Archive for the ‘Vegan’ Category

The INAUGURAL Talking About Our Thursday Food Choices

So, on my The RA Vegan facebook page, we’ve been talking about making healthy food choices.  It’s a constant theme in my life, to be honest.  I mean, things are certainly healthier since I became a vegan, but you can still be a junk food vegan.  (The day I found out oreos were vegan was NOT a good day!) In the discussion it was brought up that I’m not the only one having these issues which got me to thinking……  So very much like ‘What I Ate Wednesdays’ (WIAW) we’ve decided to have  ‘Talking About Our Thursday Food Choices’ (TAOTFC – LOL).  So, every Thursday I’ll write a post about what I ate that day.  (Or, in the event of being super busy, on Friday.) On the facebook page we’ll discuss our choices through pictures or posts or whatever we decide to use to share.  That way there is 1) Some accountability and 2) we can get some ideas about what others are eating!  You can share on your blog or through facebook; or you can just read.  Whatever you’re comfortable with! I have to admit that knowing that I would be doing this tonight *did* make me think more about my choices.  When I did WIAW I would often decide ‘well, I just won’t count today’ and would eat something crazy.  Today I had no choice!  That said, this is NOT about shame.  If you eat 5 soy ice cream sandwiches then oh well.  Not judging here. For breakfast I had leftover pizza.  This is homemade pizza on wheat crust with sauce, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and vegan mozzarella from Trader Joe’s.  I often don’t eat much for breakfast but I ate 2 pieces of this.  Interestingly, after one piece I thought ‘I don’t need another’ but I still ate it.  I got about 3/4 of the way through the piece and decided I was done.  Next time I’m hoping I can listen to that inner voice earlier!

pizza

Then I packed my lunch for school.  As you can see, it didn’t take much!  This is leftover Easy Red Beans and Rice and 2 clementines.  I have started taking time to sit in the teacher’s lounge with others and eat the last few days.  Typically I eat at my desk, working, but really that’s not the best thing for my emotional health.  When I went to get up after just a few minutes today (I had eaten very quickly) one of the women I eat with told me to ‘sit down.”  She was right.  I need to take some time to talk with adults during the day; to think about my needs. packed lunch Not long after, though, I realized that this wasn’t enough food and went into the stash of food I keep in my desk.

2013-01-10_13-49-49_412  There was only about 2 of these left but they were definitely good!  Then I taught the rest of my day.  On my way to work with one of my special girls I enjoyed 3 of these macaroons.

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YUM.  I got these for Christmas and I’ve enjoyed every pack.  Truth is, that every pack seems to be getting better!  After working with my girl and a quick trip to the thrift store (as my 13 year old said, at 7 am, that he needed more track pants.  Seeing as how I couldn’t handle this request at 7 am, I handled it at night!) I came home to an amazing dinner that Mark made.

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Salad, Vegan Lasagna, and a gf/vegan brownie topped with strawberries!  (There might also have been a piece of vegan garlic bread in there that I didn’t get to photograph!)

So, all in all not the worst day or the best day.  I need to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed foods.  I have already put the leftover salad in a container to take for lunch tomorrow, and have a container of pomegranate seeds to take in my lunch as well.  I feel like the snacks I had in my desk weren’t bad, but I think maybe I should pack more in my lunch so that I have better options like some extra fruit.  And today had more vegan cheese then I think I’ve had in the last 6 months; It just worked out that way.  That won’t be normal.

So how was your day today. both food-wise and non food-wise?  I hope it was a positive day and that, whatever food choices you made, you don’t beat yourself up about any of them.  Each moment is a chance for a new beginning!  (Now I need to stay out of the brownies as I put them away!)

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Meals out in the second half of 2012

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As I told you in my last post, there were a lot of reasons why I didn’t post for the second half of 2012.  But I *did* eat and had always intended to share these meals out with you.  Since I don’t see myself going back and doing in-depth posts about each of them, here are some highlights.  (This makes me feel better and lets me, with clear conscious, move on to 2013 posts!)

