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giveaway winner!

17 Mar

Thanks for all of your wonderful comments on your favorite cakes. It certainly gave me a hankering for cake.

If you haven’t checked out the gorgeous cake tester’s by Beth, you need to do so now.

cake tester 2

The winner of the cake tester is Colleen from Forty Something Bride. Yay Colleen! See her comment below.

“My favourite cake is the gluten free carrot cake made at a local bakery. You’d never know it was gluten free – it tastes awesome! That is a beautiful cake tester – it would come in handy.”

Colleen, please email me your address and we’ll get the cake tester out the door this week. jenhjelle at hotmail dot com.  And while you’re at, you can send me a piece of that carrot cake. :)

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a brief guide to making friends as a vegan in a country of cheese

16 Mar

The following is a guest post from fellow vegan lent participant and my dear friend, Jon.

If you’re the kind of person who’s inclined to revel in the ridiculous, you likely have friends who are equally entertained by absurd undertakings. That’s why you and your friends are fun. You’ve also undoubtedly been so disposed for long enough to have a family who accepts your idiosyncrasies as essential to your character. You are you, and you are awesome. These are the things I tell myself to justify my role on this part of planet and it works pretty well. I’m generally content with myself, and provided I attempt to keep life choices on the better side of the balance, most people are content with me too. There are specific times, however, when family and friends are not quite my own and downward-inflected “Ohs” are a sure sign an observer does not share my propensity for good-natured, old-fashioned impulsiveness. Such rare occurrences typically transpire something like this:

JON: “I work from home.”

CRITIC: “That must be nice.”

JON: “Yeah, it’s a rare day when I wear pants to work.”

CRITIC: “Oh.” Dropping off to chirping crickets.

Self-imposed veganese could have gone either way, especially since an impromptu trip to the Netherlands put me on my Lenten diet in a land that was built on cheese and sausage. To their credit, dinner hosts and restaurant-venturing companions alike understood of my discretionary limitations. This is probably a result of a Dutch tradition of compromise. It’s been explained as a necessity when your country is no bigger than a postage stamp with almost no resources of your own. You hone negotiating skills for trade, which necessitates a degree of tolerance unknown on this side of the ocean. Anyway, many thanks to .NL residents for helping me through my first animal-less days. I don’t recall any “Ohs” … at least not resulting from my menu choices.

So what does a vegan eat in a country that prides itself on a heritage of dairy supremacy? Especially when menus are in a language that only a handful of people speak.

In this regard my eating habits have helped tremendously. I’m a nibbler throughout the day and typically sustain myself on a few handfuls of nuts and fruit. The trouble comes with the evening meal, when I fill myself to the gills. I therefore only needed to be overly concerned for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday. (Although my last minute travel plans neglected to include an airline meal request verification. Thankfully I was able to trade a mushy lump of lasagna for some sparse greens and a pasty cracker.)

It appears American cuisine is unique in its longevity. Where citizens of other countries typically enjoy fresh food, Americans are more inclined to consume food that’s chemically embalmed. There’s a certain pride in our resourcefulness … that we can outsmart nature with food that will never decompose. Have you ever gone into your cupboard and noticed a dusty box of indestructible sustenance and smiled when you realized – even though you can’t recall the day the box entered the darkness of your cupboard – the best-if-used-by-date is still several decades away. Well, people in other countries are not of that disposition and trying to describe it might render a few well-targeted “Ohs.” And it was nice to enjoy some simple dishes comprised mostly of vegetables and grains.

Wednesday dinner was at H’s very old friend’s home on the other side of the rivers … where people celebrate Carnival and dress like Smurfs and “Sexy Midgets.” Dinner was a delicious green coconut curry with rice and tofu. Rather than dusting off a box of Hamburger Helper, the Dutch have ingenious spice packets that measure the spices for favorite flavors. I believe it in my head to be a remnant of the spice trade, one thing the Dutch might have excelled at … what with their negotiation skills and all. The packages require cutting and mixing, but it’s remarkably easy to produce some very nutritious meals. And while it takes 30 seconds longer than instant mashed potatoes, the result is far superior. They also take no space in a suitcase … and you don’t need to be an expert at trade to get them through customs.

