Pesto

Hot Summer day? Pesto. Cool Fall wind? Pesto. Cold Winter snow? Pesto. Rainy Spring day? Pesto. OK. Maybe I am on a pesto kick right now, but anyone else find it to be appealing despite the weather? With the right pesto recipe, you can use the veggies you have on hand and direct the flavor profile in many different directions. Lately our home garden has been producing beautiful celery, but the stalks are rather thin. The leaves though, wow! So full of deep green and fragrance. So naturally, I made celery pesto. Because it is our only celery plant, I couldn’t harvest it completely, so I added fresh kale to the mix. The kale not only pumped up the pesto in volume, but also in nutrients. To get the nutrition facts on kale, visit my post Green Smoothies.

My go-to recipe (see below) includes walnuts. Nuts in general do a great job of adding omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but walnuts in particular have been shown to improve heart health. For the nitty gritty of the studies looking at walnuts and endothelial function check out Nutritionfacts.org. The takeaway is that three studies on walnuts showed an improvement in endothelial function and arterial function. This means walnuts are protective against heart disease. Michael Greger, MD, FACLM recommends everyone consume an ounce of nuts a day, unless they have a nut allergy (which is only about 1% of the population).

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So what else do I use in my pesto? Not oil. It started as my husband not being a fan of oily pesto. This was compounded by the fact that we are trying to keep oil consumption on our diets to a minimum, especially coconut oil and palm oil. I have found that water works just as well in a lot of recipes or scenarios where oil is typically used. Sautéing vegetables? Use water. Needless to say, this pesto does not contain any oil, just water.

Next, I throw garlic in to my food processor. The amount really depends on how much I am in the mood for garlic. Don’t worry, I have listed an amount below, which will give a mid-range garlic flavor to your pesto. Of course, feel free to play around with the amount and add more if desired. Worried about garlic breath, well just remember all of the benefits of garlic. Again, I will refer to Nutritiongfacts.org for their breakdown on the evidence-based medicinal purposes of garlic powder. The takeaways are- 3/4 tsp of garlic powder eaten daily reduced cholesterol by 16 points, slowed the progression of atherosclerosis (number one killer of men and women in the United States) and lowered the systolic and diastolic (blood) pressures enough to reduce the risk of a heart attack by 25%. Next time, wear that garlic breath like a badge of health honor.

Nutritional yeast gives this pesto a richness. It gives it a subtle cheesy flavor without overpowering the pesto, or adding the cholesterol that dairy cheese surely would. Looking for the nutrition run down on nutritional yeast? Guess where I will direct you….Nutritionalfacts.org naturally. There are certain health conditions or diseases in which someone may not want to include nutritional yeast in their diet. For more details, follow my link and scroll to the end where there are videos regarding when to avoid nutritional yeast.

If I have some Vegan8 ricotta made I will mix it into the pesto, making it even creamier!

Raising Vegan Tip- Celery is a plant that regrows very easily. This can be a fun science experiment for the kids too! Buying your celery from the grocery store? No problem. Now that you have used the stalks, slice a thin amount off of the bottom of the stalk base. Place it in a shallow amount of water and place in the sun. The celery will regrow in a matter of weeks! You can also directly replant into the soil of a garden box. In a couple of months you will have a full regrown celery plant.

Celery and Kale Pesto Recipe:

1 packed cup of celery leaves

(2 cups if not using other leafy green)

1 packed cup of kale leaves

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup walnuts

4 tbsp water

2 tsp garlic (minced)

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blender until smooth and creamy.

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Vegan Tacos

We have found that one of the most versatile meals are vegan tacos. There are endless possibilities. Hard shell versus soft shell. Lentil, cauliflower, Gardein seven grain crispy tenders or ultimate beefless crumbles, or Beyond beef crumbles filling. Veggies and sauces. So many choices!! Our family has truly enjoyed making our taco filling with cooked green lentils and finely chopped walnuts. See recipe below. The flavor profile can be adjusted to the amount of spice you and your family enjoys. We tend to keep it on the more mild side. When we are out of lentils we will use the Gardein crispy tenders. I like to air fry them for ~ 18 minutes on 405F (shaking often). Then I will chop them into bite size pieces and toss them stovetop with hot sauce and chiptole seasoning. You can also use a taco seasoning. Again, adjusting the spice level to your comfort zone.

