Product Review: FYH’s VeganEgg

When Follow Your Heart launched their VeganEgg last October, there was a lot rejoicing and raised hand emojis shared in the vegan community. Sure, we had the Ener-G egg replacer for baking, as well as a whole slew of other vegan hacks, but the only way we could enjoy a good breakfast scramble or a quiche was by making them with tofu. Now, don’t get me wrong – a good tofu scramble is one of my favorite things (Bouldin Creek Cafe’s is ode-worthy), but it’s always good to have options, and the VeganEgg gives us just that.

Made primarily with algal flour, a derivative of algae, the VeganEgg is the holy grail for the plant-based folks that really miss scrambling eggs. To be honest, I am not one of those vegans. Sure, I liked eggs enough back in my omnivorous days, but something about them always gave me the heebie jeebies. That’s part of the reason that I didn’t run out to  buy FYH’s egg when it was released in October. The other reason: I can be lazy. Nevertheless, when I saw the VeganEgg at my local co-op just staring at me on the shelf, I couldn’t resist tossing it in my cart. I figured I’d might as well find out what the hype was about, and I’m glad I did.

It even comes in a carton:
followyourheartveganegg

How adorable is that? I half expected to open it and find little crack-able paper-maiche shells filled with the algal flour. This isn’t the case: the miracle egg-dust arrives in a plastic bag, which is admittedly a more efficient (albeit less cute) use of resources. There are a dozen “veggs” in one carton.

The instructions for preparing VeganEggs are simple. All you have to do is mix two tablespoons of the powder with 1/2 cup cold water and go to town. Deciding what to cook with the VeganEgg was a no brainer for me: I may not be an Austin-native, but I have definitely adopted the breakfast taco lifestyle. I sent the boy out for potatoes, onions, salsa, Daiya cheddar, and corn tortillas, and then we were ready to rumble.

The box cautions that it takes about 6-8 minutes for the VeganEggs to be cook completely. I don’t know if my pan wasn’t hot enough, or if I used too much product at once (the equivalent of 6 eggs), or if the water I mixed it with wasn’t the right temperature, but it took me closer to 20 minutes of scramblin’ before the mixture became egg-like.

This is about 8 minutes in: I nearly cried with joy when small curdles started to form.

And here we are closer to the end (nearly 20 minutes of scrambling)

Despite the long cook time, I’m definitely excited to try this product again. My takeaway lessons are:

  • Make sure the water is really, really cold. Like, ice-water (minus the ice) cold.
  • Make sure your pan is sizzlin’
  • Cook your VeganEggs in small batches

veganeggbreakfasttacos

Up next: French toast! Have any of you tried the VeganEgg? What were your thoughts?

xoxo,
sb

#whyimveganwednesday: My Health

Buckle up, folks! This is a long one!

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. John Bisognano, a preventive cardiologist at University of Rochester, did an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit. In case you don’t know what an AMA is, it’s essentially an interview where an expert in a particular field answers questions from the Reddit community. This topic was:

Let’s talk about your heart, specifically how to prevent a heart attack and what to do if you’ve had one. We can talk about recovery, diet and lifestyle changes, going back to work, relationships.

One user asked: Is there a significant difference in cardiovascular outcomes between those who consume animal products and those who don’t (typical diet vs vegetarians vs vegans)?

This was Dr. Bisognano’s response: There is no question that a diet low in animal fats — and indeed a vegan diet — is best from a pure cardiovascular preventive standpoint. Some of those diets have actually been shown to reverse progression of plaques in arteries. 

The AMA got me thinking. As you dear readers already know, my reason for being vegan is because I care about animals rights. As I embarked on this journey, I found that there are plenty of other benefits as well: a vegan diet supports human rights, it is better for the environment, and the food is a lot more delicious than non-vegans make it out to be. However, from a strictly self-preservation standpoint, health is the most immediate and beneficial reason to go vegan.

How to Not Die has been on my sitting on bedside table for quite some time, and I finally cracked it open last week. It was written by Michael Greger, M.D., the founder of nutritionfacts.org. Each chapter is predictably titled “How to Not Die of [X, Y, or Z],” and the potentially death-inducing maladies include things such as diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate cancer, liver diseases, digestive cancers, and even suicidal depression. Obviously, there are genetic risk factors at play here as well with most of these conditions, but the idea is that we can avoid agitating inherent predispositions by making smarter choices about what we eat.

The book opens with a discussion about America’s #1 killer: heart disease. According to the CDC, over 600,000 people die of it every year. That’s nearly 25% of all deaths in the country. Because of those staggering numbers, heart disease is a condition nearly all of us have been affected by, either personally or via a relative or friend’s diagnosis.

