Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On My Hearth: Slow Cooker Creole-Style Jambalaya

It's getting warmer here in the Sunshine State, seems that Mother Nature is throwing some hot summer days into our typically-mild Spring weather.  I guess I should be turning toward lighter, cooler meals but this recipe called to me from the pages of Robin Robertson's slow cooker cookbook, and I just couldn't resist! 

Jambalaya is one of Chip's favorite dishes, one he enjoys cooking for himself, but he's yet to try a meat-free version, til now.  Please note that this is a Creole-style recipe and it bears little resemblance to the Cajun version found in the Big Easy.  The seasonings are similar, but the addition of bean, and minimal amounts of "meat" give it more of a stew or even chili-like consistency. 

Slow Cooker Creole-Style Jambalaya


Slow Cooker Creole-Style Jambalaya 


  • 1 link, vegan-style sausage such as Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Vegan Sausage, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups cooked red kidney beans or 2 (15-ounce) cans beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or vegetable bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • Freshly cooked rice, for serving (not included in ingredient list or nutritional analysis)


1. Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, using cooking spray or a bit of vegetable broth to keep the veggies from sticking. You can also microwave vegetables with a couple tablespoons of water until soft, about 2 minutes.

2. Transfer the veggie mixture to a slow cooker; add beans, tomatoes, broth, thyme, paprika, cayenne, bay leaves, and Old Bay. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, cook on low until tender, about 6 hours.

3. Just before serving, saute the sliced sausage in a non-stick skillet until heated through and lightly browned; add to the slow cooker along with the Tabasco sauce and liquid smoke. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

4. Serve over cooked rice of your choice with additional Tabasco on the table.

Serves 4 to 6; my nutrition analysis is based upon 6 servings 

Nutrition Info

  • Calories: 218.0
  • Fat: 3.0g
  • Carbohydrates: 37.4g
  • Protein: 12.6g  

Omni-Hubby says: Very good but spicy, tastes even better the next day!

VeganGyspy says: I agree. This was quite spicy, which I love, but am glad I served it over plain white rice and alongside bread to temper some of the heat.  It was even better as leftovers when the flavors had time to combine.  

You may be wondering why I'm not mentioning the skillet cornbread shown in the picture. Well, that's because we each had one slice and tossed the rest to the birds & squirrels. Yes, it was that bad. Despite repeated attempts, I have yet to find a really good vegan cornbread recipe. They all turn out dense and tasteless, not like the sweet, fluffy kind I'm accustomed to. If anyone has a tried & true recipe, please share! I'm growing desperate! 

In other news, I've decided to participate in a little photo challenge, details to come. 

Have a great day!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On My Hearth: Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice)

Last night I decided to try another recipe from Everyday Happy Herbivore, this time Arroz Amarillo which translates to "yellow rice." As I mentioned, I grew up in South Florida where good Cuban food is widely available. Before going vegan, one of my favorite meals was Arroz con Pollo (Chicken & Rice) so I wanted this to taste similar, just without the "pollo," of course. I tweaked the original recipe just a bit, using vegetarian "chicken" base to achieve just the right flavor.

Since it's customary to serve frijoles negros alongside many Cuban dishes, I pulled out my leftover Black Bean Soup, drained it a bit, and did just that. One can either mix the beans into the rice & peas, or eat it separately, your choice! All that was needed was a good loaf of Cuban bread, but since many store-bought versions contain lard, I was left to my own devices.  I experimented with a bread machine recipe which was close in flavor & consistency, but not appearance, so back to the drawing board on that one. 
Arroz Amarillo

Arroz Amarillo


    • 1 cup white rice
    • 2 cups water
    • 2 tsp onion powder
    • 2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
    • dash of ground ginger
    • 10 oz frozen peas
    • diced tomato for garnish (optional and not included in nutritional calculation)


  1. In a medium pot or rice cooker, combine rice, water and spices. If using a rice cooker, follow manufacturers instructions. Otherwise, bring to a boil then simmer until rice is tender but not too mushy, about 20 minutes.
  2. Cook peas as package directs, stir into rice mixture. Serve with black beans and Cuban bread if desired.
Makes 4 servings, approximately 1 cup each

Nutritional Info: Fat: 0.8g; Carbohydrates: 26.5g; Calories:134.6; Protein: 5.3g

The Verdict:  

Omni-Hubby says: Love the taste, but there are entirely too many peas. There should be, like, 6 peas in the whole thing.

VeganGypsy says: rolling eyes...he hates most vegetables, so don't take his word on this one! I thought the dish was excellent, with just the right amount of peas, and the addition of the black beans added a nice rich flavor and texture. Looking forward to leftovers today! 
We are off to run errands, maybe hit the farmers market for produce. Happy Saturday to you all! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

A New Direction

Before I go any further, let me explain the photo above. That's Chip's new "baby," a 1974 GMC Javelin, similar to the one he drove in high school.  He purchased her last week from this nice gentleman who has been the owner for nearly 40 years.  You'll be seeing more of her in the future, but she's not really part of this story, just provides a nice visual.

