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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The Dark Underbelly of Veganism?

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This morning I watched the story on ABC about blogger Jordan Younger and her battle with orthorexia. It could have been a great story about self acceptance and overcoming a physiological disorder. Instead, it’s a blatent bashing of vegansim.  Though disappointing, I’m not writing to debate Jordan’s choice to give up on veganism, that’s another topic for discussion. I’m writing because I’m angry – really angry – about how the media continues to portray our vegan lifestyle choice as the reason for people’s suffering.

I too had an eating disorder. My senior year of high school, I struggled with anorexia. My weight dropped from 135 pounds down to 86 pounds and I’m 5’7”. I remember clearly when the switch flipped on and when it flipped off for me so I could heal. I grew up eating the standard American diet. It wasn’t the diet; it was me and my brain.

According to NationalEatingDisorders.org, orthorexia is defined as:
Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”

Orthorexia is not an official eating disorder. The site shares that orthorexia appears to be motivated by health, but there are underlying motivations, which can include safety from poor health, compulsion for complete control, escape from fears, wanting to be thin, improving self-esteem, searching for spirituality through food, and using food to create an identity. The site makes no mention of a vegan diet being the culprit. And that’s because it’s not the culprit.

I hadn’t even heard of orthorexia until this morning, but if I had to make a guess, I would think it could affect people on paleo diets, unprocessed diets, raw (not necessarily vegan diets), low fat, carb…diets and anyone who becomes so concerned about what they eat, they end up reeling out of control from an overly controlled state.

I know this feeling from my anorexic days. I could count every calorie on my plate. I knew the fat content of what I ate. I added numbers in my head and if something didn’t fit into my mindset, I literally couldn’t pick up my fork and put it into my mouth. And I couldn’t just enjoy a meal without thinking obsessively about what I was eating. It’s an odd feeling and it’s a psychological disorder unrelated to any specific diet. It’s about control, acceptance, self-esteem and so many issues young people and a few older people, mostly women, deal with.

While I wish Jordan a healthy and happy life (and shame on those who made death threats at her because of her decision), I am disappointed she chose to give up her vegan lifestyle, since healing is not about what you do or don’t put on your plate, but about what goes on in your mind. And as a vegan, I still believe it’s the best way to eat for animals (there’s no such thing as “humane” slaughter), the environment and yes, health.

What disappoints me even more is the attitude and comments from the media, starting with JuJu Chang, when she uttered, “You basically exposed the dark underbelly of veganism.” “Exactly,” replied Younger. It is here that I vehemently disagree.

A few weeks earlier, the news reported about a young mother who refused to get medical treatment for her dehydrated baby, locking herself and her baby in her home until social services had to intercede and get help for the baby. They took the baby out of the mother’s custody. And why did all this happen? If you watched the news story, it was because the mother was vegan, not that she perhaps had a mental illness or maybe her doctor didn’t do an adequate job explaining how the hospital would help the baby. Was she suffering from postpartum depression? Who really knows what other factors might have contributed to her behavior. And sadly, we won’t ever know because according to the media, it all happened because she was vegan.

Why must the media continue to portray veganism in such a horrible light? Having a mental illness is not related to a vegan diet any more than it’s related to an omnivorous diet or the Atkins diet. You never hear stories about omnivores who do something awful and blame their diet as the reason. In fact, any mention that meat, dairy or eggs might not be all that good for you, or in fact be really bad for you, gets shuffled swiftly under the rug. The evidence is out there; just watch a few clips from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org and you’ll get an earful. But this information rarely goes mainstream.

So my vegan friends, I pose this question. How do we put veganism in a good light? How do we gain more acceptance with the mainstream media? How do we get them to stop linking our lifestyle to issues far beyond diet? What can we all do to move our lifestyle out of the “dark underbelly” of biased reporting?

For me, I’ll keep writing, creating recipes and sharing the positive things I know about my lifestyle with as many people as will listen. And I’ll live by example. When people tell me I look great for my age, I’ll smile and let them know it’s at least due in part to my vegan diet. I’ll take care of myself. I’ll take care of my environment and make my foot print small as I can. I’ll care for the animals. I’ll be their voice too. I’ll support vegan causes I believe in with my time and my money.

And I’ll forgive myself for not being perfect. None of us are.

While I might feel discouraged when hearing stories like Jordan’s, I won’t stay discouraged and I won’t give up on this lifestyle. It’s too important. I hope you won’t either.

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A Typical Gluten-Free, Vegan Day

20140218_122526Do you ever get frustrated looking at all the beautifully photographed recipes and wonder where those food bloggers find the time?  Guess what? I do too!  I love to cook. I love to write about what I’m making and share great, compassionate and healthy ideas with the world. But in order to do that, I need time to put it all together and all too often, I don’t have it.

So while I’m itching to post something wonderful, I thought it might be more fun and real (and easy) to share what my typical day of food prep looks like.

Breakfast: Hard as I try, I am NOT and never have been a morning person. If I exercise in the morning, I get so tired I just want to crawl back in bed. I’m not a big breakfast eater either. I know, I know….it’s supposedly the most important meal of the day. But I could easily skip it and be just fine until lunch as long as I get my coffee, black and strong. That said, I do try to eat something, I guess because I’m supposed to.

