Check Out my Segment on the Latest “Our Hen House” Podcast Episode!

It is with an enormous sense of excitement and humility that I point you toward Episode 222 of the Our Hen House podcast, which features my review of seasonal spring vegetables! That’s right, folks—tune into the latest episode of the OHH podcast and you’ll hear yours truly describing the wonders of artichokes, rhubarb, fava beans, and ramps, as well as the most flavorful methods of preparing them. Lucky for me, I actually had the pleasure of speaking with the Hens in their actual coop, with the absolutely fabulous Rose the dog curled up on my lap. Featured alongside me in the episode is David Neale, the Animal Welfare Director for Animals Asia. I would be honored if you took a moment of your day to give the episode a listen.

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If you enjoyed hearing some Farmers Market Vegan goodness on the OHH podcast, then I do hope you’ll keep an eye on future podcast episodes, for you may very well hear me on some upcoming ones, as well…;)

Until next time, Ali.

Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl

Confession: I harbor a deep-seated adoration of green smoothies. Granted, I may or may not have inadvertently revealed this infatuation in my recent guest post on Green Thickies, or in my detailed instruction guide on How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie, or in the 37 various green smoothies highlighted on my What I Ate Wednesday Smoothie Compilation. Regardless of how ostentatiously I promote my love affair with green smoothies, or of how many consecutive mornings I’ve reveled in green smoothie goodness for breakfast (please don’t force me to count), the fact remains that nothing provides me more morningtime contentment than diving spoon-first into a brightly hued, creamy, refreshing green smoothie.

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

One of my favorite smoothies: my creamy Blueberry-Basil Smoothie. Perfect for turning into a Green Smoothie-Granola Bowl!

Providing the ideal vehicle for incorporating more wildly nutrient-dense leafy greens into one’s diet, green smoothies can also fulfill one’s daily fruit quota, as well as offer ample amounts of protein depending upon if one chooses to add vegan protein powder, various nut butters, chia and/or hemp seeds, etc. However, while one can easily cram tons of nutrients and energy into one blended concoction, I find that doing so masks the pure and simple flavors of the fruit integral to smoothies—an especial tragedy if the aforementioned fruit consists of summer’s bounty of peaches, berries, plums, and the like. In order to provide for easy identification and full enjoyment of each fruit incorporated in my daily smoothies, I only add six uncomplicated ingredients into the blender each morning: a banana, 1/2 cup each of two different “feature” fruits, a scoop of protein powder (completely optional), a generous two handfuls of chopped kale, and 1 cup of the best soymilk known to humankind. This basic smoothie template ensures a delightfully thick, creamy smoothie bursting with the pronounced flavor of both feature fruits.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, and cantaloupe with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

I topped this mauve-hued smoothie of banana, blackberry, cantaloupe, and kale with a delicious maple-spice granola and almond butter.

While scrumptious and nourishing on its own, this unpretentious smoothie tends not to adequately satiate my hunger or provide enough calories to support my quite active lifestyle. To add nutrient and caloric density, as well as a satisfyingly toothsome contrast to the smoothie’s creaminess, I always top my smoothies with a heaping half-cupful of homemade granola and a spoonful of nut butter. These simple (yet oh so tasty) additions transform a healthy morning snack into a nutrient-packed A.M. meal, a humble green smoothie into the ultimate breakfast: the Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl.

As I previously alluded, the proper Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl requires three components:
1.) The green smoothie.
2.) The granola.
3.) The nut butter.

These three components allow for infinite variations depending upon taste preferences, caloric needs, and seasonal fruit availability. Lately, I’ve blended cantaloupe, blackberries, peaches, and plums into my smoothies; I’ve made numerous adaptations of this fabulous recipe for my granola (using maple syrup instead of honey, of course); and I’ve rotated between peanut and almond butter for my morning nut butter spoonful. I’ve also hugely enjoyed adding handfuls of herbs into my smoothies—fresh thyme, basil, and cilantro all nicely brighten any smoothie. Obviously, your Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl will most likely vary immensely from mine—this only showcases the customizable beauty of such a breakfast!

smoothie bowl 2

If you’ve ever experimented with green smoothies for breakfast but found that they didn’t sufficiently quell your hunger, I’d highly recommend offering green smoothies a second chance in the form of a Green Smoothie-Granola Breakfast Bowl. Your tastebuds and tummy will thank you.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Until next time, Ali.

