“I would rather eat 1,000 ounces of steak before I ever tried tofu.”

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Recently, it has been brought to my attention how radical my lifestyle is when it comes to food. It’s so unusual, in fact, that and one gentleman vowed to eat 1,000 ounces of steak before he ever tried tofu. I would have reminded him of the obvious health dangers in his “1,000 ounces of steak” plan, but when faced with a declaration like that I usually find it best to relent.

I’ve learned and grown a lot in my transition to the vegan lifestyle, and shared my experiences with friends, family, and of course, through the blog. The response I’ve gotten has been generally positive, with some skeptics and a lot of questions. However I was surprised to encounter flat-out objection to what I choose to eat. I even have a friend who refuses to visit my blog because it doesn’t apply to her and she just really loves chicken.

That’s fine; the roasted vegetable salad I made would go really well with chicken.

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I’m not perfect. There are still times when I eat an animal product, but I don’t consider it breaking any “rules” because the way I see it I am free to eat whatever I want. I am just continually working on adjusting my choices in a more responsible direction. I don’t know why this is so scary, it’s just personal.

I choose to share, but I don’t seek to convert. I will educate the interested but don’t do battle with carnivores on the prowl.

I hope that some day people will be more open minded and less reactionary, but it’s up to us as bloggers, vegans, and responsible people to spread the word in a friendly, non-threatening way. You catch more flies with agave than you do with vinegar ;)

Have you ever had a difficult experience explaining to someone about being vegan? How did you handle it?

Roasted Vegetable Cornmeal Tarts, Two Ways

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What do you get when you have a whole fridge of vegetables that needed to be eaten like, yesterday, and no ambition to use a fork?

A vegan variation of pizza, of course.

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But let’s be honest: it’s difficult to sell people on a pizza with no cheese (although really, who needs it?) that’s why this is a tart. Tarts are fancier; they get the people excited.

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So now it’s not a “hey, I know how to chop vegetables and put a frozen crust in the oven” kind of night, but a “why yes, we’re having roasted vegetable cornmeal tarts in two varieties” kind of night.

Which do you think is more likely to attract that hottie at the health food store and get way more instagram likes?

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That’s what I thought.

Toppings:

-Onions, green peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and olives.

-Oven roasted zucchini, butternut squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic.

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Saute the peppers and onions separately until just tender, everything else can go in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes before loading it all up on your crusts and baking for an additional 12-15 mins. I bought the crusts in the freezer section of whole foods next to the frozen pizzas, but I know my secret’s safe with you. Now go show off.

Bon appetit.

Smoothie Criminal

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People seem to think it’s a crime to make a good green smoothie without added sugar or dairy. Today, I shall dispel those rumors.

First of all, fruit is sweet (especially if you buy it in season) and it don’t need no sherbets, ice creams or artificial ingredients to be fabulous. Just make sure you have a good ratio of fruit to other ingredients, or choose an all natural sweetener like stevia.

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Second of all, just because you don’t eat dairy doesn’t mean that you need to replace it with soy, almond, flax, coconut or whatever milk or yogurt alternative you happen to have in your fridge. Fresh green smoothies don’t need it! Just add water to loosen things up and get the ingredients to blend better.

Can I get an Amen from all the raw-foodies out there?

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Your smoothie won’t taste watery, I promise. Plus, you’ll get extra hydration, save calories, and find another use for your $10 a gallon animal substitute. It’s a win, win, win.

The real trick is finding the right combination of fruit to really get you going in the morning (or afternoon, or midnight snack, or fourthmeal). This is mine, and it’s so simple it should be illegal (am I even allowed to use the term fourthmeal?).

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Three basic components are all you need for a totally raw, fresh, green smoothie: some kind of leaf, a fresh fruit and a frozen fruit. Above I have baby spinach (the easiest flavor to mask), some fresh mango and a frozen banana.

