It's Spelled D-A-I-N-A

A Case for Veganism and Other Important-to-Me Things

Copy Cat Deliciousness September 25, 2010

Filed under: Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 16:13
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Pita Jungle has this amazing dish.  (Not all their dishes are amazing BTW, but a few are…)  I don’t know why, but the Pita Jungle peeps put this amazing dish on the side items list!  Its like they don’t want you to know it is there.  So basically it is some cauliflower fried to crispy garlicky brownness and covered in onion strings, pine nuts, and this sauce that will change your life!  The sauce is amazing and now that I know how to make it, I have been putting it on top of everything.  I would eat an old shoe if it had this sauce on top!  The sauce is very basic.  It is tahini, some water for thinning, and sriracha (the hot chili sauce.)  The ratio might be something like 4 tahinis, 1 water, and 1 sriracha give or take a bit.  Thats it for entrance into food heaven!  Here are some pics to salivate over.  In the pics I was trying to make the cauliflower healthy and steamed, but in fact the fried cauliflower is better! And since I have been putting the sauce on everything, I made pitas with tomatoes and cucumbers and gardein chicken breast fakes and put the sauce all over that delish combo too.  Try it.  I have already been through 1 jar of tahini this week.


Loving Hut September 19, 2010

Filed under: vegan / vegetarian,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 00:31

There is this all vegan restaurant nearby.  An all vegan restaurant with a few twists.  Loving Hut.  You might need to just visit the place and google “Supreme Master ching Hai” to understand the ambience that comes with this place.  I find it very peaceful, clean, and light.  And I am always fascinated by (um) the culture that leads to a place like this based on a philosophy like that.  (Very mysterious, I know.)  The people who work there are always very gracious and full of service.  You can check wikipedia if you want the mystery info, I want to talk about the food!  This place is set up like a common Chinese of Taiwanese health restaurant.  It is not expensive.  It is fairly casual but clean and open.  The menu’s have pictures and very Asian names.   Everything seems like it was translated directly from Chinese.  And it is all based on the idea that this food is healthy and cleansing.  See when someone in China wants to go out for something healthy and healing (maybe the equivalent of tyring to eat all local or organic) they eat vegan!  This idea is pretty lost on Americans, but it makes perfect sense in Asia.  So with that understanding you can better prepare for what Loving Hut is all about.  This place is interesting, and a field trip worth taking.  And the food is all good!  At least everything I have had was great.  The portions are more appropriately sized and you won’t be spending over 7 dollars for any entree.  I suggest it.  Here are some pics from our recent trip.  (This group was all carnivores (sans myself) and all enjoyed it immensely.  In fact the eating location was suggested and chosen by non-veg friends who love this place.)  There are Loving Huts all over the world so I hope you get to try one soon.


Cakes and Cupcakes! July 31, 2010

Filed under: vegan / vegetarian,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 01:31
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It was my roommate’s birthday today.  Tried out some new cakes and cupcakes and got great reviews!  No one even knew they were vegan.  Except one friend who asked.  They were quite tasty!

It was also my brother’s white coat ceremony for medical school.  It is the start of a long, hard school road… so they do this graduation like ceremony for the beginning of school.  I got to see my wee baby so I was happy.  Many pics of her to follow :)

So the cakes!  I gave Brittany a flavor survey with many options in cakes, fillings, and frostings.  From her answers I decided to make a vanilla three layer cake with a strawberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting.  Yummers.  Key is fresh lemon juice and fresh strawberries.  I also made red velvet cupcakes with a twist on the traditional cream cheese frosting.  This was cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Very delectable.  The chocolate extract I took time hunting down was amazing in this recipe.

For the cake building, I learned a few tricks.  The first is to put a thin layer of frosting down before filling so that the filling doesn’t soak into the cake too much.  Second, a ring of frosting around the edge of each layer will keep the filling trapped in.  Both of these tricks worked quite well.  The cake even made a long drive to east mesa without too much damage, though it did have a lean upon arrival.

And these vegan cake recipes are moist and delicious.  Both had such a great crumb!  All of the recipes (minus variations like cinnamon and created fillings of strawberries) came from my favorite cupcake book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!  I just took cupcake recipes and made one batch for each layer of the 8 inch round cake.  I was a bit worried to try this, but it worked great.

Jason’s white coat ceremony and adorable wee baby!


Cookies! June 13, 2010

Filed under: vegan / vegetarian,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 02:40

I made these cookies for a work thang.  They were delish! People liked them.  And I liked to pretend they were healthy because of ingredients like walnuts, oatmeal, and coconut. I love the little cookie cookbook that gave me this recipe.  And I, in my normal lazy fashion, will just upload pics of the book and recipe to cover the citing logistics.  Yummy stuff here people.

