Sunday, March 27, 2011


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Saturday, March 26, 2011

3rd Veganversary

This month marks my 3rd year of being vegan.  I don’t have an exact date.  In fact, it may actually be early April.  I’m not sure because I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I was going to be vegan from that moment forevermore.  There was no defining moment when I formally denounced the consumption and exploitation of animals.  Instead, it was a gradual shift over a 6-month period from flexitarian, to vegetarian, to vegan.  Here’s my story:

Growing up, I was an eater.  I ate what and when I wanted and never gave any thought to where my food came from.  Some favorite foods of mine were Velveeta Shells and Cheese, Ramen Noodles, Spaghetti-Os with franks, bacon sandwiches (for snacks, mind you), corned beef hash, fried bologna, string cheese, and superman ice cream.  I’m not kidding and the list goes on and on.  Sometime around 8th grade, I decided to go vegetarian.  To be quite honest, it wasn’t for ethical or health reasons.  I wanted to lose a few pounds and I figured that would be an easy way to do it.  Because I viewed it as a diet and not a lifestyle, I didn’t stick with it consistently and was vegetarian on and off for about the next 14 years. 

Ever since I was a baby, I was plagued with terrible stomach problems.  As I grew older, they seemed to worsen and no doctor that I went to seemed to be able to help.  Finally one suggested I get tested for lactose intolerance and lo and behold, the test was positive.  Well, that sure helped explain a few things!  As I searched online for dairy-free options, I started to look at vegan food blogs.  Along with finding some great recipes, I learned about milk ingredients hiding behind other names – whey, casein, and sodium caseinate – and ultimately stopped eating dairy products altogether. I read a lot of information about veganism and thought it sounded great for many reasons, but it also seemed like a lot of work. Instead, I was going to be a dairy-free vegetarian.

Then two things happened.  First, I read the book Skinny Bitch and began to seriously question my choice.  I sobbed through the chapter about the horrible sufferings of chickens (those poor baby boys!) and what “free range” really means.  I started to take a good hard look at my diet and examine what it was doing not only to my body but to the earth, as well.  

Second, I made a last-minute decision to go along with my sister-in-law to “The Great American Meat-Out” (now VegFest).  Admittedly, I was thoroughly convinced it would be a “bunch of stinky hippies,” but I figured what the hell.  While there I sampled amazing vegan food, read informative literature, and joined Veg Michigan*.  The best part of the day, however, was meeting Colleen Patrick Goudreau and listening to her presentation on debunking common myths about a vegan diet.  Her words  – “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything” - really resonated with me.  Suddenly being vegan didn’t sound like so much work after all. 

I mulled things over for a few days and it wasn’t long before I was totally vegan.  It just felt right.  Unlike when I became vegetarian for the first time so many years ago, I was doing this for my health, animals, and the planet.  I truly wanted to live a compassionate life and being vegan seemed the best way for me to start. 

That brings us to today. While I sometimes miss having feta cheese on my salad or a peanut butter cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen, I’m not tempted to “cheat” because I strongly believe in my decision and making any other choice doesn’t cross my mind.

Tomorrow is the event that I wait all year for since I took a chance on it 4 years ago – VegFest!  It promises to be bigger and better than ever.  I can’t wait to share everything I see, eat, and learn there so check back for my report.  

Thanks for reading my story.  Feel free to share your own veg journey - I’d love to read it! 

My cat Zoe

*Look at the picture on the Veg Michigan site - that's me standing at Colleen's table holding a paper!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Leftover creations – Steamed veggies marinara with spinach noodles

After a day of indulging in 3 too many PB Energy Bites, I needed a wholesome dinner.  I had a race in the morning and didn’t want to awaken to find myself in a sugar coma.  I wasn’t in the mood to really cook anything but also didn’t want to eat out.   

