Friday, September 30, 2011

My First Cuke

I started growing my own organic garden from seeds, soil, and organic nutrients in the beginning of the summer. Watering day after day, wishing, hoping, and believing, these seeds would turn into a fruit-and it happened. A cucumber was born! It made it's appearance on my cutting board...only to be eaten within 5 minutes. No sauce, no dip, just cucumber and mouth. This thing was yummy, crisp, and best of all: hand grown organic. I live in an apartment and was able to make my own fruit. Now it's your turn to try the same! Grab a pot, some soil, and some organic nutrients. Place those seeds in and water daily. Watch your own fruit come alive. For more details check out my other posts about organic gardening by clicking on the labels below.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vegan Insanity

I have officially gone Vegan. Yay! I'm excited about my choice and cooking up lots of yummy vegan recipes. Keep your eyes out! Desserts are my favorite hehe. I've been here before, but this time I'm here to stay. I've realized that being a vegan is more of who I am. Since I've left college and entered the real world, I've been figuring out who I really am. What do I like, love, want, and need?

Vegan is my first choice. I'm the type of vegan who eats a plant-based whole foods diet, not the one who goes, "Oh look it's vegan, I'll eat it" kind. I do it for my health first, morals second. The last time I was vegan I was very preachy-preach and guilt-tripping people about, "How COULD you eat that poor baby cow?" This time around I've learned to just talk about it when the time and crowd is right. Along with my dedication to a vegan lifestyle, I have added on something just as intense:

Besides deciding on veganism, I have dedicated myself to the workout program called Insanity, by Shaun T. The program is a 60-day interval training cardio program that turns your flab into muscle, and ultimately cuts your body fat percentage. Around this time last year I was doing another BeachBody program called P90X. People were asking me how I got so fit and why I looked so healthy.

These programs are no joke! They work for me, and they work great. Six days a week I get insane and challenge every muscle in my body to work it's hardest at keeping up with Shaun T. The best part? When I'm done I feel amazing. My mind is focused, my body is dripping in sweat, and I'm ready to take on the world. Fitness is not just a come and go kind of thing; it is a commitment for a healthier lifestyle. 

From the months of January through now I've only been going to the gym, jogging, and lifting weights at home. I lost all my P90X muscle mass, strength, and confidence. For some people, they have the discipline to get a hard enough workout on their own; I need someone like Shaun T or Tony Horton to yell it at me.

Recently on Twitter I was asked, "Is it hard being a vegan and doing such an intense workout program?" 

Definitely not. Usually people who do these programs start out overweight and eating like crap. I was already working out at my gym 3-5 times a week and eating a healthy diet. Being vegan doesn't hinder, but helps my workouts. As a vegan, I am super aware of my intake and nutritional values of my meals.

My plant-based whole foods nutrition is only benefiting my workout. Instead of supplements, protein shakes, and gatorade, I eat real food that has a higher bio-availability. I've learned that eating a salad with spinach, quinoa, beans, avocado, pine nuts, cashew cheez', agave candied walnuts, and rice vinegar will be better for my body than a soy protein shake. I've looked at the nutrition plan for Insanity (which is not vegan friendly) and have found that my diet intake is equal to or more nutritious.

Better Images Coming Soon!
I'm currently shopping around for a new camera. As suggested by Kathy, I'm starting with a Canon Rebel kit and going from there. I'm looking at the Canon T2i right now and sleeping on the decision because it is an investment. I know you will enjoy the better images as much as I will enjoy taking them. So long to the cell phone camera and hello to a real Digital SLR. I couldn't tell you how much I've learned today from reading all these reviews, product descriptions, and websites. I'm still gawking at the Lytro idea, but know that this will come on the market and I'll wait for my amazon reviews. See you soon!

xoxo Nixie

Here is the link to my Insanity profile!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Strawberry Lime Fronch Toast

Waking up late on a Sunday and craving a warm sweet breakfast is the highlight of my weekend. I lay in bed thinking of my fridge contents and start to stir things up in the bowl of my mind. As soon as I decide, I jump up, make my breakfast, and come back for my Sunday morning writing and watching of health related shows or instant Netflix. Today I decided on using my sprouted bread for my favorite recipe, french toast. It's easy, quick, and delicious.

