Monday, May 31, 2010

Filing My Tank

Happy Memorial Day everyone! 

I would love to tell you all about the origin of this holiday, but honestly, I don't know very much about it. Add on that I still manage to confuse it with Labor Day half the time and you can understand why I don't want to speak out of turn. However, I do know that Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the men and women that serve our country, past and present. In light of that, I would like to take this time for a message about serving ourselves as well. 

One of my favorite yoga teachers and friends (though she's older than me, obviously, so I guess mentor might be a more appropriate term) uses two analogies quite a bit. They really make sense to me and I would like to share them with you. 

To take care of ourselves, we have to rejuvenate. It seems that so often we are running on empty. How often do we wait to eat until we're starving, drink until we're completely parched, sleep until we're absolutely exhausted and falling asleep on our desk, or even just think we can make it another mile, even though our car reads "empty" or has a flat tire? I'm sure I've done it more than once.

Take being on an airplane for instance. You know those safety measures the flight attendants say  that you've heard about a million times and probably don't even listen to anymore? Well, one of them regards breathing masks in decreased air pressure. They tell us to put on our mask before assisting others. On a practical level, that makes sense because it would help to be conscious so that we can help others. In that way, we take care of others by taking care of ourselves. 

In this day of remembrance, I urge you all to take time to serve yourselves. The brave men and women that serve our country (be it in the service, or the post man that diligently delivers our mail) have done their fair share for us. So that we may better serve other as they have served us, it's time to fill up our tanks and relax.

I have been gone for a few days because I've been running on empty for much longer than I know was healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes that's just the way life rocks and rolls, especially with my finals swiftly approaching (Friday brings the first of the lot). I am very thankful for this weekend that has been both a time for relaxation and studying. How have I been filling up my tank, you ask? Like this: 

I started with returning to my love of reading. It has been much too long since I last picked up a book for pleasure. Sure, these may not be fiction, but the joy of a new book does not judge a book by it's cover remains the same.  

Speaking of being a sale-snob smart shopper, my mom finally got the 40% off coupon we've been waiting for. Seeing as it has been much too long since my last date with Boarders, I was happy to be back. Excitement and the promise of a good sale clearly got the best of my mom and me with the addition of 4 new books to our collection. Do you have any recommendations from Clean Food, Vegan Yum Yum, Mayumi's Kitchen, or World Vegetarian Classics

With a multitude of new recipes, it was only natural to start the baking. To relieve stress, some people watch TV, bite their nails, or overdo it on the sweets. I, however, bake. What do you do to relieve stress? 

I used my new Clean Food cookbook (by Terry Walters) to make banana coconut chocolate chip cookies... 

...and maple nut granola. The ingredients in both are  so stellar that I actually did a double take on the recipes. I couldn't help but tell my family all about it. Unfortunately, both of the recipes include coconut so I could not have a taste of either. However, both are already almost gone so I'm pretty sure they were a hit. If I could marry this cookbook, I might just do so. My plan is to make one of the recipes for dinner this week so I'll give you my full review then. 

After the stress of last week, I definitely needed to bake some more. I looked to a trusty friend, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I made oatmeal raisin cookies for my neighbor that works at the Farmer's Market, who works with a woman that is currently pregnant. Since the prenant woman is usually very hungry when she works for such long hours, I'm happy we bring enough healthy treats for my neighbor to share. 

I also made my grandmother blackstrap gingersnaps from the same book. My grandmother loves crunchy cookies so I made sure that these were extra snappy. She's one for burnt marshmallows and toast, so I prepared the batch 3 different ways: snappy, extra snappy, and "break your teeth" snappy, in hopes that I would satisfy everyone's palates. For added ginger infusion, I added pieces of diced crystallized ginger from the Ginger People.

In addition to baking for my loved ones, I filled my tank literally by enjoying some of my favorite combinations. Breakfast was, no doubt, brownie batter oatmeal. No matter how many times I make it, it always seems to taste more delicious than I remembered. 

