Recipe First Impression: Stuffed Acorn Squash

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I recently moved in to my first apartment, giving me the opportunity to try lots of new vegan recipes. So to share my culinary experiments with you, I thought I would create a series of “Recipe First Impressions.” In these posts, I will share a recipe I have never made before, recreate it, and share my finished product and opinion about it.

The first new recipe I am tackling is Stuffed Acorn Squash, using this recipe from The Roasted Root. I decided to veer away from the recipe by filling the squashes with wild rice, cranberries, apples,  pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup. When I first picked up the acorn squashes, I was a bit nervous about how this meal would turn out, since they are a bit strange looking! But I found that they were very easy to cut open and cook. The wild rice filling was lovely and fragrant, too.

I enjoyed the combination of the buttery, nutty taste of the squash with the tart cranberries and apples. The pecans also added a nice texture. The only drawback was that I overcooked the squashes! 35 minutes as recommended in the recipe was not long enough, but the 55 minutes I cooked them for was too long. Next time, I will try cooking them for around 40 minutes.

Overall, I really liked this recipe. It was easy to make, delicious, satisfying, and healthy. It makes a festive and pretty autumn meal, and would be perfect for the holidays. I would make this recipe again, and I would recommend it to anyone interested. Below is a picture of how my stuffed squash turned out:

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I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any recommendations for what I should make next, please let me know!

Best,

Leila

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April Favorites

It has been a long time since I published a favorites of the month post. I have been enjoying a few things this month that I think are worth sharing, so let’s get into them:

Beauty

Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Eyeshadow

IMG_1848With the warmer spring weather this month, I have been using my Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Eyeshadow in Playa del Pink. It is a very nice metallic rose gold shadow that wears well as a base or on its own. Wearing it underneath shimmery champagne shadows gives an intense and radiant look. Best of all, this shadow is super light, natural, and cruelty-free!

Yes To Tomatoes Acne Cleanser & Yes To Cucumbers Body wash

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I have also been loving Yes To products this month. Their tomato acne cleanser is very nice and has been helping clear my skin. I switched from their scrub to the gel because I learned that the beads found in exfoliating products are too small to be removed by water filtration and often end up in local bodies of water. When aquatic animals as fish and turtles ingest the pellets, they may accumulate in their stomachs, causing them to die of malnourishment. I also found that the harshness of the exfoliating beads irritated my skin, so using a clean washcloth to exfoliate is kinder to both the animals and your skin.

I also love the cucumber body wash. It is gentle for sensitive skin and smells super refreshing. It is a great cruelty-free and natural dupe for Dove’s Cucumber Green Tea body wash.

Fashion 

I purchased a few items at winter clearance sales that have become staples this month.

First, I have been loving these strappy heeled booties. They are very versatile and comfortable. I also love the texture of them. They are some of the nicest vegan leather shoes I have come across.

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Second, I have been enjoying incorporating this crescent moon pendant necklace into my outfits. If you wear a lot of black like I do, a silver pendant like this one adds an eye catching touch of detail and texture.

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Third, I have been wearing this black kimono style top often this month. I love the delicate crochet sleeves and long fringe detail at the bottom. It is light and comfortable and adds a bohemian vibe to any outfit. I pair it with high waisted shorts and black maxi-skirts.

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Food

I have been eating strawberries like crazy this month. I like snacking on a bowl of them for dessert or between meals. They are also great chopped up in a bowl with bananas.

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Those are all of my favorites for this month! I would love to know what you have enjoyed during April. Hope you have a lovely May!

Best,

Leila

Vegan in College: What I Eat in a Day

what I eat in a day veganA common question among prospective vegans or students heading to college soon is, “What the heck am I going to eat?” If you eat all of your meals at a dining hall like I do, this question can be even more concerning. To hopefully provide some insight, I am going to show you everything I ate today as a vegan college student.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I ate a bowl of pineapple and strawberries, half of a grapefruit, and a banana. I also drank a glass of water. Typically, I like to have peanut butter toast, but I wanted to go running and was too drowsy to wait until afterwards to eat breakfast, so I opted for a light and energizing all-fruit  breakfast.

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Snack

After I finished my run and had gotten ready, I went to my favorite coffee shop to study for an exam. I drank a peach iced black tea and ate a banana and an apple.

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Lunch

For lunch, I ate a spinach, tomato, cucumber, mushroom, and hummus sandwich on wheat bread. Tip: hummus makes a great substitution for cheese on sandwiches and adds flavor so you need not add any additional sauces.

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I also ate a plate of veggie sushi, which contained carrots, cucumbers, and avocado.

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Another tip: Whenever I visit the dining hall, I like to take some fruit, such as apples and bananas, with me and keep them in a fruit bowl in my room. Then, if I am hungry during the day or after the dining hall closes, I have a snack on hand. I recommend keeping only healthy snacks in your dorm room so that when you are up late studying for exams or working on projects, you won’t be tempted to binge eat junk food. Am I the only one whose inhibition takes a nosedive after midnight?

