Venerable Cosmas the Desert Dweller

On September 22 in the Holy Orthodox Church we commemorate the Venerable Saint Cosmas, the Desert Dweller, who reposed in the year 1323.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller | Orthodox and Vegan

“Saint Cosmas came from Bulgaria where his devout parents provided him with a good education in Slavonic and Greek. They wanted him to marry but he was drawn by the love of Christ and, unknown to them, made his way to the Holy Mountain of Athos to become a monk at the Bulgarian monastery of Zographou. On the feast of the Annunciation at the Monastery of Vatopedi, he saw a woman among those serving in the Church and in the refectory, and he was grieved at first to observe this breach of the monastic rule, but overjoyed when he realized that it was the Mother of God who had appeared to him in this way.

He was clothed in the holy angelic Habit and, after some time, was ordained priest. One day, as he was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, asking her with tears how to achieve his salvation, he heard a voice saying, ‘Let my servant withdraw to the desert outside the monastery.’ He was obedient to the will of God and, with the blessing of his Abbot, lived in silence from then on. Some years later, he was found worthy of the grace of discernment of thoughts and of beholding things happening elsewhere, as well as of other spiritual gifts. In the course of many years, he was the spiritual helper of a great number of monks.

St. Cosmas the Desert Dweller, Zographou Monastery on Athos | Orthodox and Vegan

The monastery of Zographou on Mt. Athos, where St. Cosmas once lived, is still in use today.

At the end of his life, Christ appeared to him saying that he would shortly have a great trial to endure from the Devil. Indeed, the prince of demons made his appearance next day with a host of his servants bewailing and bemoaning their inability to annihilate their great enemy Cosmas, who had held them in check for so long and gained possession, by his virtue, of the throne in Heaven that had once been Lucifer’s. Taking a heavy stick, the demon beat the Saint so violently that he left him half-dead.

Saint Cosmas died in peace two days later, on 22 September 1323. When the fathers came from the monastery to bury him, the wild animals gathered around. They kept silent until the end of the service, but howled unusually loud as his body was covered with earth. Then having paid their respects, they made off into the wilderness. Forty days later, the monks came to take up the body of Saint Cosmas and translate it to the monastery, but it was no longer in the grave. Where it now is God alone knows.”

Sweet Potato Flatbread Gluten Free, Grain Free

For various reasons, I’ve been experimenting with gluten free recipes lately. In this case, I needed something to go with my Ethiopian food since the injera (a kind made with a blend of flours, not just teff) hasn’t been sitting well with my tummy. I ended up with a Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread that comes out looking somewhat like an orange pancake, although you can make it any shape you want. It went perfectly with my Ethiopian veggie combo, and would also taste great with curry.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and VeganThe batter is thin enough to scoop, but not as thin as pancake batter

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and VeganUsing the back of a spoon, you can spread the flatbread batter into whatever shape your little heart desires.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread | Orthodox and Vegan
Gluten Free Sweet Potato Flatbread
1 med Sweet Potato, that has been baked/nuked, peeled, and mashed
2/3 C chickpea flour*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic
3/4 C water

In a medium bowl, combine first four ingredients. Mix in the water 1/4 cup at a time. Once combined, scoop batter into a non-stick skillet over medium heat and quickly spread into whatever shape you want using the back of a spoon – you’ll need a light touch. I used a 1/4 C to scoop, but you can use however much you want as long as you have room in the pan to spread the batter to 1/8″.
Cook the flatbread for about 3 minutes, or until it is firm enough to flip. You’ll need to start by gently slipping the spatula under the bread and loosening it around the edges. Once flipped, cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove flatbread to a plate, and allow to cool completely.
Makes 6 flatbreads when using a 1/4 C scoop.

*Chickpea flour may also be labeled gram, besan, or garbanzo bean flour. You can normally find it at a reasonable price in Indian or Middle Eastern markets, although it is available for slightly more on Amazon. It has a bitter taste until it has been cooked through, so you’ll not want to sample the batter uncooked.

