Spring in a Northern Town: A Tale of Patience

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

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Signs of spring growing in my back yard!

Spring in Northern Minnesota can be a very elusive thing, and that is why I love this quote by Charles Dickens. It feels like he is perfectly describing the type of spring we experience here. Looking out the window at the bright sunlight illuminating the landscape, one would expect a warm temperate day to greet them upon setting foot outside. However, the cold chill of the wind will quickly snap that dreamer back into reality. It’s only 38 degrees on The Iron Range today, and with the windchill it feels like 33! Brrrr! A quick look at the ten day forecast shows that today’s high will only be 40 degrees, and in contrast to that, the high for next week will be 61! This is a story I know all too well; it is the fickleness of spring. It’s that time of year when you just don’t know how to dress. It can be hot one minute and cold the next. In times like these layers are a Minnesota girls best friend!  You never know what to expect- but it is Minnesota, so maybe we should expect the unexpected. Well, weather wise anyway 😉

I am hopeful that spring will get here soon, and stick around for awhile. That is what spring is all about, right? Hope. The chill of winter dissipates, and green growth fills in the spots where snow once stood. The long cold nights eventually become shorter and shorter, soon to be replaced by the endless summer days we all remember as kids. I know warmer temperatures will be here soon, but until then I am patiently waiting for spring to grace us with her presence. So, while I await the arrival of spring- and since the premise of this blog is Vegetarianism, I would like to share with you what yummy vegetarian delight I had for lunch today.

Salad with apple cider vinegar dressing, homemade bread, fruit salad, and Yogi Tea.

Salad with apple cider vinegar dressing, homemade bread, fruit salad, and Yogi Tea.

It was a pretty simple lunch to throw together!

The salad is Earthbound Farm Organic Zen Blend. I bought it at our local Superone Foods in Hibbing. I added some chickpeas, radishes, celery and topped it off with some apple cider vinegar. Voila! A delicious, easy and nutritious salad – and Vegan to boot!

Freshly baked rye bread

Freshly baked rye bread

The bread is Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Rye Bread Mix. I also purchased this at our local Superone foods. I made it in my bread-maker, and it turned out fabulous. I recommend this product to anyone who has a bread machine. It is super easy to use, and makes for a delicious finished product. It does contain non-fat dry milk, so the product is unfortunately not vegan. I also added a little peanut butter to the bread – delicious!

Leftover fruit salad from Easter

Leftover fruit salad from Easter

The fruit salad I made to share with my family at Easter dinner. I used blackberries, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, kiwi, and banana. The dressing for the salad was made with Jello brand Vanilla Pudding mix, the juice of one whole lemon, the juice of one whole lime, vanilla extract, and almond extract. This salad is vegan because Jello brand vanilla pudding doesn’t contain gelatin.

Oh, Yogi Tea - you are so wise!

Oh, Yogi Tea – you are so wise!

And of course some hot tea to keep warm on this cold Minnesota day!

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? Please leave a comment below – I would love to hear from you!

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Tino’s Vegetarian Taco Night!

Taco anyone?

Taco anyone?

Since becoming a Vegetarian, I’ve tried many different varieties of bean burritos, and I have to admit that I have yet to find one that I don’t like! Vegetarian burritos are so satisfyingly filling and packed with protein – you honestly won’t even miss the meat! However, one day I found myself really missing the crunchy texture of a hard shell taco. It had been well over ten years since I last had a “real” taco, so I made it my mission to rediscover the nostalgic “crunch” of the tacos of my youth. I scoured the web for the perfect recipe, but was dismayed to find that there wasn’t a lot of variety out there. I came across a few recipes that called for tempeh, but I needed something with common ingredients readily available in my small town grocery store, and the recipe needed to be easy enough for me to master with my mediocre cooking skills. I finally came across a gem of a recipe for Vegetarian Tacos on food.com. I love that the recipe is easy to make, has ingredients that one can find in any grocery store, and the main source of protein is chickpeas! Chickpeas are my favorite legume, so I had a feeling that this recipe would become a favorite. The recipe can be found here. I modified it for myself. My version is as follows:

Ingredients:

1 (15) ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup of chopped celery

1 cup of salsa                                                                                                                            image

2 garlic cloves (pressed with a garlic press)

Coconut oil

½ TBSP chili powder

½ tsp. Smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Taco Shells

Spinach

Sprouts

Tomatoes

Vegenaise

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Directions:

Melt coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add garbanzo beans, celery, and salsa. Cook for a minute while stirring. Next press the garlic into the pan and reduce heat to low. Add chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. Stir and cook until thoroughly heated. While you are cooking, heat taco shells according to package. When the shells are done heating generously spoon in the taco mixture. Top with spinach, tomatoes, sprouts, and add a dollop of Vegenaise. Anyway, this is just how I simplified and customized the recipe to suit my palate – the original one is great too!

