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 me.......you 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 ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quite the Quiche: Quiche Recipe + a Perfect Pastry and Pie Tutorial

The HOLIDAY SEASON is starting up and for some reason I feel like it's never officially the holiday season without a hearty quiche to kick it all off. Hearty pies are totally a holiday thing, and a quiche is like a savory hearty pie.....so I had to make one.  I have done a lot of quiche eating in my life, so I know what I like in quiche and I know what I don't!

Inspiration: Part of my inspiration was to create a quiche simply for the sake of creating a quiche, part of it was to make a satisfying and comforting dinner in just one simple dish, and the last part was to use up my baby spinach and vegan sausage that I had left over in the fridge.

Nutrition Note: I had to use Earth Balance Vegan Shortening to make the crust; there was just no way around it. I learned in food science that the only way to create an acceptable pastry crust is through the use of a fat with a low water content such as shortening in a 3:1 (flour:shortening) ratio. HOWEVER I did make a mini, crust-less quiche casserole for myself (the bigger one was for my dad and brother) using just the filling over steamed quinoa and it came out delicous as well. So if you absolutely don't want to use shortening then make it a casserole! Any grain/carb should work as the base for the casserole, polenta or brown rice would probably taste even better than quinoa.

Recipe Note: There will be two recipes in this post, one will be for the perfect pastry dough/pie crust, and the other will be for the quiche filling. The pie crust recipe can be used any time, for any pie/quiche.

Perfect Pastry Crust: 
This formula for pastry/pie crust is agreed upon by food scientists and chefs alike to 
produce the perfect pastry dough......and it's due to the ratio of shortening to flour as well as the minimal cutting in of the shortening. It calls for a 3:1 ratio of flour:shortening and requires that the shortening be cut in, so that the mixture stays slightly uneven/clumpy. This allows for the small pockets of shortening to puff up when they are hit by the high heat of the oven, and this my friends, results in the perfect, flaky pastry crust.

The flour/shortening mixture has small, pea-sized clumps
in it, which is just right.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) earth balance shortening (do not use vegan margarine, because this has a higher water content and will not produce the ideal crust)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- 1/4 cup ice water
1) In a medium bowl mix together the flour, salt, and sugar if you choose to use it.
2) Cut the into the flour mixture either using a pastry cutter, a fork, or a quick pulse in the food processor. You want t be very careful not to over mix the shortening, the mixture should have small pea-sized lumps/crumbles and should NOT look perfectly even.
3) Add one tablespoon of the water at a time to the mixture, always mixing it in by hand with a large spoon after EACH addition. Only use enough water so that the dough comes together, you do NOT need to use the entire 1/4 of a cup if the dough has already come together.
This is the dough after the right amount of ice water
has been added.
4) Roll the dough into a sphere, wrap it in plastic, and stick it in the refrigerator for AT LEAST 30 minutes but preferably an hour before using it.
5) Once the dough is chilled, flour your work surface and roll it out until it is about 1/8-1/16 of an inch thick (should form an 11-12 inch circle).
6) Lay the dough in the pie pan and crimp/trim the edges so that they fit the pan.
7) Place the crust in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before baking.
8) If you are using this recipe for a pie, this is the point at which you would put in the pie filling and bake it. HOWEVER many recipes, including the quice recipe require a pre-baked crust.
Pre-baked crust directions:
9) Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
10) Line the inside of the crust with foil and then fill the foil with dried beans. Continue to chill the crust until the oven is ready.
11) Place the crust in the oven for 20 minutes.
12) Remove the crust from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 375.
13) Remove the beans and foil from the crust and place the pie back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. You want to just start to get a little golden in some spots when you remove it.

Sausage & Spinach Quiche Recipe:
- 1 lb firm silken tofu
This is what the sausage and spinach mixture should
look like when it's done on the stovetop.
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1-2 tbsp soy sauce (do this to taste, because this is the only source of salt in the recipe)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 finely chopped white onion
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 lb spinach
- 2 vegan sausages, chopped finely/crumbled (I used Field Roast's Apple Sausage and I highly recommend it)
1) Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a food processor blend together the tofu, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and all the spices until smooth.
All done and ready to go!
3) In a large, shallow, non-stick pan saute the onions until clear on medium-low heat (about 5 minutes). If they stick add a little water.
4) Add in the garlic and saute for another minute.
5) Add in the sausage and cook for another 5 minutes on medium heat(until the sausage is lightly browned).
6) Add in the spinach to the pan. Continue to mix and heat until the spinach is thoroughly wilted, darker green, and has drastically reduced in volume.
7) Mix the sausage/spinach mixture into the blended silken tofu mixture until everything is about evenly dispersed.
8) Pour this into the pre-baked pie crust but make sure you do not overflow the crust.
9) Bake in the oven at 375 for 40-45 minutes, or until the middle of the quiche is golden and slightly bubbling.
10) Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mean Greens!

