Instant Pudding

Posted on: July 9th, 2013 by
1

Just a quick blurb to let you know that you can still use instant pudding with your favorite veggie-based milk!

The major brand I buy has no milk-derived ingredients in the powder. Its full of sugar and artificial stuff and isn’t organic, but if you can make it past that list of dings against it, you have a quick dessert that’s vegan! I have noticed that the amount of milk it calls for is too much when substituting. Try using only 3/4 of the amount, maybe even 2/3. (There is something about the veggie milks that doesn’t coagulate as well as dairy milk.) Enjoy!

You can add fresh fruit to your pudding to make it a healthier dessert!

You can add fresh fruit to your pudding to make it a healthier dessert!


Hummus

Posted on: July 3rd, 2013 by
2

If there was one staple in our house- one food we couldn’t possibly live without- it would be hummus.
Yummy, delicious, protein-rich hummus! Crackers, chips, carrots, celery; all merely a vessel to carry the goodness that is this mediterranean dish.

Besides using it as a dip, we spread it on veggie sandwiches, wraps and pitas. In fact, one of the bestest sandwiches ever is a soft pita filled with a thick slathering of hummus and a layer each of tomato, cucumber, and spinach. Easy to make on the run, and light on the calories

hummus_sandwich

I have actually made this particular recipe for years never realizing that it would become integral to my diet when I became vegan and started watching my family’s fat intake and overall nutrition intake. This recipe is simple, cheap, and has no added olive oil or salt.

Cost-saving tips: Buy sesame seeds IN BULK. Not in little jars for $7 each! In bulk at Vitamin Cottage I can get these for $3.15 per pound. A can of generic garbanzo beans (chick-peas) is about .79 cents and garlic and lemon juice are way cheap at the amounts in this recipe. All in all, each batch can cost around $1.25 per 16 oz instead of the outrageous $4.50 per 8 oz I’ve seen at some places.

Hummus (click on recipe title for printable version)
Takes about 1O minutes to make
Makes about 2 cups

hummus

1 can (15 to 16 ounces) garbanzo beans (liquid reserved)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Drain the liquid from the can of beans directly into a standing blender. Add the sesame seeds, lemon juice and garlic. Cover and blend on high speed until seeds are pureed, about two minutes.
Add beans. (To get the smoothest consistency, it helps to have warmed the beans in the microwave for one minute in a microwave-safe bowl) Cover and blend on high speed, stopping blender occasionally to scrape sides.
When uniformly smooth, scrape into a serving dish, cover, and chill if desired.
Serve with fresh veggies, pita wedges, crackers, chips, or homemade tortilla chips.

This recipe easily doubles and keeps for up to a week in the fridge if tightly covered.

Homemade Tortilla Chips (click on recipe title for printable version)

tortillachips

One package of soft, flour tortillas (made without animal fat/lard)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While oven is heating, cut tortillas into triangles, strips, or whatever works for you.

Lay the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet close together without letting them touch.

Place cookie sheet in the oven for about 11 minutes, or until the chips turn a nice golden brown. Depending on your oven, you may have to rotate after the first nine minutes of baking to keep one side from browning faster than the other.

When golden brown, remove from the oven and dump onto a clean surface to cool. Repeat until all are baked.

Place cooled chips back in the tortilla bag they came from for storage. They will keep for a few weeks at room temperature if you don’t eat them before then!

Note: We LOVE these with hummus and buffalo chick’n dip, because they aren’t salty and let the dip flavors shine through.


Chicken Substitute

Posted on: July 2nd, 2013 by
Comments Requested

I don’t use a lot of meat substitutes in my cooking. I try to concentrate on the grains, beans, fruits and veggies that I can buy raw and transform into culinary goodness all by myself. This not only gives me a sense of accomplishment since I love to cook from scratch, but it allows me to know without a doubt that there are no fillers, chemicals, or additives of any kind in what my family eats. BUT…. There are times when I’m in a rush to get a lunch on the table for starving children. And there are times when it seems like it would be nice to have something to eat from days of yore. A buffalo wing. A chicken sandwich. You know, stuff that’s (shaking head coldly) OFF. the menu.
We tried lots of meat substitutes to see what was out there. It’s easy to find lunchmeat substitutes and sausage substitutes. You know, the stuff that is super-processed even in real animal-protein form. It’s harder to find products that mimic (AND taste like) fresh, unadulterated cuts of meat. But I found a chicken breast substitute that I have to share- it is so incredibly close to the real thing.
(Red curtains being pulled up to the ceiling)
(Drumroll beginning)
“Ladies and gentlemen…”
(Drumroll broadening)
“I would now like to present to you…”
(Fireworks spraying out from the stage)
(Drumroll accompanied by trumpet blasts)
“Gardein Chick’n!”
chicken_fake1
“Ta-da!”
Now this stuff cooks from frozen easily, and tastes awesome. Let me photo-illustrate for you.

