Monday, October 1, 2012

Ridiculously Easy Roasted Beets

YUMMY!  Roasted beets. The perfect food to help satisfy your sweet cravings and ridiculously easy to make. Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness. Just toss them in the oven for about 20 minutes and they're done!

Here's what you need:

4 beets, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (optional)
1 pinch sea salt, or to taste

Here's how to cook them:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the beets, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl until beets are coated, and arrange pieces of beet on baking sheet so that they don't touch. Sprinkle the beets with sea salt.

Roast in the preheated oven until the beets are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. A fork inserted into a beet cube should come out easily.


Want to learn more about how good beets are for your health, wellness, and weight loss efforts? Read this:
Beat it with Beets! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Easiest Carrot Soup in the World!

I love carrots.  They are naturally sweet and highly nutritious. When I am in a snacking mood, I munch on raw, organically grown carrots because they're crunchy and take a long time to chew.

I include carrots in just about everything I cook.  I love them raw, in salads.  I add them to soups, stews, and stir fries.  I toss a handful of freshly grated carrots in to my marinara sauce and homemade muffins and cakes. Carrots lend glorious color, extra vitamins, and natural sweetness to any recipe.

Cooked carrots are especially sweet and perfect to eat when you are craving sugar.  Now that the weather is getting cooler, a great way to satisfy your sweet-cravings without sabotaging your weight loss efforts is to make a nice big pot of carrot soup.  Here is the easiest and most delicious Carrot Soup recipe in the world:

5 cups organically grown carrots
Pinch of salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper
Fresh dill

Scrub the carrots well.  I highly recommend using vegetable brush for thoroughly cleaning root vegetables.  If the carrots are organically grown, it is not necessary to peel them. Slice the carrots and place in a pot with an equal amount of boiling water. Cook al dente, about 15 minutes.

Purée in a food mill, blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Before serving, add some more fresh dill.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Watermelon Whole Fruit Popsicles

Good eating doesn't get any healthier or more gloriously gorgeous than this............

3 cups watermelon puree (about 1/4 to 1/2 a watermelon)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 peach or nectarine, diced small
handful fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Cut the watermelon into chunks and then puree it in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

Set out about 1 dozen popsicle molds (amount needed will vary depending on size of molds). Fill each one with the chopped fresh fruit. Then pour in the watermelon puree until each mold is full to the top. Place a popsicle stick into each one. Place into your freezer and freeze for about 6 to 8 hours.

When ready to serve, run the popsicle molds under warm water for a few seconds and then pull each one out.

Source: Raw Food Revolution

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Waste Not. Want Not. Home Made Bread Crumbs

After reading an article about how much food Americans waste; I was appalled, ashamed and convicted.  There are so many starving people in the world yet we throw away more food than any other nation in the world.  That's a little sickening.  I am guilty of waste.  I am also the type who can stand in front of an over-flowing fridge or pantry and whine about having nothing to eat.  That's the real tragedy. I have no idea what it's like to be really hungry.  I sincerely hope I never do.

Here's the article I read, in case you're interested in seeing just how much food we are actually wasting.  Americans Toss Out Food.

I posted the article publicly.  Many people responded. Some folks are so creative and find clever ways to use left overs. They don't let anything go to waste. I applaud you. I really do.  Others admitted that they throw so much food away, despite their good intentions.  I am always full of good intentions myself,  but I often buy too much and if I don't cook it immediately or toss into the freezer; I have no choice but to toss it.

What I decided to do is address this whole issue with a series of tips for shopping and ideas on how to put our left-over scraps of food to good use so we don't waste as much.  One of the biggest complaints I heard was about bread. Unless you're buying those heavily processed, preservative laden, cellophane wrapped loaves (and I sincerely hope you're not), bread becomes stale and inedible so quickly. Here's a tip: the longer your bread remains fresh; the more crap that has been added to it.  Do you really want to be ingesting all those chemicals and preservatives? A real loaf of good, healthy bread will become as hard as rock in about a day or two. Most people shy away from that sort of bread because they end up throwing most it away. You don't have to do that.  There is never an excuse to toss it.  The possibilities of putting that stale bread to good use are endless.

Here's the easiest thing to do with your day old bread: transform it into seasoned breadcrumbs. This is frugality at its best.  These breadcrumbs are also better for you and so much tastier than anything you can  buy in those canisters at the grocery store. Read the labels. They contain preservatives. How else do you think they can remain in your pantry for months?

Here's how to make your own homemade breadcrumbs:


1 lb. day old bread
2 tablespoons dried oregano or thyme
2 tablespoons dried basil or parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder


Preheat your oven to 300° F (150° C).

Cut the day old bread into cubes, and process the cubes in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.

Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet – use two baking sheets if necessary – and dry the coarse crumbs in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time. Allow the crumbs to cool completely.

Return the dried crumbs to the food processor, add the seasonings, and pulse until the crumbs are finely processed and well-mixed with the seasoning.

Be certain the seasoned bread crumbs are dry and cool before storing in an airtight container.

This is so easy!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Real Lemonade

I can't understand why anyone would  buy a carton or bottle of lemonade from the grocery store. Most of the ready-made lemonades available are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and ingredients. You're basically drinking flavored sugar-water with additives that taste like lemons and smell like lemons but aren't really lemons at all. It's all man-made. In a lab. Yes, I know some brands contain real lemon juice but trust me; it's such a scant amount that it really makes no difference.

Okay. I understand the convenience factor.  You're hot and thirsty and there's nothing easier than opening up a carton and pouring a cold, refreshing glass of the stuff. I get it. I really do.  When I was pregnant 23 years ago, I was totally addicted to Minute Maid Lemonade. I drank it by the gallon. It was the middle of August, we were in the midst of heatwave, and I was carrying a ten pound child. I was hot and bothered and thirsty. This was long before I knew about health, wellness and REAL food. That artificially flavored sugar-water was a life saver for me during that time. The very thought of it now makes me cringe.

