Original Recipe: Heart-Warming Fall Veggie Soup

Hi, friends!

I’ll start by, as always, apologizing for the delay in posting. My, how time flies! I have this ongoing list of great blog post ideas, and I need to start crossing it off. I’m the worst procrastinator.

I couldn’t wait to share this soup with you, so it had to be first. I’m excited about it for two reasons: 1) here in Virginia it’s PERFECT soup weather, so I crave it constantly and 2) my improvised on-the-spot recipe came out really, really good.  Soup is a filling yet typically lower calorie meal choice, making it ideal if you’re watching your weight or trying to eat “clean.” A good soup should have lean protein, preferably some type of beans, and lots, and lots, and LOTS of veggies — like this one!

I’ll get to the point (and likely why you’re here) — the recipe! This is ridiculously easy and a fantastic way to clean out that crisper drawer. Feel free to experiment using other assortments of vegetables, depending on what you have available.

Start with your veggie line-up. The amount used here made about 10 cups of soup, enough for at least a week’s worth of lunches.

Turnips, carrots, and kale, oh my!

Turnips, carrots, and kale, oh my!

  1. Chop into cubes: 1 large Yukon gold potato, 2 turnips. Place in crockpot.
  2. Make a mirepoix: Finely chop 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves garlic. Saute in 1 Tbsp olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add to crockpot.
  3. Pour in: 1 quart unsalted vegetable broth, 1 cup water, and 2 cans chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  4. Season: black pepper, pinch of sea salt, 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano (or use 1 drop Young Living Oregano essential oil)
  5. Turn crockpot to high and let it do its thing for the next 3 hours.
    Get it cookin'!

    Get it cookin’!

     

  6. Using an immersion blender, puree some of the chunks of soup. (I just pushed some of the potatoes/turnips/chick peas to the bottom and then turn the blade on. Do this maybe 6 times.) This gives great texture to the soup.
  7. Rinse and chop 1 large bunch of kale. Throw the stems in there too — they’ll soften right up!
  8. Turn crockpot down to low; add kale. Cook another 30 minutes or so until the kale is softened but still green.Almost done...
  9. Done! Portion out into individual glass containers, or transfer to a large one with a lid. I split this batch up so I could take some for lunch the next day. Will last a good week in the fridge. Whatever you don’t eat, freeze! 20161120_205031There you have it. I’ll be making this one again, for sure! Look for more blogs coming soon. Up next: Healthy holiday dishes! Stay tuned!

Solving the soy debate: the latest research

I recently wrote this article as part of a freelance assignment. The publisher decided not to use it, so I will share it with you instead!

For many years, soy has been a controversial topic. Conflicting research over the last decade has left consumers confused and wary. This, along with the abundance of information (and misinformation) on the Internet, has led many consumers to avoid soy completely out of fear of developing cancer or consuming GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This article will examine the latest research and provide updated recommendations for soy consumption.

Characteristics of Soy

Soy products are found in many forms in the United States food market, most commonly tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame. There is also an abundance of processed soy products, such as vegetarian forms of chicken nuggets, burgers, and hot dogs. Soy is a rich source of many dietary nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamin K, and B vitamins.

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Soy and Cancer Prevention

Many studies have shown the protective effects of soy against cancer. It should be noted that in many Asian countries, where soy consumption is high, overall cancer rates are much lower than in the United States. One cohort study in Japan showed that consumption of isoflavones was associated with a reduced breast cancer risk (Journal of National Cancer Research, 2003). Genistein, an isoflavone in soy, is thought to prevent cancer cell growth by binding estrogen to decrease the development of hormonal cancers, particularly that of the breast. This contradicts older studies that showed a link to increased cancer, however these studies were conducted on mice. The author of one such study, Dr. Mark Messina, later discovered that rodents metabolize isoflavones at a much higher rate than humans, and therefore the effects were only seen in very high doses. In fact, even the rodent studies did not consistently produce these results (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011). Studies have been difficult to conduct in the United States, because soy intake is relatively low among American women (Today’s Dietitian, 2013). Therefore, it is challenging to determine the exact reason(s) that Asian women have lower cancer rates.

