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Friday, August 31, 2012

Breaking the Fast

Friday morning and I am getting ready for work. But what to have for breakfast? I know it is going to be a busy day (I am a manager at a pet hotel, so we're gearing up for Labor Day weekend), which means I won't really get a chance for a break until no snack time! So I knew I should make something filling that will keep me full until the early afternoon. I cooked up some oatmeal and, by putting in some fun additions, made it more delicious and filling. I thought I would share...

Breakfast Oatmeal
1 cup Quaker Oats (I prefer Steel Cut, but they can be expensive and I splurge only occasionally)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried berries (I buy Berry Medley from Trader Joes, a mix of golden raisins, blueberries and cranberries)
1 tbsp maple sugar
1/2 cup (or more) almond milk

Cook up the oatmeal (I microwave mine...really fast and easy). Top with all toppings, stir, and enjoy!

Bottom Line: This is a quick (less than 5 minutes) breakfast that will keep you going and full until lunchtime. And you can customize as you like! I also really like to slice a small apple in my oatmeal before cooking, then add cinnamon once its done!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mexican Tofu Burritos

I didn't have meal plans for this evening and just decided to wing it on a Mexican-inspired meal. I was presently surprised with the results! I made small burritos (more like rolled soft tacos) using Mexican-seasoned tofu and served them with black beans. The fixin's were easily found in my house and the meal took about 20 minutes.

Mexican Tofu Burritos (makes 6 small burritos)
1 container firm tofu
6 tortillas (whatever kind you prefer...I used what we had at home, but whole wheat or similar would've been healthier)
1 cup Daiya shredded cheese (pick your favorite flavor)
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup diced white onions
~ 2 tbsp. Mexican seasonings (I threw together a blend of cumin, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and chili powder; making it yourself allows you to customize, making it smoky-tasting or spicier, etc.)
3 tbsp. cooking oil

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Chop tofu to desired size and place in skillet. Saute for a few minutes, then add seasonings and tomato sauce. Continue to stir and cook until tofu is heated through. (You can cook less for softer tofu, longer for crispier).

Heat tortillas in a dry skillet until warm and soft. Add cheese to melt, then remove tortilla from heat.

Assemble burritos/tacos as desired; I topped mine with chopped green onions and a squeeze of lime juice. My fiance is a salsa guy so he threw some salsa on his. I served these with black beans that had a garnish of green onions; you could also fit the beans inside if you had larger tortillas.

Bottom Line: A quick and easy midweek meal, easily customized using the ingredients in your kitchen. You could even sub tofu for veggie crumbles if you had those on hand. Mmm!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sicilian Collard Greens

For lunch I needed a side dish for my leftover lasagna, so I decided to make Sicilian Collard Greens, one of my favorite recipes from The Kind Diet. I've made this dish countless takes less than 10 minutes, produces consistently great results, and fits as a yummy side dish with lots of meals.
Alicia lists two versions of the dish, one that is simply vegan and one that is "Superhero," meaning extra whole, clean and macrobiotic - no white sugar, white flour, or processed products. The version I am using here is the Superhero version (shoyu replaces balsamic vinegar, and pumpkin seeds replace pine nuts).

Sicilian Collard Greens
1 bunch collard greens (I buy a bag of "Southern Greens" from Trader Joes - no cutting of ribs/stems needed, and plenty to make this dish a few times)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons raisins (I love Trader Joe's Organic Thompson Seedless)
2 tablespoons shoyu

Toast the pumpkin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes or until golden. Shake the pan often to keep the seeds from burning. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Place the garlic and oil in a large skillet and saute over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the damp collards and stir, then cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add the raisins and pumpkin seeds and stir. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the shoyu, cover, and continue to cook 1-2 minutes longer.


