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When I first ventured into eating more plant-based, I thought I would have to just say goodbye to flavors such as bacon for good. But the more I cook vegan food, the more in awe I am of how flexible this way of cooking can be (as long as I eat in; when we eat out in Annapolis, it’s hard).

Some things I’ve learned to cook with: I’ve discovered that there’s such a thing as liquid smoke seasoning, to impart that smoky, bacon-y flavor to my “non-meats.” I can soak cashews overnight, and make things like cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and cheesecake of all things! I’ve discovered that adding some nori to a dressing can give it that fishy, sea flavor, so I’m no longer deficient in things like Caesar salad dressing. Adding cooked lentils to a chili gives that meaty texture. Making date paste out of dates and water adds subtle, natural sweetness to foods of all kinds. Adding apple cider vinegar to non-dairy milk replicates buttermilk (which is great, because I’ve always disliked the idea of sour buttermilk from a cow). And of course, there’s that nutritional yeast, or nooch, as the vegans call it. A little bit of this adds that cheesy flavor I’ve been looking for in pasta dishes, that umami factor. There really is no “bending” on the way of flavor and texture – all the people that have tried the things I made often exclaim, “but it tastes like the real thing!”

And I’ve discovered my own little ways of making this all easy to prepare with a busy life in the mix. Always be soaking something (cashews, almonds, dried beans), utilize the time you have to multitask (put a pot of beans on the stove to cook while you get ready for the day, make a jar of overnight oats for the next morning while your dinner is sauteing on the stove, blend soaked cashews quickly to make cream cheese for the week, etc). Not only that, think ahead to the next meal, jot down what you’ll make on your phone (or what you need on your grocery list, also on the phone), and just be productive when life gives you a spare few minutes (I only watch an hour of TV at night before bed).

Back to the “bacon.” I’ve been making BLTAs (“bacon,” lettuce, tomato, avocado) a few times the last couple weeks, because I love pairing them with my adaptation of Isa Chandra’s vegan flaxseed mayo. I have tried making other vegan versions of bacon before – with portabello, or baking tempeh, but I just find my version to be heartier, quicker (it takes less than 10 minutes-12 minutes, tops), meatier, and full of flavor. You can make this with breakfast potatoes in the morning, BLTAs for lunch, or top your vegan burger off with them for dinner. SO easy and tasty. Make it today!

"Bacon" tempeh with maple-tamari glaze
This is a flavorful, easy, and quick bacon that is no-fuss, but sure to please in any meal.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
"Bacon" tempeh with maple-tamari glaze
This is a flavorful, easy, and quick bacon that is no-fuss, but sure to please in any meal.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, tamari, liquid smoke seasoning, apple cider vinegar, and black pepper. Add the tempeh slices into the bowl, tossing the slices in the marinade with your hands and coating the tempeh. Marinate for 5 minutes.
  2. In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, spray some canola oil cooking spray. When the pan is hot, add the tempeh and marinade. Toss the tempeh every so often and allow the marinade to caramelize and coat the tempeh. It’s done when the marinade almost evaporates and the tempeh is coated with the maple-tamari glaze, about 5-7 minutes. Serve with breakfast potatoes, toast, or scrambled tofu.
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Hi friends! It’s been awhile since I posted about beauty products that are animal cruelty-free. I’ve been using these products for a few months now, and they work for me.

Let’s start with Burt’s Bees fragrance-free body lotion, with shea butter and Vitamin E. Burt’s Bees is an example of a company that does not do animal testing, but is not vegan, because their products contain ingredients such as honey, beeswax, milk, or other animal byproducts. Some vegans use honey, some don’t. It’s totally a personal choice – as is my lifestyle, to be as plant-based as much as possible. Anyways, I love this lotion. It moisturizes, is not greasy, and not too thin.

On to facial wash. I found this face wash a year ago and loved it. It’s Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser with Hydrolyzed Soy Proteins. It’s cruelty-free, but I’m a little unsure if it’s vegan. I did email the company but am still waiting for a reply. I’m guessing that the “milk” part of this face wash is the hydrolyzed soy protein. This facial wash was out of stock in the usual stores I’d go to, but luckily I found it online on Amazon, so have just been getting it there. It smells clean, moisturizes, is good for my finicky, sensitive skin, and does the job.