The amazing thing about heart disease is that its not only preventable: it’s reversible. Study after study show that patients with advanced heart disease who are put on plant-based diets actually get better.  And why shouldn’t they? Dr. Greger astutely notes that the human body wants to be healthy. He underscores this idea with a clever metaphor that has really stuck with me: if you bruise your leg by bumping into a coffee table, the wound will eventually heal. “What what if you keep whacking it in the same place three times a day,” he asks, “say, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It would never heal.” Your physician can prescribe a painkiller, which will make you feel better, but the medication does nothing to treat the underlying cause. With heart disease, we know what the underlying cause is (eating animal proteins). We can change our lifestyle in order to give our bodies the time and ability to heal themselves. There’s certainly precendence for this in medical literature. We all learned in health class that once someone quits smoking, his body gets to work repairing his damaged lungs.  In fact, within about 15 years after quitting, an ex-smoker’s lungs look almost identical to lifelong non-smoker’s. Our arteries function in a similar way. If we stop bombarding them with animal proteins, they have the opportunity to clean out the plaque. Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible medicine says, “Plant-based diets are the nutritional equivalent of quitting smoking.”

Of course, it’s up to each of us to make our own decisions as to what to eat and how to live, but shouldn’t we try to make these choices consciously by educating ourselves about the predictable consequences of our actions? Just as we avoid sugary foods that rot our teeth, we can avoid the trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol-laden foods that clog up our arteries.

The documentary Forks Over Knives helps hit home these points without having to dive into a 400+ page book. You can rent it on Amazon for $3.99. According to the film, over 500 thousand Americans undergo bypass surgery annually, at the whopping price of nearly $100,000.000 a pop. If you’re thinking to yourself, “That number is ridiculous, it must be vegan propaganda,” think again. This figure is also cited by the University of Michigan’s Department of Cardiac Surgery.

Let’s take a look at a list of the prescribed drugs in the United States during 2011:

  • Hydrocodone: 131.2 million prescriptions
  • Generic Zocor  (a cholesterol-lowering statin drug): 94.1 million prescriptions
  • Lisinopril (a blood pressure drug): 87.4 million prescriptions
  • Generic Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone): 70.5 million prescriptions
  • Generic Norvasc (an angina/blood pressure drug): 57.2 million prescriptions
  • Generic Prilosec (an antacid drug): 53.4 million prescriptions (does not include over-the-counter sales)
  • Azithromycin (an antibiotic): 52.6 million prescriptions
  • Amoxicillin (an antibiotic): 52.3 million prescriptions
  • Generic Glucophage (a diabetes drug): 48.3 million prescriptions
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (a water pill used to lower blood pressure): 47.8 million prescriptions.

Notice any trends? 60% of the drugs above are related to issues that could be eased by diet, and the majority of those are related to heart conditions. They are not magical panaceas, either. Lipitor comes with some serious side effects, including muscle pain, nausea, and can even cause liver failure. Nearly 17% of patients who take statins report some side effects. The FDA warned that taking statins can increase your risk of diabetes, even in people with a healthy weight and with no other risk factors. Despite this, Lipitor has become the best selling drug of all time. It has generated over $140 billion in sales globally. At an initial diagnosis, the benefits of statins outweigh their risks; however, eating a plant-based diet has been shown to perform as well as statins over time without any side effects (except, of course, lowering your risk for cancer and diabetes).

It’s not just heart disease that can be averted through a plant-based diet. Some of our most deadly cancers can be curbed as well. One study cited in Forks Over Knives outlines that in Japan during 1958 there were only 18 prostate cancer deaths in the entire nation. Let that sink in for a moment. 18. By comparison, there were 14,000 in the US, despite the fact that our population was only double that of Japan’s.

A recent study conducted by Loma Linda University in California found similar results. In a group of over 26,000 men, the study concluded that men who adhered to a vegan diet had a 35% reduction in prostate cancer risk, which the researchers dubbed statistically significant.

As a lady, I’m lucky to not have to worry about prostate cancer. But it does run in my family, and new research shows that women’s risk of breast cancer increases by 14% if their father or brother suffered from the disease. Breastcancer.org notes that there are lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent it, including “eating a healthy diet that’s low in processed foods, sugar, and trans fats.” Do I even have to say it? A plant-based diet fits the bill. 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer, but studies indicate that lifestyle changes such as walking 30 minutes a day and eating more fruits and veggies are associated with a significant survival advantage: women who adopted healthier habits had cut the risk of dying from their cancer in half during the two years following their diagnosis as opposed to those who made no lifestyle changes.

