Vegan Chocolate Chip Maple PB Swirl Brownies – So long 2014!!

Wow, I cannot believe it is the last day of the year! 2014 has brought so many unexpected blessings to my family. I cannot even begin to thank God enough for how faithful He is, and all of the beauty He continues to weave through my life. I was able to spend another year watching my daughter grow into a happy, healthy, friendly, sassy, kind-hearted, compassionate, joyful little human. I fell even more in love with my precious husband, who continues to grow into a man of deep rooted integrity. I have never felt love like I do from that man. I have had the pure joy of connecting with countless of you incredible people from all around the world who share similar passions and outlooks on life and the way we live it, gaining so much inspiration from each one of you. I am excited and optimistic about whatever God wills for my life in this new year! I think the best two words to sum up how I feel about 2015 are OPEN and GRATEFUL – I am 100% open to whatever adventures God brings our way and 100% grateful for both the good and bad times to come.

 

This morning I got in my kitchen and decided to whip up a delicious treat for New Years Eve tonight. The ingredients are simple and wholesome! I chose to omit the use of oil to keep it lower in fat, but kept it FULL of delicious rich flavor.

 

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The texture is fudgey and creamy (my two favorites!).
These are best made a few hours before serving, and honestly I like them even better the next day!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup Vitacost gluten free multi-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup fine oat flour
1/2 cup raw cacao or cocoa powder
1 tbsp dark roast ground coffee
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 packed cup soaked pitted medjool dates
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup raw PB + 3 tbsp for swirling on top
1 1/4 cup almond milk
3/4 cup Vitacost coconut sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 tbsp pure maple + 3 tbsp for swirling
1/4 cup Vitacost cacao nibs

(Note: these can be made gluten-free easily, just use gluten free oat flour!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine first 6 ingredients in food processor and blend well. Dump into a separate bowl.

Add the next 6 ingredients (minus cacao nibs and the 3 tbsp PB and 3 tbsp maple for swirling) – blend well. Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Line your pan with parchment paper and pour it in/spread it. Mix your remaining PB and maple and spoon in top, then swirl with a butter knife. Sprinkle on cacao nibs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. I like them best after they have cooled in the fridge!

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I sincerely hope your year has been BLESSED, and I pray that 2015 is a year of great things for you! Please know, if you’re reading this, I am grateful for you. God bless you guys!

xo Sarah

Vegan Gluten-Free Southwestern Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas

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Holy guacamole. I think quesadillas should have their own food group. Since going plant-based vegan a few years ago this is the first time I’ve recreated them in a healthy animal-free way, and I have NO CLUE what took me so long! These are wholesome, filling, guilt-free, low-fat, PACKED with nutrients (sweet potatoes are one of the best foods you can possibly eat), and even better than I remember them being in restaurants. I will also add  my really simple guacamole recipe, because it should be smothered on most everything – especially these!

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Ingredients:

1 Food for Life Gluten Free Brown Rice Tortilla
1/2 mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup slow cooked black beans
1/2 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp minced onion
1/4 diced seeded jalapeno (more of less depending on how hot you like it)
1 diced Roma tomato
1 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a skillet, cook minced garlic and onion on low for 3-5 minutes, then add black beans and cumin powder. Cook until beans are heated through. Skin your steamed sweet potato and mash half, then stir in your black beans, and all the other ingredients. Spread the mixture on half of your tortilla then fold over the other half and bake for 8-10 minutes on each side. Serve with a big scoop of guacomole and fresh pico de gallo.

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Creamy Guacomole:

1 ripe avocado
1 tbsp diced seeded jalapeno
2 tbsp diced cheery tomatoes
1 tbsp diced sweet onion
1 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
cracked pepper/sea salt to taste

Combine all and mash until you get your desired consistency.
I like mine very creamy and easily spreadable, so I add a bit more lime juice as I go to get a creamier texture. Do what you like!
This makes a small batch – double or triple to make more at once. It keeps well sealed in the fridge.

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I always have some pre-made to spread on toast, salads, fresh vegetables, or whatever else is laying around! Avocados are such an excellent source of healthy fats and this delicious side dish is full of great vitamins and nutrients for your body.

 

If there are any of your favorite dishes you’d like to see “veganized” please comment them below! I always love a good challenge. Have a great week everyone!
xo Sarah

Going Vegan in 2015 – Tips and Tricks to starting a Plant-Based Diet

Hello all!

The year of 2014 is coming to a quick close, and it has been a great one! One of the most wonderful things about this year for me has been all of the incredible people I have met through this blog and through the social media platforms I use to promote a cruelty-free life. I can’t even begin to count how many of you I’ve emailed with who had an interest in going vegan and changing your lives. I feel beyond humbled to be part of each journey!

I have seen many people show interest in going vegan in the new year, so I wanted to do a post on how to get started and my best tips for success in this lifestyle!

