Thursday, December 6, 2012

6 Tips to Save $$ on your grocery bill!

Have you watched any of those Extreme Couponing shows?  The ones where these, generally unhealthy looking individuals treat shopping for groceries as it they were trying to compete in the Olympics   The same people who's pantry's are so full of food that they have to give it away or bury it in preparation for the zombie apocalypse   Who in the hell needs 86 boxes of mother f*cking FRUIT LOOPS??  Are they playing Hansel and Gretal and trying to lure kids into their roach filled lairs with all their sugary goodness.  Those are the people who make me sit back and think to myself where in the world did Evolution just totally take 2 steps back.  Find me ONE extreme couponer who is trim and fit and I will show you an igloo in hell.

Let's face it: eating either vegan OR healthy is NOT easy on the budget.  The Sunday papers don't come stocked with coupons for Organic food.  Noooooooo.  Why?  Because the big bad food industry wants you to think that eating Special K bars first thing in the morning will help you drop that last 10 lbs.  Or that shoving Pop-Tarts into your kid's cake hole is going to make them healthy and smart.... because, oooooh, some have Whole Grains!  In order to force feed us this shit, they give us.....drum roll please....COUPONS!

Coupons, save money!  They are tiny, neat little pieces of paper with a barcode that screams, "I just got my Kellogg's cereal, laden with sugar and high fructose corn syrup, for ONE dollar OFF!".  Well holy shit!  Sign me up!

It doesn't happen that way.  I clip coupons for razors, the occasional non-dairy 'milk' beverage and a select other few items.  That hardly makes up the amount of food my family consumes.  I have found, though, that couponing is NOT impossible when you eat a pretty healthy diet with minimally processed (vegan meats!) foods.  Here's how:

1.  Know when your local grocery stores have their sales.  For example, Winn Dixie changes sales every Wednesday.  Every Thursday, Publix has new sale items.  My local health food store changes sales almost monthly.  

2.  Plan dinner according to what is ON SALE.  Not what you feel like making.  For example, I have a friend who I went shopping with and I was horrified at her food bill!  She planned a weekly menu without looking at the sales, spent a small fortune and then complains about her food bill being so high and money being tight.  No, no, no!  If brown rice and veggies are on sale, why the hell do you HAVE to make stew tonight?  Change it.  Try a stir fry instead.  Buying the cheaper items will obviously cut cost.  Plan menus only after you see whats on sale.  

3.  Stock Up.  When an item you like and either will eat tomorrow or will eat a month from tomorrow is on sale for BOGO (Buy One Get One Free), you BUY IT!  Stock up!  You can buy a cheap fridge or deep freezer on craigslist if you need to.  I have 2 full size fridge/freezers.  One in my kitchen and another in the garage.  I also have an additional deep freezer.  They are all always full.  I am almost a food hoarder.  If organic frozen veggies are BOGO, I am going to buy a minimum of 8 bags probably.  When you are always stocking up on things you will actually eat, planning dinners becomes an easy task.  You simply open the pantry and choose whats for dinner.

4.  Use Coupons.  For the past month or so, Publix had a coupon dispenser in the frozen food aisle for Gardein.  (These are not 'healthy', but they are a good 'transitional' food when switching diets and the kids love them!)  

These go on sale BOGO every so often and the coupons in the dispenser didn't expire until Jan 2013.  So, I grabbed several.  (Don't grab them all!  It's rude.)  But, grab a few every time you go into the store.  I stocked up and had about 20 coupons.  Then, last week Gardein was BOGO!!  When an item is BOGO, you are buying TWO, even if it is for the price of one.  Because you are buying TWO, you use TWO coupons.  So, essentially what this means, is   the Gardein package which costs $4.29 at Publix, is now TWO for $4.29 PLUS I get to use TWO $1-off coupons, so I just bought 2 bags of Gardein for $2.29.  That's $1.15 a bag!  I was happier than a pig in shit.  I also bought 20 bags.  =)

After purchasing a few other items and more BOGO sale items, this  is the actual photo at checkout.   That means my bill WAS $88.28 and I got it for $33.48.  Booyah!
5.  Mambo No. 5!  Mambosprouts is the ultimate source for coupons for food that is healthier!  Check them out.  Print them out.  Save money.  Simple as that.  

