Vegan Pho at Home

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I keep pretending its fall. Yes, its October, and yes the stores are donning their pumpkins and delicious squash, BUT it remains a cool 90 degrees where I am. I’ve gone so far to try to trick my mind that its fall that I am constantly brewing fall teas, setting the fireplace up, listening to folky music, adding extra blankets to my favorite sitting places, and making soups by the gallon. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, and summer of 2014 was one for the books, but with fall comes a certain feeling, its hard to describe; kind of refreshing, a whole new palate of colors, and friendly, everyone is happy in the fall because the holidays are right around the corner.

With that being said and as I mentioned above, soups have become a staple in this extreme heat wave. No need to tell me I’m crazy, I already know. Lately I can’t get enough homemade oriental soups, they are just too delicious. Pho has become a staple in my diet. its the perfect soup- comforting, filling, the perfect hangover cure, and if you add enough spices, a great way to ward off a cold. Theres a great little vegan pho place down the road from me and I love to treat myself to a big bowl of hearty soup, but sometimes, I just don’t wanna brush my hair or put adult pants on to go get it, so I decided to make it at home.

For starters, what is pho? Pho is a popular Vietnamese street food, it is a broth bases soup with rice noodles and topped with an assortment of veggies. Traditionally, the broth is ox tail, but as a vegan, I can’t be having that so veganising this soup was about as easy as they come.

Ingredients:
*Please keep in mind that I try to avoid measuring things out at all cost. I don’t like the specifics and I don’t have time for them, so eyeball this. If you want more broth, add more broth, if you want more noodles, throw in the noods’ as you please.
-Vegan Pho Broth, this is kind of like cheating but Im halfway lazy and this tasted better than anything I concocted on my own. Every Sprouts and Whole Foods I have been to carries this. Its organic, in a yellowish carton, and delicious. It makes enough for 3 hearty bowls of pho.
-Rice noodles, I went for brown rice noodles bc they peaked my interest, but whatever rice noodles you like will work
-Bean sprouts
-White onion
-Veggies, I have seen places put broccoli, carrots, and other veggies in their pho soups but to me it makes it a little less authentic, I like my pho with sliced mushrooms and green cabbage, but again, eat to your liking
-Fresh cilantro
-Fresh Thai basil
-Raw jalepeno (if jalepenos are too spicy for you, omit or use another pepper)
-Sriracha
-Hoisin
-Limes

I put a large amount of broth on medium heat while I boiled plain water for my noodles, I wanted the broth hot, but not boiling. Add noodles to water when the water is boiling. While my noodles cooked I prepped my veggies. I wanted the mushrooms to be a little softer and soak up the flavor of the broth so I chopped them and thew them in the pot with the broth. I also didnt want my cabbage to be too crunchy so I did the same with it too.

On a separate plate I added my bean sprouts, cut lime, chopped basil and cilantro, and raw jalepeno.

Once my noodles were done, I drained (didnt rinse because again, I am lazy) and added them to the bottom of the bowl I was eating out of. I topped with my mushroom cabbage broth. I added a squirt of sriracha and a bit oh hoisin (hoisin is a sweet sauce, think mild teriyaki) and voila! my pho is ready to go!

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New Leaves for Fall

As fall quickly approaches, I have decided to take my focus on health to another level and begin a regular workout routine. I engage in some light yoga, stretching, and running but by no means do exercise and I have regular scheduled dates. Well, that ends today because today I start training for my first 5k! I signed up to do a 5k at the end of October and I couldn’t be more scared excited. If you are new to the marathon world, like me, here is what I have learned for far. A 5k is a little over 3 miles, a 10k a little over 6, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, and a full is a whopping 26.2 miles. I had the pleasure of tagging along to a friends marathon this last weekend and it was such great inspiration to get up and move! There were runners of all kinds so I felt so much less intimidated and I am really looking forward to setting new PR (thats personal records, look at me, I am using runners lingo!) for myself and get into a regular workout schedule. What I am MOST excited about is that I am making my running time, MY time. No emails, texts, phone calls, or snapchat (ugh, I am so guilty of that). 

As I delve into learning about running further, the question of diet comes up so I am really looking forward to learning how to fuel my body now that it will be more active with powerful plant based foods and whole grains. If any of you have tips, recipes, or ideas- please share! I love hearing from you! 

See you on the trails! 

Obsessed.

The grocery stores and farmers markets are jammed packed with one of my favorite foods- HEIRLOOM TOMATOES. They are so delicious and the perfect snack. Lately Ive been eating them plain because Ive been lucky enough to find baby heirlooms and to me, they are the perfect snack. When I feel like dressing them up some, Ill chop a bunch up along with fresh basil for a quick bruchetta or salad topper, roast them and serve with some rustic bread, or slice for a great addition to a sandwich. They are such a staple in my diet they have their own special place in my fridge and if my fridge were clean and organized like the ones you see on Pinterest, Id show you mine, but alas, its not perfect so I will spare you.

