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Veganism

Vegan Snickerdoodles

Weekends are the perfect time for baking, no? Yesterday Annabelle wanted a cookie and, feeling a bit guilty for having to admit to polishing off the raspberry thumbprints we’d picked up from a local vegan bakery, I asked if she’d like to bake some together. (I know I’m not the only mom who eats cookies while the kids are sleeping. Nursing mothers need extra calories, right?) She enthusiastically agreed and I quickly went through my mental list of favorite cookies, comparing it to our currently minimal inventory of baking supplies. We had no chocolate on hand, and not much in the way of fruit or peanut butter. Snickerdoodles seemed like the obvious solution. I used to bake a darn good snickerdoodle way, way back in my pre-vegan days, but I hadn’t tried them in years. Veganizing and making other, healthier substitutions in the recipe from my mom’s old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook worked like a charm, so I thought I’d share it in case you should like to give it a go, too.

snickerdoodles Continue reading

Culinary Wanderings #2: Traveling While Vegan

Welcome to the second edition of Culinary Wanderings!

To give me a way to share a bit about my culinary adventures, and to learn from all of yours, I’ll be writing a post on the last Tuesday of each month to share any new recipes, ingredients, or other discoveries I’ve made in the kitchen. I would love for you to join by sharing your favorite or most recent food-related post from the month. You’re welcome to focus on one recipe, one ingredient, one new kitchen gadget, one new cooking or meal-planning technique, or to write about your entire month in food as I’ll be doing. Anything food-related that you want to share is appropriate. It’s all up to you! Continue reading

Case Studies of Vegan Children

Having been vegan for a number of years before I had my daughter, I was always curious when I met vegan families with young children. I found it hard to engage anyone in real discussion, however, which may stem from the fact that most often when parents are asked about their choice to follow a vegan diet, the questions are a veiled criticism. It is easy to find cases of vegan children with nutritional deficiencies, and this can make it seem as though this is an inevitability in all vegan families. Fortunately, this is not true. I wanted to share how Annabelle has fared thus far, and look at a few case studies that do exist.

Since the daddy is not vegan, it’s unlikely that Annabelle will remain vegan throughout early childhood. It’s very likely that she will want to try some of the things her daddy eats in the years to come, and I don’t intend to place undue restrictions on her when it comes to food. For now, however, I prepare all of our meals and everything I put in front of Annabelle is vegan. 

Our Diet
  • Prior to becoming pregnant, I had been vegan for six years. I continued a vegan diet throughout my pregnancy, and still do.
  • I supplemented with B12, when I remembered, which admittedly was not often enough. Since I use nutritional yeast liberally, my poor memory probably didn’t do me too much damage. I took no other vitamins or supplements prior to pregnancy.
  • When I learned that I was pregnant, I immediately began taking a vegetarian prenatal vitamin with B12 and iron.
  • Because I was vegan, my doctor gave me a referral to see a dietitian. I didn’t feel I needed it, but was not about to turn down a free service or be haphazard about the health of my unborn child, so I went. I learned a few tips for increasing my iron absorption, but otherwise was told my diet was excellent.
  • At her birth, I requested delayed cord clamping and cutting to ensure that Annabelle got the full benefits of her iron rich cord blood.
  • I continued to take a prenatal vitamin with iron and B12 as I breastfed Annabelle exclusively for the first seven months of her life. 
  • Because I was supplementing my own diet with vitamin D through my prenatal, and we spend plenty of time outdoors here at 14 degrees north of the equator, I chose not to give Annabelle Vitamin D drops as the AAP recommends.
  • At seven months, despite introducing some complementary foods, I continued to take prenatal vitamins. 
  • As Annabelle’s intake of complementary foods has increased, I have taken care to include foods rich in iron such as hemp seeds and blackstrap molasses every day and I have transitioned from the prenatal vitamin to Floradix liquid iron, which includes B12. I also take care to eat foods rich in iron each day and cook in cast iron often. For added B12, I continue to use nutritional yeast on both her food and mine.
  • Annabelle is still breastfed, at least five times per day, usually more.

