Tag: Gluten free

Vegan Chili Mac…and TOENAILS?!?! 

Vegan Chili Mac…and TOENAILS?!?! 

My “30 minutes or less” meal game is really stepping up. I am so excited! I am building a nice little repertoire of quick and easy vegan meals that please *most* of us. Since it has been unseasonably cool in Southern California these past few months, many of my go to recipes require baking. It’s supposed to get into the triple digits in the next few days, so unless I can modify them, they are definitely going into retirement until it cools down again.

I knew I needed to find more dinner ideas so I’ve been spending a few minutes every day searching for new ones. Tonight I discovered a great pin on Pinterest that had a collection of recipes that I will be trying in the next couple of days. I let my son pick the first one. Here is the recipe:

Vegan Chili Mac by the Garden Grazer.

It’s so simple and completely delicious.  Here is what I did.  I used 2 cups quinoa macaroni and cooked it up prior to starting. I found this kind at Costco. I highly recommend it. After it was cooked, strained and set aside, I water sautéed one yellow onion with some minced garlic. Once the onions were translucent I added in the cooked pasta, 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, 1 can of drained kidney beans, 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce, 1 tsp. cumin, 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast and 2 tsp. chili powder. I mixed and let that simmer for about 10 minutes. I sprinkled it with a bit of Himalayan pink salt.

Then, I rough chopped a couple of handfuls of baby spinach. img_3774I tossed it in, gave it a stir, covered it and let it sit on low another 3 minutes. img_3776.jpg

YUM! Even my son likes it! He and my husband did say they wouldn’t mind if I made the corn on the side (they aren’t huge fans of the sweetness mixed in, although that was my favorite part. Haha!) although they said it is fine with the corn and wouldn’t mind eating it that way again.

For next time, I would reduce the cumin just a little (maybe 1/2 tsp. instead of 1 tsp.) and I will garnish it with chopped olives and avocados.

Besides being quick, tasty and made completely on the stovetop, another huge benefit of this meal is that it is packed with protein. Quinoa pasta, corn, spinach and kidney beans all are high in protein.

I suppose you are wondering about the toenails reference? Well, that is a bit of a side note: I have been seeing some really unexpectedly awesome side effects of this new life style. I expected the reduction in weight (36 lbs and counting) and the reduction in pain (went on Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney’s California Adventure three times in a row and managed to stay until midnight) but what I didn’t expect? My nails are stronger and thicker than they have ever been. Ever.  I used to just peel my toenails instead of clipping them. (Sorry, I know that is really gross!) Now they are so strong I have to use actual clippers.  Also, my dry skin is gone. I have this glossy, healthy glow, especially on the back of my hands. They used to look like lizard skin most of the time. Surprising since I eat almost NO OIL!!!

I suppose I should mention the everything I buy now, with very little exception, is organic. Spices, fruits, veggies, grains, beans, vinegars, nuts, you name it, it’s usually organic. I do think that helps contribute to my overall improving health.

I can’t wait to share more recipes with you! Until next time.

The Learning Curve

What a strange journey this has been so far…. I have learned quite a bit about myself in the these last three months. The highlights?

  1. Soy hates me
  2. I hate nutritional yeast
  3. I can do this

I am bummed about the soy. It removes more than half of the recipes that are labeled “vegan.” It also makes eating out super hard, but whatever. I would rather ditch soy than feel like a homicidal maniac for the week it takes to clear my system.

I am also a little bummed about nutritional yeast, which is another staple of the vegan diet. Looking for cheesy flavor? Add nutritional yeast. I don’t have anything specific against it, other than it reminds me of my first desperate weeks trying to find things that worked. I made myself a Dijon dressing about 3 days in that was heavy on that particular ingredient and I used it for salad dressing and for veggie dip. Now, whenever I get a whiff of it, I get a knot in my stomach. Brains are weird.

The most important thing I have learned, though, is that I can do this! I have become more resourceful as I go and food choices are becoming easier and less stressful.

Take this evening, for example. Today is my day off, so I usually try to make something a bit more time and labor intensive than on the nights I work. Those nights are the nights I save for meals that take half hour or less, because traffic sucks and I get home later than I would like.

