Meal Prep Monday: Raw Week 4

My “fully raw February” challenge is almost over…but I’m not done with the raw vegan lifestyle by any means! In my introductory post I said I was planning on going raw til dinnertime, but that actually turned into eating raw all day, every day since February 3 (besides a cooked dinner on Valentine’s Day) and I’ve been loving the results. I feel so light and refreshed after my meals, without any desire for cooked foods or added oil, sugar or salt (aside from a little pink sea salt added into my guacamole and kraut). This is something I want to keep up as long as possible and though I may be experimenting in the next month with high raw dinners (cooked beans with raw veggies), I feel great eating mostly raw and it’s something I’ve found I enjoy more than I thought I would!

Meals for the Week

Breakfast: This is always my most simple meal. Plenty of chia puddings, flax pancakes and I do want to try fruit+buckwheat rawnola someday if I can get out of my breakfast rut.

Lunch: I’m planning on zucchini noodles with raw marinara sauce or pumpkin seed pesto, salads and possibly lettuce wraps, with some fruit on the side.

Pesto zoodles for lunch.

Pesto zoodles for lunch.

Dinner: This is where I like to get creative and actually meal plan. I’ve got raw falafel/hummus/cauliflower tabbouleh on the lineup one night based on these recipes, pumpkin seed & garlic zucchini pasta and maybe a kelp noodle thing if I get to the store to restock them. I also will probably have more jicama chili fries since I have some leftover.

Snacks: Same as usual–snack plates with veggies, fruit and a fat source; protein banana softserve for dessert; chia pudding if I didn’t have it for breakfast.

Lean, green banana softserve packed with raw protein powder and spinach.

Lean, green banana softserve packed with raw protein powder and spinach.

Recipes for the Week

Other than the dinner recipes linked above, I’m planning on making these raw cacao donuts, a raw take on pink lemonade, spicy hot zucchini chips from Going Raw, sweet potato ‘fries’ in the dehydrator and probably more raw brownie bites. I had the best batch of them last week, but I forgot exactly what I put in them, so I’ll have to try again!

These look almost too good to be raw!

These look almost too good to be raw!

Source

Groceries for the Week

I’m including some things my dad picked up for me at Sprouts; otherwise, the rest was from Whole Foods and as usual, the produce will last for part or all of the week while other stuff may last through next week or longer.

*= organic

Produce: strawberries, baby spinach*, watermelon, cauliflower*, fry-cut yams, zucchini*, carrots*, avocados, garlic, mint*, bananas, papaya (excited to try this!), blueberries (on sale), lemons, cilantro, parsley, romaine hearts*

A little early for watermelon, but still tasty.

A little early for watermelon, but still tasty.

Bulk Bins: Medjool dates, raw mixed nuts, sprouted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almond flour, raw cashews, nutritional yeast

Miscellaneous: raisins*, coconut aminos, pitted dates, no-salt-added tomato paste, sundried tomatoes, frozen cherries*, hemp hearts, chia seeds, xylitol mints

As usual, lotsa produce and bulk bin seeds and nuts. My Whole Foods trip cost me about $70, which is a great deal for tons of fresh fruits and veggies. My biggest tip for keeping grocery costs low is shop from the bulk bins. I always get my nuts, seeds and dried fruit from there because I get only what I need and it saves a ton over buying them prepackaged. And I can always try a little bit of something new without worrying about wasting my money!

Have you ever tried papaya? What’s your best tip for saving money at the store?

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WIAW: Eat Yo Veggies

“Sooooo…what exactly do raw vegans eat?” While I personally haven’t been posed that question just yet, I know it’s a commonly asked question just from my experience as a vegan and from browsing raw vegan forums. But really, anybody who eats different from the ‘norm’ is probably asked this question and you know it can get annoying.

It probably comes as no surprise, but I’m eating a LOT of veggies as a raw vegan. And I mean a lot. Most days I eat veggies at lunch, snack and dinner and on Tuesday, I happened to cram veggie servings into each meal. Currently, I’m feeling great eating this way and I’m excited to continue my adventures into the raw foods world, but more on that in Friday’s post. For now, let me share some of what I’ve been eating lately!

Carrot cake-inspired protein chia pudding. No better way to start the day than with a serving of veggies!

Carrot cake-inspired protein chia pudding. No better way to start the day than with a serving of veggies!

