Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Elaborate Jell-Os. “Salads” made with Cool Whip. Dessert recipes that call for a whole package of cream cheese. This is the song of my people. You either grew up eating Strawberry Pretzel Salad at family get-togethers, or you clicked this out of morbid curiosity and aren’t sure if you’re about to be dazzled or horrified. Either way, you’re here, and I’m glad to have you.

This, of course, is just a veganization of a recipe that has been around for ages. But, I am offering a few tips and suggestions if for no other reason than to make myself feel better about posting this. Let’s get started.

Jell-O

Gelatin is made from animal collagen, which is why vegans (and most vegetarians) don’t eat it. Although most people think of gelatin and Jell-O as being one and the same, it actually shows up in lots of foods, like marshmallows and gummy candies. But, just like their are vegan marshmallows and gummies these days, there is also vegan Jell-O. You can order it online from sites like Vegan Essentials, iHerb, and Vitacost. (Shout out to Vegan Essentials, though, for being vegan-owned.)

If you aren’t a fan, or don’t want to wait to mail order it to make this recipe, Tony and I both agreed that this dessert would be perfectly delicious topped instead with sliced fruit. Strawberries, if they’re in season, but really anything you like.

Cream Cheese

These are so many delicious vegan cream cheeses on the market right now. My personal favorite is Kite Hill’s chive cream cheese, which you absolutely do not want to use in this recipe. In fact, leave all of the fancy, new-fangled cream cheese behind and reach instead for good ‘ol Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. Why? Because most of the fancy ones are super tangy (and hard to find without savory mix-ins) and in this case, you want something on the blander side to mimic Philadelphia Cream Cheese. (I know that sounds shady, but where is the lie?)

Tub of Whipped Stuff

The OG Strawberry Pretzel Salad recipe calls for a tub of Cool Whip, and we’re lucky to live in a time when most well-stocked grocery stores carry a vegan alternative from So Delicious in the freezer section. If you can’t find it, though, you can definitely make coconut whipped cream yourself, it’s just going to take a bit of work and a couple cans of full fat coconut milk. Plus, you’ll want to add a stabilizer so it doesn’t go weepy on you in the fridge.

Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Please refer to the tips in my post about where to source ingredients & substitutions.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dessert for a group, picnic food, vegan, vegan jello

Equipment

  • hand mixer

Ingredients

Bottom Layer

  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 cups vegan margarine, melted
  • 3 Tbs sugar

Middle Layer

  • 1 tub Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 container So Delicious CocoWhip, thawed or 8oz homemade coconut whipped cream

Top Layer

  • 2 packages strawberry vegan gel see post for source, or skip this step & top with freshly sliced fruit
  • 20 oz sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Stir together crushed pretzels, melted margarine and 3 tablespoons sugar; mix well and press mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool completely.
  • Use a hand mixer to beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Gently fold in the whipped coconut topping.
  • Spread evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Cover, and store in the freezer while you prefer the last layer.
  • If you are not using a gel layer, simply top your dessert with sliced fruit, and chill at least 4 hours before serving.
  • Prepare the gel as directed on the package. While the water is boiling, get the sliced fruit ready. Vegan gel sets up quickly.
  • Once you've mixed the gel and boiling water, add the fruit. If you're using frozen, there's no need to thaw it first.
  • Allow the gel and fruit to set only until it's about the texture of egg whites – still loose, but a bit firm. With frozen fruit, this step only took me about 3 minutes.
  • Use a large spoon or ladle to scoop the gel mixture evenly on top of the chilled whipped cream layer.
  • Cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.

Notes

Experiment with different flavor combinations using different gel flavors and fruits.

Vegan Buffalo Jackfruit Dip Recipe

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating when I called my house “Dip City” in my previous post, here comes another hot dip recipe for all those parties you better not be having right now. Apparently Buffalo Chicken Dip is a big deal in the Midwest. I have an ear of corn tattooed on my finger, so I thought I was pretty Midwestern, but I was not aware of this phenomenon until recently. So I challenged myself to not only create a vegan version, but to skip most of the store-bought ingredients like vegan cream cheese and ranch dressing. It also happens to be nut-free, which makes it pretty inexpensive.

Oh, and I also thought I’d use this as an opportunity to try out a new recipe plug-in for my site since the old one is no longer being updated. This is just the free version, but if you all like it I’m going to pop for the pro version and maybe even get a custom template made so when you print it out you get some fun Bake and Destroy design bonuses. So let me know in the comments if you like this recipe format as opposed to the one I used for the Spinach and Jackfruit Dip.

