Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Gift to Others

Dear friends, tonight I had planned to post about an amazing new food I tried yesterday. I was so excited, I even tweeted about it.

*Side note: I’m a Twitter newbie and am learning my way around the site. Please follow me or give me a shout out (is that called mentioning? tweeting? @-ing? HELP!) if you have a minute. I’d love to hear from you!

Unfortunately, I am just not feeling up to it right now. I debated whether or not to share why on the blog, but I want to be real with you all. Early this morning, one of my fellow junior classmates passed away. My grade is really close-knit (we all know each other’s names&say hi in the halls) so the news has really hit our community hard. He was well loved, always similing, and very witty; we will always remember him for that.

Rather than dwell and tell the details, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you how special your life is. Although we live in a rather individualistic society, we are never alone. If you ever need something, do not hesitate to talk to someone (including me!)

Please know that your life is a gift to everyone around you. You are a light in the world just by being who you are. In fact, you have already touched my life in so many ways by just visiting my site. I cannot even begin to explain my excitement over page views, comments, and just being apart of this wonderful community.

Your life is special, and you are loved. Please always remember that.

With that, I have one more request. Please make a conscious effort to reach out to someone at least once a day. A long chat, a hug, a friendly “hello,” or even just a smile in passing can make such a difference. You never know who you might have saved…

Have a beautiful day.

Mandiee

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Supersize Me

In all honesty, I have never been a fan of traditional fast-food. I did have an obsession with pizza, fast-food or not, of any kind (mostly because it made up a major part of my diet when I was younger; those were dark days without veggies!), but when it came to bugers and fries, you could count me out.

I always dreaded going on far-away class trips where I knew we would stop at a fast-food restaurant on the way back. While my friends were buzzing with excitement, I was dumbfounded as to what I could possibly choke down. The only redeeming quality was the toys that were included with most of my friends’s meals. You know we had fun annoying our teachers with those (not intentionally, of course—we could not help it!) :P. Clearly it was only a matter of time before my distaste for meat and love of animals led me to veganism.

In all fairness to some fast food restaurants though, more and more places are now offering healthier and more-vegetarian friendly options. I am glad to see that apple slices can be substituted for fries, and McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway now even carry veggie burgers in some locations.

While these are definitely an improvement, they are still fast food. Healthy food does not have to be complicated or take a long time to make. In fact, the most nutritious and delicious cuisine can be whipped up in your kitchen in no time. Now even I have found something I want to “Supersize”!

Giant stir-fries are one of my favorite things to make because they are simple enough to make on even the busiest of days, but also variable enough that I will not get bored if my extra crazy week dictates eating them a few days in a row. Chop, sauté/stir-fry, season, eat!

And yes, I would like fries with that.

…Baked sweet potato fries, of course!

Can you tell I have been swamped with school work lately? My surplus of stir-fry pictures definitely shows it! This “double fries” (stir-fry + sweet potato fries) is actually a nod to my friend Frank and the stir-fry in this post.

While I love changing up the veggies and spices in my stir-fries, lately I have been rotating between only a few combinations. Do you have any favorite combinations or suggestions? I would love some stir-spiration :D!

 

And before I go, I would like to tell you about something else I like to supersize, winter squash. I have enjoyed slow-roasted kabocha every night this week and now even pumpkin is making a frequent appearance. If you are looking for a delicious breakfast or snack (customize toppings/add-ins accordingly), please try this out. A little natural sweetness for snacking really makes all the difference when I have to study in the library.

5 ingredients seems so simple, but I can gaurentee it will blow your mind taste buds. I would swim in it if I could. What a “supersized” dream!

Vanilla Pumpkin Pudding

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (202g)
  • 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia Drops, to taste (maple syrup would also be lovely, but make sure to add vanilla extract if you do not use the drops)
  • [Toppings (optional)]

Combine all ingredients. Add toppings and refrigerate to eat cold, devour right away, or enjoy warmed.

***

Questions: Be honest: do you like fast-food? And what is your favorite healthy food in a pinch? What food do you super-size?