Lentil Walnut Taco Filling:

2 cups cooked green lentils

1/2 cup walnuts finely chopped in food processor

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2- 1 tsp hot sauce

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 cup water

Heat all ingredients on stovetop until thoroughly combined and warm. Serve immediately.


Taco toppings! So many options. One way to add crunch to your taco is to prepare red cabbage slaw. Simply shred fresh red cabbage and coat with 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Done! Delicious red cabbage slaw to compliment any taco. Don’t have cabbage on hand? No problem, slice up a bell pepper for that added crunch. Fresh guacamole is another favorite. I make gauc a lot! My recipe is to mash a couple avocados, squirt a bit of lime juice, add minced garlic, fresh or dried cilantro, and stir in a spoonful of salsa. Yum!

Taco shells: Hard or Soft? Do you have a favorite? We tend to enjoy the hard corn shells most. Our favorite is the organic blue corn taco shells by Garden of Eatin. They only takes a few minutes to bake and have a great flavor.

Raising Vegan Tip- When shopping for tortilla shells hard or soft, corn or flour, be sure to check the ingredients. Some may be made with animal products such as lard. A simple way to quickly scan is to look at the cholesterol. It should be “0” if free of animal products. Most flour or corn tortillas are plant-based. Another ingredient to stay away from is palm oil. While terrible for our health, palm oil is also extremely bad for the planet. Palm harvesting is the number one cause of habitat loss for the already endargered orangutans. Please be kind avoid this ingredient.

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Green Smoothie

Smoothies are a fantastic way to boost your diet with nutrients and energy. As a fan of Brooke Goldner, MD, smoothies have been a stable in our diet for years. A healthy smoothie can provide the missing nutrients and fiber that your body may be craving. The healthiest smoothie is a green one. There are several ways and various ingredients you can add to your smoothie. However, if you are looking to add an abundance of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, then I highly recommend packing your smoothie with leafy greens. I like to choose the superfood kale for our smoothies. Kale is quite remarkable when you consider the amount of vitamins and minerals in one leafy green. If you want to read all about kale’s superpowers I highly recommend visiting NutritionFacts.org. Here you will find a variety of short videos explaining the different benefits of kale. If you have time and a greater interest to learn more, visit my resource page to find the book How Not To Die, where Michael Greger, MD, FACLM talks about different studies that proved kale’s cancer-fighting properties. Anyone else craving a kale smoothie right about now?

I’d also like to share a personal story of how kale helped my body to heal. It was right after the birth of my second child, delivered via a cesarean (due to medical reasons) that my body was not happy. All of my joints were throbbing and achy. As a Veterinarian, I knew to recognize the signs of autoimmune disease, and my body was waving a red flag. My body was trying to heal from the surgical trauma, produce breastmilk to support a growing baby, and have the energy to care for a toddler. It was a lot! My OBGYN was ready to perform the standard autoimmune disease blood panel after weeks of no improvement. I was terrified. I told my doctor that I was going to give kale a try. She agreed it certainly couldn’t hurt and if it worked, well awesome! So, I consumed a Vitamix size (64 oz) of smoothie every day in addition to our normal diet and drank a lot of water. Within a week the joint pain resolved. I stayed on the smoothie consumption for weeks to follow. Can I say 100% that it was the smoothies? No. Was I diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? No. What I do know is that my body was going through a lot of inflammation and my immune system was active. I do not want to promote ableism, so I will merely say that for me the addition of smoothies seemed to help my body and there is research to support the whys and hows of my recovery. Ready to buy some kale?