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

You’d probably have to have go go gadget eyes to be able to really read that recipe.  If anyone is really interested I could take the time to write it out for you….

I may have eaten quite a bit of that before it ever made it to the cookie stage.  At least it was salmonella free.



Polenta May 31, 2010

Filed under: Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 23:42

I see Polenta every time I go to Sprouts.  There it is, this tube of weird textured yellowness, next to the noodles that I understand and love.  So I decided to try it.  I like it!  It is basically boiled cornmeal with flavorings.  I tried microwaving it as the instructions suggested.  Then I tried frying it.  (By frying I mean spraying a frying pan with spray on oil and cooking it until it has a crispy browned outsides.)  Frying was delicious!  I then added these fried bits to a basic whole wheat noodles, veggies, and tomato sauce dish I was making.  Polenta is tasty when fried and in marinara sauce!   Next time I might skip the noodles and make tons of polenta, veggies, and sauce.  It is really good.  Why have I never been introduced to this before?

Weird tube shaped polenta:

First try (the microwaved version:)

Frying it up (the noodle dish is in the background:)

Tasty little meal:)


Green Smoothies

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 23:22
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I eat some version of a green smoothie on almost every normal day.  What I mean by normal is when I am following my normal routine.  Not on vacation or staying at someone’s house or something like that!  I love it!  And it makes me feel great.  I put different things in it all the time.  Bananas make a great frothy smooth base.  I buy them by the bunches and freeze them in bags (unpeeled.)  Edamame are flavorless and add great protein.  Carrots are good, but too many can have a grittiness.  All fruits are delicious.  Cucumbers, avocados, tofu, and peas have all been in the blend.  Yummr smoothie safe for delicate foreign digestion!  (Anyone who has been to Koh San Road in Thailand would probably get that.  Yummr smoothies are definitely worth a trip to Thailand!)  Now I want a smoothie….. from Thailand.


Copy Cat Couscous May 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 01:18
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There is this great hole in the wall/ secret location style Middle Eastern Restaurant that I love in Tempe.  It is called the Phoenician.  It’s by the Mosque that is off of Mill (to the East) just South of the A mountain.  The restaurant owners are so nice and after you eat you can go into the adjoining grocery store and get all sorts of exotic things.  There you can also buy ingredients to copy the food you have just consumed in the restaurant.  This is just what I did last week.  I had some couscous with my falafels in the restaurant.  The couscous was a beautiful yellow color with a delightful flavor.  I decided this was turmeric and decided to make a turmeric couscous dish with lots of vegetables.  It was all a big experiment but I think it turned out great!  I boiled a bunch of various vegetables in a pot with vegetable broth, salt, a pinch of curry mix, and a lot of turmeric.  Then I added the couscous at the end and took it off the heat.  Easiest thing I ever made.  It turned out tasty and I think the color makes it very interesting.  It tasted pretty close to the restaurant’s dish!  Next time I think I would make an even higher veggies to couscous ratio but other than that it was perfect!


Sun Dried Tomato and Pesto Pasta

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 00:55
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One recent day I got to thinking that I wanted some pesto pasta.  This quickly became an obsession.  But pesto is Parmesan cheese and Basil.  What is a vegan to do?  Luckily one of my trusty cookbooks had a recipe for vegan pesto that turned out delicious!  I also found some sun dried tomatoes in my fridge and decided they belonged with this dish.  Of course I used whole wheat noodles and my vita mix- but any blender would work.  Pesto is meant to be a bit course.  So here is the dish in chronological pictures.  (It was easier to take a picture of the book and recipe rather than try to type up the recipe and site the book.)  To top it all off, the basil came from my very own little herb garden!

And here is what the recipe now looks like with my ammendments….


Vegan Mac and Cheese! May 9, 2010

So this is a dish I have worked on a lot.  When I first was considering becoming vegan the thought of giving up cheese was killing me.  It came down to a sort of all or nothing with macaroni and cheese.  I said if vegan macaroni and cheese can taste good and satisfy cheese craving when needed, I can do this vegan thing.  Well as it turns out I rarely, if ever, crave cheese anymore.  But I do like this dish here and there.

Also, disclaimer, I really only post food items that I find interesting in some way.  Often they aren’t representative of how I eat everyday.  For instance, I don’t survive on substitutes and fakes generally.  I also eat much healthier than even this vegan mac and cheese regularly.  Most of my meals are simple and very healthy.  That being said, other than some saturated fat from coconut milk, this is pretty dang healthy.  And Tasty!

