I adore guacamole! OK, I adore avocados period. For my guacamole recipe, I like to keep it as simple as possible and just let the avocado’s deliciousness speak for itself. With just a few ingredients, we can whip up (or more specifically, mash up) this guacamole!

Summertime is the best time to try my delicious guacamole recipe. Enjoy!

Maria’s Guacamole

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 2 to 4 servings

 2 ripe avocados

3 green onions or ½ white onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 small tomato, diced

Juice from one lime

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sea salt

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper

Chili flakes (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Scoop out avocados and mash with a fork or masher in a small bowl.
  2. Add in all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Serve immediately or chilled.

 

avocado2

 

It seems to me that people have a love/hate relationship with avocados. Many of us love the taste, others find it gross. Some of us are concerned about the avocado’s high fat content. The avocado contains monounsaturated fat, which is in fact not a “bad” fat, but how healthy is avocado in general?

Some food for thought: the research is ambiguous as to whether the avocado is in fact healthy for us. Several reputable sources say indeed yes, avocados are beneficial since they provide us with complete protein, good fats and other important nutrients.

However, Dr. Michael Greger has examined numerous studies, some indicating that not only does avocado kill cancer cells, but also healthy cells, in vitro. In vitro means in a petri dishas opposed to in vivo, which is in the human body. The difference being, when we ingest avocado, our stomach digestive acids and our liver detoxifying functions get to the avocado before our cells do. Therefore, can the avocado in vitro studies really tell us anything?

Some good news, one recent study reported avocado consumption is linked to significantly reduced prostate cancer risk.

This is a clear example of how confusing it can be to navigate the world of health research. Many of us are not doctors or nutrition experts. How do we make sense of all this? There are contradictory findings and differing views about almost everything. In the end, maybe that old cliche about moderation is best?

In my opinion, a helpful rule to live by is this: how do you feel when you eat it? And I don’t necessarily mean in the short term only, since we all know that potato chips feel like heaven the moment they touch our lips.

Some of us have food allergies, others may have a mild intolerance. Some of us have health issues that we are trying to improve. Certain foods can make these conditions better or worse.

The best thing we can do is become more mindful of the food we are eating and how are body reacts to it. We are all individuals with particular needs and tastes. Slow down, learn the language of your body and pay attention. If you don’t, the body will surely end up screaming at you via some type of illness.

Back to avocados and their deliciousness, I came across a delightful dessert made with avocados that I would like to share with you. It is not a recipe I created and I haven’t tried it yet, but this avocado chocolate mousse sounds absolutely divine! Give it a try as well and let me know what you think.

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.
~Dorothy Day

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I adore watching documentaries. In fact, I hardly ever watch another genre of film. This week, I saw an excellent documentary called Vegucated. Highly informative, funny and entertaining, Vegucated chronicles the lives of three New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for a period of six weeks as part of a social experiment.

During the course of these six weeks, they learn how to shop for cruelty-free vegan products, how to prepare fully plant-based meals, and how the animals we eat are raised. They are also followed by Dr.  Joel Fuhrman who checks their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol before and after the six week vegan diet to see what effect this change has on these three indicators of overall health. Not surprisingly, all three individuals lost weight and both their cholesterol and blood pressure went down.

vegucated picMarisa Miller Wolfsom is the film’s writer, director and editor. She posted an ad on New York’s Craigslist requesting volunteers who would be interested in converting to a vegan diet for six weeks. She interviewed several people, and chose three: Tesla, Ellen and Brian.

Tesla Lobo is a 22-year old student living with her family whose diet relies heavily on meat. Tesla’s biggest challenge was to let go of the convenience of her father’s home cooking and learn how to prepare, and enjoy, plant-based meals.

Ellen Mausner is a psychiatrist, stand-up comic and single mom of two. She is attracted to a vegan diet for its potential for weight loss and improvement of cardiovascular health.

Brian Flegel is an aspiring actor who often eats out and jokes about vegans being weird.

Among the challenges faced by Tesla, Ellen and Brian is acquiring the taste for foods they had previously never tried. In the film, Dr. Fuhrman explains how most of our food preferences are acquired tastes and that sometimes we need to try something several times before we know whether we like it or not.

One of the things I try to convey to my vegan cooking students is how easy it is to be vegan, once you learn new ingredients. Tempeh is often one of those new things we learn about when we go vegan. I too had heard of tofu before changing my diet, but not tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product (whereas tofu is not fermented). The fermentation process renders tempeh more nutritious than other soybean products: higher protein content, more vitamins, minerals and fiber. You usually find tempeh in the freezer section of health food stores.

I would say it is for most people what Dr. Fuhrman describes as an acquired taste. Whereas tofu doesn’t have a taste before we give it one, tempeh has a bold, nutty flavor. Without proper preparation, you may not enjoy the flavor.

The recipe I’d like to share with you this week is a tempeh dish I created with Indian-inspired flavors. I call it Tandori Tempeh because I chose a lot of the Indian spices commonly used to make Tandori dishes. I sprinkled chia seeds overtop, not only because they are so nutritious, but because I really enjoy that additional little crunch they add. I accompanied it with a tasty sweet potato side dish. Don’t let these exotic spices intimidate you; this is actually a very easy dish to prepare and so delicious! Try it!

 

Tandori Tempeh and Spiced Sweet Potato Mash

 

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 4 servings

1 package organic tempeh

2 tomatoes, diced

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 chili peppers, chopped

¼ cup (60 ml) water

2 tablespoons (30 ml) grapeseed or olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 ml) paprika

1 teaspoon (5 ml) turmeric

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) coriander

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) cumin

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) ginger

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) cardamom

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper

¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cayenne

2 tablespoons (30 ml) wheat-free tamari

1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons (30 ml) chia seeds

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C).
  2. Tempeh is usually frozen when purchased. Thaw out and slice into thin squares.
  3. Prepare the marinade for the tempeh by mixing all the other ingredients in a bowl, except chia seeds, including chopped onion, peppers, tomato and garlic.
  4. Line large baking dish with parchment paper to avoid sticking. Place tempeh squares, single file on the paper. Pour marinade and vegetables over tempeh. Sprinkle chia seeds overtop.
  5. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Puncture foil with a fork or knife in a few places.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes total. After 15 minutes, remove from the oven, turn tempeh squares over, discard aluminum foil and return to the oven, uncovered, for the remaining 15 minutes.
  7. Serve warm.

