May 27, 2011

Fashionable Friday: Non-Leather Shoes

I should really just start calling these Friday posts What I Like At Target, since they seem to always feature Target wear. I'm not ashamed, because most of their shoes and bags are non-leather, which means I can pile them in my cart. Plus, I'm about to start a new job (more on that later) in which I can no longer wear open-toed shoes and sandals like I can right now (sob), so this isn't just shopping for fun. (But it's still a little fun.)

I recently bought these blue "suede" shoes, and they could be the most comfortable things I've ever worn:
Makana Cut-Out Wedges in Blue $19.54
I also found these cute, tan, "leather" wedges. Not as comfortable, but no half bad either:
Manon Woven Flats in Tan $24.99

I already have a pair of Jack Rogers, and yes, they're leather, but I bought them before I was vegan. If they ever wear out, though, I'm going to buy Target's version, because they may be the best knockoffs I've ever seen:
Enid Whipstich Sandal $19.99
Where do you find great non-leather shoes and bags?

May 26, 2011

Is Nutritional Yeast Safe?

I recently got this email about nutritional yeast from one of my awesome readers, Natalie, and thought it was important to share with all of you. Read it and (don't) weep.

Hey Ensley,
I would also love more info on nutritional yeast. Right now I am working through a jar I got from Kroger, in the natural foods section, Braggs brand. I really like it on my veggies and popcorn. There are so many brands to choose from on Amazon. Do you go for cost or quality? I read somewhere that the ones with b12 are not necessarily vegan friendly. I also read that adults should not eat more than 3 tbsp per day because of uric acid production and possible kidney problems. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.


Thanks for the email Natalie! Since I had never considered this before, I did some digging. I mean, I sing the praises of nutritional yeast at every chance I get, so the fact that I may have been recommending too much of it was a little, uh, unnerving. It was pretty hard to find anything that said something negative about nutritional yeast, no matter how many times I Googled. 

My first stop? My friend Katie, of Sweet Tater Blog, who is enrolled in the Master's of Human Nutrition program at Winthrop. Our conversation went a little something like this: I pester her with incessent questions at our Charlotte Food Blogger picnic, she kindly answers. I asked her Natalie's question and she basically said to remember that it is a supplement, (in many health food stores you can find it in the supplement aisle) and that you can have too much of a good thing. (We tend to think that if a little is good, more must be better. Not always so.) Considering 3 Tbsp contains about 800% of many B vitamins, but according to this article and this one from Nutrition Diva, it's pretty hard to obtain toxic levels of B vitamins. 

Also, nutritional yeast is known as one of the vegan sources of B12. I buy mine on Amazon or at Berrybrook Farm in Charlotte. My Kal brand nutritional yeast specifically says it's vegan, so check and make sure whatever brand you're buying is. 

The verdict? Stir a half of cup into a batch of biscuits, sprinkle it on popcorn or my awesome vegan pizza, and call it a day. I wouldn't worry about the vitamin levels as much as I would the high fiber content. Most people don't get nearly the amount of fiber they need, but if you're eating like a good Preppy Vegan, then more than a serving (3 Tbsp) of nutritional yeast (plus all of the other yummy veggies you're eating) might be a littttle much. 

Hope this helps! Keep the questions coming!

May 25, 2011

Soy-sage and "Cheddar" Biscuits

Southerners are to biscuits what Yankees are jewelry. They're a part of who we are. Don't believe me? Check it out:
Go ahead...say I'm right.
Luckily, biscuits are fun to eat while gold chains aren't. (I'm assuming.) This version came from my friend Maya's Southern Living Homestyle Recipes cookbook, and I think I might have dropped some crack in them somewhere, because they were pretty addictive. I may or may not have eaten about half of the batch as soon as they came out of the oven. I told myself it was ok since they were made with whole wheat flour....hmmm. Try them and see for yourself!
Note to self: It's hard to make drop biscuits look good.
3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 package soy sausage links (like Tofurky), finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or agave nectar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non dairy milk)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1. Heat oven to 375.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add sausage, onion, salt, and pepper, stirring occasionally until onion is tender; set aside.
3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutritional yeast, and sugar or agave. Stir well.
4. Combine applesauce, almond milk, mustard, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and onion/sausage mixture. Add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened.
5. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until starting to brown on top. Makes 24-30 biscuits. 

May 24, 2011

Easy "Chik'n" Jambalaya

With summer (and Memorial Day beach weekend) fast approaching, I've been craving Southern food...nonstop. Why is it that when the weather gets warm, my bod craves anything that will prevent me from looking good in a bathing suit? 

Let's check: Carrot sticks? Nope. Salad? Absolutely not. Jambalaya and biscuits? Bring 'em on. 

