Cozy Sweet Potato Peanut Stew with Spinach

A simple, lightly-spiced peanut stew with sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach. Peanut butter is the magic ingredient which thickens the stew and gives a wonderful savory flavor and rich creamy texture.


1969-12-31 04.00.00 4.jpg

This creamy peanut stew has been featured on my blog before, almost two years ago now, but since then I’ve made it over and over again. Since it has become one of my favorite stew recipes, I decided to dig it out from the dark depths of my oldest blog posts.

There's something really comforting about including peanut butter in a savory recipe. It makes this vegetable-packed soup, actually very filling and satisfying. The savory flavor of the peanut butter goes perfectly with the subtly sweet carrots and sweet potatoes, and tender baby spinach leaves add a splash of color.

1969-12-31 04.00.00 6.jpg

I love white sweet potatoes in this recipe, but orange sweet potatoes will also work quite well.

Sometimes, I like to serve this stew over a bowl of cooked whole grains. I've also served this stew on it's own, and it stands well as its own dish too!

For this recipe, I like to have the main ingredients chopped and measured before starting. Once everything is chopped, you're only about 30 minutes away from a finished meal.

This recipe keeps really well in the fridge for up to 5 days, so double the ingredients if you want to enjoy it all week! 

1969-12-31 04.00.00 5.jpg

Check out the video below to see it all come together!


Tofu Scramble Breakfast Sandwich with Melty Vegan Cheddar Cheese

This vegan breakfast sandwich is a classic comfort food which features a savory tofu scramble and a homemade cashew “cheddar” cheese spread. This melty, stretchy cheese spread also makes the perfect vegan grilled cheese!

sandwich2 (1).jpg

Sometimes, you just need a savory breakfast that’s a little extra indulgent and comforting, and this breakfast sandwich will definitely hit the spot. When I went vegan, I thought I’d never get to enjoy anything like a breakfast sandwich ever again, but over time I learned that it’s possible to make a vegan substitute for just about anything, including the classic egg and cheddar filled sandwich.

Many years ago when I was living in NYC, I needed a cheap breakfast which could keep me full all day through my busy schedule. Once I discovered there were bodegas on every corner serving up egg and cheese sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches became my everyday meal.

These days, since becoming vegan and more health-conscious, I tend to stick to oatmeal topped with nuts or seeds and fresh fruit. While this is great most of the time, I still occasionally have days where all I want is something as filling and satisfying as a classic breakfast sandwich. Since it was not specifically the greasy eggs and cheese that I missed, I knew I could make a vegan version which had a similar texture and flavor that would make for an equally delicious sandwich.

sandwich1 (2).jpg

Tofu scramble doesn’t need to be complicated. I’ve tried many scramble recipes which include chopped onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and all sorts of add-ins, and while those scrambles make for great meals on their own, for this sandwich recipe I like to use a simplified version which is more versatile like classic scrambled eggs.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a basic tofu scramble:

  • firm tofu

  • nutritional yeast

  • smoked paprika

  • onion powder

  • garlic powder

  • mustard powder, or yellow mustard

  • turmeric

  • cumin

  • black pepper

  • salt, or use kala namak black salt for more of an eggy flavor

I like to mix all the spices together in a bowl and then add in a splash of water to make a spice paste. Pouring over the spices in the form of a paste allows for the spices to marinate the tofu in the pan rather than just cling to the outside of the tofu. Once you have your spice paste mixed, it takes just 5-7 minutes to brown the crumbled tofu in a pan, then add in the paste and cook for a few more minutes. This scramble recipe is so quick and easy!

cheddar12.jpg

When I’d order my breakfast sandwiches at my local bodega, I’d always specifically ask for cheddar cheese. I loved the sharp tangy flavor on a breakfast sandwich, and to me any vegan version would be incomplete without a realistic cheddar substitute. While I normally avoid nut-heavy vegan cheese replacements, a vegetable-based sauce would just not cut it here for a cheddar cheese replacement. I’ve found that cashews are the way to go for the best spreadable, melty, homemade vegan cheese.

This cheddar cheese spread is perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches too! It can also be thinned out and made into a mac and cheese sauce (it reminded me so much of Velveeta!) but I still prefer my cheesy vegetable-based sauces more for pasta. If you are looking for a spreadable vegan cheddar that you can make at home, this is the perfect recipe!

How to make melty vegan cheddar cheese:

You will need:

  • cashews

  • water

  • tapioca starch

  • nutritional yeast

  • lemon juice

  • salt

  • white miso paste

  • paprika

  • maple syrup

  • onion powder

  • garlic powder

  • turmeric

Soak your cashews first if not using a high-speed blender. Then add all of the cheese ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour this mixture into a pan over medium heat and stir for a few minutes until it thickens. Scoop this mixture into a jar or other sealed container and store in the fridge until ready to use. This will keep for 7-10 days.

You can warm it up before using it or just spread it on the sandwich as is, since the warm scramble and toasted bread will heat it up. No matter the temperature, the texture will stay quite thick and melty, very similar to actual melted cheddar cheese.

If giving up cheese is the one thing holding you back from trying out a plant-based diet, definitely give this vegan cheese recipe a try!

sandwich3 (2).jpg

While you could pile this sandwich high with toppings such as mushroom bacon, sliced avocado, tomato, onions, or spinach, you could also just stick to the classic “egg and cheese on a roll.” Serve it on a biscuit, english muffin, whole grain bread, or even throw it all in a wrap for something different. Both the scramble recipe and the vegan cheddar recipe are so versatile and can be used to make a variety of other meals as well, so make a large batch and have a fun week of cheesy sandwiches!

To see the whole process, check out my recipe video:

For a super-easy version, check out the recipe notes for an alternative recipe which uses slices of marinated tofu instead of tofu scramble. It’s also a bit less messy and easier to take on the go. I make that version more often than the scramble, but both are so good.

I hope you love this vegan breakfast sandwich!



Italian Antipasti Marinated Mushrooms

These marinated mushrooms are perfect for adding to salads or served as part of an Antipasto plate. Small white button mushrooms are boiled in a vinegar mixture along with garlic, herbs, and diced pimentos. Then, the cooked mushrooms are stored in the brine which helps to preserve them. Because this recipe is oil-free, the mushrooms will actually keep for longer, up to 2 weeks in the fridge!

mush1.jpg

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at the Antipasto salad bar at the grocery store, checking out all the pickled foods and olives when I came across some seriously delicious looking marinated mushrooms. I picked some up and definitely enjoyed them, but they were covered in oil, and that just didn’t seem necessary. It didn’t really add anything to the flavor and if anything it made them a bit slimy.

