28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge – Your Turn

Los Sucrose es Plant Strong

You guys patiently ventured through my 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge with me in May and June, and now it’s your turn! If you’re here in Chicago there’s a new challenge group starting up in early September. Interested, but not sure what it’s all about? Check out the free 28-Day Healthy Eating Challenge info Session on August 30th at the South Loop Whole Foods.

Not in Chicago? Contact your local Whole Foods to see when sessions start, or check out the 28-Day tools on the Engine 2 Diet page.

I promise I haven’t fallen off the planet, I’m just busy working on this book! I’m hoping to shoot some new how-to videos in the next few weeks so leave me comments and let me know what you want to see me make! Oh, and I have an interview with one of my favorite indie baking businesses coming your way, too!

Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG | 1 comment

A Crash Course in Eating Plant Strong + Bonus Cookie Action

Los Sucrose goes bananas – literally!

I’m not one to push my beliefs on anyone, I think you should eat what makes you feel good and that’s all. That being said, I’ve been a vegetarian and on-again/off-again vegan for 14+ years and I’ve done my fair share of eye rolling at the stupid stuff people say about my diet. (And when I say “diet” I mean, the food I choose to eat, not a weight loss program.)

So this post is for those of you thinking about changing your eating habits. Whether you want to try vegetarianism or veganism, or you simply want to try to cut back on meat and dairy and eat more veggies. It’s a crash course at best, but I hope you find it helpful. If you stick around there’s a really good cookie recipe at the end!

Elephants don’t take protein supplements

Say you want to start eating healthier, so you decide to cut back on meat and dairy. You make the mistake of posting about it on Facebook or telling your uncles at the family BBQ. Suddenly, everyone has something negative to say about eating vegetables. Maybe they mean well, or maybe they’re just being haters. Either way, you shouldn’t let anyone discourage you from what you feel is right for your health and your body. Whether you eat meat and dairy or not, I hope your experiment with eating Plant Strong introduces you to some new delicious foods and a healthier way of cooking.

What do I eat?

Personally, I think you should eat vegetables and lots of them. Eat a wide variety across the color spectrum – green, yellow, orange, purple… if it’s pretty, eat it. Along with your veggies, you should eat some whole grains – oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa – the possibilities are endless. You can eat pasta (I like brown rice pasta and whole grain pasta,) eat beans, lentils and legumes (those may or may not all be the same thing, I didn’t pay attention in science class.)

One mistake I think people make when they stop eating animal products is mentally subtracting meat from the dinner plate and getting bummed on what’s left. Hm, steamed broccoli and a baked potato. Yay! And from that sad scenario comes the inevitable “where do you get your protein?

Long story short, most Americans get too much protein because of their animal product-based diets. Additionally, the protein they’re consuming is cheaply produced, pumped full of hormones and hard to digest. (I’m not touching on animal rights here because that’s not why I’m a vegetarian. I’m a vegetarian for my health. But I do get annoyed when people argue about humane slaughtering methods or they say “well what about organic, grass fed beef?” First of all, how about I humanely slaughter you? Second, are you really buying organic, grass-fed meat ALL the time? Really? What about when you go out to eat? My money says you are, at least sometimes, eating cheap, shitty meat. So unless you’re Ted Nugent, step off with that argument.)

These are called vegetables, they are edible.

If you want to read a lot more about protein and a vegetarian diet, Rip Esselstyn does a very concise job of explaining it here. He also cusses and threatens violence a lot less often than I do.

And if you don’t feel like spouting off facts about the protein in spinach and whatnot when your grandma corners you with that question – ask her where elephants get their protein and remind her not to leave you out of the will.

So that’s the “no, you will not die of vegetarianism” part of the show. Let’s get back to the food.

In my humble opinion, the more open you are to experimenting with cooking methods, other culture’s spices and ingredients and just trying stuff in general the happier you will be as a vegetarian. I grew up eating Mexican food in Arizona and Chinese take out in the Midwest. It might not impress you, but if you’ve ever been to Joliet, IL a 7 year old girl who loves Mandarin Chinese is pretty rare. Because my palette was never really “meat and potatoes” I’ve adjusted quite well to the idea of veggies in a spicy sauce or rice and beans with savory collard greens on the side. If you hate vegetables, you’re going to have a tough time, let’s be real here.

