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This has pretty much been me for the past week:

Only I wish I looked this good while sick.  I got some cold/flu/upper respiratory bug that pretty much knocked me on my behind for a good solid 6 days or so.  I’m still not feeling 100%.  I was really bummed too because I had some delicious food in my fridge to prepare but I just didn’t have the energy.

I do have some exciting news though!  I’m going on a little vacation to Colorado in about a week.  I’m going to be going with my Dad, Stepmom, and Grandma, to visit my Uncle and his family who live there.  I’m excited for several reasons: 1)  I haven’t been on an actual vacation since I went to visit Andrea last summer, 2)  I haven’t been to Colorado since…..2002? and 3)  I’m interested to see how difficult it will be finding healthy vegan food while traveling with my very non-vegan family.  I’ve been making preparations – I’ve already come up with some things I’ll be taking and some backup ideas, and I plan to document my experience for this very blog.  For the next few days, though, I’ll probably just be laying on my couch popping Vitamins B, C, and D and eating more of this stuff:

I try not to preach about veganism on this blog and in my life.  When people ask me why I am vegan, I usually keep my answer short and sweet (“For the animals, for my health, and for the planet.”)  If people ask more questions, I am happy to answer them the best that I can, but I can only speak for myself and I don’t pretend to be an activist.  I try to lead a healthy vegan life and let the delicious food and my own health and happiness speak for themselves.  But something has happened recently that really frustrates me.  I’m sure you’ve heard about it – the massive egg recall.  And you may or may not have heard of the investigators’ horrific findings upon visiting these farms.  Unfortunately, places like this are where most of our food comes from.  If you don’t think that is so, ask yourself how this could happen.  How could someone get away with this for so long?  Why did over 1300 people have to become physically ill before the problems at the DeCoster egg factories were “uncovered”?  Do you really think your health and safety – or the animals, or the planet – are being protected?

You can read more about the DeCoster egg recall, well on just about any news site, but here is an article from The Huffington Post.  And here is an outstanding post by a local Des Moines chef who re-emphasizes the importance of buying local in light of this recent recall.

I want to talk a little bit about my own Vegetarian Tipping Point.  On July 4th 2006, I had the day off from work and we were relaxing around the house.  We grilled some food (steak, salmon, and asparagus) and watched some lazy TV.  You know, I hear all the time about how television is rotting our brains, but I happened to catch a show on The History Channel that would literally change my life forever.  The show was called Modern Marvels:  The Butcher, and it explored the various methods of meat processing throughout history up to modern times.  Before I watched this show, I hadn’t really thought much about where my food came from.  I liked food that tasted good and so I ate it (and plenty).  There was something about the way they showed the live animals being prepared for slaughter and the various stages of processed carcasses and raw meat, that deeply disturbed me. That was the last time I ate meat.  My reasons for becoming (and staying) vegan have changed and evolved since then, and they are even slightly different from day to day – but food safety concerns were one of the first things that made me re-examine my diet.  Whenever there is a massive recall like this, it makes me thankful to be vegan.

Now, I will step off my soapbox and present you with some (hopefully) useful information about vegan egg alternatives.  I’ve never felt deprived or like I was missing out on anything since becoming vegan, and substitutions like these are what make that possible.  But you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy these foods, either!

Egg Substitutes

Ener-G Egg ReplacerThis commercial product is made mostly of potato and tapioca starches and is mixed with water to make a slurry (I love that word) and then added to your recipe.  I’ve used this product with success in cookies (like my Chocolate Chip Cookies), muffins, and pancakes.

Fruit puree (like applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin) – These can be used in baked goods like muffins, quick breads, and cakes.  They work best in recipes that have additional leavening agents like baking soda or baking powder (or both).  Usually, 1/4 cup of fruit puree can be subbed for 1 egg.

Tofu – Silken tofu works well in dense baked goods like brownies, and one major bonus is that it’s virtually flavorless.  In recipes, 1/4 cup of blended silken tofu subs for 1 egg. I’ve also used silken tofu successfully in cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and chocolate “pudding” pie.  Regular tofu can be used as a substitute for cooked eggs in things like quiches, tofu scramble, fritatta, and even egg salad.