Natural Skincare: Homemade Exfoliating Cleanser

Last October during Vegan Mofo, I introduced you all, dear readers, to the wonders of a homemade facial toner and acne scar remover that consists merely of apple cider vinegar and white tea. Since entering college almost one year ago, I’ve actively strove to reduce the amount of hygiene and skincare products I purchase for a variety of reasons: 1.) To ease the financial strain commonly experienced by college students. 2.) To avoid slathering harmful chemicals all over my face and extremities. 3.) To minimize the risk of accidentally purchasing products that contain animal-tested ingredients. 4.) To feel damn cool and DIY for developing an almost completely homemade skin and hair care regimen.

My homemade facial toner & its ridiculously simple ingredients.

Shampoo, conditioner, exfoliating cleanser, and facial toner comprise the cosmetic products that I’ve homemade for almost 12 months now. You can read more about the details of the “No-Poo” hair care method, which employs only baking soda and apple cider vinegar in fostering healthy, lustrous hair, at the Nature Moms blog, and can find the “recipe” for homemade facial toner on one of my previous posts. While I now save about $27 on a semi-monthly basis by ceasing to purchase these products, I’m also reducing my carbon footprint by avoiding the chemicals and packaging involved in the production of cosmetics. Not one to embark upon any endeavor halfheartedly, I’m still seeking to further contribute to the health of both my personal finances and the planet by incorporating more homemade hygiene solutions into my daily routine. For example, once I run out of my current stick of deodorant and tube of toothpaste, I fully intend to start homemaking these items as well, following these two sets of instructions. After eschewing these two store-bought hygiene products, I’ll regain another $10 every month or so, and will only need purchase facial cleanser, a couple items of makeup, and hair sculpting paste to fulfill my hair and skincare requirements (if you know of natural methods to replace any of these particular products, please do let me know!).

DIY toothpaste from Wild Roots.

DIY deodorant from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

Today, I’d like to share with you perhaps the simplest and most economic exfoliating cleanser I’ve ever encountered. Costing less than $0.05 per use and consisting of only one sole ingredient, this exfoliating cleanser effectively dissolves under-skin sebum, clears away debris, and alkalizes the skin. The magic ingredient? Baking soda.

baking soda baking soda 2

The Method:

1.) Splash your face with warm water to preliminarily cleanse the skin.
2.) In the palm of your hand, dissolve 1 tbsp baking soda in a couple drops of water (feel free to add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil for fragrance).
3.) Rub the baking soda paste all over your face in small, circular motions for about 2-3 minutes before rinsing the mixture off completely with warm water.
4.) Gently dry your face and follow the exfoliating cleanser immediately with facial toner to close your pores and prevent gunk (a technical esthetic term) from entering them.

Method submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, and Wellness Weekend.

Comment-Provoking Questions: Do you make any of your own cosmetics or skin, hair, and hygiene products? If so, of what ingredients do they consist?

Until next time, Ali.

Guest Post on Not Your Ordinary Recipes: Banana Soft Serve Ice Cream & Variations

Today, dear readers, I’d like to direct you toward the blog Not Your Ordinary Recipes, where I have a guest post published that features banana soft-serve ice cream. If you’ve never experienced the life-changing method of crafting delectably creamy frozen treats solely from the humble fruit, I’d urge you to head over to Becky’s blog and learn how to do so. Indeed, reveling in the joys of soft-serve-esque, dairy-free ice cream requires no more than a couple frozen bananas, a food processor, and about four minutes of your time.

My post also offers suggestions for transforming the basic banana soft-serve recipe into decadent ice cream creations using additional ingredients such as fresh fruit, peanut butter, cocoa powder, herbs, and spices. Who knew that homemaking mouthwatering ice cream flavors like Butter Pecan, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lavender Lemon, and Roasted Strawberry Cardamom required only a handful of ordinary ingredients and absolutely no ice cream-maker?

Head over to Not Your Ordinary Recipes to begin the journey toward opening your own banana soft-serve ice cream truck!

Until next time, Ali.

Farmers Market Vegan’s 2nd Cooking Show Episode

This February, I along with the rest of the Multimedia team at Vassar’s campus newspaper the Miscellany News launched a vegan cooking show hosted by your’s truly. The first episode featured a tutorial on how to make vegan sushi, and the second, just released today, showcases a novel recipe for vegan deviled eggs, inspired by the lovely ladies at Lagusta’s Luscious vegan & fair trade chocolate company in New Paltz, NY. Check out the video and snag the recipe here.

