Friday, July 1, 2016

Delicious Quinoa Cucumber Salad with Zesty Lime Vinaigrette!

It's hot here in California! It's been over 100 degrees F for the last several days, so I was looking for something cool and refreshing to cut the outside heat. This salad is cold, refreshing, zesty, and bold, so it fit the bill in many ways, for us. I cooked a big pot of quinoa ahead of time, and froze the leftovers. The rest of the ingredients come together quickly and easily, getting you out of the kitchen before the heat sets in. 


For the Dressing:
Juice of 1 Lime 
1 tsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Honey
Few drops of Sesame Oil

1 Cup Cooked Quinoa*
1/2 Cucumber, peeled and diced small (1/4 inch)
1/4 of a whole Red Bell Pepper, diced small
1 slice of a large Red Onion, diced small
1/4 C fresh Italian Parsley, chopped fine
1/8 to 1/4 C (to taste) fresh Cilantro, chopped fine
1 oz Walnuts, chopped fine

In a large bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until blended. Add all of the salad ingredients and combine well. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving if desired. Garnish with more chopped walnuts and fresh herbs to serve.

2 to 3 servings.

* The best way I have found to cook quinoa is from I make a big batch, and freeze what I don't need right away in 1 cup portions.

Spiced Garlicky Mussels with Lemon-Miso!

I started a whole grains-plant based diet four months ago for health reasons. Initially, I was hard-core. No meat, dairy, or eggs, very little fat, and no processed foods. I lost about 10 lbs and felt great! Cutting out all of those foods for awhile was really beneficial, as I lost the cravings for butter and cream, and all of those other animal-based comfort foods that I was totally hooked on. Eventually, I progressed to adding some healthy fats to my diet (avocados and nuts), and finally I'm at the point where I've learned to make good, healthy choices (most of the time), which means that I basically eat whatever I want at the time. Most of the time, I eat whole grains and plants, but if I'm craving seafood, or chocolate, it's on! I've learned to make good choices, so today, when I had a craving for shellfish, I chose mussels, which have less cholesterol than other shellfish choices.

My challenge was to create a meal with Mussels that had all of the richness and flavor of my previous butter and cream-laden versions, while still trying to keep it pretty healthy. This recipe is so rich and flavorful, I don't think you'll miss anything!


For the Mussels:

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup chopped Red Onion
2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1/4 Cup Sherry or Sake or White Wine
2 Tbsp Miso Paste
 Several sprigs Fresh Thyme, or 1 tsp dried Thyme
3 Cups Chicken Broth
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp or more Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
Cornstarch Slurry (2 tbsp Cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp Cold Water, mix well)

For the Spinach:
2 heads Fresh Spinach, chopped, stems removed
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Cooked Pasta

The mussels only take about 5 minutes to steam so I made my broth ahead of time, then started sauteing the spinach, and steamed the mussels when my pasta was almost done.

Heat the Olive Oil over medium high heat, then add the chopped Red Onion and Garlic, and saute for several minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the Sherry, Sake or White Wine, and saute another five minutes until the liquid is almost gone.

Stir in the Miso Paste, Thyme, Chicken Broth, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Salt and Crushed Red Pepper, and simmer for several minutes. At this point you can turn it off until you're ready to steam the mussels.

Heat the Coconut Oil over medium high heat, and add the spinach.  Saute until tender and set aside.

Cook your pasta, and heat the broth for the mussels back to a boil. Add the mussels to the broth when the pasta has about 4 minutes left, cover and let steam. Once the mussels open, remove to a plate and keep warm. While the broth is still simmering, add the cornstarch slurry a bit at a time until desired thickness. Turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

To serve: Place a mound of the cooked pasta in a bowl, surround with the sauteed spinach, and top with the mussels and thickened broth. Top with fresh grated parmesan if desired.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Delicious Grilled Portabellini "Burgers!"

"It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle." I used to want to punch people in the face when they said that! Gimme a break, right? Every diet I've ever tried was all about what you COULDN'T eat. That's not the kind of lifestyle I want to live. 