Flax seed – The flax egg is one of my favorites because it’s affordable and it works so well in baked goods like cookies, muffins, cakes, and quick breads.  It does add a slight nutty flavor and can lend a “grainy” texture to things like pancakes, though honestly I view this as a bonus.  There are a few different formulas for flax eggs, but the one that I use is 1 Tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water to sub for 1 egg.  Combine and let stand for about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens, then add to your recipe as directed.

Chia seed – I haven’t experimented much with this substitution myself, but you can use a chia egg in the same way you would use a flax egg.  Mix 2 Tablespoons of chia and 1/2 cup water and let stand for 10-15 minutes.  This will make 1/4 cup of chia “gel” which can be subbed for 1 egg.

- In savory recipes like meat (or veggie) loaves, eggs are often used as a binder.  In these cases you can use something starchy like breadcrumbs, oats, or even cooked rice or quinoa to help hold things together.

- Lastly, I want to mention black salt or kala namak.  Commonly used in Indian cuisines, black salt has a very sulphury flavor and aroma, and is said to give faux egg dishes an eggy flavor that is otherwise difficult to duplicate.  I haven’t tried it myself, but I think I need to!

Vegan Alternatives for popular Egg Dishes

Tofu scramble – This is one of my favorite things to make because it’s so easy, tasty, and versatile.

Vegan Frittata – I am remembering how much I liked this broccoli frittata , and thinking I need to make it again very soon!

Deviled Eggs (Potato Angels) – This is not my recipe, but I’ve been wanting to try these

Eggs Benedict featuring the Vegan Poached Egg – This is from one of my favorite newly-discovered blogs, Meet the Shannons.  They have so many recipes I’m dying to try.

Eggless Egg Salad – I used to buy this salad pre-made from my co-op’s deli and I’ve always thought I should try to figure out my own recipe.  This is it!

Eggless Egg Salad – Recipe

I’ve bought versions of this salad from delis before, and always loved it.  I knew it would be easy to make my own, and this is my result.  The verdict?  This stuff is good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had real egg salad, but I have to think this is pretty close.  The texture of the tofu really mimics the hardboiled egg white, and the diced avocado (not in any salad ive had, and added at the end) lends a richness like the fatty egg yolk and really takes this salad to the next level.  You can customize this however you’d like – add in some different herbs or veggies (like celery, red onion, even carrot), or leave all the extras out for a very basic salad.

Eggless Egg Salad

Ingredients
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed (I used Westsoy brand)
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons pickle relish (dill or sweet) or chopped pickle (optional)

1 small avocado, diced

Dressing
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
squeeze fresh lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Directions
In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and mix until blended together.

In a separate larger bowl, crumble, crush, or dice tofu.  Stir in remaining ingredients except avocado, and mix in the dressing until well combined.  Let the salad sit for a couple of hours in the fridge so that all the flavors have a chance to blend together.  Just before serving, stir in the avocado.

So, Sunday I had a fabulous day with fellow n00b vegan diet follower, Mandy! I’m going to be frank…it’s been my experience that it’s not as easy following a vegan diet (or even a vegetarian diet) in the south as I would have hoped, but I really can’t be that surprised. I live in Alabama, which is consistently ranked as the first or second fattest state in the country. Sorry folks, but it’s true…While we do have a decent amount of options for healthy living (Manna Grocery here in town, Whole Foods is about an hour away, etc.), it’s not as readily available as some other areas in the country. I also find that while I’ve met quite a few vegetarians in the south, I’ve only met less than a handful of people following a vegan diet so far (though I hope for that to change).

Thank goodness one of them is the dear sweet Mandy! Mandy is actually a former student of mine…I taught her college speech a few years back when she was in nursing school! And, she was the one who kindly pulled out my drains after my tummy tuck back in December (click here to see that video…it’s pretty gross, but pretty neat if you’re into that kind of thing…and yes, I was still drugged up in the video! haha). I adore Mandy!

