A Plant-based Thanksgiving Feast

For some of my readers, a Thanksgiving feast that doesn’t feature a turkey or ham may be blasphemous 😜 to the tradition. I know for me and what I grew up with, there are memories of always having a beautifully carved spiral, honey-baked ham and a baked or Cajun-fried turkey. But honestly, the foods that excited me the most about Turkey Day, were not the turkey. I actually relished in the smells of everything else that was cooking – the sides. Mashed potatoes, green beans, yams, fresh bread… this is what got me up early in the kitchen the morning before the afternoon of feasting with family commenced.

I know, it’s supposed to be Turkey Day! But instead, we made it about our favorites: the sides! And this centerpiece held its own with plenty of savory protein.

So this year, as we celebrated alone – not for the first time, for our adventures have moved us around the country to places far from family where we had yet to make the very important friend-family (framily) – I decided that for my husband and I, we’d forgo the incorporation of any meat or dairy in this year’s holiday feast, and I would make a beautiful, sumptuous, plant-based Thanksgiving fare. And let me tell you, not only did everything delight the palate and satisfy the cravings and the spirit of traditional Thanks Giving, but maybe for the first time ever, I did not gain a single pound during the feast or the subsequent evenings of dining on leftovers the next 2-3 days.

Love your body. Love your food. ❤️🌱

I actually felt amazing, no crashes or comas, no stress from packing on pounds. And quite possibly, the attitude I embarked on keeping during the next few days (after my meltdown during the breaking of my beautiful pastry as my husband and I tried moving it from a baking dish to it’s beautiful, holiday plating designation) may have provided the right atmosphere for my body and mind to just receive nourishment, allowing the extra calories to be put to good use. We went on a long walk the day after Thanksgiving, and the next two days were spent on the sofa, crunching out a major deadline of editing 140,000 words for a political journalist that had hired us.

Oh yes, more veggies, please.

*Back to the Dish!* The Main Dish would feature a beautiful loaf of lentils, mushrooms, pecans & walnuts, and vegetables encased in a pastry: Lentil and Mushroom en Croute (or Wellington)

Ingredients:
1 can cooked lentils
A package of shiitake mushrooms (approximately 10 oz), chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, diced
1 Tsp rosemary
1 Tsp sage
1 Tsp thyme
1/4 Tsp cayenne
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
3 oz tomato paste
Approximately 1/3 cup port or red wine
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs dijon mustard
3 oz french-style cashew cheese (I used Treeline garlic and herb)
Approximately 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1-2 Tbs gluten-free flour
salt and pepper

Who doesn’t like savory filling in a buttery, crispy crust??

The Pastry:
This is up to you. If you’ve got the time, making your own pastry crust from scratch isn’t terribly difficult to do. I used a pie crust for 2 that used whole and all-purpose wheat flour, but your needs may call for gluten-free flour. If you can get your hands on a vegan puff pastry, this would make a beautiful presentation.
almond milk (to brush onto the pastry as it bakes)
fresh rosemary for garnish

Try not to crack if your pastry cracks. My terrible OCD kicked in as I watched my beautiful pastry start to crumble apart as we tried to glide it into the presentation dish. I had forgotten that in Art, the idea of perfection is really perfecting imperfections. Cracks in the mold may represent fragility to some, and to others, it lets what’s inside, what really matters, show through. 💛

Recipe:
Pre-heat oven according to pastry instructions.
Over medium heat with heated avocado oil in the pot, add your chopped onion, celery, carrots, season with about 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, and proceed to cook down until everything is opaque, approximately 6-8 min. *This blend of staple veggies that go in many french dishes is called, mirepoix.*
Once cooked down, add your mushrooms, garlic, walnuts, and pecans to the mix , season with about 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper and cook for another 3-4 min. You may need to splash some veggie broth to the sauteing vegetables so they don’t stick or burn to the pot.
Drain and add the lentils to the mix. Add the herbs and spices and let simmer for a minute. Add balsamic vinegar and wine to the veggies and cook until you smell that special aroma as the alcohol cooks out and the flavor of the wine blends with veggies and herbs, approximately 1-2 min.
Add the tomato paste, dijon, and cashew cheese, blending until incorporated. Here’s where you’re gonna need to eyeball it. I start with a Tbs of flour, mix it in good, and as it starts to stiffen, I add splashes of veggie broth until you get a thick stewy consistency. Turn the heat off and let it thicken, adding broth periodically until what you’re left with is a dark, textured paste, almost like a thick clay ready to be molded and sculpted.

Stuff it, put a fork in it, and put it in your pie-hole. 😋


In an oiled pan, preferably a sheet pan (can be non-oiled, nonstick or even a wax papered pizza stone (I learned this the hard way when using a deeper dish), lay your first pastry down, rolled out. Spoon your loaf mixture into an oblong, rectangular shape, can be 3-4 inches high. Once firmly shaped, leaving at least 2 inches of space on the ends and 3-4 inches of space on the sides, fold the pastry around the loaf. If there’s loaf peaking through the top, no worries. Lay the second pastry over the top, and crimp the sides and edges down around the bottom pastry. The method, of course, is up to you. I added a crimp with my fork around the edges, but there are so many ways to make this centerpiece stand out. This is your show, your art and food exhibit. Have fun with it.
Brush the almond milk onto your pastry and proceed to bake, occasionally brushing on more milk, until you get a nice golden crust. Use your pastry instructions as a guide.