So I decided to try and make my own version, completely free of oil, but still just as flavor-packed and tangy. It turns out, the oil really doesn’t serve any purpose at all. In fact, not using any oil means that these will keep for much longer because the acidity of the vinegar works to preserve the mushrooms and garlic.

mush3.jpg

You can add these to salads and wraps, or even slice them and add them to sandwiches. For the most part though, we like to snack on them when browsing the fridge.

If you ever find yourself with too many mushrooms and need a fast way to preserve them, this is the perfect recipe for that situation. The ingredients are minimal and simple, and you can change it up by adding in which ever herbs you prefer.

mush2.jpg

For storing these mushrooms, you can use any sealed container or jar you like, but storing them in glass is ideal. I think it’s best to just repurpose old leftover jars of sauce or other leftover jars, but if you’re into fancy Italian glassware, I love my Bormioli Rocco Fido jars (affiliate link). They have lasted me years and not only do they look beautiful, they also hold up to the dishwasher and even have survived being dropped.

To watch the whole simple cooking process, check out my recipe video. Note: I don’t have a small deep pot that works with my induction burner which I use to film recipes, so I opted for a sauce pan, but boiling these in a small deep pot would be best and requires much less frequent stirring over the course of the cooking time.

I hope you enjoy this tasty mushroom recipe!



Notice: This blog post contains affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for your continued support! 

Golden Turmeric Coconut Butter Granola [vegan, oil-free & gluten-free]

Crispy clusters of golden granola made with turmeric, coconut butter, rolled oats, buckwheat and mineral-rich nuts and seeds. Naturally sweetened with maple syrup, this simple granola recipe is free of refined sugar, processed oils, and gluten.

2019-01-15 04.14.56 1.jpg

Lately, this sunny yellow, lightly-spiced granola has been my new favorite breakfast. Coconut butter and maple syrup make the perfect rich binding mixture, and along with the nuts, seeds and whole grains in there, this granola makes for a healthy, nutrient-dense meal. Top it with fresh berries and plant-based milk, or enjoy it as a snack over some vegan yogurt.

One of the best parts about making golden granola cereal is that you also end up with delicious golden milk! Turmeric is what gives this granola a bright yellow color and it also contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. I’m always trying to find ways to include more turmeric in my day, and this is definitely one of my favorite ways to enjoy it!

2019-01-15 04.28.24 1.jpg

I chose to use coconut butter because it’s mild flavor lets the warm spices shine through, where as other nut butters can sometimes be a bit heavy and overpowering. No refined oils are needed in this recipe because the natural oils in the coconut butter allow the granola to crisp up perfectly.

Coconut butter is just blended coconut meat, with nothing added and nothing taken away, so it still contains all of it’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a much healthier alternative to coconut oil.

For a lower-fat version, you could substitute the coconut butter for date paste (soaked, blended dates) instead.

2019-01-15 04.16.58 1.jpg

This granola is done in under an hour and makes about 6 cups. It’s best to bake it at a low temperature for a longer amount of time to avoid creating harmful compounds which are created when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. This granola will still get perfectly crispy and lightly golden, it just requires about 35-40 minutes in the oven at 275 ℉.

2019-01-15+04.10.52+1.jpg

Once it’s done baking, allow it to cool completely then store in a jar or sealed container on the countertop or in the fridge. The longest mine has ever lasted is three days, but it should keep well for about a week or so.

To see the whole process, check out my recipe video:

Let me know if you try it out and leave a comment below. I hope you enjoy this granola recipe!


Pasta e Fagioli- Pasta, White Bean & Vegetable Soup [Vegan, Oil-free & Gluten-free]

Warm up this winter with this comforting, veggie-packed. pasta & white bean soup. Based on a traditional Italian peasant dish, Pasta e fagioli is a healthy and budget-friendly recipe. Top with vegan parmesan and fresh herbs such as rosemary and basil.

2019-01-09 05.55.52 1 (1).jpg

Happy 2019! After a long break over the holidays, I’m back with more healthy vegan recipes to share.

This winter, I’ve been making a lot variations on bean soups, but this pasta & bean soup might just be my new favorite. It’s a simple recipe made with some fresh veggies and herbs, fire roasted tomatoes, cannellini beans, and small-shaped pasta.

It’s a versatile recipe that works well with many different herbs, fresh and dried. I prefer using fresh herbs, but don’t always have them on hand so I’ve listed options for both. Rosemary, basil, and marjoram are my preferred herbs in this soup recipe, but other herbs like oregano, sage, and thyme would also work well.

I also added in some extra vegetables to make this soup even healthier, but they aren’t totally necessary so feel free to omit the carrots or spinach if needed.

2019-01-09 05.54.11 1 (1).jpg

Here’s the recipe for this simple 2-ingredient vegan cashew parmesan. It is the perfect savory topping for this soup!

I hope you enjoy this deliciously healthy soup recipe! Check out the video I made below to see the whole process and if you try out this recipe, let me know how it goes!


Healthy Snack Recipes ✷ Wholesome Sides & Snacks ✷


previewsnacks.gif

I’ve been working on creating this recipe eBook for a while now and I’m so excited to finally be sharing it with you!

Wholesome Sides & Snacks mainly features snack recipes, but it also includes a variety of other recipes from wraps, to sandwiches, dips, side salads, and even burgers.

I’ve always loved snacking, but for a while I struggled to give up junk food and find ways to replace processed snacks with healthier options. Overtime, I gradually learned how to make my own whole food plant-based versions of my favorite snack foods and I’ve realized that snacking can still be enjoyable while also being nutrient-packed and completely plant-based.

Some of the recipes feature healthy alternatives to some of my favorite classic snack foods like cheese crackers and salt and vinegar potato chips, while other recipes embrace whole fresh produce paired with a variety of homemade dips & spreads.

Almost all of the recipes are brand new and have never been featured before on my blog. As always, none of these recipes contain refined oils, refined sugars, or heavily processed foods and many contain colorful, fresh ingredients.


Take a peek at the contents:

contents.jpg
 

If you’ve been looking for healthy vegan snack ideas, this eBook has a variety of options to choose from. Many of the recipes are kid-friendly as well as fast and easy to make. Certain recipes will require a blender or food processor while others are more flexible.

All of the recipes contain nutritious whole food ingredients such as fresh fruit, raw veggies, nuts & seeds, beans, and whole grains, with most recipes being gluten-free or having gluten-free options.


Wholesome Sides & Snacks
2.99

Learn how to make whole food snacking more enjoyable with these simple vegan side and snack recipes. Wholesome Sides & Snacks is an eBook packed full of healthy yet delicious recipes made using mostly whole food ingredients. Completely vegan, oil-free, refined sugar-free, and with many gluten-free options as well!