I tried the sweet potato flatbread at various times to see when it had the best flavor. I preferred it after it had cooled completely and sat covered at room temp for a few hours (I made them before work, and ate some when I got home). They were also good right away after cooling, just not quite as good.

What will you do with your Sweet Potato Flatbread?

Vegan Q&A: Would a Vegan Eat Cultured Meat?

Would Vegans Eat Cultured Meat | Orthodox and Vegan

Photo Courtesy of james-mcwilliams.com

Hey Friends! Today’s Q&A question is another one I received via the Orthodox and Vegan Facebook page. Would vegans eat cultured (lab-created) meat?

Cultured meat is meat grown in cell cultures instead of in animals. So basically, cells are taken from actual animals, and then grown in labs. Since only a small amount of cells is needed, the popularization of cultured meat could mean the end of factory farming. The following is part of a Twitter DM conversation I had with Hampton Creek:

In regards to the attached questions, producing clean meat does not require any animal-derived inputs beyond the initial animal cells which can come from, for example, a single feather from a chicken roaming free in a sanctuary or a single egg laid by that chicken. The cells can grow by being nourished with plant-based nutrients, and can in principle continue growing indefinitely without the need for any additional animal-derived inputs. Our goal is to produce meat and seafood that is sustainable and eliminates the need to confine or slaughter any animals.

So would vegans eat cultured meat? Since by definition vegans avoid, “as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food”, and because the meat is created by taking cells from animals, as Simon Cowell would say, It’s a No. Also, just because Hampton Creek uses an example of the animals being kept in sanctuaries, that won’t necessarily be the case. I do think if there’s proof the animals are well cared for, some people would stop being vegan to make use of these products, especially those who identify as vegan but are simply on a plant-based diet. Cultured meat can be produced without growth hormones or antibiotics. It’s also possible the lab-created meats could be made to contain significantly less saturated fat.

It’s also estimated the land needed to produce meat would be reduced by 99%(!!!). The amount of associated water needed could be reduced by 90%, not to mention a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is good, and (again, if the animals are treated well) something most vegans will be happy about and support to some degree, even if we don’t support the product financially by purchasing it for consumption.

It should probably also be noted that most ethical vegans are pretty grossed out by the idea of eating flesh, which this will still be. Maybe some other vegans can chime in below in the comments. What do you all think??

Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Cream

The nights are getting cooler and the days shorter. Fall is in the air, and It’s Time to Get BASIC! Pumpkin Spice season is officially here, as evidenced by all the pumpkin spice-related posts that began clogging my Facebook feed last week. I was planning to save this recipe for later since I already had something in mind for today; however, after sharing the picture below in my What Vegans Eat album, some of my friends felt they couldn’t live another week without Pumpkin Spice Cream 🙂 I’d hate to spend the rest of my life being haunted by Pumpkin Spice Latte-obsessed spirits, so here is the recipe by popular demand!

4 Ingredient 5 Minute Pumpkin Spice Cream | Orthodox and Vegan
Pumpkin Spice Cream
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree or 1.5 C homemade pumpkin puree
1 (14oz) can coconut cream (use only the white cream)
3/4 – 1 C date paste, to taste
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend* (or see DIY pumpkin spice below)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl in the order in which I have specified, being sure to scoop out just the white cream from the can of coconut cream – the clear liquid can be used to replace oil in another recipe. Then WHIP IT GOOD, and that’s it! Rejoice, you have Pumpkin Spice Cream! It should keep nicely in the fridge for approximately 7 days. I do like to chill mine before eating it so it thickens up and gets extra creamy. You can eat it on its own for a healthy sweet treat (just try not to eat it all at once), add it to smoothies (recipe coming soon), or add a couple tablespoons to your coffee – seriously, I added it to coffee yesterday, and it was wonderful.

*If you don’t have a spice blend, no worries – you can make your own for this recipe by combining:
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmet
1/4 tsp ground cloves

How will you use your Pumpkin Spice Cream? Comment below with your awesome ideas, I’d love to hear from you!

