Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Shopping: My Challenge to Stay Cruelty-Free

This year's Christmas shopping brought new challenges—challenges that were never an issue for all the years before.  This year's shopping would be much different. For this year, I did my Christmas shopping for the first time as a vegan.  I really didn't think much about it as I headed out, but I soon was faced with decisions that would define who I 
I started my shopping a few months ago.  This year I decided that we would try layaway.  So we picked a store and went out to get it all done in one day. My husband and I decided to split the list and we each went our way throughout the store looking for gifts.  I already had an idea of the kinds of gifts I wanted for the people I was looking for. 

I was looking for handbags for the women on my list.  Every time I found one I liked, I read the label.  I think I read the label on just about every bag in the store.  It is sad that most of them have leather on some part, if not all of the bag.  What's even harder is that not all items label what they are made of.  So in that case, I would smell the bags to see if they smelled like leather. I must have looked like a crazy lady to the other shoppers. 

Needless to say, after sniffing most of the store, we finished our shopping and took them to the layaway department to leave them until they were ready for pick up eight weeks later.  Then yesterday, against my better judgment, I went out again (two days before Christmas) to see if I could find a few extra things for my husband and my daughter. 

I went to this one particular store that I thought I would be able to find what I needed without having to go anywhere else.  As I went in the store, I discovered the perfect handbag...for me! Of course I always find the perfect gifts for myself when I'm shopping for others.  It was way over budget, but I knew that I just had to have it.  So I carried it around with me as a looked for gifts. 

I found some great things for my husband and I wanted to get one more thing...a hat.  My husband loves to wear hats and I love the way he looks in them.  So I looked for one that he doesn't already have.  Then I found it! It was soft, black, sexy and I knew he would love it.  Then I read the label and it was cashmere.  I knew cashmere was made from animals but I didn't know the specifics.  So I grabbed my phone and did a search on cashmere and discovered that it has many of the same cruel practices involved with wool products. 

So I stood there for a few minutes looking at the hat, imagining my husband's face after opening the gift and how it would look of him.  For a second I thought to myself, would it be horrible if I bought this? After all, I don't eat animals and I don't buy any other animal products.  But then I saw the images of the goats and imagined what they might have endured to make this hat and I hung it back on the wall and walked away.

Then I made the really long line in the store, still carrying the handbag that I really couldn't afford.  As I stood in line, making my way to the front, little by little, I began to look more closely at this bag.  I could tell that most of it was made out of a synthetic material.  But then I noticed the strap and there it was...leather.  Or at least what I suspected to be leather.  Once again, the label did not specify the materials so I began to do what I did before, yes smell the bag.  It smelled like leather to me, but because I wanted so desperately for it to not be leather, I kept smelling it hoping that I would change my mind.  I could only imagine what the people around me were thinking. 

I came to the conclusion that it probably was leather and there again I had that conversation with myself in my mind, trying to justify why I could buy it.  But my conscience always wins and when I finally made it to the register, I gave it to the cashier and told her that I didn't want it anymore.  As I left the store, I felt a bit disappointed that I put those items back, but I also felt proud.  I was proud of myself for sticking to a commitment that I made months ago to live a life free of cruelty and suffering.  It's not always an easy way to live, but I could not have it any other way!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three Easy Tofu Meals...Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 Since giving up meat, tofu has become a regular part of our meals.  Years ago I never would have believed that my husband and I would become such fans of something that looks like a sponge! But as we are evolving, we are learning to love and appreciate all kinds of new foods.  We now use tofu in so many dishes, from our favorite tofu scramble to our veggie soup.  Learning to cook with tofu was challenging at first, but with much research and practice, it has become second nature.  So I would like to share three of my favorite easy tofu dishes, one for each meal of the day. If you have a fear of tofu or just don't know what to do with it, here are a few easy ways to start... 

 Breakfast: Tofu Scramble

Tofu Scramble has become a regular Sunday breakfast in my home (well, at least for my husband and I).  After giving up our traditional Sunday  breakfast of scrambled eggs, we were in search for our new Sunday tradition.  Then one day I came across a recipe for Tofu Scramble, and we have been making this on Sundays ever since.  I never imagined tofu could be such a great breakfast item, but it works and taste great!  

For this dish I use 1 pack of firm tofu, 1/2 diced onion, 1/2 diced green pepper, 1/4 cup diced mushrooms, 1 diced clove of garlic, 1 tbsp of vegan butter, 1tbsp of oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, and salt & pepper.
To start, squeeze the excess water from the tofu—I use paper towels. Then saute the veggies in a little oil until tender. Add the garlic, stir and let cook for another minute or two. Take the tofu and break it up into small pieces and let fall into the pan. Stir, be careful not to mash up the tofu, and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the vegan butter, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, salt & pepper and stir together.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes and then remove from heat.

Lunch: Tofu and Veggie Rice Bowl

This has become my quick go to lunch when I am at home during the day. I always prefer a hot cooked lunch over a sandwich or salad, so when I am home for lunch, this is what I will have.

This dish uses mostly the same ingredients from the tofu scramble. I usually make this with tofu, onions, green peppers, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and raisins, but you can use any veggies that you like.

