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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Vegan Sushi- easier than you may think!

After 5+ years of being vegan there are few foods that I miss. Even seeing the imitation meats are displeasing at this point. However, my husband and I were huge fans of sushi. It was a fun date night and we were missing it after our move to a small town, where veganized sushi wasn’t accessible. So, we learned a new skill- Sushi making! And we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it can be. When made at home the ingredients are fresh, vibrant, and ethically sourced. The pride we felt biting into our first sushi roll was thrilling! We were hooked. There are plenty of fantastic tutorials on youtube.com on how to roll the sushi. Here I’ll walk you through our process, but have fun at home finding what works for you and your family’s taste buds.

While we try to stick with a low-oil diet, this recipe does use vegetable oil for frying the tofu. I did not have luck using air-dryer tempura recipes, but if you find one that works for you- comment and let us all know! If you decide to try the tempura tofu, which I highly recommend- throw a can of sparkling water into the refrigerator the day before to ensure it is ice cold. If you forget, it happens, you can chill it quickly by pouring a can of sparkling water into a small metal bowl and submerging it into a slightly larger bowl with ice cubes. Spin the smaller bowl around in the ice and viola- chilled sparkling water.

I like to use my Instapot for the sushi rice. It is easy, fast, and effortless. I found sushi rice at our local grocery. Because we like to make 6 rolls total, saving 2 for lunch the following day, I cook 2.5 cups of rice. Equal parts water to rice. I set the Instapot for 5 minutes on HI and 5 minutes of natural release followed by quick release. I must say it comes out perfect every time! While the Instapot is doing its thing, I prep a 9″ square casserole dish for the rice by mixing 1/4 c. white wine vinegar, 1/4 c. rice vinegar, 2 T (vegan) granulated sugar, and 1 tsp fine salt. After combining that mixture I start on my tempura tofu (see below). Once the rice is done cooking I add it to the mixture in the dish and stir carefully using a wooden spoon. I set that aside to cool.

The crispiest and most delicious tempura tofu. While the rice is cooking I use a gram scale to measure out 125 grams of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp potato starch, 1/8 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp fine salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and mix. Prep a block of super firm tofu by pressing out all liquid and cutting it into 1/2″ cubes. Heat a wok or large skillet with a few inches deep of vegetable oil. Once your oil is hot, add 230 grams of ice cold sparkling water (I like to use La Croix lime) to the dry mixture and stir. Add the cubed tofu into the mixture ensuring each piece is nicely coated- gently fry the pieces in the oil. I like to use extreme caution when frying foods. We keep the little ones and pets out of the kitchen and away from potential harm. I use long tongs to gently place the battered tofu into the oil, and use a ___ spoon to retrieve the golden brown cooked pieces. Makes my mouth water just thinking of the delicious deep fried tofu. If you aren’t a tofu fan, you can substitute for sweet potato, cauliflower, or broccoli. This ingredients adds an amazing level of unami to the sushi rolls and fools you into thinking you are eating take-out!

Raising Vegan Tip- Let’s help the planet! The most eco-friendly way to dispose of vegetable oil is to put it right back into the ground. Find a place on your property that you would like to keep weeds or grass from growing and dump the cooled discarded oil into the soil. It will degrade over time. Next, the cling or plastic wrap- we know it is terrible for the planet. It will literally last for hundreds of years in your pantry. What’s the solution? Use 100% compostable cling wrap. We compost at home and it feels wonderful to know that the cling wrap will degrade and help feed our garden.

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Now you are ready to start building your rolls! The key is less can be more if you are having difficulties getting the roll to stay together. The sticky rice is your friend. And remember, fresh seaweed sheets are key.

The obvious condiments to serve with the sushi rolls are soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. We found Ginger People‘s pickled ginger at our local grocer. I really appreciate that this brand doesn’t use any food dyes in their ginger. Can you believe that some other brands actually use known carcinogens, red no. 40, just to give their ginger a pinkish tint. You can make your own, but I have not given it a try. For the wasabi, I love Eden‘s wasabi powder. You reconstitute it in hot water per the directions on the tin. It is delicious and not overly potent. I get our Eden products from Thrive Market . Some of the tube wasabi will have dyes in them, so be sure to check out the ingredients when shopping.


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Beach Day with Littles!


Going to the beach is a fun day for the whole family.  The Littles have a great time exploring new textures, hearing new sounds, and seeing new sights.  It will certainly wear them out for their next nap!

