July 20, 2012

Light in the Face of Darkness

I usually don't get caught up in news tragedies, but last night's massacre in Colorado has been heavy on my mind today. I can't help but imagine how many people I love who were excited to see a midnight showing of Batman. I'm glad none of them happened to be in Aurora, Colorado.

And while we can say that the killer will be brought to justice, can that ever be enough? The suffering of a killer can in no way erase the suffering of moms, dads, siblings, and friends who lost someone last night.

The best we can do in the face of any tragedy that we see from a distance is to not let the darkness overtake us. Telling yourself that the world is full of madmen only lessens your awareness of those who act with love.

Since we cannot erase what has happened, we must simply move forward in the rhythm of our everyday lives. Here are the words that are calming my soul today:

 Practice peace in every moment. Speak highly of yourself and others. Do things that are good, all in the name of service. Put the needs of others before your own. Let go of petty inconveniences and see a slow-moving line as a chance to find something to be grateful for. Tell those around you that you love them. Make sure they know why. Hug tightly. Anger slowly. Forgive quickly. Strive for nonviolence towards all beings in thought, word, and deed. 

And most of all, send love-whether through words, action, or thought-towards those in need (including yourself!) every chance you get.

Portlandia Epidsode 2: Quit Your Whinin'

*The Preppy Vegan* has been nominated for Charlotte's Best Food Blog 2012! Please vote by liking/tweeting/pinning here and then tell everyone you know to do the same! (Seriously. Everyone.)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming: 
Despite my parents' support of me being vegan (and by "support" I mean they've stopped asking me if I couldn't just eat a "little" meat every now and then), there's occasionally still some arm twisting when it comes to their eating vegan. 

Case in point: Our second day in Portland, we'd gone for a great hike to Council Crest. Dad put me in charge of finding a lunch place, so I q-u-i-c-k-l-y plugged in directions to Blossoming Lotus in the rental car's GPS. Did I, uh, forget to mention this was a 100% vegan restaurant?


I casually mentioned it as we were taking our 1000th lap around the block trying to find street parking, at which point my Dad made one of those scrunched up, disgusted faces and said "We're going through all of this trouble to eat....vegan?"

Yep. Too late now. (It's called having a strategy, people. And.it.works.)
The lunch crowd @ Blossoming Lotus
Luckily the wait was short so Dad couldn't put up too much of a fight, and I distracted Mom by making her take pictures of me outside:
My first time at an all vegan restaurant! Yay.
Finally, our appetizer of Pesto & White Bean Hummus came and (amazingly!) all grumblings quickly gave way to the sounds of chips crunching and scraping the sides of an empty bowl.
Pesto & White Bean Hummus
Let's just say the rest of the trip went verrrrry well. Dad even said he'd like to eat there again sometime. Winning. 

The "Even Your Omnivore Parents Will Like It" 
Pesto & White Bean Hummus

1 can white beans, like cannelini, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil 
1 cup almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts (my small town grocer doesn't carry pine nuts, so I buy walnuts for this)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup green onions, plus a few more for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. (Mixture should still have texture.) Transfer to a small saucepan and heat until warmed through. Sprinkle green onions on top and serve with warm pita or tortilla chips. Sit back and relax as your parents say things like "this is surprisingly good" and resist the urge to say "I told you so".

I told you so.

Find Portlandia Ep. 1 here.
Vote for The Preppy Vegan as Charlotte's Best Food Blog here.

Cheers, y'all!

July 9, 2012

Don't Dream and Drive (of Avocado-Tomato Bruschetta)

Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives to living alone. On the positive, I can stay in my pajamas until 3pm while watching hours and hours of Paula Deen. (Or was that the negative?) On the other hand, not having anyone around to judge me can lead to the development of some pretty weird habits. (See above description.) Example: eating the same thing at every.single.meal. (Breakfast too? Maybe.)

On one of my many recent visits to Ocean Isle Beach, my darling massage therapist/yoga master friend Lindsay whipped up a delicious post-beach snack of avocados and tomatoes on hearty bread. On my drive home, I mentally developed a recipe for it that involved some spices and olive oil, and it was all I could do to not drool on myself for the next 3.5 hours while driving down country roads. Seriously. I listened to music and thought about dipping crunchy, multi-grain bread into olive oil seasoned with spices. I switched to an audiobook and imagined the creamy texture of the avocados blending with the crisp, cool taste of the tomatoes.

