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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 9: Healthy Surprise Vegan Snack Box!

Hi! <3 

Below you will find my second unboxing video of the Healthy Surprise vegan snack box that I love so much! I taste all of the vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free snacks I received in this month's box and let ya know what I'd purchase again. You can find my in-depth review of Healthy Surprise here. I hope you enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Most Delightful Vegan & Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Saturday night, my good friend Karissa, the blogger behind Vegan à la Mode, and I hosted a small Thanksgiving feast for a few friends. We decided on the menu together, went grocery shopping for all of the ingredients and then cooked everything together, too! It was one of the most fun things I've done. A lot of work, yes, but a labor of love, truly. Cooking and baking are so much more enjoyable when done with a friend.

I wanted to share our spread with you guys because for one, I'm really proud of it, and two, I wanted to give you all some ideas for a Thanksgiving without using animal products and without the bloat. Seriously, you could go back for seconds and sure, you'll feel full, but you won't feel sick or like you're about to fall into a food coma for hours. Everyone at our table absolutely loved the meal and dessert. Some even went back for seconds, which is always the best indication of a fantastic meal. I was so grateful that Karissa hosted it at her place because she truly was an incredible hostess. Her table was beautifully decorated with the cutest plates and pumpkins. After filling up with food, we played Apples to Apples and Scattergories. I hadn't laughed so hard in so long! Games are really the best post-Thanksgiving activity. Do you guys have any favorite family games I should know about?

Now, onto the good stuff...

From top left to bottom right...

Lentil Loaf (vegan meatloaf) with a Balsamic Glaze by The Simple Veganista: The glaze was the star of our entrée! It is tangy, sweet, only 3 ingredients, and to die for. The sauce could also be drizzled on any of the side dishes below for an extra special punch.

Green Bean Casserole by Detoxinista: This one was time-consuming but certainly worth the time and effort. It is the healthiest green bean casserole I've come across, but the savory sauce is so creamy and delicious that it is more than satisfying. The extra sauce could also be used as gravy. In fact, I used it as gravy on my leftovers today. :-D

Mashed Potatoes by Minimalist Baker: Karissa made these and they were impeccably prepared and seasoned. Mashed inside is vegan butter, roasted garlic, chives, sea salt, and black pepper. Dreamy!

Roasted Butternut Squash by me & Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Again, so simple, but absolutely necessary and scrumptious. In the blog post I linked here, I give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to peel, cut and roast the butternut squash. Peel the Brussels sprouts, chop off the hard end, cut them in half then add them to the bowl of chopped squash.

Pumpkin Pie by Oh She Glows: Karissa and I had both made this pie before so we knew it was going to turn out great. It's oh so nice to have those reliable recipes. It tastes just like traditional pumpkin pie. I especially love the gluten-free crust made of pecans and brown rice syrup. I bought the So Delicious Dairy-Free CocoWhip (whipped cream) to add atop the pie. We all couldn't believe how incredible it tasted and how much it looked like traditional whipped cream. It tasted much better, in my opinion, and there were no cows harmed in the making, most importantly! Yay! Just a heads up, it has to be stored in the freezer and thawed out for 4 hours in the fridge before serving.

We also had a side of black olives, one of my personal favorites. I hadn't even intended to eat them with the lentil loaf but an olive made its way into a bite with the loaf and it was so good  that I couldn't stop eating it with the olives from then on. They make most everything better.

Lastly, my beautiful plate full of nourishing and tasty goodness! And yes, a lot of it mixed together while I was nom'ing. I love when everything merges together into its own special creation. It's a delightful thing. Are y'all like that too or do you prefer keeping everything separate?

A few other recipes of mine that would be crowd-pleasers for Thanksgiving...

Top left to right...

Sweet Potato & Kale Soup and Roasted Vegetable & White Bean Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Bottom left to right...

Pumpkin Banana Bread, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Whipped Coconut Cream

I highly recommend every dish shared with you on this post. They are all winners. I hesitate saying what I am about to say because the incredible women in my family have always cooked insanely wonderful-tasting meals, but last night's feast beat out any Thanksgiving meal I've had in the past. I just think it's super rad how you can enjoy spectacular food without harming or killing any innocent animals. You won't even be thinking about missing turkey with a spread this good. Save a turkey this year! Just because it's tradition, doesn't make it right. Food for thought, that's all. :-)

I hope this gives you some inspiration if you're having your own vegan Thanksgiving or if you're a bit stuck and not sure of what to bring to a gathering. Happy Thanksgiving! <3

"I like to stuff myself at Thanksgiving, not turkeys. Save a life this Thanksgiving and adopt a turkey instead of eating one." Kevin Nealon

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 8: Vegan Italian Cookbook, Quesadillas & Pumpkin Banana Bread!