Thursday I made dinner with my future mother-in-law. It was protein deficient, but none the less tasty. Bulgur boiled in vegetable stock under stir-fried kale and onion under pan-roasted pine nuts.

Friday we were guests at a dinner party with some of Amsterdam’s most warm, inviting and genuinely beautiful-to-the-core people. I had a carrot soup that was ornately layered with flavor from potato to orange to ginger to cayenne. It was the best thing I’ve eaten as a vegan … the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks. The only things that would have made it better were the bacon bits and soft cheese that everyone but me raved about.

Saturday was our last night in .NL and we were able to spend a quiet dinner for three at a Moroccan deli. Aside from hints of saffron, which is too expensive for me to buy for home use, the only memorable item was a grilled artichoke that reminded me barbecue season is starting and I can’t eat meat (INSERT EXPLATIVE). At least I can try to replicate the artichoke. To the best my uneducated palate can discern, it was brushed with some sort of nut oil and fired until the insides turned to mush. It was extra nutty and really smoky … 33 days to perfect it.

Thanks again to everyone in the Netherlands for helping me though the first couple days. But more importantly, thank you for being you and being awesome.

current inspirations

14 Mar

Have you entered the giveaway? Ends tonight at 5 p.m.!

I’m all of 5 days into vegan lent. So far, I’m loving it. I haven’t had any “cravings” and I’m certainly not starving.

I have shared before my love of cookbooks. In case you need a recap…

I love cookbooks. I own a lot of them. I read them like novels.

You are now caught up.

I thought I’d share the cookbooks that are my inspiration and go-to’s for this vegan challenge.

Clean Food by Terry Waters

cleanfood

This is my newest cookbook and I can’t wait to make just about everything in it. All of the recipes are vegan, but she doesn’t call it a vegan cookbook. It’s really about great recipes made from whole foods that are good for you. Genius.

I recently sampled the coconut pecan cranberry balls (thanks Willa!) and they made the best post-run snack.

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

SNC

Heidi is the author of one of my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks. This is her first cookbook and she has a second one coming out next month that I’ve already pre-ordered. I’ve never been disappointed with her recipes. Seriously, they’ve all been fantastic. This cookbook has both vegetarian and vegan options. I’m only bummed I didn’t order it sooner!

Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

Moosewood

This has been a favorite of mine for awhile. I’ve made a lot of great recipes from this book. Most recently the Spanish Stew with Romesco Sauce. Talk about making vegan sound sexy!  There are many other winning recipes in here.

Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero

veganomicon

I don’t make nearly as many recipes in here as I’d hoped because many of them tend to be complicated. However, there are many gems and when I have more time, I love diving into this one. I’ve featured a couple recipes from the book here: chickpea cutlets and the cashew pineapple quinoa stir-fry. Both are family favorites. This cookbook is also a really fun read as the authors have a great sense of humor.

What are you reading? What cookbook inspires you?

my favorite carrot cake (and a giveaway!)

11 Mar

I have laryngitis.

For real. I cannot make a sound. All I can do is whisper. Brette thinks it’s hysterical. The dog is a bit wigged out. I’m annoyed. I’ve had to reschedule a number of meetings. That’s not really the annoying part though. The annoying part is that I love to talk and I can’t!

Along with the laryngitis is a super weird cold that can’t make up it’s mind. Congestion, headache, sneezing, and some general fatigue have all made an appearance.

Brette hasn’t been feeling well either so it’s pretty rockin’ at our house lately.

Oh, and I went vegan for lent. So no chicken noodle soup to cheer me up.

I do know what will cheer me up though….writing about cake and a giveaway!

I received an awesome gift in the mail from my friend (and my sister’s bff), Diane.  Diane is one of those people that you just love immediately. She has 6 kids (sainthood!), has about 38 different businesses, is one of the most creative people I’ve met, throws a mean Halloween party, and keeps my sister in line. Therefore,  I consider her family.  The fact that there was a package from her in my mailbox was all to exciting! I love getting mail and I love it more when it’s a package with something beautiful inside.

