Meatless Monday – Plant-Based Challenge Wk2

Set it and forget it. In other words, plan ahead.

Week 2 started with a bang. I gave myself the twin gifts of time and money by skipping the store and meal planning with what I already had. The week’s theme foods included  wheat, chickpeas and squash, so I landed on pumpkin; I spent Sunday afternoon geeking out to The Hamilton Mixtape and cooking up a storm.

Pumpkin waffles (I subbed mashed banana for coconut oil. I also doubled the recipe; I thought I might freeze some but nope, the family ate them all over a few days).

Apple sauce (Dice apples and toss in a sauce pot. Add about an inch or so of water. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10+ minutes, until you can mash them with a potato masher; add small amounts of water as necessary. Add cinnamon–or apple/pumpkin pie spice–and juice of half a lemon). I topped my waffle with fresh apple sauce and didn’t need any additional sweetener.

Hash (I sauteed onions, garlic, peppers, and Field Roast sausage, then added diced/boiled potatoes and one can drained/rinsed black beans).

We ate waffles with apple sauce and hash for Sunday dinner and breakfast/lunches throughout the week. I also made a pot of Apple Pie Oatmeal, another breakfast option for the week. Surprisingly, though I’ve made it many times and my kids haven’t always loved oatmeal, this time they both commented on how good it tasted.

Monday dinner I considered making curry to use up the veggies in the crisper but the kids were absolutely not down for curry. So I met a friend at the dog park and, as we walked, I realized I could use the same veggies in Minestrone Soup. This is one of our family’s go-to meals and a favorite to share with friends. When I told the kids I would make minestrone, no kidding, they cheered!

On Wednesday, I made a double batch of Black Bean Soup (can you tell I’m grateful for fall? Fall flavors and soups!). I also dry sauteed red onions and orange and yellow bell peppers with taco seasoning; I wrapped them in whole wheat tortillas with some salsa, like simple fajitas. I wasn’t sure Q14 would eat more than a bite, but he finished what I put on his plate plus the leftovers in one sitting.

So far so good, right? Until I crashed on Thursday. Though the schedule indicated a five-hour work shift, I worked more than eight, until after midnight. I had to eat a little something just to keep moving, but we didn’t have vegetables. The next day was my birthday and, the way the day went, I took the kids for ice cream. I haven’t eaten dairy-based ice cream in years, so I had a cone. If you’re going to splurge, even if you don’t plan on splurging, at least make it worthwhile–and that was one hecka good mocha almond fudge!

Now we’re in to Week 3 and I’m back on track. I’m not going to beat myself up for a couple steps backward when I took so many huge strides forward. I’m going to learn from the bumps in the road and keep on going.

Meatless Monday – 21-Day Plant-Based Challenge

This is my third year in the three-week plant-based challenge run by UC Davis Integrative Medicine. I love that a major California university is charging ahead with cutting edge research and practical nutritional information, including regular blog posts, webinars, and this annual challenge that truly challenges my eating habits.

Because, counter-cultural as it may be, I know that I feel and look healthier on a plant-based diet. And it most closely coalesces with my ethics: a plant-based diet is better for me and for the planet.

Three years ago I tried oh so hard and it was hard and I did okay. Last year, life circumstances held me hostage and I flopped about. This year, end of Week 1 and I’m mostly on-point. It takes practice.

I appreciate that each year we’ve had a theme, and each week has its own focus. This year’s theme: Set it and forget it, all about meal prepping and utilizing the Instant Pot, the current kitchen it-gadget (one I happen to love!).

Week 1 cuisine focused on quinoa, potato, and black beans–perfect for me since I live in California and those ingredients play a solid role in our diet. One look at the suggested menu and I already had family-approved recipes that at least mostly fit the bill. Plus, I took into account what we had on hand and needed to use.

Breakfast:

Smoothies (this week’s rotation: frozen mango, canned pineapple in unsweetened juice, fresh spinach, fresh ginger, ground flax meal, with water to blend–my fav greener-than-green drink)
Avocado Toast–whole grain toast, avocado slices, with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Lunch:

Salad–I bought a bag of mixed cruciferous greens, which I topped with tangerine slices, peanuts, and peanut sauce dressing.

Dinner:

Tofu Chilaquiles
Quinoa & Black Bean Salad
Baked potatoes and Veggie Chili

Snack:

Jicama sticks

Meal planning helps oh so much because it’s all about what’s on hand and what I need to have on hand. Family schedules dictate that I don’t cook every night, so I try to cook big to have leftovers.

I made chilaquiles because I had made enchilada sauce the week before. I made quinoa & black bean salad as a side-dish for chilaquiles, and then used it all week to top other salads.

I baked a whole bag of potatoes on Wednesday while I made the chili, and we had friends over on Thursday to eat leftovers; alongside, I served a huge green salad with all the veggies–mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, green onions, cilantro, plus quinoa salad–and it was SO good.

Leftovers of that salad morphed into a taco salad with added kidney and garbanzo beans, topped with salsa. And, no kidding, a cooked baked potato, cold, even without toppings, makes for a delicious on-the-go snack.

Because I believe in doing my best, and grace, and most of the time rules the day, I didn’t worry over the tiny bites of artisan chocolate with my Napa wine pairing (yes, I do live 45 minutes from Napa and this gets to be an occasional treat in my life), and I didn’t make a fuss about the cauliflower-crust veggie pizza my husband bought and prepared for me when I got home from a long Friday at work. Both splurges were perfectly that–delicious, minute, lovely moments in my life this week.

