Posts Tagged With: vegan

So Good For You, You Can Eat Two!


We’re all watching our weight. My family and I have been eating like hippies for some time, now. We’re so granola. But have you noticed how scary it is to read labels? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the Nutrition Facts label on something healthy I’ve been eating and feeding to my family for months only to find out that it wasn’t really any better for us than a Big Mac and large fries. So disappointing. Seemingly healthy food can be very deceiving. ūüė¶ Just when I’m patting myself on the back for having made such a healthy choice, reading the label often throws a wet blanket on my enthusiasm. Not sure what I mean? Ever read the label on the whole wheat bread you buy? How about the tortilla chips you chose over the Sour Cream and Onion Lays? I stood in the grocery aisle comparing the nutritional information between regular saltine crackers and whole wheat saltines of the same brand. One would assume the whole wheat version would be an improvement in terms of health. And one would be wrong. They had IDENTICAL nutrition info. How about Wheat Thins? Sorry, just a lot of processed carbs- you might as well eat Doritos.
But, it’s a learning process, and we are weeding our way through the confusion and are determined to make good choices.

One thing I’ve realized is that pre-packaged store-bought foods that seem like a healthy alternative rarely are. I gave up on my go-to lunch item: MorningStar Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers. Although the stats they tout regarding the calorie and fat difference between their burgers and the average beef burger are true, I had to sign off on eating and feeding my family ingredients that shouldn’t really be classified as “food.” Ever notice “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” on an ingredient list? Well, it’s in a lot of things, and you need to know what it is. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is soy, wheat, or corn that has been boiled in HYDROCHLORIC ACID and then neutralized using SODIUM HYDROXIDE. Yum. A similar process provides us with another ingredient in MorningStar black bean burgers: autolyzed yeast extract. And what meal wouldn’t be complete without a dose of textured vegetable protein (the main ingredient, which is actually filler, attained by another unnatural process), xanthan gum, disodium inosinate and artificial flavors?
After giving up pink slim or anything containing it for my family (mechanically separated chicken, if you’re unfamiliar, please Google it) months ago, I have determined to also give up hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which is the pink slime of the vegetarian world.

You may not be as concerned about such things, and that’s ok. But regardless of your stance on chemically processed and concentrated vegetable protein, I have a recipe that will please meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It’s super easy and you can whip it up in minutes. My Spicy Black Bean Burgers are a winner. Filling, fresh, made from whole foods, and low-cal/low-fat, to boot!
Give these a try and tell me you don’t love them. Challenge extended.

“Me, personally? I loved them! I could eat them everyday for 2 days.”

Rinse and drain 1 can of black beans, put in medium bowl. Dice 1/4 red onion, 2 green onions, 1/4 bell pepper, 1 fistful cilantro leaves and add to bowl. Add 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, and 1/2 tsp all seasonings shown, or according to your taste. (I make mine pretty salty, so add less than 1/2 tsp each if salty ain’t your thang.) If you don’t have one of these seasonings, pretend it isn’t on the list, it won’t hurt to omit something. Mash with a fork and form into 5 patties. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side in a non-stick skillet on med/high heat, no need for added oil. Dress a whole grain bun (I used Brownberry SELECT Wheat Sandwich Rolls)with cilantro leaves and red onion, (avocado slices or guacamole would be fantastic, too, but my avocados weren’t ripe!)

I like to eat 1 (or 2!) and freeze the other 3 between layers of wax paper in a ziplock to use for a quick lunch for the next couple of days. They are DELICIOUS! Nothing hydrolyzed, autolyzed or “textured” in these. Ready in minutes, no food processor required. You’ll be hooked. Full of flavor and super-healthy. My nutrition facts include the bun, by the way!
Let me know what you think! Happy cooking….

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peanut-Free, Vegan Cupcakes!

By Bectoria Crandall


Class parties pose an interesting set of challenges. A true smartypants knows to take food allergies and dietary preferences into account when planning special classroom snacks. When planning for my daughter’s preschool Easter party I learned that I had to plan a snack¬†for students with peanut and egg allergies. The solution? Peanut-free, vegan cupcakes!

Here’s the recipe…



2 tsp Baking Soda

2 1/2 C Organic Flour (Okay. It doesn’t have to be organic, but COME ON!)

1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 C Sugar

2/3 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (be sure to read the label to ensure you have a peanut-free product)

2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/3 C Vegetable Oil

2 1/4 C Water


Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine all liquid ingredients.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients just until blended.

