Recipe Round Up

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So, whatcha doin? Did everyone survive Thanksgiving and are you skidding into the Main Event (I’m not talking about Festivus) with a smile on your face and holiday cheer coming out of your ears? I’ve been working hard all year on being more mindful and present, and yet the Saturday after Thanksgiving (the Day of Reckoning with the Many Bins of Christmas Decorations) found me in a nasty surly funk. It started with a clogged vacuum cleaner (can’t I even have a clean house?) progressed to feeling overwhelmed with Stuff (multiple bins of decorations and no place to put everything), and there was a Final Straw that pushed me over the edge. And what, you ask, was that Final Straw? Well, less than one week later, I can’t even remember what it was. I just know that I lost it. So, obviously whatever it was just wasn’t worth it. And maybe that statement should be the punchline to most of my problems.

Anywho, I am doing my darnedest to be a better me. My latest find has been hot yoga. I can thank (or blame? 😉 ) a friend for that introduction. Yoga is something I had been wanting to take up for quite awhile, so my arm didn’t need much twisting. I think the combination of mindful focus, body awareness, challenge, oh, and the fact that you’re so stinkin’ hot and dripping wet with sweat that all the fight is drained out of you, leads to a certain calm. My monkey-mind chatter temporarily leaves the building because it is so disgusted with the slicker than a greased seal sweatiness. Oh, and did I mention it is sweaty? Really, I did? Regardless, I enjoy it.

But here’s what you really want, some recipes. Well I’ve been cooking up a bit of a storm the past month. We’ve entertained or brought food to potlucks many times recently, and I’ve found several great recipes.

First, here’s a great one for a roasted brussels sprouts, quinoa and dried cranberry salad. Before I give you the link, I warn you, this is from Thug Kitchen. I love Thug Kitchen. The combo of thuginess and healthy cooking is pure gold. But if you are offended by bad language, don’t go there. You’ve been warned! Don’t complain to me! Here’s the link: http://thugkitchen.com/post/66979503286/get-that-soupy-green-bean-shit-outta-here-cmon

Two great desserts are up next. Pumpkin mousse and brownie tart: http://melomeals.blogspot.com/2010/11/frugal-thanksgiving-recipes-part-3.html I’d recommend making it in a springform pan. And sweet potato chocolate spice cake. I have made this twice, and it is delicious. The second time I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free baking mix in place of the “regular” flour, and I omitted the baking soda. I did not use the caffix… I think that mostly is to darken the color. I prefered the cake with the gluten free mix, it baked more evenly and firmed up (the wheat flour version was yummy but kind of mushy). Here’s the recipe: http://anunrefinedvegan.com/2013/11/05/chocolate-sweet-potato-spice-cake/

Ok, what’s next… mmmm, how about some of the recipes I made for Thanksgiving? First off, the cranberry sauce. You simply cannot eat that icky ribbed from the can jelly stuff. Ick. It offends the senses. Plus it can’t be good for you. I made this recipe: http://iamahoneybee.com/2012/11/13/orange-cranberry-sauce/ With a few changes. I cut it in half (there were just 5 of us), I didn’t use the vanilla bean, and instead of using 1 cup of sugar as the recipe suggested, I used 2/3 cup of xylitol. Not familiar with xylitol? Check it out. I got kind of concerned halfway through making the sauce that it wouldn’t gel without cane sugar, but it worked! Oh, and when you make your own cranberry sauce–which is super easy–make sure to use a large pot. It will boil and foam up and if it spills over onto your stove, you will have one big mess to clean. Trust me.

What else, what else…oh, I know. This was my favorite thing I made on Thanksgiving, plus my kids wouldn’t touch it so I got to gobble up most of it myself. Roasted Delicata Squash and Cauliflower with Spinach. I started with this recipe: http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&catalogId=10002&productId=656746 Of course I don’t know what Wegman’s basting oil is (heck I don’t know what Wegman’s is… we certainly don’t have it where I live). So I prepped my squash as advised here: http://www.theroadtothegoodlife.com/2013/11/recipe-non-traditional-squash-sidedish.html I threw my squash slices (you don’t peel it! you eat the peel! Trust me!), my cut up cauliflower, a little olive oil, and a tiny pinch of sea salt and pepper into a big ziploc bag and mushed it around a bit, then threw it on a baking sheet and roasted it. Because some of the reviewers of the original recipe said that the spinach didn’t really wilt, I put my spinach in my serving dish with a small amount of water, and microwaved it for a minute. I drained out the water and then threw in my roasted veggies.