 

Spiced Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 white potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons (30 ml) nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegan butter

1 tablespoon (15 ml) turmeric

1 tablespoon (15 ml) paprika

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

 

Method:

  1. Placed chopped potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add sea salt, about 1 teaspoon (5 ml) and chopped garlic. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain all water.  Add nutritional yeast, vegan butter, turmeric, paprika and mash with a potato masher. Taste test to see if      more sea salt is desired. Add black pepper to taste. Serve warm.

 

“Medicines cannot drug away the cellular defects that develop in response to improper nutrition throughout life.” ~Dr. Joel Fuhrman

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It’s the beautiful, hot, spectacular month of July in Montreal and home gardens are in full bloom! The tomatoes are not quite ready yet – we have to patiently wait until August for them to be vine-ripened to perfection. But other lovely delights like all kinds of lettuce, kale, broccoli, celery, hot peppers, onions and herbs of all varieties are bountiful and delicious.

There is one plant I’d like to talk to you about this week, common in Italian home gardens: the zucchini plant. Not only do we love the eventual zucchinis, but we also use the male flowers from this plant to make a sweet treat.

This year, I had the pleasure of taking a gardening workshop through Sociale. Urban Seedling offered informative instruction on planting beautiful, flourishing gardens in urban settings, with limited space and resources. What a gift to our health to be able to grow our own organic food!

Not only is gardening fun, it feels amazing to be outdoors, one with nature, tending to our plants lovingly, and then harvest the bounty. What can be more natural than growing our own food? We also beautify our living space and attract wildlife by planting gardens, flowers and trees.

All my life, I have adored learning about gardening from my parents and grandparents. My grandmother taught me the difference between the female and male zucchini flowers.  The female flower is a large golden yellow flower at the end of the emergent zucchini. The male flower is slightly smaller and grows on the stem of the zucchini plant, with no zucchini attached. Both flowers are edible, but Italians typically use only the male flower for cooking, since it opens to release its pollen, and then simply falls off the plant.

My family has a very special recipe for this Italian classic known as fiori di zucca: flowers from the zucchini plant, dipped in a tempura-style batter, and sweetened with a sprinkling of raw cane sugar.  Oh yum – what a treat! I veganized the recipe, of course, because that’s what I do!

We can make a batter with any type of flour you like to use. I chose a combination of kamut and spelt, old-school grains which are easier to digest than modern day, more industrialized wheat. Instead of eggs, I used egg replacer, which worked like a charm to bind the batter. For stovetop cooking, I like to use grapeseed oil since it doesn’t denature at high temperatures and has a neutral taste. Check out the recipe below and try your hand at this classic Italian treat, now veganized!

 Fiori di Zucca

Ingredients:

½ cup kamut flour

½ cup spelt flour

¾ cup water

2 tablespoons raw cane sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons egg replacer

½ cup grapeseed oil

Zucchini flowers, whole or shredded, stem and stamen discarded

 

Method:

  1. To prepare the batter, mix all ingredients, except the flowers, with a spatula in a large bowl.
  2. If you have many zucchini flowers, you can dip the whole flower into the batter and fry it. If you have only one or two flowers, shred them and mix them into the batter. Some people prefer to discard the stem and stamen of the flower.
  3. Heat oil over high heat in a frying pan.
  4. Drop a large spoonful of batter or whole dipped flower into the frying pan. Fry for 1-2 minutes and flip over. Sauté until golden brown on each side.
  5. Remove from oil and allow excess oil to drain on paper towels. Place on a serving dish and sprinkle with extra cane sugar if desired. Serve immediately.

 

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

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We got a little taste of Mexico last week with my vegan taco and bean salad recipe. This week, I thought it would be fun to savor Vietnam! Here is a vegan spring roll recipe I made up, which is really colorful and delicious.

One of the ways I make spring rolls is by using my versatile Josephine dressing as a sauce. For your convenience, I added the recipe below, in sufficient quantity to allow you to make about 20 rolls.

With rice paper and Asian rice noodles, this recipe is naturally gluten-free. You are free to chop up whatever veggies you like. I like daikon, carrots, celery, and red pepper. I also like to add sprouts, and sometimes, I omit the noodles and only use sprouts.

Keep in mind that rolling these beauties takes some practice so don’t give up if your first one rips or doesn’t look too appetizing! Just keep rolling! Usually, a glass working surface is the least sticky so you can use a plate to roll them on, or a damp clean dishcloth. Make your rolls as tight as possible so the stuffing doesn’t fall out when you bite into them.

Maria’s Vegan Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 20 rolls

1 package rice paper

1 package rice or buckwheat Asian noodles

4 carrots, peeled and sliced into long, thin strips

3 celery stalks, sliced into long, thin strips

1 red bell pepper, sliced into long, thin strips

1 daikon, peeled and sliced into long, thin strips

4 cups sprouts

2 cups arugula

2 cups fresh parsley or basil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Sea salt

Method:

  1. Prepare your Josephine sauce (see recipe below).
  2. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain and pour about half the amount of sauce onto noodles and stir. Sprinkle sesame seeds over noodles and allow time to cool.
  3. Once all the vegetables have been sliced, and the noodles have cooled, you are ready to start rolling the spring rolls. You will need to use a work surface that does not stick too much to the rice paper. A glass surface is a better option than wood. You may also want to place a moist paper towel or clean, moist dishcloth on the surface and assemble the rolls on that.
  4. Prepare a large bowl of warm water and dip a rice paper very briefly in the bowl. Lay the rice paper on your work surface.
  5. Lay fresh parsley or basil as your first layer in the center of the rice paper. Once you form the rolls, the parsley or basil leaves will show through the thin rice paper and it will be aesthetically pleasing. Next, lay a handful of noodles, leaving a space about 2 fingers in width at the top and bottom of the roll.
  6. Add the sprouts and a few slices each of the carrot, daikon, celery and pepper.
  7. Add about a teaspoon of sauce over the vegetables. Add a few leaves of arugula.
  8. Roll the rice paper by picking the left side of the rice paper and bringing it over the vegetables. Next, bring the top part over. Then the right side over to the left, as tightly as you can and as carefully as possible, not to pierce the paper with any of the vegetables. Lastly, bring the bottom part over. Turn roll over until you see the parsley or basil. Your roll is complete. Place it on a serving dish. Serve immediately. If you wish to store your rolls, cover them with a moist paper towel and refrigerate them in an airtight container.

