Secret Family Recipe Barbecue Sauce

This sauce is sure to be a hit at your next Soiree.  Drizzle on tofu, veggies, noodles and more!

1 Cup Ketchup
1 twelve ounce can Beer (Budweiser)
3 cloves fresh Garlic (crushed)
1/8 cup Sugar
1/8 cup Molasses
Dash Sea Salt
Dash Black Pepper

Combine all in a small heavy bottom sauce pan.  Stir occasionally and simmer for at least 30 minutes until it reduces by half.  Use immediately or allow to cool completely and store in a tigthly sealed glass vessel for up to 2 weeks.


Vegan Clam Chowder

This recipe is fast, easy, filling and oh so comforting.  The kick of Old Bay Seasoning satisfies even the pickiest of eaters.

4 Russet Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 white or yellow Onion (finely diced)
1 Ear Fresh Corn (remove kernals)
3/4 Cup French Lentils (rinsed)
1 Quart Vegetable Broth
2 Cups Non-Dairy Milk (I used half coconut, half unsweetened almond)
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil

Begin by prepping potatoes, onion, corn and lentils.  Heat oil in large stock pot on medium high heat and add onion, lentils and corn.  Stir to coat and cook until onions soften and lentils and corn begin to toast.  Add potatoes and cook a few more minutes.  Add all seasonings (Old Bay, Nutmeg and Black Pepper) EXCEPT SALT.  Add all broth and non-dairy milk.  Reduce heat to lowest simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Lastly, add salt and taste test for seasoning levels.  Serve immediately with crusty bread or crackers.  Serve unused portion in refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Enjoy!


Veggie Lentil Chili

Did you know you don't need chili powder to make chili?  All you need is your own spices. Have you ever seen what kind of crap they put in some chili powder?  And have you ever noticed that all chili powder is, is a combination of spices that are probably in your pantry?  Here's the recipe - make some now :)

1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 Jalapeno Peppers
2 Carrots
2 Ribs Celery
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic
3 Tablespoons Paprika
3 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Tablespoon Oregano
2 Tablespoons Sugar (Optional)
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 16.5 Ounce Can Chili Beans
1 Small Can Tomato Paste
1 Quart Vegetable Broth
1 Tablespoon Canola or Olive Oil
1 Cup Lentils (any color)

Begin by finally dicing celery, carrots, onions, garlic and peppers (remove stems, ribs and seeds).  Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan and add all vegetables and aromatics.  Sauté until begins to get golden and add all salt, pepper, sugar and spices.  Deglaze pan with beans, tomato paste and vegetable broth.  Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Rinse lentils thoroughly and add to the pot.  Simmer covered for about 45 minutes to an hour or until lentils are tender.  Taste test for seasoning and add additional salt or sugar if needed.  Serve immediately or allow to cool and store in a tightly sealed glass vessel in refrigerator for up to one week.  Enjoy!


Roasted Rainbow Pepper Aioli

About 2 Cups assorted peppers, mild to hot.  I used mini red, yellow, orange, green, jalapeno and Thai Bird's Eye chilis
Sea Salt
Scant Drizzle Canola Oil
Parchment Paper
1 Cup Canola Oil

Begin by removing stems from all peppers.  Wash and slice lengthwise.  Coat in sea salt and a drizzle of oil.  Spread out into one even layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.  Add mixture to food processor and puree, scraping down sides as necessary.  While machine is running, drizzle in canola oil until emulsified.  Taste test and add additional sea salt if needed.  Store in large glass jar in refrigerator until ready to serve.  Use as a dip or sandwich spread.  Also goes great on your favorite pasta.


Roasted Garlic Hummus

I know, hummus AGAIN?!?!  But as all of you know, I am obsessed.  You can find lots of recipes on my site for mind-blowing hummus.  Most likely you have even made a batch or three.  I like to remind people to MAKE YOUR OWN!!  Have you ever noticed how expensive it is to buy?  Especially in the large containers where marketers claim you are getting a great deal.  Yup, and you even get those fillers, stabilizers, GMOs and preservatives to boot!  This easy recipe will not break your bank and I guarantee you and your family and friends will love it to the last drop.  They will probably ask you for the recipe. Get it here.

Roasted Garlic Hummus
2 sixteen ounce cans organic garbanzo beans
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 cup olive or canola oil
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
Juice of 4 small meyer lemons
6 cloves roasted garlic
Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

Roast peeled whole garlic cloves at 475 degrees F on cookie sheet for 15 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Drain garbanzo beans and add to food processor.  Add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, sea salt, black pepper and garlic. Puree until smooth and drizzle in oil while machine is running.  Taste test for seasoning levels and adjust to taste.  Too salty?  Add more lemon juice.  Too lemony?  Add more sea salt.  Transfer hummus to large glass vessel and store covered in fridge until ready to serve.  Voila!  Easy as pie!

