Sprouted Beans and More from AZVFF

I’ve recently been reading at length about raw vegan diets. As you know, I aim to consume 60-70% raw plant foods daily, but I recently upped that amount to 90% in my one-week raw food challenge. I generally feel better than I ever did when eating a traditional American omnivorous diet, but during the challenge, I felt even more energized and satisfied with my appearance.

As a result of my piqued interest in raw eating, I went to this year’s Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival looking to learn more about the lifestyle. While I don’t believe I have the willpower—or interest, for that matter—to go completely raw, I’d like to try and consume even more raw plant foods. Uncooked food is easier on the body; there’s no disputing science.

Again, not looking to go 100%…just interested in living better, which I believe all of us can do, no matter what our lifestyle or food preferences. While at the AZVFF, I made a beeline straight for a booth advertising raw, sprouted hummus. I love beans, but they are inedible raw (or so I thought), so I had to see this for myself.

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When I think of “sprouts,” I imagine tiny green sprigs with delicate little leaves, grown from whole grains or seeds. Sprouts are delicious and make for an aesthetically pleasing addition to salads and raw veggie wraps. Sprouted beans? I couldn’t wrap my head around it…

Turns out, in the raw vegan world, “sprouted” can also refer to a plant food that has ballooned in size as a result of extensive soaking in water. This allows an item like a dried bean to take on a cooked consistency, while still being technically raw. The soaked bean is never boiled, sautéed, roasted, or otherwise nuked with heat and is palatable enough to make into a salad sandwich or blend into a creamy hummus. The nutrition nerd that I am, my mind was blown. 🙂 Why didn’t I think of this before?! I’ve always soaked dried beans and then boiled them, or purchased them already cooked in a can.

This learning led me to look into sprouting other seemingly inedible raw foods to avoid the cooking process. A vegan writer that I love operates a blog called Oh She Glows. She soaks rolled oats overnight—recipe is aptly titled “Vegan Overnight Oats”—and they are ready to consume for breakfast the next morning with no cooking required.

I am now working on revising some of my formulas to incorporate sprouted beans, lentils, or grains where I think they would work just as well as cooked – stay tuned!

Below, enjoy other sights from the 2016 AZVFF. 🙂

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Baby Oliver’s first time at the fest (with Daddy).

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My sister, Petra (in town from Tokyo), with Nolan. A gloomy day, but a pretty park.

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Last year’s vegan pretzel truck made a return!

Tried some vegan eats from a new place – delicious!

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Plant-Based Entertaining for Everyone

I have many times had friends or family over for dinner and prepared an entirely vegan meal with great success. This was only my second time, however, throwing a large party with an extensive plant-based menu that needed to please guests all of all ages and diets. In attendance, I had several vegetarians, one gluten-free eater, and a whole bunch of standard omnivores.

I tried first, to think of foods that it seems everyone likes to eat: fruit, chips, and sweets. Then I thought about how I could make all of those items vegan (and some gluten-free, too), but tasty enough that my guests would never know it…or at least never miss the animal product varieties.

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Here’s what I served:

Chocolate peanut butter truffles: A play on my power ball formula, I used extra cocoa powder and rolled them in unsweetened shredded coconut. Guests said that they were delicious and rich: exactly what I was going for with a truffle!

Mini-fruit kabobs with cinnamon coconut whipped cream: As you know, I’ve been recently delighted to make and try coconut whipped cream in conjunction with my nice cream formula. I added ground cinnamon to this batch – yum!

Mini-chocolate chip cookies: A variation of my chip cookie formula, these were tasty, but a bit crumbly. I was surprised since I’ve made them many times before. Maybe my preggo brain forgot an ingredient?! Very possible. 🙂

Tahini dip: My creamy dressing formula kept extra thick for dipping. It was a crowd favorite.

Roasted fennel hummus: My hummus formula with fennel as the star vegetable was a gamble…and I won (or, I should say, my guests won)!

Lemon raspberry cashew mousse: Remember that failed attempt at vegan cheesecake turned mousse? I served these delightful little cups at my party and several people asked me for the recipe. I’d say they worked out ok after all.