Diane’s daughter Beth is very talented and creative (the apple does not fall far) and has created these beautiful cake testers. I fell in love with it instantly. She even sent me one that matches my kitchen – sweet!

What’s even sweeter? Beth offered to give one of these testers away to a lucky reader. How awesome is that?

It seriously is adorable and I love the charm on the top that says ‘hand made with love’. Since cakes should be made with love, this seems to be a perfect match. They are simply beautiful.

She has a few different varieties on her site that you need to check out. I think these would make great mother’s day gifts, housewarming gifts, or certainly an anytime gift to a baker.

The best part of getting this in the mail was it meant that I HAD to bake a cake. I certainly had to test the product, right? It’s for research. I had to.

I put a call out on facebook for people’s favorite cake and it was pretty overwhelmingly red velvet.  I was set to go with that, but then two things happened.

1. A friend reminded me of the carrot cake Brette made on Easter last year to celebrate the end of no sugar. It was incredibly awesome. (thanks for the reminder Steff!)

2. We were invited to Willa’s for dinner, it happened to be within two days of her birthday, and her favorite cake is carrot cake.

So, carrot cake it was.

Between Brette and I, there have been several tweaks to this recipe. Here are a few things you should know about it.

  • There are no raisins or pineapple in this cake – I’m a purist. Only carrots and nuts allowed.
  • This cake is not a health food.
  • This cake is not vegan. It’s not gluten-free. It’s not lactose-free. It’s not really anything-free.
  • This cake is so good. It’s not to dense, it’s incredibly moist (I cringed typing that), and the flavor is perfect with the warm spices, sweet carrots, and the nuttiness of the pecans. Carrot cake is my absolute favorite and this version is the best I’ve had. And I’ve had a lot.

I put the cake tester to work and ya know what? It worked great and it was way more fun to use than a toothpick. I’ve never felt so stylin’ in my kitchen. It makes me want to bake even more. This could be dangerous.

Carrot Cake

serves 10-16 depending on how generous you are with the portions

Adapted from allrecipes.com.

Note: You can make this in either 2, 9-inch round pans or a 9×13 pan.

For the cake:

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup coconut oil (or substitute more veg oil or you probably could go just 1 1/4 cup coconut oil if you were feeling crazy)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups grated carrots (a food processor or box grater work the best)

1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter (or spray) and flour your pan(s) of choice.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add into the wet ingredients, but don’t over mix.

Stir in carrots and then fold in 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 25-30 minutes for round pans and 40-50 minutes for 9×13 pan, rotating the pan(s) halfway through.  Test with your cake tester and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until mixture is smooth and creamy. It takes a little bit for it all to come together so be patient. Frost the cooled cake and sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans. I frosted each layer and then around the the sides. I had just enough frosting. Okay, so I had a little bit left that I used as a filling for a graham cracker sandwich. I hate to see anything go to waste.

So, for the giveaway! Beth is giving away the design below. It’s gorgeous and sparkly and will make cake baking all that more exciting.

cake tester 1

To be eligible to win this beautiful cake tester, you can enter a number of ways (and each way if you’d like).

1. Leave a comment with your favorite cake.

2. Follow me on Twitter (and leave a comment that you did so).

3. Tweet about the giveaway and let me know you did: @jensaidso is having a sweet cake tester giveaway at http://wp.me/ptYgB-T!

The contest will remain open until Monday (3/14) at 5 p.m.  I will pick a winner at random.

In the meantime, check out Beth’s site to see all of the other beautiful designs.

Oh, and make the carrot cake while you’re at it.

Meal Swapping

10 Mar

Note: This post is by Featured Contributor, Liza.

So a few months ago there was an article in the Star Tribune about meal swapping here.

My good friend Heather Clark emailed me and said we should get a group together to do this.

