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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creamy Pesto Risotto

Summer is coming to an end soon.   My favorite herb is basil and I know that it will be gone soon so I am trying to use it as much as I can while I still have it.   The first thing that comes to mind when I think about basil is pesto.   I love pesto; I made it twice this week.   It is always best when it is freshly made.  The jarred pesto can't compare.   In an earlier post I wrote that I never ate white rice at home, I forgot about risotto when I was writing that because I do eat white arborio rice.   There is no substitute for the creaminess of arborio rice in risotto.   If I ever find a brown arborio I will definitely stock up on it but until I do this is delicious!   Some people server risotto as a side but I like it as a main dish.  

Creamy Pesto Risotto

Pesto sauce:
5-6 cups fresh basil
¼  cup pine nuts (or other nuts of choice)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼  - ½ cup cashew cream or soymilk
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until fairly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl periodically to make sure you get everything incorporated.  Set aside.

(to make cashew cream put 1/8 cup of raw cashews in a blender with ½ cup water and blend until smooth)

2 cups Arborio rice
8 cups water or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾  cup white wine

Place vegetable broth in a pan and heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to keep it simmering.  Place onions and garlic in a large sauté pan with enough water to steam fry (1/4-1/2 cup) Steam fry until onions are translucent, adding splashes of water if needed to prevent it from drying out.    Once onions are translucent and the water has all evaporated, add the risotto and stir with a non-metal spoon for about  2 minutes.   Add the wine and continue stirring until most of the wine has evaporated.   Set the timer for 25 minutes now.   Start adding about a ladle full of the broth to the risotto and continue stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated.   (you want the pan hot enough for the broth to sizzle when it is added to the rice)  Continue doing this until all the broth is gone (about 20-25 minutes).   Remove the cooked rice from the heat and mix well with the pesto sauce and serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Rice Timbales, Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes, Mushroom Gravy, and Broccoli Rabe

I think this picture is a bit of a mess.   I was trying to get fancy with the gravy and made it look sloppy.    The timbales are absolutely divine.

I used this recipe from Susan's blog using gluten free bread for the bread crumbs.   You can find that recipe here:

The gravy recipe is here (substitute corn starch or arrowroot for the flour)

The mashed cauliflower potatoes are simple.   Use one full head off cauliflower, chopped into small pieces and about 4 medium potatoes, cut up.  Boil them until very tender.   Drain off the water and mash them just like regular mashed potatoes.  I add about 1/8 cup of nutrtional yeast to mine to give it a "buttery" flavor and a little salt. 

If you love greens and you have never had broccoli rabe (also called rapini) you don't know what you are missing.   It is a bitter green like turnip greens with a different flavor.  You can buy it at Whole Foods and Publix usually has it, too.   Trim off the bigger stems at the bottom and roughly chop it.   Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt.   Add the broccoli rabe and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain.   In a saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of water, a dash of cayenne pepper, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder to a boil.  Add the drained broccoli rabe and continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated.  Serve warm.

Gluten Free Chickpea Crepes

I love these crepes and they are so simple to make.  I substitute them for flour tortillas and pita bread.  Sometimes I use them for sandwich wraps.  They only take a few minutes to make.  The amount of water you add varies.   If you want a thicker crepe use less water, if you want a thinner one, use more.   I prefer that they are thinner.  Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same thing.   The flour I use for this is garbanzo flour - it is pure garbanzon beans that are ground to a flour.   I was buying this flour at Whole Foods and it was a little expensive; I started talking to my Indian friend at work and he told me to buy it at the International or Indian grocery stores.   It is called Besan or gram flour there and is MUCH cheaper and the quality is just as good.  Make sure your non-stick pan is really non-stick or this won't work!  I have a dedicated pan that I only use for pancakes, crepes, or johnny cakes.  Don't be put off by the fact that they are "crepes" - they are easier to make than pancakes!

Chickpea Crepes

1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/4 - 2 cups water
pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small bowl.  Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.   Add 1/4 cup mixture to skillet and swirl around to get it to spread out as much as possible.   Cook for approximately 2 minutes and use your spatula to gently loosen the crepe around the edges, flip, and cook for approximately 2 more minutes.   You want the crepes to be lightly browned but not dark brown.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mediterranean Night

One of my favorite restaurants here is a Mediterranean restaurant down the street.   They have a vegetarian platter that I love.   It comes with hummus, falafel, lentils and rice, and tabouli.   Although I love the dish I also realize that it is LOADED with fat.  I only eat there a couple of times a year and I have come up with recipes to make it at home without all the fat.

