Easy Vegan Swaps

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Thinking about going vegan? The switch is easier than you think! And if the thought has never crossed your mind, maybe it should. Becoming a vegan is not only one of the best things you can do for the environment (20% of pollution comes from the meat industry!), but also for your health. Going vegan, even part-time, has been shown to reduce the risks of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even arthritis! While going vegan isn’t for everyone, it clearly has its benefits!

Read on for some super easy (and still tasty!) swaps to make in your kitchen to make your lifestyle transition smooth sailing!

  • Replace an egg (in baking) with:
    • 1/4 cup of applesauce
    • 2 tbs ground flaxseed + 1 tbs water
    • Mashed banana
    • 1 tbs chia seeds + 3 tbs water
  • Replace milk with:
    • Almond or Coconut milk
    • Applesauce
  • Replace your meat burgers with:
    • Black bean or quinoa burgers
  • Swap out mayonnaise with:
    • Avocado
  • Use (firm) TOFU in place of meats
  • Replace ground beef in tacos with….. Lentils!
  • Instead of butter, use:
    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Avocado
    • Applesauce

Try swapping out some ingredients in the next non-vegan recipe you try and tell us how it goes!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Tips for Cooking With Toddlers!

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If you’re like many parents, just the title of this blog post is conjuring up images of spills, various sticky splotches all over the counter, and powdery white flour covering every surface and every inch of your toddler after she knocks it over. Combine this with sharp objects and hot surfaces, and it’s easy to see how cooking with your little one might not yet seem like the best idea.

But while there will most likely be some messes along the way, studies show that children who are involved in preparing their food tend to make healthier choices and are less likely to be picky eaters. Toddlers imitate behavior more often in their stage of life than at any other stage, providing a perfect window for beginning to teach them the basics of food, kitchen safety, and self-confidence in making healthy choices.

Here are some simple ways to get your toddler involved in the kitchen!

Start with a spoon. Stirring dry ingredients, liquids, or batters is one of the easiest tasks for a toddler to try. Your steady hand may be needed to keep the bowl from tipping, but offering a spoon or whisk with a thick handle will help your toddler achieve better coordination.

Work with water. Younger toddlers who love playing with water will enjoy this tip. Show her how to hold fruits and vegetables under the faucet, scrub them with a produce brush, then gently dry them off. (Also model the importance of hand-washing before cooking!)

Try hands-on recipes. Baking recipes like breads and cookies offer a fun opportunity for toddlers to use their hands directly. Show him how to make little balls to put on the cookie sheet, or how to knead bread dough. The results won’t be perfect, but your little one will be so proud of his handiwork!

Remind them of dangers. This one’s pretty obvious, but reinforce that certain kitchen tools go “ouch” and that it’s not time yet to eat certain foods until after they have been in the oven.

Give them choices. Older toddlers will love making “big kid” decisions about their food, especially if they get to help prepare it. For example, ask if they would like banana slices or blueberries with their lunch, then help them use a butter knife to make the slices, or show them how to rinse blueberries under the faucet before putting them on their plate.

Start a simple routine. For cooking multiple recipes with your toddler over time, start a routine to give them something to look forward to and gain confidence in the kitchen. For example, mommy/daddy may always measure the ingredients, but your toddler can always dump the measuring cups into the bowl. Another routine can even be as simple as getting your little one a children’s apron. Besides keeping her clean, this can help serve as a cue for getting ready to cook together, and give her something of her own to use every time in the kitchen.

Have fun! It’s normal to be nervous about letting a toddler into the working areas of the kitchen for the first time, but as you watch out for his safety, try to relax and allow you both to enjoy the experience. Afterwards, you can even hand him a paper towel to help you clean up!

What are some ways you like to spend time with your little one in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Sources:
Organic Connections

Tofu Tips!

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Ahh, tofu! Known as a vegetarian’s go-to for some protein and also known as this weird looking white stuff that you pick up in the store and say “what the heck can I do with this?”.

If you’ve never eaten tofu, you should definitely start! Before I dish out some recipes, let’s do some Tofu 101. Tofu, according to wikipedia, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is filled with protein and iron, and low in calories and fat! The taste is pretty bland though, which means you must season or marinate it to give it any sort of flavor. The lack of taste gives you the freedom to make it whatever you may crave – sweet or savory!

There are a few types of tofu. We are only going to list the fresh tofu, and not the processed, because we should know by now that processed foods shouldn’t be in our diet! Fresh tofu consists of silken and firm.

  • Silken – Also referred to as “soft” tofu. This is a Japanese styled tofu because of the way it is molded through a silk cloth. It has a much softer, silkier texture than firm tofu and it crumbles very easily. Since it has an almost pudding-like consistency, it is often used in desserts, dressings, purees etc.
  • Firm/Extra Firm – The name says it all. Rather than being soft, it has a firmer texture due to the bean curds being drained and then pressed into blocks. This tofu is more commonly seen and can be used in stir fries, soups, bakes, scrambles etc.

