforward, but make sure you are running in safe neighborhoods where runners are visible to drivers and there are wide roads for drivers to make room for runners
- Don't listen to music: It is important to still be somewhat aware of your surroundings, so if you are already zoning out on your run, you definitely don't want to get rid of the sounds surrounding you, because these can be important safety cues.
- No Watch: Leave your pace watch behind; there should be no pressure to hit a certain pace or a certain distance, just run for yourself and for your mental clarity.

Life: Studying
In the Zone: Oddly enough, zoning out on my run allowed me to "get in the zone" for my GRE studying. I have been studying for this test for a couple of months, but the studying is kicking into high gear this month since my test is on December 31st. I came up with a much better study plan and study schedule during my run than what I had intended on doing earlier, and thus far it is working out great. I also got to sort out a lot of other things I have going on during my run, so my mind was totally clear when it came time to study.
It's pretty embarrassing but I am pretty much studying all day, errr day, with the exception of my workouts, running random errands, and making dinner for my family. Don't worry, I'm not a total hermit, I still go out with friends every once in awhile, but I am definitely being less social this month than normal since I need to get as much studying in as possible. All in all, even though I spent almost 2 hours running, it made the time that I DID spend studying so much more productive, and it was completely worth it! Sorry I don't have any studying words of wisdom, but studying is a very individual tasks, and each person has something that works well for them. For me I work best with writing things down, and them memorizing what I have written down; I also really benefit from practicing problems similar to what will be on the test. So that's what I'm sticking to, memorizing techniques, tricks, and vocabulary......... and doing lots of practice problems. Oh yeah, and getting a good run in before a study sesh always helps!

Good luck to everyone with their studies; I know many of you are studying for finals right now and I wish you all the best!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Double Trouble: Running News & Vegan Stuffed Bell Pepper Recipe

Running Update: So I have been making a slow return to running in the past couple of weeks, but I have kept it on the D.L. because I didn't want to jump the gun and declare victory before I was certain that my knee was on the path to recovery. I have had two solid weeks of running under my belt, with quite a few 7 and 8 mile runs thrown in there, and I am beyond thrilled to say that my knee is handling it fantastically. Granted I am much slower than I was (think 9:30 or 10:00 minute miles compared to the 8:30s and 9:00s I was running before) it still feels simply amazing to be back to running out in the world! I am going to do a longer post about injury and recovery, but I just wanted to share the exciting news with everyone!

Recipe time: Stuffed Bell Peppers
Recipe Inspiration: I had a bunch of bell peppers sitting around that were on the verge of going bad, and I wanted to think of a recipe that didn't require me going to the grocery store. I wanted to make something comforting but not too heavy, and something that could be made in an hour or less. I finally decided on stuffed bell peppers......yum!

Nutrition Note: This is a delicious, comforting, and carb-filled meal that somehow manages to remain relatively light. I usually add lentils or white beans to the rice when I make this recipe but I didn't this time, but we had a lot of lentil soup left, so I figured that we could have that soup along with the meal for a complete protein.
This is what the mixture should look like before you
add the rice, tomatoes, and lentils. 

- 32 oz veggie broth
- 6 medium to large bell peppers
- 5 cups cooked rice
- 3/4 cups diced shallots
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 lb mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 cups cooked lentils **optional**

1. Remove the top of the bell peppers and seed them.
2. Steam the bell peppers for 10-15 minutes or until slightly al dente, and set aside.
3. In a non-stick medium saucepan, cook the shallots for 5 minutes on medium-low heat. I added water as needed to keep them from sticking.
All done!
4. After 5 minutes, add the carrots, garlic, and mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook. Add water as needed, but the mushrooms will give off a lot of water so you may not need to add any.
5. Once the mushrooms are cooked down add the almonds, and the white wine. Continue to cook on medium heat.
6. Add the rice, tomatoes, and lentils (if you decide to use the optional lentils) to the saucepan, and mix the contents of the pan until everything is evenly dispersed in the rice. Continue to cooke for another 10-15 minutes.
7. Remove the rice mixture from heat, and fill each bell pepper with the rice stuffing.
8. Fill the same saucepan that you used for the rice stuffing with the veggie broth and heat until simmering.
9. Place all of the stuffed bell peppers in the veggie broth, and simmer on the lowest heat setting for another 15 minutes while covered.
10. Serve you delicious stuffed bell peppers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm One Sick Vegan.....No Really, I'm Sick: Tips on how to deal with a cold or flu!

