Much Ado About Cheese

product-cheddar-us_2Ah, cheese…For many, this is the final frontier in the transition into veganism. As someone who used to eat cheese for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, trust me when I say I understand. Finding an acceptable substitute can be daunting (and expensive!) as you try product after product. One is too wet, another is too crumbly, one won’t melt (well, most won’t melt if truth be told), and another seems to melt straight into a liquid. The experiments go on and on. Continue reading “Much Ado About Cheese”

Veganism 101

VeganA friend of mine has decided to go vegan beginning today and in honor of this awesome decision I’m dedicating a section of this blog to any and all questions about starting out on this journey. I’m no expert, but if you’d like advice on what the best cheese substitute might be, how to use flaxseed or how to survive your first Thanksgiving, I’m happy to help!

Leave your questions in the comment section below and let’s get this party started!!!

Meet our little Squid!

IMG_1983You’ll have to forgive my blogging absence- I have a very good excuse! On November 19, 2012 at 10:26am my husband and I welcomed our little boy, Cedric, into the world. Weighing in at almost 9 lbs, all of the fears voiced by others about veganism causing our baby to fail to thrive were put to rest. By the time he left the hospital he had regained his birth weight (babies will lose weight immediately after birth and then regain it slowly) and by the time he was one month old he was weighing in at nearly 11 lbs! He is the healthiest, happiest little boy I could ever wish for. Continue reading “Meet our little Squid!”

Protein Superfood: Chickpeas!

chickpeasI don’t know about you, but I seriously love me some chickpeas! Also known as garbanzo beans (but not nearly as cute of a name), chickpeas are an incredibly versatile, protein-packed little wonder. One 1/2 cup serving of chickpeas contains around 7 grams of protein! Considering that I consume them in everything from hummus, to pasta, to salads, I don’t tend to have any problems packing in at least a cup a day. Then again, I think I may be a bit of a chickpea junkie… Continue reading “Protein Superfood: Chickpeas!”

Two posts for the price of one!

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Tonight I would like to talk about one of my all-time favorite foods: tempeh! Tempeh is usually found in your supermarket as a beautiful little rectangle of fermented soybean goodness. Like it’s big brother Tofu, Tempeh packs a great nutritional punch when it comes to protein (4 oz cooked equals almost half of your daily protein requirements!) and it does an incredible job of absorbing any flavor you throw at it. Unlike tofu, it tends to bring it’s own flavor profile to the table, adding a slightly nutty undertone to any dish it’s added to.

Since I owe you all one post on protein superfoods and another on freezer meals I thought I would combine them together with an easy recipe that you can all enjoy at home. For those who have never had the pleasure, I would like to formally introduce you to a personal friend of mine: tempeh taco meat!

ImageI know I’m not the best photographer, but trust me when I say that, regardless of looks, this is the easiest (and most delicious) substitute for taco meat that you’ll find out there! Did I mention how easy it is? Try this “recipe” on for size:

1. Drizzle a little olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Don’t go crazy here- just enough to lightly coat the bottom of your pan when you swirl it around.

2. Tear open one package of tempeh (Disclaimer: since soy tends to be so heavily modified in the United States please, please, please try to buy organic tempeh! I don’t want anyone eating pesticides on my behalf…).

3. Crumble the tempeh into the skillet using your hands. Remember that you’re aiming for it to look like a ground beef so you want some texture but overall a nice small crumble.

4. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the tempeh starts to brown a bit.

5. Add 1 tablespoon of tamari and 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning. (I make my own but feel free to use the good old-fashioned store brand if that’s what you have or try this recipe on for size!)

6. Stir thoroughly and enjoy on warm tortillas!

That’s it! As an added perk, this freezes beautifully so feel free to take part (or all) of it and freeze for one of those lazy days when you need dinner to be as effortless as humanly possible.

Now it’s your turn! In the coming weeks I am going to be stocking my freezer with as many delicious meals as possible in anticipation of little Squid’s arrival. Any favorite recipes out there for feeding the vegan freezer?

