lifestyle, Personal, Recipes

I’m currently on another Vegan journey. I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life and have tried a few times to go vegan without long-term success. Ten times out of ten I fail because… You guessed it, CHEESE.

Did you know that a chemical in cheese, called casein, has been found to trigger the brain’s opioid receptors and trigger an addictive response? This makes total sense to me personally, but also makes sense when I hear others failed in going vegan due to cheese.

Vegan options have come a long way in a short time. Options for vegan cheese used to be limited to one or two brands at your local grocery store that did not melt and did not taste right. Now, you’ll likely see several brands and options at your favorite health food or modern grocery stores. Even Aldi has their own brand of vegan cheese and I actually really like it! I used it today on vegan pizza bagels and it actually got MELTY. A win, for sure.

If you’re thinking of going vegan, or trying to stay vegan, here are some tips I can give from personal experience:

  1. Find a vegan cheese you like

As I mentioned above – cheese is like kryptonite for so many people that try this path. Try different brands of vegan cheese and stock up on what you find you like, so you don’t find yourself in a cravings state of weakness. Also, get yourself some nutritional yeast to sprinkle on everything. Vegans use it like a parmesan cheese replacement, but you can put it on everything AND it’s good for you!

2. If you used to eat meat, start by making the same meals you used to make, but with vegan meat options

I feel like people generally have this idea that vegans eat lettuce and fresh veggies and that’s it. If you go from eating meat every day to eating raw veggies and salads, you’re not going to make it. There are SO many vegan meat options out there nowadays that there really is no reason to eat meat, and also no reason to just eat raw veggies (unless you’re into that). If your weekly recipes before going vegan included chicken salads for lunch and pasta w/ meatballs, and tacos, for dinners, then start your vegan journey by making those same meals but with vegan meat replacements. Making too big of a shift is where people get turned off or fail. Learn to make what you’re already comfortable with and you’ll thank me later.

3. Try a meal subscription

You may have read my previous post about Hungryroot. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to start a vegan diet, or if you’re having trouble coming up with meal ideas, give Hungryroot a try. You can set your specific diet preferences (vegan, vegan & gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) and shop by recipe. I currently pay about $60 a week. For the quality of product, the delivery to your doorstep, and the reduced stress of not having to plan meals-it is beyond worth it. Plus, you can cancel or pause any time you like.

4. Keep a list of “safe” restaurants in your phone notes

Doing some research is key here. Look at your local restaurants and look at their menus. Try to analyze what foods you could order vegan or with minor modifications to make it vegan. Have a Taco Bell problem like me? You can order vegan! Think, tacos with black beans or refried beans, lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, guac… Love getting Potbelly’s for lunch? Look at their salads, think “I could get this without chicken, without cheese, and add chickpeas for protein…” Make a list of your “safe” restaurants in your phone that you know you can eat at so you’re never caught in a situation where your friend or SO wants to go out to eat but now you have to 1. research for 20 mins or 2. cave and get McDonalds “just today.” As you find vegan options at restaurants that you like, add them to your notes so it’s easy to order for next time without analyzing every ingredient on the menu again.

5. Remember why you started

There are several different reasons you may have chosen to or want to go vegan for. It could be a humane/moral thing, an environmental basis, or even a health reason. When you feel like you want to cheat or give up, you need to pause and put yourself back into that mental space that made you want to start. Did you watch a documentary about the agriculture industry that made you want to save the animals? Did you feel inspired by Earth Day posts and wanted to lower your carbon footprint? Try to journal it out and take a few minutes to put yourself back into that headspace.

lifestyle, Recipes

Vegetarian Gluten-Free Tacos Three Ways

This blog post is dedicated to my VIP subscribers, Lindsey and Alex, who are dipping their toes into the vegetarian world in 2021. If you haven’t seen some of my older posts, I am lifelong vegetarian since, quite literally, I was in the womb. I asked them what recipe they want to see done on the blog first – Lindsey picked tacos. So, here are my simple vegetarian, protein-filled, gluten-free tacos done three different ways!

TORTILLAS!