Here goes. When I first started this vegan journey and decided to write about it here, my intention wasn't for this to become a weight loss blog. I've been there, done that, and while it was fun, don't need to do that again. What I wanted was a place to record my new way of shopping/cooking/dining, and to share it with others on the same path, or those who'd like to be. First and foremost, I'm an ethical vegan; I did this for the animals, and any health benefits are just icing on the proverbial cake. Of course, I had hoped that I'd lose some weight in the process, but that wasn't my main goal.  I was still doing Weight Watchers, rather half-heartedly, attempting to implement my vegan eating into their "healthy" requirements of x-number of dairy & fat servings per day.  I was also trying to encourage Chip to make changes in his own diet, for health reasons as well as for the animals.  Some days were hit, some miss, but at least I was living more compassionately and more healthfully so progress was made, just not on the scale.

Fast forward to now, over a year since going vegan.  My weight is around the same, about 40 pounds above where I should be, and I'm now ready to tackle that issue.  I want to feel and look better, of course, but I also want to be a positive example of veganism. I want to be respected and taken seriously when I promote this compassionate lifestyle, and that's easier to do when you're in better physical shape.  Unfortunate, but true: we are judged on our appearances, and mine needs some improvement.

So, I've been having conversations with my sweetie and children, friends and fellow bloggers, and have decided to make a couple of changes in my habits which will undoubtedly affect my blog. From now on, you'll no longer see:

  • Weight Watchers. It's a good, solid program and many people have been successful following it. It's just not for me, not now, not as a vegan. While they do encourage tons of veggies & whole foods, there's a lot of flexibility there and with someone who eats as much fruit & veggies as me, those "freebies" can add up to more calories than I should consume for weight loss. Also, while the meetings provide support and comraderie, a lot of time is spent sharing tips and recipes which no longer apply to me.Lastly, there's the financial impact. I'm spending over $50 per month for meetings, online tools, etc., and not using them. That money can be better spent, perhaps as a donation to my local animal shelter.
  • An abundance of fat. Notice, I didn't say NO fat/oil, just not as much.  Now that I've learned more about meat and dairy-free cooking, I can comfortably substitute some of the oil called for with lower-fat ingredients.I think that overall I have enough healthy fat from plant-based sources, I don't need to add more. 
  • Excessive dining out, except when traveling makes it a necessity.  Chip and I both agree that for the most part, we'd rather eat my cooking at home.  I can better control what goes into our meals and therefore our bodies if I'm the one doing the preparing. Though Chip has made great strides in his new way of eating, we still agree that though I will not purchase or prepare any animal products (except for Loki who's on a BARF diet) in our home, he is free to eat meat when dining out, if he so chooses, without recrimination from me.  So now & then if he gets a craving for something not-so-good-for-him, I'd much prefer that he eat it out there, in moderation, and be done with it.
  • More exercise. No, I won't be sharing pics of us working out; god forbid, how boring would that be? But I will log miles walked or calories burned, something of that nature.
What you will be seeing:
  •  Nutritional information, including calorie counts. I'm going to be using Sparkpeople to track my food intake, at least for a while, to get my bearings and figure out how much I can, and should, be eating in order to lose weight. While I don't relish the thought of logging every morsel that enters my mouth, I realize that tracking is really the key to weight loss. The old advice,"don't bite it unless you write it" wouldn't be so often repeated if it wasn't true.
  • Occasional indulgences, on special occasions or when that monthly chocolate craving hits (you ladies know what I mean).  My goal is to lose the weight and keep it off, so I've got to learn how to do this for the long haul, for real life, which includes birthdays, holidays, etc. This does not mean that every celebration is an excuse for an eating frenzy; on the contrary, I'll be seeking out healthier, lower-fat choices for my favorite treats as well as exercising portion control.
  • Recipes, my own versions.  After reading this post, I realize that though it my not be illegal per se, it's really not cool to copy someone else's recipe ver batim and put it up on your blog, especially if the author hasn't published it on the 'net his/herself! So while I may not have a bunch of original Gypsy recipes to share (yet), I can at least put my own spin on them while giving credit to the original author.   
  • Product reviews, pics of food & kids & cats & dogs & beaches, all the usual stuff you're used to me posting here.  An occasional rant will probably pop up every now & then as well. 
Ok, now that we have all of that out of the way, any questions? No? Then let's move on to food!

Based on a recipe from Lindsay Nixon's Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook, I created this Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie. The original recipe isn't officially published online, but here's my version, using ingredients I had on hand.

