Food & Environment

It’s no secret that our lifestyle choices impact our environment. From the cars we drive, the energy we use and the farmers we support, our daily actions affect our footprint. ‘Environment’ is a broad term, used to describe surroundings on micro and macro levels, so just for clarification, we are talking mega-macro – our planet.

I’m sure you’ve heard that eating less meat and dairy can reduce your ecological footprint (i.e. how many greenhouse gases your choices emit and ultimately are trapped in the atmosphere for a long time). It’s the single most influential thing you can do positively impact our planet’s environmental health.

FOOD & ENVIRONMENT

Our current food system is highly industrialized and seems to be continuing in that direction despite grassroots and social justice efforts to scale down industrial agriculture.  Agriculture accounts for 70% of total water use and 93% of extracted water. Plants use considerably less water in production than animals, one reason for the recommendation to shift diets to include more plant-based foods. Thinking in a more social context, there is a direct relationship between the availability of water and the ability to meet nutritional needs. So, if water is scarce, food is scarce.

*Shocking fact: It takes 1,000 kg of water to produce 1 kg of grain. I know, grain is the foundation of a plant-based diet. BUT, over 50% of grain produced in the United States goes to feeding animals, plus more is used to generate agri-fuel (biofuels) for industrial agriculture (inefficient fuel, despite the friendly moniker ‘biofuel’) (source: USDA).

The economics of agriculture due to the industrialized food system have led to huge consolidation of farms and businesses. We have fewer farms, and the farms we do have are growing in size. Consolidation comes with specialization (again, such a nice sounding word), meaning these huge agricultural enterprises are producing single products, or monocultures.  This severely reduces biodiversity and resilience, leaving the farms and land without protection from extreme weather, like heavy winds and rain. Cases of soil erosion and nutrient depletion in soil are increasing, and although they may sound like temporary problems, they’re not. Our planet is losing soil at a much faster rate than it’s producing soil.  The amount of arable soil left on the planet is dwindling, and it’s concentrated in extreme northern climates not suitable for growing foods.

The industrialized food system was created to make food production more efficient, require less labor, increase resiliency of crops and animals (GMOs) and reduce waste. None of those outcomes are a reality. The energy balance of food production is negative, meaning it takes more energy to produce our food than the food itself provides (in kilocalories). This is true for plants as well as animals, however the equation is slightly more favorable for plant-based foods.

It’s a frustrating system, controlled by few who have no regard for the welfare of the people or planet. There are small changes we can all actively make, to make a large collective difference.

  • Eat less meat and dairy. The Lancet published a study suggesting that the climate change recommendation is a 64% reduction in current meat consumption (from 8.8 ounces to 3.2 ounces per day).
  • Eat with the seasons. This also includes eating local and supporting local, small farms. See what’s in season near you.
  • Reduce packaging. Buy products in bulk, using reusable containers to transport. If you buy something with packaging, try to buy recyclable packaging.
  • Reduce food waste. Be conscious about food preparation and buying habits to reduce the amount you waste. Give food to neighbors and friends if you can’t use it. Start composting. In Columbus, there’s an organization that provides empty buckets for people living where they can’t have their own compost piles. You fill up the bucket and exchange it for an empty one!

A food system is like an octopus, it has a complex set of factors. Tugging at one seems isolated, but the rest of the tentacles experience the consequences. The relationship between food and environment is very much the same. Your individual efforts may feel small and inconsequential, but wouldn’t you rather make a teeny difference than be part of the problem? Share your tips in the comments.

Not Your Average Green Smoothie

I am a green smoothie lover. If I make a smoothie, I’m throwing spinach or kale in it. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to boost nutrition. Dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale, have so much iron and protein.  Balanced out with frozen fruit, creamy banana and a hint of lemon – you won’t even taste the earthy goodness. But today’s recipe is not your average green smoothie recipe.

We’re getting a little tropical. Coconut milk. Pineapple. Banana. Spirulina. I know what you’re thinking, but hang tight.  You won’t taste that bitter, earth and sea flavor. Promise.