We have hummus a lot.  It is high protein, rich in fiber, and delicious.   Most commercial brands have a lot of added fat.  It isn't necessary to add all that fat to get a wonderful, creamy hummus.   There are a lot of ways to use hummus.   You can use it for a sandwich filling or as a spread to replace mayonnaise.   The most common way to use it is to put a big spoonful of it on pita bread, throw a falafel or two on top and add a little hot sauce.  Falafel is very close to hummus but it is normally deep fried.   I bake it instead and it is great.   Leaving out the oil and baking it makes it a bit drier than the fried variety but once you have the hummus on top of it the moisture takes care of that.  Garbanzo and chickpeas are the same thing.   I use them interchangeably.

The lentils and rice were always the trickiest part of the dish - I tried tons of recipes and could never figure out how to get that distinctive taste.   I finally nailed it and it is just as good.   This post is going to be 3 different recipes.   I make the rice and lentils a day ahead so can just throw everything together when I get home from work.  It is a work intensive meal but it is worth it.

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice

  • 3-4 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
Add ½ cup water, salt, and soy sauce to a wide skillet. Add onion and cook until almost all the water evaporates; continue adding water a few tablespoons at a time and onions are browned (caramelized) – this can take 10-15 minutes.  You want to let the water almost completely evaporate before adding more, there will be bits of brown sticking to the pan and you want the pan to be hot enough for the water to boil up and release the brown bits, this is called deglazing the pan.    Add cumin, cardamom, garlic, and cayenne and cook for 3 minutes.
 Add lentils and broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Cook the brown rice separately.  

Fluffy Brown Rice

1 cups brown rice
5 cups water
salt – to taste

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for a few seconds. Add the water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and stir once.  Reduce the heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a colander and drain for about 10 seconds over the sink.  Return the rice to the pot, (make sure to remove the pot from the heat). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.  After you have steamed the rice for 10 minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.

Once rice is done, add the lentils and stir to combine.

Baked Falafel
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, with liquid reserved
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garbanzo flour (substitute regular flour if you are not avoiding gluten)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans.  Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork (or pulse a few times in a food processor). Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls, about the size of an ice cream scoop and slightly flatten (the flatter they are the more uniformly they will cook. Place onto an oiled baking pan.
Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (since it’s baked; only the part actually touching the pan will be browned and crispy).

Low Fat Hummus

2 cans chickpeas (liquid reserved)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process, adding very small amounts of the reserved bean liquid at a time.   You want it to be totally smooth with no remaining chunks of chickpeas in it.  It won’t take very much of the reserved liquid to accomplish this.   Using plain water doesn’t give it the same creamy texture as the reserved bean liquid does.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hoppin' John with Perfect Brown Rice

I love Hoppin' John.   Black-eyed peas, collard greens, and plenty of peppers and onions - it just doesn't get much better than that.   My husband is from New York and I don't think he ever tried collard greens until he met me; I told him last night that I think it is illegal to have black-eyed peas in the South without collard greens.   If it isn't illegal it should be.  I serve this over brown rice to make it a complete meal.

I've been making brown rice for many, many years.   I don't like white rice and I never really have.   The only time we ever eat it is in restaurants.   White rice is bleached and all the fiber is stripped out of it.   All the wonderful benefits of eating the whole grain are lost with white rice.   It also has a much higher glycemic index than brown rice.  Brown rice takes longer to cook but you should make a lot of it at once and store the extra in the refrigerator for another meal.   Brown rice and quinoa are staples in our diet and we eat them often.

Until a few months ago, I always prepared brown rice according to the package directions; it always turned out a bit too mushy.   I've discovered a new way of preparing it that leaves it fluffy and light and we prefer it this way.  This method also preserves more of the slightly nutty flavor that brown rice has.  This recipe is enough for more than one meal.

Fluffy Brown Rice

2 cups brown rice
10 cups water
salt – to taste

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for a few seconds. Add the water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and stir once.  Reduce the  heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a colander and drain for about 10 seconds over the sink.  Return the rice to the pot, (make sure to remove the pot from the heat). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.  After you have steamed the rice for 10 minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.

Hoppin' John

2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, minced
1 or 2 bell peppers, chopped
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bunch of collard greens, roughly chopped
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Add ½ cup water to a sauté pan with 1 teaspoon toasted oil.   Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add beans, cayenne, paprika, and liquid smoke and continue to simmer, adding water as needed, while you cook the collard greens

To make the greens, wash them well and chop them up, set aside then add about 1 teaspoon of TOASTED sesame oil and about a tablespoon of hot sauce with water, bring to a boil and add a little salt.  Throw the greens in and cover, stirring them up occasionally until they are as tender as you want them, usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Toss the collard greens with the black eyed peas and serve over brown rice. 

