Monday, August 27, 2012

Art & Fabulously Fantastic French Toast

It's hard to capture the essence of the pink and purple-ness that was my fireplace one week ago.

But here it is in all of it's glory; a real work of art. It takes effort to produce such a masterpiece.

As I stood in front of it with my father-in-law a week ago, trying to imagine how I could pretend that it was pretty, he said straight up, "It's ugly." And honestly, it felt good to hear him say it. Because it was the truth. And when the truth is spoken, it's liberating.

The truth meant that something HAD to be done to fix it. Hallelujah.

I put a brown basket on top of the fireplace so that the contrasting colors would stand out a little better. That little brown basket is a slightly darker brown than the color I was shooting for.

Does this at all shed light upon the anxiety that filled my stomach and knocked the air out of me every time I came into my living room? My stomach still tenses when I look at these pictures.

So here is our new fireplace! YAY!

Pretty fireplaces are almost like valium. A total relaxer.

Of course this color is still not what I was shooting for. I thought I was going to have a disaster round two on my hands when I originally saw the workers painting it. The colors of the purple and pink were showing through on the first layer of paint, and it looked horrible.

It didn't help that the sweet workers that were trying to cater to my IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE nature were trying to get my affirmations and kept saying in their Spanish accents, "Chalk-o-latte, no? Yeah? Chalk-o-latte!" No! I wanted to yell. It is not chocolate! It doesn't look like chocolate, and I don't want any chocolate!

Yes, not even chocolate could solve this problem.

But a second coat of paint did! What do all of you artists think? Is it kicker or a keeper?

AND. And and and. Our appraisal came out low. VERY low. Talk about $100,000 dollars-less-than-the-actual-value-of-my-home low. The appraiser must have been the laziest man in New Mexico. He simply calculated the square footage of our home and then found the homes with the same square footage in our area. He averaged out what they had sold for in the last 30 days, and then gave our home the sticker price of their average.

Normally this would be OK. But we live in the mountains/country, where the number of homes within a 10 mile radius are about 20. And the number of homes in our price range in a ten mile radius? About 3. Or less.

So now we have to have our house RE-assessed.

You can see us jumping for joy as we frantically run around our house, hiding things that make it look like we actually live here.

We are hiring maids to come because the appraisal is tomorrow. There is just not enough time to do it all by ourselves with everything else that is going on.

And I wanted to share with you, just briefly, this french toast recipe that I found and love. I am short on time, so please forgive me for not having more pictures.

When I started out on my hunt for the perfect plant based french toast, it was because of one of the families (that's you, Carly!) that was going plant based with me really loved french toast in their recipe rotation.

She and I tried different recipes with not very promising results. Some called for mashed banana in place of the eggs. Some mixed mashed banana with orange juice in place of milk. They all came out soggy, bloated, and downright mushy-yucky. That's my new word for nasty french toast.

And then I ran onto Dreena Burton's vegan french toast. Of course it's by Dreena Burton. If you know me, you know that I think she is amazing. Her french toast is absolutely brilliant. It is crispy-delicious with a warm center. My children love it and it is VERY easy and fast. It's not bloated or soggy at all.

Just like fireplaces and appraisals, sometimes it takes a few trial errors before finding the right stuff. The right color, the right texture, the right price. And this french toast is all of that.

Leftovers are fantastic when toasted in the toaster.

& VEGAN FAST FOOD (less than 30 minutes prep and cook)

By Dreena Burton
Note from Dreena Burton: Growing up, my husband and I both loved French toast. We also love this recipe because the combination of flax meal and tofu give a texture similar to an egg batter for a traditional tasting – better tasting, actually – French Toast!


1 cup vanilla non-dairy milk
2 tbsp flax meal
1⁄2 cup silken firm tofu
1⁄4 tsp cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp neutral-flavored oil
8 – 9 slices bread of choice (see note for wheat-free/gluten-free)
2 – 3 tsp organic neutral flavored oil (or more, if needed, for frying)


Using a handblender or in a blender, purée the non-dairy milk, flax meal, tofu, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and canola oil until very smooth and thick (it will get thicker as it sits a little while and the flax absorbs some of the liquid).

Dip a slice of bread in the batter. Turn over and let it sit for a few moments to soak, then remove and place on a plate until ready to fry.

In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil when hot and reduce heat to low/medium-low. Fry bread for 4-6 minutes on each side, until lightly brown (try to flip only once so that the batter will set and brown nicely on the bread).

Serve with pure maple syrup.

Note: For a wheat-free option, use a kamut or spelt bread, and for gluten-free, choose a rice, coconut, or other gluten-free bread.

Try some of my other favorite vegan breakfasts, all part of our VEGAN FAST FOOD SERIES:

Baked Rice Pudding
Orange Blaster Green smoothie
Purple Power Smoothie
Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal

Saturday, August 18, 2012

5 Minute Banana Berry Ice Cream

My little Samuel asks me for ice cream almost daily.