One trap I will warn you against is the tofu/fake meat trap. I myself was a fake meat addict for years. Because, again, when you subtract the burger from your dinner plate you aren’t left with anything very exciting or so it seems. So say you can replace that burger with something vaguely burger-like… why, it’s a lazy person’s dream! It’s so easy to buy a box of veggie corn dogs, chik’n nuggets, veggie burgers – and that’s OK sometimes. Like when you’re cooking out, or if you get home super late. But don’t rely on pre-packaged fake meat stuffs as your main source of nutrition.

This chick can afford a lot of veggie burgers.

For one, it’s god damn expensive. $5 for four corndogs? What am I the Queen of fuckin’ England? Also, it’s just as processed and gnarly as all the stuff you just said you weren’t going to eat any more! I know some people will disagree with me, but I feel the same way about tofu. Unless you live somewhere where you can buy it fresh, tofu is hella processed. Additionally, soy is pretty controversial. Some people say it can lead to cancer, others argue that most soy is genetically modified, which is pretty creepy. Even if you don’t eat tofu, you’re eating soy, I promise. It’s cheap and they put it almost everything, read the ingredients to like, five things in your pantry. I bet you’ll find soy in three. So I try to just play it safe and not rely on it too much. (Again, all things in moderation. I love Rama with tofu and I’ll risk a little genetic mutation to enjoy it once in a while.)

The last thing I will say about fake meat is that it will totally cock block you from the best part about being a vegetarian/vegan – eating delicious plants.

Plants are seriously tasty, you just haven’t given them a chance yet. One night at my house we’ll have brown rice pasta with marinara (throw a handful of spinach in, you won’t even taste it and it’s super good for you) and the next night we’ll have a bowl of brown rice topped with bean and veggie chili and a side of collard greens. We eat a ton of Indian-inspired food – lentils in tomato sauces, chickpea mashes, spicy potatoes… we make all-veg tacos (cook all your favorite veggies together in some taco seasonings, throw them on a corn tortilla with some fresh crunchy greens and avocado and that’s a damn good taco.) Stir fry, soups, stew and man-oh-man do we eat stuff out of the slow cooker!

I could go one for days, but let me just answer the question “What can I eat?” You can eat food.

What are some recipes?

Check out the recipe section above for things I make regularly. And check out these resources for more ideas:

Heavens, what to make?

Well, obviously you could check out all the vegan recipes available on a little site called Bake and Destroy – if you need to get started quickly check out my Bowl of Stuff!

Whole Foods recipes - free online resource of thousands of recipes. You can search for vegetarian, dairy-free, vegan, you can even tell the finder that you want something featuring beans, or something healthy. I use this all the time. There’s also an app that you can whip out at the grocery store.

All the Post-Punk Kitchen books – there are so many. Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Brunch (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I also eat breakfast and lunch. I guess I can talk more about that later,) Appetite for Reduction, Viva Vegan… sooo many books. If you’re just going to buy one I recommend Veganomicon – it actually tells you how to cook different grains, beans, veggies. It’s a great book for beginners.

I also recommend picking up a vegetarian slow cooker book, or just stalking Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

Oh, and if you’re considering a whole lifestyle change (aka going vegan and saying no to leather, cosmetics that contain animal products, the whole nine yards,) you should pick up The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life – Melisser did all the research and hard work so you can just dive right in.

Ask your veggie friends for their recommendations, too!

OK, back to breakfast and lunch right quick. Tony and I invested in a powerful blender and we both drink a smoothie every morning. I throw baby spinach in mine with a bunch of berries, he likes bananas and pineapple with a high-fiber green powder. Tony says he’s full until lunch on his smoothie, but I usually have a whole grain English muffin with hummus or apple butter when I get to work. Granola with hemp milk is good too, and it’s also really dirty hippy sounding. On the week ends I’ll make something from Vegan Brunch – waffles, or the delicious vegan biscuits and gravy recipe.

