Friday, December 21, 2012

Experimenting With Color (and cookies)


So, as promised in my post from yesterday, I am going to show you the "experiment" I have been working on involving Chlorophyll and pomagranates.



But first, the preface:
My students LOVE me to read them "The Gingerbread Man" it's been their favorite for months and I told them that we would make gingerbread man cookies for our Christmas party. So the night before, I made 18 little gingerbread man cookies, 18 star cookies and 18 circle cookies. The shape of the gingerbread man turned out a little strange because the gingerbread man cookie cutter that I bought from the US didn't come in yet, so I had to buy a "boy" cookie cutter from a random supermarket in Korea.
See pics down below and you'll see what I mean~

I wanted to have red, white, and green colored icing. But this is problematic. First, because you can't easily find food coloring in Korea. Second, because food coloring is creepily made with all these weird chemicals AND/OR beetles and other random things. So many children in the US have allergies to these artificial colorings. These scary colors have even been linked to behavioral disorders, allergies, asthma and even cancer. This isn't some conspiracy talk. Many parents are made aware of this fact from their regular allopathic doctors! This is mainstream knowledge. If yore interested, read more about this here, here, here or here. Or just Google about it yourself! It's serious stuff!

I couldn't give these things to my little angel babies, so right as I was falling asleep a few weeks ago I thought of a great idea!
CHLOROPHYLL! Yes- the "blood" of plants. I have a bottle of it that I occasionally put in smoothies. It is SO GREEN that is is black. A tiny drop and the whole icing would change green. PERFECT.




Next, RED. My first instinct was POMEGRANATES. Their juice stains the counter and the cutting board, and it is RED. So, I figured it would work. I smashed the seeds through a metal sieve with a cup underneath to catch the juice. I even boiled the juice to concentrate the color.




It didn't come out as bright or as "red" as I would have liked, but at least it was natural. I will keep trying on this. I didn't google how to do it because I just want to figure it out!! I'm going to try beets next time.

This is SO easy! There are so many other fruit or veg that are totally vibrant! I just know they would work! I can't wait to do more experimenting!

Here is my icing recipe:


EASY VEGAN ICING RECIPE


2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
1 TBSP of Coconut Oil
2 1/2 TBSP of Soy Milk(OR almond or coconut)
1/2 tsp of Vanilla Extract (alcohol-free, please)

Just mix everything together. Make sure your milk is at room temp, otherwise it will make the coconut oil hard and your icing will be lumpy. You can add more or less milk depending on how thick you want to make it OR you can make it with no milk at all. Water works fine.


Here is the cookie recipe:

BASIC VEGAN SUGAR COOKIES


Ingredients

1 1/4 Cup of Coconut Oil
1 Cup of Raw sugar or Xylitol
1 "flax egg" (1 TBSP of ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 TBSP of warm water)
2 tsp of vanilla extract (alcohol-free please)
3 1/2 Cups of flour (I didn't use whole wheat this time, but it works fine in this recipe)
1 tsp aluminum free baking powder

1.) In a small bowl, mix the ground flaxseeds with the warm water and let set at least 10 minutes. It will have the consistency of a raw egg when it's "ready".

2.) In a big bowl, mix the coconut oil and sugar really well. Then beat in the flax mixture and vanilla.

3.) Mix flour into the mixture from step 2 with a big wooden spoon. Do this gradually so it will mix well. If the mixture seems a little dry add a little water or soy milk.

4.) Cover the bowl and let the dough set in the refrigerator for 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 176ºC (350ºF).

5.) Roll out dough on a floured surface until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out the Shapes you want.



6.) Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 9 or 10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like your cookies. Remember: if cookies "LOOK DONE", then they are burnt.


Here are my lovely students making and enjoying their creations at our Christmas party. How could I NOT love my job, right?!


Jayden, Olivia, Ellie and Iris making their vegan, all natural and organic cookies.
We used raisins and coconut to decorate with!

I tried to tell the kids that these cookies are *better* for their body than regular ones.
No eggs, no butter, no white sugar, flaxseed added, pomegranate juice added, and chlorophyll added. They didn't care. They just LOVED them! That was all the encouragement I needed to know that this recipe is a winner!

I have been posting a lot about baked goods and sweets. Typically I don't eat these, but I have been very inspired lately over the need for people to know these things can be made "better" than the traditional ways. I want people to be encouraged that starting a more compassionate lifestyle can be delicious too. We vegans eat more than tofu, you know! I don't think these foods should be incorporated in the diet, but if you feel the need to partake of these things you don't have to TOTALLY fall off the wagon!