The Josephine Sauce

Ingredients:

1/3 cup tahini

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons oregano

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 small piece ginger, finely minced

Method: 

1. In a small bowl, whisk all these ingredients together.

 

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” ~W.C. Fields

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Like I always say: if vegan is this delicious, why not vegan?

I don’t think a meat-eater can distinguish the difference between these scrumptious fully plant-based tacos and the meat-filled variety. My secret, as it always is, is in the choice of spices, which I share with you below.

I named this dish after one of my all-time favorite pick-me-up songs by the legendary Celia Cruz, La Vida es un Carnival. Whenever I feel a bit blue, this song cures me!

You can top them anyway you like: with shredded lettuce or cabbage, diced tomatoes, hot peppers, vegan shredded cheese, you name it! Try these delicious tacos with my Mexican Bean and Corn Salad, recipe also below, and have yourself a vegan Mexican night, without leaving your own kitchen!

For those of you looking for an alternative to soy, you may use cannellini beans instead of tofu.

Vegan “La Vida es un Carnaval” Tacos

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 tacos

1 package organic firm tofu
1 package soft tortillas of your choice
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
½ teaspoon black pepper
Topping for tacos, as desired: shredded lettuce or cabbage, tomatoes, hot peppers or vegan cheese

Method:

1. Slice tofu into thick slabs and lay on paper towels to allow excess moisture to be absorbed. Cover with paper towels. You may apply a weight on top of the paper towels, such as another dish. Let stand for about 15-20 minutes.
2. Crumble tofu into a large bowl. Add all ingredients for marinade: 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, chipotle, paprika, cumin, oregano, chili flakes, pepper, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar and tamari. Allow to marinate for about an hour.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large frying pan. Add chopped onion, red pepper, sprinkle sea salt and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes.
4. Add marinated tofu and sauté for about 7-8 minutes. The tofu may start to stick to the frying pan, so be sure to scrape it into the tofu mixture. The browned tofu gives it extra flavor.
5. Once the tofu is cooked, remove from heat, cover and set aside.
6. In another frying pan, heat a very small amount of grapeseed oil and drop your soft tortilla into it. Allow the tortilla to brown slightly, about 1-2 minutes and then flip over.
7. Place warm tortilla in a serving dish and add tofu. Top the taco as you like, with shredded iceberg lettuce or cabbage, diced tomatoes, hot peppers, vegan cheese, if you desire.

Mexican Bean and Corn Salad

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 servings

3 cups organic corn, cooked
2 cups black or kidney beans, cooked
4 green onions, chopped
¼ red bell pepper, chopped
1 red chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from one lime
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. You may serve it immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator before serving.

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“Todo aquel que piense que la vida siempre es cruel,
tiene que saber que no es asi,
que tan solo hay momentos malos, y todo pasa.
Todo aquel que piense que esto nunca va a cambiar,
tiene que saber que no es asi,
que al mal tiempo buena cara, y todo pasa.”

~Celia Cruz, La Vida es un Carnaval

 

Is there anything more versatile than pasta? With so many different varieties, relatively short preparation time, wonderful sauces for every occasion and mood, and so many ways of serving it, pasta must be the most common go to meal in our society.

This week, to celebrate the sun, lovely warm weather, and my vegan birthday (4 year old vegan as of June 13th!), I prepared a picnic, with this colorful, delicious pasta salad I put together. Any variety of small noodle will work, and there are many varieties of gluten-free pasta out there for those of you who avoid gluten. I chose an organic wholegrain spelt spiral pasta, which you see here in the picture. Spelt has a more digestible form of gluten than conventional wheat. I like spelt pasta very much because it is perfectly al dente when cooked right, just the way I like my pasta!

I chose to include hearts of palm in this recipe simply because they are very tasty and I had them handy, but they are totally optional. The sun-dried tomatoes, however, I find more essential to this dish because they add a bit of saltiness, flavor and texture. I like to buy sulfite-free so they are healthiest. I found a delicious organic batch from Prana which I adore.

Lastly, I chose to add nutritional yeast to the dressing for its delicious cheesy flavor. I find that organic nutritional yeast is even more cheesy-tasting than non-organic, so I prefer it.

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think! Enjoy it in the beautiful outdoors!

Maria’s Summer Fiesta Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 servings

4 cups small pasta noodles of your choice, cooked
2 gloves of garlic, minced
8 green onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup hearts of palm, chopped
½ cup sulfite-free sundried tomatoes, chopped
⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing:
½ cup vegan mayonnaise
¼ cup nutritional yeast
Juice from ½ lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon sea salt

Method:

1. Cook pasta in salted water as per instructions on the box. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and mix thoroughly.
3. Place all chopped vegetables and cooled pasta in a large bowl.
4. Pour dressing over pasta and vegetables and toss.
5. Place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to chill and let flavors fully marinate. Garnish with more chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve chilled.

“Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.”

~Charles Pierre Monselet

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cotoletta

As you noticed, I veganize everything, including breaded cutlets, known as “cotoletta” in Italian. For this recipe, I combined a whole bunch of organic veggies and black beans, then breaded and baked them. You can also fry them, as is typical for cutlets, but I find it easier to bake and also appreciate the fact that we don’t have to use any additional oil.

This recipe is somewhat time consuming just because there are several vegetables to chop, and they should be chopped into small pieces. The other tricky part is once the mixture has been blended, it tends to be quite sticky.

The bread crumbs come in handy here, as they coat the cutlets, they become manageable. The bread crumbs (I make my own with sprouted whole grain bread which I dry and grate) also add to their deliciousness once baked.

