Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Vegan and Delicious Holiday Week!

What a delicious week this has been . . . family, friends, cooking, and of course eating. Here's a sampling of our favorites:

For friends and neighbors, we baked: Harvest Cookies from Quick-fix Vegan -- plus my own chocolate chip cookies to which I added a little orange extract and Global Garden's Dream Dust.

For dinner:

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie, Agave and Mustard-Glazed Green Beans and Red Wine-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Challah Bread (made with squash instead of eggs!) from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

For dessert:

Chocolate Chai Ice Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust and dusted with Dream Dust (ice cream and crust recipes from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nava Atlas's Red Wine Roasted Brussels Sprouts

As we count down the days until Christmas, I'm planning my holiday dinner--so I naturally turned to Nava Atlas's new cookbook: Vegan Holiday Kitchen--especially since her recipes were such a hit on Thanksgiving.

I had found some beautiful little brussels sprouts at one of my favorite local growers: Rutiz Farms last weekend so I thought I'd preview Nava's Red Wine-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. To make it more of a meal, I added some cauliflower and tofu and served it with baked butternut squash and applesauce. All I can say is WOW! The outsides of the sprouts were crispy and sweet, the insides just melted in our mouths. They were so good . . . and it wasn't just me, the kids loved them too. These will definitely be on our Christmas dinner menu!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hot Cocoa with a twist

Tis the season for hot cocoa . . . fa la la la la la la la la

Oh yeah, the weather around here has been downright chilly and while I love my green tea, sometimes we just want something a little special to warm us up--and hot cocoa is just the thing. Lately, we've been experimenting with flavored chocolates to make a special thing, even more special. Like . . .

Orange Hot Cocoa: Add 1 tablespoon Triple Sec or 1/8 teaspoon orange extract to 1 cup cocoa.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa: Add 1 tablespoon Peppermint Schnapps or 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract to 1 cup cocoa.

Mocha: Add 1 tablespoon Kahula or 1 teaspoon instant coffee or coffee substitute (like Pero) to 1 cup cocoa--or you can have half brewed coffee and half a cup cocoa.

It's also fun just to add a little hint of spice to your cocoa -- cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, or a chai spice mixture--or a little chili powder too.

One more idea for something really special is the Hot Chocolate Float from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love. Try replacing the vanilla with one of the variations above as well!

Vegan Hot Chocolate Float
Makes 4 servings
Who needs (vegan) marshmallows! Try a scoop of ice cream in your hot chocolate instead.

3 cups nondairy milk
1 cup nondairy dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 scoops nondairy Vanilla Ice Cream

Place the milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Heat, whisking occasionally, until the milk just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk until smooth and foamy. Pour evenly into 4 mugs. Carefully drop a scoop of the ice cream into each mug.

So, this is what we've tried so far . . . what are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Autumn Veggie Stew

The inspiration started when I cooked a big pot of white beans . . . and then took shape after a trip to the Farmers' Market . . . and then was finished off by homemade Thai Green Curry Sauce purchased at Rutiz Farms to create one of the best stews I've made. It's so darn good, we are eating it for snacks as well as meals . . . and I'll share the recipe with you. (Since the types and strengths of curry sauces and pastes are so different, add a little at a time until it's to the spiciness and flavor that you like--I used about a tablespoon of Ruth's Green Curry Sauce.)

Autumn Veggie Stew

olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks (white part of about 3-4 leeks)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 anaheim chilis, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 15-ounce can with juice)
1 quart vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups cooked white beans (or 1 15-ounce can)
6 cups chopped kale
green curry sauce or paste to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

Place a large pot over low heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add leeks, garlic, and celery. Cook about 5 minutes to soften. Add squash, pepper, chilis, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Add beans and kale. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Season with curry sauce/paste and salt and pepper, to taste.

Serves 8

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Quick-fix Vegan

Quick-Fix Vegan
by Robin Robertson

Review by Cathe Olson

I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I was to find out that Robin Robertson has a new cookbook out. Roberson’s books have long been a staple at my house, but with her new book, Quick-Fix Vegan, I think she’s outdone herself.

According to the book cover, Quick-Fix Vegan contains 150 “healthy, homestyle meals” that can be prepared in “30 minutes or less.” Unlike other “quick” cookbooks that rely heavily on jarred sauces and prepared foods, the recipes in this book are made largely from whole, unprocessed foods . . . foods I have on hand and feel good about serving my family.