I made this recipe out of 3 separate recipes from a few cookbooks.  It is ideal mac and cheese to me!   You really have to have a strong blender like a vita mix to get that cheese sauce consistency.  I guess you could probably substitute the cashews for unsalted cashew butter and put this all in a regular blender with pretty good results.  But don’t quote me on that because I have never done it.

Also I always make this with whole wheat noodles and add veggies but if you want that true artery blocking fatty baked macaroni feeling you could use white noodles, more sauce to noodles ratio, and no veggies.  You can also add more of the pimentos, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast if you want a more sharp cheddar taste.  This recipe works out to be a smooth mild cheese.  I think it is pretty tasty as is and pretty close to how I remember mac and cheese to be!

So with no further adieu here is the recipe (followed by the process in pictures:)

1)  Cook up some noodles.  Somewhere between 13-16 oz of noodles (depending on the ratio to sauce you want or if you are adding veggies.)

2)  Drain noodles and set aside.

3)  Blend the following in a strong blender.  Let it blend for a minute or so to really distribute the agar agar/ cornstarch and let the thickening start a bit:

1 can coconut milk
3.25 C water
.25 C + 1 TBSP Nutritional Yeast Flakes (these are amazing)- use less if you buy the NYF that are ground down to a powder instead of a flake
3.5 teas salt
1.5 C raw unsalted cashew pieces
.25 C + 2 TBSP pimentos (these come in a little jar, they are red, they are probably near the Italian section with the capers…)
4 TBSP lemon juice (fresh is best)
.25 C Cornstarch
1.5 teas onion powder
.25 teas garlic powder
3 TBSP agar flakes (or 3 teaspoons agar powder)

4)  Pour the drained noodles into a pot on the stove and add the blended cheese sauce and any veggies you might be adding.

5)  On medium heat, constantly stir and wait for thickening.  It may take a minute or two to start, but it will quickly thicken once it starts so pay attention.

6)  When it looks good to you it is done.  It will continue to thicken a bit as it cools- like regular mac and cheese.

7)  Eat it up!


Healthy and Accidently Vegan Brownies

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 02:51
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So I have heard about this a few times over the years.  Sometimes from vegans, sometimes from health nuts, and sometimes from the Jenny Craig weight watchers type.  I had never ventured to try it out until now!  These are healthy (ier) brownies but they have a surprising secret ingredient.  Drum roll……..

They have black beans in them!  Crazy I know.  Don’t be grossed out.

So you take a package of brownie mix (obviously I buy vegan box mixes) and a can of no-salt black beans.  YOu blend the black beans (with the water they come canned in) into a puree with the addition of the water called for on the box of brownies.  Then you mix the brownie mix in.  Don’t add the eggs or oil.  Then you cook following the directions on the box.  Easy peasy!

I was skeptical, but after trying it I am a fan!  You CANNOT in any way taste the beans.  They are pretty flavorless when they are salt-free.  Think about it.  The texture is a bit different.  I bit chewier and denser.  I liked this!  They tasted like those horrible for you but delicious prepackaged brownies with the little nut pieces on top that I used to love in junior high.  I did add a layer of melted chocolate chips to the top.

Essentially these are oil free brownies with added protein and fiber.  Still a lot of crap in them, but better than the regular brownies I would have made.  I dare you to try them.


A Sad Day for Baby Plants April 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 23:13
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This is an update on the gardening I have been doing.  It has been going suprisingly well.  The plants aren’t dying!  In fact they are growing too much.

Because of their ambitious growth, today was a sad day in my little nursery.  I had to go through and pick out which little plant seedlings would live and which would die.  There just isn’t enough room for them all to grow and so for the good of some plants, others had to die.  It was hard to do.  It made me a bit sad.  Good bye little plants who sacrificed yourselves so bravely for the lives of others.  Farewell.

Yes my green thumb is ironic there as it puts little plants to death.

In other happier news, my garden is starting to be useful!  Some of my herbs are getting plentiful and I have to think of things to make with them.  Today I made dill potato salad.  I picked the dill right outside and just walked inside to make more delicious than average potato salad.  It was splendid.  I love that dill flavor.  Also added some chives, celery, mustard, salt, vinegar, and pepper.  And yes it is vegan potato salad- I used nayonnaise instead of mayonnaise.  One benefit is that nayonnaise has half the calories of mayonnaise.  I don’t know if potato salad photographs well, but it sure is tasty!

Tomorrow I make something with all my basil leaves.  I will keep you updated.  I know you are sitting on the edge of your seats in anticipation.


