The Easiest Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Ever

Do you ever get cravings for something that you’ve probably never eaten before? No? Let me explain…

Sometimes I see a recipe on a blog and it looks so good that I want it right there and then. Understandable, right? But some cravings are a little more complicated. Like my craving for tuna salad.

See, I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually eaten tuna salad. Despite liking fish growing up, the idea of tuna salad grossed me out. When people would eat it, I would turn up my nose at the smell. My high school cafeteria served Subway sandwiches and without fail, the tuna salad sub would always be the lone remainder at the end of the lunch period. I think it’s one of those comfort foods for some people, and I’ve never understood why.

But at the same time, I crave the idea of tuna salad. I haven’t eaten fish in years and I’ve always hated mayo–even vegenaise is a no-no for me. But I love that ocean-y taste and creamy texture that tuna salad provides.

I decided to veganize and simplify the classic tuna salad. I know there are plenty of vegan recipes for it out there, but none of them appealed to me. Most of them included vegenaise, or pickle relish, or some other random ingredient that I don’t have and I don’t want to buy for one recipe. So I went for things I already had in my pantry and fridge. Chances are you might have most of these things too! So let’s make tuna salad…vegan & healthy style!

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No-Mayo Chickpea Tuna Salad (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

1 can no-salt chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2-3 large celery stalks, chopped

1 tbsp kelp granules (can use dulse flakes or nori)

1 tsp nutritional yeast

lemon juice, to taste

sea salt, to taste

onion powder, to taste

In a large bowl, mash chickpeas to your desired texture. Add in celery, spices, kelp and lemon juice. Stir until combined. Serve with flax crackers, on toast or on top of greens. Makes ~2 cups. 

Do you ever crave weird foods? 

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Meal Prep Monday: Thanksgiving Redux

I’m having fun with these meal prep posts, so I thought I’d make it more of a regular thing here on AlmostVegGirlie!

This week’s edition is a bit of a throwback to Thanksgiving, because I made a couple recipes that are pretty Thanksgiving-y, but the best part is that they don’t require T-day leftovers to make. You can make these recipes whenever you have a craving for some traditional Thanksgiving eats, and they’re pretty adaptable to any diet–vegan, gluten free, grain free and no added sugar!

Groceries

Pantry staple from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Pantry staples from Natural Grocers and Whole Foods.

Luckily I was able to brave the below-freezing temperatures and snow to get to the grocery stores on Friday. I stopped at Natural Grocers for a few things and spent under $20, and then hit up Whole Foods and spent around $55. I finally restocked my bean pasta (I got the mung bean variety this time, and it’s just as good as the black bean), got my new favorite stevia chocolate chips and some weekly staples like no-salt added beans, fresh ground PB and raisins.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Produce from Whole Foods.

Whole Foods had some pretty great deals on produce this week, with avocados 4 for $5 (I got 2), organic pomegranates 2 for $5 (I got 1) and Ataulfo mangoes 2 for $3 (I got 2). And I got my usuals, like bananas, romaine hearts and yams.

Groceries for recipes.

Groceries for recipes.

I also stocked up on some things I needed for recipes I planned on making this weekend. I still have been eating mostly no-sugar-added by default (not saying this will last forever, or even for the 3 weeks I planned on doing it for) as it’s just what I’ve been feeling lately, so I finally bought some date sugar to try out in dessert recipes. I love sweetening things with dates anyway, and date sugar will work better in things that call for cane sugar, so I can’t wait to give it a try.

Meals

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I've ever made.

Grain free apple cran stuffing, made with the best grain free bread I’ve ever made.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

The Thanksgiving plate. Thanksgiving veggie burger topped with homemade cranberry chia jam on a bed of spinach. Side of grain free apple cran stuffing.

I know I said that Thanksgiving is a not-so-exciting holiday for plant-based eaters, but for some reason I was really craving Thanksgiving flavors this week. It all started when I bookmarked this recipe for paleo-friendly stuffing, and when I realized it could easily be made vegan, I decided to give it a shot. However, I changed it up a lot based on what I had on hand and what I could find in the store, so I’m going to share my recipe here, along with my recipe for a Thanksgiving-inspired veggie burger.