If you’re athletic I suggest Rip’s Big Bowl from the Engine 2 Diet book. Oh, and when I was talking about books I forgot to mention Meat is for Pussies as another good one for tough guys and athletic types.

I usually bring left over dinner for my lunch, but in a pinch I’ll throw together some quick-cooking brown rice and a packet of dairy-free Indian food from the grocery store – Trader Joe’s has yummy packages of spiced chickpeas and things like that. The list of ingredients is short and all in English, so I don’t mind eating stuff out of a box once in a while.

I love dessert (duh) so lately I’ve been baking with white whole wheat flour a lot and eating pure-juice popcicles and coconut milk ice cream when it’s hot. Coconut milk is high in fat, so don’t go thinking you can binge on it and lose weight. But it’s also a lot more filling than dairy ice cream – so take a small scoop and savor it, your belly won’t let you eat too much.

Stuff you need

Personally I think being a vegetarian is very inexpensive, you just have to invest in a few things to make it fun and then the food itself is pretty cheap.


  • a blender – you’ll want it for smoothies and for pureeing soups and things
  • veggie scrubber –  Tony uses one to scrub fruits and veggies so we don’t have to peel them. When you buy organic produce you’re losing out on nutrients by peeling it. (You might want to peel non-organic, since the skin is where the pesticides tend to seep in)
  • slow cooker (or, if you’re impatient, a pressure cooker) – Tony uses this thing all the time. In the morning he’ll throw in some root veggies, beans, maybe some TVP (more on that later) some tomatoes, garlic, veggie broth… then it cooks all day. When I get home I warm up the…
  • rice cooker! And then we have dinner.
  • freezer bags – I know they aren’t eco-friendly, but when you make stuff in a crock pot as often as we do, you have a lot of leftovers. It’s awesome to come home and throw some frozen leftover chili on the stove and then dick around on Tumblr until dinner is ready

Food stuffs:

  • Tofu is adorable, but you should eat other stuff too.

    nutritional yeast – nutty, cheesy and super nutritious. We put this in everything we eat – chili, stir fry, greens. It’s good on popcorn and you can even made mac n’ “cheese” with it…more about “nooch” here.

  • a variety of grains – quinoa being the awesomest. Quinoa is a perfect food. You should eat it ALL the time. And keep a variety of rices, couscous and other grains on hand.
  • TVP – textured vegetable protein is a soy product, so eat it sparingly. But you can get it in bulk at Whole Foods for relatively cheap and it’s a good thing to throw into chili (man, I talk about chili a lot) or to use in place of ground beef. It soaks up flavor, so we’ve let it slow cook in BBQ sauce all day and come home to a delicious “pulled pork.”
  • seasonal fruits and veggies – whatever is in season will always be cheapest, will always taste best and will always make you feel good
  • Bragg aminos – like soy sauce, only cooler. We put this on EVERYTHING. Helps with digestion and tastes like smokey heaven.

Mayhem and foolishness:

OK so here are other things I thought of that may or may not be helpful:

  • If you shop at Whole Foods, do the bulk bins and whatever produce is local and affordable. I try to get other staples at Trader Joe’s or my local produce stand.
  • Pre-game it when dining out. Check the menu online or call and find out about veggie options. Most likely even the gnarliest steak house will have a pasta dish for you. Don’t get stuck eating a salad like a loser.
  • Eat “bowl of stuff.” This has become my favorite meal. I make things I like together – BBQ TVP, collard greens and brown rice, and then I layer them in a bowl and eat them all together. It works with almost anything. Different textures and temperatures are awesome too. Warm quinoa with chopped raw tomatoes and red onions, cooked back beans, avocado, crunchy cabbage slaw and Kalamata olives? Throw on some Bragg aminos and I’ll be your girlfriend til recess.

I’ve been in such a better mood, had so much more energy and have been so happy since I started eating this way everyone in my office is fascinated by the Plant Strong diet. So much so, that we’re having a Plant Strong potluck on Thursday. I’m making the mac n’ yeast recipe I linked to above, and these awesome vegan coconut macarons I had at my first Plant Strong meet up at Whole Foods.

