What I Eat in A Day: Vegan Version

food

January—the month where people all across the world make vague resolutions like lose weight and eat healthy that end up being gone by February.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions holding up? So far mine are going pretty well. If you remember from my “Surviving 2016” post I mentioned that one of my short term resolutions was to pack my lunch the night before work instead of the morning of in an effort to be more on time and less rushed. So far so good. I’ve only had maybe 3 days where I packed my lunch in the morning.

In an effort to help keep those of you with health-related resolutions motivated (put down that extra strip of bacon…I see you), I decided to write down what I eat in a day as a vegan.

The following is just an example of what I eat in a day. I’m not tracking macros right now. I just have an idea of what works for me and what I need to eat throughout the day to keep my blood sugar stable (something I struggled with almost daily before switching to plant-based; my symptoms always matched the symptoms of hypoglycemia but I never went to the doctor about it). I might be eating too much fruit or too little protein or too much protein. Keep in mind that right now I am going to hour-long boxing and kickboxing classes 5-6 days a week as well so my calories may be higher than your caloric needs. And because plants are less calorically dense than animal products, it takes a lot of plant-based foods to reach a functioning caloric intake. I didn’t really include serving sizes for some of the meals but I eat a little more volume than the normal person on a “standard American diet” i.e. someone eating eggs, meat, and Greek yogurt.

My point is this post is meant to help inspire you to fit in a little more plants and take out a little more meat, dairy, and eggs.

Also, pro-tip: If you’re not big into weekly meal prepping (where my fellow procrastinators at?) but you bring your lunch to work/school each day, cook a larger dinner the night before if you have time and portion that out for lunch the next few days. I like to do this with curry or simple stir-frys. It keeps lunch more interesting and fresh and saves time.

On to the food! I’ve included links to some products that I like for reference. Also, be sure to check out the “My Vegan Pantry Staples” post I did a few weeks ago for more healthy grocery/food ideas and recipes. Let’s keep you on track with your health resolutions this year!

Breakfast/Morning:

  • Coffee with soy or almond creamer (my favorite brand is Califia Farms Vanilla Almond Milk Creamer or if you’re on a budget the Silk Soy Vanilla creamer is good too and it’s sold at Walmart)
  • Morning Smoothie (usually stays the same every day because I prefer to buy my fruit in bulk and have a smoothie daily):
    • 1 Frozen Banana + a small handful of another frozen fruit (lately I’ve been loving frozen cherries)
    • Decent handful of organic greens like kale or spinach
    • 3 Tbs. of shelled hemp hearts (3 tablespoons of hemp hearts has 10 g of plant-based protein). Hemp hearts can be pricey—$10 for one bagso feel free to swap for protein powder. If you want to try a vegan protein powder, Vega Clean Protein in vanilla is the best I’ve found so far.
    • 1 C. of liquid (usually almond milk, coconut water, or regular H2O)
    • Blend everything together until smooth
  • Grain of some kind: Example, one serving of oatmeal (1/2 cup uncooked) with cinnamon and 1 Tbs. of chia seeds or a piece of toast with peanut butter. I recently found these Ozery Bakery Morning Rounds at the store. They’re kind of like a scone but in a soft bun form and the cranberry orange flavor is amazing. Plus they’re vegan so free of dairy and eggs if you have allergies. They also have apple & cinnamon, muesli, cinnamon & raisin, and date & chia flavors. If your store has an organic/health food section look there first. I doubt Walmart would carry them.

Lunch/Afternoon

  • Chickpea Salad Sandwiches (a tastier and cheaper replacement for a tuna sandwich—one can of chickpeas is anywhere from $0.69 to $0.89 vs. a can of tuna, which from what I remember, costs around $1.30 per can and one small can was never enough tuna)
    • 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed (always rinse your canned beans to wash off excess salt and preservatives)
    • Couple tablespoons of vegan mayo (Earth Balance, Hampton Creek Just Mayo–sold at Walmart!, and Vegenaise are great choices especially if you have an egg allergy)
    • Couple tablespoons of relish
    • More or less than 1/4 cup each of diced red onion (soak your onion in cold water for a bit to remove the bitterness), diced celery, and diced bell pepper (you can seriously add whatever vegetables you like to this. I just really like the crunch from the onion and celery and the sweetness from the bell pepper)
    • How to make:
      • Mash the chickpeas and mix in the remaining ingredients until everything is incorporated. Spread on two slices of bread (I like to lightly toast my bread at work–speaking of, if you’re taking your sandwich to work or school store the chickpea salad in a separate container and then make your sandwich when you’re ready to eat to keep your bread from becoming soggy) and top with lettuce, tomato, and sprouts or whatever you prefer. This recipe will last me about four days of daily sandwiches which is super cheap in the end.
  • 1 Blood Orange (or some other fruit like a banana or two Halos/Cuties)
  • La Croix (I’m a basic beeyotch and love La Croix to the moon and back–it curbs any soda cravings I might have because of the carbonation)

Snacks

  • Half a cucumber sliced (or a generous handful of carrots/celery) with a couple tablespoons of hummus to dip
  • One Silk soy yogurt (now sold at Walmart/most grocery stores in the yogurt section; at my Walmart, they are about $1.28 per container)

OR

  • One piece of toast with one single-serve 100 calorie pack of guacamole (Walmart sells a 6-pack of the Marketside individual serving guac packs in the produce section for about $3.56 which is cheaper than the Wholly Guacamole brand).