Roasted Summer Vegetables 101

Tired of unevenly roasted boring vegetables?  Here are a few tips sure to have you and your dinner guests drooling over your veggie party platter.

Tip #1 Parchment Paper is your new best friend

Tip #2 A little oil, salt and pepper go a long way

Tip #3 Add fresh chopped yellow onion and a lion's share of whole garlic cloves to give vegetables a flavor kick

Tip #4 Use high heat and a timer

Tip #5 Allow veggies to cool before tossing with salad and cooked whole grains like rice, pasta, couscous and quinoa

This succulent and versatile summer veggie blend is made up of zucchini, summer squash, yellow onion and garlic. Veggies got tossed in 1 tablespoon of canola oil and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Spread out in to one even layer on a large peice of parchment paper on your largest baking sheet.  Bake at 475 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool on baking sheet to desired temperature.  Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.  Store unused portion in refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Authentic Thai Cucumber Salad

You know the stuff.  You get it in teeny tiny bowls at your favorite Thai joint.  Then you order a huge plate of it for two bucks and some change because you can't get enough and your lunch date ate most of it anyway.  It's tangy, sour and sweet and now you want some.  This satisfying side dish is easy to throw together and it costs next to nothing.  Here is what you need:

Authentic Thai Cucumber Salad
1 Large Cucumber
1/2 Small Red Onion
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 Bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Serrano Chili Pepper
1 Jalapeno Pepper
Sea Salt
Roasted Peanuts (for garnish, optional)

Begin by peeling cucumber.  Slice lengthwise and remove seeds using a spoon.  Slice thinly and set in a collander.  Next slice onion thinly and add to collander.  Cut peppers in half and remove white ribs and seeds.  Dice these finely and add to collander.  Sprinkle mixture with a generous amount of sea salt, toss with a spoon and set aside for 30 minutes (put a plate underneath to catch the liquid the salt will draw out of the mixture).  

Now rinse mixture thoroughly with cold water and shake off excess liquid, squeezing or you could spin it in a salad spinner.  In a large glass bowl, add sugar and vinegar.  Allow sugar to dissolve and add cucumber mixture.  

Stir to combine and add finely chopped cilantro.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with chopped roasted peanuts, if desired.


Baked Jalapeño Corn Tortilla Chips

Okay folks, remember yesterday when I told you I was Mexican?!  Well, surprise, I'm not.  But the fact is I can NOT get enough Mexican food.  Instead of stopping at the grocery store for a gigantic bag of tortilla chips, I decided to make my own.  Since I am trying to cut calories to lose a few pounds before Summer, I decided to bake them instead of deep-frying (my usual method).

I really didn't want them to come out dry so I decided to coat them in a little oil before baking them.  But guess what!?  I used up all my oil making yesterday's Jalapeno Spread.  Solution = Coat them in the spread.  Result?  Genius.

So if you want to replicate these bad boys to the letter, you are going to have to make the Jalapeno Spread Recipe first.  Now, I'm not going to lie, they did come out a little dry.  But since they really are just a vehicle to get things like veggie chili and pico de gallo in to my mouth, I really didn't mind.

Baked Jalapeno Corn Tortilla Chips
6 Corn Tortillas
Jalapeno Spread
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 300 Degrees F.  Begin by cutting your tortillas into fours.  Put them in a large bowl and using your hands, coat them gently with a couple teaspoons of the spread.  Make sure both sides are thoroughly coated.  Place them into an even layer on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment or non-stick aluminum foil.  Don't worry if they overlap a little.  Sprinkle with a little Sea Salt, if desired. Bake for 30 minute, turning over once halfway through cooking and check for golden brown doneness.


Jalapeno Spread

I am obsessed with all things spicy.  I'm pretty sure I'm Mexican underneath my white ass exterior.  But anyway, I digress.

Grab some fresh Jalapenos, roast them to perfection and make it rain!  This spread goes great on just about anything.  It is also simply delicious on a big, fat spoon.  Vamanos!

Jalapeno Spread
6-8 Fresh Jalapenos
4 Cloves Fresh Garlic
1/2 Red Onion
Canola oil
Sea Salt & Pepper
Fresh squeezed Lime
Fresh Cilantro

Begin by prepping your Jalapeno Peppers.  Wearing rubber gloves is a great idea.  Chop stems, slice lengthwise and remove white ribs and seeds.  Place them in a large roasting pan along with rough chopped red onion and whole garlic cloves (remove skins from both).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Drizzle with a little canola oil, sea salt and black pepper.  Toss to coat and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until skins blister slightly.  Turn off oven and remove roasting pan from oven.

