Quick Vegan: Spicy Couscous Stir Fry

Sometimes cooking is such a hassle. There are days when you are just too rushed or too tired to spend much time preparing a meal. In these times, couscous is my best friend (and yours too)! I used to stay away from making something like stir fry because rice and quinoa take way too long. But couscous… it’s the BEST. It cooks in literally 5 minutes. 5 minutes!!! That’s magical, people.

A great part about stir-fry is that you have a chance to use up all the produce you ambitiously bought at the store last week but you’ve just been staring at ever since.  You know you’ve all done it.

Another good thing – all good food starts by sauteing onions and garlic. End of story.

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The recipe posted below is something I made up. It’s basic though, so there’s a lot of room to play around with the recipe, which is a wonderful thing about stir-fry. You can season and flavor the veggies however you’d like and it pretty much always turns out delicious. Also, have fun adding different veggies to the mix – mushrooms, peas, squash, etc. They’re all good in this. The version today is really basic but so yummy!

What you need:

1 box of couscous

1½ – 2 cups of dry cooking sherry

½ red onion

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

1 carrot

1 head of broccoli

Prep time: 25 minutes

Start the couscous first in a small or medium size pot. Always check the instructions and amounts given on the back of the box.

For the batch today, I boil 2 cups of water and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Once the water and oil come to a boil, I stir in the couscous, remove the pot from the heat, and let it sit for 5 minutes. And voila! Delicious couscous in virtually no time at all. Like I said, magical.

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While the couscous sits, get out a medium size pot and turn the heat on high.

Let the pot heat up for 10-15 seconds.

Cover the bottom with dry sherry.

Add diced onions and let cook for about five minutes and stir occasionally.

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It’s good to let the pot brown a little bit on the bottom while the onions cook This adds flavor, so don’t worry if it looks like you’ve burned them a little bit. All you need to do is add a little more sherry and it picks up all the yummy stuff off the bottom of the pot. This may happen a couple of times while they’re cooking.

While the onions cook, go ahead and dice up the cloves of garlic and the jalapeno (if you’re feeling spicy). After the onions have cooked for 5 minutes, add the garlic and jalapeno and a little more sherry and let these cook for 2 minutes.

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Cut up the remaining vegetables. Turn the heat to medium high.

Add the veggies one by one, adding the hardest vegetable  first and letting them cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the next veggie.

With my combination, I added carrots first, then red pepper, and broccoli last. This way your soft vegetables, like broccoli, don’t get overcooked.

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After you add the broccoli (or whatever your last vegetable is), turn the heat on low and cover the pot for 2-3 minutes. After this, the veggies should be all done! Remove from heat.

Now you can add the pot of couscous to the veggie mixture. It’s best topped off with some soy sauce.

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Husband approved!

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Kickstart Your Day: Apple Carrot Muffins

There is nothing worse than missing breakfast. I can be having a great hair day, be wearing my favorite shoes, and have gotten 8 hours of magical, sacred beauty sleep the night before, but if I miss breakfast, it’s basically a guarantee that I will feel like total crap for at least the first half of my day.

I make it a priority to allow myself enough time each morning to sit down, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and be peaceful first thing every morning. Call me crazy, but I don’t think there is a more perfect time in a day than between 6-7am. It’s quiet outside and people aren’t caught up in the business of the day yet, including me.

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Since I enjoy my sitting and thinking time the most in the morning, I like to have an easy breakfast that doesn’t take much, if any, prep time. That way I can make my coffee and grab something quick to go along with it. As a vegan, you have to get creative with breakfast since most staple breakfasts include eggs, buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausage, etc.

Muffins are a great option for this type of routine. You can bake a batch on Saturday or Sunday and then have almost enough to last the week for breakfast. Also, in honor of fall being just around the corner (like tomorrow, people!), I felt that muffins were incredibly appropriate for this post. They are a major comfort food for me, and they tend to always have yummy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg in them.

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Eric and I have always been huge muffin fans. One of our favorite breakfast spots in Nashville is Fido. Every time we go for breakfast, we get two muffins to split with our coffee (fun fact: they have several vegan muffin options. Try the Vegan Beet It! Muffin if you ever get a chance. It’ll change your life). Sadly, most muffins aren’t always necessarily the healthiest way to start your day. They are usually pumped with sugar, butter, and oil. However, the recipe I’m using today definitely has all the things you need to kick start your day! You’ve got rolled oats, flax seed, apples, carrots, and pecans. They’re extremely low in fat and high in fiber – a great combination to start your energy for the day!

These Apple-Carrot Muffins are my personal favorite! Don’t be deceived by the name. They are delicious! If you could smell my house right now, you wouldn’t even care about the name. It smells heavenly.

