Cauliflower Rice Paella…after a long hiatus

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The school year ended, which was insane. Final exams, award ceremonies, pizza parties, study guides, year books, weeping children who actually will miss school, cleaning EVERYTHING out of the classroom and post planning (teacher workdays)…the end of the year is rough! In addition, summer camp started the week after school let out…and I am still doing a few hours at sylvan. I have been cooking…just not a lot of new and adventurous things.

Hopefully after this post, I will start to cook more and more, and actually use my blog!

Last night, Josh and I decided to cook at his apartment (he is now obligated to try my cooking experiments!). Being ever so tolerant of my vegan ways, he agreed to try Cauliflower Rice Paella which I found pinned to my pinterest board…the original recipe is here and their photos look significantly better than mine!


We ended up using two large frying pans for this dish…there is a lot of stuff!

1 head of cauliflower
olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced (yes mom, i still pick out my onions!)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
a few shakes of paprika
a few shakes of cayenne
some salt and pepper
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. cherry tomatoes, split
1 12oz jar quartered artichoke hearts (drained!)
1 can of chick peas (drained!)
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
15-20 Spanish olives
1 lime


In a frying pan (or two) sauté the onion (minced), celery, and pepper, until slightly tender. Meanwhile, chop up the cauliflower into florets, and pulse them in the blender until it is the consistency of rice. If your blender is not strong enough, you may need to make several small batches. It is nice to have a vegetable alternative for grain every now and then!

Once the veggies are soft, add the cauliflower and wait…this is a great time to dance around the apartment! I highly recommend ’80’s Dance Party’ on Pandora…the Styx station is really good too…

After about two songs…or 6 minutes (please stir during this time!) add in the garlic, cayenne, apple cider vinegar, vegetable stock, salt, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and chickpeas. I got overzealous and added the scallions and olives at this time…apparently you are supposed to wait…

Time to dance again! After another two songs, or 6 minutes, your meal should be ready. Spoon generously into a bowl, add a squirt of lime, and enjoy!

What I love about this dish is that it is filling, healthy, and almost entirely made of vegetables! It is also extraordinarily colorful…and versatile (Josh added roasted red peppers and cherry peppers to his).

It is good to be writing again 🙂

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I am back…with Mediterranean Pepper Boats!

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Hello online world! Long time, no write! Life has been hectic, exciting, and a lot of fun. During my writing hiatus, I remade some of my favorite dishes from the past posts, and made a few rather uneventful dishes which were hardly blog worthy.

As the school year comes to a close, I will start to have time to cook more, and explore more of the culinary world. Today’s inspiration came in the middle of yoga class, Mediterranean Pepper Boats!

Similar to stuffed peppers, Pepper Boats are a vehicle on which to try new combinations of food. Unlike stuffed peppers, the boats are usually 1/4 of a pepper. In this case I had an obnoxiously large pepper, so they were roughly 1/6 of a pepper. Because of the versatile nature of this recipe, I will not include measurements.

Ingredients:

Red bell peppers
cooked quinoa
sundried tomatoes
kalamata olives
mushrooms (chopped)
cooked chickpeas
basil

First, slice the peppers into ‘boats’ or slices large enough to hold the quinoa mixture. With smaller peppers, this may be half of a pepper, mine were large! Once sliced, place in boiling water on the stove to soften slightly. While you will be cooking the peppers later, this helps speed up the process!

While the peppers are cooking, preheat the oven to 350, and mix together quinoa, sundried tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, chickpeas, and basil. Stir to ensure that everything mingles nicely. Measurements depend on taste, and size/number of pepper boats!

Once the mixture is made, and the oven preheated, remove the peppers from the water, place them in a baking dish, spoon mixture on top, cover dish with tin foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tin foil for the last 5 minutes.

Take out of oven and enjoy!

I had originally made hummus to go with this dish, but found that it did not need it! These are great for dinner, lunches (bringing it to work tomorrow!), and appetizers!

An update, and a simple pasta dish

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A few posts ago I answered some questions that I usually get about my food choices. Well, today I can answer two more. First, the more interesting question of “What happens if you eat meat?” Over the weekend I went with a close friend to Earthday Birthday, a local rock festival. He managed to have VIP tickets from work, and we both were able to enjoy the luxuries of a rock concert VIP. One of the many perks (my favorite being the VIP only portapotties) was free lunch and dinner. This was much appreciated as we were at the event from noon until almost 11 at night. The one downside, the free lunch was barbecue sandwiches, coleslaw, and potato salad. The dinner featured barbecue chicken breasts and beans. Prior to going down the vegan path, I ate a good amount of chicken. In fact, if you check out earlier recipes on this blog you will find several for meat dishes! I have been fully meat free since Thanksgiving, so five months. I had gone vegan several years before, and transitioned back into a standard American diet with no issues, so I figured this would be the same. I was wrong. My body was NOT happy with me, and in addition to the predictable issues with reintroducing meat to my diet, I had a stuffy nose for two days! Looking online, this seems to be a fairly common symptom.