Optional: Top with chopped tomatoes, onions, or peppers from the garden.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Low Fat Fettucine Alfredo

We haven't had a lot of luck with gluten free pastas until now.   I found a great one at Walmart this week and it is the closest to wheat pasta that we have ever had.  It makes great Pad Thai and fettucine alfredo and reheats well - most gluten free pastas taste like chalk when they are reheated.  This is the one I found:

I make fettucine alfredo when I am in a hurry or don't have a lot of time.   Last night we were very hungry so I threw this together in less than 30 minutes.   By the time the pasta was cooked the sauce was ready.  It tastes really rich and creamy with very little fat and calories.  It is comfort food and healthy at the same time.

Vegan Fettucine Alfredo

1 14-16 oz package of pasta
1/8 cup of cashews (preferably raw cashews - rinse if they are roasted)
1 cup of water
1 12-oz package Mori-Nu silken tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound broccoli, steamed (optional)
1 small package of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh parsley for garnish, roughly chopped (optional) 

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

Place the cashews and water in a blender and blend until it is smooth and "milky".   Crumble in the tofu and spices and blend until smooth and well combined.   Pour sauce into a small saucepan and heat through until it is thick and creamy (this should only take a minute).

Combine pasta with sauce and mix together.    Put the pasta on plates, top with broccoli, tomatoes, and parsley if using.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pad Thai

We have been eating out a lot lately because my husband has been out of town for a wedding.  I am back on track now and I am going to be making quick, easy, and inexpensive meals for awhile.  One of my favorite cookbooks is the Happy Herbivore cookbook.   It is full of easy recipes that don't cost a lot to make.   I use it a lot.   I have to make substitutions sometimes because we avoid gluten but they are simple substitutions.  Neither of us have Celiac disease or anything but we have both found that when we stop eating gluten we feel so much better - it was just an experiment at first but it made such a difference that we now avoid it all the time.

Last night I made Pad Thai.   This recipe is from the Happy Herbivore and it is wonderful.  I make the sauce alone sometimes and use it for dip or dressing.   It is the best peanut sauce I have ever made and it calls for 1 tablespoon of peanut butter - not the full 1/2 cup that most recipes call for.   I didn't take a picture of this dish last night because I already had one - if I make something more than once it means we loved it!

We may end up having a late night tomorrow night because we are doing a disaster recovery test for work and we never know how long it will take to complete the test.   Here is what I have planned for the rest of the week:

Gluten Free Fettucine Alfredo with broccoli and tomatoes

Hoppin' John with "Perfect" Brown Rice (this is a new way I have discovered to make brown rice and I will post the recipe)

Wild Rice and Mushroom Loaf with Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes and gravy

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cheesy Spinach Enchiladas

My beautiful little niece spent the night with me on Saturday and I whipped her up some bean tostados.   They must have been kid friendly because she seemed to like them.

I seem to be on a Mexican kick this week - they had organic spinach on sale at the market and I bought a big clamshell of it and made these spinach enchiladas for dinner.   They are great - you can make the sauce I use in these alone and dip chips in it - it makes a delicious dip!

Cheesy Spinach Enchiladas


  • 1 pound fresh spinach, stems removed and well rinsed
  • 1 chopped yellow onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 corn tortillas
Sauce ingredients
   1 cup Nutritional yeast
  ¼ cup corn starch or arrowroot
   ½  teaspoon paprika
   2 teaspoons salt
   2 teaspoon ground cumin
   Dash garlic powder
   Dash chili powder
   2 cups water
   1 10-ounce cans tomatoes with green chiles
   1 ½  tablespoons prepared yellow mustard


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In 3 batches, add the spinach and blanch for 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and shock in an ice bath. Remove and squeeze out the excess. Chop and set aside.

In a large saucepan, add the onions and enough water to cook, stirring, until very soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach and stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
In medium-large saucepan, combine flour, nutritional yeast, salt, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.  Add water and mix thoroughly.  Heat on medium heat and stir constantly; once thickened, remove from heat. Add in tomatoes and mustard and stir until a bit thicker.
Add about ½ of the sauce to the spinach mixture and stir to incorporate.
Heat tortilla by preferred method and place on a work surface. Place about 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture into the center of each tortilla and roll up into a cylinder. Place, seam side down, in a single layer across the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish.

Pour remaining cheese sauce over the filled enchiladas and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Serve with Refried Beans and Mexican Rice.

Yield: 6 servings

Cosmic Cashew Kale with Confetti Quinoa

I've grown to love quinoa more and more over the past few years.   It is really easy to digest and loaded with protein.   This dish is from Susan V. over at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and has been featured all over the web.   It isn't as low fat as most of the dishes I cook because the sauce is cashew based but it is rich, creamy and delicious!   The quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes so it is a great dish to make when you are short on time but needing some comfort food.   I came up with another variation on the sauce that makes it almost completely fat free.   It is not quite as good but almost!