The Exciting Topic of Food! April 21, 2010

What I am Eating These Days

People often ask me what I eat or how I eat as a vegan.  So here is my pantry opened up to you!  (Literally- I took a lot of things out of the fridge and photographed it all… anyone walking by my window this AM would have thought I was crazy!)  This is a long post, so if you get to the end you might win a prize!

The basic philosophy behind what I eat is this:  Whole foods plant based.  I try to eat things in as close to their natural state as possible.  I think nature has packaged foods perfectly for our bodies and when we start stripping plants down and only using parts of them in various processed foods we are not getting all the health benefits.  Not by a long shot.  So I eat whole grains, whole vegetables, whole fruits, ect.  I also think that no one food should be a staple.  I rotate foods to get many different experiences and nutrients.  This is why I don’t have tofu with every meal- or brown rice for that matter.  No one thing should be the basis of your diet.  And of course, I didn’t make up any of these theories, I just agree with smarter people who do research and write books J

I feel like there are a few categories, and sub categories to answer the question of how I eat.  The main categories would be eating in and eating out.  The subcategories of eating in are times when I just eat the simplest things possible and don’t have time for cooking, the other times are when I spend a lot of time cooking and making either foreign exotic delights or old favorites in a new vegan way.  Maybe a word on treats goes here too.  For eating out we are talking BBQs and friends’ or event’s food or restaurants.  And of course in my wordy way I have an answer for what I do in each of these situations.

Eating In

Simple- Smoothies, salads, sandwiches, rice/ vegetable dishes, and stir fries

1) I stock my freezer full of frozen vegetables and fruits.  (Frozen is fresher and more nutritious than canned and often more nutritious and fresh than “fresh” produce from the grocery store.)  I also have concentrates of fruit juices.  This all makes for some great smoothies- the concentrate really takes it to the next level of deliciousness.  I make about a smoothie a day.  A really giant smoothie.  I put whatever veggies and fruits and concentrate strike my fancy at the moment.  Then I add a table spoon of flax seed or chia seed for their healthy oils.  Yum.

2) I invest in good bread.  Bread with just 5 ingredients or so- Organic whole wheat flour, yeast, honey, salt, and water.  Something like that.  Currently I am going to a bakery right by the natural foods grocery store I go to.  The bread is delicious, the loaves are larger than normal, there are lots of varieties to try, and it’s cheap!  $3.50 for a great big loaf of health!  I believe the nasty grocery store version of health bread like Orowheat is about $4.50 a loaf.  I have never liked the taste of these breads much and they put all sorts of preservatives and funky stuff in there.  I also buy whole wheat pita breads, tortillas, wraps, or flat breads with the same health status.  Always whole wheat or whole grains (if I go for spelt or something it is still whole.)

3) Well if you have the bread, you can make some tasty sandwiches or pitas.  Fast and delicious.  Who doesn’t like a tasty sandwich!?  Things that make sandwiches amazing are tons of fresh vegetables (tomatoes, sprouts, zucchini, cucumber,) avocado, hummus, pickles, banana peppers, or just mustard and some vegannaise.  A kalamata olive spread is my current favorite on every sandwich- just put some kalamata olives in your blender and they keep as a spread indefinitely.

4) For simplicity I might have some chips and dip around.  I buy chips that are made without oil.  Far fewer calories and you avoid extra oil.  I am not talking “baked” chips because those will usually still have oil in them.  Look at the ingredients.  I am talking about chips made from just corn and salt and, surprise, they actually taste like corn!  They can be tricky to find.  I usually buy them a few bags at a time when I find them.  Sprouts, and Whole Foods and even some fancier Albertsons carries them.  The brands I have seen are Guiltless Gourmet, and Whole Foods has its own version under their brand 365, and Trader Joe’s also has a version.  To put on the chips, I make or buy (depending on my level of laziness) guacamole and salsa.  I am pretty picky and it has to be fresh stuff for me to buy it.  The ingredients in the salsa better not have vinegar or any other weird non natural stuff- just veggies, salt, garlic, cilantro, and lime or lemon juice.  Same goes for the guac.  And I can make some tasty salsa or guacamole with the help of vita!

5) I also buy hummus and pita chips or veggies.  Veggies are the healthier option here- I like sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower, and baby carrots with hummus.  I haven’t found pita chips that were especially healthy, but sometimes I just toast healthy pita bread and that works too.  The hummus is tricky.  There are some really delicious hummus brands out there and some not so delicious brands.  Some brands seem to fill half the container’s weight in canola oil which I am not down with and some leave out the oil.  Healthier without the canola, but tahini really is soooo delicious in hummus so it is hard to decide between the extremes of no oil or all oil on offer out there.  I have found that making my own hummus is the most satisfactory.  And when I make it, I make a lot and freeze quite a bit.  I have tried out quite a few hummus recipes from my vegan cookbooks and never been disappointed.  I do still buy hummus occasionally and then think about all the extra oil while I am eating it!