Long story short, what happens if I eat meat? Terrible, terrible things


The second question I am answering tonight “Does it take a long time to cook dinner?” is less graphic and easier to answer. NO, does not take a long time to cook dinner! Tonight I came home from my second job, and within 15 minutes had a fresh meal, full of nutrients, ready to eat!

Pepper Mushroom Pasta

Ingredients

1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Portebella mushroom
5 crimini mushrooms
8 cherry tomatoes
some basil
1 box of pasta
4 cloves Garlic
2 tbs olive oil

Bring a large pot to boil (or until it gets really hot and starts to steam). Meanwhile, heat chopped garlic in olive oil on the stove. While the water is warming, and the garlic is cooking, chop the peppers and mushrooms. Add them to the olive oil. By now, the water should be warm, add in pasta. Chop tomatoes and basil. Once the peppers and mushrooms are showing signs of being cooked (they are shrinking!), add the tomatoes and basil and allow for the veggies to all cook together.

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So colorful!

The pasta and veggies should be done around the same time, roughly 15 minutes from when you started!

What I really love about this recipe is that it is extraordinarily affordable to make.

1 Red Bell Pepper $1
1 Green Bell Pepper $1
1 Portebella mushroom $1
5 crimini mushrooms $.50 (a box of mushrooms is about $2)
8 cherry tomatoes $.50 (a box of cherry tomatoes is about $2)
some basil $.50 (a package of basil is also about $2)
1 box of pasta $2
Garlic $.30
olive oil $.30 (way too lazy to calculate the cost for two tablespoons!)

Total: $6.60 and this dish will last at LEAST three meals! So one serving of this dish is $2.20…that is totally doable!

Honey Mango Balsamic Pizza? A tale of two pizzas…

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So this recipe was all Kristina’s idea! We were going out later in the evening, and decided to cook a meal together before going out. Since she hadn’t cooked on here in a while, I asked her to choose a fun recipe, and one that I could convert to fit my vegan lifestyle!

She chose a recipe from pinterest Nectarine pizza with fresh basil and reduced balsamic. She seems to have a knack for finding fancy sounding recipes.

While Kristina chose to use goat cheese and parmesan, I was eager to try out my new Go Veggie Vegan Mozzarella Cheese. (A quick note on Go Veggie…sometimes, it still has milk products in it!) Now, the mozzarella was a little more, potent, then I recall real mozzarella to be, but I decided to try it out on this recipe.

We also couldn’t find reasonably priced nectarines or peaches…but honey mangoes were on sale! Why not try honey mangoes! So after completely altering the list of ingredients, we set off to cook.

I made my specialized pizza dough, as posted several times on my blog, recently in the post Pesto and Cream Cheese Based Green pizza. Seriously, if you have not tried this recipe yet, you need to try it…15 minutes to an amazing pizza crust!

Once the pizza crust is laid out, add the toppings. For this you will need

2 honey mangoes (cut into slivers and tiny pieces)
1 cup of fresh chopped basil
cheese of your choice
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar (save until after baking the pizza!)

First cover your dough with cheese. Kristina placed goat cheese on first, and the her parmesan. I generously sprinkled my cheese over my crust. Then add a healthy helping of sliced and diced mango. Finish the dish with half of the basil (the other half will be used after the dish is cooked). Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes on 500 degrees. Make sure your pizza does not burn!

While cooking the pizza, heat the balsamic vinegar on the stove, stirring continuously, allowing it to ‘reduce’. You know it is ready when it becomes thick, do not let it boil and waste!

When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle the remaining basil on top, and lightly drizzle the balsamic vinegar. Slice and enjoy!

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The white plate is vegan, the black plate is not.

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Kristina enjoyed her non-vegan pizza!

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But she also conceded that mine was pretty good too! I was really pleased that the Go Veggie Cheese completely melted! While it did not taste completely like mozzarella, it worked perfectly with the other flavors!

A vegan kitchen, vegan fast food and junk food, a random entry!

