Vegan Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup

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It’s about to get cold again…yuck! I’m ready for Spring!

This is one of our favorite soup recipes, especially during cold weather. It’s really versatile and you can easily add a little more of everything to make enough to last you several days. This is one of those meals that actually tastes even better the second and third day. I usually make some Vegan Gluten Free Bread to go with it!

Vegan Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup

 Here’s what you need:

For the Soup

  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 32 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (Be sure to look for cans with a BPA free liner!)
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (Be sure to look for cans with a BPA free liner!)
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces brown rice pasta (penne works well, or lasagna sheets cut into squares after they are cooked)

Cashew Ricotta

  • 1 ½ cups cashews, soaked*
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh parsley for topping (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Place all of the ingredients for the soup (minus the pasta) in the slow cooker, stir together, cover with the lid, and cook on high for 6 hours.
  2. To make the cashew ricotta, drain and rinse the cashews then add them to a food processor or high speed blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, but still thick in texture. You will have to scrape down the sides in between blending.
  3. When the soup is done cooking, bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, then add to your soup and stir.
  4. Serve with a dollop of cashew ricotta on top and enjoy! 🙂

 

Notes

*Soak cashews in a large bowl covered with a few inches of water for at least 6 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can soak them in boiling hot water for 30 minutes. If you have a Vitamix or other high speed blender, you won’t need to soak them.

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Vegan-Gluten Free “Sausage” Balls

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When trying to decide what to take to our family’s Christmas Eve get-together, I just couldn’t quit thinking about sausage balls. We always had them around the Holidays when I was a kid, and everyone always loved them. So, when you’ve gone vegan, and you don’t eat gluten, I wasn’t optimistic that I would ever get to eat them again. I figured I would try an experiment and see if it worked. Let’s just say that it worked so well, we had them again for New Years Eve too!

It was super simple, and they were totally delicious…especially when dipped into some homemade vegan ranch (recipe coming soon!).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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@BeyondMeat makes amazing products for vegans who also eat gluten free! Check them out!

 

_MG_0586Vegan-Gluten Free “Sausage” Balls

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Package Beyond Meat Burgers
  • 2 Cups Daiya Cheddar Cheese Shreds
  • 1 1/4 Cup Pamela’s Gluten Free Biscuit & Scone Mix
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds
  • 2 Teaspoons Sage
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • Dash of Black Pepper
  • (optional) 1-2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes

Here’s what you do: 

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl.
  • Using your hands, knead until everything is evenly mixed together. (If the mixture is too crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it holds together when you form it into a ball.)
  • Using a 1/8 measuring cup, scoop the mixture out, then roll into a ball.
  • Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the outsides are golden brown.
  • Serve warm with ranch and Enjoy!

**Makes approximately 20

Vegan Gluten Free Bread

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I love, LOVE me some bread… So, when you can’t have gluten anymore, it’s pretty devastating to have to give it up. During our meal swaps with my parents, my mom was making this super tasty gluten free, vegan bread. I just couldn’t get enough of it. She gave me the recipe she had been using, and I only made a few little adjustments to reduce the oil and sugar… and, I didn’t have the exact ratios of flours, but it didn’t make a noticeable difference in taste. Next time, I’m going to test it out using unsweetened applesauce instead of the oil and see how that turns out. 😀

If you are looking for a fairly simple, but super yummy vegan, gluten free bread, this is a great one to try. It was adapted from A Little Insanity, Soft Gluten Free Vegan Bread. She has a lot of great gluten free recipes on her site.

Vegan Gluten Free Bread

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Here’s what you need:

YEAST MIX:

  • 1½ Cups Warm Water
  • 2½ Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast

AQUAFABA:

  • ¼ Cup Aquafaba – Liquid from canned Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas)
  • ½ Teaspoon Cream of Tartar

DRY MIX:

  • 1 ¾ Cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 ¼ Cup Tapioca Flour
  • ½ heaping Teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt

WET MIX:

  • 1/8 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Here’s what you do:

YEAST MIX:

  • Measure out warm water (not too hot or cold). Stir in Yeast. Set-aside & let proof while you are preparing everything else.

AQUAFABA:

  • Pour the Aquafaba (Garbanzo Bean Liquid) along with the Cream of Tartar into the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, scoop out the mixture into another bowl and set aside.

DRY MIX:

  • While the Aquafaba is mixing, combine all of the Dry Mix ingredients together in a bowl.

COMBINING IT ALL:

  • Add proofed Yeast to the stand mixer bowl.
  • Add in Dry Mix ingredients with the yeast. Beat slowly while adding in the Oil & Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • Mix on Medium speed until dough is smooth.
  • Stop the mixer, then add in your aquafaba.
  • Mix on low speed until everything is well combined, being careful not to over-beat. (It only takes about 30 seconds.)
  • Spray a 9×5 Loaf Pan.

