Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baked Acorn Squash

I enjoy this recipe as a side dish or as a snack.  It really is more like a dessert (it has sweetness from the maple syrup/brown sugar).  Also, I save the squash seeds and roast them with a little salt & pepper for a tasty treat.

1 Acorn Squash, halved, with seeds scooped out
2 TBSP Coconut Earth Balance
maple syrup (lightly drizzled)
apple pie spice

optional: 2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
I prick the insides of the squash with a fork to allow the Earthbalance and spices to melt into the squash better. Fill the insides of the squash with the Earthbalance (1 TBSP in each half).  Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with apple pie spice or cinnamon.  Sometimes I add a little brown sugar as well.  Place the squash upright on a cookie sheet.  They will look like little bowls. I cover the bottom of the cookie sheet with a thin layer of water (helps steam the squash while cooking).

Cook for about 45 minutes. Sometimes they need more time, sometimes less. I recommend checking at around 35 minutes by pricking with a fork. You can add more steaming water at this time if the original water has dried up. The inside, squash flesh will be really soft when done.

I stuck some left over, cooked quinoa inside one of the squash halves when there was only 10 minutes left of cooking time. It was yummy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

My friend Nana brought the best salad dressing to a dinner night at my house! She was kind to pass the recipe along because it is so darn tasty!! and also healthy.  Big fan!

The original recipe is here:

Both recipes are delish!  I just wanted to switch it up a little (switched basil for cilantro & a few other minor changes)...

2 small avocados (scoop out & use the flesh only)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 TBSP organic apple cider vinegar
7-8 TBSP water
3 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed fresh organic parsley
1/2 cup packed fresh organic cilantro
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of organic can sugar

Add all ingredients (except the water) to food processor. Process until smooth. Scrape the sides. Keep processing adding 1 TBSP water at a time to your desired thickness.

I stored the left overs in a recycled glass container to enjoy later on this week!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Path of Wisdom, Path of Peace

 His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Path of Wisdom, Path of Peace. A Personal Conversation by Felizitas Von Schoenborn.

I picked this book up at the library the other day.  A few years back I watched "Seven Years in Tibet" and I have had a soft spot in my heart for the Dalai Lama ever since.  I also watched a documentary on the Dalai Lama on Netflix shortly after watching "Seven Years in Tibet".  It turns out one of my sister's close friends from high school is now a Buddhist nun over in Tibet!  It is a small world.  Although I am not buddhist, I enjoyed this book.  My favorite part was the back and forth conversation between the Dalai Lama and the author. I felt like his holiness' answers were profound yet graspable.  Sometimes I feel that theological or ideological concepts can be too complex.  The Dalai Lama drove to the heart of the questions with simple answers.  I would recommend checking this book out at the library or borrowing it, unless you are Buddhist and want it for your collection.

I feel that anytime I read about another culture it helps me to see that life is not black and white. That people are different, that we are all human, we all want to be loved and to seek truth.

Some Great Quotes From The Book:

"World peace begins with a peaceful heart."

"Religion can give people trust and confidence in time of need. Gives Humanity the gift of hope in affliction" (I paraphrased this one)

"A healthy dose of skepticism must be part of the search for truth"

"Conversation with people who think differently is very important."

"Our true enemies are our own bad thoughts."

"The more we own, the more we can lose."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Card Artwork

I received this going away card from the Saint B's Surf Club, Pacific Beach, CA when I moved back east. I miss you all so much! I have kept this card because I LOVE the artwork. It is one of my favorite images. I have tried to find the artist online but have not had any luck.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chicknless Salad

Okay, I don't think this 'chickn' salad tastes anything like chicken, but it sure is yummy!
My recipe is very loosely based on THIS recipe from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.

1/2 of block of organic tempeh, poached for 10 minutes and cooled
1/2 rib of  organic celery, chopped
2 TBSP organic cucumber, chopped
1 TBSP sweet yellow onion, very finely chopped
2 TBSP chopped almonds, finely chopped
1 TBSP fresh organic parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 TBSP Veganaise (I used 1 for this recipe)
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
pinch of black pepper

Optional- Cento hot cherry peppers. I love these! I didn't add it to this recipe this time though because I had them earlier and didn't want to "pepper" my tummy out.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quick Zip Hummus

I love hummus but I don't like all the preservatives in the run-of-the-mill hummus that is available at the grocery store.  Making hummus is easy and fun! Below is a recipe that John and I enjoy, it has a hint of smokey flavor.

