Dedicated to helping people make better choices

Lentil Mac n’ Cheese

Hello again! Here is my recipe for 15 minute vegan mac n’ cheese. I guarantee that you will love this dish. It is so simple to make and so nutritious and filling. And, hey! Have you checked out our youtube channel yet? Watch the video for this recipe and more!

Vegan Lentil Mac n’ Cheese

Serves 4-6

1 lb pasta; your choice

1 1/4 C cooked, drained brown lentils

1/3 C nutritional yeast

1/3 C non dairy milk

3 Tbsp vegan butter

Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Drain and put back into pot. On medium heat, add your butter, milk and nutritional yeast. Stir until creamy. Add the lentils and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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Black Bean Burgers

Here is a super simple and yummy meal that comes together quickly. These burgers will be a hit among vegans and omnivores alike. Enjoy!

Michy’s Black Bean Burgers

1 can black beans

1 C cooked brown rice

1/2 small red onion, diced

1/2 C corn

1 pasilla chili, diced

1/3 C oats

1/4 C vital wheat gluten

1 tsp oregano, cumin, corriander & paprika

Makes 4-6 patties

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large stock pot, saute onion and chili on medium heat with a little water and a pinch of salt for 5-6 minutes, or until soft. Drain the beans and add to the pot along with the rice and season with spices and more salt if needed. Turn off the heat. Using a potato masher, gently mash the ingredients together. You don’t want everything to become mushy but you want to loosen the beans a little so that it is easier to form a patty. Once you can see some of the beans have broken up add the corn, the vital wheat gluten and oats and mix well. Let sit until totally cool. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop a patty onto a non stick cookie sheet and press down evenly.

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Bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning once, until patties have browned and firmed. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

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It’s been a long time

Hello folks!

Wow, it’s been a long time. I’m sorry to have left you for so long but time flies when you’re having fun! The last year has been quite the whirlwind. Last May I was invited to cook with the Dr. Dean Ornish program in Sausalito CA. If you are not familiar with Dr. Ornish’s work, I suggest you get acquainted. He is one of the first doctors to prove the link between illness and diet/lifestyle. His work on reversing heart disease was revolutionary. He showed that with a strict vegetarian diet, exercise and stress management, it is possible to reverse heart disease! His research is so revolutionary and important, in fact, that it has been developed into a hospital program as a viable treatment for heart disease. Last June, UCLA hospital became one of the first hospitals to employ this program. It was through my work with the Dr. Ornish program that I got in touch with the UCLA folks. Apparently, they needed help bringing the recipes to life for their patients-insert me here. Over this last year I have had the wonderful opportunity to cook for and conduct cooking classes for these fantastic patients. I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know the amazing people running this program at UCLA. I absolutely love what I am doing, as evidenced by this picture below. I think I was passionately talking about silken tofu.

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It’s been an interesting year of self discovery and growth. I’ve honed my skills and my expertise immensely. And I’ve found, that what I really love and have always loved doing, is helping people make better choices about their food. Whether it’s helping parents get quick and healthy food on the table for their kids, helping people transition to a plant based diet or just talking about how to implement small changes with big impact into one’s lifestyle, is what I am really called to do. In fact, that’s what I set out to do with my cookies. It was all about showing people that cookies; with whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal and raw sugar could be delicious with out eggs, butter and milk. It’s naive to assume that everyone is just going to become plant based over night. It’s all about small changes, a game of inches, if you will, that eventually lead to significant gain. And so on that note, I’ve decided to roll out a web series all about helping people move to a plant based diet in an easy and seamless way. We’ll have tips and tricks and recipes and essential kitchen ingredients. There may even be an interview with my 5 year old; I’m just saying! I hope you will watch and give me your feedback. Let me know what topics you’d like to see covered. So, stay tuned. The first video is coming very soon! Here’s a sneak peak from the shoot.

