Check Out The World’s Heaviest Vegan Banana Split!

Banana_Split_ServingNormally ice cream wouldn’t be on anyone’s mind today.  Denver is a whopping 17 degrees Fahrenheit and we’re experiencing record snows.  Soup? Sure! Vegan hot chocolate? Absolutely. But vegan ice cream?

Well, today wasn’t just any other day.  This was a recording breaking day for more than snow! Today, students at Johnson & Wales created and served up the World’s Heaviest Vegan Banana Split

The banana split weighed in at a hefty 1,219 pounds and included flavors like Turkish Coffee, Blueberry Balsamic, Chocolate Mole and Strawberry Basil among many others.

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Chef Adam Sacks tells us, “We want to show the world that we can take any menu item typically laden with animal-based saturated fats and cholesterol, like the beloved banana split, and change it up, making it heart healthier and resulting in a finished product that is unbelievably tasty.” And yes, Chef Adam – it was unbelievably tasty!

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My portion had bananas, peanuts, chocolate and some kind of pumpkin-y ginger-y vegan ice cream. I couldn’t really feel my fingers from hanging out in the frigid winter cold waiting for my chance to eat a little of this masterpiece, but my tongue was working just fine and this stuff was terrific and totally worth the wait.

Congratulations and big thanks to Johnson & Wales University in Denver for showing the world that vegan food can be awesome!!

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Crispy Banana Caramel Delight

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Hubby and I went out for a lovely vegan dinner but the dessert options were limited.  I had a bunch of bananas back at the house and thought having something banana caramel-y would make the perfect end to our sweet evening.  I looked at a few caramel recipes on the ride home since I’d wanted to make caramel sauce but never tried.  Once I got home, I hit the pantry to see what I could create with what I already had in the pantry. I modified the ideas I saw online and came up with this yummy dish.  The caramel sauce stayed liquid and now I’m totally hooked on frying bananas!

Crispy Banana Caramel Delight

1 ripe banana for each serving
1 Tbs coconut oil
Vegan caramel sauce (recipe below)
Vegan vanilla ice cream

Peel bananas and slice in half length way like a banana split. Heat a skillet large enough to hold your bananas, add oil and turn on high heat for about a minute. Add sliced bananas flat side down.  Gently move them so they don’t stick or burn and allow them to get crispy and brown.  Flip and gently press the curved sides so the bananas touch the skillet.  Gently move to prevent burning until they are crispy and brown.  If the bananas break, don’t worry.  They’ll still taste amazing! Place the equivalent of one banana in each dish.   Top with your favorite vanilla plant-based ice cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.

This sauce is very sweet and a little goes a long way.  It stayed liquid and was perfect for my Crispy Banana Caramel Delight!

Vegan Caramel Sauce

1 cup Mimic Almond and Cashew Creme (this is a thicker sweetened plant based cream – other plant based creams should also work)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs Earth Balance Soy-Free (Coconut oil may also work. Avoid soy-based Earth balance.  While great for baking, with a high heat, it takes on a nasty, fishy, weird taste and really doesn’t work for caramels and toffees – trust me on this one!)

Add all the ingredients to a pan with extra room for boiling.  Turn on high heat and stir until mixture is boiling and bubbling consistently.  Turn heat down to medium high (it should still be boiling consistently) and continue to stir for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool down and transfer to a jar or glass container.  If you’re not using it right away, keep refrigerated and serve cold or reheat if you want a warm sauce.

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Jackfruit Fiesta Casserole – Gluten-Free Vegan Meals in Minutes

20131018_192026Some nights when I get home, it’s late, I’m hungry and I just don’t feel like making something totally from scratch.  Let’s face it. We’re a busy generation and if you’re vegan and gluten-free, it’s hard to grab some take-out for dinner.  What’s a busy girl to do?  Well, here’s what I did the other night and it was easy and really good.

20131018_190548I grabbed some dried hashbrowns and added a little water to the container and set them aside.  I opened a can of jackfruit (young, green)and added it, along with a can of black beans, some diced green chiles and some salsa.

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I simmered them and added the hashbrowns and cooked on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the hashbrowns were soft.

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Topped the pan with a bit of Daiya cheddar, added some avocado, tomato and lettuce and voila – dinner.

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Have You Heard About the Vegan Trade Council?

Shouldn’t vegan businesses have an organization to represent their interests? 

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Of course they should! That’s why I’m excited to learn about the formation of the Vegan Trade Council!  The vegan industry is vibrant, growing and will benefit from joining together. A  trade association can provide support for advocacy, industry growth and mainstream acceptance of vegan products.

Can you imagine school lunches allowing plant-based milk instead of the currently required cow’s milk?  Wouldn’t it be great if MyPlate made greater reference to healthy, plant-based foods? Public health?  Well, that’s an area where vegan lifestyles need to be promoted in a big way. And we all know how important adopting a vegan lifestyle is for our environment; watch Cowspiracy if you need convincing. We need the Vegan Trade Council to unite vegan trade and make our voice loud and clear.

