Carrot-Ginger Bisque

If you’re ready to get back on the good foot after the holiday indulgences of the past few weeks, here’s a place to start. A nutritious, light yet satisfying soup of simmered carrots and onions, finished with ginger and coriander. And so easy to make–you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now!

IMG_4393 (1).jpg

Carrot Ginger Bisque

¾ tbsp. Olive oil
2 med Onion
4 cups Vegetable broth
4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. Ginger, fresh, finely grated
¾ tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. Coriander

Method:

1. Saute onions about 5 minutes. Add broth and 1/2 cup of water, more or less–carrots and half of the ginger.. bring to boil, reduce & simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes until carrots are tender.
2.Remove pot from heat and let cool for one hour, covered. Puree with immersion blender  (or Vitamix) until smooth, adding remaining  ginger, cinnamon and coriander. Taste for salt and pepper and add more water if needed, returning to pot if necessary to heat through. Finish with parsley (optional).

The Clean 15

IMG_6471.jpg

The Environmental Work Group recently updated their list of the cleanest produce, which tests show the least amount of pesticide residues.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes USDA data on the chemicals found on grocery store produce. Then, the watchdog organization compiles it into an easy-to-digest list of fruits and veggies that tended to contain the most and least pesticides in the past year.

EWG’s Clean Fifteen 2019

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Sweet Peas Frozen
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbage
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew Melons

Weekday workday lunches are a no-brainer when I take a little time out of my Sunday afternoon and pre-make salads. When Monday rolls around it’s grab and go.

I prep the same veggies pretty consistently with the protein being the variable. Beans are always an easy go-to addition. I like firm, meaty kidney beans, pintos and cannellinis. Sometimes I add chopped up chickpea patties, grilled tofu, tempeh or burgers from the night before. That’s the wild card that keeps it interesting for me.

Veggies

  1. Romaine or leaf lettuce washed, chopped and dried (I use a salad spinner)
  2. Fresh spinach leaves (optional)
  3. Cucumbers or zucchini, chopped or sliced
  4. Red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  5. Carrots, shredded or diced
  6. Celery, sliced or chopped
  7. Red onion, diced or sliced

You’ll notice that most of the veggies on the list are affordable and easy to find year-round. That’s the idea. No excuses.

Often I will make homemade VINAIGRETTE which is simple, fresh and also cheap!

Knowing I am getting a healthy dose of fresh vitamins, fiber, water and antioxidants is one less thing to be concerned about during a busy period of days. And there is never a week that goes by that I am not glad I took that bit of time to set myself up for success!

 

 

 

Why Wait?

 

 

My usual lunch at home: veggie salad with black beans, miso-tahini dressing, rice cake, hot tea.

My father-in-law suffered a cardiac event right after Christmas. One of his arteries was almost fully blocked. He is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke or drink. He maintains a high level of physical activity, even wears a pedometer. But he does consume meat, almost every day.

My mother’s carotod artery is 50% blocked on both sides. Over the past two decades she has been on high blood pressure medication, and now she takes a statin pill every day. She is about 25 pounds over her healthy weight, doesn’t exercise regularly and eats meat and dairy every day.


We went to dinner at my in-laws’ home on New Year’s Day. The talk was mostly of the upcoming heart surgery. A valve replacement for Pop. My mother-in-law hands me a sheet of paper:

“I know you’ll be happy to see this…” she smiles, and waits for my reaction.

Where did you get this?” I ask incredulously.

“From the cardiologist,” She says.

I give a big whoop. “Yes!! Finally…it’s starting to make sense.”

Whether they adopt a new diet remains to be seen, but over dinner Pops asked me about how I replace meat in meals. Although they know I am a personal chef and that we have both been vegan for the past 8 years, and they always cook a pan of roasted vegetables when they invite us to dinner, they NEVER ask about what I cook. So, I see the questions as a positive sign.


There are so many important environmental and ethical reasons to adopt a plant-based diet, and I strongly support them– but my main goals are to maintain a healthy weight and to prevent chronic disease. So far it’s working. Neither of us have any health problems and neither of us take any medications. We rarely even catch a cold. And we are both over 50.

Here’s the other side:

I am very impressed with this handout. It really marks a breakthrough, I think, in de-stigmatizing veganism and helping to show that a whole food, plant-based diet is not a trend. It is a solid (and simple) healthful way of eating.

But, why wait until a health crisis forces us to shift to a more mindful way of eating? Why not start right now, where we are, in this moment–taking steps to improve our health and the way we feel today?

John Legend’s Chili, Plant-Based Version

IMG_7344.jpg

I came across this recipe for chili in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings”. I decided to follow the recipe exactly (with a slight variation) just to find out what ole John is up to in the kitchen when he’s not at the piano working on another chart-topping single.

It’s super-simple if you’ve ever cooked a pot of soup. The recipe follows what I call standard procedure: saute the aromatics and vegetables, add seasonings and liquid, simmer and adjust seasonings. In this case I always save the beans for last, which I have pre-cooked, so they don’t fall apart.

I substituted Gardein meatless crumbles (but you could also sub cooked lentils) for the ground beef in John’s recipe and I would suggest taking it easy on the seasoning salt, depending on how much salt is in your tomato sauce. I also cut the original recipe’s measurement of 1 teaspoon ground red pepper down to 1/4 teaspoon, but you do you 🙂

 

John Legend’s Chili

1 1/2 – 2 cups Gardein Meatless Crumbles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. seasoning salt (preferably Lawry’s)
3 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tbsp. garlic,minced
2 cans tomato sauce, 14.5 ounces each

2 cups water
2 cans Kidney beans, 14.5 ounces each
2 tbsp. brown sugar, light

Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bit of oil or water.

Add seasonings, crumbles, tomato sauce and water. Bring to simmer until thickened.

Add beans and taste, adding more salt or spice as desired.

 

 

 

January 2020 Menu

IMG_3294

Nutritious and nourishing to the body without depriving you of flavor or satisfaction, a plant-based diet supports the wellness of people and it is good for the planet. Food is sourced from eco-conscious purveyors and environmentally friendly practices are used in the kitchen.

January 2020 Menu

Choose six (6) mains and two (2) sides or desserts

Bowls

NEW! Three-Cheeze Lasagna Bowl

Organic Lasagnetti Pasta, Herb-Roasted Mushrooms, Creamy Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozz, Rich Tomato Gravy

NEW! Grain-Free Sunset Bowl

Miso-Roasted Yams and Sweet Corn, Cumin-Simmered Black Beans, Charred Peppers, Pico di Gallo

Burgers

Beefy Beyond Meat Burger with Lettuce, Tomato and Onions and Special Sauce

Beet Burgers with Horseradish Mayo

Dinner Favorites

NEW! Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Penne with White Beans and Spinach

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil

NEW! Smoky Barbecue Sloppy Joes with Purple Slaw and Baked Beans

Portobello Stroganoff with Noodles

NEW! Sesame Tofu and Broccoli with Soba Noodles

Lemony Artichoke Spinach Pasta with Whole Grain Linguine

NEW! Scaloppini Florentine with White Wine Sunflower Cream Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Roasted Mushrooms

Chinese Stir-Fried Vegetables with Brown Rice

NEW! White Bean Etouffee with Homemade Andouille

Chana Masala with Indian Spinach

Gardein Cutlet Marsala with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Tomato-Caper Remoulade

Thai Red (Spicy) or Green (Mild) Coconut Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

Baked Ziti with Whole Grain Pasta and Fire-Roasted Tomato Gravy

Vegetable Flatbread Pizzas

Vegetable Pad Thai with Rice Noodles

Sides

Broccoli-Spinach Soup

Sweet Potato-Poblano Soup

Sauteed Kale with Shallots

Macaroni and Cheeze (GF, Nut-free)

Desserts

Blueberry Crumble (GF)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Banana-Walnut Bread

Raw Cocoa-Pecan Brownies

Plant-Based: On The Cheap

IMG_6852.jpg

“I would try the plant-based diet, but I can’t afford it!” A phrase I have heard often. But, it’s a myth that a plant-based lifestyle has to blow your grocery budget. And it needn’t include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. A healthy, whole food diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  makes shopping so much easier:

  1. Protein (beans, peas and lentils, nuts, nut butters). Remember that one type of bean, legume or nut choice in combination with a grain or healthful vegetables provides enough protein in a meal. There’s no need to overdo it.
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains).
  3. Fats. The health benefits of processed oils is still a controversial subject in the science of nutrition, so I will simply offer that many foods contain naturally occurring fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocado. Choose oils conscientiously and use  sparingly if you are concerned about calories.

 

Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Brown rice
  4. Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
  5. Dried black or other beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
  6. Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
  7. Frozen fruit
  8. Frozen mixed vegetables
  9. Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
  10. Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
  11. Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)
IMG_1724 (1).jpg

A very decent, nutritious meal.

Although a constantly rotating variety of produce (eating the rainbow, as they say) is ideal, it is not within everyone’s budget. It’s okay to eat apples and bananas all week. The point is, you are eating fruit! You are getting vitamins and fiber, water and minerals. All good stuff!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Sometimes you will splurge on the raspberries or juicy peaches in season. And it will actually be a treat, because your flavor palate is now accustomed to the natural sweetness of fruit sugar, as opposed to all the jacked-up laboratory produced sweeteners in processed snacks. It actually prefers it.

IMG_0852.jpg

Top Shelf Fruits!

The food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.

Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!

