Wednesday, July 30, 2014

But What DO Vegans Eat?

I was once at this breastfeeding support group, and this woman started talking to me and my veganism came up (I know what you are thinking, I probably introduced myself that way).  I only do that when I'm on the news though, usually.
Okay, that time I lead with "I'm a vegan!"  But it got me on the news...

Anyway, this other mom says to me, "But how do you get your daughter to eat vegetables?  Like if I make chicken, with potatoes and broccoli, my son will just eat the chicken and maybe a little broccoli."  I kind of thought she was joking, but she wasn't.

"Well, since I don't serve chicken, she eats the potatoes and broccoli...  My meal would be mostly potatoes and broccoli, so she might fill up a bit on potatoes, but she eats the broccoli too."

I realized she couldn't imagine the plate I was eating.  She was still somehow imagining that I had a plate of chicken, potatoes and broccoli.

This is how you would make a vegan version of that:
See?  That meal on the right is more like what a vegan would serve.

I hear it again and again, though.  Many omnivores want to know how you replace the meat in a meal, and sometimes we use analogs ("fake meat") to fill in a gap in one of our favorite meals from when we were younger and less vegan, but often, the plate is just different.  

It's not about putting a piece of tofu in place of the steak in your favorite steak and potatoes meal, it's about changing that meal (while sometimes maintaining a look or flavor profile) so that it's centered around vibrant, fresh, seasonal vegetables and wholesome whole grains.

You might keep the look of baked potato, vegetable, and protein source, but you might mix it up and make crazy loaded baked potatoes.

When we found out we were pregnant with my son, we called my in-laws and said how happy we were and that this was cause for celebration.  My mother-in-law asked, "Are you going to have a potato?"

We were a bit flabbergasted and it took a while before my husband finally said, over an hour later.  "It's shaped like a ham!"
"What are you talking about?!"
"A potato is round and shaped sort of like a ham.  My mom always serves a ham for big celebrations, and she was trying to think of what would look like a ham for us to celebrate with.  It's because it looks like a ham."

I'm not going to lie, we had some pretty boisterous laughter about this, but it's true!  Roasting and stuffing a big winter squash for Thanksgiving is because we grew up eating a food filled with stuffing on Thanksgiving.  It's okay to want familiarity in looks and flavor of the things you are used to eating.  It's okay to make a portobello steaks and and filet of tofu and eggplant burgers.  No judgement.

I'm just saying that when you start focusing on how to replace meat in your meals, your diet becomes about what you don't eat, rather than what you do eat, and then it feels restrictive.  

So here are two meals we make all the time.  They are both inspired by the idea of food we ate before being vegan, but without trying to exactly replicate it, we've created something way better!

Sushi.  We don't try to recreate fish, we work on flavors and use LOTS of veggies and sea vegetables and seasonings.  Vegan sushi is a favorite of everyone in our house and every guest who has tried it.

Creamy Peanut Noodles.  While we enjoy and use the endless vegan mac n cheese recipes out there, this instead touches on the magical rich creaminess with noodles inherent with mac n cheese, but doesn't even try to mimic the flavor.  Instead, I use a can of coconut milk mixed with 2-4 tablespoons of Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay sauce and reduce it until creamy and toss with cooked udon noodles.  Again, there is never any left over and we all love it.

I hope you have some ideas about what vegans eat, and I encourage you to search through vegan recipes on Pinterest (this is a link to my Pinterest board of favorite recipes.  Some are not vegan but I liked the idea and felt I could easily make them vegan), in great vegan cookbooks, and on vegan food blogs.  There's so much variety out there, and so much creativity, that you don't have to worry about what you will eat instead of the steak, just think about all the amazing things you will eat!

Monday, July 14, 2014


It's time.  I haven't blogged on here in forever (since last November).
I got overwhelmed with the disappointment that I don't have my recipes categorized or searchable by ingredient.

So, that's my project for a bit.  And meanwhile, I've been cooking like crazy, I promise, so I will have yummies to share with you.

Since my friends get dibs, I'm taking some requests from them, but please comment here if you have some ideas of what you'd like to see.  I've been eating more raw for summer, eating cleaner too (that doesn't mean I don't want companies who make cool vegan foods to stop sending me freebies.  I still want that).

Let's all feel out together the future of this page.

Also, if you found this page because of an adorable picture of my daughter eating zucchini noodles that you saw on Pinterest, you are in good company, and this one is for you!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nomvember is Coming

Nom nom nom nom -vember!
I might be obsessed with Nomvember.  I mean, the pumpkin.  The pumpkin.  There's PUMPKIN! 

I got pumpkin spice k-cups.  I have several cans of pumpkins.  I made some yummy healthy pumpkin breakfast bars.  I even got some pumpkin seeds. 

I realize October is standing between us, but I'll wait for Nomvember.  She's worth waiting for. 