Alan Nemeth, professor of animal law at the American University Washington College of Law and the University School of Law is leading the formation of the trade group. Nemeth stated, “The dairy, beef, pork, poultry, and seafood industries all have trade associations and high-powered lobbyists to represent their interests legally, legislatively, in the development of regulations, and in the promotion of their products in the press and in the marketplace. These trade associations are effective, because they represent the views and dollars of their entire respective industries. The vegan food industry currently has no such trade association and subsequently has no coordinated representation to help build public relations and promote plant-based interests nationwide. As such, the animal-based product industry has no vegan trade contemporary to argue the vegan industry’s positions with regard to issues such as public health, the environment, the Farm Bill, agricultural livestock, school lunches, dietary alternatives, and so on. It is time that the vegan industry gets a seat at the table.”

The Vegan Trade Council is reaching out to vegan businesses and the vegan community, building its membership and support base. If you’re interested in membership, learning more about the Council or contributing, reach out to them online, vegantradecouncil.com.

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Apple Buckwheat Cobbler Delight

apple_buckwheat_cobbler_gluten-free_veganI grew up using a pressure cooker so they don’t scare me. My mom used to make potatoes in her olive green Presto and I loved how it sputtered and jiggled on the stove. I used mine for potatoes too and not much else. At VegFest, I watched Chef AJ’s cooking demo and she inspired me to get an Instant Pot. I started cooking dried beans and used it a couple times a week, but I never mixed and matched.  Always one type of food, cooked or steamed.

I just purchased JL Fields’ new book, Vegan Pressure Cooking because I wanted some recipes to make one pot meals.  It’s a gorgeous book with tons of great recipes; many are gluten-free and all are vegan. I was inspired by a couple recipes, the Easy Applesauce and Fruit and Nut Rice Pudding.

I’m notorious for letting inspiration take me down my own road and rarely follow a recipe unless it’s for cake or bread.  I had a 4 lb. bag of apples that had almost been forgotten in the garage fridge.  I also had a few dates left in a nearly empty container, begging to be used.  Inspiration led me to make this Apple Buckwheat Cobbler Delight. Thanks mom for curing me of the pressure cooker fear. Thanks Chef AJ for introducing me to the electric pressure cooker and thank you to JL Fields for writing such a beautiful cookbook and giving me the inspiration to mix a few ingredients together in my pressure cooker.

Apple Buckwheat Cobbler Delight

3 – 3.5 lbs. raw apples, cut into bite sized chunks
½ cup dry buckwheat
½ cup chopped medjool dates
1 ½ cups water
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp powdered ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in pressure cooker. Stir well to mix spices, water and buckwheat with apples. Cook for about 12 minutes (some pressure cookers are faster or slower so check with your manufacturer’s directions – I used Instant Pot on medium pressure).  Serve warm or cold for dessert or breakfast and add a little vegan ice “cream” for a special treat.

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Red and Green Chili

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All four seasons, I love chili. Especially green chili. I call this red and green chili because it’s a little of both.  So I decided to wrap up my soup series with this little kicker. If you like your chili spicy, this is the recipe! You can pour it over a baked potato, smother a burrito or eat it straight from the bowl. If you don’t like your chili quite so spicy, reduce the amount of green chilies and chili powder for a milder version.

Red and Green Chili

1 Tbs avocado or olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic
2 cups canned or roasted diced green chilies
2 cups tomato sauce or strained tomatoes
2 cups San Marzano canned tomatoes or very ripe fresh tomatoes
6 cups cooked black beans (approx. 4 cans)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste depending on added salt in your beans and tomatoes)
Heat pan and add oil, when hot, add onion and garlic. Stir until lightly brown. Add chilies. Stir well. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, beans and spices. Bring all ingredients to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes so all flavors have a chance to mingle. Serve hot. Top with fresh chopped cilantro, fresh tomatoes and/or a bit of shredded vegan cheddar cheese or vegan sour cream.

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Yellow Split Pea Soup

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There’s something so smoothly soothing about split pea soup. I couldn’t have a soup series without adding split pea.  I had never tried making it with yellow peas, and honestly, to me they taste just like split green peas.  They happened to be in my cupboard.  If you have green ones, they’ll be fine as well. The smoky flavor comes from liquid smoke and smoked paprika so this version is not only delicious, but also cruelty free. The pigs are smiling and after you try it, I hope you will be too.

