Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls, Guilt Free

It's been interesting to see my fav veg blogs post recipes for beautiful Christmas cookies. I am so glad they are posting them, because I haven't made a single cookie. Not one during this Christmas season.

It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with me...Ash, why aren't you making any cookies?! And then I realized, Oh, (picture the Fiddler on The Roof, and Tevia shouting) TRADITION!

All growing up it was our family tradition to have cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. One of my favorite parts of Christmas, for sure. When we got to be a little older, and realized just how much work my parents went to in order to make Christmas the biggest event of the year, my oldest sister and I took over on Christmas cinnamon-roll-making-duty.

Then, we all got lazy, and decided to turn to Rhodes. Ah, Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls from the frozen foods section. Yummy stuff.

I usually ate about three or four of them...Once I start eating something delicious, I really cant seem to stop. When I got old enough to realize what I was doing to myself, and recognized that they made me feel sick, I also started realizing how guilty I felt after eating so many cinnamon rolls.

Seriously, how do you feel after sitting down to a Cinnabon cinnamon roll at the mall, and consuming the entire confection?

Like running a marathon?

Like shouting for joy?

Right. Me either. I feel like a big fat bump on a log. Someone ROLL me down the hall because I just ate a year's worth of fat and junk in five minutes. But then, despite how I feel physically, I really feel like I wouldn't mind eating another one. Yeah, that's me.

Every time I eat one of these delicious, marvelous, oil and dairy free cinnamon rolls, they taste so good to me, that my cinnamon-roll-eating guilt returns.

I start quizzing myself.

Okay, I should feel guilty because...let's see these have no oil in butter, no eggs, no cream, no dairy...and they are made with whole grain flours...I know there has got to be something in these warm, ooey, gooey, SIN-namon rolls that I should feel guilty about!

I'm healing. How about you? Learning to not feel guilty because I enjoy my food.

Healthy desserts.

After all, I'm pretty sure Christmas is supposed to be all about joy.

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Seven Secrets Cookbook


One Loaf Bread (The Dough)

This bread recipe is the right amount for one loaf, and works in most bread machines. This recipe can be used to make bread, pita pockets, pizza crust, and in our case, cinnamon rolls. Oil and dairy free never tasted so good!

As to which types of flour you choose, I have made these with half unbleached all-purpose, and half white whole wheat, all white whole wheat, and with completely all-purpose flour. Each version raised well and tasted great. If you are going for a healthy breakfast, choose either half whole wheat and white, or all white whole wheat. If you are going for a very dessert-y, copycat Cinnabon mall experience, use only unbleached, all-purpose flour.

Use either date paste, or brown rice syrup and sugar filling, depending on your preference. I also provide two different types of icings, or you can simply pour maple syrup on top of your roll for a more " cinnamon roll pancake" type of breakfast experience. My kids and I prefer the brown rice syrup filling, with the cream cheese icing.

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole wheat bread flour (I find that white whole wheat flour works best)
1 tablespoon gluten flour
1 tablespoon dough conditioner (optional, I didn't have any)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast


1.Place ingredients in bread machine container according to manufacturer's instructions. Once the bread maker has completed it's full cycle, roll the dough out into a long rectangle. Apply a thin layer of filling (see below, either date spread, or brown rice syrup mixture) over the surface, leaving 1/4 inch along one long edge free of spread.

2. Sprinkle entire surface liberally with cinnamon. Optionally, you can also sprinkle it with raisins, or other dried fruits and/or chopped nuts of your choice. We like it best without anything added except the filling. Roll up the long way like a jelly roll, and pinch the seam closed.

3. Cut 1-inch rolls by cutting all the way through with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Place rolls with cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, shaping into a circle. Let rise, covered with a damp towel, in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

4. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Lightly brush tops with pure maple syrup or cream cheese frosting while hot (optional). Cool on a wire rack, then place in covered container until ready to eat. These taste best when warm. If they have cooled, simply place in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds to reheat, and soften. Enjoy a guilt-free, sinless cinnamon roll! (Or if you are like me, enjoy two or three!)