LET IT RISE, THEN LET IT BAKE:

  • Pour the bread mixture into your loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Set somewhere warm while your oven is preheating.
  • Preheat your oven to 375.
  • Let your dough rise about 20 minutes. It should not rise above your loaf pan.
  • Bake between 50-60 minutes.
  • Once the top is nice and golden brown and the center is cooked through, remove from oven and let cool only 1-2 minutes, then turn it out onto your cooling rack (lay the loaf on its side). Allow to cool completely before attempting to cut into slices.
  • Enjoy! ❤

 

The Plant Based Revolution – Part 1

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Hippocrates was a brilliant man. Food can help or food can harm…which do you choose?

6-weeks ago, my husband and I went “vegan” (along with my mom, then eventually my dad too!). I say “vegan” because that word has such bad connotations, but it’s what most people know to mean, no animal products. The preferable term is “Whole Food Plant Based”, but not many people have heard of that. The difference is that “Whole Food Plant Based” is narrowing down the vegan diet to foods that are in their natural form, not highly processed and from plants. Technically, Oreos, Potato Chips and Coke are vegan, but that, of course, would not constitute a healthy diet. Oreos, Potato Chips and Coke are not whole foods and they’re all highly processed, so, they would not be a part of a WFPB diet.

I know the power of food. Suffering from migraines and eczema and actually healing my body with foods, I understand the importance of what’s on the end of your fork. What you put in your body is as important as what you leave out. Stayed tuned for future posts on my journeys to healing!

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I love research and scientific information. I love documentaries on health and nutrition. Knowledge is power and I believe in having a lot of it. So, when we came across the documentary What the Health on Netflix, I was really excited to watch it. It was shocking. Not only because we are ruining our planet by raising so much livestock, or because of the inhumane, cruel treatment of the poor animals that end up on our plates, but also because of the corruption of leading health organization, the government, Big Pharma and agribusiness. I wanted to learn more, so we binge watched more documentaries: Eating You Alive, Forks Over Knives and Vegan Everyday Stories. They all had the same basic premise: animal protein is not health promoting, corruption of our system, inhumane treatment of animals and the detrimental effects that agribusiness has on our environment. This led me to read the book, How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger, and watch videos on his website, www.nutritionfacts.org. With all of this scientifically based information, it all started making so much sense. Because of my eczema, we had already eliminated most of the animal protein we were eating. This time last year, we were having animal protein at least three times a day, then we reduced down to twice a day, then eventually, only once a day. I had researched how animal protein was acidic and inflammatory to your body, and with an inflammatory condition like eczema, I figured that cutting back was a good idea. After adding all of this new information to my knowledge toolbox, we went full-on vegan and haven’t looked back.

I also had an epiphany. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve always had a profound love of animals…any living beings, really. I’ve always been the kind of person that catches the spider in a glass, then carefully takes it outside rather than just squishing it. After witnessing the treatment these animals endure, it turned on a light bulb that really made me question why I had been eating the very beings that I so love. Like most everyone else, I was culturally and socially conditioned to not make the connection between what was on my plate and what it used to be. I felt so guilty and ashamed. The first Yama of the Yoga Sutras is ahimsa, translated as: nonviolence. Being a yoga instructor, I know this. But, by eating meat, I was condoning the violent treatment of those poor animals. It may have taken 35 years for that awareness to slap me in the face and open my eyes, but I’m certainly glad that it did. For me, there’s no turning back… I intend on fully practicing ahimsa without blinders on. I already feeling like I’m making a difference by not voting for violence with my dollars.

Of course, we’ve encountered the very common questions… “Where do you get your protein?” “Where do you get your calcium?” The same place that the biggest, strongest herbivores like cows, horses and elephants get theirs… PLANTS! Protein is found in abundance in the plant world, just like calcium. I mean, just look at these poor malnourished vegans, lol.

For us, we have loved the switch. Typically, we had a rotation of about 6 or 7 meals that we would have all of the time. Since we’ve gone plant based, I haven’t made the same thing twice! You try things you would have never tried before. It opens all of these possibilities and it’s been quite fun. I also sleep better, have more energy, my skin continues to clear, I’ve had less knee pain, and the list goes on. There’s no question that my body prefers the plant based lifestyle. We finally convinced my dad a few weeks ago to join us on this journey… He recently went through surgery to remove a massive tumor from his colon. In my studies, it has been found that animal protein and processed foods are the leading contributors to colon cancer. Luckily his tumor had not spread, so he got a second chance. We felt that he should make the most of it by taking better care of himself and not indulging in the very things that contributed to his cancer in the first place.

Plant based diets have been scientifically proven to REVERSE the number one killer in America, which is heart disease. (Check out Dr. Esselstyn) That is powerful! If simply changing your diet can prevent and reverse the leading killer in America, then you must be able to see why more organizations aren’t promoting this change. Money. Plain and simple. Doctors, hospitals, Big Pharma & health organizations don’t profit from you being healthy. They profit from sick people… If they can keep you just sick enough to keep coming back for medicine after medicine and procedures and surgeries, then they keep making their mega dollars, all the while, the cure for your ailment was probably right there in the produce department. It’s all so mind-boggling to me that our system is set up that way, but, it’s the sad truth.

