Simple Sunday #2: Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Good morning! I hope everyone is having a wonderful and restful weekend. 🙂 I’m enjoying a work free weekend myself, as my new job is only during the week. I have plenty of homework to catch up on, though. Graduate school will do that to you. 😛 Anyway I decided to take a break this morning, to experiment in the kitchen, and I want to share my results with all of you.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins are today’s Simple Sunday recipe. While I am a vegetarian, I sometimes consume and  bake with eggs. Therefore, I was skeptical that vegan muffins would turn out. I accepted the challenge nonetheless. Well, I am glad I did! These vegan muffins turned out just fine! The batter was thicker than muffin batter made with eggs, but otherwise I did not notice much of a difference.

I obtained this recipe from page 11 of the Vegan Outreach leaflet Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating.  The only modifications I made were using frozen blueberries instead of fresh and I did not make a crumb topping, so the muffins would have less sugar and fat. I hope all of you enjoy. 🙂

NOTE: To make these muffins truly vegan you have to make sure you use a vegan sugar. Some sugars are whitened with animal bones, which means they are not vegan. I used Trader Joe’s organic sugar made with evaporated cane juice, which is vegan according to page 5 of this pdf: http://www.traderjoes.com/pdf/lists/list-vegan.pdf.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

3/4 cup sugar

1.5 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup almond milk or another vegan milk (I used Silk Original Almond Milk)

1 cup frozen or fresh organic blueberries (or a different fruit)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin tin with muffin liners.

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2. Mix the sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large bowl.

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3. Add the vegan milk and oil to the dry mixture and mix. It will be pretty thick.

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4. Add the frozen blueberries. The mixture may turn blue, but do not be alarmed! 😛 The muffins will not be blue once fully cooked.

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5. Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with the batter and bake for about 30 minutes. If using fresh fruit reduce the baking time to 20-25 minutes.

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6. Take the muffins out of the oven and allow to cool completely.  Eat! Otherwise store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

Tip: Since I think muffins taste best warm, I like to reheat them in the microwave when I’m eating day old ones.

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(See, they aren’t blue anymore!)

I hope all of you enjoy the muffins and have a wonderful Sunday! 🙂

Question of the day: What is your favorite type of muffin? My favorite is actually lemon poppy seed, not blueberry!

Simple Sunday #1: Pecan roasted brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts. You either love them or hate them. In fact, I read somewhere recently that they are the most hated vegetable in the USA. Luckily, I am a brussel sprout lover.  I credit that to my boyfriend who made me try them a few months ago…Yes, it took me 22 years to try them, but I turned out okay! 😛 You will never know if you are a hater or not unless you try them.

Anyway, we made gnocchi for dinner tonight and felt like trying something new for our vegetable side dish. And voilà! Pecan roasted brussel sprouts were born.  This recipe was adapted from several different recipes so it is not exact. It is super simple though! It is perfect for when you want a quick side dish that is a little fancier than regular steamed vegetables. Also, brussel sprouts are wonderful for your body. Chock full of iron, protein, potassium, and antioxidants, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. 😛 So for my first ever Simple Sunday here is a quick and easy side dish recipe. Enjoy. 🙂

Pecan roasted brussel sprouts

ingredients

16 oz. frozen or fresh brussel sprouts

1 Tablespoon or so of olive oil

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

pinch of garlic

handful of chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet with cooking spray .

2. Pour the 16 oz. of frozen or fresh brussel sprouts into a bowl.

3. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and coat all the sprouts.

4. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix .

5. Add the chopped pecans and pour the mixture onto the greased baking sheet.

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6. Bake the brussel sprouts 20-25 minutes or so until slightly browned. Turn the sprouts at least once during cooking.

7. Serve and enjoy. 🙂

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Do you like brussel sprouts? Why or why not? If so, what is your favorite way to eat them?

Tasty Tuesday #6: Brick’s restaurant review

Good evening, friends! I hope all of you are having a great Tuesday. Today I wanted to try something new and do my first ever restaurant review on this blog. Living in Chicago has given me nearly unlimited access to pizza, but I have made it my mission to find the best tasting thin crust and deep dish pizza places in the windy city. Did I succeed?

Today’s review is about Brick’s, a tiny little pizza place located at 1909 N Lincoln Avenue in the Old Town neighborhood (http://brickschicago.com/index.html). They have the best tasting thin crust pizza I have tasted in the city so far! I went there twice in this last week alone…Granted, I normally only go out to eat once or twice a month, but this was worthwhile exception! I went out to Brick’s on Wednesday for a date with my boyfriend, but then again Sunday with our friend from college who was in town. We decided he needed to try Brick’s too. He had his share of deep dish during his visit and was game for something new. He was not disappointed!