Plan ahead, find your rhythm, and enjoy the process.

These next recipes are going to be roughed in because these dishes are stored in my knowledge bank of memory, so no measurements were used. Instead, I’ll use approximations.

My French DNA says to butter and cream: Oui, s’il vous plaît!

Mashed Creamy Potatoes for 2:
4 white or golden potatoes, quartered and covered in water, a dash of salt added to the water, and boiled until soft. Drain potatoes, sprinkle with about 1/8 Tsp of salt or to taste and add 3 oz of French-style cashew cheese (Treeline garlic and herb), and mash with occasional splashes of veggie broth until you get a smooth consistency like porridge. Garnish with fresh herbs.

No need for fried onion crips when these green beans pop with savory onion, mushroom, and crunchy almonds.

Sauted Green Beans with Mushrooms and Almonds for 2:
A bag of fresh green beans (12-16 oz), ends snapped and place in a pot or deep pan over medium heat, oiled (I use avocado), half a large yellow onion, chopped, and 1/4 cup sliced, blanched almonds. Add approximately 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper. Cook for 3 min. Add about 5 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms and 2 large cloves of garlic, diced, and cook for another 2-3 min. Add about 1/4-1/3 cup veggie broth, turn heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are soft. Add more broth if needed in the cooking. If a lot of liquid is left in the pot, you can thicken it by adding 1/2 Tbs of gluten-free flour.

These yams bloom with a spiraling swirl of a lower glycemic version of butterscotchh sauce and pecans.

Sweet Potatoes with Butterscotch-Pecan Drizzle for 2:
I used 2 large yams, peeled and sliced in about 1/8 inch thickness. Place in a bowl with about a Tsp of coconut or avocado oil and approximately 1/8 Tsp of salt and pepper. Mix until all the slices are coated. Arrange to your liking in a baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 400 until potatoes are soft. During the last 5 min of baking, in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbs butter (I use Myokos cultured vegan butter) and melt. Add about 2 Tbs of brown coconut sugar, 1 Tbs of maple syrup, 2 Tbs pecan pieces, and stir until bubbly. Add about 1-2 Tsp of gluten-free flour to thicken it. Drizzle over the potatoes and bake for another 5 min.

I wanna ride this gravy train! Choo choo!

Mushroom Gravy for 2:
Measure 1/2 cup veggie broth and 1/2 cup almond milk. Chop about 3 oz of shiitake mushrooms. Melt 2 Tbs of butter (I use Myokos cultured vegan butter) in a small pan. Add mushrooms and cook for 1-2 min. Add 2 Tbs gluten-free flour and stir until flour thickens and browns slightly, adding a tiny splash of broth at a time so the flour can stay stirred smoothly. Add the rest of the broth and almond milk and simmer while stirring until you get a nice consistency, should be similar to cream-condensed soup. Season with salt and pepper, and maybe a sprinkle of cayenne if spicy is how you roll.

We enjoyed all these fixings with warm, softly toasted 7 grain sourdough bread. I have found that sourdough doesn’t have an affect on my IBD. For me, the symptoms are pretty non-existent with fermented foods. The sourdough is still a treat and not a daily consumption.

Good things come to those that work hard in the kitchen. 👩🏼‍🍳

The Grand Finale at the end of feasting was a beautiful chocolate-pumpkin bundt cake.
Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt:
With the oven pre-heating to 350, mix 2 cups of sugar (I used 1&1/2 cup demerara cane sugar and 1/2 cup brown coconut sugar) with 4 eggs (or egg substitute, I like Bob’s Red Mill), 15 oz can of pumpkin puree, 1 cup coconut oil (make sure it’s melted), and 1 Tsp vanilla. Once mixed together, add 3 &1/2 cups of flour (I used 2 cups unbleashed, all-purpose and 1&1/2 cups spelt, Arrow brand), 1 Tbs cinnamon, 1 Tbs nutmeg, 2 Tsp baking soda, 1&1/2 Tsp salt, and 1 cup chocolate chips (I used Lily’s dark). Mix with a spatula until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients. Oil lightly the bottom of the bundt dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped walnuts around the bottom of the dish. Pour or spoon your batter in, evenly, and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out dry, no wet batter (approximately 1 hour, I always check 3/4 of the way in). After the bundt has rested for 5-10 min, slide a butter knife around the edge of the cake, get your pretty dish or cake stand ready to receive this beauty, and gently turn the bundt dish over it, working the sides of the dish until it slides out.

This cake beckons: Pour some chocolate on me… in the name of Love! ❤️


For the drizzle, in a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs butter (Myokos, cultured, vegan). Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 2-3 Tbs maple syrup. After the chocolate is melted, drizzle the chocolate sauce over the cake. I promise you, especially if enjoyed with a nice velvety port wine or a smooth cup of coffee, this cake will finish the day perfectly.

The dark cherry, chocolate, and spiced notes of this Port paired beautifully with this holiday spiced cake.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Being Thankful

Life is delicious.

I’ve been away for a while! And being that it’s the day after a U.S. holiday, Thanksgiving, I’ve spent the previous day and today reflecting on those things that are meant to go in accordance with the tradition. I’m not going to go into the history of the holiday, because with history, there are always two or more sides to a story. Today, I am writing what it means to me and maybe what some of my reflections can mean to you.

Feast your eyes on this feast.

