Sunday, October 19, 2014

Zucchini-Pecan Vegan Pancakes

A few years ago we went to a vegan potluck and my friend's Taylor and Dael brought this vegan quiche that just blew our minds.  We we a part of the same veg meet up group, and the next time we had a potluck we requested the quiche.  After a few more times of this, they said, "You know we are just following a simple recipe, right.  You should get the book!"  
You better believe we went out and got You Won't Believe It's Vegan!: 200 Recipes for Simple and Delicious Animal-Free Cuisine right away.  You can follow the affiliate link and get it too.  

Obviously, we made the quiche right away, but then one morning my husband woke up before me (miracle) and while taking care of the kids, he also made these zucchini-pecan pancakes.  Since then, we have them about once a month, and they are so amazing every time.

When my mother-in-law, who is not vegan, came to visit, my husband wowed her with these beauties.  She loved them and actually sent us this special pancake pan just for cooking them to support our pancake habit.

This morning, I decided to help out and I made a tofu scramble to go with the pancakes then got out my homemade beet and red cabbage sauerkraut and some bread and butter pickled jalapeños.  Beautiful complete meal.

If you want to add these pancakes to your Sunday morning traditions, get the book and try the quiche too!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Books My Vegan Kids Love

Check out these books that my vegan kids love, follow the pictures to links to buy the books, and add your child's favorite books in the comments!
(these links are all affiliate links, so if you buy through the link you help support awesome authors AND this Meat Free Mom).
"Peaceful piggies try to be loving and kind to all beings."

Mitch Spinach

Mitch Spinach has plant-based superpowers, just like any kid can if they eat healthy, vibrant food.  Perfect for elementary kids, Mitch solves mysteries and shares with the reader how the plant-based foods he eats give him the powers to do this.  I recommend these books to anyone with kids.  It never mentions the word vegan, and instead just shares recipes and nutrient-rich foods present in a plant based diet.  My daughter always say, "I like carrots because they help me see well, like Mitch Spinach!"  She gets excited about eating her fruits and veggies because she knows they make her strong and healthy.  Great for picky kids and reluctant veggie eaters.
Click on images to link to these books on Amazon.

Ruby Roth's Books

Ruby Roth has a way of beautifully and simply explaining veganism to small children.  The pictures and text use familiar words and only slightly graphic images to spread the message of veganism and vegetarianism.  The focus is on why we make the compassionate choices we do, and how those choices impact the world.  Two must haves for the ethical vegans in your life.
Click on pictures to link to these books on Amazon.

Peaceful Piggy Meditation

My son (3 years old) asks for "Pigggies" every night.  While not overtly vegan, this book talks about the benefits of meditation and being kind to all beings.  Appealing to children's sense of overwhelm and frustration, this book gives children the tools to meditate and the benefits.  Moody Cow Meditates is another much-loved book by the same author about a little cow who has a very bad day and learns to meditate with his grandpa in order to let all those stresses fade away.  Both are loved by my 3 year old and 5 year old, and could be enjoyed probably much older too.  I get a lot from both beautiful picture books about the importance of meditation and relaxation in daily life!
Click on the pictures to link to these book on Amazon.

Share your vegan kids' favorite books in the comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Boost Your Immunity with Elderberries

What are Elderberries?

Elderberries are a small berry, usually purchased dried or in teas or syrup.  Their scientific name, Sambucus is present in the elderberry syrups available at most grocery or health food stores.  Some of these have honey, but there are many without honey that contain fructose, like Nature's Way Sambucus for Kids Bio-certified Elderberry, 8-Ounce  or agave nectar. 

Why Elderberries?

Elderberries are extremely high in vitamin C, as well as containing vitamins A and B.  They are used for immunity boosting during cold/flu season, for sinus infections, colds, flu (they were used in Panama to treat a flu epidemic in 1995), tonsillitis, and also have a mild diuretic capacity.  

How to take Elderberries?

I like to make elderberry syrup this time of year for my family and for friends.  It's very simple, and it enables me to choose the sweetener to add rather than giving my kids honey, agave syrup, or fructose when they aren't well.  

