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Posts Tagged ‘how to be a vegan’

So it’s been a while since my last post.  A year….a very busy year filled with so many changes that those who know me understand how busy I have been.  We’ve turned our lives upside down, moved, put the kids in school (teenagers now, no more homeschooling for me) and could not be happier than we are at this very moment.  We have beautiful beaches, friendly people and great schools.

I have still not entered Vegan Land and at this point that is probably not going to happen any time soon.  I just am not ready to give up seafood.

I can say that I am healthier, happier, and feel great since all land meat has exited my diet.  I will not go back because 40 points came off of my cholesterol numbers and that’s a pretty big deal.

I eat lots of vegan meals, vegetarian meals, and pescatarian meals (my seafood).  Grill King still lights up the grill only now the meat sizes are smaller and it is not as often.  If I come across some fantastic vegan recipes and they taste wonderful, I will share them here.

Meanwhile, I am off to another journey because turning 45 has brought about some interesting happenings.  Feel free to check me out at www.waytoohot.me

Until then eat healthy, stay happy and Enjoy, Leslie

 

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I grew up in one small town and currently live in another not far from the one I grew up in.  The area is surrounded by vegetable farms, sugarcane, and cattle.  The towns are small, the people friendly, everyone knew everyone else and if you snuck out at night, your mama knew before you got home because most likely someone called her.  Why did they call her…because they knew what time your curfew was.  Friday night football games were the thing to do and afterwards you hung out in a parking lot.

Until recently, on the table of restaurants, you found salt, pepper, sugar and raw sugar (we were in style before the rest of the world).  There was no equal, sweet-n-low, etc.. because we were surrounded by sugarcane fields.  If your parents didn’t work for the industry then you knew someone that did.  The sugar industry supported the small town.  Still to this day, I DO NOT PUT THE FAKE STUFF IN MY FOOD OR DRINKS!  I want real sugar, not some fake manmade sweetener that can’t begin to compare to the real stuff and only God knows what that fake stuff is doing to our bodies.  I grew up munching on stalks of sugarcane.  After more than 40 years, I think I can safely say that sugar ain’t that bad.

Now in towns filled with vegetables, sugarcane and cattle, you can safely assume there is not any tofu to be found.  Asking for Tofu usually gets the response, “God Bless You,”  because surely that was a funky sneeze and not a real word.  Sometimes you get, “What is it?”  or  “Toe What?”  or “Is that some kind of new Martial Arts?”  It’s not always easy living where time seems to stop and people don’t get out much.  Usually it takes traveling to the “big city” 30 minutes away to be able to find what one needs for my vegan dishes.

Having not too long ago visited a Thai restaurant and walking away having had a fabulous meal, I really wanted to finally bite the bullet and cook tofu.  It’s something I have been wanting to do since taking the walk to veganland.  A place I have yet to completely reach because I made a pit stop at “Veganland by the Sea” and can’t seem to move on.  What this means is I have pretty much given up all animals and by-products except for my seafood.  This would make me a pescatarian vegetarian/part time vegan.  I am really liking this little place and do not know if I will leave it.

Anyway, at home I decide to cook tofu for the first time.  I took it out of the package and well, it looked like a big off-white sponge. Not appetizing at all.  I proceeded to cut it up into chunks.  This is what it looked like:

Chopped Firm Tofu

I don’t care who you are, the stuff looked nasty and I started getting nervous thinking there was no way this was going to tastes good.  I set it aside.  I chopped up 1/2 an onion and set that aside.  Then I mixed together 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp ground ginger (because I didn’t have any fresh), 1/2 tsp white pepper and 1 1/2 tsp curry powder.   Then I  grabbed a big pot and put in 1 can of coconut milk, 1/3 cup coconut flakes, the chopped onion and the mix of seasonings.  I let that simmer for a little while until the onion was nice and cooked and then added the chopped tofu and about 4 cups of stirfry veggies.  Once the veggies were tender and the tofu looked okay (not sure what okay means since it was a first for me).  I served it over brown rice.  If you think you need more coconut milk, feel free to add some.

