What is an Alcoholic?

What is an Alcoholic?

What is an Alcoholic?

Despite our society’s belief that most people are normal drinkers and only assholes become alcoholics, alcoholism is more of a journey than a destination. It’s true that some people are predisposed to travel faster due to genetic and biochemical factors such as the way the body metabolizes alcohol and the feeling that alcohol produces in the brain. (If you have a high tolerance or experience euphoric relief, you’re moving faster.) Lifestyle factors can slow the process. A person with a job that has no room for sub-par performance is highly motivated to abstain from drinking during the work week. Someone who lives in an alcohol-free home will naturally drink less than a person who keeps a loaded bar. Put those same people in a different life (or on vacation. or in quarantine) where regular drinking is acceptable, normalized and even expected, and addiction accelerates (alcoholism is a progressive disease).

The cross-over from normal drinking to problem drinking occurs when a drinker learns that alcohol (temporarily) solves the problems created by alcohol. This can happen quickly or over a lifetime, consciously or unconsciously. Have you ever gone to a weekend wedding? Many people over-do it on Friday night (I used to call that a rookie mistake). The women separate from the boys on Saturday morning when the “normal” drinkers sleep it off and the “professionals” grab a hair-of-the-dog and literally jog past the struggle bus to the party. Alcohol anesthetizes pain.

People who drink to relieve stress are especially prone to developing alcoholism. The more you drink on a regular basis, the more anxiety, depression and mood problems linger below the surface. These symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are attributed to external stressors (finances, spouse, kids, Karen, dinner time, trains, roadblocks, elections, things that break, and days that end in “y,”– all problems that are never your fault), and can be quickly relieved by more alcohol. It’s a cycle that ensnares many of us and accelerates as slowly or quickly as our circumstances allow.

Looking at my own decent into the disease, I’ll use an analogy (that I made up–all credit or criticism goes to me). Every person is given a limited, unknown and random number of free drink tickets for the bar of life. The quicker we use them, the sooner the tab starts. Eventually, the bill comes due. My life allowed me to drink more than I might have in a parallel universe. I don’t have to work long shifts or a second job. I didn’t have to choose between alcohol and other necessities. I could buy my gluten-free, vegan cake and drink too. In my mind (held hostage by alcohol), I didn’t have enough reasons to not drink. I felt privileged and entitled to live the good life, and was brainwashed to believe that the good life included fine wine and pricey liquor. I was a normal drinker for many years, abstaining through my pregnancies and moderating as life demanded. But I was always a drinker, and thus was marching at a steady pace into addiction.

But I didn’t know that. Because for a long time, I qualified as a “normal.” The red flags were few and far between. I was as healthy and happy as I thought I could be–stoically dealing with the ever-growing symptoms of alcoholism disguised as WTF Day #389). There were people around me who drank far more than I did. Their existence kept me safe and secure in my own habits. I wasn’t like them! I was good. I was better. At the very least, I was normal. And it’s easy to see how I suffered such delusions. In our society, you are either an alcoholic or you are not. I was high functioning, and therefore had plenty of evidence that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I knew I needed to cut back and I wasn’t happy that it seemed difficult. But I believed that the problem was a lack of willpower. Motivation. Energy. The problem was me (and everyone else’s bullshit)–not the drinking. Every day, I tried really hard to stop what was happening to me and internalized the guilt and shame of perpetual failure. What I couldn’t swallow I blamed on other people. And every night, alcohol both relieved the pain and fueled the flames.

The truth is that alcohol is a carcinogenic, mind and mood altering, addictive, psychoactive neurotoxin. The truth is the problem isn’t any of us. Occassionally, you meet an ex-drinker who is still an asshole. But as a general rule, recovering alcoholics are emotionally intelligent (maybe more so than the general population as overcoming addiction takes a great deal of courage, reflection and humility). The mental illness associated with alcoholism is a side effect of drinking the poison. I know that to be true because with the poison out of my system, that broken and pathetic version of myself is healing. My integrity, joy, productivity and compassion have returned. I’m not pretending to be okay anymore. I am ok. Placing blame on those of us that succumb to alcoholism only offers immunity to the $1.5 trillion-dollar industry that profits from disease. Transferring blame to people instead of the product prevents the “normal” drinkers from seeing the danger.

