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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vegan interrupted.

(cracked knuckles, big stretch, and here we go)

Well, I am very disappointed to say that it has been 222 days since my last blog post.  I have been on a carnivorous hiatus and while, yes, it's been fun (I'll fill you in), 222 days later and I find myself feeling bloated, without energy, and just blah!  And I am going to blame cheese.... and myself, I guess. 

Thinking back to one of my first posts as a new vegan (Berry good weekend) about how most non-vegans say they could never give up cheese, I am wanting to bang my head against the wall.  As a vegan convert that dove in head first, I made it through the cheese and dairy detox and conquered casein (click the berry good blog link to find out what that is).  Giving up meat was easy, it was the cheese and dairy that was hardest for me.  However, speaking from firsthand experience, give yourself a dairy break for 2 weeks and you'll beat it.  Like most addictive things in life, you can be weaned and I promise you won't miss it.  So I bet you're wondering what the heck happened to me and my casein shield.

It all started with my birthday and a Mexican restaurant.  Sure, sprinkle a little cheese on my enchilada (3 very large margaritas into the night...).  And that was it.  It was back in my system and just like that I'm hooked.  Shortly thereafter I met the man I will be marrying in just 235 days (eek!) and he was excited to show off his amazing cooking skills.  I'm not gonna lie, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I will say that he scored major brownie points on our second date when he brought me a veggie sub for our evening picnic on the boat.  I vaguely mentioned that I was vegetarian and he remembered.  It was all downhill from there.  But seriously, I couldn't be happier.  I could be healthier though.

So going forward I will be giving my best effort to hop off the gravy train and back onto the vegan bandwagon.  I know my body will thank me.  Hopefully I can find time to get back into doing something I love, posting on my vegan blog that I worked so hard to build and shamelessly forced all my friends at gunpoint to follow.  I may be crazy because I AM planning a wedding, but I will do my best to post and share my recipes and progress.  Going from a single vegan, cooking meals that only I would have to eat, to being engaged to a sausage-making, meat-loving fisherman, I know there will be times when I will be staring Porky Pig and Nemo in the face, but at the end of the day I make my own decisions on what goes into my body.  I'm looking forward to this new chapter in my life and can't wait to share with you all (all 3 of you).


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here's to healthy gallbladders and no mosquitoes!

This is how long it's been since I've even looked at my blog... I logged on to type a new entry and I found this one that was already written, just never published! I wrote it back on 4/27/11. So without further ado, here are a couple of radish and fennel recipes that will improve your digestion and ward off mosquitoes!

For those of you who don't get out much have the luxury to peruse fresh produce stands, you may be stuck with whatever Publix has to offer. If that's your situation, I am so sad for you. Maybe take a Saturday and check out some of the produce stands that are a little out of your way. It's worth it!!

Radishes are one of my favorite vegetables. I enjoy them cut up raw on a salad but recently I discovered how great they are when you roast them. The flavor it less sharp and slightly sweeter. Very tasty! If you turn your nose at radishes, here are a few reasons to give them a try. Radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, and contain cancer-protective properties! They also increase the flow of bile, therefore they help to maintain a healthy gallbladder and liver, and improve digestion.

Now I know you can find radishes in Publix but it's usually without their green stems still attached. If you can find radishes with the greens still attached at the top then definitely buy those! The radishes you find at produce stands will have the greens attached usually.   Radish greens are very sandy and gritty.  Make sure you wash them in a couple changes of water and spin dry.  I wouldn't skip adding the greens to this salad.  I think they really add to the look and flavor!

Roasted Radish & Potato Salad
For the vinaigrette, whisk:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I used 1 tbsp because I love Dijon!)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad, toss:
1 lb radishes, trimmed and quartered (reserve radish greens)
1 lb new potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 3)

Preheat oven to 425 F with a large baking sheet inside.  For the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, 3 tbsp oil, Dijon, parsley, and dill in a bowl until combined; season with salt and pepper and set aside.  For the salad, toss radishes, potatoes, 2 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl to coat.  Transfer mixture to hot baking sheet in oven.  Roast mixture until golden, 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting.  Stir radish greens into roasted radishes and potatoes; return to oven for 2 minutes more.  Transfer roasted mixture to a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette and scallions until all the ingredients are coated.  Season salad with salt and pepper.