Not Your Average Green Smoothie - Vegan | Gluten Free

What is spirulina? I’m glad you asked. Spirulina is a type of algae, that is commonly bought in a powdered form.  It’s a deep bluish green color and smells a bit like grass and dirt. Why would you eat it then? Spirulina is packed with nutrients, like vitamins B and E, iron, magnesium, omega fatty acids and even protein. It boosts your immune system, promotes liver health and can help with allergies. Where do you buy it? You can buy it on amazon, in any health food store,  or Whole Foods Market. I found mine at TJ Maxx, but that’s hit or miss.

Spirulina is the secret ingredient in my Not Your Average Green Smoothie recipe. You’re probably asking what it actually tastes like, since I’m promising that it doesn’t taste like grass. It tastes like a piña colada sans rum. But we both know how to fix that.

Not Your Average Green Smoothie

  • Servings: One, 16-ounces
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This tropical smoothie gets its green color from spirulina powder – packed with iron, protein and tons of vitamins and minerals. Want an extra boost? Increase the spirulina powder to 1 tablespoon.

  • 1 cup coconut milk (I recommend the carton variety, canned has a lot of fat, but if it’s all you have do 1/2 cup canned milk with 1/2 cup water)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen apple
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons spirulina powder
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 2-3 minutes.

Looking for some other not-so-average green smoothies? Try this Anti-Inflammatory Green Chia Gel.

 

 

 

Next-Level Pasta Salad

It has already started. It’s how-to-cook-dinner-without-the-stove season. Get-up-before-the-sun-to-bake weather. Eat-breakfast-in-your-underwear hot. Just to be clear, I’m not complaining. The hot weather makes me think outside the box, get creative and whip up some innovative dishes – like this Next-Level Pasta Salad.

Pasta Salad is pretty near and dear to my heart.  It was a staple in the fridge when warm weather hit. My brothers and I would pull the big yellow bowl out of the fridge on summer days and grab forkfuls here and there. My mom used the pour-a-bottle-of-Italian-dressing-on-it recipe. It got us to eat veggies, took only minutes to prepare and she had three wild kids to wrangle. I still love that simple recipe and use it for pot lucks when you just need a crowd pleaser.

Next-Level Pasta Salad - Vegan

Today’s recipe for this Next-Level Pasta Salad is a #gamechanger. Here’s a collection of reasons you might make this recipe (aka when you’re trying to stand out):

  • You just got a new job (wishful thinking, right?) and you’re invited to a co-worker’s Memorial Day BBQ.
  • You’re meeting your partner’s family for the first time.
  • You need a dish to pass for your 10-year class reunion (no one will even remember that awful hair cut).
  • Monday dinner. Yes, your tastebuds are enough of a reason. #treatyoself

You might be asking yourself, “what exactly puts the ‘Next-Level’ in this Pasta Salad?”. I’ve got a three part answer: (1) homemade lemon-garlic vinaigrette, (2) fresh spinach and tomato, and (3) spiced and roasted chickpeas.  This Next-Level Pasta Salad also calls for Israeli Couscous, which might sound a little Bougie, but I chose it because I think it’s less of a hassle to cook. You just heat up a little broth, throw in the couscous, cover and turn off the heat. No stirring, timing or draining necessary.

Next-Level Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 4 entree, 6-8 sides
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Get out your sundress. It’s time to impress. This show-stopping pasta salad will be the hit of the barbecue!

Spiced, Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small zucchini, diced

Couscous

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/3 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Toss the chickpeas with the spices, olive oil and vinegar. Transfer to a sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the couscous and cover. Turn off the heat and let sit.
  4. When the chickpea timer goes off, add the diced zucchini to the sheet tray. Toss and bake for another 10 minutes.
  5. Now, make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, agave and salt in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. While the blender is running, drizzle in the olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Allow the chickpeas to cool for 5-10 minutes at room temperature.
  7. Check the couscous. After about 8-10 minutes the pearls should have absorbed all of the broth and be al dente.  Add the done couscous to the chickpeas, just pouring it over the top and allowing them to cool slightly.
  8. Finally, add everything to a large bowl: the chickpea and zucchini mixture, the couscous, tomatoes, spinach and onion. Pour the vinaigrette over the top (all of it!). Toss to combine. You can serve this warm, but it’ll hold up best in the fridge and can be served cold like a traditional pasta salad.