For lunch, I've been enjoying leftover soup with snackables. I'm really digging these Mary's Gone Crackers

And who could forget my ginormous bowl of luscious veggies (kabocha, broccoli, yellow&white cauliflower, and brussels sprouts), millet, and chickpeas? Combining favorites has proved to be exquisite. No dressing or sauce necessary; the veggies speak for themselves. 

However, it didn't work quite as well here. It looked pretty, but something wasn't right. I think it had to do with the addition of asparagus and some other random things I needed to use up. Apparently the cruciferous veggies like their own show. Nothing a little nooch couldn't fix though :D. 

Oh, kabocha, how I love thee! Did you know squash actually has properties in it that relax our digestive systems and soothe our bodies? Talk about a stress reliever! 

Shout out to J for the lovely kabocha date we had today. Thanks for indulging in my kabocha lovin', J!

On that note, I'm off to check on my kabocha that's roasting in the oven. Oh boy, I can tell that tonight's going to be a good one :)!

How did you celebrate Memorial Day? Do you run on "empty" a lot? What do you do to remedy that? 

I encourage you all to "fill up" and have a lovely day! 


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kissing Carbs

Hiya, fat-huggers! :)

I was so overjoyed to recieve your comments on fats. Fats are such a necessary and delicious part of nutrition that it's so great that you're imbracing it. Although some of us have turned our backs on fats before, this hugging is here to stay. I just wish we could spread this message to more people outside of the blog world. It seems that fats have gotten such a bad rap in society these days. Actually, lots of goodies have. No fat, no carb, NO FUN!

Now that my fats got some hugging in my last post, it's time to spread the love to carbs. Oh carbs, how I love thee! If I had to choose a favorite food type, carbs would definitely be it. Grains, fruits, veggies, you name it: I adore them all. While I could explain why they're so good for us and how delicious they are, for now I'll just kiss some carbs. Anyone with me?

Carbs for breakfast is a recipe for success in my book. Oats and fruit of some kind is almost always on the menu to start my day off right.

With my abundance of fruit, my oats have been especially delightful. I've never actually combined all my favorite berries into one breakfast. I guess it's just like this. Really, with amazing produce and an creamy grain, how could you possibly go wrong?

Monday's oat bran with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries with golden flax seed and copious amounts of cinnamon made Monday much less Monday-like.

Tuesday's similar combination (I just can't get enough!) with the addition of blackberries increased my taste buds' happiness even further. I'm pretty sure the delicious factor is exponential because these combos keep getting better and better!

Not only are carbs yummy, but they also contain protein. Can you say nutritional powerhouses? I love how certain foods fit in all there major categories (carb, fat, protein). Speaking of which, I can't get enough of legumes. They definitely deserve a post of their own, but for now this will suffice. 

A legume I usually forget about is split peas. Actually, I can't even remember the last time I had them. Regardless, I got a random craving for them over the weekend. Thanks to some searching in my favorite blog's archives, I was able to decide on Vegan with a Vengeance's Curried Split Pea Soup. Oddly, it tasted sweet to me. However, I find that most foods in their whole form taste sweet to me. Their sweetness definitely beats that of traditional sweets any day. Forget the candy, I'll take some veggies, please! 

Crackers (Mary's Gone Crackers Herb, I love you. Why did I wait so long to try you out?) & soup meet carrots, cherries (the first of the season!), and cukes

Speaking of awesome carbs, greens and beans are also all-stars. Did you know leafy greens are considered to be the most nutrient dense per serving size? They're packed with protein and vitamins, some supplying the same amount of calcium (or more!) as milk. As for beans, they're loaded with protein, fiber, and even iron. As a side note, fresh is definitely better. When you can, try making your own from dried beans. With just a little bit of planning, you'll never go back. 

Celebration for these superheroes is in definitely in order. 

