Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On My Hearth: Isa's Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie

I don't know about you, but to me Shepherd's Pie is the epitome of comfort food, especially on a chilly autumn evening.  I've had many a version, from the "real" thing back in my omnivorous days, to several versions made with faux beef. However, I've never tried a legume-based recipe.  This one from Isa Chandra Moskowitz (of Post Punk Kitchen fame) looked amazing, combining the meatiness of lentils with the earthy mushrooms. The fact that it's "light" in calories/fat but high in protein & fiber is an added bonus.

As Isa suggests, I served mine over her Caulipots but you could also use traditional mashed potatoes, quinoa, cous cous, or even a baked potato. The possibilities are endless!

Take my advice, don't stop with this recipe from Appetite for Reduction. I've tried several others, each one more delicious than the last! I'll be posting more recipes and reviews in the future but you'll probably want to buy your own copy so you don't miss a single tasty dish. 
                    Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie

  --------  ------------  --------------------------------
  2          teaspoons  olive oil
  1                     onion -- chopped finely
  4             ounces  shiitake mushrooms -- chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  1                     zucchini -- diced small (1 1/2 cups
  3             cloves  garlic -- minced
     1/2      teaspoon  dried tarragon
  2          teaspoons  dried thyme
     1/2      teaspoon  salt
                        Several pinches freshly ground black pepper
  1                cup  carrots -- peeled and diced small
     3/4           cup  du Puy lentils (aka French lentils) -- rinsed
  3               cups  vegetable broth
  1         tablespoon  Worcestershire sauce
     1/2           cup  frozen peas

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the shiitakes, zucchini, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt, and pepper; saute for 5 more mins.

Add the carrots, lentils, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally. By this point, the lentils should be tender and most of the broth should be absorbed. If it's not, then just let it simmer for longer and check on it. (Mine took about 15 mins longer than this.) Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are soft, then add a bit of water and simmer for a bit longer.

Once the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcestershire sauce and peas. (I added 1 c. of peas instead of the 1/2.) Let sit for 10 mins or so for maximum flavor. Taste for salt.

To serve: Scoop a cup of Caulipots (recipe below) into a bowl and serve a cupful of lentils over it.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 Servings; Per Serving: 210 Calories; 2g Fat; 11g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 440mg Sodium.  


                 Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (Caulipots)

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  2                     russet potatoes -- cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 lbs)
     1/2          head  cauliflower -- cut into florets (1 lb, or about 3 cups)
  1         tablespoon  olive oil
  2        tablespoons  vegetable broth -- (2 to 4)
     1/2      teaspoon  salt
                        Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot in enough cold water to submerge them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top for when you add the cauliflower. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 mins, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato smasher to mash them a bit.  Add the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of broth, the seasonings and mix well. If needed, add another 2 tablespoons of broth. Taste for salt. Serve warm..

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 Servings; Per Serving: 190 Calories; 3.5g Fat; 6 g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 370mg Sodium.  



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On My Hearth: Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa

Hurricane Sandy made her way past Florida over the weekend, leaving just a few downed tree branches in her wake.  Whew! Big sigh of relief for us but my heart goes out to others along the East Coast who were not as fortunate.

As often happens, our post-storm weather has been absolutely gorgeous.  Last evening Chip lit a fire in the pit and we enjoyed happy hour on our patio.  

This morning donned even more bright and beautiful with a low of 47 degrees! After taking Loki for a breezy little walk, I did a search for something warm & cozy to put in my tummy.  This recipe for Breakfast Quinoa from Skinnytaste hit the spot!


                   Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa

Recipe By     :
Serving Size  : 4    

  --------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1                cup  quinoa -- rinsed well
  1 1/2           cups  water
  1                tsp  cinnamon -- plus more for sprinkling
  2                tsp  vanilla extract
     1/2           cup  unsweetened applesauce
     1/4           cup  golden raisins
  1                cup non-fat milk  -- warmed (
I used almond milk)
  1                     gala apple -- peeled and diced
     1/4           cup  pecans -- chopped
(I used walnuts)

Combine quinoa, water, cinnamon and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes until quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.