 

 

 

 

Combatting Food Insecurity through Collaboration

This is a piece I wrote as part of a job application and wanted to share. P.S. sign up for my new monthly newsletter on the right side bar – first email goes out in early May and is all about food justice. 

Despite such a seemingly straightforward name, food security is a complex global issue. For many it refers to a state of adequate healthful food intake, for others it refers to food that is safe to consume. In developing nations, projects promoting food security focus on survival – providing support for farmers and building infrastructure to distribute food and water safely.  In the United States, food security initiatives face the challenge of addressing hunger and obesity simultaneously.  Processed foods with the lowest nutritional value are the cheapest and most accessible foods in the United States, contributing to this paradox. Policy efforts in the United States combat this through limiting advertising, setting specific nutrition standards for children, the SNAP program, the National School Lunch program and more.

living life with purpose

There is no ‘Department of Food’, people who work on food-related issues are researchers, scientists, farmers, growers, producers, distributors, educators and eaters. Cross-sector thinking is needed to make sustainable and impactful changes in the food environment. Built environment decisions such as the location of sidewalks, crossing signals, bus routes and bike paths influence food security.  Integration of nutritional resources in healthcare can impact the reach of programs and services available to the food insecure population. The undeniable correlation between those living in poverty and those who are hungry means an opportunity to connect them with jobs and professional development to improve health status.

The most notable collaborative effort for food insecure children and teens in the United States is the extensive programming offered through public and non-profit school systems. The integration of healthful food education in schools teaches our youth what healthy food is, where it comes from, how to grow it and how to prepare it. Children spend one-third of their day in school, half of their waking hours, making it the ideal setting to promote healthful eating and provide positive feeding experiences. The logic behind targeting children with this type of programming in school is that these experiences are shared with parents and siblings at home, expanding programmatic reach. Schools have faced a lot of nutritional policy initiatives over the last few years, banning sugar-sweetened beverages, regulating food brought in for celebrations and stricter standards for school lunches.

Challenges to creating a collaborative solution to food insecurity through education include the lack of funding and time for non-core programming and restrictions on funding use. Programs and initiatives have a duty to fulfill objectives set forth in a funding agreement and this may make collaboration difficult. Food is a priority, but healthful food and related education is not, resulting in sparse resources. Current efforts to provide free or reduced price breakfast and lunch show positive impact for elementary-aged students, however, uptake is extremely low among older students.  Initiatives need to develop ways to engage teenagers in programming and provide solutions for weekends, holiday breaks and summer vacations.  Many of the nutritional policies put in place in schools happen at the local level when there is potential for national impact.

Schools have the potential to be community hubs, full of resources for the entire families, not just students. Food security is an issue of hunger, health, geography, economic status, and education. Solutions need to bring these industries together.

Avocado Chickpea Salad

I am so excited to announce that I am officially graduating with my Master’s in Public Health in just 4 (!) short weeks. I passed my defense and submitted all documents relating to my thesis, so I only have two small assignments left before graduation. It’s surreal.

I’m not really stressed about upcoming life changes. I think that working two jobs and going to school full time has prepared me to open a lifestyle change with open arms. The worst part is having clear career goals and no real path to slaying them. My mom keeps telling me to visualize my goals and let them happen (you thought I was the hippie?) – so I have this image of myself, a food champion, wearing kale as a cape and wielding a carrot wand, imparting and gathering knowledge that actually makes a difference. So, if you have insider knowledge about a community-based research position focusing on food insecurity, please let me know…

Avocado Chickpea Salad - Vegan Heartbeats

Avocado Chickpea Salad - Vegan Heartbeats

Avocado Chickpea Salad - Vegan Heartbeats

In the meantime I’ll just continue making variations of chickpea salad and sharing the deliciousness with y’all.

