Q&A and training with Seattle’s vegan trainer Ben Greene

Are you active, vegan, a Seattle dweller and striving for optimal health in all areas of your life? Take heart, you’re not alone. More and more people are realizing that diet alone isn’t enough, and we vegans know how much we love our indulgences. Thankfully, there are now individuals in the city who can help you achieve your health/fitness goals, and I’m happy to know one of them.

Ben BerlinMeet Ben Greene. Seattleite, vegan and badass Ironman Athlete, co-author of The Vegan Athlete and the owner of Greene Multisport.

An impressive resume, right?

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Vegan Cuts Snack Box review: February 2013

Vegan Cuts Snack Box Feb 2013Who’s vegan and loves snacks? This gal! When I saw that Vegan Cuts was looking for bloggers to review their new monthly Snack Box subscriptions, I jumped at the chance, and was quickly emailed back saying that a box would be on its way to me shortly. Next, I pumped a fist.

I was already am a big fan of Vegan Cuts’ daily deal-type site where you can buy new vegan products at a discount and support an all-vegan company. I first heard of the website at Vida Vegan Con 2011 before the site was up, so now I look forward to their daily emails announcing cool new products that I can check out via their well-designed site.

The Snack Box idea just takes things to a new level, though.

I love to try new things, and am always grabbing new brands of kale chips, dark chocolate, weird chia seed drinks, etc. at the grocery store, so this kind of service was tailor-made for me. Having it come to your doorstep every month is another way to try new vegan items every month and to find new go-to snack staples with absolutely zero effort all for $19.95 (shipping included). The American dream, right?

Vegan Cuts Snack Box contents Feb 2013Without further ado, here’s my review of the February 2013 Vegan Cuts Snack Box:

Simply7 Lentil chips – Sea Salt flavor: There were the first thing I tried out the box, and I deemed them delicious. Slightly salty, very crunchy, and a good quick snack, these lentil-based chips are intriguing. I’ve had lentil and bean chips before and loved them, but these were a little odd in terms of texture. I would compare it to air-puffed Pirate’s Booty, and I enjoyed these.

Sjaak’s Heart of Cherry: I. love. Sjaak’s. chocolates. Every time I stop at Vegan Haven or Food Fight in Portland, I have to grab a handful of their perfect, bite-size chocolates, (generally the peanut butter or hazelnut butter bites). They’re seriously a glorious gift to vegans. Initially this Valentine’s Day-themed chocolate confused me and I thought it was a vegan cherry cordial, but thankfully it wasn’t. Instead it was a chocolate filled with creamy cherry truffle, and the combo worked smoothly.

Surf Sweets Fruity Hearts: Yum! I was a big gummy candy fan pre-veganism, so these were a welcome sight. The boyfriend and I dug into them quickly after I devoured the lentil chips, and both enjoyed these. Sugary sweet, I could see these being a great late night study session companion.

Merry Hempsters Lip Balm in Spearmint: There are so many vegan lip balm brands out there that I still haven’t tried them all, and Merry Hempsters was among one of those brands. This balm is classic spearmint, went on smooth and kept my lips chap-free all day. I love this practical, everyday addition to the box.

Righteously Raw Chocolate – Low Glycemic Antioxidant Rich 82% Raw Cacao, Divine Mint flavor: My taste buds didn’t react well to these, likely because I’m used to full-on dark chocolate, sugar and all. If you’re on a mission to eat less sugar or try and curb it out of your diet I would suggest this as a great option, but if that’s not the case, I wouldn’t automatically reach for these.

Dang

Dang Foods Coconut Chips: Soooo dang good! As I mentioned via Instagram, I am not a huge coconut fan (I use coconut milk and eat coconut milk ice cream, but straight coconut and flakes are too much for me), but I love certain coconutty things, and these chips were the bomb. I actually still have some left that I’ve been squirreling away to top on just the right snack. I keep eating them by the handful, but I think they’d be perfect on top of ice cream, yogurt, in granola/dry cereal or on oatmeal. I think these are officially my favorite out of the entire box.