I thought it was a great idea but had numerous questions.  My family tries to eat consciously.  We shop at the coop, we buy organic produce and dairy when possible, and most importantly my son has a peanut allergy.  Would I be a diva to ask the group to respect some of my food priorities?  Heather came up with the great idea of surveying everyone interested to see if our priorities aligned and they did!

There are seven of us in the group, most of us have small children or travel a lot for work which means having several meals ready to thaw in the freezer is awesome.  Basically we cook one dish for six people and get six meals in return.

We met for the first time in November to discuss how we should structure the group, how often we should meet, discussing menu ideas, spice tolerances, etc.  We settled on meeting every other month and agreed that about three weeks before a swap we would email our meal suggestion to the group so we would make sure we didn’t have seven pasta dishes or too many repeats.  I had suggested that we all purchase the same dishes to prepare our meals in so we wouldn’t have to keep track of whose containers were whose.

We agreed to meet in December and would be swapping soup and ½ dozen Christmas cookies.  Due to a snowstorm (shocker this winter right?) we were unable to meet but ended up dividing and conquering our deliveries and the goods received were great!

In February, on Super Bowl Sunday, we met again (well in advance of the game).  This time the menu included; Indian Curry, Empanadas, Egg Bake, Squash and Sage Ravioli, Meatballs, Stuffed Shells and Chicken Pesto Calzones.

So far it has been wildly successful!  We are all loving trying different dishes and having ready to thaw meals at our fingertips.  As we move into warmer months we have talked about having one person make something that is fresh and ready to eat like a pasta or tuna salad that we can consume right away just to add some variety.

So do any of you swap?  What are your favorite meals to make ahead and freeze?

I promise next time we meet as a group to snap a picture so you can see all of these lovely ladies.

vegan for 40

9 Mar

Today is a big day. Today begins the vegan lent challenge.

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I do some type of challenge for lent. Not because I’m a super religious person, but because I think it’s a fun way to try out new things. Last year was sugar-free lent. That was certainly a challenge. It was during last year’s crazy 40 days that Meghan floated the idea of vegan lent for 2011. I loved it. I cannot believe it’s already here!

For the next 40 days, I will not be eating any thing that comes from an animal. No meat, no fish, no eggs, no cheese,no yogurt, no milk, no honey, no fish sauce…you get the idea. I’m applying this challenge to food only. I’m not going to be putting aside my leather boots or looking at every single personal product I own. Food is a big enough challenge.

I recruited some friends to do it with me. Two of them you’ve met, Meghan (it was her idea…duh) and Willa. I also have an east-coast correspondent and male perspective in my buddy Jon.

I’m thrilled that I could persuade all three of them to join me in this challenge. You’ll be hearing from one of us each week on how things are going and what challenges we are facing.

To start, each of us have put together our thoughts, concerns and excitements about this challenge below.

Name: Jen

Current food philosophy:

I believe in good food. Real food. That’s about it. I don’t have a label for myself. I don’t eat a lot of meat and the meat I do eat, I’m picky about. I want to know where it comes from. I am not a fan of processed food and would like to be able to educate people on how easy it is to put together meals that don’t come from boxes. I don’t eat out a lot and when I do, I like to frequent local establishments that are also picky about the quality of their food.

I think what we eat is one of the most important factors in our health and that it is the most powerful tool we have to prevent chronic disease. No joke.

I don’t expect any of the above to change over the next 40 days….well except the part about meat since there obviously won’t be any of that.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

After going vegetarian for the summer, I was intrigued if I could take it a step further. Meghan’s idea of trying it for lent was brilliant. I can do anything for 40 days.I’m super curious if I will feel a significant change in my energy and weight. I’m also wondering how it will affect my training for the half marathon. I also hope to expand my repertoire of vegan recipes and develop some of my own along the way.

What are you going to miss the most?

Yogurt. I eat it every day and love it so much! I will also miss runny eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Fat Tuesday has been more like Fat week! I definitely had a case of “oh my god, I must eat this before lent or I’ll surely shrivel up and die”. The actual last meal was on Monday and it was thanks to Willa. It included Mexican pulled pork, black beans, arepas with butter and my addition, the carrot cake. Fat Tuesday I found myself at home with a cold, so none of the food I ate was worth writing about…except the carrot cake for dinner. :)

Is your significant other supportive?