A Crash Course in Eating Plant Strong + Bonus Cookie Action Recipe

vegan coconut macaron

By BakeandDestroy Published: June 7, 2011

    These tender little treats won me over at my first Plant Strong meet up. I smuggled some home in a napkin to prove to Tony that we weren't going to starve to death by eating healthier.



    1. Preheat your over to 350. Place ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Depending on the size of the dates and ripeness of the banana, you might need to add more or less coconut flakes. The mixture should be moist, but not gooey.
    2. Scoop by the tablespoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 mins, until done. Cookies will be soft, but golden brown and will hold together.

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      What are your questions about eating more plants? And vegan/veggie readers, what’s  your advice to people who want to eat more plants?

      Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

      Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG, Cookies, Easy Recipes, Recipes, Vegan | 22 comments

      Teno’s Good Morning Apple Muffins & A Challenge Check In

      Who could say no to a firefighter hugging vegetables?

      Today is day 21 of the 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge and I can honestly say this experience has changed the way the Slaters eat for good. Not only that, but I currently have two other sets of friends officially starting their challenges this week and I’m sure there are many more considering it. Here’s a little break down of the week leading up to the challenge, and the weeks so far for those of you who are considering taking the challenge yourself:

      Pre-challenge: I receive the email from Whole Foods inviting me to join a group of food bloggers in a month of healthy eating. I read it to Tony and we both scoff at the idea of going vegan again. We both spent plenty of time seeing hardcore bands in Krishna temples and did our time as starving, broke vegans. No thanks.

      Then I think about how miserable I’ve been in my own body lately – sluggish, chubby – like I’ve lost control. I talk to Tony and tell him, “what the hell? If I hate it, I’ll quit. What will they do, send the Whole Foods police after me?” I agree to take the challenge, and bully myself into sticking to it by posting about it.

      Week One: I go to the first Challenge meet up where I meet Rip Esselstyn and enjoy a surprisingly tasty and satisfying dinner from his book. After dinner we head to the movie theater where we all watch Forks Over Knives. (Truth be told, my friend Stacie and I sat through about 3 minutes of Water for Elephants before we realized we were in the wrong theater.) Eventually we find the right theater and watch the movie. Then I lose my mind.

      If you live in the Midwest you know this ain't Photoshopped.

      I come home and frantically throw away absolutely every junky thing in my kitchen. I swear off dairy, and I talk Tony’s ear off until well past our bedtime. Annoyed with me, he tells me he will eat one lone piece of cheese once a month if it means not being a vegan. I go to bed angry. The next day we talk again and I promise we are not going vegan. We are going Plant Strong. We don’t have to donate our Nike collections, we don’t have to say good bye to Ian’s pizza. We just have to eat more vegetables and whole grains. Try to cut dairy out of our daily diet and concentrate on eating nutritiously, not just conveniently.

      That week we go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and our local produce stand. We stock up on stuff for smoothies, veggies for the slow cooker, lots of greens, nutritional yeast, oats, quinoa, couscous, brown rice and beans. And so it begins.

      Week Two: I take a class about cooking with greens. The next day I make Tony collard greens (with no oil) that are so good we start throwing kale, collards, turnip greens, etc into just about everything we cook. I start throwing spinach into my smoothies. By the end of the week we can honestly see that Tony has lost weight. After about 25 years of skateboarding and 5 or so years of his knees being to sore to do so, Tony’s knees feel good enough to skate again. We do a little research and discover that all the greens we’ve been eating are good for joint health. So much for “milk does a body good.”

      Week Three: Tony’s knees feel so good I actually skip my class about cooking without oil so he can skate. Being a book nerd, I request the information from the class leaders and do some research of my own. (I also posted an info sheet on cooking without oil on the Bake and Destroy Facebook fan page.) Long story short, oils are OK in moderation, but they aren’t a whole food. When you use oil, you’re extracting the fats and the flavors but you’re leaving behind the fiber and all the nutrients found in the actual food. So whenever you can, you should try to add flavor with spices and whole foods. Use oils sparingly.