 

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Tomato-Caper Remoulade

Image Credit: Melanie daPonte

This recipe is hands-down the menu item my clients request most often! Light, but filling these vegetable cakes are actually loaded with protein in the form of quinoa flakes that help hold it all together.

With a little fresh greenery and a bit of sauce, you’ve got yourself a meal!

HEARTS OF PALM CAKES

(6 servings)

14 OZ HEARTS OF PALM, DRAINED
1 STALK CELERY
½ CUP CARROT, DICED
½ CUP ONION, RED, DICED
½ CUP BELL PEPPER, RED, DICED
2 TBSP PARSLEY, FLAT LEAF, CHOPPED
2 TSP OLD BAY SEASONING
1.5 OZ VEGANAISE
1 CUP QUINOA FLAKES (look for them in the oatmeal aisle or with the gluten-free products)

1.DRAIN HEARTS OF PALM AND LIGHTLY PULSE IN FOOD PROCESSOR, PRESERVING TEXTURE. TRANSFER TO LARGE MIXING BOWL. :

2.PULSE VEGETABLES TO CHOP AND ADD TO BOWL WITH HEARTS OF PALM. MIX IN VEGANAISE, SEASONING AND QUINOA FLAKES. LET REST, REFRIGERATED FOR AT LEAST 20 MINUTES.:

3. FORM INTO PATTIES AND BAKE ON GREASED PARCHMENT IN 400 DEGREE OVEN 15 MINUTES, THEN FLIP AND SPRAY WITH OIL, BAKING ANOTHER 15 MINUTES, UNTIL FIRM.

Tomato-Caper Remoulade

¼ cup Vegan Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Chili sauce or ketchup
1 ½ teaspoons Mustard, Creole
1 ½ teaspoons Olive oil
¾ teaspoon Hot sauce
1 ½ teaspoons Lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 med Scallion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons Parsley, flat leaf
1 ½ teaspoons Olives, green, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons Celery, chopped
¼ clove Garlic, minced
⅛ teaspoon Chili powder
¼ teaspoon Salt
⅛ teaspoon Pepper, black
¼ teaspoon Capers, minced

Mix all ingredients together by hand and allow flavors to blend for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Vegan French Toast

IMG_6396.jpg

As a lifelong  pancake girl, I never thought I’d get around to writing this post. But my husband’s a French toast guy, and last weekend I wanted to make him a special brunch treat, so here we have it.

I’ve tried vegan French toast recipes before and they just seemed too soggy or blah in the flavor department. But this recipe gets the dipping mixture right, with the addition of a bit of starch and garbanzo bean flour (besan) for a thicker consistency. The trick is a quick run through the blender to well incorporate the ingredients. Also, making sure the baguette is at least a day old helps ensure a crisp result.

Vegan French Toast

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

Loaf of Italian or French bread, baguette shaped, preferably stale
1/2 cup soy creamer (soy or coconut milk would make a good substitute)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup chickpea flour (this is key)

Dash of vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Several tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

Powered sugar for finishing (optional)

Method:

Slice the baguette into rounds about 1-inch thick and set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients (except oil and powdered sugar) in a blender and mix for a few seconds until fully incorporated. Pour into a shallow dish ( I use a pie plate).

IMG_6392.jpg

Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high with a thin layer of oil. Dip rounds of bread (don’t soak, you just want the mixture to cling to the outside) and place immediately in hot skillet and brown on both sides. Serve hot with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, vegan butter and maple syrup.

IMG_6393.jpg

 

 

Vegan Apple Crisp

IMG_3343.jpg

I remember when I first became aware there was such a thing called apple crisp. And it wasn’t at home. It was in my elementary school lunchroom. This exotic dessert was warm and sweet and cinnamon-y, with this outrageously crispy topping…so way over and above apple pie. It made an impact on me!

I am sure the recipe originated in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen. Most warm apple desserts do 😉 But, I was ever after held captive by that crispy sweet crust of oats and pecans and brown sugar atop those sweet-tart warm apples.

I hope you enjoy this version, from America’s Test Kitchen, slightly modified by the substitution of vegan margarine for the butter called for in the original recipe:

Apple Crisp

Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, chopped fine
¾ cup oats, rolled
½ cup brown sugar, light
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick, melted and cooled

Filling:
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 pounds apples, golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
⅓ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit . Set oven rack in middle position. Mix together topping with margarine until moistened and crumbly.

IMG_4590
2.Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Transfer to liquid measuring cup and stir in lemon juice.

IMG_4594.jpg
3.Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and become translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (do not fully cook apples). Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture.

IMG_4598.jpg

4.Transfer apple mixture to 13 x 9 inch casserole dish (or individual dishes as shown), sprinkle evenly with topping, breaking up any large chunks.

IMG_4601.jpg

Bake until fruit is tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

IMG_4607

5.Reheat in 425 degree oven until slightly warm, about 5 minutes.

Serving suggestion:  Top with vanilla non-dairy ice cream and this fantastic

vegan caramel sauce

from our fellow blogger, Larice at feedingyourbeauty.com.

IMG_4613.jpg

Oh, yeah!!!

IMG_3361.jpg

Dixie Dharma Vegan Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Orlando

 

IMG_7190.jpg

Breakfast at Dixie Dharma              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

When traveling, we are always on the hunt for vegan eateries and this past weekend was no exception. iPhone technology has been a real game-changer in this regard and driving through the Orlando area we were able to nimbly avoid the Disney-bound traffic and score a real winner in Dixie Dharma vegan restaurant!

Market on South, which houses Dixie Dharma, is a vendor collective, located on the first floor of a small, gray two-story just off the interstate and abutting a picturesque and visibly gentrifying suburb of Orlando. The building itself seems oddly placed alongside an old barber shop with a gravel parking lot alongside, but don’t be put off by the lackluster surroundings. This place is not to be missed.

A small, but clean and cozy interior offers comfy, mismatched tables and chairs, a few booths and a short row of barstools at the counter, overlooking the open kitchen.

IMG_7186.jpg

Dixie Dharma interior, order counter/bakery          Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

We arrived early, around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quiet, but the bakery cases were fully stocked with goods from Valhalla  and Valkyrie vegan bakeries.

IMG_7185.jpg

Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery case                Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

 

The cashier was friendly, attentive and fast! We ordered the dirty scramble and the biscuits and gravy along with two hot cups of coffee. While waiting for our food, we perused the various offerings for sale from local artists and artisans displayed on the shelves surrounding the dining room.

Meanwhile, the back of the kitchen bustled with energy as the row of cooling racks filled with fresh-baked cakes and cookies. Every now and then a baker would emerge, producing a huge iced and decorated layer cake to place in the cold display case with a price tag marked $50.

A line of eager patrons started to form as our food was delivered. Young, fit couples, some with baby strollers, many in athletic wear, an occasional smiling grandma in tow, ordered vegan doughnuts and coffee, seating themselves in a happy, relaxed smattering about the place.

IMG_7195.jpg

Dixie Dharma Dirty Scramble

 

The food was flavorful with generous portions! The dirty scramble in particular, I think, could have fed two or even three people for breakfast! The coffee tasted smooth and fresh. All in all,  one of the best vegan breakfasts I have ever eaten on the road.

IMG_7194.jpg

Dixie Dharma Biscuits and Gravy with Maple Bourbon Sausage           Photo: Melanie daPonte

 

The vibe was so low-key and comfortable I was sure we would return for a late lunch and a few choice baked goods before we headed for home.

IMG_7197.jpg

Dixie Dharma outdoor seating in front of building         Photo credit: Melanie daPonte


 

At lunch, the place was really at peak business with a long line waiting up front, but the staff was breezy and professional as they went about taking orders and delivering food to both seated diners and takeout customers.  We shared the chili dogs with ‘tater salad at one of the large picnic tables in the back yard.

IMG_7204.jpg

Dixie Dharma Chili Dawgs             Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

I can see why Dixie Dharma is famous for their vegan hot dog truck! The dogs were the best vegan franks I’ve ever tasted. I swear you couldn’t tell they were meatless. And the Indian-spiced chili was hearty and wholesome–filled with beans and lentils. A truly substantial meal before our drive back to Palm Beach County.

Saving the best for last, our visit couldn’t be complete without a sampling of the beautiful bakery offerings. There were just too many choices and I had to be reasonable, breaking it down logically. I have to be careful not to lose my head in the face of such a decadent display of sweet vegan goodness!

Although there were so many treats I wanted to sample,  I only had this one shot, so here is my selection:

Bourbon Chocolate Chunk

Thick, sweet bourbon vanilla buttercream chocolate chunk cookie sandwich.

Cake Slice

I fine wedge of chocolate layer cake expertly filled and iced with vanilla buttercream

(like birthday cake)

Lemon Bar

Lemon curd on a shortbread crust with crumb topping

Chocolate Brownie

Dark chocolate brownie, dipped in more melted chocolate

IMG_7200.jpg

Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery selection              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

It was a tough choice. Of course we had to try the cookies, and the cake and the buttercream and the brownies. The lemon bar was a wild card and I ordered it simply because I don’t like squeezing lemons and no vegan bakery in my town makes them!

What we didn’t order (this time):  Vegan cheesecake,  fruit cobbler, cupcakes, mini-cream pies, a chocolate-coated ‘Naimo(?)’ bar–which looked amazing, vegan doughnuts, a ‘brookie’ which is chocolate chip cookie dough baked on top of a brownie!! There’s more I am forgetting to be sure.

We we got home we sampled each item and they were delicious! Over time we have learned to manage these multiple item bakery sprees by cutting each item into small portions, say, the cookie sandwich into four quarters, and freezing them on a sheet tray, then transferring to an airtight container. Weeks later (or days) later we can enjoy them again.