Divide cooked quinoa between four bowls then stir in apple sauce, raisins, and pour in warmed milk. Top with fresh cut apples and pecans and a dash of cinnamon.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (according to Mastercook): 297 Calories; 8g Fat (24.6% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 21mg Sodium.  

NOTES : Makes 4 servings. You can divide the recipe to make 2 servings.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On My Hearth: Vegan Minestrone and the Best Garlic Bread EVER!

As I type, I am still under the influence of the most delicious garlic bread I have eaten. Ever. This recipe will replace any other I've tried in the past, hands down.  When I saw Laura Theodore (aka the Jazzy Vegetarian) make this on her popular tv show, I knew I had to try it. Tonight was the night.

Now, I should mention that the bread wasn't the main course, even a bread addict such as myself knows that wouldn't be a good idea. (right?) I served it alongside a scrumptious bowl of minestrone soup, but seriously, the bread stole the show.  My hunny, who isn't a carb fiend ate three big slices, sopping up every bit of vegetable broth and scraping the sides of his bowl with it. Seriously. It's that good. But don't take my word for it, try it yourself! If you don't like it as much as I do, let me know. I'll come over and take the leftovers off your hands.

Ok, here's the recipe, but please note: even Laura admits, it's not low-calorie. So, pace yourself. Have a slice..or two..and then put the rest away for the next meal.  I myself wrapped it up tightly and stored it in the back of the fridge where I can't hear it calling my name later tonight.

Jazzy Vegetarian’s Grandma’s Garlic Bread


This recipe is based on my grandmother’s version, which was always a favorite of mine. I’ve updated it to use fresh garlic and whole-grain bread, as it’s more nutritious and hearty. This tantalizing loaf, with its crispy crust and herbed, soft, and steamy inside, is bursting with flavor. In other words . . . perfection!

1 large loaf whole-grain Italian bread
1⁄2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (see note)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the bread on a cutting board. Use a serrated bread knife to slice 1⁄2- to 1-inch-thick slices diagonally across the entire loaf, but don’t cut all the way through the bottom crust; leave the bottom of the loaf intact.

Put the margarine, garlic, and Italian seasoning in a small bowl and mash with the back of a fork until thoroughly combined. Working carefully so as not to separate the slices, spread the margarine mixture on each side of each slice. Wrap tightly in foil, crimping the edges to form a tight seal (see note).
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the interior is hot and steamy. Remove the foil and serve the bread in a bread basket or large bowl, wrapped in a large cloth napkin to keep it warm.


 If you have fresh herbs such as basil or oregano on hand, feel free to substitute about 3 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs for the italian seasoning, or add them along with the dried herbs.

Once the bread is wrapped in foil, it may be stored in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before baking.

Oh, yeah, here's the entree.  Based on a recipe, I did a bit of tweaking and came up with this:

Vegan Minestrone Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1 link vegan Italian sausage (such as Tofurky brand), optional  
3/4 cup chopped onions
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups diced zucchini
1 cup diced carrots
1can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
28 fluid ounces canned plum tomatoes, dice and include liquid
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup uncooked ditalini or 1/4 cup elbow macaroni  
Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat.


Add chopped onion, carrots, celery, basil, oregano salt, pepper, and sliced sausage. Saute until veggies are slightly softened and sausage is browned.

Add the above plus remainder of ingredients, except for pasta, in slowcooker.  

Cook on high for a couple of hours, reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender.

Boil pasta separately according to package directions, just to al dente. Add to slowcooker and stir. Adjust spices to suit your taste. Serve hot, top with vegan parmesan if desired.

