Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas Time!

Dear Readers, thank you for your amazing support in 2011. Here's wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season! I'll be back right after the new year and look forward to helping you realize lifetime resolutions! Santa presented me with an early present...a new slick camera for taking better pictures for the blog! Be prepared for lots of what-I-ate-for dinner shots! Cheers, Nicole

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dates Stuffed with Peanut Butter

I'm so proud to be half Lebanese, and am convinced that growing up around international cooking really helped develop my taste buds to be more adventurous and innovative.

I think the best desserts are Middle Eastern pastries, but honestly, a lot of them require a LOT of work (and more butter than I care to think about!) So, when I was trying to come up with a simple Lebanese treat, this came to mind. You know I love a quick, simple dessert. And if the dessert is made with two ingredients? That's a homerun!

When I was a kid, one of the treats my mother used to prepare for us was stuffed dates with peanut butter. Dates are deliciously sweet and sugary. Paired with an all-natural peanut butter and you can't go wrong. In fact, I'm willing to bet most kids wouldn't complain about this different dessert.

All you do to prepare this treat is to buy some whole pitted dates, put a little dab of peanut butter in the middle (or almond or sunflower butter) and that's it! My Mom liked to roll them in sugar (and as kids we didn't complain), but I make mine as pictured.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kath Eats Real Food

A blog I follow on a daily basis is one called Kath Eats Real Food. Although Kath isn't vegetarian, I love her approach to food, cooking, eating and life. She and her husband Matt, who now own and operate their own Great Harvest Bread Company in Virginia, are very passionate foodies who post what they eat three times a day. And no one seems to work wonders with leftovers like Kathy and Matt. Here is a nice video blurb about Kath Eats Real Food. And in case you're wondering, it's Kath who turned me (and hopefully you!) onto kale chips.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Frosted Spiced Gingerbread

One of the best vegan blogs is my personal favorite, I depend on her blog for inspiration and fool-proof recipes. That's one of the best parts of cooking blogs: the blogger (usually!) has tried the recipe a few times and only recommends what works. And I love passing along to my readers easy, sensible recipes that work!

I made this amazing gingerbread this past Thanksgiving for my father, who is the gingerbread lover of the family (and newly a vegetarian...go Dad!). But I didn't except to love it. I know it would be good...but it was GOOD!!!! And baking it in a loaf pan was really pretty and different. The plan it to make it Christmas Day for dessert (and breakfast the next morning...shh!)

Adapted from Fat Free Vegan.


  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or canola), softened (a little pricey, but worth it)
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • Chia egg (1 tbsp chia + 3 tbsp water) (I did the same, but with ground flax seed)
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (OR 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 th tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a regular sized loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly oil on top. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Combine the following ingredients (pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, coconut oil, molasses, chia egg) in a medium-sized mixing bowl and blend well. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir well. Stir in the toasted nuts. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth out with wet spoon, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan. While it is baking, make your spiced buttercream frosting (see below). Serves eight 1-inch slices.

Spiced Buttercream Frosting

Buttery, sweet, fluffy, spicy…and vegan to boot! The perfect Fall-spiced frosting.


  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter Stick, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup icing sugar (aka: confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (yes, a full tablespoon!)
  • 1 tbsp almond milk (as needed to thin out to desired consistency)

Directions: Whip the Earth Balance with a mixer until smooth. Now add half of the icing sugar and blend well, stopping to scrape the side of bowl as needed. Now add in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk (if needed). Mix well. Add in the remaining icing sugar and blend for several minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once the Gingerbread has fully cooled, spread on the icing using a wet spatula.

Veganmama note: this frosting is the bomb, and I'm not a frosting lover.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tiny Sweet Peppers that are soooo good!

Have you seen these tiny sweet peppers at the market? The only places I've seen them are Trader Joe's and Market Basket, but I'm sure if MB carries them other local markets do as well. What they look like are a bag of hot peppers (they are about that size), but they aren't hot at all. In fact, they are perfectly sweet and are the perfect snack with a nice hummus. They tend to run about $2.99 a bag, and are so good you might be able to even trick your kids (and fussy friends) into eating them!

I haven't done this yet, but I'm going to get 2-3 bags and just roast them all at once with a wee bit of olive oil. Yum!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Post Punk Kitchen

I love reading blogs. In fact, I'm not embarrassed to say that I spend a good hour a day reading decorating and vegetarian blogs. What can I say? It's one of the ways I find "me" time and relax. And since I literally don't turn on the television until about 10:00 most nights, I feel zero guilt. Blogs serve as a major source of inspiration and creativity, especially in the kitchen.