Yes. He calls himself a vegan by association. Translation: he’ll continue to eat whatever I make here at home, but reserves the right to eat a burger when he goes out for lunch.

What are you most nervous about?

I’m more excited than nervous. I found myself wanting vegan lent to hurry up and get here already. I think the biggest challenge is going to be eating out and being in social situations where I’m not in charge of the food. I don’t want to be that gal that always has special food requests, but at the same time, I’m determined to experience this full boar and make it the whole 40 days. So….I might just have to be that gal. Or at least that gal that always has a LaraBar and a bag of almonds in her purse.

Name: Willa

Current food philosophy:

In Michael Pollan’s words, “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” I have a tiered food philosophy that I do my best to adhere to: 1) Eat real food, not “food-like” products; 2) Eat local; and 3) Eat organic.

It may sound cliché but I love good food.  I also love to cook good food.  I was a vegetarian for 10+ years but now I eat meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. I pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. This is so important, especially when training for a big event such as a half marathon.

Why are you participating in vegan lent?

I am always up for a challenge and am thrilled to have been invited to participate.

As a dedicated follower of the No Meat Athlete blog and having recently read the book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier, I am really curious about the impact that being vegan will have on my training.

On the heels of watching Oprah’s vegan challenge episode, I admit that I am also curious about what impact, if any, eating a vegan diet will have on my weight. I will be eating out far less than I have been lately, so that alone should lead to looser clothes and a heavier wallet.

What are you going to miss the most?

I am going to miss cheese, sushi, and eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Um, what haven’t I eaten during these last two weeks? Arnoldo and I dined at Travail where we ate a wide array of meat and tons of butter. We polished off Spanish chorizo sautéed with garbanzos and spinach, topped with a hearty drizzle of olive oil. I accompanied Jen to the Cheese monger in St. Paul and purchased an out of this world sandwich with delectable meats and goat cheese. I enjoyed my favorite Oaxaca tamale at La Loma. Sushi made an appearance along with a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting at my pal’s birthday party. We relished chicken, pork, yucca, fried plantains, and plenty of wine at Brasa for my birthday. And, last but definitely not least, I made Cochinita Pibil (recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless) and served it with black beans, arepas, avocado, salsa, and cheese. A final homage to two of my favorite cuisines: Mexican and Venezuelan.

Is your significant other supportive?

My husband is always 110% supportive of everything that I do. I am not asking him to be vegan; he can eat anything that his heart desires.

What are you most nervous about?

I am not nervous, per se, but I know that social events and eating out will be challenging in new ways. I don’t plan on eating out very often.  I am wholeheartedly against processed foods and plan on avoiding vegan convenience foods too.