Grain Free Cran Apple Stuffing (vegan, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

Bread

1/3 cup almond meal

2 tbsp coconut flour

1 tsp xanthan gum (can sub guar gum)

1/4 cup tapioca starch (can sub arrowroot)

1/2 tsp baking soda

Himalayan pink sea salt, to taste (I only used a pinch)

1 tbsp almond oil (can sub olive oil, or another nut/seed oil)

1/2 cup water

Stuffing

1/4 cup apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries

1/2 6 oz box of 100% apple juice (like the kid’s size apple juice)

almond or coconut oil, for sauteeing

4 stalks celery, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

cinnamon, pink sea salt and other spices, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F (at a higher altitude, heat to 425). Grease a sheet of foil with coconut oil, and place foil on cookie sheet. In a bowl, whisk almond meal, coconut flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, baking soda and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water and almond oil, and stir in with dry ingredients. Keep mixing until ingredients come together and are a bit sticky. Spread dough out onto greased foil, and spread thin, about 1/2 an inch thick. Drizzle a little almond oil on top, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bread starts to brown. Set aside to cool and harden a little, for about 10 minutes.

Lower the oven’s heat to 350 F. Once bread has cooled, tear or chop into small chunks, and place in a coconut oil-greased baking dish. In a pan on the stove over medium heat, saute the almond oil with celery and garlic, until softened. Add in spices, dried cranberries and apple juice, and continue to cook until mixture is fragrant and starts to thicken. Remove from heat, and carefully pour over bread chunks. Mix all ingredients gently, then cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

So you understand just how good the bread part of this stuffing is, I made a second batch of it the next day, this time sprinkling it with cinnamon and date sugar before baking…and I ate several pieces of it the same day. I don’t know how, but this bread has the doughiness and taste of a regular bread without any grains in it at all! That’s why I love experimenting with grain free baking–it’s so different from regular baking (especially doing it without any eggs) but when I finally figure out something that works, it feels amazing. Total nerd status, but I just love cooking!

I was going to share the recipe for the Thanksgiving veggie burger, but while the taste was spot-on, the texture was not. I’ve yet to make a perfect veggie burger–one that tastes good AND holds together without the use of an egg or breadcrumbs. I definitely don’t mind veggie burger crumbs, but they don’t exactly make a great recipe. I can direct you to the recipe I adapted for mine though, on the Post Punk Kitchen site. That one uses lentils as the base, which I would have done if I wasn’t lazy and had time to cook some lentils from scratch.

What’s your favorite flavor of Thanksgiving (traditional or not)? Any tips for making a good veggie burger that holds together well?

Recipe Redux: (Raw) Vegan Jalapeno Poppers

So I’m bringing back an old old favorite of mine, just in time for Superbowl Sunday. To be honest, I don’t really care that much about the game, especially since the Broncos aren’t in it (they were so close…) but I’ll probably be rooting for the 49ers since I’ve actually been to San Fran and am definitely considering moving to the area at some point. Anyways, the Superbowl is all about the snacks anyway for us foodies–but what if you want healthier options than the typical chips and dip or buffalo wings? Being vegan also takes many of those traditional snacks out of the equation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t remake them to enjoy a healthy, plant-based option.

I used to love jalapeno poppers as a kid. I’ve been a huge fan of spicy foods for most of my life and the combo of a jalapeno and (fake) cheese was perfect for my picky tastebuds. I haven’t had them in years for obvious reasons but I still have a love for fresh jalapenos and have been wanting to remake them into a vegan version. I’m definitely not the first to think of this as there are plenty of other vegan poppers out there but I really wanted a whole foods-based option so I made my own…and they just so happen to be raw!

'Nuff said!

‘Nuff said!

Vegan Jalapeno Poppers (vegan, gluten free, grain free, can be raw)

4-5 large jalapeno peppers

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours

raw apple cider vinegar, to taste (adds tangy, cream cheese-like flavor)

sea salt, to taste

1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1-2 tbsp almond meal or flour

Rinse off jalapenos and slice in half. You can reserve some of the seeds if you want the poppers to be hotter; if not, just discard the seeds. Remove the ribs from the peppers. In a food processor, blend cashews, ACV, salt and nutritional yeast. Add more nooch and ACV to taste, and add enough water to blend (but make sure it’s thick, like cream cheese). Spoon cashew cheese mixture into each jalapeno half, and top with enough almond flour to cover. 

Raw Version: place jalapeno halves right side up in a dehydrator and dehydrate for 1-2 hours or until warm. 

Baked Version: heat oven to lowest setting, place jalapeno halves on foil-lined baking sheet and cook until warmed and browned (keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).

What’s your favorite game day snack? Do you like things spicy? 

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday #29

Recipe Redux: Festive Garland Bars

Do you have any recipes that you return to again and again? Maybe you make it every year for a certain holiday, or just on a laidback weekend for a quick meal or snack. I think most of us have at least one tried-and-true recipe we make often, whether it’s one we came up on our own or one from a blog or cookbook.

For me, this would be my festive garland bars. I first saw the recipe on the Whole Foods site about a year ago, and I knew right away that I wanted to veganize them. I did, and I made quite a few changes to the original to make it my own and a much healthier option. I know some people like their treats to be totally indulgent, and that’s completely fine, but I’ve got a huge sweet tooth so I always healthify my treats to make them a better option for a more regular dessert.

I first made the bars over Thanksgiving break last year and loved them. It was my first foray into reintroducing chocolate back into my life after starting recovery from my ED, and it was a big step forward for me. Now if you read my blog like, ever, you’d know that I love dark chocolate and almost never go a day without it in some form. So it was definitely time to return to these bars.

But since last year, I’ve made even more changes to my diet. I usually stick with gluten free grains because they make me feel better and I love the different tastes and textures they provide to baked goods. So I replaced the oat flour I originally used (oat flour can be gluten free, you just have to check to make sure it is certified g-free) with Garden of Life RAW chai protein powder and buckwheat flour, which give it a bit more protein power. I also cut back on the maple syrup and chocolate chips, and cut out the dried cranberries because I didn’t have them on hand. I also scaled down the recipe to make fewer bars because Thanksgiving break is just around the corner and I didn’t want to pack too much extra food when I go home. It turned out to be a delicious experiment–just as yummy as I remember them, and a little bit healthier to boot!

This year’s version of my fave dessert recipe.

Festive Garland Bars Take Two (vegan, gluten-free)

3 tbsp buckwheat flour (can sub other gluten free flours)

1 scoop Garden of Life RAW vanilla chai protein powder (can use other protein powders, but this gives it a festive taste)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp cacao nibs (can use more, this was all I had!)

1 tbsp dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini chips)

2 tbsp grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

handful Whole Foods kettle corn

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder and salt. Stir in cacao nibs until combined. In another bowl, stir together maple syrup and pumpkin until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet and add in a splash of almond milk if needed. Pour batter into a 7X5 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until springy to touch. In a microwave safe bowl, heat chocolate chips until melted. Pour chocolate over cooled bars and press kettle corn into chocolate. Let the melted chocolate set and then cut into 6 bars.

Have you ever reinvented an old favorite recipe? How do you feel about healthifying desserts?

WIAW: Protein-Packed, Plant Style

Any current or former vegetarians and vegans out there know this question all too well: “So where do you get your protein?” To most omnis, protein is only found in meat, eggs and dairy products. But as we all know, protein is found in pretty much everything, from kale to cacao nibs. Yes, there are actually 3 grams of protein in a one ounce serving of cacao nibs, which is all the more reason to enjoy chocolate 😉 Anyways, the point is, even strict vegans don’t need to worry much about adequate protein consumption as long as they’re consuming enough calories as well. However, I do love a lot of plant-based protein sources–I love me some healthy carbs, but I can’t survive on those alone. Last year, when I was just starting out on my vegan journey, I gravitated more towards carbs, which is okay, but nowadays I have a much better balance of fats, protein and carbs and I feel a lot more energized. If I had to categorize my macros, I’d say I’m usually around 45% carbs, 20-25% protein and 30-35% fats. That’s a big change, especially in the fats department, but I’m definitely embracing protein a lot more today too.

That being said, here are Monday’s protein-packed, plant-based eats. Note: I am a big fan of plant protein powders (not soy-based ones, but ones made from sprouted quinoa/rice, pea and cranberry proteins, like Vega and Sunwarrior) and I use them frequently, but I don’t think they’re a necessity in a plant-based diet. I use them (along with peanut flour, which isn’t really a protein powder but just concentrated peanut protein that tastes AMAZING) because I like how they taste and that they give me a protein boost for relatively fewer calories. Yes, I will admit that I still have a fear of eating ‘enough’, mostly because I don’t know what ‘enough’ is for me and it’s scary to change our habits. I do like whole food sources of protein, but protein powders are fun and tasty and I always choose the less processed versions.

Breakfast: banana bread in a bowl. Garden of Life RAW chocolate protein powder, half of a mashed banana, almond milk, mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips, topped with Maranatha maple almond butter.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with banana bread. I’ve been fulfilling that craving with making my protein microwave cakes with a banana mashed in and adding chocolate chips. Maybe you won’t believe me, but this legit reminds me of banana bread. The best part is the gooey banana and chocolate, and the melty nut butter on top. Swoooon…

Protein: 19 grams

Lunch: pumpkin curry socca pizza topped with kale and red cabbage, side of black grapes and Chocolove peppermint dark chocolate square.

Socca is a great way to have pizza while still getting in some great protein. I love loading up my pizzas with veggies, and since I don’t eat cheese, most traditional pizzas don’t have much in the way of protein. But socca does, and I love it! Today’s version had a pumpkin curry sauce (made by mixing pumpkin puree and a premade coconut curry sauce) and was topped with sauteed kale and crunchy red cabbage. Perfect combo!

Protein: 8 grams

Afternoon snack: peanut and buckwheat flour waffle, topped with maple almond butter and vegan chocolate mousse.

You guys already know I have an insane obsession with homemade waffles. I love everything about them–the toppings, the texture, the endless flavor options, the flour choices. This one was made with a mix of (mostly) peanut flour and a little buckwheat flour and then topped with my new favorite almond butter and some mousse from the Whole Foods dessert section (it has a really great ingredients list of just dark chocolate, tofu and maple syrup). I added in a bit of banana and some more chocolate chips into the batter and it was just too good.

Protein: 14 grams

Dinner: pineapple fried quinoa, with edamame and (unpictured) Kaia raw sprouted “party mix” pumpkin seeds, unpictured side of kabocha squash dipped in organic ketchup.

Guys, this may be my new favorite dinner (other than waffles). I made it for the first time around my birthday back in July and made it a few times shortly after, but then forgot about it as I was moving into my apartment and starting school again. I randomly decided I wanted to make it again and I am so glad I rediscovered it. It is really so simple, but tastes crazy good. The best part is, it’s packed with protein from whole foods sources–edamame, quinoa and pumpkin seeds.

Protein: 11 grams

Dessert: PB Puffins mixed with peanut flour, almond milk, raisins and mini chocolate chips, unpictured side of peppermint dark chocolate square and Hail Merry raw maple vanilla almonds.

I don’t have cereal as much anymore, but I still have a soft spot for PB Puffins. They’re just so…addictingly good. Now when I have cereal, I like to add in some protein powder or peanut flour in with the almond milk to make it more substantial. This particular bowl was very peanutty, but good, even for a girl who hates peanut butter (but loves peanut otherwise).

Protein: 11 grams

The total protein count for the day was 63 grams! I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s right in line (actually a little higher) than Fitsugar’s chart on protein needs based on weight and activity levels. And for me, it’s about double the protein that I was eating a year ago so I consider that a major success! And it just goes to show that vegans can get enough protein, without having to eat a ton of soy (I only had half a serving on Monday) or even a lot of supplements (I only used one full scoop of protein powder the entire day).

Do you ever track your protein consumption? What’s your favorite plant-based protein source?