Friday, May 31, 2013

Another Dinner from Vegan Soul Kitchen

Thursday night I decided to make another dinner from Vegan Soul Kitchen.  This book has has so many tasty-looking recipes, I can't possibly stop at just one! 
But first ... breakfast. I started my day with a chocolate banana protein shake. 
I know it seems pretty boring to have almost the same breakfast every single day, but going between vanilla with fruit and chocolate keeps things interesting (in my opinion) ... not to mention all the different options for fruit combos.  This probably wouldn't work for someone who prefers a savory breakfast like bacon and eggs, but I'm happy to start my day with a sweet treat! 
On my way to work I passed by a sight you would only ever see in Baltimore.  A home-made snowball truck.  That is ... the truck is home-made.  See that sign?  It's literally taped onto the side of the truck!  It was so funny I had to take a picture. 
For lunch I enjoyed leftover coconut tempeh cubes with creamy parsnip sauce.  Plus I snacked on carrots on the side.  And I may or may not have had a spoonful of peanut butter with the carrots ... 
Okay ... I did :) 
Now getting back to Vegan Soul Kitchen ...  For yesterday's dinner I picked out two recipes: cumin-cayenne mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and whole grain mustard and cornmeal crusted seitan. 
I was expecting to love the mashed potatoes and thought the seitan might be the riskier recipe, but it turned out exactly the opposite! 
I loved the way the seitan turned out, though I used strips and I think I was supposed to use seitan in a different form.  (The recipe instructed you to cut the seitan into "medallions".)  But I think it tasted great either way.  Even my boyfriend said he liked it, and he's normally not a big fan of seitan.
The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were slightly spicy, but mostly really sweet (because of the caramelized onions).  There was nothing wrong per se, it just didn't taste right to me. 
So I'll definitely be making the seitan again, but maybe I'll just make regular mashed potatoes my way instead. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coconut Tempeh with Creamy Parsnip Sauce

I started Wednesday morning off with a strawberry banana protein shake and a traffic-filled commute to work.  Don't worry, I took this picture while stopped in heavy traffic. 
I put together a healthy lunch with leftover frozen potstickers from Tuesday night, paired with carrots and peanut butter.  I know, I know ... if I'm supposed to be eating healthier, why does all this peanut butter keep popping up in my routine?  The reality is that carrots alone just won't cut it for me.  We all need protein and fat to feel full.  Peanut butter is a great way to add a little "oomph" to a meal or snack.  As long as it's kept in moderation ...
Mid-afternoon I snacked on some fresh mango.  It was sweet and delicious.  The perfect afternoon pick-me-up!
For dinner I decided to try a new recipe out of the Vegan Soul Kitchen, a cookbook gifted to me by my boyfriend's parents just after I decided to become vegan.  On the agenda last night: coconut tempeh with creamy celeriac sauce. 
Unfortunately, the key ingredient in celeriac sauce was supposed to be celeriac, or celery root.  But after searching for it unsuccessfully at both Whole Foods and my local large chain, Giant, and turned to a substitution in parsnips.  I knew the flavor would be completely different with parsnips, but thought the consistency would be right and hoped it would still be good.  On the plus side, my boyfriend hates celery with a fiery passion, so he was pleased about the switch. 
The sauce came together easily in the blender, and once that was done the rest of the recipe was a breeze. 
The "coconut" part of the recipe came from pan frying cubed tempeh in coconut oil on the stove top.  This was my first time using coconut oil, which is a bit odd to work with because it is solid at room temperature.  Luckily I had no major issues and fried up the tempeh quickly. 
This recipe would work much better as an appetizer, but was still a tasty dinner.  The only downside was that there wasn't much coconut flavor to speak of.  Not sure how to increase that in the future ... maybe you can't?  The other issue is that it's fried, so it probably wasn't the healthiest choice ...  Maybe next time I will cut down the amount of tempeh (I used two packages) and add a healthy, green side item to balance things out. 