Mama Bee Belly Butter up at the top of the picture. Again, this is made by Burt’s Bees, which is a cruelty-free company, but not all of its products are necessarily vegan. Side note about stretch marks: you can’t apply a magic lotion to apply to areas prone to stretch marks during pregnancy. The most you can do is to just gain weight steadily (as opposed to quickly), exercise to keep the skin elastic, and moisturize to hydrate and keep the skin supple. I’m currently halfway through my pregnancy (where did the time go?!), try to be active in some way each day (walks at work, gym time a couple times a week, and prenatal yoga), drink loads of water, eat TONS of fruits and vegetables, and slather on this belly butter once daily. So far, so good. And I feel great, too!

Being on the East Coast the past three years always does a number to my skin in the wintertime. This winter, especially. A couple of months ago, it seemed like nothing was keeping it moisturized. Even my regular moisturizer by LUSHImperialis. I even resorted to spreading some coconut oil on my face for some much-needed relief. The skin under my eyes was rough, you could see peeling around my lips, my whole face felt like sandpaper, and I was a hot mess.

I usually moisturize with coconut oil when there are super-dry parts on my body (my feet and hands, usually), but the day after I put coconut oil on my face, lo and behold, a pimple showed up. Kind of irritated, because by eating super plant-based for over a year and a half, my skin was really clear and I had no problems. Until that dang coconut oil! I love that stuff, and use it to brush my teeth with baking soda too, but not on my face. Lesson learned.

I went back to LUSH and told them my facial skin woes. They were really helpful and suggested I try the moisturizer that is a bit heavier than Imperialis, which was Celestial. I used it for a few days, and my skin became less irritated, felt soothed, and I stopped looking like sandpaper. THANK GOODNESS! Since then, I went back to using Imperialis, because the weather is warmer (by warmer, I mean 50 degrees instead of 25 degrees), and all has been dandy with my skin. Whoop! Both moisturizers – Imperialis and Celestial – are vegan and animal cruelty-free. No animal testing. No animal products or by-products used. Both awesome.

So there you go – a look inside my skincare regimen!

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For the past 8 months, my husband has been embarking on a crazy journey towards training for the Ironman in Texas. It has consumed our lives as a family. He trains for hours a week, and my 5-year-old daughter sometimes will run over to his bike trainer, to hang out with her daddy or feed him an energy bite made out of dates. I have taken over his nutrition plan, making sure he gets adequate macronutrients to perform and recover. I really don’t know how Ironman-hopefuls do it themselves, because left to his own devices, as ravenous as he gets after his training sessions, he would raid the pantry for chips and crackers if I didn’t have a substantial meal waiting for him. The craziest thing is that, even though he’s had a few marathons under his belt, he hasn’t done a single triathlon…ever. Not even a sprint triathlon! His motto is always “go big or go home” though, and I love that about him. Even though I do think he’s a little cookoo sometimes.

When we (and I say “we,” because this seriously is a joint effort. He could not do this without me!) started this whole training regimen eight months ago, I was overwhelmed with the amount of nutrition information I needed to know. Yes, I am a Registered Dietitian, but the type of work I’ve done was more in the clinical side of nutrition – like educating patients on dietary management of diseases, writing out tube feedings, all that stuff that Clinical Dietitians do. I was definitely not a sports dietitian, even though I had a basic grasp on it from my college studies. I ordered Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, and got right to it (fellow RDs, you can get a whopping 25 CEUS going through this book, too! SCORE).

This book, along with Brendan Brazier’s “Thrive,” websites like www.active.com, and www.ironman.com, helped me put together a nutrition plan for P. I started making his electrolyte drinks, recovery smoothies, energy gels and energy bars for his bike rides, and optimized everything he ate so that I knew I did everything I could to ensure his success. My basic goal was to have him (and our family) consume good, wholesome food, as plant-based as possible, and that has totally worked for him.

On Saturdays, P has up to 5 ½ hours of intense training sessions. I make him weigh in before and after his workout so I could measure his sweat rate (some references recommend weighing in after an hour, but that’s really hard when P is outdoors running). The thing that gives me the jitters is that he’s training in the cold here in Maryland, and the Ironman is in Texas. It’s going to be hot and humid (we’ve lived there before), and so I need to know that the amount of salt I’m giving him in his electrolyte drinks right now is enough.
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This is what I mean when I talk about sweat rate.

