Monthly Archives: May 2012

Time to Get Helpful!

Howdy readers! Did you have a good Memorial Day? Mine was excellent, momentarily reverent, and full of delicious vegan grillables! Fun fact, my black bean burgers stand up to grilling pretty well, which is good because I was concerned they wouldn’t.

Anyway, the long weekend is over, I’m back to the grind, and desperately in need of some direction. Readers, I don’t know what you want from me. I don’t mean that in an existential, “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAAAAAAAAAAAAAN???” kind of way. I mean that in a, “Hey, could you tell me what kind of recipes you’d like me to work on?” kind of way. Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few more followers, and if likes on my posts are any indication, some of you guys have bookmarked me. I’m pretty darn excited about this, though I have my suspicions that this has more to do with my recent cake escapades than any of my soup recipes. (Just teasing, you guys are awesome!)

So, I have some followers now, people who either like what I’m reading, think I’m funny, or like my recipe ideas. Hooray! That’s SO COOL! You guys are amazing, thank you so much! That being said, I’d like to know what you want. I’ve been asking on facebook and twitter for suggestions, and so far I’ve only been asked about what one should do with an obscene amount of beets (I’m on it Emily!). Guys, I’m going to tell you now that there is not a single vegetable, fruit, or other plant that I will not tentatively approach and do my best to prepare and there is not a single dish that I am not completely willing to try to veganize (though I’m going to have some trouble if you ask me to take on a Porterhouse Steak).

The thing is, I really, legitimately want to help you guys eat a little better and answer any questions you might have (or point you in the direction of someone qualified to answer it. I am NOT a nutritionist!). I want everyone to be able to prepare themselves a yummy, plant based meal, snack, or dessert, regardless of economic status, dietary concerns, or access to ingredients. So if you could please, please, pretty please either shoot me an email, something in the comments section, a wall post on facebook, or whatever you call the equivalent of those things on twitter (I’m ON twitter, but I’m not down with the lingo), I would really appreciate it and will get to work on it as soon as I can.

Seriously, I’m here to help. Just let me know what you need, ok?

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Please help my mommy! Can’t you see how cute I am?

Is it the Weekend Yet?

Readers, you’re going to have to forgive my lack of posts recently. It’s been a long few weeks, and I am exhausted.

List of Crap that Happened Over the Course of Two Weeks
1. Heavy duty vegetable gardening
2. Unfortunate overgrowth of weeds
4. Four birthdays
5. Two Births…so six birthdays
6. Olive’s preschool graduation
7. Olive’s preschool picnic
8. Obscene heat
9. Three papers due
10. One test
11. A severe addiction to Angry Birds (how have I never played this before???)

List of Crap that Didn’t Happen Over the Course of Two Weeks
1. Immaculate eating habits. We’ve had a looooot of cake lately, and pot lucks at preschool mean we’re downing some dairy out of necessity.
2. Consistent exercise
3. Basic hygiene. Here is what I look like. I have not showered (…in three days…), I have not had coffee yet, and I have to go to my first workout since Monday. If you have a weak stomach, you may want to avert your eyes.
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I’m pretty lucky that this is Memorial Day Weekend. I know right now that I should tell you all about how important it is to remember those who died for our country (it is VERY important) and the sacrifices that some people make. In reality, though, I’m so pooped that the idea of lounging poolside all day tomorrow, seeing a parade on Monday, and eating delicious grilled veggies sounds marvelous.

Maybe I’ll eat them with a few of these guys?

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Fudge Pops!
Makes Six-Eight Pops
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp salt

Whisk together the cocoa and maple syrup until a thick paste forms. All the cocoa should be fully dissolved (which is why we’re using liquid sweetener). Add the milk and salt and stir until combined. Pour them into Popsicle molds and freeze until set (probably about three hours).

In order to get them out, depending on your molds, you’re probably going to need to use the old water and squeeze method of pulling them out. Nothing is more depressing than an empty Popsicle stick. Luckily, nothing is more yummy than a Fudge Pop!

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It’s drippy!

Make these for your next cookout and they will be a hit, or just make them for you and horde them. I usually don’t brag about calorie count to you guys, but they are right around fifty calories a pop. They also have calcium and whatever vitamins your milk is fortified with. If nothing else, you can feel good knowing that you can pronounce all the names of the ingredients.

