I’m a Grown Woman and I Love The #HelpYourselfCookbook for Kids!


, , ,

The first time I saw Ruby Roth, I thought “What a doll!” But then I saw this interview where she basically put a news woman in her place about children going vegan and I thought, “What a smart, badass vegan woman!” Obviously I was a little behind the curve of the Ruby Roth fan club but it didn’t take long for me to jump on her bandwagon.

Not only is Ms. Roth an inspiring woman, animal activist, and vegan, but her niche is addressing vegan kids, parents on raising vegan kids, and helping children understand how animals are friends, not food. And while I’m certainly not her target audience, I am absolutely in love with her latest book/cookbook “The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids.”

I’m by no means a cook, not even a home cook. Combining flavors and ingredients is a foreign science to me. And I’m sure to botch a seemingly foolproof recipe. The kitchen and I simply don’t mix. But every once in a while I come across a cookbook and I know: I got this. 

As I flipped through the creatively illustrated pages of The Help Yourself Cookbook (illustrated by Ruby!) I could feel myself smile. This cookbook looks so much fun! The font colors, the pictures, the animal-advocacy-through-art…it all makes my inner child clap her hands in excitement 😀

The recipes look incredibly simple to make and wonderfully nutritious, and I’m not just saying that because of the cute recipe titles and drawings. There’s plenty of suggestions for adapting these recipes for packed lunches, or just enjoying them at your leisure at home. There’s even a few homemade dressings I can’t wait to try (requiring very few ingredients–love that!) Furthermore, I love that this cookbook is getting kids involved in cooking while teaching them to care about what they put in their bodies, protecting the environment, and respecting animal lives all at once. And adults can rest assured–there are little “Adult Alerts” in the book so little kiddies know when they’re going to need adult supervision with a portion of the recipe. 

Finally, I’ve mentioned here or there in my blog or on social media about my newly single standing in life–which is actually not so new anymore. While I’ve tremendously grown emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in the past year and a half, I’m always on the lookout for messages of inspiration and encouragement. This line in Ruby’s cookbook introduction really spoke to me:

You…are a very strong and capable person. You have a LOT of power! You hardly need anything more than your own two hands…

I guess this message, found in the most unlikely of places–a kids cookbook–really spoke to me. So thank you, Ruby Roth, for this cookbook, for speaking up for animals, and for nourishing both children and adults alike. ❀

Oh She Glows Every Day Cookbook Review #OSGEveryDay


, , , ,


It’s been several months since I’ve blogged, but what better way to get back to it than with a reveiw of Angela Liddon’s latest cookbook “Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes.”

Because I have long been a fan of Angela’s successful Oh She Glows blog, I took it upon myself to review her first cookbook simply hoping to spread the word about her amazing recipes that prove how eating a vegan diet can be delicious, nutritious, and abundant! I had no idea my review would lead to another review opportunity. Imagine my surprise and delight when Ms. Liddon asked me to review her newest cookbook?! I felt elated and humbled. After all, I’m not a famous blogger; I never have aspired to be. My blog is a passion project that I hope may turn someone’s head towards a vegan diet in order to save animals. I’m not a cook or photographer or writer or any of the others amazing titles Angela can claim. But I feel comfortable saying we do have this in common: we love vegan food and want more people to try vegan food. That having been said, I can’t wait to share my review and delve into this amazing new cookbook!


This second cookbook from Angela Liddon is truly a triumph. Every recipe has a photograph–love that!! And the photography is stunning (as is always the case with Oh She Glows photography). The ingredients are simple and the recipe instructions are clear and uncomplicated. There are plenty of substitutions for folks with allergies, and every recipe has notations about food allergies or sensitivities such as gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, grain-free, oil-free, etc. Her approach with the recipes in this cookbook truly emphasizes the “quick and simply” descriptions in the title. These “every day” recipes truly offer plant-based options for people from all (food) walks of life.

