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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Strawberry Vanilla Cashew Milk (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Boy, do I have a treat for you today! I had a cup of cashews soaking in my refrigerator and didn't end up using them for what I was going to use them for. I was kind of stuck in a rut because I didn't know what to post this week on the blog. In those times of "writer's block", it really forces you to get creative! So, I decided to try to make a simple nut milk with cashews, dates, vanilla, & cinnamon because it was something different than what I usually make/post. Homemade almond milk is great as well but I had to use these cashews up, and I am ever so glad that I did! After I whipped up the vanilla cashew milk in my Vitamix, a brilliant idea came to me. I looked in my refrigerator to see what other produce I needed to use up before departing for Los Angeles tomorrow, and there they were... perfectly ripe... sparkling... begging to be used... strawberries! Vanilla cashew milk is lovely and all, but strawberry vanilla cashew milk is other worldly! 

In addition to the tastiness of this recipe, it also could not be easier. It took under 5 minutes to make and it tastes like heaven! If you'd prefer to keep it simple, feel free to leave out the strawberries. The vanilla cashew milk is wonderful as well. You must try the strawberry version at least once though. Promise me you will! Add it to your buckwheat & fruit cereal or chocolate chia oatmeal (to make chocolate strawberry oatmeal omg yum!), dip cookies into it, enjoy it solo. So, moral of the story... when life gives you strawberries, make strawberry vanilla cashew milk!

I think we need to launch a campaign of pink vegan nut milk mustaches and phase out the unnecessary, disease-causing, acidic dairy milk. Who's with me?! :-D 

Above: Vanilla Cashew Milk

Strawberry Vanilla Cashew Milk
YIELD: Approx. 5 & 1/4 cups

• 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours or overnight
• 3 cups filtered water
• 2 cups frozen or fresh strawberries, halved & hulled
• 8 medjool dates, pitted
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, cut & scraped
• A pinch of fine sea salt

1. In a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix or BlendTec), blend all of the ingredients together until smooth. Add more pitted dates if you prefer it sweeter. If fresh strawberries were used instead of frozen, let the nut milk chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving for the best flavor. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

"Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn't motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn't enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?" Jonathan Safran Foer

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Raw Strawberry Shortcake "Nice Cream" (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits so I am always so happy when it's their time to shine this time of year. They are incredibly rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin C (1 cup provides 118% DV), which helps combat inflammation, free radicals and infections. Strawberries also contain B vitamins, which help metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and they also contain fiber, manganese, copper, and potassium. 

For me, fruit is like nature's candy. If I'm craving something sweet, sometimes I'll eat a bowl of fruit and my craving is completely satisfied without having to deal with the effects of refined sugar or unappealing after tastes. When you start to eat healthier and your taste buds adapt, you begin to thoroughly enjoy a food's true, unadulterated flavor. You begin to appreciate simpler flavors and become sensitive to all of the additives that are put in many restaurant foods and packaged/processed foods. Have any of you noticed that? I cannot stand to eat foods that are too sugary or salty. It takes away from the natural flavor of the food and I can't get with that! Why manipulate something already so perfect in nature that has been made with the sole intention to nourish us?

Strawberry sauce + banana "nice cream"+ a pecan & date crumble = pure & utter bliss. Strawberry shortcake was one of my go-to desserts back in my non-vegan days. I haven't felt confident enough to go at a vegan & gluten-free version full force... and I mean the real deal... the shortcake... the cream. One day I will, but for now, I have a refreshing spring treat for you that tastes absolutely sinful but is far from it. No animal products, no gluten, no soy, no refined sugar. This is a dessert you can feel great about indulging in! *By the way, I have learned that "nice cream" is another term for vegan ice cream, meaning that it is nicer to animals, humans and the environment as no dairy cows are harmed or used in the making. :-)

I'll be in Los Angeles next week visiting a friend of mine and I have to say, I am geeked to be in the land of vegan restaurants! I "Yelped" all of the vegan restaurants in LA and needless to say, there certainly won't be a shortage of restaurants and juice & smoothie bars to enjoy. I actually stopped bookmarking things because I was becoming overwhelmed with all of the choices, and just told myself to go with the flow once I get there. I am such a planner, so that was not easy for me. In my everyday life, not just with vacations, I like to know everything I am going to be doing and when and organize it all in a calendar, on a Word doc or on my phone. But this time, I am telling myself to just let go, be spontaneous and deal with (most) everything moment to moment. I think it will help with my stress levels! I plan thinking it will reduce stress but it usually makes me more uptight. A certain amount of planning is necessary, but when you're trying to get everything perfect, expectation levels are through the roof and loads of stress is put on a person to ensure everything goes as planned. But when you don't have a plan, you're free to make last minute changes that could lead to something even better than you had planned. After all, I can't plan my feelings for next Thursday. Who knows what type of mood I'll be in. I'll let that exact moment dictate what I want to do, eat, see. For those of you who have been to LA or live there, any suggestions for me for any can't miss activities/destinations/restaurants?

Left: pecan & date crumble. Right: banana "nice cream."

