Nutritional Yeast 101

My dad grew up vegan. Weird, right? Back in the 60s & 70s when most vegan and vegetarian food tasted like cardboard, and the people eating it were mostly hippies, my dad was abstaining from all animal products. No, it wasn't his childhood decision to go against what everyone else was doing. His family was part of the Hebrew Israelite community (a group of people, mostly African Americans, who believe they are the true descendants of ancient Israelites). They do some pretty extreme (by our standards) things, including following a strict vegan diet and having multiple wives. I'm not down with having multiple wives; HOWEVER, I'll get behind a vegan diet any day! 

My dad worked at, and managed, a Hebrew Israelite vegan restaurant in Atlanta in the 80s. He describes their food as being pretty unhealthy to cater to non-vegan blacks, but he still makes a couple of the delicious healthier dishes.

As a kid I didn't like any of his vegan dishes, but now I'm crazy about them. He makes an amazing vegan lasagna and this crazy tasty nutritional yeast dressing. (I'll get both recipes from him next month when I visit Atlanta!) Nutritional yeast has always been in my world, yet I had no idea what it was. Fast forward a decade, and it's now one of my favorite ingredients. 

I feel like I was born to be vegan. I guess I was born to love nutritional yeast too. It's in my blood. 

As I describe in the video, nutritional yeast is healthy, delicious, and versatile. When people ask me where I get my protein I often mention nutritional yeast because it has 9 grams in just 2 tablespoons. When people ask what to do about their cheese cravings I point them to nutritional yeast. It's an all around wonder food! 

Here's the recipe I swear by for perfect stovetop popcorn with nutritional yeast and coconut oil! 

Perfect Popcorn
I use the perfect popcorn recipe from Simply Recipes & top with the following...
¼ cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp melted coconut oil

What's your favorite way to use it? Share in the comment section below!


Pay It Forward Friday: Center for Great Apes

This week's Pay It Forward Friday organization is the Center for Great Apes (CGA) sanctuary in Central Florida. Founded by Patti Ragan in the early 90s, CGA provides a safe and permanent home for "orangutans and chimpanzees who have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry, from research, or from the exotic pet trade." Now in its 21st year, this phenomenal organization is home to 15 orangutans and 30 chimps. If it weren't for CGA these animals could be living out their lives in research labs and cages, a far cry from their natural habitat. 

In addition to the unique individuals living at the sanctuary (watch the video below for more info about some of the apes), and fantastic and highly trained staff, the sanctuary grounds are awesome!! The chimps and orangutans at CGA have huge enclosures with tons of jungle enrichment. There is even an elevated tunnel system that spans over 1 mile. This way the animals can independently move around the sanctuary (to go to their doctor's appointments, for example) without having to be loaded up and taken by the humans. 

Donations to CGA go to caring for the chimps and orangutans that will live out their lives with dignity at the sanctuary. Our contributions pay for their high quality plant-based nutrition, qualified paid staff, enclosures, medical care (preventative, emergency, and dental), and CGA's education initiative. 

When you purchase and join my 21-Day Vegan Blueprint today (April 10th) I will donate 20% of the net proceeds to this amazing organization. If you're already a member of the Blueprint (!!) please consider donating directly to CGA

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank 


Buckwheat Crepes + Chocolate Sauce {Recipe &Video}

It's brunch season! With Easter, Mother's Day, and lots of sunny days on the horizon, now is the time to refresh your brunch game. This gluten-free vegan crepe recipe will help you do just that.

Unlike traditional crepes, these don't use eggs or refined flour. They're very tasty without sacrificing any nutrition :) Buckwheat, the base flour, is high in protein, fiber, various minerals, and powerful phytonutrients. Despite its name, it doesn't actually contain any wheat—it's totally gluten-free. It has been studied for its role in supporting healthy blood sugar levels and lowering risk of diabetes––which is extra special since we all know how some brunches and breakfasts can leave you feeling like you might already have diabetes...

These whole grain crepes are delicious, filling, very pretty, and totally healthy! They're also great for kids :) 

Then there is the chocolate! This creamy vegan chocolate sauce takes the crepes to the next level. Yes, even the chocolate sauce is healthy. There is really no excuse not to give these a try at your next brunch. Pair them with my Fig & Arugula Salad for a fabulous late morning menu. Expect even more delicious vegan brunch recipes throughout the season.