I quit drinking in April, 2020 because I was miserable. So many things were out of my control (Covid-19 and the subsequent quarantine, financial distress, e-learning for my kids, isolation, etc.—not to mention the amount of alcohol I was consuming). While I have always believed that alcohol reduces stress, and is therefore therapeutic, my daily experience was not aligning with that belief. My stress had become physically and mentally overwhelming. I was so desperate that I made the only change I really could, and did something that I hadn’t imagined was possible (or pleasurable).

I stopped drinking.

Seven months later, I can report that sobriety feels amazing. Even bad days sober are better than good days drinking. Now, I’m trying to figure out what this means. Am I an alcoholic? What do you think?

Evaluating whether or not you should quit drinking (for a while or for good) using the question, “Am I an alcoholic?” may be irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter. Let’s assume the self-assessment you take on a random website says, “No.” Then what? Do you keep drinking and hope things getter better? [Spoiler Alert: Hope is not a strategy.]

The real question should be, “Is my use of alcohol enhancing my body, mind, life and relationships?” Even the answer, “I don’t know,” is a call to action. There’s only one way to find out.

P.S. When I decided to quit drinking, I did something very uncharacteristic. I acknowledged that I needed help. That was the best thing I ever did. Within an hour, I had a temporary sponsor and attended a support meeting. I could not have made it without the help of people who have gone through it. There is so much support out there. Contact me at [email protected], call your local A.A. hotline, find groups online. Find REAL people as soon as you can. Ex-drinkers that are active in support communities get it. They fucking care. They will be there for you for as little or long as you like. You are not alone.

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

In the first few weeks of sobriety, I attended A.A. meetings. I had no problem believing that I’d become powerless over alcohol or placing my faith in a higher power. If submission was the prerequisite for freedom, I was ready to hand over my keys. Whatever it takes. I’m done. But when I read that problem drinkers must “endure the suggestion that they are in fact mentally ill,” I bristled with denial. Nope. No can do.

The stigma around mental illness is strong, despite the increased awareness surrounding mental health. Physical ailments are less complicated. Fighting cancer makes you a hero. Reversing diabetes is badass. Conquering alcoholism warrants props too–but simply battling it?–not so much. Mental illness, however, translates to crazy–not in touch with reality–a few pieces short of a puzzle. Granted, I drank too much. But I’ve stopped drinking. The cure for crazy isn’t as clear.

I’m not really into labels, but I’ll use one for the purpose of keeping it simple: I was a high functioning alcoholic. To all outward appearances, I was a productive, positive person. I looked and acted healthy. My kids were taken care of, my dog was walked, and dinner was on the table. I was helpful, reliable and kind. Drama was something I avoided. I wasn’t sick on the outside. But inside, my mental health was deteriorating.

Every morning, the shrill voice of an unrelenting inner critic pierced my consciousness before I even opened my eyes. Some days, I’d cover my ears and beg, “Can I get a cup of coffee before we start the beat-down?” The voice did not have a sense of humor and the request was usually denied. My extrodinary efforts to balance my alcohol intake with a whole food plant-based diet, daily exercise, and copious amounts of water and supplements were no longer working. What I didn’t realize (until after I quit) was that my bad habit wasn’t even a habit anymore. It was a full-blown addiction.

I no longer subscribe to the A.A. philosophy that alcoholism is a fatal disease. Oh, it’s real, and it can be fatal. But it can also be reversed, provided you stop drinking and address the mental and physical damage that was done. New understanding of “alcoholism” shifts the problem from the people who suffer (formerly known as “alcoholics”) to the addictive behavior (alcohol use disorder) that can be healed.

