Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whole Foods Salad: Take One

Like a majority of others, I am completely obsessed with Whole Foods' salad bar. It doesn't matter what I put on my creation, it will always taste good. As long as they have some of my favorite items: marinated gigante beans (delicious!), toasted pumpkin seeds, and shredded raw veggies of some sort, I am a happy camper.

Unfortunately, I live almost an hour and a half from the nearest Whole Foods, so if I wind up going there it becomes quite an excursion. It always take a few hours, involves a giant shopping list, and of course, eating an amazing salad at the salad bar and drinking a kombucha from the tap.

After eating wicked amounts of sugar over the holidays, I have been mega-craving salads, beans, and other healthy foods. And since I'd much rather be feeling like my usual vibrant and healthy self than a sluggish mess of brain fog, I decided to go ahead and start afresh with my diet. Why wait until the New Year to start over if I can do it today and feel great now?

So, due to the fact that I yearn for some crisp, clean vegetables and whole grains and beans, I did my best to recreate my favorite Whole Foods salad:

Basically, it's a layered salad made up of the following:
2 c. mixed salad greens and baby spinach
1 c. chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 c. steamed squash (delicata this time around, 10 min. to steam)
1/2 c. butter beans, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 c. cooked quinoa or brown rice
A heaping 1/8 c. raw beets, shredded
1/8 c. raw zucchini, shredded
1/8 c. raw carrots, shredded
1/8 c. daikon, shredded
2 Tb. low-fat raspberry vinaigrette
2 Tb. chopped green onion
1 tsp. shelled hemp seeds

The major difference between my homemade salad and the Whole Foods one is that I usually add a little bit of baked tofu and use pumpkin seeds instead of hemp on the WF one. Also, at Whole Foods I use the Follow Your Heart Oil-Free Tamari-Miso dressing. It is amazing! I will buy some the next time I down there.

Also, you might be thinking, "raw beets?? raw zucchini?? daikon??". These raw shredded veggies are a great addition to your salad. You don't really notice the flavor because they're shredded up so fine but they add lots of nutrition. Daikon tastes like a sweeter, milder radish when raw, and I like it a lot, but you could also leave it out. I just shred a good amount at once that way I have plenty on hand for awhile.

As for delicata squash, some people really like it, but I wasn't very impressed. I don't really like the skin on it (which is edible), so if I ever cook it again, I'll leave off the skin. However, that seems like a lot of work and I really love butternut (what can I say?) so I'll probably stick to steamed butternut for my salads. Although, I do have a carnival squash I have yet to roast and I'd still like to try a kabocha sometime this winter, if I can find one. 

Overall, this is a mega tasty salad. I will eat it until I run out of raspberry vinaigrette, then I will switch things up a bit!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Almond Joy Cake!

Alright! I baked a cake! I love baking those things! I wanted a cake for my graduation party, and since it was MY party and MY cake I make it the way I wanted. With coconut. Ha ha!

This cake had two layers of moist vanilla-almond cake, a dark chocolate-coconut-almond filling, and a fluffy dark chocolate frosting. It was then garnished with sliced almonds.


So actually, I suppose it's a Mounds cake... with almonds... but eh. I think Almond Joy has more name recognition. Lol. For the chocolate, I used Enjoy Life brand (which is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free. Also, it's affordable). I think that it is a milder chocolate, so it's good for people who don't have as much love for the dark stuff. It also comes in the bag as mini chips so it's fairly easy to measure out and melt.

Almond Joy Cake:
For the cake:
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. turbinado sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. coconut oil (warmed to liquid, then measured)
2 Tb. no-sugar-added applesauce
1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/2 Tb. rice vinegar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

For the frosting/filling:
2 c. vegan chocolate chips (12 oz., which is one full bag plus part of another)
1/2 c. plain coconut creamer (or soy creamer)
2 sticks Earth Balance, softened
2 c. powdered sugar (make sure there are no lumps, sift if you have to)

1 c. sweetened, flaked coconut
1/3 c. sliced almonds, plus additional almonds to decorate the top of the cake

Preheat oven to 350F, and prepare two 8" rounds by covering the bottom and sides with parchment paper, using a spritz of nonstick to help them adhere to the pan. Spray the bottom of each round with some more nonstick.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, canola oil, coconut oil, applesauce, almond milk, vinegar, vanilla and almond extracts until completely combined.
3. Beat in half the flour on low speed.
4. Stir in last half the flour until combined.
5. Pour half the batter into each of the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans about 5 minutes, then let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

1. Combine the chocolate and the coconut creamer in a bowl and heat in the microwave until the chocolate is melted. Stir it every 30 seconds or so until it is completely smooth. Remove it from the microwave and allow it to cool about 15 minutes.
2. Beat together the softened Earth Balance and powdered sugar until it's nice and fluffy, then add the melted chocolate.
3. Beat in the melted chocolate and whip the frosting together about five minutes, so that it is well combined. Set aside.

*It's IMPORTANT that the chocolate has cooled (until it's lukewarm to touch), otherwise it will melt the butter!!*

1. Remove about 1/3 the prepared frosting and place it into a small bowl.
2. Add in the flaked coconut and sliced almonds and mix completely. Set aside.

