Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dressing your salads your way!

I realized I use several recipes for homemade salad dressings, but I haven't posted them all one easy place to find I'm going to do that now:

For all the dressings, I think they do best if you blend them the first time in a blender or food processor (I love my little Ninja). This makes sure the oil, vinegar and juices are well mixed and it also chops the herbs and garlic up nice and finely. But if a blender is not available, combining all ingredients in a container with a lid and shaking it up or using a whisk in a small bowl works as well. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Sweet Mustard Dressing
2 Tbsp mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
2 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried basil or parsley

Greek Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp herbal seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cilantro-Lime Dressing
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
Dash cayenne pepper or a couple drops of Tabasco sauce

Sesame-Ginger Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Curry-Orange Dressing

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp salt
*If you're doing this one in a blender, you can throw in some dried cranberries as well. Yum.

Weekend experiments

Since I cook by trial-and-error, I am bound to make a few mistakes; have a few failures. This weekend I had that happen twice.

I haven't done a lot of vegan baking. I finally mastered a good cookie recipe, but I am just starting to tackle cakes and brownies and that sort of dessert. I got a gluten-free brownie mix several months ago, but just decided to try it this weekend. However, of course, the recipe calls for butter and eggs. sigh. So I had to make it vegan. I decided to be a little creative. For several years I have been  making a chocolate-pumpkin cake that is delicious. You take a box of chocolate cake mix and mix in one 15 oz. can of pumpkin. Add just enough water to get the right cake batter consistency. Then bake according to the cake mix instructions. It's so good and moist and awesome with cream cheese icing (another sigh).

Anyway, I thought I'd try using pumpkin (only half a can) in place of the eggs and butter in the brownie mix. Unfortunately it didn't work. It never set up. The middle of the brownie stayed completely gooey. So I could not take them to the cookout I went to this weekend. I couldn't serve them to anyone else. HOWEVER, they are still very yummy and great with frozen vanilla "ice cream." So it's really only a partial failure. Not something I would serve to anyone else, but something I can definitely still eat. And one of the best things about vegan recipes...nothing in them to cause food poisoning so you can eat them raw if you want to!

My second experiment was a lentil stew in the crockpot. I had some Green BEAN Delivery bulk red lentils rather than green or brown lentils. Red lentils fall apart and become mushier than the other lentils. So the taste of the soup is good, but the consistency is not what I would prefer at all. So maybe it's not a failure, but its not what I like best. I listed the recipe for the crockpot as well the stove top.

Lentil & Smoked Sausage Stew 

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups lentils, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
12 oz smoked sausage, sliced into coins
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste

If making in the crockpot, throw all ingredients in the crockpot and let cook on high about 3-4 hours.

If on the stove top, in a large pot, saute onion in about a tsp of oil, once onion is translucent, add garlic and smoked sausage. Once garlic is fragrant and sausage is slightly browned on the edges, add tomatoes and their juice. Let the tomato juice cook down slightly, then add chicken stock, water, bay leaf and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt to taste and continue to simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, until the lentils have fallen apart and thickened the soup.Add additional seasoning if you prefer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Garbage Bowl

Rachael Ray has a garbage bowl. It's a ridiculously expensive bowl made to put your refuse in as you cook. I don't have one of those. But I do sometimes throw miscellaneous leftovers into a bowl and eat them. Tonight I called that a garbage bowl. It wasn't garbage though. It was good and quick and I needed it after a long chiropractic appointment.

So awhile back I made two meatloafs - gluten-, dairy- and egg-free of course and also with homemade ketchup glaze  - and I froze one. This weekend I pulled it out of the freezer to have at the ready for dinner at some point this week. It came in handy tonight.

I took some already cooked brown rice, crumbled up the meatloaf and threw in some frozen peas. Heated it up in the microwave, added a bit more ketchup once it was warm and enjoyed an easy meal.

I've used about 40% of the stuff (mostly meat) in our freezer now. I'm hoping that around the time I finish with the meat in the freezer, I'll be about done with INSANITY and ready to get back on the vegan train for a while as I get ready for my next half marathon in December - we'll see if I'm crazy or not for signing up for a race in mid-December in Indiana.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome Fall!

