Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wal-Mart Bonanza Brown Rice Salad with Balsamic Dill Dressing

Yes, people.  Wal-Mart.  If you're lucky, you live in a place where Wal-Mart is not the only store around.  For most of America, however, this is not the case.  And you want to know what? Wal-Mart actually carries a few decent, healthy-ish brands (like Newmans Own, Stonyfield, and Market Side Veggies) and even though it's not organic, you can find nice looking produce there -so it's not a total desert.

Well, I thought I would showcase what can be done in middle-America; that you can eat sorta-healthy and satisfying things made from items solely found at Wal-Mart.  Lets be clear though, I am in no way ADVOCATING that you shop at Wally-world.  I'm simply trying to show the variety of things you can buy there in the case that you ever find yourself in such a position.

Sacrifices must be will not always be organic, you will be supporting a-hole conglomerates.  Pesticides aside, at the end of the day you can still do OK for your body with a limited budget and a trip to your local mega-store. This salad can be refrigerated and enjoyed for a few days.

Just LOOK at this color bonanza! This fiesta of flavors! This triumphant texture fest!

Wal-Mart Bonanza Brown Rice Salad  
*Omit Feta to make it vegan, simply add sprinkle of sea salt in place.

-2 cups cooked, chilled long or short grain brown rice
-1 medium cucumber 
-1 small bag of Market Side fresh French Green Beans (or frozen), blanched 5 mins in boiling water
-Mini Sweet bell peppers (~6)
-1 can low-sodium garbanzo beans
-1 pint cherry tomatoes
-1 small container of traditional Feta cheese, in block form --crumble it yourself, worth it!
-Green onions, rough chopped
-Cilantro 1/2 bunch, rough chopped (or parseley, or whatever herb you want; mint would be excellent)
-2 avocados (if they have em, not essential...chopped walnuts would do as well in place)

Salad Dressing:
-1/4 cup best olive oil you can find at Wal-Mart (I actually don't measure, I just drizzle it over the top and stir it in until it looks well coated.
-1/4-1/3 cup best Balsamic Vinegar you can find
-1/2 tbsp dried dill
-1/2 tsp each garlic powder and onions powder (or fresh garlic and onion!)

Step 1: Cook Rice
Cook 1 cup brown rice according to package directions (probably ~2 cups water).  Best to do the night before and refrigerate, but cook it and let is cool as much as possible.

Step 2: Chop up a bunch of veggies and throw them in, then open can of beans and toss that in too.
Yeah, it's that simple.  Just throw shit in there.  Whatever you have!  Chop things how you like them.  Me? I like a fine dice.  You could do navy beans or cannelini beans or red kidney beans or even black beans.  Whatever you like!

Step 3: Drizzle with dressing and toss.
I just sprinkle/drizzle the dressing ingredients on until it looks like everything is seasoned. And adjust from there.

Bon Apetit!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Simple, Rich Chocolate Vegan Mochas

I've never been a coffee drinker.  Unless by coffee you mean coffee flavored milk with tons of sugar in it.  My partner? He can drink the most awful, bitterest brew straight black.  YICK!  Well, that being said, he also loooooves sweet, creamy mochas.  Mochas combine the best of all worlds in my opinion: coffee AND chocolate with cream and sweetness! Coffee and chocolate? Yes, please.  The other best part about a mocha is that the chocolate and the milk and the sugar will make even the worst coffee taste magical and delicious!

After our recent 1,800 mile road trip moving from the west coast to the South with a dog, a cat, two cars, and a trailer....I now love mochas (and caffeine)! What a nice treat.  Our new small southern town, while awesome in many ways, is devoid of things commonplace on the west coast--like fancy coffee shops that make fancy coffee concoctions like mochas, etc. with non-dairy milk options.  So this is my solution.  Okay, I know they aren't that fancy looking without whip cream or the froth on top, spiraled into heart shapes or cat faces or whatever.  But in that blue-collar, middle-America kind of way these simple mochas get the job done, son!  I think they taste just like the mochas I've had from coffee shops and they hit the spot.  Other recipes will just tell you to mix vanilla soy milk with some cocoa powder and wham-bam-thank-ya-mam you got a mocha.  Nope, sorry.  The small amount of extra work to make this rich chocolate milk with real vanilla extract and good cocoa is worth it. --Enjoy!
***Makes two perfect mochas!***

Step 1: Make 1 cup (i.e. one mug full) of coffee. 
Do this however you like to make coffee.  The coffee is going to be split between two mugs, so each mug will be half coffee, half rich chocolatey milk goodness (recipe below).  Our french press broke so now we use a tea strainer that fits in a mug and put the pre-ground coffee in it (~2 tbsp).  Pour the hot water into the mug and let it steep for about 1-2 minutes.