It is incredibly simple to alter the recipe to fit what's in your fridge. If you don't have lime, don't add it. Maybe you have a lemon extract instead, add that. Get creative! Don't have strawberries? Use apple slices or pears. Here is a jumping off point; now dive in.

What You Need
3 T Whole Wheat Flour 
1 T Baking Powder
1 C Soy Milk 
1 tsp Agave
1 tsp Vanilla 
1 tsp Earth Balance, melted
Juice of one key lime or half a regular lime 
1/4 C flax egg= 1/8 cup flax meal+ 1/8 cup water
4 Slices Sprouted Cinnamon Raisin Bread (I used Trader Joe's brand) 
4 Strawberries, thinly sliced
2-4 T Soy Cream Cheese 
Agave (Optional Decoration)

Earth Balance for greasing pan

What To Do
Heat pan on medium with enough Earth Balance to moisten the bottom.
Mix dry ingredients. Stir in milk, flax egg, agave, vanilla, and lime juice. Dip bread in mixture until fully saturated. Place on pan for 2-3 minutes on each side. DO NOT flip too early! It will ruin the crispy crust on your bread and you'll lose your delicious flavor. You can use the edge of the spatula to check the status, and then continue to flip if it's a golden brown.

Top one slice of bread with a spoon of cream cheese and sliced strawberries. Place another hot slice on top of that to melt the cream cheese. This will make it taste like cheesecake! Top with more cream cheese, strawberries, and drizzle with agave nectar.

Health Tips
Flax meal is incredibly healthy for you. Adding it to your regular french toast recipe will add fiber, antioxidants, and lignans. Lignans help protect against breast cancer by binding to the receptors and interfering with cancer promoting effects. Add flax to any of your baking recipes that require eggs!

Cut the Calories 
If you want to cut the calories on this recipe, leave out the soy cream cheese and all agave. Use lime juice and more strawberries to garnish.

Calories: 150 kcal/slice, 25 kcal/4 strawberries, 60 kcal/T cream cheese, 60 kcal/T agave
Total per serving: 300 calories 
Simple. Delicious. Healthy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Who can turn down chocolate? After reading a post about peppermint pie, I bought some extract expecting to make it. Once I mentioned to the omnivore boyfriend that I needed silken tofu for it, he denied his interest. I decided to get creative so that we could share dessert. My result: Chocolate cups filled with peanut butter or peppermint creme. Let's just say the result was, "Yum. Can I eat it all?" 

 As you can see from the photos, this will be the easiest candy you've ever made. No thermometers, special molds, pots or pans. Just an easy melt, stir, and spread.

What You Need
1 Bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Peanut Mixture
3 T Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 tsp Agave
1/2 tsp Nutritional Flakes

Peppermint Cremé
3 T Soy Cream Cheese
1/4 tsp Peppermint Oil 
1 tsp Powdered Sugar

Cupcake liners
Cupcake pan 
Ice cream scoop with button

What You Do 

Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

Melt half of the bag of chocolate chips in a glass bowl over boiling water. Stir with a rubber spatula.

Using the rubber spatula, spoon chocolate into the ice cream scoop and place into cupcake liners. I used half a spoonful for each. Make them as thin as you'd like. I came out to 8 cupcake liners filled. If you use less, you can fill all twelve.

After filling all cupcake liners with the melted chocolate, place them into the freezer to harden.

In two small bowls, make the peppermint creme and peanut butter. If you're not into the mint flavor, just make twice the amount of peanut butter mixture. Place the peanut butter ingredients in one bowl and mix until creamy. If you're peanut butter is too stick, place it in the microwave for 15 seconds.

Mix the peppermint cremé ingredients in a separate bowl until smooth.

Melt the rest of the chocolate chips in the bowl the same way as the first time.
While melting, take out the hardened chocolate and scoop a teaspoon of each mixture onto it. (Seen above in photos) Feel free to eat any leftovers or lick the bowls. I did! :) 

Now scoop the chocolate onto the top of the mixtures and spread around with a teaspoon until smooth. Keep the edges clean if you want it to look like a Reeses cup. If you like the layered look, then spread it to the edges. Place back in freezer for 10-15 minutes until hardened. Mine didn't even take that long!

Dig in!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Maple Roasted Radishes

What the heck do you do with radishes? When I got them in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, I just threw them in my fridge's bottom drawer and had faith an idea would come to me. A week and a half later they were still there ready to commit suicide. Those poor sad radishes. So I gave them a reason to live be roasted.

