Cooking with Laura Miller: A cookbook review

IMG_0125

Let me just preface this by saying that I have a high appreciation for Laura Miller. I follow her on Instagram and YouTube. I’ve watched her videos and even bought two of her #froobs shirts.

Now that that’s out of the way, I think a more accurate title for this cookbook review is “I tried cooking with Laura Miller and it didn’t work out.”

In case you’re not familiar with who Laura Miller is, she’s a YouTuber and raw vegan who started selling her raw desserts at a farmer’s market in San Francisco and moved up the entrepreneurial ladder to YouTube which then led to a really positive and large following on Instagram. The husky-voiced, raw vegan has a really fun and goofy personality on camera where she shares her raw food creations which include pop-tarts and cinnamon buns.

A month or so ago, Laura released her first raw, vegan cookbook titled “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross” which is also the name of her YouTube series. She’s great and I was beyond excited to see a vegan cookbook, much less a raw vegan cookbook at my local library in Iowa. The images are beautiful and in true Laura Miller fashion, there’s a lot of pictures of Laura wearing mushroom shoulder pads and hats made from bananas.

So similar to my last cookbook review on Minimalist Baker’s cookbook, I picked 3 recipes from “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” donned my avocado froobs shirt (I don’t know about you

froobs image
You better believe I wore this shirt out in public.

but I always cook better when I have produce on my boobs) and got cooking. Without using the stove.

My mantra for this experience was, “Keep an open mind and try to eat everything.

First up was obviously breakfast and the Feel Better Green Shake, which Laura Miller says isn’t for people who need their shakes to taste like a pina colada. Okay,  point taken and I accept the challenge. It’s alkalizing! Low-glycemic! Packed with vitamins! And if you’re special, it can give you magical unicorn powers! Not really, I added that myself.

I added the kale and chopped the green apple. Threw in the cucumber and the cinnamon and ginger. And then I got to the part where you add a whole grapefruit. Like an entire mother-f***kn’ grapefruit!

Remember when I said that cucumbers were my most hated food? Yeah, I’m sorry but I forgot that I really, really, really, really hate grapefruits above anything else. They’re way to sour and I’ve never been able to understand how people, especially my grandparents, can just shovel a raw grapefruit into their mouths for breakfast. But I added it. I added the whole damn thing because I am stupid and bought two at the grocery store and needed to get rid of at least one. Speaking of which, if any of my co-workers are reading this and you want a grapefruit I’ll give it to you free of charge).

IMG_0136I know I said that my mantra was to try and eat everything. I really tried but even a mason jar couldn’t make this Feel Better Green Shake taste good. I don’t think it was the recipe. I think it was me because I hate grapefruits. By the way, did you know I hate grapefruits? I give this shake a 2 out of 5. The cinnamon was nice and the grapefruit overpowered the kale enough but it was just too much. Way too much and I dumped it out at work. Sorry guys.

Next, lunch! Well, a lunch snack. I saw that Laura included a recipe for ranch dressing and who doesn’t love ranch dressing? Ranch on pizza. Ranch with Chik’un tenders. Ranch with potatoes. Ranch with everything! Plus I really liked the name she chose, so I soaked my cashews and chopped up my dill and made When I Dip You Dip We Dip Ranch. I tried it with carrots. I tried it with Gardein tenders. I tried it on its own. I tried.

Long story short, the ranch turned out nothing like Hidden Valley or the salad dressing ranch you would expect and more like a cashew-tzatziki dip. I think it was the cashews which made the texture too thick and the dill which made it too Greek and less Midwest. But it wasn’t terrible so I give it 3 out of 5 stars. Edible, but not up to expectations.

At this point I felt like I was in a bad relationship with the cookbook. I was so close to saying, “It’s not you. It’s me. I just don’t like dill and I don’t like grapefruit. I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is working.”