Here is the original recipe:

Here is my reduced fat version:
I make the quinoa just as directed in Susan's recipe:

Confetti Quinoa


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 cups hot vegetable broth
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced


  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, toast the damp quinoa for a few minutes until it begins to dry out. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the green onions, cover, and cook on low until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Stir in the green onions and serve hot.
I do the Kale and Chickpeas a little differently:

Cosmic Cashew Kale and Chickpeas


  • 1 package Mori-Nu light tofu
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon or broth powder
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 bunch kale, central stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced


  1. Crumble the tofu, milk, garlic powder, onion powder, bouillion cube, and nutritional yeast into a blender.  Blend at highest speed until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside until needed.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, cook the onion in a little water until it begins to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and cook for another minute. Add the chickpeas, kale, and two tablespoons water. Cover immediately and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved cream sauce, oregano, and salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to thin. Add the fresh basil just before serving over Confetti Quinoa.

Making Tofu

Tofu is very strange to some people but I love the stuff!   I could eat it every day.  The problem is that most people don’t really know how to cook it.   It took me a long time to really figure it out.   There is a technique that must be followed to make it really good.   I used to buy it and try to eat it after opening the tub, draining the water out and briefly sautéing it in with my stir fries or whatever I was cooking.  Yuck!   It tasted like rubber and I couldn’t stand it.   

If I wasn’t brave and ordered it in vegetarian restaurants and got it off the food bar in health food stores I would probably still dislike it.   When I got it there it was delicious and chewy and had an entirely different texture.  The reason mine was so awful was that I didn’t know how to prepare it!  

Let me start this by saying that you should ALWAYS buy organic tofu.   Soybeans are one of the big GMO crops , like corn, and you shouldn’t take a chance with your health buying non-organic tofu.  Now that I have that rant out of the way I will tell you how to prepare it.

The easiest way to do it is to buy the tub of tofu, take it home and put it straight in the freezer.    Wait until it is frozen solid and take it out, put in the refrigerator, and let it thaw.  Give it a couple of days to thaw completely.  I try to keep a rotation going with it so there is always some in the freezer and some in the refrigerator, thawed and ready when I need it.  

Once it has thawed, you need to press it.  Put the whole block of tofu between a bunch of paper towels and put something flat like a baking sheet on top.   Start putting heavy objects on top of the baking sheet, cast iron skillet, canned goods, whatever you have to put some weight on it.   Let it drain for about 30 minutes.

I used this method for a long time but decided that it used too many paper towels, the cans would occasionally fall off and dent my floor, and it was always sitting in the way on my countertop while I was trying to prepare the rest of the meal.   I ordered two TofuXpresses from Amazon and I use those.  They are pretty expensive but I have used them so much that it has been well worth the expense.   I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying them if you don’t eat a lot of tofu or if you are not sure if you like them or not.  Here is what they look like and where to get them:

Once it has drained, cut the tofu into the desired size and prepare it according to your recipe.   My favorite way to make it is to “bread” it with nutritional yeast and bake it.

Baked Tofu

1 block of extra-firm tofu
½ cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

Spray a baking sheet lightly with non-stick spray.

Cut the pressed tofu block in half width-wise, then cut into 9 even blocks like this:

This will yield 18 pieces.

Place the nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder , and black pepper into a gallon size ziplock bag and shake it up to mix all the ingredients well.   Add the separated tofu pieces to the bag and shake it up very well to coat all the tofu pieces.  

Place the tofu on the baking sheet – don’t let them pieces touch each other.  Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and turn them over and bake for 20 more minutes.  I LOVE it cooked this way and use it in a lot of different dishes.

 Here is a photo of the baked tofu:

Vegan Substitutes

This morning I have been thinking about all the substitutes I use in my cooking.  Some of these things are pretty familiar to everybody but some are not.  For some people, this post might seem basic but for others that are not familiar with pure plant based food, they won't.  I avoid things like vegan sour cream, cream cheese, and other vegan cheeses.   First of all, they are processed foods and I try to avoid them if at all possible.   My objective it to eat only REAL food.   Secondly, they are expensive and almost always fat laden.   The final reason is that even vegan foods can contain ingredients with weird names that I can pronounce - I have a rule that if a product has somthing in it that I can't pronounce, I don't eat it.

I won't go so far as saying that I won't prepare things that try to mimick the flavor of something they are not; I do that alot.  I cook with no added oil with a few exceptions - I spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (I'm trying to find a way around that) and I will add one type of oil in very small amounts.  Toasted sesame oil is the only type I use.   This oil gives a rich, smoky flavor to some dishes that can't be replicated.    I use a teaspoon or two of it in greens when they are cooking and put it in many Asian dishes but never more than 2 teaspoons in a dish.

