Thursday, May 30, 2013

Get Your Chia

When I was in elementary school, Chia Heads/Pets were all the rage. Chia commercials played on what seemed like an endless loop. I desperately wanted one and put it on my Christmas list. Santa had a track record of bringing me presents that were close to what I wanted, but not exactly right on the money. You know, it was the right item, wrong brand. Right brand, wrong color. Being a fickle young girl, my likes changed daily and in reality there was no way for Santa to keep up. Santa, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for being so ridiculous and obnoxious as a teeny-bopper. Anyway. Christmas morning came, and there was no Chia Head under the tree…BUT…there was Bob! I grew Bob’s grassy hair and cut it into a mohawk. He turned out to be a fantastic present, until he got moldy and had to be thrown out.

Although I didn't get chia seeds that Christmas in the 90’s, I now have all the chia seeds I need. These guys are little powerhouses and are a great addition to any diet. They look sort of like poppy seeds and come in a variety of colors. They contain omega threes, fiber, protein, calcium, and a variety of other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t need to be ground for maximum nutrient absorption. You can find chia seeds in the bulk section of health food stores (Whole Foods), and most regular grocery stores carry them now too. 

How should I use chia seeds? These little guys are practically tasteless, so you can add them to everything! Sprinkle them on cereal, salads, rice dishes, oatmeal, pasta, and stir-fries. Mix them into pancake batter, sauces, and smoothies. You can even mix them into water and drink them. Caution: They do gel if placed in liquid, so be prepared to drink something reminiscent of Orbitz…

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hash It Up!

I have to admit that the lazy side of me occasionally longs for the days when my meals were comprised of non-perishable, pantry staples. I could get by for weeks without seeing the inside of a grocery store, and I never had to worry about my food going bad before I could get around to eating it. Boy has that changed.

Every weekend Jason and I visit our local farmers' market to obtain our food for the week. We have been trying to plan our weekly meals in advance and buy accordingly, but at this point we just end up with a cornucopia of produce. By the end of the week, I'm left with a random bunch of vegetables that need to be eaten before they go bad. I've gotten better at throwing in a few mushrooms here, a few bell peppers there. But this morning, I cooked a dish that is supposed to include left-overs...a breakfast hash!

The glory of a breakfast hash is that you don't really need a recipe. Just include whatever you have on hand that day.

Dice the Veg
It doesn't matter what veg you use, but be consistent with the size of your dice so everything cooks evenly. I cut mine pretty small because I wanted them to be brown and crunchy.

1 sweet potato, 5 fingerling potatoes, 1 onion, 1/2 zucchini

Season the Veg
Toss the veg in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a seasoning of your choice.

Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle. 

Roast the Veg
Spread the veg on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degree for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your dice and the desired doneness). Be sure not to overcrowd the baking sheet or the veg won't get nice and brown. Stir the veg at least once halfway through. If you've hit 45 minutes and your veg isn't crispy enough, switch the oven to broil for a few minutes.

Assemble the Hash Burrito
Scoop the roasted veg onto the tortilla of your choice. Top with roasted corn, fresh salsa, and avocado.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grill Your Greens

I've mentioned before that I absolutely love grilling out in the summertime. Now that meat is no longer an option, I am constantly on the lookout for other things to throw on the grill (well, for Jason to throw on the grill). This was a hot topic at work the other day – so Chrissy and Abby, this post is for you!

Grill up your salad! (Based on a recipe found here.)

Prepare the dressing.
I thought becoming vegan meant my days of creamy dressings (ranch, caesar, etc.) were over, boy was I wrong! This creamy dressing is avocado based and oh so good for you. It would be delicious atop any salad, or even topping some grilled fajitas (made with portobello mushrooms of course). Pop all ingredients in a food processor and give it a whirl: 1 avocado, juice from 2 small limes, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon honey, ½ teaspoon cumin, salt to taste, and about ¼ cup of water (more or less depending on how thick you want your dressing).

Prep the lettuce.
Grab a romaine heart, wash and slice in half. Mix together a chopped clove of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brush the cut side of the lettuce and it’s grill-ready.

Grill the greens.
Place romaine hearts cut side down over medium-low heat. Grill for 1-2 minutes then flip over and grill an additional 1-2 minutes. The lettuce should start to brown and wilt, but not be completely limp (you still want some crunch).

Assemble the salad.

Top the romaine with avocado dressing and chives. An impressive presentation is to serve it in one piece wedge-style, but feel free to cut it up then serve.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

No feta needed

I'll admit it, I have a problem. I go from having extreme interest in something to having zero interest at all, without any warning. I’m sure there’s a clinical diagnosis, but at this point I will accept the fact that I’m strange and move on.

Much to Mom’s chagrin, she was all too familiar with this trend when I was growing upI used to beg her for the latest and greatest arts and crafts kits. I pleaded and assured her I was seriously dedicated this time around. I had a long list of craft kits which included a jewelry bead maker, pot holder maker, and intricate ocean scene cross-stich kit. Each time, I committed myself to the craft and worked tirelessly – staying up late every night for about a week. Then, I was done. Never to see the craft completed to fruition.

