Meatless Monday – Cherry Berry Banana Green Smoothie

A few months ago I read that a shot of cherry juice before bed could help with insomnia. So when I saw cherry juice on sale at Costco, I added it to the cart. But we’re tired and forget to a) drink it and b) make anything resembling scientific study when we happen to remember to drink it.

And now it is officially spring! Even though there’s still a chilly bite to the morning air, I have returned to my most-days green smoothie routine, in part prompted by the presence of cherry juice in the fridge.

As already noted, I am not scientifically inclined, aka, imprecise. I have tried to measure, but really, I throw ingredients in the blender until they “look right.” Be warned: you may want to experiment yourself for the exact ratios, if exact ratios are your thing.

Another tip: red cherries/berries + green spinach = interesting color. Pour your smoothie into a colored cup with a lid and enjoy it through a straw. Now you’re ready to take it on the go and no one (including you) will be distracted by your otherwise delicious drink.

Cherry Berry Banana Green Smoothie
Serves 1

1/2 c frozen cherries
4-6 large frozen strawberries (add to cherries and you should have just under 1 c fruit)
1/2 frozen banana
1 large handful spinach (approx 1 c packed)
1/4 c cherry juice
fresh ginger (about the size of the first digit of your pinky finger)
water, as necessary to blend

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Keep adding water a little at a time until you have good blending consistency.

No idea if the cherry juice at bedtime has helped us sleep better. But I can attest to a cherry smoothie helping to jump start my morning!

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Meatless Monday – Tomato Soup

I was in a funk. The kiddo was sick and the day’s plans dashed. After walking the dogs, I decided to cook the rest of the day away. I created some lovely food, and the acts of creating and serving those I love helped lift the gray clouds from my atmosphere.

C19 had called from college to report that his girlfriend was home from college, sick. Apparently, tomato soup is her favorite, and he promised I would make some for her. Easy enough.

After school this afternoon, Q13 opened the fridge and started hollering, sure that I had delivered away all of the soup. Nah, of course I made extra, and it’s our dinner tonight. Tomorrow we will dive in to the vegan veggie-happy lasagna I also made, and maybe eventually I’ll share here that recipe as well.

C19 called today to say thank you, that GF had eaten soup for dinner last night and lunch today, that it was warm and comforting and perfect. He confessed: he thought I had opened a box of grocery store soup. They had no idea it was real, home-made soup. Which Q13 tells me I should consider a compliment, that the soup was so good it could have come from a box. Silly kids! It’s better than a box, and just about that easy.

Tomato Soup
Makes 6 servings

3 Tbsp non-dairy butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Coarse salt & ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp tomato paste
4 14.5 oz cans tomatoes (do not drain)
4 c veggie broth
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or no-salt herb/veggie seasoning)
½ Tbsp dried basil
½ Tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
Optional: 1 c cooked brown rice

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil and onion, season w/ salt and pepper. After 3 minutes, add garlic. Cook until onion is translucent, about 2 more minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste, cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes in their liquid, broth, vinegar and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender) to puree. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir in rice before serving, if using.

This recipe is something of a blank canvas. The variations all depend on your taste buds!
Roast tomatoes, garlic and even diced bell peppers and use in place of one or more cans of tomatoes.
Use cans of whole peeled, diced, stewed or fire roasted tomatoes with whatever seasonings float your boat.
Swap out the vinegar for red wine.
Use fresh herbs instead of dried.

 

Meatless Monday: Potato “Deviled Eggs”

I’m not a football fan. Sure, I love a good community gathering now and then, and I can appreciate a nice pass, great catch, swift run, straight kick. I totally get team spirit, and of course athleticism at its peak can be invigorating to watch.

But when my kid suffered a severe concussion on his second day of high school, and when three months later a specialist said he had symptoms of someone ten days post-injury, that spoiled it for me. I can’t derive pleasure from watching boys and men risk their brains.

Still, it’s a food occasion and I’m down for fun food, even when it’s just our little family. We’ve had a full week and none of us felt up to a party. We recorded the game, did our own things, and then came together in the evening to eat and watch (or not watch–I read a book during the plays and watched the commercials and half-time shows; Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan, if you must know, and it’s so good) the game.