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Until next time, Ali.

How to Make the Perfect Green Smoothie

After nearly 475 days of blending up a mix of fruit, leafy greens, and plant-based milks for breakfast—some experiments producing tastebud-orgasmic morning meals, others grimace-inducing swamps-in-a-bowl—I have honed, refined, and (dare I say) perfected the practice of green smoothie-ing. Thus, I feel a strong urge, nay, a calling from the vegan deities above to improve upon the green smoothie how-to I offered nearly 15 months ago at the very onset of my blogging ventures.

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

Allow me to define my notion of the perfect green smoothie with a few adjectives: thick, creamy, subtly sweet, fruity, refreshing, substantial, and smile-inducing. Rather than serving as a liquid meal, I wholeheartedly believe that green smoothies should provide a pudding- or milkshake-esque bed on which crunchy granola clusters can happily rest.

Fluffy Mousse Smoothie with Apple and Avocado

In my experience, two methods of green-smoothie-crafting fulfill my seven aforementioned criteria of perfection:

  1. Banana + Frozen Fruit: produces a frosty, milkshake-textured smoothie that melts like ice cream into the granola’s crevices.
  2. Avocado + Fresh Fruit: produces a decadent-feeling, pudding/mousse-like smoothie in which you could almost stand up a spoon.

A minimal amount of milk serves as the secret to the thickest, creamiest, most satisfying smoothie in both of these applications. While this quality may require more effort to facilitate blending (multiple times to stop the blender and push the ingredients down…unless of course you own a Vitamix!), the impeccable results merit the slightly more laborious task than that of blending a smoothie with a more generous amount of liquid.

Sketch-Free Vegan Eating’s Green-Chocolate Pudding

The Perfect Green Smoothie

Banana + Frozen Fruit Method:

  • 1 large frozen banana, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed frozen fruit
  • 1-2 cups leafy greens, chopped (kale is my favorite, but collards and salad greens also work well)
  • 1/2 cup plant-based milk (almond, hemp, soy, oat, etc.)

Avocado + Fresh Fruit Method:

  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 medium-large piece of rather juicy fresh fruit (apple, peach, pear, persimmon, plum, etc.)
  • 1-2 cups leafy greens, chopped
  • 1/3 cup plant-based milk

Optional Add-Ins to Both Methods:

  • 1-2 tbsp chia, hemp, or flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • 1 scoop vegan protein/green superfoods powder
  • 1 tbsp carob or cacao powder
  • 1 tsp other superfood powder (spirulina, wheatgrass, maca, lucuma, mesquite, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sweet spice (cinnamon, cardamom)
  • Small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Small handful of fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley)

Layer the ingredients in the blender in the order I’ve listed above. You should add any optional add-ins between the fresh/frozen fruit and the greens. Blend until smooth and creamy, pausing to push down the mixture as necessary.

Tutorial submitted to Sunday School, Wellness Weekend, Fight Back Friday, Foodtastic Friday, Fat Tuesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, and Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays, and Raw Foods Thursdays.

Mango-Blueberry “I Live in the Springtime” Smoothie

With this template recipe, you too can become a master, an aficionado, a veritable connoisseur of green smoothies. If you seek inspiration until then, check out my Blueberry Basil Smoothie, my Peach, Raspberry, and Ginger Green Smoothie, or the many green smoothies on my WIAW Smoothie Pinterest board.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #5: Quickie Post! Apple Cider Vinegar-White Tea Facial Toner and Acne Scar Remover

Continuing my use of Quickie Posts to ease the potential strain of blogging every single day throughout the month of October, I’d like to offer you a homemade, environmentally and animal-friendly, 100% chemical-free facial toner and acne scar remover. I have rubbed this two-ingredient mixture on my face every single day since the end of July and have seen a vast improvement in the clarity of my skin since.