Step 2:   Make Rich Chocolate Milk
1 cup soy milk (or milk of your pref, make sure it's creamy/velvety)
1/2 cup water (for richer taste, use all soy milk)
1/4 cup dutch cocoa pwd
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp raw cane sugar crystals
pinch of sea salt
1 Whisk

-In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add water, soy milk, vanilla, and pinch of sea salt, and sugar. Whisk together as mixture heats up and sugar is dissolved.
-Slowly add the cocoa powder as you are whisking.  You may need to tilt the pot and whisk vigorously to incorporate the powder if, like me, you are too lazy to waste time sifting.

Step 3: Mix it all together and enjoy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Purple Hull Peas with Pasilla Chilis & Herbed Carrot Pilaf Rice

It's summer time and that means PRODUCE!  Each region will have different local specialties.  Where I live here in Arkansas, the farmers market has lots of fresh Purple Hull Peas, which are very similar to Black Eyed Peas, except they have a smoother, creamier texture.

 Peas in the south are usually cooked with smokey, fatty bacon (ok, just about every vegetable in the south is usually cooked with bacon...but I digress).  This is where the pasilla chili and paprika come in.  I know, I know...not a bacon substitute, but it kind of is, know what I mean?

Anyways, the pasilla chili, which is slightly spicy and earthy, makes a lovely compliment to the tender and mild peas without overwhelming them. And onion and garlic are, well, mandatory.  This is a sumptuous and satisfying dish!

I served this as a lunch with a side of pilaf rice (recipe follows) and a simple salad with a homemade red wine and dill vinaigrette.  This meal has loads of protein and utilizes a lot of summer veggies you may have burning a hole in your fridge right now ;)

Recipe for Purple Hull Peas
Shelled purple hull peas
2- 2.5 cups fresh, shelled purple hull peas
**(Can sub. black eyed peas.  This would about 1 small bag of frozen peas from the store)
-3 tbsp oil (coconut or canola)
-1 purple onion, diced
-1 pasilla chili, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-Sea salt to taste
-1.5 tsp dried parsley flakes
-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
-1/2 tsp paprika
-2.5 cups water

-In a big skillet or pot on medium-high heat, add oil and minced onion and pepper and sprinkle with a little sea salt (~1/2 tsp).  Sautee with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until onion and pepper are tender and somewhat caramelized (i.e. browned a little, or at least close).
-When onion and pepper are cooked, add the fresh (or thawed) peas, the minced garlic, and the parsley.  Sprinkle on a touch more salt to coat the peas. Toss or stir in pan to coat the peas.
-Put the lid on a let the peas fry a little, tossing occassionaly...~5 mins.
-Add water (enough to slightly cover the peas) and add yeast flakes and stir to make a broth.
-Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the peas a tender.

Recipe for Herb Carrot Pilaf
-1.5 cups long grain white rice
-1/2 tsp turmeric
-1 tsp rosemarry
-1 tsp garlic pwd
-2 tbs yeast flakes
-Braggs Liq. Aminos, to taste
-1 carrot, finely diced
-Sprinkle of black pepper
-2 tsp coconut oil or vegan butter
-3 cups water, to cook rice

-Place everything into the rice cooker except for the Braggs and coconut oil.  Cook until rice is tender.
-When cooked, finish the rice off by putting in the oil or butter and a few splashes of Braggs and fluffing with a fork to toss and coat rice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Healing Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

Has everyone around you been getting a cold or a flu? Are you feeling a little stuffy? Achy? Sore throatiness? Well, join the club.  It seems everyone is getting sick lately.  There was something that went around my office and now it's coming back around again!  I really wanted a brothy, cleansing, healing soup to chase away all that muck that was starting to surface in my body.  