There is really no specific recipe or amount of ingredients for this, I just use whatever amount I feel like having or what I have left over from before.  About 1/4 of a cube of firm tofu is enough for one person to two people. I like to cook the tofu separate and then combine when done.  I cut the tofu into cubes and cook in a saute pan with a drizzle of oil.  Make sure to turn pieces over so it cooks on both sides. Set aside when done. 
In another pan, saute sliced or diced veggies for a few minutes until almost tender.  Then add one diced garlic clove, diced tomatoes, raisins, a tsp of oregano, salt & pepper and let cook for 2-3 minutes more.  Toss in cooked tofu and serve over brown rice.

Dinner: Tofu Stir-Fry

I love making stir-fry meals. They are fast and easy to make. Even better, there are no can use just about any combination of veggies that you want. I have found a much easier and quicker way to prepare this is to use a combination of fresh and frozen veggies.

For the fresh, I use onions, carrots and mushrooms. For the frozen, you can use a pack of frozen stir-fry veggies, but I like to use one of those stir-fry meal packs, like Green Giant's Teriyaki Stir-Fry Create a Meal (it includes the sauce). This saves me from having to buy more veggies like asparagus, broccoli, snow peas and water chestnuts and sauce. If I bought all these fresh for one meal, it would cost much more and they would go bad if I didn't use them quickly.

Like the previous meal, I prepare the tofu separately and combine later.  I slice 1/2 cube of firm tofu into cubed pieces.  Then saute in a small pan with a drizzle of oil, then set aside.

In separate large pan or wok, I saute sliced onions, carrots and mushrooms in a little bit of oil in a for 2-3 minutes. Then I stir in the frozen veggies, cover and let them cook for about 5 minutes or until veggies are cooked through, stirring frequently to avoid sticking or burning. Then I remove the cover, add the sauce and tofu, stir and cover for 1-2 more minutes, then remove from heat.

Serve over brown rice and with veggie spring roll, and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Success

So I made it through Thanksgiving, and it was a success!  This was the first time that I made a meat-free meal for this holiday.  Last year I did not celebrate Thanksgiving at all.  I had just lost my aunt and I was sad and not feeling very thankful at that time.  Even more, I knew that my guests were not going to be happy to have a meat-free meal, and I wasn't up to working very hard to try to please anyone. 

This year, I decided to take on the challenge, although to a small group of people. So I decided to do Thanksgiving lunch for just my husband, children and my mother. This made seven of us, which was just the right amount to try something new...Tofurky Roast!

I decided to make most of the same great traditional dishes (although meat-free) and this year instead of a turkey, we will have a Tofurky Roast. I was looking forward to making this thing that I had heard so much about. I wondered is it going to taste like turkey, and more importantly, was my family going to like it?

I bought two roasts, just because I wasn't sure how much it will make and how much they will eat. They are much smaller than I imagined. The directions said to roast with vegetable and to baste with a mix of oil and soy sauce, so I did. Let me tell you, this was much easier that cooking a turkey. There was no getting up at 5am to prepare, clean and stuff the turkey and even turkey had to die!

I was really worried that my children were going to think I was crazy, but they embraced my new Thanksgiving tradition and they actually tried the Tofurky. They didn't love it, but they said it was okay and I was happy with that. Even my mother ate it and I could not believe that.  She calls our vegan food "funny food"! 

My husband loved it...yay!! I suppose since he is more used to meat-free food that it didn't not taste strange to him. He especially liked the rice stuffing inside. I also enjoyed it. With some gravy and a little cranberry sauce, it is really good.

For the rest of the meal, I made mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing, pasta salad, roasted veggies, pumpkin cupcakes for dessert, and all of it with out any animal products.  My family ate all of it and enjoyed it.  Some went back for seconds and thirds. 

So my first Vegan Thanksgiving was a success. If I can feed this food to the children and my mother without any complaints, then I think next year I'll be ready to take on the rest of the family :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Wonderful, Edible Carrot

Since giving up animal products, vegetables have become the center of my meals, not just something to put on the side. So the way that I taste them  has changed as well. Now I taste them for how they truly taste...and I realize what I have been missing.

If you were to have asked me years ago about my favorite foods, I would  have probably mentioned something like potatoes, pasta, fried rice and of course chocolate. Carrots would have never been something that would have come to mind.  Even though I have always liked carrots, they were never something to be listed in a favorite category—only a vegetable that I liked eating from time to time. But over the last few years, my taste buds have definitely evolved and they are happy to taste the carrot! 

Before, the only way I would eat carrots is if they had been boiled or out of the can with lots of butter and salt—not anymore! Now I enjoy them steamed, sauteed, roasted and countless other ways.  But most surprising of all, I now love to eat them raw, especially little baby carrots. They make a great snack and go wonderfully with a sandwich (much better for you than chips or fries).  I recently started to carry a sandwich bag of baby carrots in my purse, just in case I needed a snack while out on the go.

My favorite way to start each day is with a glass of fresh juiced carrot and apple juice. It gives me just the kick I need to start my day.  Not only is it good for you, it tastes great and gives me such energy.  I am also experimenting with other new ways to incorporate them in my meals.  The other day I attempted to make a roasted carrot and yellow squash soup.  It wasn't bad for my first try. 