I was planning dinner when my daughter came downstairs and asked if we could dye her hair. She leaves for camp next week and it has become something of a tradition to kick of the beginning of summer by heading to camp with crazy hair. This year she chose a nice shade of raspberry. It takes about 2 hours for the whole process.  Dinner be hanged, I have a colorful quest to fulfill!

So now, her hair is done and off she goes to piano lessons and I am stuck wondering what I should make for dinner. I have a bit more than an hour. I hit up Pinterest. I find Creamy French Lentils with Mushrooms and Kale.  Perfect. I have Trader Joe’s Lentils in the fridge so I can skip the 20 minute lentil cooking step.

I sauté 2 medium shallots in water, then add a Tablespoon or so of fresh garlic.

Then I add 2 lbs. chopped mushrooms and cooked until tender.

A splash (2 tsp or so) of white wine vinegar and just a pinch (1 tsp.) of Tamari (soy hates me, remember?) Then about 3 cups of vegetable broth along with the whole package of pre-cooked lentils. 

I added some pink Himalayan salt, pepper and a bunch of spices. I didn’t measure but here is an approximation:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel
  • 1/2 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

I simmered about 15 minutes, then took 1/2 the mixture and put it in my VitaMix and blended until smooth. I poured it back into the pot. 

I added 2/3 cup of unsweetened rice milk and a small container of baby kale. 

I simmered until the kale was wilted and served it  up. YUM! For next time, the family asked me to please leave the kale out, it was a bit too bitter for them but the lentils were good and everyone agreed it could go into the regular dinner rotation.

Ah, it’s good to feel a bit of confidence in the kitchen, again.

Oh, and just for the record, I am down 34 pounds. Yay, me!

It’s a Vegan BBQ

It’s a Vegan BBQ

Happy Memorial Day! It is more than just the unofficial beginning of summer, more than a day off to barbecue and party, it is a day to remember those in the armed forces who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

I have many family members who served our country, both at home and overseas, and all of them made it home safely. Not all families are so blessed. So before we get to the food and festivities, be sure to take a moment to remember.  ❤️

Now, onto the fun. This marks my first “summer” holiday as a vegan. So I did my best to make it delicious.

The menu:

  • BBQ pulled “pork” on portabella mushrooms
  • Roasted potatoes and onions
  • Corn on the cob
  • Watermelon

Yes, I have uni-corn holders. Thanks, Ashley!

Here’s what I did. I found jackfruit at Trader Joe’s. I looked up a couple of jackfruit pullled pork recipes and combined them. One was from the Minimalist Baker and one was from Itdoesnttastelikechicken.com.I used a single 20 oz. can of jackfruit, which I rinsed and drained. Ewwww, it’s so ugly!!!

Sauté 1/4 chopped yellow onion with one tablespoon minced garlic about 5 minutes, until onion begins to soften.  Add the jackfruit, along with 1/2 tsp. Paprika, 1/2 tsp. Chili powder, 1 tsp. Garlic powder and a dash of salt and pepper. Sauté 2-3 minutes, then add 1/4 cup vegetable stock and simmer, covered, over medium heat about 10 minutes until the jackfruit is soft enough to crush with a potato masher. Once it is in shreds, add about 1/2 cup or more of BBQ sauce. I used home-made, sugar-free sauce.Simmer another 10 minutes until tender.

My husband and I loved it. It is uncanny how much the taste and texture was like actual pulled pork. My son said it was “on the bad side of weird.”  Honestly, if I had smothered it with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce and put it on a white bun it would have been perfection. Haha!

As it was, instead of buns, I made portobello mushrooms on the highest rack of the grill, on low, for 20 minutes. I seasoned them with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. So easy!

At the same time those were cooking, I placed a potato pack and an onion pack on the lower grate. (I only separated them because my son doesn’t care for the onions.) Chop the potatoes and onions into bite sized pieces. Lightly brush aluminum foil with a tiny bit of olive oil. Spread the veggies out and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Seal the packs all the way around.  Wrap with a second layer of foil unless you used heavy duty foil. img_3681Place directly on the lower grate and cook for 20 minutes, turning over half way through the cooking time.

While it wasn’t hot dogs and potato salad, it was pretty good. I would make it again. Yay for BBQ’s and summer.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸Happy Memorial Day!🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

Broccoli for Days

img_3672Food ruts are inevitable. Busy days call for simple standbys, since there is no time for getting creative.  Yesterday was a busy day therefore yesterday was a food rut day.