Dixie Dharma was a delight. Wholesome, plant-based meals, a uniquely creative menu and presentations, outrageous, professionally-baked desserts, friendly, competent staff. They open at 8:00 a.m. and close at midnight!

We plan to make this outstanding vegan restaurant, bakery and artisan marketplace a regular destination every time we are in the Orlando vicinity!

DIXIE DHARMA WEBSITE

IMG_7199

 

Vegan Creme Brûlée

 

IMG_4288.jpg

Yes, you read that right. Creme brûlée. Silky smooth and creamy sweet. And can I just mention, so easy that I memorized the recipe after the first time I made it?? Now I can just whip it up at the drop of a hat, using pantry staples. Sound to good to be true? Well, it’s true. So, check this out…

Vegan Creme Brûlée 

adapted from a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli

1 can full-fat coconut milk (14.5 oz)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric (for color)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup corn starch

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp. brown sugar (optional)

Method:

Stir together coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to make sure sugar is fully dissolved.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl the cornstarch and milk. When coconut milk mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and slowly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until custard is thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Transfer to dessert dishes and chill at least 3 hours before serving.

If you want to dress to impress, sprinkle a coating of brown sugar on top of each serving and caramelize with a kitchen torch until a crisp shell forms on top. Enjoy!

img_4281

 

 

Vegan Marsala Mushroom Gravy (Oil-Free)

Mashers are my go-to comfort food on cool days like today. Before going plant-based, these would have been full of butter and milk. And gravy? I could whisk up a roux like nobody’s business.

It may seem too good to be true, but today’s dish contains only a tiny amount of fat (from the soy milk) and absolutely no animal products. And it is even more flavorful and satisfying than the traditional preparation. Continue reading

Warm Apple Crisp (Oil-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to the cooler temperatures,  anticipating the fun of preparing for the upcoming holidays, my birthday, and the food–the glorious food!

I especially love the warm flavors that mark the fall holidays. The smell of pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves, toasted nuts, vanilla. Kitchen aromas can be so evocative, full of fond memories of holidays past.

I am a big fan of warm apple anything: pie, crumble, cobbler, brown betty…you name it. A crisp is an easy, low-fat way to indulge my craving. This one is kicked up with a splash of Calvados, just for fun!

Warm Apple Crisp

Filling:

4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced ( I use 2 granny smith and 2 golden delicious)

2 tablespoons water or apple juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons sucanat (optional)

1 1/2 oz Calvados  or other apple brandy (optional)

Topping:

5 vegan graham crackers (Nabisco original in the red box is vegan)

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup raisins (soaked for at least 1/2 hour in hot water, covered)

2 tablespoon walnuts, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon sucanat (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Filling: Heat water or apple juice in non-stick skillet on medium high heat. When it starts to bubble, add apples and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully, off the heat,  add brandy then return and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and sugar, and reduce heat, stirring and allowing sugar to melt and become syrupy. Add a bit more water or juice if needed.

Transfer apples to a 1 quart casserole or 8 x 8 baking dish, VERY lightly coated with non-stick spray.

Topping:  Crumble crackers into a food processor and pulse a few times to grind into crumbs. Add the oats, cinnamon and sucanat and pulse once more just to combine. Finally, add the drained raisins and process just until mixture comes together to form a streusal-like texture.

Crumble topping evenly over filling and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Suggested accompaniment: Vanilla Hemp Ice Cream

 

The Benefits of Eating Hot Food

014

 

I like salad as much as the next plant-based lifestyle devotee, but there is something to be said for that satisfied, warm tummy feeling that can only come from hot food, eaten slowly. At my house, we often make a meal out of a simple bowl of soup. Maybe a little chunk of bread, maybe not.

It’s filling, it’s nutritious and most soups are inexpensive to make and prep for the week’s menu or even as a fill-in for those moments in-between when you want a quick something hot.

Frame-16-09-2015-10-00-19

Beyond my own personal preference, I did a bit of research and found there are actually benefits to eating hot food. Who knew??

Benefits of Eating Hot Food

excerpted from the cable lifestyle blog thecable.ng

Mode of digestion

Hot meals aid proper digestion because of the time it takes to consume it. This enables the consumer to eat in adequate proportions which in turn gives less work to the organ that breaks down food.

Also, during the preparation of the meal, the chemicals in the food would have been broken down before it is served and consumed; the body easily absorbs the nutrients as they diffuse into the system, increasing the nutritional value.

Low risk of bacterial contamination

It is difficult for micro-organisms to survive in hot foods. Micro-organisms die while cooking but allowing the food get cold will reintroduce the bacteria, if not careful; which makes eating the meal in a hot state healthier.

Generates energy for consumption

Warm food restores the energy cold food saps from the body and equally stores up more energy for future use.

Regulates body temperature and weight

One key thing about ingesting hot food is that it regulates the body temperature in response to a cold climate, as it provides warmth from the hot food ingested.

Hot meals also help with body weight and fat; the suppression of appetite observed during the body’s exposure to heat causes the body weight level to drop below set-point which aids greater metabolic efficiency.

Once the body is able to rid unwanted products, the weight would be regulated.

The after-feeling

The feeling you get after taking a hot meal is an amazing one, compared to a cold meal.

018

Check out my selection of delicious soup recipes HERE!


Alternative Plant-Based Holiday Menus

10620184_10203230990069968_8683734716864764463_o.jpg

With the holiday season fast upon us–we, as conscious beings, want to participate in the festivities and merry-making and yet, trying to imitate long-held food traditions, albeit “vegan-style” can feel, well, a little regressive in light of everything we now know.

I have nothing against Tofurkey or Gardein or various seitan roasts.  And of course there’s the “Festival of Sides” as I like to call it. The “best of” parade of veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and breads I have prepared and proudly brought to table over the years.

IMG_1823.jpg

But, if you want to try something really courageous, really unconventional– how about a theme menu? One that breaks the rules completely?

 

*Here are a few of my favorite vegan menus for alternative holiday (or anyday) celebrating:

IMG_3462.jpg

 

Soul Food Feast

Barbecue Ribz or Soy Curls

Macaroni and Cheeze

Simmered Greens

Corn Muffins

Sweet Potato Pie

 

 

Italian Feast

Antipasto Salad

Fresh Baguette or Focaccia

Big Pasta Dish: (Lasagna, Pasta Marinara with Meatballs or Sausage, Baked Ziti, etc.)

Tiramisu

 

Indian Feast

Vegetable Samosas

Big Curry Dish: (Chana Masala, Palak Paneer, Cashew Vegetable Korma)

Flat Breads

Cinnamon-Chai Rice Pudding

 

Thai Feast

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque

Cucumber Salad

Tofu Pad Thai or Red or Green Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

Mango or Coconut Ice Cream with Mango-Ginger Coulis

 

Chinese Feast

Pot Stickers

Spring Rolls

General Tso’s Tofu with Broccoli or Szechuan Stir Fry with Vegetables and Sesame GrilledTofu

Creamy Almond Pudding

 

*Stay tuned for recipes in upcoming posts for the menu items without links!!

11875120_10204969694216485_3711644754020690667_o

 

 

 

 

Friend or Faux: What You Need to Know About Fake Meats

IMG_2359.jpg

Vegan Chili Dog       Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The Plant-based Diet is receiving a lot of press these days, due in part to recent documentaries like “What The Health” currently streaming to billions of homes through services like Netflix. It’s being heavily promoted in best-selling books like Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The idea is catching on. At least in theory.

IMG_1830.jpg

Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

It is easy to understand why so many would-be vegetarians declare “I can’t afford to go plant-based!” and just keep on doing what they’re doing. No, you can’t afford to go plant-based if you are simply switching out your meats and cheeses for plant-based/vegan meats and cheeses. Because they cost three to four times more than real meats and cheeses. And the real goal is to get off the meats and cheeses and eat more plants, for real. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts.

A food product can be labeled vegan, the ingredients all free of animal-derived components and yet be about the unhealthiest thing you could eat. Oreo cookies are a good example of vegan junk food. Oreos are plant-based!

IMG_3146.jpg

Plant-Based Baked Goods                   Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The common argument for faux meats is that they are a “transitional” food for those new to meat-free eating. After conducting my own personal studies over the course of the past five years, I have come to the conclusion that they do nothing to ease the transition to a healthy, whole foods diet.

IMG_3294.jpg

What they actually do is become an obstacle to healthier whole-food protein choices such as beans, legumes and potatoes.  Because they taste so damned good! And as technology moves on, they just keep tasting better and better. These products are highly processed, high in fat and salt in most cases–manipulating our taste buds with artificially engineered flavors. Consequently, simple natural foods taste dull in comparison.

IMG_0459.jpg

If you want to improve your health, reclaim your naturally balanced weight, increase energy and focus…all of this is possible with a whole food plant-based diet. Whole food being the important factor. This means buying and consuming foods that have five ingredients or less. Yes, you read right. Check your cupboard, your fridge, your desk drawer at work. How do your plant-based food choices stack up?

There are really no shortcuts to better health. There are no super foods. Sustainable health is attained by a lifestyle balance between the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies and minds every day.

