Earth Fare makes it easier to eat healthy in Cleveland

Tonight, I died and went to Earth Fare.

(via Earth Fare Cleveland's Facebook page)
You see, I fell in love with the natural food grocery chain when I lived briefly in Raleigh, NC, last winter. Their vast organic produce section, diverse bulk bins, stellar wine selection and Earth Fare-branded products won me over and I was heartbroken when I realized that there would be no Earth Fare when I moved to Cleveland in the spring.

Luckily for me, things change. Earth Fare opened their newest store in Fairview Park on Cleveland's west side today. They opened the store at 7:45am and I can't imagine what it must have been like. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there, so I decided to stop by in the evening on my way home.

(via Earth Fare Cleveland's Facebook page)
I wasn't the only one who had this brilliant idea. The parking lot was overflowing. The aisles were elbow-to-elbow. Children were yelling. Employees looked frazzled.

It looked like it was a great day.

Since I was already familiar with Earth Fare's fare, as it were, I took my time and observed one common reaction of my fellow shoppers over and over. People were poring over products they had never HEARD OF before, let alone seen in person. From the packaged seitan to vegan mayo to kamut pasta and on, I heard mostly amazement and joy as I nudged my way carefully down the aisles.

Of course, I came in with a grocery list myself. I had a number of items in mind that I wanted to pick up, but hadn't been able to locate anywhere else on the west side of Cleveland. I was able to get everything on my list - and then some. Stay tuned to future posts where I'll review a few special items that managed to fall into my shopping cart. In the meanwhile, check to see if there's an Earth Fare near you and if you haven't visited, take the time. Just think twice about going on opening day.


Pick from these Holiday Gift Ideas and Nobody Gets Hurts

Cruelty-free holiday gifts aren't just for the vegans on your shopping list. Help make the world a better place, one purchase at a time, by choosing vegan items that are eco-friendly, affordable, and 100% animal-free.

1. The lovely folks at Vegan Cuts, home of the vegan daily deal, put together Holiday Shopping Guide in PDF format. It's got ideas for him, her, yourself, Mom, and even the dog. It's even got a few recipes for DIY  gifts, if you prefer to make your own holiday gifts rather than purchasing them.

2. Vegan Mainstream's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide is chock full of gift options and many of them carry a special discount for VM readers. Here are some of my favorites from the list:

Soft, fleecy hand-warmers from Xmittens in a variety of colors and styles (I have a pair of these and I <3 <3 <3 them!)

(via Xmittens)
Belt made from recycled coffee bean bags:

(via Etsy)
3. The list of Holiday Gift Ideas from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe includes edibles, wearables, and other cool items to help the vegans on their list show their veg pride, like the ever-popular "vegan" cereal bowl:

(via Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe)
And cool vegan t-shirts from Herbivore Clothing:

(via Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe)
No matter what the culinary persuasion of the gift recipients on your list, consider shopping from one of these small businesses and support their efforts to make the world a slightly better place, one gift at a time.


Vote for me in the Everyday Chef Challenge!

Update: Voting closed at 3pm EST on November 14. Many thanks to those who voted! Please check out the recipe, and feel free to show your support by sharing it on Twitter and Facebook, or clicking the Facebook "like" button at the bottom of the page.

One of my favorite brands, Pacific Natural Foods, is hosting a recipe contest for the holiday season and I couldn't resist throwing my hat into the ring. They're calling it the Everyday Chef Challenge and that definitely sounds like me, since one of my main focuses is fitting delicious, healthy food into everyday life.

The contests asks for recipes that feature one or more of Pacific's products and since I use their organic low sodium vegetable broth and their unsweetened almond milk on a regular basis, this was no challenge at all.

I submitted a hearty, satisfying and healthy main dish to the contest: Barley Brown Rice Risotto.

The judges at Pacific Natural Foods will be picking the winners in each category but there is also a People's Choice award up for grabs. Please check out my recipe and vote here for my Barley Brown Rice Risotto!