Before Thanksgiving I hosted some good friends for dinner and one of my foodie guests was excited to make a vegan dessert for the event. Although I tried to give her the easy way out ("just pick up something from Whole Foods' bakery!") she rose to the occasion and baked up a delicious apple crisp. If you're ever a guest in my home, I welcome anything you bring (vegan or NOT!), so don't freak if you ever get invited over for dinner :) But consider yourself lucky...I've become a pretty darn good vegan cook!

The site my friend used for her apple crisp is The Post Punk Kitchen. Love the name, since I like to think of myself as a post-punk mama. I have bookmarked the site as a reliable place for great recipes. And they go in very interesting directions with cooking. It's fearless. It's original. It's PUNK! Check it out! And just for fun, here is a favorite video from a favorite punk band.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A chip worth crunching!

I know as well as anyone that sometimes you just need to satisfy that salt craving. One of my recent discoveries (now available just about everywhere, as far as I know) is this line of chips by Food Should Taste Good. I've tried a few of the choices, but my favorite are definitely the sweet potato chips. They are not exactly a health food, but they are certainly a smarter choice than a lot of other chips. And that's what Veganmama is all about: trying to choose something healthier over something else. So, the next time you're craving that salty crunch, give these chips a try and let me know what you think!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A little planning goes a long way!

I know very few people who actually enjoy thinking about what to make for dinner. And until I starting coming up with a monthly plan, I too would roam around the market asking myself, "What's for dinner?" Shopping without a plan is tricky and I'd often find myself just grabbing old standbys that weren't necessarily the most nutritious, and certainly weren't the most innovative! I understand being busy and not feeling like you have time to plan meals. However, it really doesn't take much time at all. In fact, I'm convinced if you just set aside a little time once a month, you can stop thinking about it. I don't know about you, but that seems a lot simpler to me!

Over the summer, I started setting aside about 30 minutes at the end of the month into planning next month's menu. 30 minutes! That's all. And I don't have a fancy system. Here's what I recommend. Sit and make a plan. It really doesn't need to be complicated. Here are my tools:

1. I have a three-ring binder that I use to collect the recipes I actually use all the time, and also new ones I print off of vegetarian blogs. It's simple, easy to deal with, and is a collection of only the BEST recipes. If I tried a recipe and it's just so-s0, it doesn't make it into the binder!

2. I have 3 or 4 cookbooks I use regularly (and continue to share those favorites on this site). I have many (many!) other cookbooks that I like to reference every once in a while, but I usually stick to a few. If I didn't find something to make in my binder or want to try something new, I reach for a cookbook.

3. I do my main cooking Monday/Wednesday/Friday. So, on a given month, I am planning 12 meals. That might sound like a lot, but it's simple. If you're looking to simplify even more, assign a type of meal per day. Maybe you choose one day for soups, or another day for a pasta dish.

Trust me, thinking about planning my meals just once a month has really made an impact on my approach to cooking and grocery shopping. On the off days the meals are simple (burritos, lentils and rice, etc.)

If you're someone who likes to kick off the new year with a resolution, I wonder if you might want to think about incorporating a meal calendar into your routine. Just try it! :) It makes a lot more sense than the old "I'm going to lose weight or drink less" resolutions that no one seems to keep!

Friday, December 9, 2011

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

I've sung the praises of the blog "Oh She Glows" before, and once again she has posted a wonderful SIMPLE dinner recipe. I know a lot of people live for pasta, but I've never been a big fan. When I'm really craving something, it's definitely not a pasta dish. However, all bets are off with this recipe! And it's exactly as she says: very creamy! I only used 1 garlic clove, which was plenty, and instead of fresh basil, I used the fresh puree basil that comes in a tube (located in the refrigerated section of the market for about $3.50). I urge you to try this recipe as soon as possible and then let me know what you think! My whole family loved it!

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

Creamy, thick, and rich with lots of garlic flavor and a hint of lemon. This is my newest favorite pasta dish. The avocado works wonderfully in this recipe to create a sauce so creamy and thick, you will think there is cream hiding in there.

Inspired by My

Yield: Serves 2 (my yield was 3)


  • 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted (make sure it's good and ripe)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish (USE FRESH!!)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I used 3 and it was quite garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic use 1 clove)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used 3oz of spelt and 3 oz of Kamut spaghetti)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Please note: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce. Please serve immediately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sesame Almond Balls

Believe me, I understand cravings for sweets. Because it's easy to lose site of healthy eating during the holidays, I wanted to share a recipe I just made (in about five minutes, if that!) from the book CLEAN FOOD, by Terry Walters. What I like about this is that every ingredient is something I keep stocked, so they are easy to make when a craving strikes. Also, the ingredients are not creepy fake food: they are all real :) And the best part? No guilt. Because as you may have figured out, I don't mix guilt with eating. That's just bad news!