What's been going on: I usually don't skip more than a day or two of posting, but I have been super sick with a weird cold/flu thing. I don't get sick that often, so when I do, it's pretty annoying but I've come up with a few tried and true tricks that help me through it.

My Symptoms:
- Sore Throat: this is the first symptom that I had, and it went away after the first two days of being sick
- Sever Headache: This started right when my sore throat was getting better and is still present.
- Painful/Clogged Sinuses & Ears: I'm pretty sure it's just that my sinuses are gross right now, but it feels like my ears are also clogged.
- Stuffy/runny nose: This started a day after the sore throat, and is still present.
Pomelo (grapefruit) and Veggie Broth!
- NO Fever: Fortunately I have not had a fever at all.

My tips for dealing with a cold or flu as a Vegan:
- Drink it up: I have been drinking way, way more fluids than usual. I go through 1-2 cartons of veggie broth per day. This is on top of about 3 cups of tea per day, 1 green juice per day, a few glasses of water, and all of the water in the fruits and veggies that I eat.
- Citrus 24/7: I have been eating one grapefruit and a few oranges every day for the extra Vitamin C and Calcium.
- NO Sugar: I already try to avoid sugar, but I am extra careful about not having anything with simple sugar such as cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or any other processed sugar. This is mainly because I have noticed with previous bouts of the cold, that when I consume any sort of refined/simple sugar my sore throat flares up again and my cold regresses. My theory is that this is because the bacteria can more easily use these simple sugars as energy sources, but I'm no Doctor so I can't say for sure.
- Sinus Wash a.k.a. Nose Bidet: This is an awesome creation that looks like a mini teapot. I basically fill it with warm salt water, and use it to cleanse my sinuses; I pour the water into one nostril and it comes out the other. This is honestly a life saver, and makes my breathing soooooo much easier.
Me with my beloved nose bidet.
- Salt Water Gargle: This is especially important to do the second you think you are getting a sore throat. All you have to do is warm up water, mix salt in, and gargle it for 30 seconds. I did this three times a day, and the next day my sore throat was pretty much gone.
- Sleep.....LOTS of sleep: I have been going to bed earlier, and sleeping in later. Sleep is always important, but it is especially important for when you are sick. Sleep is a time when your body can repair the damage done during the day, and really work towards fighting off your sickness.
- Don't forget Protein: I have totally lost my appetite throughout this sickness, but it is important to make sure you are eating enough food, especially protein, since your body is using protein to make the antibodies that are fighting off the cold in addition to the day to day maintenance that your body is doing.

In Conclusions: If you feel yourself getting sick, start taking preventative measures immediately. The sooner you recognize the symptoms and act accordingly, the more likely you are to lessen the severity of the cold/flu. Always listen to your body; if you are still tired when you wake up in the morning, sleep in if you can, or call in sick to work. Giving your body the rest and care that it needs is a small sacrifice to make, compared to the time you could potentially loose if you get more sick later on due ignoring the early symptoms. These tips that I have listed are things that have worked for me in the past, but I am no Doctor, and you should always consult your Doctor if you are stricken with the cold or flu!

Stay warm, Stay Healthy, and Stay Happy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving.....a Holiday Recap and a Holiday Recipe!

Thanksgiving Recap!
Delicious Thanksgiving Meal!

