Welcome to the Yum Universe!! (Review, Recipe, & Giveaway!)

Okay, so first of all – I'm interrupting regularly scheduled programming to do a special report on an incredible book (and giveaway!).

I was graciously gifted with a copy of YumUniverse by Heather Crosby (of yumuniverse.com) to review. I am happy to be a stop on the Blog Tour along with some other amazing bloggers!

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I would definitely say I'm a connoisseur and collector of vegan books (both cookbooks and awesome informational books like The China Study and Mad Cowboy), and it's a rare thing to find a book that really is both.

One of the things I really liked about this particular book is the three distinct sections.

Section 1 – Why

As in, why eat plants? Heather begins with her journey to YumUniverse, but rounds out this section by having us look at at the food industry, clever advertising, and the Standard American Diet (S.A.D…which is just sad…) and it's affect on obesity and health. My favorite line, on page 28, states “the Standard American Diet is composed of 25% animal products, 62% processed foods, and only 5% of calories from fruits and vegetables.”. Wow. We eat more food that come in a bag or box from a factory than we do natural foods that grow in the Earth. And she presents all of this information in a non-judgmental way.

This section also talks nutrition – because lets face it, the first thing EVERYONE asks when you say you've gone vegan is “where do you get your protein” (insert annoyed eye roll here). Really…everyone becomes a nutritionist when you start to do something that might go against the grain, yet most people know very little about what nutrients are important and in what percentages. But Heather provides great info on fiber, protein, Vitamin D, Calcium, probiotics, oils, soy, and others so you can know what you're eating is meeting all the requirements your body has.

Section 2 – How

Here, we're advised to make this a workbook and not a cookbook. Dog ear the pages (she even suggests some to do that to!), load it with sticky notes (my personal favorite method), write on it, spill on it, and use it as a guide. She answers questions like – how do I start? How do I handle eating out? How do I set up my kitchen and what tools should I have? It's the practical stuff no one really tells you as you start to ditch the boxes of crap and bust out the kale!

Section 3 – Eats!

And this is where I stop babbling and start cooking. I made many, many things from this book, and loved them all. I also did what Heather suggested in section 2, and made these my own and changed things up when I needed to. As a nut-free family, that's something I'm always going to do, and I knew that by the time I got to this section I had the author's “permission” to switch things up. So with that, here's what I made, here's a recipe I made…and how I modified it.

Butternut Squash Soup - WEB

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

4+ Servings

Nothing says, “Fall is here!” like a creamy bowl of Butternut Squash Soup with Granny Smith apple.

INGREDIENTS

1 butternut squash about 8″ long

1 teaspoon sea salt + a pinch

Pinch of black pepper

¼ cup cashews, soaked

6 sage leaves

3 cups veggie stock

1 tablespoon coconut oil*

1 shallot, diced

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush open faces of butternut squash with coconut oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place squash face down in a baking dish and roast for 45 – 60 minutes or until soft.
  3. In the blender, blend together cashews, sage, and stock until smooth. Leave in the blender and set aside.
  4. Heat a large stockpot to medium, add oil, shallot, and Granny Smith apple, and saute for 5 – 7 minutes. Then add to the blender mixture.
  5. Once squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh. Add it to the blender and puree until smooth and creamy.
  6. Pour blender contents into stockpot, heat to medium, and season with remaining salt and additional pepper to taste. Serve warm.

psst!

Add chopped kale, cooked quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat for texture.

You can also roast your squash diced in cubes, or steam it (saves about 20 minutes but you won’t get the roasted flavor).

Try equal amounts of sweet potato, Hubbard squash, or acorn squash instead of butternut squash.

Use this soup as a decadent sauce over gluten-free noodles, veggie noodles, cooked quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat.

My modifications:

I skipped the cashews entirely. I thought about using soaked pumpkin seeds or a mixture of cornstarch in water, but decided to just try it without – and you know what – it was great. Plenty creamy, and didn't seem to miss the nuts. Also, I didn't have sage leaves, so I just sprinkled it with pumpkin pie spice, and it was divine.

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In addition to this recipe, I made socca with Herbs Du Provence, a black bean soup, crispy chickpeas, and traditional cole slaw. And I have a ton of other sticky notes to run through in the near future!

pressure cooking the black beans for the soup!
pressure cooking the black beans for the soup!