There are six different types of kale: Curly, Dinosaur or Lacinato, Red Russian, Ornamental, and Chinese. Curly and dino kale just happen to be our favorites and most readily available in our local grocery stores. We did plant curly kale this year in our small backyard garden. It was such as joy to go out and harvest fresh curly kale to put in our smoothie. The baby leaves have a milder taste. When comparing curly versus dino, the dino kale has a much stronger flavor. We like to have a 1:1 ratio in our smoothies, but often times due to availability it is 100% curly. We like to store our kale in the refrigerator sitting upright in glass jars with the ends of the stems in water. We have found the stays kale fresh longer this way. It also makes for a beautiful refrigerator.

You’ll see the recipe below mentions using a Vitamix. I am a huge fan of this high-speed blender because it is capable of creating the smoothest of smoothies. If you are sticker shocked like I was, I recommend purchashing a refurbished model. This reduces production waste and helps you save a little money. Ours was refurbished and it has been working well for 5 years now and we use it A LOT. Another item you may have noticed is our AquaTru water filter. It filters water by reverse osmosis removing more particles than traditional filtering. In the past, I was someone that did not love drinking water. I would only drink bottled water and it was a terrible habit. Bottled water is bad for the environment and the person’s health drinking it. However, tap water was a concern of mine too. And it has always tasted dirty to me. When we had kids I wasn’t sure what to give them- I knew I didn’t want to use plastic bottles (chemicals/toxins/bad for the planet) and I didn’t want to serve our tap water (Los Angeles County water supply). Initially, I purchased cardboard boxed water, Flow. This was fine for a while with one child, but it was costly and we didn’t want to run out. So, we decided to invest in the AquaTru. I am sure there are other reverse osmosis water filtering systems on the market. I am not an affiliate and don’t hold brand loyalty to this company. I just like the clean water it provides to our family. We’ve had our for 2 years now. We’ve replaced the filters when the machine tells us to, which as been 2 or 3 times. The water tanks stay clean, yet must be cleaned regularly. The biggest benefit- I will drink this water! It tastes pure and that makes me happy. The one linked below is sold via Amazon. The AquaTru company will have sales from time to time, so I recommend pricing it out from various retailers.

Green Smoothie Recipe:

Using a Vitamix:

Pack 1/2 to 3/4 of the Vitamix with fresh destemmed kale.

Chop and add 1-2 medium sized carrots

Chop and add 1/2 or 1 whole apple

Peel and add one banana

Add 1/2 avocado

Add 1/2 cup of whole flaxseed, optional 1/4 cup chia seed

Add 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries

Optional: Add any other variety or fruit or veggies you’d like, such as celery, cucumber, bell pepper, pear, parsley

Add water filling the packed Vitamix halfway. Next add plant-based milk (soy, almond, cashew, oats, etc) topping the Vitamix off just below the top line.

Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy

Raising Vegan Tip- Slowly introduce the green smoothies to your kids and remember modeling a behavior is key. The more they see you drinking and enjoying your smoothie, the more interest they will show. If they don’t like it at first keep trying! Kids need expose to new foods 15-20 times! Keeping that in mind will help you stay positive. I have found using a novel glass or bottle can also help spark their interest. My kids drink their smoothies our of glass mugs with a silicon straw. This isn’t always readily available to them, so the seemingly special mugs was an added bonus.

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Spaghetti & Garden Balls

One of my kids’ favorite meals is “slurpy noodle” aka linguini or spaghetti pasta. My 4-year-old loves pasta with vegan butter, while my 2-year-old loves sauces with pasta. So spaghetti night works for everyone. If I’m looking for a wheat-based pasta, my favorite is the organic linguini from Thrive Market. It is a product of Italy and made from 100% Organic Durum Wheat Semolina. If I am looking to add more nutrition to the dish, then I will reach for Banza’s chickpea pasta or Explore Cuisine lentil spaghetti. Both have a wonderful flavor and texture.

It is also a nice way to had some leafy greens to dinner. Whether you choose kale or spinach, either can be chopped to tiny pieces and added to an organic, oil-free marinara or pasta sauce. We also will chop up any leftover artichoke hearts, mushrooms, olives, onion, and carrots. Another easy way to add some nutrients to the sauce is by adding riced cauliflower or broccoli.