Tex-Mex  Shepherd's Pie in progress

Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie


  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes of your choice (I used Delmonte Petite w/Zesty Jalapenos)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 11.5 ounces corn, frozen & thawed, canned or fresh (I used fresh)
  • 1 15-oz can beans of your choice (black, pinto, kidney, etc.) drained and rinsed
  • 3 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (I microwave potatoes if I'm short on time; otherwise, bake or boil til soft enough to mash)
  • hot sauce, optional
  1. Drain juice from tomatoes straight into a large skillet, adding water if necessary to cover bottom of skillet.
  2. Add onion and bell peppers, saute over high heat until green pepper starts to get tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute more.
  3. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, a pinch of salt, a few dashes of black pepper, and stir to coat.
  4. Taste. If you'd like a hotter flavor, add a dash of hot sauce or more chili powder.
  5. Add corn, tomatoes and beans; stir to combine.
  6. Continue to cook over medium until everything is warmed through.
  7. Spoon into a casserole or baking dish, and then spread mashed sweet potatoes on top (no baking necessary).
  8. Serve with hot sauce on the table.
Note: Since I often prepare meals several hours ahead of time, I put the casserole together early in the day then popped it into the refrigerator until time for dinner.  About 30 minutes before serving, I placed in a 350 degree oven and baked until heated through and bubbling slightly. 

Instead of a casserole, you can also serve this alongside baked tortilla chips as an awesome dip!

Serves 4; per serving: 319 calories, 1.2g fat, 11.4g fiber, 8.2 sugars, 9.4g protein

Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie  

The verdict: 

Omni-Hunny Says: While I like the flavors, I'm still not a big fan of sweet potatoes, would have preferred regular potatoes. Adding some veggie crumbles in there would've been good. Also, it doesn't really taste like a shepherd's pie to me, I think it should be called something else.  

VeganGypsy says: I agree. I'd add more spice to the mix, definitely not hot enough for me, and the combination of sweet potatoes and Mexican seasonings/ingredients seemed odd.  Maybe if I'd used black beans instead of kidney? I don't know. Overall, I prefer HH's Cajun Cornbread Casserole

I'm heading over to Sparkpeople to finish setting up my program. If any of you are members and want to "friend" me, please visit my page. I'd appreciate all the support I can get!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On My Hearth: Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

They say that most people are either good cooks, or good bakers - not both.  For the most part, I fall into the former.  While I enjoy baking, I usually leave it to more talented folks.  For most of my life, that was my Mom.

Mom's graduation
In addition to being a wonderful mother, doting grandma and successful career woman (who at 41 years old went back to college and got her degree) she was notorious for her home-baked cookies, muffins, etc. She made a Brownie Chip Cookie that was the highlight of every bridal & baby shower, family bbq & holiday party throughout the years. Everyone asked for the recipe, and she was always happy to share.

When I met and married into Glenn's family, I was blessed to have his sister Ursula who made such delicious, beautiful cakes, no bakery could compare!  

My 21st Birthday
Now, there's my daughter Lindsey.  Among other sweet treats, her Key Lime pie is to die for (We're working on vegan-izing it). She's so comfortable (and adorable) in the kitchen, I think she takes after Mom!

Lindsey baking a pie

The rest of the us can and do bake, but it's just not our passion.  I'd rather make dinner than dessert, especially since I am trying to eat more healthfully. However, there comes a time when a girl simply needs chocolate, preferably in the form of cookies, warm and fresh out of the oven. Yesterday was one of those days. Since I'm the only baker in the Ormond house, I had to break down and do it myself. Out come the cookie sheets, on goes the Kitchen-aid mixer, let's see what we can do!

Have you heard of the cooking magazine, Taste of Home? Wonderful publication, I credit it with literally teaching me to how to cook! As a busy young wife & mother, I didn't have time or energy for complicated recipes and fancy ingredients, I just wanted a good, healthy meal for my family, something besides the basic kid-friendly dishes I'd been serving.  Taste of Home gave me just that, and I'm forever grateful to them for expanding my cooking horizons.  However, the recipes tend to be heavy on the animal products, so I was shocked when a vegan recipe popped up in my search results! Since ToH has never let me down, I needed to search no further.

Note: I happened to have a bag of vegan chocolate chunks on hand, but if you prefer to use regular chocolate chips, that's just fine! Below is my version, you can find the original here.

cookies in progress

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • 1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons non-dairy milk of your choice (I use Almond Breeze)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chunks (such as Enjoy Life brand)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts


  1. In a large bowl, beat the wet ingredients (sugars, oil, milk, applesauce & vanilla) until well blended.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt);  gradually add to sugar mixture and blend well.
  3. Gently stir in chocolate chips and nuts; cover and refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined sheets, about 2" apart.
  6. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Middle of cookies will still be soft, so be careful not to overcook.
  7. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. (Yields about 3 dozen, depending upon size)

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This is my first time baking vegan cookies, am rather pleased with the outcome! I'm happy to have found a go-to recipe for my next chocolate fix, but I don't want or need zillions of cookies in the house, so I packed up the majority and sent along with Chip to share with his workmates. Hope they (and you!) enjoy them as much as we did!

Now, back to healthy eating..tonight I'll be making a Tex-Mex version of Shepherd's Pie, hope you'll pop by later to see the results!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On My Hearth: Taco Night!

Before there was Taco Bell, Tijuana Flats, Moe's, and a host of other Mexican fast food joints that have sprung up over the past few years, there was Taco Viva. If you're over the age of 40, you may remember it, perhaps with as much fondness as I do.

