Tag Archives: cooking

Vegan Pumpkin Spinach Artichoke Dip

Add a little fall festivity to your dip display with this recipe!

Baking the dip inside the pumpkin allows for some of the pumpkin flavor to seep through. If you want to get really pumpkin crazy, you can use a fork to shred the pumpkin flesh into the dip.

pumpkin chip dip

Ingredients:

1 pie pumpkin, 2 c chopped spinach (frozen or fresh), 12 oz artichoke hearts, 2/3 c unsweetened almond milk, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bag dairy-free mozzarella cheese, 1/2 yellow onion, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Lightly caramelize minced garlic and diced onion in olive oil.

3. In a bowl, mix the caramelization with the other ingredients, minus the pumpkin.

4. Gut the pumpkin. (Save the seeds for baking the best pumpkin seeds ever!) Place it in the oven, top off, for 45 minutes. The dip is going to bake alongside it and then in it, conveniently at the same temperature.

5. Pour the dip ingredients into a casserole dish. Cover with tin foil to prevent browning and bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is nearly melted.

6. Remove the dip ingredients from the baking dish and pour the contents into the pumpkin. Continue baking for the remaining 20 minutes. Make sure tin foil is over the hole of the pumpkin to prevent browning.

7. After baking, if desired, shred the pumpkin flesh with a fork and mix in with the dip.

8. Use dipping food of choice–from chips to crackers to bread or veggies!

9. Remove any leftovers from the pumpkin and store in fridge in airtight container.

 

 

 

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Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes with Kiwi & Clementines

Last night, I had a craving for vegan waffles. I don’t have a waffle-maker, but I could whip up some pancakes! However, I was lacking blueberries for my signature vegan blueberry pancakes. So I thought I’d add in some cinnamon.

Then I saw my bag of clementines and thought, why not? Below the clementines was a can of pumpkin I’d been meaning to use to make my popular vegan pumpkin bite cookies. Pumpkin and clementine sounded like a pretty good combo to me.

I added the kiwi in last minute because kiwi and clementine go very well together. The result was sinfully delicious, and my taste buds were so pleased that I thought outside the box!

I also used generic gluten-free flour for this recipe, which replaces regular flour 1:1.

vegan pancakes

Ingredients:

1 c flour, 3 tsp baking soda, 3 tsp cinnamon, 3 Tbsp applesauce, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 can pumpkin, 1/3 c maple syrup (or sugar/sweetener alternative), 2 Tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil), 1/2 c water (or as needed for pancake batter consistency), 3 peeled clementines, 1 peeled kiwi, dash each of: nutmeg, ground cloves, ginger

Makes:

6 medium pancakes (I ate them all)

Directions:

1. Whip everything except the fruit together. Add additional flour or water as needed to get the pancake batter consistency.

2. Coat a griddle in coconut oil. Plop the batter blobs on there once the coconut oil is melted.

3. Cook each pancake on low-medium heat. You may have to press down on them with the flipper to make sure they cook all the way through.

4. Arrange the clementine slices and cut up kiwi on the pancake stack. I recommend squeezing some of the fruit juice over top of the pancakes, too!

5. Top with maple syrup, coconut whip and/or almond butter.

6. Serve, eat, enjoy!

11 Things Vegans Are Bored of Hearing

If you’re an omnivore, you probably have, like, a million questions for a vegan. Despite “green” diets becoming increasingly more mainstream, veganism is still a widely unaccepted concept. Vegans stick out among meat-eaters like the sober dude at the bar.

Though herbivores do appreciate a good debate with a meat-eater every now and then, it’s exhaustingly repetitive. Not only that, but one or both parties usually ends up being a little self-righteous causing off-color jokes about consuming carcasses to be routinely tossed around which then makes vegans like me get teary-eyed because we just love animals so damn much.

Thankfully, it’s relatively easy for an omnivore to educate his or herself on some common vegan diet misconceptions. You might find that vegans are just as misunderstood as the boy who wears pink or the girl who prefers skateboards to Barbie dolls. If you’re a vegan reading this, you best just print out handouts for your next potluck. You know you’ll need them.

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 1. So, like, do you eat eggs and milk?