I’ve read that hiding veggies is not the best way to expose children. Kids need to see the vegetable and know that it is on their plate for multiple times (anywhere from 5-15 times!). So how to you expose them and have a finely chopped mix of veggies in your sauce? Let them be a part of the prepping! We have metal children utensils and a couple of kid-friendly knives- I’ll link below. Mushrooms are soft and easy to grip, so little hands have an easier time chopping them. As the child advances their skills, a zucchini is a nice vegetable for practice, especially with a chopping knife. Adult supervision should always take place when a child is using a sharp object. Eventhough the chopping knives are considered extremely safe, our little one has cut himself on one of them before. It was a very minor cut and barely needed a bandaid, but best to make you aware as a more serious injury is always possible.

Raising Vegan Tip- Interested in the Gardein Meatless Meatballs, but not in the mood for pasta? No problem. Grab a whole wheat vegan tortilla or pita, spread delicious hummus, layer on fresh spinach, and top with chopped (cooked) garden balls. Tada! You have a tasty wrap perfect for lunch or dinner. You can also add sauteed mushrooms, olive, and capers. Yum!

Really with the right sauce and seasoning most vegetables will be a welcomed addition. The vegetable marinara sauce paired with a nice chickpea or lentil pasta is a satisfying and complete meal. However, if you are in the mood for a more traditional spaghetti and “meat”balls, then I recommend adding Gardein Meatless meatballs. These can be prepared in the oven or via air fryer. Watch them closely if using an airfryer, as they can dry out a bit or stick. Below, I’ve shown the Nutrition Facts for those interested. These are not considered to the a whole-food plant-based product as they are processed. We try to limit our consumption of processed foods as much as possible, but if you are transitioning to veganism, or just trying it out the processed vegan foods are healthier than consuming meat. Not to mention the effects the meat industry has on our planet.

We like to stir the garden balls into the sauce mixture. Our 2-year-old enjoy a single bite of them (chopped into fourths). Overall this is an easy, quick, and satisfying meal! I hope you enjoy it and pass it on to your friends that may be needing a Meatless Monday meal!


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Vegan Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those meals that can require some time, but the pay-off is that is can be done ahead of time. It is a great dish to prepare during the kids’ nap or quiet time, then place in the refrigerator until an hour before dinner time. Or make it one day and freeze it for another. Since it can be kept frozen, it is also a great meal to gift a family with a new baby. Those early weeks can be exhausting for the family to juggle a newborn, children, pets, household chores, sleep, and not to mention the person who carried/labored the baby needs to recover. A freezable meal to offer someone is (in my opinion) one of the best gifts to give. It takes grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking, and some dirty dishes off their plate. If you happen to be the person preparing to have a baby, you can treat your future self and family to an amazing meal, by freezing a lasagna.


Lasagna is very easy to make plant-based. With all of the vegan cheese and imitation options found on the market, one can simply substitute and make a traditional red sauce, meaty, and cheese lasagna completely vegan. But, if you are trying for a whole food plant based option there are easy substitutes that don’t require processed foods.

Considering a vegetable lasagna for a moment- you will need to decide which veggies you and your family would like to eat in their red sauce lasagna. You can really grab whichever produce needs to be consumed, but my favorites are mushroom, spinach (or kale), green peas, carrots, and zucchini. Next comes the herbs- basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, pepper. While my pot of water is boiling for the lasagna noodles, I quickly prep the veggies. Cutting the vegetable to be similar in size will help them cook evenly. I saute them in a pan using only a tablespoon or two of water and my herb mixture.

While my lasagna past is cooking I also make the “ricotta”. There are a couple different ways to make vegan ricotta. One recipe I have shared before, by Brandi Doming at TheVegan8.com, would work great. However, I tend to use a different recipe. There are variations of this vegan ricotta recipe all over the Pinterest boards, but the recipe I like to use is posted below. Once the ricotta is made, the noodles are al dente and the veggies are sauteed, layer all the ingredients as you would normally for the lasagna. As far as the marinara- some people will decide to make their own from scratch, which is a great idea if you have an overzealous tomato plant. I typically go with store bought marinara. Sauce, pasta, ricotta, veggies, sauce, pasta, ricotta, veggies, sauce, pasta. I like to add a light layer of sauce and a dusting of nutritional yeast on top. Then I cover with foil (here’s where you can save it for later) and bake at 350F for 40 minutes. I remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes, until bubbling.