The chapter of Starters and Snacks includes Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus, Super Nachos, and Easy Artichoke Puffs. I made the vegetable fritters—a mixture of shredded onions, potatoes and vegetables, held together with flour and nondairy milk—for my family and they were a huge hit. In fact, I’ve made them several times since, varying the vegetables, herbs, and flours with excellent results. The leftovers, if there are any, go great in the kids’ lunchboxes. It was a bit challenging to get the fritters all cooked in under 30 minutes, but getting several skillets cooking at once does decrease the cooking time (though adds to the cleanup time). (See more on the fritters here!)

I’m a big soup fan—especially this time of year—and Robertson includes some great ones. We loved the Creamy Greens Soup made with kale and coconut milk; and the Cream of Mushroom Soup was sublime. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the Speedy Sandwiches or Snappy Salads, but am looking forward to making the Sloppy Portobellos, Seitan and Slaw Wraps, Freeburgers, and Burmese Ginger Salad.

The selection of Stovetop Suppers and Pasta Express dinners include a variety of veganized international favorites like Tofu “Scampi” with Spinach, Jerk Seitan and Vegetable Skillet, Korean Hot Pot, and Skillet Lasagne. I made the Tofu Skillet Scramble and it was super quick and easy, and very flavorful. The book also includes recipes for condiments, gravies and chutneys, and desserts like Pear Turnovers, which I am dying to try, and Molasses Ginger Cookies with blueberries.

Every recipe I tried worked well. The instructions were clear and simple. The ingredients are ones I had on hand or could find easily. Some of the recipes do take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. For example, the baking time for the Portobellos Stuffed with Chickpeas and Chard is 25 minutes. But you still need to prep the ingredients and cook the chard for 7 minutes. So read over the recipes carefully if you really are pressed for time just to be sure.

My recommendation? This is one of the best cookbooks I’ve found in a long time. The meals are great for families—nothing too outlandish, but nothing boring either. It is definitely the first one I’ll turn to in the busy months to come.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vegan Holiday Heaven

I don't care if Santa comes or not this year . . . I've already gotten my presents. Two of my favorite cookbook authors came out with new books and I just couldn't ask for anything more.

About a month ago, I got Robin Robertson's new cookbook Quick-fix Vegan. I've been having such a great time trying out her delicious recipes (full review coming soon) and then 2 days before Thanksgiving, I got Nava Atlas's new cookbook Vegan Holiday Kitchen. I already had my Thanksgiving dinner planned and all my ingredients stocked, but as soon as I started paging through Nava's book . . . I knew I had to try them. So after a hurried trip to the store on Thanksgiving eve (which I do not recommend!), I was ready for the alterations.

The main dish was to be Robin Robertson's Seitan En Croute which is basically seitan and stuffing wrapped in puff pastry. I used the Slow Cooker Seitan I made the week before and substituted Nava's Walnut-Apple Stuffing (there was a lot left over so I cooked the rest of the stuffing on the side). My husband and I loved the Seitan En Croute, but my daughters were bigger fans of the stuffing plain.

I stuck to my original plan of Roasted Root Vegetables from the Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook, because I know it's always a sure hit--but instead of the roasted green beans I had planned, I made the Agave and Mustard Glazed Green Beans from Vegan Holiday Kitchen, which my daughters absolutely loved.

And finally, rather than the regular apple sauce requested by my apple sauce obsessed daughter, I made Nava's Cranberry-Apple Sauce (though I used double the apples and half the cranberries because I wasn't sure how it would go over)--and believe it or not, both of my daughters declared it their favorite dish of our Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, the next day as my younger daughter finished off the last bits, she told me she liked it better than regular applesauce. Lucky me--I still have half a bag of cranberries left so I'll get right on another batch!

The best thing is it's not even December yet so I'll have plenty of occasions to treat my family and friends to more of the wonderful dishes from both of this great cookbooks.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Slow Cooker Seitan

I've been experimenting with seitan lately . . . something I seem to do every couple of years. I really don't like the store-bought kind but never seem to get around to making my own. Until I read in Robin Robertson's Quick-fix Vegan that it can be made in a slow cooker. Well, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Of course! A slow cooker is the perfect place to make seitan. Long, slow cooking so the seitan can absorb the flavors and no need for me to have to be home (or awake) while it cooks. So I went searching through my cookbooks and on the Internet and added a couple of innovations of my own, and came up with this recipe. The whole house smelled amazing and the seitan was perfect--moist, flavorful--my daughters keep snitching pieces from the refrigerator so that tells you how much they like it.

Slow Cooker Seitan

Seitan ingredients:

2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Simmering broth ingredients:

1 onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Sprig of fresh thyme, rosemary, and/or sage (or a teaspoon of each dried) (optional)
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth

Place gluten flour, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Stir in the water, soy sauce, and olive oil and stir until mixture is combined. Knead the dough for a minute or two. Let dough rest for five minutes while you set up the slow cooker and turn it to low, and get the simmering broth ingredients prepared. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Arrange seitan dough balls in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the onion, garlic, and herbs over the dough. Pour the broth over everything. Cover and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Cool in slow cooker for an hour at room temperature, or until the seitan is cool enough to handle.

