Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spinach Salad with Garbanzos and Scallopini

Spinach Salad with Garbanzos and Scallopini

One package Gardein Chick'n Scallopini
Olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. dried oregano leaves
1/8 t. sea salt
One can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
One can black olives, drained and halved
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
3 c. spinach
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1/4 c. sliced fresh basil

Fry the scallopini for 2-3 minutes on each side in olive oil until caramelized and hot through. Let cool slightly and cut into 1/2” strips. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano leaves and fine sea salt. Pour this over the chickpeas, olives, and spinach. Add salt and pepper and fresh basil and scallopini and mix gently, but well.

The original recipe is at the Gardein site, but I changed it up to suit the tastes of my family.

Jazzy Rice

I love rice. It is so easy to make and there are so many things you can add to it. It never gets boring!

Jazzy Rice

4 c. cooked jasmine rice
1 T. olive oil
1 T. grated fresh ginger
One 15 oz. can mixed vegetables, drained
2 T. tamari
1/2 t. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped cashew nuts

Cook the ginger in the olive oil until it is fragrant, maybe 30 seconds. Add the vegetables and rice and mix well. Add tamari and sugar and stir fry until everything is mixed well and heated through. Serve with a sprinkling of the cashews on top.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

National Hot Dog Month

I guess it figures that National Hot Dog Month would coincide with National Picnic Month. I'm not one for using a public grill (ew!) but I know many who will. I bought myself an adorable little hot dog cooker a few years ago. Granted I don't use it very often, but it's still cute!

It's actually kind of rare that I get a craving for a hot dog. Jokes abound (and are probably true) about the mysteries of what is IN a hot dog. It's also why I'm glad my hot dogs are cruelty free! Nevertheless, I don't make a habit out of eating them. They might be cruelty free, but it is still a hot dog!

After shuffling through and organizing my monumental piles of recipes into something inherently more usable, I found I did need to create a section for hot dogs. Not that many recipes, but enough to warrant a separate section. At least now for those times I desire a hot dog, it will be something other than the usual.

Barbecue Hot Dogs

One package vegan hot dogs
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
1/2 c. pineapple juice
3/4 c. barbecue sauce
1/4 t. chili powder

Score the hot dogs 4-5 times. Combine everything in a skillet and bring to an easy boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes. Spoon some of the sauce over the hot dog in your bun.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Tofu or Not Tofu, That is the Question!

Years ago when I became a La Leche League Leader, I remember telling someone that tofu was a reason for divorce in my home. It was a joke, of course, but underlines for me today how different things can turn out.

My husband didn't like tofu because his limited exposure to it demonstrated it to be bland and boring stuff. And, really, it was. I never made it back then, but get togethers we attended often had at least one dish that had tofu, and often it was more like a brick of cream cheese with something dumped on top and eaten spread on crackers. Yeah, bland and boring.

We arrive now years later, and the tofu that I once eschewed I now adore. I did have to learn how to use it, though, and that has made all the difference. Trust me, those chewy cubes you've gotten in a dish at a Chinese restaurant are NOT what tofu can be.

So you are still reading and you've been to the grocery store and seen the various packages and are utterly confused. Silken? Soft? Extra firm? What does it all mean?!?!?!?!?!

Ah, my little chickadees, I can help you navigate the grocery aisle!

Silken is a Japanese style of tofu, is best used in dessert style dishes. Silken does come in soft all the way to firm, and does not need to be frozen or pressed, but may need to be drained. Most recipes will specifically state silken in their ingredients, so don't worry about trying to figure out what to buy.

Soft, Medium, firm and extra firm (NOT Silken) are Chinese style. Soft is best for dessert dishes. Medium is good for things that call for cottage cheese, like lasagna. Firm and extra firm are best for dishes that need something chewier, and hold up well to sauteing or frying.

Some tricks:

I prefer extra firm over firm. It's a personal choice, but I like the chewiness of it. I ALWAYS freeze mine first. I get home from the grocery store and put the package directly in the freezer. When I am ready to use it, I pull it out, let it thaw just a bit, then boil it to finish off the thawing process. After it cools a bit, I wrap it in a bath towel and press, press, press to get as much water out as possible.

