Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vegan Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Beets

Don't have a pic today because these didn't last.  I will make them again in a week or so and will try to add a pic then.

If you don't like beets or haven't ever cooked your own, I really encourage you to give these a try.  They are so very good.  I think I got this recipe from our CSA (community supported agriculture) a couple summers ago, so I can't really give credit to the proper recipe writer.  But I did make a couple slight changes to it, so I'll post it as mine for now.  These beets are sweet and tangy and are so good hot or cold.  The glaze thickens as it cools, so the cold ones end up like candied beets. 

(Just a note that the red/purple beets will stain your counters and clothes and fingers.  So take precautions and change out of your favorite white shirt before prepping these.)

About 8 beets, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups water (or enough to cover)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (red works better than white)
2 tablespoons vegan butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Bring everything to a boil in a large pot.  Then turn the heat down to a simmer and leave uncovered to cook about 40 minutes or until the sauce is thick and "glazy" on the beets.  If you go too long, it will burn.  So be sure to check it and stir every few minutes while it cooks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

VEGAN ENERGY BALLS (a.k.a. Buzz's Sweet Sticky Balls)

I was rummaging through the pantry this afternoon trying to find a quick, healthful and portable snack to take to the local Hershey Track and Field Meet today.  (My son took first in the 400m.  Woot-Woot!)  I couldn't find anything that looked like a good snack for the kids.

I've been looking for a good energy ball/bar for a while for my son to use at swim meets but I'm never too impressed with the recipes I find on the internet. I figured I could just start making it up and we would see what turned up. So I started pulling random items off the shelves.  Then I grabbed the food processor and went to town. 

And the end product turned out pretty good.  They were a big hit at the track meet for the kids (6 out of 7 ate them like crazy).  A couple adults tried them and commented on how good they were.  And my husband LOVED them. Like really loved them.  So I've decided to name them after my amazing husband, Buzz.

I hope you enjoy eating Buzz's Sweet Sticky Balls!  I know I do.  They are actually kind of hard to resist.  I tried to eat just one, but I had to have the second one too.
They're that good.

And the recipe is super easy.  Throw everything into the food processor and let her run.  I have a really good processor, so it worked fairly quickly.  Remember that your machine is meant to work, so don't quit before they come together.  It may take 3-4 minutes of pulsing it. Work that machine.  Work it hard.  Work it until it gets hot.  Yeah, baby.  That's how you do it. Work it. These balls end up more chewy than crunchy, so keep that in mind as you are pulsing the nuts.

Okay, that's enough. I'll get on to the recipe.  I made one batch with raw almonds and then another batch with roasted cashews.  I liked the cashew one better, but you can decide for yourself. I used a smaller size cookie scoop to shape them and got 2 dozen out of a batch.  Keep them in the frig and use them for pre or post workouts, or just for an afternoon pick-me-up.  I rolled the balls in powdered sugar just because I didn't want them to stick to each other at the track meet.  If I was eating them at home I would skip that step.  Enjoy my husband's sweet sticky balls!

1 c. almonds or cashews (raw or roasted)
12 prunes (or dates)
2 T. vegan chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened flake coconut
1 t. vanilla
2 T. maple syrup or agave nectar
1 c. oats

1/2 c. powdered sugar (optional) for rolling in after shaped

Put everything except the powdered sugar in the food processor and pulse until it comes together.  These end up more chewy than crunchy.  Roll into 24 quarter-size balls.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Serve as is or roll in powdered sugar to serve.

3-IN-1 Steamer Pot

A few friends of mine were over cooking with me and mentioned that they love my 3-in-1 steamer basket/pasta strainer/stock pot.  I received it from my bestie, Susie, years ago and am in need of new one.  I use it all the time.  So many people think they can't cook because they don't have fancy equipment in the kitchen.  But that's just not true.  With just a good knife, a cutting board and this pot you can create amazing meals.

(I probably shouldn't have taken the picture on the stove since I'm not really using the pasta strainer and steamer basket on the fire.  Just the big pot. The lid is not pictured.)

I love this pot/pan because it save me time and dishes.  I highly recommend you get one and use it.  It makes "1-pot" meals fairly easily. You may need to cook the pasta first (uncovered) and then steam your veggies, but it is still quick and easy.  I really like to add broth or seasonings to the water in the bottom and that flavors whatever you steam on the top.  It just adds a little extra flavor, or changes the flavor from the same old plain veggies.  Freshly steamed veggies are so much better than the microwave and they hold their flavor and nutrients better than if you boil them.  And, in most cases, it takes longer to boil the water than it does to actually cook the food.  Get the water on the stove and spend a few minutes prepping veggies.  Then it will all get done at the same time.  Fresh and hot and oh, so tasty.