After being away from nutrition study and blogging about what’s been happening in my kitchen for a couple months, I’ve decided to use the Thanksgiving feast I created yesterday to catapult back in. Let’s face it, life sometimes gets crazy and hectic. We get swept up in the day to day, and we push through the hardships that come our way. Sometimes, we feel like we’re struggling to survive.

I didn’t want my husband capturing me without makeup, and the smile above was hiding the tears when my pastry cracked…
Life isn’t perfect. It’s beautifully, imperfectly, perfect.

Blogging takes time. And I realize, the time I put into this blog, I need it. Because this is a part of me. And this is a part of me I take joy in sharing. And whether it’s Thanksgiving, the day after, or any day we’ve been gifted, I hope we all take time for ourselves and pause to reflect. What are you thankful for? The Science of Self-Care

Conducting a cooking orchestra, painting a feasting canvas.

If you read my About page (which I know is kinda lengthy), then you’ve read that a big part of this blog is writing about what I’ve learned about food and how we fuel ourselves. Part of this life journey is navigating significant health issues, some I was born with and some that manifested during life events. Part of the About page told my story of how I discovered something pretty cool about food at a friend’s restaurant, a discovery I’m not sure was intended but one that resonated with me never the less—gratitude.

Seize the bundt cake!

In my life, which has dealt with some serious illness, there have been periods of time my health endured bouts of intense physical and mental pain. I’ve experienced weight issues. I’ve been both significantly underweight AND significantly overweight. And in both cases, I had a complicated relationship with food. When I was underweight, I was punishing myself. I couldn’t/wouldn’t eat. When I was overweight, I was eating to replace a loss I had experienced.

Without a turkey, who needs stuffing? This pastry does! Say hello to a lentil and mushroom en croute, or as my husband prefers, The Wellington.

But at a special restaurant which focuses on health for both body and planet, I fell in love with how beautiful food could be—to experience a meal that is visually beautiful, could fuel my body with what it really craves, AND taste deliciously. And if something looks pretty, smells good, and is pleasing to our taste, we pause. And in that pause, we can appreciate. The Lost Art of Patience and Eating Slow is Good for You We slow down and enjoy the good things in life.

Sautéd green beans with garlic, mushrooms, and almonds.
Mushroom gravy.
Lentil and mushroom en croute.
Sweet potatoes with butterscotch pecan drizzle.
Mashed potatoes with French style cashew cheese.
*Click for Recipes!*

A meal can be such a wonderful experience, a place to take care of your physical and spiritual needs. A meal can be a place we bond and connect with others. We normally break bread with others because that is such an important part of the human experience. For thousands of years, most people have worked hard together to feed each other and share in the bounty. The Benefit of Eating with Others

Thanksgiving done savory.

So, whatever Thanksgiving looks like to you, whether it’s the holiday or any day, whether you are sharing a meal with family, friends, or maybe you are somewhere in a place where solitude is your chapter for just a period of time, I hope it’s a day you can pause and find the things to be grateful for. Gratitude and Health

We’re still unpacking boxes in the Virginia house and packing together a life of memories while following dreams.

For my husband and I, we are grateful to have another day we can share with each other AND our four kitties. I am grateful to have family and friend-family(framily) in different parts of the country that I miss dearly. I am thankful to have a roof over my head and heat to keep us warm in the winter. I am thankful to have the food to eat and a meal I can prepare beautifully to show my appreciation and joy in creating. And I am thankful for you, dear reader, for reading along in my journey and discovery. Create for you a beautiful day that you can appreciate. Find gratitude in both the little and big things that come your way. Take joy in how you express yourself.

The four kitties: starting top-left, moving clockwise, Cricket, Wolfrik, Lunar, and Cutie. ❤️

Enjoy your art and may you live well! 💛

Choline Controversy

In the world of nutrition, a little known nutrient made major headlines and caused ripples among the diet trends and social belief systems that are growing more popular in the wake of knowledge of food production/handling and health. What little tidbit could cause that much of a shake-up, you might wonder. Well, that little nutrient that carries that much weight is choline.
New York Post: Plant-based diets risk ‘dumbing down’ the next generation, nutritionist warns

Ouch!

Choline is water-soluble compound, similar to a vitamin, but neither vitamin nor mineral, that is essential to health. It impacts liver function, brain development, muscle movement, nervous system, and metabolism. Choline is needed to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood, and intelligence. Having only been discovered in the late 90s, we are continuing to learn the vital impact diet plays in our lives and the role it had in our evolution.

Stirring up choline so we don’t stir up trouble.

If relying mostly or strictly on plant foods for nutrition fuel, you can still have balanced diet full of the nutrients you need if you plan accordingly. It’s so important for you to do your own research and to listen to your body when it comes to meeting your specific and unique needs. Varying your diet as much as your body will tolerate should help you meet your nutritional requirements. To get some ideas on what you might incorporate into your diet, read this article on Live Kindly. And for the top plant foods that contain Choline, read SELF Nutrition Data: Know What You Eat.

Combating controversy with super ingredients!

Here, I’m featuring a recipe using some of the top plant foods with a more abundant amount of Choline: cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms, tofu or tempeh, and cashew butter.

Cauliflower and Tempeh Stir-Fry
with Mushrooms and Cashew Sauce

Ingredients:
block of extra firm tofu or tempeh, diced
3/4 of a large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets, approximately 2 cups
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
half cup cashew butter
8 oz quinoa pasta (or use quinoa grain for more choline)
seaweed (normally, I use fresh seaweed salad from the sushi section when the grocer has it; dried seaweed works in a pinch *see above pic*)
half a yellow onion, diced
veggie broth, approximately 1 cup
2 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs tamari
1/2 to 1 Tsp crushed red papper (spice to your preference)
1/2 Tsp Chinese Five Spice Blend
salt and pepper
4 or 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
*avocado oil, optional

Double, double stirs no trouble; Fire burn and choline bubble.