Vegan Mofo Post #11: Nutty Quinoa Granola

It's the last and final day of VeganMoFo, the Vegan Month of Food! This month, I've cooked up some great new dishes that became quick favorites, like warm, comforting Barley Brown Rice Risotto and the surprisingly good Basil Apple Mustard Panini. But I also revisited a few old friends like Mushroom Barley Soup and Raw Chia Oat Pudding, which will forever be staples in my kitchen.

So, what better way to end this particular month of food than by combining something old with something new?

The old is granola. I make granola all the time, but I usually make it the same way, more or less. I might add in a different type of nut, or change the quantity of coconut flakes, but it's always basically the same. Except this batch. This batch is something completely new and different because it's full of quinoa!

You know quinoa, right? Quinoa (pronounced "keen-WAH") is a protein-packed ancient grain. In fact, it's a complete protein, which means it naturally contains all of the essential amino acids. Plus, it's tasty and really versatile. You may have seen (or eaten) quinoa cooked and used in a dish where rice or even couscous might usually appear. Undoubtedly, that's the most common quinoa application, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I just felt like doing something different.

Once I got the quinoa-granola idea in my head, I knew I wanted to make something where quinoa was really the star. To get some ideas, I cruised around the interwebs and found Hungry Hungry Hippie, whose website is full of fresh and mostly vegan recipes. Her quinoa granola was the perfect inspiration for my nuttier, crunchier version.

Quinoa Granola
Yield: About 5 cups

1 cup oats
1/2 cup quinoa
1/3 cup amaranth seeds (or more quinoa)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine oats, grains, nuts and berries in a large bowl and stir until well combined. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. 
  4. Pour liquids over the granola mixture and stir gently until coated. (I like to use a spatula and "fold" the mixture together.)
  5. Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake 60-75 minutes, stirring every 20-25 minutes. 
  6. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet before transferring to an airtight container. 

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VeganMoFo #10: It's all gravy, baby...

After several days in a row of heavy rains, high winds and low temperatures, I developed a wicked craving for biscuits and gravy. I rarely make it myself because I can't top (or even match) my favorite almond gravy at Vita Cafe in Portland, Oregon. So, I don't make almond gravy. Instead, I usually go with a white bean-based gravy or, like this one, a hearty mushroom-thyme gravy.

Although I typically prefer my mushroom gravy over my old-fashioned rolled biscuits, I had a special request to make cornbread. I used the cornbread muffin recipe from my Southern Green Cornbread Cakes and left out the topping. I thought the cornbread muffins might be a suitable substitute for biscuits in this case. It's good to be right.

This particular recipe is loosely based on this one from Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Mushroom Gravy over Cornbread Cakes

Mushroom Gravy
Yield: About 3 cups

1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 of a yellow onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms (half sliced thinly, half chopped)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

  1. In a bowl or measuring cup, combine water, onion powder, Italian herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and flour. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onions until just beginning to turn translucent.
  3. Add garlic, mushrooms, thyme and sage. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Add half of the water-flour mixture to the mushrooms and stir frequently until simmering. 
  5. Add remaining water-flour mixture and simmer until the mixture thickens, approximately 5-7 minutes. 
  6. Stir in nutritional yeast. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm.

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VeganMoFo Post #9: Revisiting Mushroom Barley Soup

Revisiting a favorite recipe is like hanging out with an old friend. You sometimes forget how much you enjoyed each other until you've had some time to get reacquainted.

This Mushroom Barley Soup is a favorite of mine, for sure, but quickly becomes a favorite of others who try it. Each time I make it, the results vary slightly-- depending on the herbs I use, the type of mushroom, and whether or not I'm patient enough for the barley to cook completely or remain decidedly al dente. Nevertheless, this hearty soup is always comforting, filling, satisfying and happens to go well with the Basil Apple Mustard Paninis I posted the other day.

Check out the original recipe here.

Mushroom Barley Soup topped with green onions and vegan sour cream


Vegan MoFo Post #8: Sandwich Time

I've always thought that the best thing about a great sandwich is the bread. I wish I could bake the perfect panini bread, but I haven't quite figured out that secret formula yet. So, I buy these crusty little demi baguettes from a local bakery instead. They're basically classic French style loaves, but they're petite: approximately 6 inches long and about 2 1/2 inches wide. With these, any sandwich fillings are immediately elevated to the realm of Best Sandwich Ever.