For the Filling:

Note from Ashlee: This spread is great because it adds body and flavor without oils or fats. It tastes the best if the cinnamon rolls are going to be eaten the same day they are baked, or when the cinnamon rolls are very warm. Once the cinnamon rolls cool, the date paste tends to get chunky. Reheating helps, but the date filling tastes the best when fresh from the oven. Make sure you only spread a thin layer, as this will prevent the paste from getting chunky the day after baking.

Date Spread


2 1/2 cups pitted dates, or date pieces
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt


Bring all ingredients to a boil in a covered saucepan. Mash or process in food processor to make a thick paste. Or blend in a blender, adding a little extra water if needed, to blend until thick and smooth. (After spreading a very thin layer of the date paste, be sure to sprinkle generously with cinnamon before rolling the dough into a "jelly roll" to enjoy that cinnamon taste!)

Brown Rice Syrup and Brown Sugar Spread

Note from Ashlee: This filling is my own invention, and my personal preference as a fat free filling for cinnamon rolls. The hardest part is preventing it from becoming too runny; when that happens, all the filling oozes out of the dough. However, if that happens, the majority of the flavor remains on and around the roll during baking, and still tastes wonderful. I like this filling especially because it tastes great reheated, and retains it's flavor and texture the next day. Even at room temperature. Brown rice syrup is also a much cheaper and a faster alternative to using 2.5 cups of boiled and mashed dates!


1/4 cup brown rice syrup
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon applesauce
2 teaspoons cinnamon


In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork, until well incorporated. If the mixture is too thick and too difficult to stir, consider adding an additional one teaspoon of applesauce. However, also remember that the mixture will soften on the dough. You don't want it to become runny or the filling will ooze out of the inside of the cinnamon roll when the dough is being rolled. If you want it to be thicker, add additional 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Spread a layer over the rolled out dough, leaving a remaining 1/4 inch of the dough dry. The dry portion of the dough makes it possible for the cinnamon rolls to seal shut when rolling the dough into a "jelly roll."

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/4 cup nondairy cream cheese (I use Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese brand)
1/2-1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
non-dairy milk, as needed

Whip cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until they become light and fluffy. If it becomes too thick, add nondairy milk, a teaspoon at a time, until it is thinned to desired consistency. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.

Pour generously over cinnamon rolls while they are still warm!

Maple Icing:
From Lindsay S. Nixons, "Happy Herbivore."

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, whipping to combine. Add more maple syrup for a thinner icing, or more sugar for a thicker icing.


I have tried to make oil free yeast breads before, and it has turned out abysmally. I thought for sure the dough would not rise. I basically was preparing myself for massive failure.

I was so happy when it actually rose! I had to run into the next room to show Paul that it wasn't a complete doozy of a recipe.

You can see here, how the filling was a tad too runny and came out a little bit because I added too much applesauce.

If this happens, just scoop up the filling and pour it on top of the cinnamon roll after it has been placed on the cookie sheet. To prevent this from happening, be careful not to add too much applesauce to the brown rice syrup and Brown Sugar Filling. Or, use the date spread, which is not runny at all.

I was equally as ecstatic when I discovered that they raised beautifully again, the second time, as rolls.

They baked to perfection. Cinnabon in my kitchen...

I've since made these cinnamon rolls several more times, and my children heartily gobble them up, asking for seconds. (PROJECT VEGAN KIDS!)

The whole wheat versions bake up just as nicely, and feel healthier when eating them.

The icing, is, well, the icing on the cake! It is so good! (And might I add, pretty too?)


What is your very favorite Christmas treat that brings back happy memories from childhood? Have you had any success (or fears!) in trying to re-make it into a healthier version?

Any Christmas/Holiday recipe you would like to see transformed into a whole food here on this blog?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mostly Raw Cranberry Apple Orange Dressing, & Something I Need To Tell You

Say, say, say, what do you say? ~ (Dr. Suess, Mr. Brown Can Moo)

Dr. McDougall says no added fat or oils,
Natalia Rose says no soy or peanuts, or potatoes
Dr. Joel Furhman says no bread, no pasta
Diana Stobo says no wheat,
Dr. Jeff Novick says no green smoothies
Robyn Openshaw says no yeast or sugar
Dr. T. Colin Campbell says no animal protien
Dr. Atkins says no fruit

My brain has been in a swirly.

