Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vegans Can Throw a Party!

Last Friday night my husband and I threw our first party since moving to LA (and in all honesty, our first party in about 5 years). I never had much luck with being a party host, or maybe I'm just too critical of myself, but needless to say I was stressing a bit for the past week or so. The theme of our party was Ugly Sweaters, so everyone was supposed to come in the ugliest sweater they could find.

I wanted to make sure there was enough food for everyone to munch on and even though none of my friends in attendance are vegan, I wasn't planning on serving anything that wasn't. Being that we were just having snacks, it was pretty easy to do: chips, salsa, guac, etc. I did want to make a couple of special items though to nonchalantly show that vegan party food could be yummy too!

Let me go back for a minute to around Christmas time, when I discovered the most wonderful invention ever known to man: cookie butter (speculoos). Trader Joe's had their version and I was lucky enough to score a jar before the entire company sold out of it. I was hooked at first bite. I knew immediately that I needed to make a cupcake frosting out of it.

Fast forward back to present day. For the party I decided to make mini Golden Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix to give them a little added spice to compliment the cookie butter frosting. Then I used the peanut buttercream frosting recipe from the same book but substituted cookie butter for peanut butter. It turned out AWESOME, but it tasted a lot like maple so I think next time I'll leave out the molasses. The combo was still amazing and everyone loved them!

The next little surprise up my sleeve was vegan jello shots! I found a recipe online, but I wasn't happy with how they turned out, so I tweaked it until they came out exactly how I wanted them. I'll post the recipe separately in a few days, so keep your eyes out! They were a definite hit.

The last vegan bowl of yum we served was what my good friend Lynn called "puppy chow". For those not in the know (which was me until Friday), it's basically rice Chex, chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar all melted and tossed together to create a delicious flavorgasm. She was nice enough to use my bag of vegan chocolate chips so I could enjoy it as well.

Now on to the fun party pics! Here I am with my dog Henry Goose Bustamonte:

"My sweater is uglier!" "No, MINE is!"

Work it!

Good times had by all!

Girls just wanna have fun!

And the winner of the ugliest sweater was this gem - hideous indeed!

It is hanging in our living room and my husband insists on leaving it there until our 2nd Annual Ugly Sweater Party....I'm not so sure about that!

Overall it was a super fun night filled with amazing friends, good tunes and delicious vegan snacks! ROCK ON!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Vegan Joint

Upon moving to LA I fell in love with The Vegan Joint quickly for one major reason: they deliver. If you've been paying attention to this blog at all you know how much I love having food brought to me in my jammies.

The Vegan Joint has an interesting mix of menu items from Asian inspired dishes to burgers and wraps. When I'm in the mood for warm comfort food, their Chinese Soup can't be beat. Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, cilantro, onion, napa cabbage, shitake mushroom, glass bean noodles and tofu....YUM!

On this particular afternoon when my husband and I were both starving (and grumpy) we opted for a couple heartier dishes. We started with the crispy spring rolls (I can never say no to fried food) which were stuffed full of shredded veggies and came out hot, crisp and golden.

For my entree I went for the Chow Mein with tofu, which didn't look like the chow mein that I'm used to but it was very flavorful with lots of large chunks of veggies. The tofu was cooked just how I like it, a little crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They went a little overboard on the bean sprouts, but overall a very good dish.

The husband ordered Kung Pao with tofu and brown rice. It looked so bright and beautiful I kind of had entree envy looking over at his plate. Again, the dish was loaded with a ton of veggies and large chunks of tofu. He's a bit harder to please than I am, but I think he enjoyed it.

All in all The Vegan Joint is a good place to get some good veggie/tofu dishes and if you're close by and particularly lazy, they'll bring it to your door!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe: Stuffed Acorn Squash

Prep/cook time: about 90 minutes. Serves 2

What you'll need:
1 acorn squash
1 celery stock (chopped)
1 leek (sliced thin)
1/2 cup brown rice medley
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth (plus a couple extra tablespoons for sautéing)
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained (I used the fire roasted kind with chilis for extra kick)
1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella shreds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried sage
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with foil. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash cut side down on the cookie sheet and then add about 1/2 inch of water to the sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove squash from pan and set aside, cut side up, until the other ingredients are ready.

