October 31, 2011

Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole

Thank goodness sweet potatoes are one of Mother Nature's superfoods. Because if they weren't? I'd be in big trouble. (Or just nutritionally deprived and fat.)

I. Love. Them. 

I could eat sweet potato pancakes for breakfast, fries for lunch, and in enchiladas for dinner. Top it off with some sweet potato pie and I'd be a pretty happy (and slightly obese) camper. 

Since this upcoming holiday season will be my first as a vegan, I'm starting to experiment with some of my favorite recipes now so that I can wow my slightly skeptical relatives. My grandmother always made the most delicious sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving. I've modified it by replacing the animal products and lowering the amount of refined sugar. Good food + smaller waistlines? Yum. 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons vegan margerine, softened
  • 1/2 cup almond (or other non dairy) milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

Pecan Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegan margerine, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 325. 
2. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Cook sweet potatoes 20-25 minutes, or until soft. Drain and mash.
3. In large bowl, mix together sweet potatoes, salt, margerine, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Transfer to 9x13 baking dish. 
4. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture is coarse. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes. 
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned. 

Cheers, ya'll!

Gym Membership vs. Home Workouts

After struggling to zip up my (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) Halloween costume Saturday night, I realized needed to take a good hard look at my life. 12 hour workdays/eating meals at my desk have taken their toll: It's time to join a gym.

The only problem? I live in Small Town, USA. There isn't a Y here, only old-school gyms with weights and cardio machines. Since I get bored pretty quickly, I prefer to mix it up with classes and the occasional day on the elliptical or stationary bike. Plus? They're all about $50 a month.

So basically my choices are: join for $50/month (to basically just use cardio machines) or  mix it up with walking/running/biking outdoors + occasional workout DVDs.

Help! What would you do if you were me? (Unfortunately, moving far, far away is not an option.)

October 27, 2011

Pad Thai w/Spaghetti Squash

It seems that the better I become at my job, the less time I spend working out. Since I want to maintain the weight I lost when I first became vegan, I've realized I'm going to have to cut back in some places.

I started with The Gluten-Free Vegan, a cookbook that a friend gave to me when I was moving away from Charlotte and that I've just recently begun to peruse. So far, the recipes seem pretty straightforward and easy, which is exactly what I need after working 12+ hour days.

Find it on Amazon

I was having a pad thai craving this week, and due to living in the middle of nowhere the lack of Asian restaurants, I had to attempt to make it myself. In order to cut down on calories, I subbed spaghetti squash for rice noodles. Unlike many of my substitutions, this one turned out great. (It hasn't stopped by students from making gagging noises when I pull out my lunch, but whatever. They eat chicken nuggets smothered in imitation "cheese" sauce.)

1 Tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise with seeds and pulp removed
2 cups chopped carrots
1-2 cups chopped celery
1 14.5 oz package firm tofu, cubed
1/4 c. apple cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari if you're going gluten free)
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 Tbsp. nonhydrogenated peanut butter (like Smucker's Natural)
1 can bean sprouts (I found mine in the "ethnic foods" section of Food Lion)
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Bake spaghetti squash face up in an inch of water for one hour.
3. After removing squash from oven, run a fork from top to bottom on the inside of the squash. (It should look like spaghetti!) Place in bowl and set aside.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet.
5. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until onions are transparent, 4-5 minutes. Add tofu and continue for 4-5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add the rest of the ingredients (vinegar, peanut butter, etc) and spaghetti squash, stirring to coat. Heath through. Serves 4.

Cheers, ya'll!

October 26, 2011

Talk With Your Hands

Now that my job is to shape the young minds of America talk with my hands, my raggedy-looking manicure just ain't gonna cut it. (Plus, middle schoolers are more than happy to ask why your nail polish is chipped and nasty looking.) Unfortunately, now that a cold snap has hit, my bright corals and pinks just aren't working anymore. Living in a small town has plenty of perks (I just haven't quite figured them out yet), but a Sephora isn't one of them.

Luckily for me? While wandering through the Walgreens the other day, I stumbled upon a wall of OPI nail polish. Was it my imagination? A mirage? Nope. Just good luck. Since OPI doesn't test on animals, I treated myself to I Brake For Manicures:

The verdict? Not too dark, perfect for fall, and one of my male students even told me that my nails looked nice. Sold!

October 14, 2011

The one drawback to moving from a cramped apartment to a sprawling Southern home? The furniture that used to pack your place from wall to wall now appears sparse. So sparse, in fact, that a visitor last weekend remarked that it looked like a frat house.

To a Southern woman, I'm pretty sure there's no greater insult.

I worship on the ground of Better Homes and Gardens. I eat on china from my great grandmother and sit on a beautiful couch passed down to me from my aunt. I fluff pillows for fun. And you think I live in a frat house? Last time I checked, frat houses had pyramids of beer cans shoved in the corner and smelled ever so slightly of urine and poor decisions.