Our Health

  • Lab work early in my pregnancy revealed that I was borderline anemic. This was not surprising, as my iron levels were never particularly high, and iron deficiency is common among the women in my family – including those who eat meat. I upped my iron intake.
  • Labs taken later in my pregnancy and on the day my daughter was born revealed that I was no longer anemic.
  • Annabelle was born at full term (40 weeks and 2 days), and at a normal weight (6lbs15oz). She lost only five ounces in the first days before my milk came in, and once nursing was well established she had perfectly normal gains.
  • Because of our vegan diet and my history of low iron, I requested that Annabelle’s iron levels be checked at 9 months rather than waiting until a year as the pediatrician normally would have done. Her iron levels were normal. 
  • At 12 months, Annabelle’s pediatrician requested that we check her calcium and phosphorous and Vitamin D levels. Again, everything came back normal.
  • At 14 months, Annabelle is energetic and happy and loves to eat her vegetables. She began walking before nine months, and continues to advance in all of her motor, communication, and self-care skills.
Vegan Children Elsewhere
I have written before about the consensus on vegan diets for children among the American Academy of Pediatrics, US Department of Agriculture, American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association: vegan diets are perfectly healthful and adequate as long as they are carefully planned.


A look at a few studies…

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at vegetarian diets and children and concluded that, If known pitfalls are avoided, the growth and development of children reared on both vegan and vegetarian diets appears normal.”

The growth and development of children born of vegan mothers and reared on a vegan diet has been studied longitudinally: All of the children were breast-fed for the first 6 mo of life and in most cases well into the second year of life. The majority of children grew and developed normally but they did tend to be smaller in stature and lighter in weight than standards for the general population. Energy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes were usually below the recommended amounts. Their diets, however, were generally adequate but a few children had low intakes of riboflavin and vitamin B-12. Most parents were aware of the need to supplement the diet with vitamin B-12. It is concluded that provided sufficient care is taken, a vegan diet can support normal growth and development.”

“Severe nutritional deficiencies developed in four infants from a new vegan religious community. They had received breast milk until the age of 3 months; thereafter, breast milk was supplemented with or replaced by extremely low caloric-density preparations. All of the infants had profound protein-caloric malnutrition, severe rickets, osteoporosis, and vitamin B12 and other deficiencies. One infant died, while the three others had an uneventful recovery. After discharge of the infants from the hospital, the community responded well to a modification of the infants’ diet, which did not violate their vegetarian philosophy. However, they refused to give their infants vitamin B12 on a regular basis.”
This appears to discuss a very similar population, if not the same one. 

Do you see what I see? I have to think that the health of the children in the last study had a lot to do with the cessation of exclusive breastfeeding after just three months. In any case, a look at all of this information leaves one with a few impressions: Vegan diets can provide adequate nutrition for children, and in fact do provide it for many. There is also the potential for severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies, though these are not unique to vegan children. It is crucial that vegan parents consider “common pitfalls” and plan meals in order to avoid them.

Are you a vegan or vegetarian family? How do you plan your meals to avoid “common pitfalls? I would love to hear your story, too.

The Best Vegan Banana Bread There Is

No, seriously.

I have been taking Saturday as my blogging sabbath, but I made my oft-requested banana bread this morning and felt it was absolutely necessary that I share the recipe with you today. I have been baking this bread for several years now, and everyone raves about the stuff. The loaf I made for the three of us this morning is already nearly gone! The first incarnation of the recipe came from my grandma, who pulled it from the web for me (seriously, I dare you to find a more supportive grandmother: oh, you’re going to try eating vegan? Let me find some recipes for you!). I’m not sure if it was this one exactly, but it was strikingly similar. I really loved it, but despite my love of all things coconut, I prefer a more traditional bread to the coconutty version. So, I have toyed with the recipe over the years and finally have it just as I like it. The recipe below is hardly sufficient, however – you should probably double it!

