Tag Archives: vegan

Homemade Vegan Strawberry Banana Ice Cream and Giveaway Update!

28 Jul

I will admit, before becoming vegan, I had an addiction to ice cream. Even as I transitioned and discovered all of the yummy alternatives to dairy ice cream, I would keep a constant stock in my freezer. For the past month or so, I have really been focusing on reducing all of the extra sugar and processed items from my diet, as well as exercising daily in preparation for my trip to Puerto Rico tomorrow, so the ice cream has not made it home with me. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still craving it! To ease my cravings in a healthy way, I came up with this quick and easy recipe – and it did NOT disappoint! You don’t need an ice cream maker – I did this all in my food processor (a strong blender would work, too).

 

Homemade Vegan Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

Makes about 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana, cut into small slices

3 or 4 large half frozen strawberries

approx. 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

Process:

1. If your strawberries are completely frozen (mine were), submerge them in a bowl of warm water – they didn’t process well in a completely frozen state.

2. Chop up banana pieces in a food processor/blender – you will have tons of tiny banana pieces.

3. Add half-defrosted strawberries and a small amount of almond milk and process – as the fruit processes, continue to add in the milk to the desired consistency. Here’s what mine looked like:

Ice cream in food processor

4. To get more of a soft serve consistency, stick the ice cream in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

5. Add a pretty garnish and enjoy!

YUM!

You can definitely vary this recipe by adding different fruit combos, making sure that the banana is the base. I LOVE the strawberry/banana combo (remember my healthy breakfast shake?), but I am excited to try mango, raspberry, and maybe even blueberry! Like the shake, you could also add a spoonful of cocoa, or even use chocolate non-dairy milk for a different taste. Go nuts!

Giveaway Update:

The SlimKicker Kitchen Scale Giveaway has ended! The people at SlimKicker will look over the entries to pick their favorite challenge idea, and I will post the winner as soon as I can! I will be leaving for Puerto Rico early tomorrow morning, so the announcement may have to wait until Thursday night when we get back….can’t wait to try all of the fresh fruits and veggies that they have there! Adios!  =)

Our resort in San Juan – La Concha

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Potatoes

18 Jul

Most children love hot dogs and hamburgers….I didn’t. A lot of children hate Brussels sprouts and other green veggies….I didn’t! I was one of those rare kids that loved veggies and snubbed chicken wings and steaks. Looking back, perhaps that was the start of my journey!

I liked them when I was younger, but lately I have gained an even bigger appreciation for the little green

Brussels Sprouts

veggies that pack a punch – Brussels sprouts. These little guys are part of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, kale, collard greens, and even wasabi! Brussels sprouts are super high in Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and also contain a chemical called sulforaphane, which is believed to have cancer fighting properties. Many warn against boiling the sprouts – cooking them in this manner can reduce the cancer fighting chemicals.

My absolute favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts is to roast them. I have tried roasting them with lemon, with onions, and other various veggies, but I always seem to prefer them with just a bit of oil, salt and pepper. Normally, I boil some baby red potatoes to go with them, but I did not want an excuse to slather something in Earth Balance, so I decided to roast them along with the little green guys. I made sure to chop the potatoes into tiny pieces so that they would cook at the same time as the sprouts. When everything was done, a little squeeze of lemon finished off the dish perfectly!

If you are looking for a great little meal that uses one pan and packs a cancer-fighting punch, give these little guys a try – you won’t be disappointed!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Potatoes

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on it if it’s a main or side dish

Ingredients:

1 lb bag of Brussels sprouts

4 red creamer  potatoes (you could always use 2 small regular red potatoes)

2 TB vegetable oil

Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash Brussels sprouts; make sure to cut off any remaining parts of the stem that may still be attached to the sprouts. Once they have been prepped, cut each sprout in half lengthwise.

2. Wash all of the potatoes and chop them into very small pieces. Try not to make them bigger than half the size of the sprouts, otherwise they will not be fully cooked at the same time as the Brussels sprouts.

3. Throw all of the vegetables into a long baking pan – they should all be able to touch the bottom surface of the pan for better roasting. Add the vegetable oil and seasonings to taste. Toss until all of the veggies are coated.

