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Grover’s Cheesy Enchiladas

31 Aug

After reading Percy Jackson, my son wanted to try Cheese Enchiladas. Apparently, Cheese Enchiladas are Percy Jackson’s best friend Grover’s favorite food. We have tried many versions since my son’s request, but tweaked it many times along the way. My son prefers his with lots of cheese and lots of enchilada sauce. If you have someone in your house with the same preferences, then this is for you. Note: a bulk of this dish is actually loaded with other healthy stuff too like: whole wheat, brown rice, black beans, and sweet potatoes.

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Grover Likes Enchiladas by nicholaslcha-d4fpzh DeviantArt.net

Grover’s Got an Instant Pot: Easy Rice, Bean and Sweet Potato Filling

Place the following ingredients in the Instant Pot:

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 1 c black beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 2 c sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 3/4 c water

Cover, close vent, and manually set for 22 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally.

Lots of Enchilada Sauce

While the rice and beans are cooking, heat a pot and add:

  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs smoked paprika (if your family prefers it really spicy, substitute with chilli powder)
  • 4 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 Tbs dried cilantro

When the onions have softened, add:

  • 1 c water
  • 30 oz tomato sauce

Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat and whisk in:

  • 2 Tbs arrowroot power

No need to heat again as the sauce will be going in the oven and will thicken then.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Rice Enchilada 3

Filling the Tortillas

When the rice mixture has cooled somewhat, add the following to it and mix well:

  • 8 – 12 oz your choice of cheese: grated Mexican cheese or Vegan Shreds
  • 1/2 of the enchilada sauce

Place enough of the remaining sauce to just cover the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Using a generous 1/2 c or more of rice mixture, start filling each:

  • 8-10 whole wheat tortillas

Roll and place seam side down on the baking pan. Continue until baking pan is filled. Brush sauce all over enchiladas and pour remaining on top. Cover with foil. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 – 10 minutes more.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Rice Enchilada 1

Serve the Enchiladas

As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle on top:

  • 4 oz grated your choice of cheese: grated Mexican cheese or Vegan Shreds

If you want, garnish with:

  • scallions
  • fresh cilantro
  • avocado slices

Enjoy!

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Rice Enchilada 2

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Around the World in Mama’s Vegan Kitchen: Ethiopian Tonight

28 Aug

My fourth grader is adventurous when it comes to food. Outside our home, he is interested in trying foods I don’t cook here and/or what friends and family offer him: clams, hamburgers, lobster, steak, junk food, you name it. At home, I sometimes get a frown when he sees “too many vegetables” at the dinner table. However, I have found a new trick: by serving foods in a different way, Vegan meals somehow become a new, exciting, and enticing dining experience for him. We live in Small Town, U.S.A., so as a food-loving homeschool Mama, one way to open up my son’s world view is through his meals. Dinner served in a thali or tagine or Asian bowl suddenly makes my little guy more inclined to indulge in a whole-food plant-based meal. “What are we eating for dinner?” is a question he asks with sincere curiosity these days. I love that my husband heartily eats up what I serve too. Their willingness allows my family to go on an adventure all around the world while we sit happily in my Vegan Kitchen.

Ethiopian Vegan

Tonight I cooked Ethiopian food and my son’s approval and willingness to dig in was no exception. This is not to say he will enjoy every mouthful. He may not. He may like some foods more than others. In my view, this is all OK. The introduction to different flavors, spices and textures are all part of his education at my Vegan table.

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Tips for Cooking Ethiopian at Home

  • the food processor is your best friend: use it to chop onions, garlic, ginger, and carrots quickly
  • measure and chop everything you need before you turn on the heat
  • be ready for lots of washing up: I used 4 pots and 1 pan for this meal (I wish I had 2 Instant Pots!)
  • these were the recipes that I used for:
  • NOTES:
    • no need for oil, just use water to sauté
    • Watch the spices for the Mesir Wat. I have my own Berbere Spice Mix and used only 1 Tbsp, which was spicy enough for my son.
    • I soaked the split peas for a few hours and used the Instant Pot for the Kik Alicha. I reduced the liquid to 2 1/2 c but that was even too much (look at photo, it is too soupy). If you do use the I.P., I would reduce the liquid to 2 c and cook for 13 minutes.
    • Start with Kik Alicha and Mesir Wat as these take the longest, then Atklit Wat, then Gomen, and finally make the Injera.
    • You will have enough food for 8 people or dinner for 3 with enough leftovers for at least one more meal.

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Success

They ate a lot of it! My family finished off their Atklit Wat and Gomen. My son, who proclaims to not like lentils, ate all of his Mesir Wat. He didn’t care for the Kik Alicha, which my husband liked best of all. They both don’t like the foamy feel of Injera, which is not surprising: it was the same response they had to the bread at an Ethiopian restaurant. I really liked it especially for its distinct authentic sour flavors (YAY!). For me, I enjoyed it all, as well as the experience of eating delicious food with my hands.

I love traveling around the world in my Vegan Kitchen. Not only am I actively advocating for a healthy family, but I am educating my son on the variety of cultural and gastronomical whole-food plant-based cuisines around the world.

Pretend You’ve Been Cooking All Day: Easy Instant Pot Vegan Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine

20 Aug

I have several Moroccan cookbooks, but none with a Vegan Bean Tagine. While I reminisced about my younger days eating at my fave Moroccan restaurant, I did some research online and came up with my own recipe. I love it when experiments work because this Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine is EASY, full of flavor, and kid-friendly all at the same time: just what I wanted for my son’s first Moroccan Vegan culinary experience. He’s had a Chicken Tagine at a friend’s house before, but it didn’t make a big impression on him.

Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine 2

This Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine was a success! My son finished a huge bowl of it with couscous. He even confided in me at bedtime that couscous, chickpea, and olives together make a perfect combination. I love that I have a little foodie in the house and that he loves his Mama’s Vegan food!

Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine

Easy Instant Pot Vegan Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine

Serves 6

The Beans

Soak overnight:

  • 1 1/2 c dried uncooked chickpeas

The next day, drain and rinse.

The Stew Broth

Mix the spices together in a bowl:

  • 2 T flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste

To make the broth, whisk the spices with:

  • 2 c vegetable stock

Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine 5

Beans, Broth and Veggies Go Into the Instant Pot

Place the following ingredients in order in your Instant Pot:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic, minced
  • 2 green chili peppers, optional
  • drained and rinsed chickpeas, from previous step
  • 1 # sweet potatoes, chopped in big chunks
  • 1 pt cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 6 pitted dates or dried apricots
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • all the broth, from previous step

No need to mix. Cover with lid, close off vent, and set to cook for 10-12 minutes. Wow, you’ve got so much time on your hands to do something else. Allow pressure to come down naturally. Season to taste, if needed.

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Garnishes

  • 4 oranges, sliced in segments
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c olives, to taste
  • a handful of parsley or cilantro, chopped

Serve

  • with cooked couscous (I added the excess juices from the oranges in the previous step to the couscous too.)
  • top with garnishes

Serve in a tagine and pretend you’ve been working hard in the kitchen all afternoon.

Chickpea Sweet Potato Tagine 3

I love that this savory, spicy, and sweet flavored Vegan dish has added another exotic  and positive dimension to my son’s Vegan culinary and gastronomic education.

UPDATE: This recipe won in the final week of the #FOKFamily contest! Check it out here!

My Family Loves Eating Vegan at Home Again!

19 Aug

Trying to bring up Vegan kids is tough when family and friends are not. My adventurous and curious son loves to try different foods and I allow him to do this outside our home.  I certainly don’t want him to rebel by forcing him to eat ONLY VEGAN foods when we are with loved ones who don’t follow a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet. Likewise, I prefer that he question my diet choice and come to his own conclusion about what is best for him. That said, I want to make sure that our Vegan food at home is as enticing and delicious as other foods he has explored. Ditto for my husband.