One of the best things about this cookbook for me personally, as a longtime fan and devoted reader of the Oh She Glows blog, is that Angela’s maturity as a human being is evident. Not only has she continued to grow as a recipe creator, photography expert, and authentic-voiced food blogger, but since the early days of Oh She Glows and her first cookbook she has become a mother. It is apparent to me that this new chapter in her life has truly made her blossom🙂 The family photos that sprinkle the pages of this second cookbook display an even “glowier” Angela, and I know becoming a mother (in addition to her roles of wife and professional blogger) have absolutely brought her the inspiration to produce the simple yet satisfying meals throughout the pages of Oh She Glows Every Day. This was one of those cookbooks that I not only enjoyed thumbing through to check out the recipes, but I genuinely enjoyed reading Angela’s various asides throughout the book and reading her own words at the beginning of each chapter.


Besides the author, the photography, and the amazing recipes, here are a few other tidbits about this book that I think you might like to know:

  • The first chapter is all about smoothies and smoothie bowls–woot woot!
  • I’m not a big “soup & salad” girl, but I gotta say, the soups and salads in this particular cookbook are all amazing. Leave it to Angela to make me a convert😉
  • If you know anything about me, I have a sweet tooth with a particular focus on chocolate; if it’s not chocolate, I’m not likely to eat it. I perused every.single.recipe for every cookie, bar, and dessert in this cookbook…and I want to make (and eat) them ALL! Yes, even the non-chocolate recipes are appealing to me!!
  • There’s a fantastic section on homemade staples such as vegan mayo, vegan parmesan, dressings, barbecue sauce, caramel sauce, spice mixes, flours and meals, and more–these homemade versions versus the prepared ones at grocery and health foods stores are sure to be more wholesome and more economical in many cases.
  • The “Oh She Glows Pantry” section in this cookbook is a fantastic resource for keeping a plant-based pantry so you can whip up a nutritious meal at any time.

I can’t tell you how many recipes I look forward to making from this cookbook. Please buy it and add it to your vegan cookbook collection. I promise you will get much use out of it and compliments from whomever you cook for. But for purposes of this blog post, I chose to make the Sun-Dried Tomato and Garclic Super-Seed Crackers and the Creamy Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup, the latter of which I am delighted Angela has allowed me to share with you! (P.S. One close acquaintance described this soup as the best soup he has ever had!)


Before you get wrapped up in the recipe below, be sure to check out other bloggers’ reviews of the cookbook–there are even more great recipes that are being shared (although it’s not as if you needed any more enticement to go out and get this cookbook😉 )

Thank you, again, to Angela and her publishers for allowing me to occupy a small, teeny nook of the Oh She Glows world. I wish OSG much success and I will definitely keep reading😉

Creamy Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup


image: Oh She Glows Every Day/Photographs copyright © 2016 by Ashley McLaughlin

This is my favorite blended soup, and we’ve been making it once a week during the fall and winter seasons. It’s “in the vault,” as we like to say! The soup shows off the flavor of red curry paste, an authentic Thai ingredient. It’s warm and spicy, but not overpowering, and it’s usually enhanced with notes of lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and chiles. It works wonders in this soup, creating rich and full-blown flavor in an instant! The soup also boasts a rich, thick texture, which makes it very comforting as the weather turns cooler. If you don’t have any almond butter, feel free to use peanut butter instead. It’s also fantastic served with a scoop of cooked rice on the bottom of the bowl to make it heartier.