Coconut Milk Mixture

Thai Coconut Tofu Curry

Now, while I did not have any bok choy or lemongrass, two things I would have liked to add to my recipe, this turned out FANTASTIC!!!  I was so thrilled with it and the coconut curry flavor was mouthwatering.  I had never attempted to cook Tofu or Thai.  This was so good that I truly cannot wait to try it again.  The tofu chunks were delicious and took on the flavor of the dish.  I am going to have to attempt another tofu dish.  I just don’t know what.  My whole family ate it and there was just enough left over for me to have it for lunch the next day.

So if you are straddling the fence and wondering whether to Tofu or to not Tofu.  I say go for it and try it like this.  You will not be disappointed.  Enjoy!

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Gravy and the South go hand in hand.  No true Southern Lady would ever put something on the table alone if it can be smothered in good ol’ gravy.  Growing up we had every type of gravy you can think of –  tomato gravy, onion gravy, mushroom gravy, brown gravy, meat gravy (if a meat can make some grease than it can be turned into gravy), turkey giblet gravy.  I’m sure there are others that at this moment have escaped me.  My mom and Aunts will remind me of them later.

When visiting the Savannah/Hilton Head area which is one of my favorite Southern spots, I make a habit of trying everyones shrimp and grits.  It is always smothered in gravy of some kind.  Everyone does it a little differently and I’m still not sure who has my favorite.  I haven’t been there since I started my journey.  It is going to take an iron will and possibly some handcuffs and shackles to keep me from putting that in my mouth.

My Mama served gravy to go over every meat dish, rice dish, or mash potatoes.  My mom and my Aunt Eleanor still laugh about the time they went to my sister’s house for dinner.  At the time, my sister had just gotten married.  She served them rice with dinner and committed a Southern Crime.  There was no gravy of any kind to go on top of that rice.  The eyebrows raised and the smirks started.  How, they wondered, could someone raised to understand that gravy was it’s own food group, sit rice on the table with no gravy?  Surely she was about to get up and go get the homemade tomato gravy that was still on the stove or maybe it was some sort of brown gravy made from the meat item she placed in front of them.  They waited….nothing.  They put a little butter on their rice, some salt and pepper, and to this day have still not gotten over it.

Since tiptoeing to veganland, the only type of gravy I have had is tomato gravy.  It’s good and goes well with rice.  The other day, I was dying for some good ol’ gravy of some kind; any kind but tomato to go on my rice.  In the pantry, we had some of those gravy packets and I thought I would just use one of those but looking at the ingredients and seeing “beef fat” quickly changed my mind.  I am far from a full fledged vegan but land meat has not entered my mouth since last August and probably if I put meat in my tummy now, I would probably get sick.

Close to the gravy packets, I saw packets of Lipton Onion Soup/Dip Mix.  I thought hmmmmmm and looked at the ingredients.  It looked safe – no hooves, beaks, or varmint parts included.  So, I decided to go for it and see what happens.  In a saucepan over low heat, I poured the packet and 1/4 cup water.  Then added 3 Tbsp of unbleached all purpose flour.  I stirred till all the lumps were out and it was thick and pasty, then started slowly adding water 1/4 cup at a time and stirring in between till I liked the consistency.  IT WORKED!!!!  I had just made onion gravy that was edible.  Served over rice; I was pleasantly surprised.  It was very oniony so if you don’t like onions or onion dip, don’t do it.  If you do and your a vegetarian or vegan, well then, you just opened your door for gravy again.  It also opened my brain because now I am going to try to come up with a homemade onion and mushroom gravy. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

I can now have my Mom and the Aunts over without the eyebrows raising and the hidden smirks.  They may not like it, but at least it will be on the table in front of them.  I have just saved myself from being talked about for years to come.  Enjoy!