Hope you guys like this recipe, I had some stellar reviews of these cookies from my students, co-workers, and friends (vegan and non-veg alike). This will be a guaranteed winner at Christmas dinner.

This may be my last post for a couple weeks. We are actually on our way to the airport now. We are heading to Bali until after the New Year! See you guys in 2013... or sooner if I am inspired!! Have a wonderful New Year. Take some time to yourself to dream about the upcoming year and totally let go of 2012. It no longer serves you.

Love and Chorophyll,

Meg

Some of the cookies that I made for a recent veg*an function that a friend and I coordinated at a local bar (more info on that coming next month). If you tried one of these cookies on Thursday night, let us all know what you think!





Yule. Love. Musgo Stew.

      
First, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Yule! 


For those of you not familiar with this holiday, it is very intriguing. Yule was (and is) celebrated in Scandinavian countries, but similar celebrations are common in many other cultures. Yule is based on the Winter Solstice and so many of our "Christmas" traditions originate from it. If you have a Christmas Tree, burn a yule log, go Christmas "caroling", hang up lights, exchange gifts, and have a BIG dinner- you participate in Yule traditions.

Yule is very symbolic, yet literal at the same time. It occurs on Winter Solstice (the first day of winter) when the sun is very low in the sky and we have "the longest night" of the year.  For those living in ancient times, this was a huge problem. They viewed the sun as the giver of life! If the sun suddenly disappears, life would no longer exist on Earth! I love this explanation of Yule that I found online.

"Try to imagine yourself in a very cold climate, where the Winter nights are very long, indeed. Firewood and food are both becoming very scarce and you have begun to fear for your own survival. As you keep a lonely vigil through this, the Longest Night, you feel as though the Darkness has taken over the Earth and the Light will never come again. Imagine your joy at that first spark of light and your hopes that, someday soon, the snow will melt and you will be warm and well fed! This is the way our ancestors must have felt about this time of celebration."

You can view this as the literal "darkness" taking over the world and sending all living things to their deaths. OR you could view it as spiritual "darkness" or "evil" taking over. Then, when the night is over, the sun returns!  To me, it's a very meaningful holiday.

It's so powerful to sync up with the seasons and understand and appreciate those cycles that were so sacred to our ancestors. We are still part of nature even though we live in high rise apartments and don't have to cultivate our own food. Syncing oneself with the season is so enlightening and really makes a person feel "at home" on our planet.


Dave and I are on vacation starting TOMORROW! So, on Monday of this week I cleaned out the fridge. I HATE throwing food away... especially organic veggies that are SO expensive in Korea. I took all the veggies, a package of  grains that was almost gone, a package of organic tofu and a left over stir fry from the night before and I made........

  MUSGO STEW



Sounds fancy, right?

"Musgo" cleverly comes from the English words "Must Go".  Use in a sentence:
         "These veggies MUST GO out of my fridge before we leave for our vacation, or they will spoil."

Here is what I did-

I cut all the veggies and put a little coconut oil, garlic, and fresh ginger in a large pot and cooked them in the oil for a couple minutes.

Next, I threw all the veggies in and cooked them until they were nearly done. The veggies I used were carrots (lots and lots), sweet potatoes, 1/4 head of cabbage and chopped up stems of kale, celery leaves, and beet chard.  Then I added the spices- cumin, lots of curry powder, nutmeg, cayenne pepper (just a tad) and turmeric- and mixed them in well with the veggies.

I then added water about 3/4 of the way up into the pot. I didn't have any freshly made vegetable stock, so I threw in an organic vegetable bullion cube, the grains (I used Millet), and the firm tofu (pressed).

I brought everything to a boil, and then turned down the heat to let it simmer for about 35-40 minutes. At some point I added in the previous night's stir fry (veggies and quinoa).

See the stir fry floating on top? :-)
After the carrots and sweet potatoes were tender, I added in lots of greens. I have been LOVING the leaves off the tops of celery!! If you are in Korea, you can buy them in the organic section of Emart where all the leaves are sold. I also added kale and beet chard and some other miscellaneous greens that were calling my name in the store.

Gorgeous! I prefer eating my greens raw, but they are SO nice in a stew on a cold rainy day!


I made SO much of this stuff that we have been eating it for dinner every night! It really hits the spot after the cold commute home at the end of a long day!