Recipe:
Start boiling water and cook pasta acccording to instructions. When done, drain and set aside. Prepare cauliflower and tofu and add shredded carrots to deep pot or large wok with about a 1/4 cup broth over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally until cauliflower is softened and broth is absorbed. Add more broth if cauliflower needs more cooking. Season with about 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper. Add oil, if using, mushrooms and onion, cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring about every minute. Add 1/4 cup more broth, red pepper, five spice, and bring back up to a simmer. Turn heat to low. While veggies cook, in a medium bowl, mix cashew butter, tamari, sesame oil, and maple syrup. Add 1 Tbs of broth at a time until you reach a thick sauce or desired consistency. Add pasta, sauce, seaweed, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, mixing to incorporate. Garnish with chopped cilantro and crushed red pepper.

Not shaken, not stirred. Just toss.

Not only did I and my taste testing partner (or guinea pig my husband may consider himself sometimes – love you, babe) find that this dish satiated the appetite, it also met our wishes for a full flavor profile and contained a proportionate amount of choline.
Estimates:
Cashew butter – 60 mg
Cauliflower – 120 mg
Shiitake – 83 mg
Tempeh – 130 mg
*I couldn’t find choline data for quinoa pasta. For a higher amount of choline, you might consider using quinoa grain, in which case, 1 cup cooked yields 43 mg.*
Total choline for this dish: 366 mg without the quinoa information.

My new favorite broth!
The one I normally use omits the sugar cane. This one contains 1g of sugar per 1 cup of broth.
Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Broths

Considering that this meal was split about evenly between me and my partner, that puts our choline intake at roughly 183 mg. This is why I also include in my daily routine a smoothie that consists of pumpkin seed powder (1 cup of dried pumpkin seeds contains 87 mg of Choline), chickpea powder (1 cup canned contains 78 mg), flax seed powder (1 oz contains 22 mg), quinoa powder, and chia seed powder (not a reliable source for choline but a great nutritional source, otherwise).
National Institute of Health – Choline: An Essential Nutrient

Considering the seriousness of choline deficiency and the unique needs every individual has in relation to bio-availability in certain foods, you should consider the choices you make for you and your family and the investment you make each day for your health. Nothing pours from an empty vessel, so be mindful that you fill it and what you fill it with.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

A Post about Toast

Let us toast to good health!

As promised in a previous post, I’ve got a couple quick, simple recipes for your chompers. 🙂 Most days for most of us, we need something quick, convenient, and something to keep us full and satisfied until the next break. “What’s so great about toast?” you may ask. With these ingredients, I assure you, you’ll be the toast of the house.

These heavy-weights aren’t gonna let dry toast get you down!

The keys in these two recipes to making a great breakfast, are focusing on good protein, good fat, carbs (pre-digested with the use of sourdough), and fiber.
Read benefits of sourdough: Bread Matters

Avocado Toast for two:
2 slices of sourdough or sprouted grain bread
1 avocado
1 Tbs Vegenaise
salt and pepper to taste
harissa seasoning to taste
seasoned, roasted pumpkin seeds
onion jam

We’re not scrambling eggs this morning, we’re mashing avocado.

Assembly:
After toasting your bread, mash your avocado with Vegenaise and season to taste with salt, pepper, and harissa. Spread half the avocado mix onto each slice of bread, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, drizzle a dollup of onion jam on top, then sprinkle with more pumpkin seeds.

This avocado toast will have you kissing Hass.

What I love about this recipe, besides the mouth-watering tastiness and satiation, is the use of pumpkin seeds and bread give us a mix of complex and simple proteins, while allowing the utilization of the tryptophan for our nervous system.

Cashew Butter and Banana Toast for two:
2 slices of sourdough or sprouted grain bread
your favorite cashew butter (look for no sugar or oil used – one ingredient cashew butter)
1 banana, sliced
1 Tsp Vegenaise
seasoned, roasted pumpkin seeds
maple syrup

Let’s not split up these ingredients.

Assembly:
After toasting your bread, spread a thin layer of Vegenaise, and a thicker layer of cashew butter, to your liking, on top of your slices. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, top with banana slices, more pumpkin seeds, and then drizzle a little maple syrup.

This recipe also meets the desires for a little sweet and a little salty in your breakfast. We again have incorporated some simple and complex nutrients. The cashew butter, like pumpkin, contains those good fats and aminos for brain happiness. For more on cashews: The World’s Healthiest Foods

If Marie-Antoinette had tried these recipes, she would’ve said: “Laissez-les manger des toasts! – Let them eat toast!”

These are just two fun ways you can spruce of your boring toast routine, while getting in and out of the kitchen, quickly. Why skimp on flavor with convenience? I say, “You can have your toast and eat it too!”

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Black Bean and Mushroom Burger

Burger heaven…

It’s burger night! Does it get any more “American” than that? Well, I guess that depends on… Wait, this sounds strangely familiar. If you read my previous post, then you’ll know why. This house must be craving some standard American fare. And in this Land of the Free and home to millions of acres of grass-land, it’s no surprise that the hamburger would become a staple on the “American” plate.