This is one of my favorite breakfasts at the moment. Sadly, my vanilla Sunwarrior is almost out and I have to wait til I can afford it again to reorder more from Amazon. It pairs so well with carrots (I used one full-size carrot here)+raisins and coconut manna. Speaking of which, Nutiva’s  raw coconut manna is amazing and cheaper than Artisana’s coconut butter!

Cilantro lime cauliflower rice in the making. Better than Chipotle's.

Cilantro lime cauliflower rice in the making. Better than Chipotle’s.

I’ve never been a huge fan of rice, brown or white. It’s just a filling carb and I haven’t eaten it in a couple years (other than in sushi occasionally) because it does nothing for me. Cauliflower rice, on the other hand, is incredible. I prefer the texture to rice and when seasoned with fresh-squeezed lime juice and cilantro, plus a little nooch and onion powder, you won’t miss regular rice at all.

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar or salt)

1/2 head raw cauliflower, rinsed

handful fresh cilantro leaves

lime juice, to taste

1 tsp nutritional yeast

pinch onion powder

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until cauliflower is about the consistency of rice. Serves 1-2.

Superfood salad for lunch featuring cilantro lime cauliflower rice. Base of spinach+arugula, with cauliflower rice, hemp hearts, spicy sprouted sunflower seeds, Farmhouse Culture raw jalapeno kraut and a little raw taco filling.

Superfood salad for lunch featuring cilantro lime cauliflower rice. Base of spinach+arugula, with cauliflower rice, hemp hearts, spicy sprouted sunflower seeds, Farmhouse Culture raw jalapeno kraut and a little raw taco filling.

This salad was completely random, and as per usual, was amazing. Funny how the most random combos turn out the best. I’m sad that I’m out of my favorite sauerkraut (Farmhouse Culture brand, smoked jalapeno flavor) but that just means a trip to Whole Foods is in order, amiright? Sauerkraut is my weird obsession–I can’t get enough of the sour, spicy tang and the fact that it’s a natural probiotic is even better. This stuff is expensive, but it lasts me about a month, so it’s worth it.

No veggies in this, but still good!

No veggies in this, but still good!

I made the superfood cups from the Sweetly Raw blog, only these were basically just triple coconut cups. EV coconut oil, coconut manna, a little lucuma powder and flaked coconut on top. Perfect for people who are as obsessed with coconut as I am. Can’t believe it used to be one of my major fear foods…plant-based saturated fats no longer scare me!

Crazy for Coconut Cups (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

2 1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil (use extra virgin for best taste)

1 tbsp melted coconut manna

1/2 tsp lucuma powder (optional)

1 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

In a small bowl, mix melted coconut oil, manna and lucuma powder until smooth. Pour into cupcake liners and top with coconut flakes. Makes 3 small cups.

Taco Tuesday! Lettuce wrap tacos for lunch with homemade guac, more kraut, hemp seeds and raw taco filling.

Taco Tuesday Monday! Lettuce wrap tacos for lunch with homemade guac, more kraut, hemp seeds and raw taco filling.

I finally got some good avocados at Whole Foods this weekend! I’d given up on making guac at home because the avocados I was getting were mealy and too brown, even when they weren’t quite ripe. Maybe they’re coming back into season now or I picked well, because at least one of the avocados I got turned out perfectly creamy and ripe. Mexican food to me is alllllll about the guac, and going raw hasn’t changed that for me. I definitely prefer the fresh crunch of romaine hearts to traditional taco shells and I love loading them up with my favorite raw healthy fats, like hemp and sunflower seeds and guacamole, of course.

Lots of good stuff on my snackplates.

Lots of good stuff on my snackplates.

More snackplate action.

More snackplate action.

I never skimp on the veggies when it comes to snack time! This is when I like to get creative with my veggies, like romaine+dates or dried figs or dehydrated sweet potato ‘chips’. Plain raw veggies get the job done too. And I’ve been loving blackberries lately since I got some on sale for $2 this weekend at WF. Is that a steal, or what? I never used to like blackberries, but blame it on my changing palate since going raw–I love them now!

The raw sweet potato fries, courtesy of Rawmazing.

The raw sweet potato fries, courtesy of Rawmazing.