One proposed theory to explain the disparity between US and Asian cancer rates is the amount of meat in the diet. Typically, the Japanese diet contains almost no saturated fat due to relatively low meat consumption. Countries with higher animal fat intake have higher breast cancer rates. Even in modern Japan, where a Western diet is more commonly consumed than in past decades due to the rise of international fast food chains, breast cancer rates are rising among the younger generations. Meat and other foods high in saturated fat are known to increase estrogen production. However, saturated fat is not thought to be the direct cause, as many studies have shown positive relationships between meat intake and breast cancer even when fat intake is controlled (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2016).

Soy and Cancer Survivors

One common perception is that women who have survived breast cancer should avoid soy products. The thought process behind this is that because soy foods promote estrogen production, that the estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. Current research, however, contradicts this belief. The largest study to date, a pooled analysis of studies consisting of over 10,000 breast cancer patients, showed that consuming as little as 10 mg of isoflavones was linked to a 25% decrease in recurrence. This was true in both American and Asian women. Isoflavones have also not been shown to have any harmful interaction with hormone treatments like tamoxifen, and in fact may even be protective of women taking these treatments. However, more research is needed in this area to make conclusive recommendations (Today’s Dietitian, 2013).

Areas of Controversy

Soy has been purported to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol. These findings are controversial as it is unclear whether it is a direct result of eating soy or simply due to replacing animal proteins with soy protein. In addition, benefit was only shown by consuming at least 50 grams of soy protein daily, the equivalent of eight cups of soymilk. Consuming soy in these quantities is likely to be difficult to achieve for most individuals (The Nutrition Source, 2014).

Another area of current research is the impact of soy consumption on memory. One study of Hawaiian women of Japanese heritage showed that excessive soy intake was possibly related to a decline in cognitive function, but this finding has not been confirmed by other long-term studies (The Nutrition Sources, 2014).

Finally, there is ongoing debate regarding the effects of consuming GMOs. Unfortunately, soy is one of the most common GMO crops grown in the United States. The long-term effects of eating GMO foods are not yet known, as not enough time has elapsed since their adoption into the United States food supply. It is currently the consensus of the USDA and FDA that GMO crops have no adverse health effects, but one must consider the well-known relationships that exist between the government and agricultural giant Monsanto, the largest producer of GMO seed in this country (Robin, 2008). There is no current law requiring labeling of GMO foods, however many companies are doing this voluntarily. Many manufacturers of soy products, such as Silk, are proudly labeling their products as non GMO.

Whole vs Processed Soy

One issue that many individuals have with soy is that fact that it is often highly processed in the United States. Great effort has been made by manufacturers to lure meat-eating consumers by creating products that have a similar taste and texture to meat. As with the processing of all other foods, the chemical composition and nutritional content is changed, and arguably, so are the health effects. Isoflavone content and antioxidant potential can be lost through various steps in processing such as bleaching, isolating, and deodorizing (South Dakota State University, 2008). There is sweeping evidence that consuming a diet high in processed foods, particularly processed meat, can lead to adverse health effects.

Current Recommendations

Soy should be chosen in its whole, unprocessed form, such as edamame, and it is generally recommended that a whole-foods diet be adhered to as much as possible (Today’s Dietitian, 2013). When purchasing soy foods, look for the non GMO label on the package. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans currently recommends 1-3 servings daily of soy foods to get the benefits of the isoflavones (USDA, 2015).

Original Recipe: Spicy Marinated Tempeh Tacos

Tacos are one of my favorite foods ever. Well, to be clear, Mexican food is my favorite cuisine, and tacos are way up there on the list. Unfortunately, Mexican food has a reputation for being one of the unhealthiest out there. Fear not! I’m here to change all of that. As my followers know, I love making over foods with a healthy twist, and usually with a vegan spin. Behold — the tempeh taco! Feel free to experiment with different toppings and seasonings. You can even set your dinner up buffet-style and let people build their own taco creations. Endless possibilities!

If you’re not familiar with tempeh, it is a sort of cake made of compressed soybeans. It is gluten-free, cholesterol-free, packed with protein , and has basically no flavor on its own. This makes it incredibly versatile for everything from tacos to vegetarian chili to veggie burgers. The package looks something like this:

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Spicy Marinated Tempeh Tacos

Serves 3 (or two if you’re really hungry!)