But easy-access comes with a cost. Our health has suffered without the realization that if something tastes this good, and I can have it whenever – as often as I like – it just might be too good to be true… Or in this case, too much of a “good” thing can be a “bad” thing. So what are we to do? As I’ve mentioned before, relying too heavily on any food group can pose risks to our health. Especially if that food is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats. I propose, as many others are too, that you get adventurous in the kitchen and with your plate, and try some new tools. You may surprise yourself with what you discover about food, culture, the land we share, and yourself.

Give beef a break with these beans.
If you give a bean about knowing beans, read:
What’s the Beef with Beef

In this spin, we’re going for a complete protein that will leave you satisfied both in flavor and nutrition. Beans and rice are used to make a complete protein while also holding the patty together with the sticky starchiness of the rice. We’ve added boiled yam to compliment the spices and bring that extra nutritional package they come with: potassium, vitamins A and C, iron, folate, antioxidants, and fiber. The savoriness of cooked onions and mushrooms, with the addition of spices, the fat from avocado, should have us not “missing” anything other than another one of these burgers to chow down on.

An orchestra of flavors await your conducting.

Ingredients for 4 patties:
1 can of black beans, drained
half a yam or sweet potato, boiled
half an avocado, diced
1/2 cup rice, cooked
half a yellow onion, chopped
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3 red chilis in adobo sauce, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbs tamari
1 Tsp nutritional yeast
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
1/2 Tsp chili powder
1/2 Tsp thyme
1/2 Tsp black pepper
1/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp ground mustard
1/4 Tsp cumin
onion-peach-jalepeno jam
burger buns or lettuce leaves for wraps
cheese slices, optional*
avocado oil for sauteing, optional*
salt and pepper for sauteing

We’re all-in in this burger mix.

Recipe:
Peel your sweet potato, dice it, and get it boiling. You can boil during most of your prep, just make sure it’s fork tender when you add it to the mix. Get your rice cooking according to instructions. In a large pan over medium heat, warm your oil and add onions, walnuts, and 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, cooking for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and peppers, plus 2 Tbs of adobo sauce, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. To a bowl, add your beans, saute mix, cooked potato, herbs, spices, tamari, yeast, cooked rice, and avocado. Mash with a potato masher or your hands, making sure to get all the ingredients well incorporated. Some small chunks are fine. Form 4 patties.

You should definitely follow your heart, especially when it comes to adding cheese to your burger. This is probably not the best health-choice for my heart… but the heart wants what the heart wants. And it wanted a slice of cheese.

In this trial, I wanted to try baking vs frying. Because I didn’t add any breading to the mix, I wanted to see if by baking, I could get the patties to hold up their form by also broiling for a few minutes at the end. This is where your creativity comes into play. Experiment with different methods, and learn from your results. 🙂

Whether with meat or cheese, this jam is jammin.

I ended up baking my patties for about 15 minutes to warm the patties through, then broiling them on high for 3 minutes to get the patty to crisp up around the outside. I added a slice of cheese and broiled for another minute. For the assembly, I toasted fresh hamburger buns, spread a bit of Vegenaise on the bottom bun, added a bit of leafy greens(arugula and spinach mix), added my burger patty with cheese, spooned some onion jam on top, spread a little yellow mustard on the top bun, then closed it all up.

Try to keep your eyes on the fries.

The results:
A beautiful mouthful of flavor that didn’t keep shape very well. 😀 They were a little more like a sloppy joe in consistency. Now, I know people have used bread crumbs or wheat gluten to shape up their patties to hold together when baked or fried. And I may experiment with that in the future. But for now, we’ll call this perfection in the making. The spices were complimented by the sweetness of the jam and the tanginess of the mustard. I wanted to keep the gluten and oil amount down. Next time, I’d like to try incorporating some crushed dry-roasted chickpeas into the mix and see if that helps with the structure, along with moving the avocado to replace the Vegenaise as a healthy condiment. I will definitely give this another go – it tastes too good not to – and see if we can get this burgers whipped into better shape.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Mushroom Sauce Pizza with Arugula and Onion Jam Drizzle

I would fly high for a slice of this moon pie!

It’s pizza night! Does it get any more “American” than that? Well, I guess that depends on whether you’re craving pizza, hotdogs, or hamburgers. But tonight, we’re craving pizza. And rather than ordering delivery, we’re gonna get artsy with this Italian-American fare.

This recipe takes inspiration from a friend who had given me some tips on how to make an easy pizza with fresh ingredients. You can find Valarie’s gourmet recipes featured at the Center for Nutrition Studies, with the beautiful use of whole plant ingredients without the use of oil. She likes to use the Ezekiel brand flatbread or tortilla as the crust. I like this brand because the grains are sprouted, which provides a lot of wholesome nutrients that are more bioavailable to our digestion. She also uses an almond-based cheese spread that is a friendly dairy-free alternative. The great thing about using these ingredients is that they are easy to get and will get you in and out of the kitchen in a jiffy, while also providing wholesome goodness to you and family. Using whole foods can coexist with “quick and convenient” and be delicious! Sound to good to be true? Give it a try and just maybe, you’ll be a believer. 😉

Better ingredients. Better pizza. Papa should try this!

