Category Archives: Kitchen TIps and Tricks

Lazy Sunday Funday June 8, 2014

vegan, helpful living, cats

Boy, Kohska, if you’re gonna help me at least stay awake.

A Lesson in Just Rolling With It 

Ever have a day when nothing goes your way? I mean, like a real shit-storm of a day where you want to do nothing but hide your head in the sand? I know I do. Most of the time when this happens I just want to scream, cry, and throw a temper tantrum but that’s not very productive. It’s a conundrum. You want to get upset and pout all day but that’s a big effing time waster.

So what do you do to stay on task?

  1. Go Work Out- Take advantage of the endorphins.
  2. Bake-  aka do your favorite activity. Everything is right with the world when I’m making a delectable, sweet treat.
  3. Take a Bath- Just soak in some soothing epsom salts and essential oils. While you’re at it, pour yourself a glass of wine and light some candles.
  4. Pet a Fur-Baby- Take a lesson from the furry ones. You can also tell them everything that’s wrong with you and they won’t judge.
  5. Take a Nap- Sometimes all you need is to close your eyes for 20 minutes.
  6. Sit Down and Be Grateful For What You Have- When the dark cloud is persistently over your head, this can be really hard. But it can also put a lot of things into perspective.
  7. Love Thy Self- Take that however you will.
  8. When all else fails, Laugh.

Interesting Article for the Week: Use Brain Science to Get What You Want In Life 

I find the topic of manifesting really interesting. Is it really that easy? I’ve read a few books now and watched a bunch of youtube to try and figure this stuff out and I’ve had some small successes, such as getting free coffee, but not much more than that. This article explains the brain connection to manifesting your reality a little bit better so that maybe more of my experiments can come to fruition. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Snuggle Sample Menu:

  • Breakfast- Bagel with cream cheese and strawberries
  • Lunch- Mock Chicken Salad in Whole Grain Pita
  • Dinner- Watermelon Strawberry Dreams Salad
  • Snack- Random nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts whatever I have lying around.

Peaceful Dumpling Contribution: What Kind of Taster Are You?

How you taste can give you insight into your inner self. Or at least explain why you prefer certain flavors to others. I’m also kind of obsessed with this topic because one of my fantasies is to create the most amazing tasting dishes ever.

Have a good week, Snuggles Friends! Don’t let the crazies get you down.

 

Lazy Sunday Funday: April 20th, 2014

Hello Snuggle Friends, it’s another edition of Lazy Sunday Funday!

Lazy Sunday Funday, vegan food, vegan menu, healthy

Hot Topic of the Week: Blood Moon Rising

Did anyone get the chance to see Monday night’s lunar eclipse? I actually set an alarm for midnight so that I made sure to get a glimpse of it. This is the first in a tetrad series of lunar eclipses that are going to happen over the next year. They are semi-rare and an exciting treat for astronomy lovers. It was amazing to see and I can’t wait to see the next one!

Vegan Product of the Week: Iss’ Magic Mixesiss' magic mixes protein powerhouse vegan breakfast

This week’s feature is a local product based out of Mesa, Arizona. I had the pleasure of meeting, Melissa, aka Iss,  at Chandler Farmer’s Market this past week and I sampled a few of her Magic Mixes. Iss’ Magic Mixes are these really delicious and super nutritious oatmeals mixes and She has amazingly yummy flavors like Chocolate Cherry Rapture, Banana Bread, and Walnut Apple Pie. I ended up walking away with the Protein Powerhouse which is an earthy blend of rolled oats, hemp powder, ground flax, ground chia and a few other tasty ingredients that definitely has been giving me a power boost each morning. Interested in trying one but don’t live in the metro Phoenix area? You can order these beautiful mixes online through their website. Go, try them out, you won’t regret it!

Belly Rub Approval Rating: 5 out of 5 Belly Rubs

What’s Cooking in the House of Snuggles This Week:

Breakfast: Iss’ Magic Mixes Protein Powerhouse 

Yes, I’m kind of addicted. You can eat this cold or hot, mixed with yogurt or just plain almond milk. It an amazing source of vegan protein and gives me the energy to tackle my busy days.

