Starting Your Plant Based Lifestyle

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If you are thinking about changing your lifestyle to include being vegan, you have made a great choice! We have some steps to help make the transition easy!

First thing is there are no hard and fast rules. You need to make changes in a way that works for you. Don't view a plant based lifestyle as the finish line, but as an evolving process of mindful eating and living. I can tell you that you will eventually lose all cravings when it comes to eating animal products. I can also tell you, you WILL get enough protein, and you WILL be asked this question for the rest of your life.

Many people go vegan overnight and if that works for you – great. But for a lot of you, baby steps work best. You can start off by making small changes to your everyday meals. Here are some ideas but always make sure whatever plan you chose, it works for you.

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During your first week, you can try switching up your breakfast meals to plant based choices. Tofu Scrambles, Nut Butter and banana toast, avocado toast and protein packed smoothies are all quick to prepare and delicious. Our website has tons of easy recipes. Adding either nut or coconut milk or vegan cream replacements to your coffee is another easy one. There are great butter replacements in the grocery stores or you can use coconut oil. Try to source out ingredients that don’t contain unsustainable palm oil.

Next, you can start adding plant based lunches. If you can switch them all up at once that’s great. If not, change up your weekday lunches and leave the weekend meals for later. Smashed chickpea and avocado wraps, vegan pesto pasta, instant vegan miso soup, and quinoa veggie bowls are all super easy to make, are packed with protein and are tasty. There are plant substitutes for almost everything out there. So if you are craving mayo on your wrap, your grocery store probably stocks vegan mayo-if not, ask for it.

Looking up new plant based recipes to try will give you some inspiration and help you when you go grocery shopping. While you are researching new recipes, take a look for local restaurants who offer vegan choices.  When you are eating out, most restaurants will accommodate your requests for a vegan meal, so if you don’t see something on the menu just ask.

And as far as the protein question goes, here is your answer - rich sources of protein are found in all types of plant based foods including beans, soy products like tofu and seitan, quinoa, nuts, seeds, nut butters, lentils, non-dairy milk, green peas, oatmeal, hummus, hemp seeds, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, bananas, nectarines, nutritional yeast and wild rice…. As you can see there are tons of ways to add protein to your plant based diet.

Beet Burgers

Beet Burgers

Remember that living a plant based life isn’t just about your food choices nor is it a “diet”; it is about living a healthy life while causing the least amount of harm to animals and our environment. You need to find your reasons for choosing this lifestyle and remember them if and when you think you might stray. Once you learn the real affects animal products have on your health and the environment, it will be an easy choice.

 

 

Easy Plant Based Desserts for Your Thanksgiving Dinner.

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Easy Apple Strudel - serves 6-8 and can be doubled easily

-  2 packages of Vegan puff pastry (usually found in the freezer section of your grocery store)
-  7-8 sweet apples
-  1 Tbsp cinnamon
-  1 tsp cardamon
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Splash of lemon juice

Directions:
- Take the puff pastry out to thaw according to the package instructions.
- Heat oven to 250 degrees.
- Peel/core and thinly slice apples and toss with lemon juice.
- Add cinnamon, cardamon and maple syrup and toss to coat.
- Layout 1 piece of the pastry dough on a slightly floured surface and add 1/4 of the apple mixture onto half of the pastry. Fold over and pinch the edges. Repeat with the next 3 pieces of dough.
- Place on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and put in oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove and enjoy hot or let it come to room temperature. Serve with Vegan ice cream-YUM!

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PUMPKIN PIE – SERVES 8

- 2 cups of canned Pureed Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 cup full fat Coconut milk
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup each: organic cornstarch and maple syrup
- 1 tsp each: vanilla and cinnamon
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp each: salt and nutmeg
- 1 Store bought vegan pie crust – do not precook

DIRECTIONS:
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Add all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. You can use a hand mixer.
- Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 60 minutes. The middle should be a bit wobbly.
- Let cool and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

OPTIONS:
- Top with Vegan whipped cream and a light sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Serve with Vegan ice cream.

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If you don't have time or don't feel like making from scratch, there are a ton of choices out there!  One of my favorites are the cheesecakes and key lime pies made by Daiya. Never have any of my friends or family realized these were plant based. 

There is also a huge variety of non-dairy ice creams and most stores are offering plant based desserts in their bakery section. If they don't, just ask!

Thanksgiving Dinner Side Dishes - Yum!