I especially love this served with iceberg lettuce, with a simple lemon vinaigrette. This week, I share with you both recipes.

I also want to share a very informative and quite entertaining video that captured my attention recently. Dr. Michael Greger is a medical doctor, author and speaker who analyzes and presents the latest medical research on nutrition.

In the video, he presents some truly eye-opening information regarding the incredible benefits of a vegan diet. Can you believe that just two weeks of a completely plant-based diet can stop cancer in its tracks? From the research, it appears that a vegan diet is even more important than exercise for cancer prevention!

There you have it: in addition to the obvious ethical and environmental reasons to adopt a plant-based diet, medical research also indicates that it is the single most important thing we can do to improve our health, as well as reverse and prevent disease.

Enjoy this delicious, fully plant-based meal! Live your best health!

Sweet Potato Veggie Bean Cotoletta with Iceberg Lemon Salad

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 12 cutlets

2 cups black beans, presoaked and cooked
1 cup kale, stems removed, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons sea salt, more to taste
1 tablespoon steak spice
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup kamut flour
½ cup bread crumbs, more to coat cutlets
5 tablespoons ground flaxseed
½ cup water

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Line baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flaxseed and water and set aside.
  4. In a large pot, heat grapeseed oil on medium heat. Add all chopped veggies (make sure veggies are chopped into very small pieces), including onion, garlic and ginger. Add all spices and sea salt. Sauté on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until all vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat.
  5. Add chopped parsley and beans. Mash with a potato masher.  Add soaked flax seed, bread crumbs and flour. Mix well.
  6. Place half of the mixture into a food processor (we will only blend half of the mixture) and blend briefly. Return mixture to pot with mashed veggies and mix well.
  7. Form patties by taking a small amount of veggie mixture with your hands and coat with bread crumbs. Lay the patties on the parchment paper.
  8. Place in the oven to bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Flip them over after 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. You may sprinkle more sea salt overtop if desired. 


Iceberg Lemon Salad

Ingredients:

1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 or 2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. In large salad bowl, combine lettuce, oil and juice from one lemon. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Toss. Taste test to see if salad has enough lemon for your liking. If desired, you may add the juice from a second lemon.

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The greatest wealth is health.  ~Virgil

 

Looking for a dairy-free, sour cream-like dipping experience? Look no further – even vegans can dip!

I wanted to create a creamy vegan onion dip for chips and veggies to completely dazzle guests and for those fun movie nights at home.

From the amount of “mmm’s” I received, I think I succeeded!

Whenever I am faced with a vegan challenge involving either a cheesey taste or any type of creamy texture that I need to create, my first impulse is to experiment with soaked cashews. They work so well for these types of recipes. Their soft texture, neutral taste and light color make them the perfect dairy alternative. They are also extremely healthy. I get them raw and unsalted to maximize their nutritional value.

I personally love hot peppers, but the jalapeño is entirely optional here. Likewise, the chili flakes can be left out to create a mild version of this dip.

Adding an avocado to this recipe is a tasty alternative, making it even more creamy! The avocado doesn’t keep fresh as well as the other ingredients in this recipe, so add it only if you plan on eating the entire quantity right away. Also, I suggest to make the dip the day before if you can because I find it tastes best when the flavors have had sufficient time to marinate. However, do not add the avocado the day before. Add it to the dip right before serving. Just mash it well with a fork and mix it into the dip. Really delicious!

As many of you know, I am in the final stages of writing my cookbook, Cooking with Amore: 100 Vegan Recipes for Health, Well-being and Spiritual Evolution. This dip is just one of the irresistible recipes you will find among the 100 I created. The book will be published sometime this summer, and will be followed by a launch party, to which all of you will be invited!

In the meantime, have fun and enjoy this amazing totally vegan recipe!

Maria’s Creamy Cashew Onion Jalapeño Dip

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6-8 servings

1 cup (250 ml) raw cashews, soaked overnight
½ cup (125 ml) water
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml) lemon juice
4 tablespoons (60 ml) nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sea salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) red chili flakes
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried chives
2 cloves of garlic, minced
⅓ cup (80 ml) green onion, finely chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh dill, chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Method:

1. Drain cashews and place in a blender or food processor. Add water, oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, chili flakes, garlic, parsley and sea salt. Add the mashed avocado, if desired. Blend until creamy.
2. Pour into bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Garnish with added chives, small pieces of green onion and jalapeño pepper if desired.
3. Chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator to allow all the flavours to blend perfectly. If you can, make this dip the day before and let the flavors marinate in the fridge overnight. Serve with veggies, crackers or your choice of chips.

 

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“When we bring mindfulness to the dinner table, it suffuses the rest of our life as well. We become more sensitive to the well-being of animals, of the environment, and of ourselves and our families. We are more aware of the choices we make in all areas of our life. We enjoy food more, know that, while the obtaining of even plant foods necessitates some suffering, the amount and kind of suffering is dramatically reduced when we leave meat off our shopping lists and out of our kitchens. We become more aware of how meat consumption feeds violence and anger.”

~Kate Lawrence, Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism


 

 

Superfood is a term used to describe food with an exceptionally high phytonutrient content considering its calories per serving. In other words, when you eat superfoods, you are getting the highest possible nutrition from every calorie you consume. They are a class of the most potent, concentrated and nutrient-rich foods on the planet.

Some superfoods are rather exotic, like goji berries and chia seeds, while others are common everyday foods such as spinach, blueberries and broccoli.

The recipe I chose to share with you today makes use of many superfoods. In fact, I created it with the intention of including many of the superfoods I love and consume regularly. One of these superfoods is the goji berry, also known as the wolfberry. This incredible tiny berry, indigenous to southeastern Europe and Asia, is a complete protein and contains over twenty important trace minerals! It has so many unique and health-promoting properties, such as: powerful antioxidant, immune-stimulating polysaccharides, anti-aging sesquiterpenes, and liver-cleansing betaine. A truly super-healthy superfood, go get some organic goji berries today!

David Wolfe, in his awesome book, Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future, explains how superfoods are both a food and a medicine since they are powerfully nourishing and also healing. Consuming superfoods allows us to get more nutrients while eating less food, all the while improving our overall health and even healing imbalances and diseases.

