Wow! It has been a very long time since my last post, but I’m back… and with a new recipe I think you all will totally dig.
As some of you may know, last fall was super crazy for me. Between being a full time student (with 50 additional clinical hours I had to obtain toward my degree) and working part time, I also planned my own wedding with the help of some family members and got married in October! Understandably, by the time I completed my finals in December I felt pretty burnt out. Although I recipe tested and posted my dishes on instagram, I never formally shared any recipes I came up with. At that point, I just needed to take time for myself to realign and relax. Even still, December remained a busy month for me, but January gave me time to be as lazy as I could hope to be. I took full advantage of that.
Currently I’m already almost three weeks deep into the spring semester, but I feel refreshed and renewed. So, here I am. Back at it again with a recipe (that isn’t oatmeal). Today I’ll be sharing my favoriteplant-based, Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese saucerecipe! The best part? Because this dish focuses on using whole ingredients, it’s egg-free, dairy-free, and can be made gluten-free very easily! You can use this sauce for pastas, as a cheese dip (one of my favorite ways), in casserole recipes, or in soups.
This recipe also uses quite a few spices and condiments, but the flavors come together SO well to create a rich, tangy sauce that does a great job in mimicking a cheese sauce without the impending guilt of calories or cruelty. Keep reading for the good stuff!
Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese
Servings: Approx. 8-10 cups of sauce | Cook Time: 20-25 min.
GF/whole wheat pasta of your choice (I used elbow macaroni)
2 1/2 c. (approx.) water for sauce blend
2 medium yukon gold potatoes (rinsed and skin peeled)
1 medium carrot (rinsed and peeled)
1/4 yellow onion
1/2 c. raw cashews
4 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tbsp. soy sauce (I used Shoyru from Whole Foods | If gluten-free, use tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
1/2 tsp. Tapatio (you heard me) *
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes *
1 1/4 tsp. pink himalayan salt (add more if desired)
liberal amount of fresh ground black pepper (about 8 grinds for me)
In the first pot, add approx. 3-4 cups of water (should be enough to cover your veggies when you add them). In the second pot, add however much water you need to make your pasta. Lightly salt both pots of water and bring them it to a boil. While your water it boiling, rinse and peel the skin off your potatoes and carrots. Chop potatoes and carrots into 1-inch thick slices. Chop your onion and separate until they are thin slices.
Once the water begins boiling, add your pasta to one pot and your potatoes to another. After 3 minutes, add the carrots and raw cashews t0 the pot and stir. After five minutes of boiling, add the onion slices and stir. Cook for another 2-3 min. When you are able to pierce the carrots and potatoes with a fork, the veggies are ready. Keep an eye on the pasta. When it’s al dente, strain the pasta in a colander and set aside (DO NOT RINSE).
When veggies are tender, remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop out the contents and drop it your blender/food processor (I used my Vitamix). DO NOT DRAIN YOUR WATER! You need to keep it to add to your sauce in a moment! After adding all the veggies into the blender, add the remaining condiments and spices from the ingredients list on top. Next, pour however much leftover liquid you desire into your blender. Less water makes for a thicker sauce, more water will make it thinner. I typically add about 2 cups of the leftover water. Next, put the lid on and blend for about 30 seconds on high.
When finished, give it a taste and adjust salt or seasonings to your liking then pour your steaming sauce over your pasta, stir until coated, and add your favorite mix-ins or toppings (I like to add broccoli, peas, vegan chicken, chives, and Sriracha to mine). Enjoy!
* For a milder sauce use less/omit the red pepper flakes and/or the Tapatio.
– Store leftover sauce in your fridge in an airtight container. To get the sauce creamy again after chilling, heat the desired amount in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Use within 3 days of making it.
Additional Ideas: Use this to sub cheese in casserole recipes or add finely chopped jalapenos/canned tomatoes and chiles (like Rotel) to create a kickin’ queso for your next shindig.
I know I promised a wicked pizza recipe for you guys, but I’ve been super busy with work, family, and vacationing. Over vacation I got engaged! It’s exciting, but I feel like I haven’t had time to slow down since returning back home. My meals lately have been super quick and simple, so I thought I would share a new breakfast favorite for a lazy day like today!