Vegan Buffalo Jackfruit Dip

This gluten-free, nut-free dip owes its "buffalo chicken dip" texture to jackfruit. Sunflower seeds and beans give it a creamy texture without dairy or nuts. For a cheesier flavor, add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, vegan
Servings: 8

Equipment

  • high speed blender

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 medium potato cooked
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds soaked and drained
  • 1/2 cup canned white beans rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic

Jackfruit

  • 1 package Upton’s Naturals Original Jackfruit
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce more to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cover sunflower seeds in boiling water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Place cubed potato in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat until boiling, then boil for about 5 minutes – until potato is easily pierced with a fork.
    Drain, and place in a high-speed blender with the other sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth.
  • Transfer mixture to a baking dish. A small casserole dish or ramekin works well.
  • Place jackfruit and buffalo sauce in a food processor or clean blender and pulse. You want to keep the texture, just break up the jackfruit and incorporate the buffalo sauce throughout. Use ¼ – ½ cup of buffalo sauce, depending on your taste preference – the more you add, the spicier it will be.
    Fold jackfruit into the sauce mixture you placed in the baking dish earlier.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the layer is firm and starts to brown.
    Serve while warm with crudités, crackers or tortilla chips.

Notes

Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Sauce is “accidentally vegan,” but feel free to use your favorite. Swap in an equal amount of cashews for sunflower seeds if you prefer. Non-dairy milk can also be swapped with your preferred sort, but make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavored. 

Vegan Spinach and Jackfruit Dip

Mid-July probably seems like a weird time to make a hot dip, but as some of you might know, I head up marketing for Upton’s Naturals and one of my jobs is working with our PR team on items to pitch to the media. Right now they’re working on their holiday and Super Bowl pitches so it’s been Dip City at my house lately.

Since this recipe was going to be gluten-free without any effort on my part, I decided to add the challenge of making it nut-free as well. Not only does that make it more allergy-friendly, but it also makes it less expensive, and there’s information out there suggesting that sunflower seeds are less taxing on the environment than cashews and other tree nuts too.

If you’re tempted to use canned jackfruit instead of the recommended Upton’s Naturals, obviously I’m biased because I work there but also, I’ve found the texture of ours to be better since it’s not water logged and because it’s par-cooked before it gets packaged. And, if you’re opting for sunflower seeds out of concern for the environment, you might want to consider the toll shipping heavy cans of water from Thailand takes on the planet, vs shipping lightweight, recyclable boxes which is what we do. Plus, you’re supporting a cool, vegan-owned brand that doesn’t answer to any board of directors, share holders, investors, and doesn’t secretly belong to Nestle or something. (If you can’t find Original Jackfruit in your local store, you can buy it online from Thrive Market, Vegan Essentials, and other e-tailers.)

This recipe is for good old fashioned Midwestern mild dip, but if you’re a spicy boi add a couple dashes of hot sauce before baking.

Nut-Free Spinach & Jackfruit Dip

This recipe makes a LOT of dip – definitely enough for a party. But you can easily cut it in half if it's just you and a friend.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: jackfruit recipe, vegan hot dip, vegan spinach dip

Equipment

  • high speed blender

Ingredients

  • 1 & ½ cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 1 & ½ cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt more to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach roughly chopped
  • 2 10.6 oz packages Upton’s Naturals Original Jackfruit

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Place the sunflower seeds in a heatproof bowl and cover them in boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes, then drain.
  • In a small pan, sauté the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. You can use a small amount of olive oil, if desired, or add a splash of water to keep it from sticking.
  • In a high-powered blender, or food processor, blend the sunflower seeds, garlic, onion, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt until completely smooth. Taste, and add up to an additional ½ tsp of salt if desired.
  • Add the spinach and Jackfruit, and pulse – don’t blend. You want to keep the texture of both ingredients, rather than puree them. Depending on the capacity of your blender, you may need to do this in two batches – or, pulse the spinach and Jackfruit in a food processor and stir it into the pureed ingredients.
  • Transfer to an oven-safe dish (a 9” pie dish works well) and bake for 20 minutes, until the top starts to brown.
  • Serve with tortilla chips, toasted baguette, or vegetable sticks.

Notes

For extra decadence, add ½ cup of chopped Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan to the mixture before baking.

Vegan Nachos Rule Pizza

Two years ago I had a great time participating in the Paulie Gee’s Dough Down Throw Down IV Vegan Edition. I made FOUR GALLONS of vegan nacho cheese for my entry, Nachos Rule, and ended the night in the best way possible – tying for the win against my friend.

Outside of the occasional series of Instagram Stories, I never make cooking videos. I just don’t have a good set up for it in my apartment, and I kind of started recipe blogging in a pre-YouTube age so I just kinda never got into it and let the world pass me by. But, everyone is cooking at home these days and Nacho Pizza is a fun project so I figured I’d go for it. You could do this 100% from scratch and really make a day of it, or take some short cuts. I’m going to provide recipe links and shortcut suggestions here, and you can watch me put this whole thing together on my IGTV @bakeanddestroy.

Vegan Pizza Crust

Make your own with The Vegan Roadie’s simple Pizza Crust Recipe, or go store-bought. You can also see if your favorite pizza place will sell you dough, I was surprised to find out my local joint sold two balls of dough for a couple dollars.

Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

You can make my Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce recipe, which calls for soaked cashews, or my nut-free/no-soak Nut-Free Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce recipe.

For a shortcut, use your favorite store-bought vegan queso. I don’t recommend using vegan cheese shreds as a base here – but if you want to skip the base layer of cheese I recommend using a restaurant-style salsa as your base.

Hot Toppings

These are the ingredients that you want to bake in the oven – so hold your fresh greens and extra sauces until the end. I like chopped onion, tomato, and olives.