6.  Write to Your Favorite Companies!  Have you written to a company to tell them how pissed off you are about them?  How about the other way around?  Have you ever written to praise your favorite brands for being so awesome?  I have.  In fact, I did it 3 weeks ago to prove it to you.  I wrote to 6 companies. You have to write a real letter.  Pay the .49 to mail it and see what happens.  It's like Christmas every time I open the mailbox!  They will, almost every time, send you, at the very for money off.  Often, or about half of the time, they will send you coupons for totally FREE products.  Now, karma is a bitch.  Don't do it over and over and to products you don't love JUST to get free stuff.  If you spend a ton of money on a particular product, write them and tell them how much you love.  Feel free to ask for coupons.  They will likely send them.  

Happy $aving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mizza Snackers

It's a meatball! It's a pizza! It's a Mizza!

I opened up my fridge today to find that one of the cans of crescent rolls I purchased yesterday from the health food store had burst open. After debating whether to wrap them around vegan hot dogs or to use some leftover pizza sauce, I opted for the pizza sauce. I grabbed some leftover sauce, leftover Daiya mozzarella and opened the freezer for more inspiration where there was a partial bag of leftover frozen vegan meatballs. Light bulb!

I wrapped them up and popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and that's how the Mizza was born. An easy, yummy kid-friendly snack. :)

Stack a cooked meatball, cheese and sauce on a crescent roll dough.

Wrap it up!


Vegan Campbell's

When I stopped eating dairy, the biggest dilemma I faced was dealing was trying to recreate some of my favorite casseroles, which as most of us would agree, consist of Campbell's soups. Cream of Chicken & Cream of Mushroom soup made the deans list in nearly every casserole recipe I had ever made and were the star ingredients in my family's traditional Thanksgiving & Christmas dishes.

 It took about a year to figure it out but the following are the recipes I've been using for 2 years now and so far, no one has made the connection yet to the fact that I am now dairy-free and they are still enjoying the same cherished holiday meals.  This recipe is so freaking easy, anyone can do it.  It requires the ability to make something boil.

First, you make the broth.  Or you skip this step if you have store bought.  This method will yield like, a million cups of broth and the powder only cost me about $8.  The boxed Imagine broth that I buy sometimes is over $4 for 4 freaking cups!  Take that bargain hunters!
Next, (or first if you had broth already), whisk the corn starch into your non-dairy milk.  Make sure to use a full fat 'milk' or creamer.  Not lite versions and not rice milk because it is too runny.  Soy, almond, oat, hemp, coconut...all of those work better to produce a consistency closer to the Campbell's junk we're used to.

Then, if making Cream of MUSHROOM, dice the mushrooms.  Instead of making it a pain in the ass measuring out and converting ounces to cups, just buy an 8oz package and use roughly HALF.  Easy as pie.

.....annnnd saute until soft.
Add broth and seasonings.
Add the 'milk'.  Then whisk, whisk, whisk!


Voila!  Cream of mushroom soup.  Let it cool to room temperature and it will be just as disgustingly gelatinous as the crap that falls out of the can shaped just like a can.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Makes about 2 cups
For Cream of Chicken soup, omit the mushrooms and start by boiling broth.

4oz white button mushrooms, diced 
1 cup non-dairy milk or creamer
4 Tbsp corn starch
1 cup vegetarian chicken broth
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Saute mushrooms in a skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray over medium-high heat.  In a separate bowl, whisk corn starch into non-dairy milk.  Set aside.  When mushrooms are soft and darkened in color, add broth and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Pour in 'milk' mixture and whisk constantly until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to stand at room temperature until ready to use.  Will keep for several days in an airtight container in the fridge.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kraken Apples

Bear with me folks.  I may cook a mean meal., but a photographer I am not.  After the new year, I plan on taking some classes.  These pictures may not look fantastic, and after being cooked the apples do look kind of like tomatoes, but it's pretty damn good and it may even give you a nice holiday buzz.  It pairs perfectly with a scoop of vanilla non-dairy ice cream.  =)

I use Kraken because of its unique flavor.  It has a taste that doesn't compare to other rums.  It screams 'fall' and is the perfect rum for this time of year.  Add it to your eggnog, apple cider or a splash in a holiday Sangria.