Hi! :-) It has been too long since I've filmed a Healthy Share with Claire video, but I hope you can forgive me because I have been moving and adjusting to life in a new state! I talk a little bit about that in this video, too. I hope you find my favorites interesting and check them out for yourself if any stand out to you. I wouldn't share them if I hadn't been using them constantly and loving them madly. Enjoy, loves!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

There is no better natural scent than freshly baked goods made right in your kitchen, can I get an amen? When I lived with my dad, he would always say, "whenever we put the house on the market and have showings, please make your chocolate chip cookies so that the aroma fills the house!" It is the best excuse to make delicious baked goods every time you desire to blanket your house with a yummy scent. Each time I have made this pumpkin banana bread (three times, to be exact), I would say to myself, "man, I wish there was such a thing as 'Insta-Smell' so I could share the tantalizing scent of pumpkin spice, vanilla and banana filling up my house!" It's one of the simple pleasures in life that I just can't get enough of. 

I went through a few trials of this recipe before scoring a winner. The first time, it lacked pumpkin flavor so it was essentially just banana bread. The second time, it failed to bake all the way through so it was too moist. But alas, the gluten-free vegan baking gods blessed me with my third concoction! It all came together and I couldn't have been more excited, squealing like a school girl and all. I took some over to my friend Karissa's house for her to try and she raved about it. She said, "you made this?!?" That spoke volumes coming from someone who understands just how hard it is to get gluten-free vegan baking right. I wish I could explain in words how scrumptious this pumpkin banana bread is, but it's pretty tough to do, so why don't ya just make it already? Best of all, it's really easy to make. The hardest and longest part is waiting for it to bake and cool. It would be a hit at a party, to bring for Thanksgiving or as a gift. It couldn't be more fitting for fall!

Speaking of scents, over the years, I have become very sensitive to candles made of paraffin wax and perfumes. But not all kinds, just the kind that contain artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer, allergic reactions and hormone disruption, among others. Yankee candles give me the worst headaches along with commercial perfumes, like one of my old favorites, Hypnotic Poison from Christian Dior. After all, it does have poison in its name. I can no longer wear those perfumes or burn those candles, but I'm glad, because they contain unhealthy ingredients that may be harmful to my health in the long-run. I so wish there was a non-toxic fragrance out that smelled just like Hypnotic Poison, maybe re-named Hypnotic Potion. ;-) Anyone else have this sensitivity?

Soy candles made with 100% pure essential oils are the perfect alternative to paraffin wax candles. It's no surprise that I don't have any headaches when burning soy candles (without any synthetic fragrance, that is - some soy candles still contain synthetic fragrances so be sure to look at the ingredient list). Here are a few of my favorite non-toxic candle companies, if you're curious: Birthed by Earth, the Pure Aromatherapy line from Green Space Candles (the Chai Chai scent is my favorite!) and Meow Meow Tweet. There's an abundance of vegan soy 100% essential oil candles on Etsy, too!

One important side note... many companies (candle, perfume/cosmetic, cleaning supplies, etc.) lump numerous hazardous chemicals under the word "fragrance" and are not required to disclose each ingredient. According to The Environmental Working Group, "fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance." Additionally, The Food and Drug Administration does not have to pre-approve cosmetic ingredients and assess the safety of those ingredients before they hit the market, with the exception of color additives. Be careful out there, y'all. Essential information that we deserve to know is kept from us. Research and question everything. go whip up a loaf of pumpkin banana bread that no one will believe is gluten-free and vegan!

Bottom left-to-right: 2 flax eggs; mashed banana w/a fork in the peel (lazy girl style); dry & wet ingredients
Right middle-to-top: dry & wet ingredients mixed together; bread mix ready to be baked
Top/middle left: final product!

