Saturday, November 15, 2014

Healthy Tips for the Busy Vegan

If you are balancing a busy life, with a side dose of stress, it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The balance factor is multiplied when you are vegan and you need to make sure the foods you are eating contain the essential vitamins and minerals you need for looking and feeling your best. It is easy to reach for processed foods or to order take out. However, it is not so easy to stay healthy with that lifestyle.

Below are a few tips that can help relieve the stress and pressure of eating well while maintaining balance.

Plan Ahead!

Take a couple hours on a weekend to prep a few meals for the coming week. I’m in love with mason jar meals. All the salad makings you need stuffed into a jar.

Produce with Amy has some great mason jar salad recipes. Here is a link to 30 different salad recipes – click on the first link and she has a great Q & A and basic information on prepping and storing your jars.

You can do the same thing with chopping veggies for a stir fry or putting together all of the main ingredients needed for a full meal later in the week.

Double Your Recipe

Make a staple item – and make it a double batch. Try things like a big pot of soup, tomato sauce or chili. All of these items freeze really well.  You then have instant thaw and prepare items that are not packaged and processed.

Vegan Slow Cooker

Slow cooker meals can be started in the morning, or on your lunch break. Throw the ingredients in, turn on the pot and go! Traditionally, the slow cooker meals are meat based. There is finally a couple of good Vegan Slow Cooker books out there that are well worth the investment. A few suggestions below can get you started, but there are a ton of options out there now that you can find with a simple Amazon search.

Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, by Robin Robertson

The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go, by Kathy Hester

Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You, by Kate Lewis


Meal Plans

Prepared meal plans are one of the very best modern conveniences. Whether they are from a local business like Four Square Meals Iowa, or an online food service like Hello Fresh, meal plans are amazing.
Hello Fresh meal, Stuffed Portabello Mushroom with Balsamic Glaze

When I lived in Iowa City, I used Four Square Meals Iowa. Delicious, wholesome and healthy, I really miss this vegan food service! Owner, Chef David Burt, is a former owner of the renowned vegan restaurant, Red Avocado. They offer a weekly pick-up for a meal plan providing four full meals for the week. With a little demand - maybe you can get him to extend and offer delivery/pick up outside of the Iowa City area! Four meals for one person $40 a week or a meal plan for two for around $70.

Another option, Hello Fresh, offers quick healthy vegetarian meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Order online and the meals are delivered in a “Cold Box” fresh to your door. You can order meals prepped for 2 people or in a larger family sized quantity for 4 or more. It is not quite as convenient as having someone prepare everything for you like Four Square Meals - but if you don't have time to shop or plan out your meals, it is a great option.

Each meal comes with everything you need pre-measured and ready to cook. The vegetarian meals are made with fresh vegetables and grains and provide a great balance of nutrients for a healthy vegan diet. There are few “non-vegan” ingredients that are easily subbed or omitted from a couple meals. The meals for 2 people actually prepare enough for 3 good healthy servings. So for single folks, the meal plans can actually spread much further. A couple of the meals I received use cheese as a garnish and I have subbed Daiya dairy free shredded cheese or left it off completely.

If you would like to try Hello Fresh - use this code for a $20 discount on your first order: XFX7GQ

Stay Active!

Modern conveniences like some of the ones listed above have helped us to balance some of the stress that comes with a busy lifestyle. It is still important to find a way to stay active and decompr
ess. If 20 minutes at the gym is not your thing, try pulling a yoga mat in front of your TV. My yoga mat does not get put away unless company arrives. It reminds me to get up off the couch and do something. There are tons of links you can find with a simple internet search that will provide floor exercises and easy yoga or Pilate moves that can work your core. Whatever it is you do – take good care of yourself!


Four Square Meals Iowa:
Hello Fresh:  $20 Discount code: XFX7GQ

Monday, March 31, 2014

Stuffed Noodles

I’ve been making this recipe for years and years and realized recently that I had not shared it on my blog. When I was a kid ricotta stuffed noodles was one of my favorite dishes that my mom made. Of course, with all of the ways out there to make vegan cheeses, there is a vegan ricotta recipe and this meal is a staple in my kitchen.


1 package firm or extra firm Tofu
½ - ¾ Cup Cashews

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

1 Tbsp Lemon

½ tsp Onion Powder

½ tsp Garlic Powder

½ tsp salt

Optional: 1 Cup Daiya Cheese or 1 cup frozen spinach

½ box of large shell noodles

2 Cups of prepared marinara sauce


First bring 4-6 cups of water to boil and cook ½ box of large shell noodles (20-22 noodles). Store the remaining noodles for a later date. I like to store my food in mason jars, and find that the other half box of noodles (20-22 large shells) fits perfectly in a large mason jar.