Raising Vegan Tip- When shopping for a vegan marinara be sure to check the ingredients. Look out for added sugars, chemicals, or oil. I prefer to use organic marinaras which omit unnecessary sugars. Currently, my favorite brand is Organico Bello Pasta Sauce and the ingredients listed are tomatoes, onions, evoo, sea salt, basil, garlic, white pepper, black pepper. I love that is says Vegan on the jar!


Ricotta recipe

Ingredients:

1 10 oz package Plain organic garlic chickpea hummus

1 block of super firm tofu

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

2 tbsp of dried basil

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in medium sized bowl until well combined. May need to use hands or masher to break up tofu. Refrigerate or use immediately.


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Kid approved Buckwheat Pancakes (or Waffles)

Whether you are feeding adults or baby-lead weaning, these pancakes will be well received! Not a fan of pancakes? No problem. Use this same batter in a waffle maker and you have yourself some delicious and healthy waffles. I love this recipe because it is oil-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and refined sugar free. They are easy, quick and fun!

No time to stand at a stove or at a waffle maker? Pour them out on a cookie sheet (with parchment paper) and bake them for 15-20 minutes. I tend to do this most often when I am making these for an afternoon snack. Between my 2-year-old and 4-year-old, they can eat an entire batch. The good news, I actually feel confident that they are getting a healthy snack.

Buckwheat is a whole grain and packed full of healthy calories, protein, and fiber. Studies have shown that eating buckwheat regularly as part of a healthy diet, can lower cholesterol levels and prevent chronic diseases, such as Diabetes Mellitus and hypertension. Just one cup of buckwheat flour contains: 48% daily value (DV) of Fiber (12 g), 30% DV of Protein (15 g), 85 mg of Omega-3 fatty acid, 1052 mg of Omega-6 fatty acid, 11% DV of Vitamin K (8.4 mcg), 33% DV of Thiamin (0.5 mg), 13% DV of Riboflavin (0.2 mg), 37% DV of Niacin (7.4 mg), 35% DV of Vitamin B6 (0.7 mg), and 16% DV of Folate (64.8 mcg). Estimated Glycemic load is 44.

Making these for an event, playdate, or holiday? Grab the cookie cutters and let the kids get creative stamping out all the different shapes.

We first found this recipe at Detoxinista, but needed to modify it a bit as we were interested in an oil-free option. We also like a thinner batter.


Modified Recipe:

If baking, preheat over to 375F

Mash 2-3 ripe bananas in large bowl.

Add 1 cup buckwehat flour, 4 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1 cup unsweetened almondmilk or soymilk.

Stir and combine well.

Pour onto hot pan or waffle maker. Serve immediately or allow to cool and store. If baking, bake for 15-18 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan.

Raising Vegan Tip- I like to use compostable parchment paper to line the baking sheet. Once they are cooked evenly and have cooled, the pancakes peel off nicely. I can quickly throw the compostable parchment paper into our compost and clean up is complete!

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1st Birthday: Cakes

The first birthday is a huge milestone. Some choose to do a small intimate celebration, while others want to have a large birthday bash. Either way, it can be easily done plant-based. This post will first discuss our desserts chosen for a large mostly adult party followed by our son’s 1st birthday, where we celebrated with just the 4 of us.

For our daughter’s 1st birthday (pre-pandemic) we had a family and friends party to celebrate the big day. We chose flamingos as our party theme. I think once the theme was selected it all fell into place. My first tip- settle on a theme. There can be so many to chose from. Scrolling through Pinterest feeds, I quickly became overwhelmed. But the pink flamingo felt right. Our little one gravitated to pink even at a young age, and still does today! We also knew the party would be outside and we wanted it to feel easy and colorful. That is how we came up with “Flamingo Fiesta”. I used Zazzle to create custom invitations. There are several platforms for creating custom invitations. Zazzle.com just happens to be one I am most familiar with and enjoy the freedom it provides. After the invites were complete, next came the smash cake!


