Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegan Week

Starting on Monday, I decided to stick to a vegan diet this week.  You're probably asking yourself why.  Honestly, there isn't one reason that made me decide to do this.  There are a couple different reasons, but none of them would be strong enough on their own.  Here they are:
  • Help the earth's environment
  • Eat fewer processed/unnatural foods
  • Force myself to try new recipes
  • See if I could stick with it
I have been able to accomplish some of these goals to date.  Specifically, I have been able to stick with the plan.  I have not eaten any animals or animal products since Sunday night. I have indeed tried out some new recipes, which are below.   I have also bought more organic foods than usual (probably because I went to Whole Foods and was too lazy to go to Giant to buy cheaper vegetables). I have not however, eaten fewer processed foods.  I have probably actually eaten more processed foods and more carbs than normal.  It turns out that saltine crackers are vegan, and the combination of saltines and peanut butter has been too great for me to resist.

Here are some of the foods that I've made so far this week, starting out with breakfast.  I've eaten overnight oats each day this week.  I've had trouble coming up with other quick and easy breakfast options (other than smoothies, which require an extra 10 minutes of work in the morning). Here is today's banana cinnamon steel oats version, made with banana, almond milk, steel oats, and cinnamon.


For lunch I've been having a lot of vegetables.  Today I had plans after work, so I actually had two lunches.  Here is lunch part one.  I had cream of asparagus soup (made with almond milk and my homemade vegetable broth) and a toasted whole wheat pita.The pita and soup was a fantastic combination.  If you're interested in the recipe for the asparagus soup, check out

For my second lunch/first dinner, I had spaghetti squash with canned tomato sauce (with oregano and cayenne sprinkled in), fresh diced tomatoes, and seitan.  Seitan is a protein source (read meat substitute) made from wheat gluten.  It looks like middle school cafeteria mystery meat, but is really rather benign.

Another dinner I made this week was sushi.  Here I filled my rolls with cucumber, avocado, and asparagus.  I had some mango slices for dessert as well.


Speaking of dessert....I bought a vegan cookie today at the climbing gym.  The picture is upside down--obviously--but it is a double chocolate chunk cookie.  It tasted like a normal cookie, and in pre-fab cookie form, it was a little too sweet for my taste.  Gasp, I know.  The calorie count on this cookie was out of control.  This single cookie, about the size of my palm, was almost 500 calories.  I don't know how that compares to normal cookies, but it was quite a shock to me.

Those are just some of the recipes I have made so far this week.  I'll post later in the week with more recipes!  So far I haven't really missed any animal-based foods.  I've been able to eat just about everything I've wanted.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fish Tacos

A few weeks ago my mom and I went to Bonefish Grill.  I asked my mom if she had seen the Facebook app about foods to try before you die.  She had, and we realized that one of the foods that was uneaten on both of our lists  was fish tacos.  She ordered fish tacos at dinner, and we both loved them. The next time I went home, we decided to make them for ourselves. This recipe is a Ryberg original.

First we pan fried two filets of tilapia covered in Old Bay seasoning.  We used one fillet per taco. This may seem like a lot of fish for one taco, but it seemed just right once done.

While the fish was cooking, we created a mango salsa to put on top.  It included mango, onion, and cucumber.  If we had cilantro, we would have used some of that too.  We also added some lettuce on top of the fish and salsa.

Here is our final presentation: fish taco, salad with mango salsa on top, and some mango slices for dessert.  We ate our dinner outside.  It was a nice, refreshingly light summer meal. I will definitely be making this again.



After I made my vegetable broth, I wanted to use some of my leftover vegetables.  I decided to put them to good use on top of some focaccia. The recipe I used came from the Food Network. Since you can check out the recipe with the link, I won't go into too many details about the process. 

Basically, first I made dough and let it rise. I modified the recipe by substituting half of the flour with whole wheat flour. That is why the dough has a darker coloring.

After the dough doubled in size, I spread it out on a pizza pan and let it rest for a few minutes.

Then, I sprinkled on my toppings and baked it in the oven. You can see here that I added roasted vegetables, olives, cheese, oregano, parsley, and rosemary.


