Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warm Vegan Travel Wishes, Still Stuck in the Snow

The Jersey Shore/NYC snow situation is still totally crazy!  My car has been completely snowed in for days because of the intensity of the snow.  Major highways have only now began to open one lane.  There's about three feet of snow everywhere!  My snowbound brain has led me to websites that show warm beaches.  My restless feet just want to go to the beach and take pictures.  It seems that other snowbound people have made some footpaths through the snow, so hopefully I can get up there today.  

I've been on a tight budget lately, so upcoming travel is going to be tricky.  I'm determined to make it work though, and dreaming is free!  I have miles saved up on a few airlines, so not including airfare, these options might actually work.  Since I'm surrounded by snow right now and really love the beach life, I want scuba, snorkel, and surfing experiences.  Delicious vegan food and good coffee are sort of a necessity, though I have been known to do without while traveling to really cool places.  Here is a random list of places I've been thinking about lately.
Puerto Rico

Costa Rica
Surfing, diving, hiking, I've always wanted to go to Costa Rica!

Flights from the NJ/NYC/Philly area to Miami are pretty cheap, and I remember finding a hotel bargain in a really good area smack dab in the middle of South Beach.  

Hawaii (remember, this is not including airfare)
I've been to Kauai, and to this day it's one of the best places I've ever been.  Now I'd like to try out Oahu or Maui.   There's gotta be some budget hotels there, right?  I'll find out and keep you posted!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard at the Jersey Shore

On Christmas, I went to the beach for a quiet moment and snapped a few photos.  Little did I know that in about 24 hours, an epic blizzard would hit, and the entire Jersey Shore would be blanketed in more than 2 feet of snow!
The total amount of snow in my town is officially 30 inches.  It's crazy!  I couldn't open my back door so I climbed out a window to get to a shovel.  The most shallow snow was over my knees, making it really hard to walk.  Needless to say, the shoveling didn't get done.  Snow drifts were intensely high, completely covering cars!  Streets are completely impassable, plows are getting stuck and are being diverted to emergency situations.  Thank goodness I went food shopping on Christmas Eve day!  We've been watching TV, reading, drinking hot drinks, and eating yummy food.  Here's an organic TLT (tofu, lettuce, and tomato) with avocado on toasted whole wheat bread.
I want this snow to melt!  Here's a cool time lapse video someone recorded near here. 
December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Snorkeler Style!

When I was diving at the Great Barrier Reef, I met one of the most peculiar animals.  Unlike wombats and giant clams, I never knew they existed until I saw them right in front of me.  They're reef dwelling, invertebrate filter feeders.  They're a couple of inches long, brightly colored, sort of shy and reactive, they're...
Spirobranchus giganteus photo by Nick Hobgood
Christmas Tree Worms!
Aren't they so cool?  The divemaster I was with would gently touch them and THWUMP!  they instantly retracted into their tiny little burrows in the coral.  Check it out in this video I found on YouTube:
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kale Chickpea Soup

I rarely make my own recipes.  I substitute and change around all sorts of things from my favorite cookbooks, but start from scratch?  Almost never (and salad doesn't count). 

I love soup for lunch in the cold months.  I had a craving for kale and chickpeas, so I put a bunch of stuff together in a pot and surprised myself by making this delicious, flavor filled and healthy soup.  

Here's what I used:
-2 stalks of celery
-1 onion
-half a green bell pepper
-olive oil
-2 cloves garlic
-2 cups vegetable stock
-1 vegan boullion cube
-1 large can organic chickpeas
-a bunch of kale, chopped
-3 carrots, chopped
-1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
-1 tsp thyme

Here's I did:
1.  Saute diced onion, green peppers, and celery in olive oil in a pot until onions start to get a tad transulescent.  
2.  Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic and stir with a wooden spoon until the garlic gets fragrant and smells awesome.  Stir in the thyme.
3.  Add two cups of vegetable stock and stir.
4.  Add four cups of water and one vegan boullion cube (crumble the cube as you add it).  Stir and bring to a boil.
5. Add carrot and cauliflower and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
6.  Add chickpeas and kale and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
I heated this up for lunch throughout the week, so good!  I especially liked it with a healthy dash of Sriracha hot sauce.  I will definitely make this again, and I'll try to invent new soup recipes since this one was such a success! Yay for soup making!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice and Lunar Eclipse!

