Easy Peasy Banana Custard

March 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m gonna lay it out for you- real smooth. This custard is by far the yummiest vegan treat I think I’ve ever made. Yes it does beat (or at least levels with) my homemade vegan peanut butter cups. Of which, that reminds me; I’ll have to make a post about those soon for you!

Whilst visiting friends last weekend we decided that instead of going out for brunch we would make our own pancake feast. My wonderful friend Jocelyn is GF, and as you all know I’m vegan. So this was bound to be a delicious and healthy (as healthy as pancakes can be of course) morning from the start. Of course I can’t make anything too simple without feeling like a newb, so I had to check Instagram for some fun pancake variations. One of the first few I came across had a custard topping instead of syrup. Immediately I began salivating. It was like there was a little angelic glow around that beautiful plate of custardy pancakes. That was all I needed to see before I started scouring the internet for vegan custard recipes.

I found a few that sounded pretty good based on my own preferences, and the ingredients I had available. Of course I was traveling with some uber-ripe bananas, so I knew they would be a main component. So I stopped at the little health food shop in town to grab the rest of what I needed, and was off to make some killer stacks.

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This is what you’ll need:

  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 of the vanilla almond breeze 11oz boxes (or any other vanilla non-dairy milk)
  • 1 gooey Medjool date
  • 1 tsp ACV
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • 2-3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch (or more depending on how thick you’d like it)

Directions:

Combine almond milk and ACV. Let curdle for about 5 minutes. Combine the rest of the ingredients except cornstarch in a hand held blender and blend until date is incorporated. Remove from blender and add cornstarch; whisk to combine. Pour into a sauce pan over low-medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly. Reduce to low and let it thicken, still stirring periodically. Remove from heat after about 10-15 minutes and let cool. Serve with whatever ingredients you like! We had blueberries, bananas and a homemade cacao sauce and that was like heaven on my tastebuds.

 

xoxo

 

 

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Low Fat, Caffeine Free, Sweet & Spicy Chai

December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

So I have to tell you, I’m not a perfect vegan. Sometimes I forget when I go out and order a fancy cafe drink that not everyone automatically uses non-dairy milk. I forget that a lot of drinks at cafes aren’t necessarily as homemade as I would wish them to be. Honestly it’s because it’s very rare that I spend money on fancy cafe drinks, so I forget how to order. And even when I think I’ve covered all my bases, I still make rookie mistakes.

About a month ago I went out for fancy cafe drinks with two of my girlfriends, and I thought I would splurge and get a hot chai. Of course I ordered it with soy milk. I was so enchanted by the atmosphere, the amount of chai options to choose from, the friendliness of the barista/ owner, that it didn’t dawn on me until after I took my first sip, that the chai mix probably wasn’t vegan. But I sipped on, considering the precious $4.00 I spent on this delicious drink from another universe. It really was so good. But I couldn’t shake the worry of there being some sneaky form of dairy in my cup.

So when I got home, of course I googled the brand of chai she uses, and to my delight they do carry a vegan line! Unfortunately the one particular flavor of chai I chose was not completely vegan. But I didn’t beat myself up about it. I’m only human, and it wasn’t like I cheated on purpose. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t cheat on purpose after dealing with the consequences of that sneaky dairy.

Later on in the night and throughout the entire next day my digestion was brought to a screeching halt. It was like my intestines just went to sleep. I was so bloated, crampy, and my appetite was just not the same since I had this stagnant matter in my tummy.

So all of this got me to thinking, how easy it would probably be to make my own chai at home. I did think about ordering the vegan flavor I found online, but to be honest I’m a broke betch these days and I feel much better knowing exactly what I’m drinking.

So I got to work with a little research, and luckily the health store in town has an amazing bulk spice section. I really am pretty spoiled. After lots of testing this is what I came up with; and yes it was equally as yummy as the dairy version!

You’ll need:

  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 4 whole black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp fennel
  • 1 small sliver of fresh ginger, or 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tbsp Rooibos tea, or other non caffeinated full-bodied tea
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1c almond, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1c water
  • A hand held strainer

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Bring the water and milk to a slow boil, and throw everything but the rooibos, vanilla and coconut sugar into the pot. Turn to low, and let simmer until it becomes fragrant (about 7 minutes).

Pour in the Rooibos and let steep for about 3 more minutes. Stir in vanilla and coconut sugar, and turn the mixture off.

Strain mixture into mug, and garnish with leftover cinnamon stick.