Yellow Split Pea Soup

9 cups water or veggie broth
3 cups dry yellow split peas
4 large carrots (6 – 8” long) or equivalent
½ cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp liquid smoke

Combine water, lentils and all veggies into pressure cooker or large pan.  Bring to boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or follow pressure cooking instructions for making lentils (about 18 minutes).  Once cooked, all ingredients will be very soft.  Stir with potato masher and add in all spices and liquid smoke. Stir until nearly smooth with a few small pieces of carrots visible.  Top each bowl or cup with coconut or tempeh bacon if desired. Serve as a meal or starter.

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Tofu Waffle Fail

Inspiration and photo from  SeriousEats.com

I saw beautiful photos on Facebook of crispy, perfect tofu waffles.  I was dying to try making these and thought it sounds like a really fun way to prepare tofu.  I even saw a video of a woman and a little boy making them – so easy a little kid could do it, right?

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Well… I don’t know if it’s my uber cheap waffle iron or my lack of professional culinary training, but my tofu waffles flopped – big time.  I cut my tofu into 1/2″ thick quarters and marinated them in some Bragg’s and sesame oil, used a little peanut oil on the hot waffle iron and plopped in my tofu. And waited. And waited. And waited. Hubby kept checking the waffle iron and thought the tofu would fall out easily, like a waffle.  Nope.  First batch got all stuck in the iron.  We cleaned it out.

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Tried more oil on the second batch which also got stuck in the iron and created an even bigger mess.  Yes, it got crispy.  Sort of. In spots. It didn’t absorb the Bragg’s and I used more oil than when I fry it in nonstick pan, so it was not as tasty and seemed oilier than the tofu squares I love to make.

So…bagging the waffle idea,  I took a second package of tofu and prepared it our favorite way, little sliced squares, cooked in a tiny amount of peanut oil (about a teaspoon or less) and some Bragg’s until crispy.

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Much faster, way easier to clean up and also tastier in my humble opinion.

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Indian Red Lentil and Mushroom Soup

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As far as I know, I’m not of East Indian descent, so I can’t help but wonder if maybe I was from India in a past life. I love the beautiful patterns in the fabric, the interesting architecture, the music, the spirituality and I really love the flavorful food and Indian spices.  I’ve been cooking and playing in the kitchen with Indian flavors for a few years and wanted to include an Indian inspiration in my soup series.  I used red lentils because they cook quickly and they’re very light.  You could also use green or brown lentils.  They will take a bit longer to cook and will have a thicker, heavier consistency, but they’d also work just fine in this recipe. Namaste!

Indian Red Lentil and Mushroom Soup

6 cups water
2 cups red lentils
4 large carrots (6 – 8” long) or equivalent
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 cup chopped cooked mushrooms
(I used portabellas but white button would be great too.)
1 cup chopped tomatoes (very rip fresh or canned)
½ cup chopped onion
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp fenugreek
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp ginger

In large pan, add water, lentils carrots, green pepper and onions. Bring to a boil for about 3 minutes and scoop off foam from the top and discard.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until lentils and veggies are soft.  It’s ok to stir occasionally will simmering to check on the consistency. Once softened, stir and mash lightly with a potato masher while adding mushrooms, tomatoes and all spices. Continue stirring and lightly mashing until all ingredients are mixed well, leaving a few chunks of veggies.  Cover and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally for another 15 minutes or longer. Serve with your favorite gluten-free bread for a hearty meal or starter.

 

 

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Almost Mom’s Potato Soup

gluten_free_vegan_me_potato_soupOne of my favorite recipes from childhood was my mom’s potato soup. She’d make it in a stove-top pressure cooker and it was just so warming and comforting – the perfect tummy filler on a cold day.  Of course it wasn’t vegan and I haven’t had it in many years. When I decided to create the soup series on the blog, mom’s potato soup was the very first recipe I thought of. I knew I needed to create a vegan version. Hubby approves too. Hope you like it as much as we do!

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Fat-free Potato Soup

6 cups cubed potatoes
5 cups unsweetened plant milk (I used organic rice milk)
2 large carrots (6 – 8” long) washed, tops trimmed off.
1 cup water or veggie broth
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup dried or fresh chives
3 tsp Dr. Bragg’s Amino Acids
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper

Cook potatoes and carrots in water or veggie broth until soft. (Note: do not cook in the plant milk; this is added after cooking.) My mom used to cook them in  her stove-top pressure cooker and I still use mine for this recipe.  It makes it easy to finish the soup on the stove, but any method to cook them soft works fine.  In large soup pan (or stove top pressure cooker), on low heat, use a hand-held potato masher to begin mixing and mashing  the potatoes, carrots, remaining cooking liquid. Fold in the plant milk.  Add in the rest of the ingredients a few at a time and continue to mash until everything is mixed to desired consistency. Heat to desired temperature and serve.  You can top with a few chives or stir in some vegan cheddar or mozzarella cheese for an extra kick.

 

 

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Pumpkin, Kale and Leek Soup

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Working on your waistline this New Year’s? One of my favorite, healthy and usually low-calorie foods is soup. It fills you up; it’s warm and satisfying and it tastes good!

