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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Atsa Nice Pizza Pie...

Whole Wheat Salad Pizza
Garnished with Oil-free Sundried Tomatoes

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived atop my grandparents' Italian restaurant. It was called Luigi's...which was my grandfather's name. At the height of his career, he was about the age that I am now. He was an amazing chef, and most well-known for his pizza.

I'd like to think that when other four year olds were mingling in nursery school, my sandbox was Luigi's. I learned to set a banquet table when I was a pre-schooler's age. And, I used to love and watch Grandpa make his pizzas.

So much of who I am stems from those early years at Luigi's Restaurant...my love of food and people, and my ability to cook without cookbooks.  I invent things all the time, and never make the same thing the same way twice, ever.  Luigi's was my grandfather's restaurant.  And, we lived on the second floor.

Luigi's was my sandbox, so to speak.  When other pre-schoolers were hanging with Miss Francis from Ding-Dong School, I was using Luigi's as my play area.  It's where I learned to set a banquet table, run orders, fold napkins, and greet guests.  It's also where I loved to watch my Grandfather make pizza, lots of it, too!

As a low-fat vegan, you can never go wrong with pizza.  A few years ago on a trip to Rome, I was impressed with the thin and bubbly crust used in their pizza presentation.  As I read more about pizza, you can go to Naples and find that they make a "pie" as my Grandfather used to call them, and simply put a marinara sauce on top, then bake it.  When it comes out of the oven...you throw a salad on top...and presto, you have a nice "pizza pie."

In my plant-strong, low-fat vegan world here's what you can do to create a healthy pizza.  I make a whole wheat dough (I fiddle with it, so don't ask for a recipe), and somehow, it comes out nicely.  Sprinke a generous amount of your favorite low-fat tomato sauce...and cook it on a pizza stone.  I usually throw some corn meal on the bottom of the dough...adds authenticity to the crust.  You can also use Ezekiel tortillas, they make an awesome pizza base!

When the pizza comes out of the oven, I throw a big tossed salad on top, and without adding oil, enjoy a magnificient creation of delicious-ness.  You won't miss any cheese, meat, or anything, because this is just plain delicious, clean eating.

I do not use Daiya cheeses...they are laiden with oil.  I may as well drink a cup of oil instead of using the Daiya.  You don't need the "fake" cheese. 

Nothing fake here, only delicious pizza that makes me think of Luigi Montaruli, who was a real stand-up guy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quench Your Thirst...

Delicious Homemade Ginger Ale

You know, there was a time where I thought that a diet soda was the be-all to ending my thirst.  I loved it in a tall glass with loads of ice, and a slice of lemon.  But, I also drank it straight from the can, too.  I wasn't very fussy.  I cannot remember when I had my last diet beverage, but I think it has to have been more than ten years ago.

My best friends are water and sparkling water.  But, let's face it, sometimes, it spells B-O-R-I-NG.  Even when you serve it in a goblet, come on, you know that it is still the same water, cool, clear, water.

With summer temps so high and the humidity even higher, quenching my thirst has been a major goal to accomplish.  So, last night, I think I fell into the fountain of brilliance.  And it was so easy to make, and so delicious, that I had  to make this delicious "Ginger Ale" it twice in a few hours.

You'll need your juicer for this.  I always fall victim to info-mericals, so, yes, I have the Jack LaLanne model.  It is my second one...my first one, which was well used, died last summer, so I got another one.

How to Make your own GINGER ALE!

Juice a one inch piece of fresh ginger, along with one Granny Smith Apple.  You should get about 3-4 ounces of liquid.

Put it in a 12 ounce glass.  Add sparkling water to the top.

And that is how you make your own ginger ale.

This is a quenching beverage and will also help to ease the ills from a queezy stomach.

Aside from the deliciousness, you will also save a bundle of moolah.  And, no more excess bottles to recycle!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Do You Eat for Breakfast...

Quinoa, Glorious Quinoa
A Seed Packed with Protein!

After the "How do you get your protein?" question, the next one is always about breakfast.  It's not as though I am substituting an Egg McMuffin here, but I have come to realize that for many people, that it is their way of eating breakfast, and on the run.  If I told a Mickey Dee devotee that I had quinoa today, they might freak out.