Over this past Summer, I made a conscious decision to transition from RAW (I was high RAW for  over seven years!) to COOKED Vegan. My family had grown tired of RAW Vegan a few years ago, which led to their seeking out a more Omnivore diet outside our home. Maybe I had pushed the RAW agenda too far? Nevertheless, I have discovered that my own switch to COOKED food has had positive impacts on my family’s diet.

  1. My passion for cooking in my kitchen has been reignited. Researching what I’m going to cook next is entertaining, exciting and part of my weekly meal planning. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and this is rewarding because my family loves my food again.
  2. My family is asking to eat out LESS.
  3. They are asking to eat DAIRY, EGGS, and MEAT LESS. So, we are back to mostly Vegan meals at home.
  4. Our meals seem more gratifying and satiating in that they are snacking in between meals LESS, which means less processed foods.
  5. They are eating more vegetables now than when they were prepared RAW.
  6. They are even REQUESTING certain VEGAN meals MORE!
  7. By cooking wonderful Vegan foods at home, I am less a food police but more a creator of a Vegan movement in my own home. The conscious action to feed my family healthy whole-food plant-based meals creates educational and gastronomical opportunities for my family.

Some of the foods I recently made for my family are pictured here: vegan hot dogs, balsamic strawberries with aquafaba whipped cream, okonomiyaki, loaded nachos, potato cauliflower curry, chickpea broccoli burrito, lentil meatball sub, sweet potato chickpea tagine, cinnamon sugar doughnut, enchiladas, pan de sal, Chinese green beans, black bean burgers, vegan croissants, vegan creamsicles, aquafaba meringues, freshly picked raspberries.

My Recent Successes

  • My son wanted my Homemade Vegan Hot Dogs on Homemade Whole Wheat Buns with Easy Coleslaw and Baked Fries THREE times in a row! And this was a few days after he took one bite of a mainstream meat hot dog served at a party and didn’t like it. So, this was an amazing response from him.
  • A recent acquired bad habit, he now shuns any vegetables served for dinner and cries, “NOOOOOoooooo” but he happily devoured his full share of my Eat-Your-Beans Bibimbap. YES!
  • After seeing a thali for the first time, my son was excited to eat Potato Cauliflower Curry and exclaimed that this is his fave curry ever!
  • Tonight, I made a Sweet Potato Chickpea Tagine and served it in a traditional tagine. This Moroccan fare was new for my son and he loved it. He finished a huge bowl of tagine with couscous. After dinner, he confided in me that couscous, chickpea and olives together make a perfect combination.
  • Of course, like most kids, my son loves the Vegan treats I make on the weekends. Last week at bedtime, he said, “Mama. I’m so excited for tomorrow!” “Why?” I asked. “I can’t wait to eat the doughnuts tomorrow!” He’s so much like me: we are already planning and looking forward to our next meal.

I love it when these little successes happen because I know my son is learning that Vegan foods can be both healthy and delicious too.

As for my husband, he admitted to me that our meals are much better these days. He also says he’s happy if I’m happy doing all this extra work in the kitchen. I think the biggest plus for him is our grocery bills: they have gone down since I chose to eat cooked food again.

A Homemade Vegan Hot Dog on a Whole Wheat Bun, Cole Slaw and Baked Fries Please

12 Aug

For dinner tonight, I wanted to cook something fun and welcoming, something to celebrate Summer holidays. Something that screamed: COMFORT FOOD!

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You see our flights were cancelled four times in two days as we struggled to return home from three airports hit by storms. By midnight last night, we ignored our hunger for dinner as the wish to be asleep in our own beds grew stronger. We finally made it back today around 3 a.m. hungry but relieved.

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I wanted to cook an easy, comforting, and healthy meal for our first dinner back home together. I thought:

Homemade Vegan Hot Dogs in Homemade Whole Wheat Buns served with Coleslaw and Baked Fries.

PERFECT.

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It was a HIT! Everyone asked for seconds.

PAUSE.

Everyone asked for seconds.

PAUSE.

I love it when they do that!

My family members are elusive when it comes to verbal compliments, but their actions spoke louder than words tonight.

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Homemade Vegan Hot Dogs in Homemade Whole Wheat Buns

Homemade Vegan Hot Dogs

Make TWO batches of FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s Homemade Veggie Dogs so you have enough for a meal, leftovers for tomorrow and a couple of pieces left for the freezer. They are DELICIOUS! I used my Instant Pot to cook my kidney beans (I used red kidney beans instead of pinto. I wanted a deeper red colour to my veggie dogs) and steamed them in my Instant Pot for 12 minutes per batch. So easy. I love Susan Voisin’s Veggie Dogs! These are indeed better than buying the ready made ones at the store. Worth the little effort they require.

Homemade Whole Wheat Buns

Place the following in order in your bread machine:

  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 T flax seed meal mixed with 3 T water
  • 3 T your choice of sweetener, I use Sucanat
  • 4 1/2 T your choice of oil/vegan butter, I use grapeseed oil or Earth Balance depending on my mood
  • 1 c vegan milk, I tend to use rice milk these days
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c bread flour
  • 1 T yeast

Set for dough stage. When done, divide dough into 9 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope around 6 inches. Then flatten to a rectangular/oblong shape. Place on a prepared baking sheet (lined with Silpat mat or parchment paper) and cover with a kitchen towel. Leave to rest for 20 minutes. Bake (uncovered of course!) in a preheated oven at 400F for around 13 minutes till golden brown.

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Easy Coleslaw

Mix together in a bowl to incorporate:

  • 1/4 c your favourite salad dressing
  • 1/2 c vegan mayonnaise

Add in:

  • 16 oz coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

Mix well and set aside until ready to serve.

UPDATE: this recipe of coleslaw is just so much better!

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Easy Baked Fries

On a baking sheet, mix together:

  • Russet Potatoes, sliced into batons (I like to keep the skins on for the nutrients)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • paprika, to taste
  • olive oil, just enough to coat well

Arrange flat on the baking sheet. Bake at 450F until crispy, around 30 minutes or more depending on thickness of your slices.

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Serve All Together with Your Choice of Toppings

My son and I love ours with yellow mustard, ketchup and sauerkraut. My husband prefers his with just yellow mustard and ketchup.

How about you?

Review: Thug Kitchen Eat Like You Give a F*ck The Official Cookbook

5 Aug

“I give this book FIVE STARS!” exclaims my fourth grader.

Just GREAT.


The conservative parent in me wanted to take this THUG KITCHEN: eat like you give a f*ck The Official Cookbook full of curse words away from my son, but the Vegan in me was proud that this was the first ever cookbook he just wanted to read from cover to cover on his own volition. I am not sure if I felt like it was a bad (I shouldn’t have left that book lying around) or proud (vegan ed!) parent moment. Probably both.

As I walked by once or twice, ok maybe five times, my son would point out the paraphernalia in the photos and exclaim, “Mama! I want to shop there! I want that bag!” Or we would laugh as he read a passage or two. At some point, I just joined him as he showed me his favourite parts of the book.

The THUG KITCHEN Cookbook is indeed f*cking hilarious. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest getting your hands on one just for entertainment purposes. Or check out their website for Vegan inspiration.

How about their recipes? I love reading them. They are funny. I also love how the given ingredients are flexible with a lot of notes too on how to substitute if you are out of them.


I’ve tried one so far and it was a hit at our house: Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burritos. Easy and satisfyingly delicious. 


The Burrito recipe simply required roasting this beautiful mix of onions, garlic, red peppers, broccoli, and chickpeas with spices, then wrapping them in tortillas with your choice of additions. We added avocado, salsa and rice. My husband finished off three big ones, my son finished off one, and I enjoyed every single bite of mine plus licked the leftovers off my fingers.

