Tuesday, October 30, 2007

go go muffins, a very unhappy puppy

I love taking naps. One plus side to being unemployed is being able to take afternoon naps, which is what I did today. I fell asleep to the thought of making a muffin I could wake up to. As much as I dreamed, the only thing was, I had to make the muffins when I woke up. What resulted was my own muffin creation that had carrots, unsweetened coconut, pineapple/pineapple juice, walnuts, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, brown sugar, natural sugar, canola oil, unbleached all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and vanilla extract. The whole time I was making these, I had Wham's Wake Me Up Before You Go Go stuck in my head (look, I grew up in the 80's!). So, I'm calling these
Go Go Muffins.
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Split open!
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Also, since tomorrow is Halloween I found this picture of our dog, Sweetpea, dressed up as a pirate to share. We aren't into dressing up our pets but we love pirates and this was Sweetpea's first Halloween. This picture was taken when she was a puppy three years ago and since she looked so miserable, this was the first and last time she was made to wear an outfit. ARR, Happy Halloween!
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Friday, October 26, 2007

our house dressing

Since we have lived in the Atlanta area, we have gone to Soul Vegetarian many a times. Last time I wrote about Soul Vegetarian, I mentioned their incredible salad dressing, which I believe they call Prince dressing. Last time I was in there, I was determined to find out what was in it so I could make a variation of it at home. The creaminess lead me to believe that it was tahini based, but the waiter gave me the ingredient list that included nutritional yeast, tamari, garlic, water and olive oil. That was a few weeks ago and since then, I have been messing around with a recipe that I am proud to call my own but all inspiration and a huge head nod goes out to Soul Vegetarian.
My version has a few more/different ingredients and is awesome on salads, sandwiches, rice, and potatoes . . . I have also been known to dip crackers, french fries and chips in it!
Warning: it is VERY garlicky and does have a somewhat strong nutritional yeast base. You can eat it right away, but I think it tastes better when it’s had time to chill in the fridge. I have made it with a hand whisk once but to get the creamiest consistency, I have used my immersion blender every time since. If you don't have an immersion blender (GET ONE!), you could try using a food processor or regular blender . . . I'm just not sure what kind of consistency you will get.

No Joke Dressing (Our House Dressing)

1 cup nutritional yeast
2/3 cup water (I use filtered water)
2 tbsp soy sauce (I use 2 tbsp, but you can use less if you'd like)
2 tbsp agave nectar (you might want less . . . a lot less, but I love it this way)
2 tsp granulated garlic (yep, the dried stuff)
2-3 small (or 1-2 medium/large) crushed garlic cloves (told you it was garlicky!)
1/4 cup neutral oil (such as sunflower, safflower or canola oil)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine nutritional yeast and water together with a spoon until totally incorporated. Add the soy sauce, agave nectar, granulated and crushed garlic and blend well with the immersion blender. Once smooth, slowly add the two oils. I use two oils because the olive oil is a really strong flavor and the neutral oil helps keep it smooth without an additional flavor. If you want to cut some fat, I’m sure you could use less oil but it won’t be as creamy and you may need to add a touch more water so it won’t be too strong. This makes 1-1 1/2 cups of dressing.
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Monday, October 22, 2007

the results are in . . . i guess?

After doing this elimination diet for the second time, both as a vegan this time and non-vegan the last, I have come to the conclusion that food is only a part of my digestive health issues. I did find that my body does react negatively to most everything I eat; some are just more extreme than others. This time around, I found that TOFU is not my friend : ( I did try soy milk, soy sauce and things that had soybean oil and didn't have nearly as bad a reaction as I did when I just ate tofu. Other things like onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon, broccoli and tree nuts didn't agree with me but were tolerable. I think I am going to avoid tofu for a few months and revisit again. The onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelon, broccoli and tree nuts will be kept to a minimum in my diet. I tended to do okay with romaine lettuce and sprouts (shocking to me, since I had issues with these last time), wheat/gluten products and corn products though.
I can't say the elimination diet made me feel any better but as hard as it will be to avoid tofu, I at least know I really should avoid it.
Anyway, back to normal . . . I made an apple crisp for Jared and I tonight that was just lovely. It had granny smith apples, lime juice, flour, brown sugar, sea salt and cinnamon for the apple mixture and for the topping it had earth balance, natural sugar, flour, cinnamon and rolled oats. I LOVE crisps since you don't have to follow a recipe to still have an awesome outcome.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