6) Potatoes- potatoes get a bad rap, but potatoes are not French fries!  Potatoes are a somewhat complex starch that makes a great base for lots of things.  I like to bake a potato and then pile it with veggies and salsa or sometimes vegan margarine and veggies.  I like to sauté potatoes in water (or sometimes the vegan margarine) with herbs and other veggies.  I like them mashed with other vegetables- like cauliflower.  Potatoes are just so good.

7) The bulk of my simple foods comes down to beans, grains, and edamame.  I make large batched of beans or rice or both together and eat them over quite a few days.  Often brown rice, wheat berries, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, or quinoa are the base and I will add in seasonings and veggies.  Edamame is a bean, but I treat it like a veggie.  Either way it is delicious and very healthy.  Then I might eat this concoction with chips or as a side to a salad for dinner or just top it with more seasoned veggies and eat it like a haystack.  I try to cook veggies in water and season with herbs instead of oil and salt.  I am currently having rice and beans (Brown and black respectively) that I added some curry flavoring too and I have been eating this bean and rice topping on top of chips like nachos with all sorts of veggies and salsa piled on top.  The curry was a sudden idea I had, but I think it turned out pretty good.  I have been known to season with vegan “no chicken chicken base,” a broth stock I buy.  They also make a beef and tomato version that are very good too.  I sometimes just do lemon and cilantro or some other herbs like rosemary and thyme.  I like my herbal seasonings.  They are guilt free, save you from using oil or too much salt, and they make you feel fancy!

8) Whole grain noodles are also always easy to make.  I will make whole wheat pasta and top it with a fresh tomato sauce and add lots of veggies and sometimes even tofu.

9) Or I will get all creative with the stir fry and go Thai style.  Thai sauces, thai vegetables, thai seasonings, thai coconut milk…..yum.  Coconut milk is not very good for you all the time, but delicious just the same.  This stir fry idea works for Chinese or Japanese themes as well.  Stir fry has to be the easiest meal in the world.  Just season some veggies and make a thematic sauce and serve over brown rice or whole grain noodles like wheat, buckwheat, or soba.

10) In the winter, I will eat a lot of soups.  I love soups.  So satisfying and filling and easy to make nutritious.  My vita mix can make a creamy soup base so easily.  I just put in a whole squach (with the rind peeled off) and add some seasoning and broth and let it run for a few minutes until the soup is boiling in my vita mix.  Or I might add some cashews to a vegetable broth for creaminess, or tomatoes with cashews and seasonings… you get the idea.  After I have my base, adding rice, vegetables, pasta, or tofu to the soup is very easy and you have a tasty soup.

11) Speaking of tofu.  I use tofu here and there.  I just cut up cubes sometimes and add it to a stir fry, pasta dish, or soup.  Sometimes I even blend it with my smoothies- like cheaper soy milk.  I like it a lot.  The flavor and texture is really good to me and it is cheap protein.  I don’t “replace” all the “missing meat” in every meal with tofu.  I think there is something wrong with how we think nowadays that we don’t think a meal is a meal without a center piece of rotting animal carcass… but that is for another post.  If a meal has a lot of whole grains or beans, I don’t need any more protein from tofu but it is there if I want it.  Anyhow, back to tofu.  A tub of tofu is less than a dollar at Fresh and Easy.  (It is three times that amount at the standard grocery stores- because it is a rare health food item there I guess?  I have found that health foods like whole grains and produce are more expensive at the standard grocery stores.  There you save money on the junk and processed foods though!)  And for those of you scared of this foreign tofu item, just remember that all tofu is is edamame that has been blended to silkiness with varying degrees of water content left in it.  If you don’t like it soft, buy an extra firm version that cuts like meat.  Tofu has very little flavor as is.  It soaks up the flavor of whatever it is cooked in.  So cook it in veggie “no chicken” broth if you want that chicken flavor.

12) Lately I have been eating bread as toast with vegan margarine or nut butters and jam.  This isn’t really like me- this is the first time I have bought Earth Balance vegan buttery spread to just use as a topping.  I usually only buy margarine for baking.  And the nut butters (almond, cashew, peanut) are delicious but very high calorie!  This all started when I bought that homemade jam at the farmer’s market.  I have become addicted.

13) I have Clif bars in my bag at all times in case I need a vegan snack (or replacement meal while out.)  I also carry around dried fruits like cranberries, cherries, strawberries, mangoes.  But these are dangerously like candy and high in sugar calories too!  I have trail mixes around too…. Same danger from high calories.  Sometimes I just eat semisweet chocolate chips- look at labesl to find vegan ones.  They are delish and cheaper than chocolate bars.