That said, I'm pretty sure this would be the Best Sandwich Ever regardless of these magical little loaves. These are the perfect pairing for almost any soup or salad, in case sandwich alone is not enough to satisfy your hunger pains.

Basil-Apple-Mustard Paninis

Basil Apple Mustard Panini Sandwiches
Yield: 2 sandwiches

1 Tbsp coconut oil (or other high heat oil)
2 demi baguettes or sandwich loaves
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
4 slices vegan mozzarella
5-6 large basil leaves, sliced lengthwise in quarters
1/2 an apple, sliced thinly (I used Honeycrisp)

  1. Heat coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Slice baguettes lengthwise and smear both halves with mustard.
  3. Layer mozzarella, basil leaves and apple slices on one side and then reassemble the baguette. 
  4. Press firmly to squish the sandwich together, then place in the skillet. 
  5. Toast for 3-4 minutes, pressing down on the sandwiches with a spatula or using a weight (a foil-wrapped brick, a pot of water, etc).
  6. Flip sandwiches over and toast an additional 1-2 sides until cheese is melted completely.

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VeganMoFo Post #7: Lost Momentum and Renewed Focus

When I initially decided to participate in this year's VeganMoFo and post about food (almost) every day of the month, I knew it would be difficult. I understood that it would take organization and dedication and motivation and all kinds of other qualities that I know I possess.

And yet, here we are. The Month of Food is half over and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps my grand scheme of photo journaling my eats was too ambitious. Perhaps I haven't organized my meal planning well enough. Perhaps I'm just not good at forming new habits. I could make a million excuses, but what really matters is that I'm not giving up.

Leftover Whole Wheat Penne with Deconstructed Spinach Pesto and Toasted Hazelnuts
While many MoFo participants are celebrating 12 or 15 or more posts for the month, I'm weighing in at only 7, including this post. That's more posts than I usually do in half a month, but I'm still disappointed in terms of this project. However, I'm not disappointed in the food I've been eating and that realization has led me to one conclusion.

For the remainder of VeganMoFo, I'll be tweaking my original theme. Rather than photo and post everything I eat -- which I realize has been somewhat repetitive and possibly even boring -- I will instead highlight just one dish from each day's meal plan. I might still include some photos of other food but the focus will be on the best dish, the most delicious, the most interesting, or the one most worthy of your attention. I am, after all, doing this for you guys.

Hummus and celery sticks in a mason jar - perfect work snack!
The other day, I posted a recipe for Barley Brown Rice Risotto that met with some rave reviews. I even managed to convince one reader (Ashlae of Oh Lady Cakes) to try mushrooms again, even though she doesn't like them. That, my dears, is why I do this. Thanks to Ashlae for reminding me!

So, without further hesitation, the dish of the day: Hot Cereal with Blueberries, Pistachios and Hazelnuts

Hot Cereal with Blueberries, Pistachios and Hazelnuts

I can scarcely call this a recipe, but here's how I prepared this yummy, hearty breakfast for my lazy, rainy Sunday.

1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Mighty Tasty Gluten-Free Hot Cereal
1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp almond milk
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp dried blueberries
2 Tbsp pistachios (roasted, salted, chopped)
handful of hazelnuts, chopped and toasted

  1. Boil water and salt. Add cereal, reduce heat to low, cook covered for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add almond milk, stir to combine and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Pour cereal into bowl and top with agave, blueberries and nuts. 
  4. Nom to your heart's content.

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Vegan MoFo Post #6: Barley Brown Rice Risotto with Broccoli and Mushrooms

My mission for VeganMoFo is to photograph the food I eat on a daily basis and report it to you in a somewhat informal way. But, dear readers, remember that I also promised a few brand new recipes during this, our month of food? Well, I meant what I said, and it's time to reveal one of those recipes...

Craving something creamy, hearty, fresh and earthy? Risotto's a good stand by in all of those departments. But risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice, a starchy grain that creates a creamy, luscious sauce as it cooks. Arborio is delicious but it's also high in calories and carbs and low in protein. Not exactly a great figure-friendly summer dish, right?