Pumpkin Banana Bread
Yield: 1 loaf (using a 9x5 inch loaf pan)

• 1 1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour *can also be found at Whole Foods and Sprouts
• 3/4 cup coconut sugar
• 1/3 cup pumpkin purée (I used canned organic pumpkin)
• 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil
• 2 very ripe medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed (approx. 1 cup mashed)
• 2 flax eggs (2 Tbs ground flaxseed + 6 Tbs water mixed together)
• 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flax egg ingredients (2 Tbs ground flaxseed + 6 Tbs water) and mix together. Set aside to thicken for 10 minutes, then stir again.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients together and whisk well. Add in the rest of the wet ingredients one at a time to the same bowl. Mix wet & dry ingredients together until just combined (don't over mix). It's okay that there are lumps of banana.
4. Transfer the mix to the oiled loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes (mine baked for 55 minutes although 50 minutes would've been fine, too). Insert a toothpick or knife in the center of the bread at 45 minutes. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven; if it doesn't come out clean, bake for another 5 minutes and keep checking it in 5-minute intervals until the toothpick or knife comes out clean. It shouldn't take longer than an hour. You don't want it to be dry!
5. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 15 minutes. Transfer the bread from the loaf pan to a wire rack or a plate to cool for another 45 minutes to an hour. I know it's hard to wait (I know I can't unless I have to dart out to go somewhere!), but it's even better when it cools completely to room temperature, about 2 hours. Either way, it'll knock your socks off! :-)

"Humanity's true moral test, its fundamental test... consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals." Milan Kundera

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekly Grub Roundup: Quesadillas, Mac 'n Cheese, Pumpkin Banana Bread + More!

Hi guys! I know, it has been too long since I've posted. I apologize for that. If you didn't know, I moved to California in September, so needless to say, I've been settling in over the past month. Moving to a new state has been so much more challenging than I ever imagined it would be. The first few weeks were especially rough because I missed the comforts of home, my family, my best friend, my dog, and the familiarity of my hometown, amongst other hardships. But I kept asking myself, "what was your original intent in moving?" because I kept getting caught up in my temporary emotional state. My original intent was, in fact, to get out of my comfort zone and do something completely different and a little bit scary. I wanted to go on an adventure, at least for a year, and what better way to do that than to live in a new place?

Reminding myself of my original intent has helped me to stay committed to my decision and I am so glad that I did and didn't take the easy way out by going back home. The truth is, I wasn't happy in Dallas because I felt like there was more out there for me and that time to take that opportunity was passing by everyday. I really felt stuck for a good year and a half. I felt something deep in my soul pushing me to venture out and grow. So, what would I gain by going back so soon? I'd go right back to where I was. Crazy enough, I have already learned so much being here for just one month. I have already grown immensely. I think that's because I became so uncomfortable feeling stagnant that I had to do something about it, and once I did, growth took place immediately. I watered my plant, so to speak. :-P 

Anyway, I've still been cooking often, although I haven't been creating many new recipes just because I've had to start all over. I drove my car halfway across the country and only brought the essentials. My car was heavy enough with just the essentials! And maybe I'm stretching the word "essentials" - do numerous boxes of clothes count? Probably not, but the point is, I had to leave most of my cooking tools/appliances and food behind. It was a hard goodbye (don't fret - they were adopted by my best friend). But now that I have acquired some spices and other cooking materials, I do have a few recipes I have been testing out, like one shown below on this weekly grub roundup, that I am beyond excited to share with you... a pumpkin banana bread! *gasp* So. Good.

Because I haven't posted anything for awhile, not even a Healthy Share with Claire video (will do soon!), I thought I'd share what I ate this past week and where to find the recipes. I've cooked some absolutely divine meals with a new friend of mine, Karissa, who I adore. She has been the reason I have settled in quicker than I would have had I not met her. It's interesting... if you look back at hard times, there is always at least one positive thing that is keeping you afloat.

Without further ado... my meals & desserts this week... and I can't pick a favorite because they were all to die for!

