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Vegan MoFo, Day 6 - An Ode to Salad

Let's talk about salad.

When I was a kid, I really was not a fan of salad. You'd have been hard-pressed to get me to sit down and eat one as anything besides a very rare precursor to a meal. Looking back, I'm pretty sure why that was. The salads that I was eating bore little resemblance to what a salad should be. Back then, our household was still very much in a "meat and potatoes" phase, and the salads I ate consisted of little more than iceburg lettuce and croutons smothered in some sort of creamy dressing. (Did I mention I also refused to eat things like raw tomatoes and mushrooms?)

sam's standard salad My salads have evolved a lot since then. Gone are the croutons and heavy dressings. Now, I've learned both the nutritional value and the awesome taste experience of a fresh, raw salad with little garnish.

Most vegetarian and vegan cookbooks have entire sections devoted entirely to salad, and with good reason! Unlike many restaurants that offer a "side salad" would lead you to believe, salad doesn't have to be something that looks anemic and tastes approximately like lukewarm water. Salad can be--and is!--as diverse, as complex, or as simple as you want it to be. It can compliment a meal from any world cuisine, or be a meal in and of itself.

Usually my salads are similar to what I put inside my veggie sandwiches, give or take a big bunch of mixed greens, but today I'd like to share one of my favorite "full meal" salads. It's great for taking to work or if you're generally on the go, because it can be made beforehand and stored with no ill effects.

Lunchtime "Chik'n" Salad
serves 1

Ingredients:
2-2 1/2 cups mixed greens of your choice (lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, whatever!)
sliced cucumber
carrot, either sliced or cut into matchsticks
1 large mushroom, sliced
3-4 colored pepper rings, quartered
hot banana pepper rings (optional)
1 Boca spicy chik'n patty, fully cooked and cut into strips or cubes


Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (or, if you're taking it with you, a container with a tight-fitting lid). Toss to combine, then grab a fork and enjoy! This is also fantastic when accompanied by a handful of whole-grain crackers.

So there you have it. What was once one of the banes of my childhood relationship with food has become a staple part of my diet. In addition to being diverse and delicious, it's also an easy way to get a big shot of raw food in the middle of the day!

Question for the comments: What's your favorite salad combo, and why?
There are only a couple of things that bug me about eating a vegan diet. One is a mentality that I'm sure many of us who have gone veg and vegan encounter quite often: those people who look at you like you just landed with Mork from Ork and ask, "What do you eat??" ("Where do you get your protein?!" is another favorite.) Or worse, the people who simply can't imagine that you don't eat any meat or dairy at all, and insist on asking repetitive questions to that end. "You can't eat chocolate? You don't eat ice cream? You have to eat some animal foods to be healthy, right?"

In their defense, a lot of these people don't realize that they're being a pain in the butt. Many of them don't have correct information or detailed enough knowledge about a plant-based diet to understand why some people choose it, or why those of us with food intolerances adopt it as a health measure. Which brings me to the other problem: finding edible vegan food when going places.

I don't just mean travel. Take my current situation, for instance; I've been spending stretches of time out of town to help take care of an ailing family member. Her kitchen is far from vegan, and in order to make myself food, I find myself having to buy or pack an inordinate amount of ingredients. Sometimes, it's just not worth the hassle.

Enter frozen vegan food. It's not cheap, and it isn't as healthy when compared to making your own meals from scratch, but it's the best way I've found to have a stress-free, fast, and guaranteed vegan meal without having to search all over town for a takeout place that understands that chicken broth isn't vegetarian. (I know it's practically impossible to dine out vegan near where I live!)

So far, I've found three brands that make tasty frozen vegan food with either organic ingredients or a minimal amount of scary ingredients:

Amy's Kitchen - Amy's makes a wide variety of frozen entrees, snacks, sauces, salsas, soups, chilis, and even breakfast foods! All of their food is vegetarian, with many vegan options. Their website clearly labels everything so you can tell at a glance if what you're looking to try is dairy-free, lactose-free, or gluten-free! Packaging is also clearly labeled as vegan so you don't have to spend ages reading ingredients lists if you stumble across a new, tasty-looking product at the store. And their low-sodium line helps those on a salt-restricted diet eat healthy without sacrificing the idea of convenience.

Helen's Foods - Known for their "tofu steaks", Helen's Foods also serves up vegetarian and vegan entrees in a variety of cuisine types. Certified organic, generally lower in sodium than traditional frozen meals, and with vegan options clearly labeled; Helen's entrees, burritos, and meat alternatives will give you a great meal in minutes. Awesome to grab on your way to work for a hot, satisfying lunch, too!