juicing my way through the rainbow

I have been juicing up a storm here to get me through the elimination diet. The cool thing about juicing is that it actually fills you up. I have worked at several juice bars in the past and I still juice a lot at home. My favorite juicing book is called Juicing For Life by Cherie Calbom and Maureen Keane. This book breaks down juice recipes based on health issues (acne, insomnia, etc) and also has different weight loss and fasting juice plans. I use this book primarily for recipe ideas, but I have fun making up my own. Here are some helpful juicing tips:

* Buy organic fruits and veggies as much as you can for juicing.
* No matter if your produce is organic or not, WASH everything really, really well. Cut off severely bruised parts of the produce since they can make the juice taste funky.
* If citrus is going to be juiced, Oranges and Grapefruit should be peeled (white part left on) since they contain toxic substances that should not be consumed in large quantities. Kiwi and Papaya skins should also be removed.
* ANY and ALL produce grown in other countries should be washed and peeled since there is no way of knowing what has been sprayed on them.
* Waxed produce should also be peeled.
* Unless otherwise noted above, organic, un-sprayed and un-waxed produce should never be peeled since most nutrients in fruits and veggies are in the skins.
* Pits should be removed (peach, plum, cherry, etc.) but seeds can be juiced (lemon, limes, grapes, melon, etc.) with the EXCEPTION being apple seeds, which contain small amounts of cyanide.
* It is okay to leave stems or leaves of fruits and veggies (I like beet greens) on when juicing EXCEPT carrot and rhubarb tops/greens. They are very toxic!!!
* Of course the fruits and veggies must have high water content to work. You won't be able to juice bananas or avocados but these can be combined in a blender with your fresh juice to make awesome smoothies! I like to freeze bananas for this very purpose!
* If you are watching your weight, be sure to cut high sugar juices (fruit juices and/or carrot, beet juices) with filtered water. They will still taste good but cut the calories.
* DRINK YOUR JUICE ASAP. DO NOT STORE IT FOR LATER USE. The enzymes start to die when it is juiced, so drink up!
* NEVER STRAIN the juices, since that would remove a ton of much needed fiber!!!

My favorite fruits to juice are apples, pears, peaches, lemons, grapes, pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe (with the rinds on). Vegetable juices are really great on their own or mixed with fruit juices. My favorite veggies to juice are carrots, celery, beets, beet greens, cucumber, bell pepper, broccoli, tomatoes and greens like spinach and lettuces. Other unlikely things to juice are herbs including parsley (SO GOOD and GREAT FOR YOU) basil and mint. I also love garlic, green onions and ginger in my juices. Really, you can juice anything, with the exceptions I made above. It is best to change things up and not drink the same things everyday. Limit the amount of high sugar juices such as carrot, beets and high sugar fruits. To make juicing easy, prep things such as carrots, celery and beets by washing and cutting them to fit in your juicer. I keep produce that will turn brown whole until I am ready for juicing (such as apples, pears, etc.) Lastly, don't forget that you should still EAT plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, in addition to the juices.

1 large granny smith apple, 2 celery stalks and 1/4 of a large English cucumber:
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5 medium carrots, 3 celery stalks, 1/4 of a large English cucumber, 1 large granny smith apple and a handful of parsley:
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2 beet green tops, 1 medium beet, 5 medium carrots:
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Monday, October 15, 2007

