Taste and Smell of Fall (Vegan Breakfast)

It is Labor Day, and the weather is on my side.  It has been raining since 9 a.m. So, on my way home from my workout I stopped at a grocery store to pick up 4 cans of pumpkin puree.  All I could think about was getting my diffuser going with the scent of Fall; zucchini pumpkin muffins, pumpkin quinoa oatmeal and veggie soup and my Amazon Prime queue going.

I found a great recipe at ‘the pretty bee’ blog for Vegan Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread.

I made a few tweaks to enhance the protein content and make it ‘to go’ friendly for our breakfasts at work.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Buckwheat Flour- IMG_1178gluten and grain free with more protein, fiber and B vitamins than oats or whole wheat (cooking with just buckwheat can make breads dry, so add in moisture when you can)

1/4c hemp seed (this adds in extra moisture AND protein)

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground clove

1 tsp Himilayan salt (great alternative to Kosher salt, as it contains many minerals and vitamins)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp ginger and nutmeg (add more if you like the taste)

( mix these together with  a whisk )

3/4 c pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) (Adding pumpkin to this bread allows me to leave out the egg that most breads and muffins call for, PLUS, the smell in my kitchen is worth using my can opener)

1/4 c Coconut butter  (measure it out, then pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds and stir and repeat until melted) (I love Coconut Manna- you can find this in the aisle) (Since, the coconut butter contains the meat, or copra, of the coconut which adds more nutrition and less cholesterol) * You could also replace this with 1/4c applesauce

1 c zucchini (shred in your food processor (about 1 zucchini)

1/4 c maple syrup

1/4c water

(if you like your breakfast breads on the sweeter side, go ahead and add coconut or date sugar about 1/2c )  I like mine without the sugar bc the dark chocolate chips add a little something extra to my mini muffins.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Fill up the muffin tins- I Use a mini muffin tin for bite size convenience, add 3-4 Vegan Dark chocolate chips before placing in a 350 degree oven. Bake between 30-40 minutes

While the smell of pumpkin was filling my house, I pulled my pressure cooker out of its hiding place for a quick, no FUSS pumpkin quinoa oatmeal recipe I found from Plant Based Gabriel.  Again, I added in a few more items to increase the crunch factor and natural sweetness. – sometimes the texture of oatmeal deters me from eating it.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c water

1 can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 c steel cut oats- great source of fiber and protein

1/3 c quinoa – adds a different texture to the oats and proteinIMG_1180

1 c almond milk- you can use oat milk, soy milk or coconut milk from a can if you prefer

1/4 c maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp clove and nutmeg (I added more b/c I LOVE both of these flavors)

Place everything into your pressure cooker or instantpot, mix with a whisk and set for 25 minutes and allow for the cooker to release naturally. (so about 30 minute cook time)

Once the oatmeal is complete, I added a handful of pecans, a handful of walnuts, about 1 1/2 c almond milk and drizzled date syrup.  – the combination of healthy fats from the nuts, the protein from the oats and milk- I am usually feeling pretty satiated until lunch.

Once everything has cooled, I place each of these in our take out containers and add fruit to the muffin tin and Kite Hill yogurt to the oatmeal (I love mixing my yogurt into my oatmeal for a rich and creamy taste and texture)

Fall is not here until September 23rd, but this girl was certainly grateful for the rain and cooler weather today.

sidenote- —— If you don’t know what DATE syrup is- GO out and find it now.  Someone had the genius idea of taking Medjool dates, soaking them in hot water, smashing them, filtering out the pulp, and boiling the liquid until it becomes syrup.  Even if you don’t like dates- this is worth the trip to the store or Amazon to purchase a container to add to breads, oatmeal, recipes to replace honey etc… DELICIOUS and the fiber content – and since the syrup is plant-based, you can feel good about using it.  A great recipe at Simpleveganblog.com shows you how easy it is to make.  


