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

With Man There is Chaos

Orthodox Quotes: "Because of the Fall of man, the natural order of things has become chaotic. In nature, there is an order for all things, but with man there is chaos, Everything is distorted and turned around. Because of our disobedience to the commandments of our Heavenly Father, we have lost the natural order. In order to reestablish this order, we must practice abstinence." Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica | Orthodox and Vegan

Because of the Fall of man, the natural order of things has become chaotic. In nature, there is an order for all things, but with man there is chaos, Everything is distorted and turned around. Because of our disobedience to the commandments of our Heavenly Father, we have lost the natural order. In order to reestablish this order, we must practice abstinence. – Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

We Have Not That Which God Seeks

Orthodox Quotes: "Our breath stinks from fasting, we know the Scriptures by heart, we recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that which God seeks: charity and humility." -the Desert Fathers | Orthodox and Vegan

Our breath stinks from fasting, we know the Scriptures by heart, we recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that which God seeks: charity and humility. – The Desert Fathers

I have to admit when I first read this quote, the part about bad breath is what stood out to me the most. Like, “Oh good, that’s been happening to everyone since forever.” It may have taken a little longer for the rest to sink in.

This is the Way that Thou Shalt Keep the Fast

Orthodox Quotes: "This fasting. . .if the commandments of the Lord are kept, is very good. This, then, is the way that thou shalt keep the fast. First of all, keep thyself from every evil word and every evil device, and purify thy heart from all the vanities of this world. If thou keep these things, thy fast shall be perfect for thee. And thus shalt thou do. Having fulfilled what is written, on that day on which thou fastest, thou shalt taste nothing but bread and water; and from my meals which thou wouldest have eaten, thou shalt reckon up the amount of that day's expenditure, which thou wouldest have incurred, and shalt give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to one in want, and so shalt thou humble thy soul, that he that received from thy humiliation may satisfy his own soul, and may pray for thee to the Lord. If then thou shalt so accomplish this fast, as I have commanded thee, thy sacrifice shall be acceptable in the sight of God, and this fasting shall be recorded; and the service so performed is beautiful and joyous, and acceptable to the Lord." Shepherd of Hermas | Orthodox and Vegan

This fasting. . .if the commandments of the Lord are kept, is very good. This, then, is the way that thou shalt keep the fast. First of all, keep thyself from every evil word and every evil device, and purify thy heart from all the vanities of this world. If thou keep these things, thy fast shall be perfect for thee. And thus shalt thou do. Having fulfilled what is written, on that day on which thou fastest, thou shalt taste nothing but bread and water; and from my meals which thou wouldest have eaten, thou shalt reckon up the amount of that day’s expenditure, which thou wouldest have incurred, and shalt give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to one in want, and so shalt thou humble thy soul, that he that received from thy humiliation may satisfy his own soul, and may pray for thee to the Lord. If then thou shalt so accomplish this fast, as I have commanded thee, thy sacrifice shall be acceptable in the sight of God, and this fasting shall be recorded; and the service so performed is beautiful and joyous, and acceptable to the Lord. – Shepherd of Hermas

Peanut Butter Vanilla Protein Shake

I promised more recipes using pea protein, and here’s another: A Peanut Butter Vanilla Protein Shake that’s great post workout. My experimenting took a little longer than I thought, but I’ll have a couple more recipes to share this coming week. Pea protein is my new favorite thing, I’m putting it in everything. I tried this recipe two different ways so I can give you a few tips about the flavor.

Peanut Butter Vanilla Protein Shake | Orthodox and Vegan
Peanut Butter Vanilla Protein Shake
1 1/4 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk*
1/4 C orange juice
1/4 C raw cashews
1 Scoop pea protein
2 Tbsp peanut butter powder**

Blend all ingredients together in a high-powered blender. Drink! It makes about 16oz total, with approximately 38 grams of protein, half your iron for the day, and nearly 2/3 of your calcium. The orange juice adds Vitamin C to help you absorb the iron. It’s very filling, it was enough to hold me over until lunch!

Sometimes I do 1/4 C peanut butter powder (adds another 8g protein), and occasionally substitute the orange juice with a little fresh fruit. I also made a nice pudding by accident by blending in a whole banana and leaving it to chill in the fridge. I ended up having to eat it with a spoon, but it was really tasty 😀

*You can use sweetened almond milk, but it adds a LOT of sugar!

**In the picture it looks like I’m using PB2. I’m actually just reusing a container, it’s filled with Protein Plus Peanut Flour. I like it better because there are no additives, so it has slightly more protein. It’s also cheaper! Unfortunately the bag is not resealable, hence the old PB2 container.

Have you tried pea protein? If you have, let us know your favorite way to use it in the comments below!