Dinner/Evening

  • Super simple vegetable ‘stir fry’: This is enough to last me at least two to three additional meals. Simple meals like this are great for late night dinners and if you’re crunched on time, or if you’re just craving something simple like rice and vegetables.
    • 1 yellow onion + a couple cloves of garlic
    • Half a head of broccoli (or sometimes a full head of broccoli)
    • 2 zucchini
    • 1 bell pepper
    • Any other vegetables in the fridge that are going bad
    • Spices to taste (ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper are my favorites)
    • Teriyaki or soy sauce (not necessary but it really ups the flavor)
    • Protein of some kind (vegetarian/vegan examples include beans, “mock meat” like Gardein or Beyond Meat, or tofu–here’s a link to  a simple, easy baked tofu recipe including my current favorite marinade)
    • Grain of some kind (typically rice because I’m cheap but quinoa is a great option as well)
    • How to make:
      • See my easy baked tofu recipe here if you want to try tofu but don’t know how to cook it. It takes me around 35 minutes at 425/450 degrees to make, so I start the tofu before the rice and vegetables.
      • Start cooking your grains. For rice, the ratio of water to rice is typically 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of liquid. I use 1.5 cups of rice + 2 cups of water + half a vegetable bouillon cube for flavor (or you can omit the bouillon cube and cook your grain of choice with a mix of half vegetable stock and half water–it just adds some extra flavor). Follow the cooking instructions on the rice or quinoa (20-25 minutes for rice; 15 minutes for quinoa…typically).
      • While the tofu and rice are cooking prep your vegetables. Chop up the zucchini, bell pepper, broccoli. Mince the garlic and dice the onion last to save some tears.
      • Heat a pan on medium-high until warm, add a splash of water (no oil necessary; I used to cook my food with so much oil but you can saute vegetables with water just the same), and then add the garlic. Drop the heat to medium/low and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds stirring constantly–DO NOT BURN YOUR GARLIC. Add the onion and more water if necessary and saute the onions until soft.
      • Add the rest of the vegetables, spices, and more water if needed. Up the heat a little and cover with a lid. Steam until the more fibrous vegetables are soft. If there’s too much water in the pan after steaming, remove the lid so that some of the water and evaporate. Add the tofu (or your cooked protein of choice) and serve over rice with a small amount of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.

Evening snack/Dessert 

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I just want to preface this by saying that I do not eat a dessert every single night nor am I one of those people who needs an evening snack or dessert. Because of my work schedule, I get home around 6 pm and then go to boxing class for an hour+ in the evening (I am not a morning person at all). Because of this I typically eat dinner around 8/9 pm. If I am feeling hungry though or if I want something sweet I’ll make what’s called “Nice Cream”.

  • Simple “Nice Cream”
    • 2 frozen bananas
    • Dairy-free milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
    • Extras: Peanut butter and a few small squares of dairy-free dark chocolate
    • How to make
      • Add the frozen bananas to a high powered blender with a splash of almond milk (more than a couple tablespoons but less than 1/8 of a cup; just eyeball it based on how frozen your bananas are). Blend on high until creamy. I usually have to stop every now and then and scrape down the sides and add small splashes of almond milk to help everything blend. Don’t add too much milk because you can end up with a smoothie consistency. Blend the nice cream until it’s the consistency of soft serve. Top with a small spoon of PB and a sprinkle of dark chocolate or additional fruit like blueberries or raspberries. I love the saltiness of the PB with the sweetness of the bananas. If necessary, freeze your nice cream for 10-15 minutes to firm it up. This also freezes the chocolate and PB so you have more of a candy-like crunch.

That’s it! This is just a general outline of what I eat in a day. It stays pretty consistent throughout the week. Breakfast is pretty much the same every day and I rotate my lunches with leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Most nights I go for simple dinners like the stir fry but every now and then if I have more time (usually when I’m not going to boxing) I might make a fancier dinner like these stuffed “ricotta” rolls/shells.

Comment below and let me know what your 2017 resolutions are and how they’re going! 

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My Vegan Pantry Staples

A basking shark eats anything that swims into its mouth. Much like myself when I’m hangry and want food. (fact found on @sadanimalfacts on Instagram). All images are from Liz Climo who is absolutely wonderful so check out her Instagram @lizclimo.

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Isn’t it expensive to eat plant based? What do you eat for breakfast? Can you have honey? Are you getting enough nutrition? Commonly asked by my grandma. These are all questions I get asked pretty frequently about eating as a vegan and I think they’re valid questions.

So no, it isn’t expensive to eat plant based. I say plant based because technically if you’re only following a meal plan that excludes all animal by-products including honey but you’re using products that contain animal by-products or products that might be tested on animals, then technically you’re not living a vegan lifestyle. That was something I didn’t know until I looked into it. Veganism isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle but I think any step towards a kinder, more wholesome lifestyle is a great start. If you’re just following a meal plan, then you would technically be a plant-based eater.

But back to my answer. A plant-based/vegan lifestyle is only as expensive as you make it. You don’t need to buy all organic, fair trade, food or products. You can live off of a simple diet and make it affordable. That’s why I love stores like Aldi because it’s budget friendly.

So I decided to share my vegan pantry staples. The list is broken up into pantry staples (things I make sure to always have available), extras (things that I like to have available all the time but they definitely are not necessary), and some recipe suggestions that you can make from the pantry staples I listed. All items with a * are what I would consider essential essentials or foods that I always try to have available.

Pantry Staples

AKA, foods I always have on hand or else I will shrivel up and starve….not really that sounds dramatic.

