Author Archives: Living Well

About Living Well

I am a vegan who loves food and loves life. Why am I vegan? Vegan living seemed to be a holistic way to live. Choosing to live as a vegan is helping me to live more environmentally conscious, more ethically, and more healthy. That said, I still wanted to be able to have foods that I loved. This site will be a place that I share ideas on living well and share vegan recipes. Some recipes are naturally vegan; other recipes I will take and veganize them. My influences in cooking are from my Granny (who is now 96 years old) who taught me how to make homemade buttermilk biscuits, syrup cookies, okra, and other southern comfort favorites; my mom, who knows how to host, and from living in places like London, Spain, and Costa Rica. When I am not cooking I am a professional artist. Cooking is just one more way I get to be creative. May these recipes inspire you, and may they always be delicious! P.S. If you want to check out my art, you can visit my website at: www.GraceWorksStudio.org.

Daily Green Smoothie (Revamped)

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Most mornings, I start my day with a green smoothie, and sometimes, I will have a green smoothie for dinner or lunch, if my other meals have been more indulgent.  For me, life is all about balance.

So, what goes into this green smoothie?  Below is a flexible recipe that yields a delicious smoothie that is vegan, filling, sustaining, and nutrient-rich.  For me, this recipe makes one smoothie.

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12 ounces unsweetened almond milk
  • 8 to 10 ounces of water
  • 1 scoop of protein powder of one’s choice (I prefer the chocolate-flavored Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal Replacement Powder (see pic below)
  • 2 handfuls of Spinach/Kale/Greens of Choice
  • 5 to 6 baby carrots or equivalent
  • 2 to 3 Dates to add sweetness
    • Other options for sweetness include sugar in the raw, stevia, and honey
  • 1 ripe banana*
  • Frozen Fruit of choice
    • In the fall and winter, I tend to use a mix of frozen cranberries and whatever frozen fruit is on sale
    • In the spring and summer, I tend to use blueberries plus a mixture of tropical fruits that include strawberries, pineapple, papaya, and mangoMEAL ORGANIC SUCHES

 

Optional Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. of turmeric powder (to help with inflammation)
    • You can buy this already as a powder or grate some fresh turmeric root
    • Additionally, you can also add ginger powder or ginger root, which also helps with inflammation
  • 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar with the mother (to help boost the immune system)
    • Bragg’s makes a good apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • A slice of lemon without the seeds but that includes the rind (to add brightness)
  • An apple without the seeds
  • Any other fresh fruit
    • I tend to use up any fresh fruit that is getting ready to go bad

Directions:

Fill blender with almond milk and water.  Then, add the protein powder, optional turmeric, ginger, and apple cider vinegar.  Next, add greens of choice, the peeled banana, the carrots, the dates, and any optional fresh fruit.  For the top layer, add your frozen fruit of choice.

I make this in a Vitamix blender, which is well worth the investment.  In a Vitamix, I start the blender on low and slowly rev to medium until the ingredients start to chop and incorporate.  I finish by shifting the blender to high to smooth it out.  To make it extra cold, before shifting the blender to high, I will add a couple of ice cubes.  Serve immediately.  I serve it in a glass with a stainless steel straw.

*A note on bananas:  you can always line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then peel and slice overripe bananas in order to freeze.  I get about 5 slices from each banana.  Once the slices are frozen you can transfer them to a freezer-friendly zip-top bag.  Then, each morning, you would just add about 5 pieces of the banana when you add the other frozen fruit.  Please be advised, this may make it a little more challenging to blend.  If, so add a little more liquid (water or almond milk) to the bottom.  You can also add juice, like fortified orange juice.

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Green Smoothie

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Most mornings, after I have had my triple shot of espresso, I start my day with a green smoothie.  Certain ingredients are given and others change.

Ingredients:

  • One Bag of spinach, baby spinach, mixed greens, kale or whatever greens you want (I usually buy whatever is on sale)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 apples, cored and quartered
  • 3 bananas (The riper the better.  Also note: you can peel and freeze bananas that are too ripe to eat otherwise, and they work really well in smoothies.  Just remember to peel them before you freeze them.  Once peeled place in a freezer friendly zip top bag and then place in freezer.  They are much more challenging to peel once they are frozen.)
  • 1 box of silken tofu (This gives the smoothie both protein and a creamier texture akin to when people add yogurt.)
  • 1 small/medium bag of frozen fruit (This ingredient replaces the need for ice and invokes creativity.  Sometimes I use mixed berries or peaches.  In the fall I stock up on cranberries, when they are BOGO, and freeze them.  Cranberries are by far my favorite frozen fruit to add to smoothies.)
  • 6 dates, 3 packets of stevia, OR 3 tsp of sugar in the raw (optional, if you desire the smoothie to be sweeter)
  • Fresh juice from 2 limes or 1 large lemon (optional); adds a nice acidity to the smoothie

Serves 3.  I make this batch about twice a week for myself.  I store the batch in an air tight pitcher that I can shake up for day 2 and 3.

