Friday, July 30, 2010


I've had some people ask me about my experiences with dehydrating. I really don't have a lot so I was hoping someone else who has more knowledge on the subject could jump in.

I have had my dehydrator for about a year. I had been thinking about buying one for awhile, but I didn't really know which one to get. I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that I may or may not end up using often.

I ended up buying this Nesco at Wal-Mart. The only reason I chose this particular model/brand: it's the only dehydrator I could find when I went looking. I'm such an immediate gratification kind of person. When I set my mind to getting something, I don't like to wait. So, no, I didn't read reviews on it or anything before I purchsed it. It cost around $30-40. I like it just fine, I guess, but I don't have anything to compare it to. The thing I like least about dehydrating: the noise. None of us here are fans of the roar. I have to turn it off when we're eating or just desiring a few minutes of peace and quiet.

So..I've showed you my chips

and my eggplant bacon.

I have also made Matthew Kenney's Blueberry Pancakes (from everyday raw). This is what it looked like before I took it off the sheet. I guess I used wax paper rather than parchment paper here, and that was not a wise choice. It was very difficult to get off the sheets. I think there is a difference in baking wax paper and regular wax paper. I have no idea which one I used, and did we just eat wax?

So my pancakes weren't as pretty once I peeled them off. We did like these. I don't think that I would make them again. I thought they tasted more like a cookie, and they were really too sweet for my liking (I didn't even use near the amount of sweetener that it called for.) I recommend this recipe only for people who are SERIOUS about choosing raw over cooked. I prefer cooked pancakes and choosing raw in other areas.
The next thing I want to make out of his book is "tofu" out of cashews and coconut meat, among other things.

I experimented for all of you who do not have a dehydrator. (The ingredients to these pancakes are primarily water, pine nuts, bananas, and pecans.) I poured two circles on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at my lowest setting (170) for part of the day. They also turned out. (They had slightly more of a "cooked" feel since that was the lowest temperature my oven allows.)

I only actually ended up with one pancake out of the oven. I had to take the cookie sheet out of the oven for awhile (while it was still batter-y) to cook something else. My 5 year old comes walking into the room, holding a bowl of something and a spoon. "Yum, this pudding is really good!"

I've put kale (lightly oiled and salted) in the dehydrator several times. I still haven't made cheezey sauce kale chips I always see around, but I really want to!

I probably prefer my fruits fresh and juicy. I might also prefer my kids to eat them that way, as well. However, they LOVE dehydrated fruit. The main reason I like to make dehydrated fruit occasionally: it's less messy and a quick snack for on-the-go. (Otherwise, I probably wouldn't even bother with it.) I would much rather them eat dehydrated fruit in the car or in their bedrooms, etc.

Speaking of dehydrators...look what mine has seemingly done to my counter. I have this amazingly long, beautiful countertop in my 2 1/2 year old house. I did wonder about the heat of the machine discoloring the counter; however, I kept checking on it, and that didn't seem to be a concern. I had no idea it would melt the glue. I hope I'll be able to fix this gap and make it good as new. I'll have to start dehydrating in our homeschool room. :0

Please give me any advice or thoughts you have
about dehydrating and dehydrators!

Which dehydrator do you recommend? Is the Exalibur 3900 the absolute best? Do you use it more if you can leave it on the counter all of the time? Do you think the Exalibur would create the same kind of problem for my countertop? Are all dehydrators loud, or is it just mine? What about the teflex sheets - I assume they are safe since everyone seems to use them - are these made just for the slide out square (rectangle?) trays? Do these make a big difference/improvement over just using parchment paper?
What are your favorite foods/recipes for the dehydrator? Should I even dehydrate fruit or just let my kids eat it fresh everytime?

Thanks for any advice or thoughts you have!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Giveaway Winner Announced & What I Ate Monday

Thank you so much for participating in my giveaway! It was really fun. What wasn't fun was drawing a number. I have no idea why, but I felt nervous inside; I wanted everyone to win.

I'm a little lame that way.

It's the same reason I annoy my husband terribly when I watch Illinois basketball with him on t.v. After 12 years of marriage, I have arrived at a place of sharing this interest with him. And I am genuinely happy with him when his team wins. I always feel bad for the other team, though. Which drives him crazy.

Sooo...the winner, chosen by Random Number Generator was...#1: "MaudPryor" over at Food Feud.