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Interview

I also asked Heather a couple of quick questions! Here are her replies!

This book is so much more than a cookbook. It's also a research book, nutritional guideline, and workbook to transform one's life easily into a plant-based one. What was your motivation for taking such a holistic approach to this book?

It was important to me to create a comprehensive book that had everything in one place. There are many reasons WHY we want to consider eating more plant-based foods (I detail them in section 1), and there are delicious recipes to EAT (150+ in section 3), but the heart of the journey, the HOW (section 2), is what people really need to make a sustainable lifestyle change. How to shop, how to plan, how to prep the kitchen, how to deal with social situations, how to sprout, how to bake, etc.—the list goes on. YumUniverse is not only recipe inspiration, but it’s the know-how, tips and tools you need to transition, change habits and/or fine-tune, whether you’re a newbie to this approach or a seasoned veteran.

What advice or substitutions would you suggest for your readers who are, due to allergies, forced to be nut-free?

In the book and, with each recipe, I provide adaptation suggestions to help folks adjust for their particular dietary needs. In general, when cashews are called for soaked and blended into a recipe, macadamia nuts (sweet or savory recipes) and/or sunflower seeds (sweet or savory recipes), even plain hummus (savory recipes), can often be used as substitutions. When nuts are called for to add crunch or texture to a recipe, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, kale chips, pumpkin seeds, etc. can be used.

When we have an allergy to a food, take off the “deprivation” lens. Approach diet with a curiosity and excitement about what we can eat. I never really experienced the variety, flavor, and possibilities of food until I had “limitations” to navigate. Get creative, break some rules. Discover.

Giveaway!

This is the part you've been waiting for right?? Have I convinced you yet how much you want this book? Even as a vegan for many years (my 7 year veganversary is TODAY), it's amazing to find a book that is so inspiring and refreshing, and not just for the dishes (and many of them are nothing like I've seen before), but the informational content is well. It's a good read all around.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that all the recipes are not only vegan, but gluten-free and soy-free as well.

So what do you have to lose? NOTHING. So please leave a comment below about why you'd like to be in the running for this book, and I will do a drawing on December 12th! Which should mean…you get this in your stocking this year!!

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Cooking and Movie-Thon Weekend

FOOD

Most meals have been from the bulk cooking of last Sunday.  I can’t seem to get enough butternut squash soup lately, and I had that three different days this week.  The rice/beans/green chili dish also went very far, and I enjoyed it plain and in taco shells as well.

butternut squash soup at work!
butternut squash soup at work!
this version of rice and beans involved a LOT of hot sauce
this version of rice and beans involved a LOT of hot sauce

I am admittedly still shying away from most raw foods since all the allergy issues hit, but I’m back on morning smoothies as a way to ease back in.  Can you believe it’s been since September since I had a salad?!?  It’s kind of depressing, actually.

orange, cranberry, coconut water, kale, and spinach smoothie.  Quite tasty (if not too pretty!)
orange, cranberry, coconut water, kale, and spinach smoothie. Quite tasty (if not too pretty!)

Today was another bulk cooking day!  I made a huge batch of quinoa, several new cookbook recipes (details to follow in the coming weeks!), and one of my favorites – tofu pot pie!!

BIG vat of quinoa....
BIG vat of quinoa….
tofu pot pie!  I needed to make it again before I head to WI for Thanksgiving and make it for my parents and my sister and her family :)
tofu pot pie! I needed to make it again before I head to WI for Thanksgiving and make it for my parents and my sister and her family 🙂
tonight's dinner of socca, stuffing, and tofu pot pie
tonight’s dinner of socca, stuffing, and tofu pot pie

FITNESS

I had a difficult time feeling inspired to work out the past few days.  It was cold and my schedule was really crappy.

However, that was rectified today by one of the best runs I’ve had in awhile.  Not only was the weather perfect (in the 60’s), but I seemed to have everlasting energy.  I ran a different route than normal, and that helped too.  I have a tendency to get bored easily (character flaw most of the time), so it was fun running through a different neighborhood than usual.

LIFE

I had a day off this past week, but not for run things.  I had a procedure on Wednesday and took the day off for it.  No big deal – just checking my esophagus and surrounding areas for allergy issues.  I could only do part of the procedure because I was allergic to one of the things I was supposed to drink, but otherwise it went off fine.  Results are back, and all is looking good and healthy!