Slap them onto a hot pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Slap them onto a hot pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Turn after about three or four minutes.  See the brown searing? (Squeal!)

Turn after about three or four minutes. See the brown searing? (Squeal!)

Prepare a nice, crispy bed on which to lay the chick'n.  This one has romaine, tomatoes, and dijon mustard.

Prepare a nice, crispy bed on which to lay the chick’n. This one has romaine, tomatoes, and dijon mustard.

After cooking on both sides (from frozen) for about four minutes each, you should have a beautiful, hot piece of man-made chicken substitute ready for eating!  Please note the texture that it has; very necessary to get the full effect of eating chicken.  This product gets all possible stars from me, folks.

After cooking on both sides (from frozen) for about four minutes each, you should have a beautiful, hot piece of man-made chicken substitute ready for eating! Please note the texture that it has; very necessary to get the full effect of eating chicken. This product gets all possible stars from me, folks.

I felt like having mine with vegan mayo and some of my favorite buffalo wing sauce slopped on top.  Mmm!  Good lunch!

I felt like having mine with vegan mayo and some of my favorite buffalo wing sauce slopped on top. Mmm! Good lunch!

And, because you know I care a lot about what goes into our bodies these days, I present you with the nutritional label:
chicken_fake2
No saturated fat, no cholesterol, healthy ingredients including non-GMO wheat and soy, and a fraction of the fat you would find in a chicken breast.

From the official Tyson website:
(information for fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast)
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 4 OZ. SERVING (112g)
Servings Per Container: Varied
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 40 Calories 140
% Daily Value*
6%Total Fat 4g
8%Saturated Fat 1.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
22%Cholesterol 65mg
2%Sodium 40mg
0%Total Carbohydrate 0g
0%Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
50%Protein 25g
Vitamin C 0%Vitamin A 0%
Iron 0%Calcium 0%
* Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

INGREDIENTS:
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts with Rib Meat. Grade A or Non Grade

Nutrition Notes:
Note that the chick’n serving size is smaller. But if you stick to what a serving size of each product is, you will ingest roughly the same amount of calories. More calories are from fat with the chick’n as a percent of what you take in. But the chick’n has no saturated fat or cholesterol. A skinless chicken breast, one of the lowest-in-fat meats you can eat besides some types of fish, has 22% of your daily allowance of cholesterol. A ding for the chick’n, however, is the super high 340 mg of sodium that one serving contains. Both have protein- the real chicken having 11 grams more than the substitute. But in our family this is of little concern with all of the high-protein foods we choose.
For me, if I can get something with absolutely no animal protein, and it still tastes good and is healthful, I can live with higher sodium or less protein. But, as I said, this is not meant to be a nightly ingredient in our meals. Stick with the stuff that grows directly from plants for a majority of the time. The fat content in this substitute meat is fairly high, and eating it more than once a week or so would not be wise if you are planning to lose weight with this lifestyle.

But, in moderation, enjoy! I hope you try it and find it as delicious a I do.

Cost: As of the posting of this article, I could get this product (it comes with 4 “patties” per bag) at King Soopers for $4.69 or Vitamin Cottage for $3.75- both at full price.


Veggie Milk

Posted on: July 1st, 2013 by
2

Probably the first thing you will substitute in your diet when you start to wean off of the meat and dairy is milk. So you can now throw your hands up in the air and rejoice that you live in the 21st century! We have a plethora (that’s my favorite word EVER, FYI) of veggie-derived milks available to us, and most regular supermarkets now carry a good selection of them.

