With 2018 laid out before us, like a yellow brick road of possibilities, it appears that veganism is becoming “all the rage”. Every time I go to the grocery store, I’m finding more and more plant-based products, vegan options are popping up like mad at local restaurants, and a new vegan blog is born every minute.

This fact couldn’t have been clearer to me, back in November of 2017, when I attended “VegFest” (in the ATL shawdy), that veganism was here to stay; the amount of attendees had more than quadrupled since my previous visit in 2015, making the afternoon exciting and claustrophobic simultaneously.

But no matter how popular the vegan lifestyle gets, one question is still pounding at the door of plant-based living:

Can you REALLY be healthy on a vegan diet? Like, really really?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends who have been “inspired” by my blog (or that amazing dinner I whipped up), prompting them to start investigating what this whole vegan thing is about and if it’s something they think they can incorporate into their own lives. Unfortunately, many of those same friends have come back to me, after exhausting all their online resources, with their hands up in the air, saying, “I give up.”

While it’s always disappointing, I’m sort of used to it by now.

Because when it comes to what’s healthy and what’s not, you can absolutely find compelling arguments on either side of the fence: while one doctor is lecturing on the benefits of eating meat on one side of the internet, we have another doc on the flipside, promoting the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.

And that’s not including all of the conflicting documentaries on Netflix.

Making your decision about whether or not you are “gonna try this vegan thing” more complicated and like, totally confusing.

But I’m not here to make this extra hard, or complicated, or a yawn fest. Because what is comes down to is this SIMPLE truth, which is:

You CAN be healthy and thrive on a vegan diet….

aaaaaannnd…you can also be unhealthy on a vegan diet too (oh yes, I WENT THERE).

It’s what YOU CHOOSE to give to your body that really counts.

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One frequent question I get from low-histamine vegans is whether or not you can eat this way at restaurants. While it’s common for most vegans to primarily eat at home, depending on their location and schedule, eating out is something we all do, at least every once in a while.

So is it possible to get your food low-histamine AND cruelty-free?

The not-so-easy answer is…yes…and no.

I’ve found, as a vegan myself, that vegan-friendly options tend to exist primarily in urbanized areas. The closer you travel to major cities, the more likely you’ll find the word “vegan” on the menu OR stand-alone vegan restaurants (a highlight of any day). Unfortunately, the more rural you get, the less likely you are to find a something that is completely meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.

Which is why, when I know I’m going to the country, I always bring backups.

Taking all of this into consideration, if you are going vegan AND low-histamine at the same time, you may start to freak out a little when going to your favorite local restaurants for the first time since “the switch”. Plus, the waiter may think you are absolutely bonkers when you order the salad with no dressing, no tomatoes, no spinach, and no croutons.

“Sooooo….lettuce then? That will be $7.50.” Exactly.

And truly, finding vegan options for me is like a sport, as well as a learned skill.

For example, I know which mexican restaurants in my area have vegetarian options (easily made vegan) and are a snap to order from, and which mexican restaurants I should avoid at all costs because they can’t manage to bring me a bean burrito WITHOUT. CHEESE. I know where to order an Italian dinner without freaking out (too much) about the possibility of dairy in it, and how to get a vegan pizza on the fly. And, like most people, I also know all the restaurants that have let me down in the past, which I’ll never return to…because they are just jerks. Am I right?

This type of thing naturally takes time…and a little patience.

And so, if you’re trying to throw low-histamine into the mix, I’m going to tell you the honest truth: if you SERIOUSLY have histamine intolerance, complete with flair ups/rashes/crippled with a stomach-ache for days because you ate one. wrong. thing. then please remember that anytime you eat out, you are essentially playing with fire.

Yup, you’re leaving your fate up to your waiter, Anthony.

Or Sandra, whichever.

I mean YES, I think if you played your cards right, went to a flexible restaurant that you are familiar with, and ordered something simple, I’m sure you could manage to pull off low-histamine and vegan. However, please remember that you are always running the risk that there has been a cross-contamination, potentially throwing your system out of whack.

That being said, as a vegan, I know that I am always at a risk when eating at non-vegan restaurants. Unbeknownst to me, there could always be dairy or egg or something else in said dish that I’m unaware of (soilent green anyone?). BUT, I also remember that I need to live a little too, and that TRUST is part of the process. So I do my best and try to not sweat it (too much).

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For me, Christmas should always involve two things: picturesque snow views outside my window and delicious moan-worthy vegan cookies. I usually get the cookies, but the snow…well, snow in December is one of those rare things that *close to never* happens in the south.

So I was more than surprised this past weekend, when dreams became a reality yo!

Our little snowstorm, which is now being referred to as “The Fast and the Flurry-ist 2017”, crept up with a quickness and dropped itself down without apology. Experiencing a massive hit of snow on a late Friday afternoon was enough to make me feel merry and bright, but waking up on Saturday morning to a stunning winter wonderland in my backyard???

I was over. the. moon. 😀 Or as Stimpy would say, “JOOOOOOOYYYY!”

And yes, I’m still allowed to have the same response as a 5 year old when I see snow. So there.

I’m also allowed to act like a 5 year old when I get snow AND cookies simultaneously.

And yes, I’m referring to these deliciously simple Gluten-Free Vegan Sandwich Cookies, which have been “hit by a truck load of mixed nuts” and squished with melted gooey marshmallows.

Because what holiday would be complete without mixed nuts, the food AND the film!? #snowdayandamovie

If you’re a fan of “Mixed Nuts” the movie, then you’re in good company. It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas until I see Liev Schreiber dance with Steve Martin, Madeline Khan rap in an elevator, and Adam Sandler play the ukulele.

True, there are so many things for me to wonder Adam, but I got 99 problems and these cookies ain’t one.

So if you want to get into the holiday spirit and kick back with a few laughs, I highly recommend watching this movie while you enjoy a few stacks of these sandwich cookies! They only take about 15 minutes of active prep + 10 minutes bake time. Plus? There’s no shame when your treats are gluten-free + dairy-free + egg-free + peanut-free + cruelty-free!

I can only dream that the snow will come back in time for Christmas, but luckily, “in every pothole there is hope”, and I can still live it up with my cookie fix.

So from me to you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Raising my glass to you and yours, with many thanks and hopes for 2018. Woot woot! ♥

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Holiday GF Vegan Mixed Nuts + Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies

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Vegan party food can be tricky to serve if you are trying to satisfy tastes across the board.

Picky eaters, or guests that think vegan food is “weird” can certainly throw a wrench (or candy cane?) into your holiday festivities. When I first went vegan back in 2010, I can testify that I personally struggled with trying to create dishes that would satisfy both the veg and the anti-veg, in hopes of being spared from any furrowed brows or open attacks.

Thankfully, despite self-doubts that set in minutes before any party, I’ve always had an overall positive reaction to my vegan party food.

Yes, there have been times when someone got a little too sloshed on spiked cider and rolled out their list of complaints about vegans, or got hung up on the letters V, E, G, A, N, written in that exact order on the index card in front of my party dish. But mostly, I’ve been quite successful in my attempts to please the hungry crowd (and avoid the line of fire).

Because at the end of the day, when your food tastes good, it makes people happy.

And I always aim to make people happy, ESPECIALLY when it comes to food.

Which is why I know that these BBQ Cranberry Bean Balls are the perfect vegan appetizer for any holiday party. Not only are they sweet and tangy with a hint of smoke and fresh herbs, but are gluten-free, soy-free, and can be made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes! And if you’re really pressed for time, it ain’t no thang to make them a day ahead of time, pop them in a travel dish, and heat on arrival.

Giving you more time to pick out the right shoes and ask your husband for his opinion on color swatches 5 minutes before it’s time to walk out the door.

Either way, I’m sure you’ll have a Merry Christmas serving these BBQ “appys”, while singing a little bit of the Ramones. I don’t know about you, but I “don’t want to fight tonight” over what’s being served at the food table.

Let’s just all get along, k?

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Vegan Party Food: BBQ & Cranberry Bean Balls

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