Alcohol use disorder produces an internal state of dis-ease that is death by 1000 cuts. Ethanol is a sedative. Your brain counters the depressive effects with stimulants and stress hormones. Once the alcohol wears off, there is a bio-chemical imbalance that lasts well into the next day (or longer), leaving you hypersensitive and anxious. Even if you didn’t drink enough to suffer the standard hangover symptoms, you feel at least mildly annoyed by life in general. Relationships and responsibilities are more pain-in-the-ass than purposeful. Negative thinking permeates your psyche. Moods may be manageable for high functioning folks, but the slogan on the struggle bus is “fake it till you make it.”

It just so happens that alcohol calms the stress that alcohol creates. A drink will take off the edge left by the last drink. That’s why we call it “happy” hour. Welcome to addiction.

But Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Regardless of how you refer to it, alcoholism /alcohol use disorder is a mental illness. However, like most chronic disorders, it’s reversible. The anxiety, depression, negative thinking and other psychological symptoms are the effects of heavy alcohol use, not the cause. The good news is that it’s not you. It’s the booze goggles. Alcohol blocks or destroys the natural chemicals that maintain emotional stability. But when you stop drinking, you can regain your mental health if you make the effort. As I write this, I am seven months sober. I am a new and very improved version of myself. I’m not pretending that I’m all good. I am all good—even on the tough days. I trust myself to take care of myself. Don’t misunderstand. I didn’t wake up like this on day one. It’s been a long haul and very hard work. Anyone willing to peel the onion is going to shed some tears. I’ve attended countless recovery meetings, worked with a therapist and a coach, read every single Quit-Lit book I can find, and immersed myself in sobriety podcasts. And I’m not finished. But for the first time in my life, I’m taking responsibility for my own needs. I’m healing. Every day gets better. I’m free. And I’m never going back.

Has drinking stopped being fun for you? Want to know what you can do about it? Watch my 45-minute webinar on how to overcome alcohol use disorder. And then schedule a free consultation with me to create a plan that will restore your mental health and give you your life back! 

 

Chocolate Dessert Hummus

Chocolate Dessert Hummus

Chocolate Dessert Hummus (Vegan Nutella)

Soothe your sweet tooth with this decadent chocolate dessert hummus. It's the vegan version of Nutella, and tastes like brownie batter. Ten grams of protein and seven grams of fiber per serving.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 5 people

Ingredients
  

  • 13 ounce chickpeas drained
  • 1/4 cup nut butter peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, etc.
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup optional, substitute stevia or preferred sweetener
  • dash sea salt optional

Instructions
 

  • Blend the ingredients using a food processor, or high speed or immersion stick blender. Add more (or less) milk and sweetener to texture and taste preference.
  • Serve with fruit, crackers or skip the delivery device and use a spoon.

Notes

Chocolate Dessert Hummus (Vegan Nutella)

Soothe your sweet tooth with this decadent chocolate dessert hummus. It's the vegan version of Nutella, and tastes like brownie batter. Ten grams of protein and seven grams of fiber per serving.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 5 people

Ingredients
  

  • 13 ounce chickpeas drained
  • 1/4 cup nut butter peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, etc.
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup optional, substitute stevia or preferred sweetener
  • dash sea salt optional

Instructions
 

  • Blend the ingredients using a food processor, or high speed or immersion stick blender. Add more (or less) milk and sweetener to texture and taste preference.
  • Serve with fruit, crackers or skip the delivery device and use a spoon.

