My Big, Fat, Vegan Family Dinner

I have recently transitioned from trying to be semi-vegan, to trying to be fully vegan. I guess that still makes me semi vegan, but now I putting more effort into making my meals all animal free instead of planning to eat meat with dinner or when eating out. I truly believe it is the healthiest option, but I still struggle from time to time. I also don’t want to become a preachy, “extreme” vegan. Its everything that I hate about Christianity, so I’m not going to become that kind of vegan. My husband is on board with “trying it out” he tries and likes most of my vegan cooking and is open to having more vegan meals, he is not committed to becoming fully vegan and I have no intentions of forcing him. We were visiting our home town before heading off to Otakon in DC, so I decided to show my family that being vegan can be delicious and not a sacrifice.

I discussed my reasoning for being vegan. I get into a civil discussion with my dad about how veganism is beneficial for diabetics. He is all about keto and low carb. I informed him that I diet rich in whole grains, and whole food carbohydrates in moderation is good for everyone including diabetics. He refused to believe myself or the science based research I presented to him. He also discredits his argument because he doesn’t want to eat pasta, corn, or potatoes, but enjoys chips, candy, and ice cream. That’s his idea of moderation. He also drinks sugar free energy drinks. UGH! So instead of diabetes, he gets cancer. But, there’s no winning because we are one in the same and will argue our point to the death before admitting the other is right. He did agree to try to soup and appetizer part of the meal. He did not eat the entree or dessert, because it would be “too many carbs”.

These are the dishes I served for my cousin, sister, aunt, mother, and father:

Corn Chowder

corn chowderThis was the first dish I served and the unanimous favorite. I cooked chopped potato, celery, onion, and corn in the crock pot with vegetable stock. I took 2/3 out and pureed with almond milk then return to the pot. Those swirls you see in the bowl is smoked paprika, the ingredient that made the dish, no bacon required.

 

 

“Krab” Cakes

krab cakesThis was the second favorite item on the menu. I made this from hearts of palm and jackfruit. There is also lemon juice, chives, mustard, vegan mayo, bread crumbs, and old bay seasoning in them. On the side is a vegan remoulade.

 

 

Baked Pasta

This dish started out as a lasagna, then a skillet lasagna, then just baked pasta, because it pastacan’t really be lasagna without lasagna noodles. It was my least favorite dish because the cashew cheese was not as smooth as a wanted. Before being vegan and allergic to dairy, I was a cheese-a-holic. Now I’m finding when you’re using vegan cheese less is more.  But everyone else who ate it enjoyed it ( no pasta for Mr. Low Carb diet). There was eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini with the pasta, sauce, and cashew ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

 

Key Lime Pie

Last but not least, you gotta have desserts. Learning that I was allergic to eggs and dairy is kind of what got me thinking about being vegan in the first place. I was having to piesearch for vegan desserts, side dishes, and snack so it seemed a common sense transition. The filling for the key lime pie is avocado, cashews, and almond milk. Agave nectar, vanilla, lime juice, and zest are added for flavor. The crust is made from walnuts, almonds, and dates. The purple swirls you see are blackberries pureed with some of the filling. Making this again I won’t use as much milk. This will stop in from being so icy when frozen, and hopefully stop it from melting quickly into a puddle due to the high liquid content.

 

I served this meal with the most love I have ever put into food. My hope is too get people thinking that this is a way of life that will be beneficial for their bodies as well as their taste buds. I’m using the ol’ “catching more flies with honey than vinegar” tactic. Hopefully it will catch on, if not I’ll continue leading by example, and at least taking the animals out of one meal every once in a while.