Do eggs and milk come from animals? Then no, vegans don’t eat them. The vegan diet abstains from any animal products or byproducts, whole or partial. This means no red meat, poultry or seafood, no dairy and no eggs. True vegans avoid honey, too, because it comes from bees. To be even more precise, vegans don’t consume marshmallows, JELL-O, many brands of gum or most capsulated pills as they often contain gelatin, a stringy substance made from the collagen found in crushed tissues, bones and skin. Yes, you read that correctly—ground-up animal parts. Historically, glue was also made from gelatin. Stop gagging. What did you think hot dogs were really made of anyway?

Let’s clear the air here with some further distinctions. Vegetarians don’t eat things that had a face, meaning meat or seafood. Chicken egg yolks have not developed faces yet (and are usually unfertilized), so vegetarians can still eat the unborn like their omnivorous human friends. They eat dairy, too.

And lastly, stop calling yourself a vegetarian if you eat seafood but not meat. It’s super awesome that you don’t eat meat. But you’re not a vegetarian. You’re a pescatarian, and you’re just making it confusing for the rest of us.

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 2. Where do you get your protein?

No one asks plant-based dieters Dumbo and Mighty Joe Young where they get their protein, so why do vegans get asked? The first mistake here is thinking meat and dairy are the only means of obtaining protein. The second mistake is assuming the average individual requires a large intake of daily protein. In fact, according to the U.S. FDA, the average American has a daily recommended value (DRV) of only 50 grams of protein, a few grams less for women and a few grams more for men. To put that in perspective, the DRV for fat is 65 grams. That’s right, it is actually suggested that a normal, healthy diet contain more fat than protein. On average, females eat about 1.5 times the suggested amount of protein while men rake in double. The reasoning is clear: American diets revolve around animals.

Now it’s time to debunk the meat myth. Animals are not the only source of protein. Most foods—even vegetables—contain trace amounts of protein. For vegans looking to bulk up, nuts and beans are chock full of muscle-building amino acids. One cup of lentils, for example, contains 30 percent of your protein DRV. In my vegan diet, I still get twice the protein DRV.

 3. Do you ever miss real food?

Real food? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that the casserole I just bit into was for display only. Next question.

monkeys
We are vegans! Such silliness!

 4. Veganism is so unhealthy.

Actually, being lactose intolerant is normal. Modern society has developed a dependence on dairy that has genetically altered some humans to be tolerant of lactose. Cultures that don’t depend on dairy in their meals see a reduced number of individuals with this genetic variation; in East Asia, roughly 90 percent of the population is lactose intolerant. Humans are the only species on the planet that continue to drink milk after being weaned off the breast. And, we are the only species that regularly drinks a milk not from our own kind, all thanks to the many Bessie-filled barns around the globe.

Furthermore, meat has been linked to illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Red meat also causes joint pain due to acid crystallization that situates itself in joint pockets. Switching to a vegan diet has time and again been shown to shrink cancer cells—in just two weeks—because the body is no longer harboring animal proteins that promote cancer growth hormones. Most people just love bacon and cheese so much they’re willing to risk their lives for it.

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 5. We have canine teeth for a reason.

Our hunter-gatherer Neanderthal forefathers did not rely on meat in the capacity that developed countries do today. They labored for hours in the bushes of the Serengeti in pursuit of prey, often returning home empty-handed. And when they did make a kill, many tribes held a sort of ritual sacrifice. They also butchered and cleaned it themselves, then made use of every single part of the animal. We cringe when sheep tongue is a national delicacy, but at least no part of the animal is wasted.

What separates us from other animals is that we have a conscience. We can make informed, ethical decisions about our own well-being and that of animals and the planet at large.

I’ll also close this point with a fun fact. The land mammal with the largest canine tooth is the lovable, grass-eating giant, the hippo. Perhaps this suggests the presence of canine teeth does not presuppose a carnivorous diet, but rather acts as a form of defense. Something to ruminate on.

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 6. What do you eat?

Contrary to misconception, vegans don’t sit around chewing dandelions and gnawing on toothpicks. Quinoa, tempeh and hummus are filling vegan foods in addition to classic soups and heavy salads. Branching out from the basic hamburger and spaghetti recipes allows herbivores to get more creative in the kitchen. Vegans might not be able to order everything off a menu at a restaurant, but their diet is often jam-packed with variation.

