Go Vegan for Earth Day

Earth day is coming soon (April 22nd) and what better way to appreciate the Earth than to go Earth-Day-2016-Quiz-3-465x465vegan for the day?!?  By changing your diet, you have the power to reduce global warming, deforestation, poverty and hunger, and the use of natural resources.  Check out this post for more info on how veganism makes such a big impact on the Earth.

Check out these meal and snack options and pick a few to try.  It won’t be as hard as you think.  Enjoy the day knowing that YOU are making a difference!!

Breakfast:  savory oatmealovernight oatmeal, or banana nut butter wrap

Savory oatmeal can be made in the microwave if you don’t want to dirty a pot- just nuke it for 1 minute.  Overnight oatmeal is eaten in the same container it is made and takes about 2 minutes to make.  The banana nut butter wrap is even faster, depending on your ability to peel a banana and spread peanut butter.

Lunch: three bean salad, black bean mango salsa, or black eyed pea salad

Each of these needs to be made the night before to allow the flavor to develop, which is perfect to ensure you have a healthy lunch to take to work without being rushed in the morning.  Add a piece of fruit and serve over lettuce or rice.  If you’re knocking it out of the park, make oven baked tortilla chips.

Snacks:  apple and nut butter, veggies and hummus, or roasted chickpeas

Dinner:  rice bowls or lentil chard sweet potato curry

Rice bowls are easy, however the curry is a one pot dish, a great intro to curry (not spicy at all), and makes plenty for leftovers.

Dessert:  strawberries and store bought or homemade coconut whipped cream

Load up on organic strawberries while they’re in season and enjoy this deliciously simple treat!!  Strawberries are listed as #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list this year, so buy organic strawberries whenever you can.

 

Photo credit:  http://wallecard.com/earth-day-2016-quiz.html

Snow Days

Having the kids out of school for more days than anticipated means the kitchen becomes a revolving door and a big mess if I don’t plan ahead.  Making meals and snacks in advance means my workday doesn’t get interrupted quite so often and the kids get more independence.  Here are a few things I made for lunches and snacks once it was clear we were getting iced in.

Chickpea Tuna Salad

3 servings

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 T vegan mayo

1 T lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Optional: 1/4 c diced sweet onion, 2 T sweet pickle relish

Once the chickpeas have been rinsed and drained, test their firmness.  If they aren’t easily mashed with a fork, transfer the chickpeas to a glass dish, cover with water, and microwave in 1 minute increments until tender.  Drain the chickpeas and mash with a fork.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Deviled No Egg Saladcartoon-devil-clipart-1

14 oz firm organic tofu, pressed

1 t black salt (gives an eggy flavor)

2 T vegan mayo

1/2 T apple cider vinegar

1 t yellow mustard

1 1/2 T sweet pickle relish

Optional: onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, paprika

Press the tofu between two plates (over the sink) or balance something heavy (like a cast iron pan) on top of it for 10 minutes.  Pressing removes excess water from the tofu and improves the texture.  Once pressed and drained, fork mash the tofu in a medium bowl.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Chia Banana Pudding

Makes 5 cups

4 ripe bananas

3/4 c chia seeds

10 pitted dates

1 can coconut cream (regular coconut milk will work too)

1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy milk + 1 t vanilla)

Using a high speed blender, blend all ingredients until smooth.  Refrigerate.  Serve with banana coins, cocoa nibs, or vanilla cookies.

No Tricks, Just Treats

This post has been mostly complete for months, so in the spirit of just doing it, I’m releasing it late rather than waiting another year. . .

My philosophy around sweets is that if I’m going to eat them (which, of course, it would be better if I didn’t), I’ll only eat ones I make.  That way I know the ingredients, and in particular I can buy organic sugars to avoid GMO beet sugar which is in all non-organic sugary foods and food-like products.  Avoiding food dyes is another great reason to make your own goodies.