1 tablespoon (15 mL) virgin coconut oil
2 cups (500 mL) diced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons (30 mL) red curry paste
4 cups (1 L) low-sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed
1/4 cup (60 mL) raw almond butter
3 cups (750 mL) diced peeled carrots (1/2-inch/1 cm dice)
3 cups (750 mL) diced peeled sweet potatoes (1/2-inch/1 cm dice)
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) cayenne pepper (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Minced fresh cilantro
Roasted Tamari Almonds (page 263)
Fresh lime juice

1. In a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
3. Stir in the curry paste.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together some of the broth with the almond butter until smooth. Add the mixture to the pot, along with the remaining broth, carrots, sweet potatoes, salt, and cayenne (if using). Stir until combined.
5. Bring the soup to a low boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender.
6. Ladle the soup carefully into a blender. You will likely have to do this in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your blender. With the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, blend on low and slowly increase the speed until the soup is completely smooth. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender and blend the soup directly in the pot.)
7. Return the soup to the pot and season with salt and black pepper. If desired, you can thin the soup out with a bit more broth if it’s too thick for your preference. Reheat if necessary.
8. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with minced cilantro, almonds, and a squeeze of lime juice, if desired. This soup will keep in the fridge for up to a week, and freezes well for 1 to 2 months.

Make it soy-free Prepare the Roasted Tamari Almonds with coconut aminos instead of tamari.

Roasted Tamari Almonds

MAKES 1/2 CUP (125 ML)

This salty, crunchy, nutty topping is downright addictive! Finely chopped almonds are seasoned with low-sodium tamari and then roasted until they’re golden and fragrant. After they cool, the almonds transform any soup, stew, or salad into something extra special. I love them on top of my Creamy Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup (page 141), Every Day Glow salad (page 115), or Thai Crunch Salad (page 101)—but I’ve been known to enjoy them by the handful, too! They are also the perfect topping for any vegan bowl or salad recipe. A note for those of you with soy allergies: Low-sodium tamari is the most flavorful seasoning option, but if you’re allergic to soy, you can use coconut aminos instead. Add a pinch of salt if the almonds taste a bit flat.

1/2 cup (125 mL) raw almonds, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 mL) low-sodium tamari or coconut aminos

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, toss the almonds with the tamari until the almond pieces are fully coated. Spread the almonds over the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
3. Roast the almonds for 9 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden. The tamari will have dried up.
4. Let cool completely on the pan. The almonds will harden up as they cool. Using a spoon, scrape the almonds off the parchment paper and enjoy! Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks.

Make it soy-free Use coconut aminos instead of tamari.

Reprinted from Oh She Glows Every Day by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Glo Bakery Corporation. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Ashley McLaughlin.

Easy On-The-Go Vegan Breakfasts


, ,

easy vegan breakfasts

My work life has gotten pretty busy over the last several months. A new full-time job and getting up extra early to squeeze in some exercise leaves me little time in the morning to have a breakfast at home. As a result, I’ve focused on trying to either prep my breakfast the night before or have a few grab-n-go breakfast items on hand.

If you’re looking for some easy on-the-go vegan breakfast ideas, I’d be happy to share a few of my go-to’s with you:

Larabars + fruit (I particularly like the peanut butter cookie, cashew cookie, and cherry pie)

Overnight oats — soak oats and your favorite plant-based milk (plus a teaspoon of chia seeds) and top in the morning with fresh fruit, chopped dates, some nuts, or shredded coconut. Here’s a great recipe.

Speaking of oats, oatmeal cups are pretty handy! Try Bob’s Red Mill or Dr. McDougall’s — I’ve had both of these and really enjoy them.

Non-dairy yogurt + seeds + fruit — Daiya makes a new vegan Greek yogurt and they’re pretty yummy! Toss in some chia seeds, flax seeds, or hemp seeds and top with your favorite berries. Super yummy!

If you have a little more discipline, in the evening assemble an amazing breakfast sandwich with your favorite english muffin (I like Ezekiel muffins), a plant-based meat (I prefer Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon, Sol Cuisine Veggie Breakfast Patties, and occasionally Gardein Breakfast Patties), a slice of vegan cheese (Chao cheese is the best!), and a topping of spinach or kales leave. Wrap it all up in foil so it’s ready for the morning.

