Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On the request line...

A friend asked me to veganize a recipe for a Swiss Vegetable Bake.  Finally did it!  Check it out and let me know what you think!    It's a damn hearty side dish that should please anyone!

Creamy Vegetable Bake
2 Zucchinis, diced large (quarter lengthwise and then slice)
2 Yellow Squash, diced large
2 C Frozen Broccoli
1 C Grated Carrots
1 sm Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 sm Onion
1/4 C Cashews
1/4 C Nutritional Yeast
1/4 tsp Ground Mustard
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
S & P
1 Tbsp Mellow White Miso
1/3 C Vegan Butter
1 Package Vegan Rella Mozzarella Style Cheese, diced into chunks
Egg Replacer for 2 eggs
1 C Vegan Sour Cream
2 C Stuffing Mix (Try organic!,...read labels!)
1 1/3 C French Fried Onions (They make these organic too!), divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam all of the veggies together until tender.  There are alot so this could take upwards of 15 minutes or so.  While they are steaming, grind cashews in food processor until as fine as cornmeal.  Add the nutritional yeast, mustard, garlic powder and S&P and pulse until combined. 

When the veggies are done, toss them into a large bowl with the cashew mixture, miso, butter and diced 'cheese'.  When it is all melty and yummy looking, add the egg replacers, sour cream and 1/3 C french fried onions.

Pour into casserole dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Press remaining 1 C french fried onions into the top and bake for another 12 minutes. 

Dip A turd in chocolate and I just might eat it...

 I used to say the same thing years ago about anything deep fried or wrapped in bacon.  Now vegan chocolate whets my whistle.   This far in my non-dairy-ness, it has been 100% impossible to indulge in any dessert at any non-veg restaurant; making desserts something I LOVE to indulge in every so often at home (and any time I visit a veg cafe!).  Here is a recipe I created for Mother's Day, a few days ago.  The idea came from seeing an image of a chocolate dipped pear in some food magazine years ago and it stuck in my head as one of the prettiest presentations I had seen.  My presentation wasn't nearly as elegant, but it worked. 

These are poached in a mix with OJ...but they really are not that citrus-y....just delicious!

Chocolate Dipped Citrus Poached Pears

2 C Water
1 C Organic Orange Juice
1 tsp Vanilla Extract - Don't use that fake crap!  REAL Vanilla!
1/4 C Organic Brown Sugar
1/4 C Organic/Vegan White Sugar (Did you know they use animal bone char to whiten white sugar...for no reason other than appearance?!?  Can you say YUCK!)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
5 Pears ( I used Bartlett but I think a softer variety would have been better.)
1 12oz bag of Vegan chocolate chips....I used Ghiradelli All Natural Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips...or any chocolate that will melt for you that does not contain MILK, MILKFAT, etc.
Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream (Optional...I like So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream...or Tufutti.  Heavenly!)

Peel your pears.  Use your vegetable peeler to shave the bottom of each pear so that it sits flat on a table.  For presentation purposes, I tried my best to keep each stem in contact.  Combine water, oj, vanilla, sugars and cinnamon in a large saucepan on med-high heat and bring to a boil.  As soon as it starts boiling, ass the pears, sitting upright.  Make sure they are at least mostly covered.  Lower heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, lifting the lid and using tongs to check the doneness.  It should be easily pierced with a fork.  As soon as they are done, remove each to a plate, still sitting upright, reserving the liquid in the pan. 

(Note: If you do NOT have a double boiler, use a metal or glass bowl that fits inside a saucepan without touching the bottom.  If it touches...mine did....I used a silicon strainer/steamer to lift the bowl so it was sitting about 1-2" above the bottom of the saucepan)

Line a large plate or tray with wax paper or freezer paper wax side up.  Using a double boiler or your make-shift one, boil water in the bottom chamber or saucepan and add your chocolate to the top or bowl to melt.  Using this prevents the chocolate from burning and keeps it smooth.  Stir the chocolate constantly while it melts until it is smooth with no more lumps.  Turn heat down...the steam will keep the chocolate soft while you work with it...no need to keep boiling.  Using either your hands, or 2 shish kabob sticks to keep pear steady, dip each pear halfway into the chocolate and twist, pull it out and place on your wax paper to cool.  Repeat with each pear.  Place pears in the fridge to cool for about 15 minutes. 

While the pears cool, bring the soaking liquid to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes until reduced by half.  This will create a really smooth sweet sauce.  Turn heat off when it has reduced.

To serve, spoon some of the sauce onto a plate or bowl, place a pear on top and if you're feeling extra randy, throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream on there too!  Yumm!

Are you there world? It's me, Megan...