Budi Bar, Star Chai flavor: I couldn’t eat this to try because I’m not a star anise fan. So this is my boyfriend’s review: “Very nutty. There’s bits of dark chocolate, so if you like very dark chocolate you’d enjoy this. It left me with a smoky aftertaste.” His overall impression was that he wouldn’t grab this given the choice, but I would be all over trying out other flavors of these bars because I liked the not too moist, not too dry consistency of them.

PureFit Nutrition Bars – Peanut Butter Toffee Crunch flavor: I was also not a fan of the texture of this bar and could tell that it was heavily processed by looking at it. It reminded me of the protein bars I ate pre-veganism, but I liked it. I didn’t taste the toffee crunch flavor, but this peanut butter loving lady was into it post gym-session. Lots of protein and it makes a good hearty snack if you’re on the go.

Serengeti Ticolino Tea: Full disclosure, I have yet to try these, but I can’t wait to! They seem like a really neat idea. They’re tea sticks which eliminate the need to squeeze a bag when tea has steeped long enough and also allow for easy stirring. Nifty, clean and convenient, these would be perfect for work or travel. I got Jasmine (my fave!), Earl Grey and Chamomile, so I’m eager to give them a whirl.

The last item in the box that I also have yet to try is a free online Vegan Cooking School Course, valued at $97. This expires in May of this year though, so I’ll be trying it out soon and reviewing it here.

Overall some hits and some misses, but the hits swung it out of the park and were true homers. I loved seeing this box at my door at the end of a work day and digging into all the new vegan treasures. And now I have some mainstays that I’ll include in my snacking rep. I didn’t mind that not all the contents of the box were literal snacks, but so long as those stay to a minimum, I’m up for trying new lifestyle products too.

PS: I totally subscribed after receiving this box, and am already excited to see what April brings!

Crazy Sexy Adventure Cleanse recap

In case you hadn’t been following my Twitter account last month, I did indeed finish Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse on Jan. 31. Wooo! No one was more impressed about the fact that I completed it than myself.

Never enough green juice.

Never enough green juice.

The third week of the cleanse was a breeze. My body had already been humming from consuming so much raw produce, juices, smoothies, salads and soups that it wasn’t that hard to get through the last week. My body had adjusted to consuming less and eating healthier food/more roughage, so it wasn’t hard to do so for seven more days. I still saw the light at the end of the tunnel cups of coffee with almond milk.

As time went on in the cleanse, I started to latch on to some favorite, easy-to-make recipes. As a busy human, I appreciated that Kris made some recipes that could be prepped quickly the morning of, so naturally her Green Guru Smoothie became my morning jam. With lettuce, cucumber, pear and good fats in the form of avocado, it had enough sweetness to be a tasty a.m. option. I also became fond of the Ezekiel Sprouted Grain cereal I mentioned in the last post. The amount of protein makes this stay with you, and the crunchy texture was something that I apparently missed when giving up cold cereals.

kale salad ingredients

The makings of a delicious massaged kale salad.

Simple meals of baked tofu, whole grains, steamed and raw veggies and big salads became the norm, as well as soups, the Eggless Tofu Salad, Buddha Bowl and Massaged Kale salad (recipes from the book). There were plenty of recipes in the book, but some required more time or dehydrating, (I am dehydrator-less), so I stuck with the recipes that worked well for me and this helped me succeed in finishing the cleanse.

And even more salads. I thought this one with a bit of everything was lovely.

And even more salads. I thought this one with a bit of everything was lovely.

Here are some things I learned as a result of taking on the Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure cleanse. Maybe they’ll help you if you decide to take it on one day.

Takeaways:

- When I do this cleanse again I will want to make sure that I have more time and use it to do the majority of food prep during the weekends. I struggled with meal repeats sometimes due to lack of time and knowing that I knew how to make certain things, so I feel like my experience wasn’t most representative or the best it could be. Maybe it’s because I’m a crazy person who decided to do a cleanse while working, going to grad school and living life, but I definitely suggest food prep on the weekends and juicing every other day so your cleanse goes smoothly.

- I definitely suggest starting this cleanse on a Monday. As a result of starting mine on a Thursday so it would end at the end of the month, I unintentionally made it so that the seventh day juice fast days were on a Wednesday, my busiest day of the week. Next time I want to try the one day/week juice fasts, so I will start it at the beginning of a week.