Here’s an easy soup to keep you warm. It’s low in sodium and very low in fat. In fact, if you choose to sauté your leeks and garlic in water, there’s no fat at all. But it’s thick and filling. And it’s perfect for a snowy, winter day!

Pumpkin, Kale and Leek Soup

1 cup cooked leeks (I love Trader Joe’s frozen leeks for a quick fix.)
1 glove minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil (optional – you can sauté  in water for a fat free version)
4 cups kale (you can sub spinach, collard or chard or any mixture of these)
4 cups cooked pumpkin or winter squash
2 cups veggie broth or veggie bouillon
2 tsp ground sage
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp marjoram
¼ tsp rosemary

In large soup pan, sauté leeks and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until tender; add kale and sauté until wilted and tender. Remove about ½ cup of the greens and leeks and set aside (optional). Add pumpkin or squash and veggie broth. Mix well, Pour ingredients into blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into soup pan. Chop the greens and leeks you set aside earlier into bite sized pieces and stir into puree for  added texture. Heat and serve warm.

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Find Your “Happy” this New Year

resolution

The Free Dictionary defines “resolution” as the state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.” 

So here we go.  It’s 2015. We are firm, baby! We start thinking about all the stuff we wanted to do in 2014 that we didn’t do, or tried to do, or need to do better. We’ll think about it for a couple days, a couple weeks, maybe even a couple months and before too long, our firm determination will start to look more like soft, silken tofu.

Honestly, I’ve given up on resolutions. Kind of.  There’s something about an ending that inspires a new beginning.  One year ends, another begins, and along with it comes the freshness of new hopes, dreams, plans.   I succumb a little each year; do you? But making plans, hoping, dreaming and deciding to take action is somehow different that making a resolution.

Why?  Resolutions break.  And when something’s broken, it’s hard to fix.  There’s something wrong.  It’s not good anymore. Toss it out. Give up. You get the idea.  But if you dream, you can keep on dreaming. If you hope, you can never lose hope. If you plan, you can change or rearrange your plans.  Nothing’s broken.  The world keeps turning. The ideas keep churning.  The fires keep burning. And life goes on.

But before I get too hope-y dreamy on you, I do want to point out that actions are what really helps move those hopes, dreams and plans to reality. Are your hopes, dreams and plans the right ones? Ask yourself why you want to_______ this year.  Is it to feel loved, accomplished, prosperous, productive?  Dig way down deep in your soul and understand the reasons behind your aspirations and then ask yourself if it’s truly worth pursuing or if there’s a better way to be fulfilled.

And ask yourself how you’ll feel in another year if you don’t  ________. What does your gut tell you?  What do you feel in your heart? Guts and hearts are pretty smart.  Listen to them. They might give you the motivation to keep taking actions or the wisdom to change direction.

What are my hope-y dreamy plans for 2015? First, I’m aspiring to do a better job posting to this blog and making some updates and improvements. The “why” is my need to share the vegan message and that you can be vegan AND gluten-free and live a full life. I’ve got to do this.  My heart and gut said so.

I’m also deciding to say “no” when something doesn’t make my heart happy and just makes me stressed.  That one sounds easy, but the “should” girl inside me can be persistent and lay a good guilt trip. Heart and gut – speak loudly on this one!

I want to be healthy.  Yeah, I’d really like to be skinny – I am not a skinny vegan.  But the only times I’ve ever been skinny were when I was anorexic my senior year in high school and when I was stressed beyond belief about 8 years ago. I don’t want to go back to either of those skinny me’s, not even for a smokin’ hot bod. So, I’ll keep learning about how food, lifestyle and environment affect me.  Do my best to make wise choices.  And share some healthy recipes along the way. And maybe I’ll lose 10 or 15 pounds. That would make my heart happy, but it’s happy even if I don’t lose a pound,  since health is a blessing and without it life can stink, big time.

And I want to promote this wonderful, compassionate vegan lifestyle.  Yes, there is such thing as a “vegan diet” aka, plant-based or plant strong diet.  But eating the diet a vegan eats and being a vegan are two very different things.  I am a vegan.  Starting out for health reasons, I’m now in it for the planet, the animals and because I can’t be any other way, knowing what I know.  Working to help more people join this journey and change the world makes my heart happy and feels absolutely right in my gut – despite the sadness I also feel, realizing how much our paradigm needs to change and change quickly if we want to be able to hope and dream about the future of our world and end the suffering of more than 10 billion sentient beings who will lose their lives year after year if we don’t take action.

My wish for you is to find your “happy”.  To do things that make you feel good, that feel right in your gut, joyful in your heart, and make a better world.

What are your hopes and dreams for the coming year? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Happy15

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14 Vegan Gluten-Free Favorites from 2014

Had to share these vegan wonders with you!