(Pro tip: never use ice cubes to make your smoothie cold, they’re impossible to blend in most moderately priced blenders. Use small frozen fruit like raspberries or blueberries instead!)

You may choose to add a green powder, but why use additives when you’ve got a rich, sweet blend of whole foods (again, illegal?).

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This is just one of the many kinds of delicious smoothies and shakes that are out there for vegans to enjoy. It’s so easy being green.

Bon appetit.

Don’t Judge a Pretzel by It’s Color

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I was not in a good place today.

I was moody, cranky, depressed, stressed, and having boy troubles. I would honestly be happy to crawl back into bed and try life again tomorrow.

Luckily I had some frozen PB bananas on hand for crisis situations. There should be dark chocolate in here but you win some, you lose some.

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And today definitely felt like more like a lose than a win. I planned to make pretzels since it’s Octoberfest season, but the entire process felt like a complete failure. The yeast didn’t bubble enough, the dough was dry. Did I over mix? Did the I let it rise long enough?

I put my sadly assembled pretzel sticks in the oven with a sigh and said “this isn’t going to work.” “They’re going to be tough and chewy, I can tell by how they came together.”

But, I baked at 450 for 14 minutes and waited to see what would come out. The result was pale, puffy, oddly shaped long things that didn’t look at all like soft-baked pretzel sticks.

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“See? I knew it.”

Then, I took a bite. They were soft-baked pretzel sticks. Successful soft-baked pretzel sticks!

They were not the golden-brown nuggets I was expecting, but they tasted perfect – crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside.

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I almost didn’t make this post, because who would want to make pretzels that didn’t look like pretzels? Who would trust a food blogger who doesn’t even trust herself? I was so hung up on how they looked, so quick to judge myself, and my pretzel sticks, that I didn’t bother to see what they were like on the inside. The truth is, they were really, really good.

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Who would’ve thought that my bad day would be rescued by some salty bread? It’s interesting what surprises come out of taking chances.

Sometimes, when something doesn’t seem good enough we don’t want to give it a chance. It’s easier to accept defeat than it is to keep pushing through, and see what comes out of it.  Just because it’s not what you thought you wanted, doesn’t mean it won’t work out.

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In this case it meant slightly quirky, but unexpectedly delicious soft-baked pretzels. Life isn’t always pretty, but never be afraid to take a big bite out if it and find out.

Bon appetit.

Soft pretzel recipe available here. To make it vegan simply omit the egg wash on top.

I’d Love to Go Vegan, But I Don’t Have Time To Cook!

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So what do Vegans eat for lunch, anyway?

No human who works or has a life really has time to prepare fantastically gourmet meals three times a day. Being a vegan is actually really simple, not scary at all, and doesn’t require ridiculous or foreign-sounding ingredients lists. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of ways to play with food, and the 10 million vegan bloggers out there all do a fantastic job of demonstrating the culinary prowess and bravado that goes with making really fantastic food.

Of course there are cooks all across the world who upstage little old me in that department.

But this is what happens when an average girl wants to eat a normal lunch and doesn’t have 40 minutes to make it happen. It’s healthy, balanced, vegan, and easy.

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I mashed up some tofu in a bowl with a little dried onion soup mix and some breadcrumbs, then fried it up like a burger until it was warm and crispy. About 5 minutes.

Then I topped it with basil, black beans, tomato and avocado. It was basically building a sandwich, minus the bread.

Sliced apples and sunflower butter on the side.

Done!

And no oven required. Bon appetit.

Once Upon A Time, There Was A Vegan Blogger…

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Our story begins on a crisp autumn morning, when a young vegan decided that she needed to expand her blog’s readership.

She thought and thought about how to do this, when suddenly, while reading about Virginia’s upcoming elections, it came to her.

Bribery.

She knew that a couple of fat stacks would be just what she needed to persuade some neighbors to hop on the computer and take a look.

So she piled them high,

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and topped them with liquid gold.

