New Summer Faves

We’ve added a few new summer favorites to our repertoire that I hope you enjoy as much as we have.

The first I developed as muffins but as soon as you add icing, they turn into cupcakes- and geez does the icing really make these fantastic.  I wanted to call them muffcakes or cupfins but the hubby thought that was too much.  So they’re filed under Banana Cupcakes and as a bonus, they’re gluten free.  The oat flour does make them more dense than whole wheat pastry flour would, but I think it’s worth it (and honestly don’t have the patience in developing or using GF flour mixes that require multiple ingredients).  Recipes are pasted further below.

Another recipe that we’ve been wanting to veganize and enjoy corn-free for ages is “Dorito” Salad.  The kids and hubby feel like they’re getting away with something eating chips for dinner but it’s one of the few ways I can get away with everyone enjoying salad for dinner.  (I swear, we are the least salad-eating vegans ever.)

In trying to develop new recipes that are filling but don’t heat up the kitchen, I turned a traditional summer appetizer into an entree, Bruschetta Salad.  This has been my favorite way to enjoy home grown and farmers market tomatoes this summer.

The summer has brought lots of outdoor fun, from a triathlon to lots of pool time and playing outside.  Especially because of the extreme heat this year and the kids’ preference to play instead of hydrating, the hubby tried a few different coconut water drinks until we landed on one that everyone loves.  It’s filed under Snacks as Coconut Water Hydration Drink and is pasted further below.

Another success of the summer was Strawberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  Very easy to make, which is great since it disappears so quickly!!

Banana Cupcakes

Makes 12

Cupcakes

1/4 c unsweetened non-dairy milk + 1 t apple cider vinegar

1/3 c coconut oil

1/2 c sucanat (natural cane sugar)

3 ripe bananas

1 t vanilla extract

1.5 c oat flour (blend 1.75 c oats into flour)

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

Icing

6 oz non-dairy chocolate chips, like Ghirardelli semi sweet

Preheat oven to 350’F and insert parchment liners into muffin pan.  Once the apple cider vinegar has curdled the milk, combine all ingredients in a blender or mixer and process until combined. Pour mix into cupcake cups and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Once the cupcakes are done, pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl (or double boiler) and heat in 30 second increments then stir until melted.  Drizzle icing over cupcakes.  Refrigerate leftovers.

“Dorito” Salad

Our new favorite brand of chips is Beanitos, so we’ve been able to bring back a favorite summer recipe from many years ago that we’ve been unable to enjoy since going vegan and corn-free (due to an allergy).  Use organic tortilla chips if you don’t need to avoid corn.

Serves 4

2 heads Romaine lettuce, sliced into thin strips

2 c kidney beans

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 avocados, pitted and diced

Chips

Optional: salsa, Hampton Creek Just Ranch dressing, Beyond Meat beef crumbles, diced onion, Daiya cheese

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix.  Add the chips into the salad (if you’re not planning to have leftovers) or plate the chips and serve the salad on top- either way it’s delicious!!

 

Bruschetta Salad

8-10 roma or 4 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

1.5 c or 1 can white beans, rinsed

~15 leaves or 1/4 c fresh basil, chopped

3 cloves garlic minced or 1 T minced garlic

2 T aged (high quality) balsamic vinegar

1/4 t sea salt

1/8 t pepper

Optional: 1 small Vidalia onion, finely diced

Mix all ingredients in a covered bowl and let marinate in the refrigerator at least 2h before serving.  To avoid discoloration of the beans, add the beans just before serving.  Serve over shredded lettuce or with toasted slices of whole wheat French bread.

 

Coconut Water Hydration Drink

1 L coconut water, like Zico

6 dates

2 clementines, peeled

1/4 c crushed pineapple

1 T fresh lemon juice

1 T fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and process until smooth.  Refrigerate.  Serve over ice.

 

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

For the ice cream base:

2 cans full fat coconut milk

4 T maple syrup

3/4 c sliced strawberries

Add ins:

1 c diced strawberries

1/2 c chopped non-dairy chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli semi sweet)

If using an ice cream maker, place it in the freezer the night before.  Add all ice cream base ingredients to a blender and mix quickly – you don’t want to puree the berries.  Turn the ice cream maker on, and add the ice cream.  Allow the machine to make the ice cream (mine takes 15 to 20 min).  Once the ice cream has reached the desired consistency, turn the machine off and transfer the ice cream to a freezer storage container.  Stir in the remaining strawberries and chocolate chips.  Freeze for 1h or more.  If the ice cream is in the freezer for more than a couple of hours, remove it from the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before you try to scoop it.  The lower fat and sugar content make it freeze harder.

