Monthly Archives: January 2012

My 28 Day Vegan Journey (a day late)

If I’ve learned something, as I certainly have, by only eating food with dirty roots, it’s the inter-connectedness or the smooth fluidity of the human body. What goes in detonates, like a nutritional bomb, and touches every plasmatic surface, every neglected and un-stretched muscle. It seems it’s true that all we need to know we learned in kindergarten.

With the leg bone connected
to the knee bone,
and the knee bone connected
to the thigh bone,
and the thigh bone connected
                          to the hip bone…

Whole grains, legumes, fruit, soy, nuts, berries, water and vegetables have been the mainstays given the rite of passage into my cleansed gullet these past 28 days (and some less honorable mentions if I’m being honest, like umm, a few Oreo’s), and my whole body feels like it’s been gently nudged awake from a sort of nutritional hibernation.

Going along with the allegory, the first order of business after sleep, is, fittingly, a trip to the toilet. Sure enough, the first transformation was in my gut. See: Grocery experience. This is the one “health benefit” of veganism I’m not sure I liked. Before this experiment I was already *ahem* using the restroom twice a day because I ate a lot of fiber. It was comfortable. But this past month? Let’s not even go there…it’s been a little excessive.

Next, waking up. Maybe for most people this comes first, but for me, open eyes does not equal “awake”. I’m not going to say there hasn’t been a single moment when a yawn has slipped out of my mouth mid-day, but generally I’ve had an abundance of energy-and if I have gotten tired, it’s because I work in a library.

Third, grooming. My skin has hardly required washing, and this is coming from a girl with acne. Not a cute little comically placed pimple at the tip of my nose every once and awhile kind of acne, the real deal. Again, I’ve still had to manage my acne, but my skin has become unbelievably dry. I tried using my acne medicine last night, but when I woke up this morning my skin was peeling. It’s been made obsolete!

It seems like so many things (and so many other smaller things I don’t have space to mention, like the fact that my eyelashes look like Brooke Shields’ in those Latisse commercials, or that my mouth doesn’t taste bad in the morning) are clearly affected by nutrition. I knew this before, but to see such dramatic changes, like with my skin, happen in 28 days, is pretty remarkable.

I’ll post my and my dad’s test results tomorrow for scientific proof, but for now, I’ll just sign off and leave you with the skeleton song stuck in your head. It’s a good one to remember whether you’re eating a salad or, perhaps, a delicious, creamy Oreo. What you allow yourself to eat will have an impact on your whole self. Whether or not I remain vegan, this is something I’ll never forget.

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Eating Out, Vegan

The past 26 days have seen little in the way of restaurant food. I can count on one hand…actually…one finger, the number of times I’ve eaten out. The sole occasion was that disastrous vegan sub at Subway, and that must have ruined the experience as a whole. But yesterday I had the treat of meeting a friend at the trendy, elegant-cafeteria style restaurant “Green Dog Cafe” here in Cincinnati.

The words “elegant” and “cafeteria” put together may seem like a paradox, but it was actually quite lovely. It was so nice to step into an establishment with just as many options for vegans/vegetarians/gluten-free people as not. As I ordered the “Green Chow Chow Curry-vegan style” I caught myself expecting some kind of smirk, or “oh, she’s one of those…” looks, but no such look was cast my way! It was great.

Their description for the green chow chow curry is as follows: “sauteed spinach and mushrooms, green curry, coconut milk, cilantro served over brown rice with socca”. It was delish, and there was so much of it!! Two meals at least. My friend got their fries for us to share, and I’m so glad she did! They were perfect. I couldn’t try the mayonnaise based dip, (unfortunate because she was practically drooling over it), but I did have the pleasure of dipping in the apple one, which tasted like

apple butter to me. I also indulged in some Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet (Jenni’s Ice Cream) which was light and refreshing. The perfect finish to such a filling meal, even if 5 dollars is a little pricey for a few scoops of sorbet.

Then today, I went to Chipotle with my family and got a burrito sans meat, cheese and sour cream. It hit the spot! Why didn’t I go here earlier?


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American Diner, Revisited

For dinner tonight, I had a vegan version of what you might find at a 50’s style diner. A burger, a side, and a chocolate shake. The burger was “Amy’s” brand. Very tasty and only requires a quick zap in the microwave. Can’t beat that. But the other two parts were my own creation-I’m proud of these!