Cancer starts with our genes. It could be the genes we were born with, or it could be in genes that have mutated with time. Study after study shows that cancer genes grow much, much more rapidly when given animal proteins, suggesting that most cancer is not caused purely by our genetics.

One or two cancer cells never hurt anyone. But how about a billion cancer cells? That’s how many may be in a tumor by the time it’s picked up by a mammogram. Like most tumors, breast cancer starts with just one cell, which divides to become two, four, and then eight. Every time a breast cancer cell divides, the tumor can effectively double in size… In just thirty doublings, a single cancer cell can turn into a billion… Breast cancers can double in size in anywhere from as few as twenty-five days to a thousand or more. In other words, it could be two years, or it could be more than a hundred years, before a tumor starts to cause problems. Where you fall on that timescale — two years or a century — may depend in part on what you eat.

It just seems to obvious. By changing your diet, you can dodge potentially life-threatening illnesses, avoid being placed on medications indefinitely, and prolong your life expectancy. I’d gladly give up steaks for such beneficial outcomes.

Alright. I’ve officially eclipsed 1,500 words. Here are your action items from this post:

  1. Watch Forks Over Knives
  2. Do some preliminary research about the health benefits of plant-based diets
  3. Try a plant-based recipe!  If you don’t know where to start, the Forks Over Knives website is a great resource. I made the “Tu-No  Casserole” for dinner earlier this week and it was a big hit (although, full disclosure: we added some salt).

tunocasserole2

Cheers to a happier and healthier you!

xoxo,
sb

Vegan 101: Seitan

If you’re a curious omnivore or a new vegan that follows Creature Free, chances are that you have never heard of seitan. I didn’t learn about it until I was officially vegan despite the fact that I had been (over various periods) vegetarian for several years before hand. I’m always surprised that this delicious meat substitute hasn’t broken in to the vegetarian realm, but for whatever reason, seitan seems to be relegated to the weird world of veganism.

So, what exactly is it? The word “seitan” (pronounced “say-tan”) is Japanese in origin, which makes sense because it was primarily found in Buddhist cuisines before being co-opted by us vegans. Here is Wikipedia’s official definition:

Definition

Wheat gluten, also called seitan, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.

Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? Just kidding. It sounds super weird. Even I can look outside of myself and admit that. But trust me: this stuff is good. In fact, you might have even encountered it before. Ever had a Chinese dish with mock duck? Guess what – you’ve had seitan!

Seitan is incredibly easy (and affordable) to make at home, but sometimes it’s just easier to buy the pre-made stuff. Most standard grocery stores do not carry it, but you should be able find it at your local Whole Foods, co-op, or health food store in the refrigerated section without much issue. Check near the tofu! My favorite is from West Soy.

seitan

Seitan is the perfect replacement for any recipe that requires a protein that’s “beefier” than tofu or tempeh: think stews and sandwiches. Like the West Soy box says, it’s also perfect for vegan kebobs and stroganoff. We used it tonight in Keepin’ it Kind’s Cheesy Seitan and Mushroom Sandwiches. I normally don’t pick sandwiches to make for dinner. All the good ones are loaded with carbs and calories, and while I am not opposed to those per se, I try to at least keep an eye on what I’m eating. However, I was scrolling through the Keepin’ it Kind recipe archive a few weeks ago, and I knew as soon as I saw the picture that I was going to have to whip these up. Oh boy, I’m so glad that I did. This was our first foray with Kite Hill’s cream cheese, which was delicious. The sandwiches are slathered in it, as well as some mustard and the mushroom seitan ragout. Everything is then topped with Daiya mozzarella and put into the oven until the sandwich is melt-y and sublime.

cheesyseitansandwiches

This is the perfect meal for when you’re craving something a little heartier. Sometimes, you just need a big ol’ cheezy, seitan sandwich to get you through a Monday.

Is your seitan interest piqued? Here are some other recipes for you to try:

Established vegans, what are some of your favorite seitan recipes? Please share in the comments; I’d love to try some!

xoxo,
sb

A Week of Isa

I have the tendency to get on enthusiastic about things. If you follow this blog, you’ve already seen this happen before with quinoa dinner bowls and with Brussels sprouts in general. Seriously, there was a two month stint in the fall where those delicious little cabbages made their way into just about everything I cooked. It’s like an idea gets stuck in the back portion of my lizard brain, right down there in the atlas, and I can’t shake it. My most recent obsession: Isa Chandra Mozkowitz recipes.