Or autumn - whichever you prefer to call it! I ushered in the new season, and the cooler weather that came with it, this weekend. How, you ask? With a huge pot of chili of course! How else would anyone do such a thing?

There are two things about chili I want to point out.
1. There is no wrong way to make it. Unless of course you put pasta in it. EWWW. I'm a fan of Texas style chili aka chili con carne, not Cincinnati style chili or chili mac.
2. It's always better once it's sat in the fridge overnight.

I make my chili the way I make everything...I have a general idea of what could go in the pot. I open up the fridge/pantry and see what I have. I throw in whatever I have on hand, making substitutes as needed, and cross my fingers hoping it will turn out tasty.

This weekend here's how I made it.


1 lb ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 4-oz can green chiles, diced
1 28-oz (large) can of crushed tomatoes
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Place ground turkey, garlic, onions and bell pepper in pot and cook over medium heat until turkey is browned. Add the large and regular cans of tomatoes. Stir. Add cumin and chili powder. Add green chiles, chipotle peppers, and beans. I like a pretty thick chili, but if you want it more soupy, add some tomato juice, broth or water to the mixture. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Refrigerate the entire pot overnight. Eat the next day in any of these yummy ways:

  • Over rice
  • With tortilla chips
  • Over hot dogs
  • In taco salad
  • On baked potatoes
I suppose you could even serve it over pasta - just don't tell me about it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What is crockpot soup?

The answer is "a great way to fix a filling meal with no added fat and minimal prep time."

I've gotten a little pickier about the meals I put in the crockpot because sometimes, especially, if you overcook the food it can all start to taste the same, but if you do it right, the crockpot is a great kitchen tool.

 Today I chose a pork Mexican-style stew called Pozole. I suggest you don't read too much about the history of the stew if cannibalism doesn't appeal to you! It turned out a little spicier than I would have preferred, but it was really good and Annyka even had more than one bowl.


1-1.5 lbs pork - I'm using pork chops (which were partially frozen when I put them in)
1 cup salsa verde
1 4oz can diced green chiles
2 cups chicken stock
1 15oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
3 cups whole kernel corn (I used frozen, but canned and drained corn would work as well)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mexican oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Shred pork before serving. Add a dollop of sour cream to cool down the heat if you need to. Serves 6-8.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grillin' Goodness

Another busy week over and yet another ahead of us. I can't believe I've posted on here in almost a week. I'm sorry that happened.

Last week I had two conference calls for my budding (let's hope) new business and plenty of work for my full-time job as well. Plus Friday night, I was camping with friends before a race on Saturday morning.

Last week we had several rice dishes... and knowing me, I wouldn't surprised if we also have several this week! I love rice.

Last week's meals included Taco Rice (basically the same as Mexi-Rice + some already browned taco meat), a rice & lentil pilaf with smoked sausage and today we had one of my favorite pasta salads - Grilled Sausage Pasta Salad. This is a dish that I found in a magazine while waiting to get into the optometrist. I didn't have any paper to write down the recipe, I think it's rude to tear something out of a magazine that isn't mine, so I ended up taking a photo of the dressing part of the recipe and just tried to memorize the rest of it. It turned out great so I plan to make it several times.

Grilled Sausage Pasta Salad

1 lb (16 oz) Gluten-free pasta
1 pkg of sweet apple chicken sausages (I used al Fresco)
1 medium zucchini, cut in half length-wise
1/2 sweet onion, cut into two large wedges
1 red bell pepper


1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp mustard of your choice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil on the stove. Warm up your grill at the same time. While waiting for the water to boil, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Cover the mixture and refrigerate.

Add pasta to water when it comes to a rolling boil. Cook pasta according to package.

While the pasta cooks, spray each of the vegetables with cooking spray and place on grill over medium heat. Also put sausages on the grill. Turn sausages and pepper as needed to cook each side evenly. When the sausages and veggies are slightly blackened all around, remove from grill and allow to cool.

Rinse al dente pasta with cool water and place in a large bowl. Once the sausages and veggies are cool enough to slice - dice the onions, slice the sausages and zucchini. Remove the seeds from the red pepper and dice it as well. Add everything to the large bowl. Toss with the dressing prepared earlier.