      I find myself getting annoyed at this point with the things people say to me. After 12+ years of vegetarianism and on-again/off-again veganism, everyone has heard my snappy retort about elephants getting plenty of protein, and that it’s perverted to drink another animal’s milk. But people seem to be on a mission to warn me about not getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids if I don’t add oil to my food. Again I wonder why no one is shaking their fists at gorillas and warning them that they better put olive oil on those greens or they’ll suffer poor heart health. I also dig in and discover that it’s not so much that Americans aren’t getting enough Omega 3′s, but rather that we are getting too many Omega 6‘s. But rather than suggest that we precious Americans eat a healthier diet, thus cutting down on 6′s relative to 3′s, we add Omega 3 to anything and everything and call it a day.

      Then Tony makes the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had and I forget to be angry with anyone. This does, however, bring back some binging tendencies that I’ve been happily without throughout this experience. I find myself going overboard on everything I touch. Double helpings of mac n’ yeast, an apple in between every meal, and even if I’m not hungry, a bowl of coconut milk ice cream before bed. For the first time since starting the challenge, I feel guilty about eating again.

      Week Four: (This week.) Tony and I did cheat once at Ian’s this week end (I was hanging up SugarSlam posters and they had mushroom penne pizza, what was I to do?) But we bounced back and not only had a healthy dinner that night – we even managed to have a healthy Memorial Day meal at my mom’s house. Tony made mac n’ yeast again and my entire family ate it. No one knew what it was, and everyone at every bite. I did tell them the truth afterwards because nutritional yeast makes your pee really yellow and I didn’t want them to freak out.

      Tony started reading Meat is for Pussies over the week end and has officially surpassed me in the healthy eating department. I polished off the last of the coconut milk ice cream alone last night because John Joseph says you shouldn’t eat before bed. I’m still struggling with compulsive overeating, but overall I am feeling less disgusting that I was 21 days ago.

      Which brings us to today…

      Teno’s school turned one of the classrooms into a little coffee shop where the parents can buy a cup of coffee and a muffin when they drop their kids off in the morning and where the older kids (8th graders) can hang out after school. All the money goes to the school and it’s parent volunteer and student-run. Adorable, right? Although he hasn’t officially started yet, I did open my big mouth and volunteer to bake for the cafe every week so I’ve been sending over whole wheat muffins every Monday.

      Since Monday was a holiday I made some apple muffins to bring by on Tuesday. I may have tried to pack too much into these, but I think I’m onto something. Here is the recipe as I made them, with notes on what I recommend doing differently, or what I will try next time.

      You will need:

      • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
      • 1/4 cup suar
      • 1 Tbs baking powder
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1 cup peeled, finely chopped green apples
      • 3/4 cup carrot-apple juice
      • 1/3 cup canola oil
      • 1/2 mashed banana
      • (granola, chopped walnuts or brown sugar crumb to top, optional)

      Notes: These are pretty “whole wheaty” – which is fine for Teno and me, but you might want to do half all-purpose and half whole wheat to lighten them up. I would also advice using soymilk (or ricemilk, or whatever you like) in place of juice. I think the juice added too much sugar to the recipe and made the muffins browner than I wanted them.

      Then you:

      Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin pan. (I don’t like to use paper liners for muffins, I like them to be nice and crunchy on all sides.) Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Toss in the apples and coat them with the flour mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. I filled the cups all the way to the top for a nice, big muffin. Top the unbaked muffins with granola or whatever you’re adding on top (optional) and bake for 18-25 minute or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

      LIke I said, I think the juice made mine brown a little too much, and my oven tends to run hot – I should have checked them earlier. Between the two, they aren’t very pretty, but they taste pretty good and will make a good breakfast on the go for the parents at Teno’s school.

      If you want to follow my friends Justin and Bunny on their adventures in healthy eating, check them out here.




      Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG, Breakfasty, Vegan | 10 comments

      The Gentlemen Broncos Diet (Vegan Mac n’ Cheese)

      Hello, why have you not seen this movie?