This one was a definite winner! While sausage is not a normally a part of traditional minestrone, I find that it adds a bit of substance to the soup and makes for a more complete meal, especially if serving it to a meat & potatoes kind of guy like mine who thinks of soup as an appetizer, not the main course. As I said, tonight he gobbled up every bite and I have no doubt he'll be enjoying it again tomorrow around lunchtime.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!


Monday, October 22, 2012

On My Hearth: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

Though the temps have dropped slightly, it's still nowhere near Sweater Weather here.  In an attempt to lure Autumn down south, I'm gonna keep cooking and posting fall-ish recipes until Mother Nature gets the hint!

This morning I whipped up a very tasty breakfast, Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal. The original recipe can be found at this adorable blog, Everybody Likes Sandwiches. I didn't have all of the spices called for so I did a little bit of tweaking. I also eliminated the yogurt option, but if you're not vegan, go for it!

Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch or two of pumpkin pie spice, to taste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Toasted pecans or other nuts, optional but delicious

In a medium pot, boil 3 cups of water. Add oats and turn down heat to a simmer, keeping the lid on. Give the mixture a stir once in a while and keep an eye on things so it doesn’t boil over. When the oats have been absorbed and are ready (about 20 minutes or so), add in the pumpkin, spices and maple syrup. Give everything a stir. Divide mixture into 2 bowls and top with nuts, if desired.

Yummy!  This was the perfect beginning to a chilly autumn day (ahem..are you listening, Mama Nature?). The spices complimented the oats so nicely and the maple syrup added just enough sweetness. The toasted nuts were a lovely topping, sooo good! This recipe will definitely be part of our family cookbook.

Have a beautiful day!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tales from Home: Ormond Beach

Love Whole Foods, Ormond Beach
As I mentioned, we'll be spending the next few days at home in Ormond Beach, which is a stone's throw from the more famous Daytona Beach.  For the majority of the year, this is a sleepy little city.  While it has all of the basic necessities such as ample shopping, dining & various other entertainment opportunities, Ormond still manages to feel like a small town. Minimal traffic, quiet neighborhoods, low crime rate. We have just enough culture to keep me entertained, but if we get bored or want more "big city" fun, Orlando is only an hour away.  It's really a perfect place for me at this stage in my life as my needs are rather simple; as long as I have a library, a movie theater and a good internet connection, I'm content. And then, there's this, within walking distance of our house...

Central Park, Ormond Beach

And this, ten minutes from our doorstep..

Ormond Beach, FL

And, the best part, this is the view from our bedroom window..

If I want an "art fix," I can stop at the museum and stroll through the gardens..

Cecelia Lueza exhibit

Ormond Beach Memorial Museum & Gardens

For yummy veg-friendly dining, we often visit the Dancing Avocado Kitchen.

Chip enjoying a vegetarian Carrot Cream Smoothie

Vegan Veggie/Tofu/Avocado, etc. Sandwich & Taters

Or we can have a bite to eat at the beachfront Ocean Deck...

Tropical Salad, veganized by the Ocean Deck

When I'm in the mood for something spicy (which I usually am!), there are several wonderful Thai restaurants nearby...

Spring Rolls

Siam Tofu from Thai Erawan

So, you see, I'm really not missing anything here in this quiet little town...except for my cats and my kids. I'm working on that part. *smile*

No plans for today as of yet, looking forward to a relaxing Sunday. How about you?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On My Hearth: Pumpkin Chick'n Chowder

Even though Autumn has yet to show her face here in Central Florida, I'm cranking down the a/c and pretending there is a chill in the air outside.  I'm craving comfort food - thick soups & stews, warm spices & seasonings. 

Yesterday was all about settling back into the Ormond Beach house. We won't need  The Beast until next weekend, so we spent the afternoon unpacking, cleaning, washing towels and linens, getting her ready for temporary storage.  Knowing that I probably wouldn't have much energy for cooking after all of that, I pulled out my slow cooker and prepared dinner while sipping my morning coffee. 

