45 episodes

Vegetarian and vegan information, tips, recipes, and more presented in a light, conversational, and nonjudgmental manner. We welcome input and feedback from our followers regarding issues you would like us to address as well as ways in which we can improve. Please don't hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help. If you enjoy and find value in our podcast, we would very much appreciate a favorable review on iTunes. This would help us tremendously. Thanks, and we hope you enjoy Vegetarian Zen.

Vegetarian Zen Vickie Velasquez & Larissa Galenes

    • Nutrition

Vegetarian and vegan information, tips, recipes, and more presented in a light, conversational, and nonjudgmental manner. We welcome input and feedback from our followers regarding issues you would like us to address as well as ways in which we can improve. Please don't hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help. If you enjoy and find value in our podcast, we would very much appreciate a favorable review on iTunes. This would help us tremendously. Thanks, and we hope you enjoy Vegetarian Zen.

    The Top 9 Kitchen Tools Helping Us Get Healthier in 2020 (VZ 345)

    The Top 9 Kitchen Tools Helping Us Get Healthier in 2020 (VZ 345)

    Before we get into our top kitchen tools going into a 2020, we want to stress that you do NOT need to spend a lot of money to get healthy!

    We’ve accumulated many of these tools over YEARS. In this episode, we simply want to share some of the things we’re using that are making our lives just a little easier as we head into a new year in which we’ll be focusing on our health.

    You can listen to us talk about our kitchen tools here or read on for a quick summary:


    Our Top 9 Kitchen Tools


    Vitamix 1365 CIA Professional Series Blender

    First on our list of kitchen tools is one of the first appliances we purchased when we became vegetarians in 2013. Our Vitamix blender turns 7 this year and is still going strong! 

    We primarily use this blender for smoothies and LOOOOVE the way it simply pulverizes foods. Seeds and protein powders are grounded up nicely in this high-powered blender, ensuring smoothies have no gritty texture.  

    You can make quick bread batter and soups right in the Vitamix, too. 

    While the price for this blender can be a bit steep, keep in mind that you’re playing for a very high quality tool. 

    Follow this link for a more in-depth review of the Vitamix blender.



    Omega VRT350 Juicer

    The Omega VRT350 Juicer is another appliance we’ve had for a long time. 

    We decided to invest in this kitchen tool because, as a low speed masticating juicer it slowly squeezes the juice from fruits and vegetables so that it maintains as much of the nutritional value as possible.  

    It’s a heavy appliance but doesn’t take up a lot of counter space. 

    For more details, check out our updated review of the Omega VRT350 juicer here.



    Plan To Eat

    Plan to Eat is a meal planning calendar and grocery list maker that we’ve used for years.

    There is a strong positive correlation between how healthy we’re eating and how much we’re using this tool. The more we use it to plan meals, the less inclined we are to make poor eating choices. 

    Plan to Eat allows you to add and organize recipes and drag those recipes onto a calendar to plan them. The software automatically creates a grocery shopping list based on your planned recipes. 

    By providing tools that streamline the meal planning process Plan to Eat equips households to eat better food, eat together, save money at the grocery store, and have a less stressful cooking experience in the kitchen. 

    Visit vegetarianzen.com/plantoeat for more info. They offer a 30 day free trial (no credit card required). Then it’s only $4.95 a month or $39 a year (you save some money by subscribing yearly).



    My Fitness Pal

    “What gets tracked gets managed” is something I very much believe in, which is why we decided to invest some time researching a good tool to help us track our nutrition. 

    My Fitness Pal isn’t exactly a “kitchen tool” but rather an app that helps us make better decisions in the kitchen. 

    It tracks various nutrients in the foods you eat, including calories, protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals ingredients.