First, get the tortillas going. I use soft corn tortillas as they are typically gluten-free. Just check the ingredients and make sure their is no gluten flour added to the corn mix! I heat a nickel-size olive oil in a small pan, and cook one tortilla at a time while I work on the rest of the ingredients. Cook until it slightly browns, flip, remove from heat. Add another bit of olive oil for each tortilla. I cook them this way because it crisps them up and helps prevent them ripping and spilling your taco everywhere.

PROTEIN!

My all-time favorite is using Gardein beefless crumbles for the meat. They are vegan and gluten-free, and cook super fast. I put some olive oil in the pan, dump the frozen crumbles in, and add 1 full packet of gluten-free taco seasoning. You can add a tiny bit of water or more olive oil as the crumbles heat to keep them juicy.

Second-best: regular ole canned black beans. Pro-tip, when you’re out to eat at a mexican restaurant, they have black beans. Ask if you can do tacos with black beans, or whatever your usual order is, subbing in black beans. I microwave my black beans for 60 sec. or you can cook in a pan until heated.

Last but not least: pre-packaged and seasoned Tex-Mex jackfruit. I throw a little olive oil in the pan and then empty the jackfruit package into the pan. If it’s pre-seasoned and marinated, you likely don’t need to add much. Cook until heated through.

TOPPINGS!

Add whatever you normally like on your tacos! I did butterhead lettuce, fresh salsa, fine-shredded Mexican cheese, avocado slices, cilantro and lime squeezed on top!

My biggest tip to anyone looking to try going vegetarian or vegan, is don’t try to jump from eating meat regularly to this idea of a vegetarian who eats only veggies, fruit and drinks green juice every day. You won’t last. Start simple by making the usual meals you eat and subbing the meat with one of the countless amounts of veggie meats you can find today.

Questions for a lifelong vegetarian? Comment below or DM me on instagram!

lifestyle, Mom Stuff, Personal, Recipes

The Meal Service You Need in 2021

Photo from Hungryroot.com

I have gotten so many questions on my Hungryroot subscription so here is my full review now that I’ve been using it for a few months!

I have been searching for a while for a meal service that had a good selection of healthy gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian recipes. A lot of the popular meal service companies have vegetarian plans, or gluten-free plans, but rarely a good selection of recipes that are both. Hungryroot was the first one I’ve found that has a large amount of gluten-free and vegetarian recipes. On that note, you can customize the recipes you can choose from based on your own dietary needs. They provide the 10 minute recipes and the raw ingredients – so the meals are not prepped/pre-packaged. Hungryroot is essentially a half-meal plan, half-grocery service.

The plans start at $59 a week. I started at about $100 a week, then went down to $80 a week, and now I’m at $59 a week for now. I will probably go back and forth between about $60-$80 a week from now on. You can skip or reschedule deliveries whenever you want. The pricing depends on the amount of “servings” and meals you choose. However, once you select your plan (say you choose 2 servings each, 2 lunches and 3 dinners), your plan converts to Hungryroot “credits.” This is key! Here’s why:

You can edit your delivery based on recipes or groceries. The way I get more meals for my money now is I sort the recipes (I shop by recipe) from lowest credits to highest credits. So, instead of getting 3 meals that are 12 credits each, I can get 7 credit meals and get more meals for the same plan. You can also fully shop groceries only with those credits. I aim for 4-5 recipes, 2 servings each, and I normally have 1-2 credits left to add grocery items, like dressing, a pack of ramen or a snack. Here’s a snippet of how I browse through recipes by credits. The 28 credits is for my current $60/week plan.

The recipes are divided into categories of stir-fries, pastas, flatbreads, market plates, grain bowls, warm bowls, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, wraps, salads and bakes. The ingredients include fresh produce, some popular health brands, and Hungryroot’s own branded items. Some of my favorite popular brands they carry regularly are Beyond Meat, Banza pasta, Lotus Foods Ramen and Nutpods. A few of my favorite Hungryroot brand items include their Four Cheese Gluten-Free Tortelloni, Superfood Tomato Sauce, Cashew Cheddar Sauce, Spicy Refried Red Beans and their Hearty Tofu Veggie Burger. With my pre-set dietary preferences, I do not view the meat and gluten options when I select my recipes, but you can browse their current options on their website without setting up an account.