Vegan in the Verde Valley, AZ

Thank You to everyone who submitted a city for the “Vegan In [city]” series! Today’s suggestion came from my friend Cody, aka The Wine Monk. We’re looking at the Verde Valley, an area in Arizona that includes multiple towns. Seeing as there are so few options in each town individually, we’ll might as well look at the whole Verde Valley altogether.

I’ve made an alphabetical list by city below, but let’s start out of order with two most interesting: Cottonwood and Sedona.

Vegan in the Verde Valley, Arizona - Cottonwood | Orthodox and Vegan
In Cottonwood you can try Wholesome Fast Foods for smoothies, salads, wraps, and fancy coffee. Happy Cow says there may be whey or cheese in some items, but that isn’t shown anywhere on the menu. Check with your server!

At the Mediterranean Farside Bistro, three vegan entrees are noted on the menu, plus options of regular or spicy hummus, baba ganouj, toom (listed as “Garlic Potato Dip”), olives, and Persian-style pickled cucumber.

For dessert, checkout Paradise Point Cafe for brownies or lemon cookies (there’s also a berry salad on the savory menu, but this is more of a dessert place with three times more desserts than savory items!). Alternative milks are available should you choose to pair your sweet treat with a coffee or tea.

Whole Foods Location
Now in Sedona you’ll actually find a Whole Foods, which means not only a TON of fresh produce and other dry goods for awesome home cookin’, but also plenty of vegan junk food/processed foods…if you’re into that sort of thing. They have pretty much any mock meat you’re into from fish sticks to gyros, including the infamous Beyond Burger. The refrigerated section is filled with every dairy substitute imaginable. If you’ve never been to Whole Foods, give yourself at least an hour to explore. Beware of the salad bar, you can easily spend $15+ on a single (but amazing) salad!

As for restaurants, you have a few options. Chocolatree will probably be the most exciting with its many raw vegan desserts, baked goods, coconut milk ice cream made in-house, and even a vegan mango lassi on the drink menu! Oh yes, and did I mention nearly the entire savory menu is also vegan? Oh, I hadn’t gotten to that yet. Well it is, and everything is clearly marked – just look for the little orange leaf.

Picazzo's in Sedona, AZ (Verde Valley) - Vegan California Pizza | Orthodox and Vegan

Vegan California Pizza from Picazzo’s


Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen will set you back a few bucks, but has a huge variety of vegan options including pizzas made with Daiya cheese at no extra cost. Menu items are clearly marked to indicate items that are already vegan, and items that can be made vegan.

Looking for something lighter? Check out the Local Juicery. Most of their items are vegan, but watch out for honey and ghee.

And if you thought a paleo restaurant would be uninviting for vegan diners, think again – Paleo Brio has several vegan options, and a fun build-your-own menu.

The Rest of Verde Valley
Unfortunately that’s it for the really interesting and exciting stuff, but you can still usually find at least one or two vegan options at most restaurants…even those options happen to be fries with ketchup 🙂 Here are a few ideas:

Camp Verde
Speaking of fries, there are tons of fast food/chain restaurants in Camp Verde. McDonald’s fries contain a beef-derived seasoning, but you can try Wendy’s or Burger King. Sonic & Dairy Queen also have vegan onion rings, and you can get a decent cheeseless pizza from Domino’s (make sure it’s thin crust, regular sauce).

Chain restaurant Johnny Rockets serves a Gardein Black Bean Burger, as well as regular fries, sweet potato fries, and tater tots.

Denny’s is also an option, and you can check out my Vegan at Denny’s guide before you head over.

Clarkdale
Build your own pizza at the Clarkdale Boathouse. The portobello sandwich minus cheese is also an option, although if the bread isn’t vegan you’ll end up just eating a big ol’ mushroom.

Cornville
Harry’s Hideaway doesn’t look very vegan-friendly at first glance, but they do offer a vegan ratatouille. The menu also states some of the soups are vegan, and encourages guests to let the waitstaff know if vegan options are needed.

Verde Valley, Jerome, AZ | Orthodox and Vegan

Photo of Historic Jerome by The Wine Monk. Stolen and used without permission.