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For me, it really is all about the side dishes. Lots and lots of delicious veggies!  Here are some quick and delicious side dishes.

SPICY CORN
- 2 cups of frozen organic corn
- 1 tsp each: garlic powder, chili powder, lime juice
-  ½ tsp cayenne
- 1-2 Tbsp of Vegan Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

DIRECTIONS:
- Mix all spices and add to frozen corn.
- Heat up in microwave or on stove top.
- Sprinkle with cheese or yeast and serve.

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OVEN ROASTED BALSAMIC BRUSSEL SPROUTS:
- 3 cups Brussel sprouts cut in half
- 3 Tbsp each: balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Arrange Brussel sprouts on a baking sheet.
- Mix together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and drizzle over sprouts.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

MAPLE CARROTS:
- 5-6 medium carrots, sliced on diagonal
- 1 Tbsp each: Vegan butter and maple syrup
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS:
- Boil carrots in water for about 15 minutes.
- Drain and stir in maple syrup, butter, rosemary, salt and pepper.

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ROASTED ROOT VEGGIES WITH CURRY
- 4-5 cups of peeled and chopped root veggies: carrots, parsnips, turnip
- 1 large onion, chopped in big chunks
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- Salt & pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp Cilantro or parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS:
- Preheat oven to 425. Toss all ingredients except cilantro together and layer on to two baking sheets. Cook for 15 minutes and turn over (or just stir them around). Cook another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

OPTIONS:
- Replace curry powder with 1 tsp each: rosemary and thyme

GARLIC MASHED POTATOES
- 8 medium potatoes cut in chunks, peel if you prefer
- 3-4 Tbsp of vegan butter
- 5 cloves of roasted garlic (see note)
- salt, pepper and chives

DIRECTIONS
- Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Boil for about 30 minutes.
- Drain potatoes and add to a large bowl. Add butter, salt and pepper.
- Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer (don't over mix).
- Mash the roasted garlic and stir into potatoes.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

NOTE:
- To roast garlic, wrap cloves in tin foil add a few drops of olive oil and roast in oven at 400 for 30 minutes.

OPTIONS:
- Replace potatoes with sweet potatoes. Replace garlic with a small sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Thanksgiving Stuffing and Gravy - Easy and Cruelty Free!

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In the US, Thanksgiving is coming up soon so that means lots of friends, family, food and football!  Last time we covered a main dish plant based alternative, but no thanksgiving meal would be complete without stuffing and gravy. Here are some great options to buy or make.

Grocery stores like Whole Foods carry plant-based packaged stuffing mix and they are all easy, quick and cruelty free. If you would like to make your own, here is an easy recipe with a couple of variations.

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Basic Easy Stuffing – 6-8 servings, can be doubled or tripled

-  6 cups of cubed bread, whatever type you like
-  2 cups of cooked rice, white, brown or wild
-  1 large onion, diced
-  2 of each: stalks of celery, carrots and apples, diced
-  2 cups of mushroom or vegetable stock
-  1 Tbsp each: Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Salt & Pepper
-  2 Tbsp of Olive Oil or Vegan butter

Directions:
-  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-  Add oil or vegan butter to a large pan on medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and apples and all spices. Cook until soft (about 7-10 minutes). Mix in cooked rice and remove from heat.
-  Place bread cubes in a large bowl and add onion mixture, and 1 ½ cups of stock. If mixture is dry add more stock. Taste and adjust seasoning.
-  Place mixture in a lined or greased 9x13 pan and cover with tin foil.
-  Cook for 35-40 minutes.

To make Cornbread Stuffing, use the above recipe and replace the bread with homemade or prepared cornbread.

To make Mushroom Stuffing, use the above recipe, add 2 cups of sliced mushrooms and use mushroom broth. Add the mushrooms to the pan when cooking onion mixture.

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Again, many grocery stores offer plant based gravy mixes. Just add water and you are done. If you would like to make your own, here is an easy and delicious one:

Basic Turk’y Gravy, makes about 2 cups, can be doubled

-  ¼ cup Vegan butter
-  ¼ cup AP flour
-  2 cups Vegetable broth
-  1 tsp each: poultry seasoning (or ½ tsp each dried sage, thyme, rosemary), salt & pepper

Directions:
-  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, add spices and flour and stir until completely combined.
-  Slowly add broth, stirring constantly until there are no lumps and gravy has thickened.