Notes

Homemade BITCHIN’ Sauce Recipe

Homemade BITCHIN’ Sauce Recipe

Homemade BITCHIN' Sauce Recipe

I love Bitchin' Sauce. A sparky 16-year old vegan named Starr creates several flavors, and all of them are amazing. But lately, store shelves have been empty. Luckily, the list of ingredients is transparent and pure--it reads like recipe. Until stores reopen, try this cheap and easy homemade BITCHIN' Sauce recipe.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Sauce, Sides and Snacks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup almonds soaked if possible--see recipe notes; substitute walnuts or cashews; Nut free? See recipe notes for options
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup yeast flakes optional--it's still great without if you don't have any
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice substitute lime juice or other vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar substitute other vinegar or more lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. tamari substitute soy sauce of choice or Coconut aminos for soy free
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 ounces canned jalapenos substitute green chilis or chipotle peppers (or 1/4 tsp. chipotle pepper powder or cayenne)
  • 14 ounces canned stewed tomatoes

Instructions
 

  • Blend all of the ingredients except for jalapenos and tomatoes until creamy and smooth. Once it's smooth, add jalapenos and tomatoes and pulse until only small chunks remain. It's okay if you don't want chunks--puree until smooth.

Notes

Why soak?I soak nuts, legumes and grains whenever possible for maximum nutrient availability and digestibility, I buy in bulk (saves money), soak for 12-24 hours and then dry and store in freezer. Then they are always ready to go. Learn more about the importance of soaking nuts and beans.
Nut-free? If you are nut free, substitute riced cauliflower, steamed potato, pumpkin or sesame seeds, tofu or a can of white beans. Depending on your choice, you may not need the 1/2 cup of water. Add water at the end if your Bitchin' sauce is too thick.
Sticky Blender Solution: Did you know that your blender will wash itself? Yep. Just fill it 2/3 water and a drop of dish soap. Blend until clean. This recipe is inspired and dedicated to Bitchin' Sauce, made in Carlsbad, CA. Support small businesses doing great things!

Homemade BITCHIN' Sauce Recipe

I love Bitchin' Sauce. A sparky 16-year old vegan named Starr creates several flavors, and all of them are amazing. But lately, store shelves have been empty. Luckily, the list of ingredients is transparent and pure--it reads like recipe. Until stores reopen, try this cheap and easy homemade BITCHIN' Sauce recipe.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Sauce, Sides and Snacks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup almonds soaked if possible--see recipe notes; substitute walnuts or cashews; Nut free? See recipe notes for options
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup yeast flakes optional--it's still great without if you don't have any
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice substitute lime juice or other vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar substitute other vinegar or more lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. tamari substitute soy sauce of choice or Coconut aminos for soy free
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 ounces canned jalapenos substitute green chilis or chipotle peppers (or 1/4 tsp. chipotle pepper powder or cayenne)
  • 14 ounces canned stewed tomatoes

Instructions
 

  • Blend all of the ingredients except for jalapenos and tomatoes until creamy and smooth. Once it's smooth, add jalapenos and tomatoes and pulse until only small chunks remain. It's okay if you don't want chunks--puree until smooth.

Notes

Why soak?I soak nuts, legumes and grains whenever possible for maximum nutrient availability and digestibility, I buy in bulk (saves money), soak for 12-24 hours and then dry and store in freezer. Then they are always ready to go. Learn more about the importance of soaking nuts and beans.
Nut-free? If you are nut free, substitute riced cauliflower, steamed potato, pumpkin or sesame seeds, tofu or a can of white beans. Depending on your choice, you may not need the 1/2 cup of water. Add water at the end if your Bitchin' sauce is too thick.
Sticky Blender Solution: Did you know that your blender will wash itself? Yep. Just fill it 2/3 water and a drop of dish soap. Blend until clean. This recipe is inspired and dedicated to Bitchin' Sauce, made in Carlsbad, CA. Support small businesses doing great things!
Beet Burgers

Beet Burgers

Beet Burgers

Even if beets aren't your thing, their earthy flavor and hearty texture create a delicious veggie burger. This beet burger recipe is easy. Throw the ingredients into the blender, shape patties and bake. If you don't have the exact ingredients, I provide lots of options.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 patties

