Raw Vegan Cauliflower “Rice” Rainbow Salad with a Creamy Avocado Tahini Dressing

I think cauliflower may be one of the most versatile vegetables available to us. We always have at least one head of fresh organic head of cauliflower in our fridge and 2-3 bags of frozen. I use it for sushi “rice”, steamed and pureed like mashed potatoes, in pizza crusts, roasted, raw dipped in hummus, and it even makes a great binder in some desserts. It has a mild flavor which makes it easily adaptable to all kinds of recipes! This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower – raw, blended into “rice”. You can use it in burritos, salads, even fry it up in the skillet with some vegetables like fried rice. Today we’re going to keep it raw and throw in a ton of fresh raw vegetables to give it a great mix of flavor, then make a really creamy dressing to pair with it!
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Ingredients:

1 head of organic raw cauliflower
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1-2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 diced orange bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 chopped cucumber
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp sriracha
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt/cracked pepper to taste

Wash a dry your cauliflower, then chop and add to your food processor. Pulse until you have a fine rice consistency. Add all other ingredients and mix well. You can let it set in the fridge for a few hours if you want to let all the flavors combine – it’s better after it’s sat together.

Creamy Avocado Tahini Dressing:

1/2 ripe avocado
2 tbsp Vitacost tahini
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice (more or less depending on how thick you want it)
1/4 chopped cucumber
sea salt to taste (optional)

Blend well in a high speed blender. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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I prefer to mix this dressing into the salad and store it that way.
This is a great salad to store in a container and take to work or school if you are needing to pack a lunch.
It keep exceptionally well, and tastes even better the second a third day in the fridge!

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If you aren’t a fan of a particular ingredient I encourage you to experiment with flavors your do enjoy! These recipes are so easy to adapt, so please don’t ever feel like you must go 100% off someone else’s ingredient list.

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I hope you all have a great week!
xo Sarah

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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

Roasted Garlic & Smoked Paprika Okra

Any time I eat okra, I can’t help but think of my sweet Nana. I remember vividly as a child, watching her cook in her little kitchen – a small framed woman bursting with this warm gentle spirit. She made everything from scratch, and without measuring a single ingredient, her recipes came out perfect every time. A good motto for us in our kitchen is “WWND” (what would Nana do). She’s not with us anymore, but she is missed greatly by all the people she left behind here – that precious woman left her mark in many hearts.

One of my favorite things she use to make was her homemade crunchy fried okra. I can’t promise that her recipe was healthy, low fat, or low calorie – but it was delicious. Like, eat 3 plates full and crawl to the living room for a 5 hour nap/coma kind of delicious. My diet has evolved pretty drastically over the years, but my love for okra stays the same. My recipe is different though – I bake instead of fry, and use fresh seasonings instead of breading. It brings out the true taste of the vegetable that I love so much, and allows me to still enjoy a meal that brings back such sweet memories.

Take a bowl full of fresh okra and cut into large piece

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Add 2-3 tbsp vegetable broth to coat, so the seasoning sticks.

Sprinkle of garlic powder, smoked paprika, and natural pink salt.

Bake on non-stick foil at 375F for 40-45 minutes, flipping halfway through.

 

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Easy as that – delicious, oil-free, baked seasoned okra. I hope you enjoy, friends!

 

Have a beautiful day!

xo Sarah

Raw Vegan Mini Snickers “Cheesecake” Two Ways || Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free

 

When it comes to quenching my husbands insatiable sweet tooth, I find the challenge intriguing. It never fails – around 8:00 pm he wanders into the kitchen and opens the pantry, giving it the “maybe if I glare at you long enough you’ll produce something sweet and delicious” stare.  I like to have some type of vegan treat made up for those moments, so he has a healthier option to go to than the typical desserts we both grew up eating.