Preparing for More VeganMoFo Madness…

With in-laws visiting and work keeping me overtime it seems I’ve already fallen a bit behind in my VeganMoFo-ing! To try and make up for this I have posted a picture of my cat, Poseidon. Kitty pictures seem to make everything better…As of tomorrow I am back on the wagon again with a post on one of my favorite protein superfoods (you’ll have to tune in to see what it is!) and a recipe for a post-partum freezer meal based on this luscious little beauty. It’s like two posts for the price of one!

Next week is shaping up to be another busy, busy time in the life of our family (we move next Tuesday- eek!) but that only serves to motivate me more when it comes to planning out my blog. I’m not entirely positive whether this will help me to stay focused or completely intimidate me (I am new to this, please remember) but I’m going to give it a whirl and see what happens! I hope you are as excited as I am!

Monday: Baby bump pic! (plus you’ll get to learn what food Squid is now being compared to! Oh, BabyCenter…)

Tuesday: Calcium Superfood: Kale!

Wednesday: Iron Superfood: Lentils!

Thursday: Protein Superfood: Chickpeas!

Friday: Blog Planning

Saturday: Freezer Meals: Punjabi Chickpea Curry (courtesy of my awesome husband!)

If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see, or topics you’d like me to cover, please let me know! I’m always more than happy to accomodate 😉

Iron Superfood: Blackstrap Molasses!

You may not know this, but during pregnancy the amount of blood in your body increases to almost 50% more than usual! As more blood is made, more hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells) is needed, and iron is absolutely essential for this purpose. Iron deficiency, or anemia, is not uncommon during pregnancy, whether you are vegan or an omnivore.

While I supplement my iron through my daily prenatal vitamin (as recommended by my doctor), I also like to make sure that I’m eating plenty of iron-rich foods to keep little Squid and myself happy and healthy. One of the surprising foods that have entered my life, thanks to this pregnancy, is blackstrap molasses!

Blackstrap molasses is the dark liquid byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. It is a concentrated byproduct of sugar and, therefore, it has a very, very intense taste! I find that people tend to either love the smoky, bittersweet taste implicit in dishes like baked beans and gingerbread, or (like me) they find it too intense to handle. I was a self-confessed molasses hater at first but, with advice from books like “Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide” I decided that it’s health benefits were just too numerous to pass up. A meager 2 teaspoons a day provides you with 13.3% of your daily recommended value for iron AND 11.8% of your daily recommended value of calcium! Hot damn!

Well, of course, I jumped face-first into Team Molasses, adding it to my cereal, cookies, pancakes, coffee, you name it! Hell, I even tried eating it straight off the spoon! I. Do. Not. Recommend. This.

Instead, try starting by stirring it into your oatmeal (it tastes like Fall!) or adding it to warm non-dairy milk for a yummy chai-like steamer. Or, if you’re feeling very feisty, try this incredible gingerbread smoothie! The name alone makes it worth it 😉

Any other favorite ways of enjoying molasses out there? I’m definitely open for suggestions!

Calcium Superfood: Collards!

All of us have heard how important calcium is to build strong teeth and bones but did you know that calcium also allows blood to clot normally, muscles and nerves to function properly and the heart to beat at a healthy rate? Making sure you get enough calcium is critical for everyone, but it is especially crucial during pregnancy. The average pregnant woman needs 1000-1200 milligrams per day of calcium to maintain a healthy pregnancy and most pre-natals provide only a tiny portion of that amount. So what’s a girl to do when it comes to calcium? Eat, of course!

For those of us who aren’t into dairy products this only takes a little thinking outside of the box to make sure we’re getting everything we need to grow a healthy baby. For example, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to our power family of the month: the cabbage. This family has lots of all-stars in its midsts: kale, collard greens, broccoli, bok choy…the list goes on and on! Today I wanted to talk about one of my personal favorites (and a long-time bench warmer for those of us not blessed enough to be living in the South), collard greens.