If you are going to the beach with a baby (not walking yet) the goal of the day is to keep them entertained in the shade.  For the toddlers, you have the same goal, but add in water-safety.  Toddlers can make their way to the ocean in a blink of an eye, so always be on alert!

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Eating vegan at the beach may seem hard at first, but it is actually extremely easy- especially when eating healthfully.  Be sure to keep yourself and the Littles well hydrated.  For babies older than 9 months, water is a great supplement to formula or breast milk.  Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water- so load up!  Avoiding salty snacks or caffeinated drinks will help slow dehydration. Below you will find a list of our favorite beach day snacks.  


Snack List:

  1. Organic Vegan food pouches- We especially like unsweetened applesauce for the Littles.  Once they enjoy combination flavors- there are so many options for delicious organic vegan food pouches.  You can also make your own!
  2. Fruit!  Oranges, bananas, grapes (not for the four-legged family members), apples, pears, mango, the list goes on.  For convenience sake- we prefer bananas and oranges- easier fruits that don’t require a knife.
  3. Hummus and Veggies– celery, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, etc.  Depending on how the age of your Little, the veggies may need to be steamed in advance.
  4. WATER!  Depending on the beach, you may have access to clean, fresh, drinking water, but if not- bring a lot of water!  We prefer to bring a gallon of drinking water to refill bottles and a gallon of tap water to wash hands prior to eating.
  5. Coconut water.  If your family is prone to dehydration, coconut water is your answer.  I’ll spare you the boring details, but its electrolyte balance makes it ideal for quick hydration.
  6. Nuts.  Almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.  All are great sources of protein and omega-3.  I recommend finding the unsalted variety.  Nuts are a choking hazard for kids under the age of 2 years.  As long as your Little doesn’t have a nut allergy, almond butter or other nut butter packets are great snacks.  However, the consistency of the butters can be very hard for babies to swallow.  For the babies, nut butters should be diluted to a sauce consistency for easier swallowing.
  7. Dried Fruits.  For the adults or older Littles, I am a huge fan of dried mango, dried apricots, etc.  While eating a whole fruit is ideal, the convenience of dried fruit is great for the beach!


IMG_4974Sun protection!  Sunscreen, rash guards, UV protective hats, umbrellas, beach tents- these items are musts for a beach trip.  No matter how long the sun exposure, everyone should be wearing sunscreen.  Be sure to ask your doctor at what age they recommend babies start wearing sunscreen.  In regards to UV protective hats- always read the labels.  Surprisingly, not all are intended for UV protection.  The label should clearly state UV protection or SPF 50+.  Consider buying brightly colored rash guards, bathing suits, or UV protective hats for the Littles.  This way you can easily spot them on the beach or in the water.

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Raising Vegan Tip– My favorite sunscreens are zinc oxide based.  Zinc oxide is a mineral and sits on the surface of your skin.  It acts as a barrier reflecting and absorbing the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.  It is also used to treat skin abrasions, diaper rash, and chapped skin.  Bonus!

Sometimes the amount of gear needed to go to the beach can seem overwhelming.  Keeping the essentials (shade, water, snacks, diapers) in mind- try to pack light. 


Beach Gear:

  • Our favorite sunscreen for Littles
  • Best Beach Tent- Fits 2 adults and 2 Littles and is very easy to set up and break down.  I especially love the built-in sand bags so it doesn’t fly away!
  • Great Beach Mat that allows sand to fall through it when packing.  We also like beach mats since the surface of this mat can be rough for crawlers.
  • UV protective hats are a must!
  • Great toys to keep Littles occupied.
  • A tub at the beach?  Yes!  Fill it up with ocean water and let the Littles splash and play.  Also keeps the Littles cool.  Always supervise!
  • Beach wagon!  Any variety with all-terrain wheels will work great for hauling gear or Littles!
  • Adult rash guard- Don’t forget to protect yourself!


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10-minute Fajitas

Who doesn’t love a quick, delicious meal?  This recipe does call for a meat substitute by Beyond Meat.  Feel free to try alternatives like tempeh, soy curls or jackfruit to make this dish 100% whole plant based.  This recipe serves two hungry adults and could be for the Littles sans hot sauce.  Sharing the avocado is a great way to include them with this meal.  Our Little LOVES chopped avocado! Our Littles also like to put peanut butter or almond butter in the tortillas and pretend they are having the same dish- whatever works!