Although making homemade ice cream is not really too big of a deal, it requires a little bit of patience. And since Samuel and I are alike in so many ways, sometimes neither of us have the patience required to wait for the ice cream to freeze.

In comes 5 minute Banana ice cream. Aaaahhh. And it is almost done in an instant.

Because it is made from bananas, berries, raw nuts, and minimal added pure maple syrup, I have no problem serving this to my kids as an afternoon snack. Kinda' as a replacement for yogurt or cottage cheese or something like that.

You do need a food processor. Or if you don't have one I have seen some people try it with a blender. I have been very frustrated in trying to use my Blendtec to get it to work. Perhaps try adding the maple syrup with the bananas in the first step to get it to blend?

Here is a great little video with Dreena Burton, demonstrating how to make Banana Ice Cream. I will post her recipe, and also my modifications so you can see what I did.

Dreena has other movies that you can watch. I think she's the best!

Cashew Banana Ice Cream
By Dreena Burton, with some modifications of my own that my kids love.

When I have overripe bananas, I slice them, measure 3 cups to a container or ziploc bag, then store in the freezer so they are readily available to make this ice cream.

Ingredients: (Tree NUT FREE variation)

(About 3 cups)

3 cups frozen sliced bananas (4–5 medium bananas) (see notes)
1/3 – ½ cup cashew butter (raw cashew butter is especially good; also try a combo of almond butter and macadamia nut butter) (if allergic to tree nuts, use peanut butter)
1/8 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup (or less/more as desired)

And my variation:

Includes frozen mixed berries, and less nut butter.

3 cups frozen sliced bananas (4–5 medium bananas)
1/2 cup frozen berry medley
1/4 cup (scant) cashew butter
2 Tbsp almond butter
1/8 tsp sea salt
3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup (or less/more as desired)


In a food processor, process bananas until they are roughly chopped. Add frozen berries, cashew butter, salt, and syrup (starting with 2-3 tablespoons) and purée until very smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Taste test, adding remaining syrup if desired.

Serve immediately, and store leftovers in the freezer. (This ice cream freezes well, being easy to scoop again within a few minutes after removing from the freezer. In fact, I prefer to freeze it to reharden the ice cream somewhat before digging in!)


When I have overripe bananas, I slice them, measure 3 cups to a container or ziploc bag, then store in the freezer so they are readily available to make this ice cream.
The more overripe your bananas, the sweeter this ice cream will be. Also, softer ice cream is sweeter to our tastebuds than hard, frozen ice cream, so you can adjust sweetness to taste with the maple syrup. (don’t omit the salt, it enhances the sweetness and also rounds out the overall flavors.)

You can modify this ice cream as you like. I prefer the simplicity of bananas and cashews, but you could add vanilla extract (or paste), almond extract, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg. Also, try pulsing in some raw cashews or macadamia nuts, or some chocolate chips.


We all want VEGAN FAST FOOD!
This will be our first contribution to this new fast food series, as I really do make this when I am panicked and don't know what else to feed my kids in a hurry.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vegan Fast Food; The Method

This is Dish 1. I added seasoned quinoa and some coconut milk for a truly authentic taste of India Curry.

To my great horror yesterday, the fireplace in my living room was painted a bright purple, with shades of pink. I had asked the fix-it men to paint it a dark brown.

Somehow the color had gone completely awry.

But I couldn't communicate with them any further because I don't speak a lot of Spanish, and Paul was at work (he's the fluent Spanish speaker around here!)

My dilemma is that the appraiser comes to our house today. If I ask our workers to paint it a different color, then the fireplace will not be completed entirely before the appraiser arrives.

Installing and completing this high efficiency fireplace has been a big expense, and it is actually the way that we heat our house for the snowy winters up here in the mountains. If the fireplace is "under construction" then the appraiser cannot count it as adding additional value. And I know we already talked about the need for our house to appraise really high in value in order to buy the additional 7 acres surrounding our property.

But I really don't think I can stand to look at a purple and pink fireplace...once they put on the diamond finish, which acts as a sealant, it will be really hard to paint the fireplace a different color. There is something so final about a diamond finish. It's these kind of decisions that have me biting my fingernails and calling everyone I know with sense of artistic color (thanks, Mom!) to help me figure it out.

It's also in these situations that I really don't have a lot of time to cook. Something about transitioning to whole foods can feel like cooking is all consuming. Although I LOVE cooking, I really don't want to spend my whole life in the kitchen. More and more, "fast food" is becoming a necessity. Today I need to spend my time vacuuming up spilled granola, mopping up chocolate milk (don't worry, it's nondairy!), washing little fingerprints off of walls, and tidying up little hands' toys and books.

A few weeks ago I ran across this idea by Jeff Novick that is more of a method teaching how to make a meal from your head instead of always having to rely on a recipe every single night.

This is what I need. It's starting to become how I think. If I am in a panic or in a rush, I can't be looking through recipe books for a quick dish.

I know what you are thinking. It's not perfectly safe to learn methods instead of precisely following a recipe. It may not turn out as well as I want it to. I would argue that most of us are better chefs than we give ourselves credit for...and getting to know a few methods will increase our cooking abilities.

