Showing My Gratitude….and My First Giveaway!!!

Thank goodness typewriters are a thing of the past!!!

I think it’s pretty obvious to myself that the past week or two on this blog has been pretty amazing!!!  When I first started this blog, I had a vague idea of the direction I wanted to go, but once I took on my very first project with the Engine 2 Diet it was like my blog was telling me how to move forward.  Luckily, my blog has always had one goal in mind…to reach out to the vegans and non vegans out there and show them how easy, affordable, beneficial, fun, and healthy a vegan diet can be. The responses from all of you have been great and the support from my friends (both old and new!) has been amazing.  Every day I am motivated by each of you to keep blogging and sharing with you my journey and what I know (or what I am learning!).  And for all of this, I want to thank you and for those readers I have never met, I hope our paths cross one day so I may say it to you personally 🙂

Ever since Rip Esselstyn promoted my page recently, my audience has grown a great deal (Thanks Rip!).  Not only am I getting readers from all over, but even locally some people have taken notice.  Because of this, I recently held a contest to get at least 100 people to “Like” my Facebook page and promised a giveaway and I am definitely not one to back down over 120 “Likes” later.  My next goal is to hold a free giveaway for every 100 “Likes” and for those who follow me via Google (you see the icon on the far right hand side of the page), I will do a giveaway for every 100 people until I reach 1,000 people on each page (Facebook and Google).  So basically, you have 2 ways to join future giveaways and you potentially have 20 giveaways you can be eligible for.  I’m not really big on “geek talk” but basically my goal is to have 1,000 “Followers” on Google and 1,000 “Likes” on Facebook and for every 100 people on each site, I will have a giveaway.

Since I am just starting out and all of this is pretty much courtesy of yours truly, if anyone wants to donate giveaway items, please email me and we will work out the details.  I am willing to promote or plug any item as long as it is 100% VEGAN (this means no leather, honey, or animal testing, etc. of any kind!)

Now on to the GIVEAWAY…

I’m not technical when it comes to photos but you get the idea 😉

This particular item is VERY personal to me…If I was Oprah, this would definitely be one of my “Favorite Things” that simply makes my life easier (and healthier!).  This is the original Silpat baking mat that has more uses than I can even think of.  If you wanted an oil-free way of baking, now you have your chance!  This does great with cookies, marinated tofu, roasting veggies…the possibilities are endless and best of all, it’s reusable and the one I own is still going strong after 3 years and I have a feeling I’ll still be bragging about it for a very long time!  In order to get your chance in winning such a great product, all you have to do is “Like” my Facebook Page if you haven’t already.  If you have already joined on my Facebook page, you are already eligible!  The drawing will be done at random and to keep it fair, I am letting help me pick my winner.  The drawing will take place on Tuesday morning and I will be announcing the winner a short time after…Therefore, if you haven’t joined my Facebook Page, you have a short time to do it now!

After all this excitement, I also want to let you know that I have 2 books in the works that I will be sharing/reviewing with all of you in the VERY near future.  The first one was mentioned before, titled Sweetness Without Sugar by Wendy Vigdor-Hess and the other (the new announcement!) Unprocessed by Chef AJ
who is the founder of Healthy Taste of LA.  Both of these books should be really exciting and I can’t wait to designate my husband to take better photos of the things I create from these books 😉

Until then, I wish all of you GOOD LUCK!!!

Engine 2 Diet Review Part 1…The Food!!!

This delicious vegan Flag Cake also had vegan vanilla pudding and extra berries as filling!

Last week while Chuck was off work, I feeling pretty distracted (especially on July 4th-hence this beautiful creation you see here!).  Although we decided to stay home and not travel too far, it seemed like every day there was something to do.  Luckily, I managed to get a few things out of the way and there’s only one thing I am still working on and that’s my article for T.O.F.U Magazine!  C-ville Vegan had its first blog post on July 8th (and another on Monday!) and although I will admit in my recent post I might have come off as harsh but I felt it was rightfully so…I was lured to a restaurant with the intention of trying a popular vegan menu item that is still advertised on their website and upon my arrival, I was told otherwise and was given a substitution I could have gotten virtually anywhere in Charlottesville.  All venting aside, yesterday was the last day of the 28 Day Challenge of the Engine 2 Diet.  During these 28 days, there was a lot of information, recipes, meetings and feedback and I felt in order to give this review the justice it deserves, it was best done in two parts and what a better way than to start off than by talking about the food!!!