Protein

You could use cooked black beans here, but my personal preference is Upton’s Naturals Chorizo Seitan because its already seasoned and ready to use out of the package.

Fresh Ingredients & Finishing Touches

After the pizza has been removed from the oven you can add any fresh ingredients that you didn’t want to bake – some nice touches for Nacho Pizza are fresh cilantro or shredded lettuce.

I also finish mine with crushed tortilla chips, and a drizzle of more Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce and Vegan Sour Cream. You can use your favorite store bought like Follow Your Heart or Tofutti, or make your own. I like this Cashew Sour Cream, and this Sunflower Seed Sour Cream.

For one last nacho-y touch, I add chunks of ripe avocado.

Assembly

To assemble, smooth a layer of Nacho Chee-Zee sauce on your unbaked pizza crust. Sprinkle on whatever toppings you intent to bake, and bake! When the pizza comes out of the oven, add your fresh ingredients and final touches. Then eat. Pretty easy, right?

Make mini pizzas and let everyone in the family choose their own toppings!

Free Download – Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans

Natalie Slater cookbook Bake and Destroy

I’ve been saying for years – ever since I regained the rights to my cookbook – that I’m going to do something with it, but I never seemed to get around to it. I had dreams of updating the recipes, which are now nearly eight years old, adding new ones and re-releasing them as zines as a nod to the vegan cooking zines I grew up on.

But, I drug my feet and now here we are in the middle of a global pandemic. People are hunkered down in their homes, and if social media tells me anything, they are all cooking all the time.

So, I decided to make a PDF out of the draft I sent my publisher so many years ago, and post it here so you can download it for free. I don’t own the rights to the photos or illustrations, so as much as I’d love to make a PDF of the edited book available, I can’t. (Unless Page Street Publishing tells me I can – what do you think, guys?) But, even though it’s kinda ugly and definitely has some typos and mistakes in it, I think it still might be fun for people who never got their hands on the book while it was still in print?

If you have any questions about the recipes, drop them in the comments here or find me on social media. If I need to add a FAQ to this post to clarify anything I will.

Stay healthy, everyone!

Updates, Corrections, Etc.

Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce: I’ve updated my cooking instructions since this draft of the book, and also wrote a nut-free version.

Plant-Based Meal Prep: Pinto Pecan Lettuce Boats

Vegan Yack Attack's Jackie Sobon is back with another way to make plant-based eating as easy as it is delicious!

Jackie Sobon is back with another clever take on vegan cooking with her new cookbook Vegan Yack Attack’s Plant-Based Meal Prep: Weekly Meal Plans and Recipes to Streamline Your Vegan Lifestyle. In 2016 she tackled bowls, in 2018 she solved your work lunch problems, and now she’s making it easy to throw together a quick breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack by following her meal prep plans and tasty recipes.

If you’ve found yourself in a stir fry and burger rut, Jackie’s new book aims to shake you out of it, but not throw you to the wolves. She includes weekly meal plans, prep instructions, and even a shopping list.

Today I’m sharing her recipe for Pinto Pecan Lettuce Boats, which you can serve as directed here, or throw into your favorite flour or corn tortilla, over rice, or in a taco salad. If you opt for rice, make sure to use a mini rice cooker for a fluffy, light texture.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I may earn a commission. That being said, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Pinto Pecan Lettuce Boats

By BakeandDestroy Published: January 16, 2020

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Prep: <30 min

Reprinted with permission from Jackie Sobon and Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. © 2020

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a food processor equipped with an S-blade, pulse the pecans, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, coriander, and cayenne until the pecans are broken into pea-size pieces. Add the pinto beans and pulse a couple of times until they have broken down to roughly one-quarter of their original size.
  2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pecan-pinto mixture and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the big chunks, until there is some browning on the crumbles, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. To serve right away, divide the filling between the romaine lettuce leaves, then top each one with avocado, salsa, Sunflower Sour Cream, if using, and cilantro. If prepping for later, store the lettuce leaves, filling, and toppings separately in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Reheat the filling before serving if desired.

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    Friday Five: Five Things That Made Our Road Trip to Florida Not-Hateful

    There are probably some SEO experts that would have a lot to say about that title, but whatever forever. Because we are Midwestern, we decided to drive from Chicago to St. Petersburg, FL over Christmas break – with lots of stops in between. We’ve made this drive once before, so this time we packed for SURVIVAL and despite spending nearly three full days in the car, we made it! Here are a few things that made the long, long drive a lot less hateful than it could have been:

    1. The Empowered Cookie

    The day before we left for our trip, a PR package from The Empowered Cookie arrived. I took a peek at the nutrition panel and decided they were pretty close to a power bar I might eat for breakfast or a filling snack so I threw them in the snack bag we packed.

    But then… I started kind of freaking out about packing for unpredictable Florida weather and I stress ate the Ginger Molasses cookie and hot damn! It was really good. Like, cookie good. A cookie I would just eat for fun and not because it’s healthy. So I was super excited to eat another one for breakfast in the car.

