Monday, December 29, 2008

VegCooking Update: Cilantro-Lime Tofu Skewers with Avocado Cream

Tonight for dinner I made a delicious recipe that I found on VegCooking.com:

Cilantro-Lime Tofu Skewers With Avocado Cream

For the Avocado Cream:
3 large avocados
1/2 cup Vegenaise
Juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

• Peel and core the avocados, then mash. Place in a food processor with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.
• Adjust the seasonings with salt and lime juice.
• Place in squeeze bottles and refrigerate.

For the Skewers:
1 1/2 lbs. extra-firm tofu
2 large onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice
3 yellow peppers, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 1/2 lbs. whole cherry tomatoes
1 lb. whole crimini mushrooms
15 Mexican fiesta or bamboo skewers
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 oz. tequila (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
3 jalapeño peppers, cut into thin slices
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt

• Thread the tofu, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms on the skewers.
• Stir together all the other ingredients and pour over the skewers to marinate for 2 hours.
• Remove from the marinade and grill for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until the vegetables are softened and browned.
• Serve with the avocado cream.

Makes 15 skewers

I only used two yellow peppers, one onion, 1 1/2 packs of tofu, and half of the tomatoes that the recipe called for and this was more than enough for the two of us. I have to confess that I did use non-vegan light mayonnaise, so my dinner wasn't officially vegan, but it was still a delicious, low-fat recipe that didn't include meat. My husband and I served our veggies and tofu over rice, topped them with the avocado cream and stirred it all together. It had a great flavor, and the texture was nice too. I'm still learning to love tofu, but this recipe was an easy to make, flavorful, and filling meal.

VegWeb.com

My mother was found to have unacceptable cholesterol counts this year and rather than using medication, has chosen to transition immediately to a vegan diet. While the effects of the many and varied cholesterol medications are yet unproven, a vegan diet has been proven to reverse heart disease. I did bake my mother a vegan chocolate cake and a few types of vegan cookies for Christmas and have been inspired to incorporate more vegan recipes into my regular rotation. Vegan dishes aren't difficult to prepare and are quite tasty. While browsing the web for tonight's dinner I found this site http://vegweb.com/ which looks promising. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Truvia




Typically I buy my Stevia from Whole Foods and it is costly, about $7.00 for a box of packets and the liquid is similarly priced. I tend to prefer the liquid, because the powder often left a residue that collected at the bottom of my tea cup, leaving the last sip or two rather unpleasant. I was in the baking aisle at Safeway yesterday and noticed a product called Truvia. At just over $4.50 I decided to try it. I've used it several times since yesterday and found that the flavor is very similar to my Whole Foods stevia packets, and while it does cloud up on the last few sips, if I give it a quick swirl it does fully dissolve. The verdict, just as good and much less expensive; a rare occurrence. They also have an interesting article on their website stating that they have just recieved FDA approval to use Truvia Rebiana as a general purpose sweetener and that it has been found safe for consumption through conducting lots of research. I'm very glad to hear that we may be closer to finding something safer and more healthy to sweeten our food than high fructose corn-syrup that won't break the bank, but I believe that we still need to focus on eating anything sweet in moderation, even if it is calorie free.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blinded by the light




When I was around 12 years old I began to have many hormonal fluctuations which brought on terrible migraine headaches. I am given a diuretic which doesn't ease the vomiting or the extreme light sensitivity and my pediatrician makes the decision to put me on birth control pills to regulate my changing hormones. Fast forward to age 29... The day after Valentine's day I have terrible pain in my abdomen and a fever. I head over to the emergency room where after many, many tests it is determined that my gall bladder needs to go. While they were reviewing my scans they found small lesions on my liver. They are unable to determine whether they are harmless lesions caused by the hormones in my birth control pills, or something more sinister being fed by the hormones in my birth control pills. They decide to follow me every three months with MRI's (with contrast and without) to figure out whether or not they are continuing to grow and merit further investigation. Fast forward another years they have grown, but no one is doing anything about it, but my doctor orders me off of the birth controls pills. A year later, beginning in October of this year, my debilitating migraines come back. I go to my doctor who thinks that it could be hormone or stress related, "difficult to tell the trigger", he says. He prescribes me 10mg Maxalt tablets to "break the cycle" and acupuncture for 6 weeks to cure the chronic condition. He explains that they believe it to be a neurological disorder, but don't have much additional information to provide. I travel to my mother's for a much needed massage which helps my headache immediately, while I await my acupuncturist appointment. I'm really hoping that the acupuncture is successful, because the side effects from my migraine medication make it unsafe for me to drive. I'll continue to post on my progress and any new and interesting research related to migraine headaches. Perhaps I'll donate money in my own name to a reputable migraine foundation as a Christmas present to myself :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Credit Card Rate-Jacking

Credit card holders livid about 'rate-jacking'

Story Highlights

  • One man's rate went from 9.5% to 16.99%: "It almost borders on loan-sharking"
  • Citigroup, recipient of bailout funds, seems to be the target of most bloggers' ire
  • U.S. House passes "bill of rights" for customers, but legislation stalls in Senate
  • Citi says anyone unhappy with rate can opt out and close account when card expires