 It's been almost two and a half months since I started a whole grains/plant based diet! Tonight at dinner, my husband (while chomping on a juicy grilled hamburger) asked me if I miss meat. I honestly don't. I did...a lot in the beginning. Probably the first month and a half, at least. But I feel so much better, along with an almost 10 lb weight loss that was effortless. I've also learned to modify it for what works for me, while still retaining all (or most) of the health benefits. 

So, my diet isn't about what I can't eat, it's about what I CAN eat. And what I want to eat. When I eat at home, which is about 95% of the time, I eat a low-fat, whole grains/plant based diet. When I go out, I eat the healthiest and tastiest choice of what's available. There are no foods on my "can't" list. If I want to eat something, I will. But, as good as I feel on whole grains and plants, I don't usually want to eat meat, dairy, or eggs anymore. 

So, tonight, while we were in the mood for grilling, my husband got a juicy hamburger, and I got these delicious portabella mushrooms, with grilled sweet onions and peppers! I have to say, I think mine was better than his...


6 Portabellini Mushrooms (baby Portabellas), stems removed and wiped clean
1/2 C Gluten Free Tamari Soy Sauce (or regular Soy Sauce)
1/2 C Light Brown Sugar (Seems like a lot but most of it stays in the marinade bag)
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Minced Garlic

3 Vidalia (Sweet) Onions, sliced into 1" thick slabs
2 Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell Peppers, sliced into 4 slabs from each pepper
1/2 Avocado, sliced
Tomato Slices

About an hour ahead of cooking time, whisk the Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Ginger, and Garlic until the brown sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large zip-lock bag with the Portabellini Mushrooms. Turn several times to coat, and let sit, bottom side up (to let all the soy sauce mixture soak in) until ready to grill. 

When ready to cook, heat your grill to medium-high. I have a gas grill with a thermometer and I kept it at about 350 degrees F. 

Seal the sweet onion and bell pepper slices in a foil packet (I used two packets), poke some holes in the top, and set over the heat on the grill for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and set directly over the hottest part of the grill, stem-side down. Grill for about 10 minutes, turn over and grill another 5 to 10 minutes, until tender all the way through (check with a fork).

To serve, place two mushrooms on a plate, stem-side up, top with the grilled onions and peppers, a slice of avocado and a slice of tomato. Top with another mushroom, stem-side down.

This was plenty for me, but would also be good with any kind of whole grain, or roasted potatoes, if you're super hungry.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Creamy Garlic Pasta with Broccoli and Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms!

I seriously have so much respect for you guys. Those of you who tirelessly soak cashews to make your own cashew milk, lovingly measure just the right amount of nutritional yeast, spend SO many hours coming up with your delicious vegan recipes, so the rest of us don't have to. And a lot of the recipes are really good! Since I started this plant-based-diet journey, I've soaked my share of cashews, drained countless cans of beans, and made more flax eggs than I can count. 

But tonight, I wanted something easy, and I wanted PASTA. I'm working on a final paper for my college class, and didn't have time for a lot of prep work. The only thing I did ahead of time, was to roast some garlic cloves in the oven, which amounted to throwing pre-peeled garlic cloves in foil with a super-light spray of olive oil and baking them for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I prepared the ingredients separately, so it still took me about an hour to cook everything, but it was SOOOO good!  I cooked the onions and mushrooms for a long time (about 20 minutes), it's not necessary, but caramelizing them over low heat adds so much flavor!


For the Sauce:
3 - 4 Roasted Garlic Cloves
2 Cups Cashew Milk (I used Silk Unsweetened, but ended up adding a little sugar)
2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Cornstarch Slurry to thicken (2 Tbsp Cornstarch with just a bit of cold water, mixed well)

For the Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms:
1/4 of a large Red Onion, diced
1 Cup Sliced White Mushrooms
1tsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

2 Cups Broccoli, cut into small florets

Your choice of cooked pasta, I used Gluten Free, my husband had wheat pasta.