Celebration in the form of Tuesday's lunch: check! A salad with green leaf lettuce (hiding), kale chips, black beans, carrots, cucumbers, and salsa. There might have also been a few flax crackers involved. The fats were apparently feeling lonely ;). 

For dinner, I've been craving veggies more veggies still. I feel like it must be the change in weather. Whereas I used to crave warm meals, now all I want is lightly steamed veggies. Let the games begin! 

Sorry for the repetition, but this salad blows my mind. I'm still in the camp that simplicity is sometimes best. In the face of crazy Mondays, it's nice to know that favorites will never disappoint.

Tonight I even tried a new product! While it was not exactly a carb per-say, it was still yummy. I guess since it's made from rice it kind of works, right? ;) 

To incorporate my new find, I made a vegan quesadilla with Galaxy's Rice Vegan "Cheese" (American flavor) and black beans. While I can't really determine if it was American flavor-y, I did enjoy it. (Oh, and it melts! Wahoo!) However, I'm not one for processed products, but a little indulgence once and a while is fun. To be honest, I've been wanting to try some vegan cheeze for awhile and finally decided to do so when I saw it was on sale. I admit that I'm a bit of a sale snob. Do you wait for certain products to go on sale before you try them? Sale or not, what's your biggest splurge?


My quesadilla seemed like simply a side dish next to these wonderful veg. Broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, oh my! Veggies have a special place in my heart. I usually save a few for last because I enjoy them most. Do you save the best for last or go for it first?

To close my carb hugging, here's a carb that has recently come back into my life. Peaches are another reason why I love summer. While they definitely don't make my top fruit favorites (berries dominate, of course), they remind me of summer and I always enjoy a few during the season. I meant to do an ode to peaches and cream by making vegan pudding or at least dousing them in a pool of almond milk, but I just wasn't feel it. Instead, I popped in them in the fridge for a few minutes and savored their cool juice. Bring on summer! 

Now that you've seen a few of my favorites, what are your favorite superfoods? With a world full of whole foods, there are infinite possibilities and so many yet to discover! Have you tried anything new lately that you really liked?

Have a lovely day and hug your carbs good night! 


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Skinny on Fats

Hey there, lovely bloggies :)! How's your weekend been? 

I'm not sure what it's like all around, but the weather here in the midwest has been love-ly! Seriously, I've been soaking up some major sun. I think there's something about loads (and I mean loads) of good produce shopping at the farmer's market to get a girl going. Take a look at the goods: 

Not only is this a wonderful spread (can you say green and red? It's almost Christmas-y!), but most of it is local, organic, or both! The deals this week were nothing short of amazing. I love that as spring finally comes into full swing, there is an abundance of the good stuff. A giant bunch of kale for $0.75? A 4-pound bag of local sweet potatoes for $2? An abundance of organic strawberries and fresh organic kale? Yes please! 

I was lucky enough that all of this produce is of outstanding quality. It really makes my heart sing. Unfortunately, we're not all lucky enough to have such choices. When faced with limited produce problems, do you choose local, organic, or neither? Local and organic can sometimes be expensive, but we try when we can. The new study that showed that pesticides are contributing to ADHD in children has definitely supported my ideas even more. However, sometimes it is hard to find local or organic, or it is just simply too expensive. What's your take? 

As much as I love my veg and fruitas, there's definitely room in my heart for more. What could I be talking about, you ask? Fats, of course! In honor of Chocolate Covered Katie's Hug a Fat month, I thought it was finally time to get on the train and talk about fats

[My biggest hug goes out to flaxseed. I absolutely adore Bob's Red Mill's Golden Flaxseed Meal. Yumsies. Please excuse the just-got-out-of-bed-dressed-for-yoga look. Hey, it was the weekend.]

First, I want to address the matter of it's name. Fats have often been accused of making you fat, or overweight. Fats do indeed have more calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins (9 calories per gram vs. 4), so a small amount of fats generally is higher in calories. Why is this? Well, fats are made up of hydrophobic molecules. That means that they "fear" water and therefore foods high in fat are usually low in water. Just think of fruits and veggies; they usually have a high water percentage and therefore a lot of your consumption of them is actually water. 