VARIETIES:
If you have access to a natural food store you can find even more options. Here are just a few that I have seen on my shopping excursions:
Soy, almond, flax, hemp, oat, coconut, sunflower, rice, as well as sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate versions of many of those and even combinations of two or more sources such as almond coconut milk. I even saw one that had pecan milk in the mix of three sources. There’s no longer the “I don’t like the taste of soy” excuse. You have a lot to try before deciding you can’t part with dairy.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
I actually have six different milks in my fridge today, including dairy milk for my nephews who were staying with us. Because of this unique opportunity I decided to share all of the nutritional labels for those of you who are curious.
Here’s what I noticed after comparing the labels:
First of all, each one uses 8 ounces for a serving size, so direct comparisons are simple. If you want calcium, Silk coconut milk is your best choice with 45% of your daily allowance. Interestingly, Rice Dream rice milk has only 2%. Dairy milk checks in at 30% of your daily allowance, as does Almond Breeze almond milk and Pacific oat milk has 35%. Dairy milk contains no iron whatsoever, but oat milk carries the most at 10% of your daily allowance. But if you’re trying to watch your sugars, be aware that the aforementioned oat milk carries 19 grams per serving. Dairy has 12 grams, similar to the rice milk which has 10 grams. Coconut has 6 grams, and both the Blue Diamond almond coconut and the Blue Diamond almond milk have zero grams of sugar. Let’s talk fat. The dairy milk I have on hand is 1% and has 2.5 grams of total fat in a serving size. This is exactly the same as the oat and rice milks. Both the almond and almond coconut blend have 3.5 grams of total fat, and the coconut milk has 5 grams. There can be other nutrient-related bonuses to drinking some varieties of milks over others. For example, flaxseed milk contains about 1200mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving, and that’s a highly desired nutritional element that our bodies need to stay healthy.  However, I’m not sure we need 1200 mg per day, and personally I didn’t like the flavor of flaxseed milk (at ALL) so I resigned myself to using it in recipes on occassion.
Hm! It almost seems like there is no “best milk.” No one milk source is going to have the least fat and sugar while at the same time having the most calcium and iron. If you have one specific thing that is ultra-important to include in your diet (or exclude from it) then reading the labels carefully will help you choose which milk to keep on hand. Otherwise, just choose what you love the taste of.
I will include the labels for your perusal:

milk_almond

Blue Diamond almond milk

Blue Diamond almond milk

 

milk_coconut

Silk coconut milk

Silk coconut milk

 

milk_coconutalmond

Blue Diamond almond coconut milk

Blue Diamond almond coconut milk

 

milk_dairy_label

1% dairy milk

milk_oat

Pacific oat milk

Pacific oat milk

 

milk_rice

Rice Dream rice milk

Rice Dream rice milk

milk_nutrition_chart

I typed up a little chart for you to compare the nutritional elements more easily. See what an awesome BlogMaster I am? Always here for my readers.
; )

COOKING and BAKING:
Once you have found a milk that you like to drink, you can start to think about whether or not that milk will work in the recipes you use most often. For example, in baking, oat milk works very well. So does almond milk and coconut milk… in fact, in baking I can’t think of a milk that wouldn’t work well as a dairy substitute. Though if the recipe is specific in flavor, for example coconut cupcakes, then I would use the milk most closely suited to that flavor (i.e. coconut milk).
In cooking, it can be different. When I make cream of broccoli soup, but can’t add heavy dairy cream to thicken it, I have to choose a milk substitute carefully. It has to be creamy but not have an overpowering flavor that will detract from the soup. I added oat milk once and.. *blech!* “Seconds, anyone?” (unanimously: “NO!”) Oat milk is not thick by any means, and it’s really too sweet for most cooking applications. So I learned to thicken my broccoli soup with a little flour early in the recipe and at the end I will sometimes add coconut milk coffee creamer; a much thicker, less coconut-y tasting milk that’s higher in fat and adds a bit of creaminess. Though most of the time I just make “broccoli soup,” instead of “cream of broccoli soup.” I also learned that in the smoothies I made for the kids, rice milk was the best base because it had the least flavor of it’s own and let the fruit flavors shine through. So as you come across recipes, be aware that you may want to try the same recipe a second time if the milk you use the first time renders the outcome to be not-so-great.
Substitution of the dairy milk in all baking recipes will be 1:1 with your newfound veggie milk. In cooking it will be the same, but isn’t always necessary. (Like when I said I just make broccoli soup without the milk)

