Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Kickstart Your Vegan Diet

If you need help getting started with a vegan diet, here’s great news.  Some of the most well-informed, well-respected vegans in the country are pulling together their resources to bring you recipes, research, meal plans, and cooking tips.  It starts September 3 with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.

I did the kickstart in April, and it was just what I needed.  It’s free and informative.  I tried new recipes and got to see what a healthy, plant-based, whole food diet looks like breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Check it out if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get healthier or drop a few pounds.  You’ll be glad you did!


What to do with produce before it goes bad

There are few things I hate more than buying a bunch of fruits and vegetables  and finding them pushed into the back of the refrigerator 2 weeks later rotting and turning to mush.  Many of my most well-intentioned eating plans have ended just that way.  Here are a few tips for keeping up with your produce.

1.  Know what’s in season and plan meals accordingly.

You’re going to go to the grocery store in summer and see tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers dirt cheap in the summer.  Make sure you plan your meals to include lots of these ingredients.  This is the time to have homemade salsa, cold pasta salads, black bean salad (see yesterday’s post), and other such creations.  Likewise, you’re going to see winter squash, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables later in the summer.  If you match your meals to the seasons, you will lessen the risk that what looks good in the grocery store has no use at home.  As an added bonus, changing your meals with the seasons builds variety into your diet.

2.  Hang a list on your refrigerator of the produce you bought and what you plan to do with it.

A magnetic pad with a couple suggestions might keep you from forgetting that there’s a quart of strawberries in the bottom drawer.  As an added bonus, the kids might remember to eat some too.

The green sheet is my plan for the fridge. Now I’ll be reminded of what produce I need to eat.

3.  Have a few go-to recipes that use up lots of ingredients.

The other night, we made pasta and sauteed vegetables for the simple reason that we needed to use up lots of produce.  I had peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions and broccoli that were all looking a little rough.  We sliced off the ugly parts, ran the remainder through the slicing blade on the food processor, and ended up with a butt-load of vegetables for sauteeing.  The keys to making it good are don’t overcook them and be generous with the seasoning.  I seasoned ours with garlic powder, salt, pepper, an Italian blend, and a few drops of hot sauce.  Also, I sauteed in red wine instead of oil.  It made for a good Sunday lunch and a couple of good lunches at work too. When I ran out of pasta, I spooned the reheated mixture into pita bread.

For fruit, try a smoothie.  The key to a good smoothie is a banana–it makes it creamy.  Whenever a banana starts to turn brown in my house, we peel it and put in a plastic bag in the fridge.  For your smoothie, add whatever fruit you have on hand.  The other night we used a half bag of frozen mixed berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, a half an orange my son didn’t want to finish, and enough soy milk (or fruit juice) to cover it in the blender.  I froze the leftovers and ate them for breakfast.  It was like having ice cream for breakfast.  All our fruit goes into the freezer when it starts to get mushy or overripe.  It makes a great smoothie that way.

Off to the Farmers Market!

Let’s Have Soup for Dinner

I made this soup last night pretty quick, and it was awesome.

This picture is from But, my soup looked just like this, I promise!

I’ve always considered Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup to sound like something pretty difficult, but it certainly wasn’t.

First, cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put it cut-side-up in a baking pan.  Let 4 granny smith apples join it the exact same way, except peel it first.

You have to use granny smiths, or it won't be as good.

You can put this into a hot oven (425) for an hour or you can put this into a cooler oven (300) for a couple hours.  I opted yesterday for the cooler oven because I wanted to get some other things done.  The good news is that once you’ve done the roasting, you’re about 15 minutes from having dinner on the table.

When you think your squash and apples look pretty soft, chop up a medium-sized onion.  In a soup pot, saute the chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.  It will smell fabulous.  (If you’re having company or if you want to show off to neighbors, now is the time to invite them in.)

This is cardamom. Use it ground, of course. Don't leave it out. It's the cardamom and cinnamon combination that makes this soup great.

