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MY 3 FAVORITE WAYS TO EAT KALE


If someone had asked me two years ago, “Hey, do you want some kale?” I wouldn’t have even know that they were talking about food. I had never heard of kale and didn’t have the slightest clue what it was.

It seems like not too long after I became vegan and discovered kale it started to become popular with mainstream eaters too. This past Sunday I went to the grocery store and they were completely out of kale. I was shocked, disappointed, but definitely happy that it’s catching on.

A few days ago a friend of mine posted a Facebook status asking for advice on how to make kale taste good. I could definitely sympathize with her desire to mask the taste of the kale. The first time I made kale at home I followed the recommendation of a man at the farmer’s market. I sauteed it in coconut oil with some garlic — just the way his wife does — and sat down for dinner. I’m convinced I must have done something wrong because the flavor of my kale didn’t seem to fit the enthusiasm with which he had described it to me.

I was determined to like kale though so I kept trying different ways to eat it. The first success was with a butternut squash and kale salad recipe from Whole Foods. I changed some things (raisins instead of dates, red wine vinegar instead of sherry) and I loved it! Now I have a few go-to recipes for eating kale, one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Breakfast: Kale Smoothie!

  • 2-3 handfuls of chopped kale (removed from thick stem)
  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 a peeled cucumber, chopped
  • optional ingredients: stevia, protein powder, peanut butter, cinnamon, spirulina, chlorella, maca, fresh mint leaves… the possibilities are endless!

Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. This will make a very large smoothie.

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Lunch: Kale Salad!

The kale salad can be done many ways but one thing is really important: the creamy component. This can be added with some avocado or a creamy dressing. I’ve had kale salads with a vinaigrette dressing and it is not the same. It’s just not as good. Below is my favorite dressing for kale salads.

  • 2-3 handfuls of chopped kale, removed from thick center stem
  • shredded carrot
  • shredded beet (not pictured but definitely recommended)
  • 2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
  • optional: 1/2 cup chickpeas

Dressing – makes about 3 servings

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 tsp honey alternative
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil

Add all dressing ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If you like your dressing a little sweeter than you can add more honey alternative. Once added to the salad stir well to completely coat the kale with the dressing.

A big bowl of kale with shredded carrots, pumpkin seeds, and my favorite sesame mustard dressing.

I also have another great kale salad recipe that has beets in it! Check out the recipe and original post here. I used curly kale for the salad pictured above and dinosaur kale for the salad pictured below.

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Dinner: Mac-n-cheeze with kale!

You can make this with any mac-n-cheese recipe that you have. I always use this mac-n-cheese recipe because it’s just so damn good.

Once you have your mac-n-cheese made add it to a large mixing bowl with a few handfuls of kale. How much kale you use will depend on how much mac-n-cheese your recipe makes. Kale wilts and decreases in volume once it’s cooked so when you add your kale it should look like you’ve added way too much. Don’t be scared of the kale!

For my recipe I usually use almost an entire bunch of kale, chopped with the thick center stem removed (it’s tough to chew). Then stir until the kale is well incorporated with the mac-n-cheese, pour it all into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

A few weeks ago my oven was broken but I really wanted some mac-n-cheese with kale. Instead of adding it to a baking dish and letting it sit in my cold oven I added it all to a large pot, put the lid on, and cooked it over medium heat, stirring occasionally. This allowed the kale to wilt down the same as it would in the oven. I still like it better baked (the top gets a little crispy) but this did the trick given my circumstances.

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I’m submitting this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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VITAMIX TORTILLA SOUP


I can’t believe this is only the second time I’ve made this soup. It is delicious, easy, and so healthy! I’ve shared the recipe before in this post, but it’s kind of a long post and the recipe is way at the bottom so I wanted to share it again. The ingredients list is kind of long but I promise this soup is not complicated to make.

Please note that I do chop these vegetables a little before adding them to the blender — everything gets cut into quarters. It just makes the whole blending process easier. This recipe also makes an entire blenderful, which I divide into three servings (about 190 calories per serving).


TortillaSoup2

Vitamix Tortilla Soup 

  • 2 cups hot vegetable broth 
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium portabello mushroom
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed (or not if you like things really spicy)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, cut into quarters 
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • *optional cube of vegan chicken flavoring
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into quarters
  • 1 cup frozen corn (warmed in microwave)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, cut into quarters (in addition to the first two listed above)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 lime, peeled
  • handfull of tortilla chips

1. Place all of the ingredients listed in green into the Vitamix in the order listed. Do not yet add the ingredients listed in red.