When I left my parents' house at the ripe old age of 18, I moved to an apartment that happened to be within walking distance of Taco Viva.  As you might imagine, this was a big plus to my roommate, friends and myself! We were the typical "starving" young adults/college students, living week to week on a measly grocery budget.  Most of our meals consisted of mac & cheese (the store brand, not even the good stuff in the blue box), hot dogs, and chicken pot pies (.50 cents each) served over white rice. (Obviously this was before I became a veg) If we had extra money, it was spent on beer, ice cream, and fast food, pretty much in that order.  After imbibing in a few cocktails and, in the case of..ahem..other people, some other recreational drugs, we would often find ourselves at the Taco Bell counter, ordering all sorts of crunchy, cheesy, and even sweet treats. (Applerito? Best. Thing. Ever) 
Perfect taco of my omnivorous past

Ah, the good old days..unfortunately, TV is a thing of the past. This generation will never know just how good tacos can be; the current offerings just don't compare. I guess it's possible that our memories are skewed, maybe everything feels/tastes/looks better when you're 18 years old and enjoying your first taste of freedom.  In any case, as I've never attempted to re-create those crunchy pockets of perfection, I'm left with my own grown-up version.

Now, normally I fill my tacos with either re-fried beans or veggie crumbles, but last night I decided to try a highly-touted recipe by Happy Herbivore.


Chickpea Tacos

  • 15 ounces chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1  package taco seasoning mix, or equivalent of homemade version
  • 8 taco shells
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Whisk tamari, juice & spices together. Pour over rinsed chickpeas and mix until evenly coated. Place chickpeas on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil, spray chickpeas lightly and place in oven.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking periodically to ensure that they are crunchy but not too brown.
  4. Assemble tacos with chickpeas, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado,etc.
  5. Enjoy!

While these were decidedly different than the tacos I'm used to, I liked 'em! The spicy coating held onto the chickpeas nicely but wasn't overpowering, and the shape of the beans added a nice texture.  I did still prepare a "meaty" veggie crumble filling for Chip, not sure he's ready to venture so far from the norm; maybe next time.

What's your favorite taco filling? Do you keep it old school with "meat" fillings or do your own thing?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On My Hearth: Baked Tofu with Thai Coconut Curry Stir Fry

Chip and I both really love Thai food and enjoy visiting various local Thai restaurants, but sometimes it's just not practical or budget-friendly to dine out. Last night I decided to try making it myself, combining this recipe for baked tofu and this one for veggie stir fry, coming up with my own concoction. I was really nervous about the results, especially since I didn't have a "back-up" for Chip in case he didn't like it.

Thai Coconut Curry Stir Fry in Progress 

  Thai Baked Tofu

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet red chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 piece (2-inches) fresh ginger, finely chopped
  1. Drain & press tofu for at least 10 minutes, making sure the majority of the water has been released.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients, stir and set aside.
  3. Cut tofu into 8 slices. In a shallow dish, arrange in a single layer. Pour marinade over tofu and turn over once, gently.  Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove tofu from marinade and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. 
  5. Strain the marinade into a bowl; sprinkle solids over the tofu, reserving liquid for another use if desired.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 400 degrees, checking periodically to ensure that the bottom doesn't burn. 
  7. Serve over your favorite stir-fry.  
Makes 4 servings. 

dinner 04.22

Thai Coconut Curry Stir Fry

  • 1 lb. linguine or rice noodles
  • 1 12-oz. package of frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 1/2 c. green onions
  • 1 medium red, orange, or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. sliced mushrooms (about 6-8 small mushrooms)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh, minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh, minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. curry paste
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus more limes for garnish
  • 2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 13.5 ounce can lite coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • kosher salt and black pepper

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions or, if using rice noodles, soak in hot water for 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, curry paste, and lime juice. Steam or microwave the frozen vegetables until crisp-tender, taking care not to overcook. 
  2. In a large non-stick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, green onions, ginger and red pepper and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about a minute more.  Stir constantly to ensure that the garlic doesn't burn; if necessary, add water or vegetable broth to prevent sticking.
  3. Add the stir-fry vegetables and simmer for a minute or so, then add the coconut mixture and cook until it starts to boil.  Remove from heat and add the cooked noodles. If you're like me and don't have a wok or large enough skillet, transfer the whole thing to a large soup pot.  Mix well and allow the mixture to stand for a few minutes to thicken up. 
  4. Drizzle lime juice just before plating, serve with additional lime slices as garnish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. For a heartier meal, baked or fried tofu may be added, see recipe above.
Serves 6 to 8 

Thai Coconut Curry Stir Fry

Well, I needn't have worried because we both enjoyed it very much! There was just enough flavor and spice to make the dish interesting yet not so much that it would be considered truly spicy. While this won't replace dinner at our favorite Thai establishment, it's a very nice homemade version that I would definitely make again! I'm sure that these two recipes could be combined more easily than I did; if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rainy Sunday..is that an Oxymoron?

Apple Crisp Muffins
After a damp & dreary Saturday, I had hoped that Sunday would dawn clear & bright, allowing Chip and I to attend the aforementioned Celtic Festival.  As an offering to the weather gods (and to my hubby), I whipped up a batch of Happy Herbivore's Apple Crisp Muffins, then took Loki to the dog park for some exercise and socialization. It was here that we first noticed the sky darkening and a few raindrops hitting the ground.