    • 28 min
    7 of the Healthiest Seeds You Can Eat (and Some Ways to Eat Them!) (VZ 344)

    7 of the Healthiest Seeds You Can Eat (and Some Ways to Eat Them!) (VZ 344)

    Seeds — what they lack in size, they MORE than make up for in nutritional value! Here are 7 of the healthiest seeds you can eat to give you an extra nutritional boost!

    You can listen to us discuss these “fab 7” seeds below or read on for a quick review of what we discuss:



    I (Vickie) eat flax seeds pretty regularly. Our local grocery store’s organic brand offers instant oatmeal with added flax, which makes it super easy to add flax to my diet.

    Another easy way to consume flax seed is in a smoothie. A high-powered blender like our Vitamix  blends everything so smoothly that adding seeds to a smoothie doesn’t result in a gritty drink. 


    Benefits of Flax Seeds

    Great source of Omega-3 fatty acids

    Good source of healthy fats

    Good source of fiber


    Some Ways to Eat Flax Seeds

    Added to smoothies

    Mixed in to cooked oatmeal

    Added to quick bread batter


    Pepita (Pumpkin Seeds)

    I love pumpkin, so I’m a little embarrassed to say that I only recently discovered the yumminess of pumpkin seeds. 

    In addition to being yummy, pumpkin seed nutrition is impressive. 


    Benefits of Pepita

    The ONLY alkaline-forming seed. Many foods these days produce acid, which leads to inflammatory responses in the body. Eating pumpkin seeds can help to “alkalize” your body and protect against disease. 

    High in antioxidants

    VERY high in magnesium 

    High in fiber

    Can lower blood sugar levels

    Good source of iron

    Good source of zinc


    Some Ways to Eat Pepitas

    Sprinked on salads

    Roasted (we are including a video from Minimalist Baker to show you how to roast pumpkin seeds) 

    Added to quick bread batter

    In granola (many store-bought granolas already contain pumpkin seeds)




    Episode 227 of the podcast was entirely focused on “ch-ch-ch-chia seeds”! 

    Benefits of Chia Seeds

    A great source of omega-3

    Help to raise your HDL (good cholesterol) 

    Great source of fiber

    Great source of protein

    Loaded with antioxidants


    Some Ways to Eat Chia Seeds

    Added to smoothies

    Chia Seed Pudding (recipe from Cookie + Kate). This is a GREAT, healthy breakfast or snack! 

    Added to your favorite homemade salad dressing

    Added to breadcrumb coating for tofu, veggies, etc.



    To be completely honest, sesame seeds aren’t my favorite. I will eat them, but when Larissa cooks with them she tends to use less just because I’m not a huge fan of the taste.

    What I AM a huge fan of is their health benefits, which is why I still eat sesame. 


    Benefits of Sesame Seeds

    Good source of fiber

    Great source of protein

    Good source of B vitamins

    Reduces inflammation

    Bone health


    Some Ways to Eat Sesame Seeds

    Roasted and sprinkled over salads

    Sesame oil

    In hummus

    * Added to dressings and marinades

    • 28 min
    A Review of Our New Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven (VZ 343)

    A Review of Our New Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven (VZ 343)

    Yes, we finally did it! We bought an air fryer!  We decided on a Cuisinart Convection Toaster Air Fryer, which actually does quite a bit more than just air fry (yep, that’s one of the reasons we chose it).

    Back in episode 259 of our podcast, we talked about air frying.

    When we recorded that episode we didn’t have an air fryer of our own but asked for some input from our Peas and Carrots Society on Facebook about their experiences with air frying. We wanted to know if it was awesome…or just a bunch of hot air.

    While the majority of our folks were really digging the air fryer, we weren’t exactly sold. That is, until this past Black Friday when Amazon was running a sale. 

    In this episode of the podcast we discuss our new air fryer. You can listen here or scroll down for a quick summary of what we discuss.



    The Cuisinart Convection Toaster Air Fryer is pretty much ready to go right out of the box; there’s no real “assembly” per se. 