On the whole, I fully enjoyed all the delicious food I ate. Honestly, I was surprised how I craved my upcoming lunch salad every single day; I never got tired of it! Because I’ve been at this for a while, I had the luxury of using my own recipes, mostly no/low-oil and salt, but again, I don’t fret about the occasional drizzle or dab of something because I know it won’t be an everyday/all-day occurrence.

Week 2 underway and, again, so far so good. More on that next week!

Meatless Monday – Spinach Artichoke White Bean Dip

Well, this day did not go to plan!

Guy left this morning for a full week of travel. So of course, not one, but TWO cars to which I had access didn’t work.

Commence panic attack: I’m Stranded!

After I pulled myself together from a toddler-worthy temper tantrum, I calmed down and decided to take one car to a mechanic.

Not one, not two, but three mechanics later, someone took my key and my phone number. And I haven’t heard from him since, so I’m really trying not to think the worst.

So what do I do? After checking email and social media and wisely deciding not to rant (although, here I am ranting, and this will post to social media…), I start checking recipes to decide what I can make for dinner with what I have on hand.

Hash–roasted potatoes tossed in last minute with sauteed onion, vegan Field Roast Italian and chipotle sausages, bell peppers, and black beans–over a modified version of Quinoa & Black Bean Salad.

Enough, right? Except my curiosity wasn’t satisfied and I remembered a) I had some white beans in the fridge and a can of artichoke hearts in the pantry, b) I have a Tower Garden filled with glorious spinach, and c) I made a holiday party dip and forgot to make notes at the time.

Have you heard about Tower Gardens? These things are amazing! Generous friends gave us one, and we currently have so much mint and spinach and baby lettuce on the way; a few months ago we had abundant arugula. I’m not the best gardener but this thing seems fool-proof!

So I made a Spinach Artichoke White Bean Dip. It comes together so quickly and then bakes to warm, gooey deliciousness. Just as it had cooled, Q14 dashed through the kitchen for a taste test. He declared, “Too spicy…” (I was heavy-handed with the Tapatio) “…and needs cheese” (it doesn’t, that’s just his way of teasing/answer for everything).

Spinach Artichoke Dip was one of my favorite party recipes before leaning plant-based, and I’m so happy to have a yummy non-dairy replacement. You could use kale instead of spinach. To satisfy the kid’s cheese request, I might another time add 2-4 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast, but maybe not. Tonight I’ll eat it with chips. Tomorrow I’ll put it on a toasted bagel or in a veggie wrap sandwich. Ooh, or maybe in a black bean no-cheese quesadilla. It’s versatile that way!

Spinach Artichoke White Bean Dip

2 c packed fresh spinach
1 14-oz can water-packed artichoke hearts, well drained
1/2 c non-dairy mayo
1/2 c white beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 large garlic cloves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp Tapatio or hot sauce of choice (start with less and add more)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other no-salt herb seasoning)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

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!

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 – 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 – Potato Enchilada Pie

Hello from my kitchen!

In the end-of-school-year craziness, I haven’t been cooking as much. Way more take-out than usual, which is fine and tasty and fun but not as budget- or waistline-friendly, though, as always, lots and lots and lots of grace for whatever season we (you!) are in.

Last week, however, I found a few pockets of time to make special food to make that last school week, well, special. I made fruit tarts, one with apples and another with nectarines, both topped with peach jam infused with lemon zest and juice and fresh chopped ginger… Oh my! I made banana muffins. I made pancakes with berry sauce. Hmm, it sure looks like my go-to treats are breakfast-snacky, and carb-y, huh? They’re also all long gone.

Yesterday, I got back to dinner. To make a big pot of enchilada sauce (find the recipe here) I first mixed up a batch of chili powder from the spices in my drawer! I’ve regularly had a store-bought blend but had run out. So I googled it, and as it turns out, chili powder consists of more than just ground chilis: cumin, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano. Honestly, I’d rather use the spices I already buy to create blends than buy pre-made versions. That way I’ll use up my spices within their best-taste window and have fresher, tastier blends. Another time I might try a recipe that starts with dried chilis, but for now this was easy.

Once the enchilada sauce was simmering, I got to work on Potato Enchilada Pie. The origin for this recipe came from Forks Over Knives. Living in California, we eat a lot of Mexican food. Before I leaned plant-based, I regularly made enchiladas, but even when I loaded them up with veggies they still contained cheese. Without resorting to soy-cheese I despaired of finding a recipe as satisfying. This one does the trick!

I’ve modified the recipe to make it easier and to add black beans. You could also add other veggies, like corn or bell peppers, but in this case I think simple might be best.

Easy Chili Powder Blend

4 Tbsp paprika
4 tsp oregano
2 1/2 tsp cumin
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all spices to a small bowl and mix them. Store in a clean and dried spice bottle for up to six months.

Potato Enchilada Pie
Serves 6

3-4 large potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c fresh spinach, chopped
1 recipe Enchilada Sauce
3 whole wheat tortillas
garnish: cilantro, green onions, diced avocado (optional)

Boil the potatoes for 5-7 minutes until almost fork-tender.

In a large pan, saute onions for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and saute for two more minutes. Add jalapenos and cook for one minute. Add chili powder, beans, and cooked potatoes and mix well. Add spinach and cook for one minute.

Preheat oven to 350. Add sauce to bottom of a pie pan to cover. Top with one tortilla; cover with half the filling. Drizzle with more sauce. Repeat layers: tortilla, filling, sauce, tortilla, and sauce to cover. Bake for 25 minutes. Dress with desired garnishes and slice into wedges.

One of the reasons I love making this recipe is that I have multiple dinners built in: I will use the extra enchilada sauce later in the week to make another of our favorites: Tofu Chilaquiles.

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