I recommend you watch some of his short excerpt films on youtube.

This movie is what I especially recommend:

I LOVE his personality. He is funny, and honest.

Although quite simple, (I almost said to myself, "No, Duh!")

His main idea is:

1.) Spice and seasonings (and I add here, that often, sauteed onions and garlic add a lot in terms of spice and flavor!!!)
2.) Tomato or broth base (in both cases I add Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
3.) Beans
4.) Steamed vegetables
5.) Quick cooking whole grain

The variations of this theme are endless.
Here are five of them I found on his site. I am saving up to buy his two DVD's on Vegan Fast Food. But for now I am happy with understanding The Method.

My meals feel so complete when I eat this way, and my body feels very satisfied.

I have made Dish 1 and Dish 3. It was so fast and easy, and delicious (I do add salt and "no chicken base" to the broth) and throw in some of my own flair. The food was done so quickly that I felt like I had a night off when I followed this method.

Admittedly, I can't stand the thought of "zapping" any of my vegetables. I have an electric pressure cooker and just throw in my potatoes with my veggies and have them cook together. Then use the broth or tomato base, plus salt and seasonings, beans and grains. YUMMY!

Dish 1 - Curried Indian Potato Stew

1) 2 cans whole tomatoes
2) 1-2 cans Garbanzo Beans
3) Frozen Cauliflower (1 1/2 - 2 lb) , peas (1/2 lb), onions (1/2 pound)
4) 3 large potatoes
5) Salt Free Curry spice mix

Microwave the potatoes. While they are zapping, put all other ingredients in the pot and heat. When potatoes are done, cut into 1 inch pieces and add to pot. Simmer 5 minutes. Top with fresh cilantro Enjoy.

(can be served with brown rice which you can cook in 10 minutes while potatoes are cooking by using Success Brand Quick Cooking Brown Rice)

Dish 2- Mexican Beans and Rice

1) 2 cans whole tomatoes (or 1 can whole, 1 can pureed)
2) 1 cans Pinto Beans, 1 can black beans
3) Birdseye Frozen Pepper and Onion Mix (3 lb), and Corn (1 lb)
4) Success Quick Cooking Brown Rice ( 1 large bag)
5) Mexican Spice Mix, or Hot Sauce

Cook Brown rice. While brown rice is cooking, add all other ingredients to the pot and heat. When rice is done place rice in a bowl. Top with beans, veggie and tomato mix. Top with fresh cilantro Enjoy

Dish 3 - Italian Pasta Primavera

1) 1 Can whole tomatoes, 1 can tomato puree
2) 2 cans Dark Red Kidney Beans
3) Frozen Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots (3 lbs total)
4) Whole Grain Pasta (1 lb)
5) Italian Spice Mix

Cook Pasta. While pasta is cooking, put all other ingredients into large pot and heat. When pasta is done, rinse, and them mix together with the tomato vegetable mix. Top with fresh parsley or basil. Enjoy!

Dish 4 - Longevity Soup

1) 1 can whole tomatoes, 1 can pureed
2) Your favorite beans (I use kidney or garbanzo)
3) 2- 3 lbs of Your favorite frozen veggies plus 1 lb of frozen collards
4) Your favorite starch (potato, sweet potato rice, barley) cooked separate then added
5) your favorite seasoning (I use fresh ginger, garlic)

Place tomatoes in large pot. Add in 2 28 oz cans of water. Then add in all other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Dish 5 - New Orleans Jambalaya

1) 2 28 oz can Whole Tomatoes (No Salt Added)
2) 2 cans 14 oz can red beans or kidney beans (No Salt Added)
3) 3 lbs frozen Vegetables, corn, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash (equal parts)
4) Success Quick Cooking Brown rice (1 large bag)
5) Spice mix

Cook Brown Rice (Success Quick Cooking), While rice is cooking, place tomatoes, and veggies in pot and heat. Add in 4 cloves garlic, diced, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp thyme, 4 tsp paprika, .25 to .5 tsp cayenne pepper. And heat.

When rice is done, place in a bowl and serve tomato vegetable mix on top.

This gives me an idea...would you enjoy a series on Vegan Fast Food? I could post recipes that take 30 minutes or less that your family would enjoy, and even give tips on how to make it faster.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cauliflower Bechamel

Essie just started second grade at Desert Willow Family School, a half-day program where parents are heavily involved and are expected to do 1-2 hours of homework a day for the homeschooling portion of the program.

Essie (on the left) with her best friend, Kira, on their first day of 2nd grade.

Megan is still nursing (she is 22 months old!) and she wakes me every night still because she can't seem to sleep by herself.

And Samuel is, well, he's Samuel. Like me, he can be so, so good. But also like me, he has days where he's just a pill.

Today Samuel is the angel, and I am the pill. Megan had me up last night, and this morning I woke feeling like I had been hit by a train. While I have been sitting around and writing this post, Samuel has been entertaining Megan, and even fed her an apple. He is cheerful, kind, quiet, and obedient. My morning angel.