Your purchase includes: A PDF download which contains 21 recipes, a grocery list with every ingredient used in the book, the basics of what a whole food plant based diet consists of, and a quick guide to choosing the healthiest nuts and seeds.

Add To Cart

If you decide to purchase a copy- thank you so much for supporting my work in continuing to create and share wholesome plant-based recipes. I hope that you love these snack recipes! ❤

Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Tomatillo Sauce

Flavorful spiced potatoes and black beans are rolled up in whole grain tortillas and topped with a zesty roasted tomatillo and avocado sauce, then baked until heated through. Top with fresh chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

2018-09-22 05.56.21 1.jpg

When tomatillos started showing up in our weekly CSA produce box, I began experimenting with making my own enchilada sauce from scratch. Tomatillos are quite tangy so I roasted them and blended them up with some avocado which adds the perfect creamy balance, as well as flavorful additions like roasted garlic and onions, jalapeños, fresh cilantro, and of course lots of lime juice.

enchilada1.jpg

For the filling, I boiled some diced yellow potatoes until just fork tender, then I sautéd them with onions, garlic, savory-smoky spices and black beans.

The whole grain tortillas I had on hand were a bit large, so I was only able to fit four into my baking dish and that worked just fine- though I did have to use two utensils to serve it! Smaller tortillas will be easier to serve, but either size will work. Gluten-free tortillas will work well too.

This is best served fresh but it will keep pretty well covered in the fridge for a couple of days, though leftovers never seem to stick around very long!

enchillada2.jpg

To watch the whole process, check out my latest recipe video.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think of it in the comments!


How to Make Oil-free Vegan Mushroom "Bacon"

Crispy, savory, vegan mushroom bacon. Made on the stove top with a simple, oil-free marinade of tamari, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. 


m2.jpg

Okay, so I guess everyone can stop eating bacon from pigs now... right?

I mean seriously, look at those mushrooms, it doesn't get any meatier than that. The marinade is just the right amount of smoky and salty with a hint of maple syrup to caramelize the mushrooms. The chewy texture of these large king oyster mushrooms makes them an even more realistic vegan bacon-replacement. 


Choosing your 'shrooms

The best "bacon" mushrooms are going to be the larger ones like king oyster mushrooms, also called king trumpet mushrooms (shown below), as well as portobello mushrooms. Both kinds will work well for this recipe, but I prefer king oyster mushrooms when I can find them.

m3.jpg

How to perfectly slice king oyster mushrooms using a mandoline

King oyster mushrooms are best sliced on a mandoline using a serrated slicing blade. This will give them the perfect looking texture for this recipe as well as ensure that the mushrooms are an even thickness which will help them to cook evenly. Aim for anywhere from 1/16th--1/8th of an inch in thickness. 

The mandoline I use and love is the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline (affiliate link), just make sure to always use the food holder or a cut proof glove when working with the mandoline.

King Oyster mushrooms sliced on a serrated mandoline blade

King Oyster mushrooms sliced on a serrated mandoline blade

How to slice portobello mushrooms with a knife

For portobello mushrooms, while you could slice them on a mandolin, I prefer to thinly slice them using a knife. Make sure your knife is freshly sharpened- it's especially important when slicing softer produce. 

Remove the portobello mushroom stem, then place your mushroom gills side up and carefully slice into long slices which are roughly 1/16th-1/8th in thickness, as evenly as possible. 

Portobello mushrooms thinly sliced with a sharp knife

Portobello mushrooms thinly sliced with a sharp knife


How to pan fry mushrooms without oil

  1. First, mix together all of the marinade ingredients (2 tbsp tamari, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and 1/2 tsp liquid smoke) in a small bowl. Place your sliced mushrooms (8 oz.) in a large bowl, then pour over the marinade. Toss a few times to fully coat each mushroom, then let them sit in the marinade for 10-15 minutes.

  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then once warm add a portion of the marinated mushrooms to the dry pan, placing as many as you can flat in the pan without layering or crowding them. You may need to do this in batches. Leave the marinade in the bowl for later use in the recipe.

  3. Let the mushrooms cook, undisturbed, for about a minute or until the bottom of the mushrooms turns golden brown. You may need to turn the heat down to medium/low or low if your pan starts smoking, but keep the pan pretty warm. Using tongs, flip the mushrooms back and forth every minute or two until each side is lightly charred and crispy. This could take anywhere from 5-8 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

  4. Add your next batch of mushrooms to the pan in a single layer and again let them sit for the first minute until the bottoms turn golden, then flip them every couple of minutes until each side is light brown and slightly charred. This will take less time than the previous batch because the pan will be hotter, about 3-5 minutes.

  5. Once all batches have finished cooking, add the mushrooms you cooked in the previous batch(es) back to the pan and pour over the marinade. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 3 minutes or until the marinade has boiled away and the mushrooms are crispy on the edges but still have a nice sheen, then remove from pan and serve over rice or in any recipe where a bacon alternative is called for such as- sandwiches, wraps, or pasta.


m1.jpg

If you can't find king oyster mushrooms at your grocery store, try your local Asian market. I think the king oysters look a little more meaty, but whichever mushrooms you choose, both make for a fantastic, healthy, plant-based version of bacon.

Portobello mushrooms are much easier to find and will also work well. You may actually find that they cook slightly faster than the time listed for the king oyster mushrooms, depending on how thinly you slice them. 

portobello mushroom bacon

portobello mushroom bacon

My favorite way to enjoy mushroom bacon is on top of some vegan mac and cheese. It's the ultimate comfort food, made extra healthy with mostly unprocessed, 100% plant-based ingredients. 

Nut-free  Vegan sweet potato Mac & Cheese  topped with mushroom bacon

Nut-free Vegan sweet potato Mac & Cheese topped with mushroom bacon

If you try this mushroom bacon recipe, let me know how it goes and what you serve it with!

Notice: This blog post contains affiliate links, which simply means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for your continued support! 


Taco Salad with Walnut & Cauliflower "Meat" Crumbles

2018-06-14 02.37.34 2.jpg

This taco salad tastes just like a restaurant style take out treat, but it's made with minimally processed plant based ingredients so you can feel even better about making it an everyday kind of meal that will keep you feeling happy and healthy.  

I first tried a vegan taco salad made with raw walnut meat at a local raw vegan cafe near by and it completely blew my mind. The flavored walnut crumbles reminded me of the fast food tacos from my childhood, with all the right spices and the perfect crumbly texture.

