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Friday, November 17, 2017

Cardamom Hot Chocolate and Coconut Yoghurt

With Thanksgiving upon us, there are plenty of ways to bring about the spirit of Thanksgiving. Now, plenty of people are against Thanksgiving ( or as I call it, Turkey Massacre Day!) but, some of the best vegan food can be made this year. Here is a simple hot chocolate recipe with a twist!

Famous Cardamom Hot Chocolate

  1. coco powder
  2. cardamom 
  3. cinnamon 
  4. coconut sugar (or any sugar of your liking)
  5. hot water
  6. nondairy milk 
  7. coconut whip (optional)
  8. cinnamon stick (optional)
  1. warm equal parts nondairy milk and water in a pan on a stove (to make servings for two I use about a cup of each)
  2. mix equal parts coco powder and sugar together in a cup of your liking (to make a serving for two I use about 3 tablespoons of each) and whisk together with a dash of cardamom and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon 
  3. gently mix the spices into the warm water and milk mixture. Do not boil. 
  4. top with coconut whip (optional) and add in a cinnamon stick 
  5. enjoy!

Coconut Yoghurt:


  1. a can of coconut milk
  2. vegan probiotics
  3. vanilla bean powder (optional)
  4. jelly of your choice (optional)
  5. berries (optional)
  6. granola (optional)
  7. wooden spoon
  8. cheesecloth
  9. rubber bands

  1. mix together a can of coconut milk and vegan probiotics in a bowl ( I use about 6 probiotic capsules for one can of coconut milk).
  2. cover with a cloth and rubber bands
  3. store in a dark but not wet corner for about 24-48 hours
  4. flavor with jelly, granola, vanilla bean powder, and berries
  5. enjoy! 
  6. store in the fridge for up to a week 

How Far Does Veganism Go?

I have pets. I have a large dog; my daughter has a tiny dog, and we also have a cat. I constantly see the argument online debating whether or not it's ok to feed pets a meat based diet when one is vegan. This discussion almost always ends in heated arguments that go on for days. There are the vegans who make damned sure that their pets are vegan too and there are those who are more relaxed about the whole thing and recognize that making a cat vegan is most definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum.

I have a vegan dog; this is entirely for health reasons and the dog has been vegan longer than I have. He suffers from itchy skin and constantly has ear infections. A vegan diet was suggested to me to help alleviate allergies. I tried it and he has shown significant improvement. A ton of research has taught me that a dog can be vegan and live a healthy, nutritionally balanced life. My cat, however, is most definitely not a vegan. This cat was deathly ill a year or so ago with a bladder blockage and his life hung in the balance for a day or so. He now eats exclusively canned food, and while I have read every argument that a cat can be vegan (and I'm really not convinced) I am not messing with the diet of this cat in any way, shape or form. I go to the pet store every week or so and pick up six cans of chicken stew cat food. His illness was very scary and very expensive, and since his diet change he's been healthy (knock on wood).

I frequently see arguments against horseback riding, service animals, backyard chickens etc. I'm always amazed at the degree of anger in these arguments. I've learned that anger really won't convince anybody of anything. It is the best way to completely lose your audience and make yourself look foolish in the process. If a person has a horse, or has two or three pet chickens, and lives a vegan lifestyle in other respects, is kind and compassionate to animals then why berate that person? Why not applaud them and encourage them to do as much as they can? Every lit bit helps and is a step in the right direction.

I prefer the vegan philosophy that says something about doing the least amount of harm. I think, that in this day and age, it's near impossible to live a completely vegan lifestyle – although I suppose if you never take any pharmaceuticals and only have herbivore pets it's possible. Kudos to those people, but as long as I have this cat he will eat chicken in his food. If for any reason, my dog appeared to be failing in his health then I would switch him back to his old food in a heartbeat. Does it bother me? Yes it does – quite a lot. I don't like buying the cat food, but he is a cat. That is what cats do. And if I choose to have a cat then I need to treat him as best as I can and respect what he is, and if that includes a dish of “chicken stew” to maintain his health, then chicken stew it is. Yes, it is a conflict, and I struggle with it, but I had him before I went vegan and if I choose to “own” a pet then I also choose to do my best for him.


