Monthly Archives: November 2019

Vegan Chai Granola

IMG_2425This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to get my yoga teacher certification through a one month course at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas. I felt like I had prepared pretty well for the month (waking up a little earlier, practicing yoga every day), but, wow, was I wrong. We woke up every morning at 5:30 to go to morning Satsang at 6 (a half-hour of silent meditation on a hardwood floor, followed by chanting and a lecture), then two hours of hatha yoga practice. At 10, we had a brief break for brunch (say that 5 times fast!), followed by karma yoga. Being the youngest person in the YTT course, I was given the odd jobs around the kitchen— re-arranging and wiping down the pantry, scrubbing down the cleaning closet, and scrubbing the ovens twice a week. After karma yoga, it was time for chanting practice or Bhagavad Gita class, depending on the day, followed by a short break. Then a two-hour lecture, and another two-hour hatha yoga class (this time, learning how to teach). At six, we had dinner, and at eight was another two-hour Satsang. Then bed, wake up, and repeat for 30 days.

It was, in a word, exhausting. 

I’ve never been a huge breakfast person, but by the time brunch rolled around at 10, I was starving. While brunch usually consisted of a buffet of fruits, vegetables, and grains, I adopted a go-to meal: homemade granola, soy milk, and peanut butter with a side of chai. I found that this mixture kept me full until dinner at 6, and I knew I was getting enough protein to keep healthy.

While I worked in the kitchen, I also got to meet the sweetest girl (aptly made Honey!) who made the granola every day, and smelled it as it cooked. I love making granola, but I had only ever liked this pumpkin spice granola recipe (which is amazing). I prefer to keep pumpkin spice recipes for the fall, to preserve the sanctity of the flavor. However, I realized that a chai spiced granola would be absolutely amazing, with almond butter as a perfect binding agent.

If you’ve never made homemade granola, have no fear. It’s just about the easiest thing to make and smells absolutely a-m-a-z-i-n-g. It’s important to check for crispness as the granola approaches the later stages, and to mix up the pan periodically to prevent scorching. Feel free to double the batch, but make sure your granola has enough room on the pan. This makes a great breakfast with plant milk and fruit, a topping for smoothies or shakes, and even just a snack on it’s own. I love to make extra and give jars to friends and professors!

Vegan Chai Granola

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

– 3 cups oats (any kind will do; I like old-fashioned

–¼ cup uncooked quinoa

– ½ cup almond milk (creamy is best; not the best recipe for homemade)

– ½ cup maple syrup 

— ½ cup nuts or seeds (pecans or raw sunflower seeds work best)

— ¼ cup ground flaxseeds 

— 2 tsp chai spice 

— 1 tsp vanilla extract 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast the oats and quinoa on a baking sheet, about ten minutes. 
  2. While oats and quinoa are toasting, mix together other ingredients in a large bowl. 
  3. Pour oats and quinoa into bowl and mix everything. Spread back onto baking sheet. 
  4. Drop the oven heat to 300 degrees. Bake granola for 20 minutes. 
  5. Stir granola, and return to oven for 20 minutes. 
  6. Continue to check and stir at 5 to 10 minute intervals until quinoa is crunchy. 
  7. Let cool. Store in a jar or airtight container for up to a week. Serve with non-dairy milk. 

Did you like this recipe? Any suggestions? Let me know!

Happy baking!

vegan chai granola

Small Steps: Step 1— Meat

When people first start examining their environmental impact, it can get really overwhelming. Some people want to jump right into a perfect zero-waste, vegan, low-impact lifestyle, but get discouraged quickly, and some would rather stick their head into the sand. I’ve put together this series of articles to help you take small steps to a brighter, greener lifestyle and a brighter, greener future. 

People always ask me why I went vegetarian, and then vegan. Now, my reasons are manyfold: I love having a lower environmental impact, I feel better knowing that I am saving animals, and I feel so much healthier, both physically and mentally. But when I first decided to stop eating meat at age 16, I don’t think I could pinpoint an exact reason. Mostly for ethical purposes— I’ve always been extremely empathetic— but I later learned that many people who suffer from disordered eating are also vegetarians and vegans, as a way of controlling their diet in a socially acceptable way.

Now, I’m proud to be on the road to food freedom and self-love, but I can’t imagine going back to eating meat, especially not after everything that I’ve learned about industrial agriculture.

However, I understand that meat is a large part of many peoples’ diets and cultures, and the idea of cutting it out completely can be daunting. In the following article, I want to explain the ways that meat (and seafood) consumption are harmful to the environment and your health, as well as some easy ways to cut down on meat consumption.

Meat and The Environment

Modern agriculture is a vast, multibillion-dollar business that is wrecking the environment. A 6 oz steak requires about 674 gallons of water to produce. That’s about as much water as running your shower for 5 days in a row (at an average flow of 2.1 gallons per minute). If you’re looking to cut down on water usage, skip the steak at Chipotle instead of cutting into your valuable shower time.