From Drew Griffin and Kathleen JohnstonCNN Special Investigations Unit
(CNN) --

It arrived in Rich Stevens' mailbox a few weeks ago: the notice that Citibank had "rate-jacked" the Visa cards belonging to him and his wife. "In my case, from 9.5 percent to 16.99," the 54-year-old nurse from the Long Island hamlet of Merrick, New York, told CNN. And his wife's rate zoomed from 7.95 percent to 16.99 percent, he said. Stevens said he did not know why the rates had soared; his credit rating is great. But, like thousands of other credit card customers around the nation, he has been notified his rate is skyrocketing. "It almost borders on loan-sharking, from my perspective," he said. In the blogosphere, writers are livid at the instant rate hikes -- called "rate-jacking." Citigroup seems to be the target of most bloggers' venom -- partly because Citigroup issues so many credit cards and partly because Citi began sending the notices at about the same time it was getting a $20 billion, taxpayer-financed government bailout.
No one at Citigroupwould talk on camera to CNN about the matter. Instead, the company issued a written statement, which said: "To continue funding in this difficult credit and funding environment, Citi is repricing a group of customers." Citi told CNN that anyone unhappy with the new rates can opt out and continue paying the lower interest, but they must close their account when their card expires. It's all in the fine print. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said she is sick of the fine print. She agreed that credit card companies get away with whatever they want, as long at they put their desires into the fine print. "They have this provision that says they can raise the rate -- any time, any reason," she said. In September, Maloney got the House to pass by an overwhelming margin of 200 votes the "credit card holders' bill of rights," which would have stopped rate-jacking and the imposition of other fees by banks.
But the bill has languished in the Senate since September. "There's a lot of pushback from the financial industry," she said.

Critics say that pushback is linked to donations from the banking industry to the politicians responsible for regulating credit cards.
The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is Christopher Dodd. His staff said the Connecticut Democrat has his own credit card bill containing tough language to stop things like rate-jacking and shortening of billing cycles -- two issues that anger consumers.
But even Dodd's own bill has failed to gain traction -- it has sat since July.
Dodd himself received more than $4 million from the financial sector during the last campaign, according to campaign records. His office did not respond to CNN's questions about that.
It did say that he has tried repeatedly to protect consumers, but added, "legislation has been met with stiff opposition by the credit card industry."
On Thursday, the Federal Reserve is expected to vote on its own new rules regarding credit cards, rules in the works for four years that could clamp down on rate-jacking.
Whatever is passed, Maloney said, probably would not take effect until 2010.

Find this article at: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/12/17/credit.card.rates/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

I'm posting this story because Citibank has done the same thing to me repeatedly for two years. The first time, they jacked-up my rate to 35%. 35%?!? How is that even legal. Luckily, I called and complained because I had not gone over my limit, had not made any late payments, and the amount charged on my cards was only about 15% of the limit and they lowered the rate again. What if I hadn't been responsible though, what about in these difficult economic times where people are losing their jobs left and right and need credit to buy medicine, shoes for their kids, or dinner? Should they be forced to pay rates that should be considered criminal? More recently, as my debt has crept up again due my recent wedding which included a trip to Las Vegas, NV Citibank has once again jacked my rates up. What's most interesting is that I have two of the exact same card, which they have refused to merge into a single cards since I opened the account. Interestingly, there is a different rate on both cards. When I called and asked the rate to be lowered on one to meet the other, they indicated that I already had the lowest rate possible on that card. When I explained that I have another of the exam same card and provided my account number, they simply replied "oh, well there is nothing more that I can do". I would close the account, but I've learned my lesson doing that too...I once had a card in which the rate continued to climb, so I called and cancelled so that they couldn't raise the rate any more while I continued to pay it off. Let's just say, that doesn't work. They jacked-up the rate to the maximum. Anyway, as Citi is currently raising my rates for absolutely no reason whatsoever...again...I am using my lessons learned. I am transferring my balances to my local credit union who provides me with sane credit limits, low interest rates, and fair treatment...just as they always have. I'm doing my best to live within my means, pay down my debt, and continue to learn from my mistakes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Shopping/Baking/Prep

Well, I decided to take my own advice and slim down on some of the gift giving this year. We are notorious for overspending during the holidays and this year my grandmother and mother both said no more clothes :) They also said no more books, which is unfortunate because I had already picked some up at Goodwill, so they'll just have to take them and like them, or pass them on. So, to add to their gifts I decided to use the BBB website and find some reputable charities to which I could donate money in their names. My grandmother has recently been hospitalized due to COPD, so I have donated $25.00 in her name to the American Lung Association. My mother is now eating a vegan diet after years of down home cooking have caused her cholesterol to shoot through the roof, so in her name goes $25.00 to the American Heart Association. I am posting it here because notices have already gone to their homes, so it won't be much of a Christmas surprise anyway, but the intent is there. Finally, I am doing some baking as gifts and found a yummy vegan chocolate cake recipe that I wanted to share with you here:

Rich Chocolate Bundt Cake

Publication Date: 03/01/2007
The following chocolate cake recipe was created for PARADE by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, co-author of “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes That Rule” (Marlowe & Company, 2006) and host of the public access/podcast vegan cooking show “Post Punk Kitchen.”