Onion Gravy

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I’m running behind on my blogs.  Sometimes life gets in the way of the things we really enjoy.  Writing is something I enjoy but the last couple of weeks have been filled with homeschooling, swimming and lots of little things that seem to trip me up.  I have not worked on my book nor have I blogged.  I have been eating well though and have discovered that I can still eat scalloped potatoes if I cook them.

I think I mentioned before that when I graduated from high school my Grandma gave me a cook book.  It was filled with yummy southern dishes and went with me off to college.  It has always been one of the cookbooks I grab when looking for something super tasty.  The problem with this cookbook is now that my diet is limited, I can’t just cook everything in there.

I already veganified the rice pudding recipe which turned out really good.   We had some potatoes that needed cooking so I decided to try to veganify my favorite homemade scalloped potato recipe that was in the cookbook.  Homemade scalloped potatoes are yummy, comforting and oh-so-southern. The boxed stuff just can’t hold a candle to the homemade.

Obviously these turned out fabulous or I wouldn’t be blogging about them.  I have had stuff not turn out and well that is always a disappointing waste that aggravates me to no end because of the time I spent on something that ends up down the garbage disposal.  Very frustrating because when you are cooking vegan, well, YOU HAVE TO COOK and cooking takes up time and you expect to be able to eat it in the end.  If that doesn’t happen, well then, you are pretty much ready to hurt someone.  These scalloped potatoes can be eaten in the end.  Everyone can feel safe.

Recipe for vegan Scalloped Potatoes:

About 5 large potatoes or 7-8 smaller ones (any kind will do, this time I used red), peeled(up to you, I didn’t peel all mine) and sliced

1/4 cup non dairy “butter” (I used Earth Balance)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup unbleached flour

1/8 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

2 cups almond milk

Melt the “butter” in a sauce pot.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Cook till tender but not browned.  Add the flour, salt and pepper.  Stir till mixed then pour in the almond milk.  Stir and cook till thick and bubbly.  Then cook about 2 minutes longer.  Turn the heat off and layer half of your sliced potatoes in baking dish.  Pour half of your thickened mixture over the potatoes.  Layer the rest of the potatoes and then cover with the other half of your thickened almond milk mixture.  Bake covered for 30 minutes at 350˚.  Uncover, stir gently and bake another 30 minutes.  Then take out, serve and chow down!

Layered potatoes

Potatoes with Sauce on top

Scalloped Potatoes Cooked and Ready to Eat!

I love Southern Comfort food.  I won’t be biting into a big piece of meatloaf but at least I can now have my Scalloped Potatoes.  Healthy Food, no guilt and super yummy.  I’ll have to make these for the next family gathering.  Now go make you some and Enjoy!

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Today is my birthday and birthdays are always nice.  I get cards, calls, and texts and this reminds me how lucky I am to have the friends and family that I do.  It’s hard not to be in a good mood on your birthday because everyone is so nice to you.  When I was younger there was always lots of gifts and a birthday party to celebrate the occasion.  I have many pictures of me, my cousins and friends sitting around a table with a big birthday cake.

Birthdays are different now.  While we always do something to celebrate, it is not like it was when I was young.  This birthday was a little funky for me because I seriously can not believe my age.  It’s not like I need a cane or a walker or anything but I did turn 44 today.  I am trying to figure out how that happened.  So is my mother.  She can’t believe she has a daughter that’s 44.  I mean one day I’m 6 and at the beach with my parents, the next day I am 21 and partying in New Orleans and the next day I’m 44, my back hurts and tiny letters are starting to look blurry.  What’s up with that?  I think I am in need of a trip to New Orleans.

We had to drive to the coast today so breakfast was a quick one.  My daughter had an art class and we ran a few errands and then we went out for a birthday lunch.  I had some fried green tomatoes and a salad with macadamia nut encrusted tilapia (remember I am still eating seafood).  It comes with a key lime dressing that is outstanding.  Then I celebrated my birthday with a piece of key lime pie.  Yes, I do realize what that pie probably had in it, but it is my birthday and I have done extremely well on my road to veganland.  I do not stray often and have only stumbled off the yellow brick road a handful of times.  Most of these time were by accident.  None of these stumbles though include a land carcass of any kind.  I refuse to enter the world of guilt today because once again, it is my birthday.  I figure at 44, I can do whatever I want.  Here’s the scary part…next year I will have made it to the top of the hill that starts sliding down towards 50.  My one friend today told me that 44 was the new 22.  I liked that because other than the hurting back and the blurry letters, I feel 22.  Grill King, because he’s my husband and doesn’t want to lose an eye or any other body part, agrees that I am like a 22 year old.

