5 MINUTES WITH AN EVERYDAY VEGAN: NERDY VEGAN

I’m a mother of 2 kids, both of whom are being raised vegan. I have also been married for 8 years to my husband who is vegan as well. We all transitioned together about 4 months ago, this has been the best decision our family has ever made! I also love to cook, creating new vegan meals has been a huge passion for me.

How did you become vegan?

My son was a huge reason for even looking into it. He was having a lot of issues with dairy and was also constantly getting sick, almost on a bi-weekly basis. When he would get sick, it would always be really severe. We unfortunately had several trips to Urgent Care, the ER and even a hospital stay. His Pediatrician just said it was a normal part of being a toddler and that they get sick a lot. I was told that it is only concerning if they are getting a lot of bacterial infections, which he wasn’t. However, I just felt his immune system was really lacking. This was not the experience with my daughter, so of course as a parent it was very concerning. I just started doing my own research and kind of stumbled upon a plant-based diet and the many benefits it had. I basically came to the conclusion of why not? What could it really hurt, as long as we were doing it right. Almost magically, my son stopped getting sick and has not been sick since we went Vegan 4 months ago. That is the longest stretch he has ever gone since birth, without getting sick. For me, that was more than enough of a reason. But beyond that, the more I researched the whys for being Vegan, the more I knew it was the right thing to do for not only my family, but for the animals and the planet. I have become so passionate about it and I truly feel like i’m guiding my children in the right direction morally. My 7 year old is so concerned about the animals, once she realized where meat came from, she wanted nothing to do with it. She is such a true animal lover and I think all children really are. Their understanding is very pure and I don’t think adults give kids enough credit for how well they really understand things.

What is the most common question you have to answer about veganism and how do you answer it?

How do we get enough protein, nutrients, and aren’t we always hungry?? I just try to answer very kind and patiently, I give them the facts and explain to them how we can easily get all of our nutrients from whole foods and that’s really where we should be getting them. I also like to share my Instagram feed, just to show them how wonderful the food really is. Too many people think all we eat is lettuce and I really don’t understand when that came into play. They ask us what we eat and I say everything, except for animal products. People don’t realize how many options there really are, we are only limited by what we can imagine and create. I also feel more satiated on a vegan diet, than I ever did eating a non-vegan diet.

What is your favorite quick to fix vegan snack?

Definitely chips and homemade guacamole, it’s so quick and easy to make. My kids request it pretty much daily, so I always have tons of avocados on hand. I also always have homemade hummus on hand, my kids absolutely love that.

What is the perfect breakfast or first meal of the day?

For our family it’s definitely a smoothie. My kids absolutely love smoothies and it’s a wonderful way to pack in the calories and nutrients. Also, for myself it feels very revitalizing compared to having coffee, which only has a temporary effect.

What is your favorite vegan place?

We actually have two favorites at the moment. One locally and one that is about an hour away. Lotus Vegan Restaurant in Pinellas Park is absolutely wonderful! It’s a small family owned restaurant, featuring an all vegan Vietnamese menu. The owners are so sweet and we always enjoy the environment, it’s so quiet and relaxing.

Our other favorite is in Orlando, it’s called Market on South. They also feature an all vegan menu. They have the most amazing pulled jackfruit sandwich, as well as their orange bird sandwich. Their Valhalla Bakery also has some seriously rockin baked goods, I highly recommend their donuts and the nanaimo bars.

What is your favorite vegan product?

Our absolute favorite Vegan product is Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella cheese. It is so good, it really does taste like the real thing. It’s very easy to work with because it melts so well.

Please share your favorite tips on vegan cooking?

I think a lot of people are initially intimidated by Vegan cooking. However, I think the best way to look at it is, you are cooking the exact same way, just with different ingredients. It can be as easy or difficult as you make it. You can go with the most basic recipes or get as creative as you like. My advice is to not limit yourself. Don’t be afraid to try new things or even create your own recipes. I love coming up with new creations and it’s so exciting when it all comes together.

Creamy Artichoke and Spinach Pasta.

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My favorite recipe is my creamy artichoke and spinach pasta. It is by far one of my most favorite creations! This was such a fun recipe and it was always a favorite before we went vegan, making it vegan was actually surprisingly easy.

Main ingredients:
•1 box of fusilli pasta
•frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and shredded.
•1 bag of fresh baby spinach sautéed
For the sauce:
•1 large potato peeled & chopped
•1 carrot peeled & chopped
•1/2 onion chopped •6 cloves of garlic roasted
•3/4 cup water reserved from the pot of cooked vegetables •1/2 Cup Raw Cashews soaked for 3-4 hours
•1 lemon Juiced •1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
•1/2 –  1 1/2 cups of almond milk.
•3 – 4 tbsp fire roasted tomatoes, low sodium
•1 tsp of dijon mustard (or more to taste) •1 tsp hot sauce
•1 tsp coconut aminos
•1/2 tsp garlic powder
•1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
•salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Optional topping:
•plain breadcrumbs, low sodium
•italian seasoning
•garlic powder

Combine and lightly toast in a skillet.

The amount of almond milk varies due to the thickness required. If your sauce is too thick, it won’t mesh as well with the main ingredients and will likely dry up upon baking.  You want it to be on the thinner side, but still creamy.
1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Put in your potatoes, carrots, and onions, cook for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft enough to blend.
2. When your vegetables are ready to be blended, use a straining ladle to remove them and place them in your blender.
3. Add about 3/4 cup of the cooking water to your blender, along with the remaining ingredients.
4. Blend until completely smooth and creamy.
5. Cook your pasta in the same cooking water as the vegetables, to al dente. While your pasta is cooking, blend your vegetable mixture.
6. Once the pasta is finished cooking, strain and add in the artichoke hearts and spinach, stir well.
7. Pour the sauce over the mixture, stir well and pour into a 9×13 casserole dish.
8. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then pull out and pour your topping over the top. Pop it back in for an additional 5-10 minutes.

You can get more vegan foods inspirations from Nerdy Vegan on her Instagram account the.nerdy.vegan

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