I made some incredible sweet potato ‘fries’ in the dehydrator yesterday, so I will be making this raw poutine once I get some mushrooms for the gravy. I know poutine is big in Canada, and I’ve actually never tried it (nor want to) but this raw version looks incredible! I’m becoming more and more creative while eating raw and I love it. It’s the perfect way to get me out of my food ruts, and I’m learning to love all kinds of different veggies. Of course, I still have my favorites (ahem romaine, spinach, carrots, cauliflower and sweet potatoes) but I’m up for trying new things all the time and adding new favorites to my rotation.

Other than that, my dinners have mostly been raw macro bowls on top of greens or kelp/carrot/zucchini noodles with some kind of sauce. I like how easy it is to make dinner now, but that I can go more creative if I want to.

From way back in December, but just pretend this was recently.

From way back in December, but just pretend this was recently.

Dessert has often been protein banana softserve, usually with spinach blended in for an extra serving of greens. I’m not a crazy 30 bananas a day raw vegan, but I usually eat 1 or 2 bananas a day at the moment, always in softserve form. Something about an unfrozen banana freaks me out now, I just prefer the taste and texture of frozen!

So that’s what this raw vegan’s been eating lately! I’ll be back with a post on Friday with some of my current raw food staples and how anyone can incorporate more raw foods into their diet…even omnivores!

What are some of your favorite veggies?

WIAW: Raw Til 6

One of my resolutions for this year, and also one of my goals last summer was to eat more raw. I love so many raw foods, and I prefer most of my produce raw too, but there are some cooked things I still love and don’t really want to give them up just yet. Maybe someday I’ll be fully raw but for now, I’m trying the popular Raw Til 4 plan, where you basically eat all raw until dinner time. Since I eat my afternoon snack around 4, I’m changing the name to Raw Til 6 to fit my schedule better 😉

Basically how I’m going about it is eating all raw until dinner, and then for dinner/dessert I’ll eat something cooked or something that’s not necessarily raw if I’m feeling like it. See, I love my roasted sweet potatoes/peanut flour/grain free pizza and since I usually eat these for dinner, it makes sense to keep them in my food rotation. My other meals will stay pretty similar to how they are now —> breakfast will be Sunwarrior/Garden of Life raw protein or chia seed pudding or a green smoothie or raw flax cakes, lunch will be a salad or lettuce wraps or a protein smoothie made with raw protein powder, and my snacks will be banana softserve or snackplates with plenty of fresh produce or homemade raw desserts. What I won’t be doing is restricting my fats or carbs. I personally don’t believe that 80/10/10 is the most balanced way to eat (I love my fruit but I can’t survive on just carbs) and I don’t want to go raw gourmet either because I don’t want to rely so heavily on nuts and avocados for every meal. Instead, I’ll be sticking pretty close to my normal macros (45% carbs, 25% protein, 30% fat) and just incorporating more raw foods. I’m also planning on making plenty of raw dinners as well because I’ve been bookmarking a TON of amazing-looking raw entrees and I’m really excited to try them out. I’m also going to start sprouting legumes and making my own almond milk and I can’t wait to try all these new things!

Enough of the wordiness, let’s get to the food. I’ve also got 2 recipes for you today, and another one linked up from my other blog, so I’m going pretty recipe-crazy over here!

Homemade [cheaters] almond milk.

Homemade [cheaters] almond milk.

I’ve been meaning to start doing this for a loooooong time, since there have been a lot of posts and articles out there lately discussing the potential harmful effects of carrageenan and other things added to packaged almond milk. It’s easier than you’d think to whip up your own almond milk at home, especially when you take the cheater’s route like I did. I had some fresh ground raw almond butter on hand and within a few seconds of blending with water, I had homemade almond milk, raw and completely free of unnecessary ingredients!

3 Ingredient 3 Second Almond Milk (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 1 tbsp raw almond butter
  • 4 cups water (can use filtered, or just plain tap water)
  • pinch stevia extract (optional)

In a large food processor or blender (I used my Ninja processor), add all the ingredients and blend or pulse for a few seconds or until it turns white-ish and creamy. Makes 4 1-cup servings. 

Superbowl snacks, gone raw.

Superbowl snacks, gone raw.