If not using an ice cream maker, add all ice cream base ingredients to a blender and mix quickly – you don’t want to puree the berries.  Mix in the additional berries and chocolate chips and transfer to a freezer storage container.  Freeze for at least 3 hours and remove the ice cream from the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before you try to scoop it.  The lower fat and sugar content make it freeze harder.

Notes:  The ice cream has a strong coconut flavor right out of the ice cream maker, however my family barely noticed the coconut flavor after the ice cream had been frozen.  Also, the strawberries and chocolate stirred in at the end make the ice cream quite chunky.  You may want to blend all the strawberries at the beginning and omit the chocolate chips for a more traditional ice cream.

 

Heart Health

Instead of focusing on candy hearts this Valentine’s day, focus on your heart health and the gains you can make with a few small changes.  Your friends and family will appreciate you being around to spend more Valentine’s days with you, and you’ll start to feel much better.

Do you feel stressed out?  Incorporate a few minutes of deep breathing, mindfulness, or gratitude practice a few times a day.

Do you have high blood pressure?  If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90, please schedule an appointment with a health care provider immediately.  Not treating high blood pressure is dangerous, heart Anatomy_Heart_English_Tiesworksand increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.  Not the way you want to spend your Valentine’s day or any day!!  Normal blood pressure is below 120/80- any consistently above that is considered prehypertension or hypertension. [Check out the American Heart Association for more info.]

Do you exercise regularly?  Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, and lower blood pressure or cholesterol.  The American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults are here.  No matter how you count it, most Americans are not getting adequate exercise.  If it’s been a while since you have been active, don’t worry about getting new clothes or special equipment, just start with these activities:

  • climbing stairs
  • walking
  • stretching
  • push-ups against a wall or a desk

Once you have established a habit of 30 minutes/day with these activities, treat yourself to a new pair of sneakers or a jog bra and keep moving!!

Do you regularly eat meatless meals?  Are you willing to give up meat and dairy to avoid having to start cholesterol medication?  Consider the following simple changes to get you started:

  • Switch out your regular breakfast for oatmeal sweetened with fruitNutritionFacts oatmeal
  • Increase your vegetable consumption to 5 veggies/day
  • Switch out white rice with brown rice
  • Minimize your bread intake and only eat whole grain bread

This Valentine’s day, show your love of family and friends by focusing on your heart health instead of sugar.  Here are some ideas:

  • Only eat or give dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocao
  • Spend time together doing an activity (on Valentine’s day or as a voucher)
  • Work on a project with family or friends

Be an example of heart health so you are all around for longer and healthier lives!!

 

References

https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300310.pdf

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.Vr8i1sLrv4Y

 

 

 

 

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.

Hearty Soups

It’s been chilly here so my focus has been on meals to warm us inside and out.  As I’ve mentioned before in Stoup’s On, my husband and daughters do not prefer soups with lots of broth, which helps me focus on making really hearty soups.  This week we all enjoyed Italian Wedding Soup, which came together quickly using prepared vegan meatballs.

We also had Pasta Fagioli and Irish Stew this week with everyone’s favorite Soda Bread.  I’ve been in the mood for Thai Butternut Squash Soup but instead of making it homemade, I just doctored up a box of butternut squash soup.

Now I’m ready for the ice to melt so I can buy more kale to make a Tuscan-style white bean kale soup. . .

‘Til then, check out Soups and Stews and stay warm and dry!!

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 4

1 quart un-chicken brothItalian Wedding Soup

1 small bunch of kale, stems removed and cut into ribbons

1 package of meatless meatballs

1 can of white beans, rinsed (or 2 cans if you’re not using meatballs)

15 oz fire roasted tomatoes

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 rib of celery, diced

12 to 16 oz small pasta, such as stars

Bake the meatless meatballs according to directions.  Sautee the onion, carrots, and celery for 5 minutes in a medium to large pot with a bit of broth.  Add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the uncooked pasta, tomatoes, and kale to the broth, adding water or more broth if needed.  Once the pasta has reached the desired texture, add the meatballs and serve.

Vegan@home

It’s important to me and my husband that our kids learn to make healthy choices, knowing that we won’t be around forever to help with that.  Therefore the kids are only vegan at home and make whatever choices they want (within reason) outside of our home.  This has worked really well for us, and the overwhelming majority of the time they choose to be vegan or vegetarian outside of home.  However it has really bothered our younger daughter when a couple of times in the last few months our older daughter has chosen to eat chicken at fast food restaurants.  We don’t mind at all, hoping it will curtail a significant backlash against being raised vegan as soon as the kids leave home.  But I was comforted in seeing that despite the bickering (okay, screaming and yelling) they do genuinely care for each other’s health.

Strategies other than vegan@home for healthier eating or moving more toward vegetarianism are discussed in Practice Vegetarian.