     Morning Breakfast with Fresh                                       Roasted Carrot & Yellow
         Carrot & Apple Juice                                                            Squash Soup

Now I'm not a doctor, but I truly believe that my increase in carrots has improved my vision.  I had always heard that carrots were good for your eyes; so I wondered what happened to me then...I ate carrots.  I suppose I just was not eating enough, or the right way.  For years, my vision has gotten worse with each exam; but this year my exam actually showed improvement! I have had poor vision most of my life—bound to a life of glasses and contacts.  But recently, I can feel the improvement.  I spend more time now without wearing either, and without walking into walls!

As my new way of eating evolves, so does my appreciation and taste for foods.  It's like eating foods again for the first time, like a baby with a clean palate, tasting foods the way they were meant to taste.  If only everyone could see how wonderful carrots and other vegetable acctudally taste when you take away all of the foods that get in the way.  They would definitley eat more and be more healthy.

Now if I could only get my children to find the same joy.   They still continue to pick them out of their meals.  Maybe it's the color...sometimes I feel that children only want to eat things that are lacking of any color (as if it is a sign of some kind of poison).   Although my teenage daughter does like the carrot and apple juice. I guess it's a start and I will just keep on serving them.

 A few of my favorite ways to enjoy the carrot:    
  • oven roasted
  • in vegetable pasta marinara
  • grated on a salad (instead of cheese)
  • as a snack with hummus
  • sliced and baked as carrot fries
  • diced in lentils
  • in veggie soup
  • tofu stir fry
    Homemade Vegetable Soup
Brown Rice with Lentils and Carrots
The next thing I would love to learn how to make is Carrot if anyone knows any good vegan Carrot Cake recipes, please send them my way! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Busy Vegan Mom

The last month has been very busy for me and has made it difficult to blog. The start of the new school year brought many changes and turned my world upside down…the kids went back to school, my youngest began Pre-K, I went back to work, and I began graduate school.

With all these things happening at once, it left me no time at all to even open my blog. Now that I am back in a routine (sort of), I am ready to get back to my veggie blogging. Hopefully even with my busy schedule, I can find the time to do at least one blog per week and be able catch up on all the wonderful blogs I read and follow.

Being a busy vegan is definitely a challenge! I have learned that the best thing is to try to be prepared. Since I work as a substitute teacher, I never know where I might end up working each day. And let’s face it, school cafeteria food is not exactly created for the meat-free kind. So I have learned to try to plan my lunch each night, even if I don’t know if I will be called in to work the next day. I have found peanut butter and banana sandwiches to be a great go-to lunch if nothing else is available.  Also having things like baby carrots and grapes are a great snack to have in my luch bag for when I can't leave the classroom but I need something to eat.

My new role as a graduate student has also challenged my vegan diet. My school schedule is crazy. It’s only one weekend a month, but I have class almost the entire weekend…Friday 6-10pm, Saturday 8:30am-6pm, and Sunday 8:30am-5:30pm. Given the fact that my campus is forty-five minutes away, I spend most of the day away from home. This means that I must plan for dinner on Fridays and lunch and snacks for the rest of the weekend. I quickly found that the university campus is also not thinking much about meat-free kind. Although I’m sure I could find something if I looked hard enough, I’m not going to spend all of my lunch time running all over campus to find something to eat. So once again, planning is necessary for me to get through the weakened successfully. I have found that preparing on Friday for the weekend has been very helpful.

With life taking such a hectic turn, I have not had time to do a planned weekly shopping trip. I have gone back to picking up just enough items at a time to get through the next few days. This of course has taken a toll on the food budget! It is not easy after a day of work, then picking up kids, rushing home to cook and do homework, to fit in a few hours of shopping. But this is something that I must work on. It is taking up too much time and money running back and forth to the store. So yesterday, I sat and clipped my coupons and I will be making my first planned weekly shopping trip in a few months. Again, the key here is planning, planning and planning.

Living a busy life is never easy, and adding a vegan diet to the mix makes it even more challenging. But I have learned that being prepared is the most important thing you can do to make things go smoother. It’s is definitely worth the extra planning and time. Sure it would be so easy to just give up and grab a cheeseburger on the go, but I’m not willing to compromise. I have made it this far and I don’t plan on going back. I just need to keep things organized and well planned!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Forks Over Knives...What a Great Film!

This weekend, my husband and I watched the documentary film Forks Over Knives.  This was a film that I had been excited to watch since seeing the trailer...and it certainly did not let me down.  It is definitely a great documentary that everyone, especially vegetarians and vegans, should see.

This film really gets the point across about just how important food is towards our over all health. I think if you can watch this film and not change your diet, then you just don't care about your health at all! My husband and I were just amazed at the research and the people who are living proof that a plant-based diet is the answer to so many illnesses. If we weren't convinced before, we are now!

I was surprised to see so many of the people I have learned about over these last few years in this film.  Along my way to become vegan, I have done so much research and have found so many great people that I look to for advice and information, and many of them seem to be in this film.  People like Dr. Colin Campbell, who is co-author of The China Study, which I am currently reading.  Also, there were others such as, Dr. Neal Bernard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the reason I started my vegan challenge; Dr. John McDougall, founder of Dr. McDougall's Health and Medical Center and others I have seen along the way.

