Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quest for the Best Vegan Brownie

I'm very mission-oriented.  There are typically a handful of "missions" that I'm working towards at any given time.  I'm currently training for a half marathon - that's a big one.  I feel like I have to tell everyone about it, (a) so that I'm forced to follow through with the thing, and (b) I've always viewed myself as so unathletic that this is a tremendous feat for me.  That being said, over the past few months I've also, among other things, been on a quest for the best vegan brownie.

There are a few foods that I actually do miss since becoming vegan-- canolis, egg salad, and brownies are on the top of the list.  There are definitely vegan editions of each, but to me, they have not lived up to the originals.  The brownie is the one that bothers me the most.  I went through a phase in college where I baked brownies on a weekly basis.  Ghiradelli brownies with extra chocolate chips.  So fudgey.  Vegan brownies are really not fudgey.  They are cakey.  I've tried baking banana brownies, peanut butter brownies, pumpkin brownies, brownies with black beans-- you name it.  I've also sampled brownies at various vegan establishments.  As you can tell, I've been very committed to this endeavor.

Here are my top three brownies:

1.  Peanut Butter Ganache Brownie from Wildflour Bakery in Providence.
A layer of peanut butter, a layer of dark chocolate ganache.  So very rich - and not cakey.

2.  Pumpkin Pie Brownies from the Post Punk Kitchen.
These are a favorite for Thanksgiving dessert.

3.  This recipe for peanut butter chocolate brownies.
I randomly found this one last week.  It's super easy, and even gluten free.  The results are a-maz-ing -- quite rich and nothing like cake, since there's no flour at all. 

Mission complete.

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 Katy Perry - "This is How We Do"
 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

I've been told I don't update the blog enough.  Which is true.  The start and end of the school year are the most hectic times for teachers, besides Thanksgiving, Christmas, standardized testing... actually, it's crazy all the time, so this is no excuse.  One of my coworkers started a vegan meal exchange, because as it happens, there are now two other vegans and two vegetarians on the staff this year.  The idea was that each person would cook one giant meal on Sunday nights, portion it out, and switch at work on Monday in order to enjoy a wider variety during the week without all the work.  The first week I prepared a chickpea kale stew and ended up with a bean and potato casserole and a sweet potato beet hash.  Both were tasty!  The next time I didn't end up participating, but one of the teachers brought in a butternut squash mac and "cheese" with kale.  I was jealous and decided to make my own mac and "cheese."  Obviously I got on Pinterest to do some "research."  I found this recipe for Cauliflower Macaroni and "Cheese."  I used shells instead of macaroni pasta, to which I have a weird aversion, and skipped the last step with the Panko bread crumbs and broiling.  This was also the first time I've ever cooked with nutritional yeast - don't know how that happened.  It took me a minute to get over the fact that I was eating something that looked like cheese but was not actually cheese, but once I did, I liked it a lot.  Way healthier than what I used to eat in college. 

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Kasey Musgraves - "Follow Your Arrow"


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Overnight Oatmeal

I'm not a big breakfast person.  The only things I'll eat are cereal with almond milk or something like pancakes or waffles.  Definitely nothing savory.  Smoothies are alright, I guess, but I don't really have the time to whip something up in the morning before work.  And by the time I get to work, the bowl of cereal I ate at 6 AM really isn't holding me over until lunch.  This is why my discovery of overnight oatmeal has been so exciting.  You throw some oats (not quick cooking), your choice of milk, and ingredients that will add flavor, into a mason jar or Tupperware container, and leave it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you have some yummy oatmeal.  It doesn't have to be heated, which has made it perfect for me to take to work and eat at my desk.

Here are two recipes I've tried so far:

Banana/Nut Butter Oatmeal
1 cup oats
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 mashed banana
1 package Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter OR 2 spoonfuls of peanutbutter

Applesauce Oatmeal
1 cup oats
1/2 cup vanilla almond mlik
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and seal it up tightly!

Today I bought some vanilla almond butter, which I will try this week, and once the weather is cooler, I'll make some pumpkin oatmeal, as well.  So many possibilities!