Let the holidays begin! Thanksgiving is like the official kick-off for the holiday season, and boy is it a great way to start off the holidays! I spent yesterday's holiday with family and friends, and it was by far the best thanksgiving I have had in years! I am so thankful to be blessed with such amazing family and friends, and this holiday definitely reminded me of that. I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving, and that you all are enjoying this long weekend.
I am also very fortunate that the family that we spent thanksgiving with is very conscious of everyone's dietary needs! They made vegan versions of lots of dishes, as well as the traditional versions, and clearly labeled everything. The food was absolutely delicious, and I am super bummed that I forgot to take the vegan leftovers that they so generously packed for me :(

Despite forgetting my delicious vegan leftovers, yesterday was such a great day! It truly is phenomenal the way being around friends and family that are so amazing can make you feel worlds better. We had so much fun all day preparing for the meal, talking about life and other important (and some not so important) things, reminiscing about old times, making plans for new adventures, and just generally enjoying each others' company. One of the highlights of the night was our EPIC poker game. There were 5 of us playing, and I was having terrible luck, I was pretty much bleeding chips.
These are NOT my chips, mine are towards the left side of
the screen......yeah, definitely not winning.
I was doing so badly that I was almost out of the game, and pretty much had given up hope. I went all in (which wasn't much considering I only had one chip left) and I ended up winning a pretty big pot since I had a straight!! It was ironic and hilarious since nobody, including myself was expecting me to make it past that round. 
On a somewhat random side note, we also played charades last night and it was hilarious. I don't know why people don't play this game more often. Okay well I sort of do; I mean I know that people think it's silly or childish, but it is just SO much fun. My abbs are still sore from how much I was laughing. To sum this all up and to be super redundant, I am so thankful for the amazing family and friends I have, and for having such an amazing thanksgiving day!

And now for a holiday dessert recipe.....: Since this holiday is centered around food (and being thankful, of course) I thought there would be nothing better than to share with you all a simple and delicious recipe for a vegan holiday dessert that I made for thanksgiving. It is a vegan, no-bake chocolate covered pumpkin pie in a delicious raw crust. This dessert is perfect for christmas as well, since it's fancier than just a plain old pumpkin pie, and it still has a holiday-esque feel to it due to the pumpkin filling and the pecan crust. Here it is:

Vegan Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Pie:
Okay, so I sort of cheated in that the pumpkin pie filling and chocolate ganache from this recipe are the same as the ones from my Triple Layer Pumpkin Brownie recipe, but instead of topping a brownie, they fill a raw and gluten free pie crust. Also, I need to give a special thanks to my friend Julie, who had the inspiration for this, and helped me come up with the recipe!

Date Paste!
Prepare in Advance:
- Date Paste: This will be used in two of the three components of the recipe, and about 1 3/4 cups total are needed for the entire recipe. Date paste is made by soaking pitted medjool dates for 4 hours, and then blending the drained dates in a food processor until fluffy. You need about 2 cups of pitted dates to create the amount of date paste needed for the recipe
- Coconut Milk: Place canned coconut milk into the freezer for about an hour or in the refrigerator overnight so that the thicker, white part of the milk separates and rises to the top. This is the only portion of the coconut milk you want to use, and should make up about half of the can.

Ingredients for the Crust:
- 2 heaping cups raw pecans**
- 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup packed, pitted dates
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
 **If you absolutely loath pecans, you could use 2 cups of almonds, this might taste less "holiday-ish" but it will still taste great. You could also use the almonds if this is your first time making this type of a crust and you are nervous about over-processing the pecans. If the pecans are over-processed their oils will separate, but almonds won't do this nearly as easily so they're a little more foolproof. I do strongly suggest the pecans for this recipe but almonds are a good alternative.
Directions for Crust:
1. Process pecans, coconut, and salt in the food processor until relatively fine and flour-like. This should take about 10-15 seconds. Be sure not to over-process or else the oil from the pecans will start to separate out.
2. Add the dates and the vanilla, and process until the mixture is smooth and somewhat moist. This may take anywhere from 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes depending on your food processor. The  most important thing is that this begins to come together, and turns into more of a dough than a crumbly mixture. Again once the dough is somewhat moist and can be formed into shapes, do not continue to process since this will cause the oils from the pecans to separate.
3. In a pie pan press the crust dough in until it is covering the entirety of the pan. Make sure that it isn't too thin in any areas, and then place in the freezer to chill.