I think Mandy’s blog title is fitting (Southern Girl Goes Vegan) because it’s really not all that common here. But, that doesn’t deter her or myself from trying to find the best possible healthy eating for us for the rest of our lives…

ANYWAY…so, Sunday was a get together day. We met up to spend a day eating and shopping. We had a brief pit stop at Starbucks where I got an iced soy chai latte, as well, I was out pretty darn late the night (3:30 a.m.!!!) before and needed a pick me up (no, this isn’t a regular occurrence).

Then we headed out to Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, which is one of the few vegan friendly restaurants in our area. I LOVE Bottletree. Such a fun, hilarious environment with AWESOME food, with many of their menu items exclusively vegan (did I mention this is rare in the south??)…Mandy had never been before, so she was excited.

We decided we’d get two separate brunch dishes and split them. Wise decision. We’re pretty smart. ha.

Here are some pictures from brunch at Bottletree:

Mandy is all hippy!

Funny sign!

Too funny!

Mandy sips it up!

Okre!

Pickled okre? We're in the south, of course!

Woot!

Holla!

DELICIOUS vegan brunch!

Sweet Delta Slinger: Homemade sweet potato biscuit open-faced with 2 hand-pattied soy sausages covered in vegan mushroom and sage gravy, served with a side of greens. This was soooo awesome and we both gobbled up our portions!

Andre the Giant: A hearty meal of veggies and tofu sauteed in nutritional yeast, served over seasoned black beans and yellow corn stone-ground grits. This was really good too, but we both admitted that the Sweet Delta Slinger won out in this vegan brunch battle. Still worth every penny (both dishes were $7.50, quite a steal if you ask me).

After eating brunch at Bottletree, we headed to Western Supermarkets to try the ever so blog popular drink, kombucha (at the suggestion of fellow Alabama blogger, Matt). I have to admit I was pretty pumped. I’ve been wanting to try kombucha for AWHILE now because everybody RAVES over it (especially Averie at Love Veggies and Yoga).

So, we purchased some and tried them out in the parking lot (no we could not wait). Here’s what ensued:

Kombucha!

Toast...to upcoming nastiness! And man, I look rough!

Ah, we were naive!

Seriously...so nasty!

Yep...I don't have a clue what is in store for me!

So.not.good. I don't care if it's healthy for me...

People. I don’t care. We both thought it was BEYOND disgusting. NO THANK YOU. People make fun of me all the time because I can really stand and eat/drink some pretty gross stuff (my pre workout Brendan Brazier fitness drink comes to mind). No thanks. No thanks at all. I’m fine without kombucha. BOTH types were just plain gross. GROSS. It was like tasting pissy vinegar. Ugh. Maybe it was this brand? I don’t know…but it took us FOREVER just to drink 1/3 of it and then I threw the rest of mine away. Gross. No thanks. Just gross.

We laughed about it though and I’m glad I finally tried it…but, um, no.

After that, we headed over to Whole Foods (the only one in Alabama, sadly) where we spent a good 3 hours shopping for various groceries. Yeah, that’s what I adore about Mandy. She is not a clothes shopper at all (like me). But, man, put us alone in Whole Foods and we could spend all day there! I loved shopping with Mandy. She’s really informed and I think we compliment each other with our vegan diet n00bness. Got some really awesome goodies, and even ran into a long time crush of mine who now works at Whole Foods (le sigh).

My loot from Whole Foods!

Not pictured: Luna & Larry’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Coconut Milk ice cream (in my freezer).

Took a nap after shopping (what can I say…shopping wears me out). Then Mandy and I headed out for a fun run by the lake. We also stopped at an elementary school and did “box jumps” and football drills on their field. I think we did roughly 3 miles and it was super fun. It’s so nice to have a local vegan diet friend. REALLY nice. And add that to the knowledge that fellow candytocarrots blogger and no-longer-vegan-n00b Lindsay has, I feel like I’m building a good support system circle. And that’s key.

Chile Chickpea Burgers

I know it’s very un-Iowan but we just had our first sweetcorn of the summer!  It was absolutely delicious, though, and I’ll be getting some more this weekend.  I served the corn with these Chile Chickpea Burgers – an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while kind of loosely inspired by falafel.  I’ve tried making bean burgers before but they always turned out too bland for my tastes.  I remedied that by adding a can of green chiles and some typical falafel flavors like garlic and lemon.