“Buttery” Garlic Brussels Sprouts

  • Heat up 1 tsp vegan butter substitute (I use Earth Balance) and 1 tsp grapeseed oil on medium-high heat 
  • Slice the brussels sprouts in half. Do not cut the tough end off at the end or else the leaves will all fall off.
  • Place the sliced brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the oil and butter.
  • Chop up about 2 tbsp onion and add to pan.
  • Add 1 tsp chopped garlic, or two cloves chopped to the pan.
  • Once the onion starts to brown, add a tablespoon of soy sauce (maybe slightly more?) and let some of the liquid cook out.
  • Toss everything together and munch!

Chocolate Shake (approx. 390 calories, so I divided it into 2 servings and put one in the freezer)

  • Put all ingredients listed in a blender: 2 frozen and chopped bananas, 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tbsp agave syrup, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup soy milk.
  • Blend and enjoy 🙂
  • P.S. Total guesstimation on the amount of soy and almond milk. Basically add enough until you like the consistency. If you have a better blender than my family has, I would recommend only adding half a cup liquid and you’ll achieve an ice cream like consistency. This was phenomenal, I must say.


  • If you make half the shake recipe, add a handful of spinach that you surely will not taste, and 1/4 cup cooked oatmeal, and you have a healthy chocolate shake breakfast!
  • For the protein fiend/peanut butter addict, substitute the 2 tbsp agave for 1 tbsp peanut butter and add some truvia.
  • Vegan butter substitutes have MORE calories than butter does. True fact. The difference is that they have no hydrogenated oils, trans-fats or saturated fats. They also have omega-3 fatty acids and obviously are casein free. Woot! Still, if you’re trying to lose weight, just remember that they are still high in calories and should be treated as a bit of an indulgence.

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Glimpse Burgers

As I was making dinner, I found this fatty waiting for his own meal on our kitchen table. This was the look I got when I told him “I love you, Chester!” Can you tell how much he loves me too? Total disdain. He still got plenty to eat of course. My cat’s more spoiled than a rotten egg.

Anyway, I was absolutely famished after work. I wanted something quick and easy and I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for at least three days now. I nearly cried when I realized I didn’t have any cooked brown rice and the damn stuff takes at least 30 minutes. It was worth the wait.

Once I had the rice made, these were a cinch to pull together. Super easy and really delicious. Next time instead of using a potato masher though, I’ll make sure to use my food processor to really blend all the ingredients well, and I’ll also double (at least) the recipe. This time I put one “meat patty” on two slices of bread, but because they’re not heavy and caloric like meat, I’ll use two patties the next time on a bun for more of a “burger” effect.

I’m calling them Glimpse Burgers because they’re from my mom’s yoga instructor’s website, called “Glimpse Yoga”. You can visit her website here for a comprehensive and inspirational introduction to yoga, plus some fantastic recipes (including the burgers here, called “Northstar Cafe Burger” on her site). Bon appetite!


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A Haiku for Kim Barnouin

To Kim Barnouin

I will send my gratitude

for her chickpea cakes


Did you like that? A little literary/culinary juxtaposition there. I hope her last name is pronounced in three syllables like I’ve been assuming…

I have on my desk a plethora of vegan cookbooks. One of them is Kim Barnouin’s “Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook” from which the “Curried Chickpea Cakes” at left came from. Add some “Raspberry-Mango Salsa” on top from “The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys” and you’ve got a tummy-rubbing good meal, and so pretty to boot! I made three each for myself, my dad, and my brother, and everyone loved them.  I’ll put the recipes below…I hope that’s not some illegal copyright thing…I mean I told you who came up with them, right?

While we’re talking about cookbooks, I should also mention “The Vegan Table” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Last night I made her “Chocolate Cake With Coffee Ganache”. It was fantastic! I had like three pieces this morning with my tea. I might make the ganache a little differently next time, but overall I was so impressed with this recipe. You know it’s good when I forget to take a picture before digging in. The one adjustment I made was replacing the 1/3 cup canola oil for 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce. This saves a whopping 596 calories, most all of which are fat, and I swear to all that’s holy, you cannot tell one bit of difference in the taste. I also only used half a cup preserves for the glaze instead of a cup. (That was an accident because we only had half a cup, but hey! It worked!)

Who says vegan food is boring?