2. Turn the Vitamix to variable 1, turn it on, quickly increase to variable 10, then flip to high (these instructions may be different depending on what type of high speed blender you have. Do not attempt this soup in a regular blender – the motor is not strong enough to handle it). Allow the soup to blend for 5-7 minutes, or until hot. You can touch the side of the container to feel how warm it is and help speed up the process by using hot vegetable broth. Turn the dial back to the variable setting instead of high and turn the blender off.

3. Add the remaining ingredients listed in red, put the blender on variable 4, and turn on and off several times to pulse until the ingredients are chopped and mixed in. Each time you flip it on let it run for 3-5 seconds. You want to chop the ingredients better but still leave some chunks in the soup.

4. Pour into bowls and enjoy, possibly topped with more crumbled tortilla chips and more diced avocado.

I don’t keep tortilla chips on hand so I baked a single whole-wheat tortilla until it was crispy, let it cool and broke it into pieces before adding to the vitamix. I know I said this the last time I made this soup, but I’m going to say it again (because I didn’t do it this time): the next time I make this I am going to cook some soy curls in taco seasoning and add them to the mix at the end with the final ingredients.

2013-09-03 18.34.53Sometimes when I make this soup I like to take some fresh corn and cut it off the cob (no cooking required), mix it with chopped cilantro, grape tomatoes, avocado, and lime juice and spoon that on top of the soup. This allows me to keep some of the bigger chunks, whereas adding them to the vitamix does chop them smaller. This way takes a little more time, though, and they both taste great so it’s just personal preference.

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I also made a YouTube video taking you though each step of the process, so check that out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp7Uw8lvwa8

 

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HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN KOMBUCHA


I love kombucha. Not everyone does and I certainly wasn’t sure about it the first time I tasted it. It’s tart, bubbly, and… interesting. I think of it as an acquired taste, the same as wine and beer. There was a time when I didn’t like either of those things and today I love them.

Now, I don’t know about all of those claims out there about kombucha being a healing beverage or it being so good for you for this and that reason or anything like that, I just know it tastes good. It tastes good, it’s low in calories and sugar, I can make it for almost nothing, and the list of ingredients is incredibly simple. There’s nothing scary in there so even if it’s not actively good for my body I don’t believe it’s bad for my body. It’s certainly better than me drinking wine, beer, Coke, coffee, etc. when I want a fun beverage to drink, so that’s good enough for me. Everyone needs their indulgences and kombucha is mine.

There are several brands of kombucha out there, each with their own selection of flavors. I don’t remember why I decided to try kombucha for the first time but I remember hearing others say they had brands they definitely liked and didn’t like so I was determined to drink several brands in several flavors before I formed an opinion about the stuff.

After a few months of drinking it 1-2 times a week I settled on two brands that I really liked, and then I heard about someone making their own kombucha. Whaaaaat?!?! I can do that?

So I started saving the bottles from the kombucha I was already buying. There are lots of website out there where you can buy glass bottles (I’m sure you can get them in stores as well) but I knew I wasn’t ready to make my own quite yet and was going to keep buying it, so why not just save those bottles and then they would feel like they were free later on? Perfect logic.

The First Steps

The first thing I did when I decided it was time to make my own kombucha was order a SCOBY, which is the little blob that ferments your tea and turns it into kombucha. I ordered mine from here and once it arrived in the mail I scoured the internet for everything I could find on making my own kombucha. The sites I found the most helpful were this one and this one. Once I felt I had read enough information on the process and was ready to try it myself I went to The Container Store to buy a glass jar big enough to hold my gallon of tea.

When I got home I reread the instructions from the website I liked the best as well as the instructions that came with my scoby. The two sets of instructions were the same but the ratios of ingredients listed were not. Um, what now? I decided that the people who sent me my scoby must know what they’re talking about and surely wouldn’t steer me wrong so I followed their instructions. Bad idea. 

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The starter kit is great except that it only contains one up of starter tea. If you’re making a gallon of kombucha (like the kit says) then you need two cups of starter tea. I followed the instructions with the kit the first time and ended up with mold, not kombucha. Since then I’ve followed the correct ratios (listed in detail below) and have come out with perfect kombucha every time!