Store in broth or removed from broth and tightly wrapped—in refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 to 6 months.

Makes about 2 pounds

Next I want to try an Asian-flavored -- I'm thinking sliced ginger and maybe lemon grass instead of the herbs above . . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mushroom-Pistachio Phyllo Pinwheels

I was in a cooking mood yesterday so decided to try some recipes from a new cookbook I got when I went olive oil tasting in Los Olivos a few weeks ago. The book is by Theo Stephan, the owner of Global Gardens, and it features Caliterranean Food and uses lots of olive oil and vinegars.

I wanted to make her phyllo rolls but the filling was mostly olives and, as much as I love olive oil, I just do not care for olives. So I made up a mushroom filling to compliment the pistachios and feta cheese and it came out great.

Here's what I did, if you want to try it . . . or if you want the original recipe, you click here to find out more about her cookbook.

Also . . . if you have any leftover of the pistacio-parsley mixture, it is a great substitute for parmesan cheese on pasta . . . we sprinkled some on our salad too.

Mushroom Pistachio Phyllo Pinwheels

Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms (baby bella, crimini, white, etc.), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon medium sherry
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup shelled raw pistacios
1/4 cup parsley leaves
4 ounces vegan feta cheese (optional)
1 (1-pound) package phyllo sheets
1/4 cup blood orange balsamic vinegar

Place a skillet over medium-low heat. Coat bottom with olive oil. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, mushrooms, sherry and salt.. Saute 10 more minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Let cool slightly.

Place pistachios and parsley in food processor fitted with metal blade and mince until nuts are ground. Remove to a small bowl. Pour mushroom mixture into food processor and pulse to mince.

Set up work station. Line a board or tray with parchment paper. Place about 1/2 cup olive oil in a bowl with a pastry brush. (You may need to add more as you assemble the rolls.) Have pistachio mixture, mushroom mixture, and feta in easy reach. Also, divide the number of phyllo sheets that come in your package by 4. If it’s not an even number, some may have different number of sheets. For example, the phyllo I use contains 18 sheets, so I used 5 sheets for two rolls and 4 sheets for two rolls. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Assemble as follows: Place one sheet of phyllo on the parchment. Brush lightly with olive oil. Place the next sheet and repeat for remaining sheets for that roll. Then sprinkle 1/4 of the mushroom mixture over phyllo – leaving about an inch clear on one shorter end of the rectangle. Sprinkle 1/4 of the pistacio mixture over phyllo, again leaving the end clear. And then 1/4 of the feta. Roll the phyllo tightly ending with the clear inch space. Use extra olive oil to seal the roll. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling until you have 4 rolls. Slice each roll into 1-inch slices and place on baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes, or until top and sides are golden. Pour vinegar into a small pan. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes to reduce. Brush the vinegar over the tops of the pinwheels. Serve immediately.

Makes 40

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Victory for milk labeling

Companies like Monsanto and Eli Lilly don't want consumers to know if their milk and other dairy products come from cows treated with bovine growth hormones. They've tried to keep growth hormone-free products from being labeled as such by lobbying the FDA, suing dairy farmers, and urging governments to curtail farmers' freedom of speech.

Now I guess I can understand why these companies have a vested interest in keeping the information about the growth hormones a secret, given the public's aversion to it . . . but why in the world has the state of Ohio been trying to "rBGH-free" and "produced without artificial growth hormones" labels from dairy products. Yup, it's true -- they tried to make it illegal to tell consumers how their milk was produced.

Well, in 2010, a Sixth Circuit court decided that milk produced with synthetic hormones is different than milk produced without it. The court found:
- A compositional difference does exist between milk from untreated cows and conventional milk.
- The use of rBGH (rbST) in milk production has been shown to elevate the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a naturally occurring hormone that in high levels is linked to several types of cancers, among other things.
- rBGH (rbST) use induces an unnatural period of milk production during a cow's "negative energy phase." Milk produced during this stage is considered to be low quality due to its increased fat content and its decreased level of proteins.
- Milk from rBGH-injected cows contains higher somatic cell counts, which makes the milk turn sour more quickly and is another indicator of poor milk quality.

But Ohio was still trying to get around the ruling and figure a way to keep labeling illegal . . . however, according to an Oct. 31st Sacramento Bee article, "The State of Ohio today agreed that it will no longer pursue regulations limiting labeling on organic dairy products."