When mixture has cooled to touch, add all to food processor along with 1 bunch fresh cilantro (wash thoroughly) and juice of a few limes.  Turn on machine and drizzle in more canola oil until desired consistency is achieved.  Serve immediately or refrigerate unused portion for up to 5 days.


Coffee Ice Cubes

Beloved readers - I know it has been a minute since I have posted.  2014 has been a whirlwind and it's only likely to get busier as Summer is fast approaching!

On that note I have been finding myself needing a little more caffeine than usual.  Next time you make coffee, make an extra cup or two and pour it into an ice cube tray.

When the mood for iced coffee strikes, save yourself some coin by making your own.  As the cubes melt, your coffee won't get dilluted.  Or throw them in your high-powered blender along with your favorite creamer and sweetener (if desired) and Voilia!  You have your very own Frappacino and it won't cost 14 dollars at StarFu€k$.


Ground Tofu "Beef"

Convenience vegan prepackaged foods like ground soy meat are fine every once in a while but for a lot less money you can make your own faux ground beef  out of extra firm tofu and tailor the seasoning levels to suit your taste.  Today I went asian with my seasonings because I wanted to use the faux meat for stir fry.  Give it a try.  It is easy to make and fun to eat.  Your kids might even like it - mine sure do!

Ground Tofu "Beef"
2 one-pound packages extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (like Lawrys)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 inch knob fresh ginger (mince finely)
1 clove fresh garlic (mince finely)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Strain and press tofu to drain as much liquid as possible.  Cut into cubes and mix with all ingredients.  Place mixture in a casserole dish and bake for 1 1/2 hours stirring every 1/2 hour to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and use immediately or allow to cool before storing in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Use in stirfry, soup, stews, shepard's pie, sandwiches, burritos and more!


Best Beer Batter

2 Cups Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 1/2 Stellas (or beers of choice)

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

Your Spices of choice!

i.e. Old Bay, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Nutmeg, Lawrys, Mrs. Dash's or whatever you have on hand.

Mix dry ingredients together, then add beer.  Drink the rest of the beer, then drink another beer,  letting batter set for 15 minutes.  Coat any and all veggies, tofu or whatever you desire.

Fry in 375 Degree Oil until golden.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt and serve immediately with dipping sauces of choice.


Vegan Hawaiian Rolls

2 Packets Active Dry Yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 teaspoon White Pepper
4 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
1 1/4 Cups Coconut Water
Olive Oil Baking Spray
Muffin Tin

Add all ingredients to bread machine and set dough cycle.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When dough cycle is finished form loose balls of dough and place in muffin tin sprayed generously with Olive Oil baking spray.  Cover loosely with a lint free towel and allow to rise 45 minutes or intil doubled in size.  Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes in pan.  Remove from tin and serve immediately.


Fully Loaded Vegetable Tamale Pot Pie

Admittedly this recipe is a little time consuming but totally worth every minute.  It combines two of my favorite things, tamales and pot pies.  You can go traditional pot pie by topping it with rich, buttery gravy or take it mexican by pairing it with your favorite sides and sauces.  Either way I think you will agree, this filling comfort food dish is a true genius mash up.  Make some!

Fully Loaded Vegetable Tamale Pot Pie

Tamale "Crust"
4 Cups Masa Harina (Corn Flour)
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Stick Vegan Butter (1/2 Cup)
1/8 Cup (any) Oil
3 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 teaspoon finely ground Black Pepper
Parchment Paper
Alluminum Foil

2 Russet Potatoes
2 Carrots
2 Ribs Celery
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 Cup Green Peas (frozen or canned is fine)
8 Button Mushrooms
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
Additional Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Dash of any oil for sauteeing mushrooms)

Reserved liquid from boiled vegetables
1 to 2 Cups Vegetable Broth (depending how much reserved liquid you have)
4 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
4 Tablespoons Flour
Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Begin by finely chopping potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots.  Put all in a pot of water with 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt and bring to a boil.  Cook just until potatoes are tender and strain (reserving liquid for later use in gravy).  Set vegetable mixture aside.  Slice mushrooms into thin slices.  In another saute pan, heat a little oil and saute mushrooms with a little salt until golden brown.  Set aside.

Tamale "Crust":
Time to make the Tamale "Crust".  In a large bowl combine Masa Harina, Salt, Pepper and Baking Powder.  Melt butter and add to Masa mixture.  Add oil and stir to combine.  Lastly add vegetable broth 1 cup at a time, stirring gently to incorporate until combined.  Set aside.

Time to assemble your pot pie!  Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit.  In a very large casserole dish place a peice of parchment paper larger than the dish so it fills dish and comes up the sides.  