Feel free to alter it to your taste. If you like it spicier, add some more peppercorns and ginger. If you like sweeter, add a bit more coconut sugar and vanilla! I just found that this was the perfect combination for a balanced cup.

xoxo

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving: 25 Table-worthy Dishes to Build your Menu with

November 7, 2014 § 4 Comments

This will be my second completely vegan thanksgiving, but my 6th vegetarian one. The holidays can very easily seem next to impossible; no turkey, no gravy, no stuffing, no NOTHING really! But there are so many dishes that I’d argue till the bitter end, are better than your typical Thanksgiving foods. Let’s be completely honest here- Don’t you get sick of plain ol’ [animal fat filled] mashed potatoes, over-done turkey, and crappy store-bought pies your aunt picked up from the supermarket the night before, because “she ran out of time” (but really you know it’s because she probably doesn’t know how to make a knock-out pie)?

Last year- and this is no lie- one of the apple pies my aunt actually picked up from the store (yes, my family is a bit lazy) had mold running rampant throughout the entire filling. No one noticed till my grandpa was on his last bite… GROSS, people. Just gross!

Thanksgiving, being as “American” as it may, is far from the ethical vegan’s idea of fun. Because even though I have a kick-ass time in the kitchen with my mom, putting together an entire vegan menu for her and myself, when it’s time to pull up our chairs & unfold our napkins, there’s still a dead bird on the table.

But I digress. No sense in dwelling on the negative when there is so much positive to be had [And by positive, I mean crazy good vegan food fit for a queen]! I’ve compiled a list of my absolute favorite Thanksgiving-y dishes. I say Thanksgiving-y because many of these dishes I’ve made all year round. I will preface this saying, No I have not made every single one of these dishes; however I have made a good portion of them. But every recipe on this list that I haven’t tried, comes from some of my go-to vegan chefs; so I completely trust their abilities to make my tastebuds dance.

I had three things in mind when compiling this list

  • Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy dishes
  • Low in fat/ easily adjustable
  • Both traditional and nontraditional

 

There’s some recipes here for the folks who prefer a more traditional Thanksgiving meal. And there’s also a bunch here for the more daring individual; the individual ready to embrace the “Thanksgiving-y” plethora of options.

So here we go. From hors d’oeuvres to dessert: 25 table-worthy dishes.

1. If you’re like me, you probably don’t eat too many salads. I love them- I’m just becoming increasingly lazier as the weather gets colder. But this salad will most likely make it to my table this year! Why? Because there’s warm, roasty Delicata squash involved. This Delicata Squash Salad is from one of my favorite bloggers, Oh She Glows, whom I am sure most of you have heard of.

 

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My favorite part? The dressing is nut + oil free! Can I get a *woot woot*?! And let’s be honest, this salad is just so stinkin’ pretty to gaze upon. The type of dish you almost don’t want to eat because it’s so perfect looking. The key word being almost. If you can’t find Delicata Squash in your supermarket, I think rings of butternut squash would work just as well.

2. That salad doesn’t sound like your thing? Try your hand at this Red Quinoa Beet Salad with Cucumber Blossoms and ‘Bacon’ from Canned-Time!

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A good portion of this equally decadent salad is brought to you by Terry Hope Romero, Author of the Salad Samurai. Just look at how pretty it is! The little cucumber blossoms give it a summery touch, but the savory beets and coconut bacon, in combination with Terry Hope’s Almond Butter Hemp dressing steal the thunder. This one is sure to impress even your most veggie-reluctant guests!

3. On to one of my favorite parts of the meal- BISCUITS! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could just make a whole meal out of these flaky little treats. I made these biscuits from Minimalist Baker  last year and oh my gosh I should’ve made more!

 

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They really are the Best Damn Vegan Biscuits. Just a fair warning though, these are a bit higher in fat. They call for Earth Balance, but I think coconut oil would work just as well. I don’t recommend cutting back too much on the fat in these, because it will affect your flaky texture. But if you’re daring and really don’t want to use too much oil, try mixing half unsweetened apple sauce with half Earth Balance or Coconut oil! They will probably be a bit more dense, but I’m sure just as tasty. I typically try to keep Overt fats pretty low in my day to day diet, but I don’t really fret too much on the holidays. Thanksgiving comes only once a year for pete’s sake!

4. Want something a little more jazzy? Minimalist Baker also created this Pumpkin Sage Biscuit recipe for the ‘All pumpkin everything’ people out there!

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These aren’t too different from the recipe above ingredient wise. They’re just as easy and yes, just as yummy!

