Monday, April 19, 2010

A peak into a Vegan Kitchen

... Just for my pal Beth!

So, I have made a list of what I typically keep on hand in my kitchen. I buy produce approximately three times a month, so I try to use up the easily spoiled foods first, like kale, greens and tomatoes. Most of what I make during the week is made directly from my pantry, except New Food Friday ingredients. Most of those I end up making a special trip to the store for, just for the fun experience. Everything I buy can be found at a combination of Wal-Mart, the BX (grocery store on base) and Whole Foods.

The List
Lemon juice
Lime juice

Baby greens salad
Assortment of colored peppers (at least 3 green)
Onions (yellow and red)
Potatoes (Russet and red and Yukon gold- but I won't use nearly as many potatoes in the summer months, it is a mostly winter/fall food for us.)
Garlic (I use both fresh and pre-minced)
Carrots (baby and large)
Eggplant (I usually buy two at a time)
Ginger (I use fresh and pre-minced)
Avocado's (x3)

Almond milk (Non-sweetened)
Soy Milk (Vanilla)
Coconut creamer
Coconut yogurt
Rice Cheese
Tempeh (Two packages of the whole grain kind)
Miso (chickpea kind)
Earth Balance (vegan butter)
Almond butter
Extra firm tofu

Veggies: broccoli, corn, green beans, sweet potato fries, peas
Orange Juice
Vegan Boca Patties
Vegan Italian Sausage

Diced tomatoes
Italian Stewed tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes
Tomato paste
Tomato sauce
Premade pasta sauce
Chick peas (3 cans)
Cannelli beans (white kidney)
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Black beans
Vegetarian Refried beans
Pinto beans
Coconut milk
Roasted peppers
Sun dried tomatoes

Vegan sugar: white and brown
Peanut butter (all natural, chunky and smooth for baking)
Jelly (berry and apricot preserves)
Agave nectar
Karo syrup
Brown Rice Syrup
Maple Syrup
Oil: Coconut, Canola, Vegetable, Extra Virgin, Peanut, Sesame
Apple Cider Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar
Seasoned Rice vinegar
Cooking wines
Balsamic vinegar
Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
Raw Walnuts
Coconut (sweetened and unsweetened)
Pine nuts
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Raw Almonds (whole and sliced)
Macadamian nuts
Tapioca flour (or just plain old cornstarch can usually do the trick)
Dried Apricots
Cocoa powder
Vegan Carob chips
Nutritional Yeast (can buy in bulk at Whole Foods... good sub for Parmesan cheese)
Barbecue Sauce
Vegetable Broth
Green split peas

Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat buns
Brown rice: basmatti and long grain
Wheat germ
Pasta (at least three varieties)
Rice noodles
Polenta (I have some of it in grain form and also use the premade stuff)
Soy Flour
Flax Seeds
Flour: White unbleached, whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour
Whole wheat tortillas
Flat bread for roll up's
7-grain cereal

Seasonings (that I can't cook without)
Sea salt
Garlic salt
Chili powder
Ground ginger
Coriander, ground
Bay leaves
Ground red pepper
Red pepper flakes

Okay, that is a pretty comprehensive list of everything that is either in my kitchen right now or on my grocery list as we speak. I would say that about a month ago my kitchen finally felt "stocked" with all the basics. So... keep in mind, building up a pantry that has all the foods you need could take up to four months to accomplish. The New Food Friday concept has helped me expand the variety of foods in my grocery cart, while avoiding feeling overwhelmed. I hope this helps.

Thanks Beth for reminding me to do this.

Oh... and day one of sugar free was just okay. I cried a little tear when I let Cutter take the last piece of chocolate cake to work. But I figured having to admit to the blog that I caved on my first day would have been far worse than not eating cake. So thanks blog for being the motivation behind my willpower.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cashew Sour Cream Recipe

Cashew Sour Cream
(Just for my friend Amy!)