My son asked me, “So Mama, can we try one of their desserts next?”

Absolutely! 

Around the World with My Family in the Comfort of My Vegan Kitchen

29 Jul

I love travelling the world through food in my family’s kitchen. Not only can I educate my son about healthier meal options, but also about different cultures and tastes from all over the world. Eating well becomes a joint family interest and experience as it creates meaningful meal time conversations.

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Tonight, we had a simple Indian Thali for dinner: poppadums, mango chutney, yoghurt, curry and rice.I wish I had cooked a Dal too, but I only had time to cook a Potato Cauliflower Curry in my Instant Pot. Nevertheless, my son LOVED the presentation in the thali. As soon as he arrived at the table, I could tell he was excited to see dinner laid out in a new way. He loves experimenting with food and exploring different tastes, whether he likes them or not. Sometimes, he won’t like a new taste at first and that’s ok: it’s all part of his gastronomic education. I have been cooking curry for a while but it is only tonight that my son declared the Potato Cauliflower Curry as his new favourite curry dish.

Other countries we have visited just these past ten days from the comfort of our own kitchen: China (Chinese Green Beans, Sweet and Sour Cauliflower, and Rice), France (Vegan Croissants and Pain au Chocolat), Korea (Vegan Beebimbap), Mexico (Veggie Loaded Nachos and Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas), Philippines (Pan de Sal), Japan (Okonomiyaki and Potato Tonkatsu Ramen), Africa (African Peanut Stew) and USA (BBQ Black Bean Burger).

What are your family’s favourite cuisines and cultures? What dishes do you love? We would love to hear from you!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes with Kids

1 Jul

I’ve been waiting for my son to show some serious interest in the kitchen. This past week, he volunteered to make Vegan Mashed Potatoes, not once, but twice. I’m pretty sure he would do it another time too. This Mama is so excited to have a willing helper.

Son's Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Vegan Mashed Potatoes are so easy and so forgiving. My son loves every step of the process and wants to do it all himself. Your kids might want to do the same. Here’s what he did:

1. Scrub the potatoes clean.

2. Quarter them. (We keep the peel for extra nutrients.)

3. Drop them in a pot full of water.

4. Boil, then turn down the heat to simmer until the potatoes are tender. (15 minutes?)

5. Drain.

6. Put the potatoes back into the pot.

7. Mash, while adding sea salt, olive oil, and your choice of milk.

8. Serve. My son loves it with Baked Beans.

Vegan Mashed Potato

Forget Statins for Kids: Lower LDL with a Vegan Diet

16 Jun

Over the past year, our family has changed how we eat… yet again.

After our 7 year old Vegan decided to become an Omnivore, we discovered he had extremely high LDL. Several doctors we consulted suggested statins if he was unable to lower his cholesterol. Our goal was to decrease his LDL dramatically.

A Largely Vegetarian Diet Did Not Work

My first response was for him to go back to a Vegan diet but he argued that he wanted to try a largely Vegetarian diet with meat a couple times a month. After 6 months, his LDL stayed basically the same around the high 180s mg/dL.

Vegan Diet Is The Answer

I suggested switching back to a strict Vegan diet. He agreed. After another 6 months, his LDL decreased by 80 mg/dL. Although barely in the normal range, we were all ecstatic. More importantly, my son saw for himself the results of the Vegan diet.

Going Forward

So, what is my son doing these days?

Here is his basic daily health plan which I modified from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s recommendations for adults.

Health Plan

My son and I need to make sure he gets to write a check mark beside at least 7 things on this list a day: daily exercise, fresh air/time outdoors, at least 3 cups of fruit, at least 2 tablespoons of nuts/seeds/avocado, at least 1/4 cup of whole grains, at least 1 cup of steamed vegetables, at least 1 cup of raw veggies, at least 1/2 bowl of beans/tofu, and a minimum of 1 tablespoon of any sugar (this one is a difficult one!). He is allowed desserts only on the weekend. He is allowed any food of his choice when we do not eat at home, which is only a few times a month.

Is it doable? YES! Is he totally on board? YES!

He has another blood test in a couple of months and I will be sure to update you! In the meantime, Vegan is our way at home!

Vegan Son’s High Cholesterol After Switching to Omnivore Diet

30 May

The Art of Proper Eating

A few months ago after an allergy test cleared him for some animal proteins, my Vegan 7 year old son wanted to eat beef jerky, cheese and eggs, and drink goat’s milk. Although as a Vegan, I would naturally like my son to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet, I allowed him to decide for himself. Besides, he would still be eating a whole lot of vegetables and fruits in my kitchen.

My son relished the flavors of foods he had not tasted in years. He drank raw goat’s milk everyday, ate eggs once or twice a week, and ate a few strips of beef jerky on the weekend. Still pretty healthy. Not bad, right?

Fruits on the Counter

Well… recently his Pediatric Well Visit showed that his cholesterol was just too high. The blood tests were re-done after a few days on a Vegetarian diet and results were a bit better. The overall cholesterol decreased from 290’s to 250’s, but his LDL cholesterol levels were at 188mg/dL. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics,  “A total cholesterol level greater than 200 mg/dL and LDL-C greater than 130 mg/dL represent values above the 95th percentile for children and are designated as high.” Drug therapy is recommended when LDL cholesterol levels are at 190 mg/dL or higher.

How could this be? My son’s slim, we eat more fruit and vegetables than most, and he is an athlete. Unless, of course, his cholesterol problem is hereditary.

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The doctor suggested our son return to a Vegan Diet for 6 months. We can then figure out his base cholesterol levels, and go from there.

Here’s hoping that Vegan Food does its magic. I don’t want my young son on medication!

Mama’s Now Cooking!

18 Feb

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Yup, this Mama is cooking again! After a few years on a highly Raw Vegan diet, our family’s wants and needs have now changed.  

No More Tree Nuts

Our son has become highly allergic to cashews and pistachios, and we want to make sure there is no cross-reactivity, cross-contamination, nor cross-contact reactions to any other tree nuts. This change rules out many Raw Vegan recipes. We also discovered that his allergies to dairy and eggs have cleared. The test also showed a mild allergy to soy. I see no good reason to make my son feel we are controlling and restricting his diet further. We are now allowing him to make more food choices for himself. He is still trying new things and figuring out what he likes and what his body prefers. So far, he is enjoying his rediscovery of raw goat’s milk and cooked eggs. He’s also since tried store-bought beef and bison jerky, which he says he absolutely loves.

Raw vs Cooked, Vegan vs Vegetarian Foods

As for my husband, he is pretty tired of raw Vegan food, although he still enjoys our faves. It’s nice when he does request for them. He prefers cooked Vegan and Vegetarian foods.

Where do I fit in?  I’m the Vegan Mama who buys and prepares/cooks the Vegan and Vegetarian food for a son who loves goat’s milk, a hubby who prefers soy milk, and for myself who can live on raw foods. Cooking for three people with different food preferences is not admittedly such an easy task when our homeschool days are full.

Keeping Mama in the Kitchen and she ain’t cookin’

I have decided to keep this blog, along with the research and the recipes on Raw Vegan foods, in hopes that the information can continue to help more people out there. My future posts, however, will reflect the new changes in our family’s dietary choices.

Hoping you stick around to watch us on our journey!

The Beans That Blew My Cares Away

27 Mar

My family’s consumption of raw vegan foods has decreased tremendously. We had raw fruit pudding for breakfast today though and the boys licked the Vitamix clean. Hubby enjoyed his raw Chia Lime drink too. I also made an Asian salad, which unfortunately is still sitting in the fridge deteriorating as I write. My family started consuming soy products too, including non-organic processed fake meat once a week. Woo-hoo Bill Gates for supporting fake meat!  For you ‘unprocessed’ die-hards out there, it sounds bad. I know! I’m one of you and just writing it makes me cringe.