Some suggestions:

Corn on the cob in the big pot, steamed green beans and other veggies in the steamer basket on top (that's what's for lunch today).

Soba or Rice Noodles in the pasta strainer with "stir-fry" veggies steamed on top (without the oil of stir frying).  Toss together with your favorite Asian-inspired sauce.

Miso soup in the pot, steamed edamame (or other veggies) on top. The soup flavors the edamame very nicely.

Spaghetti or other pasta in the pasta strainer and zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, mushroom, etc. in the steam basket.  Toss together with a little red sauce or pesto.

Boiled potatoes in the bottom and carrots, cauliflower, and/or broccoli in the steam basket. Throw them all together and cover with Not-cho cheese sauce.  (Try adding a little beer and shrimp boil seasoning to the potatoes for a great kick of flavor!)

Creamy white beans cooking in the stock pot and kale steaming on the top.

The possibilities are endless.  YOU CAN COOK.  Really, you can.  It doesn't take a lot to make something healthy and special and yummy for you and your family.  Happy cooking!!


(I've been trying to post some "comfort food" recipes these past few days based on feedback from you readers.  I love feedback.  Please keep the comments and suggestions coming!)

We ordered in Chinese food the other day.  I was having a rough day and I think Moo Shu is capable of fixing most of life's problems. So we ordered Veggie Moo Shu (no egg) and Veggie Delite with Tofu.  It was so very yummy.  Moo Shu makes me happy.

But they always pack in way too much rice.  Even when we cook rice at home, we always end up with extra.  I follow serving sizes, but they must be big servings.  Anyway, I actually had leftover brown rice in the frig and then a take-out box of white rice from the restaurant. I really hate wasting food, so I had to use up that rice before it became a brick. What do you do with that leftover rice?   Make sweet rice!

My kids and I love this sweet rice.  I eat it for breakfast or snack.  It is kind of like Rice Pudding but I didn't call it Rice Pudding because I think pudding implies certain things.  This is not pudding, but it is yummy and simple.

I don't really have a recipe because I always end up using leftover rice in this one and it really just depends on how much you have.  So I'll just walk through the simple process.

Put your leftover rice in a sauce pan, no more than half-way up the pan.

Use enough plant milk (unflavored or vanilla) to just cover the rice.

Add in anywhere from 2 T. to 1/2 c. sugar depending on how much you are making.  Also, I use far less sugar when I use flavored milk and/or raisins or dried fruit because those sweeten it enough.  I made a big pot today and only used a about 2 T. sugar.  Feel free to use maple syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, or whatever sweetener you prefer.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little nutmeg and stir in raisins or other dried fruit.

Bring to a low boil, then cover and cook on LOW for about 15 minutes. 

Stir in a little vanilla at the end to serve.  This is good hot or cold.  So save it up for your breakfast tomorrow morning.  Leftover leftovers.  How great is that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


2 c. dried black beans, cleaned and sorted
1 white onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 t. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Bay leaf
2 T. tomato paste
6 c. veggie broth
2 T. lime juice or red wine vinegar

Stir all together in crockpot and cook on high 4-6 hours.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve over brown rice or corn bread.

Vegan Green Pasta

Cook pasta according to directions:
1/2 box gemelli or rotini pasta (wheat or rice)

Steam veggies to crisp-tender:
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 pound fresh green beans, cleaned and snapped
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cleaned and cut into 2" lengths

Stir all together with:
1/2 c. pesto sauce (my recipe is on the March 8, 2011 blog or use your favorite)
2 c. frozen peas, thawed and slightly warmed

Top with:
Toasted chopped almonds or pine nuts
Chopped cold tomatoes

Vegan Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

This dish is probably not your traditional curry dish, but you have to remember I'm just a small town girl in the middle of Iowa.  It is slightly sweet and warm and a great comfort food.  I even have a couple day care kids who eat it up.  You can always add in more flavor or heat to make it how you like.  This version is MILD.  I made it for the kids, so I kept it simple.  I also use the coconut milk that you find with other drinkable milks (and not the fatty stuff in the can).  I'm sure the canned stuff is much tastier and thicker, so use it if you prefer, but the drinkable milk works fine with far less fat.

(serve over rice)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4-5 small red potatoes, cubed
2 cans (or 2 1/2 cups) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 c. frozen peas, thawed
3 T. curry powder
2-3 cups coconut milk (enough to cover potatoes)
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt to taste

In a large fry pan, soften the onion and garlic (do not brown) in a small amount of olive oil or broth.  Add in sweet potatoes, potatoes, chickpeas, curry powder and cook another 3-4 minutes. 