[More hugging goes out to almonds. I would have hugged my Maranantha raw almond butter jar, but I was about to dash out to yoga and couldn't find it. Either way, I love me some almonds.]

Anyway, the fact that fats are calorie dense does not make them unhealthy. Actually, it's quite the opposite! Most healthy fats are also very nutrient dense with such essential vitamins and minerals as Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids. Did you know these nutrients can even speed up your metabolism and improve saiety? A healthy consumption of fats has actually been shown to promote weight loss and increased energy! So before you turn away from fats, remember that everything is good in moderation, and they won't actually make you fat. Not to mention, who wants dry and lifeless hair, cracked skin, a loss of umm "womanliness," depression, and fatigue? Not me! 

[Whoever thought of making flax seed in cracker form was genius. Just another vehicle for getting flax into my belly, I guess.]

Honestly, I could go on and on about the benefits of fats. Although I once turned my nose up at such a statement, I now have come to embrace the nutritional powerhouses. How, you ask? Well, it's simple. Here are some of my favorite sources of healthy fats: 

  • Flax seed (pictured above in my fat-hugging because it's my all-time favorite) 
  • Almonds & raw almond butter (especially this one)
  • Walnuts 
  • Hazelnuts 
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hummus (come on, who doesn't like hummus?!)
  • Chia seeds (a new find for me) 
  • Greenies 

In addition, these are some other great [vegan ] sources: 

  • Cooking oils (olive oil, safflower oil, etc.) 
  • Coconut (once misunderstood because of it's high saturated fat content, it is now known as a nutritional power house because of it's medium chain fatty acids. Jessica did a wonderful post here and Avery seems to know quite a bit about it, too.)
  • Avocados & guacamole 
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds 

[Although I'm allergic to coconut meat myself, I made Mama Pea's KIND bars for my neighbor who works at the farmer's market. She hooked me up with some produce, and I hooked her up with some of these. That's what friends are for :P.]

Even though you may not see pictures of my fat consumption every day (other than flax seeds, which I hope you don't mind because they're not going anywhere anytime soon), rest assured that I do my own fat hugging every day. Because vegan diets are naturally low in fat, I make sure to get my daily dose and enjoy it whole-heartedly. A dip in the almond butter jar (*swoon*) or a handful of raw nuts (one of my new favorite methods, even though I previously didn't like nuts by themselves) keep my body healthy and happy every day. 

What's your favorite healthy fat? Did you go through a love-hate relationship with fats, like me? 

If you would like more information on the benefits of healthy fats, I'm sure you can find lots on google, as well as in magazines, books, and even by looking at other blogs. As this website says, don't go no fat, go good fat! 

Have a lovely day! 

P.S. To those of you who read my last post, I should probably explain this: 

As you can probably guess from the picture, I burned myself on the stove. Contrary to what everyone asks when I tell them, no, I did not burn it while cooking. Actually, it's still quite a mystery of how it happened. When I came home from school, all of the burners on the stove were off. However, as I picked up a pan that was on the stove already (in the back), it burnt me. I immediately let go of it. As I did, I noticed that the handle (which never gets hot) was smoking! Strange. I guess it's just a kitchen mystery. However, it was a good reminder that even when I'm not cooking, it's important to be safe and that even though I am always super careful, weird things can happen. Thank you so much to all of you who expressed your care. It's definitely recovering but the burn was a bad one. It blistered immediately! All I cared about was whether I would be able to do downward dogs in yoga that night, hehe :P. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When Pigs Fly

Hello, Hello! 
[ say goodbye, and I say hello...]

