Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hydro Massage

I love massages, but let's be honest.  Who has the time or money to spend on such a regular basis?!  Well... plenty of people I suppose (thankfully so since several of my friends are massage therapists).  But not this girl.  Especially not these days.

So when I discovered that my gym had added the HydroMassage bed... I was ecstatic.  And when I saw an 82 year old woman get on it, push a few buttons to start it up and proceed to tell me it was her favorite part of coming to the gym... I knew I could do it.

Maybe I got ahead of myself just a bit.  But I did figure it out (after 10 minutes).  The last 2 minutes were heaven.  :)  Now that I've got it figured it out... you bet I'll be using it on a regular basis.  Even my MawMaw loved it.  In fact, it helped convince her to upgrade her membership to the $20/month package so she had full use of the massage bed. ~ Christina

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Upcycling Wine Bottles

As I become more and more green, I find myself constantly looking for ways to recycle or upcycle items all around me. Between my grandmother and I, and several local cousins, we have lots of wine bottles tossed each month. So I started playing around with ways to recycle them. I've got several different ideas... But being an artist, turning them into works I art seemed like the first option to try.

I took three different types of bottles and after thoroughly cleaning them I got to work painting. Here's the end result. I made it so all three could be used together as a home decoration. The larger bottle has a black square painted in the center in chalkboard paint, so you can write various messages on it. I like the way these came out. I'm gonna play around with a few more options on some others I have set aside. This might be a fun family "craft" project!

- Christina

Football Fun

To date, I haven't found a surface I couldn't paint... But it's always fun when I get a new challenge!

A month or so ago I was contacted by a potential customer, asking if I could paint a couple footballs for her sisters wedding. Hmmmm.. Sure, why not?! So I got to researching just HOW I could pull it off. End result... See below... Came out pretty cute. I learned a few new things during this project, in addition to expending my portfolio. :). - Christina

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

I haven't had a blueberry muffin in years. Definitely not since becoming vegan. And with summer peaking around the corner, I wanted to try and make some. I snagged some fresh blueberries from the local grocer and got to work experimenting with a recipe (or two). What's better than warm fresh blueberry muffins?!

These came out quite delish. I used smelt flour since I already had it... And I begrudgingly used sugar since all recipes called for it and I was worries I was making too many substitutions as it was. I'll keep playing with the recipe to see if I can make it even better... By overall I'm quite thrilled with these. Recipe to be posted on the Crunchy Cajun page this weekend. - Christina

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

80 Years Young

Since moving to Louisiana, I've been trying to get my MawMaw to accompany me to the gym. Not that she NEEDS to go (though I truly believe we all NEED to work out and stay physical), but I thought that having a more disciplined option would help her get back Ito being more physical. This past week she started talked about gyms... And I reminded her of my offer to have her as my guest and how her how to maneuver the facility. "Tomorrow," she said. Yeah... I've heard that for several months now...

Much to my delight, when asked this morning, she agreed to go! Yay! So off we went... To check out the newest location of Planet Fitness here in Lafayette. After a tour of them gym, we for to business on the cardio machines. The goal was to complete 5 minutes on each machine total so that she could get used to it and become familiar with how they worked. At 80 years young, turning some of them off and on can be a little intimidating.

We successfully completed 18 minutes total... Not bad. The elliptical was a little more strenuous on her knees than we wanted so that one was quickly nixed.

Next up was the "30 Minute Express" room where she learned how the area worked, a few step exercises to keep the heart rate up, and finally how to properly use the weight machines. She did fantastic!

With summer around the corner, she asked about ab workouts so we squeezed those in at the end. I was thoroughly impressed at how well she did. Her sense of humor was delightful as she tried each and every exercise, even those that make the experiences gym goer feel a little silly (like the hip abductor machine).

I watched her smiling and laughing and my heart burst into a million happy pieces. I felt so fortunate to be there with a her, having that experience. I may not have had a good workout, but I did have a GREAT time. :)

- Christina

Coconut Oil Biscuits (Vegan)

Let me preface this by saying I haven't had a biscuit in close to ten years.  Since being diagnosed with a dairy allergy, I've learned that most breakfast foods are no-no's. And since I typically juice first thing in the morning (or do smoothies), it's not something I think about or miss. 

But one of the vegan blogs that I follow, sent out a new recipe this past week for coconut oil biscuits... and it got me thinking.  Hmmmm... that sounds sorta yummy.  And as the days have gone on, I failed to delete the email. So this morning, while in downward dog pose, I started thinking about how good a warm biscuit would taste on this chilly morning.  The received recipe called for a few ingredients I had no interest in putting in my body (like vegan butter or shortening), so I decided to play around with a combination of three different recipes.  Yum.  That's all I have to say.

Coconut oil is no longer on the forbidden foods list, now that we understand how healthy extra virgin coconut oil really is. The richness and faint coconut flavor that the oil adds is wonderful, as well as being antibacterial and antiviral.  

These really are delish! Even my MawMaw (who cringes when she hears the word "vegan") ate one with me. :) It's the little things, isn't it?!

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil cold
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 11 tablespoons soymilk to make 3/4 cup

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  • Measure cold coconut oil and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry tool or two knives.
  • In a measuring cup, put the tablespoon of vinegar and add soymilk to make 3/4 cup.
  • Stir the wet mixture quickly into the dry, just until it holds together. Don’t overmix or knead. Scrape out onto a counter and pat into a rectangle 1-inch thick. Cut the rectangle into 6 squares (or cut round circles - my preference!). Place them on the pan.
  • Bake for 13–15 minutes, until the edges look golden. Cool on racks, serve warm.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chickpeas with Arugula-Lemon Pesto (V)

I LOVE when new recipes work out! That doesn't always happen for me. :)

Last night when reading through my recent issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter (awesome subscription I highly recommend), I came across a few plant strong recipes super high in fiber. Score! While I'm not normally one to try magazine recipes, this looked delish. With my dairy allergy, I've never even had pesto before (I know.... Can you believe it?!). So I decided this would go on this weeks menu.

Yum. That's all I can say. Yum. Even non-vegs will love it.

Recipe to be posted on the Crunchy Cajun Facebook page soon. Worth making! Promise. - Christina

Spinach Basil Brown Rice Risotto (V)

I've never made risotto before... and honestly wasn't too sure what it was.  But this recipe looked delish and I had all the ingredients so I gave it a try.  YUM!  It actually had a slight seafood taste to it... from the seasonings and peppers I think.  It was so good.  I'll definitely create the one again.  Recipe posted to my Crunchy Cajun Facebook page. :) ~ Christina

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Old Tyme Grocery

In 1982, Glenn Murphree purchased Olde Tyme Grocery.  When he first bought the store, it had aisles of can goods, produce, and five small carts.  Although it wasn’t fancy, there were three things Glenn liked: it had character, a deli case, and a low price tag.  On Glenn’s birthday, they agreed on a price and around 3 o’clock, Glenn ran to the bank for change and was open by 5 o’clock!

Growing up in New Orleans, Glenn loved a good poboy.  He did not know anything about going into business for himself, but he did know that he wanted to make the best poboys possible.  In the beginning, Glenn was the only employee and made approximately 10-15 poboys per day.  

When my dad showed up in town (surprise!) this past week, the first thing he wanted was a good poboy.  A good SHRIMP poboy.  His older sister, my Aunt Bettye, swore by this place so we decided to all meet up and grab a late lunch there.  I'd never been... and since I don't eat seafood any longer it didn't really matter to me.  I figured they wouldn't have much for me to eat anyway.  Overall it was a cute little dive.  Hugely popular with the college kids, that much was obvious.  Dad said the poboy was ok... not "the best" he's ever had but not bad.  They did agree to make me a veggie poboy (which basically means lettuce, tomato and pickles on french bread with a little mustard).  So that was nice.  It was a gorgeous day out, so the outdoor seating was delightful.  Plus we had a wonderful visit with my aunt and cousin.  Can't be that! ~ Christina

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Pit Grill (Lake Charles, La.)

Searching for veg-friendly restaurants isn't always easy, but when I find one that goes out of their way to accommodate me.... I like to get them props.  The Pit Grill isn't fancy.  I probably would NEVER had even gone there to begin with, except their website showed some potential options and my cousin swore by it.  So off we went.  I wasn't impressed.  The place was ok at best in the cleanliness department.  Each menu item ordered was "not in stock" that day.  This adorable employee-only sign was in customer view (fail).  BUT... the staff went OUT of their way to make me a veggie wrap and to ensure it was dairy free (the line cook even came out to meet with me and ensure he understood what he could and couldn't use).  And the server was adorable and super friendly.  So I must give them props.  Service really does outweigh all that other stuff. :) ~ Christina

Not the fanciest... but hey! I'm impressed that this place threw together whatever veggies they had for this wrap.  It was tasty too. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Iowa Rabbit Festival

The Iowa Rabbit Festival was started in 1986. It began as a way to promote the only rabbit processing plant in the area. The first festival was held in 1987 with a small rabbit show, a parade, and booth to sale crafts. The few bands they hired played from the back of a flatbed trailer. There was a pageant to crown Miss Bunny who then traveled the state to other festivals promoting ours.

The festival has since grown from year to year. The processing plant is long gone, but the festival lives on. An average of 20,000 people attend the festival each year. They have since added a carnival, an actual bandstand, and a Petite Lapin pageant for ages 0 – 17 years.

The festival is held the 3rd weekend in March in the Lawrence Toups, Jr. Memorial Park (formally Iowa City Park). During the festival, attendees can sample a variety of local foods. The Cook-off on the Saturday morning gives people a chance to taste rabbit cooked many ways. There are also many arts and crafts vendors displaying and selling their wares. The main attraction is, of course, the bandstand. They have at least 13 different bands playing a variety local music, including Cajun, Zydeco, and variety bands.

Sounds like a nightmare for a vegan doesn't it?!  Well, this festival is currently a Top 20 Event for the Southeastern United States and a favorite amongst many of my kin folk (can't you hear the "Southern" dripping in that last statement?!).... so it's been on my "Top 100" bucket list for Louisiana.

For the past month I've been planning to attend with my cousins, all whom participate in the big Saturday morning cook off event.  Most win SOMETHING each year... and it's basically a full day in the sunshine drinking beer and cutting up.  Who can pass that up?! 

But sometimes life doesn't go according to plans.  A friend died suddenly just a couple days before this year's festival. She was scheduled to cook with one of my cousins, along with her mom.  A beautiful girl. 33 years old.  A mother and a wife.  Too young to die.  

I didn't think I'd attend after that.  So much sadness and heartbreak.  But life does go on, and we did end up going on Saturday, with heavy hearts and Amy in our thoughts.  The day turned out to be a fun one, all things considered.  Below are a few photos snapped from the event.

Me and my two adorable bunnies Laura and Katy Beth
Snow Balls anyone?! The BEST are here in Louisiana.
Me and a few of my cousins
Me and Katelyn... showing off her "stache shirt.  :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Homemade Tamales (Vegan)

I grew up eating tamales... my aunt Jerry was known for hers and they always made their way to our annual family reunion Saturday night pot luck spread.  Yum! 

And as an adult... I've often thought about trying to make them but I just never did.  Until recently that is.  Until moving back to my home state of Louisiana.

Tamales are ridiculously easy to make, and oh, so wonderful to eat fresh and right from their corn husk wrappers. They're not something you can make just a few of, but fortunately, they store well, and are just as tasty when reheated.  I like to keep a few for weekly meals, and then freeze the rest for future dinners.

Most tamales are made with a dough made from masa harina, a very finely ground flour made from corn that has been dried, cooked, ground up and dried again. Don't confuse this with corn meal, which has a different flavor and texture. Masa can be purchased in many grocery stores, in the same aisle as flour and corn meal.

Ingredients for the dough:
  • 4 cups masa harina
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
This recipe will make enough dough for roughly four dozen tamales. I tend to cut the recipe in half unless I'm making these for a group of people.

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl to create a dough that's sort of the same texture as cookie dough.

Next, you'll need some wrappers. Most grocery stores in my area carry dried corn husks for making tamales---but I live in Louisiana, near the border of Texas... the land of abundant Mexican foods. You can buy these online, or, in a pinch, you can use the green corn husks from fresh corn.

Soak the wrappers in water for ten minutes or so. I usually push a stack of them into a bowl, let them soak, and then flip the stack over as I make the tamales. Flipping back and forth gives me wet husks to work with, while getting the next bunch ready.

The third thing you'll need is a filling. You can put just about anything that will withstand steaming into a tamale. I made four types this morning---two that are sort of traditional, and one that is a little farther off the beaten path:

1. Vegan Ground "Meat" (you can purchase this at a local health food store such as LightLife Smart Ground).  Season as appropriate.  I tend to keep it unseasoned, and then add a little taco sauce on the tamale after it's cooked.
2. Black Beans & Green Chilies - For this filling, drain a can of black beans and rinse them. Also drain a small can of chopped green chilies. Mix them together, and add spices---mine usually gets a few shakes of ground cumin. Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.
3. Spinach & Garlic - Chop two cups of fresh spinach, and toss with a clove of grated garlic, or a half teaspoon of powdered.  Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.

Assembling the Tamales:
  • For each tamale, you'll need two pieces of corn husk. Layer them on top of each other, so the narrow ends are going in opposite directions.
  • Put about two tablespoons of dough onto the top layer of corn husk, and smash it flat.
  • Add a tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough.
  • Pull the sides of the top corn husk together, to sort of roll the dough over the filling. Wrap the edges around each other, and place the husk seam side down on the second husk. Roll the second husk around the first, creating a tube with the filling at the center. Tie the ends of the husks with string or strips of corn husk.
  • Place a steamer into a large pot of water. Bring the water to boil. Place the tamales in the steamer, and steam for half an hour. The dough will be more solid, but not hard.
  • Snip the strings, unroll, and eat while still steaming.
Tada! That's it... super simple and SOOO delish!
~ Christina

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Success: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (Vegan)

Vegans love chocolate chip cookies too! But they aren't always easy to come by where I now live.... and truthfully, I've had challenges making really good ones over the past two years.  SO... I decided to play with a few recipes and come up with one that worked.  Success! This classic recipe tastes just like the ones mom used to make, you won't even know they're vegan.  Use the recipe to make cookies OR these yummy cookie bars (more of a brownie or cookie cake consistency).  I've had non-vegans eat these and never know the difference. :)  Plus they always come back for seconds!

  • 2 1/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup EVOO
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer for 2 eggs (prepared according to package instructions)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 cup rolled oats

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and egg replacer. Add the dry ingredients to this and stir until combined well.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Cookies: Drop one inch spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
  • Cookie Bars: Lightly grease a 9x9 baking pan.  Pour dough into pan and smooth. Bake for 10-15 minures, until a toothpick comes out clean.

*You can omit the rolled oats if you want... I just like the consistency they add.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kale Chips

I've seen them... I've heard great things about them... heck, I have even had non-vegan family members make them.  But this was my first... can you believe it? 

Kale Chips... not a potato chip alternative, regardless of what people try to tell you.  But they ARE tasty.  They don't TASTE like raw kale.  They ARE simple to create. 

I made these this past weekend as a snack and was delighted to discover that they are quite yummy... and EASY to make!  I'll definitely be making these again.  Just with a tad less seasoning.  A little goes a long way here.

~ Christina

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Southwest Salad & Cilantro-Lime Dressing

All of a sudden I had a craving for this amazing salad I had at Bahama Breeze several years back... I don't know why really.  Just out of the blue I started thinking about it.  For a few days.  So I decided to try and recreate it.  

That never goes well for me.  I'm one of those people who need to follow a recipe.  Going off on my own as a lone cowgirl never bolds well for me or the meal.  But I must say... in this case it was AWESOME.  While the salad might not have been exact (esp. now that I'm vegan so there were substitutes), it was pretty darn close. The dressing was different, but for some reason I was craving cilantro/lime with it... which is funny because I'm NEVER made that before.  Ahhh... maybe that's a sign that I'm a true foodie now?! LOL

Both came out AH-MAZING.  So proud of myself for the culinary skills... plus the health factors in both are off the charts and that never sucks.  The salad sat on a toasted Engine 2 Plant-Strong Tortilla (found at WholeFoods), and consisted of a cup of shredded spinach, a cup of shredded romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup black beans, 1/2 cup sweet corn, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/3 cup dived avocados and 2 tsp of the dressing.  It's that simple!

Cilantro-Lime Dressing:
  • 1 cup packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Pinch of minced garlic
  1. Puree cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, salt, pepper and garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lafayette Volunteer Vixens

It's been two years since I've personally launched a new chapter of the Volunteer Vixens... but this was one even more unique.  I didn't know one person.  Not one.  And that somehow made it even more rewarding.  

Now that I'm back in Louisiana, I've been working hard to position the organization within the five major areas within a two hour drive of me.  Last Wednesday was the launch of the Lafayette chapter.  The women who attended our first meeting were all young and full of energy... eager to get involved and be a part of this movement.  YES! I left excited and invigorated.  I've missed my Vixens so much... and it feels good to introduce this group to a brand new area and circle of extraordinary ladies.

One group down... four more to go! ~ Christina

DIY Nontoxic Deodorant

Yep... I've crossed over to the crunchy side. But why in the world would I knowingly keep putting harmful toxins on or in my body when I know better?!

So many studies out there link the high aluminum content in deodorant to cancer and Alzheimer's disease... It's always worried me. But being a runner and yoga nut I was also concerned about smelling "crunchy." Hahaha but I finally took the leap and made my own deodorant. And guess what?! It works perfectly! Even on long gym days where I'm running 5+ miles in addition to hot yoga classes. Whohoo! I love when trying something new works out so perfectly! - Christina

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crowley Soup Kitchen

Regardless of your mood, current financial situation or overall belief system... volunteering just makes you FEEL GOOD.  And while I do a lot of volunteering, since moving to Louisiana I haven't been a part of an organization that helps those who are down on their luck.  The homeless or less fortunate have a huge place in my heart, so when my MawMaw asked if I wanted to go with the Ladies Auxiliary to serve at the local Soup Kitchen, I jumped at the chance.  Yes!  What a wonderful morning.  Making eye contact and wishing each person a great day.  Asking about them and listening.  Smiling and just being present.  It's so simple.  And I know it makes a difference.  It felt GOOD to spend Tuesday morning with these volunteers.  I'll be back.  I know I will. ~ Christina

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Noel at Route 92

If you were a child of the 80's, you most likely remember the hits "Silent Morning," "Like a Child," and "Out of Time."  The 80's and 90's dance club favorite, Noel, hasn't seen much success in recent decades but continues to tour and pursue his passion of DJ-ing and singing.  

Last night he made a stop at Route 92, in Youngsville, Louisiana.  A friend invited me along and who am I to say no to new adventure... or the chance to meet a washed up celeb?!  For the $13 entrance fee and paltry handful of songs he sang, I'm not sure it was worth it... but my friend was in heaven and isn't that all that matters.  I didn't get a pic with him (he was a sweaty mess) but Brooks did (see below). Noel looks the same, just older, and can still sing beautifully.  Overall a fun night out.  Route 92 was a cute little dive.  I can see the appeal to the place (despite the non-existant parking). ~ Christina
Noel & Brooks at Route 92

Friday, March 1, 2013

Garlic Artichoke & Spinach Quiche (V)

I LOVE trying new recipes these days... especially vegan recipes that are chock full of nutrients but still taste like comfort food.  Yes... I know. As a vegan I'm supposed to adore the taste of all veggies... and I do for the most part.  But I also love rich comfort food.  This quiche is both.  

  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, thoroughly drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4-5 egg replacers 
  • 1 cup vegan shredded cheese
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 vegan pie crust

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and lightly grease a 9" glass pie dish. Gently squeeze the excess liquid from the artichokes after removing them from the can.
  2. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Saute garlic and onions for a couple of minutes or until onions are slightly tender. Add spianch and artichokes and saute for another minute. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Prepare egg replacer and slowly pour into mixture - mixing slowly.  Add 1/2 cup vegan shredded cheese and stir. 
  3. Pour mixture into pie crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle rest of cheese on top.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean and cheese is lightly browned.Enjoy!

This recipe is pretty versatile. I adapted it from a crustless recipe online and added the spianch. Mushrooms would also taste amazing in this.