Before roasting

4. Put the pan into the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Depending on the size of your vegetables, you may need to leave them in for a few minutes more. They are done when they are no longer crunchy and have a nice brown color to them.

Look at that color!

5. Serve with a squeeze of lemon on top and a side salad – enjoy!

Roasted Brussels sprouts with red potatoes

For those that want to cut down on the oil, start with less and work your way up to the 2TB only if you need to. The salad pictured contains tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes tossed with a little sesame oil and topped with raw sesame seeds.

This is a simple, one pan dish for a night when you just don’t have time to stay next to the stove. I always get a couple of things done while this is cooking! Easy, delicious, and healthy – what more could you ask for?

What is your favorite Brussels sprouts dish? Share your ideas in the comments section!

Tropical Green Smoothie

17 Jul

I don’t know about you, but I’m HOT! I don’t feel like doing anything, cooking anything, or even eating anything thanks to the near 100 degree temperatures here in PA. Thankfully, I have a blender and some fresh fruits and veggies, so I decided to drink my lunch!

Ingredients in the blender

Tropical Green Smoothie

Makes 1 extra large smoothie or 2 medium smoothies

Ingredients:

1 banana

1 large kale leaf

1/2 ripe mango

2 rings of fresh pineapple

4 frozen strawberries

1-2 TB ground flaxseeds

1/2-1 cup water

Directions:

1. Place all of the solid ingredients in the blender, waiting until the end to add the water. If you like your smoothies thicker, add less. If you like them a bit runnier, add more water. Blend, and enjoy!

You can always use fresh strawberries instead of frozen and just add a couple of ice cubes in to make it colder – I just happened to have some sitting in the freezer. This smoothie has a wonderful tropical taste with a great green color! Plus, you have a serving of veggies and numerous servings of fruit all in one chilled glass! If you are looking to beat the heat in a healthy way, give this tasty smoothie a try!

Tropical Green Smoothie

What is your favorite healthy, warm weather smoothie? Share your recipes and ideas in the comments!

 

Juice Cleansing for the First Time – My Story

16 Jul

This past week was a first for me – I made the decision and went through with a 3-day juice cleanse!

In a previous post, I talked why I chose to do a cleanse; suffice it to say that I am always looking to improve my health and wellness and I thought that doing a cleanse would be a great way to accomplish that. I wound up choosing the Long Weekend Cleanse from the Reboot Your Life website. They laid out all of the ingredients and recipes that I would be using so that planning was a cinch. I made a giant Whole Foods run the night before and had to pick up a few extra items on Day 2.

The night before, I separated out all of the ingredients that I would need for the first 3 juices of Day 1. I did this so that I was scrambling in the morning before work  – I’m a bit of a planning freak! I also made sure that my kitchen was nice and clean (clean kitchen for a clean body!) and that I labeled jars for each “meal” since I would be taking them to work.

My clean kitchen!

Day 1

The morning of Day 1, I got up bright and early and started my morning off with the recommended glass of hot water with lemon. I grabbed all of my stuff out of the refrigerator and juiced up a storm, making 3 batches for the beginning of my day. I was super excited to get started and loved the variation of colors in all of the juices. I appreciated that I wouldn’t have to drink the same thing for 3 days straight.

Day 1 Morning Juices

I dove into my first juice (carrot, apple, and ginger) and was able to enjoy that with some light reading before work. I was hungry when I woke up, and this definitely took the edge off. It was a small batch (picture above), so it went down pretty quickly and I started to feel hunger again in about an hour and a half. The morning snack of cucumber, celery, apple, kale, lemon and ginger juice was also pretty palatable and I was able to drink it while I was working. Lunch was called a gazpacho juice and it was pretty true to it’s name!

I noticed right away that all of these “meals” added up to quite a liquid intake – something I am definitely NOT used to! My boyfriend, who would carry a gallon of water with him everywhere if he could, constantly nags me to drink more water but I have never been one to chug anything. I was sipping on these juices at a fairly slow pace and had not finished my lunch juice by the time I got home after 3 that day. By the time I finished lunch, did some cleaning, exercised, and prepped for Day 2, I had only finished 4 out of the 5 prescribed juices for the day. Instead of forcing myself to make and drink a 5th jar, I decided that as long as I was sticking to a juice-only regiment, I should be ok with being a little short. I was thankful to end the night with some green tea with Stevia as my reward.