Jerome
Haunted Burger – Veggie Wrap with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, green chilies, tomatoes, & guacamole. Found under the “Not a Burger” menu section.

Mile High Grill is probably not the best place to stop for breakfast (although you could possibly do the veggie hash minus cheese), but on the Lunch/Dinner menu they have the Asian Crispy Tofu Salad, a veggie wrap, and a hummus platter.

The Flat Iron‘s menu shows “Gluten Free and Vegan when available” – not exactly sure what that means, but they do have at least one clearly vegan item, the Vegan Chickpea Salad Sandwich.

Lake Montezuma
Alas, I couldn’t find anything special at all in Lake Montezuma, unless maybe the Garden Burger at Cricket’s Sandwich Shop is vegan. Maybe they’d be willing to make a breakfast burrito minus the eggs, meat, and cheese and instead stuffed with all the veggies they offer + fries, topped with salsa or enchilada sauce.

Know of any other great vegan options in the Verde Valley? Comment below!

Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

On September 8 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate the Nativity of the Theotokos (the birth of Mary, the mother of God). It is one of the 12 great feasts of the Church year.

Icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos | Orthodox and Vegan

Read about this icon at A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons

In answer to their prayers, Mary was born to an elderly couple named Joachim and Anna who had previously been barren.

Excerpts from the Old Testament readings of the Vespers service for the feast:

“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. . . “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:10-17)

“Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 43:27-44:4)

“Wisdom has built her house.” (Proverbs 9:1-11)

Additional readings for the feast:
Matins Gospel: Luke 1:39-49, 56
Epistle: Philippians 2:5-11
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28

Apolytikion of the Birth of the Theotokos in Fourth Mode
Thy Nativity, O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole world
For from thee hath dawned the Son of Righteousness, Christ our God
Annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing
Abolishing death and granting us life everlasting

Blessed Feast to everyone celebrating today!

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough – Vegan, GF, No Refined Sugar!

Who doesn’t love cookie dough?! As kids we ate it raw all the time, but then suddenly there were all these scary stories about salmonella. Luckily vegan cookie dough means you don’t have to worry about eggs – but what about all the other less-than-healthy stuff?

Date Paste Natural Sweetener for Chickpea Peanut Butter Cookie Dough | Orthodox and Vegan
Don’t worry, we’ll keep this nice and simple! First, let me introduce you to Date Paste. You can make your own date paste to use as a natural sweetener, or simply buy it. I get mine from the bulk section of the local Middle Eastern market. It is sliceable but too thick to blend well in a food processor, so I soften it by mixing it with hot water (3/4 C water to 1 C paste). Then I pop it into a jar and store it in the fridge, where I can easily grab it to spoon into my protein shakes or other treats. At least at the Middle Eastern market, I’ve found it’s actually cheaper to buy the paste already made.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough | Orthodox and Vegan
And we don’t need flour, either. Chickpeas are the foundation of this cookie dough. That’s right, the little legume who brought us hummus and veggie burgers has now made its way into your relatively healthy dessert. And if you want to avoid refined sugars altogether, you can replace the chocolate chips with raisins*. I did not bother to add vanilla, although you certainly can, but I did choose to bulk it up with the optional pea protein. Here’s how it’s done.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Treat: Flourless, No Refined Sugar | Orthodox and Vegan
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
1 1/2 C cooked chickpeas (or 1 15oz can, drained & rinsed)
1/2 C date paste
1/2 C natural peanut butter
1/2 C chocolate chips or raisins
Optional:
1 scoop (1/4 C) pea protein
2 tsp vanilla

Pulse chickpeas in food processor until it forms a coarse meal. Add date paste and process until blended. If using pea protein, add it now and the dough will become powdery once combined. Add peanut butter (and optional vanilla) and process again until incorporated. The dough will become very thick and may clump together on one side of the bowl. Smooth it out and add either chocolate chips or raisins, pulsing to distribute evenly.
Can be stored in the fridge for several days if you can keep yourself from eating it all at once.

*If you’re leaving the refined sugar out of your cookie dough but miss the chocolatey taste, you can also add cocoa powder and a little extra date paste!

