The Best Vegan Macaroni Ever

Ask anyone transitioning to a plant based lifestyle, and the hardest meals to give up include dairy or cheese. It’s addictive and savory and for the longest while, very few vegan cheese brands have come close to duplicating that same savory texture or a macaroni and cheese dish that actually tastes like cheese.

YOU GUYS. I think I nailed it this time.

Each fast, Earth Balance (not daiya, never daiya) boxed macaroni and cheese has been a staple here but eventually, I grew tired of that. Plus, it’s just that – pasta and low nutritional value. Plus, ever since we learned how awful soy has been for my hormones, I have been experimenting with a lot of soy free vegan recipes lately.

I did use gluten free noodles in this dish. You can use any noodle you want, but if you need to use a gluten free noodle as well, I used Full Circle brand gluten free rigatoni.

It’s packed with macronutrients and micronutrients but it tastes very similar to a classic macaroni dish. That’s a win in my book. I take roast butternut squash which gives it that orang-y Kraft macaroni vibe without the nasty chemicals. Dijon mustard, Apple cider vinegar, paprika, sea salt, nooch or nutritional yeast and almond milk get mixed up in a high speed food processer into a nice, creamy consistency and then poured over the pasta to create an almost splitting image of an almost classic macaroni dish.

Sprinkle on gluten free breadcrumbs or breadcrumbs and bake it for about 12 minutes on 250 degrees. Top with fresh parsley.

It’s dishes like this that reveal how nutrient dense, fast and easy vegan or plant based cooking can really be.

The Best Vegan Macaroni (Vegan, Soy Free, Gluten Free, Nut Free)

1 butternut squash

1 package of Full Circle gluten free macaroni

Gluten free Breadcrumbs, if using

1/4 cup fresh parsley

For sauce

1/4 cup coconut oil

4 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of nutritional yeast (Good source of vegan b12 which helps calm nerves)

1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar

1 tsp paprika

Pinch sea salt

1/2 cup almond milk

1. Boil macaroni according to package directions and drain. Pour into greased casserole dish.

2. Whip up ingredients for sauce in blender until you get a creamy, thick consistency. Pour over pasta and mix well until sauce is well incorporated with noodles. If it’s not oozing out of the noodles, it’s not mixed enough!

3. Top with breadcrumbs Bake for 12 minutes on 250 degrees. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.


Should Christians be getting involved in politics?

The past few years led us into perhaps the most heated Presidential election cycle most of us of voting age have ever witnessed in our lives. Abortion, freedom of speech, a women’s right to equal pay, healthcare, education, environmental affairs, immigration, the refugee crisis, among others… no one knew for sure what type of person could be ready to handle all of that.

In the life of a conservative Christian, it’s clear how far down the rabbit hole we’ve become. I know of many people, including myself, who refuse to engage even with others who argue similar views. It’s just too much and they don’t want to offend or alter personal relationships.

That’s respectable, but what do you do for belligrant individuals who don’t care? They corner you until you agree with them, cry or run away.

What about those in society who don’t believe in God either? Extending “thoughts and prayers” may bring you peace, but is it really respectful if not even a little condescending to tell that to a Hindu or Muslim?

A Different Society

It’s a different society now, but you still live in America. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or an atheist, you are also a individual bound by free will where you are free to worship by it. How many other countries can say that?

Nobody can take that away from us.

And as far as those belligrant types, walk away or change the subject. Like with most cases of bullying, be the bigger person.


Sensationalism in the media may tell us otherwise. Isolated incidents of religious or political extremism are exaggerated to create stories or induce fear and excitement. It creates a Prozac or Xanax nation, if you will. It makes us believe the world is more terrible. Other attempts of succeeding at this case is by producing clickbait headlines that pop up on the internet. Clickbait seems believable, and is getting harder to spot. We all fell for one including myself, but try reading between the lines.

Why does the media do this? To sell news. Perhaps it’s really a slow news day. Mass media journalism has been struggling to keep up for years. Most people really tune in during catastrophic global affairs or a turn of event to stay connected. But lately, things have been pretty slow or tirelessly ongoing in the world. So naturally, the media has to shake things up to stay afloat.

