Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vegan Mac and "Cheese!" Kid friendly, BK approved!

I find it very difficult to cook for everyone in my house. Do you? Everyone has their own set of taste buds and with a teenager who would eat some sort of burger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner I have quite the task.

Each week I make up a menu, M-F. Saturday and Sunday is left for leftovers or date night or dining out as a family. Something along those lines. My menu consists of dinners and snacks. I am sure to have plenty of healthy snacks sitting around my kitchen for those times starvation (or my body tries to tell me that's what it is) strikes!

My BK likes Mac and Cheese. What kid (well, teenager) doesn't, right? I've made "cheese" sauces before but they always seem to be too cashew(Y) for him so I needed a cheese sauce without nuts.

Thinking cap on....

Start with a roux...add some almond milk...seasoning...maybe a little nutritional yeast...

I found some things online and found some inspiration from Pinterest. Chef Chloe Coscarelli had some wonderful ideas! But, I'm not a huge nooch fan. Nooch is short nutritional yeast. It's loaded with B12 but I'm not a huge fan of too much. I know, I may be in the minority. People love this stuff and buy it in very large quantities. Anyhow. I adjusted this recipe to my own liking and here it is for you all to enjoy.

Little J enjoying lunch. Mac and "Cheese," broccoli, and edamame. With a book, of course!

BK's Mac and Cheese (I name it this because he ATE it and LIKED it!!! Yay!!!)

16 oz bag of whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/4 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1/3 cup spelt flour
3 cups almond milk
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar, or more to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, make a roux with the margarine and flour in a medium sauce pot set over medium high heat. Heat for 3-5 minutes, or until it becomes a nice nutty brown color. Slowly add the milk while whisking. Add the nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, garlic powder and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it's boiling turn your heat to a simmer and let the sauce thicken. It should evenly coat the back of a spoon.  Add the lemon juice and agave nectar, taste, adjust seasonings as needed.

Toss the sauce and noodles together and serve.

I usually serve with a side of green beans or broccoli. Grilled portobellos are a great side as well.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

School's In Session!

When I have the chance to read, I do. 

I will begin classes through eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition tomorrow!

I'm both excited and nervous!

I have a toddler at home, she's nearly 2, so time is a blessing around the house. I surely hope I can muster up enough of it for my studies.

It's been several years since I was behind a desk, so to speak. I graduated from Culinary school in 2008. Seems so long ago now. Before that I was at the University of Arizona and graduated in 2002. I suppose I just keep going back.

I love school, actually. No matter the challenge I am drawn towards learning. This time I will learn something I've grown passionate about over this past year. Plant-based nutrition is my life style, my way of thinking, way of eating and way of staying healthy. I want to share that with others. Are you ready? I surely am!

I will blog to tell you how it goes as time permits. I'm so excited to share the wealth of knowledge.

Wish me luck!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just because you're vegan does not mean you're healthy!

A year ago I wasn't sure what I was doing. I stopped eating meat! I didn't know what to eat. I was raising a young baby, not yet 1 and wasn't getting much sleep. It all seemed so overwhelming really.

I made a huge decision. One that has changed the course of my life. I decided to better my health and that of my family I would need to make a drastic change in the kitchen! It's not that we were all that unhealthy I suppose it's just that I certainly wasn't doing any good for my high cholesterol and for my families well being.

Just because you're vegan does not mean you're healthy.

That's been with me since day one. I could have easily chosen processed fake meats, processed drinks, processed foods. But, I chose the opposite and I'm all the happier and healthier for it.

How did I transition?

Well, we started out thinking we'd eat up all the meat we had in the freezer but in fact we gave it all to our neighbor. I went with what I knew I liked. The vegetables I knew we liked and knew how to cook. I asked my health coach to teach me some things about tofu and I did a lot of research online. I wanted to ensure I was getting all the nutrients I needed and to do this I needed to research!

How to be a healthy vegan?