Serves 4 as a main dish or about 6 as a side dish.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sleep - I need it

There are some people out there that can survive on little sleep. Some people can consistently get 4-6 hours a night and still live a normal life. I can do that for about two days before I start to get physically ill.

I couldn't sleep tonight. I don't know how in the world that is possible when I did my best to wear myself out yesterday. You would think crying for two hours and running for nearly one and half would get the job done, but you would be wrong. I tossed and turned for several hours before finally settling down....just to have Scott come to bed with a menagerie of animals (well two dogs and a cat anyway). Then he and our allergic dog started snoring.

So it's 4:30 am and I'm wide #%*@ awake and wishing I were not.

If calling in sick to work today were an option, I think I would take it. Evidently I'm pushed myself to some sort of brink and now I'm falling. But I can't. It's simply not an option because payroll is due today and that's my job. Maybe after lunch I can come home, but most likely not. There will be a thousand other things that I will guilt myself into doing to the detriment of my health and mental well-being instead. 

I had plans to fix smoked sausage and rice-lentil pilaf for dinner tonight, but honestly it will probably end up being leftovers instead. Annyka can have chicken nuggets or something equally easy for someone who is not awake to enough to use the stove can fix.

I guess I'll work out now - I'm supposed to do a fit test today to gauge my progress. I don't see it going well.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cookies might be for dinner

As you may have figured out from my previous post, I'm not in the best of moods today. So I'm going to do some things for me today that I normally don't do. I wouldn't mind company, but I don't know of anyone who wants to join me.

1. Go to the movies by myself.
2. Go on a long run...again by myself.
3.  And make vegan cookies.

I believe I've posted a recipe for vegan cookies in the past, but today I'm going to expand on it. You know those "monster cookies" that have everything in them - chocolate chips, M&M's, peanut butter, etc? Well these will be my monster cookies - they include nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips (not technically vegan, but I'll live) and oats. I also have a recipe for almond cookies that I'd like to try, but I haven't yet. Maybe you can try that and let me know how it is.

Vegan (ish) Monster Cookies

1/3 cup all purpose GF flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup GF oats
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup chocolate & butterscotch chips
1/4 cup chopped nuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil
3 tbsp almond milk

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all dry ingredients together. Then stir in wet ingredients. Form into balls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 6-7 minutes. They will still be a little underdone when they come out. The will finish baking as they cool.

Almond Cookies

1/2 cup margarine or coconut oil
6 Tbsp maple sugar or light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup almond meal
1 cup oat flour

Preheat over to 300 F. Grease cookie sheet; set aside. With a hand  mixer blend butter, sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add flour and almond meal and mix until the dough sticks together.

Form into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool completely before serving. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Wedding hangover

I’m having a wedding hangover today. I didn’t drink though…it’s not about drinking and actually it’s not about food either. It’s about friendship. 

There are a lot of things about my life that I love. My life is full, but there are still some holes. And laughing with my friends from long ago (college) last night has me waking up to the tears this morning that I have that no longer. I don’t mean the drunken nights and stuff like that that comes with college. I mean the friends nearby that I could always count on. 

I no longer have a best friend. Not the kind that we are a couple (of friends) that knows each one has the other’s back through thick and thin. Actually I haven’t had a best friend like that through most of my life. College was about the only time – at the first college I went to I had Deirdre and at Franklin College everyone knew Heather and I were besties. 

And now, well, I have a lot of friends from several walks of life – moms and work colleagues and running buddies and the like – but I don’t have a single person that I think I could call at any time because I’m in tears over something (ps my mom doesn’t count). Thankfully I don’t have those moments often and I think that’s part of why I’ve let it fall to the wayside, but this morning I’m definitely feeling it and instead of talking to my boyfriend who is asleep upstairs, I’m crying on my front porch to whomever might read this. That’s pretty sad.

I feel like I’ve failed. Like I have not been a good enough friend to my college roommate that I miss soooo much and now I’m paying for that. I don’t know how to make this better in my life. I don’t know if Heather and I are still enough of the people we once were to be that kind of friends again, or if I keep searching the friend pool (which is a lot like the dating pool) and waiting to find a soulmate that I click with. I don’t have the answer right now, but I’m going to try to find it. 