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The other great thing about many of these milk flavors is that (insert blowing trumpets and brightly-costumed dancers) …they are shelf-stable! WOOT! The oat milk we buy comes in a carton that is sold at room temperature. It will not begin to deteriorate until opened, and then has a shelf life of (give or take) ten days in the fridge. Because each container is only a quart (4 cups) we can almost always drink it all before it goes bad. I haven’t wasted nearly as much milk as I used to with dairy. And when I do, it’s usually the rice milk that we used for two batches of smoothies and then forgot about when it got shoved behind something else in the fridge. Shopping for oat milk is a once a month endeavor for me. Our local Vitamin Cottage (natural foods store) will order me a case at a time, and a case has 12 cartons in it. This is essentially what we go through in a month if I’m not doing a lot of extra pancake-making with it. I put the case of oat milk in the garage and we pull cartons into the fridge as needed. It’s really been nice. My coconut milk comes from the refrigerated section, and many others do too. But I like being able to have my rice and oat milks just waiting patiently in the garage for me to use them.
Because the shelf-stable milks don’t have a reliable printed expiration date for when you actually crack them open, you may want to write the expiration date on the lid with magic marker the day you open it. I always pick the date that is ten days out. This way, when that pesky rice milk container gets shoved to the back of the fridge, and I later retrieve it, I know how long it was there for and if we will get sick from drinking it or not. (Example: If I open a rice milk container on July 1, I will write the expiration date “July 11” on the lid where I can’t miss it.)
The last and maybe coolest thing about any of these milks is that you can, if you ever catch up with the laundry and dirty dishes, make them yourself at home. If you want to make oat milk, you literally puree some (non-instant variety) rolled oats in a blender with some clean water and then strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. I have not tried this myself, but have seen it recommended for almond milk as well. As the milks can be a little more pricey than dairy milk, this is an option worth mentioning.

COST:
I pay about $3.19 for a half-gallon container of coconut milk. Sometimes it goes on sale at my local grocery store and I can get it for $2.79. If you double $2.79 it equals $5.58, which would be the price per gallon. This is not too far off from the price of dairy milk these days. The shelf-stable oat milk runs $2.59 per quart when I buy it by the case, due to a 10% discount for doing so. That’s more like $10.36 per gallon. To compensate for this dramatic price rise in our milk consumption, we made a rule that the kids may have oat milk one time per day. If they have it in cereal, they get water with dinner. This has enabled our milk budget to stay the same per month as it was when we drank dairy milk.  And I find that my kids are drinking more water than before- something that their little bodies also need copious amounts of.

MILK and your HEALTH: (Some actual research done by actual scientists)
Everyone gets very nervous when I tell them my kids don’t drink dairy milk. Their concern is that my kids will have a lack of calcium intake and their bones will begin to crumble apart and disintegrate. First of all, calcium is plentiful in dark, leafy greens like kale. It’s in broccoli and lots of other produce that we eat ALL. THE. TIME. We get lots of calcium! If you look above at the nutritional index, you will see that calcium is either naturally present or present by means of addition in most veggie-based milks as well. Meaning we have no calcium shortage as vegans, assuming we are eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, grains and beans and avoiding excess carbs and non-nutritional fillers. I found the supporting information that I was looking for in the book Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes:
“For many people, calcium and milk are almost synonymous. They think that milk will build strong bones and protect against fractures later in life. Research has shown, however, that milk’s benefits are, for the most part, a myth. The Nurses’ Health Study, conducted by Harvard University, followed 72,337 women over an 18-year period to determine, among other things, whether milk drinkers had fewer hip fractures later in life. It turned out that those who drank the most milk had no protection whatsoever. That’s right. Women who drank three glasses of milk a day were just as likely to break a hip as women who never drank it.
“How can that be? Well, only about one-third of milk’s calcium is absorbed by the body. The other two-thirds simply passes out with the wastes. In addition, milk contains animal protein and sodium, both of which tend to increase calcium loss through the kidneys.
“Do not misunderstand me here- you need some calcium in your diet, but it should come from healthful sources, namely green leafy vegetables and beans. While there is somewhat less calcium in broccoli than in milk, the absorption fraction- the percentage that your body can actually use- is higher for broccoli and nearly all other greens than for milk. There is one exception: Spinach is high in calcium, but the absorption fraction is very low.
“Greens and beans will give you the calcium your body needs. If you are looking for extra calcium for whatever reason, you can find plenty more in fortified juices and soy milks.
“To maintain calcium balance, however, it is important not only to take in an adequate amount but also to minimize losses. Animal protein causes your body to lose calcium through the kidneys, and it can be measured in the urine. Studies of high-protein diets, such as the Atkins Diet, dramatically demonstrate the losses: Such diets increased calcium loss by more than 50 percent.”

CONTINUED reading from my favorite Vegan-support book, The China Study:

“Americans consume more cow’s milk and its products per person than most populations in the world. So Americans should have wonderfully strong bones, right? Unfortunately not. A recent study showed that American women aged fifty and older have one of the highest rates of hip fractures in the world. The only countries with higher rates are in Europe and in the south Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) where they consume even more milk than the United States. What’s going on? An excess rate of hip fractures is often used as a reliable indicator of osteoporosis, a bone disease that especially affects women after menopause. It is often claimed to be due to an inadequate intake of calcium. Therefore, health policy people often recommend higher calcium consumption. Dairy products are particularly rich in calcium, so the dairy industry eagerly supports efforts to boost calcium consumption.”