We were a bit late celebrating the new year with black-eyed peas, which are thought in the Southern United States to bring prosperity.  But this dish was such a hit that we will be eating it again in a few weeks- even if just for a big lottery drawing!!

Hoppin’ John Bowl

Black-eyed peas

Brown ricehoppin john edited

Kale, stems removed, cut into ribbons, and steamed

Sweet potato, peeled, diced and cooked

Frozen red, green, and yellow pepper strips, diced and steamed

Cayenne pepper hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)

Optional: canned fire-roasted tomatoes or a tomato green chili mix (like Ro*Tel)

This bowl comes together really quickly if you use cook the black-eyed peas and rice in advance.  One option to cook the sweet potato faster is to peel it, then microwave it for 2 to 5 minutes depending on the size.  Once the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, dice it.  Remove the stems from the kale and chiffonade it (roll it together and slice into ribbons).  Dice the peppers.  Combine the kale, sweet potato, and peppers in the steamer and steam for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the number of servings.  Reheat the black-eyed peas and brown rice.  Mix everything together and serve with hot sauce to taste!

Re-assess

In all the busy-ness of December, I had gotten in the habit of visiting Chick-fil-A pretty regularly for french fries.  I decided that I needed to curtail this habit and cut out fried foods.  To help overcome my desire to eat Chick-fil-A fries, I started buying frozen French fries to bake at home at least once a week.  It still takes willpower to bypass them, but it definitely helps knowing that I have a healthier alternative in the freezer.

When you re-assess your diet, do you find that you are eating too much packaged/processed food?  Too much sugar?  Fried food?  Alcohol?  Pick only one target area at a time.  Create a plan and stick to it.  Even though you may want to make huge, far reaching changes, it’s best to start small and build on that success with another small change.  Tackling one new habit at a time builds up your willpower muscle more efficiently than going for broke and losing it all.

Instead of managing your intake from a restrictive point of view, however, keep in mind the foods you need to consume before the items you are trying to minimize. For example, if you need to reduce your sugar consumption, before eating anything with sugar make sure you’ve had at least 3 large servings of Checklistvegetables, 3 whole fruits, and at least 3 large glasses of water.  Make up your own parameters but stick to them for a few weeks.  After a few weeks, a new habit is easier to maintain, and you’ll be able to tell a difference in how you are feeling.  Check out this Spring Cleaning post for more discussion on the checklist mentality for filling yourself with good foods.

If it’s sugar you are targeting, check out Strategies for Sugar Cravings for help with reducing sugar intake.

If you’re interested in further reading on habits and willpower, check out one of these

  • The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal PhD
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

While you are making these changes, be gentle with yourself.  Know that you’ll be focusing your willpower on making healthier choices and will need to modify your environment to help.  Here are a few tips:

  • Do not have the foods you are limiting accessible (or at least not in your home)
  • Stock your refrigerator and pantry with lots of fresh veggies, fruits, bean salads, and starches.  The more choices you have, the easier it will be to stick to your plan.
  • Plan your meals and snacks at the start of the week and prep as much of the food as needed over the weekend (check out Saving Time, Perhaps It’s the Why, and The Return to Reality for more discussion on prepping meals in advance)
  • Identify a cheerleader or an accountability partner who will help you stay focused when the going gets tough (or message me in the comments and I’ll be glad to do so!)

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday, especially if you can ignore the commercialism and the whole black Friday aspect of it (which I can).  I love nothing more than being in the kitchen surrounded by family.  I do wish Thanksgiving was celebrated on Friday to have more time to prepare and travel, but I’m happy to work with what I’ve got!

I’ve never made a whole Thanksgiving dinner on my own and never intend to – it defeats the whole purpose of spending time with family and friends!!  Here’s a list of some of the yumminess we enjoyed this year.

Apple Pie topped with Granola

6 medium or 8 small baking apples (I used a mixture of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)

1/3 c brown sugar

1/3 c white sugar

1 t Ceylon cinnamonIMG_4777

1/2 t ginger

pinch of salt

1 pie crust

Granola Topping

1 1/3 c oats

1/4 c brown sugar

3 T coconut oil

Core, peel, and slice the apples.  I prefer thin slices, but note that thicker slices may require a few more minutes in the oven.

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, seasonings, and 1/4 c water.  Cook covered over medium-low heat until the apples are softened, about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove lid, and allow excess liquid to evaporate.

While the apples are cooking, preheat the oven to 425’ and prepare the pie crust. (I had defrosted a Wholly Wholesome vegan crust from Whole Foods.  If interested in making your own, check out Vegan Pie in the Sky by Moskowitz and Romero.)  Transfer the pie crust to a baking sheet so it’s easier to get into and out of the oven.