While it was super delicious, it was also covered in oil and contained way more walnuts in a single serving than I would normally consume, and my skin was not happy about it. Since that version was a little too nut heavy for me, I set out to create my own more vegetable-based recipe using riced cauliflower and a moderate amount of walnuts and it turned out to be just as good!

2018-06-14 03.03.12 1.jpg

I didn't feel like using my food processor this time, so I chose to use thawed frozen riced cauliflower and I quickly chopped the walnuts by hand. Then I mixed them together in a bowl with some spices and tamari. 

If you are working with whole fresh cauliflower then all you'll need to do it chop it into florets then add it into the food processor and pulse a few times until crumbly, then place in a bowl. Next add the walnuts to the food processor and pulse a few times before adding them to the same bowl, then stir in the tamari and spices.

2018-06-14 03.05.34 1.jpg

Spread this mixture out in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes then give it a stir and bake for another 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. 

2018-06-14 03.04.47 1.jpg

To make this taco salad, I started with a bed of chopped spring mix, but any kind of lettuce or tender greens will work. Then on top of that I added guacamole, my roasted corn salsa, shredded purple cabbage, the walnut cauliflower crumbles, a drizzle of cashew sour cream and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It's the perfect zesty summer salad!

This taco meat replacement is also amazing in actual tacos. in grain bowls with rice or quinoa, added to tomato sauces to make a meaty bolognese sauce, in wraps, or pile it in a big lettuce or cabbage leaf instead of a taco shell- the possibilities are endless!

What are some of your favorite summer salad recipes? If you try out this recipe I'd love to hear what you think of it! 

2018-06-14 02.59.01 1.jpg

From Junk Food Vegetarian to Whole Foods Vegan- How I Started Making Healthier Choices

Me in 2013 with tostitos, Goldfish, and two bags of potato chips

Me in 2013 with tostitos, Goldfish, and two bags of potato chips

A few years ago, eating healthy food and spending time preparing meals used to be my absolute last priority. I was the definition of a junk food vegetarian, subsisting almost entirely on cheese flavored crackers, frozen pizza, and boxed mac and cheese. I was anxious, depressed, and I hardly had an appetite so I didn't think about my food choices at all and thought that spending money on food was a waste. I'd actually do the majority of my grocery shopping in the frozen/processed section of the dollar store, and only visit the grocery store when I needed to buy kale... for my rabbit. 

I was tired all the time, my BMI was dangerously low, and I felt like I had to wear makeup every day because my skin was constantly breaking out, but I thought that because I was thin it didn't matter what I ate. Since I've been underweight my whole life, as a teenager my pediatrician would even encourage me to binge on junk food so that I could possibly gain some weight, but what I didn't realize until I got older was that being thin does not equate with being healthy and that junk food was just as unhealthy for me as it would be for someone struggling to lose weight. 

The more I ate this way, the more I hated food. Every time I'd eat, I'd have less energy and feel a little more sick, so in an attempt to feel less sick I would eat smaller portions of the junk food, but that wasn't making me feel better either. 

I knew that I'd eventually have to learn how to cook and prepare healthy foods, and even before learning anything about nutrition I instinctively knew that whole fruits and vegetables were the magical foods that I needed to be eating more of- the problem was that they just didn't taste that good to me and I had no idea how to prepare them. It took a lot of daily practice and about one full year of cooking every day before I felt comfortable in the kitchen. 

2018-05-01 06.12.50 1.jpg

1. Allow yourself to spend a lot of time in the kitchen at first.

When I first started learning how to prepare whole unprocessed plant foods, chopping a sweet potato was terrifying. I had rarely used kitchen knives before and since I didn't have the skills, the process of preparing these foods went by painfully slowly. It would take me fifteen minutes to chop a single vegetable and after all that time spent chopping, I wouldn't even know how to flavor it so I'd end up with something that tasted bland, boring and seemingly not worth the effort. Overtime though I got a little faster at chopping and tried many recipes which taught me how to use different spices and flavors to make the food actually taste good.

I realized that a big part of what held me back from learning how to cook was the frustration I had with myself for not knowing my way around a kitchen. When I decided that eating healthy foods was going to be a priority, I had to remind myself every day that it's okay to be a slow and unexperienced cook and that the only way I'd ever get better was if I prepared food every day, several times a day, until it became easier. 

After about a year of cooking every meal from scratch, chopping seven different kinds of vegetables for a soup became no big deal. I'm glad I took it slow while I was learning because now I have the confidence to use big sharp knives and to work a little faster-and I kept all my fingers in the process! It's more than okay to work slowly and make mistakes, it's a necessary part of the learning process and it gets so much easier with practice.

2. Pay attention to how you are feeling after each meal.

My "Dinner" in 2013- It's been almost 4 years now since I last had alcohol and 3 years cheese-free

My "Dinner" in 2013- It's been almost 4 years now since I last had alcohol and 3 years cheese-free

Making the choice to chop a bunch of vegetables for a salad or soup instead of having a frozen pizza might seem like an incredible feat of willpower and discipline, but there's no force involved when I make the choice to eat healthy foods. This is because I actually don't want or crave junk food anymore and the idea of eating highly processed foods is entirely unappealing to me these days. Here's how I got there-

Around the time that I got into making healthier food choices, I was also learning about managing my anxiety and depression through the practice of bringing my focus back to the present moment and letting myself experience the feelings I had been running away from. Along with letting myself face difficult emotions, I was also being more present with the physical sensations in my body including the way my body felt after I'd eat certain foods.

When I first went vegan I ate a lot of oil-based faux cheese and plant based meat substitutes, but after eating them I'd take a moment to check in and see how they were affecting me. I realized that when I'd have poor digestion or skin breakouts, it directly correlated to what I had been eating. On the other hand, the more whole plant foods I ate the better I felt. 

After making a conscious effort to notice how these foods were making me feel, eventually when I saw a bag of potato chips or vegan cheese crackers at the grocery store, I didn't see it as food anymore. Real food became the colorful fresh items in the produce section, which gave me energy and lifted my mood, not the stuff with ingredient labels that made me feel low and clouded my head.

Don't expect to stop craving junk food overnight, but when you do occasionally have processed junk food just take the time to check in and see how it's affecting you. After making it a habit to pay attention to how each meal affects how you feel, it gets much easier to make the healthy choice. 

Our gut bacteria, which communicate directly to our brain, will cause us to crave more of whichever foods we're currently eating, so after a few weeks of consistently eating unprocessed whole plant foods, you'll find yourself craving a nice bean soup instead of something processed. Alternately, if you were eating healthy foods but then decide to have a bag of chips, for the next few days you'll likely spend a lot of time craving more chips and will find it harder to make the healthier choice again. This is why complete abstinence from these factory made food products is the most effective strategy for longterm healthy eating habits. 