IMG_0852.jpg

Should we never eat faux meats? Do I sometimes eat them? Absolutely. Most dieticians and nutritionists agree that a ratio of 80% natural, whole foods to 20% “discretionary” foods is a good balance for sustainable health. That’s what I’m shooting for. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

 

 

True Food Kitchen, Boca Raton, FL

IMG_7215.jpg

True Food Kitchen is a restaurant chain with twenty or so locations throughout the mid to lower section of the United States. We stumbled upon this newly opened restaurant located in the Boca Raton Town Center Mall at lunchtime on a Monday. The dining room and bar were bustling with friendly, energetic denim-clad staff sporting t-shirts with positive one and two-word messages such as “Honest”, “Nurture” and “Shine On”.

The menu boasts a large and seasonal selection of fresh produce-filled dishes, cocktails, health tonics, lemonades and teas featuring freshly juiced fruits and additions such as matcha. We noticed the mixologist never seemed to stop making these beverages the whole time we were there.

The overall scene has an open-air feel to it, relaxed and casual, yet lively with the constant flow of staff carrying beautifully presented and colorful food and drinks through the dining room, which is decorated in a modern eco style with lots of fresh plants surrounding cozy tables and banquettes.

IMG_7207.jpg

The menu offers items marked vegan in almost every category. We were pleased to see a tempeh BLT and dishes featuring healthful whole food protein sources like quinoa, hemp seeds and edamame, just to name a few.

We started with the soup of the day, a simple vegetable minestrone, which we were advised was vegan without the parmesan garnish.

IMG_7212.jpg

For our lunch we shared the vegan grilled artichoke pesto pizza with almond ricotta. The crust was thin, light and crispy, topped with fresh spinach, artichokes and slices of summer squash. The pesto tasted freshly made and the creamy almond ricotta had a bright and clean flavor, with just a hint of lemon. The pizza was definitely large enough for two people to split for lunch with the cup of soup as a starter.

IMG_7213.jpg

The dessert menu offered three vegan selections on this day. Vanilla ice cream, rhubarb crumble, and banana chia pudding.

I know True Food Kitchen will become a standard in our restaurant rotation with its creative vegan dishes, refreshing made to order beverages and excellent service.

Next time we will save room for dessert!

 

Pros: Fresh, creative, vegan menu items, Friendly, energetic staff, Contemporary, spacious decor and casual atmosphere

Cons: High noise level during peak hours, Serves meat

If you don’t already know the website happycow.net, click on this link and get up to speed with the best resource for locating vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, bakeries and stores throughout the U.S.

After stumbling upon this new restaurant in my area with vegan options, I decided to become a happycow.net contributor and added True Food Kitchen. I suggest you do the same and you will be providing a great service to us all!

Vegan Pecan Bars

IMG_0385

Oh, my gosh! Scrolling through my reader the other day I came across this delicious recipe from Kaitlyn at myconsciouskitchen.com and was immediately inspired! I dropped everything and made it my mission to not only bake these sweet, nutty, layered cookie bars, but to photograph the process and post about it!

First, I preheated my oven to 325 and  gathered my ingredients for the bottom layer (the cookie part). I decided I would double up and make this part a bit thicker, kind of like a shortbread crust.

IMG_7531.jpg

Simple, simple. All stuff from the pantry. For the shortening, however, I substituted Earth Balance Buttery Stick.

IMG_7537.jpg

I mixed all the dry ingredients together with the fat, like a biscuit dough, then added the cool water, just until it was well-combined then pressed it out into an 8 x 8 inch pan, lined with a sheet of parchment paper and oiled with cooking spray. I baked it until the crust was firm and lightly browned, like a cookie, then set it aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

IMG_7534.jpg

Next, the ingredients for the filling. The flax egg takes a little forethought, but again, super-simple to put together while the crust cools.

IMG_7545.jpg

I mixed together everything with a whisk, folded in the chopped pecans, then straight in the oven.

IMG_7547.jpg

After 40 minutes, I checked it, then gave it another 5 minutes. It looked perfect. I allowed the pan to cool on a rack for a  couple of hours so I would get nice, clean slices.

IMG_7549.jpg

I ran a knife edge around the inside of the pan before carefully lifting out, then cut into servings.

IMG_0385.jpg

The verdict: Sweet and sticky and delicious! Like a combination of pecan pie and your most tender, buttery shortbread cookie. Perfect served warmed with a scoop of non-dairy vanilla, or as-is. We particularly enjoy a square straight from the freezer!

This one is definitely a keeper! Thanks so much, Kaitlyn! Find the full recipe HERE

 

Vegan Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Pie

IMG_0344.jpg

This is hands-down the best pumpkin pie recipe out there! The sweet, creamy filling is firm without being dry, and simple as a smoothie to put together. Perfectly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, this pie will be the star of your holiday table!

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

(recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Ingredients:

3 cups pumpkin or sweet potato puree ( I used sweet potato here)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup soy or other non-dairy milk

4 tsp. canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

pinch ground cloves

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. agar powder (see note below)

Pastry for 1 single-crust pie

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

IMG_7473.jpg

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until very smooth.

IMG_7474.jpg

Spread evenly into pie shell and bake in middle of center oven rack for 60-65 minutes.

IMG_7478.jpg

IMG_7479.jpg

Let cool for at least four hours before cutting to allow filling to set. Perfect!

IMG_7491

*Note: Agar powder is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. If you can’t find it at your local natural foods store, grab it online through amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Banana Oat Pancakes

IMG_4777.jpg

This recipe from our fellow blogger Spencer, has so much going for it!

#1 Whole Foods

#2 No oil or sugar

# Very, very little flour

# Simple mix and pour from the blender!

My pancake consumption has gone down dramatically over the years because they feel so heavy in my tummy and tend to drag down my energy. But when I read Spencer’s recipe I was intrigued, and I had to give it a try.

I’m happy to say I’m back in the pancake game! These are so light and tasty with a yummy banana flavor. They left me feeling satisfied without feeling too full. This recipe is definitely staying in the permanent rotation!

Try a handful of frozen blueberries sprinkled on right before you flip. So delicious!

 

IMG_4765.jpg

Check out the original recipe here at spencersgapyear.wordpress.com

 

David Lynch’s Quinoa With Broccoli

IMG_9287

I found myself inspired the other night by David Lynch’s short film, Quinoa, included as a special feature on his Inland Empire DVD. Filmed in black and white, in his own kitchen, the innovative filmmaker and artist leads us step-by- step through the preparation of one of his favorite dinners, quinoa with broccoli.

IMG_9273.jpg

While the dish cooks, Lynch takes a break on his porch with a glass of wine and a cigarette and tells us a story about his 1965 train ride from Yugoslavia to Italy. So random, yet so fascinating. So Lynch.

IMG_9267.jpg

Quinoa with Broccoli

from the short film, Quinoa by David Lynch

 

Ingredients:

A scant 1/2 cup quinoa, dry

Water for cooking

pinch of salt

1 small vegetable bouillon cube, cut into pieces

3/4 cup organic broccoli florets

Braggs liquid aminos, to taste

Olive oil, extra virgin, to taste

Method:

Fill a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with about an inch of fresh water. Set it over a nice, hot flame and bring to the boil with a pinch of sea salt. Stir in the quinoa and reduce flame to low. Cover and simmer for 9 minutes.

IMG_9280.jpg

After 9 minutes, lift the lid and add the broccoli. Cover and continue to steam over low heat for another 8 minutes.

IMG_9283.jpg

Remove from heat and add the cut up bouillon cube directly into quinoa and stir until dissolved.

Taste for salt, then add liquid aminos and a splash of olive oil to taste. Serve immediately.

IMG_9291.jpg

Makes 1 large portion.

IMG_9287.jpg

 

 

Vegan Zucchini-Spice Muffins

IMG_7736.jpg

When my day in the kitchen is smooth, I often have a little energy left over to make something just for fun. Today I baked these delicious, moist muffins filled with nutritious real food like fresh zucchini, banana, applesauce, walnuts and raisins. And just in time for tea!

This recipe comes directly from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s website. She’s definitely my go-to gal for the tastiest, fool-proof vegan recipes. Click here to link directly to her site and the recipe: ZUCCHINI BANANA BREAD

IMG_7710.jpg

I made little modification, other than using whole wheat pastry flour, adding a little

chai masala for extra spiciness and baking the batter as muffins instead of in a loaf pan.

IMG_7714.jpg

They baked up in about 20 minutes. Just watch your time. You’ll know when they’re ready–nice high, lightly-browned domes and dry on top, but if you’re not sure just poke a toothpick or the blade of a thin knife through the center to make sure the batter is no longer wet.

IMG_7720.jpg

Hemp Seed Parmesan

IMG_6505.jpg

Here’s a simple three-ingredient addition to pizza, pasta, salads, veggies and anywhere else you want a  sprinkle of savory flavor.

IMG_6498.jpg

Hemp Seed Parmesan

¼ cup Hemp seeds (or hearts)
2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
¼ tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

 

IMG_6500.jpg

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

IMG_6521.jpg

Restaurant-Style Marinara

IMG_6771.jpg

The secret for marinara sauce that tastes like it’s been simmering all day? Tomato paste. The savory-sweet intensity adds depth and richness without the hours of slow-cooking.

What I like best about this recipe? It’s simple and quick to prepare. Oh, and no chopping, except for a little clove of garlic, for which you can substitute 1/4 tsp of granulated garlic if you choose.

IMG_6754.jpg

Best Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon Thyme, dried
½ teaspoon Salt
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon Tomato paste

1. Saute garlic in oil over medium-low heat about 2 minutes.

IMG_6761.jpg

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper all at once stirring together until tomato paste is incorporated.

IMG_6762.jpg
2. Increase the heat a bit and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and crushing the tomatoes as you go.