Do you ever get tired of all the conflicting nutrition and dietary voices, and all they have to say?

Say, say, say, what do you say?

About one month ago I decided to try an experiment. Remove all added fat (even avocados, nuts and seeds, olives, soy, and oil additionally), and flour from my diet, to see if I could lose, unnecessarily, 15 lbs, recommended by Dr. John McDougall in hopes that I might heal a hormone imbalance.

After much sacrifice, I felt deprived for the first time on a whole foods, plant based diet. I felt like I was constantly having to tell myself, "no."

I came back home from a very physically intensive (I did a lot of movement and exercise!) vacation, strictly keeping all the McDougall rules, and I weighed more than when I began. And I can tell you why. I realize I was on vacation. I realize it was the Thanksgiving Holiday. I realize that I had to eat out more than usual. However, I know the main reason is because I felt deprived, so I ate. And ate. And ate. Every day, way more than I normally would. Because I. felt. deprived.

I have decided that, for me, the most important factor in eating healthily is that I not feel deprived. I need to feel free.

After reading so many nutrition books, and studying, feeling confused and frustrated, and experimenting on what makes my body feel the healthiest, I have had to stand back.

Step away from the books.

Take into account all of the information I have learned about foods, and their nutrient contents.

And then eat what my body is craving. What sounds good, what I like.

Create my own, Dr. Ashlee eating plan. Pay attention to how I feel, emotionally and physically, and then eat the foods that make me feel awesome.

I like being educated about foods, and their nutrition content, and then feeling the freedom to make choices as I see fit.

Being vegan is probably one of the most freeing choices I have ever made. I have not felt deprived, in fact, I felt like I was being given permission to not eat the stuff that had been weighing me down for so long. I also felt permission to eat some of the most delicious, and fantastic foods without guilt. Vegetables, fruit, breads, grains, beans, nuts, seeds...

When I walk into a produce or bulk foods section of a grocery store, and see all of the variety, I get ecstatic. I have to hide my excitement from all of the other shoppers around me. The choices. The colors. The variety. The endless possibilities.

While I do not call this fat free experiment a "failed" experiment, I do declare an end to it. I learned a lot. It was, actually, successful. Now that I feel so much freedom in choice, by deciding to not be a fat free, flour free vegan, I have relished in eating the healthiest of food. I haven't gone crazy and added cashew cheese to everything, made peanut butter cookies every day, and gorged myself on avocados and bread.

In fact, quite the opposite has happened. Now that I feel free to eat plant foods as I see fit, I find myself gravitating towards raw fruits and vegetables, cooked vegetables with some whole grains, and the occasional sweet treat. It feels great. I feel free again.

I do need to make sure that I clarify, and say that I do not add oils to my food, cooking, or baking about 98% of the time. So I still consider myself an oil free vegan. I'm not perfect. A good friend introduced me to the idea of homemade good! They require a tad bit of added oils, and I let myself have them every once in a while.

I have always felt that there are so many health benefits to avocado, nuts, seeds, tofu, and olives. As I have said, while I am not gorging myself on them, I do have a greater understanding of them. I understand that they are higher in calories and fat, and that they are more of a condiment or treat than a main dish. Now that I have that understanding, I have no need to demonize these foods.

What have I been eating lately?

Whole grain, hot cereals.

Rice, and cooked vegetables.

Indian Vegetable Biryani, one of my new favorite ways to eat rice and vegetables.

Raw carrot juice. Raw fruit.

The occasional, fat free, whole wheat cinnamon roll. Coming soon! They are so good!

We recently had Asian stir fry. And black bean burgers with baked potato fries.

Green smoothies. Green salads.

One of my new, favorite, mostly raw salad dressings.

In my decision to just let myself eat intuitively, taking my nutrition knowledge into account, I have found a new love for raw foods. Nothing replaces them in flavor and satisfaction.

Plus I can stuff my face with them, all day, because I am a big eater. I love to eat volumes and volumes of food. Never did well with the small portions idea.

The original version of this dressing requires that the cranberries be cooked. After making the dressing according to the original recipe, it came out too sour and gummy (I tried replacing oil with instant corn starch).

I understand the health benefits of raw cranberries, and thought, why? Why do the cranberries have to be cooked first? Can't they be raw?