Well, here is the perfect soup to warm you up and clear you out....perfect for this cold, sick season that has been upon us.  Leeks, celery, green onion and dark winter greens are simmered in a clear vegetable stock with miso, tamari soy sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. You can make it spicy by adding a few dashes of Sriracha, hot sauce, or chili oil to taste.  I left it out and just let the steam do it's heat work on me.  If this doesn't cure what ails ya, I don't know what will!

 Vegan Hot and Sour Soup (Serves 6)
-2 quarts vegetable stock (clear kind of broth)
-4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
-2 medium leeks, tough part cut off and tender bottoms thinly sliced
-1 bunch lacinato kale, de-ribbed and thinly sliced (can use spinach or any other green)
-2-3 tbsp tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
-1 tbsp mellow white miso (use a little broth to make a miso paste in a bowl, then add to pot)
-Juice of half a lemon
-1/2 bunch green onions, chopped all the way to the white part
-1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Add vegetable stock to pot, put on medium-high heat.
  2. Chop celery, leeks and add to pot along with black pepper.  Let cook at a bubbling simmer for 5 or so minutes, then add kale.
  3. When vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes of cooking, add soy sauce, lemon, chopped green onion, and miso.  Serve hot.

Light Lo Mein with Soy Steamed Vegetables

Lately, I've been digging somen noodles (and also one pot meals). Somen noodles are thin and light and, best of all, cook in 2 minutes! The other night I wanted to make a vegetable noodle dish and began throwing things together for a stir fry dish.  After I got to the point of no return (I cooked a huge pot of noodles), I realized we were out of sesame oil.  Darn, there goes the asian marinade I was planning.  Then I got the idea to make a peanut sauce, saved! Oh darn, we are out of peanut butter too? And also chili paste?  What have I done!

I scratched my noodle and then just used what had on hand: lime juice, tamari soy sauce, almond oil and a little freshly grated ginger. Voila!  Dinner was saved and it wasn't too bad after all.  Actually, it was better and much healthier than what I was originally planning to make! YESSSSS!!! This dish is not saucy and wet, it's more dry and noodley.  Also, since we're using no oil, the noodles stick together a little bit, but luckily not too much because somen noodles are awesome like that.  Just deal with it and think of your heart and waistline...or maybe that bikini bod you're been meaning to get since New Years?

Light Lo Mein Noodles with Soy Steamed Vegetables  (Serves  4)
 Ingredients for Soy Steamed Veggies:
-Three carrots, cut into half moons
-1 small head broccoli, chopped
-2 lb crimini or white mushrooms, sliced 
-1/2 cup water plus 2 tbsp soy sauce
-1 small bunch of green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
-1/2 cup roasted UNsalted peanuts, chopped for garnish

Ingredients for Noodles & Sauce:
-1 lb somen noodles, cooked and drained
-1 tbsp almond oil
-3 tbsp tamari soy sauce
-Juice of 1/2 a lime
-1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, zested in zester or finely minced

  1.  In a large pot, placed sliced carrots, water and soy sauce on medium-high heat. Put lid on and let steam for ~5 minute while you prepare the other veggies.
  2. Chop broccoli floret and stem and place in pot with carrots, put lid back on.
  3. Wash and slice the mushrooms.  Remove the lid from the pot and add the mushrooms and another few dashes of soy sauce and leave the lid off.  The mushrooms with release water as well so it's good if the water has mostly evaporated by the time the mushrooms are put it.
  4. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
  5. When veggies are tender to your liking, remove from pan and set aside.  Fill pot with water and bring back to a boil.
  6. When water is boiling, put in somen noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. 
  7. Add the almond oil, tamari, lime and ginger into a bowl and whisk with fork.
  8. Drain noodles and toss them with the marinade in the pot.
  9. To assemble bowls, put noodles on bottom, top with veggies and then garnish with onion and peanut!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Best Vegan Bolognese Sauce!

This is one of THE most satisfying and quick recipes to whip up!  It's for those cold weeknights when I come home hungry and craving something "meaty," warm, and satisfying.  And it keeps with my attempts to try and make vegan versions of our favorite comfort foods.  In this case, it's a good, hearty meat sauce to put over pasta.  It's reminiscent of the kind of thing we'd eat on a camping trip since it's basically a two pot meal!

A regular jar of tomato marinara sauce is jazzed up with some sage and thyme.  The sage gives a nice beefy flavor to things and the thyme brightens it all up.  This sauce also has some veggies sneaked in the kids will never notice!  A variety of nuts pulsed in a food processor give a natural, whole food ground vegan meat alternative that tasted WAY better than the wheat meat stuff.  Now, if you're not lazy like me you'll soak the nuts in advance so they are nice and soft.  But oh well, I'm too lazy.