In a blender:

I put the greens in first with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water.   Then add the apples and bananas and tofu.  I blend all that and then I add the frozen fruit and any of the optional ingredients.  I blend till smooth.  When I first started doing this in a conventional blender, I had to baby it and do it in smaller parts.  You could always third this recipe and make it daily, if that will help your blender.  Just remember to properly store the remaining silken tofu.  Out of convenience and since we gifted our household one Christmas with a Vitamix blender, this process has become much easier.

 

 

Hekka

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To this day, I still get excited when my mom pulls out the wok.  When the wok comes out, I know to expect something good for dinner.  My favorite thing she would make (and still makes when I come home) was Hekka.  Hekka is a Japanese Hawaiian stir fry.  Mom used to make it with strips of steak.  Now she veganizes it for me.  We  just nix the steak and feast on the awesome veggies.  I add portobello mushrooms to help mimic the meatiness.  So here is how to make the best stir fry (and one of my favorite meals) in the world. And psst, don’t tell anyone but it is REALLY healthy!

Hekka:

  • Broccoli
  • Napa Cabbage (cut into strips)
  • Matchstick Carrots
  • Shitaki Mushrooms
  • Portobello Mushrooms (cut in strips like steak)
  • Spinach
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Shōyu or Tamari
  • Corn Starch

In a wok with oil stir fry veggies.  Add broccoli and spinach last, so they don’t over cook.  When thickening and to season, make a slurry of  Shōyu or Tamari with the cornstarch in order to add to stir fry.

Serve over Steamed Jasmine Rice.  Asian Cucumber Salad makes a great starter to this meal.
 

What I have learned so far . . .

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  • When you tell people you are a vegan expect weird looks and people feeling like their way of life is threatened.  Win them over with love and awesome vegan food.  Arguing will never lead to acceptance.  Be prepared for them to ask you why you are a vegan.  Find a way in a condensed form to answer this question without sounding judgmental of their lifestyle.
  • Don’t be a vegan-nazi.  When you are eating out, at a party, or in someone else’s home, do the best you can without making your friends, family, servers, and chefs crazy.  You don’t want to be the person no one wants to invite.
  • Veganized desserts are a good gateway food for non vegans.
  • Offering to bring your own food to a dinner party goes a long way in putting a non vegan host/hostess at ease.
  • Beware of casein.  Casein is a milk protein used in making things like cheese (as well as plastics and adhesives).  Some “veggie” cheeses have casein.  Casein comes from cows, and is therefore, not vegan.  :o)
  • Just because it says it is vegetarian does not in any way make it vegan friendly.  Become an expert in reading labels.
  • When you see an ingredient you have trouble pronouncing or do not know what it is, look it up and make an informed decision before you eat it.
  • Although not healthy, Oreos are in fact vegan! 🙂
  • Whole Foods rocks as a grocery store.  In my home we lovingly call it Vegan Mecca!  Be aware, though, it can be really expensive.
  • There are many vegan processed foods.  These are great, if you are really craving, but please do not make them a staple in your diet.  Fresh wholesome ingredients are amazing in and of themselves.
  • As a vegan, you learn to appreciate vegetables and fruits like you never have.
  • I can eat at almost any restaurant, if they are willing to work with me and see the menu as a springboard of ingredients.
  • Bar-B-Q sauce rocks on a Baked Potato!  Lemon juice works well, too.
  • Shitake mushrooms can be fried in such a way to mimic bacon.  (Had this at a vegan restaurant, Plant, in Ashevile, NC.)  It is the closest thing to good vegan bacon that I have had.
  • Although Daiya Vegan Cheese is highly convenient and good, there are other options.  There is a whole movement of Vegan Artisan Cheeses.  Thinking I am going to learn how to make my own vegan cheese.  Also, if you are making a dish for non vegans that involves cheese, If you by a block of vegan cheese (I love Galaxy’s Vegan Rice Cheddar) and shred it yourself, it looks more like non vegan cheese.
  • Better than Bouillon (the vegan friendly ones) have become staples in our house.
  • Silken Tofu can be used in a myriad of ways.
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer is amazing in baking.
  • Extra Firm Tofu is awesome stir-fried as a protein or used as you would boiled or scrambled eggs.
  • There’s a duo out there who are cooking through and veganizing the entire Betty Crocker Cookbook.  It is because of people like them that I knew I could be a vegan.  You can check them out here:  http://www.meettheshannons.net/p/betty-crocker-project.html
  • Frozen Vegan shrimp/prawns are completely bizarre and rubbery.  Still learning how to veganize seafood well.
  • There is a huge learning curve to being vegan.  Think of it as an adventure.
  • If you are going to shop for new ingredients like Ener-G egg replacer, Vegan Cheezes, Veganaise, etc.  Google them before you leave the house, so that a) you know what they look like, b) you know what section of the store to look in, c) you can figure out what stores carry them.  (And do not be afraid to ask for help.)
  • Vegan sausage is the best vegan meat I have encountered so far.  Vegan pulled pork is a close second.