Easy Mushroom Gravy, makes about 2 cups, can be doubled

-  1 Tbsp Olive Oil
-  1 cup mushrooms, chopped finely (any type will work)
-  ¼ cup of minced onion
-  ¼ cup Vegan butter
-  ¼ AP flour
-  2 ½ cups mushroom broth
-  1 tsp each: thyme, salt & pepper

Directions:
-  Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onions, mushrooms and spices. Cook until soft (about 7-10 minutes).
-  Add butter and flour and mix until it is completely combined.
-  Slowly add broth, stirring constantly until there are no lumps and gravy has thickened.

Easy Plant-Based Thanksgiving Main!

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Thanksgiving really is a time to spend with your family and friends celebrating what you are truly thankful for. But it is also well known for everyone sitting down to a huge meal that traditionally is laden with meat products.  I have celebrated decades of this holiday serving plant based products only. It is absolutely delicious and much easier than you think. Today, we are going to cover Main Dish alternatives that will leave your guests wanting seconds and thirds!

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No Need For Turkey or Ham!

There are so many options out there, and your supermarket most likely has at least a couple of choices, but here are some that I like:

1)      With only a 22 minute cook time Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y is a great choice. Delicious and easy!
2)      Field Roast Stuffed Celebration Roast - Stuffed with a savory sausage-style stuffing made with butternut squash, apples and mushrooms makes this plant based roast and great addition to your meal!
3)      To feed a big crowd try the Vegetarian Plus – Whole Vegan Turkey. Tastes great and can feed over 20 people. And for those of you who want the “look” it does look like the meat option.
4)      Vegetarian Plus also makes a ham substitute with an apricot plum glaze.
5)      For cozier dinners, Gardein offers a selection of Turk’y cutlets which I quite often include at my holiday dinners and my guests love them!
6)      If you want to make a main from scratch, here is a great recipe:

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Portobello Mushroom with Savory Stuffing and Gravy – 4 servings, easy to double or triple

-  4 portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed
-  4 cups of cubed bread, whatever type you like-leave out to dry for an hour
-  1 of each diced: onion, celery stalk, carrot, apple
-  1 cup of cooked rice, white or brown or wild
-  2 cups of mushroom or vegetable stock
-  1 tsp each (dried): thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper
-  Olive oil

Directions:
-  Preheat oven to 350.
-  Trim the Portobello mushrooms and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place on parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes and remove. Let cool slightly.
-  While mushroom caps are cooking, add oil to a pan on medium heat, and add chopped vegetables and all spices. Cook until soft (about 7-10 minutes). Do not brown.
-  Add rice and stock. If the mixture is dry add a bit more stock, then remove from heat.
-  Mound stuffing into each mushroom cap. Place in 350 degree oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Gravy
-  2 Tbsp Olive Oil or Vegan butter
-  3 cups of sliced mushrooms, whatever type you like
-  1 small onion, diced fine
-  2 cloves of garlic, minced
-  1 tsp each salt, pepper, thyme-dried
-  2 cups of mushroom or vegetable stock
-  2 Tbsp organic corn starch or 3 Tbsp of flour

Directions:
-  In a medium saucepan heat oil or vegan butter over medium heat.
-  Add onions and garlic and spices, cook for 1-2 minutes and then add mushrooms. Sauté until soft (about 7-10 minutes).
-  Add your corn starch or flour to the pan and stir until veggies are coated.
-  Slowly add your stock, stirring constantly. Cook for about 5 minutes.
-  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Crunchy Vegan "Fish" Taco's

These taco's are easy to put together and are great for a weekday dinner or a Sunday lunch. To speed things up, add your cashews to hot water in the morning so they will be ready for you when you need them. Enjoy!

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6 small Organic Corn Tortillas

Battered Tofu
- 1 pound organic extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed for at least 30 minutes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beer
- 1/2 teaspoon each: salt, ground cumin and chili powder
- About 1/3 cup canola oil (or another neutral flavor high heat vegetable oil)

Directions:
- Slice the tofu into 4 pieces, width-wise. Next, slice each piece into 4 thin strips. You should have 16 strips about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
- Mix the flour, bear, spices and salt together in a bowl. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Add oil in a medium sized cast iron or regular frying pan. The oil should be at least 1/8-inch deep. Place the pan over medium-high heat.
- Dip your tofu strips into the batter to coat all sides and place the tofu in the pan, leaving space between strips. Cook the tofu for about two minutes on each side or until it is browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat until all of the tofu strips are cooked, adding oil to the skillet as needed between batches. Set aside.