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The warm, gooey morsels of apple, plum and streusel were better than currency.

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So with full bellies and sticky fingers, they all lived happily ever after.

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Bon appetit.

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Ingredients

3 apples

3 plums

Caramel sauce

Streusel filling

Caramel Sauce

1/4 C. light corn syrup

1/2 C. water

2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. coconut milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. vegan butter or margarine

Streusel 

4 Tbsp. vegan butter or margarine

1/2 C. flour

1/4 C. brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon
the dessert tower

Method

Core and slice the plums and apples (firmer plumbs will work best for this)

Layer apples, streusel, plums, streusel, and apples again until you have 5 layers

Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until the apples are just soft, not mushy

Remove from heat and allow to cool

Top with caramel sauce, and chopped walnuts

Caramel Sauce

Bring sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and water to a boil

Continue cooking on a strong simmer until the mixture turns a deep golden-brown color, about 30 mins depending on your stove (once it begins to brown it goes fast, so watch it)

Remove from heat and carefully add the coconut milk and vegan butter (this will bubble up quite a bit; always be careful with melted sugar)

Allow to cool and thicken for 10 minutes before drizzling on apple-plum stacks

Streusel filling

Blend vegan butter, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor

Fast Food, or Real Food Fast

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If there is one thing I would impart to the entire world if I could, it would be that being vegan is easy. Many people understand the environmental and health benefits of being vegan, but don’t think it would fit into their busy lifestyle.

Well, that’s bullshit because it can, and this blog is here to prove it.

For lunch today I opened the refrigerator and did that thing we all do where I stared at the contents and waited for something to jump out and cook itself. Nothing did. I checked the cabinets, the pantry and eventually came back to the fridge to look again because obviously something might have changed while I was gone.

Nope; Not really.

So, I grabbed a few containers of canned goods we hadn’t finished and decided to mush them up together and put the result on bread. Brilliance or luck? I’d like to think both but being honest, probably the latter. I don’t have that many brilliant moments, I just get hungry a lot.

Either way, the outcome was an amazingly accidental sandwich spread/potential dip that took literally 20 seconds to make and used up some leftover ingredients.

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Layered on a baguette from last night (that dad served with some meaty chili I couldn’t eat) with avocado and cucumber slices. I scooped some mellon on the side and this was a beautiful product of happenstance, jerry-rigging, experimentation, or whatever you would like to call random food-processing.

The moral of the story: this took less time than it would to cook a chicken breast, chop a salad, or order takeout. Don’t be afraid to throw something together, and see what you get. You’d be surprised what goodness comes out of taking risks, and being vegan.

Bon appetit.

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Ingredients

1/2 can of artichoke hearts

1/2 can of black beans

1/4 C. roasted red peppers

Olive oil

sandwich spread

Method

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend, adding oil until mixture reaches desired consistency.

You could blend longer for a creamier spread, or only a few pulses for a chunky dip.

Serving suggestion: On everything; chips, carrots, peppers, bread, crackers, veggie burgers, or mixed with green beans for a cold salad.

The Junk Food Vegan

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Health is hard.

It seems like every day there’s a new study released about the benefits of this berry or that grain, and we’re supposed to incorporate these new “discoveries” into our lifestyle at the drop of hat.

Let’s be honest though, ain’t nobody got time for that. 

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And when you ain’t got no time, you’re probably gonna do what I did: throw something in the oven. Vegans today are not unaware of such glorious inventions as “the microwave” or “the frozen section.” In fact, there are a surprising number of pre-made options available, the most glorious of which being pizza (as a 22 year-old what else can you say about this decision other than, “but of course”).

Enter: Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Phantasmagoria.

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Ok, that’s not really what it’s called but that’s how I feel about it. Just check out that ingredients list! Sexy. You are what you eat right? So, it’s perfectly normal to think of an ingredients list as sexy.

It is.

