Sugar Free Vegan

ABOUT ME:  I have been many things in this life. Among the highlights are: Mother, Daughter, Wife, Sister, Friend, Lover, Soul Mate, Graphic Designer, Artist, Animal Lover, Movie Buff, Bibliophile, Traveler, Homebody, Collector, and Food Aficionado. In my journey to become me, I have experienced a great deal of life lessons. I HAVE: lived, laughed, loved, lost, learned, lied, told the truth, danced and sang out loud (when no one was looking), traveled, been recluse, acted outgoing, been shy, become a wife, known hatred and resentment, been scared,  been divorced, been careless and selfish, found myself, existed, shown selflessness and compassion, been content, found my soul mate, learned true love, lived my life, mourned, found and kept true friends (let the others go bye bye), felt beautiful, felt truly and self-consciously fat, doubted and believed in myself, learned to be content again, felt proud of myself, been ambitious and lazy, and become a mother of the daughter I've dreamed of since I was young. I'm always on the look out for new life lessons, in hopes that I can take them on gracefully.

Throughout my life, food has been a constant companion — whether delicious and memorable, or bland and forgetful. The Sugar Free Vegan developed from a passion for good cuisine, a desire to be healthy and the necessity to cut out sugar. While I was at it, I thought, "why not cut out all animal products and gluten?" Follow my journey to great-tasting Sugar Free Gluten Free Vegan food. Cheers!

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In our home we are mostly vegan... I am vegan, but my husband labels himself a "Cheagan" which he coined as a "cheating vegan," since when we're out on the town he will usually (ok, always) order meat. Although it is usually easy for me to find or alter a restaurant dish to be vegan for myself, entertaining guests at home sometimes causes a little anxiety — as most of our friends and family are complete carnivores.

While for the most part we always try to follow a healthy and natural diet, in the same spirit as ALOHA — during the holidays, especially, it can be a difficult to find a recipe to please multiple meat-eating guests. More often than not, guests don't understand what being vegan really means and think that all they are going to be served is lettuce, on a bed of lettuce, with a side of lettuce.

The trick to making carnivorous guests feel more comfortable coming over for dinner, is to cook vegetables in such a way so that it seems like they are eating meat — and try not to mention "veggies" at all.  For instance, say you're serving Osso Buco — not the more descriptive Carrot and Mushroom Osso Buco. To the non-vegan, Osso Buco seems exotic, delectable and satisfying — while Carrots and Mushrooms sounds nothing at all like turkey dinner!

After I created this meatless version of the classic Italian dish, Osso Buco — roasted pearl onions, cremini mushrooms and rainbow carrots seasoned and stewed in wine — it has become one of our family’s favorite go-to dishes for both holiday gatherings and dinner parties.  It is not only simple to make, it is also so very flavorful and elegant. I guarantee that you will love it — and your carnivores will never miss the lack of meat.

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There is nothing worse than craving dessert and not having anything sugar-free around — especially if your family eats sugar. While my preferred dessert is a quick mix of my Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice cream, my husband and daughter prefer cookies, cake or brownies. To satisfy their cravings, but still serve a sugar free dessert, I make this sugar free chocolate cake, which also happens to be vegan. The nice thing for them, is because of its ooey-gooey dense-ness, it is sort of a cross between chocolate cake and chocolate brownies. One things for certain though... This rich gluten free chocolate cake will satisfy your dessert cravings in a heartbeat.

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This hearty soup is extremely easy for a quick dinner. Plus, it re-heats well for lunch or dinner the following day(s). You can make it with little to no spice for the kiddos, or give it some punch for the adults. Either way it is a fun supper that allows everyone to build their own with fun and delicious toppings.

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A few years ago my husband, daughter and I traveled to Dallas, Texas for a business trip. It was our first time to the lone star state, but since it was in the middle of winter in Washington, we were happy to get out of town and head south where it was warm.  Even though it was January and all the local Texans thought it was freezing, we were happily sauntering around town in our short-sleeves and sandals — constantly getting odd looks and people stopping to ask us if we were chilled to the bone.

