Monday, March 12, 2012

What's in My (vegan) Shower

I promised myself I would keep up with blog posting after VeganMoFo ended, but I have failed miserably.  Nonetheless, I am back with what I hope will be more regular blog posts.  

Now, I am a bit of a beauty junkie.  Sephora is one of my favorite stores to visit and I enjoy primping myself when I have the time.  For the past few months I have been working on transitioning my beauty regime into one that is vegan.  Sadly, this is no small feat, but it is definitely doable.  I plan on doing some round-ups every so often of wonderful vegan products I have been using in the hopes that it might help some fellow vegan beauties in their search for the perfect products.  

For today's purposes, let's talk shower...

I prefer a streamlined shower routine.  The only products I use in the shower are body wash, shampoo and conditioner.  I don't see the need for additional shaving or exfoliating products.  Below are the products I have been loving.

Lavanila Healthy Body Wash in Vanilla Grapefruit

This body wash lathers wonderfully.  Lack of lather is huge pet peeve of mine.  The smell is fresh and while it stinks up your shower, (in a good way!) the scent doesn't linger on your skin so it won't clash with perfume and such.  From what I can tell, the Pure Vanilla scent is also vegan (other scents contain beeswax) so I may try that in the future.  The next body wash I plan on trying is Flying Fox from LUSH.  

Pureology Pure Volume Shampoo and Conditioner
Having fine, limp hair I tend to purchase volumizing shampoos.  It is important for me to get my hair squeaky clean since it can get quite oily.  Again, lather is important for me.  With some shampoos it takes a second wash just to get my hair clean, but with the Pureology line, this isn't a problem.  During the winter I dye my hair darker so color care is crucial.  Pureology is great for this because many (if not all) of their products are great for color treated hair.  I also have LUSH's BIG Shampoo which is wonderful, but not suitable for colored hair.  I will use this throughout the summer when I let my hair get lighter.  

First beauty round-up complete!  Keep an eye out for more to come. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Curried Butternut Squash Soup from La Dolce Vegan

VeganMoFo has ended and World Vegan Day is now here!  It was 67 years ago that the Vegan Society coined the term “vegan” and it was almost 4 years ago that I made the choice to permanently join the vegan community.  It’s been eye opening, gratifying and all sorts of fun. 

November is arguably my favorite month of the year.  Things seem to slow down, more time is spent with loved ones and food takes center stage.  This November I will enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, host my annual Friendsgiving dinner for some of my best gal pals, celebrate 6 years with my love and take a much needed mini vacation to Vegas.  Giddy up!

Let’s kick this most awesome month off with a delicious fall soup, shall we?  Curried Butternut Squash Soup to be precise.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, La Dolce Vegan.  This was a cookbook I borrowed from the library and found that I was marking so many recipes to try that I just had to own it.  I’ve made several of the soups and haven’t found a loser yet. 

I received a small butternut squash in my latest CSA box so I opted to turn it into a soup from this go-to cookbook.  Now that MoFo has ended, I’m not going to title posts with which I use mainly CSA ingredients “Cooking through my CSA”.  It seems a bit pointless since just about every meal I have is based around something from my CSA.  It’s a big box and it’s only lil ol me eating it.  I’ll still try to mention if I’m using something from the CSA and continue tagging the posts as “CSA” for those interested in CSA cooking. 

This was my first time cooking with butternut squash.  Expecting the squash to be difficult to work with (peeling and seed scooping, ehh) I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  All it takes is a peeler, a sharp knife and a spoon to get your squash prepped and cubed for the recipe.  

 The squash had the pleasant, familiar smell of pumpkin when I cut into it.
The soup before pureeing.  Ingredients include butternut squash (surprise!), potatoes, onions, broth, curry and garlic.  I also included some green onions I had on hand.  The recipe only directed to puree about half of the soup mixture but I chose to puree this pot completely smooth.  The one time I had butternut squash soup in a restaurant they served it this way so I wanted to mimic that.   
This soup was silky smooth, comforting and delicious.  A great autumn dish to fuel up on during the best month of the year. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paint it Pumpkin (VeganMoFo)

Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has had a weekend full of costuming, scary movie movie watching and festive treats…or whatever it is that makes you smile (or scream!) during this special time of year.  Tonight I plan to dress up in my homemade wind-up doll costume and hand out candies to lil treat-or-treaters.  I spent Friday night out on the town in my nifty costume with friends and on Saturday my man and I enjoyed a scary movie double feature.  During intermission we wanted a festive treat so we decided to make pumpkin cookies.  We veganized this recipe from All Recipes and omitted the frosting.  They were scrumptious (and quite easy)!  These went perfectly with the strong coffee we brewed to keep us up for our second thriller.  

Boyfriend and I have a little tradition of making waffles on weekend mornings that we spend together at his house. He has a fancy waffle maker and all.  This weekend we jazzed our waffles up a bit by adding the remainder of the canned pumpkin we used in the cookies (about ½ a cup).  They made for a great weekend breakfast.  