This focaccia had a great texture, even with the whole wheat flour.  I ate it for lunch most days of the week that I made it.  I found that heating it up in the toaster oven worked wonderfully.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Homemade vegetable broth

As I've gotten more and more into cooking, I find myself using a lot of broth.  It used to be chicken and beef broth, but now I use vegetable broth almost exclusively.  At first I bought cans or cartons of broth from the store.  Then I started using Better Than Bouillon and mixing it with water. This spring I decided to take advantage of the farmer's market and make my own broth.

Here is my haul from the farmer's market.  From left to right we have turnips, yellow bell pepper, green bell pepper (leftover from my fridge), tomato, two giant onions, asparagus, carrots, and celery.


The first step in making broth is to cut up all of the vegetables.  You can see here that I did not cut up my asparagus.  I thought that fresh local asparagus was just too good to put in broth and ate it separately.


After the vegetables were cut, I roasted them in the oven for about an hour. They are ready when they start to brown and the onions start to caramelize.


Next, I boiled the vegetables in water until the liquid was reduced.  This is just one of two huge pots I had going.


After the liquid was reduced by half I strained the vegetables so that only liquid was left. Then I tasted the broth and added spices to my liking.  No salt was needed. It turns out that a ton of vegetables makes a TON of vegetable broth.  You can see here that my freezer is full of--count them--six jars of broth. 


Making broth is very rewarding.  Turning vegetables (some of which I don't particularly care for) into delicious broth feels like a great accomplishment.  My homemade broth is also salt-free, unlike the store-bought varieties and has way more flavor. 

In addition to my  abundance of broth, I now have six containers of roasted vegetables.  I haven't figured out what exactly I'm going to do with all of these vegetables yet.  Veggie lasagna?  Roasted veggie sandwiches?  I'm really not sure.  Any ideas are welcome!

Monday, May 21, 2012


A couple of weekends ago, I had some friends over to make sushi.  I had never made sushi before.  Believe it or not I only started eating it about a year go.  Here's the scene:

The first step in making sushi is to make sushi rice. According to my bag of rice, sushi actually means "vinegar rice."  I bought a special bag of sushi rice at the regular grocery store.  It is different from other types of rice because it has shorter grains and becomes sticky when it cooks.  I found a recipe for sushi rice online here:  It's really simple.  First I made rice (hopefully you know how to do that).  Then, I mixed in a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt that I had heated up in the microwave. 

The most torturous part of sushi making is letting the rice cool to room temperature before continuing.  After it cooled, we patted the rice down on sheets of seaweed.  My normal grocery store doesn't sell seaweed, though I'm sure more upscale groceries stores do.  I bought mine at WholeFoods. Here are a few tricks that will make your lives much easier when making sushi:
  1. Keep a small bowl of water handy to dip your fingers in when working with the rice.  It is really sticky.
  2. Leave a strip of seaweed exposed on one end of the sushi so that you can seal the roll.

The next step is to lay on the fillers.  This roll has cucumber, avocado, and crab.

This roll has cucumber, avocado, and salmon.  We cooked our salmon before using it.  It is possible to buy high quality fish that does not have to be cooked for making sushi.  Be sure it is sushi grade fish. This fish goes through a different process to ensure that it is safe to eat raw.

After all of the ingredients are laid out on the seaweed, roll it up.  There are special bamboo mats made just for this purpose.  We used a towel and plastic wrap instead.  There are lots of Youtube videos out there on how to do this. 

And voila!  Here is the avocado cucumber crab roll:

And the avocado cucumber salmon roll:


Making sushi at home really is not difficult, but actually quite fun.  In the long run it would be far cheaper than buying take-out.  There is a little up-front investment though, since the ingredients aren't household staples (in my house at least).

Vegan Monday: Week 3

Welcome to the weekly installment of Vegan Mondays! Today's vegan menu was Asian-inspired. Lunch and dinner were at least...

For breakfast, I had banana bread overnight oats. It was made up of traditional oats, vanilla soy milk, plain soy yogurt, banana, flax seeds, walnuts, coriander, and cinnamon.  This was one of my better combinations.  

I did not actually cook my lunch today.  I had Trader Joe's frozen vegan Pad Thai.  I must admit, this was one of the better frozen meals I have ever had.  As you can see below, the meal had rice noodles, carrots, and tofu, along with a tasty sauce.


After lunch, I headed to a conference for the afternoon at work.  There was a spread of snacks at the conference, but most of them were not vegan.  I ended up snacking on some vegetables: carrots, red bell pepper, and squash.  Unfortunately, I could not have the ranch dip or cookies. 