While there are different opinions on which foods should be considered superfoods, Wolfe lists the top ten superfoods as:

1. Goji berries
2. Cacao
3. Maca
4. Bee products, such as honey, bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis (**Please note that bee products are NOT vegan. Due to the common severe exploitation of bees, I never consume any bee products.**)
5. Spirulina
6. AFA Blue-Green Algae
7. Marine Phytoplankton
8. Aloe Vera
9. Hempseed
10. Coconuts

I encourage you to read up on superfoods and consider adding some to your diet, depending on your needs and health goals.

Here’s a superfood salad I created. I call it the Kale Goji Berry Rocket Fuel Salad because it is highly energizing! It’s also really delicious, full of protein, vital vitamins and minerals and healing superfoods!

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 2-3 servings

2 – 3 cups curly kale, stem removed and chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon godji berries
1 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari (sea salt unnecessary if you use tamari) or balsamic vinegar (add sea salt to taste if you use vinegar)
1 tablespoon olive oil or flaxseed oil
Almond shavings for topping

Method:

1. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Sprinkle almond shavings on top if desired.
2. Serve.

“It is becoming clearer that to achieve the best health ever, the best relationship with food ever, and to have the most fun with our food ever, we must consume superfoods, superherbs, and raw and living food cuisine. In doing so, we will find that our desire for less healthy foods will fall away naturally because we no longer find them enjoyable.”

~David Wolfe, Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future

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Inspired by my Italian heritage, I really wanted to veganize one of my favorite classic Sunday lunch dishes: meatballs. I grew up with the smell of tomato sauce and “polpette” (meatballs) slowly cooking stovetop every Sunday morning. Those were the first irresistible aromas, sizzling sounds and bright colors that seduced me into the completely mesmerizing world of cooking. I dedicate this recipe to the one who ignited my love affair with the kitchen: my mother, Lina.

This is not one of my quickest, nor easiest recipes. It takes a while to prepare, and the mixture is quite sticky so forming the (no)meat balls can be a bit messy. However, I’m telling you, this recipe is worth the effort. First of all, you will get a nice big batch of (no)meat balls (around 20 to 25), which can be easily heated up for a quick meal or just as delicious served cold in a (no)meat ball sandwich. Yum!

Meatballs are typically cooked in a pot of tomato sauce, slowly simmering on the stove. I tried baking them covered in sauce in a glass casserole dish and they came out wonderfully. The benefit of baking them is that you don’t have to stir the sauce and thereby risk breaking them. You simply turn them over once after 20 minutes. I found this easier and it allowed them to keep their shape perfectly.

I understand it’s quicker to use store-bought bread crumbs and tomato sauce, but we cannot control the ingredients in these products. Also, they have their own flavor which may differ from the flavors we are trying to create. I include my recipes below and encourage you to try them.

Enjoy these scrumptious little vegan masterpieces!

Vegan (No)Meat Balls

Ingredients:

1 package firm organic tofu

1 cup chickpeas, kidney or cannellini beans, cooked and marinated (see marinade recipe below)

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 small potato, peeled and finely chopped

1 beet or 2 small carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 teaspoons sea salt

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground chipotle

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin

2 ½ cups chickpea flour

4 teaspoons egg replacer

½ cup shelled hemp seeds

½ cup nutritional yeast

2 cup bread crumbs (see recipe below)

½ cup water

5 tablespoons ground flax seed

½ cup water

 

Method:

  1. Prepare tomato sauce (see recipe below).
  2. Marinate tofu and beans (see recipe below).
  3. In a small bowl, mix ground flax seed and ½ cup of water. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  4. Heat grapeseed oil in large sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, and all chopped vegetables. Add sea salt, pepper, oregano and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10- 15 minutes.
  5. Add marinated tofu and beans to vegetable mixture and stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley, paprika, chipotle, turmeric and cumin.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1 ½ cups chickpea flour, egg replacer, hemp, nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Place ½ of the mixture into food processor. Add ½ cup of water and blend until soft and clumpy.
  7. Add blended mixture back to bowl with vegetable mixture. Stir in flaxseed mixture. Add remaining chickpea flour. Stir well. Mixture will be very sticky.
  8. Form nomeat balls with your hand and coat with bread crumbs. You can add them to your pot of tomato sauce and allow the nomeat balls to simmer for 30-45 minutes in the sauce, gently stirring occasionally. Alternatively, you may add about 1 cup of tomato sauce to a casserole dish, and more sauce to cover each nomeat ball, and bake the nomeat balls (covered with aluminum foil, punctured with a fork to allow steam to escape) at 350˚F for 40-50 minutes. Gently turn the nomeat balls over after 20 minutes of baking.
  9. Serve warm with pasta or salad, or any way you desire!

 

Marinade for tofu and beans/chickpeas

In a large glass container, place crumbled tofu and beans or chickpeas, and mix in the ingredients which follow. Marinate for about 2 hours prior to cooking.

2 gloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive OR grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons unsalted steak spice

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 bay leaf (remove before cooking)

 

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Ingredients:

4-5 slices of bread of your choice, dried and hardened (takes about 2 days)

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Method:

  1. Choose bread that you would like to grate. Break it into pieces and place on a cooking sheet. Leave it in the oven for at least 2 days to dry out and harden. Do not turn on the oven.
  2. Once bread is completely dry and hard, put it in a blender or food processor and grate.
  3. Pour into large bowl and add oregano, salt and garlic powder.
  4. Use as desired.

 

Maria’s Easy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

4 cups strained tomatoes (comes in a glass jar)

⅓ cup tomato paste (optional if you like really thick sauce)

3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, diced

1 bay leaf

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4-6 leaves fresh basil

Sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Heat oil over low heat in large pot. Add chopped onions and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

2. Stir in all remaining ingredients and let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Discard bay leaf and basil before serving.

 

You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.  

~Chef Mario Batali

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I have a seriously delicious, creamy vegetable casserole recipe to share with you this week. The best part is that you can add and substitute vegetables you like best – no rules, except: make sure you add plenty of greens!