Add the oats and brown sugar to a medium bowl.  Melt the coconut oil and add to the oat mixture.  Stir to evenly coat the oats in oil.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple pie filling to the crust.  (Use any leftover apple pie filling for Apple Pie Oatmeal.)  Cover the apple filling with the oat mixture, gently pressing it down in order to mound it as much as possible.

Bake at 425’ for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350′ for another 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.  Warning: this is messier than a traditional double-crust apple pie but it’s worth it!!

Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Ganache Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash

12 servings

3 c wild rice mix, rinsed and cooked according to directions with water, broth, or a combination [usually 3:1 liquid to rice and 30-45 minutes on low after an initial boil)

1 large butternut squash cubed (see helpful tips here) or 2 bags of frozen butternut squash (about 4 c), lightly sprayed with oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted at 400’ for about 20 minutes

1 large onion, diced and sauteed in water until soft with garlic

3 cloves of garlic, minced, and sautéed in water with the diced onion

1.5 c dried cranberries soaked in warm water

1.5 c pecans, roughly chopped and toasted for 5-8 min at 350’

Italian parsley, chopped

Dressing

3 T red wine vinegar

1/4 c fresh lemon juice

1/4 c fresh orange juice (I used Simply OJ)

1 T fresh ginger

1/4 t Ceylon cinnamon

optional: lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Add the onions, garlic, and cranberries to the cooked rice.  Gently fold in the roasted butternut squash.  Add the pecans, parsley, and dressing just before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  The dressing adds a bright flavour but the dish is fine without it.  If you prefer a more savory dish, omit the dressing and add rosemary or poultry seasoning.  A ginger dressing would also be delicious here, although it works very simply without a dressing.

Green Bean Casserole

Apple Pie Oatmeal

I also made a pumpkin bread pudding that turned out really well but didn’t measure all of the ingredients (and as usual, no picture).  So I’ll do better the next time I make it.

Here are pics of my most favorite tablecloth ever.  One year when Thanksgiving was particularly tough (after it is for everyone after the loss of a loved one), our extended family enjoyed using Sharpies to note the things they were thankful for on a large piece of canvas.  It was an easy project everyone could participate in and it’s always healing to focus on what we are thankful for.

IMG_4861

IMG_4863

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!!!

 

Stretching Your Dollar

I’d been looking out for a sale on the vegan butternut squash ravioli in the frozen section at Whole Foods, and when they finally Save_Moneywent on sale, I bought two packages.  But two packages weren’t enough to feed a family of four, so I sautéed an onion and then added micro-baked cubed butternut squash (see Squash It) and 1.5 c white beans to the cast iron pan.  I seasoned with a few minced cloves of garlic, rubbed sage, nutmeg, and white pepper then added half a cup of water and covered the pan to finish cooking the squash.  I brought a pot of water to a slow boil and added the ravioli.  Once tender I served the ravioli on top of the butternut squash mix and sprinkled minced parsley on top.  This strategy stretched the ravioli so well that there was a full serving of leftovers.

I do this with the Field Roast brand of fake meats too.  (Field Roast products only contain grains, vegetables, seasonings, and oil.)  Instead of having sausages in buns with sauerkraut, I cut up the sausages and add them to potatoes, carrots, onions, and sauerkraut.  Instead of having hotdogs in buns, I dice them up and can use one package to make both beans and franks and hot dog mac and trees – that’s two easy dinners for nights the kids have sports or the hubby needs to cook.

I also use this strategy for ingredients that I don’t want my family to eat too much of.  For example, I make this great Mock “Chicken” Salad that uses non-GMO soy patties.  Even though it’s non-GMO soy, it’s best to eat lots more whole foods than fake meats.  So I add as many grapes, apples, celery, and whatever else may work (nuts, unsweetened dried cranberries, etc) in to bulk it up with whole foods, and serve it over shredded lettuce or with lettuce cups.

 

 

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/aFDkRt

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few months ago we got a puppy who has been a wonderful addition to our family.  I haven’t had a pet since before I was vegan, and since Cinnamon has joined our family, her personality and intelligence have really surprised me.  She’s still not entirely potty trained so she’s not the smartest dog ever, but to us, she’s the cutest and most fun.

The way Cinna looks in your eyes, it’s impossible to deny that she has a special connection with each member of our family.  Which makes it even harder for me to understand how pet lovers can eat meat.  Yes, dogs have been domesticated and cows have not.  But some pigs have been domesticated.  How is it easy for omnivorous animal lovers to draw that line?

I did not become vegan for animal rights issues.

I do think all sentient beings should be treated with respect, however.

So when I see this meme on Facebook,

Rich meme

I want to respond-

“Instead of waiting to get rich,

why not take immediate action and reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products?”

THAT would make an immediate difference.  Because really, how many of us are going to be millionaires?

But we can all positively impact life on our planet – by making small changes starting right now.