    Parts —

    Main oven unit

    Toaster oven rack

    Rectangular pan

    Rectangular fryer basket


    Counter Footprint

    Being counter-space conscious, we are very happy with the relatively small amount of space this appliance takes up on our counter. It really doesn’t take up much more space than our toaster did (but it does so much more!). 

    It fits perfectly on the countertop under the upper cabinets. When we use it, we just slide it forward a bit. 


    Cooking with the Cuisinart 

    Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. It’s taken us a bit to find the temperature settings that give the best results. For example:

    Toast on the dark setting will turn your bread into a black pile of dust!  


    Because the oven is small, you’ll find that you will need to bake at a lower temperature than packages or recipes specify. Even the instruction booklet states this.


    If you’re making recipes specifically for an air fryer, stated cooking times and temperatures will be fine.  Basically, it just takes some experimenting to get the hang of it! Trust us…there may or may not have been a few over/under cooked foods in our house when we first got this appliance…


    Some Recipes We Tried and Results

    Onion Rings. These came out amazing!! 

    Air fried broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini. Vickie is not a big fan as she prefers veggies to be water cooked (i.e. steamed or blanched). Here’s a good guide for air frying lots of different veggies.

    French Toast Sticks. These delicious French toast sticks are so awesome…and you don’t even need syrup! 

    Frozen biscuits. The key here is to lower the temp quite a bit. 250 to 275 on the convection bake setting for 17-20 minutes is just about right. 

    Air fried tofu. We loved this because the tofu gets crispy on the outside and has a nice fi...

    • 24 min
    How to Cook Quinoa and What To Do With It (VZ 342)

    How to Cook Quinoa and What To Do With It (VZ 342)

    Quinoa is one of the BEST plant-based proteins for vegetarians and vegans. In this episode of our podcast, we discuss what quinoa is, how to cook with it, and share a few recipes we’re eager to try.

    You can listen to the podcast here or scroll down for a quick summary of what we discuss along with any resources we mention.

    What is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)?

    To some people, quinoa may seem like a new hipster craze, but it’s actually been around for a very long time.  

    Quinoa is a flowering plant in the amaranth family. Eating quinoa really involves eating just the seeds of the plant. 

    It’s considered an “ancient grain” which means it’s a plant that’s been cultivated for millennia. 

    (Again, though, it’s technically not a grain … it’s a seed). 

    The seeds are eaten similarly to grains like rice. 


    What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

    I like to describe quinoa as tasting a bit like brown rice but without the super nutty, grainy, taste of brown rice that turns me off.

    Instead, quinoa has a milder taste and texture that is somewhat like oatmeal. 


    What Are the Health Benefits of Quinoa?

    Quinoa is CRAZY healthy in general, but specifically for vegetarians and vegans. It’s one of the foods you get to say when you answer the question, “Where do you get your protein?” 

    Quinoa is not only high in protein but it’s considered a COMPLETE protein! 



    That means it has all 9 essential amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, the human body can produce all but these 9, so it’s necessary to get them from foods. Lots of plants have some of these essential aminos, which is great, but finding one that has all 9 is a bonus! 

    In addition to being a great source of protein, quinoa is also a great source of:





    Vitamin E








    Interesting fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, quinoa was chosen as one of the “bonus foods” onboard the International Space Station. It’s being looked at by NASA scientists as something that could potentially be grown in outer space.  


    Is Quinoa Gluten-Free?

    Yes quinoa is gluten-free however, be sure to look for a label on any quinoa you’re buying that says it’s certified GF.  

    Problems with cross-contamination can occur in the manufacturing process whereby quinoa can be grown and harvested in the same facilities where grains such as barley and wheat are also grown.  


    Is Quinoa Considered Keto?

    For those on a Ketogenic (aka Keto) diet, this is probably not the food for you. 

    A keto diet is essentially a low-carb, high-fat diet that is sort of like the modern day “Atkins” diet.  

