Feta keeps me in the rookie league

But I am so very close… Check out this spaghetti squash Caprese bake courtesy of Pink Troll Kitchen on Pinterest.  The foreground features the nearly vegan version, and the original vegetarian (and gluten free) version shines on the back burner. (Punny, eh?)

My son will enjoy the mozzarella… 

While I’ll stick with nutritional yeast and yes…a tablespoon of feta on top. 

Feta may prevent me from going 100% vegan, but perhaps my resolve will be stronger some sunny weekday in the future. As it is on this dreary, soggy, Friday evening…I will give in to a tablespoon of Feta bliss. In truth, the two tablespoons of nutritional yeast (one in the mix, one on top) give this enough cheesy flavor to make any vegan happy. As a full batch, I’d probably mix in 4-5 tablespoons. Experiment…

The other kicker… It’s squash! Squash that actually tastes like something sinfully Italian. This one will stay on the short list, with or without the feta. And with the smell of basil and the warmth of the oven filling my kitchen, let it rain. 


Acorn squash in its Sunday finest

Nicole Erikson, thanks for the inspiration! It may be intended as a side dish for dinner, but because I’m a rule breaker, I’ll be having it for breakfast. What a gorgeous way to welcome fall! 

I baked the squash in the oven at 400Ā° for 30 minutes, then added a teaspoon of coconut oil in each half and topped with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. The rest is a slight variation from your version, based on ingredients that I had handy. šŸ˜‰

I added roughly chopped dates and walnuts, and topped off with coconut milkā€¦ Maybe 2 tablespoons in each, or a little less. More evidence that vegan does not have to be boring or tasteless.

Probiotic Queen

Today I give an enthusiastic shoutout to Pam DuRousseau of California Girl Functional Foods, for her probiotic kraut offerings. In my opinion, her work is a community service, if not a personal service, to those of us who are not skilled enough or motivated enough to make our own probiotic fermentations.  

 Those of you who have been reading my posts know that I am trying recipes from The Plantpower Way and sharing my experiences here. One of the most recommended ingredients in the one bowl recipes is fermented kraut. Getting this at the grocery store is a bonus, but getting it at the farmers market…locally…is a tremendous gift. Thank you, Pam, for making it easy. 

But how do you get protein?

Vegan lunch bowls for the next three days contain spinach with salt and red pepper flakes, roasted millet, kidney beans, and cauliflower white sauce. Rolling in at 16-17 grams protein per lunch…I think I’ll manage. The millet and bean combo provide a complete protein, and the fiber content is about equal to the protein, which is an added bonus. Oh yeah…my lunch is ready for the rest of the week, and that is the BEST! Happy vegan adventures, my friends!

Roasted Tomato Cacao Sauce Over Penne

Or…inspiration for vegan butter chicken. But back to the original for now! This gem from The Plantpower Way shines with the addition of cacao nibs…an admitted first for me. Prep starts with blackened cherry tomatoes. 

And continues with a high speed blender, basil, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes…and a few other essentials…see book p. 212. 

Couldn’t be much easier…sauce is piping hot from the blackened tomatoes, and it can be poured over pasta and tossed to combine. 

This dish garnered thumbs up from me and “okay” from my son. It may appeal more to the adult palate. The interesting thing…and maybe more interesting than the original, is that this sauce reminds me of butter chicken tomato cream sauce. I’m not crazy about pasta in general (sad but true), and I can see this with some browned tofu or even mushrooms over rice. A bit of naan bread on the side….yum! If you go that route, fill me in. 

Happiness is…a savory cauliflower white sauceĀ 

 A warm puppy helps too, but for now we’ll focus on food. First, a shout out to Nicole Erikson (http://healthandfitnessforthewin.com) for sparking this idea. Nicole shared a link for vegan lasagne and issued a friendly challenge to try it. The cauliflower white sauce intrigued me more than the lasagne itself for two reasons. First, I’m one of those oddballs who doesn’t love layered foods…unless it’s seven layer dip, then get out of my way. Second, I limit pasta, even gluten free, and shaved zucchini just doesn’t motivate me. That white sauce though…the wheels were turning about the one bowls…posted earlier. 

One bowls need a sauce. If you’re easy to please, lemon juice or tamari may do. My preferred sauce would be cashew cheese, but dang. When a girl wants to drop a few pounds, cashew cheese isn’t ideal either. Enter the cauliflower sauce, which as it turns out, is amazing! Nicole’s post was here.  I skipped over the lasagne and went to the sauce. 

Bowl before:

And after:

Oh yeah! (Yes…packaged for lunch at work. This time with a bit of toasted millet hiding at the bottom.)

The possibilities may be endless for this sauce, but this week it will satisfy me at lunchtime and make me feel like I’m getting away with something. 

Grilled veggies or roasted corn salad? Why choose?