After watching this film, it amazes me that not everyone is vegan.  I also feel a bit angry!  If the evidence is so clear, why does not every doctor recommend this way of eating to all their patients?  I'm guessing there is a political answer in there somewhere.  It makes me angry because if the research is correct that milk protein is linked directly to cancer, why then does the government subsidize the dairy industry and why do we have commercials that tell us to give milk to our children because "milk does the body good?"

If there is a direct correlation between consumption of milk and osteoporosis cases, why then do they tell women to drink more milk to prevent this disease? Why not broccoli, kale or spinach?  Why do we not have a million dollar campaign asking "got kale?" It just doesn't make sense and I feel like I have been cheated out of the diet I should have been eating for the last thirty-nine years. 

I'm hoping one day it will change and we will see vegetable and fruits in commercials and on billboards on the highway.  I suppose with each person that changes to a plant-based diet, the fight will gain strength.  Maybe one day health will prevail over politics and money and the way things work will begin to make sense.  Maybe the FDA and Department of Agriculture should watch Forks Over Knives!

Forks Over Knives along with The China Study are great tools for all people, not just vegans, to help us make better decisions about our food and health.  I am so happy that there are doctors out there that are not afraid to step out and share the true information that people should know in order to be the healthiest they can be.

Now that I know this information, I will not cheat my children and I will make sure that they have all the information needed to make a good heath conscious decision about how to eat.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Easy Morning Glory Muffins

I love making these muffins. They are yummy and filled with great things such as carrots, apples, coconut, and raisins. They make a great breakfast or snack. I love to make a big batch and use them for a quick breakfast on the go...I pre pack them in sandwich bags and just pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and then I'm on my way. 

I started making these muffins before the transition to vegan. So back then I of course, used eggs.  But I recently tried to make them without the egg, and they cam out just as good. 

Because of the oil and sugar, they are definitely not low calorie (I calculated around 350 per muffin).  I wouldn't have too many at a time if you're counting calories. But given the fact that they are loaded with fruits and carrots, at least they are not empty calories!

When I made these, I made a few changes to the recipe:
To make them dairy-free, I used ground flax seed with water to replace the eggs. 

I also used unbleached all-purpose flour (I would love to use whole wheat flour but my kids can tell and will complain).

I also left out the walnuts (because my daughter doesn't like nuts).

Next time, I am going to try with applesauce instead of the oil to cut out many of the calories...I'll post the results.

For the recipie, click here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Being Vegan...

This Sunday will be my 39th birthday.  As I approach this wonderful age, I am discovering who I am and who I want to become. I am figuring out how so many different aspects of my life actually fit together and come full circle, such as my love for animals and my choice to be vegan.  My new life as a vegan has taken me on a journey that I would have never imagined just two years ago.  I spent the first thirty-seven years of my life loving milk and eating meat.  Never before would I have imagined that I would become a vegan mom raising a vegan child with a vegan husband!

It was only when I was laid off from my job two years ago that I started to re-asses my life and started to research about many things, including food. I quickly realized that I wanted my life to be about more than just me.  I wanted to live each day making this world just a bit better than the day before.  I have learned that every decision we make, has an effect...we have to decide whether we want that effect to be positive or not.  My research into becoming vegan has showed me that everything from buying food to shampoo has an effect on our animals, people and the earth. 

I have definitely become a more conscious consumer.  I have come to realize that our money has power and every time I spend money, I am supporting everything that has happened to make that product.  Shopping for me now takes a much longer because I read the label on everything before I buy it.  I recommend everyone do this, because you will be surprised to see just what things are in the products we buy. 

Not eating meat, was only the beginning. I no longer buy anything leather products or products tested on animals (at least that I am aware of). I still have the products that I had before.  But now as they wear out, I replace them with animal-free products.  My husband's birthday was last Saturday. He already had three leather jackets and I was so proud of him because he was willing to donate them. So for his birthday I went out and got him a really nice jacket that looks like leather, but isn't. Now he still looks cool...and doesn't smell like a dead cow!

My teenagers sometimes do not understand why I will not buy them certain products.  Sure I could tell myself that I'll buy it for just them and I won't eat it.  But in my head, I always get this little voice that tells me, "if you buy that chicken, they will have to kill another to replace it".  At that moment I can see the effect of my decision, so I can not bring myself to make the wrong choice.  This is not how I was before.  My new lifestyle as a vegan has opened my consciousness and I can feel the effects of my choices.  It's a heavy burden, but one necessary to keep me a compassionate consumer and person.

I have become particularly moved by the things I've read and seen about the lives of dairy cows.  I never would have figured that of all the cute animals in the world, the cow would be the one that moves me so much.  The cruelties they endure just to provide humans with a product that they should not drink, are too much for me to bare.  Even though I know there are a few good dairy farms that may treat their cows well, it does not change that they are contained and forced to bare children just to produce milk, not for their young, but for us. I have become committed to share the information I learn so others can become aware and make better choices as well. 

Becoming vegan has changed me greatly.  I feel it has made me a better and more compassionate human. I see things differently than I ever did before.  It has made me more aware of the world...of it's good and of it's bad.  As I grow older, I hope that I am able to continue learning and growing. I hope that my children will be inspired to look beyond themselves and make conscious choices that will have a direct positive impact on our world and all living things.