Whole grain english muffins or bagels smeared with some peanut butter or almond butter (or your favorite nut butter) have real staying power. And what’s not to love about starting your day with peanut butter😉

Smoothies! Combine plant-based milk, a frozen banana, and a scoop of vegan protein powder in a high-speed blender. There are a variety of vegan protein powders on the market — Vega, Plant Fusion, Phood, Nutivia, hemp-based powders — find one you love and drink up.

Coffeehouse stash — Some Fridays I like to treat myself by rolling by a local coffee shop. I grab a soy or almond milk latte, a banana, and a baggie of almonds. Between the protein in my soy milk and nuts, and the fiber in my fruit and nuts, these give me a hit of energy and satiety.

So now that I’ve shared my easiest, quickest breakfasts…what about you? How do you do breakfast on-the-go vegan style?😉

How To Be A Healthy Vegan: Helpful Books and Cookbooks


, , ,


healthy vegan books and cookbooks

I’ve been going through a lot of life changes, some of them great, some of them not-so-great. But no matter what 2015 threw at me, or what’s in store for 2016, one thing I know for sure: if you don’t have your health you have nothing.

I decided to go vegan in the first place for health reasons. Eventually my heart expanded to recognize the sentience and beauty of all living things and now I consider myself an ethical vegan, but good health is still very important to me. Does that mean I’m perfect? No. I’ll admit on an emotionally tumultuous weekend I’ve polished off a whole bottle of wine to myself (ha ha!), but that’s a rare occurrence. Overall, I endeavor to be a strong example of vegan health not just for my own sake, but also to show that yes, you can be healthy on a vegan diet.

There are a lot of amazing books out there on healthy vegan diets, usually with a focus on eating whole foods. If being a healthier vegan in 2016 is on your list of to-do’s, here are just a few titles I have on my own bookshelf (as seen in the photo above) and would recommend to you:

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, MD, Thomas Campbell, MD
  • The China Study Cookbook, Leanne Campbell, PhD
  • Vegan for Her by Virgina Messina, JL Fields
  • The Good Karma Diet by Victoria Moran
  • The Plant-based Journey by Lani Muelrath
  • The Vegiterranean Diet by Julieanna Hever M.S., R.D., C.P.T.
  • The Abundance Diet by Somer McCowan
  • Forks Over Knives The Cookbook by Del Sroufe

Beyond what I have on my own bookshelf, you can find loads more titles around the internet, in bookstores, and in libraries. For more information on a healthy vegan diet, check out these titles:

  • Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina
  • Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Brenda Davis
  • Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
  • Unprocessed by Chef AJ
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever M.S., R.D., C.P.T.
  • The China Study All-Star Collection: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes from Your Favorite Vegan Chefs by Leanne Campbell, PhD
  • The Campbell Plan by Thomas Campbell, MD
  • Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life by Neal Barnard, MD
  • Rethink Food: 100+ Doctors Can’t Be Wrong by Shushana Castle, Amy-Lee Goodman
  • The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
  • How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD
  • Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
  • Eat to Live Cookbook by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Do you have a favorite book or cookbook you would recommend to anyone who wants to adopt a healthy vegan diet? Please share in the comments; I’d love to keep a list of recommendations from you🙂

How to Adopt a Plant-Based Diet: Check out “The Plant-Based Journey” by Lani Muelrath + Pumpkin Muffin Recipe


, , ,


The Plant-Based Journey by Lani Muelrath

The holiday season is upon us and before you know it, people will be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. And what’s one of the most common resolutions people make? To get healthier. Research shows one of the best ways to reclaim your health (and the health of the planet, I might add) is to adopt a plant-based diet. But where does one begin? Between news articles, “health” blogs, numerous books, and various online resources, it can be overwhelming to choose a starting point from a source who knows what they’re talking about. If there’s one book I would encourage someone who is interested in making the switch to a plant-based diet, I would highly recommend The Plant-Based Journey by Lani Muelrath.

