Tag Archives: vegan

Homemade vegan cheese and downsizing

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My vegan cheese making book “Artisan Vegan Cheese” By Miyoko Schinner came in the mail a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t wait to try out the recipes. Some are very complicated and require weeks from start to finished product while others are instant cheeses or cheese sauces for everyday use. There are quite a few strange ingredients that I had to pick up before my cheese experimentation could commence. I’ve located most of them so far. I found Agar powder, nutritional yeast, xanatham gum and tapioca flour in the local health food store but I have yet to find carrageenan, vital wheat gluten and a couple other ingredients I’ll need to be able to make any recipe in the book.

I decided to start with the most basic recipe which was cashew cheese. It’s the base for a lot of the other cheeses in the book as well. To make the cashew cheese you first have to make rejuvelac, a probiotic liquid made from fermenting sprouted grains, which will serve as a culturing agent for the cheese. Once that’s done (it takes a few days) you just soak some cashews, add salt, blend it all together and let it sit on the counter for a couple days to culture. I think I may have left my cheese out on the counter for a little too long.. I kind of forgot about it for about 3-4 days so it developed a very strong flavor. At first taste I thought wow this is really cheesy. Although the flavor wasn’t like any cheese I’ve ever had before it tasted tangy and creamy like an exotic cheese. I had it on a sandwich and it was pretty good, not fantastic, but still added a cream cheese like taste and texture. I wanted to add in a bunch of herbs and spices to make the boursin cheese. It uses the basic cashew cheese as a base but reading the recipe it afterwards it said not to let the cheese culture for too long so I want to wait to try another batch which hopefully wont taste as strong. Over time I hope I can hone my cheese making skills by using various grains to make the rejuvelac (I’m guessing each would produce a slightly different flavor) and find a vegan cheese that’s a knockout. I’m excited to try some of the instant cheese recipes as well!

On a different note we just spent the past week trying to downsize. I had always prided myself in only owning enough stuff to fit in my car but over the past few years that we’ve been living together Shadoe and I have started to accumulate quite a bit of stuff.. We decided to nip it in the butt and take action before the winter sets in. A majority of the furniture we have was picked up in a hurry from thrift stores and yard sales and selected more for purpose than anything else. That means a lot of it is not exactly what I want for our home. This weekend the town we live near was hosting a “reuse it or lose it” event where everyone from the county can bring in all their unwanted stuff and other people can come take what they need. At the end of the weekend the town will drop off all the unwanted items at local charities, thrift stores or take it to the dump depending on the items and their condition. We decided to take advantage of the event and get rid of all the furniture and stuff we don’t want and let someone else use it. That way we can either replace the items we weren’t completely happy with or realize that we didn’t really need all those things after all. This will also help us out when we have to move in the future. We loaded up the trailer and within 5 minutes of arriving at the drop off our trailer had been emptied by people in need of those items. It was amazing to see and a win win for everyone.

We’ve also been slowly going through all of our stuff and getting rid of things we don’t use often enough. Last month I finally separated with clothes that I had been hanging on to for over 6 years mostly due to sentimental reasons. I was sad to see some items go but now that they’re gone I honestly haven’t thought about it. There really is no use keeping old clothes you no longer wear just for the memories. Next we moved onto books, cds, and other stuff we’ve collected. It’s taking a long time to sort through everything but every time we do we end up with less and less in the keep piles and more to give away. Already our tiny house is looking less cluttered and it feels really good. Now to clean up and reorganize after a weekend of tearing the house apart.. Good thing I still have another day off from work!

Day 2 and 3 of a high raw challenge

Okay so maybe I shouldn’t have started a challenge that require a ton of prep work in the middle of such a hectic week.. It was a strange work week for me as I had to switch from night shift to day shift in one day instead of my regular two days off.. That meant very little sleep for me both nights. I also had the Queen’s of the Stone Age concert Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun but I was a little too tired to fully enjoy it. I was also pretty hungry.