      I expected to get a lot of questions from my friends and readers when I started on the 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge. Things like “how will you get your calcium without drinking milk?” Hmm… well, I guess I’ll get it the way all other adult mammals do – through a well-balanced diet that includes lots of leafy greens. “Where will you get protein?” I dunno, let me go ask this 4.6 ton elephant where he gets his and I guess I’ll eat that. I only hope it’s enough to sustain my 5’2″ 115 lb body! Surprisingly, though, the two most commonly asked questions so far have been “WTF is nutritional yeast” and “WTF is hemp milk?” I don’t have sassy answers to those questions, so I’m going to answer them as seriously as I’m capable of.

      Let’s start with yeast – mostly because it reminds me of Gentlemen Broncos, which makes me laugh. If you haven’t seen it yet, smoke some hemp milk and then watch it. It’s one of the best intentionally terrible movies you will ever see. Bonus: Then yeast will make you laugh too. Here’s some stuff you should know about nutritional yeast:

      1. Technically a fungus, nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast grown on cane and beet molasses.
      2. The flavor is best described as nutty or cheesy, which also makes me laugh.
      3. Depending on the type you buy, it either looks like cornmeal or yellow flakes.
      4. Our New Zealand friends know it as Brufax. They also pronounce “aluminum” hilariously.
      5. Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, rich in B-complex vitamins and it makes you pee bright yellow.

      Now that you’re basically a yeast expert, WTF do you do with it? Well, if you’re a good little vegan or vegetarian you’re probably already putting it in almost everything you eat. Because of its savory nature, nutritional yeast is great sprinkled into soups and stews, stir frys, in dips, on salads… I sprinkle it on popcorn for a cheesy flavor and use it like Parmesan on my pasta. Even if you’re not vegetarian, it’s a great flavor and nutrient boost to all of your food.

      This week end we used a whole heap of nutritional yeast in a vegan mac and “cheese” recipe my husband has been talking about since I met him about 8 years ago. Its Eric Z’s mac n’ yeast, and it was worth the 8 year wait. We went for the classic elbow-shape so Teno would eat it, but rotini or anything else that grabs onto sauce would work too.

      The Gentlemen Broncos Diet (Vegan Mac n’ Cheese) Recipe

      vegan mac & cheese

      By BakeandDestroy Published: May 24, 2011

        Our friend Eric owns Refuge Skate Shop in Detroit. He's an OG vegan who has been making this mac n' yeast since at least the early 90's. You can make this recipe with any kind of pasta you like - whole wheat, brown rice, plain old semolina.



        1. Preheat your oven to 350. Cook the macaroni half way (whatever time the package instructs, half it.) Drain and set aside.
        2. . In a saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly.
        3. Add boiling water and soy sauce or Bragg's, whisk until smooth and thick. Add nutritional yeast and whisk until completely smooth.
        4. Add seasonings and mustard -then mix 1/2 of "cheese" with the noodles - transfer to a casserole dish.
        5. Pour the remaining "cheese" on top and sprinkle with paprika and bread crumbs.
        6. Bake for 25 mins and finish in broiler until crispy and browned.

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          Hemp Milk

          In all of my 14+ years of on-again, off-again veganism I was way too straight edge to even consider it. Sure, hemp seeds don’t contain THC, the chemical that makes stoners awesome and stupid, but the idea of getting caught with a box of hemp milk on my way home from the store? Nope. Too crucial for that. Then I started reading about the many health benefits hemp seeds offer - Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, phytosterols, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin – and I started to consider it as a viable alternative to soymilk, which I try not to consume too much of, and cow milk, which I find repulsive. (Not for any ethical reasons so much as the fact that it’s squeezed out of a COW. ::shiver::)

          This is Tony. He hates everything.

          So after my Cooking with Greens class at Whole Foods last week I wandered around putting things in my cart that I knew Tony would make faces about: Coconut milk ice cream, Braggberry salad dressing and a box of Tempt hemp milk (unsweetened vanilla.) I was scared, I will admit. But I was determined not only to try hemp milk, but also to make my first green smoothie.