- I kind of wish I had a buddy doing the cleanse with me. Trust me, I’m not codependent, but it would’ve been great to message or talk to someone else who was going through the cleanse with you and feeling the things you were. Instead, it was my friends and coworkers who heard about all the things I was craving/missing while detoxing. Accountability is excellent, and next time it’d just be nice to have someone around who’d know what I’m talking about.

- I did this cleanse mainly without reading the 21-day guide in the back of the book. Now, I don’t know if that affected my experience at all, but since I’m not into prayers/meditations/neti-potting, I felt like I followed the cleanse well enough just taking into account the food/exercise recommendations. Next time, I may read the passages each day and write down my thoughts/experiences to get a better overall picture of how I felt on the cleanse.

Overall as I mentioned before, this cleanse was a lot easier than I’d anticipated, and not as scary as most. When I told friends I could eat tofu, Veganaise, gluten-free bread and sprouted grain cereal, they kind of shook their heads in disbelief. Clearly more challenging cleanses exist, but despite the fact that you could still have some beloved foods, this cleanse forced to be more conscious of what I was eating everyday, and helped me incorporate more greens and veggies into my diet. It’s been said before, but it’s super easy to eat unhealthily on a vegan diet. This cleanse is excellent for those who want to recharge but not totally have to restrict themselves into doing a cleanse that might set them up for failure. This one is meant to be done successfully, and I think Kris Carr gives her readers all the proper tools to do so.

Raw trail mix has become a new favorite snack as a result of the cleanse.

Raw trail mix has become a new favorite snack as a result of the cleanse.

Things I aim to keep up (for the most part) post-cleanse:

- Water with lemon every morning upon waking (no cayenne)

- Drinking a juice or smoothie everyday. Not a huge one that I did on the cleanse, but a smaller one so that I still get a burst of energy from green veggies first thing

- Having a salad every day (whether meal-sized or side-sized)

- Consuming less sugar overall, and limiting desserts to once or twice a week. Except dark chocolate, as that doesn’t count (to me)

- Focus on eating more alkaline foods than acidic. I won’t be as regimented, but I will strive to stay as close to 60% alkaline/40% acidic as possible

- Keeping my intake of gluten in check. As I mentioned before, I am pretty in love with gluten and breads, but I am in tune with how it makes my body feel, (sluggish). As hard as it’ll be, I’m going to try to keep my intake of it to a minimum so as to not inflict undue strife on my body and to focus on more whole foods instead

Overall, I loved this cleanse and would highly suggest it to anyone looking to refocus, recharge and clean up their act. If I could do it, you definitely can too. It’s all about focusing on getting back to basics and scaling back from those indulgences for a bit, which is something I think we can all benefit from once in a while, even while living our vegan lifestyles.

Did you also take on a cleanse in January? If so, which one? How’d you do, and what were some of your biggest challenges?

Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse: week 1 & 2 recap

As of this past Wednesday, I’ve completed weeks one and two of the Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse! Honestly, I’m super impressed with myself. In the beginning I told friends that I’d be happy if I got through week one. And here I am, now in week three of three, and totally kicking ass. If I can get over my caffeine/sugar/wheat cravings, I’m sure just about anyone can. Here’s my recap of my first two weeks on Kris Carr’s cleanse:

Week One

As I mentioned in my last post, day one of this cleanse was a bit magical. I was riding high on good vibes and visions of clear-mindedness and health. Everything was great on day one, minus the crippling caffeine headache I experienced around 4 p.m. After having some leftover green juice from breakfast and resting a bit, I felt just fine. My meals were tasty and I wasn’t hungry at any point in the day.

Day two: This was my awful, bad, no good day of the cleanse. I’ve heard some people say that day three is the worst for them, but not me. Day two was horrid. My great mood for day one? Vanished. My cravings for caffeine/sugar? Back with a vengeance. I started going off to my friend/co-worker about how much I wanted a cookie and coffee and about how tough this was. It was a totally mentally draining day, but thankfully I realized that all these feelings were normal. My body was detoxing and it was angry about it.

The Green Guru Smoothie from "Crazy Sexy Diet." so much green!

The Green Guru Smoothie from “Crazy Sexy Diet.” So much green!

To celebrate finishing week one: dinner at Chaco Canyon! I had the side house salad + a build your own grain bowl with brown rice, tahini sauce, baked tofu and all the veggies. I barely ate half the bowl.