1 can organic chick peas
1/4 cup tahini (I use Krinos)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 or 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (depends on how lemony you like it!)
2 cloves minced garlic, pre-cooked (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules - I use Penzey's)
1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (depends on how smokey you like it)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of pepper
pinch of sea salt
4 - 5 dandelion leaves (pick leaves that have not had a flower produced from the plant. After flowering, the leaves become bitter) I add these to increase the nutrients in the hummus. I wish I had larger leaves but since it is the end of fall, it can be difficult to find larger leaves that have not had a flower.

Straint and rinse chick peas well. Add all ingredients to a food processor.  If the mixture is thick, add a little water (one teaspoon at a time) until the consistency is smooth and congealed but NOT runny.

I like to dust the top with paprika. I also love some heat to my hummus so I add Cento chopped Cherry Peppers.  Enjoy with veggie sticks, chips, on sandwiches, etc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Switch It Out: Deodorant

I have been on a quest to find the safest deodorant (that actually works) for about 6 or 7 years now. Back in college, a friend had told me about a possible link with aluminum and Alzheimer's and breast cancer. I didn't want to be putting chemicals right near my ta-tas so I decided to stop using antiperspirants. From what I know, there isn't enough data available on what causes Alzheimer's or breast cancer and some studies show conflicting information so I wanted to play it safe.

 I have tried MANY deodorants and many of them have left me seriously disappointed.  They have either not worked well, stained my shirts, or feigned being natural/safe. Some of the deodorants that I currently have in my stash are (left to right).

Pure Hearts Clean Hands Natural Deodorant in Lemongrass, Nourish Organic Deodorant in Almond-Vanilla, Crystal Essence in Pomegranate.

My favorite here is  Pure Hearts Clean Hands. I like the scent and I feel like it stays on longer than the other two.  It is a tiny bit sticky though. Good price and I like the company. I had an issue with an order and customer service was great!  I did notice a slight oily residue in the armpits of my clothing but it washes right out.  Rated a "1" on EWG skin deep. If you are strict vegan this item does contain beeswax. I am vegan in all other areas, but I do eat honey and purchase items that have honey, beeswax in them.

Nourish smells great but I feel like it is exfoliating my armpits as I put it on (kind of a rough sensation on a sensitive area)!   I do have to re-apply after a few hours to keep protection up and I think it is a bit expensive. Rated a "3" on EWG skin deep (contains fragrance - although it is organic & EWG did not differentiate) This item also contains beeswax.

I purchased Crystal Essence at the local CVS after reading it was rated "0" on the EWG skin deep database. I used to let it air dry on my armpits before putting a shirt on but I have found this deodorant works better if I just put it on when I have my shirt already on. I'm not sure if the deodorant gets on the shirt and helps protect against odor better but I have found this helps keep stinkies away. I do have to re-apply Crystal Essence.

Sometimes John and I will go out for a fancy event and I don't want to risk getting the essential oil from my Pure Heart deodorant on my dress and I will use my husband's deodorant. He uses Old Spice Pure Sport deodorant (not the antiperspirant).  I only use it for very special occasions. It is rated a "3" on EWG skin deep. Some iffy ingredients that it contains: triclosan, SD alcohol 40, propylene glycol and fragrance.  Old Spice also tests on animals (cue the booing). It kills me to think about a little monkey or rat getting old spice smeared in their eyes.  I have tried to convince John to try a different deodorant, but we are still working on that.

*Some other "natural" deodorants that I have tried:

Aubrey Organic E Plus High C Roll-On Deodorant- This was a recommendation from a health food store worker. It didn't work very well for me, but I was also letting it dry and then putting on my clothing. Maybe it would work better if I put it on and allowed it to get on my shirt (like the Crystal Essence)? Love that it is vegan and does not contain bad ingredients. 

Alvera All Natural Roll-On Deodorant Aloe and Almond- This was a recommendation from a health food store worker. It didn't work very well for me, but I was also letting it dry and then putting on my clothing. Maybe it would work better if I put it on and allowed it to get on my shirt (like the Crystal Essence)? Love that it is vegan and does not contain bad ingredients. 
I KNOW this was just copied and pasted from the above review, but it is true!