Fennel is another one of those vegetables that some might be afraid to try. Don't be. Fennel is a very flavorful vegetable with a licoricey flavor. You can eat them raw or cooked. This is another vegetable that is delightfully sweet when roasted. Just chop the stems off and cut up the bulb like you would cut up an onion.  I think fennel is a great compliment to salads and just so happens to go perfectly with the carrot puree recipe below.  Both recipes come from the book Color Me Vegan.

Roasted Fennel
4 fennel bulbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut off the stems of the fennel, slice the fennel in half lengthwise, place the cut side down, and cut into 1/2 inch slices.  Toss on a baking sheet with oil and vinegar (I would whisk them together first and then drizzle over fennel to coat), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread evenly on baking sheet.  Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender, turning the slices after about 15 minutes. 

Fun facts about fennel:  Fennel has been found to have potent antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.  It is also an effective repellent against mosquitoes.

Carrot Puree
1/2 cup vegetable stock
5 or 6 large carrots, cut into uniform chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp ground cloves (I would say more like just a pinch, or 1/16 tsp)
1 to 2 tbsp nondairy milk (soy, rice, or almond- whatever you have on hand)
1 tbsp light brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tbsp nondairy butter (Earth Balance)

Bring stock to a boil.  Add the carrots and salt.  Cover and cook until soft, about 20 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a slow simmer.  Drain the carrots (save the broth) and transfer to a food processor along with the ground cloves.  Add the broth and milk (enough to get the consistency you want) and puree until almost smooth.  Add the brown sugar and butter and continue pureeing.  Add more salt to taste.

If you're making this to go with the roasted fennel then just plate the fennel and then place a dollop of the carrot puree over the fennel.  The flavor combination on this is very tasty!

I hope that you will give these unique recipes a try! It's worth the trip to the produce stand.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super "Kale" afragalisticexpialadoshus

I really wanted to write a blog about kale because before I started on this vegan journey I pretty much hated kale, and for no good reason at all. I thought it was a strictly decorative green that no one really ate. It's most commonly recognized as the tough, little, green, shrubby thing on the corner or your dinner plate that I would usually offer a friend five bucks to eat just for laughs. I now know that kale is a wonderful, delicious green that gets a lot of flack.

Before I get into the part of the recipe portion of this blog entry I want to just say a few positive things about kale for all those kale-haters out there. According to many nutritionists, kale can lower your cholesterol and it reduces the risk for some cancers including cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. And finally, kale acts as an antioxidant and and anti-inflammatory. So go get yourself a big bunch of it and start cooking!

One of my first blog entries included a recipe for kale chips. Kale chips are a wonderfully nutritious replacement for fried potato chips. When kale is baked and sprinkled with a little sea salt, they become tasty little leaves that I actually prefer over greasy potato chips. They are super light and very crispy. Anytime I'm preparing something in the kitchen my dogs assume their positions in what I call "the drop zone." Chloe backs herself into the corner of the kitchen where I do most of my prep and Millie stands right under the sink where all of my vegetable scraps go. Millie particularly loves kale. As I pull the leafy parts of the kale away from the stem, she gives me the look reminding me that she was once a homeless, starving little street dog that often ate leaves and dirt for meals (it's amazing what you can read from a dog's face, haha). So I give her the kale stems and she is the happiest little girl in the world. Chloe, on the other hand, would never accept a vegetable scrap unless it was covered in cheese or peanut butter.

So here is a recipe for kale chips (again). Give it a try. I bet you won't be disappointed. And to go along with this recipe I am including a little video clip of Millie enjoying the finished product so that you can see how really crispy these chips turn out. Turn up your volume and listen for the crunch!

Baked crispy kale chips
The biggest secret to getting the kale super-crisp is to dry them in a salad spinner. If there is moisture on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. Also, do not salt the kale until after they have come out of the oven. If you salt beforehand, the salt will just cause the kale to release moisture, thus steaming instead of crisping.

