Sunday, October 24, 2010

Produce: Supermarket vs. Local produce stand/market

The truth is, if you are buying your produce from a Supermarket, Supercenter (i.e. Walmart, Target, etc.), or Natural food store (cough* Wholefoods*cough)  you are spending way too much.  I'm a regular consumer.  I make the weekly trip to Super Target to buy my groceries with the hubby (because it's cheaper than Publix,  better quality than Winn-Dixie and I refuse to shop at Walmart).  Until recently various produce items were always on my grocery list I brought on our weekly treks. Easily $10-$15 was spent weekly on said produce items.  Maybe that's chump change to some people, but for my husband and I that's a lot to add to our already high grocery bill.  Lately, however, I discovered something amazing that helped save me money:  a local produce market?

Sure, I've seen them before, but did I ever go to one?  No.  Why would I?  There's plenty of fruits and vegetables at the supermarket.  I had no idea the amount of money I could be saving by going to a produce stand. 

Recently it's come to attention that many Americans cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables and would instead opt. for a Double Cheeseburger off the $1 menu at McDonalds.  Can we say "obesity problem"?  That's mostly because produce is just two expensive at Supermarkets.  Think about it.  Supermarkets and Supercenters probably don't grow their own produce, do they?  Of course not.  They pay some farm company AND their workers to grow and harvest the produce, not to mention the people who have to sort, distribute and ship the produce the many locations of which ever store you buy from.  Also,  these corporations need to turn a profit right?  So all of these factors go into the price you pay for produce at the Supermarket.

Buying from local produce stands or markets makes more sense.  In the case of Rorabeck's Plants and Produce, where I recently started to buy my produce, they grow many of the items themselves locally, therefore not having to pay for all those extra costs the grocery stores do and the prices reflect that.  For example:  at Super Target, green peppers are $0.99 while yellow, orange and red peppers are $3.99 EACH! and limes are about $0.33 each.  At Rorabeck's, ALL varieties of bell peppers are the same price, around $1.29 per pound, and limes are usually 10 for $1.00!!  As you can see, there is a significant difference in prices between Super Target and Rorabeck's and you don't have to sacrifice quality.  The produce is just as good, if not, better than the produce you'll find at the Supermarket.  "But it's outside and not refrigerated, is that ok?"  Of course it is.  It doesn't need to be refrigerated because it's FRESH and last time I checked, fruits and vegetables grew outside, not in some warehouse.  Rorabeck's is under a covering so you can go rain or shine, it's open everyday and it has a few locations throughout the county.

Where ever you live, try to find a produce stand near you with lots of variety and reasonable prices.  Don't count on saving too much money by going to weekend green markets and such.  The vendors at those things usually charge too much because it's once a week and they have to lug all their stuff to the market location and they are usually only seasonal.  Find a stand or market that is always in one location and is open almost everyday throughout the week and all throughout the year.  

This week I went to Rorabeck's and bought a bunch of apples, a whole bucket of grapes (the bucket deals there are the best, but only if you can eat that much produce before it goes bad)  a bunch of green onion, a Spanish onion, two potatoes, a cucumber, a red bell pepper and a green bell pepper for only a total of $6.27!!  I probably saved about half of what I was spending at Super Target.  It's a trip worth making on a weekly basis.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Cream Cheese" Wontons

GOOOOOOOOD Morning!  It's recipe time!!  This past Sunday I was invited (along with my husband and sister) to attend a World Cup final party.  This included about 5 or 6 carnivorous males and my sister and I.  Pretty much any opportunity I get to make food for people, I take and I run with it.  My friend hosting the party mentioned there would be "food" there, but what exactly would that entail? The last few times I have been to one of his parties where there was "food", it included pepperoni pizza rolls and bacon covered potato skins, oh and always the bowl of mystery Doritos that I'm offered because of the lack of meat.

Well, I didn't want to be stuck there watching  an uneventful soccer game and starving at the same time, so my sister and I decided we should make some yummy vegan food that the boys would enjoy as well.  So I made a blueberry brownie recipe that I have been wanting to try from the wonderful cookbook, Veganomicon.  I also altered a peanut butter blondie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar, where I replaced the chopped peanuts with mini vegan chocolate chips (these were delicious!!!).   My sister made a super yummy hummus dip. I wanted to make something not of the dessert variety, so I searched my cookbooks and the web to find something delicious but also something my husband would like because he is such a picky eater.  I have always loved fried cream cheese wontons from chinese restaurants but only about two restaurants near where I live make these, and all the other restaurants make Crab Rangoon which is clearly not the same thing.  So I actually found a recipe for vegan fried wontons but was disappointed to see the recipe was just vegan cream cheese shoved into a wonton wrapper and deep fried.  How boring!  So I made up my own recipe:
             * 1 8oz. tub of Tofutti "Better Than Cream Chesse"
             * 2 Tbsp. diced scallion (a.k.a. green onion) - about two to three stalks,diced, should do
             * 2 tsp. minced garlic - about two large cloves, minced
             * 1-1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice
             * 1/2 tsp. Tamari ( a soy sauce with a stronger and slightly different flavor than the regular stuff)  you should be able to find it in most grocery stores in the Asian food section
             * 1 pkg. vegan wonton wrappers (you might have to go to an asian market to find egg-less ones)
             * Canola, Vegetable or Peanut oil for deep frying

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, garlic, scallion, lemon juice and tamari together using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer (I would use a large fork if you don't have a mixer).  Fill wonton wrappers by spooning a small amount of the cream cheese mixture on the middle of the wonton square (be sure not to use too much or the wrapper will not fold and the cream cheese will overflow).