 7. You’re not going to change the world by being a vegan.

Whoa now. Not all vegans are trying to change the world. Each decision is fueled by different reasons. Some people don’t eat animals based on moral or religious rationales. For others, good health causes them to choose veganism. There are also vegans who are trying to be eco-conscious and environmentally friendly. And even if they don’t change the world, they’re educating people, creating beneficial conversation and debate and reducing their own carbon footprint by being self-aware.

As for the “hippie” vegans who are just jumping on the band wagon, so what? They didn’t judge you for mullets and parachute pants in the 1980’s, so don’t judge them for being vegan in the new millennium.

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 8. I could never do that.

If Steve Jobs had said this, he and Steve Wozniak never would have founded Apple in his parents’ garage. Veganism is a commitment just like anything else in life— job, family, exercise, New Year’s resolutions, AA meetings. When you believe in something enough not to give up on it, it’s pretty amazing the things you can accomplish.

 9. You’re too skinny. You need to put some meat on those bones.

Some fat people are vegans. Some skinny people are omnivores. Diet isn’t the only thing that accounts for body type. Exercise, mental health and genetics play an important role, too.

Fun fact: I eat roughly 2,000 calories a day. Much more when I’m about to enter the hibernation phase of my menses. I can also bench press a Labrador retriever. Just saying.

Oh and while you’re sitting there calling me “too skinny,” run a quick data check. More than one-third of Americans are obese while less than two percent are underweight. Roughly five percent of the U.S. population was characterized by non-meaters in 2014, half of which were vegans. This is double the numbers from 2009 and only expected to rise. On top of that, 33 percent of Americans say they eat multiple meat and dairy-free meals in a week.

In summary, veganism is not synonymous with “too skinny.” And also, if you’re healthy and happy, then ignore the haters and love your body no matter its shape.

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 10. But meat gives you energy!

So does a bag of Pixy Stix. So does an apple. If a vegan diet does not support energy, then, pray tell, how do you explain the plethora of websites dedicated to professional vegan athletes? From boxers to cyclists to runners and yes, even body builders, vegans do extreme sports, too.

The act of eating requires energy, from chewing to the energy-intensive digestion process. Some foods require more energy to digest than others. Protein-packed meals like meat use up 30 percent of the food’s caloric count just for digestion whereas only 12 percent is used in fatty foods and 7 percent in carbohydrates. If you consume the same amount of calories whether on a vegan or omnivorous diet, the meat-eating option leaves less energy for you to climb a mountain, bounce on a hippity-hop or do whatever activity it is that you do.

vegan food

 11. You must fart a lot.

Thank you for your concern, but I actually fart a healthy amount. According to Purna Kashyap, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, farting up to 18 times a day is a sign of good microbial gut action—and is considered the healthy norm. Count your farts. If you’re not up to par, maybe it’s time you reconsidered what you’re putting into your mouth.

Even smelly broccoli farts are healthy. If you’re passing gas and it’s a clear-the-room egg smell, remind your victims that you’re just minimizing your cancer risk by gorging on sulfurous veggies.

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What’s the take-home message here? The perks of veganism far outweigh the cons. Vegans lead healthy, adventurous, ethical and tasty lives. So please stop with the rabbit and bacon jokes. They weren’t funny eight years ago and now you’re just making yourself appear uneducated.

**Please note, this list is not all-inclusive. Dear vegans, please leave your list of grievances in the comments below.

Why I Stopped Eating Animals

The first eighteen years of my life, I was not a rebellious child. I had no curfew because I couldn’t stay up past 9:30 PM. I was allowed to be unsupervised with friends because my father had witnessed the tween drama that ensued when I accidentally sipped Mike’s Hard Lemonade and subsequently thought I was dying. I was permitted to hang out one-on-one with males because my best friend growing up was a boy and, when I had my first kiss as a senior in high school, I told my parents about it.

kids and toilet paper
Here I am in the height of my rebellion as a child.

I was the spitting image of a good Catholic school girl, except that I went to public school in my later years and also made far worse fashion choices.

But I rebelled when I went to college. I cut loose from the throngs of societal propaganda. I started making my own decisions. I still went to church. I didn’t drink or do drugs. I never pulled an all-nighter.

I rebelled in a weird and unorthodox way: I stopped eating meat.

Growing up, I gravitated toward animals, forever knowing that my career path would revolve around them. I pet stray cats and lured lost dogs onto our doorstep so we could find the owner. I threw back any fish I caught in the summer, smiling as it swam away. I saved earthworms from the sidewalk on rainy days while I waited at the bus stop. I cried when we boiled crabs on family vacation because I thought the bubbling was them screaming.

kid and pony
Though these photos suggest I was an accomplished cowgirl from a young age… they lie.

