Livin' La Vida Vegan!

Polenta & Chickpea Scramble


I posted a similar recipe back in August from but I’ve changed the recipe to our tastes and we think it’s even better now.  We’ve been eating it a lot lately, such a nice savory breakfast!

In a tablespoon of olive oil, saute over medium heat one onion (cut into big chunks), five garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of minced sun dried tomatoes, and a small chopped yellow squash until soft.  In the meantime, drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and mash them all up.  Crumble half of a 16-ounce tube of polenta (find in produce section) and fold in with the chickpea mash.  Add in the chickpea/polenta mix to the skillet and mix well.  Next add in one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, two tablespoons of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or low sodium soy sauce), one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, one teaspoon of white pepper, and ground black pepper to taste.  Lower heat to medium-low and saute for another five to seven minutes until slightly browned — serve warm and enjoy!  A few variations we’ve tried, adding fresh tomatoes or salsa, we’ve also had zucchini instead of the yellow squash — spinach is great too, play with it!

Besides the word of the year ritual we started on January 1, we also created a moments jar (idea from my friend Kathy Patterson).  All the fun events or special times from the year are written down and put into the jar.  On New Years Day 2016 we’ll be able to read through them and re-live a year of wonderful memories.  I started putting in all the great new recipes we’ve tried but realized the jar would be full of food memories so decided to keep that to this blog.  What rituals do you have?  I recently read a great blog post from my dear friend about the daily rituals that keep her grounded and healthy.  Check out Stacey’s blog — she’s an inspiration!

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Hazelnut Creamer


Oh boy this creamer is divine!  I love it in my tea and my husband won’t have his coffee without it — what a find!  I already shared on this blog that Califa is our favorite plant based milk and then they went ahead and created this dream — hazelnut cream and almond milk combined for a little slice of heaven!  Only fifteen calories per serving, zero fat, and just three grams of sugar!  I even got creative on Valentine’s Day and mixed it in with some melted vegan chocolate chips to create a wonderful chocolate hazelnut sauce to drizzle on fresh Plant City strawberries — yum!  This will be perfect for any recipe that calls for heavy cream, my mind is turning thinking about all the possibilities!

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Santa Fe Roasted Veggies

silver diner

This recipe is inspired by a similar dish I had at the Sliver Diner a few weeks ago — delicious!  The Silver Diner is a wonderful place, Chef Ype Von Hengst is inventive and only uses locally sourced ingredients for his restaurants.  He says, “It is important to me to support the local farmers and help build our local economy. Fresh and local food has better flavor and is the best quality.” They are located in the Washington DC metro area with one location in Cherry Hill, NJ.  I highly recommend this dining experience if you’re in the area.  I went with my friend Brigid and her beautiful daughter Daphne.  They both loved their meals as well but to find several vegan selections on a diner menu was a real treat!  Click here for more info on the Silver Diner:

In recreating this dish I went based on the menu ingredients — didn’t know the portions so I winged it and ended up creating a meal my husband and I both loved — plus it’s so colorful!

I started by chopping up a twelve ounce bag of brussel sprouts into fourths.  Then I peeled and cut up beets in about the same size — there were four large ones in the bunch I got.  Next I cut up a small butternut squash, again in the same size pieces.  I mixed all these veggies up in a bowl with about a tablespoon of olive oil and several shakes of chipotle powder with fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  I then poured them out evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and roasted at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, turning half way through.  While the veggies were roasting I made a cup of organic millet (follow package instructions) — the Silver Diner used quinoa but I was out and millet was just as tasty.  When the veggies were done roasting I rinsed a can of black beans and cut up an avocado and added them both to the roasted veggies.  I then mixed in a 16 ounce can of medium salsa (Organic Muir Glen).  I finished by topping with scallions and fresh cilantro.

Thank you Silver Diner for the inspiration — I look forward to making this dish often and will enjoy visiting again next time I’m in town!

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Vegan Queso Dip

cheese dip

As I’ve admitted several times in this blog — I love cheese!  I’m always on the hunt for vegan versions of my favorites.  Queso dip was at the top of the list but I’ve been searching all this time for one that was satisfying and I finally found it!

The dip started with a recipe for a vegan cheese ball by the Vegabond Chef, Brad Myers.  I attended his Holiday Appetizers cooking class back in December and the cheese ball was one of the appetizers he showed us how to make (see my 12/25/14 post for his wrapped and stuffed dates recipe).  From this basic recipe I eliminated the coconut oil and drizzled a bit of olive oil instead and added about a cup of creamy cashew milk until I reached the desired consistency.  Then I added a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies (I used mild but choose original if you want an extra kick).