Go Veggie! Vegan Parmesan to Serve

Heat the 1 tsp Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and saute the onions and mushrooms until starting to soften. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Set Aside.

While your onions and mushrooms are cooking, steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes, until desired doneness. Set Aside.

Start cooking your pasta, according to package directions. While your pasta is cooking, start the sauce.

For the sauce, blend the Roasted Garlic Cloves with the Cashew Milk on high speed until blended well, then transfer to a small saucepan over medium heat, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and whisk until blended. Heat until almost boiling, then whisk in the cornstarch slurry a bit at a time until desired thickness. 

Your pasta should be done by now, so drain and throw back in the pan, add the broccoli and caramelized onions and mushrooms. Stir gently. Add about 1 cup of sauce per 2 cups of cooked pasta. Mix well until all of the pasta and veggies are coated with the sauce.

To serve, sprinkle a little of the Go Veggie! Vegan parmesan-style blend on top.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spicy Black Bean Enchiladas with Spanish Rice!

This is day 50 of the Reluctant Plant Based Diet of a Home Cooking Fanatic. I really can't believe I've made it this far. For any diet, or lifestyle change, we all need some results to keep us motivated. I haven't had my cholesterol checked, but I'd really like to. But one of the first things I noticed, about three to four weeks in, was that my resting pulse dropped dramatically. I don't really know what that means, except that my physician husband says that it means that my heart is not working as hard to pump blood throughout my body as it used to. My resting pulse used to hover anywhere between 80 to 100. I've never had a pulse below 80.   I first noticed the change in my pulse at the gym, when my usual cardio workout would immediately drive my pulse up to around 130. All of a sudden, I struggle to get past 108 - 110. A recent visit to my physician confirmed that my resting pulse is now in the low 60's! We have a blood pressure cuff at home, and it confirmed my lower pulse. This benefit was totally unexpected, but most welcome! My blood pressure has always been pretty good, around 120/80 (perfect) although will spike on occasion to 140/90. My last blood pressure reading at the Doctor's office (two weeks ago) was 108/70!

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that I learned that the most satisfying plant-based dishes I've found were those that didn't try to imitate the usual meat and dairy ingredients. This dish celebrates that idea, while bringing the same savory flavors we've come to expect from the usual meat and dairy-laden dishes. This is my tried and true enchilada recipe, just without the meat and cheese. It does take some prep work, but the leftovers make great tacos the next day, so you're actually ahead of the game...


For the Enchilada Sauce:
1/4 C El Pato Spicy Mexican Tomato Sauce
1/2 Can diced tomatoes
1 C veg broth
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp Onion powder 
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Sugar

Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn heat down and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside, off heat, until ready to use.

For the Filling:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 half of a small red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic cloves
2 Tbsp canned diced green chilies
1 Can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 Packet taco seasoning mix (or 2 tbsp of your own mix)
1/4 C veg broth

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Set half aside for the rice. Add the green chilies, black beans, seasoning, and veg broth to the skillet and mix well, stirring over medium heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Corn tortillas (about 6)

To Serve:
Guacamole (one ripe avocado mashed and mixed with 2 tsp lime juice, 1 tsp onion powder and 1 tsp salt)

Spanish Rice (saute 1 C white rice with the reserved onions and garlic, add 1 Tbsp diced green chilies, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 C of the enchilada sauce. Add the other 1/2 can diced tomatoes, 1 and 3/4 cups veg broth, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, still covered, and let sit for 5 more minutes.) Can be made ahead, refrigerated, and reheated to serve.


Once the rice is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 X 9" baking dish lightly with olive oil and spread about 1/4 C of the prepared enchilada sauce in the bottom.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave until pliable, about 45 seconds (turning halfway through). Place about 1/4 to 1/3 C of black bean filling mixture in the middle of each tortilla, roll up, and place in the baking dish, seam side down. Cover with remaining enchilada sauce.

Bake in the 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes. By this time the rice should be done.

Serve the enchiladas with the rice and top with the guacamole.