Plant Based Snack Time: (Kale Chips, Bruschetta, Hummus, and Salsa Recipes)

Recently, I had the pleasure to join my friends on an adult trip to the lake. The babysitter was scheduled, boat and jet ski rented, and snacks were planned.  It had me thinking about the top plant-based snacks that I try to keep around for a quick pick-me up. Of course, some of those snacks include no preparation …

  1. Fresh fruit- I like to keep grapes washed and stemmed for a quick handful for easy access.  My kids and I eat melons of all kinds; watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew.  Berries line a shelf in my fridge for smoothies, a quick snack or just a side to a quick lunch.
  2. Vegetables- In my fridge you will find prepped cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, and broccoli in large mason jars for an easy go-to snack.  I strategically place these at eye height for my two boys to see first (trick of the trade). I also like to keep tomatoes; Roma, cherry, steak, vine-ripe sitting out at all times for snacking with hummus. (one of my favorite things) My husband will grab a tomato and eat it whole just like an apple.
  3. Nuts– We keep raw and roasted nuts of all kinds in our ‘snack drawer’ which both of my boys can easily access. The combination of protein and healthy fat makes this a no brainer. * a handful of Raw cashews are great in a smoothie in the morning. 

and some snacks that take 10 minutes or less to prepare…

  1. Homemade salsa– The other day, I noticed my garden was getting a little img_0722overgrown with cilantro and jalapeños (a ‘terrible problem to have, right) even with the 21 days of 3 digit temperatures.  This is one of my favorites to make at home because it is quick, I have the ingredients on hand for most of the year, and my husband and I can add salsa to just about anything.

fullsizeoutput_58bHummus- Hummus can be found at any grocery store in almost any flavor; chocolate (great with pretzels), red pepper (my favorite) and beet (haven’t ventured out that far).  But, this is also one of those snacks that can be prepared on the fly- if you are plant-based, I guarantee you have all the ingredients.homemade_salsa-2

Bruschetta– This is made very Quickly and another bonus- basil is so easily grown and img_0723once it is in your garden or pots it takes hardly any effort at all to keep alive. – The basil in my garden has almost taken over an entire plot- can’t complain because the smell when I water it is pretty amazing. I like to add bruschetta to toasted French bread, baked sweet potato, pasta for dinner, an avocado for a quick snack or mix with chickpeas for a salad. A very versatile condiment and stores easily in the fridge for over a week in an airtight container- I like using a mason jar.

homemade_salsa-1

Kale CHIPS– I love everything about kale.  I love how it regenerates in my garden, how easy it is to grow, the earthiness it adds to smoothies, and the way it makes me feel when I add a few chips into my day.  I have never found a bag of kale chips from the store that I have liked, but I have discovered how easy it is to make them at home. Plus, the flavor options are endless; salt and vinegar, parmesan and garlic, red pepper (my favorite) coconut oil, and hippie dusted (nutritional yeast and garlic powder mix).

homemade_salsa

Homemade almond butter– The BEST part of this snack is that it only requires 1 ingredient – roasted or unroasted almonds.  Add 2-3 cups of almonds to your food processor and process for at least 5 minutes, scrape the edges process for 3 more minutes, scrape the edges and process for 3 more minutes. DONE!!!!! Add to baked sweet potatoes, Artisan bread, pretzels, bananas or JUST grab a spoon.  The fat and protein combination makes this a perfect snack- plus, the kids LOVE it.

So, if you are anything like me or my family- you LOVE to snack.  I hope that you find some of these recipes and snack ideas helpful.

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On the beautiful boat, Sueno.

On our boat trip yesterday I was able to bring the salsa, hummus, and bruschetta.  I can tell you the bruschetta was a hit.  The funniest thing about the entire trip was when I realized how ‘adult’ I was when I thought of making jello shots, but I chose to make homemade plant-based snacks instead.  You know you are an adult when…

 

 



“So What Do You Eat?” A Day in the Life of a Vegan

As I continue to strive toward a Quality Life, I have been asked many questions- and I truly enjoy sharing what I have learned. The number one question is, “So, what do you eat?”

With my first full year of being plant-based under my belt (Happy Anniversary to me!!!) I can tell you what I eat has become purposeful and, like every cook, I have found a few ‘go to’s’ that keep the family and me happy.

Coffee Lover  

With all of the research claiming that coffee has so many health benefits including cognitive ability (my #1 reason), protection from Parkinson’s, and type 2 diabetes- I haven’t shied away from filling up my mug in the A.M.  My cup a java adds just an extra two or three benefits due to the tsp of Turmeric creamer from Laird superfoods (lairdsuperfoods.com) and the 1/4 cup of almond milk I add in.

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  • turmeric  = curcumin  which has been proven to stop the growth of fat tissues, may reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and much more
  • almond milk= adds protein, calcium and a bit of fiber

*after enjoying a nice warm cup, I can then embrace the idea of dishing up a nutrient dense breakfast

Breakfast – ‘Break the fast’ Ideas

I grew up with the mantra ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  This is your first opportunity to break the fast from the long night of sleep and recharge correctly.  Breakfast has to be something that can be simple and quickly made.  It also has to contain good fats and protein to start me off on the right foot.