4 giant handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces and tough stems removed (about 1/3 pound)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the kale leaves into a salad spinner and spin all of the water out of the kale. Dump the water and repeat one or two times more just to make sure that the kale is extra dizzy and dry. Use a towel to blot any extra water on the leaves. Place the kale on the baking sheet.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the kale leaves and use your hands to toss and coat the leaves. Bake in the oven for 12-20 minutes until leaves are crisp. Take a peek at the 12 minute mark - the timing all depends on how much olive oil you use. Just use a spatula or tongs to touch the leaves, if they are paper-thin crackly, the kale is done. If the leaves are still a bit soft, leave them in for another 2 minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown (they'll be burnt and bitter) Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

When I made these kale chips I had a lot of left over kale because my produce stand sells kale in ridiculously large (and ridiculously cheap, about $1) bunches.  I wasn't going to let it go to waste of course so I searched Google for more kale recipes.  I stumbled across this blog called 365 Days of Kale.  Now, it's not a vegan blog, but it certainly gives you some great uses for kale.  One of my favorite things in the world of food is potato pancakes!  There's nothing like a little, brown potato pancake with a dollop of good apple sauce on top.  So YUM!  So this is a recipe for potato pancakes with kale, obviously, and carrot, onion, and herbs. They came out very good! Initially I thought I might not put onion in them next time but I had three other people try them and they all said they would leave them as is. You can really make these your own and get creative with the ingredients. I think next time I will try them with zucchini instead of carrot.

Potato Pancakes with Kale

6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 large carrots, scraped
1 medium yellow or white (not sweet) onion, peeled
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup parsley, finely minced (or use other green herbs you might have on hand)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen kale, (remove the large center stems and then chop small)
2 large eggs (obviously use a vegan substitute here; I used 1 tbsp ground flax whisked together with 3 tbsp water)
1 Tbsp canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Applesauce, for garnish (I prefer a good, chunky applesauce)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray or cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet.

Using a food processor or large hand grater, coarsely grate potatoes and carrots and onion. Place grated vegetables in large colander. Set colander into large bowl so it nestles securely. Hand-squeeze vegetables to wring out as much liquid as possible (you can save this liquid for future soup broth). If vegetables still feel wet, pat dry with paper towels. Transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, parsley/herbs, kale, eggs (egg sub), oil, salt and pepper, making sure ingredients are well combined.

Spoon small mounds of potato mixture on baking sheet to form 2 1/2 inch pancakes (about 12 per cookie sheet), leaving a 1/2 inch between each. Pat down flat gently if needed. Bake pancakes until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with spatula. Transfer to plates or platter and serve at once with applesauce. Makes about 24 - 2-½ inch pancakes or 8-12 servings.

Even after the kale chips and the potato pancakes I STILL had more kale to use. Not much, but I wasn't going to waste it. I wanted to saute it this time. So I decided to make one of these make-it-up-as-you-go-along, use-up-leftover-stuff recipes. Yes, that's a technical term. I had about a single serving of pasta to use, some kale, and about a 1/3 of a package of dried porcini mushrooms. Basically I just reconstituted the mushrooms in some white wine and vegetable broth. Cooked the pasta. Sauteed the kale in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I added a little bit of corn starch to the liquid used for the mushrooms to let it thicken slightly to make a light sauce, then I tossed it all together. It was one of the most delicious dinners I've ever made. I just love it when things work out!

Well, I guess that's about all I have on kale for right now. I hope I have inspired you to give kale a chance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bake yourself silly!

It seems like forever ago that I've posted new recipes and now I have a bit of a back-log. So this blog will contain a few recipes for baked goods that I've tried and enjoyed.  I'll have to write a separate blog for the non-baked, more savory dishes so you are no inundated with a bunch of random recipes.

First up are scones!  I love scones.  They are like fancy, triangular biscuits.  I have tried sweet and savory varieties and I have found that when it comes to scones, I don't discriminate!  Last weekend I made Skinny Bitch Orange Scones, recipe by the skinny bitch herself, Kim Barnouin.  The recipe worked perfectly.  These have a lovely orange essence and light orange flavor yet they aren't really sweet, which makes it perfect for adding a nice jam on top.  YUM!!

