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Vegan Starter Guide

By: Jacqueline Weiss

Even small changes to your lifestyle require some adjustments or purchases. You may be more motivated to drink water throughout the day with a reusable water bottle, or may be more inclined to hit the gym if you feel confident in a fresh leggings and bra set. Just as making changes in your environment can alter the way your day-to-day life operates, changing the food with which you nourish your body can do the same. Veganism is much more than a diet; it’s a lifestyle that involves not consuming any animal-based products. Being a vegan makes you far more aware of the food around you, and what you put into your body every day.

When I first cut dairy out of my diet in December 2015, it caused almost instant weight loss in combination with regular exercise, which I thought was great, considering that I had barely eaten that much dairy to begin with. Especially if you suffer from allergies, you’ll likely notice your sinuses are more clear, and there’s less mucus build-up in your nose and throat during peak allergy season. I also cut out meat cold turkey (excuse the pun) on a random day in March 2016 while out to lunch with my family. Eggs came shortly after because the texture also began to weird me out, and ta-da, I was a vegan!

What has made this transition a successful one for me has been finding alternatives to dairy and meat products that I crave and want to share. Finding the best alternatives for milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt to start, and adding in extras like ice cream, dressings, and other condiments will be key to your success in cutting out dairy. What works for one person might not work for you, so play around in your kitchen until you find your favorites.

Meat alternatives aren’t always pretty, but when prepared properly will have you not even thinking about the real thing. A few essentials: tofu, tempeh, seitan, and jackfruit. Soy based tofu is the most common, and can be transformed from otherwise bland cubes into spicy chorizo, hot dogs, and more. Just take a look in the frozen section of your grocery store. Tempeh, or fermented soybeans formed into cakes, is delicious and dense in protein, fiber, and vitamins. Seitan, sometimes referred to as a “wheat meat,” is high in protein and looks almost identical to meat when cooked. Jackfruit is truly amazing and can be used as an alternative to shredded meats in cooking thanks to its unique texture.

Nutrient deficiency is often one of the biggest pushbacks I hear about from vegan skeptics, i.e. that we don’t get enough protein, iron, or calcium, which non-vegans consume through animal based products. Skeptics beware, because you can consume most of these nutrients through vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. A few favorites: sweet potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, cauliflower, beans, beets, and nuts. These nutrient-dense foods are high in fiber and protein, and can be used in a variety of ways in your kitchen. One easy recipe: combine chickpea pasta, which is naturally high in protein, nutritional yeast as an alternative to shredded parmesan, which is high in vitamin B12, and pureed seasoned cashews for a mac & cheese that you won’t believe doesn’t have dairy!

Baking can be a challenge at first, given that so many delicious treats are loaded with butter, milk, and eggs, but thankfully, alternatives make it easy to still enjoy your favorite desserts without the guilt.

Eating out can be tricky as well, because there are usually many more vegetarian choices than vegan ones, most of which can be modified by subtracting the cheese, but you still have to beware of veggies cooked in butter, sauces that include milk or cream, or egg based fresh pasta. Be upfront with your waiter about your dietary restrictions and see what you can do to modify the menu to make it work for you.

Living in a big city like Boston has made it easy for me to find an array of vegan friendly eateries that I know and love, and I’m lucky that with my upcoming move to Los Angeles, I know there won’t be a shortage of options there. Don’t fret if your city doesn’t have as many easily accessibly vegan eateries; cooking and experimenting at home can be just as fun!


Lemony Tahini Garlicky Kale Salad with Tandoori Marsala Chick Pea

By: Margaux Finan


The perfect salad for any season? We got you!

This hearty and healthy kale salad is an all season staple for the woman on the go. It's delicious, hearty, healthy without tasting "too healthy"... the best of all worlds.It will leave you ready to take on your day! The dressing provides so many flavors, from the happy lemon, roasted garlic, to the nutty tahini with maple syrup (because, ahem, maple syrup).  The Tandoori Marsala chick peas gives a fascinating kick of paprika, cardamom, among other tasty tastes – if I didn’t need them for the post, I would eat all these lovely chicks before even compiling the salad. Enjoy!

Prep Time: 30 Mins
Cook Time: 25-40 Mins
Serves: 4

  • 10 oz (6 cups, roughly one bunch) kale, loosely chopped
  • 1 15 oz can Chickpeas, rinsed, drained, dried
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Tandoori Marsala Spice blend (I made my own, see below)
  • 1 head garlic
  • ¼ cup Tahini
  • 2 lemons
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Hot Water
  • To serve on the side: Naan bread (store bought, please, I can’t be 100% on top of my game)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a mixing bowl, add chickpeas, 2 tbsp olive oil and 4 tbsp Tandoori Marsala Spice blend (I like a LOT of flavor, but you can always cut down on the amount of spice you toss the chick peas with).
  3. Break apart garlic head, leaving skin on, and add chickpeas and garlic to baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle garlic with olive oil and bake for 25 min, until chick peas are crispy and golden brown (If you have additional time, you can keep chick peas cooking for 40 min, for a pop of crisp when you bite into the salad).
  5. Remove baking sheet from pan, and remove skin from garlic. Set aside.
  6. While chickpeas are cooking, wash and dry kale. Remove spine and loosely chop into a large mixing bowl (the worst step of the entire dish, but now it’s over!). Massage kale with olive oil to soften and take some of the bitterness away.
  7. In a smaller bowl, add garlic and mash until you can’t mash anymore. Add tahini, olive oil, 1 juiced lemon, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Wisk until combined (Trick: use a blender or food processor to mix ingredients). Add hot water as needed to produce desired dressing consistency.
  8. Mix kale with desired amount of dressing, and top with chickpeas. Take other lemon and squeezeover salads for a pop of happiness. Enjoy!  


    Extra fun bits:

  • You can buy store bought Tandoori Marsala Spices, but I couldn’t find any at the market, so I ended up purchasing Garam Masala, which includes coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon. I blended together cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ginger into the Garam blend and had my own Tandoori Marsala Blend party.
  • To make your own (without added help): 2 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tbsp paprika, 3 tsp ginger, 2 tbsp coriander, 2 tsp cardamom, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • Inspiration provided By: Minimalist Baker


Roasted Garlic and Sage Pumpkin Hummus

By: Christine Zakhour

Thank you to Allison for having me on her beautiful site. I am wildly in love with the concept of Paridaez and practically live in my Birds of Paradise tanks. I am so happy to share one of my recipes over here today- roasted garlic and sage pumpkin hummus.

Through this hummus, I learned a method for quick roasting garlic that's greatly enhanced my life. Being Lebanese, I eat a TON of garlic, and I've been throwing roasted garlic on everything since. You simply separate the cloves from the bulb (keeping the skin on), spread them on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, then pop them out of the skin once they've slightly cooled.

This dip is SO delicious, but also has tons of benefits. First, it's vegan - so the perfect app that most everyone can eat. I am, of course, partial to the Mediterranean diet, since it's what I grew up (and continue) eating. That diet/lifestyle has tons of health benefits, and this hummus is a perfect example of some of them. Healthy fats from tahini and olive oil, fiber from the pumpkin and chickpeas, also protein from the chickpeas, beta-carotene and vitamin C from the pumpkin (much needed during winter!), and I'm pretty confident garlic is one magical ingredient - both taste and health-wise. Read more here and here.
I love this dip with warm pita, crackers or pita chips, and on roasted veggies. It's savory and sweet, and I can't get enough of it.

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 1/2 cups chickpeas or 1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
salt to taste (~1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon)
sprinkle of nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the garlic cloves on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake until softened ~15 minutes. Let cool slightly and squeeze out of the skins.
Combine all ingredients except the dried cranberries in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. (You should still see bits of sage). Stop the food processor and add the cranberries and pulse a few times, just until combined. Note: Do not put full dried cranberries in and pulse rather than blend, or just stir in - otherwise, the blades will fling the cranberries everywhere! Spoon into a bowl and add toppings as desired. I usually add a little extra olive oil on top. Serve with warm pita, pita chips, crackers, toast, roasted veggies, and more! 
For more Lebanese and Mediterranean-inspired recipes, you can check out my blog-