5. This next recipe is crazy awesome for two reasons- One, It’s by Fat Free Vegan so all my High Carb vegans can lend praise for no overt fats; and two It’s made… Drumroll please… In a crockpot! There’s never enough room on my stove for all the dishes I want to cook on this fine day, so any other methods of cooking are very welcomed in my house! This could also easily be made the night before and plugged in in the morning. So what is the actual recipe? An absolute must-have- Stuffing!

6. Apple Cider Brussels Sprouts Brussesls Sprouts are hands down my all time favorite fall veggie. Aside from the ever-perfect potato of course. But seriously, I could eat these things for every meal and never tire of them. This recipe from Chef Chloe calls for olive oil, but if you’re like me you can completely omit it and use a bit of water. Just be ware not to use too much, since a nicely charred sprout is essential. These bad boys hit all the bells- sweet, savory, and healthy.5d9bd784bfd234610bf8ba15e7ad6a4e_XL

7. As I mentioned before, potatoes are perfect in my world. There’s so many applications for them, and they just never fail to hit the spot. But If you want to shake up your traditional Thanksgiving mashed potato, why not try some Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic and Chives? This recipe comes from Vegangela and is the perfect nontraditional addition to the table. Alter as you like with the overt fats!

8. Another ‘bacon’ dish! There’s really never enough vegan bacon in my life. As if it weren’t good enough as just vegan bacon, let’s toss it with some apples and stuff it inside of a baked sweet potato! Are you drooling with me? Yup. Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, from My Darling Vegan.

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9. You’re looking for something a bit more delicate though? This Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pecan Parmesan should fill that need. Another phenomenal addition from Oh She Glows. This one is pretty tough to muck up too; so if you’ve got a million other dishes going, it’s not going to require too much extra time and energy, and of course will impress every last guest.

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10. On to the main course! I’ve got so many options, you’re probably going to have trouble ruling them out. But let’s start with [probably my favorite HCLF blogger, chef, extraordinaire] Plant Based Judy’s Shepherds Pie 

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My favorite thing about her recipes is that one, she never uses oils; and two, everything she makes is so easy! I tend not to follow recipes to the ‘T’ because they can be very complicated. But hers are so easy to follow, and they never call for things you’ve never heard of before that you can only find in the super expensive health store hidden in some back alley downtown. And the bonus of making a Shepherds Pie is that it’s sort of like all the Thanksgiving-y flavors in one dish.

11. If your family is a “meat and potatoes” type family like mine, you might try this Lentil Loaf from The Simple Veganista. It’s a bit more complicated than the Shepherds Pie, but has the potential to be just as tasty! And it’s also low in fat. *woohoo*.

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12. These Mini ‘Meat’ loaves are even cuter and take on a bit of an Italian flavor! Perfect if you just want to make a couple little ‘meat’ loaves instead of a whole big thing.  This recipe is from Oh My Veggies.

13. This summer I discovered the power of vegan risotto. My life was forever changed when a friend brought it for a vegan picnic meetup. I could’ve easily eaten the entire bowl she brought. But in an effort not to be the selfish gazelle at the watering hole, I held back. But no, seriously. I had to try my hand at it. I found Vegangela’s Mushroom Risotto recipe the next night and dove right in.

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The first time I made it I pretty mush followed the recipe exactly. But the second time I used a low sodium bouillon, and cut the oil back to just one tbsp of coconut oil (instead of olive) for sautéing. I also added fresh garlic, and a bay leaf or two when the rice is cooking. Then sprinkled in some nooch the last few minutes of cooking. It was just as magical! Everyone I’ve ever fed this to is completely SHOCKED that it’s dairy free. A job well done if I do say so myself!

14. Another one from Fat Free Vegan! I never tire of her recipes. Broccoli was always served with cheese in my house. American cheese at that. So gross thinking back on it. But looking forward- this Creamy Broccoli and Rice Casserole takes the cake.

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15. This is a staple at my Thanksgiving celebration- and last year it won the hearts of a few of my family members! And it’s probably the easiest [and healthiest] Green Bean Casserole around. This one comes from Detoxinista, and her recipes are always winners in my book. This only calls for a little bit of oil, that could easily be omitted by dry or water sautéing the onions!

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16. I know what you’re thinking… Where’s the turkey alternative?! Well my friends, wonder no longer. Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen [my all time idol btw] developed some bad ass Chickpea Cutlets. Again, i typically cut back on the oil, but these are so incredibly good either way. They made it to my table last Thanksgiving, and I’m sure they will again. Serve with some mushroom gravy and you can’t go wrong.

17. This is my last “main course” dish that I’ll be highlighting- but it is most certainly not the least. This one’s for all the rule breakers. And also the self-confessed pizza addicts. Trust me, when your family sees you downing this pizza’f art [ha see what I did there?] they may be green with envy. May I introduce the Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Flatbread from Oh My Veggies.