This is what your finished mousse should look like.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Mousse:
- 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 1 1/4 cup date paste
- 1 cup canned coconut milk (top thick white part only)
1. Remove only the thick, white portion of the coconut milk from the can and place in the food processor.
2. Add all other ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth and even.
3. Pour evenly into the pecan pie crust.
4. Place in the freezer while you prepare the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
- 1 cup coconut milk (top thick white part only)
- 2 ¼ cup chocolate chips (about 1 bag)
- 1/3 cup date paste
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp salt
1. Add all ingredients to a small, heavy bottomed pot.
2. Heat the pot on low-medium heat, stirring continuously.
3. Once the mixture is smooth and everything is completely evenly mixed remove from heat. (all chocolate should be melted at this point)
4. Place in the freezer, and stir it every 10 minutes for half an hour.
5. Once the ganache is only warm/lukewarm on the back of your hand, go ahead and pour the ganache evenly over the pumpkin mousse layer of the pie. Make sure not to overflow the crust; I always like to leave a little bit of the crust peaking out, just because I think it makes for a nice presentation.
6. Place the entire pie in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for half an hour if you want to serve it immediately.
7. Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut the pie into as many slices as your heart desires and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Very Vegan Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving only a day away, I'm sure many of you are already preparing your thanksgiving meals, or gearing up for the long drive to see friends and family! Tomorrow's holiday is such a heart-warming and fun holiday, and worrying about what you can and can't eat should be one of the last things on your mind. However, as vegans or vegetarians, many of us are used to thinking in advance about certain situations and how we will handle them. Thanksgiving is not only a holiday that is focused around eating, it is also a holiday that brings family together........and some family may not be 100% understanding about your awesome vegan ways. I have a few tips on how to deal with certain situations that could possibly (but hopefully won't) arise on Un-Turkey day, and I also have some of my favorite thanksgiving recipes from all over the interwebs. I hope these tips are helpful!