  • Bananas *: I used to be the kind of person who wouldn’t be able to eat all of the bananas I bought before they started to go bad and collect fruit flies. So here’s my secret. I buy a ton of bananas at once (doesn’t matter if they’re green still) and let them ripen. I’ll eat as many as I want for a snack and then peel and freeze whatever bananas are left and about to go bad. Seriously. I don’t know why I didn’t think of freezing overripe bananas before instead of throwing them out.
  • Quinoa, rice, or some sort of grain *: Quinoa is a little pricier so if you’re on a budget, go with rice. White rice isn’t the best for you but it’s cheap. I think a bag of white rice at Aldi is about $1.29. Brown rice is always a great option. I currently have jasmine, brown, white, and quinoa.
  • Canned beans *: Doesn’t matter if they’re black beans, pinto, kidney, or chickpeas. Beans are a great source of protein and they’re cheap. One can of black beans can be as cheap as $0.49. Of course you can buy dried beans in bulk and cook them yourself but I’m lazy and prefer canned. Just be sure to go for the no salt added ones and always rinse before you add them into whatever you’re cooking.
  • Potatoes *: Ask any of my friends from high school and they’ll tell you I LOVE mashed potatoes. Seriously, the potato is underrated. You can fry, bake, mash, boil, whatever and they are a great way to bulk up a recipe and add some carbs. Russet potatoes are the cheapest at about $2.99 per 5lb bag so if you’re on a budget, I’d go with those.
  • Seasonings/spices: If you cook a lot you’ll probably rack up a nice little collection of spices like I have. It just happens. My favorites and most used are cumin, salt, Mrs. Dash, garlic powder, onion powder, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Start with the basics and as you cook more your collection should grow.
  • Vegetable bouillon cubes: I like to sauté my vegetables in veg stock for flavor instead of using water or oil. Right now, my favorite is the Knorr Vegetable Bouillon cubes which cost about $1.29 for a pack of 6 cubes (one cube makes 2 cups of stock so I rarely use a full cube). You can find bouillon cubes where you find the chicken or beef broth near the soups.
  • Unsweetened almond milk *: I’ve been noticing that whenever I have soy milk or a lot of soy products my face breaks out so I like almond milk instead. It’s great for oatmeal, nice cream, sauces, smoothies, or just to drink instead of regular milk. Unsweetened is the way to go in my opinion because you can use it in savory dishes too. Almond milk has a longer shelf life than regular milk so it won’t go bad as fast. One container of store brand is about $2.59 for a carton. Sometimes the grocery store by me will have a 2 for $5 special. You can also buy in bulk at Costco since the shelf life is longer.
  • Oats *: I eat a lot of oatmeal for breakfast or for a snack. If you’re short on time, buy a big container of quick cooking oats. I stay away from the oatmeal in packets because of the sugar and additives and instead just measure out the amount of quick cooking oats I want into a container, add some cinnamon or coconut sugar, and throw it in my lunch bag for work.
  • Peanut Butter: Because it’s peanut butter.
  • Lentils: Great source of protein and cheap too. Walmart has a one pound bag of red lentils (which cook faster than green or brown) for somewhere around $1.
  • Vegetables*: I wasn’t sure if I should include these in the essentials list, but for me vegetables are essential. I always try to keep fresh broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers (green is the cheapest), and a container of organic spinach on hand. Since a plant based diet revolves around, you guessed it, plants–vegetables will be the bulk of your diet. Again, you don’t have to buy organic. If you’re tight on money buy regular or splurge at the beginning of the month and buy a bunch of produce and freeze what you can.

Extras

Ingredients you can get by without, but they add a little BAM! to your food.

  • Garlic cloves and yellow onions: I like to add onions to anything and everything and the same with garlic. They’re definitely not necessary but they can up the flavor of your recipes.
  • Nutritional yeast (Nooch): Any vegan will tell you that they love Nooch. It kind of looks like fish food flakes, but it adds a great cheesy taste to food and can be used to make macaroni and cheese or added on top of pasta in place of regular Parmesan. It’s also a great source of B12 and non-vegans seem to be super concerned about vegans or vegetarians getting enough B12.
  • Nuts: I buy almonds or cashews in bulk and then store them in the freezer for freshness. Nuts are a perfect snack option. I just grab a small handful and put them in a container to take to work when I get the munchies.
  • Chia seeds, hemp hearts, or ground flax: Great to add to smoothies or oatmeal. Two tablespoons of ground flax has 3 grams of protein and two tablespoons of hemp hearts has around 9 or 10 grams of protein. How’s that for plant power? Hemp hearts are pricey but worth the splurge if you can afford it. Hot for Food has an amazing herb hemp dressing that I love.
  • Olive oil: Some vegans prefer to cook without oils but I like to keep some on hand because some recipes require oil like Hot for Foods herb hemp dressing.
  • Canned, full-fat coconut milk: Not the stuff in the carton next to the almond milk. I’m talking the canned coconut milk that you find in the Asian foods section. I like to have at least two cans on hand for curries or as coffee creamer. It’s a surprisingly versatile food.

Recipe Ideas

All of these, with a few minor exceptions, are some recipes that you can make from the list of ingredients above. They’re also meals that I make on the regular.