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar (plus 1 tbs for later)
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup orange juice (plus 1 tbs for later)
1 tbs orange zest
1 tsp orange extract (I used lemon because I didn't have orange)
1/2 cup Earth Balance

Set oven to 350 F.  Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together orange juice, orange extract and orange zest. Then add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the Earth Balance and mix well. Lightly flour a flat surface. Knead dough for a minute, then form into a small pizza crust shape, lightly flattening it into desired thickness. Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet. Use your finger or pastry brush to spread the extra orange juice on each scone, then sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool. Serve with your favorite jam.

Here's another oh-so-yummy one to try, Raspberry Jam Swirl Crumbcake.  I found this recipe on Post Punk Kitchen.  This recipe turns out so moist a delicious. You could really use whatever flavor jam that you like best, or none at all.

For the cake:
3/4 cup soy milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raspberry jam (My FAVORITE jam is Polaner Fancy Fruit with Fiber, with only 6 grams of sugar and 3 grams of fiber per tbs!!)

For the topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8×8 round springform pan or regular square pan. Measure out the soy milk for the cake and add the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar; set aside to curdle. Then begin preparing the topping.

Make the topping:
In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Drizzle in the canola oil by the tablespoonful (you can eyeball it, no reason to whip out a tablespoon.) Use your fingers to swish around the mixture until crumbs form. Alternate swishing and adding canola oil until all oil is used and large crumbs have formed. Some of the topping is still going to be sandy and that’s fine, just so long as you have mostly nice big crumbs. You can add another tablespoon of oil if needed.

Make the cake:
In a large mixing bowl, mix together curdled milk, sugar, canola oil and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until smooth. Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Add spoonfuls of jam randomly on top of the batter and use a knife to swirl it in. Evenly sprinkle on the topping and pat it down just a bit. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted through the center comes out clean.

And one last baked item for you. This one is from Color Me Vegan.  I thought the Kiwi Banana Muffins from the Green Chapter sounded interesting.  I knew I liked kiwi and banana, but I wasn't sure how I felt about them all smushed together in a muffin.  They came out pretty good.  I thought the kiwi was slightly sour when paired with the banana so I'm still kind of on the fence about how I really feel about these.  I brought them to work though and asked for an honest opinion and I was told they were good.  I will say that the baking time on these (for my oven, which may need to be replaced soon) was WAY off!  I ended up baking mine for about 3 times longer than this recipe suggests.  Just a heads-up on that.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Zest from 1 medium orange
3 ripe bananas, peeled
8 ripe kiwis, peeled, divided
1/2 cup nondairy butter (Earth Balance)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a muffin tin or fill with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. Set aside. In a medium bowl, or in a food processor or blender, mash (or puree) the bananas and 5 of the kiwis until smooth. Add the butter and sugar and stir to combine. Chop the remaining 3 kiwis into bite-sized pieces. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the chopped kiwi, and stir to combine. Spoon the batter into the individual muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. This might take longer if your muffins are on the larger side. Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Non-food vegan reviews: Arbonne

I'd like to start this blog by thanking all of my blog followers and loyal readers. I have loved writing about my vegan experiences and hope it has inspired you to just give it a try, even if only for one day. I often wonder exactly who is out there reading (people besides my few close friends that are here for moral support). Turns out there are others out there that are actually reading this which is so exciting to me! After one of my many Darbster reviews, I received an e-mail from, Nancy, a district manager for Arbonne International. My first reaction was excitement because I was so happy to receive a message from someone I didn't know who was actually reading my blog. And my second reaction was even more excitement because Nancy offered to give me some samples to try out so that I could review them on my blog. How cool is that?!?

Before I get into the tofu and potatoes of my review, I'll just quickly say a few things about Arbonne. Before Nancy messaged me, I had never heard of Arbonne.  Arbonne offers 100% vegan-certified beauty, health & wellness products that are NEVER tested on animals and they do not contain any animal by-products (which is extremely rare in the world of cosmetics).  Using animal-friendly products has always been very important to me, however it's becoming nearly impossible to avoid buying the "mean products."  You may see the words "final product not tested on animals," but that doesn't mean that the company doesn't test on animals at all, they just don't test the "final product."  So Arbonne makes it easy for us and doesn't test or use animals in any capacity.  And that's just the beginning.  Their products are made up of premium botanical ingredients that are 100% pure and totally safe for your skin, and the Earth.  I think when it comes to shopping for cruelty-free products, the eco-friendly part may be just an afterthought.  Not with Arbonne.  Check out the Arbonne Green Commitment!