    Since quinoa has about 39 grams of carbs per cup, that would eat up a lot of the daily carb allowance on a keto diet. 


    So Which is Healthier For Me, Brown Rice or Quinoa?

    In a head-to-head battle, brown rice and quinoa are very well matched! 

    Note: Brown rice is specifically used in this comparison since white rice doesn’t have anywhere near as many health benefits as brown rice. 

    Brown rice and quinoa are closely matched when it comes to:




    Brown Rice wins in the categories of:




    However, we start to see quinoa pull away for the win in the categories of:



    B2 (Riboflavin)





    How to Cook Quinoa

    The 3 main types of quinoa are red, black, and white.

    • 27 min
    Instead of “New Year, New Me” Try This! (VZ 341)

    Instead of “New Year, New Me” Try This! (VZ 341)

    We are knocking on the door of a brand new year which means many people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. “New Year, New Me!” is the rallying cry of many people vowing to start good habits and ditch old bad habits.


    Even so, most people know that the percentage of people who actually accomplish New Year’s resolutions is very small. Forbes estimates that less than 25% of the population are still committed to their resolutions after 30 days. Think that’s bad? Only 8% actually end up accomplishing their goals! 


    This year, instead of “New Year, New Me” we’re offering you 5 ways to think about the upcoming new year that might help increase the odds of you actually moving the needle on those things you deem important for yourself.



    5 Ideas to Try In Place Of “New Year, New Me”



    Decide What You Want

    This may sound simple enough but there is a catch. Think about what you want, but also think about the price you’ll have to pay to have it.  Are you willing to pay that price?

    For example, for the longest time, I wanted to be a professional musician. If I’m honest, I’d say I have some mediocre raw talent that could probably be raised a couple of notches by consistent practice.

    At one time, I was willing to pay the price of daily practice and total commitment to my instrument.  In fact, I even received my BA in Music and toured with a band for a while.

    However, as time went on, I found that being a professional musician was no longer a goal. I wasn’t willing to pay the price and that’s okay. Everyone’s goals change as time goes on.

    One common goal of many at the start of each new year involves diet and exercise. If increasing your exercise and improving your diet are among your goals, think about what you’re really willing to commit to. So many times we set ourselves up for failure with “all or nothing” thinking. Be real with yourself!



    Try Not to Think In Terms of “Resolutions” or “Goals.” Think “Systems” Instead!

    One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard with respect to goals came from Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams:

    “Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do.”

    I was blown away by this idea when I heard it because it made so much sense!



     A great personal example of a successful system we established this year involves exercise. Larissa is NOT a fan of exercise and quit the YMCA after several months of basically donating her dues.

    Rather than spend any more money on a gym membership she wasn’t going to use, we decided to start walking the dogs at our local duck pond prior to dropping off shipments from our vintage store at the post office.

    This system has enabled Larissa to start walking at least 5 days a week!



    Find a Support Group

    Whether in person or online, setting yourself up with a group of people who “get you” will be CRITICAL to helping you succeed.

    If your goal is to run a marathon this year, surround yourself with other runners. Not only can you train together, hanging out with people who share your goals will motivate you and help you stay on track.

    One year, I decided that I really needed to improve my health. I signed up with a personal trainer and stopped hanging out with the “happy hour gang” every week.

    • 20 min
    7 Tips for Navigating the Holidays As Vegetarian or Vegan (VZ 340)

    7 Tips for Navigating the Holidays As Vegetarian or Vegan (VZ 340)

    We are RIGHT in the thick of the holiday season with many people getting together for family, fun, and food! Navigating the holidays can be challenging for ANYONE.

    However, making your way through potlucks and parties can be especially challenging especially if you’re a new vegan or vegetarian or are simply trying to reduce meat consumption.

    Luckily, plant-based eating is becoming less and less of a “fringe” lifestyle as more people are realizing that yes, good food without animal products is ENTIRELY possible!

