Monday, January 28, 2013

My New Favorite Sammich: the REUBEN

I LOVE visiting new towns.  The thing is, whenever I have to go visit another city, I research my meal options as if my life depended on it.... well it sorta does. 
I have found so many wonderful gems: 
Saratoga Springs-Four Seasons store and cafe (the BEST carrot cake EVER!!)
Rochester-Lori's Whole Foods

but from them all, my greatest find was in Syracuse:
oh my word.  Completely vegan friendly, their vegan milkshake variety is to die for.  But, from everything, what brought me to absolute tears were their sandwiches. 

Can I just pause for a moment to savor in the beauty that is sandwiches?

It seriously brings a tear to my eye when I remember my first vegan sandwich at Strong Hearts.  I didn't think I could eat a deli meat imitation sandwich ever again!  The kicker here is, the sandwich I ate was a reuben. 
Now, the only memory I have of eating my solitary reuben (yes, I've only eaten 1 real reuben sandwich in my entire life.  what can I say. I've been deprived), all I can remember is grease.  Grease and fat.  I liked the first couple of bites, but afterwards, it was an uphill battle. 
But the vegan reuben was sheer bliss. 

So, I thought I'd try my hand at making my first batch of vegan deli meat, a.k.a. seitan sliced thin.  I thought, it's my first batch, why not be creative?  And what's reubens without Corned Beef, right?  So here it is:

Vegan Corned Beef
(makes 2 small "loaves" of seitan, like mini corned beef briskets)

you'll need:
steam  basket
pot large enough to hold steam basket
aluminum foil
potato masher
large bowl

1-15 oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups of pickle juice (you know, the water left after you eat all the pickles out of the jar, make sure it's not a pickle that's too sweet, the more tart the better)
1/3 c soy sauce or tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
2 1/2 c vital wheat gluten
1/2 c & 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1tsp-1Tbsp black pepper (depending on your own taste)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
pinch of mustard powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of allspice

1.  I took the pickle juice and let every spice from the whole black peppercorns down soak in the fridge for a couple days. 
2.  when you're ready to make the mock corned beef, set the steaming basket in the pot and fill just below the basket with water.  remember that when the water  boils, it will start to seep up into the basket, so adjust water levels accordingly.  turn on the stove to bring to a boil.
3.  assembling the seitan:
in large bowl, mash the beans until smooth.  then mix all the remaining ingredients in order listed and incorporate well.  divide the dough into 2 loaves, and mold each into a football shape and wrap loosely into aluminum foil sheets.  roll the loaves up loosely (they need room to expand) like you would a small candy, tightening either ends by twisting and tucking under.
4.  place the wrapped loaves in the steaming basket, place lid on pot, and let steam for 1 hour.  remember to put the loaves in with the end flaps (the opening) up, so the water doesn't seep into the loaves. 
5.  once the loaves are done, remove from foil and let rest to room temp before slicing.  for easier slicing, place in freezer for 30 minutes. 

Now, all you have to do is to slather some thousand island dressing on some rye or pumpernickel bread, top with some vegan cheese, some sauerkraut and the vegan corned beef, toast it in a press or on the griddle, and voila!  No more reuben deprivation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Way To Cure Bean-Hate

Okay.  So a friend of mine heard that beans were in the black bean brownies I made this weekend and cringed.  I can honestly say that I did the same thing when I heard of this newfangled notion.  Beans & Chocolate?  Pshaw!  But, I am now a firm convert to the fiberous joys of fudgy, peanut-buttery (yes, you heard me right!) chocolate black bean brownies! 
There are many versions out there now, but I got a little creative and just put this together with ingredients I had on hand in my pantry.  Originally, the recipe I go to (Happy Herbivore's) calls for 2 bananas, but my friend commented that it was too, "Banana-y," for him, so I adjusted one banana for dates and applesauce.  If you don't like dates (as I used to be a firm hater of), then you can replace them with another brown banana or 1/4-1/2 c of raw sugar.  Whichever you like best. 