This is a real victory toward consumers gaining the right to know what is in their food and how it's produced. Hopefully, this is a step toward getting all foods produced by genetically engineering to be labeled.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sometimes you just have to take care of yourself

You know how you have those weeks when you just have too much going on and you're just trying to make it through? Well, I'm on my second one of those. It has been just nonstop at work, at home, with school, kids . . . you name it. I got home from a stressful day at work, completely exhausted, only to face two school assignments due, a mound of dirty dishes, a pile of books I need to review, a blog post I need to write, bills to pay, orders to fill . . . and something is wrong with my server so I'm not getting my emails. I was about ready to lose it . . . I'm sure you've been there too.

So I was just about resigned to another dinner of frozen veggie potstickers eaten at my desk while trying to get everything done when . . . I stopped myself.

I made a cup of green tea and sat in my chair for 45 minutes and read. I even dozed a little. Then I got up and made myself a nice, homemade dinner. I lit a candle, poured a glass of wine (just a half--I did still have to do my schoolwork), and had a wonderful meal.

Now, I feel so much better and more relaxed. I may have to stay up later to finish what I need to do but at least I feel like I took care of myself and everything is not so overwhelming.

Of course, the book I read is a novel I'm reviewing and the meal I cooked is from a cookbook I'm reviewing so I even got some work done on my 'to dos'--but in a good way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

12 Minute Applesauce

My daughter LOVES homemade applesauce. Unfortunately, I don't always have the time to make it. So today, she really wanted applesauce for an afterschool snack, so we tried this experiment. And it worked! Now she can make her own homemade applesauce whenever she wants. Here's how we did it:

1) Core and cut 4 apples into small piece - she used our apple corer/slicer (the little handheld kind that cuts the apple into 8 wedge) and then cut each wedge into small pieces . . . we didn't bother to peel them.
2) Place the pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon over them. Add enough water or apple juice to cover the bottom, about 1/8-inch high.
3) Cover bowl, leaving a little opening for steam to escape. I used the lid for the bowl, but angled it so there was a small opening. Microwave on high for 10 minutes.
4) Mash apples with a fork. Taste and add sweetener if needed (our apples were quite tart, so we used just a little brown sugar, but maple syrup, stevia, agave, honey would work great too).

It was really, really good!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deception in the Natural Cereal Industry

There is a huge difference between cereals labeled "organic" and those labeled "natural" according to a report done by the Cornucopia Institute. The word "natural" is basically a marketing ploy to get us to think the product is safer and healthier than regular cereals, but there is no regulation or really even a definition of what "natural" means. "Natural" cereals contain ingredients grown on conventional farms where the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered organisms is widespread. In fact the Cornucopia Institute tested cereals by leading natural brands including Kashi and Mothers (now owned by Kellogg and Pepsico) and found that they contained high levels of genetically engineered ingredients.

Many companies that offered organic cereals are switching to conventionally-grown ingredients and calling their products "natural." Barbara's and Annie's have drastically reduced their organic cereal offerings . . . so don't assume the cereal you've always eaten is still organic . . . be sure to check the label and buy only those with the USDA organic seal, not those trying to mislead consumers.

To make the deception even worse, the supposedly "natural" cereals are often priced higher than regular cereals. Watch this short video to find out more and check out this cereal scorecard to see how your cereal rates.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Really good vegan cookies

When I want a cookie, it pretty much has to be homemade. Storebought cookies never seem to have the right texture. Either they're too chewy or too dry--and almost always too sweet, especially the supposedly healthy fruit-sweetened ones.

But even homemade ones have to be right . . . so I'm always experimenting. Well, I hit on these the other day and I I have say these are one of the best I've come up with. They are crisp but moist, taste great--and best of all they are made with whole grain flour and are lower in fat and sugar than most cookies. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
3/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil 2 cookie sheets. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil, peanut butter, applesauce, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk the spelt flour, white flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir until combined into a stiff dough. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes 3 dozen

Monday, October 03, 2011

October is NON-GMO Month

According to the Organic Consumers Association:

- In 2011, Monsanto added sweetcorn, sugar beets and alfalfa to the list of GMO crops that already included field corn, cotton, canola, soy, and papaya - without regulations to protect organic farmers from contamination and no labels to respect consumers' right to know.

- However, also in 2011, Monsanto couldn't hide its failure any longer. Its GMO crops toppled over and were strangled in the fields, attacked by the very insects and weeds they were genetically engineered to resist.

October, 2011 is Non-GMO Month. You can get involved. Check out these sites for more information:


NYC to DC - Oct 1-16 - The Right2Know March

Austin, TX - Oct 2 - Rally for Real Food

Nationwide - Oct 15 & 16 - Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day Events

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Veggie Stew

Need a quick dinner that's super healthy. As long as you have veggies in the house, this is a snap and will be ready in less than 30 minutes!

