Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp

The rhubarb is ripe and ready for the pickin’, which means our family is going to be eating a LOT of rhubarb crisp (no complaints here!)

As a disclaimer, you should know that the rhubarb leaves are POISONOUS and definitely NOT EDIBLE! Cut them off and throw them away.  Because they are poisonous they should not be discarded in the compost bin 🙁

Also, make sure you gently pull at the base of the stalk — don’t cut the rhubarb with a knife or scissors as this can scar the plant. I learned this the hard way, so hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes!

Here is the simple, delicious recipe for the blueberry rhubarb crisp I made last week.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

12 stalks of rhubarb with leaves cut off

1 cup of frozen blueberries

1 cup of rolled oats

1/4 cup Earth balance butter

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 – 1/2 cup of sweetener (I used coconut sugar but you could use maple syrup or regular sugar)

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1 Tbsp chia seeds

Directions:

1. Chop rhubarb into 1 inch segments and place in baking dish (I used a 5 x 7 inch dish).

 

2. Add blueberries and mix well.

3. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of sweetener of choice onto fruit and mix again until covered.

4. Make crumble by mixing oats, Earth balance butter, cinnamon, the rest of your sweetener, flax seed and chia seeds.  Mix well.

5. Apply crumble to the top of fruit, then cook at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until fruit is cooked and crumble is golden brown.

6. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

*I wish I had an after picture of the rhubarb crisp but we ate it so fast I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture!*

 

It’s Rhubarb and Asparagus season!

In late April, we had numerous spring snow storms.  I’m talking 7 to 8 inches of cold, wet snow.  Luckily it melted pretty quickly, but it threw me for a loop.  Was it ever going to be spring? When do we plant our garden? Or start our seeds?  I’ve been feeling very behind and inadequate.  After all, we’ve never had our own backyard garden to this caliber. But it’s a dream I’ve always had, to live off the land, to grow our own food, to return to the earth.

Ruth, the woman who owned this house before us, planted everything from kale to raspberries, edible flowers to herbs I’ve never heard of.  It’s intimidating to say the least, but I’m eager to learn and develop my skills.  I have a lot to learn.

This weekend, my husband’s parents came up to help us clean up the garden (bless them!) and to our surprise, there were asparagus popping up! They did so much work prepping the garden and I can’t thank them enough.  It will be exciting to get our seedlings planted and watch them grow!

Did you know that it’s asparagus and rhubarb season?  I didn’t, but I’m excited to already have food to harvest and incorporate into our meals (thanks Ruth!) The other night, after a very long and difficult day with my daughter, I went into the garden to harvest the asparagus and rhubarb. It was therapeutic to be in the alternate universe of the garden.  It’s calming and awe-inspiring.  The Earth is abundant with beauty and nourishment, we just need to be awake enough to appreciate it.

 

 

Siri’s Simple Salsa

Hey friends! Happy Friday! I hope the weather is warmer where you live than it is here… we got 8 inches of snow a few days ago.  BUT the weather is looking glorious for this weekend (hallelujah!), and I’m been beyond ready for spring.

Yesterday I whipped up this easy salsa recipe so I thought I’d share! It’s super simple, delicious & tastes like sunshine! What could be better than that!?

Ingredients:

2 roma tomatoes

1/4 of a red onion

1-2 cloves garlic

fresh mango

fresh cilantro

one lime

garlic powder

salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Wash and chop tomatoes, onion, mango and cilantro.

2. Put in bowl.

3. Add lime juice, minced garlic and seasonings. Mix well.

4. Top with more cilantro and serve! Enjoy with chips, tacos, burritos or tofu scramble!

Vegan Sauerkraut Potato Bake!

Happy Sunday friends!

Today, I’m sharing with you an original recipe I got from my lovely mother-in-law, but with my own twist.  I was inspired to make this after she told me about how simple and delicious this recipe is, and how the potatoes take on all the flavors of the sauerkraut.  It’s a perfect recipe for St. Patrick’s Day (if you celebrate), and so easy to throw together after a long day of work.  Let me know if you try the recipe and what you think!

Ingredients:

6 red skin potatoes

1 1/2 – 2 cups of sauerkraut (I used Farmhouse Culture’s Garlic Dill pickle flavor)

1 1/2 – 2 cups meatless crumbles (I used Gardein brand)

2 slices vegan cheese (I used Follow Your Heart’s Gouda “cheese”)

2 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp turmeric powder

salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions:

*preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit*

1. Chop potatoes into quarters. Put at the bottom of a 4×6 inch baking pan.

2. Add garlic powder, turmeric powder, salt & pepper to potatoes and mix until coated.

3. Add sauerkraut and meatless crumbles and mix in with potatoes.

4. Add vegan cheese on top.

5. Cover with tin foil & bake for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are cooked all the way through.

6. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes.