Most were “discovered” this year on my vegan journey.  And some are just too good not to mention, even thought they’re not “new” to me.

P.S. At this writing, my blog is not monetized, so I’m writing all this just because I want to share this info with you, my wonderful readers.  I have not been compensated to review or share any of this information. 

  1. Pacifica products.
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    I especially love  the body butters  and lip tint. Vegan, gluten-free, luscious and lovely!  One of my 2015 goals is to try some of the other Pacifica products because I love, love, love them!

 

  1. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds with Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar.

    Can’t stop eating them, so I don’t buy them often. Completely addictive. Almonds are healthy, right? Yeah, right! Here’s a little blurb Trader Joe’s wrote about these tasty treats.
  1. Native Foods Sesame Kale Macro Bowl.

    This is my go-to meal at Native Foods.   It’s gluten free (I wish they had more savory, gluten-free options) and this one is worth the visit.  I also love the cucumber salad that comes with it. And it inspired me to create this sesame kale bowl recipe to make at home too.
  1. Instant Pot.

    For years, I tried to cook beans on the stove. I soaked; I sprouted; I added baking soda; I added salt; I added nothing and cooked for hours. I tried everything I could think of to make them soft. But, when you live a mile above sea level, water boils at a much cooler temperature and for whatever reason, my beans were always hard, so I gave up and bought them in cans, until… enter Instant Pot!  This beast cooks my beans in about 35 minutes,even if I don’t soak them – probably even quicker if you live at a lower altitude. Even hubby (who is very picky about the softness of his beans) approves.  Dry, organic beans are inexpensive, healthy and delicious.  Oh, and it makes great potatoes in no time too. And did I mention soup?  The instant pot is not cheap, but worth every penny.
  1. Iodine.
    Why iodine? Well, in 2013, I developed a goiter and had some growths on my thyroid. My mom and aunt had thyroid cancer, so I was a little freaked.  I had a few visits to the endocrinologist who kept inviting me back to her office for checks, but low and behold, my research was right! I was just eating way to much raw kale.  Way too much. And not getting any iodine.  Thanks to supplements, I got a clean bill of health from the doctors a week ago and have not been invited back!  Good news and I credit the iodine. Learn more about goitrogenic foods here.
  1. Cowspiracy.

    If you haven’t seen this movie, you need to! If you have friends who care about the environment, especially friends who aren’t vegan, invite them to watch it with you.  The evidence is beyond overwhelming that animal agriculture is killing the earth. See it now. Share it with others.  Take action. Please. http://www.cowspiracy.com/
  1. Telic shoes.

    These clogs and flip flops look a little like Crocs or Okabashis, but they feel like heavenly vegan marshmallows on your feet. Try on a pair and tell me they’re not the most comfy shoes you’ve every worn. http://www.telicfootwear.com/index.aspx
  1. MeetUp.com.

    OK, confession. I didn’t “discover” MeetUp this year, in fact, in 2011, the first thing I did when hubby and I decided to go vegan was seek out vegan groups in our area and MeetUp helped me connect. It’s been a great resource and fun way to meet new friends. If you haven’t checked to see if there’s a vegan MeetUp group near you, I highly recommend it. If you don’t find one, why not start one? There are lots of lonely vegans out there looking for like minded friends to share a meal or outing. I’m so grateful for the MeetUp groups in my area and the many friends I’ve made going to events.  http://www.meetup.com
  1. Shelter Pets.
    PoochieMany of you know, we lost our sweet Chloe in September. Both hubby and I are still heartbroken and haven’t yet decided to bring another fur baby into our lives. We need some healing time, but I know we will adopt when we’re ready or when the universe let’s us know we’re ready.  I can say that while we had no idea how old Chloe was, and we learned she was probably much older than we thought when we adopted her six years ago, I wouldn’t trade a day of her years with us for anything in the world.  She brought us joy and unconditional love.  I’m not sure who “rescued” who.  If you are considering a pet, please, please consider adoption and save a life. Shelters are filled with wonderful animal friends just waiting for loving humans to make them a part of their lives. Visit www.petfinder.com to find shelter pets near you.
  1. HappyCow.net.
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    OK, another one I didn’t discover in 2014, but do I ever use this site when traveling. It’s the easiest and by far the best way to find good vegan grub away from home. HappyCow.net
  1. Gorilla Food.

    When I visited Vancouver, BC last fall, I was lucky enough to stay right across the street from the fantastic Gorilla Foods. If you get a chance to go to Vancouver, this is a must. I ate there twice and even brought along a pre-vegan with me the second time. She loved it too. Everything is raw, organic, incredibly fresh and a happy dance for your taste buds. I got lucky and had the opportunity to chat a little with Aaron Ash, founder and chef extraordinaire.  His raw breads blew me away, and yes, he said it takes him a few days to create each “slice”. Desserts are divine. And the menu is massive.  Go eat here if you can or check out the cookbook and try to whip up some of this scrumptious for your sweet self.
  1. Watercourse Foods.