The Dairy Cow: The Most Overworked Mother on the Planet

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vegan Birthday Cake Disaster

I have learned, the hard way, that vegan baking may take so time to master.  Since becoming vegan, I have practiced and learned to make vegan cookies and muffins from scratch and the whole family enjoys them.  But I have yet to master the skill of vegan cake baking.

Yesterday was my husband's birthday and I decided that I wanted to make him a vegan cake.  Even though I had never tried to make a vegan cake before, I decided to go ahead and try (not a good idea).  I usually make cakes for my family members on their birthdays, although I usually do not make them from scratch.  I like to use a box cake mix and a ready made icing.   I have not practiced making cakes from scratch much and I don't see why I should bother when the box cake mixes work well and are very inexpensive.  Instead, I try to be creative with making each different for each person.

So yesterday I went to the store and bought a chocolate cake mix and lemon flavored icing (none of which and any dairy products).  The only thing that might not be vegan is the white sugar in the mixes, but if sugar is the only non-vegan item in a birthday cake, well, I can live with that!  The mixed required  3 eggs so I went online to see what a good egg substitute would be for eggs.  I found a great website for vegan baking, Your Vegan Guide.  The first thing I read was that they like to use ground flax seed with water as an egg substitute.  This is the one that I usually use for my cookies and muffins so I figured it should work well...wrong!

I mixed the flaxseed to equal two eggs and also used a banana for the third (I had also read that bananas are a good egg substitute).  I added 1/2 tsp of baking powder because the flaxseed does not give the same rise that the eggs do.  It looked great and I poured the mix into two round cake pans and set the oven timer. 

When I took the cakes out, they looked great so I left them to cool for a while.  When I returned, I was stunned to see my cakes had collapsed in the middle of both.  I flipped them out of the pans and the other sides had done the same.  They were also not holding together very well, so I put them in the refrigerator to chill--hoping the cool air would somehow make them more solid.  But when I went to ice them, it was clear that it did not help. Since the cakes were not flat (because of the collapse) I ended up using a whole container of icing in the middle of the cakes so there would not be a whole. 
Then when I iced the rest of the cake, pieces kept falling off!

The end result was not a pretty one. I served it anyway since I did not have time to make another one. I apologized to my hubby, but he ate it and said it wasn't bad (yeah, he's just trying to be nice). 

Well, this was definitely a learning experience.  First, I should of spent more time reading the website's information--I noticed after that they said to substitute only one egg for cakes with flaxseed and use other substitutes if the recipes asks for more.  Also, I definitely should of tried a sample cake days before to see how it came out.  Well, my birthday is next week, and I think I will try again...hopefully it will be much better!

My wonderful husband with his first Vegan Birthday Cake :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Favorite Vegan "Dairy" Products

I read somewhere once that becoming vegan is a process, and I have learned this to be definitely true.  It is hardly an overnight achievement that you decide one night as you fall sleep—to wake up and be completely vegan.  It is more like a series of stages and challenges to be completed one at a time. And when you have nothing left to change, well...then you are vegan!

One of the toughest challenges for me was giving up dairy.  I think this is where a lot of people may have trouble.  We are so used to having milk, eggs and cheese in everything that it can become overwhelming trying to learn how to shop, cook and eat without them.  When I first started shopping vegan, I spent hours in the store reading the labels just trying to find a product that did not contain dairy, and it was not easy! One can so easily become frustrated and just give up.

Dairy substitutes can help make things easier.  Being able to substitute your dairy products for a great vegan option can help to ease the transition.   The trouble is knowing which products are good and which are just a waste of money.  So I have listed a few of my favorite products that I think are worth trying.  I hope you enjoy them!

Coffee Creamer

One of the most important things I needed to ensure for me was a good way to still have my morning coffee and keep it vegan. I just do not like the way the powder non-dairy creamers taste in my coffee.  I'm a big coffee drinker and I love to have it with a bit of flavor. Silk's creamer does the trick.  It is smooth and creamy and comes in Regular, Hazelnut and French Vanilla.

Soy Milk

If you were a big milk drinker (as was I), it can be quite difficult adjusting to the flavor of diary-free milks. But don't get worried about your morning cereal, there are quite a few good options that with time, you will enjoy much better than cow's milk.  My favorite is Silk Soy Milk. After a while, you will wonder why you even drank cow's milk.  It comes in regular, chocolate and vanilla.  The best is me, even my teenagers now request it!

Sandwich Spread

Looking to make a great potato salad or have a yummy veggie sandwich?  When looking for a dairy-free mayo, I found Nayonaise and loved it! I have not even tried another product. I hear that Veganaise is good too, but I am happy with Nayonaise.  From what I have read, it is the Miracle Whip and Veganaise is the mayo. I suppose this is why I like it so much, I always did prefer Miracle Whip to mayo.

Soy Yogurt

I love this Silk Vanilla Soy Yogurt! This is one of my favorite vegan finds.  It comes in a pint size container so it's great for making smoothies, parfaits, or just eating right out of the container.  I use it to make my morning parfait with frozen blueberries, strawberries and maple good for breakfast or for just a snack. Even if you're not vegan, you will love this yogurt.

