Why I Live a Vegan Lifestyle

 

Not all vegans do it for the animals, some of us do it strictly for our health.

When I chose a vegan lifestyle I did not anticipate the number of questions I would get from strangers and new friends regarding my choice in eating habits. I honestly thought it was a simple personal decision. Yet at times I feel like I have a huge V stuck to my forehead. V for Vegan!

Why I choose to live a vegan lifestyle 

If you talk to the majority of vegans they will tell you that they live this lifestyle because of concerns they have for animals. Animal welfare is a huge movement behind the popularity of the vegan diet. However, as usual I do not fall within the majority of this movement. My family and I care for animals and their well being but their welfare has zero, zilch, nada to do with out decision to remove all animal proteins from our daily diet. Plain and simply, I am a vegan for my personal health and well being. As I’ve stated previously, I’ve never been a huge meat eater but certainly never gave it much thought as to what the red meat, lean proteins, dairy, and eggs were doing to my overall health and long-term cancer risk. I also never even considered that animal protein sources, more specifically casein, might be the cause of my overall tiredness.

When was the last time you stopped to truly and honestly consider the foods that you put in your mouth each and every day? Do you give a second thought to how these foods are affecting your body, your mood, overall health, long-term health? Or perhaps you have a chronic disease, maybe an auto-immune disease, did you know that animal proteins can be the cause of your disease?

The research is too vast and extensive to even skim the surface appropriately in this short article. Do the research yourself, don’t just take my word for it. Educate yourself about the effects that animal proteins have on your body. I would suggest starting with the two leading books in the vegan scientific community, The China Study and Whole both by T. Colin Campbell. You truly owe it to yourself and your family to research an plant based diet and the benefits it has on your longterm health. Did you know that the length of our intestines indicates we are best suited for a diet based in plants and protein sources other than from animals? This article provides a great comparative analysis of carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores.

I choose to live a vegan lifestyle for my diabetic husband.

In reading The China Study and Whole, it became very apparent from all of the scientific research Campbell presents that a vegan lifestyle could dramatically benefit my husband who lives with type-1 diabetes. Through Campbell’s research and life experiences he has seen a huge improvement in insulin dependent diabetic patients that live a vegan lifestyle. My husband is very aware of the long-term effects that his diabetes can and most likely will have on his long-term health and well being. With in 24 hours of starting to eat a vegan diet my husband noticed an effect on his insulin needs. Almost immediately he no longer needed as much insulin with each meal. Now months later he is taking 10 times less insulin per day than he was when eating a conventional diet full of animal protein sources. Not only is this a huge boost to his health but it helps our financial bottom line in that we aren’t purchasing insulin as often. It took some time for him to figure out his new insulin needs but he is so stable now that he can go without insulin for a meal if he eats clean.

Additionally, he regularly sees his blood sugar levels decrease overnight rather than increase as is the case with diabetics. This result shows that his pancreas is healing and starting to produce insulin on its own and can keep up with the fast that occurs while my husband sleeps. He feels better and has more energy than when he was 20 years younger. He is a long distance runner and regularly runs seven plus miles with 10+ mile runs once or twice a week.

I choose to live a vegan lifestyle for my health and the health of my family.

Why are you vegan? Or why aren’t your vegan?

Amazing Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream Vegan Gluten Free

It is not an understatement when I say that discovering cashew cream revolutionized my vegan kitchen and opened up a world of tastes and textures in our vegan lifestyle.

What is even more amazing beyond the taste is the simplicity of the recipe and the ease with which cashew cram is made.

I always have a large container of cashew cream made up in my refrigerator ready to enjoy and add to dishes. Our favorite dishes to add cashew cream to are vegan tacos, baked potato slices, cream inspired soups, and so much more. Basically anywhere we want a creamy taste or texture is fair game for a dollop or two of this protein and vitamin packed creamy cashew goodness.

Cashew cream is used to replace cheese, sour cream, and cream in vegan recipes.