I've been a follower of Healthy Slow Cooker for a while now, the new cookbook at the top of my wish list, but haven't tried any of her recipes yet.  This one for chowder was perfect since I had all of the ingredients on hand, saving me a trip to the grocery store.

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chick’n Chowder – serves 4

Cooking Time: 6 to 8  hours on low (or 3 to 4 on high)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (I used canned pumpkin)
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegan chick’n, cubed package (Gardein, Soy Delight, Smart Strips Chick’n, etc.)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chick’n bouillon, like Better than Bouillon
  • 4 cups water (I used vegetable broth in lieu of the bouillon and water)
  • cayenne or chipotle powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy Toffuti sour cream
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • salt and pepper to taste (will vary greatly on the bouillon used)
The night before: Cut up the veggies and chick’n. Thaw pumpkin purée if you have it frozen. Store together in one bowl in the fridge. (I skipped this step, prepared the whole recipe in the morning)

In the morning: Add everything except the non-dairy milk, Toffuti sour cream, and the extra salt or pepper. Cook on low for 6 to 8 (or on high for 3 to 4 hours).

Remove bay leaf and thyme stems (if you used fresh thyme). Then add the non-dairy milk and sour cream.

Make sure you thoroughly mix them in the soup. Then taste your soup, and add more salt, pepper, cayenne, or thyme if needed.

If you want a thicker soup you can take about 1/3 of the soup and purée it in a blender or food processor and then mix it into the rest of the soup. Personally I liked the thinner soup.

Serve topped with shredded vegan cheddar, extra vegan sour cream, and/or chopped chives if desired.


The Verdict: While I loved the flavors in this soup, I found it too watery, more like a thin soup than a chowder. I used my immersion blender in an attempt to thicken it up, but all it did was obliterate the ingredients entirely.  Next time I will use a larger potato, or maybe even two, since the one I had on hand was rathe rmeasley. Also, my store was out of vegan sour cream so I just used Dayan shredded cheese, am sure the sour cream would've added some substance and flavor. 

It's Biketoberfest weekend so we'll likely stop by some of the local bars, enjoy the sights & sounds of this yearly event. It's a beautiful day, mildly warm temps so far, hope the bikers are enjoying it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On My Hearth: Cajun Mac and "Cheese"

We are spending one more night in Jacksonville, then back home to Ormond Beach for a while.  I don't mind telling you, I'll be happy to see the last of this RV Park. I shouldn't complain, it hasn't been all bad, but the lack of open space is wearing on me.  Loki and I both need a nice long walk in a setting that doesn't include highway noise, mud puddles, and gravel driveways lined with motorhomes.

Not wanting to purchase too much food that will just be unpacked tomorrow, I searched the pantry for dinner inspiration. I found a box of mini wagon-wheel shaped pasta...hmm...a quick search led me to this Food Network recipe.  It didn't take much effort to vegan-ize it, just a few easy substitutions. I also reduced the amount of oil, found that 1 tablespoon was more than enough to keep the sausage & veggies from sticking without adding quite as much fat.

Cajun Mac and Cheese


  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces wagon-wheel pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces vegan sausage, diced (I used Tofurky Italian flavor)
  • 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun spice blend (I used Emeril's Blast!)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dairy-free milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 8 ounces dairy-free cheese substitute, shredded or cubed (I used Daiya)


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. 

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and sausage in a large skillet over high heat and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions and bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 more minutes. Add the Cajun spice and flour and cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 5 more minutes. 

Add the pasta, cheese and reserved cooking water to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, tossing to coat the pasta in the sauce and melt the cheese, about 1 minute. 

The verdict: Fabulous! This mac & "cheese" is quite hearty and makes a lot of food, would definitely say more than 4 servings, more like 6 for my family.  The sausage and Cajun spice provide a nice kick without being too spicy. I will definitely make this one again!

