Vegan Zuppa Toscana soup (inspired by Olive Garden)

photo 1Snow in College Station means only one thing in my mind (besides making snow angels, of course)… an excuse to stay inside and create something warm and delicious! The famous, creamy Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana soup was always one of my favorites when I was younger. I have never been too much of an Italian foods fan, but that all changes when this soup comes into the picture.

I believe this low-calorie, vegan recipe gives the classic Olive Garden recipe a run for its money. What’s the secret, you ask? The golden potatoes! Although Olive Garden’s original restaurant recipe calls for Russet potatoes, the golden potatoes have a natural buttery flavor. This vegetable is great for vegans who find it hard to add that “thick and creamy” taste to recipes without the addition of animal products. But, don’t just take my word for it… try out this mouth-watering recipe yourself!

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Ingredients (yields 10 cups at 148 cals/cup)

  • 12 oz. veggie “sausage”
  • 48 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1 large purple onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 5 golden potatoes (The original restaurant recipe actually calls for Russet potatoes, but the golden potatoes have a natural buttery flavor, which is great for vegans!)
  • 1/4 cup veggie “bacon” bits (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 5 cups kale (5 stalks)
  • 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

Begin by cooking your veggie “sausage” as stated on the label. I sautéed my “sausage” in a skillet on high for about 5 minutes.
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Next, using a knife or food processor, dice the onion and garlic.

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Chop the potatoes into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces.
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Combine the “sausage,” onion, garlic, potatoes and vegetable broth together in a large pot. Stir, then cook on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. (This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.)

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After the potatoes have softened, add the veggie “bacon” bits.

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Then, add the spices – dried parsley, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

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Let simmer for about 10 more minutes.

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While the soup is simmering, separate the leaves and stems of kale. We will only be using the leaves in this recipe, but save the stems for your juice in the morning! Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

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After the soup has simmered for about 10 minutes, add the kale and almond milk to the mixture. Stir until the kale is thoroughly heated… it will change colors, becoming a darker green color. Serve and enjoy!
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Buon appetito!

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Raw, Vegan Taco “Meat”

Taco MeatSome days there just must be something in the air, and you know it’s a Mexican food kind of day. Being a born and branded Texas girl, I probably get this craving quite a bit.

What’s my go-to recipe to cure any case of the “Mexicana Munchies,” you ask? Why TACOS, of course! This Raw, Vegan Taco “Meat” recipe always hits the spot! It’s savory and delicious! And, unlike normal Mexican food, this dish won’t leave you asking for an afternoon siesta.

photo 3Meatless Taco “Meat”:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 1 ½ T olive oil

Toppings:

  • shredded lettuce
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • ½ yellow zucchini, shredded
  • ½ avocado, mashed

raw tacos

Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly ground. Add the cumin, cilantro, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic, jalapeño pepper (make sure to remove the seeds from the jalapeño first, because they are HOT HOT HOT) and olive oil to the walnut mixture. Continue to process until the mixture resembles the appearance of ground beef.

You can use this vegan taco meat to make tacos or a delicious Mexican salad! I placed some mini corn tortillas in a mold and into the oven for about 10 minutes to make a mini, crunchy salad mold. Place the taco meat inside and pile on your favorite toppings!

Not a fan of the salad? Try a completely raw taco! Use romaine lettuce as a taco shell, then just add your meat and toppings.

Got the facts on Milk?

milk

“Got Milk?” …it took about an hour and a half for these two words to have a completely different meaning in my mind. “Got Milk?”… it went from a catchy ad slogan to a campaign brainwashing the American public. “Milk gives us strong bones,” “Milk keeps us healthy,” “Milk promotes weight loss.” What would you do, if I told you everything you have heard about milk is a bold-faced lie?!

Have I got your attention? Those words grabbed my attention as well… yesterday I was sitting on the edge of my seat, glued to an incredible documentary entitled, “Got the Facts on Milk?

heyIn this documentary, which focused on the milk and dairy industry, well-renowned doctors give their opinions that when choosing to remove food from your diet, it is actually best to first remove all dairy (yes, even as opposed to meat). Dairy products are a silent killer of the American public and have been traced to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, osteoporosis and even cancer. In a study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional biochemist, even discovered that he could turn cancer growth on and off by increasing and decreasing the amount of dairy intake in his specimens.

Why does the dairy industry have to spend $165 million each year just to advertise a product? Why are school lunch programs forcing children to drink milk? Did you know the average person consumes 30 pounds of butter each year? Milk, butter, cheese… all are packed with white blood cells (puss cells) that can destroy the human body. Isn’t it interesting that humans are the only mammals to consume milk after they stop nursing?

Don’t just take my word for it, watch the documentary yourself… it will truly change your life.

Vegan Peppermint Mocha

peppermintLet’s cozy up by the fire tonight, wrapped in a warm blanket while sipping on a hot drink! Is there anything better on a cold winter’s night?