My new favorite mug!

My energy throughout the day was pretty great – I normally sneak in a midday nap if I am dragging, but I didn’t feel like I needed it at all. I was able to run in the morning, do laundry, go to work, run errands, attend a yoga class, and do some household stuff without even feeling it! Woohoo! You never really realize how much time you spend cooking and eating food – I had so much extra time on my hands!

Day 2

I woke up hungry on Day 1, but I was surprised to notice that I really was not hungry on Day 2. I had done the same prepping, so I was ready to get started as soon as I got up! I made 3 batches again and was super excited to try my breakfast juice – blackberry, grape, and apple juice with ginger. Best juice of all 3 days!

Day 2 Juices

I woke up not really wanting anything, but the breakfast juice got me back into the groove again. I had about the same timing with Day 2 as I did with Day 1 – it took me a while to get the Lunch juice down because it was my least favorite of the bunch. Something about juicing beets just doesn’t sit well with me! As the recipes went on, I found that they had less and less fruit in them, which made them harder and harder to drink for me. By the time the Afternoon Snack juice came around, I knew I had to start adding some citrus or other fruits to make it through the end of the day and the next. The snack juice was supposed to contain fennel, cucumber, spinach, and celery, but I went ahead and added some lemon and jalapeno – MUCH better! 🙂

I was up pretty late that night doing various things -my energy was CRAZY high and I had so much time on my hands that I just couldn’t sit still! I wound up having a late dinner that night – cabbage, broccoli, lemon, green apple and ginger. It was actually pretty darn good except for one small oversight – I didn’t clean out the juicer well enough from the earlier juice and wound up with jalapeno in my dinner! I definitely wasn’t expecting that kick!

I wound up skipping the tea on Day 2 – I was full when I went to sleep and slept really great throughout the night!

Day 3

Surprisingly, I woke up hungry on Day 3! I started out with water with lemon while I juiced 2 batches – I was only going to be out of the house for a short while, so I didn’t want to make too much in advance. I drank some of my morning juice while I got ready for work. When I got in, I had a 2 hour rehearsal/performance and I got distracted from my drinking. I also had an audience of 40+ people, so I did not want to whip out a massive mason jar and start swigging green elixir in front of them! I stuck with water until I was done, which meant I hadn’t finished my first jar by the time 2:15 rolled around. Needless to say, I was hungry! I wasn’t really enjoying the breakfast juice anymore, so I switched over to the morning snack without finishing it.

Day 3 Juices

I made it home around 3:30 and continued to finish my morning snack. I left the house again around 4:45 to go to yoga (5:30-6:45) and did not take a juice with me – I only carried a large water bottle. After class I took a small detour to do some shopping (couldn’t resist!) and was home around 8:00. That’s a LONG time to go without anything! I made a small batch of the dinner juice – it was named “tabbouleh juice” and had tomato, red onion, parsley, lemon, and cucumber – and finished that while I relaxed. By the time I went to bed that night, I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I thought it would be best to end my night with some more tea and water.

Breaking the Cleanse

Because of all the exercising I had been doing throughout the week, my body decided that it would be a great idea to sleep for 10 hours that night – great idea, right? Wrong! Because of how little I actually drank the day before and how long I had slept without taking in anything, I woke up feeling shaky and a bit strange. Of course, I do not fault the cleanse at all for that; my juice intake the day before was my own doing and this was the consequence! I had read that you need to ease back into eating solid foods, even with a cleanse as short as mine, so I cut up an apple and slowly ate a quarter of it at a time until the shakes stopped. Apple had never tasted so good! I waited an hour or so before having a morning snack of orange slices – they were so pretty that I had to snap a picture!

LOVE that color!

For the rest of the day, I kept my portions small and my food on the raw side (I did have some wheat toast with my peanut butter and banana sandwich later in the day). I tried to eat slowly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat as much as I had a week before. I had a spinach salad for dinner and when I got hungry a couple of hours later, I had half of an avocado. My body reacted really well to all of the food that I put in it, and I was feeling good again!

