Friday, September 18, 2009

Nuggets without the gross stuff

My toddler LOVES faux nuggets. I HATE the price tag for vegan nuggets. I just can't justify spending $5 for a measly 12 nuggets. Plus, have you seen the ingredient list for vegan nuggets? It's all preservative this and nitrates that and well, you get the picture. So I had to think of a quick, easy way to get the nuggets my kid so likes.

About a month or so ago I made some homemade seitan, A LOT OF IT. I ended up putting most of it in freezer bags in the freezer until I could come up with something to do with it. We try to stay away from faux meat products for the most part but sometimes it just hits the spot. As I was contemplating my nugget delima it dawned on me that I could probably use my seitan to make nuggets.

I thawed the seitan out overnight, drained it from it's water and cut it into small chunks. I dipped it in soy milk flavored with some spicy mustard and then dredged it in a breadcrumb mixture and baked it for 30 minutes on 350 degrees. Perfection! The toddler was happy to have nuggets and I was happy to use my seitan.

I intend on making a large batch of seitan nuggets and storing them in the freezer for later use. I'll be able to save a few dollars and feed my kid something that has ingredients that I can actually pronounce and that weren't grown in a lab. I call that success!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Eating out tips and tricks

I don't eat out on a regular basis because 1.) I'd rather eat at home and know what's in my food 2.) it's cheaper to not eat out and 3.) I love cooking so it doesn't bother me to make a meal or three in a day. That's not to say that I don't eat out ever. I go out with friends often enough and some of my family members eat out almost everyday of the week. Just because I stay away from animal products doesn't mean that I can't go out and enjoy time with my friends and family over a meal. Over the last year I've become more and more adept at making it work for me and my son when we do go out.

One great resource I have that I'd love to share is my iPhone's app called VeganXpress. It has TONS of restaurants listed and what vegan options there are. Also included are snacks (junk food) and beer. Not that I drink often, but now I can pick a beer or snack that's cruelty free. I'm aware that not all people have iPhone's which clearly means you MUST get one. Ha!

Another super simple resource is to just google whatever the restaurant is and something along the lines of "vegan options". Many times you'll get the research someone else has already done. Obviously you'd need to double check the accuracy of the information to make sure it's not outdated, but I've had lots of success doing google searches.

Lastly, picking up the phone and speaking to a manager or owner often is a great way to get right to the heart of the matter. I've had several managers go into the kitchen and look at packages for me which I find to be extremely excellent customer service.

Certain type of restaurants are also excellent choices for someone who's eliminated animal products. Sushi restaurants are a great place. People are often surprised when I say that but it's so easy! I order veggie sushi either with cucumber or avocado, a bowl of miso soup (I always ask if it's miso based broth, just in case), a simple seaweed salad and sometimes veggie fried rice with no egg. Not all at once, though, those are just my many options.

Many "home style" restaurants are a good place to eat also. I request steamed veggies and a bowl of fruit and maybe a side salad. Some buffet places can accommodate you as well but most of their veggies are swimming in butter so I usually stick with a salad and rice if it's vegan.

Sandwich shops and pizza places are a good places also. Subway and Quizno's make a mean veggie sandwich. Just make sure to ask if the bread contains and eggs or milk. I've had good success at some local pizza places also. Often times the thin crust contains no "offending" ingredients" so I order a thin crust, extra sauce, extra veggie, no cheese pizza. Once you take all the cholesterol-laden cheese away you're left with a tasty, healthy meal option.

Mexican places can be a great place to eat vegan. Chips, salsa and guacamole (usually) are all A OK. I always ask the server if there's lard in the beans or chicken stock in the rice and if there is then I get corn tortillas, fajita veggies, salsa and pico and go to town. I eat like a queen at Mexican places. Italian, too! Some bread are safe and many of the pastas are. Nothing is better than a tasty bread with some olive oil, vinegar and pepper. Zomg.

There are some places, AHEM T.G.I Friday's I'm talking to you!, that have nothing but a wimpy salad and an order of french fries for us vegans. In that case I eat the wimpy salad and ask for extra tomatoes and other veggie toppings, a light dressing and fries and just work out a tad harder at the gym that day. When I come across a place that could easily add a few menu items for someone like me I always ask the server to pass along my request.