    The next morning, we hit the road a little after 6am and after about 40 minutes I handed cookies out to Tony and Teno. I gave Teno a Chocolate Cherry, Tony a Chocolate Walnut, and I took the Lemon Lavender Poppy Seed because I knew neither of them would like it. The lavender was strong, but kid of mellowed out the more I chewed. Still, that flavor may not for everyone. But anyway, they were both happy with their cookies and I was sad we didn’t have more to eat as the trip went on.

    The Empowered Cookie is gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, and low-glycemic (so they won’t spike your blood sugar, leading to a crash). But most important, they’re soft, chewy, and really good. Definitely got us off to a good start that first morning.

    Want to try these for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post! One lucky winner will receive a custom 6-pack of The Empowered Cookie. (Prize can ship to US addresses only.)

    2. Happy Cow

    I love to get recommendations from locals when I travel, but I also always have the Happy Cow app handy to find vegan options wherever I go. You can plan ahead, making lists right on the app of places you’d like to go. But you can also just pull it up and let it use your location to find options instantly.

    I especially like that I can filter by open hours (why are so many breakfast places not open until 11am? I’ve been awake for like five hours already by then!) And of course, the community reviews and photos are really useful for separating the “options” from the “things I actually want to eat.”

    I even use Happy Cow in my own city because there’s always something new, and the community is always updating with new listings.

    There are other apps like Happy Cow, such as Kompas, and Plantastic. In addition to reviews, they also team up with community leaders so you can get recommendations from vegan activists and influencers in various cities.

    3. Instagram

    No, I did not spend the whole time Tony was driving staring at Instagram. I spent it listening to podcasts and holding a Cheeze and Thank You cheese ball in my lap, making him a cheese cracker every once in a while. But, as I posted about our various stops – Nashville, Chattanooga, etc. I’d get suggestions from people who follow me, and even the occasional DM from a local restaurant.

    One of those DMs came from Willow St. Deli in Chattanooga, which I later realized came as a result of my friend Kaitlyn tagging them in one of my posts and letting them know I was in town. Linley, the chef and owner, invited us to come by for brunch the next morning and boy howdy, were we glad we did!

    We had the seitan chick’n and biscuits with greens, two kinds of quiche and Linley sent us on our way to Atlanta with one of her sweet rolls. It’s kind of a hybrid of a cinnamon roll and a croissant, laminated with lots of flaky layers, gooey in the middle, and smothered in a not-too-sweet cream cheese icing. I literally got shivers writing about it just now.

    Instagram, you brought us those things people put in their mouths for white teeth, and and endless stream of FabFitFun sponsored posts, but you also brought me Willow St. Deli and for that, I am grateful.

    4. Podcasts

    Duh, everyone listens to podcasts. But often times I get 20 minutes into a new podcast and realize I hate it. This did happen on our trip, with a podcast about mythological creatures that wasn’t bad… but was just kind of boring. But luckily people on Instagram had recommended lots of them, so we listened to (and enjoyed) these:

    • Motive – The true story of T.J. Jimenez, a Chicago teen who was wrongfully convicted of murder and later awarded $25 million… which he used to become the self-appointed leader of a violent street gang.
    • The Dream – We listened to season one, a deep dive into the shady world of Multilevel Marketing (direct sales) companies like Young Living, LulaRoe, Posh, etc. Bonus if you’re from Michigan (like Tony) there are lots of Owosso references.
    • How Did This Get Made – The hilarious Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas watch bad movies and tell you about them. This later influenced us to watch Double Dragon, which was a HUGE mistake.

    5. Build Your Own Bowl/Salad Places

    This one’s kinda generic, but I just want to say thanks to the universe for letting me be alive during a time when made-to-order salad and grain bowl places are popular.

    It’s easy to eat nothing but power bars and chips on long trips like this, or to overdo it when you find a vegan restaurant you’re excited about. So, even though they’re never anything to write home about, I was grateful for the places along the way where you pile healthy stuff in a bowl and someone cooks it for you, or where you go down a line and build a ridiculous salad. It forced me to eat whole vegetables and leafy greens, which my guts were very happy about.

    I guess while I’m at it, it’s also nice to have options at omni chains like Chipotle and Mellow Mushroom that are more than just “get it without all the stuff on it.” What a time to be alive.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I may earn a commission. That being said, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

    Friday Five: A Crash Course in Seed Cycling

    OK listen, I drug my feet about writing this post for like, two years. I’d casually mention seed cycling on social media, people would Google it and get overwhelmed, want more info from me – the person who brought it up in the first place – and I’d be like “eh, Google it.” There is a ton of info about seed cycling already on the internet – some of it written by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, some by popular, formerly vegan bakers, and some by naturopathic physicians. So, in my defense, I felt like I had nothing new to add. But, I get it. I told you about seed cycling. You trust me because I’ve never tried to sell you “flat belly” tea. And here I am just refusing to help navigate all the wild stuff out there.

    seed cycling

    The other thing is, I learned about seed cycling from my esthetician – who is amazing – but when I did my own research it was hard to find anything from say, a gynecologist or endocrinologist – someone who could definitely say, “yes, science supports this thing where you eat all the seeds for hormone health.” (By the way, if you find any writings from either of those kinds of people on this topic, please drop a link in the comments!) I did reach out to people in those fields before writing this post, and while I did not get any response from gynecologists or endocrinologists, I heard from two nutritionists, and from a few seed cyclers who shared their experiences with me. So I’m including quotes from them throughout this post.

