Rainbow Carrot Pasta and Meatballs

A healthier take on the classic dish of pasta and meatballs, but with the same vibrant flavors, and of course, cruelty-free!

Rainbow carrot pasta and meatballs

What You’ll Need:

  • About 5-6 rainbow carrots — use a variety of colors for health benefits, plus it looks a lot prettier 🙂
  • 1 bag of Gardein meatless meatballs
  • 1 can of Trader Joe’s fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • Approximately 2 tsp. of the essential seasoning blend*

What to Do:

  1. Finely chop basil and set aside.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to cut rainbow carrots into long slivers and strips. This will be your “pasta”. Set aside.
  3. Heat a medium-sized pan on low-medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in it.
  4. Once hot, add several meatballs to the oil (be careful of oil splatter!) and pan-fry the meatballs until brown and fully heated through. To ensure that the meatballs are heated all the way through (and to make the cooking time quicker) you can cover the skillet with the lid. But you might get a crispier result if you take the extra minutes to heat them without a lid– the extra moisture that occurs when you have a lid on might take away some of the crispness. Set meatballs aside (if desired, place on a cloth or paper towel to drain excess liquid).
  5. Heat another medium-sized pan (or use the same one!) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it.
  6. Once warm, add in carrot pasta and let saute, stirring occasionally.
  7. Cook carrots on low heat until they are no longer hard but still have a little crunch (approximately 5-7 minutes).
  8. In a small saucepan, empty fire-roasted tomatoes and heat sauce on low heat.
  9. Add in basil, meatballs and essential seasoning blend and heat until sauce is hot, stirring occasionally.
  10. Transfer rainbow carrot pasta to serving dish, and spoon about 1/2 cup of sauce on top.
  11. Garnish with fresh basil and serve. Bon appetit!

* Essential seasoning blend can be found on the recipes page.

Date posted on Instagram: 1/5/18

Fusilli with Fire-Roasted Tomato and Sausage

A hearty Italian-inspired pasta dish that includes many classic elements!

Fusilli pasta with fire-roasted tomato sauce and sausage

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 box of fusilli pasta
  • 2 links of Tofurky Italian “sausage”
  • 1 can of Trader Joe’s diced and fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Daiya mozzarella style shreds
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. of fresh chopped garlic
  • About 5-7 leaves of fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. of essential seasoning blend*

What to Do:

  1. Heat a medium pan on low-medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in it.
  2. Once pan is hot, add both sausage links and saute, turning each link occasionally until links are browned.
  3. Take links off heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the fusilli according to the directions on the box. Prepare in a medium-size saucepan, enough fusilli to make approximately two cups of cooked pasta.
  5. While the pasta is boiling, empty one can of fire-roasted tomatoes in a separate small saucepan. Heat on low flame.
  6. Sliced links into discs and add to sauce as it heats.
  7. Add in fresh garlic, basil and essential seasoning blend.
  8. Continue warming until sauce is hot; remove from heat.
  9. Set sauce aside.
  10. Once cooked, drain pasta and run under cold water for about 30 seconds.
  11. Drain pasta again.
  12. Toss pasta in olive oil and transfer to serving dish.
  13. Spoon 1/2 cup of sauce on top of pasta.
  14. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
  15. Garnish with fresh basil and serve. Bon appetit!

* Essential seasoning blend can be found on the recipes page.

Date posted on Instagram: 11/30/2017

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag!

One of the first things people start doing when they want to become more Earth-conscious is bringing their own bags to the supermarket. Although this isn’t a new concept by far,  when you go from not really caring to caring a lot, it’s a small step that can feel like a major difference.