Luckily, the vegan version amounts to little more than protein and fiber. I'm pretty impressed with my play on words here. (Patting self on back.) After finding this Easy Chicken Jambalaya dish in Better Homes and Gardens, I originally tried to replicate the chicken with tofu. Ummm...not good. Luckily, genius struck like a bolt of lightning and I realized that roasted chik peas would add great texture, protein, and fiber without much fat or calories. If you want a lighter version, nix the sausage. If you want it spicier, add more Cajun seasoning, or eat it while sitting next to someone hot. (Ka-ching!) 

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I found mine at literally says "Cajun seasoning" on the front)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced*
2 Kielbasa or Italian-style soy sausage links, chopped (optional), like Tofurky
1 medium red onion, sliced*
2 (yellow, green, or red) bell peppers, sliced*
2 14.5 oz cans no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
2 cups brown rice (I used instant...don't hate)

1. Place chik peas in a small bowl and toss with Cajun seasoning. 
2. Heat large skillet over med/high heat. Add chik peas, roasted for 2-3 minutes. Add soy sausage to skillet, stirring occasionally until heated through (probably another 2-3 minutes). 
3. Add onion and peppers to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to soften. 
4. Add stewed tomatoes, bring to a boil. 
5. Remove from heat, cook rice according to package directions. Ladle jambalaya and rice into bowls. Serves 4.

*Organic veggies from Backyard Produce

May 20, 2011

Fashionable Friday: Vera Bradley Dockside Canvas

In college, my sorority sisters and I had a small cult forming around Vera Bradley. We had to have everything: duffels, makeup bags, curling iron covers (yep) and keychains. Most of them have big-girl jobs that have allowed them to move on to bigger and more sophisticated things, buuuuuut I'm a teacher.

So it's Vera all the way, baby. Luckily, they have a new Dockside Canvas collection that just might rival Land's End tote bags in terms of preppy perfection.

I mean...hello? I need these. (Not in the same way that Ethiopian children need food, but you know what I mean.)
Clutch Cosmetic in Dove Grey 28.00

Large Tote in Sunshine Yellow 68.00
Plussss...since I have super intense teacher training this summer, don't you think the large tote would just make my job easier by:
1) Helping me lug everything around, and 
2) Making me look cute? (When you feel good, you do good, right? Right?)

Do you love these or not? Should I get the tote?

May 19, 2011

Baked Eggplant "Parmesan"

I was having a craving for eggplant parmesan, but with bikini season approaching a little too quickly I've been trying to avoid all things fried and fatty. I took this healthier, baked eggplant dish from my fave Moosewood Cookbook and veganized it. 

The verdict? Delish. The tofu does well in its role as mozzarella, and mozzarella used to be my favorite cheese. I can't sit here and tell you that mozzarella isn't totally delicious. However, it was more than worth the swap, and knowing how many fat and calories I was saving made me pat myself on the back a little bit. (And then help myself to another serving.) 

I made the mistake of trying to make the tomato sauce from scratch like Molly K. does in Moosewood. Thankfully I've learned from my mistakes, and made the recipe MUCH easier and quicker by using a jar of marinara sauce. (You.Are.Welcome.)

Unfortunately, this dish was pretty un-photogenic, as in "all of us in our middle school years" un-photogenic. So this recipe is photograph-free, on the assumption that you know what eggplant parm looks like. 

For the tomato sauce:
2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 jar marinara sauce, like Newman's own
2 tsp Basil, Dried
1 tsp Oregano, Dried
1 tsp Thyme, Dried
1 tsp Salt
1 serving Parsley
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 large onion, diced
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomato paste

For the eggplant:
2 medium-to-large eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch disks
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cups bread crumbs (use Panko or crushed Triscuits)
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme

For the "cheese"
2 12 oz packages extra-firm tofu
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast


1.Heat the oven to 375 
2.Wash and slice the eggplant (two medium) horizontally. In a shallow dish, mix the crumbs with the basil, oregano, and thyme. Pour the almond milk into a shallow bowl.
3. Dip the eggplant slices in the almond milk to coat both sides, then into the crumbs to coat both sides, and lay them on a greased cookie sheet (you can stack them one on top of the other.)
4. Bake them about 25 minutes, or until soft. 
5. While eggplant is baking, heat olive oil in large saucepan over med/high heat. Saute the onions over medium-low heat until soft, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the basil, oregano, thyme, and salt and continue to saute another minute. Add the jar of sauce, tomato paste, and pepper (more or less to taste); stir together. 
6. Partially cover and simmer over low heat while mincing the garlic. Add the garlic and simmer until eggplant is done baking in the oven. 
7. Drain extra-firm tofu by pressing between two paper towels (over the sink!) until most of the water seems to be out. Slice about 1/4 inch thick. Rub both sides of tofu slices with basil and salt mixture. Set aside. (This will be your mozzarella). 