    All that being said, seed cycling isn’t a flat belly tea that will give you diarrhea. It’s not an $80 serum. It’s not a drastic lifestyle change. It’s just eating 2 tablespoons of specific seeds every day, in addition to all the stuff you normally eat. Best case scenario, it benefits you in some way, as it has me. Worst case, it does nothing for you and you’re just eating some seeds. (Provided you aren’t allergic, obviously, or have some other medical reason that you can’t eat sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and flax seeds.) What I’m getting at is, I feel OK about recommending that people with uteruses try seed cycling because it’s inexpensive, and generally harmless. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any concerns about adding these four things to your diet.

    OK, that was so many words. Let’s get the fuck into it.

    1. What Is Seed Cycling?

    Seed cycling is a practise of eating different combinations of seeds at different points in your menstrual cycle to – in theory – help with hormonal issues such as acne, painful periods (endometriosis), polycystic ovarian syndrome and more (including menopause symptoms).

    You could really fall down a Google rabbit hole just trying to answer this first question, so that’s my short answer. If you’re already rolling your eyes, maybe seed cycling isn’t for you. If you’re still interested, keep reading.

    2. How Do You Seed Cycle?

    Seed cycling revolves around a person’s menstrual cycle. During the first 13-14 days of your cycle, the follicular phase, you eat 1 Tbs each freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds every day.

    During the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase, eat 1 Tbs each of ground sunflower and sesame seeds per day until the first day of your next period when your cycle starts again.

    I’ve seen guides that also recommend additional supplements during each phase of the cycle, but I keep it simple. I’ll get more into why those four seeds are the chosen ones, and what benefits science says they offer, as well as how I actually work them all into my diet, in numbers 4 and 5 below.

    3. Does Seed Cycling Work?

    For me? Yes. My esthetician introduced me to seed cycling on my very first visit to her. I’d mentioned that hormonal acne is a recurring issue for me – I had blood clots a few years ago so I can’t take hormonal birth control (which used to keep my skin clear) and I can’t use a lot of hormone-based acne medications that dermatologists have suggested for me over the years. I went home and Googled, and then got on Amazon and ordered bulk bags of raw, organic sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin seeds. These are all items you can easily find in most grocery stores and health food stores as well.

    Most posts I’ve read about seed cycling recommend waiting at least one full cycle for any noticeable results – and up to three cycles for some people. For me, I noticed differences in my first cycle.

    First of all, the painful jaw acne that typically plagued me during my period just like, didn’t happen. I know it sounds crazy – listen, I’m not even using any affiliate links to make money on this post because I want it to be clear that I have NOTHING to gain from recommending this to anyone. It didn’t happen, and I was fucking thrilled.

    If that was the only benefit I noticed I would have been stoked, but then, a few weeks later, my period didn’t come when I expected it. For most people that would be a NIGHTMARE scenario, but I had a very short cycle, and would typically get two periods a month with only about 10 days in between them. (Yes, I know I should have talked to my doctor about that, however, I can’t take hormonal medications and when I’ve brought other perimenopausal issues up with my gyno I’ve basically gotten shruggy-shoulders because none of the medications are safe for me to take.)

    Anyway, my period came three days later than it had been coming for years. Do you know how amazing THREE DAYS of not-period is for someone who has become accustomed to having a period 14-16 days per month is? I kept this routine up, and noticed that every month I seed cycled, I got a couple more days of my luteal phase back. After 4-5 months I had a NORMAL FUCKING CYCLE and it was incredible.

    That’s when I started telling my friends, and strangers on the internet, about seed cycling.

    4. Is There Any Science Behind Seed Cycling?

    If I experienced such positive results, and heard from so many others who did, why try and poke holes in it? Because I’m skeptical about everything, not just things I don’t like or believe in. That’s why I’m so eager to speak with people who have scientific backgrounds about whether or not eating a rotating variety of four seeds could have any effect on a person with a uterus’ health.

    Will a lack of scientific studies or a definite “this is bullshit” from a doctor or scientist cause me to dump all my seeds in the trash? No, because I have occasionally not kept up with it and paid for it with jaw acne, horrific cramps, and a return to a short cycle. Just recently I spent a week on a road trip and found it tricky to eat my seeds every day, and my jaw broke out like crazy. Could it have also been a different climate, using hotel towels washed in stuff that might irritate my sensitive skin, and eating a ton of garbage for a whole week? Yeah, totally. But I couldn’t control those things, I and I can control eating some seeds. So no, I wouldn’t stop seed cycling if someone with a pedigree told me it’s total nonsense. But I would stop recommending it to others. Does that make sense?

    Luckily, I do have a nutritionist friend, Abi Sleven, who was willing to look into each seed and give me some insights about why they may or may not have any effect on hormonal health.