Mushroom Sauce for 2 pizzas:
2 Ezekiel tortillas or crusts of your choice (I used a 6 grain Tuscan flatbread)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
small container of cheese spread (I have here, a 6 oz container of French-style cashew cheese, garlic and herb flavored)
5 oz baby arugula (and/or spinach)
6 oz can tomato paste
1 Tsp oregano
1 Tsp marjoram (or just use another Tsp of oregano)
1Tsp basil
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper
avocado oil for sauteing*
extra virgin olive oil for leafy greens*
onion peach jalepeno jam*
*I highly recommend making this jam a day or more ahead. It will save you time in the kitchen. Alternatively, if you can find a jar of onion jam, get bold and try it. When time is available to make sauces and jams at home, I prefer to do this to have more control of the quality of ingredients. As you will see in future posts, there are many uses for this jam, including gifting to those special to you.*

These mellow mushrooms add an earthy savoriness to this saucy vibe.

I think using fresh herbs elevates the flavors in any sauce, but having dried on hand can save you in a pinch if the fresh herbs you need are not available at your store. Applying the dried herbs to heat before adding the tomato will bring out the flavors.

In this game, a slice is desired.

Recipe:
Preheat your oven according to your crust instructions or to 400 if using Ezekiel tortillas. In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, warm oil and add onions and walnuts. Add about an 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring every minute. Add mushrooms and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring about every minute. Add your herbs, spices, and cook for about a minute. Add the can of tomato paste, fill the empty can with water and add to the mix, stirring until the paste becomes a thick sauce. Add 1/4 Tsp salt and pepper to the sauce and simmer over low heat for at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix your leafy greens with 1 Tsp virgin oil* and 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper.

Proper layers are added in the dressing of this pizza.

Assembly:
To your crust, spoon sauce thinly or thickly, making sure to leave a good 1/2 inch or more of free crust space around the edges. Slice or spoon thin layers of cheese onto your sauce, pretty evenly. You want to make sure every bite has a bit of cheese! 🙂 Sprinkle a handful or two of leafy greens over the cheese. And finally, drizzle this decadent onion jam over your leafy greens. I used about 3 small spoonfuls, but the amount is up to you. Bake according to your pizza crust’s instructions or 5 to 8 minutes if using Ezekiel tortillas (check halfway through to test crispiness). You don’t want to burn this baby.

This ain’t delivery. It’s Di-Homemade!

What I love about this concept is that it is so versatile! The sauce, you can tinker with to your preferences. Think of it as a base to get you started. The creamy cheese works well with the sauce and leafy greens, giving bitefuls of that satisfying texture and satiation. The leafy greens are wilted to perfection, adding a nutritional boost to your pizza cravings. Think of it as a green dip on a slice. 🙂 And that drizzle… the final compliment to this pie is a savory sweet glistening that pairs beautifully with all your ingredients. It compliments the greens, the cheese, and the sauce, eloquently. It’s sure to impress who you’re feeding – most especially, your taste buds.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Onion-Peach-Jalepeno Jam

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large sweet onions, chopped
2 ripe peaches, peeled and diced
1 jalepeno, seeds left in or out up to you*, chopped
3 parsley sprigs, chopped or 1 Tsp dried parsley
3 bay leaves
2 rosemary sprigs, chopped or 1/2 Tsp dried rosemary
3/4 cup coconut or brown sugar
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt

Recipe:
In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm oil and add onions, peaches, and jalepeno. Cook for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a golden-brown. Add the herbs and turn the heat to low, cooking for 3 minutes. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the mix, and without stirring, allow the sugar to melt, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, and without stirring, allow the sugar to caramelize, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar, turn heat back down to low, and simmer until mixture thickens (mine took approximately 10 to 15 minutes). Remove from heat, sprinkle lightly with salt, about 1/8 Tsp or to taste, and allow to cool and continue thickening. Yields approximately 3 cups.

Sweet and Sour Tofu with Fried Rice

For my friend, Heather. 🙂

The classic sauce known as “Sweet and Sour” is not a tradition of Chinese cuisine. What became known as Chinese-American food started in the late 1800s, when Chinese laborers formed communities to support each other, bringing flavors from home to offer comfort to the longing of familiarity left behind. Other laborers began experiencing the Chinese cuisine because the common bond of hard work broke down the racial barriers that divided. As the knowledge spread of the rich and exotic flavors happening in these “Chinatowns,” rich Americans got caught up with these new flavors, and Chinese restaurateurs saw the opportunity to make some money.

Show me the money!

The cooks began to surrender some of their time-consuming cooking techniques and expensive, hard-to-find spices. Instead, they looked for ways to flavor food in quick, powerful bursts. Knowing that Americans enjoyed the sweetened acidity of tomato-based sauces like ketchup, the chefs began to coat their meats in a stronger version of the sweet and sour sauces served in China. (Hello, MSG!) They replaced traditional, delicately-flavored rice vinegar with more pungent, but readily-available, white vinegar. These chefs had unlocked a shortcut to the complex flavor balance of Chinese cooking, and quickly reaped the profits.
The History of Sweet and Sour Sauce

Now, that’s a medley!

This is a gluten-free recipe that pays attention to the type of sweetener being used. We are using tamari, apple-cider vinegar with “the mother,” and tomato paste to add savory flavor to the tofu and sauce. Sauteing the vegetables brings out the complexity, balancing the sour and sweetness, while adding a nice texture.