  • Nice cream (AKA banana ice cream): This stuff is my absolute favorite. Sometimes I’ll eat it for dinner. Add two or three frozen bananas to a blender with a splash of almond milk or coconut milk. Blend until it becomes the consistency of soft serve. You might have to add a few more splashes of almond milk and scrape down the sides of the blender. Sometimes I like to blend in a little cinnamon too. Transfer to a bowl and place in the freezer for a little bit to firm up and then top with whatever toppings you prefer. My favorite is a little peanut butter and some chopped up dark chocolate. It tastes almost like Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. Nice cream is seriously the best vegan hack ever.
  • Beans and rice: Super self-explanatory but here is a recipe I found on Pinterest to get you started. Just sub the chicken stock for vegetable stock using your bouillon cubes.
  • Vegetable stir fry: Sautee some onions, garlic cloves, and whatever vegetables you have on hand with some vegetable stock and serve over rice or whatever grain you prefer. You can also add a can of beans to up the protein and make it more filling. I like to make this on the regular and then divvy up whatever is left over for lunch the next few days.
  • Oatmeal: Measure out the amount of quick oats you want. Add it to a container and add your spices of choice. I like cinnamon, vanilla extract, a little coconut sugar, and ground flax or chia seeds. When you get to work or school just add the right amount of liquids and microwave for about one minute. Or if you have time use regular steel cut or old fashioned oats and cook on a stove.
  • Protein smoothie: Super simple, super convenient, and quick. I blend a large handful of spinach with some almond milk or water until smooth and then add Vega protein powder and one frozen banana. You could also do protein powder, one frozen banana, and some coffee for more of a Frappuccino-style protein smoothie.
  • Potato hash: Great for breakfast or dinner. Simply cook up potatoes with a small amount of oil, onions, bell peppers, and spices until crispy.
  • Dahl: Here’s a link to my favorite dahl recipe but this really depends on what spices you have on hand. I happen to have curry powder and curry paste because I cook a lot. It’s super filling and great over jasmine rice.
  • Thai coconut curry: Again, this depends on what spices you have. Really the only extra things you might have to get at the store are a nub of fresh ginger and curry paste. The curry paste can be found in the Asian foods section of a grocery store and is about $3 for a small jar. Thai curry is great for lunch or dinner. Here’s a link to my favorite Thai curry recipe that I’ve been making lately.
  • Chia pudding: Chia seeds have a weird texture but they’re a convenient breakfast option full of protein and since you usually have to make them the night before you can grab them and go. Here’s a link to a simple chia pudding recipe. If you don’t have maple syrup, just add whatever liquid sweetener you do have.
  • Vegan lentil quinoa chili: Depending on what vegetables you have on hand and if you have quinoa, this vegan chili recipe I found on Pinterest is a really filling dinner and lunch option. It also makes a big serving so you can portion out the leftovers and freeze for later.
  • Any combination of grains, vegetables, and protein: Most nights I look and see what vegetables I have on hand and what protein options I have on hand and make dinner with that. I’ve found that rice with sautéed vegetables and either beans or “mock meats” like Beyond Meat is a quick and easy dinner option and something I go back to when I’m not feeling fancy.

 

That’s it! Eating plant-based doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t need a bunch of food items. As long as you have a few pantry staples on hand you really can make a variety of recipes to keep things interesting. The list of recipes above are all possible from the list of pantry staples and extras that I provided.

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Any step towards a more sustainable and humane lifestyle is a step in the right direction. You don’t have to be full vegan or even vegetarian. Maybe you start by trying out one of the meal ideas above or finding a vegan recipe on Pinterest and cook that one night a week. Or maybe you switch from dairy milk to almond or soy milk. I love vegan cooking because it’s exciting and fun.

If you want some vegan or vegetarian recipe ideas, check out my Going Veg board on Pinterest. It currently has 428 recipe pins with vegan recipes or recipes that can easily be made vegan or vegetarian with a few ingredient substitutions. Also, 428 is a lot of pins so I might have a small Pinterest addiction….

What are some of your pantry staples or recipes that you keep going back to? Comment below and let me know. I hope this list helps inspire you to try something new with food.

 

Love and peace,

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Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Zucchini Rolls

 

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These zucchini rolls are my variation on one of my favorite dinner recipes, Vegan Stuffed Shells, from PopSugar. I decided to use zucchini because 1) I was curious how it would turn out and 2) I didn’t have any large shells and I had three zucchinis instead.

You can make your own homemade pasta sauce or use store-bought. If using store-bought, read the ingredients as always because some pasta sauces like marinara have beef or pork flavoring or even Parmesan cheeses added. I’ve grouped each component of the dish together for convenience.

There are a lot of steps to this, but you can save time by getting your pasta sauce on the stove and then moving on and pressing the tofu and prepping the zucchini into slices while your sauce simmers. Moving in chunks saves time so that you’re not waiting for one thing to be done so that you can move on to the next.

Ingredients

Pasta Sauce
A jar of store-bought pasta sauce is fine, but I like to make my own using the recipe below. Feel free to adjust or omit based on your preferences. 

28 ounces petite, diced tomatoes or canned whole tomatoes
2 tbs. tomato paste
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tbs. olive oil or vegan butter
1/2 tbs. dried oregano
1/2 tbs. dried basil
1 large dry bay leaf or 2 small bay leaves
1/2 tsp. of sweetener of choice (I use half a packet of stevia. You need something to cut the acid from the tomatoes)
1-2 tbs. nutritional yeast
1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight (these are optional. I like the grainy texture that cashews give the sauce because it reminds me of the grainy texture of store-bought three-cheese pasta sauces and the cashews don’t add flavor)
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Tofu Ricotta
I use PopSugar’s recipe so please check that link out. My additions to the recipe are marked with an asterisk.

