Raw Almond Milk with Fruit & Nut Bars

I have tried many non-dairy milks over the years and found very few that meet all my overly-informed food phobia requirements, (organic, non-GMO, soy-free, etc). I wanted to reduce my intake of soy products since being a vegetarian often lends itself to an abundance of tofu, veggie meats, milks and products that contain soy protein/lecithin. The last two are commonly used as thickeners for products like ice cream and non-dairy cheese. But my latest aversion- wanting to avoid carrageenan- has left me with a surprisingly limited selection.

non dairy milk

I found that carrageenan, a common seaweed/algae-based thickener, can cause inflammation in the stomach and bowel. While non-toxic outside of the body once the chemical process of digestion begins it can cause upset in many sensitive people. I used to wonder why I would experience a mild irritation in my stomach after having cereal or oatmeal with store bought almond or coconut milk and after some research, began to suspect carrageenan. So whats a veg foodie to do? Make my own! I also found a way to use the pulp left over which was another reason I had avoided the process of home-made milk before. Hope you enjoy these recipes!

Raw Almond Milk
1 cup organic raw almonds
4 cups water
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tbs honey or agave (optional)

1. Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and puree.
2. Pour almond milk through strainer into a sealable jar.
3. Save almond pulp for fruit and nut bars!
(See recipe below) Will keep for 3-4 days.

Fruit & Nut Bars
8-10 pitted dates (soaked in warm water)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut
left over almond pulp
Option: add chia seeds!

1. Soak dates in hot water for 10-15 min
2. Puree dates with some of the water in a food processor until a paste forms.
3. scrape into bowl (rubber spatulas work great!) and add nuts, seeds, almond pulp and shredded coconut if using and mix well. *you can even spice these up with cardamom, cinnamon or cayenne).
4. Spread mixture about a quarter-inch thick square over parchment paper or dehydrator sheet cover and rack.
5. Dehydrate on medium setting for 4-6 hours until mixture begins to bind and harden*
6. Cut into bars and store in airtight container. You can separate bars with pieces of cut parchment or wax paper to reduce sticking. ?
7. Enjoy as a protein packed breakfast or snack!
* If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake these at low temperature in the oven for a few hours.

thai coconutOption: You can also use the water and meat of a young coconut to make a larger batch of almond milk. Or make a batch of almond milk and bars at the beginning of the week and then when you run out make raw coconut milk using just the coconut water and meat as there is no pulp to waste. You can add some filtered water to make a larger batch of coconut milk, making it as thick or thin as you like.

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A Cruelty-Free Holiday Feast


Nut Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
2 tbs vegan butter (such as organic Earth Balance) or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp saltmushrooms
1 tbs chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup chopped pine nuts
(or raw cashews)
1/2 cup flax “egg”*
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
4 portobello mushrooms stems removed

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt vegan butter or olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in sage and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. In a large bowl, combine nuts, onion, flax, 1/2 nutritional yeast. Divide stuffing among mushroom caps, and bake until tender when pierced with a fork and tops are browning, about 30 minutes.

Stuffing can also be used for stuffing squash, such as acorn, delicata, butternut or as an appetizer using small button mushrooms or baby bellas!

*How to make flax egg: add two tbs flax seeds to half cup of water in sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for a few min and pour through strainer into a bowl. As it cools it will create an egg-white consistency that’s perfect for vegan baking as a binding agent.

Salad with Roasted Fennel, Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

1 bag organic mixed greens
2 fennel bulbs
1/4 cup pepitas (pumkin seeds)
1/2 cup cranberries
olive oil
sprinkle of rosemary
dash of salt

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup braggs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs agave
1 tsp dill

1. Trim stalks of fennel bulbs and slice lengthwise into 4 quarters then half those. In a bowl toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and rosemary. and bake at 350 for 20-25min.
2. I’m a fan of less dishes so you can use the same bowl you tossed the fennel in. Add arugula, cranberries, pumkin seeds and roasted fennel (after baking).
3. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with lid and shake well. Toss salad with dressing just before serving.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Garlic Mashed Potatoes (4-6 servings)
8-10 medium red potatoes washedmashed_potatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bulb roasted garlic
(or crushed sauteed garlic)
1-2 tbs vegan butter (optional)
handful of chopped chives
salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in large pot until easily poked with fork. about 20 min. To speed up cooking time you can cut potatoes into smaller pieces. Drain and mash well. Add veggie broth, vegan butter and roasted or crushed sautéed garlic. Stir in chives and sprinkle on top just before serving.