I tried using the cranberries raw, and adding raw apple, raw orange juice, and then a little bit of soy yogurt, instead of oil.

The result?

A tangy, slightly sweet, refreshing, and mostly raw cranberry dressing.

Perfect for Christmas, with all the familiar ingredients and smells of the Holidays.

Mostly Raw, Holiday Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette
Inspired by Angela Liddon


1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, preferably organic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed clementine or orange juice
1 gala apple, or other sweet apple, preferably organic, cut into large chunks
3 tablespoons soy vanilla yogurt (optional, it just makes the dressing more creamy, and less sour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black Pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon)
1-2 teaspoons stevia powder
2-3 tablespoons pecans, (optional, for garnish, or pulsed in, adds buttery flavor)


Place all ingredients in blender (except for pecans) and blend until completely emulsified, about 1-2 minutes.

Optionally, after dressing has been completely blended, add pecans and pulse into the dressing (you want them to remain in chunks). Chill in refrigerator for optimal taste. Enjoy on fresh salads.


Now It's Your Turn:

What do you say? What is the most important factor for you in being able to enjoy eating healthy foods?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chinese Stir Fry, What Low Fat Looks Like, Part 2

Essie told me it's too bad I don't have the skill of cooking and having this much fun at the same time...All these years, I've been cooking, and apparently my kitchen methods are all wrong.

The best recipe for success, according to this Swedish chef, is to throw two spoons behind you before starting any recipe. It's a sure-fire method!

My kids and I have discovered the Muppets, and spent an hour watching and laughing at it yesterday. I know...I'm a little slow in jumping on the Muppet bandwagon. We thought you might get a kick out of it, too!

Anywho, Chinese Stir Fry makes for a great, low fat meal.

I've discovered a new passion for rice. Rice, rice, rice. Yummly. I go in phases on food. My poor family. Has to just eat whatever food is in that phase. Well, this month it's rice. Warm, chewy, tender, flavor-absorbing, filling rice.

Make a good soy based sauce, add some awesome, Asian-insipired veg, and you have a great meal.

Add fried tofu, and use pasta for the kids, and they love it.

Eating low fat without flour means eating a lot of veg, rice (whole grains), and sometimes beans. Over the next few days I'll try to show how I season rice and vegetables using Ethnic methods, to shake it up and make it taste great. No boredom, here.

I have grown to really love frozen veg lately. There is no waste. I use the entire bag, and the produce does not go bad. No chopping required.

So easy! And there are all kinds of frozen, stir fry veg mixes available. Even at Wal-Mart. Costco also sells a good one.

I used two of these bags, and then added some more veg from a Costco frozen mix.

There are methods to make a good sauce, and there are exact recipes. I usually follow a recipe, but I've just started to branch out and use methods. I really enjoy it.

Every good Asian-inspired sauce usually has these elements.

Chopped garlic and ginger are a great start.

With something:

*Hot (sambal oelek, or other red chili paste)
*Sweet (agave nectar or sugar)
*Sour (lemon juice)
*Salty (Soy sauce and salt)

Start by frying up your vegetables. Since they are frozen, they contain a lot of water and can saute themselves. Add your sauce.

You do not, not, not need oil. The fastest way for my vegetables to be ruined (happens at restaurants sometimes) in both flavor and texture, is to use oil. I don't enjoy it at all.

Get your rice going...or maybe that should be step one? Probably.

I am terrible at cooking rice, seeing as how I live at 7200 feet in altitude, anyone in this area knows they pretty much have to use a rice cooker in order for it to turn out right.

Maybe you are good at making rice. And don't need an automatic cooker. Awesome. In general, twice as much water is used than rice, for the proper ratio. Here I did six cups of water, and three cups of rice.

Most of the time I use brown rice, but sometimes I use white rice. Depends on my mood.

One word. Fickle.

Once my vegetables are cooked (tender-crisp, not too mushy!) I use a method to help my kids enjoy the meal more.

I remove 3/4ths of the vegetables from the pan, and then add cooked pasta, and more stir fry sauce.

Soba noodles are usually used in Asian dishes, I believe (correct me if I am wrong, please). All I had was brown rice spaghetti pasta. It worked in a pinch, but the pasta dried out a little too easily.