Needless to say, when he found out there were snickers cheesecakes in the freezer he didn’t wait until 8:00 that night to eat them! I believe the term is “wolfed them down”. These were so fun to create, and the different variations you can make with this simple recipe are endless. So, let’s get started..
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Ingredients:

Crust:
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
4 large pitted/soaked medjool dates
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp gluten free oat flour
1 tbsp mini cacao nibs

Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake mix:
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp agave
1/4 cup raw peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla
palm full of raw peanuts

Chocolate PB Snickers Cheesecake mix:
Same ingredients as above, add 1-2 tbsp raw cacao.

Instructions:

For the crust – In food processor, process first 4 ingredients then stir in cacao nibs.

Sprinkle oat flour in the bottom of each mini cheesecake dish or one small/medium size dish (this helps it to not stick to the bottom).
Press the crust into each tin and set aside.

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Next, blend all PB Cheesecake ingredients (minus the raw peanuts) – add raw peanuts nuts over the crust and pour PB cheesecake mixture in two ramekins.

Use the left over mixture and add 1-2 tbsp raw cacao to it – blend and add to last ramekin.

Put each cake into the freezer for 3-4 hours.

 

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Once frozen, pop out of the ramekins and let set for 1-3 minutes to soften before eating.

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And there you have it folks, creamy dreamy deliciousness.

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I hope your Wednesday is beautiful!

xo Sarah

Vegan Cinnamon Berry Fig Bars | Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fat-Free, Dairy-Free

Well friends, it is officially the first day of fall. I am so looking forward to all the things this season brings – chunky knit sweaters, homemade soups, cool evenings at the park, orange colored trees, and baking like it’s my job. This is such a comforting time of year. I wanted to kick it off with a new recipe, so I got my little 3 year old sidekick in the kitchen and we came up with these – cinnamon berry fig bars. The perfect “first day of Autumn” breakfast.

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Ingredients:

3 ripe organic bananas
1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cup organic gluten-free oats
1/4 tsp natural salt
1 tsp organic baking powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup mixed frozen berries
2-3 figs

To a large bowl, add:

3 ripe organic bananas
1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cup organic gluten-free oats
1/4 tsp natural salt
1 tsp organic baking powder

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Pour into bowl and mash all together. Add 1 tbsp ground cinnamon.

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Mix well. Spoon half the oat mixture onto parchment paper and spread into desired shape.

Next, to your food processor add:

1 cup blended frozen berries (I used pomegranate, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
2/3 figs (fresh or dried)
Blend on high until all if combined and easily spread.

Spoon your berry mixture in top and spread evenly.IMG_5904.PNG

Add the rest of your oat mixture in top and spread to cover the berry layer. Bake at 375F for 30-35 mins or until firm in top.

Let cool and then cut and serve!

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Hope you all enjoy them as much as we did this morning. Happy fall to each of you – from my little one and me!

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xo Sarah

The Perfect Oil-Free Baked Potato Wedges with Vegan Sriracha Cashew Cream Sauce

My goodness, is there anything more satisfying to the soul than warm carbs? A big plate of fresh baked wedges, my cozy bed, and a really good book (deep sigh..) – now, I know the typical french fry is seen as one of those foods we dare not eat unless we want it stuck to our thighs, but that isn’t even close to what the real thing is. I’m talking slightly crispy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside, bursting with natural flavor – void of the excess chemicals and oils that our friendly fast food chains love to coat on. These are the kind of complex carbs our bodies thrive on!

Carbohydrates get a bad rap here in the US. I am constantly hearing about the fad “low-carb diets” that allow you to drop weight quickly – but there is nothing about these fad diets that will sustain a healthy lifestyle or a healthy weight in the long run. Our bodies need these complex carbs – GOOD carbs, to live an active life! So don’t quit the carbs, quit the chemicals. Quit the processed “foods” that are literally created in labs, and start indulging in more fuel from the earth. Your body will thank you for it, I promise.