By now, we all know the outcome of the Superbowl. Even though I’m a fan of the Denver Broncos, being raised in Colorado, I’m not a diehard fan by any means and I honestly didn’t even watch the game so I’m not really upset by their loss. Besides, the Superbowl is just an excuse for snacks, am I right? This year, I made my raw jalapeno poppers (if you haven’t made them and love spicy things, I suggest you do!) and I had one alongside some raw cauliflower, local salsa, spicy guac made fresh at my Whole Foods, spicy sprouted sunflower seeds and a dried fig. This was the perfect snack plate for a spicy food lover like me and I didn’t even care who won the game!

A typical raw breakfast.

A typical raw breakfast.

My breakfasts have been pretty simple lately, though I’m planning on trying some new things soon. I’ve mostly been making raw protein puddings–Sunwarrior or Garden of Life raw protein powder mixed with water/homemade almond milk and sometimes raw coconut flour to thicken, and topped with pomegranate and raw nuts or seeds. It covers all the macros, tastes great and is beyond easy to whip up in just a minute.

Protein chia pudding topped with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Protein chia pudding topped with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Protein-packed chia puddings have been happening for breakfasts and snacks, too. I forgot how much I adore the thick and creamy texture that chia seeds make when they gel up. Honestly, I could eat these all day but it really is all about the toppings and mix ins. The one above was Garden of Life RAW Marley coffee protein powder+homemade almond milk+1/2 tbsp chia seeds and topped in the morning with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Sunwarrior vanilla+frozen cherries+homemade almond milk+baby kale+coconut flour smoothie, with a side of raisins and raw mixed nuts.

Sunwarrior vanilla+frozen cherries+homemade almond milk+baby kale+coconut flour smoothie, with a side of raisins and raw mixed nuts.

Lunches have been a little bit less predictable. On Monday I had a green protein smoothie with some raw trail mix (just raisins & raw nuts) on the side. Really quick and easy to make and pretty filling, too. I love how eating raw makes food prep so much easier. Sure, I’ve been using my dehydrator and food processor a lot but it’s so hands-off and meals come together so quickly.

BLA lettuce wraps and pineapple. Romaine hearts+homemade coconut 'bacon' and Whole Foods fresh guacamole.

BLA lettuce wraps and pineapple. Romaine hearts+homemade coconut ‘bacon’ and Whole Foods fresh guacamole.

Tuesday’s lunch was a little more creative. I made a batch of raw coconut ‘bacon’ in the morning and since I’m basically addicted to it, I decided to incorporate it into my lunch in a creative way. Enter the BLA wraps. The BLA is a spin on the classic BLT, only without the tomato…and avocado in its place. This raw version was incredibly good and I miiiiight have it for lunch again today.

Homemade raw banana protein bars.

Homemade raw banana protein bars.

Going mostly raw has made me more creative in the kitchen! I love that I have so much time to experiment with recipes right now (truth time–I’m still itching to get my first post-grad job!) and I’ve been making a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t normally if I was still eating mostly cooked foods. Like these raw protein bars. I’ve stopped buying Larabars for the time being to save some money and also so I can try making my own raw bars. These are NOT the same consistency as Larabars but I still love ’em…and who says being raw means no protein? I’ve actually been keeping my protein levels up (about 25-30% of my daily macros) during this raw challenge with raw protein powders/nuts/seeds and I’m planning on sprouting lentils soon so stay tuned for that!

Raw Banana Bread Protein Bars (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 2 ripe bananas (best when spotty)
  • 2 scoops Garden of Life RAW protein powder (or any raw plant-based protein powder)
  • 3 tbsp raw coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

In a food processor or high-powered blender, pulse bananas until smooth and liquefied. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Divide into 6 large balls and flatten into bar shapes. Makes 6 bars, ~100 calories and 8 grams protein per bar.

Zucchini pasta and raw pumpkin seed pesto for dinner.

Zucchini pasta and raw pumpkin seed pesto for dinner.

So far, my dinners have been raw because that’s what I’ve been craving, even though it’s been snowing here and below freezing! I’ve been making raw pastas with zucchini, carrots and kelp noodles and tossing them in a nut or seed based sauce, pairing it with fruit and calling it dinner. Raw dinners are the simplest things ever, but I’m learning to appreciate simplicity!

Do you prefer homemade or store-bought when it comes to bars? Do you like your produce cooked or raw? 