 In honor of the cool things happening in space, here's a photo of a moon jelly I met. 
I'm soooo looking forward to longer days and shorter nights!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cheap, Vegan, and Eco-Friendly Solutions to Dry Skin

Between the windy, cold air outside and the dry heat inside, my skin and lips have been parched.  Here's what I've tried and loved:

I slather a stick of cocoa butter on my lips and all over my face before I go out for a run.  It gets super windy at the beach and boardwalk, and this helps seal in some much needed moisture.  I prefer this to Vaseline, much more eco-friendly.

A jojoba and cocoa butter mixture-I scoop out about 1/2 teaspoon and let it melt in my hands.  Then I rub it into my face and lips as a mask.  It eventually gets absorbed and leaves my skin soft and happy.  I don't recommend doing this right before you go to sleep unless you only use a little bit.  You could wake up with greasy hair if you use too much and don't let it sink in first.

Straight up organic coconut oil-Let it melt a little on your finger, put it on your lips.  Delicious, eco-friendly, and super moisturizing. I also do this with vitamin E after I use this amazing lip scrub from Lush

The other thing that I've been doing is eating more healthy fats.  I've been making some baked goods with organic coconut oil, eating avocados, and I've been taking more omega 3 supplements.  This all seems to make a difference!

I'm still looking for a good, long lasting vegan lip balm though.  Maybe I can mix my own with cocoa butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil.  I just need to find a little jar I can re-purpose so I can carry it around with me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vegan and Gluten Free Cookie Sandwiches

I love looking through old photos.  While reliving the highlights of my life for the past few months, I came across these cookie sandwiches from the BabyCakes cookbook.  I thought about this frosting recently when I noticed a container of dry soy milk on my kitchen shelf, and I forgot that I made the cookies to go along with it.    This frosting is not thick like margarine based frosting, but it definitely does the job.  It's not as full-on as other frostings, rather it kind of just sits back and enhances in a mellow and yummy way.  The cookies were great, and together...whoa!  Sweet, fun, and I don't feel a blood sugar spike when I snack on them.  I love moderately/somewhat healthy baked goods!  The recipe for the frosting can be found here (care of Gwyneth Paltrow) and the cookie recipe (care of Oprah) is here.

As an aside, did you hear that BabyCakes is opening a location in Disney World?  Amazing!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Love Purple Foods!

When I saw these organic purple potatoes and this stripy organic eggplant, I couldn't resist.  I had to have them! 
 Look at this amazing color!
I chopped and combined the eggplant and potatoes with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and rosemary and baked them for a while at around 375 degrees.  That's mock chicken with rosemary on the side.  Though the potatoes taste like potatoes, I think they're more fun when they're crazy purple!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vegan Running

Though I've maintained a gym membership for years, last summer I decided to start running for real.  I went for the longest run I could handle in the humid Jersey Shore heat on the boardwalk.  Though I went far, I felt like my lungs were turning inside out and my leg muscles turned into jello!  Bad way to start running.  I was sore for a week, and I quickly realized that the way I went about it was all wrong.  Zero to 5K=bad idea.  Even though I ran on the treadmill for months and felt ready to run outside, I wasn't really prepared for the difference between treadmill running and real running.  

I had a busy summer, but by the time August rolled around, I was ready to start running outside again.  I  got an 8 week plan by googling "how to start running" and clicking on the first link that popped up.    Starting out slow is the way to go!  As the weeks went by, the summer humidity gave way to cool autumn breezes, the crowds parted, and the boardwalk became filled with mostly runners. 
Walking back from a run in November.