Stir in coconut milk and cook until  potato is tender.  Stir frequently.  Add in the cauliflower and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in lemon juice, peas and salt.  Cover and cook just until peas are warmed and cauliflower is crisp-tender.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vegan Refried Beans

These refried beans are not really fried at all, but they are pretty darn close to what you get at your favorite Mexican restaurant (minus the queso on top).  My family loves this recipe and eats it up like crazy.  We use these beans in burritoes, tacos, on pizza, as chip dip, or just as a side or even main dish. 

Mix these beans about half and half with the Not-cho Cheese dip for a really good bean dip with chips.  Or mix them with TVP reconstituted and mixed with taco seasoning for a great filler in your burritos, nachos, taquitos, tacos, etc.  Or layer them with tortillas and Not-cho Cheese and TVP taco "meat" for a casserole.  There are so many possibilities for these beans. I like mine on the plate covered in chopped tomato, green onion, black olives and jalapenos on top. Then I just eat it with a chip or tortilla (corn or flour) or some fry bread.

These beans freeze very well, so feel free to make a big batch and then portion it out for the freezer.  

I have made these in the crock pot and on the stove top and both methods work just fine.  The trick is to SAVE the liquid and add it in after the beans cool so you get your desired consistency.  They do tend to dry up a bit, so I've even saved the liquid for the next day when I knew I was going to use the leftovers.  This recipe uses almost all of this liquid, but still drain some off and add it back slowly to get to the texture that you prefer.  Also, I like mine a little chunky and not completely blended.  Again, that's up to you and your personal preference.

I originally got this idea from my friend, Kim, and a post she had on her Facebook page.  I really don't know the original recipe or creator.  But mine is different enough I think it's okay to post it as my own. 

You will never buy canned refried beans again.  This recipe is that good. 

(Sorry I don't have a picture today, but I'll add one next time I make a batch.)

1 1/2 white onions, diced small
4  cups dried pinto beans, cleaned and checked
1/2 - 1 fresh jalapeno (depending on how much heat you prefer), diced small
1 small can green chilies
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
3 t. cumin
6 c. veggie broth
4 c. water

Add all ingredients to large stock pot or large crock pot.
In a stock pot (soup pot), bring to a boil.  Cover and turn down the heat to low.  Let simmer about 3 hours.
In a crock pot, add all ingredients and cook on high for 8 hours.

Once cooked, remove most of the liquid but keep it handy.  Use a potato masher or a hand blender to mash the beans adding back in the reserved liquid as needed to reach your desired consistency.  (Keep in mind that these beans will get drier as they sit.)


I've been making an effort to cut back on COFFEE these days.  I have tried numerous times to cut caffeine.  I gave up soda pop (or whatever you call it) about 13 years ago and only drink it occasionally (usually with some sort of alcohol in it).  But coffee has been a love of mine since middle school and I have a hard time giving that up.

I am inspired by my son's swim coach.  He gave up coffee about a month ago and seems to be doing very well.  So I asked him HOW he did it without the headaches and withdrawal symptoms that turn me into a monster who is angry and grumpy and ready to strike at any given moment.  He said he's started JUICING.  Well, I don't have a juicer anymore, so I had to go for the next best thing.


Now, those of you that know me well also know that I am pretty good with a blender.  But most of things I create in my blender are not health foods.  And they certainly aren't appropriate for breakfast or for feeding the kids.  (I do love me some tequila!!)  But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my blender worked just fine without alcohol.  Who knew???

I've started making more and more smoothies for me and my family.  When we first started, they were fruit blends with apple juice and/or soy milk and/or yogurt.  But now that we are used to them I can add more and more ingredients and change it up to make it more like a meal replacement.

I add a lot of veggies to mine.  I also add flax seed.  These things change the texture and flavor, so if you are new to it take it slow.  I prefer to use frozen fruit instead of fruit and ice cubes because I don't like it watered down from the ice.  I buy big bags of frozen fruit at my local grocery store or big box store and keep them in my deep freeze.  All fruits are good--any berries, peaches, pears, pineapple, coconut, etc.  And really most fresh veggies are good, too.  I've used kale, spinach, carrots, cucumber, zucchini and even broccoli (on the coach's recommendation).  Some of the greens make a smoothie look more like you are drinking tar, but the color is unimportant.  What's important is getting those fruits and veggies into your system. 

I don't add any sugar or sweeteners, but I do add cinnamon or vanilla sometimes.  If I'm making smoothies for my kids and daycare kids I sometimes add a couple prunes, raisins or other dried fruit just because they make it really sweet. Just a couple does the trick. 

There are a million trillion gazillion smoothie recipes on the web (yes, I counted), so I'm not going to add one of my own.  Mostly it depends on what your blender can handle.  I've found that it works best if I do 1/2-2/3 of the blender full of fruit and veggies and then add in about 2 cups of liquid (juice or soy milk).  If you like it creamier, add in some soy yogurt or soy coffee creamer (flavors are good).  Blend it for a minute or two (not just a quick blend).  Start SIMPLE--one or two fruits--and then add in a little something to experiment.  If there is a veggie you really don't like, try it this way.  the sweetness from the fruit really overpowers the vegetableness (yes, that's a word).  Use plain juices like apple or orange to begin, then you can try others if you like.