Quick Vegetable Stew
This is a great way to use up veggies from your CSA box or garden. You don’t need to chop fine—just cut everything into bite-sized pieces. If you know I'll be home late and want a dinner to be ready, make it in the morning and stick it in the refrigerator so the flavors can meld.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 potatoes, diced to bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, sliced
1 quart vegetable broth
3 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups bite-sized green beans
1 zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for serving (optional)

Place a large pot (I love my cast iron for this) over low heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots. Cook and stir another 5 minutes. Add the broth. Turn heat to high. Add the remaining vegetables and herbs. When mixture boils, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired when serving.

Serves 6

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My competition!

My 10-year-old daughter invented a recipe for peanut butter-banana cookies.

At her dad’s house.

Without me advising, coaching, or otherwise sticking my two cents in.

They were great!

And when I asked her if she wrote down the recipe because I’d like to put it in my next cookbook, she told me, "Sorry, Mom. It's going in MY cookbook."

Monday, September 19, 2011

My friend Lynda made me some green pea pesto a couple of months ago and I not only loved it, but thought it would be perfect as a lasagna filling. I came up with a vegan version of the pesto and decided rather than traditional lasagna, rollups would be fun. My family and I really enjoyed these and it makes a nice big batch so its great for company (actually, I like it just for us so there are lots of leftovers I can freeze). Let me know what you think.

Green Pea Pesto Lasagna Roll-Ups
When you want a change from regular lasagna, this is a great one to try. The pea pesto is very creamy and we love the mixture of basil and mint. I used whole wheat noodles, but any kind work fine. If there are leftovers, I like to freeze them in small containers with just 1 or 2 rolls, which are perfect for to take for lunch or for the kids to microwave for a snack.

14 Lasagna noodles
2 cups Roasted Tomato Sauce or Marinara Sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (dairy or nondairy)

Green Pea and Walnut Pesto Filling:
2 cups frozen green peas, thawed (or fresh peas steamed until bright green)
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1 head roasted garlic
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces extra firm tofu
1/4 cup olive oil

Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Place in refrigerator while cooking noodles. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles in 3 batches until al dente—usually about 10 minutes. Remove from water and lay them out on a work surface.

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Spread each noodle with a layer of pesto filling—about 1/4-inch thick. Roll noodles up and place seam side down in pan. Spread the sauce over the rolls and then sprinkle with cheese. Cover with aluminim foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Serves 6 to 8

Monday, September 12, 2011

Creamy Multigrain Farina

We love hot cereals on these cold, foggy mornings, like brown rice or barley farina. They're hearty and delicious . . . but unfortunately, the organic packaged mixes are expensive. The good news is that they are easy to make yourself . . . and if you make a big batch of the mix, it makes weekday breakfasts easy. The cost difference . . . well, 4 cups of Brown Rice Farina cost me almost $7.00 at a local health food store. The grains (from the bulk bin) to make the same amount of farina using the following recipe cost me less than $3.00.

Creamy Multi-Grain Cereal Mix
This recipe is wheat-free but if you prefer it to be gluten-free, substitute of the other grains for the barley. It's also great with just a single grain . . . like all brown rice or all barley, etc.

1 cup millet
1 cup quinoa
1 cup brown rice
1 cup barley

Toast the grains, one at a time, in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Be sure to watch the grains and stir occasionally so they don’t burn. When the grains are slightly golden and giving off nutty aroma. Pour them into a large bowl to cool, while you cook the next grain. When all the grains are cool, grind them to a powder using a coffee or grain grinder, or a high-powered blender. Store the cereal mixture in a covered jar.

Makes 4 cups

To prepare the cereal: In a medium pan, whisk together 1 cup Creamy Multi-Grain Cereal Mix with 4 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until mixture is thickened.

Serves 3-4

Monday, September 05, 2011

Vegan Lemon Gingersnap Ice Cream

So, I've been eyeing this new ice cream flavor at Trader Joe's called Lemon Triple Gingersnap Ice Cream and decided why not make a nondairy version. I used the Lemon Ice Cream recipe from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love (I used Meyer lemons), and at the end mixed in grated lemon peel and crushed gingersnap cookies. OMG -- heaven. Just heaven.

Here's the recipe if you want to try.

Lemon Gingersnap Ice Cream

1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup nondairy milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar or agave syrup
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Grated peel from 2 lemons
2/3 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (about 10)

Place the coconut milk, nondairy milk, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Whisk in the lemon juice and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is firm, add the grated lemon peel and crushed cookies. Process another minute, or until they are distributed through the ice cream.