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In addition to fresh fruit, I also served raw veggies, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and two different types of pretzels for dipping. I adorned the tables with small bowls of trail mix for extra munching and had beer and white sangria flowing. Guests seemed happy and full.

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As I mentioned when I threw Nolan’s second birthday party, I’m done serving food that I no longer regularly eat. I hate the idea of potential meat and dairy-based leftovers that threaten to throw me off the wagon (I don’t waste food, ya’ll). Stick to your guns in designing the menu for a party. Remember, guests don’t have to eat your food, but they would definitely be missing out if they didn’t!

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In case you were wondering, the party was a diaper party for Baby #2. Since it isn’t customary to throw a second shower, I wanted to have a more laidback celebration for our family’s final installment. Offering food, booze, and a good time in exchange for diapers was a win-win for all involved…and baby is stocked up for the first year or more of his/her life. Just an idea if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to celebrate a second baby or beyond. 🙂

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Plant-Based Living On the Go

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I’m back!  Travis, Nolan, and I just returned from a ten-day trip to Michigan, where I’m originally from and grew up.  Our vacation was jam-packed with weddings, places to go, and people to visit, but despite the hectic pace, I managed to stick to my values when it comes to plant-based living.

As you’ve read in my bio, I consider myself a mostly-vegan:  I follow a strict vegan lifestyle at home, allowing only the occasional animal product splurge when out and about.  My vacation was no exception.  If you think about it, fresh fruits and vegetables are really the original fast food.

That’s right:  fast food, which need not carry a negative connotation.  Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, need to pack a lunch for work, are meal planning for the week ahead, or are about to embark on a vacation, you will most likely have nature’s fast food available somehow, somewhere.

A dietician I follow (whose research and knowledge I’ve mentioned previously) once posted that if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry.  I couldn’t agree with this more.  It is ultimately quicker to rinse and bite right into an apple than it is to deep fry and season potatoes or plop a frozen beef patty on the grill.  If you wouldn’t be willing to grab the fresher, faster option, how hungry are you?

I try to keep this as my mantra when I travel.  It is easy to get caught up in all of the treats, especially at occasions like weddings.  Don’t get me wrong – I did a little bit of splurging, but I know my limits and stick to them for the sake of my health and energy level.  I have a two-year-old and I’m pregnant, remember?  🙂

Today, I’m sharing with you the ways that I was able to remain mostly-vegan on vacation.  First, pictured above, I ordered the vegetarian dish at the first of two weddings I attended.  Quite frankly, when I sit down to dinner at banquet hall, I’ve come to expect a bland pasta or lifeless salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots.  Imagine my surprise when this filo dough purse, filled with vegetables and sitting atop polenta, arrived!  The meat entrée recipients at my table were definitely impressed.  “What is that?!  Looks amazing!”  While I don’t think it was vegan—I imagine the dough involved butter at some stage or another and there was a creamy sauce on the plate that probably contained dairy or mayo—and it certainly wasn’t raw, which is generally my preference, it was easily the best vegetarian banquet hall fare I’ve tasted.

Next, we have a veggie burger from Rainforest Café.  Again, I’m not sure it was vegan, as an egg was may have been used in binding the chickpea patty, but I could tell that it was handmade and not frozen.  There was no dairy or mayo on top; just raw veggies and guacamole – yum!  I opted for a side of seasonal vegetables, which I picked at, trying to prioritize the protein of the veggie burger.  While, as a rule, I try not to waste food, I discarded most of the bun.

IMG_4851On to a completely raw vegan salad from Dublin Square, an Irish pub in East Lansing, home of my alma mater, Michigan State University.  Go Green!  While I wish the salad’s base was a heartier green like spinach or kale rather than romaine lettuce, this salad was fresh, filling, and delicious.  The cherry vinaigrette (Michigan is known for its cherries) didn’t hurt!

IMG_4850Finally, oatmeal topped with raw fruit at the bed and breakfast where Trav and I stayed for the night, the Wild Goose Inn, also in East Lansing.  The innkeeper presented us with a small menu that had four choices, following a fruit salad and muffin course.  Three out of the four dishes included eggs, so of course we selected the oatmeal, which contained dried Michigan cherries, almonds, and the raw fruit you see here.  Sweetener—namely brown sugar or honey—was offered on the side; we didn’t even need it!