“One possible explanation is found in a report showing an impressively strong association between animal protein intake and bone fracture rate for women in different countries. Authored in 1992 by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine, the report summarized data on protein intake and fracture rates taken from thirty-four separate surveys in sixteen countries that were published in twenty-nine peer-reviewed research publications. All the subjects in these surveys were women fifty years and older. It found that a very impressive 70% of the fracture rate was attributable to the consumption of animal protein. These researchers explained that animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acid load in the body. An increased acid load means that our blood and tissues become more acidic. The body does not like this acidic environment and begins to fight it. In order to neutralize the acid, the body uses calcium, which acts as a very effective base. This calcium, however, must come from somewhere. It ends up being pulled from the bones, and the calcium loss weakens them, putting them at greater risk for fracture.”

“When animal protein increases metabolic acid and draws calcium from the bones, the amount of calcium in the urine is increased. This effect has been established for over eighty years and has been studied in some detail since the 1970s. Summaries of these studies were published in 1974, 1981 and 1990. Each of these summaries clearly shows that the amount of animal protein consumed by many of us on a daily basis is capable of causing substantial increases in urinary calcium. Doubling protein intake (mostly animal-based) from 35–78 g/day causes an alarming 50% increase in urinary calcium. This effect occurs well within the range of protein intake that most of us consume; average American intake is around 70–100 g/day. Incidentally as mentioned in chapter four, a six-month study funded by the Atkins Center found that those people who adopted the Atkins Diet excreted 50% more calcium in their urine after six months on the diet.”

“A more recent study, published in 2000, comes from the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. Using eighty-seven surveys in thirty-three countries, it compared the ratio of vegetable to animal protein consumption to the rate of bone fractures. A high ratio of vegetable to animal protein consumption was found to be impressively associated with a virtual disappearance of bone fractures.”

“The Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group at the University of California at San Francisco published yet another study of over 1,000 women aged sixty-five and up. Like the multi-country study, researchers characterized women’s diets by the proportions of animal and plant protein. After seven years of observations, the women with the highest ratio of animal protein to plant protein had 3.7 times more bone fractures than the women with the lowest ratio. Also during this time the women with the high ratio lost bone almost four times as fast as the women with the lowest ratio.”

Source: Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health (p. 208). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


Chili Dogs

Posted on: June 27th, 2013 by
2

The most common question that people who are interested in our vegan lifestyle ask me is, “What are you having for dinner?”
Well, last night it was a kid-friendly favorite that I could easily make for both my kids and my nephews who are staying with us this week: Chili dogs!

The hot dogs we started using are Tofurky (non-GMO) because we all like them better than the other two brands we’ve tried. They’re nice and smoky flavored and grill well. In a 43 gram serving size (one link) there are 100 calories and 40 of those are from fat. Granted, the fat is from canola oil and not beef fat, but it’s still fat and we try to avoid too much. But 40% fat isn’t too shabby for a hot dog. By comparison, the hot dogs I bought for our non-vegan visitors (because hey, who wants to have a tofu-dog given to them against their will?) have 160 calories in a 56 gram link, and fat makes up 120 of those calories. That’s 75% fat. Double the fat content of the tofu-dogs. (Note that if the vegan dog was also 56 grams, it would contain 123 calories. But still only 40% of those would be fat.) I’ll add my pictures of the packages so you can compare other daily values if you wish.

The tofu-dogs.

The tofu-dogs.

The standard meaty hot dogs.

The standard meaty hot dogs.

So with our “healthy” hot dogs and some homemade vegan chili, we put together the most kid-friendly meal we could think of for our guests.
Here’s a photo journal of our dinner:

These are the tofu-dogs.  They actually grill up quite nicely.  Do they taste exactly the same as a regular hot dog?  Uh, no.  But they're pretty close.  And to those of us who have been meat-free for a while now, they're kind of awesome.

These are the tofu-dogs. They actually grill up quite nicely. Do they taste exactly the same as a regular hot dog? Uh, no. But they’re pretty close. And to those of us who have been meat-free for a while now, they’re kind of awesome.

The real deal.  I admit, you can tell a real hot dog from our fake ones even in a photograph.  But part of the reason why is all of those crystalline drops of fat on the surface of the dogs.  And these days, that's an easy turn off for me.

The real deal. I admit, you can tell a real hot dog from our fake ones even in a photograph. But part of the reason why is all of those crystalline drops of fat on the surface of the dogs. And these days, that’s an easy turn off for me.