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A Tale of a Juice Cleanse

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So last week my husband and I did a juice cleanse.  Now, let me start off by saying that although I love juices, green drinks, smoothies and the like, I am a big fan of actual food.  In fact, most of my day is centered around what I’m going to eat next-true story.  So, when my husband asked if I’d like to join him on a 5-day juice cleanse, I was a little hesitant.  Would I be able to go 5 days without eating solid food?  What if I got so hungry I passed our in the car?  What if I got such bad headaches, I actually lost my mind?  What if the world imploded?!?!  Ok, so I’m being a little dramatic but similar thoughts did run through my head.  Luckily for me, there was a 3-day program that I was able to wrap my brain around.  We went with Juice Crafters here in Los Angeles; which has probably the most delicious juices and smoothies on the planet.  We often grab a drink or two when we’re at the Brentwood Farmer’s Market, so my faith was growing in my ability to do this cleanse.  My husband went for the ambitious 5-day Master Cleanse where as I opted for the 3-day. (Note: this Master Cleanse is no relation to the other Master Cleanse where in you only intake lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup water for 10 days.  I tried that for a few days many years back and was utterly offended and nearly did loose my mind, but that’s another story).  Anyhow, each day we had 8 drinks-8-I mean, it’s a lot of liquid!  And since I still started my day with my cup of green tea, by the time I even started juice 1, I was having a drink almost every hour and a half.  The flavors were so thoughtful and unique and yummy, by the way!  And the best part was, I actually wasn’t even hungry!  I know, me, not hungry!?!?! But it was true.  My blood sugar was stable and I was surprisingly in a very good mood.  Even my kids seemed surprised!  The hardest part about the whole cleanse was getting dinner ready for my kids.  It wasn’t so much that I was hungry but the ritual of eating with them and the smells of the food cooking was hard to resist.  But, it was only 3 days so I tried to suck it up.  And I’m glad I did.  It was a great experience.  The best thing about this cleanse is that it isn’t a “weight loss” cleanse.  So many times I see people do cleanses and then shed a ton of weight but then once they get back to eating food again, the weight just creeps back on.  Neither myself or my husband wanted to loose weight.  We just wanted to kind of press the restart button after indulging and being sick over the holidays.  We kind of wanted to give our immune system and metabolism a little jump start.  Because the drinks had a fair amount of calories, neither one of us lost weight but we both finished the cleanse feeling lighter and leaner and our transition back into our whole foods plant based diet has been seamless.  It kind of gave us the recharge we were looking for to kick off the new year.  Anyhow, that’s my experience.  Have you ever done a cleanse?  What was your experience like?

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The raw almond milk with dates & vanilla bean was my favorite flavor and new favorite drink. An absolutely delicious & deceptively nutritious treat!

Make Meal Time Easy: 5 ready to go must haves in your fridge!

People are always asking me for tips on how to make quick and healthy meals for their families.  They just don’t have the time.  By the time they get off work, pick up the kids, eek through traffic and finally get home, the last thing they want to do is spend an hour getting dinner on the table.  I get it.  So, here are 5 must haves in your fridge to make meal time much more manageable.

On Sunday night once my kids have gone to sleep, I start to make a loose map of meals for the week and make sure that I have some things cooked and on hand in the fridge to make meal time easier.  By washing, prepping and cooking things on Sunday, I find that my week nights are much more manageable.

1. Baked Sweet Potatoes/Russet Potatoes: We love potatoes at our house, especially sweet potatoes.  I usually bake up 6-8 big potatoes (roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes depending on how big) at the beginning of the week.  I store them in my glass tupperware and they are ready to go.  Sometimes we make baked potato night with all the fixins’ or sometimes I’ll dice up the sweet potato and make a quick hash.  You can also slice them up, toss in a little olive oil and herbs and through under the broiler for some quick fries.  Potatoes are also great taco fillings.  Saute with some taco seasoning and stuff inside a crispy taco shell. Potatoes are actually quite nutrient-dense, help keep your sugar levels steady and leave you feeling full.

2. Rinsed Greens: I always, always, always have my salad spinner in my fridge full of greens; red leaf, kale, spinach-whatever.  It may not sound like much, but having greens ready to go is one of my best practices.  It doesn’t seem like much, but rinsing and sorting through a bunch of spinach can be really time consuming, especially if it just came from the ground.  With ready-to-go greens, you can make a quick salad, saute up some greens and garlic or make a smoothie.  We all need to make sure we’re getting our greens and making them accessible is one of the best ways to make it easy to do so.

3. Cooked Brown Rice/Quinoa: This is a must! I try to cook up a bunch of brown rice at the beginning of the week and just keep it in the rice cooker bowl in the fridge.  Brown rice can take 40 minutes to cook and even quinoa can take 20 so having this already done is a huge life saver.  You can do a quick fried rice with veggies and tofu or saute it up with your “pre-cleaned” greens and sweet potatoes!  You can even sprinkle it on top of your salad for a heartier meal.

4. Cooked Lentils: We love lentils in our house and substitute them for pretty much everything but they can take awhile to cook.  Having them cooked and ready to go will cut out a lot of prep time.  You can use them in a bolognese sauce, taco filling or sloppy joes.  You could also saute them with your cooked rice.  Lentils are so filling and are rich in protein, folate and iron.  They may be the healthiest food out there!