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup bread crumbs make your own—just throw some stale bread into the blender.
  • 1 cup cooked beets see store-bought options in the instructions
  • 1/2 cup walnuts substitute almonds, cashews or rolled oats/oat flour if nut free
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed substitute chia seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. miso paste substitute Liquid Bragg's or coconut aminos
  • 1 red onion loosely chopped. Substitute yellow, sweet or 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa Make your own or buy pre-cooked packets in rice isle or with frozen veggies
  • 14 ounce canned black beans substitute any bean or lentil variety
  • 1 cup mushrooms canned ok—just drain
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric use 1-in piece of fresh if you have it
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel optional: adds a sausage flavor
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard substitute 1 Tbsp. any mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Wash skins and remove the ends from one large, or two small beets. Cut in half or fourths to speed bake time. Roast at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until soft. [EASY BUTTON] Purchase cooked beets from the produce department at the grocery. Canned beets work too—just drain any liquid.
  • If making your own bread crumbs, and/or substituting rolled oats for walnuts, throw bread (and/or oats) into the blender and grind into a fine powder. Keep in the blender.
  • Add beats, walnuts (substitute oat flour), flax seed, garlic and miso (substitute soy/coconut aminos) to the bread crumbs. Puree until smooth. (If using fresh turmeric, add to this step so that it is thoroughly processed).
  • Add the remaining ingredients (onion, rice or quinoa, beans, mushroom and seasonings). Briefly blend on low-medium until only small chunks remain. Use the pulse setting to create desired texture. It is absolutely okay to blend until pureed. But if you like chunks, take it slow.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a spatula or hands to arrange batter into patties. Bake for 30 minutes. Flip about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Optional: spray with avocado oil or brush with olive oil for the final 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with or without a bun and your favorite condiments. I topped mine with sauerkraut, mustard, tomato and cilantro, and served crispy Brussels sprouts on the side.
  • Store extras in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Make sure they are thoroughly cooled before freezing to avoid freezer burn.

Notes

Sticky Blender Solution: Did you know that your blender will wash itself? Yep. Just fill it 2/3 water and a drop of dish soap. Blend until clean.
What to serve on the side? Try Goddess Style Brussels Sprouts.
Goddess Brussels sprouts
 

Beet Burgers

Even if beets aren't your thing, their earthy flavor and hearty texture create a delicious veggie burger. This beet burger recipe is easy. Throw the ingredients into the blender, shape patties and bake. If you don't have the exact ingredients, I provide lots of options.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 patties

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup bread crumbs make your own—just throw some stale bread into the blender.
  • 1 cup cooked beets see store-bought options in the instructions
  • 1/2 cup walnuts substitute almonds, cashews or rolled oats/oat flour if nut free
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed substitute chia seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves substitute 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. miso paste substitute Liquid Bragg's or coconut aminos
  • 1 red onion loosely chopped. Substitute yellow, sweet or 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa Make your own or buy pre-cooked packets in rice isle or with frozen veggies
  • 14 ounce canned black beans substitute any bean or lentil variety
  • 1 cup mushrooms canned ok—just drain
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric use 1-in piece of fresh if you have it
  • 1/2 tsp. ground fennel optional: adds a sausage flavor
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard substitute 1 Tbsp. any mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Wash skins and remove the ends from one large, or two small beets. Cut in half or fourths to speed bake time. Roast at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until soft. [EASY BUTTON] Purchase cooked beets from the produce department at the grocery. Canned beets work too—just drain any liquid.
  • If making your own bread crumbs, and/or substituting rolled oats for walnuts, throw bread (and/or oats) into the blender and grind into a fine powder. Keep in the blender.
  • Add beats, walnuts (substitute oat flour), flax seed, garlic and miso (substitute soy/coconut aminos) to the bread crumbs. Puree until smooth. (If using fresh turmeric, add to this step so that it is thoroughly processed).
  • Add the remaining ingredients (onion, rice or quinoa, beans, mushroom and seasonings). Briefly blend on low-medium until only small chunks remain. Use the pulse setting to create desired texture. It is absolutely okay to blend until pureed. But if you like chunks, take it slow.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a spatula or hands to arrange batter into patties. Bake for 30 minutes. Flip about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Optional: spray with avocado oil or brush with olive oil for the final 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with or without a bun and your favorite condiments. I topped mine with sauerkraut, mustard, tomato and cilantro, and served crispy Brussels sprouts on the side.
  • Store extras in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Make sure they are thoroughly cooled before freezing to avoid freezer burn.