Melissa’s Vegan Banana Bread
1/2 – 1 cup sugar*
3 or 4 bananas, preferably very ripe
1/4 cup oil or vegan margarine (softened)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp aluminum free baking soda
1 generous tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice (optional)**
1/4 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/4 cup water or non dairy milk of choice
1/2 cup nuts***

Mash bananas with sugar using your tool of choice (a pastry cutter works wonders on stubborn bananas, but a fork will do). Stir in oil or margarine. Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Stir until well combined. Add water or milk slowly, and only until mixture is barely pour-able, but still thick. Pour into greased loaf pan(s) or muffin cups and bake at 350. One large loaf takes about an hour, while three mini loaves or a dozen muffins bake 20-30 minutes. It will turn a nice golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing, or just be at one with the falling apart slices you’ll get while it’s hot.
*1 cup of sugar is fabulous. That’s the way I always used to make it pre-parenthood, when I wasn’t so worried about eating gobs of sugar. Now I use 1/2 cup and it’s enough, but admittedly not as tasty as a whole cup. You can also use 1/2 to 2/3 cup agave nectar or honey and cut back on the water/milk, but note that it will technically no longer be vegan if you use honey.
**Allspice is completely optional, but gives this an extra kick. Until today, it was my secret ingredient. Now everyone knows! A pinch or two of nutmeg is great, too.
***Nuts are optional – we use pecans. I have also used chocolate chips as a mix-in, and I bet peanut butter chips would be divine.

Enjoy! Please let me know how you like it if you give it a try!

Rich, Chewy, Crunchy, Delicious Vegan Brownies


I don’t know how I have survived this long without a great, go-to vegan brownie recipe. It’s really appalling to me now that I think about it, and I wish I had some sort of explanation. I’ve tried a few online recipes that had great reviews, but nothing ever did it for me. I had a fabulous recipe that I loved in my pre-vegan days and I just could not settle for less. It was so good and people asked for them so often that I had the recipe memorized. I tried veganizing them several times, but they never turned out quite right – until tonight.
Enter the flax egg. What is that, you ask? Well, if you take one tablespoon of ground flax seeds (I just use flax meal) and three tablespoons of water, bring it to a boil and then simmer for five minutes or so, until you get a goopy, eggy texture, you’ve got yourself a fabulous egg substitute. One tablespoon flax meal equals one egg, and you can double, triple, quadruple, or whatever you need! This was the first time I had tried the flax trick, which is just as ridiculous as the fact that I’m just now tweaking my old brownie recipe, but it’s the truth. Anyway, I’m so glad I finally gave it a shot, and I’m happy to report that it worked like a charm. So now, I present to you, my super delicious vegan brownie recipe. 
The original recipe is one my hero-in-kitchen of a grandmother shared with me years ago (thanks, Grandma!), and I’m not certain where she got it from, but it is a winner. If anyone can tell me who to credit for the inspiration, please speak up! The changes for the vegan version are very minor, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit!
Rich, Chewy, Crunchy, Delicious Vegan Brownies

1/2 c. turbinado sugar (or whatever kind you use)
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, Organic Smart Balance, or other vegan margarine
2 tbsp. water
1 10 or 12 oz. bag vegan chocolate chips
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax seeds, or flax meal + 6 tbsp. water)
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. aluminum free baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)
Prepare your flax eggs and set aside. Preheat oven to 325. Place sugar, margarine, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add half your bag of chocolate chips. Stir to melt. Stir in flax eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the rest of your bag of chocolate chips, and nuts if desired. [Batter will be thick and goopy, maybe even so thick that you think to yourself, "these will never turn out!" Trust the process.] Spread into a greased 8x8x2 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center. Allow to cool before cutting. The only drawback is that they get dry and crunchy after a day or two, so you’ll want to bake them shortly before you plan to eat them, and keep them in an airtight container to prolong their life. I’ll keep tweaking to see if I can find a way to prevent this altogether.
Super easy – you don’t even need a mixing bowl!
These come out crunchy on the edges and slightly crusty on top, but soft and chewy in the center, and they’re oh so rich! Certainly not health food, but great for an occasional indulgence. You can mix it up by adding a cup of vegan white chocolate chips or peanut butter chips (if you live in an area where you have access to that sort of thing, feel free to ship some to me!) instead of the half bag of chocolate chips at the end. I used to do this all the time with the pre-vegan version and it was super delish! Also, if you want them to come out looking particularly square and pretty, you can freeze them, then cut with a sharp knife, plate, and allow to return to room temperature. 

We made a triple batch of these tonight to share, and Annabelle was a great baking assistant. She loves smelling my ingredients, and really enjoyed the vanilla. She has also learned of the wonders of chocolate (I know, I know!), much to my dismay! Her daddy shared his with her one day and it was all over after that. So, I let her taste the tiniest little bit of our batter. 
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