Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Banana Pecan Pancakes

I guess I lied about not making any banana pancakes this time around... because I'm pretty sure that's what I'm doing at this instant... This is based off the recipe from Sarah Kramer's "La Dolce Vegan". I've just changed it a bit. It goes really well with some pure maple syrup and coffee.

Banana Pecan Pancakes:

1 c. unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1 c. soymilk
1 very ripe banana, mashed
2 Tb. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1. In a 350 oven, place pecans in a single layer and toast until browned (about 5 minutes or so).

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the soymilk, mashed banana, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Add the toasted, chopped pecans to the flour mixture, and then add the soymilk/banana mixture. Stir until combined.

5. Cook in an oiled skillet/griddle until the pancake becomes dry around the edges and bubbles form in the center. Flip and cook another minute or two. Re-oil the skillet if pancakes start to stick. Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

I love Aldi's!

Some people may talk bad about Aldi's, but you know what? I love it there! Let me list the ways...


1. You can't beat the prices, they are pretty much the lowest around. Granted, it's these prices that have earned Aldi's a reputation as being for "poor people" but seriously, it's good stuff. Aldi's has changed quite a bit over the years and while I'll never touch their "Spaghetti Rings", I'll sure as heck gobble up their roasted garlic hummus. That's right... hummus, and it was damn good! It is my firm belief that most of the stuff is the exact same as their name brand counterpart. Basically, anytime the label says "compare to..." you know it's the exact same thing. Their "compare to Kellogg's..." granola, was the exact same as the name brand. Also, everyone I know swears that their Shique shampoo, which says "compare to Biolage" is the exact same as Biolage, and it's half the price. Companies do that. They like to corner the market... they earn more money that way. They put the name-brand stuff in a different package with a different brand name, label it generic, and voila. Now, not all stuff is like that. But a lot of it is.


Now why am I blogging about Aldi's on a vegan blogsite?


2. Animal products are expensive. To save money, you leave out the animal products. Cut out the dairy, the egg, the meat, and you've got a product you're able to sell for less. This is another way Aldi's is able to sell things for less, they lack animal products! It's so nice to read the back of a cereal box or a pudding box and see that it doesn't contain any milk, or to read the back of a can of beans and see that it doesn't contain lard. The majority of products at Aldi's are vegan. It's so nice to dig into a $2 box of delicious "Chocolate Peanut Butter Spheres" and know that it doesn't contain any animal. I mean, seriously, vegan refrigerated crescent rolls! It's good stuff.


3. The produce is great. While I advocate buying organic when you can, Aldi's has got the cheapest produce around, and no, it's not secondhand. Perfect, juicy, delicious, ruby red grapefruit for $.25 apiece. They're a buck at Walmart (I live in the Midwest here people). Portobello mushrooms, avocados for $.50 (they're $1.75 at HyVee!), bananas for $.39/lb. And best of all, a lot of the stuff comes from the USA, or at least Canada or Mexico. Buying locally is great, but buying from Mexico is a lot better than buying from Chile. I've found that food that travels the least amount of miles costs the least, so Aldi's is another sure bet.

Seriously... 25 cent grapefruit! That makes me so happy!


4. It's okay to be eco-friendly. Aldi's is already somewhat eco-friendly. They don't supply plastic bags and most people just use the empty flats the food came on. Even more people use reusable bags. I'd say, at my store, half use reusable bags, so nobody looks at you funny for being an "environmentalist". At Aldi's, you're just being practical.


5. Variety. There isn't the greatest amount of variety there, but it's gotten a lot better in the past couple of years. They now offer things such as hummus, raw almonds, unsweetened frozen fruit, whole wheat bread, and wine. I about freaked out the other day when I saw they had Basmati and Jasmine rice!


So as you can see, that's why I love Aldi's. I can feed two people really well on about $50 a week. And no, the stuff isn't secondhand and no, it's not expired. Unlike Sav-A-Lot whose food is thisclose to expiring, Aldi's has a normal lifespan.

So check it out. Just make sure you B.Y.O.B. (bring you own bags) and a quarter for the cart.
http://www.aldifoods.com/us/html/service/store_locator_ENU_HTML.htm

"Health" Nut Banana Bars

I have this habit of constantly buying bananas. I like them, I really do, but I don't eat them that often. I usually just look down at my counter one day and see an entire bunch of very ripe bananas and then freak out because I have to cook something with them (I just can't throw food away). 

Well, I had gotten tired of the usual banana pancakes and smoothies and I wanted to try something a little different. These moist, amazing, delicious, my favorite-thing-right-now bars were born. I'm all about texture and these are great! I suppose you could fancy them up with a little vegan frosting, but they really don't need it. Enjoy!


I REALLY think that some carob or chocolate chips would be great in these bars. If you choose to add some, I would go with about 1/2 cup.


"Health" Nut Banana Bars1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. Turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Tb. milled flax seed, divided
2 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. pecans, coarsely ground
2 Tb. wheat germ
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-2 Tb. soymilk


1. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tb. milled flax seed with 3 Tb. warm water. Stir and set aside. 

2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, pecans, 1/2 Tb. milled flax seed, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well. 

3. In small bowl with the flax seed and water, add oil, Turbinado sugar, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Stir well. 

4. Add the wet ingredients with to the dry, then add the soymilk, and stir until just mixed. 

5. In a lightly oiled 9" x 13" pan, evenly spread batter, then bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes, or until a fork inserted comes out clean (I don't believe in toothpicks, lol).


Basically, just spread the batter out into whatever pan you have. You can also make muffins, but the tops aren't all smooth like they are with the bars. A vegan banana frosting would be great on these!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I had an epiphany...