One of the biggest questions I get about food is, what DO you eat? The term ‘vegan’ often leaves an unsavory taste in the public’s mind, and well, mouth. While I hope I have shed some light on the mystery food decisions of a vegan, I decided to dedicate this post to what a vegan kitchen, vegan junk food, and a quick vegan comfort meal might look like!


The scary vegan kitchen

First of all is the fridge. I go to the farmers market every Sunday, and get supplementary food from a fresh food store, and of course, publix. While my refrigerator might look sparse on Saturday, I start the week with something like this:

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I use my juicer every morning, with one orange, one apple, 10-15 strawberries, half a giant carrot, kale, and swiss chard (when available). Sometimes I add other fruit (cantaloupe, for example, when reasonably priced). I also eat a side salad every day at work with my regular lunch. The weird lettuce thing on the top shelf is ‘living lettuce’ and is sold with the root system intact! If kept in water in the fridge, it stays fresh for about a week! You just pick off the pieces you need.

Favorite appliances in a vegan kitchen: juicer, blender, rice cooker (for rehydrating beans), bread machine

See, that isn’t that scary!


Vegan junk and fast food

The other day I had to buy tires after work. I was there for two and a half hours, and was quite famished upon leaving. I also had no desire to cook…which is rare for me. I decided to order a pizza. With our fairly new health crazed nation, just about everything is documented somewhere online. Papa Johns is no exception. I am excited to report that a regular crust, cheese-less, meat-less pizza, without any weird dipping sauce is totally vegan. But what do you put on a cheese-less, meat-less pizza? Olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, and tomatoes! You could also opt to put on banana peppers, onions, and jalapeños, but I do not favor those particular toppings.

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This was seriously delicious!

Sometimes, when I leave work (especially if I worked at the before school program AND then taught) and I am on my way to Sylvan, I stop by taco bell. Gasp! Taco Bell has been pretty great to those of us who do not partake in a dairy and meat culture. Their signature ‘fresco’ menu replaces dairy with pico de gallo which is fantastic. My favorites? The black bean burrito fresco (beans, rice, pico de gallo, red sauce), the 7 layer burrito fresco (baked beans, lettuce, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and something else…) and the new cantina burritos. So good!

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Good Job Taco Bell!

I am also a fan of oreos, tortilla chips, pretzels, and graham crackers (especially dipped in icing!)

Yes, all of that is vegan!


Comfort food.

Ending this on a cooking oriented note. I was eating nachos while writing this post. Nachos, made with:

tortilla chips
Boca Burger crumbles
Go Veggie Vegan Mozzarella (for some reason, Go Veggie only makes one vegan option, the rest are ‘lactose free’ but still contain milk)
corn
black beans
mushrooms
green bell peppers
tomatoes
cilantro.

Baked in the oven, placed on my plate, enjoyed by me.

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These were seriously good!

So there you go…what do I eat? I eat food, I eat plants, and I eat junk food…the same things most people eat, with a few substitutions!

Quinoa, that even my mother loved!

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Hello Blog world! Long time no see! So I have been slacking in writing…apparently Spring Break from work also translates to spring break for other activities…

Part of my relaxing week included a visit to my parents in Tallahassee. They have been very supportive of me and my culinary adventures, and even asked for me to cook a vegan meal for them! My mom is an amazing cook, and since I was only in Tallahassee for 48 hours, cooking a meal was a honor, albeit a little intimidating. I wanted to introduced them to quinoa, and settled on a lovely side dish of quinoa (recipe below). For a main course, I made my Vegan Green Pesto Pizza sans the fake cheese. To my complete surprise, the quinoa was the bigger hit! My dad liked the green pizza, my mom was a REALLY good sport about trying the unusual looking green dish! 🙂

I found this recipe for the Mediterranean Quinoa on Pinterest, from the blog Half Baked Harvest. It is delicious and incredibly easy to make!

Ingredients:

1 box of quinoa rice mix (leave out the spice packet)

2 cups sliced grape tomatoes
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives

“Dressing”
1 tbs kalamata olive juice (from the jar of olives!)
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook the quinoa according to the box. You can also use 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and 2 cups of water to create a quinoa only dish!

The dressing was simple, mix the olive juice, oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl (a prep bowl is perfect for this!) Let it sit, while everything else is being prepared.

Cut up the grape tomatoes, the spinach, and the olives, combine in a large bowl. Add quinoa when ready. Stir in dressing and mix thoroughly. Serve!

My parents loved this dish, and even suggested making it as a cristini topping! The original recipe calls for Feta cheese, for all of you non vegans out there!