14 ounces or one package extra firm tofu, pressed for 20 minutes
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, washed*
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, washed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 – 1 tbs. nutritional yeast*

Remaining Ingredients
2-3 large zucchini
Large glass baking dish
Mandolin slicer
Tin foil

Steps & Prep

Get your tomato sauce on the stove. Empty the canned tomatoes and tomato paste into a medium sized sauce pan. Add the peeled garlic, both halves of the onion (be sure to remove the peel and cut in half), dried oregano, dried basil, olive oil, and bay leaf to the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced.

While your pasta sauce is simmering, prep your tofu for the ricotta and the zucchini.

Drain the package of tofu and wrap the block in paper towels. If you’re fancy, use a tofu press to squeeze out the water, or if you’re not fancy like I am, grab something heavy like a thick cookbook and place it on top of the wrapped tofu. Press the tofu for at least 20 minutes or until all of the water is squeezed out.

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Zucchini slices varying 1.5 to 2.5 mm.

For the zucchini rolls, wash and peel the zucchini.  You really need a mandolin slicer to get the nice thin, long, slices. I alternated between 1.5 mm and 2.5 mm for the thickness. The thinner you go, the smaller your rolls will turn out but anything above 2.5 mm will make the zucchini too hard to roll up. Slice your zucchini using your preferred thickness with the mandolin slicer.

Lay out the zucchini slices evenly on top of paper towels, sprinkle with a very small amount of salt, and cover with more paper towels. Lightly press on top of the zucchinis and let the slices rest while you prep your ricotta. This step is important because zucchini has a high water content and too much water will ruin the sauce when you bake everything.

By now, your sauce should be reduced enough. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool while you make the tofu ricotta.

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Your ricotta should be a smooth, thick consistency.

Unwrap the pressed tofu and add it to the blender along with all of the ricotta ingredients listed. Blend on medium to low stopping to scrap down the sides of the blender. The spinach and basil will take a little while to blend into the tofu. Add small amounts of water if the ricotta is too thick. Blend everything until smooth and set aside. Rinse out the blender.

Remove the bay leaves from the cooled tomato sauce and pour everything into the blender. Add the remaining ingredients including the cashews and sweetener. Adding sugar or a sweetener like stevia cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and balances out the sauce.

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Remember to never blend hot liquids.

NEVER BLEND HOT LIQUIDS IN A FULLY COVERED BLENDER!!! The heat will build up pressure and your lid will explode. I lift up a corner of the lid and cover it lightly with a towel so that the pressure doesn’t build up, but the sauce doesn’t splatter everywhere. Blend all of your pasta sauce until smooth and add salt, pepper, or garlic powder to taste.

Now you can start putting everything together. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the glass baking dish. Take one zucchini slice and spread a thick layer of the tofu ricotta onto the slice. Roll up the zucchini slice. I found that starting at the more narrow end of the zucchini and rolling out the the larger end works best. Place the zucchini roll seam down into the glass dish and repeat until all of the ricotta is used up.

Pour just enough of the tomato sauce to cover the top of the rolls and cover the dish with tin foil. Bake in the oven at 4oo degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Check and remove the tin foil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Use hot pads and carefully remove the glass dish from the oven. Let the rolls cool before serving.

You can sprinkle a little vegan shredded mozzarella on top or vegan Parmesan cheese to serve. Happy cooking!

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Cooking with Laura Miller: A cookbook review

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Let me just preface this by saying that I have a high appreciation for Laura Miller. I follow her on Instagram and YouTube. I’ve watched her videos and even bought two of her #froobs shirts.

Now that that’s out of the way, I think a more accurate title for this cookbook review is “I tried cooking with Laura Miller and it didn’t work out.”

In case you’re not familiar with who Laura Miller is, she’s a YouTuber and raw vegan who started selling her raw desserts at a farmer’s market in San Francisco and moved up the entrepreneurial ladder to YouTube which then led to a really positive and large following on Instagram. The husky-voiced, raw vegan has a really fun and goofy personality on camera where she shares her raw food creations which include pop-tarts and cinnamon buns.

A month or so ago, Laura released her first raw, vegan cookbook titled “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross” which is also the name of her YouTube series. She’s great and I was beyond excited to see a vegan cookbook, much less a raw vegan cookbook at my local library in Iowa. The images are beautiful and in true Laura Miller fashion, there’s a lot of pictures of Laura wearing mushroom shoulder pads and hats made from bananas.

So similar to my last cookbook review on Minimalist Baker’s cookbook, I picked 3 recipes from “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” donned my avocado froobs shirt (I don’t know about you

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You better believe I wore this shirt out in public.

but I always cook better when I have produce on my boobs) and got cooking. Without using the stove.

My mantra for this experience was, “Keep an open mind and try to eat everything.

First up was obviously breakfast and the Feel Better Green Shake, which Laura Miller says isn’t for people who need their shakes to taste like a pina colada. Okay,  point taken and I accept the challenge. It’s alkalizing! Low-glycemic! Packed with vitamins! And if you’re special, it can give you magical unicorn powers! Not really, I added that myself.

I added the kale and chopped the green apple. Threw in the cucumber and the cinnamon and ginger. And then I got to the part where you add a whole grapefruit. Like an entire mother-f***kn’ grapefruit!