Top row left-to-right: 
■ Quesadilla (without the top tortilla because I wanted to show the pretty filling ingredients) - Food for Life Brown Rice Tortilla, a spread of store-bought original hummus, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, & avocado. I brushed the tortillas with grapeseed oil, and toasted them in a non-stick skillet over low heat for 2 minutes on each side. *Adapted the recipe from Chloe Coscarelli's new cookbook, Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen
■ Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion & Apple Pizza *Recipe from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen
■ Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes *Recipe from Minimalist Baker

Middle row left-to-right:
■ Nachos with Cashew Cheese *Recipe from me!
■ Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Broccoli (sprinkled with smoked paprika) *Recipe from Detoxinista
■ Tempeh Bacon Wrap - I made this up spontaneously for lunch one day. I was in awe of its deliciousness! Food for Life Brown Rice Tortilla, a spread of vegan mayo, tempeh bacon, lettuce, and Daiya cheese. *Recipe for my tempeh bacon

Bottom row left-to-right:
■ Olive Oil Pancakes *Recipe from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen
■ Nice Cream Cookie Sandwich - I used Vegan à la Mode's (my friend, Karissa) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe and put So Delicious's Butter Pecan Vegan Ice Cream in between! How did I do this? I froze 2 cookies for an hour, took them out and scooped some ice cream in between & then pressed the cookies together, and put it back in the freezer for another hour. You will become addicted to these! Check out my nice cream cookie sandwich recipe here.
■ Pumpkin Banana Bread - PERFECT for the fall! A new favorite of mine. *My recipe!

Jeez, I just realized how much comfort food I ate this past week. It's no wonder! Ha.

Happy fall, y'all! ...even though it doesn't feel nor look like fall in California...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Video: Watch Me Make a Green Smoothie & Whipped Coconut Cream! (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free)

Here is the second video I promised you in my last post (check it out - I show y'all the Healthy Surprise vegan snack box I received in the mail!). Watch me make 2 of my favorite things in the whole wide world... a green smoothie and whipped coconut cream! Yumyum!

Enjoy, loves, & be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more! ♡

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 7: Healthy Surprise Vegan Box!

Hi friends! I hope you didn't forget about me! I have been in crazy moving mode as I prepare to leave for California in a few days. So, to make up for missing a few weeks of posting, I decided I'd put up 2 videos for y'all in one day.

I usually post my Healthy Share with Claire videos every 2 weeks on Friday but I decided to post one this week because a healthy surprise came in the mail that I was dying to share with you guys. Look out for my next post where I'll have a vlog of me making a green smoothie and whipped coconut cream. :-D

Sending love and good vibes to you all! ♡

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 6: Vegan Milkshakes, Amy's Burrito & Super Greens!

I have some delicious and fashionable favorites to share with you in episode 6 of Healthy Share with Claire! I hope you find some things that intrigue you. ;-)

One last note... I started vlogging a few weeks ago so be sure to subscribe to my channel to see when I post those vlogs, too! I already have a few up on my YouTube channel. I am moving to California soon so I am taking you all on my journey!

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 5: Chickpeas, Hourglass Foundation & No-Bake Granola Bars!

Oops... I forgot to post this video on my blog after I uploaded it! See what my favorites were in this episode of Healthy Share with Claire! Enjoy. xo. ♡

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No-Bake Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

I used to be an extreme snacker, most notably when I was in grade school. After daydreaming about lunch, I'd daydream about after school snacks... Cheetos, Chex Mix, Pringles, and even granola bars, except they were the unhealthy kind loaded with refined sugar and other disgusting ingredients (just check out this ingredient list of the granola bars I scarfed down as a kid and maybe you did, too... yikes). Many brands blow my mind with their deceptive claims. They advertise that their ingredients are "all-natural" but that means absolutely nothing when there is no standard for the claim "all-natural" in any industry. Nature Valley granola bars are packed with j-u-n-k, too. They should be re-named junk bars... *ba-dum-ch* lol. But seriously, there is nothing healthy about them. Just take a look at one of Nature Valley's granola bar ingredient lists. And I'm sorry, but Luna Bars are not much better.

I am not as much of a snacker these days because I make sure I eat three substantial meals a day to keep me satiated and energized for several hours until my next meal. That really helps me to avoid snacking. And not just that, but digestion requires a lot of energy, and the less energy our bodies have to use on digestion, the more it opens up energy for other necessary body processes. We take some strain off of the digestive system when we leave several hours in between each meal and that's a gift we can all afford to give our bodies. The foreign ingredients prevalent in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that our bodies are forced to process everyday is incredibly taxing on the body. If we cannot translate the ingredients, neither can our bodies. The way we feel and look truly depends on how we fuel our bodies (and our mind and spirit, too). But that's not to say I don't love snacking from time to time because oh, I do. Who doesn't?!