These days, when I enjoy lemonade; I make it myself. From real lemons. I serve it to guests. I pour it into chilled glasses with plenty of ice, they suck it down, and they always say the same thing. "Oh my. This is so good, but what is it?"

It's real lemonade, people! Made with lemons. It's shocking that most folks have no clue what REAL tastes like. Even more shocking is that everyone really enjoys my home made lemonade, but if given a choice, they prefer the fake stuff. Fake lemonade is what they are accustomed to and their taste-buds and olfactory senses (smell) are expecting to experience something different when they raise a glass to their lips. I will be totally honest with you about  real vs. artificial.  Your senses will take a little bit of time to adjust; especially if you were born and raised on nothing but the fake stuff. Over time, however, you will crave the real thing and anything artificial will taste like poison.

Making homemade lemonade is super easy. You just need to plan ahead a little.  If you prepare it first thing in the morning, it will be ready to go in an hour. Or less. If you have plenty of  ice, you can serve it immediately. I like to let it chill in the fridge for awhile to allow the flavors to blend. If I know I am going to need plenty of lemonade on hand, I squeeze lots of lemons in advance and store the juice in a closed container in the refrigerator. This way, I can mix up big pitchers of it quickly. You can use a juicer to squeeze your lemons if you want. I like using an old-fashioned citrus juicer, like this one:

All that twisting is good for your wrists. It prevents your joints from getting old and stiff. Another great benefit from squeezing your own lemons this way is the gorgeous fragrance. If you have a case of the blues, citrus is the perfect mood elevator. Trust me. You'll start feeling better in no time.

So....... how do you make homemade lemonade? Here's my recipe:

3 cups of cold, filtered water
3/4 cup Florida Crystals sugar **
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 large lemons)
additional lemon slices ( I like cutting them in thin rounds rather than slices. Your preference)
ice cubes

In a 1 1/2 quart glass pitcher, stir together about 1 cup of the water, lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add remaining water and stir vigorously to blend well. If desired, chill in the refrigerator.  Pour over ice and garnish with the lemon slices.

That's it!!!

Now isn't this the best stuff you've ever tasted?

**Note: I prefer to use sugar in my lemonade. Florida Crystals is an unbleached, minimally processed, vegan brand made from organic sugar cane.  If you prefer using something other than sugar; here are some suggestions and guidelines for you: Natural Alternatives to Sugar.   I must beg of you, however, to never, ever consider artificial, low calorie sweeteners.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Avocado Arugula Salad

photo from

Summer is here. Okay, maybe not officially; but it sure is hot out there. Hot, hazy and humid. My favorite kind of weather. This is the time of the year when I don't want to fuss in the kitchen. I want to live at the beach.

During the summer months, you crave different foods. If you stop and listen to your body, it will tell you exactly what it wants and needs. Most likely, it will ask for more fruits, vegetables, and foods with high water content.  Soups, casseroles and heavy, hearty dishes are too taxing on your system during the summer months. You should naturally gravitate toward lighter meals, salads, and other simple foods. The side benefit of theses types of foods is that they are usually very quick and easy to prepare.  Who wants to be slaving over a hot stove now? The best part is this: all the water and nutrients you consume in the summer are cleansing your body in preparation for another slow and sluggish winter. This is why it so important to eat the right foods according to the seasons. This also the key to successful weight loss.

I have the perfect dish for you: Avocado Arugula Salad. It's bursting with life and lots of surprises: luscious avocados (good fat), sweet golden raisins and crunchy pistachios. The hummus dressing provides the protein and the aromatic, peppery arugula makes this salad extra special.

This is not your ordinary, boring salad. You won't find iceberg lettuce in here. In fact, I urge you to step away from iceberg. It has no real nutritional value at all.  Arugula, on the other hand, is a nutritional power-house.

Allow me to sing the praises of arugula for a moment: 

Arugula is one leafy green vegetable that stands out as a rich source of many vitamins and minerals. Consider the difference between iceberg lettuce and arugula. Arugula contains about eight times the calcium, fives times the vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, and four times the iron as the same amount of iceberg lettuce.

Arugula also contains beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. These are powerful antioxidants that can help  prevent diseases like cancer and macular degeneration.

Are you ready to try arugula now? 

Here's the recipe:

What You Need:

For the dressing:
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons hummus
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
1 tablespoon finely minced chives
1 medium carrot, finely shredded
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
3 cups arugula
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons crushed pistachios

What You Do:

In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until smooth. Gently toss dressing with arugula.
Divide dressed arugula in bowls and top with raisins and pistachios.

Serves 4
Recipe from

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wilted Chard with Pickled Red Onions

I always feel sorry for Chard. This gorgeous, green, leafy vegetable is so often ignored.  I watch people walk right by it in the produce section of my local market. Others will pick up a bunch, inspect it for a moment or two, and toss right back into the pile.  This is such a shame because chard is one classy act.

Here are a few reasons why you should fall in love with chard and add it to your diet:

Chard is a nutritional power house. It is packed with vitamins C, E, and K, carotene, chlorophyll, and fiber.  It is also an excellent source of several minerals including potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.  Chard also contains other nutrients including vitamin B6, protein, calcium, thiamine,selenium, zinc, niacin, and folic acid.

Chard is one of the best anti-cancer foods you can eat because of its combination of traditional nutrients; phytochemicals, chlorophyll, other plant pigments, and soluble fiber. The generous amount of vitamin K that is contained in chard, is especially beneficial in the maintenance of bone health.

If all that doesn't turn you on to chard; how about this? One cup has about 32 calories and it is naturally fat free. It's perfect for weight loss. Buy it. Cook it. Eat it!