Currently Survey

Thought I'd have a little fun with this post by doing this "currently survey" I saw on Carrots 'n Cake the other day.  It looked like fun and I thought maybe I would try to do it periodically as a fun snap-shot of life on any given day. 
And away we go ...
Current Book:

I started The Passage in March and am still working on it (750 pages!).  But I'm finally nearing the end.  Which is good, because it also happens to be my book club's June book.  I have to finish it by next week ...
Current Music:

I pretty much love Imagine Dragons right now, but my boyfriend's always making fun of me for it because he thinks they have no talent and all their songs sound the same.  But I love them all the same. 
Current Guilty Pleasure:

I'm not supposed to be having any guilty pleasures anymore because I'm trying to be healthier ... but lately it definitely seems to be peanut butter.  In any form ... but my real favorite is still the White Chocolate Wonderful from Peanut Butter & Co.  (They should pay me I talk about them so much!)
Current Nail Color:

I call this "school bus yellow" ... only because I don't have the bottle handy to tell you what the brand named it. 

Current Drink:

That's got to be my ever-present protein shakes ...
Current Food:

I'm still pining for the quinoa salad I made Sunday and am plotting my next recipe.  I'm thinking white beans, artichoke hearts, capers, and tomatoes ...  Stay tuned! 

Current [Favorite] Show:

I always immerse myself completely in one show on Netflix and watch it all the way through before turning to something else.  Right now, it's Alias.  I took out "favorite" because my favorite show is and will probably always be Firefly
Current Wish List:

I had so much fun volunteering with Habitat for Humanity last week that my current wish is to find more opportunities like that to connect with something that feels valuable and like an opportunity for personal growth.  Too often I go through the motions and don't challenge myself in life.  I want to seize every opportunity to do more and expand my horizons. 

Current Needs:

To get over my sugar cravings! 

Current Indulgence:

I just bought this bracelet from MyHabit.  I'd been thinking about getting a shiny metal cuff for a while and this one appeared at just the right moment (and the right price!).  The best part is that I have really small wrists and hands, so bracelets always look way too big and slide off too easily, but this one fits me really well. 

Current Blessing:

My boyfriend, who is also my best friend.  I'm so lucky to have him as a part of my life.  Even if he hates Imagine Dragons ...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vegan Shower Gel

I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods yesterday and while I was there I decided to check out the beauty aisle to see if I could find any good vegan body washes since I'm almost out.  The body wash I have been using is from The Body Shop and is actually labeled cruelty free, but I wanted to see what other options I could find.  And maybe something a little less expensive ...
While I didn't check every brand Whole Foods carries, everything I looked at said it was not tested on animals.  It might be the case that everything they carry is cruelty free, which would be a good thing to remember when it comes time to replace my shampoo and conditioner - both of which were tested on animals. :(
There were so many options, it was hard to choose.  Finally, I went with one of the basic, store brand options in herbal mint scent.  It didn't hurt that it was only $4.  Plus, not only is it not tested on animals, but the bottle is also marked that it does not use any animal ingredients - a fact that may be true of other brands but is often not specified. 

I used the new shower gel last night and it smelled amazing.  I used it in the shower, but I think it would be great for a nice, soothing bubble bath.  The scent just smells fresh and clean, like you can literally wash your stress away. 
From time to time I'm sure I will get pricier bath washes, but it's nice to know there is a go-to shower gel out there that is vegan, smells good, and won't break the bank. 

Preparing the Fridge for Tonight's Power Outage

I started off Tuesday morning with a strawberry banana protein shake and a quick trip to the gas station on the way to work.  Normally I try to plan gas stop-offs for the evenings so I don't have to rush to be on time for work, but I don't always pull it off.  Luckily I was still on time. 
I knew I would lunch would be postponed for a meeting, so I had a quick spoonful of peanut butter mid-morning to keep my stomach from grumbling too loudly in front of everyone! 

When I finally got to eat lunch, I enjoyed cashew carrot ginger soup mixed with leftover rice.  This is such a good way to give store-bought soup more substance.  I can't believe I haven't been doing this for years!