While your noodles are cooking, prepare the filling. Add all of the ingredients to your food processor and pulse until it forms into a thick and creamy cheese. If you like the recipe and want to add some fun you can mix in 1 Cup of Daiya cheese or 1 cup frozen spinach that has been thawed and well drained.

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water to help them cool faster. Make sure noodles are not sticking together.

Spread two tablespoons of marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8” glass-baking dish.

Fill each noodle with a scoop of ricotta mixture. Place each noodle open face up in the
baking dish. Once the dish is filled, spread the remaining marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of Daiya cheese over the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

These are extremely filling and just a couple tend to fill you up!

 **If you are making a meal for one or two - this is the perfect freezer meal! Prepare half the noodles ready to bake and then freeze the other half, leaving out the marinara in the freezer dish.**

Makes 20-22 Large stuffed shells or 5-6 servings

Serving Size: 3-4 Shells

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Creamy Potato Soup

I’ve seen a few potato soup recipes out there and I was looking to make a creamy soup that delivered without dairy as a base. The nutritional yeast and liquid smoke gives this soup a smoky cheese flavor

3-4 cups of water or vegetarian broth
1 cup of chopped cauliflower
3-4 medium potatoes
1 small onion finely chopped
1 cup red lentils
½ Cup Nutritional Yeast
1-2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp pepper

Add all ingredients together. Bring water/broth to a boil then turn down heat and let simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Take 2-3 cups of the soup and blend on low until smooth. Make sure to cover and hold down the top of the blender with a towel. Depending on your preference for thickness and smoothness, you can blend more or less of the soup or add more water. I actually prefer to keep my chunky instead of smooth and just use a potato masher to thicken this up.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 7-8 servings

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Change is in the Air!

UPDATE 5/22/204: We have a couple of people who are interested in guest blogging and keeping updates for vegan news in Iowa. Please contact us if you are interested in contributing!

Vegan Iowa has been my “baby” so to speak for a very long time. After many excited brainstorms with friends, the Vegan Iowa blog emerged. Over the last four years, this blog, and now the Facebook page, have grown to be exactly what I wanted it to be, a resource for the Iowa Community and anyone visiting the state looking for veg friendly businesses, classes etc.

Now, I’ve moved to South Dakota - accepted a dream job – the only job that would have pulled me back home to the Dakotas. I am not far from Iowa though, Vermillion, SD is just 30 minutes from Sioux City. Iowa will always be home in my heart. Iowa welcomed me with open arms and I stayed for 12 years thanks to the great friends I made.

My dilemma becomes do I hand over the blog and Facebook page to someone else to manage and continue growing? Or should we change the page a bit and make it a Midwest vegan resource?

As soon as I crossed over the South Dakota border everything became more rural and resources are even more sparse than I expected. The Hy-Vee in town doesn’t even have a full health food section, it has one-half of one aisle. The resources aren’t all around me like I have been used to. I am sure this is the same way many of the rural Iowan’s feel.

I want to explore and share resources in my new home of South Dakota. But before I look to change this resource started for my Iowa friends or start a new one – I need your input.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pancake Perfection

Vegan Pancakes

My obsession with pancakes is well known among my family and friends.
Ask me what I want for breakfast on any given day and PANCAKES! is the first thing that pops into my mind. There are even days when whipping up a batch of pancakes sounds like the perfect gourmet dinner menu.

Of course my pancakes are not your average lightly browned breakfast cake. Instead, they are filled with gobs of goodies both healthy and unhealthy, to round out whatever mood I’m in.

My favorite pancake is reminiscent of an Almond Joy, a candy bar this vegan misses dearly. This addition is simple, sprinkle in some chocolate chips and coconut into your pancake batter. Then, pour onto the griddle and cook to perfection. When you flip the pancake onto your plate, immediately slather on fresh almond butter to create a decadent dessert worthy breakfast. (or lunch, or dinner…)

There was an old waffle recipe I found online 10-12 years ago. I’ve adjusted added to this and made it more my own. Now, I share and encourage you to explore and create your own perfect pancakes.

Vegan Pancakes

1 ¼     Cup Flour
¼        Cup Sugar
¼        Cup Earth Balance (or vegan margarine)
2 tsp   Baking Powder
½ tsp  Vanilla
½ tsp  Cinnamon
1-2     Cups Water



It helps to get out all of the ingredients and have everything within arms reach as you begin. Turn on your griddle or flat pan to medium heat and allow your cooking surface to get hot while you are preparing the pancake batter.

