August 23, 2011

1,500 Facebook Fan Giveaway and "Share"-a-thon!


Thanks to everyone who has "Liked" me on Facebook. You all mean so much to me and it's been so much fun talking and getting to know all of you! As I hinted at earlier in the month - I said that once I reach 1500 fans - I was going to a giveaway! Well, as of today Vegan Heartland has 1,509 fans! So I think it's time to bring on the goodies!

I know a lot of people were worried that they weren't going to have a chance to win anything. My original plan was to give a prize to the 1500th fan, but that didn't seem right. I want to give a prize to someone who has been a fan of Me and Vegan Heartland for a while. So I've come up with a way to give something special to a new fan - and to those that have been with me for a while!

"Share" Vegan Heartland's page with your friends and family on Facebook! You can find the "share" button on the left hand side of the page under my "Likes". If they end up "Like"ing Vegan Heartland - point them to this contest page and have them comment with their name and your name. I'll choose one random "newbie" to win a prize and whoever referred them to Vegan Heartland gets a prize as well! The more people you share Vegan Heartland with - the more chances you have to win!

I guess you all want to know what's up for grabs? Well, Earth Balance has been kind enough to give me coupons for their two newest products! I think you all know how much I love their Buttery Spreads, Soymilks, and Nut Butters - so I can just imagine how good these are going to be!

The First Product is Their Organic Coconut Spread

Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM) selected the new spread as one of the Top 12 Vegan Picks from Expo West, the nation’s largest natural products trade show! The Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread is made from a similar formula to its soy-based buttery spread, but with organic extra virgin coconut oil replacing soybean oil. Organic, non-GMO and more affordable than shelf-stable coconut oil. I'll be creating a recipe using the new coconut spread soon! Hint: Frosting...

The Second Product is Their Mindful Mayo

MindfulMayo Dressing and Sandwich Spread comes in three varieties: Original, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Organic. It is also vegan and free of cholesterol and GMOs… much better than regular mayonnaise! You’ll love its rich and tangy taste and creamy texture! Not a big fan of Mayo? Than you haven't tried my Grandma's Chocolate Mayo Cake! Perfect for Earth Balance's Mindful Mayo! 

CONTEST INFO & RULES:

The contest will end on September 6th, 2011 at 11:59 pm Central Standard Time. The Contest is only open to U.S. residents. The winners will be chosen using random.org. Entries must contain the name of the contestant and the name of the person that referred them to Vegan Heartland in a comment in this blog post. 

Watch for the winners to be announced on September 7th, 2011! Good Luck everyone and Thank you!

August 21, 2011

The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford


Otherwise known as "Better Than Sex Dessert", but I wanted to keep things clean. I'm all about cleanliness (Just don't look at the pile of dishes in my sink). Also, this is my Grandmother's recipe and it was titled "The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford" - and I wanted to stay authentic! I think you guys get the idea though. This dessert is amazing.

When I was making it - I wasn't all too excited about it. It just seemed like some whipped cream and pudding. I don't know what it is, but the combination of all these ingredients just come together and create something so delicious. You have to try it! Plus - it's such a pretty dessert. I love all the layers. It looks like something that took a long time to make, but it takes no time and little effort! It's best when refrigerated overnight. If you don't have the time though - refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours, until the pudding has set!

 Crust Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups walnuts (plus more for the top of the dessert)
  • 1 cup Earth Balance Spread

Mix the above ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Press into a 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool and set aside.

Filling Ingredients:
  • 8 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 10.4 oz container of Soy Whip Topping (I used Soya-Too brand - but you can use any brand)

Mix the above ingredients together in a food processor and spread on top of crust. Refrigerate while preparing the puddings.
  • 1 container of chocolate pudding
  • 1 container of vanilla pudding

Cook the puddings according to the package directions. I used Dr. Oetker's Chocolate and Vanilla puddings, but there's multiple Vegan pudding brands on the market. Once cooked and cooled, spread on top of the whipped cream/cream cheese mixture. A second layer of whipped cream is optional. Top with chopped walnuts and refrigerate overnight.

Enjoy and Happy Eating!

August 18, 2011

Baked Manicotti with Italian "Sausage" and Peas


Hello friends! I'm so grateful for the support everyone has been giving me for the Minnesota's Most Valuable Blogger contest. You guys are truly the greatest! If I could make a batch of cookies for all of you and send them to you - I totally would. Or maybe a batch of baked manicotti?