As previously mentioned, I never really liked fast-food. Nowadays my favorite fresh and quick meals include stir-fries, (homemade) veggie burgers, and crisp tofu. And naturally I supersize any veggie. They essentially have no serving size for me :D.

Have a “super” day :D!

Mandiee

Rich Dark Chocolate Oat Bran

It is almost hard to believe that just a few days ago I was singing the sweet praises of warm(er) weather. Now it is most certainly not getting hot in here.

It must just be the circle of life that once all the snow melts, another big snow storm has to come to take its place. I suppose if it is going to be cold outside, it might as well be pretty, right? There has to be a bright side to this somewhere, though it is probably covered in snow, too ;).

Snow or not, I was lucky enough to have today off from school thanks to President’s Day. Happy (early) birthday, President Washington!

In true birthday fashion, as we speak I am currently baking cookies. Washington may not be able to enjoy my vegan peanut butter cookies, but I know one nutty girl who hopefully will.

Having the day off also meant that I had time to prepare a special treat for myself, rich dark chocolate oat bran. You see, ever since I started SAT prep class, my weekends have been so busy that I have not had enough time to make stovetop oats. Since the promise of delicious, pipping hot oats on a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning usually gets me through the week, lately I have felt that something is missing.

I am glad to report that hole has now been filled thanks to a new twist on my go-to recipe for chocolate brownie oats. A dash of espresso powder brings the dark chocolate to a whole new level, deepening the flavor and making it oh so rich. Even cinnamon gives the oats that extra pop that has kept me coming back for more (3 days in a row, actually).

Rich Dark Chocolate Oat Bran

Serves One

  • 1/2 cup oat bran (40 grams), oatmeal, or grain of choice
  • 1-1/4 cup water or non-dairy milk
  • 1 (heaping) TBS cocoa powder  (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 packet stevia (I prefer NuNaturals)
  • 1/4 tsp espresso powder (instant coffee powder may work, too)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring water or non-dairy milk to a boil on the stove top. Once boiling, slowly whisk in oat bran. Lower heat to a simmer, stirring often to create a creamy texture. Once the oat bran has started to thicken, add cocoa powder, stevia, espresso powder, cinnamon, and vanilla of choice. Whisk the mixture vigorously to avoid clumps of cocoa powder. Remove oats from heat and place in a bowl (or jar!) a little before they have thickened to your desired consitency (they will thicken more as they sit).

 

Notes:

  • I use a little bit different cooking method to make my stove-top oats because I like them really voluminous and creamy. It takes a bit more time but is definitely worth it. I will hopefully share this method soon.
  • Even though the secret to these oats is the espresso powder, they do not end up tasting like coffee. If you would like a mocha flavor, add more espresso (or instant coffee) powder to taste.
  • NuNaturals stevia is hands down my favorite sweetener. I have heard that some people find the taste of stevia to be bitter, but NuNaturals certainly is not*. Give it a try! I am sure maple syrup, agave, or even raw sugar would work just as well. Just experiment to see what works well for you.

Questions: Are you getting tired of snow yet? I love how pretty it is, but I am not a fan of the cold that comes with it. Do you have any Saturaday or Sunday rituals? I always look forward to a challenging vinyasa class followed by a warm bowl of oats. After I am properly fueled, I love taking a leisurely trip to the grocery store (we all know how I feel about produce!)

 

Have a lovely day!

Mandiee

 

*disclaimer: this opinion is my own; I was not paid to give a review

 

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Why the heat wave (read: above freezing temeratures for once) made me think of this “sooo 2002″ song, I do not know. (Is it just me or did every dance class perform to this song way back when?) However, what I do know is that I would be completely alright if the weather decided to stay like this for the rest of the winter. What can I say; I kind of enjoy being able to feel my toes. At least I have succulent fresh fruit to induldge my dreams.

