Breaking News: Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

In case you missed it, a study came out this week sensationalizing for the masses just how much more expensive it is to eat healthy ($550 more a year). Just what America needs, another excuse to skip the veggies, whole grains, fruit and lentils and load up on various iterations of salt, sugar and fat. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I went grocery shopping today. Spinach, bag of limes, two bags of celery, three bags of 2lbs of carrots, romaine hearts, almond milk, silken tofu, pounds of apples, a purple sweet potato, two pears, ginger, a lemon, a bag of kiwis, a bag of avocados….and it set me back a whopping $43. (This is more than a week worth’s of food people). Oh, and it was all organic. Had I gone the conventional route, it would have been about 30% less. Sorry, “Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day,” I think I can squeeze by on about $3.60.

What Do Vegans Eat for Dessert At Thanksgiving?

Answer: A lot.

Here are five 10 insane vegan desserts I’ll be getting inspiration from this fall. If you’re anything like me, and you’ve encountered countless friends inquire “But what about ice cream?” “What about cheesecake?” “WHAT ABOUT COOKIES?…AND BROWNIES?”

What about ’em? 🙂 Beyond the standard vegan pumpkin tiramisu and pumpkin cheesecake with pecan crust topping dazzle them with any of these delights and watch their skepticism fade away.

Okay, so maybe they’re pegged as breakfast cookies, but speaking from personal experience. These 2-Ingredient 2-Ingredient Healthy Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies {with delicious add-ins!} from Ambitious Kitchen taste amazing any hour of the day. My favorite mix extras are a sprinkle of sea salt and a light dusting of cinnamon. I’ve got some dark cherries today and a few handfuls left of the addictive Navitas Naturals Cashews, so those might find their way into a batch as well. Add some flaxseed meal or chia or hemp seeds for an even superboosted indulgence.

From pretty dough balls…

To stacks of deliciousness…

Need to appease the ooey gooey chocolate aficionados in your life? Look no further than these babies, also from Ambitious Kitchen. Because who can say no to Black Bean Avocado Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies . Okay, you got me, your body building boyfriend might say “ick” to the veggies and legumes. So just tell everyone they’re Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies. Trust me, no one will know you slipped in good-for-you stuff.
All this chocolate talk has you craving, well, more chocolate, right? These I-dare-you-to-say-no Flourless Chocolate Chip Zucchini Oat Brownies from Ambitious Kitchen have only 86 calories and 6 grams of sugar per square

Next up, we’ve got Can’t Say No Pumpkin Bread from Queen of Quinoa. You know you’ve been dreaming about it since the first time you retired your early fall cardigan for your okay-this-is-really-fall-now khaki jacket, so why say no? Oh, and need I even mention it, but between the Medjool dates, quinoa flakes and coconut oil, you can file this under “Desserts You Won’t Feel Guilty About.”
Still thinking about those brownies? Me too. Until my brown infatuation met these blondies. Black Bean Avocado Brownies, meet Ambitious Kitchen’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lentil Blondies. And this time, you can just tell the BF to get excited for some no sugar added, protein-loaded peanut butter nuggets of goodness. (He doesn’t need to know about the lentils, right? I mean, it’s not soy…)

And while you’re feeling blondies, whip a batch of Ambitious Kitchen’s Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt 
And what’s a blondie, or any dessert, for that matter, without some ice cream? That’s why I’m going  with these two #SeriousWins to top the crumbly masterpieces with some frozen love. First up, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream courtesy of Queen of Quinoa. The cookie dough balls are très easy to assemble (and you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to you from eating raw egg) and a scoop or two is a heavenly reminder that whoever decided ice cream is a summer thing, definitely never placed it over a toasty, oven-fresh blondie.

And because what’s a celebration without truffles? May I present to you Secretly Healthy Black Bean Chocolate Protein Truffles from Ambitious Kitchen. And to steal Lay’s potato chips slogan “betcha can’t eat just one.” Excepts, you won’t have to worry about that, now, will you?  Black beans + protein powder + maple syrup = antioxidant and protein power house.

Okay, okay, we’re busted. Our hopeless devotion to ice cream has led us to also attempt Ambitious Kitchen’s Banana “Ice Cream” with Toasted Coconut, Almonds, & Dark Chocolate.  All you need for the “ice cream” is a few ripe bananas, and all those ripe-ies are getting sick of being baked away in your oven, anyways. They’ll appreciate the change of pace. Because you’re doing this for them….right? Totally. Has nothing to do with that batch of brownies in the oven. No, not at all.

And for ice cream dipping purposes? Chocolate Chip Cookies, of course. Queen of Quinoa ingeniously weaves in quinoa flakes here, but the real secret weapon is unsweetened apple sauce. The gluten-free guests at your table will be weeping with joy.

So back to that original question of your demanding guest…”What do vegans eat for dessert at Thanksgiving?” Well, after any of these wonders, they might even take a moment to tell you “Wow I finally get why you’re doing that whole vegan thing!” Excepts they probably won’t… they’ll  just be too busy scarfing down their desserts to take a breath of air. What don’t vegans eat for dessert?