2. While squash is cooking, bring 1 1/4 cup veggie broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the rice, Italian seasoning and sage and return to boil. Reduce heat and cook covered for 35 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

3. Heat 2-3 tbsp of veggie broth in a sauté pan and add diced celery, leeks, and salt & pepper. Sauté until they start to get soft.

4. Add diced tomatoes and continue to cook until everything is heated, stirring often. When rice is finished add it to the celery, leek and tomato mixture and stir well to combine.

5. Scoop rice/veggie mixture into the squash (I like to overstuff them). Sprinkle the Daiya on top, cover with foil and return to oven to cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

6. Dig in and enjoy! The mix of flavors and textures in this dish is AMAZING!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegan, Interrogated: Nixx

Name: Nixx
Location: upstate NY

A little about yourself: I love food, music, and traveling! If I'm lucky I get to do all three at once. I strive to see the positive in every situation and hope to inspire others to do the same. My best friend is an orange kitty named Boris. I love Bon Jovi & Motley Crue, and have an obsession with both Nikki Sixx and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I enjoy making clothes with lots of metal, and still carry metal lunchboxes. Oh, and I have been vegan for over a year and a half! :)

What made you decide to go vegan? Research. I love animals so much, and learning about the pain and suffering they go through just so I can wolf down a Big Mac or a bowl of ice cream, or wear leather boots, was too much. I am not more important than them just because I am human. Their lives mean just as much as mine, and they deserve a chance at life just as any human does. We are WAY past the time when we needed to hunt to survive (in most parts of the world anyway), so I see no reason to continue slaughtering and abusing animals to satisfy the human ego.

Favorite meal to make:
Mac-n-cheez!!! Pizza with Daiya vegan cheese, and spicy "sausage" from scratch :)

Favorite restaurant & why: Blossom in NYC!! Because it has the most amazing Cape Cod Cakes, awesome desserts, and great memories of umbrellas being stolen. Blossom du Jour also rocks, as well as Candle 79, and Franchia. I also LOVE The Organic Grill, even though they are not 100% vegan, their vegan dishes are AWESOME! They do a great job and I hope they do go 100% vegan at some point :) (All in NYC!)

Who/what inspires you?
Life inspires me! There is so much within one day that inspires me, it's unreal! The sky, someone's face, a fabric, a song....there is so much going on!! Also, my friend Bianca from ReLove inspires me, because no matter how good of a person you think you are, you can always be better. She's a gorgeous ball of energy and sunshine! My friend Kylie (umm, the one asking me these questions...) also inspires me with her dive into veganism, and her beautiful open mind. Also, that Metal Motivation guy...he's so damn smart! Check him out. Oh, and the Vegan Black Metal Chef ;)

Favorite organization/cause & why: Farm Sanctuary and Woodstock Sanctuary. Both of these animal sanctuaries are close by, and visiting them really opened my eyes further to how important it is to treat all living things with respect. Meeting animals that were rescued from slaughterhouses and testing facilities, really opens your eyes to what is really going on to bring you the food you're eating, or the cosmetics you're's a sad state of affairs my friends. Both of these sanctuaries do an awesome job at taking care of these animals for the rest of their days, and educating the public.

What was the reaction from your friends/family? My stepdad said I'd be back through his door asking for his meatballs I loved so much ;) (He was wrong!) Everyone was pretty open to it, and have been awesome at making sure there is something I can eat at family gatherings. My co-workers sometimes made fun of me, and would make jokes at lunch time, but they just needed some education ;) There's a joke or two made once in a while, but overall I think everyone understands why I chose this lifestyle.

Do you find going out/social situations difficult? Not at all! If anything, adopting a vegan diet has made me more creative and most of the time the things that I order grab the attention of the people with me! I usually get a "Hey, that looks pretty good!"