Instead of this...

Instead of this...

Prepare  This!

Prepare This!

3. Find healthy whole food alternatives for all of your favorite comfort foods.

No cow's cheese, vegan cheese, or nuts required to make this  creamy cauliflower-based sauce !

No cow's cheese, vegan cheese, or nuts required to make this creamy cauliflower-based sauce!

Ever since I can remember mac and cheese was my #1 favorite food. Growing up as a vegetarian in a house of meat-eaters meant that I always had to have my own separate meal, so to make things easier I ate a lot of frozen veggie burgers and boxed mac and cheese. I always had some vegetables on the side, but only if they were covered in a cheese sauce. Needless to say, giving up cheese was bound to be a difficult process for me. When I went vegan and learned about what happens to dairy cows and their babies I stopped eating all dairy products including cheese overnight, but my cravings for heavy, creamy foods continued. 

At first I curbed my cravings with processed vegan cheeses, then when I got confident enough in the kitchen I started making my own cheese sauces from soaked cashews and almonds. Most of the vegan mac and cheese recipes I found called for a whole cup or more of nuts, and I was finding that while these sauces were so heavy and delicious, I would break out after eating too much of them and they didn't make me feel my best, so I started lowering the amount of nuts in the cheese sauce recipes and I experimented with making my sauce bases from mostly vegetables instead. 

I was surprised to find that these vegetable-based homemade sauces were just as good if not better than the ones that contained mainly cashews! I developed cheese sauce recipes made from sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and even cauliflower, all of which taste creamy and delicious with very few nuts or seeds needed. While the processed vegan cheeses will definitely taste more like cow's cheese, these savory creamy sauces made from vegetables are just as satisfying in their own way, and the best part is how great I feel after eating them. 


Making the decision to fuel myself with nutrient-dense whole plant foods is the best decision I ever made and sticking to it has been easier than I'd ever imagined it could be.

Patience with yourself while learning how to prepare these foods, paying attention to how you feel after eating, and finding healthy alternatives to your favorite recipes will make the process fun and not feel like such a chore. Take things day by day and overtime you'll find that no willpower is required anymore and you'll naturally gravitate towards the foods that your body really needs.

I hope you found these tips helpful and I'll be back with more healthy recipes and tips very soon! ❁

Roasted Garlic Quinoa Tabbouleh with Tofu Feta [Oil-free, Vegan]

2018-04-13 01.35.04 1.jpg

Tabbouleh is a kind of zesty chilled grain salad full of fresh herbs and vegetables. In this version, I used fluffy white quinoa as my grain and fresh vegetables like cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and bell pepper. For extra flavor I tossed everything in a simple but flavorful dressing made with roasted garlic, fresh lemon juice, and tahini. 

Though this dish could be served without it, the tofu feta is such a nice touch and makes this salad much more filling. I've been making a feta cheese alternative using tofu for the past few months and I feel like I finally have discovered the perfect marinade sauce. The tofu cubes end up tasting eerily similar to how I remember feta cheese tasting with just the right amount of herbs, tang, and saltiness. 

2018-04-13 01.25.37 2 (1).jpg

For the best results with the tofu feta, prepare it the day before you plant to make the tabbouleh so it has at least 8-24 hours to marinate before being added to the salad. For a firmer, more feta-like texture, freeze the block of tofu first then thaw it to release all the water or just press the water out of the tofu first using a tofu press or alternative method. This also allows the tofu to soak up more flavor before being chopped and added to the marinade. 

Once your tofu has marinated and you've cooked your quinoa, the tabbouleh comes together really quickly. Blend together the dressing, chop your fresh veggies and herbs, then toss together and let chill for at least a couple of hours in the fridge to let the flavors develop. 

This makes a perfect meal to take on the go or to add to a packed lunch. 

Recipe below!


2018-04-13 01.17.56 1.jpg

Prepare Ahead:

Herbed Tofu Feta


Oil-Free Veggie Fried Rice with Peanut Sauce

2018-03-01 01.33.43 1.jpg

Lately, I've been loving this rice and veggie stir-fry. Fried rice was a dish I was pretty sure I would never be able to make taste just as good without oil, but with the right sauce it's actually very possible!

Instead of oil, we fry the vegetables in coconut aminos which adds a wonderful umami flavor. Then the cooked rice is added in along with a savory peanut sauce which makes this dish taste rich without needing any refined oil. 

For this recipe, you can use any kind of whole grain rice you like. I've used wild rice, black rice, brown rice, and even quinoa- all with fantastic results. I think black rice is probably my favorite though, and it's actually the highest in antioxidants too!

Whichever rice or other similar whole grain that you decide to use, the first step is to give it a good rinse and then cook it in your rice cooker. 

IMGL5856.JPG

While the rice is cooking, prepare your veggies. You can use 2-3 cups of whichever finely chopped vegetables you prefer. I usually go for a mix of bell pepper, carrots, broccoli/broccolini, and edamame or peas.

While the variety of those veggies changes a bit each time I make it, I always use chopped green onions and garlic to add more flavor and give it a more authentic restaurant-style fried rice taste.

rice3.jpg

Once you have your veggies chopped, it's time to make the sauce. 

My favorite stir-fry sauce is this spicy & savory peanut sauce. It's a simple mix of coconut aminos (or use low-sodium tamari), peanut butter, hot sauce, and maple syrup. There's no blending required- simply add the ingredients into a small bowl and give it a good stir until creamy. 

IMGL5844.JPG

Now on to the oil-free vegetable frying-

To make the veggies extra savory and avoid having them be soggy, I like to use just a 1/2 tablespoon of coconut aminos in place of oil. 

Once the pan is hot, add the coconut aminos and garlic, cook for a few minutes then and the rest of the veggies. Since they are chopped small, they cook in about 5 minutes. Then, add in the cooked rice followed by the sauce. Stir it all together while the rice cooks with the veggies for another 2-3 minutes. Then add in the green onions at the very end, remove from heat and serve. 

2018-03-01 01.37.05 2.jpg

Let me know if you try out this easy oil-free veggie fried rice recipe, I'd love to hear what you think of it!


Chickpea "Tuna" Wrap with Oil-Free Pepita Pesto [Vegan]

finaltuna.jpg

These chickpea "tuna" salad wraps with pesto sauce are the perfect meal-prep lunch recipe to keep you feeling healthy and satisfied during the work week. The best part: NO cooking is required to make either the pesto sauce or the chickpea salad! All you need is a blender for the pesto sauce and a mixing bowl and masher for the chickpeas. 

To be completely honest, I don't quite remember what tuna tastes like. I haven't had a tuna sandwich since I was a little kid, so I couldn't tell you if this actually tastes like tuna fish or just a delicious chickpea salad.