    For years, Watercourse Foods was a prime vegetarian spot in Denver. In 2014, the restaurant changed to all VEGAN options.  Whoa!!! I jumped for joy and found the new menu to be delightful.  In 2011, Denver had zero vegan restaurants.  Now we have four Native Foods, Watercourse Foods and #2 on my list…
  1. Nectar House Cafe.

    While technically, not completely vegan, since some of their juice smoothies have honey, all the food is vegan and raw and there are many drink options without the honey. I still think this place is pretty sweet, especially the Sunday brunch. Jenna George and Piper Rose can rival the best raw chefs anywhere with their creations. In 2015, I resolve to eat at Nectar House Cafe more often.
  1. You!
    When I started this blog in 2011, I just wanted to share some of my vegan experiences, recipes rants and praise with other like minded people.  I knew there had to be at least a couple out there.  And there were!  Each year, the blog grows more. In 2015, I’m determined to post more, share more, do more to promote the vegan lifestyle and living it gluten-free. I am so grateful for every new and returning reader and hope you’ll stick with me. Whether you are already vegan, gluten-free or both, or simply seeking resources and information for yourself or someone you care about, I’m so happy you’re here. Every choice for food, clothing, beauty care, furniture, entertainment, health and our environment can be a compassionate one. I appreciate your journey to make the kindest choices you can for your health, the health of the planet and the plight of the 10 billion animals who suffer and die each year.Let’s make 2015 the kindest, most compassionate year ever. Thank you for joining my gluten-free, vegan journey and best wishes for yours.

Now it’s your turn.  What are some of your favs of 2014?  What are your hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations for 2015?  Share in the comments below!!

 

 

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5 Tips to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays

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‘Tis the season to be sneezin’.  Why is it so many people get sick around the holidays?  No doubt we all have additional tasks on our to-do list and feel pressure to make this season merry and bright. Besides looking for ways to simplify the season so it fits your lifestyle and values, rather than the expectations of others (which could be an entire series of blog posts), I wanted to share five simple things you can do right now to stay off the cold and flu medicine and feel your holiday best.

1. Wash Your Hands – Often

According to the CDC hand washing can reduce the number of respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21%, and reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%.

When you go to holiday gatherings, open doors, touch handrails and shake hands, then eat or touch your face, you put yourself at risk of sharing everyone else’s germs.  Make every effort to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if you’ve touched anything others have touched. And wash your hands before eating. Also try eating with your left hand if you’re shaking hands with your right.

2. Go Easy on Sugar

This time of year, everyone loves baked goods, sweet drinks and holiday goodies loaded with sugar.  Even organic agave and grain syrups are refined sugars that can make your immune system tank, especially if you’re stressed or already a little under the weather. According to Rodale News, sugar is dangerously sweet, addictive and toxic.  Every time you eat it, you suppress your immune system. Stick to whole fruits when you’re craving something sweet or try a stevia sweetened beverage. Save the sugary treats for infrequent, special occasions. Or try treats like these raw, vegan cookie dough balls, sweetened with dates.

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Keep in mind, alcohol is not only sugar,  but according to drinksmarter.com, “too much alcohol deprives the body of valuable immune-boosting nutrients such as Vitamin A, and can make white cells – your body’s defense against illness and disease – less able to kill germs.” Limit your alcohol and try replacing those extra drinks with sparkling water with a little fresh lemon or lime juice for a lighter, healthier holiday drink.

3. Get Some Fresh Air and Sunshine

If you live someplace that stays warm during the holiday, getting a little fresh air and sunshine should be easy. If you live in a cold climate, bundle up and go outside anyway. According to myhealthwire.com, Florence Nightingale was right.  Fresh air actually destroys pathogens and sunshine provides vitamin D. This combo even tops antibiotics for curing many ailments.  And if you can take a few breaths near trees, even better – they make oxygen and clean the air from pollutants.

And walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, enhance mental well-being and so much more.  Look for a Walk With a Doc™ program in your area where you can join doctors and others looking to improve their heath.

4. Take in the Holiday Fragrances

Smell some fresh pine. A study from Japan’s Kyoto University found that participants had a greater feeling of relaxation after being surrounded by the scent.  Other holiday scents can make you feel great too.  The scent of cinnamon enhances concentration and enhances circulation. Vanilla is said to soothe inflammation, promote relaxation, lower blood pressure and protect the body from free radicals and infection. Chocolate can stimulate your memory. And peppermint boosts memory and alertness.

5. Eat More Plant-Based Whole Foods

I can attest to this one personally. Ever since I can remember, I always got sick around the holidays.  I could never sing carols because I had a nasty virus and usually lost my voice. I actually dreaded the holidays because it meant feeling crummy. When I decided to eat a plant-based diet, I have enjoyed the last three holidays without so much as a sniffle!