And it is major. If you figure that most markets double-bag your groceries, and then you figure that you make anywhere from 2-4 trips to the supermarket each week (at least I do because I don’t get things in large quantities, especially produce) you could be saving hundreds of plastic bags from ending up in a landfill each month! Go you 🙂

Not to mention all the other benefits that go along with bringing your own bags. Here are just a few:

  1. You save unnecessary plastic from being used — yes, I know I just said that but it will always bear repeating.
  2. You’re forced to only get the essentials — depending on how many bags you’re using, bringing reusable bags helps cut down on getting junk you don’t need. The larger bags can fit a lot, but if you make sure that you only bring a certain number of bags, you ensure that you won’t buy an excessive amount of anything. Then, factor in the walking part — I live in walking distance from a supermarket. I bring two bags with me when I go grocery shopping, and once they’re full, it’s already a workout carrying one bag on either shoulder, so I make sure I am only getting the important stuff. But I do it because Mother Earth is awesome.
  3. You save the supermarket money — who doesn’t love a gesture that automatically pays itself forward? When you bring your own bags, you don’t have to use the bags at the market. As we just established, with all that double and sometimes triple-bagging, that’s a lot of bags you’ll be saving them! Maybe plastic bags are super cheap when markets buy them in bulk, who knows. But any savings for a business is still a savings, so the manager will probably think happy thoughts about you.
  4. You become a walking advertisement for the cause — Whenever someone does something that is not very common, they are noticed. People look at them more. Although it is a lot more common to bring your own bag to the supermarket these days, especially if you’re at a more progressive, earthy market like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or anyplace in California for that matter, it still isn’t extremely common to see everyone bringing bags in there on the daily. So if it isn’t a common thing to do where you live, then you should definitely do it! Bring your own bags! Be a cheerleader for the cause simply by living your life and getting groceries! It’s like wearing a giant sign that says “I LOVE EARTH” or better yet: “I HATE PLASTIC BAGS”.
  5. You won’t collect that enormous stash of plastic bags that inevitably take up a kitchen drawer which could be put to better use. And I know that some people prefer to keep those bags to reuse as liners for mini-garbage cans, but why not instead consider purchasing biodegradable bags like the ones here?

And finally, if you must use a bag other than your reusable one, consider using a paper bag whenever possible!

So the next time you head out to the supermarket, consider it a BYOB trip and bring your own bag!

Reusable Trader Joe's Bags

2 of my prized possessions — the Trader Joe’s bags I take with me to the supermarket!

* Cover image courtesy of: pexels.com

My Struggles with Going Vegan!

Going vegan is harder for some folks than it is for others. I admit, I contemplated if writing a full blog post on this topic made sense for various reasons — the main reason being that I thought maybe going vegan for me wasn’t “hard enough”. Why did I think this?

Well, since I went vegan, I’ve spoken to a variety of people who have both inspired and enlightened me. Here are a few archetypes I’ve had the pleasure of talking to over the past several months:

  • The “O.G” vegan: This is the person who went vegan way back in the sixties or seventies, long before it was trendy, cool, or even known to have such an impact on health,  or the environment. These are the veteran vegans — everyone thought they were crazy for doing it, and maybe they were because they didn’t have the wealth of food options that vegans have today. They were pretty much obligated to be raw vegans (well, they could cook their veggies too). Oh, but they also had tofu. Just tofu (and later seitan around the mid-1970s). I’ve heard their stories of feeling like outcasts because of their choice to go vegan, but I’ve also heard their stories of how going vegan was the healthiest thing they could have done — those were my favorite parts. And ya know, when you’re trying to save the planet and the animals, having a limited amount of food options and being judged by society can pale in comparison, because you know that what you’re doing is for the greater good. “O.G” vegans truly deserve our admiration — they were pioneers!
  • The small town vegan: This type of vegan also fancies a lot of raw goodies, but they have also mastered how to prepare cooked veggies about 100 different ways and to somehow turn about three different veggies into 40 different meals (I completely stole this skill and am still honing it!). They are also big on prepared foods like Daiya’s “mac ‘n’ cheez”. The main struggle here is access to and availability of vegan food options other than raw foods, pasta and peanut butter. Small town vegans don’t always have easy accessibility to products which have not become as popular in certain areas, like staple proteins such as tofu and seitan, and also vegan cheez, because not enough people consume them where they live. And even the larger supermarkets or big-box stores which are more likely to carry these products may not be easily accessible, so they have to make trips there every so often and stock up in bulk. **Disclaimer: I am fully aware that this is not accurate of ALL vegans who live in small towns, but is applicable of some!
  • The raw vegan: The classic raw vegan. I think this is what most people think of first when they hear the word “vegan”. These days, a lot of people adopt a raw vegan diet for a week or two, in an attempt to lose weight. But for true raw vegans, this isn’t a diet– it’s a lifestyle. So what exactly is a raw vegan? Well the name somewhat explains it: they’re vegan — so no animal products or animal byproducts. But they also consume the majority of their food fully raw or cooked very minimally for the purpose of achieving maximum nutritional value. For a food to be considered “raw”, it can not be cooked above a temperature of 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of veganism takes a lot of commitment and can be a struggle to fully change over to, especially if you’re going from a full carnivore and dairy diet to a raw vegan diet. And then you also have to worry about nutrition, maybe even more so than vegans who cook their food. But some people swear by it as a great way to improve health.