Ingredients:

One package of Beyond Meat’s Beyond Chicken Strips

1 bundle of rainbow chard**

6 small yellow corn tortillas

Chao Creamy Original cheese

1 bell pepper (any variety- I prefer orange or red for the color)

1 ripe avocado

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp ground cumin

2 tbsp ground coriander

2 tbsp chili powder

fresh ground black pepper to taste

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Raising Vegan Tip- Use water in place of oil when sauteing.  This is a healthier alternative and will decrease the amount of saturated fats in your dish.  The type of pan surface will also aid in cooking without oils.  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a small bowl mix the spices and set aside.  On medium heat cook the Beyond Chicken Strips until golden (usually takes ~ 10 minutes, flipping the strips halfway through).  Use half of the spice mixture on the chicken strips while cooking.

Slice the bell pepper while the chicken strips are cooking. Once browned, add sliced bell pepper and sprinkle the remaining spice mixture over it.  Saute until soft.  I like to place a lid over the pan to allow the bell peppers to soften quicker.

While bell peppers are cooking, chop and saute rainbow chard with the lemon juice.  I like the rainbow chard to still have a little firmness to it, but you may elect to have it completely cooked.

On a baking sheet lay out tortillas with small pieces of Chao cheese in the center of each.  Bake at 450 degree for ~ 3-5 minutes until slightly crispy.  Each oven and tortilla will cook differently, so keep an eye on the tortillas.  Another option is to cook them individually in a pan, but this does take longer and doesn’t allow for all the tortillas to be ready at the same time.  Once tortillas are ready- Layer chicken strips, bell peppers, and chard on each fajita.  Add chopped avocado to each and serve.  Tip- drain the chard prior to using.

My husband enjoys hot sauce on his fajitas.  Other ways to turn the heat up is to use Chao Tomato Cayenne cheese in place of the Creamy Original.

**Other varieties of chard or collard greens are also delicious!


Tempeh & Vegetable Stir fry

Using a combination of a few ready-made items, this dish is fairly easy, fast, and tastes delicious!  I like to use Trader Joe’s Asian Vegetables, but I do not use the sauce.  The veggies, though frozen, cook nicely without becoming soggy or tasteless.  Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki sauce is a great add to this dish, but it will increase the sodium levels.  For the chick’n, I use Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n.  I do enjoy the sauce that comes with this product and will use it when cooking the chick’n.  It blends well with the Island Soyaki sauce.  Another lighter option (Stage 3 vegan) is to use tempeh (pictured above) instead of Gardein chick’n.  There are several recipes online for Vegan Teriyaki tempeh.  I like to use VNutrition‘s recipe, when I have more time to invest in the tempeh.

Be sure to sit aside some steamed veggies and rice for your Littles to enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 baby bok choy (cleaned)

12 oz sliced Golden Oak Shiitake mushrooms (cleaned)

5 oz sliced bamboo shoots

8 oz baby corn

1 package of Trader Joe’s Asian Vegetables (frozen)

1 package of Gardein’s Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n

2 cups brown rice

2 stalks of steamed broccoli chopped

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki

Directions:

Cook brown rice by boiling for ~ 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.  Cut bok choy into ~ 2 ” pieces.  Drain and rinse canned baby corn and bamboo shoots.  Prepare the Gardein chick’n per directions for stove-top.  Apply the sauce once the pieces are properly browned. Lower the heat and add rice to the chick’n, stirring often to prevent burning of the rice. While the chick’n is cooking, on medium heat, place frozen vegetables in a pan and cook until warmed throughout ~ 5-8 minutes, careful not to overcook.  Add bok choy, baby corn, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms and place lid over pan.  Allow the pan to steam until mushrooms and bok choy are soft.  Add ~ 1/4 cup of Island Soyaki to the vegetables.  Once the sauce is warmed and the vegetables are coated evenly remove pan from stove-top.  Serve by plating the vegetables on top of the rice and chick’n mixture or combine all of the ingredients prior to plating.

round logoRaising Vegan Tip:  Cook the rice earlier in the day and set aside.  This will lessen the total cooking time for this dish.  You can also focus on not overcooking the rice when it is done at a more convenient time.  You can also wash and prep the bok choy while the rice is cooking.