On a trip to Ocean City MD I shared a great night with my family and some close friends, and found a new place that wants to accommodate vegans.  My friends were staying at the beach and had emailed the owner of Crazy 8’s to ask if they could handle feeding a vegan.  They were very honest about not knowing exactly what that would entail but made it clear they wanted to accommodate.  There were several choices but I went with a veggie wrap without cheese and with homemade guac added.  Wow.

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My daughter and I took a vacation to Connecticut to see some friends and they introduced me to all sorts of wonderful food!  Soups by The Soup Girl and Wendy’s Bites from Shayna B’s.  Not to mention the fresh Sun Gold tomatoes eaten right out of their garden and the amazing take-out they got for me.  I don’t even know where these pictures came from, but I know they were wonderful!

pizza cupcakesdairy free ice cream

We also ate at 2 vegetarian/vegan restaurants while in CT.  The Red Lentil in New Haven was a fabulous upscale place with lots of choices.  Vegetarian with vegan options and some gluten free options.  Unfortunately it looks like the New Haven location has closed.  Bummer, but it was a great meal!

020021024025028029 (Can you tell I really liked the desserts??)

After a trip to visit the Mark Twain House in Hartford CT we had lunch at Fire and Spice Vegan restaurant.  It was a small place with an even smaller staff and, unfortunately, we entered right after a huge party who didn’t have a clue what they wanted.  This meant it took a long time to get our food, but it was quite good and the staff were really apologetic.

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Fall found me mostly at home, so no restaurant meals to speak of.  But winter break found us on a few outings.  This was my second visit to the Great Sage restaurant in Clarksville MD, but the first for my family.  I’m the only vegan, but my son is gluten-free so I was happy to see that they could easily accommodate that.  (A funny story:  I told the waitress that my son is gluten free but that he’s ‘not adventurous’ because I was looking for things that were not spicy.  She thought I said ‘he doesn’t eat vegetables’ and was a little concerned that I had brought him to a vegan restaurant!)

These photos are pretty rough but I don’t like using my flash in restaurants and it was nighttime, but you can see the yummy goodness!  (Obviously I made a mistake and used my flash for the ‘chicken wings’ – best picture though!)

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And we’ll end with a restaurant we found in Tom’s River NJ through Happy Cow on my phone.  Via Roma is a small Italian place with an extensive menu that includes a full gluten free menu, a full vegan menu, and a gluten-free & vegan menu!

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This calzone was amazing.   And this is the small; I still had to take half home!

Ok.  I feel better now.  I’ve shared all the restaurant meals I had intended to share and now I feel better!  I can move on to 2013 with no guilt.  🙂

Where have you had amazing meals out?  Especially vegan meals!

Sick and Tired and Tired and Sick – Or why I’ve been gone

My last post published here was in August right before school started.  Summer is usually when I have more time to blog since I’m not working full-time so I expected my post frequency to decrease.  But I didn’t expect it to stop.

But we can’t always see what’s coming, can we?

I started teaching in a different grade this year and found that my responsibilities increased and therefore my planning time increased.  This happened right at the same time my husband, Mark,  left a profession he found unfulfilling without knowing exactly what would be next.  I’m a big proponent of “leap and the net will appear”  and I also firmly believe that life is too short to be miserable so I was supportive, but financially it changed quite a bit for us.

To be honest I had been growing unattached from wanting to blog.  I had loads and loads of pictures and things to share but very little desire to blog.  I had no desire to cook and wasn’t enjoying food or thinking about food or talking about food.  With all this going on, and a really negative comment on my facebook RA Vegan page that caused me to question myself, I decided that I needed a break.  I needed to not feel obligated to photograph my food every time I cooked or ate.  I needed to feel like I was making healthy choices for me, not because I was going to be telling others about them.  And I needed to decide if I wanted to continue with this blog and the facebook page.  So I announced on facebook that I was taking a break and I just went about my life.  Not only did I not post anything but I didn’t read or comment.  I took a break from being The RA Vegan and was simply Jen.