Each of these groups had or have it a bit hard when it comes to their vegan life. Their decisions were obviously motivated by something greater than themselves, because it took a lot of dedication and commitment to stick with something that may not have come easily. You could be motivated by being passionate about what you’re doing, by feeling obligated to do it, or simply by the main pillars of veganism which are health, animals, and the environment (in no specific order). Like I said, learning from these groups and talking to people within them has enlightened me as to what I can do to make my personal vegan journey better, in spite of any struggles I have had myself, which I still feel pales in comparison to the ones above.

So what have I struggled with?

Here are some that have come about since I went vegan:

  • Getting used to cooking all of (well, most of) my meals: Like most people, I have a very busy schedule. I work, I’m in grad school, and I have to take care of everything else that occurs in life — the daily monotonous stuff as well as the out-of-the blue things that always seem to pop-up at the most random times. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and I actually didn’t start cooking until very recently. I have come to appreciate it now, but it is still in the “greatly admired hobby” stage — except it isn’t just a hobby. It’s a necessity. Being vegan kind of forces you to have to cook the majority of your meals. That is, unless you can afford to eat vegan take-out every night, which I can’t. Heck, even the places I’ve eat out at since I became vegan have been questionable on my finances. Lets just say that a lot of the great vegan fare I’ve been able to partake of has been paid for by some of my ever-growing student loan debt (mom, I apologize for that if you’re reading this). But it isn’t all bad. Learning how to cook is an essential survival skill, and if you can make food that actually tastes good, that’s even better. The issue is that I don’t always feel like cooking every. single. night. I know I can meal prep or make large meals at the beginning of the week, but I have another issue there. I’ve been very adamant about not using a microwave as much — I’m not super strict with it, but I have maybe used my microwave about three-five times in the past month. My goal is to not use it as often because of the radiation it emits when heating and cooking food. Supposedly it’s a very small amount, but I don’t trust that fully and so although I haven’t committed to getting rid of the appliance yet, I’ve been content with not using it as much. And who knows what I may end up doing with it in the future. But the point is, finding the time to actually make a meal when I’m feeling tired, lazy, or really don’t have the time can be difficult. But I’m still pushing myself to do it, and it does get easier with time.
  • Getting used to being around family/friends who are not vegan: Earlier this month, I went out with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday — it was my first outing to a non-vegan restaurant with non-vegan people. Yikes. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat anything, although my current go-to “non-vegan place” food is always there as my safety cushion — french fries. I looked up the menu before we went, and thank goodness they actually had not one but two vegan options! But I am dreading the time where I have to go out to a place that doesn’t have an online menu or doesn’t offer any vegan food. I am also still in the stage where I can’t expect all of my extended family to know about my new vegan life. Meat and dairy are in a lot of dishes that are common in my culture (when prepared traditionally), so until everyone knows I’m vegan, I might have to bring my own food. My mom has been very supportive — she made me a few things during the holiday season which came about right after I went vegan and I can’t wait to introduce her to the wonderful vast world of vegan food.
  • Beginning the transition to all vegan products: In my head I knew that being vegan would extend to other areas of my life, but initially, it still wasn’t a tangible concept. At first I was more focused on finding out what I could and couldn’t eat. Once I became more comfortable with the food part, I started to realize how many things we use in life are not vegan. Things like hair styling products, shampoos and conditioners, body products, makeup, and even floss; most waxed floss is coated with beeswax. I am still in the process of making sure I only use vegan products. Sometimes I forget to look at the ingredients on something, but it happens and I’m sure it will happen to all the other newbie (and even veteran) vegans out there. But soon enough it’ll be second nature to check the label.
  • Making sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need: I used to suffer from iron-deficient anemia. I went a decent amount of time without knowing this — being sick and suffering from dizzy spells and not knowing why. Because of this experience along with a desire to take better care of myself overall, I try to make sure I’m always getting all the nutrients I need. Going vegan made this even more important, because as a vegan, if you don’t eat a diverse array of foods it is all too easy to start lacking in key nutrients such iron and B-12. Iron is found in many plant-based sources such as dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and tofu just to name a few– but, there’s a catch. These foods are only high in one type of iron (aarrrgghh!). And getting enough B-12 is a whole other story. Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal meat sources. So for a vegan to get enough B-12, they have to either take supplements or eat foods fortified with the vitamin, such as plant-milks. For the full low-down on these two key nutrients, why they’re important and how I’m currently trying to fit them into my diet, check out this blog post.