The mushroom sauce I created for this one, combined with the noodles, gives it almost a “mac and cheese” texture – absolutely scrumptious!

This is a convenient dish to make on the weekend and have leftovers for quick reheating during the week when you are more rushed to get lunches and dinner on the table quickly.

With vegetable dishes this delicious, I’m confident that I can make you and your whole family love veggies! Try it and let me know how it goes.

Veggie Lover’s Casserole

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 servings

4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups Swiss chard, kale, spinach or rapini, stems removed and chopped
1 ½ cups of peas
2 cups of broccoli, chopped
4 cups of noodles of your choice, you may use gluten-free options
6 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon dry chives
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Sea salt
Jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced, for garnish, if desired

Ingredients for Mushroom Sauce:

3 cups of mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours, drained
½ teaspoon oregano
1 ¼ cups water
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup hemp seeds
½ teaspoon black pepper

Method:

1. To prepare the mushroom sauce, heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in a large frying pan. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, and after 1 minute, add chopped mushrooms. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sea salt and chipotle powder. Sauté until mushrooms are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Place ⅔ of the mushrooms in a blender with the soaked cashews, oregano, tahini, olive oil, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, black pepper and water. Blend until creamy.
3. Add remaining mushrooms to the sauce and set aside.
4. Place the chopped potatoes and sweet potato in a large pot and cover with water. Add one teaspoon of sea salt and 2 cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Once potatoes are cooked, drain water. Add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, chives, onion powder and 2 tablespoons of the mushroom sauce. Mash. Set aside.
6. Place peas in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and after 2 minutes, remove from heat and drain. Set aside.
7. In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chopped broccoli, sprinkle ½ teaspoon sea salt and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped Swiss chard, spinach, kale or rapini. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sea salt and sauté until wilted. Spinach will cook the fastest, and rapini or kale will take longer. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
8. Cook your choice of pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain.
9. In a large bowl, combine pasta and peas. Pour mushroom sauce over them and stir.
10. In a large glass casserole, place pasta and pea mixture as your bottom layer. Top it with the cooked broccoli and leafy greens. Spread the mashed potato mixture as the top and final layer. Sprinkle paprika for garnish and add thin slices of jalapeno pepper if desired. Serve warm.

 

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James

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As the warmer weather sets in, we don’t have to leave our beans and legumes on the side for next winter. We can prepare them in lighter ways, like in tasty salads.

When I made that scrumptious lentil loaf, I had extra cooked lentils and beans. The following day, I pulled them out of the refrigerator and decided to experiment with putting them together in a salad. I had black radish and carrots on hand so I shredded those and added them to the beans and lentils. Black radish has a milder taste than the red and white radishes we are used to. Daikon is another similar tasting root vegetable which is even milder than the black radish and would also work well here. You can try any of these and see what you prefer. I love ginger, so I added a little, in addition to my other lovely immune-boosting staples:  garlic and onion. I chose red onion for its slightly sweeter taste; it’s quite pleasant in salads.

For the dressing, I got bold and went with not just lemon or lime, but both! Hey, why not? I chose flaxseed oil, rather than olive oil, to add some healthy omega-3s to this dish. Flaxseed oil is wonderful for raw dishes, but should not be used for cooking. I added some aromatic fresh chopped parsley for garnish (cilantro would be another delicious alternative garnish), along with hemp seeds. Cayenne for a kick, but of course this is completely optional.

I am totally convinced that one of the secrets to making food as tasty as possible is choosing to use sea salt, rather than simple table salt. My favorite tasting salt is the pink Himalayan sea salt and that’s what I use all the time. Try different ones and see what you like best.

Enjoy this zesty, light-tasting salad!   

Lemon Lime Bean Medley Salad

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 3-4 servings

1 cup cooked lentils, cooled

1 cup cooked beans, any variety, cooled

4 carrots, peeled

3 black radishes, peeled or 1 daikon, peeled

1 small piece of ginger, peeled

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

Juice from one lemon

Juice from one lime

3 tablespoons flax seed oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds

 

Method:

  1. Shred carrots, black radish or daikon and ginger in a food processor.
  2. Combine all ingredients, except the hemp seeds and parsley, in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Garnish with chopped parsley and hemp seeds. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

To become wholly compassionate requires us to open our eyes and hearts, to behold the pain and exploitation our culture obscures, to arouse deadened emotions, and to rise above our egos. ~ Joanne Stepaniak

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Last week, I shared with you five popular myths regarding veganism. Here are five more and my attempts to address them:

6. A vegan diet does nothing to help major world problems like pollution, global warming, world hunger, water waste, etc.

This is completely inaccurate. With respect to pollution and global warming, by adopting a plant-based diet, we are dramatically lowering our impact on global warming, since the number one contributor to the production of greenhouse gases is the livestock industry. Most people assume that too many cars are the problem, however, enslaving the billions of animals for food and all that is involved with these industries produces 18% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, as compared to 13% produced by all means of transportation combined. Furthermore, the animal food industries are notorious for water waste.

Adopting a vegan diet on a large scale would greatly reduce world hunger, since the massive amounts of grains that are grown to feed to animals (who eat way more than humans) could be used instead to feed humans directly. It is more efficient and cost-effective.

7. Vegans only care about animal suffering; what about all the people suffering?

As if we vegans only have room enough in our hearts to care for one species! Caring about animal welfare is not mutually exclusive with other causes. This cause happens to be dear to us, hence many vegans are also animal activists. We don’t choose a cause; a cause chooses us.

8. A vegan diet is too complicated, impractical, and expensive!

Actually, the opposite is true. It is very easy to have your diet focus around fresh, vegan produce. Furthermore, preparing plant-based meals, even mostly organic, is cheaper than animal-based meals. Vegetables, beans, whole grains, fresh fruits, when bought in season, locally whenever possible, are far less expensive than meats and cheeses. Once you make the decision to adopt a vegan diet, you find your favorite places to shop which are practical and affordable. Even eating out is not a huge dilemma by simply speaking to the staff and letting them know your dietary preferences. Visits to friends and family are also easily solved by bringing along vegan dishes for everyone to share. Since people generally love to eat tasty food, they will be delighted.