1. Remove the parchment paper and place it onto the platter/cake tray that you plan on serving it on.
2. Place one layer right side up, and cover the top of it with the coconut-almond filling.
3. Place the second layer UPSIDE DOWN so that the flat part is on top. This will give you a nice, smooth surface to decorate. You may need to cut off part of the top of the second layer so that the cake will be level (if you want).
4. Use the rest of the frosting to completely cover the sides and the top of the cake. It helps if you have a flat spatula to smooth it out with. I would frost the cake as soon as the cake is cool enough to handle frosting. Otherwise, it might harden. 

Makes a good breakfast...

Garnish with sliced almonds and flaked coconut! Also, I think that you should leave this cake at room temperature. It tends to harden up if left in the fridge. I also liked to eat my slices nuked in the microwave for about 10 seconds so that the chocolate got slightly melty.

This cake got a thumbs up from all who tried it... even those who didn't care too much for coconut!

Also, it is official. Now that I have eaten cake, I am a university graduate! I'll have an interesting announcement regarding that in February or so, and it may just change the direction my blog is headed... literally... like, the Midwest Vegan will probably be moving to Georgia this summer!

ANYWHO, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! My boyfriend got me a wok, a bamboo steamer, and the Happy Herbivore cookbook (he knows me so well!). Which is good, because I've really wanted to make steamed dumpling for forever. Also, I make a lot of stir-fry and the regular ol' skillet just ain't cutting it. And last but not least, I make some awesome vegan cinnamon rolls for Christmas for my family (who loved them!) and I shall post the recipe before New Year. After all, something-something New Year's resolutions something something, am I right?

(So yes, lots of healthy stuff coming from me in a couple of days!).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pad Thai with Edamame!

Haha. My last few posts have been pretty centered on Asian ingredients and flavors and this one is no different! However, I do feel the winds of change a-blowin' and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wander off into some Indian flavors for awhile. Well, I mean I'm at least gonna make some chickpeas and butternut squash (cooked in coconut milk) because I've been hoarding those two ingredients for awhile. I live with three other people and our pantry has started getting crazy! Must... clear... space!!

In a change of pace from my usual Korean and Chinese-styled lunches, I made something Thai-ish. It's something I've made for a long time, and each time I made it I tweaked it a little bit more. I believe it's finally done being tweaked with and is now ready for your own enjoyment! It's really not that authentic, but I did my best with what I had available, lol. I also used edamame (which is obviously not Thai) instead of tofu because I felt I was kind of in a tofu rut and I really liked it a lot. And I'm not gonna lie, boiling some edamame for a couple minutes is really super easy. Add the edamame to some packaged broccoli slaw, a touch of fresh ingredients, and some rice noodles, and you've got your self a very quick meal. It will definitely be on your table in 30 minutes.

It's all about the garnish, baby.

I actually made up the sauce part the night before to save even more time. It worked just fine! You could also chop up all the garnishes beforehand too, if you know you're going to be in a pinch. Also, I don't have a picture of it all garnished and fancy. I forgot. All well. I'll be making this again!

Pad Thai with Edamame:
1 c. frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
1 pkg. broccoli slaw
1/2 c. minced shallots (about 2-3 shallots, can use onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tb. coconut oil

1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tsp. lime zest
3 Tb. Bragg's liquid aminos (or soy sauce or tamari or GF soy sauce/tamari)
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
1/2 tsp. tamarind paste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, to serve
Chopped peanuts, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Chopped cilantro, to serve
Sesame seeds, to serve
Chopped green onions, to serve
Sriracha, to serve

1. Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. In a large skillet or wok on medium-high, add the coconut oil and let it melt. Add the minced shallots and garlic and cook until softened and golden, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the broccoli slaw, cooked edamame, and sauce, and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until the slaw is crisp-tender and the sauce has thickened/cooked into the veggies. You can add more tapioca starch if necessary.

4. Serve the Pad Thai over the rice noodles, and garnish with the peanuts, cilantro, sesame seeds, green onions, lime wedges, and sriracha.

This makes your kitchen smell really good! And really, even if you don't normally add oil to your stir-fries, you should really add some coconut oil to this one. It gives it a little something-something. Same with the lime zest. I got a microplaner (zester) awhile back and I love it.

Photo from

I normally don't really promote kitchen gadgets or trinkets, but a lot of my recipes call for zest. The zest of a citrus fruit contains all the flavor and essence of that fruit, even more so than the juice does, due to the aromatic oils and other compounds located there. If you made Orange Tofu with orange juice once and you were extremely disappointed about the lack of oranginess, it's because it needed a boost from the zest. I use mine all the time (because we all know them box graters don't actually work with fruit!), and it's actually pretty easy to clean. It's literally one of my favorite kitchen devices. Best $12 bucks I ever spent!

Ok, shameless plug over with! Lol, and just so you know, I don't get any money from that. I just borrowed the picture and used the link so you could see what I was talking about. My blog will always be ad-free, and the other products/items/ingredients I mention are ones that I personally use on a regular basis!

