Quinoa Tabouleh

I’ve been enjoying monthly cooking classes with the executive chefs at INOVA Fairfax Medical Campus where I work — they are funny and informative.  I’ve enjoyed playing with their expert knives and I even got to keep the chefs hat they handed out!

One of their yummy summer side dishes was a Quinoa Tabouleh.  I tweaked it a bit and even suggested adding dried cranberries, the chefs agreed they made the dish even better — everyone in the class started adding them too.  I also thought the recipe called for too much lemon juice and I added sugar so below is my version of their recipe:

Cook eight ounces of quinoa per package instructions and set aside to cool.

Chop up the following and add to the cooled quinoa:

1/2 cups fresh parsley, mint, cilantro, and chive each.  1/2 cup finely minced red onion, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp white pepper, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries.  Mix well and enjoy.

Perfect side dish for a summer barbeque!

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Vegan Mac & Cheese

Earth Balance has done it!  They’ve created a vegan mac and cheese that would pass a blind taste test with Kraft.  Not that Kraft mac and cheese is the height of culinary delight but it is a comfort food that I was very much in need of after getting two suspicious moles removed from my back.  It hurt worse that I thought it would and I was being a big baby!  I was hungry and just wanted comfort food.  My husband whipped up a box of Earth Balance Mac & Cheese with Earth Balance butter and almond milk and it was just the medicine I needed.

The moles turned out to be nothing to worry about but I’ve learned a lesson — no more laps in the pool sans suit!  Although, skinny dipping is truly one of life’s wonderful pleasures and when you have a private pool all secluded with a six foot fence, why not?

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Vegan Queso Dip

As I’ve admitted several times in this blog — I love cheese!  I’m always on the hunt for vegan versions of my favorites.  Queso dip was at the top of the list but I’ve been searching all this time for one that was satisfying and I finally found it!

The dip started with a recipe for a vegan cheese ball by the Vegabond Chef, Brad Myers.  I attended his Holiday Appetizers cooking class back in December and the cheese ball was one of the appetizers he showed us how to make (see my 12/25/14 post for his wrapped and stuffed dates recipe).  From this basic recipe I eliminated the coconut oil and drizzled a bit of olive oil instead and added about a cup of creamy cashew milk until I reached the desired consistency.  Then I added a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies (I used mild but choose original if you want an extra kick).

So yummy and much better for you than the Velveeta version!

Brad’s recipe is as follows: start by soaking two cups of cashews and 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes overnight (I boiled for ten minutes).  Drain the soaked cashews and sun dried tomatoes and pour into a high speed blender such as a Vitamix.  Then add 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup of coconut oil (I eliminated this for the dip and drizzled with olive oil instead), 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Blend until smooth then allow to cool in the refrigerator before rolling into a ball and cover with sliced almonds.  I haven’t made the ball version myself but tasted it at Brad’s class and it was delicious.

To make it into a dip I followed the instructions for the ball up to allowing to cool.  Instead I left the mixture in the blender and slowly added creamy cashew milk to the mixture until it was the consistency I was looking for — I didn’t measure but I’m guessing it was about one cup.  You may want it thicker or runnier so pour and blend as you go.  When done, place the mixture in a pan on the stove and add one can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies then cook until warm.  Serve with chips and enjoy!

The first time I made this dip it was with the suggested coconut oil and the coconut flavor overpowered the dip so the second time I made it I used just a bit of olive oil instead and it was perfect.  I understand why it’s in the cheese ball for consistency but also because coconut oil is a superfood with powerful medicinal properties — everything Brad creates is delicious and healthy!

I’m also thinking about other possibilities — if I eliminate the Rotel it would make a nice base for mac & cheese or adding more cashew milk and steamed broccoli could produce a wonderful broccoli cheddar soup — will try that soon!

For more on Brad Myers, follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thevegabondchef.

This recipe was perfect for us last night — we’ve been so busy getting the house ready to sell that a movie night on the couch was long overdue.  I highly recommend, “The Theory of Everything” if you haven’t already seen it — Eddie Redmayne deserves his awards!  It’s one of those movies that really sends a powerful message about love and fortitude.  I have to say how grateful I am for my wonderful husband — he is truly the perfect fit for me!  I was out of state interviewing for a few days last week and came home to a bouquet of flowers, he missed me.  Check him out at http://www.nuvue-cinema.com/.

To follow along with my theme of effortlessness this year, here is a quote from the movie:

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking

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Buckwheat Waffles

I get asked a lot what I eat for breakfast — I was never a big egg fan before so this is easy!  My cousin bought me a great Mickey Mouse waffle maker so I pull it out for fun any chance I get.