I know that nutrition is so confusing. One day you’ll read that ______ is good for you. The next day you read it’s bad for you. Ahhhhh! So what do you do?!?!?!  For one, you must consider the source. If a study is funded by say, the beef industry, then of course their funded study will have favorable results. Dr. Greger put it best… He says that if all of these industries can keep you just confused enough to the point you don’t know what’s right and what’s not, then you’ll eventually just throw up your hands in frustration and decide to just do what you want to do. Most everyone will tell you that they don’t eat enough vegetables or that they know they need to eat more. Why is that? Because most everyone will agree that vegetables are what’s healthy for you. If you know that, then just eat more… it’s that simple and it might even make you feel better! What you eat now is going to affect you later in life. Why wait until you have a health problem to make a healthy change?

It is not my intention to bash anyone that eats a certain way, or to try and force anyone into my way of thinking. Each to their own… Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do and I certainly respect that, just as I hope you respect my decision for doing what I do. My goal is simply to share my own personal experiences and knowledge I’ve obtained through research, then you may do with it what you will.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Peace & Love,

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Fudgy Almond Bars

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We don’t eat sweets very often, so when we do indulge, it had better be delicious! These certainly were! Yum! 😀

 

Fudgy Almond Bars

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Here’s what you need:

CRUST

  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 8 large dates (pits removed)
  • Pinch salt

ALMOND LAYER

  • 1 cup almond butter (or sub other nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch salt

GANACHE

  • 1 bag of vegan dark chocolate chips (at least 70% cocoa) (I used HEB Organics 70% dark chocolate chips in the 10 oz bag)
  • 1 can coconut milk (with about 2 tablespoons of the water poured out)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Here’s what you do:

Crust

  • Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until you have a coarse mixture that holds together when you mash it.
  • Empty mixture into 8×8 dish that has been lined with parchment paper. Pack down until it’s evenly placed on the bottom of the dish.

Almond Layer

  • Add all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together.
  • Empty out onto the top of the crust and spread evenly.
  • Place in freezer.

Ganache

  • This will make more than what’s needed for the top of the bars (unless you want an insanely thick layer of ganache!). You can save the rest to eat on its own!
  • Place chocolate chips in a large glass bowl.
  • Heat coconut milk in a sauce pan on top of the stove until it just starts to boil.
  • Pour on top of the chocolate chips and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Add cocoa powder.
  • Whisk all of the ingredients together until creamy smooth.
  • Place in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to let it start setting.
  • Remove the crust/almond layer mixture from the freezer and add ganache on top (use as much or as little as you like.), spreading it out smooth.
  • Return to the freezer and let sit for about 30 minutes, or until the ganache is firm.
  • Cut into 12 squares, serve and enjoy.

**You can keep them either in the freezer or the fridge, depending on which you like better. If kept in the freezer, you can actually just pick them up and eat them. If kept in the fridge, you’ll need a fork. 😉

Spinach Pesto Lasagna Rolls with “Cream Sauce”

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So, my Mom, Husband and I have all gone Vegan. I’ll write more about the “why’s” later. Until then, check out: Forks Over Knives, What the Health and Eating You Alive. So eye-opening!

I’ve been posting pictures of our meals on Facebook, just to show how yummy Whole Food Plant Based meals can be (gluten free also). Since I’ve had some requests for the actual recipes, here’s the one for the Spinach Pesto Lasagna Rolls with “Cream Sauce” that I made last night. They were SO good! 😀 ❤

 

Spinach Pesto Lasagna Rolls with “Cream Sauce”

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Here’s what you need:

10-12 brown rice lasagna noodles

“Cream Sauce”:
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pesto:
2 cloves garlic + 1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups fresh basil, loosely packed
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds + extra for topping
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Ricotta:
1 1/2 cup cashews, soaked at least 2 hours
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Spinach:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz baby spinach

Here’s what you do:

Cream Sauce:
Drain cashews. In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until completely smooth.

Pesto:
Place all ingredients in a blender  and blend. It should not be completely smooth. Thin with water to get it into a spreadable consistency. Reserve half for the inside of the rolls and half for topping.

Ricotta:
Drain cashews. In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

Spinach:
In a large cast iron skillet, saute garlic in olive oil for about 1 minute, then add about 8-10 oz of the spinach (setting aside the rest) and cook until wilted.

Make the noodles:
Cook noodles according to instructions on package. You want them to be more al dente. Once cooked, drain them in a colander and run them under cold water to make them suitable for handling.

Assembling:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish or line with parchment paper.
  • Spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each lasagna noodle.
  • Spread about 1-2 teaspoons of pesto on top of the ricotta mixture of each lasagna noodle.  (Alternatively, you could mix half of the pesto with the ricotta to cut out this step.)
  • Line about 3 tablespoons of spinach mixture over the ricotta/pesto mixture.
  • Use the rest of the fresh spinach to cover the top of the mixtures of each lasagna noodle.
  • Carefully roll each noodle up and place them seam side down in the casserole dish.
  • Pour the white sauce all over the rolls.
  • Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and white sauce is thickened.
  • Remove from oven, spread on the remaining pesto and sprinkle extra pumpkin seeds on top.
  • Place under broiler until the tops and pumpkin seeds are golden brown. This doesn’t take long, so watch it carefully!
  • Remove, serve and enjoy!