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The rest of my eating took place in my parents’ home or in the homes of friends and family where we bounced around.  Again, I allowed myself the occasional splurge – what was I supposed to do when my mom baked homemade red velvet cupcakes?!  🙂  At each place we stayed, I tried to make smart choices:  a bagel with peanut butter instead of cream cheese or super food smoothies for breakfast, and I got into the kitchen for some of my old standbys for lunch and dinner:  multi-grain salad with strawberries, bean salad, and more.

I’ll never be perfect at plant-based living, but I work really hard—even on vacation—to meet a high standard for my health and well-being.  You can, too!  Happy eating!

Make Smart Substitutions

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I am excited to share with you that I completed my first Fresh Formula publication outside of my blog.  🙂  I completed an article for the Adjunct Faculty Association spring newsletter, The Connection, and was among only five adjuncts selected to write in the health and wellness section.  Today, I thought I’d share that article with you.

If you’re a regular subscriber of The Fresh Formula, some of the article’s content won’t be new information, but a refresher never hurts.  I also included the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, which was one of my first blog posts.  Click the link above to see the original article or read the text below:

On my plant-based living blog, The Fresh Formula, I share information and recipes for healthy eating.  One of the easiest changes we can make to our diets is to consider healthier substitutes for the items that we are using regularly.  Below, I have listed some examples of substitutions that I have made in my own kitchen:

  • White flour –> Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, graham flour
  • White granulated sugar –> Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, medjool dates
  • Iodized table salt –> Pink Himalayan sea salt

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  • Nut butters with additives –> Nuts-only nut butters
  • Eggs –> Chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with water), bananas, steamed apple puree
  • Dairy milk –> Unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut, grain, and hemp milks
  • Canned beans –> Dry beans or unsalted canned beans (beans only)
  • White rice –> Brown rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, cracked wheat, barley
  • Prepackaged popcorn –> Bulk popping corn (made on the stovetop)

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  • Vegetable or canola oil –> Coconut, avocado, sesame, peanut, and olive oils
  • Boxed/canned stock/broth –> Unsalted homemade stock (can also be used as a flavorful substitute for water when cooking whole grains)

While many of these substitutions are more expensive, some are cheaper than their preservative-laden brethren; I believe that the health benefits are worth it either way.  I adopted a plant-based lifestyle because I had high cholesterol, so eggs, for example, were one of the first items to cross off of my shopping list.  Chia seeds, by contrast, are cholesterol-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.

I have included my irresistible chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe incorporating many of the aforementioned substitutions.  It is so decadent, it can serve as dessert, but is a healthy option for a meal or snack, too!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and a few ice cubes)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (nuts only)
  • 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 pitted medjool dates
  • Unsweetened almond milk to achieve desired consistency (start with ½ cup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until silky smooth.

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For more valuable health tips, information on plant-based living and eating, and tons of delicious recipes, visit thefreshformula.com and subscribe for regular updates.  Cheers to good health!

How I Made the Switch

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What I love about being an educator is my ability not only to teach students important academic content, but to help shape their lives.  I am thankful that my work habits trickle into my personal life, allowing me to reach those outside of the classroom, too.  Since adopting a plant-based lifestyle over three years ago, I’ve had many students, friends, and family members interested in making the switch themselves.  They’ve asked me for ideas and recipes, just wanting to live a healthier life.

As I’ve always stressed, I am not an expert in nutrition or dieting; I know what I know from old-fashioned research and experimentation.  For me, the proof of my lifestyle and Fresh Formula concept is in how I look, and more importantly, feel, in the day-to-day.  While I’ve never been overweight or unhealthy overall, I really believe that we can always improve, which is what I set out to do.

I also believe that the people in my life bring out the best in me, making me want to live as long and as healthy a life as I possibly can.  My husband and son in particular are what inspire me to make smart choices (as my mom always says!) each and every day.  I don’t want to watch my son ride his bike off to school; I want to ride my bike with him.

11001720_10204884344286016_940481854688695948_o_edited198628_10101096867216124_2241408_n_edited The most common question that students (and people in general) ask me once they learn that I don’t typically eat animal products is “What do you eat?”  I addressed this in a previous post, so I’m here today to answer the second most popular question:  “How do/did you do it?”