Dinner was my adventurous meal of the day.   I made myself some sushi with leftover ingredients from a few weekends ago when I made sushi with friends.  I'll blog about that soon I promise.  I made two rolls.  The first roll, pictured here, had cucumber and avocado.  The second roll had cucumber, avocado, and mango. I don't want to ruin my sushi post, but here is a picture of the roll before being rolled:

And after:


For dessert I am currently eating the rest of the mango from my sushi. 

Today's vegan experience was not as planned as the past two weeks.  I was out of town for the weekend and didn't have time to fully think through my meals.  Because of the lack of planning, my food was a little heavy on carbs and light on protein for my liking.  This is definitely a learning experience.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegan Mondays: Week Two

This week was my second attempt at eating exclusively plant-based foods on Monday.   The pictures are not great because they were all taken from my cell phone, and the recipes were not new, but unlike last week, I succeeded in eating only vegan foods.

For breakfast I had peanut butter banana overnight oats.  The ingredients were: organic steel cut oats, vanilla soy yogurt, vanilla soy milk, natural peanut butter, flax seeds, and one banana.  The steel cut oats give the oatmeal a completely different texture than rolled or quick oats.


For lunch I had edamame salad over spinach.  Check out a more enticing picture of this recipe in my previous blog post here. The ingredients for this salad were: spinach, onion, edamame, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and green bell pepper.  The dressing was made from: olive oil, miso paste, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

And for dinner I made taco salad.  This was probably the most exciting meal of the day.  Again, I've blogged about this dish before, so I won't go into too much detail. You can check it out here.  The ingredients were: whole wheat tortilla, avocado, green bell pepper, black beans, tomato, corn, onion, and fajita seasoning.


I think that I did a pretty good job of hitting all of the food groups in this week's vegan adventure.  I got carbs in breakfast and dinner; vegetables in lunch and dinner; fruit at breakfast; and protein in breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I'm not sure if soy milk and yogurt count as dairy products in the food pyramid, but if they do, I had those covered at breakfast too.   What's your favorite vegan dish?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Forget Meatless Mondays, let's try Vegan Mondays

A little while ago I came across some "Meatless Monday" recipes on Food Gawker.  Since I already am almost vegetarian, I decided to step this idea up a little and try out Vegan Mondays.  I thought this would be a good way to be more creative in my cooking while also doing a little bit to help the environment.

Last Monday was my first Vegan Monday.  I plan to make this a weekly post, chronicling my adventures in vegan eating every Monday.

For breakfast I created a vegan version of my overnight oatmeal.  I used traditional oats, a banana, half of a pear, applesauce (instead of yogurt), soy milk (instead of cow's milk), cinnamon and nutmeg.  This turned out absolutely delicious, as always.  It tasted exactly like my usual pear overnight oats.  Next time, I'll remember to add in pecans as well.


For lunch, I had packed some focaccia I made over the weekend (see post here).  I thought, that's definitely vegan, it's just yeast, flour, and water.  Plus, I only put vegetables on top.   Once I took it out at work to heat it up, however, I remembered that I also sprinkled cheese on top.  Oops!  Luckily for me, I was prepared and also had some snacks at work.  So, instead of my focaccia, I had hummus, whole wheat pita, carrots and peppers for lunch.  Yum.

As a snack, I had my homemade pumpkin chocolate chip granola bars.  The inspiration for these bars came from this website: These bars were made of oats, pecans, pumpkin puree, banana, applesauce, brown sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips.  Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure these are really vegan.  I was careful not to use honey, but are chocolate chips vegan? I just checked the bag that I used and the answer is no.  They contain milk.  Oops.  This was my first attempt at Vegan Monday.  I'll do better next week!

For dinner I made a spinach salad with falafel sprinkle on top.  You're probably thinking...falafel sprinkle....what is that?  Well, falafel sprinkle is what happens when you forget how to make falafel and the patties do not stick together.  Instead of having nice balls of chickpeas and onions, you have fried bits of chickpeas and onion.  The taste is exactly the same, but the results are harder to eat.  That's why I put them on a salad.  In this case, the salad had spinach, cucumbers and falafel sprinkle, with some lemon juice. I promise I have made falafel successfully in the past.  I even have pictures.  I'll post an entry on here to prove it.