I was going crock-pot happy (more recipes to come!) and wanted to make something that screamed Fall/Winter without an overdose of evergreen being shoved down my throat.  Since I am quite the fan of any dessert made with liquor, and since Kraken rum is one of the perfect holiday liquors, I opened my fridge, grabbed some apples and got to work.

**Warning: This dessert is for 21+ only!!

First, you want to core the apples.  I used a paring knife since I don't have one of those fancy gadgets.  It probably took less time.  Make sure to get the whole core and seeds out.

Then I mixed up some shit.  Walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar.  I wanted to add raisins but I didn't have any on hand.  But if you do, do it.  ;)

Put the apples in your crock-pot and then you get to packin'.  Hard, huh?  Use a small measuring spoon to shove it into the cores.

Then use your clean finger, because dirty fingers are just gross, and pack it in tighter.  Then shove more in until the filling is peaking out of the top.

Pour the Kraken and water or cider over the apples.

There it is.  My piss poor photo.  Turn crock-pot on low and let it sit there for several hours.  (Insert Jeopardy music here)

My even worse photo.  This is the finished product.  Looks like tomatoes stuffed with cat turds but I swear it smelled like a little piece of heaven floating in rum and tasted better than that.

There you have it.  My seriously lacking photography skills and a fabulous recipe that will fill your belly and get you drunk at the same time.

Kraken Apples

5-6 small Gala Apples, cored
1/2 cup walnuts, shelled
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Kraken rum
1/4 cup water or apple cider

This recipe makes enough for 6 small gala apples but my crock-pot only fit 5.  So 5-6 is fine.  Core apples.  

Put walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon & vanilla in food processor.  Pulse a few times until coarsely ground.  

Place apples in crock-pot   Use a spoon to spoon walnut mixture into apple cores.  Press down firmly using your finger to pack it in, and fill some more.
Pour the Kraken rum & water or cider into the crock-pot and set on LOW for about 8 hours.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chai Spiced Russian

On the 3rd day of Christmas
My bartender gave to me...
3 Chai Spiced Russians,

2 Pumpkin Eggnogs
and a...
1 Candy Cane Martini

Chai Spiced Russian

1 shot vodka
1 shot Kahlua
1 shot Oregon Chai 'Chai Tea Latte' concentrate
2 shots non-dairy milk

Pout each, in order, into ice filled glass. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Egglection Day

Is there a better way to end Election Day than with a winter cocktail? I think not. To continue with my 12 Days of Holiday Drinks blogs...

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my bartender gave to me...
Two pumpkin eggnogs...
...and a Candy Cane Martini

Pumpkin Eggnog
prepare vodka first, start a week before!

First, make the vodka. I use organic but use your favorite vodka. In a large mason jar, put about 1/4 cup of pumpkin purée, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 vanilla bean that's been split & 1 whole clove. Allow to sit for several days or a week. Store in freezer.

Likewise, for a different flavor, use Kracken rum. It's a spiced rum that just screams Eggnog!

I also use vegan eggnog. While I do consume eggs occasionally, eggnog is insanely disgusting for your bod. I choose the vegan variety.

Mix a pinch of cinnamon, a shot of either pumpkin vodka or Kracken rum with 6-8oz vegan eggnog.

Stir and enjoy!

P.S. I've served this at holiday parties and NO ONE had any idea if was not real eggnog. In fact, most raved about how good it was!

Monday, November 5, 2012

12 Days of Holiday Drinks

Must have cocktails for the holidays! In a non-consecutive order, I will be posting my 12 favorite holiday drinks.

On the 1st day of Christmas, my bartender gave to me...
....a Candy Cane Martini!

