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Pre-Packaged Faves

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

So, I can’t cook every day.  A few days a week I work long hours, meaning I don’t usually cook those days.  Plus, even though I love to cook, there are definitely times that I run out of steam and inspiration and just don’t want to cook.  Leftovers and help from my fantastic husband usually get us through those days.  And there are always our few fallback restaurants.  But sometimes a girl just needs a pre-packaged meal to get her through the day.  But it’s tough to get gluten-free dairy-free packaged foods.  (Surprisingly, not that much harder to get gluten-free vegan packaged food).

So here are some of my quick meal favorites:

Daiya‘s Pizzas – Gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and vegan, this is surprisingly fantastic.  I’ve had a lot of trouble finding it in stores though, which makes me sad.  I’ve tried the mushroom and roasted garlic and roasted vegetable flavors and was really impressed.  They have great flavor without being overwhelming.  For frozen oven pizza they’re pretty good.  Heck, for pizza in general they’re pretty good.

 

Tandoor Chef‘s Pad Thai – Not sure what an Indian cuisine company is doing making pad thai, but I don’t care.  Now gluten free fish-free pad thai is pretty hard to come by, but don’t think I’m letting down my standards because of that.  This is as real as you can get, tamarind sauce and all.  Somehow they have managed to keep the tofu crunchy despite the microwave, and I love the straw mushrooms and baby corn.  My only complaint is that there is not enough of it!

 

Amy‘s Burritos – Make sure to get the Gluten-Free Non-Dairy burrito.  It’s easy to get confused since it’s the same color as the non-gluten free non-dairy burrito.  This has led to several very depressing lunches for me, where I realized that I had the wrong wrap when stuck at work with 15 minutes to grab lunch.  Also never ever microwave on paper towels.  Use a plate.  Unless you like eating paper.  You’ve been warned.  The wrap is great, probably the best tortilla replacement I’ve had.  It’s something like a cross between injeera and dosas.  I wish I could just buy the wraps (you know, for times I want to make my own burrito).  The tofu scramble breakfast burritos are pretty darn good too.

 

McDougall‘s Black Bean Soup – It’s like cup-a-soup, only healthy, vegan, and gluten-free.  Just add hot water!  Easy to transport and something that could easily be kept in your cubicle drawer to use in an emergency.  Doesn’t need refrigeration.  Only a hot water dispenser or a microwave!  Plus it’s actually good.  Like, really good.  Just stir a lot.  Because nobody wants weird chunks of powdered black beans in their food.  There is also a pad thai and tortilla soup version which are good, but just not as good as the black bean one.  It looks like on their website they even have oatmeal cups.  What?  Sign me up.

 

Oh, and look what I found at Sprouts today:

These GoPicnic ready-to-eat meals!

Haven’t tried them yet, but is anyone else thinking replacement airline food?  I mean, have you tried getting gluten-free vegan airline food?  Good luck.  Not that they give any food away for free anymore.  But if they sold this on the airlines?  I would be all over it.

I was hoping this would be something good for Little Miss in case I didn’t have time to pack lunch one day (like lunchables, but healthy).  Unfortunately they all seem to have nuts, which are a no-go for a few reasons.  Oh well, more for me.  These would be great to keep at work for food emergencies.  (Yes, I need my snacks.  What of it?)

 

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Leaning Out

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Leaning Out

This isn’t my usual sort of post.  It’s a bit religous, although it’s not really about religion so much as inspired by it.  This is difficult for me to post as it is difficult for me to talk about strongly religious things in public.  Plus it’s a bit sappy.  But something inside of me wants this to be out there.  So here it is.

It is that time of year again, the ten days between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  These ten days known as the Yamim Noraim, or days of awe, are the time we are to take stock of how we have behaved in the previous year.  And they are consistently difficult for me.  Self-examination is not easy, not the least because it is really hard to be honest.  There is a fine line, honestly, between denial and self-flagellation; it is upon this line that truthful self-examination rests. And for me, for so many years, I have come down firmly on the side of self-flagellation.  I would obsess, over and over, about the things I did wrong and how I could be so much better. .  And eventually it stopped really being about self-improvement and started being some sort of contest about how bad I could feel about myself.  If there were a being-hard-on-yourself olympics, I would win the gold medal.  I resolved to do better next year by being even more hard on myself until I felt so guilty that I would never do anything wrong.  Needless to say this didn’t work.  I had lost sight of the point.  Because teshuvah, the Jewish concept of repentance, in fact doesn’t even mean repentance.  It means “returning”.  It’s not about beating yourself up about everything you did wrong, or having to somehow “pay” for those mistakes.  It’s just about acknowledging that you made mistakes and trying to find ways to return to the beautiful, pure, loving soul that is always a part of you.

