Thursday, July 23, 2015

Skillet Refried Bean Recipe for a Plant-Based Mexican Dinner

My inspiration for this dinner is an Iowa Girl Eats Fajita Tostada Bowl recipe:

I make the skillet refried beans (freeze really well and fit perfectly in the 2 cup glass pyrex containers).  I do onions and bell peppers from the Iowa Girl Eats blog post.  I did the sweet potatoes in the slow cooker and kept them in the fridge and heated medallions as needed.

I hope this inspires you to make some super healthy tasty plant-based Mexican food!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Everyone Ought to Know About the Vegetarian Option

I've always loved fruits and vegetables, but when it came to what should be on my dinner plate, it didn't look complete without a serving of meat.  The vegetarian option at a restaurant menu was off-limits, only for those strange vegetarian-types.  It wasn't something I would give two seconds of consideration, basically I felt like it would be a rip-off.  Now through my food journey to becoming plant-based, my first consideration is what is vegetarian on the menu.  And I've learned something interesting.

The vegetarian option is not weird!  It is often way more creative and delicious than the meat options.  I feel so silly about being afraid of considering the vegetarian choices and sad that I've missed out on new a creative dishes because getting chicken was my go-to.

So my message to you is check out the vegetarian option, give it the same amount of thought as the chicken sandwich or the steak fajitas.  You don't always have to order it, but at least let it sink into your brain as an option.  I found out that I love lentils, that falafel is amazing on a burrito, and portobello mushroom sandwiches are super delicious.  Choosing the vegetarian option has actually made me a more adventurous eater.  Eliminating meat doesn't limit you, it can actually set you free to try new things.

Next time you open a menu make sure that meatless is not off limits.  You make find a new favorite food.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy Herbivore Gingerbread Mini-Loaf Review

I've been itching to make these gingerbread mini-loaves from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook since I got the cook book at Christmas, mostly because of the "mini" aspect and that it uses molasses.  I have rarely baked with molasses, and it seemed mysteriously tasty to me.  And it all seemed cuter in two little loaf pans.

Make sure you have a lot of ground ginger on hand (I don't know why I was surprised... it is gingerbread), it takes 4 teaspoons.  It all came together quickly, though I'm left with some extra pureed pumpkin.  Not sure what I'm going to make with it, maybe some pumpkin chili, pumpkin muffins or biscuits.  I found pureed pumpkin tasty in oatmeal but not very palatable in smoothie form, maybe I was making the wrong smoothie recipe though.

Back to the bread - delicious.  Thanks to the pumpkin as the binder/egg-substitute it has a moist, luxurious texture.  You can substitute applesauce instead, but I think that the texture would really be sacrificed.  I love pumpkin bread, but the Happy Herbivore recipe is a little bland to me.  Growing up on my mom's non-plant-based version of pumpkin bread, I guess my tastebuds are looking for some butter and eggs.  But this is an amazing alternative.  Because of all the spices, my tastebuds aren't looking for more and the texture is just like pumpkin bread.  I think this would be good with a few walnuts thrown in as well.  Next recipe on my agenda is a quinoa salad from Veganomicon.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Graduate, Surf, Paint, Network, Bake Raisin Walnut Bread

I graduated with my Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization.  For the first time since preschool, I will not be going back to school this fall.  To celebrate, I visited Maui, Hawaii and went surfing!  Plenty of other activities as well, but nothing beats the feeling of successfully catching and riding a wave.

I was inspired to finish a painting I had started before grad school of a view of Hawaii.  The particular small island in the painting is seen off the road to Hana.

My job search is on, and I got a good boost of inspiration from the Association of Medical Illustrators Conference at the Mayo Clinic this July.  I saw 55 TED-inspired 20 minute speeches ranging from facial transplants, anatomy sculpting, and copyright infringement of illustrations.  I got to catch up with both undergrad and grad school friends.  It is quite the medical illustrators reunion.

Of course, cooking and baking have happened as well.  I most recently made the Raisin Walnut Bread recipe from The China Study Cookbook.  I've also made the Lemon Poppy Muffins from the cookbook.  Followed both recipes verbatim with great results.  I definitely recommend the cookbook as a basic go to for plant-based cooking.  Nothing too fancy, it works with pantry ingredients and short amounts of time.  I've been thinking about buying the Oh She Glows Cookbook, but I'm unsure because of the amount of oil in her recipes as well as more "boutique" ingredients.  I'm not sure if I want to worry about having spelt four and coconut oil stocked in my kitchen, so the purchase it still a maybe.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Illustrations

What have I been doing this semester?!  Cooking for one, getting my butt kicked by project research is another, but my fun project has been illustrating nonhuman primates for the Biologic Resources Laboratory at UIC for a textbook called The Laboratory Nonhuman Primates, Second Edition.  I got to work with dream clients who loved what I did and really took all my suggestions to heart.  I never got to see any monkeys in person, but I got lovely reference photos from the clients and of course Google image searches always help as well.  Some of the illustrations I redid from the first edition of the book and that illustrator really liked to visualize hairy, ugly monkeys.  I made my monkeys as cute and simple as possible, not scarily over hairy!

Stomach Aspiration

Suboccipital Puncture and Spinal Cord Layers Callout

Correct Manual Restraint Position

Correct Tube Restraint Position

Tether System Showing the "Swivel"

Ultrasound Guided Amniocentsis
I thoroughly enjoyed this project and can't wait to find some more freelance jobs.  I updated my portfolio website:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Love to Cook!