So yummy and much better for you than the Velveeta version!

Brad’s recipe is as follows: start by soaking two cups of cashews and 1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes overnight (I boiled for ten minutes).  Drain the soaked cashews and sun dried tomatoes and pour into a high speed blender such as a Vitamix.  Then add 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup of coconut oil (I eliminated this for the dip and drizzled with olive oil instead), 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Blend until smooth then allow to cool in the refrigerator before rolling into a ball and cover with sliced almonds.  I haven’t made the ball version myself but tasted it at Brad’s class and it was delicious.

To make it into a dip I followed the instructions for the ball up to allowing to cool.  Instead I left the mixture in the blender and slowly added creamy cashew milk to the mixture until it was the consistency I was looking for — I didn’t measure but I’m guessing it was about one cup.  You may want it thicker or runnier so pour and blend as you go.  When done, place the mixture in a pan on the stove and add one can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies then cook until warm.  Serve with chips and enjoy!

The first time I made this dip it was with the suggested coconut oil and the coconut flavor overpowered the dip so the second time I made it I used just a bit of olive oil instead and it was perfect.  I understand why it’s in the cheese ball for consistency but also because coconut oil is a superfood with powerful medicinal properties — everything Brad creates is delicious and healthy!

I’m also thinking about other possibilities — if I eliminate the Rotel it would make a nice base for mac & cheese or adding more cashew milk and steamed broccoli could produce a wonderful broccoli cheddar soup — will try that soon!

For more on Brad Myers, follow him on Facebook at

This recipe was perfect for us last night — we’ve been so busy getting the house ready to sell that a movie night on the couch was long overdue.  I highly recommend, “The Theory of Everything” if you haven’t already seen it — Eddie Redmayne deserves his awards!  It’s one of those movies that really sends a powerful message about love and fortitude.  I have to say how grateful I am for my wonderful husband — he is truly the perfect fit for me!  I was out of state interviewing for a few days last week and came home to a bouquet of flowers, he missed me.  Check him out at

To follow along with my theme of effortlessness this year, here is a quote from the movie:

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking

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Vegan Potato Salad

tater salad

Turning your old favorites into vegan dishes is easy but can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with vegan substitutes.  You may not bother converting your recipes thinking you won’t get the same satisfying flavor.  I felt this way about potato salad — my father-in-laws recipe was so deliciously creamy because of the Hellmann’s mayo.  We’ve tried Vegenaise in the past and have been quite happy but when Hellmann’s sued Hampton Creek for it’s “Just Mayo” brand we knew it had to be good enough to worry Hellmann’s!  It has the same mayo taste and just as creamy — yum!

I woke up at 2:30 AM the other night craving potato salad.  Normally I’d roll right back over and attempt to go back to sleep but the day before I bought a new jar of Just Mayo and thought, this is happening!

I cut up and boiled about two cups of red bliss potatoes with the skin on (where all the nutrition is).  After ten minutes I drained the potatoes, rinsed them with cold water a bit to cool, and then mixed them with 1/4 cup each of chopped sweet onion and celery.  I then added in salt, black pepper, white pepper, and sugar to taste then mixed it all up with about 1/2 cup of Just Mayo.  The potatoes were still warm so the name red bliss potatoes took on a whole new meaning.  My husband was still in his studio working so he enjoyed the 3:00 AM indulgence as well.

Use your own favorite recipe and just eliminate the eggs and add in vegan mayo — you’ll love it!

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Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”


I had never heard of jackfruit before finding this recipe and found that it is a tropical fruit rich in dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.  It is one of the rare fruits that is rich in B-complex group of vitamins. It contains very good amounts of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid along with the antioxidant Vitamin C.

We were so skeptical when trying this recipe but it truly looks, feels, and tastes like pulled pork!  We enjoyed it on Ezekiel sesame buns, served with roasted sweet potato slices and salad.

The ingredients you’ll need are two 20 ounce cans of young green jackfruit in water or brine — we found them at an Indian market.  1/2 cup of veggie broth, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke, and your favorite BBQ sauce (not the sweet kind, fruit already adds the honey flavor).  There are a few steps but very simple — follow the link below to a video that explains the steps.

This is an effortless meal and instead of relying on meat substitutes it utilizes a surprising whole food alternative – enjoy!