Not ones to let a little rain slow us down, we ate a quick lunch at home and headed to the festival site.  Despite the steady rain and the steam of guests straggling out, we paid our entrance fee and hoped for the best.  After sludgeing through puddles and seeing the musicians packing up, we gave up and did what all good Celts would do: we headed to the pub. 

Back at home, we cuddled up with books and tea, listened to the the rain hit the patio roof.  When dinner time rolled around, I decided to make use of my newly-purchased-at-the-flea-market bread machine and make a veganized version of Italian bread sticks! Mine turned out kinda short & chubby, though, not exactly stick-line..grin...it's ok, they were still delicious!

Easy Italian Breadsticks 

(Print Friendly)

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, such as Earth Balance
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

  • 2 Tablespoons non-dairy butter (such as Earth Balance, melted)
  • 2 Tablespoons grated vegan Parmesan cheese (I use Galaxy brand)
Place ingredients in your bread machine in order listed. Select the dough cycle. When complete, divide the dough into 12 balls and form into 4-6-inch ropes. 

Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise in a warm spot; since I often have something baking in the oven at the same time, I usually place my dough near the stove to rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Mix the melted non-dariy butter with the vegan Parmesan, brush on breadsticks and serve!

Oh, wait, that's just the side dish. What about the rest of the meal, you ask? Well, of course we started out with Minestrone soup..

then pasta with Gardein chick'n cutlets. I didn't get a good pic, but it looked something like this one here.

Though I was really looking forward to good music and fun at the festival, my Sunday turned out pretty great after all. How about yours?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

On My Hearth: Black Bean Soup

As I've mentioned, Chip likes soup. A lot. If I didn't know this before, I became well aware of it when we returned home from the cruise and he told me how much he enjoyed having a first course of soup every night. Even if he didn't like a couple of the other dishes, it was pretty much given that he'd gobble up the soup, and therefore not go hungry.  He suggested that we could do something similar at home, and when seeing the look on my face he assured me that he wasn't asking me to cook a 5-course meal every night (whew!), just that we have some homemade soup available just in case he didn't like a new vegan dish I was serving.  I agreed, so this week I've been cooking, eating and stocking my freezer full of Lentil, Minestrone, and, last night, Cuban Black Bean soup.

This recipe comes from Robin Robertson's latest, Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, a wonderful cookbook I've recently added to my collection.      

                          Cuban Black Bean Soup

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1              large  yellow onion -- chopped
  1              large  green bell pepper -- seeded and chopped
  1                     jalapeño pepper -- seeded and minced
  3                     garlic cloves -- minced
  4               cups  vegetable broth or water
  2                     bay leaves
  1         tablespoon  dried oregano
  2          teaspoons  ground cumin
  1           teaspoon  salt -- or more to taste
  1           teaspoon  smoked paprika
                        ¼ teaspoon chili powder
                        ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6               cups  cooked black beans or 4 (15-ounce) cans beans -- rinsed and drained
  3        tablespoons  dry sherry (optional)
  1           teaspoon  sherry vinegar or cider vinegar
  1           teaspoon  liquid smoke
  1                     ripe Hass avocado -- pitted, peeled, and diced, for garnish
  1              large  ripe tomato -- chopped, for garnish
                        ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro -- for garnish

Combine the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and garlic in the slow cooker. Add the broth, bay leaves, oregano, cumin, salt, paprika, chili powder, and black pepper. Add the beans, stirring to mix well. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and stir in the sherry (if using), vinegar, and liquid smoke. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt if needed.

Ladle 2 cups (or as much as half of the soup) into a blender or food processor, puree, and stir it back into the rest of the soup in the cooker. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup right in the cooker.

Serve hot, topped with the avocado, tomato, and cilantro.

  "Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker"
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Serves 4 to 6

Before I offer my opinion on the final outcome, please understand that I grew up in South Florida where there is a heavy Latin influence, where Spanish is spoken freely and abundantly, and where Cuban restaurants and supermarkets are everywhere. From my best friend's kitchen to the best restaurant in Miami, I've eaten and enjoyed my share of superb Cuban food. This was...good. It was a bit spicy  which is not typical of Black Bean Soup; Cuban cuisine is not known for heat, just flavor. I've never seen a jalapeno or a slice of avocado grace any Cuban dish, that's more typical of Mexican or Tex-Mex.  Also, despite using my immersion blender to puree, the end result was not as thick & creamy as it should be. I ended up adding cooked rice before serving, just to bulk it up a bit, turning it into Arroz Con Frijoles Negros. Now, that being said, we still enjoyed the meal; it was very tasty and filling, it just wasn't the Sopa de Frijoles we've both known and loved.  If you have no preconceived notions about what it should taste like, or you just want a different experience, then by all means, try this recipe! For myself, though, I'm going to stick to the version that tastes like home. 

In a complete cultural twist, we will be spending today at a Celtic Festival, looking forward to some good music, food, and perhaps a pint of ale or two!