The Arugula Salad That Will Make Carnivores Cry

You think I’m kidding? I’m not. My cyber friend Alyssa over at Queen of Quinoa knows how to please any palate. Not only is it the type of dish I call “vegan without even noticing”, it’s also gluten-free. This savory salad combines roasted squash, pomegranate seeds (in season now! Can’t find a whole pomegranate? You can buy the fresh arils in this handy container from POM Wonderful) and an amazing dressing of a little whole-grain mustard, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Get the recipe here. I promise your meat-eating friends won’t be sad. They might even stop asking you “What’s with the whole vegan thing?” ad nauseam.

Get more tantalizing gluten-free delights from Alyssa at Queen of Quinoa, or follow her on Twitter @AlyssaRimmer.
And while you’re on a quinoa kick (it’s a thing), check out some of her amazing recipes in this Reader’s Digest slideshow of creative quinoa recipes. Hey, you might even decide to your reward yourself for eating this healthy salad, with a healthy sweet finish of “Reese’s” Quinoa CrispyTreats.” (Just swap honey for maple syrup or agave nectar to make it 100% vegan). You might want to make an extra batch; those meat-guzzlers will be looting the serving platter for seconds.

NYC Chain Fresh & Co. is a Good Egg for Hungry Vegans!

Originating in 2008, Fresh & Co. has since exploded to make a veritable mark on the New York City foodscape. Far from a conventional fast food restaurant, this “Improved Fast Food” chain works with local, family farms to bring its patrons seasonal, fresh fare. Boring sammies and sides, step aside! The rapidly expanding chain with eight locations and counting (currently only in NYC, but plans are in the works for national expansion), offers autumn hits like a vegetarian Fall Harvest Salad (roasted butternut squash caramelized pears, blue cheese, frisee, sundried cranberries and pear vinaigrette) and vegan The Greater Tater (sweet potato panini with arugula , cucumbers, sriracha aioli and vegan mayo).

As many vegans surely know, eating at home is a cinch, but dining out on fast food on the fly can often prove a struggle filled with limited options, tasteless sides and a hungry stomach. Fresh & Co.’s produce-centric menu offers no shortage of vegan-friendly options (in fact, I had hard time deciding what not to order) that are creative and filling. In fact, the Fresh & Co. team recently shared with me that even non-vegans are opting to dine on vegan fare (Whoo!). And you know that miserable post-fast food coma of oh-my-gosh-did-I-really-just-eat-all-that haze? Expect enough energy to run from Harlem’s KFC to Brooklyn’s and back.

Hello acorn squash, hello kale, hello figs, hello tahini. Hello seasonal deliciousness.

 Game on, protein.

 Hello, chia seed pudding. We’ll do with you later.


Peace out carnivore panini paradise;  hello, unchicken sandwich and sweet potato heaven.

 Hello, Suja (Elements!). We’ll cheers to a meal this satisfying and nutritious.

3-Ingredient Savory Oatmeal

I am the world’s biggest non-oatmeal fan. It does nothing for me. Give me farro. Give me sorghum. Give me barley. Give me ethically unsound quinoa for breakfast. Just don’t give me oatmeal. Until now.Plain unsweetened oatmeal + extra virgin olive oil + sea salt = non-sweet oatmeal lover’s paradise.

And okay…give me cinnamon, banana, frozen berries and maple syrup, too. But only in the PM. And only side by side.

Spaghetti and Meatbealls? Pffft. A Snapshot of A Week In Vegan Dining:

Deprived? Hungry? Subsisting on lettuce and tomatoes? Je ne pense pas as le french say.

This mindblowing spaghetti from NYC’s Charlie Bird tossed together noodles with grape halves, walnut crumbles, raisin, herbs and a drizzle of their chili paste sauce for a spicy kick. Simple and delicious.
Crostini toast topped with sliced grapes, radish slivers, olive oil and herbs. Insane times twelve.

That time I went apple picking in Cold Spring with my amazing friend Emilie…

 That time we peeled a lot of apples…

 And more..

If only photos could capture the smell of this amazing apple crumble…

Happy Snazzy Vegan dining ya’ll!

November Not-So-Guilty Pleasure: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

First off, these past two days have been a flurry of excitement in my little corner of the vegan universe. A piece I penned on expert tips for becoming vegan went viral-ish and I’ve received a wave of thank yous and HECK YES from so many awesome champions of this lovely plant powered movement of awesomeness and deliciousness. (Can you tell I’m a little too high on beet-carrot-apple juice right now for my own good?) Hooray!