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18. The moment many of you have been waiting for- Desserts! Another winner from Plant Based Judy. Vegan Apple Crumble. Pies are a bit out of my reach when it comes to making the crust. So this is perfect for the lazy chef! And also Gluten free for any of my gluten sensitive folks.

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19. I made this pumpkin pie last year and fooled my most anti-vegan cousin with it! A victory if I do say so. Again, it’s a bit higher in fat as it calls for canned coconut milk- but experiment if you have the time! And like I said before- it’s Thanksgiving, I’d much rather spend my day hanging with my family, than stressing about finding a “suitable” alternative. If you haven’t checked out Chocolate Covered Katie’s site you definitely should! She has a ton of awesome dishes- mostly sweet, but all super healthy and easily adaptable to your dietary preferences.

20. Here’s another one from Isa Chandra- Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf! Again, alter as you choose. I think to avoid using all of the coconut oil you could replace half of it with more applesauce. You may have to bake a bit longer if you decide to do that, since the bread will be more dense. Just keep checking as it gets close to the time.

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21. I left the oddball stuff for last. The apps, drinks, sauces & gravies, may be odd but they’re a key component of the meal! The first is a Simple 3 Ingredient Cranberry Sauce. Another one from Isa & the Post Punk Kitchen! Super quick and easy if you don’t feel like getting too creative with it. After all, you’ve got your work cut out for you with the rest of the meal!

22. But if you do want to jazz things up a bit, here’s the recipe for an Apple Cranberry sauce I used last year. Not all that much more effort, and super sweet on the palate. Finish it with some raisins, and you may just want to eat it on its own!

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23. The ever-obligatory Savory Mushroom Gravy! One last one from Isa, I promise [I told you, she’s my idol!]. I made this last year with her Chickpea Cutlets (above), and OMG drool. I tend to use low or no sodium broth, and I completely omit the oil here. But it’s so decadent. Please, if you don’t use anything else from this list, USE THIS DANG GRAVY.

24. This smoothie comes from one of the first vegan bloggers I ever started following, Carrie on Living- Who used to be Carrie On Vegan. I started following her blog when I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan. Sadly, she’s no longer vegan :(. But to each their own! She started including animal products in her diet again because she said after several years of veganism, she felt nutritionally lacking. I feel better than ever being vegan for almost two years, and I’ve met people who’ve been vegan for over 15 years who say they’ve never felt better! But everybody is on their own path I suppose! Luckily for us before she made the switch, she developed this rockstar Vegan Egg Nog Smoothie. This is perfect as a dessert (probably will be my main dessert this year), or as a breakfast before all the heavy cooking commences.

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25. Last but certainly not least, this one is a little appetizer for your hungry guests. Dreena Burton’s Pumpkin Hummus is quick & easy and of course, festive. Serve it with fresh veggies, vegan baguette, homemade corn chips, or whatever your little heart desires!

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That’s it! Phew, this took quite a bit more time than I had anticipated. But I’m so glad to be able to help all the first-time Vegan Thanksgiving cooks, or even those who have been vegan for a while but are just looking for some new holiday inspiration. I hope this list comes in handy this year, and I would love to know what you try!

Probiotic Pickle Making & Tummy Troubles

October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

So to give you a little bit of background, I live in a place where all four seasons come in full swing. And winters are long and harsh, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong I love the snow but after New Years, I’m about ready to blow it a kiss goodbye till next winter. So with the change in seasons, I’ve been eating a lot more starch than I was over the summer, and honestly I feel great. Switching from primarily fruit based, I find that I am waaaay less bloated throughout the day. And I am not immediately hungry after huge meals anymore. I’m lovin’ it. And the dive that my grocery bill has taken makes me even happier!

But- and this is a big but. My digestion has definitely slowed down. Granted, I’ve only been consuming more starches for about a month, but it’s taken about that long to get my tummy straightened around. I won’t bore/ terrify you with the gruesome details, but let’s just say I was barely visiting the ladies room once a day. Part of this I think was just the difference in hydration levels of the starches. And part of it was because I think my body became accustomed to the quick digesting sugars in fruit, versus the slower digesting sugars that are in starches.

Enough of that babble. So to make sure I am doing everything I can to have my digestive system in tip-top shape, I decided to look into vegan probiotic options. After seeing Mel from Raw Nourishment‘s video about good gut health, I realized it wasn’t going to be as tricky as I thought. Any time I had seen probiotic drinks and such in the supermarket, they had typically been dairy. Gross. But with Mel’s advice, and a little bit of my own research I decided to go the homemade probiotic route.