Wrap-up

Would I do a juice cleanse again? Yes, I think so. Would I do it the same way? Definitely not. Here’s what I would do differently:

  • I wouldn’t stick solely to the recipes. I know they are there to guide you, but certain things make me feel just a bit ill (like beets). Definitely stick with more veggies than fruit, but don’t be afraid to add something sweet or sour to make it more palatable.
  • I would make smaller batches that were less formidable for my small little self to drink. I would also try to set my drinking and batches to a schedule – if I know when I should be finished, I will avoid the chance of getting hungry or dizzy.
  • I would try to schedule it so that I wouldn’t have to juice so much ahead of time – to me, everything tastes so much better when it is fresh. Leaving those veggie juices to sit in the fridge for a few hours before getting them definitely changed the flavor. I’ve also read that it reduces the nutrients, and we don’t want that!

There were so many benefits to the cleanse – ridiculous energy (two work outs a day and then some), feeling cleaner and lighter, knowing I’m doing something good for my body – that I would definitely recommend trying it. As always, do your research and consult a physician if you have any medical problems or concerns.

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? What was your experience? Please share in the comments section!

My Decision to Do a Juice Cleanse

14 Jul

As a new vegan (I just had my 2-month anniversary on the 25th of June), I have rediscovered my love of food and cooking. My eating is so much cleaner and healthier since my transition and I have definitely noticed a difference in myself. However, I’m the type of person that always wants to do better and I believe that there is always room for improvement. That’s how the idea of a juice cleanse crept into my mind; I wanted a chance to restart my body by using clean produce and a healthy method to continue on my journey with veganism.

I started doing some research and asking around (particularly on the Power To The Veg! Facebook group), and found the cleanse that suited me the best – the “Long Weekend Cleanse” from the ReBoot Your Life website.

I wanted something that was short (no longer than 3 days), contained only juicing, and laid out a plan for me ahead of time – the Long Weekend Cleanse fit all of those criteria. When you go to the site and click on “Plans,” you can actually download a PDF with 5 juice recipes a day for the length of the cleanse. I was able to do all of my shopping and prep ahead of time thanks to that system.

Deciding to do a juice cleanse can be a bit of a commitment. Because I am a teacher, I have a lot of free time now and only work a couple of hours a day teaching summer school. Without that extra time, I think it would have been difficult to maintain the cleanse correctly.

Doing a cleanse can also mean spending some extra money on produce that you wouldn’t normally spend – the picture below shows all of the produce that I bought at Whole Foods to start myself off. I was able to get all of that for around $65, but I did need to make another run after the first day. For the three day cleanse, the cost of produce came in around $100 – and a large majority of that was organic. For someone that lives alone (like myself), that may not seem like a lot, especially if you don’t need to buy much else for the week, but that may be a significant sacrifice for someone that needs to also feed a family.

Produce for 3-Day Cleanse

Lastly, there is a bit of a social aspect to doing a cleanse. Since I was still teaching, I had to bring my large jars of juice to school with me and students/colleagues were very inquisitive. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, some people may not want to deal with that. Personally, I love answering questions that people have about my dietary choices and hopefully, I’m helping to educate them along the way. I also found myself staying in from a weekly Thursday night outing because I was worried about my body’s reaction to the cleanse and being out late enough to make myself hungry.

In another post, I will detail my experience with the juice cleanse – how it effected me mentally and physically, whether I would do it again, and my tips. As with anything, if you have serious health issues or take prescription meds, you should consult a doctor before beginning a juice cleanse. Do your research! Know what your getting into and whether you can take on something like this. Overall, I am pleased with my decision and have ultimately gained some insight about my body and my health!

Are you considering doing a juice cleanse? If so, what made you decide to? If not, what is holding you back?

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini

12 Jun

One of my favorite meals that my mom made when I was younger was stuffed zucchini. Of course, living with my Italian father, her version included ground beef, rice, tomato sauce and other assorted veggies, topped with parmesan cheese. Don’t get me wrong – I loved that version; but I have made changes in my diet that warrant some alterations to the original recipe!

