Friday, July 17, 2015

What I'm Reading: July 2015

Lake Washington on a beautiful, sunny afternoon
I'm back in school again (this time, a biochemistry prerequisite [my very last prereq!!] that consists of 12 hours of class + 4 hours of lab A WEEK), so time is a luxury. Here are some things I'm reading when I have a chance:

...written while listening to Rihanna's Talk That Talk...

--This article summarizes the recently published Dietary Guidelines...including recommendations to eat a plants-based diet and increase fat consumption (depending on what type of fat it is; unsaturated is obviously better than saturated).

--Look at this amazing recipe for Vegan Chipotle Cauliflower Steaks! Wow.

--My very favorite grocery store from Portland is finally coming to the Seattle area! I'm so excited!! 

--Ack. People are STILL not eating enough fruit and vegetables. Eat more, people, please! 

--I read this book over the fourth of July weekend. It was a page-turner, but because it has some really deep issues, I had to keep taking breaks from it to soak in sunshine and light before going back to it. It's definitely worth a read.

--Vegan Mofo is returning in September! I'm not sure if I can commit to doing it this year, but it's going to be a bit different - there will be prompts given for every day. That should make it a bit easier to come up with stuff to write.

--This blueberry quinoa salad from Minimalist Baker looks like the perfect way to ingest some fresh blueberries I just got at the farmar!

--I found this website about CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), which acts as "...the organized voice of the American public on nutrition, food safety, health and other issues during a boom of consumer and environmental protection awareness [since] the early 1970s. CSPI has long sought to educate the public, advocate government policies that are consistent with scientific evidence on health and environmental issues, and counter industry's powerful influence on public opinion and public policies." Sounds like my kind of organization.

--I really want to try this Almond Butter Marble Cake from Vegan Richa. Whenever it cools down enough outside that I actually want to turn on my oven again, I will! 

--What dietitians and nutrition professionals are drinking this weekend.

What are you reading right now?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Vegan Cinnamon French Toast from Plant-Powered Families: A Review

Happy July! I'm so excited to share a review for a cookbook* today that is a serious game-changer. At least, it was a game-changer for me! This book is really fantastic. Dreena Burton is well known for creating delicious, healthy plant-based foods, and this book is an example of just how talented she is. I've followed her forever (I can still remember looking at and being so excited by Vive Le Vegan! when it first came out!) and, when I got the opportunity to receive a copy of Plant-Powered Families, I jumped on it. In my opinion, it's her best book yet.

Here are a few recipes from the book to whet your appetite:
-Homemade Hemp Milk (p. 44)
-Baconut (coconut bacon, p. 73)
-Oven-Dehydrated Kale Chips (p. 74)
-"Magical" Applesauce Vinaigrette (p. 105)
-Seasoned Polenta Croutons (p. 114)
-Artichoke Sunflower Burgers (p. 143)
-Autumn Dinner Loaf (p. 160)
-Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 185)
-Vanilla Bean Almond Butter Fudge (p. 197)

What makes this cookbook so great is not only the wonderful recipes, but also all the features included in the cookbook. It has a great introduction that helps you get started with a vegan kitchen and pantry, plus appendices in the back that include tips for parenting picky eaters, ideas for what to use in school box lunches, and nutritional information for foods and ingredients used throughout the book.

I'm thankful that many recipes are already gluten-free or can easily be made gluten-free, and many have recipe notes for how to make them gluten-free, as well as nut-free. Most recipes are already soy-free and use whole, unprocessed foods (like hemp! there is so much hemp - one of my favorite foods!). Also, beautiful [and colorful] pictures accompany nearly every single recipe!

For this review, I tried the Cinnamon French Toast (found on p. 36). This recipe caught my eye because it didn't call for any soy products or other strange filler ingredients that many vegan French toast recipes list. I changed two things from the original recipe: I used black chia seeds (I had them on hand, and didn't feel like going to the store to get white ones) and I used hemp seeds instead of cashews (which is included as an option in the recipe notes). The result? A wonderful and delicious breakfast dish. The toast had a great texture and I truly felt like I was eating "regular" French toast. I loved that I was eating a whole-foods-based breakfast that was soy-free and high in nutrients such as protein and omega-3 fatty acids. D and I both approved, and finished the dish rather quickly.