I'm going to start out with some skincare products that I tried. Nancy gave me six samples from
the Arbonne FC5 line. FC stands for the fresh cell technology, and the 5 is for the nutrients that are extracted from 5 different fruits and vegetables.    I tried the following face products: Hydrating Cleanser + Refresher, Nurturing Day Lotion with SPF 20, Moisturizing Night Creme, and the Hydrating Eye Creme.  All of these products have a lovely, natural, and "fruity" smell.  And by fruity I don't mean too sweet or perfumey.  They are all very pure smelling.  The cleanser has fresh strawberry cell extracts.  You can tell based on the thick texture and consistency of these products that they are very concentrated and a little goes a long way.  I loved that the Day Lotion, made with fresh kiwi cell extracts, had an SPF 20.  I have found it hard to find lotions with sunscreen in them that aren't too greasy or cause added shine throughout the day.  This lotion absorbed into my skin very well and was not greasy at all.  The Night Creme has fresh mango cell extracts and also absorbed quite well, just somewhat slower.  Most night creams tend to be thicker to keep your skin hydrated throughout the night.  It went on nicely and wasn't uncomfortable to sleep in at all.  (Plus is makes your pillows smell like a very fancy spa-- bonus!) The Eye Creme, also containing kiwi extracts, was equally as nice.  Nancy also gave me the following FC5 body products: Invigorating Body Cleanser and Conditioning Body Moisturizer. The cleanser was light a fresh and not drying at all. I felt like it really did do it's job by cleansing my skin and again, the smell was lovely. I really liked the Body Moisture too. It contains fresh pumpkin cell extracts, however it does not smell like pumpkins. It has the same light and fresh smell that all the FC5 products have. I moisturized my legs in the morning and they were still soft and smooth by the end of the day. Overall, I was thrilled with the results of these products. 

At 28 years old, I still have the occasional breakout and blemishes so I was definitely interested in the Arbonne Clear Advantage products. The key ingredients are Salicylic acid (1%), alfalfa, dandelion leaf, licorice root, peppermint, orange peel, mallow flower, wild pansy, hops extract, vitamins A, C and E.  I have tried SO many products like this over the years. Some have worked as far as eliminating the blemish, but it usually leaves your skin somewhat dry. Once again, a little goes a long way with the Clarifying Wash. As soon as you squeeze it from the tube you can tell how thick and concentrated it is. It's clear and does not contain any of those harsh, sandpaper-like scrubbers. Since I use a Clarisonic, I don't prefer the little exfoliating scrubber bits. Another thing I liked about this product is that it never left my skin looking red or inflamed. I have very sensitive skin, so a lot of acne-related products tend to make me look a bit red. Not the case with this one.

I was lucky enough to be able to try a couple of cosmetic items, too. The makeup primer is the BEST makeup primer I have ever used. I am generally not a fan of makeup primers because it's just yet another thing to smear on your face and it can tend to feel heavy. This is the lightest, most silky primer. It doesn't really have any kind of scent, which I like because it doesn't compete or clash with the scents of the face wash and lotion. It creates the perfect, super-thin barrier between your face and the makeup, not that the makeup would hurt your skin, but it may absorb into your skin throughout the day.
I mentioned to Nancy that I am a lip gloss junkie. I always have at least two or three lip glosses with me at any given time. I tried out all the Lip Polish colors and my favorite was the Posh color. It's a light, nude-pink color. I think it looks great with any type of eye makeup because it's so soft and neutral. It's also not sticky or slimy and most importantly, it's not glittery! I cannot stand when cosmetic companies put shimmer and glitter in their lip glosses. Arbonne's gloss, which contains mango butter, aloe, sunflower oil, and vitamins A and E, gives you a subtle shine without looking like a pre-teen on her way to a Miley Cyrus concert. And I loved the fact that it wasn't flavored. I don't know why so many lip glosses are flavored. I'm not eating my lip gloss, are you? And I also don't need flavoring on my mouth at all times. So thank you, Arbonne, for making a great, adult lip gloss. I am definitely going to ordering it in Posh!