Although it’s in the middle of summer where I live, all I’m craving lately is a sweet, creamy bowl of oats. Oatmeal is definitely one of my favorite breakfasts since it’s cheap, versatile, comforting, and can be extremely delicious. I know I posted another oatmeal recipe on her recently, but guys this one is just too good not to share.
MyHealthy Fried Apple and Banana Oatmeal is sweet, filling, and perfect for rainy fall mornings–or a scorching summer one in my case. It combines the sweetness of dates and banana with the tartness of apple in a creamy cinnamon, molasses glazed oat dish. Did I mention that it’s full of fiber, protein, calcium, and is low fat and low cal? Can’t beat that, right? I’ll have to pull together another recipe that isn’t oatmeal soon, but for now dig into this!
Fried Apple and Banana Oatmeal
Serves 1 | Time 15-20 minutes
3/4 medium ripened banana, mashed
1/2 large Gala apple, skinned and chopped into small chunks
2 small sun dates, chopped
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. quick cooking oats
3/4 c. unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (I used So Delicious brand)
2 tsp. coconut sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Chop, mash, and prep ingredients. In a small pot add the apple chunks, dates, water, coconut sugar, and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Bring to a boil, cooking over medium-high heat until dates and apple chunks are tender. You may need to add more water while the mixture cooks.
Once apples and dates are soft, add oats, cashew milk, vanilla extract, and the other 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Mix well and bring to a boil.Once boiling, lower the temperature to medium-low and simmer until oats are cooked and creamy (about 5 minutes). You may add more liquid until desired consistency is reached.
Once oats are cooked, add in mashed bananas and mix well. Place back over heat until oats are warm again then serve immediately, topping with remaining banana or apple slices, blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, walnuts, and/or chia seeds. Enjoy!
1. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
Being an 11-year strong lacto-ovo vegetarian (minus those few summers I had a hotdog and always immediately regretted it), I was intimidated by the idea of giving up cheese and eggs–the “proteins”–and unsure of my options out there. Before I grocery shopped for the start of my “Go Vegan May Challenge,” I checked my cabinets for all of the foods that contained animal products. I was bummed to see that my Morning Star veggie burgers and chicken bites were made with milk and/or egg ingredients. Although they aren’t always the healthiest options, I relied heavily on them as easy, delicious sustenance when school and work became hectic.
But where there’s a will there’s a way. After doing some thoughtful research and taking the time to read labels at the store, I found plentiful alternatives and “accidentally vegan foods” that swiftly replaced my old stock. I even found cheese alternatives (even if they aren’t the healthiest). I was pleasantly surprised by the large selection of foods (aside from whole veg and fruits) that I was able to find! I even made a plant-based macaroni and cheese dish that is darn heavenly and definitely way healthy compared to boxed Kraft. Eating vegan was definitely a lot easier (and cheaper) than what I had previously thought.
2. Eating healthier came so much more easily.
I started the vegan challenge because I wanted to cut out dairy. With stress from school bearing down on me, I found myself becoming more reliant on being satisfied by cheesy, fatty foods. I craved them and when I didn’t have them at my main meal I ate cookies, ice cream, brownies–you name it–in large quantities for dessert. I felt miserable in my body and addicted to feeling better via the foods I shoveled into myself daily. As I ordered Dominoes (with extra cheese) for the second time that week my vegetables began forming mold and I continued to feel like garbage.
When I took on the challenge I started eating more whole foods and more plant-based, putting veggies and fruits at the center of my diet. I also bought cereals, pastas, and breads that contained higher amounts of fiber and protein. For creaminess cravings in dishes, I used milk alternatives like coconut or cashew as well as Silk yogurt. For dessert cravings I opted for frozen bananas blended into ice cream and topped with cereals, graham crackers, or half a vegan brownie bar. I found myself making better, nutrient-dense food choices while still being satisfied in the same way I had been with the fattier, cheesy foods. All in all, I began to feel better in my body, too.
3. … But vegan junk food exists, too.