I also made this green bean and white bean dish: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/haricots-verts-and-white-beans-with-shallot-vinaigrette?crlt.pid=camp.VgAXebsvtL59 But I used canned beans, shhhh! I used this sweet potato and cinnamon recipe: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/11/26/3-course-vegan-and-gluten-free-holiday-menu-step-by-step/ But I roasted the sweet potatoes (I’m really not that big of a rebel, I just often fail to read recipes carefully). And for dessert, this vegan pumpkin pie: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/vegan-pumpkin-pecan-pie?crlt_pid=camp.ee2vuy59ilk6 If you make it, be sure to buy SILKEN tofu. It is sold in a box, not refrigerated, and I had to go to a health food store to find it–though some grocery stores may stock it. This was a big hit–kids liked it a lot, asked for seconds. Of course they did not know it had tofu in it.

And they never will.

Mwahahahahahaha.

Everyone Knows, The Most Delicious Part of the Muffin is the Top

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I bet that caught your attention.  And it is.  We can thank Elaine’s muffin-top addiction on Seinfeld for making the muffin-top a little bit of popular culture, paid homage by Jenna of 30 Rock in this slightly scandalous muffin top song.  I think she’s just talking about muffins.  Right? Right?

(I apologize, I couldn’t find a link that went directly into the song, so you get a little extra Jenna love.)

There is a link here… I made these delicious pumpkin pancakes, but they didn’t spread out much like pancakes are supposed to.  They reminded me more of muffin tops.  And it’s all good, folks. 

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

(if you look closely, these will resemble my whole grain vegan blueberry pancakes.  But pay attention cause I did switch things up a bit.  Don’t get carried away singing along to muffin top and throw the wrong ingredients in the bowl!)

Makes about a dozen pancakes

1/2 C pumpkin puree (I used canned, but knock yourself out and make it from scratch if that’s your thing)

2 T baking powder (hmmm, me thinks this is where my muffin tops came from… try scaling it back a bit for flatter pancakes)

1/2 t salt

1 t vanilla

1 t pumpkin pie spice

1 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 C oatmeal (uncooked oats)

1&1/2 C almond milk or milk of choice

3/4 t stevia (I used sweetleaf brand) or equivalent sweetener of your choice

Mix it all together.  Get your griddle nice and hot.  See my blueberry pancake recipe for pancake tips, here: https://inspiredbykim.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/vegan-whole-grain-blueberry-pancakes/ 

Drop by about 1/4 C portions on your griddle and cook ’em up.  Serve.  Well that was easy.

Muffin top pumpkin pancakes.  Suggestive song lyrics optional.

New Blender’s Maiden Voyages

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I am the happy recipient of a new Blendtec blender! Yeah me! Yeah birthdays! Plus it is always a joyous occasion to celebrate my 28th birthday, again… 😉

This blender was a major splurge but the timing was perfect. My old $30 blender had a bad seal and was leaking almond milk on the counter when I made my smoothies, and it looked like nasty stuff was growing in the base of it. Adding B12 to your diet may be important but I am pretty sure THAT is not the best way to get it! So I did a little research (ie hit the inter-tubes and quizzed my facebook friends). The VitaMix and Blendtec both seemed to have everything I would need, and the Blendtec won me on the twister jar (homemade almond butter, I’m looking at you right now) and the $100+ lower price tag.

blender recipes

The first concoction to grace my new blender was a strawberry-pineapple-coconut sorbet. MMMMM. Even my “I don’t eat milk that’s not from a cow” child ate it up. Since I was experimenting with the blender, I wasn’t measuring out ingredients, but I think it was about a cup of frozen strawberries, a cup of frozen pineapple chunks, and coconut milk–probably close to a cup, but I just poured it in as I blended until it hit the right consistency. This came out of the blender the consistency of sorbet, and while you might be able to do something similar in the food processor, I didn’t have to scrape down the sides or deal with a messy clean up project.