Simple SautĂ©ed Veggies with Light Salsa

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I missed the farmers market this weekend, and therefore did not get my weekly quota of fresh veggies. Today, before sylvan, I went to the next best thing…Fancy Fruit and Produce! While there, I was able to purchase a lot of great veggies, and tons of fruit to make morning smoothies.

Unfortunately, by the time I got home, I was so exhausted that I did not want to cook a lot! Thus came this dish, simple, tasty, and full of nutrients!

Ingredients for sautéed veggies:

1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper (save 1/3 for the salsa)
handful of asparagus
1 portobella mushroom
4 crimini mushrooms
1 tbs olive oil
avocado (add when everything is prepared…do not heat!)

Salsa:
12 cherry tomatoes
handful of fresh cilantro
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 yellow bell pepper

Sauté the veggies in the olive oil (except for avocado!). Heat until slightly tender, do not over cook!

In a blender, combine the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and 1/3 of the yellow bell pepper. Blend until the mixture is liquified. My blender did not give me a second option!

Place veggies in a bowl, add chopped avocado, top with salsa mixture. Fabulous!

This meal took less than 15 minutes…and most of it was chopping veggies! I cannot wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow!

Homemade Bagels!!!

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Bagels! Homemade bagels! Probably the baking item that I am most proud of! So much so, that I put off blogging about it until I had the time to do it right.

First, I was really sick. It was the never ending cold/sinus/allergy illness that comes from teaching in a confined room with students. Just found out that strep throat was passing through the 6th grade, really hoping to not get it!

Then, I became insanely busy. A lot of papers to grade, a lot of hours at my second and third jobs, not much sleep, or writing. I did, however, continue cooking…just neglected to write about cooking.

So my resolution, dear readers, is to post at least three times a week, hopefully more! Now on to the bagels.


Warning: This recipe, while not require a lot of ‘hands on time’, is rather time intensive…there is a lot of waiting! Please set aside at least 3 hours…

A lot of bagels found in publix are vegan by nature. They do not contain eggs, there are no dairy products in them…they are inexpensive and convenient. Despite all of these redeeming qualities, I decided to try to make my own, from scratch. Using Pennies and Pancakes- Basic Bagels, sent to me by Kristina, a list of ingredients, a bread machine, pot of water, and an oven, I managed to make homemade bagels.

Ingredients:

2 cups warmish water
1 tsp. dry active yeast
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp. olive oil (separate occasions!)
1 Tbsp. salt
6 cups bread flour

In a bowl, mix together the water, yeast, and 2 tbs of sugar. Let this concoction sit for 10 minutes. Then, add in the 1 tbs of olive oil, the flour, and the salt. The original recipe suggests using a standing mixer…I do not own one of these! I do, however, have a bread machine! So I lugged out my bread machine, placed the crudely mixed dough in the proper compartment, and set it to knead, and did laundry for 11-15 minutes. Timing may vary. The dough needs to be pliable and not sticky…I had to add more flour after the bread machine in order to make this a reality. (please note, you can also stir and knead by hand…and instead of laundry, you are getting a workout! check off another task on the neverending todo list)

Once the dough is up to par, roll it into a ball, brush the teaspoon of olive oil on it, and set it on a dish under a damp towel for about one hour. The dough is good when it ‘springs back’ when you poke it.

After the dough has risen (and you have done several chores…or napped), separate the dough into 12 pieces, roll out the pieces into 7-8 inch ropes, and form donuts. I found that rolling the dough between my palms was an effective strategy. It is important to remember to pinch together the ends of the dough to form perfect rings!

Let these sit, under a damp towel for another 30 minutes. Go finish cleaning!

During the 30 minutes, you also want to place a large pot on the stove (about 4 qt, half filled with water), and boil it. You also need to find a slotted spoon, or some other device for dipping things into the water without substantial burns. You also need to preheat your oven to 500 F.

Once the 30 minutes is up, take the bagels, three at a time, and dip them into the boiling water. Flip them after a minute, and at the second minute, take them out and rest them on a dish. Repeat until all bagels have been dipped.

Now for the fun part! Picking the toppings! I originally was resigned to only doing plain, as I did not know how they were going to turn out…but at the last minute, I decided to play with my options. For two of the bagels, I mixed cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkled the mixture on top. I made two with sea salt as a topping, and two more with garlic salt. One was with vegan mozzarella (daiya) and one with vegan cheddar (gourmet vegan). The last four were left plain.