If you don’t know of Lani Muelrath, let me give you the (impressive) scoop: she’s an award-winning teacher, transition strategist, fitness expert, and dietary coach whose been plant-based for more than 40 years! Now she’s literally putting her knowledge and expertise right at your fingertips.

I’ve been vegan for over four years, so the idea of a plant-based diet is not new to me. That being said, even I found several (tofu) nuggets of inspiration and wisdom in this resourceful book.

The book has 6 sections (see the full table of contents here) that focus on several key areas to adopting a plant-based diet including:

  • Why choose a plant-based diet
  • How to plan a plant-based diet from kitchen tools, to pantry, to plate
  • The transition process that includes references to many helpful resources, as well as meal planning, social situations, and travel solutions
  • Keeping the commitment to a plant-based diet and long-term health going for the long-haul
  • Recipes!🙂

As I read this book, I noted several nice touches that I felt really added a special something to this plant-based “field guide”. I recognize that Lani is passionate about helping people get healthier and these extra touches really emphasized that passion. Some of the things I absolutely loved were:

  • Lani’s sharing of her personal story to going plant-based
  • A 7-day plant-based food journal from Lani as an example of what to eat (walking the walk and talking the talk!)
  • “Beware the FOP” — the “front of package” labeling that often provides misguiding food descriptions by way of clever marketing
  • Reader tips — words of advice, encouragement, and wonderful insights from Lani’s own blog and newsletter readers. In other words, folks just like you and me😉
  • Easy meal templates that help you compose a plant-based meal with plenty of flexibility
  • A personal testimony from my friend Sharon — who I had no idea was featured in this book! Sharon’s story details not only how she went plant-based but how she even got her husband and three young children on board, too. Yes, it can be done!
  • Recipes!🙂
  • This encouraging quote for a plant-based newbie:

You can think about food as being in three categories: 1) plant-based, 2) animal-based, and 3) refined/processed. As long as you’re eating as much as you can from the first category — plant-based foods — while minimizing or eliminating the other two, you’ll be well on your way.

I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to review The Plant-Based Journey by BenBella books. It’s so exciting to see such an amazing resource become available in a day and age where more and more people are turning to plant-based and vegan diets, and we want to be able to point them in a direction that is truly helpful and healthful.

I’m not the only one who has praise for The Plant-Based Journey, so please be sure to check out the blog tour. You’ll be amazed by the lovely food photos and have access to several delectable recipes. To start things off, and just in time for Thanksgiving, check out this pumpkin muffins recipe from The Plant-Based Journey — yummm!!!🙂

PUMPKIN MUFFINS from The Plant-Based Journey by Lani Muelrath

This recipe is adapted from the Easy Pumpkin Muffins in The China Study Cookbook, by LeAnne Campbell. Just like LeAnne, I use whole foods for sweetening when I can, and I decided to make this recipe using date cream—with excellent results. Sweet, moist, and delicious, these don’t beg for even a hint of jam, though a dab of Sweet Bean Cream (page TK) is a perfect match—kind of like whipped cream on pumpkin pie.

Date Cream
10 pitted Medjool dates (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup water

Muffin Base
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup soured plant milk (see instructions on page TK)
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the date cream:
1. Cover the pitted dates generously with water and soak for a couple of hours or overnight. Drain, saving the water to use as part or all of the 1/2 cup of water in the recipe. Add the soaked dates and the water to a food processor or blender. Blend to a rich paste.

For the muffin base:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (or use a silicone pan).

3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the date cream. Add to the dry ingredients until just mixed.

5. Fill the prepared muffin cups to the top and bake for 40–45 minutes, until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed. Muffins will be moist and flavorful.

6. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1–2 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan and serve as is, with Sweet Bean Cream (page TK), or with your favorite jam. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: About 10 muffins


Fresh n’ Lean: #Vegan Meal Delivery Service Review (I Was Impressed!)