This morning I made a pineapple-carrot–ginger green smoothie. I never could have done carrots with the old blender. In went 3/4 C almond milk, 2 leaves worth of kale, 1 T chia seeds, about a 1/4″ slice of ginger, a handful of baby carrots and frozen pineapple, one banana, and a good handful of ice cubes. I first ran it on ice crusher, then ran it on smoothie. I am used to green smoothies getting stuck in my straw, but this was as smooth as the ones from the smoothie counters. For kids who are “used to” the idea of a green smoothie, this is also an easy way to sneak in extra vegetables. I really couldn’t taste the carrots but it was nice to have 4+ servings of fruits and veggies before 9 am!

Finally, I made a dressing for my salad at lunch that came out a lovely shade of pink. I’m calling it Pomegranate and Lime dressing. Pop in 1/3 C each raw cashews, pomegranate seeds, and apple cider vinegar, 2/3 C water, the juice of 1 lime, 1 t soy sauce, and about an 1/8″ thick slice of ginger. Whiz it up. Be sure to check that the pomegranate seeds are good and pulverized, and if you can plan ahead and soak the cashews you may have a slightly creamier dressing.

So what should I make next?

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Leek Soup: It’s like a hot bowl of fall, in under 30 minutes

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photo credit: Boaz Yiftach, freedigitalphotos.net

photo credit: Boaz Yiftach, freedigitalphotos.net


Yes, you heard me right… homemade from scratch soup in under 30 minutes. Of course, that’s if you use a pressure cooker. But even without a pressure cooker I bet you could have this done in about an hour or so, and it is well worth the effort. Rich and creamy… a hint of sweet from the apples… the flavors of Thanksgiving from sage, rosemary, and ginger… and the leeks give the hint of onion without overpowering the soup. My favorite Thanksgiving stuffing (which will be vegan-ized this year) combines apples and leeks for divine results, so I figured it would work well in my soup. The hubs and I loved this. My oldest, who usually eschews anything plant-based, actually ate a whole bowl of it. My other two tasted it, one liked it but wouldn’t eat any, the other didn’t like it (and he is the one I can usually count on to eat veggies… go figure). So, your mileage may vary, but give this hearty soup a try.

A note on vegetable broth… by all means make your own. I was saving time and used canned, and I was quite disappointed to see how much sodium it contained. Live and learn. I usually make my own and freeze it in quart containers but right now I’m fresh out. See my post here: https://inspiredbykim.wordpress.com/?s=stock for instructions. My next experiment will be to make it in the pressure cooker, but my PC won’t hold 4 quarts worth so I think the extra time to make it in a regular pot might be worth it for me. Especially now that we have these long, dark, cold nights… what better to do than babysit a stock pot? 😉

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Leek Soup
1 T (or less) olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into roughly even sized cubes about 1″
3 leeks
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, cut about the same size as your squash
2 cans of vegetable stock or, preferably, 3-4 cups of homemade vegetable stock
about a 1/2″ wide slice of ginger, or roughly 3/4 t minced ginger (don’t go overboard… too much would make it taste soapy… better to be subtle)
about 1 T each chopped fresh sage and rosemary (you could probably substitute about 1 t each dried if you don’t have fresh)

Directions: Put a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of your pressure cooker and let that heat over medium to medium-high heat. As you chop the squash, add that to the pot and stir occasionally so that it will start to brown up a bit. Continue chopping your apples and leeks, adding to the pot as you go. When you are done chopping all the veggies, the squash should have a bit of browning and things should be softening up. Add the stock and seasonings (no need to chop the ginger, just throw the chunk in, it will get smashed up later). Close and lock the pressure cooker, increase temp to high and bring it to high pressure. Reduce the heat and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Quick release the pressure. When it is safe to do so, open up your cooker. It will look like an unappealing pile of mush. Don’t fret. Take your immersion blender and pulverize it–everything should be very soft and break down easily into an even, creamy, caramel colored soup. Serve as is or top it with some pumpkin seeds, or swirl in some coconut cream, or sprinkle with more fresh herbs. Enjoy!

So my big question… which is more “fall”–butternut squash soup, or chili?