And finally, I asked to try the Arbonne Protein Shakes from the Arbonne Essentials line of products. Before going vegan, I occasionally would drink a protein shake before a work out. And let me tell you, when it comes to protein shakes, all are NOT created equal. Many of them are just not pleasant tasting at all and some contain milk and whey products making them no good for vegans. I was very surprised and pleased with Arbonne's protein shake. I tasted both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. They didn't have that gross, chalky texture and taste. They were very milkshake-like and just yummy! I love to drink them before my workouts during the week. They are just the ticket to cure my late afternoon sweet tooth and they don't leave me feeling too full or bloated. Another plus, they contain calcium AND folic acid, both of which are very important to women's health. I love these protein shakes!

And since I love to share-the-love when possible, I told Claudia that I was in touch with Nancy from Arbonne. Nancy was nice enough to let Claudia take home the Arbonne RE9 Advanced anti-aging system for a few days. Claudia reported back with satisfaction. She loved the citrusy scent and liked that the Day Creme had a non-greasy SPF 20. These products, like the ones that I tried, are also very concentrated so a little bit goes a long way. I know I have said that a lot in this review but I think it's important because you are making an investment in high-quality products so it's nice to know that you are getting more than just a few uses from them.  PS- Arbonne doesn't forget about the guys!  There are skincare and wellness products for men, too!  There are also products for kids and babies!

I love everything I tried from Arbonne and will definitely be purchasing some products. If you would like additional information on any of these products, or if you would like to know what else is available (like vitamins!), check out the Arbonne website and contact Nancy Kumpulainen (561-254-6519 or  Also check out

Thanks you so much, Nancy, for the awesome opportunity to include these great vegan products in my blog!  I will be spreading the word for sure!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A few rawviews

I think everyone pretty much knows by now what the vegan "diet" consists of. I use the air bunnies because I hate the word diet then I talk about veganism, but you get what I mean. In a nutshell it's no meat, dairy, or eggs... it's 100% plant-based. So there's the vegan "diet" and then there's the raw "diet." Raw food is vegan by default, but it's different in that the foods you are eating are uncooked and unprocessed.

It was a Friday and we needed to order lunch at the office. Unfortunately, there aren't too many places around us to order a vegan meal that's actually good, so occasionally we drive downtown to The Raw Kitchen or to Darbster. I'll start with The Raw Kitchen. Since it was difficult to decide on one dish, we ordered two and split them so that we would have the opportunity to experience both. On the left is the Nori Wrap made up of fresh coconut meat, marinated sprouted teff and white sesame seeds, julienned market vegetables wrapped in nori roll with sesame ginger sauce. And on the right is the Mac Daddy which is a macadamia nut salad layered with zucchini, avocado, tomato, turmeric, scallions with eggplant pancetta on a bed of spinach with smokey chipotle vegan mayonnaise. Both were good choices however we declared the nori wrap as the winner.
I love the "sea" taste of the nori and the light, fresh taste of the raw veggies together. (In case you don't know what nori is, it's a type of edible seaweed that is often sold in sheets and used in many varieties of sushi rolls.) The coconut meat also provided a pleasant, subtle sweetness which went great with the sesame ginger sauce. I also enjoyed the crunch of the teff and the sesame seeds. It made for great texture. The Mac Daddy was good, however I probably wouldn't order it again. It was mostly avocado, which I happen to love, but I felt like I needed to eat it with chips. It was more like a big pile of really good guacamole. The macadamia nuts were marinated which made them soft. Oh, I forgot to mention the eggplant pancetta! That was very good. It was salty and smokey and I thought it was a nice compliment to the salad. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't knock my socks off. I would definitely order the nori wrap again though!