Raw Strawberry Shortcake "Nice Cream"
Adapted from A Dash of Compassion
YIELD: 3 servings


• 1 cup strawberries + more for topping (optional), hulled
• 6 large medjool dates, pitted & divided
• 2 tsp unrefined coconut oil
• 1/2 vanilla bean, deseeded (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for non-raw peeps)
• 1/2 cup raw pecans
• Pinch of fine sea salt
• 2 bananas, peeled, cut into chunks & frozen
• 1-2 Tbs unsweetened almond milk, as needed
• 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. In a food processor, add in the strawberries, 2 large dates, coconut oil, and vanilla bean seeds or vanilla extract, and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Clean the food processor. Add in the pecans, 4 large dates and sea salt. Process into a fine crumb (as shown in picture above). 
3. In a high-powered blender (or food processor - just clean it again), blend/process the frozen bananas until creamy and ice-cream like. Add almond milk as needed to facilitate blending. Add in the lemon juice and blend to incorporate.
4. Divide the banana "nice cream" into 3 separate bowls or dessert glasses. Divide the chilled strawberry mixture into each bowl and swirl it in with a knife or straw. Top with pecan & date crumble and sliced strawberries, if desired.

"If you are eating unconsciously, chances are good that you are thinking and speaking that way as well." Unknown

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nachos with Cashew "Cheese" Sauce + Delicious Tempeh Crumbles (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Before you freak out, do not let the long ingredient list keep you from making these nachos! Let me assure you that it really is quite easy to put together and most importantly, they are so, so, so, soooooo perfect. So finger-lickin' good you won't want to come down from the high! Every time I share these nachos with someone else, I get loads of oooh's & ahhh's. Yep, it's a crowd pleaser. You will fool any non-vegan.

Top: cashew "cheese" sauce. Bottom: tempeh
Cashew "cheese" is simply the most genius invention. Vegans are really navigating quite well around the mostly non-vegan society we live in. We give up cheese, yes, sadly because it tastes so darn good, only to find out there are equally delicious alternatives out there liiiike cashew "cheese"! As long as you have a high-powered blender, it's a cake walk to make. You will be so shocked to see how similar it is to the real thing... creamy, "cheesy" and perfectly spiced. You will never go back! The tempeh is also stellar. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a fermented soy product and is packed with protein (approx. 21g per serving). It is new for me but I am loving experimenting with it. It is so versatile, you can even make tempeh "bacon" *gasp* *runs to put that on my to-make list*. :-D

I also wanted to mention the corn factor. Personally, my digestive system does not process corn well and I know others have issues with this, too. If you want to use corn chips, I highly recommend you use organic corn chips with the Non-GMO Project Verified label because 88% of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified and we don't want to put altered substances into our bodies without knowing what the long-term effects are. 

For a corn chip alternative, I have just the solution for you: turn Food for Life gluten-free brown rice tortillas into chips! One day, I was out of chips and had this crazy idea to cut the tortillas into triangles and bake them in the oven. It worked! They make delicious chips. So, if you would like to use that healthier option, here's how you do it: pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the desired amount of tortillas on your cutting board and cut into triangles or rectangles. Place them on a baking sheet or two and bake for 8-10 minutes, until hard and lightly browned. 2-3 tortillas would probably do just fine for this recipe. Watch them closely in the oven.

Secret: The plant-based life is more fun & more delicious (& obviously tons more nutritious). You get to be more creative in the kitchen for one, but more importantly, you'll feel lighter, more energized & beyond satisfied all without depleting your health. The government & big food corporations would rather you not know how wonderful a plant-based diet is because that would run them out of business. The truth is, consumers dictate the market. If we demand it, businesses must rise to meet that demand. Demand organic, plant-based & cruelty-free foods & products!

Nachos with Cashew "Cheese" Sauce & Tempeh Crumbles
YIELD: 2-4 servings

For the nacho "cheese" sauce:

• 1 cup raw & unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours or overnight then drained
• 2 cups vegetable broth
• 2 tsp arrowroot starch
• 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
• 2 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp fine sea salt
• 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (start with a small amount then work your way up to your desired spice level)
• 1/8 tsp turmeric
• 1 Tbs unrefined coconut oil
• 1 small yellow onion, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the tempeh:
• 1/2 (8 oz.) package Lightlife original organic tempeh
• 1 1/2 tsp reduced sodium tamari
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Other ingredients:
• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• Organic corn chips or Food for Life brown rice tortillas
• Red onion, finely chopped
• Cilantro, finely chopped
• Green olives, sliced
• Jalapeño pepper, deseeded (if desired) and sliced
Guacamole, to top
• Salsa, to top

*Feel free to add what ever toppings you're feelin' at the moment! 

For the nacho "cheese" sauce:

1. Heat the coconut oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add in the onion, red bell pepper and garlic and sauté for 7-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Lower the heat and cook longer if necessary.
2. In the meantime, using a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix or BlendTec), blend the cashews, vegetable broth, arrowroot starch, nutritional yeast, cumin, sea salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric and blend until smooth.
3. When the vegetables are done, add them to the blender and blend until very smooth.
4. Transfer the sauce to a medium-large sauce pan over low heat. Heat for 20 minutes, whisking frequently to avoid burning. It should thicken up a bit and be velvety smooth when it's done. Remove from the burner and whisk in the lemon juice.
5. Add desired amount atop organic corn chips and store the leftovers in an airtight container. Re-heat in a sauce pan over low heat for a few minutes when needed.