Avocado Chickpea Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Chickpea salad has got to be my favorite warm weather lunch. It’s quick to throw together, requiring no cooking at all. It tastes good solo, thrown on a salad or as the star of a sandwich. Plus, it’s naturally gluten-free. This version is a hybrid between a classic chickpea salad and guacamole. Olé!

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (sub parsley if you’re like my mom and absolutely hate cilantro)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used red to add color)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a medium sized bowl. Add the spices, cilantro and lime juice. Mash everything together with a fork, until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl or food processor, mash the chickpeas. I like my chickpeas to still have some texture, so I pulse them. The food processor is the fastest, but if you don’t want to have to clean it, just use your hands.
  3. Add the chickpeas, bell pepper, garlic and scallions to the avocado and mix until combined.
  4. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

*Want more chickpea salad inspo? Check this post for a Sweet Potato Chickpea Salad.

 

Increasing SNAP Restrictions could benefit health & government

*Below is an Op-Ed I wrote for a class assignment, but wanted to share in light of some themes (block grants, budget-centric policy making) that while present in politics forever, have been prevalent recently in regards to health care reform*

 

It may seem early to start thinking about the 2018 Farm Bill, but under the new administration, food policy is dynamic. While the 2018 Farm Bill has heavy implications for small and large farmers’ day-to-day operations and sustainability, it also affects funding of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and other nutrition programs.  Just about 75% of the Farm Bill budget goes to nutritional programs like SNAP, accounting for about 89 billion dollars in federal spending in 2016­1. In 2014, when the previous Farm Bill was passed, spending cuts to SNAP were a huge source of debate.

Farm Bill 2018

To avoid a repeat of 2014, when political standstill significantly delayed the passing of the bill, let’s start talking about changes to the SNAP program now. Public health experts have been pushing for buying restrictions on SNAP for years, usually dismissed by Republicans as unnecessarily patronizing the American public. An alternative to banning junk food and sugar-sweetened beverages purchases under SNAP benefits is to give users incentives for buying whole fruits, vegetables and grains2.  Research shows that this is successful on a small scale, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetable purchases by giving people an extra 30 cents per dollar when they buy fruits or vegetables2. Placing restrictions on junk foods and incentives on healthy foods doesn’t necessarily get to the bottom of the budget issues, however they ensure that the government money is going towards products that will improve health (other aspects of the Farm Bill control subsidies and have the power to incentivize healthy foods for all).

From a tax-payer perspective, I am in favor increased regulation if it means SNAP users are buying more nutritional foods.  The SNAP program is designed to be some of the money that low-income families need to purchase groceries, not all of it. Think about it – junk foods that are high in salt and fat, sugar sweetened beverages and even some processed red meats are linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. How is that any different from restricting the purchase of tobacco products and alcohol?

Another method of controlling SNAP purchases is through modifications to grocery and corner stores that accept SNAP.  This could include changing the layout to prompt shoppers to buy healthier foods rather than processed foods2. Many big food companies have contracts with stores regarding displays, making this difficult to achieve.  Grocery and corner stores face requirements regarding food offerings and product visibility as conditions for accepting SNAP2.  Increasing those requirements to include fresh fruits and vegetables and prominent displays for healthier items would increase access to healthy foods, especially in corner stores which are commonly located in food deserts. Upping store requirements could cause stores to drop out of the SNAP program all together, which decreases overall access to food. However, similar changes were made under the WIC program in which stores dutifully complied.

Republicans favor the budget-only approach that shifts the SNAP program to block-grants, giving each individual state control over benefits1.  Block-grants cut spending dramatically, which limits the scope and impact of SNAP.  Returning to my previous point, if we are going to uproot the program, shouldn’t we think about its impact on individual and family nutrition as motivators?

We need to remind our policymakers to think beyond the monetary aspect of decisions like the impending Farm Bill, as its impact reaches beyond the economy.  If we step out of the deep and ever-growing pockets of Big Ag leaders like Monsanto (with whom President Trump just had a meeting1) and Big Soda, our options for improving the nutrition of our nation will increase.  It is possible to make changes to SNAP that increase health outcomes for its users AND decreases spending and reliance on government assistance.

What are your thoughts on the 2018 Farm Bill?