Overall, I think my first Vegan Monday was moderately successful.  I made two mistakes, but was able to catch myself on one before it was too late.  Animal products are in more foods than I had anticipated, but I think this is a great weekly challenge for myself.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oatmeal Spice Muffins

Lately I have been trying to squeeze in as much goodness into my recipes while also squeezing out as much of the unhealthy ingredients as I can.  Sometimes trying to make unhealthy foods healthy doesn't turn out as well as you'd like.  This dish is one example.  I tried to make a healthy muffin with whole wheat flour, oats, lots of spices, and without any added fat. I found the recipe on another blog: Lemon Savory.

The muffins had great coloring and texture, but tasted, well, healthy.  There was a distinct "health" taste about them.  Needless to say, half of the batch is sitting in my freezer waiting to be eaten...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spinach and Eggs--Breakfast for Dinner

Earlier in the week I had a ton of spinach in the fridge and didn't know what to do with it.  For once I bought an entire bag of spinach, rather than a single serving from the salad bar.  Actually I bought two bags because they were buy one get one free.  After some investigation, I found out just how economical it really is to buy spinach  off of the salad bar.  The salad bar price ($4.99/lb) at Giant is far less than the spinach price ($9.99/lb).  (Those are estimates, but pretty close to actuality.)

Anyways, I decided to make breakfast for dinner (surprise, surprise), and incorporate the spinach with some eggs.  The inspiration for this recipe came from another blog.  You can find the original recipe here:

Here are my ingredients: two farm eggs, a couple cups of spinach, two sliced mushrooms, diced green onions, and garlic. 

To make this dish, my first step was to saute the mushrooms, garlic, and green onions in olive oil.  Once the mushrooms were tender, I added the spinach and covered the pan.  Initially, I thought there's no way I need this much spinach.  However, it shrinks down in the cooking process to a very manageable quantity. Once the spinach wilted, just a few minutes later, I cracked the two eggs in the pan. 

I left the pan on the stove for two more minutes and then transferred it to the oven on broil.  In just a few minutes, the eggs were cooked.  For ideal dipping, you want the yolks to be soft.  I used toasted  naan leftover from my Indian feast for dipping. What a great idea! The final step was to sprinkle on a little cayenne pepper and enjoy. 

This is one of my new favorite breakfast for dinner recipes.  Because vegetables are involved, it seems more like a dinner recipe than most breakfast recipes. I have made it again substituting regular onions and omitting the mushrooms.  I recommend keeping in the mushrooms, or maybe even adding additional vegetables, like a red pepper for a little extra color. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shrimp Stirfry


When I've made stirfries in the past (see this post), I've always made them vegetarian or used chicken.  Tuesday night I had a craving for fish, but had none in the freezer.  Instead, I made up this shrimp stirfry.  

Here are the ingredients (from bottom left): one giant garlic clove, one half of a green bell pepper, one head of broccoli broccoli, one quarter of an onion, and ginger. Not pictured are olive oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, cooking wine, pepper, and sriracha.


And of course shrimp.  I had some frozen shrimp in my freezer which I put in water and then in the fridge before going for a run.  When I came back they were thawed.  I ended up using ten shrimp in this dish.

 Then, all I did was cook everything together in a pan on medium heat for about ten minutes.  I started with only the vegetables because they took longer to cook than the shrimp.  Once the broccoli and pepper were tender, I added in the shrimp and seasonings.

And voila! Here is my shrimp stirfry.  It is so fresh you can see the steam in the picture. 

When I made this dish, I intended to make enough for two servings and have leftovers for lunch the next day.  It turns out this stirfry was so good that I ate it all in one sitting.

Indian Feast

Last weekend my boyfriend Brandon and I cooked ourselves a feast of Indian food. We were both really hungry while we cooked, so there are no pictures of the process, just two pictures of the final product. In the one below you can see the four dishes that we made:
  • Naan (we didn't really make this, but heated it up in the oven)
  • Chicken Tikka (marinated overnight in a variety of spices and yogurt and then broiled)
  • Curried Chickpeas (the spice mixture was from a kit and was way too salty)
  • Daal (from the Skinny Bitch cookbook)


Overall, this meal was very fun to make.  The daal and naan turned out the best in my opinion.  Brandon liked the chicken tikka and naan the best.  I thought that the chicken tikka was a little mild.  We'll have to up the spices next time--and find out how to make it red!