Single Serving Soy Yogurt

If you're looking for a great single serving soy yogurt, O'Soy is a great choice.  It comes in a pack of six—three peach and three strawberry. Both flavors taste really good! These are perfect for taking on the go. I usually pack one in my lunch for work and I bring a little granola to put on top. I was worried at first that I just wasn't going to like the taste of soy yogurt, but I really do enjoy this one!

Vegan Cheese

It is not easy (at least not for me) to find vegan cheese in the grocery stores.  I have only found it at Whole Food's and I have not found too many different choices. I have tried just a few and I can say there really is no reason to try any other than Daiya! I have used this to make pizza, quesadillas and pasta dishes and it works great. It melts really good and tastes yummy. My husband actually likes this better on the pizza than regular it must be good!

Buttery Spread

After going vegan, I wondered what was I going to put on my toast now! Luckily I came across Earth Balance and I am so glad I did. It is so good and you really can not tell that it is not dairy.  It spreads easy and works well in cooking and baking. It's more expensive than butter or margarine, but it is definitely worth it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tofu Scramble Saved Our Sundays

Since before we were married, my husband and I have always enjoyed having breakfast together.  Whether we went out to a restaurant or cooked at home, breakfast has always been sort of a time when we can sit down together and connect for just a little while before the stress of the day begins.  Sometimes we might not even speak much to each other.  We may just eat our food and read a magazine or a newspaper and still feel so connected for a little while.  Before we were married, we used to meet often in the mornings at a local Cuban restaurant before going to work.  It became sort of a tradition with us.  He would call me and ask me if I would I like to have breakfast, and I of course would say yes and we just knew where to go.  If we got there at the right time, we would have an hour before having to leave to go to work. It was a great way to start the day.

After we were married, life became very busy and it became harder to find many mornings for a relaxing sit down breakfast.  So we tried to at least have Sundays.  If we could get up early, we would have time to ourselves to have a Sunday breakfast before all the children woke up and the craziness of the day began.  Breakfast then was usually scrambled eggs with onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese.  That would be accompanied by either steak, pork or sausage and a side of toast with butter.  And let's not forget the latte! I think my husband lived all week just waiting for that Sunday breakfast knowing that it would be so tasty and filling.  It was our favorite time of the week...and then we became vegan!

Becoming vegan changed our lives in many ways and always for the better.  However, I was having trouble trying to find a way to still have those great Sunday breakfasts and sticking to a vegan menu.  For a while, we would just have toast, cereal with soy milk, or oatmeal.  Don't get me wrong, I love all these things for breakfast and during the week, this is what I will usually have.  But I wanted Sundays to be different, to be the breakfast that we fell in love with together and to continue our tradition. 

So I began to search and discovered a recipe for Tofu Scramble.  I was't sure how good tofu would be as a substitute for scrambled eggs and I thought my husband will not like this.  Then shortly after, I saw someone prepare it on a morning talk show and I thought to myslef, I have to try this...and so I did.  After serving it to my husband, I was completely prepared to hear him tell me that he didn't like it, but instead, I was surprised to hear him say, "this is really good!" I couldn't believe it, he loved it!  I also like it and now Tofu Scramble is a regular part of our Sunday breakfast.  I usually serve it with whole wheat toast with Earth Balance Spread, soy sausage links, soy milk and coffee.  It's like having our old Sunday morning meals again! 

For the recipie for Tofu Scramble, click here

Our Tofu Scramble Sunday Morning Breakfast

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Project: Food Budget Week 8

Week: May 22-May 28
Budget: $ 120
Spent: $ 189

This has been another busy week for me.  I am posting this a few days late, but I guess it's better late than never.  This week I went way over budget!  However, it was expected since last week I didn't do any shopping at all.  I needed to restock just about everything since I had to use everything in the pantry just to get through last week.  So if you consider that I should have spent $120 last week and $120 this week, I'm really under budget after all. 

I started this week's shopping at Whole Foods.  I am only buying things there that I can not get at my local grocery store.  I try for a budget of $30-$40 for each trip.  This week I spent around $50, but I bought some extra stuff that I had been looking for.  And I also had lunch from the salad bar while I was there, not on the list, but it was good!

From Whole Foods, I went on to my local grocery store and completed my shopping there.  Unlike other weeks, I was not prepared with my weekly coupons (another reason I blew the budget).  I usually keep them in my bag, but I had removed them and forgot to put them back.  Oh well, I guess you can't always be prepared.  I spent a long time in the store trying to get all that we needed without going too much over budget.  That wasn't easy!!

This week's lesson learned: skipping shopping trips will only lead to a very long trip for the next visit and always try to be prepared. 

On This Week's Menu:
Veggie Tacos
Sloppy Joes
Tofu Scramble
Homemade Pizza
Veggie Picadillo
Southern Greens with Beans

This Week's Participating Blogs:

Emily Levenson
Veggie Converter
Dairy-Free Cooking
Motor City Girl In the Steel City
Veggie Burgher
The Happy Cactus
Test Kitchen Tuesday
Newly Vegan
Veggie on the Cheap
MeloMeals: Vegan For $3.33 A Day
Caroline Cain Holistic Health
Going Veggie
Under The Apple Tree
Be the Change

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Best Meat-Free Burger

Ever since we decided to leave meat off our plates, I have been looking for a good meat-free burger. If there was one meal I knew my family would miss, it was burgers!  So in my quest to find a veggie option for all my family's favorite meals, I was on the hunt for a great burger.