Curried Chickpea Cakes

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions, both white and light green parts
  • 1/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons evaporated cane sugar (*tms foodie* substitution: 1 teaspoon agave syrup)
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs, plus 1/4 cup for coating (*tms foodie* substitution: I didn’t use the extra 1/4 cup, and I use Panko crumbs)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2/3 cup COOKED brown rice (this means you’ll only need 1/3 cup dry)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or toasted sesame oil, for pan searing

In a large food processor, combine the chickpeas and green onions. Pulse until combined. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, sugar, 2/3 cup of the breadcrumbs, curry powder, nutmeg, and cumin. Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in the brown rice and the salt. Mold into 10 mini patties.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat (*I did not add all the oil at once. I used about a teaspoon at a time and added more as needed*). Add the chickpea cakes to the pan in batches and saute until there’s a nice golden sear on the bottom. Flip and sear the other side as well. Continue with the remaining cakes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Raspberry-Mango Salsa

  • 2 cups pureed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup minced green onion
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped fresh plum
  • tomatoes (*we omitted this because we used tomato chunks instead of pureed)
  • 1/2 cup whole fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup diced mango (*we added an entire mango*)
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
In a bowl, gently combine all the ingredients, being careful not to mash the raspberries. Chill for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend.
Chocolate Cake with Coffee Ganache
(For Cake)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (*I used 3/4 cup raw sugar*)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup nondairy milk (soy, rice, almond, hazelnut, hemp, or oat-I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup black coffee of your choice
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (I used 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce)
  • 1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
(for glaze)
  • 1 cup apricot preserves or jam (I used half a cup cherry preserves for a black forest cake effect)
  • 2 tbsp water
(for ganache)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tbsp black coffee
  • 2 tbsp nondairy, non-hydrogenated butter (such as earth balance) (*this is where I would change things a little-even earth balance is rich in oils and fats, although they’re non-hydrogenated and casein free which is good. I’d like to try adding a little fruit pectin for shine, instead*)
To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8- or 9- inch cake pan. A springform pan is a great option.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder in a bowl until mixed througouhly. It may be necessary to sift the cocoa powder to make sure it is very fine. You can do this easily with a small strainer.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add milk, coffee, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
To make the glaze add preserves and water to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until drops that cling to the spoon are very sticky and relunctant to leave, 2-3 minutes. Strain thorugh a wire sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Set aside.
To make the ganache, combine cocoa, confectioners sugar, coffee, and nondairy butter in a double boiler (or make a double boiler by placing a small pot in a larger one). Heat over low medium heat until ingredients are combined and appear shiny.
Once the cake has cooled completely, spread glaze evenly over the top. Pour ganache over glaze and spread with off-set spatula. If necessary, to cover entire top. This process works well if both the glaze and the ganache are still warm. If you make them in advance and store them in the refrigerator simply warm them over low heat and proceed. Serve cake immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Yield: 8 servings. *we divided ours into about 12 pieces…but ate several so…*

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The Traveling Vegan

This past weekend I visited my grandparents in Indiana.

I walked in the door and my nose was greeted with the lovely aroma of sloppy joes and corn bread muffins, ripe for the taking. Knowing that I couldn’t indulge in the sloppy j’s I ran over to the corn bread muffin box, hoping against hope that maybe it was vegan. I mean it has corn in the title, right? Of course, it had “animal lard” in it…a big no-no. Shouldn’t CORN BREAD be vegan?? Sheesh. I’m really starting to sympathize with these people.

Somehow, I ended up with the meal shown here. Cereal and wine…womp womp. Not exactly a beacon of health.

Later, I did end up making the soup at the right. It’s a butternut squash, sweet apple soup. I’ll post the tentative recipe at the bottom. It was delish! Totally heart healthy and comforting for a cold winter day.

If you’re traveling and you like to keep animals in your home, not your belly, be prepared. Take some fruit and some basics, like bread, peanut butter and jelly (I did have the foresight to bring these at least), and prepare yourself for some mental turmoil as the rest of your family digs in to a myriad of food you can’t eat. Sad face.

Butternut Apple Soup

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 honeycrisp (or other sweet) apples
  • apple cider
  • vegetable broth
  • garlic
  • onion
  • cinnamon
  • almond milk
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

Split the butternut squash in half and rub the flesh (ha…) with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a very hot oven until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Let cool.

Cut the apples up and toss with a very minimal amount of olive oil and some cinnamon. Roast until tender. You can put these in at the same time as the squash. Just remember that the apple will be done well before the squash is.

Saute onion and garlic in a soup pot. Once the onion is transparent, add the scooped out squash and the apple chunks. Pour in about 2 and a half cups apple cider and 2 and a half cups vegetable broth. Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender/food processor, to mix it all together. Let it simmer over the stove and taste. If it needs salt and pepper, add some. At the end I added some almond milk for creaminess, but had there been plain soy milk I would’ve used that instead. It’s thicker and has a better “creamy” consistency.