Stay tuned because I'm actually having another giveaway sometime in the next week! You'll get a chance to win a gift from CSN Stores. They are generously offering a $40 gift certificate to one of you.

Now - what I ate on Monday:

French Toast for breakfast (very quickly made just by dipping my bread in almond milk, nutritional yeast, and cinnamon) with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and walnuts. And more cinnamon sprinkled on top...I'm trying to up my cinnamon intake.

Lunch: a Food for Life gluten-free tortilla with melted Daiya, tomato sauce, lettuce, grated yellow squash, sprouts, and Upton's Naturals seitan crumbles.

I very rarely have oatmeal for supper, even though my husband does that frequently. I wanted to enter Chocolate Covered Katie's giveaway, though, which requires a post about making a Breakfast Sundae. (Hopefully, a Breakfast Sundae for supper counts. I actually had this same thing - minus the chocolate and add apples instead of bananas - for breakfast this morning.) Of course, when I do eat oatmeal for supper, I think, "This is so delicious. Why don't I always eat oatmeal for supper?"

For my Breakfast Sundae, I used steel cut oats topped with slivered almonds, a little squirt of agave nectar, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and "Peaches and Cream."

I experimented by pureeing some silken tofu with 2 fresh peaches. I wish I could have made it thicker. I was at my mom's house, though, and my resources were limited.

I liked it, though! It was so good I had another bowl. This time I smothered it with Peaches and Cream and used almonds, strawberries, and chocolate chips. Oh, how I love chocolate chips that are just a little soft from being warm but firm enough to bite into. :)

Speaking of giveaways...I was so excited that I won Vegan Backpacker's Secret Society of Vegans t-shirt giveaway! Thank you, Vegan Backpacker and Vx!

Other things going on right now (but not much longer!):
Cereal Giveaway at Une Vie Saine
One Lucky Duck giveaway at Clean Eats in the Dirty South
$50 Gift Certificate to CSN at Opera Singer in the Kitchen
Mission: Impossible Pies e-book at All About...(vegan) food!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

God Bless Texas...and Spiral Diner

We took a bit of a spontaneous road trip to Dallas this week. We had thought about it for a week or two, but we didn't totally make up our minds about it until the day of. The reason for our journey? It was my BIRTHDAY! And Dallas, 5 1/2 hours away, is home to the closest-to-us vegan restaurant (of this type, at least).

In what seem like perfect-fated timing - right when we were getting into the car, Mr. UPS Man drops this box off on our front porch. (Ryan didn't think it was going to arrive on time and planned on having my parents pick it up.) He had ordered a few different treats from Pangea, especially for my "big day." My favorite? Probably the Cinnamon Rolls. The S'More Brownies were very interesting, as well. (We didn't take them all with us; I put some of it away in the freezer.)

peanut butter cup in the center of a peanut butter cookie bar

We arrived in Dallas around 7, driving straight to Spiral Diner.
(We didn't even have a hotel picked out yet.)

We started off the meal with the Chip & Dip Party. 10 Thumbs Up.

The kids split a Strawberry Slushie. I thought it was going to be more like an Icee - it was basically just a strawberry smoothie, but it didn't last long.

Savory Seitan Wrap for me...The Ate Layer Burrito for Ryan

I liked mine a lot - definitely "savory" and spicy. I thought Ryan's was good - but a little too much like something I would have at home...and it said there was going to be taco meat in it, but I don't think there was.

Here's the thing...we could probably just make anything on the menu at why drive 5 hours? It's just fun to be able to sit in a restaurant once in awhile and choose from anything on the menu. Ya know? It's fun to be able to let the kids choose anything they want. This kid was beyond thrilled to order a grilled cheese at a restaurant, something he never gets to do.

The other two ordered quesadillas. (I thought it was a little strange that they put jalapenos on a kids' menu item.)

Dessert: Ryan shared a strawberry milkshake with the kids, and I shared chocolate cheesecake with the kids. So when you're reading this post and thinking, she can really put it away...keep in mind, everything is being shared by 5! :)

We spent the next morning at the Museum of Nature & Science, located at Fair Park in Dallas. We would definitely like to go back there sometime. We could have spent the entire day, but we only had about 3 hours.

I have a few really great friends in Dallas, and I was sad it didn't work out for us to see any of time...