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Obviously birthday cakes are a regular feature of a birthday party, but what do you do for a one-year-old? My husband and I had been following a plant-based baby-led weaning for our daughter. She had never had refined sugars, artificial food dyes, and was strictly vegan. I came across some pretty fun cake alternatives- birthday smoothie, birthday (healthy) muffins, and birthday fruit plate. I appreciated the idea of the healthy alternatives, but also really wanted the fun of a smash cake. So I chose a vegan recipe that kept refined sugars to a minimum and no artificial dyes. Thankfully, her grandmother offered to make the smash cake. She was kind enough to work with a recipe I provided and did an amazing job. Keep scrolling for the recipe.

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Apple Smash Cake Recipe:

3/4 c avocado oil

1/2 c maple syrup

1/3 c brown sugar syrup

1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 c organic cake flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 c chopped apples

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325F and spray olive oil on two 8″ cake pans

Add avocado oil, syrups, and vanilla extract to a lareg bowl and mix well. Add applesauce and mix again

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients and then add to the wet mixture. Do not overmix.

Fold in the chopped apples to coat evenly

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until clean toothpick from center.

Cool for 10 minutes.

The frosting was Vanilla Buttercream by Veggie Balance. link for recipe here.


So the big questions- Did she smash it? Did she eat it? Well, she put her hand in it, had a few bites, and tried to feed us. It was adorable. There is something so special about a little one offering to share. Warms my heart. It was a beautiful smash cake and a beautiful moment!

Next came the adult cake. I decided to go with a local vegan bakery. We were traveling out of town for this party and I did not want the added stress of baking and decorating a vegan cake in someone elses kitchen. Fortunately, I found an Atlanta, GA based bakery, Dulce Vegan Bakery & Cafe and ordered a custom cake. One of our family members lived in the area close to the bakery and was able to stop by for a taste test- Vanilla was her favorite, so that’s what I ordered! One of our family members was kind enough to pick it up on their way and it arrived in perfect condition! It was amazing!!


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Next, the final dessert- cupcakes. I am not sure I could have a party and not have a chocolate dessert option. I had just discovered a delicious vegan chocolate cupcake and had modified it for a little kick. I named it a Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcake. Click this link to find the recipe. So delicious! Luckily, her other grandmother offered to make these cupcakes the morning of the party! So we ended up with a lovely and tasty dessert table. It was covered in pink flamingos and filled with plant based ingredients.

But what if you are having a small family celebration? Keep scrolling for our son’s 1st birthday.

If you are planning a 1st Birthday Party during a pandemic (like we did for our son) you’ll likely be keeping it intimate with family only. We had a wonderful time celebrating our son’s 1st birthday despite our original plans being cancelled due to COVID-19. Mickey Mouse was a favorite at the time, so we went all out decorating. Even his birthday outfit matched the theme. Be sure to scroll down to see his adorable onesie. We elected to do an even healthier smash cake than our daughter’s. I use this recipe to make muffins, mini cakes, or fun shaped cupcakes all the time. The kids consider it to be a special treat, and I know they are still getting a nutrient packed snack from it.


Banana Applesauce Smash Cake Recipe:

Double or triple for full sized dozen muffins or 9″ cake.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mash 2-3 large ripe bananas, mix with 1/4 c. applesauce, 1 1/2 T avocado oil, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Large bowl combine 1/3 c. whole wheat flour, 1/3 c. oat flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix.

Pour into oiled or silicone cake (or muffin pan).

Cook for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting I used the same Veggie Balance Vanilla Buttercream.

Our son loved the smash cake and would have probably eaten the entire thing if we had let him. In fear of an upset stomach, we portioned it out a bit. He had a great time digging into it and devouring it!

For the rest of us, I used a silicone miniature Mickey Mouse cupcake pan, which I had found on Poshmark. Used the same recipes for the smash cake and frosting. We all enjoyed the cakes and celebration!