The thing you want to avoid is hyponatremia – water intoxication – and this happens when, for example, athletes run an entire marathon in hot hot heat, sweat a lot, and only drink water instead of an electrolyte drink. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and the big one is sodium. Taste your sweat (gross, I know), but the point I want to make is that it tastes salty. With lots of sodium loss and no replenishment of that sodium, athletes can develop nausea, have disorientation, headaches, and even in extreme cases, land in a coma. I need to know P’s sweat rate, because if he loses more than 2% of his body weight in sweat, I need to be more aggressive in his nutrition management, like adding in a little more salt to his carbohydrate gels, electrolyte drinks, and so on. Even shove a pickle spear at him once in awhile (I’ve done that). Yes, he could drink things like Gatorade, but there is not enough sodium in those drinks for the level of intensity he’s working at. Plus, I like to do things the hard way. Oh, gosh, I sound like my husband now.

For long training days, like his Saturday 5 ½ hour sessions, the nutrition plan goes something like this**:

→3-4 hours before the training session/event:
Consume a large meal, of complex carbohydrate and moderate protein. This is usually breakfast on these days, so I’ve developed this high-powered sweet potato and quinoa pancake recipe (recipe follows) for the hubby. The sweet potato provides complex carbs, and the quinoa is one of the few plant-based sources of a complete protein. He usually eats two of these, with almond butter spread on top (I do allow moderate fat intake at this meal, because it’s well-tolerated for him), and a light drizzle of maple syrup. It is calorie and nutrient-dense, because he will be burning so much energy the next few hours.

→1-2 hours before:
A light snack (this could be anything like a bagel with banana, a small hummus sandwich, or granola) with about 2 cups of water. Ease up on the protein and fat here, and make it mostly carbohydrate to fuel you. You don’t want to overload on the water; just make sure you are adequately hydrated.

→During the event:
If it’s going to be less than an hour, just drink water. You don’t need an electrolyte drink. If it’s going to be greater than an hour, however, be sure to drink an electrolyte drink that contains sodium. You lose sodium through sweat, and so you need to replenish if you’ll be sweating a lot. You also lose some potassium through sweat, but your body has a lot of potassium stores, so as long as you eat lots of fruits and veggies, you’re most likely good in the potassium department. The dates that I give to P during his workout have potassium, too.

In addition, for these long endurance events, I have to make sure P has a steady supply of carbohydrate to fuel his muscles. For him, dates (again) have proved to be a good source of easily digestible carbohydrate. For you, it might be something different. I’ve even read that one biker liked to boil small potatoes (they also have potassium too!), roll them in salt, and ate that on his long bike rides.

You need to experiment with what works for you in terms of fuel. Some people buy all packaged gels and products; I, on the other hand, prefer to feed the hubs homemade stuff, because I can control his performance based on what his input is. We’ve totally seen a difference. The one time I got lazy and let him rely on pre-packaged drink formulations and energy gels was the last time, because he felt weak and sluggish, and performed poorly in terms of time.

→After your workout: Rehydrate over the next few hours. Everyone is different in how much they have to rehydrate dependent in sweat rate and pounds lost, so I strongly urge you to do your research!

→45 minutes after the event/training session: This is the window you have to nourish, repair, build, and recover your muscles and body, because you put them through so much stress the past few hours!

You need to feed yourself a combination of carbohydrate and protein – if you’re weight-lifting, you need to eat carbohydrates too! Don’t be protein-centric. Carbohydrates make up muscle glycogen and need to be replenished. In addition, amino acids from protein need to restore your muscles.

I usually give P a smoothie, full of almond milk, fruit, green veggies, and plant-based protein after a workout (this can be hemp seeds, protein from soy milk, almond butter, chia seeds, pea protein powder, etc). He’s usually starving when he’s done, so will have this, take a shower, and sit for a bit.

Within the 45 minutes, I also give him a meal. This can be some vegan chili with rice, a big Buddha bowl (a huge bowl of brown rice) packed with veggies and moderate protein (sautéed tofu cubes, seitan, or beans), basically something very substantial and filling. Your body can only process 20-25 grams of protein at a time, so don’t go all crazy by putting 40 grams of protein in your shakes. You’re just wasting your money, and will have to go to the bathroom more because your body will try to excrete the excess as urea, a product of protein breakdown.

So there you have it. That is JUST ONE DAY, and not even what I feed the guy the whole week! It is very involved, but through this whole thing, I’ve discovered that I actually LOVE sports nutrition, and maybe I’ll get to do more of it in the future. Who knows? I’ve got this under my belt, at least!