I placed the now mostly dressed bagels on two lined baking sheets, and shoved the sheets in the oven for 15 minutes. After 10, I poked around with a spatula to ensure that they were not sticking to the tray.

So, two and half hours after my adventure started, I was staring at 12 perfect bagels.

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I am hardly ashamed to say that I ate two the first night! They were great for breakfast (duh!), lunch, and dinner as bread for a pressed sandwich!

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I also brought in some to work and got great reviews! Maybe next time I will double the recipe and freeze a dozen of them…to cut down on the time.

Vegan Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

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These cookies were so good, that my doorman called me back after eating them to sing their praises.

Let me back up. I rarely have a sweet tooth, but when I do, it is massive. One of the few things I have had difficulty with being vegan is satisfying that sweet tooth. I have never been much of a baker (as referenced a few times in this blog), and I have consistently not done well attempting to bake vegan. Yesterday, however, I decided that this will all change. I had a craving for oreos (which are vegan!), as well as cookies, and I found a recipe that combines the two. Perfect!

All credit for this recipe goes to This Can’t Be Vegan: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies Hooray pinterest!


Ingredients:

16 Oreo cookies
1/2 cup non-dairy butter, softened (such as Earth Balance)
6 tablespoons non-dairy cream cheese (such as Galaxy Foods Cream Cheese Alternative)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Mash the oreos to a pulp…I used my blender, but any crushing method should work. I also used my blender (a different blending container) to stir the butter and cream cheese. While the recipe suggests a hand blender, I found that the dough blending mixer on my ninja blender worked well too. After the butter and cream cheese were mixed, add the sugar, and vanilla. Stir some more. Add flour and one cup of the oreos. Stir until completely mixed.

Now comes the hard part…the mixture must be placed in the fridge without you eating it! While this dish is vegan, and there are no raw ingredients to worry about…you do need dough to make the cookies!

After thirty minutes have passed, take the dough out, and roll it into little ‘golf size’ balls. Dip the balls in the remaining oreo crumbs (as if you are breading them!) and place them onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes on 375, remove and cool on tray for another three minutes. Then remove to wire rack, or other cooling device.

Kristina came over last night to drive us to see Ancient Sun at the Tapas Bar Taste. On the way up to my apartment, she mentioned to the door man that I was baking vegan cookies. We brought one down for him to try on our way out. 5 minutes later, on our drive to the show, I received a phone call from him exclaiming that the cookies were way too good to be vegan! Success!!

Awesome Salad, with Nutritional Information

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One of the first questions I get when I tell someone that I am vegan is “Where do you get your protein/calcium/vitamins/etc?” While I am really careful about eating a balance of food every day, I was particularly curious over the weekend to see how my salad would stack up in the world of nutrition. Having just returned from farmers market, the salad was fairly epic, I wanted to try out my newly acquired vegetables!

Salad Ingredients

1 cup of fresh kale, cut into salad size pieces
1 cup of fresh swiss chard, cut into salad size pieces
.5 cup of sunflower sprouts, chopped into salad size pieces
.5 cup of chopped green bell pepper
.5 cup of mushrooms, chopped
.5 cup of celery, chopped
.25 cup of chickpeas (dried and cooked)
handful of cherry tomatoes

Dressing:

3 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
black pepper to taste

I placed the chopped kale and swiss chard in a container with a lid, added dressing, covered, and shook container to evenly coat leaves. I then arranged on a plate with the rest of the ingredients.

The salad was beautiful! And so healthy!


While eating the salad, and marveling in how something could taste that good, I entered the ingredients into the nutrition calculator at spark people. The results were incredible.

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 1
Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories 352.8

Total Fat 18.3 g

Saturated Fat 2.4 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 2.5 g

Monounsaturated Fat 10.1 g

Cholesterol 0.0 mg

Sodium 532.4 mg

Potassium 1,725.2 mg

Total Carbohydrate 47.5 g

Dietary Fiber 16.3 g

Sugars 9.8 g

Protein 13.6 g

Vitamin A 579.5 %

Vitamin B-12 0.2 %

Vitamin B-6 35.3 %

Vitamin C 288.2 %

Vitamin D 6.7 %

Vitamin E 25.7 %

Calcium 27.5 %

Copper 35.0 %

Folate 17.5 %

Iron 41.8 %

Magnesium 48.6 %

Manganese 71.7 %

Niacin 16.2 %

Pantothenic Acid 11.3 %

Phosphorus 16.7 %

Riboflavin 26.3 %

Selenium 11.3 %

Thiamin 17.0 %

Zinc 9.0 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.