Paul and I are in the process of purchasing an additional 7 acres around our home so that our children have more space to play and we could possibly have some "farming" land and attempt growing our own veg.

Our house has to appraise very high in value in order to get the loan. So we have fix-it men coming in and out of the house; finishing our fireplace, and re-doing the stucco.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on, and I get stressed a little too easily.

I don't know how to act as I normally do when I am not feeling so great and there are a bunch of strange fix-it men in my house. I think I have some anxiety when it comes to being around people beyond those in my family.

And after watching this absolutely adorable French movie, "Romantics Anonymous," about two very socially anxious people, I recognize some of their character traits in myself.

I love people. I really do. Whenever I get out and interact, I find so many good people who are enjoyable to be with. Even now our fix-it men are in the next room singing love songs in Spanish and it makes me smile.

But I am a little nervous in social situations. As a teacher, I have had to push this away and pretend that this side of me does not exist. As a result, few people know that if given the chance, I would probably turn into a hermit in order to avoid ever struggling to overcome this shy side of myself. Thank heaven I am not allowed to do that as a Mom. I don't think it would be good for me at all.

Paul on the other hand, is a socialite. He has no sign, inward or outward, of being shy, nervous, or hesitant in any social setting. I have learned a lot from him. A lot of this perceived confidence can easily be pretended away until it becomes a part of you. And then one day you realize that you have real social confidence. As a result of watching him, and practicing, my social confidence is much better and I feel pretty good in most situations. But I still have times where I wish I could just go home and hide out. It is especially hard for me when the place I run and hide to, cannot hide me. The strangers are within!

I made this meal a few days ago as the fix-it men were working on our fireplace next to the kitchen. They speak Spanish so I could just pretend I didn't know any Spanish and just go to my "happy place" and zone into my cooking.

Normally, like today, I avoid strangers, even at the cost of avoiding my kitchen and starving. However, Paul was home the day I made this, and in my mind when he is around, there is no need for stranger anxiety.

Today, however, is different. Paul is not here. As crazy as it is, I send Samuel to the kitchen to get Megan food. The kid is unabashed. No holds barred. No stranger shyness, stranger anxiety, no hesitancy. I have even found him telling random people not to smoke cigarettes or drink coffee because if they do they are following Satan. Yikes. But then they look at him with his big blue eyes and just smile and say, "He is SO cute!" People are so forgiving!

So, back to fix-it men. They like food. Paul came in the kitchen and saw that I was fixing him food for lunch and asked if he could offer some to our fix-it guys. I freaked.

When I feed people food it has to be really good. Crazy good. Otherwise I panic and just want to shut myself into a closet.

Cauliflower as a base for a cream sauce??? What? How can it possibly turn out good? I was only experimenting (Paul is always my guinea pig!) and this food could very well turn out to be disgusting.

It turns out that cauliflower is a great cream sauce. Think about how neat that is! You can find cauliflower at almost any grocery store around the world. At $0.88 a head, it's cheap and affordable. Not only is it a fat free option, but it is also full of flavor, adapts well to whatever seasonings you add to it, and adds another serving of vegetables to the dish.

In order for dairy free cream sauce to be good it has to have cashews or tofu or some kind of high fat veg food to be creamy and delicious, right?

Or so we all have thought.

With just the addition of a few spices and seasonings, and some non-dairy milk, steamed and blended cauliflower is the most amazing cream sauce. Think Parmesan cheese + heavy cream. Without the heavy.

Better than Bouillon no chicken base tastes fantastic as a base for any savory recipe. I would not use vegetable broth: the outcome will not be as good. The sun dried tomatoes are NOT packed in oil so that I can keep to my efforts of trying to avoid oil.

Vegan & Practically fat free = guilt free.

Of course I had to taste test it before I could tell Paul, "Yes, you can offer some of this to our workers." And of course I also had to have Paul and my kids taste test it first, too.

When the fix-it men tried it, they licked there bowls clean and happily told Paul, "Gracias! Ella es una buena cocinera!" (Thank you! Your wife is a great chef!)

Score. Sweet success. And this recipe is so easy, I can be a good Mommy any day; even if I am tired and cranky.

Paul and I agree that we like this sauce even better than my mac n' cheese...

Fresh Basil is a must.

I like to buy the plants because they stay fresh for so long, are very pretty in my kitchen, and don't take up room in my crowded fridge.

And fresh thyme is becoming a great idea.

Make sure you remove the leaves from the stalks and only chop up the leaves, discarding the woody portion of the thyme (just like you would remove from kale leaves here on my site, only start at the top of the thyme and go down, whereas with kale you start at the bottom and move your pinched fingers to the top of the leaf)

I am just now realizing that a lot of my main dishes are made with pasta. Well, I don't eat pasta very often. I prefer greens and unrefined whole grains as a base instead. Or potatoes. I need to post more of those recipes...