Here’s the recipe for P’s Saturday morning sweet potato and quinoa power pancakes. For all you endurance athletes that try this a few hours before your training sessions or events, let me know how it works for you!

**This nutrition plan, although I follow the general format given by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, should be tailored and individualized to meet your needs. It is not intended as medical advice to you, the reader, and all questions on sports nutrition and your specific diet should be directed to a nutrition professional familiar with your situation.

Sweet potato and quinoa power pancakes
Servings Prep Time
4 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Sweet potato and quinoa power pancakes
Servings Prep Time
4 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 pancakes 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
dry ingredients:
mix in:
Servings: pancakes
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients (it's okay if there are lumps). Fold in the cooked quinoa. The batter will be very thick.
  4. In a griddle pan or frying pan over medium-low heat, add about a teaspoon of canola oil. When the oil is hot, scoop about 2/3 cup of batter onto the pan. Spread the batter so it's about 6 inches in diameter, and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the pancakes.
  5. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup. I like to add some almond butter on top of these, too!
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Every week, I boil a few sweet potatoes to incorporate into my hubby’s power breakfasts. I mash them up, and sometimes I add them in his pancakes, or even oatmeal. Sweet potatoes are fantastic because they give him that good carbohydrate that he needs as fuel for his Ironman training. They’re also full of fiber and vitamins A, C, B6, and potassium. I always tell my students to eat a rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables daily, because each different color hosts a plethora of good-for-you nutrients.

Well, I had an extra cup of mashed sweet potato left over in my fridge, so I decided to make a little healthy treat for me and my daughter. I thought of sweet potato muffins, since they are so easy to eat early in the morning before school, but this time, I decided to add in some mini chocolate chips. BEST. IDEA. EVER. If you’ve never had this combo before, of lightly spiced sweet potato with chocolate, now is the time to make these. I’m totally making these again!

Sweet potato and mini chocolate chip muffins
Lightly spiced, these muffins have great flavor when sweet potato and chocolate are paired together!
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 10 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 10 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Sweet potato and mini chocolate chip muffins
Lightly spiced, these muffins have great flavor when sweet potato and chocolate are paired together!
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 10 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 10 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Ingredients
dry ingredients:
Servings: muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with canola oil cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just about incorporated (there can still be white from the flour left). Add the chocolate chips, and stir until there is no more white flour left.
  4. Fill the 12 muffin cups evenly with the batter, which will be dense. Bake for about 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Take the muffin pan out. After a couple minutes, remove the muffins from the tin to cool on a cooling rack. Serve!
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I make a huge bowl of pasta once a week, whether it be spaghetti with vegan meatballs, Asian wheat noodles with tofu and mushroom-soy-ginger seasoning, pesto pasta, or a simple vegetable pasta. These dishes come together pretty quickly, and last a couple meals between the three of us (and with all the food my Ironman-to-be hubby eats, a pasta dish is always a sure bet!).

What’s usually in your quick meal plan?

A pasta with all the goodies
I make pasta once a week, and they're usually like this - filled with veggies and herbs that I love, and packed with flavor.
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
A pasta with all the goodies
I make pasta once a week, and they're usually like this - filled with veggies and herbs that I love, and packed with flavor.
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Instructions
  1. Prepare spaghetti noodles according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over med heat, add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the asparagus, cremini mushrooms, garlic and shallot, sauteing for 3-4 minutes. While sauteing, mix together the water, bouillon cube, lemon juice and zest, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Add the pasta into the vegetables, then the water-bouillon mixture. Incorporate. Add the peas and continue to incorporate until heated through. Add the basil, sun-dried tomatoes, black pepper, and red chili flakes. Continue to incorporate all ingredients together, and season to taste. Serve.
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This weekend, Blizzard Jonas came into town. In the past couple years that we’ve been here, the most I’ve seen is about 8 inches of snow, which is a lot for this Cali native. In TWO DAYS, we had almost 30 inches of snow – it was crazy! Some cars in my neighborhood were buried in snow, and by that, I mean you could only see the roof of the car. Thank goodness for midshipmen from the Naval Academy, who as a good deed shoveled snow in neighborhoods around us.