Vegan Gravy

1/2 cup non-gmo vegetable oil or safflower oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 slices of brown or yellow onion chopped
4 tsp nutritional yeast
3 tbs organic soy saucevegan_gravy
2 cups water or broth
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup white flour
5 -6 white mushrooms chopped

1. Pour the oil in a saucepan and heat.
2. Add garlic onions and mushrooms and saute 5 minutes.
3. Add the flour, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce, stirring constantly until it makes a thick sauce.
4. Gradually stir in the water or broth and add spices.
5. Serve hot over mashed taters!

Green Beans with Lemon and Dill

1 lb  green beansggreen_beans
squeeze lemon juice
handful fresh chopped dill
drizzle of olive oil (optional)
Salt to taste
Capers (optional)

Remove stems from green beans. Steam for 5-10 min or until crisp tender. In a serving dish toss beans in lemon juice, salt, dill and olive oil and capers (if using).
Garnish with lemon slices.

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Banana Flax Walnut Pancakes

1 1/2 cup organic whole wheat all purpose flour
(for gluten free try Bobs Red Mill Gluten-Free all purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
1 tablespoon of flax oil
1 1/2 cup organic almond milk
1 large banana smooshed
2 tbs ground flax seeds (you can put whole seeds in food processor)
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil for pan
chopped walnuts and sliced banana for topping

1. Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl
2. Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl
3. Combine wet and dry and mix well with a wisk
4. Heat oil in a skillet and pour batter into pan to make 3-4in pancakes. When bubbles start to show through or when the bottoms are brown its time to flip.
5. Top with chopped walnuts, banana and maple syrup!

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Vegan Sushi

1 cup organic sushi rice
1 1/4 cup water
1 tsp organic rice vinegar

Organic nori sheets
sesame seeds

Vegan Tuna
1 can garbanzo beans
1 tbs Vegenaise
1 tbs lemon juice
pinch sea salt
1 clove minced garlic
handful chopped cilantro

For a spicy tuna roll add some Japanese hot sauce. For rice bring water and rice to a boil then simmer for 10-15 min until water is evaporated. Sushi rice cooks quickly and uses less water than the traditional 2-1 ratio for most grains. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger and some organic green tea for an authentic sushi experience. Enjoy!

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Summer Grillin’ & Chillin’

This is really simple summer meal, and other than cooking the quinoa, you will spend very little time over that hot stove. You can prep and marinade your veggies and tofu the day ahead or a few hours before hand so when you fire up the grill they’ll be ready to go. Goes great with some quinoa and avocado cucumber salad (see below).

Grilled Kebabskabobs
sweet onion (brown or yellow)
organic firm tofu
bell pepper (optional)
pineapple is also tasty!

2-3 tbs liquid coconut aminos, Braggs aminos or tamari sauce
2-3 tbs olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
handful of chopped parsley or cilantro
1-2 cloves minced garlic

Drain and press tofu (place in a dish with a pan or another dish on top to weigh it down and get out excess liquid). Then pat dry with towel and cut into cubes. Slice zucchini into 1/2 in rounds, you can cut the rounds in half if you have a big squash. Same goes for mushrooms you can put them on whole depending on the size or cut in half. Slice onion into quarters. Place all veggies in a bowl or large zip baggie. Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over veggies, toss to coat and let soak in the yummy sauce over night or at least an hour before serving. Sometimes its good to put tofu in separate bowl or bag so it doesn’t get crushed by other veggies and fall apart. Place veggies and tofu on kebab skewers and grill 10-15 min on each side until zucchini is tender. You can also brush extra marinade on kebabs as they cook.

Cumin Spiced Quinoa Tabouliquinoa_tabouli
1 cup quinoa
2 cups salted water or veggie broth
1/2 tsp cumin
handful of chopped herbs
(parsley, cilantro or mint)
1-2 diced tomatoes
squeeze of lemon juice

Cook quinoa according to package directions or if bought in bulk add quinoa, liquid, salt, cumin and bring to a boil in medium pot then allow to simmer for 10-15 min until tender. Pour into bowl and allow to cool for a few min stirring to let out excess steam. Add chopped herbs, tomato and lemon juice.

Avocado Cucumber Saladsalad
salad greens
1 avocado
shredded or peeled carrot ribbons
1 Persian cucumber sliced
sliced olives (optional)
handful of pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup Vegenaise or Tahini Sauce
water to thin
sprinkle of fresh or dried dill

Chop salad greens, add avocado, carrot, cucumber and top with olives (if using) and pumpkin seeds. Serve with kabobs and quinoa tabouli. Enjoy!