8. Grease a 9x13 pan and add a layer of eggplant. Add a layer of tofu, and a layer of sauce. Continue the pattern until you run out of eggplant. Sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast. 
9. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or heated through. 

Don't forget to invite me over when you make it! 

May 18, 2011

The NEW Four Food Groups

While wasting my time doing invaluable research on the internet last night, I stumbled across an awesome vegan, gluten free baking company called purely elizabeth.

The reason this is awesome? My friend Katie (who's gluten-free) can bake me brownies! (Because it's all about me, obvi.)

But that wasn't the coolest part. in the FAQ section of the website, they linked to a preventative medicine website, called PCRM, that's choc (chock?)-full of info on vegetarian and vegan diets.  There is also a poster of the "new" four food groups:

This makes so much sense. As a teacher, I literally cringe when I read kids books about nutrition and have to tell them that meat, dairy, and eggs are the "best" protein sources. Because you know what's in their lunchboxes? Go-gurts and Lunchables. That's not food.  
Have you ever watched a child eat a Lunchable? The thought of those shiny chunks of turkey and cheese should make even a carnivore gag. 

Anyways, the website goes on to say that our standard food pyramid was created in 1956, long before the epidemics of "Western diseases" like diabetes and heart disease took over. 

So this is my new food pyramid...I hope I'll be able to share it with my students one day.  

May 17, 2011

Summer Salads: Avocado, Tomato, and Cucumber (Oh My!)

Anyone remember my ode to avocados? Yea, it continues. 

This recipe is one of my grandmother's summer favorites, and it's so easy I feel silly even printing a recipe. (But go with me on this one.) Serve it with (veggie) burgers, (veggie) hot dogs, or whatever other (non-animal products) you are grilling out with. Yum. Serves 4. 

2 medium avocados, peeled, seeded, and chopped*
2 medium tomatoes, diced*
1 cucumber, chopped into half moons*
1/2 cup (more if needed) Italian dressing, like Newman's Own (I like them because the give to charity)

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; stir. 
2. Cover and chill for at least an hour. 
3. Yes, that is really all there is to it. 

*Organic veggies from Backyard Produce

May 16, 2011

(Super-Easy) Stuffed Peppers

There's something about making stuffed peppers that's always intimidated me. How will I  know what to stuff them with? Is it really that easy to hollow them out? Why do the peppers get so wrinkly after you cook them? (Some of life's great mysteries, I guess.)

Turns out, the answers to these questions were quite simple and went something like this:
1) Have your friend Maya tell you things that would be good in stuffed peppers. Then copy everything she says and claim it as your own recipe. (Ka-ching!)
2) Yes, and 
3) Don't question. Just eat it.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of trying to save $1.25 and bought pistachios with the shells still on. (Maya, go ahead and say "I told you so". I deserve it.) By the end of the bag, I would have paid someone ten times that amount just to hand me a bowl of shelled, halved pistachios. Learn from my mistake(s). Cough up the extra five quarters and buy the pre-shelled version. 

Besides the pistachio time waster of 2011, these were incredibly easy, and I have no guilt about using instant rice. You know why? This isn't a gourmet restaurant. I have things to do that don't involve stirring rice for half an hour. (I could have watched an entire Real Housewives episode by then! Can we say P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-E-S?)

What are some of your favorite things in stuffed peppers? 

These actually look semi-edible, which must mean either my photography or my cooking is improving. 
6 bell peppers, tops and seeds removed*

For the filling:
1 cup instant brown rice
1 cup veggie broth or stock
2 Tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 medium white onion, diced*
2 large garlic cloves, minced*
1 8 oz package mushrooms, diced*
1 15 oz can chik peas, rinsed and drained
1 cup pistachios, shelled and halved
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring broth or stock to a boil. Add rice, following directions on box for cook time. Set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a separate pan. Add onion, sauteing until beginning to soften. Add garlic and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until onions are clear and mushrooms are tender.
4. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, onion and mushroom mixture, chik peas, pistachios, apricots, and nutritional yeast. Stir until well blended.
5. Place peppers in a baking dish and spoon equal amounts of mixture into each.
6. Back for an hour, or until peppers have softened and rice mixture is browning on top.

Have fun with this recipe: add some canned artichokes, swap black beans for the chik peas, use raisins instead of apricots. (But trust me on the pistachio thing.)

While you're mouth is watering, head on over to Haughty by Nature and tell us your (funniest) dating disaster stories!

*Organic veggies from Backyard Produce

Cheating with Cheesecake

It was taco night at my friend Rachel's house last night. I was loving it and chowing down on my chips, salsa, black bean dip, and lettuce. Totally vegan, totally delicious. 