IMG_6763.jpg

If you like a smoother sauce, just scoop out about half, run it through the blender then return to the pot. Easy!

Tofu Vindaloo

This is a spicy Indian dish I decided to prepare without any added oil. It turned out  tasty and well balanced, served with a fluffy timbale of fragrant jasmine rice.

Tofu Vindaloo

Recipe adapted from the cookbook,

“Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons water

One 16 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half-moons

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

One 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup water, or more as needed

Method:

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, ginger and spices with 1 tablespoon of water. Process until smooth and set aside. Very lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add the diced tofu and sear until nicely browned. This may take up to 10 minutes. Move the tofu around carefully to brown evenly. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and heat until bubbly. Add onions and carrot, cover, and cook until softened. About 5 minutes. Add red pepper, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice and 1 cup water and bring to boil.

Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the peas and tofu and heat through. This sauce may be served chunky or smooth. If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender before adding the peas and tofu.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

IMG_7520

What can I say? I grew up like most American kids. Hot dogs were most definitely on the menu. Nowadays, they are definitely not. The conventional version anyway. Every once in awhile I get a hankering for that good old-fashioned frank on a bun experience. There are various brands of vegan dogs on the market, but I thought I would try this recipe because it is quite simple and natural and uses pantry items I have on hand.

These are quite good and easy to make, with a pleasant background flavor of cornmeal, reminiscent of corn dogs (another old favorite). We both actually like them better than any brand I’ve tried. Definitely cheaper than store-bought and you can adjust the sodium and flavorings to your liking.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

recipe courtesy Heather Bell and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods

as published in Veg News magazine, July-August 2017

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) package extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour

1 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp safflower oil ( I used canola)

3/4 tsp liquid smoke

1 1/2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground mace

1/2 tsp mustard powder

IMG_7483

Method:

In large food processor add all ingredients and process until a dough forms.

IMG_7486.jpg

Cut eight 4 x 6 inch pieces or parchment paper and eight pieces of aluminum foil the same size.

IMG_7484.jpg

Roll the dough into a ball on a clean surface and flatten slightly. Cut into 8 equal pieces then form each piece into a hot dog shape.

IMG_7489.jpg

Roll each dog in parchment and twist ends. Then roll each piece in foil, twist and trim ends if necessary.

IMG_7490.jpg

IMG_7494.jpg

Place rolls in an electric steamer or a colander over a simmering pot of water on the stove to create a steamer (covered). Steam 45 minutes.

IMG_7515.jpg

Don’t forget the buns!

 

 

 

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

IMG_2390

Every once in awhile, I am moved to pull out  various appliances and put them to work, such as the waffle iron, pasta machine, ice cream maker. It’s a fun weekend endeavor, when I have time, to enjoy the satisfaction of making something “from scratch” that I usually buy.

With the convenience of every flavor under the sun available at our local Whole Foods Market, making ice cream at home may seem like quite the ambitious undertaking.

vanilla

It is actually as easy as making a smoothie or anything else you might run through the blender, if you have a quality ice cream maker. Nothing else provides that essential smooth, frozen consistency.

I always keep my freezer bowl frozen for those times when an ice cream recipe will catch my attention. This recipe from “Crazy, Sexy Kitchen” by Kris Carr looked so simple, and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I just had to give it a try.

machine

I adapted the recipe slightly by substituting four medjool dates for the agave nectar. In the end, though, I added  a squirt of agave to give it just a bit more sweetness.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 can coconut milk

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

1/3 cup agave nectar (or five medjool dates, pitted and sliced)

1/2 cup water

Pinch sea salt

datesMethod:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and  refrigerate until very cold and to soak the cashews (at least four hours, overnight, if possible). Make sure your ice cream maker’s freezer bowl is completely frozen.

Pour mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste for sweetness and add more agave to suit your taste, if desired.

start

Before

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

done

After

Two Bean and Bulgar Chili

chili

I came across this recipe, while sifting through a drawer. It was a page torn from one of those little paperback supermarket cookbooks at the register called “Meatless Meals”.

There is a handwritten note beside the recipe, “Steve’s favorite 2005”. This little memory jog took me right back to that year when I first met the man who would become my husband, though neither of us knew it yet.

I am really glad this recipe was Steve’s favorite back in 2005, because that was long before we  became vegan. What an evolution together, over time, to a more compassionate lifestyle, a deeper enjoyment of food and a more humble appreciation for nature.

I am ever grateful for my husband’s love and support on my personal and professional journey, and I can’t imagine a better partner with whom to share the ride.

Frame-15-05-2018-08-53-18

Two-Bean and Bulgar Chili

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1/2 cup uncooked bulgar wheat

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Method:

Saute in oil over medium-high heat, carrot, bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 4 minutes.

veggies

Stir in remaining ingredients, except beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes, until bulgar is tender and flavors are blended, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

pot

Add drained beans and simmer 5 minutes until heated through. Serve with your favorite cornbread.

cornbread

 

Working Lunch

The summer months are a time to rest and re-energize my mind as well as my body. A time to reflect, renew, refill my well of ideas.

I have always found inspiration through others. Even after running my chef business for almost seven years now, I always stay open to change and to inspiration. Not just in my work life, but also personally.

Working with food is personal. It’s hard to think of an area more personal than something we do every day, several times per day. We eat. For nourishment and for pleasure. This is a balance I find a constant challenge and interest. Even more so over time.

This brings me to the inspiration for today’s lunch.

Caitlin Shoemaker

I can’t say enough good things about Caitlin Shoemaker, fellow recipe developer, photographer, and chef in her own right. Her earthy, straightforward approach to vegan food and lifestyle along with maintaining a perfect balance between good food and good-for-you food is a constant source of inspiration. In short, she’s nailing it.

Have you ever just eaten a sweet potato? Just straight up bake it for an hour then cut it open and scoop it out? Sometimes this is my lunch. And sometimes I eat the peel too.

Here I have reheated a sweet potato from yesterday, drizzled it with Caitlin’s

4 Ingredient Sesame Miso Dressing  

and ground fresh pepper on top. Filling, satisfying and tasty.

 

 

 

Vegan Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

IMG_0607.jpg

A party favorite, these samosas are fun and easy to make and bake. They also freeze well, so when you’re in the mood, prep a big batch and store for whenever.

IMG_8857.jpg

Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

Ingredients:

Dough:

3 cups Flour, all purpose
1 tbsp. Curry powder
¾ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking powder
¾ tsp. Water, cold
2 ounces Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
¼ cup Shortening

Filling:
2 pounds Potatoes, russet, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 med Onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh grated
½ each Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. Coriander, ground
¾ tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. Cumin seeds, toasted
2 tbsp. Water
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
1 cup Peas, frozen, thawed
3 tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped

Sweet Tamarind Glaze:
¼ cup Apricot jam
½ tsp. Tamarind paste
1 tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

IMG_8868.jpg

Method:

1. Mix dough using biscuit method (15 min.) Wrap and chill (1 hour).
2. While dough is chilling, make filling (35 minutes). Boil potatoes until just tender. Drain immediately. Toast cumin seeds then saute onions in olive oil unti lightly browned. Add seasonings, jalapeno and ginger. Saute about 1 minute then add the water and stir until most of water is absorbed. Preheat oven to 400.
3. Finish with peas, lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for seasonings, then immediately transfer to container or sheet tray and quick-chill in freezer.
4. Form and Fill (30 minutes). Roll out dough one half at a time on lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, large enough to fold lengthwise into thirds, then cut on the folds. From the three strips, cut squares, about 2 x 2 each. Spoon about 1/2 to 1 tbsp filling into the center and fold over diagonally. Press edges with a fork to seal.
5. Make dipping sauce (5 minutes). Mix together first two ingredients on the stove to warm together. Run through a sieve or puree in bullet then add cilantro. Taste for salt.
6. Bake on parchment sheet tray for 20 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.

IMG_0634 (1)

Recipe takes 1 1/2 hours to complete. Add additional 30 minutes (roll, form and fill) for doubling and another 30 minutes for every multiple after that.

Mint Chutney

recipe courtesy foodviva.com

Throw all this stuff in your magic bullet. You won’t regret it!!

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 cloves garlic

2 green chili peppers,  seeded and chopped ( I used 1/2 of a serrano pepper)

2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp water

IMG_0590.jpg

 

 

 

Key Lime Icebox Pie with Mango-Ginger Coulis

key lime.jpg

Here’s a little something different for you, dear readers. A delicious creamy, no-bake dessert that is sweet, but not overly so–with the tangy influence of key lime juice and a hint of ginger.

Key Lime Icebox Pie 

3 ½ cups cashews, raw, soaked
¾ cups key lime juice
¾ cups agave nectar
1 cup coconut oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 recipe gingersnap cookie crust

Method:

Blend all together and freeze overnight. Move to fridge for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Gingersnap Cookie Crust

2 cups ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted

Method:

Blend all together and press into 9-inch pan

Mango-Ginger Coulis

8 ounces mango puree
1 tsp. ginger, fresh, grated
1 ounce sugar, powdered, sifted
1 tbsp. non-dairy creamer, vanilla

Method:

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate 1 day ahead.

 

 

Creamy Pasta Salad

Here’s a delicious reworking of traditional macaroni salad. Prepared with whole-grain pasta and  lots of crunchy fresh veggies, this one is  so nutritious, it can stand alone as a main dish! A refreshing change from the same old salad routine.