Friday, April 19, 2013

On My Hearth: Smoky Barbecue Bowl

Inspired by this amazing new found blog, The Sweet Life, I decided to attempt something new: barbequed tofu.  Other than scrambling and sauteing, I haven't experiment very much with tofu, but this dish looked so spicy & flavorful, I couldn't resist.

Since I had a bottle of prepared bbq sauce gathering dust in my pantry, I used that instead of the "from scratch" version that Sarah shared; next time I'd definitely make it up fresh as I'm sure it's better. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to a "t" and it was fantastic! The lemony kale and creamy avocado cool the smoky heat of the other ingredients just enough, allowing for a wonderful mixture of flavors.  Soooo delicious!

I'm including The Sweet Life's exact recipe here, please stop by her blog for more amazing vegan good-ness.


                           Smoky Barbecue Bowl

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1                cup  brown rice -- cooked (1/2 cup dry)
  8             ounces  extra-firm tofu -- drained and pressed
  2               tbsp  nutritional yeast -- (2 to 3)
  1                cup  blackeyed peas
     1/2         bunch  kale
  1                tsp  lemon juice
                        salt and pepper to taste
     1/2                avocado
     1/2         batch  Barbecue Sauce -- recipe separate

Barbecue Tofu:

Cut tofu into 1” cubes and place in a shallow container. Add 1 cup of barbecue sauce and stir to combine. Allow tofu to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove tofu from excess barbecue sauce, saving extra sauce, and transfer to a small bowl. Add nutritional yeast and mix to coat. Place tofu on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, flip tofu over, top with remaining barbecue sauce, and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until browned and chewy.

Making the Barbecue Bowl:

Heat up black eye peas in a saucepan over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and stir to coat.

Steam kale until slightly soft. Mix with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Assemble bowl by placing rice on the bottom. Top with black eyed peas, BBQ tofu, and steamed kale. Finish with a few slices of avocado.

Add extra barbecue sauce, hot sauce, or nutritional yeast to taste.

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Serves 2

                             Barbecue Sauce

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
     1/4           cup  white onion -- diced
  1               tbsp  olive oil
  2               cups  ketchup
     1/2           cup  molasses
  2                tsp  apple cider vinegar
     1/4           cup  vegan Worcestershire sauce
  1               tbsp  liquid smoke
  1              pinch  cayenne

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and saute until translucent. Let cool. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Store in the refrigerator.

  "2 cups"
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Today Chip and I have a little errand to run, headed over to the Orlando area to pick up a new "toy." I won't say anything more until we actually have the thing in our possession, but I will tell you this: It's very old and very bright yellow! I'll pop in later to share more.  In the meantime, have a wonderful day!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Snapshots from the Weekend: Daytona Beach

I had a such a lovely weekend, hope you did as well. Two of my daughters and their boyfriends were visiting, so enjoyed just hanging out with them..cooking, eating, shopping, talking, laughing...so much fun!

Sunday morning started out with breakfast at home. Tofu Scramble, Cinnamon Coffee Cake and hash browns along with Ezekiel toast and a big bowl of fruit (not shown).  Big thanks to Taylor for snapping the pics for me!

Breakfast Buffet

Tofu Scramble w/Vegan Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms & Seasonings

Crumbly and messy but oh-so-good Cinnamon Coffeecake

After breakfast we zipped over to the flea market. Lindsey & Taylor did a little shopping while Kristyn and I gathered up veggies for dinner.

We stopped for lunch at Ocean Deck..

Then home to relax on the patio.  Kristyn made these beautiful appetizers consisting of leftover Moroccan bread, toasted and smeared with tofu cream cheese, topped with Daikon and red radish slices and spinach. Such unique flavor combinations, delicious!

For dinner, Chip got busy grilling various vegan sausages, bell peppers, corn, hot dogs & burgers, while the ladies roasted asparagus and sauteed onions & peppers. Everything was so fantastic but we were so busy enjoying the meal I forgot to take photos! Sorry, you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Today I'm catching up on laundry and tidying the house, tomorrow we head back to St Augustine for a day or two.  I haven't planned dinner tonight, any suggestions?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

On My Hearth: Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew & White Bread

Moroccan Bread

One of the highlights of the Holistic Holiday at Sea was the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest health & nutrition experts in the county. Our favorite, Dr. Neal Barnard, presented an especially interesting and informative lecture on the "brainy" benefits of a plant-based diet.  During the discussion he mentioned the Okinawan people and the link between their longevity and their diet which consists of, among other things, an abundance of sweet potatoes. Chip shuddered and proclaimed his distaste for the poor little spud but I assured him that the mushy, sugar-laden yams served on Thanksgiving bear little resemblance to a true sweet potato, and vowed to prepare them in a way he'd enjoy.

At the Farmers Market this week, the organic veggie vendor was offering lovely sweet potatoes at a good price, so I scooped them up and started researching recipes. Knowing how much Chip loves soups & stews, I decided to go that route, incorporating them into a dish instead of served on their own.  I remembered a favorite Weight Watchers recipe which I included in the last Virtual Vegan Potluck, Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew.  While it calls for butternut squash, I was confident that I could easily substitute another similar vegetable. I decided to try my hand at baking Moroccan bread as well, thinking that would round out the meal nicely.