Lunch: Red Beans and Rice

Simple. Delicious. Red beans are little, meaty nuggets of nutrition that are packed full of protein, folate, and iron. This will an easy and cost-effective lunch that is great for the budget minded vegan.

Snack: Carrots and Hummus

Hummus gives you that protein pick me up during your afternoon slump and carrots are just plain yummy.

Dinner: Tropical Island Kabobs with Cilantro Rice

I was gifted Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Kitchen cookbook by my friend’s parents (Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Sandretto!!!) This is the first recipe that caught my eye and I’m super excited to try it. I have been missing a good kebob so I really can’t wait to get this in my belly.

Peaceful Dumpling Contribution: Healing Ingredients: 10 Facts about Garlic

Garlic is my favorite ingredient to add to anything. Here I share some fun facts about this tasty nutritional powerhouse. Plus, a really awesome recipe for garlic bread.

And Finally…

I’m going to leave you with this super sweet Pedigree Adoption Drive Share for Dogs video because I love puppies and any money that’s earned from views and shares is going to homeless pets. Enjoy!

6 Things You Should Know About Beans

nutrition, beans, vegan protein

Who spilled the beans?

Since protein is a hot topic for vegans, I wanted to share a little bit about beans. These amazing little nuggets of nutrition should be a staple in your plant-based life. If you aren’t plant-based, beans should still be a staple in your nutritional life. They do so many wonderful things for your body and they are so diverse that you can make a million tasty things out of them. Check out some of my favorite reasons to eat beans.

  1. Protein Powerhouses- No really, they are so full of protein that you should be consuming these a lot. Probably a couple of times a day, if you can stand it. Combine with grains like, tortillas, pasta or rice to make a complete protein.
  2. Nutrient Powerhouses– Dry beans are chock full of vitamins and minerals, such as: copper, manganese, and magnesium. They are also a good source of iron depending on the bean (white beans tend to have more iron than black beans.)
  3. They Make You Poop Good– Having your daily BM is really important. Since these suckers are full of water and fiber, they help move things along and they help cut calories without leaving you feeling deprived.
  4. They are Cancer Fighters – They contain phytochemical compounds which means they are high in antioxidants. The beans with the most antioxidants are: black, kidney, pinto, navy, and black-eyed peas.
  5. They Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy– They provide soluble fiber which is awesome for lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar.
  6. They are cheap! Meaning they make awesome meals when you are on a budget (burritos, chili, red beans and rice), and really, who isn’t on a tight budget nowadays?

Are you convinced yet?

I can already hear it, “I don’t want to be tooty!!” (followed by a pouty face…)

Well guess what, farting is a natural part of being human and everyone who is healthy does it. So get over it. Part of the reason beans have their musical quality is because the outer coating contains oligosaccharides which are hard to digest. It’s been suggested that the indigestible sugars in beans may act as a prebiotic and are actually good food for your gut flora. I know, I know, ripping a ripe juicy one can be embarrassing, especially if you are around someone new. If you cut the cheese, just smile and point out that you have happy gut flora (I just can’t resist that term!)

You’re still fighting me on the gas thing. Ok, well, you can have your beans and eat them too and minimize the gas. Here’s a few simple tips on what to do:

  • If you are new to eating beans, slowly introduce them to your diet and so that you can nurture your gut flora to grow. Try just eating 1/2 cup at a time and see what happens.
  • As my dad says, “You gotta soak the fart out of them.” If you are preparing dried beans, make sure to soak them for at least 12 hours before you cook. Soaking helps break down some of those starches that are so hard to digest. Discard the soaking water and rinse throughly to minimize the gassy effects.
  • Still having issues? There is nothing wrong with taking a digestive enzyme to give your gut a helping hand.

As with anything else, making them from scratch is better than canned. Making them does take some planning since you need to soak them and they do take about an hour to cook (unless you are fancy and cool and have a pressure cooker then you can have beany deliciousness in a matter of minutes.) Canned are ok , as long as you get low-sodium and organic.

Have any amazing bean recipes? I’d love to hear them!

Vegan Menu Planning: Ideas, Tips and Tricks.