And then I hit a wall. School continued to stress me out and I still craved good ‘ole chocolate and cookies. Finding out oreos were an “accidentally vegan” food was both a blessing and a bane to my existence in making healthier choices. I made the bombest vegan oreo balls in the history of the world, but just because they are vegan doesn’t make them healthier, I learned. The oreo balls were tasty, but still high in sugar, fat, and calories as most desserts are. I felt like I had relapsed back into eating negatively and not mindfully.
I continued engorging on oreo balls and dairy-free Ben & Jerry’s up until just a week or so ago when I returned from visiting my hometown. Upon returning to the city, my body hadn’t felt the greatest and I was constantly craving sugar. The slump made me a bit paranoid (and grumpy) due to how heavily I had been mindlessly eating sweets and salties. Because I’ve had bad relationships with food in the past, it has caused some anxiety during times of overindulgence. However, my recent goal is to turn my focus on eating less processed vegan foods and more fruits and veggies. I have also adopted better habits of drinking tons of water, sipping tea, and reflecting on myself and my body’s needs daily before I opt to stuff myself to the brim with junk food. Vegan sweets are good for the soul–in moderation, like any other sweet!
4. It isn’t just about making a diet change. It’s about getting educated.
Because I realized that vegan junk food exists just the same as “regular” junk food does, I realized that changing to a vegan diet doesn’t equate to wellness and a healthy body. In the past, I have watched documentaries about the benefits of plant-based/plant-forward diets: Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead, Food Matters, and Forks Over Knives were all big motivators in making the choice to start my vegan challenge. However it wasn’t until I began listening to lecturers on YouTube, reading excerpts from books, poring over scientific studies, and watching factory farm footage and other documentaries like Cowspiracy that I began to think of a vegan diet as something beyond myself.
After hearing the lectures, facts, and debunked truths surrounding factory farming and the effects it has on our environment, health, and–most of all–the animals I felt guilty for making the act of going vegan about only myself. By going vegan, I was doing more for my environment and the the living beings within it. It was less of a burden and more of an honor to be knowledgeable enough and capable of making the choice to not just go vegan, but stay vegan. By not partaking in an industry that is harmful to both people and animals, I have revoked my support of their practices of cruelty, environmental carnage, and the promotion of health false health claims that are involved.
I still haven’t mustered up the courage to watch Earthlings, but I know I will when I feel emotionally ready.
5. Having a moral dilemma is normal.
I’ve craved greasy, pan pizza from Pizza Hut while feeling angry at factory farming. I’ve eyeballed the new leather sandals in my workplace while still being haunted by the images that I’ve seen from the process of leather production. I’ve felt both livid and lustful at the animal products that are so easily accessible around me. However, at the end of the day, I placed my beliefs over my earthly desires. I made sure to think of another living being before myself. I have maintained grounded by it. When I crave or desire the things around me that are animal-based, I always ask myself: But at what cost? Like all beliefs, transitioning in mindset isn’t always easy. I am still learning, growing, and challenging myself to do better to honor my body, my environment, and God’s creations. It is work, but it is good work.
6. People around you will poke fun at you for going vegan.
When I started the challenge, I was excited and eager to share. I wanted to encourage everyone I knew to adopt a change to better their health with me–to create a supportive community. I took the time to create grocery lists, a Pinterest board, and share recipes I loved with others in an effort to raise awareness on how awesome fruits and veggies are and how much better we all can feel by eliminating heavy, animal-based food products and processed goods. I shared my excitement on Facebook and couldn’t wait to share more.
Then came the memes, the jokes, and the “oh, I could never do that” phrases. It wasn’t until I began sharing more content that more and more similar posts cropped up in my feed. It could’ve been coincidence, but it sure didn’t feel like it. I brushed the taunts off the best I could, but I still felt mocked and embarrassed for displaying the content that I did. What had been something that I was happy and eager to share with others as a learning experience became something I didn’t want to talk about. I have ceased labeling my diet on Facebook when I share food photos–just to lessen the amount of negativity–and I take all other vegan-centered excitement to Instagram where the community is a lot more supportive and happy to share thoughts and recipes.