Notes

Sticky Blender Solution: Did you know that your blender will wash itself? Yep. Just fill it 2/3 water and a drop of dish soap. Blend until clean.
What to serve on the side? Try Goddess Style Brussels Sprouts.
Goddess Brussels sprouts
 
Simple Smoky Cream Pasta

Simple Smoky Cream Pasta

Simple Smoky Cream Pasta

Plant-based meals can be easy and delicious comfort food. Make simple, smoky cream pasta with ingredients you probably have in your pantry. If you don't have these exact ingredients, see recipe notes for ideas.
Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

Smoky cream sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil optional: substitute water
  • 1 onion any variety; chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced; substitute 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup veggie broth substitute 1 cup water + 1 tsp. veggie bouillon
  • 14 ounce can of coconut milk substitute 1.5 cups any plant milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Liquid Bragg's aminos substitute any soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard substitute lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika substitute 1/8 tsp. Liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup arrow root flour substitute any fine-ground all-purpose flour for thickening purposes
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes optional

Add-ins

  • 16 ounces pasta of choice
  • 14 ounce canned beans substitute lentils
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli chopped: fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Tip: Add salt to cooking water once it boils to infuse pasta with flavor. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, saute chopped onion in olive oil (or just splash with water to avoid sticking) until translucent (5-7 minutes) on low to medium heat. If using fresh broccoli (or other fresh produce), add in the last minute or two and cook until soft and bright.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk together minced garlic cloves, veggie broth, coconut milk, Liquid Bragg's, mustard, thyme, smoked paprika, arrow root and yeast flakes. Make sure flour is dissolved. Pour over the onion and stir as the sauce thickens.
  • Add beans, mushrooms and any alternative add-ins as the sauce thickens. Remove from heat promptly to avoid sticking. Add pasta and stir.
  • Garnish with vegan Parmesan topping (see recipe below), pine nuts, green onions, dried herbs like Italian seasoning, cracked pepper

Notes

Pasta preparation tip: Add ~1 Tbsp. salt to boiling water with pasta to add flavor. Don’t worry—the salt dissolves in the entire pot of water, and the pasta absorbs a very small amount. No chance of salt overload as you drain the majority of it off.
Veggie Broth vs. Bouillon: Store bought organic veggie broth can be very expensive. I use Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base, which allows me to make as little (or as much) as I need without paying $1/cup (it's about $0.20 cents/cup). Running low on groceries?
Add-ins are optional! Search your fridge, freezer and pantry and use what you have.
Pantry items: dried (rehydrate) or canned mushrooms, artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, sun-dried tomatoes, green chilis or jalepenos.
Frozen veggies: peas, corn, spinach, edamame, butternut squash, green beans, carrots
Fresh produce: bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, squash, spinach, kale, asparagus, cherry tomatoes,
Tasty Topping Recipe: Vegan Parmesan 

Simple Smoky Cream Pasta

Plant-based meals can be easy and delicious comfort food. Make simple, smoky cream pasta with ingredients you probably have in your pantry. If you don't have these exact ingredients, see recipe notes for ideas.
Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

Smoky cream sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil optional: substitute water
  • 1 onion any variety; chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced; substitute 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup veggie broth substitute 1 cup water + 1 tsp. veggie bouillon
  • 14 ounce can of coconut milk substitute 1.5 cups any plant milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Liquid Bragg's aminos substitute any soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard substitute lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika substitute 1/8 tsp. Liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup arrow root flour substitute any fine-ground all-purpose flour for thickening purposes
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes optional