French Toast using Ezekiel bread

I want to first start off by admitting that breakfast was definitely a treat when the Engine 2 Diet was involved.  The lesson I learned about breakfast while on the 28 Day Challenge was that very few cereal brands out there really do live up to their claims.  Although I consider myself an expert at reading the label for vegan ingredients, I was blown away when I was reading the nutrition labels.  I seriously have been in the dark when it came to the sugar content in most cereals!  As a result, I have now leaned a bit to brand loyalty…Kashi, Nature’s Path, Ezekiel, Barbara’s Bakery, and Uncle Sam always seem to be the safest bets (just check for all vegan ingredients!).  Cold cereals aside, the French Toast and Breakfast Tacos were really good (and easy!).  I also baked a batch of Mighty Muffins but I do believe that the portions were a bit off as I wound up making 18 muffins versus the 6 that was mentioned as the serving amount (another E2 participant mentioned the same issue)…consider yourself warned 😉  Not everyone (including me!) can cook a hot breakfast but the one thing I was inspired to do during these 28 days was to freeze my Mighty Muffins and Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes in advance so during the week if I was not in the mood for cereal then I had something in the freezer that I could give a zap in the microwave and have a hot breakfast in a snap.

Now as far as lunch/dinner recipes go in the book, some were hit or miss…The best recipes in this category were the Black Beans and Rice, which reminded Chuck and I of a Burrito Bowl at Chipotle (but better!) and the Sloppy Joes, where the recipe was a dead ringer for a Manwich!  The Mexican Lime Soup was fantastic as well and definitely deserves honorable mention.  Most people I spoke to loved the Lynn’s Meatloaf  recipe but it couldn’t hold a flame to the recipe I use.  However I converted Lynn’s Meatloaf into stuffed peppers and it was even better…So much better that my meat and potato eating (but open to vegan food) inlaws loved it 🙂  Also, the Sweet Potato and Vegetable Lasagna was definitely worth the hype but it’s definitely not a meal that will be on your table in 30 minutes or less.  There was a lot of prepwork in that recipe but the end result was worth it. 

As far as the not-so-great recipes go, the Red Beans and Kale over Quinoa was just too weird tasting (and you had to mash the beans quite a bit to thicken the sauce) and the Mac and Not Cheese was not a meal I could pass off as a vegan “Macaroni and Cheese” (now if you want a great Mac n’ Cheese recipe that works well with the omnis, just click here).  The Shepherd’s Pie recipe was decent but yet again, I have a recipe (that I will blog in the VERY near future) that I normally make as care packages for my friends who fall ill or the new moms in my church who need a good meal that requires no fuss and tastes great.  Rip’s version of Shepherd’s Pie was passable but my version is easier and can be made “E2 approved” with only a couple minor modifications that no one would ever notice.  Then there’s the Red Curry Vegetables over Brown Rice that was just plain gross 🙁  That’s saying a lot since I rarely turn down anything with curry…

Then there were snacks and desserts…The Healthy Hummus was pretty good.  It wasn’t as creamy as conventional hummus but it was definitely worthy of spreading it on a sandwich or dipping your pita pieces into.  If there was one recipe worth trying but it would make anyone cringe at the name, that prize would go to Kale Butter.  It looked like green slop but it was the best green slop I have ever had!!!  I was spreading this on crackers and if I was making a sandwich, I could definitely see myself using this as a condiment.  When I posted on Facebook that I was making Kale Butter…you wouldn’t believe the comments I got as a result!!!  But most of my friends know that although I am vegan, I am all about good food and food that I can pass off to my non-vegan friends so I have a feeling that one of them gave the recipe a shot all because of my endorsement 😉  Moving onto sweets…I really LOVED the brownies!!!  I was a bit taken by how much applesauce it called for but you would have never known once you had a taste of this chocolatey confection!  It also went great with the (super easy and better for you) Banana Ice Cream that was not mentioned in his book…needless to say, Chuck and I loved our E2 brownie sundaes 🙂  In the cookies category of the Engine 2 Diet book, hands down- the Oatmeal Cookie was far better than the Chocolate Chip.  The Chocolate Chip cookie reminded me too much of a mini cake or a scone than an actual cookie but the Oatmeal Cookie was perfection.  Also I made the Blueberry Dumpster Fire Cobbler which I mentioned in a past post that was great once I modified the recipe.

Now I know I am throwing a lot of recipes out there and a lot of reviews but during my 28 Day Challenge I was cooking a lot from the Engine 2 Diet book and it would have been nearly impossible to post each recipe individually on this blog.  Even in blogs like Julie/Julia, Julie could only blog one meal at a time and here I am making roughly on average of three Engine 2 Diet meals a day…I must say I am quite the overachiever 😉  The next book I am cooking my way through, Sweetness Without Sugar, it should be easier to post individually (with more photos!) as I am only focusing on sweets in comparison to “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks”. The next part of this review will be my overall take of the Engine 2 Diet book and living the Engine 2 lifestyle.  But if you would like to try some of the recipes yourself, the Engine 2 Diet website has posted a few for you to try so you can see for yourself.  That should keep you busy until my next post…