For vegans, our options are pretty much limited to this list of probiotic foods:

  • Raw Kimchi
  • Sour pickles (made with salt water, not vinegar)
  • Traditional sauerkraut (not pickled, but fermented)
  • KambuCha drinks (which are unfortunately out of my price range)
  • Non-dairy yogurt
  • Homemade probiotic drinks
  • Vegan probiotic supplements
  • Miso
  • Vegan Kefir

Really not bad though, right?!

I decided I wanted to be as thrifty as possible in this endeavor, so homemade sour pickles was my go to. Who doesn’t love a crisp, juicy pickle?! I have a bit of a secret love affair with them actually. So this was going to be an easy addition to my diet! I had pretty much all the ingredients at home other than the cucumber, for this recipe from Pickles & Honey, with a few minor adjustments and a little bit of my own creativity thrown in there!

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I didn’t use actual pickling cucumbers for this, since these english cukes were cheaper, but they did the job just fine! I just sliced the cucumber into 3 sections, then cut those sections in half. So each cucumber yielded six pickle halves.

The first jar I made was pretty much exactly Pickles & Honey’s recipe, with the garlic, fresh dill, and bay leaf. But the second was where I got a little daring. I used fresh dill and a heap of roasted red pepper flakes. NOMS. You’re probably wondering what they taste like though, right? How different do they taste from your typical store bought jar of dills? They actually do taste sour like a normal pickle! But whoa, next time I am definitely cutting back on the salt! I typically eat a very low sodium diet so I am pretty sensitive to salty foods. But even my SAD eating, salt-loving boyfriend was taken back by the extreme saltiness of this batch. Other than that they taste wonderful. I am a pickle fiend so these babies probably won’t last too long in my fridge!

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Why all this fuss though? What good do probiotics actually do for us? I’ll try to put it as simply as possible. THEY DO EVERYTHING.

Probiotics are primarily good for these three things though-> Strengthening immunity,  decreasing allergies, and aiding & improving digestion. Of which, all three have the potential to make you pretty damn miserable if they’re not working up to par. Of course there are indications that increasing the amount of good bacteria in the body can also help prevent cancer, ulcers, colon issues, yeast infections, and candida. So what’ve I got to lose by eating some delish homemade sour pickles? Nothing but a little room in my belly!

 

Sources: http://probiotics.org/

Creamy Pumpkin & Brussels Alfredo

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

This time of year is pumpkin everything. Donuts, coffee, bread, cookies, tea, cocktails, pie, the list goes on! And while I love a good slice of vegan pumpkin pie, savory pumpkin dishes are where it’s at.

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I’ve tried a million different vegan Alfredo recipes, but none really have seemed to duplicate that classic, rich, cheesy taste. So instead of trying to duplicate, I am going to reinvent. To be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve had any kind of cheese, I really don’t remember what it tastes like. But this recipe is so creamy, rich, and festive that who needs the the real thing anyway?!

This dish is perfect for a cozy night in with a good flick, served at a Thanksgiving potluck, or shared between you and your bae over some candle light. The best part is that it takes about 15 minutes to prep and cook! Really, how much easier could it get for this level of decadence?

What you’ll need:

  • 1 16oz can unsalted organic pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 3/4 cup non dairy milk (I used coconut, but any kind will do!)
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp powdered sage
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of chipotle powder (optional but highly recommended for an additional smoky flavor!)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and chopped in half
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives

What you’ll do:

Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta, and set aside.

In a food processor combine the pumpkin, marinara (I use my grandma’s homemade sauce- She makes me a meat free sauce upon request! Bless her little heart), non dairy milk, coconut sugar, spices, and nutritional yeast & process until smooth and creaaamy. You don’t have to use a food processor but it does make the sauce extra silky. Pour mixture into a separate sauce pan and bring to a simmer on low heat.

Combine your chopped brussels sprouts and onion in a pan and dry sauté them. I used about 1 tbsp of water just to steam the brussels sprouts open a bit. But it’s important not to use too much water, as the charing adds a special smokiness to the dish!

Once your water is boiling, add your noodles. I got these from my farmer’s market at home. They’re garlic & chive flavored, completely homemade, and so worth the extra few dollars. But any old flat noodle will do if you don’t have anything fancy.

While your noodles and brussels sprouts are cooking, chop the chives for topping. Once the pasta is done, drain and rinse with cool water, and then add the warm sauce on top, mix in the brussels sprout sauté and top with chives, and additional nutritional yeast if you desire!

[serves two hungry vegans]

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