I had one more recipe and I chose a cold avocado and ginger soup to try and have a real raw vegan dinner. I loved how little prep this recipe has. You just blend up avocados with ginger, cilantro, lime juice, and spices and you’re G2G (you know, good to go). Awesome! I

IMG_0140
The beginning of the soup, which photographs really well.

don’t have to get the stove dirty! YAY for adulthood!

I kept an open mind, but I just couldn’t finish the bowl. I put it in the fridge to try if eating the cold soup actually cold would help and it didn’t. Again, I don’t think it was the recipe. I think it’s me. I think that I added too much lime juice and the avocado texture was too rich. Out of all of the recipes, I have to rate this one lower at 1 out of 5 stars.

This is where the “It’s not you, it’s me” phrase really comes in. I don’t think the let down was “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” or Laura Miller. I think the let down was me and my tastebuds. Laura has created a beautiful cookbook with pictures that I would frame and hang on my wall, but my tastebuds were not prepared for real raw, vegan food. When you don’t heat your ingredients and when you take out oils the flavors get more complex and more real and I wasn’t ready for that.

IMG_0146
And the finished product with an aloe plant photobomb.

Will I be purchasing my own copy? Probably not. At the beginning of this I would have said yes and bought my own copy. There is a really delicious looking banana cream pie plus some tasty-looking raw deserts in the back, but everything else is not for me. I’ll still wear my #froobs shirt with pride and I’ll still follow Laura on Instagram and YouTube because this experience wasn’t the cookbook’s fault. It was my fault by adding too much grapefruit and too much dill.

I really hope that this review doesn’t turn you off of testing out “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” for yourself. It was a lot of fun to explore raw vegan food and I encourage you to try and find a copy and get creative in the kitchen and cook with Laura Miller for yourself. Hell, I’ll probably test out that banana cream pie recipe before I return my copy to the library. And of course, I’ll still support Laura Miller because her YouTube and Instagram makes me happy.

Sincerely,

Signature[1]

This post was not sponsored in anyway. All opinions are my own.

 

Advertisements

Cooking with Minimalist Baker: a cookbook review

IMG_0122Minimalist Baker is a hidden gem among  plant-based/vegan cooking. Dana’s recipes are sometimes simple, sometimes complex, and always perfect; which was why when I found her new cookbook, “Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes” in my small, local library I was very, very excited.

Squee!!!

What’s the best way to actually use a cookbook you ask? Pick three recipes and test them out. I’ll be doing the same with Laura Miller’s new book, “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.

For this round of cookbook reviews I picked out Dana’s Super Green Juice, Savory Eggless Benedict, and Herb-Marinated Tofu (because I am the worst at making flavorful tofu, like seriously terrible at it).

First up, breakfast for dinner, aka the Savory Eggless Benedict. A few weeks ago I went and had brunch at a local vegan restaurant where I ordered, you guessed it, vegan eggs Benedict. The tofu egg patty was perfect, but the hollandaise left a lot to be desired and I think it’s because they used a cashew base for the sauce. Minimalist Baker’s recipe uses almond milk, flour, nutritional yeast, and other spices. Pan-roasted tomato slices, ripe avocado, and purple onions replace the eggs. My cook time took about fifteen minutes longer than the estimated thirty only because there was a lot of prep to set up.

IMG_0130
Look at that beaut.

Final verdict? 4 out of 5 stars. In my personal opinion, eggs Benedict (vegan or not) is nothing, and I repeat, nothing without a good hollandaise sauce. If the hollandaise is terrible then you’re just eating eggs (or in this case deconstructed gauc) on an english muffin. No one wants that. Minimalist Baker’s hollandaise had the tang and creaminess of a traditional hollandaise sans the eggs and butter explosion. I licked my plate. Twice.