Sigh. What's a girl to do? Furniture is expensive, and I can't really afford much besides what was already given to me by family members. IKEA has furnished as much of my new house as it possibly can, but it still doesn't seem to be enough. Especially these beautiful Anthropologie pieces, which each cost more than a month's pay:

Amelie sofa in Poppy

Double-decker bookshelf


Pelican by Patsy Grace
Any ideas as to where I can get affordable furniture?

Happy Friday ya'll!

October 13, 2011

Awesome Non-Dairy Margerine

Ok, ok...I know it doesn't sound as good as butter, but non-hydrogenated, non-dairy margerine is what I use as a substitute for the animal-laden version in all of my recipes, and I've had great results.

While Earth Balance is the gold standard for vegan margerine, I no longer have access to the high end (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc) stores that carry it. (And it always seemed a tad bit expensive to me.)

Luckily, I found their sister brand, SmartBalance, in my small-town Food Lion, emailed the company, and a few of their versions are vegan! (And less expensive!) Look for the Organic Whipped version if you want dairy-free.

Cheers for still getting to eat pancakes on Saturday morning

October 12, 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta

During the summer, I like to balance summer's steam with food that's cold. I ice my coffee, refuse to turn the oven on, and eat things like Chilled Avocado Soup. Now that our first cold snap has arrived, it's time to put some heat back into my meals.  This pasta dish was easy to make, feels light, and but warmed me during chilly dinners on our back porch. (The original version of the recipe can be found here.)

Spicy Sweet Potato Pasta
large (12 oz.) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes 
8 oz. whole wheat penne, spaghetti, or linguine
1 tsp agave nectar or brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp soy sauce
6 green onions, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 450. Greased a baking pan; set aside. In a bowl, toss sweet potato cubes with agave nectar, chili powder, and cinnamon. Spread in prepared baking pan and bake 20 minutes. 
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup hot pasta water. 
3. In saucepan, combine peanut butter and soy sauce; whisk in 3/4 cup of the hot pasta water. Add green onions and stir until heated through. 
4. Serve sauce over pasta with sweet potatoes. Serves 4.

October 11, 2011

Guest Post: Vegan Survival Tips

One of the many awesome things about blogging is some of the people you get to (virtually) meet. Take Bianca (from Vegan Crunk) for example. Not only does she respond to my hysterical emails about being vegan in the Mississippi Delta (we all know how that one turned out), she's also been super-helpful during my transition from big city to Small Town, USA. She was kind enough to share her genius  here at The Preppy Vegan, so we no longer have to fear starvation in the land of Bojangles and Mickey D's.

Bianca from Vegan Crunk

Hello! I’m Bianca from Vegan Crunk, where I blog daily on what I eat in the Dirty South. But today, I’m dropping by the Preppy Vegan because Ensley has graciously asked me to do a guest post on survival tips for small-town vegans.

I live in Memphis, which isn’t exactly a small town, but we’re also not known for being the most vegan-friendly city either. Let’s face it — most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in Portland (a.k.a. Vegan Mecca). Though Memphis has gotten one all-vegan restaurant in the past year, it can still be a struggle to find vegan options on most menus here. I’m sure the same goes for many of you living in small towns across America and beyond.

Additionally, some folks in small towns might have trouble finding vegan specialty items, like vegan cheese or mayo. But never fear. There is hope! Here are a few of my top tips for surviving as a vegan in a small town:

1. Call ahead to restaurants or check out the menu online — This rule is pretty much common sense, but I have to say it. When family or friends are planning an outing, always scan the restaurant’s online menu for vegan or easily-made-veg options. If the restaurant doesn’t have a website, pick up the phone and give ‘em an old-fashioned phone call. Let them know a vegan is coming and inquire whether or not they have anything that is either accidentally vegan or can be made vegan by leaving off cheese or butter. You might want to explain what “vegan” means to be clear. Also, as a general rule, any Asian or Mediterranean restaurant should have ample veg options.

2. Ask the chef — If the menu is loaded with non-vegan crap, politely ask your server if the chef can create a special vegan dish just for you. Don’t feel like your being a pain-in-the-butt. You have a right to delicious vegan food, and maybe the chef will consider adding the dish to the regular menu. If the chef agrees to make you a special dish, be sure to let him or her know how much you liked it. And tip your server well.

3. Consult vegan apps and websites before dining out — Don’t forget that HappyCow.net can be a valuable resource for locating veg options in your city. The data at Happy Cow is user-driven though, so be sure to send the website info when you stumble on an unlisted vegan-friendly place. If you have an iPhone, Happy Cow’s database of restaurants can be easily accessed through the Veg Out app. Also, Vegan Xpress makes a great iPhone app for locating veg-safe fast food. Did you know Taco Bell’s bean burrito fresco is vegan? Or that Pizza Hut’s Thin ‘n’ Crispy and Hand-Tossed crusts are safe? All this (and more) can be found on Vegan Xpress. VegFast, another iPhone app, also has a similar list of fast-food vegan options.