What I’m Making this Thanksgiving (Vegan and GF)

Thanksgiving is a weird holiday for vegans, vegetarians and a lot of other people with food restrictions. The day is alllllll about the food (and family, and being thankful of course) so it can make things awkward if you can’t or don’t want to partake in the usual T-day fare.

This year will be my third as a vegan (well, 2 years ago I wasn’t quite vegan but my Thanksgiving was) and I’ve come a long way since then in terms of meal planning and finding healthier options. I am not a fan of the fake turkey and other meat options, so I’ll be making plenty of vegan and gluten free side dishes for me and my family to enjoy this year. All the recipes I’m planning on making are very friendly to almost any diet–vegan, gluten free and even paleo people can get in on these recipes and enjoy the holiday without having to compromise their health or moral standards. Note: I plan on making some changes to each of these recipes but feel free to check out the original!

Pumpkin & Pistachio Sweet Potato Fritters via Happy.Healthy.Life. (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

Photo from Whole Foods.

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

Sweet potatoes are possibly my favorite food ever, and paired with pistachios/pumpkin seeds and sauteed in coconut oil is even better. The simple ingredient list is a winner, and I plan on pairing these with some kind of PB and maple sauce.

Maple and Date Brussels Salad via Hummusapien (vegan, gluten free, grain free)

Photo courtesy of A Little Saffron.

Photo courtesy of A Little Saffron.

Another Thanksgiving-perfect side dish. What’s not to love about Brussels sprouts shredded to make a salad, then tossed with some dates and maple syrup?

Garlicky Parsnip Mash (vegan, gluten free, grain free, sugar free) via Affairs of Living

 

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

Photo by Whole Foods Market.

I’ve never been a fan of greasy, glue-y mashed potatoes but if you want the tradition factor without all the unhealthy ingredients, look no further than these white potato imposters! Rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C, parsnips perfectly imitate fluffy potatoes when blended with a few, whole foods ingredients. If you want a cheesy flavor, toss in some nutritional yeast.

Chia Caramel Pecan Pie via This Rawsome Vegan Life (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free)

Photo courtesy of This Rawsome Vegan Life.

Photo courtesy of This Rawsome Vegan Life.

I love all the recipes I’ve tried from this blog, like I’m literally obsessed. I’ve been wanting to make a raw pecan pie for awhile and Emily from This Rawsome Vegan Life has the perfect, totally decadent, Thanksgiving-dessert worthy option for one. Featuring dates, nuts and chia seeds, this pie is the perfect mix of indulgent and healthy.

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

WIAW: Fall Favorites

I’d like to get back into a more regular WIAW groove, but for now, doing it every once in awhile is working best for me! Check out the rest of the weekly party and let’s get into some of my latest favorites…

Homemade vegan chili fries...aka healthy vegan comfort food at its finest! Base of hannah yam 'fries' (baked with pink sea salt and cayenne), topped with homemade chocolate chili (made with black beans), homemade guac, pumpkin seeds and jalapeno.

Homemade vegan chili fries…aka healthy vegan comfort food at its finest! Base of hannah yam ‘fries’ (baked with pink sea salt and cayenne), topped with homemade chocolate chili (made with black beans), homemade guac, pumpkin seeds and jalapeno.

What’s fall without some chili? Unfortunately, the one pictured above wasn’t so great–I had dreams of making a chocolate chili like my favorite restaurant offers but my recipe skills (aka throwing things together and hoping it’ll work) didn’t work in my favor this time. It was edible, but not super flavorful. You win some, you lose some. It was pretty good as part of this chili fry creation–I’ve been loving on the homemade root veggie fries lately!

Pomegranate seeds are well worth the work.

Pomegranate seeds are well worth the work.

I’ve still been mourning the loss of my beloved summer fruits (and figs, which for some reason have been absent at my Whole Foods since early October…why?) but I’ve been drowning my sorrows in the jewel of the fruit world, also known as the pomegranate. These have still been a bit pricey as the season is just beginning, but I managed to score 4 organic poms at Sprouts the other week for $2.99 total! Quite a deal, considering one pomegranate is going for $2.99 at Whole Foods. These juicy little gems are definitely worth the work and the mess it requires to prepare them and they’re definitely my favorite fall/winter fruit.

Apple daiquiri at Luscious Nectar.

Apple daiquiri at Luscious Nectar.