                         Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
                  cooking spray (or vegetable broth, for
  1              small  onion -- chopped
  1              clove  garlic -- minced
  4              sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
  1                cup  carrots, roughly chopped
  1                cup  canned crushed tomatoes
                   cup  vegetable broth
     1/4           tsp  ground cinnamon
     1/2           tsp  cumin seeds
     1/2           tsp  red pepper flakes
  15                oz  canned chickpeas -- drained and rinsed
     1/2           tsp  table salt

Coat a small pot with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes.

Place sweet potatoes in a 3-quart or larger slow cooker (crockpot). Add onion and garlic, carrots, tomatoes, broth, cinnamon, cumin and red pepper flakes. Cover and turn on to high heat; simmer for a few hours, then turn to low when the vegetables begin to soften. Mine took about 6 hours on high, but crock-pot temperatures differ so be sure to keep an eye on yours.

Add chickpeas and salt. Stir, cover and heat for 5 minutes.

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Yields 6 Servings; approx 1- 1/3 cups per serving. 5 Weight Watchers
PointsPlus for those who are counting. 

So, what do you think? He looks like a happy guy, right? Yep, he thoroughly enjoyed the stew, so much that he heated up leftovers for lunch the next day! I trust that this new found appreciation for sweet taters will help him live a longer life. 

Today I'll be planning/preparing for a visit from two of my children, so looking forward to hanging out with them. As always when we get together, there will be some vegan cooking & eating, yum! 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On My Hearth: Slowcooked Spicy Mexican Bean Soup

After all of the cleaning, cooking & laundry I did yesterday, by the time dinner came around I didn't feel like doing a darned thing. All I wanted was a quick, healthy meal that didn't require much clean-up. Thankfully, while I was chopping and prepping those breakfast & lunches, I gave some thought to the evening meal. It's all about planning ahead, remember?

I recently purchased a package of Field Roast Chorizo-style sausages. I've never cooked with this flavor before so I was rather clueless but intrigued.  A quick search of Google and my pantry/fridge helped me create this hearty, spicy soup.  A hunk of homemade cornbread to sop up every last bit of juice was the only side dish needed.  Soo yummy! The best part? I have several portions in the RV refrigerator right now, ready for a quickie lunch or dinner!

                   Slow Cooked Spicy Mexican Bean Soup

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1              small  onion -- chopped
  1              clove  garlic -- minced
  1              small  red bell pepper -- chopped
  1                tsp  ground cumin
  1                     bay leaf
  15                oz  canned black beans -- undrained
  1             medium  lime -- squeezed
  2               Tbsp  cilantro -- minced (optional)
     1/8           tsp  table salt -- or to taste
     1/8           tsp  black pepper -- or to taste
  15                oz  canned white corn, drained
  14                oz  canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  15                oz  vegetable broth
  1               Tbsp  red wine or sherry

  1               Field Roast Vegan Sausage, Chorizo or any flavor you like
  14             oz  Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, or plain diced tomatoes

    Crumble vegan sausage and brown in 12-inch nonstick skillet for 2 minutes.

Add onion, garlic and peppers. Sauté over medium-high heat 5 minutes.

Add to slow cooker. Add wine, cumin, bay leaf, corn, tomatoes, beans and broth. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Remove lid. If you want a thicker soup, scoop out 1 cup beans and press with the back of a fork to mash. Return to pot. Add lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered just to warm through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with non-dairy sour cream and scallions, if desired

Makes about 8 1-cup servings, 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving, if you're counting.

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Making the Time to Cook

"One of the most common excuses for not eating a healthful, plant-based diet is 'I just don't have time to cook.' We've become so dependent on processed, packaged, frozen and fast food that our barometer for how much time we should spend on preparing our meals has been completely skewed.  Our idea of how long we should spend on cooking (and eating!) has become completely distorted.  Our threshold for chopping vegetables is about zero.

We need a new measuring stick.  It's true that cooking requires a little extra time, but compared to what? Compared to throwing a package of processed foodlike substances into the microwave? Sure, I'll concede.  Cooking requires more time than that, but is that really the measuring stick we want to use?"   

~Colleen Patrick Goudreau, The 30-Day-Vegan Challenge

Honestly, I don't understand the I-don-t-have-time-to-cook excuse and I just don't buy it. It's true that as a retired empty nester, I have all the time in the world to shop, chop & cook healthy meals for myself and my spouse, but that wasn't always the case.  I once was a busy mother of three, working outside of the home and/or running a home-based business.  At one point I had two kids in diapers, one in kindergarten, and a firefighter husband who was gone for 24 hour shifts, only to change clothes and leave for his second job.  I cooked. Oh, the food wasn't fancy and we had weekly pizza delivery as well as the occasional Chinese food take-out, but for the most part, I still cooked. I did my best to ensure that my family ate healthy, well-balanced meals that came from my kitchen, prepared by me.  It wasn't just my duty as a mom, it was a labor of love.