I decided to make a twist on risotto using both pearl barley and brown rice in place of arborio. Pearl barley and brown rice are both great sources of fiber and have a higher protein content than white rice, as an added bonus.

Barley Brown Rice Risotto with Roasted Broccoli, Tempeh and Mushrooms
Yield: 4 servings

2 cups (6 ounces) cremini or oyster mushrooms, quartered
2 cups broccoli florets
4 oz whole grain tempeh, cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper

1/2 cup whole grain brown rice
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups low-sodium veg broth
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and toss broccoli, tempeh and mushrooms with salt and pepper. Roast, covered, for 25-30 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  2. While veggies are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add rice and barley and cook for 15 minutes or until mostly cooked. Drain off the excess water. You'll finish the cooking process later.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and just beginning to brown. 
  4. Stir in the drained rice mixture. 
  5. Add 2 cups vegetable broth, cover and cook until the rice and barley are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup broth.
  7. Serve hot with roasted veggies on top, on the side, or mixed right in.

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VeganMoFo Post #5: Just eat it...

I missed posting on Friday because, well, when Friday night comes (and I make homemade pizza), my brain instantly switches into weekend-unplugged-unproductive mode. It must be a genetic thing because I can't seem to overcome it. Such is life - my life, at least.

So, I bring to you the first weekend(ish) of my VeganMoFo.


Breakfast: Whole grain English Muffin with Artisana Coconut Butter and an apple
Morning snack: Carrots and sugar snap peas with hummus
Lunch: Leftover Roasted Broccoli Soup and Multi-Seed Crackers from Crunchmaster
Dinner was homemade pizza with mushroom and black olives, and it didn't make it in front of the camera. Blame the long week, the tired chef, and the growling stomach!


I was lame and neglected to photograph Saturday's eats, which is sad because I had a really fantastic seaweed salad followed by veggie sushi at Arashi in Westlake, OH. But don't worry. Now that I know how fab the place is, I'll definitely be paying them another visit soon and there WILL be photos!


Sundays are lazy food days, but by dinnertime, I felt motivated enough to whip up SOMEthing that resembled a meal. Scouring the pantry and freezer, I tossed together a quick pasta dish featuring whole grain spaghetti, chickpeas, mixed frozen veggies, and a creamy dill sauce. Not bad, and there were plenty of leftovers to feed me for lunch on Monday, too!

Whole grain spaghetti with veggies and dill sauce (Worse MoFo photo of the month! Woo!)


Today is Monday. All I have to say about Monday is "thank goodness for leftovers" and "CHOCOLATE!" You know what I mean.

Chocolate. Dark chocolate.


VeganMoFo Post #4: Working for the weekend

Welcome to Day 4 of my VeganMoFo adventure! I'm already exhausted and there's a lot of "month" ahead in this "month of food."

Today's post, I fear, may be a bit boring. In my quest to photograph everything I eat, I find I'm slacking off a bit today.

Breakfast was another raw chia oat pudding thinger and I didn't photograph it today because it looked exactly like it did yesterday. You didn't really want to see it again, did you?

For lunch, I also had some repeats. I snarfed down most of my leftover mac-cheeze-pea-bean dish and had a side of miso soup in my Thermos. See how far I got before I remembered to take a picture?

Leftovers taste better with nifty folding spoons.
My afternoon snack was a variation on a theme: ginger Newman-O's and dark chocolate covered espresso beans. (Did I mention that I snagged all these Newman-O's for $2/package at BigLots? I did. Wow.)

Cookies and chocolate espresso beans. Noms!
Once I made my way home, I set about a really ambitious evening: soup AND granola in one night. I knew I had some neglected veggies in the fridge, leftover from previous dinners and desperately needing to be used. The best thing I know to do in times like these is make soup. But I didn't want a simple cooked veggie soup. Who needs that? I piled all my odds and ends of veggies into a dish, with a bit of onion, salt and pepper, and roasted the hell out of them. Like, really roasted:

Roasted veggies... waiting to become soup!
After letting it cool a bit, I loaded the roasted mess into my blender, added some almond milk, a splash of soy sauce and a little onion powder and went to town. After thinning it with just a bit of water, I had about 3 cups of delicious, roasty-toasty mostly broccoli soup. And zucchini. And carrot. And onion. Good stuff.