Prep time: 10 minutes                Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 package tempeh
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 6 small corn tortillas (soft or crunchy; I prefer them soft) or 4 soft taco-size flour tortillas

Toppings

  • Shredded Napa cabbage
  • Guacamole or chopped avocado
  • Sauteed mushrooms, peppers, and/or onions
  • Taco sauce
  • Salsa
  • Cilantro
  • Vegan shredded cheese, such as Daiya
  • Cashew cheese (see my mac n’ cheese recipe for how to make this)

Directions: Cut the tempeh in half lengthwise, then cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Place in a shallow bowl and add the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha. Set aside and let it do its thing for a few minutes.

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Heat 1 Tbsp of good olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. While oil is heating, chop cabbage and other desired toppings. When pan is hot, add tempeh in a single layer, stirring every  minute or so. Cook about 5 minutes until most of sauce is absorbed, like so:

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Quickly toast the tortillas in the toaster oven until warm but firm enough to hold your toppings. Add whatever you like and chow down!

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My style: cabbage, sauteed mushrooms and onions, cheddar-style Daiya, and cilantro. I also used flour tortillas because that’s what I had in the house at the time. This is okay 😉 

Perfect winter dinner: salsa verde soup!

I’ve been making this soup for months and haven’t ever posted it, and I’m not really sure why. It’s delicious, one of the easiest recipes I know, and it’s incredibly convenient as it’s made in the slow cooker. When I get home, it’s ready, and no one has to wait, which is good because everyone’s usually starving by then! I usually serve it with something simple like mini vegan quesadillas or corn muffins. (Last night I made my jalapeno corn muffins — yum!)  This is a good one to please the non-vegans in your house, too. My husband’s exact words: “I was skeptical about this, but it’s actually really good!” Future note to self: find more vegan-friendly slow cooker recipes. Meanwhile, here’s this one:

Salsa Verde Soup

Serves 3-4 people

Dump the following into the crock pot:

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups beans (white or pinto work best)
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa verde*
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt
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Because I forgot to take one this time, this is a screenshot from Instagram, when I first made it over a year ago!

Set slow cooker on low and cook for 7-8 hours. Turn down to warm, then add 2 cups of coarsely chopped spinach or kale. (You can do this in the beginning, but I found that the greens turned an ugly brown and kind of disintegrated, so I prefer to add it at the end.)

*Salsa verde – you can make this yourself by roasting and pureeing tomatillos, which isn’t difficult, but more time-consuming and unnecessary since you can find it at any grocery store. I did this once, but didn’t notice a difference in flavor. You can find it in the Mexican food aisle, and it looks something like this:

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I actually found this one at Big Lots 🙂

Serve with a squirt of lime, chopped avocado, and cilantro. For non-vegans, you can add some shredded cheddar cheese, but I really don’t think it needs it.

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The avocado provides a nice, creamy element and really compliments that little zing from the lime juice. 

Just for kicks, here’s that jalapeno corn bread recipe:

  • 1 7-oz package of corn bread mix
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax mixed in 3 Tbsp water (this replaces the egg)
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray and place in oven to warm up. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Remove muffin pan from the oven and spoon cornbread evenly into 6 wells. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I would tell you to take the leftovers for lunch the next day, buuuuuut there won’t be any left 😉

 

Original Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n’Cheese

Pasta is a well-known vice of mine, and macaroni and cheese was a particular comfort food for me growing up. Because dairy just does not agree with me and no dish is worth the stomach pains, I had to find another way to enjoy this childhood favorite. I’ve come across many of these recipes using butternut squash, but I like to play around until I come up with my idea of perfection. The sauce is creamy, cheezy, and satisfying, (with a “z” to distinguish from ACTUAL cheese), and truly is the ultimate comfort food. We had a bout of extremely cold, windy, wintry weather this weekend, and I made this Friday night in a desperate attempt to warm my bones. It worked! I think you’ll find it quite effective too.