Vegan Q&A: Cheat Days

I’m planning to do these Vegan Q&A posts on Mondays, answering questions from my followers as well as questions I hear regularly from family and friends. You can post your questions in the comments below, or PM me at the Orthodox and Vegan Facebook page!

Today I’m addressing a question I’ve been asked several times: “Do you ever have a cheat day?” By this, people are asking if I occasionally make the conscious decision to eat foods that aren’t vegan (meat, eggs, dairy).

Short answer: No.

I think people usually assume I’m vegan strictly for dietary reasons (which might explain why they’re shocked to see me eating, for example, a bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos…). On a diet, it’s normal to treat yourself with a cheat day once in a while; however, I’m not on a diet. I care about my health, but that’s a totally separate issue. Let’s look at the actual definition of veganism, coined by The Vegan Society in 1979:

Vegan Q&A: Cheat Days | Orthodox and Vegan

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

For vegans, a cheat day isn’t simply taking a break from a diet – cheat days mean taking a break from an ethical stance. One friend likened it to being asked if she and her spouse ever have a cheat day 😀 (NO!!) More than anything else, a cheat day would make me feel like I’m cheating the animals.
I also have to admit I no longer see animal products as food. I’m like the kid from The Sixth Sense, but I see dead animals. It may not be so simple for others, but my brain automatically classifies animal products as inedible, so there’s no temptation.

What do you think about cheat days? Comment below!

Happy Ecclesiastical New Year :D 2017

On September 1 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we celebrate the Ecclesiastical New Year, or Indiction. According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1 to announce His mission to mankind (Luke 4:16-22). Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 the Savior proclaimed, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…”

Orthodox Indiction Icon | Orthodox Christian New Year

“O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, broughtest creation into being out of nothing; Thou Who hast put the times and seasons in Thine own power: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness; give peace unto Thy churches, victory unto Thy faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us.”

+Orthros of the Feast, Tone 3

What are your resolutions for the new year? One of mine is to start posting here again regularly!!!

Spicy Vegan Cashew Cheez Spread

Recently I was asked about vegan cheeses that don’t need to be fermented, and I realized I didn’t have much to offer here in my recipe collection. I decided to experiment a little, and I actually came out with this really great Spicy Cashew Cheez Spread on the first try! It’s very simple to make, and I think it took about 15 minutes.

Spicy Vegan Cashew Cheez Spread Quesadillas | Orthodox and Vegan
I used the cashew cheez to make vegan quesadillas – you should be able to get six to eight small quesadillas out of this recipe, depending on how thick you spread it. I like to use the little corn tortillas.

Spicy Vegan Cashew Cheez Spread in Bean Dip | Orthodox and Vegan
I didn’t get quite so many because I used most of it making delicious cheesy bean dips! I folded the quesadillas and filled them with bean dip. It was a little messy…but wonderful. And did I mention this cashew cheez recipe is oil free and perfect for a strict fasting day?

If you’re cooking a meal for a family of four, I would recommend using all the cashew cheez spread for the quesadillas, and topping them with black beans or bean dip, guacamole, and chopped veggies or salsa. Then, instead of making a mess like I did, eat them with a knife and fork!

Spicy Vegan Cashew Cheez Spread | Orthodox and Vegan
Spicy Vegan Cashew Cheez Spread
3/4 raw cashews
1 clove garlic
2 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp chili powder
3/4 C vegetable broth
3/4 C water or plain unsweetened almond milk
Optional:
Dash of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
Dash or turmeric, for color

Blend all ingredients until smooth (you may not get it perfectly smooth if you don’t have a high-powdered blender). Pour into a small sauce pan and whisk over high heat until it thickens into a spreadable consistency. It will not be completely firm, although it will continue to firm up if you chill it. This cheez doesn’t get to the point of being sliceable.

Spicy Cashew Cheez Spread is great for:
-Quesadillas
-Nachos
-Queso Bean Dip (or Queso “Beef” Dip with TVP & taco seasonings, or Queso Fresco with salsa)
-Cheezy Chili Veggie Dog