 

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Vegan Breakfast Bites

Avoiding dairy, wheat, and meat sometimes makes for a depressing breakfast. As I am moving towards a more plant based diet, this is a major struggle. Popular breakfast choices like pancakes, bacon, sausage, toast, eggs, and yogurt are off limits. I know there are a lot of recipes outs there, but have trouble finding replacements for some of my favorites that I truly enjoy. Workdays are especially difficult as I don’t have time to prepare a kale and sweet potato hash. This is when I was happy to find Protein Energy balls. This is something I make a batch of and eat 4-6 for each morning. They stop me from dipping to the guidance office for candy, give me energy, and keep me full well into my planning/lunch break. These are two recipes I use:

  1. “Chocolatey” Version

Ingredients: chia seeds, flaxseeds, oats, cashews, almond butter, honey/agave nectar/maple syrup, coco powder, orange zest.

2. “Vanilla-y” verson

Ingredients: same as above except no coco power, and add banana, and vanilla extract.

Directions: Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and pulse until crumbly yet mushy consistency is reached. Scoop spoonfuls out and roll into balls. Refrigerant until time of desired consumption.

energy-bites

Notes/Variations:

  • I will sometimes add dried fruit like cranberries, but have lately refrained because they typically have added sugar.
  • I know that honey is not vegan. You can choose whichever natural syrupy sweetener suites you best.
  • For the “vanilla-y” version I sometimes used lemon zest instead of orange zest.
  • Adding cinnamon and/chili powder to the “Chocolatey” ones adds a nice kick.
  • I usually use 2 of either chia seeds, flaxseeds, or oats. I rarely have all 3 stocked at the same time.  Omitting the oats will make these paleo friendly.
  • You could absolutely substitute other nuts such as walnuts or almonds instead of the cashews.
  • I’ve recipes that roll with in coconut.  I wish I liked coconut like that, it seems like such as great idea. Fell free to do this if you enjoy the taste of coconut flakes.
  • The banana in the vanilla-y ones can make the ball very mushy as it warms up. I would freeze these for a little bit and eat quicker so it doesn’t get too messy.

I hope you find this useful and enjoy!

Vegan Mac & Cheese

I am not a vegan, but I do try to eat a plant based diet most of the time. I highlighted some of my diet ideals in 7 Reasons I Became a “Flexi” Vegan. mncAs I am allergic to dairy, eggs, and wheat/gluten, Macaroni and cheese is pretty much off limits for me. I’ve had to become very creative with my cooking. I have not become creative enough to make or invest in gluten free pasta.  I often ignore my mild allergies if becomes very inconvenient to adhere to them. I have made this same cheese sauce with spaghetti squash or zoodles making it gluten free. This particular recipe I made for my Vegan bestie as a Christmas gift. She said it was really good and it didn’t taste vegan. I ate some and it was good; although not as good as good ol’ fashioned macaroni and cheese. I think it was a little heavy on the garlic and cayenne pepper. You may notice from some of my other recipes that I don’t include measurements, and specifics about cooking time. That’s because unless I’m baking something I’ve never tried I don’t use them. Some of the things I cook I’ve just made up based on other recipes I’ve seen and what I think will work. My friend enjoyed the recipe though, or she just lied because she is too nice to tell me that my gift for her was nasty. Here is my simple recipe I used for vegan mac & cheese .

Ingredients: cashew milk, vegan butter, sweet potato, garlic power, onion power, salt, pepper, turmeric, mustard power, cayenne pepper, elbow macaroni noodles, bread crumbs, dried parsley.

Directions:

  1. Boil pasta until it is tender with a slight bite ( about 10 minutes)
  2. Once done, drain and set to the side.
  3. Cook sweet potato in microwave for about 5 minutes.
  4. Put sweet potato in a high powered blinder (i used a ninja) or food processor.
  5. Add cashew milk, vegan butter, and spices except parsley (use sparingly so you can add more if needed for desired smoothness and flavor)
  6. Blend ingredients until desired taste and texture is achieved
  7. Rub a baking dish with oil of your choice (I used olive)
  8. Add cooked pasta and prepared sauce
  9. In a small bowl melt some vegan butter and mix with bread crumbs
  10. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of pasta and cheese sauce.
  11. Sprinkle with parsley.
  12. Bake in oven on 400 until bubbly and golden brown.