Also, this recipe is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. I add some of this into my hubby’s “real” mac n’ cheese — it allows me to use less butter and milk and therefore cuts the fat significantly. He doesn’t seem to notice 😉

This recipe takes a little preparation, so I recommend making the cashew cheeze ahead of time. (I pretty much always have a batch made — it’s so versatile!) Otherwise it takes less then 30 minutes to prepare. So, without further ado:

Butternut Squash Penne & Cheeze

Serves 3-4 (depending on who you’re feeding — I have a 16-year-old son, so this only feeds the two of us!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • 1 cup cashew cheeze (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the butternut squash one of two ways.

1) Quick prep – fill a casserole dish with about 1 inch of water. Slice the butternut squash and place the halves face down in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap (BPA free) and microwave for 10-15 minutes until pierced easily with a knife.

2) If you’re not pressed for time, preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and brush with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until pierced easily with a knife. (I prefer this method simply because roasting brings out some great flavor from the squash!)

Cook pasta while squash is cooking, as per usual pasta-boiling directions.

Cashew Cheeze:

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (boiled for 10 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Scoop cooked squash out of the skin and into the food processor. Blend until it looks like this:

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Your cheeze sauce is ready. When pasta is done cooking and has been drained, dump it back into the pot and pour the cheeze sauce over the top. Stir well to combine, season to taste, and serve immediately. Served with steamed broccoli or other favorite green veggie.

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Dig in!!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

 

 

 

Snacks you can feel good about

Happy New Year everyone!

One of my resolutions is to be more active on this blog. I have been gaining more followers and I don’t want to lose them out of boredom. Sooooo, you can definitely expect to see more from me this year! Hurray!

To start it off, we’re going to talk about snacks, because who doesn’t love snacks? Many of my clients feel that snacking is a bad thing. They feel guilty and hang their heads in shame when they admit to me they’ve been munching between meals. What do I tell them? Snacking is a good thing! It helps keep you satisfied when it’s not time for a meal, and can actually help keep you from overeating when you do have a meal. HOWEVER — WHAT you snack on very much matters. I’m always being asked for suggestions, so to help you make smart choices, I’ve compiled a list of snacks that you can enjoy without feeling guilty.

General rules – For most people, snacks should be under 200 calories and should contain at least two food groups — one of which should be a protein or healthy fat. If you eat only carbs, the satisfaction won’t last long and you’ll be hungry again in no time. Some great combinations:

  • Apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Baby carrots with 1/4 cup hummus
  • Trail mix: 2 Tbsp dried fruit, 2 Tbsp raw almonds, 1 tsp dark chocolate chips
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced fruit and 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Small banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter spread on it
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with 1/4 avocado smashed on top
  • Homemade smoothie, such as the one below: 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup desired fruit, 1 cup baby spinach

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Now, for specific products:

Bars – you must be careful with these. Look for bars without HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), soy protein isolate, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. They often have over 200 calories and are loaded with sugar, so I don’t generally recommend a bar unless it’s meant as a post-workout refuel and meets the criteria above. Protein bars from GNC or other “nutrition” stores are usually poor quality. The brands I like:

  • Larabar (particularly Alt as they have 10 g of plant protein)
  • Kind (including Healthy Grains)
  • Kashi GoLean roll
  • Raw Revolution
  • Chia Warriorraw revolution

Really, you should make your own. There are tons of recipes out there. I love to make the energy balls from Rich Roll’s The Plantpower Way book:

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (soak in water for 30 minutes before making the recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp hemp seeds (Walmart carries them)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Grind walnuts in the food processor until mealy. Add in the nibs, cocoa powder, and half of the hemp seeds.  Add dates one at a time and blend until everything is a paste consistency. Turn off the food processor, remove the blade, and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the rest of the hemp seeds. The way I make them I usually get about 16 balls out of it, and 3 of them would equal about 180 calories.

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The energy balls I made last week.

Salty – when I say salty, I simply mean they taste salty. Everything listed here is still considered low sodium, although many of them don’t taste that way! Some Jean-approved products:

  • Skinny Pop — all varieties
  • Lesser Evil popcorn (try the wasabi — yum!)
  • Air-popped popcorn (not microwave…the bags have cancer-causing chemicals, yuck!)  — Can you tell I like popcorn??
  • Most brands of kettle corn
  • Newman’s Own protein pretzels (hard to find, Vitacost has them)
  • Snapea Crisps
  • The Good Bean crispy crunchy chickpeas
  • World Peas (see my review in the previous post)
  • True North Nut Clusters (bonus: also sweet!)