For the tempeh:
1. While the nacho cheese is heating on the stovetop, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil.
2. In a medium bowl, crumble the tempeh with your hands to make small pieces. Add in the tamari, cumin and sea salt and mix well.
3. Add the tempeh crumbles to the pre-heated skillet and cook for 15-20 minutes, flipping once or twice throughout, or until lightly browned. 

To assemble:
1. Place as many corn chips (or brown rice tortilla chips) as you'd like on a medium serving dish. Pour on desired amount of "cheese" sauce. Add the tempeh crumbles, and your desired amount of red onion, green olives, guacamole, salsa, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro. Let your taste buds enjoy the masterpiece you've created! :-)

"They nod in agreement; you raise an eyebrow of doubt. They just know the answer; you just know the answer raises more questions. They take security in staying on the narrow path; you take security in carving a path of your own." Seth Andrews

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Raw Buckwheat & Fruit Cereal (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

I used to eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner AND snacks. A breakfast fiend, I tell ya. I'd change up the variety and keep it comin' any time of the day. I loved the little travel cereal boxes, too. I'd eat those straight from the box without milk. Of course, those were the junky, nutritionally-bankrupt, sugar-high-in-a-box cereals with dairy milk that were not doing the body any type of good. 

I did start to miss cereal as I began to eat healthier. Breakfast is my favorite meal after all, and you can't have love breakfast without loving cereal. It's a law. You're welcome. Anyhow, I have this beautiful and simple raw buckwheat & fruit cereal for you to enjoy to get your morning started right... without all of the refined sugars, animal products, preservatives, artificial colorings a.k.a downright unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients. Breakfast is so important because it prepares you for your day. It literally gives (or doesn't) you the energy and clarity you need to accomplish everything that is required of you for the day whether at work, with your family, friends, and yourself.

This healthy cereal is becoming my new favorite breakfast because it's so easy to put together and it's incredibly delicious & satisfying! This cereal is the real "breakfast of champions."

Today, we shine the ingredient spotlight on...

Above: the buckwheat groat, nut, cinnamon, & ground clove mixture
for 1 serving. The buckwheat groats are the tiny pale seeds. They have
a mild nutty flavor.
• Buckwheat Groats - Even though "wheat" is in the name, it is indeed a gluten-free seed (commonly referred to as a cereal grain) belonging to the plant related to rhubarb. Buckwheat groats are the hulled seed of the plant. They have been cultivated in central Asia for at least 1,000 years. These kernels are low glycemic meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels. In addition, buckwheat groats lower cholesterol due to their amino acid profile. A 1/2-cup serving provides about 7 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. They are rich in iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. 

When the groats soak in water, they expand to about double their original size. You'll also notice that they have a slimy, gooey coating when you rinse them after soaking. Make sure to rinse them well. Soaking makes them easier to digest and removes some of the phytic acid which can inhibit nutrient absorption. Sprouting grains, nuts and seeds is ideal, but not everyone has time for that. If you do, it's actually very beneficial to your health. Buckwheat groats only take a short time to cook, less than 15 minutes, but I've only had them raw. I buy them in bulk at Whole Foods to keep costs down but you can also purchase them on AmazonLearn more about this super awesome seed & its tremendous benefits here!

By the way, in the top picture I used the canned classic coconut milk (which, for the record, was absolutely delectable & creamy & dreamy) because I ran out of almond milk but this is what it looks like with almond milk...

Raw Buckwheat & Fruit Cereal
YIELD: 2 servings

• 3/4 cup dry buckwheat groats, soaked in water overnight then rinsed well & drained (yields approx. 1 1/2 cups soaked groats)
• 1/2 cup mixed nuts and/or seeds (I use chopped walnuts & pecans)
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp ground cloves (optional)
• 15 drops liquid stevia, or to taste (or use 1 tsp raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup, if preferred), divided
• 2/3 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk, divided
• Fruit topping ideas: sliced banana, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, pineapple, pears, goji berries, etc.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat groats, mixed nuts and/or seeds, cinnamon, and ground cloves (if using) and mix well. *If only using 1 serving, store the leftover mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
2. In 2 separate bowls, add 3/4 cup buckwheat groat & nut mixture to each then add 1/3 cup non-dairy milk of choice to each bowl. Mix in the liquid sweetener and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Top with desired fruit.

*Don't forget to sign up for my free monthly newsletter! It'll be packed with exclusive delicious & healthy plant-based recipes and easy-to-integrate holistic (mind, body, soul) living tips that will help you live your most authentic, healthy & happy life + so many more golden nuggets that I'll add in along the way. The sign up form is on the right side of my blog. If on your phone, scroll to the bottom of my blog and click "view web version" to find the form. I am sending the first one out today! Don't miss it. :-)

"The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it." Unknown
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