I am always tempted to just toss bunches of chard into the carts of unsuspecting shoppers. Along with my business card, of course. Honestly, that might not be such a bad idea........

So now that you know all about chard, what the heck do you with it?

I have a recipe for you. This is easy, delicious, and healthy. I add raw brown sugar to this recipe instead of the regular white processed kind. A little pinch of sugar makes the pickled onions so much sweeter and helps to balance the strong taste of the chard.  If you are totally adverse to using sugar; go ahead and omit it. Or try a tiny dash of maple syrup instead.

Here's the recipe:
Wilted Chard with Pickled Red Onions


Friday, May 11, 2012

Not Your Mama's Au-Gratin

Photo from

If you are craving comfort food; look no further than this: Mushroom Basil Au-Gratin! This is not your mother's Au-Gratin. I am sorry to say, no matter how satisfying and delicious mom's recipe is; it's loaded with fat and calories. That's because it's made with butter and milk.

This recipe is completely vegan. The rich, creaminess comes from cashews. That's right. The end result: An extravagant, satisfying, protein rich, healthy meal. This dish is also a good source of Vitamin D; thanks to the mushrooms. Mushrooms are nature's only source of Vitamin D. Except for the sun, that is.....

Here's the recipe:
Mushroom Basil Au-Gratin


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Zucchini 101

photo from

How do you feel about zucchini squash? 

I hope you love it as much as I do because zucchini is one the healthiest vegetables you can eat. It's also very low in calories. If you want to lose weight;  include plenty of zucchini in your diet. If you don't really care for it, perhaps a little Zucchini 101 will convince you to give it another try.

Here are the health benefits of this amazing squash: 

Zucchini helps with asthma, as it contains Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflamatory properties. Good for painful joints, too.

Zucchini is known to help prevent diseases like scurvy caused by the deficiency of vitamin C.

Regular intake of zucchini effectively lowers high homo cysteine levels in the human body

This vegetable can help prevent the risk of  multiple sclerosis (MS).

Zucchinis have high water content (over 95%) and contain a very low amount of calories. Perfect for weight loss.

Zucchini contains useful amounts of folate, potassium, and vitamin A, necessary for proper functioning of the human body.

Zucchini contains lutein. Good for the eyes!

Zucchini is a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, and manganese.

Eating zucchini is known to help the body in supporting the arrangement of capillaries.

Zucchini can help protect the body against colon cancer.

Zucchini is believed to be beneficial in preventing heart disease and related symptoms, such as high cholesterol.

The rind of zucchini contains beta-carotene, which is known to be full of antioxidant properties. Anti-oxidants protect cells against oxidation damage.

Zucchini is a good source of magnesium and phosphorus, the nutrients essential for building and maintaining healthy bones.


So now that you know how good zucchini is for you; here's a recipe!

Creamy Coconut Zucchini. 

I love this dish because it's so exotic. This is perfect to serve to the Zucchini Skeptic. Folks who swear they hate zucchini might just change their minds.

The light, creamy sweetness comes coconut and soy milk. You can substitute almond milk for the soy and get the same delicious results.  Take a look at all the warming spices in this recipe: chili powder, turmeric, and Garam masala.  We know what those do! They rev up our metabolisms to help burn fat and calories. This recipe is a winner, in every way.

Here's the recipe: Creamy Coconut Zucchini

Serve Creamy Coconut Zucchini over steamed brown or fragrant jasmine rice.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Potato Chip Junkie Cure- Spicy Roasted Chick Peas

image from
I am not much of a sweet-eater. Cookies, cakes and candy do nothing for me. I could care less. Please don't hate me. Place a bag of potato chips in front of me, however, and all bets are off.  I find chips almost impossible to resist.

I never buy chips. I refuse to keep them in the house. They will call out to me in the middle of the night. There  were times, back when I was a lazy vegetarian, when I would eat Doritos and wine and call it dinner. My logic? I was too tired, stressed, over-worked, or lazy to cook and because Doritos didn't contain meat, they were perfectly okay for me to eat.  I've come a long way since then. Now, Doritos are the devil. They're nothing more than chemically-dusted death triangles.  I'd rather spray plain tortilla chips with Raid and eat those instead. That's what I tell myself when tempted to reach for a handful at a party or gathering. I avoid Doritos like the plague. Potato chips, however, still make me weak in the knees.

Okay, for the record, potato chips and their crunchy cousins (tortilla chips, corn chips, etc.) are vegan as long as they're not covered in cheese-flavored powder and don't contain any sort of milk products. So that leaves out the sour cream and onion or cheese flavored varieties. That's okay, I don't really like those anyway. I like the plain old chips made of fried potatoes and lots of salt. Forget those bags of baked chips. I don't like those at all and they are mostly artificial. Pretzels are crunchy and salty but I don't really care for them, either. Yes, I know there are healthier chip choices out there. There are plenty of brands in my local health food store. I don't buy them. They might be better but a whole bag of better is still not good because I am like a junkie when it comes to chips. I can't stop until I've eaten the whole bag and then I want more.

So what do I do when a crunchy, salty, snack craving strikes? It's Spicy Roasted Chick Peas to the rescue. They are wholesome, rich in protein, low in fat, and all natural. They're basically roasted beans tossed with salt, spices and bit of oil.  I can whip these up in about an hour. Yes, it's quicker and easier to rip open a bag of chips but these are worth the wait and the house smells amazing as they're roasting. This crunchy snack is also very filling, so it's impossible to eat large quantities. Perfect!

Here's the recipe:
Spicy Roasted Chick Peas

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cynfully Good Lipsticks!

Photo from

 Every once in awhile, I find an awesome product that I just have to share! Right now, I am totally in love with Red Apple Lipsticks! These lipsticks are eco-friendly, vegan, parbaben-free, and the selection of colors are to die for!