A little later in the afternoon I snacked on an apple.  Trying to keep turning to those healthy snacks! 
Our apartment building is cutting the power for some unknown reason overnight tonight, so it's made me take a look at the things we have stocked in the freezer to see what we can use up or toss.  We've also been making ice like crazy to keep the fridge cooled.  Anything that really needs to stay frozen (popsicles, frozen fruit) we'll run over to my boyfriend's parents' house tonight.  One of the great benefits of being vegan is you don't stock a lot of food that can actually go bad if the fridge ends up "cool" instead of "cold"! 
So for dinner last night I decided to make up some vegetable dumplings I've had stashed in the freezer for way too long. 

I pan fried the dumplings and tossed them with a bit of Thai peanut sauce for extra flavor.  They were quite tasty, if a bit over-cooked. 

Unfortunately they weren't quite enough to tide me over for the evening, so I snacked on a bowl of caramel apple cereal for dessert.  It was a bit of a sweet treat without being a full-blown dessert.  It's also the last of that box of cereal, and I'm going to try to be good and not buy anymore for a while.  Trying to stick to the healthy treats!  What are those again? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day BBQ Without the Picnic

Memorial day I slept in yet again and then was up for a while reading before I was finally ready for breakfast.  I enjoyed mango banana smoothie pretty close to lunchtime.

Mid-afternoon I was getting a bit hungry, but I wanted to hold out for my boyfriend to come home before actually eating lunch, so I whipped up some Parmesan and garlic roasted edamame, inspired by this recipe from Carrots 'n Cake blogger, Tina Hauper.  But of course I veganized the recipe by using Parmela vegan parmesan.  These were so tasty.  They were the perfect little snack.  Unfortunately I used up the last of my frozen edamame making this tiny little bowl, so I'll have to get more at the grocery store soon!
A little while later my boyfriend finally came home and we both dug into the last of the quinoa salad for lunch.  We both love how this stuff makes you feel really full, but also seems healthy and doesn't weigh you down. 
It was also the perfect lunch because we planned to head out for a hike to enjoy the beautiful Memorial Day weather! 
We didn't want to take too long, so we drove over to the Hilton area of Patapsco Valley State Park.  We decided to do a quick loop of the Buzzard's Rock Trail (about two miles), but you could keep hiking quite a distance from this trail head if you wanted to.  The trail is mostly a flat, super easy hike, but a couple of significant grade changes make it challenging too.  Just enough to remind you it's a hike and not just a walk through the woods! 
By the time we got home we were both pretty hungry, so I was glad I'd thought to bake a couple of sweet potatoes earlier in the day.  Dinner came together in no time at all.  Though we weren't attending any Memorial Day picnics, I decided to make us a BBQ-ish dinner in an ode to the traditional Memorial Day meal.  I made BBQ riblet sandwiches with mashed sweet potatoes on the side.  The sweet potatoes were so delicious, I didn't even miss skipping dessert.  (I'm trying to be healthy, remember?!) 

Quinoa Salad and a Healthy Wegman's Dinner

I slept in incredibly late Sunday morning and it felt wonderful.  When I finally got myself out of bed I enjoyed a peanut butter banana protein shake but this time with vanilla protein powder and vanilla soymilk instead of my usual chocolate.  It wasn't really breakfast because it was closer to lunchtime when I drank it. 

After lazing around for a bit I got out of the house to go for a run around the reservoir at Druid Hill Park.  It was a beautiful day for a run, with a cool breeze and sunny, blue skies. 
Unfortunately I hadn't let my protein shake digest long enough, and it was sloshing around horribly while I tried to run!  Needless to say, I felt sick and horrible and kept stopping to walk along the way.  Not a good run at all :( 
When I got home I indulged in a slice of pumpkin cheesecake post-run to bring my spirits up. 

I decided lunch should be a little healthier than I've been eating lately, so I mixed up a healthy quinoa salad.  I used yellow quinoa, canned black beans, canned corn, diced red pepper, chopped scallions, and a lot of chalula.  This is my go-to quinoa salad because it's really healthy, filling, and delicious.  But I've been thinking I should add another quinoa salad to my repertoir.  Stay tuned for something new in the near future! 

