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 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 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… 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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Spaghetti E’s

This is a delightful, healthy, homemade play on the traditional spaghetti O’s.  It is easy to make and modify, and of course, it’s Vegan!  I encourage you to add or substitute ingredients to keep this recipe evolving.  It is a great way to introduce different herbs and spices or sauces to your Littles.

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2 cups Vegan elbow pasta (cooked)

1/3 cup of carrot puree

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 cup almond milk (without carrageenan)

round logoRaising Vegan Tip- Turmeric is a mild spice which contains curcumin.  Curcumin has been found to potentially prevent and stop cancer cells from progressing.  The amounts used in cooking have been shown to be adequate in helping our bodies not only fight cancer but also inflammation.  To learn more please check out for evidence-based information. 

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Combine all ingredients to drained, warm pasta.  Stir well mixing all ingredients and coating the pasta evenly.

Serve once cooled.

There are many options for modifying this recipe.  If your Little has a nut allergy feel free to use soy milk to substitute the almond milk.  If your Little has a gluten allergy use chickpea pasta, rice pasta, etc in place of the wheat pasta.


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Veganism Made Easy

Just as there are many reasons to live a vegan lifestyle, there are many ways to obtain this lifestyle.  Some people may be needing an immediate health-correct, in which case, switching to a whole foods plant-based diet would be indicated.  Others may also want the health benefits, but are not facing an imminent health crisis and can make the transition to a whole foods plant-based diet more gradually.  Based on, the motivation for many people to become vegan is multifactorial: wanting to stop animal cruelty, lower the environmental impact of their diet choices, and improve their health.   I mention these scenarios as a preface to me proposing stages of veganism.  Hear me out.

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For those who have been raised on meat and dairy products, the thought of quitting those foods up may be hard.  It may even seem impossible.  Despite knowing that the evidence and science supports their decision, it can be an internal struggle of self-doubt.  Many are faced with loved ones questioning their decision while being surrounded by ads for enticing meat and dairy products.  They many experience fear of cravings or failure.

This is why I am proposing stages.  Initially, when transitioning to a vegan diet, I recommend utilizing the vast array of products designed to mimic meat and dairy.  The food science has exponentially grown over the past 10 years.  Now you can find vegan burger patties that are juicy and sizzle in the pan (i.e. Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger).  You can find vegan cheeses that slice, dice, and melt, just like the real thing, but without the terrifying hormones and saturated fats.  The use of these items helps quiet the cravings and helps the initial feel of isolation from your omnivore loved ones.  Bring the Beyond Meat patties to a BBQ or offer a dairy-free cheese spread at your next party.  These are nice, easy ways to step into the vegan lifestyle.  The key is to incorporate these meat and dairy substitutes into a well rounded vegan diet, which is comprised of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans.

round logo Raising Vegan Tip- Beware of products packaged as dairy-free or lactose-free but are not actually vegan.  How is this possible?  Casein.  Casein is a milk protein that slips into seemingly healthy products but it is in fact milk.  Go Veggie is one brand that comes to mind that offers lactose-free (NOT vegan) and vegan products.  Be sure to ALWAYS read the ingredients.  

Stage 1 Meat Substitutes Dairy Alternatives
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with Processed Foods Gardein, Quorn*, Beyond Meat, Carla Lee’s Nut, Tofurky, Field Roast, Morning Star*, Lightlife Chao Creamery, Silk, Follow Your Heart, Go Veggie*, Just Mayo, Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozarella, Tofutti, Daiya, So Delicious, Miyoko’s
Stage 2
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with LESS Processed Foods Upton’s Naturals, Sweet Earth Natural Foods, Trader Joe’s 3-grain tempeh Some from above, nutritional yeast, nut cheeses
Stage 3
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, and Beans, Supplemented with FEW to NO Processed Foods Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, Miso paste, Mushrooms, Jackfruit, Lentils, Beans Nutritional yeast, homemade nut cheese, tofu ricotta, etc

*Not all Brands are strictly vegan

**There are more brands than shown here.

It is amazing to me how the senses, especially taste and smell, change with a diet change.  After just a few months of quitting meat and dairy, vegetables and fruits are more favorable.  Even plain tofu tastes good, which I commonly serve to our Little.  My husband and I were preparing a Beyond Meat burger the other day, and we were astonished by the resemblance of a beef patty.  Flashback to when we first quit meat and we would have been thrilled.  But, now the fake flesh was no longer appetizing.  The smell and the way it sizzled was also a perfect replica of a burger cooking.  Again, this would have been very enticing long ago, but now not so much.  Our bodies crave different foods and feel better when they receive what they were designed to digest.  I proudly support the mimicking fake meats, because they are great transitional foods.  There are certainly plenty of veteran vegans that also enjoy them- so well done Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger!

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.


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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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!