testing, testing

Well, I have tried out some potential problem foods including onions, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes. All went pretty well but I think I am going to continue to limit my consumption of these foods . . . since I could eat onions, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes every day. Onions seemed to be the problem child out of the four which is a bit heart breaking. I'm not sure I will completely get rid of onions in my diet, but I think I can eat them in moderation and definitely try not to eat them every day. I have been eating loads of bok choy, rice as well as salads like this one that had romaine lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, grated carrots and cucumbers.
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I don’t think Jared should suffer since he doesn’t have any aversions to foods so I somehow mustered up the will to make a few things for him this weekend.
Saturday morning, I made him breakfast in bed with banana pancakes (my basic pancake batter with a mashed up banana) topped with strawberry sauce made with frozen strawberries, agave nectar and maple syrup. Jared was very happy, but tried not to rub it in, too much anyway.
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I also made Jared a Thanksgiving inspired meal to thank him for working so hard every week, working long hours every day, doing a difficult and thankless job (he's a stock broker) while I still look for work. He was my official taster for almost every one of these items since I couldn't eat most of the things I made him. I made some more cranberry jelly, green beans, mashed red potatoes with sea salt, soy creamer and whipped Earth Balance, along with stuffing that had celery, onions, apples, veggie stock, poultry seasoning (just the name, not actual poultry in the seasoning)and Earth Balance buttery sticks that was made on the stove top but baked in a casserole dish in the oven. Lastly I made a pan gravy with browned all purpose flour, whipped Earth Balance, sea salt, black pepper and veggie stock. The only thing I could safely eat were the green beans since they were only seasoned with sea salt and sunflower oil and I tasted a potato after it was boiled but before it was mashed with all the soy products. JARED WAS BLOWN AWAY BY EVERYTHING! The only thing I didn't make on the plate were the potato rolls Jared found at the grocery store bakery, which ended up being accidently vegan. Jared likes to make mashed potato, stuffing and cranberry jelly sandwiches with them. From start to finish, it took about two hours to make this meal, so that's good to know for holiday meal planning in the future.
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Friday, October 12, 2007

groceries, lentils, almond milk

Today is day three of the elimination diet. Like before, I feel hungry a lot of the time even when I just ate . . . side effect of not eating whatever I want. It is hard to watch cooking shows and I have to leave the room when Jared eats something that I love but is not on my plan. To make sure I do have a lot of options, I stocked up on some groceries. I got raw/blanched almonds, mango, dried lentils, dried pinto beans, quinoa flakes, sunflower oil, peppermint tea, napa cabbage, bananas, watermelon, baby bok choy, sugar snap peas, green grapes, cucumber, pears, sweet potatoes and fresh thyme.
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I think the things I have missed most in my cooking have been onions and garlic. I made these lentils today that had carrots, celery, brown lentils, fresh thyme, sea salt, sage, rosemary, oregano and basil, on top of steamed jasmine rice. I think a lot of people would enjoy this dish but I think it would have been a lot tastier with onions.
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With the raw/blanched almonds, I made almond milk. With my immersion blender, I ground up a cup of the almonds with about 1/2 cup of filter water until smooth. I then added 2 tsp of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon along with 4 more cups of filtered water. I strained out the ground almonds through a very fine strainer. I think next time I will leave out the cinnamon, use less water and use a bit more maple syrup.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

last splash

Before the holidays start and my sister's baby shower is around the corner, I have decided to do an Elimination Diet for food allergies and intolerances. I have done this once before and it's not a diet really but a systematic way of tracing foods back to chronic body reactions. For years I have had digestive issues and I am once again at a point where it is making me crazy and need to know if food is to blame. Last time I did this, I discovered greens like collards, kale and most lettuces as well as broccoli and cauliflower do not agree with me. Last time I did this I was not a vegan so I am also curious to do this as a vegan. Some common food sources of allergies and intolerances are already out of my diet such as dairy and eggs, but soy, wheat, corn and nuts can be HUGE allergens, so this time I can focus on those.
To get rid of some of the food I cannot eat for the next few weeks, I made some of my favorite things. This plate of food was fingerling potatoes that were first boiled then roasted in olive oil and garlic pieces along with sliced tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts and homemade guacamole. I also made a dressing inspired by the amazing dressing from Soul Vegetarian that has nutritional yeast, soy sauce, water, agave nectar, both fresh and powdered garlic and olive oil. I drizzled the dressing over the tomatoes and potatoes.
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I also made cranberry jelly with fresh cranberries, natural sugar and lemon zest. This tasted so good on a toasted English muffin . . . actually it tasted good on everything!
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Today I started the first part of the diet, which is a modified whole foods diet. I will still be posting about my food, since I still have a lot of options. For lunch today I had pinto beans that were soaked overnight and cooked in water and sea salt along with a sliced and roasted sweet potato that had olive oil, sea salt and maple syrup. It's kind of refreshing to taste things for what they are.
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Monday, October 8, 2007

