Tag Archives: vegan

Sauteed Red Chard and Chickpeas Over Brown Rice

29 May

One of the best things about becoming a vegan has been this wonderful new passion for food and cooking. I have experimented with styles of cooking and ingredients that I would never have even thought of last year! This past weekend, I bought a big bunch of red chard at the Farmer’s Market on a whim – I have never cooked with or even tasted chard, but I couldn’t resist it’s green leafiness!

Red Chard

After consulting with the wonderful FB community that is Power to the Veg! I decided that sauteing the chard was the way to go. I tossed some onion and garlic in the pan with just a tiny bit of oil; the chick peas went in next  (I used canned), followed by the chard. It smelled AMAZING while it was cooking – I couldn’t wait to start eating! Even though it could have been eaten on its own, I put all of the items over brown rice and VOILA! My first chard creation!

Red chard sauteed with chick peas, onions, and garlic

Ingredients:

1 bunch of red chard, washed and cut into ribbons (no stems)

1 can of chickpeas, drained and washed

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

3/4 of a white onion, chopped

1 cup of uncooked brown rice

Process:

1. Start your rice – I used a rice cooker but you can always cook yours on the stove. Usually I use just less than a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. When I use that exact ratio in the rice cooker, it comes out a bit mushy.

2. Heat a very small amount of olive oil in your pan over medium heat – if you would like to cut out the oil, you can saute using water.

3. Add garlic and onions to the pan. Once the onions start to become translucent, add the chickpeas. Since these are already cooked, they just need to be warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the red chard to the pan, stirring so that it mixes with the onions and chickpeas. Cook until tender, about 5-6, stirring occasionally.

5. If you’ve timed it correctly (rice takes about 20-25 minutes), you can spoon the veggie mixture over the brown rice and enjoy!

The finished project over brown rice!

It’s as simple as that! I think red pepper flakes would be a great addition if you like your food with a kick. Some of the FB veggies suggested juicing the chard as well, so that will be an upcoming adventure! Chard, with all of its colors, will definitely be making a repeat appearance in my dinner line-up!

What are some of your favorite chard recipes? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

App Review: Animal-Free

27 Apr Animal-Free Icon

As a brand new vegan (I made the decision last week to cut out fish, my last big item…WOOHOO!), one of the most frustrating parts of shopping is looking at a label and not understanding half of the ingredients in a product. What is that 7-syllable word? If I can’t say it, how am I supposed to know if it is an animal product? That’s where my new favorite app, Animal-Free, comes in!

Animal-Free Icon

Animal-Free Icon

Animal-Free is designed for those of us that can’t memorize all of those crazy words but are still trying to live a plant-based life without too much hassle. The app contains alphabetical lists of both vegan and animal based products, with an in-depth explanation of each item. Animal-Free even divides animal ingredients into lists that are always animal based (such as bone char) and those that are sometimes animal based (like sugar – cane sugars are not vegan while beet sugars are). There’s even an option to scan a barcode and find a product in the database!

Here is a run down of how to use the app and some screenshots so you can see for yourself:

When you are looking at the animal ingredients in Animal-Free, you have the option of scrolling through on your own or skipping through the list using the letters on the right side of the screen. When you click on a specific ingredient, you get a screen much like the one on the right panel – the app gives you a detailed definition of how each item is derived (the one I picked has been in the news recently because of its use in Starbucks drinks). I really like that the app gives you some background instead of just a yes/no when it comes to whether an ingredient is animal derived. Learning is a HUGE part of this process for me and I appreciate that the creators took the time to include that information.

Animal Ingredients Collage

Animal Ingredients

When you hit the “V” at the bottom of the screen, the app takes you to a list of vegan ingredients that you may find on labels. Again, it’s all alphabetized and you get the great description when you click on the item. I’m a big fan of the color scheme that they chose to use – the green really pops and helps convey the fresh and healthy vibe that vegan eating really stands for!