Name: Jon
Current food philosophy:
My yearnings for food typically stem from its necessity as means to survival. If it satisfies hunger and is edible, it is food. The reasons to eat are, therefore, typically void of emotion, determined by logic and prescribed by a basic instinct to consume nutrients through my mouth hole. Food is. As such, labels like “foodie,” “gourmand,” or “impassioned eater” likely will never be placed upon me, but always the inquisitivist, I can explore food as the thing of philosophic discovery and value it as each sense appreciates the object of its purpose. Of food, we know its natural qualities are the product of billions of evolutionary years, the result of natural selection and/or genetic engineering. The physical qualities of food, which systematically or randomly privilege and subvert themselves, guarantee natural or artificial reproduction for human biological and social normalcy. The taste sensations we experience are direct protections against poisonous food and a means to observe, evaluate and give preference to foods more adept in supporting the continuation of our species. Likewise, social convention tends to privilege or subvert foods consistent with social norms; for example, eating dog burgers is rarely customary in Western society but fermented cabbage is perfectly acceptable as a complement to hot dogs. Therefore the context in which food is consumed merits equal value in the assessment of its worthiness in the pool of all that is edible. But, we are bound, as we always are, by language and its limits in order to define our experience with food, which brings its own set of irreconcilable issues. Therefore I’m content to describe food as critics tend to comparatively dissect works of art and creativity — that is in terms of mood, color, contrast and texture. That’s enough philosophy for one paragraph.
Why are you participating in vegan lent?
Aside from Jen’s asking, the occasion affords the opportunity to suffer, a practice I’ve perfected. It also gives me the chance to try some new things, specifically thinking creatively about flavors that cannot be achieved or supported with animal fat. I think mostly about practicing my sauce-making skill since I have none, and it’s something that will be useful long after this exercise in self-denial has concluded. And at present and in general, I’m a bit unexcited by life and expect vegan lent to figuratively and literally spice things up.
What are you going to miss the most?
We do not eat much meat in our household. Because meat production is not particularly good for the environment or balancing the human condition, but because Sunday barbecues are the source of much pleasure, we’ve chosen to confine meat consumption to weekends. It has reduced our meat-production-related impact on the environment by 60 percent. It also means we can more enjoy glistening, fire-charred and smoked animal with narrowed guilt and can be flexible if a sudden craving for bacon overcomes us during the week. For the most part we consider ourselves vegetarian from Monday to Friday but there are some staples for which I now must find substitutes. Items typically OK in a vegetarian diet but pooh-poohed by vegans, my routine favorites are cheese, butter and egg. Until recently, I didn’t realize the extent to which these items pervaded my diet … but it’s only 40 days.
What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?
Since we are traveling and since today I start a diet of dust and crackers, I felt justified in suspending my weekday vegetarianism. On Monday, Henriët’s mom treated us to traditional rustic Dutch fare. Pre-dinner, I slid two greasy kroketten — deep-fried lengths of spiced meat paste — down my throat.
As an entree, I learned a few new Dutch words, which I’ll undoubtedly forget before we get back to H-burg: biefstuk met gebakken ui en champignons (steak with fried onion and messrooms).
Is your significant other supportive?
Henriët is usually supportive of my experimental ventures, provided they don’t cause me harm or impinge upon our relationship. As an indirect participant in this experiment, I suspect she’s averse to some of veganism’s restrictions (the Dutch are an exceptionally lactose tolerant bunch given a dairy-product cultural privilege, and there is usually a firm supply of cheese and yogurt in our refrigerator). As the sometimes recipient of my short-term culinary pursuits, I’m sure she’s equally thrilled to enjoy my successes and roll her eyes at my failures.
What are you most nervous about?
Starving to death is at the top of my list. I’m also suspect of my ability to find vegan cuisine in the Netherlands and on my return flight with AirFrance. But I’ll be back in Harrisburg Sunday and reading ingredients on labels will simplify this endeavor greatly. Lastly, I’m nervous to offend dinner hosts who are inconvenienced by my temporary choice of diet. Let’s hope they understand. I wish I did.

Name: Meghan

I am literally watching “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bacon” on Food Network while writing this. Ha!

Current food philosophy:

Vegetarian since 1994.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

Ever since I became a vegetarian I’ve struggled with not just going whole hog – did I just say that? Gross! Ethically speaking veganism aligns very well with the way I try to live my life yet somehow I just never made the leap.

Jen and I started talking about this over a year ago during sugar free lent and I am excited that the time has come. My body also does this weird thing about once a year… something just goes off that says I should avoid dairy. I’ve never listened and instead said things to my friends like, “yeah, my body is telling me to stop eating dairy and I consider it… then I have an ice cream cone.” So now my body is craving a little vegan time and it’s finally gonna get it. Woot!

What are you going to miss the most?

Huevos Rancheros

I eat eggs like it is my job. I love them like Jen loves yogurt. They are so quick, so easy, so yummy. Huevos rancheros are hands down my favorite brunch selection.

I hear you judging. You are thinking mustard? Seriously Meghan? Trader Joes mustard? You can’t be serious. Oh but I am. I eat it on pert near everything. Have you ever tried this stuff? It is incredible. I would tell you to try it, but that wouldn’t be very vegan of me as it has eggs in it.

mmmmmmm…. BRIE!