I scrounged around in the fridge and found leftover sun-dried tomato and sweet basil pasta sauce and some vegetables - fresh broccoli florets, the end of a bag of baby carrots, half a red pepper, and two button mushrooms.  I also had some spinach pasta in the cupboard so while I cooked a small amount of that I steamed all the veggies in the microwave.  Then I just put the veggies on top of the noodles, dumped all the sauce on top, and sprinkled nutritional yeast over it.   

Yum!  It was so delicious and filling, but not something that weighed me down since it was mostly veggies with very few noodles.  Oh, I also had a slice of sourdough bread, toasted, with a little Earth Balance and garlic powder.  I wasn’t going to but the end of the loaf was just sitting there calling my name.  And hey, I needed my carbs for the race, right?

What's your favorite pre-race meal?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PB Energy Bites

I’d like to share another cereal bar recipe with you.  This is one that’s been in my collection for as long as I can remember.  I have no idea where or when I got it and I’ve tweaked it here and there over the years.  Be aware that with the agave, brown sugar, and dried cranberries, there’s a lot of sugar.  If you eat too many, prepare for a crash later on!  This time I used natural oat cereal (instead of Multigrain Cheerios, which the original recipe calls for) to cut back a little on the sugar.  If anyone has any other suggestions for reducing the sugar – but not altering the taste too much – please let me know.

Although the recipe says to cut into 16 bars, I can’t say that I ever get 16 servings out of this.  My latest batch didn’t last the weekend!

PB Energy Bites
(printable recipe)


1 ½ cups oat cereal (I used Cascadian Farms Purely O’s)
1 ½ cups plain granola (I used Back to Nature classic granola)
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup agave nectar
¾ cup natural creamy peanut butter (I made my own in my Vitamix)


1. In medium bowl, combine cereal, granola, cranberries, and coconut; set aside.  Spray 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In small, microwave-safe bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Microwave on high for 45 seconds or until peanut butter is melted.  Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture and toss to coat.  Firmly press into prepared pan and cool completely, about an hour.  (The refrigerator will speed up this process if you can’t wait that long!)

Cut into 16 bars.

1.    The bars are rather crumbly and I think upping the peanut butter to 1 cup would help this.
2.    You can use any combination of dried fruits or try adding chocolate chips. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the Run: Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon 2011

Today I ran my first half marathon of the season.  I was as ill-prepared for it as ever, having done only three 4-mile runs since the fallI totally rocked this one, though, and it ended up being my fastest half marathon yet!  Sometimes I wonder how well I could do if I actually trained for these things...  

Anyway, the race was on Grosse Ile and it was a benefit for cystic fibrosis.  There were about 1,500 runners, which far exceeded the organizers' expectations for the 1st annual race.  The course was clean, well-marked, and there were plenty of water stations and supporters along the way.  The finish line was on the football field at the high school so you got to run around the track and finish with people cheering on the sidelines and in the bleachers.  Pretty cool.

I'm in the homestretch!
At the end they had water, bananas, homemade cookies, and bagels from Panera.  Of course none of the bagels were vegan (what, no blueberry?) but the banana was good and I grabbed a few things for Brian.  After all, he was up with me at 5 a.m. and had to entertain himself while I ran around the island, so he deserved a treat.  We made a Starbucks run on the way home and my coffee went perfectly with the Avalon date bar that was waiting for me at home.