A pressing concern should be: why are we addicted to the drama and how do we make it stop?

The Christian Response, in my opinion

We have a few choices, and some that I think we already made. We can choose to cast it aside and ignore it, or let God sort everything out. I mean, many people we meet aren’t even Christian, who cares what happens to them, right? I can only worry about ME, right?


And…I don’t know. Doesn’t that sound a little strange to you? Hopefully?

Or what if you may be charitable, but don’t like to consider yourself political. Fine, though did you know most charity is political?

God didn’t put us in the world as a Sims character, action is required of us too. As Christians and followers of Christ, think of why we aid in local humanitarian relief to global disaster relief. This will help you begin to learn more about poverty, healthcare education and the economy in your area and the world. These are some factors among many which can help gently remind you of a need and place for politics.

Also, pure and utter silence and loss of self identity and personality after awhile can be mistaken for submission to something we disagree with too.

So, should Christians be getting involved in politics? Absolutely. You already do. But like with everything else, be mindful of your soul for the only fear you have is the fear of harming your neighbor.

Saffron rice

Life is a process. Faith, food and relationships.

I struggled with going to the monastery with my husband this morning, mostly because we have to wake up very early as the days start very early there. But why not? We both had a day off and had a perfect opportunity. The sun gleamed through the stained glass. And although I felt my quads cramp up from prostrating to “Let my prayer arise!” For too long, I fell into a state of meditation and then grace.

Like with life itself, it’s a process to get to such a point just like cooking and especially learning to cook with spice.

It seems easy, but mistakes are common. If you substitute for something else, you may miss the mark completely. And is too much ever too much? In a word, yes. Is quality always important? Mostly, but sometimes you can get away with dried. And it’s a culinary sin to use canned garlic.

For those of us that work with what we got, I can sympathize and understand. Hey, and although the purists will still disagree, it’s better than omitting it. But around our kitchen, quality isn’t only our aim it’s encouraged.

There are a few spices where it’s important to aim for the latter. Saffron falls into this category.


  1. It’s unique aroma of floral and earthy is unmatched. It’s rare to find a substitute for it.
  2. Generic saffron (less than $10 worth) won’t carry the same quality of health benefits. Saffron is expensive because it’s plucked by hand. It takes 4,500 crocus flowers to make up one ounce of saffron spice.

Saffron is not turmeric though saffron has an immense away of health benefits on its own. It’s a good spice to have on hand for heart healthy diets and women monitoring their menstrual cycles as saffron contains the b6 vitamin to help with nerves and potassium to help with menstrual cramps among many other benefits.

The easiest way to make saffron is in white or brown basmati rice on the side of a frozen Indian meal for something quick or a lean protein and a vegetable. I make mine with a few other spices, a little turmeric and almonds. Once the rice is al dente, the sticky texture reminds me of a version of Rice a Roni only I don’t feel like I swallowed a brick, I just feel energized.

Isn’t that the way you want to feel too?

Saffron Rice

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small sweet or red onion
  • 1 teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads (check health food stores, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or ethnic Indian grocer)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cup brown basmati rice
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • ¾ cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup of ground almonds


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant and just starting to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add onion, stir to coat. Cook, stirring often until the onion is starting to brown and soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add saffron, thyme, smoked paprika and salt and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in broth and increase heat to high. Stir thoroughly to make sure saffron threads are evenly distributed, and bring to a simmer.

3. Add rice, and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low or low to maintain a simmer, and cook until the bouillon has been absorbed and the rice is very tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remover from the heat and stir in ground almonds and parsley.


Journey to Pascha: Canon of Saint Andrew

What is Lent, really?

To many Christians, you hear a lot about fish on Friday to the seemingly yearly pursuit of giving up chocolate or sweets or Facebook for forty days. Even those Christians in name only get into it just to detox.

But Lent is not the same for all Christians.

Sure, you can still give up sweets and social media if it helps you live a better life, but there’s more to Lent than external factors for the Orthodox Christian.