To celebrate finishing week one: dinner at Chaco Canyon! I had the side house salad + a build your own grain bowl with brown rice, tahini sauce, baked tofu and all the veggies. I barely ate half the bowl.

The rest of the week was excellent. I made some delicious meals/salads/juices/smoothies from the book and had leftovers for days, (which is why I’m not recapping every single meal I ate – it’d get repetitive). And as the week went on, I started to feel a bit lighter, and a bit clearer. Remember how in my first post about the cleanse I said I’d be doing the one day per week juice cleanse as prescribed in the book? Well, that didn’t end up happening. See, in the book you’re to start the cleanse on a Monday and have a juice fast each Sunday, which would make it easier if you work a traditional week. But in my infinite wisdom I started the cleanse on a Thursday (I timed it just so that I would be done with the cleanse at the end of January), so that meant that my juice cleanse days would fall on Wednesday – easily my busiest day of the week as I work a full day then go to class for four hours. So, yeah. I know myself and know that I’d be cranky and irritable and not able to focus without food for a whole day, so this time around I’m not juice cleansing. I’m hoping that at some point later on in the year, I’ll do a one or few day juice fast over a weekend to try it out.

Week Two

For some reason, I struggled a bit more during week two than week one. Blame the way the stars aligned or my schedule, but things just didn’t fall into place the way that I’d hoped they would. I went out and bought all the necessary groceries that I needed for the week and struggled with finding the time to cook/prep them. As a result, I did some repeats of meals that were easy/quick (the Massaged Kale Salad and the Buddha Bowl), and everything else was cobbled together salads, grains/beans/veggies/fats combos and admittedly, some take-out (thank goodness for Veggie Grill’s cleanse-friendly salads).

Lentil soup, steamed/noochy broccoli and brown rice.

Lentil soup, steamed/noochy broccoli and brown rice.

Tofu Eggless Salad ("Crazy Sexy Diet" recipe) on gluten-free Food For Life brown rice bread with carrots for lunch. This made so much, and I happily ate leftovers for days.

Tofu Eggless Salad (“Crazy Sexy Diet” recipe) on gluten-free Food For Life brown rice bread with carrots for lunch. This made so much, and I happily ate leftovers for days.

Despite being a bit scatter-brained, I still felt awesome in week two. My desires for sugar and carbs have subsided, likely due to substituting actual fruit and drinking green tea once per day. I realized that green tea will give me a buzz and keep me up at night if I have it too late, which is a little mindblowing to this former two cups of coffee a day girl. The juices have also treated me well, but I found that having just juice or a smoothie before lunch wasn’t quite filling enough, so I added in a snack in between juice and lunch. I’m loving Ezekiel’s Flax Sprouted Grain cereal. It’s not gluten-free, but it’s allowed on the cleanse. Unlike regular cold cereal, it has tons of protein and fills me up.

Generally speaking about the cleanse, I haven’t followed Carr’s instructions entirely. Namely, I try to work out three-four days/week, but she recommends five. I try to remember to dry brush before I shower, but I don’t always, and I am not neti-potting. I also am not following her daily prayers/affirmations but am reading them. I’m just not into them. That goes for the meditation suggestion, too. In another life/time where I had infinite amounts of free time and no homework, I might actually have tried to follow the non-food aspects of this cleanse more closely to see if they helped more in terms of detoxification and an internal overall. But sadly that’s not the case right now.

Favorite cleanse snacks:

- Almond butter on Food For Life brown rice bread

- hummus on brown rice cakes

- celery and almond butter

- kale chips

- raw trail mix

Realizations as a result of the cleanse so far:

- I’m getting way more into tea. It used to be a once in a while thing that I didn’t always enjoy, but I’m experimenting more with different varietals and treating it like a grand affair whenever I have it. It helps take the pangs of no coffee away slightly.

- Hemp seeds rule. I’d never bought them before, but I love throwing them in salads and on top of bowls. So much protein and nutrients in such tiny seeds!

- Massaged kale salads also rule. I’d read about them forever and after making them, I’ve realized how easy, versatile and delicious they truly are.