Yes, I feel like a Raw Vegan Mama failure sometimes, especially after reading an article that more and more families in England are now going raw and seem successful at it… and even Gwyneth Paltrow‘s kids are dairy, sugar, gluten and soy free (she has a second cookbook to prove it)!  Ok, where can I buy kids like Apple and Moses who don’t complain about being hungry without their fave foods?

In an effort to discover healthier and bulkier cooked vegan foods, I found this Bean Confit recipe on-line the other day and adapted it for my slow-cooker. (Look, if it ain’t raw, I gotta have someone else in charge of cookin’ it if it takes hours.  Is there a devoted Homeschool Mama out there with enough time to spend hours in the kitchen cookin’? Besides The Pioneer Woman…)

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Anyway, the cranberry beans mixed with the rosemary, oregano and garlic made my house smell damn good.  I ate a few bowls of the bean confit for dinner and the crazy amount of extra virgin olive oil gave it a richness and creaminess that comforted me. I dreamed about these barlotti beans that night and the next day while I drove my son to his violin lesson. I think I’ll make another batch tomorrow, with lots of raw veggies for me on the side. It’s  that satisfying especially on a cold Spring day.

Recipe:

27 oz dried cranberry beans (barlotti, as they are known in Italian)

Soak overnight with enough water to cover it by a few inches. Drain and rinse the next day. Place in a slow cooker, add fresh water to cover well and cook on high for 5-6 hours till slightly tender. Drain some of the water, so that the beans peak out of the water. Add the beans back into the slow cooker, top with:

a few sprigs of rosemary

a few sprigs of oregano

a few cloves of garlic

a couple teaspoons of sea salt, try 4 teaspoons (I had no problem adding the salt at this stage)

enough extra virgin olive oil to just cover all the beans.

Cook on low for 2-3 hours. Season to taste. Serve!

The bean confit brought me back down to earth from my Raw Vegan high horse. I got rid of all my hot air and what a relief. I can finally say it is OK to let go of the Raw Vegan Mama Power I had held on to for so long and let my family eat what they want to eat. I now understand that their happiness is truly more important to their well-being than having to eat ‘the right foods’ everyday at every meal.

I also learned:

  1. No more scare tactics. “That’s not healthy for you! Do you know what junk food will do to you? That’s disgusting!”
  2. Satisfy their cravings so they don’t feel so deprived. My son has been asking me for months what Jell-O tastes like. I finally made him some homemade ‘Jell-O’ today from fresh coconut milk and agar-agar. He loved it. He keeps giving me hugs for the foods I’m letting him eat.
  3. I’m a softy. I need to feel… ummm… loved and not resented at the dinner table. “That was yummy! You’re the best Mama in the Kitchen!” instead of “What? Eeewww! This again! This is horrible! Do I have to eat that? Your food isn’t as good as (name of fave restaurant here). I want to eat out…”

Finding Balance

29 Dec

I haven’t been posting on this blog for a few months because I end this year a little more tentative than I began. In the beginning of Autumn this year, my dear son and hubby decided on “no more nuts”. This was followed by “no more raw smoothies”. Then “no more raw salads”. In other words, NO MORE RAW ANYTHING.

Gah, had I pushed them too far?

So, I started cooking more and more veggies: in soups, with dressing, steamed, boiled, baked, etc. And, I discovered that my family actually have increased their intake of veggies this way. Dead broccoli is the new fave around here and mushroom miso soup. Surprise, surprise – I even lost a few pounds without all the added fats from nuts.

Cooked to death Broccoli.  Boil till the broccoli breaks apart.  Dress with orange juice or balsamic vinegar, sea salt and olive oil.

Cooked to death Broccoli: boil till the broccoli breaks apart, dress with a mixture of orange juice or balsamic vinegar, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. My son loves it!

But I’m still a firm believer in RAW, so I slowly but surely added back some old faves after a month or two. Without complaints, we are all enjoying raw fruit puddings for breakfast again, Japanese and Kale salads for pre-meals and lots of coconut smoothies. We are not quite as raw as I would like, but dare I say I have found a new kind of “balance”?

I don’t know how RAW families do it. How do they function in society? How do they enjoy being with family and friends who don’t eat the way they do? How do their kids relate to other kids in the community? My big guess is that they don’t… not really in the same capacity we do. My second guess is that husband and wife have to agree on diet and nutrition principles to make it work for the family. My third guess is that the parents have to impose and work hard to ingrain these beliefs at home (unless the children have allergies and sickness that inhibit their diets). I cannot imagine regular kids not wanting what other mainstream kids can have – unless they don’t have much of a relationship with other kids, and therefore have no knowledge base of what goes on “on the other side”.

My husband recently bought some Maine root beer, a package of cereal and a carton of soy milk. My son’s hoarding some Vegan candy canes and has a new obsession with gum (it was hard finding one he isn’t allergic to).

Our Xmas Experiment: will Santa prefer the processed candy the restaurant gave you or will he prefer the homemade Vegan cookies we baked?

Our Xmas Experiment: will Santa prefer the processed candy the restaurant gave you or will he prefer the homemade Vegan cookies we baked from scratch? We discovered that Santa prefers homemade cookies to processed candy… and even left a small bit behind.

As a Mama, it is hard to let go of control – especially in the kitchen. But this year, I found more peace and happiness at the dining table by relinquishing more control over my family’s diet. I still buy the groceries, prepare and cook our food. I still educate my family on food matters. But at the end of the day, I let go and allow them the freedom to choose what they want to eat.

A little discouraged one day, I asked my husband and son separately if they wanted to branch out from our Vegan diet, they both said “NO”. Are you sure? “YES!” Both look forward to their fave homemade organic and Vegan cooked foods: Mulligatawny Soup, Shepherd’s Pie, Japanese Buckwheat Noodles, Popcorn and Chocolate Chip Cookies. But I notice they too have their fave raw foods. My son was sick recently and only wanted to eat fruit. He prefers to start each day with bananas and he asks for fresh raw coconut milk almost everyday. He will eat a huge bowl of romaine lettuce. My hubby can drink a quart of green smoothie during a meal and he will keep going back for more salad.

I offer my family healthy food, I empower them with current food knowledge, and I model good eating habits. Then, I let go in peace.

School Lunches versus Packing a Lunch: How to Keep Both Healthy

23 May

We homeschool, but we are out and about a lot.  Here’s an example of our packed lunch.

How do we keep our children’s lunches healthy?  According to the World Health Organization“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”   So, we can rephrase our question as: how can we ensure our children’s lunches contribute to their physical, mental and social well-being and, by consuming them, they will not be afflicted by disease or sickness?

I recently watched a short documentary called Lunch, a film based on interviews about ‘Green School’ lunch programs, instilling healthy habits in kids and organic gardening in a school setting.  It seems to me that most people talk about kid’s lunches from a single viewpoint: the food. They say: let’s improve food quality, organic is better, no more GMOs, add more fruits and vegetables, no more fried foods, add healthier options, grow a school garden, add nutrition to the curriculum…  While I think these are all wonderful and much needed, the most important thing we can do is to empower children themselves to make the right food choices.  

At the end of the day, the children are the only ones who can control what they eat, therefore it is not enough to simply create a healthy nutrition environment for them. Children need to be taught that any kind of food can keep us alive, but it is the nutritious food that helps maintain our body, mind and social capacities well. We need to teach children about a whole lifestyle that emphasizes not only nutritional choices, but also how the choices they make affect their own physical, mental and social well-being.   When children are educated, when they understand, when they are given proper role models and when they are given tools to help them choose health, then the responsibility for parents and guardians to create a healthy nutrition environment for them becomes easier – simply because children will WANT it for themselves.  