This dressing is creamy and mildly sweet, flavored with a blend of garlic, mustard and lemon. I will quote my husband on his first bite of this salad: “Damn, that’s good!”

Creamy Pasta Salad

2 cups dried whole grain pasta, cooked, drained and chilled

3 ribs celery, sliced

2 carrots, grated

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw cashews

2 dates, pitted and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

Combine cashews, dates and water and set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Place cashew mixture in high-powered blender with remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with vegetables and pasta to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Cathy Fisher:  http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/

Easy Enchilada Sauce

IMG_5699.jpg

In my experience, you can stuff a burrito with just about anything. But the sauce…now, the sauce can make it or break it for me.

Here’s one of my essential recipes. It’s quick and easy and tasty. I pour this rich, tomato-garlic-cumin sauce  over enchiladas, burritos, tacos–even drizzle it over nachos.  I hope you give it a try!

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour ( all-purpose flour works fine, too)
¼ cup Canola oil
3 tbsp. Chili powder
3 tsp. Cumin, ground
1 ¼ tsp. Salt
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Hot water
14.5 ounces Tomato sauce

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

Brown flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent over-browning.  Carefully add spices and oil, stirring to avoid lumps. Slowly add water and tomato sauce. Stir until smooth. Simmer to desired consistency. Check for salt and add a bit of ground cayenne pepper if you want to make it spicy.

Yield: A whole lotta sauce, about 4 cups, so unless you’re making a big ole mess of enchiladas, you may wish to cut the ingredients in half.

IMG_5682.jpg

 

Recipe Test: Quinoa Pancakes

IMG_8175 (1).jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

 

Here’s the thing about pancakes…I love the way they taste, but not so much how I feel afterward. All that doughy, sweet carbohydrate goodness seems such a decadent indulgence.

I’m always alert for a loophole–a healthier way to enjoy that sticky maple-buttery experience without feeling like I just consumed a loaf of bread in one sitting. When I came across this RECIPE (courtesy feastingonfruit.com) the immediate thought came to my mind: Quinoa=Protein. High-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat always feels good in my tummy. This recipe is also oil-free.

But, then, I thought…how will they taste without any gluten? Will they hold together yet not be dry and weird? Since I have quinoa flakes in my pantry anyway, I decided to see for myself.

IMG_8151.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The recipe suggests using a blender, so I thought, since I am cutting the recipe in half I’ll just use my Magic Bullet. BAD IDEA.

I would mix this recipe in a bowl, like any other pancake batter. Otherwise, you will leave behind a lot of it, due to its thick, paste-like consistency. I also substituted apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice because it was easier and cheaper.

I transferred the whole mess into a bowl and added more milk and a bit more maple syrup to achieve a smoother, spreadable batter. I also added a pinch of salt, because the recipe didn’t call for any. Salt adds a pleasing flavor contrast to the maple syrup.

IMG_8161.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The cooking was good. A nice, even browning without sticking to the griddle, which I  sprayed with a light coating of oil between each cake.

IMG_8169.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The result? A very good, gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat pancake. After tasting, I decided I would have added more salt, though–beyond a pinch. Otherwise there is no flavor at all.

IMG_8185.jpg

I added a little extra Earth Balance spread and this fixed the issue. The texture is good, too. Not dry or grainy or weird. Just light and absorbent. The half-recipe made three medium-sized cakes. I ate two of them and still felt good, not bloated.

IMG_8189.jpg

My final assessment:

An excellent representation of a ‘healthier’ way to pancake, but quinoa is exorbitantly expensive. If money is of no importance, and you want to impress your friends and family at brunch, go for it.

But…there are lot of other gluten-free pancake options and much, much cheaper. I dare say, even tastier. Here’s one in particular I like, made in a blender with bananas and oats.

GLUTEN-FREE BANANA-OAT PANCAKES

What’s your favorite way to pancake??

 

I Made Tahini (And You Can, Too!)

IMG_7588.jpg

I’m free! Free from the tyranny of the ten dollar jar of organic tahini when all I need is a spoonful or two at a time! What took me so long?

This quick, easy recipe produces fresh, tasty, toasty sesame tahini for a fraction of the cost!

Easy Tahini

Ingredients:

1 cup raw sesame seeds

2 tbsp. mild flavored oil (I used sesame oil)

Method:

Toast sesame seeds lightly in a dry skillet, over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly, just until slightly brown. Immediately transfer to a small food processor or blender.

IMG_7585.jpg

Grind until seeds resemble small crumbs. Add a tablespoon of oil and keep grinding, scraping down the sides as needed. Add another tablespoon of oil, if needed to create a creamy consistency. Keep grinding until smooth. That’s it!!

Makes about 1/2 cup of tahini. Store covered, in the fridge.

 

IMG_7587.jpg

 

 

Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

 

Summer is coming down fast and I find myself seeking light, refreshing meals. Here’s a quick soup that is both nourishing and super easy to put together!

Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

(recipe courtesy Kerry Ogden, MA, LPC)

Ingredients

4 medium carrots, peeled
1½-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1½ cups almond milk
1 cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
squeeze of lime

Avocado (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

Method:

1) Chop the carrots and ginger.
2) Using a high-speed blender, combine ingredients until smooth.
3) Squeeze lime, adjusting flavors to taste.

Garnish with chopped avocado and cilantro ( I used fresh mint).

 

Lentil-Walnut Loaf with Sweet Tomato Glaze

IMG_4949

This is a client favorite and a recipe I swear by, having grown up eating traditional meatloaf. This version has a firm slice without being dry or being soggy. It bakes up perfect, time after time. The glaze really makes it taste just like my mom made back in the day.

Lentil-Walnut Loaf 

adapted from a recipe by Jenna Weber (eatliverun.com)

1 cup Lentils, green or brown
3 cups Vegetable stock
1 large Onion, yellow
1 large Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tsp. Minced garlic
1 cup Bread crumbs
¾ cup Walnuts
3 tbsp. Flax meal, mixed with 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black pepper
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Vinegar, balsamic
1 parchment paper

1.Heat oven to 350. In small bowl, combine flax and water. Set aside. Simmer together lentils, broth and pinch of salt for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and have absorbed all the broth.

2.Chop onion, grate carrot and dice celery. Saute onion and celery in olive oil over medium high heat for six minutes or until tender, not caramelized.

3.Add onion, carrot, garlic mixture on stove and stir well. Add oregano, salt and pepper, then transfer to large bowl.

4.Add breadcrumbs, flax egg and lentils and toss well. Press mixture into a greased loaf pan and set aside while you make topping.

5.Combine ketchup, maple syrup and vinegar. Spread on top of loaf. Bake for 40 minutes then invert onto plate.

 

 

 

Muesli!!

IMG_8765.jpg

For some reason I’ve always believed Muesli was this mysteriously complicated cereal made in Europe using some super-secret old-world technique, unapproachable by the average person. Like maybe they hand-rolled the oats or something. Why else would the little box offered by that one brand perch so stoically high on the grocery shelf all by itself with its exorbitant price tag?

Turns out, Muesli is nothing but naked and un-toasted granola! This, in my mind, makes it an easier and healthier choice than granola. Why? And don’t get me wrong–I am a true granola lover from way back before it was cool–but, you know and I know even homemade granola can be full of sugar and sometimes full of fat. And sometimes, even full of sodium.

But this. This is not that. It is a bowl full of whole foods, in their natural state, completely unadorned. No sugar, no added fat or salt. Just clean, pure energy.

IMG_8742.jpg

Cooking a serving of oatmeal in the microwave takes 2-3 minutes. Putting together this cereal takes about the same amount of time and you have breakfast for the week!

IMG_8745.jpg

IMG_8748.jpg

IMG_8750.jpg

IMG_8747.jpg

IMG_8752.jpg

That’s it! No soaking, no cooking, no need to heat up the oven. This recipe is completely adjustable to your tastes, with an endless variety of nut, seed, fruit and cereal combinations.

Yield:  10 cups (that’s 10 1-cup servings or 13 3/4 cup servings). Store refrigerated.

IMG_8758.jpg

I topped my first bowl of homemade muesli with fresh chopped strawberries and non-dairy milk.

IMG_8772 (1).jpg

There is so much going on in this bowl!! So many textures and flavors. It’s crunchy and chewy, sweet and tangy from the fruit and then the little edge of cacao nib influence is a pleasant surprise against the fresh berries.

A healthy and delicious breakfast to take you through the morning feeling satisfied and energized!

 

 

 

 

 

Original Ginger (O.G) Refresher

I am inspired once again by True Food Kitchen. This gingery, bubbly, slightly sweet and sour elixir  has become my very favorite brunch (or any time of day) “mock-tail”. It’s so easy to make!

Ginger-infused water is a game-changer. I keep a jar of it in the fridge and add it to my smoothies, tonics and even to dressings and sauces that need a little kick of  fresh ginger’s distinctive heat and flavor!

Ginger-Infused Water

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh ginger root, roughly chopped (organic, if available)

4 cups filtered drinking water

Method:

Combine in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve or nut milk bag (that’s what I use). Keep in airtight container, refrigerated.

Note: This makes a lot of ginger water and a little goes a long way flavor-wise. If you don’t plan to use it up within a week, half the recipe.


Original Ginger (O.G.) Refresher (inspired by True Food Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Ginger-infused water

1-2 tablespoons liquid sweetener, to taste (agave, maple or simple syrup works best)

1/4 fresh lime for squeezing

6 ounces bubbly water of your choice (I use tonic water)

Method:

Pour the ginger water into a 16 ounce glass and with a spoon, stir in the sweetener until dissolved. Taste for sweetness and add more if you like. Squeeze in the lime juice and throw away the peel part if it is not organic, otherwise you could just let it float around and look pretty.