Here are some of the ingredients that I use:

Toasted sesame oil (not plain - it needs to be toasted)  - Use when cooking foods that would normally have things like ham, bacon, or other type of meats cooked in with them like beans or greens.   Also great in Asian and Thai dishes.

Nutrtional Yeast - this replaces cheese and butter.   Make sure it is nutrtional yeast and not baking yeast or brewers yeast.   Many people find the smell offensive at first but after you have cooked with it a couple of times you will grow to love it.   Add 1/8 of a cup of it to your mashed potatoes after they have cooked, while you are mashing them and it gives them a rich, buttery flavor without adding fat.

Dulse or Kelp - these are sea vegetables that give a "fishy" flavor to vegan dishes that are mocking fish or seafood.   I haven't ever eaten seafood and I don't like the smell of fish but I like these seaweeds in things like mock tuna salad, vegan crab cakes, etc.

Egg Replacer - Mix equal parts of arrowroot flour and potato flour.  Add 1 tablespoons of this mixture to 2 tablespoons water and this equals 1 egg.   Use it for baking - don't try to make scrambled eggs or an omelet out of it!

Black Salt - this salt is really pink but it is called black salt.  It is readily available in most international grocery stores and is very cheap - it is used mostly in Indian cooking.  It is also called kala namak.   Use this in dishes that mimick eggs, it has a sulfuric smell very much like eggs.  Just use it instead of using regular salt in quiches, omelets, and tofu scrambles.

Silken Tofu - silken tofu is great for making sauces, alfredo, sour cream, mayo, salad dressings, and I use it to make eggs benedict and omeletes.  I will post these recipes soon.   It is low fat and very easy to work with.   Silken tofu is not usually found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.   It is shelf stable and comes in little boxes.  Mori-Nu is the most popular brand.

Unsweetened soy milk - this is used where milk would normally be used.   There are some other vegan milks that are lower in fat but they can be tricky in some applications - I prefer to just stick with the soy milk.  To make soy milk into "buttermilk" just add a 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk.

Regular Tofu - Since we are on a gluten free diet we use this to replace a LOT of things.   Use to make scrambled "eggs" and use to replace beef and chicken in many recipes.  It also makes a great tofu bacon.

Liquid Smoke  - gives a realistic smoke flavor to foods, add a drop of it to sea salt to make a smoked salt, and you can use it in anything that you grill to intensify the smoky flavor.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Buddah Bowl, Tostados with Spanish Rice, and Hippie Loaf with Sides

I started cooking again on Friday night.   We had one of our all-time favories Buddah Bowl - a classic greens, beans, rice, with tofu and a cheesy vegan sauce.   I will post the recipe for this later - I want to do a post on the proper way to prepare tofu and I will include the recipe for Buddah Bowl with that post.  I added some extra things to it that I don't usually add;  I had a lot of leftover red and orange bell peppers along with some thinly sliced zucchini from my Living Lasagna that I didn't want to waste so I added them in when I was cooking the kale.

For lunch on Saturday I made bean tostados.   I found some corn tostados at Kroger and they were really cheap.  We really liked them so I will be using them a lot more.   My husband wanted some "Cheddar Cheese" so I bought some Daiya to toss on the top.   I don't usually use the commercial vegan cheeses because they are expensive and high in fat but I got it for him.  If you like the commercial cheeses, Daiya is definitely the best choice and Kroger (at least mine) is carrying it now.

Bean Tostados with Spanish Rice

Refried Beans
1/2  onion chopped (reserve the other 1/2 for salsa)
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 small jalepeno pepper (optional)

Add about 1/4 cup water to a saute pan and bring to a boil.  Add the salt and onions and pan fry until onions are translucent.   Keep a small amount of water beside the pan and add little splashes as need to keep it from drying out.     While this is cooking, put the beans in a bowl and mash with a fork (or process in a food processor) until almost all the beans are smashed - it doesn't have to be a paste - you can also do this with a potato masher.  

Add beans and all remaining ingredients to the pan.   Continue cooking until heated through and smooth.   Add splashes of water as needed to keep it from drying out.  

Quick Salsa

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
3 tablespoons of cilantro
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Spread the refried beans on the tostado shells followed by some cheese if you like.   You can add black olives or anything you like.  I served it with chopped romaine lettuce and spooned some salsa over the top.

Spanish Rice

1 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons taco seasoning

Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and add taco seasoning.   Add brown rice and cook, stirring constantly until the water is all gone.  Serve with salsa ladled over the top.

This was a very delicious lunch and I had it ready in less than 30 minutes

Hippie Loaf

This is my favorite gluten free loaf and I got the recipe from Happy Herbivore's blog here:

I served it with mashed cauliflower/potaoes with almond milk gravy and asparagus.