Who wants to see a movie.....?: I recently watched the movie "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" and I highly recommend watching it, it was amazing. It's a great movie on many levels; it's inspiring to watch the personal transformations that the people in the documentary experience, it's eye-opening to see what so many people think they know (or don't know) about nutrition, but most of all it really drives the point home that nutrition and one's state of health are oh-so intimately related to one another. In the movie Joe, who is the man who created the documentary sets out to get healthy, lose weight, and find more balance in life by drastically changing his dietary habits while on a road trip across America. I won't give away too much, but he definitely achieves his goals and far, far more.

Movie Motivation: In the movie one of the fresh pressed juices that Joe and some of the other people in the film consume is called "Mean Green" and it looks absolutely delicious. I am not sure exactly what goes into their Mean Green drinks, but I was inspired to come up with a delicious, balanced Mean Green Juice of my own.

Nutrition Note: I have always been skeptical about juicing, since you lose so much of the fiber and other nutrients of the fruits and veggies that you are juicing, BUT at the same time their is the benefit of being able to consume nutrients (such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, enzymes, and fruit sugars) from far more fruits and veggies than you could ever hope to eat in one sitting (unless you're looking to have a 10 lb food baby). I think that juices are great as a supplement, side, or snack but should not be used as meal replacements too often. As long as you are eating whole fruits and veggies every day, I think supplementing your diet with a great green juice is a wonderful & delicious idea.

Mina's Mean Green Juice Recipe:

Recipe Note: 
1) Unfortunately, you absolutely need a juicer in order to make this juice. You could always turn the juice into a smoothie by adding a little non-dairy milk and a banana; this would be a delicious smoothie, I just don't have a good enough blender to make it work. A vitamix is absolutely my DREAM machine, so if you are fortunate enough to have a vitamix or blendtec blender, then smoothie yourself into oblivion!
2) Refrigerate your fruits and veggies in advance if you want a cold juice!

- 6 large stems kale
- 1 medium persian cucumber (what can I say..... nothing beats the persian version)
- 2 stalks celery
- 1/2 - 1 green apple, cut into quarters (I personally prefer 1/2 a green apple because I have made it both ways, and using the whole green apple makes the juice too sweet for my liking, but I am sure that some people would prefer a sweeter juice)
- 1/4 inch slice of ginger

1. Turn on your juicer and let it warm up.
2. Start with the kale, following it with one of the more substantial veggies like the celery.
3. Add in the ginger, followed by the cucumber, and lastly the apples.
4. Make sure you have pressed your fruits & veggies all the way through the juicer.
5. Turn off the juicer.
6. Once your juicer is completely off, disassemble it and wash it immediately. I suggest washing the blade, filter, and all other parts of the juicer that get messy immediately so that you don't give the plant matter the chance to sit and get stuck in the filter and blade.
7. Giver your juice a little stir to make sure the apple juice gets evenly distributed, and drink up!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Super Glam-Glam Vegan Dinner: Polenta with Mushroom Ragout, Spinach, and Gigante Bean Puree

Today's recipe is for this Super Glam-Glam dish:

But first, Breaking News:
I was recently diagnosed as a "Bravo Addict"..............by myself. Okay, so this may not be an actual mental illness according to DSM IV TR (the official diagnostic text for psychologists and psychiatrists) but it is a serious problem for me; I literally get sucked into every show that Bravo does. With the exception of Tabatha's Salon Makeover which is an anomaly that I absolutely can't stand to watch, I am addicted to EVERY Bravo original series! One of my faves is Million Dollar Decorators, and in the previews for the season 2 premier one of the male interior designers with a fabulous accent refers to a design as "Super Glam-Glam!" Ever since hearing it I just cannot get this phrase out of my head, and I have been using it whenever I can! Lame or too cool for school.......... you decide. 

How this is relevant to today's post:  I made a relatively fancy looking dinner the other night, and ofcourse my go to description of it was "super glam-glam," although when I really think about it it's more comforting and hearty than super glam-glam would imply, but let's not pretend like my post titles are ever that accurate......

The Inspiration: This is one is pretty simple; my brother loves polenta and I wanted to make a vegan polenta dish that he would like and that was hearty, flavorful, and nutritious.