Vegan Ingredients Collage

Vegan Ingredients

Another great feature of Animal-Free is its ability to search the database by both ingredient and product. I found searching by product to be the most helpful – you can type in whatever item you are looking at in the store (I used Daiya cheese as an example) and the app will locate any items that fall into that category. Once you click on the specific item that you want, the app provides you with a screen full of information about the product, as well as if it is vegan or not (ratings are according to user votes). You also have the option  to vote to increase reliability of the database in the app.

Product Search Collage

Product Searching

Lastly, Animal-Free gives you the option to scan the barcode of an item. While this is a great idea and could potentially be very useful, the database is not very large as of yet, and I could not locate the test items that I scanned before writing this post. I also really liked that they give you the option to shine your camera’s flash on the barcode to make for easier scanning. I would love to see the barcode feature and database in the app improve in the future because I do think it will be extremely useful to many consumers.

Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner in action

Overall, I really liked the functionality of Animal-Free and what it offers to people of all walks of life. Beginning vegans and those that have been at it for a while can benefit from the information found in this app, making it an excellent resource. Currently, Animal-Free is available for the iPhone (there is not an iPad version of the app, but the iPhone version can still be downloaded onto it) and is FREE! If you try it out, please let me know what you think in the comments below!

What is your favorite vegan-related app? Please share your finds in the comments section!

Preparation and Organization

9 Apr

My journey towards a vegan lifestyle has made one thing very clear: PREPARATION IS KEY! From doing your research before beginning a new diet, to planning your grocery shopping trips and weekly meals, being prepared and planning ahead can make the difference between a healthy, tasty meal and a processed dinner from a box.

Here are a few tips for keeping things organized for the week:

Set a day to grocery shop

For me, I always head to Whole Foods on Monday after work. I choose to travel a bit out of the way to this particular store because of the beautiful organic fruits and veggies that they offer. The employees are always super friendly and extremely helpful when you have questions and concerns. The first time I picked up a bag of Daiya cheese, I asked the checkout clerk if he had ever tried it and what it tasted like – I explained that it was my first time and I was nervous about the difference. He was nice enough to comp the entire bag for me so that I could give it a try without any worries. Such a great company model!

Whole Foods in Reno, NV

Once it begins again, I will also be grabbing some items at the weekly Farmer’s Market in my neighborhood. Even though it’s not the biggest, i love walking through the stands and seeing the same familiar faces each week. It makes me feel good to support local farmers while also getting quality ingredients for myself!

Depending on what you plan to make each week, you may need to make more than one trip to the grocery store in order to have the freshest produce possible. I tend to plan meals that use veggies that stay fresh in the fridge the longest for the end of the week since it’s tough to find time to head to Whole Foods twice a week.

Plan your meals ahead of time

Because my shopping day is Monday, I use about an hour or so on Sunday to plan my meals for the week. I try to try a few new recipes each week, but I take into account what I already have in the kitchen so that I am not overspending. I also think about portion sizes – I’m cooking for myself during the week, but I also like to pack my lunch for work so that my diet doesn’t suffer. So, I typically make between two and four portions of everything so that it lasts. Things like soup and pasta sauce get frozen and saved for a later, busier week.

One of the biggest assets to my dietary change has been AllRecipes.com. Not only have I been able to find a ton of vegan recipes, but I have found vegetarian recipes that I have been able to adapt and other recipes that contain meat that have inspired some of my veggie dishes. One of the features that I like the most is the ability to create your own virtual “Recipe Box” and create a “Shopping List” from those recipes. I use the shopping list feature to add ingredients from other recipes not found on the site so that I can work from one list instead of multiples. It only takes a second to create a free account and all of these great tools are at your disposal (I will be writing a more detailed AllRecipes post soon).

My Vegan Deliciousness Pinterest Board

Pinterest has also been a HUGE help with finding new vegan recipes and recipes that cabe adapted. I follow other vegans that I know in real life and from other social media sites (like Twitter) and I am able to see the recipes that they pin and re-pin. About once a week, I also do my own search for recipes with the #vegan label on them and pin accordingly. Whenever I am browsing the web on my own, I use the “Pin It” feature in my browser to add great recipes to the Pinterest world. Using Pinterest helps me to keep all of the recipes I find from different blogs in one set place – I never have to wonder where a link is when I need it!