Easy roasted veggie soup
About that granola? It's still toasting away in the oven, so you'll have to come back tomorrow to see how I turned oats, quinoa, amaranth and a mess load of nuts and seeds into a delicious, nutritious snack - with the recipe!


VeganMoFo Post #3: Raw Chia Oat Pudding

In yesterday's VeganMoFo post, I mentioned that I had raw chia oat pudding for breakfast and Dawn of VeganMoxie asked for the recipe. Who am I to deny a Tacoma girl?

My typical work-day breakfast is a riff off of vegan overnight oats, which I've written about before. However, I've modified the recipe a bit since then and tend to do things a little differently when I'm really looking for power-packed breakfast fuel to get me through my morning.

I'll start with a terribly unappetizing shot from 6AM today:

6AM is no time for a bad breakfast.
I know. It looks a little like sourdough starter gone bad. But this was before I stirred it up. You'll also notice that it's in a mason jar. Mason jars are kick-ass portable containers and they are almost all I ever use for this type of thing. (I'll get to the "ah ha!" moment on that in a minute.)

Raw Chia Oat Pudding
Yield: 1 hefty serving

1/3 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds (flaxmeal)
1 tsp agave or maple syrup (or more, to taste)
2/3 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened plain almond milk)

Optional mix-ins: 
pure vanilla extract
Mexican hot chocolate spices
raw cacao nibs
nuts or seeds
dried fruit
unsweetened coconut
nut butter

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in jar and stir to combine. 
  2. Install lid and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In the morning, stir and add mix-ins as desired. 

I like a "kitchen sink" approach to my breakfast, so I usually add a little of everything. The best part about this portable breakfast is that it's not only healthy, delicious and filling, but the wide mouth pint mason jars fit perfectly in my car's cup holder, so I can nosh on breakfast while I commute to work. When I arrive at the office, I just rinse out the jar, pop on the lid, and forget about it until I get home.

Happy noms!

via camera phone


Vegan MoFo Post #2: Just another day at the office

For my second VeganMoFo post, you get the special honor of finding out what I eat on a regular workday. Usually, I work from home, so I might be noshing on PB&J or I might make something elaborate for lunch. This week, I'm working on a contract at a client site, so all my daytime eats are the portable kind.

Breakfast was a raw chia-oat pudding, with dried cranberries, sliced almonds and raw cacao nibs. And yes, you guessed it, I failed to take a photo. You would have had a difficult time seeing it anyway, since I scarfed it down around 6:30am. (Ouch!)

Green grapes and raw whole almonds
Mid-morning snack: green grapes and whole almonds. Raw almonds are a great pick-me-up because of their protein and healthy fat content. They're also quite filling, so they help curb hunger. Grapes are an easy way to stay hydrated, since I find that I drink less water when sitting at a desk all day.

Miso Soup
Lunch consisted of a large portion of white miso soup, which I prepared in the morning (using my electric kettle to heat the water) and stored in my uber-duty Thermos with handy-dandy folding stainless steel spoon. The soup has some wakame (seaweed) in it as well, but it tends to sink. 

Chocolate Newman-O's and dark chocolate espresso beans
Two chocolate Newman-O's and some dark chocolate covered espresso beans made for  a nice afternoon pick-me-up! I anticipated something of a frustrating day so I packed my afternoon snack accordingly and with one main ingredient in mind: chocolate. The added caffeine punch from the espresso beans helped me get over that afternoon "hump" and finish my day without losing my composure. Priceless.

Brown Rice Macaroni with Noochy Cheeze Sauce, Peas and Black Beans
After a busy evening of running errands and taking care of things at home, I suddenly found myself HUNGRY and pressed for time. I quickly whipped up some Brown Rice Macaroni and while that cooked, I made a Noochy Cheese Sauce and tossed it together with some sweet peas and black beans. Quick, easy, well-balanced and best of all - not too messy! 

There you have Day #2 of my VeganMoFo adventure. What are you eating this month?