So maybe there were no pigs flying today, but I did pass my pig lab practical. After mucho hours of studying and a review sesh with the piggies last night, I think I finally got it down. I opted out of the lab dissection itself, but knew the review would be helpful. Luckily, J was there to help me by moving the organs around so I could see (Thanks, J! It seems like your EMT training really came in handy!) Wow, that's an unappetizing statement for a food blog. Don't worry, I'm almost done and then we'll move onto much better subjects. If you don't want to read my views on the pig dissection, feel free to skip the next paragraph. 

Anyway, here's my thoughts on the lab that I promised. Although I've literally been dreading this since 4th grade, I decided that I could suck it up in the name of education. My studies are my top priority, after all. However, a few days before, my science teacher told us how they get the fetal pigs for us to use. I won't go into detail, but basically they're the product of the slaughterhouse. They are taken from their moms who are killed and turned into meat for us to eat. I personally could not handle this fact because of my veganism and general love of animals. If women and children (especially pregnant women) are always put in high esteem in our societies (just think of war, when those are the two groups that are supposed to be protected), then why should pigs be any different? I do recognize the importance of education of the parts of the body and therefore was able to look at the pigs last night and today with studying in mind. I agree that this is a great training method for doctors and such, but I just didn't think it was right for me to do. Regardless, I do not resent those who did participate in it and definitely don't have the "holier than thou" attitude on it. That also goes along with how I feel about dietary and lifestyle choices in general, but that's another subject. Basically, I believe that you should do what feels right for you, remembering to embrace that everyone is different. 

But on a happier (and much more appetizing subject), I really enjoyed reading all of the foods you've been enjoying. Fresh is definitely the name of the game! Strawberries, mangos, kiwis, tomatoes, avocados, the greek stuff ... the list goes on and on! Yum-O! 

My love of berries is totally obvious thanks to my breakfast choice. By pulling on my wonderful stock of fresh fruit, I made triple berry swirl oats. Oh my, this was insane. 

Oh how I love you, cinnamon, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and golden flax seed!

I've been showing some veggie love as well. Just look at this bowl! It was practically overflowing with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash, and millet

All I did was spice it with a pinch of allspice and cinnamon. These veggies are so good that they speak for themselves. 

Have you ever not known what to eat but know you're craving a certain food group? Do you just eat that or try to balance out your meal? That was my exact dilemma tonight. I knew I wanted veggies, and LOTS of them. My "protein" options (I used quotes because veggies actually do have quite a bit of protein) didn't sound nearly as good as a bowl full of veggie and grain goodness, so I went with it... and I'm SO glad I did!

However, last night I wanted some dense protein before my review sesh. Enter tempeh. I made a marinade with mango-pineapple juice, freshly grated ginger, minced garlic, Braggs Liquid Aminos, a little cardamon and hoped for the best. 

My praying paid off because this was delicious! I served it up with millet (yes, I'm obsessed), green beans, asparagus, and a little wedge of kabocha (LOVE). This was the perfect studying fuel.

Speaking of protein, I should also mention my love of infatuation with chickpeas. I. Love. Chick. Peas. Really, that's an understatement. I made a batch of chickpeas (1 cup dry) and ate a third of the batch as a snack. I'm not kidding, my friends. I just pooped them straight up. As fun as that was, I knew they would make any meal amazing as well. However, I never imagined this. 

So. Good. Who knew throwing together little leftovers of salads and such could taste so good? I really should know this by now but it never gets old. In the wrap: chickpeas, carrots, green leaf lettuce, and spinach on a sun-dried tomato wrap. I also had some overflow and green beans. My wrapping skills obviously could use some improvement, but for now a pan to sear the edges closed and some tooth picks will do. 

I also tried a new flavor of Larabars. Ever since I tried my first Lara, I've been on the hunt for a Chocolate Mint Jocalat. Finally, one day I found some and snatched a few up. I'll admit I'm a total saver and like to keep my favorite things until it seems like the right moment. I'll even try to make them last longer. Does anyone else save favorite things for special occasions or prefer certain dishes?

