Happy Herbivore Blog

Guest Post: How Happy Herbivore Got Me Out of A Pasta Rut

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Guests

Hi Herbies! Today we are featuring a guest post from Megan, the Holistic Health Coach. Enjoy!

Happy Herbivore has taken me out of my pasta rut. I used to automatically make a pasta dish when I was pressed for time but wanted a meal that would be easy to prepare and satisfying. Although I still adore pasta, it wasn't until I started cooking from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook that my creativity kicked in.

The first recipe I ever made was the Black Bean Brownies. I was so intrigued by the idea that I rushed the soaking process and convinced myself there was plenty of time for the beans to soften in the oven. This taught me two things; black beans can make an awesome brownie and it pays to be patient. My brownies were a little dry but I was blown away by the flavor. I automatically bought canned black beans and made another batch that I took to work with me the next day playing a little game I like to call, "Guess what's in this!" The brownies were such a hit and I made them for everyone in my family for Christmas. I baked them, arranged them in festive tins, and drove them 6 hours to New Jersey to make sure every member of my family would be able to try them. No one could believe it was possible to enjoy a dessert that wasn't going to put them in a mini coma from the sugar highs and lows.

I then used Happy Herbivore as a reference to learn more about flavors and seasoning because I instinctively cook Mediterranean-type meals. I’m Italian and grew up with an unusual obsession with fresh basil and first learned to cook as an adult while spending a year in Greece. It wasn’t until the Happy Herbivore came along that I introduced new spices into my pantry. I bought Garam Masala for the first time after seeing the recipe for Red Lentil Dal. It hit me like a ton of bricks that my favorite ethnic foods are easy to make and the ingredients are ridiculously inexpensive. I just lacked the confidence and flavor guidelines which resulted in me overpaying for less healthful meals in restaurants. You won’t catch me paying $15 for a dish made from 89 cent chick peas or lentils anymore and my friends finally know that when they come over for dinner they have something other than spaghetti to look forward to.

I’m a little rebellious toward recipes. I almost never measure and am relaxed when it comes to substituting with whatever I have on hand. The Happy Herbivore recipes and the beautiful photos make it so easy to be inspired. I enjoy my kitchen so much more now that I look at the contents of my refrigerator with a new perspective.

This is probably a good time to mention that I’m not a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am, however, crazy about vegetables, sneaking them into absolutely everything I eat (including breakfast). I’ve never really had a taste for meat, but have no desire to commit to a label. I simply love food that is beautiful, makes you feel alive , tastes great, and doesn’t make you fat and tired.

I share my love of good food with practically everyone I meet. I teach cooking classes to show people that you can make a meal quickly without it coming from a box. My most recent class featured “Meatless Burgers that don’t suck.” We made Happy Herbivore spicy black bean burgers and mushroom burgers. I followed the black bean recipe, but used brown rice in the mushroom burgers rather than beans. Everyone was impressed that a vegan burger could be so satisfying and full of flavor.

Happy Herbivore has helped me set my refrigerator and pantry up in a way that making a healthy meal can be simple and faster than picking up takeout. My pantry now features more grains, beans, and legumes and a little less pasta. My husband and dinner guests are grateful for the variety and my waistline thanks you!

Thanks, Megan! I think we've all been in a pasta rut before. Herbies, have you ever been in a food rut before?

What is Tofu? (The Big Tofu Post)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Hi. I'm Scott. (you know, "Mr. Happy Herbivore"). My wife makes fun of me for how much I like tofu. Tofu is stupendously awesome! Here is my post on why tofu rocks...with added videos from Lindsay.

5 Interesting Tofu Facts:

  1. The Chinese having been making Tofu for over 2000 years.
  2. The process for making Tofu is very similar to making cheese where soy milk is coagulated with vinegar, calcium sulfate or lemon juice.
  3. "Soybeans can product over 33 percent more protein from an acre of land than any other known crop."1
  4. Tofu is meant to be eaten within hours of being made; so you can imagine the quality difference from what we get in the supermarket.
  5. In Japan, there are Tofu restaurants were the entire menu focuses on incorporating Tofu into dishes. As an example, see Kyotofu's menu which is located in NYC.

What is Tofu?

How is it made? Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk into curds. These curds are then put into forms and pressed to create a large block of tofu. The large block is then cut into smaller blocks and packaged in filtered water.

Types of Tofu:

There are three types of tofu generally available in the United States: silken tofu, firm tofu, and extra firm tofu. Each of these types of tofu are general made they same way except the firmer the tofu the longer it is pressed.

There are three main varieties of soybeans; immature soybeans are green and typically sold precooked as Edamame, mature soybeans are white, and dried soybeans.

Nutrition: Soy is considered the only complete vegetable protein because it has all 8 of the essential amino acids that cannot be created from other compounds in the human body. Tofu is also very high in protein and low in calories.