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Women’s Bean Project

bean project

For Christmas my sister Marylynne sent us a basket full of soup mixes from the Women’s Bean Project.  Lots of beans, lentils, and split pea varieties — there was even corn bread and a brownie mix included.

The Women’s Bean Project is a great organization in Denver that my sister supports.  What a great idea to give gifts that help others!  We have enjoyed several of the soups already.  Just add a few fresh ingredients in the pressure cooker or crock pot and a flavorful soup is ready in minutes.

This project is a powerful advocate for women — it is a nonprofit business that offers a transitional job in gourmet food and crafts designed to provide immediate income to those in need.  It also teaches job readiness and interpersonal skills needed for independence.  These products truly help a woman change her life.

Please support this program by ordering today!

For a catalog and ordering instructions visit: or 303-292-1919.

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Tofu Scramble


Another great vegan breakfast — tofu scramble!  Much like eggs, this scramble is very versatile and I decided to make it with fresh farmers market asparagus and tomatoes today.

First cut your asparagus and place in a skillet with water and boil for a few minutes until asparagus is soft but not mushy.  When done, drain water and saute the asparagus with one small onion and a clove of garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Then add a pound of extra-firm tofu (drained and crumbled).  After a few minutes add a chopped tomato and three tablespoons of nutritional yeast or vegan parm, with fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  Add a dash or two of turmeric for color (and because I put it in everything during cold and flu season) and cook for a few more minutes over medium heat — enjoy!

I’ve been thinking about all the things I would miss if we left Florida, one in particular is all the farmers markets littered around the state.  We frequent one that is less than a mile away “John’s Market” — all local and fresh produce.  I’d also miss my orange tree!  I planted it almost two years ago and it produced the first fruit this past December, it was delicious!  Nothing like walking out to your back yard to pick a fresh orange for breakfast!

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The China Study

Visit the link

If you read this blog I wanted to encourage you to also follow me on Facebook (VeganViola) or Twitter (@VeganViola) if you don’t already do so.  I share so many more resources, articles, and pictures there than I do on this blog.  For some reason my Tweets are not coming through on the blog like they are supposed to (Technical Support!!!).  Whenever I find something of interest I post it on social media to help get the word out about the benefits of a plant based diet — benefits to you, animals, and the planet.

Today I posted a “cheat sheet” on The China Study, the most important research published on this topic — if you don’t have time to read the book this article is an excellent summary of the highlights you need to know.

This one is the most alarming to me: Animal protein promotes the growth of cancer. The book author T. Colin Campbell, PhD., grew up on a dairy farm, so he regularly enjoyed a wholesome glass of milk. Not anymore. In multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.

For the skeptics out there: The study findings are bulletproof. After years of controversial lab results on animals, the researchers had to see how they played out in humans. The study they created included 367 variables, 65 counties in China, and 6,500 adults (who completed questionnaires, blood tests, etc.). “When we were done, we had more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables.” In other words, there’s no arguing with the findings, Meat Council of America. Sorry.

Click on the link above or copy and paste the one below for the summary.

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Curried Mung Bean Soup


We are loving our pressure cooker — best Christmas gift, thanks dad!  My husband got the flu so I was on the hunt for some curative soups.  This one caught my attention while I was flipping through a Christmas gift from him — JL Field’s new cookbook Vegan Pressure Cooking: Beans, Grains, and One-Pot Meals in Minutes.

I’ve never used mung beans before but wondered when I saw them next to the lentils I normally grab on trips to the market.  The mung bean is highly nutritious with protein, fiber, potassium, iron, and magnesium.  It is a hardy bean and this recipe is packed with other healing ingredients such as sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrots, collard greens, and our favorite turmeric.

One of the reasons I think I noticed this recipe so quickly was that I had seen it before!  I receive a weekly email from and they were featuring this same recipe from JL’s new book a few weeks ago.  Considering that it was brought to my attention twice, I knew this was the soup that would help my husband recover.  To find the recipe use the link below — one note, I had to add additional time in the pressure cooker, the eight minutes suggested left the beans a bit crunchy, adding an additional five made them perfect for us.

It’s funny how I still long for warm soups during the winter, even with the windows open and 75 degrees outside in sunny Florida.  Our bodies are conditioned to certain foods — I guess that’s why we crave pumpkin flavored everything in October!  Maybe it’s also tied to that longing I mentioned in my last post, to head north to be closer to family.  I made a commitment to Effortlessness this year (see 1/1/15 post) — I’m finding it difficult to BE that word while making this decision…

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