Before making your own kombucha I recommend you read all of these instructions AND read the instructions found here AND watch the video found here. The instructions from the links go into a bit more detail than my instructions do. You don’t want to screw this up!

Supplies

  • pot large enough for the amount of water you want to boil
  • glass canister large enough for the amount of kombucha you’re making
  • rubber band
  • thin cloth (some paper towel or a couple of layers of cheese cloth will work)
  • fine mesh strainer
  • glass bottles for your finished tea
  • funnel
  • large Spoon

Ingredients for 1/2 gallon

  • 7 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar or cane sugar (no liquids or substitutes)
  • 4 tea bags of black tea
  • 1 scoby (I ordered mine here)
  • 1 cup starter tea or vinegar

Ingredients for 1 gallon

  • 14 cups of water
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar or cane sugar (no liquids or substitutes)
  • 8 tea bags of black tea
  • 1 scoby (I ordered mine here)
  • 2 cups starter tea or vinegar

Instructions

1. Boil the water in a pot. Once the water begins to boil, turn off the heat and pour in the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Make sure you used the correct amount of sugar for the batch of tea that you’re making. These ratios are very important.

2. Add the tea bags. Allow the tea bags to steep for at least 10 minutes, but I let mine stay in the water until it’s cooled down to room temperature. It is very important that the water cool down to room temperature before you move on to the next step. This will take several hours. Be sure to cover your pot of water while it cools because the sugar water will attract fruit flies and other insects. Eww.

3. Once the water has cooled down you can remove the tea bags and pour the water into your glass jar. I check mine using a meat thermometer that no longer gets used for meat – obviously – and don’t proceed until the water is 80 degrees.

4. Add the scoby and correct amount of starter tea for the batch size you’re making (that part is very important!) and cover the jar with your cloth and a rubber band.

5. Leave your jar alone in a room that’s 70-80 degrees and let it do it’s thing for 7-10 days. The longer it sits the less sweet the kombucha gets (the scoby eats the sugar). Taste it with a straw and see what you think after 7 days.

During the fermentation process a new scoby will form and will be floating at the top of your jar. I didn’t take a picture of mine while it was in the jar, but imagine this thing floating at the very top of your jar:

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The little scoby on the left is the one that was sent to me with my kit and is what I used to make my first 1/2 gallon batch of kombucha. The round one on the right is the one that formed on top during the fermentation process of the 1/2 gallon batch. A scoby of any size will ferment any size batch of kombucha.

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The scoby above is the one that formed in from my gallon-sized batch of kombucha using the 1/2 gallon scoby from the first picture.

Scobys can be reused many times, and each time you make a batch of kombucha you will get a new scoby. You can throw out or compost your old one, or give it to a friend along with some starter tea so they can start their own batch.

Here are some more pictures of my scobys:

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The picture above shows how thick the new scoby was after 11 days of fermentation of a 1/2 gallon batch.

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This picture shows how my new scoby from a gallon batch formed right on top of my old scoby, so I have two scobys stuck together. This is normal, though sometimes the older scoby will stay at the bottom. It doesn’t really matter so long as the new scoby that’s forming looks like this and your kombucha smells like the regular kombucha you buy at the store. If it smells bad or gross then something went wrong. If your scoby looks moldy, something went wrong. Start over from scratch with a new scoby.

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Steps to Bottling Kombucha

1. Once your kombucha has fermented for 7-10 days (it can go up to 30, depending on how sweet you want it) you’re ready to bottle it. With clean hands, remove the scoby from the jar and place it on a clean plate.

2. There will be lots of stringy stuff in the liquid (which is normal and part of the process). After you’ve removed the scoby you can pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher and discard the stringy stuff. Your scoby should not come in contact with metal so be sure that you remove it before you strain it.

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This picture shows the jar I use for a 1/2 gallon batch (used to be a pickle jar), the jar I use for a full gallon batch, and the cloth I use to cover the jars.

3. Use a funnel and pour the strained kombucha from the pitcher into glass bottles, leaving 1 inch of space at the top.

4. Measure out 1-2 cups of kombucha to be set aside and used as your starter tea to make a new batch (the amount of starter tea depends on the size of your batch).