Hello Snuggle Friends! How was your week this week? Mine was just fine. Just continuing my journey of getting in touch with my hippie self. Ok, that’s enough of that. So I was out grocery shopping with my husband and he is always asking me to help him plan a healthier menu for the week. Then the light bulb went off in my little head and it occurred to me that I would like share with you all some tips on menu planning.

Now since I am vegan, this is an essential part of my week. Personally, I have a very hard time winging my grocery list and then whipping up delectable delights to fit in with all of the food stuffs that I bought. It just doesn’t work. I either end up throwing out a bunch of produce or eating out because I’m missing one crucial ingredient to make anything. Total waste of money. To help me cut down quite a bit on the spontaneity of my shopping trips I subscribe to my weekly  CSA box and this really helps with saving on the grocery bill and prevents me from buying a lot of junk food.

So with that being said, Here’s what I do to plan my food week.

  • Consult my weekly email to see what I’m getting for the week. My CSA usually send me a list of about 7-9 items I will be getting in my weekly share. Sometimes they make a last-minute switch but most of the time the list is finalized before they charge your card.
  • Consult my foray of cookbooks to see what fits with my box. If I have all the ingredients for something, then all the better. Otherwise I look for things where I can use staples and I only need to buy a couple of complimentary items.
  • From the recipes that I choose, I plan out breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week. This usually means that I eat the same thing for a few days in a row, but that has never bothered me, growing up in a family that pretty much always had leftovers.
  • Afterwards, I run to my local Whole Foods or farmers market, depending on the day, and grab what I need. I try to stay on target but sometimes I can get delayed and distracted. (Ahem, the Whole Body section is ah-mazing!)
  • Then I usually reserve Sunday evenings to get most of my menu cooked because ain’t nobody got time to cook during the week. (Or at least this girl doesn’t).

So a typical breakfast for me is pretty light since I have a hard time eating in the morning. I focus mostly on fruit and if I have the time I add oatmeal with nuts and seeds on top. Right now I’m really digging my Peanut Butter Banana Boats.

  • What I do is slice a banana down the middle. I then spread any type of nut butter that tickles my fancy (right now it’s Trader Joe’s Sunflower Butter-OMG delish!) Then I sprinkle granola on top and add a few dates or whatever fruit I have on hand to the side. It doesn’t sound like much but I find it quite filling.

Peanut butter banana, vegan, breakfast

Lunch is usually some type of greens and a soup or sandwich of some kind.

  • Since I am getting a butt load of kale and other dark leafy greens right now, my salads are typically very green with some other veggies thrown on top. I like to add some pumpkin or sunflower seeds for added nutrition and texture as well as dried cranberries.
vegan pumpkin soup

Pair pumpkin soup with a leafy green salad and you have an antioxidant party on a plate.

Dinner is usually my more elaborate dish.

  • I like to do some kind of rice or pasta dish. For example, a really simple red beans and rice or pad thai. This is were I feel I can get really creative. Some of my other dinner favorites are spaghetti squash with marinara, vegan nachos, or chickpea patties with mashed sweet potatoes.

And then sometimes I like to throw in dessert.

If you have trouble menu planning, there are some great apps out there that you can download for your iPad or iPhone or whatever gadget you have that are awesome at helping you plan shit out. My app of choice is the Whole Foods app. It’s free and you can do all kinds of neat stuff with it and it has options for showing only specific menu ideas to cater to all diets. I love doing this on my iPad because then my grocery list and menu plan are all on one device and that saves paper (you know once you save paper you should probably go hug a tree or something) Another great tool is just using a dry erase board. Yeah you can get a pretty big piece of dry erase board at Home Depot for about $2 and you can mount it on your wall with something sticky (I use velcro) or whatever you have. It’s pretty awesome, I’m not gonna lie.

So have fun with this. Food is supposed to be fun not boring. Think of creative ways to use your leftovers in another dish to make them exciting. For example, make extra rice one night for stir fry and then create some delicious soup the next night and just add your left over rice. With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless.

whole foods, vegan, menu planning

Even Calypso can get excited about grocery shopping!