Monday, October 15, 2012

On My Hearth: Crockery Cassoulet

This past weekend we were "home" in Pembroke Pines, such a joy to spend time with Kristyn, Jesus, and, of course, my critters! It's also a pleasure to cook in the kitchen here as it's completely equipped with all of the gadgets I've collected over the years.  But the best part about being home? Having someone other than myself and Chip to cook for! I really miss the days when all of my family was under one roof, sitting around the dinner table each night.

Since Sunday is Kristyn and Jesus' only day off from the shop, they catch up on errands, chores, socializing..with a little bit of rest thrown in! I decided to prepare a meal in the slow cooker so they could eat whenever their schedule allowed, so I cracked open my shiny new cookbook, Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  While I was browsing through the book searching for the perfect recipe, I threw together a little lunch for myself and Kristyn, just some eggplant cutlets I found in the freezer, browned in sauce and served atop penne pasta.

We had most of the ingredients on hand for this Crockery Cassoulet and I thought that along with some nice French bread, it would be the perfect dinner for a rainy Sunday.  Instead of relying on store bought, I dusted off my old bread machine and baked my own! Let me tell you, the scents wafting from my kitchen were amazing!

gathering ingredients..

Crockery Cassoulet

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2-cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup panko or dry bread crumbs
2 purchased vegan sausage links (I used Tofurky vegan kielbasa links), sliced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

For the best flavor, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, adding a sprinkling of water, if needed, to keep it from burning.  Add the carrots, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes longer.  

Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, wine, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. 

While the cassoulet is cooking, lightly toast the panko in a small dry skillet until lightly browned.  Set aside. 

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned on both sides. 

When the cassoulet is ready to serve, remove and discard the bay leaves, and stir in the sausage and liquid smoke.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.  Top with the reserved bread crumbs and the parsley.  Serve hot. 

The verdict: This was a very tasty dish, enjoyed the combination of flavors. The liquid smoke is a must, don't skip this ingredient! Next time I will probably saute the carrots a bit longer as, even after 8 hours of cooking they were a bit crispy.  This could've been the fault of my old slowcooker, though, will try it again with my new model.

Today we say goodbye to South Florida, head back north to Jacksonville for a few days. My new cookbook is coming with me so stay tuned for some more slow cooker recipes!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Yet More Tales from Jacksonville

As I eluded to in my last Tale, my visit to Jacksonville has been a tad disappointing. There doesn't appear to be much to do here, at least not in the vicinity of Chip's job site.  You should know that I'm a nervous driver, hate highways and bridges, so unless Chip is around to chauffeur me, I don't venture far from our "home base." Just down the street from us is a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot, neither of which hold much appeal. Last week the weather was terrible - hot & rainy, which led to a muddy campsite, not fun for Loki or myself.  So, I've been stuck alone in the RV for the most part, amusing myself with internet surfing (thank goodness we have wi-fi), reading and cooking.

Fortunately, the sun came out, the temperature dropped, and we relocated our motor home to a nicer space in the park, allowing for a much more pleasant camping experience!

Our view, when not obstructed by other RVs!

We also did a bit of research, learned that Jacksonville Beach (half an hour east) would be more to our liking, so we made some time for exploration.

Wednesday night we took advantage of a wonderful Groupon offer, went to dinner at the Buddha Thai Bistro(You know how much I love my spicy food!) They were recommended by Happy Cow, so I knew I'd find some veg-friendly options, but I looked up the menu beforehand just in case. I was thrilled to find a separate menu listing all of their vegan options, making my decision so much easier!

When we arrived we were immediately impressed by the modern yet cozy decor, charmed by the Halloween decorations mixed in with the abundance of Buddha statues. 

Spooky Buddhas!
 Our waitress was so polite & helpful, the service was impeccable! We each ordered an appetizer, vegan egg rolls for me.  The presentation was gorgeous, love the carrot rose garnish!

I also enjoyed a lovely cocktail called Thai Love Potion, a mixture of vodka, cranberry and other deliciousness. 