Now that I'm officially a "runner", I find that I feel stronger and have more energy.  These days, the challenge lies in staying warm when it's in the 30's and super windy and dark.  After running outside for months now, I tried treadmill running again to beat the cold.   Weirdly, I hated it.  I used to enjoy running on the treadmill, but now that I'm used to the sound of the boards under my feet and the waves on the beach, the wind and the fresh sea air, I couldn't deal with the stale and boring treadmill.  Outside, the yoga pants that provided enough warmth for the fall are now woefully inadequate.  I did splurge on a rain jacket after a chilly rain soaked me to the core, but now I'm thinking I need running tights, long sleeve shirts, and gloves.  Thankfully, most running shoes and clothes are vegan, and it's pretty easy to avoid leather or wool.

Here are some vegan/vegetarian blogs I've been reading for running inspiration: 

No Meat Athlete- Matt Frazier is a vegetarian marathoner.  As a beginning runner, I'm learning a lot about endurance reading this blog.

The New Me-  Chrissy is a vegan runner in East Texas.  I especially liked her recent post about a perfect run

Run Fast. Run Vegan. is written by a 15+ year competitive vegan runner whose accomplishments are waaayyy beyond anything I could do or care to do, but it's cool.

Jeffrey Eggleston is another crazy accomplished runner that's vegan. A 14 minute 5K?  Damn.

Healthy Ashley-She's an ironman!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are You Sure That's Vegan?

As long time readers of this blog are aware, I took a bit of a blogging break a little while back.  Since my return, I looked over my email and realized that I was sent an amazing vegan dessert recipe book to review.  I apologized for the delay, and I immediately fired up the stand mixer and preheated the oven.  

Claire Goss's Are You Sure That's Vegan? isn't pretending to be health food, it's straight up comfort food for those of us with a serious sweet tooth.  It's filled with unapologetically sugary treats such as mint chocolate chip cupcakes, pineapple upside down cake, and creme brulee.  These desserts are meant to stand up to all of their non-vegan counterparts, pleasing even the most cynical dairy and egg-lovin' omnivore.  There is a bright color photograph for every dessert in the book, and she even includes a photo guide to the baking tools she uses. 
I decided to start my Are You Sure That's Vegan? experience with Nutty Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Though my usual baking nut of choice is walnuts, this recipe called for pecans, and I'm glad it did.  This sweet combination of oatmeal, pecans, and chocolate did not disappoint.  
Aunt Lena's Oatmeal Shortbread was a real treat with just a hint of nutmeg and a delicate, buttery balance of truly simple ingredients that many of us already have on hand (oats, flour, margarine, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and baking powder).  
The hands down favorite of the three recipes I've tried so far is definitely Peanutty Chocolate Chippers.  This is the best cookie I've had in a while.  This cookie is so good, that when I'm eating it I'm reminded of every good cookie experience I've ever had with every bite.  It really ranks up there with my favorite cookie experience from Whole Foods in New Orleans and with Cooking at the Pacific Outpost's Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie.  It has the best combination of sweet and salty, chocolate and peanut butter.  You can bet that I will make these cookies when I really want to impress. 

This book is far more than just cookies, though.  She includes a recipe for funnel cakes, a summertime boardwalk favorite that I look forward to making soon.  I also count Key Lime Pie as one of my favorite desserts ever, so I will be following Claire's very easy Key Lime Cheesecake recipe whenever I need to be reminded of my trip to the Florida Keys.  This is a worthwhile addition to any vegan baker's collection of cookbooks.  Download the e-book or get five free recipes here.  You can also find the actual book version at Amazon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, An Unlikey Thanksgiving Tradition