Many, many, many a night T-Dogg and I make a meal of this and only this. With a lil olive tapenade, aforementioned mustard and vino. As a matter of fact for years I had no idea that most cheeses aren’t actually vegetarian. True story – rennet=cow stomach. Believe it. Luckily, many places now carry cheese made with vegetable or microbial rennet resulting in this girl gettin’ her cheese on.

And of course, my non-vegan life wouldn’t be complete without a big slice of heaven every once in a while…

Tres Leches!

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Broders Italian. Plain. Simple. Delicious and decidedly not vegan. I am an East Coast girl after all.

Is your significant other supportive?

Like whoa. He rules. If you haven’t met T-dogg, you should. He makes the world a better place just by waking up. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth too. It’s okay.

What are you most nervous about?

Honestly, I am excited. Food is a main focus in my life. If I am not cooking I’m usually thinking about what I want to cook, where my food comes from and what it will do to or for my body. I travel to experience food. I like to see friends and family too I suppose, but the first thing I think about after I book my ticket is where I will eat. Most often, food is the way I experience the culture I am in. The funniest thing is I feel as a vegetarian there are so many options so now I am curious as to how it will feel as a vegan.

I gave up cow dairy two months ago. You here all these people praising the gospel about how much more energy they have and blah, blah, blah. Well kids I must say – for my body it is the truth. My energy levels sky rocketed and my head just felt so much clearer. Side note – I’ve consumed copious amounts of dairy in this last week as my splurge and while I’ve enjoyed every single bite I feel awfully sluggish again.

Cheers to an awesome 40+ days kids… are you doing anything special?

So, what do you think? Are we crazy? Anyone else want to join us? Are you giving up something different?

nutty granola

8 Mar

I have talked about Brette’s love of granola before, but let me sum up.

He eats granola every morning for breakfast and then sometimes as a snack. He loves it. It trumps the Raisin Bran that he ate for breakfast for the 10 years prior to granola.  I make granola every weekend (and always a double batch) for him and I love knowing he’s getting the good stuff. Plus, I love having it around for a sprinkle on my yogurt and of course, a few pieces right out of the oven.

I’ve posted two different recipes for granola here; the summer version (no oven necessary) and the winter version. The winter has been the mainstay for awhile, but I try something new for fun every once in awhile. Usually Brette tells me, “it’s good, but not as good as the other (winter) stuff”.

Until now. I’ve been playing around with Alton Brown’s granola for the past few weeks and now have a version that Brette loves just as much (if not more) than the winter version. This granola is a bit nuttier than other versions and I even cut back on some of the nuts. The coconut adds a nice texture and it has just the right level of sweetness. Plus, it’s vegan!

Nutty Granola

adapted from Alton Brown

Makes about 5 cups and is very easy to double.

Notes: This recipe begs to be altered. I used a different nut and fruit each time I made it, including macadamia, pecans, walnuts, almonds (chopped, sliced and slivered), cashews and combinations of all of them. Use your favorites.

The brown rice syrup gives it a little bit of that clump factor, which I love. However, if you don’t have it or can’t find it, you can substitute more maple syrup. I have found it at both Whole Foods and my local co-op.

Alton’s version measures everything in ounces, which makes it super easy to do in one bowl without measuring cups. However, I know the majority of people don’t have a kitchen scale, so I converted into cups.

2 cups rolled oats

1 3/4 cups chopped nuts

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded – whatever you can find)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup canola oil (could substitute coconut or vegetable oil)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup dried fruit (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Mix oats through salt in a large bowl.

Combine oil, and both syrups. You may need to heat up the brown rice syrup a bit to stir with the others. Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine.  Spread out on a baking sheet ( no need to spray).
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Transfer granola to a large bowl and let cool for 30 minutes.  Mix in dried fruit. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

Our double batch doesn’t last a week thanks to my ultra metabolic machine of a husband.