 

The Perfect Baked Wedges with Sriracha Cashew Cream Sauce| southernblondevegan.com

Baked Oil-Free Wedges:

Simply wash and peel 1 sweet potato, and 1 regular potato.
Cut into wedges and dump in a large bowl.
Pour enough vegetable broth over the fries to evenly coat.
Season with garlic powder and my favorite pink natural salt (pictured below) – bake at 375F for 45 minutes on non-stick foil, flipping halfway through.

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Let them crisp up for 3-4 minutes on the sheet after you take them out.

Sriracha Cashew Cream Sauce:

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1/2 cup soaked (overnight) cashews
1 tbsp Sriracha (more if you like more heat!)
1/4 cup unsweetened original almond milk
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp pink natural salt

Blend on high in your food processor until creamy. Enjoy friends!

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I also recently did an interview with a herohealthroom.com – (Interview with Sarah Argo of SouthernBlondeVegan.com)-  about some of my personal reasons behind a vegan diet, raising my toddler vegan, and advice I would give to anyone interested in making the transition. Definitely check out this website for great healthy inspiration!

 

I hope your week is lovely. Life is good today.

xo Sarah

 

 

 

Homemade Marbled Vegan Chocolate Espresso/Cinnamon Vanilla Creme Banana Bread

The smell of banana bread filling my little house, permeating every corner is enough to ensure a good day ahead. There is something so comforting about baking to me – just getting in the kitchen and experimenting with all my favorite flavors and textures until I come up with something new. A new recipe to add to the book I plan to hand down to my daughter, that she can add to, and one day and hand down to her babies. Getting in the kitchen with her and watching her little hands as they carefully add in the flour, try to peel the bananas, and attempt to spoon in the cacao powder (which spills out just a bit, every time) – just does things to my mamma heart. Life is about these little moments. These sweet little moments, that create richness and a calm to these crazy lives we lead.

So here is our creation of the day. Our hands got messy, our counters got dirty, and our tummies got full. That is a successful Sunday morning my friends.

Homemade Marbled Vegan Chocolate Espresso/Cinnamon Vanilla Creme Banana Bread

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Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (can sub for gluten free flour if you need to!)
4 super ripe bananas
3 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp pure raw maple (can use raw agave if you prefer)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cacao
1tbsp strong brewed coffee
1 squirt vanilla Creme Stevia
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

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Instructions:

Blend together first 6 ingredients and divide in half. To one half – add cacao and strong brewed coffee and blend. To the other half, add vanilla creme and cinnamon and blend. Add chocolate espresso mixture to oiled bread pan, then add cinnamon vanilla creme mixture on top and swirl together. Bake at 350F for 40 mins. Serve warm.

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I hope your Sunday is sweet – full of delicious little moments to calm the busy in your life.

All the love,
xo Sarah

Creamy Cinnamon Oats with Fresh Figs, Sliced Bananas, and Raw Vegan Coconut Brownie Bites

The cool breeze in the air today is whispering reminders that fall is near. Of all the seasons, fall is the one I savor most. It brings with it endless little pleasures! Nothing is more cozy on a fall morning than warm, thick, creamy oats. It’s the perfect day starter! Add in an over sized throw blanket with cuddles from my little girl and you have officially painted the picture of my perfect morning.

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Creamy Cinnamon Oats:
Add 1/2 cup organic old fashioned oats and1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk to a microwave safe bowl.
Microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes – let set for 2 minutes.
Stir in 1 tbsp organic ground cinnamon and 2 packets of raw Stevia.

Raw Vegan Coconut Brownie Bites:
Blend 4 pitted Medjool dates, 1/2 cup raw almonds, 2 tsp melted cocout oil, 2 tbsp shredded coconut,
and 1 tbsp raw cacao in your food processor. Pour into small mold and freeze for 2 hours.
Remove from freezer and cut into chunks.

Add all together and enjoy!

Today also marks the anniversary of a very painful day for us in the United States. My heart is heavy for those who were effected by the terrorist attacks on 9/11 but my heart is also hopeful, having seen this country pick itself back up from that day. My prayers are with those who may have lost loved ones – I long for a world where people love and respect every living being and their right to life.

All the love,
xo Sarah