Some of my favorite breakfast options include…

sweet potato with banana, nut butter and almonds

IMG_0599overnight oats with nuts, nut butter and fresh fruit

Avocado toast with balsamic glaze and tomatoes

Smoothies with frozen bananas, almond milk, protein powder, spinach/kale, and fresh fruit

Lunch Break 

It is very important that I take a half hour for lunch every day no matter how busy, preoccupied I am at the time.  I mean sit down, take my time and enjoy it.  This has helped my digestion, my cognitive abilities, my evening dinner intake, and my mindset about food; enjoying it instead of thinking of it as a ‘means to an end’.

Some of my favorite lunch options include…

IMG_0581spring mix salad with a black bean burger, shredded carrots, tomatoes, nuts with balsamic/oil

black bean tamales from the farmers marker and guacamole or half an avocado

buddha bowls with brown rice/quinoa, roasted veggies with chickpeas

Dinner Stop

If it sounds like lunch is important, dinner is even more. This is our family time and growing up it was the only time we sat around the table and actually spoke to each other. I still remember going around the table and getting the undivided attention from my family to tell them my “2 goods and 1 bad.”  Even today, when my siblings and mother get together, dinner is an 2 hour or more EVENT that we all look forward to.  I want to carry that tradition with my own kids, so eating together (even if we are eating different foods- as my boys aren’t quite 100% plant-based… YET) is important.

Some of my favorite dinner options include…

IMG_0524black bean, sweet potato tacos

spaghetti with lentils and mushroom bolognese

Ratatouille

white bean puttanesca

  • Purple Carrot has some great plant based recipes if you are looking for ideas

At the end of a long day, I also enjoy a nice glass (or 2) of red wine- a nice long pour.  This may no be the most ‘Vegan’ thing to do, but it is plant-based and I am good with that 🙂

Cheers !


An Herbivore’s Bulk Store Must Haves

My recent trip to “Bulk City” made me think of all the confusion that can occur in a ginormous place like this. I know that a normal grocery store can cause a lot of funnyannoyance and unwanted purchases, so my last trip to this large store was purposeful – I was on a mission to find convenience items that add a PUNCH of healthy benefits for anyone trying to maneuver this plant-based journey with me or someone just trying to make BETTER choices for themselves/family.  I found many staples that come in bulk which saves me MONEY, convenience, and  trips to the grocery story.

#1 BEETS

beet humorI know this is a tough one for many people because they taste like ‘dirt’, but I have always had a fondness for beets- cooked beets were my son’s, Charlie, first real food.

beetWHY beets? Beets contain valuable nutrients that can lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina and even detox your system.  Now with all that goodness, one must be careful because this vegetable contains the highest amount of sugar, so eat in moderation.

(add to your smoothie, chop up and add to an arugula salad or an heirloom tomato salad)

#2 Guacamole and/or Avocadoes

My local bulk store has 2 different kinds of guacamole that are a MUST in my cart.

CaptureWhy Avocados/Guacamole?  This nutrient dense vegetable is a strong antioxidant, 3.4 grams of fiber are in just half an avocado which can keep you feeling full longer, the monounsaturated fats lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, decreases your cholesterol levels.

(add to your smoothie, grill and add to a salad, half and slice and add to a soup, or mash up and add to whole grain toast, tomatoes, and a balsamic glaze, or just half, add a sprinkle of Himalayan salt and eat)

#3 Whole Grains, Bread and Crackers

Lets be honest- we all go to these stores for the bulk items, and these items are perfect.  I grab the bread and freeze what I don’t use for later.  I have purchased the quinoa and brown rice pouches for convenience add ins for our dinners.  My entire family grabs a handful of these crackers for snack, a perfect side to soups, sandwiches or to dip in our guacamole and hummus (also a top pick).

  • My favorite choices are pictured below because of their ingredients.
    • Turmeric: cancer fighter, natural anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, aids in fat metabolism
    • lentils, quinoa: high in protein,
    • flax, chia : high in fiber

Why Whole Grain?   Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance you don’t want to miss out on the nutrients that come from whole grains. Whole grains provide you with fiber that can control blood sugar and reduce your colon cancer risk due to their digestive support, plant-based proteins that support weight, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

#4 BEANS

I do, on occasion, grab some canned beans or my favorite bagged Garbanzos in bulk for convenience.  I prefer using my pressure cooker to make beans because it is cheaper and you can control the add-ins. beans

Why beans?  Well, this is an easy answer- PROTEIN and FIBER

(beans can replace the animal protein in almost any recipe- can even add protein to a blondies recipes)

#5  Kombucha

I have a few neighbors that make their own kombucha, and this is a summer goal of mine but until then I will be purchasing mine in bulk from Costco.