What changes have you noticed in yourself since going vegan?
The first changes were an increase in energy, weight loss, and a general feeling of being "lighter", both physically and mentally. My mental strength has improved and I do not get as irritable as I did before. My body just feels cleaner, and there's definitely more of a bounce in my step ;) I don't have belly aches anymore after eating a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, and I can eat more cookies with soy milk than I could with regular milk!!! How cool is that??

Do you have any advice for people toying with the idea of becoming a vegan? Focus first on living a cleaner life! If you find it scary to give up meat or dairy, start small and work your way up to it. But honestly, I think nosediving head first into it is the way to go :) I did, and am so glad! I think I would have had a harder time if I only had cheese on Saturdays, or made some other silly deal with myself. You need to have a clear picture of why you're making this choice & really believe in your decision! If you don't believe in your reason, or yourself, you'll fail. Do what you feel comfortable doing...utilize the many prepackaged vegan options that are out there if you're not a cook, veganize your family favorite recipes, or cook everything from scratch! Whatever you're doing now, continue to do it, only in a vegan way :) OR branch yourself out a little bit and explore, you never know what you'll find out about yourself!! Becoming vegan is such a fun experience!

Do you think your veganism has an impact on something greater than yourself?
Yes, I do believe that becoming vegan has not only saved lots of animal lives, but that it's helping the Earth in general :) There's just too much research on the positive effects of veganism for me to think otherwise.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pitfire Pizza

The first time I had Pitfire Pizza was the day we moved to Los Angeles. After unloading the truck and about a billion trips up and down the stairs, we were starved. Luckily my cousins suggested Pitfire and we headed over to their West LA location.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed at first because I figured I would be stuck with a boring salad (not satisfying after a day of hard labor). I was delighted when I grabbed a menu and saw that they offered vegan cheese (and Daiya no less!). I swear I could hear angels singing. I ordered the margherita and let me tell you, a pizza never tasted so good. The crust wasn't too thick or too thin and perfectly cooked with just the right amount of crispy fire-singed goodness. They didn't go overboard on the Daiya which is always a plus and the tomato sauce was sweet and tangy. Pitfire immediately became one of our favorite places. Since that initial visit we have returned many times trying a numerous variety of topping combos, none of which have disappointed.

Last night I had an amazing dinner planned out: tofu and veggies stir fried in a General Tso sauce over spicy greens. I was very excited about this meal until I discovered the sauce had oysters in it - BOOOOO! So we needed a back up and decided on Pitfire (getting to lounge in your jammies while someone else cooks your food and brings it to your door is always a bonus). This time I went with marinated tomato and fresh basil and I added a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper. It was YUM. My favorite combo so far I think :)

Overall this is a great place for some delicious vegan pizza, I highly recommend it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Trying To Be A Better Vegan

I'm a terrible vegan. No, I don't secretly eat meat when no one is watching or go out and buy mass quantities of fur and leather. What I mean by this is, simply put, I frickin hate salads.

If given a choice between a veggie burger with all the fixins and french fries or a nice healthy salad I'll choose the burger every time. I didn't come from a "meat & potatoes" family. In fact, in the late 80's my mom went on a crazy health food kick and served us veggie burger patties that can only be described as ground up lawn clippings and twigs (and pretty much tasted that way as well). Given that, you would think I'd have an aversion to anything resembling a veggie burger, but nope, they still have a place in my heart and unfortunately too often, in my belly.

Being vegan doesn't automatically mean you eat super healthy (although, yes it's generally a healthier way to eat). There are tons of processed vegan foods out there that aren't necessarily that good for you (um, hello - Oreos anyone?). After watching Forks Over Knives (if you haven't seen it already - DO IT NOW!) I realized that I need to start eating better and cutting out a lot of the processed shit I eat. Therefore I am challenging myself once again, this time to eat more whole organic foods. I know this is going to be tough for me as I'm the queen of the quick and easy meals that don't require much prep. But if we don't challenge ourselves every once in awhile what good is living, right?!