Remember when I said that cucumbers were my most hated food? Yeah, I’m sorry but I forgot that I really, really, really, really hate grapefruits above anything else. They’re way to sour and I’ve never been able to understand how people, especially my grandparents, can just shovel a raw grapefruit into their mouths for breakfast. But I added it. I added the whole damn thing because I am stupid and bought two at the grocery store and needed to get rid of at least one. Speaking of which, if any of my co-workers are reading this and you want a grapefruit I’ll give it to you free of charge).

IMG_0136I know I said that my mantra was to try and eat everything. I really tried but even a mason jar couldn’t make this Feel Better Green Shake taste good. I don’t think it was the recipe. I think it was me because I hate grapefruits. By the way, did you know I hate grapefruits? I give this shake a 2 out of 5. The cinnamon was nice and the grapefruit overpowered the kale enough but it was just too much. Way too much and I dumped it out at work. Sorry guys.

Next, lunch! Well, a lunch snack. I saw that Laura included a recipe for ranch dressing and who doesn’t love ranch dressing? Ranch on pizza. Ranch with Chik’un tenders. Ranch with potatoes. Ranch with everything! Plus I really liked the name she chose, so I soaked my cashews and chopped up my dill and made When I Dip You Dip We Dip Ranch. I tried it with carrots. I tried it with Gardein tenders. I tried it on its own. I tried.

Long story short, the ranch turned out nothing like Hidden Valley or the salad dressing ranch you would expect and more like a cashew-tzatziki dip. I think it was the cashews which made the texture too thick and the dill which made it too Greek and less Midwest. But it wasn’t terrible so I give it 3 out of 5 stars. Edible, but not up to expectations.

At this point I felt like I was in a bad relationship with the cookbook. I was so close to saying, “It’s not you. It’s me. I just don’t like dill and I don’t like grapefruit. I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is working.”

I had one more recipe and I chose a cold avocado and ginger soup to try and have a real raw vegan dinner. I loved how little prep this recipe has. You just blend up avocados with ginger, cilantro, lime juice, and spices and you’re G2G (you know, good to go). Awesome! I

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The beginning of the soup, which photographs really well.

don’t have to get the stove dirty! YAY for adulthood!

I kept an open mind, but I just couldn’t finish the bowl. I put it in the fridge to try if eating the cold soup actually cold would help and it didn’t. Again, I don’t think it was the recipe. I think it’s me. I think that I added too much lime juice and the avocado texture was too rich. Out of all of the recipes, I have to rate this one lower at 1 out of 5 stars.

This is where the “It’s not you, it’s me” phrase really comes in. I don’t think the let down was “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” or Laura Miller. I think the let down was me and my tastebuds. Laura has created a beautiful cookbook with pictures that I would frame and hang on my wall, but my tastebuds were not prepared for real raw, vegan food. When you don’t heat your ingredients and when you take out oils the flavors get more complex and more real and I wasn’t ready for that.

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And the finished product with an aloe plant photobomb.

Will I be purchasing my own copy? Probably not. At the beginning of this I would have said yes and bought my own copy. There is a really delicious looking banana cream pie plus some tasty-looking raw deserts in the back, but everything else is not for me. I’ll still wear my #froobs shirt with pride and I’ll still follow Laura on Instagram and YouTube because this experience wasn’t the cookbook’s fault. It was my fault by adding too much grapefruit and too much dill.

I really hope that this review doesn’t turn you off of testing out “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” for yourself. It was a lot of fun to explore raw vegan food and I encourage you to try and find a copy and get creative in the kitchen and cook with Laura Miller for yourself. Hell, I’ll probably test out that banana cream pie recipe before I return my copy to the library. And of course, I’ll still support Laura Miller because her YouTube and Instagram makes me happy.

Sincerely,

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This post was not sponsored in anyway. All opinions are my own.

 

Cooking with Minimalist Baker: a cookbook review

IMG_0122Minimalist Baker is a hidden gem among  plant-based/vegan cooking. Dana’s recipes are sometimes simple, sometimes complex, and always perfect; which was why when I found her new cookbook, “Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes” in my small, local library I was very, very excited.

Squee!!!

What’s the best way to actually use a cookbook you ask? Pick three recipes and test them out. I’ll be doing the same with Laura Miller’s new book, “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.

For this round of cookbook reviews I picked out Dana’s Super Green Juice, Savory Eggless Benedict, and Herb-Marinated Tofu (because I am the worst at making flavorful tofu, like seriously terrible at it).

First up, breakfast for dinner, aka the Savory Eggless Benedict. A few weeks ago I went and had brunch at a local vegan restaurant where I ordered, you guessed it, vegan eggs Benedict. The tofu egg patty was perfect, but the hollandaise left a lot to be desired and I think it’s because they used a cashew base for the sauce. Minimalist Baker’s recipe uses almond milk, flour, nutritional yeast, and other spices. Pan-roasted tomato slices, ripe avocado, and purple onions replace the eggs. My cook time took about fifteen minutes longer than the estimated thirty only because there was a lot of prep to set up.

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Look at that beaut.

Final verdict? 4 out of 5 stars. In my personal opinion, eggs Benedict (vegan or not) is nothing, and I repeat, nothing without a good hollandaise sauce. If the hollandaise is terrible then you’re just eating eggs (or in this case deconstructed gauc) on an english muffin. No one wants that. Minimalist Baker’s hollandaise had the tang and creaminess of a traditional hollandaise sans the eggs and butter explosion. I licked my plate. Twice.

