Meatless Monday: Quesadilla with Gardein Beefless Ground

Is it Monday again already?

These days Mondays make me happy because I’m linking up with Tina and Deborah for Meatless Monday! As promised I have a vegan quesadilla recipe made with Gardein Beefless Ground that will knock your socks off!

Meatless-Monday-Button1-200x300

Not only is Gardein Beefless Ground 100% plant based, it is also gluten free, so if you’re wanting some healthy deliciousness, simply make these quesadillas with gluten free tortillas.

Quesadilla 2

Quesadillas are one of my go-to dishes when I’m short of time. They are ready in less than a half hour, delicious, and really filling too. You can use prepared refried beans and salsa or make your own. The guacamole used in this recipe is very simple, just a mashed avocado with a little lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper. It works perfectly with the seasoned Beefless Ground and salsa.

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Meatless Monday: Spaghetti with Gardein Meatless Meatballs

I am always on the go. Between work, blogging, dog care (yes, seven dogs including one who is handicapped are quite time-consuming), plus running and working out of course, leaves very little time for cooking, especially on weekdays.

The thing is, I love to cook and be creative in the kitchen. It’s just hard sometimes when time is short. So I’m happy when I find a product that is not only plant based, it is also healthy, easy and delicious.

Gardein Meatless Meatballs

I’ve shared recipes made with Gardein here many times. Their products are a great option for almost everyone, whether you’re participating in Meatless Monday, trying to eat more healthfully by adding more plant based meals to your diet, or if you are already a vegan or vegetarian who loves the taste and ease of cooking with Gardein.

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It’s Not Hard to Eat Vegan: 5 Tips to Help You Switch to a Plant Based Diet

I have so many people, even vegetarians, tell me, “It must be so hard to eat like you do.” I can see that, at first glance, following a vegan diet can look complicated and intimidating. Others think that the hard part is giving up the foods that they like, not generally talking about meat, but much more often they mean giving up sweet treats and,  especially, giving up cheese.

It's not hard to eat vegan. 5 Tips to help you make the switch to a plant based diet.

It’s Not Hard to Eat Vegan: 5 tips to help you make the switch to a plant based diet.

Let’s take this step by step. Here are a few tips that will make eating a plant based diet seem less scary (and more delicious). It’s really not hard to eat vegan.