Why press it? The drier you can make it, the better it will be at absorbing the flavors you will be using when you make your dish. That is the beauty of tofu - it beautifully soaks up whatever is used on it, be it a marinade, a sauce or a coating.

Once pressed and cooled, you can slice the tofu for your recipe.

The one thing I do different with the freezing is if I want to use tofu to make an eggless salad for sandwiches. In that case, I remove the tofu from the package and put it in a freezer baggie. It freezes without the water in the this case, and does turn a yellowish color. Once thawed (and boiled) and cooled, I've found it crumbles very much like hardboiled eggs.

ALWAYS buy organic tofu.

Some delicious tofu dishes:

Fried Chick'n
Tofu Turkey and Chick'n Fried Tofu
Blackened Tofu
Asian Barbecued Tofu

Don't fear the tofu! I substitute tofu now for any recipe calling for chicken or fish and have found that it works very well. Enjoy!

National Junk Food Day

July 21 is National Junk Food Day. Because the next day was my son's birthday, and he loves the occasional night of snack food dining, I decided to wait. Okay, so we didn't celebrate Junk Food Day on Junk Food Day, but doesn't every day hold the honor of being a junk food day? Well, at least in some form? ;)

The good news is my birthday boy loved the snacks, and that's the most important thing!

I can't count how many potlucks or get togethers I've gone to where someone brought tortilla rollups. Such a simple and pretty thing, but I've never made them before. This offered me the perfect opportunity to correct that.

Tortilla Rollups

One container vegan cream cheese
5 green onions, chopped
2 small cans of chopped black olives
1/4 fake bacon bits
2 T. black bean salsa (see below)
1 t. cumin
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Hot pepper sauce, to taste
Flour tortillas

Soften the cream cheese in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the flour tortillas, and blend well. Spoon some of the mixture on a flour tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down on a plate, and stack them on top of each other. Cover and chill. Before serving, slice into rounds.

Black Bean Salsa

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c. red onion, diced
One green pepper, chopped
1/2 a jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Handful of cilantro, chopped
3 T. lime juice
2 T. vegetable oil
1-1/2 t. hot pepper sauce
1/2 t. salt

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.

Don't buy the canned stuff. This bean dip rocks!

Tex Mex Dip

3 green onions, chopped
One can vegetarian refried beans
One can corn, drained
One package Daiya Pepperjack
1/2 c. beer
One package taco seasoning mix

Mix all the ingredients in a medium sized pot on medium heat. Stir occasionally until everything is mixed well and heated through. Serve with tortilla chips.

Spicy Cheese Crisps

1/2 c. vegan butter, softened
One package Daiya Pepperjack
2 c. whole wheat flour
Pecan halves

Beat butter, cheese and flour together until well mixed. Cover and chill overnight. Shape into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Use a glass to smash the balls into flat rounds. Top with a pecan half. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until browned slightly. Let cool. Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Eat More Kale

Eat More Kale is actually a website dedicated to eating local, eating healthy, and by all means promoting the yumminess of kale. Dried into chips is one of the best ways to eat it, imnsho. Better than store bought potato chips any day!

Researchers have identified over 45 different flavonoids in kale. This broad spectrum of antioxidants has been linked to cancer prevention, and kale is a star. Steamed kale is fiber rich and cholesterol lowering. If you have never tried kale before, the health benefits alone should put it at the top of your grocery list.

There are so many ways to prepare kale, but one way we found was to add it to a hummus sandwich.

Hummus with Kale Sandwich

One bunch of kale, rinsed, drained and leaves torn away from stems
Hummus, either homemade or store bought - we prefer roasted garlic hummus
Green onions, chopped
Half a bunch of cilantro, rinsed and chopped
One lemon

Put the kale in a pot filled with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Shake the colander to be sure you've gotten most of the water out. Drizzle the drained kale with the lemon, squeezing as much juice from it that you can.

Mix the green onions and cilantro into the hummus, and spread over toasted bread. Top the hummus with a handful of the kale. Add another slice of toasted bread on top and enjoy!

My son discovered he liked adding thinly sliced lemons to his sandwich. I thought it made it too tangy, but you might try it both ways and decide which you like best. I used thin sandwich buns for the bread, but you could also use a pita, if you prefer.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blueberry Melon Salad

July is National Blueberry Month, among other things. I tend to associate blueberries with August (specifically August 1), but I will never turn down blueberries any time. They are just so good!