My typical weekly delivery will include a salad, tacos, grain bowl and a pasta, with maybe a couple snacks or extra packs of ramen.

You have a certain day each week you have to edit your delivery by. If you forget, they will choose the recipes for you based on your dietary preferences. This comes in handy for me so much because I often forget to choose my recipes by the deadline!

What I love:

  • The convenience of not having to shop, especially with a baby and during Covid.
  • It is so worth the money to me to not have to plan out each meal, easily select a few recipes each week, and have them show up at my doorstep.
  • I can’t accidentally overspend at the store. If you set me loose in Hyvee to get stuff to make a homemade pizza, or do pasta night, I can easily drop $60 for that one meal. This prevents me throwing random unnecessary stuff in my cart that will go to waste (and I’m really trying to limit our food waste!).
  • The pricing is constantly adjustable and you can skip a week when you don’t need it.
  • All my meals are balanced and have a healthy portion of protein, whether broccoli, protein pasta, beans, tofu etc., which is so important as a vegetarian.
  • The products, especially Hungryroot’s own brand, are so tasty, healthy and have good ingredients. A lot of the products they carry are also organic.
  • Their packaging is insanely eco-friendly down to the ice pack which doubles as plant food??
  • The recipes only take about 10 minutes which is ideal for this working mama with long work days and a long commute. Matt also doesn’t mind prepping dinner for me some days because it’s so easy to do!
  • Hungryroot is sustainability focused!

What I don’t love:

  • The delivery service they use is kind of sketchy. We have had some strange characters deliver and they always fly up the street in creepy unmarked vans LOL
  • I’ve had a few deliveries with missing items that showed they were checked off on the inventory sheet in the box but weren’t in there
  • I would like if the website adjusted more to what I usually order. For instance, I typically order tacos, pasta, salad and grain bowls. I never get any of the thai food with peanut sauce or stir-fries. Just not my style. When I miss the edit deadline though, I always end up with stir-fries and peanut thai food that I literally never pick (still within my restrictions of gluten-free/vegetarian). So, it would be nice if it sort of tracked my preferences better.
  • There were a couple weeks where their recipe selection was unusually limited. I don’t know if it was Covid-related or not but I haven’t noticed that issue again in a couple months.

Overall, my verdict is – I will be sticking with Hungryroot for the foreseeable future! I am addicted to the convenience of not only the cost-friendly delivery to your doorstep, but also the convenience of having pre-planned, simple and balanced 10 minute recipes within my dietary restrictions. For a busy mom, I have yet to find something that fits my needs so well.

If you want to give Hungryroot a try, you can use my referral code S7CAXUEN for $40 off your first delivery!

Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions I can answer!

lifestyle, Recipes

Gluten-free Apple Pie Bars

Apple-picking season is upon us. If you’re like me, you LOVE going to the apple orchard (shoutout to Jonamac in Malta, IL) and picking a bag full of apples! But then you get home, and you’re like – what am I going to do with all these apples?

Here’s your solution: gluten-free apple pie bars. I’m not a huge baker, but these are so easy and simple to make!

Ingredients for the gluten-free crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I used half rice flour and half almond flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cubed, cold)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • A couple pinches of salt

Ingredients for the filling

  • 3-4 medium Apples (use different colors!)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • Squeeze half a lemon to finish it off

Putting it all together:

  • Oven at 350 degrees. Prep baking dish with unbleached parchment paper.
  • Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter and vanilla into food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, I used my ninja bullet and manually pulsed it. It worked perfectly!)
  • Press dough into bottom of baking dish. Save some for some crumbles or cut-out shapes/designs on top.
  • Bake the crust for 15 minutes.
  • Slice apples and combine filing ingredients in a bowl. When the crust has cooked for 15 minutes, pour filling onto crust.
  • Crumble dough or add crust designs to top of apples.
  • Bake for another 35-40 minutes.
lifestyle, Recipes

Vegan Gluten-Free French Toast

IMG_3405.jpeg

Hey hi hello, Tiana the brunch lover here. You know what’s so frustrating? Going to gluten-free friendly brunch spots but they don’t EVER have gluten-free french toast, and it’s definitely not vegan.