Turn the heat off your onions.  Scoop the flesh out of your butternut squash, and add the squash guts and apples to your onions.  Transfer all of the mixture to a mixing bowl.  (You’re going to blend up the soup in a blender and put it back into that soup pot to warm up for serving.)  If you’re vegan, you’ll need 5 cups of vegetable stock.  If you’re vegan-ish, you’ll need 5 cups of water and 5 cubes of chicken bouillion.  Blend a scoop of the mixture, 1 cup of water and a bouillion cube on high in blender or food processor until it’s smooth.  Pour it into the soup pot.  Repeat this process until all ingredients have been blended.

Heat your soup on the stove until you’re ready to eat.  Our soup last night went great with a veggie pizza.  Even my kids loved it, and a couple of them are ungrateful bastards!

Here’s a better copy of the recipe, if you’d like to see it:

Squash and Apple Soup

Come, Let Us Reason Together

I am rereading The China Study.  I found that book to be so overwhelming that I’m just not sure that I got everything out of it the first time around.  However, before I get started, let me run a few thoughts past you and see what you think.

First, why is it that so many people are fat?  I live in the Deep South where we are famously fat and unhealthy.  I can go to the grocery store or the mall and see, without a doubt, dozens more fat people than thin.  On some sides of our metropolis, that is different.  But on the west side, where I live, obesity is the norm.  Why is that?  Everyone I know is on a diet.  Everyone I know talks about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.  More of them are setting goals and trying to do better all the time, but it just never materializes into long-term weight loss.  I know very few people who lose weight and keep it off.   I know very few people who manage their weight into middle age.  (I do know a few who are just naturally skinny.  I’m not counting them.  They’re some alien species whose purpose for existence is to make the rest of us feel like slobs.)  Most people in the circles I travel have accepted the idea that as you get older, you get fatter.  And, if you’ve given birth, don’t even bother trying to be thin.  It’s too late.  You’ve had kids.

Secondly, why are so many people sick?  Isn’t there a better way to live?  If we didn’t have the technology we have today that allows most of us to do our jobs and manage our lives from the comfort of our desk chairs or cars, how in the world would we survive?  Surely, our ancestors were not the weaklings that we are.  They would have become extinct.

Thirdly, and I may lose some of you here, is this how God meant for us to live and eat?  Watching your weight and staying healthy can easily become an obsession.  If fact, if you’re one of those, like I am, that gains a whole lot faster than you lose, you know that you have to be a little obsessed or you’ll blow up faster than you can say “I think my jeans shrunk in the dryer.”  But, did God design our bodies to be so susceptible?  I have to believe that we are supposed to be more like the animals who eat what’s available when it’s available and their bodies regulate themselves.  Anything else seems like a design flaw, and I don’t think the problems we have lie there.

So, with those questions in mind, I’m going to reread The China Study.  Last time I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  This time I’m going to pay closer attention.  If you have any interest in the field of nutrition or weight management, please read this book too so we can talk about it.  I’d really like to hear how this looks from some else’s point of view.  I don’t even care if you disagree with my opinions as we go.  I would just like to hear some reasoned, informed discourse. 

As I go, I’ll also be trying a few of the recipes I’ve found and reporting on my progress with them.  Plus, my husband wants to do a side-by-side vegan cheese taste off.  I’ll let you know how that goes too.

A Vegetable Even a Meat-eater Should Try

I don’t think everyone in the world has to be vegan.  I don’t even think that everyone in the world should be vegetarian.  But, I do think everyone in the world is missing out if they don’t eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains, and rice.  The whole reason we originally tried to go vegan was so that we could discover what we were missing.  Boy, have we ever.

So let me introduce you to a vegetable I had never had until we went vegan-ish last year:  Rutabagas.  Don’t stop reading—rutabagas are cheap, delicious, relatively easy to prepare and last for weeks without being refrigerated.  Plus, they are part of the cruciferous family of vegetables and provide phenomenal nutritional value.

In case you’re like me and you didn’t grow up eating rutabagas, here’s what one looks like when you buy it at the grocery store.

Doesn't it just look healthy?

You’ll need to cut the ends off it and peel it to prepare it.  It’s not hard to peel though.  I just take my potato peeler to it.  It’s crunchier than potatoes.  Even when it’s fully cooked, it’ll be firm.  I like that about rutabagas.  They never get mushy.