So kick back, relax, and eat like twenty of these. You deserve them.

Money Saving Monday–A Crunchy Kitchen Essential!

Readers, I’m probably never going to give you a “What’s in my kitchen!” post, because it will leave you incredibly confused. I live in a household of three adults, one vegan, one vegetarian, and one meat eater. So while some things, like the bunches of kale, or the entire section of my cupboard devoted to beans, will make sense, things like Hamburger Helper, canned ham, and stacks of frozen, ground “beef” will not. I do think, though, it’s important that you know a few items I can’t live without. Since today is Money Saving Monday, this is the perfect day to talk about the one thing I panic over if I can’t find it–unsweetened applesauce.

This stuff is insane, guys! Unsweetened applesauce is more than just a tasty treat to give your kid so she’ll shut up while you try to get the dishes done, it’s an absolute necessity in vegan and low fat baking. Whenever a recipe calls for an egg, you just mix 1/4 cup of applesauce with about 1/2 tsp of baking powder, and voila, you have an egg. In fact, you can replace a good bit of the oil many recipes call for with applesauce and end up with a much lighter, but still moist, baked good. One of my favorite brownie recipes omits all the oil and replaces it with applesauce, and you can’t tell the difference!

Applesauce is a cheap eat, at around $1.80 for a giant jar of it. It keeps in your cabinets for a long time, so when it’s on sale stock up on it for super cheap (I’m a big fan of the buy one, get one sales, myself). It’s good to have one jar opened in the fridge, for immediate use, and one sealed in your cabinet, for when you’re in a bind. All of my cakes and cookies require the stuff, and I think if you’ve baked them, you’ll agree, applesauce does the trick quite nicely!

Watch out for applesauce with added sugar. The sugar is completely unnecessary, as applesauce is naturally very sweet, but companies add it in because it tends to sell better. I promise, though, that you will not know the difference, especially if you are baking with it. At that, if you sprinkle in some cinnamon, your kids probably won’t know the difference either!

Sure, you could mash a banana up and use that as an egg instead, but for $1.80 a jar you get a fake egg that isn’t going to alter the flavor of your baked good AND won’t disintegrate into something unrecognizable on top of your fridge in a few days. Plus, it shuts the little ones up pretty darn fast when they’re begging for sweets.

Is it as good for you as an apple? No. Apples have fiber and more vitamins overall. Whole fruit ALWAYS beats purees and juices. What it is, is a low fat alternative to the oil and eggs you were going to throw into your banana bread, so it’s worth a try. Trust me guys, it’s good stuff.

Happy Monday readers! Yummy recipes are up ahead for the week, but today I want you to think long and hard about how good applesauce is, and then try one of my muffin recipes. It will be your best applesauce experience ever, promise!

Let’s Talk About the “Obesity Epidemic,” Shall We?

Readers, if you are under the age of 13 don’t read the next sentence. I think the obesity epidemic is complete and utter bullshit. 13 year old readers, you can come back now.

It’s generally considered that 1 in every 3 Americans are overweight or obese, according to BMI. If any of you have a build that is considered different from the “norm,” happen to be musclebound, or are just really thick hipped, you know that BMI is not worth it’s weight (oh god, I punned, I’m so sorry!). Unfortunately, “fat” is a bad word and the guilt campaign led by people who aren’t overweight is remarkably effective…at making us feel terrible about ourselves! If causing people emotional distress led to weight loss, we probably wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic.

Lots of factors lead to weight gain. Yes, some people eat too much junk food and are incredibly sedentary. Those are people who have an easy problem to deal with compared to people suffering from the other myriad of reasons people are overweight. In my entire life, I have never met a single person who became obese because of that problem alone. Saying that the solution for people is to simply “eat less and move more” is like saying people can raise their intelligence by sitting next to text books. It scratches the surface, but doesn’t deal with what is actually necessary to become healthy.

Did you know that people become obese because they don’t have the money or time to prepare real food? It’s a contributing factor, one overlooked by people who have always had the means to feed themselves. I could buy 1lb of kale for $1.27 right now. I could also buy a box of generic hamburger helper. If you’re trying to quickly feed a family of four, what would be your first inclination to purchase? In fact, even if you’ve bettered your situation, growing up in poverty affects your taste buds. If hamburger helper tastes like home, that’s what you will want to eat. It’s very simple logic.

