Archive for the ‘Keeping It Vegan-ish’ Category

Kickstart Your Vegan Diet

If you need help getting started with a vegan diet, here’s great news.  Some of the most well-informed, well-respected vegans in the country are pulling together their resources to bring you recipes, research, meal plans, and cooking tips.  It starts September 3 with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.

I did the kickstart in April, and it was just what I needed.  It’s free and informative.  I tried new recipes and got to see what a healthy, plant-based, whole food diet looks like breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Check it out if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get healthier or drop a few pounds.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Why didn’t I know this sooner?

There is such a thing as rich, vegan ice cream that isn’t as expensive as shoes?  Check out this recipe from vegnews.com:

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

By Hannah Kaminsky | August 6, 2012

Conjure the rich sweetness of hot cocoa in a frostier form with this tempting ice cream treat.

Calling any sort of ice cream “hot” is a bit of a misnomer, but forget the temperature connotations and consider the decadent, wintery drink on its own. Rich, bitter chocolate coats the tongue while fluffy, gooey marshmallows add lightness and balance the whole concoction brilliantly.

Makes 1 quart

What You Need:
2-1/2 cups chocolate non-dairy milk
1 ounce unsweetened baker’s chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 teaspoon maca powder (if unavailable, substitute malt powder or barley malt syrup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped vegan marshmallows

What You Do:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm chocolate milk. Add chocolate, whisking occasionally until completely melted and smooth. Meanwhile, in a separate dish, combine sugar, cocoa, arrowroot, maca, and salt, and stir well to evenly distribute.

2. Slowly sift dry ingredients into milk, whisking vigorously to break up any clumps that may form. Continue to cook gently, stirring every few minutes, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened in consistency. Remove from heat, then add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature before moving the base into the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

3. Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the chopped marshmallows in the last 5 minutes. Transfer ice cream into an air-tight container. Place in freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.

Photo: Hannah Kaminsky

What to do with produce before it goes bad

There are few things I hate more than buying a bunch of fruits and vegetables  and finding them pushed into the back of the refrigerator 2 weeks later rotting and turning to mush.  Many of my most well-intentioned eating plans have ended just that way.  Here are a few tips for keeping up with your produce.

1.  Know what’s in season and plan meals accordingly.

You’re going to go to the grocery store in summer and see tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers dirt cheap in the summer.  Make sure you plan your meals to include lots of these ingredients.  This is the time to have homemade salsa, cold pasta salads, black bean salad (see yesterday’s post), and other such creations.  Likewise, you’re going to see winter squash, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables later in the summer.  If you match your meals to the seasons, you will lessen the risk that what looks good in the grocery store has no use at home.  As an added bonus, changing your meals with the seasons builds variety into your diet.

2.  Hang a list on your refrigerator of the produce you bought and what you plan to do with it.

A magnetic pad with a couple suggestions might keep you from forgetting that there’s a quart of strawberries in the bottom drawer.  As an added bonus, the kids might remember to eat some too.

The green sheet is my plan for the fridge. Now I’ll be reminded of what produce I need to eat.

3.  Have a few go-to recipes that use up lots of ingredients.

The other night, we made pasta and sauteed vegetables for the simple reason that we needed to use up lots of produce.  I had peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and broccoli that were all looking a little rough.  We sliced off the ugly parts, ran the remainder through the slicing blade on the food processor, and ended up with a butt-load of vegetables for sauteeing.  The keys to making it good are don’t overcook them and be generous with the seasoning.  I seasoned ours with garlic powder, salt, pepper, an Italian blend, and a few drops of hot sauce.  Also, I sauteed in red wine instead of oil.  It made for a good Sunday lunch and a couple of good lunches at work too. When I ran out of pasta, I spooned the reheated mixture into pita bread.

For fruit, try a smoothie.  The key to a good smoothie is a banana–it makes it creamy.  Whenever a banana starts to turn brown in my house, we peel it and put in a plastic bag in the fridge.  For your smoothie, add whatever fruit you have on hand.  The other night we used a half bag of frozen mixed berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, a half an orange my son didn’t want to finish, and enough soy milk (or fruit juice) to cover it in the blender.  I froze the leftovers and ate them for breakfast.  It was like having ice cream for breakfast.  All our fruit goes into the freezer when it starts to get mushy or overripe.  It makes a great smoothie that way.

Off to the Farmers Market!

Easy Black Bean Salad

This salad is so delicious.  We ate it as a side dish one night, for lunch the next day, and as a snack with crackers on day three.  It’s super good for you, totally vegan, and comes together in about 10 minutes.  Great for hot summer days.

This is what you need. I got this out of the Forks Over Knives book you see in the background.

Black Bean Salad

2 cans of black beans, rinsed well (if you don’t rinse them well, they’ll turn the salad grey)

1 large tomato, diced

1 bag of frozen corn

1/2 red onion, diced

the juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Mix all the ingredients and serve!  It doesn’t get any easier than that!