Alas, I have no personal pictures to share of my amazing Green Curry; the dim lighting at this point was perfect for romantic dining but not so much for food photos. I didn't want to ruin the moment or disturb fellow viewers with a flash, so you'll have to trust me on this: not only was this the best curry I've ever eaten, it was also the most beautiful! I've never seen this particular shade of green, just stunning.  The presentation was so lovely, it was a shame to eat it! I snatched a photo from the restaurant website, wish you could see (and taste) it for yourselves!

We sat right there...and here's the Green Curry I so enjoyed!

Between the appetizers, generous entree and a bottle of wine, neither of us had room for dessert, so we forced ourselves away from the table with a promise that we will definitely return to Buddha Thai during our stay here!

Since Chip had to work Thursday night, we took the opportunity to explore beachside again, this time during the day.  Our first stop was Joe's Crab Shack, located right on the beach.

While it was a lovely view, there is absolutely nothing veg-friendly on the menu so we had a drink and moved along.

a shot of Crown Royal with a beer chaser for Chip

Fortunately, there was a Mellow Mushroom just across the street. Since we had a nice experience at the location in Macon, I had high hopes for this one.
I was not disappointed!

From the funky decor...

Patio Mural

next time I want to sit in the Magic Bus!

to the pleasant outdoor dining...

to the delicious veggie pizza and cold beer...

it was a a perfect lunch! I really hope they open a Mellow Mushroom in our area, think it would be quite welcome in Daytona Beach. 

Today we pack up and head south for the weekend, looking forward to hugging my kids and cuddling my critters. We have a busy weekend planned so stick around for more tales!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Adopted a Turkey!


Since I will not be purchasing or consuming a (dead) turkey this year, I decided to sponsor a live one!

Meet Antoinette, isn't she lovely? If you'd like to sponsor a beautiful bird of your own, please visit The Farm Sanctuary.

Antoinette says, "Let them eat squash!"

There are many more turkeys to sponsor, and if you're so inclined, the Sanctuary even offers a home adoption program! I'm not sure that would work for us in Suburbia...hmm...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On My Hearth: Red Lentil Thai Chili

I've been on a lentil kick lately, or maybe it's just because it's Autumn (although you wouldn't know it here in Florida) and hearty soups & stew recipes are in abundance. I've just been introduced to the red lentil and learned the difference between it and it's plain brown cousin.  According to my research, the red variety tends to break down more quickly that the brown, adding a thicker yet smoother texture to soups.  In the past I used them interchangeably, who knew?

When I came across Post Punk Kitchen's recipe for Red Lentil Thai Chili, I knew I had to make it. You know how much I love spicy food, and the idea of Thai spices with chili was too intriguing to pass up.

Post Punk Kitchen's Red Lentil Thai Chili

Olive Oil, 1teaspoon to 2 tablespoons (I used 1 Tablespoon)
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced medium (I used green)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes cut into 3/4-inch chunks (I used butternut squash)
1 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Limes for garnish (optional)

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute onions and pepper in oil with a pinch of salt, for 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute more.

Add chili powder, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are tender, add the remaining ingredients and heat through.

Taste for salt and seasoning, top with cilantro and lime and serve!

Serves 10 - 12, Approximately 5 Weight Watchers PointsPlus according to Recipe Builder

This was amazing!!  Served alongside freshly baked bread, it was a perfect meal, chock full of flavor. I'd definitely recommend the cilantro and lime garnish as they add a lot of punch to the dish. Also, next time I might add a pinch more chili powder and/or Thai chili paste but remember, I like my food hot & spicy, (just like my men, ha!)

Thank you, Isa, for this fabulous recipe! It made a huge pot full, enough for both Chip and I to enjoy for a couple of days, the rest went into the freezer for my girls to sample next time they visit. I know they'll love it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On My Hearth: Cauliflower "Wings" and Vegan Blue "Cheese" Dressing

As I've mentioned before, I don't miss meat very much. It's so easy vegan nowadays, there are substitutions for nearly everything. Burgers. Hot Dogs. Ribs. Steak. You name it, there's a veg-friendly option. Even..chicken wings, the holy grail of bar food, in my opinion. 