Roasted radishes? How can that taste good? Aren't radishes bitter and weird? Yes, when they're raw they can have a bite to them. But after roasting in a sweet and savory sauce, they almost taste like potatoes. Don't believe me? Try it next time you're stuck with a bunch.

What You Need 
  • 5 red radishes
  • 1 T Maple syrup 
  • 1 T Olive Oil 
  • S+P 
What to do 
Preheat your oven to 400*F 

Line a small baking sheet (I had a mini one about 5X8'') with enough foil to fold up on the sides about 3 inches. 

Place maple syrup, olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt onto the foil. Spread it around with your fingers, or move the foil around so the bottom is coated. I just tilted my pan side to side and the sauce spread itself out. 

Dice up your radishes, being careful to cut off the greens on the ends. Toss the radishes in the foil until all are coated like so: 

Create a seam in the foil by folding the sides up and pinching together. Bake for 10 minutes.

Take out, unseam the foil, and cook for 10 more minutes, being sure to keep the foil folded up on all sides to prevent the yummy liquids from spilling out. Important: This will keep them moist! 

When done, the radishes should be soft like a baked potato. Pour everything into a shallow bowl and top with extra margarine or agave if you'd really like to sweeten the deal. I put a dollop of Earth Balance and drizzled agave on mine for a pretty effect. :) 

So now you know: Radishes aren't a dunce. They can be yummy too! 

Healthy Hour Tacos

As I was shopping at Trader Joe's last night I saw taco seasoning on sale for only $.79 a packet and got excited. At the time, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. Friday night came around and I got inspired by the few ingredients in my fridge.

Start out by crumbling and seasoning the tempeh in
  • 2 T organic tomato paste
  • 1 packet taco seasoning 
  • 4 T olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
in a medium sized bowl. After mixed well, throw the tempeh on a nonstick pan on low heat like so:

Make sure you lay it out on the pan so it cooks evenly. I put it on low heat so you have time to chop and set everything else up. Now chop up all your favorite taco additions while the "meat" cooks. I added:
  • fresh crisp romaine lettuce
  • avocado
  • halved baby tomatos 
  • Daiya Cheese 
If using tortillas, wrap and heat them in the oven at 200* for 5 minutes.  If using romaine, rinse and dry your lettuce leaves. Lay them out on a plate for topping later. If you like your cheese melted, place your tortillas under the broiler on foil for a minute. The cheese will melt and the tortilla will be heated.  

After you finish setting up your taco line for piling on the goods, turn your heat up to high and toss your "meat" until browned, but not too crispy. If cooked too long it will get hard, so taste your food!

When your meat is done, assemble your tacos and enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

3 Ingredient Cashew Spread

Chip's New Best Friend
Have you ever been to a raw, vegan restaurant and ordered a pizza? Chances are you had this dolloped all over it. The first time I had a cashew cheez' made me think they must be fooling me. I couldn't believe it was non-dairy and this delicious. Well now you can make it at home for less pain on your wallet! This easy recipe will have you coming back for more.

This spread is great on homemade pizza, crackers, chips, lasagna, salad, sandwiches, and more. The cashews provide a smooth creamy texture as the tomatoes give you the sweetness your body craves. The basil kicks in at the end with some herbal notes to delight even the most stubborn of taste buds. This spread, also used as a soft cheez', is so versatile and easy that you'll be keeping cashews in your cupboard for now on.

There are two methods to do this, but since I have the Omega 8006 Juicer (single auger), I chose it. You can use any blender, preferably a high powered one or food processor. The blender and food processor will result in a creamier texture. Whatever you have on hand will do the job!

2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight 
1 1/2 cups sun dried tomatoes
1 Handful fresh basil 
*Save some of the water from the cashew soak

Blender/ Food Processor Directions
Drain most* of the water out of your soaked cashews. (You can drink this if your a real health nut.) Leave a little bit of the water at the bottom so that the blender will turn more easily. Place raw cashews in machine.
Blend until nice and creamy.
Add in your sun dried tomatoes and basil and blend until all combined.
Use a rubber spatula (or your finger) to get all the goodness out of the container. Store in a ziploc bag, tupperware, or any other wide-rimmed airtight container.