We could just throw on some ketchup, mustard and relish and have it the traditional way....

We could just throw on some ketchup, mustard and relish and have it the traditional way….

...But that would be silly!  Bring on the chili!

…But that would be silly! Bring on the chili!

Last  night, because it felt like a special occasion, we splurged (nutrition-wise) and added Fritos as well.  Vegan?  Yes!  Healthy? I don't wanna know.

Last night, because it felt like a special occasion, we splurged (nutrition-wise) and added Fritos as well. Vegan? Yes! Healthy? I don’t wanna know.

Here's our youngest trying to decide how on earth he's going to eat his chili dog without making a grand mess. : )

Here’s our youngest trying to decide how on earth he’s going to eat his chili dog without making a grand mess.
: )

 

 

This chili recipe is adapted from my husband’s grandmother’s recipe. Her’s had ground beef, this one does not. The taste? Still delicious! And bonus; it’s SUPER easy to make!

Gr’ma’s (Vegan) Chili Recipe: (click on the recipe title to get the printable version)

(feeds 6-8 people)
(cooking time from start to finish is approximately 45 minutes, less if the veggies are already chopped)

3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 (10 oz) cans of diced tomatoes with diced green chili added
2 (15-16 oz) cans of your favorite vegan chili beans
1/2 t. of your favorite hot sauce or red pepper flakes
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1/4 c ground cornmeal mixed with 2/3 c water
(note: If you want to add a vegan ground beef substitute, you would do so just after the onion and celery starts to turn translucent, and with the addition of a generous spray of cooking spray prior to throwing the “meat” in. My personal preference is to leave it as a beans-and-tomatoes kind of chili, as it’s hardly indistinguishable from the real thing.)

Heat a large pot to high heat. I cook without additional oil whenever possible, and sautéing veggies is one area of cooking where oil is (believe it or not) totally unnecessary. But the pot has to get really hot before you add the veggies. So when it’s hot enough, throw in your onions and celery and let them just sit there and caramelize for about two minutes. If you wait just long enough, they will release some juices and become easy to stir around in the pot. If you want to speed the process, throw a pinch of salt on the veggies as soon as they hit the hot pot. After first stir, turn the heat down to medium-high and continue cooking. Stir around every couple of minutes until translucent, adding a spoonful of water at a time if needed to prevent sticking.
Once the veggies are tender, dump in the tomatoes, beans, and hot sauce or pepper flakes. After the chili comes to a full simmer, give the cornmeal and water mixture one last mix with a small whisk and stir it into the chili. This will thicken it nicely and make it an awesome match for some homemade cornbread! You may also add salt, pepper, or garlic powder at this time if desired. I usually add a heavy pinch of salt and a couple shakes of garlic powder.
Cook at a low simmer until the cornmeal cooks and thickens, about 15 minutes. Serve hot with green onion slices on top if you wish, and maybe some vegan sour cream substitute.


Smoothies

Posted on: June 26th, 2013 by
2

This week I have two extra children at my house. My crazy nephews. Well, they’re not so much crazy in attitude as they are crazy by way of a direct blood-relation to my brother-in-law Jeremy. But I digress. My point is that whenever I have other people’s kids in our house, and I am expected to keep them alive by way of nutritional sustenance, I make them smoothies. Because what kid doesn’t like something that essentially tastes like drinkable ice cream? None. (Don’t argue with me; this is my post- not yours.) And bonus, a vegan smoothie is really indistinguishable from a non-vegan smoothie. And DOUBLE plus, it’s super-duper healthy and easy to make.

Smoothie Recipe: (click on the recipe title for a printable version)

In a standing blender, add a whole bunch of frozen fruit (to fill 2/3 of the way) and add rice milk until the fruit is barely covered. Add a dollop of a healthy jam of your liking, and blend! Viola!

IMG_7176

Notes:
(I’d like to predict that the “notes” section will seriously outweigh the recipe itself in terms of overall length and informativeness. And I will be correct. Because I’m psychic like that.)
Rice milk is my favorite for smoothies simply because it is slightly sweet but doesn’t bring much flavor of its own; it allows the fruit to have the spotlight.
I love coconut yogurt and quite often throw in a 1/2 cup or so of that. It gives that familiar yogurty taste that dairy smoothies are known for.
The jam is not necessary but is a healthful sweetener when compared to sugar if you like it sweetened. Plus it adds deeper fruit flavor.
I almost always include bananas as one of the fruits. We go through a lot of bananas in our house but they are always going bad before we finish a bunch off. So I peel them, break them in halves, and freeze them after they go spotty-brown. They are super sweet, and when frozen they help make the smoothie thick and, well, smooth. Bananas are like silk in a smoothie.