Next on the plate was the Herb-Marinated Tofu. When I say that I am terrible at cooking tofu I mean that I can make a chocolate tofu mousse and a tofu scramble that is edible but not good. I want to eat tofu that makes me sing like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Dana’s herb-marinated tofu was the answer. Basil, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic make for a beautifully delicious marinade. I think the secret, and maybe I shouldn’t share, is that Minimalist Baker has you soak the tofu cubes in a brine for one hour before marinating. Pure genius. I crumbled some of the finished tofu and put it on top of a Greek-style salad with some kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes and used some of the marinade as a salad dressing. The tofu has a texture like soft mozzarella after marinating overnight and a taste that’s between mozzarella and feta. It was magical on a salad and by itself. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

And finally, the giant green monster known as the Super Green Juice. I heard that when you drink green juices you turn into a magical unicorn with the superpowerIMG_0133s of a Victoria’s Secret model. While I can’t comment of if that’s true or not, I can comment on this juice. My blender was packed with spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro (a sketchy thing to add, but I’ll try it), celery, cucumber, lemon juice, banana (for more sweetness), pineapple, green apple, and fresh ginger. Basically everything except a green bell pepper.

Since I don’t own a juicer I was pretty happy that Dana had a little juicing hack up her sleeve. You blend up all of the produce and pour it into a clean kitchen towel to strain out the pulp. Once again Minimalist Baker, you are a genius.

Did it make a mess? You bet it did. Did I get green pulp everywhere including on my rented library book? You bet I did. Did I add too much ginger because I don’t know how much a “small knob of fresh ginger” is? Yes. Unfortunately, I did. After straining and chilling, I was left with a green juice that may or may not give me unicorn powers. I rate this juice at 3 out of 5 stars only because I think I added too much ginger which really overpowers everything, and not enough pineapple. But I couldn’t taste the cilantro, the celery or my most-hated food, cucumber.

IMG_0134
This juice is just too beautiful to look at.

Overall my journey into Minimalist Baker’s kitchen was a successful one. I will be buying my own copy because I love this cookbook and the library will have to pry it from my cold, green-juice clutching hands. “Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes” covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and drinks and it seems like a great cookbook for new vegans, long-time vegans, and even omnivores who just want to learn how to cook more creatively.

Job well done.

Signature[1]

This post was not sponsored in anyway. All opinions are my own.

 

My favorite vegan resources

cruelty free logo

Below is a growing list of blogs, YouTube accounts, cookbooks, documentaries and more that are my favorites. These all have been helpful in my transition to veganism and living a cruelty-free lifestyle. Some open my mind and make me more aware. Some give me inspiration while cooking. And others offer me health advice when I needed it.

Cooking Blogs and Helpful Resources

  • Hot for Food: I’m listing this at the top because Lauren and John are vegan cooking magicians! If I had to pick one YouTube channel or food blog as my favorite, Hot for Food would be it. On their YouTube channel  you can find simple and complex recipes, but all vegan; like Tofu Benny with Vegan Hollandaise, Vegan Poutine, and fun appetizer challenges where they find what they have in their fridge and come up with a recipe on the fly. Hot for Food proves that vegan cooking doesn’t mean eating grass and dirt and that all you need is a little creativity when cooking a vegan meal.
  • the Vegan 8: All of Brandi’s recipes are 8 ingredients or less, vegan, oil-free, and nearly gluten-free.
  • Minimalist Baker: This is hands-down my favorite cooking website by far. Dana is a miracle worker with vegan cooking and has recipes for comfort foods and more creative foods. My Pinterest account has many a pins from her recipe collection.
  • I Love Vegan: The recipe posts are similar to Minimalist Baker, but this site is where I got the bulk of my research from. There is an extensive collection of posts under the “Vegan Resources” tab that cover topics like the basics of veganism, building a healthy grocery lists, and how to transition to veganism.
  • Cadry’s Kitchen: What initially drew me to this blog was not just the vegan recipes, but the posts about becoming vegan that provide advice and create a general dialogue and conversation about the vegan lifestyle. Peruse through Cadry’s website. She was a great resource for me when I was researching.
  • Logical Harmony: This is the website that I turned to once I was ready to start switching all my personal care products to cruelty-free replacements. You’ll find lists for cruelty-free nail polishes, hair products, and more. Plus explanations about cruelty-free certifications and logos like Leaping Bunny.