FYI ~

Now, I know that inquisitive minds may be wondering, just who is this mysterious “Tino” that is randomly referenced in the title? “Tino” happens to be a nickname my cross-country coach gave me back during “the glory days” of high school. We were on the bus preparing to depart for an out of town meet. Our coach was in the process of roll call when he unexpectedly shouted out the name, Tino. Everyone started looking around the bus, wondering if a new student had joined the team – as it turned out, he was referring to me! “Mar – teen” or “Tino.” Tomato – tomato, I guess…. Haha and the nickname stuck with me for quite a few years!

All in all, vegetarianism and tacos seem to be a match made in heaven! If you are looking for a yummy meal idea, why not give these tasty tacos a try!

What do you think about meatless tacos? Do you have a favorite vegetarian or vegan taco recipe? please leave me a comment! I would love to hear your opinion!

Vegan Sandwich Love

The makings of a cruelty free sandwich.

The makings of a cruelty free sandwich.

Since becoming a vegetarian, I sometimes miss having a good, old fashioned, hearty fill-me-up type sandwich for lunch. I mean PB&J’s are great, but they tend to get dull after a while. So, while shopping at our local food coop, Natural Harvest in Virginia last week I found myself looking for some new sandwich ideas, and that is how I happened across these two delicious products: Hickory Smoked Tofurky and a Daiya Cheddar Style Wedge. Both products are Vegan, and combined make for a very scrumptious sandwich.

Hickory Smoked Tofurky:

I must admit that sometimes I am a little apprehensive to try a new “meat substitution” product – I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I think if it’s a little too realistic or “meat – like” it tends to gross me out, but I’m a sucker for that “smoked” flavoring, so I decided to give it a try. And I’m sure glad I did because I ended up loving the Tofurky deli slices, they were quite delicious. My cat even tried to steal one of the smoked slices right out from between the bread! I liked everything about this product; the smell, the taste, the texture -and it wasn’t overly “meat-like” where it grossed me out, but just enough where it made for a hearty, fill-me-up type sandwich… if that makes sense?

Daiya Cheddar Style Wedge:

I’ve had the Daiya brand shredded cheese before, but this was my first time trying the “wedge,” and was pleasantly surprised to note that it comes in a resalable package, which I found to be very handy. The package says it slices and melts well. It does indeed slice very nicely, but since I didn’t try to melt it, I cannot comment on that aspect. Maybe later in the week I will try to make a grilled “cheese” sandwich and test it out! Since Daiya is a dairy, lactose and casein free cheese, the taste and texture are a little different than regular cheese – it’s still very good, but if you are used to cheese from cow’s milk, the first time you taste it you might be aware of a notable difference. However, paired with the Tofurky slices, I personally think you can hardly tell. Anyway, it is a small price to pay for a cholesterol free cheese. This is definitely one of tastier vegan cheese options out there. If you are new to the dairy free cheese arena, I highly suggest starting your taste testing with Daiya.

The finished product- Yum!

The finished product- Yum!

I made my sandwich using whole wheat bread, Veganaise, lettuce, Tofurky deli slices, and Daiya cheese. I cut up an organic apple to go along with it, and to drink I had a Dr. Zevia. I think that the only thing that would have made the sandwich better would’ve been to toast it, and maybe added some sprouts and avocado. If you like tomato, that would probably be a welcome addition to the sandwich, as well.

FYI – Quick TIP:  Veganaise is a type of vegan mayo. I had a bottle of it in my fridge, and while according to the expiration date it wasn’t expired, I was a little iffy on the time frame in which it had been opened. So, I did a little research and found out that it is good until the listed expiration date – opened or unopened. Good to know! More information can be found here.

Have you tried Veganaise? Do you have a favorite go-to vegan sandwich staple? Please let me know! Leave a comment and let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you!

Pumpkin Scones and Yerba Mate Tea

It is not always easy being a vegetarian, especially if you live in a small town. Recipes can call for strange, unheard of ingredients that can prove impossible to find if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your backyard. Don’t get me wrong- I would love to shop at Trader Joe’s, but with the nearest one over four hours away, I have to work with what I’ve got. And today “I’ve got” Vegan Pumpkin Scones fresh out of the oven. I found the recipe for these easy to make scones in the Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook by Carole Raymond. This is a great recipe because the ingredients are simple and can be found in almost any supermarket. These delicious pumpkin delights go great topped with Earth Balance or fruit preserves. The yummy scones come hot out of the oven and cook in about 15 minutes – making it the perfect snack for a cold, busy day. Just brew up a fresh pot of Yerba Mate tea and enjoy your scones!

Are you a vegetarian or vegan living in a small town? What challenges do you face? Leave me a comment! I would love to hear from you 🙂