Some of my favorites:
(the one we had today–>) Rice milk, strawberry jam, 1/2 c. coconut yogurt, three frozen banana halves, a large handful of frozen strawberries and an even larger handful of frozen peaches. The kids all LOVED it! (But then I’m such an awesome aunt they probably would love anything I do (blushing))
(tropical–>) Coconut milk, frozen pineapples and frozen mango.
(berrylicious–>) Rice milk, coconut yogurt, blueberry preserves, frozen strawberries and frozen raspberries.
(pineapple–>) (pictured above) We just cut up a fresh pineapple and blended it with rice milk and yogurt. YUM.
(whatever is left in the freezer–>) Rice milk, whatever frozen fruit is left in the freezer.


Pancakes and Syrup

Posted on: June 26th, 2013 by
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I had a real problem with what to feed my kids for breakfast when we left behind our milk, eggs, bacon, ham, butter, and sausage. That pretty much left us with dry toast and orange juice. Which, after eating for a mere two days in a row would have had my children in full revolt status, planning their coup against me. We did find a substitute for milk that two of the three of them liked. We tried the following veggie-based milks: hemp, flaxseed, almond, soy, coconut, sunflower, rice and oat. I put the milks in cups labeled with a code letter for each type of milk and let the kids sample them all and give me feedback, which I wrote down in the form of “really like,” “sort of like,” “not very good,” “hates,” and “please, dear God, don’t ever let me taste that again.” Through this voting system we found that two of our three kids absolutely adore oat milk and one of our three kids would rather drink water in his cereal than have any of the aforementioned milk substitutes. My husband likes the oat milk in his cereal and I can’t drink anything except coconut milk, which I LOVE. Coconut milk (at least the Silk brand) is the creamiest of all the milks I’ve tried. It’s also one of the whitest, which, in my opinion, helps make it more appealing. Plus I just love the taste of coconut, so it was an easy sell.
So we found ourselves back in business for cereal-eating. At least for four of our five family members. For a long time the milk-straggler was eating toast with healthy, corn syrup-free jam on top. This was our solution to butter being kiboshed. Sometimes he would use peanut butter on his toast or even peanut butter AND jelly. (Alert the press! This is the best invention ever!) But he was tiring of the toast circuit. So I decided to make pancakes. Except my old standby pancake recipe was egg-laden. And milk-laden. It even had melted butter in the batter. Time for my very first vegan recipe.
How I created the vegan cinnamon pancake recipe:
It worked to simply substitute oat milk for the dairy milk and omit the butter without substitution. I was able to get rid of the eggs when I added lemon juice to react with the baking soda for some fluff. I switched the white granulated sugar out for coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made from the nectar of the flower being dried out and processed into granules. It tastes like brown sugar and it’s texture is like a cross between granulated and brown. It wants to be moist and clump up, but isn’t hard to break back into granules. It substitutes 1:1 with sugar in recipes. Then I switched the bleached white flour with a mixture of whole wheat, oat, and unbleached all purpose flour. (I couldn’t make them too full of wheat or my kids wouldn’t eat them. I know. I tried.) Then to mask the sight of the tiny dark wheat flour particles, I decided to add cinnamon to the mix. Best. Decision. EVER. These pancakes are amazing and have gotten TONS of compliments! The lemon juice even gives a little kick that’s hard to pinpoint. Simply scrumptious! Have these with genuine maple syrup if you can afford to splurge. If not, I found maple-flavored agave nectar at my local specialty store and that’s still a better option than the corn syrup-laden stuff at the grocery store. (you could probably even get your favorite agave nectar bottle and just add maple extract to it yourself) What I do for the kids is make my own syrup with granulated sugar, water, and Mapeline maple extract. I know the white granulated sugar isn’t the greatest thing, and it’s not technically vegan due to the way it’s processed, but I can’t afford the real stuff very often and in my opinion it’s still better than using corn syrup. And talk about C-H-E-A-P, cheap! Making homemade sugary syrup costs a fraction of what buying it costs.

Homemade Maple Syrup Substitute (recipe from the bottle of Mapeline): (click the recipe title for a printable version)

1 cup of tap water
2 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 t. Mapeline brand maple extract (I do not get paid or endorsed by any products! I just name the ones I like.)