          In the morning I threw some frozen mixed berries, a chunk of frozen spinach, a few pieces of frozen pineapple and some Tempt hemp milk into my blender. I took a shot of hemp milk first, determined not to let it’s foreignness ruin my drink – it was good. Pretty mild. So I hit puree. The blender seemed to be choking on the concoction, so being the genius that I am, I jabbed at the contents with a wooden spoon until it started whirring around. It looked like Satan’s vomit in a glass, but I gave it a try anyway.

          You can also bake with hemp milk. Look, I made these!

          It tasted like Satan’s vomit in a glass, but Tony had already stated that green smoothies were gross, so I stubbornly drank it anyway. It wasn’t until a few hours later when I was loading the dishwasher that I noticed a chunk missing from my bamboo spoon. It wasn’t in the blender and it wasn’t in my empty glass. What happened to my digestive system later in the day leads me to believe it was in my belly.

          Anyway, I knew hemp milk was a-ok, so I wanted to give green smoothies another shot. (And I know there are true green smoothies – that actually look green, but mine are purple because I like berries. I do whatever I want, it’s part of my charm.) So the next morning I threw in another bunch of frozen berries, some pineapple, fresh organic baby spinach (a big handful) and some Tempt hemp milk. It was a little less sweet than I like it, so I drizzled in some agave and achieved pure smoothie happiness. I also replaced my crappy Kitchenaid blender with a Ninja, which has a cooler name and three big, scary blades, making for a much smoother smoothie.


          Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG, Giveaways, Product Reviews, Savory Stuff, Vegan | 32 comments

          Cookies from the Land of Fruits and Nuts

          Note: These 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge posts tend to be part recipe, part journal. So if you’re just here for the recipe , feel free to skip all my yackity shmakity.

          When we were teenagers, my friend Jenny and I traveled to San Francisco with her parents. Before they came to pick me up my dad said to me, “Have a good time in the land of fruits and nuts!” and chuckled to himself as he walked away. When I got in the car, Jenny’s dad said, “Alright, off to the land of fruits and nuts!” Dad joke. Like, mega.

          Anyway, this recipe has very little to do with California or my two favorite guys, but as I was stirring them together I remembered rolling my eyes about that joke twice in the same day so I thought I’d share.

          As you may or may not have noticed, I’m taking part in a 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge, no small feat for the girl who lubes her pancakes with maple buttercream, but I’m getting by. Initially I was really concerned that my cravings for pizza and Chicago style veggie dogs would do me in – but it’s actually been really fun having to re-learn how to cook and eat, and challenging myself to even bake healthy has been the most fun of all.

          No worries, though, my sweet tooth isn’t going anywhere. What would become of Bake and Destroy if I were suddenly to become one of those weird “I don’t care for sweets” people? Zoinks! And if you marvel at my junk food addition, let me introduce you to my son Teno. As a mini vegetarian with a natural little kid aversion to all vegetables, his diet has become heavily supplemented with dairy and starch. This challenge is a family affair, though, and he’s been a trooper about throwing away his candy stash and opting for homemade, whole wheat cookies instead.

          Plant Strong, bitches.

          The “more veggies” part has been tough with Teno, I’ll be honest. I’ve been sneaking them into smoothies and baking them into corn bread but other than peas, carrots and corn he’s simply unfuckwithable on the veggie front. But sneaking whole grains and fruits into his snacks? Dude, you would not believe how easy it’s been! I’ve also found that the more all three of us start to eat plant foods – straight up – without all the butter and salt, the less sweet I need a snack to be in order to be pleasing.

          This week end I made oat bars for breakfast that Teno declared “the most delicious thing ever” and the other night we adapted a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar for a batch of fruity, wholesome oatmeal cookies that made him ask for seconds and thirds. If you don’t already own this book, vegan or not, you should. The peanut butter chocolate pillows alone have earned Isa and Terry both a spot on my husband’s short list of vegans he doesn’t hate. That list also includes John Joseph, so it’s a pretty righteous list.

          Anyway, we took the ladies’ simple and yum recipe and kicked up the wholesomeness with whole wheat flour and a mix of dried fruits and berries. (I like Trader Joe’s Berry Medley.) You could really flip your shit adding components to this recipe – walnuts, dark chocolate pieces, whatever you like.