I wasn't sure at first what kind my family would like.  There are so many varieties out there, like veggie burgers, meat-free burgers and black bean burgers, just to mention a few. Not knowing how to make a meat-free burger, I tried the frozen meat-free patties, and they seemed to work well for us.  They are not exactly like a burger, but I figured with ketchup, lettuce and mustard, who would know the difference?  The kids seemed to like them, or maybe they just ate them and pretended.  But that wasn't enough for me. I still wanted to find something that was yummy and savory and felt like that big juicy burger we were used to getting at BBQ. 

So then I tried black bean burgers.  I tested this on my husband first, and it was a good thing I did! They weren't bad, but they were not at all a substitute for a burger. The texture just isn't the same and they sort of feel a bit uncooked inside. I knew my kids were not going to like them so I will not even attempt to serve them the black bean burgers.

Then recently, at a trip to Whole Foods, I came across Gimme Lean by Lightlife. There are two varieties, ground beef style and ground sausage style.  I have used the ground sausage style before in lasagna and it was good, so I picked up the ground beef style,originally thinking I would make "meatballs".  But then later I thought that if it could make "meatballs", then it just might make a good burger.

So I formed patties out of the mixture, seasoned them with a little salt and pepper, and then I rubbed them with a bit of Worcestershire Sauce.  I have this notion that everything tastes meatier with Worcestershire Sauce (you can find a vegan one at Whole Foods). It's what I use when I want people to think they are eating meat (I also add it to my soup to make it taste more like beef vegetable).  I cooked them in a pan with a little oil, just a few minutes on each side and topped them with sauted oinons.  Then I put them on a toasted burger bun with Nayonaise and lettuce and served them with homemade baked french fries.  They were yummy! My husband loved it, as did I. 

Finally I had that savory and juciy flavor that was just lacking in all the other burgers I had tried.  I haven't made these for my kids yet, but I am going to. I'm sure they will love them too.  I know that there is probably a better meat-free burger out there, but until I find it, this is mine!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 7

Project Food Budget: Week 7

Week: May 15- May 21
Budget: $120
Spent: $0

This week, once again, I skipped my scheduled shopping trip. This was a busy week for me and I just could not find one day where I had the energy (or motivation) to go shopping. So thanks to enough left over food to make and a few days of take out, we made it through the week without having to visit the grocery store. Even though I put $0 for the amount spent for the week, we did spend on take out and maybe picking up a few things here and there. But I didn' keep count so I can't tell you how much we spent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 6

Project Food Budget: Week 6

 Week: May 8- May 14
Budget: $120
Spent: $124

After taking a week off from my budget last week, I knew this week I would have to be extra careful not to go over budget. Well, I did pretty good! I was only over by $4. I decided to go to just one store this week and see if I could get everything I needed there without having to go to more than one place. So I went to my local grocery store and left Whole Foods for next week.

Each week I seem to find more things at my local grocery store. I'm not sure if they are carrying more items, or if I am just getting better at finding them. I am finding many things that I could only find at Whole Foods before. I recently found dairy free ice cream the other day. Sure they don't have the selection that Whole Foods has, but it will hold me over for now. Now if I could only get them to carry vegan cheese!

I used to have three stores that I would shop at, but after a recent shopping trip to one store, where I found old rotting food, mold in the garlic and even maggots in the potatoes, I have decided never to return to that store. Now I see why the prices are cheaper! I would rather have better food and pay more. I may have to increase my budget a bit, but I think it is worth it!!

This Week's Lesson Learned: Be careful shopping at cheap grocery just might get what you pay for!

On this week's menu:
Tofu Lo Mein
Sloppy Joe's
Shepherd's Pie
Veggie Pasta Marinara

This Week's Participating Blogs:
Emily Levenson
Veggie Converter
Dairy-Free Cooking
Motor City Girl In the Steel City
Veggie Burgher
The Happy Cactus
Test Kitchen Tuesday
Newly Vegan
Veggie on the Cheap
MeloMeals: Vegan For $3.33 A Day
Caroline Cain Holistic Health
Going Veggie
Under The Apple Tree
Be the Change

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Toddler's Favorite Veggie Things

I would have to say the hardest part of my vegetarian/vegan transition is getting my toddler to eat and enjoy her new foods.  Toddlers already are picker eaters; but when you are trying to feed them a vegetarian diet, it can make it much harder. Not only do we have to be concerned with feeding them foods they will like, but we have to be extra aware that they are getting all their nutritional needs met.  And we must do this while still adhering to our vegetarian or vegan lifestyle...not an easy task!

When my toddler was a baby, she loved her veggies (with the exception of anything green). But as she began to eat more foods, she would push those veggies to the side of her plate. Then one day she discovered that the dog would eat them if she threw them on the floor (yes, my dog loves veggies...go figure). Well, I kept giving her veggies and she kept feeding them to the dog. Sometimes it can feel like a veggie war with her and neither of us is willing to give in.

So when I find something that my toddler loves, is good for her and fits in with our veggie life, I just have to share it!