1 3/4 cups freshly brewed coffee
2/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (like Droste)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose white flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray an 8- to 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray.

2. Over medium heat, bring the coffee to a simmer in a sauce pot. Once simmering, lower the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to bring to room temperature.

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, canola oil, apple sauce and cornstarch until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved, about 2 minutes. Mix in the extracts. Once the chocolate has cooled a bit, mix that in as well.

4. Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat until relatively smooth, about 1 minute with a hand mixer or 2 minutes with a whisk.

5. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick or butter knife inserted through it comes out clean. If your Bundt pan is on the smaller side, it could take up to 55 minutes.

6. Let cool for about 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate to cool completely. Once cool, sift powdered sugar over the top and enjoy.


Serves 12. Per serving: calories: 250, total fat: 7g, saturated fat: 1g, total carbohydrate: 47g, cholesterol: 0mg, fiber: 4g, protein: 3g

* If you can’t find whole-wheat pastry flour, then regular all-purpose flour will do. Don’t substitute regular whole-wheat flour; it is different and will result in a rough and chewy texture.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ABC News: Stevia: The \'Holy Grail\' of Sweeteners?

ABC News: Stevia: The 'Holy Grail' of Sweeteners?

Posted using ShareThis

The Better Business Bureau Gives Advice on a Green Holiday

BBB Advice on Going Green this Holiday Season
11/26/2008

Bing Crosby may have dreamed of a white Christmas but as many Americans adjust their lifestyles to become more environmentally friendly, some will be looking forward to a green Christmas this year. Your Better Business Bureau has advice to help families go green this holiday season and maybe even save some green in the process.

According to a survey by Plow and Hearth, half of Americans plan to purchase an environmentally friendly gift this holiday season. Among those going green this year, two-thirds say they are willing to spend between 10 and 25 percent more on green holiday gifts.
“The holidays tend to focus on kindness and sharing, but unfortunately, most of us aren’t very kind to the environment during the season of giving, and from an eco-friendly perspective, this period usually ends up being one of the most wasteful times of the year,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “Consumers actually have a chance to save some green in more ways than one this season, from using candles and wreaths with recycled materials to homemade gifts and creative gift wrap, people can help themselves and the environment.”

Aside from buying gifts with the environment in mind, there are many other ways consumers can lessen the impact of their holiday cheer on Mother Nature. Following are a few ways consumers can aim for a more environmentally friendly holiday season:

Decorate with Care

There are many ways consumers can decorate “in green” this year. LED Christmas tree lights are a pricier option to conventional lights, but they require about 80-90 percent less energy and last much longer—up to 200,000 hours—compared to conventional lights’ 2,000 hours.
Rather than buying an artificial tree or a fresh tree that will end up on the sidewalk come January 1, consumers can opt to buy a live tree that they can later plant. When it comes to decorating that tree, making ornaments and garlands from gingerbread, Christmas cards, popcorn and cranberries is a great family craft project and better for the environment than plastic tinsel and ornaments.

Give Money to a Charity in Someone’s Honor

Charities are expecting a lean season of giving this year as the result of the downturn in the economy. Donating to a charity in a loved one’s name is a great way to further a worthy cause and it doesn’t have any negative impact on the environment. In fact, if the gift goes to a charity that deals in conservation, the gift will have a doubly good impact on the environment. To make sure donations are going to credible, conscientious organizations, donors should always research charities first with BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance – and can do so at www.bbb.org/charity.

Give Green

Many stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, specialize in green products, such as organic foods and gifts made from recycled goods. When shopping online, consumers should always look for the BBBOnline seal. The seal tells the shopper that the company adheres to BBB Standards for Trust and operates a secure Web site for financial transactions.

Get Crafty

For do-it-yourselfers, there are many Web sites and online communities dedicated to making new and useful items from things most consumers consider normal household “clutter.” Skill levels for craft projects range from easy to expert. Homemade gifts, such as baked goods and handmade gifts are also a lot easier on the wallet—and potentially the environment—and often bring much more meaning to recipients.

Dispose of the Old…

With CareElectronics such as cell phones, TVs and computers contain toxic materials that should be disposed of carefully and not just tossed out with the trash. Many companies will take back and recycle their products for free. Some retailers also accept trade-ins. Consumers can search for company policies and recycling locations online, and a good place to start is at Earth911.org.

For more trustworthy consumer advice on “going green” this holiday season, and for many other tips on saving money this year, go to http://www.bbb.org/.

http://us.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=113&id=24bc81dc-3fd0-40be-935e-3c07a8f5d342&art=8010

Chronicling my adventures in proving that less is more. I'll learn to refashion/recycle clothes, prepare gourmet meals using as many natural/basic/raw ingredients as possible. I'll learn to spend less, live more, and reclaim those things that are truly valuable in my life.

Feeds

Below are feeds from websites that I find to be interesting and from a similar vein.

ReadyMade

craigslist | free stuff in baltimore

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