, ,

Fresh n Lean Plantbased Meal Delivery

image source: Fresh n’ Lean

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals (let alone vegan meals), I’d be a rich woman. But I get it: not everyone has the energy to cook some days, knows how to cook a delicious, nutritious vegan meal, or even likes to cook. So…what if you could pay to have healthy, convenient, plant-based meals made for and delivered to you? Would you be interested? I sure would! That’s why I was so intrigued when Fresh n’ Lean contacted me for a product review.

If you’ve never heard of Fresh n’ Lean (which I hadn’t), they’re a plant-based meal delivery service (very cool!) that prides itself in helping people eat conveniently for overall health by offering nutrient-rich, fiber-full, balanced meals using all-natural ingredients, without any preservatives, GMOs, or artificial ingredients.

I’ve never tried meal delivery services. I’ve certainly tried my fair share of frozen, prepared meals. As someone who tries to be relatively health-conscious, I’m oftentimes turned off by the high levels of sodium in some of these frozen meals, not to mention they tend to be a soggy, sad mess once they’ve been heated😩 But then I had a fantastic experience with Fresh n’ Lean…

I had five items delivered to my home: apple almond oatmeal, lemon seed loaf, roasted bok choy & savory quinoa, Spanish vegetable rice, and garlic mushroom & kale pasta. Each little package has a nutrition label and ingredients list for reference. I decided I would have the oatmeal and lemon seed loaf as breakfast options and the other three meals as dinner options.

The ingredients are very clean — lots of non-gmo, organic, whole foods-based and gluten-free ingredients. For those of you that eschew oil, there are some oils used in a few of the meals. I’m not a nay-sayer to oil, so I was overall really delighted with the ingredients list.

You can either cook the meals in the oven or the microwave. For a true test of how these meals stood up to being re-heated, I used the microwave. Plus, nuking them only took 2-3 minutes. Whoa! I couldn’t believe how fresh everything tasted! I know that statement sounds like a cheesy infomercial statement, but it’s true! The diced apples in the oatmeal were crisp, as were the peas in the rice. The mushrooms in the savory quinoa and pasta dishes weren’t mush! (No pun intended, heehee.) All the dishes were flavorful despite a low-sodium focus and had really fantastic texture. I was truly impressed considering these were frozen meals!

Fresh-n-Lean-Apple-Almond-Oatmeal-ingredients Fresh-n-Lean-Apple-Almond-Oatmeal Fresh-n-Lean-Lemon-Seed-Loaf-ingredients Fresh-n-Lean-Lemon-Seed-Loaf-1 Fresh-n-Lean-Lemon-Seed-Loaf-2 Fresh-n-Lean-Roasted-Bok-Choy-and-Savory-Quinoa-ingredients Fresh-n-Lean-Roasted-Bok-Choy-and-Savory-Quinoa Fresh-n-Lean-Spanish-Vegetable-Rice-ingredients Fresh-n-Lean-Spanish-Vegetable-Rice Fresh-n-Lean-Garlic-Mushroom-Kale-Pasta-ingredients Fresh-n-Lean-Garlic-Mushroom-Kale-Pasta-1 Fresh-n-Lean-Garlic-Mushroom-Kale-Pasta-2

I tried to take some “prettier” photos of my samples, but I also wanted you all to see exactly how the items come packaged, so the photos of the foods eaten in their original containers (complete with fork punctures in the plastic) are intentional.

My favorite item was the lemon seed loaf. Such a filling breakfast with all those healthy seeds and the essence of lemon really perked me up in the morning. I also found the oatmeal to be very filling considering it’s a portion-controlled meal; the oatmeal really stuck with me all morning and kept me fueled until lunch time. The savory quinoa was also one of my favorite meals. It felt like a lot of food on the plate (for all you visual eaters) and was very satisfying. I really did like all the options I was sent! I honestly can’t complain🙂

If you check out more of the menu options on the Fresh n’ Lean website, you’ll see just how many delectable-looking meals they offer. YUM!