Sesame Almond Balls

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup toasted almonds (I used sliced)
5 dates, pitted

Place 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a small bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, combine remaining ingredients and process to form a stiff paste or meal. Form into tablespoon-size balls and roll in reserved sesame seeds to coat. Serve immediately or store in airtight container for up to four days.

I like to chill them in the fridge so they harden up a little.

Makes about 10 balls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food Rules, Rule Number One

If you've been following me for a while, you know I'm a fan of the author Michael Pollan, who so beautifully writes about food. Part of the appeal is that he breaks it down to a simple science, which is remarkable in our very complicated world of food. When did it all become so complicated? I doesn't need to be! (that's why you're reading veganmam!)

Pollan wrote a best-selling book called Food Rules, which is a handbook of sorts with simple rules of eating. It's sensible and it's a nice book to dip into when you're feeling like you're slipping and losing sight. He recently revised the 2009 edition to include some new "rules" and a beautiful new cover.

Over the next few weeks I'll share some of his food rules. Read them, think about them and try them out. I truly believe sometimes it's the smallest (but consistent) changes in our lives that can be so profound.


Eat Food.

What? That's it? Yes! EAT FOOD. Not "edible foodlike substances" you find on the grocery store shelves, but REAL food. That's it! Real food is exactly what you think it is: apples, celery, beans, bread, oatmeal, nuts....real food. Not Pringles, Pop Tarts, Chicken Nuggets, Trix Yogurt. Real Food.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Keeping it simple in the kitchen

I really do (honestly) enjoy cooking, and I'm lucky enough to have time most days to cook a healthy meal from scratch. Most days I do. However, I'm a busy mother and an active woman, so there are some nights when I need a super simple meal and I need it quickly! Here are some of my go-to semi-homemade dinners you can turn to in a pinch:

1. Falafel

God bless falafel! The best of the street foods!

Falafel (/fəˈlɑːfəl/; Arabic: فلافل‎, [falaːfil] ( listen)) is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. Falafel is usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze.

Much to my great joy, you can now find already-made falafel at most grocery stores. Most of the time you find it next to the hummus. How do I serve it? With a side of hummus and pita or pita chips, and topped with pickles. That's it! Enjoy with a side salad and you have a perfect little meal.

2. Vegetarian Meatballs

Vegetarian meatballs are another quick and easy option that are now available everywhere. Although I'm not a big fan of pasta (never have been, it's not some weird carb thing!), sometimes I crave a little whole wheat fettuccine, tomato sauce and veggie meatballs. Super easy to make and tastes great for leftovers. And with a meal this simple, jazz it up with a nice spinach salad.

3. Good ol' Beans and Rice!

There's something so perfect about beans and rice. Thinking back to my 20's, beans and rice was something I could easily eat three times a week. Cheap, super good for you and cheap! Craving some beans and rice recently, I accidentally "invented" a cool dish in a pinch. I had made a nice big pot of brown rice and wanted to top it with black beans and salsa. I looked in my pantry and noticed I only had kidney beans. While I'm a fan of kidney beans, it wasn't what I had in mind. So...I topped the brown rice with the rinsed beans and poured a really good bbq sauce on top. Three ingredients that went really well together. Again, quick, cheap and wicked good!

What's your simple vegetarian dinner in a pinch?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What about ice cream, Veganmama?

Ice cream? I get it.

I grew up wanting nothing but ice cream when I wanted a treat. A softball game win was rewarded by ice cream. Trips to Maine were incomplete without trips to the local (amazing) ice cream parlor (Smiley's and the Mrs. and Me!). Ice cream represents a lot to a lot of people, and I don't judge! But I wanted to write a post that reminded readers there are options, and the options are starting to get REALLY good!

Believe it or not, I hadn't tried non-dairy ice cream until Thanksgiving. I'd made a gingerbread (vegan, along with the most incredible icing ever!) and felt it would be best served with a scoop of vanilla. My expectations were low (kind of like my carrot juice post!), but I was really surprised how good it was! And everyone who tried it agreed, even my kids! And the nice thing about it, it's not the kind of taste that makes you want to polish off the whole pint. It's refreshing, it's flavorful and it's good! Have you tried some? Not sorbet, but the coconut or soy-based products out there? They are a little pricey, but they're worth it. Trust me!