If I would have had time this morning, I would have made waffles for everyone.  We are a breakfast loving family.  I truly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  We are going to have the waffles this weekend and it will be my late birthday breakfast.  I have now mastered the vegan waffle and it is oh so good!

After making several batches of vegan waffles in the last 6 months, I have come up with the holy grail.  Not that my other waffles were bad, they just didn’t make you want to sing hallelujah.  When my kids and Grill King ate these, they did not believe they were vegan.  The secret I believe is the self rising flour and brown sugar.  These waffles give you a “gotta have another one” kind of feeling.

2 cups of self rising flour

1 1/2 cups almond milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp of regular sugar

2 Tbsp ground flax

3 Tbsp oil (I used canola)

1 tsp vanilla

real maple syrup

Mix all the dry ingredients together and mash to get out any lumps that might be in the brown sugar.  Then add the milk, oil, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour in your waffle maker.  I have the Calphalon non-stick no-peeking waffle maker.  It is fantastic and cooks 4 waffles at a time.  I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond and used one of their 20% off coupons.  Can’t beat that!  Before I got this wonderful waffle maker, I was using a one waffle at a time maker that was shaped like Mickey Mouse.  Cute for the kids at the time but not real practical if you want to eat as a family or finish before lunch.  Anyway, this recipe makes 8 waffles.  So pour on the maple syrup, add the fruit of your choice and enjoy!

 

Super Yummy Vegan Waffles

I was so stuffed after my late lunch that dinner was not going to be an option this evening.  I knew that I would not be eating another thing so if someone got hungry, they were on their own.  The kids opted for a bowl of cereal and I started wondering where Grill King made off to.  Then I smelled it…the grill was smoking.  I heard the call of the wild and he walks in with a grin on his face.  There were feathers in his hair and a chicken wing hanging from his mouth.  The hunter had ventured off my yellow brick road into the disgusting realm of beaks and chicken parts.  He was celebrating my birthday in his own way.  I waited for him to start beating his chest but since today was my day he refrained from this vulgar gesture.   I guess he didn’t want to sleep outside.  He hasn’t had meat in several days.  Better the chicken wings than the dogs.

If you want some really good vegan waffles, try these.  They really are good.  Until next time, Enjoy!

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I have now been tiptoeing towards veganism for about 5 months.  While I haven’t made it all the way to veganland as the road is not an easy one, most of my meals are completely vegan.  I have not touched anything that once roamed the land since August 24th, 2011.  Basically if it once had a hoof, a beak, or was a varmint of any kind, it no longer has to worry about me being on the food chain.  However, if it’s rabid, drooling and chasing me, then it may end up with a bullet in the head but I still won’t eat it.  Just making a point that if they leave me alone, I’ll leave them alone.   I love animals and I love observing wildlife.  I just don’t want to end up with any teeth marks in my butt.  Been there, done that, not fun.

I cut out eggs a couple of months ago.  Not an easy thing to do but I have somehow managed to cook everything I need without that added ingredient.  I do miss eggs, even more than meat.

I am now cutting out 95% of my dairy.  I guess this is my next step which I believe is step five on my journey.  Notice I say 95%.  That’s because a few mornings a week, I like to have a cup of coffee.  In that coffee, I place flavored creamer and whip cream.  It’s just my thing and I’m not ready to stop.  I am eagerly searching for alternatives but so far none have tasted near as good.  If you know any, let me know.  I would really like a tasty alternative.  I will not be touching any other dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc…  This will be a really hard one.  I will probably make a few mistakes by forgetting to look at the ingredients of something.  The truth is I have really cut back on this stuff because my cooking at home is completely vegan.  It’s when I go out that I tend to stray over to the dark side.  As I am writing this, I am sipping my coffee (just being honest here).  I just sprayed some whip cream on top.  I am trying to feel the guilt but honestly, there is none.  It’s just too darn good.