 

The warm(er) weather may be fleeting, but at least I have other ways to keep me warm. Soaring temperatures in yoga (99*F is perfect for me!) and delicious spicy foods have kept my internal fire going. I may have the courage to order “as spicy as your grandmother would have made it” at a traditional Thai restaurant (though I certainly know one person who has that courage), I have learned to like a little Frank’s Hot Sauce from time to time.

Clearly “from time to time” really meant “often” this  past week because I made this stir-fry more than 2 or 3 times.

It included onion, bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. I basically used the method and measurements from this post, changing the spices to equal parts of chili powder and cumin.

The mild vegetables were the perfect background for my new friend Frank.

 

To cool down from all the heat, I enjoyed a lot of ice cream(green) chai-spiced vanilla protein ice cream, to be exact (what a mouthful!).

Oh Vincent the Vita-Mix, I love you.

 

Speaking of love, I simply cannot get enough of my homemade masala veggie burgers. I have honestly made them an embarrassing amount of times—more than I can count on my hands! I love the idea of veggie burgers made from real vegetables so much that I already have plans to try different flavor variations (starting with mexican-spiced). For now, though, I have been perfectly content enjoying them as-is with eggplant fries (with mustard for dipping, of course) and roasted red peppers .

 

A true testiment to how much I love this combination is the fact that my stone-ground mustard supply got dangerously low. Luckily I was able to replish it today with a trip to Whole Foods. I will take any excuse to go to my foodie paradise, especially because it has been much too long since I last went.

Apparently I will also take any excuse to indulge in sales. Did someone say my favorite Organicville Mustard is on sale? Well, I suppose I will just have to buy all three varieties, thankyouverymuch.

 

Another sale item that caught my eye was this Mighty Leaf Chocolate Mint Truffle Tea. Actually, it was a debate between this flavor and the Vanilla Bean Black Tea. While Madagasca Vanilla Powder has become one of my favorite ingredients as of late, I will always be a chocolate girl at heart. I think the fact that it has mint in it and is called “truffle” sealed the deal, too.

 

And because I am incapable of going to Whole Foods without getting some sort of produce, two beautiful bunches of greens made their way home with me. Going into the produce department of any high-quality store is such a treasured experience for me. I look at the fresh fruits and vegetables like they are masterpieces of art, painting the shelves with a rainbow of colors. When I saw the crisp curly kale and vibrant rainbow chard, I was absolutely smitten.

I see a lot of kale chips and raw chard wraps in my future. For now, though, I will be spending some quality time with this guy.

It may have been a busy week, but I know when it is time to realx. And that time, my friends, is now.

Questions: How spicy do you like your food? Are you a chocoholic or vanilla fiend (is there even a word for a vanilla lover?)? And do sales tempt you to try new items?

I would love to hear from you!

 

Enjoy the spice of life today :)!

Mandiee

 

Three’s A Crowd

Happy belated Valentine’s day and Tuesday, friends! The second day of the week may not seem like something to celebrate, but this week I am just happy Monday is over. This weekend was actioned packed and way too busy for my liking. However, at least most of it (i.e. 2 papers for my hardest classes + 6 hours of SAT-prep class) is over, and the worst of it (i.e. my calculus test) will only worry me until tomorrow after 8th hour. I may be caught in a quite the storm, but this too shall pass.

Anyway, enough stress reflection. I would much rather hear about how your Valentine’s Day. Did you do anything special? A romantic night with your sweetie or even dark chocolate for one totally counts!

My mom surprised me and my grandmother with a bouquet of fruit flowers from Edible Arrangements. Beautiful and delicious!.

I (obviously) spent the night with my Calculus book. We were not alone, though. After so much hard work I decided I deserved a little treat. Since I had (very) overly ripe bananas in my pantry in need of a little lovin’ (they were almost black!), banana bread seemed like the perfect way to cover all basses.

Last summer I created the most delicious gluten-free&&vegan banana bread that I had ever tasted. Who am I kidding? I loved it like no other banana bread before, vegan&gf or otherwise. However, it did have a few flaws. Most notably I forgot to compensate for the lack of gluten, causing the bread to fall in the center. Also, I did not bake it long enough so the bread came out undercooked. In all my experimenting, I even forgot to write down the recipe!