I am feeling very enlightened today.  There is so much I want to blog about today I can't keep it all straight in my head.  Digestion, Vitamin D, Radiation, This new magazine I'm reading that is A-Mazing!, Cancer, How the FDA and USDA are even worse than Wal-Mart, How my daughter just asked me, "Mom, is that healthy poop?", pointing at her most recent bowel movement chilling in the ceramic throne....Instead, this is what I've got:  (Blog to follow immediately with yummy dessert recipe, completely irrelevant to the forthcoming rant.)

You know how when people set out to do something meaningful, they always say, "...If I could just change one person's mind", or "...If I only influence one person, it all would have been worth it."?  Well...that's just not good enough!  I study nutrition daily as if I'm studying for a test.  It is my passion and my life to be healthy, help my family to be healthy and make healthy choices and to educate people about nutrition and diet and all of the things that are wrong with our health care system and environment.  ONE PERSON is just not enough!  If I am only able to convince one person to look at food differently, I failed.  How we are living is literally killing us.  It breaks my heart that in the past month or two my husband and I have literally heard from almost twenty friends and family members afflicted with life-threatening diseases.  Lou Gehrig's Disease, Diverticulitis, Stroke, Heart Disease, Bone Problems,  Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Colitis, Prostate Cancer and a half dozen other types of cancer.  We all all affected by it and no one is doing anything!  Even if you think it's all tree-hugging hippie shit, ISN'T IT WORTH IT TO TRY????  What will it hurt?  Nothing!  What could it potentially help?  Everything! 

My husband knew I was right but It's hard to make a drastic change, if any change at all.  That was, until he received phone call after phone call for almost two months where he was confronted personally with friends who are now afflicted with diseases at young ages!  It's been a little weird.  Really, as of very recent, many many friends of ours have been diagnosed with life-threatening dieases or diseases that are causing them to lose the use of some limbs and others that are requiring our friends to undergo expensive treatments that may or may not work and will likely leave them in worse shape.  My heart breaks that so much information is hidden from us and that we suffer these afflictions wondering "how did this happen to me?"....when all along we could have controlled it.  But we don't because we only know what we know.  And generally speaking, we just don't know.

Did you realize that these diseases are ONLY commonplace in Western countries?!?  It is NOT hereditary or genetic.  Science has already debunked that.  In Eastern countries where diets contain only minimal amounts of animal protein and exponentially larger portions of fruits and veggies, diseases like the ones we face daily are NOT common.....BUT when those same people, with no history of disease or cancer migrate to America with McDonalds on the corner, they actually develop the same Western disease we get and their future generations do as well!   The only thing hereditary about Cancer and Heart Disease is Our EATING HABITS!
OK....I got my rage off my chest a little.  My point is I want to educate people and I will not stop after only reaching one.   It is too important.   I have too much passion in me. 

My entire life has been preparing me for my 'calling' but I ignored it over and over until recently.  It occurred to me the other day that I have always been a health nut and an eco-freak and had compassion towards animals.  When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I started a neighborhood club to 'Save the Earth'.  Granted, there were only 3 of us and 1 was my sister, but I was passionate about it.  I was a health nut my entire life, although I thought being healthy just meant counting calories and working out.  The only club I participated in, in high school was the Ecology Club.  I donated my allowance to the Save The Whales Foundation as a kid after seeing Free Willy.  I literally did reports on different animals in middle school for fun.  It was not homework.  I just wanted to learn more about them.  While working in child care, I organized the kids to adopt a manatee.  For my Girl Scout Gold Award in high school (Yes, yes...I was a freaking Girl Scout....I had my reasons...lol) I organized a beach clean-up.  The Michael Jackson song about saving the world makes me tear up a little every time I hear it.  I was referred to as a hippie most of high school.  I non-so-secretly believe I was at Woodstock and may have been Jerry Garcia's guitar or Jimmy Hendrix's headband in a former life.  My whole life has been pointing me in this direction and I'm finally listening!


"No, Its Not Freaking Stove Top!"

Ryan:    "Did you use Stove Top?"
Me:        "What?"
Ryan:     "Did you use Stove-Top?"
Me:        "As in Stove-Top Stuffing?"
Ryan:    "Yeah"
Me:        "No, it's not freakin Stove-Top!!"
Ryan:    "Because it actually tastes really good!"

My husband thought he was hilarious.  Cooking for a meat & potatoes crowd after you have made the wise decision to not fill your temple with lard and life-threatening disease is not always easy.  And my husband is a pretty tough critic.  Unfortunately for me, even when I was a meat & potatoes girl, we still had vastly different ideas of what good food was, making cooking for my partner-in-crime extremely difficult at times.  However, he devoured last night's dinner and I couldn't be happier. 

'Sausage' Stuffed Portobellos w/ Balsamic Glaze
Serves 8

3 slices whole grain bread
2 tbsp oil for medium-high heat cooking
1 package Gimmee Lean Sausage Style
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced (or shredded)
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/4 c Nutritional Yeast
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
Egg replacer for 2 eggs: (3tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 Tbsp water)
8 Portobello Mushroom Caps, stemmed and gills carefully scraped out
3/4 c Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp organic sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toast the bread until it is all crispy.  Set aside to cool/dry for a few minutes.