I've had this taste tasted by some non-veg friends who are pretty shocked it's not meat.  That's always my favorite part.  Like, "Wow, I can't believe this doesn't have meat in it!"  That's right folks: you don't have to miss out on your fave flavors just because you're vegan.  It's a win-win.  Healthier fats, HUGE flavors, and no cruelty!  

Nothing better than a nice, hearty sauce on the stove on a cold night....Enjoy! <3

Vegan Bolognese Sauce  (Serves 3)
1 jar of pasta sauce from the store plus 1/4 jar full of water
1/2 cup of each of the following nuts, pulsed fine in a food processor: walnuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds 
2 stalks celery, pulsed in food processor or chopped fine
1 medium carrot, prepared as celery
1/2 of a green bell pepper, prepared as celery
1/2 cup yeast flakes or nooch
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2-1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp hing

Substitutions: Pumpkin seeds can be subbed for the sunflower seeds, pecans would be a fine addition too with their rich, oily flavor

  1. Break celery stalks and carrot in quarters and pulse in a food processor until finely minced
  2. In a large sauce pot on medium-high heat, melt coconut oil and coat bottom of pan, then add the minced vegetables and cook ~5 minutes, until they begin to become slightly tender.
  3. Add spices and stir into vegetables and cook ~1min.
  4. Add jar of tomato sauce and then fill empty jar 1/4 of the way up with water and shake to remove extra sauce, add to pot.
  5. Let sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You can do this in a crock pot too and let it slow cook all day.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Queso Dip with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Green Chili

*Warning: Work In Progress*
For me, cheese is the hardest thing to give up.  I love, love, LOVE cheese.  Inevitably, a craving always sneaks up on me and I have to have go-to recipes.  I've been trying to perfect this whole foods version of queso dip and I think I'm getting close with this recipe here.  It is a great guilty pleasure because it tastes pretty darn cheesy and good.  It's also great when you're craving some "junk" food, like nachos! The bonus here is that it's not guilty and it's not actually turns out to be quite healthy since it's made with low-fat, whole ingredients, plus it can be whipped up in under 15 minutes! DOUBLE WIN!! I do just want to warn though that since is the "healthier" version of queso dip, it won't taste exactly like your fave dip from a restaurant...but, it will quash your craving and it's very delicious and potato-ey in it's own right.

Instead of flour or corn starch, like other vegan queso dips I've tried out, this one is thickened using potatos, cashews, and yeast flakes.  Besides thickening things up, these whole ingredients make this gluten free, high protein, and very filling.  I add a little sweet potato as well because it adds a nice orange color, some body, and great flavor!  All these ingredients store well in the cupboard, so this is a great go-to last minute recipe you can always have on hand.

You can see how thick it is by how it sticks nicely this this chip!  You could use this queso dip as a meal in and of itself, or to dress up other dishes, like tacos, burritos, or vegetables.  Great additions include: beans, chilis from the garden, and soyrizo.

Queso Dip with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Green Chilis (Serves 6-8)
Made with more turmeric and sweet potato.
1 medium gold potato, chopped
1 medium yam, chopped
(~1.5-2 cups chopped potatoes)
1 cup raw cashews
2 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp hing
1/2 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis, drained to remove liquid

  1. Place cashews and milk in the blender to soak while you cut up potatoes.
  2. Heat a medium sauce pot with 3 cups of water on high heat.  Peel and chop the yam.  No need to peel gold potato because the skin is thin, just chop.  Add chopped potatoes to pot and boil until tender and slightly mushy.
  3. Add all ingredients except olive oil and tomatoes and chilis to the blender.  Blend until cashew creme is smooth and there is no more grit.  While the blender is on, drizzle in the olive oil.
  4. When the potatoes are cooked, drain excess water and add to blender and blend them in. 
  5. Return the mixture to the pot and add the drained tomatoes.  Gently heat, while stirring, until mixture is at the temp you want.  It will thicken slightly as it cooks.
*Note: If you want more orange-y color, try adding 1/4-1/2 tsp of turmeric or using more sweet potatoes than regular potatoes, as can be seen the picture next to the directions.