5. Ready-Made Sauce: Ok, here is where we can tie all of these things together; with a sauce.  I always have a vegan cheese sauce and tahini dressing ready to go to top off salads or rice bowls.  But use whatever is your favorite; terriyaki sauce, hot sauce, hoisin-whatever you and your family likes best.  And if you don’t want to make it yourself, take a little help from the store and keep your favorite topping in your fridge.  A good sauce always ties the meal together so pick out your favorite and keep it on hand.

I hope this little list helped.  What are some of your favorite things to have on hand?

My latest eats…

My mama was in town a couple of weeks ago.

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In addition to hanging with the kiddos and doing a little shopping, my mom is always eager to try new food.  We’re constantly sharing our latest foodie adventures and vegan recipes, so there were a couple of places I wanted to take her to.  I had told her about M.A.K.E by Matthew Kenney in Santa Monica several months back and she was very excited to try it.  We headed out for an early lunch one Sunday morning with my dearest friend for a girl’s day out.  My mom was in love with the menu.  We ordered a bunch of food to share, some items I’d tried before and some new.  Everything was absolutely delectable. We shared the Cheese Plate and Kimchi dumplings, which were divine.  We also ordered the Kelp Noodles, Lasagna and Carrot Gnocchis.  I really can’t express how good the kelp noodles were-they are my favorite dish!  They are creamy and spicy and aldente, if you can believe it.  So good!  The lasagna is unbelievably satisfying and the carrot gnocchis were light and delicate.  We finished the meal with a duo of desserts; the Key Lime Pie and the Chocolate Ganache Cake with Churro Ice Cream.  Wow!  The desserts are a must try.  The pie was light and refreshing and the chocolate cake was rich and decadent.  The ice cream was freakishly dairy-like.  So delicious!  My mom is still talking about the meal!  The thing I appreciate the most about this restaurant is that it’s so good you don’t even realize that the food is raw.  It’s not “good for a raw food place”, it’s just good food!

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We also visited Susan Feniger’s Street in West Hollywood.  My husband and I just love that place.  Although it’s not a vegan restaurant, they have a ton of vegan options, each are clearly marked.  And all of the options are delicious.  It’s not like they just phoned it in with the “veg” options (you know what I’m talking about), the food is really thoughtful and yummy.  It’s a small plate restaurant, which is perfect for us because we love to share.  Ok, here’s what we got: Yucca Fries w/Coconut Curry, Jackfruit Bao, Ramen Noodles w/Bok Choy, Tofu & Mushrooms, Potato Samosas & Apricot Cake.  We liked everything.  If you’ve never tried yucca fries, I suggest you do.  They are starchy and crunchy and a nice alternative to potato.  The coconut curry on top was a little thick for my taste but it was a delicious dish.  The bao is my favorite.  The bun is soft and a little chewy and it’s covered in a peanuty-hoisen sauce-whew-so good!  The ramen was solid.  I always love a good noddle dish.  The samosas were just delicious-crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle.  It comes with a date chutney, cilantro pesto and raita (not vegan).  I would eat the date chutney by itself, it was that good.  And I loved finishing the meal with such a delectable little cake.  It was moist and flavorful.  I am always so excited when my dessert is more than sorbet :-)

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If you haven’t tried M.A.K.E or Street, you definitely should make your way there.  You won’t be disappointed.  Where have you been eating lately??

Veg News Veggie Awards 2013

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Well, folks!  We have been nominated this year for Best Vegan Cookie Company by none other than Veg News, the only 100% vegan newspaper in print!  To say we are honored is an understatement.  We are thrilled!  To be honest, when I got the email yesterday, I thought it was a mistake at first.  But, it wasn’t (phew!) and it’s time to start voting.  So, please take 2 minutes out of your day and vote for us as your “Favorite Vegan Cookie Company” as well as your other favorite vegan people, places and things.  Our category is on the 3rd page.  Voting ends September 1st, so please vote now!  We are so grateful for your time and support!

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/C6TKFDJ

A Guest Post from My Husband…

100% Vegan, 80% of the Time

by John Rafacz

My wife is the founder of Michy’s Foods and she is vegan. She runs a vegan cookie company. We raise our kids on a plant-based diet. When we dine out, we tend to visit vegan establishments or at the very least seek out vegan menu options at non-vegan restaurants.

So, why in the world am I 100% vegan, 80% of the time?

I’m sure that conjures a few questions out of the gate. So, understanding how I approach the issue of diet is probably a good place to start…

One of the many things I love about my wife is her personal philosophy on diet/nutrition: she is all about helping people make better choices. What’s nice is that she doesn’t promote any sort of radical shifts in diet — it’s all about the baby steps toward a better future — which I think is a fantastic approach.The person making a “McSomething Meal” choice, probably isn’t ready to move to a full, plant-based or full vegan diet. (I know, because at one point I was that guy.) She will work with what someone knows, help them understand the value of, making better choices, what those choices look like, as well as the progression involved toward healthier eating habits. Hopefully, in time, that will mean a plant-based diet.