Spoon half the Masa mixture into dish on top of parchment.  Spread mixture so you have one even layer about 3/4 inch thick.  Top with mushrooms, peas and vegetable mixture.  Press down slightly.  

Put remaining Masa mixture on top and press down into one even layer.  It helps if you wet your hands and do this.  

Don't worry if a few vegetables are peaking through.  Just do your best.  You are basically creating one giant tamale and it doesn't have to be perfect!  It is fine to "smoosh" the vegetables in between the layers.  Finally bring up the sides of parchment that were hanging over and fold a top casserole like a present.  

Use another peice of parchment to ensure top is covered and touching parchment on all sides.  Secure top with tin foil.  This creates a steam pocket for your masterpiece to cook.

Okay time to cook!  Put casserole dish on a large sheet tray and place in oven.  Pour water on sheet tray so it helps your tamale stay moist while steaming.  Be sure to check every 30 minutes while cooking and replenish water bath as needed.  Bake for at least 90 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave it in there for another 15 minutes.  You can check doneness (careful, it's steamy in there) by checking if the Masa has "set" and is no longer "wet".  Do NOT overcook because it will come out dry.  

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Keep in mind the Masa will continue to cook/set even after it has been removed from oven.  

In a large sauce pan melt vegan butter over medium heat and add flour.   Whisk to combine and cook until golden.  Add broth and reserved liquid 1 cup at a time.  Add salt and pepper.  Bring to a gentle boil while whisking and then reduce to a simmer.  Taste test for seasoning levels.  Keep covered until ready to serve.  

Cooking times of tamale pot pie may vary based on individual ovens.

Serving suggestion:  serve with gravy and fresh chopped parsley.  If you want to go more traditional Mexican serve this pie alongside some pinto beans and your favorite salsa or hot sauce.  For example, check out my Arbol Fire Sauce recipe for inspiration.  Enjoy!!

Make it Mexican by topping it with this yumminess....

Arbol Fire Sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 red hot chili (dried or fresh with stem removed)
2 cups water
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all in your high speed blender and then warm in a sauce pan for serving. Be sure to cover your blender with a towel and keep your hand on the top to avoid a tomato explosion in your kitchen. Trust me on this one. Serve immediately with your tamale cake and store any unused portion in refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass vessel for up to one week. ENJOY.


Taco Salad Salsa

If you have checked out my blog you know that I love making fresh salsa and that I rarely suggest canned ingredients.  However, this one stores well for days on end and goes great topped on mixed greens with avocado, a dollop of vegenaise and crushed tortilla chips for a great taco salad.  

It is a perfect way to have salad in a snap because you have already done the chopping ahead of time.  Of course if you just despise the idea of using canned beans, feel free to make your own and use them in this recipe.

Taco Salad Salsa
1 16 ounce Can Pinto Beans
1 16 ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 Yellow Onion
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic
2 Jalapeno Peppers
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Juice and zest of 1 Lime

Drain, rinse and strain pinto beans and add to a large glass bowl along with the whole can of diced tomatoes (juice and all).  Dice onion, peppers and garlic and toss those in.  (Your choice if you leave ribs and seeds in the jalapeno peppers, just remember that will add heat).  Thoroughly clean and chop cilantro and add it in along with lime, salt, sugar and other seasonings.  Stir gently but thoroughly and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit on counter for at least 30 minutes.  Store in fridge until ready to use.


Double Crust Brandy Pot Pie

Top and bottom crust with a rich filling of red potatoes, carrots, onion and peas all spiked with a healthy dose of brandy.  This comfort food will leave you feeling full and warm like you've just been hugged.  

Double Crust Brandy Pot Pie

2 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Stick Earth Balance
4-6 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Tablespoon Brandy
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

4 Red Potatoes
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Carrot
1/8 Cup Parsley
1/3 Cup Frozen Green Peas
6 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Non Dairy Milk
3 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Brandy
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Dash of any oil and pat of vegan butter
Dash of White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg

Begin by making pie crust.  You can use your food processor or make it the old fashioned way.  Combine flour, salt and cold vegan butter(cut into cubes).  Slowly add brandy and water and combine (pulse) just until it comes together.  Do not overmix or your crust will come out tough.  Wrap dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Now on to the filling.  Get all of your root vegetables and herbs ready for action.  Peel potatoes and chop into cubes, set aside.  Finely dice onion and chop carrots into bite sized chunks, set aside.  Measure out peas and finely chop parsley, set aside.  

In a large pan heat a little vegan butter and oil over medium heat (about 3 Tablespoons combined).  Add chopped potatoes, onions and carrots and stir to coat.  Sprinkle with salt, white pepper, nutmeg and flour.  Stir to coat and then add broth slowly.  Bring to a gentle boil and then add non dairy milk and brandy.  

Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, allow to reduce (simmer down) slightly.  Taste test for seasoning level.  Gravy should coat back of spoon and be quite flavorful.  Turn off heat, add peas and parsley.  Stir, taste and set aside to cool slightly while you tackle your crust.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit. Take crust out of refrigerator, split and roll out as desired.  You can split it and make a top and bottom crust, as shown, or you can make one large top crust and put the pie together in a large casserole dish.  Perfection is not required here!

Assemble pie as desired and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.  Cooking times may vary slightly based on thickness of crust and size of pan.  Serve immediately with additional finely chopped parsley.


Double Citrus Black Beans

I love making beans from scratch.  The result is far superior to anything that comes out of a tin can.  You can also tailor the spice level to suit your individual preference.  These Double Citrus Black Beans are an Ode to my late Mother who, like me, adored all things Mexican!  Enjoy!!

Double Citrus Black Beans
1 Pound Dried Black Beans
10 Cups Water
1 Yellow Onion
6 Cloves Garlic
2 Small Oranges (Satsumas work well)
2 Limes
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt (add when beans finish cooking)

Begin by soaking beans in a large pot of cold water for 6 hours or overnight.  Strain and rinse and add beans to large pot along with 10 Cups of cold water.  Chop onion in half, remove peel and add to pot along with whole peeled garlic, bay leaves and oregano.  Zest 1 lime and add lime zest to pot.  Slice zested lime and 1 orange in half and add all of their juice to pot.  You can even just throw them in there if you like (I did).  

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and stir.  Reduce to lowest simmer, keep lid cocked to the side and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until all beans are tender.  Now turn off heat and add salt.  Allow to sit covered for 10 minutes and then strain out most of the excess liquid leaving a little to keep beans moist.  This is all in personal preference to how "soupy" you like your beans.  You might even want to retain the liquid for making soup later on.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove onions, garlic, lime, orange and bay leaves as best you can and discard.  They have already done their job.  Now lastly add juice of remaining lime and orange and stir to combine.  Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature and store in tightly sealed glass vessel for up to one week in refrigerator.


Fill Up Your Produce Drawers

The number one tip I can offer anyone who is trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their lives is as simple as this:  Fill up your produce drawer!

I know this sounds really easy, but if you are like a lot of folks out there, your produce often goes bad before you use it all.  One way to help eliminate this dillemna is to shop smart, wash and sort produce as soon as you get home, so it is ready at a moments notice.

Here are some great staples to load up on and help you eat more vegetables and fruits.  Find a market you trust where they sell mostly produce.  Buy the following (or pick and choose what you like using this as a suggested guide):

Green or Red Leaf Lettuce
Red and Yellow Onions

Believe it or not, I got all of this (and then some) for 40 dollars.  You can too and your family and pocketbook will be happier for it.  You might surprise yourself how many more veggies and fruits you will eat.

Okay so you got all this great stuff, now what?!  Thoroughly wash and dry the following and store individually in ziploc bags in your produce drawer:
(For greens and herbs, try putting a folded paper towel in the ziploc for absorbing excess moisture).

Green or Red Leaf Lettuce (Ziploc with paper towel)
Kale (Ziploc with paper towel)
Spinach (Ziploc with paper towel)
Celery (Bag)
Leeks (Bag)
Parsley (Ziploc with paper towel)
Cilantro (Ziploc with paper towel)
Basil (Ziploc with paper towel)
Broccoli (Ziploc)
Carrots (Bag)
Cucumbers (Bag)
Jalapenoes (Bag)

For the following, here is how I like to store these:

Mushrooms (Produce drawer as is)
Avocados (fruit bowl on counter)
Tomatoes (fruit bowl on counter)
Red and Yellow Onions (hanging basket by stove)
Garlic (hanging basket by stove)
Ginger (Produce drawer as is)
Apples (fruit bowl on counter)
Oranges (fruit bowl on counter)
Limes (fruit bowl on counter)
Lemons (fruit bowl on counter)

The number of things you can make with this bounty is limitless.  Just having things like fresh herbs, lettuce, spinach and kale might make your ordinary salad a lot more enticing.  You also have everything you need to make a lovely fresh salsa, rocking guacamole, a cucumber salad, fresh pesto, soup galore and a kick-ass stirfry!  Now that it is all sorted and washed, you really have no excuse.

And sure, you can buy bags of that prewashed stuff, but do you ever notice how fast those go bad!?  Or how expensive they are?!  Invest a little time picking and washing your own, you won't regret it.  Happy eating!!

Leek Lentil Soup

Sometimes simple is best.  This rings true for this few ingredient Leek Lentil Soup.  So warm up your belly and soul on a chilly Winter evening with this soothing and savory simple soup.  You won't miss the chicken!  I swear!