Guy bought bean dip for chips; mine is so much better, though his purchase gave me time to make something else: a veggie-version of deviled eggs.

I took the inspiration from Forks Over KnivesSmoky Little Devils, potato bites filled with home-made hummus. But then you’ve got potato middles looking for something else to do… Why not just use the potatoes themselves as filling?

If I were making this for a crowd, I’d double (or triple) the recipe.

Potato “Deviled Eggs”
Makes 24 bites

12 small round potatoes (I used “Baby Creamers” purchased at Costco)
2 Tbsp plant-based mayonnaise
1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp mild curry powder (or to taste)
Paprika, for serving

Boil potatoes for 15 minutes until fork tender; drain and cool. When cool, slice potatoes in half and remove the middle of each side using the small end of a melon baller. Put potatoes hole-side-up on a serving tray. Add potato middles to a food processor and pulse with mayo, mustard, garlic and curry powder, pausing to scrape the bowl as needed. Transfer the mixture to a zip-top bag and cut off one corner. Pipe the filling into the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

I went super-basic with this recipe, but as there are a bazillion variations on deviled eggs, go crazy and do your own thing: cajun seasoning or chili powder instead of curry? You bet. Top with celery, capers, shallots, green onion? Why not?

Meatless Monday – Arugula-Lemon Pesto (vegan)

Light years ago (it seems), C19 did a science fair project that involved growing basil plants. We love basil–pizza or pasta margherita, bruschetta, pesto… Oh my seriously summer-loving YUM! We discovered (science fair whatever, though I do recall Kiddo got whatever credit/grade he needed) that basil grew well, during summer, in the planter on the side of the house facing the backyard. Goody on us!

I have been missing basil, missing pesto, because…January. Too cold.

Friends gave us the most incredible gift, a Tower Garden, at summer’s end. It had basil, for a time, until the weather turned. It also had romaine, which we ate nightly until it also passed. Now, arugula and mint proliferate.

Girlfriends came over this weekend. One mentioned having made an arugula-lemon hummus. I requested the recipe. Later, we moved to the deck where she noticed my arugula-laden Tower Garden and my small but heavy potted lemon tree. Clearly, I need that recipe! And yet…

Guy awoke in the middle of the night, feverish. He moved to another bed, and has lolled about throughout the day. His dinner tonight: ramen. It takes only minutes and it’s our go-to sick day comfort food.

Q13 and I wanted something just a little…more. I suggested arugula-lemon pesto pasta and he jumped at it. He’s at that age where he’s wanting to learn to cook (and wanting breaks from homework). So…

He cranked the tunes on his portable speaker. We harvested and washed arugula. We tossed ingredients in the Cuisinart, blended and tasted and adjusted, dancing all the while I made notes to capture what we were doing as we loosely followed other recipes.

We cooked the pasta (dance). We tasted the pesto (dance). We added pesto to pasta and fresh tomato to garnish and (DANCE) oh my. We high-fived over our newly created recipe.

Remarkably, since Q13 doesn’t love arugula in a salad. Too peppery. But he loves this!

C19 took the middle school Foods class twice because he enjoyed it so much. They no longer offer it, so I am Q13’s foods teacher. I don’t mind. We’re having fun and making memories. Love!

Arugula-Lemon Pesto

½ c toasted pine nuts (or combination – pine & walnuts)
2 c packed arugula leaves
3 cloves peeled garlic
½ lemon, zested
2 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or no-salt herb/spice mix)
½ tsp red chili pepper
1 ½ lemons, juiced (start with ½, and add as needed)
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp water
4 drops Tapatio (hot sauce)
Cooked whole wheat pasta of choice
Chopped fresh tomatoes, to garnish cooked pasta

Lightly dry-toast nuts in a pan over medium heat just until fragrant. (Oh, the fragrance!)

In a food processor, combine arugula, toasted nuts, garlic, lemon zest, spices and juice of a half lemon. Pulse to combine.