Proper Nutrition is integral to maintaining our physical, mental and social health and well-being.

We can teach children the value of eating to live, not living to eat. We can teach them the value of maintaining physical, mental and social well-being (these are a few examples):

    • show them what happens to their bodies when they consume junk versus nutritious foods, for example:
      • what happens to teeth when they eat processed sugar (place a tooth in Coca Cola and see what happens)
      • what happens to bones when people eat too much animal protein and cow’s milk (show rates of osteoporosis in different communities)
      • teach them to look at their own poop and explain what healthy poop should look like
      • teach them how different foods create different energy levels (discuss athletes and their diet)
      • watch Wall-E and discuss why the humans are obese (foods they eat, exercise)
      • show videos like Supersize Me and Forks over Knives to older children
    • show them what happens to their minds depending on the food consumed, for example:
      • discuss how mental performance suffers/improves due to diet (i.e. Food For the Brain study)
      • show them that learning challenges and problem behaviors may decrease/increase according to diet
      • discuss how exercising the brain is just as important as sports is for the body
      • discuss how quality foods help the nerves in the brain function properly (memory, problem solving, etc)
    • show them that their nutritional choices have social implications, for example
      • discuss what “social well-being” means vis-à-vis proper nutrition within the community, the nation and the world (according to the United States Institute of Peace: “Social well-being is an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.)
      • discuss composting, recycling, reusing and reducing in the community and at home
      • discuss pollution and toxicity
      • discuss what stress does to us
      • discuss how the quality of food we eat affects our emotions and therefore our social well-being.
As we teach them to grow their own food and to prepare their own meals from scratch… we can sit back and see what happens.

Other ideas here too: Top 10 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop! Click on the image for more links to Gifted/2E Health and Wellness Issues!

The Giving Tree: A Lesson on Earth Day

26 Apr

Our Giving Tree

I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to my son’s kindergarten homeschool class today. Then we created our own Giving Tree!

I read the story to them.

I asked them what the tree gave to the boy. They drew their answers on the leaves and apple paper cut outs I had made. Then, we attached it to the bare branches I had brought in. (I got a big branch from outdoors and set it in a tub with Plaster of Paris.)

An Apple

Apples to sell in order to make Money

Wood to make a Boat

I asked them what other things do trees give us?

Oxygen

I shared some quick facts with them:

1. Did you know an average tree can provide enough wood to make 170,000 pencils?

2. Did you know 2 mature trees can supply enough oxygen for a family of 4?

3. Did you know a mature tree removes almost 70x more pollution than a newly planted one?

And finally, I asked the children what could we give the tree in return? They cut paper and we hung their gifts up with ribbon on our Giving Tree.

Water

A Bird to keep the Tree company

Friendship

Love

Protection

Life

I left our class feeling how wise all these children already are.

Time for Berries!

17 Apr

We love berries at our house.  Most of the time, we love them plain, although my son really loves them with a little raw honey (kids and their sweet tooth!).  Sometimes, we enjoy them on top of our fruit pudding* or raw oatmeal.  Occasionally, I’ll serve them with some greens and a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. (*Note: we haven’t had dairy in our home for over a year.)

Mixed Berries with Greens

The easiest way for us to get some berry goodness is through smoothies, like “More Greens Please!” Strawberry Smoothie and Berry Spirulina Smoothie.

"More Greens Please!" Strawberry Smoothie

When I want a quick treat, I love my Quick and Easy Raw Ice Cream Base which takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.  I eat it as is or wait till it is frozen.  A wonderful alternative is simply mixing frozen bananas and berries together in a food processor for a raw ‘ice cream’.

Quick and Easy Raw Ice Cream Base

When I have some extra time, I love to make some Berry TreatsRaw Strawberry Cream Pie is easy to serve a la minute!  And it looks beautiful.  My son is allergic to cashews, so I substitute with macadamia nuts when I make this at home – but I much prefer the taste with cashews.

Raw Strawberry Cream Pie

These Raw Blueberry Bars are wonderful if you miss Fig Newton’s or Pop Tarts or crave cereal bars!

Raw Blueberry Bars

Or maybe you crave an Easy Blueberry Peach Crumble for breakfast, snack or dessert!

Easy Blueberry Peach Crumble

Can you tell we love berries?

Just an FYI, Driscoll’s is having a Twitter Chat tomorrow: Wednesday, April 18th at 7pm EST with Sommer of GreenandCleanMom.org! They will be discussing how to eat green for Earth Day with Driscoll’s organic berries. And, 5 lucky chat participants who answer their green living questions correctly will be chosen to receive $20 in Driscoll’s coupons!  You can find Driscoll’s Organic Berries in most local supermarkets (even my health food shop will sometimes carry this brand too)!

Raw Green Gazpacho

12 Apr

My Raw Green Gazpacho To-Go while cleansing on the go.

I took my Raw Green Gazpacho to our homeschool coop today and the kids kept asking “What’s that?!?” I was trying to explain to a 4 year old that like soap cleans something dirty, my green juice full of veggies cleans the insides of my body. She looked at me, wide-eyed and disbelief, “You clean your body with veggies???” Yes, I do!

I have been participating in CleanseAmerica’s 10-day cleanse since Monday. I have been craving my thick and creamy Coconut Gazpacho full of umami-ness – but decided I wanted something greener and much less fattening. So, today, I created this Raw Green Gazpacho that is perfect during a smoothie cleanse: full of green goodness and still reminiscent of Gazpacho flavors.

Puree all together in a high speed blender:

1 handful of cilantro leaves

2 handfuls of spinach leaves

2 cucumbers, peeled

2 pieces of celery

2 big tomatoes

1/2 lemon, juiced

sea salt, to taste (optional)

Enjoy!

Our Pirate’s Smoothie

8 Apr

Our Pirate's Smoothie

What’s better than seeing my family truly enjoy something I made from scratch in my own kitchen and with my own hands?  For me, it’s when they enjoy something that tastes like I slaved over it, but it actually only took a few minutes and consisted of only a few ingredients.  Not only does that mean I get to spend more time with my familybut I also have a fantastic recipe.  This is definitely a keeper. And guess what, you only need 3 ingredients: 1 ripe pineapple and 2 young coconuts!  How can you beat that!

Simply place the pineapple chunks, the coconut water and the coconut meat in a high speed blender and puree away.  This is heavenly especially after a day at the beach!

The Scoop on Poop for Kids

29 Mar

My son and I created this video today in order to teach him about bowel movements as an indicator of his health.  We thought your young kids might learn something too!

Orange, Cucumber and Celery Juice

15 Mar

Tip of the day Mamas

It feels like Summer outside. And Summer reminds me of cool cucumbers. I love cucumbers because when you juice them, you get A LOT of juice! I spend less time juicing when I use cucumbers!

Orange, Cucumber and Celery Juice

We have lately loved this mix of juices, after drinking it on our recent travels. This is easily my son’s favorite drink these days, although it is best in Summer or Autumn when 2 out of 3 ingredients are in season. Very simply, you need:

4 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (In the Autumn, use Sour Oranges. In the Winter, use Washington Navels. In the Spring, use Sweet Oranges, Tangelos or Temple Oranges.)

3 cucumbers and 4 celery sticks (both best in Summer and Autumn)

Juice the cucumbers and celery. You should have about 4 cups in total.

Combine 4 cups of orange juice with 4 cups of the green juice. Voila! A delightful drink! Use less orange juice for 'Superhero Green Juice Guzzlers' and more for when the kids aren't into Superheroes!

Review: Girvins Vegan Soaps

12 Mar

Girvins Vegan Soap

They can custom make any of their soaps for the Vegan market.