Juicer Directions
Use a blank filter with the 4-holed nozzle. Feed raw cashews through the juicer twice, so that a creamy mixture is left. Place the sun dried tomatoes through, alternating with leaves of basil. Use some of the cashew water to push through if its not coming out. If you dumped it down the sink, just use purified water. After all has been through the masticator, mix together with a fork to combine thoroughly. Enjoy on anything you can possibly put this on!

Ps: There are plenty of health benefits of cashews!

Raw Vegan Hummus

Okay, first off I have to say, I. love. hummus! I would spend $4.59 on two tiny containers of organic hummus almost every single week...until now. Today I made a simple hummus with just a can of chick peas and some lemon juice. It is vegan, raw, and delicious! I could have eaten the entire container, but I held back because I didn't have another can in the cupboard to replace it. Here is the simple solution to a usually expensive addiction of mine.

1 can Garbanzo Beans (Organic if possible)
Garlic Pepper
Lemon Juice
Cayenne (If you like it hot)
Olive Oil

I made mine in my Omega Juicer, but you can use a blender, hand mixer, or a potato masher! Anything you've got on hand to mash these beans will work.

No Equipment Method
Mash the beans until they reach a creamy consistency. Add in a dash of lemon juice, olive oil, and your favorite spices. Use on anything you love or just spoon it into your mouth.
Juicer Method
Use a blank attachment with a 4-holed nozzle. Put the whole can of beans through once. Then take the mash out and put it through again. This will make it creamier. Now add in a dash of olive oil and lemon juice. Flavor it with your favorite spices, or my favorites: garlic, black pepper, and cayenne. Place in an old hummus container, Ziploc baggy, or tupperware. Enjoy for the next 3 days, or in my case 3 hours.

Fun Options
  • Dice and stir in some roasted peppers (Roasted Red Pepper Hummus) 
  • --->They sell a jar of roasted red peppers at most grocery stores. 
  • Bake a head of peeled garlic in foil in the toaster oven until soft and stir in. 
  • Use on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
  • Use on tacos at topping 
  • Top tortilla soup with a dollop

Monday, September 19, 2011

Forks Over Knives and Going Vegan (again)

As I was half-way through The China Study I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives. To my enjoyment, it showed images and explanations straight out of the book. It pretty much summarized the whole book in a great documentary. It was moving, educational, and reminded me of my deep, dark, passion for healthy eating. Since January, I went from a Vegan title to Pescatarian, enjoying seafood during restaurant happy hours and my trip to New England (Lobster central). But after watching that documentary, I have this urking feeling inside that makes me want to go back to being "vegan." Many social scenes have seafood, but very rarely have fully vegan options. I went back to eating fish because I missed sushi. I missed my Popcorn Lobster roll, which wasn't as good as I remember when I went back to it. Right now I'm in a funk where all I want is vegan and raw food. There is a constant debate with myself over "Going Vegan" again, for the 3rd or 4th time.

No it is not hard to cut out fish and eggs. I cook almost every single meal from scratch, except for my occasional Gardein purchase that I turn into something yummy. I'm still attempting to muster up the courage to try and make my own seitan this week. Each week I say I'm going to do it, but then I back down and forget as I make something out of my juicer, blender, and vegetables.

Ah but the mental qualm goes on. To be or not to be Vegan, again. I didn't have any problems being vegan before, except for the ultimate ridicule that I faced. Without the title of "Vegan" people don't care that I don't eat chicken, pork, or beef...and am lactose intolerant. They let it go. But throw that V-word in there and they go all preachy-preach on your ass. Someone even said today, "Your like a Jehova's witness." What is that supposed to mean? As they continued on to say, "You better not raise your kids without meat and dairy!"

  I am at war with my social being. People just don't get it these days. They think you're depriving yourself of life's precious moments. I cherish the times when I'm experimenting in my kitchen with new legumes, sauces, and nut cheeses. My precious moments are when my sister calls to ask how to make the raw cashew cheez I told her about, as she shops for vegan ingredients with my father, after they watched Forks Over Knives. Gosh, what a film can (and can't) do for people.