I would've just called it a chickpea salad wrap, but with the addition of some finely chopped seaweed in the mix, I feel pretty confident that these smashed chickpeas have a touch of oceanic flavor and a texture that gives off some tuna vibes. 🐟

While it might not be just like tuna, there are many reasons to try chickpeas instead and avoid eating tuna and other sea life-

  1. Mercury and other toxic heavy metals bioaccumulate up the food chain, so large fish that eat smaller fish, like tuna, often contain extremely high levels of these heavy metals as well as industrial pollutants. Even small amounts of mercury can negatively impact our digestive and nervous systems. This risk greatly outweighs any benefits we would receive from the omega 3 fatty acids in fish, so it's much safer to get your EPA/DHA lower down on the food chain, in the form of a micro algae supplement.

  2. Overfishing is destroying the oceans and the way in which tuna are captured is actually really disturbing. They are caught by net which means they have a slow and painful death and are often crushed by the weight of other tuna and sea life as they are dragged to the surface.

  3. The CDC says that 75% of all food poisoning comes from seafood. I have experienced this for myself when I once ordered vegan avocado sushi rolls from a sushi restaurant that serves fish and got the worst food poisoning of my life due to cross contamination from the fish they were preparing on the same surface.

  4. Tuna fishing kills more than just tuna. Dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and other sea life are also often killed when they're accidentally caught in fishing nets.

  5. Farmed fish are not any better off. They often live in cramped conditions to increase profits, which puts them at a high risk for disease and parasitic infections. To keep the fish alive, fish farmers often give the fish powerful medications and antibiotics which we then ingest. These aquafarms are not even a more environmentally friendly choice. A 2-acre salmon farm produces as much waste as a town of 10,000 people.

  6. Fish DO feel pain and in many ways, such as their memory and cognitive abilities, they are just as smart as certain vertebrates and even primates. They are playful, social, and some fish even use tools. Why choose to eat them when there are other options?


This pesto sauce made with pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) is my new go-to pesto recipe to spread on everything. It only requires a handful of ingredients and as always I made it completely oil-free. Most of the recipes I have found use up to half a cup of oil, which is really damaging for the health of our arteries.

Even so-called "healthy" oils like extra virgin olive oil cause more damage than if we just didn't eat the oil at all. The natural oils found in the pepitas, which still retain their fiber and micronutrients, are a much healthier way to enjoy a delicious fresh pesto, full of necessary unrefined whole plant fats. 

tp4.jpg

This pesto is easy to make quickly in the blender. I find that it blends very easily in my high-speed blender, no scraping down the sides required, but a food processor should do a great job of it as well.

It's so tasty I could eat it by the spoonful!

tp2.jpg

The chickpea "tuna" salad is also super simple to make. Just throw all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, then give it a good mash and stir until it's still a little chunky, but evenly mixed. 

tp5.jpg
tp6.jpg

Make the wrap by starting with a layer of pesto sauce, then add a handful of fresh greens, cabbage, and carrots (I forgot to add in the carrots this time), and a nice thick line of the chickpea salad. Fold in the sides of the wrap then roll it up. For extra wrap-security, roll it up again in some parchment paper and tie it with a string.

It's a great recipe to take on the go as a packed lunch for work or school. The leftover chickpea salad and pesto sauce can be stored separately in sealed containers in the fridge for 4-5 days. The leftover pesto sauce is acutally fantastic on pasta as well!

This chickpea tuna is also great on sandwiches!

This chickpea tuna is also great on sandwiches!

tp3.jpg

Almond Butter Tempeh Salad With Miso Ginger Dressing [Oil-Free, Vegan]

finaltempeh.jpg

This salad with marinated almond butter tempeh and creamy miso ginger dressing has been my go-to salad recipe for the past few weeks. It's filling and savory from the marinated tempeh but also refreshing and spicy from the creamy dressing made with fresh ginger and fermented miso paste. 

I used to think I hated tempeh, no matter what I did it always tasted bitter. Eventually I learned that tempeh really needs to be steamed first to remove the bitter flavors, but even then I didn't know what to do with it. Then I found this recipe for marinated peanut butter tempeh by Minimalist Baker and that changed everything for me. I adjusted the recipe to be oil free and also slightly lower in sodium, but still maintain that delicious flavor, and now I can't get enough of it. I love adding it to fresh salads, but it's also wonderful in warm grain bowls with rice and steamed greens, as shown below. 

finaltempeh.jpg

I like the tempeh cut into little triangles. Cut the tempeh in half the long way first and then cut the thin pieces into triangles. 

Making the marinade for the tempeh is really easy. Just mix together the marinade ingredients in a bowl and gently stir or toss the tempeh until it's fully coated. 

If I have time I try to let it sit in the marinade for as long as possible (2-24 hours), but usually I only have about 15 minutes. Even in that small amount of time the tempeh still picks up a lot of flavor. 

Lay out the marinated tempeh pieces on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown. 

t1.jpg

If you like ginger, you're going to LOVE this salad dressing recipe. As always it's oil-free, vegan, and made with healthy whole food ingredients. It's got quite a kick to it and goes so well with the almond butter tempeh in this salad bowl. All you need is a high speed blender or food processor. Add all of the ingredients and blend until it's super creamy and no chunks remain. Store the dressing in a sealed container in the fridge and it will keep for 4-5 days for use in salads all week. 

t2.jpg

I hope you enjoy this flavorful salad recipe! 



Smoky White Bean & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas [Vegan, Oil-Free]

2018-01-08 04.46.11 3.jpg

Quesadillas hold a very special place in my heart. Since becoming a vegetarian as a young kid, quesadillas were just always the easiest thing to throw together at a friend's house or order out at restaurants. I always wanted them as plain as possible with just a ton of cheese and nothing else except maybe sour cream. Up until a few years ago, I had never heard of the idea of filling them with anything else besides cheese, but since becoming vegan and realizing how important fiber is I have wholeheartedly embraced the idea of healthier filling alternatives. 

These quesadillas are filled with smoky smashed cannellini beans and sweet caramelized onions. They are crispy, savory, and definitely have a tangy cheesy flavor that is so crucial to any quesadilla experience. They get their cheesy flavor from nutritional yeast, tahini, and lemon juice.

quesa3.jpg
quesa4 copy.jpg

What really takes these quesadillas to the next level is a layer of caramelized onions. They require a bit of time and patience, but add such a good flavor that it's worth it. If you don't have time, the quesadillas will still be delicious though, and by not adding them you can cut the cooking time down from 50 minutes to 10 minutes, so I fully understand if you choose to pass on them. 