A family friend, Stephanie Rohrer, owns and runs Fox Hollow Farm in Maryland with her family.  I almost visited once – but have never been.  I understand they have a farm market where you can buy vegetables and fruits  (along side their animal products) on their farm everyday, except for Mondays in the Winter.  Stephanie also happens to be a weaver of soaps and candles for her personal company, Girvins.  She uses ingredients from her farm to create candles, soaps and body creams.  My family was lucky enough to test her Moon Soap fragrance free and Vegan.  Stephanie makes it herself with distilled herbal water, coconut oil, palm oil , olive oil, vitamin E and lye. 

My family and I loved that her Moon Soap has no fragrance.  My son loved the fact that it did a great job washing away my young son’s smelly feet!  Where smell is concerned, it does a much better job than our everyday soap, Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Bar. The soap lathers lightly with small bubbles, but lathers up well nonetheless.  Stephanie said she sells a lot of her soaps to families with kids who have skin issues.  I wasn’t surprised then that her soap cleans very well without drying or stripping the skin.  Most importantly for busy Mamas, it doesn’t leave a greasy film on the bathroom (which olive oil soap does).

Did Girvin’s Moon Soap pass my cosmetics criteria?

1. smell – no fragrance!  Loved that there was no fragrance.  My son thought it smelled like cheese, but that was probably the lye.

2. sensitivities – none.  This is very mild.

3. taste – not applicable.

4. moisturize – cleans very well without drying the skin or stripping skin of its natural oils.

5. everyday comfort –  yes.  My son’s feet especially smelled wonderfully neutral after using this soap!  And it doesn’t leave a greasy film on the bathroom floor!

6. lasting effect – yes!

7. eco-friendly – All of Girvin Soaps can be customized for Vegans.

30 Lessons this Raw Vegan Mama Learned from Traveling and Dining Out with Omnivore Loved Ones

4 Mar

In the last 6 months alone, it seems like my family and I have traveled non-stop to be with friends and extended family.  These days, I feel like I am a bit of a pro when traveling with and dining out with loved ones who happen to be non-Raw Omnivores. 

I wish I could tell you we did wonderfully: I ate 100% Raw Vegan Foods and my family kept up their 50% Raw Vegan diet. But we did not.

What we did a lot of instead was, what I call, nutritional compromising. Why?  Well, believe it or not, for harmony’s sake.  We love our friends and family dearly and being together with them means a lot to us.  We didn’t want to alienate anyone… or ourselves.

I cannot say I was very much OK with all the nutritional compromising in the past few months… but I met Perry the other day who made me feel a whole lot better.  He sold me a bottle of E3Live.  I asked him if he was Raw Vegan.  He said he used to be.  “Why?” I asked.  He said, his mother had cancer when he was growing up and foods were designated as BAD or GOOD, ALLOWED or NOT ALLOWED.  So Young Perry rebelled. He would go behind his mother’s back, steal her money and buy the foods that were verboten at their house.  Needless to say, he thought it was a good idea that I allow my son some slack. 

Here is what I learned while traveling with Omnivore loved ones:

Our Travel Food Bag

I always have fruit (bananas, oranges, apples) and salad for everyone. I also always have some cooked Vegan foods for the boys. Hopefully we can recycle the plastic containers.

1. I always pack my family’s meals for road trips and national/international flights. Unfortunately, the food lasts only about 8 hours and after that we have to make do with what we are given or find at the other end of our trip.

Vegan Meals up in the friendly skies: include preservatives, coloring and a bunch of other stuff we wouldn't normally eat. But - this is the best option we have when we run out of food.

2. On planes, we request either the Raw (not always available and this tends to be fruit or cut carrot and celery sticks) or Vegan (although some are cooked with many processed Vegan ingredients) options for flights.

3. Clearly, our family’s highly raw/unprocessed Vegan diet tends to go down the drain pretty much from the get-go.

I love this old photo of my son snuggling with his step-grandmother. In the first 5 minutes after they met, it was clear they had already bonded so wonderfully.

4. We want to spend time and create strong bonds with our extended family and friends while traveling/visiting with them.

5. But, this means mealtimes more often than not emphasize non-raw and non-vegan foods.

6. We tend to eat out at mainstream restaurants a whole lot while traveling with others.

7. We have lengthy and careful discussions with servers about our family’s food preferences and allergies before ordering. It seems to us that waiters, on the whole, are not trained well on matters relating to Veganism or food allergies.  Neither are they made aware of the repercussions of food allergies. Sometimes, the problem may be that they don’t properly convey diner’s requests to chefs in their kitchens.  So, we like to take our time in our communication with them.

8. Raw Vegans are not the best for diners with nut and maple/agave allergies.  After talking very carefully to servers about our son’s allergies, my son has had very bad vomiting spells after eating/drinking something at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco and Quintessence in NYC.  Needless to say, we are not going back to these 2 places to eat.  I can, however, recommend The Farm in the Philippines, Good Life Café in South Carolina and Pure Food and Wine in NYC.

9. We tend to eat what our host provides.  “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do!” Right?  As guests, we are really at the mercy of our host, especially when they want to treat us all the time and/or we are in a foreign country.

10. I have discovered that food allergies are difficult for others to understand.

11. The concept of Raw Vegan foods are even harder for many to grasp.  I have had, many a time, cheese and bread on my “all Raw Vegan” salad or been offered regular hummus with cooked chickpeas.

12. Requests for Gluten- and Vegan-free food is akin to speaking a foreign language.

My son kept asking for the white bread served at most mainstream restaurants. Having said 'no' so many times (due to allergies), I finally ordered some wonderful Rice Bruschetta at a Vegan restaurant we visited towards the end of one of our trips. My son was extremely happy. So was I for having found a half-raw, half-cooked meal for him too!

13. My son will want to eat what others are eating: i.e. the cooked or processed refined foods.

14. A loved one recently baked 6 loaves of maple syrup white wheat bread while we visited her for 2 weeks – even after I asked her to please stop at the first loaf.  The breads just kept appearing though, which my son gladly ate and I tried to stop.  She was thrilled of course to watch my son devour her bread. On the other hand, I was focused on his rashes (c/o maple sugar).

15. This Mama will compromise only to a certain extent.

Using a handheld immersion blender in a plastic tub while traveling to make a lamb's lettuce smoothie for my family

16. If a kitchen and/or appliances are available, I supplement our family’s meals with fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh juices or green smoothies before a meal (that is if we have access to appliances and/or a kitchen).

Someone shared this on Facebook and made me LOL!

17. If a kitchen is available and if possible, we eat ‘in’ as much as we can and I end up a Mama in the Kitchen with no holiday.  But, I can’t complain!  We minimize allergies this way.

18. You cannot simply trust labels.  My son has even reacted to packaged Raw Vegan foods we have purchased while traveling to which, according to ingredients on labels, he isn’t allergic.

19. On every trip these past few months, my son has had some type of allergy, despite our efforts.  He has been very mucus-y on the plane home twice.

20. Raw Vegan food options are not always available when eating with family and friends…or they are harder to come by when traveling or sanitation is an issue in certain countries. When eating at mainstream restaurants or at people’s homes sometimes simply boiled, steamed or stir fried veggies are the best and only options.  In many health food stores in big cities, Raw Vegan Foods usually means a lot of packaged dehydrated foods… exactly the foods we try to avoid.

21. Raw Vegan food does not win over many people.  Some of my loved ones returned home to eat SPAM with white rice after a beautiful lunch at The Farm, Philippines.

22.  I, on the other hand, will have some type of food sensitivity after eating at a Raw Vegan restaurant: headaches, swelling or bloating from an excess of agave syrup, soy products, or nuts.

Juice Bars are worth it! Here in SAF London

23. To minimize allergies or sensitivities, we order simply at Raw Food Restaurants: an abundance of green juices (not smoothies) or simple Salads, and avoid other foods altogether (unless the server/chef can be 100% clear on the ingredients used).