Ethnic Gourmet - I recently discovered this brand while browsing a local supermarket with no idea of what to have for dinner. While they do offer some meat-based products, you'll also find some tasty vegetarian and vegan options. It's hard to go wrong with their Pad Thai With Tofu if you're looking for something unique and spicy. Or try some of their Indian options for that Middle Eastern flavor!

And, for a fast and tasty lunch, there's always Koyo organic ramen. Mmmm, noodles!

So there you have it. Next time you're in a hurry, know that you don't have to worry about getting great vegan food fast. (Tomorrow I'll be back to home-cooked food, I promise!)

Question for the comments: What's your favorite quick & easy vegan meal?
As promised, my "official" Vegan MoFo weekend post is a cookbook review.

Being that I'm on a tight budget, I have a tendency to check things out of the library to see if they're worth buying before I'll spend the money. Cookbooks, craft books, and the like are too expensive to buy on a whim! But The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray quickly became my new favorite cookbook the day it found its way into my hands. I went out and bought a copy of my own before the library lending period was up!

I had been following--and still follow--Reinfeld and Murray's Vegan Fusion on Twitter, and so knew of the upcoming release of the book. I liked the idea of quick vegan meals for the days when I lack the time, or the energy, to make something too involved. Of course, in order to merit a place in my cookbook library, the recipes also have to be good, and it's helpful if the ingredients can be obtained without too much hassle.

The 30-Minute Vegan delivers on all counts. With sections for every meal, as well as lighter dishes like salads and soups; plus recipes devoted to beverages, snacks, and desserts, you'll never be at a loss for something quick, easy, and delicious to make!

It would take far too long to delve into everything that makes this book great, so I'll keep it short by introducing you to my two personal favorite recipes: the Monk Bowl, and Macaroni and Cheese.

The Monk Bowl was the first recipe in the book that grabbed my attention. It's just about the easiest, most versatile recipe I've ever seen and, though it appears in the book's lunch section, also makes an excellent dinner. Its perfect balance of quinoa, oven-roasted tofu, and crisp steamed veggies make it a warming, healthy choice for any day, any time. Reinfeld and Murray make several suggestions for variations, as well as recommend sauces and garnishes to give the bowl just the right finishing touch.

Macaroni & Cheese appears in a section devoted entirely to vegan versions of common comfort food favorites. I don't know about you, but mac and cheese was one thing I sorely missed when I made the switch to a life without dairy. Had I not been forced by lactose intolerance to make that switch almost overnight, I may have transitioned better, but cheese is still one thing I find myself wanting from time to time.

Reinfeld and Murray have the perfect solution for vegans and lactose-intolerants alike: a mac and "cheese" sauce that you can serve to your omni friends and they won't know the difference. The ingredients are familiar with, of course, a few vegan variations. If you've got nutritional yeast and your favorite non-dairy butter and milk on hand, you can make this recipe and feel like a kid again, enjoying your mac and cheese with the knowledge that it's now 100% vegan, and healthier to boot!

The preface and introductory chapters are invaluable to new and seasoned vegans alike. Reinfeld and Murray offer tips on how to best prepare some of the book's recurring ingredients, explain several useful preparation methods, and give ideas on how to make your kitchen the best vegan kitchen it can be. Armed with these facts and hints, there's no reason to be shy about trying new ingredients or putting a new spin on an old favorite.

There is so much more to this book that will broaden your cooking horizons. The recipes span regions, cuisine types, and dietary preferences. Why not be adventurous and try the "Rawvioli"--raw, zucchini-based ravioli with pine-nut-macadamia cheese? Kick things up a notch with the Hot Hot Hot Sauce? Or impress your omni friends and family this holiday season with a completely vegan Holiday Nog?

Whatever you decide to try, you can be sure that The 30-Minute Vegan won't disappoint!

Vegan MoFo, Day 3 - A Quick Survey

Since I spent last night screaming the names of ancient, semi-historical figues and having confetti shot at me, today's entry is just a survey. (Found in the house vegan.)

Vegan food survey!Collapse )
Since I'm headed off to rock out nerd-style at a They Might Be Giants concert tonight, there won't be any inspired cooking experiments. Instead, I thought I'd used day 2 of VeganMoFo to post about my favorite lunch.

In my mind, it's really hard to go wrong with a good, old-fashioned veggie sandwich. It's easy, fast, and customizable in so many combinations that it would probably take all of VeganMoFo just to touch on a few of them.

veggie sandwich ingredients

This is my favorite, give or take an ingredient. I usually go for either cucumber or zuchinni, carrot or mushrooms, colored bell pepper, onion, tomato, hot banana pepper rings, lettuce, and some kind of mustard or vegan sandwich spread.