4. Decide how vegan you want to be when dining out — I may catch hell from militant vegans for this one, but I’m not a crazy question-asker when I dine out. Especially if I’m dining with non-vegans. I will always ask if a soup is made with chicken stock or if a veggie burger contains eggs. But I’m not going to throw a fit if my bread arrives buttered. I’ll eat it, but next time I’ll know to ask for that butter to be left off. I think being a super militant vegan makes our lifestyle look too hard for an omni. I don’t want to turn any omnis away from a possible vegan future.

8. Help local restaurateurs develop vegan menu items — Confession: I’ve never actually done this. But I recently sat on a panel at Vida Vegan Con with John of The Laziest Vegans in the World blog, and he shared stories about how he and girlfriend Isa Chandra Moskowitz had helped a local Omaha restaurant add vegan menu items. This would work especially well if you’re friends with any local restaurant owners.

9. Form a club — Though most of the above tips deal with dining out, no vegan wants to dine solo all the time. Make other vegan or vegetarian friends so you’ve got a strong support network. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, this shouldn’t be too hard. Start a Facebook group for local vegans, and set up potlucks and outings. There’s strength in numbers! When I moved to Memphis in 2002, I didn’t know any other veg folks, but nearly 10 years later, I’m a member of a 100-plus strong local vegetarian club that I helped start through leafleting and word-of-mouth (this was in the Dark Ages before Facebook, mind you).

10. Order your essentials — You can find every vegan item in the world on the internet, and although you will have to pay shipping costs, sometimes it’s worth the extra $10 to enjoy some tasty blue cheese Sheese or melty-melty Daiya. Favorite websites include Vegan Essentials, Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, and Food Fight Grocery.

Thanks for being awesome, Bianca! 

Readers: what are your thoughts on vegan survival outside of the big city? 

October 10, 2011

Fresh Fall Couscous

October 2011 Issue
My move to small town America has included plenty of benefits: good job, gorgeous home, amazing kitchen. One of the few drawbacks? My magazine subscriptions (from which I get recipe ideas for you, dear reader) took a V-E-R-Y long time to show up. As it turns out, without BHG and Southern Living to guide me, I've a very lost little vegan. Luckily, the Post Office/Magazine Powers that Be got their acts together last week and the new BHG showed up on my doorstep. While many of the recipes were meat-based, they managed to slip in a delicious-looking autumn couscous chock full of seasonal veggies. I upped the veggie content, added some protein, and switched butter for non-dairy margarine. 

1 clove garlic, minced
1 2-lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups chopped cauliflour
1 red apple, cored and chopped
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped cashews or pistachios
1 10 oz package instant couscous
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
3 Tbsp non-dairy margerine, like SmartBalance or Earth Balance
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp sage

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Place chopped squash with 2 Tbsp water in microwave-safe bowl and cook on high 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once.
3. Transfer squash, cauliflour, and apple to greased baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and oregano. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 10 minutes until beginning to brown, stirring once.
4. Prepare couscous according to package directions, stir in garbanzo beans, and set aside.
5. In microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, cumin, chili powder, and sage. Microwave just until butter is melted.
6. Top couscous with veggies, cashews, and chili-butter. Serves 4.

October 8, 2011

Make You Banana Pancakes...

One of the benefits of living in a beautiful Southern town is the back porch complete with rocking chairs and the hum of ceiling fans. Since my days during the week begin at 5am, I use the weekends to take advantage of quiet mornings with some coffee and the newspaper. (I tend to not have time to open my Sunday Times until the next one has arrived on my doorstep, but at least I'm trying to maintain some connection with the outside world, right?) 

Since my weekday morning breakfast also usually consists of a fruit smoothie or cereal eaten while standing up, I've been trying to treat myself to pancakes once a week. (Really taking a walk on the wild side, eh?) Since I use whole wheat, the pancakes are filling and healthy while still being delicious. Top with non dairy margarine and a little syrup, and you're good to go. 

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking power
2 cups almond (or other non-dairy) milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup applesauce or one mashed banana

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Heat griddle or frying pan over medium heat.
2. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto hot pan. Flip when bubbly and brown on the edges. Makes about ten 4" pancakes. 

Cheers, ya'll!

October 7, 2011

Fashionable Friday: Boots and Sweaters and Scarves (Oh My!)

Since I'm teaching students how to make analogies, I'll go ahead and put one out there:

I am to clothes the way a drug addict is to crack rocks.

But seriously. What do I want to do with my measly amount of disposable income? Buy clothes. What cathartic action do I take after a bad day at school? Online shopping.

Abraham Lincoln famously said "He who has no vice has no virtue either." So there. This is my vice. I own it.

Thanks everyone for your vegan boot recommendations last week. I think I've found a pair at Target that fits my riding boot needs:

Manette Riding Boots in Brown $39.99

Mossimo Cardigan $19.99

Now if I could only find a baby-soft, tan shawl wrap, my search for style would be complete (for this month at least).  Any ideas?


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