Dinner

As a vegan in college, there are bound to be days when the vegan options at the dining hall are far from ideal. Today was one of those days. The only vegan entrees the dining hall in my residence hall was serving were tater tots, fries, and orange sauce. 😦 Here’s a tip for turning a tight situation around: Check the menus at other nearby dining halls (my university has an app for this). That way, you can scope out some tastier, healthier vegan options and avoid having fries for dinner.

I took a trip to another dining hall that had a rad pasta bar. I got mine with broccoli, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, marinara sauce, and soy cheese.

IMG_20150424_170406622I also ate a plate of grilled asparagus.

IMG_20150424_171232233For dessert, I ate a bowl of pineapple and strawberries.

IMG_20150424_172010634Snack

For a study snack later that evening, I ate a cashew and almond mix.

IMG_20150424_194517419That’s what I ate today! I hope that this helps to answer the question of what vegans eat, and what to eat in college.

Best,

Leila

Go Vegan for a Day on March 20th!

meatout

If you have been searching for the opportunity to give the vegan diet a try, but have lacked the incentive to dive in, here is your chance! On March 20th, you can join the thousands across the world pledging to go vegan for a day. One day does not seem like much, but only 3 vegan meals can do tremendous good for the earth and the animals. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life!

pig and lambThe benefits of going vegan are not only amazing for the animals and environment, but also extend to your health. Choosing to eat vegan is an effortless way to go cholesterol free, cut down on fat, and eat more nutritious fruits and vegetables. But of course, there are plenty of indulgent vegan treats too, so you won’t be missing out on anything!

100% VEGAN

So whether you decide to go vegan all at once, or begin easing your way into the lifestyle a bit at a time, this is your chance to test out the waters. What are you waiting for? Pledge to go vegan on March 20th here!

Once you have pledged, check out PETA’s awesome vegan starter kit for all of the tips and tricks you will need to make your first day vegan a breeze. For some ideas about what to make, check out the recipes on my blog, such as french toast, a tofu scramble, and macaroni and cheese. And as always, let me know if you have any questions about the vegan lifestyle.

Best,

Leila

Vegan Cinnamon and Sugar French Toast

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French toast makes a delicious breakfast or brunch, or even dessert. Luckily, you don’t need eggs to make this scrumptious treat! In this post, I will show you how to make cinnamon and sugar french toast so delectable, your friends and family will never believe it’s vegan!

Ingredients

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  1. Bread
  2. Soymilk (a thicker vegan milk works best)
  3. Ener-G Vegan Egg Replacer (you could substitute for potato or corn starch if you do not have the Egg Replacer)
  4. Vegan butter alternative, such as Earth Balance
  5. Cinnamon
  6. Sugar
  7. Optional: fruit to top it off such as strawberries and blueberries

Instructions

1. Begin by mixing around 2 tablespoons of soymilk and around 1 teaspoon of vegan egg replacer in a plate or shallow bowl. Mix until it reaches a smooth, yogurt-like texture. Tip: stir in the egg replacer a little bit at a time to prevent lumps.

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2. Melt around 2 teaspoons of vegan butter in a pan.

3. Coat both slices of the bread in the soymilk and egg replacer mixture and place in the pan once the butter has melted.

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4. Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 1 teaspoon of sugar on a clean plate.

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5. Once the bread has become brown and crunchy on both sides, coat it in the cinnamon and sugar.

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6. Top with fresh fruit, such as chopped strawberries and blueberries.

7. Repeat for additional slices, and enjoy!

Here is the finished product:

IMG_20150302_211617I hope you enjoyed this post! If you try out this recipe, I would love to know what you think!

Best,

Leila

How to Stay Vegan While Eating Out

eating out vegan

A common concern about the vegan lifestyle is staying vegan while eating out. Many fear they must decide between eating a boring undressed salad or relinquishing their social life altogether. Luckily, with a bit of strategy, staying vegan while eating out is easy, delicious, and a lot of fun. Here are some tips:

Find Vegan Friendly Restaurants

noodles and companyThough you may not always have the opportunity to choose where you go out to eat, it helps to suggest some vegan-friendly restaurants. To find restaurants nearby to you, use HappyCow.net. You can also get the Happy Cow app to look up restaurants on the go. Simply enter your geographic location, and Happy Cow finds all of the vegetarian, vegan, and veg-friendly restaurants nearby.

Look Up the Menu Beforehand

noodles vegan

Found this in the handy online nutrition guide I looked up prior to going out.

Don’t be that annoying vegan who gives the waiter a third degree in front of all their friends. Most restaurants have a menu available on their website that contains nutrition and allergen information. Familiarize yourself with the options and then surprise your friends with what a breeze eating out vegan is.