Follow this carefully to avoid the syrup crystallizing later in the bottle.
Pour the water into a medium-sized pot and avoid getting water droplets on the sides of the pot. Add the sugar to the center of the water and allow to dissolve naturally. Do not stir. You will never stir this. I repeat; DROP THE SPOON. Turn the heat to high and leave on the burner until the liquid is not only clear and bubbly, but starts to darken slightly. Now that some of the water has evaporated and the liquid is starting to darken, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Just let it sit there all afternoon until it’s cool. Get your bottle or jar ready to pour the syrup into using a funnel if needed. Stir (okay so you CAN use a spoon!) in the Mapeline at the last minute before bottling it. Lid that sucker right away. Even if condensation forms, leave the lid on. Crystals may form otherwise.

Vegan Cinnamon Pancakes (recipe by Sarah Lynn Wells): (click the recipe title for a printable version)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. oat flour
2 T. coconut sugar (or date sugar other other dry sweetener)
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt (use fine sea salt if desired)

2 c. oat milk (or veggie-based milk of your choice)
2 T. lemon juice

Premix the oat milk and lemon juice and set aside.
Heat a griddle or large stovetop pan to medium-high heat.
Combine all dry ingredients with a whisk in a large bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients mixture and pour in the oat milk mixture, combining with the whisk until few lumps remain. It will be slightly lumpy. Do not over mix or you will have flat and fluffless pancakes.
Spray your preheated pan lightly with cooking spray unless you have a super-duper slippery non-stick pan. Dollop about 1/8 cup of batter onto the pan for each pancake. Turn after bubbles have started to pop around the edges. Your first batch may be bland-colored if the pan wasn’t hot enough when you added the batter.
Cook on both sides until the pancakes bounce back when pressed lightly with your finger.
Serve warm with whatever toppings you desire; syrup, jam, or fruit. My kids even love them plain as a midday snack!

I make two or three batches of pancakes at a time. I let them sit out on wax paper until they are totally cool and then package them airtight in gallon-sized freezer bags. My kids just pull out three or four every morning and pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Viola! Breakfast solution! And bonus, this batter recipe seems to work perfectly in our waffle maker as well. It’s a little dense for waffles but my kids love them anyway. To get some extra fluff I am planning to create a vegan yeast waffle recipe in the near future. Check back!

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So Nice to See You Here!

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by
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Since I’m here, and you’re here, we must have something in common!

It’s vegetables; yay!  Okay that’s unfair.  Maybe you totally hate broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, brussels sprouts and asparagus.  But maybe you like carrots and corn.  Let’s start there.  Start with what you do like and try to add in bits of other things as you travel this road.  Someday in the not-too-distant future you’ll have a wide, colorful palette of nutritious veggies to adorn your kitchen table with.  Maybe even including parsnips, jicama, kale and fennel.

What are the other staples I live on as a vegan?  Beans, grains, and fruits.  Staples.  I have created this site in high hopes of sharing many different ways to incorporate healthful eating into everyday life.  That means incorporating more veggies, beans, grains and fruits.

Beans.  Beans are a food group unto themselves for a vegan.  An excellent source of protein and fiber and a host of other things our bodies need to keep thriving.  Beans are, in a sense, our “meat.”  I mix them with quinoa for burrito filling, eat them refried with enchilada sauce on top, use them to make homemade veggie burgers, and combine them with sesame seeds and lemon juice for homemade hummus.  Beans are our lifeblood, and in our family, we don’t go three days without eating them.

When I say grains, I don’t mean bleached-white, corn syrup-laced, whole grain-deficient bread.  I mean quinoa.  Whole wheat flour.  Flaxseed.  Bulgur wheat.  Buckwheat.  Brown rice.  Oats.  The good stuff, people.  Stuff you can easily add into your dinners without sacrificing the original recipes.  Do you usually eat white rice?  Switch to brown.  Do you eat white bread?  Switch to whole wheat, or better yet (if you like the strong taste) pumpernickel.  It’s these simple substitutions, made on a regular basis, that will lead to better health.

Fruit does not mean grape jelly and character-licensed fruit snacks, or whatever else our children’s schools are approving for a daily serving.  It’s kiwi fruit, bananas, pears, berries, mangos, and peaches.  Good, fiber-rich fruit.  The real stuff.  The stuff that comes from trees and vines and… uh, what in the heck do kiwis grow on?  (I’m stumped) Anyway, we need to eat food in it’s natural state to get the most benefit from it, and fruit is one of the easiest things to eat this way.  So sweet and juicy, it’s like having dessert with no guilt.

So I’ll say it again; it’s so nice to see you here!  That means you’re interested in optimizing your health from the inside out, just like I’m trying to do.  It’s a long process and there’s a bit of a learning curve, but that’s why I have this blog- so we can learn together.