My son's favorite--strawberry, peach and kiwi with juice (no creaminess).
My daughter's favorite--blueberry, strawberry, banana with soy milk and/or yogurt.
My favorite is spinach, carrots, blueberries and frozen peaches.  Add in flax seeds and cinnamon. Juice, no creamy.
My hubby likes coconut versions--either with dried coconut or make with coconut milk. 
I also enjoy pineapple, banana and coconut made with coconut milk and spiced rum (just a little--but not while I'm working, I swear) served up with a wedge of fresh pineapple on the side.

Really, the possibilities are endless.  Have fun experimenting!!
Happy smoothies!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

VEGAN BEEF STEW (with a GF note)

You wanted comfort food, I'm giving you comfort food.  What's better than a big pot of beef stew on a yucky, rainy day?

This recipe is a veganized and slightly tweaked version of my Aunt Barb's Gone-All-Day Stew.  I used to make it with venison and leave it in the oven or crock pot all day.  And, no disrespect to Aunt Barb, but I like this version better!  My family ate it up and one of my daycare girls said it was, "Yum Yummy Yummy."  Aunt Barb's version calls for mushrooms and no green beans.  I made mine with beans because that's what I had in the pantry.  I would have added mushrooms if I had some, but I didn't.  Basically, just add in the veggies that make YOU happy.  I used baby red potatoes and left the skins on because that's what I like. You can use whatever potatoes you prefer, peeled or not.

I wasn't sure about using the Gardein Homestyle Beefless Tips (I'm not overly impressed with too many of the meat substitutes) but I was pleasantly surprised how well they worked in this recipe.  Of course, you could leave them out and have veggie stew.  The Gardein added a little kick and definitely satisfied that meat texture and craving, though.

GF NOTE:  Please note that Gardein products are NOT Gluten-Free.  If you make this stew without it, use cornstarch or rice flour to thicken it instead of flour.  I would also add in a few extra veggies and bump up the seasoning a little more if not adding in the Gardein.  Season it to your tastes.  Sometimes a little bouillon is all it takes.

I would rank this recipe as a medium on the cooking difficulty scale, because it takes some work and a few extra steps and makes some dishes.  It also has a lot of ingredients for prep work.  I recommend making a huge batch and freezing it off in serving sizes.  Cook once, eat many times.  It is definitely worth the effort.

BEEF (BEEFLESS) STEW in Three Easy Steps

small amount of broth or oil to soften veggies
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. cooking wine (or your favorite wine--red or white--that isn't too sweet)
3 large carrots, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 pounds small red potatoes (or 4 large potatoes), cut into 1/2" chunks
1 can (or 1/2 pound fresh) green beans
8 c. veggie broth and/or water (I used 4 c. broth and 2 c. water to cut the sodium a bit)
1 T. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 t. freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)

In a large soup pot, soften the onions, celery and carrots in broth/oil, but do not brown.  Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

2 bags Gardein Homestyle Beefless Tips (found with frozen foods), thawed
1/4 c. flour
3 T. olive oil

Coat thawed Beefless tips with flour and brown them in a small amount of olive oil (about 5 minutes).  Set aside.

1/4 c. flour
1 cup water

Mix flour and water in a small bowl until no lumps remain.  Bring stew to a low boil and slowly pour in the flour mixture while stirring.  Boil and stir for 2 minutes.  If not thick enough for your liking, repeat this process. Be sure to let the stew boil for at least 2 minutes each time to cook the flour before checking for proper thickness.  (If too thick, simply add in a little broth to thin it.)

Stir beefless tips into thickened stew and let warm about 5 minutes before serving. 

Serve with crusty French or Italian Bread and coleslaw or green salad on the side.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Comfort Food Junkies?!?

I am totally shocked to announce that TATOR TOT CASSEROLE has gotten the most number of views from you folks of any post--by far!  I'm shocked because I thought most people were turned off by this big pan of mush, but I guess I don't know my crowd very well.

Are you really all a bunch of comfort food junkies?  Are you big TVP fans?  Or are you just particular to the tots? 

I have this vision of you walking around with tots in your side zipper pocket like Napoleon Dynamite.  "Are you gonna eat your tots?"

Well, you spoke and I just want you to know that I listened.  More comfort food recipes coming soon.  Let me know if you have requests and I'll see what I can do to accomodate your cravings.   Also, I'm hoping to have a special Cinco de Mayo post up this weekend for all you celebrating with something more than tequilas and cervezas. 

Hey, thanks for reading!