Pay It Forward Friday: Old Dog Haven

Have you ever loved an old dog? I've loved a few in my day. They can be so sweet, and caring––though not towards the crazy young dogs :) My old dog, Bertucci will turn 15 this June. He's in better shape than some of my mom's younger dogs, and can easily out run me any day. Bertucci has been in my life since the day he was born. His mother was my Nana's beloved Border Collie, Precious. He's like a wise brother to me. He's my angel.
Me & Bertucci in December 2013 
My last selfie with Sisqo, Bertucci's brother. He died November 2012, and had a beautiful life.
I miss him so much.
Today for Pay It Forward Friday I've chosen to donate 20% of the net proceeds from sales of the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint to Old Dog Haven (ODH). I chose them because they make life better for old dogs who's families decide not to keep them (for whatever reason). Since 2004 ODH has been providing safe and loving homes for senior dogs who would unlikely find homes through a shelter. Every dog in ODH care lives with a family until their forever home arrives. Since their 2010 this Washington based organization has had at least 200 dogs in their care at all times.

Some of the ODH dogs. This looks like a photo taken at my mom's house!
I begin to cry at the mere thought of Bertucci away from his home and the people he loves. Yet, there are thousands of abandoned old dogs living in shelters without love, affection, or proper care. ODH is a small non-profit, but I want to help them grow so that they can rescue and share their love with even more old dogs.

If you've been thinking about joining the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint, today is your day! Do it for your health, the animals, the planet, and for an old dog.

If you're already a Blueprint member, please consider donating directly to ODH!
Follow them on Facebook too!


Kale Puttanesca & Creamy Vegan Polenta

How do you stop being an emotional eater?

Well, there are a few ways you could do it, but the way that worked best for me was accepting that I am one, and choosing to eat the tastiest, prettiest, healthiest foods that make me happy.

It's difficult to imagine not being an emotional eater. It's a trait that I love within myself. Food lights me up––so much so that I've built a career around it. When I'm sad, frustrated, happy, excited, bored, or confused, food is there.

You know me, I'm not binging on boxes of Wheat Thins, Cheerios, cookies, or ice cream. I did that for most of my life and it caused an unhealthy emotional relationship to food.

I like healthy things that aren't inherently addictive, yet pack amazing flavor and are super satisfying. I love flavors, textures, smells, and the feeling of being nourished by yummy nutrients :)

Being an emotional eater doesn't mean something is wrong with you, as long as you're not causing yourself emotional or physical harm with the food. As a former junk food junkie, I can attest to the ability of healthy food to be as delicious, satiating, and joy inducing as any of the junk I used to eat. I went from devouring a box of Fig Newtons in one sitting to eating a couple of handfuls of dry figs with nuts a day. The latter is very very tasty, and causes me no guilt or physical pain. Its taste makes me happy, the nutrients make my body happy, and I will happily choose the healthier option any day.

My main emotion when it comes to food is L.O.V.E!

I say all of this to introduce you to my new favorite dish, kale puttanesca with creamy vegan polenta. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most comforting, I would give this dish a 10! Oh yes I would. The polenta is creamy and cheesy (thanks to nutritional yeast). The puttanesca, boy oh boy! The puttanesca is salty, savory, herby, and full of texture. It's—of course—tomato heavy, which is perhaps one of the reasons I love it so much. My Nana always made the best rigatoni with turkey bolognese, and it kind of reminds me of that. And did I mention, it's totally healthy!

Even writing about this dish makes me happy!

As Julia Child said, "People who love to eat are always the best people." Amen to that :)

Are you a happy emotional eater? What foods light you up?

Kale Puttanesca & Vegan Polenta
(recipe adapted & inspired by Isa Chandra Moscowitz' very sexy quinoa puttanesca recipe on PPK)

serves 4
2 tbsp grapeseed oil or olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
24-oz can of diced tomatoes (I like the Whole Foods brand Fire Roasted Diced tomatoes)
⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
¼ cup capers
1 cup cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans
1 tsp dry sage
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp chili flakes
5 cups kale, chopped & loosely packed
3 tbsp tarragon, chopped
6 basil leaves, chopped

In a dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pot, preheat your oil.