Add ice and stir, then finish with the bubbly water to fill the glass. One more gentle stir, then enjoy!

Note: This is not the exact recipe from TFK, but I think it tastes pretty close. I also think it would be good with fresh mint.

Cheers!!

IMG_8334

 

Vegan Gumbo with Homemade Andouille, A Passion Project

IMG_7704.jpg

Every once in awhile I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to make something I know will be complicated. And I make it. Because it’s worth the extra time and effort.

And because I know there’s nowhere else I can get it but in my own little kitchen.

So, here it is. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands I highly recommend this savory, warming, stick-to-your-ribs recipe for gumbo that tastes every bit as good as what they make down on the bayou.

Just two notes right up front: There is no okra in my gumbo. Because I don’t like it. Feel free to add as liberally as you like, though. The other thing…although I chose to make my own sausage, there are packaged versions of andouille or similar sausage you may want to pick up instead.

Vegan Gumbo

Recipe courtesy eatfigsnotpigs.com (with slight modifications)

(Servings: 4)

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. Canola oil
½  Not Beef stock cube (or veggie, if you can’t find it in your store)
¾ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
½ cup Green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance
2 cups Not Beef Stock (or veggie)
1 cup Stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped

1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 Bay leaves
1 tsp. Hot sauce
2 each Vegan andouille, sliced

1 cup white or red kidney beans
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril’s Essence)
1 tsp. Gumbo File powder (ground sassafras leaves), optional
2  Scallions, sliced
3 cups Rice, Basmati, cooked

Method:

Start with your roux. Heat the oil and 1/2 bouillon cube over medium-low heat, preferably in a cast-iron dutch oven or deep skillet. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture changes color from light to medium brown.  Be careful not to burn it!

IMG_7694.jpg

From this color…

IMG_7696.jpg

To this color!

Remove the roux from the pan into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

Saute the veggies. Melting the margarine in the skillet, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion, celery and green peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until veggies are softened, about 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Now the easy part. Add the stock and tomatoes. With a rubber spatula, scrape all that lovely roux back into the pan. Over medium heat, cook and stir until well incorporated and thickened. If it gets too thick, add a bit more water or stock until the consistency is right.

Now the seasonings. Add the thyme, bay leaf, hot sauce and cajun spice and let simmer for a good 10 minutes on low. Give it a taste. Add a bit more spice or salt if you like.

Finish. Take your andouille slices and brown them off in a little oil in a separate skillet. This is an optional step, but I like the crisp outside that keeps the sausage from getting soggy too fast and the browned edges add color to the dish.

Drop the slices into your gumbo along with the kidney beans and allow to heat through while you chop up your garnishes–scallions and parsley. Add these right before serving and they will retain their color and fresh flavor.

The gumbo file powder is added after cooking, just a sprinkle for flavor. Serve over hot, cooked rice with a few more scallion slices.

IMG_7697.jpg

Notes From The Vegan Underground

IMG_1422.jpg

I’m still here, dear readers. Just focusing on work and other personal projects besides food.

Here are a few of my latest personal inspirations:

Caitlin Shoemaker, Food and Healthy Lifestyle Blogger

Unknown

This young lady has single-handedly re-inspired my cooking. That’s a big deal. She’s super-sweet and utterly obsessed with healthy lifestyle and healthful, tasty, whole food, low oil/no oil cooking.

In particular she has inspired my latest breakfast craze, the best granola recipe I’ve found so far and I’ve been eating and making granola for thirty years! There are so many more of her recipes in my queue just waiting to happen! Check her out on YouTube and her website, frommybowl.com  is pretty awesome as well!

Oat Milk

My latest discovery and I am so happy for it. I heard Michelle and Matt talking about oat milk on a recent Thug Kitchen podcast, Forked Up and I thought I would give it a try. Even the best store brand had added sugar so I decided to make my own.

A gamechanger! I first tried it with cheesecloth and then graduated to a nut milk bag which is phenomenal!

HOW TO MAKE OAT MILK from simpleveganblog.com.

Super-simple to make, just oats and water. The flavor is so pure and just works perfectly in recipes, too.

Till next time, friends!

Eat well and be well 🙂

Melanie

 

 

Deli-Style Potato Salad

 

IMG_8950

Here’s a plant-based side dish to bring to your Fourth of July get-together.  An enlightened egg-free version of a classic.

I promise no one will even suspect it’s egg-free!

Deli-Style Potato Salad

(from the official P.E.T.A. Website)

Ingredients:

6 medium potatoes, russet (if you use waxy potatoes, such as Redskin or Yukon, decrease cooking time to about 10 minutes)
½ cup vegan mayonnaise ( I prefer Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo)
¼ cup mustard, yellow
2 tbsp. vinegar (white or apple cider)
½ cup onion, white, chopped fine
½ cup celery, chopped fine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Paprika for finishing (optional)

Method:
Cut potatoes into cubes and cook in boiling water 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool completely. In a large bowl, combine with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle top with paprika.

 

 

The Best Plant-Based Cookbook is Waiting For You, And It’s Free!

 

IMG_8921.jpg

“Do you cook a lot?” asks the librarian behind the counter.

It’s after work, I’m in my chef jacket, stuffing a reusable shopping bag full of plant-based cookbooks I placed on hold a week or so ago.  A regular ritual for me.

“Um, yeah…I sure do. I’m a personal chef and I do a lot of recipe research here at the library!” I smile broadly as he helps me place yet one more gorgeously photographed hardback on my pile.

At home with my stack, I sit down in a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea and flip through one book at a time.

But I am not just looking at pretty pictures. I am on a mission. Seeking inspiration and also solid, no-nonsense recipes that I can modify or add to my regular repertoire.

What makes a good recipe, in my opinion?

  1. Reasonable number of ingredients. Reading a long list of stuff I need to buy/prep makes me exhausted before I even get started, so less is definitely better.
  2. Accessibility of ingredients. Can I find the items at my local grocery on a regular basis or are they seasonal or hard-to-find?
  3. Ease of preparation. Are there so many complicated recipe components that one dish takes two hours to cook? Unless it’s Christmas or I have committed my day to bread-baking or ravioli-making, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
  4. Recognition. Yes, familiarity. I have found for my clients, and for my family, we like to return to dishes and flavors again and again that are familiar to our experience. What says comfort to you?
  5. Cost. Some ingredients are just ridiculously expensive. Here is where you have to use your instinctual higher judgement. Some cookbook authors assume that money is no object on the quest for the perfect plant-based meal. Next.

Here are a couple highlights from this week’s haul:

IMG_8913.jpg

The Book of Veganish by Kathy Freston (2016)

Why? This cookbook offers simple, economical no-nonsense recipes and lots of great everyday advice on making the transition to a vegan, plant-based lifestyle. I especially appreciate the relaxed language and easy-to-read page layouts with colorful images and text boxes throughout. A great starter book.

IMG_8910.jpg

Natural Feasts by Ella Mills (2017)

Why? First, a disclaimer. When you open it up you know you are stepping into a world. It’s easy to lose your way amidst the lush, natural light, the soft-focus images of radiantly healthy women and men beaming lovingly at one another over rustically styled food and furnishings and hand-picked botanicals. You get the sense that everyone loves Ella. And by the end, you realize you want to be Ella.

But behind all the window-dressing, Ella puts out quality recipes. I enjoyed her previous and more basic “Simply Ella” cookbook because she really focuses on creative combinations of whole foods in her recipes. Most of her dishes are low in sugar and oil and include simple, easy to find and afford ingredients, like butterbeans. Yes, butterbeans!

I highly recommend exploring your local library’s inventory of cookbooks to discover the right one(s) for you. Key words really matter when researching the database. Try vegan, plant-based, whole food, vegetarian, healthy, meatless, for example. And don’t give up entirely on conventional cookbooks and magazines for recipe inspiration. There are many recipes that are incidentally plant-based (like salad dressings, barbecue and other condiments).

IMG_8917

The book business being what it is, publishers are looking to appeal to the widest audience, so don’t get hung up on labels. I have found many excellent vegan recipes hiding between the pages of lacto-ovo vegetarian cookbooks.

I have read that folks are cooking less nowadays, opting instead for grab n’ go meals, food delivery services, personal chefs (yay), restaurant dining and takeout  more often than not.

Nevertheless, for those of us who read them (and need them) as well as those of us who just like the pretty pictures, the plant-based cookbooks keep flying off the presses. And thank goodness for that!

 

 

 

 

Thai Curry in a Hurry

IMG_7381 (1).jpg
I just love when a dinner idea sparks my imagination and I happen to have everything on hand to create exactly what I envision. Inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant, I set out to make a sweet, spicy, creamy curry filled with fresh, delicious veggies.

This dish is quick and easy to prepare and works great with green or red curry pastes.  And it only takes a few minutes if you cook the rice ahead to warm at service time.

Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables

¼ cup Thai green or red curry paste
4 ounces Mushrooms
4 ounces Carrot, sliced thinly
8 ounces Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 cup frozen peas

Note:  Substitute any vegetables for those listed.

13 ounces Coconut milk
1 tbsp. sweetener (optional, but tasty)
¾ cup Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce

Squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)
¼ cup Cilantro, for garnish
2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method:

Take your hard vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli and gently simmer them in the broth until crisp-tender. Now add all the other sauce ingredients and the soft veggies like mushrooms and peas. Bring it up to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce for salty-ness if desired, a squeeze of lime for a mild sour influence or more sweetener, if desired. Balance the flavors. Finish with chopped cilantro.