Back at Spiral Diner for my "official" birthday lunch.

I wanted to try a chocolate milkshake,
but I knew I didn't need the calories.

No worries - I had plenty of volunteers to help me out.

Ryan ordered the Philly Cheeze Steak Sandwich because he knew I was having a hard time choosing against it. We always like ordering two different sandwiches, then splitting them. This one was delicious.

We also split The Mitch. Oh, man, it was soooo good, with "bacon" and grilled tofu plus avocado. And there is an extra layer of bread in the middle.

This kid was, once again, thrilled with his meal, Sketti & Meatballs. The other two hung tight with quesadillas this time, as well.

Even though we were ordering icecream, Ryan snuck around and got me a cupcake so that he could put a candle in it for me. I am a fan of getting to make a wish on my birthday.

If you look closely at my son's face, you can see how horrified he is that I actually blew out my birthday candle. I mean, imagine that, wanting to blow out your own birthday candle.

I ended up relighting it three more times so they could each have a turn. I'm going to remind them of this on their birthdays; I'm going to throw a fit to blow out their candles.

We were pretty full at this point and thought we were only ordering a small one-scoop sundae. Not so.

However, the kids weren't complaining.

Next stop: Dinosaur Valley State Park.
We swam, amongst the footprints of dinosaurs from long ago. It was super fun, relaxing, and a great way to spend my birthday.

It was already nearing 8:00 when we were going to be passing the exit for Spiral Diner...we knew it was going to be a late night, anyway...why not hit it one last time to help make that 5 1/2 hour drive more pleasant? Right? We called ahead and picked up another The Mitch for me, this Chopped BBQ Sandwich for Ryan, and a Grilled Cheese & Baby Aven (broccoli, sweet potato, pineapple chunks, and green peas)for the kids to share.

Now - off to eat a raw salad and work out to shed these 2 pounds I seemingly gained from all of these sandwiches and sweets...yikes...and catch up on my blog reading!

What's your favorite restaurant?
Did you eat anything this week that you regret?
My vegan snacks giveaway is open until Tuesday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I Ate Today - And I'm Having a Giveaway!

I'm having a giveaway, which starts tonight...but first...

I always enjoy reading the "What I Ate Today" posts...
so here is what I ate today.

oatmeal for breakfast

A Sunshine Burger (always my purchased burger of choice) with salad on the side. On top of my burger was a version of Heather's (from Where's the Beach?) Vegan Spinach and Sundried Tomato Dip.

I sadly didn't have any spinach so I substituted broccoli. I also didn't have any basil. So this is how mine turned out. I liked it! Definitely a fun topper for a veggie burger, besides being a yummy dip. I'm always up for a good artichoke recipe.

My lunch plate doesn't always look so pretty.
We're really not that fancy around here.

I had a brownie for a snack.

At some point, I also had a few little bites of the kids' dried mango, but I didn't get a picture of that.

For supper I cooked the spaghetti squash that my parents picked up for me at the farmers' market. I added tomato sauce (365 brand Organic Pasta Sauce) and a can of Eden brand organic Aduki beans. And of course, a little Daiya. This isn't my plate. It's the main serving dish; just letting you know in case you were frightened by the size of my meal.

And now for the giveaway!

I am doing this on my own to celebrate my new blog and how much fun it has been already. (I have loved getting to know all of you better through your comments and your blogs!).

Up for grabs: a bag of Mrs. May's Cashew Crunch, a box of Nature's Path: Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola, a pack of Natural Desserts Strawberry Jel mix, a box of Natural Desserts Instant Vanilla Pudding mix, an 8 oz. bag of Nutiva Shelled Hempseeds, a pack of B-Fresh Bubble Gum, Barbara's Bakery Vanilla Snackimals Animal Cookies, Sea's Gift Roasted Seaweed Snack, earnest eats baked whole food bar, a trial size of Justin's Chocolate Peanut Butter Blend, and a bag of Bare Fruit organic dried mangos.

I just grabbed a few vegan snack foods & treats that I thought would be lightweight and easy to ship. Hopefully, there is something here that interests you.

Will I ship overseas? Yes, to some places. If you win and you are overseas, I'll check to see, depending on where you are located. If I have to, maybe I'll switch things up a bit, to make it fit in a smaller envelope. But I'll make sure you get something fun!