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

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Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad 

This recipe is great for summer.  Chris and I do this every year when tomatoes and corn are in season.

(Adapted by my husband, Chris, from a Robert Irvine Recipe from Food Network)

 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 pound frozen corn kernels or about 4 ears fresh (do not use canned corn – it becomes gummy)
  • Garlic Powder to taste
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt (preferably fresh ground or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 (24 total ounces) cans of black beans, drained
  • Fresh Tomato
  • And Fresh ¼ cup of Fresh Cilantro

 

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees F.

 

Cut Corn off Cob.  Sauté Corn in Pan with Canola Oil, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Salt, and Black Pepper until slightly tender. Place in the oven until roasted (but not dried out) about 10 minutes.

 

Once you pull the corn out of the oven place in a bowl. Toss with Can of Black Beans. Then toss with simple homemade vinaigrette (see below). Garnish with fresh tomato and cilantro. Then serve. (Makes 4 servings)

 

Simple Homemade Vinaigrette:

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 cup of Canola Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Put vinegar and spices in bowl. Then whisk oil in until it emulsified.

 

Chris’ Caramel Corn, Veganized

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Each year around Christmastime, my hubby, Chris makes Caramel Corn.  Be warned:  it is very addictive and scrumptious!

Ingredients:

  • Popcorn kernels (and popcorn popper)
  • 2 c. Brown Sugar
  • 1 c. Vegan Butter (like Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 c. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla

Directions:

Make 30 cups popped popcorn.  Mix and bring to a rolling boil the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt.  Boil gently for 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Add baking soda and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour over popped corn and blend thoroughly.  Bake 1 hour at 200° stirring every 15 minutes.  Store in airtight containers.

Summery Purple Peruvian Potato Salad

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Summery Purple Peruvian Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • Purple Peruvian Potatoes (quartered)
  • Salt

 

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 heaping tsps creole mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Truvia
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender then drain in collander.  While potatoes are cooking whisk together all the ingredients of dressing except the olive oil.  Then slowly pour in olive oil whisking until emulsified.  Drizzle dressing over warm potatoes.  Toss together to coat.  Then serve.

7 Layer Taco Dip

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7 Layer Taco Dip

When I was a kid and we were having a party, often times my mom would make what she called, Taco Pizza.  It was this 7 Layer Taco Dip.  She served it on a large round pizza pan — hence taco pizza  It was one of my favorite hors d’oeuvre.  It has all theses yummy layers that come together as a cacophony of flavor in your mouth.  I am going to a gathering tonight and this is what I am taking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small can of refried beans (I use vegan friendly ones)
  • 8 ounces of vegan sour cream mixed well with one packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 large tomato chopped and drained (I place the chopped tomato on a paper towel to absorb all the excess water)
  • Guacamole (see my homemade recipe below)
  • 1 can of sliced olives drained ( I used a can of large olives that I had on hand and chopped them myself and drained them on a paper towel)
  • Vegan Rice Cheddar (hand shredded)
  • Pickled Sliced Jalapeños
  • Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

For the first layer, spread the refried beans in the bottom of a 9 X 13 lasagna pan.  Then, on top of the beans, spread the sour cream/taco seasoning mixture.  Next layer is the tomatoes spread out.  Then slather the homemade guacamole over the tomatoes.  Next are the sliced olives.  Then hand shred the rice cheddar over top of everything.  Then dot with the jalapeños.  Serve with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips.  This can be made up ahead of time.  It allows the flavors the opportunity to marry together.  This dip is a colorful, flavorful, and festive dish for any fiesta.  Enjoy!