The health benefits of cashews include the following:

  • Unsaturated fats; proven to be beneficial to lowering cholesterol and improving heart health
  • Excellent source of copper which is necessary for numerous functions in your body
  • Good source of Vitamins K, B and E
  • Add fiber and protein to your diet
  • Beneficial in controlling blood sugar which is helpful if you are a diabetic or borderline diabetic
  • Contain antioxidants which act as anti-cancer agents

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a pound or more of raw cashews and start your first batch of this amazing, creamy, versatile cashew cream.

Amazing Cashew Cream

2 cups raw cashews
8 cups water

Cover cashews with water overnight in a large bowl. If you are in a hurry use boiling water to soak cashews. If using hot water your soak time is reduced to 2-4 hours versus overnight.

Drain cashews. Place cashews in a high speed blender, I love using my Vita-Mix for this recipe. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water with cashews in the blender. Blend until smooth and thick like sour cream. Add more water as necessary to facilitate proper blending and cream texture.

While cashew cream is amazing in its original state, there are a few taste modifications you can make depending on your preference. You can add salt, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, curry powder, or garlic to taste.

Please let me know if you try this recipe and how you enjoy it. Also, do you have another favorite way to enjoy cashew cream in your dishes?

15 High Speed Blender Recipes

15 High Speed Blender Recipes

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There are a few small appliances in my kitchen that I consider absolute necessities; my Vita-mix is at the top of that list. I’ve used and abused my precious blender over the past few years and it is still going as strong as the first day I bought it. I use it so often that it really should have a spot of it’s own on my kitchen counter, but alas I have a pet peeve about cluttered counters so it is relegated to a cabinet between uses.

The uses for a high speed blender such as the Vita-mix are nearly limitless. Not only can you quickly whip up a delicious protein shake for breakfast but you can also enjoy an afternoon smoothie treat or a hot and steaming soup for dinner. A high quality, high speed blender can truly be used at every meal and in between for snacks.

The cost may be prohibitive for some at first glance. However, if you stop to consider how long the less expensive blenders last, how quickly the glass blender breaks or the plastic ones crack, what a hassle they are to clean, and how limited they are in their uses when compared to a high speed blender the cost isn’t such a factor anymore. Cut out a few speciality coffees from your neighborhood coffee shop and you will have enough saved for a new high speed blender in no time!

I love my Vita-Mix so much that I will be adding the dry container to my kitchen arsenal very soon. The dry container is great for grinding grains into flour, chopping nuts, or any other drop chopping need you might have in your kitchen. My countertop chopper just isn’t cutting it anymore with my large family and the volume of chopping I need to do to feed my crew healthy whole foods.

I’ve gathered 15 of my favorite recipes from fellow bloggers that can be easily made in your Vita-mix or other high speed blender. You might remember the ginger and turmeric carrot soup from a few weeks ago, it has been a hit since the day it posted.

carrot soup

Soups
Ginger & Tumeric Carrot Soup from Health Matters. Life Matters.

Drinks & Smoothies
Collection of Smoothies from Eat Better Spend Less
Cucumber Mint Smoothie from Mama Likes to Cook
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (sugar and dairy free) from Intoxicated on Life
Easy Cucumber Lemonade from Mama Likes to Cook
Berrylicious Dairy/Sugar Free Coconut Milkshake from Intoxicated on Life
Homemade Organic Apple Juice from Managing Your Blessings
Homemade Strawberry Guava Juice from Managing Your Blessings
Sugar Free Orange Sorbet from Rhonda Sue

Hummus
Hummus without Tahini from Marriage Motherhood and Missions
Classic Homemade Hummus from Intoxicated on Life
Simple Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from Mama Likes to Cook

Spreads & Dressings
Easy Miso Salad Dressing from Mama Likes to Cook
Butter in a Vitamix from Bless Your Heart and Home
Honey Pecan Butter from A Tipical Day

Ginger & Tumeric Carrot Soup

carrot soup

 

I have an over abundance of organic carrots right now because I accidentally ordered 50# from Azure Standard last month. My mouth about dropped when our driver unloaded two 25# bags and they both had my name on it. Surely I thought there had been a mistake in their warehouse, nope the mistake rested squarely on my shoulders.