If you care, we had ham, green beans, mashed potatoes and Caesar salad at Heather’s wedding last night. I, obviously, skipped the caked.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another quick dinner

Even though we didn't have anything specific planned after work/school today, we still didn't get home and start getting dinner ready until almost 6:30, so I was glad I had another quick meal planned. 

I made frozen tilapia fillets with tamari sauce on the George Foreman grill and made garlic-ginger rice on the side. In the past when I made this rice, I only put in bok choy, but I thought I might as well add additional vegetables that I had so I added onion, carrots and mushrooms. The fish was only so-so, but the rice was good. I pretty much always love rice though.

Garlic-Ginger Rice

2 cups prepared brown rice
3 stalks bok choy
2 cloves garlic
½ small onion, diced
1 carrot, shredded or diced
½ cup chopped mushrooms
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
Tamari sauce

Warm sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add canola oil and sesame oil. Stir in carrots and onions. Saute until onions are nearly translucent. Add bok choy and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. Stir in rice, mushrooms and ginger. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes or until rice is warmed through. 

Add cooked diced meat or tofu for a complete meal or serve as a side dish. Serve with tamari sauce to taste. 

Serves 3-4 small servings or 2 large servings.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Easy Peasy Dinner

I prepped for tonight's dinner and it paid off. The plan was green curry chicken over rice.

A few days ago I defrosted some chicken for something...can't remember what now, but I had more than I needed, so I baked the rest and kept it for later. Today was later.

Last night I put brown rice on to steam while I watched TV.

The veggies just had to be microwaved steamed and the curry sauce was from Trader Joe's in a jar.

After running out to get a haircut after work and the boys coming from judo, it was nice to have a quick option.

The TJ's curry sauce was good, but slightly saltier than I would have preferred. Overall a good quick dinner.

Tomorrow night I'll be using the remainder of the brown rice to make garlic-ginger rice with boy choy and tamari-glazed tilapia.

I ate my millet cereal this morning and it was good. However, because the millet had to fixed in advance, it would have been easier to just make GF oatmeal, so I doubt it'll become a regular in the breakfast rotation.

Blueberry Millet Cereal

1 cup millet
2 cups water
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar

Combine water and millet in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

Add almond milk, vanilla extra, nuts, honey and blueberries. Mix well. Serve warm.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Millet? What the heck is millet?

Millet is a seed that has no gluten, so it can be used as a starch option for those who do not eat gluten. Once cooked it's somewhat similar to rice. It's also used a lot as a cereal.

I first discovered millet when I did the Ultimate Reset in May and I have plenty leftover so I decided to use some to shake up the menu. The last time I had it, I accompanied it with roasted beets and the millet did a great job of soaking up the beet juice.

Tonight I made it to mix with some homemade pico de gallo and corn. I tossed in a little lime and olive oil as a dressing. It honestly wasn't very satisfying as a room temperature salad. Millet definitely is better hot. But mixing it with warm refried beans made it better.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to try millet as cereal. I mixed some with almond milk, chopped nuts, a dash of vanilla, some honey and a handful of blueberries. It sounds good - I hope it proves to be good. If it does, I will post an actual cereal recipe.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My favorite flavors

Do you have certain flavor combinations that seem to repeat themselves frequently in your food? I have a few. They are combinations that in my world, just seem to go together like...

  • Lime, cilantro & garlic - what I love about this one is that is can easily go from Asian to Mexican inspired with minor additions like tamari sauce, ginger or hot pepper oil for Asian, or cumin and Mexican oregano for Mexican.
  • Orange, cranberry and curry - This goes great with nuts and rice or chicken. 
  • Chipotle, maple and garlic - This sounds great with potatoes, beans, nuts or again, chicken. 
  • Banana, blueberry and vanilla - so good in oatmeal, especially with some chopped nuts added. It's one of my favorite energy breakfasts. 
  • Sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil - with pasta, rice, beans or on crackers. 
  • Dill, lemon and garlic - great with veggies, rice, fish or mixed into plain Greek yogurt as a dip (you know, if I ate yogurt, which I don't anymore). 
These are my favorites, but I'm also just as pleased with a new, unusual flavor combination sneaks up on me. So what are some of your favorites? I'm always happy to try something new. 