1Why Kombucha?  Kombucha is a beverage known as the ‘immortal health elixir’  is fermented which adds a large number of healthy bacteria (probiotics) to the drink.  These bacteria line your digestive tract and support immune system which we have discovered is our ‘second brain’. If you have an unhappy gut, you have an unhappy life.

I no longer consume dairy, it is difficult for me to get probiotics- and with all the beans I am consuming- my digestion (bloating) needs all the help it can get. My boys love kombucha and ask for it when their tummies are upset or they want something instead of water to quench their thirst.  It is high in sugar, so I wouldn’t recommend it at every meal.

#6 Fresh Produce Aisle

This is a no brainer- I never skip this section even when I am already freezing. I fight the cold to grab the large salad containers, extra large berry bins, Banana bunches, English cucumbers, large cruciferous vegetable bags,- we go through these so quickly that it is a staple every time. We freeze the extra fruits for smoothies and eat up the veggies before we even know it.

#7 Must -Haves

I don’t know how anyone walks out of this place with only a few items.  Every aisle has something that makes an herbivores life easier, fancier, and a little bit more exciting. (sounds like an oxymoron, right)

Almond milk cartons– IN BULK!!!!

Salad toppers – nut mix

larabarsLara bars – yes, I have a recipe for these, but some times convenience wins

Trail mix and nuts

frozen black bean burgers – I prefer making my own because I know exactly what they are made out of, but (again) having the ability to just throw one on the grill and add onto a salad makes for an easy lunch during my summer

hhHemp Hearts- I don’t always have to purchase this large bag, but I keep enough around the house to add to muffins, smoothies, and pancake batter for added protein.

Nuttzo Nut and Seed Butter– filled with 7 nuts and seeds: cashew, almond, Brazilian, flax, chia, hazel, and pumpkin seeds – the boys love the texture and I love the added benefit of flax and chia.

The trip to your local ‘bulk store’ does not have to be overwhelming. With this list in hand, I hope you will find it purposeful and productive. “And may your vegan life NEVER be boring!”

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Overcoming the Challenges (of a Plant-Based Diet)

 

I admit that changing my diet from animal protein focused to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle has been challenging, and every single day I overcome obstacles and negative thoughts.

I have discovered a few tricks to keep me focused on this journey and, admittedly, become very forgiving to myself. With all the health benefits that come with a plant-based diet,- mental clarity, lower cholesterol, diabetes 2, and cancer risks, increased energy– adopting this lifestyle change can become very overwhelming and the ‘judgement’ can start taking a toll on your fortitude.

The challenges that I have faced are small compared to what they could be if I were still eating an animal protein based diet, but they are significant enough to talk about.  As some of these obstacles could discourage some people from trying this lifestyle change. So, I have discovered a few things/ideas that have helped me stay on track.

  1. Think-Ahead

I have been to a few events and even hosted a few dinners since ‘the switch’.  I hate being a burden or seeming like my lifestyle should dictate those around me, so I plan ahead as much as I possibly can.  lunch

I meal prep breakfast and lunch weekly, so I don’t head to work without options.

Eat before an event

Bring a side-dish or 2 to a dinner that everyone can eat from, including myself

A few recipe books have come in handy this past year that have helped the ‘boring’ become a lot more interesting.

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2.  80/20

I have had animal protein in my diet since I can remember. Sometimes texture and the smell are too much for me to say ‘no’ to.  Dr. M. Gregor pushes in his book, How Not to Die,

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the 80/20 rule- 80 % of your diet should be plant-based, with 20% of your weekly or images (1)monthly diet can consist of animal products – This 80/20 rule keeps me from blowing it all together, helps me forgive myself for the little self control that I tend to have sometimes.

Add in VegetablesWhen I get home, a frozen pizza might just be the ideal dinner plan.  If I just add in extra vegetables to the pizza, eat a salad for my Main course- then the guilt doesn’t set in.  The other night, we had a vegetable frozen pizza, and I added artichoke hearts, spinach, and extra bell peppers while it warmed in the oven. I ate one slice with a LARGE spring salad (from my veggie garden) It was a perfectly, quick meal.