References:

  1. Douglas, Leah. (February 8, 2017). The Future of the Farm Bill. Civil Eats, retrieved from http://civileats.com/2017/02/08/sneak-peek-coming-farm-bill-process/
  1. Farley, Thomas & Sykes, Russell. (March 20, 2015). See No Junk Food, Buy No Junk Food. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/opinion/see-no-junk-buy-no-junk.html?_r=0

 

 

Following Signs and Cooking Lentils

French Lentils and Balsamic Mushrooms | Vegan

It has been almost three months since I sat down to write a blog post. What the heck!?!

I’ve been busy with my thesis (my defense is exactly one week away!!!), wedding planning and job searching.

I finished one book, and cracked open at least four new ones. I have always been a reader, but recently I have been addicted – I can’t wait to get done with school and spend all of my time reading. Maybe I should factor that into my job searching. If you’re curious about what I’ve been reading, check out my Goodreads profile.

Now that you’re all caught up…let’s talk about signs.

I believe in signs. I believe that if something keeps coming up I should pay attention to it.  Currently, my topic of obsession is my strengths. I was thinking about them a little due to interview prep, my thesis defense and the general state of unknown that my very near future holds.  Then I had an assignment for a class to do the Strengths Finder test. Then I received Tools of Titans for my birthday. Then I did yoga this morning and Adriene was all about balancing softness and stability, thinking about our strengths, being kind to ourselves in regards to our weaknesses. All of this strengths talk emphasizes the fact that we can become infinitely talented in the areas of our strengths, and only marginally talented in the areas of our weaknesses – so forget about your weaknesses and focus on developing your strengths.

For me, it’s critical to think about when I am the happiest. Professionally, I know from experience that I hate work and am less productive if I am not passionate and fulfilled by what I am doing.  Why are we wasting so much time doing things that make us miserable? Even if you get  a paycheck out of it – at some point you cross a line, ultimately wasting your time and energy. Channel that into something that is going to help you shine and thrive.

French Lentils and Balsamic Mushrooms | Vegan

This recipe grew out of a “sign”.  There was a picture of lentils and mushrooms on my Pinterest feed recently. I dismissed it  – I didn’t read the caption or click the link. But the image is imprinted in my mind. I have not stopped thinking about it. I think that’s a sign that I just need to get in the damn kitchen.

This is one of the funnest ways to cook. I am inspired, but I’m also challenging myself to create a recipe based on a picture of a plated dish. I’m grateful for this experience. The fact that a lot of people don’t have the financial means to “experiment” with food or the base of knowledge to just wing it is not lost on me.

So, how do you create a recipe based on a picture? 

  1. Identify ingredients: Start with what you can see and add things that you like and make sense.
  2. Identify technique: Think of how to cook each ingredient. Can you cook them together or should you cook them separately? How will this decision impact the texture and flavor of the dish?
  3. Try it! And take lots of notes. What did you do? What would you change for the next time? Should there even be a next time? Pretty is fine, but taste is what counts.

So for this French Lentil with Balsamic Mushrooms dish, I could see lentils, mushrooms, a shiny brown drizzle and a green. I added onions, because everything needs onions (I might even eat a chocolate covered onion). And I made the green arugula because its peppery flavor complements that of the lentils and it adds freshness to an otherwise cooked dish.

I cooked my lentils according to package directions with homemade veggie broth. I wanted my mushrooms to be completely browned on both sides, so I knew I would cook them separately and use a heavy cast iron pan.  Everything else comes together at the last minute.

French Lentils & Balsamic Mushrooms

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

This recipe is naturally gluten free. Serve with a crostini or toast for a light lunch or as a compliment to a big dinner. Don’t be intimidated by the time, only 30 minutes are active in this recipe.