The food was so delicious, I made sure I bought their cookbook as soon as we got home!

Food For Thought in Covent Garden will win over Omnivores anytime for taste and bang for buck! Just be prepared for small spaces and a communal-type feel.

24. Cooked Vegan foods, on the other hand, have been the best way for us to introduce family and friends to the Vegan diet. My mother gave us a cooked Vegan party when we visited her.  My friends thought they would have to lug their families to McDonald’s afterwards – but they admitted to loving the food by my Vegan Chef cousin!  They all had second helpings of the healthy mains and the desserts!  And no trip to McDonald’s afterwards!

I got an "That doesn't look very good at all!" comment for my salad here.

25. Prepare yourself for negative comments from loved ones about your food. Yes, even those who say they understand and would love to be Raw Vegan. I have had an ugly grimace directed at my food with a “I would NOT like to eat that!”, “is that all?”, “how do you get your protein?”, “yuck! how do you eat that!” And all in front of my son too, who takes it all in.

26. People somehow forget about your family’s diet and lifestyle choice, no matter how close they are to you.  I have had a platter of Steak placed under our noses blatantly at dinner with a smile and a “here, you will love this”; baked pastry treats full of syrup, butter and refined flour placed in front of my son while he, as most kids will, drools; salmon offered to us which they know was my son’s favourite fish before our kitchen turned Vegan.

27. The good outweigh the bad.  What is important is that we are surrounded by people we love and who love us back.

28. By the end of the trip, I am always itching to return to my own kitchen, I can’t wait to shop at my own local health food store and I can’t wait to eat healthier food.

29. After returning home, it is always just a little harder to get my son to eat as healthily as he used to.  And I am OK with this too because after traveling for the past 6 months, I know in a day or two, he’ll be asking for his fave smoothie and his fave kale salad!

30. And at the end of the day, I love what traveling does for our family.

Moisturize with Raw Chocolate Cream!

6 Feb
It smells like chocolate. It tastes like chocolate. It feels simply luscious on the skin!

Discovering Cacao as Emollient

My son has been obsessed with chocolate since we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Last week, we were traveling and he discovered Palmer’s Cocoa Butter in the bathroom where we were staying. My son only uses extra-virgin coconut oil on his skin at home, and then only when his skin is dry… so bottled lotions are absolute novelties to him. Clearly, ecstatic in finding one made from ‘cacao beans’, he applied thick layers of that yellow cream all over and delighted in his new smell.

“Mama! Mama! Daddy! Daddy! Do I smell like chocolate?

“Yes, you do!” I smiled because I love my son’s innocent enthusiasm, I love watching his joy in the simplest of things and I love being present when he does make all these kinds of new discoveries. “Guess what! We can make your very own Chocolate Cream at home! Would you like that?”

“You mean from real Cacao Beans?” his eyes widen.

“Yes, from Raw Cacao Butter and Coconut Oil!”

“Can I choose the flavor?” he smiles.

“Of course! It will be your very own Chocolate Cream! It will be so pure, you can even eat it!

As soon as we arrived home, it was the first thing he wanted to do.

Our Chocolate Cream

I decided to experiment with Natasha St. Michael’s Natural Body Cream Recipe.

So, we gathered the ingredients: raw cacao butter, extra virgin coconut oil, raw Shea butter and my son’s choice of essential oils (doterra’s On Guard).
We weighed the butters in a bowl: 3 oz cacao, 3 oz coconut and a big dollop of shea.
We placed our bowl in hot water and stirred to make sure everything melted properly. Then, we added our essential oils (about 5 drops for my son’s cream).
We transferred our raw ‘Chocolate’ Cream into containers.
Then we refrigerated them without the lids until they hardened.
My son couldn’t wait to dig in! Note: we used a child-proof container for his cream.

Results

I lathered some on my hands and after half a day, they still felt like silk! Touted for conditioning and protecting the skin, I used to use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter myself 10 years ago, but this raw Cacao Cream is different. It brings moisturizing to a different level! So in the evening, I made time to quickly whip a tub for myself too! I added 15 drops of doTerra’s Whisper in mine, which has rose, jasmine, bergamot, cinnamon, cistus, vetiver, ylang ylang, cocoa, vanilla, sandalwood, and patchouli. It smells absolutely delicious! I think my husband may be tempted to try it too.

Note: at room temperature, this Chocolate Cream may melt or become grainy – if the latter happens, simply heat it between your palms and you are ready to moisturize! Don’t worry if it feels greasy at first, your skin will absorb it within minutes. Also, a little of this goes a long way!

What Essential Oils are excellent for the Skin?

According to Modern Essentials, the following oils are recommend for:

  • chapped/cracked skin – myrrh
  • dehydrated – geranium, lavender
  • dermatitis/eczema – helichrysum, thyme, geranium, melaleuca, lavender, patchouli, bergamot, rosemary
  • dry skin – geranium, lavender, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, lemon
  • oily/greasy skin – lemon, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, marjoram, orange, rosemary
  • rashes – melaleuca, lavender, Roman chamomile
  • scars – lavender, rose, frankincense, helichrysum, geranium, myrrh
  • sensitive skin -lavender, geranium
  • stretch marks – lavender, myrrh
  • wrinkles – lavender, fennel, geranium, frankincense, rose, rosemary, myrrh, clary sage, cypress, helichrysum, lemon, orange, oregano, sandalwood, thyme, ylang ylang

Vegan Cartoons

28 Jan

Reading A Cow's Life

The Mama looks for her baby!!!

Mama, don't we have a belt like this? Sigh. Yes, we haven't always been Vegan.

Resources:

TeachKind – for free materials on humane-education (The Cow’s Life is only one of their many cartoons)

Homemade Half-Raw, Half-Cooked “Happy Meals”

28 Jan

Our Homemade Happy Meal

We are part of a homeschool coop that meets once a week for a few hours, lunch included. There is one other Vegan family and another highly raw one too. It’s not like my son doesn’t have Vegan company in the lunchroom, but there are a lot of other eye-catching foods in the lunchroom too.

My son’s lunchbox doesn’t have cartoon characters on it. It doesn’t come out of a white paper bag that smells like something fried. Instead, it comes in a reusable container from my kitchen with clean food prepared and packed with love. The parents love it, but I have a feeling the kids don’t. I have a feeling it’s not so cool. My son has looked unhappily at it once or twice in the lunchroom and his grimace told me exactly what he thought of his lunch. “Eeeeewwww… is that all you have?” his face asked as he looked across the table with longing at the Goldfish crackers and a packaged fruit juice bottle with a lid shaped as a cartoon character. “Yup! That’s all we have!” I say, making a mental note to fix something more enticing next time.

So, what do I pack these days? The photo above shows our typical homemade half-raw, half-cooked “Happy Meal” for our homeschool coop days. It includes: my son’s fave Green Smoothie (hidden in a thermos so we don’t invite any comments – good or bad), fruit, raw green salad (in the photo, a radish, turnip, tomato and parsley salad*), baked veggies (in the photo, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, sweet potatoes), turmeric spiced brown basmati rice and gluten-free muffins.

Although my son still looks at what his friends are eating, it seems to me there is less longing as he easily sips his fave smoothie, eats his baked sweet potato fries without question, asks for more oranges and carefully peels off his gluten-free muffin from the muffin cup. He looks around to see if anyone is watching. He has a treat today. I sigh. I am a relieved Mama. He is content with his homemade “Happy Meal”.

*Radish, Turnip, Tomato and Parsley Salad

A salad from what is left in the fridge can sometimes be one of the most surprisingly satisfying.  I don’t usually like turnips or radishes. I find them too spicy, but mixed with parsley and the right dressing… this makes the perfect winter salad… yum!