I hope you enjoy!

Two Way Dinners

So as you may have noticed in my previous post my diet is a little vegan, mixed with a little paleo. I basically try to eat a plant based paleo diet. It is very difficult for me at times, but I do it because I feel it is the healthiest option. That being said my son and husband don’t always see it the same way. I am trying to be healthy and lose weight. They don’t have the same goals or ideals, so I don’t force my choices on them. As the main cook in the house I have to adjust to be agreeable with everyone’s dietary choices. My son is 2 and a picky eater. I have to find a balance of creating meals with foods that are good for him and he likes, not including junk. My husband is a BIG man, he does not eat “rabbit food” as I’ve been told I eat by colleagues. Having a healthy family is very important for me, but it takes compromise. I usually end up cooking two versions of meals. One to fit my dietary needs and restrictions and one that my family will actually eat. My goals for my family are less fast food and processed foods, as well as more fruits and especially vegetables. I will fry foods for them from time to time, usually a weekend meal. They still eat grains like bread, rice and pasta, but they are whole grain. They also typically eat meat with every meal, while I restrict my meat to once a day, usually dinner. Here are a few of my “2 way dinners”.

Hamburger Helper

I make a homemade hamburger helper with ground turkey, whole wheat pasta, and a sauce from real milk and cheese, not whatever powdery substance comes in the box. I got the recipe from Pinterest, and honestly its just as easy and quick as the boxed version. My version is made with squash or zucchini noodles made with a vegetti, a vegan cheese sauce, and ground turkey. I mix some of the vegan cheese sauce with my sons because he rarely eats the vegetables that are put on his plate so I hide it whenever I can.  With this dinner a include a vegetable side like broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or salad. I never tell my husband that its homemade, but he looks up and asks “is this real hamburger helper?” I say, “of course”. He follows up with “did you make it from the box?”, and I say “no, is it nasty?”, He says “no, but I can tell its different.” He continues to eat, and I shrug my shoulders and say “your the only husband in the world that complains about scratch made meals.”

hamburger helper
There’s vs Mine

Tacos/Tex Mex

Whenever I make tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or quesadillas, my version ends up being some type of taco bowl or salad. I change the base to keep things varied, like it might be a salad with whatever fillings they had topping lettuce minus the sour cream and cheese. I may do a burrito bowl substituting quinoa for rice or a may roast some sweet potatoes.

sweet potatoe taco bowl
Sweet Potato enchilada skillet bowl

Asian Nights

I tried making potstickers once and my husband loved them. I knew I couldn’t take them away from our Asian night dinner line up. So I typically eat a meatball made from the chicken or turkey filling inside the potstickers. I make a sauce from soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and sriracha. They dip the potstickers in a drizzle it on top my meatballs. We both have stir fried vegetables, I usually have a bigger serving. They have fried brown rice.

Another meal in the Asian dinner lineup are various Chinese dishes like orange, sesame, sweet and sour chicken, and Mongolian beef. I fry theirs in a cornstarch and egg batter with stir fried vegetables,and fried brown rice. I bake my chunks of meat in the oven and top with the same sauce with vegetables and no rice.

asian meatballs
Asian Meatball Bowl

So with just a few tweaks and some compromise, everybody can get what they want and need out of dinner. I had adapted some of our favorite restaurant and packaged meals to be healthier and still had my more drastic dietary changes. That’s what we call, in education, differentiation. Does anybody else tailor meals for their families or I am just a push over? Also, message me if you would like any of the featured recipes in detail.

 

Strawberry Avenger Waffles!

My family has 2 weekend breakfast traditions.