Cleaning, shopping, errands, and organizing all ate away at my day. Lunch was leftover broccoli with marinara since I usually try to use weekends to eat up anything left in the fridge during the week.

Since it was Saturday, we also usually try to go out to dinner. We have been going to Chili’s, because a) they are less than 10 minutes away and b) they have a house salad with black beans and pico de gallo that we can actually eat. We have gone every Saturday for the last few weeks. Time to switch things up.

I emailed Spaghetti Factory last month to let them know I was disappointed they had removed spaghetti squash from the menu. Both the manager at our local restaurant and the corporate office emailed me letting me know that while they removed spaghetti squash from their main menu, they added it back as a Saturday special. I was happy. Another choice! I should have called first.


We arrived and I asked the hostess if spaghetti squash was on the specials. Nope. Despite the email saying they added it back (past tense, done), they haven’t quite implemented it yet. Guess what I got for dinner. Broccoli with marinara. *sigh* At least I didn’t have to cook or clean up.

My point is that sometimes we have to eat the same things due to circumstance, but don’t make it a habit if you can help it. Incorporate plenty of variety into your diet. The more the merrier. Your body needs so many different nutrients and eating the exact same thing day after day for weeks on end with no variety can actually be detrimental.

Not to mention boring as heck.

Speaking of boring, next week I guess we head back to Chili’s. Hurry up and open, Chipotle!


Dinner 911

It’s happened to everyone: you arrive home late after a long day. Traffic, appointments gone long, poor planning…whatever the reason, you need to get dinner on the table ASAP! Gone are the days are driving through on the way home or dialing for delivery. What to do in a pinch? Quick, tasty and healthy are all non-negotiable.

It has taken me 3 months to slip into a more comfortable place with dinner planning. I won’t lie, at the beginning of this vegan journey, I felt panicky and overwhelmed. I even found myself feeling resentful. “This way of eating is hard enough, why can’t they all just figure out their own food!” I now know that was just the toxic hunger making me one nasty lady for a while. Sorry, family, LOVE YOU!

I keep a few staples stocked in my kitchen at all times, ready at a moment’s notice for those nights when people INSIST on being fed even though I have had a busy day. Haha.

Chili. This is a super simple version. Just throw the following ingredients into a sauce pan and heat for 15 minutes. Done and delicious.

  • 3 cans of assorted beans, drained and rinsed. (My favorites are black beans, garbanzo beans and lima beans)
  • one can of tomato sauce
  • one can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 bag of frozen corn
  • a sprinkle each of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder and Zydeco Chop Chop
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste

Pasta and steamed broccoli with Marinara. This comfort food is a weekly favorite at our house.

I use red lentil and chickpea noodles, instead of traditional pasta, since I am gluten free and the bean based pastas are FILLED with protein. They are actually quite tasty and extremely filling. My son gives them a “thumbs mostly up ” and that is amazing, considering he loves traditional pasta.

For the sauce, I recommend Victoria White Linen Marinara sauce. You can find it at Costco here in California. Simple ingredients, no sugar, and quite simply, the most delicious Marinara I have ever had. img_3655.png

For the broccoli, don’t just throw it in the microwave, steam it! Here is a recipe for perfect steamed broccoli. It’s so simple! Be sure to remove from the steaming basket while it is still tender crisp and bright green. It retains more of the nutrients and flavor that way.

Also, try adding the Marinara over the broccoli, too.  It is amazing. If you have time, water sauté a few mushrooms or zucchinis with garlic and add them to the fun.  The more colorful, the better.

Taco Salad. This one is always a crowd pleaser, especially on a hot evening. I chop up romaine lettuce and spinach (or any other dark leafy greens) for the base, then put out anything and everything I have that even remotely sounds like it might be good on a salad and let everyone build their own. My favorite salad fixings:

  • Tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Chopped green or red onion
  • Black or pinto beans
  • Quinoa taco “meat”
  • Guacamole or chopped avocado
  • Salsa
  • Raw pumpkin seeds
  • Jalapeños
  • Chopped bell peppers
  • Chopped raw zucchini
  • Lightly sautéed mushrooms
  • Vegan ranch
  • Tortilla chips (none for me, though)img_3292.jpg

Chopped veggies and hummus. This is my Sunday night, go-to dinner.  I almost always have baby bell peppers, celery sticks and baby carrots in my veggie drawer, ready to eat.  It is fast, easy and satisfying.  No excuses for not eating healthy with this stuff on hand.