Honestly, I was just way too lazy to do this challenge this week. I only drank one of the two smoothies per day and did not eat as many veggies/salad as it called for which left me just hungry a lot but still not wanting to quit. I did well all Day 2 but cheated wed night after the concert. I got home and was starving, exhausted and not in the mood to make anything so I just chopped up a couple tomatoes and ate them with some cheese (I wish I had of had some vegan cheese on hand instead!).

Day 3 started good as well. I had a smoothie for breakfast and then lettuce wraps for lunch. They were actually delicious and I’d definitely make them again soon. After work I was exhausted and just not in the mood for salad for supper at all and I called it quits and made my masala pasta but I made sure to fill my bowl with mostly veggies. I honestly didn’t feel any different after doing the cleanse. Probably because I didn’t follow it correctly… Yet there were still some benefits. The green smoothies were awesome energy boosters. I always feel that way about smoothies and drink them quite frequently already but it was cool to add some new recipes to my repertoire. I also discovered other recipes like sweet potato hummus and the lettuce wraps which were tasty but overall I quite enjoy my cooked food and it’s usually pretty healthy. I think I could do raw for breakfast and lunch quite easily but supper just calls for cooked food in my opinion with salad as a side not a main dish. I’m so glad Young and Raw offers these free challenges. Check out their website, there’s all kinds of cool info and recipes for raw soups, sauces, etc. It was so cool to have a shopping list, recipes and meals planned for the 3 days. A great way to dip your toes into the raw food waters.

Side note: If it seems like a lot of my posts are about food it’s because I’m constantly trying to find ways to reduce my environmental impact. I have a lot less time now that I work full time and I find what I eat, where I get it from, and how I prepare it is one of the easiest things for me to be constantly working on. Plus I love food, discovering new recipes and sharing my excitement over them is fun for me!  

Other than that my weekend has been good so far! I’m dog sitting for a girl at work. A beautiful Husky/German Sheppard mix who is a sweetheart. We got to go floating down the river today in gorgeous sunny weather and then I took the dog on a nice bike ride afterwards. Now to clean the house and then relax for the rest of the weekend 🙂    

Have you ever tried a raw food challenge? Was it successful?  

Annnnd some instagram photos from this week: 

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Strawberries in my garden 🙂 Yay!

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Self-explanatory pic lol

Day 1 of a high raw challenge!

I love challenges, even if I don’t always complete them or stick with them 100%… I love the anticipation, the planning, and the feeling of trying something new. To me an attempted change is better than no change and usually leads to me picking up a few good habits in the long run. Last week, after talking with a friend at work about cleanses I decided I wanted to give one a try as well. The last cleanse I did was the master cleanse back in university to prepare for a trip to Cuba. I actually did enjoy that cleanse and looked and felt much better once the week was over! Admittedly I didn’t do it for the best reasons back then. More about looking good in a bikini then feeling healthy. Young and Raw, a Facebook page I follow, had just posted a 3 day high raw challenge that sounded right up my alley!

This Monday was a holiday (Heritage day) and to celebrate we have a weekend long festival with food, dancing, and displays from many different countries/cultures around the world. Since I knew I would be trying lots of new foods, a lot of them not so healthy I figured a Monday start would be perfect. Unfortunately last week I started feeling very drained at work. A few people had been sick lately and while I usually don’t catch whatever is going around this time I did. By Friday I was completely exhausted and left work early. I still wanted to go to Heritage days so I loaded up on drugs (even though I usually try to stay away from them) and we even stopped at the farmer’s market beforehand and bought a ton of fresh berries. I had a really fun time! It’s honestly amazing what drugs can mask. By the time I got home the drugs were starting to wear off and I crashed. I crawled into bed the minute I got home and didn’t move from either the couch or the bed for the next day and a half. My boyfriend was the perfect caretaker always making sure I had Neocitron, orange juice, soup or hugs to make me feel better. Even though my Monday start got derailed I was feeling well enough by Monday evening after all that rest that a Tuesday start could work!  