We spent the weekend indoors, hosting a big lunch and snowplay with the midshipmen that are close to our family, since we were all stuck inside anyways. The mayor of our town issued a warning that no one was to drive, because the winds and snow were CRAZY. Work also got called off yesterday to clear the roads. It was basically a good time to clear the rest of the food from my fridge and pantry, because I wasn’t about to drive on uncleared streets. A few sad-looking apples hanging out in the fridge, combined with the ever-present bag of frozen wild blueberries in the freezer, made an awesome dessert. This would be perfect with some coconut vanilla ice cream, too!

Apple and Blueberry Crumble
A perfect dessert to end a meal (or as a stand-alone snack!), with or without some coconut vanilla ice cream.
Servings Prep Time
5 4-oz ramekins 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 4-oz ramekins 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Apple and Blueberry Crumble
A perfect dessert to end a meal (or as a stand-alone snack!), with or without some coconut vanilla ice cream.
Servings Prep Time
5 4-oz ramekins 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
5 4-oz ramekins 10 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: 4-oz ramekins
Instructions
for the filling:
  1. Before starting on the recipe, preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and spray the inside of 5 4-oz ramekins with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together. Set aside.
for the crumble:
  1. In another medium bowl, use a pastry cutter to combine all ingredients, until butter resembles the shape of small peas.
assemble:
  1. Evenly divide the fruit filling into the 5 ramekins. Top with the crumble mixture, also evenly divided among the ramekins.
  2. Bake the ramekins in the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and crisp, and the fruit filling is bubbly.
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I made these yesterday when I met up with my sweet and funny friends, Alexis and Sarah, and they told me I had to post the recipe to the blog. Well, here ya go, ladies! This turned out to be way better than running out to get donuts, because that would have been slightly out of the way. Ain’t nothing wrong with donuts, though! Maybe next time. 😉

These muffins are great – moist, not cloyingly sweet, fresh with bananas and blueberries, and my favorite, topped with a streusel topping. You’ve gotta have that, in my opinion. When I wrote this recipe, I realized that there are some things that recipe-makers have to keep in mind, so I hope the following tips make your lives easier in the kitchen!

A few things to note about this recipe:

1. As with all recipes, read through the recipe before proceeding to prepare food. Make all the separate components first. Have a separate bowl for dry ingredients, a small bowl for flax eggs, a separate bowl for wet ingredients, a separate bowl for your streusel topping, a muffin pan already sprayed with canola oil cooking spray, and preheat the oven.

That seems like a lot of bowls, but you only need one whisk and one spoon to ladle out the batter into the muffin pan, and bowls are easy to wash. You could easily do the washing while the muffins are baking. This way, everything will come together quickly towards the end. Let’s not talk about that one time my sister-in-law made dirty rice for us in our kitchen one time and did not read through the recipe before starting, causing a lot of stress and wasted time on her part (three hours later, and my kitchen looked like a tornado went through it). Shudder.

2. You want tiny blueberries for this, and I like to buy wild blueberries found in the freezer section of my local grocery store. Because they’re frozen, you just want to bring them out at the very end when you combine all the ingredients together, because you don’t want the blueberries to bleed blue into the batter. If it does, it’ll still taste good, so don’t freak out! You can definitely use fresh blueberries if that’s what you have, too.

3. If you don’t have a pastry cutter (which, if you make things like biscuits or scones, makes your life so much easier), it’s okay, just use two forks or two knives to “cut” the vegan butter into the flour/oats/sugar mixture.

4. I have a ziploc bag of ground flaxseeds in the freezer. Whenever I need them, I just scoop out what I need and put it back in the freezer. You want to store ground flaxseeds in the freezer so the oils don’t become rancid. I use the equivalent to two eggs for the flax eggs.

Happy baking, friends!

Streuseled Banana Blueberry Muffins
A great breakfast with coffee, or a fun snack at any time of the day!
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Streuseled Banana Blueberry Muffins
A great breakfast with coffee, or a fun snack at any time of the day!
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Servings Prep Time
12 muffins 20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
for the flax eggs:
for the dry ingredients:
for the wet ingredients:
putting it all together:
Servings: muffins
Instructions
Prep and flax eggs:
  1. Before doing anything, spray the insides of a 12-muffin pan with canola oil cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseed and water. Set aside for about 5 minutes to thicken; in the meantime, you can prepare your other ingredients.
for the dry ingredients:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
for the wet ingredients:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the canola oil and brown sugar. Add half of the flax egg mixture; whisk well. Add the other half of the flax egg mixture and whisk until incorporated.
  2. Add the mashed bananas, almond milk, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Set aside while you prep the streusel mixture.
for the streusel mixture:
  1. In a separate medium bowl, using a pastry cutter, combine the vegan butter, flour, oats, and brown sugar until the mixture is combined and the butter resembles small peas.
putting it all together:
  1. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until flour just disappears into the batter. Do not overmix. Add in the frozen blueberries and fold in a few times until incorporated into the batter. A few lumps in the batter is what you want - don't make it completely smooth like cake batter!
  2. Divide the batter equally among the 12 greased muffin cups. Top with streusel topping (about 1 tsp each muffin).
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
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Ohmahgah. I realized it’s been nearly a month since my last post, and honestly have no idea where the time went. AND NOW IT’S NEW YEAR’S DAY?! SERIOUSLY?!?!