We use Bisquick for our waffles and just follow the recipe on the side of the box, subbing soymilk and egg replacer for the non-vegan ingredients.  

Today also marks the last day of VeganMoFo!  I’m a bit sad, however I am so, so happy that I made it through and kept up posting on an almost daily basis.  I’ve learned a lot and added quite a few new blogs to my reader as well.  It’s been a scream!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Food and Film: Chocolate Mouse a la "Rosemary's Baby" (VeganMoFo)

“Madame and monsieur shall have the dessert after all!  Mousse au chocolat! Or as Minnie calls it, chocolate mouse.” - Guy Woodhouse

Halloween is upon us!  This Food & Film post is about one of my absolute favorite movies that also just so happens to be a great one for Halloween:  Rosemary’s Baby.  Mia Farrow plays the adorable Rosemary Woodhouse.  Rosemary dreams of the perfectly restored NYC apartment and three beautiful children with her dreamboat actor husband, Guy.  Problem is, greedy Guy is much more concerned with professional success than Rosemary’s dreams.  Enter nosy, geriatric neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet who want to do everything they can to get Guy his big acting break.  All they want in return is to impregnate Rosemary with the devil’s child and take the baby after it’s born!  Seems to be a great deal for everyone, except poor, na├»ve Rosemary…and anyone else who stands in the way.

Minnie Castevet may be a thorn in Rosemary’s side, but I just love her character.  She is blunt, overly made up and completely unapologetic.  When Guy (seemingly) comes around and decides that he is ready to have a baby, he and Rosemary plan a romantic night in with a fire, fancy dinner and wine.  The only thing missing is dessert.  Enter Minnie!  Minnie prepares and delivers to Guy a chocolate mousse which she calls “Chocolate Mouse”.  It’s spiked with a lil something extra to ensure that our heroine, Rosemary, is knocked unconscious.  How neighborly. 

“As long as she ate the mouse she can’t see nor hear, now sing!”

Seeing as how basically all Rosemary eats after she gets pregnant is raw meat, I thought it would be more fun to feature a chocolate pudding in the style of Minnie Castevete.  Only this chocolate goodness won’t have any kind of “chalky under-taste”. 

There are so, so many vegan chocolate pudding and/or chocolate mousse recipes out there but the following recipe is the only one I have made or ever plan to make.  It’s just perfect!  It comes from Jo Stepaniak’s amazing cookbook Vegan Vittles (one of my faves).  It’s ridiculously easy and tastes just like the traditional chocolate pudding I enjoyed as a kid, only richer, more decadent and free of animal junk.    

The only minor change I make to this recipe is that I add a splash of non-dairy milk to the ingredients before I blend them.  I find this helps bring the consistency together and gives it a nice, glossy finish.  I use only the 1/3 cup of sugar.  I find it doesn’t need more. 

Recipe from Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 2007) © Jo Stepaniak. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The World’s Best (and Easiest) Chocolate Pudding

1 package (about 12 ounces) firm silken tofu, crumbled
1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Tiny pinch of salt (optional)

Food processor or blender

1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until very smooth, creamy and thick.  Start with the smaller amount of sugar and add more to taste. 
2.  Chill thoroughly before serving.
3.  Build a fire, toast your honey and enjoy this “Chocolate Mouse” while watching Rosemary’s Baby.  You can take comfort in the fact that despite their faults, your significant other probably wouldn't exchange your first born for an acting career…I hope. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On a Working Gal's Budget: Proper Food Storage (VeganMoFo)

Cutting your grocery bill doesn’t stop when you get home from the store.  Proper food storage is essential (vital, crucial, mandatory!) to getting the most out of all the food you spend your hard earned money on.  Knowing how best to store and organize your food will help you use it before it goes bad and stop you from throwing your groceries and green into the compost bin.  I’d like to share some things I’ve learned along the way that have stopped me from doing just that. 

It’s important to know how best to store precious produce, especially since this is what tends to spoil the fastest.  Because most of my produce comes from a biweekly CSA, I need to make sure that it lasts me the full two weeks.  The amount of goods I get is enormous and apart from a couple meals that I cook for my man each week, I am basically the only one nomming on it.  What follows are some tips on how to keep your goods good using proper storage methods. 

1.  Invest in proper fruit/vegetable storage:  For this I use Tupperware Fridgesmarts.  I am a Tupperware lady at heart.  Many people gawk at how pricey these containers are, but I have saved plenty when the amount of food I’m NOT throwing away is considered, not to mention the time and gas I save by not having to make emergency trips to the store because my fill in the blank went bad.  Check out Amazon for great deals on Tupperware.  If you are not a Tupperware fan, there are other containers specially made for storing fresh produce that you can get at your local Target or what not.  The important thing is to get your produce out of the plastic bags from the store or your own reusable mesh produce bags and into something that will help it last longer (look for containers with airtight seals that are designed to prevent produce from sitting in its own moisture).