7. Your family and friends may have difficulty understanding your new mindset.
Out of all my family and friends my mother and my sister have been my biggest supporters. When I visited home, my mom took it upon herself to grocery shop especially for me and allowed me to cook and share some of my favorite vegan recipes with her and the family. My sister has given me a lot of motivation in starting a blog and sharing my recipes with others as well. But there are still some hang ups.
Other members of my family seem to be confused by what the word “vegan” means. My boyfriend, though a kind person, has challenged me on several occasions, leaving me feeling hurt and very unsupported in my choices. After our Memorial Day cookout, I told my mom I felt bad that my sister made such a large cake for everyone but nobody really ate any of it–me being one of those people. She asked me, “Well, the pledge you took is almost over since it’s the end of the month. Can’t you eat a slice of cake and then pick it back up afterward?” I had to explain to her that with the way I feel, eating a slice of cake wasn’t worth exchanging knowledge for pleasure and adopting that type of mindset–like any belief put into practice–would make me a hypocrite.
My family is still adjusting and learning, though they’ve had an easier time than most transitioning vegans do because of my past experiences in being a vegetarian. I hope that someday my family and friends will come to better understand why I chose to go vegan, but until then I’ll just work on making sure they stock up on peanut butter, potatoes, and ketchup when I’m around.
8. Feeling alone and unsupported is also normal.
I know very few vegetarians and even fewer vegans. I’ve always been the odd one out for not eating meat. I even cut out drinking milk two years ago and switched to cashew and almond milks (unless dairy milk was already processed in the foods I consumed like shredded cheeses and restaurant prepped dishes). I ate eggs rarely and only when we dined out at breakfast-food restaurants, which was not very often. However, when I went vegan a lot of people became suddenly concerned with my protein intake. I was instantly told that I needed to take vitamins or I would become severely nutrient deficient.
Instead of taking an interest in my excitement to learn and focus on the versatility (and health benefits) of natural greens, legumes, grains, and fruits I was only met with statements of my oncoming doomed health and questions of “what do you even eat?”
When I used the word “vegan” it automatically became associated with being rude, judgemental, and privileged not with “Bethany – animal products = happy, contented, healthy veghead.” While some vegans can be unkind or judgemental (like anybody can be), to associate one person with a set of traits just because you have a preconceived notion about the title itself is judgemental and unkind of you. I coexist happily with my meat-eating family and friends. Watching you eat meat now that I am vegan doesn’t “bother me.” I feel secure enough in myself and my decisions as a kind, respectful human being to know that we are all given the freedom of choice and your’s may differ from mine.
9. You’re not alone and there are tons of others like you.
The more I explored YouTube and Instagram the more I found that others had the same grievances and the same goals. I have followed many awesome, creative YouTubers who are honest, down to earth, creative in the kitchen, and vegan. I follow and connect with others on Instagram to participate in an awesome community of exchanging recipes and motivational words as a way to support one another. Some individuals may have that families are not supportive at all, while other times they may lack knowledge of food creativity. Each scenario is different for everyone, but the online community has given me great reinforcement and support this past month. I’ve learned a lot from others and I hope that they might learn some awesome ideas from me as well!
10. You won’t suffer–and neither will the animals.
Going vegan this past month has been a rewarding, eye-opening experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my aspirations, and this heart-wrenchingly beautiful world we are blessed to inhabit and entrusted to care for. I’ve gained a better understanding and appreciation for the versatility of plants and whole foods. I am happier than I was before, more confident in my choices, and eager to make a difference on my journey in life. I want people to know that plant-based eating is amazing and fun and we don’t have to profit off the backs of other living things to be sustained and satisfied. We can live healthy, be happy, and eat foods that sing to our souls while taking less from the planet and giving more to ourselves as a result. That is infinitely the best feeling in the world.
I’ll be back soon with a recipe for a quick, easy, and totally vegan Sautéed Veggie Pizza with Garlic Coconut Cream Sauce!