If you have your own copy of The Plant Power Way, you know that the photos are gorgeous. Mine don’t do them justice, but that doesn’t stop me from posting them. This is a blog of the journey, and it’s real. This afternoon I looked at the photo of the “Grilled Veggie Salad” on page 173, and felt inspired to make it. But the “Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad” on the next page looked appetizing as well, and since I’m not too concerned with following rules in the kitchen, I decided to marry the two, although I used the “Grilled Veggie Salad” prep as the base. 

The recipe calls for using a wok or cast iron skillet to blacken the veggies, and my photos show the process for zucchini, yellow squash, and corn. Note that the corn was microwaved in the husk before I put it in the wok (yeah, yeah, forty lashes with a wet noodle for microwaving a vegetable again). Whether you agree with the method or not, I have to say it’s fast and effective! Could you just blacken the vegetables on a grill? Of course! You’re the chef…make a decision and go with it. Another confession…if I were perfect, you’d see a red bell pepper in the finished product instead yellow. Did I let imperfection stop me? No, and neither should you. Life is too short to get hung up on minor details.

While the vegetables are blackening (corn first, because you’ll need to let it cool to handle it), work on the “Classic Dijon Honey Dressing,” p. 112. This one is a winner for any salad or vegetable in my opinion…no oil and a blast of flavor. Spend a few extra pennies and get Grey Poupon or another quality Dijon…you won’t be sorry.

Here’s the interesting part — pour the dressing in the bottom of a large bowl and cut the corn into the bowl. Add the rest of the grilled veggies…cut into chunks. Mix lightly with your hands. If you disregard rules like I do, add in tomato and basil and toss lightly again with your hands. The entire mixture can now be mixed with torn or chopped romaine. Top off with avocado and cracked pepper, and your tastebuds will rejoice. I chose to store the veggies separately from the lettuce and only mix one portion, as I have leftovers.

Verdict — a true summer winner! Have I mentioned that I love leftovers? This will keep me happy for another day or two. If you try it, please share your photos and opinions!

SO Delicious? Oh no, it isn’t!

In the spirit of keeping it real on the vegan journey, I need to vent for a moment about non-dairy creamers. SO Delicious just isn’t. Barely better than black coffee. Then there’s Califia, which looks sexy but doesn’t deliver. 

(This photo courtesy of Google Images.)

Even worse! Equivalent to black coffee with a hint of sugar…which doesn’t make it better, because I would never add sugar to coffee. (Yep, I’m odd that way.)

CoffeeMate tastes better (really), but the oil and chemical quotient make it a non-contender. 

I’m about to convert to being a black-coffee drinker, because I don’t like poor substitutes. I suppose that’s a testament to some of the recipes, because if it isn’t palatable, I’m not interested. 

If you know of a true contender in the creamer race, please post it in the comments. Requirements:

  • Gives coffee better than a hint of color
  • Isn’t sweet
  • Contains mostly natural ingredients 
  • Isn’t primarily oil-based

Go! And thank you…

Smart choices when time and energy fail

Sometimes, professional and family life take the energy that’s available and there’s just nothing left. When that happens to me, I care less about variety and more about dependability in my diet. I don’t want to think about whether I’ll have a healthy lunch the next day or what I will have. I just want to know that the healthy lunch is there. I don’t know about your hunger patterns, but I am hungriest at lunchtime, and usually before what normal people consider lunchtime. If I don’t have something healthy available for lunch, I will be most tempted to blow it in a big way. Today’s post addresses that issue. I need lunch for the next four days, and I don’t care that it will be the same lunch. I’m just happy to have lunch. If I really cared about variety, I would freeze half of these lunches and swap in variety. This week, I am supremely grateful to have lunches ready and planned.  

Yes, there are only four. Clearly, I didn’t plan so well for today, but boy, do I have it covered for the rest of the week!

These are variations on rice bowls from The Plantpower Way. Today, the base is short grain brown rice. 

The next layer includes baby Bella mushrooms, dinosaur kale, and microwaved sweet potato. We could start an argument over microwaving the potato, but let’s skip it for today.


  The top layer includes aduki beansā€¦ a first for me, and Asian dressing from the book. Why Asian dressing? Just because I wanted to try it out and I had the ingredients. I could’ve just as easily topped it off with some tamari or lemon juice.
 The joy? Knowing that I will have a healthy lunch for the remainder of the week and not having to think about it at all.

Best wishes in your healthy eating journey this week and beyond!

One Bowls – The Plantpower Way

One bowls…a foundational dish of The Plantpower Way, and a recipe…of sorts…that says, “I can do this!”  Think mix and match…beans, grains, greens, and various add-ons. The trump card that raises these bowls from nutrition to cuisine is the addition of one of Julie Piatt’s signature sauces.  Tonight’s was “Tahini Green Sauce, ” and finished the bowls like so:

We’re fans…big time. See the book for the myriad of possibilities, but the first of our many “one bowls” included quinoa, seasoned kidney beans, broccoli, sweet potato, and farmer’s market fermented kraut (probiotics…long live the gut!). Try it! This one will be a weeknight winner.