It makes a great side dish for anything grilled.

 

 

Hey, Look at Me! I’m Trying to be a Blogger!

I am a goal-oriented person.  I like setting them, planning my strategies for achieving them, and bragging about them later.  My affinity for goals is probably my primary source of self-esteem.  So, in order to boost my flagging self-image, I’m setting a couple for July.

July will be the month of “Dogs and Blogs.”

Here are my goals:

1.  Exercise my dogs several times a week.  I live in the deep South with a good, fenced-in backyard.  My dogs live outdoors.  It’s stinking hot.  Too hot to walk a dog.  But, I’m going to even if it’s just a little.  My dogs are out of shape.  They’ll tire quickly.

2.  Blog more.  My goal is to blog 15 times this month.  I’m also going to take more pictures.  I don’t usually take my own pictures, but I’m going to.  Otherwise, how will I ever get better at it.

I think that getting a little more exercise at night with the dogs and being a little more conscienscious (did I spell that right?) with my food, I should see my dogs become more pleasant company and my food get interesting again.  (I’m pretty sick of humus and crackers, pasta, Boca burgers and canned minestrone soup.)  I may even see the 3 pounds I gained in Disney World magically disappear.

A Little Relief–Kids in the Kitchen

Let me show you something amazing. 

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I think these three little list will make my summer much easier.  In case I haven’t bellyached enough in previous posts, I work full-time, have four kids and two dogs, and live in a 1,000 square foot house.  Neither luxury nor time abound in my life.  On top of all that normal aggravation, I have made the commitment to be as vegan as I can be.  It’s not easy.  Being as vegan as I can be means that I can’t just pop a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven or pour a bag of Chicken Voila in a skillet.  We can’t drive through Arby’s and get the 5 for $5 deal on the way to ball practice.  I can’t complain about it too much because it’s a commitment I made by choice and generally I’m very happy with the results.  However, on a busy weeknight, it’s difficult.

So, I have devised a plan and you’re looking at the beginning of it.  Last weekend we did something brilliant–we told two of the kids to decide what they wanted to fix for dinner.  They looked up recipes online and in magazines and wrote up their shopping lists.  I added their lists to my grocery list and got all their ingredients for them.  Then, I wrote down what we’d be eating for the whole week.  Now, when someone meets me at the front door 2 nanoseconds after I get home from work and asks, “What’s for dinner?”  I don’t have to blink.  I just read the plan straight off the fridge.

If you would like to engage your children a little more in dinner, I have a few tips.

1.  Most importantly, be prepared to eat it no matter what it is.  After all, if you want great food, fix it yourself.  If you want a break from kitchen slavery, don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you. 

2.  Don’t expect them to be able to choose a recipe and follow it right away.  For a child that’s under 8, let him make sandwiches or a simple salad.  If you’re worried about knives, find a child-safe knife.  I have a couple of child-safe pumpkin carving knives that my kids used when they were younger that did the trick just fine.  Older kids can make just about any pasta dish (if you drain the hot water.)  By the time a child is 12, she should be able to follow a recipe off a box and then out of a cookbook or magazine.

3.  Don’t help.  If you’re in the kitchen overseeing every last step, they’re not really making it on their own.  If you’re doing all the hard parts or all the tricky parts, they’re not going to have the satisfaction of doing it.  Of course, you will have to supervise novices at the stove or pull a hot dish out of the oven.  But, that’s all.  Leave them alone and let them learn.  If you think they don’t know how to do something, then teach them one night when you’re cooking or write down specific instructions for the hard parts.

4.  Warn the kids ahead of time that they will have to clean whatever they mess up.  Naturally, when dinner is over, you’re going to help clean up the kitchen.  But, if the kids don’t go into it with the idea that they’ll have to clean up their own mess, you’ll be in trouble.  Besides, the point of this whole exercise is to make your life easier.  Cleaning up after a culinary tornado is not my idea of taking the evening off.

Our experiment has just begun, but we’re happy so far.  Last night we had a sugar snap pea stir fry and Israeli couscous compliments of our 14-year old.  Tonight we’re having arugula and peach salad, corn on the cob, and coconut milk ice cream compliments of our 12-year old.  Not bad, huh?

Realistic Weight Goal

I’ve been told to choose your weight goal based on your weight at 25.  However, I was pretty chunky at 25.  I was pretty chunky at 5!  There was a brief time in high school when I was playing sports and dieting pretty hard core.  I got down to 150 pounds and was nosing my way to wearing size 10’s.  That was the skinniest time in my life until now!  I’m still hovering in the 150’s, but I’m not working out 2 hours a day anymore to do it.  I couldn’t maintain that when I was 15, I certainly won’t be able to maintain it now that I’m pushing 40 and wrestling tweens’ schedules.  Looks like 149 will be my weight goal for now.  I’ve got a few pounds still to lose.  The good news is that being vegan has made losing, and, more importantly, maintaining my weight easier than ever!

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