My goal is to try to make at least 5 or 6 meals a week that don't involve any sort of processed crap. And try to embrace the ever-dreaded salad. I ordered the Forks Over Knives book which has a ton of great recipes so as soon as I get it, I'll update my progress here on the blog with full and complete honesty. Even if I'm a complete and total fail whale.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Super Cute New T-Shirt from AlterEco!

Happy Hump Day everyone!

My gorgeous friend Bianca (one of the people who inspired me to become vegan) runs a couple of shops online. The first is Alter-Eco Clothing, offering an amazing array of eco-conscious fashions for all kinds of style types and the second is her new shop Enstasy Designs featuring beautiful jewelry pieces. She also runs a very inspiring and informative blog called ReLove - you all should check it out, it's full of recipes, earth saving ideas and positivity! She's a busy busy girl!

Bianca's latest addition to her Alter-Eco shop is screen printed tees - yay! When I saw the V is for Vegan shirt I just knew I had to have it and it finally came today - double yay!

I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give a shout out to Bianca and show off my super cute tee with an impromptu "model shoot". I use quotes because I am in no way a model and you can see clutter in my apartment behind me - SO professional :)

Being the environmental friendly girl that she is, Bianca packed my tee into a recycled cookie box (although I was a little sad there weren't a few cookies left in it)!

Here is my super cute shirt and a couple extra goodies.

I love the extra little buttons she threw in! *No idea why the pic keeps flipping sideways :(

And here is me sportin my new tee! It's so soft and comfy, I love it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Lovely Sunday

Some days I wake up and still can't believe we're in L.A. It's the middle of winter and the sun was shining bright and warm enough for a tank top and capris. Can't beat that!

The husband, both dogs and I headed out to Malibu to meet my friend Josh and his dog Buster for some hiking in Solstice Canyon. It was the first time we had taken our dogs hiking and I was a little worried they wouldn't like it. Willow hung in there, but Henry LOVED it, he was jumping through streams and climbing rocks like a champ.

The hike was beautiful, it went along a little babbling stream and up past not one, but two, remains of houses that had burned in previous fires. Heartbreaking as it is to think about losing all you own in a fire, the "ruins" as they call them look beautiful and haunting set among the trees. The first is called the Keller House which was a little stone cottage built it 1865.

The second was the Rogers Ranch house built in 1952, the original design incorporated the natural surroundings including creeks, trees and waterfalls. There are still fireplaces, old stoves and bathtubs littering the foundations. It would be a great place for a creepy ethereal photoshoot!

All in all it was a great Sunday getting some exercise in gorgeous surroundings with excellent company. Man, I love L.A. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend full of the things that make you happy :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

EVO Kitchen & My First Vegan Meet-Up

In keeping with the spirit of trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone, I went to my first vegan meet-up last night. This is a group I found on (my new favorite website) that gets together occasionally to eat amazing vegan food and get their drink on (my kind of people!) They were definitely a fun bunch and it was great to meet some like minded folks in my area. I even met the guy who runs!! How cool is that?!

Last night's event took place at EVO Kitchen on Sunset Blvd. They aren't an exclusively vegan restaurant, but they have a ton of vegan options. They even created a little vegan menu especially for the event.

I started with the was light, fruity and perfect. Then the husband and I shared the cheesy garlic bread with daiya (I had been looking forward to this all day!) and it certainly did not disappoint. It was gooey, garlicy and toasted just right. The marinara that came with it had just the right amount of tanginess, a perfect compliment to the bread. I must figure out how to make this at home.

For my entree I ordered the Mini BBQ Portobello Burger with daiya. These babies were little bites of happiness. The flavors of the sweet BBQ sauce, spicy onions and earthy mushrooms blended together like a dream. The creamy nuttiness of the daiya added another wonderful layer to these mini burgers of vegan goodness.

My husband ordered the Vegan Pizza with soy cheese, mushrooms and red & green peppers. It looked delicious, but unfortunately neither of us were a fan of the soy cheese :( This pizza would have been perfect with daiya. The crust was excellent, thin and cripsy, so I definitely think we'll opt for the daiya next time. Hubby looked happy though!