Other people self medicate with food. Do you have any idea how hard it is to go through extreme emotional pain, find that the only thing you want in the world is a wedge (not slice) of cherry pie and a giant bowl of mashed potatoes and then not eat those things? In my experience, it makes everything worse. Then, you eat the pie and are happy for a second or so, until you go through the incredible amount of self hate that happens when you binge eat. Why do you hate yourself so much? Is it because you’re human? Is it because you’re hurting yourself and your body by ingesting poison? Is it because the pie just didn’t taste very good? No. It’s because you’ve been told, from infancy, that being fat is bad and you could be skinny if you just had a little more will power.

Readers, that’s complete and utter (13 year olds, look away) shit. I think instead of fat shame we should focus on good things, like learning how to eat healthy foods on a budget, or even how to grow our own. (I also believe minimum wage should go up and people should have access to preventative health care, but I can only take on so many battles.) I think people should learn how to exercise when they can’t afford a gym membership (who can these days?) and how to be able to enjoy their food without needing to eat it on the go. I think people should learn how to read a nutrition label and learn what’s worth the value and what isn’t.

Maybe, just maybe, it would also be a good idea for insurance companies to offer better counseling options.

Media, stop calling it the obesity epidemic. Stop telling people that if the rest of the country would just stop being so fat then health care costs would go down. That’s crap and you know it. Skinny people smoke, eat junk food and take crappy care of themselves, too. It has nothing to do, at all, with how overweight a person is and much more to do with how well they take care of themselves. Sure, obesity is linked to a lot of diseases. You know what else obesity is linked to? Poor health habits. Let’s call this what it really is, a “Health Crisis.” That’s something I can get behind, and that is something I would rather see than the picture you show me, every day, of the backside of large groups of morbidly obese people. It’s demeaning, it’s depressing, and it completely wipes away the dignity of the people you claim you are trying to “help.”

People watching, don’t be taken in. Most Americans need to eat better, skinny or not, and BMI is a terrible judge of health. If you are overweight, just realize that changing a few habits will help you feel tons better. If you are not overweight, just realize that changing a few habits will help you feel tons better (see what I did there?). Furthermore, never, EVER, allow yourself to be taken in by the new wave of “fat hate” that’s been everywhere lately. Overweight people are overweight for reasons you can’t possibly understand without a long conversation with each and every one of them. Besides, your hatred of them likely makes everything worse.

After all, the kids laughing at me in gym class didn’t make me want to go for a run; they made me want to hide in the nurses office. Being made fun of in the lunch room or at family gatherings (yes, this happened, though it wasn’t the adults) taught me to eat when no one was around. These aren’t healthy habits! I understand that kids can’t help themselves and can’t be held responsible for their actions, but I must ask where the gym teacher was when I was being tormented, or my teachers. I’m not even sure where my family was for all of this. I have my suspicions that the adults who should have scolded the children were just as disgusted by a fat little girl who couldn’t keep up as my peers were.

So think, very hard, about what you hear about the obesity epidemic. Ask yourself if you actually believe what the news is saying, or if you have a little bit of prejudice towards overweight people. It’s ok if you do, to be honest, I have some, too. Pots often call kettles black in these situations. At any rate, try to get over these prejudices, and for those of you getting fingers pointed at you by the media, don’t take it so hard. Educate yourselves about food and health issues that matter, and take care of the people you love.

That’s really much more effective than shame. Don’t you think?

Money Saving Monday–Hungry? Ask For Your Kid’s Advice.

I’m not always a very good parent, readers. Sure, I get it right enough most of the time, or at any rate I haven’t done anything that would alert Children’s Services, but a good portion of Olive’s life has been me going, “Oh God!”

The day I brought her home I couldn’t figure out how to put a onesie on her. I had her sitting upright while desperately trying to keep her obscenely floppy neck from snapping in half (which is, naturally, what I assumed would happen) when my Aunt came into the room and took over. It was incredibly embarrassing and I felt absolutely terrible for subjecting my infant to what must have been the most horrible kind of pain. I may have been a bit over dramatic.

A few months later she caught her first cold. Infants can’t blow their nose, so I had to use the suction bulb. Olive HATES the suction bulb. She began to writhe and scream as I attempted to force the little tube up her nose. When I pulled out, a small drop of blood came out of her impossibly tiny nostril. I was positive I’d hit her brain. The doctor, thankfully, assured me otherwise.