7. Dish up and enjoy!

Interview with Mo Speer!

March’s interview is with the awesome and talented Mo Speer! I spoke with her in January and am excited to share her vegan journey and evolution with you.  I hope it brings you some inspiration!

My name is Mo Speer. I have been OFFICIALLY vegan for a month [almost 3, now! :D]. While I tried to jump into the lifestyle in 2017, it just wasn’t my year (I was more vegetarian than anything). For the last month though, I have been committed to eating a completely vegan diet.
 

I decided to go vegetarian on a whim in November of 2016, without much rhyme or reason behind it (but I do admit to watching a few scary documentaries about heart disease and diabetes). When I woke up January 1st of this year and everyone was talking about their new year’s resolutions I realized I had never made one, so I thought, well, this is the time to try it. Going to Luther College I had a lot of run-ins with research projects on food sustainability and food security and how the United States can do a better job of both. I feel like this is my contribution to all the food issues going on in the world right now. The main reason, which is mostly selfish :), is being better to my body and putting things in it that are going to serve me well. Since I’ve started eating vegan I have found tastier and healthier recipes and started to learn more about what is actually in the things we are eating. Nothing like label checking in the grocery store to really make you realize how many chemicals there are in the foods we eat all the time.

My favorite vegan food… I would have to say is curry or stirfry.  I love a simple veggie stir-fry either paired with couscous, quinoa or brown rice. All topped off with peanuts of course!! I have made it in so many different ways (and eaten it at Koreana, YUM) that I never get sick of it. I can’t live without… brown rice probably. And mushrooms. Mushrooms have been my saving grace, some types of mushrooms have a consistency close to meat!

Being in the company of a vegan might annoy you, but remember that when you ask them if they want a (fill in food here) and say “no, I’m vegan” that is just like saying “no I am lactose intolerant” or “no I’m allergic to peanuts.” Just because we chose this diet for ourselves does not mean we think we are better than non-vegan eaters [Yes! Amen!]. We are simply explaining in the simplest way we can that we cannot eat what you are offering because of a life choice we have made. I try to find other ways to ask about foods at restaurants, like, “Does this contain dairy products?” so I don’t lead with, “I am vegan” and immediately get nasty glares.

If you are just starting out, and I am not saying it can’t be done, but I highly encourage just starting on a vegetarian diet. While quitting cold-turkey [pun intended? ;)] can be done, most people I have talked to found it immensely less traumatizing to ease into it. After a year of being vegetarian, I had already learned tricks and tips on avoiding meat. I made the transition step-by-step. First I cut out meat, then seafood, then milk and yogurt (which I never consumed much of anyway) then this year, I finally cut out cheese and eggs (RIP breakfast burritos — I FEEL YOU!). BUT there are so many ways to make so many of your favorite foods. I have found an even better vegan version of a breakfast burrito that contains hummus, scrambled tofu and vegetables and it’s AMAZING. [Going to try this ASAP!!!]

I haven’t really been to any exclusive vegan restaurants (yet) I’ll keep you updated. I do however have a favorite website that has the best vegan recipes https://minimalistbaker.com/

The BEST thing about being vegan is slowly learning recipes that are simple yet healthy and don’t make you want to break down crying in the grocery store. It wasn’t the easiest transition to make, and meals don’t come as easy, but I find that now when I’m eating, it’s with a purpose and not just to snack on the nearest bag of sour cream and onion lays. HOWEVER, let it be known that you can still find ways to binge eat your favorite foods (even if they’re in different forms), and because it’s likely that they’re made of vegetables, you won’t feel as terrible after!

[photographs by Mo Speer]

I’m writing for Raise Vegan!

Hello friends! Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. the last month.  The universe has brought me new opportunities which has become my main focus outside of motherhood and The Vegan Steven.  In a series of fortunate events, I’ve been invited to write for an amazing website and magazine (the #1 vegan pregnancy and parenting website in the world!) called Raise Vegan. Quite honestly, I feel so fortunate and grateful to have to opportunity to write for such a large audience and use my degree in English for the first time! It has taken up a lot of my time (as I will be writing two articles per week for the website and one article for the monthly magazine), but it’s truly a joy, and all I can do is say thank you to Janet Kearney from Raise Vegan for including me on her amazing team of writers!

I’m also still trying to figure out what content to include on The Vegan Steven.  While I love vegan food, I feel that veganism can encompass so much more than just recipes.  I am entertaining the idea of showing our food forest garden journey, vegan friendly hair care and beauty products and maybe even our minimizing journey.  Are those things that interest you, or would you rather see recipes and food ideas?

Thank you for your support, encouragement and for sharing your journey with me.  Nothing makes me happier!  If I can influence even one person to eat more fruits and veggies, I will feel fulfilled.  Sending you all love and light!