They have lipsticks, lip pencils, lip glosses; everything you need for healthy, sexy, kissable lips!

What we put on our faces (and our lips) is just as important as what we eat! 

Check out their website:

Red Apple Lipstick

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Raw Chocolate Easter Eggs

photo from
Forget chocolate Easter Bunnies and jellybeans. And those marshmallow Peeps? YUCK! Pure crap. Pure sugar. Pure disaster.

Make these instead: Raw Chocolate Easter Eggs. Nothing artificial here. No worries. No guilt. No sugar coma!

Give them a try.

Here's the recipe:

Raw Chocolate Easter Eggs

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do Over! Rigatoni with Roasted Broccoli and Chickpeas

Today I stumbled upon what sounded like the most delicious recipe: Rigatoni with Roasted Broccoli and Chickpeas. What could be healthier than whole wheat pasta tossed with a beautiful green, vitamin packed, cancer-fighting vegetable like broccoli and delightful, protein rich beans? Imagine my disappointment as I skimmed the recipe only to discover it calls for anchovies, chicken bouillon and Romano cheese. First of all, this is definitely not vegan so I won't even go there. Secondly, this dish, although it sounds very healthy, is loaded with sodium. A definite no-go as far as I am concerned.

I was still interested, however. I am always looking for alternatives to the traditional pasta with sauce I often serve. My son is a big pasta lover and he would eat it every night if he could. And thankfully, he likes broccoli, so he would be willing to try this. So what do I do?

I could just omit the bouillon, anchovies and the cheese but those particular ingredients provide most of the flavor. I can substitute vegetable bouillon for a little added flavor but I have a feeling it would still be less than spectacular. Porcini mushrooms would lend some richness but my son hates mushrooms so that's not an option. I could add tons of garlic to the dish but still, I don't think it will be memorable. So I went into the kitchen and began to experiment.

First, here's the original recipe. You can make it this way if you want and I am sure it will be delicious. Go ahead. However, if you want to cut back on fat, calories, sodium and animal products, you might want to try it my way.

Rigatoni with Roasted Broccoli and Chickpeas

Here's my variation:

I substituted the anchovies with brown miso paste. Miso paste will provide a bit of that salty richness that makes the original dish so tasty. I just don't want little fishies in my food or all that oil. You can buy miso paste in the refrigerated section of  most health food stores. If you are concerned about sodium, low-sodium varieties are available. That's what I use. I love miso paste and I always have it on hand. A little bit of miso is great for seasoning salad dressings and other dishes. I also use it to make home made miso soup.

Instead of using the chicken bouillon cubes (loaded with salt and fat), I used Vogue Cuisine Vegetarian Chicken Soup and Seasoning BaseThis product is vegan, non-GMO, low in sodium and does not contain any chicken. It's perfect for recipes that call for chicken broth or when plain vegetable broth just won't do.

Here's what I did. I sauteed the garlic in oil as the recipe dictates, but completely omitted the anchovies. I added the reserved chickpea liquid to the pan with the browned garlic and tossed in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of the Vegetarian Chicken Soup and Seasoning Base and stirred until dissolved over the heat. I removed the pan from the stove and stirred in 1 tablespoon of the miso paste, stirring well until completely dissolved. I poured the mixture into a roasting pan, added the broccoli and the chickpeas and mixed it well to coat.

I followed the remaining directions of the original recipe. A generous sprinkling of grated vegan Parmesan cheese added the finishing touch right before serving.

This was delicious.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Can A Vegetarian Eat on St. Paddy's Day?

photo from

Years ago, when I was married, my husband's birthday was two days before St. Patrick's Day.  I invited the whole family over for dinner each year to celebrate. Thinking I could kill two birds with one stone, I always served the traditional St. Paddy's Day meal: corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.

It's a pretty simple meal to make. You basically put everything in one big pot on the stove and forget it.  Well, that's not all that's involved but you get the idea.  I wasn't about to eat the corned beef but I really didn't mind preparing it.  It was an act of love for my husband and also for my brother-in-law, a full-blooded Irishman.  He loved my corned beef and cabbage and I always sent him home with plenty of left-overs.

Year after year, I faithfully served corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for my husband's birthday dinner . One time in particular, we were gathered at the table, everyone oohing and aahing over the meal (I was enjoying a simple dish of boiled potatoes and cabbage I had cooked up separately). The corned beef was tender, the potatoes and cabbage were perfect. My attempt at homemade soda bread was a complete success and my brother-in-law said no one would ever guess I was not Irish. I glanced over at my husband for a nod of approval. He just glared at me and cleared his throat.

"You know, I really hate this meal," he said.

We all stared at him in horror.

"I hate it, " he continued. "I never liked corned beef and cabbage and I don't know why we have to have it every year on my birthday. Why can't you make a lasagna or something else Italian instead?"

No one said a word. I felt awful. I had never thought to ask my husband if he had any special requests in honor of his birthday.  I just assumed, because he'd never said a word otherwise (until now), that he loved my corned beef and cabbage as much as everyone else.

In the years that followed, we celebrated his birthday Italian Style.  I invited everyone over on a different day for my famous Irish meal.

Lesson learned: Never assume. Always ask.

All that leads me to this:

What can a vegetarian/vegan eat on St. Paddy's Day?

Hearty Kale, Cabbage and Potato Soup. It's hearty, satisfying, easy to prepare and as it simmers on the stove, the whole house smells amazing. Serve it up with Irish Soda Bread.