    She says, “All 4 seeds provide a range of minerals including iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous as well as essential omega 3 fatty acids, and fibre. Adding these into the diet can [be beneficial] especially if essential minerals are deficient.” OK, so that kind of supports my whole “Whether or not they do shit for hormones, they’re good for you, so you might as well eat them” theory.

    Abi continued, “These seeds also contain lignans, aka phytoestrogens, which are credited with altering the length of the menstrual cycle (amongst other things) but this is extremely complex and poorly understood. Whilst there are lots of theories, there currently isn’t any concrete evidence directly linking dietary intake of these nutrients with the menstrual cycle.” She concluded her thoughts by saying that while there isn’t enough evidence for her to concretely say seed cycling does fuck all for hormone health, that it’s not likely to cause any harm and that you should always consult with your healthcare provider before making major changes to your diet.

    So yeah, until someone funds actual research on seed cycling (who will fund this? Big Seed?) we might never get a definitive yes or no on whether or not there’s any science to support this. But here’s some more info about each seed from Kristen Ciccolini, CNE that I found interesting:

    • Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, which is often recommended for painful periods as a supplement, and zinc, which helps the body produce and regulate hormones.
    • Flax seeds have a phytoestrogen effect, meaning they have compounds that bind to our estrogen receptors and mimic our own estrogen production. They also help modulate estrogen levels, and are highly anti-inflammatory. (Inflammation can increase hormone levels to more than what we need.)
    • Sunflower seeds contain B vitamins that are critical for adrenal support and the production of hormones, including serotonin, and thyroid-supporting selenium.
    • Sesame seeds also have a minor phytoestrogen effect and contain magnesium and zinc.

    Kristen also provided me with feedback from her clients who have tried seed cycling, which I quoted in a graphic in this post. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more.

    5. How Am I Going to Eat All These Damn Seeds?

    If you already make a smoothie in the morning, just toss a tablespoon of each seed for whichever phase of your cycle you’re on in your smoothie. Done.

    If you aren’t a smoothie drinker, I recommend pre-grinding about 1 cup of each seed and keeping them in the fridge. Then, add a Tbs of each appropriate seed to your yogurt or oatmeal in the morning. Kristen suggests tahini and sunflower butter as two more ways to avoid boredom while seed cycling.

    Joy the Baker’s Seed Cycling Balls – click the image to get her recipe. Photo by Joy the Baker.

    Not a breakfast eater, or don’t typically eat something seed-friendly for breakfast? In a pinch, I have sprinkled my seeds on salad, pasta, and even Asian take out. I don’t recommend adding them to soup or cereal, or anything with a lot of liquid unless you intend to drink all the liquid, too. You’re sure to lose a lot of little ground up seeds in the liquid you don’t consume.

    It’s best to eat the seeds raw, so you can’t just cook or bake them into whatever you make, but you can make raw snack balls. One of these days I’m going to figure out the math on how many of these balls actually give you the full tablespoon of each seed you need, but until then it’s a good on the go solution.

    When I travel, I pre-grind whatever seeds I’m going to need, mix them together, throw a measuring spoon in the container and pack them in my suitcase. I usually also travel with instant oatmeal just in case I can’t get my hands on vegan yogurt or a smoothie to mix the seeds into.

    Do Read the Comments

    Do you have a seed cycling experience you’d like to share? Are you a health professional with insights about why seed cycling may or may not be a natural way to support hormone health? Tell me in the comments!

    Vegan Holiday Cooking: Poached Pear Chai Bread

    I recently received a copy of Vegan Holiday Cooking: 60 Meatless, Dairy-Free Recipes Full of Festive Flavors – just in time for the holidays! Kirsten Kaminski’s book offers veganized versions of classics like a Chocolate Yule Log, along with modern holiday flavors like a Creamy Pumpkin Latte. Holiday meals with the family can be stressful for vegans – so being able to easily make and bring your own stuffing, a lentil loaf, and dessert is a pretty sweet option to have.

    vegan poached pear chai bread

    Today I’m sharing Kirsten’s recipe for Poached Pear Chai Bread. Not only does it feature some of my favorite winter flavors, but it just looks so fancy when you cut into it! I can’t help but do my best Mary Berry voice, “Oh that does look splendid, doesn’t it?”

    To get things started, you’ll need to poach some pears. You can substitute the white wine in the poaching with white grape juice, or apple juice with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to cut the sweetness.

    You’ll need:

    • 2 medium pears (any variety)
    • 2 1⁄2 cups (600 ml) water
    • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
    • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
    • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (or whatever sub you’re using)

    Then you:

    Slice the bottoms off the pears and peel them, leaving the stems
    attached. In a medium pot over high heat, bring the water, maple syrup, ginger and wine (if
    using) to a boil. Place the pears in the pot so that they stand upright and reduce the heat to
    medium-low. Simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, until the pears are just tender, then carefully remove
    them from the pot and set aside.

    Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I may earn a commission. That being said, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

    Vegan Poached Pear Chai Bread

    By BakeandDestroy Published: December 11, 2019

      Reprinted with permission from Vegan Holiday Cooking by Kirsten Kaminski, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Kirsten Kaminski

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. Once the pears are poached, get to work on the bread. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a 9 x 5–inch (23 x 13–cm) loaf pan with parchment paper.
      2. Make a flax egg by combining the flaxseed with the water in a small bowl. Set the mixture aside and let it thicken.
      3. In a large bowl, combine the milk with the vinegar and let the milk curdle for 5 minutes to create vegan buttermilk. Add the oil, date syrup, pumpkin puree and flax egg and combine.
      4. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and salt. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer
on low speed until just combined (don’t overmix). Pour the batter into
the prepared loaf pan and gently place the pears inside so that they are standing upright, surrounded by the batter. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover the loaf pan and bake for another 10 minutes. Let the bread cool slightly before transferring it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
      5. To make an orange glaze, combine the of one orange and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl and mix until smooth and pourable. (Add more or less orange juice depending on the desired consistency.) Drizzle the glaze on top of the bread and serve while it’s still warm.

        WordPress Recipe Plugin by ReciPress

        Friday Five: Random Reviews

        Please don’t take this as a weird flex, but I get a lot of product pitches and offers to receive free stuff in exchange for promotion and I say no to most of them. I’m not here to trick you into buying flat belly tea. But if I’m genuinely interested and think you will be too I’ll say yes. And I always post when the items arrive… but sometimes I forget to update you on what I actually thought. So I asked my Instagram followers which products they wanted a follow up review on and here are the ones they chose!

        1. Myro Deodorant

        The gist: You’ve probably seen their ads, which feature their really cute, colorful, reusable containers. The concept is, natural deodorant – you choose the scent or lack thereof – that’s refillable so you ultimately use less plastic (the plastic on the refill is recyclable). I couldn’t find much about the shipping on their website – I can only assume the packaging is recycled and recyclable. And you can argue that shipping a refill has an environmental cost, but there are studies that support online shopping vs everyone driving a car to the store because ultimately online shopping means fewer vehicles on the road.

        The review: I received the starter kit, which costs $10 and includes the case and one deodorant pod. My first impression was that the red case I chose was really cute, and the scent was nice. I received this in the hottest part of the summer, so I really put it to the test. I used Myro for a few weeks, and I did think it did a good job preventing B.O. and it lasted a long time. However, the formula is very wet and sticky and in the summer when I don’t have the buffer of a sleeve between my pits and arms it just felt gross. Maybe if I only wore t-shirts it wouldn’t have bothered me.

        What other people said: I have friends who also tried Myro, and a couple of them reported having really bad skin reactions. I’m not sure which ingredient caused them, but pit rash is the worst. Another friend had a hard time clicking the pod into place, and found it to be annoyingly loose and wiggly.

        Final word: So, the concept is cute, but there’s some work to be done. I didn’t subscribe. And I also think there’s room for me to do a whole post about natural deodorants because I get a LOT of questions about them.

        2. Epic Protein – New Flavors

        The gist: I already proclaimed my love for Sprout Living’s Epic Protein Chocolate Maca in a previous post about Vegan Protein Powders That Don’t Suck. So when they reached out with an offer to try their new flavors I accepted. They just introduced Pro Collagen, Real Sport and Coffee Mushroom varieties – all vegan.

        The review: I received samples of the Pro Collagen and Coffee Mushroom, along with some other flavors I’ve already tried – like Chocolate Maca, Green Kingdom and Vanilla Lucuma. I tried the Pro Collagen first because raspberry, pomegranate and beet sounded interesting to me. The flavor was very subtle, and would probably pair well with frozen berries if you’re a fruit-in-your-smoothie person. But in the world of protein powders, as you might know, “subtle” is preferable to “gross,” which many of them are. The Coffee Mushroom ended up being my favorite, despite me still not fully understanding what the health benefits of mushroom powder are. Either way, I’d order that one again – whenever I get sick of Chocolate Maca. Given that I received two servings of each flavor, I can’t speak to any long term results, but I do drink a protein shake each morning and neither of these made me angry.

        What other people said: As soon as I posted an unboxing video I got hit with DMs from several nutritionists, alerting me to the possible “woo” behind the whole collagen craze. I think it’s fair to be skeptical about whether or not ingesting collagen (plant-based or not) has any effect on your health and appearance, but given that it is a trend right now I’m glad there’s a vegan option. Same goes for mushrooms – although no one’s “woo” alarms sounded over that one so maybe it’s more accepted as scientific than collagen.

        Final word: I really like Epic Protein, and I spend nearly $50 on it every month, so I don’t really know what better endorsement I could give. The ingredients are simple, most of them taste good, and if you’re a person who gets excited by collagen and mushroom supplements, now they have some things for you.

        3. Goli Nutrition Apple Cider Gummies

        The gist: A couple months ago, my grandma was telling me that she drinks apple cider vinegar every day to support her immune system. I told her that sounded gross, and that I would rather get sick. The literal day after that conversation, Goli Nutrition reached out about their vegan apple cider gummies – claiming to be just as beneficial as drinking the stuff, but less gross. So I said yep – send ’em my way.