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Knapsack Dinner

Tonight I was taken back to the days of playgrounds and puddle hopping as my dinner was as follows: PB+J, applesauce+cinnamon, pickle spear, and chocolate pudding. It was splendid. (Minus the chocolate pudding that got mixed reviews at best).


If only life were so simple.


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All Spices Are Not Created Equal

ImageSometimes the oat gets a bad rep. Despite it’s ass-kicking health properties, its only claim to pop-culture fame is the scene in which gaunt little Oliver Twist asks for “more” of the bland porridge being served at the orphanage. Not a great moment for oats.

Thankfully, we’re not living in 19th century England where a peppercorn was the height of culinary sophistication. We have cinnamon! And this morning I realized why ours seemed broken. It really wasn’t working. Thankfully, I got some cinnamon from a spice shop for Christmas and thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did! Where before you could add a tablespoon and taste very little, this kind required 1/4 teaspoon and that was almost too much. Good quality, fresh spices make all the difference.

Here’s a picture of the four kinds of cinnamon we have at my house. They all smelled very distinct and lent a unique flavor. A is from the giant vat of cinnamon we got from Kroger. The reason it tastes so bland is namely from it’s age. Who could really use a half gallon of cinnamon before the essential oils dry out?? Pretty sure we’ve had it for a minimum of three years… B is “China Cinnamon” and smelled the most like standard cinnamon. C is “Ceylon Cinnamon” and smelled incredibly bright and sweet, almost like citrus. Finally, D is “Roasted Saigon Cinnamon.” I was totally taken aback by it’s depth and pungency. Earthy and spicy, I can’t wait to use this as a spice rub on…dare I say, meat?

Both the China and Ceylon cinnamon would have been good in the Oatmeal but I used the China one. The recipe is below.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Scant 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix the oats, cider and milk in a small pot and let it thicken to your preference. Add the syrup and cinnamon. You can also chop up some apple into small, bite size pieces and add them to the oats before cooking. They’ll become softer once it’s finished.

For this recipe it’s important to use real maple syrup. The depth of flavor really carries throughout the oatmeal where maple flavoring wouldn’t. I use Grade B because it’s less processed, but some people find Grade A flavor more pleasant. If you’re on a low-calorie diet, a teaspoon would do the trick too.

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One Week, Vegan: A Summary

*Viewer discretion is advised*

Tonight our tacos were served up Sweeney Todd style. Do you see my poor little finger?? All in the name of veganism…I’m just thankful the pepper I was chopping wasn’t spicy, and the fact that my finger is numb is more a blessing than a worry.

Also noteworthy: Saying goodbye to my beautiful Musquee de Provence pumpkins. They were the only ones that survived the demon squash bugs this past summer, but they finally succumbed to old age. I’m sad we didn’t get our new oven in time to roast them.

I just threw this picture of Molly and Woody in because it’s adorable. It does make for some good motivation though. One week into this program and I haven’t touched a single animal product. When you’re constantly surrounded by pets who do things like this, how can you feel bad about that decision?

Last night I watched “Life in a Day,” a documentary made by National Geographic. It’s a compilation of images and clips filmed by people all over the world on a single day. For one clip, they show a cow being slaughtered. It was so unexpected I didn’t even have time to look away. I think that’s something everyone should see before digging into their next hamburger.

When there’s such an enforced blindness about slaughter, the connection between life and the death served on your plate seems nearly invisible-as it is, for most. But the real truth is that every cow, pig and chicken that’s killed for our food doesn’t want to die. No living thing does. It’s a hard concept to grasp when as consumers, all we see is the plastic wrapped product for the taking. Although I began this program for health reasons, I’m understanding it’s importance for others.

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Being Vegan: Day 6

Lunch yesterday. Yum? I think so. As you can probably see, I couldn’t quite wait to take the picture before biting into that pita with peanut butter and agave. I’ve been craving peanut butter something fierce. (Odd since I never liked it before).

Tonight, I made roasted spaghetti squash. This is what it looks like once it’s scraped out of the shell.

I added some organic, no sugar added marinara sauce on top with some ground beef imitator ground up in the sauce. Add a slice of whole grain bread, a glass of merlot and you’ve got one guilt-free, delicious dinner! I couldn’t believe how good the faux-meat was-nothing like the gelatinous hotdog.

Here’s proof! A shot of my 15 year old brother, in action, eating a plate full of SPAGHETTI SQUASH. So proud.


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