- I hate to admit this, but not eating gluten is really contributing to my feeling lighter, I think. It’s total speculation as I’m not eating a lot of things I used to, but I have a feeling that a lot of it is due to laying off my beloved wheat-y bread. This hurts.

- This city is a lot more cleanse-friendly than I thought. In addition to Veggie Grill, Healeo, Chaco Canyon and Remedy Teas have all treated me well in terms of tasty snacks and meals. I’m already planning on creating a cleanse-friendly Seattle restaurant round-up post-cleanse.

Feeling good, guys. Just a few days left to go!

New Year, new starts: The Crazy Sexy Adventure Cleanse

Happy New Year! My blogging hiatus was intentional and much needed as I recovered mentally and physically after a rigorous academic and work quarter. I learned that working full-time while attending graduate school full-time is not very smart (unless you’re in a hurry to graduate, which I’m not), so I am slowing down and going to part-time status as of (this) winter quarter. During the break in December I visited Portland, cooked many delicious meals, hung with the boyfriend and cats and read for pleasure. And ate lots and lots of sweets.

Like a bite of this one: a delicious, buttercreamy Christmas cupcake from Sweetpea Bakery in PDX.

Like this one: a delicious, buttercreamy Christmas cupcake from Sweetpea Bakery in PDX.

And now it’s January again, and I’m feeling the results of holiday feasting and all those aforementioned sweets. Meaning, I’ve been pretty tired, rundown and not my normal, awesome self. For the past two years, I’ve done a sort of “clean slate” approach to food and eating in January (in 2011 I did a elimination diet that was monitored by my naturopath to check for food sensitivities, and in January 2012 I did a month of clean eating as defined by me).  I feel that it’s nice to say goodbye to the times of eating whatever I want, seriously up my intake of green veggies and fruits, and lessen all things processed and not so kind to my body at the start of a new year. I’ve been vegan for years, but as I mentioned last year that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything I eat radiates health and nutrients. So I really am digging this tradition of keeping myself in check at the start and refreshing my view of eating and creating good intentions to have good habits again.

This year will be no different, but this time I am going full-on cleanse, along with the rest of the world. I was inspired by a few things:

1) I got a juicer for Christmas!!! I’ve had this exact one on my Amazon wish list for years, and now it’s mine

juicer

2) A feature in the February 2013 issue of VegNews, which broke down different types of cleanses and shared staff members’ experiences with them. I found it really helpful when choosing mine
3) “Crazy Sexy Diet” by Kris Carr, which I picked up over my break

As of last Thursday, I’ve been following Kris Carr’s 21-day cleanse included in the book, and will also be doing a one-day juice fast each week. No caffeine, no gluten, no sugar, no processed food and no meat or dairy (natch). Prior to starting the cleanse, I wasn’t too concerned about it, as it seemed more than doable and delicious, and I’ve been right thus far.

Today marks day five (I started the cleanse on Thursday, Jan. 10 so that I could end right at the end of the month), and I’m feeling good, better than I thought I would. Day one had me so optimistic, and excited about my healthier future, and I consumed the primarily high-raw meals with gusto. I got a caffeine headache at 4 p.m., but it was nothing some green juice couldn’t fix. Day two has been the most trying day by far. I woke up, was craving coffee and toast and my mood had completely shifted to one of “screw this,” “this is hard!,” etc., much to the chagrin of those around me. The rest of the days have been great, and I’m really enjoying cooking (or not cooking) new to me foods and enjoying such fresh meals.

My first (very) green juice from the juicer.

My first (very) green juice from the juicer: the Make Juice, Not War Green Juice from “Crazy Sexy Diet” (all these food photos are made from recipes in the book).

Another first: massaged salad, the Shaved Kale Avocado Salad. So, so good.

Another first: massaged salad, the Shaved Kale Avocado Salad. So, so good.

Possibly our favorite meal from the book thus far: the Buddha bowl, filled with good fats like avocado, hemp seeds and oils.

Possibly our favorite meal from the book thus far: the Buddha Bowl, filled with good fats like avocado, hemp seeds and oils.

I am more than a little scared about the juice fasts. I’ve never done one before though I’ve been curious for years. The plan allows for easing out of them with whole foods at the end of the day, though, so I think I can handle it. The first one is this Wednesday. I’m also a little scared about making it the whole way through, as I’ve never done that before and have caved early on both past ones due to circumstances I could control (it was tough) and those I could not, (best friend was visiting and not cleansing). So here’s to accountability due to public awareness!