Simply find a buckwheat mix you like and follow the instructions — using an egg substitute and non dairy milk of course!  I like Arrowhead Mills Organic, they suggest an egg substitute and soy or rice milk right on the package.

Add some fresh fruit and you’re all set — effortless (remember my word?)!

I texted this photo to my sister and she said my niece, two year old Ruby, was all smiles when she saw it.  Luckily our other sister got her the same waffle maker for Christmas so she can enjoy Mickey waffles at her home in Denver.  My family is too far away!  Both of my sisters are in Denver, my dad in NY, aunts/uncles and cousins scattered through NY, VT, NH, and MA.  Moving to Florida was good for us in many ways and we’ve had visitors during the harsh winters but I think I’d rather be closer to family.  Is it time to uproot our lives again and move north?  My husband’s business base is in NY so he travels there constantly — maybe it’s best we move back and I can somehow deal with the cold and being away from the beach?  But what about my “little sister” — being a volunteer with Big Brothers/Sisters was one thing that kept me going when depressed last year — my little sister is a ball of fun energy, I would miss her terribly!  What’s a girl to do?

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Tampa Bay Veg Fest & Dr. Neal D. Barnard!

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I met one of my heroes at the Tampa Bay Veg Fest — Dr. Neal D. Barnard!  His books have changed our lives, I recommend you check out “Program for Reversing Diabetes” and “21-Day Weight Loss Kick Start” — easy reads.  Click on the link above to visit Dr. Barnard’s website.

Dr. Barnard was a headline speaker at the Veg Fest — my friend Cindy and I arrived early and got the chance to meet and chat with him a bit, he was so gracious in answering our questions and seemed genuinely interested in our results.  His lecture was so inspiring we walked out excited and recommitted to Vegan eating.  He was there promoting his new book, “Power Foods for the Brain” and we were amazed at the research.  Some highlights:

  • Americans eat one million animals per hour!
  • High fat diets of meat and dairy triple your risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • 21 year study showed double the risk of mild cognitive impairment with high fat diet.
  • Those with the APOE4 Alzheimer’s gene were able to cut their risk of developing the disease by 80% with a vegan diet!
  • Shellfish has twice the fat and cholesterol as steak!
  • Use nuts as an ingredient, not as a snack because they have cocaine in them (okay this was a joke but he said they are that addictive!)
  • It’s the concord grape in wine that gives us the health benefit, not the wine itself – have grapes or other colorful fruits daily.
  • Animal protein linked to gradual loss of kidney function.
  • Cheese is so addictive because it has the highest concentration of casein (main protein in dairy shown to cause cancer in rats) in any food — literally acts as an opiate!
  • Instead of thinking that you have to give up meat and dairy — think of it in terms of giving up diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol!
  • The kids growing up today — 50% of them will get cancer with their current unhealthy diet of fast food.

Dr. Barnard was the highlight of the day but we also enjoyed visiting the vendors, trying food samples, and getting coupons — we’ll be back next year!


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Epcot Food & Wine Festival

We love our Disney World seasons pass — we can go whenever we want and enjoy the happiest place on earth!  The last three years we’ve attended the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.  This is our first year vegan so we were not sure how much we would be able to sample.  There were vegetarian selections at almost every country booth and a few vegan options as well.  There was one booth that only carried vegan food — it wasn’t hosted by a country, it was called Terra in celebration of the bounty of plant based foods.  They featured Gardein products that we can purchase at our local Publix grocery store.  I’ve been hesitant in trying their beef and chicken alternatives but after trying them at Epcot I’m eager to try making them at home!

Pictured are the two samples we tried, my husband and I both loved the Chili Colorado with House-made chips and cashew cheese featuring Gardein Beefless tips — so moist and meaty!  My husband enjoyed the Trick’n Chick’n with Basmati Rice featuring Gardein Chick’n breast — I didn’t like that one as much, the texture wasn’t as appetizing.  The best was the Chocolate Cake with Coconut Mousse & Passion Fruit Sauce and fresh watermelon juice.

Disney is a wonderful place to eat as a vegan or with any food allergies, the chefs will come out to your table and speak to you about your options, some even make a special meal just for you!  It was nice to attend this annual event and find the same spirit of service in doing anything to please the guest — why we love our visits so much!


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Hug a Vegan Day!