If you do decide to take the longer route of adding in the caramelized onions, you'll be so happy you did once you taste how delicious the sweet onions are with the smoky white beans.

quesa5.jpg

I recently read a post on Sweet Simple Vegan about how to caramelize onions without oil and realized how impatient I had been being when caramelizing onions in the past. I'd always try to get away with saving time by making turning up the heat, but the key is to keep the heat on medium low the whole entire time. This allows them to brown slowly and not dry out, making them extra sweet and juicy. Another key point is to use water while frying, but wait for the pan to completely dry out before adding more water. I found all of these tips super helpful!

quesa2.jpg

I hope you enjoy this delicious & healthy quesadilla recipe!


Making The Connection Between Diet and Depression


Pomegranates are high in vitamin c and contain antioxidants which can help prevent depression

Pomegranates are high in vitamin c and contain antioxidants which can help prevent depression

We all experience sadness every now and again, especially during certain times in our lives and in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. There are times when it’s completely appropriate to feel sad, and that sadness is something that we can’t expect to be cured through diet, it’s a normal part of the human experience. But when the sadness is persistent and seems to follow us around wherever we go, that is called depression.

Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in our brain, which is a problem that can sometimes be solved through making better dietary choices. 

There are many studies demonstrating the relationship between higher fruit and vegetable consumption and a lower risk of depression. Generally the research shows that the more whole plant foods you eat, the lower your risk of depression.

There are a number of components through which which fruits and vegetables prevent depression. Lycopene, the red pigment predominantly found in tomatoes, but also present in watermelon, pink grapefruit, red cabbage, and carrots, is the most powerful antioxidant amongst the carotenoid family. If you measure the levels of carotenoid phytonutrients in nearly 2,000 people across the country, a higher total blood carotenoid level was associated with a lower likelihood of elevated depressive symptoms, and there appeared to be a dose-response relationship, meaning the higher the levels, the better people felt.

Polyphenols, found in fruit and vegetables fight oxidative stress and improve the functioning of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for regulating our moods. And vitamin C, found in high amounts in many fruits and vegetables, is actually a cofactor in the production of Dopamine

So with this direct effect on our neurochemistry, it should be no surprise that fruits and vegetables have the ability to lift our mood. Does this mean that the answer to depression is just to eat more fruits and vegetables? Well, not quite.

It turns out certain foods actually have the ability to make us more depressed. Arachidonic acid is a type of Omega 6 fatty acid found in animal-based foods with the highest amounts found in chicken, eggs, beef, sausage, and fish. The oxidation of Arachidonic acid creates pro-inflammatory compounds in our body. This inflammation in our brain adversely impacts our mental health.

In this study on women, higher levels of Arachidonic acid were associated with a 45% higher risk of suicide and 47% increase risk in major depressive episodes. 

When people are put on a plant based diet that limits Arachidonic acid, they experienced an improved mood after just 2 weeks. Plant based diets were also associated with 30% less markers for inflammation. So when choosing a diet that will have the greatest affect on our mood, it's not just about adding in more fruits and vegetables, but also removing the animal based foods that cause inflammation, as depression may actually be a physical disease which is exacerbated by proinflammatory compounds. 


Thank you to Mic. The Vegan and Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org for gathering and organizing so many of these studies on diet and depression and making them visible and accessible to more people. Watch Mike's recent video on the subject and also this video by Dr. Greger to learn more about how our diet affects our mood. 


 

 

One-Pot Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry [Vegan, Oil-Free, Quick & Easy!]

lentilstew1.jpg

It's starting to feel like fall here in Washington and I find myself craving sweet potatoes now more than ever before. I especially love sweet potato in curries with warming spices like turmeric, garam masala, and cayenne pepper. All you need is one pot and roughly 30 minutes later you have a cozy bowl of delicious food to snuggle up with. 

I've been experimenting a lot lately with adding nut butters into savory stews and curries, which if you haven't tried it before it may sound a little weird, but I promise it works! It gives savory dishes the best creamy texture with no oil or coconut milk needed. If you love the taste of peanut butter go ahead and use that for this recipe, but if you're skeptical or not a nut-butter person, try using raw cashew butter, which has a very mild flavor but will still give this dish a wonderful creamy texture. 

This curry is super healthy and packed with fiber and micronutrients from whole plant foods. Lentils and sweet potatoes are two of the healthiest foods in the world, aside from dark green leafy veggies- which you can totally add in there too! Fiber is what keeps our digestive system working properly and keeps our gut bacteria friendly. Long term, high fiber consumption reduces bloating and removes toxins from our systems. Forget juice cleanses and clean up your insides with high-fiber plant foods! That's where the real healing can start.

lentilstew2.jpg

Introduction to Plant Based Cooking & Healthy Recipe Substitutions

When making the switch towards a diet of whole plant foods, it can be a confusing and frustrating experience finding the right substitutes for certain ingredients in recipes. Here are some solutions for alternative plant based foods which you can use to replace animal foods or unhealthy processed food products in recipes to make them healthier. 

muffin3.jpg

Eggs

Eggs serve many purposes in recipes that involve baking and beyond, but they contain the most artery-clogging cholesterol of almost any food, with the exception of brains. They can have an inflammatory effect on the body and lead to chronic disease if consumed every day. Luckily, I've found that eggs have been so easy to replace in many recipes. 

In baked goods, depending on what sort of recipe you are making and, try some of the following options:

  • Flax egg- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water, let sit for 3-5 minutes and stir until jelly-like
  • Chia egg- 1 tablespoon ground or whole chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water, let sit for 3-5 minutes and stir until jelly-like
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Mashed banana
  • Pumpkin or sweet potato puree
  • Prune puree

When trying to decide which replacement to use in a certain recipe, consider the flavor profiles of the replacement and use the neutral flavored replacements like flax and chia for recipes where you don't want to add too much moisture or flavor from fruit or vegetable based alternatives. 

For times when you want scrambled eggs, try a tofu scramble instead. I find the key with these is choosing your favorite spices, adding water to the spices to form a spice paste, and then adding that into the pan with the tofu to fully coat and marinate it. 


Milk

I have found shifting from using cow's milk to nut based milks to be relatively easy, but the process has not been free from error. There are many plant milks out there that have wonderful creamy neutral flavors that can be used in any recipe as a milk replacement, but then there are other plant milks that claim to be unsweetened and plain and yet somehow have an aftertaste or additional flavor that comes through unpleasantly in certain recipes. Before using a certain plant milk in a recipe, make sure to taste it first to make sure it has a neutral enough taste to go in a savory dish without altering the flavor. 