Fruits, veggies, whole grains and spices are immune boosters.  And with so many wonderful recipes and a huge variety of foods to eat, I don’t feel deprived at all.  My plate is colorful and I feel amazing. Plants and fruits naturally contain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, omega 3’s and probiotics.

And don’t let the rush of the season prevent you from getting healthy nutrients. Aloha.com has vegan, gluten-free, gmo-free healthy, whole foods and supplements, ready to take with you on the go. They also share recipes here.

Still not sure about eating plant-based? Don’t just take it from me; here are some great websites endorsed or written by doctors recommending plant-based foods to boost the immune system, some even share recipes of their own.

NutritionMD.org

Forks Over Knives

NutritionFacts.org

Vegaprocity.com

 

 

 

 

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Coping With Being the Holiday Green Sheep

snowflake-balls-balls-gold-streamers-toys-christmas-holiday-christmas-new-yearKermit said it best. It’s not easy being green. I guess I’ve been “different” than my family and  friends for such a long time; I’m used to not fitting in when it comes to food. I’ve had allergies since before I had teeth, so not always being able to eat what my friends were eating became pretty standard right from the get go.

As I look back at being vegetarian since high school, gluten free for the past 13 years and now vegan for the past three, I realize I’ve come up with some coping mechanisms to survive social situations.  Food is such a big part of our social life and is often the centerpiece of gatherings. I have to admit that holidays are still some of the hardest times to be different than your family and friends. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a social network that eats mostly like you do, prepare for some awkward and uncomfortable social situations.

It’s not about the food – or is it?

I think the most important coping mechanism I use is to disassociate food from the function.  Ask yourself why you’re attending the social gathering.  Are you going because you care about the people?  Maybe you feel obligated?  Your boss said you had to go?  Whatever the reason, keep in mind you have choices.  Do you really have to go? If don’t want to be there and don’t have to be there, than say “no”.  If you just need to make an appearance, disappear before dinner or arrive after dessert to say your hellos and good-byes. Just make sure the host or hostess knows you have other obligations and will stop by but will miss the meal. If you do need to or want to go for the entire event, remember the reason you’re there and look for all the positives you can.  Focus on the social interaction, the networking, the conversation – anything but the food.

Don’t be shy – get something to eat.

If you’re going to a restaurant or hotel, let the organizer know you need a special meal and then call the establishment to make sure they understand your needs a day or so before the event. Eating establishments should be able to accommodate.  If you’re going to someone’s home, offer to bring a few dishes to share that will fill you up.  I don’t expect people to cook something special for me but I am happy to bring something special to share and I know I’ll have something to put on my plate.  I can’t tell you how many family dinners I’ve gone to where all I can eat is what I bring. I’ve even gone to a few vegan potlucks where my dish is the only one that’s gluten-free.  To cope, sometimes you have to be OK with that.

It’s Your Right to Eat the Way You Do

You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself for your dietary choices. You’re an adult and they’re your choices.  Don’t put up with being bullied or harassed. If people are offended by what you’re eating, it’s their problem not yours. I’ve had people ask me about my diet during dinner when it becomes obvious I’m not eating what they’re eating.  I try to keep the conversation lightly informative.  If they are genuinely interested in why I’m vegan or gluten-free, I give my animals, planet, health trifecta; talk about how much I love being vegan; and suggest some great resources, books or movies they can explore. I avoid the gory details of slaughter houses or intestinal discomfort while people are eating.  If someone is rude or nasty about what I’m eating (and sometimes this happens) I do my best to ignore them, stay positive, stick up for my choices and change the subject.

It’s OK to Feel Down

Sometimes it can get downright depressing to find your holidays filled with food centered events where you can’t or don’t want to eat.  If you’re vegan, it’s hard not to think of all the animal suffering that seems to be amplified and glorified during the holidays. Scream into your pillow and sucker punch the air.  Cry. Call a sympathetic friend. Better yet, find a friend or group where you can enjoy the food together.  I’ve been saved by MeetUp.com and the many vegan dining and social groups where I live.  Hubby and I attend potlucks, dinners and other fun events to make sure we can break gluten-free, vegan bread with others.  And we have each other to lean on.  For years, as a vegetarian, I was on my own and hubby really didn’t understand my issues with family dinners.  Having a vegan spouse now is wonderful.  Having vegan friends is too. Find your peeps. They’re out there. And if you live in a remote part of the earth where there are no peeps living nearby, find them digitally.  Facebook, blogs, Twitter, even Linked In have vegan groups where you can chat and participate in dialog.  It really helps to know you’re not alone.