    Nevertheless, the challenge of finding something to eat at a party or potluck can be a struggle. We’ve put together 7 tips to help you navigate the holidays as a vegetarian or vegan.



    Tip #1: Check in With Your Host First

    These days, with so many people suffering from food allergies or adhering to special diets, a good host will more than likely reach out to guests to check for any sort of dietary restrictions.

    Still, don’t be surprised if your host freaks out a little if they find out you are vegan or vegetarian. In speaking with my own family and friends, several admitted to really worrying that I’d have enough good stuff to eat.  Help put them at ease! This is a great opportunity to help dispel any stereotypes and let them know you’re happy to help in any way you can.

    For example, my brother took over hosting Thanksgiving for the family soon after Larissa and I became vegetarian.

    He admitted not knowing anything at all about what to serve so I helped him understand that Larissa and I prefer the side dishes anyway, so if he could substitute vegetable stock instead of beef or chicken stock in his recipes, that would be helpful.

    Problem averted, AND I also indirectly educated him on how easy it was to use vegetable stock in place of beef or chicken stock!


    Tip #2: Bring Something!

    Probably the safest way to ensure you’ll have something to eat is to bring your own dish.

    This is also a GREAT opportunity to showcase vegetarian and vegan food. There’s nothing quite like someone trying your dish and saying, “That’s vegan??? Wow!”


    Tip #3: Eat First

    Even if you do bring your own dish, it’s often a good idea to eat a little something first so you aren’t starving when you get there. This is a good tip, especially if you are attending a potluck for your job or one that’s being hosted by someone you don’t know.

    Eating something first will help you stick to your goals and allow you to enjoy the event.


    Tip #4: Don’t Use Holiday Events as a Soapbox

    Many vegetarians and vegans are passionate about protecting animals, but there is a time and a place for everything.

    You may recall that in episode 291 we talked about how the “call-out culture” is actually hurting the bigger cause of protecting the animals and the planet attempting to shame people into changing their behaviors or beliefs.

    Just as you wouldn’t bring up politics or religion in this type of setting, it’s a good idea to save the discussion about animal activism for a different time and place.


    Tip #5: Stay Focused on the People and on What Truly Matters

    The holidays should be about the family and friends we get to spend time with. While food is a great way to bond and share an experience, it’s really secondary (or at least should be!) to the people at the party.

    Staying focused on what truly matters is always sound advice, especially when spending time with loved ones.




    Tip #6: Keep a Sense of Humor

    Navigating the holidays (or anything for that matter!

    • 20 min

Customer Reviews

Sara Marceline ,

Great Podcast-Easy to Listen to

Everyone says that this is the least judgemental and most inclusive vegetarian podcast they listen to, and I agree. My partner is a Pescatarian who heavily leans towards Vegan-no dairy, no eggs, no meat; she eats very limited amounts of fish. And I am veg curious, primarily omnivore. To my point, I feel accepted and welcome here. I don't feel guilty about being me, while learning lots about vegetarianism and veganism. Vicki and Larissa have really pleasant voices to listen to. The information is great, presented well and very useful. And they have lots of resources beyond the podcast. I definitely recommend this podcast (and go back to the early podcasts if you can) as a great place to begin your vegetarian journey.

Bhals ,

Fantastic and interesting

This podcast provides great info for anyone interested in food, particularly vegetables. :) I appreciate so many things, including the interesting topics, real discussion, relatability, and not to mention the quality of recording (you know how some podcasts are just too quiet or loud? not here). Loved the episode with the review of Game Changers - my husband just suggested we watched that and decided he’s finally ready to go vegetarian. Woohoo! Thanks for the show and the content, and for the great Facebook group for more support too!

Mama_Mosh ,

Love it.

After a trying day, I like to turn on this podcast and listen on my drive home. I always learn something new, and their show notes are amazingly detailed. I also enjoy listening to their genuine laughter. So, cheers from Ohio!

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