5. Once your kombucha is in glass bottles let them sit on the counter for 2-3 days (I do 3) to allow them to carbonate. Once the carbonation process is complete, put them in the fridge so they don’t continue to carbonate and drink within 30 days.

I usually make a few bottles of regular kombucha and a few that are sweetened with juice. I use my juicer to make my own juice from 1 apple, 1 medium sized beet, and a 1″ piece of ginger, which I distribute between three bottles. You can also use bottled juices for flavor if you want. Add the juice to your bottles when you first bottle the kombucha, before you begin the carbonation process. You just need 1-2 inches in the bottom of each bottle, or about 1/4 cup.

I find that after carbonating and sitting in the fridge some more stringy stuff appears in the bottles. While that stringy stuff won’t hurt you if you drink it, it is still kinda gross and slimy. Before drinking mine I pour it through the mesh strainer again and into a clean bottle. Use a funnel so you don’t make a mess!

If you live in the Austin area and are interested in making your own kombucha I would be happy to give you a scoby and some starter tea for free. Just leave me a comment and let my know (or call me if you know me personally). You can even come over and watch me go through the process if you want! It’s a lot of fun and I honestly like my kombucha just as much as the stuff I buy from the store.

I’m sharing this with Healthy Vegan Fridays!

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MY STRUGGLE TO BE A PERFECT VEGAN


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post titled What About Eggs? I was eager to write the post because I really wanted to get all my thoughts and feelings down on paper (so to speak) but I was a little nervous about posting it. I was even more nervous about sharing that post with Healthy Vegan Fridays.

How would people react to it? Would readers get angry and accuse me of misusing the word vegan because I was craving (and considering eating) eggs? Before writing that post I hadn’t received any negative comments on my blog. Would that post elicit the first one? How would that make me feel? Would the hosts of Healthy Vegan Fridays tell me that my post wasn’t appropriate?

I finally pushed all these thoughts aside and just went for it. I know that I’m not the only one who occasionally struggles with my eating choices and I feel that it’s important to address these feelings. It is also incredibly helpful to hear that I’m not alone and just to get other people’s perspectives on the issues that I’m dealing with.

I was blown away by all of the amazing comments that I got in the first week of the post being up! No one condemned me for considering eating a fried egg sandwich and a lot of people gave me great alternatives for how to satisfy my craving without giving in to the egg.

I’m glad that I shared this with Healthy Vegan Fridays because it was featured as one of the most popular posts. I was also really pleased with what one of the hosts, Gabby from Veggie Nook, had to say about the post:

I was a little hesitant to feature this one, but it’s actually an incredible discussion, especially in the comments. I think it’s important to discuss issues like cravings and the danger of becoming a militant vegan. You’ll all have to let me know what you think.

Later on I received another comment that just further cemented my thoughts on why it’s important to discuss things like this.

I found your post on Carrie on Vegan, and I’m so glad I did! I went vegan three weeks ago… and I’m craving cheese like crazy! It’s good to hear from other vegans who struggle with those kinds of choices. Blogs tend to make it seem so easy, when it’s really hard to transition surrounded by burgers and cheese. But you (and you’re great commentors) have given me a lot of perspective, and it’s nice to see I’m not alone!

Of course you’re not alone! Making the decision to give up foods that you’ve eaten your entire life is not easy. It get’s easier the longer you’re at it, but I don’t think it’s ever completely easy.

All of these comments plus my own thoughts reminded me of a post that Dreena Burton posted over on her blog recently about being “vegan enough” and “healthy enough.” These are thoughts that run through my mind often, especially now that I have this blog. One trait that I think all bloggers share is that we subscribe to and read way too many blogs for our own good. It is so easy to read about other people, to compare yourself to them and think, “I wish I was as disciplined as they are. They’re so much healthier than I am. They never slip in their vegan/plant-based ways.”

This may be true. However, you have to remember that someone’s blog is not actually a window into their life. Bloggers have the option of publishing the good stuff and keeping the ugly stuff to ourselves, and really I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that most of the time.

I started this blog as an outlet for myself, to have an excuse to cook more and to talk about food and fitness. I also started this blog because I want to help people. I want to motivate and encourage them (YOU!) and provide them with resources to make positive changes in their life. I want people to see that following a healthy plant-based diet can be done and it can be easy! However, I do think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy 100% of the time. I want it to be okay for us to talk about our struggles with each other and to do so without judgment.