1. Abundance. What do I mean by this? It’s actually really simple – while there are hundreds of delicious fun plant-based foods you can eat and recipes to try, the basics of eating a vegan diet are really simple. FILL your home with an ABUNDANCE of FRESH foods! Do 90% of your shopping in the produce section of your store, and leave the other 10% for whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. If a product contains an ingredient your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize, do not eat it or buy it. Pack your refrigerator and pantry full of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. These are the ultimate fast food! When you’re hungry and craving something sweet, grab a banana, a couple of dates, an apple, some grapes, make a smoothie, or a “nicecream“ (blended frozen bananas). If you’re craving something savory, roast some vegetables/potatoes and throw them on the biggest bowl full of greens you can find, make a veggie burger, make a veggie sandwich on Ezekiel bread, or a massize bowl of zoodles (zucchini noodles) with a plant-based sauce – all of these are super filling and satisfying meals. These are just a few examples of meals we eat constantly! EAT a LOT. Do not ever limit your fruit or vegetable intake. Counting calories is a thing of the past for you. You are counting nutrients now!

2. Educate yourself. The best way to insure success and longevity in this lifestyle is to be fully informed of the reasons why it is so important for each person, our planet, and the creatures we share it with. Veganism is best for our health, the health of the world our children inherit, and the health of the animals we co-exist with. Read books (“The China Study” by Dr. T Colin Campbell, “Whole” by Dr. T Colin Campbell, “801010” by Dr. Douglas Graham), watch documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Vegucated, Cowspiracy), and follow vegan blogs with great tips and recipes (ohsheglows.com, delciouslyella.com, minimalistbaker.com, mywholefoodlife.com, rawsomeveganlife.com).

3. Give yourself grace. This is not a simple transition when you’ve been eating a certain way your whole life. What I can tell you is, it gets easier and easier the longer you do it. I know it seems as though it would be the opposite but it’s not. You will probably feel a little like death for the first few weeks. Your body has MANY chemicals and toxins it will be detoxing from, and it will suck. You will crave sugars, fats, and processed foods like drugs – because they act like drugs to the brain. It’s scientifically proven, refined sugars have the same effect as crack on your brain. IT WILL SUCK. But push through and don’t be too hard on yourself for struggling, it’s inevitable. When you push past the first month, you are in the clear. It only gets easier from there! Your body will begin to crave things like kale, spinach, broccoli, fresh fruits, omega-3’s, and whole grains. You will begin to feel better than ever!

4. Eat out smart. You do not have to confine yourself to your home to eat! Most restaurants have vegan options or are happy to accommodate you, just ASK. Google is your friend! Research a restaurant before going there to plan out what options are available. You do not always have to stick with a simple “garden salad”, how boring is that for every meal? If there are no good vegan options readily available for you somewhere, get creative with menu options and transform a dish by taking away/adding certain ingredients. You will be surprised just how helpful most places are! With all of this being said, I DO recommend most meals be cooked yourself. It’s just better to know where your food is coming from, how it’s being prepared, and what is going into the process. We have become so accustomed to other people making our food for us, we need to take that responsibility back for ourselves and take charge of the fuel we put in our bodies.

5. Invite others on your journey, but never push them. I can say without a doubt, this is an easier transition to make with a loved one! It’s so wonderful to have a partner to hold each other accountable and share your highs and lows with. If you can find that, great! If you can’t, never try to force someone to do this if they aren’t ready. This is not simply a “diet” to lose weight , it is a whole life change. You can be a great example to another person just by living your life and allowing them to see what a positive impact this has on you. Eventually, they may desire it for themselves when they’re ready!

6. Blenders are your friend. I use my blender and food processor constantly. I make soups, desserts, sauces, smoothies, juices, crackers, crusts, breads, and just about everything else you can imagine with these two tools. They make a plant-based diet much more enjoyable! You don’t need a ton of fancy tools, but I do absolutely recommend a great high speed blender and a good food processor.

7. Quit the artificial sugars – NOW. No more splenda, sweet & low, or anything next to them on the shelf. These are cancer causing chemicals that are highly addictive and very dangerous to our bodies. The sweetener I suggest, aside from pure maple and natural fruits, is stevia. It’s made from a plant and actually tastes much better than the alternatives! Liquid stevia may cost a bit more, but if you need to sweeten teas, dessert, lemonade, or smoothies this is the best way hands down. They come in all kinds of flavors (vanilla crème and English toffee are my favorites!). No more carbonated drinks and sugary sodas. Just quit them, cold turkey, and never look back. It is NOT too late to take control of your health.

8. Try new things! There are SO many times on my journey where I would ask my husband to try one of my vegan creations and he would do the Jimmy Fallon “EW” before even tasting it. I would then plead with him to be open minded, and after tasting them, he would be shocked! There are so many incredible foods we are so unaccustomed to seeing in our McDonalds/Taco Bell infested society. Be open to trying new plant-foods and cooking them in different ways to find out what you prefer. Experimenting is your friend. Take a recipe from someone and make it your own based on what YOU like!