9. A vegan diet is unhealthy

On the contrary, a vegan’s diet has the potential to be healthier than a diet based on animal-derived foods. I say “potential” because it takes some effort and education to maintain a healthy diet, be it a vegan or non-vegan one. Certainly we have unhealthy vegans, just as we have unhealthy non-vegans. Furthermore, there is more to health than diet alone. This I know to be true based on my own quest to restore my health.

Let’s look at this optimal health potential a little closer:

• Fiber:

Plant-based foods contain more fiber than animal-derived foods. A diet high in fiber brings with it regular bowel movements and issues of constipation, common among meat-eaters, is practically non-existent. Healthier bowel movements decrease the risk of colon cancer and other diseases.

• Avoiding animal protein, especially casein:

In The China Study, Drs. T. Colin Campbell ad Thomas M. Campbell, present the research linking animal protein, in particular casein, which is the protein found in dairy milk to cancers such as prostate and breast. This is a highly important book in the field of nutrition and demonstrates clearly how our diet can significantly contribute to obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

• More minerals and vitamins:

In general, unprocessed, fresh vegetables and fruits contain more vitamins and minerals than animal products. They are also more alkaline, rather than acidic, like meats and dairy. Disease thrives in an acidic environment.

• More antioxidants:

Antioxidants protect against cell damage. Vegetables and fruits are much higher in antioxidants than animal-derived products.

• Lower cholesterol, triglycerides and BMI:

Vegans typically have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and have a lower body mass index (BMI). This all converts to better cardiovascular health.

• Bacteria, disease and contamination:

Since animals are unfortunately raised and killed in filthy conditions, and since they are in such poor health for their short, miserable lives, the risk of bacteria contamination is very high. We can see evidence of this by the number of meat recalls just this year alone. Also, you will notice that when you adopt a vegan diet, illnesses like the stomach flu or other infections become so much less frequent than previously.

10. Animals eat other animals in the wild, so if we don’t eat them, they will eat us!

Carnivores do eat other animals, and their physiology is designed to digest meat. Our physiology is not. Our physiology is not even that of an omnivore. Our physiology resembles one of a herbivore or frugivore. We are not meant to eat animals; this is just a custom that has become part of our culture of carnism.

The animals we typically eat are the gentlest and meekest of the bunch. They are precious beings that deserve our love and protection, not exploitation. They are artificially inseminated in massive numbers and genetically modified to grow quicker and heavier. If we stop consuming them, they will stop producing them. We are not talking about things here, we are talking about living, feeling beings.

I hope you found this analysis informative.

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“People look at me as a vegan and conclude that since I stepped on a snail or because the vegetables I eat resulted in a tractor death for a squirrel somewhere in Paraguay that somehow vegans are hypocrites, which of course they’re not since perfection is an unattainable goal and is something to be driven towards, never actually achieved. The difference between you and the vegan standing next to you is that while you’re both going to step on a bug tomorrow, they’ve decided to dedicate their lives to as little harm as possible, completely independent from what you do. So in no way does the protozoan life form they step on negate your responsibility for the lamb you’re paying a stranger to cut tomorrow. And falling 1% short of an unattainable goal is really good when you’re standing next to someone who won’t even try.” ~Shelley Williams

Veganism is a lifestyle choice which excludes consuming animals and all animal-derived foods and products. While vegetarians typically avoid just flesh foods, vegans also abstain from dairy, eggs, honey, as well as leather and fur, and all other products or activities that cause suffering to animals, such as circuses and zoos.

With only about 1% of the human population being vegan at this time, we are bound to be a misunderstood bunch! Here are 5 of 10 common myths about vegans and the vegan lifestyle, and my efforts to address them in a satisfactory fashion. Next week, I will share with you another 5, in Part II of this article.

1. Vegans lack protein in their diet.

In fact, all the protein on the planet was formed by the effect of sunlight on green plants. The cow did not eat another cow to form its muscles, which we call steak. The protein wasn’t formed from thin air, the cow ate grass. ~Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

This is a popular one. It’s a common myth that protein can only be obtained from eating meat and other animal products. This is simply false. There is an abundant amount of protein in plant-derived foods. There is protein in greens, such as kale and seaweeds. There is plenty of  protein in non-dairy milks, beans and legumes. For example, the amount of protein in 1 oz. of meat equals the amount of protein in 1 oz. of tempeh, 2 oz. tofu, ½ cup quinoa, ½ oz. of almonds, ¼ cup kidney beans, chickpeas or black beans and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

In summary, deriving protein from vegan sources is simply a task of learning new things.

2. Since plants feel pain too, a vegan diet is not any kinder than a diet which includes meat and animal products.

It is true that plants respond to stimuli. I am certainly one who believes that plants feel, form communities and communicate. That being said, how does this premise justify torturing animals in the food industries?

Although plants respond, they do not have a central nervous system, which is the mechanism in mobile organisms that allows the perception of pain to occur. Organisms that move are required to feel pain so that they can avoid danger. This is a question of survival.

Furthermore, plants also do not have the experience of suffering, of feeling emotions, whereas animals do. Animals experience severe grief, depression, anxiety and fear while confined, raised and brutally killed in filthy, horrendous environments.

While we are in physical form, we have to eat something and it seems to me if we choose to eat only plant-derived foods, we are contributing to far less suffering and death in order to preserve our physical bodies. Veganism is by no means a perfect solution to lessening the suffering in the world, but in my opinion, it is simply the best we can do.

3. Vegans think they are superior to others.

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. ~Mahatma Gandhi

This is a strange one for me, because in fact, it is quite the opposite: because vegans do not feel superior to others, including animals, we believe we should not use them for our pleasure. We believe that our life, sustaining our physical form, is not more important than another being’s life and freedom.

We did not give up animal foods because we did not like the taste. We grew up on these foods, like most other people. Rather, we gave up our participation in needless suffering. This is an act of compassion, and to be compassionate, presupposes deep humility.