Here's the recipe: Hearty Kale, Cabbage and Potato Soup


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thoughts on Vegan Alternative Foods (and a recipe for Cashew Cream)

I am often asked the following question:

"If I stop eating animal products like cheese or sour cream and try to avoid processed foods, what about the Vegan alternatives to those foods. Aren't those processed? "

Good question and a very valid one. Many people believe it's better to eat a hunk of natural raw cheese or add a dollop of real sour cream (from a cow) to their baked potatoe rather than use packaged vegan substitutes.  I personally would not eat products from cows (or goats or any other animal) but in some ways, those who choose to do so are probably right.  Kind of.  Their choices are often  more "natural".  The vegan alternatives we buy in the supermarket are processed and usually contain a few ingredients we really don't want or need.

I try not to make a habit of relying heavily on vegan alternative foods. I believe food in its most natural state is best.  Foods I can make myself are healthier and better than anything I buy at the store. But I have to be honest. Sometimes I want something rich and creamy. Or I want a piece of pizza covered with melted "cheese".  What if  I don't have time or feel like making my own from soy or nuts? That's when the so-called substitutes come in handy. 

My rule: use them sparingly and don't rely on them as a major source of protein or nutrition.

Pure is always best. Choose foods and condiments that are minimally processed. Try to make as much as you can at home, from scratch. Your body can absorb and use the nutrients more quickly from foods that are less processed. End result- you'll feel better - body, mind and spirit.

That being said, here's a wonderful recipe I found for Cashew Cream in this week's edition of Veg News.  Easy to make and a healthier alternative to sour cream and much better than any vegan variety you can buy in the store.  It might take a bit to adjust to different flavor (it's definitely not sour cream but it is deliciously unique)  but eventually, you will love it. Cashew cream is perfect served with veggie tacos and even on baked potatoes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Best Lentil Almond Burgers Ever!

photo from

I must be honest and confess-- I  keep a package of veggie burgers in my freezer.  They're convenient to have on hand when I don't have time to cook.  In the summer, one of my friends is always having an impromtu BBQ so if I don't have a supply of homemade burgers,  I'll toss a couple of veggie burgers in my purse. I wrap them in foil to cook on the grill along with all the hamburgers and hotdogs. 

I am not a huge fan of the pre-packaged, frozen veggie burger, but it can be quite a life-saver on those days I just don't have time to prepare my own.  I prefer homemade burgers made from beans and grains. They're obviously healthier and they taste so much better.  

Here is my favorite burger recipe made from lentils and almonds. These are so delicious. I put them on whole grain hamburgers rolls and serve with all the regular fixings.

This recipe comes from  I've adjusted it slightly to make it vegan.  These burgers are  delicate so flip them gently in the pan when you cook them. They will most likely fall apart if you grill them so my advice is not even try. You can wrap them in a bit of foil, however, and re-heat them on the BBQ, if desired.

Lentil and Almond Burgers
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils or green French lentils (see Ingredient note)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, ,divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk) (about
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Ener-G egg replacer mixed in 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in lentils, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until very tender and beginning to break down, about 25 minutes for brown lentils or 30 minutes for green lentils. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve.

  • 2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, shallots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add almonds, thyme, salt and pepper; continue cooking until the almonds are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor; add 1 cup of the cooked lentils. Pulse several times, scraping down the sides once or twice, until the mixture is coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in the remaining lentils. Let cool for 10 minutes. Mix in egg replacer and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour

  • 3. Form the lentil mixture into 5 patties. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn gently and continue to cook until lightly browned and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.

  • Ingredient Note: French green lentils are smaller and firmer than brown lentils. They cook more quickly, too, about 20 minutes. They can be found in natural-foods stores and some larger supermarkets.
  • Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Mushroom Stroganoff- The Ultimate Comfort Food!

    If it's comfort food you want, you found it. Let me rephrase that.  I found it and I am sharing it with you.

    This is delicious, vegan comfort food at its best from Mouthwatering Vegan: Stroganoff Supreme. 

    I would serve this over cooked whole grain noodles or steamed brown rice.

    This meal is a bit of an indulgence because it gets its richness from cream. It's vegan cream (meaning no animal fat or animal products) but there is still some considerable fat in this dish.

    Here's my thinking on all that:

    If your daily diet is primarily lean protein, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, then it's perfectly fine to eat a meal thatis a bit rich now and then, even if you are trying to lose weight. Eating should be pleasurable, not boring; and never, ever about denial.   This is the key to success in weight loss and healthy living.

    Another note: this recipe calls for Ground Mixed Spice. Here's how to make it.

    Ground Mixed Spice


    Saturday, February 25, 2012

    In Praise of Peanuts and Peanut Butter

    Peanuts! I love 'em.  Roasted. In the shell. They're fun to eat and because it's somewhat time consuming to crack them open to get at the actual nut,  peanuts are a good and healthy snack alternative. There's no way you can consume as many peanuts as you can potato chips or handfuls of M&M's. Not to mention, peanuts are packed with good stuff, in fact, over thirty essential nutrients and phytonutrients. You can't get all that from a bag of chips.

    I am not talking about those big cans of peanuts. Those are loaded with salt and oil. I can eat a whole can of those all by myself. The salt is addictive and they taste so good but they're also very fattening. Certainly not the best choice, but if it's between them and a whole bag of candy, definitely choose the peanuts. When I say snack on peanuts, I am mean the good old fashioned peanuts in the shell. Like the ones you get at baseball games or at the zoo. Elephant food. :)

    This brings me to the subject of peanut butter. Who doesn't love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or my personal favorite: peanut butter spread on a Granny Smith apple. YUMMY!

    Most of us shy away from peanut butter because it's so unhealthy.  The traditional brands we've loved since childhood are loaded with partially hydrogenated oil.  We all know that trans-fat laden additive is the enemy. Unfortunately, it's also what makes peanut butter so luscious and creamy. Remove it and you're left with nothing more than a glob of peanut mess that's impossible to spread.

