Happy Herbivore Blog

Meet Nicole (Plus Get Her Savvy Eating on a Budget Tips!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Guests

I'm so very excited to introduce Nicole, the newest intern at Happy Herbivore. 

Nicole's handy work is cropping up everywhere already. She's reshooting some of the photos for blog recipes -- like this one for HH's 3-ingredient Butternut Squash Soup:

and she's the wizz behind all our new merch! Nicole has designed mugs, bumperstickers, buttons and other cool "Herbie" swag. Check it out!

and so you can get to know her a little bitter, Nicole wrote a blog post -- about how she makes eating healthy (and plant-based) work on a starving students budget! without further ado....

Hello and let me introduce myself! My name is Nicole Raphael and I am a happy herbivore from Omaha, Nebraska. 

I have only been vegan for a little over a year due to a class I took at my college called, “The Ethics of Food.” Once I decided to turn from vegetarian to vegan, I had to start learning about how I could work this out with my extremely low college student budget. 

When I first started my vegan cooking, I only bought and borrowed vegetarian books because I was honestly afraid of words like tofu, nutritional yeast, and non-dairy milk. And more importantly, I knew that they would cost more money.

However, now that I have found all three of those ingredients in many of the recipes inside The Happy Herbivore, they have opened my eyes to how versatile these items can be. When I’m not making Easy Macaroni and Cheese (p.  159)with my Nutritional Yeast, then I could be making Baked Tofu Parmesan (p. 138) with my favorite Mori-Nu Tofu! Happy Herbivore makes cooking fun, easy, and cheap for college students on a budget, especially because of the ingredients that go hand in hand!

So with that being said, many of my friends have looked at my cabinets and spice rack and said, “Oh my gosh, you have so many spices and ingredients this must cost you so much money!” When my friends say that to me, I have to reassure myself that I did just move into my new house last month. And because of that, it was necessary to have my first grocery trip count! Now when I go to the grocery store or farmer’s market for my bi-monthly supply, I can count on spending no more than $40-50 on myself! That sounds good to my work-study paychecks from my college! As a an experiment for myself, I wanted to see how much it would cost for me to just buy all the ingredients needed for my daily meals. 

Keep in mind that the more expensive ingredients like Nutritional Yeast, Pure Maple Syrup, and Veganaise last me a very long time because of the little portions that are needed in the Happy Herbivore and many other vegan recipes! And when it comes to my baking supplies, I don’t know one person, other than a baker, who goes through an entire jar of cocoa, nutmeg, or cloves within months! 

This is what a daily menu looks like for me: 


Cinnamon Banana Toast Crunch (p. 27) 2 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread-$ 1.99 1 Bananas- $0.79 ¼ cup of Pure Maple Syrup- $8.00 or ¼ Low Fat/Sugar-Free Syrup-$3.40 ¼ tsp vanilla extract- $2.50   Green Goddess Smoothie 2 Frozen Bananas- $1.74 Cocoa- $3.99 Water - Free Frozen Spinach- $1.49


“Tuna” Salad Sandwich (p. 113)1 Can of Chickpeas-$1.39 2 Celery Stalks- $0.89 Veganaise- $5.49 Onion Flakes- $0.99 Nutritional Yeast- $4.99 Apple Slices- $1.50 



Fettuccini Alfredo (p. 163) 8 oz whole wheat pasta- $2.50 Mori Nu Tofu- $1.99 Non-dairy milk- $2.99 Garlic powder- $0.99 Onion powder-$0.99 Nutmeg- $3.99 Salt- $0.99 Pepper- $0.99 Cayenne Powder- $0.99 Nutritional Yeast- $4.99 Vegan Parmesan (optional)- $4.99 Chopped Parsley (optional)- $1.50 Bacon Bits Recipe- $12

Total for the day: about $75.53 

Yes, the prices may look scary, but if you were to look at any cookbook and buy all the ingredients at once, then it would cost about the same or more. And if a meat eater were to buy fresh meats every week to suffice their recipes, then I could bet it would be even more expensive. 

As a matter of fact, the only foods I had to buy at the store this week were tofu, non-dairy milk, bananas, spinach and bread! All the other ingredients were already on hand!

As a final point, Lindsay’s multipurpose cookbook also has a section where she lists off a “getting started” shopping list so it’s easier for the Herbies! It’s as if she’s setting us up for an inexpensive and delicious journey through her world of easy, low fat, and fat-free vegan recipes! What’s more to love!?

How to Replace Fats in Cooking

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

My techniques will teach you how to cook without oil and help you lighten up any savory recipe that calls for oil, butter, creamy or other fatty ingredients.

Tip #1: Saute in Water or Broth

Most recipes begin with sauteing onions or garlic in oil. To make the dish low-fat, cook onions, garlic or other ingredients in water, vegetable broth or vinegar over high heat. Start with 1/4 cup of liquid, adding more as necessary to prevent sticking and burning, and continue to cook over hight heat until the ingredients are cooked thoroughly and most of the liquid had evaporated. 

Tip #2: Bake, Don't Fry

When a recipe calls for frying or browning in oil, bake instead. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Place food on the cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Flip and bake 10-12 minutes more, continuing the cycle until the food is cooked with a crisp outer crust. If you have a non-stick skillet, you can also try to "fry" that way.

Tip #3: Use Spices (not Fat!) for Flavor

Instead of using butter or oil for flavor, ramp up your spices. Similarly, if you remove fat from a recipe, consider doubling the spices called for.

Use This, Not That:

  • substitute soft or silken tofu for heavy cream
  • use low fat and fat-free non-dairy milks instead of dairy milks
  • use low fat and fat-free meat alternatives instead of meat products
  • substitute peas or edamame for avocado (see my mockamole)
  • use coconut extract instead of coconut
  • replace nuts or seeds with roasted chickpeas or mushrooms

Hummus and plain, unsweetened (vegan) yogurt makes a great alternative to mayo, by the way -- and you can also make your own low-fat mayo and sour cream using my recipes in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook.

Download a handy PDF of this blog post

Also, check out my video "low fat cooking tools" - mighty helpful tips!

re: steamers (in the video) I use this electric steamer (bought on sale for $20). You can also use a metal steamer basket ($8), which are cheap and don't take up any extra kitchen real estate since you can store it in your pot. 

Cook Like a Pro (Cook from Sight!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Math in the kitchen is fun!

Over the weekend I taught a couple virtual cooking lessons (they're always a blast!). At the start of one lesson, my student said to me, "I'm so embarrassed but my little daughter has hidden my measuring cups and spoons -- I gave them to her to play with and all I've retrieved is the 1 tbsp... I guess we need to cancel?"

I said not so fast -- I sometimes cook with only 1 tbsp or even 1/4 tsp, so we're on! 

Here's the tsp/tbsp/cup breakdown:

3 tsp = 1 tbsp 

1 1/2 tsp = 1/2 tbsp

4 tbsp = 1/4 cup (8 tbsp is 1/2 cup and so on)

5 heaping tbsp - 1/3 cup  (technically it's 5.33 tbsp)

Cooking from Sight:

Except for baking, you don't need to worry about perfect precision with cooking -- wing it:

once drizzle around the pan = 1 tbsp

a decent pinch = 1/4 tsp

a few shakes of a spice = 1/8 tsp

1 loose handful of greens = 1 cup

1 clenched handful of oats = 1/4 to 1/3 cup

Every time you measure something -- add it to whatever you're making and look at how much it spreads or how much it looks like. Over time you'll be able to eyeball almost anything...

and remember: more or less of a spice usually won't make or break a dish. Only be strict with baking -- and hot spices!