My basic recipe is a compilation of ones I've found online, and I get all my ingredients from Amazon dry, so they last as long as I need them.  I'm including my affiliate links to the products I need, and it helps me out if you order that way, but of course if you have local access or better deals, buy wherever you find the best fit for your family.

Elderberry Syrup

Basic Ingredients, but you could add rose hips, echinacea (just add some echinacea tea bags!), orange peels, or other good immunity boosting ingredients.

I use 1 cup elderberries for 4 cups of water and add 2 sticks of cinnamon and 4 cloves plus just a chunk of ginger sliced (everything gets strained out, so you can use powdered spices, but it can be a little gritty).  I bring this combo to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes until it is reduced to half.  Then I put that in 2 pint sized mason jars and top with organic maple syrup (I get it from Costco and I think that's the best deal, but depending on where you live you might be able to find something better).  Coconut nectar would be a delicious (but pricy) alternative, as would brown rice syrup.  If you planned to keep it refrigerated, you could use blueberries (and blend), orange juice concentrate, or even no sweetener (it may be harder to sell your kids on it in this case).

Once it's jarred I use the basic canning method of putting the lid on and covering in water in a large pot and boiling until the lid pops down.  I keep out until it's been opened and then keep it in the refrigerator after that.  It last for at least 30 days in the refrigerator, but I have heard stories of it lasting much longer, I've just never kept any around that long.

I add it to smoothies, put it in tea, it can be mixed into oatmeal, and I've dabbled with trying got make fruit leather with it (I think it needs to be mixed with fruit instead of syrup for this to work).  

The general recommendation is 1 Tbsp a day for adults and 1 tsp a day for kids to keep the immune system rocking.  If you are sick, you can do the same servings a few times a day.  The syrup is very soothing on a sore throat (and I like to increase the cloves if I'm using it for a sore throat because it's naturally numbing).  

Elderberry Herbal Infusion

I use many of the same ingredients for my herbal infusion and drink it all day long.  It tastes like chai and is wonderful for Autumn.  It is nice warm, but I generally just make it on the counter and drink it that day at room temp or in the refrigerator and drink it cold.  

I fill a big pitcher with warm water then add:
I let it sit for 2 hours or if I'm really good I prepare it the night before and have it ready for the next day.  Since I drink coffee in the morning, I usually just make this up first thing, and when I'm done drinking coffee, I switch over to this.  It's good with a little syrup, but I don't think it needs it.  Sometimes I add rose petals, because they are beautiful and rose is great for the skin, but not always.  After a night of wine or beer drinking, I sometimes add some Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea Traditional Medicinals 16 Bag  to help cleanse the liver a bit.

Your turn! 

Okay, make some syrup or tea and tell me what you added, how did you make this recipe your own, how did it help your family?  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegan Green Bean Casserole: Soy-Free and Gluten-Free

Before I was vegan, I was dairy free for several years.  I developed a very bad milk allergy in adulthood and it made it hard for me to eat out or with friends, because even a little bit made me really sick.  Holidays were hard because I already had to have separate meat-free dishes when I was vegetarian, and then adding milk free to the mix made it very hard for non-vegans to understand.

So, during the holidays especially, even though I am not soy or gluten-free, I have a special place in my heart for those who aren't able to have childhood favorites because of allergies or dietary choice.

With that in mind, I've been working on holiday recipes that are SIMPLE (even though I love to make complicated and wonderfully complex dishes) and vegan and soy-free and gluten-free.

Last night I perfected my green bean casserole, which was always my job as a kid.  My grandma used to make this big deal like I was so good at reading the directions on the can of fried onions and following the very simple directions.  That was my dish, though, and I took pride in it.

Over the years I've made many variations of this dish.  I've made a gravy with soy milk to use in place of the mushroom soup, I've made a tomato and green bean sauté that was delicious but not at all what others wanted from a green bean casserole, and I've even breaded and baked the onions for my crispy topping.

This recipe does lack that signature crisp, but you can add roasted slivered almonds on top for a great flavor and crunch, if you feel like you need the crispy.

Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Prep time: 10-15 minutes **If you don't have a high speed blender, you will need to soak your cashews for about an hour and drain off water before prep**
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8 

4-5 cups green beans cut, cleaned, and blanched* or canned or frozen at room temperature
2 cups mushrooms sliced thinly 
1 1/4 cups raw cashews that have been *soaked for about an hour if you don't have a high speed blender (raw cashew pieces are cheaper and work just as well)
1 yellow onion thinly sliced and 1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped 
2 cups water
2-3 Tbsp coconut or vegetable oil (I've been using grapeseed lately)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  If you are using fresh beans, start a large pot of water boiling (enough to submerge your beans).  
Again, if you are using fresh beans, you'll want to cut the ends off and chop them into bite sized pieces in the size you like.  If you've got little ones who like to help in the kitchen and can use a knife, this is a great job for them.  It's even possible with a butter knife if you are concerned about sharps.  Once your beans are chopped, toss them in the hot water until they soften some.  I like some crispness to remain, but they should be cooked as much as you want them done when the casserole is done, so if you like them soft, cook them to that point.

Next, slice your mushrooms and cook them in about a Tbsp of oil with some pepper (don't add salt now or they will release their water).  You want them to get nice and browned, so stir them some, but you should be able to walk away for a minute to allow them to caramelize (I put my 5 year old in charge of stirring these, and she's very good with that, but use your judgement with your child if you think that's a safe job).  

While your mushrooms are cooking, you can prepare your sauce.  I have  high speed blender, so I am able to use the cashews straight out of my canister, but this still works if you have a normal blender, just soak your cashews for about an hour, drain them, and you are good to go.  Place chopped half onion, cashews, 2 cups water, and about a half tsp salt in your blender and blend until smooth.  Don't forget to check on those mushrooms while the blender is running.  Taste and see if you think it needs more salt, some pepper (remember there's pepper on the mushrooms) or if you'd like to add some nutritional yeast or herbs this would be good.  I've made it with roasted garlic added to this mix too and it's delicious.  

In a baking dish (I use a 9" square Corningware baking dish, but you could use a larger rectangular pan and get a thinner casserole), mix your mushrooms and creamy cashew sauce.  Fold in your green beens so that they are completely covered and spread out, then place in the oven uncovered.

As that cooks, cook your thinly sliced onions in about a Tbsp of oil with salt and pepper at a medium or medium low heat so that they cook slowly, but don't burn.  You're going for a nice caramelization.  

The casserole will rise a bit, brown at the edges, and firm up.  It gets custardy in the center, and much like a pancake, what you are looking for is bubbles coming up through the center.  Serve with caramelized onions around the edges and you've got a new holiday favorite!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Coconut Creamy Pumpkin Popsicles

I love the way my kids say words before they learn to fully pronounce them.  I got some of those SoDelicious Pumpkin Popsicles yesterday and all morning my 3 year old has been adorably begging for "more punkin posicles, please."

I have these great Zipzicle Ice Pop Molds, Clear, 12-Pack I ordered on Amazon (if you order through this link too, I think I'll get a fraction of a penny, and that would delight me).  Wanting something marginally healthy, without just pouring a smoothie into the things (that totally works and the kids love it), I got out a can of pumpkin, a can of coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice.  Other than the guar gum in the brand of coconut milk I used, the ingredients were organic and pure.  One of my pet peeves is when a recipe calls for part of something that comes in a can- just use it all!  
I poured both full cans (shaking the coconut before opening it so the fatty goodness wouldn't be stuck to the edges) into my blender, the added about a Tablespoon or more of vanilla (I love it) and started shaking spice like it's fall and I'm obsessed.  I poured in some maple syrup and blended it and it tasted perfect.  If it didn't I would have added more maple syrup.  I could have used dates instead of maple syrup, but I wanted it to have that syrupy sweetness.
This could have been mixed in a bowl, but it's easier to fill the Zipzicles from the blender.  It filled 12 Zipsicles, but if I had snuck in hemp seeds and/or kale it would probably be more.

Now they are freezing and I'm wishing I was eating one instead of trying to write a blog post on my phone.  But I do it all for you- and my sweet punkins, particularly the one who still calls popsicles, "posicles."