Sweet – now let me be clear on something: this should NOT be your first choice and should NOT replace healthier snacks. Sugar does not keep you full and you will likely end up craving more if you’re not careful. Treat these as desserts or emergency supplies (you know, like if you’re having the worst day ever or PMS). I personally allow myself a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every day after lunch, but wouldn’t eat it in place of my morning snack. It’s all in the balance! Some 200 calorie ideas:

  • Five Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate-covered nuts
  • 1/2 cup ice cream (preferably non-dairy versions like cashew or almond)
  • 9 Hershey’s kisses
  • 2 fun-size candy bars

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Happy snacking!

Product Review: World Peas

20151113_110403 I received a packet of these in my most recent Urthbox (for those not familiar, it’s a subscription that delivers you a little box of vegan snacks every month.) While I’d tried World Peas products before and thought they were good, I had never had the ranch flavor. It should be noted that I’m a sucker for ANYTHING ranch-flavored, so I was thrilled to pull this little bag of goodness out of the Urthbox. I was so impressed with the flavor and nutritional content that I decided to write the company and request some samples. Lucky me — they said yes, and sent me a whole box of these bad boys!! I did a happy dance when I opened the box, for sure! I promised the company a product review, so read on.

Flavor: The peas are crunchy but not dry, and have a great, authentic ranch taste. They taste salty without actually BEING salty. My taste buds were jumping for joy!

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Nutritional value: non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, low sodium, and cholesterol free. There aren’t too many dietary needs that these wouldn’t accommodate.  They might even be Paleo, but I’m no expert in this area. The label may be hard to read, so here is the breakdown:

(per packet)

160 calories, 3 g fat, 230 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein.

Are they a nutritional powerhouse? No…..but as a salty snack goes, these still blow chips out of the water. You won’t find many chips with this type of protein content, so that was a big plus for me. The protein in these will fill you up longer (the fiber helps too) and you’re saving a significant amount of fat as well. For comparison, standard snack chips have 7-8 grams of fat per serving.

Price: The company website sells these for $15 for a pack of 12, which equivocates to $1.25 per 1.2-oz serving. Vitacost also sells a 5.5-oz bag for $3.69. Overall, these are a good value.

Convenience: I’m the weirdo who always keeps snacks in my glove compartment, so these fit the bill perfectly. (I have two of these in there right now, in fact.) Portable and healthy is an important combination!

The World Peas Snacks company urges you to “go ahead and give peas a chance.” I would have to agree!

Vegan Walnut Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

Hi guys! Miss me?? I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 months without a post. This summer has been so busy for me, so I apologize for my absence. Hopefully this amazing pancake recipe will make up for it a little bit!

On an extremely rare occasion, I found myself alone this Sunday morning. My husband got called into work, and my teenager is still sleeping. I had a major hankering for pancakes (a food for which my husband does not share my enthusiasm!), so I started flipping through my cookbooks. I settled on this one from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook, which I’ve had for ages. (In fact, it was my first vegetarian cookbook — my mother gave it to me as a teenager.) Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I made a few minor changes/editions.  As you can see, this is one sexy stack!

Boom. Mouth explosion.

Boom. Mouth explosion.

Vegan Oat & Walnut Pancakes

Makes about 10 pancakes, depending on size

Dry ingredients:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 Tbsp Nude Foods Breakfast Boost (optional, see below)

1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts

1/4 quick cooking rolled oats

Wet Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups almond milk

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar

Mix all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ones. Stir just until mixed. Ladle onto a hot skillet sprayed with cooking spray.

About that Breakfast Boost — this is a product I have used for some time. I typically put it into smoothies but wanted to see how it would work with this recipe. (FYI this is not a paid endorsement of any kind, I’m just a big fan!). It’s a fantastic superfood powder that adds a nice nutritional boost. Dried berries, almonds, and flax are key ingredients.  It’s somewhat hard to find (at least where I live), but I’ve been able to buy it on http://www.abesmarket.com and Amazon. I’m sure this recipe would be equally delicious without it, I just wanted to amp it up a bit.