For the Orthodox Christian, Lent is more than what goes into our mouths, but what comes out of it, so to speak. It’s a focus on renewal of the soul and the decision to repent before God decides for us. This is done through prayer, the Lenten services which ultimately lead to simplicity and almsgiving.

Food is actually a small part of it.

Although some try, we are not required to attend all of the services nor is it sometimes feasible for the average working layperson. They are put in place as mere prescriptions for our healing process for our sins. But be careful. Even when you think you have been healed, there’s always something new or different to focus on for a child of God.

The four parts of Canon of St. Andrew is split over the course of the Clean Week. At first glance, some of the stanzas are quite penetrating and personal. It takes an understanding of the Bible (the verses to refer to are published every night) as well as a sincere need to repentance to truly absorb this service.

You may think as I often have, “there are people I know who should be here too but are not, why?” But we cannot dwell on thee absence of others especially those who are absent for honorable and just reasons. We pray for those who are absent just as much as those who are present with us.

Suppers are usually very light during Clean Week. Monks and very pious laypersons will do a water fast. The thing I miss about being a vegan and that I liked about it was how fast and affordable whole foods veganism really is. There was lots of Gardein this week but also stuffed peppers which was an oven meal affording me a chance to catch up on my reading. And clean up? Minimal!

Planning on similar weeks in the coming weeks.

Stuffed Vegan Peppers

Sauteed mushrooms in Earth Balance with sea salt and pepper is all you need. Stuff them in your peppers and bake for 15 minutes!

4 stuffed peppers, tops cut off

1 package of baby bella mushrooms, washed (baby bella may be the cheapy mushrooms but they seriously pack great flavor in recipes such as this!)

sea salt and pepper (I am still loving my turmeric sea salt that I picked up from the Spice Shop downtown)

Pinch turmeric if you just have plain sea salt (there ain’t nothing wrong with that either, I’m just saying!)

fresh cilantro

mozzarella vegan cheese (our favorite brand)

3 tbsp earth balance

Coconut oil, drizzle

Heat a pan with Earth Balance. Once melted, add in your mushrooms and seasonings and cook for several minutes until somewhat soft. Take off heat. Stuff into peppers. Drizzle with coconut oil. Top with cheese. Bake on 350 degrees or until cheese melts. Remove from oven and add cilantro on top.


How to eat like a vegan during Lent.

“Let us begin Lent, the Fast, with joy”

For the typical Orthodox, finding out what to eat or feed your family over the next forty days can be been difficult. I mean, most people are switching from bacon to quinoa. But it doesn’t have to be expensive or bland or lacking nutrients.

As someone that’s plant based but not vegan, here are some of my favorite tips that I hope will help you and your family get adjusted.

Firstly, learn the lingo which can be confusing just going by the hashtags alone:

Vegan – avoids all animal products including honey and some obscure ones like bone char which is found in granulated sugar.

Plant based- Avoids most flesh products for the most part, but is flexible

Soy Free Vegan – Avoids gmo soy which is linked to altering male and female hormone levels as well as animal products. This does not include products made with soy lecithin.

Soy Free whole foods Vegan – Avoids soy, flesh meats and products and processed vegan products. These people support foods that they grow or are grown instead of the manufactured stuff.

Here’s how to get adjusted:

  • Buy or borrow a decent vegan cookbook like Isa Moskowitz’s Veganomicon which highlights pantry necessities, kitchen equipment and every type of recipe. There are still many of them I haven’t tried and I had this one for a few years.
  • There are tons of sole vegan blogs. Minimalist Baker is queen for quick vegan recipes and scrumptious desserts for coffee hours and potlucks during Lent.
  • The vegan meat substitutes may be more expensive but serve as a gradual transition to whole grain and vegetable dishes.
  • Gardein brand meals at most major supermarkets are no fail for quick, easy dinners that require minimal chopping, minimal time and not so fancy (read: expensive) equipment
  • Get reacquainted with your produce aisle. Daikon? Squash? Be open to the idea of different ways of cooking and there’s so many health benefits too.
  • Make cooking fun! Use different textures, discuss the health benefits or have themed meals. Vegan sticky buns for coffee hour or an intimate women’s tea night? Look up Minimalist Baker’s recipe. It’s a total win!
  • As you’ll be relying on more produce, here’s a chance to get to know some of your local farmers. They want to engage with you. It’s a quite a joy for me to visit the farmers market year round at least weekly.
  • Try to avoid the vegan documentaries on Netflix. I only found about one or two informative, but not in an actual learning how to adjust way, but in a propaganda way.
  • If you’re on Instagram, share your awesome recipes under a unique and easy to find hashtag for others.
  • Speaking of cookbooks and you’re cooking for a large family, Melissa Naasko has you covered! Check out her very own, Fasting as a Family.
  • Explore spices. They add great flavor to recipes and they’re healthy!
  • A great time to reflect on our mentality and state of mind: Try to be positive and see everything with a perspective of renewal. We attend the services to work on our mind and soul. What can we do to nourish our bodies?
  • I also try to share a few recipes a week or check out the archive!

How have you become adjusted? Share your tips below!


fruit and cheese blintzes

Over the past weekend, it was Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox church. It was also the week of Valentine’s Day and our first one as newlyweds.

It ended up being quite romantic. After a few days of unseasonably warm weather, they started to call for a snowstorm. I knew it began to feel legit when even my clients started talking about it at work.

I was also tired of hearing of more snow. When I used to go skiing, the Winters excited me but now after so long, it’s like meh to snow after so long! It was also the weekend of the Cheesefare potluck at church and I was excited to make blintzes.

My husband treated me to a float therapy center! Unfortunately, they were all booked with float therapy appointments for that day, but I did experience a mind and body altering massage. And I will still float next month!

But then the snow arrived.

Usually, we don’t go out in storms but there was something about this weekend that proved a little different. Afterwards, I made it just in time and safely to meet him at my favorite old world local Italian restaurant.

At this point, the roads were covered and messy. It was a wet, heavy snow and most of the reservations for that night cleared out. It was seriously romantic regardless if he could have planned this all to work out exactly as it did, but he didn’t plan all of it. As Billie Holiday would say, ain’t life funny like that?

For our safety, we ended up staying overnight and going to a closer parish in the area for liturgy – and Forgiveness Vespers as this Sunday was Forgiveness Sunday. So, my blintzes didn’t quite make it but what did happen was we had my parents over that next day to share in soup and blintzes after liturgy.

It was our first time cooking together in a little while. My husband never made blintzes in his life, but I kept commending him how perfectly thin he made the batter and the ideal golden brown he fried the crepes to be.

I worked on the filling which is a mix of dried curd or farmer’s cheese, cream cheese and an egg among sugar and salt though I used sea salt and stevia. It’s also recommended to try making your own curd, but most of the time, I’m realistic and run on store bought or farm market goods.

I like to though. Maybe someday.

My parents enjoyed the end result. Quality and cutting as few corners as possible makes family recipes as memorable as they always been. Perfect option for Cheesefare Sunday.

And then we have Forgiveness Sunday which starts Lent with a solemn but refreshing tone. By acknowledging Forgiveness Sunday, we acknowledge our own faults with each other and we “clear the air” before we face our own struggles during the season. We also don’t view the concept of forgiveness as a once annual thing to do, but as a reflection for eventual action throughout the year.

In our relationships, if we would truly listen hard enough, we probably offended someone many times over. People seem easily forgiving, you think. “Oh, it’s no big deal!” “You’re a good person” or “meh, whatever!” you may hear and not think much of it but be careful how words and reactions are minced.

It’s never easy to silence our egos or admit we were wrong when we try to aim to be “good people” who don’t try to create any harm. And that’s great! True forgiveness is the ability to silence our egos and speak from the heart. It’s not a forced thing, but our full participation in the day gets us thinking.

“I release you from all the responsibilities I have assigned you; responsibility for my anger, my joy, my pain, my identity. I am not the victim of your actions, or of this world; I am free. I am willing to recognize that anything missing from this relationship, is what I didn’t bring.

I forgive you. I see the love that you are. I see the love that I am. Thank you for your gift.”