Cauliflower Bechamel
Modified from "Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook," by Chef Del Sroufe

Serves 4 to 6

I served this tossed with penne pasta, but keep in mind that it will probably taste great tossed with cooked quinoa or millet. After trying this recipe once, you may decide to add other vegetables that you like, or change the seasonings around a bit to give some variety. It is a great base as a cream sauce for any of your creamy recipes.


For The sauce:

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
3-4 tbsp coconut milk or almond milk, (you may need more or less)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, optional, but recommended
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, or other concentrated no chicken base
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

For the vegetable saute base:

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how much heat you want to add
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
4 cups spinach, chopped and cooked until wilted
1 pound penne, or whole grain, cooked according to package directions, drained, and kept warm


1.) Add the cauliflower to a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess water from the pan and puree the cauliflower using an immersion blender or in a blender with a tight fitting lid, covered with a towel, in batches if necessary. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to achieve a cream consistency. Add the nutritional yeast, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp no chicken base. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Set the puree aside

2.) Place the onion in a large saucepan and saute over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep onions from sticking to the pan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, sun dried tomatoes, thyme, and basil and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and cooked pasta and toss, cooking for an additional 5 minutes to let the flavors meld a bit.

3.) To serve, either toss the sauce with the pasta or grain (my preferred method for pasta) until combined. Or, divide the pasta or grain between four plates and top with the cauliflower puree (my preferred method for grains).

It's like a vegan tour of Italy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Purple Power Smoothie

A few days ago I found myself so hungry I realized I should have eaten 20 minutes ago!

Has this ever happened to you?

Some words from my brother came to mind, "Ashlee, nothing you have to feed me will suffice! I am just too hungry."

At that moment I knew exactly what he meant by "too hungry."

When this happens I try to have a few healthy go-to snacks, or snack ideas on hand so that I don't panic. Nothing really sounds appetizing that's junk-foodish because junk food never has any satiation power.

I remembered that I had a new green purple smoothie that I could fix super-fast, and then I didn't feel so desperate. I tend to memorize smoothie recipes after fixing them one or two times so that I can make them in a flash.

After those one or two initial makings of it, I generally stop measuring, and just throw the basic ingredients together the way I like it. Which generally consists of adding a lot more greens than the original recipe calls for. I LOVE greens. I love them because of how they make me feel.

Paul and I were talking about how, after drinking a green smoothie made entirely from fresh produce, water, and ice, that we never feel sick. And, admittedly, some foods make me feel sick. You have experienced this before, too, I am sure!

It has taken me a while to really realize that smoothies are more than just a breakfast food. They are snack food, sometimes even dinner food. Basically, just a good ol' anytime standby food.

And it goes without saying that, fresh produce, in whatever form you eat it (whole, as a salad, smoothie, or whatever) is dairy free, gluten free, oil free, meat free, soy free, egg free; free of a lot of junk and stuff we don't want!

So grab produce when you are just too hungry, and you will feel great!

Here's one way to enjoy fresh fruits and veg. It's like a salad in a blender that doesn't require any dressing.

What is your favorite go-to food that makes you feel great when you find yourself too hungry?

Coming up I have found and improved a fantastic nut/soy/dairy-free cream sauce that has a secret ingredient! You'll never guess what it is!

And look here for my other favorite green smoothie.

I was intrigued by this recipe because of it's liquid foundation: pomegranate juice. It can be found at Costco, Target, and other natural food stores. It makes the berries pop, and the taste of greens completely disappears.

Purple Power Smoothie
From Dr. Joel Furhman's book, "Super Immunity."

1 cup pomegranate juice (I had to use more juice, almost 2 cups, because I add more greens)
1 cup compacted spinach (I used 3 cups compacted, I didn't have Boston lettuce)
1 cup compacted Boston lettuce
1/4 of a medium cucumber
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen mixed berries or strawberries (I added 1/2 cup extra and omitted blueberries)
3 pitted dates (blended dates hurt my stomach for some reason, so I added 3 packets of stevia plus 1-2 teaspoons of agave nectar)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 cup ice (don't skip, don't underestimate the power of ice to enhance smoothie flavors)
2 tsp green powder (my addition/modification, I use Ormus Supergreens)


Blend ingredients in a Vitamix (I use my Blendtec) or other high-powered blender until smooth and creamy. If you don't have a high-powered blender I still encourage you to make this, but halve the recipe or work in batches and blend until smooth and creamy.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thai Noodles

I wish I could come to your house and cook this for you.

I wish I could serve it up on pretty plates with vegan egg rolls and dipping sauce, with an Asian salad. I wish I could give you the night off so you could sit with your feet up and read to your kids, or just watch a movie after a long day at work.

I love to feed people, especially the people I love. And I wish I could make this for you and watch you be happy.

Alas. Distance keeps me far away from most of you. *Sigh.* And time is always ticking.

I am a human, when I wish I could be super-woman.

So I am trying, with pictures, to show you how to make it. As if I were in your kitchen with you. As if we were making this together. And it is so yummy.