If you’re interested in trying out some rutabagas for yourself, here’s an easy recipe:

Roasted Winter Vegetables

I promise this tastes better than it looks. I suck at food photography.

1 pound of diced rutabaga

½  pound of baby carrots

½  pound of broccoli florets

2 large onions, chopped in wedges

¼ c olive oil

The juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon of fresh, snipped rosemary

2 teaspoons each of sea salt and black pepper (more to taste)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place vegetables in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Mix oil, lemon juice, and rosemary together in small bowl and drizzle the mixture over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover the dish tightly with either a lid or aluminum foil and bake for an hour.  Uncover and bake for another hour or until vegetables can be pierced with a fork.

For best results, let vegetables chill in the fridge overnight and reheat and serve the next day.  They’re always better after the flavors have sat for a while.  I like to have this one in the oven while I make another dinner on the stovetop.  Then the next night I serve these veggies with rice.

I sprinkled a little curry over all of it.

You can add just about any vegetable you want too.  I used fennel, parsnips, turnips, cauliflower, garlic, potatoes, and even apples before.  I mean, what doesn’t go well with lemon and rosemary?

By the way, cruciferous vegetables are superfoods.  They’re high in vitamins A, C, K, folic acid and fiber.  In fact, “about 100 calories worth of cruciferous vegetables provides about 25-40% of your daily fiber requirement,” according to research conducted by the George Mateljan Foundation.  Guess what?  They’re a great source of protein and they have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the building block for those elusive Omega 3’s.  All this for less than $1.50 a pound!

You don’t have to roast them with other cruciferous veggies though.  Here’s two websites that feature great recipes of rutabagas all by themselves.

Rutabaga Fries from


Roasted Rutabaga from

I hope you’ll enjoy experimenting with rutabagas as much as we have!  Mangia, Mangia!

Vegan Recipe–Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe is hearty enough to be your main dish.  Pair it with a green salad and a glass of chardonnay and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Rob’s Stuffed Acorn Squash

4 acorn squash, cut in half and cleaned out

I'm a cook, not a photographer. This is better than I made it look.

2 tablespoons vegan butter

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves pressed garlic or 2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground ginger (optional)

1 tsp salt (more or less, to taste)

½ tsp pepper (more or less, to taste)

2 cups water

½ c brown rice

1 c dried cranberries

1 c pecan pieces

Place acorn squash, cut sides up, on shallow baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

In 2-quart pot over medium heat, brown onions and garlic in butter for 10 minutes.  Stir in spices and salt.

Add 2 cups water to onion mixture and bring it to a boil.  Add brown rice and cover lightly.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  When water is absorbed, stir in cranberries.

Remove acorn squash from oven. Loosen acorn from with a spoon so it will be easier to eat. Spoon rice mixture into each acorn half.  Top with pecans.

Return to oven on low broil for 3 minutes or until pecans are toasted.  Serve hot.

Great Vegan Snack–Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans are a super food.  They’re high in fiber so they promote digestive health and appetite control. Plus, they carry a low glycemic load so they are easy on the insulin levels.  A cup of garbanzos will give you nearly 30% of your USDA of protein and 50% of your fiber in only 268 calories!

Try this delicious, spicy snack when you’re watching football this Bowl Season!

Roasted Spicy Garbanzos

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1-15.5 oz. can of garbanzo beans

1 tsp Cheyenne pepper

1 Tbs cumin

1 Tbs salt


1)      Pre-heat oven to 450 F.  Pour spices into a large plastic freezer bag.

2)      Pour olive oil onto jelly roll pan and place in preheated oven for three minutes.

3)      Drain, rinse and dry beans.

4)      Toss dry beans in bag of spices until thoroughly coated.

5)      Arrange spiced beans on hot jelly roll pan in a singe layer and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir and continue to cook for 10 more minutes or until beans are firm and almost crunchy.

6)      Serve immediately or sprinkle over a salad.

We loved this idea so much, we’ll be trying some other spice combinations in the future.  Check back to hear the results!

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