YouTube & Social Media

  • Sweet Potato Soul: Jenné describes herself as a Georgia peach living in NYC. Her YouTube videos showcase her recipes which are influenced by her southern roots (think vegan New Orleans red rice and beans). I think she’s an absolute doll and her food is beyond amazing. She’s definitely breaking the stereotype that vegans only eat salads and I’m so, so, so, soooo happy that I stumbled across her YouTube channel. Whenever I watch one of her videos I feel inspired, and fresh, and just happy. Be sure to check out her website as well. That’s where you can find the full recipes for dinners, breakfasts, and more. My favorite so far are her Vegan Chipotle Sweet Potato Enchiladas.
  • Niomi Smart: She considers herself plant-based, not vegan, but I love Niomi’s positive and happy outlook in her videos as well as her fitness and cooking videos. When she does post cooking videos, they are simple and fresh with minimal processed foods. She also has a fully vegan cookbook coming out in September!
  • That Vegan Couple: I found their videos a few months ago and I’ve been subscribed ever since. I would describe their channel as a toned down version of Freelee the Banana Girl’s. These two focus on the health impacts of a vegan diet but mostly focus on the ethics of animal welfare. Sometimes they can get nitpicky, but you can tell it’s because they are passionate about veganism and hold it dear to their hearts; it doesn’t come out of hate.
  • @conscious_muscle: What do you get with you cross a manbun, a muscled-out weightlifter, and a vegan? You get Jordan David, AKA conscious_muscle on Instagram. Jordan was the guy I turned to when I needed help nailing down a vegan meal plan and he spends his time on his farm sanctuary and trying to break the stereotype that vegans don’t get enough protein. He also has a YouTube channel that has been slowly growing.

Documentaries

  • Forks Over KnivesCurious about the health benefits of a vegan/plant-based diet compared to a standard omnivore diet? This documentary is thoroughly interesting as well as informative which might be why so many vegans recommend watching it. Forks Over Knives helped me make the selfish, personal decision to switch to a plant-based diet for my health.
  • Cowspiracy: This is one of my favorite documentaries to date. Cowspiracy focuses on the detrimental environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Once I saw how much land and water it takes to raise 10 cattle compared to growing a vegetable garden for a family of four, I was blown away. This documentary hit close to home because I currently live in Iowa where cattle and pig farming is a big industry. Every day I pass at least one slaughter truck on my way to or from work.

Podcasts

  • Muscles by Brussels Radio!: Giacomo and Dani are competitive physique competitors and vegan. They talk about topics like cutting fat, bulking, and protein as vegan weightlifters.

Why I decided to “go vegan” Part 2

VeganismA-04_o
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here

When I was about 7 years old my cousin and I declared to my other Grandma (Mom’s mom) that we would no longer sleep on her pillows because they had down and we wouldn’t eat the honey sticks she bought us. She probably thought her 7 and 6 year old grandchildren were a handful.

So in October, 2015 my Dad called me to let me know that my Grandma had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and that the doctors estimated that she would last until the holidays. No one knew how she developed lung cancer and while she lasted until the day before Valentine’s Day of this year (2016) it eventually spread to her brain and other areas.

In December 2015, I started looking into the vegan lifestyle by searching for vegan recipes on Pinterest and then progressed into searching for vegan meal plans. I found a few YouTubers and eventually watched Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives (which I highly recommend. If you need personal a reason to consider switching over to veganism, then start with Forks Over Knives. It’s highly enlightening)

After researching protein sources, vitamin deficiencies, examples of vegan meal plans, and watching some videos, I realized that a plant-based diet could give me control over my health and body.