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut, Lime and Ginger

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The tastes of fall… with a little hint of the islands… and (shh, here’s the big secret) you make it in your pressure cooker! You’ll be eating fall in the islands without tending to a hot stove all evening. Truth be told, this is the first time I’ve used my pressure cooker for anything other than cooking dried beans. I had it out tonight for just that reason–to cook up some garbanzo beans, which came out great on high pressure for 35 minutes without pre-soaking. Since I already had the cooker out, and had been toying with making some kind of butternut/coconut soup, I googled around for a recipe as a starting point and took it from there. I started with this recipe from hip pressure cooking: http://www.hippressurecooking.com/cream-of-butternut-squash-ginger-soup/

I only had a red onion, so in it went. The recipe came together easily, and after 15 minutes of steaming away it was ready to blend with my immersion blender. Here’s what I changed… I added the zest and juice of one lime and a can (14 ounces or so) of lite coconut milk after I blended it. This made it creamy and the lime brightens up the flavors. Plus it will keep you from getting scurvy. Don’t underestimate scurvy.

Now, being that I’m NOT a food stylist, and blended butternut squash soup does not make a terribly striking picture, I’m not including a photo, but believe me, this is delicious. Sprinkling on pumpkin seeds and maybe a little lime zest in each bowl would make it fancier, or you could try plating it and then drizzling on the coconut milk to swirl into each serving if you want it super chic. I don’t care about looks, I just wanted to eat it up. After a week of very bland food (which is a story for another day), this made a delicious and very interestingly flavored meal for moi. Enjoy!

I’ve got to use my pressure cooker for more soups… this could be as big of a life saver as the slow cooker. Which seems ironic. What are your favorite pressure cooker recipes?

Crock Pot Curried Lentil Soup with Apples and Spinach

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Mmmm, fall. Soup season. Which naturally leads to Crock Pot season. Nothing feels better than walking into the house after a long day–of school/work during the week or sports and hiking on the weekend–and being greeted by the smells of a hot dinner, already prepared, because you are so freakin amazing as a culinary goddess that dinner is made. Bam. And a hot crock o’ healthy soup–just add a salad and maybe some bread, and you’re set.

So true confessions time, this was not a good weekend for me foodwise. And I’m looking at you, bread. What is it about bread? The hubs and I went out to dinner. Outback of all places. Are you shocked that it was hard for me to eat vegan at a place who’s signature is a slab-o-beef, and what passes for a veggie is only barely a veggie, dipped in batter, and deep fried, served up with a creamy sauce? We passed on the blooming onion but that hot crusty brown bread they bring to the table was hard for me to resist. I think I ordered the only near-diet-fitting-for-me thing on the menu–a sesame chop salad with ahi tuna. I have fish about once a month so that didn’t bother me. But aside from that one dish, I don’t think there was anything else on the menu I could have eaten. Oh well, live and learn. Then we had a fun party at a friend’s house replete with apple pie and cheesecake (baby slice, no more than a taste), and a church picnic (where I did stay vegan but I’m sure got more oil than normal), and I am feeling off track.

Therefore, I will be serving this soup without bread. In fact I already served it to myself–this was a Saturday afternoon project. I had an idea of what I wanted but couldn’t find the exact recipe, so I cobbled together different ideas and added my own seasonings. The result is really good, and lentils are so good for you–protein, fiber, tummy-filling goodness. The apples and curry give it a little bit of warmth and autumn flavor. The spinach can be stirred in to the hot soup when it’s done cooking–it will flash cook from the heat of the soup–or sprinkled on top of each bowl. I prefer it sprinkled as it makes a nice presentation.

lentil soup
image from freedigitalphotos.net By Gualberto107

Curried Lentil Soup with Apples and Spinach

8 C water
2 C brown/green lentils
1 small-medium red onion, minced
2 large carrots, minced
2 large stalks of celery, minced
2 large/3 small cloves garlic, minced
3 apples, peeled and chopped (cooking apples are prob. best but I used gala)
1/2 t black pepper
1 t mild curry powder (or more to taste)
1 cup (packed) chopped fresh spinach or more to taste
salt–to taste–about 1 t or so

Put all ingredients except spinach and salt in crock pot. (I throw the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in the food processor to mince.) Cook on low 8 hrs or high 4 hrs. Use an immersion blender to purée to desired consistency–I like it a little chunky–you can skip the blending altogether or make it totally smooth and anything in between. When soup is desired consistency, add salt to your preference (or omit) and either stir in spinach or sprinkle the chopped spinach directly on top of the soup in bowls.