Peanut Buttery Black Bean Brownies
(*NOTE: as this is a healthy alternative, there are no added sugars, and these brownies tend to come out on the not so sweet side.  As mentioned above, if you desire more sweet, as this is a dessert, then please adjust as mentioned)

Ingredients for brownies:
5 medjool dates, seeded
1/2 c unsweetened apple sauce
1 very ripe banana
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/4 c rolled instant oats
1 T peanut butter

1/4 c pb
1 generous T raw honey

preheat oven to 350.  lightly spray/grease a 8x8 pan. 
1.  puree dates in a food processor/high speed blender until pulverized.  add in all ingredients except the oats and blend until well incorporated.  mix in the oats. 
2.  spread into the baking pan and bake for 30-40 min. or until the center comes out clean (if it's a little under done, it'll be a bit more fudgy, but that's all about personal preference :) 
3.  while baking, make peanut butter topping/frosting.  mix the honey and the peanut butter until thick.  (if you like lots of peanut butter, you can double or quadruple the recipe!)
when the brownies are out and have cooled down a bit, spread the topping on the brownies and devour! 

What brownie is your favorite?  If you have any favorite brownie suggestions or recipes, please feel free to share.  :)  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quick Chocolate Fix!

I am on a mission to try and keep myself from sweets.  Like many people with an undeniable sweet tooth, this is very difficult, especially with the plethora of desserts and candy bars available in our mass-consumption society.  Aside from the processed sugars and all the health stuff that you hear Dr. Oz and other medical practitioners preaching consistently, it's just so darn addictive and a hard habit to cut!  So~ the alternative, not just for vegans but for anyone who's trying to be "good" this year, is to cut down or to eat your sweets in a healthier fashion. 
Enter one of my favorite cookies:  the no-bake cookie.  Makes any lazy moment and very few ingredients (not to mention a hot summer day) a breeze and a sweet indulgence. 

My first no-bake cookie experience was in my college cafeteria, where an oaty, chocolatey, peanut buttery no bake cookie stared me in the face and I could not resist!  After the first bite, it was bliss.  So, when I found ohsheglows' author, Angela Liddon's recipe, I was well excited!  I have modified her recipe by doubling the batch, reducing the sugar content, added a pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness, and also some peanut butter, because I can't live without a spoon of peanut butter every day!  :) 

No-Bake Cookies (modified from ohsheglows' Frosty No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies)

1 c rolled oats
(**I didn't have rolled oats so I used puff rice cereal, and that worked well too!  add the 1c and add more if needed)
1/2 c vegan chocolate chips
1 large banana
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
2 tsp cocoa powder
scant pinch of salt
1-2 Tbsp peanut butter (I used crunchy but any will do)

1.  prepare a tray or a plate that's freezer safe and line with parchment paper.
2.  melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time.  stir to melt chocolate.  repeat if necessary.  mash banana. 
2.  mix all ingredients except oats together, and when mixed well, add in oats. 
3.  spoon or use an ice cream scoop (may need greasing) to lay out on tray.  freeze for at least an hour or until set. 

I will warn:  my recipe does not solidify as well as Angela's.  I believe that's due to the added ingredients.  It still holds its shape, and even when left out for hours, it's like a soft, very gently melted candy bar.  It won't last that long anyway, you'll have consumed it before long. :) 

Friday, January 11, 2013

First Pay Day of 2013!

Hello everyone!

It's been several days since I've ventured to post.  Sleep-deprived, I am at the blissful end of the week, as I'm sure most of you agree.  Today was pay day, and the first pay day of the new year!  Woohoo!  So what was my first purchase with my squeaky new paycheck?  I got magazine subscriptions.  Mmhmm!  I'd been wanting to subscribe to several, but I found that one of the magazines, Readymade, is no more.  A sad day for all of us eco-friendly indie kids out there! :)
I did subscribe to Runner's World and VegNews, as I'm an avid runner (my goal is to run a half marathon within this year and a full marathon, maybe even a triathlon before I die), and I'm a vegan so what better way to celebrate both lifestyles?  (Plus, it feels like Christmas when you get a magazine just for you in the mail! Santa came! no... just the postal carrier)