For our days leading up to Lent, I will go back to sharing more yummy whole foods, soy free vegan options. The blintz recipe is an exception for a later time. It can also be found in the archives.

Fruit and Cheese Blintzes

Making your own dry curd and fruit topping raises the volume in this recipe though to save time, I used local store bought marmalade and farmers cheese.

For the batter –

1/2 glass of local milk

Pinch Stevia

Pinch sea salt

1 grass fed egg

1/2 glass of flour

Blend in blender to a thin, watery consistency. Fry in olive oil. Lay crepes flat on a paper towel lined plate so the oil can drain from them.

For the filling

2 cups of farmers cheese

3 ounces of cream cheese

1/2 cup of melted butter

pinch sea salt and Stevia

1 large egg yolk

Puree in a food processor.

Put a few scoops of filling in the middle of each crepe and roll up into a burrito tightly. Spoon on fruit marmalade and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve preferably warm.


tips to look after your husband… the revised version.

It’s 2018 and I’m probably going to get a lot of snark for this…but I don’t care.

As Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I noticed how many women think about themselves. Why should attention just be on me, why not we?

There’s a certain page out of the 1950’s handbook on how to treat our husband’s that makes the rounds around social media. It doesn’t get received very well even in vintage enthusiast or conservative groups.

I can be sympathetic because what if you don’t have the easiest or most loving relationship? While that’s one thing, that’s an exception to the rule and the trouble with society is that they focus excessively on the exception treating the smallest percentage as the overwhelming majority.

We live in a time where we aren’t as scrutinized as women were back in the 1950’s. While it might be unrealistic to follow this page down to the letter, it’s not unrealistic to lose the main idea. Think about it. We relaxed and sometimes by a lot, but not to the point where we shouldn’t not have standards over our relationships and family life.

I mean, are we really reaching for the stars?

Here it is:

Let’s get over this point by point with my input:

  1. Have dinner ready – As many women work and spouses find themselves working odd hours, this gets complex but it isn’t impossible. It just means you have to get creative! Grocery shop and plan your meals in advance and have one meal prep day. I grocery shop and plan my meals in advance, but I also buy frozen dinners or make enough of one meal to help out the other if one of us is working late or sick. Food has always served as the cornerstone that brought families together. It can sometimes be the only quiet time you have so that’s why it’s important to plan wisely.
  2. Prepare yourself- Think about this one. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Who usually gets home first? Okay. Now would you want to walk in the door after a long day of work and what else be to hear a laundry list of errands and problems from your spouse? Don’t make your problems the highlight of the evening or even the highlight, just something that gets handled and it will. It it’s truly bothersome, I like what my mother-in-law says about problems…”give it to God. He’ll be up all night, anyway.”
  3. Clear away the Clutter: Same as number two. I’m not referring to cleaning marathons every day, but tidy. Tuck everything in its home at night and create order.
  4. Prepare the children – Remember the old expression, “get washed up before supper?” Children are mirror images of us. After all, the apple rarely falls far from the tree.
  5. Minimize all noise – If you have to run a vacuum or the washing machine, that’s one thing. But try to turn off the television and put down your phone at least for an hour or two and at dinner to give your family real attention.
  6. Make him comfortable – Men work hard and they often do it for their families. It’s very tempting to feel jealous of where your friends are going for anniversaries and birthdays, but if you can think of all of the times your spouse has been there for you….I don’t think it’s asking too much of you to respect him in some of his wishes.
  7. Listen to him – There’s no “me” in relationship or marriage. It should go both ways but it only can be like that if there’s mutual respect.
  8. Make the evening his – This doesn’t mean it’s going to be all about him, but think about how hard he works. Men are always thinking far more than we realize. We can learn a lot more when we start listening and learn to respect each other.

Bottom Line…

Family is one of the most important social circles in your life. By gaining each other’s respect, a home becomes a place of peace and solitude even with children. There’s a reason why marriage is considered martyrdom because the ego dies as you put your life into another’s hands.

Many couples aren’t truly ready despite mincing words and beautiful vows. It’s a process… but a beautiful one.

If you’re offended, you may not be ready for marriage or you may want to consider counseling.