Somehow I managed to have almost everything needed for the raw challenge already stocked in my fridge. With the exception of some fruit I need to go pick up today. Once I discovered that there was no turning back. I spent the morning preparing some of the meals for the next 3 days. I didn’t manage to eat everything on the schedule for Day 1 (it’s a lot of veggies!) but I did pretty good. I had to work at night and felt a little tired and lightheaded for part of the night but I definitely had more energy than last week. The only time I cheated from the challenge was at 2am last night. Getting home from work my belly was growling for food but I was not in the mood to make a salad. Instead I grabbed a handful of unsalted cashews and went to bed. I find evenings the worst for snacking (as I’m sure most people do) I’ll eat healthy all day long but then be craving crackers and cheese or other salty foods as soon as it’s dark out. So I was pretty proud of sticking to a plant based snack!

Today I’m going to go grab the rest of the fruit needed for the challenge and then we’re going to the Queens Of The Stone Age concert tonight!! Yayyy! I am very excited! I only wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow morning.. Hopefully all this healthy eating will give me energy to get through the day! So far no detox symptoms to report unless the light-headedness was a symptom but I chalk that up to being sick for the weekend. I don’t really think I’ll have any detox symptoms as I normally don’t eat processed foods or high/fat high sugar garbage.     

And It wouldn’t be an eco-couple post without an update or photo with chickens! 

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I tried to fend of the sickness last week with a cold-busting smoothie and yoga in the sun! I love natural remedies 🙂

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Picked some berries for the chickens. They’ve been such good layers lately they deserved a treat!

5 of my favorite quick and easy vegetarian meals.

It’s been a hectic couple weeks for me. Minutes before my boyfriend planned to leave for a 5 day snowboarding trip I was in a car accident and my car towed away, right from in front of my house. Luckily no one was hurt but the next week and a half were definitely stressful for me. I had declined the rental package on my insurance so I was left without a vehicle until the insurance money came through. Living out in the country a car is pretty much a necessity to get anything done. I had a few days off work and still got to go on a snowboard trip that weekend, as my friend was able to drive us to Banff. To get to work and back I had to take cabs, catch a ride with someone who lived nearby, or get my boyfriend to drive me for the rest of the week. I arranged to go look at a replacement car on my one day off that weekend but the car was located 3 hours away. I ended up purchasing it even though it had some noticeable issues mostly because we had drove all that way and I got such a good deal. I also have been busy volunteering with the Alberta Organic Producers Association. We had a meeting last weekend so I went there from 10am-4pm and then straight to work for 4pm-2am. Thankfully Shadoe was okay with chauffeuring me back and forth. On top of working nights this week and my mom coming for a visit I also had to find time to take my new car into the shop, and write an article for the newspaper. It’s been crazy!

Things are finally starting to get back to normal. I had to decline overtime work today in order to get caught up on my personal life but I managed to accomplish everything I needed to do. It’s weeks like this that having to go quick and easy veggie meals is a must. While my mom was here I devoted a little more time to the kitchen and made us bean and rice enchiladas with Mexican rice and spicy jalapeno Cornbread on the side, it was a feast compared to most of my meals lately. I forgot to take any photos but since it was such a hit with everyone even my bean-hating boyfriend (who I’m slowly converting to the dark side). I’m sure I’ll be making it again soon and I’ll post the recipe next time!

To be honest my go to meals when in a rush or not feeling like putting in too much effort are usually some kind of pasta. I try to make them healthy by loading up the veggies so it’s more half veggie half pasta. I also cook a lot with Mr. Noodle instant noodles, normally I make a stir fry and use the noodles as the base but recently a friend of mine said she makes the noodles and broth then adds in all kinds of veggies, an egg, soy sauce and chilis. I tried her concoction and am now hooked! It’s like a spicy, salty, Asian inspired dish that is literally ready in minutes. When I’m really not feeling the noodles I go for more burger or sandwich style meals. I usually have a stash of whole wheat pitas in my freezer at all times and have found many uses for them, from pita chips for hummus, to falafels and mini pizzas.