Heat oil in skillet on medium heat.  Add sausage, onion, garlic, carrots, pepper, celery, parsley, thyme and oregano.  Saute until sausage is browned and veggies are soft.  Remove from heat.

Put toast in food processor fitted with S-blade to make beadcrumbs.  Add sausage mix, nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp olive oil and egg replacers.  Pulse 3-4 times until just mixed.  Do not pulverize.  We are not making baby food.    Set aside.

Using your hands, rub the remaining olive oil over the mushrooms.  Fill with the sausage mix, mounding it high.  Throw it in the oven for about 12-15 minutes. 

While your mushrooms are cooking, heat the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan on medium-high heat.  Stir frequently for about 10-12 minutes until sauce reduces by 1/2.

When your mushrooms are done, drizzle with a little bit of balsamic glaze and serve. 

Happy Belated Mothers Day

Yesterday, all of us mom's got to celebrate the fact that we allowed someone at some time to deposit their seed into our 'bank'.  While most mom's were relaxing on the couch, I got to spend my day cooking!  Which I actually love.  My husband also bought me an early Mother's Day present a couple of weeks ago: Tickets to Cirque Du Soleil's Allegria!   So, I cooked for my parents and family an entire vegan dinner for Mother's Day.  And, let me just say....it was pretty damn amazing!  Now, normally, I like to veganize recipes.  It helps for people to see that vegan cooking can actually be good, to find a well-loved recipe and veganize it.  No, it may not taste the same.  But, it can be close.  And, sometimes it can be better!  However, this time I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and literally invent every recipe from scratch; And let me just say: I amazed myself. 

On the menu:
Arugula Salad Over Citrus Polenta w/ Cashew Creme Sauce
'Sausage' Stuffed Portobellos with Balsamic Glaze
Steamed Organic Broccoli
Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
and last but not least.....
Chocolate Dipped Citrus Poached Pears

The broccoli was just steamed and the scalloped potatoes recipe is not my own.  It was a recipe I found on another vegan food blog a couple of years ago and its pretty awesome!    My other 3 kitchen endeavors Ill post for you, hopefully today.

Arugula Salad Over Citrus Polenta w/ Cashew Creme SauceServes 8-102 c Water
1 c Organic Orange Juice
1 Tbsp Vegan Butter
Zest of 1 Lemon
Zest of 1 Lime
1 c Quick Cooking Polenta
1/4 c Nutritional Yeast
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Flax Oil
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp Agave Nectar, plus 1 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 5oz bag Organic Baby Arugula
1/2 c Raw Cashews, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained and rinsed with cool water
1/2 c Organic Orange Juice
1/4 c Water
1 Tbsp White Miso
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 c Raw Pine Nuts
1/2 Pink Grapefruit, sectioned

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring water, OJ, butter and zests to a boil.  Stir in polenta and nutritional yeast.  Cover, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Spread onto a cookie sheet and let sit on counter to cool. 

Mix Oils, Vinegars, Lemon Juice and 1 1/2 Tbsp Agave in bowl with whisk or shake it up in a covered contained to combine.  Toss with arugula and set aside.

When Polenta is cooled, throw it in the oven for about 8 minutes.

In a blender, combine remaining Tbsp of Agave, soaked cashews, oj, water, miso and lemon juice.  Blend until creamy.

To serve, cut polenta into even squares, rectangles or whatever shape your heart desires.  Top with arugula salad, drizzle plate with cashew creme sauce, sprinkle a few pine nuts on each plate and serve with 1-2 sections of pink grapefruit. 

You're Done! - And it will taste as impressive as it looks!

Baked Apple Enchiladas

Baked Apple Enchiladas
7 Small-Medium Tart Apples (Apples are on the Dirty Dozen List!  So, use Organic!!!)
3/4 c + 1/3 c Organic Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 Tbsp Melted Butter (I use a small glass dish on the stovetop to melt.  Microwaves = Yuck!)
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 c Vegan Butter (like Earth Balance or Smart Balance Light)
1/2 c Organic Sugar
1/2 c Water
1/4 c Maple Syrup
1 tsp Arrowroot (or Aluminum-Free Cornstarch)
10 Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Tortillas
Cinnamon and Vanilla Powder for dusting (optional)

Preheat over to 400 degrees. 

Core apples and run through the slicing disc of your food processor.  Put apple slices in large bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of the brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, nutmeg, lemon juice, melted butter and vanilla.  Toss together and set aside to marinate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In skillet over low-medium heat, whisk together butter, sugar, remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, water, syrup & arrowroot.  Stir for about 5-8 minutes until fully combined and thickened slightly.  Turn off heat.