Over the years, I learned tips & tricks to make meal time easier. Batch cooking for the freezer.  Buying in bulk.  Starting dinner prep the night before. Using my slow cooker, a lot. Etc. etc. 

Kristyn & Lindsey, baking a cake - 1992
Mom & me, Thanksgiving 1988
Kristyn making bunny bread for Easter - 1990
 When the girls grew old enough, I included them in the process, choosing age-appropriate tasks for each one. They learned the importance of good food, enjoyed as a family, at the dinner table. That time was sacred, and I have such fond memories of the stories, laughs and discussions that took place around that table.  Every single moment of planning, shopping, preparing and cooking was worth it. I'd like to think that I gave my girls a good foundation, the basic culinary skills and nutrition information that they will carry on into their own kitchens and families one day. For the record: they're all very good cooks, so far so good!

So, whether you're running a corporation or a household, feeding just yourself or a large family, you can, and should, make the time to feed yourself well! 

You've heard this advice before: Plan your menu. If you can't plan a week in advance, at least figure out what you want to eat for the next few days. Make a list. Shop. When you bring home those nice fresh veggies, consider chopping some up before storing them in the fridge. When you get home from work, famished and tempted to call for take-out, you'll find a beautiful tray of carrot & celery sticks, or perhaps a big bowl of beautiful fresh berries in your refrigerator. Pour yourself a glass of wine or lemon water, put on some music and relax. Nibble on those fruits & veggies while you prepare yourself a healthy meal. You deserve it! Your body will thank you for it later, I promise. 

On weekends or whenever you have the time & energy to spend a little time in the kitchen, consider preparing a couple of meals at a time instead of just one.  You might even want to plan your weekly menu based on recipes with similar ingredients.  Last night's chili becomes the base for today's taco salad..tomorrow's stir fry leftovers can become a light soup for the next day's lunch.  You get the idea. 

Yesterday I had the house to myself, Chip went along to St Augustine and I stayed behind to do laundry, tidy up, etc.  Realizing that the campground we're staying at is a bit farther from shopping than I'm used to, I decided to bring along a few prepared meals for myself.  This way, if Chip gets stuck at work or we simply decide to stay "home" for dinner instead of dining out, I'm ready.  

The two recipes below use similar ingredients, making the preparation process a breeze. Each makes four servings, and since I don't mind repetition or leftovers, they'll get me through the next few days.  Both are from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's book, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, which I highly recommend whether you're new to veganism or if you've been on this path for years.  Jam-packed with information, advice as well as delicious recipes, I firmly believe that every kitchen should have a copy. I myself am buying a few as gifts for veg-curious friends! Anyway, here you go..


                              Tofu Scramble
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1               Tbsp  olive oil for sauteeing
  1                cup  loosely packed spinach leaves
  1             medium  yellow onion or 3 scallions rinsed and patted dry -- finely chopped
 1/2             tsp turmeric
  1                tsp  minced garlic
  1                tsp  cumin
  1                     bell pepper (red -- yellow, orange or green), finely diced
 1/2             tsp paprika
  2               Tbsp  nutritional yeast
                        One package (16 ounces) extra-firm tofu -- drained and rinsed
  1                     ?4 tsp salt -- or to taste
                        Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion and peppers are tender and turning a little brown.

Meanwhile, using your hands, crumble the tofu into a bowl to create the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Add to the saute pan and stir to combine. Add the spinach, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and nutritional yeast, and saute for about 5–8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tofu is a bright yellow color (from the turmeric) and thoroughly heated.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with toast or tempeh bacon.

Saute sliced cremini mushrooms along with the onions and peppers.
    For a Mexican scramble, add 1 cup of your favorite salsa after the tofu is cooked, and allow it to heat through. Make a Breakfast Burrito by wrapping the scramble in a tortilla and serving with tortilla chips, avocado, and nondairy, nonhydrogenated sour cream.
    For an Italian twist, add fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and/or parsley, and some finely chopped Kalamata olives.

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Serves 2 or 4
; I split into four servings


                         Better-Than-Egg Salad
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1 1/2         pounds  extra-firm tofu
     1/2           cup  eggless mayonnaise
  2                     red bell peppers -- finely chopped (I used red & green)
  4                     scallions (white and green parts) -- finely chopped
  3             stalks  celery -- finely chopped
  2        tablespoons  fresh parsley -- finely chopped
  4          teaspoons  pickle relish
  1 1/2    tablespoons  prepared mustard
     3/4      teaspoon  turmeric
     1/2      teaspoon  salt -- or to taste
                        black pepper -- to taste

In a large bowl, mash tofu with a fork, potato masher, or your hands.

Add the mayonnaise, bell peppers, scallions, carrots, celery, parsley, relish, mustard, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and combine well.

Serving Suggestions: Serve on crackers as an appetizer or party dish.  Serve as a side salad - great for picnics and BBQ's.

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Makes 4 Servings or Sandwiches

So, there you go, two yummy, healthful breakfast and lunches you can be proud to serve yourself and/or your family!