Most places are willing to accommodate a request if you ask nicely and be very specific about your request. A little flirting never hurt, either.

Happy eating out, vegan style!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Recipe - Blueberry Muffins

I needed something quick that I could grab on my way out the door in the mornings that would hold me over until my mid morning snack or lunch (if work was that busy that particular day). So what better than some homemade blueberry muffins? Nothing!

Recipe: Blueberry Muffins

Servings: 12 muffins

Time (approx): 45 minutes (start to finish, including cook time)

- two mixing bowls
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- 12-muffin muffin tin (not the mini muffin tin)
- muffin/cupcake paper cups (optional)

- 2 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- egg replacer, enough for one egg
- 4 tablespoons corn oil
- 1 1/4 cups soy yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil muffin tins (or insert paper cups).

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a second bowl, combine the egg replacer, corn oil, and yogurt. Whisk in the sugar until creamed, about two minutes.

4. Add the blueberries to the dry ingredients and mix to disperse evenly.

5. Add the wet mixture and stir only until just combined.

6. Scoop 3-4 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top edges of the muffins just begin to brown.

7. Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool five minutes before removing them from the tin. The muffins keep several days stored in an airtight container.

Some side notes and suggestions from me:
- I made a half-batch because I wasn't sure if I could eat twelve muffins in a week. So six it is. And what's nice about using the egg replacer is that you can make a recipe that calls for half an egg. Woohoo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vegan kids ROCK

How excited was I to be asked to be interviewed about kids who are vegan or vegetarian. I couldn't pass up the chance!

Jackson and I have been vegan for a little more than a year and not only is he surviving, he's thriving. Some people weren't super supportive of our diet change but I think that since time has passed they are maybe a little more willing to agree that he's a healthy, happy little kid.

It only made sense that when I changed my diet that I change his. He's more likely to live a healthier life, obviously save a few animals and make an impact on the environment all by just eating things that didn't used to have, or be a mother.

I'm quite proud of this article.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A shopping technique worth sharing

I have a new grocery shopping technique that I am trying out for a few weeks. When I go to the grocery store, I always bring my reusable bags so I don't contribute to landfills, etc., with the plastic bags. And before I would shop until I think I got everything I needed with no particular meals in mind. Of course, that's without saying the obvious combinations of ingredients - spaghetti needs marinara, chips need salsa and beans, etc. So I would buy all sorts of random foods that were yummy and have plans for those items for some meal later on in the week. And there's my downfall. Later in the week, even just one day after going grocery shopping, I stand there staring into my pantry and refrigerator thinking out loud that I have nothing to make for dinner. Sadly, a lot of the fresh produce goes to waste if I don't eat it within two days. (Maybe something with the internal environment of my house? Too warm? Too much AC circulated air instead of fresh air?)

So my new approach - take only two of my reusable shopping bags with me and at least three meals written out on paper. Now, before I leave the house, I have the entire items list put together and I go through what I already have on hand and cross-through those items so I don't purchase more of them. Will I really consume two large containers of arugula within a few days? No. I acknowledge that fact, therefore I shouldn't waste money on food, or just waste the food period. Lose-lose for all. When I get to the grocery store, I get only those things on my list (unless I'm a dummy and totally forgot to add some staple, like rice milk or something). I always start in the produce section, then grains and canned goods, and lastly the frozen section. The two concepts that stick in my mind as I go through the aisles are: 1) Is on my list (or did I forget to put it on the list and I really REALLY need it)? and 2) Does everything I need fit into my two bags? If it doesn't, and it's not on my list, back to the shelf it goes. So to state my new technique simply - save money, save food.

What techniques work for you? Are you working off of a meal plan or a budget, or both even? What great finds have you found? What things didn't work for you so that we may all learn? We'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My list of pantry must haves.

I admit I hoard groceries. But I swear I rotate through them and I USE my stash. I just really like having a bunch of my MVP's on hand at all times. Let's face it we all plan a menu for the week and never stick to you. Okay, not all of us, just me. I find by having a well stocked pantry I can whip up a meal and I'm less likely to eat out too!