Cucumber Slaw
- 2 cups each:  julienned English cucumber; julienned pealed jicama
- 1 cup julienned radish
- 2 diced jalapeno, seeds removed if you don’t want it too spicy
- 3 Tbsp each: lime juice and olive oil
- 2 Tbsp Vinegar (rice or white wine)
- 1 tsp each: ground cumin, chili powder, sugar, salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Directions:
- Combine the lime juice, oil and spices together until mixed well.
- Mix all of the ingredients together, add dressing let sit for 30 minutes.

Chipotle Crema
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup cashews
- 2-3 Tbsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
- 2 tsp lime juice
- Salt and pepper

Directions:
- Heat the water until just simmering in a pot over medium heat. Add cashews and let sit at least for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.
- Put cashews and water into a blender and blend until the sauce no longer feels grainy.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until mixed thoroughly.

Assemble your tacos – spread some crema, add your fried tofu and top with your slaw. Serve with lime wedges. Feel free to add chopped avocado or your favorite salsa.

Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein From??

This is most likely the number one asked question I hear from non-vegans.  They will probably never stop asking, and I will never stop answering. So hear it is again. The recommended intake of protein is .36 grams per pound, so an average of 56 grams per day for a sedentary man and about 46 grams for an inactive woman.  Healthy active people and even serious body builders have no problem following a plant-based diet as well. You can incorporate protein all throughout the day on a plant-based diet, especially in snacks, where it’s most often overlooked, without really needing a massive source at every meal. Here are just a few easy ways to include protein in your everyday lives.

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Lentils – They are super affordable and super-filling! They add about 9 grams of protein for each half cup, plus a ton of fiber!  Add your favorite Mexican spices to cooked lentils, throw in a few veggies and your fav salsa and presto – Lentil Tacos! A cup of cooked lentils added to your favorite salad is another easy way to add this versatile ingredient.

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Quinoa – This glutton-free grain racks up 8 grams of protein per cup, and is a great source of magnesium, antioxidants and fiber!  Transform your morning smoothie into a legit meal by adding some cooked quinoa.  Replace your morning oatmeal with this cooked grain and add a handful of your favorite berries. Adding to salads, soups and stir-fry’s are all easy ways to include quinoa in your daily meals.

Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, and Pumpkin, Chia and Flax seeds are all great sources of protein, fiber and many other health benefits.  Hemp seeds are a complete protein that are hard NOT to love. Packing 13 grams in just 3 tablespoons, these tiny seeds are easy to add anywhere. Try mixing in nuts to your non-dairy yogurt, sprinkle a handful on your favorite salad, add ground flaxseed to your morning smoothie, or just snack on a handful of almonds.

Artichokes - Containing 4 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup, artichoke hearts are a great way to boost fiber, protein, and they are filling but low in calories.

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Edamame – Another great source of protein, antioxidants and fiber, these young green soybeans are delicious and pack in 8.5 grams of protein per ½ cup! Snack on them with a sprinkle of salt or add to soups, burgers, and salads. You can also dry roast them for a great snack.

Green beans, Broccoli and Asparagus – These are great sources of protein and are all easy to add to your best recipes.

Nutritional Yeast – This cheesy tasting ingredient contains 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons and can usually be found in the Natural department of your grocery store. An easy way to add this to your diet is to sprinkle some into your mashed cauliflower or potatoes, salads or pizzas or add to a bowl of popcorn. Cheese dips and Mac and Cheese are all great foods for this ingredient.

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Korean Tofu Stir-Fry - So Good!

The good thing about a stir-fry is you can add just about anything you like. This recipe has a Korean inspired flavors but you can easily change up the sauce and the veggies to whatever you like!

photo by VeganKitchn

photo by VeganKitchn

Korean Tofu Stir-Fry (serves 2-3)

-  1 16 oz package of organic extra-frim tofu, dried and cut into cubes (see note below)
-  1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
-  1 small onion, chopped
-  1 cup of each: mushrooms-sliced; cauliflower florets; red pepper-sliced into strips
-  2 green onions, sliced
-  1/2 cup of organic cornmeal plus a pinch of salt and pepper
-  1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Sauce:
-  1/4 cup of Organic Soy sauce
-  2 Tbsp of Sesame Oil
-  2 garlic gloves, minced
-  1 Tbsp of Sesame Seeds
-  1/2 tsp of dried red pepper flakes or a tsp of hot pepper minced
-  1 Tbsp of organic cane sugar

Directions:
-  Mix all the ingredients together for the sauce.
- Once your tofu has been drained and cut into cubes, dredge it in the seasoned cornmeal.
- Heat up a large pan to medium high and add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Place the tofu cubes in the pan. Heat one side for about 2-3 minutes and then turn over and heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
- Add more olive oil and add the onion, cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the veggies and cook, stirring often for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add sauce to the pan, stir for about 1 minute.
- Add cooked tofu to the pan, stir for about 30 seconds.
- Serve with cooked basmati rice or noodles. 