IMG_7384 (1).jpg

Note: If you have an Asian grocery in your town, check out their curry pastes. The one on the left costs $1.49 and tasted better than the one on the right from my local Whole Foods Market at $4.00! A little spicier, but hey, I like it that way!

April 2018 Menu!

IMG_7038.jpg

I have moved to an all-in-one, meal-in-a-box format this Spring. It seems to be the best way to keep reheating as simple as possible for my clients. I used to offer the mains with choice of soups and sides, but I think it got too complicated that way–too many menu choices to make and then the assembly later– and most of my families are time-starved to begin with!

What do you think??

Coconut Chana Saag

Chickpeas, tomatoes, Lacinato kale, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, coconut milk, lime, cilantro, basmati rice

 

Portobello Stroganoff

Organic Portobello caps, garden peas, onions, garlic, tamari, sour cream, touch of sherry, GF pasta

 

Thai Green Curry Bowl

Coconut-roasted tofu, mixed vegetables, herbs, green curry, coconut milk, Florida organic brown rice

 

Scaloppini Marsala

Scaloppini, cremini mushrooms, onion, garlic, Marsala sauce, steamed spinach, mashed sweet potatoes

 

Adzuki Quinoa Bowl

Adzuki beans, mixed peppers, onions, garlic, chili and cumin, tri-colored quinoa, cilantro-lime chimichurri

 

Franks and Beans

Smoky, hand-crafted and steamed franks, baked beans, homemade barbecue sauce, creamy coleslaw

 

Sesame-Grilled Tofu

Organic pressed tofu, tamari, toasted sesame oil, Szechuan broccoli, red peppers, onions, black rice

 

Black Bean Burgers

Black beans, cilantro, cumin, green onions, cilantro-lime mayo, honey-mustard kale salad on side

 

Grits, Greens and Beans

Sauteed green kale, shallots, garlic, simmered black-eyed peas, tomatoes, smoky grilled polenta cakes

 

Firehouse Chili with Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

Red beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chili powder, lime sour cream, GF corn muffins

 

Mushroom Lentil Sloppy Joes

Cremini mushrooms, French lentils, onions, green peppers, rich tomato sauce, Ezekiel whole-grain buns, creamy coleslaw on the side

 

Barbecue Tempeh

Smoky oven-roasted tempeh with homemade barbecue sauce, sweet corn, zucchini, bell peppers, GF cornbread

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes

Hearts of palm, mirepoix, bell peppers, parsley, roasted sweet potatoes, Creole remoulade

Vegan Brunch Execution, Start to Finish

IMG_7981.jpg

I love to cook big breakfast on the weekend! Here’s a fairly easy menu I pulled off this morning in about two hours:

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Cinnamon Baked Apples

Smoky Golden Corn Grits

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

 Roasted Redskin Potatoes with Onions

Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s all about strategy and timing. I start with the dish that takes the longest to cook: the apples. I turn on the oven to preheat to 350 degrees fahrenheit while peeling and slicing.

IMG_7977.jpg

Rule of thumb in my kitchen: Always Be Prepping! While one thing is cooking, be working on the next thing until you have them all going at once, regulating temperature and quality to make sure everything is served hot.

If you think you are all caught up and have run out of stuff to do–think again! There are always dishes to wash and counters to clear, while setting the table, pulling out condiments, etc. I will admit, with this menu I had the advantage of tagging my husband for dish duty! That saved me some time, most definitely.

So, my apples are working in the oven while I am scrubbing and dicing my potatoes and onions, panning them up to slide right in when the apples come out. That’s when the temp will increase to 425 to get them nice and toasty. Note: the smaller you dice the potatoes the faster they cook. Seems like a no-brainer, but I sometimes forget myself, because the larger I dice the faster I am done dicing, ha ha.

IMG_7981

I do my sausage crumbles  and leave them in the iron skillet basking in the residual heat while heating my veggie stock for the grits.

IMG_7983.jpg

I get my grits working and cover them to finish, stirring with a whisk every so often to prevent sticking.

Okay, I’m free to give my full attention to the pumpkin spice pancakes, which do require babysitting as I cook them one at a time. But, I’m cool, because everything else is working or done and just staying warm.

IMG_0924.jpg

I set up a small sheet pan on the side and place each pancake there as I remove them from the griddle. I cover the pan with foil to hold in the heat.

IMG_7978.jpg

Meanwhile, the potatoes are just about done roasting. Great! I turn off the oven and everything that fits goes in there  to stay hot until the guests arrive. Don’t worry, the oven is off and the temperature is rapidly decreasing, so nothing is going to overheat. Trust me on this, not like they will if you leave them on the stovetop on low. This tends to burn the bottoms of everything!

So, into the oven with my:

 Iron skillet of tempeh sausage crumbles

Covered pot of grits

Potatoes are already in there

Apples (optional) they may be still warm from the oven anyway or you may wish to serve them at room temp

What I did leave on the stovetop: the iron pancake griddle, set to low, with the sheet tray full of pancakes resting on top, covered loosely with foil. This keeps the cakes nice and steamy hot.

Now, everything is ready and everything will be served hot, the way it was intended.

Finally, I fix myself a fresh, hot cup of coffee and sit down with my guests to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

IMG_4769.jpg

 

 

The Vegan Reuben Project

IMG_7789.jpg

I enjoy a personal culinary challenge. Especially one that results in good eats! I set out to create an old favorite from my pre-vegan days and I nailed it, if I do say so myself!

IMG_7750.jpg

This was a great opportunity to try my hand at baking my own rye bread as well as the corned “beef” recipe I’ve been meaning to try ever since I came across it in Brian McCarthy’s, “The Professional Vegan Cookbook”. The roast was easier than expected and turned out juicy and flavorful. The spices are on point!

IMG_7767.jpg

Baking my own bread is a favorite activity (when time allows) and rye was definitely a challenge. Even after three tries I don’t think I got the rise exactly as high I wanted, but it turned out delicious anyway!

IMG_7778.jpg

The thousand island dressing was a no-brainer to make, but is a crucial element in building the perfect Rueben!

IMG_7772.jpg

Vegan Corned Beef 

2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
2 tbsp. Granulated onion
2 tbsp. Paprika
2 tbsp. Whole Fennel Seed, coarsely ground
2 tbsp. Caraway seeds, coarsely ground
1 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cloves
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 cup Vegetable broth
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Molasses
1 tbsp. Vinegar (white or ac)
Cheesecloth
String or twine

1. In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water to a simmer.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in separate bowl. Combine wet with the dry until well combined.

IMG_7756.jpg
3. Form into a 5-inch by 8-inch loaf that will be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Place on cheesecloth and roll up like a big flat rectangle tootsie roll (not too tight). Tie each end with a piece of string.

IMG_7760.jpg
4. Place in simmering water, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take roast out of liquid and remove cheese cloth.:

IMG_7762.jpg

Serve warm in thin slices or chill for later. I froze half of my roast to enjoy another day.

IMG_7781.jpg

IMG_7785.jpg

 

Maple-Butter Pancake Oats

IMG_7740.jpg

My favorite breakfast is pancakes. But I don’t eat them as often as I’d like–opting for a lighter, healthier choice most mornings. It strikes me as funny that I didn’t come up with this idea sooner, but the other day I got the notion that I could make my healthy, whole-food oats TASTE like pancakes. And still walk away from the table feeling like I made a smarter choice.

I thought about what makes the pancake experience for me. It’s not just the maple flavor. No, it’s the harmonious contrast of the warm, sweet syrup  against the salty, creamy butter along with a bit of cinnamon spice. Yes, that’s the balance I have created here.

Not to mention, this bowl of warm, comforting goodness comes together in less than five minutes.

What took me so long?

IMG_7739.jpg

Maple Butter Pancake Oats

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

pinch salt

1 tsp. Earth Balance Non-Dairy Margarine

1 Tbsp. real maple syrup

1/4 tsp. cinnamon, pumpkin pie or apple pie spice

1/4 tsp. Maldon Sea Salt (optional)

Method:

Cook oats per package directions or microwave in a heat-proof bowl, approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds at 50% power.

Allow the cooked oats to sit for about a minute, then stir to check for desired doneness. Add remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

IMG_7743.jpg

 

 

 

 

Vegan Andouille Sausage

IMG_7691.jpg

Here’s just the companion to my gumbo recipe, a tasty, spicy sausage to enhance the dish or slice up and fry with your morning tofu, your choice.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but trust me, the resulting flavor is well worth all the gathering! I would recommend doubling this recipe for your trouble and storing a few links in the freezer for later on.

Vegan Andouille Sausage

adapted from a recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups Vital Wheat Gluten
¼ cup Nutritional yeast
½ cup White beans
1 cup Veg stock
4 tsp. Garlic
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tbsp. Tomato paste
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Smoked paprika
1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 tsp. Sweet paprika
1 tsp. Sage, rubbed
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Liquid smoke
¼ tsp. Black pepper
¼ tsp. Cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. Mash beans with fork until smooth. Add veg broth, soy sauce, tomato paste, and all spices and mix well. With a fork, mix in nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten until a dough forms.
    2. Knead dough for a minute or two then cut into 4 equal pieces. Stretch and roll each piece into sausage shape and wrap in foil, twisting ends. Steam for 45 minutes.