What are you making out of pumpkins?  What are you making out of butternut squash?  Kale is in season.  I made chocolate kale chips yesterday.  

It's like I'm on a high brought on by the promise of cinnamon and spice and everything nice. 

I am going to make some roasted brussel sprouts with craisins.  I'm going to make stuffing.  I'm going smell like roasted garlic for a month. 

I'm going to make another pumple.  You know, an apple pie baked in a vanilla cake stacked on top of a pumpkin pie baked in a chocolate cake, coated in more buttercream than a village needs to survive the long Winter?  That.  I'm going to make that.  Except I've spent the entire year thinking of variations...  Cherry pie in chocolate cake with a walnut-y buttercream (black forest style).  Or pecan pie baked into chocolate spice cake.  That's the perfect Texas translation. 

Nomvember is a typo I made, but it is now what I'm calling all of Autumn.

Nomvember harvest, feast, cornucopia. 

Nomvember is love.

What are you making for Nomvember?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm a Vegan Foodie, and I'm not Alone

Here's the thing.  I like food.  Not just in the sense that I enjoy the way calories feel when they fuel my body.  I like flavors and textures and color.  I like to cook elaborate meals for my family with special sauces and toppings and an attention to detail.  I think about how flavors come together in new and exciting ways. 

I watch cooking shows and internalize those ideas to recreate in vegan ways.  If I watch a show where a chef adds bacon to a dish for more than "Hey look, it has bacon," then I think about how I could add those flavors to a similar dish.

Tip:  Trying to get the flavor of bacon in something?  "Bacon" is just salt and fat with sweet in the form or honey or maple and smokiness.  My favorite "bacon" replacement in a salad or sandwich where you want the crispy texture as well (because bacon is a texture too) is to make coconut bacon (I should warn you that just like a non-veg at a county fair, you will want to eat ALL THE BACON when you make this).  For a soup, I add smoked paprika, soy sauce, and sometimes a touch of maple syrup (these three are a great addition to a bean soup).  You can also use smoked nuts.  There are delicious Smokehouse almonds that can be chopped up on a salad or blended smooth with water, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper to make a perfect breakfast gravy. 

When I go out to eat, I have been brainwashed by the Food Network to believe that there is a head chef back in the kitchen taking pride in his or her work.  I go in thinking that someone is standing at the pass like Gordon Ramsey calling anyone who puts something sub-par up a useless donkey.  Not that I want anyone to be called names, it's just what they like, because they are chefs, right? 

Because I believe this about professional chefs in nice restaurants, I read the menu with excitement.  Look at the interesting flavor combinations they have come up with!  Oh, who would have thought to use that fruit in a savory dish?!  What a great fusion idea for a noodle bowl!  Inspired!

If it's a somewhat reputable place, they may have a vegan option, but even super high end placed don't all have that.  The hallmark of a truly good restaurant is that they say on the menu to ask for the vegan option.  This means that the chef truly is a skilled craftsman and will make you a special dish that is designed to be vegan and is balanced based on umami, has protein, and is satisfying. 

The other things a menu might say is, "* items can be made vegan."  This means they have asterisks next to things that they have already come up with ways to make vegan.  This doesn't ensure a balanced dish, but is more promising.  It either means they can leave off an expensive ingredient and charge you the same price for an unbalanced dish, or it means they will make a substitution.  Many times when I have asked for avocado in place of the missing cheese on something I get charged more, but I want a balanced dish.  And I'm polite.  And then I tip them...  Talk about zero self-esteem!

Recently I was invited to a group meeting at a place that had actually won an award for "best vegan" in town, but when I looked at their menu it didn't indicate that anything could be made vegan, and it didn't have any vegan items on the menu.  That means you are relying on a waiter or waitress who is going to be getting tipped by you to tell you what can really be made vegan.   Here's how tips work:  the more you spend/order, the more you tip.  So it's in a waiter's best interest to tell you that more options are vegan than actually are.

When a menu isn't marked with what is or can be made vegan, you are at the mercy of someone who may or may not care about their job or integrity.  Lucky me, I have a dairy allergy, so when I get bamboozled, I get to suffer later.  I can't always pinpoint the cause, and it's not always enough that I realize I'm having a reaction, so I rarely get the chance to go back and insist I know they gave me dairy.

I went to a restaurant I had frequented for a year not long ago.  I had asked EVERY time what was vegan and I ordered a lot of the same things over that time.  After a year of asking and ordering and getting the same answers, I had a waitress who said, "Oh, but I thought you wanted everything vegan?  That can't be made vegan."  It was the samosas I had ordered every time I went there.  I had ordered them while pregnant and I had never associated stomach pain with them because I had stomach upset in such irregular intervals.  I asked her to really make sure.  She went into the back, just as every other waiter I'd asked had done, and came back and reassured me that they were not vegan.  She explained that this was not a new recipe, and that they always made it that way.