~Siri Steven

 

Interview with Sarah Pugilese

Thanks to Sarah for patience with me in getting her interview posted — it’s been a crazy week! If you live on the east coast, Sarah has so many recommendations for great places to eat.  I might have to make a trip to Pittsburgh just to try all the amazing vegan cuisine! Thanks for sharing your story & insight, Sarah!

How long have you been vegan?  Short answer — since September 2014.

Why did you decide to go vegan? I stopped eating meat when I was 12, but knew eggs weren’t fertilized and cows “need” milked, so I was fine eating eggs and dairy until I went to the walk for farm animals that raises money for Farm Sanctuary in September 2014. I had been limiting dairy for dietary reasons, but still ate it with the aid of lactose pills. Gene Baur spoke at the walk and shared his first experience visiting a factory farm. He described the cages in which the layer hens are kept and how they can’t even open their wings fully or turn around. I was instantly 100% vegan. I went on to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives and the medical and scientific proof made me even more confident in my decision.

What’s your favorite vegan food? Oh gosh this is so hard. I love to make insane salads. Biggest bowl I have filled with spring mix, spiralized zucchini, quinoa, roasted veggies and potatoes, and goddess dressing or oil and vinegar. If I’m eating out, I really can’t pick a favorite. There are so many good meals out there now. I’m a big fan of brunch because I’m super lazy in the morning, so having someone else cook me pancakes or a breakfast sandwich brings me extra joy.

What are some vegan products you can’t live without? Quinoa, peanut butter, Gardein brand everything, Orgain protein powder.

What’s something you want others to know about a vegan lifestyle? It feels amazing, it’s no harder than planning meals that include meat and dairy. It’s better for your health, it’s better for our planet, and it just feels great.

Any challenges you’ve run into? The attitudes of other people and the stereotypes (I think/hope they’re slowly fading) about vegans and veganism. A lot of people ask with genuine curiosity and interest, but some ask with a tone that suggests I’m a crazy person and should probably be on my death bed by now.

Any advice you’d give to people just starting out or interested in becoming vegan? Eat the rainbow, don’t be afraid of carbs, and never say no to vegan-friendly desserts. Pinterest and Instagram are awesome resources for recipes and meal plans. Barnivore tells you what alcohols are vegan-friendly. Search “vegan food” on yelp anytime you’re going on a trip. PETA has a list of “accidentally vegan” foods; Oreos are on there. You’ll be consuming A LOT of fiber, so up your water intake and don’t be surprised if your…bathroom habits change a bit. All of the muscle I currently have on my body was built with plants. Elephants and gorillas eat a plant-based diet and they both could kick your ass.

What are your favorite vegan restaurants? Favorite all-vegan restaurants are Relish, Onion Maiden, and B52 café. Zenith is all vegetarian and has an entire brunch buffet that is vegan as well. Burgatory, Franktuary, Burgh’ers, Aladdin’s, Square Cafe and Doublewide Grill all have options for all diets. Vegan Pittsburgh’s website has tons of restaurants. I’m slowly working my way through the list. If you’re into the mail order meals, Chip and Kale is Pittsburgh-based, but ships nationally. It’s 100% vegan and the meals come with everything labeled and chopped and frozen. It’s so convenient. I know a couple other meal subscriptions have vegan options as well. My friend has done Sun Basket and has shared her meals with me. (I wish we had this many vegan-friendly restaurants in Iowa!)

What’s the best thing about being vegan? My happiness is not hurting any other living being. I am strong and healthy and confident and I don’t have to feel guilty for being that way. Oh, and if I have a “cheat meal” I can reason that it’s all plant-based, so it’s essentially a salad.

Any books or documentaries you’d recommend? I mentioned Forks Over Knives previously, What the Health is interesting too. I’ve heard great things about Cowspiracy as well, but haven’t watched it.

Any go-to recipes or vegan websites you use?  Barnivore, Vegan Pittsburgh, PETA (they’re a little extremist, but have good info regarding restaurants). I have the cookbook “Eat like you give a F*ck” but I honestly haven’t eaten out of it yet.

Anything else you’d like to talk about? I think a lot of people are convinced you’re missing something by being vegan. Taste, nutrition, experiences… with the growing popularity of veganism, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Knowing how to properly fuel my body has me in the best shape of my life and the only supplements I take are B12 (most people should take it anyway) and a probiotic. I probably have a more well-balanced diet than most omnivores.

Product Review : Amy’s Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is one of our family’s favorite meals for lunch.  It’s quick, delicious, nutritious and incredibly easy to dress up. Not to mention affordable! We love Amy’s vegetable lentil — while making it from scratch would be ideal, this soup is hearty & comforting, especially with whole grain bread to dip into it!