About a month into my journey following a plant-based diet I read the book Veganist by Kathy Freston. The biggest thing I took away from that book was her definition of what a “veganist” is.

Ve•gan•ist (vee guhn ist)

n. 1. Someone who looks closely at all of the implications of their food choices and chooses to lean into a plant-based diet;

2. Progress, not perfection.

That last piece, “progress, not perfection,” is something that I still remind myself of on a regular basis.

Those who choose to follow a plant-based or vegan diet all have their own reasons for doing so. Some people fall more to the traditional vegan side and made the choice because of their compassion for and love of animals. Others have learned about the impact that factory farming has on our planet and the environment. Then there are those who understand that eating a diet made of plants is the healthiest choice they can make for their body. None of these reasons is any better than the rest! 

Even if someone is only motivated by one of these reasons and doesn’t care about the rest, their decision to follow a plant-based diet still has positive effects in the other two areas. I don’t think there’s such as thing as not being a “good enough vegan.” Trying and succeeding some of the time is better than not trying at all.

The choices that we make regarding the food we eat are deeply personal choices. You choose a path that you think is right for you (for whatever reason) and do your best to stick to that path. Eventually you’re going to come to a fork in the road and sometimes you’ll go the wrong way, and that’s okay. That’s your choice. If you really believe in your initial reasons for following a plant-based/vegan way of eating then you’ll find your way back to the right path. I think it’s important to take things one day at a time and not beat yourself up if you make a choice that seems less than perfect, or worse, completely throw in the towel because you “couldn’t do it.” Worrying too much about what others think of you will also just make your choices harder.

In case you’re wondering, I decided not to eat any eggs. I was influenced in three ares when in came to making this decision:

HEALTH: I posted the original blog post about eggs late in the afternoon the same day I went to the Engine 2 potluck here in Austin. During the potluck Rip Esselstyn stood two feet in front of me and briefly touched on the negative effects that eggs have on your cholesterol, but he didn’t go in to too much detail so that wasn’t completely convincing for me. The next day someone shared this link (which compares eggs to cigarettes) in the comments section of the blog post. Okay, that’s a little more compelling! I understand “link between” does not mean “cause of” but I still stand by the thought of, “Why risk it?” That same night I came across this link in my Facebook newsfeed, which talks about the link between eggs and cancer progression. All of these things happened within 24 hours of me putting up the post so it kind of felt like a sign. I have also come across this article posted on the Forks Over Knives blog.

ANIMAL RIGHTS: A few days later someone posted this in the comments section of the original blog post.

I found your post through the Healthy Fridays link up. On the health side, moderate consumption of eggs is not harmful, but eggs are still an unethical animal product. The reason ethical vegans do not eat eggs is because hens, even the farmer’s market hens, are still killed at the end of their egg laying cycle, which for many birds, is only a few years. I’ve witnessed this first hand – the “happy chickens” still end up in a cook pot. Hens naturally can live over 20 years and are sentient beings. The other issue is that the roosters are still killed, especially as only so many roosters can exist in a group. With that in mind, the main reason that ethical vegans choose not to eat eggs is because they still represent the objectification and enslavement of another sentient being. Billions of hens exist on Earth solely to satisfy human tastes, not for necessity and this relationship is fraught with abuse. Vegans reject the enslavement of other creatures. If you are interested, please check out these links to learn more about chickens and eggs:
http://gentleworld.org/cage-free-not-free-enough/
http://gentleworld.org/a-chickens-relationship-with-her-eggs/
http://www.upc-online.org/

I really appreciated this commenter giving me the animal rights point of view on the issue without making me feel bad about whatever decision I decided to make.

TASTE: A few days after the eggs post went up I was eating some simple pan fried tofu (a little coconut oil in the pan, top the tofu with salt and pepper, cook on high until crispy) and turned to Ross and said, “Wow. This tofu really does taste like egg whites. I hear that if you use black salt then it mimics the taste of eggs even more.”

And with that I decided that my craving isn’t enough to make me give in and eat an egg sandwich. For now I’m going to stick with my plant-based diet because that’s what I’m most comfortable with.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the thoughtful conversation on the original post! And, of course, I’m submitting this to Healthy Vegan Fridays as well!