* Vegetables cover image courtesy of pexels.com

Kale and Mushroom Soup

Kale is one of my favorite veggies, which is kind of ironic because I used to hate kale– and spinach– and vegetables. But now I use it in almost everything I make. Here, I created a quick and easy light, soup that’s perfect for a cool rainy day, or whenever!

IMG_4140

What You’ll Need:

  • About 4-5 full leaves of kale, chopped into large pieces
  • About 5 white button mushrooms, sliced (cremini mushrooms can also be used)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil (or oil of your choice)
  • 2 tsp. of the essential seasoning blend*

 

What to Do:

  1. Chop or break apart the kale leaves into smaller pieces. I like mine medium to finely chopped, but in this recipe I left the pieces a little bigger for a heartier feel.
  2. Chop the mushrooms into segments.
  3. Heat a medium skillet to low heat.
  4. Add olive oil and turn heat to low-medium.
  5. Add in mushrooms and saute for approximately 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. Add kale and turn-over kale into mushroom mixture. Watch the pan and continue to stir to avoid burning.
  7. Add in seasoning blend evenly over mushrooms and kale.
  8. Once kale is slightly soft and mushrooms are brown, add in vegetable broth and turn heat to low.
  9. Let heat for another minute; remove from heat.
  10. Spoon soup into a bowl and it’s ready to serve — bon appetit!

 

*Essential seasoning blend can be found on the recipes page.

 

 

Date posted on Instagram: 8/12/2017

10 (FREE!) Ways You Can Start Going Zero Waste Today!

If you’re interested in going zero waste, this is a great place to start! Try doing one, two, three or all of the things on this list– everything is completely free and it’s a start toward creating less waste and lowering your carbon footprint!

  1. Donate all of your gently worn and used clothes and shoes to charity (or a thrift store, or a drop-bin for used clothes).
  2. Get more wear out of your clothes! Only wash them when they are actually dirty. Heavier items like denim do not need to be washed after every wear. You can also usually get more than one wear out of sweatshirts and sweaters, especially if you wear an undershirt with them.
  3.  If you can, don’t get a receipt after you make a purchase or tell the cashier “no” when they ask if you would like one.
  4. Walk, use public transportation, or carpool whenever possible.
  5. Sign-up for digital billing and have all of your monthly bills sent to your email instead of having paper bills mailed to you.
  6. Unplug non-essential items when not in use (hairdryer, toaster, microwave, blender, nightlamp)
  7. If it isn’t really saturated or gross (or even if it is, extra brownie points for you!) pick up trash you see in your daily life—old food container on a bench? Toss it in the trash, or even better, a recycling bin if possible!
  8. Turn off the water when you’re not using it while you’re brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face.
  9. Avoid plastic bags whenever possible – if you’re just getting one or a few items, toss them in your bag or book bag (in this case, maybe you’ll want to get a receipt so it doesn’t seem as if you stole the items, lol).
  10. When you go out to eat, bring your own to-go containers with you for any leftovers!

** BONUS: Carry a set of reusable utensils with you! I carry a set that includes a fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks. I plan to upgrade to a stainless steel set in the future, because the one I currently have is plastic and I’m trying to slowly eliminate my use of plastics (baby steps!)

So there you have it. Ten ways you can start going zero waste TODAY.