Makes about 1 quart

Monday, August 29, 2011

Veggie Enchiladas

We celebrated Back to School eve with dinner at Rudy and Angie's, our favorite Mexican restaurant. Although it's not on the menu, they made me some vegetable enchiladas and they were so good I couldn't stop thinking about them . . . so I attempted to create my own version--which came out pretty yummy as well.

Veggie Enchiladas
Lots of veggies and refried beans wrapped in tortillas and smothered in sauce. One of the ultimates in Mexican comfort food. This makes a nice big batch, which is great because they taste great the second day too. You don’t need to be too fussy in dicing the vegetables. They just need to be in bite-sized pieces, small enough that they will roll up in the tortilla. If your in a hurry, use prepared enchilada sauce rather than making it yourself.

Enchilada Sauce:

Olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste
Hot Pepper Sauce, to taste


Olive oil
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
10 white mushrooms, quartered
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, cut into half moons
2 cups chopped broccoli or cauliflower
Kernels cut from 1 ear of corn or 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
Black pepper
Hot Pepper Sauce

The rest:

12 corn tortillas
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
2 cups Enchilada Sauce (page xx)
1/2 – 1 cup shredded Jack-style dairy or vegan cheese (optional)

Prepare Sauce as follows: Place a small pan over low heat with just enough oil to coat the bottom. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and sauté a couple of minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and stir together. Cover and cook about 5 minutes—just until vegetables are bright in color and slightly tender--uou want them to be crisp. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and Hot Pepper Sauce to taste.
Set up your assembly area with the tortillas, beans, and vegetable mixture and a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Pour a little of the Enchilada Sauce into the pan—just enough to spread a thin layer across the bottom. Working with one tortilla at a time, spread a couple of tablespoons of the refried beans down the middle of the tortilla. Then spoon the vegetable mixture over the filling—enough so it will fill the rolled tortilla but not so much that you can’t roll it. Roll the tortilla tightly around the filling and place it seam side down in the pan. Corn tortillas can be delicate so don’t worry if they crack. Just kind of push them together in the pan. Continue until the pan is full. I usually do 8 tortillas placed horizontally down the length and then place the last four 2 and 2 vertically along side them. If you have any beans or filling left, just spread them over the enchiladas. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, spreading to make sure they are completely covered. Sprinkle cheese evenly over all, if using. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 6-8

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rhubarb-Peach-Raspberry Crisp

We just can't get enough of all these delicious local summer fruits--nor can we get enough of the yummy desserts made with them. Here's our latest experiment. I did the filling and my daughter Emily came up with the topping!

Rhubarb-Peach-Raspberry Crisp
Serve with whipped topping, ice cream, or try our favorite—a generous dollop of vanilla yogurt.

3 peaches, diced (about 2 cups)
3 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup natural granulated sugar
pinch salt

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup barley, spelt, or whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan. Gently toss filling ingredients together until fruit is coated. Pour into baking pan. Stir topping ingredients together. Pour evenly over filling. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until topping is golden.
Makes 9 servings

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reuseable Sandwich Bags

I just heard about this product and thought I'd share. I haven't tried them so I'm not endorsing but for those of you wanting to avoid the pollution and cost of plastic baggies, this sounds like a good option.

Lunchskins are reuseable cloth bags that are dishwasher safe and free from BPA and lead. They come in snack size, sandwich size, and sub size.

I also understand there is a free shipping special right now:

Just in time for back-school shopping, you can purchase LunchSkins, the reusable, dishwasher-safe baggies with FREE SHIPPING. Just enter code BTS2011 and you’re all set to make those healthy lunches on the go.

If anyone has tried these, please let me know how you liked them. If I get some, I will post a review.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Loving that summer produce!

Had a delicious vegan, almost 100% local dinner tonight thanks to the wonderful produce from Rutiz Farms in Arroyo Grande. Corn on the cob, roasted zucchini and green beans, braised spinach, and salad. Seasoned with olive oil, blood orange balsamic vinegar, and seasoning mix from Global Gardens in Los Olivos.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Gluten-Free Ginger Peach Corn Muffins

Once again, putting off grocery shopping has forced me to be creative with surprising results. I was in the mood for muffins but since I didn't have any wheat flour, I tried brown rice and corn flour. And it was yummy--and not only are these muffins vegan, but they're gluten-free as well. I already made a second batch to freeze for school lunches.

Ginger Peach Corn Muffins (Gluten-free)
Sweet, spicy, and moist.