With summer here, and fresh fruit so bountiful, breakfast is the most fun meal of the day.  I have a very busy waffle iron, that just today housed the batter of an oatmeal/banana and quinoa waffle.  And it was SO good.  Some freshly sliced strawberries...and, it was a perfect breakfast.  It took me about three minutes to prepare, was very filling, and ever so delicious.

As I have evolved on this vegan voyage, the more I am away from my former point of entry, the healthier and more inventive I become with all kinds of recipes.  Recently, I was at a breakfast buffet where a friend said, "It is super healthy, you will love it!!"  But, the truth was, the only thing I could eat was fresh fruit, and the kale garnish on the fruit salads.  The breads were "faux whole wheat," and the nut butters all had sugar in them.

Back to the quinoa.  The first time I ever saw it for breakfast was at my first Engine 2 Immersion in Austin in 2010.  I remember thinking to myself, "They may as well have put out brown rice."  But quinoa, aside from all the amino acids that it packs, can go either way...as a breakfast or a side dish.  Embrace your inner quinoa for a nutritious breakfast, snack, salad builder, whatever.  Make it in bulk, and pack it in individual servings. 

Quinoa is considered to be a complete protein. Unlike other plant-based foods, it contains the amino acid lysine. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 gm of protein. This is equal to the protein found in one cup of milk. Other grains, such as pasta and rice contain an average of 3 gm of protein per serving, making quinoa a great choice for people trying to incorporate more plant-based protein in their diet.  Take that, naysayers!  Or protein askers!

Here's a nice, simple, quick and easy qunioa recipe from Martha Stewart.  She uses brown sugar, I just omit the sugar.  If you need a sweet bang to this, try date sugar.  But, really, the blueberries do it all.

From Martha and me...


So, try the quinoa for breakfast.  Lunch.  And Dinner.

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Really Supporting Local

I have long been a fan of supporting local growers and producers.  Today, everyone is on the local bandwagon, even Walmart (I kid you not).  As I carve out a new life for myself after almost nine years at Whole Foods Market, I am trying to find new places to shop, because after all, part of shopping local is reducing your carbon footprint.

For a long time, I have been a fan of Martindale's, a 100 year old family owned "natural grocer" located in Springfield, PA.  It isn't big, but always seems to have the staples I need.  They have a great bulk spice area with a collection of rare and exotic spices that I often use.  What I also love about Martindale's is that I get to see other products that I have supported...Examples would be Burlap and Bean Coffee (Newtown Square), One Village Coffee (Souderton), Vesper Brothers Signature Tomato Sauces (Brookhaven), and many, many, more.

People at Martindale's are very friendly and give very good and sincere customer service.  It is America's first health food store!  Imagine that!  They are opened daily from 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM.  On Saturdays, they close at 6:00 PM.  Sundays, they are closed.

They give you a nice magazine that is filled with many recipes.  I'm attaching one that you will LOVE.  Omit the oil (use carrot juice for the saute) and exchange the brown sugar for date or maple sugar.

If you are looking for a new and fun experience, stop in at Martindale's.  BTW, all of their produce is local and organic.  Imagine that.

Best part, prices are excellent.  And, it is very close to my home, so I am not driving on highways to get to the bigger box stores!

Here's the recipe for Barbeque Black Bean Dip


Enjoy the dip.  Stop in and shop at Martindale's.  No bells.  No whistles. But well worth the trip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Not Too Far from Kennett Square

Delicious Stuffed Mushrooms

If you are ever a contestent on the game show, Jeopardy, and the answer is "Kennett Square, PA," you will know that the question is "Where is the mushroom capital of the world?"  It's about a thirty minute drive from my house, so last week, I headed to Phillips and got some freshly picked mushrooms.  Phillips is one of the largest mushroom growers in the world, and their retail store is close by.  My mushrooms were nice, big, white caps, perfect for stuffing.

Sometimes, I remember the way I cooked before becoming a plant-based vegan, things were laced with cheese, and oil, salt and more cheese.  I wanted to create something delicious and nutritious and use only clean ingredients.  These were so good that I actually ended up using the leftovers for sandwiches, and were that


Get a pencil, here's a great recipe for you to try.

Super Broccoli Stuffed Mushrooms

10-12 large stuffings mushrooms
2 cups of cooked broccoli
2 cloves of garlic
2 T of nutritional yeast
1 slice of whole wheat bread (to make your own bread crumbs)
All the mushroom stems and gills
Low Sodium Tamari, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup of raw cashews

You never wash mushrooms.  Dust them with a clean cloth.  WIth a spoon, scoop out the "gills" after you've pulled off the stems.