2.  Know how and when to care for your produce:  Berries and delicate fruits/vegetables shouldn’t be washed and then stored.  For the most part, I wait to wash my produce until I am ready to use it or pack it in a lunch.  When I get a huge trough of strawberries from the farmers market I throw them straight into an airtight container and keep them in the fridge.  I then wash what I want, the day I want it.  This gives me a few more days to eat them before they go bad. 

3.  Make sure your storage is organized and everything is visible:  In my experience, food that I can’t readily see doesn’t get eaten.  For this I use as many clear containers as possible and I label everything, even in the fridge.  A roll of masking tape and a permanent marker work wonderfully and won’t leave gunk on your storage.  Each week or so when you are about to make a grocery trip, go through your fridge and clean out anything that is no longer good and stuff that you may want to freeze for later.  Fridge space is precious.

4.  Know what’s best for the fridge, the freezer and beyond: 
Fridge - Most vegetables are going in the fridge.  See some exceptions below.  Fruits that should be refrigerated are berries of all kinds and grapes.  Fruits can be refrigerated to slow down the ripening process as well.  I leave mangos out but if they have ripened and I can’t eat them that day, I’ll stick them in reefer.  This goes for kiwis as well. 
Outside your Fridge – Onions, potatoes, yams, tomatoes and eggplant should not take shelter in your fridge.  Most fruit I keep out of the fridge as well.  Store these items in a rad looking bowl and put them on your dining table or countertop.  With them in your sites, you will probably eat them faster.    
Freezer -  Bread and such like tortillas and wraps should be frozen, especially if you live alone or don’t go through bread really quickly.  My bread can start collecting mold within 2 days of being out on the counter, especially during the warm seasons.  Bread and tortillas are so easy to just defrost what you need when you need it.  Nuts and seeds should also be stored in the freezer when you bring them home.  The oils in nuts can go rancid and it is not a pleasant taste.  These guys are also rather pricey so you don’t want those valuable dollars spent in vain!  Keeping nuts and seeds in the freezer allows you to keep a wide range on hand for various recipes (see Sweet Nut Puree Fruit Topping).    

Special Note on Mushrooms:  Mushrooms go in the fridge and should not be cleaned until you are ready to use them.  They should be wiped clean, rather than placed under running water.  When you get a package home from the store, remove the plastic wrap and place the container in a brown paper bag.  I reuse the same brown paper bag over and over for this.  The brown paper bag prevents the mushrooms from getting slimy. 

Get saving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Latest CSA Loot and a Sandwich (VeganMoFo)

This batch of goods from my CSA was populated by lettuce!  I got two heads of romaine and one head of butter lettuce so I need to get lettuce chomping!  The dragon beans are definitely the stand-out of the loot.  Suzie’s Farm seems to be very proud of these guys.  They posted a recipe for an updated version of green bean casserole using dragon beans that I am looking forward to trying with these beauties (and hopefully posting about). 

Despite getting this CSA box on Sunday, I have yet to do much cooking with the produce.  I hope to dive in later this week.  For now I will leave you with a tofu sandwich I made, using the CSA lettuce and tomatoes as condiments.  This is my favorite kind of at-home sandwich.  The tofu is pressed and then marinated overnight in a mixture of BBQ sauce, soy sauce, olive oil, chili paste and liquid smoke.  I then baked it at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping it half way through the cooking time.  I loaded my baked tofu onto toasted wheat bread that I smothered with some of my homemade tartare sauce then I added a slice of vegan cheese, radish sprouts and the CSA stuff.  It really hit the spot.    

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cheezy Golden Crackers care of "Have Cake Will Travel" (VeganMoFo)

With an omni Halloween party potluck to attend over the weekend, I had to keep in mind a set of criteria for what I would bring.  I wanted it to be festive, it had to be savory (just about everyone else brought sweets), it couldn’t be too “weird” (for the vegan skeptics) and it of course had to taste great.  Without time to make a special grocery trip for this, I also had to make use of ingredients I had on hand.  I opted to try Have Cake Will Travel’s Cheezy Quackers.  I had been wanting to try these for the longest time!  I even bought a set of mini cookie cutters a few months back specifically for this recipe and others that have been popping up like it. 

I am no baker, yet these crackers were rather easy to make.  The most tedious part of the process is just the cutting because you are making so many of the little guys.  The taste is quite reminiscent of the traditional gold fish crackers of yore.  It took all kinds of will power to not gobble up half the batch before I even made it to the party. 

I opted to use my plain mini oval shape cutter and attempted to fashion grooves to make the crackers look like pumpkins.  My artistic skills didn’t really translate so the crackers didn’t look much like pumpkins, but oh well.  People appreciated that I tried and that is why they are my friends.  

Pantry Staple Ingredients
Dough Ball
Before Baking
Post Bake
The crackers were a big hit at the party!  I even got a recipe request.  There is also the bragging right factor that comes from boasting that you made crackers from scratch.  I will absolutely be making this winning recipe again, perhaps I'll add some cayenne pepper for a spicy version.  Very much appreciated, Have Cake Will Travel.   

Nom nom nom