Oh, and my next post will involve my Almond Joy cake. Yumz.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

High Protein Lo Mein? Yes.

So, I've had mega cravings for all sorts of Asian inspired recipes lately and that's mostly what I've been eating. I pulled out a copy of 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of the East this past grocery day and I've picked out a couple of recipes to make from it. I'm definitely going to be making some Pad Thai (I have't had any of that in awhile!), and the Tofu with Lemon Sauce sounds glorious. The only little problem that I'm running into is that I can't find any Szechuan pepper. It's so ridiculous! I live in a CITY of 80000 people (yes, four zeros there) and none of our grocery stores carry any sort of Szechuan anything. I mean, I could understand if it was something obscure, like pomegranate molasses or berbere or something, but it's not!!! It's a famous Chinese spice blend. My HyVee carried it a couple months ago, but magically, when I want it, it's gone. Ok... rant over...

Le Sigh. I'm still hoping I can find it somewhere. I have one more place to look. If I can't find it, I'm not going to make Kung Pao anything (or Lemon Tofu anything). It'll just have to wait. And yes. I am that ridiculous. This is one of those occasions where a substitute will not suffice! I'm going to Whole Foods next week and I will definitely spend some time browsing the spice aisle (along with pretty much every other aisle...).

Anywho, when I was at the grocery store picking out my maple syrup fix, I looked over my shoulder to see some "soybean spaghetti" from a brand called Explore Asian.

Being intrigued, and deciding that soybean spaghetti might be quite alright, I picked up a bag. Vegan... Organic... Gluten-Free.... 20.5 grams of protein a serving?? For reals?? And I then proceeded to toss that baby in my shopping cart. Today, when lunchtime rolled around, I knew that this was what I would be crafting my meal around. The noodles are kind of thin, but I like them like that, and they would make a good gluten-free substitute for udon or ramen (even though they're not nearly as thick as udon). Since everything was getting all noodle-y up in my kitchen and I was running short on time, I decided to made a quick lo mein. When I opened the package, I thought they smelled a little different and it caught me off guard, but I mean, they didn't smell bad or anything, just like soybeans, I suppose!

My Lo Mein turned out perfect, even though I forgot to oil up the drained noodles and they wound up sticking to each other. The noodles themselves had a pleasant flavor and a good texture (actually, I liked the texture a lot. It reminded me of my beloved, much-missed ramen) and even though I ate lunch at 1:30-ish, I was still satisfied until 5:30. I work second shift and I usually take a "fruit break" (instead of a smoke break) around 4:00 when I start feeling a little snacky, but I wound up working through it because I wasn't ready for my fruit break yet! So, I guess these high protein noodles do a pretty good job of filling me up and keeping me satisfied! I will definitely be buying them again.


Note: The spaghetti takes six minutes to cook, so brown the tofu first while bringing the water to a boil. If you add the chopped veggies to the tofu at the same time you add the spaghetti to the boiling water, everything will come out around the exact same time (just be sure to have the sauce mixed and the veggies prepped!).

High-Protein Lo Mein:
1/2 a tub (9 oz.) of firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed for 15 minutes, drained, and cut into cubes
1/2 a package of soybean spaghetti
1 tsp. walnut oil (or oil of choice)
1/2 yellow onion, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally (just for fanciness)
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms (crimini, shittake, white, or a mixture)
2 c. baby spinach, packed

1 1/2 Tb. Bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce/tamari (keep it gluten-free to make this recipe GF)
1 1/2 Tb. sherry (or mirin if you have it)
2 tsp. peanut oil (or oil of choice)
1 tsp. toasted seasame oil
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Big pinch of dried pepper flakes
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1. Sauté tofu cubes in a skillet sprayed with nonstick over medium-high heat until golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, boil spaghetti according to package directions (it takes six minutes).

3. Once the tofu, is golden, add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes.

4. Drain the spaghetti and toss it with the walnut oil. Set aside.

5. Add the baby spinach and the sauce (already mixed together and ready to go) to the tofu mix and sauté everything together for another minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Turn off the heat and add the drained noodles. Toss everything together real good and...

...voila! You now have a quick and easy, high protein lo mein!

This recipe makes two servings. Each serving has about 450 calories and around 14 grams of fat (slightly dependent on how much oil you decide to use), almost 25% of your daily calcium (muy importante!), and 35 grams of delicious, clean, vegan protein. If you can find soybean spaghetti near you, I suggest you give it a try. It's a little different, all gluten-free pastas are, but I like it a lot. Enough to make it my long noodle-y pasta of choice!

Ok, and just to let you all know, I'm pretty much out of school, so be prepared! I have a lot of recipes that I've been piling on my "to make" list and now that I don't have to devote the front half of my day and spare time to school, I can FINALLY start cooking and baking delicious things again. And first things first, I've got a vegan, ALMOND JOY LAYER CAKE to make. My graduation ceremony is Saturday (the 17th) and I decided I wanted a nacho party (with all the fixins') and a cake at home with my family and boyfriend. I'll let you know how that cake turns out (and I hope to do another step-by-step layer cake tutorial, since I have a better camera to take pictures with this time).

Have a great afternoon!