Find Joy

Take time to go out and smell the fresh air. Bake some vegan cookies or your favorite vegan dish and take in the aroma.  Dance to your favorite song.  Draw a picture. Play a game.  Do yoga.  Do what you love.  Be kind to yourself and make time for yourself. Make your choices wisely.  Pay attention and question all the “shoulds” you think you need to do during the season.  Find the happy in holiday. It’s out there if you look!

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15 Gluten-Free, Vegan Holiday Recipes

I’ve been writing my blog since 2011, and have many recipes scattered throughout the posts perfect for a holiday feast.  I thought it would be handy to compile their links into one post to make it easier for you to find them all this year.

I am thankful for all my blog readers, your comments and your commitment to a kinder world for animals.  May you all have a blessed and peaceful holiday season!

Red Lentil Loaf

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Stuffing

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Savory White Bean Gravy

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Fat-Free, Vegan and Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

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Simply Healthy Sweet Potatoes

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Savory Sweet Potatoes

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Marvelous Mushrooms

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 Greek Potatoes

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Thick and Creamy mmMushroom Gravy

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Crispy, Not Fried Onion Rings (add these to your green bean casserole!!!)

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Eat Your Beets

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Simply Delicious Cranberry Sauce

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Raw-kin Awesome Pumpkin Pie

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Raw, Vegan Cinnamon-y Apple Crisp

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Gingerbread Smoothies

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Fat-Free, Vegan and Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

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Green bean casserole was a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.  I loved the combination of green beans, mushrooms and those crunchy little onion rings.  Here’s a variation that will make your guests want seconds and leave you licking the bowl.

Fat-Free, Vegan and Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

5 cups cooked green beans (canned or fresh)
1 cup marvelous mushrooms
1
 cup fat-free, vegan Swiss cheese sauce

Toss all ingredients together, heat in oven, crock pot or pan and serve warm.

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Fat Free Vegan Swiss “Cheese” Sauce


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I love the fat free cheese sauce I posted last April, and have been itching to try a Swiss version. I finally got the chance to experiment yesterday, and the results were absolutely blog-worthy!  I love it with mushrooms and green beans.  What would you pour it on?

Fat Free Vegan Swiss Cheese Sauce

2 cups unsweetened plant milk (I like rice milk)
2/3 cup white miso paste
1/2 cup white potato
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
4 tbs organic corn starch
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic salt

Add all ingredients to a high powered blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into pan and heat on stove top, stirring until thick.  Turn down heat, and serve or store in refrigerator and reheat as needed.

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Simply Healthy Sweet Potatoes

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Sometimes using less ingredients and allowing the natural taste of food to come through is not only simple and healthy, but also pretty tasty.  That’s the case with these sweet potatoes.  I’ve brought them to holiday potlucks and family dinners and they always get rave reviews! With two ingredients, it always amazes me how much people like them, even people who aren’t eating vegan or gluten-free.  And you can make them ahead of time and reheat – they’ll still taste great.

Simple Sweet Potatoes

5 cups pureed cooked sweet potatoes
1 tsp cinnamon

Yep, that’s all the ingredients! I clean my sweet potatoes, remove any dark spots and cook them in an Instant Pot pressure cooker with just a bit of water until soft. You can also bake or boil them. Just make sure they are fully cooked and soft.  Add the cooked sweet potatoes, skins and all, to a high speed blender or food processor with an “S” blade.  puree until smooth, if needed, add a bit of water, heat and serve warm.  So simple!

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White Bean Pesto Spread

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I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say, “I’d go vegan but I just can’t give up cheese.”   Sure it’s tough to give up cheese.  I feel your pain. I used to eat a lot of cheese. All dairy products contain casomorphins, fragments, derived from the digestion of milk protein caseinthat actually have an opiate effect. Can you say “addictive”?  It has to be because cow’s milk is designed by mother nature for baby cows to grow up to be big cows and bulls. But even calves don’t eat cheese. Cheese is super concentrated milk fat so it has more casomorphins and yes, that means it’s REALLY addictive.

When you think about it, what other species, when old enough to eat solid food, continues to drink the milk of another species?  Most people, if offered a glass of human milk or dog milk, would refuse to drink it, right?  Yet, we’ve been conditioned into thinking drinking cows milk or eating goat cheese is normal.  We don’t need milk. We’re not calves. And once you begin to learn all the wonderful, healthy ways to get that umami flavor (found in cheese and other savory foods), you really won’t miss it. Learn about the wonders of white miso and nutritional yeast. And try out this recipe the next time you need a tasty spread for crackers or veggies.

Skip the dairy and use beans to make this creamy “cheesy” spread.  It’s super easy to prepare in your food processor and healthy too. The spread above is pictured on my gluten-free tart.

White Bean Pesto Spread

2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vegan pesto
1 Tbs white miso paste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Place all ingredients into food processor with “s” blade. Blend until smooth and creamy. Spread over crackers or use as a sandwich or wrap spread.  Store in refrigerator.

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