When my family went on a picnic the other day, I had already made a fruit salad, but when I came upon this one, I thought, what the heck? I was already making two pasta salads, why not two fruit salads as well? You can never have too much food for a picnic, after all.

Blueberry Melon Salad with Thyme

1 c. stevia
1/4 c. water
Juice from one lemon
4 sprigs of thyme
3 c. each cantaloupe, honeydew melon and watermelon, cut into chunks
One pint of blueberries

Mix the fruit together in one large bowl. In a small pot over low heat, mix the stevia, water and lemon. Stir until the stevia has dissolved. Remove from heat. Once cooled, pour over the fruit and mix well to coat. Refrigerate.


National Picnic Month

One of the designations for July is National Picnic Month. Pretty much any month that isn't cold is well suited for a picnic. I mean, do you really need an excuse to go on one?

The hubby took a week off for some vacation down time, and decided we would all go as a family to a water park. He and I had never been to this one, so barring rain, we were going. And what a beautiful day it turned out to be! Despite the delay in getting our food, due to someone (I won't mention any names...) shutting the keys to the car in the trunk and having to have someone come out to unlock the car for us, it was a great day and the food turned out fantastic!

I like to shop the food section at Marshall's because I always find the coolest pasta. I was originally only going to make one pasta salad dish, but the recipe on one of the packages just sounded too good, so I decided to make both.

Walnut Chick'n Salad

1/2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
One container plain soy yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. dry mustard
3 green onions, chopped
Handful of fresh dill, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 c. cooked vegan chicken, your choice
One apple, cored and diced
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Add some vegan mayonnaise if it is too dry. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon onto your favorite slice of bread and enjoy!

Sesame Pasta Salad

1-1/2 c. vegan mayonnaise
1/3 c. water
3 T. soy sauce
1-1/2 T. fresh ginger, chopped
1 T. dark sesame oil
1 T. white vinegar
One package of pasta, your choice (mine looked like margarita glasses), cooked and cooled
1 c. carrots, chopped
1/2 c. radishes, chopped

Mix everything together in one large bowl and stir well to coat. Refrigerate.

Fishy Pasta Salad

One package of pasta, your choice (this one was shaped like lobsters), cooked and cooled
3/4 c. vegan mayonnaise
1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. onion powder
1/2 t. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. hot sauce

Again, mix everything in one large bowl and stir well to coat. Refrigerate.

Fruit Salad with Mint

2 nectarines, pitted and cut into small pieces
3 kiwi, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 navel oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces
One pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered
One pint of blueberries
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
3 T. lime juice
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, chopped

Mix the brown sugar, lime juice and mint leaves in a food processor until well blended. Add all of the fruit together in one large bowl, pour the sugar sauce over it and mix well. Refrigerate.

Add some iced tea and you've got a great picnic meal!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

National Macaroni Day

National Macaroni Day was July 7, but a series of distractions prevented me from taking advantage of the day. Not to be denied, I made my mac and cheese, finally, last night. I had to rescue some of it from my son for my lunch today. Otherwise, he couldn't stop eating it. He plans to go buy all the ingredients just so I'll make it again this weekend. Probably all for him! LOL!

In addition, to round out the meal, I made a couple of different mixed vegetable dishes.

Macaroni and Cheese

One package elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1/4 c. vegan butter
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
2-1/4 c. rice milk
1/2 t. salt
Dash of black pepper
One package of Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds

Melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Gradually add the milk and some of the Daiya until creamy. In a lightly greased casserole dish, layer the macaroni, then Daiya, the macaroni, then the sauce and top with more Daiya. Bake at 400 for 35 minutes.

Summer Garden Vegetables

1/4 c. chopped onion
2 T. butter
2 c. fresh or frozen corn
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
4 small yellow squash, sliced
1 t. salt
3/4 t. dried oregano leaves
1/4 t. pepper

Saute the onion in the butter until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

King of the Jungle Vegetables

Handful of carrots, sliced
Olive oil
One package of frozen green beans
One package of frozen cauliflower florets
One bunch of green onions, sliced
2 c. water or vegetable broth
Dash of garlic powder

Saute the carrots in the olive oil until beginning to soften. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuscan Panzanella

Panzanella is a Italian type of salad based on bread and tomatoes, often with onions and basil, and dressed with oil and vinegar. It is very simple to put together and gave me an opportunity to make croutons for the first time.