Take the garlic, mushroom stems/gills, and broccoli and place in your blender or food processor.  Pulse until paste like.  Add the bread crumbs and nutritional yeast.  Add all but one tablespoon of ground cashews to the mixture.  Mix together well, and then add your spices.

Let this sit for about fifteen minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Get a muffin tin, yes a muffin tin.  Stuff each mushroom with the mixture.  Then, place the stuffed mushroom on top of one of the muffin spots.  Bake covered for about 20-25 minutes.

Garnish with a dolyp of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of the  ground cashews.

You can eat these hot, warm, or cold, and they will not disappoint.  These took about 20 minutes to make, and made enough for several meals.  Try them, you'll like them!

Being vegan never tasted so good.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vge Cafe in Bryn Mawr

Vge Cafe, Bryn Mawr, PA
843 Lancaster Avenue

I had gotten wind of a new vegan restaurant in Bryn Mawr, PA, but was reluctant to go because I am generally very disappointed when I hit a new vegan haunt.  So, I gave my friend Deb and call, and we decided to meet for lunch at the Vge Cafe.

Nothing fancy, but extremely clean and  very comfortable.  I knew it was going to be good, because several Engine 2 Challenge friends were there eating lunch.  They were like, "Hey, Char, look, I am eating Engine 2!!"  Nothing in this place is fried!  If you have visited other vegan eateries, they seem to use oil as the flavor enhancer.  But, Fernando Peralta, the owner, said that he wanted to add integrity to the vegan way of eating.

As I ordered my lunch, I knew that I was in the right place, because Fernando told me how much he loved  FORKS OVER KNIVES.  He said that Brian Wendel, film producer, was his hero.

Deb and I ordered the same thing, baked falafel wrap, served with a delicious cup of kale soup.  The food was awesome.  The wrap was stuffed with collards and kale, and a delicious freshly made falafel was snuggly  blanketed in a whole wheat wrap.  Food was tasty, clean tasting, not greasy, and not overly salted.  Other diners loved what they were eating...a lentil soup, a homemade veggie burger...everything looked delicious.  Serving sizes were very generous.  Although we didn't partake, there was a large variety of vegan desserts.

Deb has been vegan for about twenty years.  We were chatting with Fernando, who loves vegetables.  Once worked for Chrissy Hynde at her vegan eatery in Akron, OH.  He's been around.  His passion was evident everywhere in the restaurant...from the line chef to the guy hand shredding veggies...I loved being at Vge Cafe!

Lunch for the two of us was $19.00!  Free water from the soda fountain.  Great conversation, too.  Fernando does use Daiya Cheese in some entrees, but I steered clear of those.  Told him to check out Engine 2 for other alternatives. 

I could go on, but rather than listen to me, head there on your own.  You will not be disappointed.  Here's some info from the Bryn Mawr-Gladwynne Patch.


One suggestion:  Bring quarters for the parking meters!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Visiting Porch Farms

Funny, it doesn't like watermelon...

I've long been a  fan of Philabundance, the Philly based hunger relief organization.  They are always doing some innovative thing to draw attention to hunger, food distribution, and assisting those in need.  Today, though, rather then give a can of food, write a check, or sort at their distribution center, we went to a farm to work in a special "gleaning project."  We picked corn at the Porch Farms in Pedtricktown, NJ.  They are a 500 acre farm where you can find corn, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, and squash (sounds like my lunch).  They are family owned.

When you pick corn, there are two things you learn.  The first ear is the best ear, and that is what you see at the grocery store.  The second ear is not quite as nice looking, but still usable and tasty.  We picked second ears today.  The corn will be distributed to families who cannot afford to buy fresh, local produce on their own.  Every two weeks, Philabundance heads to the farm to pick produce that would otherwise be ignored and wasted.

Corn. Who doesn't love it?  Here's a quick and easy corn relish/salsa that you can use to dress a salad, meet a tortilla chip, or use as a side dish.  I love cilantro, and use it to really add zest to this easy dish.

Corn Salsa

Ingredients:  Three ears of corn, one half red onion, one avocado, juice of two limes, head of cilantro, garlic powder

Take the corn and cut it off the ear.  Break apart in a bowl, add one finely minced red onion, cubed avocado pieces.  Mix together.  Finely mince the cilantro (I love cilantro, you might want a little less).  Mix well.  Add garlic powder, to flavor.  With a citrus squeezer, squeeze the heck out of two limes.  Pour over corn mixture and then mix well.  Chill for about an hour.