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I love these guys. They are super versatile. You can make chicken salad sandwiches with them (my newest passion), throw them on a salad for a little crunch, puree them to make hummus (again eat it all. the. time). I could go on and on. Instead I'll just tell you I keep no less than 8 cans in my pantry at all times!

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Bush's Black Beans. Again these are versatile. Hippie loaf, veggie burgers, taco salads. These too are a must for a well stocked pantry! Like the garbanzo beans I keep no less than 8 in my pantry!

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Minute Brown Rice. I'm mom to 3 (the husband counts as a kid 90% of the time) along with working full time outside the home. My kids are starving as soon as we walk in the door after work. I need fast! Rice can be used in a number of dishes from breaskfast to dinner which I love.

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Gnocchi (pronounced neo key). My favorite way to eat this is with sauteed squash, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and LOTS of garlic. mmmm. I buy it at my local grocery store. It's made with whole wheat flour vs. white flour the picture shows. I've tried to make it myself, TWICE, and we end up throwing it away so I just buy it.

The of course other basics such as steel cut oats, whole wheat flour, linguini noodles, spaghetti noodles, raw sugar, agave nectar, lots of fresh veggies, fresh ground peanut butter, and lastly fresh fruit.

One great tip about fresh veggies. I only buy enough to last a few days at the most (and from a local farmers market) then come home and immediately wash and cut, slice, dice, julienne them and put them in the fridge. It makes meal prep that much faster...and if I am super hungry and have cut veggies I'm more likely to grab them than the oreos!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Being a vegan is fun and exciting, I swear

I think when most people think of vegans they think we eat vegetables, fruits and that's about it. They probably assume that our diets are monotonous and bland. The thought that crosses most people minds when they hear the word 'vegan' is boring. Well, I'm here to tell you that the opposite it true.

I truly enjoy going to the grocery store and filling my cart with brightly colored, fresh, mostly organic foods. I've caught people looking into my cart on many an occasion and I often wonder what they think. If nothing else they must be admiring the bright colors and the mostly lacking presence of plastic packaging and boxes.

On a regular basis (once a month or more) I try and buy a new fruit, vegetable, grain or legume to try out. Some with success (leeks! A new staple for me) and some without much success (stupid beets). But it's always fun to find something new and make a new dish with it. Just last week I bought a few rambutan for Derick and I to try. It's this strange little fruit that looks similar to a sea urchin but obviously doesn't taste like one. Not that I've eaten sea urchin, but I imagine it doesn't taste at all sweet. Chances are I won't buy rambutan again for a long, long time (it's definitely not a local fruit) but now I know what it tastes like so if I'm ever in Thailand (someday I hope!) and see them I can buy them with confidence. There are just so many foods out there that I've discovered now that I'm so far removed from my former staple of meat as a main dish. Some of the other new foods I've tried:


Christmas Lima Beans (technically we haven't tried them, but they are waiting in my pantry)


Oat Groats

Apricot (I have no idea why I hadn't had these before. They are excellent.)

Quinoa (I'd never even heard of this before I became a vegan. It's a staple for us now!)

Horned Melon

In my former, pre-vegan life I probably would have tried the fruits but I would passed right by the other items. Oat Groats? Sounds so odd to me. It's an adventure to see what items I can make for a tasty lunch or dinner with fresh ingredients.

My pantry and fridge are a wealth of varied foods that are (mostly) healthy, nutritionally rich and yummy. I never get bored eating the foods I eat, never. Even if I had a salad every day for a week it would never be the same. I vary the greens, other toppings and make a different dressing almost every time.

We also eat "regular" things too. We still order pizza (no cheese, extra veggies and sauce), eat at Taco Bell (bean burritos, hold the cheese please!) and can chow down at lots of Italian places (pasta with tomato sauce). I've made some mean veggie fajitas at many Mexican places and I can usually find several options at most places.

If doubt that being a vegan will ever become a chore. It's my learning experience and a way to educate others as well and I find it satisfying and exciting. Knowledge is power and I have learned so much in this last year and I hope the fun continues for a long, long time.