To the remaining 1/4 of vegetables is added pasta and more sauce, then lightly sauteed, or just tossed. Here I add nondairy butter and/or a tiny bit of sesame oil for my kids.

Add some fried tofu, and you have a meal that your kids will eat.

For the adults, throw rice together with vegetables, and eat up!

Something Simple Asian Stir Fry Sauce
By Ashlee Crozier

Note from Ashlee: Serve with freshly steamed rice of your choice, and fried tofu for your kids. For 2 pounds of vegetables, my family usually needs 3-4 cups of cooked rice.

For the veg:
*2 pounds of prepared, frozen, stir fry vegetables

For the sauce:
* 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
* 1 tablespoon grated ginger
* water, for sauteing (optional)
* 1/4 to 1/3 cup soy sauce
* juice of 1 lemon, fresh tastes the best (about 1-2 tablespoons)
* 2 tsp. agave nectar
* 2 tsp. sambal oelek (or other red chili paste)
* additional salt to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons)


Whisk all ingredients in a bowl, except salt, and add to vegetables after they are halfway cooked. Stir well to fully incorporate sauce into vegetables. Simmer until water has cooked out of the vegetables. When vegetables are tender-crisp, and have fully absorbed the sauce (it's okay if they are still a little bit wet, the rice will absorb it) remove from heat.

Adjust seasonings to taste. (Does it need to be more salty? Sweet? A more sour kick? More heat?)

Serve hot, with steamed rice.

For kids, add 1/4 of stir fry veggies to 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of pasta (cooked according to package directions), and add:

*2 tsp. nondairy butter
*1/4 tsp. sesame oil (toasted sesame oil would also work)
*juice of 1/2 lemon (a little less than 1 tablespoon)
*soy sauce and salt to taste

Lightly saute and toss for about 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly combined and pasta has absorbed most of the sauce.

My kids also really, really love the Thai sauce from this recipe, for their Asian pasta. There is never any complaints when I serve it; only empty plates!


On trips, or just going out to eat, I love choosing ethnic restaurants. On our trip to California, I think we ate a variation of Asian stir fry or pasta at least 3 times in one week. My kids love the pasta, and I feel so great after eating stir fry veg with rice.

Paul and the kids and I were crazy enough to get up at 5 a.m. on Black Friday and go shopping at the mall in California. While we didn't find anything to buy that we liked, we stopped at a Genghis Grill located within the mall, and ate this meal for breakfast! I asked them to water saute it all instead of oil saute, and all they added to the sauce was soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and red chili paste. It was so good!

What are some of your favorite places to eat out at on the road?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Low Fat/Fat Free Looks Like: Part 1, Low Fat Sneaky Red Lentil Hummus

Samuel and I at Disneyland, on the "It's a Small World" ride.

Sugar has been demonized. Don't get snookered into believing all "they" say about it.

In the words of Dr. McDougall,


*Is not health food
*Is not for eating
*Is not the cause of diabetes
*Is not the cause of obesity

"You avoided sugar and still got fatter. You used artificial sweeteners on your cereals and you gained...Why?

"Sugar has very little to do with weight gain. Carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy. Excess carbohydrate is stored invisibly in the muscles and liver as glycogen, or eliminated from the body as heat. It is too wasteful for the body to turn excess carbohydrate into fat. However, fat is easily stored."

Sugar is a measly 15 calories per 1 teaspoon.

Oils, fats, on average, are a whopping 130 calories per tablespoon.

What does that look like?

If you add 1 tablespoon of oil/butter substitute to your one cup of cooked potatoes, you have officially doubled the calories in your serving of potato.

My sister, Aimee, asked, "One question/request, can you post some tricks on how to better reduce/eliminate refined oils in baking and eating? Or update us on how that is going and tips on how to make it work?"

YES! I love requests. Thank you.

Here is my response.

Changing my plant foods to consist of low fat eating was scary.

I mean, I felt like I was about to jump off a cliff because I didn't know what to eat, and when I don't know what to eat, I panic.

It felt like I was transitioning to whole foods all over again, and in a sense, I was/still am.

Low fat (after eliminating all meat, dairy, and eggs) means eliminating and reducing nuts, seeds, coconut milks or shredded coconut, oils, avocado, olives, and higher fat soy foods.