Jason Deodorant Stick Nourishing Apricot- This just didn't work for me. I had to keep applying it.

Earth Science Liken Plant Natural Deodorant- I tried this a long time ago and really do not remember it. I think I remember it working alright.  

The Body Shop - DeoDry Fresh and Floral Stick- it is not antiperspirant (good) but it contains a lot other chemicals (bad) that I am not sure I want on my body. This is a good example of green-washing. The Body Shop may have discontinued the stick version of the scent I had tried. I also would have to reapply this a lot. It was rated "6" on a scale of 10 for toxicity on EWG skin deep.

Herban Cowboy Deodorant- The scent that I bought smelled like nutmeg to me. It was an odd scent for a deodorant. I didn't feel like this worked well for me. I had to reapply often.

Dr. Mist Deodorant- This did not work for me at all! And it is expensive. The only good part was that I recycled the bottle (mini spray bottle) and have made a spray of salt water and tea tree oil. It works well to fight fungus. The dispenser is high quality but the deodorant was nothing to write home about.

Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant-  Here is another example of green-washing.  The product says it doesn't contain parabens or aluminum but there are other chemicals in there that are not good!  Check out this review on this deodorant-  
I do have to say, this did fight off odor and is very inexpensive but I decided not to purchase again because of the other chemicals in it. Honestly, I think my Pure Hearts works better than this one.

Tom's of Maine Natural Care Deodorant Stick, Apricot- Smells nice but did not last long on me. I had to keep reapplying.  Decent price though.

Tom's of Maine Long Lasting 24-Hour Deodorant- I don't remember the scent I bought but I ended up returning it. I used it a few times but it was so sticky and gross feeling. I am not sure if Tom's even makes this anymore; I haven't seen it at the local health food store lately.

I have tried 3 or 4 other deodorants but I cannot remember them at the moment (must not have been that good). I am really enjoying my Pure Hearts Deodorant. They also have other scents - Lavender, Orange, Unscented.  

* Some of these may have been reformulated and may work well now. I am just going off of my own experience.  Also, some of them may not be vegan. I started my deodorant quest before I became vegan. 

I would love to hear about any products that you recommend! I am excited to learn what others have tried and liked. Please feel free to share by posting a comment below. Thanks!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slap-Together Sauce

The other night, I stood pondering what I should make for dinner. I had purchased a bunch of organic tomatoes that were on sale for ridiculously cheap ($1 a pint!).  I decided to make a homemade sauce with organic whole wheat pasta.

2 pints organic grape tomatoes
4 large organic tomatoes, cut into small chunks
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf

5-10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Penzey's Tuscan Sunset spice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon rosemary

pinch cayenne

3 organic potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pimento pepper, chopped
1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

I heated up the cherry tomatoes and tomato chunks with a little organic olive oil.  Once they were heated up, I crushed them with a potato masher. They stewed for 10 minutes and I added the chopped garlic, bay leaf, sugar, and all of the spices. Keep cooking while you make the veggies.

In a separate pot, I cooked the veggies (potatoes, carrots, pepper, sweet potato) with the water (covered the pot) for 10-15 minutes on medium.  I added a few spoonfuls of the tomato mixture when the veggies got a little dry (remove bay leaf before scooping any tomato into your veggies).  I added a few more large spoonfuls of the tomato mixture to the veggies and pureed with an immersion blender.  You can add more or less water, whatever you like for consistency.  My sauce turned out really thick!

We had pasta the first night (picture below shows pasta with sauce and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast).  The second night we made quick pizzas (homemade sourdough bread sliced medium thickness. I put the sauce on top, some veggies & Daiya, non-dairy cheese- into the oven at 375 for 10 minutes and BAM! magical vegan pizza). Some veggies should be pre-cooked (onions, mushrooms) while avocado chunks, artichoke hearts and tomato slices are good to put on when you cook for the 10 minutes.  I only took pictures of the pasta though, sorry!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: Not Just A Pretty Face

Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan

This book focused mostly on phthalates (pronounced "thal- lates") in cosmetics.  It goes into detail on why the EU banned them and what has allowed the beauty industry in the US to keep pumping our products full of these "stabilizers" and "plasticizers".