To enter, you just have to be a follower on Google Friend Connect. If you're not a follower, click on the Follow button on the right side of my blog. Leave a comment, something along the lines of "Enter me." (If your follower profile has a different name or no link, please make sure I know who you are - I hate it when I can't visit a new follower's blog because I can't tell who it is.)

Add another entry if vegan and so forth is on your blog list.

For TWO EXTRA entries, mention this giveaway on your blog or on Twitter and leave the link for me on two more separate comments.

I'll choose a random number Tuesday evening, July 27.

Will I ship overseas? Um...not sure yet. I'll let ya know that one tomorrow. I honestly have no earthly idea how much it costs to ship overseas. If it's an extra ten bucks, sure - an extra twenty or more, I can't. :( I'll edit this part tomorrow.

Thanks for playing along!

Monday, July 19, 2010

We Ate Mexican-y Last Night with a Lot of Raw

I've mentioned that I'm trying to get out of this rut and recapture a love for cooking. I think that when you have kids, sometimes - in a way - cooking can start to become a chore. Don't get me wrong. I really love doing cooking projects with them. My kids are so much fun, and they love it.

Like this one from quite awhile back (when my daughter was still in onesies...she's wearing my Martha Washington cap from my 6th grade Constitution play because we couldn't find the third chef hat)...I originally posted about using the Arrowhead Mills Organic Brownie mixes here.

And I happily love to nourish them with home cooking. However, it's not always fun to cook when you are constantly stopping to break up fights, help out in the bathroom, and listen to, "I'm hungry!" repeatedly, etc. I don't like to talk while I'm cooking. I like to cook the same way I like to clean - all by myself. Deep down, I really am "thankful in all things," and I know there will come a time I'll miss the little interruptions...sigh.

I say all of that to say this...I had the most enjoyable meal preparation time last night. I think Child #1 was on the computer, and #2 and #3 (Thing 1 and Thing 2) were upstairs or something. (I TRY to arrange something like this every time I want to cook alone, but it doesn't always work out this way.) I got to just mill around, enjoying my nice big kitchen. I feel like if I drank wine (I don't like wine.), this would have been the perfect time to do so.

I didn't think I had enough avocados (I only had 1 big one plus another half.) for regular guacamole so I just chopped the avocados and added chopped tomatoes, garlic, salt, and salsa. Trying to be "fancy," I put it in a cereal bowl and turned it upside down on the plate.

I am a little embarrassed to say...this was one of the first times I've ever made homemade refried beans. (I am so pathetic.) I'm really excited about it, and YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: I am never buying canned refried beans again. I don't buy a lot of canned food, anyway, because it freaks me out, but refried beans are one of the things I always pick up in a rush. I liked mine much better, anyway. This time I just soaked and cooked the pinto beans and put them in the food processor with some spices. I was trying to keep them relatively benign for my 5 year old.

I put them in a casserole dish with Daiya and set it in the oven...mmm.

Finally, I just made a salad with lettuce and some parsley and beet greens I needed to use up, plus chopped bell peppers, olives, and salsa.
The night before, I made some of Matthew Kenny's Golden Tortilla Chips for the dehydrator. I wrote about trying his Eggplant Bacon recipe here. The chips were another successful raw venture. They mostly consist of thawed frozen organic corn, water, and flax meal - plus onions and spices.

The negative is that it takes 12-24 hours in the dehydrator.
(I think I took them out at about 18 hours.) My whole family ate them really well:
10 thumbs up.

I didn't know if there would be enough chips, so I made some extra ones by baking my Food for Life Gluten-Free tortilla shells. I brushed a little olive oil on the kids' chips but left off the extra fat on Ryan's and mine.

As soon as she started eating, my 3 year old daughter asked for some "mustard and ketchup." The kid loves mustard and ketchup. I squirted a little mustard on her plate but drew the line at ketchup. She was dipping her chips in the mustard; she wanted more and was mad because I told her she had to dip them in her beans and guacamole, not mustard. Poor, deprived child.

A few giveaways I'm mentioning: Vegan Backpacker is having a giveaway for a Secret Society of Vegans t-shirt and badge.

Vegan Crunk is having a giveaway for Soap Nuts Laundry Soap.

Love Veggies and Yoga is having a giveaway for a $100 gift certificate to CSN Stores.

And get excited because I'm going to be having a fun vegan food giveaway, sometime during the next day or two!