Despite what I might portray on here, I am not a frequent drinker by any means. I have an adult beverage once or twice a month, and I always stick to one drink because this petite girl can’t handle any more than that! When my parents were up visiting this weekend, they took me to Luscious Nectar, this cool juice bar in Old Town that offers vegan tapas and cool alcoholic drinks all made in-house. I love that because then there’s no weird additives. I got an apple daiquiri, which was a frozen blended drink made with green apple liqueur, lime and rum. It was good but super strong–I got a ‘short’ which was apparently 10 ounces, and I was only able to drink half before I started feeling it. I would definitely come back to try some of their other drinks though–they had an awesome sounding pumpkin cocktail–and their vegan tapas sounded incredible (we had the chips and guac to share, which were decent).

Grain free pumpkin raisin bagels right from the oven.

Grain free pumpkin raisin bagels right from the oven.

I like experimenting with grain free recipes because I love the nutritional benefits of almond flour and coconut flour. Grain free recipes without eggs don’t always work though–but these bagels are an exception. They’re definitely not quite the same as regular doughy bagels but they have a similar chew and they’re a lot healthier. I adapted the recipe from here and they’re pretty straightforward and one of the few baked goods that actually turns out right for me. I have the worst luck with baking, because I usually make a ton of changes to recipes and I’m at a high altitude so everything’s different and nothing ever rises. These are definitely a recipe I recommend if you want to try making some healthier bagels. Oh, and they’re definitely a lot smaller than regular bagels–they’re more like mini bagels, but mini things are always cuter!

Pre-cut yams make life so much easier.

Pre-cut yams make life so much easier.

When I was home a few weekends ago, I went to the Whole Foods near my house and found these pre-packaged fry cut yams in the produce section. I love making homemade sweet potato fries, but cutting the sweet potatoes can be a pain, so I just had to get these to make fry-making a little easier. These worked so well for making fries and I wish the Whole Foods near school would stock these!

Natural Grocers mini haul.

Natural Grocers mini haul.

I’ve been doing so well lately with grocery budgeting. It’s been kind of a necessity, since I’ve been running low on funds and I’m gonna need a little help from my parents as the semester wraps up, but I’ve been consistently spending around $60 or less at Whole Foods each week. Who says it’s called Whole Paycheck? This week, I actually spent just over $66 for my entire week’s worth of groceries and that was shopping at 2 stores and buying a couple splurge-y items. I got a few things at Natural Grocers I’ve been dying to find, like the Silver Hills gluten free bread (the slices are small, but it’s the best GF bread I’ve ever had) and the black bean spaghetti (literally tastes like regular pasta, but grain free and 25 grams of protein PER serving!) and I also got a great deal on some persimmons that were actually ripe. I also have 2 persimmons chilling in my produce bowl that have been there for almost 2 weeks now and they’re still not ripe…what’s up with that?

Vegan pizza from a restaurant? Too good to be true? Yep.

Vegan pizza from a restaurant? Too good to be true? Yep.

When I was last home, my mom and I stopped at Live Basil when she was taking me back home. We’ve been there I think 3 or 4 times and it’s definitely our favorite pizza place–they have fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and make the pizza right in front of you. Nothing like that Pizza Hut crap at all! Anyways, I usually get a make-your-own option so I can get it with tons of veggies and no cheese, but this last time, I saw they had a vegan option right on the menu. It was topped with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes (ick, but I could deal), onions (which I swapped for Greek olives) and mushrooms…oh, and vegan cheese. I am NOT a fan of most vegan cheeses (other than cashew cheese) but I figured that since they had so many other quality ingredients, the cheese couldn’t be too bad, plus I was thrilled to finally be able to order straight off the menu so that’s what I got. Ummmm…big mistake! The rest of the pizza was great (even the tomatoes were alright) but the cheese was straight up nast. I’m not sure what kind they used, possibly Daiya since it was melty (and for the record, I’ve never had Daiya before) but it was tasteless and gooey and just gross. I tried to remove what I could, but it was so glue-y and goopy that I couldn’t really fix it. It definitely ruined the rest of the pizza for me, and reminded me that I just don’t like vegan cheese. Sorry not sorry, but cheeseless pizzas are where it’s at!

Recent dinner: homemade lentil flatbread with homemade pumpkin butter and maple syrup mixed with organic PB, side of homemade carrot fries and Whole Foods bread & butter pickles.

Recent dinner: homemade lentil flatbread with homemade pumpkin butter and maple syrup mixed with organic PB, side of homemade carrot fries and Whole Foods bread & butter pickles.

I’ve been embracing lentils lately…in the form of lentil flatbread! Basically what you do is blend dried lentils (I like red ones because they aren’t as strongly flavored) until the form a flour, and then add in water, ground flax, sea salt and spices. Then you pour it in a pan on the stove like you would with socca, and cook away. I love the nutty flavor and how it’s packed with protein and so easy to make. I made one for dinner the other night and topped it with some sweet toppings, and served it alongside some homemade carrot fries (not quite as good as sweet potato fries, but really tasty) and bread & butter pickles made fresh in my Whole Foods prepared section. It was the perfect quick dinner after my 3 hour evening class on Monday night!

What are some of your fall favorites?

Homemade > Store-bought

I have a dilemma. See, I love making things from scratch, but sometimes there’s just not enough time to make all the recipes I bookmark, or sometimes they require way too many ingredients that I’ll end up using once. I’m all about convenience, but at the same time, there are things that are wayyyy better homemade than from the store…and vice versa!

Homemade > Store-bought

  • Coconut butter: Ask me this a week ago, and it would have been the exact opposite. I’m a relatively new convert to coconut butter’s magic, and I was partial to the Artisana brand, which unfortunately comes with a hefty price tag. My previous attempts to make coconut butter at home were complete disasters because I used reduced fat shredded coconut (all I had on hand) and that basically just makes coconut flour. I heard that using unsweetened coconut flakes worked well, so I bought the Let’s Do Organic brand for about $3 or $4 and ended up using a little more than half the bag to make coconut butter. I wish I had saved the entire bag before making it, because it turned out great–just a lot less than I wanted! The key is to use a large food processor, flaked full-fat coconut and at least 3 cups (I used 2, and it was fine, but I ended up with maybe 1/2 cup of coconut butter). I heard horror stories about food processors overheating, or the coconut never butterizing (is this a word?) and since I had to use my mom’s processor since mine’s a tiny one, I worried that I’d owe her a new one. Luckily, it whipped up the coconut butter in probably 10 minutes tops and it was perfectly drippy and creamy, just like Artisana’s.
Just like Artisana's but cheaper!

Just like Artisana’s but cheaper!

  • Guacamole: I don’t think I’ve eaten store-bought guac in a few months and I’m not sure I can ever go back. I used to love the Wholly Guacamole brand but now it tasted less than fresh to me. Guac is one of the easiest things to make at home (you technically don’t even need a food processor) and is so easy to customize. My go-to blend is one avocado (or sometimes half for a single serve batch), chopped fresh jalapeno pepper, cilantro, squeeze of lime juice and sea salt to taste. Sometimes if I’m feeling lazy, I just mash the avocado in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and call it a day. Nothing beats fresh-made guac!
  • Sprouted tortilla chips: To be fair, I’ve never come across truly sprouted and raw tortilla chips in a store, but I used to be a huge fan of the Way Better Snacks brand of sprouted tortilla chips and they’re still great in a pinch. But when I have more time on my hands, I like to cut a few Food for Life sprouted corn tortillas into triangles, place them on dehydrator sheets and let them dehydrate for a few hours. It takes a little more time than making chips in the oven, but it’s mostly hands-off and you get the added benefit of preserved nutrients. I love the Food for Life tortillas because they’re organic which is important for corn, and sprouted, which is a lot healthier than most corn tortillas on the market. I’ve always made my chips plain, but you can definitely dress them up with spices or lime juice.

Store-bought > Homemade

  • Raw nut mixes and flax crackers: I love the Living Intentions Gone Nuts! line of sprouted and flavored nuts despite their high price ($5 for a tiny 3 oz bag) and the Food on Purpose brand of flax crackers, both available at Whole Foods and Sprouts. Though I could probably make similar things at home, they wouldn’t turn out as tasty or as portable.
  • Veggie burgers: I’ve attempted cooked veggie burgers a few times (with only one success) and I want to try a raw dehydrated version, but they are so hard to perfect! I had similar issues in finding the perfect packaged veggie burger–some were tasteless, most had sketchy ingredients. When I found Sunshine burgers, I knew I’d found a winner. They’re made of whole foods like beans, brown rice and sunflower seeds and they’re hearty and delicious. They’re not the cheapest brand, but quality foods aren’t always cheap and it’s worth it to have a clean veggie burger I can eat when I don’t feel like cooking.
Store-bought and food truck made veggie burgers are just better.