Let's just say it was a pretty long ride. 

I didn't even get to my front door before I detoured to Food Lion to pick up the ingredients. Upon returning home with my bounty, I opted to not turn on my oven in favor of keeping my house cool (we all know my issues with excessive glistening), but I've included directions in case you prefer your bread crispy. 

Let's just say that all that dangerous mid-drive fantasizing was worth it. This was delicious, and I literally ate it (with pleasure) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it was gone.....2 days later.

Oh, and I may have gotten myself some vegan spring rolls as an "appetizer". A craving's a craving, people.

Avocado-Tomato Bruschetta

18 (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) slices multi-grain French bread
2 avocados, pitted and diced
5-6 plum tomatoes, diced
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Spices, as desired (this is where I sort of go crazy and add everything from my spice rack. Don't knock it until you've tried it.) 

1. If you would like your bread toasted, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine olive oil and minced garlic and brush over bread slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. 
2. Combine avocados, tomato, basil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, stirring to coat (be careful not to mush avocado too much). 

3. Spoon avocado-tomato mixture onto toasted bread slices and see if you don't the whole thing by yourself. Seriously.

Cheers, y'all! 

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th Y'all! Mac and Cheese Dogs & Beans in a Blanket

This time last year, I was sweltering at a barbeque in the Mississippi Delta. 

Literally. I didn't know humans could produce the amount of sweat I did at that cookout. Sick.

Luckily, there's a silver lining in every cloud. In this case, I used my excessive "glistening"  as an excuse to down beer after beer to hydrate myself. Yes, I realize this is not the actual effect that beer has on your body. You gotta do what you gotta do, people. 
Makes me want a shower just looking at it.  
Fast forward a year later: I've survived finished my first year of teaching and enjoying my first summer off, um, ever. (The verdict? A life of leisure is perfect for me.) I'm back at the beach with some of my favorite people in the world: 
Mama Missy, Elise, moi, Shannon
....and whipping up yummy 4th of July meals while the A/C is kickin'. (Thank you, Jesus.) 

Since summer is awesome, I've basically spent my days reading Better Homes and Gardens and watching The Food Network. Though it's nearly impossible to veganize Paula Deen's recipes, I figured I'd attempt her version of Pigs in a Blanket, which she calls Hogs in a Sleeping Bag. I'm not sure what to name the vegan version....Beans in a Blanket? Soy in a Sleeping Bag? Doesn't matter. I smothered them in BBQ sauce not long after this photo was taken:

Top: Lime & Peach Salsa Dogs. Bottom: Mac and Cheese Dogs.
Artfully scattered about: Beans in a Blanket.

..and promptly ate every last one. Delish. 

The hot dog recipe is modified from the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens, which contains lots of yummy Fourth recipes just begging to be veganized. Check out my version of their Lime and Beer-braised Dogs here. The vegan version is light, healthy, and ready to be smothered in ketchup and/or BBQ sauce as soon as you're done assembling it. 

Mac-n-Cheese Dogs
For the macaroni and cheese:

4 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups non-dairy milk
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/16 tsp tumeric
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For the dogs:
8 animal-free hot dogs, like Smart Dogs
8 whole wheat hot dog buns

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, heat non-dairy milk.
3. Once warmed, stir in nutritional yeast, salt, mustard, pepper, paprika, tumeric, and garlic powder. Stir or whisk until blended and there are no lumps.
4. Slowly add flour, stirring as you go. Allow mixture to bubble and thicken, 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. When well blended, and there are no lumps, remove from heat.
5. Pour sauce over cooked noodles, stirring to coat.
6. Heat hot dogs according to package directions. Serve in buns, topping with 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of mac-n-cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with BBQ sauce or ketchup.