Quick Almond Milk

1/4 cup of almonds
1 cup water
pinch of salt

Blend together in food processor until smooth.

Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes

These are a great way to get coniferous veggies and they are delicious.

1 head of cauliflower
3 or 4 potatoes
1/8 cup of nutritional yeast
1/4 - 1/2 cup of almond milk
salt to taste

Peel the potatoes and cut the cauliflower into small pieces.   Add to pot and boil for 15-20 minutes until tender.   Drain and mash just like you normally mash potatoes until smooth.   Add in almond milk until desired consistency.   Add nutritional yeast and stir to mix in completely.  (the nutritional yeast gives it a buttery taste).

Almond Milk Gravy

1/8 cup raw almonds
1 cup water
1/2 onion, minced
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sherry (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized non-stick saucepan, saute the onion in water until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, garlic powder, herbs, nutritional yeast, sherry, and soy sauce.  In a blender, add the almonds and water and process until smooth. Add the cornstarch and continue blending until all is smooth.  Add the almond milk mixture  to the saucepan and stir well.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, add water if needed to thin it out.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Going Back to My Vegan - Low Fat - Gluten-free - Sugar Free diet

I had to get off the raw food diet.   I felt more energetic and better than ever while I was doing it, as I always do.   The problem was that I am in training at work for the next couple of weeks and when I am doing raw foods I get GAS - and I mean BAD gas!   I was sitting in the training room (which is about the size of an average dining area) with 8 people on Thursday and the pains kept getting worse and worse; I had tears welling up in my eyes I was fighting it so hard.   Whew!   I made it through the day without incident somehow but I decided to come back to the raw food diet when I wasn't in such close quarters with other people!  LOL!   Instead of just giving up on my blog I am going to continue but I am going to post my "regular" diet items.   I've made some pretty good meals the past few days and will be posting recipes for those.

We will still be juicing everyday - that is something we always do.  We juice every morning for breakfast and rarely eat anything else until we take our lunch break.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day Three and Getting Bored!

Today has been tougher than the first two.   I am finally adjusting to eating for nourishment rather than pleasure.   That is the hardest thing for me - I love food!  Maybe I go too far but it is so much harder for me to not cook than to cook - if that makes any sense.   We had the regular glass of fresh  made juice for breakfast and some kiwis and apples for mid morning snack.  For lunch - leftover salad from Tuesday night.    You have to eat like a horse to make this work.   You just do.  You can't have your normal, dainty little salad and stay the course.   We had a HUGE plate of salad today.   People walk by us in the cafeteria and look at us like WHOA!   They pass back by our table after grabbing a bacon cheeseburger topped off with fried onion rings and I want to stab them with my fork - shew!

For dinner we had a bowl of cream of broccoli soup - this was very filling:

Broccoli Cream Soup
2 cups coconut milk
2 large stalks celery
1/4"-1/2" piece jalapeno pepper
2  garlic cloves
pinch of salt -- up to 1/2 tsp. (to taste)
pinch of ground cumin
1 large head broccoli
Put all ingredents except broccoli into blender - blend until smooth.
Cut broccoli stems close to broccoli florets, so you have tiny broccoli florets. Peel the stems if you want (I don't), cut the stems into chunks and put them and remaining florets into blender.
Blend until all smooth and creamy.
Taste - add any other spices if wanted (i.e., more salt, garlic, hot pepper, etc).
And then we had Live Lasagna.  This was the best raw food dish I had ever made!  We both loved it.  Now we have no leftovers for lunch so we are going to Jason's for a salad - the way I feel right now I am going to just climb up there like a monkey with a fork and start eating and not stop until I have polished off every raw vegetable on the salad bar.   To hell with running back for a clean plate every time I finish one - I just won't use one!!!
Here is the zucchini "lasagna" with the first layer of the cashew cheese (from Monday's post).
Then the next layer is marinated peppers, red onions, topped with marinated mushrooms.

Then another layer of zucchini and start all over again.   I think I did about 4 layers total.   When all was ready I topped it off with raw marinara sauce.  I served it with "Caprese" salad on the side because I had an extra home-grown organic tomato I wanted to use and a bunch of basil left over from the marinara sauce.  Here is how it looked when it was complete:

Living Lasagna

At a glance
4-6 people

Tomato Sauce
2 cups
sun dried tomatoes soaked for 6 hrs.
7 roma tomatoes
4 garlic gloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. red or yellow onion
3 tbs. extra virgin
olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. dried basil

Mushroom layer
3-4 cups mushrooms (sliced)
3 tbs. or more of raw soy sauce (nama shoyu)
2 tbs. olive oil
Cashew Cheese (recipe follows)

Noodle sheets & marinated veggies
2  zucchini
1/2 small onion sliced really thin
1 red bell pepper sliced really thin
1 yellow bell pepper sliced really thin
2 tbs.
olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped drained raw olives
1/2 cup fresh basil

How to tomato sauce: Blend everything together till smooth. Set aside.