I’ve been experimenting with flaxseed meal as an egg replacement for a while now, using it for everything from cupcakes to pizza crust. I was craving french toast the other day and decided to try using flax meal as an egg replacement for french toast. GUESS WHAT! It actually worked, and it was delicious.

Here’s how I did it! You will need:

  • 1-2 packages Schar Deli Style Bread
  • Flax Meal (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Almondmilk
  • Vanilla flavoring/extract
  • Vegan Butter

The key with using flaxseed meal as an egg replacement is always using one part flax meal to three parts water. To make one “egg,” you would typically do one tablespoon flax meal and three tablespoons warm water. You then let it sit for about five minutes, mixing in between, until it forms an egg-white texture. For this recipe, using only one package Schar bread, I did 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal and 3/4 cup warm water. After it began forming an eggy texture, I mixed in about half a cup of cold almondmilk.

Whisking the mixture, I then added a teaspoon of vanilla flavoring to cover up the flax taste (vanilla almondmilk will help with this too!).

From there, you simply dunk the bread in the mixture, being careful to not let it sit because the gluten-free bread will crumble easily, and slap it on a hot, buttered frying pan.

You will use A LOT of butter, as the flaxmeal coating on the bread is very sticky. It might be better on a non-stick pan, but we use stainless steel over here.

Add butter to the pan as needed, and cook to desired browning level. Remember – you don’t have to worry about cooking the egg-soaked bread to the right temperature because it’s eggless!

We topped ours with blueberry preserves and powdered sugar! The blueberry spread compliments the buttery taste of the toast so well! If you’re a plain butter and syrup kinda person, try Walden Farms calorie-free pancake syrup.

Let me know how it works for you! ALSO – comment below with your favorite french toast topping!

 

Recipes

GF Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Salad

I am a huge fan of buffalo anything. One of my favorite things to make for football Sundays or any kind of event that warrants finger food snacking is buffalo cauliflower “wings.” Also – I eat chickpeas ALL THE TIME. You’ve probably seen my chickpea salad on my blog or instagram feed before. Consider this a major flavor upgrade from that!

IMG_2303.jpeg

What you need:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Spring mix/greens of your choice
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Red onion
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • Daiya Vegan Homestyle Ranch
  • Sea salt or pink himalayan salt
  • Black pepper

Step one: Spray frying pan with a good amount of coconut oil spray, or begin liquifying about 1 tbsp coconut oil in pan. Add drained can of chickpeas, 2 pinches of salt, and a dash of black pepper.

Step two: while the chickpeas are cooking and crisping, prep the cold salad base. Use spring mix, halved cherry tomatoes, slices of avocado and cucumber, and a few slices of red onion.

Step three: Once the chickpeas have gotten a little crispy, with partial blackening, add the buffalo wing sauce. You want enough to coat all the chickpeas. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens and the chickpeas have a good coating of buffalo sauce.

Final step: top the cold salad with the hot buffalo chickpeas, and top it off with vegan ranch.

Enjoy!

Recipes

Gluten-free Vegan Balsamic Bruschetta

This recipe was surprisingly a hit this Christmas – it’s difficult to make gluten-free recipes that non-GF people will enjoy. The key to this recipe is toasting the gluten-free bread, which changes the texture just enough to make it taste just like a regular gluten-y crostini!

You will need:

  • Schar Gluten-Free Baguettes or Schar Ciabatta Rolls (Vegan!)
  • Fresh Roma (approx. 4-5) or Cherry Tomatoes (2-3 containers)
  • One medium red onion
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic
  • One package fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Gluten-free Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spices (Black pepper, garlic powder, pink himalayan or sea salt, parsley)

brus1brus5

  • Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F
  • Slice the Schar bread into crostini slices
  • Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil

brus3

  • Chop the tomatoes, red onion & fresh basil
  • Mince the entire bulb of fresh garlic
  • Mix in bowl with 1 tbsp. olive oil and spices
  • Allow to bruschetta mix to settle while you toast the crostinis in the oven to your preference. I cook mine for a few minutes just to slightly toast them.
  • Scoop the bruschetta mix on the toasted crostini & drizzle with GF balsamic vinegar
  • Enjoy!

brus7