Then my friend Abby brought out the cheesecake. With cherry pie filling for topping. And my resolve crumbled. 

I wouldn't cheat on my vegan-ness for just any ol' thing, but cheesecake with cherry pie filling? I was powerless. I could eat cherry pie filling with a spoon. So I had a piece. And then another. 

And now I feel like crap. 

Well really, I feel like I used to when I ate dairy, eggs and all that other nasty stuff on a regular basis, which is: bloated, fat, (same thing?) and guilty about everything I put in my mouth. Ugh.

This was a good reminder that I'm not just a vegan for ethical reasons. I truly believe it's the healthiest, kindest thing I can do for my body (which has worked so well for me despite the way I treated it for many years). And eating animal products makes me feel gross, physically and emotionally. 

Even Alicia Silverstone, Preppy Vegan Goddess, admits to occasionally slipping up with a slice of cheese or two. (If Alicia can do it, I can do it, in my humble opinion.)

If you are vegan, do you ever "cheat"? How do you feel afterwards? (Aka can you talk me off the ledge?)

On a less Debbie Downer note, check out these recent posts from some of my favorites:
Willow Bird Bakin's ode to Rebecca Black
Vegan Crunk's review of Memphis's first all-vegan restaurant
Taylor Takes a Taste's tutorial on how to shoot food inside restaurants
Sweet Tater's raw lasagne

Happy Monday! (Sort of...)

May 12, 2011

Summer Pasta Series: Fettucine Alfredo & Veggies

There are some things that I will never be able to make vegan (like a grilled cheese sandwich) but I'm always up for a challenge. So when I found a fettucine alfredo recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, I rolled my sleeves up, made myself a drink, and took a few deep Zen breaths. (That part about the breathing is made up. But not the part about making a drink.)

So technically it's not fettucine in the pic, but it still tasted awesome!
Nutritional yeast (I hate the name, because it makes something so delicious sound sooo disgusting) is a great non-soy replacement for Parmesan. (And pretty much every other type of cheese-sauce, like in my Mac and Cheese.) Three Tbsp contains only 80 calories (yep, you read that right), 18g of protein (mmhmm), 5g of fiber (20% of DV) and bundles of B vitamins. Can we say "perfection"? I insist you to give it a's pretty much the only ingredient that I use that you can't find at the average Food Lion or Harris Teeter, but you can find it online at Vitacost or Amazon

Despite the fact that I had whole-wheat shells in my pantry instead of fettucine, this recipe turned out a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The alfredo sauce was light and delicious, and I didn't go into a food coma like I used to with the dairy version of the sauce. 

I also got tatsoi in my Backyard Produce box and had no idea what to do with it...turns out it's like spinach, only more flavorful. From now on, I'll save the spinach for salads and tatsoi for pasta and baked dishes. 

  • 8  oz. (1/2 a box) whole wheat fettuccine (I used whole wheat shells, obviously)
  • 4  Tbsp.  non dairy, non hydrogenated margerine, like Earth Balance
  • 1  Tbsp.  olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4  oz.  fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 bunch tatsoi, rinsed and chopped*
  • 1-1/2  cups  fresh broccoli florets*
  • 8 oz package fresh mushrooms, sliced*
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2  Tbsp.  all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/4  cups  almond milk
  • 1/2  cup nutritional yeast

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to saucepan; keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the margerine and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute about 2 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms, and zucchini. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add tatsoi, stirring until vegetables are tender and tatsoi is wilted. Remove vegetables from skillet; set aside.
3. In same skillet melt remaining margerine over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in almond milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in nutritional yeast. Gently stir in pasta and vegetables. Stir in additional milk to reach desired consistency. Makes 4 (1-1/2 cup) servings.

Has anyone else tried tatsoi?

May 11, 2011

Calypso for Target = ....Heaven?

Crinkle Scarf in Orange $19.99
In the latest edition of "What Can Drain Ensley's Wallet", Calypso for Target has arrived. I spent hours last night when I should have been working looking at the three different collections (Sea, Reef, and Shore), and it was totally worth it. Except I'm going to have to get another job in order to pay for all of this...because I want everything.

Print dress in Turquoise $36.99
Tie-Dye Braided Neck Tank in Turquoise $19.99
Teardrop gold hoop earring $14.99

Medallion-Print Tunic $36.99
Linen wrap dress $42.99
Three-wick candle in Marine $17.99
Decorative Pillow $24.99
Three piece cosmetic set $24.99
This is only a small sampling of the collections. What was your favorite?

P.S-Head over to Haughty by Nature to hear my radio debut! (Talking trash, natch.)


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