So after pawning off as many carrots as I could earlier this month and taking one entire 25# bag to my mother-in-laws for her horses I still had a large bag of carrots filling up my spare refrigerator. What ever was I going to do with all of those carrots?

Then it dawned on me! Carrot soup.

I knew it was going to have to be extra special carrot soup in order for my family to enjoy it and maybe even request second helpings. So I set to work one afternoon with my vegetable peeler in hand and got to work.

For a family my size, nine of us in total, I peeled five pounds of those beta carotene packed vitamin sticks. Unfortunately, I also clogged our garbage disposal in the meantime with the peels. My husband wasn’t too thrilled about that one. Note to self, do not put peels down the drain, potato, carrot or otherwise. Thankfully, the end result of my peeling was well received by my husband so he has forgiven me for my careless mistake.

After I finished making the soup and we all sat down for dinner I cautiously awaited the final verdict on this new recipe. I think one of my three year old twins summed it up best when she said “nummy soup Mommy” and my two year old son said “more, Mommy, more”.

 

Chewy Puffed Kamut & Millet Bars

 

kamut bars

Commercially produced protein bars are packed with nearly everything but protein. The ones that do have a bit of protein include “fake” protein and not the raw real protein that God intended for our bodies. My children, like most, are attracted to the fancy marketing and labeling of store bought protein bars. Over the years though, they learned to read labels and now understand why we don’t eat those type of protein bars. In a search for a quick and easy snack that my family can grab on the go when hunger strikes I came up with this chewy protein bar recipe that never sticks around long in our house. The beauty of this recipe is that you can add a wide variety mix-ins to suit your preferences.

Directions:

2 cups organic puffed kamut
1 cup puffed millet
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey
1T cocoa powder, optional
pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, optional

Ingredients:
Grease an 8×8 pan. In a medium bowl add kamut and millet. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix honey and peanut butter until warm and fluid. Quickly mix the peanut butter mixture with the cereal. When thoroughly mixed press into the 8×8 pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set, cut into bars when ready. If you would like to add cocoa powder add in the peanut butter mixture and mix as usual. If you would like to have seeds in your bars, add to the cereal and mix with peanut butter mixture as usual.

Vegan Cheese Alternatives

vegan cheese

When you live a vegan lifestyle there a few things that you just have to do without. Well, at least until you come up with or find a recipe to replace the commercially available non-vegan alternative. When my family and I first started eating vegan, cutting out all animal products from our diet, cheese was something we just eliminated. I avoided every recipe I found that called for cheese, found other snack options for my incessantly hungry toddlers, and essentially resolved to the fact that we just wouldn’t enjoy cream sauces or cheese dip platters. The benefit of our health was worth the sacrifice and honestly if I hadn’t of found the vegan cheese alternatives listed below we would still be “cheese less” and just as healthy. Now however, our range of recipes and taste options is just a big larger because of these amazing cheese replacement options.

Here are the three vegan cheese alternatives I use in my home most frequently:

  1. Cashew Cream: Unlike other lists of this kind I am putting my most favorite, delicious, and versatile option first. Honestly, the day I made my first batch of cashew cream time stood still. I was in awe of how delicious something so simple could taste. I use cashew cream anywhere I need a creamy texture or a cheese like spread. You can blend the soaked cashews into just a simple cream and add it to sauces or curries for a cream sauce. Add a hefty spoonful on top of noodles for an alfredo sauce. Or better yet, add some lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and salt for a vegan sour cream. Spread this sour cream on top of baked potato slices and top with cilantro, viola you have a delicious appetizer. Cashew cream is so incredibly simple to make, you will kick yourself for not thinking of it earlier. Simple soak your cashews in filtered water over night (or in HOT water for 1 hour if short on time). Place in a high speed blender or food processor and cover slightly with water. Blend until creamy and smooth. Nothing more and nothing less. You will end up with a cream that is so smooth and delicious! You can thank me later or throw donations my way.
  2. Vegan cheese: If you’ve been a vegan for more than a couple of days surely you have already seen the vegan cheese options in your local grocery or health food store. This option does not act completely like non-vegan cheese but when you need a crumbly cheese alternative these are pretty tasty options. I use vegan cheese in sweet potato enchiladas and any other dish where I want cheese but have to bake the dish. Thankfully, most of the larger bands of vegan cheese are not full of nasty chemicals which you might initially expect. When eaten on occasion, this is a great option not laden with nasty fillers and additives.
  3. Nutritional Yeast: Truth be told before switching to a vegan lifestyle I had never heard of nutritional yeast. Honestly, doesn’t the name sound a bit odd and offensive. Why would anyone want to possibly eat something that sounds so repulsive? Oh but wait until you’ve tried it. You will regret waiting so long to enjoy its amazing flavor. What exactly is nutritional yeast? Well friends, it is simple an inactive yeast. What it lacks in simplicity though it makes up for in taste. It has a nutty cheesy taste and is amazing on popcorn, garlic bread, added to soups, stir-fry veggies,  or on top of pasta. You might find nutritional yeast in your health food store labeled as nutritional yeast flakes or powder or even as savory yeast if you live outside of the United States. Nutritional yeast is also a great source of B12 which is an important vitamin for vegans.

So, whether you are a long-time vegan or are contemplating making the change in your lifestyle cheese taste is not something you have to do without. What are some of your favorite dishes that include vegan cheese options?

Maple Almond Butter

Almond Butter

In my journey towards health and cleaner eating the last thing I expected was to give up peanuts and peanut butter. There are no peanut or tree nut allergies in our family. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were staples in my own childhood as well as for my older children when they were little. So why give up peanuts? They have served us all so well over the years.

The answer is simple, mold that produces a cancer causing toxin known as aflatoxin. Aspergillus and A.parasiticus are 2 strains of mold that produce alfatoxin in warm humid climates and silos. Peanuts are not the only carrier of these molds, soy beans, corn, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and even milk have been shown to carry these mold strains. Peanuts are of particular concern for a few reasons; the first of which is the sheer amount of peanuts and peanut butter that Americans consume everyday. This raises the exposure levels to aflatoxin. Second is the nutritional value of peanuts. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is not favorable in peanuts. There are other nuts and legumes available with a better fatty acid profile which make a better choice when snacking or preparing nut butters. Lastly, we just do no know how much exposure to aflatoxin is safe. 20 parts per billion is the current “safe” level for food inspection purposes, but is this really enough and what does long term exposure at these levels cause if anything? You should also know that “fresh” ground peanut butter from health food stores contain a higher level of aflatoxin than the “junk” food type of peanut butters such as “Jif” and “Skippy”.

So long story short, this is why i switched my family from peanut butter to organic homemade almond butter. Not just any almond butter mind you, this is pure spreadable creamy maple almond butter goodness. With a family of 9, the sheer amount of almond butter that I make every week might cause the demise of my large capacity food processor. She is holding steady for now though, thankfully.

Once you make your own almond butter at home you will never go back! It is simple and not full of the preservatives, salt, and other junk that commercial brans pour into their nut butters.

Almond Butter_3

Maple Almond Butter

Ingredients:
2 cups raw organic almonds
1T organic hemp hearts
1T organic chia seeds
2T organic golden flax seeds
6T organic grade B maple syrup
1tsp organic cinnamon
2T organic light olive oil

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 275F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl combine all ingredients and stir well.
  • Evenly spread almond mixture on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 25-30min. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Place cooled almond mixture in a food processor. Do not use your high powered blender for this, I’ve heard of too many motors burning out after trying to break down just one batch of nut butters.
  • Process until nuts break down into a fine mixture with their own oils. You may have to stop your food processor a few times during this process to scrape down the sides and break up the nut mixture so it blends evenly.
  • Add olive oil and cinnamon. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Almond Butter_2

5 Must Have Vegan Cookbooks

Vegan Cookbooks

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Whether you are new to the vegan lifestyle or have been a vegan for years discovering new recipes and fabulous cookbooks is fun and inspiring. Eating vegan does not mean you have to sacrifice taste or variety simply because you removed meat, dairy and other animal products from your daily diet. Vegan is delicious, it is full of flavor and variety, and it is fun to try new ingredients which you may have never eaten before.