This is just here to tease you.......I kid. But seriously,
it looks fancy (and delicious) from every angle......
it's sure to please omnis and vegans alike!
The Dish: This dish has polenta, mushroom, caramelized onions, garlic spinach, and gigante bean puree (although white beans would be fine as well). The polenta (which is just cornmeal) and gigante beans make a complete protein, and the mushrooms and spinach are also some pretty good protein sources. In addition I just personally love the combination of mushrooms with polenta, it's a classic pairing; and mushrooms are often prepared with caramelized onions in the mix. The spinach was to add a some leafy greens to the dish, as well as to lighten it up a bit. 

When to serve this dish: I mean you can make this dish any time of the year for any occasion; it's nutritious, hearty, filling, and delicious but it is especially great if you are having a mixture of vegans and omnis over for a fancier dinner. The non-vegans will still have a hearty and satisfying meal due to the meaty mushrooms, hearty polenta, and great flavors in the dish............and the vegans will just be happy that it's vegan and delicious. :)

The Recipe: Vegan Polenta with Mushroom Ragout, Spinach, and Gigante Bean Puree
A Note about the Recipe: The Recipe has four components, there are ingredients and directions for each component and then plating directions at the end. Although honestly you can plate this in whatever way you like (or you can be like me and skip the whole plating process and just eat a spoonful straight out of the pot)
Time: 1.5 hours including prep and clean-up, HOWEVER you can prepare the white bean puree and the polenta up to a day in advance which makes for a cleaner kitchen and shorter cooking time. 

Polenta Ingredients:
- 1 cup cornmeal/polenta
- 4 cups veggie broth
- ½ cup plain hemp milk (unsweetened)
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ tsp salt and pepper or to taste
Polenta Directions:
1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pan add the liquid ingredients (broth and milk)
2. While stirring the liquid slowly add in the polenta
The onions should be AT LEAST this brown
if not more brown when you add the
3. Add in the garlic powder and continue to stir and heat until the mixture thickens (stirring is important because it keeps the polenta from clumping)
4. Leave on medium-low heat for 15 minutes
5. Add in the nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper to taste while stirring for another minute or two.
6. Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve

Mushroom Ragout Ingredients:
- 1 whole medium yellow onion
- 8 oz of crimini mushrooms
- ½ tsp salt
This is what my onion-mushroom mixture
looked like when it was done.
Mushroom Ragout Directions:
1. Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside
2. Cut onion in half, and then thinly slice each half so that you have small, crescent shaped pieces of onions
3. Add the onions to a large, heavy bottomed non-stick pan/pot on medium to medium-low heat
4. Stir the onions and add water as needed to keep the onions from sticking
5. Stir the onions every two minutes and keep them on low heat
6. Continue for at least 30 minutes or 45 until the onions are almost completely caramelized
7. Add in the mushrooms and cooke for another 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms are well cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated
8. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Gigante (or white) bean puree:
- 1 cup freshly cooked gigante beans (white beans would work fine as well)
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 – ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup soymilk (or any other non-dairy, unsweetened milk)
1. Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth
2. Add more soymilk if you would like a thinner, more sauce-like puree. 

Garlic spinach Ingredients:
- 1 bunch spinach (or one container baby spinach)
- 2 large cloves of finely minced garlic
- ¼ tsp salt or to taste
Garlic Spinach Directions:
1. Sauté garlic cloves for 30 seconds on high heat
2. Add in spinach and sauté with broccoli until the spinach is thoroughly wilted and a darker green
3. Mix in salt and then remove from heat. 

1. Make sure all components are warmed to whatever temperature you prefer.
2. Using a large spoon lay down enough polenta on the dish to cover the bottom.
3. On top of the Polenta add a scoop of the mushroom ragout.
4. Add the garlicky spinach to the top of the mushroom ragout.
5. Finish with a dollop (or two...) or the white bean puree on top of the spinach or over any part of the polenta.
6. DIG IN!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Not so saucey, Sausage....

A preview of the deliciousness that is about to enter your life:
See.....no sauce.....get it?

But first!....An important life update! Okay fine, just an update.......
Me, reading my watch, shocked at how late it is! Yes I know,
I always give an Oscar worthy performance.......
I made a purchase I've been thinking about for a long time yesterday and I am so ridiculously excited that it's embarrassing. My friend and I went shopping with the sole purpose of finding cute glasses (not sunglasses, regular glasses) because they make us look smarter and I just love the whole nerd-chic factor they bring to an outfit. It has been a secret dream of mine to need glasses every since I can remember, but alas I am blessed (or cursed I should say....) with good enough vision that I don't need glasses. Anyways, neither of us ended up actually buying glasses but we did both buy other things that we hadn't intended to purchase..........for me it was a gold Michael Kors watch. I bought the gold "Runway" watch; it's the watch that Michael Kors put on all of his models for his first few fashion shows, hence the name. I love it and it's a pretty classic style so I'm definitely happy about my purchase; I've been wanting it for awhile and finally mustered up strength to purchase it (with the support of my friend, Sara of course).