Compassionate, Delicious Thanksgiving Options (Part 1)

For many people, the holidays can be more stressful than relaxing because running around buying food and preparing it can be hectic. Fortunately, I am extremely grateful to have such a supportive family, even if they mix up some terms on what is allergen friendly or not. I am exceptionally pleased with everything I found so far and we haven’t even gotten everything yet!

(photos by Danielle)

Some people will think that if you are vegan or vegetarian, it automatically means you are gluten free, eat a lot of salad, or have to eat bland. Also, some people think vegan and vegetarian are the same thing. It is always good to inform people what you can have at the table because there are SO many misconceptions. I know I am ALWAYS one to make sure that when I have guests, there is something for people to eat (I am very considerate of those things). With the technology and resources we have to learn about these such as the internet, there is no excuse for someone not to be able to have at least one thing at the table because there are so many allergy free options at stores these days. We even had such a challenge deciding on what vegan turkey to buy because there were five different kinds...we are coming far!!

Fortunately, I know a good amount about nutrition and have taken cooking classes so I know how to combat these problems we could encounter. I am in great health now, exercise regularly, have a normal BMI, and I have never felt better and more energetic. I completely resolved my stomach problems and my dad also told me I helped lower his A1C and he isn’t even fully transitioned diet-wise! However, our table includes people with cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and acid we are in dire need of a healthier Thanksgiving this year. I know what you are probably thinking...that it will be insanely difficult. If you are on a path to better health but nobody else in your life is focused on wellness it may seem challenging. Think again because guess what? Wegmans delivers on the allergy free and dietary restriction friendly choices! The best part is, I have not even made my Trader Joes run yet with my mom!

First thing we did was look at what we normally buy and see how much we needed to change. This was EASY. We bought the same stuffing, olives, pickles, bread, and crackers that we already do. The pies we normally buy don’t have animal products in them, other than we had to buy a different pumpkin pie. My dad had been eager to have a blueberry pie and we found one this year! Sara Lee’s do not use animal product in this pie and it's the same with cherry and apple pies. If you can't find these there is also Marie Callender's and Mrs. Smith’s. Always be sure to double check the ingredients, especially if you are not only avoiding these ingredients for ethical reasons, but allergy reasons as well. The only thing for dessert we had to change was the pie, but we went to Wegmans so this was completely a non-issue. Also, there are many dairy free whips out there to top pies with. :)

Now, about the family got a really small turkey because we also got our first Gardein turkey. I have seen phenomenal reviews on this and I can not wait to try it next week! I keep hearing about how many of these products taste EXACTLY the same as the non-vegan versions. I will update on how it all was!

(photos by Danielle)

For gravy this year….the Gardein turkey comes with 2 packets and then we also got Simply Organic. The only other thing was the Pepperidge Farm products we always use like the bread and stuffing are already vegan..this goes to show that you unknowingly eat these things all the time. We are using vegetable broth this year and a dairy free butter.

(photos by Danielle)

We still have a few more things we need to pick up from some local stores. I will update in about a week on how amazing everything was. We will have a rice blend and probably a green bean casserole. We are going to also pick up some rolls, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegan egg nog, and many other delicious items for the table. If Trader Joe's has any more interesting items that I can’t resist, they may also make it to the table as well! We still have not decided what our third desert is going to be.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving is a positive, loving day surrounded by supportive loved ones that accept you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Skin Care for Oily Skin

I used to never wash my face and I never got a blemish. In high school I wore a lot of makeup, never took it off and never used any cleansers on my face. How I never broke out is beyond me but after high school, I started to really have problems. This is my routine for how I keep my skin healthy.

The first thing I do every morning is wash my face. I have very oily skin with large pores and if I skip a day you will notice right away. It took me a very long time to find something that I actually liked, controlled the oil and was vegan or at least cruelty-free. But when I found something I liked I stuck with it.

I love this brand so much. They are vegan and make some of the best of the products I have ever used. Their Indian Coconut Nectar is my favorite scent in the entire world. I want everything to smell like that. Okay, enough about that, let's talk about this face wash. It is lightweight, smells amazing and leaves my skin soft and fresh all day. I read their Kale Detox face wash is great for oily skin so I plan on trying that next but this one has been a game changer for my skin.