Everyone loves food, and I love listing making.  It's a perfect combo for cooking many different recipes.  I have an alphabetical master table of contents for all Happy Herbivore cookbooks, and I'm making my way starting at the As all the way to the Zs.  As I'm cooking for one, I don't make too many recipes per week, but I'm making progress getting almost to the Bs!  I've made some epic grocery lists lately, making multiple lists at a time.  Though I'm busy with schoolwork, turns out it's not as fun as making new foods.

African Delight

African Joloff



Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

Almond Cookie

Aloo Gobi

Mickey Ice Sculpture

Apple Fritters

Aloo Mater
Spinach, Tomato, Chick Pea Pasta

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Herbivore Light and Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon - Review and Q&A with Lindsay - Plus Breakfast Taco Recipe!

As I've begun to eat more and more plant-based, I've had to venture into a realm of new cookbooks and new ingredients.  Many of the vegan cookbooks I initially found made me a bit wary about how complicated eating this new way was.  That was until I found The Everyday Happy Herbivore on Amazon and bought the Kindle edition.  First of all, as a person who often works with designing ebooks and knows how difficult it can be, this book has the best design and layout of any non-novel ebook I've seen.  So thank you to the publisher who put the effort into making it a great print and digital book.  And then to the actual content!   Everything was easy, familiar, and tasty.  I started following the Happy Herbivore blog, and I was hooked!

Lindsay's newest book Happy Herbivore Light and Lean is a great addition to my cookbook library and a great resource for your everyday eating plan.  This book's low calorie density approach was inspired by the 7-Day Meal Plans offered each week by Lindsay.  I myself have used the meal plans to get inspired to eat more of a variety during the week as I can get into a food rut when just cooking for one.

The book is beautifully designed and an interesting read.  Lindsay shares her journey to health at the beginning of the book and then adds interesting tidbits before each recipe.  I sat down and read the whole thing on my recent flight to Chicago and tagged recipes that caught my eye.  So far I've made Taco Burgers and Leftovers Potpie.  On my to make list is the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe!

Potpie in progress

Taco burgers
I was able to ask Lindsay a few questions about her experience as the Happy Herbivore and some food tips, please enjoy:

1) I really enjoy your meals plans, but I am more of a snacker and can only eat about half of the suggested portion size at a time.  Do you have any suggestions for how to make the meal plans work for those who like to graze throughout the day rather than having big meals?

-Break the meals up -- eat half at lunch, then the rest a few hours later when you’re hungry again. 

2) When I have made a dish that comes out truly horrible, it really sucks away my confidence as a cook.  How do you get over kitchen failures when you're creating new recipes?

-You win some you lose some. You learn more from your mistakes than your wins.

3) I really enjoy reading your blog posts about changing your career course and transitioning to become an entrepreneur.  As a graduate student soon to graduate in May and looking for work, what advice do you have for picking your first job?  Would you have liked to have started Happy Herbivore from the very beginning of your career?

-Check out the free video series at Exit Strategy School ( video 2 talks about this specifically.

4) I love a good crunchy snack, but buying a bag of chips leads to me eating the entire bag all at once.  I've tried to substitute carrots, but it's just not the same.  Do you have any good healthy, crunchy snack suggestions?

-The healthy potato chips in Light and Lean!

5) I have eaten a red delicious apple almost everyday of my life, I love them!  What's your favorite type of apple?

-I’m not a big apple person. I do like them from time to time but they’re almost too sweet for me. I think I lean more towards citrus fruits. I love a pink grapefruit!


Though it may be hard to get over Lindsay not being an apple person (blasphemy!), she kindly shared her recipe for breakfast tacos.  If only my food photos looked as beautiful as those in her book!  I highly recommend all the Happy Herbivore cookbooks, and if you're not sold yet, go to her website and try out one of her free recipes.  As soon as you make a recipe that's so quick, easy, tasty, and healthy you will definitely want more.  Happy cooking!

Breakfast Tacos
Makes 3
Soy-free, Gluten-free, Budget

I'm always looking for ways to slip more vegetables into my diet (particularly at breakfast) and these tacos hit the nail on the head: greens, beans, and sweet potatoes before lunch? I can feel good about that! Bonus: They are really filling and leave me satisfied for hours. I tend to make these tacos for breakfast when I have leftover cooked greens and sweet potatoes from the day before.

3 corn tortillas
1 sweet potato, cooked
½ c cooked black beans
½ c cooked greens (e.g., steamed kale or collards)
2 green onions, sliced
hot sauce
salsa (optional)
nutritional yeast (optional)
guacamole (optional)

Warm corn tortillas if they've been in your fridge. I like to heat each side over a low flame for 10–15 seconds on my gas stove, but a few seconds in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel also works. Mash sweet potato with a fork (you can mix in spices like ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne if you like, or even a basic fajita or taco seasoning with a splash of nondairy milk) and spread into the center of the tortilla. Top with beans, greens, and green onions, plus hot sauce, salsa, nutritional yeast, and guacamole as desired (I overflow my tacos so they are really filled). Enjoy!

Chef’s Note Make a “taco bar” and serve these for brunch when you have a big crowd.
Tofu Scramble (pg. 35) is another great filling option

Per taco
Calories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
Fat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3g
Carbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29.1g
Fiber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.6g
Sugars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3g
Protein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.2g
WW Points. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4