Friday, April 25, 2014

Vegan Lasagna Nests: Fun Spring Dinner!

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food." -George Bernard Shaw

The inspiration for today's recipe, comes from something that my mother recently made. She made lasagna "cupcakes" using wontons and lasagna ingredients. The idea to even make this today, was when I was perusing the cupboard and refrigerator for dinner ideas to come to me. I had about half of a box of lasagna noodles, 5 noodles to be exact. What on earth do you do with that? I dislike wasting anything, especially food, so I decided to make something like my mother's lasagna cupcakes, except these will be called Lasagna Nests and be made with the noodles. Last year (big and waddly, and about to have a baby), I made Candy Bird's Nests, that were very make-with-your-kiddos friendly. So this spring, here are some edible nests that are cute, fun, and guaranteed to be a hit with your family.

Vegan Lasagna Nests

What you will need:

  • 5 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente according to box and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup pasta sauce
  • 8 oz frozen spinach
  • 1 16 oz container Tofutti Ricotta "Cheese"
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Litehouse Garlic
  • 2 tsp Litehouse Italian
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 slices Tofutti Mozzarella, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • GoVeggie vegan Parmesan "cheese", to taste
  • Muffin Tin
  • Coconut Oil to grease tin with
This is what mine looked like before baking them!

What to do:

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Grease 5 spots on a muffin pan with coconut oil. In each cup of the pan, place lasagna noodle half, crisscrossed. Spoon about a tablespoon of pasta sauce in each cup. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, oregano, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, Mozzarella, and flaxseed, then scoop it into each cup on top of the pasta sauce that you spooned. Drizzle remaining pasta sauce on top of each cup and sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5- 10 minutes. Let sit in pan for about 10 minutes before removing from pan and serving. The longer you let them sit to set, the easier they are to remove from pan and the prettier they look. These would be great to serve with salad and garlic bread. Enjoy!

The finished product! Yummmm!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Litehouse Herbs Review & Amazing Artichoke Recipe!

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You buy fresh herbs at the store, with every intention of using the entire bunch, but sadly they wilt away to their demise before you ever get the chance to use them. Or, have you ever purchased one of those herb plants, to find that one day it just dies on you? Or how about this one - have you ever bought a bunch of fresh herbs and then by the next morning, they appear to be as wrinkly as a 95 year old man's behind? For the record, I have never seen a 95 year old man's behind, but I am just guessing that there is some sort of resemblance. Let's face it, fresh herbs taste so much better than those dried herbs that you find on the dusty shelf in the grocery store. If you are like me, you have longed for herbs and spices that have the taste of freshly picked produce but the convenience of spice-rack-friendly, herbs in the jar. Finally, the solution to our dilemma has arrived, and it's name is Litehouse!

Litehouse sent me their delicious and fresh tasting herbs to try in: Thyme, Spring Onion, Ginger, Sage, Garlic, Italian, Parsley, and Basil. I used the same amount that a recipe would call for with fresh herbs. The ratio is the same. You just add them to water to revive them. I also added them to dishes that were watery already, like soups or stews. I've been using these herbs in everything and my food tastes so much fresher! And the value and convenience is great! For instance, you get about 3 bunches of basil in just one jar of Litehouse instant herbs! Pretty neat. I have been having such success using these, so here is my favorite recipe so far. The Litehouse herbs add something seriously special to this dish. Here is my Herby Steamed Artichoke Recipe and you can find Litehouse products by browsing their online store or at retailers like Target.

The Dirty Vegan's Herby Steamed Artichokes

Serves 2

What you will need:

2 artichokes, washed, stems cut, tops cut (about 1 inch)
1 heaping tsp Litehouse Parsley
1 heaping tsp Litehouse Garlic
1 heaping tsp Litehouse Spring Onion
2 bay leaves
1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups water
1 bouillon cube
sea salt and black pepper to taste

What you will need to do:

Place all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Cover and let artichokes steam in the Herby steaming liquid for about 30 minutes, or until leaves are tender. To eat, simply scrape the pulp from the leaves with your teeth (don't eat the leaves - yuck!). You can eat the heart by removing the prickly covering around it. The heart is soft and delicious and really soaks up all of the flavors in the steaming liquid. Enjoy!

This is what the artichokes looked like in the delicious Herby broth!

And as they were steaming to perfection. Yum!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Read This If You Have a Baby!

If you have a baby, they will teethe, it is inevitable. Teething can be no picnic, but luckily there are products out there that make this whole nightmare milestone more tolerable.

Tommee Tippee is one of my absolute favorite baby brands. They make a lot of natural baby products which are safe and effective. Two of their products in particular, have been favorites of Baby's, the Chewther and the Milk Feeding Bib.

The Chewther is one neat little teether. All of Tommee Tippee's BPA-free Chewthers feature a cool surface that is soothing to Little One's mouth and gums. They offer Chewthers for each stage of teething, which is helpful for targeting the areas that are causing the discomfort, at the stage that they are experiencing it. Pictured, is the Stage 2 Dual Ended Chewther in pink/ purple and is intended for baby's 4 months plus. What is unique about this teether is that it is designed to also aid with the baby's oral development in preparation for speech and feeding. It does this by supporting the lip seal, jaw development, and muscle coordination.

As you can see, this Chewther is the perfect size and shape for Baby to hold, allowing her to self soothe. The texture is flexible and soft, so this teether is safe for those fragile little teeth. And we all know that some teethers can be extremely hard and just aren't right for Baby. I love the thoughtful design and engineering behind the Chewther. It not only soothes your fussy little teething baby, but also prepares her for speech and eating thicker foods by strengthening the jaw. I haven't seen a teether like this before!