4. Since vegans have to take supplements for B12, this proves that veganism is not a natural diet for humans.

Vegans don’t have to take any supplements at all. Eating a well-balanced vegan diet, rich in foods fortified with B12, can be enough. However, B12 is commonly deficient in both vegan and non-vegan diets. This vitamin comes from a bacteria typically found in the earth and in feces. Because of the way farming is carried out today, the earth is extremely deficient in many minerals. However, someone who eats almost exclusively organic and raw may get enough B12 because organic produce comes from earth which is richer than earth treated with chemicals, as is the case with conventionally grown produce.

Furthermore, our bodies produce B12 deep down in our intestines. Because it is produced so far down, it may not be absorbed in sufficient quantities by our own bodies, so we may have to ingest additional B12 to get enough.

If you are wondering whether you are getting enough B12, a blood test can give you that answer.

5. Vegans impose their views on others and don’t respect other people’s choices.

Vegans are usually quite adamant about spreading the truth regarding what is going on behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses. We are shocked that just a few years ago we had no clue about the severity of the cruelty. Now that we have become aware, we want others to be aware too. We want the suffering to stop, especially since we have discovered healthier, tastier alternatives.

Vegans typically feel that “respecting someone’s choice to eat meat” means acquiescing to severe injustices towards other living beings and infringes on their right to live in peace, safety and freedom. In fact, raising livestock is the slavery and torture of another species. How can anyone respect that?

Being only 1% of the human population at this time, it is really the 99% that impose their views on us. All day long we are inundated with advertising, for example, which is largely lies about products being healthy, like dairy. In grocery stores, vegans have to endure aisles and aisles of corpses. In restaurants and at family gatherings, we have to experience the stench of charred flesh and hypocrisy.

In the end, one of the incredible marvels of being human is that we have choices. We have the freedom to choose what we want to participate in, what we want to ingest, what kind of world we want to help perpetuate, or create anew.

I hope I’ve helped shed some light on these common myths abouts vegans and veganism. Tune in next week when I discuss another five.

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Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay. ~Jiddu Krishnamurti

I created these cute, triple chocolate coconut cupcakes for a friend’s birthday celebration not too long ago and they were a huge hit! Again and again, people are wowed at how delicious vegan recipes can be. I’m always so pleased to explain that vegans can do anything in the kitchen, just like non-vegans, without the use of any animal-derived ingredients. If we can reduce the suffering of other beings by not consuming them, then why not?

For this recipe I chose to combine two of my favorite things: cacao and coconut. I adore the combination, but if for some reason you would rather no coconut at all, this recipe works just fine without the flakes and by substituting the coconut water with just plain water. You can also sprinkle your favorite chopped nuts on the cupcakes, like pecans or walnuts for example, instead of the coconut.

Join me in pure taste decadence and marvel at how superb and easy vegan recipes can be.

Maria’s Triple Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 12 cupcakes 

 

Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour

1 cup raw cane sugar

⅓ cup cacao powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup grapeseed oil

1 cup coconut water

2 teaspoons unsweetened coconut flakes

2 teaspoons non-dairy chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

 

Chocolate Frosting:

1 ¾ cups confectioners’ (icing) sugar

¼ cup cacao powder

1 cup vegan butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons water

 

Topping over frosting:

Unsweetened shredded coconut

Non-dairy chocolate chips

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with parchment cups.

2. Sift flour, cacao, baking soda, salt, coconut and sugar. In another bowl, combine oil, coconut water and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry, and mix until smooth.

3. Add vinegar and stir briefly. Quickly spoon batter into cupcake pan.

4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick test comes out dry. Allow muffins to cool completely before adding frosting. It’s best to refrigerate them for a couple of hours once they are cool and then add frosting later. Sprinkle chocolate chips and coconut flakes overtop. Serve.

Chocolate Frosting:

5. Combine all frosting ingredients in a large bowl, starting with only one teaspoon of water. With a handheld cake mixer, whip until smooth and creamy, but firm. If mixture is too powdery, add extra teaspoon of water.

6. Add frosting to cupcakes once they have fully cooled using cake decorating kit. Top frosting with coconut flakes and chocolate chips.

Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13, The Bible, International Standard Version

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I put this lovely salad together today and totally loved the combination of flavors.

Are you familiar with fennel? This slightly sweet and highly crunchy vegetable is quite common in Italian cuisine. It looks a little like celery, but chubbier. Fennel is packed with Vitamin C and full of phytonutrients. Its most  fascinating phytonutrient being Anethole, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

In The Odyssey, the Greek poet Homer calls pears (and some other fruits) “gifts of the gods”. Indeed, with such a sweet, heavenly flavor, I have to agree! Bosc pears are typically firm, mildly spicy, with just a hint of sweetness. They are a perfect addition to any salad – they really suit dressings made with olive oil and lemon, or even a lovely balsamic vinegar reduction.

I love the flavor of walnuts with pears and fennel. Nuts are a delicious way to add more protein to your salads. Walnuts in particular are especially rich in Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which make them ideal brain food.

I added the lovely cranberries for their rich color and tangy tartness.

For this salad, I enjoy a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Make sure you get some of these ingredients next time you’re at the grocery store, and if you can, get the organic variety and reap the health benefits to the max.

To your health!

Fennel Cranberry Walnut Salad

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 2 servings

1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced

1 Bosc pear, ripe but firm, core removed and sliced

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of raw walnuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice from one lime or one lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Serve.

“Therein grow trees, tall and luxuriant, pears and pomegranates and apple-trees with their bright fruit, and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives. Of these the fruit perishes not nor fails in winter or in summer, but lasts throughout the year; and ever does the west wind, as it blows, quicken to life some fruits, and ripen others; pear upon pear waxes ripe, apple upon apple, cluster upon cluster, and fig upon fig. There, too, is his fruitful vineyard planted, one part of which, a warm spot on level ground, is being dried in the sun, while other grapes men are gathering, and others, too, they are treading; but in front are unripe grapes that are shedding the blossom, and others that are turning purple. There again, by the last row of the vines, grow trim garden beds of every sort, blooming the year through, and therein are two springs, one of which sends its water throughout all the garden, while the other, over against it, flows beneath the threshold of the court toward the high house; from this the townsfolk drew their water. Such were the glorious gifts of the gods in the palace of Alcinous.” ~Homer, The Odyssey

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