And now to address my title and get down to the nitty gritty....
So you're wondering about yet another wierd title of mine.... well this one actually makes sense.....kind of. I have a delicious, quick, and easy penne recipe with vegan sausage, but it's very light and doesn't have a heavy sauce which is why it's "Not so Saucey." Although it may not have a heavy sauce, it's still got some heavy flava if ya know what I mean.
The Inspiration: So I'm gonna get real with you all; marthastewart.com is my homepage....always has been and always will be. Recently there was a slideshow of pasta recipes, and ofcourse I had to look through it; one recipe that caught my eye was the Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage Penne. I wanted to Veganize this and add a little bit more flavor......so that's what I did. I didn't see the recipe, just the picture, so there could be a lot more elements to her recipe than there are to mine, but I think mine turned out great so it's fine.
My Twist: I decided to use Field Roast's Italian Sausage because it's vegan and taste delicious......and it was on sale at whole foods while Tofurkey brand was not. I decided to use broccolini instead of broccoli rabe because I like broccolini better, and it's more substantial. I did not use whole wheat penne or brow rice penne; I would do this if I were cooking for myself but my brother doesnt go near that stuff (even though I actually think it tastes better than refined flour pastas) so regular penne it was!

This is how the garlic and tomatoes should
be chopped.

Light and Easy Broccolini & Sausage Penne Recipe

- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 bunches broccolini
- 3 large cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 6 sun dried tomatoes (chopped as finely as possible)
- 4 vegan Italian Sausages (I used Field roast brand but I’m sure any brand would do)

- pinch of salt and pinch of pepper
This is the color and rigidity of the
broccolini AFTER being steamed.

1. Steam the broccolini for 2-3 minutes, they should be bright green and not limp.
2. Immediately remove the broccolini from the steam basket an spread out in a bowl in the freezer to stop the cooking.
3. Bring a large pot full of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for about 12 minutes (or until it is cooked to your desired doneness, I like mine slightly al dente)
4. Drain the pasta and reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Place the pasta in the dish you plan to serve it in.
5. Slice the sausage into ½ inch thick slices.
6. Add the sausage to a hot, non-stick pan with a little bit of water or oil to prevent them from sticking. The stovetop should be on medium heat.
7. Brown the sausage lightly on each side.
8. Once all of the sausage is lightly browned, add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and reserved pasta liquid to the pan. Cook for about 1 minute or until you can smell the aroma of the garlic and tomatoes.
9. Add the broccolini into the pan and stir it around until it is well mixed with the sausage, garlic, and tomatoes.
10. Once there is about ¼ cup or less of liquid left, add salt and pepper.
11. Remove from heat and immediately pour over over the pasta.
12. Mix the pasta and the sausage-broccolini mixture until everything is evenly dispersed.

13. Ready to serve! You could (and should) add a sprinkle of vegan parmesan if you like (I definitely did)…..or you can always pull a de-veganizing move like my dad and brother and just add regular parmesan. I know I make fun of their non-veg ways, but it’s actually really awesome how they’re totally down with all my vegan meals every night (with the occasional sprinkle of parmesan ofcourse).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ready for the Random!

So what exactly IS random?
This is just one of those posts where I don't have any one big thing to write about, but lots of little random things. I like these random, mix n' match type of posts, and hope to do more in the future. Some things you  can expect to find in these random posts are:
- random facts that are interesting and useful
- product reviews
- things I have purchased or found
- random eats and creations that do not merit their own posts
- small life updates
- my opinion on random things (never to be taken seriously ofcourse)
- random events or experiences that do not merit their own post
- miscellaneous (this is my favorite category, and also one of my favorite words)

Baby Baby:

The story: As all of my friends and family know, I love BABY everything. I love baby animals, I also love the full grown versions ofcourse, but the babies are just obscenely cute. I love baby nail polish, because they are so much cheaper than the full-sized version, and I never ever use up the whole container of nailpolish. I love baby water bottles which are basically the mini version of the large aluminum water bottles but with way more adorable designs like hello kitty and cute whales since they are targeted at children (and me). In a nutshell, name a baby version of something, and I probably love it more than the full grown version. Case in point is baby foods; I love baby corns, baby broccoli, baby carrots (yes, yes, I know these are not actually younger carrots), and now.......apparently baby pineapples?! That's right, I never knew there was such a thing but at the farmer's market I found an organic baby pineapple.....in fall nonetheless! They just just like the full grown version except they are much smaller; who would thought!