Companies are not required to list phthalates in the ingredients and mask this by lumping different chemicals (including several different kinds of phthalates) under the word FRAGRANCE.  So many products have "fragrance" listed in them- cleaning products, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, all kinds of cosmetics, perfume, candles.

Some great quotes from the book:
"The majority of industrial chemicals were allowed onto the market with no safety testing to determine their health impacts"

"The way the system works in the US is that the cosmetics companies get to decide for themselves what's safe"

"... the CDC researchers reported that women age 20 to 40 appeared to have the highest levels of DBP in their bodies. This was a concern. Women in this group- childbearing age- were the ones who would most likely expose their developing babies to DBP, a chemical that causes birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in male animals exposed in the womb."
* DBP is dibutyl phthalate

"For 25 years we've known that phthalates disrupt the production of testosterone critical for the masculinization of the male species, said Earl Gray, a top phthalate researcher at the US Environmental Protection Agency."

" (DBP) can block male hormones called androgens, which are responsible for making a male into a male."

No thank you Bath and Body Works. No thank you Yankee Candle. No thank you Suave.

I recommend this book especially if you are looking at becoming pregnant, are pregnant or have small kiddos. Based on reading I have done, I believe phthalates are risky. I know I would rather be safe than sorry, so I decided to kick them out of my house. This was SOOO hard for me to do because I love scented candles, fancy make-up, and perfumes.

I have been able to find some really yummy smelling alternatives that are fragranced with essential oils and/or phthalate-free fragrances. I have also come to love unscented/ fragrance-free products as well.

Some great alternatives:
Candles- Paddy Wax, Mrs. Meyer's Candles.  I also found a ETSY seller who makes organic soy candles and fragrances them with 100% organic essential oils.

Perfume- Pacifica (love Tahitian Gardenia, and Sandalwood), essential oils

Baby Toys- Phthalate-free & BPA-free, especially if the baby is at the age where they put the toy in their mouth & chew on it

Cleaning Products- Vinegar is the bomb.

Showering-  Broo shampoo, conditioner & body wash are fragranced, yet phthalate-free. Smell so good & made locally in Asheville, NC.  EveryDay Shea is another good product (especially price wise).

Some other common products that contain phthalates:
* certain plastics- vinyl shower curtains, rubber duckies, baby toys

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegan Mac N Cheese

Sorry I have not posted in a few days. Our family took a trip to Asheville, NC this past weekend. If you have never been and you are looking for a great place to take a mountain vacation, Asheville is great!  Lots of vegan options and even a 100% vegan restaurant PLANT.  They also have a lot of great natural body care and progressive store fronts. We took a hike at the NC Aboretum, learned about botany and saw some really interesting bonsai trees in their dedicated bonsai exhibit. It was a great time!

I made some Mac N Cheese (not real cheese of course!) the other night. John absolutely LOVES this recipe. I have done a few things differently and wanted to re-type the recipe in this blog to reflect that. This recipe is based off of VegNews Vegan Macaroni and Cheese from October 4, 2008.

4 quarts water
16 oz organic macaroni (I like the bow ties)

4 slices of homemade sourdough bread
2 TBSP coconut EarthBalance (in the red and white container)

2 cups organic yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons organic green onions chopped
1/2 cup organic carrots, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups water

1/3 cup coconut EarthBalance (in the red and white container)
1/2 cup organic, raw cashews
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 TBSP lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
a little less than 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Fresh organic parsley (2-3 TBSP)

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a food processor, make breadcrumbs from the 4 slices of bread and the 2 TBSP Earth Balance. Pulverize to a medium-fine consistency.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add potatoes, green onions, carrots, onion and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes or until veggies are very soft.

In a food processor, blend the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup EarthBalance, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper and cayenne.  Add the softened vegetables and cooking water to the food processor and process together until really smooth.

In a large bowl, mix the pasta and blended "cheese" sauce until the pasta is covered. Spread the mixture into a 9 X 12 casserole dish. Sprinkle with your homemade bread crumbs and then dusk with 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.

I like to add 2 TBSP of fresh organic parsley right before serving. Sometimes I chop it up and other times I leave it whole. I think it adds a nice POP of color to the dish.

The original recipe is really good too- more EarthBalance, salt and cayenne. I just prefer less of those things.