Leek Lentil Soup
3 Leeks
2 Ribs Celery
1 Carrot
1 Cup Red Lentils
6 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
1 Bay Leaf

Begin by chopping and thoroughly washing leeks.  I suggest soaking them in a couple changes of cold water in a large bowl.  Heat up oil in large pot over medium heat and add chopped leeks.  Now add salt, stir and prepare other veggies.  Chop celery and carrot into bite size peices.  Once leeks have cooked for about 5-7 minutes, add celery, carrot and bay leaf.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Rinse lentils and add to pot.  Stir veggies and add water, two cups at a time.  Bring to a gentle boil and reduce to lowest simmer.  Cover pot with lid and cook for 12-15 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Taste test for seasoning level.  Serve immediately and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper, if desired.


Easy Bread Machine Pizza Crust

Pizza!  One of those all time favorite comfort foods.  This is a simple recipe that can be enhanced with any of your favorite toppings.  I suggest par-baking the crust so you ensure you can obtain a crispy exterior texture with a chewy interior.  This recipe will make two medium pizzas or one extra large pizza.

Easy Bread Machine Pizza Crust
3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
1 Cup Luke Warm Water
2 1/4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (or 1 packet)
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar (optional)
2 Tablespoons Olive or Canola Oil

Add water, yeast and sugar to bread machine.  Allow to sit about 5 minutes.  Next add Flour, Salt and Oil.  Set machine to "Pizza Dough" or "Dough" setting.  Run machine and voila!  You have beautiful dough!  Use immediately or wrap in saran wrap securely and use within 2 days.

Cooking suggestion:  Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F.  Press, pull and stretch pizza dough onto a large peice of parchment paper on a large sheet tray.  Poke lots of holes in dough using a fork.  Kids love to help with this step!  Par Bake on center rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, add thin layer of desired toppings and return to oven (top rack).  Bake for another 5-7 minutes.  For extra crispy crust, cook crust directly on oven rack during this last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Serving suggestion:  Drizzle with good olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic and sea salt.  Makes a great flatbread or pizza base.

Get my Best Pizza Sauce recipe here too:



Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I stumbled across this recipe and, although the original recipe is not vegan, converting it is not difficult.  I have never been a huge Cauliflower fan so I have been on a quest to fall in love with it by experimenting with new cooking techniques.  This one hit the mark!  Check it out at:  http://food52.com/recipes/24387-alon-shaya-s-whole-roasted-cauliflower-and-whipped-goat-cheese


5 Grain Granola

I love granola but I tend to find storebought versions cloyingly sweet and quite expensive so I rarely buy them.  This easy to follow recipe allows you to control the sweetness and can be tailored with ingredients of your liking.

5 Grain Granola
1 Cup Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain Cereal Blend
1 Cup Bob's Red Mill Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
2 Tablespoons Flax Seeds
3/4 Cup Raw Chopped Pecans
3/4 Cup Raw Cashews Halves
1/8 Cup Coconut Oil (Melted)
1/8 Cup Vegan Butter (Melted)
1/3 Cup Maple Agave Blend Syrup
1 teaspoon Course Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.  Preheat oven to 250 Degrees F.  Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet tray.  Spread mixture evenly into a large "cookie" pressing it down slightly (see photo) on parchment and bake for about 1 hour or until it appears golden throughout.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on sheet tray before breaking into large nuggets and store in a tightly sealed glass vessel.

By allowing granola to cool in large "cookie" shape you will end up with plenty of large "clusters/gold nuggets" in your finished product.  To acheive this, do not mix granola around during cooking.  Don't worry if the edges are a little brown, they will be nutty and delicious when cooled.  Enjoy!


Perfect Potato Wedges

6 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/4 Cup Peanut Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Dried Minced Onion
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
Parchment Paper
Large Aluminum Sheet Pan

Begin by peeling and chopping potatoes into large wedges.  Soak in cold water for 1 to 12 hours.  Strain and thoroughly dry potatoes.  Toss and coat potatoes with remaining ingredients.  Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.  Place a piece of parchment paper on sheet pan and arrange coated wedges into one even layer.  Put in preheated oven and bake for 1 hour or until golden and tender.  You may want to flip wedges over halfway through cooking time if they seem to be browning or cooking unevenly.  Allow to cool slightly and add additional salt if needed.


Eggplant Pepper Dip

This unique dip packs a mega Umami punch and goes great with all your favorite veggies, chips and crackers or smothered on tacos, burritos, tamales and more!

