Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sexy VEGAN Thursday?!

Welcome, lovelies, to another Sexy Vegetarian Thursday!

However, this week, I am changing things up a bit with a vegan dish. I've been really interested lately in the vegan lifestyle: I've read more articles and watched more documentaries about the food industry and veganism in the last two months than I care to admit to (not because I'm embarrassed about educating myself on a topic, but because it blatantly reveals how much time I spend at home alone).

I find it completely fascinating and compelling on many different levels. My research has given me cause to really think about where my food is coming from and how it got to me. I can't say that I want to take up this lifestyle, but I am much more motivated to choose vegetarian meals and to buy locally whenever possible.

To be vegan, by the by, is to choose not to consume, wear, or use any products that come from animals. No meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, silk, animal-tested or animal sourced cosmetics and home products, entertainment that exploits animals, etc. Those who eat only a raw diet are also considered vegan.

Veganism differs from vegetarianism in that vegetarians, generally speaking, do not eat animal meat. However, some vegetarians eat eggs, some eat seafood, and others eat dairy. It's a very diverse group of eaters :)

I definitely recommend that you do a little investigation into your food. I like that I now make more informed and conscious decisions about food than I used to. It's empowering.

Allow me to get back to the reason I am blathering on about a vegan diet: my vegan pasta dish! It's hearty, spicy, and very filling in addition to packing a lot of veggie power.

Vegan Bean & Tomato Pasta
A spicy, hearty sauce coats linguine pasta for a filling dish that your family or guests may be shocked to discover is vegan.

Serves 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

half an onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. taco seasoning
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used 3 roma tomatoes)
1 can garbanzo beans, mostly drained
1 lb. dried linguine

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook the first five ingredients with half of the olive oil until the onion is translucent.
3. Add the tomatoes. Cook until they begin to break apart. Pour in beans and a little of the liquid. 
4. Saute vegetables until the beans are hot.
5. Blend or process half of the veggie mixture until smooth. This sauce will have the texture of hummus.
6. Stir the puree into the remaining vegetables. Add remaining olive oil. Simmer until pasta is cooked.
7. Drain pasta and return it to cooking pot. Pour veggie sauce over pasta
8. Toss to coat pasta.

 ...I may have added Gruyere cheese to my pasta, rendering it vegetarian instead of vegan. If you want to keep it vegan, don't do this!


Much love,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Pintest & Reviews!

Hello, lovelies! I am very happy to continue my monthly round of tested Pins from Pinterest and my reviews of those adventures. This month, I chose to focus on making my cleaning products more green, which means less chemicals, dyes, and other additives. I think you'll really enjoy this month's read :) Other pintests are here and here.

Orange Vinegar Spray

Over at One Good Thing By Jillee I spotted an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner made of citrus peels and white vinegar. Since I've been obsessed with clementines and oranges lately, it made sense to give this a go!

I stuffed a glass bottle full of peel pieces and poured white vinegar over the top. I let it sit on the counter for about 2 weeks until the liquid was thickened, orange in color, and smelled delightfully of clementines. The batch in the above photo is only about 1 week old and unfortunately, still smelled quite vinegar-y.

I transferred the cleaner into a spray bottle; it fit perfectly!

In order to give it a test run, I cleaned the bathroom sink. In this photo, you can see some nasty stuff, like hair, dust, and a wee bit of water marks. I swear, this was only after a week! I sprayed the cleaner on and let it sit for a few minutes.

Results: When I wiped away the spray, the sink was disinfected, clean, and gleaming. I am pretty impressed with this cleaner. It didn't streak or leave anything unwanted behind. I liked the orange scent and I feel confident that my bathroom is germ free (or close to it).

Would I make this again? Definitely! It is really inexpensive and a great way to use citrus peels.

Laundry & Dishwasher Detergent

I had a couple of inspirations for making homemade detergents: Frugal by Choice, DIY Natural, and Being Creative. To give these two cleaners a test run, I realized I needed to get the basic supplies. Luckily, both powders had two ingredients in common: Borax and washing soda. Here's what I used and how much it all cost.

20 Mule Team Borax, 76 oz: $3.79
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, 55 oz: $3.29
Epsom Salt, 6 lb: $6 (ish--this is from memory!)
Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap, 5 oz: $3.49

Total:  $16.57. This made 7 cups of laundry detergent and 5 cups of dishwasher detergent with salt and Borax to spare.

This soap, I admit, was a little pricey. But I feel like it was a great investment to make a chemical and dye-free laundry soap that wouldn't irritate our skin! Plus, it smells the way babies smell: so fresh, clean, and slightly sweet!