        The review: I made Tony stand by when I first tasted these, in case I died of barfing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find them not only not-disgusting, but actually kind of tasty. The ingredients are very similar to a vegan fruit snack, but with the addition of apple cider vinegar and some B vitamins. They recommend eating 2-6 per day, so I faithfully ate two every morning until I ran out. Did I reorder? No. While I didn’t have any negative experiences, I didn’t really notice any benefits that would justify putting another product into my already product-heavy morning routine.

        What other people said: I have friends who are regular ACV consumers who have told me they didn’t find these gummies to be as potent as swigging the real thing. To which I say, be my guest.

        The verdict: Given that these were not disgusting, I would consider buying them for my grandma. I didn’t personally notice any benefits, but they do have some scientific research on their site that makes me believe it’s not total nonsense.

        4. Completeats Cookies

        The gist: Lauren, the owner of this SF-based company, was nice enough to reach out and offer me some samples of her chia-and-date-based cookies. I work at Upton’s Naturals, in an office full of ferociously snacky vegans, so I had her ship them to the office so everyone could try them.

        The review: These got eaten so fast I think I only got to personally try two flavors – the Mocha Chip and Banana Bread. These are definitely date-and-chia cookies, so if you go into it expecting grandma’s chocolate chips you’ll be disappointed. But if you think of them more along the lines of an energy bar – which, at 250 calories and 7g protein, they kind of are, they’re better than most.

        What other people said: Everyone in my office is vegan, so we’re definitely a niche test market. While a couple people did say they weren’t really cookies, they all agreed that they tasted good. The only flavors that didn’t get rave reviews were the ones containing natural extracts – like Banana Bread and Cherry Almond. There were still fans of those among us, but a couple of people felt that those extracts were artificial-tasting, despite being naturally derived.

        The verdict: Because I’m not a “health vegan” and I’m not gluten-free, if I want a cookie, I’m just going to eat a cookie. But I can see where someone looking for a convenient option without refined sugar or gluten would reach for these “superfood” cookies – and, honestly, if I could grab these at my local coffee shop I would buy the Mocha Chip one a couple times a week.

        5. Seed Probiotics

        OK, Whereas I have spent the majority of this post being like, “I dunno about the science behind this, but…” probiotics are one area where I do understand the science, and the benefits. Longtime readers may recall (and new readers may be horrified by the fact that) I worked for one of the largest and most successful dairy-based probiotic brands in the country many years ago. While I am not proud to have been part of the dairy industry, I am proud that during my time there I worked on a vegan, probiotic water product (that never came to market) and advocated for the retail locations to serve a vegan probiotic in their cold-pressed juices (which did happen).

        The gist: Because I worked in this industry, for a brand who could afford to lab-test their competitors, I know how many ineffective probiotic products are out there making false claims. Which is a bummer, because a real-deal probiotic has so many health benefits from the obvious “it’ll make you poop” to a stronger immune system, healthy skin, and all kinds of other things the FDA would come for me over. So I scrutinized the science behind Seed. Despite their website being really obnoxious, and their use of the word “brainforest,” which I hate so much, the science is solid – the testing and clinical work are impressive, and I felt comfortable saying yes to taking these random pills every day.

        The review: I posted a lot of stories about the unboxing on Instagram because every part of the package was impressive. The kit arrives nested in a mycelium form – that’s the root structure of a mushroom, for those of you whose little sisters are not horticulturists. Whereas most companies would ship glass in plastic bubble wrap or even those compostable Cheeto things, this compostable form was truly organic, and really fun to poke. (The shipping box is of course recycled and recyclable.) The jar is glass, and meant to be refilled – the refills come in a home-compostable pouch. It also came with a smaller glass vial meant for travel, that holds a full week’s supply.

        Seed suggests taking a half dose for the first three days (one pill, with water, on an empty stomach) so your body can adjust. On the first day, I chased that with an anti-gas pill because probiotics can sometimes cause gas as you get used to them, and I don’t have time to sit around a fart all day. I did notice a little bloat that first day, but by the second and third it was gone. On the fourth day I started the full dose and that’s when I knew this probiotic was working. How do I put this? I am typically a once-a-day pooper – right after the first coffee of the morning, know what I’m saying? Now I am a 2-3 times a day pooper, and loving it. (Now would be a good time to space out if you don’t like poop-talk. Or maybe it’s too late, in which case – sorry?) These are good poops. Complete poops. Real poops, not like a desperate coffee poop. These are poops America can be proud of.

        What other people say: I honestly don’t know a single person who has tried these yet, but I know tons of people who take a daily probiotic. If you’re one of them, and you’re jealous of my review, maybe give Seed a shot?

        The verdict: At $50/month, Seed is slightly cheaper than a kombucha a day, and I would argue more complete, if you’re just in it for the probiotics. (Plus I think kombucha is so, so gross.) It might not be a necessity to everyone, but if you have digestive issues, or are concerned about your gut health, it’s a small price to pay for something that I do believe works. Save 15 % on your first month of the Daily Synbiotic subscription with code NATALIE15.

        Please note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I purchased some of these products, and was gifted others, and this is my honest opinion of them. Some of these links are affiliate links, which means if you click and purchase I might earn the smallest amount of money imaginable.

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