Since I began eating a healthier, more balanced diet I’ve found myself eating TONS of oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is an amazing food because it contains fiber, protein, and carbs to keep you full and energized throughout the day. Oats are extremely versatile and can come in many different types–including gluten free and “super style” with superfood grains such as quinoa and amaranth added in (both are great sources of plant-based fiber and protein as well). My most favorite type of oat blend currently is classic Old Fashioned oats. Old Fashioned style oats are great because they cook up well and retain a nice texture without becoming too creamy. Moreover they are incredibly cheap.
I recently bought a 42 oz. container of Kiggins brand Old Fashioned Oats for $2.49 at a local grocer. With 30 total 1/2 cup servings, each containing 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, this whole grain oatmeal is a great option for those looking to save money, eat healthy, and get creative. Plains oats make for a fantastic base to create any type of oatmeal–savory or sweet. They are a major kitchen staple of mine and I have used them to make oatmeal, breakfast cookies, and even pancakes! Using regular Old Fashioned oats as my base, I created a fantastic vegan recipe for a sweet and summeryStrawberries and Cream Oatmeal.
Last Thursday I bought a gallon of fresh, local strawberries at the farmers market. At $13 it was a total steal (and yes, my boyfriend Charles and I devoured them completely). Having raw strawberries every morning was refreshing, but I wanted to try something new with the bucketfull of berries I had sitting on my counter top. I wanted to achieve a creamy, delicious strawberry oatmeal with a hint of vanilla without having to reach for a packet of artificially flavored oats and dehydrated strawberries.
After scouring my cabinets and fridge I threw together an impressive dish that would send that guy on the oatmeal box off to repent for his oat-filled sins. The best part? This recipe is quick, healthy, and full of flavor, making it a perfect way to start off a summery morning.
Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal
Serves 1 | Time 10-15 minutes | 312 kcals
1/2 c. uncooked Old Fashioned/gluten-free oats
1/2 c. milk alternative of choice (I used So Delicious unsweetened vanilla cashew milk.) — Add less or more for thicker or thinner oatmeal.
77 g. (or 1/2 single serve container) Silk dairy-free vanilla yogurt
120 g. (3/4 c.) fresh strawberries*
1 t. coconut sugar or pure cane sugar
1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
Optional: 1-2 t. agave/maple syrup for sweetener*
Cut strawberries into thin slices or chunks. Set aside 1/4 of the portion for topping your oatmeal. Pour remaining cut up strawberries into a small pot. Add the coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and optional agave or maple syrup. Cook your strawberries over medium heat, bring them to a simmer and stirring frequently.
When your strawberries begin to break down, forming a liquidus mixture with some slices/chunks still intact, pour in your milk alternative of choice and add your uncooked oats. Mix well until combined and bring oats to a gentle boil over medium high heat. When oats begin to boil, lower the heat to a simmer (medium low) and cook uncovered for approximately 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent oats from sticking.
Once oats are cooked, turn off burner and add the dairy-free yogurt to the pot. Stir until well combined and yogurt becomes heated from the oats. Pour your oatmeal into a bowl and top with remaining strawberries. Enjoy!
*Frozen strawberries may also be used, but may lack a sweeter taste and require more sweetener.
*The fresher the strawberries the sweeter they are. Adjust the sweetness to your taste and feel free to top oats with more agave or coconut sugar as desired!
*Additional topping ideas: raw pumpkin seeds, crushed walnuts, chia seeds, cacao nibs, coconut chips, shredded coconut, coconut sugar, other types of berries, blackstrap molasses, peanut butter, agave/maple syrup.
Mindfulness is loving yourself and the living things around you while staying knowledgeable and positive despite the world’s harsh workings. It’s appreciation without the need for a holiday and kindness without causation.
Repurposed. Renewed. Ready. I find myself feeling this way each morning I step into my kitchen to have breakfast. I feel this way at lunch, dinner, and when I am scarfing down dessert late at night. At the end of my day, I get excited about tomorrow’s meals. With each new moment I feel compelled to share, educate, and invite others into seeing what it’s like to eat jaw-droppingly amazing foods without consuming dairy, eggs, or meat–what it’s like to eat vegan and be completely satisfied and nourished.