    Years ago, when I first set out on a mission to improve my health and that of my family, I did all my shopping at a tiny little health food store around the corner from home. It was the most amazing store with old-fashioned wooden floors.  Grains and beans were stored in big burlap sacks on the floor. I just took what I needed and brought it home in little brown paper bags. All kinds of goodies like nuts, dried fruit, coffee, and homemade carob-covered rice cakes were stored in big glass jars on shelves that lined the walls from floor to ceiling.  I could spend all day in there, browsing, sampling, chatting with really cool hippie owners. They had a peanut grinder all the way in the back of the store.  Every few months, I would bring my own glass jar and fill it with freshly ground peanut butter. It was most delicious stuff I'd ever tasted. Just peanuts. That's it. No salt, no sugar, no additives.

    It took awhile for my family to adjust to the taste and texture of this fresh, all natural peanut butter. We'd all grown up with Jif and Skippy  It was also a labor of love to actually make a peanut butter sandwich. My jar of freshly ground peanuts had to be stored in the fridge to prevent rancidity and was impossible to spread unless it was at room temperature. This meant I had to set it out on the counter and wait.  Then I had to stir, stir, stir. Oh, but it was so worth it.  Eventually, we were all hooked.

    It was a sad day when a large Natural Foods Super Market (an actual chain store) took up residence in the same neighborhood and put my little health food store out of business. No more peanut grinder. Of course I refused to shop there at first but eventually I had no choice. There were no other independent health food stores around. I tried to convince the manager of the new market to install a peanut grinder, but he refused. It wasn't practical and no one wanted to deal with the mess. Instead, he pointed me to an aisle filled with jars of "all natural" peanut butter.  They all contained palm oil.  Not only is palm oil extremely high in saturated fat, but it's also controversial for the harm it causes to the environment -- rain forests and peat lands in Malaysia and Indonesia have been cleared out to increase production of the palm trees that produce palm oil. Yuck. I bought my own little grinder and from that day on, made my own peanut butter at home.

    This was a long time ago. My child is grown and my lifestyle has changed. I am still very health-conscious but I don't have time to grind my own peanuts. I am happy to say that peanut butter has evolved and there are quite a few really good brands out there that are basically nothing more than peanuts and salt. Not quite as delicious as freshly ground but pretty close.  I can actually enjoy and not feel guilty about peanut butter from a jar and you can, too.  Just be sure to choose the healthiest, most natural brand you can find.

    Not sure which brand to choose? Here's an article I found on the best tasting (and healthiest) natural peanut butters.

    Taste Test- the Best Natural Peanut Butters

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Crock Pot White Bean Pumpkin Soup

    You have a crock pot, don't you?

    If not, go out and buy one!

    A crock pot is essential for folks like us. We want to serve good, wholesome, home cooked food but don't have alot of time. A crock pot makes everything super easy and convenient.  Just toss in your ingredients, turn it on, and forget it.

    Hours later, VIOLA! Dinner.

    Everyone knows crock pots are perfect for pot roast but if you don't eat meat.......

    What can you make in a crock pot?

    Homemade tomato sauce
    Macaroni and Cheese
    Rice Dishes
    Homemade vegetable stock


    you can make this soup!

    Here are more crock pot recipes and ideas:


    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Skillet Mushrooms with Chard and Barley

    "Mushrooms, Barley and Chard! Oh my!"

    Call me crazy, but I just can't get enough of these amazing, healing, delicious foods!

    Combine them all together in one gorgeous dish and I am in heaven! So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a recipe including all three that I just have to share with you!

    I'll get to the recipe in a minute. I want you to be as enthusiastic as I am about it so I need to rant and rave a bit about mushrooms, barley, and chard.

    A Vegetarian's dream come true. Why? Because sometimes tofu, veggies and brown rice just doesn't cut it. We need to sink our teeth into something meaty, thick and juicy. Enter the mushroom. They're pretty good raw but even better when marinated and grilled. Toss them into salads, rice dishes, soups, and stews. Mix them into home made macaroni and cheese or add a layer of grilled mushrooms to lasagna. YUMMY!

    Portabella mushrooms are my personal favoritet! I take whole portabella mushrooms, cut off the stems, brush the mushroom caps with a bit of olive oil and grill until tender. Then I place them on whole grain buns with all the fixin's. They're thick, tender, juicy--better than hamburgers! Honestly.

    Did you know mushrooms are the only natural source of Vitamin D? Except for the sun, that is. I know so many people diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiencies.  So they start taking supplements.  Why not do it naturally, instead? Get 10 - 15 minutes of good, old-fashioned sunshine every day and eat your mushrooms!   

    A grain and good one. Often neglected,  barley is a nutritional powerhouse and perfect for those with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, barley is on the list of low GI foods. In other words, it doesn't increase your blood sugar levels as quickly as white bread, potatoes, or other carbohydrates. 

    Barley is rich in fiber, naturally cholesterol-free and low in fat. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked pearl barley, a typical grain serving, contains less than 1/2 gram of fat and only 100 calories. Barley also contains several vitamins and minerals including niacin (Vitamin B3), thiamine ( Vitamin B1), selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper.

    Commonly know as Swiss Chard and sadly, another often ignored powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. Chard is an excellent source of Vitamins C, E and K, carotenes, chlorophyll, and fiber. It also contains several minerals including potassium. magnesium, iron and maganese.  And let's not forget Vitamin B6, protein, calcium, thiamine, selenium. zinc, niacin, and folic acid. Simply stated, chard is one of the most powerful anti-cancer foods you can eat. So buy it, cook it, and eat it- OFTEN!

    Combine all three ingredients in one dish and you have the most glorious, powerful, healing, life-giving meal.