But like most children, it took me all of my childhood to understand the association between the meat on my plate and my barnyard friends.

It was my dad who inadvertently gave me an inkling that hamburgers were once a living being. He always checked to make sure his burger wasn’t pink or bloody. He wanted it well done.

Blood? I thought. Why would a hamburger be bloody?

highland cows
I wouldn’t leave Scotland until I tracked down Highland cows.

When I first began connecting the dots and voicing my disgust at the meat casserole on the dinner table, I was informed that I needed protein, and that my only option was to make my own non-meat protein-filled dinner.

I was a busy child, spending my evenings and weekends in sports, after-school clubs or piano lessons. I grew up when the Internet was coming into its own, before Google was the go-to encyclopedia. I didn’t have time to make my own meal (still not sure how Mom managed it in her schedule). I didn’t yet understand that every opinion should be warranted, educated and informed.

baby goat
This is Dash. I nursed him from a baby and watched him learn to walk and then run and head butt. He made me fall in love with goats.

While I have since debunked the meat industry myth that a big fat steak is required for proper nourishment, I probably would have stuck to tater tots and ice cream if I had to make my own dinner growing up. So instead I hid pieces of hamburger pie in my napkin and naively continued eating chicken without batting an eyelash because birds are not mammals so surely there is something different going on there. Surely.

Red meat was easy to cut out because I related it so easily to animals. I became nauseous when bacon fumes wafted under my nose as I couldn’t help picturing a pig’s face. (Pigs are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet.) Soon I began to recognize that chickens have feelings, too.

Then I read Temple Grandin’s Animal Behavior by candlelight lying in a monkey-poo-stained hammock in a bamboo hut while saving animals in the Amazon. And I knew I had to do this commitment thing for real.

amazon bird
I spent a summer living and working in primitive conditions at a wildlife rescue center in Ecuador.

Initially, I was a pescatarian, informed only about the inhumane treatment of the meat industry. I committed to eating meat only if I killed the animal myself. I couldn’t. I can’t. So I don’t.

When I took a marine biology class and learned that overfishing is the number one problem plaguing the oceans, I stopped consuming commercial seafood cold turkey. I said I would only eat marine life if I sustainably caught and cleaned the fish myself.

And then I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t look a fish in the eye and say, “I need to eat you. I need you to survive.”

deer fawns
I also spent 6 months in the Texas Hill Country working in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, aka being a deer mommy and revisiting the wannabe-cowgirl phase of my youth.

I do realize that, yes, it is a privilege to be able to choose not to eat animals. And I do realize that, yes, some animals are overpopulated or invasive, and hunting them is considered a part of population control.

But until I am put in a situation in which my survival depends upon eating another living, breathing being, I am dedicated to this decision, my conscientious choice, to not eat animals.

So when you poke fun at me for not eating meat, when you wave a burger in my face and say it tastes sooo goooood, please know that I’m crying inside and secretly thanking that cow without a name who died for the pleasure of your taste buds.

_____________

Later, I cut dairy out of my diet originally to lessen the pain of post-Lyme disease that manifests itself as arthritis in my joints. Now, that decision also roots itself in morality and environmental reasonings. To read more about how changing my diet has helped me fight my battle with Lyme disease, click here.

Follow my blog to catch tomorrow’s sassy post on veganism that is sure to elicit oodles of controversy. Yay.

Vegan Gluten-Free Iron Boost Recipe With Quinoa and Pesto

The World Health Organization declared iron deficiency/anemia the number one medical condition relating to nutrients worldwide.

While omnivorous humans tend to equate meat to iron, a plant-based diet is rich in the mineral.

Variances of the following vegan and gluten-free foods are jam-packed with iron:

  • Beans
  • Soy
  • Leafy greens
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

Good news–they’re all included in this recipe! For any newbs out there, World’s Healthiest Foods offers a more comprehensive list of vegan options that are loaded with iron.

If you’re simply looking for an incredibly delicious and filling meal, this recipe will still be great for you. If you’re a woman with Satan for a uterus constantly battling Old Faithful once a month, then this recipe is an excellent addition to combat period-induced anemia.