It is always possible to find a delicious and nutritious anything, including snacks. I feel like the word "snack" has become synonymous with "unhealthy" but that doesn't have to be the case at all. I had been wanting to create a recipe for healthy homemade granola bars for awhile now and finally got around to doing so after foraging through my pantry for a snack one day only to be left down and out because there were none.

These no-bake granola bars are nothing short of amazing! Everyone who has tried them loves them. They are chewy with a bit of crunch, a tad sweet and delightfully chocolate-y. Let me add that they are super simple to make and are perfect as a holiday gift, to take to work, on vacation, to school, or as an after school snack. ;-) Even better, all of the ingredients are truly good for you. Make your own granola bars so that you have all of the control over your own health!

Top left: Dry ingredients. Top right: All ingredients mixed together.
Bottom left: 8x8 baking dish. Bottom middle: 9x9 baking dish. Bottom right: Granola bars in 9x9 dish.

No-Bake Chewy Chocolate Granola Bars
YIELD: 10 bars if using 8x8 baking dish; 14 bars if using 9x9 baking dish

• 1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
• 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/2 pre-sliced almonds
• 1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs or vegan mini chocolate chips
• 2 Tbs unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
• 1/2 cup (about 8) pitted medjool dates *if they're not very soft and sticky, place them in a bowl covered with warm water for 10 minutes to soften
• 1/3 cup + 2 Tbs raw coconut nectar
• 2 Tbs organic creamy peanut butter or almond butter
• 2 tsp unrefined coconut oil
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Line an 8x8 (for 10 larger bars) or 9x9 baking dish (for 14 smaller bars) with parchment paper. *I have tried both sizes & liked both equally.
2. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut nectar, peanut butter and coconut oil and mix well. Stir frequently. Once melted, take off of the burner and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips, shredded coconut, cinnamon, and sea salt and mix well.
4. In a food processor (if you don't have a food processor, you can just manually cut up the dates into small pieces), add the dates and process until they form a ball. Add to the large mixing bowl of dry ingredients. Break up the ball of dates and disperse throughout the mixture. Then, slowly pour in the melted ingredients while stirring everything together.
5. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and smooth it out evenly using a spatula. Make sure to press it in firmly so that it all sticks together.
6. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Remove from the freezer and cut 5 (if using 8x8 baking dish) or 7 rows crosswise (if using 9x9 baking dish). Then, cut again once straight down the middle.
*Store in the freezer in an airtight container or in baggies with small pieces of parchment paper separating each bar. You can enjoy them straight from the freezer... that's my favorite way to eat them! :-) The longer they're out of the fridge or freezer, the softer and stickier they'll get. They'll still taste great either way but if you can, try to keep them cool.

"The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?'" Jeremy Bentham

Friday, August 15, 2014

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 4: Big Body Shampoo, Chocolate Donuts & Tempeh Bacon!

Tune in to episode 4 of Healthy Share with Claire to see what non-toxic vegan things I have been crazy about over the past 2 weeks! ♡

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tempeh Bacon (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

A recurring theme of life that keeps coming up the older that I get is that life is not a picnic, my friends. In fact, it'll rain all over your picnic all day long, maybe the next day it'll storm, and the next a tornado will roll through. Sometimes the storm clouds hover for way too long and never seem to go away. Yes, that is how the last three years of my life has been. But on that same token, I have also learned that the sun will shine again when you find the strength to pick yourself back up, trudge through the valley with an umbrella in hand and continue climbing with an unlimited supply of self-love in your backpack and a tribe of true friends and family for support.

I felt like the world stopped when it was reported that Robin Williams committed suicide on Monday. I also felt like the world stopped when my mom passed away last year and also when a loved one of mine fell into a severe depression this year. When a beloved person dies or becomes extremely ill, our lives seem to come to a halt. It forces us to slow down, reminds us of what is actually important and allows us to re-evaluate how we want to spend our lives every day, because it can be gone in a flash. There is always a silver lining in every cloud, no matter how dark it may be. I have learned to find it in every cloud that has hovered over me and it has made all the difference in how I live my life and how I treat others.

Robin Williams' death hit me hard because it is so close to home for me. I have seen the painful effects of depression firsthand. For anyone who has gone through depression or mental illness, nobody can understand what you feel other than you and I know from my experience with my family member, it is hard to explain. Either way, I want you to know that your life is immeasurably valuable and that you will get better with help. And for those who have lived with someone who is depressed, my heart goes out to you, because it is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to watch and that is because ultimately, you cannot "fix" them. The most helpful way to show your love and support, as told to me by my family member, is to just be there and also give a gentle push when needed.