Here are some crazy vegan, health-obsessed, carb-lover thoughts:

Dr. Joel Furhman says something like this, "A low-carb diet may help you lose weight but then so does cigarette smoking." (FROM HIS BOOK, SUPER IMMUNITY).

Yeah for high-carb diet!

Read, "The China Study," you won't regret it.

It even goes into detail about healing and balancing women's hormones. The healthy, life-long way. I know a lot of women, including myself, who need help with balancing hormones.

Okay, onto the recipe!

This Thai recipe really helps out with going dairy free. It is flavorful, and delicious.

This is Essie's most favorite pasta dish. Samuel likes it, and I should mention that Samuel rarely loves anything that doesn't contain loads of sugar and other refined stuff. Well, I guess he does love salad and fruit...and Megan will pretty much eat anything.

So this recipe, along with being a part of our GO DAIRY FREE series, is also a part of our PROJECT VEGAN KIDS.

There are 5 basic steps:

1.) Cut up the veggies and pre-baked tofu
2.) Saute veggies, ginger and garlic
3.) Make a sauce
4.) Cook and drain pasta
5.) Throw it all together

All the veg you will need:
(From left to right: green cabbage, Bok Choy, carrots, green onions, zucchini, bean sprouts, and then ginger and garlic.)

"Process" your carrots, zucchini, and green cabbage and then set aside. I have a food processor so this step takes very little time for me. If you don't have a food processor, I highly recommend buying your carrots and green cabbage pre-cut. Trader Joe's sells the cabbage pre-shredded, and pre-cut matchstick carrots.

"Process" your Bok Choy by removing the greens and the base (like celery) and wash the stalks. The Bok Choy greens (the top) can be saved and put into green smoothies, or you can also wash, and chop them up and add to this pasta dish toward the end if you are super-green.

Cut it into slices as if it were celery, and set it aside with your mung bean sprouts (I buy mine at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's doesn't carry sprouts).

Prepare your green onions, ginger, and garlic.

I use my kitchen scissors to cut my green onions.

Use it all, even down to the white parts.

And now I want to show you a trick I learned on how to remove the skins from garlic.

Place a single garlic clove on your cutting board, or other flat surface. Put your large chef's knife on it, broadside. Hold the knife steady with one hand, while bringing your other hand down with force as if your are punching the flat side of the knife.

Don't worry about hitting it too hard. Your goal is to actually smash the garlic. The skins should slip off pretty easily after doing this.

Then you can chop the garlic very fine with your chef's knife, or you can push it through a garlic press. I love my $14 garlic press; a great investment for me because I am not the world's most patient or skilled veg chopper!

Peel and shred the ginger (peel all the brown skin off as if it were a peach, with a paring knife).

I shred my ginger with the fine holes on the side of my box grater. I now own a zester, and that is an option, too, although I do find it easier to use my box grater.

Put your green onions, pressed garlic, and grated ginger in a non-stick fry pan (I use my cast iron skillet) and water-saute until garlic and onions are fragrant and reduced (water has been cooked out).

Now to make the sauce.

(From Left to Right: Soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, natural peanut butter, chili garlic sauce, organic blue agave nectar, and rice vinegar.)

Measure out all the ingredients and stir them together in a bowl using a kitchen fork.

Add the shredded carrots, zucchini, and green cabbage to the fry pan and stir (Do NOT add the sprouts! They are tender and should be added almost right before you serve the dish). Then add the sauce. Stir the sauce as you pour it so that the agave nectar or peanut butter doesn't settle to the bottom. Stir all the veg and sauce together and continue to saute.

Stir and saute the veg until it has been reduced, and the zucchini is see-through. At this point the brown rice fettuccine or spaghetti noodles need to be cooking, according to their package directions.

Add the cut bok choy, and the bean sprouts, stir, and saute.

While the remainder of your veg and noodles are cooking, cut up your tofu. I use pre-baked and marinated, teriyaki flavor tofu. It is organic, and yummy!

Slice it width-wise first, and then stack the slices on top of each other. I like to slice them diagonally for a more authentic look, but you may choose to slice them into cubes or whatever shape you like your protein to be in.

And then throw it all together! Your pasta, veg, and tofu.

Serve warm with egg rolls, or garden rolls. (I hope to have a post soon on rice paper garden rolls with raw veggies, and a Passion Peanut sauce.)

Thai Noodles
From Mary McDougall's Recipe Index, or from The Starch Solution by John McDougall.

Note from Ashlee: Sometimes I will use an entire 16 ounce bag of pasta (I use brown rice pasta). Because I added more veggies than Mary originally calls for, you may need to double the sauce. I recommend you add the original amount called for in the recipe, and then after you have put your entire dish together, add more sauce to suit your individual tastes. Keep in mind that the longer you simmer the added sauce, the more flavors will blend with the veggies. AND the spices (chili sauce) will also get hotter and have more kick. Saute everything with these thoughts in mind.