3/4 cup corn meal
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup nondairy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 peaches, diced
3 tablespoons diced candied ginger (found this at Trader Joes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil 12 muffin tins. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, vanilla, milk, and vinegar. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the peaches and ginger. Pour into muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing muffins from tin. Serve warm or room temperate. Cool completely on a wire rack before store in a covered container. These freeze great too!

Makes 12

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Braised Kale and Tomatoes

Sometimes the simplest ingredients make the yummiest meals. I'm just home from vacation and haven't had a chance to shop yet but I have tomatoes and kale growing in pots--so I made this side dish and it was so darn good I ate almost the whole thing by myself.

Braised Kale and Tomatoes

Olive oil
1 bunch Dinosaur Kale, washed and chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons fresh oregano
Sea salt, to taste

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and place over medium-low heat. Add the kale and garlic. It’s good if there is some water clinging to the kale—it’ll help steam it. Cover and cook about 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the kale is bright green. Add the tomatoes and oregano. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cover and cook another 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Garlicky Beans and Spinach

I'm visiting my family in Massachusetts so haven't been doing much cooking (my mom and sisters have been spoiling me), but last night decided to give Mom the night off. I roasted potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and onions but needed wanted a protein dish to go with it. So I raided the cupboards and came up with this dish that was a surprise hit with both my family and my nonveg parents. I don't have exact measurements but here's what I did.

Drained and rinsed 1 can of black beans and 1 can of pinto beans and placed in a pan.

My mom has these cubes of crushed garlic that she keeps in the freezer -- said she got them at Trader Joe's. I dropped in 1 cube but if you like even more garlicky flavor use 2. I think roasted garlic would be really great as well.

I added about 10 halved cherry tomatoes. And a cup or two of frozen chopped spinach. Then salted to tasted and added some Italian seasoning herb mix. Heat until warm. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

It was also good on toasted Italian bread -- sort of like bruschetta.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dairy-free Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

Wondering what to do with all of those luscious raspberries in season right now? How about making ice cream. This is one of my favorite recipes from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love. It tastes like a truffle.

Chocolate-Raspberry Ice Cream
Makes about 3 cups
Rich dark chocolate tinged with fresh red raspberries—a wonderful flavor combination. To make this even more decadent, add a couple of tablespoons of Chambord liqueur.

1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups raspberries

Place the coconut milk, sugar, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan and whisk until well combined. Warm on medium-low heat until the mixture just begins to simmer and get foamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the raspberries. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl (or, to save on dishwashing, over the saucepan you used to heat the coconut milk). Pour the blended mixture into the strainer and press it through to remove the seeds. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vegan Rhubarb-Raspberry Cake

Rhubarb always brings me back to my childhood. We had a monster plant in our yard and it seems like we ate it all summer long. So when I saw some at Rutiz Farms, I just had to get some. My mom usually stewed it, but many people are turned off by rhubarb cooked that way because it gets kind of mushy and stringy (though I never minded). I thought I'd try something different and thought it would be good in a cake--that would retain a better texture.

Well, I was halfway through putting together the batter when I opened the freezer to get my whole wheat pastry flour (the staple of almost all of my baked goods) and found I was just about out. Not willing to stop for a trip to the store, I made due with some brown rice and buckwheat flour I had. According to my family, not only did they not mind the mixture of flours--they thought it made it better. In fact, I don't know when I've had an experiment have such a resounding success on the first try.

So, if you're game--you try this and let me know what you think. If you don't what to use the different flours, just use 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour--or even unbleached white flour.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Cake

1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup nondairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups diced rhubarb (3-4 stalks)*
1 cup raspberries

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinammon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar and oil together. Add the vanilla, milk, and vinegar. Whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and whisk just until combined. Gently fold rhubarb and raspberries into the batter. Pour into prepared baking pan. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. Serve with some whipped cream-type topping if desired.

Makes 15 squares.

*For thick stalks of rhubarb, cut then in half lengthwise and then slice --sort of like you'd dice up celery for soup. Remove any tough strings.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Boysenberry-Blueberry Buckle

My daughters and I just could not resist the amazingly flavorful berries at Windmill Farms in Arroyo Grande. The blueberries in particular are so delicious. I talked to the owner and he told me that his blueberries are the Sharp Blue variety. Most farmers grow Jewel because the berries are bigger and the plants yield more--but unfortunately they don't have much flavor. The Sharp Blues on the other hand taste absolutely amazing.

So my daughters and I wanted to make a special dessert with our boysenberries and blueberries, but we couldn't agree on what to make . . . a cake? a crisp? a pie? a tart? So we decided to make a buckle . . . sort of a cake, pie, and crisp all in one. Oh--and it's vegan too!