    1. Reading Labels. This is probably the most time consuming and complicated part for new vegans. Yes, you need to read labels. Thoroughly. But, considering all the junk that is found in most processed food, shouldn’t you be doing that anyway? When I scan a label, I first look at the allergen listing. Since most manufacturers list any food that is known to cause allergies, it is a quick and easy way to see if a food contains any dairy products or eggs. If it does, put it down. If if doesn’t, you’re not quite done. Take a look at the rest of the ingredient list. Other ingredients sometimes have lesser known names, but still contain non-vegan properties. These include casein, gelatin, honey, whey, and carmine. Here is a complete list from Happy Cow that can help guide a new vegan through the ins and outs of label reading. The good news is, it gets easier. While ingredients change, and you need to keep an eye even on products that you use regularly, it will soon become second nature to read a label and pick out which ingredients contain animal products.
    2. Eating Out. While it would be wonderful to be able to eat at a vegan restaurant every time you go out to dinner, it is probably unlikely to ever happen. In my case, we have one vegan restaurant anywhere close to La Quinta, and it is about a 45 minute drive from home. It is possible to order a vegan meal at most restaurants, though. Fortunately, there are resources to help you find restaurants that are vegan friendly. The first and foremost is Happy Cow. Enter the city that you are searching or use the app, and you will find a list of restaurants that can accommodate your dietary needs as well as directions, suggestions, and ratings. Another app that I use frequently is VeganXpress (for iOS only, so I have to check my iPad). It not only lists the available vegan dishes at most chain restaurants, it has a vegan food list so you can check out your favorite candy, snacks, and other foods (Fritos, Oreos, Red Vines, and some Girl Scout cookies make the list!). Again, it gets easier, but you do have to read menus, ask questions, and sometimes make special requests.
    3. Cooking at Home. There are hundreds of vegan cookbooks available, many recipe websites and blogs that have vegan recipes (including this one!), and many other resources to help you prepare delicious and easy plant based meals. That being said, one of the easiest ways to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle is to use some the of delicious meat alternatives available. My two favorites are Beyond Meat and Gardein, and there are several others that are very good too. Do be aware that some faux meats are not vegan, including products from Quorn and some from Morningstar Farms. Simply prepare some of your old favorites, substituting the vegan alternatives where appropriate.
    4. “Giving Up” Stuff. If you have a sweet tooth that you need to satisfy, it is certainly possible to find or make plant based alternatives. I’ve been in “baking mode” in the past (which doesn’t happen very often) and made such treats as carrot cake, pineapple upside down cake, and a variety of cookies. There are certain specialty brands of vegan baked treats, and even Trader Joes has their own chocolate chip cookies which contain no animal products. There is ice cream made of soy, almond, or coconut milk, and dark chocolate is not only delicious, it is better for you than milk chocolate. I found that I eat a lot less junky food simply because it is not vegan. For me that turned out to be a better reason than the old “too much fat, sugar, and calories” excuse.
    5. Cheese. Cheese gets its own paragraph because it is probably the number one excuse reason that I hear from current vegetarians as to why it would be so hard to be vegan. “I can’t give up cheese!” they say. Yeah, yeah, I used to be there too. But you know what? Yes, you can. Eating less cheese really is a matter of “just doing it.” Like sugar, the less you eat, the less you want. Plus, these days brands like Daiya make substitutes that not only taste great, they melt just like the real thing. Daiya is also soy and gluten free. Their products go beyond the plain old cheddar and mozzarella shreds, and include Swiss and provolone slices, cream cheese, and Havarti and jack wedges. If you’d like to start making your own gourmet vegan cheese, this cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese, (affiliate link) has recipes using plant based ingredients like almonds, cashews, and non-dairy yogurt,  to make anything from ricotta to soft Gruyère, to whipped coconut cream.

 

TJs Chickenless Salad

Easy Breezy: A half avocado topped with Trader Joes Chicken-less Salad, served on quinoa with a side salad with a mustard vinaigrette. Healthy, balanced, and delicious!

Another thing that will make it easier to make the switch to a plant based diet is that it is getting easier to find many of the substitute meat and cheese products. Many chain supermarkets, including Vons (Safeway), Ralphs (Kroger), and even Target, carry brands like Daiya, Beyond Meat, Gardein, and others. And if your local store doesn’t, why not ask? Store managers are usually quite responsive to special requests like this.

I hope this has answered a few questions and made the idea of “eating vegan” less scary. If you have questions about following a plant based diet, please feel free to ask in the comments.

The Convenient Vegan: My 5 Favorite “Easy” #Vegan Foods

Mofo Graphic_squareBy convenient vegan I do not mean following a plant based diet when it is easy or convenient to do. No, I want to highlight a few of my favorite vegan convenience foods that can actually assist with the transition to a plant based diet, or help those who want to join Meatless Monday, eat a little less meat, or (like my son next week) have family coming for dinner and want to surprise them with your no-meat cooking skills.

Many times in the regular food world, convenience foods are prepared meals that tend to be high in sugar, salt, and have a lot of additives that would not be considered healthy. And it’s true that many of the prepared vegan meals can have some of the same problems. However, the foods that I’m highlighting today are less processed, have fewer ingredients, and are high in overall quality.

While some vegans, especially those who have been following a plant based diet for a long time, tend to eschew meat substitutes altogether, I think that they have merit, not only for transition, but for anyone who is short on time or simply wants the flavor of meat without the killing the animals part.

Gardein

While Gardein in general has a variety of delicious meat substitutes (see my Chick’n Piccata), from beefless beef, to chickenless chicken, and even fishless fish, the highlight tonight is the Chick’n Sliders. After adding some favorite toppings like onion, tomato and avocado, serving with some baked sweet potato fries, you’ve got a great, easy meal that even kids will love.

gardein(The reason you’re seeing the box instead of the actual sliders is that when I went to prepare dinner, I discover that I was out of avocado and mustard. One I could do without, but both? No way. So, leftovers for tonight, sliders, with avocado and mustard, tomorrow.)