While processor runs, slowly drizzle in olive oil, stopping to scrape sides as needed. Follow with water. When pesto has achieved desired consistency (add additional lemon juice and/or seasonings) add a few drops of hot sauce.

The kiddo and I suggest you cook some whole wheat pasta while you’re making this mess, because it will taste amazing when you throw it all together. We cooked a combo of rotini and penne because that’s what we had. Top with some fresh tomato for good, yummy, fun!

Meatless Monday – Thug Kitchen 101

Two years ago my love whisked me away for a night in Mendocino. After a lovely afternoon walk on the beach, we ate dinner at The Ravens, a vegan restaurant so good you simply have to try it to believe it (especially if you think you don’t like veggies). While we waited for a table, we sipped chardonnay and browsed the bookstore. They had a great cookbook collection, and there I first encountered Thug Kitchen.

I don’t remember which of their cookbooks I picked up, but I couldn’t stop flipping the pages–these were the recipes I had been longing for as I increasingly leaned toward a plant-based diet. And the irreverence made me laugh. I’m not big on curse words, but the profanity makes it clear that the writers don’t take themselves too seriously.

Recently someone asked for veggie cookbooks recommendations so I grabbed Thug Kitchen 101 from the library. When my Guy saw how much I enjoyed it, he quickly placed an order for one more Christmas gift for me–yippee!

I don’t typically read cookbooks cover to cover, but I did with this one. I laughed. I experimented. I got my Tween in the kitchen cooking with me. I have made some recipes more than once. Others I’m still dying to try. As of right now, this is my favorite ever cookbook!

So far I have tried: flautas (where have these been all my Mexican-food-loving life? Note: make with leftover roasted fingerling potatoes), sun-dried tomato carbonara, skillet beer chili mac, coconut-lime rice, panko pasta topping, and 60-second parm. Not a miss among them.

Last night I had a killer headache and felt chilled to the bone after two hours of watching middle school rugby in a very gray San Francisco. I thought we had leftovers (Guy and Tween had taken care of those leftovers, apparently), so I needed to cook. It needed to be easy, fast, and comforting. Skillet Beer Chili Mac, I’m coming for ya…

You guys… So easy, so fast, comfort food at its best. The Kid and I had more for lunch today and Guy got jealous when he saw our dirty bowls because he forgot. We still have enough for tomorrow’s lunch and we might all drool on ourselves in anticipation between now and then.

The only things I did differently from the recipe: I cooked the onions without oil, added 2 cloves of garlic, and left out the maple syrup, oh, and I cooked the whole thing in my large soup pot. I used whole wheat curly macaroni and one can each of pinto and black beans (drained/rinsed). If you don’t do beer, you can sub another cup of veggie broth.

Skillet Beer Chili Mac
Serves 4-6

2 Tbsp mild chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 c diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (mine was large; use a smaller one next time!)
1/2 c carrot (about 1 large or 2 small)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 c light beer
3 c vegetable broth
3 c small macaroni/pasta
3 c mixed beans (or 2 15-oz cans), like pinto or black
1/4 c nooch (nutritional yeast)
1 Tbsp lime juice
Optional toppings: sliced jalapenos, cilantro, red onion, avocado

Combine seasonings in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute onion for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook for another 2 minutes. Add carrot, spices, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce, beer, and veggie broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 9-12 minutes until pasta is cooked. Remove from heat and add beans, nooch, and lime juice.

Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve with whatever toppings your mouth desires (avocado & tortilla chips for me!).

Link to the recipe as written (includes profanity)

Meatless Monday – Plant-Based YUM!

Some years ago I heard about UC Davis Integrative Medicine, and I am so grateful!

Integrative Medicine takes a whole person approach to health. UC Davis Integrative Medicine’s mission is “to help prevent chronic disease by educating people about how to make positive changes in their lifestyle habits.”

Through their weekly blog posts, recipes, webinars, and 21-day plant-based food challenges, they have helped me learn how to cook and eat healthier, for myself and for my family.

They are not my only resource, of course, but they sure lend credibility to my pursuit of health through eating primarily plants. And they have been a HUGE resource!