My Guacamole:

Start with a ripe avocado.  (You can tell it is ripe when you can press it and it yields.  If it does not yield, it is not yet ripe.  Put it back in the windowsill to continue ripening.  If you shake it and hear the pit rolling it is REALLY ripe.  Eat immediately ;o))  Cut around avocado until you have cut it in half.  Take blade of knife and hit against the pit until it is wedged in the pit.  Spin pit and it will pop out.  Hold 1/2 of avocado in hand and make slices one way and then slices the other.  Turn peel inside out and slice under avocado to pop out diced pieces.  Mash avocado.  Roll a lemon or lime.  Cut lemon or lime in half.  Squeeze juice on tope of smashed avocado, taking care to not get any seeds.  Like I said, I don’t measure, but the other ingredients include:  fresh cilantro, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a scoop of your favorite salsa. Mix altogether. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips (or your favorite tortilla chips). So yummy!

Oatmeal Chip Cookies

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Oatmeal cookies have been part of my life since I can first remember.  Each year my mom, my Aunt Lynette, and I (and whoever else happened to be in town) would get together to make Christmas cookies.  One of the cookies we always made were oatmeal.  Sometimes they had chocolate chips, sometimes raisins, sometimes walnuts, sometimes, peanutbutter chips, and sometimes butterscotch chips.  If Aunt Lynette chose, she always chose butterscotch!  Tonight, I did a vegan spin on these Better Homes and Gardens classic.  I pulled out that plaid covered cookbook that takes me back to my mom’s kitchen, and I made vegan oatmeal carob chip cookies.  Here’s what I did:

Happy Goodness . . .

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of Earth Balance (or vegan butter of choice)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (packed down)
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 eggs worth of Ener-G Egg Replacer (OR a 1/2 cup of applesauce)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla (we make our own)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • most of a bag of the 10 oz. bag of vegan carob chips

In large self mixing bowl let Earth Balance beat for about 30 seconds.  Add in brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.  Beat till combined, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add in already whisked up  2 eggs worth of Ener-G Egg Replacer OR Applesauce.  Also add the vanilla.  Beat till combined.  Add in flour little by little till all incorporated.  Then with a wooden spoon stir/fold in the oats and the carob chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons approximately 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes per batch.  Cool cookies on a wire rack.  After initial cooling, transfer to paper towels to finish cooling.  Makes about 4 dozen.

Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Homemade Al Fresco Tomato Sauce

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Today, I decided to give cooking spaghetti squash a try, and it turned out marvelous!  I also had on hand some beautiful fresh tomatoes out of my friend Vivica’s garden.  (Thanks Vivica and Sasha!)

Preheat Oven to 375 F.  Get big @$& knife (or hatchet or whatever means necessary).  Cut (or hack)spaghetti squash in half length wise.  This process takes serious muscles, perseverance, and a good knife.  Scoop out seeds and stringy stuff and discard.  (Think similar to a pumpkin.)  Put halves on sheet pan, cut side up.  Dollop tablespoon of Earth Balance in each half.  Salt and Pepper each half.  Bake for about an hour.

While spaghetti squash is baking get out large skillet.  Use a garlic press to press about 4 cloves of garlic (peeling cloves first, of course).  Cut up a lot of fresh tomatoes (I think I used about 8 to 10 medium sized ones).  In heated large skillet add canola oil, pressed garlic, fresh tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.  I did not measure.  I just added seasoning until it tasted right.  Simmer chunky tomato concoction until tomatoes break down.  I cooked mine on low to 2 or 3 simmering until the spaghetti squash was done, which gave it plenty of time for the water to cook out and the flavors to fuse.  (This sauce would be wonderful to add some fresh basil to toward the end of the cooking process.)

Once the spaghetti squash is done baking use oven gloves to remove pan, and so you can hold onto the squash halves.  Use fork to gently string the spaghetti squash from the peel, incorporating the Earth Balance, salt and pepper.  Divide spaghetti squash into  2 bowls.  Spoon on sauce.  Voila!  Serve.  This is great with a glass of red wine.

For kids (and picky husbands), I would recommend boiling up some whole grain pasta in salted water.  Give them a mix of half pasta and half spaghetti squash with the above sauce.  Chris and I both ate this sans pasta and it was lovely and flavorful.