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is a newer addition to the vegan meat options, and a long awaited one. In addition to being plant based and Non GMO, it is also gluten free, bringing vegan convenience to a wide range of people who avoid gluten. Their Beef-free crumbles are soy free too! The best part is, they are delicious, and easy to add to any meal to give it a little flavor and texture. Check out my Peachy Quinoa Salad made with Beyond Meat! (Click here to save $1 on Beyond Meat!)

Peachy Quinoa 3

Daiya

Confession: When I was at the IDEA World Expo, I spent a lot of time at the Daiya booth. After all they were handing out free (vegan) pizza! As the only vegan option within a few miles of the Anaheim Convention Center, it was only natural that I’d be drawn to the Daiya booth. First known as the company that made great meltable vegan cheese shreds, Daiya now has a variety of prepared and convenience food, from several varieties of pizza, delicious cream “cheese,” and both chunk and spreadable vegan cheeses. Not only are they all dairy free, they are soy and gluten free as well.

Daiya

Sweet Earth Seitan

I love the meaty texture and versatile uses of seitan. While preparing your own seitan is really not too difficult, I have always preferred the taste of some of the pre-made versions available. What I really like about Sweet Earth Seitan is that it contains the same ingredients that I would use if I made it at home: wheat gluten, soy sauce, and seasonings (see the picture below).

Sweet Earth Seitan

Follow Your Heart

I usually make my own salad dressing, but as a former ranch dressing lover sometimes I want a little creamy goodness. Follow Your Heart not only makes the best vegan mayonnaise, Vegenaise, they also make my favorite salad dressing, vegan Creamy Garlic. They have a vegan ranch too, but I’ve never seen it available in my local stores. Other Follow Your Heart products include the new vegan shreds (haven’t tried them yet, but I’m looking forward to it!) and vegan cream “cheese.”  They have a variety of products that are gluten and soy free too, so be sure to check out their website for more information.

Follow your heart

When I first became a vegetarian, over seven years ago, and even four years ago when I went completely vegan, it was a challenge to find some of these products, especially out here in the desert. Now, I’m happy to say, even my local Vons carries Beyond Meat, Daiya, and Gardein, and while I still have to travel a little to find Sweet Earth Seitan or Follow Your Heart, it is a lot easier than it used to be. Go Vegan!

Instagram of the Day: Cross Country Practice in 109 temperatures. Follow me!

Do you have a favorite convenience food, vegan or not? Would you run in 109 temps? Do you prefer exercising in hot or cold weather?

What I’m Eating: The Simple Truth

I am not a perfect vegan. Just like many other busy people, sometimes I depend on convenience foods to get dinner on the table. I don’t feel guilty (too much) about this, because my motivation to eat a plant based diet is ethical, not for health purposes. That being said, I try to eat mostly whole foods, stay away from over-processed, chemical-laden packaged food. But…

Driving home from work recently, I was feeling pretty tired and drained. The time change, combined with a busy weekend, left me low on energy. Since I tend to do my dinner planning on the drive home, I decided to stop by Ralphs and pick up some vegan chick’n fillets. I envisioned serving them with a mushroom gravy and Brussels sprouts.

As I was grabbing the package out of the freezer, I happened to notice some packaged food that I’d never seen before. It was a brand called Simple Truth and they offered a variety of meat free choices (see the picture below). There was no “V” for vegan on the package, but a quick look at the ingredients indicated that they were definitely animal product free.

Simple Truth

When I pulled out a package to check the ingredients, I got an even bigger surprise when I saw the Kroger label. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that a mainstream grocery chain like Kroger, which operates the Ralphs supermarkets in my area, plus Smiths, Baker’s, City Market, and many others, is selling what is basically a generic version of vegan convenience food.

Simple Truth

simple truth

From the Simple Truth website:

Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic provide a simple, uncomplicated and trustworthy solution to the challenge of simply better living.  All Simple Truth items are “Free From 101” artificial ingredients and preservatives. Available in almost every aisle throughout the Kroger Family of Stores, our products have simple, clean packaging and easy-to-understand ingredient statements that help take the chore out of finding simply better foods.

Ironically, I couldn’t find any of the vegan food listed on the web page. They must be really new.