1 and 1/2 Cups Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Lemon juice
1/2 Cup to 3/4 Cup Water
Salt, to taste

In blender, mix all ingredients on low, starting with 1/2 Cup water. Gradually get speed of blender to high. Blend until mixture is creamy (like sour cream), gradually adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Store covered in fridge.
Make it chipotle style by stirring in some chopped cilantro and chipotle peppers to the final product. Try it in chili or on a taco or fajita. This recipe makes 16 servings and you have to use it up within four days, so I would just make half a recipe to start. That way you can save your costly cashews!

Stress, Sugar and Warm Chocolate Cake (veganized)

I have written before about my love of all things sweet. Part of the joy of this vegan trip has been discovering new ways to bake the goodies that I love, without the animal ingredients. It has been a bit like a quest for me. My favorite thus far? ...Sweet Potato Brownies. Cutter loves the Double Chocolate Oatmeal cookies. The all around family fave has to be the Vegan Seven Layer bars.

Until tonight that is. I may have discovered the most delicious vegan goodie ever:

The Best Chocolate Cake.
(that is really it's name)
I am typing the recipe right now for you because some day, some time, you are going to want some chocolate cake. You will make this, and then you will thank me!
The Best Chocolate Cake
Cake Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 Cup Flour (I used cake flour and added an extra 2 TBS of flour)
1 Cup White Sugar
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Warm Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 Cup Veg Oil (sub in applesauce instead if you are looking to go healthy... but why bother?)
1 tsp Vinegar
Glaze Ingredients:
1/2 Cup Sugar
4 TBS Earth Balance (or margarine)
2 TBS Nondairy Milk (I used Vanilla Almond Milk)
2 TBS Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
2 tsp Vanilla
(I added one cup of Sweetened Coconut to the glaze, just for kicks!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake ingredients together in bowl. Add wet cake ingredients to dry, and mix very well. Grease 8x8 inch cake pan and pour batter on in. Bake for 30 min, or until knife comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven and cool for two hours.
After cake has cooled, proceed with cooking up your chocolate glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Pour on cooled cake immediately, spreading glaze over cake quickly. Now... bust out a glass of some cold Almond Milk and ENJOY! :)
... Enjoy it like it is your last bit of sugar for awhile.
Oh wait, that is me. I spent my Sunday night cooking up some stinkin' good chocolate cake because I am saying bon voyage to sugar for awhile. 4 weeks to be precise. I need a break from sugar. Some may call it a detox, but I look at it more like a vacation from sweets. I do this from time to time. Mostly because sugar, when I abuse it, does crazy things to me.
I am the type of gal who uses sugar sort of like an addict uses crack. I use it to make me feel better when I am down, I use it to decompress after a stressful day, I use it to celebrate... the list goes on and on. There is always a good reason for a sweet treat, right?
I have noticed that during especially stressful times in my life I am more inclined to lean on sugar to get me through. It sort of provides me with an escape from reality. Why feel stressed when I can feel a sugar rush? See, I told you I sound like an addict.
I once told my drug addicted clients that the only way I could understand their addiction was to try and keep myself away from chocolate. It is HARD, I just can't seem to say no. Good thing my drug of choice is sugar, not meth, eh?
Anyhow, lately I have been feeling stressed and have noticed a sharp increase in my sugar intake. It snuck up on me too. One handful of chocolate chips can so easily turn into a batch of cookies or a scoop of delicious coconut ice cream. Before I know it I am eating dessert with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am not to that point yet, but I am beginning to see a full blown sugar relapse on the rise, so I am getting taking a break now.
The funny thing about sugar, as I have learned from past sugar vacations, is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want it. Take sugar away for a couple of days and you barely notice that it is gone. I am not saying that a cookie no longer looks good, but I no longer think about that cookie as a mandatory addition to my meal. The first couple of days are hard. It really does sort of feel like a detox, but make it through the first week and you are golden.
So, as I sit here, about to enjoy my second piece of chocolate cake, I embrace the gift that is sugar, but am firmly aware of its power to destroy, even you, vegan sugar.
Dear Sugar baby,
It is time to put you back in your place. Thanks for helping me through this stressful time, but you are becoming an unhealthy crutch. I will reconnect with you again soon. Like in four weeks...
Sincerely your friend and foe,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fading motivation.