The only things I'd change about the recipe are:
-I'd use a coffee grinder to grind the chia seeds and hemp seeds separately before adding them to the blender with the liquids (this is only necessary if you're using hemp seeds instead of the cashews originally called for in the recipe)
-I'd add just a tiny bit of sweetener (maybe some coconut sugar?) to the batter for a little extra flavor

I'm really pleased to be able to share the recipe with you here, and besides the minor notes above, this recipe is perfect as is, and I recommend you make some immediately! Breakfast for dinner, anyone?

Even more, I'm excited to offer one lucky reader a free copy of this wonderful cookbook! Find the entry for the giveaway below the following recipe. The giveaway is now closed. Thank you for entering!

Cinnamon French Toast
Serves 3-4
I remember French toast fondly from childhood - and so does hubby. It was the "treat" breakfast we had as kids, probably far easier for our parents to make than pancakes, and a great way to use up odds and ends of breads. This version is much healthier than what I ate as a kid, and I tell you our girls love it just the same.

1 cup + 1-2 T. plain or vanilla unsweetened nondairy milk
1 T. white chia seeds
1/3 cup soaked and drained cashews (see note for nut-free option)
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/8 t. sea salt
sliced bread of choice (see note)

In a blender or using a handheld blender, puree the milk (starting with 1 cup; see note), chia, cashews, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and sea salt until very smooth and thick (it will get thicker as it sits a little while and the chia swells).

Prepare a nonstick skillet by wiping over with a touch of oil (you need a nonstick skillet, or this will be a sticky event!). Turn heat to high for a few minutes to heat up the pan, then reduce to medium/medium-high.

Dip a slice of bread into the batter. Turn over and let it sit in the chia mixture for a few moments to soak, then remove and place in the skillet.

Repeat with the other slices, frying 2-3 pieces or more at a time, depending on the size of your skillet. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side, until light brown. Keep the heat high enough to get a good sear/crust on the bread, but reduce if it's scorching. Note that the slices will be sticky until they are ready to be flipped, so be patient. Repeat until all bread is used. Serve with fresh fruit and pure maple syrup. Another fun serving idea is to make sandwiches out of the French toast, slathering some nut butter between two slices, then serving with maple syrup.

Nut-Free Option: Replace 1/3 cup of cashews with 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds.

Bread Note: You may use 6-10 slices of bread, depending on the size of the slices.

Milk Note: After the batter sits for a few minutes it can become quite thick. You can stir through another 1-2 tablespoons of milk if it has gotten too thick with standing (if you have less than half the batter left, use just 1 tablespoon).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*I received a complimentary copy of the cookbook to review; however, all opinions are mine.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What I'm Reading: June 2015

summer break = sailing! this is D learning how to sail a small sailboat
Now that I'm done with school for the term (hello, summer break! goodbye, thoughts of organic chemistry!), I'm able to spend some time reading things I want to read! Here are a few links to things that have caught my interest lately on the web...

-Thinking about where our food comes from, specifically non-organic produce.

-I'm not a super big fan of the paleo diet (or really, any fad diet for that matter), but this is a pretty funny article about the paleo diet. 

-In our organic chemistry labs, we had to deal with some pretty awful chemicals. When I read this article, I felt like I was reading a procedure for an o-chem lab. Ick. 

-Thankfully, in regards to the previous article, you can make at-home protein powders that are completely safe for consumption (whew!).

-I want to make this soo badly. Now that I'm out of school for a few weeks and have some time to kill, I think I will!

-It took him years of research and contacting the federal government, but due to his research on trans fat, this 100-year-old was finally able to get it recognized as unsafe.

-This is my new favorite TV show. I needed a break from House of Cards, but still wanted something edgy. This was it.

-These are good, basic rules to follow for healthy eating.

-This is so depressing. We need to figure out a way to stop wasting food! 

-People tend to focus on nutrients rather than whole foods. I'm so thankful that I'll be attending a college that focuses on whole foods rather than nutrients.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Remembering My Father on the Fifth Anniversary of His Death

my dad and me, taken when I moved out into my own apartment (circa 2007 or so?)
Father's Day always brings with it a sense of pleasure mixed with pain; I'm happy for everyone celebrating their fathers on this day and also sad that I can't celebrate my own father. 

It's been five years since his death, and as every year passes, it becomes easier for me to think about him, but these thoughts are not without a few tears here and there. In fact, as I was reading my two-years-later post (written 3 years ago), I teared up, remembering how I felt when I wrote it and feeling thankful that the pain has somewhat diminished since then.