If you’re thinking about trying out Fresh n’ Lean’s meal delivery service, check out this great cost-comparison guide, too. Yes, a meal delivery service might be more expensive compared to buying foods yourself and cooking meals at home, but you’re paying for the convenience plus the added benefits of healthy, wholesome, plant-based ingredients. I actually think the plans are surprisingly affordable.

image source: Fresh n' Lean

image source: Fresh n’ Lean

I hope you’ll spread the news about Fresh n’ Lean and let others know about this resource that makes it easy for people to start incorporating more plant-based meals into their eating regimen. With the holidays upon us, wouldn’t this just be a great treat for someone!😉 Many thanks to the folks at Fresh n’ Lean who gave this humble blogger a chance to try their products. You’ve made me a believer in the work you do and I’m all the more grateful that companies like yours exist. Keep doing what you’re doing — putting plants on the plate.

BONUS! For all you fabulous readers, enter promo code ITSGOTVEGAN for 15% off meal plans (excluding “a la carte” menu)🙂

Banza Chickpea Pasta! #Vegan and Gluten Free


, , , , ,

Banza Chickpea Pasta

I love pasta. I could eat bowls and bowls of it. But all that gluten doesn’t love me back. I don’t have Celiac disease, but since eating predominantly gluten-free I feel lighter after meals and my skin suffers from less breakouts. While my body is happier with the mostly GF way of eating, my taste buds have been less happy.

You’ve probably tried gluten-free pastas…and disliked a lot of them. They can be gummy, slimy…plain ol’ unappetizing. However, when I went to Natural Foods Expo East this past Fall I happened upon Banza pastas.

I was delighted with the sample I was given. It was just a small taste of pasta shells in a marinara but the texture was not at all off-putting the way some gluten-free pastas can be. The texture was hearty, chewy, and a bit nutty thanks to the predominant ingredient: chickpeas. (These truly are amazing, versatile beans!)

Because Banza pastas are made using chickpeas they are also plenty high in protein and fiber. Plus Banza pastas are soy-free, non-gmo, and, of course, vegan🙂

gluten free chickpea pasta

If you look at how these particular pastas compare to regular pasta, you will see how much more protein and fiber each serving packs. Pretty impressive. And who says you can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet?!

high protein high fiber Banza chickpea pasta

There’s a variety of pastas to choose from: shells, penne, rotini, and elbows. You can buy them online; they even offer a variety pack! You can use this chickpea pasta just as you would in any pasta recipe — in a lasagna, for macaroni and cheese, tossed with garlic and oil, etc. I made a simple dish of Banza penne tossed in a marinara sauce with onion, greens, and tofu crumbles. If you’re looking for recipes, be sure to check out the Banza recipes on their website. The recipes aren’t strictly vegan, but are easily veganized and show how these chickpea pastas swap seamlessly into any dish you might use traditional pasta in.

Banza chickpea pasta marinara

Check out the store locator feauture on Banza’s website — hopefully you can find a store near you!

What are your thoughts on gluten-free pastas? Any particular brands you like and would recommend I try?

Cook the Pantry: Cookbook Review and Free Recipe!


, , , , ,

Cook the Pantry by Robin Robertson

When I first went vegan, one of my go-to cookbooks was Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. Actually, I still refer to it quite often as someone who lives on a budget. I love beautiful, gourmet, impressive recipes just as much as the next vegan foodie, but on a daily basis I need recipes that are uncomplicated, quick, and use everyday ingredients. For the sake of helping more people go vegan, I think cookbooks such as these are all the more valuable. With Robin’s latest cookbook, Cook the Pantry, that’s exactly what you’ll find — easy, nutritious vegan meals in 20 minutes or less using ingredients you most likely have on hand.🙂

Robin Robertson is a tour-de-force when it comes to vegan cooking. She’s authored more than twenty cookbooks, many of which have been best sellers. With Cook the Pantry you’ll find easy instructions for vegan cooking, a pantry list of items to keep on-hand, information on plant proteins and essential kitchen equipment, time-saving tips, and of course, a wide variety of recipes for every course including:

  • soups, stews, and chilis
  • salads
  • pizza, burgers, and sandwiches
  • stovetop suppers
  • pasta
  • sweet treats

As I read through this cookbook I was so happy to discover Cook the Pantry really does live up to all that it promises. The ingredients list for each recipe aren’t unendingly lengthy, the cooking instructions are simple, and the recipes are pretty wholesome. There’s a decent amount of photos, too. (I need photos in a cookbook, people.) I think it’s a perfect cookbook for anyone who’s pressed for time in the kitchen or even someone who is new to vegan cooking as the recipes are vegan-newbie friendly. In fact, the recipe I am sharing with you today (with permission from Vegan Heritage Press) will demonstrate just how easy and delicious the recipes in this new cookbook are.

Cheesy Grits with Greens and Smoky Shiitakes

Cheesy Grits with Greens and Smoky Shiitakes*
Makes 4 servings

The addition of nutritional yeast and a little vegan butter give grits a cheesy flavor without the cheese. If you like, you may add 1/2 cup of shredded vegan cheddar for more cheesy goodness. The amount of time needed to cook the greens will depend on the type of greens you use and whether they’re fresh or frozen.

1 cup quick-cooking grits
2 teaspoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 scallions, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces mushrooms (any kind), sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups chopped fresh or frozen greens (thawed and squeezed, if frozen)
1/2 cup vegetable broth

  1. Cook the grits according to package directions. (It should take about 5 minutes for quick-cooking grits.) Stir in the butter, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
  2. While the grits are cooking, heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook 3 minutes to soften. Sprinkle on the liquid smoke and smoked paprika, tossing to coat. Add the greens and broth, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the greens are tender, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the greens. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. To serve, top the grits with the mushroom mixture.

Also, be sure to check out more recipes from and reviews on Cook the Pantry from around the vegan blogosphere😉

*(Recipe from Cook the Pantry © 2015 by Robin Robertson. Photo by Annie Oliverio. Used by permission Vegan Heritage Press LLC.)


Mexican Hot Chocolate Caramels! #vegan


, , , ,

Fall is in full swing. People are feeling the festivity of the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays, and I’m relishing this time of year! Not only do I love seeing tree leaves metamorphose into bursts of gold, orange, and red whilst getting nestled into my turtleneck sweaters, but I lovvve discovering all the new seasonal products vegan food retailers are releasing. It’s almost like Christmas came early 😍

For example, Dandies released vegan pumpkin marshmallows, Califia Farms has new vegan nog & peppermint mocha beverages, and now…my all-time favorite vegan caramels, Cocomels by JJ’s Sweets, has released Mexican Hot Chocolate caramels! (They also have two other seasonal flavors, coconut palm sugar and harvest spice, but I’m a chocolate girl 😉.)

Normally, I’m not a big fan of certain flavors infused into chocolate; I don’t care for chocolate-orange combinations, I’d be fine if I never ate chocolate mint anything, and I’m not a big fan of the chocolate-covered strawberry. Will I eat these chocolate confections? Yes. But my world would still revolve quite happily without them, too. 

Normally, I don’t love Mexican hot chocolate. I often find the addition of these traditional spices are too overwhelming for me personally and fail to strike a delicate balance with the sweetness of the chocolate. That being said…these caramels nail it

The cinnamon and ancho chili don’t  overpower these sweet, coconut milk-based caramels, and the warmth of the spices creep up delicately the more you chew, finally leaving a hint of heat at the finish. Man oh man, I couldn’t believe how much I loved this product! To make sure it was a winner, I even passed a few around to my meat-loving co-workers and they were blown away. One guy even asked me if I could make him a batch, ha ha! I confessed to him the caramels were a purchased product and, sadly, I can’t just whip them up in my kitchen.

I guess we all will just have to buy them. 😉