My second raw review is from Darbster. My mom, Jack, and I went there for brunch last Sunday. Jack and I were brave and went for a raw selection. My mom had the challah french toast, still vegan of course, but not raw. I'll take what I can get at this point. Anyway, I ordered the Raw Wild Berry Pancakes served with eggplant bacon, portabella sausage, raw agave syrup, and fruit. This was AWESOME!! My favorite raw food meal to date. The pancakes are made from bananas, nuts and other fruits. The dominant flavor is banana. They were very good. The closest thing I can compare the flavor to is banana-nut bread. They were thin, yet moist. The texture is obviously not similar to a fluffy buttermilk pancake, but it's not trying to be. It was served with fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and sliced banana. The raw agave syrup was every bit as good, if not better than what most people consider to be "normal" pancake syrup, i.e. Aunt Jemima's high-fructose-corn-syrup-infused "maple syrup." The agave syrup also paired quite well with the portabella sausage. This didn't have a "sausagey" flavor, but it was still savory and delicious.
The eggplant bacon was very similar to the eggplant pancetta that The Raw Kitchen served with their Mac Daddy salad. It was seasoned a little differently but the texture was the same. It was smokey, salty, and yummy! As you can see by my plate, I didn't really enjoy my meal! Haha... I seriously don't know how Chef Seth continues to turn out delicious and healthy meals. I also wanted to comment on how magnificent the orange juice was! Fresh-squeezed, I'm sure. The color was as glorious as the taste! Another A++++++ for Darbster!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leggo my eggo...plant!

Every time I go to the produce stand I see all these different types of eggplant (please disregard the rutabagas that creeped into the picture). I have been wanting to try a recipe for baba ganoush. If you don't know what baba ganoush is, then be prepared to be enlightened. Baba ganoush is an Arab dish that is essentially mashed up eggplant dip. Translation: a glorious, creamy, smokey dip that is as fun to eat as it is to say- BABA GANOUSH!! :) It is easy to make and it's a good reason to eat veggies since it's a dip. According to, another reason to nosh on this purple gift from nature is because it's a very good source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. Because of its low soluble carbohydrate content and high fiber, it is the best diet choice for diabetics. One full serving of eggplant is very low in calories. A cup full of sliced one-inch cubes contains only 33 calories. Eggplant is also rich in minerals such as copper, potassium and manganese and is a very good source of Vitamins B1 and B6. So what are you waiting for?

Here is a recipe for baba ganoush.

1 large eggplant (or two small/medium eggplants)
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (fine chop)
1 pinch cumin (ground)
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil (optional)
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian parsley
1 teaspoons cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and broil in the oven for 8-10 minutes (or until the skin is all charred). Then flip it over, flesh-side up, and broil another 6-8 minutes. Take out and let cool. Remove the stem and charred skin. It's okay not to get every single piece of skin. I think it adds to the smokey flavor of the dip a little bit. So then you just add the eggplant to a food processor along with all the other ingredients and pulse until smooth. Baba ganoush is generally served cold but I can't help myself and I usually snag a few bites while it's still hot. This is great served with pita chips and fresh veggies. Enjoy!

In other news... one of the blogs I follow, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, posted a recipe for "happy brownies" that contain hemp seed, hence the name. They sounded yummy and I thought it would be a good opportunity to use hemp seed. According to The Nourishing Gourmet, hemp is a high protein seed containing all nine of the essential amino acids (like flax) and is supposed to be very digestible. It also has high amounts of fatty acids and fiber and vitamin E. And, get this, unlike soy which has super high amounts of phytic acid (that anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing minerals), hemp seed doesn’t contain phytic acid. At the very least, this makes hemp seed a step up from soy. So anyway, I wanted to make the brownies so I went to Whole Foods for just a few ingredients that I didn't have. I realized very quickly that I was going to need to get a second job if I wanted to make these "happy brownies." The coconut sugar was $12 a bag. The vanilla stevia was $9, and the hemp seed was $17/lb (even though I only needed about 1/8 lb. So I nixed the brownies and just decided to get my hemp fix from hemp milk ice cream! I do it for you, my loyal blog followers! Haha, any excuse to eat ice cream. I got the coffee biscotti flavor and ate it with a vegan chocolate chip cookie from the bakery at Whole Foods (those are just too good to be true) and it was very tasty and much less stressful than baking a $100 batch of not-so-happy brownies.

Oh, and one more thing before I go... I went out to dinner with my Mom last week. She was in the mood for Mexican food. I knew I was going to make my selection from the vegetarian menu. I was brave and ordered a burrito (minus cheese and sour cream) that had sauteed cactus inside. I was thrilled with my decision because it had a very unique, tangy and sour flavor that was unexpected and quite delicious! So next time you're in a Mexican restaurant, go for the cactus!