This drink is inspired by one of the holiday favorites at Starbucks, the peppermint mocha latte. However, in this vegan recipe, we have eliminated all the added sugar and dairy. This delicious mocha has less than half the calories than the sugary Starbucks latte.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup hot coffee
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 ½ tsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1/8 tsp peppermint extract
  • agave to taste, choose your sweetness ( don’t like it too sweet and just use about 1 tsp)

Pour the cold almond milk and cocoa into a saucepan and whisk together while heating at medium-high until the milk begins to steam. Remove from heat, and then add the peppermint extract, hot coffee and agave.

Creamy Raw Ranch Dressing

RawRanchDressingThe holiday season is here… I’m not sure what that means for you, but for me it means open doors and a house packed with family and friends, and I could not be more excited! After all, Christmas is about celebrating our wonderful Lord and spending time with our loved ones – reflecting on times past and creating new memories.

And of course, where there is a crowd, there needs to be food! I like to keep ranch dressing and veggies (broccoli, cucumber chips, celery and carrot sticks) in the refrigerator for when company shows up – pour the dressing into a bowl, place the vegetables on a platter and voila.. you are left with an instant appetizer.

This newly discovered raw, vegan and gluten-free ranch dressing recipe has quickly become one of my favorites, and I hope you will enjoy it too. I have heard from some of my meat-eating friends that this dressing also tastes great over fish.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (soaked)
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 T dill
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

Ranch Dressing*So often we choose to have a “healthy choice” at lunch or dinner by opting to eat a salad; however, many times we unknowingly consume more calories than intended. This is due to the high-calorie content of most dressings. Another benefit to this Raw Ranch Dressing is that it has only 50 calories per 2 tablespoons, a number significantly less than the 145 calories contained in the typical “Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.”

No-Bake, Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

photo 3It’s funny that when I lived in DC I barely saw so much as a snowflake… yet here in Texas, we have been hit by an ice storm and “snowed in” for the past two days. The power even went out yesterday, which left us “roughing it” by the fire until the cold weather won the battle and we flocked to my grandmother’s house for the night.

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So what do you do when you want cookies, but there is no way to get to the grocery store? Invent your own tasty recipe, of course!

I was able to find a few ingredients in the kitchen that most of us probably keep in the house on a regular basis and turn them into a healthy, no-bake cookie. I was even able to crack my own pecans using an amazing nutcracker my boyfriend built me.

Feel free to change out any of the nuts for your favorite kind or even add some cranberries and raisins. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, raw and delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups oatmeal
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup pecans, crushed
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • agave nectar (to taste… choose your level of sweetness)

Combine all ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and stir.  Once combined, roll into balls and place on a non-stick plate. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and cocoa powder, then top each cookie off with a pecan half.

We’re finished… this cookie recipe is a piece of cake! …and easy to fix when you can’t make it to the store or the power is out! Stay warm, veggie-lovers!

Popcorn: Heart Healthy or Deadly Delicious?

popcornIt’s time to relax. You snuggle up under a big blanket, turn on your favorite movie, and what do you crave? A big bucket of… POPCORN!

Perfect! It turns out popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks you can eat. Those little kernels are packed with polyphenols, a type of natural chemical found in plant foods that helps neutralize free radicals. Polyphenols also play a part in combating cancer and heart disease.

Popcorn actually has one of the highest levels of polyphenols – even higher that most fruit! According to Dr. Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, this is because fruit contains high amounts of water, not in popcorn, which dilutes the polyphenols.

But WAIT… step away from the microwave!

After reading this, please don’t run out to the grocery store and stock up on microwave popcorn! Microwave popcorn is actually one of the most dangerous snacks… packed with toxic, deadly chemicals and preservatives.

Yes, in its purist form, popcorn is healthy, but the health benefits go downhill once food manufacturers get ahold of this beloved snack and create convenient, microwavable popcorn bags. The kernels in these bags are coated with perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. Fancy word, but what does it mean? PFCs are a class of chemicals linked to various cancers, as well as reproductive system damage.

Even though PFCs have been linked to thyroid disease and ADHD, food manufacturers add these obesity-promoting chemicals to popcorn bags to make them more “greaseproof.”

So how can we get the health benefits without the deadly toxins?

The healthiest popcorn is made the good ol’ fashioned way – on the stovetop (or with an air pop machine). This way of making popcorn is actually even less expensive than buying the processed, microwave bags. Load up on the healthy, organic kernels instead and you will saved yourself a few dollars.

Place a couple tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the oil has melted, add about ¼ cup of popcorn kernels to the pan and shake them around, coating in coconut oil. Cover with a lid and let pop.

After the kernels are no longer popping, quickly remove from the heat and uncover. I like to sprinkle my popcorn with garlic powder and Cholula hot sauce to make it a little spicy.

There you have it… you are left with the perfect snack – high in antioxidants, low in calories and fat!