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A Vegan Trip to Target February 4, 2010

Filed under: Recipes & Food Ideas,vegan lifestyle — sharonsweets @ 6:16 pm
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I wish I didn’t spend so much money on my infrequent trips to Tar-jay. I always go to stock up on the usual kid stuff, natural cleaning supplies, house stuff, etc. Since not everyone is familiar with how much actual FOOD they sell, I thought I’d make a list of some of the cool things you can find at your local Target store. Target has their own brand of mainly natural foods called Archer Farms. Archer farms has everything from soymilk, to nuts, cereal, natural snacks, and a whole lot more, and is the brand to look for first as a vegan shopping for food at this megastore. You’ll still need to spend some time exploring and reading labels, but once you are used to it, you can make out like a bandit with shopping bags full of vegan food.

– Breakfast. There’s so much to choose from: Archer Farms whole grain flax frozen waffles, refrigerated juices,  hash browns, natural cake and bread mixes, real maple syrup, natural oatmeals, bread, bagels, baking supplies, peanut butter, humus, jelly, dried fruit (though most have sulfur dioxide) and gourmet coffees. The best thing is all the Archer Farms gourmet granola, muesli and other cereals.

-Veggie meat – You should read the labels, because there are some animal products in the vegetarian meats they sell, but many of the Boca meats are vegan, like the chicken patties and nuggets.

-Frozen entrees – You can eat well after your trip to Target. Pick up vegan burritos, Indian food, potstickers with rice and veggies, Asian vegan chicken stir fry, and more.

-Soymilk – There are many varieties of soymilk, including Target’s Archer Farms brand and Silk.

-Munchies – There are way too many to name! You can find everything from organic tortilla chips, salsas, humus, natural fruit bars, granola bars, Luna and Clif bars, Annie’s natural cookies and snacks, fruit sauces with no preservatives, as well as your regular chips, and gourmet snacks of every type.

-Dessert – Don’t leave the store without checking out the chocolate section, where you can find a variety of gourmet vegan chocolate bars, some even organic.  Archer Farms has exotic sorbet flavors, like blueberry lavender and pomegranate blood orange.

-Frozen veggies – You can stock up on any kind of frozen veggie or even natural flavored, herbed roasted potatoes of various sorts.

– Sauces & instant meals – Archer Farms makes really delicious organic and non-organic salsas. Target also sells many other sauces and natural Asian and other meals that you can hydrate and cook quickly.

– Drinks. Look for all kinds of exotic and enhanced fruit juices, healthier energy drinks and sparkling drinks.

-Baby stuff. You can find lots of baby food, including some organic types.

I hope you’ll enjoy your next trip to Target! Leave lots of time to poke around and read labels. There’s so much to buy, at great prices. And if you bring your own shopping bags, you get 5 cents back per bag at the register.

Love,

Sharon

www.sweetutopia.com

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What Can Vegan Do For YOU? February 2, 2010

Filed under: vegan health — sharonsweets @ 9:23 pm
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Eating a vegan diet is not only about sacrifice for animals and the environment, though that is enough reason for most people to go vegan and stick with it. Here’s a list of some not-so-subtle things that eating a vegan diet can do to enhance YOUR life. If you’re on the fence, this will speak to your selfish sensibilities. You can eat a delicious balanced vegan diet and receive these benefits and more!

-Have a Healthy Heart. Eating vegan means you are not eating unhealthy cholesterol and saturated fats. You’re not clogging up your arteries. You’re lowering your blood pressure. You’re eating a lot of heart-healthy foods daily. If you have high cholesterol or blood pressure already, this is nonnegotiable. Go vegan NOW!! You’ll get results!

-Lose Weight. No, this isn’t an automatic thing. There are overweight vegans. You have to eat a healthy balanced diet and then you will lose weight because you are eating much healthier food, without the saturated fat of heavy animal products. I lost twenty pounds by switching from a vegetarian diet full of cheese and ice cream to a vegan diet that still includes plenty of treats.