Using the mixture in the skillet, dip both sides of a tortilla in the skillet mixture.  Fill with about 1/3-1/2 C of the apple slices, roll up and place seam-side down in a 9x13 baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Dump leftover apple marinade in bowl and the remaining sauce in skillet into a blender and  blend about 20-3o seconds until well combined.  Pour over enchiladas.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and vanilla powder and bake for 35 minutes.

Cinco De Mayo!

First of all, let me begin by saying that did you know Cinco de Mayo is NOT a real holiday celebrated all over Mexico???  I was shocked and disappointed to learn, when I went to Mexico for the first week in May a couple of years ago, that there were no parties to attend.  Nothing at night clubs.  Nothing at all.  It's entirely insignificant there.  I guess it's just another excuse for Americans to party our butts off and line the pockets of good 'ol Jose Cuervo.  Hey, sounds good to me!  (Except for that at the moment I am pregnant!)

So I had an appointment with my midwife today.  As of tomorrow, I will be 5 months pregnant, which is only 1/2 way through...because there is so much no one ever tells you when you get pregnant!  (Its really 10 months!)  Luckily, I'm not a newbie at this pregnant thing so I kind of know most of the funk that is a great kept secret regarding the weird things that can happen to your body during this marvelous time.  Anyhow, my midwife is in Orlando, about an hour away from where I live.  Since where I live has absolutely no vegan restaurants and exciting places to visit for an eco-health-freak, I revel in the chance to go to the big city and check out new veg joints each time I go.  Today, after lunch at The Wrap Planet I got to visit a pretty amazing vegan bakery, the Raphsodic Bakery.  Check out the goods! 

After returning home and planning to post a recipe for the asian noodles that I've been having a love affair with the past 3 days, I remembered that today was Cinco de Mayo!  If there's one thing I love as much as buffalo sauce and cupcakes, its mexican food.  Ok, I lie....I am a total foodie and I love good food so much it's ridiculous.  What's really awesome is that despite my love of food and the fact that I really do eat ALL the time and don't diet....because I dont eat refined sugar and white four, etc....I don's gain a pound!  Try that on for size!....which by the way, is 2-4 when I'm not pregnant.  And no...I am not naturally skinny.  Since I've always been a foodie, even prior to eating this way, I gained 65lbs with my prior pregnancy.  Even running 3-6 miles a day couldn't get the weight off until I underwent an entire lifestyle and diet overhaul.  Now...I keep the weight off and still eat as much as I want!

I developed the following taco recipe due to my husband's adoration of 'street tacos', which are basically as authentic as you can get...tacos from a hole-in-the-wall joint in Mexico....or from your local non-english speaking taco trailer.  Authentic tacos are not like the tacos that most people are familiar with.  No cheese, no lettuce, no salsa or sour cream.  Real street tacos are made with finely chopped steak/beef and served with nothing more than an onion/cilantro topping and the option of salsa verde (green sauce) on the side.  I haven't perfected my salsa verde yet, but below is my vegan 'steak' taco recipe and my basic pico de gallo recipe.
Street Tacos1/3 c finely chopped white Onion
1/3 c chopped Cilantro
Juice of 1 Lime
1-2 Tbsp Oil made for high heat cooking
1 Bag either Gardein 'Beef' Tips or Boca Crumbles...whichever texture you prefer
1/4 c White Vinegar
1/4 c Soy Sauce, Tamari or Braggs Liquid Aminos (<--can be used interchangeably.  I used Braggs)
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (or vegan worcestershire sauce)
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
non-stick cooking spray
Corn tortillas
Lime wedges

Mix first 3 ingredients and set aside.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add your 'meat'.  As soon as the meat starts to cook add the vinegar, Braggs, worcestershire, chili powder and garlic powder.  If using Gardein, use a spatula to break apart the 'meat' chunks in the skillet as they soften to make smaller pieces.  Stir the meat in the skillet until most or all of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat.

If you have a flat-top stove, just use the stove top itself.  This will make a mess, but the results are the best.  If you don't have a flat top stovetop, then use a cast iron skillet or flat griddle.  Turn the heat on a small burner to medium.  (If using skillet or griddle, turn heat to med-high and wait for it to heat up)  Spray the non-stick spray directly onto one side of the corn tortilla in a circle around its perimeter.  Throw it oil-side down onto the burner.  Use a spatula to move it around so the oil coats the entire side and while its cooking, spray the side thats facing up.  After about 30 seconds, before the edges get crisp, flip it over.  Before the edges are crisp, Remove to a plate.  Repeat with as many tortilla as you'll need.  This oils up and softens the shells, just like the authentic ones. 

Now, fill each tortilla with just a little bit of meat (authentic ones are not stuffed...they use minimal filling so you can almost fold it over taquito-style.