Okay, time to get a hold of myself. Today is the first day I’ve even touched this blog in almost a month. I wrapped up teaching my community college classes for the fall semester in early December, rushed to California to see my dear brother get married (I gained an awesome sis-in-law!), came back to Annapolis for Christmas, then set off to spend a few days in Puerto Rico with my hubby and our little one. Today is our first full day back here, and it’s time to recover and regroup. It feels great, except that I have no food, so I’ll share with you a soup I made for some of our midshipmen when they came over for dinner a little while back.

We love our Naval Academy midshipmen, and when we first started living in Annapolis over 2 1/2 years ago, we were hosting lunches and dinners for our Vietnamese Midshipmen Club. Prepping food for 30 mids is a teeny bit taxing, but they are great because they offer to help cook, load the dishwasher, play with my little one while my hubs and I get the last-minute food prep done, all that stuff. We try to make our home their “home away from home,” and every so often, I just tell a few of them to come over and have a quick meal before they have to set out on their hectic schedules.

One night, three of our mids came over for a quick snack. At first I told them I just had che (a Vietnamese dessert), but then the mom in me started getting antsy that it was dinnertime and WHY DIDN’T I MAKE A FULL DINNER YET?! So while they were at our house, chatting with us, I ended up making them a dinner – this soup, arugula salad, some sweet and spicy nuts from bon apetit (addicting!!), and then finally the che. Yes, I made lots, because I know they always like when they get to bring goodies back to the dorms. 😉

This soup is great because it’s creamy, yet CREAMLESS. How, you ask? My secret here is that I blended white beans with vegetable bouillon cube and water. It provided a creamy consistency and was a totally satisfying, filling soup. Full of fiber from the beans, which creates the feeling of satiety. I also love buying frozen roasted corn because I find that it is more flavorful than regular corn.

My hope for all of you in this new year is to find something that makes life a little more simple – think of this blog as a good resource for you who like great food but are low on time and effort. A lot of things can tug at you, but make no excuses to eat well this year. Cheers, friends!

Roasted corn chowder
A quick and easy soup that is comforting, filling, and satisfying.
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Roasted corn chowder
A quick and easy soup that is comforting, filling, and satisfying.
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
for the creamless, creamy white bean puree:
  1. In a high-speed blender, add the water, vegetable boullion, navy beans, and thyme. Process on high for about 30 seconds, until mixture becomes a smooth puree. Set aside.
for the rest of the soup:
  1. In a medium French oven on medium heat, add the olive oil. When oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and saute about 3-4 minutes, until onions soften. Add the roasted corn and cumin, sauteing another 2 minutes, and add the white bean puree. Add up to 1 1/2 cups additional water, depending on desired thickness of soup, and season to taste. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes, and then lower the heat to medium-low and serve.
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A staple in my fridge these days is cooked lentils. I buy them pre-packaged, and even though I do have dried lentils to put in soups and chilis, this saves me about 20 minutes, which I so desperately need sometimes. Cooked lentils are so versatile that you can use them in the same way you’d use ground meat in a recipe. Lentil tacos, lentils with rice in burritos, lentil sloppy joes (I make this recipe over and over again, and even dip crackers in it), etcetera. Not only is there no cholesterol and saturated fat, like you’d definitely find in ground beef or turkey (these animal fats are artery-clogging!), but there’s also lots of protein and fiber from them. I simply adore them, and they were just one of the fun discoveries I had when I started cooking vegan.

I hope you’re seeing how easy, simple, and fun these recipes are. I really try to make these recipes accessible to y’all, because so often in my cooking classes, I hear tired comments of crazy/busy/hectic work/family/social lives, and how it’s just easier to order out for the night.