Laundry Soap

I started by grating the bar of soap. It took a bit of muscle and patience, but it really didn't take that long. Plus, it smelled amazing.

 Next, I added 2 cups of Borax.

Next was 2 cups of washing soda.

To top off the mix, I added 1 cup of baking soda.

Then, I shook it up! I made an effort to evenly distribute the various powders.

Results: I tested out the soap but using 2 Tbs. for a load of laundry. Not only did my clothes look amazing (so clean!), they smelled incredibly fresh.

Would I make this again? Absolutely! This is so much cheaper than buying "dye-free" detergent or organic laundry soaps. Plus, it was fun to make :)

Dishwasher Detergent

This was an absolute breeze to make: mix 2 cups of washing soda, 2 cups of Borax, and 1 cup of Epsom salt. Done! I only need 1 Tbs. of this to clean a load of dishes. I also used vinegar as the rinse agent by pouring it into the appropriate holder in the dishwasher door.

Results: My dishes were as clean with this homemade soap as they are with the pricey Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent! They weren't spotty or streaky at all, and each load costs pennies.

Would I make this again? Without a doubt! The Seventh Generation dishwasher soap is one of our more expensive buys. If I can avoid the high cost AND unwanted chemicals, then count me it!

I hope you all find this post useful. I can't wait to use up the other cleaners we still have in the house so I can exclusively use homemade ones. It truly gives me peace of mind to know exactly what is in the products I use around the house.

Enjoy! xo

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two veggie side dishes that will make you a spinach and sprout fan.

Hello, lovelies, and a happy Sunday to you all! I hope you're all having a relaxing, fun, and/or productive day. Sunday is usually the day when I catch up on laundry, cleaning, and TV shows. It's also an opportunity for me to make a more elaborate or time-consuming dinner. However, I still haven't figured out what I'm cooking tonight, so we'll leave this subject quite quickly :)

During the week, I don't have a lot of time to make a healthy meal after I get home from work. The easiest way for me to get veggies into dinner is to cook frozen broccoli or corn. However, there are two fresh veggie sides in my repertoire that are not only fast, but they make two highly unlovable vegetables into irresistible delights. Until very recently, I myself was NOT a fan of either spinach or brussel sprouts. I remember having frozen or even canned (oh my god, so disgusting) brussel sprouts and spinach as a child and absolutely hating them. Naturally, I avoided them both throughout my adolescence as though they were plagued. If you also turn your nose up at these two veggies, let's see if I can make you a believer.

First up is my Vinegar-Sauteed Spinach. This takes a grand total of 10 minutes from start to finish and only requires 3 ingredients: garlic, white vinegar, and fresh spinach.

Start with a medium frying pan over low-medium heat. When the pan is warm, pour enough vinegar in to coat the bottom of the pan. This may seem like a lot initially, but some of it will evaporate. Dice up 2 or 3 garlic cloves and plop them atop the vinegar.

Simmer the garlic until it is soft, about 4 minutes.

Add a TON of spinach. Spinach wilts down significantly. For two people, I filled the pan again once this first batch cooked down.

Allow the spinach to saute for 4 or 5 minutes, until all of it is wilted. You want to stir frequently to distribute the garlic and vinegar.

Done! 10 minutes later, you've created a delicious side dish. The vinegar brings out the natural flavor of the spinach. Trust me, it's so good!

Next, I have for you my Scorched Brussel Sprouts. Admittedly, these bad boys take awhile to prep, but you can easily prep them a night or two in advance by cutting the weird nub off of the sprout and then slicing it into two even halves.

When you're ready to cook the sprouts, put a large pan over high heat until it's pretty darn hot. Place just a bit of olive oil in the pan and let that heat up. Dump your sprouts into the pan. THEN LEAVE THEM ALONE. Let them cook undisturbed until they literally are burned on one side. This may sound crazy, but it tastes divine.

Once part of your sprouts are scorched, stir them around and let another bit of them burn. Now, you can turn the heat down to medium, add more olive oil, and saute the sprouts until they are soft.  This takes about 15 minutes, excluding the prep time.

Even Mr. J, who generally "forgets" to eat his veggies, gets excited when I cook spinach and brussel sprouts this way. Both recipes are very simple and they're great ways to get fresher vegetables into your diet!

On a totally unrelated note: I'm excited to report that I joined two new link parties today!

First, I linked my beautified storage unit to:  I Heart Nap Time

Next, I linked my handmade journal to:

Both parties have a lot of great cooking and craft links. Go check them out!

Enjoy! xo