VeganMoFo Post #1: A weekend in Toronto

Hurray! VeganMoFo is here and although it's already the 3rd day of the month, I'm just getting to my first post now. Tons of other MoFo bloggers have already posted a plethora of food porn, recipes and giveaways.

As I mentioned in my post on Friday, my approach to VeganMoFo (ahem, Month of Food) is to photograph everything I eat and share it with you - like a food diary. I've missed out on photoging a few snacks here and there, but I'm still getting the hang of this commitment thing, so bear with me, kids. :)

Brown Rice Barley Risotto with Roasted Broccoli and Tempeh
Crappy cell phone pic #1: Brown Rice Barley Risotto with Roasted Broccoli and Tempeh. This is a new recipe I've been working on for a while. Trying to perfect the rice-less risotto is quite a challenge, but even the failed attempts are still delicious. I'm pleased to report that this recipe is ALMOST there and I'll be sharing it soon!

Blueberry-almond pancakes with tofu scram and veg sausage
I happened to find myself in Toronto for the weekend and had brunch at Fresh on Saturday. Fresh is one of my absolute favorite places to eat any time of the day, but I'd never ordered from their brunch menu before this weekend. I ordered their vegan, gluten-free blueberry almond pancakes with a side of scrambled tofu and vegan sausage patties. The pancakes were fantastic, and I ate them all. I enjoyed the sausage, even though it's not usually my 'thing' and the scramble was okay, but could have really benefited from some nooch and Liquid Aminos.

A plethora of veg goodness (Photo by Farida Peters)
On Saturday afternoon, I attended a surprise potluck engagement party for my closest sister-friend. I was sad that I couldn't make anything for the party, since we trekked 5+ hours to get there, but I was really impressed with the offerings: teriyaki rice salad, cold macaroni salad with olives, raw veggies (not pictures), vegan potato chips and blue corn chips, and I can't even remember what else. I didn't go hungry at all. I'm pretty sure everyone was stuffed by the time it was over.

Samira Wake-up Plate at Cora Breakfast and Lunch in Toronto
Another morning, another brunch date! This time, I found myself at a more mainstream breakfast joint, Cora Breakfast and Lunch (still in Toronto). Luckily, they offered this outrageous fruit platter! I love fruit, but even I couldn't finish it all. I love the fancy cut apples and pears, too. 

Side salad with balsamic dressing at the Diner on Clifton in Lakewood, OH
By Sunday evening, we'd made our way back to the Cleveland area and stopped at the Diner on Clifton to meet a friend for a quick bite. When I lived in Cleveland years back, this was one of my favorite places and I hadn't gotten around to visiting since I moved back, so this was a treat. Above is the side salad that came with my entree. I neglected to photograph the entree! I must have been hungry...

This concludes my first VeganMoFo post! Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what's on the next page of my food diary...


Vegan MoFo is coming!

Well, darlings, Vegan MoFo is almost here. That's the Vegan Month of Food, in case you thought I was just being lascivious. It's the one month each year (this year, it's October) when vegan bloggers across the globe come out of the woodwork and band together, committed to posting every day (or nearly every day) about food.

Although 2011 marks year #5 for Vegan MoFo, this is actually my first year of official participation. Once it's underway, you'll be able to visit the Vegan MoFo website and browse through the hundreds of participants (like, over 600!), even sorting by geographic location and theme. If you're really into food pr0n, you may want to bookmark the Flickr pool as well.

Pesto with Basil, Artichoke and Peas

Theme? Oh yeah. Since a post-a-day is, well, a LOT of posts, lots of Vegan MoFo bloggers like to organize their posts around a theme. Like, the alphabet, or cooking through a whole cookbook, or foods that are green, or what have you.

Greek Hummus Dip

Now, me, I have a little trouble committing to things like themes. Especially where a whole MONTH of food blogging is concerned. So, I'm taking a slightly different approach to my first Vegan MoFo. For me and The Verdant Life, Vegan MoFo will be a food diary of sorts - in pictures. I pledge to photograph every meal, every snack, every smoothie and create a photo-illustrated answer to the question: What do vegans eats?