Pico de Gallo2 Lg Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c Cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 Lime
1/4 c Red Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 Whole Hot Pepper of Choice.  I used 1/2 Serrano.  My husband prefers a whole habanero.  If you like it milder, use 1/2-1 jalepeno.
S & P to taste
dash extra virgin olive oil
dash red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dulse granules (optional - I add it without telling anyone to boost the mineral content...it's loaded!!!  and no one is the wiser.  Shhhh....)

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
And....last but not least, my favorite part of Cinco de Mayo....the Margaritas!!!!
If you read the ingredients on the bottle of margarita mix or sweet & sour mix you have, its likely loaded with artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup.  YUCK!  Would you like a side of cancer with your drink?  No thank you!  So....here goes:

Using a sliced lime, run the cut side of the lime along the rim of the margarita glass, then dip in a plate of sea salt.  Repeat with all glasses and set aside.  Fill your cocktail shaker with ice and about 3/4 of the way with Simply Limeade.  They sell it by the orange juice in grocery stores.  Not great, but FAR better for you than the fake crap!  Now fill up with tequila (I use an organic tequila that my local liquor store carries) and add about 2 Tbsp agave to sweeten even more if you like it sweet.  Shake it up and pour WITH ice into glasses.  Cheers!

Buffalo 'Chicken' Deliciousness

OK...So I haven't always been meat and dairy free.  Prior to quitting meat and dairy, I was in love with anything smothered and covered in buffalo sauce.  Anything boneless, that is.  Mainly because when I say LOVE, I mean from the depths of my soul I would kill someone for one bite of good buffalo sauce - to the point that the bones in wings just got in the damn way of my ravenous hunger for the delicious sauce.  Now, most people like that crap that they serve at wing places.  Although its alright, it doesn't compare to the sweet tanginess of a really good buffalo sauce that I've tasted and longed for after going dairy-free, since a good buffalo sauce, in my opinion is loaded with butter.  Well, in walks dairy-free vegan butter to save the day!  I used to make a mean buffalo sauce back in the day and I have since made just a few minor adjustments to veganize it.  For those you you who have not tried meatless meats, try them!  Another thing I loved like a fat kid loves pie was highly processed chicken sandwiches from fast food restaurants.  NEVER grilled.  Only fried chicken smothered in some sort of secret sauce and smushed between 2 white buns.  The thought now makes me drool and gag a little at the same time.  Some of the veg chicken options actually taste just like those chicken patties I would devour at fast food joints.  Honestly - from a fried chicken sandwich lover to another - they taste damn good.  I LOVE the Boca chicken patties.  (P.S. Quit using that damn microwave to heat things up.  Its effects are questionable at best.  Get a cheap toaster over.  The regular oven takes too long, hence the overuse of micro-radiation to cook your food.  Invest in a toaster oven.  They are fast, make food taste better than mushy junk out of the micro and they use less energy.)  In this recipe, I used Gardein 'chicken' tenders.  They too, are pretty damn delicious - especially smothered in buffalo sauce!  I also used pita since I didn't have any buns on hand - but you can make patties on a bun, tenders on a pita, or just smother the tenders or faux nuggets as an appetizer.  When using the butter, use Earth Balance, which is the more common one used in vegan cooking, or Smart Balance Light.  The Light version is vegan.  I used SB Light because its readily available at my local grocer and its often on sale BOGO.  And, its yummy.  Its the same damn thing most of you probably already use, mostly - 'buttery spreads'.   Try it.  You'll like it.  And finally - you can use corn starch in place of arrowroot powder - but by all means, cornstarch isn't something you go through fast - go to the health food store and buy the aluminum free healthier version!  Don't half-ass being healthy.  You wont get very far.

Buffalo Chicken Pita
Makes enough sauce for about 2-3 pitas.  I was cooking for myself so didn't go overboard with measurements.

Faux-Chicken of choice
Pita bread
Sauce (see recipe below)
Lettuce & tomato

Make faux-chicken according to package directions.  Allow to cool slightly outside of oven to make breading crispier.

If you are have the same problem I do with pesky pita bread being stiff and not flexible, wrap it in a wet paper towel - or better yet - just wet the damn pita.  Dont plunge it into a bucket of water, but using wet hands, just wet the damn thing and shove it in the toaster oven for a few minutes to soften in.  Then you can fold it in half, shove it back in the toaster oven and it will get a little crispier in the desired shape. 

Sauce1/3 c Vegan butter
1/4 c Louisiana hot sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne or more to taste.  The hotter you like it, the more you dump in!
1/2 tsp arrowroot powder

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat.  Add hot sauce, vinegar, agave, garlic, and spices.  Whisk over medium heat until well blended.  Turn heat down a little bit to medium-low and add arrowroot powder.   Whisk for about 3-5 minutes until sauce thickens a little.  Turn heat off and allow to thicken just a tad more. 