Remember, Don’t be overwhelmed! It’s a marathon not a sprint. It’s hard to try to go completely zero waste overnight — but small changes over a longer period of time often make the biggest difference and leave the greatest impact!

* cover image courtesy of: pexels.com

Why I Went Vegan (and it Wasn’t to Lose Weight)

So here’s my “why I went vegan story”.

Every vegan has one, right?

It all started in the Fall of 2017.

Actually wait, no it didn’t.

It really started several years ago — when I tried to go vegetarian. I decided to do it on a whim and there was really no thought process behind it. I didn’t have any substantial reasons for doing it other than I thought it would help me “lose some weight”.

I didn’t conduct any research on how to properly transition to a vegetarian diet, including maintaining the vitamins and minerals I would need. I wasn’t doing it for the animals or for the environment, so I didn’t have  a mindset geared toward doing it for all the right reasons.

Then there was also a health dilemma I was unaware of. At the time, I didn’t yet know that I had severe iron-deficiency anemia. This made the whole process even worse. While trying to maintain my vegetarian lifestyle, I would get dizzy spells and didn’t know why (this sometimes happened way before I went vegetarian– I now realize also because of the anemia, but because I wasn’t taking care of my health, I didn’t look into it fully yet and brushed it off as random occurrences that would hopefully go away).

What I didn’t realize was that since I had stopped consuming meat-based sources of iron, and was now not consuming a decent amount of plant-based sources of iron, my body was being deprived of a lot of nutrients. I also hated dark, leafy greens at this time and thought tofu was a bland, tasteless food, and so spinach, kale and tofu were never dietary options for me, even though they are some of the most iron-rich plant-based foods around.

Instead of going to the doctor or trying to really experiment with my diet and food choices, I assumed any illness or weakness had something to do with my sudden change to a vegetarian diet. That was my tipping point. I threw in the towel pretty early and went back to eating meat.

And that was my life for the next few years. I still never felt healthy, and I wasn’t, but changing the way I ate never occurred to me as a viable option. I was unhealthy inside and out.

Then, in 2015, I went on a health overhaul. I decided to take charge of my health and started eating healthy and being more physically active. At this point, I was still eating meat (and dairy and eggs), and could never imagine a life without these foods.

In 2017, I was definitely feeling healthier. I was active and although I didn’t have the healthiest diet, I ate way better than I had in the past when it came to portion control and eating less junk. But I could feel that there was still change to be made– I sought out someone I had went to High School with who was now a yoga teacher. I thought that incorporating yoga into my life would help create a that change that would bring my spiritual and physical journey into alignment with one another.

However, once we were in contact, yoga ended up taking a backseat to me learning about her vegan lifestyle. I had mentioned to her that funny enough, I had recently completed a “vegan week” challenge not too long ago, just for fun to see if I could do it. But I never imagined actually becoming a vegan! I knew what it meant to be “vegan”, but like so many others, I immediately brushed off the idea, thinking things like:

“What about cheese?!”

“But I love eggs!”

“I have to give up burgers (and bacon)?!”

and my personal favorite, especially after going vegan:

“Where am I gonna get my protein?”

But the more I learned from her, the more the idea of going vegan intrigued me. I began to think this was something I could really do. And after doing my own research, I realized it was something I felt I had to do. For my health, for the health of the planet, and to serve as a voice for all the helpless animals who were being killed simply to satisfy my taste buds. I always loved animals, but I started to realize there was a disconnect in my association with some animals as being “okay to eat” and others not. I thought to myself, if something was sentient, why would it ever be okay to kill it for my well-being when there are other options available for me to achieve satiety and enjoyment through food?

Shortly after, I decided on a whim to just do it– to go vegan. With the help and support of my yogi pal, and with the knowledge I continued to gain through research and learning about a vegan lifestyle, how foods are created, how animals are treated, and the environmental impact of it all, I went ahead full-speed, and didn’t look back.

Now, I’m the Vegan Girl!

I’ve always enjoyed food, and I started my Instagram page dedicated to documenting my foodie adventures before becoming vegan, under the name “commelacuisine”– an ode to my love of the French language. Now, the page has been re-branded to reflect my new, amazing vegan lifestyle.

Check out what new recipe I’m making here in the recipes section, and see where I’m chowing down next on my Instagram page!