Mix together in a bowl:

a bunch of parsley, chopped

a bunch of turnips, peeled and chopped

a bunch of radish, chopped

a bunch of cherry tomatoes, halved

Toss with a vinaigrette (most of the time we prefer a 1:4 vinegar to oil ratio):

sea salt, to taste

oregano, to taste

lemon juice or red wine vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

Empowering Vegan Children

28 Jan

Vegan Kids don’t like Veggies?

Last week, I spoke to a Vegan friend. She said something that really surprised me. Her kids were brought up proudly Vegan, but they don’t even like vegetables. They don’t even like sweet potatoes! “Well, what do they love to eat?” I asked immediately. “They love beans and rice. We eat a lot of rice and beans! They will eat a few vegetables only, like artichokes.” Imagine that! Vegan kids who are proud to be Vegan, but don’t like vegetables!

What’s a Mama to do?

“My raw food skills suck… My husband and kids won’t eat any of the raw things I prepare…!”

“I’m so tired of preparing two dinners: one for them and one for me!”

“Why won’t they eat their veggies?”

Sound familiar? I’ve been there too. In fact, I am reminded of Peace at the Healthy Table, a post I wrote at around the time I figured out how to create balance within my own family.

Like my friend, I too certainly don’t want to be the Mama who force feeds her son veggies in the name of health. Why? Because:

  1. I want him to love nourishing his body with food
  2. I don’t want him to hate veggies
  3. I know I won’t be around forever preparing food for my son
  4. he, and only he, has control of what he eats and
  5. he, and only he, can therefore determine his own health.

So, what’s the best solution I came up with? While he is still young, I want to empower my son to make the right food choices.

In my house, this is where my top 10 tips to get them to eat more fruits and veggies come in. I’ve also recently added 2 more tips to this list:

  1. make my son his own Half Raw, Half Cooked Vegan “Happy Meals” for school and
  2. use cartoons to explain how our nutrition choices impact the world.

10 Lessons from A Vegan Mama

23 Jan

 

"Mother Earth" by my then 4 year old

“There are two ways of spreading light:

to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

Edith Wharton

  1. Think for yourself. It is OK to think differently from the mainstream.
  2. Choose health by eating an abundance of fresh, nutritious and unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
  3. Be an efficient shopper. No need to roam around, we need only shop in the produce and bulk sections.
  4. Save money. Look: our Vegan grocery bill has decreased at least a third from our Omnivore days!
  5. Save time. Imagine! We don’t have to cook for hours. We can eat our fruits and vegetables raw. In fact, lunch will be ready in just 5 minutes!
  6. Let us not be wasteful. We don’t want to consume more than we have to. We can also compost our scraps, they will enrich the earth.
  7. Be part of our community: befriend local farmers, know where our produce comes from.
  8. Be respectful. We share this world and the resources in it with others.
  9. Be kind to ourselves, to others, to animals and to our earth.
  10. Be conscious always that our everyday simple choices can have great impacts on ourselves, on others and on our environment.

Kid-Friendly Cayenne Spiced Kale Chips

17 Jan

Cayenne Spiced Kale

These are hands down my son’s favorite Kale Chips!

Simply stem a bunch of clean kale.  Toss and massage the leaves with a little extra virgin olive oil and some Sweet and Spicy Cayenne Mix (depending on how big your bunch is 1 – 3 tsp of the mix – I use 1/4 tsp of cayenne in the mix for this recipe).  Dehydrate at 105F till dry.  Enjoy as is or cracked into pieces as a topping on any meal, like soups or quinoa.

On Being A Mama and The Power of Veggie Soup

11 Dec

As you have probably noticed, I’ve been on a writing break for over a month.  I have no better and simpler excuse than this: I have been focusing on being a Mama.  My son has needed me more these days and I have needed to be with him.

Homeschooling

We started Kindergarten homeschooling in the Fall.  I didn’t know homeschooling would be as much fun as it is and I didn’t know it would be so intense.  My son is truly engaged and I am relieved that my research on curriculum is paying off!  Every morning goes by so fast these days and the time shared with my son are too precious for me to miss or rush through.

Thought I’d share these drawings with you.

An Activity of What makes you: HAPPY (being with Mama and Daddy), SAD (being alone), SCARED (meeting a monster), SURPRISED (meeting a monster that sings "You ain't nothing but a hound dog!)"

My son intended to write "Paddington Bear, 1 Main Street"... but this is what he wrote instead.

Although my husband and I discuss the education aspect of homeschooling a lot, the food in schools is what really frightens me.  The conventional foods, the processed foods, the allergens abound, the unhealthy culture at school cafeterias.

Allergies

My family went on a few weeks holiday in the Fall to visit family.  That’s when I realized that this Mama In The Kitchen cannot really be on holiday.  My son has had an allergy for the past 2 months because I was not able to prepare his food diligently for 3 weeks.  I have been on a mission to clear his body of this powerful allergy.  We are drinking lots of raw green smoothies, eating raw salads and cooked veggie soups.

The Power of Cooked Veggie Soups

From a Mama’s point of view, there is no way I can compare the amount of cooked vegetables in soups my son will willingly eat versus raw ones without added oils or fruit sugars.  Cooked veggie soups win any day.  This is why I love making my son soups – but I make sure they are from foods that are as unprocessed as possible.  When my son doesn’t feel well, there is nothing more soothing to him than warm soup on a cold day (besides lots of freshly squeezed orange juice too).

Vegan Pottage with Whole Herbs

I vegan-ized a recipe from my son’s history book, which was taken from a 17th century English Housewife cookbook!

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour or more.

1/2 – 1 head of chopped cauliflower

1 chopped large sweet onion

1 1/2 c oat groats

2 big handfuls of chopped endive

2 big handfuls of chopped lettuce

2 big handful of chopped spinach

8 cups of water

Add apple cider vinegar (1 tbspn) and  sea salt (2 – 3 tsp), to taste.

I don’t know what’s more satisfying: a healthy history cooking project for homeschool or watching my son finish a wonderful amount of veggies for lunch.

Family Friendly High Raw Vegan Sample Menu: Week 3

30 Oct

When we go out to eat and/or travel and/or eat at other people’s houses, my boys eat what they want.  But they are still happy to maintain a Vegan kitchen here at home.  Here is our Family Friendly High Raw Vegan Sample Menu Week 3.  Enjoy!

Some Recipes for you:

Raw Drinks: smoothies, juices

Raw Breakfast: Oatmeal, Fruit Pudding (my favourite one is the Green Sundae!), Apple Almond Yoghurt

Raw Dishes: Asian Marinated Veggies, Carrot Salad, Kale Salad, your choice of other  Salads, half raw and half cooked Curry below under Carissa’s Cooked Vegan Recipes, Spinach Dip (add a handful or two of baby spinach leaves to Guacamole), Flax Crackers

Cooked Vegan Dishes: Lentil Burgers, Tofu Eggs, Banana Bread from How it all Vegan!, Mushroom, Kale and Potatoes from Forks Over Knives, Puy Lentils with Beets without the Feta, Hash Browns from Meatless Meals for Working People, Veggie Stew with Dumplings from Vegan Diner

Carissa’s Cooked Vegan Recipes:

Buckwheat Noodles: cook 1 # buckwheat noodles and serve with sauce (mix together 1 1/2 cup veggie broth, 5 tbspn Nama Shoyu (or soy sauce), 4 tbspn Sucanat (or your choice of sweetener), 1 tbspn mirin) and top with scallion and ginger.

Mushroom Chips: slice 2 # mushrooms, toss with olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic and 2 tsp sea salt, roast at 400-450F for about 15 – 20 minutes or until crispy.

Potato Cauliflower Curry: this is mostly RAW!  Simply top raw cauliflower bites and boiled (in salted water) chopped potatoes with my Curry in a Hurry sauce.  You can add mung sprouts if you wish.