Raising Vegan Tip Look for decorations at a local Thrift Store, Local Buy Nothing Group, or on second-hand online markets- such as Poshmark. Also, when done with decorations, pass on the love by donating via Buy Nothing Group or to local Thrift Stores. Extend the life of the decorations!

Check back for the next post- 1st Birthday: Lunch Menu

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

If you arrived here from my other post- 1st Birthday: Cakes. You are in the right place! Here you will find all the details on these AMAZING vegan cupcakes. If not, go ahead and check out my post, where I discuss all the delicious deserts we served at our daughter’s 1st birthday party.

These chocolate cupcakes pack a bit of a punch. Luckily, you decide just how big of a kick you want. I modified a vegan Hot Chocolate Cupcake recipe by adding a couple of spices. This transformed them and made them extra special. I still use the frosting in the original recipe, however, there are so many fantastic vegan vanilla frosting recipes out there. I recommend trying a different one from time to time until you find a few basic frostings to have in your baking arsenal.


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What I love about the marshmellow frosting, is the lightness. It is extra fluffy and doesn’t overwhelm. It has a sweetness which compliments the spice of the cupcake. The frosting will settle after several hours, so I recommend making it the morning of or as close to the event as possible.

Raising Vegan Tip- When you drain a can or tetrapak of chickpeas, be sure to save the liquid. This is called aquafaba. It is magic! It is the perfect egg white replacer. Best way to save aquafaba is by freezing it in an ice cube tray. Portion it out by need- 2 tablespoons of aquafaba = 1 eggwhite and 3 tablespoons of aquafaba = 1 whole egg. This way when you are baking ang suddenly need the egg replacer you will have it stashed away in your freezer.

Ready to try this amazing recipe? Head on over to Wallflower Kitchen for the hot chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe. Remember to add the spice- Add 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper and 1/8 tsp of cinnamon to the dry ingredients. You can adjust the heat based on flavor preference, but note the spice becomes more intense after they cook. I can’t wait to hear how you like them!

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Pizza! Our weekly staple

In our house pizza night is a family favorite. The kids scream with excitement when they hear that we are having pizza. It has become one of our go-to meals, as it is quick, tasty, and hands-on for the little ones. For a while I was making the crust from scratch using a recipe by Brandi Doming, thevegan8.com. I will still use her pizza crust recipe for the kids, as it is simple to make and they love the taste. However, when I discovered The Essential Baking Company through Thrive Market, I was thrilled to find a crispy thin-crust that only requires baking for ~ 12-14 minutes. With Thrive Market, the pizza crusts arrive at our doorstep and are ready to go. So easy! The crust is delicious and perfect for our plant based toppings. The Essential Baking Company also offers $10 off of a Ridwell membership, which allows you to recycle the bread packaging. Since we are mentioning recycling plastic bags- Check out the Plastic Film Recycling website to find a plastic film recycling location near you. Ok. Back to pizza!


 

I encourage you to get creative with pizza toppings. The more veggies the better! I will be showing our favorites which are a white pizza and a red pizza. Honestly, we have switched gears to only white pizzas lately, but I am sure it will change again in the future. One of my favorite toppings is vegan ricotta! Kite Hill has a delicious vegan ricotta cheese, but if it is unavailable to you or price prohibitive (it’s not cheap), then you will be happy to know that Brandi has perfected plant-based ricotta cheese. I will link her blog here. It is easy to make and tastes AMAZING! Typically, I will make the ricotta cheese the day before we plan to have pizzas, or if I am really on top of it I will keep a batch in the fridge as it a fantastic addition to pasta dishes.

Raising Vegan Tip- Make a small batch of dough from scratch and let the kids help! Using the Vegan8.com pizza crust recipe, portion out the ingredients ahead of time for ease with the little ones. Have them pour, weigh, mix, knead, and roll. Use compostable parchment paper (I love the If You Care brand found at Thrive Market) to line the pan and serve personal sized pizzas. The kids will have a blast making the crust, choosing the toppings, and of course eating their very own veggie pizza!