So I have been starting, over the past few years, to work on self-improvement rather than self-castigation.  It’s a process.  I sometimes think that even just wanting to be a better person fulfills the requirements of teshuvah.  But those tiny steps towards becoming a better you still matter.  And I do think that it is important to note that Jewish tradition requires you to be your best self, not some cookie-cutter ideal.  There is a focus on authenticity, working with what you have been given, and making the most of your unique talents.

I am taking a somewhat different approach this year than I have in the past.  This year I don’t just want to work on improving myself, but I really want to work on figuring out what is holding me back.  I think it’s so easy to say things like, I don’t volunteer enough because I’m not generous, or I get annoyed with people because I’m not compassionate.  But sometimes when I dig deeper I realize the reason I get annoyed with people is because I am so compassionate that it frustrates me that I can’t help them.  I don’t need to learn to be more compassionate.   It is so important to get to the heart of the matter, because it’s so easy to spend all this time working on the wrong thing.

I find that what holds me back most is not being my best authentic self.  Trying to force myself into the mold that someone else has poured for me.  The more I exhaust myself with struggling, the more I become short-tempered, impatient, and withdrawn.  When I do the things that make me thrive, the joy I feel tends to shine through and I am naturally more inclined to be a good person.

It seems like it should be so easy.  Do what makes me happy and I will pay it forward.  But it’s not that easy.  There are, of course, a lot of reasons why I can’t just do what makes me happy, not the least of which are economic pressures on me to work at a job that makes money.  But there is also a lot of social pressure, social ideas which have been drilled into me for my whole life.  Doing the things that I enjoy is SELFISH.  Being selfish is bad.  There are these voices in my head telling me that following my heart is hurting other people. Being a writer doesn’t cure cancer, and I’m so smart, I should cure cancer.  Some of the voices are outside of my head, like my daughter telling me that if I take a shower that I’m not playing with her and I’m making her sad.

It’s not a new revelation.  People have been saying it for years.  Heck, I tell people this all the time at work.  Sometimes you have to be a little selfish in order to be selfless.   If I make time for myself, I might not spend as much time with my daughter, but the time I spend will be more quality.  If I work at a job I really enjoy, I won’t be so exhausted at the end of the day and I’ll have energy to volunteer.  It’s something I’ve heard and heard and heard and couldn’t internalize.  But over the past year I’ve started to learn to internalize it.  It’s hard, because it challenges all sorts of beliefs that I’ve held for a long time, and also possibly means dramatic changes in my life.  But it’s time.

A major thing that holds me back is the constant social expectations of women these days.  How does one reconcile them?  Be an attachment parent. “Lean in” at work.  Always look stylish and well groomed (and make sure your children are as well).  Prepare healthy food for your family and avoid processed food.  Do this on a budget. Work out regularly.  Have an active and interesting social life.

We need more hours in the day.  Seriously, I’m tired just looking at this list.

Being my authentic self means being able to ignore all these cultural cues and figure out what works for me.  Because nobody can do all of that.  I really mean this.  Anyone who thinks that there is some perfect woman out there who does all of those things and still sleeps is just wrong.  Or, if there is a woman who is doing all of those things she is probably not very happy.  So I have to let go a bit.  Give something up.  Let myself be imperfect, but happy.  For me this means spending more time with my child.  I don’t need to be a CEO.  I don’t want to be a CEO.  I don’t even need to be successful in my career. .  I would like to work little enough that I have time to cook for my family, do yoga classes a few times a week, and sew halloween costumes and maybe some other stuff here and there.  I would like a career that I find fulfilling, possibly something I would consider a hobby but would still make me money, but if I didn’t have to work at all that would be fine with me.  I will never be super-fashionable or impeccably coifed because I just don’t care.  And I’m never going to go to balls and galas and clubs every night because I just don’t want to.  I’m kind of a homebody, and getting dressed up sounds fun but really just stresses me out.  Unless it’s a costume party.  Then, I’m there.

I hope that other people can read this and feel empowered.  Because we all have to, I’m going to say, lean out.  And then we have to respect each other for the things we choose to do and the things we choose to give up.  Your choices aren’t going to be the same as mine.  You might hate to cook and love to work.  Staying at home with your kids all day might drive you bonkers.  Maybe you really thrive on being stylish and well groomed, and getting a manicure just makes you happy.  Oh, and all of this goes for men, too, of course.  Some men want to be Mr. Mom.  I don’t care.  Love your kids, love your life, do what you love.  When that gives you just a little more energy, try to use that energy to make the world just a little nicer for everyone else. That’s all I care about.