How to mushrooms: Marinate mushrooms in the soy sauce for 2 hours. Drain and set aside.

How to noodle sheets and marinated veggies
: Cut the zucchini on a mandolin into into wide, paper-thin slices. Set aside. Combine the onion and the bell pepper in a bowl with the oil, lemon juice and salt and let marinate for 16hrs in the fridge.

Herb Ricotta Cheeze

2 C Cashews
1 C Filtered water
1/3 C Red bell pepper, diced
2½ Tbl Green onion, diced
2 Tbl Cilantro, minced
1 tsp Garlic, minced (optional)
3 tsp shoyu, or to taste
1/2 tsp Sea salt, or to taste
Pinch Crushed red pepper flakes


1. Blend cashews with filtered water until very smooth. Place in a ½ gallon open-mouthed glass jar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Cover with a towel and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

2. Pour cashew mixture into a large mixing bowl, combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. I pulse mine a few times in the Vitamix

Making the lasagna: Put thin slices of the zucchini on the bottom of a glass lasagna pan. Top this layer with a thin layer of the ricotta cheeze, top the cheeze layer with a layer of mushrooms, then again the zucchini, top that layer with the tomato sauce, top the tomato sauce layer with a layer of the sliced onions, red and yellow peppers, top that with a layer of more zucchini slices, layer on top of that with more ricotta cheese, then top it with a layer of the spinach leaves, top that with mushrooms, and then some marinated sliced onions, red and yellow peppers, then again with the zucchini and then top the whole thing with the tomato sauce and garnish the top with chopped olives and fresh basil leaves. Now, cover (plastic wrap) the lasagna and place it into the fridge to set up, about 3-5 hours.

That's it! It looks kinda hard, but if you break it down, it's really easy. You and your family are worth it! Make it once or twice a week. Add marinated eggplant as one of the layers, or your favorite veggie. You can cut a piece and put it into the dehydrator so it will get warm and then serve it. Raw food doesn't have to be served cold. Enjoy!

So to recap Wednesday - juice for breakfast, kiwi and apples for mid-morning snack, salad for lunch.  Dinner was broccoli cream soup followed by Living Lasagna and Caprese Salad.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day Two of Raw Food

I'm actually running a day behind in my posts so that I can download the photos to add to the pages.   This morning we had carrot/beet/radish/carrot/granny smith apple juice.   I always use the carrot/granny smith apple base for my juice and add other things depending on what I am trying to accomplish.   Beets are a very potent liver cleanser and radishes purify the blood.   I wanted to use them to slow down the healing crisis.  Gerson Therapy uses the carrot/granny smith apple juice to treat cancer.   If you have never seen the documentary "The Beautiful Truth" it is available free online to watch and it is great.  It takes about a week of daily juicing for us to start looking like we have a strange orangey color from the beta carotene.  It is harmless, just back off the carrots and beets a few days and it goes away.   Of all the things we do to improve our overall health I think juicing is the most beneficial for us.  We both feel much better and have more energy when we are juicing.   The only time we don't juice is when I run out of vegetables and don't get around to going to the market to get them.

Our Morning Juice

We brought 2 organic peaches each today to snack on until lunch.   Last night I made a huge salad for a side for dinner and that is what we are having for lunch today.
I am starting to feel the cleansing starting to affect me; I feel a little nauseated today and achey.   I just hope the salad we eat at lunch slows it down some.   

For dinner we had soup, salad, and sandwiches - that is what I told John we were having anyway.   I made this cream of tomato soup and it was really good; I don't know that I would enjoy it very much in the colder winter months but it was great in this weather. 
Cream of Tomato Soup

3 ripe tomatoes, ends trimmed off and cut into wedges
1/4 cup cashews
1/2 - 1 cup water (depends on how juicy your tomatoes are)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic (1 teaspoon garlic powder if you don't have fresh)
a few sprigs of fresh basil (1 teaspoon of dried if you don't have fresh)

Put the cashews and 1/2 cup water in the food processor and blend until relatively smooth.  Add tomatoes and all other remaining ingredients except water; continue blending until soup is very smooth, adding more water if necessary.  Serve with a sprig of basil on top if desired.

I made another salad for Tuesday night with a garlic tahini dressing along with some guacamole and cashew cheese lettuce wraps.  I posted the recipe for the cashew cheese yesterday. 

This is the picture of the lettuce wraps before I rolled them.