As an avid believer in and advocate of holistic health, it is hard for me to say that I believe medication is the answer. In some instances, it is necessary, but I truly believe, genetic predisposition or not, there is always an inner underlying issue that needs to be resolved, and with my family member, we have found that is absolutely the case. When you take responsibility, you retain your power, which then enables you to make changes. When you leave it up to chance or genetics, you give your power away to an external source and in that state, you are not as motivated to make positive changes for your own life because you have taken yourself out of it. This article from Mind Body Green sums up my feelings about it quite perfectly (just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Robin Williams' situation since obviously I didn't know him).

I am glad that depression has been brought to the forefront these past few days, though I say that reluctantly as someone had to take their life for it to be talked about on the news. It is an illness that many feel ashamed about, but millions suffer from it daily, many in silence. If any of you ever need someone to talk to, I am here.

Top left: Veggie Burger. Bottom left: Cauliflower Scramble.
Right: Tempeh, Lettuce & Avocado Sandwich
On a lighter note... TEMPEH BACON! I have been trying to perfect this recipe for awhile now and I am oh so proud to present this final recipe to you. I have to say, first, that it does not taste like the traditional pork bacon mostly due to the soft texture of tempeh. It is still so tasty. Most notably, no pigs are harmed or killed in order for you to obtain protein and pleasure. Hooray! You can see to the left how I enjoy tempeh bacon. Slap it in a tempeh, lettuce, avocado sandwich or a tempeh bacon Daiya cheese veggie burger, crumble it on nachos or vegan pizza or spaghetti, or pair it with a cauliflower scramble (I like to mix it in to the scramble).

So, what is tempeh, you ask? It freaked me out when I first bought it because it looks strange, but it is supposed to look that way. It is the ugly duckling of foods. Poor tempeh. Anyway, I stayed away from soy for awhile while transitioning to a healthy diet because I had heard about its potentially harmful effects on the body (that's for another day but here's more credible info on soy), but what it really comes down to is the quality and quantity of the soy product. Tempeh is a fermented soy product, which means that its nutrients are easily digestible and assimilated unlike non-fermented soy, which contains phytic acid that binds with certain nutrients and prevents proper absorption causing digestive problems. Fermented foods also contain probiotics, which are essential for optimal digestion, improving the immune system and replenishing "good" bacteria in the gut that help to ward off illness.

Tempeh is a super source of plant-based protein, containing 16 grams per serving. I always buy organic soy products because over 90% of soy crops in the United States are genetically modified and I do not want to put obscure ingredients into my body, thank you very much. Always purchase organic soy products to ensure it is GMO free! There are also tons of products that contain highly processed and concentrated soy byproducts (ex: soy protein isolate) on the market these days and those I definitely avoid.

Tempeh Bacon
YIELD: Approx. 14-20 slices depending on how thinly sliced the strips are


• 1/2 (8 oz.) package of Lightlife original tempeh *I buy mine at Whole Foods
• 2 1/2 Tbs reduced sodium tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
• 1 1/2 Tbs raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup
• 2 tsp grapeseed oil or other light-tasting oil, divided
• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• 1/4 tsp garlic powder
• A pinch fine sea salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS *See note below if you'd rather bake them (just as delicious)!

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the (marinade) ingredients together, except for the tempeh and using only 1 tsp of the oil, and whisk well. Now, heat a medium-large skillet (I use this non-toxic non-stick skillet) and the remaining 1 tsp oil over medium heat.
2. Cut the tempeh block in half. Store one half in a baggy or container in the refrigerator. Using the remaining half of the tempeh, cut thin strips (less than 1/4 inch) lengthwise, as seen in the image above.
3. Place the tempeh in a small baking dish and pour in the marinade making sure each slice is coated in the marinade. Let them marinate for 30 minutes for optimal flavor (optional).
4. Place the marinated tempeh strips and remaining marinade in the heated skillet and cook on one side for 4 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes, until browned.
*To bake instead: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated tempeh strips on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes on one side, then flip each strip over, and bake for another 8 minutes.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cinnamon Coconut Sugar Popcorn (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