I am still eating seafood.  It’s not something I have everyday.  I probably get it about once a week or once every two weeks.  I am still not sure I can ever give this up.  I may end up being a vegan most of the time and a pescatarian vegetarian when I can get a hold of some fresh seafood.  Two of my favorite cities are Savannah and New Orleans.  You cannot visit these cities without eating the glorious seafood available.  Plus, I live in Florida.  Have you seen what surrounds this state?  Florida has some of the best seafood restaurants in the world.

I was having a conversation with some people last night and it’s funny because I always get asked the same thing.  “What do you eat?”  Sometimes I consider answering them  with a detailed way of cooking tree bark.  The vision in their head is that I only eat fruits, vegetables and maybe some roots, leaves and tree bark of course.  I tell them how creative one can become when your diet is limited.  I tell them about my spinach bean patties, couscous, quinoa, soups, homemade breads, coconut “ice cream”and all the different things I now can do with vegetables.  I tell them about all the neat vegetables I have tried that I had never eaten before and all the neat ways to cook them.  Usually their eyes glaze over and I figure after mentioning the spinach bean patties that replaces my meat, I lost them.  Some though stay interested and actually visit my blog.  Others get a few recipes and give something healthy a shot even if they do serve it beside a cooked carcass.  Others ask, “Why would you eat like that?”  My answer is always the same, “For my health.”  If they ask about my story, I tell them.  I have not yet tried cooking seitan and tofu.  I guess I need to venture out a little more.

So far I have lots of favorites about eating vegan.  I thought when I started this journey that I was going to have to give up so much stuff.  Now while I have given up tons, there are so many little things that surprisingly I still get to eat.  When I am having a chocolate craving its ok because that’s allowed.  I just don’t reach for the nearest snickers bar.  Instead I grab some crescent rolls and sprinkle ghirardelli chocolate chips on them.  Then wrap them up and bake.  Ghirardelli chocolate chips are “accidentally vegan.”  My kids like these too.  It’s like eating a chocolate croissant.  I always have these chips in the pantry for desperate times.  Grabbing a few and throwing them in my mouth works too.

Chocolate Crescent Rolls

Another favorite is that I don’t have to give up cinnamon toast.  I was thinking because of the butter that this was a goner.  Little did I know that a wonderful thing called Earth Balance existed right under my nose and it is the perfect butter alternative as the flavor is spot on.  Take some bread, spread on the “butter”, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, bake.  It’s that easy.

Cinnamon Toast

I’ve always been a big fruit eater and I serve fruit with most meals, even dinner sometimes.  We are lucky in that the little spot of land on which we dwell provides us with some fabulous fruit and I can eat it all with no guilt.  My own yard provides me with coconuts, oranges, tangerines, guavas, grapefruit, limes, key limes, lemons, mangoes, avocados, bananas, and loquats.  They all arrive different times of the year.

Some of my tangerines. Very sweet and yummy.

Other favorite things about eating vegan:

-It drives my family crazy.  They now have to think before I come over, “Will Leslie eat this?”

-I feel better.  This is one super bonus and I am not making it up.  I actually do feel better.

-I get to rag on my husband/grill king and he has to laugh.  Also, his meat consumption has greatly reduced.

-My kids are eating more vegetables and liking them.

-So Delicious Non-Dairy Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert “ice cream’.  Try the peanut butter chocolate swirl.  YUM!

-I can always lick the bowl.  No matter what I am fixing, I can lick the batter from the bowl and not have to worry about it.

-I started making homemade bread and it is both easy and scrumptious.

-Discovering new places I can eat at without the stress.