Otherwise, it’s been mostly quiet.  With D’s flare-up, we’re keeping things low key.  I went to a movie on Friday (Gone Girl – crazy flick), took R to a movie on Saturday (Guardians of the Galaxy, which was awesome), and then we watched two more movies last night (Underworld and Edge of Tomorrow).  I think my brain felt like it was melting by the time I went to bed, but it was still kind of fun to do as little as possible.

One fun thing this weekend was watching Ginny figure out that on hardwood floors, she should stop and slide to her destination rather than run full tilt into walls, etc.  She was a nut last night, and we were all laughing for hours.

Bumble figured out that lying across a heat vent was the best way to stay warm.  Smart girl….

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Today was some work and bulk cooking.  I’m totally excited because I’ll be reviewing three new cookbooks on the blog in the coming weeks.  I spent a TON of time cooking (and eating) some fantastic stuff.  Again, more to come, but stay tuned because all of them involve giveaways and recipes.

I’m heading out of town on Wednesday!  I have a conference in Chicago the first week of December, so it seemed like a good opportunity to go home and spend my first Thanksgiving in 11 years with my family (parents, sister, and her hubby and kids).  I’m looking forward to seeing them and doing some of the cooking, though I’m not looking forward to the weather!  (see last post about hating the cold).

AC will be meeting up with me in Chicago, so that should be a ton of fun too.  I am sad about missing Thanksgiving with D and our kids, but I know they’ll have a great weekend.

 

Sweat Icicles Suck

FOOD

I love bulk cooking.  I mean, I like normal cooking too – especially on the weekends – but during the week, I’m infinitely grateful for my Sunday bulk days (and Thai food, if I’m going to be honest!).

A was home for the weekend, so I just had to make her fav meal.  Tofurky, mac no cheese, and roasted veggies (did carrots this time).  Holy yum.  D was out running errands, so he didn’t have any until his lunch at work on Monday.  And then he proceeded to tell me how excited he was to have it for leftovers.  Yeah…I Tweeted that….my omni husband loved the vegan leftovers!

a big vat of mac no cheese!
a big vat of mac no cheese!
BEST LUNCH EVER.  Tofurky, mac no cheese, and roasted carrots.
BEST LUNCH EVER. Tofurky, mac no cheese, and roasted carrots.

I also went a little batty on Sunday in the cooking dept.  I don’t have pics for everything (planning to take pics as I’m actually eating stuff), but made butternut squash soup, cinnamon-maple muffins, pinto beans & rice with green chilies, quinoa salad, quinoa & veggie curry, chili-lime tofu, tacos, and a few salad dressings.  And despite all this, I STILL had Thai food one day.  And Italian (eggplant sammich with Daiya mozz!).

rice, beans, green chilies, and cumin. Simple.  Tasty.
rice, beans, green chilies, and cumin. Simple. Tasty.
chili-lime tofu triangles.  For salads, tacos, etc.
chili-lime tofu triangles. For salads, tacos, etc.
a really horrible veggie flat-bread at Uno's this weekend.  Bland, boring, and sad.
a really horrible veggie flat-bread at Uno’s this weekend. Bland, boring, and sad.
vegan eggplant "parm" sammich.  Yummy, but so huge, it fed me for days!
vegan eggplant “parm” sammich. Yummy, but so huge, it fed me for days!
Oatmeal with cinnamon because winter sucks.
Oatmeal with cinnamon because winter sucks.
Thai food goodness!  Tom Kha tofu soup on top, and tofu/eggplant green curry on the bottom.
Thai food goodness! Tom Kha tofu soup on top, and tofu/eggplant green curry on the bottom.
cinnamon-maple-raisin mini-muffins
cinnamon-maple-raisin mini-muffins

FITNESS

Well I totally forgot that running in the cold = wheezing for an hour afterwards.  I tend to remember to warm up in the house before going out – or at least walking for 5 minutes or so….but NOOOOOO…..not me.  I get amnesia every freaking winter.  And let me be frank here.  I don’t have asthma, but for some reason, I wheeze and cough after running in the cold if I don’t warm up indoors first.  Another reason why I’m not meant to be in cold weather.  Ever.