The Super Snuggle Pantry: Vegan Pantry Staples

It occurred to me that some of you out there might need a helping hand in the kitchen. Well, I’m here to be your support, to help you learn, experiment and broaden your kitchen confidence. So first things first, lets talk about pantry staples. In order to rock a healthy, plant-based lifestyle, you need a rock star pantry. Your pantry is going to be your little personal staple army, standing by and ready to be called into action to make incredibly tasty food. Sounds exciting, right? I know I’m excited. So let’s get this magical journey started.

First, I’m going to start off with canned goods. Keep in mind fresh is best. Now chant it. Is it ingrained in your brain? Good. Canned goods are alright to use in a pinch. I try not to use these very often since some cans can leach toxins into your food and that’s not very snuggly. I try to get organic when possible but when the budget is tight and mama bear is hungry, I’ll take what I can get.

  • Beans- Be it black, kidney, pinto, or chickpeas canned beans are convenient if you want beans but don’t have time to soak
    Whole Foods Market, Vegan Pantry Staples, black beans, garbanzo beans, tomatoes

    Look at salt and pepper shroomies being all cute and happy.

    and make dried ones. Now get whatever your heart desires but the ones that I have listed are my favorites and I usually have a can or two on hand just in case I need them.

  • Tomatoes- Keep at one can of crushed, diced  and whole tomatoes, as well as, tomato sauce and tomato paste on hand. These items are handy when tomatoes are out of season and you want to whip some pasta sauce, soup, or tasty rice.

Next, is your refrigerated staples. Most of these have a long shelf life and the ones that don’t are items you will use frequently enough that you’ll probably need to replace them every time you go grocery shopping.

  • Condiments- First things first: ketchup and mustard. These are pretty self-explanatory and most kitchens have them. They also have a decently long shelf life. I know this is another personal preference but mayo is also quite handy especially if you are feeling like some faux egg salad or like to dip your fries in mayo (don’t judge, its delicious) Earth Balance has the best mayo hands down. I’ve tried everything else and their olive oil mayo is by far the best.
  • Milk Alternative- I usually use almond, I find it had the mildest flavor, the best texture, and more budget friendly than coconut milk. It goes great with cereal and works really well in any recipe calling for milk especially baking. Here’s a health statement for you: I know alternative milks are scary for some of you. Try it and see which one you like best. Coconut is awfully tasty but is not to cost effective. I personally am not a fan of soy or rice but to each his own.
  • Tofu- Tofu is bland and pliable which means  it has great potential to be anything you want it to be. You can make an awesome scramble to use up odds and ends in your fridge or mold it into some tasty meatballs. In another post I’ll cover the type of tofu and how they should be used but for now make sure to get organic, non-GMO, medium and firm tofu since you’ll probably use those the most. Soft and extra firm are good but are for more specialized dishes.

On to herbs and spices. This is where the fun is. Experimenting with seasoning is a great way to transition to a more plant-based diet. Since I have a very large spice and herb supply I am only going to cover a few here. These are the ones I use the most and are the most basic. I totally support experimenting with more exotic flavors though. If you’re short on cash, you can get some of these in bulk at an ethnic food store and only buy what you need as opposed to a whole jar.

Herbs and Spices, vegan pantry staples, cumin, red peper flakes, oregano

Fresh and dried are always friends.

  • Herbs-basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.Try to use fresh when you can but dried is handy and keeps for longer.
  • Spices- cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and cayenne. I honestly use cumin and cinnamon the most. Both are crazy diverse and can be used in any number of dishes.
vegan baking staples, cinnamon, spices

Sugar and spice and everything nice? Damn, straight!

Baking requires a few more staples since there are quite a few basics that go into whipping up breads, cakes, and other pastries.