Anyway,  I will update again this weekend with recipes of what I will be cooking, but for now, please consider Angela Liddon's recent post about Carageenan in Vegan foods on her website:  It is a preservative/stabilizer for many vegan and non-vegan foods but it can cause stomach irritation, amongst other disturbances.  She attached a link from that displays a list of foods with and without Carageenan.  I don't know about you, but the whole point for me in living a vegan lifestyle is to eat as clean and natural as I possibly can.  Unfortunately that cuts out a lot of the comfort foods that I grew up eating (believe it or not, I grew up on junk food), but over time, your body doesn't even want that stuff anymore.  So~ that being said, let's all get creative and find fun and healthy ways to make food that's yummy and nostalgic but healthy. 

Happy Friday everyone! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Eating Out Shivers

Everytime friends suggest eating out, I take a step back in my head.  I LOVE eating out.  Indian, burgers, pizza... the idea of not having to cook and have a great time with friends is pure bliss, that is until I remember that I can't eat just anything. 

There are a lot more people with food allergies today than there ever were, and many restaurants (especially if you live in a suburban area) don't cater to newer developments in eating habits.  The vegan movement is growing, however, currently at 3% of the nation's population, and rising!  Cities like New York City boast of having over 100 restaurants, cafes or bakeries that cater to vegan diets.  But what is one to do if your town/city don't have such a plethora of options? It's like going to war: plan ahead! 
If you have some amazing friends, like I do, they will be pretty laid back with going to any restaurant that has vegan options.  If not, then there's always plan B:  BYOF (Bring your own food).  Now, don't get discouraged or overwhelmed.  It may sound cumbersome and a pain in the butt to have to develop a habit of bringing your own food on every outing you go on, but there are simple ways to make this easy. 

1.  bulk cooking. 
I LIVE on this.  I usually make 1 pot of something and live off of it for the whole week.  If you don't mind this, it makes life easy, and you can enjoy vegan choices whilst being in great company.
If you are going to chance ordering something that is on the menu at a regular restaurant, make sure to ask specific questions, like whether or not something's cooked in butter or oil, and especially if you have food allergies, if the veggies have touched animal product or dairy. 
(**if you have severe dairy, wheat or nut allergies, you must make sure to specify to the waiter/waitress about cross contamination, i.e. cleaned bowls & dishware without having touched any of the above mentioned allergic products)

2.  snack options. 
have snacking options readily available.  find what you like best and make sure you have it in stock.  chances are, you can definitely expect at least a veg dish at whatever party or restaurant you go to, and most places are fine with serving you undressed (i.e. not buttered) veggies.  (I always ask for my vegan dressing, like a vinaigrette,  on the side.) 
 If this is not enough for you, the following will be the quickest, easiest option

3.  the store bought option
frozen, vegan meals
vegan packaged snacks/goods
vegan friendly protein bars (make sure to READ THE LABEL, as many protein bars use whey protein which is a milk derivative) 

In truth, being a vegan is quite a commitment.  Heck, living a healthy lifestyle is a large undertaking and in today's fast-paced society, it's difficult to try and fit in a lifestyle that may resemble Little House on the Prairie, but if you think about it, what did the human population suffer back in those pioneer days, other than a lack of medical science technology?  People ate meat and carbs, fruits and veggies, worked hard from morning til night and lived until they were 90+.  Yes, it wasn't an ideal era, but what era is perfect?  Let's face it.  If you want to be healthy and live for a cause, it's going to take some work, but what we need to ask ourselves is this:  is the effort worth it? 

*more energy
*healthier me
*no digestive/allergic problems
*clearer skin (it's true!)
*stopping animal cruelty
*supporting natural, clean farming/living
*less destruction to the earth
*leaving behind good soil, good ethics and habits to pass on to the next generation
(these are just some of the perks of being healthy and/or being vegan)

I'd say it is.  Your well-being is worth the effort.