Heres a pic of my lunch the other day. These baby toms’ are perfect for grab and go snacking. I spent the whole day cleaning and left a bowl out to grab a handful between vacuums and dusting.

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Getting Real

Okay, I have been posting for a few weeks now. I am getting the hang of the basics, you know, how to upload a picture, how to add tags to my posts, how to follow other blogs that I deem interesting and/or am extremely envious of… that is what blogging is, right?

Anyways, I keep bouncing back and forth between ideas for this blog. I even have a little notebook I keep in my purse that has all my ideas (along with extensive grocery lists and untouched to’do’s) all piled up waiting for me scratch off. So now, here it is. I have decided to become more personal. To make the blog more about my day, what I am doing, how I handle situations, along with tips, reviews, ideas, and just random babble.

So, first step. Here is some more about me.
I am 27 years old (although I feel like I am still 20) and living in Los Angeles, California with my boyfriend of 2 years. We are from the midwest and moved out here for his job. My interests include: crafting, painting, reading, playing video games, anything Gordon Ramsay, internetting, my dog, fitness, wine (I work in the industry), and continually learning how to live a vegan life. Oh, and sometimes I take pictures.

Here is something I get asked quite often: “How long have you been vegan and what made you decide to go vegan?”
Here is my answer: I have officially been vegan since January 1st of this year (2014) and I decided to go vegan for a plethora of reasons. I started delving into the idea of veganism back in college. I was vegetarian for a while growing up and I stumbled upon the idea of veganism in my late teens/early twenties. Something about myself that I should explain is that when I get “into” something, I go all out. I face first belly flop into the pool of whatever it is that is holding my attention at the moment, and for a while in college, it was veganism. Now, let me remind you that I grew up in the midwest where tornados are just as frequent as BBQ cookouts. Veganism isn’t really “a thing” where I come from, heck the best grocery store is the Wal-Mart. So, while I studied veganism, I found it extremely difficult to commit fully to a vegan lifestyle.
Everything completely changed when I moved to California in the summer of 2013. Instead of shopping at the Wal-Mart I now have options like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Vons, Ralphs, as well as local farmers markets every day of the week. My head almost exploded with an abundance of new fruits and vegetables. I felt that I owed it to myself and the time I had spent studying veganism to fully commit to a vegan diet and with the new year approaching I decided to challenge myself; go vegan for a year. And thus, my journey fully began. Around the second month of being a vegan I knew that veganism was something I wanted to continue for much longer than a year. The thought of eating a cow or chicken gives me the same feelings I get when I think of eating my dog… completely uninterested. Im not saying that it has been easy or I have been perfect (remind me to tell you about my Morning Star incident later) but for me, this journey has taught me so much more about myself and my body than I could have ever hoped for, and for me, this is what works.

Product Review: Simple Truth Meatless Crispy Tenders

As I continue to transition into my veganism and a journey to eat healthier as a whole, I am still finding that some days I just want “comfort food.” You know those days, gas prices rose, the guy next to you on the highway flips you the bird for no reason, you spill coffee all over your new clothes, the printer at work jams and now you can’t hand in the work your boss has been on your case about for days. Or maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, whatever, I get it, those days call for your warmest sweatpants, the biggest mug of tea (or if I am being honest here, wine) and food that warms your heart.

In my prevegan days, my comfort food was the meal of a typical American six year old-chicken fingers and fries. So greasy. So fried. So good. Now, as a vegan, I don’t necessarily miss chicken but I do miss the warmth of comfort food so you can imagine my excitement when I ran across Simple Truth’s Meatless Crispy Tenders at my local Vons Supermarket. For less than $7 this little package came with roughly 18 tenders which is a bargain in my book.

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I made mine in the oven, which is recommended.

This is before I popped them into the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes:
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And this is after I pulled them out. Also, its recommended to flip them ove while they are cooking.
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You can’t tell me that these don’t look legit, huh?

I made two yummy wraps with these 4 tenders, with chopped romaine, black beans, and some vegan ranch.

I loved the texture of these, very much like actual chicken nuggets. The breading was perfect too! It added some crunch and old school flavor. All in all, I will be buying these again for sure.

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So, heres the nutritional 411 for ya:
Serving Size: 4 pieces
Calories: 220 / Cals from fat: 100
Sodium: 400mg
Potassium: 370mg
Total Carb: 15g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 16g

And here is a link to their website with a full list of ingredients and some recipes as well as their other products:

If you have tried any other of their products, be sure to comment with recommendations!