It is hard to live in, or even find, a Vegan and organic social scene . Even if we don't want to admit to it, it is a belief system that we don't walk away from to indulge. Indulging for me is having banana soft serve with shaved dark chocolate on top. When you choose a title like "vegan" you are committing to a lifestyle. I eat about 90-95% vegan already, and now about 5% raw. It is just the title that I am weary of. Many people like the boyfriend or father (usually men) will say, "Oh come on just take a bite of chicken. It wont kill you. It tastes good. You'll like it."

  But it's not about what tastes good or not, it's about committing yourself to health. I can give you my fake chicken and say, doesn't it taste good? Why can't you replace all of your chicken meals with this? It is the same principle. Any food can taste good-vegan or not; it's my ultimate health of which that I'm concerned.

Yes I love animals. Yes I know about the torture, maltreatment, pollution, over breeding, hormones, battery cages, and so on. Of course those things I hate to hear, see, or know are existing. I am deciding yes or no for health, not moral reasons. I know fish have feelings too, and still kinda felt guilty when indulging in a salmon. I counteracted my guilt with the thoughts that it had a wild life, got caught, and is healthy for me.

BUT SCIENCE PROVES: the more plants you eat, the healthier you are. Honestly, I can't even cook a fish without being grossed out, so why should I eat it when out? I know how to replace eggs in every recipe I make, so why am I using egg whites? The more I write the more I lean towards the vegan life. Ah... decisions decisions. What do you say?  What's your stance on things? And don't be this guy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Roasted Red Chick'n Dinner (Salad)

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

 Roasted Red Pepper Chick'n Salad

This is a quick and easy recipe that is omnivore approved! All you need is a few ingredients and about 10 minutes. I ate mine with a bowl of guacamole on the side. If you're in a hurry, just leave it out.

What You Need 
2 pieces Gardein Chick'n Scallopini 
4 Roasted Red,Yellow, and Orange Peppers (Trader Joes sells them in a jar) 
1 Handful Daiya Cheese (Any Flavor, I used Mozzarella) 
1 Big bowl of Organic Baby Lettuces

1 Corn Tortilla (I use sprouted ones) 
Canola oil 
Cayenne (If you like it hot)
Garlic Pepper (A mix of garlic granules and black pepper)

1 Avocado, large
Favorite hot sauce 
3 Green Onion Stalks or 1/4 of a red onion, Finely Chopped

What You Do 

Slice the tortilla into 6 triangles. Cut in half, then in quarters, then in 1/8ths. Place on foil lined baking sheet. Toss in canola oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne if using. Place in oven on 500*F until crispy. Tip: If you have a toaster oven, then place them in there on the highest heat setting. They will cook faster and save you energy.

Place the 2 pieces of frozen scallopini on a medium non-stick pan on medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the roasted red pepper juice in and let simmer. Meanwhile, cut up the roasted peppers and place them in the pan to cook with the chicken for ten minutes, or until all is heated thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt, garlic pepper, and cayenne. As you see the liquid start to brown and evaporate, the chicken should be done. Use your spatula to cut it into bite sized pieces. (It will be soft enough to split easily.) 

If making the guacamole, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mash. Use as much hot sauce as you want to make it hot. If you don't like the heat, just sprinkle in some salt and garlic pepper to taste. 

Assemble that Salad
Place your baby lettuce in a big bowl. Top with chicken and red pepper mixture. Sprinkle a handful of Daiya cheese on top. Take chips and sprinkle around edges. If using guacamole, scoop it onto the chips with a piece of the chicken and send your taste buds to heaven! 

Simple. Healthy. Delicious. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chick'n & Waffles

Not mine, but you get the idea

I've seen it on TV, I've heard about it before, but never considered making it: Chick'n and Waffles! After I bought a bag of Lime Chipotle Strips from Gardein, and was craving waffles, I decided to put them together. I whipped up a batch of banana-moistened grids and George Forman'd my strips. After plating those together and drizzling a fresh key lime agave syrup on top; I was in heaven! The crispiness of the waffles and the slight hint of spice from the chicken sung together in harmony. Normally people have fried chicken and waffles, but this was close enough and 10X healthier. So the next time you are craving savory and sweet, reach for the waffle iron!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Organic Fitness

Motivational Running
Fitness is as vital to your diet as fresh organic food. I love being in the kitchen as much as I love being fit, so I must find time to get a workout. Yes, it burns a few calories churning that dough and whisking that egg white to form peaks, but not enough to get a cute butt.