Some things I go with on a daily basis are as follows:
1) Steer clear of as many processed items as you can, including beverages. They are often high in sugar, fat, salt, and chemicals
2) Eat the rainbow! Variety is key. The more colors you eat in veggies the more nutrients you will get. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.
3) Don't beat yourself up. No one is perfect. If you want that high sugar candy bar once in awhile then have it. It's not going to be the end of the world.
4) Don't fret so much in regards to protein. You will get enough. Eat your vegetables, grains and beans. You're good. Fiber is much more important! Eat your fiber!!
5) Eat fiber. No really, just do it.
6) Eat a lot. I eat every few hours. Helps with metabolism and keeps my meals small. I love to snack!
7) Keep fresh snacks on hand all the time. Carry with you everywhere. Veggies, fruit, nuts (I have a handful a day), seeds (pumpkin seeds are very beneficial), and popcorn are some of my favorite snacks.
8) Prepare. Make a menu for the week. Shop for just your menu. Eat what you plan. Saves you money and time.
9) Enjoy your food!!

I've mentioned this before but I'll do it again. One of my favorite cookbooks is one that uses little processed foods and no fake meats. Dreena Burton's Let Them Eat Vegan. It's a great starter book! Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsey Nixon is another great one.

Today, I'm amazed at the progress I've made. I feel healthier. I feel lighter. I feel like I have more energy. I just feel good.

I signed up for a certification course in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell. I can't believe I've made it this far. To the point of wanting, craving, more. More knowledge to be able to share with everyone. My number one purpose is to spread health to your house. I'm so very excited for the prospects of this year.

If you have any questions just let me know. I'd love to chat with you. It's been an eye opening year and I'm ready for this year and what it has to offer.

Cheers and happy eating!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy Veganversary!

I've been on quite the hiatus as of late. With the holidays I needed to focus on my family. The time away was nice, I was able to gain a little more perspective. We all need that from time to time.

I'm back and it's my Veganversary! Yep, a year ago we, my family, changed our way of eating. We started eating a plant-based diet and we haven't looked back. I believe we just wanted to "give it a try," but look at us now!!

It's all about the veggies!

The progress I've made this year have given me such great pleasure. Baby weight lost plus some! Better health for myself and the hubby! A new business prospect and this wonderful blog. I'll need to run in to the doctor and get my cholesterol checked after all this healthy food.

My in-laws have mostly gone plant-based and my dad is joining in for the month of February. He'll be getting some blood work down at the beginning and the end. I'm hoping, just like us, he finds it to be a positive change. Perhaps he'll stick with it.

I've taught classes this past year and I look forward to teaching more. I'd like to include that in my personal business. Plant-Based Food Consultant. Menu planning, grocery shopping, food prep, and teaching those I work with to cook! What better way to help others with a healthy lifestyle?

It's been quite the year. To be honest with you all, I wasn't sure we'd make it. But, with all the support the transition was easy and welcoming. I don't miss my previous carnivorous lifestyle. I certainly feel healthier, lighter, and happier!! My daughter is also benefiting from the whole food "diet." She's incredibly healthy and if she does manage to pick up some nasty germs she kicks it rather quickly.

I look forward to a wonderful year of blogging, working, cooking and loving on my family!!

Drop me a line some time. I'd love to hear from you all.

How long have you been plant-based? Or, have you been interested and just have questions? I'm here to help.

Cheers and Happy New Year to you!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Coffee and Beer! Yes, please!

A friend pointed me in the direction of a Kickstarter program I feel I can get behind!

A local (local to Tucson, Arizona) brew house and coffee shop. Both great tasty forms of liquid in one great location!!

What could be better?


The business is called Public Brew House and Coffee and is run by Beau Hintz and Mike Gura. Beau a barista and Mike a beer brewer. They are both incredibly passionate about their crafts and want to share it with everyone.

I'm intrigued by the two, beverages, being combined. I'm also intrigued by the space in which they will plant their roots. A beautiful historic downtown location. They have a huge court yard which is great for music, food and art shows.

I'm very excited about this project. I love local businesses, especially when it involves two of my favorite things.

Please check out their Kickstarter page. They explain their vision much better than I could ever explain. Consider backing this project. I think they have something good here! You can even back this project if you don't live here. Then come visit! :)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kitchen Gadget # 12: Silicon Baking Mat

I've fallen behind, did not reach my 20 blog goal and tomorrow is the end of October. Last week the little one and I were both under the weather. That is possibly the cause. Or perhaps my day to day life keeps me away from the computer. Maybe it's a little bit of both. I have a toddler who is very demanding of my time and I prefer to spend as much time as possible with her.