-Reduce Your Risk of Many Diseases. Eating plenty of fiber and a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while eliminating the unhealthy animal products is a great way to increase your protection against diseases such as colon and other types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and more. Risk of prostate, colon and breast cancer can be dramatically reduced by replacing meat and diary products fresh fruits and vegetables. Plenty of leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes can help prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. A gluten-free vegan diet can relieve suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. A healthy vegan diet can help prevent osteoporosis as well.

-You’ll Get PLENTY of Protein. You will be asked “How do you get your protein?” on a daily basis, but relax, because you will have all you need and more. Protein from plant based sources–soy, wheat protein, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and beans–are more easily assimilated by your body so you need less. Besides, estimates of how much protein people need have been vastly inflated. With protein, more (than the RDA) is not necessarily better. There do not appear to be health advantages to consuming a high protein diet, and diets that are high in protein may even increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease. Soybeans, quinoa (a grain), and spinach are high-quality protein sources.

-Get More “Glow” and Energy. You will benefit from the direct energy within healthful, mostly natural foods, rather than funneling it through a dead animal or animal excretions and associated toxins, and that energy will go directly to you. You’ll feel energetic and look radiant!

-Feel Clean. There’s just this clean, clear, happy karma feeling you get when you know you’re eating pure foods that are not derived from the death or abuse of another creature.

-Explore What Turns You On (In a Culinary Sense). What better way to kickstart a new passion for food than by exploring all the new options you’ll have? Don’t look at it as restriction, because I have never met a carnivore who eats the variety that any of us vegans do. There’s a virtually limitless of new foods available to the vegan to try.

-You don’t have to give up chewy, meaty food. The new vegan meats mimic any kind you’re used to, and every one that comes out gets closer and closer to the taste of real meat, so much that many vegans can’t even bear to eat them!

-You don’t have to give up dessert! Just pick up a copy of Sweet Utopia: Simply Stunning Vegan Desserts and you can enjoy easy-to-make, indulgent desserts that have no cholesterol and are a whole lot healthier for you.

-For the ladies–Have a Healthy Pregnancy. I had two marvelous, easy and healthy pregnancies that I attribute to eating a vegan diet. And yes, I still caved in to all my vegan cravings. But the base diet is so healthy and well-rounded that you will get the nutrients you need to grow another life in abundant health.

So, you can be a little self-centered and enjoy a vegan diet today!!

Love,

Sharon

http://www.sweetutopia.com

 

Why I Fell In Love (with Tofu Sour Cream)

Filed under: Recipes & Food Ideas — sharonsweets @ 5:03 pm
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I have this white container of Tofutti Sour Supreme that I bought from the super for $1.99. It was sitting unopened in the fridge for a few weeks when I needed to make some dinner in a hurry for my kids. I don’t eat this nondairy sour cream a lot because–while there’s no cholesterol in it and it way less fattening than regular sour cream–it is processed and has some ingredients in it that you don’t want to live on every day. It’s fine in my book though for an occasional addition to a meal. A little goes a long way.

Green & Cream

So after realizing I had this container sitting around, I cooked some fresh broccoli crowns, chopped them up, mixed in nondairy cheese shreds (my favorite Daiya, though any will do, or none at all), threw in some of the cooking water, some Sour Supreme, nutritional yeast for protein and b vitamins, garlic powder, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. I stirred it up and voila–creamy, cheesy broccoli that we all–kids included–ate up pretty darn quickly.

Make Your Own

It’s easy to make your own creamy dish. You don’t have to do any planning ahead,  just stir up some tofu sour cream into your dish, add a little water, and it’ll cream up nicely.

For Hanukkah, when we make vegan potato latkes, I always make my own tofu sour cream with a “bite” using silken tofu, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and sea salt blended until creamy, occasionally with some vinegar too. You can make your own for a healthier version of tofu sour cream and store it in a sealed container in the fridge for the next time your creamy craving comes on strong. And if you want, you can season it your way with fresh or dried herbs blended right in. Cilantro is my favorite.

Or you can just blend the drained silken tofu and use it without seasoning, right in your dishes, and season the dish as a whole. I do this with my Pasta Vodka and Stroganoff dishes.

Alfredo Who?