Mark found a job he loves and a new calling.  Financially it’s made us make choices, but I’ll choose happiness over money.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about choosing happiness and losing everything.  I’m talking about still being able to pay our bills but giving up some luxuries and things we had grown used to in order to be happy.  Things were looking up.

But I kept getting sick.  Not that unusual as someone who takes immuno-suppressants, but the frequency was unusual even for me.  One infection after another until I lost my voice and ended up at my doctor’s on November 5th expecting her to say I had yet another sinus infection.  Instead she prodded and looked and sent me for blood tests, telling me she suspected mono.  When she suggested, in her office, that I might need to take some time off I told her she was crazy.  I was the main breadwinner (and gluten free & vegan bread is pricey!) and I was just going to have deal with it.  I agreed to take a few days off, maybe even a week, but that was it.

I felt worse and worse and realized that sometimes you just have to deal with the reality in front of you.  So I took a month off.  We got even more creative with finances, but we made it work.  And I basically spent the entire time either lying in my bed or lying on the couch.  I didn’t leave the house for almost 2 weeks and I sent my family off to enjoy Thanksgiving in a different state without me because I couldn’t make the trip.  Once, when I got my haircut, I came home and took a 2 hour nap.  It wasn’t a pretty time.  I read quite a few free books on my kindle and ate more peanut butter and jelly than I’d like to count.  I didn’t have much of an appetite and was forcing myself to eat for much of the month.  Luckily things started to turn after Thanksgiving and I started feeling human again though slowly.  And as I started to feel better I realized I was thinking about food and cooking again; that I wanted to connect with the community I had become a part of again.

So I started posting on facebook, and reading some things.  I started making a few comments, and I pulled my camera out again.  I started cooking again and enjoying it.  And slowly I felt like Jen and The RA Vegan were becoming one again.

This is not a prolific blog and will probably never be.  I don’t make any money from doing this, it is simply an opportunity for me to express myself and talk to amazing people.  But I missed it.

Though I did learn that I can’t feel obligated to post, it will only make me want to do it less.  So I’m going to post when I want, and not when I don’t want.  I’m going to chat on facebook about veganism and having an autoimmune disorder and life but not feel guilty if I go a few days without saying anything.

Life is for living well, and being sick and tired is not a way to live if you can help it.  I don’t have control over the auto-immune disorder (which was still there during what I now refer to as ‘the mono invasion’) but I have control over how I respond and live my life.  I want to be happy, so as long as writing this makes me happy I’ll keep doing it.  If it doesn’t then I’ll stop.

I hope your second half of 2012 has been good!  My hope for us all is that we find joy and happiness and health in the New Year!

Now who wants to see the pictures of meals I’ve eaten?  LOL

Gluten Free and Vegan Baked Blueberry Doughnuts – Oh Yeah!

Recently I’ve been on multiple vacations and I have *lots* to share with you about those.  I’ve got restaurant reviews from Connecticut, Ocean City MD, and Virginia.  I’ve had so much good food it’s been amazing.  But what I feel most compelled to share immediately are these doughnuts.  Man.

I want to start with a question, though?  Do you own a copy of “Babycakes covers the classics” by Erin McKenna?  If you are at all interested in vegan and gluten free baking you owe it to yourself to get a copy.  Seriously.  Buy it.

Now, the inspiration for these doughnuts came from that amazing cookbook.  I’ve changed up the flours and the sugar, and added some of my own ingredients, so I feel comfortable posting these.  But I’ve got to say that so much inspiration comes from this book that it is really worth having.