Today, my most important meal of the day was a smoothie.  While tasty, it was kind of greenish brown and I forgot to take a picture but you already know what smoothies look like, right?

Two Lemony Smoothies:

12 oz. coconut water (I LOVE this stuff to make smoothies – so healthy and hydrating!)
1 organic lemon, peel and all (remove the peel if it’s not organic)
1 organic orange, peel and all (again remove the peel if it’s not organic)
1 banana (yes, peel this one and compost the peel.)
2 cups raw organic spinach
3 – 4 Medjool dates (3 if big, soft and sweet, 4 if smaller or drier)
½ cup frozen organic cherries (other berries or fresh with pits removed will work too)
1/8 cup chia seeds (great source of protein, omega 3 and antioxidants – eat them!)

Add the following to your power blender and whirl away! Pour into a to-go cup and drink as you’re running out the door. I make enough to share with hubby. And soak the blender if you don’t have time to wash it before leaving.  Fruit is pretty sticky if allowed to dry for several hours.

Lunch: Nearly every day, I bring my lunch and it’s usually leftovers. Today is no exception. I have a baked sweet potato topped with some amazing cheese sauce and steamed veggies I made last night, some fresh spinach, a bit of salsa and a bit of Daiya cheddar. I also had ½ cup of mixed nuts for a snack. If I get cranky hungry, nuts seem to do the trick.

Dinner:  Because I’m not a morning person, I don’t get to the office super early, which means I don’t get home until late. If I try to sneak in some exercise, dinner doesn’t get started until 8:00 pm unless hubby gets things started.  Tonight, he made himself some pasta with sauce from a jar. I opted for some black bean soup.  Fast and healthy and not too heavy so close to bedtime.

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So this is how miss fancy pants gluten-free, vegan, food blogger spends many of her nights. I wish I was vegan Martha Stewart, but hey, it works. What’s your favorite speed meal?

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Alfredo Can Be Vegan, Gluten-Free, Fat-Free and Delicious!

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Yes you can enjoy an amazing Alfredo sauce minus the dairy, flour and fat.  No really. You can! Just follow the simple recipe below and find yourself in dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free, Alfredo bliss.  And tell me what you think after you try it by posting in the comments below!

Freedom Alfredo Sauce  (free of dairy, fat and gluten)

2 cups unsweetened plant milk (I like rice milk – just make sure it’s unsweetened)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
4 TBS white miso (brown miso doesn’t work for this, it must be white)
4 TBS organic corn starch (I tried other starches – corn works best and you may need to adjust the volume up or down with potato, rice or tapioca so use caution if you substitute)
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper

Add all ingredients into a high speed blender and whirl away until well-mixed.  Pour into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring often with a wisk to prevent sticking or clumping.  Once the mixture starts to boil, turn down to low heat and stir until it thickens, usually 2-3 minutes depending on your stove.

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Turn down to simmer until you’re ready to serve.

Pour over your favorite gluten-free pasta and enjoy! Top with some vegan Parmesan (Brazil Nut recipe  or my original recipe) and freshly chopped basil for a little extra treat.

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Carrot Dogs & Portoburgers


20140609_192750These are fun and truly fabulous!  Hubby was fascinated by these little “dogs” and a bit skeptical to try them, but one bite and he was hooked.  I am still searching for gluten-free, vegan hot dog and burger buns, so for now, I just eat mine straight up.  Hubby put his in bread with the traditional mustard and relish.  And if you’re heating up carrot dogs, you may as well heat up some portoburgers to go with them!

Carrot Dogs
10 – 12 large carrots
1/4 cup Dr. Bragg’s Amino Acids
1/2 cup water
1 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS sesame oil
1/2 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 clove garlic, minced

Peel and slightly cook in water, about a dozen large carrots until tender enough to poke with a fork but not too soft. Do not overcook. Mix all liquids and spices above into a marinade and pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Add cooked carrots. Cover and refrigerate, rotating carrots a couple times each day to cover with marinade and ensure they are soaking up the juices. Marinade at least two full days. More soaking makes them taste even better. My carrots were still fresh after 5 days of marinading.

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You have two options for cooking. You can place carrots into a frying pan with a bit of the marinade and cook until warm throughout and a little browned in spots. (See photo at bottom of page.)

You can also cook on a grill and rotate until warm throughout and some grill marks appear. (Photo on top of page.)

I think the pan cooked carrot dogs tasted better, but both were really good.

Portoburgers

If you’re making carrot dogs, you may as well make a few portobello “burgers” too. Simply wash them, remove the stems and baste with a bit of marinade, both on the grill and in the pan.  Cook them until slightly tender and warm throughout.  Super easy!

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Grain Free Tarts

20140406_121911I love it when a mistake in the kitchen ends up turning into a recipe worthy of the blog!

Playing with my hummus recipe before the vegan potluck, I added too much tahini and the hummus turned into dough.  So if you make dough, make tarts!

These little beauties turned out to be light and very tasty.  I filled them with white bean pesto and they were a hit!