Those in the holistic health realm constantly tout the infinite benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar, such as improved digestion, regulated blood pressure, and removed toxins from the body. While no scientific research verifies these claims, no one can disprove the fact that apple cider vinegar contains alpha-hydroxy acids that attack bacteria and help dry out blemishes, rendering it quite effective in the healing of acne scars. Combined with ridiculously antioxidant-rich white tea to aid in the removal of free radicals from the skin, apple cider vinegar forms a powerful, completely natural facial toner that frees you of the unpronouncable ingredient syndrome to which we so often fall victim in purchasing conventional beauty products, all while restoring your skin’s pH balance, removing impurities, and clearing pores.

Apple Cider Vinegar-White Tea Facial Toner and Acne Scar Remover

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp loose white tea

Brew 1 cup of white tea, steeping for 2-4 minutes.

Combine the white tea with the apple cider vinegar in a mason jar or other sealable container and store it in the refrigerator until cool and between later uses.

To apply, dip a tissue or cotton ball into the mixture and rub it all over your face, focusing on acne flareups and scars. Rinse off after 30 minutes.

I follow the toner with a facial lotion formulated for dry skin, but everyone’s beauty regimen needs differ!

Submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays.

Comment Provoking Questions: What are your favorite natural, homemade beauty treatments? Do you often use apple cider vinegar other than in cooking?

Happy Vegan MoFo!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #2: Quickie Post! Homebrewed Kombucha

In honor of the daily posting tradition ingrained in the Vegan MoFo consciousness, I’m delighted to provide you with my first Quickie Post of the vegan blogging extravaganza otherwise known as October. I intend to employ these short and sweet posts to lessen the possibility of my mind melting from a complete overload of college essays and reading, various club responsibilities, my new position as Freshman Class Secretary, and of course, 20+ blog posts in 31 days.

A couple weeks ago, in response to my frustration of purchasing daily bottles of GT’s Kombucha on a lowly college student budget, I teamed up with a fellow Vassarian and fermented beverage enthusiast to purchase a Homebrew Kombucha Kit from my favorite Madison-based brewery, NessAlla. Armed with a gallon-sized glass jar, organic sugar, loose-leaf black tea, detailed instructions, and a full-grown Scoby contentedly floating in Kombucha starter liquid, we embarked upon a homebrewing journey, culminating today in the tasting and bottling of our fantastically successful and delicious final product.

Photo courtesy of Alan Darer.

For specific instructions on how to homebrew Kombucha, check out my post from last year’s Vegan MoFo.

Comment Provoking Questions: Have you brewed your own Kombucha before? If so, where did you get your Scoby? Did you run into any problems?

Happy Vegan MoFo!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan MoFo #1: Sprouting Adventures with Alfalfa and Legumes

Welcome to my first post of the most stellar-mega-fantastic-ridiculous-zany-vast-impressive extravaganza of vegan blogging antics otherwise known as Vegan MoFo! As if that introduction didn’t explain well enough, the virtual festival of Vegan MoFo, in its third incarnation this year, consists of a plethora of vegan bloggers (over 600!) united in the common goal of accumulating as many posts as humany possible (or at least 20 per blogger) relating to animal-friendly cooking antics during the month of October. As many mofo-ers have already lamented, I must have hopped onto the crazy train for committing to scribing five posts per week considering the already mounting pile of college reading, essays, exams, and extracurriculars that currently consume my daily life (though not enough, evidently!). However, last year marked my first foray into the Vegan MoFo world, and I simply could not resist another whirlwind of almost-daily blogging hijinks.

As for a particular theme to the MoFo madness, I’d like to entitle the entirety of my October posts as “Exploring Upstate New York: Vegan and College-Student-Broke Style.” Focusing on my edible endeavors as a penniless Vassar freshman, I’ll continue to regale you with my experiences eating in the dining hall, cooking in my makeshift dorm room “kitchen,” and venturing to vegan-friendly restaurants both in Poughkeepsie and beyond.

In honor of the birth of Vegan MoFo 2012, I’d like to enter the blogging party by introducing you to my own newborns: alfalfa and legume sprouts. For the past few days, I’ve transformed my dorm room into a center of incubation for the sprouting ventures of alfalfa seeds, lentils, beluga peas, and chickpeas. As you may recall reading in the various What I Ate Wednesdays since I arrived at Vassar, I’ve intensely craved the refreshing crunch, the pleasant flavor ever so slighly reminiscent of grass, and the textural interest inculcated into salads by the all-mighty sprouts, both alfalfa and bean. Sure, I may completely adhere to the cliche image of health-food hippies munching on alfalfa sprouting out of their ears, but gosh darn it, I will proudly pin the “Alfalfa’s Biggest Fan” badge onto my Kale t-shirt from Candle Cafe. In any case, I decided to take charge of the absense of sprouts in the grocery and health food store immediately surrounding Vassar by ordering both alfalfa sprouting seeds and a rainbow-colored mix of crunchy bean sprouting seeds from the kind purveyors at The Raw Food World.