Add the garlic, and saute until slightly golden. Add the wine, and simmer for a minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, beans, sage, fennel, oregano, thyme, chili flakes, and kale. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let it cook. While the puttanesca cooks, you can work on the polenta. (Ingredients and instructions below.) Once the polenta is finished, add the fresh tarragon and basil to the puttanesca, season to taste, and serve hot.

creamy polenta:
3 cups water
scant teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup polenta
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp olive oil

Bring 3 cups of water and sea salt to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir with a wooden spoon or whisk (my choice). If it pops, reduce the heat even more. Keep stirring the polenta until it begins to thicken up, about 20 minutes total. It's okay if you walk away for 30 seconds, but you'll want to keep an eye on it to prevent clumping, sticking, or burning.

When the polenta is the consistency of porridge, add the nutritional yeast and olive oil. Stir for another minute, then remove from heat and season to taste.

Serve the puttanesca over the creamy polenta. Garnish with fresh black pepper, and basil.


Q&A with Jenné: How to Improve Digestion

Want to improve your digestion? I can help!

I hate to go into details about the digestive issues that I suffered from. And for those of you who suffer from poor digestion and elimination I know I don't have to go into detail. You know what I'm talking about. Improper digestion and elimination can lead to embarrassment, pain, discomfort, depression, fatigue, weakened immune system, and some serious irritability.

I still have an irrational fear that they'll return one day to make my life miserable despite my newfound healthy lifestyle, and plant-based diet.

From as early as I can remember something was wrong with my stomach. It hurt, it made noises, it cramped, it tossed and turned, it bloated, and what I put in had a hard time coming back out. I went to tons of doctors, and was told I had IBS, hiatal hernia, and weak gut flora. Despite the medications and probiotics, nothing seemed to work!

Then everything changed! I stopped eating dairy.

I became vegan about 3 years ago. I did it strictly for its ethical reasons. I had resigned myself to a life of being ruled by my gut. I didn't think there was anything else I could do to win the belly war.

When I became vegan the last animal products I had to give up were yogurt and the occasional slice of cheese pizza. I had started eating yogurt a few years earlier in my effort to fix my stomach. Everyone, especially in the media and in commercials, tells you that yogurt is the cure to digestive problems. Well, not mine. Just 2 weeks after becoming vegan my digestive and elimination problems had disappeared. I was shocked! Could this really be happening? Is this still really happening, even 3 years later? Yes, yes, yes!!

It feels so good to feel so good!

So, my first tip for improving digestion would be go vegan!

My other tips for improving & supporting digestion... 


Pay It Forward Friday: Compassion Without Borders

"Their suffering knows no borders and neither does our compassion. It’s as simple as that."––Christi Payne, co-founder of Compassion Without Borders

Many years ago Christi Payne found herself in a town just south of the Mexico–United States border, surrounded by dogs. She was a veterinarian, but anyone could clearly see that these animals were suffering. Many were starving, many others covered in mange. She visited an animal control center, and what she saw there was an image to break anyone's heart. Dogs––sick ones, healthier ones, dead ones, dying ones––all crowded and caged in, awaiting death by electrocution (yes, electrocution).

With no veterinary assistance available to treat these animals who clearly, like every living creature, deserved to live a life without suffering and fear, Christi and and her husband Juan decided to make a difference. In 2001 Compassion Without Borders (CWOB) was born.

Their mission statement? CWOB "provides a brighter future for animals in need on both sides of the border."

In Mexico CWOB provides dog rescue programs, free veterinary clinics (which include vaccinations and free spay & neuter), humane euthanasia, veterinary training, and Latino education outreach to "raise the status of companion animals" even in the poorest communities. They do similar programs with Latino communities in the US, which they say don't get enough meaningful attention from animal welfare services.

What CWOB does is so important to me. Having grown up with a lot of dogs (my mom has 6 now, and often babysits others), I feel a strong connection to them, as many of us do, but I also think being so close to my dogs has made me more compassionate towards all animals. None should have to suffer, and CWOB has done an amazing job at helping their communities give dogs better lives.

Today, Friday, I am donating 20% of net proceeds from the sales of the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint to CWOB. By signing up today, you can show your compassion for animals by adopting a vegan lifestyle and by contributing to this wonderful organization.

If you've been considering going vegan, and trying on a compassionate lifestyle, check out the Vegan Blueprint. I provide you with recipes, meal plans, cooking videos, audio lessons, and lots of support, so that this lifestyle/diet is easy, delicious, and fun.

If you're already vegan, but would like to recharge your diet, and make eating whole plant-based foods a priority, the 21-Day Vegan Blueprint can help you do just that!

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