Monday, August 13, 2012


If you know anything about me you know how much I love cheese. Seriously. I blame it on being born in America's dairy land.

When I decided to incorporate some vegan dishes into my diet I silently mourned the decreasing cheese presence in my life. Which is why I will never go 100% vegan.

I also couldn't try a vegan cheese replacement because I knew I would resent it and would be wishing I was eating real cheese instead.

So I set out to make a quesadilla that would taste delicious and have zero cheese (real or fake).

Enter the sweet potato and black bean quesadilla.

I found a few versions online and just kind of combined all of them with some of my own variations.

I started by puréeing a sweet potato. Since I didn't have time to roast it first I just wrapped it in wet paper towels and Saran wrap and popped it in the microwave. I know the theory that microwaves take away the nutritional value but turns out its just an urban legend. Not that that theory has stopped me before.

After I had some purée I went a little crazy and started adding whatever veggies I had on hand. Corn, black beans, green onions and spinach.

Seasoned it with hot sauce and cayenne pepper.

Let me put in a plug for my most favorite hot sauce.  Use whatever you want, but this brand will definitely do the job.

Then I spread the mixture on a tortilla and cooked it up.

I also made some fresh guacamole to smear on top.

And guess what?

It was good.

I'm not going to say that it tasted exactly like a quesadilla with cheese. Because it didn't. Because there was no cheese. But. It was good. And I didn't even mind that it was sans queso.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

vegan baking take one.

OK guys.
Here it is.  My first attempt at vegan cooking.  And I don't mean a dish, like a salad, that just happens to be vegan.

I mean legitimate, conscious effort, bona fide, straight up (you get the idea...) vegan cooking.

The first idea was sparked from this post on one of my new blog crushes (seriously, I lose track of time so bad it's not even funny reading through her blog.  Not to mention it blows my mind that she has over 4,000 followers.  Kudos).

If you clicked on the link, you already know that this recipe has only TWO ingredients.  That's right, two.

A brownie mix and a can of black beans (I guess technically there are three including the water.  Even more technically four if you add vanilla, but still pretty simple).  Yep.  Black BEANS.  I've heard of beans in baking before, but was never daring enough to actually try it.  Although, the other recipe called for a can of pork and beans, which eliminates the vegan factor.

I fudged (see what I did there?) the recipe a little, except minus the fudge part because she used a fudge brownie mix too, and decided to go for the regular brownie mix and not the reduced fat one.  I also omitted the chocolate chips and added just a little bit of vanilla, like a teaspoon or so.

As much as I love baking and baking from scratch, I'm not above the convenience of a boxed whatever mix, especially when you're trying things out for the first time.

Before you go running for your barf bags, trust me.  These brownies are delicious.  This is coming from someone who used to hate beans and still slightly dry heaves at the thought of refried beans.

I took my chances when my roommates weren't home and hurried to whip up this recipe before they had the chance to think that I really lost my mind.  One of them has already mentioned that I'm "really going all out" when she saw my soy milk in the fridge.  Which I'm still not entirely sure I'm actually going to drink.  For now I plan on using it as an ingredient when cooking.

But back to the brownies.

If you didn't click on the link, but really you should, because her blog is that cool, I'll give you the run down.

Drain and rinse the can of beans.
Put in a blender.
Add a cup of water.
Pulverize the living daylights out of the beans until they are smooth.
Add to the brownie mix.
Bake according to the directions.

That is it.
So Easy.
So Delicious.
Seriously.  They're thick and chewy and don't taste like beans.
So vegan.

I wasn't looking for a vegan brownie recipe when I stumbled across this gem and it isn't even advertised as vegan and busy bee lauren isn't even vegan herself.  But I noticed that all of the two ingredients are vegan friendly.  Yep.  Including the brownie mix.  At least as far as I can tell (cocoa powder is vegan  and it seems like the chocolate in the mix would be the only questionable ingredient).  Even if it ends up not being vegan, it's darn close and my first attempt.  So haters can step off.  At least I'm trying.

I'm trying this one next.

Monday, August 06, 2012

letters to myself

Dear future self,

This month’s fast Sunday was really good. They usually are, but it’s interesting how on occasion every word seems to be exactly what you need to hear at just that moment. It’s been happening a lot lately when I go to church, especially on the Sundays where we abstain from food and water for that set of time, that I find answers to my prayers in the heart felt testimony of others. I wish I could write a thank you card to each person whose testimony has comforted my heart and calmed my worries. But I’d be running out of stamps like you wouldn’t even believe, so I hope that somehow they can feel in return that their words were successful and touched someone.

I hope you remember how you felt each of those times. When hard times arise and trials come a knocking, I hope you remembered how you felt sitting in that chapel. I hope you remember feeling the peace the gospel brings. I hope you allowed that peaceful feeling to pull you through whatever times lie ahead. Hard and good. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. The truth of the gospel.

Sometimes I wish there really was a way I could contact you. Or look into a crystal ball. Or something.

I wonder what life will bring, and if I’m doing the right things to bring it about. If I’m living in the right city. If I’m working at the right job. If I’m associating with the right people.

I wish that you could give me some advice. Answer some of my questions. You could let me know that it really is about time I start worrying less, although it’s still something you’re working on, but making improvements. To really go for your goals. That nothing is too far from reach. That as much as you wish, life will never be as simple as it was on your mission. But that doesn’t need to be a burden or something to resent. That the greater the risk, the greater the reward. To take some chances. To continue doing everything you’re doing.

I suppose that’s the beauty of life. That we don’t always know, but we can know it’s right. That if we’re doing the right thing that it can’t not work out. We know when we’re doing the right thing. We know when we aren’t. We can always try a little harder and we always know in which areas.

current Christine

Thursday, August 02, 2012

adventures in (mostly) plant based eating. part one.

Vegetarian and vegan diets have always seemed intriguingly defeating. Because here's the thing. I'm not going to say that I will never eat something again because I like cheese and I like bacon. But I will say that I am open to the possibility of having a primarily plant based diet where I incorporate more fresh and natural foods into my diet with a very occasional bacon cheeseburger and no guilt.  My eating habits aren't horrible but they can definitely be improved.

So my quest began. But on these conditions.

1. I wasn't going to eat the vegetarian or vegan version of something. My sister went vegan for a while and I didn't understand how her preservative filled veggie shreds replacement for cheese was any better than eating real cheese on occasion. Isn't the point to get away from those food products? It seemed contradictory. I wanted to have meals that were mostly fruit, vegetable and grain based.

2. I wasn't going to go 100% in any direction.  I will never go totally vegetarian or vegan because even though more veggies will never hurt,  I like meat and other animal products and in moderation they can be totally nutritious. The one thing I remember from my nutrition class that I may or may not have almost failed was that although you can get complete proteins from other sources, your body still absorbs complete proteins best from meat. 

3. The ingredients used in dishes I would make had to be either be readily on hand or easy to find. I didn't want to go on a wild goose chase for an obscure oil extracted from a plant that only grows at a certain temperature on the east facing mountain side of a far off country.

4. It had to be nutritionally based and beneficial. Sure one can be vegetarian and not eat meat, but I don't really think that french fries and mac and cheese are better options.

5. They had to be real meals and not just apples and celery sticks for the rest of my life.

6. I couldn't break the bank while eating this way. I'm not going to do it if I have to give up an important limb or my first born child.

7.  This way of eating will be used as a way to implement healthier eating habits.  Not completely change the way I eat just some simple and healthy changes.  I figure making a vegetarian or vegan meal a few times a week will help me eat veggies in a more creative way without getting tired of them because one can only eat a side of broccoli so many days in a row.   

8. Tofu scares me. Which I realize is more of a fact than a condition, but pertinent none the less.

I know that I'm jumping to a lot of ignorant conclusions, but I think most would agree that these are concerns when it comes to plant based diets, especially a vegan one.

I scoured the Internet and talked to coworkers and friends who ate vegan or vegetarian diets and the response was exciting.

Sure, I found a lot of recipes with a lot of very strange ingredients that I immediately discarded. But I also found an aresenal of resources for easy, simple and delicious sounding meals that you don't necessarily have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy.

Here goes nothing.

Stay tuned for updates.

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