As I mentioned last January, this restart in terms of looking at food and health isn’t due to wanting to lose weight or reach a certain specific goal, but rather to just clean up my act and make health a priority again. It’s easy to get lost in the Mighty-O Donuts, Daiya-laden pizzas, fake meat sandwiches and what-not, and I do not begrudge anyone for having them. For they are delicious! But I personally need to scale back from time to time, and I figure that there’s no better time than the beginning of a new year. Fresh starts, clean insides. That’s my 2013 motto. Wish me luck, and I’ll be posting more about what I’m eating and how I’m doing throughout January.

Did you make any health-relevant New Year’s resolutions/goals/intentions? If so, what are they, and how are you doing thus far?

Vegan Haven Holiday Bake Sale this weekend!

It’s that time of year again, folks. The time when everyone’s kitchen is caked in flour and sugar, love is expressed through the creation of tasty treats, and generous, giving spirits abound. Sounds like the perfect time for a vegan bake sale, wouldn’t you say?

Photo of flier courtesy of Helen's instagram account.

Photo of flier courtesy of Helen’s instagram account.

Vegan Haven (formerly Sidecar for Pigs Peace) is holding their Holiday Bake Sale this weekend, Dec. 15-16 to benefit the wonderful Pigs Peace Sanctuary. I’m going to be whipping up some savory treats for the event, know a few other local vegan friends will be doing the same, and know that friend Helen of Vegtastic is helping to plan it. The sale is still seeking more bakers to donate goods vegan baked goods for this very worthy cause. Have some free time and want to help bake for the piggies? Here’s more info:

Baker guidelines:

  • Please drop off your baked goods at Vegan Haven during this time frame: Friday, December 14th after 6pm through Saturday, December 15 at 8pm.  If this doesn’t fit in your schedule or you would like to bring in your items on Sunday morning so we have fresh goodies, please contact Helen at bakesale@pigspeace.org to work out arrangements.
  • All items must be vegan (no honey)
  • All items must be cooked/baked.  Dehydrated food is A-OK to bring to the sale.
  • Avoid potentially hazardous foods that spoil easily without refrigeration.  For example, pudding, cheesecake, a whipped cream filling or topping, etc.
  • Wrap all of your items at home in individual sized servings.  For example, if you¹re baking cookies, wrap them individually or 2 or 3 together in saran wrap or a sandwich bag.  The reason behind this is to minimize direct hand to food contact at the sale.
  • Follow hygienic practices when preparing and wrapping food–wash your hands frequently, keep a clean working environment, etc.
  • Please bring a list of ingredients that you used in your baked goods. People might have questions at the sale regarding allergies, etc.  You can put the list of ingredients on each item or bring one list, it’s up to you.

Just a general bake sale FYI: individual-sized portions tend to sell better than large items. This way, people can pick and choose from a variety of treats, (I know this is my strategy). Also, you don’t have to be vegan to contribute, just your baked goods!

Bake sale 2012 assorted goods

Treats from this year’s Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale in Tacoma.

If you are unable to bake, eaters are always welcome too! The bake sale usually features a variety of types of brownies, cookies, savory treats, cakes, etc., so there’s something for every vegan baked good lover. You can also check out the wonderful Vegan Haven for holiday gifts if you’re one of those people who have yet to start their shopping (aka, me). Win-win!

I plan on attending the bake sale on Sunday, and I hope to see some of your lovely faces there!

Event deets:

  • What: the Vegan Haven Holiday Bake Sale
  • Where: Vegan Haven, 5270 B University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
  • When:  Saturday, Dec. 15 from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Roasted root vegetables with roasted garlic-lime dipping sauce

Guys, I’m bringing Vegan MoFo back from its monthly end with this post. See, this was to be my last post for Vegan MoFo, but it wasn’t meant to be due to timing. And thus, here we are.

My last round of conquering food fears was three-fold: parsnip, rutabaga and turnip. So autumn it hurts.