Next on the plate was the Herb-Marinated Tofu. When I say that I am terrible at cooking tofu I mean that I can make a chocolate tofu mousse and a tofu scramble that is edible but not good. I want to eat tofu that makes me sing like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Dana’s herb-marinated tofu was the answer. Basil, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic make for a beautifully delicious marinade. I think the secret, and maybe I shouldn’t share, is that Minimalist Baker has you soak the tofu cubes in a brine for one hour before marinating. Pure genius. I crumbled some of the finished tofu and put it on top of a Greek-style salad with some kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes and used some of the marinade as a salad dressing. The tofu has a texture like soft mozzarella after marinating overnight and a taste that’s between mozzarella and feta. It was magical on a salad and by itself. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

And finally, the giant green monster known as the Super Green Juice. I heard that when you drink green juices you turn into a magical unicorn with the superpowerIMG_0133s of a Victoria’s Secret model. While I can’t comment of if that’s true or not, I can comment on this juice. My blender was packed with spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro (a sketchy thing to add, but I’ll try it), celery, cucumber, lemon juice, banana (for more sweetness), pineapple, green apple, and fresh ginger. Basically everything except a green bell pepper.

Since I don’t own a juicer I was pretty happy that Dana had a little juicing hack up her sleeve. You blend up all of the produce and pour it into a clean kitchen towel to strain out the pulp. Once again Minimalist Baker, you are a genius.

Did it make a mess? You bet it did. Did I get green pulp everywhere including on my rented library book? You bet I did. Did I add too much ginger because I don’t know how much a “small knob of fresh ginger” is? Yes. Unfortunately, I did. After straining and chilling, I was left with a green juice that may or may not give me unicorn powers. I rate this juice at 3 out of 5 stars only because I think I added too much ginger which really overpowers everything, and not enough pineapple. But I couldn’t taste the cilantro, the celery or my most-hated food, cucumber.

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This juice is just too beautiful to look at.

Overall my journey into Minimalist Baker’s kitchen was a successful one. I will be buying my own copy because I love this cookbook and the library will have to pry it from my cold, green-juice clutching hands. “Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes” covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and drinks and it seems like a great cookbook for new vegans, long-time vegans, and even omnivores who just want to learn how to cook more creatively.

Job well done.

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This post was not sponsored in anyway. All opinions are my own.

 

Why I decided to “go vegan” Part 2

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If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here

When I was about 7 years old my cousin and I declared to my other Grandma (Mom’s mom) that we would no longer sleep on her pillows because they had down and we wouldn’t eat the honey sticks she bought us. She probably thought her 7 and 6 year old grandchildren were a handful.

So in October, 2015 my Dad called me to let me know that my Grandma had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and that the doctors estimated that she would last until the holidays. No one knew how she developed lung cancer and while she lasted until the day before Valentine’s Day of this year (2016) it eventually spread to her brain and other areas.

In December 2015, I started looking into the vegan lifestyle by searching for vegan recipes on Pinterest and then progressed into searching for vegan meal plans. I found a few YouTubers and eventually watched Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives (which I highly recommend. If you need personal a reason to consider switching over to veganism, then start with Forks Over Knives. It’s highly enlightening)

After researching protein sources, vitamin deficiencies, examples of vegan meal plans, and watching some videos, I realized that a plant-based diet could give me control over my health and body.

During one of the last phone calls I had with my Grandma, when she was able to remember what she was saying and that I was still on the line, I remember her telling me “Sarah, don’t eat all that crap. Don’t eat meat or junk; take care of yourself so you don’t end up like me.” Now, I know that how she had cared for herself wasn’t the absolute cause of her developing cancer—that lung cancer can develop even if you haven’t smoked or smoked in thirty plus years—but what she said really struck a cord with me.

Seeing someone pass away slowly from a highly progressive form of cancer is one of the hardest things to experience. I knew my family’s heath history. I knew that a standard omnivore diet is unethical,not truly healthy, and not sustainable for the environment; and I knew what I really felt compelled to do and that was to transition to a vegan/plant based diet.

If you search comments on YouTube, message boards, and posts you’ll see a lot of people saying that if you go vegan for your health then you’re not a true vegan; that veganism is more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. And I truly agree, however as humans we are truly selfish creatures and sometimes people need a selfish reason to make such a big life change. Me not so much, but others might because ethical morals or compassion just might not be there yet. I’ve always been a very compassionate person and taking control over my life and health (especially after watching Forks Over Knives) felt, and still feels, like the right decision and choice.

I decided to transition to veganism in February after my Grandma passed away and thought that I could do it cold-turkey. I lasted about a month before I felt defeated from comments like “If you’re a TRUE vegan you will never slip up and have cheese. I’ve been vegan for a month too and I haven’t had dairy at all.” Before that comment I took my occasional consumption of dairy, particularly cheese, as an okay step because it didn’t happen all the time and I had just started.

It really got me thinking and I decided that I wasn’t ready to label myself as a vegan and I’m still not ready. I decided to eat a lacto-vegetarian diet and take my time cutting out cheese. Let me just say, I haven’t had cream cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream, or sour cream since February. It was just straight cheese that I was having a problem cutting out.

After some months of tracking my macros myself I realized that I was consistently over on carbs by a ton and way under on protein no matter how much food I ate. I don’t necessarily believe that if you eat as much plant-based food as you want that you will naturally get enough protein each day. It didn’t work like that because I became full faster and I personally wasn’t going to stuff potato after potato and legume after legume down my throat without being smart. I found an Instagram account called @conscious_muscle and made the smart decision which was asking for help from someone with experience. Jordan created a personalized macro-sufficient meal plan for me using my goals and information and this has helped me a ton. Not only do I stay on track with eating a vegan diet, but I am also not worried about becoming deficient in protein or fats or carbs.