Note from Mary: This is a wonderful meal for hot summer nights because it requires minimal cooking and it may be made completely ahead of time and served cold or at room temperature. It also keeps well in a cooler so it is a great picnic food.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4


12-16 ounces linguini or spaghetti noodles, I use brown rice noodles (broken in half)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup natural peanut butter, creamy
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (see hints)(Mary McDougall usually uses sambal oelek)
¼ teaspoon sesame oil (optional-see hints)
3 tablespoons vegetable broth
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 ½ cups mung bean sprouts
1 ½ cups shredded carrots
And I add these additional veggies:
1 1/2 cups cut and coined zucchini
1 whole bok choy, washed, cut, and greens removed
1 cup shredded green cabbage
7-14 ounces baked seasoned tofu, thinly sliced
chopped cilantro
chopped peanuts (optional)


Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the agave nectar, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and the sesame oil in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside. Place the broth in a non-stick frying pan with the onions, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Add the sauce, mix well and heat through. Add carrots, zucchini, and shredded cabbage, mix well to incorporate, and saute until tender-crisp. Add the bean sprouts, bok choy and tofu and toss again to mix. Serve warm or at room temperature. Let each person add chopped cilantro and/or chopped peanuts, if desired.

Hints: Rice vinegar and chili garlic sauce may be found in most supermarkets in the oriental section. One brand of chili-garlic sauce is made by Huy Fong Foods. It is quite spicy, so you may need to adjust the amount used according to your tastes. I use a small amount of sesame oil in this recipe for the unique taste it adds to foods. It may be omitted, if desired. This dish keeps well in the refrigerator and may also be served cold. This is great to fix on those busy evenings when everyone is eating at different times because it tastes best at room temperature.

I hope you try it, and I hope you love!!


What is your favorite dairy-free pasta dish?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baked Rice Pudding

One of the sweetest things is when my kids have requests that I make them certain foods.

First of all, they ask me so nicely! And second, it lets me know for sure that they really like that particular food.

Rice pudding is on their top ten favorites list of breakfast foods (yes, they love it for BREAKFAST!). And for the last couple of days, it's what they've been requesting.

It is a great way to get your kids familiar with brown rice, and also helps use up rice leftovers from a previous meal. I have a rice maker and make rice in batches of about 4 cups at a time. Rice (cooked) is easily frozen and then thawed for more use later.

I modified this recipe from Mary McDougall after a few trial runs. I only add 1/2 cup of dried fruit, where she adds 1 whole cup; it just seemed like their were more raisins than rice! In the above picture I used craisins and dates, but only because I didn't have any raisins. Raisins are definitely our favorite dried fruit to add. But get creative and add whatever dried fruit is your fave. And if it's just for the adults in the house, you may want to add a few chopped walnuts for crunch.

Don't forget, or decide to skip, bringing the mixture to boil on the stove-top before baking it. I have done this and it makes the rice less plump, more runny (in the above pic the pudding is quite thick, I added the extra milk after baking), and increases the baking time by 2-3X. It's totally worth bringing it to a boil! I actually just stuck my 13X9 glass baking pan right on top of the stove and brought it to a boil, then transferred it to the oven.

I hope you enjoy it, it's dairy free, gluten free, very low in fat, is a whole grain, and depending on what milk you use, it can be nut or soy free. Here are some of the milks I had in my fridge yesterday.

Part of our GO DAIRY FREE series, and PROJECT VEGAN KIDS.

Modified from Mary McDougall's online Recipe Index

Note from Mary: We have been enjoying rice pudding in assorted variations for many years. We made this one a few nights ago and really enjoyed it. Check out the “hints” for different serving ideas. We would consider this a healthy dessert, the less sugar used, the healthier it is.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes (cooked rice needed)
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4-6

3 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups soy or rice milk
1/2 cup dried fruit
3 teaspoons brown sugar (you may need to add a little more for your kids)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in an oven-proof pot. Heat to just boiling. Remove from heat, stir and place uncovered in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Hints: Serve in individual bowls with extra soy or rice milk to pour over the pudding and/or brown sugar to sprinkle on top. This may also be baked in individual bowls. Baking time will be reduced by about half. Different kinds of fruit may be used such as raisins, currents, dried cranberries, or chopped apricots or dates. This may also be served cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus & August Challenge: Go Dairy Free

We're back!

Our trip to Oregon was great. I feel refreshed and ready to start a new school year in a couple of weeks. On our trip we made these cookies, this casserole, and used the cheddar cheese sauce repeatedly for nachos and dip, Mac n' Cheese, and we ate a lot of veggies with our new favorite hummus (recipe follows).

My Mom somehow managed to make a faster and very delicious version of the Cheesy Mexican Casserole, incorporating quinoa instead of corn tortillas, and using refried beans as the base. It was kind of like an uber-healthy seven layer dip. Ah, someday I hope to have Mom skills like hers!

And because I have so horribly neglected you for so long, I am here to bring you a recipe that we love.

When I first transitioned to whole foods I didn't really think that dips were very important. Dreena Burton's cookbooks are now teaching me otherwise.