          You will need:

          • 1/3 cup soy milk
          • 2 Tbs ground flax seeds
          • 2/3 cup brown sugar*
          • 1/3 cup canola oil
          • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
          • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
          • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
          • 1/4 tsp baking soda
          • 1/4 tsp salt
          • 1 & 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
          • 1/2 cup raisins, or the dried fruit/berries you like best (the medley we used contains golden raisins, cherries, blueberries and cranberries.)

          *Yep, I’m aware that brown sugar is not a health food, it’s sugar. You could probably use agave, but baby steps, people. Baby steps.

          Then you:

          Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

          In a large bowl, mix the soy milk and flax seeds together with a fork. Add the sugar and oil and mix until it resembles caramel, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Sift in the flour, spices and salt, then fold in the oatmeal and dried fruit.

          Drop dough by the tablespoonful onto baking sheets and flatten a bit (these don’t really spread.) Bake 10 minutes if you like them chewy, 12 if you like them crunchy. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then move to wire rack to cool completely.

          Two of these sandwiched together with some crunchy natural peanut butter in the middle? Excuse me for a moment, I’d like to be alone with that thought.

          Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG, Cookies, Vegan | 3 comments

          Heart of Steel Cut Oat Bars

          Are you looking for a breakfast bar fit for the sons of Odin? Well look no further, my brothers and sisters of metal, for I have clashed swords with our enemies fat and cholesterol and emerged victorious, with a heart of steel cut oats. This healthy, hearty not-a-muffin is packed with whole wheat, steel cut oats, fresh fruit and the sign of the hammer.

          You can swap things in and out of these bars as you see fit. I used blueberries, you can use whatever berries, cherries or whatnot you like. I used cinnamon, you might want to throw in some cardamom and clove for a chai-inspired bar. You can also top these, as I did, with a quick brown sugar crumb or with your favorite crunchy granola. See the end of the recipe for info. Oh, and if you prefer dairy, you can use buttermilk in place for the soymilk + apple cider vinegar, butter in place of Earth Balance and/or an egg in place of the 1/2 banana.

          You will need:

          • 1 cup flour
          • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
          • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
          • 1/4 cup brown sugar
          • 1/2 tsp salt
          • 4 tbsp cold Earth Balance spread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
          • 1 cup fresh blueberries
          • zest of 1 organic lemon
          • 1 cup steel-cut oats, cooked & cooled slightly*
          • 1 /2 banana, smashed
          • 1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar + 1/2 cup soy milk

          *The process of cooking & cooling will take about 40 minutes, so make sure you do it ahead of time! Don’t cook these a day ahead and storing in the fridge as steel cut oats turn into wallpaper glue overnight.

          Then you:

          Pre-heat your oven to 350 and grease a muffin pan. Mix the apple cider vinegar and soy milk in a small measuring cup and set aside to curdle.

          Whisk the flours, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut in the Earth Balance until the mixture resembles course sand – pebbles, if you will. Toss in the blueberries and lemon zest just to coat them with flour. Mix in the cooked oats with a wooden spoon until incorporated.

          Mix mashed banana and soy milk mixture in a separate bowl, then stir together with the flour mixture. This will likely resemble bread dough more than muffin batter – that’s good, because these are not-a-muffins, remember? Spoon batter evenly into each cup. Like our fallen enemies, these don’t rise. So go ahead the fill the cups to the brim.

          You’ll probably want to these with something crunchy or sweet because the bars are intense and oaty. I did a quick brown sugar crumb – 1/2 cup flour, 3 Tbs brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon swirled together with a drizzle of canola oil until large crumbs form. You could also use your favorite granola. Top each unbaked oat bar with whatever you’re topping them with and press down lightly.

          Bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Don’t over bake these or you might as well chuck them off the Bridge of Death.

          Once they cooled for a few minutes I popped them out of the pan and fit each one into a cupcake liner. Store in the fridge and grab whenever you need a quick breakfast or a healthy snack.

          I recommend eating while listening to this:

          Hail and kill!

          Posted in 28 Day Challenge, BLOG, Breakfasty | 3 comments