IMG_2236Jack-o-lantern Sweet Potato Pies

Follow this recipe, but instead use a glass to cut the dough into circles.  For half of the dough circles, use a knife to “carve” a jack-0-lantern into the dough.  After assembling the pies, crimp the edges with a fork or moisten your finger tips with a few drops of water to seal the edge of the pie.

Peanut Butter Cups

Loaded Apples

Slice crispy green apples into thick slices or wedges and arrange (dump) on a plate.  Melt a tablespoon or so of peanut butter and drizzle over the apples.  Melt 1/4 c non-dairy chocolate chips and drizzle over the apples.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut, granola, raisins, crushed pretzels or cereal- whatever you’ve got that sounds good.

Enjoy your goodies and happy Halloween!!!

 

Let It Go

If you have a Frozen fan in your inner circle (and who doesn’t?), here’s a great cake to celebrate a birthday, winter, or nothing in particular (who needs a reason for a party anyway?).  Frozen figurines are optional but created a great effect at our party.

This recipe makes a loaf pan sized ice cream cake that will feed 10 people.

 

Ingredients:

8-12 vegan sugar cookies (like 365 brand)

1 quart non-dairy vanilla ice cream (like So Delicious)

1/2 batch of cake mix (refer to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) or 1 batch of cupcake mix

double batch of Coconut Whipped Cream

1 bag frozen strawberries, diced

 

Make a cake in a loaf pan or the pan that you will use to assemble the ice cream cake.  Once cool, remove it from the pan and slice it in half  length wise using a serrated knife. You may want to flip the cake upside down and slice the top off so the cake is flat.  Alternatively, make a batch of cupcakes.

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Remove the vanilla ice cream from the freezer.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of your loaf pan.  Arrange a layer of sugar cookies across the bottom of the parchment paper.  IMG_3439

Once the ice cream has softened, layer half of it on top of the sugar cookies.  On top of the ice cream place a layer of cake (or sliced cupcakes) and return the ice cream cake to the freezer.  For the second layer of ice cream, mix the diced strawberries into the vanilla ice cream and layer on top of the cake.

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On top of the ice cream, add another layer of cake and return ice cream cake to freezer.

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Make a double batch of coconut whipped cream.  When you’re ready to ice the cake, use the parchment paper to  carefully lift the ice cream cake out of the loaf pan onto the counter.  Drop icing by the spoonful over the cake and down to sides to look like snow drifts, smoothing with a spatula.  Return the cake to the freezer.

Instead of a cake, you can also do the same thing with cupcakes, making individual frozen cakelets or using the cupcake slices to make up the cake.  If you had any cake or cupcakes leftover, place them on and around the cake to create a wintery mountain scene.

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Take the ice cream cake out of the freezer about 10 minutes before serving and place the Frozen figurines using leftover icing to help secure them on the cake.

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Enjoy!!

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Fat Tuesday!!

We’re living it up here for Fat Tuesday, eating more than we should and staying warm while iced in.  Had to share this little beauty of a treat – Sour Cream and Onion Dip.  All vegan food is not healthy, and chips and dip should definitely be reserved for occasional use, but it IS Fat Tuesday!!!  We won’t have any issues polishing the dip off before tomorrow, as it’s mostly gone already (and we didn’t even share with the kids). . .

Sour Cream and Onion Dipmardi-gras-584508_1280

1/4 c non-dairy sour cream

1/4 c vegan mayo

3/4 T lemon juice

1 1/4 t onion powder

1 1/4 t dried minced onion

1/4 t salt

Mix all of the ingredients in an airtight container and try not to eat it all in the first sitting.  If successful, tuck it in the back of the fridge to hide it from others.

I recommend keeping Susan Voisin’s MiracleNaise mayo on hand.  In addition to being oil free and soy free, it only has a few ingredients, the most important of which is a little patience.  It just takes a few minutes to repeatedly scrape down the sides of the blender to blend long enough to make the mayo creamy.  I add a little extra water and omit the xanthan gum, and it thickens nicely with refrigeration.