No yoga at home this week.  Mainly because we have this rule about turning on the heat at home – or letting it be set above 68 degrees (don’t get me started…I’m married to an Eskimo), so the thought of stripping down to a tank and shorts to do yoga in my own home is horrifying.  And it’s been cold, like 62 in the house cold, so there’s no way I could do yoga here.  Good thing my yoga of choice is normally hot yoga, so walking into a 100 degree or so room in a tank and shorts is pure bliss right now.

Until I go back outside and all my lovely warmth and sweat turns to icicles.  Sweat icicles suck.  Winter sucks.  And people, I won’t lie….I’m in Virginia.  Where winter is like 50.  But that still sucks.

LIFE

If you didn’t get the hint it’s cold.  Not like Buffalo, NY cold (and I feel for them…I mean, everyone wants to break records, but not because of things like cold and snow!).

But really – it was in the mid-70’s on Wednesday last week, and 30’s by the weekend.  My allergies are a mess, my young one got sick, and I am forced to remember how sporadic Virginia weather can be.  But I’m not complaining.  Nothing against the good residents of Buffalo, NY, but I’m glad it’s not me!

I mentioned that A was home.  It was awesome.  I took her and R to the salon to get haircuts on Saturday.  Then we met up with M and D at the movies.  Big Hero 6 is totally amazing, and everyone should see it!

R hanging on the back deck on Monday.
R hanging on the back deck on Monday.
M and D got haircuts last week!  Such handsome boys.
M and D got haircuts last week! Such handsome boys.

I took A back to university on Sunday and then hung out with AC that night.  Which I totally can’t complain about.

Sadly, after nearly 3 years in remission, D is in the middle of a Crohn’s flare-up.  It sucks on so many levels.  He’s in pain, he’s tired, and there’s nothing I can do.  The meds to make him better temporarily make him feel worse, and in all, he’s a sad little lump that I can’t help.  He really thinks it was working nights, bad diet while working nights, and stress.  I definitely agree.

my sweet sick ones.  The young one with a head cold/allergy hell, and my hunny with a flare-up.
my sweet sick ones. The young one with a head cold/allergy hell, and my hunny with a flare-up.

One last thing.  While I was out with AC last night, R (who’s 11, by the way), sent this picture to all of us (me, D, M, and A).  And proceeded to say that it was meant for me.  In which I promptly grounded her for being a brat child…

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And I will leave you with a few random pics from the past few days!

morning picture!!!
morning picture!!!
Ginny being snuggly
Ginny being snuggly
I have this addiction to solitaire.  Especially while watching TV.  And while I was catching up on last season's Bone's, I got my highest completion time.  Don't judge...
I have this addiction to solitaire. Especially while watching TV. And while I was catching up on last season’s Bone’s, I got my highest completion time.  I was proud. Don’t judge…
I sent this to A - she met some guys at a part who were wearing Man U shirts, and she walked up to them and asked them how it felt to suck.  THAT'S MY GIRL!!!!
I sent this to A – she met some guys at a party who were wearing Man U shirts, and she walked up to them and asked them how it felt to suck. THAT’S MY GIRL!!!!  Go Chelsea!!!
because cats are cool...
because cats are cool…

 

It’s the Little Things

FOOD

Everyone knows I love food.  Love cooking it, love eating it, and love making dishes for other people.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make this even more special.  Like my husband’s boss gifting me with several huge CSA hauls of hers that she just didn’t have time to go through.  Eggplant, shallots, TONS of greens, and all sorts of fun stuff.  It was a very sweet gesture, and I had tons of fun with it all.

Spicy eggplant with Indian spices and cilantro
Spicy eggplant with Indian spices and cilantro
plenty of leftovers of cumin basmati rice, red lentil dahl, and eggplant.  INDIAN FOOD FOR DAYS
plenty of leftovers of cumin basmati rice, red lentil dahl, and eggplant. INDIAN FOOD FOR DAYS

I was traveling all last weekend, and had some special meals whipped up, including this amazing Moroccan Vegetable Tagine, and the owner came and sat with me for awhile explaining how it was made, why he moved to the US, and how much I remind him of his little sister.  Again, a little thing, but created a  memorable evening for me.