1. Vegetarian Tikka Masala Pasta – I’m pretty sure I’ve invented this concoction. One day after cooking some pasta and not really being sure what kind of sauce I felt like having on it I noticed a half empty jar of Tikka Masala sauce in my fridge. I threw some onions, carrots, and red pepper in the food processor, sautéed them slightly in a frying pan, added a couple handful of spinach and mixed in the sauce and pasta. The first couple bites were confusing. I wasn’t sure if the sauce went with the whole grain pasta but the more I ate the more I liked it and it has now become a staple!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked whole grain pasta
  • ½ cup Tikka Masala sauce
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red pepper
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 tsp oil for cooking
  • Couple handfuls of spinach
  1. Grate all vegetables in a food processor or to save dishes you can chop them up julienne style.
  2. Sautee in frying pan for 1-2 mins or until tender. Mix in Tikka Masala sauce and cooked pasta, stir and serve!

2) Creamy Avocado & Basil Pasta – I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest and probably make it at least 2-3 times a month.. Warning it’s highly addictive. I would say it’s like a vegan combo of classic Alfredo sauce and pesto. It uses the creaminess of avocado in place of heavy cream, lemon and basil to add flavor and is a delicious plant based meal.

I’m directing you straight to the source on OhSheGlows.com. Also where this photo comes from.

15 minute creamy avocado pasta

3) Spicy Mr. Noodle Soup – Like I said above, this one is super quick and soo simple. I prep my veggies while the water is heating up on the stove and then throw it all together. I love to make this noodle soup whenever I’m feeling a little under the weather or on a snowy cold day.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package Mr. Noodle instant noodles.
  • ¼ a red pepper, chopped
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1-3 tsp chili garlic sauce to taste
  • ground pepper
  1. Cook noodles as per package, just before they are completely done cooking add in red pepper, spinach and soy sauce.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Stir a few times until spinach is wilted and then add in the egg. You wont want to stir it much once the egg is in there but I like to take spoonfuls of the broth and pour it on top of the egg to speed things up.
  3. Once the egg is mostly cooked pour into a bowl, top with chili garlic sauce  and enjoy!

4) Margarita Pita Pizzas – I have a weird obsession with Margarita pizzas. Ever since having an authentic one from Famoso I crave the simplicity of the tomato/basil/mozza flavors all the time. I order the exact same thing every time we go so it’s not a surprise that I tried to make my own version at home. Obviously it doesn’t come close to the real thing but for a quick and easy meal it’s very satisfying.

Photo courtesy of yummly.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole wheat pita
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh tomato
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • few basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450 C.
  2. Puree fresh tomato and tomato paste in mini blender or magic bullet.
  3. Place pita on a baking pan. Spread olive oil evenly over pita with a pastry brush.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, then top with fresh basil leaves and mozzarella.
  5. Cook in the oven for about 5 mins, be sure to watch it, it will cook fast! As soon as the cheese is melted remove from oven and let cool.

5) Falafel Pitas – I don’t think anyone really needs instructions on this one.. All I ever do is grab a box of falafel mix, cook according to instructions and stuff it in a pita with my favorite toppings and spread. Personally I like tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber slices!

Photo courtesy of stonefire.com

Hope these give you some ideas for quick veggie filled meals. Let me know what your favorite go-to veggie dishes are!

Also, my cats, because it’s my blog and I’ll post cat photos if I want to lol.

Nuri had a photo shoot out in the snow a few weeks back. She was thrilled.. Obviously.

Nuri had a photo shoot out in the snow a few weeks back. She was thrilled.. Obviously.

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Hunting some birds.

Hunting some birds.

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Both cats hanging out on the cat tree. Butterscotch came to visit with my mom last week.