After lunch my boyfriend and I hit the climbing gym for a couple of hours and then headed to his parents' house to catch up on Game of Thrones - we don't have cable so it's hard to stay on track.  
For dinner we decided to stop by the Wegman's prepared foods bar.  There's always something new at the bar I haven't tried, and everything is so delicious!  Trying to stay on my healthy kick, I headed to the salad bar and started with a bed of romaine lettuce and piled on a spicy six bean salad and some roasted yams and kale.  They were both amazing.  I wish I'd taken a closer look at the ingredient lists on these so I can try to recreate them at home sometime.  I will have to remember next time I go back. 
I also put together a container of mixed fruit for dessert.  Healthy, healthy! 
It was a valiant effort, but the healthy kick didn't last long.  When we got home the last of the pumpkin cheesecake in the fridge called to me and I couldn't resist it's siren song. (I'm so melodramatic when it comes to my desserts!)  I decided to just give in and eat one last giant piece.  Now the pie's all gone and I will not let myself make another dessert ... at least for this week! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Incredibly Unhealthy Saturday

Saturday morning I enjoyed a strawberry banana protein shake and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake for breakfast. A little while later I went out to run some errands and heading to target and getting groceries.  I have to stop to grab fast food lunch.  Unfortunately I left my cell phone at home and couldn't take a picture of the delicious Qdoba burrito.  I'm sure you're all so sad.  
Because I ate my dinner so late, I wasn't really hungry for dinner.  Instead I smacked my way to the evening starting with a bowl of caramel apple crunch cereal.  
This stuff is so delicious I can't get enough! 
A little while later I had some graham crackers topped with dark chocolate dreams peanut butter.  Kind of like an open-faced s'mores ... minus the marshmallow. 
Yeah, this was a pretty unhealthy day.  There are going to need to be some big changes toward healthier eating in the future ...

Volunteering With Habitat for Humanity

I had so much fun Friday volunteering with Habitat for Humanity at a build site in East Baltimore.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.  But first thing's first.  I was supposed to be at the build site at 8:30 in the morning so I got up bright and early to have my usual morning protein shake.  On the menu was chocolate banana with peanut butter. 

I also made lunch to bring to the build site - a Tofurky sandwich with vegan pepper jack, tomato, and mustard.  I'm not sure what happens to vegan cheese if you leave it out of the fridge but luckily it was a cool day and I left my lunch under the car seat.  I also brought myself a banana but never got around to eating it.  
After brief introductions in the morning we carried tools over to the house we would be working on that day and got our assignments. Because it was a rainy day we worked inside, mostly installing flooring on the second and third floors and in the basement.  I was assigned to the third floor master bedroom with two other volunteers.  
While the two men I worked with installed the flooring I took measurements for the end pieces and cut them down to size.  That's right ... I used a saw!  I actually used three different kinds of saws: a circular saw, a  table saw, and a jigsaw.  
Most of my time I spent running up and down the stairs because the circular saw was on the main floor set up in the living room. That was the one I used most often to cut end pieces down to size.  I only used the table saw and jigsaw a couple of times to cut pieces around corners in the room and to trim to fit around door frames.  
Ironically, if you'd asked me what one thing I wouldn't have wanted to do before that day I would've said use the saw.  Though I wasn't there to witness it, a friend's father cut off his own pinky with a circular saw when we were kids.  I've had what I would call a "healthy fear" of most power tools since then.  
Getting the chance to use the saws with Habitat felt really empowering - knowing that I could conquer that fear, learn a new skill, and actually put it to use.  
The whole experience was a total blast.  The other volunteers were great and the AmeriCorps leaders were an incredible asset.  Almost no one came in with any real skills to offer but the AmeriCorps leaders taught us, helped us, and never once laughed when we found ourselves in trouble.  Between the three of us on the third floor, we managed to lay flooring down in about 2/3 of the room.  It would have been nice to finish the whole thing, but I'm still amazed at all our progress in just one day - especially considering we were total noobies!
I can't believe this is the first time I volunteered with Habitat.  I'll definitely be doing it again soon!

When I got home I ended up lazing around for the rest of the evening.  I wasn't really that tired or sore from the work with Habitat (though I would be the next day - all that running up and down the stairs took its toll on my calves!), but I hadn't planned much to do with the rest of my day.  I made a simple dinner of pasta with broccoli, garlic, and fresh basil.  Then lounged around watching TV until it was time for bed.  All-in-all, a pretty perfect day!