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And today, my Dad called.  He’s a couple doors down from the best spice place on earth (The Spice House in Milwaukee), and he was just calling to see what I need from there (hello poultry seasoning and onion powder!).  Thoughtful thing to do.

FITNESS

It is no surprise that the past week or so has seen yoga and running as my workouts.  It’s actually been a struggle the last two weeks with finding (aka….MAKING)  time.  D has been on nights and I’ve been exhausted.  I don’t like to think I forget how much he does around here, but I think for awhile there I had.

It seems like I’m always freakishly busy doing one thing or another, and I forget that he does all the little things (and a lot of the big things too!).  He does special little things with the kids, and even with me.  Silly things like texting me pictures of flowers or being a sounding board as I’m trying to solve some problem or another.  A week with him on nights and us barely seeing each other, certainly reminded me of just how big those little things are.

Anyway, on the fitness front, I mostly went for shorter runs and did yoga at home.  On the weekends, I hit the studio, but not during the week.

LIFE

I’m happy to say that D is back on days again!  Although he’s still not successfully flipped his sleeping schedule back yet.

While he was on nights, I did the Halloween thing with the kids, tried to keep everything together for a week, and then went out of town for several days.  I did get to spend a day with A though, and that was definitely a fun day.  Lunch at our favorite Pho joint, Whole Foods, and a few hours at the mall rounded out a fun mother-daughter day.  I miss her, and while soup and shopping seems like a little thing, it was pretty big for me.

Spicy Pho for me!
Spicy Pho for me!

And for my favorite little thing….D’s morning pictures!  Every morning he snaps a selfie with R as he’s dropping her off to school.  Not a big deal at all, but when I tell people about it (or post their daily shot with #morningpicture), I realize how incredibly special it is.  When I’m traveling, I find myself flipping through week’s worth, and it always makes me smile.

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So there you have it.  Me coming to the realization that life’s best moments aren’t the big ones I keep planning for, but the little ones that happen around me every day.

Pizza is ALWAYS a Good Idea

FOOD

The week has been great on the food front!  Thank goodness for bulk cooking.  I had lots of stuffed bell peppers and soup for lunches.  I’ve also had a lot of other awesome stuff!

from one of my local fav's, Yorgo's Bageldashery - tofu, vegan cheese, and tempeh bacon on a toasted everything bagel!
from one of my local fav’s, Yorgo’s Bageldashery – tofu, vegan cheese, and tempeh bacon on a toasted everything bagel!
the Berkeley vegan pizza from zPizza
the Berkeley vegan pizza from zPizza
Irish oats with cinnamon
Irish oats with cinnamon
Tofu Taco Tuesday!
Tofu Taco Tuesday!
Irish oats with cinnamon and blueberries
Irish oats with cinnamon and blueberries
gluten free black bean pasta (jury is still out on if I actually like it), but with Happy Herbivores Creamy Dijon pasta sauce which I know I love
gluten free black bean pasta (jury is still out on if I actually like it), but with Happy Herbivores Creamy Dijon pasta sauce which I know I love
butternut squash soup
butternut squash soup with a twist!  From the new Happy Herbivore book, it’s butternut squash with green chilies and limes.  I love it.

The temps are dropping, and I’m definitely starting to favor warming foods.  Fewer smoothies and more oatmeal, less salads, and more soup.  And of course, pizza is always a good idea.

FITNESS

I only went for one run this week.  The wet and cold and wind are just not my thing.  I did, however, hit up several hot yoga classes.  I have to say, it’s my very favorite form of exercise.  And there’s something awesome about stepping into that room when it’s cold as crap outside!

LIFE

Another busy week down!  It was a great week though, so can’t complain.

D is back to working nights for a go-live, so it’s been pretty quiet this weekend.  I’ve spent most of the past two days working (at home though), cleaning, and running errands.  I plan to spend the rest of the evening cooking and prepping for the week ahead!

I also popped open a bottle of my birthday wine from my parents!  So far, so good!

I love that my sister got me a pack of spices and my parents got me wine.  It’s awesome when people know you so well 🙂

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Other than that, I plan to wrap up in a blanket, drink more hot tea, and watch Robots with my kids!

#morningpicture
#morningpicture
another #morningpicture
another #morningpicture
D with a comfy Ginny in his lap
D with a comfy Ginny in his lap