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Mini Spinach and Pea “Omelettes”

I wanted a new idea for a savoury breakfast so came up with these mini vegan omelettes and they were a huge hit with my kids.  They use chickpea flour instead of eggs so are really healthy and still contain a lot of protein.  You can add lots of veggies so are especially good for kids who need convincing to eat more vegetables.  My favourite way of making them so far has been with wilted spinach, peas and a handful of grated vegan cheese.  I use Violife original cheese for these, which makes them really delicious!  The peas add even more protein and spinach adds more iron, so they’re really great for kids.

They’re quick to make so easy to make in the mornings and are even good cold at lunchtime if you have leftovers so would be great for lunchboxes.  The mini size makes them easy for kids to eat and fun.  Rian calls them pea pancakes!

You can add any other veggies if you like, just chop them up small and fry them for a few minutes before adding to the batter.  Veggies like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, mange tout and courgette all work great.

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Ingredients:

1.5 cups of gram flour/chickpea flour

1 flat tsp baking powder

1 tsp nutritional yeast

A dash of turmeric

A dash of paprika

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Salt and pepper

A handful or two of peas, frozen is fine

A few handfuls of fresh spinach

Vegan cheese (optional but delicious, I used Violife original)

Olive oil for frying

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How it’s made:

Sauté the spinach and peas in a pan for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted and peas are cooked.

Grate the vegan cheese if using it.

Meanwhile, add the gram flour, baking powder, nutritional yeast, turmeric, paprika, herbs, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl.  Add in 1 cup of water and whisk until it makes a smooth fairly thick batter.  You can add more gram flour or more water if you think it’s needed, or double the quantities if you want more.

Stir in the cooked vegetables and a handful or two of grated vegan cheese.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.  Spoon 1/4 cupfuls of batter into the frying pan to form the mini omelettes.

Fry for a few minutes either side until golden brown and cooked through.

They’re delicious served with a green salad or whatever you like.

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Do Vegan Kids get Vaccinated?

Long story short, some do, some don’t.  Like with any group of people, some vegans are pro-vaccine and some are not.  People may assume that all vegans are against vaccinating but that’s definitely not true.

This is a topic that’s often discussed in vegan parenting groups online, and can be very controversial.  I get asked about it a lot and have been meaning to do a post about it for a while now.

My kids are fully vaccinated and I believe that’s the best choice for our family.  I don’t really want to get into a debate with anyone about that because people have strong opinions on both sides and it can often turn into an argument.

But whether people believe in vaccination or not, they might wonder whether vaccines are really suitable for vegans and how vegans feel about it ethically.  I’m sure some vegans will have different opinions, but this is how I feel about it.  These are entirely just my opinions as a vegan parent.

Some vaccines do contain animal ingredients, and like all medication, vaccines are tested on animals.  So technically you could say they are not suitable for vegans.  But if you take the definition of veganism as, “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”, then you might agree it’s morally acceptable to use medication when necessary.

Vaccines are a little more complicated, since you could argue that they may not be absolutely necessary, but more of a precaution.  I have thought about this from a vegan point of view, and I see it as they save lives, so are important and even necessary.

I also think as parents we have a responsibility to look after our children and do what we think is best for them.  So if they need medication, we have to give it to them.  If someone chooses to not take medication themselves, I guess that is their choice, but for children we have to give them medication when it’s needed.

As a vegan, I really don’t agree with animal testing or experimenting and think it’s incredibly cruel.  We can avoid products that are tested on animals as far as possible, by buying cruelty free cleaning products, make up, shampoo, etc. but drugs and vaccines are required to be tested on animals.  We can still campaign against animal testing as there are alternatives, and support charities like the Dr Hadwen Trust who fund research that doesn’t use animals.  The Dr Hadwen Trust believes that animal testing is not necessary for medical research.

I would love to know how other people feel about it, but please keep comments respectful to others.

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Healthy Vegan Protein Pancakes

I love pancakes for breakfast.  It always feels like a treat and the kids always eat them, even when they’re really healthy!  I like to try to make them as healthy as possible, not too much sugar, and lots of nutritious stuff added.  I’ve seen a lot of people making “protein pancakes”, and wanted to make a healthier and vegan version!

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I’m not usually a fan of regular protein powders.  I think we can usually get enough protein from our food.  But I do love adding seeds and nuts to food to provide more protein and healthy fats.  That Protein sent me some of their pumpkin and chia seed protein powder to try out, and I was very happy to see it was simply made of pumpkin seed protein powder and whole chia seeds.  To make the pumpkin seed protein powder, they cold-press pumpkin seeds to partially remove the fat, but keep some fat to provide omega 3, then they grind them up.  The chia seeds are whole and are also a great vegan source of omega 3.  Pumpkin seeds also contain all the essential amino acids.  So this sounded like a really healthy product that I would be happy to eat, and seemed really handy to use to add to meals or smoothies.  I decided to try it out in these protein pancakes and it worked really well.  It added a lovely slightly nutty taste.  I also tried it in smoothies, and it tasted great and didn’t give that powdery texture that some protein powders can have.

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You could also simply grind up your own seeds for this recipe if you like.  I would use pumpkin seeds, a little flax seed, and some chia, whatever else you like too.  I used nut butter or tahini in the recipe to add some extra protein and healthy fat too.  I added a little maple syrup to sweeten these, but not too much, so you can add extra maple syrup as a topping afterwards if they’re not sweet enough.  I add some maple syrup to my portion but not for the kids and they are happy to eat them without it.  The oats make them extra healthy, as well as some banana, and coconut oil is a healthier oil to fry with.  You could use wholegrain, spelt or gluten free flour (and oats) if you like.

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Ingredients:

1 cup of oats

1 cup of self raising flour

1/4 cup of vegan protein powder or ground seeds (chia, pumpkin, flax seeds, etc.)

1 mashed banana

1 tbsp. nut butter or tahini

2 tbsp. maple syrup

2 cups of unsweetened soy milk (or other plant milk)

Coconut oil (for frying)

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How it’s made:

Grind the oats using a food processor (or use oat flour, a bit less than a cup)

Mix the ground oats, flour and protein powder/ground seeds in a large bowl.

Add the mashed banana, nut butter/tahini, maple syrup and milk and whisk until combined.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and oil it lightly with coconut oil before frying each batch of pancakes.

Pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the frying pan for each pancake.

Fry each pancake for a few minutes either side, until lightly brown on either side.

Serve with fruit, maple syrup, nut butter, etc.

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Why are we Judged for Extended Breastfeeding?

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week and so I saw a lot of articles about breastfeeding, mostly very positive.  But I was also sad to see a lot of negative comments and judgement about extended breastfeeding (which is not extended at all, of course, but is natural).  Vegans don’t always breastfeed but I thought this was especially interesting and strange from a vegan point of view.

From vegan parents I’ve met, it seems quite common for vegans to breastfeed for a longer time or until natural weaning age.  I think this is great for vegan kids (or any kids) because, even though kids can get all their nutrients from solid food by about 12 months, we are mammals and naturally would drink breast milk for years, and it has many benefits.  I would have thought since some people (wrongly) think that vegan diets are so lacking in nutrients, that they’d be happy for vegan kids to get breast milk for as long as possible.

But a lot of people have the opinion that a parent breastfeeding past 12 months (or even younger) is selfish, pointless or harmful in some way.  These are probably the same people who say a child needs cows’ milk to be healthy.  Sure, cows’ milk provides nutrients, but human milk is more naturally suited for a human child’s needs.  It provides calcium, iron, protein, healthy fats, vitamin B12, (all things people worry about vegans getting enough of) and much more.  As well as having many benefits that cows’ milk doesn’t have, such as supporting the immune system.  Breast milk continues to have benefits for as long as the child is breastfed.  The goodness doesn’t just disappear when the child reaches 12 months.  It doesn’t make any sense that cows’ milk would be necessary but that human milk would have no benefits, as some people think.

The natural age of weaning for humans is thought to be somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years.  The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years or longer, wherever you live in the world.  Yet I’ve seen people saying breastfeeding is weird “once the baby gets teeth”, “when they can walk” and “when they can ask for it” (which was 4 months, 9 months and 11 months for my second baby).  Strange that they think it’s weird to breastfeed an infant who can walk, say “boob” or has teeth, but that it’s completely normal for adults to drink the milk of another species.  I saw an article recently by a nutritionist saying that children should have cows’ milk until at least age 10, but why would they need milk after the natural age of weaning?  Even if a child is younger than the natural age of weaning, they can get their nutrients from other food as well.

There are also many toddlers who drink toddler formula, which most people would have no problem with.  If people see it as normal for an older child to drink a breast milk substitute then they should surely see breastfeeding an older child as normal too.  I saw an article today saying that toddler formula is unnecessary and parents could simply use regular cows’ milk.  But it failed to mention that parents who breastfeed could continue throughout toddlerhood and beyond, if they wanted, as that is completely normal.  They could have helped to normalise extended breastfeeding, instead of making cows’ milk sound like the only option.

I think if people saw a cow, dog, or other animal feeding their young, they would think it was cute, even if the “baby” was quite big.  So why is it weird if I feed my 15 month old?  I’m tired of other people thinking their opinion on how I raise my kids or what I do with my body actually matters.  I don’t judge those who choose that it’s best for them to not breastfeed or to stop at a certain age.  We are doing what we choose and what is best for our families and shouldn’t be judged for that.

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Can Vegans Use Baby Formula?

A question I get asked a lot is if vegans can use infant formula.  Some vegans will have different opinions.  This is just my opinion.

 

I think of infant formula as being like medicine.  Sometimes it is needed and the general consensus with most vegans, is that if a vegan needs to use medicine then it is morally acceptable to do so.

Some people may need to use infant formula, for medical reasons or because breastfeeding didn’t work out for them for whatever reason, and some may choose to use formula.  They could choose to for many reasons, which are their own reasons, and nobody else’s business, in my opinion.  You can’t force anyone to breastfeed.  It is their choice what to do with their body.

Some vegans may say that our rights should not outweigh the cows’ rights, which I also completely understand.  And I do think that most vegans would try to breastfeed if at all possible for this reason.  And of the vegans I know, most do breastfeed or try their best to breastfeed.

 

There are a small amount of people who are not able to breastfeed for medical reasons.  Then there are a people who try very hard to breastfeed, but encounter problems that they are sometimes not able to overcome and end up having to use formula.

Some may say that they should try harder, but I think if you have talked to people who have struggled with breastfeeding, and seen how hard it is for some people, and how hard they try, that you would not judge them for not being able to continue.  I had some problems with breastfeeding my first baby at the start, and luckily was able to overcome them and continue breastfeeding, but I almost wasn’t able to.

I think it would be more helpful to offer support and help to parents who are struggling with breastfeeding, than to criticise or judge them.  Most breastfeeding problems can be overcome with the right help, but parents need support.

 

If a parent is unable to breastfeed, then they need to feed their child.  Donor breast milk would be the next best option, but if that is not available then they would need to use formula.

There are currently no 100% vegan formulas available.  There are some soy formulas, which contain vitamin D from sheep’s wool.  This is the closest you can get to vegan formula.  They are properly formulated for infants so should be nutritionally suitable.

Some people may recommend making homemade vegan infant formula but I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s not medically recommended.

 

I struggled with breastfeeding my first baby for the first two months and ended up supplementing with formula for a while.  He had a tongue tie, which caused me a lot of pain when feeding him.  This led to other problems, and even though I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, it was too difficult for me to do so.  We got his tongue tie released and I was able to build up my milk supply again, stop giving him formula, and continue breastfeeding for a long time.  So I completely understand and sympathise who those who are struggling with breastfeeding.  Some may overcome their problems, and some may not.  And many people might have no problems at all.  I tried my best and I think that is the important thing.  When you’re vegan, you try to avoid using animal products as far as possible, and sometimes it may not be possible to avoid them completely.

 

The breastfeeding rate here in Ireland is very low and there is a lot of bad advice given to people, and not much support for those who want to breastfeed.  I think the best way to help with this is to offer friendly and non-judgemental support.

 

 

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Vegan Kids in the News

If you’re vegan, you’ve probably seen a few articles about vegan kids who got sick, or unfortunately some who died.  And people commenting on them to say “I knew it!  This proves being vegan isn’t healthy!” and accusing all vegan parents of child abuse and “forcing their decisions on their kids”.   Maybe people send the articles to you or have told you, “I heard of a vegan kid once who got sick.”  They’ll usually be brought up in any debate about vegan kids.

These articles generally focus on the parents or child being vegan instead of on facts like that, in a lot of cases, they had an inadequate diet.  They also don’t mention that most vegan kids are perfectly healthy and that vegan parents usually make sure their kids eat a balanced diet.

One example, that people mention a lot, is of a very sad case of a baby whose parents fed them a diet of soy milk (not infant formula) and apple juice.  This is obviously not an appropriate diet for an infant. The parents could have used properly formulated soy infant formula or breast milk if available, which would have been a totally acceptable diet.  If a couple were not vegan and fed their child cows’ milk and apple juice, for example, that would also be an inappropriate diet.  So I don’t really think the problem was them being vegan, but them not knowing that a baby needs breast milk or formula.

 

I read an article today about a toddler who is in hospital with a vitamin B12 deficiency.  Surprisingly most of the comments said it was sensationalist and that vegan diets can be healthy if properly planned.  (Maybe they were all vegans, or maybe people are finally realising that vegans can be healthy!)  Of course there were a few comments about how the kid needs a big juicy steak.

There were also a few people who claimed that a vegan diet is never suitable for a child.  I don’t know where they got their information from, but it goes against what most experts say.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say “Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers.” They are the largest group of dieticians in the US.  I don’t know why unqualified people on the internet think they know better.

The article also mentioned that the child was being tested to see if they had a medical condition that caused the B12 deficiency, but most people won’t read much more than the headline.  And the headline, of course, said the child was sick because of being raised vegan.

 

That headline is not exactly true.  The child is not sick just because of being raised vegan, but because of not getting enough vitamin B12, whether due to having a poorly planned vegan diet or because of a medical condition, they don’t know yet.  I really hope that the child will be better soon and that the parents do provide a good diet for them.

Strangely, I can’t think of any time that I’ve read a story about a non-vegan kid who was deficient in vitamins.  That doesn’t usually make the news, and if it did, they wouldn’t mention the child is a meat eater in the headline, or probably anywhere in the article.

There are other kids who are deficient in some nutrients.  There are some kids who have illnesses related to their diets.  There are kids who are obese.  But usually the only kids whose diets are mentioned in the news are a handful of vegan kids.  I assume that is because veganism is controversial to a lot of people, or because people love to hate vegans, so they are giving the readers what they want.

 

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Oran, my healthy vegan baby

 

 

Being vegan, you do have to be a bit careful and make sure you have a varied diet with a good source of vitamin B12 (it’s generally recommended to supplement).  But you have to be careful with any diet.  Meat eaters can be deficient in vitamin B12 and other nutrients too.  People can get sick if they don’t have a balanced diet, whether vegan or not.

Kids can live on chicken nuggets and chips and hardly anyone will care.  If they become deficient in something, will it make the news?  I hope most people would acknowledge that it can be hard to get a kid to eat healthily and won’t blame the parents.  But if they were vegan they would be criticised even if their child eats very healthily.

I think a lot of vegan parents feel like we have to work extra hard to give our kids healthy meals to show the world that they eat healthily.  I know non-vegan kids can be very healthy too and everyone can get criticised by others.  But being vegan seems to draw extra criticism.  It’s pretty frustrating if our children eat healthier diets than a lot of kids but we are held to a higher standard.

 

Most of us vegan parents know that our children’s diets are healthy.  We’ve done a lot of reading about it, plan their diets well, and are confident about our choices.  But for some vegan parents, especially new vegans, it can be really scary to read articles like this.  They might also end up having to constantly defend themselves to worried relatives, friends or doctors.  Or compromise on their beliefs because of social pressure.

That’s one of the reasons that I write this blog.  To show that my kids are very healthy and eat well.  I’ve met loads of vegan parents online and in real life and it’s always so reassuring to see how healthy and full of life their children are.

If these articles stated the truth, that most vegan children are very healthy, but like with any diet, you have to make sure you get all your nutrients, then they’d be a lot more responsible and accurate.

 

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Rian, always full of energy and life

 

 

Vegan Nachos

I think this is going to be our new favourite meal!  It’s healthy, colourful, vegan of course, and, I think, delicious.  I had been meaning to make it for ages and had been mentally planning what toppings I’d add and imagining how it would taste.  I was at the shop yesterday and remembered it, so decided to get all the ingredients, and couldn’t wait to make it!  I made homemade tortilla chips, cashew cheese sauce, roasted cherry tomato salsa, and guacamole (which were all very easy to make) and added some black beans, jalapeños and fresh coriander.  It was the perfect meal!

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To make it quicker and easier, you could use store-bought tortilla chips (a lot of plain salted ones are suitable for vegans).  You can buy healthier brands if you want, or if you want to make the meal more affordable, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi have very cheap ones.  I had a bag of Tesco Value tortilla chips in the cupboard in case mine didn’t work out.

If you want you could use store bought salsa or vegan guacamole, or simply use some chopped tomatoes and avocado instead.  You could also use grated vegan cheese instead of the cashew cheese sauce.  (Though honestly all of these are very quick and easy to make.)  You can use kidney beans if you don’t have black beans or want to make it cheaper.  Or add or change anything you like based on what you have and what you like.

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This is actually a really healthy meal, especially if you make homemade tortilla chips.  It has lots of protein, healthy fats, and fresh veggies.  It also is filling enough to be a meal on its own.

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My kids really loved it.  We made extra tortilla chips and snacked on them all day.  They were so delicious fresh from the oven, still warm and lightly salted.  They thought it was a real treat, but I know they got a lot of goodness from all the avocado, beans and cashews.  If making it for kids you can omit the salt from their portion if you want, make the salsa a bit less spicy and leave out the jalapeños.  I did give my kids some of the salsa, but since it was quite spicy, I just gave them a little bit, and the cashew cheese sauce and avocado helped to balance it out.  They loved it!

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This would be great for a party or movie night.  I think non-vegans would love it too!  I really want to try making it for some friends and see what they think.  I hope you like it and if you try it out please let me know in the comments or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Ingredients:

6 tortillas (or store-bought tortilla chips)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

For the salsa:

250g cherry tomatoes

1/2 a red onion

1 clove of garlic

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 flat tsp. ground cumin

1/4-1/2 of a jalapeño or other chili

A dash of paprika

A squeeze of lime juice

A small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

Sea salt

For the cashew cheese sauce:

1 cup of cashews

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

1 clove of garlic

A dash of turmeric and paprika (for colour)

Sea salt

For the guacamole:

1 ripe avocado

A squeeze of lime juice

A squeeze of lemon juice

1/4 of a mild-medium red chili

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tbsp. plain soya yoghurt (optional)

A few fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

Sea salt

Other toppings:

1 tin of black beans

A jar of jalapeño slices

Fresh coriander

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How it’s made:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Slice the tortillas into wedges (about 8 from each tortilla).  Brush the tortilla wedges on either side with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle very lightly with sea salt.  Spread the tortilla wedges on baking trays, in a single layer, and bake in batches.  Bake for 5 minutes, then turn over and bake on the other side for 3-5 minutes, until browning at the edges.  Keep an eye on them as they can overcook quickly.  They will go crunchier when they cool down.  Different types of tortillas may take a different amount of time to cook.  When cooked, set them aside.  Leave the oven on.

For the salsa, peel and dice the half a red onion.  Place the whole cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, and whole unpeeled garlic clove on a baking tray.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and mix everything to coat it.  Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the tomato skins are just starting to brown.  When they are cooked, pop the garlic out of its skin and discard the skin.  Put the tomatoes, red onion, and garlic in a food processor or blender.  Add the other salsa ingredients (start off with a little bit of chili and add more if you want) and pulse until it’s blended to the consistency that you like.  I like a slightly chunky salsa.  I like the salsa cold so chilled it in the fridge at this stage, but you can serve it warm or at room temperature if you like.

For the cashew cheese sauce, peel the garlic clove and blend up all the ingredients with water until smooth.  I add a half a cup of water at first, and add a little more if needed, to reach the consistency that you want.  If you make it too runny, add some more cashews.

For the guacamole, mash the avocado flesh in a bowl.  Add the lime and lemon juice and mix up.  Finely chop the chilli and add to the bowl.  I don’t add much chilli since the salsa will be spicy.  Finely chop the coriander and mix in along with the salt, oil and soya yoghurt (if using).  The lime and lemon juice should help stop the avocado browning but I would still use it pretty quickly.

Drain and rinse the black beans.

To serve, arrange the tortilla chips on a large plate, or a few plates.  Drizzle the cashew cheese sauce over them, then the salsa, sprinkle over the black beans, some jalapeño slices (as many as you like), put a big scoop of guacamole on top and scatter over some fresh coriander (cilantro).  You can squeeze some of the rest of the lime over it as well if you like.

Optional: Sing Homer Simpson’s “Nacho Nacho Man” song while eating.

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