As you can imagine, it was sheer torture when I found one little piece of my luscious banana bread hiding in the freezer. My taste buds begged me to make more and FAST. I searched high and low for whatever scraps of the recipe I could find. No luck. In desperation I even tried recreating it. Again, no luck. Actually, it was a complete fail, one which I am still trying to forget.

Luck might not have been with me then or even when the busy cards were dolled out to me this past weekend , but it was most certainly with me last night. I prayed a silent prayer as I mixed, poured, and baked. After about 30 minutes of waiting, my prayers were finally answered.

I still hope to play around with this recipe a bit more, but for now, I could not be happier. Moist, doughy, and naturally sweet, my coconut almond butter banana muffins were a dream come. true. Keeping things simple, I scaled my original recipe idea down to make 3 muffins. It is perfect for when you want a muffin for you and a friend (and one to share, because of course you cannot just stop at one!), or just enough for a few days. Making a smaller batch also means that you can make them more frequently, thus perfuming your house with a lovely aroma. Trust me, even that is to live for. Just make sure you make sure you are willing to share with family members or roomates who are lured in by the scent of freshly baked muffins’ (my grandmother smelled them from all the way across the house—a true testiment to how alluring they are). Only you can decide: will 3 be a crowd?

Coconut Almond Butter Banana Muffins

Makes 3 muffins

  • 3/4 tsp ground flax seed + 2-1/4 tsp water
  • 1/4 cup oat flour [30g]
  • 2 TBS coconut flour [14g]
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1-1/2 small bananas (or 1 large) [75.5 g]
  • 1-1/2 tsp almond butter
  • 2 TBS applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • NuNatural Vanilla Stevia Drops or other sweetener, to taste
  • non-dairy milk or water to thin (~1/4-1/3 cup)
  1. Combine ground flax seed and water. Set aside to gel.
  2. Mix oat flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Mash bananas with almond butter, applesauce, vanilla powder/vanilla extract, and desired sweetener. Add flax seed mixture once it appears to be the consistency of an egg.
  4. Combine wet and dry mixtures, adding enough liquid to achieve a thick, muffin-like batter. The amount of liquid you need to add will depend on the amount of time you let it sit before cooking, upon other things. Coconut flour is high in fiber and oats tend to absorb a lot of liquid, so make sure your batter is not to stiff.
  5. Pour into 3 greased/lined muffins tins or silicon baking cups and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. (Again, baking time will depend on the amount of liquid you added.)
  6. Allow the tin to cool for a few minutes before trying to remove the muffins. They will be delicate.
  7. Try to restrain yourself from eating all three muffins before they are even cool. Trust me, it will be hard, but well worth it if you later decide to crumble them with cinnamon in warm almond milk. Oh yes, I did.

Have a happy Wednesday!

Mandiee

A New Addition

Heya! Tonight I am so excited to introduce you to a new addition to my family. The mailman, not the stork, brought him Tuesday.

Well look-y there…

Upon seeing the delivery when I came home from school, I squealed in excitement at a pitch that I am pretty sure has had a lasting effect on my grandmother. I decided to be responsible, though, and wait to unveil my surprise until I had done my homework.

Okay, some of my homework. Priorities, schmiorities. After an hour or so of having it stare me down from my bed, I could not wait any longer. I even postponed my shower in excitement.

Please excuse the post-yoga large sweater & scraggly hair look

I would like to formally introduce you to Vincent the Vita-Mix. He is an early birthday present from my mom and grandmother, and I am forever grateful. We had a running joke in my family that every Vita-Mix I saw in the store was my husband because I would definitely register for one for my wedding. I guess that day came sooner than I imagined ;). Married to Vincent the Vita-Mix at 16? Is that even legal?

Legal or not, this is one bad blender. And when I say bad, I mean amazingly awesome. I finally got to see him in action today when I broke down and tried him for the first time. All can say is that I have never seen a machine work with such grace and power. It was truly a sight to behold!