All in all it was a fun night full of good food and good conversation. I look forward to my next meet-up and my next trip to EVO Kitchen!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recipe: Chocolate & Banana Protein Shake

I've been hitting the gym hard the past few months and even got myself a personal trainer. I look and feel better than I have in years and this makes me a happy girl.

My trainer wanted to discuss my diet with me to maximize my results and the conversation over my breakfast choice (usually Trader Joe's Os and rice milk) proved to be a bit frustrating for him.

Trainer: You're eating pure carbs for breakfast, switch to eggs
Me: I'm vegan, I don't eat eggs
Trainer: then yogurt
Me: don't do that either
Trainer: ok, how about a protein shake with whey powder?
Me: do you even know what vegan means??

At this point he became completely annoyed with me (he tried to play it cool but I could see it in his eyes).

Trainer: well, you are going to remain squishy if you keep eating carbs like that
Me: you know there are vegan body builders right? they must do it somehow
Trainer: they probably eat meat
Me: *sighs*

After that I went on a mission to find something protein rich I could have for breakfast because I knew it had to exist. I did some internet research and saw that there are plenty of vegan plant protein powders on the market. I went to my nearest hippy dippy health store and there just happened to be a rep from Plant Fusion there giving out samples. I tried all three flavors he had available: Chocolate, Vanilla and Chocolate Raspberry. They all tasted pretty damn good. I decided on the chocolate.

Long segway into the recipe, but here it is :) This is super quick and easy and totally yummy.

What you will need:
1 cup non dairy milk (I like almond milk best)
1 medium banana (I freeze mine cuz I like my shakes cold)
1 scoop chocolate Plant Fusion powder (or any other vegan protein powder you want)

To make:
1. Pour your non dairy milk into the blender and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. I usually give it a couple shakes.

2. Add the protein powder and frozen banana.

3. Blend, baby, blend!!! Make sure you don't have any large chunks of banana left (unless you like that little added surprise when you take a big gulp)! If your shake is too thick, you can add a bit of cold water to thin it out.

4. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

I was worried that this wouldn't fill me up in the morning, but it actually does. I also have a lot more energy throughout the day! Plus, it makes my trainer happy. Now if I could just get over my addiction to bread and potatoes :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Recipe: Sauteed Greens

Since becoming vegan I have fallen in love with greens of all kinds. There are so many varieties and all of them rock. Below is my super easy recipe for sautéing up some greens as a side dish (also great as a main entree with some grilled tofurky sausages or tofu mixed in). These are super tasty, virtually fat free and a great source of vitamins A & C and iron.

Here is what you will need:
1 bag Trader Joe's Southern Greens (includes mustard, turnip, collard & Spinach)*
8 Tbsp Vegetable broth
1 small yellow onion (optional)
Garlic powder & Pepper (to taste)

*If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, any fresh greens will do! I like these because they are pre-washed and chopped and I'm a lazy cook!

1. Start by heating a few tablespoons of the broth in a wok or large skillet on med/high heat. You can also use canola or olive oil instead of broth but I like to keep the fat low on these and the broth adds some extra flavor.

2. While the broth is heating up, dice your onion into small chunks. Throw those bad boys into the heated broth and cook until they get soft and translucent.
*Onions are completely optional. Quite honestly this was the first time I used onions and I'm not sure I will do it again. I've also used seasame seeds and fresh chopped garlic in this step both of which are super yummy.

3. Add the remaing broth to the pan then pile on the greens. It will look like a ton of food, but they cook down considerably.

4. Stir, stir, stir! Keep the greens moving and mix them in completely with the broth and onions. If you let them sit they will start to burn on the bottom - no bueno. I usually use two wooden spoons to do this. It will be difficult to keep everything in the pan until they cook down a bit, but I know you can do it ;)

5. Add your spices in at this point. I like a ton of fresh pepper and garlic powder, but you can use anything you like! Keep stirring to incorporate the spices so you get them in every tasty bite!

6. That's all there is to it! Eat and enjoy :) This time I paired them with garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes. Yum.