Did you know that around 4/5ths of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to cattle ranching? Western demand for cheap beef (and lots of it) is a major factor in deforestation, which leads to habitat loss for many endangered animals, and cuts nature’s ability to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere, which is… less than ideal.

Speaking of CO2, producing a kilogram of beef releases around 27 kilograms of CO2 into the air— compared to just 2 kilograms for the equivalent volume of beans and tofu (source).

You know how every few months, there seems to be a big E. coli scare, usually for raw greens? That’s because the veggies are contaminated with irresponsible runoff from cattle farms. This runoff can also release antibiotics into the water, posing serious health and environmental risks (source).

Many people who avoid meat still eat fish, but commercial fishing is incredibly destructive to our oceans. A study of the Great Pacific Garbage showed that 46% of the plastic waste was from discarded fishing gear. These lost nets, called ghost nets, can strangle and kill many marine species (source).

Meat and Your Health

A major 24-year study of over 100,000 individuals showed that eating a single serving of processed red meat (like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs) increases the risk of premature death by 20%. Unprocessed red meat, like steak and pork, increases the risk by only 13%, which is still substantial (source).

Most Americans only consume 15 grams of fiber per day, compared to the recommended 25 to 38 grams per day. By cutting down on meat, and replacing meat-based meals with foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you can easily up your fiber intake without resorting to supplements (source).

How do I cut down on meat?

  • If you eat meat at every meal, try to cut down to once a day. Switch out sausage and bacon at breakfast for waffles and eggs, or a bowl of cereal. Pack a salad loaded with legumes and healthy fats in lieu of a sandwich, or stick to a nice PB&J.
  • If you still eat meat every day, adopt Meatless Mondays. If seven people eat meat only 6 days a week, that’s the equivalent of one person being completely vegetarian! Try a baked potato with vegetarian chili, a veggie pizza, or pasta for your Monday night dinner.
  • Try out the alternatives! Veggie burgers may seem weird and daunting at first, but switch out a meal or two a week with plant-based proteins. Check out your grocery freezer section for meat alternatives, or check out some recipes online. I love Morningstar Farms veggie burgers because they’re really tasty and widely available. Most of their products aren’t vegan yet, but several are, and all are vegetarian.
  • Cut down to eating meat once a week. My mother and little sister follow this approach. My mom likes to eat a Philly cheesesteak sub every Tuesday, but that’s her only meat for the week. My sister is less consistent, but usually sticks to eating meat once or twice a week, and really likes these veggie corndogs.

In my ideal world, everyone is vegan and owns a pet cow, but I understand that not everyone is there yet. But if you’re scared of running a marathon, just take that first step, and keep going. Pretty soon you’ll focus on the distance you’ve traveled, and the length still to go will seem insignificant.

Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie (with Hidden Veggies)

Has anyone else noticed that it’s almost impossible to find vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream? I know Enlightened and So Delicious each have one, and I’ve been able to get the So Delicious one (with no added sugar! love!), but they’re hard to find in my vicinity. I love peanut butter and cookie dough, of course, but sometimes you just want mint chip!

I know that a smoothie isn’t *exactly* ice cream, but I find that sometimes, a little bit of taste can be sacrificed for a whole lot of convenience, price, and nutrition.

gooplacequoteOkay, so I am absolutely NOT selling this recipe, am I? It’s delicious, I promise, especially if you want to shake it up from the usual smoothies or curb an ice cream craving. _private_var_mobile_Containers_Data_Application_46EADC96-5C6C-4FEB-A334-975FF1CB379A_tmp_7DDFAEDC-9144-483A-A8F8-D4FCB16E6245_Image

This one does use protein powder, but it’s optional. I’m still doing some research, but I’ve read about questionable ingredients in some protein powders, so I may start cutting it out of my diet. For now, I still have some in my pantry to use up, so it stays.

The color is pretty deep, definitely greener than your typical ice cream or green smoothie, but I really like how it turns out. I may try to top with berries for a nice Christmas colored variation!

You could definitely top with chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs, or whatever you normally put in a smoothie bowl I think the cacao nibs give it a really great chocolatey flavor.

Without further ado!

Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie (with Hidden Veggies)

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

    -1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond, oat, and cashew are all wonderful)

  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • -1 cup raw spinach

    -1 scoop spirulina powder (I use Kos)

    -1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    -1/2 tsp peppermint extract

    -2 scoops vanilla protein powder (optional, but recommended)

    -cacao nibs or chocolate chips for topping

    other toppings: chia seeds, coconut flakes, flaxseeds, etc.

Directions

  1. In your blender, add all ingredients except toppings.
  2. Blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, you can add a little almond milk; if it’s too thin, add some spinach and ice cubes. If you want to drink instead, add around 1/2 cup almond milk.
  3. Pour into your bowl and top with toppings!

Interested in more smoothies? Check out my Pumpkin Berry Halloween smoothie! Want another way to sneak greens into your diet? Try this pesto.

Happy baking!

mint chocolate chip smoothie