These chickpea burgers are just a little spicy but you could make them more or less spicy by adjusting the spices or adding hot sauce.  Green chiles are mild so don’t be afraid of using a whole can.  This recipe made 7 patties using a 1/2 cup measuring cup.  It’s kind of an odd number of burgers to have, but they are great as leftovers and we’ve been eating them all week on salads and in wraps, like so:

I served mine with salsa on top but they would be good with guacamole, hummus, or tzatziki too.   I used coconut oil, but you could easily replace with olive or other oil of your choice.

Chile Chickpea Burgers

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons ground flax
2 Tablespoons water
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded carrots (about 1 large)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 (4oz.) can whole green chiles, drained
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
salt & pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make your “flax egg” by combining the ground flax and 2 Tablespoons of water.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Place all ingredients (including flax egg) in a food processor and blitz away until it’s all combined.  You may have to add a little more water – the mixture should be moist enough to hold together but not too sticky.

Scoop into 1/2 cup mounds on a lightly greased (I used olive oil in my misto) baking sheet.  With your hands or a rubber spatula, form them into burger-sized patties that are about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Bake on a lower rack for 25 minutes and then gently flip them over.  If they don’t flip easily, return them to the oven for 5-10 more minutes and try again.  After flipping, bake for about 15 more minutes (will depend on the size, I baked mine for 40 minutes total).  You can tell when they are done because they will get slightly golden brown.

I know it has been a long time since I’ve posted, so here’s an update.

Farrell’s is over.  The last week just so happened to be the same week of a record-breaking flood in my city.  We had water in our basement and spent several days cleaning up from that.  The day we were supposed to have our final testing, pretty much the whole town was shut down or chaotic.  The University where I work was even closed and that never happens, ever.  Even once the floodwaters receded and our basement dried out, the town was under emergency water conservation orders and a boil order since our drinking water was potentially contaminated.  In the end we were fine and a lot luckier than some people who lost everything in the flood.  I’m actually writing this post from a sketchy laundromat because we lost our washing machine in our basement flood.  I’m trying to remember that I’m lucky that’s all I lost, even as I was fishing a dead cricket out of a washing machine basin before I threw my clothes in. We had a lot of stuff in our basement that had to be hauled out and much of it was spread all over the main floor of my house until things dried out down there and we were able to go through everything.

So as far as Farrell’s, it definitely fizzled out that last week.  They told us we could make up our final testing the following Saturday but I was out of town, so I never got to do mine.  I took my own measurements and did a few of the tests and I will post the “results” in another post.  I have to say I’m pretty disappointed, but what can you do.  Right now I’m trying to get back to running.  I’d like to get my base built back up to 3 or 4 miles and then start training for a longer race.

On top of all of that, a few days after the flood I was scheduled to host a bridal shower for my sister!  I was thrilled to get out of town but I had a hard time relaxing after that crazy week.  The shower ended up going well, and I have my mom and my aunt to thank for all their help!  I had to scrap some of my original plans, but I did end up making several vegan things – Black Bean Pasta Salad, a fresh fruit salad, Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Mints, and Cream Cheese Cucumber Dill Sandwiches.  Everything went over really well – we hardly had any food left!  And people didn’t even know things were vegan until I told them.
The spread:

Then, the day after the shower was my birthday!  I usually like to go to the Iowa State Fair for my birthday, since it always falls close.  I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make it this year since I was out of town the first weekend, but we had a chance to go yesterday and I’m glad we did!  It was very hot and humid – we tried to stay hydrated and pace ourselves.  My favorite parts were the goats and the sky lift.

Luke cooled off with some ice cream. It was the perfect day for it, I found myself wishing aloud that the fair had non-dairy ice cream!

There were some amazing flowers, fruits, and veggies, like these:

And this “biggest cabbage” award winner, which I just thought was so beautiful:

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Things have been crazy with school starting tomorrow (not for me, but at work), and I’m still trying to get back to some normalcy in my routine and around my house.  I have been cooking very little, but I plan to get back into it this week, so be on the lookout for some good vegan eats! Thanks for sticking with me and I promise to post more regularly. I missed blogging!

What have I been eating?

One of my favorite hash tags on twitter is #whatveganeats.  I know a lot of people (myself included) wonder what the heck a vegan eats. Well, since I’ve been following a vegan diet as best as I can since August 1st (with some trial and error, as I am indeed a vegan n00b), I figured I’d post some of the recipes and food I’ve been eating…

•First, I’ve been making as many recipes from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. Let me also say that I have a MAJOR crush on Mr. Brazier. Like, it’s really sad how much of a schoolgirl crush I have on the dude. But, he’s amazing. I totally subscribe to his philosophy on food and nutrition and sport. If I was in the movie Eat Pray Love right now, he’d probably sadly be my guru on this “vegan diet” adventure. Sigh.

But, since I don’t really have permission to post the recipes (I really don’t know how that works in the blog world), I will just say that I’ve made his AWESOME Garlic Oregano Sweet Potato Fries last night and they were so good. So good. I’ve also made his Spicy Sundried Tomato Marina and Zucchini Pasta and Walnut Hemp Seed Burgers from Thrive (see below).

Ooh! I have been consistently drink Brendan’s Thrive Long Lasting Lemon-Lime Drink before every workout (the recipe was reprinted with permission by No Meat Athlete (adore his blog and my friend Mandy just got me one of his awesome shirts). Let me tell you something folks. I’m not going to lie. The drink is NOT pleasing to the palette; however, it works. Big time. I have set 3 personal records (PRs) in CrossFit since I’ve been following a vegan diet and drinking this energy drink (“Nancy,” “Helen,” and my power cleans, for my fellow CrossFit fans).

Post workout I generally mix a scoop of brown rice protein with some of Brendan’s Whole Food Health Optimizer and some glutamine. That seems to do the trick! Love the Whole Food Health Optimizer…just don’t have the funds right now to buy the giant tub! But, it’s on my wish list!

•I tried these black bean burgers from The Front Burner. Verdict? In love. I made enough extra to crumble on top of my super salads for the week. Yum.

•From Oh She Glows (one of my favorite vegan blogs), I’ve fallen in love with her Raw Energy Cookie Bites (seriously folks, these are AMAZING…I have one every day and I even brought them to my CrossFit gym and they were received with open arms; I will warn you that my boss said they looked like cat litter turds…but they taste amazing).

I also, like any good health blogger, have started making Vegan Overnight Oats. Oh my. Oh my. Not only does this oatmeal taste DELICIOUS, but it will keep me satiated for SEVERAL hours after I eat it (and let us not forget the deliciousness that is frozen peanut butter banana soft serve in this recipe). Goodness.

Last weekend I made Angela’s Birthday Cupcake ‘burgers’ with Secret Green Frosting with my friend Mandy and they turned out REALLY well. I will admit, the green frosting was slightly disturbing, but my boss’s young daughter (the same boss who said her bars look like cat litter turds) absolutely LOVED them…and mostly because she thought the icing looked like slimy boogers! haha. Now, I know that’s not a RINGING endorsement of the cupcakes, but they taste AMAZING. They were a little too sweet for me, and I actually only ended up eating one (sending the rest home with Mandy, taking some to my office, and then taking some to my CrossFit gym). Since it was the first “sugar” sweet I had in two weeks, my body kind of went into sweetness overload. One was plenty!

This vegan thing has really done wonders for my sweets cravings, as in, I haven’t had them. haha.

•I did make some Dark Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cups from Love Veggies and Yoga. I love these. A lot. But, it took me a good week to eat one of them, which is a good thing for this sweets lover, believe me. I plan on making a lot more of her recipes, as they look delicious!

•I also made these Black Bean, Mushroom, & Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers from Vegan with a Vengeance and again, they were very tasty. I’m sad I only made two. Dang me and my singleness! haha.

•I also made a really good marinated tofu found in Ellie Krieger’s Small Changes, Big Results. I sauteed sauteed some veggies and ate it up over some quinoa. Delicious.

I think that’s it for now…I will do a post about my daily menu and eats coming up, but for now, just thought I’d share some recipes I’ve tried! Woot!

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