Each Preppy Vegan serving: 308 cal, 3.8 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 566.6 mg sodium, 51 g carb, 9.9 g fiber, 22.2 g protein
Original recipe: 469 calories, 25 g fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 1,015 mg sodium, 40 g carb, 1 g fiber, 19 g protein

Hogs in a Sleeping Bag
1 12oz package Smart Dogs (8 hot dogs)
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and lightly rolled out
2 Tbsp olive oil
Barbeque sauce, ketchup, or mustard for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut each Smart Dog into 3 equal pieces (24 pieces total). Cut  each sheet of puff pastry into 12 strips. Roll each piece of Smart Dog in a strip of puff pastry and place on baking sheet.
3. Bake until pastry is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Happy 4th of July, y'all!

July 2, 2012

New Summer Favorites: Beer-Braised & Peach Salsa Hot Dogs

We never really celebrated Fourth of July much when I was growing up. 

Looking back, I think it was partly because we were usually traveling to far-flung locations that weren't celebrating ol' Independence Day, and partly because my parents would rather die than store a bunch of 4th of July crap decorations in a closet for the other 364 days of the year. (The fact that they live on their sailboat compounds the storage issues.)

However, one thing we were adamant about year-round was grilling. Living on a sailboat in tropical climes will do that to you. (It's a tough life, really. But someone's got to do it.)

Now that I'm a grown-up (age-wise, anyways), I've inherited the repulsion of a craft closet, but I do still like to have someone else grill. The Better Homes and Gardens 4th of July recipes gave me a way to celebrate the holiday without having to search Pinterest for red, white, and blue-themed trinkets to hot glue. (Hallelujah.)
Top: Beer-Braised & Peach Salsa Dogs. Bottom: Mac-n-Cheese Dogs.
Even before I was vegan, I avoided hot dogs like the plague once I knew they were made of "meat by-products" (aka whatever they could scrape together off the floor of the slaughterhouse) and cancer-causing nitrates. Sick.

Smart Dogs to the rescue! I've never tried these before, but I was super impressed with them. Not only are they vegan and therefore not made of disgusting ingredients, there was also no freaky texture or aftertaste. (I think we call that a win-win.) I guarantee they'd be a hit with the non-vegan crowd as well.

Here, I've used my wit and cunning intelligence to combine the Better Homes and Gardens recipes for Lime and Beer-Braised Dogs with their Pickled Peach Dogs, which, might I add, turned out fabulously. I'll be posting the recipe for the Mac-n-Cheese dogs (pictured above) tomorrow. See for yourself:

Beer-Braised & Peach Salsa Dogs

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or chopped
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and halved lengthwise (I kept the seeds for heat. Seed if you want a more mild salsa)
2 limes
1 12 oz can or bottle beer (I used Bud Light Lime to go along with the whole "lime" theme. And because I'm awesome.)
2 peaches, pitted, halved, and diced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (white vinegar works in a pinch)
8 animal-free hot dogs, like Smart Dogs
8 whole wheat hot dog buns

1. Place peaches in a resealable bag or shallow dish. Pour vinegar over peaches, stirring or rotating to coat. Let sit at least 20 minutes.
2. For the rest of the salsa, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and half the jalapeno, diced.
3. To make the super-delicious beer cooking liquid, cut one lime in half and juice, retaining halves. In a large skillet combine beer (try not to drink it all before it goes into the pan), remaining 1/2 jalapeno, lime juice, and lime halves.
4. Cook until heated through, about 3-4 minutes. (You are just heating them through since they are already "cooked" when you buy them.)
5. Remove hot dogs, discarding cooking liquids and solids. (If you're like me, press them in the George Foreman for a minute or so to get those awesome grill marks. I've never lit a charcoal grill in my life and I sure don't plan on starting now.)
6. Drain vinegar from peaches and stir them into the salsa.
7. Serve hot dogs in buns, spooning salsa onto the top. Serve with lime wedges. Makes 8 servings. 

Each Preppy Vegan serving: 212 cal, 2.3 g fat,  0 g cholesterol, 522.6 mg sodium, 33.8 g carbs, 6.3 g fiber, 13.1 g protein*

Original recipe: 314 cal, 16 g fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 810 mg sodium, 28 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 11 g protein. 

*According to the LoseIt! recipe tracker. 

Notice that my version has less calories, fat, no cholesterol, and a LOT more protein and fiber? Yes please.

Cheers, y'all!


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