    And now....... the recipe:

    Skillet Mushrooms with Chard and Barley

    Enjoy and let me know how it turns out!  I would love to hear from you!


    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Flax Tempeh Fries with Curry Vegan Mayo

    I know you're wondering.......

    What the heck are tempeh fries?

    Well.....they're not french fries, at least not the kind of we all know and love. No potatoes here. But these little beauties are similar, just packed with protein and calcium. And a whole lot healthier.  And if you are trying to limit carbs, you might want to try these to satisfy your french fry cravings.

    Sounds good so far, no?

    So what exactly is tempeh?

    A little Tempeh 101:

    Tempeh is a product made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a block or a patty, like a very firm veggie burger. Many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, and also add spices and extra flavors. Tempeh is made from soy, but it has a unique, mild, nutty flavor.  Tempeh is also very high in protein and calcium, as well as beneficial isoflavones, but looks and tastes nothing like tofu.  If you're not a fan of tofu, you might want to give tempeh a try.

    Because it is a low-fat, high protein food, many vegetarians and vegans include tempeh in their diets on a regular basis. Try adding some to a stir fry instead of tofu, or crumble into soups or chili.  It has a very firm texture, so you need to slice tempeh into small dices or cubes, not more than 3/4 inch thick.

    Tempeh can be found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores and in the natural foods aisle of well-stocked grocery stores.

    My personal favorite way to eat tempeh:

    I slice it into thin slices (but not too thin- I don't want it to crumble) and fry it quickly in a little coconut oil. Then I add barbeque sauce ( a tablespoon or two to coat the tempeh) to the pan and let it cook for a minute or two, turning once or twice so it doesn't stick to the pan. Then I place the tempeh in a whole wheat wrap, add lettuce, tomato, a bit of vegan mayo and I have the most delicious BBQ tempeh wrap. YUMMY.

    Okay. Now, let's get back to those Tempeh Fries:

    Here's the recipe from :

    2  8-oz pkgs of Organic Flax Tempeh
    4 tablespoons vegan mayonaise ( I use Nayonaise- available at most health-food stores)
    2 tablespoons curry powder
    1/2 cup cornmeal
    4 tablespoons of oil (your choice. I like coconut oil. Olive oil will work, too.)

    To make dipping sauce, whisk together mayonnaise and curry powder. Slice tempeh lengthwise into 1/4-inch fries. In a large skillet, bring 1 inch water to a boil. Working in batches, simmer tempeh, covered, for 10 minutes; drain. Combine cornmeal and salt. While tempeh is still moist, roll it in cornmeal mixture. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sauté tempeh for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, with dipping sauce on the side.

    Enjoy :)

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Skillet Collards and Winter Squash with Barley

    Photo: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
    My father was born and bred in the South so I am well acquainted with collard greens. Collards are a staple vegetable in every Southern kitchen.  My family still prepares them exactly the way my grandmother did and her grandmother before her-- simmered on the stove for hours and seasoned with fat-back, lots of onions, salt and pepper. Sometimes they toss in a few potatoes and some crushed red pepper. They come out soft and soggy and a light, translucent green. Serve with hot home-made biscuits to sop up the juices and you're in heaven. Pure heaven.

    I used to eat them that way all the time.  Since becoming a vegan,  I must now say no to the big bowl of collards passed around the table at every family gathering. I just can't bring myself to eat anything cooked with fat-back, even if it's just a scant amount. And I really prefer my vegetables a bit greener and not quite so well-done.  But I still love collard greens. I've just had to have find healthier ways to cook them.

    Collards are green, leafy winter vegetables. They're rich in Vitamin C and fiber and contain multiple nutrients with anticancer properties such as diindolylmethane and sulforaphane.  A quarter of a pound has about 46 calories so they're the perfect food for weight loss. Toss them into soups, steam them lightly and season with lemon or vinegar and crushed red pepper, stir fry them with garlic and oil, or boil them up with potatoes and a dash or two of Liquid Smoke for a long-simmered, smokey flavor. 

    I stumbled across the perfect recipe in The New York Times: Skillet Collards with Winter Squash and Barley. This dish is gorgeous and bursting with life: gorgeous green collards, bright orange butternut squash and pretty little pearls of barley. It's a meal in itself or a good side dish to serve to the carnivores in your family with grilled fish or chicken.

    Here's the recipe:
    Skillet Collards with Winter Squash and Barley

    If you've never cooked collard greens before,  I encourage you to try this recipe.  And let me know how it turns out. I would love to hear from you.


    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Tuscan Polenta with Rosemary, Kale and Cannellini Beans

    photo from
    I've been told I have the strangest taste in food but just looking at this dish makes me hungry. This is delicious, simple, healing food at its best. The perfect dish for a chilly evening.

    Kale.  Rich, vibrant, green, sturdy. Literally packed with vitamins and minerals.  A  hearty winter vegetable. I eat kale several times a week from September through March. I love to steam it lightly, or stir fry it with fresh garlic and onions. YUMMY.

    Cannellini Beans. Pretty little cream-colored gems that are loaded with protein. Italians use these beans in so many dishes. Make sure you keep plenty of these beans in your pantry; dried or canned is fine. They are delicious. Toss them in everything: soups, casseroles, salads. Put them in a blender with fresh garlic, a bit of lemon juice and a dash or two of olive oil to make a quick delicious sandwich spread or a dip for fresh vegetables.

    Polenta is coarse, Italian cornmeal. So rustic. Satisfying peasant food.

    Rosemary.  A gorgeous green herb that I recently discovered grows wild all over Los Angeles. Rosemary is fragrant and earthy. Buy it fresh; never dried. Add it to soups, especially lentil soup. Mix it into your mashed potatoes and even potato salad. Sweet potatoes are divine when roasted with a few sprigs of rosemary.

    This particular recipe calls for milk but you can make it VEGAN by using plain soy or almond milk instead.