Here’s a link to my board called “Vegan Deliciousness” – it has images of vegan recipes that I’ve pinned (just click on the board name). I’ve tried some and I’m looking forward to making others!

Organize your fridge

When I made the decision to begin phasing out animal products, I set aside a couple of hours to really clean out my fridge. I tossed everything that might have been out of date (healthy or not) and everything that was chock full of sugar, preservatives, and animal products. I took everything out that was left and gave the fridge a thorough cleaning and then organized the food into new, easier to handle sections – things like citrus fruit, which tends to give more juice when it’s room temp, got moved to the fruit bowl outside. Instead of stacking layers of veggies on top of each other in the drawers, bruising them easily, I use trays and containers to lay them out. It also makes everything easier to see – I love all of the awesome colors that wind up in the fridge after shopping day!

I found a great list of ways to organize and store specific fruits and veggies on a blog called “My Thirty Spot” – click here to read about the various ways you can maximize the life of your produce!

Organized and Healthy Fridge

Have a plan

I like to try to prep certain food items ahead of time, if at all possible. Things like cutting hulling strawberries and chopping celery for smoothies can be done days in advance. If I buy something like a whole pineapple, I will cut it up whenever I have a free few minutes so that it is ready for recipes and a healthy snack. I also try to group recipes together that have a common ingredient – something like fresh garbanzo beans. Fresh beans need to be soaked before being cooked, so I will make a ton of them and then use them in various recipes for the week. By doing small prep ahead of time, you will save yourself some hassle and work later in the week when you may not have the extra time.

These are just a few tips for staying organized and being prepared. Without preparation, we often wind up spending unnecessary money on meals out or we compromise by eating something fast but not as nutritional as something we could have prepared. Think ahead – the worst feeling to have, in my opinion, is being unprepared!

What are some of your tips and tricks for staying on top of a healthy, plant-based diet? Please share them in the comments below!

Saturday Morning Smoothies

11 Mar

Ingredients in the blender

For the last few weeks, the boyfriend and I have had a Saturday morning tradition of making some delicious smoothies. So far, we’ve used a lot of the same ingredients with only slight variations, but we have yet to make one that we didn’t like. My goal is to move into more green, vegetable based smoothies with a little bit of fruit to add some sweetness to it. If at all possible and affordable, I would love to purchase a juicer – the blender works great for thicker, somewhat chunkier combinations, but I would like to try out juicing for a change. If you have any suggestions for brands that are better while still being in a decent price range, please share below!

Here are some of our recent creations – each recipe makes about 16oz, or 2 glasses, worth of smoothie.

Strawberry/Mango

This was our very first smoothie and a very simple one. I used:

* 2 mangoes

* 1/2 container of strawberries

* 1/2 cup of dry oats

* the juice of 2 oranges

Strawberry/Banana/Blueberry

Creation number two was creamier than our first smoothie, thanks to the banana. Here’s what I used:

* 2 bananas

* 1/2 container of strawberries

* 1 cup of blueberries

* 1/2 cup of dry oats

* a splash of almond milk

Mango/Strawberry/Blueberry

As the picture says, these smoothies have:

* 2 mangoes

* 1/2 container of strawberries

* 1 cup of blueberries

* 1/2 cup of dried oats

* juice of 2 oranges

Mango/Banana/Strawberry/ Blueberry/Spinach

This last one is not the most appealing of colors, thanks to the blueberries and spinach, but it was DELICIOUS! Plus, the spinach added a ton of vitamins without any weird taste! Here’s what’s in it:

* 1 mango

* 1 banana

* 1/2 container of strawberries

* 1 cup of blueberries

* 1 cup of spinach

* juice from 2 oranges

I’m looking forward to finding more exciting flavor combinations and using new and different fruits and veggies.

What’s your favorite smoothie/shake? Would love to hear your ideas!

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