Quick and Easy Guide to Vegan Dining Out

If I have learned anything about veganism, its that it is not a death sentence to meals. It has forced me to go out of my comfort zone and try new foods, most I have ended up loving. Dining out doesn’t have to be scary or uncomfortable for a vegan either! Here is a quick guide on what to order at various places!

Breakfast:
Unfortunately, breakfasts can be kind of hard unless you go to a specific vegan restaurant, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a meal out made up of a bunch of sides! My go to is toast and avocado with a hot green tea!
-Fruit cups/bowls
-Oatmeal made with water
-Plain toast with sliced avocado and tomato
-Veggie omelet but omit the eggs

Chinese and SushiThai
This is probably one of the easiest to order and modify, don’t be afraid to ask to sub tofu in typical meat dishes!
-Veggie Stirfry
-Fried Tofu
-Veggie Rolls (Avocado is my favorite)
-Pad Thai with Tofu, omit the eggs
-Miso Soup
-Veggie spring rolls

Mexican
My favorite, I could eat Mexican food all day every day. I have a burrito addiction. I usually order a side of rice or black beans, and salsa/quac, and veggies with tortillas and make my own burritos but there are tons of options at these joints.
-Guacamole and Salsa
-Veggie fajitas, omit cheese and sour cream
-Veggie tacos, omit cheese and sour cream
-Beans (make sure they aren’t cooked in lard, most refried beans are, most black beans aren’t)
-Rice
-Fajita Salad, omit cheese and sour cream, if you are in a bind use fresh limes as a yummy and healthy dressing

American
American can be really easy once you get creative. My typical meals usually consist of a bunch of sides which I love because it gives me tons of options!
-Side salad
-Steamed or grilled veggies
-Veggie burger
-Fries
-Plain baked potato
-Apple sauce

Italian
Nothing is as comforting as a good bowl of pasta, don’t be afraid to ask if the noodles are made with eggs or not!
-Spaghetti and marinara
-Soups
-Salads

Don’t be afraid to mention to your waiter that you are vegan, and explain what that means! Many times I have explained my dietary needs and have been served something off menu that exceeded my expectations

A Typical Vegan Meal

A Very Vegan Dinner header

Being vegan, the number one thing people ask me is… “So, what do you eat?” So I decided to do a post on what a typical vegan meal at my house looks like for my boyfriend and I and how to prepare it. I have been on my vegan journey since January 1st of this year and in transitioning into my veganism I have had to learn to create new, appetizing, and healthy meals to fuel my body and keep me full. I find that just because I cut out meats, cheese, fish, eggs, butters, etc does not mean that my meals are any less boring or tasty as a typical carnivorous meal, it just means that I have to be a little more creative.

On the menu tonight:
-Farro, beet, and toasted almond/walnut salad
-Rosemary roasted red skin potatoes
-Oven roasted brussle sprouts
-Kale caesar salad

Vegan Dinner Collage

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Yields: 2 with plenty of leftovers for lunch

Ingredients:
-1/2 Small bag of red potatoes
-1 Bag brussle sprouts
-1 1/2 Cups farro
-1 can beets (I used canned because its easier, you can get fresh and roast them yourself if you are an overachiever)
-1/2 Cup walnuts (or almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds or whatever you prefer)
-1 Bunch kale
-Dressing of your choice
-Olive oil
-Salt/Pepper
-Rosemary (fresh or dried)
-Rice wine vinegar

1. Start the farro. What is farro you ask? Its an ancient grain that is gaining popularity. It has a slight nutty flavor and a small chewy texture. Farro is the new quinoa and you can get it at most whole food stores (heres a secret, I got min at T.J. Maxx!). Start the farro according to package and while that cooks lets begin on the potatoes and brussle sprouts.

2. While you preheat your oven to 400 degrees, wash and chop the potatoes into fork sized cubes. Dress in baking dish with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and roast until brown and tender; flip or stir once.

3. Wash and chop off ends of brussle sprouts. Be sure the keep them all a unison size to ensure they cook evenly, so some you may have to cut in half. Toss olive oil, salt, and pepper into another baking dish and roast until toasted and tender; flip once.

4. Take the walnuts (or whatever you chose) and lightly toast them in a hot pan; set aside.

5. Prep the kale by washing and ripping into bite size pieces remembering to discard the thick stems because they can be chewy and not appetizing. Dress your kale to your liking. Sometimes I mash an avocado into my kale with lemon, salt, and pepper, but tonight I am choosing the easy way out and dressing it with Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Organic Caesar Dressing. Set aside until dinner.

6. Chop your beets into smaller cube sized pieces for the farro salad and throw into a large bowl. When the farro is finished cooking, drain any excess water and mix in with beets. Add the toasted nuts, and a sprinkling of rice wine vinegar, the more the sweeter your salad will be. Drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. The great thing about this salad is it tastes amazing hot or cold, so serve to your liking!

Wam Bam! Dinner is served!

Vegan Dinner