I was recently visiting the East Coast of Florida and happened to go into a restaurant called Little Moir’s Food Shack.  WOW is all I can say.  The Food Shack is a seafood place located in Jupiter Florida.  I need to become these peoples spoke person because their food truly bowled me over with it’s flavors and it’s menu.  Everything is homemade and fresh.  Some of the menu changes depending on what’s in season.  What caught my eye at first was on the menu it said that all their salad dressings were homemade and dairy free.  There were several items on the menu for a both a vegetarian and a vegan.  Embracing my pescatarian (seafood eater) status, I ordered a sweet potato encrusted fish and for the first time got brave enough to ask if the fish was dipped in egg or milk first.  No milk but they did use egg, however, they said they would do mine without the egg.  I nearly kissed the waiter.  Since their stuff is fresh, they can pretty much leave anything out of a dish.  They were so accommodating and didn’t even blink an eye at my request. This place was packed and when I tasted the food it was easy to see why.  I will go there again on my next trip across the state.  They have earned a forever customer.  If you live near or will be visiting Jupiter go to this place.  You will not be disappointed.  Just be prepared to have your palette wowed!!!  Enjoy.

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I mentioned in an earlier post about a great gift I got for Christmas.  I wasn’t able to blog about it at the time because my kitchen was lacking the necessary equipment.  Nothing new there.  I made the trip to Williams Sonoma (I LOVE that store) and managed  to only buy what I went in there for.  I walked out with a very heavy pizza/baking stone.  I was grinning from ear to ear.

The gift I got for Christmas was a book on making bread.  It’s called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  A friend gave it to me.  She has her own blog at www.pickmeyard.wordpress.com.  Anyway, we were discussing bread one day before Christmas and I mentioned how most store bought breads contained things like dairy and eggs.  Two of the things I was trying to remove from my life.  She told me she had been making her own bread and how easy it was.  My first thought was…yeah right.

Turns out she was right!  I now bake my own bread every week.  I make enough dough for about 4 one pound loves.  The dough just gets stored in the refrigerator until it is baking time.  My loaves are usually a little bigger so really I only get about 3 from the mixture.  As soon as the last is eaten, I make another batch.  It is soooo good and super easy.

The first loaf I made was gone in 12 minutes.  It never cooled.  Grill King, myself and the kids scarfed it down very quickly.  We resembled buzzards after a carcass on the side of the road.  Not a pretty picture but I dare you to make this bread and not eat the whole first loaf.  Some of it was dipped in olive oil, while the rest was slathered with Earth Balance “butter”.  Between bites, Grill King mumbled, “If we weren’t already married, I would marry you just for this bread.”  Magical words that every wife longs to here.  That statement though, should tell you how good it is.  He was eating BREAD folks, not a steak, wing, leg, etc..  It was a first for my carnivore to have his eyes glaze over while eating something that did not once roam the earth.  Miracles do indeed happen.

There are so many things you can do with this bread.  I have some dough in the refrigerator right now.  With my next loaf, I plan to experiment.  I’m thinking olives or sun dried tomatoes and some seasonings.  The book itself has tons of recipes.  Basically, all you need is flour, yeast, warm water and salt.   You can go from there in whatever direction you wish.

Four little ingredients will provide you with mouth watering bread that is hard and crunchy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside.  Imagine sitting at a little mom and pop place and they hand you a basket with a loaf of fresh bread.  You reach inside.   It’s still warm and you break a piece off.  It has that perfect sound of crunch while you break it apart and then you see how soft the inside is as you watch  the steam escape.  Your mouth waters and you don’t know whether to just bite it, dip it in something or slather something on it.  It is so good, you must have another.

You’re wanting bread, aren’t you?  Well, this is how it has been at my house for the last few weeks.  Throw in a glass of wine, close your eyes and picture yourself in Tuscany or Paris or where ever you imagine great bread and wine comes from.  It’s like a little vacation and we could all use one of those.  This one will save you money.  Just throw in some imagination, a little peace and quiet and your all set.  Enjoy!

Rising Dough

Fresh Homemade Bread

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