I guess my point is that I'd like to be able to go out to eat with friends (also, as a mom to two little ones, I'd like to have time to go out to eat), but I don't want to pay the prices for eating out so that I can socialize over a dry iceberg salad.  If I'm going to pay to go out to eat, going to go to a restaurant where everyone is gushing over the amazing food, I'd like to eat some amazing food too.  I'd like to do it without giving up my belief system.  I know it's not easy to make vegan dishes if that's not what you are used to, but don't promote yourself as "vegan-friendly" if you don't know how to make a vegan dish that is delicious. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kale Chips with doTERRA Essential Oils

I make mine mostly like this recipe, but I cook them in the dehydrator.  I love that there is no salt, and the kids eat them all up!

The recipe is from the Summer issue of doTERRA Living Magazine

Mushroom Jerky (or Bacon?)

I have been having a love affair with my dehydrator lately.  For those who are totally superficial and want to know about its labels (or for those looking to buy one), I have a Nesco with temperature selections.  I used to have a Nesco without temp selects, and that one was in the $40 range, so I think it's probably about the same for this one, but I got my current one through barter... so I'm not sure.  That's right, I bartered for a dehydatrator.  I think I just got another hole punch in my "You are a total Hippie" card.  *Note to self, must make some kind of punchcard or bingo card to indicate crunchy mama status.  Would be delightful hilarious fun for all.*

Anyway, I usually have a batch of kale chips in the dehydrator these days as my two little munchkins eat an entire bunch of kale (which, incidentally, is exactly enough to fill my dehydrator to capacity) in about a half hour.  Some days we go through two bunches of kale.  I also help them because kale chips are universally amazing.  Here's one of my favorite recipes.

Well, we got one of those packs of portabello mushrooms the other day (the four pack- note that only 3 fit in my dehydrator) and I thought that I could make some yummy jerky-type snack.  I wanted it to be a bit chewy, teriyaki flavored, and super delicious.  It worked.

For the marinade:
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 inch of ginger knob, minced
2 Tbsp vegan worchestershire (whichever brand you like, I have tried several and like them all)
2 Tbsp soy sauce (or Braggs Liquid Aminos)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
*optional 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke (you can also used smoked paprika for a smokey flavor and not as many weird chemicals

Mix this up and taste it.  Do you think it needs something?  Add it.  This will be REALLY strong.  One thing about mushrooms is that they will absorb this flavor really well.  One thing about dehydrating is that it INTENSIFIES flavors, so it's easy for something to be too salty/sweet/spicy if you don't dilute your marinade.

So at this point, I added at least 1/4 cup water.  You want it to be a watery version of the flavor you want.  Then slice your mushrooms into thin strips and toss them in it.  I used a gallon ziplock bag and shook it up.  The mushrooms are really the great at soaking stuff up, so I didn't have to let it marinate overnight or anything.  More like as long as it took to shake up- done.

I layered them on my dehydrator sheet and set it at the highest heat and let it go for about 4-5 hours (I may have sampled at 2, 3, and 4 hours, but best results were after 5+  They get a bit crispy, but still have a good chew to them, and then bits of ginger and garlic get crispy- what a treat!

I haven't tried making a "bacon" version of this, but to do so I would make my marinade with soy sauce or liquid aminos, liquid smoke or paprika, a touch of maple syrup, and black pepper.  I bet it would be good... I wish I wasn't out of mushrooms...  If you try it, tell me how you did it and how you made it your own.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gratitude for all of August

I've selected what I've been told will be the hottest month of the year, in my new super hot home in Texas, to practice a month of gratitude.  I'm tempted to double post it all here, because this is my more popular blog, but I'm really wanting to get my business blog up and running, so I will be tracking my progress primarily on my Mindful Wellness blog, which is my business page.

By the way, I started a business page.  Also by the way, I am only 7 two hour classes from completing my diploma of Hypnotherapy.  Can I get a "whoop whoop?"  I am assuming you are all fist pumping Arsinio Hall style- NOT like on the Jersey Shore, and essentially barking at your computers.

So excited to be completing this schooling, which has been so enriching and rewarding, but also very time consuming.  Sometimes I think I should have just done one of those 5 day programs or a few weekends, but then I realize that I have learned SO much and had over 300 hours of instruction, and I know this was the right program for me.

I also made jerky from mushrooms yesterday, so I'll be posting that as soon as I can pry my phone from the kung fu grip of my daughter who has figured out how to use my Netflix app (the world will never be the same). 

So join me for a month of gratitude.  I'll be posting journal prompts, inspirations, etc to keep you motivated along the way.  When we stop and say thank you for what we have, the desire for more wanes, right?  Let's find out together.