Blogger's Soundtrack
The Beatles - "Yesterday"



Spicy Spaghetti Squash Tacos

It's 91 degrees in September!  I think I'll spend the rest of the day in my air conditioned apartment, thank you.  School has started, so I'm back to cooking huge meals on Sunday night to eat for the rest of the week.  I'm also training for a half marathon, so I need some extra calories!  I find lots of recipes on Pinterest, and I was enticed by this one for spicy spaghetti squash with black beans.  I like spaghetti squash, but you really need some elbow grease-- or a chain saw-- to slice that thing open.  Hopefully you own a better knife than I do, because this is a delicious meal!  Overall, I stuck to the original recipe, but I did not include the cilantro or sea salt.  Then I used the squash mixture as soft shell taco filling and topped it off with chopped cherry tomatoes and avocado.  Yum!  I even ate some cold with blue corn tortilla chips as a snack later in the week.  Try it!



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Coldplay - "Sky Full of Stars"

Friday, August 8, 2014

Vegan Wanderlust

I've had quite an eventful summer - probably the busiest one I've had in a long time - from running the summer school program to catching up with friends and family on Long Island, to having my brother out to Boston for a week and visiting Portland, Maine- it has been lots of fun.  I tried to think about some vegan themes that popped up over the past month, but really I just encountered a bunch of vegan things that I loved in a variety of places.  So this may a bit random, but summer is all about having the freedom to explore- whether it's taking the time to discover something new at the grocery store, try a new recipe, or take a road trip.  Here's what I found.  Enjoy.

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Blueberries
I love this brand but I had never tasted the blueberry variety - it's so good!  Throw some extra antioxidants in with my dark chocolate and I'm not going to complain about it.

Trader Joe's Super Spinach Salad
I think this may be my favorite salad ever - it includes edamame, pumpkin seeds, quiona, dried cranberries, and a delicious carrot-ginger dressing. Here's a link to make the salad yourself, but seriously, just drop by Trader Joe's and pick it up for $4.  I would not mind eating it daily.


Gorgeous Gelato - Portland, Maine
The place has vegan gelato - who knew this even existed?  It seems like they have a few different vegan varieties each day. 

Vegan Cupcakes at Local Sprouts Cooperative - Portland, Maine
I've talked about this place before, but I must now mention the gigantic strawberry-vanilla cupcake I ate single-handedly on my latest visit.  Where has this cupcake been all my life.



This Recipe for Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream
Acquire an ice cream maker and make some at once.

Homemade Sangria
I tried this recipe and I would probably add less soda next time.  I love love love Sangria in the summer so I'll continue experimenting on this front.

Vegan Food at Weddings
There was a time when I worked in catering - tuxedo and all - and let me tell you, when someone requested a vegetarian meal, they got some pasta with a few vegetables on top.  This has led me to harbor anxiety at wedding receptions.  But look at the kinds of things I get to eat!  Delightful!


Iced Tea
I've gotten really into iced tea this summer.  I enjoy the variety of iced teas at Starbucks and a friend introduced me to Steaz

Cornbread Waffles with Peach Compote at Root
I love Root.  They have the best vegan brunch in the world.  My brother ordered these waffles and they were amazing.


Smoothies at Live Alive - Cambridge, MA
I love Life Alive but I rarely go there.  It's a shame, too, because the Elvis smoothie is incredible - peanut butter, cocoa powder, Fomu ice cream, banana, and rice milk.  All the components of my perfect meal.

Shiraleah Vegan Leather
I spent the entire summer looking for an awesome wallet, and I finally scored one made from vegan leather while in Portland.  And it only cost $12!


It's been a good summer.  Really, vegans, the world is your oyster.  Except leave those poor oysters alone.




Blogger's Soundtrack
John Mayer - Cover of Beyonce's "XO"
Listen to the Afternoon Acoustic station on Spotify - it's great!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vegan Ice Cream Cake

School's out for the summer!  Until summer school, that is.  The end of the school year was a frenzy, as usual, and the kids knew that I would bring in a vegan dessert to celebrate their hard work.  I generally bake a cake, but it was a bit hot to turn the oven on that week.  I stumbled across a recipe for ice cream pie on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  What I came up with was my own very similar version, which is a cake, rather than a pie.  I even went to the vegan ice cream parlor and bought some of their hot fudge to include in the cake.

