Happy Herbivore Blog

Teaching Tuesday: How to Incorporate Spices (Guest Post by Papa & Mama Herbivore!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Cooking101

Things are getting spice-y for this week's Teaching Tuesday!

Spices was one of the most requested topic for this series, so I asked my Dad (Papa Herbivore) and Mom (Mama Herbivore) to share their knowledge on spices.

After reading their informational post, I'm sure you'll be well seasoned ;)

Hi Herbies!

Papa Herbivore back again with input from Mama Herbivore.

Most of you have heard our story of going plant-based almost 2 1/2 years ago (Editorial note: you can read their Herbie of the Week story here (part 1) and here (part 2)), thanks to the loving support of our daughter, Lindsay.

Although it was a very different journey in the beginning, we also had an equally different transition with the use and taste of spices. Hopefully, some of you will be able to relate and I hope to give a few tips along the way from our point of view.

Prior to us going plant-based, Mama Herbivore was a very good cook, with Italian & Polish heritages. But she wasn't brought up, nor was I, with the use of many spices in cooking, and thus we did not highly season our food in our 40+ years of our marriage. Our spice cabinet, (if you could call it that) consisted mainly of: Garlic & onion salt, oregano, parsley flakes, italian seasoning, paprika, poultry seasoning, chilli powder, and red pepper flakes. We may have had a few others but never used them.

Now fast forward to Jan. 2012 when we went plant-based. Lindsay had just published her second cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore. Upon reviewing recipes from both books, we were astonished that every one included a spice or two we didn't have, so I went through the two books, jotted down the missing spice, and if there was a repeat, would check it, and ultimately buy it.

Then came the first couple of recipes. I can't remember what it was, but we both commented: "You mean you put all those spices together in one dish?" The answer of course was, yes you do, and that's what gives all of Lindsay's recipes their delicious flavors.

So tip #1: unless a certain spice is distasteful to you, try to use everything she suggests. Having known the work and effort Lindsay put into all her recipes, I'm sure she had many trial and errors in culminating the final flavor. It's okay to add or tweak her recipes, I'm sure she will agree.

Previously I listed the majority of the spices we had before going plant-based. We since have added: cayenne, Cajun seasoning, black salt, smoked paprika, coriander, kelp, sage, rosemary, fennel seeds, liquid smoke, Old Bay seasoning, Spanish saffron, curry, ginger, garam masala, cumin, poppy seed, almond extract, not chick'n & not beef bouillon, agave, marjoram, white pepper, chipotle, cilantro, flax seeds, tumeric, cardamom, nutritional yeast, and vinegars (balsamic, white cider, red wine and rice). Wow, I probably missed some we have and others we don't.

Now on to taste. Now that we have experienced the "joy of seasonings", enriched from Happy Herbivore recipes, if it's not highly seasoned from say a restaurant or made by someone else, we think it's bland.

One big transition we made was with what I will label, "Hot Spices", for use on "South of the Border" dishes. We make Lindsay's tacos, taco soup, fiesta bake, enchiladas, mexican chowder etc. quite frquently. I personally never ate hot spiced foods. Mama Herbivore would occasionally use red pepper flakes on a few things. Now in addition to the other hot spices, we use the cayenne shaker quite freely. But another tip: before adding cayenne, put all the other spices in first, taste, add a few shakes, taste and repeat until right for your taste. It's better to shake 3 or 4 times than to ruin your meal to your taste. We also found that even if a recipe calls for a measurement (i.e. 1/4 tsp etc. of cayenne), only shake as I mentioned.

I mentioned about tweaking recipes, here are a few other examples of reducing in one recipe and adding and increasing in another. Two of our very favorites are spicy sausage and "tuna" salad. With the sausage we always double the batch size, but do not double the hot spices (i.e. red pepper flakes, cayenne, chilli powder and hot sauce). It comes out just right for our taste. "Tuna" salad was always one of our favorite dishes, so it took a lot of trial tweaking to get it as close to the real deal. I probably put 4 times or more kelp, add multiple shakes of Old Bay seasoning, add onion powder, few shakes of garlic powder and increase the onion flakes. I made a batch for Lindsay when I was with her over New Year's and she commented, "Boy! You really like the kelp seasoning." Again tweak to your taste.

Another spice which we never heard of prior to going plant-based, let alone use it, is nutritional yeast. It's used in quite a lot of Lindsay's recipes and I always put extra in as I love the resulting taste. (I'm usually the sous chef and Mama doesn't see how much I put in, but she loves the taste.)