For a bit of a backstory, I should say that I formerly ran a page called Thrifting Twenties for a brief time. My sister encouraged me to get creative, share my musings, and explore the things that I loved with others. I dove in with a teaspoon of eagerness, posting half-thoughts while researching information on how to be “thrifty” and save your well-earned buckaroos. It was a fantastic idea, but it was something that I found I didn’t truly enjoy. I didn’t feel happy to share. I didn’t feel like I had fun or gained a sense of meaningfulness from my posts. I slacked off and the pages died off as quickly as they had been born. I didn’t perform CPR.
After contending with a difficult year filled with many new lifestyle changes including moving, multiple jobs, attending a new college, and contending with a variety of sudden and crippling health issues finding purpose and satisfaction every day became extremely difficult. Despite being a “healthy” vegetarian, I felt horrid in my body and attempted solving the issues I faced with medications and going on a gluten-free diet in the summer of 2015. Everything was frustrating and nothing seemed to produce the results I needed to get better. After I was placed on my new medication I gained some sense of normalcy. However, life started looking a bit brighter when I switched up my diet. Starting in late January I started focusing on eating a more plant-based diet and cutting down on dairy products. From there, I began to see and feel things differently.
I started experimenting with my foods, cooking dishes such as enchiladas stuffed with savory sweet potato and black beans as opposed to heavy cheeses. I began substituting bananas in place of eggs in baking and loved the sweet results. I started reading labels, watching documentaries and lectures on plant-based diets, and scouring Pinterest for new recipes like a mad woman. Then the 1st of April arrived and the stress of school felt like an unbearable weight pressing down upon me. I filled the void with takeout pizzas, double doses of cheesy pasta, ice cream, cookies, and fat omelettes with cupcake pancakes from IHOP. I ate my feelings and felt like crap afterward, but I repeated the cycle because I believed it made me feel better. I traded short term happiness for long term health lows.
My boyfriend and I moved from our cruddy apartment to a lovely place where I feel safe, creative, and closer to nature. With the move, I wanted to change myself as well. I had went vegan before for around two weeks. At the time, I found it to be fun and I found myself eating healthier during that period due to the junk food and fast food restrictions that came with the diet change. In knowing the limitations, I decided to go vegan for the month of May to due a “health reset” and get back on track while participating in Wellness Month at my workplace.
Then I started watching the other documentaries and listening to lectures that spoke the truth about factory farming and the animal-based industry. I started to look in the places where I felt like looking away. I started to be more mindful, more open, and more knowledgeable about where our food comes from–not just what it came from. But I also became angry. I became frustrated, saddened, and confused the more I watched. I felt both disappointed and motivated to step up my game. It wasn’t just about my health anymore–it was never just about me. When I consumed animal byproducts it was no longer about me, but the animal on the other end.
I still have a lot to learn about food, nutrition, and the industry itself, but I am starting with my own dinner plate. Where else a better place to start? In creating this blog, I want to show others that eating vegan can be fun, fulfilling, easy, and delicious. I want to let everyone know that eating vegan is not hard or as restrictive as even I once thought. I also think people should see that they have a choice in their diet and how it affects the world around them. You don’t have to skimp. You don’t have to give up anything. You just have to be curious and willing to learn. The best adventures you’ll ever take can start right in your own kitchen–no boarding pass necessary.
I still desire to improve myself even further. I want to try yoga (because those headstands look wicked fun), exercise more, and practice mindfulness. I want to further my appreciation and care for all living things by continuing on in making changes in my everyday choices in food, beauty products, and clothing. Most of all I want to feel greater in this one life I’ve been blessed to have. For me, mindfulness is loving yourself and the living things around you while staying knowledgeable and positive despite the world’s harsh workings. It’s appreciation without the need for a holiday and kindness without causation. To me, that’s an amazing idea–and one worthy of being shared and cultivated. 🌞
I invite each of you to join me in my journey around the kitchen while navigating as a new vegan. My recipes are suitable for vegheads, those with lactose intolerance, and meat-eaters while keeping a plant-based/vegan diet in mind. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts will be easily found here and I will continue to share my thoughts on the lifestyle change and how I have adjusted to it. I hope you will join me on my journey in getting “vegucated!”