Naturally, my experiment of choice was ice cream. Or rather spinach protein ice cream, which is my adaptation of HEAB’s protein ice cream (check it out here).

What may sound a little strange was made into a creamy, dreamy, big bowl of soft serve by Vincent. It was even filled with lots of nutrients thanks to Vega + hemp protein powders (from Bob’s Red Mill) and spinach. I think this is the start of a long, beautiful relationship.

Healthy Chocolate Ice Cream

Serves 1

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I use almond milk)
  • 30 g or 1 serving protein powder (I used Vega Vanilla Chai and Bob’s Red Mill Hemp)
  • 2 handfuls of spinach (~1.5 cups )
  • 1 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla powder)
  • stevia, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum
  • ~1 cup ice

Blend non-dairy milk, protein powder, spinach, cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and stevia until the spinach is broken up. Blend in xanthan gum and guar gum to thicken the mixture. If using a Vita-Mix, add all ice to the blender and work the motor up to high until the mixture is well-combined and there are no large ice pieces. If not using a Vita-Mix, add the ice a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Something to talk about: What is the best birthday present you ever received? And do any of your favorite things have names?


Ooey Gooey

Move over, Kabocha, it seems as though there is a new man in town (but don’t worry, I will always love you.)

Say hello to Mr. Sweet Potatoes (or actually, Mr. Jewel Yam), a sweet root vegetable after my heart. Just look at those natural sugars oozing onto the baking pan!

Good thing I used a mini cookie sheet or I do not think my family would have been quite as amused. Nothing says “I Love You” more than sparing your family from the scent of sweet potato sap burning on the bottom of the oven. You’re welcome.

I have cooked numerous sweet potatoes before, but they have never turned out quite like this. After seeing many of Heather’s lucious-looking sweet potatoes, I decided to try her method last night. I simply washed my ‘tater, pricked it with a fork a few times, and baked in a 425*F oven for about 45-50 minutes.

Trust me, folks, 25 degrees (as opposed to the 400*F I usually use) makes ALL the difference. My sweet potato came out of the oven pipping hot and oozing with sweetness. The texture was so soft that it nearly melted in my mouth. Naturally the addition of coconut butter launched this meal to pure bliss status (especially because lots of nooch for my veggies was also involved).

 

While my sweet potato was baking, I actually made some cookies for the group of middle school girls that I mentor, too. Honestly I would choose an ooey gooey sweet potato like this (or some kabocha!) over a cookie any day, but I am pretty sure 7th grade girls would not necessarily agree. On my first meeting, I went all out by making two different kinds of cupcakes.

Fusion Cupcake

The girls loved the surprise of a piece of cookie dough in the bottom of my chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

And they could not even tell the difference between my Newman O’s cupcakes with fluffy white buttercream icing and Oreo’s. I was so glad that they welcomed vegan treats without any reservations.

Today I decided to veganize a traditional treat for them: chocolate chip cookies. However, these are not like grandma used to make. Oh no, my friends, these take chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level. I have used Diana’s recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough balls (substituting Earth Balance for butter and 1 TBS ground flax seed + 3 TBS water for the egg) too many times to count, every batch turing out wonderfully.

My group was half-full today because of special mid-term testing, but they still managed to finish all the cookies. The girls even told me how much they enjoyed them, which really made me smile. The way they do things is so adorable. Sometimes I have a hard time believing I was that young, but that was only 4 years ago!

All in all, I had a great time with my girls and enjoyed sharing my treats with them. Although our topic today was suppossed to be dating, boys, and relationships, we touched on the idea of healthy eating thanks to my cookies. One of my girls said that she was trying not to eat sweets for a year (she decided to start today but accidently forgot when she took a few cookies haha). While cookies and sweets are not exactly health food, I reassured my girls that everything is fine in moderation. It is important to enjoy the sweetness of life and not worry about things like that. Our next topic is body image so I definitely see more talk of this in the future.

 

Question time: What is your favorite food with natural sweetness? And what is your dessert of choice?

 

Have a sweet day!