Candy Cane Martini
1 shot peppermint schnapps
1 shot white Creme de cocoa
2 shots cranberry juice cocktail

Dip the glass in chocolate syrup (non dairy of course!) or agave nectar. Then into crushed organic candy canes. You can find them at the health food store this time of year.

Shake all over ice and pour into rimmed glass.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life is like a box of chocolates...

"Life if like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
-Forest Gump

I have argued countless times with family, friends and even members of the medical community. This is gonna be short and sweet.

The notion that heart disease and diabetes and cancer are hereditary and therefore, unavoidable, is, for the MOST part, a steaming pile of horse shit.

You are NOT what runs in your family. Do NOT accept your doom.

Granted, there a small percentage of life threatening diseases that due to one reason or another are not preventable. Some may just be too aggressive. This is the exception, not the rule. While many doctors may not agree (screw them and find another!), studies and personal experience tell us a very different story.

Hereditary, scmeditary. Just because a long line of people in your family have suffered from heart disease or diabetes does not mean you will get it. Under normal circumstances, it is likely. But, if you take care to maintain a superb diet and lifestyle, you can laugh in Hereditary's face. You do not inherit disease. You inherit learned eating habits and life choices. Both of which can be altered.

The best way I can describe this is: When you are born Life deals you a hand of cards. It's HOW you play those cards that determines the outcome. Will you gamble them away? Or will you play smart to increase you chances of winning?

Will you chance heart disease because you just CAN'T give up fried chicken, or will you put on your big girl pants and act like your life depends on it? (It does, you know). Suck it up!

Another pet peeve: do NOT look at living a healthy lifestyle as a negative thing. Bummer. No Pepsi for you. No more dairy and artificial junk. Boo f*cking Hoo.

How about we grow up and act EMPOWERED instead of deprived?!? Empowered to change the course of your entire life! Empowered to live a life without ailments, allergies, sickness & doctors visits. Empowered to live to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren! Empowered to outrun someone half your age! Empowered to feel sexy and live a fulfilling lifestyle! Empowered to keep up with your kids! You deserve it girl!

Empower yourself and take control of your life today!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall fun

I love homemade edible gifts.  I think cookies at Christmas time is wonderful.  I think getting creative with food is fun for all holidays and seasons.  These are a few Fall gift ideas I'm making for friends, family & teachers.

Kale Chips, Organic Pumpkin Pie Spice & Organic Pumpkin Vodka

Put spice mix into a jar and decorate to make a thoughtful unique gift.

I used my Cheezy Chipotle Kale Chips recipe (they are Uh-Mazing.) and put them into a brown paper bag.  Use decorative scissors to cut the top of the bag and fold over.  Use a hole punch to punch 2 holes in the top of the bag and pull decorative ribbon through to secure.  

To make the pumpkin vodka, put 1/4c organic pumpkin puree into a large mason jar.  Fill with organic vodka.  Cover and allow it to sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours.  The vodka acts as a preservative, so you can keep it in the fridge or freezer after that for a while (6 months +) or you can strain the vodka into another jar.  Decorate the jar and you have the ultimate fall gift.  To make it more impressive, (pictures coming later), put it in a basket with 2 martini glasses and a printed and scrapbooked recipe using it.  (Blog post coming soon with my 2 favorite recipes using it!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

5 Steps to a Healthier Halloween

There are 3 kinds of parents in this world.

The ones who let their kids eat shit all year so that Halloween is not a far cry from their daily grind.

The ones who don't allow their kids to eat junk but somehow cant find it within themselves to deny their children candy on Halloween.

And then there's me...

(Well...I guess there are 4.  There are Jehovah's Witnesses too, but for arguments sake, they don't count when discussing Halloween, lol)

I LOVE Halloween.  Its full of mystery, darkness, magic, candy, pumpkins, and its the one time of year an adult professional can get away with dressing like something out of soft care porno and no one cares.  Kids love it.  Adults love it.  And when you're not busy wondering which stripper heels to wear with your super duper skankified getup, you are busy using your children as human baby dolls, dressing them up from head to toe in the most god-awful to-be-used-against-you-in-the-future garb.  Lets be honest: Halloween for parents of young children is like preplanned birth control.  It is always sure to result in a collection of pictures you will stow away for future use when your precious little 5 year old 'LalaLoopsey' turns 16 and brings some asshole home.  That's when the pictures make their glorious debut back on the walls of your home.  That and a gun rack, but I digress.  