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Vegan Eats in Newport Beach

avantiOn my quest to find a new car I ended up in Newport Beach (my birthplace!). After a long hot drive down from Ventura in a car with no AC, I was in need of some hydration and sustenance. My dear friend Stephanie who joined me on my journey, searched HappyCow.net for close by veg-friendly restaurants in the area. We decided to check out Avanti Cafe only a few short blocks away and settled in for a unique dinning experience.

We were surprised to discover this quaint little place, nestled in a typical strip mall surrounded by corporate chains and more pavement than I would reccomend for human health. The menu offered some tasty sounding options; many of them vegan or could easily be veganized (I love that word). After downing some water and ordering a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio we decided on the spring greens salad with poached pears and carmelized walnuts. It was nice to find a non-dairy version of this salad without having to ask the server to take away half the toppings and the dressing. The pears were tender and sweet, the nuts were flavorful and crunchy, the greens were fresh and the dressing was perfectly tangy.

pizza_picWe also ordered the shiitake mushroom-  arugula-sweet potato pizza. I was a little disappointed that the pizza had a shiitake mushroom “sauce” and not actual mushrooms on it, but the unique shape and the delicious pairing of the sweet potato and spicy, slightly bitter arugula was a hit. Topped with warm roasted nuts it was definitely the most creative pizza I’ve had. The beautiful ceramic plates added an artistic touch. We had a yummy raw chocolate mousse for dessert that was rich and not overly sweet. All in all it was a fun experience, I got a new car and enjoyed a delicious celebratory meal with my friend. Next time I’m down in Newport I will definitely check out Avanti again.

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Simple Garden Joys

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gardenI recently had the pleasure of house-sitting for a friend who has a beautiful garden. My years of apartment living has left me with a serious dirt deficiency so I was excited to be taking care of her veggies while she was away. Personally I like the “food not lawns” concept. Imagine how much arable land would be available if more folks tore out all that grass and started sproutin’ seeds! There wouldn’t be a need for so much produce to be shipped all the way from South America and visa versa when it could easily be grown right here. That my friends is precisely the reason that there are forces against it.

zucchiniSo much of our economy is based on profitability and not sustainability. We could easily feed our whole county with all the amazing soil and sunshine we have. Wouldn’t it be great if your neighborhood was like a big community garden? People could trade or specialize in a particular veggie or fruit tree or both! Need a lemon or some herbs for dinner? no problem! you don’t even need to get in your car and drive to the store.

There is something so simple and beautiful about picking something off a tree or vine or digging it out of the ground and eating it. That life-giving energy exchange we share when we tend and care for plants who onionin turn reward us with their editable bounty is so amazing. I had so much fun finding little brightly colored treasures hiding in the foliage. I also got to dig for potatoes (a first for me!) that I made into a yummy potato salad with dill one warm summer night. Although I’m not an Aquarius I fell naturally into my role as water bearer, bringing precious moisture to my thirsty friends. The bees, I’m sure would have preferred me not spray the lavender bushes until they had all gone home for the day.

yellow_squashOne afternoon I discovered some fava beans that were ready to eat, a perfect yellow crook-neck squash along with some kale and a nice red onion. I cooked up some millet (another ancient grain similar to quinoa and amaranth) and made a lovely plate of sautéed veggies topped with slices of heirloom tomatoes and parsley.

At night I could hear the crickets (and the Harley’s ~ we’re still in Downtown Ventura here folks). In the morning I will pick some blackberries and hang out with butterflies. Can’t wait to have my own garden so I can give beanssome more love back to mother earth. I am in awe of her beauty and in gratitude for how much she endlessly provides for us.

Garden Medley with Millet
1 yellow crook neck squash
handful of fava beans pods removed (4-5 pods)
1 quarter red onion sliced
handful chopped parsley
2 handfuls of chopped kale or greens
1/2 tbs coconut oil
pinch of cardamom
spritz of coconut or braggs aminos
1 cup millet or your favorite grain
2 cups veggie broth (optional for cooking grains) or water

garden_medlyCook grains according to package directions, which is usually 1 part grain to 2 part liquid. Wash your veggies (preferably in filtered water). Slice yellow squash down the middle and then into slices. Remove beans from pods and slice onions. In a medium pan add a little water and cook/steam squash and beans until slightly tender then drain water and set aside.

Wipe out pan with towel and an add coconut oil and saute onion for 3-5 min. Add squash, beans, chopped kale and cardamom. Cover and cook until greens are slightly wilted. Add liquid aminos or salt to taste. Top with chopped parsley and fresh tomato, Enjoy!

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