I’m an ordinary person with a busy lifestyle and like many people, occasionally make a really unhealthy food choice.  As a result, I knew that I would have to take baby steps in transitioning from a traditional, animal-laden American diet to one revolving around plants.

For me, the first step was doing away with cow’s milk.  Many varieties contain added sugar, hormones, and more (I’ll let you research that on your own).  I gave up cow’s milk over six years ago and should have done it sooner, being that I am mildly lactose-intolerant.  Skim milk never irritated my system much, but I knew that it wasn’t the healthiest milk option for me for a number of reasons.  So, I have since switched to plant milk.  I drink primarily almond, but I also like cashew, hemp, oat, and grain.

Less than two years later was when I was told I had high cholesterol.  Ugh!  My doctor advised me to give up red meat, pork, eggs, and butter.  I went without these for an entire year—not that I previously ate them much anyway—before I kicked all meat and most dairy to the curb.  Despite being lactose-intolerant, it’s been more difficult to give up dairy because it is often the staple ingredient in comfort foods:  ice cream, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, etc.  I am no different than the average person – sometimes, comfort food just sounds damn good.

Now, “comfort food” to me is a big salad or rich smoothie because that’s what I’ve come to crave.  I also really look forward to making customary animal-based comfort foods vegan, trying new things, and learning about the latest super foods.  That leads me to the next stage in my plant-based journey…

About six months after eliminating animal products, I decided to make it my mission to try new fruits and vegetables.  A friend that I used to teach high school with and I would head out to the farmer’s market and while I would buy plenty of familiars, I would also try to grab at least one or two items that I didn’t recognize.  While this sometimes wound up in failure (you can’t help what you like and don’t like!), 90% of the time I found some—or a lot of—success with new produce.

The last phase in my journey to plant-based living involved what I call, for no particular reason other than simplicity, “picky vegan things.”  I gave up honey, gelatin, white sugar, etc.  In other words, I gave up the foods that don’t outwardly say “I’m made with animal products,” or that we commonly associate with chickens cooped in their pens or salmon being fed corn, but foods that contain animals or are made by animals nonetheless.

Today, I am working on becoming even more dedicated to an imperfect model.  I am not above grabbing a slice of pizza at a party; I just choose not to eat like the majority 95% of the time.  For this, I am healthier than ever, with great blood work, loads of energy, reliable sleep habits, and a normal weight and heart rate.

I hope that taking a look into how I got where I am inspires you to make a healthy change in your lifestyle, however big or small.  There’s nothing wrong with baby steps and there is no perfect diet.  🙂  For more inspiration and ideas, read more about me, plant-based living, and my Fresh Formula concept.  As always, enjoy!

Nolan Turns Two: What We Ate

DSC_1715I can’t believe my son is already two years old! Everyone told me that the time would fly and they were right. Before I knew it, it was time to plan Nolan’s second birthday party, including a mostly vegan menu that was sure to please all guests.

And, it did! We kept the affair small and invited family members that are both vegetarians and omnivores. Everyone ate mostly vegan and loved it, exclaiming over the food and asking me for recipes. In the past, I’ve served foods at parties I’ve thrown that are crowd pleasers, but that don’t necessarily reflect our plant-based lifestyle. Animal products like meat and cheese were once on the menu for such an event and I would always be conflicted with the leftovers; I don’t believe in wasting food, but I don’t, any longer, choose to eat many animal products. This time, I knew that I wanted to be left with the food that we eat every single day.

DSC_1665To answer the question that is surely on many minds, particularly those of parents, yes, Nolan follows a plant-based lifestyle, too. While I’m no expert on this way of eating and living, I’ve done quite a bit of research and have been living plant-based for over three years. As a result, I know that animal products are not at all necessary to the proper growth and development of a young child. While Nolan eats the occasional piece of cheese or cup of yogurt when at the homes of friends and family, in our house, he eats just like Travis and I do.