When I first changed my diet I cringed at the thought of Halloween.  How in the hell could I deny my daughter the joys of trick-or-treating?  How could I let her go and then make her throw it all away without even one little nibble of a miniature Kit-Kat?  Was I a terrible mom?  Could there be something I could do to prevent neighbors from spoiling her with artificial colors and flavors and high fructose corn syrup?!?  I was doomed.  

We can't ignore the data and many studies that show strong links of childhood diseases to artificial colors and sweeteners.  Childhood diabetes, ADHD, autistic tendencies  allergies and a host of other illnesses appear to be caused or intensified by the consumption of Frankenfood.  There is no way, while I still have control over what my child puts in her mouth, that I would allow her to eat the same conventional junk that other kids do.

On to Plan B.  I had to convince her that she did not want the candy.  What did I do you ask?  I'll tell you!   I just follow these simple steps and I am worry free come Halloween night.

1. I bought Halloween toys and organic candy instead of the conventional crap.  My candy bowl is filled with  bubbles, stretchy skeletons, Halloween slap bracelets, stickers, organic lollipops, organic gummy bears and bags of pretzels.  Almost as much as I can't feed shit to my own daughter, I feel like a bad person contributing to someone else's allergies and other health afflictions if I serve it to others as well.  My kid or not, if it comes from me, you can bet your sweet ass its going to be healthy or organic.

2. I buy more expensive 'healthy' candy for my own daughter.  I put together a gift basket with the above mentioned items, some vegan candy bars (we LOVE LOVE LOVE Go Max Go brand).  Or, I bake special cupcakes, brownies, etc.  Or both.  =)

3.  I take her shopping the weekend or day before and she picks out a present, not to exceed a specific monetary value.  This year I will let her choose something up to $15.  We buy it together and we do NOT open it.  I put this in her surprise gift basket with candy.

4.  She goes trick-or-treating.  She comes home.  She sees the gift basket with her toy and plenty of other semi-junk candy.  She happily trades.  We let her stuff her face with several pieces of candy after all of the Halloween excitement.  

5.  We throw away the shit in the hollow smiling pumpkin pail but as I said before, I cannot stand the thought of anyone eating it, let alone us.  

In the future when she is a little older and may not see the point of continuing the tradition of going house to house just to throw away the candy, I plan on giving a monetary value to the candy she collects.  For example, 10 pieces of candy = $1.  Then, she can earn money to spend on herself.  Or she can trade 5 party size chocolate bars for one full vegan dark chocolate bar.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Flavored Water

Do you have any idea how much people make off of flavored water?  Like, millions.  Really.  Want a quick and easy way to make your own??  You can use filtered water or sparkling water if the mood strikes you.  Its this easy:

1.  Open fridge
2.  Find fruits
3.  Slice fruits
4.  Insert in water.

Let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes or hours and you've got yourself some flavored water that didn't cost you anything but some leftover fruits in your fridge.

Some good combinations:

Cucumber + Mint + Lemon

Ginger + Mint (pictured)

Raspberry + Cucumber (pictured)

Orange + Strawberry

Kiwi + Lime

Cranberry + Ginger + Lemon

Apple + Mango

Pineapple + Jalapeno + Pear

Grapefruit + Ginger

For an extra health kick: Throw in a decaf green tea bag!

Friday, October 5, 2012

8 Things You Can Do To Combat the Flu Season

Its here!  The kids are back in school.  The weather is changing and you are one Grande Pumpkin Soy Frappuccino away from being murdered by your significant other if they see one more $7 charge for 'coffee' on your next bank statement.  Welcome to fall.  The most beautiful time of the year and the one time of year that it seems everybody and their little fat brother is SICK SICK SICK.  Flu season, enter stage left.

