When the chocolate cravings strike, sometimes we need to act fast.

And sometimes, we don’t feel like spending 30 + minutes in the kitchen baking, messing with flour and remembering when to take “said treat” out of the oven on time (what smells like burning!?).

Then of course, there’s the issue of trying to eat healthier while satisfying that sweet tooth of yours.

In my humble opinion, eating healthy does not equal perfection, nor does it mean that we can throw all conscious effort to the wind and say “eff-it” every Friday night. Eating healthy and transitioning to wise plant-based food choices is all about finding delicious alternatives you can enjoy while playing it smart.

Which brings me to the ultimate fix for any chocolate addict…these amazing vegan brownies!!! ♥

Forget the flour.

Forget baking and WAITING and cooling times.

Forget any and all animal products, like dairy and eggs (you don’t need them!).

And forget feeling guilty because you indulged in something you love. There’s no need to feel bad about brownies like these!

And why even feel guilty with good-for-you ingredients?

Walnuts, pecans, and raw chocolate all help bind this baby together, giving you that “fudge-y” texture and flavor, but without the fuss of flour. Cacao, which was also considered the drink of the Gods by the Incas, is one of the highest forms of magnesium, plus contains FOUR TIMES the antioxidants of regular dark chocolate.

All you need is 15 minutes (from start to finish!).

So what are you waiting for!? 🙂

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No-Bake Flourless Vegan Brownies (Gluten-Free!)

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I have a weakness for perilla leaves.

From the moment I first tasted them, pickled in a delicious Korean-style sauce, I was hooked! And I’m sure you will be too.

Perilla is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae), yet the taste of the leaves is like no other. It reminds me of a cross between mint and licorice (some would even say cinnamon), adding a unique flavor to any culinary dish. While I personally love marinating mine, I’ve also read that you can toss perilla in salads OR use the leaves as a wrap for rice…yum!

In my opinion, perilla is a perfect beginners herb because the oil content is so high that once you become familiar with the scent/taste, you can easily identify it. Furthermore, and probably most reassuring, is that there is no known poisonous look-alike to perilla. It is genuinely a safe herb to forage.

Medicinal Uses & Perilla Benefits

Perilla is a popular food in Asian countries, dating all the way back to the Song Dynasty, but it is also known for its medicinal and nutritious properties. Used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), perilla can help treat coughs, chest congestion, nausea, and even asthma. The leaves also contain rosmarinic acid, which can help reduce allergy flair ups or attacks.

Believed to be anti-carcinogenic, perilla is thought to clear sodium-nitrates from the body. Helping support healthy immune function, the leaves are high in antioxidants, and provides calcium, phosphorous, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Identification & Growing Season

Perilla has many names, including Shiso, Beefsteak Plant, Rattlesnake Weed, Wild Basil, Purple Mint, and more. There are two major varieties of perilla plants- green and red (which is really purple in color), but both are easy to identify.

Perilla grows worldwide, sometimes year around. In the United States, you can find the leaves in the eastern half, excluding Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Out of the varieties, the green perilla is the most common. It has broad leaves (ovate) with toothed edges, and is slightly fuzzy. The topside of the leaf will typically be bright green (especially after rainfall), while the underside will have a greenish-purple hue to it.  Leaves are opposite on the stem of the plant and four-angled. The plant itself can reach about a yard high!

Look for broad perilla leaves with toothed edges…and don’t forget to use your sense of smell!

As mentioned above, perhaps the easiest way for me to identify perilla has to be the aroma after rubbing a leaf between my fingertips.

If you want to find perilla in your area, but have never tasted it before, I highly suggest seeking it out at Korean restaurants or international farmers markets first. That way, when you’re out in the field you’ll have a clear distinction of the smell and taste, which empowers you to find it confidently.

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Perilla leaves rinsed and patted dry. You will notice the backside of the leaves (top center) have a slight purple hue to them.

The second type you will see is purple perilla (aka the “red” variety).
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While the world is beginning to *slowly* embrace veganism, many people are still under the false assumption that it’s expensive and too complicated.

In all actuality, eating plant-based foods can be cheap (and easy!) if you shop smart and plan ahead. Yet when I speak to others about making alternative food choices, there’s one struggle that echoes out over all the rest:

Time. Management.

Because juggling the challenges of life can be difficult all on their own, before the task of eating healthy. Add homemade meals into the rotation, and well, your juggling days may come crashing to the floor (it happens).

That’s why I decided to make a vegan bean ball that requires just 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to prep, since we all deserve a go-to weeknight dinner that’s not complicated and takes only 30 minutes start to finish.

And did I mention it’s cheap too?

Beans are often viewed as the “bread-and-butter” of vegan living, but at around $1.30 a box, it’s actually a smart choice for those that are trying to conserve money!

Furthermore, white beans are the perfect basis for creating a “meatball” that is 100% soy-free & cruelty-free, while still maintaining nutritional value.

My favorite step in this recipe though, has to be busting out my bad-ass mini ice cream scoop.

Because the “difficult” part about making your own bean balls is the time it takes to roll your balls by hand, making it messy and time consuming (go ahead, insert ball joke here lol). Yet having a mini ice scream scoop means you aren’t elbow deep in your balls *lol*, making this recipe MESS FREE as well.

All you have to do is blend, transfer, and bake.

To finish, just boil some pasta and bust open a jar of marinara and you’re good to go.

Alternatively, you can serve these bean balls in hot dog buns with a little marinara and a sprinkle of this Easy Vegan Parmesan Cheese.

Of course I feel I should mention, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to eat these bean balls without busting out some “Wedding Singer” reference: “THAT’S A GOOD MEATBALL.”

I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. ♥

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5 Ingredient Dairy-Free Mozzarella Bean Balls

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Some of us “reward” ourselves with takeout on the weekends, when the paycheck is fresh and we’ve got money to spare, but you know what?

I’ve always liked to break the rules.

Making your own “takeout” at home tastes superior to any MSG-laced concoction you could get down the street, is overall better for your health, and can be served any day of the week!

You don’t need a bunch of stir-fry sauces or exotic ingredients to get a mouth-watering dinner either. All you need is 30 minutes to spare, which is one of the main reasons I LOVE this “Broccoli in Garlic Sauce”: it’s simple and quick to execute, making it a win-win on any weeknight!

On those nights when you’re just too tired to go the extra mile, try this EASY homemade takeout instead!

Especially on rainy days, this is the perfect remedy to get you feeling nice and cozy. When serving my own homemade takeout, I love pulling out the chopsticks and fancy dishware to make it fun and extra special for the kids. Sometimes I’ll even turn on Asian-style music and light candles for the ultimate ambiance, and other times…

Well, I’ll just turn on a good episode of Seinfeld instead and watch Elaine attempt to steal eggrolls:

But you want to know the BEST part of all?

“Broccoli in Garlic Sauce” is a traditional favorite on any Chinese takeout menu, so you don’t have to use substitutions, or convince your family to “try this vegan meal (pretty please)”. There’s no tofu or unfamiliar ingredients to taste test, and it’s 100% gluten-free.

No frying here: roasted broccoli is all you need to make this dish really pop.

And don’t forget the health benefits you receive from stuffing your face with a generous amount of broccoli and garlic.

Garlic is one of my favorite medicinal herbs, as it can help combat colds, reduce blood pressure, and improve cholesterol. Broccoli, on the other hand, is rich in fiber, and can help strengthen bones, control diabetes, improve your immune function, and even reduce the risk of cancer.

Truly, this is simplicity at its best.

This week, grab just 30 minutes and make some easy vegan takeout…and don’t forget the chopsticks!

30 Minute Vegan Takeout: Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (Gluten-Free!)

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