Recipe for two:
1 cup rice, cooked according to instructions
tamari
apple cider vinegar (ACV)
10 oz firm tofu, pressed to squeeze out liquid and cut in 1/2 to 1 inch cubs
gluten-free, all-purpose flower
1 carrot or 5 baby carrots, 1/4 inch diagonal slices
1 green bell pepper, divided
1 red bell pepper, divided
1 yellow onion, divided and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, divided and chopped
coconut sugar (lower glycemic index), or other brown sugar
maple syrup
tomato paste
salt and pepper
toasted sesame oil for flavor or whole toasted sesame seeds*
avocado oil for cooking*

This breaded tofu soaks up the sauce.
Let’s call these tofu cubes, edible packets of flavor. 🙂

Recipe:
Press your tofu 30 minutes or more before you start prepping and cooking. After tofu has been pressed, start cooking your 1 cup of rice, according to instructions. Take your cubed tofu that you have pressed, and in a medium sized bowl, add 2 Tbs tamari and 1 Tbs ACV, basting every few minutes while prepping your vegetables. After you’ve divided and chopped your onion, your garlic, and sliced your carrot(s), chop half of your bell peppers and set aside for the fried rice. The other half of your peppers, cut in 1/2 to 1 inch slices for the tofu stir-fry. After tofu has marinated a good 10 minutes or so, drain, place tofu in a small to medium glass bowl that has a lid, add 2 Tbs of gluten-free flour, close lid and shake to coat tofu cubes. Set aside. In a deep pot over medium heat, warm your cooking oil. Add your tofu stir-fry vegetables, (onion, red and green bell pepper, carrot) 1/4 Tsp salt and pepper, and cook for 3 minutes, until they start to get a golden color. Remove from heat. In a deep large pan over medium heat, warm your cooking oil and add your fried rice vegetables (onion, red and green bell pepper). Cook for 3 to 4 minutes to get a nice golden color. Turn heat down to medium-low, add cooked rice, and 1 Tbs of tamari. Stir to incorporate and fry the rice, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Sweet, meet Sour. East, meet West.

Continued:
In a small pan, add 4 Tbs coconut or other brown sugar, 1/2 Tbs maple syrup, 2 Tbs tomato paste, 1 Tbs ACV, 1/2 Tbs tamari, 2 Tbs gluten-free flour, 1 chopped garlic clove, and 6 Tbs of water. Heat pan over medium heat until sauce is mixed and starts to bubble. Turn heat down to low to a simmer, adding 1 Tbs of water at a time to keep a thick sauce consistency. Remove from heat. Return the tofu-stir fry to medium heat and add 1 chopped garlic clove, cooking for 1 minute. Add floured tofu cubes and cook, stirring every minute or so until tofu is starting to crip and get a golden-brown color. If the tofu is sticking to pan, that’s okay, keep stirring with the vegetables. Add a Tsp to 1 Tbs of oil if having difficulty with sticking. After about 2 or 3 minutes, add the Sweet and Sour Sauce and stir to incorporate. Remove from heat, add 1/2 Tbs of sesame oil and stir to incorporate. Alternatively, you could sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.

Bliss…

The stickiness of this dish makes it easy to eat with chopsticks. We didn’t have any, so a fork was implemented to shove large, savory bitefulls into mouth. My husband was very impressed with the flavor and texture of this dish. (I call that a win!) I loved using the whole amount of vegetables in this dish, not wasting anything. And because I opted to used all of it, I didn’t add any additional veggies to the rice or stir-fry. But feel free to experiment with some of your faves! I could see incorporating broccoli into the stir-fry, or adding peas and carrots to the fried rice. Think of this recipe as a launching point to doing your own creativity. Be bold and adventurous with your tools! Have fun with it!

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

The Ritual

Welcome to my sacred place.

Every morning, I do the same thing that works for me. I’ve created a daily habit to practice during the weekdays that fuel and energize me to where I can tackle the week. I believe if you find what works for you, you’re more likely to stay on track to a healthy state of being. The key is: What works for You?

My day begins with deep, slow breaths when I open my eyes and consciousness sinks in. (Or maybe it’s the bright morning sunlight penetrating my eyelids because it gets really bright, really early here… like day time at 6:00 am.) After stretching, I make my way downstairs to feed the cats and start the coffee if my husband hasn’t already done so. (Calling you out, hubs! 😀 ) My husband and I start the day together, talking about what’s on our heart and any goals we want to accomplish for the day. We function as a team, and this is a good time to check in with each other with our individual desires and combined goals. I begin the first part of the day writing. This is when that part of my brain is more active. At around 9:00/9:30, I start to get hungry.

What’s not cooking in the kitchen?

I’ve learned what seems to fuel me the best and most efficiently. You have to find what time and what fuel works for you. For me, waiting until my body tells me I’m hungry keeps me in tune to my needs. Rather than me forcing something on myself when I’m up at 6:00 am, I listen to when my body is ready to take in sustenance. I drink a smoothie every morning. For someone who is living with an IBD, it’s been found that fiber intake from fruits and vegetables can help prevent flare-ups… but when the disease is active, fiber almost feels like your enemy. I have read so many articles about avoiding hard-to-digest veggies, FODMAP, and low-residue diets. What seems to work for me is cutting back on vegetables with high amounts of riffinose, cutting back on eating raw vegetables, incorporating smoothies with protein powders while paying attention to high-quality protein and fat, and meditative exercises without the use of weights.

Don’t think about the laundry…

My exercises include walking once or twice a week and work-out routines incorporating calisthenics, pilates, and yoga twice or thrice a week. Adopting activity into daily tasks also helps, such as brisk, purposeful walks to anywhere I’m going and being vigorously active while doing house chores.