My new version of the stuffed zucchini incorporates brown rice, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, olives and tomato sauce. The meal is healthy, filling, and extremely satisfying! I used to miss the taste of parmesan cheese with all of my pasta and Italian dishes, but my taste for it has definitely dwindled now that I have been vegan for about two months. I usually toss on some red pepper flakes for a kick (I even tried some sriracha with it and it was tasty) or sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for a bit of a cheesy flavor.

Ingredients

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini

Makes 6 halves

Ingredients:

3 large zucchinis

1 jar (15oz) of your favorite vegan pasta sauce

1.5 cups of uncooked brown rice

1/2 can of black olives, sliced (or use a small can of already sliced olives)

4 garlic cloves

1/2 white onion

1/2 green bell pepper

1-2 TB olive oil

Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

1. Start your rice – I use a rice cooker, so I can set it and continue with the recipe. For 1.5 cups of uncooked rice, I use about 2.5 cups of water. I find that using a full 3 cups makes the rice soggy. If you use the stove top method, prepare 1.5 cups of uncooked rice according to the directions on the package.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Chop up your garlic, onion, and bell pepper and add them to the pan. Cook until onions start to become translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

3. While ingredients are in the pan, slice your zucchinis lengthwise – try to slice them so that both halves will be able to lay flat, skin side down. Using a spoon, carve out the seeds and soft insides of each half, much like you would do with a larger squash or pumpkin. Set the scrapings aside. Make sure that you don’t scrape too much out – you should have about 1/4-1/2 inch left (see picture below).

Carved zucchinis

4. Chop up about half of the zucchini insides and add them, along with the olives, into the saute pan. Pour in 1/2 of the pasta sauce and saute the mixture until heated through, about 5 minutes.

5. Once your rice is done, add it to your saute pan – I wound up using only a cup of the cooked rice so that it didn’t take over the veggies too much. You may need to add another quarter of the jar of pasta sauce since the rice will soak some of it up. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste and cook until thoroughly mixed and heated through.

Rice and veggie mixture

6. While the veggies are cooking, set your zucchini halves in a baking pan and fill the pan with hot water until it covers 3/4 of each zucchini. This water will help to cook the zucchini through while in the oven.

Zucchini in baking pan with water

7. When thoroughly heated, scoop a heaping portion of the veggie mixture into the middle of each zucchini half. Once each zucchini is filled, spoon the remainder of the pasta sauce over the top of each .

Stuffed zucchini with sauce on top

8. Cover your pan (I had to use two because my zucchinis were large) with tin foil and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the zucchini is fork tender.

9. Garnish with more red pepper flakes, sriracha, fresh basil or anything else that your heart desires! Enjoy!

Finished product!

You may have some leftovers when it comes to the stuffing – I usually stick it in a tupperware and use it for the next day’s lunch, along with a small salad. Or, if I’m really impatient, I will eat it while the zucchinis are baking! Can’t go wrong either way!  =)

What is your favorite childhood meal that you have veganized? Share your story in the comments below!

Chocolate Strawberry Banana Breakfast Shake

9 Jun

When I get up in the morning, I really don’t leave myself much time. For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that getting up at the very last possible second and then rushing to get ready leaves me more rested than just getting up 30 minutes earlier! Oh well, it’s logical in my world!  =)

Chocolate Strawberry Banana Shake

That’s why this chocolate strawberry banana breakfast shake is perfect for me – I can throw the handful of ingredients into the blender, turn it on, and breakfast is done and easy to bring in the car. Plus, it’s so good that I make it on the weekends when I have plenty of time to sit and eat if I want to. It’s also very customizable – add ins are welcome! Just a few days ago, I started adding a spoonful of peanut butter to the shake….delicious!

Shake Ingredients

Ingredients

Adapted from the Lowfat Vegan Chef

1 banana (spotted and slightly brown makes for a sweeter shake)

5-6 strawberries

1 TB of cocoa

2 TB flax

1/4-1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (I use almond milk)

4-5 ice cubes

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. That’s it!

I found this shake to be just sweet enough with a TB of cocoa in it, but you can always add agave nectar for a bit more. If you would like to skip the ice cubes altogether, you can always  freeze your bananas (I have not tried it yet, but I’ve read that it works really well). Hopefully this chocolate strawberry banana shake will be the easy morning treat that you are craving!

What is your favorite quick and easy breakfast shake/smoothie? Share your ideas below!

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