So when Livvy of 86Lemons, one of my vegan eating idols, wrote this lovely post sharing my article with her network and these babies for growling stomachs:

…I knew what my celebratory snack would be. Excepts, I also knew, my rendition of these pumpkin-spiced cookies, would not come out looking nearly as pretty, so I figured I’d send you over to her drool-inciting blog instead to get it. Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies. Yes, they are going to be that good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This Week in Vegan Droolery: Cinnamon Pull-Apart Brioche, Apple Pie in Pecan Crust, and More

I have a problem. A serious problem. I could spend all day on my favorite food blogs staring at tantalizing recipes I’ll probably never have time to test. Luckily, my incredible job as resident Editor of Yumminess at Reader’s Digest allows me that indulge, and recently I even got to crank out a now blockbuster piece on “I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan!” Comfort Food  from my favorite blogettes (Yet to run in a male vegan food blogger in my travels, but I sure hope they’re out there!). What follows is a mix of recipes from some of the most delightful and creative vegan food blogs that I’ve already stocked my pantry for and others I’ve tucked into my “THIS IS HAPPENING FILE” after I go apple picking in a few weeks.
So, yes, apples. I can’t stop thinking about them. This Apple Pie in a Pecan Crust from Have Cake Will Travel is seasonal, perfectly crumbly and for the love of pie…just sublime-looking.
Because everybody needs a Cinnamon Pull-Apart Brioche to win over their steak-and-eggs guzzling boyfriend. Am I right? Okay even if I’m not, how can you argue with brown sugar, cinnamon and dough in the AM? Thank you, Have Cake Will Travel for salvation from Sweets for Breakfast Withdrawal Syndrome.

What first made me fall in love with Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s recipe, was her use of exotic flavors and ethnic influences into flavor-packed, easy-to-pull-off meals. This Cumin-Infused Vegetables and Chickpeas over Quinoa is no exception. I’ve fluffed away quinoa lately for ethical reasons, so i plan on digging into this one with farro or sorghum. Yum times twelve.

There are two things you should know about me. I am a bread addict. And I am a tomato addict. Apparently Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes already knew both. Behold: the Eggplant Tomato Bialy Sandwich. To quote a crooning Eddie Vedder on his new album, infallible.

Time to get a-cookin’…just one more quick browsing adventure…

Wok-Tossed Crickets, Anyone?

This weekend at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, I had the chance to watch Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern prepare Wok-Tossed Crickets with Chives & Black Beans. Though the dish wasn’t exactly vegan fare I was drooling to get my hand on, chatting with my food hero reminded me of how we’re both champions for better health, a cleaner world and a safer food system. I hope he can open your eyes too for a different way of approaching our nation’s factory farming problems besides veganism: Alternative proteins. Because let’s face it, we’re not going to turn all carnivores into plant people anytime soon, and turning to different sources of meats offers a viable solution to our country’s food issues.

Though I’m not about to eat goat, crickets or various animals’ brains and bladders in the near future, he stressed to me that these options are more sustainable than their industrial, hormone-laced, pumped up counterparts. Sure, it might seem taboo to eat rabbit or horse or Cricket Flour Protein Bars  (Oh and, insects may be the new beef patty.), and I’m not about to anytime soon. But Zimmern certainly raises a valid and convincing argument: By eating these alternative sources of meat, we can support local farmers, promote healthier eating, put pressure on industrial farms to change their practices and work towards preserving our earth’s limited resources. And hey, is it just me, or are those goals pretty much in line with what ever conscious veganand any kind of conscious eater for that matter strives to do?

Read all things Andrew and Awesomeness at Learn more about the General Mills and Andrew Zimmern hosted Munchies Awards here. Follow him @AndrewZimmern.

The Best Cookies You Won’t Believe Are Vegan

I’ve had my fair share of vegan cookies, and quite frankly, most of them just don’t do it for me. And it sucks. But most of the time, that’s when you buy an overpriced one at a health food store or you are PMS-ing, desperate for a cookie fix and trying to convince yourself that the lame granola bars you’ve fashioned out of oats and assorted pumpkin seed-esque leftovers are, in fact, cookies (they’re not. C’mon, they don’t even stay together). So when I stumbled upon this beautiful Mason Jar and recipe from the folks at Pompeian Olive Oil, I was excited to see how I could veganize it up.

Here’s the recipe they gave me:

Pompeian Chocolate Chip Cookies

In Mason Jar:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips (Note: make sure you use non-dairy ones!)

Additional Ingredients:

¾ cup Pompeian Grapeseed Oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grapeseed Oil Spray

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. In large bowl, blend Pompeian Grapeseed Oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat until mixture

is combined.

3. Add contents of mason jar; stir until mixture is thoroughly combined.

4. Spray cookie sheet with Grapeseed Oil Spray and sprinkle with flour.

5. Drop 1 tablespoon mixture onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-11 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Repeat with remaining batter.

Makes about 4 dozen.

So what brain-pushing and crazy recipe tweaking did I have to do to make this work? Brace yourself…

Swap the 2 large eggs for 6 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ratio of water to flaxseed meal should be 3 tablespoons to 1; this works for pretty much any baking recipe that calls for eggs as a binder). Mix the water and flax together and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes and put your spoon back in. Behold: the mixture will take on a gummy consistency, just like eggs.

Yup. That’s it.

Yield: About four dozen that will disappear in mere minutes.
Note: If you feel like going really crazy, get creative like we did and add cinnamon to a few, a scoop of dark chocolate peanut butter to some others, and a few flakes of sea salt (gotta love that savory sweet contrast of sea salt a nd olive oil with warm, gooey cookies) to a few more. I dare you not to be in Levain-esque Bakery-infused heaven post-eating session.