Cut 'em all up in the desired quantities, whack 'em between your favorite hearty grain bread, and ta-daa!

veggie sandwich

A quick and delicious lunch that's so darn amazing, you forget it's basically just a salad on bread. (Those are Bachman multi-grain chips, by the way. I'm not much for chips in general, but those things are good and are mercifully devoid of scary ingredients.)

I'm always up for a good sandwich experiment, but this old standby continues to serve me well. Another plus is that it's easy to re-create at most sandwich shops if you happen to be caught out somewhere around lunchtime and need a vegan option!

Question for the comments: What's your favorite veggie combination, in sandwiches or otherwise?
Holy cow, it's Vegan MoFo already?? I know I only found out about it last week, but it still seems like those few days just blew by. I haven't even changed my calendar over to October yet!

I have, however, done a little something for Vegan MoFo! A couple of weeks ago, a local vegetarian group held a Vegetarian Expo, and I was able to snap up a bag of Dandies vegan marshmallows from the table where Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe was set up.

ingredients

Team those up with some Earth Balance, a box of your standard chocolate crispy puffed rice cereal, and a little peanut butter, and you've got one of world's easiest vegan recipes. (I used this one, by the way. Lack of almond butter led to the idea to substitute a rather fantastic natural PB we had hanging around.)

All it took was a little melting and stirring.

melting butters

added marshmallows

I was a little worried at first that the marshmallows weren't going to melt well. When they first went in the pan, all they did was get kind of sticky and thick. But the recipe recommended constant stirring until melting occurred, so I stuck with it and, as you can see, they hit a point where you'd never know they weren't your "traditional" marshmallow.

melted marshmallows

added cereal

Everything combined perfectly to make a lovely batch of the old childhood favorite.

finished treats

Now, I could have gone all out on a health kick and spent the time hunting down an organic cereal or something of that ilk, but I'll let you in on a little secret. I like some foods that, if you think about them too hard, are just plain disgusting. While veganism is mostly a dietary and health thing for me, there are some things that I enjoy eating that will never qualify as healthy. And cereal, I'll readily admit, is one of them.

Froot Loops? Bring 'em on. Crunch Berries? Yes please. And things with chocolate? Hell yes. The upside I've found with a lot of "chocolate" cereals is that none of them contain chocolate that's ever had anything to do with milk, which makes both my inner vegan and my lactose intolerant digestive system very happy.

So here's to veganized childhood pleasures. And if you have a little peanut butter hanging around? I do recommend trying it in place of the almond butter suggested in the recipe, especially if you're using chocolate cereal...

krispy treat

Question for the comments: Do you have a "guilty pleasure" food or foods that, while still technically vegan, have ingredients that aren't all that good for you?
I suppose I should introduce myself before VeganMoFo truly gets underway and this blog fills up with foodie ramblings. So, here goes!

Who am I?

I'm Theresa, but most people call me Sam. I've lived in upstate NY for the past 24 years (that is, my whole life) and can't really complain. Despite being subjected to winters that start in October and don't feel like leaving until April or May most years, it's gorgeous here, and what growing season we do have turns out some fantastic produce. And, as you'll shortly figure out, I'm a sucker for good, fresh produce.

Why vegan?

I'll start by saying that I'm not 100% vegan. Food-wise, I'm as careful as humanly possible, but I'm also a knitter. Knitters are fibery people, and things like wool and alpaca have yet to offend my sensibilities in any way.

That said, I started growing out of my taste for meat around age 12 and then spent about six years being flexitarian--that is, the occasional sausage or order of General Tso's chicken would still wind up on my plate. But a combination of personal taste, health concerns, and environmental concerns conspired to turn me full vegetarian around August '08. Veganism started looking good around January '09, when the lactose intolerance I'd been keeping under control for the last 14 years took an extreme turn for the worse.

Since then, I have to say, I've felt pretty good. My body feels cleaner and lighter than it ever did when I was omnivorous or even vegetarian. I no longer experience severe, food-related digestive problems; nor do I ever feel heavy, sleepy, gross, or sick after meals. I've discovered a host of new foods (quinoa, anyone?), new recipes, and a whole new community to explore. As I'm fond of telling people, veganism is a good life.

Why VeganMoFo?