For the multitude of individuals that are looking to “eat healthier,” I would argue that the vegan lifestyle is not an immediate decision – it’s a lifestyle choice that is based on a process of educated choices, awareness and discipline. Everyone walks their own path and my wife is always eager and compassionate enough to help people walk theirs one step at a time – and of course, remind them that there are some awesome vegan cookies waiting for them on the other side. (I know because I’m there, eating them…mostly by the bag…nom, nom, nom.)

Keep in mind that as of 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese1. I don’t believe that you can change that kind of world overnight by making people feel excluded or ashamed. Making them feel included – and empowered with better decision-making – is the way to go. And that’s where I feel my wife nails it on the head.

Now, when it comes to our kids, clearly they’re in a different camp – we’re raising them with a plant-based diet. My “20%” never takes place when I’m with them – it is always relegated to business trips and situations where I’m outside of my comfort zone. When I’m in town, I have my Native Foods, Veggie Grill, Whole Foods, etc. When I’m traveling, I can only do my best – and sometimes my best means a work dinner at a steakhouse. (Hey, it happens.) But when I’m with the Little Ones, it’s 100% vegan, 100% of the time

A few years ago, Forks Over Knives had a profound impact on how I view the consumption of animal proteins. As a CrossFit enthusiast – a community that is no stranger to the Paleo diet – I had to re-examine how I looked at protein intake. Gone were the whey proteins and in were the plant-based protein mixes. I can’t say enough about the Raw Vegan meal replacements and protein powders from Garden of Life. The chocolate flavors tastes great and it’s been amazing. (Mix it up with Pacific Chocolate Hemp Milk and you are golden.)

So, how does my 20% reflect on my wife’s company?

I hope it reflects well, because at one point that “20%” was more like “60%.” She was integral to helping me make much better choices about my diet.

Think about this – when we got married six years ago, I weighed more than I ever have. I weighed 206 lbs and I was two points from being medicated for high cholesterol. (As a point of reference, that’s about 45 lbs over my target BMI weight.) Let’s just say that I was living more of a high-calorie 40%/60% lifestyle. In layman’s terms, I “could stand to lose a few pouds.” Frankly, I was lucky that this amazingly beautiful woman said, “I do” to me and my other chin. But I digress…

Michelle really helped me understand how to take control of my diet and make better decisions. I put myself on a plan – one that owned exercise, diet and proper supplementation – and in about six months, I lost 25 lbs and dropped my cholesterol by 100 points. And that was a few years ago. Now – thanks to a healthy CrossFit routine (Thanks West LA CrossFit!) – I’m in the best shape of my life. (Not too shabby for 39.)

In short, my 20% is probably the cleanest 20% I’ve ever seen and if it weren’t for work-related travel, I’d be pretty close to being 100% vegan.

Life is complicated to begin with – for everyone. For me, I’m trying to be a good husband, a good father, manage a demanding career, find time to invest in my health, eat right, pay bills, work through early mornings and late nights, etc. – you know, life. And one of the most difficult parts is that no one is there to give you a pat on the back – and that’s just for the “life” things, say nothing of losing a few pounds, running farther/faster, setting a new personal record, or just getting up in the morning to “accept the challenge” when no one else notices or cares.

So, thank you to my wife, Michelle for being the person that cares – for helping me to make better choices and for helping others.

I’m living proof that – if you’re like me, starting out at 40/60 – you can make 50/50. And if you understand what it takes to make it to 50/50, you’ll enjoy getting to 60/40. Eventually, you’ll be better than my mere 80/20.

It’s all about taking one step at a time and helping each other out.

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So to do what I can to help aid the cause, here are some of the things that have proven helpful for me.

Resources:

Native Foods: http://www.nativefoods.com

Veggie Grill: http://www.veggiegrill.com

Forks Over Knives: http://www.forksoverknives.com

Garden of Life:

http://www.gardenoflife.com/Products-for-Life/Foundational-Nutrition/RAW-Protein.aspx

West LA CrossFit:

http://kmwtrainingcenters.com/locations/west-la/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/kmwcrossfit/

1 http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

Our East Coast Summer Tour

Happy Summer!  My family and I just got back from a 2 week vacation traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard.  We got to see a lot of family and friends and visit some of my favorites cities.  It was a long trip though and with two little ones in tow, I think we were all happy to get home.