Boysenberry-Blueberry Buckle

1/2 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup rolled oats (regular or quick)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch cardomom
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil

Fruit filling:
2 cups boysenberries
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinammon
1/8 teaspoon cardomom
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nondairy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9-inch square baking pan.
Place all topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until combined.
Place fruit in another bowl. Pour sugar and juice over the fruit. Toss gently until fruit is coated.
To prepare cake. Place flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir gently with a fork or whisk to combine. In a larger bowl, whisk sugar and oil together until smooth. Add the vanilla and milk and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and whisk until combined.
To assemble buckle, pour cake batter into the prepared pan. Carefully, spoon the fruit filling evenly over the batter. Use your hands to crumble the topping evenly over the batter and fruit. Bake for 50 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and tester comes out clean (other than berry juice). Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fun with strawberries

We just can't get enough of those Rutiz Farms strawberries. Our latest creations are vegan buckwheat strawberry pancakes, strawberry-lemon balm muffins, and I tried to recreate my favorite cocktail that the SLO restaurant Novo used to serve. Check it out!

Strawberry-Basil Cooler
1/3 cup crushed strawberries
6 basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) vodka
1 teaspoon agave syrup or simple syrup (or taste)
sparkling water
Crush the strawberries and basil leaves together with a pestle, fork, or spoon. The strawberries should still be chunky. Pour into a tall glass. Stir in the the vodka and sweetener. Fill the glass almost full with ice cubes. Pour sparkling water over to fill the glass. Stir well. Taste and adjust sweetener if necessary.
Serves 1

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sprouted Tofu

There has been some controversy on the benefits of eating soy because soybeans contain phytic acid, which keeps your body from absorbing the minerals like calcium and iron. Sprouting the beans, however, decreases the phytic acid. So when I saw sprouted tofu at Trader Joe's, I was excited to try it. It actually tastes and works just like regular tofu so it will work for any tofu recipe you have. I made this tofu vegetable scramble and it was delicious.

Tofu-Veggie Scramble
This easy scramble is delicious not only for breakfast but also for a quick lunch or dinner. It’s great filling for a breakfast burrito too.

Olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yukon gold potato, diced
2 cups chopped broccoli
8 ounces sprouted (or regular) tofu
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 tablespoon water
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and place over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook a couple of minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, potato, and broccoli. Cover pan and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Crumble the tofu and spread over the vegetables. Add the thyme, tumeric, and water and cook and stir until everything is combined and the tofu is heated through. Season to taste with the sea salt and black pepper.

Serves 2 to 4

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vegan desserts with no added sweeteners

After my appearance on KCBX yesterday, I received many requests for these cookies from my cookbook Simply Natural Baby Food. They are sweetened only with bananas and raisins, and have been very popular at my book signings.

Banana-Oatmeal Cookies
These moist cookies contain no sweeteners, butter, eggs, or wheat.

2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup safflower or other flavorless oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Grind oats and almonds to a coarse powder in food processor or blender. Pour them into a large mixing bowl. Stir in baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.In separate bowl or in food processor, beat together bananas, oil, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add banana mixture and raisins to oat mixture. Mix well. Drop cookie dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.

Makes 3 dozen

Variation: You can also replace the raisins with chocolate chips if desired (you can get grain-sweetened chips from Sunspire).

And here is a sorbet from Lick It! Creamy Dream Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love made without sweeteners.

Blueberry-Banana Sorbet
Makes 1 quart
No sweeteners are used in this delicious sorbet—it’s all fruit!

3 bananas
1 cup blueberries
1 cup unsweetened apple juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. If the mixture is cold, it may be frozen immediately; otherwise, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roasted Carrot and Cauliflower Soup

And the roastathon continues. Here's today's creation:

Roasted Carrot and Cauliflower Soup
This is fancy enough to serve for company, but easy enough to cook for a weekday meal. Cut regular carrots into 1-inch slices, but if they are fat farmers’ market carrots like I got in my CSA box this week, cut them into 1/2-inch slices.

4 cups sliced (1-inch) carrots
1 head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets
1 white onion, peeled and cut into wedges
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 cups walnuts
5 cups water (divided)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme
2 teaspoons light miso (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, toss carrots, cauliflower, onion, and garlic in enough olive oil to coat. Place on a large baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until carrots and caultiflower are tender. Stir and turn vegetables once or twice so they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Remove peel from garlic.
You will need to blend the soup in two batches. Place walnuts and 3 cups water in blender and blend until smooth. Add about half the thyme, miso, and vegetables and blend until smooth. Pour into a medium pan. Put the remaining 2 cups water, thyme, miso, and vegetables to the blender. Blend until smooth. Add to pan and stir together. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Heat to desired temperature.

Serves 6