#1: On Saturdays we get fast food breakfast. This breakfast is McDonalds 90% of the time, but occasionally we will get Taco Bell or Bojangles. I know I am supposed to be all about healthy eating, but this is pretty much like my bargaining tool. Most other days and meals are homemade and healthy but Saturday morning breakfast is fast food. My husband is a fast food junky so I have to make compromises.

#2: I always make a homemade Sunday breakfast. It is typically just good old fashion food, so pretty much weekend breakfasts are our cheat meals. I like this because it reminds us both of home. For me it was the breakfast my mom cooked and for my husband, his grandmother. Its nice to recreate that family bound for ourselves. With breakfast, as with most meals we watch an episode, or 2, or 3, or more of what ever anime we are currently watching.

This past Sunday I used a Christmas gift that I finally got from my mother’s house, an Avengers waffle iron. I wanted to find a wonderful Paleo and Vegan recipe for the waffles, but alas, I could not find one that I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. In the future I’ll do some tinkering and figure something out. This time around I used the simple mix in the box and just added water according to the directions. I added some fresh chopped strawberries to the batter and followed the directions for using the waffle iron.  I drizzled the waffles with a little honey. Horrible I know, but the wonderful Avenger’s logo made me forget about all the additives, chemicals, and ingredients I actually allergic to. At least there were strawberries and turkey sausage.  FYI: This would make a great treat for Father’s Day coming up!

waffles

Paleo Shrimp and Cauliflower “Grits”

Shrimp and Grits are one of my family favorites, but there are a few ingredients that don’t exactly make it “healthy eating friendly”. My original recipe includes bacon, butter, real grits, and cheese.  In my opinion almost any home cooked meal is going to be better for you than a heavily processed fast food meal, but there are ways to enjoy favorite comfort food without expanding your waistline.

13166882_1617662918524492_1197639129_n(1)
Paleo Shrimp and ‘Cauliflower “Grits”

Ingredients

Shrimp Topping: 1 12 oz bag of shrimp,  1/2 diced onion and red and green bell peppers, 1/2 cup dice tomatoes, 1/4 cup chicken broth, paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 tbs. EVOO, 1 link smoked turkey sausage

“grits”: 1 cup cauliflower, 2 tablespoons vegan butter, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup chicken stock, 1 heaping tablespoon nutritional yeast.

Directions:

  1. Drizzle one tablespoon of EVOO in a hot pan.
  2. Add diced turkey sausage and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add onion and peppers sauteed for 5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and seasoning lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. While mixture is simmering cook frozen cauliflower in microwave according to package directions.
  6. Place the cauliflower, chicken stock, vegan butter, nutritional yeast, and seasonings in food processor and blend until smooth but still chunky.
  7. Once turkey sausage and vegetable mixture on stove has reduced add chicken stock and continue simmering 5 more minutes.
  8. Add shrimp to stove mixture and cook until shrimp turn pink.
  9. Add cauliflower grits to a bowl and top with shrimp mixture.
  10. Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Protein Shake

11282689_1656925587859863_1578550085_nThis is one of my go to’s. I’ll drink it as a snack, breakfast, or post workout small meal. This chocolate shake is great because it has protein and curbs my sweet tooth cravings. I have a vegan alternative recipe I use now because of my milk allergy and a regular that I’ll make for my husband. This was another one of the things I make for him a night when he has a “hankerlin” for something sweet. I add greens to it like spinach or kale. I told my husband and he said he could tell, but it still tasted good.

Vegan

  • frozen banana
  • almond milk
  • chia seeds
  • almond butter
  • quinoa
  • ground flax seeds
  • vanilla extract
  • cocoa powder]
  • leafty green like kale or spinach

Non-Vegan

  • frozen banana
  • vanilla protein powder
  • peanut butter
  • cocoa powder
  • skim milk
  • leafy green like kale or spinach

For the vegan version, before hand I put the chia seeds, quinoa, and flax seeds in a coffee grinder and make into a finer, powdery like substance. Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Add more milk if smoothie is too thick. I hope this brings you as much join as it brings me.