good times

Jared and I had a lot of fun with Erin and Mike the past two days. Out of four of us, no one remembered to bring the camera out until dinner last night where I snapped this picture of my sister (the table is hiding the baby bump) and brother-in-law at Soul Vegetarian.
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We had a full weekend including eating dinner at Noodle (in Decatur) and shopping at Ikea on Saturday night. On Sunday we went to the Atlanta History Center, had lunch at Olive Bistro, dinner at Soul Vegetarian and ending the night with my sister and I watching really bad TV (we watched Desperate Housewives, as our husbands rolled their eyes and left the room). It was a whirlwind weekend filled with laughter, story telling and good eats. Oh, and they loved the muffins!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

berry streusel muffins, grilled wraps

My darling sister Erin and lovely brother-in-law Mike are coming up from Florida for a visit. They are expecting their first baby (the first grandbaby on this side) and wanted a little trip before the baby comes and we are very happy to see them for a day or two before they head further north. My sister, who is normally an omnivore, is a bit turned off by meat these days due to her pregnancy . . . so, this makes cooking and/or eating out a lot easier. Soul Vegetarian, here we come!
Anyways, I always like to make something sweet for all my guests and decided to make muffins for Erin and Mike (and of course Jared and I) to munch on. I used the Blueberry Streusel Muffin recipe from The Damn Tasty! Vegan Baking Guide. Instead of all blueberries, I decided to use a frozen mixture of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries and boy did they rock! The muffin is sweet and moist, with bites of tart and colorful berries bursting in your mouth. Plus, there is a sweet and crunchy crumble on top that matches so well with the texture of the rest of the muffin.
I hope Erin and Mike like them as much as we did.
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Last night for dinner, I made simple wraps. I found these really tasty chili tomato flour tortilla wraps made with canola oil vs. partially hydrogenated stuff. I spread homemade hummus on the tortilla along with sliced tomato and a handful of clover sprouts. I heated the wraps in a pan with a touch of cooking spray, which made the tortilla crispy, melted the hummus and heated the veggies up a bit.
These were so tasty, Jared had two!
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Thursday, October 4, 2007

gettin' down with seitan

Even before I was vegan, I came across the famous Seitan O'Greatness recipe and saved it for future culinary adventure. I finally got around to trying it out today, and I must say it turned out pretty good. I basically followed the recipe except that I only had about 2 tbsp of tomato paste around, so I had to use about 2 tbsp of ketchup and I also substituted bottled teriyaki sauce for the tamari. For some reason, it took me a long time to make this . . . I guess because there are a lot of ingredients and I am not use to measuring out everything. Then, once I had the dough kneaded, rolled in a log and wrapped, it had to bake for 90 minutes! Luckily, it was worth the time. If you haven't made this yet, you really should.
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Other than making the Seitan O'Greatness today, I haven't been feeling that peachy and haven't felt much like cooking or eating lately, which is very unlike me. So, I have been eating simple salads just to get something in me . . . Boring, but just about the only thing that has sounded good.
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Monday, October 1, 2007

clearing out the kitchen

Every now and again, I like to clear out the kitchen and restock. This includes canned goods, dried herbs and flour in the cupboards, fruit on the counter tops and veggies in the fridge. It started last night with a veggie and tomato soup. I used up the majority of the veggies in the fridge including carrots, celery, green beans, zucchini, fresh thyme and parsley along with onions and potatoes from my veggie basket. I also included a box of veggie stock, a can of tomato sauce, dried rosemary, oregano, basil, sea salt and black pepper. I also made whole wheat flour biscuits using hazelnut milk instead of soy milk, which surprisingly went with the soup, despite having a heavily hazelnut flavor.
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For dessert, I used up the plums that, on their own, were kind of mealy and flavorless. After splitting, coring, filling the center with brown sugar and whipped Earth Balance and baking for a few minutes, they came back alive.
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Tonight, I didn't feel like cooking, so I whipped up some hummus that had fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, almond butter, olive oil, agave, sea salt and black pepper. In an attempt to get rid of a bag of unbleached all purpose flour, I also made a loaf of bread. I spread the hummus on the fresh bread with sliced tomatoes and red onion. It turned out to be a pretty great dinner.
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