This doesn't mean I don't love all my readers. I love the comments and the fact that I, maybe even a little, am inspiring others.  Makes me smile!

Keep reading folks. I'm here, just busy busy with a non-stop toddler. Seriously, non-stop!

Let's get to kitchen gadget #12. This one is a gadget I first discovered in culinary school. The silicon cooking/baking mat. This handy dandy little mat is quite amazing. Non-stick, reusable, heat proof (I wouldn't put it in the broiler though), and washes well. Versatility is it's #1 plus!

After I finished up in school I moved several times. Among the many moves I lost my silicon mats (among other kitchen items). I thought, for sure, I would not be able to locate another set at a descent price. They seemed so pricey in the high end kitchen stores, the only ones I was able to find them in.

But, a few weeks back my luck struck! I found a set of three (2 large, 1 small) at Costco. They are the perfect size for my set of baking sheets I picked up there as well. And, they were of reasonable cost. I was so very excited!!  These are great for many baking applications. Cookies, squares, potatoes, fries, roasted vegetables, and of course, with this time of year, pumpkin seeds.

I absolutely love pumpkin seeds. Actually, I love pumpkin as well. This I did not realize. I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie and just assumed that is what ALL pumpkin tasted like. For my very happy palate I found it to be a semi-sweet tasty squash. Delicious!

There are many benefits to pumpkins as well, the seeds too. I love that my little one loves pumpkin seeds seeing as they are high in iron, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin K, and protein. Pumpkin seeds are also a source of ALA which is then converted into EPA (an Omega-3 fatty acid), the conversion, however, is slightly inefficient but adding pumpkin seeds to your daily food intake (yogurt, cereal, as a snack) will boost the amount of Omegas you get, also great for my little one!

The pumpkin I cleaned out yesterday did not get carved. Yes, Halloween is tomorrow and we should have carved pumpkins this past weekend but I wanted to do a trial run for Thanksgiving. This year will mark my very first vegan Thanksgiving. There will be no turkey cooking in my oven this year. Rather, we will be making up stuffed pumpkins. I will do small individual pumpkins, last night I made one large. But, each time I clean out a pumpkin I'm sure to roast up the seeds because I could eat them daily!

We went this weekend to a pumpkin patch about an hour from us. It was a pumpkin patch and fall festival. Lot's of great things for kids to do. My only issue with Marana Pumpkin Patch was the lack of variety, which the website specified, of food choices. The website informed us we were not to bring in any of our own food. I had planned on packing a lunch for the hubby and I, the little one always has food no matter what is posted, and we planned on purchasing food there for BK and my mom. When I called and informed them we would be purchasing food for 2 of our party members they still said we could not bring in a packed lunch. What a hassle. Their idea of wide variety was not my idea, nor is it the idea of many. They did not even offer a vegetarian option. I wonder, for those who have food allergies (lactose, gluten), what they might do in this particular situation. We often go to Apple Annie's to do our pumpkin picking and I believe we go again next year. They not only offer a food option for vegetarians they also allow other foods to be brought in for consumption. We had to try and plan the whole day around the fact that we could not eat at the Marana Pumpkin Patch. By the time we left, hungry, the little one was so exhausted she passed out in the car. This only meant we could not stop for food on the way home. Yes, Marana Pumpkin Patch was fun, but inconvenient for those of us who don't eat the "conventional" way. I wouldn't recommend it for vegetarians/vegans with small children who, like me, need to get home in time for naps. Or, perhaps, pack a lunch and eat it in the car. Re-entry is permitted. If we do go next year that will be our plan.

We did get some great pumpkins! We took a tractor out to the patch and picked our own. We came home with four!

I still have some left. I hope we have time to carve them up for Halloween. It's tomorrow!

The seeds, of course, roasted with some salt and garlic came out excellent. Love them!

If you are able to find these silicon mats at a reasonable price. Pick them up. They are excellent for many baked items. You aren't wasting foil or parchment because you can easily wash these up and reuse them. I think they are great for cookies, veggie/black bean burgers, seeds, and tater tots. Yep, tater tots. I don't have to use any cooking spray, no added oil and they cook up superbly.