I don’t have a go to sour cream recipe, so if you do, please share it in the comments.

Stay tuned for a Frozen ice cream cake recipe- perfect for icy weather, a birthday, or just a normal day (if you’re one of those obnoxiously annoying fun parents).

 

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/p-584508/?no_redirect

Sugar Demons

It was birthday season here in February and March, and my sugar consumption got a bit out of control.  It’s all relative, as I’m not consuming food dye infused high fructose corn syrup containing packaged treats, but still. . .   I can do better.

So I will – in coming weeks I’ll document why we should all eat less sugar and detail my experience of cutting out sugar.  You can likely find a study or two justifying why moderate sugar consumption isn’t harmful, seeing as how you can find a study conducted by the meat industry arguing that meat consumption reduces cholesterol levels.  But my guess is that deep down, each of us knows that we would be better off without sugar – or with a lot less of it.  Although I’m well below the average American daily consumption of 22.7 teaspoons (National Geographic, August 2013), I can still feel the negative impact that sugar has on me.

Unless you are already convinced of the evils of sugar, check out the treats we’ve been eating too much of around here lately.

Black and Whites (adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar)

Preheat oven to 350˚

Mix 1 c unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk with 2 t lemon juice

Once that has curdled, addBlack&White

1/4 c oil

1/4 c applesauce

1 1/4 c sugar

1 1/2 t vanilla

2 t lemon zest

In a large bowl add

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour

1 c unbleached white flour

1/3 c potato starch

1 1/4 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

3/4 t salt

Stir the dry ingredients then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Add the liquid mixture and stir until almost all the lumps are gone.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop 1/4 c batter onto the parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches between cookies.  Bake 18 to 20 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool 2 min then remove from the parchment paper and flip upside down onto a cooling rack.

For the icing, you’ll need

4 c powdered sugar

1/4 c boiling water

few drops of vanilla extract

2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips (ex Ghiradelli semi sweet or Enjoy Life)

Put the powdered sugar in a metal bowl, add the boiling water, and whisk vigorously to combine.  Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract.  Add more hot water (does not have to be boiling), 1 T at a time until you get a glossy spreadable icing of the desired consistency.  Dust crumbs from the bottoms of the cookies, and spread a thin layer of vanilla icing over the entire flat side of the cookie.  Let dry.  Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or the microwave and whisk into the leftover vanilla icing, which should be at least 1/2 c.  Thin with 1T of hot water at a time if needed.  Ice half of the cookies and let dry.  Enjoy!!!

Better Butterfingers (see Chocolate Covered Katie)

I follow Katie’s recipe for these except I use a crispy rice or wheat cereal that doesn’t contain corn.  I also prefer to make these in a 9×11 pan or two pie plates lined with wax paper, as I prefer the bars to be thinner – the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is just right to me that way!!

Peanut Butter Cups

1 c non-dairy chocolate chips

1/2 T coconut oil

1/4 c natural peanut butter + dash of salt if salt-free or low salt peanut butter

1/4 c powdered sugar

~20 Mini muffin cups and mini muffin pan

Melt the chocolate chips and stir in the coconut oil.  Add a small amount (~1/2 teaspoon) of chocolate to the bottom of each mini muffin cup, and use a chopstick to spread the chocolate around and up the sides a bit.  Allow the chocolate to harden (use fridge or freezer if necessary).  Mix the peanut butter and powdered sugar together.  Roll the peanut butter mixture into about 20 small balls and then flatten into discs that are smaller than the width of the mini muffin cups.  Add a peanut butter disc to each chocolate cup.  Remelt the chocolate and pour ~3/4 teaspoon over each peanut butter disc.  Use a toothpick to spread the chocolate around the peanut butter and to the sides.  Allow chocolate to harden and enjoy!  These store well in the refrigerator or freezer.