While I enjoy perusing online sources for delicious vegan recipes there is something fun and exciting about holding a cold crisp cookbook in my hands. When I bring home a new cookbook my children all want to sit down and look through it with me, comparing ingredients, and recommending new recipes we should try first. I enjoy those special times with my kids, sitting and enjoying the process of choosing what we are going to eat as a family. These cookbooks help to instill a love of cooking, meal planning, and the vegan lifestyle in each of them. Yes there is a time and place for website recipes and ebook cookbooks but tangible cookbooks will always have their special place in my kitchen.

In my search for delectable eats for my family, I’ve searched high and low and perused a plethora of vegan cookbooks. Here are the 5 vegan cookbooks that I reference most often when cooking for my family of nine.

  1. Oh She Glows Cookbook: What’s not to love about this amazing book that grew out of an extraordinary vegan recipe and lifestyle blog? Her recipes are practical, easy, and use ingredients that can be found in the average health focused grocery store. In addition to amazing recipes, I love the pictures included in this cookbook. They inspire me to want to get in my own kitchen and whip up her delicious recipes.
  2. The China Study Cookbook: This was the first vegan cookbook I purchased and I still use it at least once a week. The recipes in this book are inspired from the book The China Study and its sequel Whole and as a result are all vegan and do not use oils. Oils according to The China Study contribute to heart disease along with non-vegan diet choices. The photos in this book are not as fancy or professional looking as food photos that you will find in other cookbooks but the quality of the recipes is wonderful. They are all delicious, easy, and quick to prepare.
  3. The China Study All-Star Collection Cookbook: This all-star collection is the follow-up to the first China Study cookbook and in addition to family favorite recipes there is also a large selection of vegan recipes from very well known vegan chefs. Unlike in the first cookbook in this series, the photos are top notch and look good enough to eat right off of the page. The date syrup is one of the recipes one of my boys chose to make from this book and it is delicious and easy, so easy I kick myself for not thinking of it personally.
  4. Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats: Being gluten-free presents its own set of challenges in living a vegan lifestyle. Most vegan cookbooks use whole wheat flours and pastas. Accordingly, I have to find my own gluten free alternatives when making these types of recipes. I was so excited when I found this book at my local bookstore. It is full of recipes that everyone in my family can eat and enjoy. This is the newest book in my vegan cookbook collection and I am most looking forward to making the gluten free vegan raviolis and my kids can not wait until I make the pizza from this book.
  5. Forks Over Knives-The Cookbook: Long ago when my family and I first began our journey to healthier eating, which you can read about here, I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives with my husband. This movie along with Food Inc. solidified our decision to eating a cleaner and healthier diet. When the facts are presented in such a way that you simply can’t ignore them, you are doing yourself an injustice every time you ignore the information you’ve been blessed to receive. This cookbook is the companion to the Forks Over Knives documentary and includes amazing clean vegan eating recipes.

You can not go wrong in adding any of these cookbooks to your home library. Having delicious vegan recipes laid out in front of you will make the adjustment to eating vegan a lot easier and less overwhelming. Everything is there in black and white with simple to follow instructions, there is nothing complicated about preparing vegan meals. What I also enjoy about cooking vegan is the simplicity of the ingredients. Many vegan recipes are five ingredients or less. This approach not only makes cooking vegan simple and fast but it also saves of your food budget. Eating organic and vegan does not have to cost an arm and a leg like most will lead you to believe. Keep it simple, keep it fast, and keep it delicious, simple as that!