This dish is so scrumptious! I can't watch an episode of Giada at Home anymore without wanting to recreate her recipes. If you haven't seen my recipe for homemade mixed berry jam, you have to check it out! This recipe actually reminds me of a recipe that I created based on an Amy's frozen meal. It has all the same ingredients - minus the Italian sausage. The Tofurky sausage adds such a great layer of flavor though. You get the sweetness from the peas and tomato sauce and the spiciness from the sausage - and don't forget the ooey gooeyness of the Daiya mozzarella. So good!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup of Vegan Ricotta - click the link for my recipe
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 small onion - about 1/3 cup - diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 Tofurky Italian Sausages (or your favorite Vegan Italian Sausage) - diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups Vegan Mozzarella (I used Daiya - my favorite non-dairy cheese)
  • 6-8 Manicotti shells
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-by-2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, onion, and garlic. Cook until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Once cooled - add the peas, ricotta, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Spread half of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Using a small spoon, fill the manicotti shells with the sausage filling and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the filled shells. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the cheese has become bubbly and melty - about 30 minutes. Broil for the last 1-2 minutes.

August 16, 2011

Super Easy Mixed Berry Jam


Never will I ever be able to buy jam or jelly in a jar. Ever again. This jam is that good you guys! It's so delicious - and yet so simple to make. I always thought making jam was a long process that you needed to have pectin for and you needed to boil it in the jar and you needed special equipment. I guess you do need all that stuff if your canning jelly, but if you're just looking to make some fresh jam, there's no hassle required! Thanks to Giada for inspiring this recipe! I was watching Giada at Home on the Food Network this weekend and I saw her making this. She had Thyme in hers though - which sounds...interesting. I guess I'd try anything once. As long as it's Vegan.

I used strawberries and blueberries for this jam, but you can use any fruit you'd like! I can't wait to try this with some of my other favorites. The possibilities are endless. I'm thinking the next one will involve peaches. Doesn't that sound amazing? Also - for the liquid sweetener - I used agave nectar. If you have maple syrup, that would work perfectly as well. I'm not sure about other liquid sweeteners though. If you want to try using others and let me know how it goes - that would be wonderful! I'm a little curious to see how brown rice syrup would do in this recipe!

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups of strawberries - hulled and quartered
  • 2 cups of blueberries
  • 1 cup agave nectar
  • 4 tbsp citrus juice (Any citrus juice would work. Giada did 2 tbsp lemon, 2 tbsp lime juices. I just did 4 tbsp of grapefruit juice because that's what I had on hand. Orange juice would work here too!)


Place the berries in a medium sized saucepan. Using a potato masher - lightly mash the berries. Add the agave and grapefruit juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally - until thick. About 50 to 55 minutes. Cool to room temperature. The jam will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate in an air-tight container.

I couldn't resist taking a few bites during the photo shoot. Oops!

Vote for Vegan Heartland as Minnesota's Most Valuable Lifestyle Blog!


Hey everyone! I know I've already announced this on my Facebook page - but I wanted to let all those know who aren't following me on Facebook (and if you don't...you should!) Vegan Heartland has been nominated to be the best Lifestyle blog in Minnesota by my local CBS affiliate - WCCO. I would love and appreciate it if you could take the time to visit the voting site and cast your vote! It only takes 1 click - no registration - and you can vote once a day until September 9th! You can find Vegan Heartland at the very bottom since it's in alphabetical order. Thank You - Thank You! I'll be updating with a new recipe tonight...it's one of my absolute new favorites!

August 12, 2011

Chipotle Black Bean Dip


Hello everyone! I've been working hard on some new recipes! I can't wait to share them with you. Some of them are old family recipes that I've never even tried before. That has to be one of my favorite things about this blog. It's forced me to try new things. Before I was blogging, I was stuck in a rut of the same dishes every week (all of which I've already put up here). I know life gets overwhelming and other things become more important than finding something new and creative for dinner. Believe me, I've been there. Hopefully I can inspire you to try something new though. Maybe take one night a week and cook a meal for yourself or your family that you've never tried before. You just may be pleasantly surprised!

Which leads me to Chipotle Black Bean Dip! Hidden inside what seems to be this normal black bean dip is a punch to the taste buds from canned Chipotle Peppers and Adobo Sauce! I'm not someone who likes overly spicy foods - so I shied away from using too much of the peppers and sauce. If you love your food spicy, by all means add more! Make sure to taste test first though. Chipotle Peppers and Adobo sauce can be pretty spicy.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper (1 pepper, not 1 can!)
  • 1 tbsp adobo sauce (from the can)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the oil in your blender or food processor. Once the ingredients are well combined, stream in the olive oil until the dip reaches a consistency to your liking. Refrigerate and serve cold. Not only is this great with tortilla chips or carrots and celery - it's great as a sandwich spread topped with your favorite veggies!

August 10, 2011

Blackberry Peach Scones


Can you believe we're already in the last full month of Summer here in America? I'm sort of in denial I think. I can't accept that I'm going to be blasted with yet another season of Winter in a few months. I'm a little excited for Autumn though. Late Summer/Early Fall is my favorite time of the year! All of the fresh produce + the cool air. Nothing is better after a hot Summer! Plus the house isn't so hot when I turn the oven on to bake!