Eggplant Pepper Dip
1 medium Eggplant
2 dried Santa Fe Chili Peppers (seeds and ribs can be removed)
4 cloves Garlic
1/2 yellow Onion
1/4 Cup fresh Basil
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper
Oil of choice
Pinch of Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 bunch Fresh Cilantro

Begin by washing, destemming, peeling and rough chopping eggplant, peppers, garlic, onion and basil.  Toss with a generous drizzle of oil, cumin, salt and pepper in a large roasting pan.  Roast at 400 degrees F for about 30-35 minutes or until caramelized (golden brown).  Remove and allow to cool slightly.  Add all to food processor along with lemon, sugar and fresh cilantro.  Puree and while machine is running, drizzle in water until desired consistency is achieved.  Although it might not be the prettiest dish, the flavor is unmatched!


Portabella Mushroom Quinoa

One of my tricks for cooking perfect Quinoa is to cook it by itself with only water.  This way, I ensure I get the right texture on the quinoa and my vegetables and aromatics come out caramelized and not overcooked.  

Quinoa is not only a superfood, it is also gluten free and lower in carbohydrates than it tastes.  This "beefy" comfort dish will leave you feeling full and warm.  Give it a try.  I know you will love it!

Portabella Mushroom Quinoa
10 small Portabella Mushrooms
1 large Yellow Onion
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 can Massel "Beef" Bouillon
1 Cup Quinoa (Red, White, Yellow or Multi-Color)
3 Cups Water
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Begin by dicing onion and mushrooms.  Heat a large saute pan with oil and add mushrooms and onions.  Saute on medium low heat and add bouillon powder, stiring occasionally.  Continue sauteeing on low heat until mushrooms and onions carmelize, reducing by half.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot add 3 cups water and 1 cup quinoa.  Bring to a boil, stir and reduce heat to simmer.  Put lid on pot and set timer for 15 minutes.  When quinoa is finished, add it to mushroom mixture.  Stir to combine.  Serve immediately or allow to cool and store in refrigerator.  Reheats well.  Can be garnished with salt and pepper, as desired.


Vegan Taco Bell Salad

Oh Taco Bell, how you tempt me so!  I have always loved you.  What I really love about you though?!  One word, SAUCE.  This  is why I always stock up on a lions share of your sauce packets, to stock my pantry of course.  I've tried the stuff in the bottle from the grocery store but it's not the same.

Fortunately for vegans, Taco Bell actually has some decent options.  Just avoid the meat and dairy and you are pretty safe.  That is, if you eat fast food.  Of course, I, like most folks, try to keep fast food intake to a minimum but when the craving strikes, Taco Bell gets my money.

This is not a promotional blog post about Taco Bell, although it does feel like that.  Let's proceed to my favorite fast lunch, homemade Vegan Taco Bell Salad.  If you know anything about me, you know I was Mexican in a former life.  Here goes:

Vegan Taco Bell Salad - serves 2
4 Cups Green Leaf Lettuce (hand torn)
1 Cup Cooked and Cooled Pinto Beans (homemade or canned is okay)
1 Cup Tortilla Chips (multicolored or flavored is fine)
1 Ripe Avocado
1 Tablespoon Vegenaise
1/4 Cup Salsa (homemade or jarred is okay)
2 teaspoons Nutritional Yeast
4-6 Taco Bell Sauce Packets (mild, hot and/or fire) optional

Tear up lettuce, chop Avocado, spoon on salsa, vegenaise and yeast, crush up tortilla chips, toss in a bowl and plate as desired.  Pictured prior to crushing chips and tossing altogether because it looked prettier.  This salad is also great with the addition of diced onion and chopped cilantro, I just didn't have any on hand.  Be sure to serve immediately or the chips will loose their CRUNCH.  Yum.  Eat.  Repeat.  Save your money and just grab some sauce packets.  Enjoy!

Simple Lentil Soup

Fast.  Easy.  Low Carb.  Simple.  Comforting.  Soul-Satisfying.  Savory.  Filling. Low Calorie.

Simple Lentil Soup
1 Cup French Green Lentils
1 Yellow Onion
1 Leek
8 Cups Water
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
4 Vegetable Buillion Cubes
1 Bay Leaf
Dash of Olive Oil

Begin by rinsing lentils in a fine mesh strainer and set aside.  Thoroughly clean and trim ends from leek.  Finely chop onion and leek and saute both in a large pot in a dash of Olive Oil until onion starts to brown.  Add lentils and remaining ingredients and stir.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to lowest simmer.  Simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils reach desired texture.  Remove bay leaf (or leave bay leaf in and whoever gets it in their bowl gets to make a wish!). and serve immediately.  Allow leftovers to cool before storing in tightly sealed container in refrigerator.