Oh, and a note about doughnut pans.  I bought just one thinking I’d try it out.  I enjoyed the doughnuts, but the process was a chore because it took so long.  So I broke down and bought another regular sized pan (which makes 6 doughnuts) and a mini pan (which makes 12 minis).  It has made all the difference!  I wouldn’t necessarily buy 2 pans to start but if you like the result and see yourself doing this more than once every few months, it’s worth it to invest in at least a second doughnut pan.

Gluten Free & Vegan Baked Blueberry Doughnuts

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2/3 cup rice flour

1/3 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot water

1 cup fresh blueberries, preferably organic

Preheat the oven to 325.  Grease the doughnut pans with coconut oil or your preferred method.

In a bowl mix together the sugars through the baking soda.  Mix well.  Now add the wet ingredients (everything but the fruit), mixing just until combined.  Add the berries and carefully fold them into the batter.  Take a spoon and put some batter into each doughnut space, moving the batter around so that the entire hole is full but the center is not covered.  Bake for 8 minutes, then switch racks and bake for between 7 and 8 more minutes, watching for brown.  When done take out of the oven to cool but leave them in the pan.

Let them cool about 15 minutes.  While they are cooling make this basic glaze.  This glaze makes a lot, but I store it in a mason jar in the fridge for other uses.

1 cup vegan powdered sugar

1/3 cup hot water

1 tsp vanilla

Pour the powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add the water and vanilla and mix well until a glaze is formed.

When your doughnuts are done cooling remove them from the pans.  Be careful, some make break here but we just use those as testers!  Drizzle the glaze over top and either eat warm or let cool.

A few notes:  1)   I think frozen blueberries would work but I haven’t tried them.  Please let me know if you do.  2)  I think all coconut sugar would work but again, haven’t tried it.  3)  These don’t necessarily need the glaze, but they taste more muffin-like without it.  Still tasty, though.  4)  We can’t use potato starch at my house due to an intolerance but that’s what I’d use instead of the cornstarch if you want to sub it out.

I’d love to know if you try these!  My family gobbled them down!

Strawberry Shortcake, Vegan Style

Yesterday afternoon E and I were talking about what we wanted to bake.  I suggested blueberry muffins.  She said that sounded good, or maybe strawberry shortcake.

Fast forward a few hours and Mark texts me that he was thinking strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry shortcake it is!  But not just any strawberry shortcake, a non-traditional vegan strawberry shortcake!

Now, I need to point out, that since T is at sleep-away camp this way week I am trying to use up some of my stash of non gluten free flours, so this one is not gluten free as written.  I think, though, that subbing out a gluten free flour mix would probably work.  I haven’t tried it so if you do, please let me know.  The directions are made to be RA hands friendly, so they include some household machines like a food processor and a stand mixer.  You could certainly mix the cookies by hand and use a hand mixer to make the sauce.

Strawberry Shortcake, Vegan Style

1-2 cups fresh strawberries

1/2 cup organic sugar, divided

1.5 cups self rising flour (or 1.5 cups flour plus 2.5 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt)

6-7 tbsp dairy free butter (I used earth balance from the tub and it was just fine)

1/2 cup dairy free milk

1 can coconut milk, chilled (I put mine in the freezer for about 20 minutes but the fridge all day would work too)

1/4- 1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Slice the strawberries and mix with 2 tbsp sugar.  Cover and refrigerate while working on the other components.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

In the food processor put 1/4 cup sugar and the flour.  Pulse until combined.  Add the non-dairy butter and pulse until it is just starting to resemble crumbs and you can tell that the butter is no longer in big clumps.   Then turn on the food processor and slowly add the non-dairy milk until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides.

Take out a clump of dough about the size of a golf ball.  In your clean hands first roll it into a ball and then pat it into a relatively flat circle.  (You could definitely roll the dough out but my hands do not like that!)  Put the circle on the prepared pan and repeat with the rest of the dough.  When done take the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and sprinkle it on top of the rounds.  Bake for about 18 minutes or until they are starting to brown on the bottom.  Leave them on the sheet to cool.