In addition to getting a chance to see our beloved families, I was also excited about trying some new food.  I’m what you would call “an eater”.  I love food!  Sometimes when I discuss traveling, people ssay, “What do you eat?  It must be so hard to find vegan food on the road!”.  And although there are some cities that are more vegan friendly than others, I have yet to visit a city or town with something I CAN’T eat.  Even in Central Pennsylvania, I was able to find hemp milk, coconut yogurt and Gardein!  How about that?!  Anyhow, enough banter…on to the food.  I apologize for the lack of pictures.  I ate most of the food before I even remembered that I should stop and take a picture.  I did chronicle some of our journey on twitter, if you’re so inclined.

Our first stop was in New York City which is one of my favorite places on the planet (and the bulk of this post).  I had my restaurant wish list and couldn’t wait to get started.  We arrived late in the afternoon and once we got situated at our hotel all four of us were starving.  God Bless Virgin Airlines, but you can only have so much hummus and crackers.  And my kids were kind of over coconut yogurt and Lara Bars.  So I pulled out my Happy Cow app and to my great excitement found a Loving Hut around the corner.  Although the restaurant was small and likely more for take-out, they did their best to accommodate us.  We scarfed down fried rice, mac n’ cheese, veggie burgers and some sauteed veggies with black rice that was so delicious my husband and I had to roshambo it for the last bite.

The next day we visited Eataly, which lucky for us, was right up the street from where we were staying.  Now, let me say that as a food lover and as an Italian, it was amazing.  I saw products that I haven’t seen for years and only ever saw being unpacked from my Nonna’s suitcase on a trip home from the old country.  Most of the products I don’t eat anymore, but I was filled with nostalgia nonetheless.  We stocked up on some focaccia and later returned for some vegan gelato.

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I had the onion focaccia, which was delicious and the stracciatella gelato that was made from whipped bananas with dark chocolate shavings.  Who even needs the dairy?  My husband got plum and my kids got limone.  We returned there every day for this treat and then walked across the street to the park.

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The next day we stopped at Blossom in Chelsea.  I had been looking forward to visiting this place for the weeks leading up to our trip.  Unfortunately this location isn’t super kid friendly, so we ordered to go and ate at the park, which was actually lovely.  We had the Cape Code cakes, the Cashew Cream Raviolli and the Spicy Tempeh Sandwich.  Everything was outstanding.  We all just kept passing the plates around so we could try it all.  I would like to go back and enjoy more of their menu.

The last night in town, my husband and I were able to sneak away for a date and we went to L’artusi in the West Village.  It’s my husband’s favorite Italian restaurant in the city and he really wanted to take me there.  I was looking forward to indulging in some home made pasta.  Luckily we had a very kind waiter that didn’t roll his eyes at me when I told him I’m vegan.  He asked the chef what they could prepare and came back with some recommendations.  And I’ll tell you what, this was some of the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life.  My nonna’s home made pasta has always been the bench mark, but this pasta was right up there (sorry, nonna!).  It was a simple spaghetti dish with chilis, garlic, parsley and crunchy olive oil bread crumbs.  That’s it!  But it was so delicious.  The water had been perfectly salted, the pasta was cooked to perfection and all the ingredients were in perfect harmony.  I literally licked the bowl!  I also had a delicious beet salad and passionfruit sorbet.  It was a great night and a perfect way to cap off the New York leg of your trip.  I’m already planning my next trip out so I can cross off more places on my list.

The rest of our trip was spent cruising through Central Pennsylvania, then back down to the coast of Virginia and ending our trip with a night in DC.  We all ate sufficiently and we were actually all impressed with how many vegan options were readily available to us.

And if you’re ever on Chincoteague Island in Virginia, check out the Sea Star Cafe.  They have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu.  The Santa Cruz sandwich is awesome!

What are some of your favorite restaurants or vegan dishes that you’ve discovered while traveling?

Until next time, friends…

Vegan Bakesale for Japan

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I am pleased to announce that Michy’s will be organizing our first ever vegan bakesale to support relief efforts in Japan. Upon news of this horrible tragedy, I found myself deeply saddened and searching for a way to lend my support. I heard about the World Wide Bakesale going on from April 23rd-May1st and immediately knew that was my cue to pitch in. We will be holding our sale on Saturday April 23rd from 12-3pm at 1425 Montana Ave in Santa Monica, CA 90403 on the corner of 15th and Montana Aves. 100% of our proceeds will be going to Shelter Box to provide emergency shelter and warmth to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. If you are interested in donating your time or treats to our cause, please contact us. And if you’re in the neighborhood, come on by and get yourself something scrumptious to eat!