According to this report from the Harvard School of Public Health, 1 cup of collard greens contains 357 milligrams of calcium, as opposed to 1 cup of skim milk which contains 306. Plus, the calcium in collards is very easy for the body to absorb, as opposed to some greens like spinach which contain oxalic acid (an acid which interferes with the body’s absorption of calcium). In addition, collards contain a lot of Vitamin K which, in combination with calcium, is crucial for bone health.

My favorite way to consume collards has always been as a substitute for wraps. If you need a tutorial (God knows I did!) check out this link. My only problem with this method is that, at best, I can only eat about 3-4 large collard leaves (quick tip: consider shredding up additional leaves and putting them inside your wraps instead of lettuce) whereas if I cook them I can easily eat a cup or two in any one sitting. I don’t usually advocate cooked food over raw but there are cases in which it pays to take advantage of the magical ability of greens to shrink down when they cook 😉

For my favorite cooked collard green recipe check out “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by Bryant Terry! Don’t let the raisins and orange juice throw you off- this recipe is amazing! For an extra treat, Bryant also has a recipe which turns the often discarded stems of the collards into a beautiful collard confetti! For those of us who hate waste it is definitely worth checking out!

Tomorrow’s post will be dealing with iron-rich foods so definitely stay tuned! In the meantime. let’s talk collards! Anyone else out there have a favorite recipe or cooking technique they’d like to share?

Week 33

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33 weeks!

Today little Squid and I are officially 33 weeks along! According to Babycenter (an absolutely reliable source, I assure you) he should be approximately the size of a pineapple, or 4 pounds. Little do they know that according to the ultrasound he’s already passed that milestone and is heading into 5 pound territory! It is absolutely amazing to me how time has seemed to creep by at a snails pace all these months only to start zooming by now! I have so much to do before our little guy arrives!!! Step one is figuring out what to do with 4 pounds of pineapple…

This brings us to our tip of the day! If you’re like me, you’re endlessly frustrated by the wastefulness of cutting pineapple fresh. What in the world are you supposed to do with that chewy, tough core that seems to make up way too much of your delicious pineapply bounty?

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned along the way:

1. Cut the core into chunks and put them in the freezer. When you reach to make yourself a glass of water (or 10, of you’re pregnant) try throwing a couple of pineapple cubes in there instead of ice cubes! Absolutely delicious and a great way to shake up your daily requirement of water.

2. Throw that beauty into a marinade! Add some pressed tofu and you have yourself a fantastic feast!

3. Pineapple core is a great addition to smoothies! Pair with coconut milk and a frozen banana and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in the tropics. Trust me.

So now that we know what to do with the core the question is what to do with the rest of the pineapple? What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy this most magical fruit?

VeganMoFo!!!

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Well, ladies and gentlemen, after years of missing the deadline I have finally managed to sign up for VeganMoFo! For those who don’t know what it is, I have committed to writing 5 blog posts (pertaining to vegan food) each week for the entire month of October. Since I am in the midst of my last trimester I thought I would focus my theme on vegan pregnancy. Go figure, right?

This is the plan:

Mondays: Baby bump pics/preggo posts

Tuesdays: Calcium-rich foods

Wednesdays: Iron-rich foods

Thursdays: Protein-rich foods

Fridays: Meal-planning (or possibly Blog-Planning)

Saturdays: Freezer meals

Sundays: REST!

The reason I chose to focus on specific nutrients (something I usually oppose) is that those three seem to be the ones people are most concerned about when it comes to a healthy vegan pregnancy. I’m no dietician (so please don’t sue me) but I do want to point out some sources (and recipes!) that can help pregnant women, vegan or not, meet their daily requirement. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be, but it does take a bit of conscious effort (as all good things should). I’m also using this as an excuse to stock my freezer before little Squid’s arrival. Something I’ve desperately been meaning to do but simply haven’t found time for.

So that’s the plan! I’m a little nervous, it’s a big commitment, but I’m also completely stoked. I hope you’ll follow along!