Fill a large measuring cup with water and set aside for a few minutes. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir with a fork to distribute everything evenly. Create a nice hole in the middle of your dry ingredients.

Next, melt the earth balance (margarine) in a small cup or prep bowl in a microwave for about 15-30 seconds. Add the vanilla to the earth balance bowl.

Add the margarine/vanilla mixture into the center of your dry ingredients. Begin stirring slowly, and then immediately begin adding water into the mixture. Slowly mix, from the center so you are getting out lumps as you go. Don’t let the batter get really thick and goopy, keep enough water so that it is the consistency of a thick brownie batter. Add more water until the dry ingredients are mixed in well. You may not need all of your water, so do not just dump it all in. You don’t want your batter super thin, it should be just a little thicker than an average cake batter.

If it looks too watery, slowly add a touch more flour, a tablespoon at a time (to make sure you don’t make it too thick again!)

If you are new to making pancakes, read the instructions below for preparing your cooking surface and knowing when to flip.

Instructions for Pancake Perfection

Making pancakes is as easy as child’s play. This past summer I taught my 11 year old nephew how to make pancakes, flipping them at just the right moment. He thoroughly enjoyed himself. The key to making pancakes without creating a gigantic mess is perfecting the heat of your griddle, and then timing the flip just right.

Heat: Turn on your burner to medium heat. Choose a large non-stick skillet with a flat bottom. If you have a griddle that covers more than one burner – even better! Allow the burner to heat up for a few minutes.

Test your cooking surface by pouring a teaspoon of batter into the middle. Within a few moments, you should see little bubbles appear all over the surface of the mini cake and the edges will harden. If it takes more than a few seconds for this process, then your griddle is not hot enough. Following the instructions at the beginning, if you turned your stove on before making your batter and your cooking surface is not hot enough yet, you may need to turn it up just a touch. Not a lot, just one notch. Too much heat and you burn your pancakes! Wait a minute for the extra heat to distribute and try your test cake again.

When you have a surface of bubbles and the edges have stopped moving, swiftly slide your large flat spatula beneath the pancake and flip! A swift movement helps to make sure that the batter does not run off the sides and create a mess.

Allow the other side to cook for a few moments. If your first side was not brown enough, go ahead and flip back over and give it a bit more time.

Serve immediately with your favorite garnishments!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trumpet Blossom Cafe - YUM!

Dinner with a friend is always good for the soul.

When dinner with a friend is at a fabulous vegan restaurant like Trumpet Blossom Cafe, your soul gets to lean back and smile. At least that is what mine did.

My friend and I met up at Trumpet Blossom for food and conversation this past Thursday evening and were pleasantly surprised at the great atmosphere and steady flow of patrons arriving for dinner, drinks, or just to visit and catch up over appetizers. It always makes me happy to see people enjoying great vegan food.

Everything on the menu looked tasty and tempting with gluten free options marked clearly. We took quite a bit of time choosing our dinner selection. I finally decided on the classic, Tempeh Reuben and my friend went for the Sesame Shiitake Mushrooms and Potato Cakes. We were both wholeheartedly happy with our selections.

My favorite test of a vegan restaurant is to bring along a non-vegan to get their opinion. And the mushroom dish definitely passed the carnivore test. In fact, my friend attempted to eat every last morsel on her plate! The mushrooms were marinated and then sauteed to perfection. Locally sourced carrots and turnips garnished the dish adding a surprisingly complementary flavor (I am not usually a huge turnip fan.) Yes, I nibbled off of my friends plate just a little and am glad I did!

The Tempeh Reuben was served on fresh baked bread and was perfectly flavored. Crisp homemade sauerkraut and a tasty thousand island style dressing provided the perfect balance. I chose the sweet potato fries for my side and happily dipped them in the special sauce. Of course, I couldn't eat something like a reuben without making a mess, and I did finally give up eating it like a sandwich and just ate the second half with my fork. My appetite was fully sated, but I could not resist indulging in dessert.

We chose to split a piece of the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache drizzled with an orange sauce. I love the taste of orange and chocolate together. And the subtle citrus flavor made this dessert divine.