Vegan Berry Banana Oatmeal and Quinoa Squares

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As promised here is the recipe for the Vegan Berry Banana Oatmeal and Quinoa squares. Since they have no refined sugar or oil they’re great for breakfast or a quick snack but still sweet enough for dessert too. Or so I told myself after a day of berry squares for breakfast, mid-day snack and late night snack.. They were just too irresistible! I substituted chia seeds for the cornstarch in the original recipe since I was feeling adventurous and they turned out great! The chia seeds made it seem like there were raspberries hiding somewhere in the recipe while acting as a great natural thickening agent. I’ll definitely be making these again since they were a big hit with the boyfriend as well. Who says vegan food can’t be delicious as well as healthy!

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Vegan Berry Banana Oatmeal and Quinoa Squares

 Recipe adapted from fatfreevegan.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana chopped
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 Tbs brown rice syrup
  • 2-3 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Base and topping:

  • 3 cups oatmeal, whole oats
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries, blueberries, banana, maple syrup, and rice syrup. Bring to a boil over med heat. Add chia seeds and cook for 10-15 mins or until mixture becomes the consistency of jam or close to. It will thicken a little as it cools so it’s okay if it’s a little runny. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Put 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a blender (or magic bullet in my case) and grind it to a fine powder. In a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the remaining oatmeal, oatmeal powder, quinoa flakes, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Stir in the applesauce, maple syrup, water, and vanilla, and mix well. If mixture is a little too sticky add a little more quinoa flakes until you get a good spreadable consistency.
  4. Spread 2/3 of the oat mixture into the prepared pan and cover with an even layer of the berry filling. Crumble the remaining oat mixture on top and pop in the oven for about 30 mins or until the top begins to brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. I put mine in the freezer in order to eat them sooner!

I also wanted to include the recipe for roasted garlic hummus I made last week too. It can be can found here. I added some sauteed red peppers and cayenne pepper for a spicy/crunchy kick. To be completely honest it was not as good as the store bought hummus I usually eat BUT that is my own fault as I only had 4 cloves of garlic instead of the whole bulb so it was a little lacking in garlic flavor. Other than that it tasted very fresh and creamy I want to try this recipe again and this time actually follow it. Not to mention it was much cheaper than store bought! I’d like to try using dried chickpeas instead of canned next time, which would mean pennies for a batch of hummus!

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Enjoy!

Butternut squash mac ‘n cheese – two very different recipes!

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I LOVE Macaroni and Cheese, honestly who doesn’t.. So when I heard there exists a recipe for Mac n Cheese with half the calories and the goodness of butternut squash I had to try it out! The first attempt at Butternut Mac and Cheese was okay… Sure in all appearances it was mac and cheese but in flavor it was squash. Also the recipe used a lot of nutritional yeast, 3 Tbs, and having not cooked with it before I was a little weirded out by the yeasty flavor.  I got the recipe off my favorite vegan blog and I’m posting it HERE just in case you would like to try it out. All in all it tasted very good. I liked the chunks of squash and I looked forward to my lunch when I brought it to work with me but it was not macaroni and cheese. I was still left with a craving for creamy cheesy noodles.

Two weeks later I ordered another butternut squash in my organic box and decided to try again. My boyfriend begged me to make the real stuff but I was determined to deliver a passable butternut squash mac and cheese. A girl at work had told me she had a recipe she liked which used milk, yogurt and cheese (1/2 the normal amount) definitely not vegan lol. A quick search on the internet and I found a recipe, which of course I tweaked since I can’t seem to ever leave a recipe alone. This one I’ll definitely be making again!

Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese

Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny:
  • 1/2 cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 a onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 box (500g) uncooked elbow noodles
  • 1/2 a package soda crackers
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook noodles according to package instructions. I used brown rice noodles and they turned out great.
  3. In a medium saucepan (or saute pan, if you’re lucky like me and finally have a full cookware set!) saute the butternut squash until tender, about 10 mins. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few more mins until browned.
  4. Add bouillon cube, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. Pour mixture into blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Mix sauce with the cooked noodles and half of the cheddar cheese, season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.  Spread into 13 x 9″ casserole dish and top with crumbled crackers and the other half of the cheese.
  6. Cook for 20-25 mins on top rack.

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Enjoy your healthy mac and cheese! We did!