To be fair, I have always adored Isa. The Veganomicon was my first vegan cookbook purchase, and The Post Punk Kitchen recipes were what made me realize that yes, I could be vegan for the long haul (more specifically, it was the BLT Mac & Cheeze, which you can read more about below). However, just like with any cuisine, delicious, complicated recipes take more time to make. This is certainly not a limitation of vegan cooking, but rather, of complex food in general. Isa’s recipes are incredible, but you typically have to work for them. I never make more than one of her meals  in a week, let alone five (or, technically, eight), but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. Over the past 7 days, JB and I went all out. Our bellies are still thankful.

Spaghetti and Bean Balls

spaghettiandbeanballs

I don’t know what it is about these bean balls that are so good. I know the name leaves a little to be desired, but after you try these, you won’t have a hard time working up an appetite for them. They’re made with mashed kidney beans, bread crumbs, spices, as well as a secret saucy mixture that includes A1 Steak Sauce. I love the idea of using A1 in a vegan recipe, and it really adds a layer to the flavor. After you bake or pan-fry them, you can serve these bad boys over spaghetti, or even stuff them into a sub.

BLT Mac and Cheeze

bltmacandcheezebltmacandcheeze2

Ah, the BLT Mac & Cheeze. I’ve written before about how cheese is always the one thing people say that they could never forgo when they hear me talk about my veganism. In all honesty, I used to be one of those people, but viewing about 30 minutes of Earthlings made me realize that I had to at least try to give up my dairy vice. I came across this recipe in my first week of being vegan and was admittedly pretty apprehensive about it. I tried to make the vegan mac n’ cheese from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch several years before, and I was still pretty haunted by how it turned out (re: inedible). Boy, am I glad that I tried this. The bacon is replaced with slices of eggplant that are dipped in liquid smoke and then baked, which gives the dish the perfect salty, crispy kick without harming any pigs.

Mediterranean Style Beans

mediterraneanstylebakedbeans2mediterraneanstylebeans

Confession: the original recipe is called Mediterranean-baked Lima Beans, but Isa said it was okay to swap them with navy beans if you absolutely had to. Neither JB nor myself are crazy about Lima beans, so we made the trade, but now I wish I had used the Limas. The navy beans are good here, but a larger, “buttery” bean would have really made this dish a home run. We served it over brown rice, but JB ate the leftovers on a sandwich and raved about that as well. These are the perfect dinner for when you’re craving something easy, yet slightly sophisticated (thank you, mint!).

Millet and Spinach Polenta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

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This recipe was a JB-endevour, so I can’t speak to the preparation that was involved with making it. I can confirm how delicious the pesto is. The homemade polenta is worth the effort as well. The best part of this dish is how the pesto seeps into the spaces between the millet, and honestly, it’s just pretty to look at. My amateur plating does not do it justice.

Mardi Gras Anytime Menu

mardigrasanytime2mardigrasanytime

In the back of The Veganomicon, there is a section composed of different menus for different occasions. I realized that I hardly ever cook whole means, so I decided that this was the week I was going to try making a dinner with a lot of moving parts. The Mardi Gras Anytime menu includes:

  • Messy Rice
  • Creole Stuffed Peppers
  • Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh

This is what we had for dinner tonight, and it’s taking all of my resolve not to go and lick the hot sauce glaze from the pan the tempeh was fried in. This was a really fun meal to make, and although I didn’t time it quite right, it could definitely come together with more planning than what I put into it (none). The peppers are stuffed with  black-eye peas, jalapeños, carrots, onions, and diced tomatoes; the messy rice gets a kick of flavor from ground coriander seeds. This combination is packed with all sorts of spices, and each item perfectly complements the others. This menu makes me really excited to try some of her others.

Have I convinced you to buy some Isa Chandra Moskowitz books yet? What are some of your favorite recipes from her?

xoxo,
sb

Armadillos & Cheesecakes

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to spend more time outside. Since moving to Austin nearly 3.5 years ago, I have done a decent job of exploring the state parks around the area; however, every time I have the opportunity to spend time in one of these protected areas, I always ask myself “Why don’t you do this more often?”

Growing up, I didn’t appreciate hikes at all. My mom, who loves them, used to insist on vacations that we spend at least some time outside. It became a running family joke that it was impossible to go somewhere without mom trying to drag us up to the top of a hill.

I don’t know what changed, but now I find myself craving time in the outdoors. Instead of ruing the experience, I want to make it to the top of the mountain. Perhaps I now understand the value of being able to unplug myself from the incessant onslaught of emails, texts, messages, likes, and favorites. Or, maybe going vegan helped me learn to appreciate the beauty of life in all its endless forms. Whatever the reason, my mom was right – spending time outdoors is important, and it is good for the soul.