Do you have another favorite vegan cookbook? If so please share in the comments, I am always on the lookout for a new vegan cookbook.

Colorful Raw Quinoa Salad

 

Colorful Raw Quinoa Salad vegan gluten free alexismathews.com

Large family cooking needs to be quick and easy. However, quick and easy does not mean your large family has to eat unhealthy, grease laden foods. Quick and easy with proper planning can be healthy, delicious, and nutritious. Keep healthy and quick recipes like this one for Colorful Raw Quinoa Salad handy and at your fingertips.

Packed with raw veggies and herbs this salad is as nutritious as it is beautiful. Quinoa is a grain seed that is gluten free and packed with protein. One cup of quinoa is packed with 24g of protein which according to current recommendations is 48% of your recommended daily allowance. Wow! Couple this amazing grain with a bunch of fresh, raw, and organic veggies and your colorful raw quinoa salad is born.

My kids all LOVE this salad and I love that I can mix up a huge batch of it, keep it in the fridge all week and serve cold when my kid’s tummies are empty. I chop up a bunch of raw veggies, keep it colorful, and call it done. The possibilities of raw veggies you can include in this salad are almost limitless. This salad is a great way to use up the extra veggies you have before they spoil. There isn’t a vegetable that won’t taste great wrapped in quinoa goodness. Served cold this dish is also refreshing on those hot summer afternoons when you are hot, hungry, and don’t feel like cooking.

If you are quinoa intolerant this salad can easily be made with couscous, it will be just as delicious!

Colorful Raw Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:
4 cups cooked quinoa
2 medium bell peppers (green, red, orange, or yellow) diced
6 radishes sliced and quartered
2 ribs celery diced
1 cup chopped black olives
Handful of basil chopped
3T organic olive oil
3T golden balsamic vinegar
2T rice vinegar
Other veggies not pictured include; carrots, onions, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, or any other veggies you like.

Directions:
Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork in a large bowl. Add in chopped veggies and mix well. In a separate bowl mix oil and vinegars well. Pour over quinoa and veggies, mix well. Enjoy immediately or chill and serve.

 

Linked at The New Mrs. Adventures

Black Bean and Spinach Quinoa Burgers

 

Black Bean Burger

There is something quintessential about digging your teeth into a juicy and delicious burger. It is the stuff legends are made of and the backbone of every summer cookout memory. However, when you live a vegan lifestyle what are you supposed to enjoy during the carnivorous summer barbecues? Surely, we don’t have to be left in the dust while others around us enjoy their carnivorous ways. Have no fear, bean burgers are here.

Bean burgers of any variety are the equivalent to vegans as the hamburger is to our meat loving friends and family. The bean burger possibilities are almost limitless. Pick you favorite bean, mix it with some veggies and spices, form into patties, bake or fry and you are golden. Simple as that.

With 7 children including 2 older boys who are growing at an unbelievable rate and love their protein it was imperative when we went vegan to replace their burgers and red meat sources with another delicious and filling meal replacement.

Enter our newest favorite bean burger, the black bean and spinach quinoa burger. Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals this burger is a home run in the game of nutrition. Serve alongside with roasted veggies and you’ve got yourself a complete meal, low on carbs and high on taste.

IMG_2328

Black Bean and Spinach Quinoa Burgers

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup diced yellow or red potatoes, cooked
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2T vegetable stock
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1T chopped garlic
1tsp coriander
1tsp cumin
1tsp salt
1tsp oregano
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Saute onions in vegetable stock until translucent
  • To the onions add garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and oregano. Stir for 1 minute.
  • In a food processor add 1 cup of the black beans, 1 cup potatoes, and onion mixture. Process until well mixed and smooth.
  • In a sperate bowl mix quinoa, chopped spinach and black bean mixture from food processor. Form into burger sized patties.
  • Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 15-20 minutes or until firm.
  • Enjoy!