Italian Wedding Soup, Veganized

It's that time of year again. That time of year when you just can't get warm - or at least if you live in Buffalo you can't. It seems like every year, by this time, I forget what warmth even felt like. And as I type this it is 20 degrees outside, making me long even more for some sunshine, maybe a beach, maybe, for a moment, the feeling that I need to cool off a bit. But that feeling won't come for at least another 5 months, so for now, I guess soup will just have to do.

I must admit, I'm not much of a soup girl. Not that I don't like soup, I do. But I guess I am just a little picky about which soup will satisfy me as a meal. And for that reason, I really never found the motivation to learn to make it. But this past week my husband has been suffering from the worst cold, and it was pretty clear: the man needed some soup. Being that I was, as I always am this time of year, on an active search for something to actually warm me up, it was the perfect storm. I was going to figure out the perfect, most satisfying, throat soothing, belly warming, vegan soup. And Italian Wedding Soup was all that kept coming to mind.

This recipe is pretty traditional with the exception of 2 substitutions: veggie broth instead of chicken, and homemade seitan meatballs. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

Seitan "Meatballs"

1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten

1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast

1/8 Cup Chopped Parsley

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp garlic powder

2 1/2 Cups vegetable broth

For the Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 White Onion, chopped

3 Carrots, chopped

2 Stalks Celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 Cups vegetable broth

2 Cups Pasta, I used rings but any small pasta will do

3 Tbsp fresh dill

12 ounces fresh spinach

Directions

1. Start by making your seitan. Combine the dry ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl. Add 1 Cup of the broth and the soy sauce and knead for a minute or 2. Break into small pieces into a sauce pot, add the remaining broth, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the celery, carrots, onions and garlic and saute for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft and aromatic.

3. Add the broth, seitan, and remaining broth from the seitan pot and let simmer for 10 minutes or so.

4. Once the seitan is the desired texture, bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cooking time will vary depending on the pasta that you use, but let it go until it is just underdone.

5. Finally, add the spinach and dill, cover and let the spinach wilt for a couple of minutes.

6. When spinach is just wilted, spoon into bowls and enjoy!

Current Beauty Favorites: Vegan and Cruelty Free

The transition to veganism can be rocky at times, especially when it comes to makeup and beauty products. This was the last place that I transitioned, and to be honest, I'm still trying to figure it out. For one, a lot of the animal ingredients in makeup and beauty products are things that, before searching the labels for them, you probably have never even heard of before. And if you don't know what they are, then you definitely don't know if they are animal derived or not. For me, I don't feel confident seeking out animal ingredients by reading the labels myself. I just can't yet navigate those long labels, full of ingredients that are totally unfamiliar to me. But luckily, there are several great beauty brands in today's market that are explicit about their commitment to vegan and creulty free. Your best bet: stick with these items.

My current beauty routine consists entirely of products that are not tested on animals. I only purchase from companies that are registered with Leaping Bunny or PETA, and that is easy enough to do. When in doubt, pull out your phone and search either site. Or just look for their logos on the packaging. But seeking out vegan products can definitely be tricky. Especially since most vegan items are not explicitly labeled as such. This is where the internet becomes very handy. I have found nearly all of my favorite vegan items by searching the websites of Leaping Bunny and PETA certified brands for "vegan", or by shopping brands that are committed to being entirely vegan, like Pacifica Cosmetics (which I LOVE!).

I am currently in the process of finding some new favorites, because sadly the formulations of both my favorite blush and my favorite eye shadows have changed and are no longer vegan. This is where the new Vegan Cuts Makeup Box is sure to become my new best friend, and maybe yours too! Vegan Cuts recently launched the box which ships 4 times per year and contains 4 or more full sized makeup items that are entirely vegan and cruelty free. The box costs $39.95 and is guaranteed to be valued at at least $70. If you are a makeup lover and are looking to find some new favorites, you can purchase your box here. The fall box ships by September 20, so sign up quickly! I'm hoping to find a couple of replacements for my no-longer-vegan beauty products in some future boxes, but until then, here are my current favorites. Enjoy!

Vegan Eats for an On-The-Go Lifestyle

It's been far too long since I have posted, and I hate to make excuses, but man has life been crazy. Between working my regular full time job, and taking care of my dog during a long recovery from knee surgery, I feel like I can barely carve out an extra second for anything other than running errands and keeping my house from turning into a total disaster area. When it comes to my vegan lifestyle, this has translated into one major difference: far fewer elaborate recipes, and a lot more quick and easy, on-the-fly meals.  And since the difficulty of cooking vegan seems to always be a topic of conversation, here are my tips for maintaining a vegan lifestyle during those times in your life when you feel like you just can't catch a break. Specifically, here are the 7 things that have kept me going. 