You can probably increase the curry powder if you want a strong curry taste. The one teaspoon I used made it “present” but not overpowering. Or skip it altogether if you’re not a fan, I’m sure it would still be great without the curry.

What’s your favorite healthy crock pot creation? I need ideas!

Garden Harvest Chili

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(image credit Rosemary Ratcliff, freedigitalphotos.net)

Late August, at least this year, is my favorite time of the summer. The nights are starting to cool down while there is still plenty of sunshine and warmth during the day. There is just enough crispness in the air that you can tell fall is just around the bend. And the garden is bursting with fresh veggies waiting to be turned into healthy, beautiful meals.

(insert sound of brakes screeching to a halt here)

Unless of course you know Chad. Who, you ask, is Chad? Chad is what my children have named (named!) the squirrel who likes to hang out in our back yard. Chad has a lovely garden that I have carefully tended for him all summer. Chad has been enjoying a selection of micro greens, baby squash, and sunflowers. He is truly Eating to Live.

This does not make me happy.

While Chad’s cholesterol level and free radicals may be low, my ire is high. Four beautiful hills of squash–zucchinis, yellow squash, pattypan squash, butternut squash–and a hill of pumpkins, all grown from seed with nice healthy plants, trashed. I was giddy with excitement in late June when the squash started flowering, but my hopes were dashed within days when I saw that someone, nay, someTHING had chewed off every last flower. Two of the squash hills then entered a depressed state–learned helplessness I suspect–and then withered. The pumpkins, yellow squash, and butternut squash plants lived on though and set out some new vines with flower buds on them, ever hopeful of surviving the unquenchable squirrel appetite. I let myself once more grow optimistic, reasoning that in late summer, surely Chad has found plenty of berries and acorns to make his little rodent belly happy. Saturday morning, I spotted a yellow squash baby beginning to grow. I pointed out the little one inch long squash to my hubby and started to dream up recipes for it. Around lunchtime, I peeked at it to check on it’s three hours worth of growth, only to find the stem bitten off. CHAD!

Sadly, my squash are not alone. All of the greens I have planted are not to be seen. The seeds were new so I am sure they germinated, but some creature ate them as soon as the tiny shoots broke through the soil. We have rabbits in our area, too, so Chad may not be the sole perp. Kale, swiss chard, romaine, mesclun mix, cucumbers, radishes, morning glories, bush beans, pole beans… all nada. My squash plants made it up but the veggies and blossoms are robbed. Sunflowers are quickly decapitated upon blooming. Tomatoes, peppers, and basil planted from plants have survived, as has parsley planted from seed in a pot. I re-seeded my cucumbers and have one plant coming up, but at this point in the summer I am not hopeful it will get a chance to set fruit.

We’ve been able to enjoy lots of basil, as many jalapeños as we can tolerate, an occasional red bell pepper, and a dribble of cherry tomatoes. We have LOTS of unripe heirloom, roma, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes on the vine. I am optimistic that at least some of those will ripen before our first frost (it’s fair game around here after about September 15). But my brain is already twitching with plans for a fenced in garden for next summer to keep Chad and his vile posse of ravaging rodents out of my veggies!

In the meantime, if you have a productive garden you ought to have no problem coming up with the majority of the ingredients for this chili I put together the other night. If not, hit up the local produce area and you can pretend it came from your garden. Now really, no chili is truly “original”–the concept of chili has been done and re-done umpteen million times, but I made this without a recipe in front of me so I’m claiming it as my own.

Garden Harvest Chili
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
spritz of olive oil
1 sweet bell pepper (I used half of a red and half of a yellow)
2 jalapeño peppers, finely minced, more or less to your liking
1 t cumin
1/2 t coriander
about 1.5 t chili powder, more or less to your liking
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (or sub fresh tomatoes if yours, unlike mine, are ripe)
1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 small zucchini, quartered and then sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced in about 1/2″ cubes
1/2 C uncooked quinoa
1 C water

Spritz a large dutch oven with olive oil. Sauté onion, garlic, and peppers until soft. Add spices, cook about half a minute to toast the spices. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes until quinoa is cooked and potatoes/zucchini are softened. This resulted in the right consistency for me but you may need to add water or vegetable stock if you like a thinner chili.