During my workout 2 days ago, I focused on my arms.  I apparently worked out a little too hard that yesterday and today, wiping my own ass is the biggest challenge I've faced in a long time!  If that were it, I could deal.  But, nooooooooo...its also about to be 'That Time'.  So, I'm sore, I have a dirty ass and I'm bitchy.  OK.  Megan-0.  Life-2.  Now, this is all compounded by the fact that I woke up this morning with a throat so swollen it feels like a basketball was shoved down there.  'That Time' + my swollen throat = Megan-2, Ryan-0.  (hehehe...I kill myself!)

Flu season is upon us and although I almost never get sick anymore, I do occasionally catch something like I did this morning.  Lucky for me, I keep my immune system in pretty good shape and when I do get sick, I've been successful at kicking its ass out of with the quickness.  Below are some things you can do to help prevent catching the bug and to speed up your recovery if you do happen upon that little bugger.

1.  Ginger Green Tea
This and the next are my secret weapons.  Few bugs can get far with this.  To make this potent concoction, bring a pot of water to a slow boil with fresh ginger.  You do not have to peel ginger.  Just slice it thin or shave on a microplane into the water.  As much as you can stand.  I have grown to love ginger so I use a lot!  Let this slow boil for a little while to make a ginger tea.  While you are waiting, grab some organic &/or raw honey and pour about a teaspoon into your mug.  You can also throw in about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar as well.  Throw in your green tea bag.  Turn the heat off the water and when the water is no longer boiling, fill your mug up.  

Green tea can be a bit bitter if water is boiling.  Allow to steep for 3-5 minutes or longer and bottoms up!  Research has shown that the longer the green tea is steeped, the higher the amount of polyphenols, which are responsible for the health benefits of the tea.  DON'T FORGET: You cannot do this once and expect an immediate retreat of the symptoms.  Drink 3-6 cups of this a day.  Make a big pot of ginger tea and reheat throughout the day adding new teabags and honey.  Keep it up and you will see your symptoms start to disappear.

2. Garlic
Garlic is nature's antibiotic.  It is anti-fungal  antiviral and antibacterial.  It is: Uh-mazing.  Take it raw.  Chop up a few cloves into swallow-able sizes and take just as you would a pill.  The use of prescription antibiotics strips away the natural gut flora, which IS your main defense against these things in the first place!  Disease begins in the gut by a weakened immune system.  Keeping your gut flora happy and healthy is your best chance to keeping yourself healthy.  A strong immune system means you can use your 'sick days' at work for fun days at home.  Try garlic instead.  

3. Eat Your Greens!
Get your nutrients from fruits and vegetables.  As much raw as you can.  Raw food contains enzymes which are the building blocks of your immune system.  Eat them.  Lots of them.
4. Rest
Getting adequate sleep helps keep your immune system functioning happily.  If you are sick, get extra rest.  Today, I skipped the gym and my mommy-&-me class to rest.  So get your beauty sleep, gorgeous, you're body needs you!
5. Herbal Supplements
 According to many naturopaths, knowing your blood type can be important in choosing the right supplements for you.  Type O blood types should avoid echinacea since it wont be as effective.  Rather, Type O's should use Siberian Ginseng, Astragalus or White Larch.  (Look for these in your local health food store.)  Type A's should look for Echinacea or an Echinacea/Goldenseal Combo.  Type B's should go for medicinal mushrooms, of which shitake, reishi and maitake are the best.

 6. Wash Your Grubby Mitts!
Just like your mom and teachers always told you.  Scrub-a-dub-dub those germy cesspools you call your hands so the next time you shake hands with Mr. nose picker or chronic masturbator, you wont have those nasty germs lingering on your extremities.  
7.  Magic Mushrooms
OK, so not those magic mushrooms, but just like stated above for Type B's, medicinal mushrooms can have a host of benefits for most.  Stick to shitake, reishi and maitake for the most potent benefits.
 8. Exercise
Its no hidden secret that exercise is good for you.  It keeps you fit.  Helps with blood pressure, sugar control, fat burning, immunity.  You name it, exercise is probably good for it.  Just Do It Nike style and get your lazy butt moving.