Panzanella Salad
I came to this idea after doing a little detox last week that left me feeling especially scrutinous (oh yeah, I made that up) over what I put in my mouth. For the most part, my diet is FAR healthier than most people I know and I don't have a lot of "bad habits" in the diet and nutrition department. But I realized that, even as much as I cook and meal plan, I don't have a good overall picture of what I eat. Weird, I know, but that's the way it is. Hopefully, my Vegan MoFo experience will help change that and maybe teach me (and you!) a thing or two about our relationship with the food we stuff in our craw. 

Salted Vegan Caramel Kamut
I promise to still throw in some new recipes for you throughout the month as well, so don't you worry. I'll also let you know what I'm dining on and where I got it (either the ingredients or the meal, if I'm dining out). I'll do my best to show off quality pics whenever possible, but I can most certainly promise you a few mediocre camera-phone pics will make an appearance as well. 

Spiced Apricot Cream Cheese Brownies

So, in a nutshell, here's what I'm committing myself to:
- At least one post every weekday in October
- Photos of all my vegan meals
- Descriptions and other foodie-related details of said meals
- Original recipes too!

Join me on this journey and let's find out what this vegan really eats!


Mexican Hot Chocolate Choco-chip Rice Pudding

You're going to think I'm crazy. But please bear with me.

The recipe you're about to read was inspired by Paula Deen. Yes, that Paula Deen. And truth be told, only sorta. Let me explain.

I like rice pudding. Well, I like some types of rice pudding. I don't like the uber gelatinous tapioca-like stuff they sell in commercial grocery stores. That's for sure. And since I'm looking for dairy-free and egg-free recipes, those are out anyway. But I happened upon Paula Deen's recipe for baked rice pudding and thought, "Now there's something I can work with."

Yes, of course, the Butter Queen uses eggs and milk in her recipe. But those are easy obstacles to overcome.

And I don't know about your house, but there always seems to be leftover cooked rice around here. I made a huge pot of brown basmati rice last weekend in anticipation of doing an ayurvedic cleanse this week. I'm still doing the cleanse, but I've been eating much less than I forecasted and I didn't want to see any of my already-cooked rice go to waste. Plus, I really wanted something to look forward to when the cleanse was over. A little reward for all that hard work, right?

I'm a sucker for spiced chocolate, so I decided to make my rice pudding a chocolatey version, with classic spices from Mexican hot chocolate like cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. As it turns out, they work perfectly with the nutty brown rice and the result was better than I could have imagined!

There's another thing you should know before making this rice pudding. It's going to make your kitchen smell like cookies. So, consider yourself warned.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Choco-chip Rice Pudding
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 cup cooked rice
1 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened plain almond milk)
2 Tbsp flax meal whisked with 1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup date sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Mexican Hot Chocolate spice mix (recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients, whisking until there are no lumps or dry spots.
  3. Pour into 9 inch glass baking dish (shape doesn't matter). 
  4. Bake 80-90 minutes, then let cool 10 minutes before serving. 
Mexican Hot Chocolate Spice Mix (from Imbibe Magazine)
Yield: 3 tsp or enough for 3 batches of rice pudding

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

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Something Sweet: Banana Date Oat Smoothie

I don't have much of a sweet tooth (as I've written about before) but I needed something special this afternoon. Something that would give me a bit of a boost, with natural sugars, and keep my belly feeling full for a while. Something rich, decadent and hearty.

Most people would think I'm talking about a brownie or a cookie. Nope. This sweet treat comes in a glass.

Dates and bananas are two great sweet ingredients to use when you're trying to avoid "real" sugar. Paired with almond milk and rolled oats, they whip up into a quick, easy, and totally satisfying slurry. It's so rich, I'd almost call it a milkshake. This is a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, with just four simple ingredients.

Banana Date Oat Smoothie
Yield: 1 serving

4 medjool dates, chopped
1 cup almond milk
1 banana
1/4 cup rolled oats
  1. Puree chopped dates with almond milk on a high setting until the dates are just little brown specks.
  2. Add the banana and puree until smooth.
  3. Add the oats. Puree immediately or pulse to combine and allow to soak 2-3 minutes before pureeing.
Note: I like this smoothie at room temperature but if you want it cold, consider using a frozen banana instead of fresh. A bit of nut butter would also add great flavor and texture.

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