I was so impressed with my broccoli dish, that the next night, I boiled some pasta shells and made a cheesy cream sauce. I added some of the cooking water from the pasta, Daiya cheese shreds, Sour Supreme, olive oil, nutritional yeast, minced fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, and sea salt, cooked it together with the pasta on the stove top for a minute or two, and score! I have not had such a creamy pasta dish in years. It was so fast to make and so unbelievably–deceptively–rich and creamy.

Dip It

I also use tofu sour cream to make quick dips. You can buy a natural vegan onion dip mix in the health food store to stir in, or make your own dip using roasted red peppers, chipotles, or whatever tickles you.

Spice Control

Another great use of tofu sour cream is as an addition to Mexican or Indian food–to cool things down when they’re too spicy. Or in a seven-layer dip that is always a big hit at parties.

…and Dessert

Tofu sour cream can be a cool balance to a sweet fruity dish, or can make a vegan cake super rich and moist. My mom eats it along with her cranberry fruit salsa. Try it over vegan crepes with fruit on top.

As usual, there are many more recipes and ideas to come. Check in with the Sweet Utopia blog regularly.

Love, Sharon

http://www.sweetutopia.com

 

Indulge: 10 Easy Rules for Feeling Great January 29, 2010

I don’t deprive myself of cravings, I don’t diet, I don’t count calories, I don’t eliminate any vegan foods from my diet, I will eat anything vegan, and I have chocolate every day. Today I’m sharing some of the food wisdom that helps me get through the week and keeps me healthy, happy and fit.

1-Enjoy a rainbow. Eat all colors of foods, especially when it comes to veggies and fruits. Take time in the produce aisle or farmer’s market to explore and try new things. Don’t be intimidated; you can always Google a vegetable’s preparation. Buy what tickles your fancy because food should be enjoyable.

2-Get a bit of fat. I gained the most weight when I tried the fad fat-free diet. Now I eat a decent amount of healthy fats from soy, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive, flax and coconut oil, and I feel full, without my body freaking out that it’s not getting any fat and thus holding on to whatever it can produce from sugar and carbs.

3-Protein. I don’t feel full without eating protein at each meal and most snacks. I always make sure I roll that in or else I stay hungry. Good sources are beans, nuts, seeds, and veggie meats. Some whole grains already contain a lot of protein, like quinoa.

4-Don’t forget the treats. No chocolate? I don’t think so. Yes, Ms. Sweet Utopia eats treats each day. I just make sure I don’t overdo it. And if I do, I drink extra water, reduce the next meal substantially or eat only veggies for a little bit, and I kick up the exercise. Once you are in tune with your body, you can really tell where your body’s balance is, and do what it takes to maintain it when something like sugar comes around a little too strong.

5-Build your meals using carb blocks. Whole grains are best, but don’t overdo portion sizes of any of them. Using fat, protein and plenty of raw or lightly cooked vegetables with your carbs allows you to eat less carbs and still fill up. I eat various breads, pastas, rice, quinoa, millet, etc. but I don’t overdo it too often.

6-Snack a lot. I have a healthy, filling snack between each meal so I don’t have to eat 3 huge main meals.

7-Drink up. Keep hydrated with water. A glass or two of green tea, coffee, herbal tea, fortified nondairy milk, or very watered down juice is also good. Bonus points if you break out the juicer.

8-Mix it up & be happy. Vary everything you eat to maximize nutrition and enjoyment. Vegan and healthy should never bore you.

9-Movement and Rest. You really do need to get off your butt! Especially if you’re stuck at a computer all day. Carve out exercise time. Take a few extra minutes at your break to go to the gym and at least do cardio. Get up earlier. Run around or dance with your kids. Use weights. Do yoga. Go for walks and hikes. Or just jump around for a few minutes here and there. All this will kick up your metabolism so you can eat what feels good to you and not worry about it. And make sure that you get lots of rest. A good solid chunk of sleep at night, naps when you can, and just resting any other time you feel you need it will keep you healthy and less burned out.