So, when it came time to plan his birthday party menu, I knew I wanted to serve some of his favorites. I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality of these pictures, but with a house full of hungry guests, a toddler being a toddler, and dogs running all over the place, capturing these images ended up becoming sort of an afterthought. 🙂 Here’s what we served:

  • Two types of veggie burgers: a black bean quinoa burger with red peppers and a falafel burger with sunflower seeds; we served an avocado “sour cream” (silken tofu, lime juice, avocado) and sliced veggies for topping
  • Baked veggie fries: a combination of yams and sweet potatoes seasoned with paprika and garlic powder
  • Fruit salad: bananas, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, blackberries
  • Kale salad: baby kale mixture dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with raw chopped pecans and sunflower seeds
  • Homemade graham crackers and dip (a thicker version of my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie)
  • California rolls: Other than the cake, which we custom ordered from a local bakery that we love, these were the only non-vegan items on the menu. Nolan isn’t yet at the point where he’ll munch on very many raw veggies when we go out for sushi, so we always get him a California roll. 🙂

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To answer another question that may be on your mind, yes, Nolan does eat (and love) all of these foods, often in one day. The kid DOMINATES plant-based yumminess like it’s going out of style and I’d be willing to bet that if we did a blood draw, the results would show that he’s in better nutritional shape than most adults. He has no food allergies, has energy for days, is happy and well-tempered, and has been sleeping through the night for at least twelve hours since two months old. I’d say that he’s doing just fine without animal products.  🙂

As you read in my bio, I am a mostly vegan, as sometimes it just isn’t feasible to be 100% plant-based. Case in point, Nolan’s cake. I have made vegan and gluten-free cakes and icings before, to much success. This time around, however, I needed someone to do the job for me. With Travis working full-time and completing an MBA, a steady stream of visitors since January (everyone wants to be in Arizona when it’s winter!), my job, and running our entire house, I honestly just didn’t have the time, this time. The cake was delicious and it was worth the very occasional splurge.

DSC_1660 I’m hoping that getting a glimpse into our plant-based lifestyle—even when throwing a party—helps you to embrace it yourself, even if it’s occasional or gradual. I can’t stress enough the health and happiness that living this way has brought to our lives and we have an adorable two-year-old to show for it. Happy Birthday, Nolan!

Must-Haves from the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival

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When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was at its peak, I decided to take the act of charity to the next level and complete weekly acts of charity for an entire year. This weekend, my personal IBC led me to the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival in Scottsdale to benefit Evolve for Animals.

The festival was teeming with eager vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and environmentalists. While typical festival/carnival/state fair crowds tend to damper the experience for me, this time, I was thrilled to be surrounded with like-minded people who care about animals, sustainability, and of course, their health.

Various booths with information and most importantly, free samples (woo!), peppered the perimeter of the Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater. The first booth that my husband, Travis, and I stopped at, Arizona Microgreens, featured an assortment of organic baby greens, which are easily my new favorite salad base and sandwich filler. I had had microgreens before, but didn’t realize just how many varieties existed. As you can see, they look adorable when compared with something like iceberg lettuce (I do believe that presentation matters when it comes to eating) and taste absolutely delicious. Many samples and $15 later, we walked away with broccoli and pea shoot micros.

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Up next, we stopped at a clothing booth that specializes in tops made from organic cotton and bearing catchy vegetarian and animal-friendly phrases. Geeky for some, but I was smitten and had to have one of Herbivore Clothing’s creations. Like many things organic, the long sleeve shirt I selected wasn’t cheap, but $30 well-spent to advocate for causes that I believe in without even trying.

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Who doesn’t love a soft pretzel?! As if being 100% vegan weren’t amazing enough, these pretzels were shaped like mustaches! Scrumptious and fun to eat, I now understand why the line was 30 minutes long at Mustache Pretzels. After all, “great mustaches aren’t born – they’re bread.”

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Lastly, Travis and I hit up a tortilla chip booth that had really long lines when we first arrived. By this point in the festival, it was raining, so we were able to make it to the front of Beanfields in just a few minutes. These tortilla chips–which were fantastic–are made from beans and brown rice. I’m not a big proponent of processed foods, but there are some gems out there are these are one of them.

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They were the perfect snack to end a fulfilling day doing one of the things I love most: living a plant-based lifestyle. Good for me, good for animals.