I wanted to get a root veggie-heavy recipe to be a part of this challenge because despite the fact that I’ve eaten them in many forms in restaurants (parsnip soup, rutabaga and turnip in pasta dishes, etc.), I’d feared cooking them because they always seemed rough to prep. I also felt that they would not come out as well at home as at a restaurant that was used to seasoning them and cooking them thoroughly, so this trio was the perfect test of all three at once. So much to mess up…or get deliciously right!

I picked up my beloved, well-used copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen prior to heading to the store and immediately gravitated to the Roasted root vegetables with roasted garlic-lime dipping sauce recipe. I mean, can you count all the delicious-sounding foods in that recipe name? There are many, friends.

I’ve never made a recipe by Bryant Terry that I hadn’t absolutely adored, or that hasn’t wowed a group of people, so I knew that this would be a fitting recipe to try and knock out three cooking fears in one go. So I got to work making it, alongside some Roasted Rosemary Tofu (recipe also from Vegan Soul Kitchen).

Turnips education via Super Mario Bros. 2. Image by GameCola.net.

I went to Central Co-Op to grab these veggies for the recipe, and felt like an awful vegan. I literally had to ask the produce lady to help me differentiate between many of these vegetables, and I only knew what turnips looked like due to childhood memories of playing Super Mario Brothers 2, (nerd alert).

Parsnip, rutabaga and turnip, at your service.

I honestly had to look up online how to prep all of these veggies, minus the parsnip, because it basically looked like a bigger, white carrot. Peeling and chopping these took a minute. Once they were chopped, I set them aside and got to work on making the sauce.

Ready for roastin’.

The sauce was composed of fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, olive oil and a whole head of roasted garlic cloves (mmm) among other spices. After roasting the beautiful garlic, my apartment smelled lovely.

Heaven, slightly burnt.

I then threw all the other sauce ingredients together into my trusty Vita-Mix, and it whirred together into this vivid sauce:

After this was complete, I got back to the veggies. I mixed them together with some olive oil and spices before roasting:

Here’s the finished plate, including tofu:

I made this dish a few weeks back, but the flavors are still memorable in my mind. The roasted veggies came out semi-sweet, but still nutty and autumn-inspired. Soft due to roasting and enhanced by the addition of the creamy olive oil/cilantro/lime sauce, this side dish was spectacular. A touch of saltiness in the sauce melded well with the near caramelized roasted veggies, and the roasted rosemary tofu ended up being this dish’s perfect partner. Honestly, these two sides would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving table if you’re looking to switch things up from the traditional. I promise you won’t regret it.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy parsnips, rutabagas and turnips?

 

Spaghetti squash with mushroom cream sauce

My goal of one post per week was set slightly too high guys, as I missed my Vegan MoFo post last week. Laughably ridiculous, I own up to this. Thus, I’m combining two food fears into one post this week: white mushrooms and spaghetti squash.

Prior to this weekend I’d never experienced spaghetti squash, either by cooking or dining out. Last year was the year of conquering cooking squash, but there are a lot of squashes out there! I tapped the surface in 2011, but I will try them all in time.

My co-workers and the Internet love to sing praises of spaghetti squash. Some pro arguments I’d heard:

1) It’s really easy to make, hard to screw up (great news for me)
2) It’s a nice substitute for heavy pastas
3) It’s versatile
4) It’s delicious

All good things that made me feel better about attacking this gourd.

Mushrooms and I, we have a history.

They’ve always been one of those “I’ve hated these since I was little!” types of foods, (except fancy ones. I love me some Shiitake and portobello mushrooms and yes, I realize how weird this is). If they were covered in cheesy pizza or well-hidden in something, I didn’t mind them much. But whenever I bit into the rubbery, odd texture of one, I immediately gagged. I thought them to be flavorless, awkward and not worthy of my attention.

Then last month I was reading Eat to Live and thought that I should give mushrooms another try as, you know, I’m an adult. And I like trying “new” things now. We slowly worked them into our lives in the forms of salad toppers. And I didn’t hate it! I realized that their flavor/textures weren’t that weird, and I’ve enjoyed them. But I still hadn’t cooked them.

So I set out to find a recipe that integrated both of these ingredients into something delicious.