10-Supplement. Everyone-especially vegans-needs to make sure they are getting the basics. I always add things in to our meals like flax oil or flax meal, DHA, nutritional yeast for B vitamins, dulse flakes for trace minerals, and green probiotic powder. We take multivitamins and calcium/vitamin d/magnesium, and other vitamins as needed. If we feel we’re getting sick, we’ll fight it with zinc, vitamin c and echinacea and herbal immune support supplements. It works well. Take some time to tour the vitamin section of your health food store. We’ll talk more about supplements another time.

You can eat really well and be radiantly healthy, without extremes and deprivation. It’s all about making smart choices and finding your own balance so that you can be fit and feel great.

 

The Munchies January 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipes & Food Ideas — sharonsweets @ 2:53 pm
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I like to munch. And my family cannot survive without snacks, little meals, and small goodies to pick on. Sometimes I have the munchies so bad that I end up eating too many and that becomes my next meal. My kids snack all day long when they’re home, right up to the next meal and soon after. They’re tall, thin, growing boys. Here are some examples of snacks I keep on hand that don’t require much preparation, that are mostly healthy…

-Flavored humus, especially chipotle pepper. Trader Joe’s makes a great one, with no preservatives, but there are many supermarket brands. Also Baba Ganoush. If you make these yourself, that’s even better!

-Ready guacamole.These are unpreserved and they come in plastic in the refrigerator section.

-Peanut butter. For an extra decadent treat, try flavored peanut butters like those from Peanut Butter Co. The White Chocolate flavor is like eating candy, but they are all natural. The kids love spoonfuls of peanut or sunflower butter after meals for a little extra filling up of the tank, extra good fat and protein, and it’s also entertainment for them.

-Dips. Tofu sour cream with a natural onion dip mix from the health food store stirred in. Or a homemade dip, of course.

-Crunchy stuff. Tings, Veggie Booty, Potato Crisps, Organic Tortilla Chips, Snapea Crisps, whole grain crackers (Trader Joe’s makes organic crackers with flax), seeded flatbreads, peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets, and endless natural crunchy things we find.

-Of course, we do snack on fruits and vegetables. Apples and bananas are always big, but for me lately, I cannot get enough red grapefruits. Kids love them too because they are so sweet and juicy. Bugs on a log (raisins on peanut butter on celery sticks) are always fun. My toddler will eat any vegetable, like red pepper strips or carrot sticks. Cucumbers and grape tomatoes are popular too.

-Nuts. Always a great snack, and even the kids are beginning to love them. Brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios. I always try to push the super-healthy but apparently less yummy seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin. I will even eat black sesame seeds for a snack–they are super healthy.

Sometimes snacks get a little more substantial, like tortillas rolled up with Earth Balance and sprinkles of nutritional yeast, or a slice of Tofurkey rolled up. Or we’ll have sheets of sushi seaweed. Popcorn is a good one, with the healthiest version being organic kernals popped in a plain brown paper bag and then seasoned with oil or vegan butter and nutritional yeast. There are also tasty organic microwave popcorn packets.

My favorite snack in the world is dark chocolate, but I am trying to keep that to myself and off the list!

 

In the Cart (vegan foods of the month)

I’m often asked how to feed a family on vegan food that won’t break the bank or take all day to prepare. Many of us are in this boat, so I’m sharing my list of groceries and meals for a family of four, including two wee ones who love to chow.

* Dairy replacements:

Soy and almond milk. (includes supplements of Calcium, B12, D2–vegan D, and more).

Daiya cheese. A new kind of vegan cheese, based on tapioca starch, with a great cheesy taste and easy to melt. I order this from veganstore.com in large refrigerator bags, then I pack the preshredded cheese into small zip packs and freeze them, keeping one at a time in the refrigerator.You can use this cheese for anything–grilled cheese, quesadillas, pizza, pasta. If you prefer to buy your cheese in the store, Vegan Gourmet is a great choice. You must broil the shredded cheese though to get it to melt.

Vegan cheese slices. Tasty and great for kids’ sandwiches.

Vegan yogurt–soy or coconut milk based, plain and fruit flavored. Make sure you are getting the probiotics in yogurt to keep your digestive tract healthy.