I’m not entirely sure where the original recipe idea came from, but I know the version I’ve included below has been heavily modified by my mom since she started making these a few years ago.

Warning:  this recipe does contain one non-vegan ingredient – an egg. I haven’t gotten super creative with my egg substitutes yet, and I usually only use them in baking.

What you need:

Dry ingredients (combine together in a medium mixing bowl)

1 cup of whole wheat flour

2/3 cup of rolled oats

1 Tbsp of baking powder

½ tsp of baking soda

½ tsp of salt

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/3 cup of brown sugar

1/3 cup of milled flax seeds

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Wet ingredients (combine in separate mixing bowl)

1 egg (or egg substitute of some sort)

½ cup of applesauce

1 tsp of vanilla or vanilla bean paste (plain vanilla is much cheaper)

½ cup of almond or soy milk (plain or unsweetened are both fine)

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In food processor/blender/Cuisinart

½ pecans chopped – add to dry ingredients

2 medium-sized carrots (approximately 1 cup) – shredded

1 large apple (personal favorites – honey crisp, pink lady, jazz) – shredded

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dry and wet ingredients (don’t forget to mix in chopped pecans!).

Stir in shredded carrots and apples.

Mix ingredients until blended.

Scoop batter into non-stick muffin cups.

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Bake for 13-14 minutes (until golden brown).

Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Remove onto wire rack for cooling.

(I like to spread a little peanut butter on these. So yummy!)

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“TASTE and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8

Enjoy! Happy autumn, everyone.

The Reason for Vegan

Vegan. A word typically synonymous with misery, deprivation, and general unhappiness for many. “I could totally live on a diet of lettuce and tofu,” said no one ever. It’s my hope to shed a sliver of light onto the yumminess of a creative whole foods plant-based diet.

I fell into the world of veganism through my parents. They’ve been health nuts for as long as I can remember. We never had soda or dessert or candy around the house growing up. We never went out to eat a whole lot, and a pilgrimage to Taco Bell was considered a special treat every couple of weeks. We were those weirdos! And I will wave that flag proudly. Despite the “treats” we didn’t have, we were also the family that had 5 gallons of Purity Dairy Sweet Acidophilus milk delivered on our front door step at 5am one morning a week, back when having milk delivered to your house was still a thing and milk men still existed. And you better believe we drank that milk like it was our job! Saturday night was burger night, weeknights were spaghetti with meat sauce or stir fry with chicken or salmon and rice. Meat and dairy were a huge part of our diet.

However, the ride to total vegan-dom was kicked into high gear when my dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was 11. Cancer was nothing new to my family – it ran in both sides. My mom’s mom and my dad’s dad had both battled cancer previously. My dad went through treatments, and the doctors were fortunately able to catch all of it before it spread. However, he knew something had to change when his dad lost his battle with cancer the very next year.

Luckily, my dad is a genius. He’s a chemist and a gifted researcher and has an ability to understand information more easily and clearly than almost anyone I’ve ever met. After his cancer scare and losing his dad, he began researching what he could do in his daily life to make sure the cancer wouldn’t come back. Through everything he heard and read, it all came down to diet. Not diet in the sense of “going on a diet.” This would have to be a lifestyle change – a sustainable lifestyle change, which isn’t usually the product of the cliché “dieting.” Through the books and documentaries of doctors like Colin Campbell (China StudyForks Over Knives), John McDougall (The McDougall Program, The Starch Solution), Neal Barnard (Dr Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes), and Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), my parents decided that pursuing a whole foods plant-based diet would be the best way for them to stay healthiest for longest.

This dietary transformation didn’t happen over-night. Like I said before, taking meat and dairy out of your kitchen is a daunting task! But my parents started experimenting and trying new recipes and ingredients, and slowly but surely, meat and dairy eventually disappeared from their kitchen. They’ve both seen their cholesterol lower significantly, they have stable and healthy blood pressure, and they are both totally medication free. On top of all that, they have had plenty of energy to plan three weddings, take care of grandkids, and just be all around amazing parents.

This blog is an extension of their vegan lifestyle. I want to show how it has affected the way I do life as an adult. I should also mention that my husband is allergic to dairy, so that also motivates me to find interesting ways to stay dairy-free in the kitchen. I also just love eating vegan. I have more energy, I’m able to focus better on school, I have almost zero cramps at my time of the month, I barely have any issues with my skin, and I just feel better all around. I hope this blog will make the vegan lifestyle seem a more enjoyable. You may not enjoy all of it, but I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how delicious things can be!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vegangelical. I am not trying to convert anyone with this blog. I just have fun cooking and enjoy discovering new ways to make vegan food exciting and delicious! There may be a few common misconceptions I hope to demystify later on but not for the purpose of saying I’m right, you’re wrong. Also, I’m not a vegan for ethical reasons. Apologies, PETA.