We had our soup first and then we had our dinner.  The lettuce wraps are rolled here - that is our raw garlic tahini dressing in the background.

To recap the day:  we had beet/radish/ginger/carrot/granny smith apple juice for breakfast.  Peaches for a midmorning snack.  For lunch we had a huge salad leftover from the day before.  For dinner we had cream of tomato soup, arugula salad, and romaine lettuce wraps with guacamole and cashew cheese filling.  Sounds like we are having a feast!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week of Raw Food

Today starts a week of raw food - it has been quite awhile since we have done a raw week and a friend of mine on Facebook is doing it so I decided to do it, too!  It is the best time of the year to do a raw cleanse - all the garden produce is coming in everyday and my herb garden is growing wild.   The weather also makes it a good time - no cooking means I won't be heating up the kitchen.
I have some basic raw food equipment.  I have a Champion Juicer that we use to make fresh juice every morning (we do this even when we aren't eating raw).  I also have a spiralizer that makes "angel hair pasta" from zucchini, as well as a food processor and blender.   I don't have a Vitamix or a dehydrator - if I were to commit to the raw foodist lifestyle I would buy them but I don't really have room for them in my small kitchen.   I guess if I were commited to being 100% raw I could store them in my oven!

This is not a very good shot of my spiralizer.

I bought all my raw nuts and seeds at Trader Joe's - they are much cheaper there than anywhere else I have found. 

I started preparing a few things for our raw week yesterday (Sunday).   I made a raw vegan cashew cheese and it requires a 24 hour fermentation period.   It is delicious and I will be using it in a few different ways this week.   I will post pictures of this tomorrow.

Conquering Lion Live Cashew Cheese


2 C Cashews
1 C Filtered water
1/3 C Red bell pepper, diced
2½ Tbl Green onion, diced
2 Tbl Cilantro, minced
1 tsp Garlic, minced (optional)
3 tsp shoyu, or to taste
1/2 tsp Sea salt, or to taste
Pinch Crushed red pepper flakes


1. Blend cashews with filtered water until very smooth. Place in a ½ gallon open-mouthed glass jar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Cover with a towel and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

2. Pour cashew mixture into a large mixing bowl, combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. I pulse mine a few times in the Vitamix.Refrigerate and serve with flax crackers, veggies, over salad or as a spread for Nori wraps, yum!

  • Delicious when made with macadamia nuts or pine nuts.
  • Blend 1 C of chopped red pepper with cultured cashew mixture, before adding the remaining ingredients.
  • Replace cilantro with other fresh herbs.
  • Add ¼ C grated carrots or beets.
  • Replace bell pepper with other fresh veggies.
Serving suggestions
  • Use as a dip for Flax Crackers.
  • Use as a spread in Live Nori Rolls or scoop into a salad.

I love this dressing.  It is probably the only recipe I have ever made that tastes better with dried herbs than fresh ones.   When I make it with fresh herbs it gives it too much of a "bite" that I don't like.  I made this up ahead so it would be ready when we need it for our lunch salad.

Raw Vegan Ranch Dressing
·         ½ cup almonds (about two handfuls), soaked 24-48 hours
·         1 clove garlic
·         1/4 cup lemon juice
·         3 T dried parsley (or more if you prefer)
·         ½ T dried dill
·         1/2 T dried thyme
·         1/2 T dried sage
·         1/2 T oregano
·         squirt agave (optional)
·         3 T olive oil
·         1/2 cup water
·         splash raw apple cider vinegar
·         salt & pepper to taste
Be sure to rinse your almonds very, very well. Soaking them for 24 hours is probably enough, but I don’t have a Vita Mix, and find my poky blender does better if they’ve been soaking longer. Add the almonds, water, lemon juice and vinegar and blend really well, next add everything else, stopping to scrape down the sides if your herbs get all crazy.
You may find this to be a little thick to use as a salad dressing (though perfect for dipping cruditiés). Just add a little water to thin it out.

This morning we had a 16 ounce glass of juice each made of carrots, granny smith apples, and radishes.   We buy our carrots at Publix, they sell a 25 pound bag of organic carrots for $14.99 - they are cheaper there than anywhere else we have found.  The cashiers tell me they sell a lot of those big bags.

We took a bowl of black cherries to work to munch on throughout the morning and hold us over until lunch.   They are really great for lowering uric acid levels. My goal is to keep everything 100% fat free until lunch time.  We only eat fruits in the morning.   Believe it or not, I don't really like sweets or fruit that much!

So the final menu for Monday was carrot/granny smith apple/radish juice for breakfast, a bowl of black cherries each for a morning snack- a HUGE salad at Whole Foods salad bar for lunch, zucchini alfredo and a side salad for dinner.