The more time that goes by since the first day I started on this journey to good health in January 2012, the more relaxed I have become about food. Of course, it is essential to eat a diet that consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts, and seeds, but I have also come to realize that indulging often is also really good for your health. I didn't always used to believe that though. At first, I cut out all sugar, even most fruits, and would rarely have dessert, or if I did, I would feel so guilty afterwards. I would also eat things that didn't taste good to me but sucked it up because it was healthy... but it wasn't delicious, and that was the missing piece. Let's be honest, we all want to eat food that tastes wonderful because we kind of have to eat everyday, so naturally we want it to be a pleasurable experience. But if you restrict yourself and eat foods that you don't really love, it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, for your healthy lifestyle changes to stick. This is because you will dread eating and then start to resent the process and more than likely go back to eating junk because you failed at staying committed to eating bland, dissatisfying foods, so you just give up on healthy eating entirely. Well, *truth bomb*, nobody can nor wants nor needs to stay committed to that.

The more I've let go of controlling every little thing that goes into my body, the happier I've become. I used to eat super healthy for a period of time then binge eat everything unhealthy in sight because I felt so deprived. That is absolutely not what good health is all about. If I allow myself something "bad" a few times each week, it actually helps me to stay on track with my healthier choices because I've created balance for myself. I really believe you'll avoid falling off of the wagon if you give yourself permission to indulge every week and not just once! For me, indulging is going to my favorite vegan bakery and ordering whatever looks delicious, having a pretzel, ice cream, brownies, whatever, as long as it's vegan of course. :-) Then, I get back to having my ultra-delicious green smoothies and other healthy meals that I love. *obviously, if you have a food allergy or sensitivity, I don't mean to indulge in those foods... just to be clear.

So, what am I trying to get at here? Well, go indulge in this cinnamon coconut sugar popcorn because you deserve it. And because it is actually tons better for you than kettle corn and most other sweets out there on the market. It is also ridiculously easy to put together and takes just a few minutes. I take this popcorn to the movies or just keep it as a snack for myself at home. I made it for a friend of mine recently when we went to the movies and they absolutely loved it. I don't know how you couldn't though when it contains these glorious ingredients: coconut oil, coconut sugar & cinnamon. You know, after tasting it, it immediately reminded me of the cinnamon sugar toast my dad used to make for me and my mom when I was younger... *lightbulb*... I'm going to have to find some gluten-free bread and sprinkle (maybe more than sprinkle) some cinnamon coconut sugar on it! Yes!

*Just promise me you will buy organic popcorn to ensure that it's not genetically modified. I buy mine at Whole Foods in a large bag as seen in the image below. It's Whole Foods' 365 brand. 

I don't necessarily recommend the reduced fat variety, it was just all that Whole Foods had in stock.

Cinnamon Coconut Sugar Popcorn
YIELD: 2-3 servings

• 6 cups pre-popped organic popcorn
• 2 Tbs + 1 tsp unrefined coconut oil
• 1 Tbs + 1 tsp unrefined coconut sugar
• A few dashes cinnamon
• A few generous pinches fine sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to coat. Adjust ingredients to your taste. Store leftovers in a large airtight container or in a gallon baggy, though it is best enjoyed fresh. Indulge! <3

"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be." Molly Wizenberg

Friday, August 1, 2014

Healthy Share with Claire Ep. 3: Peaches, Nutritional Yeast & A Vegan Purse!

Episode 3 of Healthy Share with Claire is up! Find out what I have been obsessed with over the past few weeks. Enjoy! ♡

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cauliflower Scramble (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Option)

Oh, breakfast, we meet again. I hope we always do. Because I love you. And you make me smile when I'm blue. Tell me if you disagree, but I think I missed my calling. Vegan poet? Maybe not in this lifetime, but I am a vegan who has an affinity for breakfast foods, as mentioned numerous times on this blog. 

I am also a vegan who does not fancy tofu in the slightest. I have tried it many times hoping each time I'd magically fall in love with it, but that has yet to happen. Its texture very much resembles jello and frankly, I cannot get past it. So, when I came across this genius recipe on a Vegan Yack Attack blog post, which featured a cauliflower scramble created by Veggie Fixation, my mind was blown. Cauliflower is the most versatile vegetable I have come across over the past year. It holds its own in creamy alfredo sauces, pizza crusts, mac & cheese, and now a scramble, which rivals traditional egg scrambles in a mighty impressive way.