 

On this day, we added Tofutti sour cream, green onion, a squeeze of lime & a dash of hot sauce.  It’s also wonderful with nutritional yeast & garlic salt sprinkled on top, as well as slices of avocado.  We sometimes eat it over a bed of brown rice and topped with fresh cilantro. The possibilities are endless, and having a variety of flavors keeps it exciting when we have this meal nearly once or twice a week! Our one year old daughter loves it, too, and it’s a great source of iron, fiber & protein. Plant protein for the win!

Interview with Rachel Rattenborg

Thanks so much to Rachel for taking the time to answer all my burning questions! It’s so nice to have a vegan friend in town! And thanks to YOU for reading my first interview here on The Vegan Steven! Enjoy! 

Name: Rachel Rattenborg

How long you’ve been vegan: About 8 months.

 Why did you decide to go vegan?: I’ve always avoided red meats and tried to eat as few processed foods as possible.  I dabbled with being a vegetarian in college when I was first really exposed to it, but didn’t maintain that after I graduated.  I have been dairy-free for about two years, so that wasn’t as much of a challenge.  When I moved away from my hometown, it was harder for me to find ethically sourced animal products (well, all food in general) from places and people I knew and trusted.  I also started watching a ton of documentaries about industrial farming on Netflix and that was the final straw.  I’d highly recommend watching Food, Inc., What The Health, Cowspiracy, and the show Rotten.  I just couldn’t justify compromising my morals for convenience anymore.
Favorite vegan food: DONUTS. (Huge shout out to Rachel for bringing us back the most glorious vegan donuts from the east coast.)
Vegan products you can’t live without: I always have dry beans, whole grains, nut milk, vegan butter, and spices on hand – you can make ANYTHING as long as you have those basics!
What’s something you want others to know about a vegan lifestyle:  How freeing it is!  I thought that going vegan would be restrictive because of the elimination of animal products, but it’s really diversified my cooking skills!  It is so much easier to go to the grocery store when you can completely skip entire sections of it.  I promise.
Any challenges you’ve run into?: I went vegan in a small city and then moved back to my hometown, a small rural town in Iowa literally surrounded by dairy and pigs.  I definitely got used to having vegan options in restaurants in a bigger city, it’s been a challenge finding things I can eat when I go out with my family and friends.  But I know at least one item on the menu at all my favorite spots in town now, so I always have a go-to wherever I’m eating out.  That’s been tremendously helpful!
Any advice you’d give to people just starting out or interested in becoming vegan?:  Google is your best friend!  Want to know what candy to buy for Halloween?  Just Google it.  Traveling to a new city and need a place for dinner?  Google it.  Looking for that perfect vegan Oreo cheesecake truffle recipe?  Google it.  Sick of people picking fights about protein with you and need a witty comeback?  Google.  It.  Interested in why honey isn’t vegan but not sure how you personally feel about it?  That’s right, Google it!  AND, like, you’re definitely going to consume an animal product in some form, at some point, it’s inevitable.  Don’t beat yourself up about it, and don’t use that as a reason to not keep with it!  The goal isn’t perfection, not by a long shot.  Just keep being as aware as you can be, educating yourself, and trying your best and you’ll be just fine.
Favorite vegan restaurant: APTEKA in Pittsburgh! (http://aptekapgh.com/menu/) They were voted Best Restaurant in Pittsburgh in 2016 and they definitely live up to the hype.  I still have dreams about their salads and pierogies! Oh and their vegetable pate!  And the floral sodas…. okay, I love everything there!
What’s the best thing about being vegan?:  Getting to share it with my friends and family!  I’m so fortunate to have people in my life who are supportive and curious – and willing to go to vegan restaurants with me when I go to visit them!  It’s really nice to be able to cook a vegan meal for a friend and then talk about the ethics behind it.
Anything else you’d like to talk about: Thanks for asking me to participate, it was so much fun answering these questions.  A few of them are things I’ve never taken the time to really put into words, so this has been helpful for me as well!  It’s been a real treat sharing recipes, donuts, and other small town advice with you!  Maybe one day we’ll open a vegan breakfast joint together! (Likewise, Rachel! It would be a dream to open a vegan restaurant here in little northeast Iowa! :D)

Product Review — Gardein Crispy Tenders

 Eating a vegan diet isn’t hard when there are products out in the world like this.  My husband picked these up on a whim & we tried them this weekend, and I was SHOCKED at how much they taste like chicken (from what I remember) & how much the texture mimics meat.  While eating them, I was nervous that Matt had picked up real chicken tenders without realizing it, but thankfully these are fully vegan & even Kosher, if that’s important to you! I even checked the package twice just to make sure these were plant based tenders; that’s how good these are.  Needless to say, there are two bags in our freezer for an easy “chickn” salad for lunch.

These Gardein tenders get a 9.5/10 from me!