In addition to the traditional mashed potatoes, yams, cranberries, stuffing, and tofurky, I like to round out my Thanksgiving meal with some chocolate peanut butter pie.  It's ridiculously easy to make, in fact there's no baking required.  I don't even measure the ingredients!  Here's what you need:
  • A block of firm tofu
  • A small bag of vegan chocolate chips
  • Some peanut butter, preferably smooth but it really doesn't matter
  • A teensy splash of vanilla
  • A graham cracker crust

Here's what to do:
1.  Chop the tofu up coarsely and put it in a blender.
2.  Add a lot of peanut butter.
3.  Melt the chips is a double boiler.  If you don't have one, do what I do: Put a smaller saucepan with the chips inside a bigger pot filled with boiling water.  Stir the chips until they melt.  You could probably melt them in a microwave too.
4.  Put the melted chips in the blender.
5.  Add a small bit of vanilla.
6.  Blend until smooth.
7.  Pour the mixture into the pre-made pie crust, let it set in the fridge for an hour or so.

Even the non-vegetarians and kids loved this pie, and it couldn't be easier.
To satisfy my love of all things pumpkin, I also make a deliciously traditional spicy pumpkin pie from Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.  It's essentially firm tofu, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and maple syrup blended together and poured in a prepared graham cracker crust.  You do have to bake it for 30 minutes and let it set in the fridge for a few hours, but it's totally worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vegan Things I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving

In no particular order...
  • Vegan MoFo-It has been challenging but fun to try to come up with a blog post every day of the week.
  • Are You Sure That's Vegan?-I was sent an e-book to review, and I had a new reason to bake lots of cookies.  Review coming soon!
  • Tons of vegan blogs-There are so many amazing vegan blogs that are well written by sincere people, and I'm super thankful for that.
  • My vegan running shoes-Surprisingly, lots of running shoes are made out of entirely synthetic materials. 
  • Tofurky-A ready made vegan alternative that I'm starting to see everywhere.
  • People that leave nice little comments on my blog-I get super happy whenever I get a comment.  Thanks for reading!
  • People that read my blog but are too shy to comment-Thank you for reading too!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I can't wait to read about what you cooked, baked, and ate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Organic Tempeh Goodness

I've had a lot of delicious tempeh in my life recently.  First, Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe from Veganomicon.  This is one of my favorites, and it's on heavy rotation at my house.  I love the spicy fennel garlic tempeh and bitter greens combo.

The other day, I had to go food shopping but didn't feel like it.  So, I whipped up what I had and made this very beige but delicious meal.  While the pasta cooked, I fried some onion and added garlic.  Then I added cubed tempeh and covered it with veggie broth and Braggs in the pan.  I let the liquid boil down and added some dried sage.  Yum!

Last, another one that makes an appearance on the stove top pretty often, this is Peanut Tempeh with Noodles from Vegan Dad.  Tempeh, coconut milk, peanut butter, Braggs, red curry, and coriander?  Yes, please.  I also added some spinach cause spinach is awesome.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegan Finds at the Asian Food Market

I happened to be driving near an Asian Food Market today, so naturally I pulled over to check it out.  Once inside, I was immediately drawn to the large refrigerated section of soy products.  The prices were phenomenal, and the selection was somewhat surprising.  That container...oh, let's call it a bucket of tofu, cost less than $2.00!  I also got some "soy puffs" that are essentially puffy fried cubes of tofu, vegan spring rolls, vegan soy chicken, rice noodles, and Chinese restaurant tea that's a mixture of jasmine, green, and oolong.  The timing was right since I'm planning on making two tofu based pies and tofu whip for Thanksgiving.  The bucket will come in handy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

I found a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin bread that seemed borderline healthy on the Little House of Veggies blog.  I had a lot of the ingredients on hand, and it was super easy to make.  Even though I accidentally used pumpkin pie filling instead of pumpkin, it was super delicious.  I will definitely make this again!  I love pumpkin season!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan French Toast and Raw Ice Cream in Key West

While visiting the southernmost part of the continental USA, I had breakfast at a little  place called Help Yourself
I ordered the vegan version of their French toast and ate it outside at one of the picnic tables set up in the Florida sunshine.