14) This isn’t a complete list, but it is all I can think of for now (mostly because it is what I have right now.)

Complicated Cooking- the world is your oyster here!  Vegan oyster that is.  Any recipe that you can think of has a vegan counterpart.  Sometimes I really crave something from my past, or I make something for a dinner party and I want it to impress with its vegan yet deliciousness…. And sometimes I feel like learning to cook that Thai or Indian dish that wowed me at the restaurant the night before.  I can get pretty obsessed with my recipes and can cook the same thing over and over tweaking it until it is perfect…. Anyone remembering the month of vegan cheesecake or the weeks of various vegan macaroni and cheese recipes?

To make vegan foods that substitute for old animal-product-dense favorites, a few recipe books would really be best.  ( I have many and can tell you about them if you like.  Some are definitely better than others.)  I don’t like using all the substitutes for things that come from the store.  Although you can get away with this,  it can be expensive and it usually isn’t very health.  For instance, compare the stores fake soy cheese made of oil and other unpronounceable ingredients to my cheese sauce ingredients below.  And mine tastes better.

Here are some basics I have learned-

Cheese- to make a vegan cheesy sauce of cheese like substance to be sliced, you often need some sort of nut (cashew or pine,) some nutritional yeast flakes (taste like butter and are very high in B12,) some lemon, garlic, onion powder, maybe some pimentos or other pepper, and perhaps some coconut milk depending on the type of cheese you are going for.  These things don’t sound like cheese, but they do make a very good fake.  It is really amazing.  For cheesy sauces using nuts, you really do need a good blender.  I have never tried it in a cheaper blender, but I think the cashews would still be chunky…. Maybe just use cashew butter?

Sushi- amazing without the fish.  I love making homemade sushi.  The rice has secret ingredients in it like rice wine vinegar and sugar.  Who knew?!  I use brown rice here too and I think it is better.  I like to put all sorts of veggies and sometimes flavored tofu in the rolls.  Avocado is a must.  Sometimes a nice non eel unagi sauce.  Always the soy sauce, ginger, and wasabe!  Making sushi can be a blast.  My problem is I usually have too much and sushi isn’t very appealing on day two…

I make a great pot pie with a tasty flakey crust and a creamy filling (yes the filling is veggies covered in a blended smooth cashew and veggie broth mixture.)

Thai food with vegetarian fish sauce is easy to do.  Asian grocery stores have the veggie fish sauce.

Indian food with milk substitutes (like soy, almond, rice, or hemp milk) or tomato based sauces are easy to do.  And the vita makes blending the ingredients smooth a blast.

Mexican food- Beans, rice, whole grain tortillas, corn and sweet onion sautés, pico de gallo, bell peppers, cooked veggies…. usually I just skip the cheese and sour cream and add more veggies guacamole and salsa.  I found that I love guacamole and have never given it enough credit before when it was overshadowed by sour cream.  Of course there are great fakes out there if you want them.  Daiya fake cheese and Tofutti fake sour cream are good.

American?  If we have a food, I would say it is hamburgers and hot dogs.  You can find great fakes of either of these.  I like the soy fakes better than the veggie fakes (as in Boca burgers over Garden burgers.)  If you don’t want to fake it, there are some amazing recipes for bean and veggie patties.  They might not taste like a burger per se, but they taste better!  I like these homemade burgers best!  And you can get all gourmet and exotic with  your toppings- herbs, pineapple rings, sautéed veggies….

Chinese, Japanese, Thai- all too easy to make vegan.  They don’t belong in this category although I do like to cook and eat them!  These categories need very little tweaking.  You can just omit the meat and be good usually.  There are some very interesting flavors out there to experiment with- like umeboshi plums and miso.

Mediteranean/ Middle Eastern/ Greek- falafels yum!  I bake mine instead of frying.  Saves on the oil and I swear you can taste the seasonings more.  You can make vegan tzaziki sauce with lemon, dill, soy, and cornstarch if I remember right.  I love to cook with dill!  Tahini on everything.  Lots of veggies.  Pita pockets.  Side of turmeric flavored couscous with veggies.  Too easy.

Italian- all the tomato bases are fair game.  Easy peasy.  Creamy (usually cheese and butter) sauces are a bit harder, but the vita mix can blend nuts and broth and nutritional yeast flakes into a creamy deliciousness you’d swear was cheese.  And it will be much lower in saturated fat and better for you!  Pesto sauce is even do able- there is a recipe for everything!  Ricotta cheese ditto.