  • Baking Powder is a leavening agent but more acidic than baking soda. What does that mean? When baking powder is in a baked good and then moisture and heat are added, the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide and causing the item to rise.
  • Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate and when added to an acidic ingredient (such as yogurt or chocolate) and moisture it will release bubbles of carbon dioxide and cause the baked good to rise under higher temperatures.
  • Extracts- Vanilla, almond, lemon. Add amazing flavor to anything they are added to. It is important to get extracts not flavoring. They are two completely different things and in my experience, the extract has better flavor. Good quality extracts are expensive but it’s super easy to make your own. Try this one, it only requires vodka, a vanilla bean, a jar and some patience.
  • Shortening- This is technically a fridge staple, especially if you get something organic. I use Earth Balance since it’s vegan.
  • Sugar- Vegan white, brown, powdered. All are important for a sweet concoction. Trying to cut out sugar? Great! you can also use agave nectar and stevia in baking.
  • Flour- All-purpose white flour works for pretty much everything but if you are trying to fine tune your skills like moi, then have whole wheat and pastry are also good ideas.
  • Cornstarch-A very diverse ingredient. Is used as a thickening agent in liquid dishes but is also handy for some baked goods as well.
vegan pantry staples, baking staples

This is a power team to make all sorts of delicious treats.

Oils. Oils add fats and flavor to your cooking. Don’t be too afraid of these fats, these are mostly the good ones.

  • Olive- Food of the Gods. At least in my humble opinion. Make sure to get a high quality olive oil. You can use this to saute or just as a dip for crusty Italian bread. Just don’t over heat it, olive oil doesn’t handle high heat well.
  • Vegetable- This oil is very versatile and can be used in cooking as well as baking and it’s cheaper than olive oil.
  • Coconut- Coconut oil is all the craze these days touting a million health benefits. It adds tropical flavor to anything you cook but is also pretty hand in a baked good as well. It can stand fairly high temperature so experiment and see what you can do.
  • Grapeseed- Grapeseed oil is great for salad dressings. Light and airy, makes leafy greens all the more yummy.
  • Peanut- Great for frying and in Asian dishes. It adds peanutty flare to anything your heart desires.
  • Flax- DO NOT COOK WITH THIS SUCKER. This oil is incredibly healthy but does not play well with heat and should be purely used for salad dressings.

Sundries. You know the grains, pasta and dried stuff.

  • Rice- jasmine white rice, brown, wild. Brown is the healthiest but it takes a long time to cook and if you don’t cook it right can be kind of gross. I usually reach for jasmine rice when I’m feeling lazy since it cooks quickly and goes with pretty much anything.
  • BeansBlack, kidney, pinto, chickpea- again solely based on preference but get whatever you like.

    Who spilled the beans

    Who spilled the beans?

  • Pasta- Fusilli, spaghetti, linguine, shells. Having a variety of pasta on hand can help with whipping up any type of quick dinner.
  • Seeds- Pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia. Seeds are incredibly healthy for us and should be added to leafy greens to aid in digestion and absorption of vital nutrients.

Finally, some vinegars.

  • Balsamic- My favorite. I use it as a marinade and salad topping.
  • Apple Cider- Apple cider vinegar is featured in many home remedies and touts amazing health benefits. You can use it in your beauty routine, in a daily health concoction or add it to any salad dressing or marinade.
  • Red Wine- Also wonderful for salad dressing.
  • White- Probably the most diverse staple you can have. Buy a big ass jug of it. You can use it to clean and to cook with. It’s amazing. To go over the many uses, I’ll have to write another post devoted solely to white vinegar.

Again a lot of these are personal preferences that I shared with you to give you an idea on how you should stock your rock star pantry. So adapt this list to your life and what you will use. Even if you aren’t plant-based, this is a good starting list to stock up your kitchen and take control of diet and healthy eating habits.

New to cooking? 4 Helpful Gadgets

One of my main beliefs that I represent in the House of Snuggles is that making food from scratch with fresh ingredients is more nutritious and tastier than buying food that comes in a box. It’s true and I’m here to help you try it. You only need a few skills to learn some cooking and baking basics to get going and these can be readily learned from any cookbook, Google, or Youtube. As far as kitchen tools go, all you really need is very basic kitchen items such as pots and pans, a cutting board, and some decent knives but there are a few other gadgets that I recommend that do make life a bit easier. So without further ado, I present to you, The Kitchen Fabulous Food Making Team.

The Food Processor

Everybody Salsa!!!

Everybody Salsa!!!