I found Fruitables fruit and vegetable juice at my local grocery store during my last visit. Since removing milk from our diet, I wanted to get something other that just apple juice for her to drink.  After reading the labels on all the juices, I realized that most of them were just sugar with some juice.  Then I came across this one and it seemed great.  It's a combination of apple, carrot, sweet potato, beet, butternut squash and tomato juice.  Wow, that's a lot of veggies in one little juice box!  It has no added sugar and had the lowest sugar count out of all the juices I looked at.  It also has 100% vitamin C and also has some vitamins A and E.  The best part, she loved it! She likes it a bit too much and wants to drink them all day, so I told her they are for meals and snacks only and she can have water the rest of the day.  While nothing can replace the benefit of eating fresh veggies, I think this is a great addition to my toddlers diet just to make sure she's getting enough.

My toddler's other favorite item is Smart Strips by Lightlife.  Since she has to eat her preschool's lunch (which is not vegetarian), she does eat meat while there and has come to love the chicken.  This is a great substitute!  I wasn't sure if she was going to like it, but she loves it and has no idea that it's not real chicken.  In fact, she helped create the meal you see her enjoying above.  I made her some whole wheat spaghetti with Alfredo sauce (made from non dairy milk and butter).  While I was making it, she asked if she could have corn and chicken.   So I heated up the corn with the smart strips in a pan with a little olive oil and topped in on her pasta and then topped with some veggie cheese.  She loved it, as you can see by her big smile! Add a box of Fruitables juice and you have a yummy veggie meal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Little Herb Garden

I've love cooking with herbs. I think they bring so much flavor to any dish.  In fact, my first wedding present was a rotating spice rack that I just love and still use today.  I keep it right next to the stove so I have all my herbs at reach while I'm cooking.  But since my shift to go vegan, I have wanted to take things to the next level-which means switching to fresh herbs! 

So today I went out and bought my first herb plants to grow at home.  Since I don't really have much yard space, I wanted to grow them in pots to put in the kitchen windowsill.  I'm not really sure how well they will do in the kitchen, but I guess I will find out.  I've never grown herbs before so I don't know which ones do well inside and which are best outside.  I suppose, like everything else, I will learn as I go.

I started with rosemary, basil and mint (for hubby's mojitos).  I already used some of the rosemary in tonight's dinner (which my toddler actually ate all of it).  I just love having the herbs growing right there in my kitchen.  They smell so good, not to mention it makes my kitchen look more like a real chef's kitchen!

I also picked up a Grape Tomato plant.  I have no idea how to grow this thing, but I guess I will learn this as well.  Growing up, my father always grew tomatoes, as well as many other fruits and veggies.  He would spend every weekend outside gardening.  Although I think he did it just for relaxation because I don't remember us ever eating the food he grew. 

Well, I hope some of his green thumb was past on to me so I can be successful in growing my own fruits, veggies and herbs.  Of course, let's see how well I do with this plant and the herbs in my kitchen before taking on more challenges.  It will be so rewarding to literally "eat the fruits of my own labor!" Any advice would be greatly appreciated :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Resistant Veggie Kids

It's been eleven days since I started my vegan challenge and I am loving it! As for my children, well not so much.  When I first told them about my decision to go vegetarian, they were not happy but they seemed willing to try. But when I mentioned "vegan", I could feel the resistance.  I know they were thinking that first I took away their meat and now the milk, cheese and cream.  How could I be so mean?   My teenage daughter expressed to me how it was my choice to go vegan and that it's not fair to force her to eat vegan.  I suppose she's right, but as long as I do the food shopping, she's out of luck.  One might think that since her two best friends are vegetarians it would make this process much easier, but sadly it does not. 

My toddler is also having trouble transitioning to vegan.  I have been trying to switch her from cows milk to soy milk for a while now.  But this little girl can tell whenever I put soy milk in her cup.  I have tried putting half regular and half soy and the second she drinks its, she yells out at me "this is not my milk!"  Well, I have stopped buying the cow's milk so I will just keep trying the soy milk until she gives in, or at least until she gets tired of just water and juice.  I also tried to switch her regular yogurt for soy yogurt.  I finally found some this week and in the flavor she likes.  I tried it and it was good.  When I gave it to her I told her that I got a new yummy yogurt just for her.  She tried it and seemed to like it...for about a one minute.  After that, she wanted her Dora yogurt back. 

What is a vegan mother to do?  Can't someone please make non-dairy milk and yogurt with Dora on the box?  Or maybe Spongebob or any other character that will say to my toddler "it is okay to eat this product."  I know that this is a process and one day we will all be there, but it is a bit frustrating.  My teenager called me from school the other day and asked me to bring her something to eat before basketball practice.  So of course when I ask what she will like I just knew what I was going to hear...McDonald's!  This was the last place I wanted to visit, but reluctantly, I went.  I felt so dirty and uncomfortable being there, like a hypocrite. Imagine someone who reads all my vegan postings sees me in line getting a chicken nugget meal!  Why can't they have some veggie value meal that my teenager will like and that I will be happy buying for her?  Why can't all these products and places just cooperate with what I'm trying to do? I guess I'm asking for too much, but sometimes it seems like the rest of the world is against me getting my children to eat a healthier diet.  I suppose all I can do is keep trying...and hope for the best.