Most spaghetti squash recipes that I found were of the ‘add red sauce (replicating actual spaghetti) and be done’ sort. I didn’t want to make a different sort of spaghetti, so I searched for something hearty and creamy with mushrooms. And Daily Garnish‘s Spaghetti Squash & Vegan Mushroom Cream Sauce fit the bill perfectly. So I got to work.

I cut the squash in half and covered it in olive oil, 5 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and roasted it an hour.

It comes out looking like this, with the tender flesh pulling away with the swipe of a fork.

Then I began work on the so-easy-it’s-silly cream sauce. First I sauteed them, and realized that it was the first time I’d smelled earthy, rich mushrooms cooking in vegan butter. I was missing out.

I changed this recipe up slightly by adding spinach towards the end, because I like a little green in my meals. I absolutely loved the result of the finished product.

I’m so glad we have leftovers.

Have you tried spaghetti squash? What’s your favorite way to prepare it?

 

Vegan MoFo 2012: Conquering my cooking fears

Yes, October! For many there’s excitement because fall starts getting into full swing, (though not here in the PNW with its 70-ish degree days and sunny skies – but I’m not complaining) and pumpkin everything is everywhere,  and for others there’s the impending fall activities such as apple picking, cider pressing and obviously – Halloween. But for us vegans, there’s MoFo.

Last year I participated in Vegan MoFo for the first time ever, and I was so happy that I did when the month was over. And this year isn’t very different, all except for the fact that oh yeah, I started grad school last week.

Full-time work and full-time school, plus new school blog and this blog and some semblance of a social life and trying to be a good cat owner = I don’t know, I hope some shreds of sanity?

In light of my new crazy schedule and life, I’m going to have to scale back majorly in terms of MoFo this year. Last year I successfully posted each weekday for the month, making that 20 full posts. Now I just shake my head at the idea of having that much “free” time.

This year, my goal is so low, it’s silly: one post per week, more if I can. One of the greatest things about Vegan MoFo is you can truly do what you want with it and make it your own month. So thankfully, I think I can handle that. I’m hoping there will be some weeks where I find extra time to dedicate to killer posts here, but I’m not counting on it.

For 2012, I have a central theme: cooking the foods that scare me. This was inspired by a few posts from last year’s MoFo, where I successfully cooked both acorn and butternut squashes. There’s still a whole lot of food out there that scares me for a few reasons, a few of which are: because I’ve attempted cooking them before and it came out horribly, because I’ve never cooked it myself, or because I’m just plan scared to try. Also, Halloween, boo, scary? Horrible joke, but I had to try. I often find myself cooking the same things because I know I make them well and they’re delicious, but every once in a while I need to kick myself out of my ruts and find new favorites. That’s what this month is all about for me.

And the first food that scares me for VeganMoFo 2012 is…eggplant!

I love eggplant. I love it in the spicy Indian dish Baigan Bharta, grilled, in creamy baba ghanoush, and any other way it can be prepared. The thing is, I’ve only had these amazing dishes in restaurants, and not in my home. I tried to roast eggplant once, and it was a sad, sad, attempt. Rubbery, dry and not at all appealing, I wouldn’t have fed it to an enemy. Pretty and bearing one of my school’s colors, I figured this vegetable a great place to start.

So tonight, I made the Eggplant-Chickpea Curry from Appetite For Reduction – a book that I love and utilized a ton during last year’s MoFo.

I didn’t remember what it was like to cut into an eggplant (rough, hard to slice through, squishy?), but thankfully the two I picked up from Central Co-op were perfect – not too hard, not too soft, and I sliced through them with ease.

Adding in some of my favorite all-time spices – garam masala, curry, cumin – tomatoes and a few other ingredients, my apartment started to smell pretty wonderful.

Tasting this dish for salt, I called it a success. The eggplant cooked down softly and created a sauce with the tomatoes and veggies. It was the perfect Monday night dinner for us when paired with some brown basmati rice and steamed kale.

Verdict? Eggplant accomplished.

Winner of the Vida Vegan Tech Seminar Series giveaway

After consulting my trusty giveaway friend random.org, the winner of a ticket to the Vida Vegan Con Tech Seminar Series is…

Commenter #1, Roxanne!

Number 1 came up on the generator, so congrats lady!

Roxanne, I will be emailing you later today with more information about your ticket, the event, etc.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered, and maybe I’ll still see some of you at the seminar!