Now I thought I could live without one of these things. Until I kept coming across recipes that highly recommended using one to make life easier. I was like, fuck that, I’m old school and I hate technology. I also already had a blender. That should work the same, right? They do but once you get into the nitty-gritty you’ll see that they do serve different functions. Food processors are more built for chopping and shredding hard food while blenders are built for mixing and pulverizing soft food. Granted both work pretty well interchangeable depending on the models that you have but I’ll tell you, mixing up some salsa in a food processor is way easier than a blender. The wide bowl makes for easier access when blending pie fillings, hummus, and nut butters. I have also used this bad boy to slice and dice veggies for salads in a matter of seconds so it does serve numerous functions.

The Immersion Blender

This little guy is fantastic for soup!

This little guy is fantastic for soup!

Again it was something I thought I could live without. I mean I have a regular blender and it does the same thing right? Well yeah it does, but this is another convenience thing. Immersion blenders make blending soup so much easier (and I am a huge fan of creamy soups) and less dangerous (even though I have been splattered by lava hot soup a couple of times by being reckless and living on the edge). It is also super awesome for making one person smoothies. This Kitchen Aide model comes in a bunch of fun colors and with a personal smoothie cup with a lid so you can blend and run.

The Knives

Kitchen Aide Knife setOK I did always want a beautiful set of knives. Ones that would allow me to chop and mince like a professional (still waiting for those skills to show up). I set my eyes on these babies back when I was registering for wedding gifts. I mean look at how many you get and they have a huge carving knife (which turned out to be really great for cutting watermelon and squash or as a prop for photos for my husband’s Michael Myers Halloween costume.)

The Mixer

Hey there, Pie Bird, someday this will be your show.

Hey there, Pie Bird, someday this will be your show.

I know this isn’t really a cooking instrument and it’s more for baking but it’s the pride and joy of my kitchen. Since I have always been a baker, I have fantasized about my awesome vintage Kitchen Aide Stand Up Mixer and all of the wonderful cookies, cakes, and pastries I would be able to create. I know mine isn’t vintage but once they started coming out with awesome colors I couldn’t resist (Again with the colors, I’m a girl, I know.) This thing has lived up to all of my expectations and more considering it came with three different blades and there are so many more other accessories that you can get, like a pasta thingy and an ice cream doodad attachment.

So here they are, my kitchen team. Buying all of this stuff can get pretty pricey but it’s totally worth the investment. I received these as wedding/birthday/Christmas gifts from my husband (awe insert sappy sitcom music here) because he understands my unnatural obsession with food, the creative process of preparation and my stubborn goal of making almost everything from scratch. I know they are all Kitchen Aide and there may be better brands out there but I just really like everything to match and Kitchen Aide has a pretty freaking good reputation. Next, I’m in the market for a juicer. Anyone have any recommendations?

What are your favorite gadgets?

Vegan on a Budget: The Farmer’s Market

One of the most challenging aspects of being vegan is getting a variety of produce for the best prices. I know I am on a super tight budget so I am always looking for a way to save money. Growing my own veggies is out of the question because my patio gets full sun which is equivalent to taking a walk on liquid hot magma. My little tomato plants are sad and wilty faster than you can blink. So I’ve come to rely on farmer’s markets and local CSAs until I can fulfill my organic farm fantasy.

FARMERS MARKET. CSA, BUDGET FRIENDLY, VEGAN, HEALTHY FOOD

The Pros of Shopping at the Farmer’s Market:

  • Produce is local– By shopping locally, you help support the little man and keep money in the community instead of supporting giant corporations with no local connections.
  • Connecting with your fellow man- You get to meet the people who are growing your food and get a better understanding of the local climate and all the toil that goes into putting food on your table.
  • It’s cheaper-Not only is the produce more fresh, it also costs a heck of a lot less than going to Whole Foods. Most of the time, the produce will also be organically grown but check with your local market to make sure.
  • You can also get other neat shit- Not only can you get awesome, fresh produce but you can explore other local businesses and get anything you desire from local baked goods, handmade soaps, and knick knacks.

Need help finding a local Farmer’s Market? 

Check out Local Harvest. This is your super awesome tool to find all local farmer’s markets and CSAs.