This recipe feeds two very hungry adults.  The Littles can enjoy the brown rice and vegetables (carrots and broccoli) prior to seasoning.  I usually prepare my Littles’ broccoli and carrots separately by steaming them.  As long as the broccoli is VERY soft, they have no problem eating them.  We call them “green flowers” in our home.


No-Bake Lactation Snack

These yummy snacks are perfect for the busy day when a sit-down meal seems impossible.  Bonus! The ingredients (oats, chia seed, and flaxseed) are known to boost milk production for lactating mamas.  These are not meant for Littles, but the older kids will enjoy.

This easy recipe can be made in 5 minutes, the hard part is waiting for them to freeze.  When I make them I often find myself eating a spoonful or two before they make it to the freezer.  It’s also delicious as a topping on vegan yogurt.


Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup agave or maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

10 oz peanut butter (can substitute for other nut butters)

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips


Directions:

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  The goal is for the mixture to be sticky enough to shape into balls.  Sometimes I need more agave or peanut butter to hold the dry ingredients together.  Roll mixture into small balls (1″) and place on cookie sheet.  Freeze for 1 hour. Enjoy!  Store them in the freezer.  These were a life saver for me with our newborn.    

round logo Raising Vegan tip- Chia seeds are a superfood, which provide protein, omega-3, and fiber.  They also provide nutrients used by baby for healthy brain development.  



Do you get enough protein?

This is a common question we get from our omnivore friends and relatives.  Once one educates themselves on the protein amounts in vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains, the question becomes laughable.  In one stalk of broccoli there is over 4 grams of protein.  One cup of almonds has the same amount of protein (20 grams) as a T-bone steak, and almonds are high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), and so on.

So, are there any deficiencies to worry about with veganism?  Yes, one vitamin missing in a whole foods plant-based diet is vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamin.  This vitamin is crucial for the nervous system and red blood cell production.  Only bacteria can produce B-12, so unless you are eating very dirty veggies, a supplement is needed.  It is very important for pregnant or nursing women following a vegetarian or vegan diet to take a B-12 supplement this will prevent the baby from having a B-12 deficiency.


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Not all B-12 supplements are created equally.  Vitamin B-12 supplements in pill form may be swallowed and skip the gastric acids found in saliva and the stomach.  These acids are needed to breakdown the vitamin and allow it to be absorbed by the small intestine.  With this in mind, taking antacids, such as Pepcid or Prilosec, may reduce the absorption of vitamin B-12.  I prefer to take supplements in the most bioactive form, meaning the body doesn’t need to break it down or convert it to an active form.  For cobalamin, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are the most bioactive forms.  Find this in a liquid form and you are in business!  Now just make sure the product is vegan.

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Raising Vegan Tip-  The  recommended amount of Vitamin B-12 is 2000-2500 mcg/week.  Taking the B-12 supplement in the morning may give you a boost of energy.



10-minute Tofu Scramble

This is an absolute favorite in our house- even the Little loves it!!  It’s fast, simple, and can be re-heated to enjoy with many meals.  Tofu scramble can be made with any veggies you may have on hand- spinach, broccoli, chard, collards, mushrooms, bell peppers, and so on.  Have fun mixing it up- play with different textures.  You really can’t go wrong.  Especially with this seasoning recipe!  As for the Littles, you may decide to offer it initially without the veggies, especially if this is first time exposure.  But, if your little one already is keen to the leafy greens, then by all means serve it up like you would for yourself.  For the adults or spice loving family members- try adding hot sauce as a finishing touch.

Ingredients:

16 oz Extra-firm tofu, drained and dried

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley

1/4 c. water

fresh ground black pepper to taste


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round logoRaising Vegan Tip- Nutritional yeast is a complete protein and contains fiber.  It is also an excellent source for vitamin B-12, along with many other essential vitamins.  Use it as a topping to salads or pasta dishes, to substitute for cheese.  


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Directions:

Drain and pat dry the extra firm tofu and set aside.  In a small bowl mix nutritional yeast, turmeric, cumin, onion powder, black pepper and water.  Saute garlic in a pan on medium heat.  Add crumbled tofu (use your hands to crumble) into the pan and pour the spice mixture over the tofu.  Mix to ensure the tofu is covered evenly with the mixture.  Cook on medium stirring often for ~ 5 minutes to warm tofu evenly.  Sprinkle parsley over and serve.

*If you prefer your scramble to be more “runny” simply skip the drying step of the tofu.

Choose healthy sides like fresh fruit or toast to serve with this delicious scramble!