Let me touch briefly on Asian foods (Mama's fav). Many of Lindsay's recipes call for Asian Chilli sauce. We went through quite a few before we found the ultimate at Whole Foods made by the Ginger People called "Sweet Ginger Chilli". Mama probably uses it as much as Lindsay uses mustard. We also now love curry dishes and Indian dishes.

Just a few other tips before I close. If you have a tendency to slightly overflow measurements of spices as I do, be very careful with liquid smoke and various extracts. They are potent! Another tip, again for our taste, is that everytime I use not chick'n or not beef bouillon, I always add 1/2 bouillon more without any more water on top of the prescribed amount. Again, to our taste.

We are so thankful Lindsay, via her recipes, has introduced us to a wonderful world of spicy, seasoned foods. Our only regret is that we wish we were as knowledgable as she is in knowing the taste and effect of most spices. We would love to be able to say, "Let's add some of this or that", if we just really knew.

We would both love to hear any or all responses on tips you have with regard to spices.

In closing, I will leave a somewhat related thought for the day: "Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor." -- William Cowper

Thanks for listening.

Papa & Mama Herbivore

Minimalist Monday: Becoming a Minimalist (Guest Post by Alison)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: MinimalistGuest

Over the past couple of years I've shared my own minimalist journey every Monday on the blog, and most recently in my minimalist book series.

But what I really enjoy is seeing how others have achieved a minimalist lifestyle, whether it be organizing their pantry or downsizing and moving on to a boat.

A couple of months ago Alison emailed me about her own path to becoming a minimalist and I just had to share it! Hopefully her story will inspire you to do a little decluttering today.

I'll let Alison take it away...

Minimalism has recently become a way of life for me. Friends and family have jokingly questioned if I'm giving away my entire life's possessions, and have asked if my husband is next to go - let's face it honey, less is more. I admit that I've become cuckoo for no clutter. But the clarity I've felt as a result of de-cluttering has been incredibly rewarding; I feel more at ease and more peaceful without all of that stuff lingering around. I whole-heartedly agree with Lindsay when she says, “Consumerism leads us to believe that more is better and that whatever we have isn't enough. This is a prescription for disappointment. This kind of thinking leads to unhappiness and you have to reject that thought pattern to begin your minimalist journey."

Before I started reading Lindsay's blog, I always thought of myself as a minimalist by throwing junk mail in recycling immediately or making sure everything was organized and had a place in the house. I couldn't have been more wrong. When I saw how a true minimalist lived, my world changed - oh my gosh, how did Lindsay get her kitchen counters so bare?

I've learned so much by reading Lindsay's "Minimalist Monday" posts and her first book on minimalism. One of the biggest takeaways for me was to keep the mentality that I was giving away items to others who need them and would use them more than I ever would. Lindsay says in her first minimalist book, “Minimalism has taught me over and over again that I am not my stuff. My memories are also not under my bed, in the attic, or in the closet. They are in my heart.” I was holding onto things that I thought I might use in the future, like clothes for Halloween costumes or books that I might read again. Instead of using my house as a storage space for the "what ifs," I followed Lindsay's sound advice: if I’m not going to use it today, then get rid of it. She also provides a simple yet genius rule: one in, one out. If I’m going to buy something, I need to be sure to give something away. Otherwise I was going to land myself right back at Clutterville.

Learning about minimalism through Lindsay's blog had come at a really great time. I had just started reading "The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings" by Thich Nhat Hanh. I was studying how to be more mindful and live in the present moment when I realized that mindfulness and minimalism go hand-in-hand. Reading both Lindsay’s and Thich Nhat Hanh’s books were incredibly helpful in laying the groundwork for my minimalist journey. Creating a zen environment didn’t happen instantly or naturally. It took practice and is still forcing me to think differently about the world and my place in it.

The day after I finished Lindsay's book on minimalism, Atlanta was hit by a huge snow storm. Instead of plopping down on the couch and binge watching Downton Abbey like I normally would have done, I decided to de-clutter. I spent three days of going through our belongings, which resulted in me and my husband boxing up a lot of our possessions to give away. Lindsay explains, “You have to realize that the keyword in possessions is possess and that possessions possess you.” I was ready to let go and not let my stuff control my life!