When I did start to wash my face I didn't know that you needed to tone and moisturize too. I was a very clueless person. When I finally realized you needed to tone I turned to something all natural and amazing for your skin, Witch Hazel. I love this stuff but then I tried something that was so perfect and amazing and I have been using it for years now.

This stuff is probably the best thing to ever happen to my skin. I love the way it smells, the way it feels and the way it really helps my skin. I always forget to wash my face before bed so sometimes I cheat and just wipe my face down with some of this and it makes it feel so much cleaner. Yes, I need to start washing my face at night too, I know. I barely remember to brush my teeth before bed!

For the longest time, I was under the impression that oil would make my skin worse. It makes sense. You don't want more oil on your oily skin but it turns out that is exactly what you want. You face will make excess amounts of oil for a lot of reasons but the biggest one is that your face is dry and it is creating more oil to take care of the problem. You give your skin good oils regularly then it calms down on the oil production! A year ago I started making my own face oil to be used as a moisturizer and it has been terrific.
This oil was a recipe I came up with after a lot of research. I change it up every once in a while but I stick to the basics. When I first made the oil I used coconut oil but that actually caused more breakouts. It isn't a good oil for oily skin. Then I switched to almond oil, which is what I show in the original picture and recipe, but it is still pretty heavy for my skin. Now I make it with jojoba oil and I have noticed a difference. Jojoba is better for oily skin so I would 100% recommend that over almond oil. Play around and see what you like. 

Those are the products I use in my daily routine. I have noticed a huge difference in my skin since I started this routine. Routine is key though so make sure whatever you are doing you do it every day. You want your skin to get into a rhythm and really absorb everything it needs to be it's best. Keeping a routine and using the right products will take some time but I promise it will be worth it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What I Eat In A Day Restaurant Edition!

It seems like everyone I meet just assumes I cannot go out to restaurants because I am vegan. For me, this is certainly not the case! I love going out to eat with friends and family, I think it is a great time to bond and enjoy a delicious meal. While I really do like cooking, its often nice to let someone else do the work for once!
I am lucky enough to live in a place right now where vegan options are common, but I know that almost any restaurant will have some way to veganize one of their options. If there is pasta, ask the waiter to see if the pasta noodles contain any eggs or dairy. Usually they do not! Then you can order a pasta with marinara sauce. For pizza, ask if the crust has eggs or dairy and then, if not, order pizza with all the vegetable toppings and no cheese. Asian restaurants are great because they usually have tofu. But, do not assume any dish with tofu is vegan, many still have eggs or dairy. If it is not obvious what is vegan on the menu, you should never be afraid to ask. If there is not a main dish that you want, order a side of rice and a side of vegetables and ask for some soy sauce! At Japanese places, order a sushi roll with only veggies such as cucumber, carrot, and avocado. Mexican restaurants would be a good third option because, as long as their beans are cooked in animal fat, you can order something such as a burrito containing rice, beans, avocado, and salsa! If their rice and beans are not vegan, you can at least munch on some chips and salsa.

Without further ado, here is what I ate on a day that I decided to treat myself and eat out!
For breakfast, I wanted something fresh and hydrating so I went out for acai bowls with my friends at a café called Delicious Raw. I love their bowls because they have the sweetest granola topping and are the perfect portion for me. They always leave me feeling energized and ready for the day!

As for lunch, I was lucky enough to talk a friend into taking me to the best vegan restaurant in my area. It is called Clovermint Café and everything is free of refined sugar, gluten free, and vegan! On weekends, they always have special brunch options. I ordered pumpkin spice waffles and my friend ordered pumpkin spice pancakes and we split them! They came with maple syrup and coconut whipped cream and they were even more delicious than they sound!

For dinner time, I was craving my favorite pizza from Blaze Pizza. It is a common chain restaurant so if you have not tried them yet I highly recommend you see if there is one near you! All of the crust options are vegan and they have a vegan cheese option. My three favorite toppings are the pineapple, zucchini, Kalamata olives, but I usually get nearly every single vegetable. It is the same price no matter how many toppings you get so LOAD UP!