Here is a closeup of the Tommee Tippee Chewther!

Another must-have Tommee Tippee product is their Closer to Nature, Milk Feeding Bib. This bib grows with Baby very nicely. It can be used from birth and up until the child outgrows the bib. The cool thing is, the soft closure in back of the bib has a great range for adjust-ability. Some other bibs only have that closure in one spot, making them either too big or too small at some point. The Milk Feeding Bib adjusts to your child's neck size. And it is super soft (as you can probably see in the picture)! This bib has a soft plush dribble catcher that prevents milk, juice, or drool from getting under the chin and causing irritation or rash. That is why I adore this bib for teething! With teething comes lots drool! This is the absolute perfect bib for breastfeeding, spit-up, when baby begins to use a sippy cup, teething, and drooling. It really is the softest bib that will protect Baby's skin from irritation. The Closer to Nature, Milk Feeding Bib is super cute and comes in colors like cream and pink, cream and blue, and cream and beige. You don't just get one bib either, they are sold in a pack of two! This is also a wonderful baby shower gift as any new parent would love to receive this for their baby. I'm a huge fan of this bib and so is my little angel. You can tell how comfy she is wearing it since it is one of the only bibs that she doesn't try to pull or take off.

You can find these and other fabulous Tommee Tippee baby products at retailers like Babies-R-Us, Target, and Maijer. And for now, the Dirty Vegan is signing off. Googoo, gaga!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Vegan Easter Basket

Anyone who is vegan understands that their Easter basket will not be the same as it may have been before becoming vegan. No dyed eggs. And let's face it, most stores are lacking in the vegan candies department. Luckily, these products make it all better. Here are some ideas for your vegan Easter basket.

You can get most of your candy from A Real Treat candy boutique in Los Angeles, California. They are an all natural candy store that literally has the largest selection of vegan, organic, kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO, and allergen-free sweets around! Think candy store, huge selection, picking different sweet treats and putting them in your candy bag... yeah that is A Real Treat. And if you're not in the Los Angeles area, no problem. Check out their website for online ordering. Here are some delicious vegan candies that I sampled from A Real Treat. Also, a little birdy told me that they are carrying vegan cream eggs for Easter. All you Californians better head on over. No, run on over. I'm pretty sure a treat like this is very hard to come by!

 In the pictures you will notice a plethora of Easter basket candy. A Real Treat has everything from gummies galore to vegan starburst-type candies (which taste like real fruit, melt in your mouth candies) to vegan milk chocolate covered and filled candies (that tasted absolutely heavenly). All of the candies that I tried tasted divine. The best part? These cruelty-free candies are also free of corn syrup and dyes. I, like many people, have a sensitivity to certain dyes and artificial ingredients. This candy boutique is out-of-this-world! This is something just so unique and clever. I totally want to move to California just so I can park my vegan butt in front of A Real Treat candy store and basically eat their delicious candy all day long. I've already started manipulating Hubby... West Coast here I come!

The goodies from A Real Treat are perfect for filling plastic eggs with for baskets or for Easter Egg Hunts. When you are filling your plastic eggs with these candies, every egg is like finding the GOLDEN EGG!

Definitely check them out; you won't be disappointed. I loved them!

And when you need the convenience of finding your vegan candy at virtually any store, you can always rely on America's Favorite Candy for 64 years, vegan Smarties. Smarties are easy to just pop in your mouth and munch on, as well as being the perfect plastic egg filler. The folks at Smarties even have a section of their FAQ dedicated to vegan-love, stating, "All Smarties® products are vegetarian and vegan. Feel free to refer to our Product page for the nutritional information and ingredients in each product, and our Vegan Candy page for more information about our vegan sweets.". How sweet is that? Smarties are awesome!

And last but certainly not least, I would like to introduce you to a product called Eggnots. These extremely realistic eggs are made of ceramic and you treat them exactly how you would an Easter Egg. You can dye them, write on them, paint them, stain them, or keep them "as is". They are fantastic and best of all... you can keep them forever! We will be dying these Eggnots for Easter with Baby and signing them with the date. What a wonderful keepsake for Baby's First Easter! 

Eggnots arrive in an egg carton complete with instructions and an egg dye recipe.

My mother thought that these were real eggs. I handed it to her and after she held it, she still thought it was an egg. These are so cool for us vegan folk who have since resorted to dying tofu, painting rocks, and other creative things at Easter. Eggnots take the guesswork out of things.

What an amazing egg to dye for Easter. They can go right in the Easter basket as soon as they're dry, they won't spoil, they are vegan-friendly, and great for people with egg allergies as well. I can definitely see this becoming a beautiful tradition in many homes, year after year. Your family can see how your works of art evolve over the years and you can create such pretty memories. These are not just for Easter; think other holidays and craft ideas all year long. You can even surprise your honey by writing a romantic message or proposal and hiding it in your love's Easter basket. Or how about a fun Easter scavenger hunt with the kids; just write the clues on the eggs and hide them! For just $15.95 per dozen, the possibilities are endless! There are 20 days until Easter, so get your orders in fast to ensure that you can receive your Eggnots in time! 

 So there you have it, vegans can still partake in Easter traditions and festivities. No animals harmed in the process. And for now, the Dirty Vegan is signing off. Hoppity, hop!