Nutritional info…

My morning smoothie is a potent blend of plant protein powders, including a meal replacement and pure pumpkin seed. Before reaching for that carton of milk, consider grabbing those pumpkin seeds! Pumpkin seed powder is being considered as the “new glass of milk.” Why? Because they contain a high amount of tryptophan – a vital amino acid that contributes to healthy brain development and mood function. It’s not simply about the protein one gets – it’s the amino acids. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, which assists the brain in converting tryptophan into serotonin.

More nutritional info…

Another special discovery with pumpkin seeds is that they have a high tryptophan to protein ratio, enabling it to compete better with other amino acids allowing for more uptake into the blood brain barrier. We are discovering that there is a direct connection between the stomach and the brain – mood disorders correlate with digestive problems. Scientists are exploring the frontier of the Microbiome and the Gut-Brain Axis.
Read: Antidepressive Activity of Pumpkin Seeds and
Science-based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds and
other top foods containing Tryptophan.

And more more more nutritional info!


I also add a plant-based multi-vitamin powder, a plant-based digestive-aid mix, half a banana for sweetness, half an avocado for fat and super nutrients, 1 Tsp of apple-cider vinegar with “the mother,” and 2 Tsp aloe-vera juice. The great thing about smoothies for sensitive stomach issues is that the tough fiber is broken down but leaves the nutrients intact, making it easier for nutrient absorption while also feeding your microbiome.
www.wellnessbyfood.com

Lean, green smoothie drinkin’ machine.

Maybe a smoothie isn’t for you. Not everyone likes that. My husband likes to lovingly tease me, saying he likes to chew his food and that my breakfast is “a drink” and “not food.” There are options-a-plenty for your “chompers” out there. I’ll be writing about some quick and convenient breakfast alternatives for the chewing and smacking in the near future. 😉

This ninja has stealth!

Find what works for you and make it your ritual. The thing about your rituals is that they are sacred to you. Setting aside time to do something for yourself should be sacred. Your body is a temple that houses the love and light that is You. And if you hold reverence and have respect for what is True, then you love and accept Yourself as You Are. And just as the sculpture molds the clay into a beautiful form, we are shaped by life. We don’t always know how the work of art will transform or understand the purpose of the artist. But when we pause to appreciate what is happening, we can see the beauty that is – the beauty that is life.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!

Chickpea and Carrot Pitas with Tahini Dressing

I got a pocket, got a pocketful of flavor.
I got a love, and it’s all mine to savor.
Oh, oh whoa-oh-oh…


In the Middle East, flatbread – known as pita – was made by mixing together flour and water, then letting the dough sit out to gather yeasts from the air. When the dough showed signs of life with little air bubbles forming and popping, the pita was then baked at a high temperature, causing the moisture to evaporate. The steam from the evaporation forced the dough to split into two layers, forming the signature pocket.

Practicing the art of eating like the French: a little salad, a little bread, a little protein, a little sauce, a little wine, and very importantly – enjoying it!

Beans, beans, the musical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you feel full and get to benefit from all the nutrition inside of these little legumes…
That’s not how the song goes – I know – but these garbanzo beans are pretty awesome. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have been shown to regulate blood sugar, thereby decreasing the risk of diabetes. They contribute to bone health from the iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K – all necessary in building and strengthening bones. They also contain selenium, a mineral that aids your liver enzymes in decreasing inflammation and inhibits tumor growth. And amazingly, they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our intestines! Soluble fiber blends with water and increases the amount of good bacteria, helping to reduce the risk of IBS and colon cancer. Insoluble fiber makes its way, all the way down to the colon. The bacteria residing in the last segment of your digestive tract metabolize the fiber, producing short chain fatty acids that provide food to the cells lining your intestinal walls – lowering the risk of bowel issues and colon cancer.
www.medicalnewstoday.com
www.healthline.com
The Word’s Healthiest Foods – www.whfoods.com

This pita will not be overshadowed by your wine selection.

But before you pour the pounds of chickpeas into your mouth, it is good to be mindful of sensitivities some people have. If you have autoimmune disease of the bowels, such as Crohn’s, you may consider starting off slow. Make sure you drink adequate amounts of water with your fiber intake, and consider reading up on the benefits of adding prebiotics(digestive enzymes) and probiotics to your diet.

Ingredients for two:
2 large carrots, 1/2 inch diagonal slices
1 and 1/2 Tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 Tbs maple syrup
1 lime, cut in half
1/4 cup tahini
3 oz baby arugula
2 whole grain pitas, split in halves for toasting and stuffing
3 Tbs dry-roasted pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine*, optional
avocado oil*

Here, we do want to glaze over. 😉

Recipe:
In a large pan over medium heat, warm oil and add carrots, 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, and half the cumin. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring about every minute. Add chickpeas, maple syrup, 1/4 cup white wine or water, 1/8 Tsp salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover , and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the liquid has formed a glaze. Remove from heat. While chickpeas and carrots cook, in a small bowl, add tahini, half the lime juiced, the other half of the cumin, and 2 Tbs of water. Stir until smooth, adding 1 Tbs of water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix arugula with the other half of lime juiced, 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and 1/8 salt and pepper. Toast your pita pockets lightly if you like them warm and soft, or toast them more if you like crispy.

Stuff it!

Stuff those pita pockets with as much tasty goodness they can hold. Then stuff your mouth with tasty goodness.

Enjoy your art and may you live well!