It's tough to lose a parent when you're still in your 20's. It's hard because more than anything, when I say something goofy or recite a line from a song that my dad loved, I'll look at D, expecting him to recognize the reference and laugh along with me. And that brings me to one major regret, and something I mourn nearly every single day: my dad never met D, the most important person in my life. I know they would have hit it off, and I know they would have really enjoyed each other's company. And I'm so sad that my father never got to see how happy I am with D.

I have other regrets as well regarding my father, some having to do with basically being a brat for the first year or so after his diagnosis (I was 17 years old and this news rocked my world, so obviously, I acted out). But for the most part, I've had time to forgive myself over those thoughts and now, whenever I think of my father, the regrets that come up most are these:
  • not knowing my father more as an adult
  • being more patient with him as his disease progressed
  • spending more time with him prior to him dying
  • telling him I loved him more
  • him not knowing that I'm finally in a really happy place
  • him not getting to see his grandchildren (my sister's children) grow up
  • him not being there for all the major milestones of my life that have occurred during the past few years: moving in with D, buying a house, getting a kitty, moving up to Seattle, and getting into Bastyr University
  • he won't get to walk me down the aisle when I eventually get married

And there are some things that I miss so much whenever I think about him. Those are...
  • his (silly) jokes and humor that I definitely inherited from him!
  • talking about Chicago (his hometown) with him
  • hearing how much the world has changed over the course of his life
  • not having him around

I miss him still, and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. I'm so thankful D is willing to listen to my memories and soothe my tears, because I still have a lot of both for my father.

You can read my original post from the day he died here

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Strawberry Green Smoothie: Vega One Protein Powder Recipe and Review

Embarrassingly, I've had a sample of the new Vega One Protein Powder* in my cupboard for about 4 months now. You might (or might not!) have noticed that I was basically absent from the blog for a few months during my very challenging winter term (January - March), and spring term is just starting to lighten up enough for me to start blogging again. I'm so thankful for that fact, as I see this blog as an enjoyable and relaxing way to talk about my favorite thing: food. Whenever I don't have time to write on here, my life seems a little less bright, so I'm always thankful for the breaks in schoolwork and studying that allow me a chance to put up a post again.

All that aside, I want to recommend this delicious protein powder to you today! Frankly, I'm not the biggest smoothie drinker in the winter months, specifically because I hate to drink anything cold when I'm already cold (either because of the weather outside or just the fact that I'm naturally cold all the time). When it gets warm outside, though, I tend to look towards smoothies as a regular snack or meal option. And since we've started having a wonderful heat wave here in Seattle (see? it DOESN'T rain all the time here, haters!), I've been enjoying smoothies quite often.

What I love about this protein powder is not only the flavor, but the amount of nutrients that are in every scoop-full. Per scoop, you get:
  • only 150 calories 
  • 20 grams of plant-based protein
  • 1.5 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • 1 billion cfu (colony-forming units) of probiotics
  • 26% of your daily recommended fiber intake
  • ...and so much more!
The ingredients are simple, easy to pronounce and recognize, and, when added to a smoothie, the powder adds a delicious (but NOT overpowering) vanilla flavor. In playing around with smoothie creations recently, I've actually discovered that I prefer only using half the scoop at a time, because of the stevia aftertaste, but for those of you that don't mind it, I highly recommend using an entire scoop to get all the vitamins and nutrients intended for each serving.

I created the following green smoothie with this powder, and I have to say, it was pretty perfect. I made enough for one serving, but if you are particularly hungry or want to share, double this recipe to make even more!


Strawberry Green Smoothie with Vega One Protein Powder
Vegan, Soy-free, Gluten-free, High-protein
Serves 1

1/4 c. fresh strawberries (quartered)
1/4 c. canned (crushed) pineapple; include juice
1 c. kale - ripped off stem into small pieces - about 1 leaf
1/4 c. plain yogurt (I used So Delicious Coconut Plain Greek Yogurt)
1/2 c. coconut water (I used C2O coconut water with pulp)
1 scoop Vega One Protein Powder (French Vanilla flavor)

  1. Put ingredients into blender in the order listed above. 
  2. Cover and blend for about 10 seconds, then stir ingredients around, making sure to scrap off sides of glass. 
  3. Blend until mixed and desired consistency. 
  4. Scrap sides once more, blend for another 10 seconds, then pour into glass and enjoy.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary sample of this protein powder from Vega; however, all pictures, thoughts, and recipes are my own. 


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