Simply put, because I'm a foodie. It's not something I ever identified myself as or ever imagined becoming, but I did, and I am. There are reasons for this besides an interest in veganism that I may or may not get into over the course of the month but, in general, I've always loved to cook and bake. I started helping my mom with traditional family recipes when I was very young, and it stuck. Not only do I enjoy making my own food, trying new recipes, and sharing the results with others; but I also firmly believe that being able to cook for oneself is an invaluable skill. Making food from scratch and knowing how to prepare delicious, healthy, filling meals is, in my book, a necessary part of becoming self-sufficient as you grow up and grow into yourself.

The focus of this blog

During VeganMoFo, I'm going to try to post as often as possible about vegan food, vegan items, and veganism in general. Expect to see photos of successful dishes, as well as links to my favorite vegan sites, recipes, and cookbooks! I'll also continue to babble about food via my Twitter feed.

As you can probably tell by now, I'm very excited about sharing VeganMoFo with the 300+ other participating bloggers, as well as anyone who cares to read this blog and explore vegan food for themselves. Feel free to comment throughout the month and leave your favorite vegan links! Let's make this a great month of exploration into animal-free eating.

A link to kick things off: the awesome books of Robin Robertson! I'll be talking a lot more about her cookbooks during October.

The Universal Constant, Part 11

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 11
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: This is it, guys, the final part. Thanks so much for your continued interest and feedback. When we started out with this thing, we never imagined we'd get the sort of fandom love that we've gotten over the past 11 weeks. <3 to you all.

And special <3 to everyone that voted for us in the May Lost Fic Awards! We didn't even know we were nominated, and it's thanks to all of you that we won Best Future Fic!

Also thanks to letloverule42, our very first official watcher, and jenthegypsy, our first recc'er!

Thank you, everyone!

Useful Discworld wiki entries for this chapter: Procrastinators, devices for winding and unwinding time; as well as Fate and the Lady, who always seem to turn up somewhere, somehow...

( On the chessboard, the abbot stopped pacing abruptly. "What if we make them think they've won?" )

Visit us at the_constant! Looking for the beginning? Part 1

(Crossposted to lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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The Universal Constant, Part 10

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 10
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: Helpful Discworld wiki entries for this part: Lobsang Ludd, the son of Time; and Susan Sto Helit, the granddaughter of Death. And don't forget to watch out for spoilers if you're not up-to-date on season 4!

( Rules were being broken. Ancient, rigid rules that had to govern all life or else chaos would reign. )

Visit us at the_constant! Looking for the beginning? Part 1

(Crossposted to lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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The Universal Constant, Part 9

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 9
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: This bit dabbles a bit in Pratchett's concept of slicing time. Discworld wiki entry here! And as always, watch out for possible season 4 spoilers!

( Anyone looking for Daniel Faraday would have found him sitting in the corner of his lab with his chin in his hands, thinking. )

Visit us at the_constant! Looking for the beginning? Part 1

(Crossposted to lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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The Universal Constant, Part 8

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 8
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: All right, so the finale was awesome, and you're going to hate us after this, and we have a BIG SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT at the end! Enjoy!

If you're unfamiliar of the Discworld characterization of Death, these wiki entries will be helpful: Death, Death's library, and lifetimers.

( "I expected things to be taken care of long before now," [Widmore] hissed. "I'm not paying you to take your time." )

Visit us at the_constant! Looking for the beginning? Part 1

(Crossposted to lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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The Universal Constant, Part 7

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 7
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: Possible season 4 spoilers!

( It was just like the previous day, when he had been convinced Penny was home and it turned out to be nothing more than a strange, vivid dream. Or had it? )

Visit us at the_constant!

(Crossposted to lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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The Universal Constant, Part 6

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 6
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: You know the drill...possible season 4 spoilers!

( "Hard as you may find it to believe that the course of history, the fate of Time itself, can revolve around one man, you’d better start believing it." )

Visit us at the_constant!

(Crossposted to discworld, lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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Sleepless -- a Lost fic

Title: Sleepless
Rating: PG
Description: An introspective Daniel finally gets up the courage to tell Charlotte how he feels.

Daniel Faraday wasn’t sure he liked the island any more.Collapse )

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The Universal Constant, Part 5

TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 5
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...

NOTES: For those of you who didn't play through Find815.com, Lostpedia has an entry on Oscar Talbot. And if you're unfamiliar with Discworld, the Wikipedia entry on History Monks might be helpful. :) Again, no spoilers (we hope), but be careful if you haven't seen all of Season 4.

( Desmond was sitting on the couch, reading his battered copy of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. ... The book that had been everywhere with him, but that he rarely opened. The book he always said he was saving. )

Visit us at the_constant!

(Crossposted to discworld, lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, and hauntermooneyes)

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