Cheesy Spinach Ravioli Filling

This will yield about 2 Cups of filling that can be used to make ravioli, manicotti, lasagna or whatever you like.  You could also just mound it on top of steaming hot pasta and have a delicious meal.

Cheesy Ravioli Filling
1 Cup Raw Cashews (soaked for 12-24 hours in water)
3 T Nutritional Yeast
1 t Sea Salt
1/2 t White Pepper
1/8 t Ground Nutmeg
2 Scallions (Green Onions)
1 Large Bag Baby Spinach
1/4 Bunch Fresh Parsley (Italian Flat Leaf or Curly)

Begin by wilting spinach in a large pot with water and salt.  Strain and set aside allowing to cool to touch.  Rough chop scallions and garlic and combine with all other ingredients (except spinach) in food processor and blend until fine texture is achieved, scraping down sides as needed. 

Squeeze excess liquid from spinach using your hands or in a lint-free dish towel.  Add spinach to mixture and pulse until desired texture is achieved and spinach is incorporated.  Use immediately or store in a tightly sealed glass vessel in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Red Rainbow Quinoa

Oh Quinoa!  Let me count the ways I love you!  You are gluten and grain free!  You are so versatile!  My kids love you!  You are so filling!  You pack a punch with your complete protein and amino acid party!  I really can't get enough of you!  

This spicy, easy dish will leave your belly satisfied and won't burn a hole in your budget!  Eat it on it's own, stuff it in a burrito, pile it on a salad.  Your life will be forever changed by this humble dish.

Red Rainbow Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Quinoa (Red, White, Yellow or a combination of all three)
1 Tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 Cup Pico De Gallo (store bought or homemade, get the recipe Here )

Begin by thoroughly rinsing quinoa in a fine mesh strainer with cold water.  Strain and add to a medium sized pot along with 2 cups water.  Turn on heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to lowest simmer, cover pot with a lid and set a timer for 15 minutes.

If you are making your own Pico De Gallo, make that now while Quinoa is cooking.  Turn off heat and remove lid.  Add Braggs to Quinoa with fluff with a fork.  Lastly, add 1 Cup Pico De Gallo to cooked Quinoa and serve immediately.  Store unused portion in refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass vessel.  Can be reheated later, eaten cold or at room temperature.  Makes about 1 Quart or 4 Cups.


Easy Mole Sauce

Okay seriously, Mole sounds like a daunting task.  Just throw together some 20 ingredients and magically you have the flavor profile of Mole!  Right?!  Well, it goes something like that.  And today, this is how it went down in my kitchen.  Get a little adventurous with your spice rack.  You may surprise yourself.  I know I sure did!  Mole!!!

I didn't measure precisely on this one so just trust your own palate.  Just start with a couple teaspoons and tablespoons or so of each Ingredient. You can always add more as you go if you want it sweeter, saltier, spicer or more bitter.  This batch came out fairly spicy but not over the top.

Easy Mole Sauce
2 Dried Ancho Chilis
2 Dried Pasilla Ancho Chilis
2 Dried Santa Fe Chilis
2 T Pure Cocoa Powder
2 T Brown Sugar
1 t Salt
1 T Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Raisins
1/8 Cup Mixed Nuts (cashew, peanut, almond)
1 T Peanut Butter
1 t Coriander
4 Whole Cloves
6 Whole Black Peppercorns
1 t Thyme
2 T Massel "chicken" flavor buillion powder
1/2 Cup Brewed Dark Coffee
8 Cups Water
4 Garlic Cloves
1/2 Red Onion
Dash of Canola Oil (for sauteeing garlic and onion)

Remove stems from dried chilis, discard stems and put chilis in a large pot.  Cover with 8 cups of water, cover and turn on heat to high.  When water begins to boil, add ALL other ingredients EXCEPT GARLIC and ONION.  Reduce heat to simmer, stir to combine and cover pot with lid.  Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  

Meanwhile, In a separate saute pan, heat a dash of Canola Oil over medium heat and add whole garlic cloves and roughly chopped onion.  Reduce heat to low and saute mixture until garlic and onions begin to brown.  Turn off heat and set aside.  Also turn off heat of spice/broth mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.  Add onion mixture to spice/broth mixture and stir well.

Now In 2-3 batches, blend mole at high speed in blender.  You only want your blender about 1/2 full so mixture does not blow out the top!  Be sure to cover top with secure lid, a dish towel and a strong hand!  Once all batches have been well blended, pour mixture through a fine seive (mesh strainer) so as to remove any unwanted seeds and clumps.  Press and stir mixture in strainer with back of a spoon so you get all the good thick liquid separated.  Voila!  You should now have at least one quart of luscious Mole sauce to use on whatever your belly desires!  This would be great drizzled on rice or to coat tofu for burritos, tacos, tamales and more!