I've changed up the original recipe a bit and added my own spin to it. If you're a savory food-loving person, I am confident that you will be adding this to your regular rotation of meals. The perfectly balanced spices and seasonings mixed with softened cauliflower bits will send you over the moon! I, unfortunately, did not have any avocados on hand the day I made this, but avocado is a must to add atop this masterpiece. Plus, it'll provide you with some protein and healthy fats and it'll bulk up the meal as well. 

You might also notice an item in the photograph above that looks like bacon. That is something we call tempeh bacon, my friends. And it is one of my new favorite vegan discoveries. Seriously, the vegan lifestyle is one of surprise and delight in every single way. Finding new and unexpected ways to live a healthy and compassionate life brings me joy like no other, and using plant-based foods to come up with insanely delectable meals plays a huge part in that. People have come up with the most creative animal-free dishes over the years and it just baffles me how innovative these lovely humans are!

Today's ingredient spotlight goes to...

Nutritional Yeast - I've been looking for any excuse to discuss nutritional yeast in all of its glory, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so seeing that this recipe calls for a substantial amount. As a vegan, it's especially important to become acquainted with nutritional yeast because it is highly nutritious and has a cheesy, nutty flavor that spruces up nearly any savory meal. It is one of those foods that is on my "can't-live-without" list. You may also hear it referred to as "nooch" because someone decided that the name "nutritional yeast" wasn't particularly appealing.

Nutritional yeast is not the same as baker's yeast, which is an active yeast and is used for leavening when baking bread and other baked goods. Instead, nutritional yeast is grown on cane and beet molasses and is then fermented, dried and heated in order to deactivate it, therefore it is an inactive yeast. It will not disturb the bacteria in the gut nor contribute to candida like baker's and brewer's yeast does. Nutritional yeast is packed with vitamin B12, protein (2 Tbs = 9g protein), folic acid, and fiber and is also gluten-free. 

This next part is really important for vegans and vegetarians to understand. Vitamin B12 is a bacteria that is produced in the digestive system of herbivorous mammals, such as cattle and sheep, and is then absorbed. This vitamin is vital for cell formation, cell division, mental health, proper digestion and nutrient absorption, and healthy immune & nervous system function. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible nerve damage, anemia, female fertility problems, heart disease and cancer, and neurological conditions. The kicker is that vitamin B12 is not found in significant amounts in plants, so it must be supplemented or consumed daily through fortified foods. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 2.4 micrograms. You can find the vitamin B12 supplement that I take here. Read more about vitamin B12 here.

I buy this Red Star brand of nutritional yeast on Amazon, which contains vitamin B12. I also purchase nutritional yeast in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods; my location has the Red Star Nutritional Yeast. Not all brands fortify their products with B12 and some may even contain animal byproducts, so look at the label carefully. Nutritional yeast is most often used in vegan cheese sauces, sprinkled on popcorn, in faux parmesan cheese, pasta sauces, scrambles, and dressings.

Cauliflower Scramble
YIELD: 2-3 servings
Adapted recipe from Veggie Fixation

• 1 small head cauliflower
• 2/3 cup red onion, diced (about 1/2 a red onion)
• 1/2 Tbs unrefined coconut oil
• 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
• 1 Tbs Bragg's liquid aminos (use Coconut Secret's coconut aminos if avoiding soy)
• 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
• 1/2 tsp garlic powder
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 1/2 tsp oregano
• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional but recommended)
• 1/4 tsp turmeric
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• A few dashes of black pepper
• 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
• Optional (but highly recommended) toppings: cilantro & avocado

1. Chop off the cauliflower stem then cut into florets. Then, cut the florets into smaller, 1/4-inch size pieces.
2. In a large skillet or sauté-pan (I used a 3-quart pan), turn heat to medium and add coconut oil. Once heated, add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add in the bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes more.
3. Add the cauliflower to the skillet/pan in a single layer and cook on that side for 7 minutes, or until it begins to turn golden brown. Do not flip it.
4. Add in spices and seasonings, except for the nutritional yeast, and mix well. Cook for another 7-8 minutes, until soft, or until your desired texture is reached. Add a small splash of water to avoid burning the pan or slightly turn down the heat, if necessary. Lastly, add in the nutritional yeast and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste. I tend to add more sea salt.
5. Serve alone, alongside tempeh bacon or sweet potato hash, stuffed in a burrito, or in between bread for a breakfast sandwich.

"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women created for men." Alice Walker
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