Brick’s is so tiny that it is easy to miss. The restaurant is located in what looks like a basement, but do not let that scare you away. Once you go down the stairs and open the door you are instantly in a dimly lit, but quaint and welcoming little restaurant. You can either sit at the bar or at one of the tables. They have a few small tables with candles perfect for couples and some larger tables and booths for groups. They usually have a game on the TV and some music playing in the background. It is noisy, but not so loud that you cannot hold a conversation. During both my visits this week our waitress was nice and checked on us often. All the employees were friendly in general.

The first thing I did during both my visits in the last week was order a beer. They have a pretty extensive beer and wine list. They also have a decent bar. What my boyfriend and I really like about Brick’s is that they have drink specials during the week Monday-Thursday. On Wednesday the Wisconsin beers were half price, so my boyfriend’s can of Schlitz was $1.50 and my bottle of Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge was $2.50. On Sunday, there was not any drink specials so we all ordered cans of Schlitz. You cannot really beat $3 cans in Chicago… It’s not bad for a “cheaper” beer either.

Bricks vegetarian pizza

For the date on Wednesday, my boyfriend and I tried the vegetarian specialty pizza (pictured above). We split a 14 inch, but had plenty of leftovers. In terms of pricing, the 14 inch was $22.95, so not too bad! Brick’s has several vegetarian specialty pizzas or you can create your own. They also have meat pizzas for those of you that eat meat. The vegetarian was amazing. It had green peppers, mushrooms, spinach, onions, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and is topped with basil. It was perfectly crispy, but not burned. They did not go overboard on the cheese which was good. I like deep dish, but it almost has too much cheese…When I eat thin crust I like one that is easy on the cheese, crispy, and full of veggies.

When our friend was in town on Sunday, I ordered a 10 inch vegetarian pizza (again!). My boyfriend and our friend split one of the pizza specials: a 12 inch spicy pizza with pork and veggies. I cannot remember the exact name of the pizza. The 10 inch was $12.00 and the 12 inch was $18.50. I had leftovers on Sunday, but they did not. The leftovers were almost as delicious as eating in the restaurant. The leftovers were still crispy, not soggy. As a side note I cannot stand cold pizza, I always have to reheat my leftovers. 😛

Overall, both my boyfriend and I loved the vegetarian pizza.  I think he liked it better than that one with meat that he split with our friend on Sunday. Our friend enjoyed Brick’s too! It is not only a great place for a date, but also a fun place to hang with friends or to take out-of-towners to. The pizza tastes wonderful, it’s vegetarian friendly, they have a decent drink menu, weekly drink specials, and it won’t break your wallet. I highly recommend checking out Brick’s if you live in Chicago or if you are visiting. 🙂

I MAY have found the best thin crust pizza in the city, but stay tuned! I have many more pizza places to try. Maybe next time I’ll review a deep dish place!

Do you prefer deep dish or thin crust? What’s your favorite pizza place? Have you ever been to Brick’s?

A cold day calls for some warm minestrone soup

Hello guys! Happy November…well, I guess it’s almost December. I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving and the end of the semester. I promise I have not forgotten this blog. Neglected, yes. Forgotten, no! I know it’s always the same story, but life really got in the way for the last 1.5 months and I am very sorry. 😦

My life has gone through some changes since I last blogged. Telling you guys about them will be a tale for another time. Promise! Once I get it all figured out, of course. I assure you guys, though, that the changes do not have to do with the blog, being vegetarian, or my boyfriend. I plan to continue to blog here as a space to share vegetarian recipes/insight, anything running related, and random ramblings about my life. I am still a vegetarian! Also, do not worry my boyfriend of 5.5 years and I are very much in love and going strong! 🙂

Anyway, I remembered in a previous post that I promised that I would share my favorite Minestrone recipe with you guys. Well, over a month and several batches of minestrone later, I finally remembered! Nothing warms me up or gives me strength on a chilly autumn or winter day like homemade minestrone. I’ve been craving soup after this unusually cold week (on Tuesday with the wind chill it felt like -4 degrees outside!)

Minestrone is very easy to make and relatively inexpensive! This recipe is adapted from Mighty Minestrone on pages 128-129 of The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic.