9. Be patient with others ridicule. You will be very surprised at how many people will criticize you for your decision. THIS IS OKAY. Most people would be less concerned with you eating a big mac than eating 5 bananas in one sitting. “Don’t bananas have a lot of sugar? Ew.” We as a culture are very confused with food. You will be asked about your protein, daily. Here is a really simple response – all food has protein, and with a well balanced vegan diet you can easily exceed the amount of protein needed to thrive. Have you ever actually met someone with a protein deficiency? I have been vegan for 3 years now, and after getting my blood tested my protein levels were way above what was considered “acceptable”. This is from plant foods only! You will have many people tell you you’re being “irresponsible” with your health by going vegan. This is simply so twisted. This is always why my #2 tip is so important – be INFORMED so you know how to answer the criticism.

10. Do not quit on yourself. This is the rest of your life here. If you drop your phone and it gets a tiny crack do you proceed to chunk it at the wall until it breaks into 1,000 pieces? No. So if you fall off track and make one mistake do not sabotage the rest of your life due to one mess up. There are so many important reasons to commit to a vegan lifestyle, and the more you research the more you’ll learn them in detail, so keep those at the front of your mind and keep pushing forward. Do not quit on your health, you are worth the struggle it takes to get where you want to be.

I hope some of these can help you on your journey forward! As always, if any of you has any questions ask away. I certainly do not claim to have all the answers but I’m here to help any way I can!

I hope you make 2015 the best year of your life!
Xo Sarah

Vegan Butternut Barley Risotto || Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Fat-Free, Oil-Free, Vegan

One grain I don’t see used too often is barley. I think it’s one of my very favorites and it’s really so easy to make. You can use barley in soups, salads, in place of rice or meat in just about any dish, or just by itself it is so nutty and delicious! Barley is high in fiber, and has been proven to help prevent type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and gallstones. It’s among the list of the world’s healthiest foods.

I came up with this recipe the other day playing around with a few of my favorite vegetables and flavors, creating a super creamy, savory, satisfying sauce to coat my cooked barley creating a “risotto”.

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Ingredients:

1 cup hulled barley
3 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1/4 cup steamed butternut squash
4-5 steamed baby carrots
1/4 cup drained rinsed chickpeas
3-4 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1 clove mined garlic
1-2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup chopped steamed broccoli
parsley flakes (optional)

Instructions:

To cook your hulled barley, add 3 cups of stock to 1 cup barley in a large pot with a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling stir well and turn the heat down to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and cover for 10 minutes, then “fluff” well.

To make your sauce, add all ingredients to your high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour sauce over your barley and stir well.

Add in your chopped broccoli and mix well. Salt and pepper as desired!

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I also added parsley flakes on top. It would be great with fresh parsley mixed in! My husband enjoyed this so much, I think it will now be part of our Christmas meal.

I hope you all are able to enjoy this week and the holidays with the ones you love! I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

xo Sarah

Raw Vegan Coconut “Snickers” || Refined Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

There is something about this time of year that makes me want to hibernate in my kitchen and whip up a storm of vegan treats! One of my favorite things in the world is creating something new and delicious with my little girl, and being able to teach her about the beauty of real foods and the transformation they can take when manipulated the right way. Cooking is an art, and I hope to pass that passion on to my daughter!

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Yesterday we came up with our own healthy vegan version of one of my husband’s all-time favorite candy bars – Snickers. The minute a Snickers hits your mouth you can no doubt identify it! Melting chocolate, gooey creamy caramel, crunchy peanuts.. what’s not to love?! Oh yeah, the fact that they’re packed full of unhealthy fats, added sugars, harmful chemicals, and unnatural preservative. But there is a way to still enjoy this classic “junk food” in a way that won’t sacrifice your health or your waist line!

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Ingredients:
ALL ingredients used (aside from the dates and almond milk) are from Vitacost – I love their brand, and they ship straight to your home for a low cost. If you have trouble finding any of these ingredients I highly suggest ordering online from them!
For the chocolate –
1/4 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil
2-3 tbsp raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder (depending on how much of a “dark chocolate” flavor you like)
2 squirts of vanilla creme stevia

Melt the coconut oil and stir in the rest. Pour into small round containers and pop in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until solid.

Caramel –
10 large pitted medjool dates
1/3 cup raw almond milk
2 squirts of vanilla creme stevia or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla

Soak your dates in the almond milk/vanilla blend for 20 minutes and then blend in your food processor until completely smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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(This caramel is awesome for dipping, spreading, or drizzling on desserts!)

Mix a spoonful of your caramel with raw peanuts and add a dollop on top of each chocolate. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and enjoy!

These are 100% husband approved, which is not always an easy task! He has a very picky sweet tooth, and absolutely loves these little mounds of gold.

Today Maizy and I decided to use the leftovers to make “coconut snicker sandwiches” – they were a little bit incredible. Okay, maybe a lot a bit incredible.

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I hope you all try and enjoy!!
xo Sarah