  • 1 cup dried lentils*
  • Vegetable broth*
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of a yellow onion, sliced thin
  • About 10 cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • Salt, to taste
  • Vegan Feta**, optional
  1. Measure and rinse the lentils. Cover with cold water and let soak for 45 min – 1 hour.
  2. Drain and rinse the lentils. Transfer to a small pot and add vegetable broth. I use 2 cups of broth for every one cup of lentils because I like to have a little liquid leftover when they’re done cooking, but I advise reading the package instructions. Heat over medium-high heat until the broth is boiling. Reduce to a high simmer (medium-low heat) and cover. The lentils should be al dente in 20-25 minutes.
  3. Wait about 5-10 minutes to start step 4 so that everything is done at the same time. Use this time to slice your mushrooms and onion.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, like a cast iron pan over high heat. Add the onion and toss to coat in oil. Cook until translucent. Remove the onions from the pan. Add the mushrooms to the pan, arranging the slices so they sit in a single, flat layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, until they are nicely browned. Flip each slice of mushroom (tedious, I know). Let them cook for another 2 minutes and then add the balsamic vinegar. Cook until all of the vinegar is reduced.  Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the onion back to the pan and toss with the mushroom slices. Add salt to taste.
  6. At this point the lentils should be cooked, they should be easily squished between two fingers, but not mashable. Use a slotted spoon to scoop lentils into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with the mushroom and onion mixture, and then with arugula and vegan feta.

*I used French lentils, because they’re hearty and peppery, but use what you’ve got! Red and yellow lentils cook a lot faster but tend to clump and mash, so the texture is totally different from Green lentils, like the French variation. Different types of lentils will require a different amount of liquid to cook, so read the package you use for more details.

**I use this recipe for vegan feta and it is super easy and super delicious. I highly recommend you give it a shot.

 

Vegan Parmesan

This recipe was originally shared on my tumblr in 2014. 

I try to live by the motto “why buy when you can make”. This is especially true in the kitchen, but increasingly so in everyday life. Now that I’ve learned to paint and draw okay, I make all my cards and feel guilty when I purchase one. Part of it is money, I could spend $5 on a card at the drugstore, or I could make one for pennies (this is especially true with food!). Gratitude plays a big role, you appreciate things more when you know what it takes to make them. Control is another big piece – especially for food  – knowing what is in something, where it came from, and how it was made is a big deal for me. With all of the empty terms used in food labeling, transparency can be really tricky to find. When you make things yourself you have control over how much you make, saving food from being wasted.

Parmesan is a pantry staple. Thinking back to childhood, we always had one of the green topped, plastic shakers in the door of the fridge. I hardly ever have it now, nor do I really miss it, but it was such a constant when I was growing up.

Unlike some other vegan cheeses, this recipes only calls for 3 ingredients and is super quick to make. First you toast off some white sesame seeds, and let them cool. Then you blend them up into a powder with a healthy pinch of salt and some nutritional yeast. That’s it.

Vegan Parmesan | veganheartbeats.com

Vegan parmesan can be used just like a regular shaker of parmesan cheese – on pasta, salads, sandwiches, soups and in pesto and sauces!

Vegan Parmesan

  • Servings: yields one cup
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe is actually just a ratio – equal parts sesame seeds and nutritional yeast and salt to taste.

  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden brown. Immediately remove the seeds from the hot pan and place in the freezer to cool down quickly.
  2. Use a food processor or blender to grind the sesame seeds, nutritional yeast and salt into a cohesive powder.
  3. Store in an old spice container in the fridge. The spice containers are nice because they have built in shakers, but if you don’t have any, a tupperware will do.

Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley

Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley | Veganheartbeats.com

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and fallen in love with a dish? It has happened to me twice. There have been other times, obviously, when the food has been amazing, but not in that way that takes you by surprise, making you fall in love.

This dish, Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley, is a bit of a departure from the first time I had it.  My mom and I went out for lunch in a small town called Skaneateles last winter when I was home for the holidays.  There was a new cafe where a French boutique used to stand. Maybe because I knew if first as a French boutique, but it seemed like a strange place for a cafe. My mom and I got two dishes to share, hers was a salad of some sort – good but not too memorable. Mine was this butternut squash stew, with a tomato-y broth and capers, served over Israeli couscous. It was something I had never had before, and since Josh doesn’t love squash I usually only get it on holidays and dining out (not complaining – he has to say the same thing about whole food groups – milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, etc.). This dish was so good – each bite was like a dissection of what we were eating, and how it got to be so delicious so we could recreate it another time.

Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley | Veganheartbeats.com

Anyways, it took me a year, and a few trials, but I’ve made my version so that it makes my taste buds dance like they did the first time I ate this Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley. Make this recipe on a cold day – the oven will heat up your house and the squash and barley will fill up and warm your tummy.

Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley | Veganheartbeats.com

Stewed Butternut Squash with Barley

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

If you want to feed an army with a delicious and nourishing meal, you can double the recipe and use the whole squash.  To make the dish gluten free, switch the barley out for quinoa or brown rice (will also make the dish cook faster!).

  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of whole or diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • dash or two of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2- 1 cup of vegetable broth
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Combine the barley, water and salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat and allow to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the barley absorbs all of the water.
  3. Combine the squash, tomatoes, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and cayenne in an oven safe dish. Add the vegetable broth, starting with half a cup.  You want the dish to have some broth left over after baking, but not be watery.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, checking halfway through to stir and add more vegetable broth if necessary.  It’s done when the squash is tender.
  5. Serve hot, scooping the squash and tomato-y broth over the barley.

Cookbook Review: Homestyle Vegan

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites - Vegan

We have been flirting with cold weather for a month here in Central Ohio, but this morning when I opened the door, I saw snow, and when I opened the weather app, forecasts are all in the 20s. That’s why I wanted to share Amber St. Peter’s new book, Homestyle Vegan, with you today. You may know Amber from her popular blog, Fettle Vegan. Amber delivers on homestyle recipes that will bring you back to your grandmother’s kitchen table.  These are the perfect recipes for cold, snowy days.

Homestyle Vegan is a great blend of homemade and simple.  In our vegan world, ‘homemade’ doesn’t always mean simple.  Cue all of the vegan cheese we’ve made from cashews and sprouted grains, being part of the food system from seed to fruit – including composting. A whole section in the book is dedicated to homemade pantry items, items that if you have time you should make them yourself, but can easily be replaced with the vegan store-bought versions.

Recipes like Green Bean Casserole, Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy, Lobster Mushroom Bisque, Rosemary Hot Chocolate and Holiday Nog make this book a classic. None of Amber’s recipes use soy-based ingredients, so that means faux meats and tofu are out, and veggies are in.  Music to my ears.  Most recipes are gluten-free, or can be easily modified to be gluten-free.

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites - Vegan

Given the cold weather, I thought I’d warm us up with a recipe for Buffalo Cauliflower Bites from Homestyle Vegan.  Buffalo sauce became my go-to comfort food once I realized I actually liked some spicy foods. I’ve attempted to make cauli-wings before, but could never get them crispy.  This recipe calls for battering the cauliflower and pre-baking them, then coating them in buffalo sauce and baking them again.  It takes about an hour, but it’s so worth it and a really hands-off process so you can knit yourself a scarf while you’re waiting.

Homestyle Vegan's Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

  • Servings: 2 to 4
  • Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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If you’re having company over, double the recipe. These cauliflower wings are too good to share! Thanks to Fettle Vegan (Amber St. Peter) for the simple recipe, featured in her new cookbook, Homestyle Vegan.

  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 cup  Frank’s RedHot sauce (or your preferred hot sauce)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have an oven safe cooling rack, place that on top of the lined baking sheet and spray it with oil. This method makes it so you don’t have to constantly flip each piece of cauliflower.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the almond milk, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
  3. Dip the florets into the mixture, coating evenly. Tap off any excess batter and place the florets on the baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking halfway through and flipping if you don’t use the cooling rack method described in step 1.
  4. While the cauliflower bites cook, heat the butter and hot sauce together in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts. When the cauliflower bites have cooked, pull them from the oven and, using tongs, carefully dip each floret completely into the hot sauce mixture and place it back on the baking sheet. Continue this until all the florets have been dipped. Bake for 25 to 30 more minutes, again flipping about halfway through if not using the cooling rack.
  5. When they’re finished, serve immediately with vegan ranch dressing and sliced vegetables or just enjoy as is!