Seitan- Said (Say-Tan) is the most meaty product you can buy or make as a meat substitute.  I don’t use or make it often, but it is there.  It is tasty and it is very high in protein.  It is made from vital wheat gluten- the protein of wheat.  It is not a whole food, because only part of the wheat plant is used.  It is easy to make and very realistic.

I am going to make my self perfected recipe of vegan macaroni and cheese here soon and will post the recipe and pictures then.


There are so many vegan treats out there that it is easy to get out of control.  Trust me.  I generally have a rule that if I buy a treat, I buy a one time serving size and eat it right away.  I don’t stock treats at home because I have no self control!  I also am generally too lazy to go out and buy the treat I am craving, so this saves me from myself pretty often.  I usually am willing to put the time in for baked goods though…. So that is a continuous problem.

Anyhow, for treats, I love the cherry chocolate chip soy ice cream that Trader Joe’s makes.  The brand Tempt makes some amazing hemp milk ice cream.  This stuff is seriously creamy.  I also like the rice dream cookies and cream ice cream and their ice cream pies (complete with oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate.)  Pure Decadent (I think) is the name of a brand that makes coconut milk ice cream which is also very good.  The Tempt and Trader Joe’s are my favorites though.  Oooh and Tofutti’s ice cream sandwiches….

Speaking of ice creams, I can make some mean ice creams in my vita mix.  Some of these would better be classifies as sorbets.  I will sometimes just but frozen bananas and some cashew butter in the blender, blend, and then add chocolate chips.  Yummy ice cream.  Other times it is frozen bananas and frozen cherries.  I have found frozen bananas to be super creamy for ice creams or even smoothies.  And with eating these ice creams, I swallow very little guilt!

Baked goods- there are some great vegan baked goods out there.  Uncle Eddie’s cookies come to mind.  I often make baked good too.  I have the cookbooks Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar. I have yet to be disappointed by a recipe from this book!  Trust me you will never miss the flavor of egg in your cupcakes!  These books have the basics like chocolate cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, but they also have so much more.  Soooo many interesting combinations and beautiful pictures to make you salivate!  I generally have two different ways of baking.  For the masses who don’t necessarily appreciate health I will use the white “crack” sugar and white flour and let health be for the birds!  (Is that a saying?)  For myself, I cook with at least some whole wheat flour, and some different sugars like molasses, barley malt, agave, honey, brown rice syrup, sucanat, maple syrup, maple butter, or fructose.  These are better for you but can change the taste of a recipe and be much more pricey.

Eating Out

BBQs or eating at a friend’s- this is where the fakes some in a little more handy.

For BBQs it is often BYOM.  This is easy for me.  I can just grab a Boca burger or Smart Dog hot dog.  If I feel really fancy, there are these vegan sausages at Whole Foods that come in flavors like apple sage.  They are really good- made mostly of potatoes and vegetables and very little soy.  Interesting what they can do with food!  Gardein is my favorite brand for fake chicken.  They make chicken breasts and strips and if I need chicken for a BBQ or feeding some curious friend, I will get Gardein.  It is soo realistic the first time I ate it I checked the label many times!  It is made of soy and wheat.

If it’s a house party or some other food centered event, I will just offer to bring something.  This way I know that I will definitely have something to eat.  I usually make normal things that people would never suspect were vegan.  Then when they find out they can be pleasantly surprised (at least that is how it works in my head…)  Potato salads are easy to make with vegannaise instead of mayonnaise.  Its easy to make vegannaise at home, or you can just buy it.  I might bring a salad, some quinoa or couscous dish or some homemade guacamole or salsa with chips.

Restaurants- Depending on the restaurant, eating vegan can be easy or a little more difficult.

Most restaurants now have at least one vegetarian thing on the menu, even the all American chains like Chilis and Applebees (not that I really go there if it is up to me.)  So often I can order the vegetarian thing and tweak it to become vegan.  “Leave off the cheese or change the salad dressing” is usually enough.  I do the best I can and don’t worry too much that I might get a trace amount of animal products.  For instance, I never ask what is in their bread or if their Italian dressing is one of the last to hold out and still contain eggs.  I just go for the obvious things like taking off the cheese and meat.  Sometimes, if I am really in a pinch at one of these restaurants, I will just make a meal out of the side dishes.  Like a side salad, the side of veggies, and the side of mashed potatoes.  This isn’t ideal, but it is cheap!

If I have my choice in restaurants I go for something more ethnic because there will be far more options for me and a little foreign ambience is exciting!  At small family run places like these, I feel far more comfortable just asking questions and getting what I want.  I will often make up my own dish out of pieces of other dishes.  It’s really not that hard and I have never been in an experience where the restaurant wasn’t happy to accommodate.