Summer Smoothie

Good morning! It's a beautiful day to post about my breakfast...a yummy, cooling smoothie packed with goodness for your body!
Smoothies are can basically pack in any of the fruits (or even veggies - spinach, carrots, etc.) that you have at home, blend it up, and it comes out delicious! It's a great way to use over-ripened fruit as well, especially bananas as they add lots of extra sweetness. This morning's smoothie was pretty typical of what I usually will make, either for breakfast or a mid-day snack if I am at home. I also like to take them in my plastic tumbler for on-the-go breakfast or snack at work.

Berry-Banana Smoothie
2 cups fresh or frozen berries (mine were a trio of frozen raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries that I buy in bulk from Costco)
1 banana
1 red pear (random, but it was slightly overripe and ready to use!)
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk (you can pick your favorite kind of milk here - soy, almond, coconut, hemp, etc...actually coconut would be amazing in a tropical smoothie! Will have to try some time =))

Place all ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth! If you blender keeps getting stuck (as it may if you have lots of frozen ingredients), try stirring the mixture a bit to let trapped air out, and also add a bit more milk.

Pour into a glass and enjoy!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Of My Favorites

Happy Sunday, everyone! I love Sundays because...well, they are like everyone else's Saturdays as I typically have Sunday and Monday off. But also, I love Sundays because my fiance and I are free all day to spend the day together.
On a typical Sunday we will do something outdoorsy in the morning. Today we went for a dive at the Marine Room in La Jolla, which was enjoyable and relaxing. Then, after a quick Costco run (I'm overly excited about our new label maker!), we headed home for nap time followed by meal time. The extra time that I have on Sundays allows me to make something extra special for us. Tonight I made one of my favorite (so far!) vegan recipes, Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna.
This recipe is great for a lot of reasons: it is extremely easy; it is packed with protein and highly satisfying; it can soothe any Italian-food craving; it doesn't even use noodles** - unique AND gluten-free; and, for ex-ricotta lovers like me, it doesn't make you miss the real thing! It takes a bit of time only because of cooking time for the quinoa and baking time for the lasagna, but it is a low-maintenance deal! It can also be easily customized - I added a bunch of broccoli, cut into small florets, into mine because I love veggie lasagna; you could also try meatless ground if you wanted, although it isn't necessary for upping the protein.

**I did use noodles this time around, per fiance's request =) But I LOVE the recipe even more with zucchini, as called for!

Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into twelve 1/4-inch thick slices
1 tsp. salt
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped (I leave this out because I don't prefer parsley, but to each his own!)
2 tbs. non-dairy cream cheese, optional (I leave this out as well)
1 25-oz. jar marinara sauce (this is what the recipe calls for, but I ALWAYS end up needing at least another 1/2 jar! I would recommend having two jars on hand just in case)
1/2 cup shredded nondairy cheese, such as Daiya Mozzarella, optional (I also need nearly a full bag of this, since I love gooey, "cheesy" lasagna)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place zucchini slices on a bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, cover with paper towels, and let stand to release moisture while preparing quinoa.

Bring broth, quinoa, tomato sauce, onion, and oregano to a boil in saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 25 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in basil, parsley, and cream cheese, if using.

Quinoa mixture about to boil, already smelling fantastic!

Spoon 1/3 cup marinara sauce over bottom of 8-inch square baking dish. Blot remaining moisture and salt from zucchini slices, and lay 4 slices over marinara sauce in pan. Spoon half of quinoa over zucchini, and cover with 1/3 cup marinara. Repeat with 4 more zucchini slices, remaining quino, and 1/3 cup marinara. Top with remaining 4 zucchini slices, remaining marinara, and shredded cheese, if using.

Baking time

Bake lasagna 30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender and top is bubbly.

Finished product.

Bottom Line: A healthy, protein-packed meal sure to please even the pickiest of palates!