Trumpet Blossom boasts a full service bar with a great list of classic drinks that have a vegan twist. For example the White Russian has a splash of vanilla soy creamer. I went for a classic blended strawberry margarita. My drink was a little bit too strong, and not quite blended all of the way. It tasted to me like iced tequila. The waitress kindly added a little extra strawberry, but did not blend the drink anymore. So I had chunks of ice and strawberry. I know, you are probably rolling your eyes thinking, why didn't she just tip the drink back and smile? Well, sorry, I am a little bit picky and like my smooth blended margaritas.

However, next time, I am going to try the coffee martini. I can't remember the name of it, but it had coffee liqueur, chocolate and chocolate covered espresso beans in it. It sounded like the perfect drink for a Sunday Brunch to me! (By the way Trumpet Blossom is open for Brunch on the weekends!)

At the end of our meal, we got to chat with chef and owner, Katy Meyer. As one of the former owners of the Red Avocado Restaurant, Meyer has carried over some of the same strong ethical values from the former restaurant. You will find that meals are made from locally sourced organic foods whenever possible. Staff are paid fairly, with servers making minimum wage plus tips (practically unheard of in the restaurant industry!)

Trumpet Blossom Celebrates their one year anniversary open for business on April 20! Congrats on a year of great food Trumpet Blossom!!

Visit Trumpet Blossom at:
310 E Prentiss St, Iowa City, IA 52240
(319) 248-0077

Check out the menu online:
Like Trumpet Blossom on Facebook:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vegan Girl Scout Cookies

Thin Mints are now Vegan!

No, this is not a dream.

Go ahead, pick up a sleeve of those melt in your mouth, chocolate mint delights and eat them until they are gone...

Yes, I know you are smiling recalling the pre-vegan days of doing just this.

If you live in Iowa and are buying Girl Scout cookies from an Iowa Girl Scout, not only do you have vegan choices, but you are also purchasing an Iowa made product. As a bonus, you are helping a girl reach goals while gaining courage, confidence and character. What could be better?

Of course, having spent most of my professional career working for Girl Scouts here in Iowa, I have known which cookies are vegan friendly for years. However, ABC Bakers located in Sioux City, Iowa has finally decided to market this little known fact right on the cookie order form. Peanut Butter Patties, Thanks A-Lots, Thin Mints and Lemonades are all vegan!

ABC has gone one step further and changed the chocolate used in Thin Mints, making these best selling cookies even more accessible to people with food allergies! Last year there were only 3 vegan cookies, this year there are four. After all, that is what girls asked for. And, in an organization dedicated to girls, a girls voice goes a long way.

Following the Girl Scout cookie sale last year, a troop of girls wrote into the office and asked the cookie company to make Girl Scout cookies more accessible for people with food allergies. A co-worker and I cheered on the the girls who sent the letter and forwarded on the girls' request directly to ABC.
There is also a little bit of differentiation and competitive marketing happening here as well. You see, there are two bakeries nationwide producing those delectable chocolate covered pieces of heaven. (Did you know that Thin Mints are the #2 best selling cookie in the nation right behind Oreos? AND they are only sold for a month or two each year in each region of the country!!!) They are also competing for the business of the 110 Girl Scout councils, and looking for ways to make a stronger business proposal. Little Brownie Bakers, a subsidiary of Keebler, has ZERO vegan cookies on their cookie list.  Zero.

How do you know if you are buying the vegan version of cookies? Well if a Girl Scout comes to your doorstep with Tagalongs or Samoas, then your Girl Scout council does not have the vegan friendly Girl Scout cookie company.

ABC Bakers has slightly different names for the five primary Girl Scout cookies that are sold by both bakers. They also have slightly different recipes for those same cookies. Obviously, ABC Bakery has the right idea. The Iowa Girl Scout councils also have the right idea by buying directly from an Iowa based business. It is the best of both worlds.

So when those girls come knocking at your door order away! But first, remember that the Girl Scout cookie program is first and foremost a program. Girls are gaining skills like goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Ask that Girl Scout what her cookie goal is and how far along she is towards that goal.

Need to find a Girl Scout cookie booth near you?  Here are links to Iowa's two Girl Scout council websites: - Girl Scouts Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois - Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (central and western Iowa)

Did you know that 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts? This isn’t just a national statistic. Girl Scout staff spoke at a Des Moines Chamber event last year and mentioned this statistic. A curious chamber staff person called every woman business owner on the Chamber list, and sure enough, 90% of the local women business owners were Girl Scouts! The number one leadership development organization in the nation has a strong 100 year history of breaking down barriers and helping girls grow to successful women.

Oh, and while you are supporting Girls and the future they have in their hands, don’t forget to check out this fabulous website dedicated to creating a better future for our daughters:

Want to learn more about ABC Bakers? Here is their website: