The One Thing You Need for a Healthy Holiday Season

Sounds too good to be true right? But it really does come down to one thing:

Balance.

You don’t want to overindulge, of course, but you don’t want to over-stress either. That goes food and partying as well as gifting, decorating and all other aspects of the season. Celebrate within your means and you will come out on the other side just as happy as you went in.

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It’s a known statistic that the average person gains 3-5 lbs over the holiday season. If you don’t work that off next year, in two years time that’s 6-10 lbs. That’s enough to stress anyone into a bowl of party mix.

I know there are loads of posts out there like this, but I think when the advice comes from a familiar source, people tend to relate a little more. So for my family, friends, & faithful followers, here are my personal suggestions for finding balance this holiday season; for sticking to your commitment to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoying every minute of it!

* Eat before you eat

Yes, you heard right. It’s better to eat a healthy snack before an event with food than to “save up” all day. Eat lighter foods throughout the day like salads & veggies but don’t allow yourself to arrive at a party starving. Eating beforehand is especially important for vegans & vegetarians because the options may be limited.

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* Balance your plate

Scan the food table before making any selections. Fill the majority of your plate with the healthiest foods available then take a little bit of the limited edition foods. These L.E. foods are those that are only around during the holidays, like your mom’s famous  potato stuffing for example. Think of these foods as being “heavier” so you need less of them to balance your plate. Dessert is always considered an L.E. food.

* Don’t drink your calories

Easier said than done, I know. I’ve learned that I enjoy a “drink” most before my meal, while socializing and waiting for the food to be ready. If you’re one who prefers a drink with food, sip on club soda with lime beforehand. If you know you’re in for more than a one drink, try to have one glass of water for every drink to slow your consumption.

If holiday lattes are your thing, save them for special occasions like parades and tree lightings. Try my healthier candy cane hot chocolate on a regular night, which you may find will substitute for the sugary version just fine 😉

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* Sweat first 

I’m much more likely to get my workout in if I do it first thing in the morning, before the day gets ahead of me. If you don’t have time for a full session, break it up into two smaller workouts or at least aim for a balanced week of both strength training and cardio. Try some of these 30 minute holiday workouts.

* Fuel your body

Start your day with a balanced breakfast: protein, carbs & healthy fats. For a quick breakfast or snack try one of my smoothies of the month from the recipe page. You can add some protein powder or hemp seeds to any recipe for a macronutrient boost!

If you’re heading out for a day of shopping, pack your purse (or girlfriend’s purse) with healthy snacks so you won’t be tempted by the food court; protein bars, fruit, veggie sticks, or my warrior balls are perfect for this. If stopping for lunch is part of the day, plan it so you can eat somewhere with a healthy option.

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* Be mindful

This applies to everything. Savour your limited edition foods, focus on your form in that 30 minute workout, and “be” in each moment with your family & friends. You get the most of out of life when you are truly present in each moment. This one’s tough for me but yoga is a big help! Maybe it’s all of the balance postures?

* Don’t stress!

Seriously. The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. No one expects you to be perfect except you. Give yourself a break and just enjoy the season for what its really about – friends, family, peace, love, and for me, J.C! Stress is the #1 thing that leads to overeating and then we enter that vicious cycle of stress-eat-stress (i.e. no balance at all).

Family

Stick to your gifting budget.
Don’t strive for perfection.
Skip that visit to your least favourite person’s house.

Last but certainly not least, take some time for yourself to recharge. To give people your best, you need to first take care of YOU!

It’s never going to be easy, and unfortunately I can’t give you willpower in a box for Christmas, but if you strive for balance not only will you have a happier, healthier holiday season, but an enhanced life on all levels.

Take care,

Liz xo

Healthier Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Welcome to the week!

I can’t believe it’s the last week of November already. Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving this week and the holidays will be in full swing.

Today is the first day of the Elf 4 Health Holiday Challenge and I’m so excited to be participating this year. Its basically a set of challenges, one per day for the next 2 weeks, with a buddy system to motivate you to stay on track throughout the holiday season. My elf for round 1 is a lovely lady named Shelley. You can find her via Instagram @healthy_is_happiness.

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In the spirit of a healthy holiday season, I’ve created a lighter alternative to the ever popular candy cane hot chocolate. I like to save my decadent holidays drinks for festive events like parades & tree lightings but what about those nights at home, curled up with a blanket & The Santa Clause?

I love my Celestial Seasonings candy cane tea but sometimes a girl just needs a little chocolate 😉

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Healthier Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1.5 tbsp maple syrup or unrefined sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • garnish with 2 whole candy canes

Warm the first 3 ingredients in a pot then stir in the extracts. Transfer to a mug and garnish with candy canes but don’t let them sit too long or the sugar will melt into your drink.

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Indulge, guilt-free 😉

Liz xo

Walking on Sunshine

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I am both surprised and honoured to have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the lovely Catherine at VegCharlotte! This isn’t the usual sort of post you would see from me but it’s fun to take part in interactive blogging so I’m going to accept 🙂

The rules for Sunshine Award are:

1   Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2   Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3   Answer the same 10 questions given.
4   Nominate up to 10 blogs for the award, a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5   Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

Sunshine Q&A:

1. Where would you most like to travel to?

I would love to travel to Europe. I’ll start with London, Paris & Rome but I’d like to see the entire continent. Europe is so far ahead when it comes to fashion, music, green-living, and animal rights. Did you know Europe has banned the sale of animal-testing products? Love it!

2. Do you have a sweet tooth?

No, I have 14 of them! Sweets are definitely my weakness. I now make more of an effort to choose more naturally sweetened foods. I try to avoid refined sugar altogether and limit my treats to special occasions but sometimes you just need a cookie!

3. What motivates you to keep you blogging?

My constant excitement for all things health & fitness and my burning desire to share it with the world! I would love for everyone I know to discover how great their bodies are designed to feel.

4. Who is your favourite comedian?

I enjoy a little Louis C.K. But who doesn’t love Ellen?

5. What is your favourite outdoor activity?

I love hiking. It’s more intense than walking but you can still enjoy a conversation with a friend. Being in nature is calming, refreshing, and proven to be good for your health 😉

6. Who was your favourite teacher and why? 

I will never forget, Ms. MacKinnon, grade 2. Yes, that was a long time ago but her and my mom were great friends for a long time after that and she still holds a special place in my heart.

7. Do you own any pets?

Not at the moment, but definitely in the future!

8. Most embarrassing moment in your life?

I can’t pinpoint the MOST embarrassing moment, but once I was at a bar in Toronto and I didn’t know there was a step up to the dance floor (how stupid is that?!) and I was running for my favourite song and … you can guess the rest lol

9. Where are you from?

The beautiful Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. I grew up in Glace Bay where I lived until I was 21.

10. How much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 

It would chuck more would than a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. That’s all I got. I’m not really that funny.

Nominations

I made my nominations based on blogs I like to follow and also who I thought might be interested in accepting. I know this isn’t every blogger’s kind of thing. If you’ve already received or simply aren’t interested, no pressure! Just move along and continue being the lovely blogger you are 🙂

Colleen @ C How I Do
Georgia @ Georgia’s Trying Something New
Celeste @ Honk If You’re Vegan
Hannah @ Clean Eating Veggie Girl
Victoria @ Minus 33
Margaret @ Plant Strong Vegan
Megan @ Whole Food Runner
Anastasia @ Working Out & Eating In
Joey @ Road to a 100 
Poppy @ Poppy’s Patisserie

Have a sunny day!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: Stability Ball Jack Knife

Christmas came early at our house!

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As much as I love the gym and group-ex classes, sometimes I just like to do my own thing at home. I am especially looking forward to having the weights during the winter months when the last thing I want to do is drive to the gym on a snow day.

I am so super excited about the stability ball because I’ve been wanting to share my favourite fitness moves with the ball for a while now.  I also have some killer core workouts in mind. Stay tuned 😉

Some other recent news:

  • The blog has a Facebook page! This was the last form of social media to connect with the blog. I thought I would like to share my posts through my personal Timeline but I decided I’d prefer to keep them separate. This will allow me to better connect with the blogging community and my FB friends can choose whether or not to follow the page.
  • The polls are now open to VOTE for your favourite VVP Nov 2013 recipes!! If you were a fan of my Spinach & Artichoke Dip, please take a minute to vote for it for best appetizer and I could win one of eight vegan cookbooks. Click HERE to vote now. There is also a Pinterest contest where the recipe with the most re-pins wins $125 in NuNaturals products! You have to re-pin from the VVP November 2013 Pinterest Board. You can re-pin my recipe HERE 🙂

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Now on to some fitness! I love this move because it works almost your entire body: shoulders, arms, upper & lower back, full core, legs… you get the picture. I’ve you’ve been following my posts for a while you know I love multi-tasking moves.

Fit Friday: Stability Ball Jack Knife

AKA: Swiss, Stability, or Exercise Ball Jack Knife or Leg Tuck
Weight/Equipment: Stability Ball
Reps: 3 sets of 15-20

Method:

Get into a high plank position, hands directly under shoulders, with the tops of your ankles flat on the stability ball. You don’t want to be on your toes or your shins.

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Engage your core and bring your knees into your chest, rolling your feet across the ball. Now you want to be on your toes. Avoid rounding your back since this takes the work out of your core.

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Return to starting position by rolling your feet over the ball in the opposite direction.

At all times, keep your core and shoulders engaged and your back flat. Repeat 15-20 times as part of a circuit or complete 3 sets during your workout.

For more Fit Friday moves & workouts check out the Fitness Page!

Also, don’t forget to check out the FB page after you VOTE & Pin 🙂

Liz xo

VVP Favourites

Hey friends 🙂

How’s your week going? Mine is flying by! I don’t mean to rush my life away but my guy is traveling for the week and I’m looking forward to having him back for the weekend. On Friday we are going to the sold out NB Spirits Festival (formerly, Whiskey Festival) with a group from work. It’s a tasting event with various brands of spirits and ticket holders get discounts on the featured products. I’m not a big spirits drinker but I love the buzz of a big event!

With Friday in mind, I’ve been trying to be extra good this week. Zucchini noodles with my favourite raw alfredo sauce has been my go-to dinner for the past few nights.

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If you recall my No Cheats November commitment, I did say I was going to be flexible for holiday events, Friday being one of them. I will be limiting my drinks and avoiding the hors d’oeuvres. I will also be sure to get a workout in on Sat or Sun. Today is day 10/34 since I am sticking to this until Dec 15.

Did you get a chance to stop by the November 2013 Virtual Vegan Potluck? Simply stated, the VVP is an event that is now held twice a year to virtually bring vegan bloggers together for a potluck. Everyone “brings” their favourite dish and the potluck is linked up from start to finish, blogger to blogger, with buttons to “go back” and “go forward” to lead you along the virtual table.

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November 2013 was my first time participating in the potluck. I brought Spinach & Artichoke Dip for an appetizer and appreciate everyone who stopped by and left a comment 🙂 Over the past few days I was able to make my way through every recipe on the list and do some Pinning. There were so many original ideas, veganized childhood comfort meals, and new-to-me foods from bloggers all over the world.

Did you know:

  • pomegranates are native to Israel? It’s even a national symbol. Apparently Israel is an amazing food experience too. Thanks for that Andrea!
  • you shouldn’t have fat in your post-workout recovery drink? This totally makes sense to me now. Fat slows the digestion of the protein and carbs that you want to immediately replenish after a workout.
  • beets are so much more versatile than you’ve ever imagined? They were incorporated into every category of the potluck and in every form, including the juice pulp and the beet greens!

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In case you didn’t get to visit the potluck, I’ve highlighted a few of the recipes that caught my attention. They were all amazing but the following stood out to me for specific reasons; often because they were healthier options or foods I haven’t had since making the plant-based transition.

November 2013 Virtual Vegan Potluck Favourites

Raw Vegan Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball from Vedged Out

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The cheese ball used to be one of my favourite holiday foods. So much tastier and so much more fun than a conventional block of cheese. Not only does this recipe look & sound to die for, but Somer says you can whip it up in just 10 minutes! When reading the ingredients list I realized I even had almost everything on hand. A heads up to my family: there will be a vegan cheese ball this Christmas!

Sweet Potato and Korean BBQ Bites from That Was Vegan?

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Barb’s blog title serves her well. The first thing I thought when I saw this appetizer was, ” Wow, that was vegan?!”. My boyfriend would flip over these BBQ bites. We don’t follow the same diet but he will eat whatever I make at home so I often try to cook things that make him forget about the absent meat 😉

Apples with Roasted Beet Tartare, Cashew Cheese and Candied Walnuts  from Luminous Vegans

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This just looked too potluck-perfect not to share. What a simple hors d’ouevre to pass around at a holiday party. I love something that I can take one of and not have to worry about hanging around the dip bowl (though I do love dips!)

Potluck Harvest Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette from Chic Vegan

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The only thing better than a harvest salad is a harvest vinaigrette. I love eating salads for lunch anytime of the year, but my salad styles changes with the season. In summer I like berries, citrus fruits & light, fruit vinaigrettes. In the colder months, I like something like this with a rich, possibly warm, dressing. Yum!

Edamame Power Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing from 86 Lemons

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Another salad because I am the salad queen! My go-to protein option for salads is usually chickpeas but I often opt for edamame as a lower carb source of protein. I also can’t wait to try it with the avocado lime dressing, another good option for winter salads.

Chocolate Protein Recovery Tonic from The Veggie Nook

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This was definitely something different for a potluck, but it am in love with the idea of a hot smoothie! I had a smoothie for breakfast almost everyday from May to November but now its just too cold in the mornings. Thought I love my oatmeal, I miss how light I feel after a smoothie for breakfast. This is the perfect solution plus a great post-workout drink!

Rosemary Scalloped Sweet Potatoes from Girl Eats Greens

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Do I even need to say anything? Scalloped potatoes were one of my all time favourite childhood foods. Whether it was homemade or the Betty Crocker packaged version (blush) I was crazy for it. This is the first plant-based scalloped potato recipe I’ve came across and I bet it would be just as lovely with white potatoes. Thank you Jamie!

Quinoa Lentil Soup from Quinoa, Kale and Exhale

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A few months ago I was really into quinoa & lentil salad. I would mix up a big batch of quinoa, lentils, tomatoes, lemon juice, and loads of spices. I ate it for sides, atop greens, mixed with other veggies, etc. Then I ate myself sick of it. Then I couldn’t decide what to do with all of the quinoa and lentils in my cupboard. THIS is what I will do 🙂

Vegan Onion Rings from The Fresh Direction

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Who doesn’t love onion rings? This recipe post features a BBQ veggie burger but it was the side of onion rings that really caught my eye. Onion rings normally aren’t vegan because of the egg in the batter but to be honest, I usually avoid anything deep fried anyway. Not only are these babies veg-certified, but they are actually fairly healthy!

Layered Coconut Mousse with Chocolate Brownie and Caramelized Nuts from Poppy’s Patisserie

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“This dessert isn’t overly sweet but it is very decadently rich – a little goes a long way…” – Poppy. I’m sure the dessert as a whole would be totally amazing but I was drawn in by the brownies. I’ve been struggling in the vegan brownie department and Poppy said they were the best brownies she’s ever eaten. Must. Make!

{Raw} Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie from Vegan Heritage Press

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Every holiday my mom makes us her Best Ever Homemade Apple Pie. It’s pretty darn good. Ask anyone! Now, me being me, I would LOVE to contribute a healthy plant-based dessert to the holiday dinner sometime. This apple pie looks super easy to make plus it won’t kill your diet. It uses dates and raisins for sweetness (not sugar) and has a nut crust. It can even be made raw if you have a dehydrator!

So tell me…

Did you find any keepers from the VVP?

Are you drawn to recipes that are healthier or more decadent?

Liz xo

Warm Spinach & Apple Salad in Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

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I said I was only going to take out a few things. It turns out I really only have a few things besides the tree so I just went all out and finished the job.

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I’m sooo happy I did because now it’s starting to feel like the holidays in here 🙂 Not to mention it smells like peppermint mocha Mmmm. The season comes and goes so fast so I like to enjoy it as much as possible.

We had a pretty relaxing weekend. Friday night we met some friends at our favourite Thai restaurant in Saint John. I learned my favourite curry is actually the only vegan-friendly dish on the menu. Win! Saturday I hit up my favourite morning BodyStep class & spent the rest of day out & about with my guy. I also spent some time in the kitchen, of course, making these protein bars for the week, sweet potato hummus (recipe to come) and Oh She Glow’s lightened up granola! I will warn you… this granola is addictive. Do not leave it sitting on your counter.

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I also made an old favourite for a Saturday afternoon lunch. Years ago my mom introduced me to this warm spinach & apple salad but I can’t remember exactly how the recipe goes. I knew there was no way she’d remember (sorry mom!) so I just winged it.

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It turned out exactly how I remembered: sweet, rich, & the perfect way to get your greens on a cool winter’s day. Before you get started, know you can alter the ratios of vinegar to oil to sweetener to suit your taste. I don’t like my dressing too “vinegar-y” so I went with 1:1 oil to vinegar. I also thought 2 tbsp of maple syrup was better than one.

Warm Spinach & Apple Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 4

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups spinach
  • 2 medium apples, sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pecans (toasted if desired)

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Heat dressing in a large pan on low-medium heat.
  3. Add sliced apples and cook 3-4 min, until starting to soften. Add sliced mushrooms and cook another few min until also soft.
  4. Place spinach on plates and top with the apples & mushrooms, drizzling any remaining dressing over the greens.
  5. Top with cranberries & pecans and enjoy!

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Has anyone else tried cooking with these ceramic non-stick pans?! Oh my gawwwd. They’re like a dream. I got this one for $30 at Stokes and I am definitely going back for a smaller one. You could cook without oil but things like veggies get a little dried out. Nothing sticks. No need to scrape. You can rinse it after cooking and it’s like you didn’t even use it.

Move over boyfriend, I have a new love of my life!

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So, do you enjoy warm salads?

Have you tried  cooking with a ceramic pan?

Liz xo

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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You are either making your way through the appetizer section of the VVP or you’ve just stumbled upon my post and are wondering, what in the world is this?? If its the latter, click here for more info about the VVP or click here to start from the beginning. Otherwise, feast on!

I decided to “bring” an appetizer that I posted back in August. I was having some technical difficulties at the time and this post didn’t get published correctly. It’s one of the best vegan dips I’ve had and I never felt it got the credit it deserves. I can shamelessly say that because I got this recipe from a neighbour 😉 For the story behind the recipe, check out the original post.

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What better opportunity to share this delicious vegan dip than during the November 2013 Virtual Vegan Potluck! I am so excited to be taking part in such a huge event in the plant-based blogosphere. There are about 150 participants in total, including 22 in the appetizer section alone. I highly suggest you check out some other blogger contributions to the potluck.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Serves: 6-12
Prep time: 20 min
Total time: 50 min

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1. Dip base:

  • 500 g package frozen (or canned) artichoke hearts
  • 500 g package frozen spinach
  • 1 1/2 heaping cup Daiya mozzarella style cheese
  1. Defrost all veggies.
  2. Chop artichokes into small pieces.
  3. Drain spinach very well by placing it into a round strainer and pressing down on it with a bowl that fits into the strainer.

2. Cashew cream sauce:

  • 1/2 cup cashews (be generous), soaked at least 1 hr
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp mellow white miso
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Blend all cream sauce ingredients (except salt & pepper) in a high speed blender or food processor until smooth, then season with S&P to taste.

3. Breadcrumbs (optional):

  • 2 large slices whole grain bread of choice, torn into pieces (use GF bread if you’re gluten free)
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until broken into crumbs.

4. Assembly:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine spinach, artichokes, and Daiya shreds in a large bowl.
  3. Add cashew cream sauce to the bowl and evenly distribute ingredients. Mixture should be nice and wet.
  4. Transfer ingredients to a casserole dish and bake for 20-30 min or until bubbly around the edges.
  5. Top with (optional) bread crumbs when nearly done and bake until crumbs are lightly browned.
  6. Serve with baked pita triangles and/or tortilla chips.

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Now that you’ve added some of the best dip ever to your plate, make your way down the virtual table for the next delicious appetizer or turn around if you’re just getting started (or maybe looking for seconds ;)… )

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In case you ran into any broken links along the way, here’s the list of participants (in order) to help you get back on track! You can also view the recipes from the May 2013 edition of the Virtual Vegan Potluck on Pinterest here; all pinned on one convenient board.

If you’d like to start from the beginning, here’s the link to the host page, Vegan Bloggers Unite!

Just make sure you save room for dessert! It’s only early 😉

Liz xo