For three years, they have held an annual 21-day challenge. At no charge, they provide three weeks’ worth of recipes and nutrition information + a Facebook group to encourage mutual support. The first year I dabbled, but mostly felt overwhelmed; last year I petered out through too much life noise; this year, I’m going for it.

Today is Day 1, which means it’s not too late to SIGN UP! And tonight I will tell you–after a day’s worth of delicious plant-based eating–it’s worth it.

Today I ate…
Breakfast: apple pie oatmeal
Lunch: “fried” brown rice
Dinner: Tuscan vegetable soup + rainbow pasta salad (recipes UCDavis, sign up to receive the full 21-day recipe guide)

This wasn’t the prescribed Day 1 menu, but that’s part of why I enjoy this format. I can pick and choose from their menu; improvise based on what I have, what I want, what I already know how to do well; and eat healthy food to satisfaction.

In the plan, a Berries and Seeds Breakfast Bowl is a breakfast option for Week 2; Thai Fried Rice is Week 2‘s Monday lunch. I did my variation on those recipes, though based on their recipe, I omitted the oil from my rice and added instead more garlic and chili-garlic paste (and I will forever make these changes, as today’s rice was tastier).

I also have a solid minestronehow different can Tuscan veggie be from minestrone?–but thought I’d do dinner on their terms. So glad! Using an immersion blender to pulse it until pureed but for some chunks, this soup might have looked less appealing than some broth-based soups, but it smelled and tasted delicious and, to be honest, required less cook time. Of course I could also whip up a pasta salad without even thinking about it but this combination, with their oil-free Italian dressing (fresh basil, hummus, stone-ground mustard, red wine vinegar, and water to dilute), was a delicious change.

If you’re interested in healthy eating…
If you’re a carnivore who can’t believe plants taste good
If you’re looking for some new recipe suggestions

Sign up for the UC Davis Integrative Medicine 21-Day Food Challenge now!

Meatless Monday – Tofu Scramble

Tween and I had a nearly perfect week while the Big Guys were away.

With a good balance of (age-appropriate) work and activities and play, alone-time and friend-time, and a huge stream of quiet flowing throughout, we thoroughly enjoyed each day and, at week’s end, we both felt productive and well-rested.

One thing on which we did not spend a lot of time: cooking. I made a couple quick-and-easy family meals (ramen, roasted veggie spaghetti) that provided leftovers. We ate one dinner out with a friend and again came home with leftovers.

For my own enjoyment, I made a tofu scramble that, along with some leftover roasted potatoes, made for several scrumptiously satisfying meals.

When we moved to the Bay Area more than a decade ago, I asked around for breakfast place suggestions. Repeatedly I heard about Rick & Ann’s, which–despite the 20-minute drive and at least 20-minute wait time–has become one of our family’s favorite special occasion spots.

Each of us has a favorite order, the thing we get every time, and mine is tofu scramble. Over the years I have kept my eyes peeled for a copycat recipe; I tried one that looked okay, but wasn’t.

I recently discovered Kathy Patalsky’s recipe in Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen. With just a couple of tweaks (add fresh garlic and ginger and curry powder, skip maple syrup), this is as close as I’ll come to the real deal.

Even better? It’s so easy! Start to finish, I think it took less than fifteen minutes.Tofu Scramble
Serves 4

12 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c other veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 c spinach, rough chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt/pepper to taste
Green onion and/or cilantro to top (optional)

Drain tofu, then wrap it in paper towels between two plates, weighted to press out extra liquid. Set aside while you gather ingredients and chop veggies.

In a large pan, saute onion for 3 minutes; if necessary, add 1/2 tsp water to keep onion from sticking. Add other veggies, garlic and ginger and saute for additional 2 minutes.

Add tofu. Either break the block apart with your hands as you add to the pan or (easier if you have it) use a potato masher to break the tofu into bits. Add spinach and remaining spices and stir occasionally until spinach wilts and scramble warms through. Taste and adjust spices as desired.

Top with green onion and/or cilantro, and serve with roasted potatoes or potato-veggie hash and whole wheat toast.

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