3.  Remember your WHY.

Why did you make this lifestyle change?

I became plant-based because I did not feel good. Then, as I read more about it, the diet became a reason to live a longer more QUALITY lifestyle.  When I start to get ‘bored’ or weary, I remember my WHY. This helps me stay on track.

4. My Kids

I have two young boys, and I get a lot of questions and comments about my lifestyle change and how it affects my children/husband. (everyone’s concern for my children’s well being is appreciated) BUT, In my mind, I am thinking that the ‘normal’ western diet affects children more than a plant-based diet- but that is why it is the ‘norm’- the western world has grown up believing and hearing how good MILK is for your bones, how important chicken breast is in your diet, and how vital eggs are for a protein boost in the morning.  so, I keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to be ‘one of those VEGANS’IMG_5674

My children will take a little bit longer to transition than I did, but I have already seen the affects my diet has made on them. I try to keep the 80/20 rule the focus of our meals with the boys, and I encourage fruits/vegetables for seconds and snacks.

Sugar intake has always been of high importance in my family (whole-food sugar options trump FAKE sugar, no juice, and CANDY is a very special treat)- as this was my first real lifestyle change, so the boys know that candy, cookies, and cupcakes are always special and not very frequent.  This does not mean that they are deprived of these choices- I can make some killer baked treats (of course, with a few healthy adjustments).

5. The “full-factor’

download (1)For a while there, I just needed that sense of fullness that I got when I was eating animal protein.  So, to compensate for that – I was CARB LOADING.  I was falling into the same pitfalls that many plant-based eaters do that run out of time, eat in a hurry, and don’t plan ahead. I needed to manage this, so I started using the Myfitnesspal app. This app has helped me keep track of my calories, macronutrients, and water intake. It took me about 2 weeks of consistent use to get back on track, understand what foods mattered and come back to portion control.

 


Plant Based Protein Mindset

proteinThe very first question people ask me when I talk about my whole food plant-based diet is, “What do you eat for protein?” This is a great concern (only when someone says they are a vegan), as our bodies are made up of 20% protein and all of our metabolic processes rely on the amino acids that make up the proteins that we eat.

Many people find animal proteins superior to the plant based proteins because they contain all essential amino acids.  But, there are a plant-based proteins that contain all essential amino acids – quinoa, buckwheat, soy, chia, and hempseed.  With the mindset of variety, a plant based eater can come away with the correct daily amount of protein and amino acids (.4 grams of protein/ 1 lbs of weight), plus the appropriate amount of fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fewer grams of cholesterol, antibiotics, and carcinogens.

For the last 7 months, my primary source for protein has come from plants, and I can tell you it has improved my…

energy levels
mind clarity
sleeping routine
BMI
digestion
skin, hair and nail health

This weekend, I prepared breakfast and lunch with the mindset of keeping my protein intake at its all time high. Here is how I did it …

Whole Wheat Waffles with almond milk yogurt  (click for recipe)

oatmeal cranberry, orange muffins with almond milk yogurt (click for recipe)

I added a combined 3 TBSP of hempseed and 3 TBSP of chia within both recipes which increased the protein for both of these recipes to an additional 16 grams. (2 grams/serving) The use of whole wheat flour adds 13 grams of protein/ 1 cup.  (2 grams/serving)

For lunch, I prepared

lunch

Mason Jar salads with black beans and quinoa

roasted vegetables with 1 cup of brown ricesalad

The quinoa and black beans that were added to the mason jar salads gives me 15 grams of protein. Not to mention the cup of spinach already adding 5 more grams.

The roasted vegetables that I cooked for my Buddha bowls includes (1/2 c of each of these vegetables)

Brussel sprouts = 2 groasted veggies 1
broccoli = 2.3 g
carrots= 1g
butternut squash =1g
beets = 1g
1 c of brown rice = 5 g

By the time I get to dinner, I will have consumed 3/4s of my protein intake goal for the day by focusing on plant based, whole-foods that add fiber, minerals, vitamins and nutrients (Which I wasn’t getting from the animal proteins from my previous diet.)

While many people think it is difficult to consume enough protein as a vegan or vegetarian (or a plant based eater)- IT ISN’T!

 The key is a plant based protein mindset – eat a variety of whole foods, focus on opportunities to add-in high  protein plant food, and avoid the processed snacks and refined foods.