    Here's the recipe:
    Tuscan Polenta with Rosemary, Kale and Cannellini Beans

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    The BEST Veggie "Meatballs" Ever!

    Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? I remember my mom making her sauce every Sunday and making her famous meatballs. I loved to help her. She would dump raw chop meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs and spices into a big bowl and I would mix it all up with my bare hands. Then came the fun part: rolling the mixture into little balls for frying. I shudder now at the thought of  handling raw meat and actually loving it, but that was then. Now I make my own delicious meatballs - without the raw meat!

    You can just buy frozen veggie meatballs and plop them into your sauce but where's the fun in that? I think shaping the meatballs is the best part. It's very therapeutic and a good project for the kids. Let them stick their little hands right into the meatball mixture and roll away. No worries about  e coli or any other diseases from handling (or tasting) raw meat. 

    Note: I very rarely measure anything when I cook. I use the palm of my hand as a guide and just toss things in until it looks right.  These measurements are as close as I can get them so feel free to add more or less if you prefer.

    Here's my recipe:

    1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
    2 -3 Tablespoons vegan "Parmesan" cheese
    2- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1/4 cup finely minced onion
    2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
    1 Tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning
    1 -2 Tablespoons of chopped pine nuts (optional)
    small handful of golden raisins (optional)
    olive oil

    Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your hands until blended well.  It will take a little while for you to adjust to cooking without meat. Usually meatball mixture made with real meat is moist because of the added eggs. THIS MIXTURE should be dry. If it appears too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.  OR, while mixing, add a drop or two of olive oil.

    Take 2 tablespoons ( or more) of the mixture (depended on how large you want your meatballs) and roll them with your hands into round ball shapes. Just don't make them too big. You want be sure they cook all the way through.

    Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in large skillet.

    Brown the meatballs evenly on each side.

    Drop the cooked meatballs into your sauce for about 15 minutes to cook thoroughly.

    Serve hot with your choice of pasta and extra marinara sauce.

    You won't believe how good these are! Serve them to your carnivorous, full-blooded Italian family and friends. I promise, they'll love 'em!

    Special note: I use Gimme Lean because I cook for a carnivore. I could make these out of beans (my preference) but he won't eat them. These, he loves and asks for seconds. And they are great the next day to make"meatball" heros. I am happy because he's not eating meat and he's happy because, well, these are really, really good.

    If you can't find Gimme Lean at your local grocery or health food store, or if you are a purist, you can substitute about 2 cups of cooked, cooled, very well drained lentils. Just mash up the cooked lentils with a fork. You might want to add more breadcrumbs to the mixture to get the consistency you want. Then just drop them right into the pot with the sauce but take extra care when doing so and when stirring your sauce as they cook. They might not be quite as sturdy as the Gimme Lean "meatballs"  so they could fall apart if you are not gentle with them.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Quick and Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce

    It's Sunday! Most people become Italian on Sunday and eat pasta.  I do.

    I remember my mom starting her sauce (some call it gravy) early on Sunday mornings. Into her big sauce pot she would toss lots and lots of minced garlic,  onions, oregano, parsley, basil, a few cans of whole tomatoes, tomato puree and some lamb shanks for flavor. She would fry up homemade balls (made from a mixture of beef, pork, eggs and breadcrumbs) and add those to sauce about halfway through cooking. Her sauce was an all day affair. The house smelled amazing.

    Honestly, who has time for all that now? I know, I don't. My mom doesn't even do it that way anymore. Most of the time, she opens a few jars of sauce and just pours it over ziti.  My Italian grandmother is certainly rolling over in her grave over it.  When mom does make a homemade sauce, it's usually marinara sauce. Without meat. On special occasions, she might make meatballs to go along with it. And she always sets aside a cup or two of plain sauce before she tosses the meatballs into the pot. For me. The only vegetarian in the family.

    If you come to my house for Sunday dinner, don't expect meat in my sauce. Or real meatballs. Sometimes, I will toss in veggie meatballs. Once they're covered in sauce, you can't really tell they are not made from meat. What you will get is a hearty marinara sauce laced with lots of garlic (cut with a razor blade) and plenty of fresh herbs and spices. Never, ever sauce from a jar. 

    It's more ecomonical to make your own sauce. For the cost of one or two jars, you can make a huge pot of homemade tomato sauce. Freeze the rest to use through the week. Or for the following Sunday pasta dinner. You never have to worry about running out to the store to buy sauce. Just reach into the freezer. Gotta love that.

    My usual homemade tomato sauce takes awhile to cook. I let it simmer on the stove for hours. I realize most people just don't have time for that. So I would like to share with you a very quick, very easy, homemade tomato sauce. It's delicious.

    2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    4 cloves of garlic- mashed, minced or sliced very thin.
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    4 14-oz cans of Muir Glenn Fire Roasted tomatoes
     sea salt to taste (about a teaspoon)
    freshly ground pepper
    a small handful of raisins- optional. I usually toss a few raisins in my sauce for natural sweetness and to balance the acidity of the tomatoes- especially if I am using tomatoes from a can.

    1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. In it, stir-fry the garlic and oregano until the garlic is turning golden. Stir constantly so it doesn't stick.

    2.  Pour the tomatoes into the saucepan and mash them up with a wooden spoon to mix them with the garlic and oil, and to break them up a bit. Don't mash them too much, since lumps of tomatoes are good in this sauce.

    3.  Grind in lots of fresh black pepper and mix in the salt. You can add the raisins, if desired.

    4.  Heat the sauce, stirring constantly until it's hot.  This will only take about 5 minutes.  If it's too juicy, cook a bit longer to evaporate some of the sauce.  Never put a lid on this sauce.

    Pour over pasta and enjoy! Freeze the rest for another day!