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The face you make when someone offers you meat.

The biggest step you can take, especially when you are new to something, is reaching out and asking for help.

Four and a half months after deciding to transition and I still don’t like to identify as a vegan. I like to say that I am a transitioning vegan because I’m still working out my diet and I’m cutting out my non-vegan and animal tested personal products as I run out. Once my face wash was used up I replaced it with a vegan and cruelty-free wash from Alba. After my Colgate toothpaste ran out I replaced it with a tube of hello toothpaste that I found at Walmart (I’ll post a review once I use the tube up). Same thing with my makeup and hair products.

I’m still proud of my decision and I believe, along with other vegans like Freelee and High Carb Hannah, that any step no matter how small towards a more compassionate lifestyle is the right choice. I can tell you that no matter what happens I will NEVER eat any kind of meat ever again because I have become aware of how it gets to the table and it grosses me out. I feel it in my heart and even the simplest change such as that is a huge step in the right direction, especially if a lot more people made it. I don’t feel deprived because there is so much food to eat in the world and you most definitely do not need animal products at all. Also, have you tried cashew milk ice cream because that stuff is the bomb and it’s way better than normal ice cream.

It will most likely take a full year to use up my remaining personal products and most likely a full year to be fully acclimated to a vegan/plant based diet. For some people a transition like this takes time. For others it’s an overnight change.

What matters most is making conscious decisions to live more compassionately not only for the animals, but for ourselves. 

My final advice to those of you who have found your way to my blog and have taken the time to read this long post is:

If someone else is going to knock you down because you’re using a shampoo you bought three months before you went vegan or because you had a small bit of cheese one month into your new lifestyle change, don’t listen to them. What matters is that YOU know that you are making progress and YOU know that this is a permanent change. That’s what matters because you are making conscious steps towards a more compassionate life and you have made the connection.

Sincerely,

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Why I decided to “go vegan” Part 1

This will be a two part serious so as to break up the length of the post. For now, let’s start from the beginning.

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Potato wedges and a salad with a homemade cilantro-cashew cream dressing. All vegan.

Up until this year (2016) I’ve eaten the standard omnivore diet. When I was 19 I moved into my first apartment by myself and started buying organic produce, especially spinach and chicken. I stop buying Raisin Bran and started buying plain bran cereal and plan raisins separately to cut out the added sugars that coat the raisins in the traditional cereal. I also started buying only organic skim milk after trying a diet plan from Jillian Michaels and reading her thoughts on organic vs. traditional milk and the hormones in conventional milk.

3-4 years later I still only bought organic skim milk, organic/”free range” chicken and eggs, and bought bran cereal without raisins. I’ve always had an interest in trying new health fads because they give me something to focus on similar to a hobby and because I’ve dealt with body issues that stemmed from being compared to my cousins and negative comments that came from a boyfriend I was with for three years.

I’ve tried Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred which was a good starter when I was 19 and new to fitness and meal plans; counting macros on my own, and meal plans/fitness plans that I found on sites like Popsugar and Blogilates. I have even tried the 21 Day Fix Extreme, which I gave up after two weeks because it had me on 1,300 calories based on my activity level and height and that did not work AT ALL. I became super grumpy and super obsessed with food and what I could and could not eat. I felt tortured even though I was in a support group—tortured because I wanted to do well and finally have results but kept obsessing over my yellow containers and how little carbs I was allowed to eat.

It wasn’t until I tried Kayla’s BBG 1.0 that I found something I could stick to. I started it [the guides] in March 2015 after debating for months if I should spend the $160+ for the workout guides and nutrition plan. I made it through 4 weeks of pre-training and then 8 weeks of the guide before I stopped on July 4th because it was the holidays and I was also starting a new job two days later. After completing my first Tough Mudder run (which I HIGHLY recommend because it’s all about teamwork and not about time; plus there’s nothing uncomfortable about having strangers

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After my 1st Tough Mudder run with the flu.

hike you up over a 20 foot wall by your butt when you’re covered in mud) I decided to start BB 1.0 again and finally completed it two days before my 23rd birthday. To this day, Kayla’s BBG is the only program I’ve stuck to all the way through, but I couldn’t stick to the nutrition plan (at the time was only an omnivore diet; since though she’s released an app that has a meal plan for every kind of diet) which is why I think my progress wasn’t like the girls on her Instagram.

Like I said, I’ve always been interested in health fads because I’m always looking for a hobby. I never could get my mind into viewing them as a lifestyle change which is probably why I gave up so quickly.

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Week 6 of BBG 1.0. I was eating an omnivore diet, not following the meal plan, but getting in every workout in the guide.

My family’s health history on both sides is not the best by far. On my Dad’s side there is severe diabetes, heart disease, obesity, glaucoma, mental health issues, thyroid problems, and cancer. On my Mom’s side there is a lot of heart disease; stroke (my mom had one at 16); diabetes; brain, breast, uterine, kidney, and skin cancers;  arthritis; gout; hypertension; migraines (which I suffer from too); and finally mental health issues like depression and dementia.

Needless to say, all of those health issues are not anything that I want to deal with at any point in my lifetime but it wasn’t until my Dad’s mom (my Grandma, who meant a lot to me) was diagnosed last fall with Stage IV lung cancer that I finally realized I need to be in control of my body and my health.

To be continued in Part 2…