So I had an epiphany this morning, and this is what it came down to:

I completely changed my diet almost two years ago exactly. I cut out animal products. I started drinking soymilk and I stopped eating cheese. I started trying new vegetables and I made them a part of almost every meal. With the decision to eat whole, natural, and organic foods, I cut out refined sugars and flours (including high fructose corn syrup). My goal was to not eat a food that had an ingredient I couldn't pronounce. I knew that by doing this I would feel healthier and I would enjoy food more.

Then came the epiphany...

I haven't been sick in nearly two years. Merely coincidence? I think not!

I haven't had a single cold or case of the flu (not once!).

I also used to routinely get UTIs, and when I cut out high fructose corn syrup a year ago, they disappeared too.

A couple years ago I used to have a problem with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, when I cut out dairy and fried foods, it disappeared (I guess that one's a "duh").

I have never felt so healthy in my life as I do now, and I know it's a direct result of my diet. If food is fuel, it only makes sense to give my body the best there is.

I encourage EVERYONE to change their way of eating. If it can lengthen your life and improve the quality of it at the same time, why wouldn't you? It make sound drastic, but it just takes baby steps. Switch from white to whole wheat. Switch from canned veggies to fresh (or at least frozen). Don't EVEN THINK about buying that can of fruit cocktail.

You can do it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hoop-dancing!

Hoop-dancing!

It's great exercise and it's one of my favorite things to do! It may look complicated, but it's really not. In fact, using a larger hoop is easier than your traditional kiddie hula hoop. I think the larger width and the weight of the hoop help provide momentum. If you're interested in getting started, I have a link on the right side of the page that tells you how to make your own hoop, it's real easy (it only took my about 15 minutes to make my first hoop).

This activity is especially fun at those weekend summer music festivals!

Maybe one of these days I'll post a video of myself hoop dancing. Maybe... Lol.

Here are a few videos if you're curious:

Hula Hoop Dancer by elbee103. Oh, and they're listening to Tincup Prophette. They're pretty much awesome. Good hooping music.

Jasmine of the Whirlygirlz by jlj56.

Simple Lentils with Coconut Rice

Sometimes a simple, hearty meal is what seems right on a cold, winter day. These lentils are great when paired with chappati (Indian bread). Even better, this meal can be prepared in about half an hour!

Lentils
1/2 c. pink lentils, rinsed
1 1/4 c. vegetable stock

Olive oil

Bring the stock to a boil with a little of the oil. Add the lentils; cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until they fall apart.

Coconut Rice
1 1/4 c. water
1 c. basmati rice
3/4 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Rinse the rice. Bring the water, coconut milk, and salt to a boil. Add the rice and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 25 minutes.

Serve lentils over rice, and there you have it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Smoothies in January?

I know it's a little cold for frozen smoothies, but I got a blender for Christmas and I've been making good use of it! Smoothies are a great way to get in essential protein, vitamins, and minerals and you can even sneak a few more veggies into your daily routine.

With this blender I also plan on introducing more raw foods into my diet, so look for a few recipes in that department.

NOTE: I only use fresh fruit or frozen fruit that has no added sugars/sweeteners, and the juices I buy are 100% natural (no corn syrup, not from concentrate, etc.). Right now I'm using soy protein powder, but I hope to get some hemp protein powder soon. It has a delicious, nutty flavor along with heart-healthy protein and omegas (I believe it to be superior to the soy powder).

Also, some of these call for a 1/4 c. carrot juice. It may seem like a small amount, but the nutritional benefits are great (over 200% of your Vitamin A in just 2 oz)!

Tropical Smoothie
1/4 c. carrot juice
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. frozen tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple)
a couple frozen strawberries

Toss it all in a blender and process until smooth. You can add some more juice or water if it's too sorbet-like. I like my smoothies to have a thick consistency.

Chocolate Banana Protein Shake
1 frozen banana
1 c. chocolate soymilk
1 Tb. soy protein powder (for best results, use the amount recommended on the can)

Some ice

Toss it all in a blender and process until smooth.

Stawberry-Banana Protein Shake
1 frozen banana
1 1/2 c. vanilla soymilk
1/2 c. strawberries (I use whole frozen)
1-2 Tb. soy protein powder

Toss it all in a blender and process until smooth.

Strawberry-Orange Smoothie
1/4 c. carrot juice
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. frozen strawberries

Toss in a blender and process until smooth.

Wild Rice and Couscous Stuffed Peppers

I decided to make my wife something "fancy" for dinner the other night, and I had been wanting stuffed peppers for awhile, so this is what I came up with. The texture and flavor of these peppers are delicious and when paired with some mashed potatoes and green beans, you've got a hearty winter meal on your hands.

NOTE: Israeli couscous is larger and more flavorful than the usual "instant" couscous, but you can use whichever is more convenient for you. Also, since wild rice takes some time to cook, it's handy to do it the night before.

Wild Rice and Israeli Couscous Stuffed Peppers:
6 bell peppers, assorted colors, halved
2 Tb. olive oil
1/2 tube Gimme Lean "sausage"
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
1 leek (white and light green parts only), chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 c. wild rice, cooked
1/2 c. Israeli couscous, cooked
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. thyme
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c. Spaghetti sauce

Steam bell pepper halves for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the Gimme Lean, mushrooms, and celery in oil until browned. Add the garlic and leek and saute another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat. Stir in wild rice, couscous, oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Place steamed pepper halves in a casserole dish and fill with stuffing. Top with spaghetti sauce (I use about 2 Tb. per pepper). Cover and bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.