Over the years I’ve made many a bad parenting move from ignoring her to letting her accidentally lock herself into a closet. To be honest, I’ve even dropped her a few times. I’m pretty much an incredibly negligent parent.

Every now and then though, I’m able to pull my head out of my own butt enough to pay attention to my kid and have a moment that’s not marked with bad parenting. This is good, because from what I understand she’s now at an age where she will remember our interactions. When she’s a grown up, I want her to look back on this time in her life and say, “I remember that time I told my mom I wanted banana flavored energy bars and we came up with a recipe right then and there,” as opposed to, “Man, Mom dropped me. A lot.”

Banana Nut Energy Cookies
2 Bananas
1/4 cup nut butter (peanut, almond, or sunflower butter are great choices)
1/2 cup almonds, ran through a blender or food processor until it forms a crumbly flour
1/2 cup oats (buy uncontaminated oats to make a gluten free version)
1 tbs cinnamon
1/4 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put the bananas in a bowl and let your fabulous helper mash the crap out of them. This can be as dramatic a process as she chooses.

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Once it’s mashed, stir in the nut butter. Then stir in the oats and almonds.

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“Can it have raisins mommy?” “Oh, well I suppose it would have to, wouldn’t it?”

Stir in raisins.

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It’s ok guys, we’re going to bake them anyway. Also, I’m fairly certain she remembered to brush her teeth.

Add a little bit of the mixture to the bottom of 12 muffin cups. This is easier and less messy than trying to shape them on a cookie sheet…in theory.

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Again, I’m going to bake them. She may have even washed her hands.

On the plus side, I did manage to teach her a few good habits.

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Bake for fifteen minutes, or until they look kind of like this.

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They come out chewy, nutty, fruity, lightly sweet, and four year old approved.

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They even look like energy bars, and they cost almost nothing to make.

The best part about these bars though, is that they are little hand friendly. I don’t have to worry about her over stirring something to create a horrible glutoney mess (learned that lesson), nor do I need to be afraid that she’ll accidentally pull the mixer out too soon and I’ll spend the next hour washing the kitchen walls (learned that one too). Instead of the drama, we just squished a bunch of ingredients together and hoped for the best, and they came out just fine. With any luck, Olive will, too.

Unless I broke her from all those times I dropped her..

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Oh god…

Happy Birthday Kristie! Now Eat the Damn Cake!

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This is my best friend in the whole world. It’s not really a picture of her, but the likeness is absolutely uncanny, I promise. Yesterday was her birthday, and as part of my present to her, I had to promise not to take a picture of her and put it on my blog. I grudgingly agreed, and instead grabbed this picture of her chillin with Jiggly Puff. At any rate, she is now officially old as hell. How exciting!

Kristie and I don’t have some sort of average, run of the mill, friendship. It took us years and years to train each other to be the other’s best friend, and have been working on it for about sixteen years now. I’m proud to say that finally, after sixteen years of friendship, I have learned that “Don’t put my picture on the internet” actually means, “Don’t put my picture on the internet.” My mom’s been trying to teach me lessons far simpler than that for twenty six years. Good job, Kristie!

I know a few more things about Kristie that facilitated our birthday celebration (which was a simple dinner at my house); sixteen years will give you that kind of experience, I think. For example: Kristie loves green beans, doesn’t eat meat, thinks Eggplant Parmesan is the epitome of Italian food (but we can’t eat the actual Parmesan, damn rennet), doesn’t like chocolate cake, but could eat frosting out of a bowl pretty happily.

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Oh, and she digs sprinkles.

Lightly Spiced Cake or Kristie’s Super Birthday Cake of Happy Joy!
Makes one 9″ round cake (double the recipe to make a layer cake)
2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbs baking powder, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c canola oil
1 c almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 recipe Vegan Frosting of Joy OR
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, 2 tsp of the baking powder, and salt, mixing well.

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I’m going to teach you a new technique I just learned which helps the applesauce egg bind better. I’ll be updating past recipes (such as other cookies and muffins) to reflect this new trick, which you should take with you into other baking adventures!

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Combine the applesauce with the remaining tsp of baking powder. I don’t know why this works better, but it really makes the applesauce a much more effective binder.