What are your favorite quick and easy meals? I would love to know.

Simple Pleasures

Tonight was one of those nights that makes me happy to be alive.

Today was hot, in the mid-nineties. So this evening, when it cooled off, it was the perfect night for a walk. I had some treats for my friend’s dog that I wanted to drop off anyway, and it was the perfect excuse. I like to walk in the evenings, but walking with a purpose is even better.

Not only did I want to deliver the treats, but I found an app that allows me to raise money for my favorite local animal charity while I do it. I highly recommend downloading the app, Walk For a Dog.  It tracks your walking distance and as long as you walk at least once a week, you raise money for your chosen charity. 

Now, let me tell you about my lovely walk:The air smelled like warm eucalyptus trees, gradually cooling from the afternoon sun that was setting behind them. It is such a distinctive smell that reminds me of being a kid, outside on my grandparent’s front porch in the cool of the evening. Pure happiness. 

I smiled a lot tonight. 

The simple pleasure of listening to “Hotel California” fading into the distance as the man in the truck drives past me, windows down. The fat pug, with his hilariously stiff-legged run, barking hoarsely from behind a two foot fence that is more than adequate to keep him behind it.  Stopping to chat with old friends as I pass their house. The street lights that begin to blink on as I approach home. 

I didn’t used to love to walk. In fact, it used to exhaust me and make me achy. Now, I look forward to it. Oh, I still get a little sore from walking.  My back is still recovering from my road trip, and my hips still let me know that I am no longer a teenager, but I am not miserable anymore. 

What a beautiful night. I am so thankful that I am alive. I am so thankful that I am getting well.  

Trial and Error

Trial and Error

Today I am hungry. Actually, no, let me rephrase that. I want food. Hunger is the physical sensation our body gives us when we need nutrition and sustenance. I have those covered. Today I am struggling with the need to eat because it’s cathartic. *sigh*

This journey I am on is full of Trial and Error. Two steps forward, one step back. Whenever I add something back into my diet, I do it slowly and methodically to see how my body reacts. Last week, I decided to add Tempeh (fermented soy) into my diet. Please, don’t lecture! I know soy can be a problem for many and while it’s health benefits are sung by some, it is decried by others. I just wanted to see. 

I made a lucious pot of Minestrone soup and pan seared chunks of Tempeh before adding it into the soup pot. It was delicious. Then, the symptoms began.  So far I have had increased random food cravings, hot flashes, crankiness and tiredness. Basically, it kicked me in the hormones. This sucks. 

I didn’t even put it together. It was my husband.

Him: “You seem a little off today. You ok?”

Me: “No, I feel like crap!”

Him: “What did you eat that was different?”

How I love that man of mine. He can read me like a book. He helped me go back through what we had eaten and helped me put two and two together. It hadn’t even dawned on me. 

Not all my add backs have been failures. Eggplant, corn and red wine vinegar are all fine. I get discouraged, though, when it doesn’t go well. I don’t like these symptoms. Taking a step back in my progress reminds me why I am doing this in the first place. I am so glad I am. 

I am going to share my Minestrone recipe because it really is the most delicious soup. Although I am leaving out the Tempeh. I hope you understand. 

Minestrone – Makes 10-12 servings

(Adapted from “So You Want To Cook Italian” by Rocco J. Constanzo) 

Once again, please excuse my disgusting cook book! What can I say, I cook with enthusiasm, not neatness!

I used water instead of olive oil to sauté the leeks, onions and garlic.  I also used eggplant instead of potatoes because I had one that needed to be used. This is one of those perfect “use everything left over in the fridge” soups that I talked about before. Kidney beans were used in place of the pasta, since I am gluten free.  I used 8 cups of veggie broth (of course) instead of the 4 cups called for so that I could add more veggies and LOTS of spinach.I found that sprinkling the soup with fennel seeds gives it the taste of sausage without the animal products! Also, I added a good handful of fresh chopped basil leaves and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. 
Delicious and satisfying. 

Until next time, my friends.