My husband and I gave away the following: 100+ books, DVDs and CDs to the library; 10+ bags of clothes to GoodWill; boxes upon boxes of various items for my friend’s garage sale that helped with adoption costs for her baby; 6 large bags of sheets, towels and comforters to the local animal shelter; and I finally returned Tupperware, books and cookbooks that I was hoarding to their rightful owners. Surprisingly, there is still more to give away!

I took a break from de-cluttering after the big purge, but I'm feeling like it's time to start on another minimalist project. I agree with Lindsay when she says, “My approach to minimalism is about living with less and enjoying what I do have.” It's amazing how I felt a great burden lift off my shoulders when I started on my minimalist journey, and it's reassuring to know that it'll just keep getting lighter as I go, creating a space around me that offers peace and positivity.

Alison Mercer lives in Georgia with her husband and their adopted dog and cat. Alison is the director of annual programs for a higher education institution, and has been in the fundraising field for the past ten years. In her spare time, Alison enjoys writing about vegan recipes and animal rights issues on her blog, Running on Vegan; attending her local vegan book club; running and training for 10Ks and half-marathons; and serving as a board member for both Our Hen House and her local animal rights organization, Georgia Animal Rights and Protection (GARP).

Plant-Based Restaurant Finds (Making It Work)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

I'm always getting questions about plant-based options at restaurants. In fact, I have an entire section dedicated to dining out in my new book, The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-Based Living. (It's also available in Audible format!)

I've blogged plenty of times about my plant-based dining adventures (if you're looking for a specific city, use the search bar at the top of the page), so this time I asked Herbies on Facebook to share their experiences while dining out.

Sure, eating at a lot of these places may not be ideal, but it's nice to know there are options -- and lots of them!

Applebee's: "This is their Strawberry & Avocado salad over a bed of arugula and romaine with zesty chili lime vinaigrette, which is normally served with chicken. I asked to substitute it with blueberries and pecans instead and they did without charging me!"

Image via Desiree N

Bonefish Grill: "After talking with the waitress, I found the couscous is cooked in water (not broth), so I ordered a side of couscous, a side of broccoli, and asked for some of their mango salsa. The salsa was great over the broccoli."

California Pizza Kitchen: "They always sub avocado for chicken in any salad free of charge."

Carrabba's: "There are several pasta dishes they can make that don't include cheese. Just tell your server and they will take care of you."

Cheesecake Factory: "You can order the new kale and quinoa salad without parm (sub in "Skinnylicious Mustard Vinaigrette" dressing). It is both vegan and oil free."

Image via Kelly D

Chili's: "They have a menu online to identify non-dairy items before you get there so you can "be ready." I ordered a salad without the chicken and no substitute, and they charged me for just a side salad! It was so delicious!"

Cracker Barrel: "This restaurant is clearly VERY Southern, which would seem impossible to eat plant-strong. But they have a vegetable platter that you can choose options from. I had a plain baked sweet potato with a fruit cup, steamed broccoli and a tossed salad. You do have to vigilant about asking for the items prepared plain though."

Culver's: "I had the Strawberry Fields salad and was surprised when they actually took money off when i asked for no meat and cheese."

Jimmy John's: "This is the #6 on wheat. No cheese, no mayo. Add mustard, extra tomato, extra cucumbers, extra hot peppers, extra lettuce, extra sprouts. Add onion and oregano. Sounds complicated but it's very easy to order on-line and they always have gotten my orders right."

Image Via Jen H

In-N-Out: "You can order a veggie burger, no sauce, add ketchup, mustard, and pickle. You can also add tomatoes, lettuce and onions."

Outback Steakhouse: "I had a plate of sides with a dinner salad with no cheese, grilled asparagus, steamed mixed veggies, and a plain sweet potato."

Panera: "They will sub avocado for chicken for no extra charge!"

Texas Roadhouse: "I get their veggie plate and order a veganized salad, baked potato, mushrooms and steamed veggies." [**Editorial Note: It has come to our attention that Texas Roadhouse soaks their potatoes and sweet potatoes in bacon grease.**]

Waffle House: "You can order the hash browns at Waffle House with NO OIL OR BUTTER and pile on extra servings of veggies (mushrooms, tomatoes, jalapeños)."

Wendy's: "They took $1.20 off of their full size Apple Pecan salad for removing the chicken and it comes cheese-free! Win!"

The Yardhouse: "I just went through the menu and asked the chef to grill up all the veggies he had. He did."

Image via David G

What are some plant-based meals or substitutes you've made when dining out?