Tuscan Panzanella

4 slices of bread, crusts removed
Olive oil
Basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c. sliced red onion (I chopped mine)
One can small black olives, drained
One pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 cans white beans, drained
1 T. water
1 T. olive oil
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. black pepper

Cut the crustless bread into one inch cubes and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Spray or brush lightly with olive oil. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Combine the basil, onion, olives, tomatoes, and beans in a bowl and mix gently. Mix the water, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and black pepper together and whisk until well blended. Pour over the vegetables and mix gently, but well.

Dish the salad into a bowl and top with some of the croutons.


I loved this salad, but might play around with the croutons. They were on the plain side. I think adding some herbs to the olive oil before brushing it on will liven things up a bit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Black Bean Burritos

We all have them, those days where we wind up being much busier than we had planned or expected, but still have to feed everyone. We're tired, but fast food just does not appeal. That's when these burritos come in oh-so-handy.

Black Bean Burritos

2 cans of black beans
Flour tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomatoes
Cooked brown rice

Heat the black beans in a pot. Add beans and remaining ingredients to a flour tortilla, roll up and eat. Really, can it be any simpler or quicker?

Feel free to add anything else you've got around you like in your burritos: vegan sour cream, vegan shredded cheese, sliced or chopped avocados, sliced or chopped black olives. These burritos are so versatile and you can do what you want with the ingredients you have on hand.


Friday, July 6, 2012

National Fried Chicken Day

I love these foodie themes for days, weeks or months. They make it kind of fun to plan my meals. Today is National Fried Chicken Day. I'm not sure how the day originated, but since it is also National Picnic Month, maybe it started there. Seems like a perfect opportunity to fry up a cruelty-free version, don't you think? I served mine up with some mashed potatoes and green beans.

Fried Chick'n

1 t. salt
1/2 t. onion powder
1 t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
2 c. flour (I used whole wheat)
2 T. nutritional yeast
Rice milk
One package of extra firm tofu, frozen in package, boiled, sliced into wedges

Mix everything but the milk and tofu in a shallow bowl. Pour the milk into a separate shallow bowl. Dip the tofu wedges in the milk, then coat well in the flour mixture. Fry over medium high heat in olive oil until nicely browned.

Tex Mex Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs. potatoes, cut into chunks
Vegan butter
Rice milk
One package Daiya Pepperjack Cheese
1/4 c. green onions

Boil the potatoes until soft (about 20-30 minutes), drain. Mash them together with some salt and pepper, vegan butter, rice milk and the pepperjack cheese. Mix in the green onions and some vegan sour cream, if you like.

Country Green Beans

Vegan bacon (I used three slices), cooked
Half an onion, cut into chunks
3 cans of whole green beans, undrained
1/2 t. pepper

Mix everything in one medium to large sized pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Patriotic Pasta Salad

Guitars. Drums. Sparklers. Laughter. Beer. My cats hiding under my bed. It must be July 4th.

This year we attended the second annual July 4th celebration at the home of a friend. What a great time we had! Plenty of food and lots of great conversation. I finally got to watch a young woman we know hoop. I tried a whiskey that tasted like cinnamon candy. Got rave reviews on my pasta salad.

Yep, it was a good day.

Patriotic Pasta Salad

One package of pasta (mine was shaped like flags and stars)
1/4 c. white white vinegar
1 T. water
1-1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. stevia
1/2 t. dried tarragon (I had some dried dill I tossed in, too)
1/8 t. black pepper
1/3 c. olive oil
Grape tomatoes, halved
3 carrots, shredded
3/4 c. vegan cheese, cubed

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and rinse. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, salt, stevia, tarragon and black pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil while continuing to whisk.

Add the pasta to a large serving bowl, add the tomatoes and carrots and pour in the vinegar and oil mixture. Mix well, but gently and chill. Add the cheese and mix in well before serving at room temperature.


The only vegans at this shindig were my daughter and me. The hostess' mom made a special corn dish for us that was very good. Others brought fruit and vegetable trays, so we had plenty to eat. The non-vegans, who didn't know my pasta salad was vegan, all commented on how much they really liked the pasta. Always what a cook wants to hear!
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