Here are some super easy and super delicious recipes using tofu – great for kids and adults alike! As always, make sure to buy organic and non-GMO!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tofu Mousse

  • Puree 1 package silken tofu.
  • Heat 1/3 cup organic dark cocoa powder and 1/4 cup water in pot. Slowly add in 1/4 cup all natural granulated sweetener (I use maple sugar flakes or sucanat), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of all natural peanut butter and stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat, and add pureed tofu. Chill for at least an hour. Serve with any toppings you would like!

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

  • Preheat oven to 350. Spray baking sheet with olive/coconut oil.
  • Cut 1 package of firm tofu into nugget shapes of your choice.
  • Fill 3 bowls with: 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 cup favorite breadcrumbs.
  • Dip tofu nuggets into flour bowl, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs and place on pan.
  • Bake nuggets for 15-20 min, serve with favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

Breakfast Tofu Scramble

  • Heat skillet over medium heat, coat with olive/coconut oil.
  • Chop desired veggies (peppers, mushrooms, spinach, onions, carrots etc.)
  • Cook veggies and 1 package soft tofu (crumbled) along with salt, pepper, and any other spices you wish for 6-8 minutes or until your liking.
  • Bonus: For on-the-go mornings, create a breakfast burrito with tofu scramble and ezekiel/whole grain wrap!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Vegan Berry Peach Cobbler

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Berry and peach season is in full swing, so what better way to use some of your fresh produce than by making a delicious vegan cobbler?!?  This is also a great recipe to let the little ones help with since there is a lot of scooping and pouring!!

 

For the fruit:

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

2 medium sized ripe peaches sliced into 1-inch chunks

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

a big pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

(pinch of ground ginger and ground cloves are also encouraged, but not entirely necessary)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the topping:

1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I prefer using gluten free oats)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat (coconut works well too!)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons canola oil

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the berries and peach chunks with flour, spices and maple syrup. Set aside while you assemble the topping.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt and spices. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend with a fork. Make sure all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the oil and maple syrup mixture.
  4. Add half a cup of the topping mixture to the fruit mixture and toss together. Scoop fruit into ramekins, being sure to fill each cup to the top. Spoon and pat topping onto each cup. Sprinkle with an additional dose of ground cinnamon if you’d like. Place the six ramekins on a clean baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until bubbly.

Adapted From: Joy The Baker

Seaweed for the Soul

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When you hear the word “seaweed”, an image of a day at the beach ruined by slimy plants sticking to your body may come to mind (at least, it does for me). But what most people don’t realize is how nutritious and healthy this weed, also known as Nori, is! Sure, it may not be the most pleasant thing to play with in the ocean, but seaweed should start becoming a regular at your meals – especially for expecting moms! 

Scientists have found out that seaweed has an extreme abundance of minerals ranging from folic acid to magnesium to pantothenic acid; great for preventing anemia, aiding in the fetus’ development and fighting acne. It’s low in calories, high in fiber and has a salty taste to kick those cravings to the curb. Get a feel for seaweed with this delicious recipe below!

Savory Seaweed Chips

  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl combine 1/4 coconut oil, sprinkle of salt & pepper, 1 clove garlic chopped, small handful sesame seeds and whisk. Cut 8 sheets raw Nori into strips and dip in water to soften. Place on lined sheet pan in even rows (don’t be alarmed if the seaweed starts to shrink!) and drizzle oil mixture over chips. Bake 12-15 minutes, flipping once. Allow the chips to cool and enjoy!

Baked chips are just one thing to make with seaweed. Pop the plant into a soup, stir it into a pasta dish, create a seaweed salad, or combine it with your regular vegetables for a new side dish. I hear the sea calling your name, so go out and get weeding!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Vegan Banana Muffins

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Looking for a quick snack or breakfast to make the little ones this week!  Why not try these delicious vegan muffins!  Even better, you can scoop them into mini muffin tins to make them easy for little hands to not only pick up but will also help them become more of a snack to avoid them becoming too full!

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use all-purpose flour too)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 very ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degree. Spray your mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together to combine. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine your apple sauce, oil, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are mixed through.
  4. Using a small spoon or a melon ball scooper, scoop the muffin batter into the muffin tin. Only fill each cup 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes rotating pan once halfway through cooking.

 

Looking For A Great First Time Veggie? Try Sweet Potatoes!!

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Are you slowly trying to introduce solids into your little ones diet?  If so, sweet potatoes are great to try since they are easy to digest, have a mild flavor, and are easy to prepare!

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F or 190 deg C.
  2. Simply take one large sweet potato. Scrub it and prick it with a fork.
  3. Bake for about 45 mins or until it feels soft.
  4. Once cooked, all you need to do is split the potato and scrape out the flesh with a spoon. Most sweet potatoes do not even require the additional step of pureeing as they can easily be mashed!
  5. One large potato will give you about 3 or 4 portions at this early stage. Bake a few at a time and you’ve got a fortnight’s supply!

Alternatively… you could peel the potato, then boil or steam it in cubes if you prefer to do so as well!

Looking for some combos?  Why not try mixing sweet potatoes with carrots or squash for a new flavor and even more nutrients!