Dips and sauces are essential to a whole foods diet because they replace the cheese and dairy-based creams we used to enjoy. They are much lower in fat, contain no animal proteins and fats, and can be used in a number of ways. (As a base for pizza, a great addition to a sandwich to make it creamy, sometimes in pasta, and always as a dip!)

Which brings me to announcing a new mini-series on how to GO DAIRY FREE.

One of my sisters, Catherine, (I have four of them!) just found out that her newborn baby girl is fiercely allergic to milk. Even the slightest amount of dairy consumed by Catherine will adversely affect her baby, Alana.

So our challenge together is to help her (as painlessly as possible!) Go Dairy Free. Will you join us on this venture?

Let's make it an August challenge!

We could all use a challenge like this to support each other in our efforts to live healthier, happier, and lighter! If you take part in this challenge it would really support Catherine in her efforts. She will know that she is not alone.

If you are already dairy free, or have ideas, favorite books, recipes, or internet links, please comment and share that knowledge that you have worked so hard to acquire. After all, that's why we're here, right?

I thought I could post pictures of great tried-and-true dairy replacement foods, both homemade and store-bought as a part of the series, too. If you run on to great products, could you share them with us? And, if you experience benefits from going dairy free, could you share those, too?

I am so excited! It will feel great to know that we are all in this together. I am confident that, together, we can organize a great collection of replacement recipes that are filling and taste fantastic.

Can you go Dairy Free for a month? I know you can. We are going to make it easy. And then, maybe that one month can turn into three, etc.

My mantra, as I have stated a few times, is "Don't expect someone to get rid of a food they love without giving them something better to replace it with." This rule of replacements is absolutely essential. In no way should eliminating animal foods be about self-discipline, deprivation, or just plain going without. Hence a series on how to do it as painlessly as possible.

I have also heard the replacement theory be called, "Crowding Out." Basically you are enjoying so many plant-based foods that you don't have room for that dairy that makes you sick, tired, and fat. Instead you enjoy the lighter, tasty dairy-free versions so much that it crowds out all that harmful stuff from a cow. You have no room for it anymore. Your body is so much happier without it, and so are your taste buds!

Because Catherine's husband, Ryan, is allergic to tree nuts (this excludes peanut butter! Wahoo!), I will also be posting nut-free versions of each recipe so that her whole family can enjoy the dairy free foods. If you are trying to lose weight the nut free versions may be a better option for you as they will probably be lower in calories and contain less fat.

This hummus has a bit of a cheesy flavor and works tastefully as a replacement for cheese on pizza (spread it where you used to spread the marinara sauce). I am delving into the idea of using hummus to replace both the marinara sauce and the cheese on pizza, and I am LOVING it! I hope to post a bit about dairy free pizzas and pastas as a part of this series.

Shall we begin?

This recipe will be our kick-off!

This is also a part of our PROJECT VEGAN KIDS series, because, YES, my kids love it and call it orange cream!

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus
From Dreena Burton's "Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan."

Makes 6-7 servings, about 2 and 1/2 cups

The raw almonds add texture to this hummus, making it all the more enjoyable. It tastes a bit cheesy and my kids love it!!!


1/2 cup raw almonds (with skins on)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (For Oil Free, use Tahini. It works great!)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) if canned, drain and rinse
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from jar), excess liquid drained or patted off
1 medium clove garlic (or to taste), sliced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-4 tbsp water (to thin dip as desired)
1/4-1/3 cup fresh parsely, chopped (for garnish)(optional, leave out for kid-friendly version)
1-2 tbsp almonds, chopped (for garnish)


In a food processor, add 1/2 cup almonds and pulse until very fine. Add vinegar, oil (or Tahini), chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper.

Puree until smooth, gradually adding water as desired to thin dip and scraping down sides of bowl several times. Once smooth, add parsley and puree briefly to lightly incorporate ingredients.

Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve in a large bowl, garnish with parsley and 1-2 tbsp sliced almonds. Drizzle with additional oil to finish, or omit for oil free version (I think it tastes better without oil).

Notes from Dreena Burton:

This hummus makes a dynamite sandwich spread, and if you make it quite thick, it will help to hold the veggies between the slices of bread.

Try this hummus as a base on pizza to replace the marinara sauce and cheese, using a regular pizza crust or a tortilla lightly baked for an ultra thin crust.

Nut-Free Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
From (Angela Liddon)

2 garlic cloves
1.5-2 cups cooked chickpeas (15oz can), 2 tbsp liquid reserved and set aside
3/4 cup roasted red peppers
1/4 cup tahini
5 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste (or use crushed red pepper flakes)
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Olive oil, for drizzling + Paprika, for garnish

1. With the processor running, drop in 2 peeled garlic cloves. Process until chopped.

2. Place the rest of the ingredients (except salt and cayenne) into food processor and process until the hummus is silky smooth. Scrape down as necessary.

3. Now add in salt and cayenne gradually, stopping to taste as you go. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a good quality olive oil and garnish with paprika. Makes about 2 cups and lasts for about 4-5 days in the fridge in a sealed container.