My eating pattern/transition process has looked something like this:

*Soups (Vegetables soups are easily modified to be oil free, with water sauteing)
*Raw veggies
*With fat free/low fat dips and dressings
*Steamed veggies of all varieties
*Grains (oatmeal, rice, quinoa, and occasionally pasta or some whole kernal rye bread)
*Starches (mashed potatoes moistened with soy milk, yams, squashes, seasoned with salt and pepper)
*Beans of all varieties
*Raw fruit
*Green smoothies (low fat)
*Ethnic foods (Mexican, Asian, Indian)

I have not really been eating a lot of baked goods, as I am trying to avoid flour (ground up grains) but I can still post how to make fat free baked goods if there is interest in that.

Let's start with raw vegetables. I have three good salad dressings for you which are fat free, and thickened with applesauce or apples. Today, however, I want to post a great dip that I have loved, and have also thinned out and used as salad dressing.

A trick to surviving on the road (traveling as a whole foodist) is to bring a lot of your own food.

This is how Paul and I spent our day getting to Arizona (the halfway point to Cali for Thanksgiving).

I have found that mostly, we really just want to munch and crunch.

Eating raw veggies, with a great, low fat dip, really hits the spot, and doesn't make you feel like you-know-what afterwords.

We also brought boxes of cuties oranges, bananas, and apples.

The kids had Ziploc snack baggies with a mix of popcorn, pretzels, and whole grain crunchy cereal. They loved it, and ate their whole bags, while munching on fruit, also. Additionally, I made them a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

This is the bag of pre-cut veggies I brought. Paul and I ate 96% of it in one day.

On to the recipe!

Sneaky Red Lentil “Hummus”
From Angela Liddon's

Note From Angela Liddon: Make this spread as a fun alternative to chickpeas! It’s not only similar in appearance, but taste too. Red lentils also tend to be easier to digest, so if you have problems with chickpeas I encourage you to give this a try.

Note From Ashlee: Making fat free hummus (no tahini!) is actually really kinda' super-de-duper hard, hard, hard. So far, in my experience, it doesn't taste good, either. This is, by far, the best tasting reduced fat hummus. I usually double the recipe, and thin it out more with water if I am using it for a salad dressing. As you can see, I removed the oil. I am sure this would still taste great if your tablespoon of tahini was scantly measured. Some hummus calls for 1/2 cup of tahini! I like to think of this as a veggie dip, not a veggie bath...

Yield: 1 heaping cup


1/2 cup uncooked red lentils + 1 & 1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove, peeled
5 tbsp fresh lemon juice (please, oh please use fresh squeezed! This is where the flavor is at!)
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt, or to taste
water to thin out, if needed
Herbs & seasonings of choice, if desired (I didn't add anything extra)

1. Pick through the lentils to make sure there are no pebbles and rinse in a small colander. In a medium-sized pot, add the lentils and 1 & 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover, simmering until the water is absorbed or about 10-13 minutes. Stir the lentils frequently to prevent them from sticking to the pot.

2. With the food processor running, drop in the clove of garlic to mince. Add the cooked lentils, along with the lemon juice, and tahini. Process until smooth. Add a touch of water if necessary to thin out.

3. Add salt to taste and other herbs and seasonings if desired.

Nutritional info: (per 2 tbsp) 45 cals, 1 gram fat, 7 grams carbs, 60 mg sodium, 1 gram fibre, 3 grams protein.


Over the next few days I hope to be able to show some of the low fat meals (the soups, salads, and ethnic foods) my family and I have been enjoying. Forgive me if I get distracted, or am too busy to get it all done in short order...

Luv ya! Thanks for reading!

P.S. My kids are NOT fat free, or flour free. Every day they have nut butters, breads, soy foods, olives, and I often add a touch of nondairy butter or oil to their pastas, or individual serving plates.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Broccoli, Carrot, and Potato Alfredo

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

We had a great time in California. It was great to go and see all of the family and good friends who took care of us.

It's also great to be back.

I love cooking in my kitchen!

We went to the beach, Disneyland, visited with friends and family, and just had a great time being with our kids.