I have hit the dreaded slump. You know, the slump where the novelty of a new challenge has faded and the motivation that comes with starting something exciting has somehow been misplaced. That is my slump. More and more I find myself caving into letting Hayden have non-Vegan treats while we are grocery shopping, just because it is easier. Two times this week I failed to come up with a dinner and my poor family ate tortillas and beans. And the worst, I decided to get more facts about all the scary things that soy can do to me... and instead of feeling outraged at tricky marketing ploys and inspired to cut out soy completely... I felt tired and defeated. The feeling of defeat is a definite slump indicator.

No matter what new thing I start, this slump is inevitable. In some ways though, it is a good thing. If I can make it through this "poor me" phase and come out vegan on the other side, then I know I am committed. Right? The trick is not giving up when the going gets tough. Okay, so we all learned that in kindergarten, I know, but just because I have known it for a long time, doesn't make it any easier to follow.

Thank goodness for New Food Friday though, just the opportunity I needed to jazz things up in my life. Tonight I made Cashew Sour Cream to add a little excitement to my super slump. It was easy and a great substitute for the "real" thing. I put it in my Three Bean Chili over rice, topped with avocados. (Side note: How I EVER lived without avocados in my chili is beyond me. There is just nothing that compares! Like the song that goes, "Noooothhhhing compares, nothing compares to you...", whoever sang that was totally talking about avocados in her chili.) Cutter tasted it, said it tasted too much like real sour cream for his liking. But, Cutter is a creamaphob. Won't touch anything that is white, creamy and food like. Poor guy doesn't know what he is missing. Hayden dipped his carrots in it, seemed to enjoy it. Me, I think it might even be tasty on a vegan bagel. My friend Sally the nutrition expert reports that you can also make a nacho like substance out of pine nuts. I will have to try it.

While I am on the subject of raw nuts, let me riddle you this: Why, oh why do raw nuts cost more money than roasted nuts? Don't raw nuts require minimal work as compared to the roasting and salting that other nuts go through? This makes NO sense to me. One pound of raw organic cashews were $10.99. This is no joke. 3/4 of a pound of said nuts made approximately six servings of sour cream. You can do the math exactly but to sum things up, this cashew cream cheese that I made was definitely the single most expensive dollop of sour cream I have ever ate. This doesn't take away from the great taste factor, but will most certainly be a treat I only eat on VERY special occasions. Like maybe once a year. Maybe even just once a decade.

See, it is apparent that my "slump" is effecting even my blogging. Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, wah wahhhhhhh. The cashew sour cream is delish, go try it and just don't tell your husband what it cost. Okay? Bad advice, just save two dollars a week for the next month and make it on May 14th, in celebration of your own New Food Friday. Then you don't have to hide the Whole Foods receipt from your hubby. Not that I did or anything :).
Have a great weekend. And cheers to slumps that WILL eventually fade, leaving you feeling even more proud of the changes you have made! I hope. Wah Wahhhhhh......

Monday, April 5, 2010

like, where did the like, time go?

A whole 16 days or so have passed since my last post. It has been a glorious and hectic two weeks. My family and best friend from Minnesota were in town to watch my boys get dedicated in church. While they were here we used the opportunity to spend some time in the mountains. Breckenridge supplied some great snow and sun shiney sun and the fam provided some excellent company. It was one of the best weeks I have had in a long time.

As always I have some food-related commentary after the visit with the fam. After having such a long blogging absence, I am feeling a little pressure to come up with some inspiring words of wisdom for you. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that. But I do have a personal observation to share, you may or may not find it interesting...

Going vegan is easiest when you have support. And by support I mean, having people in your house who share your same dietary habits. Other than chips, salsa and cookies, my weakness is pizza. Ooey, gooey, cheesy steaming hot pizza is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Since going vegan many a friend has asked how I will live without cheese. I honestly have told them that cutting out cheese hasn't been all that tough, including pizza. Until this past week that is.