I must admit, the gym is pretty boring. The only reason I force myself to go to my tiny gym is to burn calories so I can enjoy my desserts without guilt. I hop on the treadmill for as long as I possibly can until I'm so bored of looking at my face in the mirror, that I get off to hit the ab-machine. A more organic (and fun) choice would be to run around a nice nature path. But let's face it, most of us live in a city-like atmosphere where concrete pathways are our only choice. Right now it is too hot to go on a run outside, so I conquer the treadmill and blast my tunes. I churn out those 30+ minutes and then grab a drink of water before I do strength training.

Getting into the groove is hard. Many of us use the excuse of being tired, out of time, not in the mood, and so on. But really, it's all in our heads. If we want to be fit, we can. We just have to work at it! It's like a person going sober off drugs, we must refrain from the use of laziness and processed foods. We must stay away from boxed mashed potatoes and frozen dinners! We can do it, it just takes the right mindset and effort. If you commit yourself to an organically healthy life, you will soon reap the beautiful benefits.

My suggestion is to start slow and work your way up to an hour a day, 6 days a week. I would suggest mostly cardio, with at least 15 minutes of strength training each session. Cardio really blasts away those calories and strength training tones up those muscles. Throw in a round of squats to get the cute butt you see on the bikini ads.

Examples of Cardio
  • Jogging with intervals (Don't just cruise, pump speed up and down burn the most calories)
  • Dancing Vigorusly (Latin, Belly) 
  • Cycling  (Try to stand as much as possible) 
Examples of Strength Training
  • Free Weights* (Bicep curls, Tricep Skull crushers, Shoulders)
  • Ab-Machines
  • Chest Press (Seated or Lying Down) 
Whatever you do, make sure you keep variety in your workout. Variety is key to great fitness and diet. Your body (and brain) needs to be challenged in all sorts of ways to perform at its best and not get bored.

If you don't normally workout, don't have a gym, or free weights, I would suggest ordering P90x. It is a program that really made me understand how to push my limits and get into a groove. It is hard at first, but after about 21 days, it is fun and you can't put it down. I still return to the dvd's when I really don't feel like going to the gym or outside to jog. The Kenpo (Cardio kickboxing) is my favorite by far. It is easy, tiring, and a great workout.

Try to establish a specific time you will devote to yourself each day, no matter if its after breakfast, or after dinner-Make a time and stick to it. If you skip it, no big deal. Just try your hardest to get back on the track the next day. It may take a while to find your best time to workout, don't fret. I find that if you get it over with after breakfast, you have the whole day to do what you need to do- be it work, school, or writing like me.

Organic food and fitness go hand-in-hand. Pair them up and people will soon be asking you how you look so good and have so much energy. Stay tuned for more daily recipes and fit tips.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The New Cake Pop: Cookie Drops

What if you could put this into a bite-sized cookie? 

Last night after dinner I was craving dessert like always. I need something sweet after I eat a delicious meal, and I usually don't want to spend 5 hours making it like those cupcakes the other day. So last night I put together something I use to eat in college when I had the munchies: flour, margarine, sugar, vanilla. Last night I used 1/3 cup of each: oat flour, melted Earth Balance, organic cane sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla. I tasted it and said, "mmm, but it needs something else...a flavor."

Luckily I have a bag of key limes leftover from my homemade margaritas the other night and got inspired. I used to make lemon sugar cookies, so why not lime? I juiced two babies and put them in the dough. Yum! I then decided to freeze the dough a few minutes while I poured some powdered sugar on a paper plate. I rolled marble sized drops in the powdered sugar and was in heaven. It had the smell and hint of key lime pie in a bite-sized drop. But still, the sugar didn't fully melt into the hot butter, and there was a crunch. Yummy 5-minute dessert it was, but I knew I needed to change it to enjoy again. The boyfriend suggested to fill the drops with a key lime custard and to make the outside crunchy like a crust. That sounded delicious and today I am going to attempt it.

The other day when I spent 5 hours making Brooklyn Cream Pie Cupcakes, I made the cream in the middle and had plenty leftover. I searched all morning for an agar-based key lime pie recipe but none exists! So I'm going to attempt to use the same method as I did with the cream, yet this time add key lime juice.