Pomegranate Bark

Budget Reduction

Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has provided Five Ways to Save Billions – and Boost the Nation’s Health.  The article is specific to the gargantuan debt problem of the US government and includes recommendations such as cutting junk food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) and prioritizing health in commodity purchases.

  • Food manufacturers are benefitting from SNAP while SNAP recipients get sicker and sicker.  If SNAP benefits were limited to truly healthful foods, we could address hunger, malnutrition, AND healthcare at the same time, while saving billions.
  • Instead of the USDA buying millions of pounds of cheese or beef for school meal programs and other food assistance programs, the USDA could support farmers in providing fresh, local vegetables to schools and ensure each school-aged child has the opportunity to eat from a fresh salad bar at least once a day.

Although we may have no or little impact today on how the US government spends tax payer money, we can create our own budget reduction by:

1. Stop buying junk food. 

You don’t need it.  And if you have it at home or stashed at work, then you’ll eventually eat it.  Once you cut out all junk food and replace those calories with plant-based calories, you will stop craving the junk because your body is getting what it needs.

2. Increase your range of healthy snacks.

Not only do you need to expand your horizon of healthy snacks, you need to have them available at all times.  Rely mostly on whole fruits, raw veggies, and whole grain snacks and enjoy the higher fat snacks like nuts, nut butters, and hummus only occasionally if you’re trying to lose weight.

snacks

 3. Reduce the amount of processed food you buy.

Once you evaluate the amount of processed food you buy, you will probably be surprised at what percentage of your grocery bill it represents.  Use the snack list above to think of ways to eliminate processed snacks, like using sliced cucumbers instead of crackers or roasted chickpeas instead of chips.  When you buy processed food for convenience, make sure the ingredients support your health goals- no corn syrup, low or no sugar, low or no oil, and plant based.

4. Buy ‘smart’ prepared foods.

When you do buy processed foods, make them count.  For example, a single packet of prepared chana masala can be the base of a quick dinner for four if you add a can of chickpeas and leftover or frozen veggies and serve it over brown rice.  The same thing is true for a single serving package of lentil soup- add a bag of frozen mixed veggies and serve over a whole grain for a complete meal for 2.  Add more lentils or quinoa to serve 4.  THAT is healthy fast food!!

 5. Think long term.

By changing your diet, you are saving thousands of dollars long term on healthcare.  By changing your diet, you are dramatically reducing your chance of having a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or cancer.  Every craving you resist and every healthy choice you make gets you one step closer to where you want to be- healthy and disease free for the rest of your life.

 

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Use canned chickpeas or make your own using the Basic Beans (Slow Cooker) recipe.

For each 15 oz can or 1.5 cups of chickpeas, lightly spray with oil or toss in 1 t oil, then season.  Plain ol’ sea salt works fine here, but prepared seasoning mixes are great too- BBQ, Cajun, salt substitutes- whatever you have tucked away in your cabinet.  Use a different baking sheet for each seasoning.

Roast the seasoned chickpeas on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350˚ for about 30 minutes, shaking once or twice while cooking.  Keep an eye on the chickpeas during the last 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.  The chickpeas should be crunchy when they’re done but will also continue to harden as they cool.

 

Baked Tortilla Chips

Cut whole wheat tortillas into triangular pieces and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets.  Lightly spray with oil and season with salt.  Bake at 375˚ for 8 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets once if the chips are cooking unevenly.

 

Soft Serve Ice “Cream”

Serves 3

Peel, slice, and freeze 4 to 5 bananas in a gallon freezer storage bag.  Using a high speed blender, such as VitaMix, puree frozen banana slices with a small splash of non-dairy milk (<1/4 c) as quickly as possible.  Stop the blender to stir as necessary.  Use chocolate non-dairy milk for chocolate ice cream.  Add other frozen fruit with the bananas to flavor the ice cream.  Serve immediately or freeze for 20-30 minutes to harden.