Be Creative

Even if an entree is not vegan, it may be possible to make it vegan with a few alterations, such as by substituting meat for tofu. Just ask the waiter. If you find yourself in a position where the restaurant does not carry a vegan entree you like, most will be more than happy to accommodate you by piecing together a few side dishes to make a meal. To make the meal a bit tastier, some enjoy bringing a few extras with them to the restaurant, such as vegan Parmesan, butter, or salad dressing.

Be Patient

From peta2’s Do’s and Don’ts of eating out

Surprisingly, many people working in the food industry do not know what “vegan” means. Instead of confusing them, ask them directly whether a particular dish contains dairy or eggs. You would hate to have them misunderstand and bring you a gluten free or vegetarian dish instead. And if they make a mistake, be kind and understanding. That’s what veganism is all about, after all.

Don’t Stress

At a restaurant, all of your food is prepared out of your sight, so contamination is not always possible to prevent. Instead of making a scene, stay calm. Veganism should be about the animals, not personal purity. Don’t give your friends the idea that the vegan lifestyle is extremely difficult and restrictive. Instead, show them how easy and flexible it is.

Having a meal that is 98% vegan just once or twice a month is not devastating. Though flipping a vegan burger with the same spatula as a meat burger contaminates the vegan burger, it does not increase the demand for meat at all. So from an ethical standpoint, what utensils or pan they use to prepare your food does not matter. Instead of stressing about contamination, relax and have a good time with your friends and family. Maybe when they see how delicious your meal looks, they will give the vegan entree a try, too.

Those are my tips for staying vegan while eating out! It may feel like more preparation for a meal out than you are used to, but with practice, it becomes easy. With delicious and healthy vegan food at almost any restaurant, there is no need to fear eating out.

Best,

Leila

My December Favorites

my december favorites

December has treated me well! I successfully completed my first semester of college! 😀 I have also been enjoying spending time at home celebrating the holidays with my family. I appreciate the much needed break from cafeteria food! I have quite a few favorites I can’t wait to share with you, so let’s get into them!

Highlights

My main highlight was my eighteenth birthday on the 16th. Because I skipped a grade, I am always a year younger than my peers, so it felt good to finally catch up!

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Me on my 18th birthday

For my birthday gift, I got my septum pierced! I am super excited about this piercing. I have been wanting it for a long time. I don’t expect everyone to like it, but I personally am in love with it! ❤

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My new septum piercing!

Beauty

IMG_20141129_142113349I have been absolutely loving the felt-tipped liquid eyeliner from Sonia Kashuk this month. The Stila stay all day liquid liner used to be my holy grail liquid liner. But after I found out they sell in China and therefore are not cruelty-free, I did not know how I would find a liner to replace it. But luckily, I love this eyeliner even more! I got it at Target for less than half the price of the Stila liner. I love how sturdy the tip is, making it easy to get sharp, precise winged liner with a single flick. I also love how dark the color is. I have had it for a month now and it hasn’t dried out at all, which is a great sign! I will definitely be sticking with this liner for a long time!

Fashion

???????????????????????????????Me and my pair of black vegan combat boots have been inseparable this month! They are so comfy and were easy to break in. They go with almost every outfit, and are super warm and sturdy. I have been especially loving pairing them with thick crew-length socks. I got them for under $25 from the brand Soda on Amazon.com and am so happy I purchased them instead of vegan Doc Martens, which are too pricy to think about. I am sure I will be wearing these all winter!

Food

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Let’s establish this: Field Roast’s new Chao cheese slices are THE thing in vegan cheese! The texture is perfectly on point. They melt very nicely as well. If you gave this cheese to a non-vegan, I am positive they would not be able to tell it was vegan cheese! “But I can’t live without cheese,” and “Vegan cheese does not taste like the real thing,” are no longer valid excuses! In fact, I almost do not like the Creamy Original flavor because it smells and tastes exactly like real cheese, which disgusts me a bit. (Although it is amazing in grilled cheese sandwiches!) I prefer the Coconut Herb flavor, which does not have that distinct cheese scent because of the flavorful herbs.

Music

 I have been listening to the band New Year’s Day nonstop lately. (Ash Costello’s perfect two toned hair is probably part of it 😛 ) I have been especially loving their album “Victim to Villain.” The instrumentals are solid, and the vocals and lyrics are also awesome. My favorite songs off the album are “Do Your Worst” and “Angel Eyes.”

Blog Updates

I made an Instagram account this month, so for lots of pictures of tasty vegan food, my makeup loves, and my adorable pet tortoise, follow me @leilalinablog!

I am still collecting questions for my Questions and Answers blog post! Feel free to ask me anything in the comments. 🙂

Lastly, I added a “Why Vegan” page to my site. To learn more about the motivations to go vegan, check it out!

These are all my December favorites! I would love to know what you have been loving this month! ❤ Hope you all had a joyful holiday season and a happy new year! 🙂

Best,

Leila