Well, I hear ya, because I go through it too. Work, for me, isn’t just about clocking in and clocking out. I teach community college, so in every lecture there’s at-home prep that I do, and I’m constantly trying to make whatever topic I’m teaching interesting, so my students don’t fall asleep!

There’s a balance that you must figure out, and for me, since I don’t want to compromise quality time with my husband and daughter, put together a semi-decent lecture, and eat good food, I figured that the best thing I could do was to drastically cut the food prep time. Not only did switching to only cooking vegan food become better on my wallet (this serves 4-6 for less than $10!), better for the health of my family, and better for animal welfare and the environment, it SAVES ME TIME. Seriously, I love this way of life.

Lentil fusilli
A comforting pasta meal that is reminiscent of those tomato and meat pasta dishes you used to have as a kid, but now meatless and sooo much better!
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Lentil fusilli
A comforting pasta meal that is reminiscent of those tomato and meat pasta dishes you used to have as a kid, but now meatless and sooo much better!
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Instructions
  1. Cook fusilli pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a 5-qt French oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot and shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, and light brown sugar, sauteing for about 4-5 minutes, until onion softens. Add the lentils and nutritional yeast, stirring 2 minutes more. Add the marinara sauce, and stir to combine. Bring the pasta sauce up to a simmer.
  3. When the pasta sauce starts to bubble, add the cooked pasta, and stir to combine pasta with sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with capers and/or red chili flakes to garnish.
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It sounds elaborate, but it’s really not, which is why I love this dessert. Before I made this, I was envisioning a hot pumpkin pudding. I made it about four times, failing to achieve the right consistency, and was about to give up and think of something else to make for my fall-themed cooking class last week.

The morning of my cooking class, a light went on in my head, to use some of the sweetened condensed non-dairy milk I made from Miyoko Schinner’s cookbook, The Homemade Vegan Pantry. I simply mixed some pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed nondairy milk, a little bit of cornstarch, and some spices together, and that ended making a really nice, pie-like pudding. Now we’re getting started! I then assembled the rest of the deconstructed pie in no time, pulsing vegan gingersnaps and dates together to make the crust, adding a scoop of coconut vanilla ice cream for the whipped cream, and so on. After the class, I realized that persimmons, a fall fruit, have a flavor reminiscent of apple and pumpkin. Adding a couple slices of this to the dessert plate would not only add color, but a different texture to the dessert.

I had no idea that the engineers I was teaching this to LOVED the name! One even said that she would “deconstruct” something in her class, I think just because she liked the word! But in actuality, I had to deconstruct it because I knew that I’d be running out of time to make a whole pie, let it cool, and cut it. I don’t like that time pressure, so I don’t even try it in my classes. I was making four dishes in an hour and a half, and usually it takes that much time for me to just make one pie. It turns out that deconstructing it looks way fancier, and if you’re thinking that you’re going to splurge during the holidays, this is a good way to think about portion control (I don’t calorie count, but eat in moderation). You get all that decadent flavor, in the full-fat coconut vanilla ice cream and creamy pumpkin pudding, but not too much, and it definitely satisfies. It’s what a dessert should be!

Deconstructed pumpkin pie
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Deconstructed pumpkin pie
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 25 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
for the hot pumpkin pudding:
Servings: servings
Instructions
for the hot pumpkin pudding:
  1. Whisk all ingredients (for the hot pumpkin pudding) together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to bubble and boil, turn the heat down to low, cooking for an additional 15 minutes until thickened, whisking often. Turn off the heat.
for the gingersnap pie crust crumbles:
  1. Place the cookies in a food processor. Pulse a few times until the cookies have broken a few times. Pour in the melted vegan butter, and add the dates, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and pinch of salt.
  2. Continue to process until the gingersnap mixture resemble pea-sized crumbles (or to your preference). Set aside.
to assemble:
  1. To assemble deconstructed pumpkin pie, allow the coconut ice cream to soften at room temperature for a few minutes. On a plate (or ramekin, small bowl, etc), scatter about a tablespoon of pie crumbs on the plate. Next, scoop a spoonful of the hot pumpkin filling and a scoop of coconut vanilla ice cream decoratively on the plate.Top with additional pie crust crumbles, pecans, and sprinkle a little pumpkin pie spice on top. Lay 2 slices of persimmon on the side. Serve.
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