For those of you who are Jewish, G’mar chatima tovah.  And for everyone, I wish you a year full of blessing and joy and authenticity.

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Fave Vegan Ingredients

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

So little miss started pre-school this week. I didn’t think I was nervous. I mean, I went back to work when she was 7 weeks old so I’m used to handing her off (granted, to her grandparents). And she is so completely independent I wasn’t worried about her separating. In fact I more or less planned to just drop her off the first day and run, until the pre-school orientation suggested that someone might want to stick around the first few…weeks? Er, what? Anyhow I figured someone had better plan to be available the first few days just in case. On Monday this fell to my mother and husband, and little miss did just fine, so I doubt I will even stick around tomorrow. But even though I was SURE that I was not nervous, I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night. And Monday night wasn’t much better so I am really tired and cranky now.
To avoid any complicated photo driven recipes today, I’m doing a quick list post. Everyone likes lists, right? And soon you can look forward to the much anticipated return of the home grown theme as our spaghetti squash are ready. Hooray!

So, without further ado, my top 5 vegan ingredients! Drumroll please.

5) Garbanzo beans – the humble chickpea has a slightly creamier flavor than most beans. Mash it with kelp granules for “tuna” salad or with nutritional yeast for “chicken” salad. Purée it into hummus (everyone’s favorite dip). However you prepare them, chickpeas are my favorite bean!
4) Coconut milk – nothing replaces cream quite like coconut milk. I love it as ice cream, whipped cream, and yogurt. It’s not a delicate flavor, though, so good thing I love the taste.
3) Chia seeds – these tiny seeds pack a big helping of calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that can be hard to get on a vegan diet. Plus they are fun. Chia pudding? Chia energy drinks? Yes please! And they are great egg substitutes to add a little fiber to gluten free baked goods.
2) Cashews – because how else would I make vegan Alfredo sauce? I love making and eating cashew cheeses and extra love that they have healthy protein, unlike some other cheese substitutes.
1)Nutritional yeast – well, cashew cheese wouldn’t be cheesy without the nooch. A great source of protein and B vitamins, it provides the umami pop that many vegan recipes need to go from bland to fabulous! Is anyone surprised this is at the top of my list?

And bonus, some new faves I discovered just since the start of Vegan MoFo:

1) Ener-G egg replacer – what? I can make vegan beaten egg whites? Fantastic!
2) Coconut bacon – OK, not strictly an ingredient, but how did I live without this? I have it on good authority that it tastes nothing like bacon, but who cares? It’s delicious. Even my 2 year old likes it. I can eat it by the handful. Of course it is possible that liquid smoke might be the death of me.

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Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

I will be taking a break for the next few days because of Rosh Hashanah.  Vegan MoFo posts will resume Sunday, hopefully with some delicious veganized holiday recipes for you!  In the meantime, here’s to a happy, healthy new year for any MOTTs and happy eating to the rest of you.

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May your good deeds be as plentiful as the seeds of a pomegranate.

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Preserving Your Herb Harvest

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Preserving Your Herb Harvest

One of my favorite things to grow is herbs.  They’re easy, plentiful, and smell delicious.  They grow basically without effort.  In the back of the house there is a small plot where I grew tomatoes and a few herbs last summer.  It was torn up when we had some sprinkler problems and basically ignored for six months.  This spring, a huge oregano plant sprang up in a matter of days, presumably from last years seeds. I think the sprinklers weren’t even on at that point. And there is a patch of mint in the front of the house that I did not plant, ever.  It is slowly taking over the lawn.  (This is a PSA – always plant mint in a planter, not the ground, it’s a menace).

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VeganMoFo Introduction

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

VeganMoFo Introduction

I am not a vegan. Feel free to judge me if you want, but I thought it should be clear.  I’m not an obligate meat eater, the sort of person that must have meat in every single meal.  From early in elementary school, we kept kosher (largely because I demanded we do so but also because school required kosher lunches).  This meant that we very rarely had meat in breakfast or lunch, and only had meat dinners about half of the time.  It’s safe to say that my mom isn’t much of a meat-eater.  So when I declared at age 13 that I was a vegetarian, it was less of a strain on my family’s eating habits than it has been in many a family.  I was a vegetarian for quite some time (about 13 years).

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