During a free evening, we walked from our hotel to explore the surrounding area and to hunt for dinner. Although it was a much warmer walk than had we been at home, ankle deep in snow, it was still January after dark and we became a bit chilled.  When we finally found a good looking restaurant, we were happy to sit, enjoy some hot tea and enjoy the warm and hopping surroundings, while the hostess offered us a complimentary appetizer to commemorate our first visit. They served us a lovely, creamy hummus dish that had a slight kick that helped liven our bones. It was a perfect starter to a wonderful meal.

After that trip, I kept craving that wonderfully velvety white bean dish and experimented to re-create it. No matter what time of year it is, whenever I make this it takes us all back to that brisk but fun evening. I hope you enjoy!

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My first experience with Quinoa was for a dessert "rice" pudding. It was early in my no-more-sugar-days, and I had read it was very much like rice. One brisk winter evening I was craving something sweet and homey, so rice pudding fit the bill.  I did a quick search online and found a quinoa pudding recipe with raisins - perfect.  Well, and hour and a half later I was sourly disappointed that my not-so-homey rice pudding had the distinct flavor of bitter broccoli.  Yuck.  Needless to say, my craving went unsatisfied and a bunch of ingredients made their way down the drain.

Well, I've come a long way since that unfortunate evening. First thing first — RINSE YOUR QUINOA! Yes, rinse all that bitterness away. Second, cook to your hearts desire. Being a bit gun shy, I've mainly stuck to savory recipes — mainly due to my husbands crisp memory of that sweet broccoli-flavored concoction, but I will try a sweet one again one of these days and maybe just not tell him what's in it.

For a lovely dinner entree, this Butternut Squash with Lemon Quinoa is a terrific fall dish, but we eat it year-round.  I love to serve with a side of this Walnut, Onions and Broccolini recipe.

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I am addicted to broccolini. I think that it was one of my least favorite foods growing up; it had to be drenched in thick cheese sauce just to force it down. Well, now that I'm an adult, i don't have to eat over-boiled, mushy broccoli. I can, instead, opt for blanched, al dente broccolini with a hot walnut and onion saute drizzled over the top. No offense to my Mom, who was a great cook. But, what she liked in her broccoli is NOT what I like. Maybe if she had discovered this lovely dish I would have eaten it without complaint as a child. 

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One of the best things about summer is that it is grilling time! At our house, we are lucky enough to look out over the lake as we grill and as we sit at the dining table, and whenever we go out on the patio to grill, you can be sure our two cats scamper in come quickly. They love summer grilling as much as we do, hoping for little scraps of food to drop onto the ground. Along with the cats, barbecue sauce is a great accompaniment.  Try this on your grilled veggies or for a nice thick dip. I even use it in my veggie-loaf.

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This Purple Green Smoothie is currently my morning go-to drink.  I have found that I happily drink my greens in the morning when they are surrounded by beautiful juicy berries, then I can save the real green drinks for later in the day. I have a lovely blueberry farm up the road from my house where I can get blueberries fairly easy. They have a you-pick option in the summer, or you can get frozen for a great buy year round.  Adding blueberries makes the smoothie a tad sweeter than if I only used boysenberries.  Yummm!

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Butternut Squash and Almond Bisquit

When I decided to go gluten free, I thought I would REALLY miss my bread. I have found, though, that by incorporating a few different things into my meals — such as gluten free biscuits or pasta — I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.  These biscuits can be used for savory or sweet dishes, but my favorite use is pairing with my Mushroom Thyme Gravy.

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Mushroom Gravy over Butternut Squash Bisquit

Mushrooms are probably my favorite food. Well, to be completely honest I have lots of favorite foods — but, if you add mushrooms to any thing, it makes them even better! 

While making this Mushroom Thyme Gravy to pair with Butternut Squash Almond Biscuits, I didn't realize I was creating something so voluptuous. This wasn't an ordinary dinner at home, but an elevated, fancy dinner that was worthy of a evening out at a fine dining restaurant wearing a dress and pearls. Although there wasn't much "date" talk going on at the table — only the repeating "yumms" "oooohs" and "aaaahs" bouncing back and forth across the table after each bite — it felt like an indulgent date night that my husband and I get so rarely these days with a 6-year-old companion. Our 13th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks and I was pondering ideas.  I think this meal is a definite must for the celebration. It may not be the traditional Lace, or modern Textile gifts that they say are ideal gifts for the 13th year — but it's definitely a delightful way to show my husband how much I adore him.

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