Store-bought and food truck made veggie burgers are just better.

  • Raw chocolate: Last week, I experimented with making my own version of this chocolate. I used raw honey instead of agave for the lucuma filling and it was stickier than I’d like and I couldn’t form the cacao+coconut oil into a bar form. It still tasted fine, but I’d rather buy a bar of raw chocolate once a week and save my cacao powder and coconut oil for other things.

Are there things you prefer to make rather than buy, or the other way around? 

Xyla Review and Vegan Delish Giveaway

Before I get to the post, I want to express my sorrow for the people involved in the Boston Marathon tragedy. 

I know I promised this review and giveaway a few weeks back but I just received my products to review from Xyla (along with a really sweet note from them!) and I wanted to do the review and app giveaway in the same post. Better late than never, right?

Xyla is a company that sells a variety of xylitol products. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sweetener often found in some fruits and vegetables. It is lower in calories than sugar and is good for your teeth, which is why it’s often used in toothpastes and gums. It’s a safe sweetener for diabetics to use as it stabilizes both insulin and hormone levels. Best of all, it’s very similar to sugar in appearance and taste, so it can easily be used in place of sugar in most recipes.

xyla blog review

Xyla sent me a few of their products, including their original crystals (I like that they source their xylitol from North American hardwood, rather than GMO corn), mints, candy and gum. I think it’s great that they have such a wide selection of mints and candies sweetened with xylitol with pretty natural ingredients. I have mints or gum on a regular basis, and it can be hard to find them without scary additives. The mints and candies all tasted great, and had no weird aftertastes. The watermelon ones are my favorite and remind me of Jolly Ranchers!

I’ve had other brands of xylitol before, so I knew it would taste a bit different than white sugar. It has more of a ‘cool’ flavor to it, which makes it really great for mints and gum. But this ‘cool’ flavor doesn’t effect it in baking at all–I used it in 1 to 1 ratio in a coconut flour microwave cake (in place of my usual Truvia) and it tasted the same. I really want to try Xyla in a homemade sugar-free maple syrup…I’ve just gotta find an all-natural maple extract!

Now onto the Vegan Delish giveaway. Carrie, co-host of Healthy Vegan Fridays and blogger at Carrie on Vegan, is the creator of this recipe app for iPhones, iPads and iTouches. I always love vegan recipe sites, so having an entire app based on them is a dream come true!

For new and veteran vegans and vegetarians, plus those wanting to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet, Vegan Delish is a recipe app available for iPhones and iPads featuring innovative tools such as a digital shopping list and searchable categories including quick & easy, kid-friendly and slow-cooker. Listed as one of the top 20 Food & Drink paid iPhone apps, Vegan Delish inspires users to make whole food, plant-based meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious. 

A screenshot from my iPod touch.

A screenshot from my iPod touch.

First of all, I love that the recipes are all pretty simple, with easy-to-find, whole food ingredients and most if not all the recipes are also gluten free. The beautiful photos for each recipe is one of my favorite parts of the app–don’t you just love being able to actually see what the recipe you’re about to make is supposed to look like?

So far, I’ve made the Cashew Curry Sauce (subbing almond milk for the soy) and it was so good I couldn’t believe it only called for 5 simple ingredients! I have plans to make many more of the recipes, including the Chocolate Buckwheat Brittle pictured above, the Curried Tempeh Tacos, the Parmesan Noodles and Kale and Tropical Watermelon Slushy. There really is a recipe for everyone, whether you’re vegan or not!

You can buy this app on the App Store for just $1.99 (I can vouch for it working on iTouches as well, in case you don’t have an iPhone or iPad) but since Carrie is so nice, she’s offering a free code for one of you guys to download it for FREE! To enter, just leave a comment below telling me what kind of app you would create if you could. You can get additional entries by following me on Twitter @fashion_ash or subscribing to my blog (I can’t use the cool Rafflecopter thing since I have a WordPress.com site, sorry!) I’ll announce the winners next Wednesday. Thanks, and good luck!