I found this fun image on the “Being Vegan” Facebook page announcing that today is Hug a Vegan Day!  I thought what good timing because I am in need of hugs!  I’ve been struggling lately with my husband out of town — I miss him terribly.  While he’s away I tend to get into a rut of making the same foods and have nothing new to post!  Plus, I hate to admit it but I’m so out of integrity right now and need to come clean.  I’ve been cheating with cheese lately — I hate the milk industry and what happens to cows but cheese tastes so good!  I fall into old habits when I’m depressed and I’m in a deep one right now.  I left my job in the spring and thought I’d have no problem finding another, plus I was enjoying having the summer off!  But summer is over now and I’m bored.  Without a sense of purpose in the morning and with my husband gone, I’ve found solace in mac & cheese — isn’t that lame?  It’s my comfort food and as a result, I’ve been sick for weeks.  It dawned on me that I must have had a lactose intolerance and never realized it until I added it back into my diet after not having it for months.  Did that epiphany stopped the cheating?  Not until today — I’m taking a stand by admitting defeat to my readers and recommitting myself to a vegan lifestyle.  I just hope the cows can forgive my human moments of weakness…

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“Food is for Living”

After two weeks in upstate NY we ventured south to visit more family and friends.  While on Long Island, our friends Kathy and Frank took us to Rangmahal Indian Cuisine on South Broadway in Hicksville, NY (Rangmahalcuisine.com).  I don’t have the words to describe just how incredible this place is — family run and friendly with mouthwatering dishes that make your heart sing!  There were three generations of  family members serving and entertaining us (the baby was just so cute!) — the patriarch said to us, “Food is for living, not for profit!”  All their chicken dishes came with the option of soy chicken so we jumped right in — I ordered the non dairy soy chicken tiki masala with garlic naan and truly felt it was one of the best meals I’d ever had.  I can’t remember the name of the meal my husband had but he was thrilled as well.  The family was very attentive to us and there was even live entertainment.  A modified guitar to sound like a sitar with a bongo drummer — they were both friends of Kathy and Franks so we got to chat with them as well.  Overall is was a wonderful night of fabulous food, music, and fun — we felt the love all around us.

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A Birthday Wish!

Today is my birthday and if my wish comes true when I blow out the candles everyone will want to be vegan!  Thought I’d re-share a post from the early days of this blog to help you with the transition.

Tip #1: Start slow — don’t go cold turkey (or tofurkey!) or you may get discouraged.  Add more vegetarian meals to your diet before going vegan.  I don’t even miss meat at all — in fact, the thought of it makes me sick now.  I still miss cheese though, there are some good substitutes (Daiya Cheese) but when I get a craving for real cheese I simply conjure up the sad image of a calf being taken away from its mother so the cow can produce milk for humans — gets me every time!

Tip #2: Educate yourself — on the health benefits, factory farming, and environmental factors.  Read vegan health books (Get Healthy, Go Vegan by Neal Barnard, MD) and get a simple vegan cookbook (Quick Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson), watch the movies, “Forks over Knives” and “Vegucated” , talk to a doctor that understands the vegan diet (make sure to take supplements for B12 and D), and of course check out my blog on a regular basis!

Tip #3: Don’t do it alone!  I started this to support my husband and his quest to reverse his diabetes — I knew he couldn’t do it without me and in turn, he has been a great support to me!  We are saving money but not eating out as much and we’re having fun cooking together!

Tip #4: Find some quick food choices for the times you’re feeling vulnerable.  Always have foods on hand that are satisfying and quick like Boca burgers or an Amy’s frozen vegan meal.  Find out where you can go in your area to eat vegan food out for those days you just can’t bring yourself to cook — we enjoy Moe’s Southwest Grill, they have the Art Vandelay veggie burrito with tofu!  In a pinch, the TacoBell veggie Catina burrito is a fast option — you can even get the 7 layer burrito without cheese and sour cream (then it’s 5 layers) and stay on a vegan eating plan.

Tip #5: Keep it fun and simple — plant your own garden, frequent your local farmers market (luckily they are all over the place in Florida), and commit to the lifestyle — you will notice the rewards of eating healthier right away!

Tomorrow, we’re heading to the Adirondacks for two weeks to spend some time with family on Lake George — dad has four little cabins on the lake and they hold the fondest memories along with the draw of total relaxation and family fun!  I probably won’t be posting much while gone so think about these five tips and making the transition — try it for a week!

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Vegan Role Model?

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I love this article (click link to read) — all about being a vegan role model and the pressure that often comes from it.  The author asks the question, “Do we have a duty then, as vegan role models to step away from the ethical cupcakes or is it actually a positive thing to show people that vegans don’t all conform to the skinny, pale stereotype?”  While I was handing out my VeganViola business cards at a vegan buffet Saturday I couldn’t help but wonder if those accepting the cards were thinking, “does she look enough like a credible vegan for me to check out her blog?”

What does a vegan look like?  We come in all shapes and sizes just like the rest of the world!

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