1. Make ahead oats

Make ahead oats are something that I actually take advantage of year round. But they have really been useful during the past couple of months. If you've never done overnight oats before, you are missing out. After I take a shower and get the house in order, I put 1 cup of steel cut oats in a pot with 4 cups boiling water. I cover them, turn off the heat, and go to bed. Then, when I wake up for work, I have 4 servings of cooked oatmeal waiting for me on the stove. I put 1 serving in the microwave and the other 3 in the fridge for later. Top it off with some raw almonds, blueberries, and a little cinnamon, and I have my go-to breakfast.

The other make ahead recipe that I've gotten some serious mileage out of is a recipe from Oh She Glows. I actually learned about it through a family member who recommended it as a great raw breakfast option. It has become my go to last minute lunch when I have to make something to bring to work and have all of 5 minutes to do it. Combine a mashed banana, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/2 cup rolled oats, and 1 1/2 cups of almond milk. I like to add a little cinnamon and maybe a dash of vanilla, but you can season it however you would like. Mix it together and leave it in the fridge for a few hours. When you come back you will have 2 servings of delicious chia oat pudding. I love this recipe and I can literally throw it together 2 seconds before I leave for work and by the time my lunch break rolls around, it has done its thing in the fridge and is ready to enjoy!

2. Green smoothies

Green smoothies are a staple for me. I often have to be to work at 6 am, and they are hands down the easiest way to get a energy boosting breakfast in me before I have to be ready to go for work. It is also a really easy way to get my greens when I don't have time to throw together a salad for lunch. My usual routine is, while I am waiting for my coffee to brew, I throw all of the ingredients in the blender with the exception of the frozen fruit. Then, when I am ready to run out the door it is right there waiting for me. I throw in the fruit, blend it for a couple of seconds, pour it into a glass and run. My absolute favorite recipe at the moment is a blend of spinach, banana, orange juice, ginger, and frozen strawberries. It wakes me up in three sips! The other option that I frequently whip up is a blend of kale, banana, almond milk, flax seed meal, and frozen berries (the type of berries doesn't much matter to me, and really depends on what I have around).

3. Avocado and chick pea salad

Mash up some chick peas with a fork, then mix it up with some smashed avocado, and you have yourself a delicious, healthy, and really easy, energy packed lunch or side. This salad is so easy to change up through seasonings, or added veggies, and it is really delicious. I typically will add some diced tomato, a little garlic, salt, smoked paprika, and a dash of chili powder. The best part, I can throw all of the ingredients in a tupperware container and run out the door with it to work if I have to. I've definitely been known to mash it all up right there on my lunch break. This is also a fantastic side to whip up on the fly and add a little interest to any meal.

4. Toast

Yea, really. The ratio of deliciousness to ease that can be achieved by jazzing up a really great piece of toast is kind of ridiculous. A piece of toast topped with mashed avocado, a slice of tomato, and some hot sauce is one of my favorite breakfasts. Or how about tofu cream cheese, red onion, tomato, and capers for lunch? Peanut butter and banana, anyone? So simple, so easy, and so good. 

5. Snack on fruit

If you are looking for the perfect on the go snack, look no further than the produce section. Look for what's on sale or what is in season, and make it your new mid morning snack. I find that a banana around 10am can easily extend my full belly from breakfast well into the afternoon. And that allows me to procrastinate my cooking even longer! Prep time: none.

6. Veggies and hummus

I've begun making up big batches of hummus on my days off that I can enjoy with carrots or celery throughout the week as a really easy snack or side. Hummus is also easy enough to find pre-made in the grocery store, but I prefer homemade because it allows me to control the amount of added oil. Either way, veggies and hummus take almost no time to prepare, and make for a healthy, energy boosting snack.

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7. Rice and beans

Something that has always been a part of my regular meal prep, but has recently been particularly helpful. If I'm going to be in the house for an hour or so, I have the perfect opportunity to make up a big batch of brown rice and black beans with onions, garlic, and bell peppers. It is so easy to throw together in a few minutes, and just leave on the stove to simmer. Having a large batch in the fridge makes it super quick and easy to put together a high protein, low fat lunch or dinner. Top it off with some avocado, tomato and lettuce, and you have a pretty easy and delicious burrito bowl. Or, if you're a kale lover like myself, mix in some steamed kale and top it off with Sriracha for a healthy dinner in just a few minutes.