Minestrone

Yield: 4-6 servings

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ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves of garlic

2-3 stalks of washed and chopped celery

28 ounce can of diced and peeled tomatoes (fire roasted tomatoes work nicely too)

6 cups of water

1 teaspoon oregano

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of basil

1 package of frozen vegetables  (16 ounces)

1 can of kidney or garbanzo beans, rinsed, and drained

0.5-1 package of whole wheat elbow or spiral pasta (16 ounces)

salt to taste

1. In a large pot mix together the canned tomatoes, 6 cups of water, 2-3 stalks of celery, and all the spices (including the garlic if you use cloves instead of garlic powder) . Bring to a boil uncovered.

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2. Once the mixture boils reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. After 30 minutes add the frozen veggies, kidney beans, and pasta to the large pot. Cook for 20-30 more minutes. Add salt if desired.

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4. Serve. For leftovers, put the uneaten Minestrone into shallow Tupperware containers and refrigerate promptly. Enjoy, a cold day calls for some warm minestrone soup! 🙂

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What is your favorite soup to make when the weather turns cold? Although, I admit I make soup in the summer sometimes and maybe I’m not the only one…Also, is there a soup you’ve always wanted to make, but have not yet?

I’m BACK :), World Vegetarian Day, and sweet potato bites

Whoa, can you believe it’s already October 1st?!  I cannot believe how fast September was. I blinked and it was over! Well, now I want to apologize first hand by saying I am sorry for epically failing on updating this blog. My last post was over three weeks ago and I said I’d try to post at least once a week. Whoops… Work, school, and life got in the way. Plus I am almost done with my first round of nutrition exams- after this upcoming Friday I will be officially done with round one. Thankfully, my job reduced my hours since 20-30 hours per week was way too much for this full time nutrition student! Now  that I have less hours at work I am now in more of a routine for studying, running/working out, commuting to class, and I know what is expected out of me in my classes. Even though I was a cross country athlete in undergrad and had a part time job, I still had to relearn this last month just how important time management is!  Regardless, I promise I am now going to try to update more often. I have thought of so many potential ideas for topics on this blog in the last month- I just haven’t posted them!

Well, I thought what better day to resume more regular updates on my blog than on world vegetarian day!  I hope you all celebrate today by eating a plant based dinner even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan. 🙂 I plan to make homemade minestrone soup (I’ll share the recipe in a future post)! Not only is Oct. 1st world vegetarian day, but to me it also means fall time.  Nothing screams fall to me like apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, soup, crunchy leaves, crisp autumn runs, cozy sweaters, and hot beverages.

In honor of fall and world vegetarian day, I wanted to share a sweet potato recipe with all of you. It is basically just a healthier and bite sized version of sweet potato fries. Sweet potatoes, which are nutrient superstars, have more potassium than bananas, a healthy dose of fiber, and a good source of vitamins A and C.  The following recipe is easy, makes a perfect snack or side dish, and is made with heart healthy olive oil.

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Sweet Potato Bites

ingredients:

2-3 sweet potatoes

1  Tablespoon olive oil

dash of salt

dash of pepper

instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray or use a non stick baking sheet and do not grease it.

3. Chop the sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces. Do not worry about the shape of the pieces.

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4. Put the sweet potatoes in a medium mixing bowl and add the olive oil. Mix the potatoes and oil with your hands. Then, add the salt and pepper to the oil and potato mixture.

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6. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 25-35 minutes or more turning the potatoes often and checking regularly to see if they are done. You may want to cook them longer than 35 minutes for crisper bites.

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I hope all of you enjoy this recipe and have great nights!

What is your favorite thing about fall? I personally love apple and pumpkin picking. 🙂

Rice, veggie, and bean bowls & Monday motivation

Hello friends, I’m back! I hope you all had a lovely labor day, week, and weekend. Sorry for the 1.5 week hiatus- school, studying, and more hours than I anticipated at my part time job have been keeping me busy, but regardless that’s no excuse. I’ll TRY to update this blog at least once a week from now on! 🙂

Today, I wanted to share my  go-to quick week night dinner (or lunch) recipes. As many vegetarians already know, convenience food is OFTEN tailored to meat eaters. And yes, I know this is not completely true as there are veggie burgers, chickenless nuggets, faux hot dogs, and microwave vegetarian meals. Yet, just like their meat counterparts, vegetarian convenience food CAN high in sodium, calories, fat, and somewhat low in nutrients. Also, vegetarian microwave or convenience meals tend to be pricier than meat based convenience meals. So what’s a hungry vegetarian student who is trying to balance a part time job, attend class, be a part of school activities, and study all the bones in the human body to do? Okay, okay that last part about the human bones is specific to my nutrition course work, but you all get the picture. 😛

During the week busy and hungry vegetarian students need nutrient dense, healthy, quick, and budget friendly options for dinner so they do not turn to veggie convenience food all the time. Considering black beans are one of my favorite foods I hope it comes as no surprise that I used black beans in this recipe I am sharing with all of you. You could definitely use other types of beans you just may need to use different spices than I used then.

Now as a forewarning, the following recipe I am sharing is not super glamorous and may even be bland in some of your options. I personally love turmeric and garlic powder together, but feel free to substitute any spices you’d like. As a side note, toping with salsa and/or using cilantro are also both wonderful additions to this recipe! Benefits of this recipe: It is quick to prepare, easy to make for yourself or a few people, a complete protein, high in fiber, and the vitamin C in the peppers should help you absorb the plant based iron in the black beans more efficiently.

Rice, veggie, and bean bowls

ingredients:

1/3-1/2 can of black beans (or any canned beans you like)

1/2 cup-3/4 cup frozen sweet peppers or frozen mixed veggies

1/2 cup jasmine rice (or any kind of rice)

turmeric & garlic powder (or any herbs or spices you want)

optional: whole wheat wraps

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1. Rinse the jasmine rice using a mesh sieve. Then, cook the rice according the package directions.

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2.  While the rice is cooking, microwave the desired amount of peppers or mixed veggies with a tablespoon of water and covered with plastic wrap or using a covered microwave safe dish.

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3. Also while the rice is cooking, rinse the 1/3 can- 1.2 can of black beans and then cook in the microwave for approximately 3 minutes or on the stovetop, also covered. Store the remaining black beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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4. Once everything is thoroughly heated/cooked mix the rice, black beans, and veggies together in a bowl.

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5.  Add the turmeric and garlic or any spices you want. Sometimes I also eat this mixture in a whole wheat wrap topped with salsa for a bit of a heartier meal. Both the bowl and wrap are delicious and quick options so give them a try! 🙂

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P.S. Here’s some very late Monday motivation. Use it to motivate you for tomorrow morning’s run (or tonight for those of you who are evening/night runners). I went on a lovely run this morning and while it was extremely hard to get out of bed early after working Sunday night I was so glad I did! I’ve been trying to keep up with morning runs so I do not use work or studying as excuses to prevent me from running later in the day.

I  got up, ran, and finished all before 8 am and  had plenty of time to eat and shower before for my 45 minute commute to my 11 am class! I love how morning runs make me feel, what about you guys? Today’s motivation is one of those “reasons why I run posts” and this one seemed especially fitting.  🙂

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What is your go-to quick and easy vegetarian weekday meal (or meatless Monday meal for those non vegetarians out there)?

A BBQ “burger” recipe and the Lincoln Park zoo

Good evening friends! I hope all of you are having a great week and more importantly a wonderful day today. 🙂 Today one of my friends came up to Chicago to visit me for the day. Her and I went to the North Avenue Beach, the Lincoln Park zoo and the conservatory, and window shopped. I highly recommend stopping at the zoo and conservatory if any of you are ever in Chicago. It’s nice, fun, and best of all free! Today was a fun filled day and we must have walked over 4 or 5 miles total the whole day. I’m glad to have a friend who likes being active just as much as I do! I dropped her off at the train station a few hours ago and I am definitely going to miss her if she can’t come back to the city before leaving for graduate school in a little over a week though. 😦

On a brighter note, I took tons of pictures at the zoo and conservatory so I’m going to share a few of favorites below. Then, I’ll share a new recipe my boyfriend and I tried out using a vegetarian/vegan soy food called tempeh.

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I found this recipe on page 36 in The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic. This recipe is very easy and relatively fast. I hope you all enjoy it! We did not make any major modifications to the original recipe this time.

BBQ tempeh “burgers”

yield: 2-4 servings

8 ounces of packaged tempeh (we got ours from Trader Joe’s)

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1/2 cup of bottled BBQ sauce ( we used Trader Joe’s Bold and Smokey Kansas City Style BBQ sauce)

1/2 cup water

1. Slice the tempeh into four sandwich sized slices.

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2.  Combine the BBQ, vegetable oil and water into a bowl. Put the tempeh slices in the mixture and let soak for ten minutes.

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3. After ten minutes, heat a skillet over medium heat and place the tempeh slices in the skillet (no need to spray the skillet). Save the sauce. Cook the slices for 3-4 minutes or until they start to brown.

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4. After the slices start to brown, reduce the heat to low and pour the BBQ sauce over the slices. Cook for another five minutes or until the tempeh slices darken and the BBQ sauce starts to disappear.

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5. Turn off the heat and serve the “burgers” on buns  with your favorite toppings. We topped ours with sweet peppers and spooned some of the extra BBQ sauce on them.

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Have you ever had tempeh before? If so what did you make with it?