Now throw your slightly cooled chicken into the sauce and toss to coat.  Shove that in the pita with lettuce and tomato and add more sauce if you have dreams like I do of bathing in it. 

Make it a meal and serve it up with sweet potato fries.  Bon Appetit!

Bitchin' Salad!

I'm not even gonna lie...I make a bitchin salad.  They are so good, I often get near done, still have a wading pool of dressing in my bowl, and refill on lettuce to soak it all up with.  They're freakin good.  Here is one of my fave's that is great served as an appetizer (as opposed to a dinner salad) and is a real crowd pleaser.  It was inspired by Bonefish Grill's house salad, but far healthier than their version.  Amounts of toppings are not set.  Bottle the remaining dressing for future use.  Adjust amounts to your taste and enjoy!

Random hint: Often, I find organic and gourmet oils and vinegars at my local Marshall's (clothing closeout store).  TJ Maxx I believe has a small food section too.  They are often less than health food stores and is my best kept secret for finding great exotic oils and seasonings!

***This salad is LOADED with healthy fats, your Omega's (forget fish oil....try flax oil!), iron, fiber, vitamin C, vitamins and minerals!  And the Agave doesn't raise your glycemic index like sugar does (and its not a known carcinogen like Sucralose (Splenda).

Bitchin Herbed Citrus Vinegarette Salad
Dressing1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use Organic)
1/4 c Flax Oil
1/4 c Agave Nectar
1/4 c White Wine Vinegar
1/4 c Citrus Juices (MIX fresh squeezed lemon, lime and either orange or grapefruit)
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Water
1 Clove Minced Garlic
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano

Mix all with a whisk or shake it up in a covered container!

SaladGreens (Baby Spring Mix or Romaine lettuce is best)
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Kalamata pitted black olives, halved or whole
Pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds...Publix sells them here in the produce section)
Raw Pine Nuts
Hearts of Palm, quartered lengthwise.

Toss greens with dressing and divvy up on plates.  Surround each with a few olives and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with pepitas and pine nuts and place 2-3 hearts of palm strips in the center of each.


Pretty, Yummy and Full of nutrients!

*Note: In the picture, I used Sliced Hearts of Palm instead of the Whole ones, sliced because this was all I had left in my pantry.  Same thing, I just think the presentation of the lengthy ones is a little better. 

Hello, Im Gray...

OK....So I'm not really vegan.  I eat fish on occasion and I eat honey....and maybe a few other things that wouldn't be considered "vegan enough".  Thing is, I am a firm believer that pretty much everything in life is NOT Black or White.  It's Gray.  I'm Gray.  In every aspect of life, I find happiness and balance in the Gray.  My Gray IS my Black or White. 

I eat the way I wholeheartedly believe we are meant to.

This is a brief explanation of why I eat the way I do.  My apologies to any animal rights Black and Whiters.  I eat the way I genuinely believe we were born to.  Whether by evolution or design, our bodies are perfect machines.  With proper care, we can allow our machines to live long, healthy, happy lives that far exceed the average American.

We eat shit.  Really, we do.  By the definition of food, we eat like crap.  The Standard Amercian Diet (SAD) is a punishment to our perfect machines.  People who think 'health' more often than not, think about FAT, CALORIES, TRANS FATS.  These have become our 4-letter words.  Here's the brief: Technically speaking, living things fall into 2 categories.  Remember this from grade school?  Plants and Animals.  We are animals.  In the animal kingdom, carnivores have mouths full of sharp teeth meant for tearing apart flesh and meat.  Herbivores have mouths full of blunt teeth for chewing plants.  We have TWO canine teeth.  Count them.  Two.  This rule goes for every food consuming living thing.  Thing is, we humans have developed methods to kill and process meat and flesh so that we can consume it.  So, we do.  Our bodies were NOT meant to consume meat like we do.  Thing is: We DO have 2 canine teeth, which are made for meat-eating.  This can only mean one thing: Our bodies are made to eat only small quantities of meat.  I choose to eat certain fish to satisfy this. 

Another reason for consuming meat on occasion is this: After studying veganism and vegetarianism for years now, they all have great valid points that I generally concur with.  However, most health gurus all share the same thought: Vitamins and minerals are best absorbed through the food that we eat and vitamin supplements are not natural (They're NOT!).  There's tons of evidence proving this but we wont get into that now.  BUT - Since Vitamin B12, a vital vitamin necessary for us, is really only found in meats and fish.  So, these people who swear supplements are bad, agree that B12 is the only vitamin they take daily.  WHAT?  It's not all black and white!  Live in the Gray - Eat meat and/or fish 1-3 times a week.  BUT - and this is a BIG BUT - To live optimally, ONLY eat grassfed beef, free to hormones and pesticides and nitrites and ONLY eat fish considered low in mercury (the smaller the fish, the lower the mercury). 