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Walden

It had been a few weeks since we had done any hiking, so we drove out to Pedernales Falls State Park on Saturday. It’s an hour outside of the city, but the trip is definitely worth it. The park is named after the falls, which are located in the Pedernales riverbed, where the water cascades over huge limestone slabs. Since water levels are low at this time of year, you can actually walk on the limestone outcroppings. They are sprinkled with self-contained craters that house their own tiny, self-enclosed ecosystems. We saw so much wildlife – butterflies, frogs, lizards, fish, and buzzards. We even saw our first armadillo. Magical sounds excessive, but it really is the only word to describe how perfect the day was.

 

For Valentine’s Day, JB and I stayed in and made dinner together. It was much more romantic (and affordable) than going out. We made “Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale, and Sun-dried Tomatoes” and “Lemony Roasted Potatoes” from The Veganomicon. Both were delicious, although they did not pair well together. Oh well. You live and you learn. We finished the meal with some mini cheesecakes from Capital City Bakery, which were both beautiful AND delicious. Let’s just say there were no leftovers today.

We paired the meal with some  Secco Italian Bubbles  which is Barnivore approved and vegan-friendly.

This week, all of our recipes are from Isa Chandra Moskowitz. If you want to cook along, be sure to purchase The Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, and http://www.theppk.com. You won’t regret it – she’s not called the Vegan Queen for nothing.

This week’s menu:

  • Monday: Spaghetti and Beanballs
  • Tuesday: BLT Mac and Cheeze
  • Wednesday: Mediterranean-Style Baked Beans
  • Thursday: Millet and Spinach Polenta with Sundried Tomatoes

spaghettiandbeanballs

I hope you all had a great weekend, filled with love❤

xoxo,
sb

New Vegan Level Achieved

Y’all. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I am still in a food coma from #VeganBowl2016. Truth time: I’ve never been that big of a Super Bowl fan. Traditionally, I half-enjoyed the commercials,  I tried to feign interest in the halftime show, and I staved off boredom during the game itself by eating. Sure, the gatherings that go along with the Super Bowl are always fun. But if I’m being totally honest, I could really do without the whole affair.

Except for the snacks. I love the snacks. So much so that JB and I have started calling Super Bowl Sunday “Snack Day,” and the focus shifted nearly entirely to the real star of the show: those delicious morsels we love to stuff our faces with once a year.

Snack Day 2016 was significant because it was the first year we didn’t pretend to care about football. The game never graced our televisions. Instead, my brother and our friend Z came over, we drank beers in the yard (thank you, Austin weather!), we played board games, we watched Sicario, and most importantly: we snacked.

We ate taquitos, buffalo popcorn tofu,  quesochocolate chip cookiespigs in a blanket, and even a veganized version of the easiest cream cheese chili dip that my mom used to make:

Creamy Chili Dip

  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy (incredibly)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Follow Your Heart vegan cream cheese
  • 1 (15 oz) can Amy’s Organic Spicy Chili
  • Daiya Cheddar Shreds

Directions

First you’re going to spread the cream cheese evenly across the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl. Then pour the can of chili on top of the cream cheese. Top with a layer of Daiya cheddar shreds, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then microwave that bad boy until the Daiya is melted (about 4 minutes). Serve with tortilla chips and try not to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.

So, yeah. It goes without saying that not only did I gorge myself, I’ve been reeling ever since. I even clocked my longest run duration-wise this week (40 minutes!), but I still feel like a big ol’ pile. My body has been craving leafy greens and veggies, which meant it was time for me to unlock a new vegan level: lacinato kale.

Vegans love lacinato kale. Colloquially dubbed “dino kale” because of the leaves’ scaly appearance, this green has a cult following. Case and point: this t-shirt.

In all fairness, the texture really does resemble dinosaur skin. See for yourself:

lacinatokale

So, where did this reptilian relative of cabbage make its debut?

Angela Liddon’s Superfood Crunch Salad with Homemade Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette.

superfoodcrunchsalad

It only seemed right to pair it other deliciously-healthy foods, including pears and hemp hearts (which were also a first for us!). Unfortunately, pomegranates did not make their way into the mix because I could not find them ANYWHERE. Apparently they are only in season through January… the more you know! We replaced them with mandarins, which added a nice citrusy burst of flavor. All in all, it was a very easy salad to assemble, and it’s so nutrient-packed that it was the perfect way to ease myself back onto the healthy train.

xoxo,
sb