What about GMO? Most Tofu and other soy products sold to humans are non-GMO. They feed all the GMO soybeans to animals so as long as you don't eat animals you're cool.

Hodo Soy Beanery Founder Minh Tsai has made this great video about Tofu and is part of the inspiration for putting together a great guide to Tofu.

The Re-education of Tofu: Hodo Soy Beanery from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

The Best "Cheezy" Video on making Tofu.

The music is classic. If your gangsta like me there is also a Wu-Tang version.

Oh yeah, Japanese people are awesome: cooking with dog; not literally!

How to Press Tofu, How to Bake Tofu -- and other cooking tips:

1. The Book of Tofu (Reference for previous statement)

How do you tofu? Any tips? Fave ways to eat it?

Minimalist Monday: Email Management (How to Organize Email, Increase Productivity & Reduce Stress)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: AdviceBusiness101

Minimalist Inbox.

Clutter gives me anxiety. I'm finding that "too much" of anything is stressful and borderline chaotic for me. If I want to feel like a zen panda at home, everything needs to be put away--out of sight and then neatly organized with purpose where it's contained. 

Organizing my pantry (and closest) plus clearing off my household surfaces, has made a huge difference in my stress levels at home.

Notice the zen difference in my bathroom:

But what does my bathroom have to do with my inbox?!

My inbox does not make me a zen panda. 

It's one of those things that slowly gets out of control, email by email. I don't really notice it until it's stressing me out. For example, Last week I was feeling so overwhelmed and anxious about all the email that I signed out. A few hours later I signed in again and there were 15 new emails spilling out. I think I yelled something like, "MY EMAIL MULTIPLIES! MY EMAIL IS LIKE A RABBIT!"

There they were. All those emails. All those unread emails. All of those emails acting as a reminder for things I needed to do. All of it was starring back at me. I was freaking out. 

My usual solution is to sit down and weed: go through and do and delete and file away--which I did. About an hour and a half later my inbox was clean and organized and I had a real sense of accomplishment. I felt zen... until two days later when my inbox was overflowing and making me anxious again. It wasn't as bad as it had been before, but it wasn't great and it was a source of stress for me all day. I knew I had to find a better solution.

At first I thought I might develop a zen habit -- treat my inbox like my other household chores (I do various chores systematically throughout the week. This keeps my house clean and I don't have to worry about when laundry, mopping the floors, etc. will get done because I have a plan in place). 

I thought I could set aside some time each week to purge the ol' inbox... but I realized that would mean I'd only feel totally zen on a purge day. The other days my email would still be a source of stress. So then I considered setting time aside to do it every day until I remembered if I had the time to deal with all my emails every day, this whole backlog and buildup would never happen. So obviously that wasn't a realistic solution either. 

Then, when I was tidying up my bathroom, it hit me. (See? full circle).

I need to treat my inbox the way I treat everything else -- put it away, out of sight, out of mind. 

I created a system of folders to hold my emails so they're still there, but they're not starring at me. This keeps my inbox clear, allowing me to feel like a zen panda. For example, I'm subscribe to a few newsletters and I genuinely want to read them. Problem is, when they arrive to my inbox, I usually can't stop to read them. So they just sit there, waiting to be read...cluttering up my inbox and making me stressed about the email volume of my inbox. 

Now all the newsletters are in a folder called "read me." As soon as one comes in, it gets put in that folder so the next time I have some free time, or I'm taking a break, I can pop on over to that folder and catch up. In the meantime, it's out of sight.

Same with all the emails that are lingering behind to be a reminder I need to do something. Now they're all neatly stored in a "to do next" folder.

I added about 10 total folders... read me, to do, coupons, ideas, etc and let me tell you, my inbox has never been so zen and stress-free! Depending on your email provider, you can usually also set it up so the emails automatically go into these folders, too. Talk about minimalist!

My zen inbox.

Other tips for a zen inbox:

- Don't leave your email open. (Seriously!) check it only a few times every day. (Read my post on single-tasking vs. multitasking to see why this is crucial).

- When you check your email, dipose of each one immediately. Respond if you can. If you can't respond right then, or it requires time you don't presently have (such as reading the newsletter), file it away into a folder and come back to it later. Don't let emails hang out. You inbox is prime real estate. Squatters are not welcome!

Minimalist Replies! Don't be afraid of 1 line (or 1 word) replies. I hate how that's often viewed as rude or unfriendly. I like to think I'm not wasting my time or yours with fluff. Of course there is a bit of balancing act here. I'm a little more flowery and wordy when dealing with people I don't know very well, but if I'm emailing my assistant, short and sweet. Yesterday Andrea asked me a yes or no question and got a "Y" back as a reply. Perhaps thats a little too minimalist.

As with the rest of my minimalist journey I'm still a work in progress, but my inbox is much more zen and so am I.

How's your inbox? Any organization tips?