Now, another reason for NOT consuming meat -  Ill blog about it another time...but again, we are not meant to eat meat all of the time.  The bile and acids in our stomaches are very different from that of carnivores and are actually more like that of herbivores.  Our bodies cant break it down.  Plain and simple. 

And Honey - I'm sorry, Vegans: I respect the Vegan Lifestyle and Philosophy, but I will not subscribe to the idea that bees have feelings and we are hurting them by consuming honey.  Do you have any idea HOW HEALTHY raw honey and bee pollen is??!!?  SO Healthy.  Google it.  Ill blog about it another day.  Its the circle of life.  No, I do not believe in killing innocent animals for food and slaughtering so many cattle that it seriously threatens our life on earth, but I do believe that to live optimally with the earth and ourselves, a little meat/fish here or there is good for us.  Live a little.  Be Gray.

A Must Read: The China Study

In a well controlled study on lab rats, doctors were actually able to turn cancer OFF and ON like a light switch with protein.  Animal subjects were injected with a known carcinogen, aflatoxin, then divided into 2 groups. One was fed a diet of 5% animal protein.  The other, 20% animal protein.  (Just so you know, we Americans eat about 20% of protein.  Think about it: your ham and cheese sandwich smeared with mayo is almost all protein.)  Basically, the rats fed a 5% protein diet were fine.  The 20% group had growing amounts of precancerous cells.  This study was done in several ways to make it accurate, if not perfect.  Rats were then injected with far greater amounts of aflatoxin, and so on.  Each time, the same held true: The animal protein fed to the rats caused the rats to develop cancer.  However, the same was NOT true for plant based protein.  AND, when rats fed high protein diets with growing cancer were switched to a low protein diet, the cancer cells would go away!  Can you believe it?  Literally turning cancer off and on!  (This study and more like it can be found in one of the most amazing books ever written, The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell)

Meat Lovers Leatless Lasagna

I see people all of the time in 'real life' and on TV (Oprah for example) attempt to go vegan or eat healthier and most have the same complaint: The food is gross!  Not always false!  Going from a carnivorous, fast-food guzzling, steak and potato loving junkie to eating quinoa and cranberries or tofu scramble is quite a jump and not one most people care to take.  First of all, for anyone looking to change your diet: The food you eat does have mild addictive properties.  Dairy, MSG, fast food....its all been shown to actually be addictive.  To break the habit takes time and patience.  It takes at least 3 weeks to change your taste buds and I swear it works.  I forced myself to and all of a sudden food I used to hate were like new adventures in the kitchen for me.  The tomatoes that Taco Bell would so generously pile on my Nacho Cheese Chalupa would cause me to go into fits of rage.  Jicama, Kale and CousCous were foreign to me.  I only ate salads made with Iceberg lettuce and drenched it in so much creamy ranch dressing that it looked like soup.  I would eat a block of cheese in one sitting.  Literally.  Ultra-sharp cheddar, sliced up.  Hold the crackers.

So this was drastic for me.  I loved dairy and all of its delicious goodness.  But if you can push through it heroin-addict style, you won't regret it.  You may relapse, but jump back on the wagon and you wont look back.  Foods I used to hate, after changing those lovely little sensory receptor taste buds of mine, I now can't get enough of.  Tomatoes: My former arch rival.  Now?  I love them! 

The thing is when people try to change and jump from meat and potatoes and lonely nights devouring blocks of cheese to eating 'rabbit food', its not going to last.  You need to convert gradually.  One of the ways to do this is meat and cheese substitutes.  They are far better for you than meat and cheese, laden with artery clogging saturated fat and cancer causing casein; But they are definitely not quite 'health food'.  They are perfect for transitioning to a heathier lifestyle.  I like to call it Vegan Junk Food. 

So Here it is!  My Meat Lovers Meatless Lasagna.  My husband went back for seconds, which does not happen often whether we eat vegan or not.   Remember all non-vegans: Dairy free cheese is Casein-Free.  Veggies Slices won't cut it....they secretly harbor dairy protein.  Use Vegan Rella or Follow Your Heart brand cheese.  Or you can use most people favorite, Daiya cheese which comes already shredded and melts like real cheese....but I've found the flavor to be a little inconsistent.  Vegan Rella is by far my favorite vegan cheese if you can find it.  If at any time you have trouble finding any ingredients, google them.  You can always buy it online and unlike a dead animal carcass or bovine breast milk, it wont go bad as fast!