So, loaded with my Simple Truth purchases, I changed my meal plan. Well, almost the same, but this meal was total comfort/diner food. I used the Simple Truth Crispy Patties, grilled them on the stove top, then made a mushroom gravy. If a 50s-style diner served vegan food alongside their meatloaf, this would have fit perfectly on the menu. Crispy “chicken,” served with the baked potato and mushroom gravy. Very tasty.

simple truth

Just to show that there is no limit to my laziness creativity curiosity interest in new and amusing foods, I also found a new Gardein item, Meatless Sliders. I’ve never had a “Meat” slider, but I thought these sounded kind of fun. I haven’t tried them yet, but I suspect I may have a new addition to my standard “football fare.”

simple truth

Okay, so I’m not a perfect vegan or perfect “clean” eater, but overall I eat pretty healthfully, harm no animals, and certainly enjoy my food.

How about you? Do you give in to “tired mom syndrome” or “working woman condition” from time to time? What is your favorite “easy” food?

Two Vegan Recipes: Spicy Lime Soup & (another) Tofu Scramble + the #Therafit Winner!

Fun stuff first. I happy to announce that the winner of the Therafit Shoes is…..Tina! Congratulations, Tina. You’re going to love your new shoes. The contest may be over, but you can still read my review and get your discount code here.

Therafit

Finding balance in Therafit.

I (frequently) say that I love a good tofu scramble. I hadn’t made one in a while, I think because in my mind I think of it as a breakfast dish and I rarely have time to spend on breakfast prep of anything more complex than oatmeal or a smoothie (and even that’s pushing it).

But, I was at Clark’s the other day, picking up a few items that are hard to find here in the desert (like seitan, Daiya wedges, and vegan prepared food, just to name a few things), when a package of Soyrizo caught my eye. I had a plan.

On a side note, I got a kick out of the very young lady that checked me out. Gazing at my packages of seitan, Soyrizo, tofu, plus a bunch of kale, a bag of quinoa, and a few other things, she asked if I was vegan. Stifling my inner smart-ass, I said yes. She told me that she was vegan as well and was happy to see more vegans. I think she would have liked to say “older vegans,” but I agreed with her, because I’m happy to see more vegans too, young or old(er).

Tofu Scramble. Vegan

Ingredients

1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 med potato, cooked and chopped
1/2 package Soyrizo
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup vegan cheese (optional)

vegan

Originally posted (with a few changes) here.

Directions

Pat tofu dry. In a medium bowl, use a fork to break up the tofu until it has a texture similar to scrambled eggs. Add turmeric, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and chiles and cook until soft, about two minutes. Add potatoes and cook until slightly browned. Move vegetables to the outside of the pan and add the Soyrizo and cook until heated through. Add the tofu mixture and stir, blending the tofu, Soyrizo, and vegetables. Cook until heated through.

Serve with vegan cheese, avocado, salsa, and toast or tortillas if you like.

Tofu Scramble2

Last week, while I was training my awesome 82 year old client (she still plays and takes tennis lessons a couple times a week!), she told me that she was making a big pot of soup for dinner. With cooling weather finally here in the desert (in the 70s at least), soup sounded pretty good, so I was inspired to make my own.

If you are looking for a traditional recipe for Yucatan Sopa de Lima, you will not find it here. Sorry. But, this easy vegan soup is still delicious, spicy, and warming, and I think you will enjoy it.

vegan

Spicy Chick’n & Lime Soup. Vegan

Ingredients

6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup lime juice
1 package Gardein chick’n strips
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1 lime
cilantro
avocado
tortillas (corn or flour, your preference)
salsa
vegan cheese (I used Daiya)

vegan

Directions

Combine broth, lime juice, chick’n, potatoes, carrots, cumin, salt and pepper in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

Preheat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and chiles. Cook until soft, then add to the simmering soup.

Cook soup on low for about 15 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are slightly tender. Add the salsa, beans and the zucchini, and cook for a few minutes more to heat the beans and cook the zucchini.

Garnish with limes, cilantro, avocado, and serve with tortillas, salsa, and vegan cheese.

Well, 11 more days until Christmas. I’ll be spending my weekend with shopping, decorating, cleaning, etc. What will you be up to?