During one of the last phone calls I had with my Grandma, when she was able to remember what she was saying and that I was still on the line, I remember her telling me “Sarah, don’t eat all that crap. Don’t eat meat or junk; take care of yourself so you don’t end up like me.” Now, I know that how she had cared for herself wasn’t the absolute cause of her developing cancer—that lung cancer can develop even if you haven’t smoked or smoked in thirty plus years—but what she said really struck a cord with me.

Seeing someone pass away slowly from a highly progressive form of cancer is one of the hardest things to experience. I knew my family’s heath history. I knew that a standard omnivore diet is unethical,not truly healthy, and not sustainable for the environment; and I knew what I really felt compelled to do and that was to transition to a vegan/plant based diet.

If you search comments on YouTube, message boards, and posts you’ll see a lot of people saying that if you go vegan for your health then you’re not a true vegan; that veganism is more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. And I truly agree, however as humans we are truly selfish creatures and sometimes people need a selfish reason to make such a big life change. Me not so much, but others might because ethical morals or compassion just might not be there yet. I’ve always been a very compassionate person and taking control over my life and health (especially after watching Forks Over Knives) felt, and still feels, like the right decision and choice.

I decided to transition to veganism in February after my Grandma passed away and thought that I could do it cold-turkey. I lasted about a month before I felt defeated from comments like “If you’re a TRUE vegan you will never slip up and have cheese. I’ve been vegan for a month too and I haven’t had dairy at all.” Before that comment I took my occasional consumption of dairy, particularly cheese, as an okay step because it didn’t happen all the time and I had just started.

It really got me thinking and I decided that I wasn’t ready to label myself as a vegan and I’m still not ready. I decided to eat a lacto-vegetarian diet and take my time cutting out cheese. Let me just say, I haven’t had cream cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream, or sour cream since February. It was just straight cheese that I was having a problem cutting out.

After some months of tracking my macros myself I realized that I was consistently over on carbs by a ton and way under on protein no matter how much food I ate. I don’t necessarily believe that if you eat as much plant-based food as you want that you will naturally get enough protein each day. It didn’t work like that because I became full faster and I personally wasn’t going to stuff potato after potato and legume after legume down my throat without being smart. I found an Instagram account called @conscious_muscle and made the smart decision which was asking for help from someone with experience. Jordan created a personalized macro-sufficient meal plan for me using my goals and information and this has helped me a ton. Not only do I stay on track with eating a vegan diet, but I am also not worried about becoming deficient in protein or fats or carbs.

Sarah eating
The face you make when someone offers you meat.

The biggest step you can take, especially when you are new to something, is reaching out and asking for help.

Four and a half months after deciding to transition and I still don’t like to identify as a vegan. I like to say that I am a transitioning vegan because I’m still working out my diet and I’m cutting out my non-vegan and animal tested personal products as I run out. Once my face wash was used up I replaced it with a vegan and cruelty-free wash from Alba. After my Colgate toothpaste ran out I replaced it with a tube of hello toothpaste that I found at Walmart (I’ll post a review once I use the tube up). Same thing with my makeup and hair products.

I’m still proud of my decision and I believe, along with other vegans like Freelee and High Carb Hannah, that any step no matter how small towards a more compassionate lifestyle is the right choice. I can tell you that no matter what happens I will NEVER eat any kind of meat ever again because I have become aware of how it gets to the table and it grosses me out. I feel it in my heart and even the simplest change such as that is a huge step in the right direction, especially if a lot more people made it. I don’t feel deprived because there is so much food to eat in the world and you most definitely do not need animal products at all. Also, have you tried cashew milk ice cream because that stuff is the bomb and it’s way better than normal ice cream.

It will most likely take a full year to use up my remaining personal products and most likely a full year to be fully acclimated to a vegan/plant based diet. For some people a transition like this takes time. For others it’s an overnight change.

What matters most is making conscious decisions to live more compassionately not only for the animals, but for ourselves. 