* Meat replacements:

This month I am all about GARDEIN. It’s a brand new kind of vegan meat, found both in the freezer section and refrigerator sections, near the produce. It’s made of soy, wheat gluten, and ancient grains, and tastes like the real thing. My kids would eat the chicken tenders every day if I let them. There are many varieties that can be used alone or prepared in other dishes.

Ground “meat” crumbles. (In the supermarket refrigerator section.) Smart Ground is what I’m using, ever since Morningstar decided to rudely un-veganify their crumbles. I make stroganoff and lasagna with the crumbles.

SmartBacon. (In the supermarket refrigerator section.) For an occasional BLT. You must spray it with oil before baking, grilling or broiling so it browns nicely. I don’t fry it.

* Produce: We eat lots of produce, either straight, in salads or prepared with other foods. I love the organic herb salads, red peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots, kale, zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, avocados, herbs if it’s off season for my garden, garlic and onions, all organic when possible. I always keep frozen spinach and berries available. I will throw it into any kind of recipe for extra nutrition. Plenty of fruit, like citrus, tropical fruits, and apples.

* Other: I always have whole grain flours on hand, many types of pasta, including whole grain, buckwheat soba noodles, brown rice, quinoa, silken and regular tofu, plenty of beans, nut and seed butters, tahini and fresh whole wheat Italian bread and whole multi-grain and seed sandwich bread. I also use dulse (seaweed) flakes, flax meal and nutritional yeast as food nutrition enhancers. And who can live without Olive Oil? I also keep vegan mac n cheese boxes around for the kids, and frozen vegan dumplings. They love these with sesame-based Goddess dressing. We also have bagels and vegan granola and oats for breakfasts. I use Vegenaise or other vegan mayonaise replacement, tofu cream cheese and Earth Balance vegan butter. Oh, and this is the most important ingredient: dark chocolate!

These groceries are enough to get us through weeks of last-minute food making and some special meals. It’s really nothing so exotic that anyone can’t get. The vegan meats and cheeses we could easily do without if necessary.

 

Sample Menus/Five Vegan Days of Plenty

Here are some examples of easy, recipe-free meals that we’ll eat on typical weekdays when we don’t have time for long preparations. Nothing too fancy, nothing too complex, and everything is kid approved.

DAY 1

Breakfast- Vegan granola cereal and soy or almond milk

Lunch- Salad, toast with hummus and olives and cayenne pepper

Dinner- Quesadillas made with whole wheat tortillas, natural refried beans, Daiya cheese, avocado, tomatoes, salsa, greens, lime juice, sea salt

DAY 2

Breakfast- Pancakes made with white whole wheat flour, aluminum-free baking powder, organic sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, soymilk and zucchini with real maple syrup and berries

Lunch- Grilled cheese made with whole grain sliced bread, Daiya cheese and tomatoes, salad and pickles

Dinner- Whole wheat pasta with garlic, mushroom, olive, tomato and spinach topping.

DAY 3

Breakfast- Bagels with peanut butter or vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance) and vegan cheese

Lunch- Vegan cheese slice sandwiches with nutritional yeast sprinkles and tomatoes

Dinner- Lentil vegetable alphabet soup with whole wheat Italian bread and olive oil

DAY 4

Breakfast- Power shake made with kale, banana, carrot, soy milk, flax oil, agave, probiotic green powder

Lunch- Vegan dumplings (from Trader Joe’s, frozen section) with Goddess dressing

Dinner- Buckwheat soba noodles with broccoli and sesame sauce

DAY 5

Breakfast- Oatmeal made with almond milk, agave nectar, and cinnamon

Lunch- BLT sandwiches made with Vegenaise and SmartBacon and organic baby romaine

Dinner- Gardein chicken tenders, roasted herbed potatoes and salad

And what about DESSERT (you must be wondering)?

Well, there was plenty of fruit, apples, mangoes, grapes, grapefruit, plus dark chocolate, soy ice cream, and any variety of Sweet Utopia desserts that I had on hand.

For snacks, whole grain crackers, Veggie Booty, Tings, nuts, seeds etc.