Veggie Fajita Goodness

Today for lunch we'll be having veggie fajitas. I'm going to try a new homemade seasoning recipe and I think I'll also marinate the mushrooms in a lime juice concoction.

Homemade Fajita Seasoning: 
2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder*
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp dried oregano

*The recipe I found actually calls for garlic salt, but I'm going to try it with garlic powder, I can always add more salt later.

 I'm hoping the rain will stay away long enough that I can grilled my veggies outside - I've got bell peppers, onions, zucchini and portobellos lined up for the fajitas.

UPDATE: I also added about a 1/2 tsp of cumin to the seasoning recipe above. Then I took that seasoning and mixed it with the juice of 1 lime, about a tbsp of apple cider vinegar and about a tbsp of olive oil. I marinated the mushrooms and zucchini in it in the fridge for about 2 hours before grilled all my veggies.

They were super yum and we had them on corn tortillas with my refried beans from yesterday and some chopped cilantro on stop. Scott had cheese on his; I, of course, did not. But I did have sriracha sauce on mine. I love that stuff.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Plans for the coming week

I don't expect this week to be as busy as the previous few, but honestly the busyness always seems to sneak up on me. I do expect a pretty busy week at work, but hopefully that won't translate into a crazy week at home. One way or the other though, menu planning is a necessity in my life - to save time, money and my health and sanity.

I did go to the grocery store and spend $85 on some of our staples this weekend - shelf-stable almond milk was on sale, so I got 8 of those and canned beans and tomatoes were on sale as well so I got plenty of those. Portobello mushrooms were also on special. Our menu this week is built around the items we already had or these staples I just purchased.

Tomorrow will be mushroom & zucchini fajitas, unless we end up being on the road picking up Annyka at dinnertime. Here's the rest of the week - and I'll include recipes throughout the week when I get the chance.

Monday - mushroom & zucchini fajitas, I took the crockpot "refried" beans out of the freezer today.
Tuesday - Green curry chicken with rice
Wednesday - Tomato & corn millet salad
Thursday - Tamari tilapia with ginger fried rice
Friday  - Lentil pilaf with smoked sausage
Saturday - Three-bean chili
Sunday - Pozole (if necessary, we may have leftovers on Sunday)

Crockpot "Refried" Beans

2 cups Pinto beans
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
water to cover
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chipotle pepper powder
1 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Once beans are tender, drain off excess liquid and reserve. Use an immersion blender, food processor or hand masher to mash beans. Add reserved liquid to get desired consistency. Serve immediately, or freeze for later use.

Planning for a rainy weekend

A rainy weekend that wasn't nearly as rainy as expected. The rain that was expected to start on Friday didn't come until today, so my rainy day meal was as seasonal as I expected.

This meal was another that used up various items that might have otherwise gone to waste because I love buying food and don't always get around to using it. I would rather go food shopping than any other type of shopping.

So Friday, I had looked up recipes that used raisins and found one for Moroccan Chickpea Stew. It also used chickpeas (obviously), kale (had it), potato(had it), tomato juice (had it), potato (had it), diced tomatoes (had it), cilantro (had it) and garam masala (have tons of it). Really there was nothing in the recipe I didn't already have. Plus I also added carrots and some coconut milk. To increase the ease of the recipe, I put it in the crockpot.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 large potato, peeled & diced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup tomato or V8 juice
1  cup coconut milk
1 cup golden raisins
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion and saute until onions are translucent. Stir in cumin, coriander, cayenne, garam masala, curry powder and garlic. Cook together until fragrant.

In large crockpot, mix together, potato, tomatoes, raisins, chickpeas, kale, onions, tomato juice and coconut milk (all ingredients except cilantro). Cook in crockpot on high about 4-5 hours.

Serve over quinoa or couscous.

This would be a great dinner on a cold night. It wasn't a cold night Friday, but it was still good!