My final advice to those of you who have found your way to my blog and have taken the time to read this long post is:

If someone else is going to knock you down because you’re using a shampoo you bought three months before you went vegan or because you had a small bit of cheese one month into your new lifestyle change, don’t listen to them. What matters is that YOU know that you are making progress and YOU know that this is a permanent change. That’s what matters because you are making conscious steps towards a more compassionate life and you have made the connection.

Sincerely,

Signature[1]

 

 

Why I decided to “go vegan” Part 1

This will be a two part serious so as to break up the length of the post. For now, let’s start from the beginning.

12670730_10209550142615787_2559024460537699173_n
Potato wedges and a salad with a homemade cilantro-cashew cream dressing. All vegan.

Up until this year (2016) I’ve eaten the standard omnivore diet. When I was 19 I moved into my first apartment by myself and started buying organic produce, especially spinach and chicken. I stop buying Raisin Bran and started buying plain bran cereal and plan raisins separately to cut out the added sugars that coat the raisins in the traditional cereal. I also started buying only organic skim milk after trying a diet plan from Jillian Michaels and reading her thoughts on organic vs. traditional milk and the hormones in conventional milk.

3-4 years later I still only bought organic skim milk, organic/”free range” chicken and eggs, and bought bran cereal without raisins. I’ve always had an interest in trying new health fads because they give me something to focus on similar to a hobby and because I’ve dealt with body issues that stemmed from being compared to my cousins and negative comments that came from a boyfriend I was with for three years.

I’ve tried Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred which was a good starter when I was 19 and new to fitness and meal plans; counting macros on my own, and meal plans/fitness plans that I found on sites like Popsugar and Blogilates. I have even tried the 21 Day Fix Extreme, which I gave up after two weeks because it had me on 1,300 calories based on my activity level and height and that did not work AT ALL. I became super grumpy and super obsessed with food and what I could and could not eat. I felt tortured even though I was in a support group—tortured because I wanted to do well and finally have results but kept obsessing over my yellow containers and how little carbs I was allowed to eat.

It wasn’t until I tried Kayla’s BBG 1.0 that I found something I could stick to. I started it [the guides] in March 2015 after debating for months if I should spend the $160+ for the workout guides and nutrition plan. I made it through 4 weeks of pre-training and then 8 weeks of the guide before I stopped on July 4th because it was the holidays and I was also starting a new job two days later. After completing my first Tough Mudder run (which I HIGHLY recommend because it’s all about teamwork and not about time; plus there’s nothing uncomfortable about having strangers

12010501_10208039452249472_5074523547460925567_o
After my 1st Tough Mudder run with the flu.

hike you up over a 20 foot wall by your butt when you’re covered in mud) I decided to start BB 1.0 again and finally completed it two days before my 23rd birthday. To this day, Kayla’s BBG is the only program I’ve stuck to all the way through, but I couldn’t stick to the nutrition plan (at the time was only an omnivore diet; since though she’s released an app that has a meal plan for every kind of diet) which is why I think my progress wasn’t like the girls on her Instagram.

Like I said, I’ve always been interested in health fads because I’m always looking for a hobby. I never could get my mind into viewing them as a lifestyle change which is probably why I gave up so quickly.

12088202_10208240356671957_763684900905894152_n
Week 6 of BBG 1.0. I was eating an omnivore diet, not following the meal plan, but getting in every workout in the guide.

My family’s health history on both sides is not the best by far. On my Dad’s side there is severe diabetes, heart disease, obesity, glaucoma, mental health issues, thyroid problems, and cancer. On my Mom’s side there is a lot of heart disease; stroke (my mom had one at 16); diabetes; brain, breast, uterine, kidney, and skin cancers;  arthritis; gout; hypertension; migraines (which I suffer from too); and finally mental health issues like depression and dementia.

Needless to say, all of those health issues are not anything that I want to deal with at any point in my lifetime but it wasn’t until my Dad’s mom (my Grandma, who meant a lot to me) was diagnosed last fall with Stage IV lung cancer that I finally realized I need to be in control of my body and my health.

To be continued in Part 2…