Originally I was making our white pizza with sauteed spinach, chopped artichoke hearts and Sir Kensington’s vegan mayo seasoned with basil, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Once it is aromatic and the spinach has cooked down, transfer the mixture to the crust. Then add any other toppings you like, such as mushroom, black olives, capers, etc. It is a delicious combination. However, we are currently decreasing our oil intake, so now I make the white pizza sans mayo. I just layer on minced garlic with dried herbs and toppings. No sauce needed with the tasty thin crust.

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Tuna-Less Salad Wraps

When it comes to transitioning to veganism, I like to think of it as a gradual tiered process. One that someone can constantly modify and tweak until it suits them and their tastebuds. When we first transitioned from pescatarian to vegan, we would seek out the meat and cheese substitutes. The closer the imitation meat the better. This was years ago, before Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers were readily available. Over time, our tastebuds changed, dramatically. The appearance of imitation fish, chicken, or red meat was no longer appealing. We now could taste the full range of wonderful plants on our plates. And the thought of animals suffering to become an empty calorie meal was extremely off-putting. So, now that imitation meats and cheese are at all time highest, with their ability to fool any meat-eater, we have been reluctant to try all the newest vegan products.

Before veganism, tuna salad was a go-to easy meal of mine. A tuna salad stuffed pita was an easy filling lunch that I had previously sought out regularly. So, when I came across Loma Linda canned Tuno in spring water, I decided I had to give it a try. It instantly takes you back to buying canned tuna, which for a new vegan or someone dabbling in meatless meals may be a plus. So much of our eating habits is based on ritual and they say you eat with your eyes first. The appearance and texture are spot on to tuna. I went with my previous tuna salad recipe that I literally grew up with- pickle relish, mayo, and dash or salt and pepper. Of course, I used vegan mayo. There are plenty of brands of vegan mayo on the market now. I used Sir Kensington mayo, which I ordered through Thrive Market . Once mixed, I placed the Tuno salad on a flaxseed wrap with baby spinach and sliced avocado. It definitely hit the mark in recreating this past life meal for me. The funny thing is that I this stage of my plantbased journey, the imitation tuna was no longer appealing. However, I am sure there are a ton of ways to use this Tuno product, so I recommend getting creative!

An alternative to the imitation tuna, is chickpeas. Hear me out! The chickpeas give a fantastic texture. They are easy to make into a delicious tuna-less salad and are nutrient-rich. The more econonimcal and eco-friendly method is to cook dried chickpeas. Without an InstaPot or other pressure cooker, it can be a lengthy process. If you are looking for an easier option, I highly recommend Jack’s Quality Beans- which are packaged in Tetrapak instead of cans. If you are new to shopping for chickpeas or hummus- please check out the EWG website where they discuss the best brands for decreasing pesticide exposure. For the chickpea salad recipe, I am a huge fan of Forks Over Knives. Linked here. Definitely give it a try. Below I will post a link to the cook book that I use most often.

Raising Vegan Tip- One cup of chickpeas has 78% daily value (DV) of protein; that is 39 grams of protein! In that 1 cup you will also get 50% DV (1750 mg) of potassium, 69% DV of iron, 55% DV of vitamin B6, 140% DV of fiber, 57% DV of magnesium, and 21% DV of calcium. If using canned or tetrapak chickpeas, be sure to save the liquid, which is known as aquafaba, for future recipes calling for an egg.

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Another option for tuna-less salad is tempeh. Tempeh is versatile and easy to work with. You may have a difficult time finding it if your local grocery doesn’t carry it. However, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Kroger, and even Walmart Neighborhood Markets carry tempeh. It may be hidden the first time you go to look for it, so don’t be afraid to ask. Ours is usually located with other refrigerated vegan products or with the hummus (not sure why?). For a tempeh tuna-less salad recipe, I go to another favorite vegan cookbook, Plant Pure Nation, written by Kim Campbell. I will link this one as well. This recipe has amazing flavor! I often make a double batch to ensure I have leftovers to use for lunches during the week. Whether on a wrap or a salad this tempeh tuna-less salad does not disappoint!


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