Cauliflower Bechamel has been a popular post as of late. I decided to change it up. One of my taste testers tried the new version, and said it tasted much like chicken Alfredo.

I added potatoes to the cauliflower sauce to give it more body, and changed the seasonings. This is definitely my new favorite version.

The sauce is simple, but very delicious.

I love adding steamed carrots and broccoli.

This is a version I have been wanting to try for a long time (adding potatoes and changing seasonings) and I am so glad I did. I am very pleased with the results.

Broccoli, Carrot, and Potato Alfredo
By Ashlee Crozier


2 medium-sized gold potatoes, scrubbed
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 teaspoon vegetable base concentrate, (I use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base) or 1 cube vegetable bouillon, I like Repunzel brand
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy or almond milk (start with less, add more for preferred consistency of sauce)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons dried parsley (high quality)
Additional salt and pepper to taste (don't skip this step, or it wont taste good!)
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano (optional)
4 carrots, washed and coined
4 cups broccoli (measured before cooking)
1 pound of spaghetti pasta, broken in half and cooked according to package directions (I use brown rice spaghetti pasta, but white or whole wheat would also work)


1.) Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot on the stove top. Place scrubbed potatoes and cauliflower florets in the pot and cover with lid (make sure there is enough water to just cover the potatoes and cauliflower). Boil on high for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender and crumble when pierced with a fork. I actually use my electric pressure cooker to cook both vegetables at the same time on the high pressure setting, for 8 minutes.

2.) Meanwhile, bring a sauce pan of water to boil (about 1 quart of water) and place carrots in the pot. Boil for about 20 minutes or until tender, adding the broccoli florets during the last 7-9 minutes of cooking. Carrots take longer to cook than broccoli, so they need to be added to the water at different times. Optionally, you can cook the carrots and broccoli in two different pots.

3.) When potatoes and cauliflower are fork tender, remove from heat and strain. Pour all of it into the blender, being careful not to burn yourself! Add nutritional yeast, vegetable base concentrate (or vegetable bouillon cube), 2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 cup of milk. Blend on high for 30 seconds to one minute. If sauce is too thick (think of how it will look when combined with pasta) then add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

4.) By this time the broccoli and carrots should be done. Strain, and place in large pot. Combine with prepared pasta. Add sauce, and season with Italian seasoning, basil, parsley, oregano, cayenne pepper, and additional salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve warm.


My kids love this with fried tofu, and I like to eat it with a big salad. This sauce is fat free, which is totally awesome! It has lots flavor, body, and is very creamy. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that it's dairy and fat free.

When is the last time your kids happily ate cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots, all in one meal? They will now!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Holiday Vegan Shepherd's Pie & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I proudly present to you, a fabulous Thanksgiving and Christmas main dish.

It has all the familiar tastes and smells of the Holidays.

Thyme, in a thickened savory broth, roasted with celery, carrots, parsnips, and onions. Reminds me a little of stuffing.

Topped with comforting mashed potatoes.

You and I, we like being sneaky. Sneaking more vegetables and grains, legumes, into everything.

These savory mashed potatoes are sneaky, too. They incorporate an entire cup of red lentils.

And no one will know. It will be our little secret.

I am here to be your mashed potato guide. Sometimes there is stress in trying to make the perfect mashed potatoes.

Comfort is here.

A mashed potato tutorial.

Start with 2 and 1/2 pounds gold potatoes. I never peel my gold or red potatoes, just because I'm lazy like that. You can peel them if you want.

Cut them in larger chunks. I learned my lesson with cooking cut potatoes: if they are cut too thin, then they become very starchy and gooey during the cooking process. Cook potatoes for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure 1 cup of red lentils, and simmer in a high quality vegetable broth for about 15 minutes.

(Leave the lid off!)

Transfer the cooked lentils to your food processor.

Process lentils with garlic, until it is smooth and silky.

By this time your potatoes should be cooked through. Drain them well, and immediately mash with potato masher or kitchenaid stand mixer. (Don't wait till the potatoes are cooled. They should be piping hot!)

This is the most important part. Don't add liquids yet!

Add your lentils, and continue to mash/mix until the potatoes have NO LUMPS. Once the lumps are completely gone and your potatoes are smooth, then add liquids.