The method I used was to boil soy milk and agar flakes for ten minutes until they are completely dissolved. Then I added arrowroot powder and let it cool for an hour in the fridge. After cooling I added in a tofu, sugar, salt, and vanilla blend that made the pastry cream. Again, refrigerated for an hour and got the result of a semi-thick pudding like cream that reminded me of tapioca pudding. So this time I am going to attempt to do the same thing, but add in the lime juice into the tofu mixture to really get the zesty and sweet flavors of the key lime. I'm off to the store to get silken tofu and more limes! Wish me luck.

Kitchen Adventures of A Beginner Chef

What would you answer to the question, "If you could work your dream job, what would it be?" Could you answer this with your current career? Or are you another american who has lost their dream, and settled for the 9-5 to pay the bills? I have decided to take a chance with my life and do my dream job: working with food. I'm starting out by being a home chef. I need to get to know spices, flavors, procedures, prices, software (ingredients) and hardware (pots and pans). I'm cooking every meal I and my boyfriend indulges in. I'm introducing him to many vegan meals and making sure an omnivore can like them. Today I made a delicious soft polenta, left over from my dinner the other night. I blended it with Earth Balance, soy milk, Daiya Pepper Jack, and some spices (cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic). He came along with a spoon and said, "Mmm! Can I have a bowl?" He added a little more cayenne to his, so I guess if I'm serving it I'll have to ask for a rating system like they do at Thai restaurants,"One through five?"

After lunch comes dessert... 3pm I began my journey into a challenging recipe...

Today I attempted to make something in one of my cookbooks that I always thought would be too hard. The total time to make this recipe is about 5 hours total! When I read through the recipe this morning, I almost backed out. I took a seat on my couch and was like,"Oh man do I really want to cook this?" But then I mustered up my energy and decided I had to start challenging myself now, so that I could become a better chef tomorrow. The more I learn about cooking hard, time consuming things, the better I will become at making everything. What is this recipe you ask? Brooklyn Cream Pie Cupcakes from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World."

Yesterday I went to Mother's Market and bought all of the ingredients. My receipt reads things like agar flakes, arrowroot, vital wheat gluten, soy milk, and guar gum. This recipe called for agar flakes, a seaweed gum that acts like gelatin, and arrowroot powder which is a thickener. These two ingredients were a part of the "creme" in the cupcakes, and were the hardest to manage. It took 20 minutes to make the first half with the agar, and an hour for it to firm up. Then it took another 20 minutes or so to make the second half. After all was firm, I had to blend them together (tofu mixture and agar mixture) to make the creme. It was a definite workout!

I also made a dark chocolate ganache that went on top of the cupcakes, not too difficult. Just melt some chopped dark chocolate and maple syrup into soy milk and wah-lah, a chocolate ganache for the topping and truffles later. (There was left over ganache, so I'm going to firm it up and roll it in cocoa powder and powdered sugar for truffles-yum!) And the overall result: Delicous Goodness!

I'm still shopping around for a food processor and a better camera to document my cooking adventures. I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, but each day I will learn more and get inspired as to where it will bring me. A chef in a restaurant, then my own restaurant-maybe. Or making a line of products like Amy's. There aren't enough prepared-healthy foods out there. I can't just go grab something and know that it is low calorie, low sodium, low fat, low sugar, and super yummy and healthy. It doesn't exist. Even Amy's doesn't cut it for me. People want convenient ways to look pretty and eat healthy- they don't want to spend 5 hours cooking in the kitchen, nor do they have the time and energy like I currently do. I'm going to want to just grab something from the fridge one of these days, and I want to make sure it is healthy. Let's see what I can do! Stay tuned for more daily adventures from a beginner natural food chef... or cook for now. ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Organic in New Hampshire

Have you ever been on a vacation, indulged in all the local food, and gained 5 lbs in 3 weeks? Well I just got back from doing that and had a blast! Read below to experience some of the fun I had. 

This August I stayed in Rye, New Hampshire since last Saturday enjoying the beautiful beaches, weather, and food. I was not in any position where I could cook my own meals, so I ate home-cooked meals by my boyfriends mother and went out to eat local everyday. I may have a gained a few inches here and there, but what is a vacation if you're not enjoying the food and fun of the natives?