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Blueberry Compote

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/4 cup pomegranate juice or water

1 tsp lemon zest or 2 drops lemon essential oil

2 tsp corn starch dissolved in 2 tsp water

Heat blueberries and juice over medium heat in a saucepan until liquid starts to bubble. Turn heat up to high and add corn starch, bringing up to a boil. Stir constantly for 1 minute or until liquid thickens. Turn off heat and cover; it will thicken a little more as it sits.

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Congratulations! Your breakfast is ready!! Layer pancakes with almond butter (I used this incredible superberry macqui camu almond butter I bought online, also at Abe’s Market), peanut butter, or really anything else that strikes your fancy. Then dump the compote allllllll over that stack. Proceed to devour.

Greek style calzones with tofu “feta”: Original recipe

I was really craving calzones last weekend, so I made these for my (non-vegan, non-vegetarian) husband and me. It was a totally improvised recipe but it came out really good!

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The final, delicious product!

Ingredients:

1 ball pre-made pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s brand). Obviously you can make your own crust if desired.
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms, sauteed with garlic
1/2 cup hummus
1/4 cup mixed Greek olives
Tofu “feta” (see below)

To make tofu feta:
Take half of a block of extra firm organic tofu, and squeeze dry (the best way to do this is to layer it between several paper towels, place it on a cutting board, and put a heavy book or frying pan on top for a few minutes). Crumble into a bowl. Add 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp Greek seasoning (or a mix of oregano, garlic, marjoram, and sea salt), and 1 tsp black pepper. Combine well and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 375. Roll out pizza dough into a circle about 10″ wide. Cut dough in half. Spread hummus on each. Fill one side of each calzone with half of the tofu and half of the vegetable mixture, like so:

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Fold the empty half of the dough over the filling and seal the edges with your fingers. Using a wide spatula, carefully transfer the calzones onto a pizza stone. Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip calzone over (this is why they need to be well sealed!) and bake another 5 minutes. Brush tops with olive oil and bake 5 additional minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Enjoy!!

Spinach enchiladas with spicy corn – original recipe

This is one of my favorite recipes to make, and since I made it tonight, I decided I needed to post it already! Mexican food was always a vice of mine, so I’ve had to find ways to eat it often without facing serious weight gain. Quesadillas, enchiladas, and even taco salads can be loaded with fat and calories, thanks to the cheese and/or fried tortillas. The solution: make it myself and veganize it! These are very easy to make, and go well with a variety of sides.

They got a little messy this time around, but I assure you they tasted amazing!

They got a little messy this time around, but I assure you they tasted amazing!

Makes 8 enchiladas

For the enchiladas:

1 small onion, chopped
2 lbs baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 corn tortillas
1 can red enchilada sauce
1/2 cup Daiya, any flavor (or other dairy-free cheese)
1/4 cup cashew cheese, optional* (see below)

For the corn:
2 cups frozen or fresh sweet corn
1 tsp vegan butter or olive oil
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Pinch of sea salt

*1 hour before beginning preparation, boil raw cashews in water for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let soak as long as possible until needed. May also soak overnight in the fridge in an airtight container.
To make cashew cheese: Combine soaked and drained cashews in a food processor with 1/4 cup water, 1 Tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, and a pinch of sea salt. Process until smooth. Set aside.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Saute onions and garlic with a small amount of olive oil. When translucent, add cumin and chili powder and stir to coat. Slowly add in spinach, cooking until wilted. Drain off any remaining water and keep warm. Spray a large skillet and a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick spray. Lightly fry tortillas on both sides until slightly crispy. Pour enchilada sauce into a bowl and stir in nutmeg. One at a time, dip tortillas in enchilada sauce and place in the baking dish. Place some of the spinach mixture in the center and top with Daiya and cashew cheese. Roll up, and repeat this process until all are done. Spoon any remaining enchilada sauce on top, and sprinkle some more Daiya for good measure. Pop ’em in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, melt vegan butter over medium in a small saucepan. Stir in cumin, then add corn and cayenne and stir to coat. Heat 5 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Serve meal with sliced avocado.
Other great side dishes include pinto or black beans, Mexican-style brown rice, or diced potatoes.

A more attractive attempt, when I made served with pinto beans with tomatoes and Mexican-style brown rice.

A previous, more attractive attempt, served with pinto beans with tomatoes and Mexican-style brown rice.