This fluctuation in interests did not just occur with arts and crafts, it was anything. Books. One summer after fourth grade, I read 87 Babysitters Club books then stopped cold turkey. Television. I watched seven seasons of the show 24 and stopped three episodes short of the series finale. Food. I excessively consumed each one of these foods at a point in time: asparagus, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, rotisserie chicken, hummus, fried rice, quesadillas, and Panera’s Greek salad.

It had been a long time since my last Greek salad binge, and it was starting to sound good again. But how would I be able to eat a Greek salad without the best part – feta cheese? Lo and behold, I found a vegan-friendly substitute. One set of ingredients, two options – salad or wrap.

Combine: 1 package of firm tofu (cubed), the juice from 1 lemon, 1 tsp dried basil, and 1 tsp dried parsley in a bowl and set aside. 

Gather the rest of your ingredients: greens, chopped tomato, chopped onion, chopped cucumber, kalamata olives, quartered artichoke hearts (I use the ones that are not in oil), dressing of your choice (light Italian for me), hummus (if making a wrap). 

Assemble salad (G style).

Assemble wrap (J style).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Old habits die hard

Today was one of the first really nice days we have had in a long time. The weather was sunny, and I was out cruising around. I started to get thirsty and headed straight to Starbucks drive-thru for a refreshing beverage and a celebratory treat for all I had accomplished today. I completed my order, paid for my drink, and as I was pulling away realized what I had done. 

Coffee with rich mocha-flavored sauce blended with milk and ice. Topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Definitely not vegan.

And for the record, I did not drink it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Forks were a great invention...

Today Jason and I cooked my parents breakfast for Mother's Day. This was our first time cooking for anyone since becoming vegan, and we went back and forth about whether or not the meal should be completely vegan. If I had a little more cooking practice, we might have gone that route. But I really didn't feel comfortable serving tofu french toast or chickpea omelets to my parents without having tried them myself. And since this meal was to honor my wonderful meat/dairy eating Mom, we decided to bring a traditional egg quiche along for the ride with our other vegan dishes. Our plates were full of colorful plant based foods, and our glasses were full of a little bubbly.

My parents, intrigued with our diet change, asked us questions about becoming vegan. We talked about some of our standby dishes and some of the various cuisines we are interested in right now. The conversation went something like this: Asian cuisine...Japan...tofu in soup...chop sticks...interesting business dinners with chop sticks...forks. To which Dad stated, "Forks were a great invention."

Dad was right about that (although I stated that sporks were probably a greater invention). But that comment reminded me of the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives. It was instrumental in turning me on to the vegan diet, and more specifically a whole foods, plant based diet. You can catch the documentary on Netflix or watch the official trailer here. Whether or not you plan to become vegetarian or vegan, no one can dispute the fact that adding more plant based/unprocessed foods to your diet is a healthy thing to do. Also check out the Forks Over Knives cookbook. I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sleeping Beauty

Do you ever have one of those mornings where you stay in bed 15 minutes longer than you really should? That has been a reoccurring problem for me my whole life. No matter how early I go to bed or how much sleep I get, it's always a struggle to get up in the morning. Even as a kid, I remember my dad coming into my room and flipping the light switch on and off in an attempt to get me moving. And by the way, the light switch in my room was not a normal light switch, it was a thunder light switch. It did not turn on and off silently like most light switches do. This sucker was LOUD! And then when I was in college I spent a summer with Aunt J and Uncle K. The only thing that got me out of bed then was the threat of Uncle K busting through the door and literally jumping on the bed until I got up. I just don't know why people won't let me ease into the day.

Anyway. Today was another one of those days. Now that I'm juicing, my morning routine is 30 minutes longer than it used to be. You can imagine my thrill when my alarm clock chirps. I made it work this morning (by cutting out ironing my whole shirt - hot tip: if you wear a sweater, you only have to iron the front of your shirt), but I need to get it together tomorrow.  

Tonight I have prepped my fruits and veg for juicing, so tomorrow (when I inevitably stay in bed 15 extra minutes) my juicing routine will take less than half the normal time. What a yummy breakfast! And look at all those vibrant colors!

cucumber, carrot, ginger, radish, celery, beet, kale, spinach, parsley, apple

Sunday, May 5, 2013

But Why Dairy?

I get the meat thing, but why did you give up dairy and eggs? I get that a lot, and rightfully so. Here are my reasons.

Health: It can be summed up in this video Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, and I encourage everyone to watch it. This video found its way to us courtesy of Jason's friend and fellow vegan @wolsamnoraa.

Cows: Veal. A lot of people have a problem with the idea of veal and say - That's cruelty to baby cows so I don't eat veal! It's completely unnecessary! But do you know why veal exists? Think about it for a second. How is it that dairy cows can produce such large quantities of milk throughout their entire life? That's right! They are continuously impregnated. And what happens to (a large majority) of their offspring? You guessed it. Veal, a product of the dairy industry.

Chickens: I have no problem with eggs in general. In fact, I am a major egg lover. If you ask Katie, my college roommate, she will tell you that at one point in time I was living exclusively on eggs. What? They were cheap and seemed more nutritious than Ramen noodles. My problem lies with factory farming and unfortunately that applies to the egg layin' hens too. Before I became vegan I was seriously considering a backyard chicken coop. I'm no longer in the market, but if you're interested Williams-Sonoma sells a variety.