Recipe found in July/August 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine; originally created by and posted on

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lazy Thursday

We all have them...lazy days where you come home from work already tired, and the prospect of spending an hour+ cooking a meal just sounds too daunting. These, my friends, are take-out nights!
Tonight Doug and I are having a lazy night and decided to order some Thai delivery. Thai is one of my favorite cuisines for both going out to eat and getting take-out because there are just so many vegetarian and vegan friendly options.
Our go-to place here in North Park is Street Side Thai has super convenient online ordering and some favorite dishes we like to order. I LOVE Thai noodle dishes and usually order Pad See Eau or Drunken Noodles...tonight I went with the latter.
I order my noodles without the customary egg and typically get tofu or vegetables (rather than chicken or another meat); I like spicy food, but also like to enjoy the actual process of eating, so I order mild =)
So no cooking or recipes tonight, just lots of effortless noodle yumminess!
Have a beautiful lazy Thursday night!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to Basics

Okay...I'll admit it. With a cringe I will say that tonight I literally had NO pots or pan to cook with, as we have seriously lagged on taking care of dishes these past few days. I know, ew! So we decided to go with a quick and easy staple meal, no recipes needed, that we have relied upon since becoming vegetarians years ago. A quick scrub of a few pots and we were set to go!

Whole Wheat Rotini with Marinara Sauce
1/2 bag whole wheat rotini
1/2 jar organic marinara sauce (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 white onion
1 tsp crushed garlic

Add rotini to boiling water and cook as directed. In a separate sauce pan, simmer marinara sauce and add in onion and garlic (I like to do this for added texture and flavor...the more veggies you add the better, in my opinion!). When pasta is done, pour sauce over pasta. You know the drill!

Roasted Broccoli
I find that roasting broccoli rather than steaming it gives it much more flavor and, depending on how long you cook it for, an interesting slight crunch. You can adjust the seasonings however you like...I like to use a little garlic powder, some fresh garlic, and some garlic salt. Yes...I adore garlic =)

All you have to do is: preheat oven to 400 degrees; grab a roasting pan and drizzle ~2 tbsp. olive oil over a few cups of broccoli so it is fairly well covered (I prefer to err on the side of more than less oil, but that's just me); roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like the florets to be! The end! So easy =)

Garlic Bread
Sense a bit of a theme here?!! Anyway, the garlic bread was just a way for us to use some extra whole wheat hot dog buns we had, but it is always a delicious addition to a meal. Just spread some Earth Balance butter on it, top with some crushed garlic and some garlic salt, and broil for a few minutes. I like to use real garlic as it imparts a sweeter, more heady flavor to the bread.

Okay, so at this point I feel a little silly for even having typed all of this out as it is quite basic. But just to prove how easy it is to go from empty-pantry, guess we'll get takeout night to healthy Italian meal I will publish =)

Just like mom used to make!

Bottom Line: A quick, easy, ultra-familiar meal you can make with things probably already in your cupboards. It is, however, lacking a bit in protein. I usually like to add vegetarian crumbles (my favorite is by Gardein) or veggie meatballs to my sauce to solve this problem. I didn't have any around tonight though so went without.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Can Make WHAT Vegan?!!

Yes, I was beyond thrilled to find a recommended recipe for Vegan Macaroni and Cheese...especially one that wasn't at all difficult! The recipe I followed is for classic, baked macaroni and cheese and only takes about 40 minutes total (including baking time).

My local grocery store doesn't carry Cheddar Daiya cheese so I used Mozzarella, which may be atypical for mac 'n jack but it still came out delicious! The only adjustment I'd make in the future aside from trying out cheddar would be a tad more pepper. This is also a fun recipe to play around with, adding different spices or veggies or even veggie dogs to the mix. I'm excited to make it for my vegan-fearing family! =)

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
8 ounces elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups Daiya shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Heat a large pot of boiling water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, and whisk constantly until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add almond milk, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes - mine hardly thickened at all). Stir in salt, pepper, 1 cup cheese, and cooked pasta.

Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 8x8 baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

All ready to go into the oven
Served with steamed baby broccoli

Bottom Line: If you are craving some childhood-favorite comfort food, this is an AMAZING and highly recommended recipe. You WILL be satisfied =)

Recipe taken from This Can't Be Vegan.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Asian Inspiration

There are very few Asian dishes or recipes that I am unwilling to try. As long as I can remember, my parents had always taken my brother and I out for Chinese at least once a week and it was nearly always my favorite meal of the week. I just love the salty-sweet flavors and knowing that the exploration is endless when it comes to Asian cuisine.

For tonight's meal I was feeling something Asian-inspired. For the main dish I chose "Ginger-Baked Tofu" from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. I didn't, however, have a chance to pick up any ginger; it became more of a garlic-based flavor as a result, but was still quite tasty. As a side dish, I opted to make her "Baby Bok Choy Drizzled with Ume Vinaigrette" but again found myself lacking a title ingredient: Bok Choy. Instead I followed the recipe using leeks instead and at the end added 2 cups of unsalted, cooked edamame to make it more interesting. I was pleased with how tasty and filling (it's packed with protein) the end-result was, as was my ever-wary fiancee!

(The recipes below are as I made them, omitting the ingredients I didn't use but otherwise exactly detailing the originals).

Baked Tofu
1 pound firm tofu
1/3 cup shoyu
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup (optional)

Finely chopped scallions for garnish (optional)

Cut the tofu in half width-wise, and place each half on its side then slice in half again. You will be left with 4 tofu "steaks."

Pour 3/4 cup water into a bowl. Whisk in the shoyu, oil, garlic, vinegars, and rice syrup and pour over the tofu, covering it. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the tofu on a baking sheet and baste with the marinade. Reserve the remaining marinade.

Bake the tofu for 15-20 minutes. Turn the tofu pieces with a spatula, baste again with the marinade, and bake for 10-15 minutes longer. Garnish with scallions, if desired, and serve warm.

Leeks and Edamame Drizzled with Ume Vinaigrette
6-7 leeks, chopped into large pieces
2 cups cooked, unshelled edamame
1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Bring water to a boil in a pot. Add the leeks and steam for about 5 minutes or until they are just tender. Add the edamame just to warm. Transfer to plates.

Mix the vinegar and oil together in a small bowl, and drizzle over the steamed vegetables (you may not need it all).

Finished product!

Bottom Line: These are simple recipes that yield a protein-packed, clean and healthy meal. You only need small serving sizes to stay full!

Visit Alicia's website The Kind Life for more on The Kind Diet as well as kind-living tips and more recipes!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Blog

While making dinner this evening I made a rather spur of the moment decision to start a blog. During my sophomore year of college my boyfriend and I decided to become vegetarians (not strict, but lacto-ovo). Our decisions were almost entirely based on animal welfare reasons, as we felt a moral obligation after becoming more informed of the realities of farmed meat.

For the last four years we have remained meat-free. In this lifestyle I have been content, but have also always sensed that I would someday want more commitment; essentially I knew that someday I would go fully vegan. This feeling became a reality about four months ago, after I read Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet which had been given to me as a gift. After reading her book, I felt I had an obligation to myself and my health, as well as to the animals and our planet, to go vegan.

Since then I have had slips, but ultimately I know that this is the lifestyle for me. With no change to my exercise regimen, I have lost nearly 17 lbs. without counting calories; I feel great, have more energy, and just generally feel that my body is operating better and more efficiently. Simply by eliminating dairy and eggs and by focusing on putting only whole, healthy foods into my body, I have become a heightened version of myself.

Along the way I have discovered some amazing new foods that I may never have learned of otherwise, and I have come to rediscover the joy of cooking and experimenting with new recipes. Thus I have decided to chronicle some of these recipes as I make them; I will include the recipes and their sources, as well as pictures and an opinion of the final result. I hope that in this way I can continue to grow my library of vegan knowledge and perhaps share some great recipes with other inquiring minds. I am intent on spreading the word on how amazing veganism can make you feel and be!!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!