If the batter is too dry, at 1-2 Tbsp of water until you achieve desired consistency.

Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

Fill baking cups 3/4 full with batter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

(Another great allergy-sensitive recipe can be found at

I recommend visiting for a really yummy vegan frosting recipe to top your sweet confection.

Remember to keep your cupcake toppings peanut and allergy free! Many candies and confections are manufactured on machines and prep supplies that come in contact with peanuts, so I recommend reading labels carefully.  

I know that the influx of food allergies in recent years has been a bit of a drag but that doesn’t mean the fun is over. A true smartypants will meet this challenge head on with a little savvy and a smartypants of a recipe to make sure no one has to miss out in the fun.

Because our cupcakes were for an Easter party, we used some peanut & egg free candies as toppers and made them look like Easter baskets. Small items were used as the treats and licorice ropes were used for basket handles. The kids loved them!

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Meatless Alternative to Wow Your Crew

So you’re trying to eat more meatless meals. You recently watched Food, Inc. or Fat, Sick And Nearly Dead and have sworn off chicken, pork, beef and even fish. But if you have to eat one more Boca burger you might just fall off the wagon. Or you’re halfway into March and still going strong with your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, but you’re getting into a rut and hoping for some variety. For the next few weeks, in addition to crazy updates regarding the zoo in which I currently reside, I am going to share a post each week with a delicious, vegetarian (and sometimes vegan), healthy recipe for you to add to your repertoire and hopefully avoid burnout. Whether you’re committed to a meatless lifestyle or not, these dishes will be great additions to your menu and will come straight from the 4SmartyPants test kitchen!


I love these as an alternative to crab cakes, which are exquisite, but are not part of a meatless diet and derive their richness from mayonnaise and expensive lump crab meat. What’s great is that these babies are a fancy-shmancy impressive item to bring to the table, but are so easy, and can even be made from leftovers! (I won’t tell if you don’t!) In fact, that’s how they came to be. I served a wonderfully filling and beautiful dinner one evening of saut√©ed Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, tomato slices and brown rice pilaf with almonds. I always make extra brown rice, because I love to eat it reheated, and I use it the next few days in various other recipes.

The next day I found myself about to reheat the same meal, when I decided to come up with something new. Sweet potato cakes! So easy.

2 baked sweet potatoes (poke holes and microwave in glass dish 6-8 minutes, cool in fridge)
1 cup cooked brown rice, chilled (recipe follows)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1 tbsp finely diced jarred jalepenos
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Scoop flesh from potatoes and combine in bowl with all ingredients except oil
Form into 1 1/2 inch thick patties 3 inches in diameter
Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium/high heat
When oil is hot, add sweet potato cakes to pan and cook 3-4 mins on each side, or until heated all the way through and each side has caramelized.

Top with snipped chives and a cilantro leaf. Serve with a mixed greens salad. Enjoy!

My kids LOVED these, which surprised me a little. But it’s great because they are allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts, and this is completely safe for my little people who are often relegated to a sunbutter sandwich while everyone else enjoys the good stuff!

You don’t have to feel the least bit guilty about devouring these tasty treats, sweet potatoes and brown rice are both SOO good for you, with 0 sat fats, and high in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as complex carbohydrates which promote the SLOW rise of blood sugar, making them good components of a diabetic diet. Also: NO cholesterol! You won’t find such stats with crab cakes.

What meatless dishes do you find yourself serving up most often? (And share your recipes!)

Brown Rice Pilaf with Almonds

This is not exact, which is one of the things I love about it. But it turns out perfect each time.
I fill a 5 quart pot (a dutch oven, but any pot with tight-fitting lid will work) 3/4 full with water, then drop in an extra large vegetable bullion cube. I put it on medium/high (because it’s enamel, if it weren’t I’d turn it to high) and wait for it to boil. Once it starts to boil, I add approximately 2 cups of brown rice and a minced garlic clove and 1 tsp of onion powder and stir once. I cover it, turn it to med/high (if it had been on high) and set the timer for 30 minutes. I don’t touch the lid! After 30 minutes, I turn off the heat and remove the lid. (If there is any visible liquid, I drain it and return the rice to the pot immediately.) I stir the rice, replace the lid and allow the rice to continue steaming for 10 minutes with the heat off. While it is steaming, I toast 1/2 cup of sliced raw almonds in 1 tbsp olive oil in non-stick pan. Add almonds to rice and enjoy! Best brown rice, ever!!

Categories: Entertaining, Family, Food, Party Planning, Social Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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