Once you place your filling on the wrapper, you will need to fold your wonton.  Instructions for this are below. While you are filling your wontons, you can heat up your oil in a stock pot.  You should use enough oil to completely cover the wonton with some room for it to float. If you have a deep fryer,go ahead and bust that sucker out and use it.

To fold wonton, fold the square in half on the diagonal to form a triangle.  You will need to wet the edges of the square with some water before you fold so the edges will stick.  I just use some water in a cup next to me and my fingers (clean hands please!) to do this.  Once you have your triangle, fold in your two corners so they touch  and wet those corners as well so that they will stick to each other.  They will look very much like Italian tortellini pasta.  It sounds kind of weird but I swear it's really easy, I found this diagram on that I hope is helpful:

Once you have all of your wontons filled and folded, fry about 4 or 5 at a time in heated oil for about 2-4 minutes until they are a light golden brown color (if you've ever had a fried wonton, you know how they should look).  Use a slotted spoon to remove the wontons from the oil and place on some paper towels on a large plate or cookie sheet. Let cool for about five or ten minutes before devouring them.

This recipe makes about 20 wontons, but I would suggest making a double batch for a party because these things were gobbled up pretty fast.  I couldn't get enough of them and neither could the boys.  I wish I would have taken a picture but there were gone before I could even think to do that.  Next time I make them I will be sure to take a picture and add it to this post.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I've been wanting to do a blog like this for quite sometime and having just watched "Earthlings", I am filled with the "piss and vinegar", so to speak, to do so.  The purpose of this blog is to share my frustrations and triumphs as it relates to my everyday struggles with being a vegan as well as share delicious recipes and experiences with anyone who cares to read this. 
Being vegan or some sort of vegetarian in South Florida is not easy by any means.  Having opened it's first "mainstream" all vegan restaurant just last year, Palm Beach County is not exactly at the forefront of of the Vegan/Animal Rights movement.  Miami-Dade and Broward Counties aren't quite the new age, "Green", tree hugging havens either, but I suppose due to their abundant populations are a step or few above Palm Beach County in their "vegan friendly" environments.  The point is, vegans around my neck of the woods are extremely, grossly outnumbered.  Until recently I was only friends with a vegetarian or two, and I certainly didn't know any vegans.  Luckily, by some sort of miracle, my sister now joins me in the kingdom of herbivores. 
Deciding to become a vegan was a decision I made about three and a half years ago when I decided to become a vegetarian for the second time in life.  The first venture in vegetarianism was a choice of picking up on the right "trend" and "fitting in".  Of course I cared about the suffering of animals but was I at all educated thoroughly on the matter as I am now? Of course not.  I was 17 years old and  I just wanted to be like two of my closest friends (one of whom also did it for trendy reasons, just like all of her other decisions in life; Safe to say, we are no longer friends) and I figured I could eat all the cheese and eggs I wanted to and there would be nothing wrong with that.  Needless to say, this only lasted roughly 6 months before I gave into those carnivorous cravings, not to mention was in a relationship with a very controlling person who constantly threatened me if I did not drink milk (I have NEVER liked the taste of milk, blech!) and thought vegetarianism to be "unhealthy".
I always knew that vegetarianism would be something I would eventually revisit.  I couldn't ignore my love for animals and the guilty feeling (or indigestion) in my stomach whenever I devoured a fried chicken sandwich. As a result, one year (2007) for my New Years resolution, I decided to become a vegetarian, but this time, it would be different.  I started out by eliminating beef and pork from my diet and in the meantime started to research the healthy way to eat and live a vegetarian lifestyle. By the time I eliminated chicken and seafood about 3 months later, I had come to the conclusion that the only way to truly have a compassionate diet was to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I had been boycotting products tested on animals and fur and leather products when I was 16 years old, but giving up foods that I thought made me happy like cheese and ice cream?? (I am an emotional eater after all) Could I do it?  I had zero support from anyone around me, many who thought my vegetariansm would be "just a phase" and my own boyfriend constantly putting down any new thing I tried, insisting I would fail (this ranged from losing weight to finishing college; what healthy relationships I had).
So one week I tried to go cold turkey, still not fully grasping proper nutrition, and spent way too much money at Whole Foods on food which most of ended up in the trash.
Three years later, here I am finally in a place where I understand my place in the vegan circle of life.  I know that this commitment takes experimenting and baby steps for me to find my comfort zone.  I learned the proper nutrition and I also learned that no human being is a perfect vegan and we have to pick and choose our battles as they come.  I accept the fact that I will be teased and ridiculed for my lifestyle choice but as a result of this choice do not have a guilty heart and I will educate those who tease and ridicule when they decide they also want to make that change. I am married to an omnivore who supports all my decisions and who I hope will one day make that change as well. Being vegan makes me special and I love it!