Staying in New England has given me the opportunity to eat loads of seafood for a very low price. This is a picture of my first Halibut sandwich at Ronnie's Seafood. We drove down from Chappaqua, NY and stopped halfway at this cute place in Auburn, Mass. They have two separate places in on parking lot that are owned and operated by the same staff: one that serves seafood and the other that serves up ice creams and frappes. (Frappe is the word New England uses for milkshakes.)

It has this cute outdoor picnic area to sit after you order and pay at the window. You can see the locals, as well as the people like us that stopped off the highway to grab some grub. I normally don't eat fried foods but had to start my trip off right: trying something new. 

Next stop was the beach house where I was staying. It was the boyfriend's brothers birthday so the festivities were on. For dinner I had a home prepared lobster roll, green salad, and Utz potato chips. The lobster roll was great! It was assembled from finely chopped "lazy-mans" lobster, mixed with a mayo, salt, and pepper. I was in heaven. I didn't take any pictures of the homemade food to keep my impression as a nice, normal girl...and not the tourist who is taking pictures of everything. I've had lobster rolls once before at a restaurant in California named Opah, but these homemade ones beat them out of the ballpark like the Yankees versus a Little League team. 

The following afternoon the group of kids in the house (which were all adults under the age of 32) traveled a short distance to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a yummy brunch. The Friendly Toast is a hipster-ravished, eerily-decorated, mound of yummy foods that cater to everyone. Trying to be slightly healthy, I ordered up the "Kate's Tofu Scramble" which had tofu that looked like scrambled eggs, veggie sausage, mushrooms, corn, and cilantro. It comes with feta and provolone but I'm lactose-intolerant so I said, "Hold the cheese please!" The meal also came with baby red potato hash browns and a humongous slice of cinnamon-raisin bread which tasted like a cinnamon roll. I covered my plate in sugar-free syrup and went to town. I think I had a tiny dinner that night because that plate was full of calories and goodness! Here is me hugging an animatronic cheetah that moved it's tail and mouth if you turned a dial. Tara, my boyfriends cousin, suggested I should hug it like I just caught it. I was happy to oblige, as you can see from my creepy smile. :) 

So you might be asking by now, why is this title contain the word organic if you're not eating anything organic? Well let's just say it is hard to find...and pay for! The house had plenty of organic vegetables in the fridge, but the restaurants, less the five star ones, didn't have organic products on their menus. I set my organic-ness aside for the time being and enjoyed the meat-free, dairy-free delights that entered my mouth...until I found these places. :) 

There was one day that I stopped by this place called "The Juicery." It was near the Friendly Toast, as I saw us drive by it on our way back and thought to myself, "I have to try that!" It's a stop-in and order kinda place that has organic juices, smoothies, and wraps. I ordered the "American" which was sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine, and a non-dairy creamy dill sauce in a whole wheat tortilla. Sounds like my normal veggie sandwich I get from my beloved Bagels N' Brew. But this one was all organic, local, and fresh... and delicious! We sat on these cute little benches outside because there was no room for chairs and tables inside.
On Sunday after a few hours of Cupcake Wars, I was craving one of my own. I looked up vegan places on Happy Cow to find The Portsmouth Baking Co. that served up a vegan cupcake of the day. I was overjoyed and ready to jump in the car. Below is a regular dairy-ful peanut buttercup cupcake alongside my beautiful (and I might add huge) chocolate coconut cupcake. Have you ever had a Costco muffin? They were that big! I got a definite sugar rush, but wasn't too full for dinner. (Eat dessert first!) Afterwards we headed for an Organic pizza and movie. 

Flatbread Co. in Portsmouth, NH is an organic, locally sourced ingredients, hippie and hipster haven. They offered all types of salads, flatbreads, and organic meats. Here are some random photos around the place. We only got food to go, but I definitely want to make time to visit another Flatbread Co. It reminded me of my dearly beloved ZPizza here in Orange County, but was a camp-cafeteria style eatery with a more hippie feel to it. As my sister would say, "Perfect!"

As we waited for our pizza to go since we were off to a movie (Crazy, Stupid, Love), I saw these awesome lamp and chair duo. It really made me feel like I was in a "green" setting and that this company was 100% eco-friendly. My boyfriend thought I was ridiculous to take so many random pics of meaningless things, but I had to give you an idea of this place somehow! Don't you love that peace tomato painting? 

I had many more meals and adventures in New Hampshire and this is only a snippet of them. I'm looking forward to going back next summer to explore more!