Ingredients
1/2 box chocolate Teddy Grahams
5 tablespoons melted Earth Balance
1 pint Trader Joe's chocolate coconut milk ice cream
1 pint Trader Joe's strawberry coconut milk ice cream
1/2 bag Trader Joe's semisweet chocolate chips
*vegan hot fudge, cooled

What to Do
1.  Mash the Teddy Grahams into crumbs using a potato masher.
2.  Melt the Earth Balance and combine it with the cookie crumbs until evenly coated. 
3.  Press the cookie crumb mixture into the bottom of a square Pyrex dish.  Freeze for 30 minutes.
4.  Pull the frozen cookie crumbs out of the freezer.  Mash one flavor of ice cream evenly onto the cookie crumb crust, followed by the second layer, giving you two layers of ice cream.
5.  If you are including vegan hot fudge, spread that on top of the ice cream layers.
6.  Spread the chocolate chips over the top of the cake.
7.  Freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

This ice cream cake was very easy to make, and my 5th and 6th graders loved it.  I used the Trader Joe's ice cream because it's cheap (vegan ice cream can be so pricey) and delicious.  You can use whatever brand or flavor you like.  There's a lot of room for experimenting with this recipe - so have fun!



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Sia - "Chandelier"
 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Vegan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The number of posts on this blog directly correlates to the amount of spare time in my schedule.  I have not posted since April.  Any teacher knows the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year are the best of times and the worst of times.  But mostly the worst of times with regard to the amount of items on the to-do list.  That being said, there are two weeks left until summer vacation and I cannot wait.

On with the blogging.

Two weeks ago I went to Michigan for the wedding of one of my best friends.  The bride and groom met at the University of Michigan, so the wedding was held in Ann Arbor.  I had never been to Michigan before, but having lived with the bride for five years, watching lots of Michigan sporting events, and hearing all about the place, I was excited to finally see what it was all about. 

First of all, the campus at the University of Michigan is beautiful.  I got a walking tour and the place was just so green.  I liked how you could hang out amid this lovely scenery or walk just down the street and find a bunch of little shops and restaurants.  I have not been to many large university campuses, so I was really marveling at the size of everything.  At one point we were driving and the stadium came out of nowhere, with the gigantic letter M towering above us.  Did you know that it's the largest football stadium in the country?  Well, it is.






I had heard lots of rumors about the thriving vegan scene in Ann Arbor, and I will cut to the chase and say I was not disappointed.  I will also say that I am always amazed when friends go out of their way to make sure I have something decent to eat.  Especially when it's their wedding weekend.  When I arrived we ate at a place called Seva Restaurant.  It was a large restaurant, for a vegan joint, and everything on the menu sounded excellent.  I wanted to try everything, but I went for the Cilantro-Peanut Stir Fry.   It was kind of spicy and really delicious. The menu also included a bunch of juices, desserts, and even milk shakes.  I recommend it if you are ever in the area.  As we were driving around, I noticed a bunch of other places with "vegan" in the title, so I'm going to go ahead and say there are many other veg-friendly options, as well. 



The wedding was held at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company.  Generally there are not too many vegan choices at breweries so I did not have high hopes.  I was wrong.  I almost fell over when they brought out an entire "Special Diet" menu for me to choose from.  I chose the Vegan Boxy Stack, which was "two sweet potato and lentil cakes layered with spicy arugula, juicy tomato, fresh guacamole and thin-cut beer battered onion rings, topped with lemon tahini dip. served with today’s seasonal vegetable."  I regret that I did not take a picture.  It was a fantastic meal, and I couldn't even finish the whole thing.  There were also vegan spring rolls at the cocktail hour, and two vegan cupcakes for me (they are pictured in a separate box off to the side).


It's a good thing I ate so much, because there was a lot of dancing to be done!  I had a great time at the wedding, and in Ann Arbor overall.  I even got hit on by the brother of a celebrity.  But that's another story.




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Iggy Azalea - "Fancy"