How to have a Happy & Harmonious Vegan Thanksgiving:
1) Give 'Em a Call: If you are heading over to a family or friend's home for Thanksgiving, get in touch with them a few days before the big day to have quick chat. The last thing you want to do is show up on the day of and surprise them with your vegan questions and freak them out while they're already stressing about the meal. You could always start off by saying something like: "I am so looking forward to seeing you this year, it's been so long and I can't wait! I don't know if I told you this last time I saw you, but I'm actually vegan!" You should definitely go on to explain exactly what this means since many people aren't sure what the difference between vegetarian and vegan is. Make sure you remember to mention that you don't eat anything with chicken or beef stock, butter, milk, any other dairy, or eggs.
2) Offer to Bring a Dish: I think that as a guest on thanksgiving you should always call the host to see if they need anything, BUT especially if you are vegan and asking about what vegan offerings they have. If you call the host in advance and let them know about your vegan diet, you should ALWAYS offer to make at least one entree/side-dish that is vegan and bring it over. This will remove some stress from your and from the host as you know there will be something for you to eat, and the host does not have to worry about whether or not you will be starving on Thanksgiving.
3) Try to Host Thanksgiving: It may be too late for this year, but it's always fun to host Thanksgiving, and that way it will be 100% vegan! I have been to quite a few 100% vegan thanksgivings in my day, and let me just say that both the omnivores and the vegans were very full and very happy.
4) Do NOT Start Preaching about Veganism: Yes, yes, I know that veganism is a great thing and that you think everyone would be better off vegan, and I agree; but this special family gathering is not the day to try to spread the gospel of veganism. Ofcourse, if anyone asks about veganism, you should definitely explain it to them, and maybe mention a couple of the benefits you have experienced as a result of going vegan, but be sure not to get too preachy.
5) Do NOT React badly to Criticism: Some family members or friends may not be very receptive to the idea of veganism, and may ask you critical questions. Don't let this bother you. Remind yourself that this is a good opportunity to set the record straigh AND maintain harmony by not reacting badly to their questions. You should definitely address whatever their critique/concern is, and also throw in a couple of the great changes that you have experienced since going vegan. For me I always mention that I used to have terrible skin and horrible stomach problems, and now my skin is completely clear and my stomach problems are not nearly as horrendous as they used to be.
6) They just won't stop with the jabs: If a select few people just won't stop asking about your being vegan, or criticising it even after you have followed tip #5 I would suggest doing the following. Say that you would love to talk more about this, and hear all of their criticisms and respond to them, but Thanksgiving may not be the place to have such a heated conversation; exchange emails or phone numbers (if you don't already have them) and insist that they should definitely email you all of their concerns, questions, and critiques so that you are able to respond to all of them without dragging down everyone around you on this special day
7) Make an AWESOME Vegan Dessert: I know that making a vegan entree and side-dish is more of a necessity, but if you can, you should definitely try out making an awesome vegan dessert. I aways find that people are blown away by how delicious vegan desserts can be, and that they don't even miss any of the animal products when they are eating them. You might even have a few people asking you about becoming vegetarian or vegan after trying your bomb vegan treats!

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup: 
Now let me preface this list with the fact that there are many, many amazing vegan holiday recipes online, and I definitely do not claim that these are all of them. However, the recipes I list here I have made at least once (and many of them more than once) and I can 100% vouch for their delicious and beautiful results!
- Mini Vegan Curry Pies
- Black Rice & Phyllo Tartlets
- "Cheesey" Spinach Dip
- Roasted Cauliflower and Pumpkin Swirl Dip
- White & Green Beans

Soup & salad: 
- Holiday Salad with the most delicious orange vinaigrette I have ever tried!
Creole Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Main Dish:
- Festive Chickpea Tart: I love this recipe, and it is a very unique main dish idea.
- My very own Sausage & Spinach Quiche
- Maple Glazed Tempeh, Squash, and Brussel Sprouts: This is also a pretty different approach to a main dish, but I love the trio of Tempeh, Squash, and Brussel Sprouts.
- Hearty Vegan Pot Pie: This one is another one that the omnivores loved!
- Thanksgiving Meatless Loaf: This is perfect if you want to do the vegan version of a classic. I have made this Meatless Meatloaf many times, and often crave it even when it's not the holidays. This is definitely an ALL TIME FAVORITE! Omnivores also seem to really dig this dish.

Sides & Sauces:
Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts, and Bread Stuffing with Apples: This is a really different twist on stuffing and I LOVE it
Crockpot Vegan Stuffing: This is a perfect vegan version of the classic Thanksgiving stuffing.
- Awesome Mashed Potatoes: These have an added protein bonus!
- Maple Cornmeal Biscuits:  I am actually addicted to these....
- Delicious Brown Gravy

Sweet Endings: 
- Pumpkin Bread : I always like to make a glaze to pour over this to make it more fun for a group of people
- Fall Harvest Fruit Crumble:  This is also Gluten Free and easy to make in advance.
- My Triple Layer Pumpkin Mousse Brownies
- Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie : And trust don't miss the gluten one bit.
- Pecan Pie
- Chocolate a l'Orange Mousse Pie: This is just rich enough without being overwhelming, and it's healthy!
- Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

I hope you all have an amazing Thanksgiving holiday!
.........Now stop reading this and get to cooking ;)