As you see, I couldn't wait any longer. Unfortunately, it let me down a bit, though it was definitely delicious. As many other bloggers have warned, the mint flavor isn't very pronounced. I love the combination of mint and chocolate so it wasn't enough for me. Luckily, though, it redeemed itself when I warmed it up in the microwave. Just like a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie

If you've made it through this post, I thank you. I guess it's no surprise that I enjoy typing and sharing my eats with you. I'm just so glad to be apart of this community and would really like to express my gratitude to you all for reading (or just looking at pictures, really). 

Unfortunately, as school is drawing it's end, I've been super busy. I'm definitely ready for the weekend! What are your plans? It's time to do a little more homework and get a little snack-y before bed. I see some mango in my future. 

On that note, I'll leave you with one more picture. Can you guess what happened? Details to come. 

Have a lovely night! 


Monday, May 17, 2010

Snobby Jane

What's up chickadees? 

Thank you all for your well wishes with my allergies! Allergies or not, I'm sure we can all agree that feeling under the weather is never fun. Luckily I'm back in my house tonight so I'll see how it goes. 

To bridge the gap between my two stays, I came home to a yummy lunch snack whatever you would call a meal eaten at 4pm. Last week I made a batch of Veganomicon's Snobby Joes to have for the week. I made a few minor changes and cut the recipe in half. My subs included using French (puy) lentils, a yellow pepper instead of green, dijon mustard instead of yellow, and omitting the maple syrup. 

This recipe always makes me wonder why I don't make it more often. It's dang tasty, I'm telling ya! I've never had the meat version (it always grossed me out, not to mention I hated red meat even before becoming vegan), but I'm pretty sure this one would be better anyway. The whole "sloppy" idea isn't my kind of fun so instead I snobbed it up and served mine with millet and a medley of greens. (Like my use of "medley"?) Classy. 

Today I choose to just eat the few leftovers straight up with some green beans and carrots. I wasn't hungry at all during the day. Strange. Knowing the importance of fueling my mind and body (especially for my yoga sesh), I ate anyway. I can't say I didn't enjoy it, though. Seriously, try it for yourself (just click)

Jumping back to this morning, I definitely fueled my brain for success. Three tests and a paper due called for a breakfast I can always count on. Pear oats it was. I love the texture of pears in my oat bran since they make oats so creamy and thick. I also love the fact that this combo works well for even overripe pears so I don't have to throw away food that I temporarily forgot about. Wahoo!

Apparently I'm all over the place today because now I'm about to show you dinner. Oh well, I guess that's how it goes when you've been studying for the lab practical of the dissection of a fetal pig for what seems like all night. Go figure. Luckily I wasn't studying for it before din din or I would have lost my appetite. Blech. I would explain my views on the dissection here, but why ruin your appetite as well? Don't worry, I do have a lot to say (but when don't I?), but I'll just save it for now. 

Anyway, din was delicious. I had my favorite salad with a few subs and even tried my hand at preparing tempeh. Sure, Lightlife did the hard work, but I've never actually used a block of tempeh myself. It was definitely worth it. I think it's safe to say I'm a tempeh covert thanks to these girls. I choose flax tempeh due to my love for flax seed and it was yumm-ay! 

To top it off, I've been enjoying some more pear to end the night on a sweet note. Warmed diced pears with cinnamon in a mug makes me happy. Can you tell I'm overstocked on pears? No complaints, though. I do love me some fruit. Speaking of which, I'm on a strawberry kick, as well. The fact that I went through 1 pound of them singlehandedly on Sunday is only the beginning. Oh boy, I love summer! 


Now that you've heard my precursor to the pig lab, what do you have to say about it? I know it's a requirement in most biology classes, but everyone feels differently about it. Did you have to do a similar lab? Did you enjoy it or want to opt out? I can't wait to hear what you all have to say and share my own feelings.  

Also, are there any foods that you've been downing lately? I can say strawberries are definitely high on my list. Oh, the joys of summer! Just wait until there are more organic farmers at my farmer's market with their locally grown produce... *swoon*!

Have a lovely night!