Give them a try!

Cheers and happy eating!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kitchen Gadget # 11: Get out of the kitchen!

Sometimes it's nice to just get away. I spend my days with my little one, in the kitchen, on the laptop, busy, busy, busy. So, getting out of town (even if close by) is a pleasant experience.

The hubby and I realized we haven't been away together since right before we got married, 3 years ago. That's a LONG time!

For the past 19 months our lives have revolved around the little one. Infant to toddler takes a lot of effort and time. We also haven't wanted to leave her. And, until 17 months I nursed her daily, leaving wasn't an option.

This past weekend, we did it. We left town. We drove an hour and stayed in a lovely cabin off the beaten path with a couple of our close friends. We were, essentially, off the grid. I must admit, before I left I had a bit of a break down.

We stayed in the top two floors of this cabin. The bottom floor is the gift shop.

What if my little one wakes in the middle of the night and needs me? What if she hates the fact that we are gone? What if something terrible happens? What if she is suddenly unruly for the In-laws? Some many questions and concerns. I cried, I contemplated not going, I felt stressed and frazzled.

But, I did it anyway. Knowing I needed it, the hubby needed it, and to be honest the little one needed it too. She was in fully capable hands! I knew this.

The, what I called, "The Alice in Wonderland" flower.

I'm so glad I went! It was the most relaxing weekend I've had in a long time. Sitting on the porch of a beautiful cabin for basically an entire day is unheard of and fabulous! Playing board games, chatting, and enjoying great food with friends was amazing. The weather was beautiful, chilly nights, light days. I had such a wonderful time!

So, not necessarily a kitchen tool. But, getting out of the kitchen, sometimes,  brings one back to the love of being in the kitchen. In my case it did anyway. Monday was my "cook for the week," day, I felt refreshed and ready to go. I missed the ease of my kitchen therefore felt more connected. Gosh, I hope this doesn't make me sound weird!

Time away to rejuvenate is what I needed. The very best kitchen gadget is to get out, get fresh air, have fun, enjoy life, love, live, all those wonderful things we often don't have time for with our busy day to day lives. I even got to see a plethora of hummingbirds which was quite an unusual sight for me as I don't see them much at home. Many other birds were around, so many the small gift shop has a daily sign highlighting the countless birds you will most likely see.

Each evening right by our cabin the wild turkey's walk down the street and take a path up through the trees to a "take off zone" of sorts. They then coast down to perch on the trees for the evening. I never knew turkey's would fly like that. Such a short distance to keep them out of harms way each evening. What a sight to see.

When we returned we were greeted with the biggest smile on the little ones face. She was so happy to see us. With the mood she was in (very happy indeed) I know she had a blast with her Bubbie and Zehdeh! She missed us for sure but had a fun and exciting weekend. She went to the Botanical Gardens to watch the butterflies, played, read books (lots of books!), went for walks, and got a new toy car. She loves cars!

The place we stayed had a kitchen so I can't actually say I was completely out of the kitchen, but I did prepare food ahead of time to just take some time to reheat. I made a warm lentil soup (up in a chilly cabin, so devine!) with yummy bread on the side. The next night our friends brought up Lasagna, which was excellent! The cucumber salad was a simple side that tasted so good! Breakfast was provided by the B&B (we brought our own almond milk) and lunch was sandwiches. A little Tofurky, tofu cheese, avocado, and whole grain bread makes a great lunch.

After a hike, lunch was yummy! We hiked a smaller trail (we are all out of practice), the views were spectacular. Then we just hung out on the porch. I couldn't even read much into a book because I was so distracted by the chirping birds, beautiful landscape, and the people who biked, walked or drove by. What a lovely Saturday!

Monday, I got back in the kitchen. I tried a new recipe out of Let Them Eat Vegan (I know, I've had so many out of that book!) which was excellent. I can't believe I didn't try it sooner. Maybe going on vacation opened my eyes to what I have yet to try. I made the Cauliflower Chickpea Pumpkin Curry. I served it over rice. So tasty!

Was it hard the first time you left any of your children to take a much needed spouse vacation? 

Cheers and happy eating!