Here are some of my favorite neutral tasting brands of plant milk:

  • Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened 
  • Forager Cashew Milk, Unsweetened Plain
  • Califia Farms Almond Milk, Unsweetened Plain

Try out many different brands that your local grocery stores offer and find the most neutral tasting ones available. There are all kinds of plant milks available, from nuts and seeds to grains and legumes, there are so many plant milk options out there!

  • Almond Milk
  • Cashew Milk
  • Coconut Milk (can be dangerously high in saturated fat, choose low fat when available)
  • Hemp MIlk
  • Oat Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Soy Milk
  • Flax Milk
  • Macadamia Milk
  • Buttermilk (take any plant milk and add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to 1 cup milk)

Cheese

Giving up cheese was something I knew wouldn't be easy for me. When I first went vegan I relied on the realistic vegan cheese substitutes, which are actually very realistic and get better and better each year. There are brands like Treeline, Miyoko, Chao, Follow Your Heart, and Parmela's Creamery who make delicious alternatives to dairy cheese which are great for while you're transitioning off the dairy, but if consumed daily long term, they can ultimately be unhealthy as they are mostly made of processed oils. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find many ways to replicate a cheesey flavor in my recipes without using oil. The answer is mainly in using ground or blended whole nuts and a magical yellow powdery substance called nutritional yeast, which as you may guess from the name actually packs a pretty decent amounts of nutrients. 

Here are some ways to make your own cheese substitutions:

Parmesan- 3/4 cup cashews + 1/4 cup nutritional yeast + 1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend in a food processor or high speed blender until powdery in texture. 

Cheesy Sauce- There are so many ways to make a creamy cheese-like sauce. Certain recipes call for cashews or other nuts as the base of the sauce, which are so creamy and delicious but can be high in fat. While nuts are still whole foods they shouldn't be consumed in excess. I use them in limited amounts in some of my recipes like this Creamy Alfredo Sauce, or the sauce in my Cheezy Potato Quesadillas

There are also many lower fat sauces that use a base of potatoes, carrots, or squash, often combined with plant milks and nutritional yeast and spices like onion and garlic powder to give a savory flavor. Try out this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese for a nut-free surprisingly cheesy sauce. 

 


Meat

When looking for the right meat replacement in your recipes, consider where you are at in your transition. If cravings from meat are leaving you in a place where whole foods like potatoes, beans, lentils, squash, and hearty grains aren't cutting it, it may be time to try some realistic replacements like Gardein, Beyond Meat, or the Impossible Burger. These processed foods are not healthy, but they are lower risk to your health than actual animal meat, and in the short term they can be very useful in managing cravings.

As you continue your plant based journey, foods like tofu, tempeh, and seitan can be even healthier replacements than the heavily processed realistic food products. Make sure to season and marinate these well, as they are flavorless but provide a great texture and backdrop for any flavors you wish to add. Try combinations of low sodium tamari, liquid smoke, spices and herbs, tomato paste, tahini, and maple syrup to infuse savory, sweet and spicy flavors. 

There are plenty of whole foods which can be very meaty and filling when included in recipes like tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, where the meat can be replaced mashed beans or lentils. Beans and lentils also make a great addition to stews, soups, chilis, and sauces. Try out these beany recipes for a high protein alternative to meat:


Oil

Cooking without oil can be a daunting process. When I first made the switch I was terrified everything was going to burn to the pan or I was going to end up with soggy vegetables, which is possible but avoidable with the right precautions. 

For sauteing vegetables in a pan, instead of oil use small amounts of liquid such as water or any of the following:

  • Vegetable broth
  • Tamari or coconut aminos (low sodium)
  • Vinegar (balsamic, white wine, apple cider) depending on recipe

Using a nonstick pan will be especially helpful when cooking without oil, but even in a regular pan it can be a breeze to saute foods in other liquids. Start by adding the ingredients into a dry pan, once the edges get golden add small splashes of water (a tsp or 2) to the hot pan and use the steam to free up the ingredients and allow them to unstick from the pan and be moved around. 

The key isn't to add so much liquid that they sit in boiling water, it's to keep the pan as dry as possible while using a bit of liquid to keep things moving in the pan. 

When replacing oil in baking there can be some trial and error involved but my go-tos are usually nut butters like peanut or cashew, apple sauce, mashed banana, coconut milk, coconut yogurt or I simply omit the oil and hope for the best!

To coat pans and keep things from sticking while baking, I like to use non-stick silicone cookware or line the pan with parchment paper. 

 

Lentil & Caramelized Onion Soup With Ethiopian Berbere Spices


Lentil soup is a classic healthy recipe, but maybe not always the most exciting. So I experimented, starting with a french onion style soup base and adding some Ethiopian Berbere spiced black lentils. I was met with the most flavor-packed lentil soup I've ever had. Not only spicy, but savory from the caramelized onions and a little tangy from balsamic vinegar and lime juice. 

Adjust the spice level to suit your tastes. the first time I made this my partner seemed to think 2 tablespoons of berbere was perfect, but for me my face was melting off. If you're sensitive to spices like me, I'd suggest starting with 1/2 tablespoon and tasting it before adding more. 

I love to caramelize the onions slowly to really bring out the sweet flavors, but if you don't have time, just cook the onions until they are translucent and soft. With the time reduced on that step, this recipe can be prepared on a busy weeknight in just over 30 minutes. Make a large batch and keep in the fridge all week for an instant filling hearty meal.

I've been trying to include more legumes into my diet as I've been noticing lately the more I eat of them, the better I feel. Lentils are one of the most fiber and protein rich plant foods around. Fiber is incredibly important and 97 percent of americans are deficient in it. Soluble fiber in lentils can lower your cholesterol and help prevent heart disease and stroke. The insoluble fiber in lentils removes excess hormones, cholesterol, and other carcinogenic substances from our systems that can cause disease. Fiber can only be found in whole plant foods.


Potato Leek Soup [Vegan, Oil-Free]

This particular potato leek soup has become one of my all time favorite easy weeknight recipes. Nutritional yeast and lime juice give it a tangy cheesy flavor which make it taste like a classic creamy potato leek soup, without the dairy and cholesterol. 

This is a super simple and easy recipe with a big payoff in both flavor and nutrition. I usually leave the potato skins on for extra nutrients and toss in some broccolini if I have it. I've made versions of this with and without broccolini and enjoyed both, so feel free to add it in or not.

If you are looking for a way to make cleaning and chopping leeks a little easier, check out this method here. Lately I find them even more pleasant to work with than onions and I love the delicate flavor they add to soups. 

If you make this recipe I'd love to hear what you think of it! I hope you love it as much as I do and that it becomes one of your go-to weeknight meals. 

potatoeek3.jpg