I admit it, I was a girl who loved her wings. The hotter the better, bring 'em on! Friends of Chip would compete with me to see who could eat the hottest, and I always won. There was nothing like a plate of steaming wings and a side of curly fries, served with a nice cold brew. Yummy! But, I always felt guilty, knowing that poor little animals died for my taste buds, not to mention what those greasy goodies were doing to my waistline. So, when I went vegan I gave up my beloved chicken wings, yet always hoped to find a cruelty-free substitute that could compare to the real deal. Thus began my search.

Now, I know that I can purchase faux "wings" in my grocer's freezer, but most of them do contain dairy products are therefore not suitable for a vegan diet. I knew I'd have to make them from scratch, which is my preferred way of cooking anyway. When I came across this recipe on PETA's website, I was intrigued yet skeptical. Cauliflower? Really? I'm a big fan of the crunchy white veggie but not sure it's a comparable wing substitute. However, I was in the mood for something hot & spicy and I just so happened to have all of the ingredients on hand so decided to give it a shot.

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower 'Wings'

1 cup water or soy milk
1 cup flour (any kind will work—even gluten-free!)

2 tsp. garlic powder
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces
1 cup buffalo or hot sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted vegan margarine

Oct 8. 

 Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Combine the water or soy milk, flour, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.  

Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes.

While the cauliflower is baking, combine your buffalo sauce and olive oil or margarine in a small bowl.

Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

Serve alongside vegan blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.

Oct 8.


The verdict: deelicious! They provided the "meaty" consistency and hot saucy-ness of "real" wings without the fat, calories and, of course, animal flesh! I will absolutely be making these again. Hooters has nothing on me now! Oh, except for the cute waitresses, not sure they make those orange shorts in my size!

Note: This recipe produces a very spicy sauce, similar to the restaurant "Hot" version. It was too spicy for Chip who normally orders a "Medium" sauce. If you want a less intense flavor, I'd suggest adjusting your hot sauce/oil ratio. Also, next time I'll spray the baking sheet first as there was a bit of sticking, and perhaps bake a little bit longer to achieve a crisper "wing." 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Vegan Myth: I Can't Afford to Stop Eating Meat!

I know, I've already posted today but this topic has been on my mind and I really need to address it..

I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance regarding the ban on hunting in Costa Rica. While I was thrilled with this decision, she expressed her concern, said she hopes that the US doesn't follow suit.  It seems that in her poverty-stricken area, quite a few people depend on hunting to supplement their food supply and she doesn't know how they would survive without that option. First of all, the ban is on sport hunting, not subsistence, but anyway..I replied that perhaps they could just cut down or eliminate meat instead, she explained that quality produce is also not abundant in her town.  I'd like to address those issues.

First of all, I do not agree with sport hunting, period. There's plenty of other hobbies/sports out there that don't require slaughtering innocent animals, please find one. As far as hunting-for-food, unless you are lost in the wilderness, starving, I don't see any reason for it. The cost of hunting - license, supplies, ammo, etc. adds up, doesn't it? Couldn't you just as easily take your hard-earned dollars to the corner grocery store and buy a slab of ribs or pound of hamburger? Actually, don't answer that question, it's not going to matter to me. My bio dad is a hunter and we've had plenty of heated discussions over the years, finally just agreed to disagree. If my own flesh & blood hasn't been able to convince me that hunting is a Good Thing, no one else is going to. So let's just leave it at that.

Secondly, there is no physical need for we humans to consume meat.  As millions of vegans prove each day, we can survive quite nicely without animal flesh.  Which leads me to my next, and most important, point:

A vegetarian diet can, and should, be cheaper than one centered around meat. 

Now, I say this as a woman who has spent many years both as a vegetarian and an omnivore, who continues to live with a meat-eater (two, if you count Loki), who is the budget maker, shopper and main cook in my household. I know what I'm talking about here, folks. Since I went veg, our weekly food bill has decreased, and that's with me buying high quality, organic-when possible products.

One of these things is not like the others...yes, I still occasionally buy meat for my man, and my dog!

If I needed to, I could cut the cost much further by making a few changes:

*Buy conventional produce. Yes, organic is better for the environment and your body, pesticides aren't good for us, but if it came down to it, I'd sooner eat conventional produce than give up my plant-based diet.  I truly think the health benefit outweighs the risk.

*Buy frozen, in bulk, instead of fresh.  In areas where good fresh veggies aren't available year round as they are here in Suburban Florida, use frozen! The nutritional value is almost the same as fresh, and you can buy in bulk at one of those super stores. If you're hunting, chances are you have a big freezer in your garage or basement, right? I mean, that meat has to go somewhere. How about filling it up with vegetables and fruit instead?

*Stock up on pantry staples when they're on sale. My friends and family know that I'm the Coupon Queen, save hundreds of dollars per year in sales and coupons at the local grocery store. Yes, it takes time and effort but the rewards are so worth it! Build yourself a little stockpile of canned goods, pastas, sauces, rices, etc. These items are super-cheap, have a long shelf life, and can be thrown together to make a meal in minutes.  An example is the photo below, something I created the other day. I took a can of chick peas, a box of instant quinoa (you can also use rice), frozen spinach, vegetable broth, fresh mushrooms (you can use jarred), garlic and onion. I sauteed the veggies and chickpeas in the broth with a little spice, plopped on top of the cooked quinoa, and voila, dinner! I think the whole thing cost me about 5 bucks, took about 15 minutes worth of my time, and produced several servings. Was it the fanciest dinner I've ever eaten? No, of course not. But it was hearty, healthy, quick & tasty! Some nights that's simply good enough. 

Now, if you want to shop exclusively at Whole Foods and specialty stores, if you rely on frozen veggie meals and faux meats, you're going to spend more money. I myself use those items sparingly, and often as a condiment, not the main ingredient. I may add a cup of veggie crumbles to boost protein and bulk up a chili, or sprinkle some soy Parmesan on top of whole wheat pasta for flavor, but I don't fill my freezer with convenience products. Not only are they expensive, they're also a bit too processed for my liking. I prefer to eat real, whole foods as much as possible.  Better for my body, and my budget.

So, there you go, my soapbox rant for the day. Feel free to chime in, I'd love to hear your opinions, as long as they're not pro-hunting. *Smile*

P.S. For further inspiration, check out one of my favorite cookbooks,  Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. I'll be posting some recipes from here soon.

More Tales from Jacksonville, FL

October 4th - 5th, 2012 ~ Jacksonville, FL

I wish I had exciting stories to tell about Jacksonville, but alas, I don't. So far it's been a pretty boring visit.  I'm sure this is partly due to where we're staying; it looks like beachside might be more interesting but since that's nowhere near Chip's job site, we're kinda stuck.  Also, he's been working nights (and some days) which doesn't allow for a lot of time for exploring. 

Since I forgot to bring my laptop power cord, I spent most of my time reading, watching tv (Food Network and Sex and the City marathon!), and waiting around for Chip to come home.  It's kinda lonely there in the RV all day & night, you know? Anyway, I did a little bit of cooking, pastas and soups..

Kale, pasta, sauce & seasonings equal a simple dinner

and we ate out a couple of times. Overall, nothing worth mentioning. Yawn...

However, we are back in Ormond Beach for a few days and I'm looking forward to cooking, and maybe eating out a little bit.

More later, but in the meantime here's a cute (non-foody) picture of Loki on Flagler Beach, where we stopped on the way home to Ormond. He loves the ocean!