You can serve it over lettuce, or use as a side dish.  Better made a double recipe, because this is really good.

See you at the farm.  Oh, one thing I thought about today...I over buy food.  My new practice will be to purchase only what I need.  I do not want to throw out any food.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Isn't it Expensive to be a Plant Strong Vegan?

That's the number one question I get, almost every day!  But I've got five quick and easy steps for you to save money, especially when you are a plant-strong vegan.  I make this distinction, because, let's face it, Oreos are vegan, but I wouldn't eat one just because they are vegan.  They are highly processed, full of sugar and fat, and are not nutrient dense at all.  I buy no processed foods, faux meats, etc.  I will confess that I ate a vegan "hot dog" last month at an event at the ball park (I wanted to fit in), and I was sick for a few days.  Not my thing (anymore).

How to $ave Moolah and Eat Like a Queen

1.  Subscribe to grocery store websites and social media outlets.  They will post sales that might not appear in the weekly or monthly sales flier.  Take note of items that you use.  Stock up, if they are shelf stable.

2.  Look for case discounts.  Stores like Wegman's and Whole Foods Market offer case discounts.  If you think you do not have the storage space for all that food (generally 12 jars or cans), split it with a friend.  You'll save $$$ and have enough shelf space.

3.  Plan a menu.  Believe it or not, this is a great tool to use.  I plan my menu for a week, then draw my shopping list from what foods we will be eating.  Keeps me focused and compliant, so that I stay within my food budget.  My meals are all related to one another--rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, red sauce.  They become interchangeable and are very versatile.

4.  Produce is the focal point of all my meals,  If you buy cheap produce, well, it is like they say, "You get what you pay for."  Hands down, Whole Foods Market has the best produce. It is fairly priced, and the organic integrity of all produce is highly maintained.  I also love going to farmers' markets, because I love supporting all that is local.  Shout out to the pan-Asian grocer, H-Mart...nice produce, clean store.  But the smells from the funky looking fish department make me feel like I need a re-breather mask from the Philadelphia Fire Department. 

Produce is something I shop for several times a week, and I try my best for it to be seasonal, local, and organic.

5.  Lastly, hit bulk departments so that you can get exactly the amount that you need.  Bulk departments are much more than rice and beans, and in many stores, you can get honey, soy sauce, brown rice syrup, and more.  These foods stay fresher, and you get exactly what you need.  No big, oversized bags staring me in the face.

So, these easy steps should point you in the right direction.  Stay away from those processed foods (sausages, roasts, burgers, "wings,") and not only will you save moolah...but, you will feel better not eating those processed foods that make you think you are doing the right thing.  The evil trifecta of fat, sugar and salt is NOT your friend.

Tell me a way that you save money in your plant strong vegan way of living...

Happy Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sun Tea and Sofas

Saturday was my last day at "a job that I loved."  As I pulled out of the long driveway of the parking lot, I felt very rich.  I felt that way becauce, in my heart, I did a good job, made lasting friendships, and carried a sense of pride in my heart,  Eight years prior, I arrived at this job as a meat eater who appreciated junk food, and abused many other bad foods.

But on this sad Saturday, I left as a plant-strong, baby boomer vegan.  And, yes, I cried the entire way home.  The ride seemed longer than usual.

If I had a nickel for every person who asked, "What happened?"  "Why are you leaving?  It's like this...

You buy a new sofa.  You love it.  It serves you well.  Then, you notice that the cushions aren't as comfy as they used to be.  And, you say to yourself...I need a new sofa.  And so, that is why I left my job.  The cushions weren't as comfy.  Simply, it was time to go, or, get a new sofa.

The biggest switch for me, after three full days of being "off," is matching my new budget to fit into my old style of shopping.  Easy point.  I  loved Honest Tea, caffeine free-unsweetened.  Easy grab and go.  Now?  I make individual jars of sun tea in a variety of flavors.  Not rocket science, and man, do I save a bundle of moolah.

In life, timing is everything.  If you go to a party and it is awesome, leave when it is still that way.  And the same thing happens when you make sun tea...if you leave the tea bag in too long, the tea becomes bitter.

I am keeping it sweet.  Know when it is time to go.