Don't ever throw away leftovers or veggies. Put them in a large stew! Get creative! Spaghetti, rice, mashed potatoes... nothing is out of the question for Musgo Stew! Now get out there any try it! I know lots of you are leaving on vacay soon too, OR will have lots of leftovers from holiday celebrations, so you'll have plenty of chances to experiment!! The key is spices and seasonings! Organic and salt free is the way to go! I hope you all have a great holiday season!

I did some interesting experiments lately.. I will be posting about it soon- so stay tuned!
*Hint- they involve chlorophyll and pomegranates...  :)


Now, I  MUSGO do laundry and pack for vacation.

Love to you all,
Meg


PS- Don't forget to "like" The Empowered Way on Facebook to get daily inspiration and other cool stuff!

Friday, December 14, 2012

It Happens To Everyone...



BAD HAIR DAYS.

Actually, it has basically happened to me every day for my entire life....

My hair was SUPER curly, thick and frizzy through middle and high school. 

No- I wasn't gothic. My friend and I did a Sociology experiment in WalMart... don't ask.

Then I got professional straightening in college and it got better, and some days even manageable.



Then I moved to Korea and had horrible experiences keeping up with my blonde highlights.  My hair was YELLOW and over processed. And then........ it broke off after being burned too much with the arsenic (AKA- Korean hair dye) AND washing it in the water here.

The height of yellowness!


Then my hair was two-toned because I refused to re-touch my super shiny new healthy VEGAN hair and re-peat this process again.



NOW:
I have dyed the yellow hair to match healthy roots. I wash it with Dr. Bronner's Soap. Rinse it with Dr. Bronner's Hair Rinse. Spray it with Rose Water. And Use Dr. Bronner's Hair Cream for styling. It feels so great! I feel so good knowing that No toxic products or products tested on animals are even being used on my hair and my hair is thanking me for it by behaving itself.






I actually found out after I had already eliminated SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) from my hair care routine, that it totally scrubs away all the natural oils in your hair, causing it to dry out and in some cases OVER produce oil to counteract the dryness. It has also been linked with making hair fall out! Check the link above or google for the truly nasty effects of this criminal chemical that is basically in EVERYTHING that touches our skin and hair.

But even with the best hair, when you work with 18 of THESE guys...



Having a good hair day can be a challenge. 

Sometimes my job calls for me to be a client in their "Hair Shop" or a Power Ranger... 
Sometimes the results look like this...


But it's ok! I always have a trusty elastic hair band in my bag to remedy this issue.
Except on days that I don't. 
On days like that there are only a few options available in a pre-school.



Normal rubber bands DON'T WORK! They always get tangled and I have to cut them out...
Clothes pins? Not really, unless you use 20. 
Paper clips? No. But they could work instead of a bobby pin if you're in a jam.
Pencils? I could never do the cool bun thing with a pencil... I've tired for years.
So, I chose the twist tie (but I took off the bow)



WOW! It worked great! They don't damage your hair like hair bands do and you don't need to buy anything- 
you can just re-use your bread ties!


In the past I probably just would have been angry at myself for not remembering to bring an extra elastic hair tie. Believe it or not, I would have dwelled on it and it would have ruined my whole day.

But when you look for opportunities in the difficulties that life sometimes hands you, you ALWAYS find something better. You may even learn something you wouldn't have known before.

Maybe some of you don't want to hear me rant about my hair.
But I'm writing this post for myself. I have always had a horrible relationship with my hair. I have despised it FOREVER and it has even lead to low self-esteem and insecurity. My hair has always been my Achille's heal. Being able to overcome little victories with it really gives me a boost.

I like having little problems like this in life and finding meaning in them. When you learn something like this on a small scale, you can apply it to large-scale problems if they arise.

The opportunity to learn something new everyday to improve your mind (or hair) is one of the gifts we are given in life. When we stop learning, we stop progressing and then we become dull and bored (and boring).

Life is too awesome!

Find truth in the little things. Walk around with your eyes open.
The little things can be just as empowering as the big ones.

Have you ever found truth or inspiration in something small? I'd love to hear about it!

There are many ways to live life-
Why not live it "The Empowered Way"!


Meg

PS- You can find Dr Bronner's products at my new "Empowered Consumer Shop" HERE!
I also have books and other great things that inspire and empower me there too! Check it out! If you can't find something on there that you are interested in, let me know. I'll get it!







Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why Buy When You Can Make It Better Yourself (Pie Crust)


 Here it is!
The long awaited pie recipe! If you knew how simple and FUN making pie crust is you would never buy frozen again!! Making homemade vegan pie crust is just as easy as conventional crust... BUT its even stronger! You can literally hold a piece of this pie by the crust and it will not break! But the taste is fantastic... I think it's BETTER than doing it the old way.

Here are the ingredients:
2 1/4 cups of All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of Coconut Oil (make sure it's solid)
1 teaspoon of Salt (rock salt or sea salt... NO MORTON'S)
1 Tablespoon of Sugar (Xylitol, or raw sugar please)
1/2 Cup of Ice Water

**Compare our 5 ingredients with the 18 in Pillbury's Frozen Crust!!!!! If you need to have majored in Latin to read the food label on something, don't eat it!**

Directions:

STEP 1: In a food processor- pulse the flour, salt, and sugar a few times until mixed.


STEP 2: Add in the coconut oil and pulse until it's crumbly and sticks together when you squeeze it between your fingers. Using a food processor for this step is unconventional, but that's what I'm all about! :) It works perfectly!


STEP 3: Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and start gradually adding in the water with a spatula. The key to making excellent pie crust is ICE COLD WATER. *Think Titanic Iceberg water cold! Keep mixing until you have a nice dough ball formed.






You may need slightly less water, or more. Adjust your amount accordingly. This amount of dough will make two pie crusts or 1 pie crust that has a lattice top (like this)


STEP 4: Cut dough in half and reshape into a flat ball. Place dough on a floured counter.


STEP 5: Roll out pie crust and place the dough into the pan.
  Check out my video below on how to roll perfect crust every time.
 

*TIPWhen working with pie dough always keep a dish of ice water and extra flour handy.


STEP 6: With a fork, poke holes in the sides and bottom of the crust. Then, place your PERFECT pie crust into the refrigerator for 1 hour. This will keep it stable while you are baking.


For Thanksgiving, I made a vegan pumpkin pie and pumpkin tarts... not because I'm fancy. Because I only have 1 pie pan :) I made the above dough recipe, and rolled out half the dough onto a pie pan and the rest I put into muffin pans. It turns out half of this dough recipe makes 12 tarts!



Here is the Pumpkin Pie Filling Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 1/2 Cups of pumpkin puree
1 Cup of Cashews soaked in water for 3 hours or more. Rinse and drain them well before using.
3/4 Cup of sugar (Xylitol or Raw sugar, please)
2 Tablespoons of Tapioca starch (NO DON'T USE CORNSTARCH!)
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Blackstrap Molasses (Benefits: Calcium, Iron, minerals)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
A pinch or two of cloves



Directions:

STEP 1: Pre-heat oven to 176ºC (350ºF)

STEP 2: Mix everything together until smooth. Those cashews can be stubborn. I usually have to use an immersion blender to get everything smooth.

STEP 3: Pour mixture into pie shell and smooth out the top until it looks good.





STEP 4: Bake for about 35- 40 minutes. Pumpkin pie- just like cheesecake and cookies will not appear done when it actually IS. If it looks done, it's probably over cooked. 


STEP 5: In order to keep your pie filling from "cracking" make sure it doesn't cool off too quickly. To easily do this, turn off the oven and crack the door. Leave the pie in for about 15 minutes. It will cool down slower and your pie will have less risk of cracking.




My finished Pumpkin Pie: Mostly organic, no eggs, dairy, preservatives or white sugar.

 

My Banana Cream Pie: All organic, no eggs, no dairy. With coconut milk whipped cream.




NOW- WHAT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.... THE GIVEAWAY WINNERS (from the last post)!!!      


Dr. Bronner's Soap: #16 Austin Buckley
Organic Coconut Oil: #20 roundthemoon

You can click the Random Picker icon below to see the drawing details. :)



I will be messaging you both shortly to get your shipping details! Thank so much to everyone that participated!!


Happy Holidays to you all!

I know the holidays can be a bit of a weakness for some people... food and baked goods abound this time of year. But this year, re-think your choices. If there is something you LOVE, there is a way to make it healthier. Just do a little research- you'll be glad you did!

Living in a foreign country WITHOUT frozen/boxed/canned foods that we become so dependent on in the US has really forced me into making things myself. I will always be glad for these years spent living in Korea. My true life's path was forged here.. I found myself here. It never even crossed my mind that I would find that when I decided to leave my home 4 years ago.



Here's to the paths you have yet to travel and the ones you are traveling now. Never get too attached to any ONE plan. Always be open. Always be searching.

Empowered Choices. Empowered Way.

Meg