I like to use soymilk. We don't need any butter. Gobs of fat and grease. Goodbye. These potatoes are comforting, not guilt-ridden!

You will not miss the butter. (Whether it's non-dairy or not!)

Add salt and pepper to taste. Potatoes look like this before adding milk.

Slowly add milk until the potatoes reach the consistency you are looking for.

Light and fluffy, thanks to our soymilk and seasoned lentils.

Protein-enriched. Salt and peppah. Delicious. Eat daily. And may all your mashed potatoes be infused with garlic and savory red lentils.

On to our Shepherd's Pie base. Normally we see about 1-2 pounds of ground beef here. Today we are using a savory mix of hearty vegetables.

Onions, parsnips, celery, and carrots.

Sauteed in water, and mixed with Thyme-infused savory broth.

Lightly tossed, and place in a baking dish.

Top with garlic mashed potatoes, sprinkle with paprika and freshly cracked pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Serve warm, with a salad, or with these fabulous and easy drop biscuits!

I used to be so scared at the thought of cooking festive dishes for guests, but this will be a crowd-pleaser.

Comforting Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Sneaky Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Angela Liddon at

Yield: 6 generous servings

For The Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This version sneaks in a cup of red lentils, packing in eight grams of protein and six grams of fiber per serving.

Serves 4

What You Need:

2-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and roughly chopped
1 cup dry red lentils
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (I didn't have any, but they still tasted great)
1/4 to 3/4 cup almond or soy milk
1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground paprika, for garnish

What You Do:

1. Into a large pot, add chopped potatoes. Fill pot with water until potatoes are covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes until fork-tender. Drain potatoes.

2. Meanwhile, rinse and drain lentils. In a medium-sized pot, add lentils and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently until water is absorbed and lentils are fully cooked.

3. In a food processor, add garlic and rosemary and lentils and process until smooth.

4. Mash the potatoes and pureed lentil mixture together while still very hot, using a potato masher or kitchenaid stand mixer, or your favorite method. Add salt and pepper to taste, until potatoes are smooth (no lumps remaining). Careful not to mash too much, or they might get to starchy.

5. Slowly add nondairy milk (soy and coconut work best, but almond is also very good) until the potatoes are light, creamy, and fluffy. Garnish with paprika sprinkled on top and freshly cracked pepper. Serve by themselves, or spread on top of Shepherd's pie vegetable filling for a great casserole your guests will love.

(P.S. I tried making these mashed potatoes by just incorporating the lentils into the potatoes, without processing the cooked lentils in the food processor first. The lentils did not blend well with the potatoes, and were a bit chewy -- distracting from the smooth texture that mashed potatoes normally have. I also prefer my potatoes to be creamed with nondairy milk, instead of oils and fats. I honestly can't tell the difference by taste, but I know which version makes me feel happiest!)

Vegetable Filling

1/4 cup water, for sauteeing
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, peeled & small dice
2 parsnips (or other root vegetable), peeled & small dice
4 celery stalks, small dice
1 cup, full sodium vegetable broth (or more as needed)
1/4 cup red wine (or more broth)
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt, to taste + black pepper
3 tbsp flour (I used 4 Tbsp Spelt flour)


1. Preheat oven to 425F and lightly oil a 2.5 quart/2.3 litre casserole dish.

2. Prepare the vegetable filling. Chop the onion and mince the garlic and add to a skillet along with the oil. Cook on low for about 5-7 minutes. Now add in the chopped carrots, parsnip, and celery. Cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients (broth, thyme, and flour). Add this liquid mixture to the vegetables in the skillet and stir well. Add your salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or so until thickened. Season to taste.

4. Scoop vegetable mixture into casserole dish. Spread on the mashed potato mixture and garnish with paprika, ground pepper, and Thyme. Bake at 425F for about 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Mixture will be very hot in the middle so be careful! I suggest serving this with homemade vegan gravy. Makes 6 generous servings.


This Sumptuous Shepherd's Stew by Angela Liddon also looks incredible; I will be trying it soon! She has my respect...(and loyalty, and jealousy, and...)

Do you have to cook Thanksgiving dinner?

I miss out on that privilege (buahaha) this year. Paul's family is having it catered. Cross my fingers that they will have something I can eat...if not, oh well!