If you have the chance to chill your stand mixer’s bowl and mixing attachment before doing this next step that would be for the best, but it’s not imperative.

While the cookies are cooling pour the can of chilled coconut milk into the stand mixer.  Mix for about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, scraping the sides if needed.  Then add the vanilla and continue to mix.

To assemble your strawberry shortcakes put a nice scoop of strawberries in a bowl, add a cookie, and top with sauce.  Beautiful and incredibly tasty!

We found that crumbling the cookie up on top worked the best for ease of eating.

But however you eat it, it’s good!

The Sea Star in Chincoteague Virginia

Some time ago, through using Happy Cow, I discovered that there is a small restauraunt in Chincoteague Virginia with vegan options.  I was intrigued, since that’s only 45 minutes from me.  But I haven’t been to Chincoteague since I was 15 and need I say, I am *way* over 15!

So today when we dropped T at a week of sleep-away space camp the rest of the family decided to go out to dinner before we started home.  Now, I didn’t even know Mark had put the Happy Cow app on his phone, but I shouldn’t be surprised since he’s pretty darn supportive.  As we waited to be dismissed from the social event that started the camp, Mark suggested we hit the Sea Star in Chincoteague for dinner.  Who am I to resist a cool place with vegan options??

This is one of those places where you walk up, order and pay, and then wait for them to call your number for food.  There is a whole “vegetarian” section of the menu with four sandwiches specifically marked as Vegan.  I chose the Malibu, a whole wheat wrap with hummus, avocado, tomato, sprouts and lettuce.  That little wrapped thing in front of the sandwich was my pickle and it was darn good.  The drink is an unsweetened passionfruit mango tea, and the chips in the back are not mine.  They, actually, included dairy but I liked reading the package as they were made by a very small company in Virginia.

Mark and E waiting for their food

My unwrapped meal

Yum

After dinner we walked around the funky little town some, checking out the “Misty of Chincoteague” statue before we drove down to wildlife refuge that is the beach.

It was a nice evening for the three of us, and definitely a place I’d go to again.  Since I’m not a local it may only be a place I’d go to in the warmer months when I could comfortably sit outside and eat, but it’s worth the drive for the cool feel and good food!  This is not fast food, though, and you have to wait while they make everything to order.  But that gave me more time to listen to the gulls!

Papaya Smoothie-ness

Given the chance, I’m going to sleep in.  Let’s just put that out there as what it is, fact.  So during the summer and on the weekends I often sleep in.  A lot of those weekend days, by the time I’ve gotten up, Mark has already been to the store and the kitchen is clean.  I know, am I a lucky woman or what?

For me it’s sort of like opening a gift, seeing what fruits and veggies he has bought.  This weekend he brought home a papaya.  Man how I love how they look!

Usually I juice them, and they have made some of my favorite juice ever.  But can I admit something?  (Is this the ‘Jen admits her faults post??’)?  The juicer was dirty and I didn’t feel like cleaning it.  Yep.  This incredibly yummy recipe came along because I was lazy.  Oh well, grab the goodness where you can get it!

So I decided to make a papaya smoothie.  I figured ‘the worse that can happen is that it’s yucky.’  But it was good.  Really good!  And while the orange color is a little different, I thought it was beautiful!

Papaya Smoothie makes 2-3 servings

1/2 papaya

2 kiwi fruit, peeled

2 frozen bananas

1/8-1/4 cup coconut milk

I have found that when your papaya is ripe that the easiest way to get the flesh out when you don’t care how it looks is to use an ice cream scoop!

Scoop the papaya into the blender.  Add the peeled kiwis, the bananas broken into chunks, and the coconut milk.  The amount you use is determined by how thick you’d like it to be.  Blend until nice and smooth.

It looks thin right away but thickens very well as it sits.

Drinking this makes me think of sitting on a far-away island near the ocean.  Even if I’m sitting in my house contemplating the next load of laundry I need to do.  Yes.  It was that good!