NOTE: An easy way to drain tofu is to wrap the entire block in several pieces of paper towel and then set a heavy object on it. I use a clean brick but you can place a plate on top and then a heavy food can of anything. Let it drain from 10 minutes to an hour.

Barbeque Season is Here!

Cookouts have been typically meat-laden, but you can easily change that. Putting together a Vegan barbeque can be simple and delicious. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these tasty cruelty-free recipes – ENJOY!

These recipes serve 6 but you can easily change them up to whatever you need.

Grilled Corn with Chili and Lime

6 ears of corn
1 Lime cut into wedges – one per ear of corn
2 Tbsp. Chili powder
2 tsp. Cayenne powder
2 tsp Sea Salt

Directions:
- Preheat grill to medium high and lightly brush grill with oil.
- Peel corn and place on grill, turning occasionally for about 20 minutes. Corn should have charred spots.
- Mix together the chili powder, cayenne and salt.
- Transfer corn to serving platter, squeeze lime juice over corn and sprinkle with spices.

photo by One Green Planet

photo by One Green Planet

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

6 Portobello mushrooms
½ C of balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Olive oil
2 tsp each: garlic flakes (or minced fresh garlic), dried basil, oregano
Salt and pepper
Whole Wheat Buns

TOPPINGS: Sliced tomato, sliced avocado, sliced onion, Vegan cheese (Follow Your heart is delicious)

Directions:
-  Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Place in a shallow bowl smooth side up
-  Mix vinegar, soy, oil and spices together and pour over mushrooms. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
-  Preheat grill to medium high and lightly brush grill with oil.
- Grill for 5-8 minutes per side. Top with cheese if using for the last 2 minutes.
- Serve on a bun and top with condiments and veggies.

Vegan Potato Salad

1.5 pounds of baby potatoes – red and purple work best but you can use any type
3 cups of cut raw veggies: red and green peppers, celery, onions, carrots, frozen corn and green onions
1/3 C of vegan mayo
3 Tbsp of pickle juice plus 3 Tbsp of chopped dill pickles
3 Tbsp of dried dill
Salt and pepper

Directions:
-  In a large pot, cover the cleaned potatoes with cold water and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
-  Mix mayo, pickle juice, chopped pickles, dill and salt and pepper.
-  Drain potatoes and add dressing while potatoes are hot.
- Once potatoes have cooled slightly place in fridge until they come to about room temperature.
-  Add all of the cut fresh veggies and refrigerate until using (at least one hour before serving).

photo by The Food Channel

photo by The Food Channel

Mint Watermelon Lemonade

10 cups of watermelon
4 lemons, squeezed
2 tsp of lemon zest
6 sprigs of fresh mint
Ice Cubes

Directions:
-  Place the watermelon, lemon juice and zest into a blender or food processor.
-  Pour over ice and add mint sprigs.

 

These are just a few ideas, the possibilities are endless. For convenience and variety, there are loads of great vegan hotdogs, sausages, chicken burgers and beef burgers available at most grocery stores. If they don’t carry them, ask.

Make Your Own Vegan Cheese

Cheese is one of those things that some Vegans say they miss. Here is a very easy recipe for a tasty spreadable cheese!

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp each: sea salt and white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • OPTIONAL: minced chives or dill for serving
  • EQUIPMENT NEEDED:  Food Processor and Cheesecloth.

DIRECTIONS:

-Cover the cashews with cold water and place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
-Drain the cashews and add all ingredients to a food processor. Process until very smooth.
-Place a colander over a large bowl and line the colander with two pieces of cheesecloth. Scrape the mixture into the cloth and twist the cloth so it is tight around the mixture. Secure with a twist tie or elastic.
-Put the bowl and mixture into the refrigerator for 6 hours or until set.

NOTES; Sprinkle with fresh chives or dill for serving, and top with pickled jalapenos, roaster red peppers or sliced olives.