Meat Lovers Meatless Lasagna
1lb        Firm Tofu (not silken)
1 tbsp   garlic powder
1 tbsp   parsley
1 tbsp   nutritional yeast
1 tsp     oregano
1 tsp     basil
1 tsp     olive oil
1 tsp     lemon juice
            s & p to taste
3 Tbsp  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup   finely chopped onion
2          garlic cloves, minced
1          Roll Gimmee Lean Sausage
1          Bag Boca meat crumbles
¼ tsp    Sage
½ tsp    Fennel Seeds
2          Jars Favorite Pasta Sauce
12         Whole Grain or Gluten-Free Lasagna Noodles
1          Package Vegan Rella (or other vegan *Casein Free non-dairy mozzarella cheese)
3 Tbsp  Nutritional Yeast
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drain tofu and pulse in food processor.  Add garlic powder, parsley, nutritional yeast, oregano, basil, olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper. Pulse until just combined.  Set aside.
Meat Sauce
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  .  Add onion and garlic.  Gimmee Lean can be sticky and difficult to break apart, so use a knife to slice/dice until chopped.  Sausage will still be sticky and will break more easily after being cut.  Lightly brown sausage in skillet and add Boca crumbles.  Season with sage, fennel and salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-8 minutes until browned and heated through.  Add sauce and let simmer for 30-60 minutes.  Set aside.
Cook noodles to package directions. 
Vegan Rella cheese can also be difficult as it is also sticky.  Slice thinly and set aside.

To Assemble:
Layer as shown in diagram.  Note: Diagram is off a little.  Add some sauce underneath top layer of ‘cheese’ to soften noodles below.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an another 10 minutes.  Remove from over and use spatula to spread vegan cheese if needed on the top, as vegan cheese does not melt like dairy cheese.  Return to over for an additional 15 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving to set.

So Im not really vegan....

What the hell is a pesky vegan you ask?  There are several terms to define the levels of vegetarianism that exist, but none that really defines the way I eat, which, I like to think...is ideal. 

First, here's a brief look at the different levels of vegetarianism:

A Flexitarian is a person who eats meat but incorporates vegetarian meals into their diet regularly. 

A Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian is a person who does not eat any meat or fish, but does eat dairy and eggs and other animal byproducts.  A Lacto-Vegetarian still consumes dairy, but not eggs.  An Ovo-Vegetarian eats eggs, but not dairy.

A pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat like beef or pork, but does include fish as part of their diet.  They also include dairy/eggs and other animal byproducts. 

A Macrobiotic person will sometimes eat fish, but no other meat.  Their diet is mostly vegan but includes many grains and sea vegetables and they limit consumption of some (nightshade) vegatables.  This diet is based more on a philosohpy of yin and yang foods...which sounds hokey, but if you take the time to learn about what yin and yang represent in foods, it makes sense.

A Vegan is a person who, for either health, animal rights or environmental reasons, does not consume any animal products or byproducts at all.  That includes meat, eggs, dairy, honey, certain dyes (did you know they use bug juice....seriously....squeezed bugs to create red dyes?....yuck!). 

A Raw Foodist will not cook their food.  They use creative methods for 'cooking' that include sprouting grains, nuts and seeds, dehydrating food, blending, mixing and more.  Nothing is ever heated past a certain degree (the degree remains debateable among raw foodists.  Usually between 104-118 degrees) as to not destroy the active enzymes present in raw food.  A raw foodist is generally vegan, or Raw Vegan; But some do consume raw meat, fish and raw dairy.

I eat the way I do for health reasons.  Not because I need to.  It's preventative.  I am not an aninal rights activist, although after eating this way for so long and knowing what I do about the food insustry, you tend to become a far more compassionate person and although Ive always been an animal lover, you wont find me running naked in the streets protesting fur.  I will not give up my Louis Vuitton handbag without a serious fight and as much as I disapprove, my husband hunts and I will not be the bitchy wife that expects him to change his ways after being married for years.  I do not, however, fit perfectly into any of the above categories.  (The story of my life, lol).  Being Vegan does not make you healthy.  White flour, preservatives and other unnatural and unhealthy foods that are not derived from animals are still technically part of the vegan diet; But I do not consume these.  I do eat some fish, on occasion...and only certain types of fish, mostly sustainably harvested.  I make very few exceptions with my diet.  Here's the general breakdown:
What I DON'T EATBeef, Pork, Poultry, etc
White flour
Refined Sugar
Artificial Flavorings/Dyes
Artificial Sweetners
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
What I DO EATVeggies
What I LIMITFish - Only fish that are found to have low mercury levels and do not contain artificial color.  Also, I try to only eat fish that are sustainably harvested.
Sugar - Only organic unrefined sugar.  Ok, ok....so I definately don't limit this like I should, but I am trying!

To explain the Why's could fill up a book.  (What a great idea!)   I am starting this blog to many reasons.  First of all, I am asked all the time for advice and recipes from friends and family.  Here, I have a platform to preach all my health preach-iness that I am so passionate about.  Second of all, its the first step to my bucket list, which will hopefully be to eventually collect enough of my own recipes to write a book.  Third, I like to bitch.  I need an outlet. 

 So, for now, that's me.  Thats what I eat.