Toasted Nuts and Cranberry Luna Bar, banana

Rolling In The Deep / Adele
How You Like Me Now? / The Heavy
Lisztomania / Phoenix
Tightrope (ft. Big Boi) / Janelle Monae
LDN / Lily Allen
Howlin' For You / The Black Keys
Holiday / Vampire Weekend
Don't Shut 'Em Down / Flogging Molly
Keep Your Head / The Ting Tings
Mine Smell Like Honey / R.E.M.
Song Away / Hockey
Magic / B.o.B. (feat. Rivers Cuomo)
Under Cover Of Darkness / The Strokes
Shut Up And Drive / Rihanna
1983 / Neon Trees
Sweet Child O' Mine / Guns N’ Roses
Kids / MGMT
Bad Romance / Lady Gaga
Kick Drum Heart / The Avett Brothers
Second Chance / Peter Bjorn and John
Discipline / Nine Inch Nails
American Slang / The Gaslight Anthem
Fell in Love With a Girl / The White Stripes
Selfish Man / Flogging Molly
Bodysnatchers / Radiohead
Run This Town (Ft.Rihanna and Kanye West) / Jay-Z
Chop And Change / The Black Keys
Fighter / Christina Aguilera
Lose Yourself / Eminem

Next race: Martian Invasion of Races, Half Marathon - April 2nd

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cookbook central

My name is Amanda and I’m a recipe hoarder.  By looking at my cookbook collection, you’d think that I must cook and bake all the time.  Especially if you also look at the “recipes” folder on my computer or all the pages torn from magazines in my recipe binder or my old-school recipe box filled with hand-written index cards...  The truth is, there are several cookbooks that I haven’t made a single recipe from.  Or maybe I’ve made one or two.  Yet I keep buying more cookbooks.  While I rarely buy novels, preferring instead to borrow them from the library, I must own cookbooks.  I love to page through them and put sticky notes on everything I plan to make.  Maybe I make them, maybe I don’t.  The point is that I never know when I might want a certain recipe so I like to have them all at my fingertips, just in case.

 My favorite and most-used cookbooks are Veganomicon, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, and The Joy of Vegan BakingHappy Herbivore, a relatively recent addition, is probably going to make the list, as well.  The others are all great but I may only use them for 1-2 recipes.  Like the tofu scramble from Vegan Brunch.  Or the taco seasoning from Go Dairy Free.  Others have some delicious-looking recipes that I know I'll make...some day.  Even those books I haven't used for recipes have useful tips, tricks, suggestions, such as Babycakes for gluten-free baking or Sweet and Natural for alternative sweeteners.  In fact, I don’t think there’s a single cookbook in my collection that I regret buying.  Although I cut it out of the pictures, the bottom shelf is stacked high with all my non-vegan cookbooks, many of which I still use for the "accidentally vegan" recipes or those that are easy to veganize.  A favorite of these is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (a.k.a. "the plaid cookbook").

New challenge for myself – make one new recipe a week from a different cookbook.  For desserts, I’ll aim to try a new one each month.  Will I succeed?  Based on my track record, probably not, but I'll try.

Another challenge?  Find a bigger bookshelf.

 What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Kinder Rice Crispy Treat

For as long as I can remember, I was a huge fan of Rice Krispie Treats.  My mom used to make a killer peanut butter version when I was a kid.  In college I ate the regular marshmallow kind like they were going out of style.  After turning vegan, I sadly waved good-bye to the gooey treats.  Sure, there are some vegan versions out there that are pretty decent - Glenny's and Trader Joe's both make some.  I've heard the Sweet and Sara ones are good and I once made some with with Dandies vegan marshmallows. 

A few weeks ago I finally got around to making the Crispy Peanut Butter Treats from Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet.  Actually, I used almond butter because I didn't have any peanut butter on hand.  Plus, I had an unopened jar with a fast -approaching expiration date.  Next time I'll use peanut butter because I think it will be a more pronounced flavor.  Anyway, they were really tasty.  The brown rice syrup makes them super sweet but that's the way I like my desserts.  I'm not saying that if you close your eyes you'll think you're eating a "real" Rice Krisipie treat, but they are a delicious, healthy, and kind alternative.