For those of you who would also like to weird out your college roommates by crowding your already squished dorm with mason jars filled with squiggly-tailed beans, I’m thrilled to provide you with a step-by-step guide to alfalfa and bean sprouting.

How to Sprout Alfalfa and Bean Seeds

Equipment:

  • 2 16-oz mason jars
  • 2 tbsp alfalfa sprouting seeds
  • 1/4 cup bean sprouting seeds (make sure you buy your sprouting seeds from reputable sources—those from garden stores are likely chemically treated and unsuitable for consumption).
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber bands
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Dish towel

Rinse off your seeds and pick them over for any debris.

Place the alfalfa seeds in one mason jar and the bean seeds in the other. Fill both of the jars completely with water—the seeds, especially the beans, expand greatly. Cover the jars with squares of cheesecloth secured with rubber bands and let the seeds soak for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. Larger beans, especially chickpeas, require a longer soaking time.

After soaking, drain the water through the cheesecloth. Rinse the seeds with fresh water and drain again. Place the jars away from sunlight upside-down at an angle on a wire cooling rack set over a dish towel to ensure adequate air circulation.

Rinse and drain the beans with fresh water at least twice and up to four times each day, depending on how dry the beans seem during the sprouting process. Repeat this procedure for two to five days (mine only took two), until the alfalfa has sprouted to about one inch and begins to form a clump of sprouts, and until the beans have sprouted to about half an inch and have expanded to fill the jar almost entirely.

Your alfalfa will need a quick tanning session to take on its verdant hue. Place the jar with the alfalfa in a sunny spot for a few hours to allow it to turn green.

Give both the alfalfa and bean sprouts a final rinse and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Comment Provoking Questions: Do you participate in Vegan MoFo? Why or why not? Do you enjoy it? Do your posts have a theme this year? Have you ever sprouted alfalfa or beans before?

Happy Vegan MoFo!

Until next time, Ali.

First Vassar Newspaper Article: How to Craft a Satisfying Salad

I believe I’ve developed a fever. Fret not—my body temperature has not skyrocketed above 104°F, nor have I confined myself to bedrest. However, a virus of sorts has infiltrated my psyche. Perhaps I can trace its roots to my father’s masters degree in journalism and both of my parents’ knack for the English language—both talents which manifested themselves genetically in their daughter, eventually inspiring the blog you read today. I’ve now reveled for a year and four months in sharing my voice, prose, recipes, opinions, and values of kindess and compassion with the general online public, specifically the vegan blogosphere, and have since yearned to expand my potential audience to reach further hearts and minds. Thus, the self-diagnostic of my aforementioned virus on which I’ve settled reveals a nasty bout of journalism fever.

Vassar, my home of three weeks, certainly serves as wildly effective environment in which to cultivate my desire for journalistic exploration. In fact, I’ve already published my first article in The Miscellany News, Vassar’s student-run newspaper since 1866. Naturally, I eagerly took on the role of food columnist, both for this issue and the upcoming one, though I hope to branch out to other sections of the newspaper, such as Features and Opinions, to report on more hard-hitting issues surrounding veganism and animal rights (for example, Vassar tests on animals in the basement of one of their academic buildings, though the Misc has not yet successfully obtained an interview with any of the testers).

My article this week focuses on how to construct a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying meal-sized salad to debunk the notion that vegans subsist solely on piles of “watery iceberg lettuce, insipid tomatoes and perhaps a shredded carrot or two” (am I allowed to quote myself?). Offering a step-by-step guide to salad formation, I hope to convince Vassar students to rethink the notion of salads as diet, or “rabbit”, food. At the article’s conclusion, I also offer the recipe for my infamous Liquid Gold Dressing, providing a glimpse into the realm of healthy, mouthwatering, creative salad dressings to knock America’s staple of ranch off of its undeserved pedestal.

Take a gander at the article here and let me know what you think!

Until next time, Ali.