A healthy vegan diet shouldn’t be low in iron. In a normal day without iron-packing, I receive three times the daily recommended value (DRV). But with anemia, especially in menstruating women, you have to consume crazy mineral amounts to get back to a normal level. Talk to your doctor for an individualized DRV. Cronometer is a great (and free!) way to help track, but keep in mind that it’s not 100% accurate.

The best part about this recipe is that it can be made to your specifications. Swap out the spinach for kale, the chickpeas for navy beans, the tofu with tempeh, or the homemade cilantro-walnut pesto with basil-almond pesto. You can even substitute the quinoa with rice or gluten-free pasta!

INGREDIENTS:

quinoa, tofu, homemade vegan pesto, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), spinach, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, Bragg’s liquid amino acids*

*optional

DIRECTIONS:

1. TOFU: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a baking sheet; I use coconut oil. Slice tofu block in 1/4″ thick rectangles and slice those pieces in half. They should look about the size of a domino. Baste the tofu with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until slightly brown, turning at halfway mark. Can be lightly flavored with Bragg’s, too!

2. QUINOA: Cook it. You know how.

3. PESTO: Make it your way.

4. CHICKPEAS: Warm up a can or cook soaked beans as you like.

5. SPINACH: Recommended raw, but can also be sauteed.

6. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and season as needed with additional salt and pepper and garlic.

7. Serve, eat, enjoy!

Recipes like this are great to make in bulk! Store in the fridge and eat cold or reheated.

Vegan Pesto Alternatives to Traditional Basil & Pine Nut Recipes

vegan pesto
Get ready for some mmm, mmm good pesto!

Out of pine nuts and basil? Worry not!

I’ve taste-tested the culinary waters of vegan pesto and found that you can make the creamy (or chunky) sauce with pretty much any nut and herb base. Don’t believe me? Try for yourself!

My herb garden has been gracing me with a number of herb alternatives. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon Thyme

A pound of pine nuts will break the bank. So, for all the realists who can’t dip into bankruptcy for the traditional pine nuts, I’ve tried these nut–and seed!–alternatives with great success:

  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds

No matter how nutty you get with your selection (or creative combination), the pesto taste doesn’t change much, at least not according to my taste buds. The texture might, though.

As for the herbs of choice, your pesto will get a different flare. Parsley and lemon thyme have a mildly bitter taste, so I often toss in only a few lemon thyme sprigs with some parsley and maybe a few basil leaves to set an even keel. Cilantro has an overwhelming taste, but one that I’m obsessed with. It can give your dish a bit of a Mexican twist, or a soapy flavor for those whose taste buds find cilantro abhorrent. (I pity those folks.)

As for the citrus kick I like to add to my pesto, all three of these fruits have worked for me:

  • Key lime
  • Lime
  • Lemon

You can also swap out olive oil with any of your favorite oils–including coconut oil!

Don’t forget the yeast flakes, garlic and salt and pepper!

Have you experimented with unique nut-herb combos when whipping up vegan pesto? Share your success (or failure) below!

For my original vegan pesto recipe, click here.

Greek Key Lime Potatoes Recipe

Enjoy this Greek potato dish substituting key limes for lemons.  Top with chives to give an even fresher taste!
Enjoy this Greek potato dish substituting key limes for lemons. Top with chives to give an even fresher taste!

My favorite restaurant in the Florida Keys (shout out to 7 Mile Grill!) was a Greek/American fusion. As a potato enthusiast, I took to their traditional Greek lemon potatoes instantly. I wanted to make my own here on the island to let my taste buds take a stroll down a most appetizing memory lane. Alas, I was out of lemons. But I had key limes aplenty! So I threw together what appeared to be the most common ingredients for Greek lemon potatoes based on some quick research online, substituting key limes for lemons. I was pleased with the outcome.

Ingredients:

8 small red potatoes, 2 large key limes, 5 garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, sea salt, pepper, fresh chives

Serves: 2 people

Directions:

  • Wedge the potatoes.
  • Steam the potatoes in a pot with a shallow amount of water.
  • Once the water has boiled off, pour in the olive oil. You will need a lot, so don’t skimp! 1/3 cup might be sufficient but use your judgment. Stir well with the burner on low.
  • Squeeze the key lime juice onto the potatoes.
  • Mince the garlic and add to the pot along with the spices.
  • Top with some fresh chives for a flare of oniony taste.
  • Serve, eat, enjoy!