2 cups cooked chic peas
1 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup water

Add all ingredients into food processor with “s” blade.  Blend, stop and scrape the side of the bowl, blend thoroughly until mixture resembles cookie dough. Shape into tarts and make the pockets at least 1/2″ deep. They will rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes, cool and top with your favorite savory filling.

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Brazil Nut Vegan Parmesan

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I love Brazil nuts!  They are the best source of selenium on the planet.  And these powerhouse nuts are also a complete protein, filled with a laundry list of vitamins and trace minerals. This a super easy recipe, quick to prepare and much better for you than dairy Parmesan. Perfect for pizza, pasta and salads. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Vegan Brazil Nut Parmesan

1 cup whole, raw, dry Brazil nuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor with and “s” blade. Blend until mixture clumps slightly.  Pour into a jar or sealed container.  Store in a cool dry place or refrigerate.

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Miso Sesame Kale Bowl-ed Over

20140330_131657Hubby and I enjoy grabbing a quick bite at Native Foods.  One of my favorite dishes there is the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl.  The recipe below is my knock off, minus the tempeh.  I love tempeh, but didn’t have any the day I made this.  Add some baked or fried if you like!

Miso Sesame Kale Bowl

4 cups chopped raw kale
1 cup prepared sauerkraut (milder flavored recommended)
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 cups cooked brown or wild/brown rice mixture

Sauce:
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. Braggs or gluten-free tamari sauce
2 Tbs. white miso paste
2 Tbs. tahini
1/2 tsp. ginger

In a non-stick pan using medium-high heat, brown sesame seeds and remove to a bowl for later.

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Use the same pan and add kale, stirring until wilted. Move to one side of the pan and place sauerkraut on the other side. Turn down heat to low, cover and allow sauerkraut to warm up.

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To prepare sauce, add water, Braggs, miso, tahini and ginger to food processor or blender and mix thoroughly until smooth.

Spoon cooked rice into bowl, top with kale and sauerkraut. Pour on miso sauce to taste. Sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds. Eat and by healthy!

 

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Amazing “Cheese” Sauce

20140211_203158I modified this recipe based on inspiration from Fat Free Vegan’s recipe for vegan nacho cheese sauce that was simply scrumptious.  Check it out and try the baked cauliflower too – yum!

I wanted to make a vegan cheese sauce that was more traditional to add to various veggies and make a mac n’ cheese so I played around with some combinations and this is the one that won for me.

I’ve used this with gluten-free pasta to make a fabulous mac n’ cheese and poured it on steamed veggies, potatoes, you get the idea.  It’s vegan cheese sauce.  Enjoy!

Amazing  Vegan “Cheese” Sauce

  • 2 cups unsweetened rice or soy milk (I like rice best – just make sure whatever plant-based milk you use is not sweetened or vanilla flavored)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup mashed plain sweet potato
  • 4 tbs organic corn starch
  • 1 1/2  tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp Dr. Braggs or gluten-free tamari sauce (optional-gives a little more umami flavor and cheesy saltiness)
  • ¼  tsp turmeric (optional – gives it a little more yellow color and it’s really good for you)

Blend all ingredients in high speed blender until very smooth and creamy.  Pour into pan and stir on stove at medium high heat until thick and warm.  Top the sauce on your favorite foods, use as a dip or refrigerate to reheat and eat later. The recipe below can easily be doubled if you love leftovers and the sauce will keep in the fridge for at least a week, although, you’ll eat it before the week’s up – at least I did!

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Red Lentil Loaf

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There are many wonderful and compassionate vegan options to replace the meat on your plate at Thanksgiving – Tofurky, Harvest Field Roast, Native Foods Wellington and the list goes on. But for those of us who are gluten-free too, all these options just can’t go on our plate.  No turkey, no Tofurky, no worries!  Make this Red Lentil Loaf. It’s full of protein, has no oil, no soy, no nuts and no gluten.  But it does have taste and a nice meaty texture. It’s  super easy to prepare and one of the things you can make a day or two before and reheat after you slice it up and top it with your favorite vegan gravy. (Try my latest recipe for white bean gravy, or the mushroom gravy I whipped up a couple years ago.)

Red Lentil Loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 cup gluten-free tamari or Dr. Bragg’s
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 2 cups gluten-free oats
  • small amount of olive oil to grease pan

In large pan, add lentils and veggie broth, bring to a boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer until soft (about 8 minutes.) In another pan, add celery, onions garlic, mushrooms, kale and spices with a bit of water and cook until tender.  Smash lentils until smooth and combine all previously listed ingredients into one pan, add spinach and oats and stir.  Allow ingredients to cool a bit and add them to food processor with “S” blade.  Puree briefly. Lightly oil 9″ x 5″ loaf pan and spoon mixture into pan. Bake for about 30 minutes at 325 F or until loaf starts to brown slightly on top and sides lift away from edges.  Cooking time may vary. Don’t overcook or loaf will be dry.  Cool and refrigerate. Once cool, the loaf can be sliced and eaten cold or reheated.

I sliced it into small pieces, topped with white-bean gravy, reheated and brought it to the vegan Gentle Thanksgiving potluck.


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