So even though it was hot outside today - I turned the oven on to make some scones! Thanks to one of my Facebook fans Deitre, I was inspired to try my hand at creating my own scone recipe. No big deal since I've never actually made scones before. I think I got it though! Not too wet and not too dry. Not overly sweet, but just sweet enough. If peaches and blackberries isn't your thing, try adding some of your favorite ingredients! I'm going to try a Cherry Almond Scone one of these days soon! I'll let you know how my experimenting goes!

*Makes 6 medium scones*

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup margarine (I used Earth Balance Spread)
  • 1/3 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup diced blackberries
  • 1/3 cup diced peaches

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Sift/Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Once combined add the shortening and margarine. Mix together until the shortening and margarine have incorporated with the dry ingredients and are about the size of peas. Add the applesauce, vanilla, vinegar, and milk - mix together until the dough forms. If your batter is too wet - add a little more flour until it's workable with your hands. Mix in the blackberries and peaches until well incorporated.

Roll out onto a floured surface until the dough is about 1 inch thick. Using a sharp knife - cut into triangles. Place on a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until the tops are golden, about 15-17 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

August 3, 2011

$$ VH's Money Saving Tips $$


I know that one of the main arguments that people give as to why they don't become vegetarian or vegan is that it's "too expensive". I know that's one of the things my Mom says to me all the time. Really - that isn't the case at all. Especially when you look at the big picture. Going Vegan today will save you so much money on future doctor and prescription costs in the future. The risks for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol all go down when you're consuming a diet rich in plant foods. If you're still worried about your budget - here's some tips that I've found helpful to keep my grocery bill small!

Tip #1 - Buy in Bulk


I know a lot of you have seen the bulk department in your local grocery stores - and have walked right past them. I was totally the same way until a couple of years ago. According to bulkisgreen.org, buying in bulk can save a shopper 30% to 60%! I know I've found that to be true. I buy all of my beans, grains, nuts, and seeds in bulk. You save so much money that you would normally spend on packaging. Plus, if you bring your own container (like I do!) you're saving the planet by reusing packaging!

 Tip #2 - Cook Your Own Beans


If you're following Tip #1 - you should be following tip #2! I know beans are a huge part of my diet - and are a part of most healthy Vegan diets. It's so much cheaper to buy them dried than it is to buy them canned. They take little time and energy to cook, especially if you have a pressure cooker! I love mine! To learn more about cooking your own beans and for a handy cooking time chart - read my BASICS post on cooking beans!

Tip #3 - Visit Your Local Farmer's Market


Summer is my absolute favorite time of year - and not only for the weather. Last year was the first time I went to the Farmer's Market in Downtown St. Paul and it was amazing! All of the fresh, local produce looked so delicious - and the prices were crazy good! 10 organic, local apples for $5, bunches of herbs for $1 each, a bag of lettuce for $2. The list goes on and on. Not only are you saving money, but your helping the environment by purchasing local. The food has far less distance to travel when you buy from the farmer's market. Plus you're helping your community buy buying from your local farmers!

Tip #4 - Start a Freezer Veggie Stock Container


If you use a lot of vegetable broth like you do - this strategy is such a money saver! You know all those scraps of vegetables that you don't put into your meal? You know that celery in your fridge that's looking a little limp? What do we all usually do with them? Throw them in the trash or compost them! Well I was introduced to this idea by my friend Brandi from Adventures in Midwestern America. Instead of throwing all that stuff out, store it in a food safe container in your freezer until you've stocked up (so to speak...) on enough veggies to make your own vegetable broth! It's saved me so much money! For more information on making your own broth - read my BASICS post on the topic!

Tip #5 - Grow Your Own Food

Seems kind of simple, right? Growing your own food is probably the biggest way to save money that someone can do. Even if you only have a small deck or patio to work with - you can still grow some of your favorite fruits and vegetables! On my patio right now I'm growing brocolli, kale, lettuce, basil, tomatoes, and bell peppers! It's saves you so much money - and a trip to the grocery store!

Tip #6 - Clip Coupons and Shop Sales


I know the Sunday paper usually doesn't have a ton of options for Vegan coupons. If you're willing to look elsewhere though - you can save a bundle! One of my favorite Facebook groups takes all of the work out of it for you by find the coupons FOR YOU! Vegan Coupons searches high and low for the best Vegan coupons on the web and in the paper. They even give the Sunday paper a grade every week on how "Vegan friendly" the coupon ads were! Some other great resources are Organic Deals, Mambo Sprouts, or you could even find some Vegan deals on Coupons.com!

Tip #7 - Make Your Own Bread Crumbs and Croutons

I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought bread crumbs or croutons from the store. In my opinion - they're one of the most over priced items in your grocery store! Do you have any day old bread or you know those two end pieces in the loaf of bread that nobody eats? Throw them in the freezer in a food storage bag until you need to make some breadcrumbs or croutons. For bread crumbs, thaw the bread and throw it into your food processor with some herbs and spices! For a great crouton recipe - see my recipe here!

That's all my money saving tips for you! Does anybody have any other good tips that they use to save money?