Later, after walking around the quaint streets of Key West, I treated myself to Help Yourself's raw, vegan ice cream.  

If and when I return to Key West, I'll be sure to go to this place again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gluten Free Vegan Blondies

I like to tell myself that the substitutions I make in my baked goods make them almost good for me.  What can I say?  I have a sweet tooth that just won't quit.  I was super excited when I got the Babycakes cookbook because the few times I've eaten baked goods there, they seemed kind of healthy.  My first attempt from the cookbook was gluten free blondies. After reading through the ingredients and possible substitutions, I used only chickpea flour (I didn't have any brown rice flour or garbanzo fava flour) and I subbed canola oil for coconut oil.  I didn't have any mini muffin tins, so I used a 9x13 baking pan instead. After I finished adding and mixing all of the dry ingredients, I realized that I used the 1/3 cup dry measure instead of the 1/4 cup I was supposed to use.  Oops! Despite the fact that I mostly did not follow the recipe, the blondies turned out really good! I was a little worried when the batter tasted like sugary vanilla chickpeas, but when they came out of the oven I was pleasantly surprised. They tasted like regular wheat blondies. They were almost fudgey on the inside and crispy on the outside. I'll bet if I actually followed the recipe and used mini muffin tins, they'd be even better. It's also heartening to know that canola oil can totally be subbed for the super expensive coconut oil. I'll be making these again!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Daiya Cheese Dinners

I recently bought some Rustic Crust organic pizza crust, Daiya cheese, organic tomato sauce, organic spinach, and Tofurkey Italian sausage.  I made pizza, chicken parm, and cheesy sausage and pasta.
First was the pizza.  The crust was good! It's not hard to make your own crust from scratch, but it is time consuming.  This Rustic Crust was a healthy and quick alternative.
The spinach is hiding under the cheese.
Next was chicken parmesan with stelline organic pastaThe pasta is not whole wheat, but it is so good with some earth balance and salt!
Again, the spinach is hiding under the Daiya.
 I finished up the un-sausage with some spiral whole wheat pasta and the rest of the sauce.
The Daiya and spinach made the sauce extra fantastic!
 The finished product was hearty and filling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tofu Buffalo Wings

I love tofu buffalo wings.  There's just something special about spicy fried tofu and a side of tofu ranch dressing!  I tried to make mine healthier by baking them, but I honestly think that if you're going to go for buffalo wings you might as well fry them.  They're more fun that way!  My favorite restaurant tofu wings are hands down Kate's Joint on Avenue B in NYC.  They are battered and deep fried and ridiculous.  Sometimes they give me heartburn, and I don't care!  They're that good.  
At home, I use a recipe inspired by an old Jersey shore restaurant called Veggie Works.  Before they changed owners, they sold the Veggie Works Vegan Cookbook that allowed their customers to attempt to recreate some of their legendary food.   The tofu buffalo wing recipe in the book essentially calls for firm tofu, Tabasco sauce, and Cajun spice mix.  I added some panko bread crumbs and basically dredge the tofu slices in hot wing sauce, then dip it in a bread crumb/Cajun spice mix.  I fry them until they look ready.  The vegan ranch is also pretty easy.  Basically I just blend silken tofu, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a tablespoon of onion powder, a teaspoon of salt, a bit of soy milk, and oil.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cooking Set and Lotion Giveaway

I've written about Skin MD Natural before, I love this lightweight lotion for its lasting effects and vegan ingredients.  They get bonus points for using 100% solar power to produce their lotion.  Just in time for the cold weather, the folks at Skin MD Natural are offering 20% off their products until November 30th with the discount code FALL10 during check out.