I believe pizza was consumed a total of three times in my presence while my family was in town. This was difficult for me. The difficult part was not keeping myself from putting a slice in my mouth, the difficult part was not feeling angry and resentful that they were eating pizza and I wasn't. I know, anger is a pretty strong word to describe people eating food, but if i am to be honest, it was anger that I was dealing with.

After thinking on this emotional response for a bit I have come to conclude that there are a couple of things that contributed to my reaction. First, I was jealous. Jealous that they were eating what I would have loved to be eating. However, I really think that this jealousy I was feeling was an emotional reaction to what I have been taught about food.

We are taught, through the media, through family influence, through experience that getting what we want, specifically in this case food, makes us happier. This is a dangerous belief, in part, because it is true. However, it is not true all the time and like anything (think "Money can't buy happiness.") that sometimes delivers what it promises we can get caught up in a vicious cycle with wanting and needing certain foods... Thinking that if we eat pizza we WILL feel better and then getting subconsciously disappointed when we don't feel better, thus searching for something else (oftentimes more food) to make us happy. I see this ALL the time in working with addicts. They are always chasing the next great buzz. Just because a piece of pizza is associated with good times, does NOT mean that I NEED the piece to have a good time.

Let me break this down, because even I am confused now. Let me go back. Since I was very young pizza has been a way to relax and have fun on a Friday night with the family. When I was drunk in college, with my defenses down, all I could think about was a Gary's Special pizza at the end of the night. ( I felt so entitled to the drunk pizza experience that I put each and every one on my credit card. I did the math a few years back and the $15 Gary's Special really cost me, after interest and several late payments approximately $40 each. Crazy!) Pregnant and huge, the treat to myself was pizza (any ol' night of the week I felt like it). Birthday party's, lazy nights in and busy weeknights are always good excuses for a pizza. Pizza for me signals happiness, tastiness and reward. Pizza's are convenient, readily available, comforting and tasty, tasty, tasty!

For years, after going vegetarian, I always said I could NEVER give up cheese. Even the times that I dabbled with veganism during the past few years, it was always cheese that was my nemesis. I thought I had to have it to feel full, happy and content. Okay, not a big deal right? Wrong. This belief that I NEED cheese to be a happy person is a falsehood. In fact, it is so untrue it is almost ridiculous.

So, back to the emotion of anger. Anytime we are kept from the things that we think we need, an obvious emotional response is anger. Whenever we feel restricted from something, we get upset or frustrated when we don't get it. Remember when your best friend got her ten speed bike before you did? Jealousy right? Jealousy, anger, frustration, envy all these feelings come from a place of entitlement from a sense of "I deserve and need this".

Of course I could have just ate the pizza if I wanted to. That is not the point. Part of my vegan journey, I am learning, is to discover what it means to pass on some of the things in life I feel I need most. Pizza is one of those things. (Side note: most of the non-vegan foods I crave the most have more than adequate vegan substitutes. Ewey, gooey, greasy, melty vegan cheese however, is a myth. It just does not exist. This is why I believe watching others eat pizza was so difficult.)

I didn't eat the pizza that I once thought I needed. I ate split pea soup instead. Was I a little crabby about it? Yep. Did I get over it? Yep. Looking back I can honestly say that eating the pizza would not have made my wonderful vacation any better. The best part though is that I no longer feel in bondage to pizza. I have had myself a little growing experience. I can live my life with a new truth... brace yourself now:

Pizza does not equal happiness.
Hard to believe, I know.

The cool part is yes, this is about pizza, but it applies to so much more in life. How many things in my life do I go around thinking I need? Are there things I "need" that I can really live without... and still be happy? In a world where we are constantly told that "stuff" equals happiness, I am sure there are many things, other than pizza that I am in bondage to...

One thing that comes to mind is my dependency on other people's approval. What would life be like if I didn't live by how I thought people viewed me, but if I lived only for God's approval?
I am willing to bet I would find a much happier and fulfilling life.

Life truly is a journey. And there is so much to learn if I just open my eyes to each teaching experience. Funny how much there is to be gained from just a piece of pizza (other than a crazy amount of calories that is).