This day was filled with some amazing food and it is making me crave those waffles while I write this ;) 

 Let me know in the comments what your favorite restaurants are! Do you have good vegan places near you? Or do you veganize the menus at other restaurants? Share your tricks!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Baked Butternut & Bechamel Pasta Recipe!

Hi everyone! I came up with this recipe on a whim. I don't know about you all, but I absolutely adore squash! I think butternut squash is one of the absolute best. It's savory, sweet, has a wonderful depth of flavor, and is so versatile! You can do so much with it, and can take it in so many culinary directions. 

Now, I am a "spoonie." If you don't know what that is, please feel free to search for "the spoon theory." What it basically comes down to is having a chronic illness. As a result, any cooking I do is usually in big batches, so I have leftovers to eat for a few days. Also, I try to make the prep as simple as possible, and not use an extensive list of ingredients. I try to use more affordable ingredients as well since I'm on a tighter budget (hence my previous post about veganism on a budget). This looks like it has a lot of steps, but I assure you, it's really quite simple, and came together in a couple hours. Someone who is more able should has this cooked quite quickly. 

This recipe would work well for those of you who do meal prep for the week--whip it up on your day off, and you're good to go! Since it's that time of year, it would also work well for any family or work holiday gatherings. I would say that I have a tendency to "eyeball" or approximate my recipes, so you may want to adjust according to your taste. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Let me know what you think. Peace, Love, and veggies-

Baked Butternut & Bechamel Pasta Recipe

Ingredients: * 1 medium or medium-large butternut squash, about 4 cups sliced/chopped
*about 4 cups unsweetened, plain plant milk (I used soy)
* scant 1/4 cup oil (I used canola)
* 1/4 cup flour (I used all purpose flour, I don't know how well other flours would work for making the sauce)
* 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
* pepper to taste, if desired (I don't normally use pepper, so this is up to you)
*1 and 1/2 tsp. onion and garlic powder, as desired
*1 and 1/2 tsp. "chicken" broth powder 
*one 16 oz box of spaghetti, uncooked

For the Bechamel:

1. add the flour and oil to a 2 quart sauce pan, or other pot that holds at least 2 quarts.
2. using a whisk or spatula, blend the oil and flour thoroughly. When mixed, turn the burner on medium to medium high heat.
3. stir the flour mixture frequently, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot well, until it becomes well toasted and is a light or golden brown. (you want your mixture to have a good color to it, as this will give your sauce a good depth of flavor.) This will take at least several minutes, it's hard to give a good estimate, as our stove is a bit wonky. 
4. When the mix has toasted for several minutes, and has a good color, turn your burner down to medium to medium low hear. Then very slowly start to whisk in all of the soy milk.
5. Add your salt, pepper if using, garlic and onion powders, and chicken broth powder. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Make sure it is seasoned very well, as the rest of your ingredients will absorb the flavor of the sauce. If your sauce is too thick, you can thin it out with some water. (You want the thickness to be like a semi-runny spaghetti sauce.) Set your sauce aside.

The rest of the recipe:

1.Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 
2. wash the squash thoroughly.
3.. trim the top and bottom from the squash.
4. use a spoon to remove the seeds and membrane from the inside of the squash.
5. using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin from the squash. You want to peel enough to expose most of the solid orange portion of the squash, removing as much of the peach-colored layer, and the green stringy bits as you can. 
6. Place the squash on it's side on a cutting board. Using a chefs knife, or other long sturdy knife, slice through the squash width wise just above the round, bottom portion, separating it into two sections. 
7. Stand the bottom portion upright, and cut length-wise into quarters. Do the same with the top portion of the squash.
8. Take each quarter of the squash, and slice it into pieces that are about 1/8-1/4 of an inch. Set the squash aside.

9. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan well with cooking spray.
10. Break the spaghetti in half, and place in the bottom of the pan. Add enough water to the pan so that there is about 1/2 of an inch of water above the pasta. Season the noodles with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper if desired.
11. Distribute the pieces of squash above the noodles. Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pieces of squash are just starting to become fork tender.
12. Remove from the oven, and add the bechamel to the pan. Using a spatula, very gently fold the sauce into the noodles and squash. It doesn't have to be mixed in super thoroughly, just enough so that it's not strewn on top of everything.
13. Return to the oven, and bake uncoverd for about 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender, and the top is starting to brown.