You can also find the original recipe on Alicia's blog, The Kind Life.  Here it is as I made it:

Crispy Almond Butter Treats With Chocolate Chips


1 box crispy brown rice cereal
1 jar organic brown rice syrup
3/4 cup salted almond butter with roasted flax seeds
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Trader Joe's almond butter with roasted flax seeds, Erewhon organic crispy brown rice cereal, Lundberg Sweet Dreams organic brown rice syrup, and Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Pour the whole box of cereal into a large bowl.
2. Heat the syrup over low heat, add almond butter, and stir.
3. Pour the syrup and almond butter over the cereal and stir to combine.
4. Cool to room temperature and stir in chocolate chips.
5. Dump out into a 9x13 inch baking dish and press evenly into pan.
6.  Let cool for an hour and cut into squares.

These would probably be really good with toasted coconut and dried cranberries, too.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Black bean burgers

Last weekend I made the easiest, most delicious black bean burgers I've ever eaten!  I got the recipe from Sherry over at Exploits of a Vegan WannabeI followed the recipe with her modifications, although I used parsley instead of cilantro.  To blend all the ingredients, I used my Vita-Mix, being careful not to turn the mixture into black bean soup.  

The only thing I adjusted was the baking temperature and time because I was also making sweet potato chips.  I baked them at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, then flipped for another 8 minutes.  At the end I put them under the broiler for about 3 minutes per side.  We topped ours with avocado, tomato, and Newman's salsa.  The burgers were very meaty and firm.  They didn't crumble or fall apart like other homemade burgers I've attempted.  My hamburger-loving husband loved them, too, and thought that the texture was rather meat-like, both before and after cooking.  (I'm including this commentary for anyone who wants to try and win over a carnivorous diner with a meat-free yet meaty alternative to hamburgers.)  

We got 6 large burgers out of the recipe (the first two were actually rather huge - I hadn't considered how filling they would be!).  I'd like to experiment with cooking the burgers and freezing them.  Although I love having Amy's Quarter-Pound veggie burgers to throw on the grill, these would be an even healthier alternative.  Plus, knowing that I made them myself is pretty darn cool.

Thanks again, Sherry!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quinoa-stuffed bell peppers

I used to be intimidated by stuffed peppers.  They seemed like an awful lot of work to me and I wasn't sure if they were worth the effort.  Every recipe (or so it seemed) called for boiling peppers, making the filling, stuffing the peppers, and then baking them.  Too many steps for me!  Then a few years ago I came across a really quick and easy recipe in the newspaper for rice and black bean stuffed peppers.  I've made them several times, making some tweaks here and there and they're always delicious.  

Recently I found a recipe in Shape magazine that had a great quinoa filling but the preparation required more steps and time than I've become accustomed to with my peppers.  So I combined the two recipes and ended up with a really delicious dish.  This made enough filling for 4 pepper halves.  Brian and I thought we would each eat 2 halves but were stuffed (ha ha) after one.  The leftovers warmed up wonderfully the next day.  You could really make these your own, swapping rice, bulgar, or couscous for the quinoa.  It would also be great with some shredded carrots and chickpeas.  The possibilities are endless! 

I overcooked the peppers so they're a little softer than I'd like.  Easy to cut and eat, though!  With some sauteed kale, one pepper half was more than enough for one meal!

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
(printable recipe)


2 large sweet bell peppers
Chopped sweet onion (about ½ cup)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
2-3 thinly sliced button mushrooms
½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed (I used red)
1 tsp. Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
½ cup (or more) frozen chopped spinach
1 can (15 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained


1. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan.  Add onion, garlic, and mushroom and sauté until soft.  Add quinoa and stir for a minute. 
2. Add water with bouillon.  Stir in frozen spinach. Bring to a boil.  Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove stem, seeds, and membrane.  Place cut-side down in a small glass pan.  Cover dish with plastic wrap; fold back one edge ¼ inch to vent.  Microwave 4 minutes or until peppers have softened to your liking. 
4. When quinoa is cooked, stir in tomatoes and heat through.  Fill peppers with mixture and serve.  

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are!

Optional: Top peppers with shredded vegan cheese.  Place peppers on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese melts.