Even better, they're sponsoring a $400 Fall Into Cooking Giveaway. This includes a year's supply of Skin MD Natural and all of this:
  • Oval Casserole Dish size 14" x 8" x 5.25" with 3L Capacity
  • Oval Casserole Dish size 16.5" x 10" x 6.25" with 4L Capacity
  • Round Casserole Dish size 11" x 8.5" x 5.5" with 2.6L Capacity
  • Set of Four Ramekins size 4" x 4" x 2"
  • Roasting Pan with Floating Rack size 17" x 13" x 3.5" holds up to 25lbs
  • Kitchen Composter
There are a couple of ways you can enter the giveaway.  You can sign up for their newsletter with your name and e-mail address.  You can also follow Skin MD Natural on facebook or twitter, subscribe to their blog, post a link to the giveaway on twitter or facebook, or blog about it if you have your own blog.

I hope one of us wins!  That would be awesome!  You have until November 20th to enter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vegan and Eco-Friendly Boots for Fall

Boot shopping season is upon us in most of the northern hemisphere.  My fake Uggs from a couple of years ago are getting worn out.  Even though they are so easy and warm, I'm getting sick of them.  I bought these earlier in the fall and love them, but I want more options.
Alternative Outfitters, $48, also in grey
My boots have to be vegan, and I prefer eco-friendly materials whenever possible.  There is an argument that leather and suede is never good for the earth, and synthetics are always less polluting.  In this list, I generally consider boots to be eco-friendly when they are made from recycled products.  Price is always one of the final determining factors for me, so this list basically starts with the cheapest and ends with the most expensive.  Here's what my search turned up:
Not exactly marketed as eco-friendly, but cheap and vegan:
Payless is mostly vegan by default.  I'm guessing from their numerous options of accidently vegan boots that it's cheaper to use man made fibers to make shoes.
$34.99 on sale, also in brown and black
$29.99.  Also in purple, black, and brown
Forever 21 has quite a few vegan boots that are described as "leatherette". 
Forever 21, $32.80
Alloy has quite a few options too.
$42.90, also in chocolate, black, mocha, and taupe

 Sometimes eco-friendly, always vegan, a bit more expensive:
only $31!

Moo Shoes has a large collection of vegan boots, including these from Madden Girl.
Moo Shoes, $89, also in tan
Sometimes you can find vegan boots in surprising places, like Victoria's Secret.  They have a long list on non-vegan boots, but sometimes they carry brands like Report that use synthetics in place of leather and suede.
Report, $59
Report, $65 on sale
Colin Stuart, $99
Planet Shoes has a vegan brands section that includes a "why vegan?" link.  These Jambu boots are made with partially recycled rubber.
Planet Shoes, $169, also in brown

If you look at all of their boots, you can find vegan boots from brands that aren't entirely vegan.   These Blowfish wedge heels are made with faux leather and also come in black or "whiskey".
Planet Shoes, $79

Cri de Coeur is an entirely vegan company that makes shoes and other accessories.
Cri de Coeur, $150

Eco-friendly and vegan:
Bourgeois Boheme, a UK brand, has information on their website explaining why leather is never eco-friendly.
£110.00, also in black

£45.00, also in black
Beyond Skin, another UK company, offers these boots made from recycled plastic.
£159.00, also in purple

Vegan boots that are priced way beyond my reach, but a girl can dream:
Olsen Haus has a page on their site that explains that synthetic materials are always more eco-friendly than leather.

Stella McCartney...cruelty free, fabulous, but so expensive.
Are you ready for this?  $595
Though it takes some effort, it's easier than ever to find vegan boots these days.  There are other sites I haven't mentioned yet that are devoted to vegan shoes.  Ragazzi Vegan, Vegan Chic, Vickery, Great Green Shoes are some favorites.  You can also search under the vegan category on Online Shoes, Endless, and Zappos

Now it seems like the hardest part is narrowing it down to only one pair of boots!