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So even though pizza is normally considered junk food, this savory little indulgence comes as close to healthy possible, or even desirable. The only thing left is carbs…and if you tried to make this without carbs I’d kill you.

Just consume with a fruit, a vegetable (kale salad, anyone?) and of course your preferred beverage of the moment; which we all know is a healthy pumpkin spice latte, served in a cat in the hat mug because creativity is cool.

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Bon appetit.

Protein from Plants

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I’ve never had as many people worry about my protein as I have once they find out that I’m vegan. Of course no one wonders where gorillas get their protein, or elephants, or any other large mammal on earth that doesn’t consume other animals to survive.

In fact, too much protein is a bad thing as it causes your body to leach alkaline minerals such as calcium and phosphorus from your bones to compensate for the acidic environment it creates. Your body actually makes it’s own protein by recycling the cells that are shed from the intestinal wall and from used up digestive enzymes.

protein?

What we need to do this are amino acids which are what we get from food, not protein itself. Therefore, protein is not necessairly equatable to flesh. Eating a variety of plants ensures that we get the right combination of amino acids.

There isn’t even a medical term for protein deficiency, because it would only result from calorie deficiency. Besides, no one would advocate eating a smaller range of veggies just because you’re eating chicken. Make sense?

Maybe it’s just easier to tell people that I get my protein from plants. Like the ones I ate for lunch. Brown rice & black beans (perfect amino acid combo…I mean protein source) with tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados.

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Plus a side of cabbage cooked in sesame oil, topped with some sesame seeds (a great source of calcium, by the way) and dried cranberries.

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All packed ready to go in my delightfully recycled tupperware.

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Bon appetit.

Photos: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5488/7-Health-Benefits-of-Lentils.html, http://www.strongprotein.com/questions/can-a-vegetarian-use-whey-protein-powder/

Roasted Apple and Carrot Salad with No-Carb Deep Dish Veggie Lasagna

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Today’s dinner was good exercise for my cutting board. Embracing the cooler weather, I was craving something hearty, warm and included the fresh local apples my mom recently brought back from the orchard. I was also not particularly picky about how much prep time went into this, because it was basically all chopping. Not that I mind, I find it therapeutic (interestingly, although I’ve been chopping my own vegetables since about first grade [I know!] I’ve only cut myself once, and that was last year). This was a two birds, one stone scenario. What a delicious way to blow off steam.

The resulting dish was a delicious warm roasted carrot and apple salad with dried cherries & cranberries, walnuts, and a horseradish & apple cider dressing.

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Basically take baby carrots, three apples, and 2 oz each dried cherries and cranberries and toss them in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.

Then mix in 2 Tbsp. horseradish, 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, and 4 Tbsp. olive oil.

Next roast in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes.

Finally add in some walnuts (you may toast them separately if you like, I didn’t want them to burn in the oven) sprinkle with garnish of choice, and promptly consume. Or wait until a deep-dish vegetable lasagna is finished getting all hot for ya.

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A cheese-less, noodle-less vegetable lasagna is constructed by layering eggplant, orange bell peppers, tomatoes, pesto and “tofu cream” in a deep pan. After alternating a sufficient number of layers to fill the pan, top it with some vegan mozzarella, bread crumbs, italian seasoning, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bake at 450 for 40 mins to achieve the following:

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I livened up the visuals of mine and added another layer of flavor with some fresh basil on top (to make it more italian?).

Altogether, I’m not sure I’ve ever consumed such a wide variety of vegetables in one dinner before. The flavors were so vibrant, fresh, unique and perfect for the season.

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The only way to follow up such a dinner of course, was with some apple crisp lovingly prepared by mom last night. She even specifically looked for a vegan recipe!

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We’re starting to understand each other.

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Bon appetit.

P.S. Tofu cream is made by food-processing some firm tofu with a 1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, some salt and pepper, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 Tbsp. sugar or sweetener and 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast. This is a delicious ricotta alternative, but can also be used as an excellent dip.