And of course there are always vegetarian or vegan restaurants around.  I don’t go to these too often- they are often fakes of meats and cheese dishes and I just don’t crave them that much.  Plus I don’t have many vegan friends.  Sometimes I do like to go for the hippie atmosphere and understanding crowd though J

That about covers what I eat.  If you have made it this far, I am impressed!  I will make you a cupcake, but you have to come pick it up… and I am going to have to restrict this offer to people I know :)


Life As a New Nurse April 15, 2010

Filed under: Yum Yum Give me Some — My Vegan (and other) Apologetics @ 12:25
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As a student nurse your day is like this:  you come on the floor, get ignored, nurses aren’t happy to see you or deal with you, once in a while you get assigned some menial task but mostly you just follow your nurse around, you work on your own homework to try and have no real homework to take home, you watch what they are doing with a million questions you never ask because they are too busy, you survive the day and leave happy to never come back.  Then you graduate, then you take your NCLEX, then you have a license and suddenly when you walk on the floor for the first time at your job you are expected to know what you are doing and all sorts of responsibility is piled on you.  You feel like, “what the heck just happened?”  That is being a new nurse in a nutshell.  Sure you get a couple weeks of chaotic training, but really once you are on your own you are still guessing your way through a lot and you still have a lot of questions.  Luckily for my poor unsuspecting patients I am over not asking questions.  I harass everyone around me with a million questions a day.

One thing I have found interesting in my nursing training is the focus on charting.  It isn’t necessarily about what you are doing with or to your patients, it is about what you are charting. Charting rules supreme!  We must chart everything.  Every little thing.  I thought I got into nursing because I didn’t want a paperwork office job… the charting can get tedious.  We have to leave these notes about patient progress and it isn’t all about just writing how the day went and what progress they made in your own words.  No.  Your ‘own words’ better be these set phrases that we have deemed legally safe and admissible in court.  You have to talk in this weird robot talk.  Its a whole new language.  There are a lot of abbreviations and acronyms.  It takes some getting used to.

Life as a new nurse is hectic.  Especially if you start out in an area like mine.

Here is what my job has going for it in the chaos areana:  First, I have the crazy shift.  3-11 pm.  This is when all the admits are coming in and all the discharges are going out.  Not only do I have to get to know my first 5 or 6 patients, I can count on charting on about 8 patients before the night is over.  That is a lot of people and responsibility to keep track of.  Second, lets look at what med surg is.  It is all medical patients who don’t qualify as acutely sick enough to go to an ICU and who also aren’t here for heart problems.  (They might have heart problems, but that isn’t why they are here now.)  What is left, when you take out those two categories, are the medical patients and their is a huge range of things you might have to care for.  There is a whole lot to know…. and I wasn’t the most attentive student in school.  Then their is the surg part of med-surg.  These are the surgical patients.  Any surgery but a heart surgery comes to me.  My pod is usually taking the abdominal, GI, rectal surgeries.  Yum yum.  After surgery when they have stabilized in PACU for a few hours, they come to med-surg.  They still need a lot of close watching and time at this point.  Admits suck your time up.  So, between all the medical options and the various surgeries available today, there are many different patient types to deal with in med-surg.  Because we don’t have ICU acuity status, we get 6 patients each at any given time.  They basically count on the fact that when we get behind, and we always do, that our patients won’t die on us.  They will just be inconvenienced and possibly angry.  It will just be less than ideal, but not death.  That is how the numbers work.  It is total chaos in your thinking, in keeping your patients straight, and in getting all of the patient cares done.  And lets not forget charting.  I often don’t get to sit down to chart until after my shift is technically over and I have handed off my patients.  This is how busy it is.  This work environment is a lot to walk into.  And I really believe med-surg to be the hardest area in the hospital to work because of all of the above.  Every work day I think to myself, if only I had gotten a NICU job I would be able to eat my lunch and have a break today at work.

Clarification:  All in all I like my job a lot more than I thought I would.  I really hated med-surg in school and swore I would never work there.  After some humbling…. I am working there.  It isn’t as bad as I thought and I do like it.  The patients aren’t all crazy like they were in school.  There is satisfaction in conquering the chaos.

That is all for the day about nursing.  And here is what I am eating for breakfast, or lunch or whatever time this is.  It is tasty.  A veggie sandwich beautiful in its simplicity.  Bread made of whole wheat and having only 5 ingredients, veggies, veganaise, some pepper, mustard.  Yum.  Of course avocado makes everything better!  And yes I may have already taken a bite out of it before I thought to take a picture.



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