Good Eats:
While we're talking about food, I thought I should mention one of my favorite Foodnetwork personalities. Ofcourse I love Ina Garten and Giada DeLaurentis, but my absolute favorite by far is and has always been Alton Brown. I just love his quirky personality, his unique sense of humor, and his "tell it like it is" attitude. I also love the style of his show "Good Eats," I love that he brings together science and cooking, and always has such interesting demos for the scientific concepts being used in his recipes. I was super bummed when he stopped making new episodes of "Good Eats," but he is still one of the mentors on "The Next Foodnetwork Star" and the host of "Iron Chef America" so at least I can get my daily dose of Alton. Recently I saw him on the cover of a magazine and that just made my day. Alton is such a unique personality and foodnetwork star, and I loved seeing more sides of him since he was a mentor on this past season of "The Next Foodnetwork Star." I honestly think that he is one of the few celebrities that I would be super-excited to meet and talk to; I generally find celebrity sitings not that exciting with the exception of a select few celebrities who I have a particular admiration for (Alton Brown being own of them ofcourse). Needless to say I purchased this issue and read it cover to cover.........maybe one day I'll actually get to meet him in person but for now this will have to do :)

Corny Product Review:
Background info:
One extremely guilty pleasure of mine is my addiction to corn foods; by this I mean things like tamales, cornbread, polenta, grits, corn ice-cream, and corn chips. It's a guilt pleasure because I don't like the whole food (corn off the cob) nearly as much as I do these corn products. I do love corn on the cob ofcourse, but my love for cornbread, tamales, and other corn goodies far surpasses my love for corn on the cob. I have probably tried every vegan tamale out there on the market, and I have also made my own. I have definitely tried every vegan cornbread in Los Angeles and the San Francisco bay area in my search for the best cornbread (still have not found one that I deem worthy of my endorsement........I'm telling you my cornbread standards are high). I recently stumbled upon "Raw Corn Chips" at Santa Monica's Co-Opportunity Market; they are made by Leaf Organics which is a restaurant in Los Angeles. The chips are on the pricy side since they are raw, vegan, and made fresh but they are a delicious treat; to be far you do get a good amount in each bag.
The Review: The chips are are large and the perfect thickness; they are on the thicker side of what a tortilla chip would be which is how I like it. They are just the right amount of crunchy without crumbling or being too dry. They are also flavored very well; they have a hint of spicy, peppery kick in every bite and they also have a fresh kick of cilantro to them. These chips are SO good that I ate most of them plain; I dipped a couple in salsa and I just decided I like them plain because I preferred to just enjoy the flavor of the chips (read THE CORN). If you are looking to try a new, fun snack these are a great choice although they definitely are not practical as an everyday snack due to the price (I think around $8).

Pant Purchase:
The Background: So I saw pants with a native American embroidered pattern awhile ago at a small boutique San Francisco. The pants must have been vintage or one of a kind though, because there was literally only one pair, and when I asked the store owner, she said that they had only ever had that one pair for sale. The pants were not my size and way out of my price range (something like $625). Every since I saw the pants in this small, ethnic boutique (I wish I could remember the name.....but alas I have the memory of a goldfish) I couldn't get them out of my head. I have been wanting a pair like them every since (this was about 10 months ago) and have frequently wished I just charged my credit card for them and had them tailored down to my size because I realized that they were so one of a kind.
The Purchase: And then, all of a sudden, I saw this pair of pants at Urban Outfitters and I died! They are so strikingly similar to the pants of my dreams that I was sure someone on the UO design team must have gone to that same shop, seen those same pants, and copied them. Obviously, at the comparatively reasonable price of $60 I purchased these pants immediately and have been wearing them frequently.

Sandy, Sandy
I am sure everyone has gotten their fill of hurricane sandy news and information, but I just wanted to quickly say that there is no effort that is too small to count. I personally have donated to the Red Cross, but that is definitely NOT the only way to help. If you live in the area, volunteering in person is obviously an amazing way to help, but for those of us who live too far away to help in person ABC news have an amazing list of ways you can help/donate to the victims of hurricane sandy and the hurricane sandy victims. Here is the link to the list of ways to help!

Welllll, that rounds out my first officially random post, I hope it was enjoyable (or at least bearable) and I can't wait for the many more random posts to come. As always, let me know in the comments section what you think of any of the things I talked about, or if you have any questions about any of my random topics :)