After you combine those, you know the drill. Whisk together the oil and applesauce until emulsified and stir in the vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with as few strokes as possible.

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Pour into a 9″ round pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean.

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While your cake cools, whip up some frosting. With my chocolate cupcakes, I whipped up a vegan version of buttercream that was pretty good, but for this one I highly recommend this fake cream cheese frosting that will fool people into thinking they’re eating the real thing.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
Frosts two 9″ cakes, but feel free to make a little extra for decorating (I wish I had!)
1 container non hydrogenated Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (or 8 oz of another vegan cream cheese)
2 tbs vegan margarine
3 cups powdered sugar

Using an electric hand beater (or some serious muscles) beat together the cream cheese and margarine. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until what you have looks suspiciously like frosting. Taste it, adjust sugar if necessary, and then ice the heck out of the cake.

Let the four year old in your house apply the sprinkles and tada!

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Your best friend won’t care that you aren’t the best at frosting things, or that it’s literally covered with sprinkles.

Hell, her favorite cake until recently was titled “funfetti” anyway.

She won’t care that you put her birthday on display on your blog…or that you called her old as hell.

Instead, she will be so happy that you baked her a cake, from scratch and with love, that she will invite you to sit at the table with her, after all the dishes are cleared, to eat cake straight from the serving plate. Perhaps you’ll even have a little fork cheers? Then before you know it, that half a cake you were planning on sending her home with is less than a piece, and you feel full, comatose, but strangely accomplished.

That’s what it’s like to have a best friend.

Happy Birthday, Kristie!

Eat More Veggies, and Start With Breakfast

Readers, today I incited a teensy, weensy bit of controversy on another food blogger’s comment list. It seems that while we both agree that everyone needs to eat more vegetables, some key differences–health vs. weight focus, whether or not it’s ok to cater to someone with a low carb diet, etc –occurred. She handled my comment very diplomatically, and the only person who flamed me for my criticism was a complete and utter moron who apparently couldn’t bother reading what I actually said. As far as controversy went, this was pretty tame.

I’m not one to let internet mayhem (or morons) get me down, so I’m going to focus on the one thing I and every other health blogger believes–vegetables are wonderful! They are full of vitamins and other nutrients, including beautiful, beautiful fiber, one of the keys to staying full after a meal. Vegetables are incredibly nutrient dense and are rock stars of the food world.

The problem? While it’s easy to munch on some carrots and celery for lunch and a big ol’ plate of roasted broccoli for dinner, breakfast, a time when you could use that filling fiber and wonderful vitamins the most, is typically pretty light on the vegetables. Yes, most people have a bit of fruit for breakfast–a wonderful habit to be in because fruit is also a rock star in the food world–but vegetables are kind of a no go for most folks.

I have two go to solutions for this problem, depending entirely on whether or not Olive is home. The first is to shovel some leafy greens into my smoothies. A cup of kale or spinach will blend into a smoothie beautifully and is entirely tasteless. Olive will guzzle them down with the fervor of a child who doesn’t know icky green vegetables are in her strawberry banana beverage. She gets to have what she refers to as a “Breakfast Milkshake” and I get to pump her full of health food. So much win!

The second solution involves savory flavors and goes well with toast, nuts or veggie sausage, and a piece of fruit. It’s delicious, good to have while you’re sipping your coffee, and makes just enough for two. Which is why I never, ever make it when Olive is home.

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Just for Grownups Sweet Potato Home Fries
1 sweet potato
1 tbs canola oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Dice the sweet potato into bite sized pieces. Make sure you use a very sharp knife, or else this will be an incredibly painful and annoying experience.

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Put the pieces into a medium sized bowl and drizzle with the oil and spices. Toss the sweet potatoes until evenly coated. You should use your hands.

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It will be moderately gross.

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Add the potatoes to a medium sized skillet and fry over a medium high heat.

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Fry until they are tender on the inside, but somewhat crispy on the outside. They will be perfect.

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Pour yourself a cup of coffee, get yourself a handful of almonds and some blackberries (they’re in season right now!), and sit down with someone you love for a peaceful, enjoyable breakfast.

If you have to you can double the recipe and share it with your kids, but I’m not going to force you. As if they would appreciate it. If they had their way you’d throw some poptarts in the toaster, turn on cartoons, and leave them alone for a few hours. I think you’d be better off saving this for yourself.

Enjoy!