Add-ins

  • 16 ounces pasta of choice
  • 14 ounce canned beans substitute lentils
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli chopped: fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Tip: Add salt to cooking water once it boils to infuse pasta with flavor. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, saute chopped onion in olive oil (or just splash with water to avoid sticking) until translucent (5-7 minutes) on low to medium heat. If using fresh broccoli (or other fresh produce), add in the last minute or two and cook until soft and bright.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk together minced garlic cloves, veggie broth, coconut milk, Liquid Bragg's, mustard, thyme, smoked paprika, arrow root and yeast flakes. Make sure flour is dissolved. Pour over the onion and stir as the sauce thickens.
  • Add beans, mushrooms and any alternative add-ins as the sauce thickens. Remove from heat promptly to avoid sticking. Add pasta and stir.
  • Garnish with vegan Parmesan topping (see recipe below), pine nuts, green onions, dried herbs like Italian seasoning, cracked pepper

Notes

Pasta preparation tip: Add ~1 Tbsp. salt to boiling water with pasta to add flavor. Don’t worry—the salt dissolves in the entire pot of water, and the pasta absorbs a very small amount. No chance of salt overload as you drain the majority of it off.
Veggie Broth vs. Bouillon: Store bought organic veggie broth can be very expensive. I use Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base, which allows me to make as little (or as much) as I need without paying $1/cup (it's about $0.20 cents/cup). Running low on groceries?
Add-ins are optional! Search your fridge, freezer and pantry and use what you have.
Pantry items: dried (rehydrate) or canned mushrooms, artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, sun-dried tomatoes, green chilis or jalepenos.
Frozen veggies: peas, corn, spinach, edamame, butternut squash, green beans, carrots
Fresh produce: bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, squash, spinach, kale, asparagus, cherry tomatoes,
Tasty Topping Recipe: Vegan Parmesan 
Pesto & Parmesan Carrot Fettuccini

Pesto & Parmesan Carrot Fettuccini

I stumbled upon this idea to use a vegetable peeler to create fettuccini noodles from carrots on Pinterest. My kids love carrots, so we gave it a try. The result exceeded our expectations. The texture was similar to pasta and the flavor was mild and neutral. We all loved it, teenagers included.

Shave 4-5 large carrots into a stock pot. Use a knife to slice the core into thin pieces. Cover with a bit of water. Steam and stir for about 5 minutes, until desired tenderness is reached. 

Chop some tomatoes and add a can of cannellini (or prefered) beans. 

Meanwhile, make the vegan pesto and Parmesan topping. Pour the pesto over the carrot noodles and sprinkle with the Parmesan. 

You’ll (probably) have leftover Parmesan. Store in the refrigerator and try with other dishes. It is a favorite condiment in our house! 


Vegan Pesto Recipe

Many vegan pesto recipes leave a lot to be desired. It's hard to beat the alternatives loaded with Parmesan and Romano cheese. This comes really close. The yeast flakes provide the pungency of cheese, and the garlic and red onion add layers of umami. If you have also add your own cheese, yogurt or hummus to kick it up a notch. It's good. Enjoy.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups fresh basil ~3 ounces
  • 1/4 cup walnuts substitute pinenuts, almonds or cashews
  • 1/4 cup yeast flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic substitute 1-2 tsp. garlic powder or minced granules
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil optional
  • 1/4 cup red onion substitute 1-2 tsp. onion powder or minced granules
  • 1-2 Medjool dates optional, can also use 1 tsp. honey, maple syrup or other sweetener
  • 1/4 cup vegan yogurt, cheese or hummus optional
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt optional

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy and smooth.


Vegan Parmesan Topping

Sprinkle this flavorful and nutritious alternative to Parmesan cheese on stir-fry's, salads, even popcorn. Safe to store in the fridge.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup raw walnuts and/or almonds best if pre-soaked
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest optional

Instructions
 

  • Place all of the ingredients in your food processor. If using a salt based lemon zest, omit the sea salt. Otherwise, grate the skin of an organic lemon with a fine grater. Word of caution: Don’t over-process as nuts will turn into a paste. Use the pulse setting at the end if you have one. 
  • Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator. Add to anything and everything.

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